Category: Silly stuff

7 Reasons Summer is a Problem (for Writers)

7 Reasons Summer is a Problem (for Writers)

Sun! Sea! Boats! Sunburn…

Spring has, apparently, sprung. This time last week we were emerging from what seemed like an eternity of unending rain (yes, I realise that it was unending only in the sense that we’re not used to it down here. When I used to live in the UK it would have just been a normal week in April), and the ski stations had just received a ridiculously large dump of snow the day before closing.

Today I had to walk into town with SPF50 and a t-shirt rather than a singlet on, because yesterday I burned my shoulders. Last week I was still in my woolly slippers, complaining about being cold. This week I’m seriously wondering how warm the water is and already doing battle with the flies that want to come in through all the open windows. Every conversation you overhear has some variation of “Il fait chaud!” in it. And the cat’s taken to sleeping on the outside furniture after dinner rather than snuggling into a blanket on the sofa with me. It’s officially warm.

Which is fantastic – I love being warm. It means I can stop wearing shoes and socks and a hundred layers, and that I have feeling back in my toes for the first time since September. I’m not designed for cold weather. I can take it in small doses, but the novelty wears off quickly, and by the end of January I’ve retreated into a wintery sulk, surrounded by heatable toy hedgehogs and fluffy blankets, imbibing copious quantities of hot chocolate and tea.

But hot weather brings its own problems, not least the start-of-season unexpected sunburns and blisters from the first long walk in jandals (flip-flops, thongs, whatever you want to call them). For us writers and readers, a whole host of other problems present themselves, because by nature we’re not exactly well-suited to the summer.

1. Writer fuel.

*Drools* *Gets caffeine jitters*

Everyone knows that writers need to be kept topped up with caffeine and sugar in order to function properly. Tea and coffee are our friends, and for best results should be accompanied by generous slices of cake, or a pile of cookies (preferably home made). But summer means hot drinks aren’t everyone’s (heh) cup of tea. I know it’s a very British thing to drink tea even while sweltering in the sands of the desert or on the banks of the Nile, but I’m not British, and I go off the hot drinks pretty quickly. The best option I’ve found so far to keep my caffeine levels at a good elevation is making cold brew coffee – it’s about the only way I do drink coffee, and it both tastes wonderfully indulgent and has enough caffeine in it to set your newly defrosted toes tingling.

2. Snack issues.

I wouldn’t say I go off sweet stuff in the summer, because that’s physically impossible, but I supplement it with a load of fruit, especially watermelon. Which is decidedly healthier, but also more dangerous for the keyboard. Cookie crumbs brush off. Watermelon juice? Not so much. Then there’s the problem of chocolate melting before you can eat it properly, having to think beyond cuppa soups for lunch, and the difficulties of eating salad while reading. And that’s before we even mention the dangers of combining laptops with ice cream. It’s a risky business, summer bookishness.

3. Writing space.

We have a problem. Where is the cat space?

I love being outdoors, but in winter it’s obviously not an issue – I’m cold enough sitting inside virtually on top of the portable heater, so outside is limited to walks and hikes. As it gets warmer, though – well, it’s just too nice to be inside. So you have to tackle the issue of finding somewhere out of the sun, but still warm, with a good spot for at least a chair and preferably a table as well. Then the cat wants to join you, so you need to have enough space for her, too. And when you’re finally settled, the kids from the apartment next door decide to sit just outside your garden playing French rap music on their phones, plus the mosquitoes that were living under the table launch their attack. After which the sun gets low enough to sneak under the shade and start both roasting you and rendering the screen impossible to read, so you move inside, then pine about wanting to be outside.

4. Writing buddies.

Never mind. She’s good.

I love my little furry muse. I’ll forgive her no matter how many times she stomps across the keyboard and deletes things, or wakes me at five in the morning, or bites me for petting her that one second too long. But while I welcome her hot water bottle tendencies all the rest of the year, in summer it’s just not nice. First she slides around on my bare legs, so uses her claws to hold herself in place. Then she’s just so warm. By the time I kick her off she’s both shed hair everywhere and made me sweat horribly, which the hair then sticks to so I bear a startling resemblance to a sasquatch.

