Tag: humour

A Nasty Little Sentence – A Short Story Update

A Nasty Little Sentence – A Short Story Update

Hello lovely readers – if you’ve been around for a while you’ll know that at the start of the year I scaled my short story writing back to just one story a month, which would go out in the newsletter. Which was a fine and lovely idea, as I was struggling a little to get a short story out every second week and still work on the BBN (Big Bad Novel). But then I realised that this meant I had to write blog posts for the rest of the month. And that when I wasn’t working on a bigger story, my short story muscles would become all flabby and atrophied, and I’d miss it horribly. Which I do. I find it extraordinarily hard to write things without dragons and talking cats on a regular basis.

Which is just a long way around to saying that, three months in, I fell off the wagon and wrote a short story instead of a blog post.  Although, in my defence, it’s less a short story than a continuation of a short story – last month’s story, in fact, which you may want to read here before you start, so you’re not left wondering who Albert is and why he has so many tentacles.

Otherwise – enjoy, and don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to get the monthly short story!


 

 

“So, you see, it was entrapment. I was tricked, fooled, had the wool pulled over my eyes. I was misled, deceived, hoodwinked. Bamboozled, even. A businessman carrying out business dealings on behalf of our fine firm, toeing the company line, touting the company values, stretching our reach, expanding our influence, broadening our hor-”

“Albert.”

“Ma’am.” Albert took a deep breath – more for effect than anything else. Demons don’t need to breathe, but rather absorb what they need through the mucus-y coating on their skin. The thick yellow-tinged air of the deep earth was particularly invigorating, and he wished he’d taken his suit off so his tentacles could roam around freely. But appearances were appearances, and now he settled his hat more firmly on his head and straightened his tie. It was a new one, from some fancy tailor in Saville Row. Personally, he missed the cravat, but he was sure it would make its way around and back into fashion again. Things always did.

“You went to a sorcerer’s house, putting yourself fully in the path of danger. Your banishment led to the collapse of over seven hundred contracts, and we’re only lucky that the last council amendment was rejected, otherwise we’d be having to give up thousands of souls already acquired.”

“Seven hundred and forty-three,” Albert mumbled.

“I really wouldn’t be boasting,” the judicial demon said. She had nine heavy breasts, each painted a different colour, and a pear-shaped body.

“Two more and I would have beaten Frank.”

“You got greedy,” the other demon said. “And careless.”

“In my defence, the sorcerer was drunk. All I could smell was vodka.”

“And you’ve never encountered a sneaky sorcerer before? You know they’ll use every trick they can think of to get to us.”

“Ah, but I almost got to her. She was tempted, she was considering. Her heart’s desire I offered her, the age-old trade, the traditional exchange, the precious, hallowed commerce, one small and promised soul in exchange for all she could wish for -”

“Albert. Your sales skills are not in question here. Please stop the grandstanding.”

Albert subsided. He wasn’t sure he even knew how not to grandstand, if that’s what you called it. He didn’t think it should be called that. It was merely a way of communicating, a method, a manner, a-

“Are you even listening?”

“Sorry. Yes.” He blinked the four of his eyes that were visible in a trustworthy manner, and the judicial demon sighed.

“Look, I appreciate that you have a good track record. You’ve closed some great deals, and really adapted to the whole digital era better than most. The crytpocurrency work you’ve been doing is a thing of beauty.”

“Thank you,” Albert said, inclining his head modestly.

“However, that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve now lost all those souls. Now, usual punishment would be dismemberment, impalement of the still-living pieces within sight of each other so that you’d constantly be trying to reassemble, and regular dousing in hydrogen peroxide for a couple of millenia.”

Albert shuddered. Everyone thought holy water was pure poison to demons, but it just made them damp. Hydrogen peroxide on dismembered body parts, however – the sight of the foaming alone could send you into madness after a few decades. Like the celebrated Frank, poor creature. Young demons still amused themselves by drinking fairy liquid and blowing bubbles out their ears at him.

“In light of the fact that you’ve never had a deal go bad, and that your conversion rates are excellent, I need to confer with myself. Go have a break and I’ll call you back when I’m ready.”

Albert doffed his hat and swept a low, exaggerated bow without a hint of mockery to it. “Please allow me to extend my sincere gratitude to you, your dishonour. It is truly the greatest of luck to have you judging me, as we all know that from you can only be expected the most balanced of sentences, the most carefully weighed of proclamations, the most considered and deeply reflected-”

“Get out!” each of the judge’s seven heads bellowed, and Albert bolted for the door.

