Hello again, yes, it’s been a while, but hey, pandemic, etc.
Double exciting news! I did a thing – well, two things.
First, I was interviewed by Vince Stephenson about my book, Beneath the Skin. Vince runs a YouTube channel called Boomers on Books, in which he interviews authors from around the world. Vince is primarily interested in first-time and up-and-coming authors. I was put in contact with Vince via a member of the #WritingCommunity on Twitter.
It was went live this morning, Tuesday 27th July, and remains there for all to see and pick apart my daft answers.
So, how did it go? Okay – I think. I was rather nervous, and the 9:00 start saw me a bit bleary eyed and fuzzy. When I watched it back I realised that I hadn’t really said much about my book – I did not mention that the protagonist has an inborn ability. She is a Nagi. I did not mention that she has excellent fighting skills based on the Kerala martial art, Kalaripayattu. I did not mention that her friend and first mate is a Princess!
Why not? I don’t know, nerves? I tend to blether a lot when I am nervous, and later realise that I didn’t get to the point. I could have said so much more, but I am, unfortunately, not eloquent when it comes to the spoken word.
My second big news is that I have published my latest book. Hurrah!
The Floating Church is a novella set in the early 17th century. It follows thirteen-year-old Susanna Assheby in the time leading up to and just after the May Day celebrations. Thirty days on the cusp of womanhood. The isolated village of Hope Ghyll sits on the border of England and Scotland, hovering between Pagan beliefs and Christianity. A new minister brings news of the death of Queen Elizabeth, and staunch ideas on how his flock should behave.
The book is historical fiction, with hints of magical realism.
If the rest of the summer continues in the same vein, then I should have completed another short story or two, and maybe another novella!
Many thanks for reading, I hope you and yours are safe and well, and, if you’re a writer, artist, musician, then I wish you a productive summer.
And finally, many thanks to Vince for having me on his channel. He was a lovely interviewer and kind to let me rant and ramble.
I felt a strong urge to update this post – it’s currently the summer vacation time in UK for schools. (sigh) If you visit here regularly, you should be used to my irate rants by now, for newcomers; in the words of April Ludgate ‘Welcome to the terror dome.’
If you don’t like profanity – stop reading.
If you don’t like being told what to do – stop reading.
If, as a parent, you don’t like other parents berating you – stop reading.
*This primarily refers to the UK, parents from other countries are ‘available’.
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!
I cannot tell you the number of times myself, a friend, or colleagues have said this.
First of all – once a parent, always a parent. It never stops, EVER, get that straight first off. Christ, my mother is 82 – and still worries about me and my brother! (Dad died this January 2019). She still has parental concerns. Still hopes we are managing okay.
Secondary schools are busy telling 13 year olds that their GCSE options are the most important decision they will ever make. NOT TRUE!!
Listen up – There are only 2 – yes two – decisions you will make in life that have great importance.
1. Do I spend the rest of my life with this other person?
2. Should I/we bring another human being into the world?
That’s it. Everything else is gravy.
Assuming you, reading this, said ‘yes’ to number 2, then I hope you have thoroughly prepared yourself for a life devoted to another human being’s well-being until said being is a fully independent adult – (this might extend to 25 as the new scientists are saying this is the age of real maturity for humans today!)
Question – What do you think IS the role of a school teacher?
I recently read a comment on Twitter from a young mum. It was in response to a thread about young people today not being able to tell the time on an analog clock. What? she asked, were teachers doing these days. Why weren’t they teaching her daughter to tell the time? She was vaguely outraged. I responded – as you do on Twitter, without engaging my ‘Do you really want to get involved in this?’ brain portion as follows:
Me: My mum taught me how to tell the time. I taught my daughter how to tell the time. Not teachers. Why is it always the teachers fault?
Her: Good for you. I’d expect my kid to learn time in school considering she’s there 8 hours a day.
Let’s break this down – she expects her kids to learn to tell the time in school – because she did. Plus the Maths, Geography, History, English, General Studies, etc that teachers are required to teach. When have they got the time?(No pun intended). What is she doing with them herself if she cannot devote 20 minutes a day to play with her kids and incorporate time-telling?! Second, her kids are in school 8 hours a day?! I thought school day went from 9am to 3.30pm. A 6 1/2 hour day is usual, so unless they attend after-school clubs, I’m not sure where these 8 hours come from.
But the point is – teachers are now being asked to take on a bigger workload, why can’t you, the parent, do some of the work? It’s your child! You chose to have it!
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!