5. Clothing.

I feel my stance on the undesirability of shoes is both reasonable and suitably eccentric for a writer, but I’m not sure I can say the same for my summer uniform of shorts and singlets. I can’t shake the feeling that writers are best suited to dramatic greatcoats and sombre clothing, as befits the weighty thoughts they wrestle with on a daily basis (you know – dragons. Talking cats. That sort of thing). I don’t think my ancient denim shorts and cat t-shirts lend me quite the right gravitas.

6. Drama.

It’s very hard to be dramatic while scoffing one of these. Plus it’d melt on your coat sleeves.

As with the clothing issue, getting the bike out for a ride down to the beach and splashing about in the ocean doesn’t seem to be in quite the same league as striding across moors in the aforementioned greatcoat. And it’s very hard to be dramatic when you’re trying to eat your ice cream before it melts. I mean, I’m not saying I’m any better at being solemn and dramatic when it’s cold, either, but I do at least have a big coat.

7. Actually going out.

I went for my first beach picnic of the year last week. I mean, there were only two of us, and between us we had the salad she’d made for her lunch, plus some strawberries and breadsticks I’d picked up on the way from home, but we had it on the beach, so it counts. And it reminded me that, while I can effectively hibernate for most of the rest of the year, it’s already staying light until after 8pm. Which means there’ll be more beach picnics, and evening gatherings, and even parties, and I’m going to have to be social. And while somehow that does come to me much more easily in the summer, I’m also going to have to, you know, dress to go out. Which means toenail polish and defloofying my legs. Ugh.

I have to draw the conclusion that, as much as I adore the summer, winter really is a writer’s season. We can hibernate, grow floofy, dress dramatically, and shut the outside world out while we write. We can imbibe as much tea and keyboard-safe snacks as we want, and embrace the pale and semi-nocturnal creatures we become.

But I’d still rather be warm. 😉

 

Yeah. Worth it. 🙂

How about you, lovely people? Do you prefer warm weather or cooler? What do you love or hate about the summer? Let me know below!

A Bedtime Rhyme from Robert Louis Stevenson

A Bedtime Rhyme from Robert Louis Stevenson

In which I blame my terrible memory on Robert Louis Stevenson, because I can still remember his poems from when I was a kid, meaning I have no memory space available for shopping lists or appointment times. I mean, I’ve got to blame someone, right?

I also show off my favourite mercaticorn nightie, and the little furry muse makes an appearance, although she is suitably unimpressed.

 

 

I’m also going to allocate some blame (not for the memory thing, for the whole reading in a nightie on a public video thing), on my lovely Twitter friend M.L Moos, who may or may not remember telling me to read a bedtime story…

And how about you, lovely people? Do you have any favourite bedtime stories that have stayed with you? Let me know below!

 

The Trials & Tribulations of a Travelling Vegetarian

The Trials & Tribulations of a Travelling Vegetarian

Of course it’s vegetarian…

Look away now, meat lovers.

Or don’t, and laugh at my discomfort instead.

I’ve been vegetarian for somewhere over a decade now, and even before that never ate much meat. I was vegan for a year or so, but gave it up because it was so hard to eat out or to go to friends’ houses. Sometimes I toy with going back to it, but I live in France, and, well, French cheese.

I love France, and I love French breads and cheeses, and cakes and wonderful things like that, but it isn’t the easiest place to be veggie. Conversations tend to go like this:

“Is this pasta vegetarian?”

“Yes, of course.”

“It doesn’t have ham in it?”

“Only a little bit.”

“Okay, no. I don’t eat ham.”

“What about this? It’s chicken.”

“No, no chicken either.”

“Oh. Fish?”

Which is partly the reason why I eat mostly at pizza places when I go out, and also why I started eating fish again last year. But there’s something weirdly delightful about people’s reaction to your dietary choices. Well, either delightful or annoying, but if you’re going to dwell on the annoying stuff it’s not going to be much fun. So, here are five veggie food experiences for your amusement or sympathies:

1. Airline food

Honestly, even this looks better than some of the airline meals I’ve had.

Airline food is never good. I mean, never. Flying is generally not that much fun these days for me anyway (see here for my last whinge about the privilege of being stuffed in an aerodynamic can with lots of other people), but I have learnt to cram my carry-on with snacks, because being on a 13-hour flight in which you get served nothing edible is unpleasant, to say the least. mean, I really like food. And I don’t do hungry and tired well.