#

There was a bar just outside the judiciary offices, and Albert found himself a seat in the corner, avoiding the many-eyed gazes of other penitent demons. Some had tattoos stamped on their slimy skin proclaiming such misdemeanours as petting puppies or not tripping small children when the opportunity offered itself. One hapless monster with dull pink eyes had ‘helped an old lady across the road’ emblazoned between his eye stalks. Albert sympathised with him. But it really was such a young demon error, letting your worse nature get in the way of work.

“Getcha?” the bar demon asked. He looked bored.

“Ah, my good demon. Let me see – this is not a celebratory day, not at all, yet neither is it a day for wallowing in sadness and regret. There is yet hope, my friend. There is yet hope. So we shall drink to said hope, we shall raise a glass and let our fellowship of suffering believe, just for a moment, that everything will turn out just the way we wish, that deals will still be made, that souls will still be captured, that-”

“Vodka,” the bar demon said, slopping a pint glass down in front of Albert and sliding away again. “Bloody salesdemons.”

Albert stared at the glass, sticky sucker prints plastered all over the outside, then looked around the bar again. No one looked back – all eyes were on their own drinks and their own concerns. Someone was crying in the corner by the slop barrels, and the jukebox started up with a cacophony of wailing cats.

Albert loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves, and drank.

#

The big hearing room was uncomfortably warm for a demon in a suit, but Albert kept his back straight and his eyes on the floor, feeling sweat dripping between his tentacles. It tickled.

The judiciary demon examined him severely. Two of her heads wore glasses, and one was smoking. “Albert, demon spawn of the third tier of inner Earth, you stand accused of careless behaviour, unsuited to a salesdemon, which brought you to the attention of a sorcerer. Your subsequent banishment by said sorcerer led to the loss of over seven hundred recruited souls. Please confirm your plea.”

Albert nodded gravely, removed his hat, and, holding it against his chest, said, “It is with a heavy heart and tortured spirit that I, Albert, admit to such terrible and crushing errors. My pride is injured, my ego fractured, and my shame is great. To have been brought so low by such a ploy! By such trickery, such deceit, such underhand dealings! I humbly submit that I was bested, that I was outwitted, the wool pulled over my eyes-”

“Albert! Guilty or not guilty, by all that is filthy! Then STOP TALKING!” The smoking head went into a paroxysm of coughing following the chorus of outbursts, and there was a pause as the judicial demon patted herself on the back and drank some water while her other six heads glared at the salesdemon.

Albert opened his mouth, closed it, opened it, then managed, “Guilty.”

“As I thought.” The demon glared at him for a moment longer, then added, “You are far too good a salesdemon to leave chopped up for a millenia. So I have devised a new punishment.”

Albert ventured a very small smile. “Training young demons, perhaps? Their oratory skills leave much to be desired. It physically hurts me to hear them speak at times.”

“Hmm. No. But that is an interesting proposition once you have served your initial term.”

“Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Not – not telephone sales?”

The judiciary demon looked as if she was enjoying this a little too much. “No. You’d get far too much satisfaction from that.”

Albert thought she was wrong about that – only the baser demons could really derive pleasure from interrupting people’s dinners and forgetting their names. “But then, what? Multi-level marketing?”

“This is a punishment, Albert, not a demotion.” She held out a sheet of paper to him. “The details. You start in one hour. And you may as well get out of that suit and get comfortable. You won’t be doing any door-to-door for quite a while.”

He took the paper carefully, reading the heading with disbelieving eyes. “But -” he whispered.

“It’s better than dismemberment,” the judicial demon said, and rapped the floor neatly with a large wooden hammer held in one of her feet. “Next!”

#

Wow ur so butiful!

I no rite? Shes gorgus!

N I luv ur hare!

The educational standards on display here are so staggeringly low that it’s no wonder you are unable to grasp the fact that this young woman is either a)photoshopped or b)in possession of a large inheritance that has been spent on structurally unsound plastic surgery. As she is taking the photo in a particularly unattractive bathroom, I will guess the latter. You are all cretins, and I despair for the human race. You have no need of us to bring you low. You do it yourselves.