Do you realise that in hundreds of primary schools across the UK, teachers are having to –
a)Teach children how to tie their shoelaces.
b)Teach children how to use a knife and fork.
c) Teach children how to blow their noses.
d)Teach children how to use the toilet.
e)Teach children how to write their own first name.
f)Teach children to be nice! FFS!
This is basic stuff folks. Your child should be able to do all of the above before he or she begins school. At this point I will say that in some instances, some kids aren’t going to be able to do these things, because they may have a physical difficulty; say cerebral palsy, which vastly reduces their co-ordination skills. In my experience, mostly, these parents have found ways to help their kids deal with this – so it’s not those parent’s I’m talking to – it’s the dolts who don’t give enough of a fuck to make an iota of effort to do something to help their own kids!!!
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!
Then there’s the little maggots who are apparently so darling, that mummy and/or daddy will cosset them to the extent that they cannot do or cope with anything by the time they hit their teen years. They even got their own moniker – ‘Snowflakes’, think they’re special and unique but emotionally melt if challenged or made to feel ‘uncomfortable.’
‘Entitled Parent’ and ‘Entitled Children’ are yet another breed. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO WHATEVER YOU WANT! GROW THE FUCK UP! Makes me puke!
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?!
1. Forget about ‘rights’ – we all have the right to have a baby, I hear someone wail – really? You think? What about the child’s rights to be nurtured and loved and fed correctly and clothed and schooled and nursed and so on and so forth. You do not have to have children. It is NOT ‘what you do’ because everyone else does it! I see so many young mothers with multiple offspring who complain about their kids! You made a choice – get on with it! And use contraception next time!
2. Children come first. YOU hold sole responsibility for your child before he/she starts school. YOU are the primary carer – ALWAYS! Get over yourself if you think that your interests are more important than your child’s well-being.
3. Stop handing over responsibility! Teach your child something before he/she goes to school – for Christ’s sake!!!! It is NOT the schools job to teach your child how to – use a knife and fork, tie her shoelaces, blow his nose, wipe her bottom, fasten shirt buttons, tie his school tie, pronounce his name correctly, write her own name, recall own home address, learn some manners. All these, my daughter could do before attending Nursery school aged 3 1/2. No, she isn’t a child genius – she was prepared. It’s what parents used to do in the ‘good old days’ before teachers even had the massive additional workload they have today.
4. If you annoy me is it okay for me to punch your lights out?! At work, we can often spot the teen who has been smacked by his parent/s. Stop it. Just, stop. There is absolutely NEVER any need to smack a child. You are the grown-up, find a way to deal. Babies and Toddlers are not naughty, really; they are exploring the world around them – so you’re going to make them angry at the world from an early age – just because you are?! Grow up.
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD – WHY DID YOU HAVE KIDS?
Parenting is hard fucking work!
But the rules are easy – so long as you stick to them. Here we go –
1. If you aren’t prepared to put yourself second – don’t have kids. No exceptions to this rule, nope. Stop right now. Go get a dog, better still, a mouse – they only live for two or three years.
2. Assuming you agree that you are, in fact ready, prepare. Like military preparation, stock up on knowledge – that’s your weapon stash. Read stuff. Inform yourself. Take classes. Whatever it takes for you to gain knowledge about parenting, do it. (*Pssst…as a side note, but not to ruin it…you can never be prepared for the reality.)
3. Get them out of the damn nappies before they start school. FFS! And teach them how to wipe their bums – why should someone else have to wipe your kids arse because you were too damn lazy to show them how?! And blow their own nose – who wants to see all that green candlewax?
I am a little late updating my blog this week, apologies. I went shopping this morning. Yeah, I shop; too old for my mum to do it (and even if she did it would be all kilts and scone shoes!) I needed new jeans for work and a shirt; I had vouchers left from Christmas, I hate shopping, but it’s a necessary evil – wouldn’t want to subject the world to my naked, flabby torso!
Anyhoo, one shop which I have patronised for about 20 years now, was extremely disappointing, the range was poor, and there was no style consistency that made it the brand I am used to. It looked like a hotchpotch of clothing from various stores. And it got me thinking about how authors write.
Who do you write for? Are you the kind of author who is so familiar with their audience that the stories just flow? Or are you so familiar with your audience that you daren’t stray from the style they like? Do you even have/know your audience? Are you writing in a fixed style/genre, even though you’re a ‘new’ writer? Is it bad to write different styles or should you stick to one?
I don’t know!
You’re you. I’m me.