Most entertainingly bad: a plate of carrots, beans and rice, all separate, no sauce. Delightful!

Most unhappiness: stodgy pasta served for breakfast and lunch on one flight, then again for lunch and dinner on the following flight. And when I say stodgy, it was like eating damp paper towel. Well, I imagine it was. I don’t tend to eat much paper towel. Luckily I picked up supplies during the connection. Kind of. M&Ms count as supplies when on long trips. There’s a rule about it.

2. An evaluation of the vegan diet

In Tonga, where being a vegetarian is already a pretty extreme lifestyle choice. My dad’s GF, to our cafe manager friend:

“Can Kim have the cheese sandwich without the cheese, and no mayo, no butter?”

“Why?”

“She can’t eat dairy.”

“Oh, the poor thing! What happened?”

“No, no. It’s choice.”

“Well, that’s just bloody stupid then, isn’t it?”

3. Suspicion and uncertainty

Im just. Not. Sure.

Going out for a posh dinner in a fancy Italian restaurant:

“Is this pasta vegetarian?”

“Absolutely, madam.” Waiter returns five minutes later: “Actually, it isn’t.”

“How about this one?”

“Absolutely, madam.” Returns five minutes later: “Actually…”

“Okay, which ones are vegetarian?”

“These ones.”

“Great. I’ll have this one.”

Waiter delivers the meals.

“Are you sure this is vegetarian?”

“Yes, yes.”

I sit there investigating the meal and feeling fairly sure that there’s stuff in the sauce that looks like chicken. A moment later the maitre’d swoops in, snatches the plate while apologising profusely, and hurries off with it. Reasonably soon after, a lovely plate of ravioli in tomato sauce appears, which is absolutely, definitely vegetarian. By this point the SO has already finished his dinner. I take one bite and give the plate to him instead. The sauce is veggie, but… (I did eventually get a very nice taglialle in tomato sauce. Eventually.)

4. Suspicions. So many suspicions.

I mean, it LOOKS okay, but…

Crew chef on a boat I worked on to me, a vegan: “When the chief stewardess (a vegetarian) annoys me, I put chicken stock in her soup.” I stare at her, horrified. “Of course, I wouldn’t do that to you.”

Didn’t eat soup for the rest of the time I was on the boat.

5. BYO. Always.

I actually don’t mind this, because I rarely mind cooking, but dinner invites often go like this:

“Come to dinner!”

“That’d be lovely – what can I bring?”

“Oh, nothing. But maybe you can give me a hand with your food? Because I don’t know how you’re meant to make vegetables taste of anything…”

Veggies are actually really tasty. Honest.

It has to be said that vegetarian and vegan food options have become so much tastier and easier to find these days, and the dreaded couscous or vegetarian lasagne is rarely the only option on the menu anymore (although, disappointingly, they often still are on the menu. It was all we could eat when we went out for years. We won’t miss it if you get rid of it. Promise), so being vegetarian doesn’t get you quite as many puzzled looks any more. But there are still entertaining moments to be had.

(Me, before I was was eating fish: Mum, there’s shrimp in here. Her: Oh, just eat around them…)

Lovely tasty veggies!

How about you, lovely people? Do you have any dietary restrictions? What difficulties have you had eating out?

Fitness for Writers (Does Not Include Running After Plot Bunnies)

Fitness for Writers (Does Not Include Running After Plot Bunnies)

Coffee and cake - the writers life
My preferred fuel is tea, of course, but it does look good…

I see the problem of fitness for writers being two-fold. Firstly, the fact that we’re sitting at a desk all the time, which apparently is slowly killing us (along with diet coke and wifi, so I doubt I have long left). Second is the fact that our haunts of choice tend to be home, near the biscuit tin, or in a coffeeshop, near the giant sugar-laden coffees and cupcakes. And while we tend to do an enormous amount of mental gymnastics (this scene will work, this scene will work, this – what? Why are the characters doing this? What are they doing? Who let the plot bunnies in here? Stop it! I’m in charge here! I’m – oh, bollocks to it. Pass the biscuits and the diet coke), we often spend rather less time doing the sort of gymnastics that breaks a sweat (other than a nervous one).