Albert sighed, took a large mouthful of vodka, highlighted what he’d just written, and hit delete. He glanced longingly at the hat hung from a hook above his neatly made bed, then looked back at the screen. Dismemberment was looking pretty good. Just reading this drivel was causing his brain cells to shrivel, and the vat of vodka he was getting through each day was nowhere near enough to scrub his brain of all the pouting lips, flexing muscles, and text speak he was wading through. Yes, it was harmless. But it was also so pointless. And so was what he was doing.

“It was the cat’s fault,” he told the empty room with its clean white walls and artful taxidermy. “I almost had her. If it hadn’t been for that damn feline-” he shook his head. There wasn’t time for this now. Right now he had to do the penance that had been set for him. Later, though. Later. He drained his glass and leaned back over the keyboard.

Ur all stoopid, he typed. Shes a dog. He thought about it for a moment, then added a crying with laughter face and hit send.

Yes, he thought. There would be a later.


 

 

So, tell me, lovely people – what’s your preferred writing when you get the chance? Leave me some links if you’ve got them!

And don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter to get this month’s actual short story…

 

Books to Read for the Sheer Fun of it

Books to Read for the Sheer Fun of it

In which I talk about three authors that I know I can pick up for a good story, a satisfying ending, and pure escapism. And that also shouldn’t be read on public transport, because giggling to oneself may be frowned upon.

I also talk about amazing book titles, such as The Island of the Sequinned Love Nun, because honestly – that’s an awesome title.

 

 

What are your favourite books when you want to get away from the world? Do you read humour? Let me know your recommendations in the comments, humorous or otherwise!

 

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!

A Dragonish Q&A with Beaufort Scales

A Dragonish Q&A with Beaufort Scales

Introducing Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly Dragons and lover of tea, cakes and barbecues, if you haven’t met before.

Beaufort: So, what are we doing, Miriam? Lovely scone, by the way.

Miriam: Thank you, Beaufort. And we’re going to do a blog.

B: Which is neither a bog nor a log, or any combination of those?

Mm: No. It’s just an article, really, but it goes on my website instead of in a newspaper.

B: And the website is in the twitter machine?

*Mortimer sighs loudly in the background*

B: Alright, lad. No need to get sniffy. Old dragons will learn new tricks, we just take a little while to do it.

Mm: Okay. So – are you ready?

B: Fire away!

Mm: Okay, so – can you explain to the readers who the Cloverly dragons are?

B: Of course. We are a very ancient clan, and have been living in the area ever since that whole St George incident made us decide we were best to move to less populated places. I saw that, you know. High Lord Catherine was sleeping, and he just –

Typical. Making High Lord Catherine look ten times the size of that ‘knight’, rather than her true size- that of a Shetland pony.

Mm: Oh dear. Maybe we should move on…?

B: There’s a whole day devoted to him! Where’s High Lord Catherine’s day?

Mm: Well, that does seem unfair –

B: And a flag! St George’s cross! Cowardly monster. And did we take revenge? No! We just moved away and left the humans to it! Some days I’m not sure that was the right choice. Maybe we should have taken a stand against such vulgarity, then and there!

Mm, hissing: Mortimer, what do I do? He’s going to scorch the tablecloth!

Mortimer: Beaufort, sir? Would you like some more tea?

B: I – ooh. Are there more scones too?

 

…a little later…

 

Mm: So, what made you decide to, um, visit with humans again?

B: Well, that’s all down to Mortimer, really.

Mort: What?

B: Yes, lad. First that clever idea of changing our definition of treasure, then those wonderful baubles you created to enable us to actually start trading – wonderful!

Mort, spluttering: I didn’t – I never – it was meant to be all anonymous!

B: Nonsense. And then you made friends with Miriam here, and she introduced us to all her Women’s Institute friends –

Mort, faintly: I think that was called you gate crashing a meeting, not being introduced.

B: And then it became very clear that the WI needed our help when the vicar was poisoned last summer, and you were ready to help straight away.

Mort, fainter still: I really wasn’t…

Mm: Mortimer, are you alright? Your tail’s gone blue.

Mort: Am I stress-shedding again? Again? We’re not even doing anything! Just talking about it! Just talking about it upsets me!

B: Mortimer, I think you could use another cup of tea. Sit down and leave your tail alone. You’re not helping, worrying at it like that.

*Mortimer mumbles indistinctly but furiously*

B: Miriam, do you have any cream? It goes terribly well with scones, and it always seems to calm him.