But regarding my own writing – I’m relatively new to this ‘business’, having been applying myself to it seriously only for the past 4 years. I dove straight in with a novel. I was attending The Asylum in Lincoln; it is the largest annual Steampunk Convention in Europe. I attended a writing class run by Sam Stone, author of delights such as “Kat on a Hot Tin Airship”. We all had to write the opening line of a story, I didn’t win the competition, but received some very encouraging responses and went home to continue writing. The story is finished, (it took three years) the manuscript doing the rounds! But afterwards I read “The Drowned World” by J.G Ballard; at the end of the book was a list of quotes from the author and one of them stuck with me – he advised new writers to NOT to go straight in with a novel, for how can you know what your style is? What genre suits you? He suggested writing lots of short stories in different genres and to keep doing it until you found your own.
I suppose these days, many people who think they want to write, do it because they want to write ‘that style of story’. I thought I wanted to write Steampunk. I have since written horror, sci-fi, dark humour, poetry, speculative fiction, children’s and more. I’m still not sure what my genre is, though I have very strong leaning to Speculative/science fiction.
So like that shop I visited this morning, I’m not sure what to put on my author ‘shelf’, so to speak. I am still learning, I have a HUGE amount to learn, I write daily. I write short stories, flash fiction, all genres, I enter competitions, I submit all over the place. I carry a notebook everywhere and write down lines, words or imagery that pops into my head; sometimes I listen in on peoples conversations and write down what they say. And sometimes, I really haven’t a clue what I am doing! HA!
It’s all grist for the mill.
Keep writing, reading, submitting and have a great day.
I saved to separate folders within my Documents, each folder headed with the genre of story.
When the story was completed, I then saved to my memory stick/storage pen/USB, whatever you want to call it. So all fine, right!
Last year I had a series of unfortunate events, regarding my laptop. To cut a long, and painful, story short, I lost about 70% of work I had written over a 3 year period – even the pen-drive had corrupted files on it. There were lots of tears, a hugeamount of swearing, and the laundry basket was kicked to death.Those stories are gone, thousands of words, hundreds of hours, and why? Because I’m a dick!
So, today I am going to tell you to back up your files – Back Them Up!
There are lots of ‘places’ out there to save your work, I have selected Google Drive; for its simplicity, what do I need with fancy storage? Check out what is available, and what you feel comfortable using, do you need a truckload of space, really?
You may want to look at –
Google Drive, Dropbox, Mega, Tresorit, iCloud, and OneDrive. I personally try to avoid anything Apple related, just a thing I have about over-large companies. If you continue to work as I did, then sooner or later, you’re gonna fall…
Keep saving your work as you go, save it to your pen-drive, then Back It Up!
I cannot believe it has taken me so long to do this, don’t be a dick like me– Back It Up!
Now that may not mean much to some people – and I do not mean men, there are plenty of females who don’t give a second thought to the plight of women around the world – but it means something to me. No, I’m not going to go all mushy on you, well, maybe just a little…
As a parent of a daughter, I am all too familiar with the patterns of disregard and derision and low expectancy flung our way. And this is a day to do something about it.
I’m not good at ‘joining in’ with strangers to hold hands and carry a banner, so instead, I’m going to suggest some female authors you should read, because you know what? MALE WRITERS STILL DOMINATE THE BOOK WORLD!
This is my little effort at ‘Being Bold For Change‘; convincing you all to read something by a female writer. I’m jotting down some of my favourite female authors. Give them a go, you will, I am sure, find at least one that you enjoy. There are links to Amazon should you wish to purchase a copy.
Read these – No really, I’m not kidding…
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Why? Because Atwood is what I would call a ‘real’ writer, she has worked at her craft for many years and the published results reveal nothing about the authors gender – and I like that – Oryx and Crake is a mesmerising novel set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is so full of imagination and wonder, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Why? Forget all those Hammer films, this is one of the original Gothic novels and so contains the style and tone of that period – might be considered dull by some. It is tragically beautiful.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Why? Any of Christie’s books are an extremely easy read, and because of that if you like crime drama, you’ll become addicted and want more. A murder? On a speeding train? You know it’s got to be someone on board, but who?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Why? Because it is simply brilliant. A story told through the eyes of Scout, a child, whose father is the town’s lawyer; a good man, an honest man, this is the one man in literature that you could truly say – ‘That’s how fathers should behave’.
Briefing For A Descent Into Hell by Doris Lessing. Why? Because this might be the strangest, most life changing book you read. Lessing was classified as a science fiction writer, but she herself called it ‘inner space fiction’. A real master of the writers craft, Lessing tells a tale of how we treat those with mental health issues.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Why? Between Dracula and Twilight, there was Anne Rice’s series of vampire books. If you read any Anne Rice, you wouldn’t need any other vampire books. Sensuous, dangerous, tragic; Interview with the Vampire takes us from the cotton fields of old Louisiana to the modern day, through the eyes of Louis. But the star of the show, is Lestat!