Therefore, in order to try and lengthen the life span of the endangered author, allow me to introduce:

Fitness for writers.

Firstly, some options I’ve come across on the internet:

homemade standing desk set-up for writers fitness
The biscuit tin lives under that counter. I should move it. Should.

A standing desk:

This I quite like. Apparently you can buy actual stands that you can adjust to the correct height, but I have a mini ironing board from Ikea that I put on the kitchen island (also from Ikea. Can I get this post sponsored?), which works quite well. Unfortunately it means I don’t even need to get up to walk to the cookie jar, so I’m not sure it helps that much at all. I also find that if I’m writing for extended periods my posture gets really bad, and there are also times when I just need to burrow into cushions and feel safe in order to write. On the other hand, it does fix my sore back from sitting too long, so I probably spend about half my time standing.

A walking desk:

Okay, so I can’t walk and text, so I’m not at all sure I wouldn’t just fall off the end of the treadmill every five minutes when I forget to keep walking (I’ve done this in a gym before. Another reason I don’t like gyms). And I doubt my writing would make much sense, as texts I send when trying to write and walk are already fairly unintelligible. Plus, how do you drink your tea and walk at the same time? I have doubts.

swiss ball - fitness for writers
Layla is firmly convinced these are alien eggs.

A Swiss ball:

I have actually tried this out – the theory is that you have to engage your abs a lot more, and your body is constantly making small adjustments to keep you balanced. First problem – Layla is terrified of Swiss balls. She may actually have a ball phobia (Sfairesphobia?), as even the little twine one I bought her (in Australia, no less, and carted back) sends her bolting under the couch. Second problem – I can’t sit cross-legged on it, and siting with one foot up on the opposite knee puts you at a funny twisted angle, which is rubbish for your back. As I’m incapable of sitting like a normal human being, this is no good for me.


I’m sure there are more things you could do while writing – maybe a stationery bike with your laptop on the handlebars, or a stepper of some sort. I don’t know. It’s all very equipment-intensive, and I don’t even like using much equipment for working out. But that’s all personal preference. So what else can we do, that doesn’t involve falling off treadmills or terrifying the cat?

Take a break:

The internet is crawling with desk exercises you can do, so I won’t rehash them here. But you know the sort – do squats, or jumping jacks, or use your office chair to do ab exercises. And why not? A break is always good, and these are all easy exercises to get the blood flow going. But it’s also kind of boring, and you need to have the discipline to actually do the jumping jacks and not just go make a cuppa. Which means they’re out for me.

I like breaks.

And wouldn’t it be better if we could work out while writing, without needing any fancy equipment? I say yes!


Without further ado, allow me to present:

Alternative writing positions!

TM. Can’t be reproduced without permission, etc, etc, because these are groundbreaking. Obviously.

writers fitness plank
Absolutely I can write like this.

 

Writing the plank:

Make sure your abs are tight with this one, and your back isn’t taking up the strain. Bonus points if you can convince the cat to sit on your back and add a little resistance.

 

 

 

Okay, I actually can stay like this. For a bit.

Downward dabbling:

Straight legs, tight tummy, and try not to drip sweat on your laptop. Also a good way to dislodge the cat.

 

 

 

 

This is where a heavier laptop gets you extra points.

The invisible chair of creativity:

Keep your knees behind your toes, and advanced writers may want to rest their laptop on their knees. Maybe. If it’s a cheap laptop.

 

 

 

 

Please don’t drop the laptop. Please don’t drop the laptop.

 

Character crunch:

Tight tummy, straight back, and don’t let those legs droop – unless you were after a new laptop anyway.

 

 

 

So there we go – absolutely doable while writing, right? Right?

Ach, fine. They may not be entirely realistic. But it’s still more fun than a treadmill desk, in my mind. How about you? Any tips on fitness for writers? Let me know in the comments!

And meanwhile, here’s a video of a guy doing a workout with his cat, because Layla refused to cooperate. I should have expected that, and saved myself the scratches. She’s so unhelpful.

 

A Day in the Life of the Little Furry Muse

A Day in the Life of the Little Furry Muse

The life of a little furry muse is not an easy one.