Mort, indistinctly: I shall be fat and bald. Fat and bald and stressed.

 

 

…a little later again…

 

Mm: Does everyone have enough scones and tea? Okay, let’s talk about something else. Beaufort, you’ve been High Lord for centuries-

B: Ever since High Lord Catherine was slaughtered.

Mm: Um, okay, yes. What are the greatest changes you’ve seen?

B: Oh, what a terribly exciting question! It’s been wonderful. Humans are so interesting. You never rest, do you? Always something. Trains, and cars, and airplanes, and rockets. Satellites up among the stars, and people on them. People! Such clever things, you humans. But at the same time you don’t change a lot. Still fighting with each other over everything, and never looking up from all the clever things you’re doing to really appreciate everything. What else? *pauses thoughtfully* Vegetarianism. Yes. Vegetarianism in dragons. I mean, humans are always a little odd, but dragons? I consider myself very tolerant, but that is strange.

Mm: I – okay. Yes, I can see how that’s a really big change.

B: And village fetes. The standard of cake has really gone up in the last millenia.

Mm: So, the biggest changes since the days of St George are vegetarianism in dragons and cake?

B: Well. We notice the small stuff, don’t we? The big things are wonderful, but it’s the small things we really live, don’t you think?

Mm: I guess so.

B: And there’s no point dwelling on the changes that help no one. This is a positive glob, isn’t it?

Mort: Blog.

B: That’s what I said.

Mm, quickly: Absolutely.

B: Anyway, I think there’s more positive than negative. All species have their funny little scuffles and problems. But, individually, you’re all quite lovely. And you do all these things to connect to each other, like the twitter. All these little people living in the machine and chatting to each other and supporting each other. It’s wonderful!

Mort: That’s not-

Mm, talking over Mort: You’re right, Beaufort. It is kind of wonderful, isn’t it?

B: And having human friends again is a beautiful thing. It teaches an old dragon all sorts of new tricks.

*Mortimer sighs heavily and picks at his tail*

B: What else do you want to talk about?

Mm: I think that’s perfect. Unless you have anything else to say?

B: Hmm. Only that too many humans think they are very small and unimportant, and it makes them sad, or angry, and sometimes hurtful. But every one of you is beautiful and wonderful and fascinating, with the most astonishing thoughts and ideas and potential. You should all remember that, and tell each other the same every chance you get. *pause* Mortimer, do stop picking your scales. You are far too young a dragon to be having a bald tail.

Mm: Mortimer, do you want some more cream?

Mort: No.

B: Come on, lad. A scone, some cream – maybe a little something stronger?

Mort: Noo…

Mm: How about hot chocolate?

Mort: I’m not sure.

Mm: With Baileys and cream?

B: Well, I certainly want one. Come on, lad.

Mort: I guess I could.

B: There we go. Hot chocolate. Chocolate in general! That’s another wonderful advance!

Mort, whispering: He’s so enthusiastic. It hurts my head.

Mm, patting him on the back: I know. I’ll make you that hot chocolate now.

 

…and later still…

 

B: How’re you feeling, Mortimer?

Mort: Mush – much better.

B: There we are, then. Life should always be contemplated with plenty of tea and cake. And spiked hot chocolate, when necessary.

Mm: And that is a universal truth.

 

 


 

Do you have any questions for Beaufort? Ask away in the comments, or you can find him on twitter here. Well, when Mortimer lets him use the twitter machine, anyway…

 


 

If you enjoyed that little insight into the world of Beaufort, you might want to jump over here and read one of his short stories – or ask me about his others! Don’t forget that most of the short stories will be coming down from the website at the end of the month, but if you sign up to the newsletter below you’ll get a link to a new story every month (and yes, this month it’s a Beaufort story!)

 

 

A Few Tips for Surviving December

A Few Tips for Surviving December

It is getting horribly close to Christmas. A month. Obviously I have all my Christmas cards done, the Christmas cake is being basted as we speak, the Christmas lights are all neatly coiled and functional, the veggie haggis is on order, the table decorations are ready to go, and I have decided on presents for my nearest, dearest, and the mailman.

I’m also a writer and you should believe very little of what I tell you.