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. Why? What a wonderful world of painted artistes and high-wire acts; a modern day fairy tale, is one way of describing the work of Carter. Enter the world of Magical realism, stories of the bizarre, wondrous and sometimes, magic, you cannot fail to be entertained and delighted.
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. Why? How does a child look at the world when the world she inhabits is tilted at a precarious angle? Parents whom we might today call abusive, at the very least, uncaring. When you don’t fit in – when you are not an orange – what do you do? A tale about a young girl coming to terms with her sexuality.
Thank you for reading, please do try at least one of these titles, not because they’re by women, but simply because THEY’RE REALLY GOOD BOOKS!
I made a horrible discovery – the book that I self-published a couple of years ago was set at the wrong price. I wanted it to be as affordable as possible as I was more interested in people reading it than making money.
I found that after the initial set-up at £3.65,Sticks & Stones was suddenly showing as £22! After a couple of e-mails to the people at Create Space and Amazon, it has been amended. So, if you’re interested, please pop along to Amazon to purchase this little gem at the correct price.
The lesson to be learnt here (for me) is don’t leave anything to chance – and do check how your ‘baby’ is doing once sent out into the world, don’t just abandon it!
Here’s an extract from one story, ‘There’s Rosemary, That’s For Remembrance‘
‘…I confess my fault, I admit I have no vocation for a convent life, and desire to be banished from the community. This request was not listened to for a moment. The breasts of the pious sisterhood are raised in a perfect fury of indignation, and a determination to inflict immediate punishment upon me. Sister Joan suggests that I should be burnt to death, Sister Sibylla that I should be walled up alive. Others cry out that I be flayed, that the flesh should be torn from my bones with red-hot pincers.’
And a couple of reviews:
“A compact collection of well-crafted short stories on the theme of witches and witchcraft. There are some graphic and quite uncomfortable stories in this collection, but the vivid use of language makes it a very entertaining read. For me the stand out stories include Passing On, a chilling and disturbing first person account of medieval a witch trial; the vivid and poetic Sticks and Stones; and probably my favourite, the heart warming tale, Rescuing Robert.” Mike
“Unusual for this genre. Beautiful, sometimes painful, stories about witches. Not your generic, pointy hatted, hook-nosed, wicked types. All types, from all backgrounds; from a nun accused of witchcraft to a student who has to make a choice.” Elaine
“Compelling short stories, an original and intelligent take on witchcraft.” Anon
I decided to give my blog a new look; apparently that’s what you’re meant to do every once in a while. I read about ‘designing my brand’, ‘speaking to my readers’, and so forth. To be honest, I didn’t get most of it, if you’ve been following me a while, you will know I am a terrible technophobe, I find it excruciating.
Last night, I decided to have a look, just a look mind, of other layouts available. Somehow, I clicked on one and couldn’t undo the change! Such an idiot!
Then I ‘lost’ sections of text/pages, only to discover they had been shoved into a little drop-down menu at the top – no sir, I didn’t like that.
This morning, I have been working my way through the Themes to see if I could find my original one, I thought I had, but it was only pretending to be, the layout was different. So eventually, I bit the bullet and took on board some of what I had read – at this point I have to tell you, regardless of whether I read or hear about ‘how to…’ do something IT related, it will NOT stay in my mind.
I have fumbled my way through theme after theme, wondering where on earth some of the stuff goes when the layout changes. Some of it just isn’t there anymore! WTF!?
So, it has taken me three hours to get this, what you see today – and I still cannot find the headings I had set up on previous layout!!!! I just did a quick preview -no, no, no, that’s not what I wanted! You stupid machine! Stop putting things in a little menu! Why does there have to be choice?! Why can’t I just write books? Why am I so hopeless at this!
So, this will be the final post for 2016. I am going to take a break from ‘social media’ during the Christmas period, starting after this post.
It has been an up and down year as regards my writing. I had three short stories accepted for publication; e-magazines and actual paperbacks, I completed a novel (100,740 words) that I had begun in 2014, and submitted it for consideration (awaiting response!) And also completed a story for Wirral Writers anthology (5,000 words) plus two poems – that we will be publishing early 2017. I had six rejections and am still awaiting to see if four other submissions have made the grade. I joined National Novel Writing Month, reaching the 50,000 word target, thus securing myself a certificate (that I couldn’t print my name on as it’s a PDF) and the knowledge that I can work without distraction; sort of!