Greetings, humans. No, it’s fine. No need to bow. If I was physically before you things might be different, but you’ll look ridiculous if you’re all sitting there bowing to your internet machines.

Wait, I take it back. Bow away.

It has come to my attention that some of you doubt the work that I put in as a muse. It’s extensive. All cats put in the exact right amount of work, as it happens. You humans, always rushing around, as if being busy all the time makes you a better person. It’s utterly unnecessary. Happiness is dependent on knowing the correct balance between sleeping, playing, and musing. Or whatever you do. What do humans do? It makes you shed your fur so badly that you have to wear bits of cloth instead, so it must be quite unpleasant. If anyone would care to enlighten me in a sufficiently entertaining manner, please do so.

My day commences early. I am duty-bound to wake the Significant Human (SH) at 5am latest, to ensure she has enough time to gather herself to feed me at 6am. She’s very irritable in the early morning, and I need to paw her face numerous times between 5 and 6am, which tends to lead to her telling me to “get off” and that I’m a “horrible cat”. I forgive her these indiscretions. One must indulge one’s humans at times.

NOW try and get up, human. Human? Oh. I think I need a new one.

Once up, the SH goes to another room and jumps around a lot, waving her arms in the air and lifting heavy things. I think it must be some sort of primitive ritual, perhaps to ensure a good harvest. I’ve heard about these. I usually observe from the door, and occasionally run past her to jump out the window, which makes her trip over and shout a bit, but I know it improves the challenge for her. Sometimes she does quieter rituals, with no jumping, and then I lie in the middle of the room to supervise. I think in these ones she’s trying to emulate the true grace of cats. It’s sweet how bad she is at it.

Having watched the SH’s ritual, I return to the big bed, as it’s quite a suitable place to doze until the biscuit machine calls me for second breakfast (The SH complains that she can’t make the bed, but I don’t understand this – what does she think she’s going to make it into? A pony? They are odd creatures). My meals are unsatisfactorily small these days – the human says it’s for my health, but I suspect there may be a shortage of cat biscuits. As such, I make sure to investigate all cupboards that are opened during the day, so that I can check that she hasn’t lost food in there.

No, no. This is no good. Try harder, human.

The human will normally be staring at her internet machine by this time, so I will make sure she gets her exercise by asking to be let out and back in again at least eight times in quick succession. This duty taken care of, I will attempt to sit on the internet machine, and bite her when she moves me off it. She’s surprisingly slow to grasp the fact that I am far more interesting that anything on the machine. Once she has given up and started petting me, I will bite her to make her stop (it’s important to keep one’s humans respectful), then retire to the sunny spot on the couch to doze until lunch. If I remember I will get up and demand lunch from the human a little before the biscuit machine puts the biscuits out. So far, she has resisted giving me anything, but there’s always a first time.

After lunch I repeat the human’s exercises with the door, and if the weather is clement I may even stay outside for a while and sleep in the sun, or hunt up a gecko. The human gets very excited when I bring geckos back for her, even if she’s not very good at keeping hold of them. She always manages to drop them outside again.

Alright, human. Throw it again, will you?

First dinner is at 6pm, and as the human gives me this I need to start reminding her at about 4. Humans are not, of course, very bright, so she could easily forget. After dinner I like to play with the SH by chasing the toys she throws about the floor. It’s a little beneath a cat of my status, but it makes her very happy. Sometimes the Other Human (OH) plays as well, and it’s very rewarding to see how they crawl around after the toys (because obviously I chase them, but do not return them. I’m not a dog). Always make time to play with your humans, cats.

The rest of the evening is taken up with sleeping on the SH, first on the couch, then when she goes to bed, in order to offer her comfort – she turns so many lights on that I can only assume she is very scared of the dark. Staying close also allows me to remind her that 10.30pm is second dinner, in case the biscuit machine malfunctions. The humans remain in bed all through the night, which is terribly lazy, but even when I try and rouse the SH for my 2.30am feeding, she ignores me. They’re not very good at spreading their sleeping hours out, but I do what I can to make sure hers are at least interrupted. One day maybe she will manage to sleep in a more cat-like manner.

Correct sleeping includes lengthy daytime naps, human.

And that is my day. As you can see, it is terribly busy, and very focused on the welfare of my human. She requires a lot of reassurance that I like to cuddle with her, and sometimes some amusing poses to make her laugh if she’s having a bad day. She likes being greeted at the door and for me to show an interest in what she’s doing, but obviously this does depend on my napping schedule. She talks to me a lot, most of which I ignore, although I do tolerate one instance of being picked up daily, and a large amount of petting. It’s hard work, keeping a human, but once well-trained they can be quite pleasant.

Please address any questions relating to training your human to the SH, and I shall offer advice for keeping your human happy, healthy, and dog-free.

 


 

Well, yes, I don’t know what I’d do without her musing…

Do you have a muse, little, furry, or otherwise? How do they help you out? Let me know in the comments!

 

 


 

Missing the old short story schedule? I’m sorry!! But you can sign up to the newsletter below to get a new short story every month – go on, you know you want to!

 

 

 

Weird Things in My Kindle TBR

Weird Things in My Kindle TBR

Book hoarding. YESSS.

I’ve had a Kindle (other ereaders are also available, apparently), in one form or another, for at least eight years or so. My original Kindle, in fact, I sent to my dad when I ‘upgraded’ to a Kindle Fire. That Kindle Fire has now become a Spotify machine which crashes regularly, and the Kindle Fire that followed (which has the worst battery life imaginable and crashes regularly) has been relegated to use for YouTube workout videos, replaced by a Kindle Paperwhite. Meanwhile, Dad’s still using that that first Kindle. I kind of messed that one up.

Anyhow, I did one of those “I have so much stuff on here, what is it all?” things (of course, I know there are at least six versions of the WIP, but there is so much more on my Kindle. So much more).

Friends, do not ask this question lightly.

I thought that, other than the many copies of various versions of the WIP, that there were certain things I could expect:

  • Several Learn French books because I have good intentions, mostly never opened because I have terrible follow through.
  • A large collection of classics, because as above. Plus they’re free.
  • A very large collections of BookBub buys, because when I first found Bookbub I bought something off almost every email. Every daily email. Some were free, some weren’t. A fairly large proportion of them are unopened, and a reasonable portion of the opened ones I never finished.
  • A substantial collection of books I actually bought and read.

So, yes, I was prepared for those.

However, some things I was not prepared for.

Allow me to present:

A Tour Through the Weird Books I Thought I Needed.

 

Decorative Napkin Folding for Beginners.

“Napkins are easy to fold into ingenious shapes and add a tough of festivity to any dinner. Whether you use paper or cloth, a napkin folded into a delightful shape is a welcome way to start a meal.”

I do not know why I thought I needed this. Many years ago I did a combination of cooking and stewardessing aboard small boats, and did on occasion need to fold a napkin, although mostly my partner at the time took care of that sort of thing. This was many years before Kindle, though, and it is not an aspect of the job I miss.

However, if I ever decide to buy a dining table and have a dinner party, I will be able to fold paper or material napkins into festive shapes. Which is handy. (And, apparently, my guests “will have as much fun trying to figure out how you did it as you did in the making.” Good times.)

 

Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking.

“In this involving history of the British people, Kate Colquhoun celebrates every aspect of our cuisine from Anglo-Saxon feasts and Tudor banquets, through the skinning of eels and the invention of ice cream, to Dickensian dinner-party excess and the growth of frozen food.”

To be fair, this actually sounds quite interesting, but I don’t know why I thought I’d read it. It’s one of those books I look at in a bookshop, think it sounds clever, then put it down again. The odds of me learning about the history of Britain through the medium of food are – wait. Hang on, I just realised the attraction. Okay, I won’t delete this one.

 

Don’t Throw It, Grow It!: 68 windowsill plants from kitchen scraps.

“Don’t throw out your kitchen scraps — grow them! Discover how you can transform leftover pomegranate seeds, mango pits, and dried bits of gingerroot into thriving plants. From the common carrot to the exotic cherimoya, you’ll be amazed at the gardening possibilities hidden in the foods you eat.”

Delusions of grandeur. I don’t even know what a cherimoya is. And I can’t keep actual plants from garden centres alive, so I have doubts about my ability to coax life from garden scraps. It seems that, at times, I see myself as having a domestic goddess side. I’m pretty certain this is incorrect.