I’ve lost count of how many word counts I have done ,and worrying that I haven’t written enough words, or too many; how on earth am I going to cut that 13,000 down to the requisite 7,000? I am beginning to realise – I am a writer, this is what I do. Oh sure, I have a day job (a real job some might say). I used to be a painter – no not houses, a real painter! Did I sell stuff? Yes I did. Did I make a living from it? No I bloody well didn’t. And it looks like writing will be the same. I know quite a lot of writers now, in fact, I know more writers than I ever did visual artists, and none of them is wealthy. NONE. The world is not really geared towards creative types; unless you create a sit-com (preferably American!), an advert for silky legs or yoghurt that’s great for your gut bacteria.
But it’s the continuous trying that makes us what we are, not the fails, in the words of Michael Jordan, Sportsman:- “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Oh, so it’s all about money?! I hear you say. No, it isn’t. I would be delighted to have a book published by an actual publishing house. I’d wet my pants if it got turned into a movie! The acceptance of my creativity is far more exciting and important than mere pounds, shillings and pence – but it would be lovely to have some! I look forward to writing something that I myself knew was as good as J.G Ballard or Tim Powers or Angela Carter, that would be this writers dream. Most of all though, creative types have heart, and that’s worth more than any cheque.
So, next year, keep writing, keep submitting and hoping and praying…
Maybe Father Christmas will bring me ‘genius’ for Christmas, or ‘excellence’. I never got ‘excellent’ at school – for anything. Maybe some publisher will take pity on me and give a generous contract! (And if it doesn’t happen, I might go all Hellblazer on them) Next year, maybe next year….
So in the words of a fictional character, “God Bless us, everyone!” (I just threw up a little)
And in the words of Bob Hope, “If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”
Success is marked by your inner self, not stuff. In that respect, I have had a remarkably successful year. (By the way, you can feel all fuzzy and warm if you buy books, that way, you keep authors alive!)
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Peaceful New Year,
So, anyone who has been involved in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month– will know the joy of reaching that goal.
I just reached it; 50,000 words in 1 month is the challenge and it has been a heck of a ride.
For well practised and experienced writers, or speedy typists, this may not seem too daunting a task. But if like me, you are a professional procrastinator and a victim of Research Obsession, then it can be quite a challenge. I have just had a look at my calendar and check how much time I actually spent on it, how many days did I not get to write at all or write very little? Here’s the findings:
As a part-time working adult, I ‘lost’ 12 days to my paid job.
I ‘lost’ 3 days to visiting and doing chores for parents.
6 days, my daughter was home from University, so I wanted to spend time with her of course.
2 imposed Sunday Dinners.
2 days lost to P.C malfunction – my laptop went haywire and files were corrupted – I subsequently lost many sections of the writing, plus 3 years worth of stories that were saved here.
I counted, 9 full days spent on writing. 9! The rest was done as and when I could; before visitors arrived, in-between meals etc. etc.
So, I feel pretty chuffed with myself. The worst part was the laptop corruption. I spoke to computer ‘experts’ who were not really sure what had gone wrong, but they agreed that it was strange that the files could not be found in the backup section either. I was lucky to have a good friend who lent me his own laptop to carry on. I really did not think I was goin to make the deadline, as I will be in work the last two days, so it had to be completed today.
When I began NaNo, I only had the bare bones of an idea. As I wrote, the story grew. I did not, in all honesty, know what I was going to write from day to day. I just knew I had to keep writing. The story is nowhere near complete; I reckon it needs another 30,000 to 40,000 words. then it needs ‘putting together’. Because it was written on two laptops, and is fragmented, due to the corruption that occurred, I have to try and gather it all into one document.
My husband just asked me, “Was it useful, though?”
Yes, it was. It forced me to keep focused, I didn’t veer off into aimless research, I didn’t play on the PlayStation and limited my time on my allotment. I can only equate it to driving. It was like being a rally driver as opposed to a day tourist – start, drive, keep your eyes on the road and do not slow down to admire the scenery, or stop for tea and cake in a roadside café. There are no gears or brakes in the NaNo car!
The image displayed is the cover design I selected at the beginning of joining NaNo; a foetus. The story follows two girls in a future where child birth control is one of the themes. But now, it represents, to me at least, the birth of an idea, the nurturing of that idea, and growth. I don’t know if the story will ever be published, or if it’s working title; ‘Skypea and the Tyger’, will prevail, but it has been an interesting experience.
For those still writing, keep at it. If I can do it, so can you. Black out your windows, put on your driving gloves, and go!