 

How to Stay Sane: The School of Life, Book 6.

“There is no simple set of instructions that can guarantee sanity.”

I can’t help but feel this book is poorly named. “How to Possibly Stay a Little Sane” might fit more with that blurb. Not that I’ve read it, because apparently this was not a high priority read for me. I’d also like to know why I didn’t start with Book 1. That might have been something handy, like “How to Adult”.

 

Writing a Novel & Getting Published for Dummies.

“If you’ve always wanted to write that great novel, but never knew where to start, look no further! Taking you step by step from concept to contract, this book provides the tools you need to tell your story with skill and approach agents and publishers with confidence.”

Ahahahahahaha.

Well, we always hope there’s a secret, right? A magic formula that we just have to discover? A secret code, a hidden map, a… book for dummies?

 

I also discovered an astonishing amount of cosy mysteries, both read and not, as well as a perfectly ridiculous number of zombie books. Apparently I’ve been searching for the perfect zombie-cosy mystery crossover for quite some time.

I won’t mention the large assortment of books that I actually already own in hard copy, though…

 

Correct.

 

What about you? Have you made any mystifying finds on your Kindle (substitute ereader of choice here)?

Happy Valentine’s from a Valentine’s Cynic

Happy Valentine’s from a Valentine’s Cynic

I’ve never quite got Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t a huge thing when I was growing up in NZ – or I don’t remember that it was. I don’t really know – maybe it was popular, but as I was a bit of a late starter on the whole romance thing, I may have missed it. I certainly don’t remember that there was loads of cheap chocolate around in the second half of February, and I’m sure I would’ve remembered that. I was all about the chocolate.

YES.

And really, I’m still all about the chocolate. I’m not great at going out anyway, but fighting to get a reservation for an overpriced meal in an overcrowded restaurant, accompanied by an overwrought flower arrangement and an over-sweet card? Not seeing the appeal. And don’t even mention expensive, scratchy lingerie. I will, however, take that half-price chocolate on Feb 15th. Yes. All the chocolate.

These are heading in the right direction for Valentine’s cards.

Look, I’m not an entirely unromantic, Valentine’s Day grinch – actually, wait. No, I am entirely an unromantic Valentine’s Day grinch. I’m not good at romance. I never have been (good thing my preferred genre is very light on it). I am, in fact, terminally unromantic, much to the despair of the SO, who is quite a romantic. He’ll do lovely things like draw a candlelit bath, and I’ll want to turn the lights on so I can read. Or he’ll cook a beautiful dinner, and I’ll eat it on the couch in my pyjamas. Or he’ll have a gorgeous orchid plant delivered while he’s away, and I’ll have killed it by the time he gets home (to be fair, he’s known me for seven years. He should know better than to give me plants. Not once has that ended well). No, my natural inclinations are not towards the romantic, and that’s even before you factor in the commercial bloat that surrounds Valentines, with every shop breaking out in a rather nasty, frilly, pink and red rash and racking up the prices starting around January 2nd.

Not that I’m a cynic or anything.

Friends and breakfast food. Life is complete.

However, I did fall in love with Parks & Rec a while back, and the idea of Galentine’s Day – and Galentine’s cards – just makes me ridiculously happy. Special cards for celebrating friends? And breakfast food? Yes please! And while yes, all friends should be celebrated (furry ones included), I adore some of the Galentine’s Day cards, and I love the idea of telling my friends how wonderful they are, because that’s another thing I’m not terribly good at.

Galentine’s > Valentine’s

I think I can blame the softening of my attitude towards Valentines entirely on Leslie Knope, because it wasn’t long after this that I started to notice some clever little cards sneaking around. Despite my ban on Valentine’s, the SO got me a card that just read, ‘I like you quite a lot, actually’, which was admittedly not bad.

And then I came across a much better interpretation of the kittens and hearts card. Much better. It appears I am not alone in my grinch-ness.

This is right, yes?

So maybe it isn’t all ribbons and frills, and maybe Valentine’s isn’t such a smug couple fest as I always felt it was. But still – my advice would be to choose a quieter night for the meal out, do the flowers and the card at some other time, because surprises are more fun, and definitely wait on the chocolate until the 15th.  If I haven’t bought it all already.

Anyhow, I did have a point, and, getting to it in a roundabout way – happy Feb 14th to all of you, my lovely, wonderful readers! Whether you do the Valentine’s thing or not, I think you’re amazing, and I would share some of my half-price chocolate with you just because you’re so perfectly you. Because that is something worth celebrating.

Well, virtually, you know. Via t’internet, because otherwise we’d have to be right next to each other, and I’m not sure about that.
An A-Z of the Writer’s Life

An A-Z of the Writer’s Life

Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I haven’t run out of blog ideas. It’s only the end of January. This is important stuff!

Okay, important might be stretching it, but this was actually really fun. So, without further ado:

The A-Z of the Writer’s Life

(Because you always wanted to know, right?)

This is fine. This is absolutely fine…

A: Authors. That’s us. Even if we don’t feel like that’s what we are an awful lot, and need constant reassurance and regular infusions of chocolate to believe it.

B: Blogs. First because we think we should, later because it gives us an excuse to inflict our thoughts on unsuspecting internet readers.

C: Caffeine. Lots of it. Lots.

D: Drafts. So many drafts. Why are there so many? Why is there never really a final draft?

E: Editing. The word we don’t like to talk about, because there’s even more of it than there are drafts.

F: Fans. What we want. The kind that read our books, not the kind that move air around. Although in summer they’re nice, too.

G: Goals. Those things that shift a lot.

How we hope it works.

H: Headaches. Because our characters do things that we didn’t say they could do, and very rarely do what we want them to do. Also grammar, and real life interfering with our Work.

I: Insecurity. Lots of it. Will I finish this horrible draft? Will I make it less horrible? Will other people think it’s horrible? Will they think I’m horrible? Am I a horrible writer, or a horrible person, or both?

J: Jokes. Things we’re sure we tell badly, or else something that we suspect we may actually be. Not sure.

K: Kettle. Vital writer equipment. Enables us to fuel our caffeine habit, make pot noodles, and serves as a fantastic procrastination tool.

L: Laughter. Used as deflection when someone asks us how our little book is coming on. Often has a slightly desperate edge.

M: Murder. What we research more than is probably healthy, and said searches are probably why we’re on FBI watch lists.

N: Nightmares. In which we find ourselves at a writers’ conference, pitching an erotic comedy to an agent who represents only literary fiction.

Yep.

O: Oh. As in oh my god, oh help me, oh hell, oh no what have I done, and other things I can’t print here.

P: Proofreading. Because editing wasn’t enough. Editing is never enough.

Q: Quiet. What we insist we need, then get a little uneasy about when we actually get it. Is there a tap dripping? I think the fridge is coming on too often. I did not know the cat snored that loudly. Wow. All this quiet is distracting. How am I meant to work like this?

R: Research. Where we find out about interesting ways to kill people, untraceable poisons, how to dismember a body, and other titbits that don’t really help us in small talk situations.

S: Sighs. Many, and escalating as the drafts mount up.

T: Twitter. Where we ‘connect with readers’ and ‘build our audience’. Also known as hanging out with other writers, sharing bad jokes and pretending to work.

U: Unclear. Our characters’ motives, the plot, and our own memories of where we were going when we started this piece. Also our motivations for ever getting into this madness.

No, no. We just think it is. Hopefully.

V: Vague. Our behaviour when forced to leave the computer and socialise. Also known as ‘unsociable’, ‘awkward’, and sometimes ‘weird’.

W: Wikipedia. Where we fall down rabbit holes of unrelated research and emerge days later knowing the exact breeding cycle of the lesser red-spotted yak fly, but nothing more about the historical relevance of penny whistles, which is what we went in for.

X: X. Usually written large, in red, across vast swathes of manuscript while editing.

Y: Yowl. The sound the cat makes when we step on her in the dark while going to write down an amazing idea that’s just occurred to us at 3 am. Alternatively: Yelp, the sound the dogs makes, and also the sound we make when we walk into the bathroom door.

Z: Zero. The amount of regret we have about any of this. Most of the time, anyway.

 

 

So let me know, lovely people – any additions to this alphabet? Any substitutions? Tell me your thoughts!

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