I had considered making the blog a Christmas-free zone until December 1st actually rolled around, but who am I kidding – we’re all thinking about it, right? Where we’re going to be, what parties we’ll have to go to, what family members are coming for the day and how many are just going to move in for the foreseeable future. How many disagreements will be reignited, and how many times you’ll be told how you should be cooking the turkey/lamb leg/nut roast/insert holiday preference here. If you’ve struck the right balance of fun and useful with the presents, and if anyone’s going to give you anything other than socks this year (honestly, you wear one pair with holes in the toes…).

So I decided that if we were already worrying about December, I’d throw my ten cents in, and after that this blog will become a place of stories until the madness is over. A little slice of escapism, full of dragons and reapers and (hopefully) the sort of Christmas spirit that reminds you it’s not all bad.

But first, before we jump headfirst into a sea of mince pies and mulled wine (or eggnog, for those of you that are into what is, as far as I can tell, alcoholic custard), here’s a few thoughts about the whole thing.

The presents don’t matter. They really don’t. Not once you’re over the age of eighteen, anyway. Well, twenty-five. I used to tie myself in knots trying to come up with thoughtful, inventive, one-of-a-kind presents that would show I’d put in the requisite effort, had really considered the person in question, and had spent a decent sum. But you know what? It’s not about that. We don’t need more stuff. Not unless we’re moving into a new home, or having kids, or some major life event like that. I love presents I can either eat, or read. And as far as that goes, book vouchers are amazing. Because, as every bookworm knows, even if we told you what book we wanted last week, by this week we’ll have done an ooh, shiny! on something else. Don’t spend your time and money trying to out-present everyone else. If you know what someone wants, great. If you don’t – vouchers work. And chutney’s easier (and quicker) to make than it looks.

No one will eat as much as you think they will, yourself included (maybe). I’m terrified of the supermarkets in December. Never mind the fact that, even in France, there’s always a shop open, even on Christmas Day – everyone’s determined to buy up enough food and drink to feed a family of fourteen until Easter. Stop it. Yes, I know it’s not Christmas until we’re collapsed on the sofa at 4pm in elasticated trousers, arms and legs akimbo and hoping the cat doesn’t jump on our bellies, but really. It doesn’t actually take half a turkey, four Yorkshire puds, six roast potatoes and five mashed ones, seven carrots, eight brussels sprouts, a third of a cauliflower immersed in cheese sauce, half a litre of gravy, and four pigs in blankets per person to do that. And that’s before we get to dessert. I don’t even eat the meat bits, and I still can’t eat all that. Trust me, I’ve tried. Never let it be said I don’t give Christmas dinner my best effort.

It’s only one day. I know we seem to have been building up to it since somewhere around August, but it’s only one day. And there’ll be another one next year. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It won’t be perfect. The turkey will be overcooked, the peas will be forgotten in the freezer drawer, the stuffing will burn on top, the gravy will have lumps in it, you won’t like half your presents (if that), someone’s aunt will ask you when you’re going to get a real job/get married/have kids, someone’s uncle will tell at least three racist/sexist jokes, and the cat will vomit on the rug right as you walk into the living room. It’s okay. Tomorrow you’ll be eating stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches in your oldest PJs, the house silent around you. And you won’t have to do it again for another year.

Family is what you make it. Not all of us will spend Christmas with our families. Not all of us will want to. And that’s okay, too. Sometimes family is you and the cat and a houseplant called Arthur. Sometimes it’s a family you’ve acquired from your significant other. Sometimes it’s friends that have adopted you into their clan, or maybe you’ve made a haphazard family together. All of this is okay. Often it’s better than okay. Christmas is rarely the mellow-lit firesides and warm familial embraces of Christmas cards and holiday movies. Sometimes family works anyway, even if it doesn’t look like the TV specials tell us it should. And sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Don’t beat yourself up about that. Don’t regret it. I’ve had nice family Christmases, and tranquil ones with just the cat for company, and wonderful ones with friends. They all work in their own way.

Let some time be just for you. It’s too easy to get caught up in the shopping and cooking and cleaning and shopping and visiting and hosting and eating and shopping and drinking and games-playing and shopping and stuff. But it is the season of goodwill to all, so let some of that goodwill be towards you. Do the shopping on your own so you can take half an hour in a cafe beforehand, listening to terrible Christmas songs and drinking something loaded with cream and over indulgence. Go to bed early, even if the house is full – especially if the house is full – and snuggle down with the cat, a good book, and the fancy chocolates you’ve kept hidden from everyone else. Kick everyone out to go for a walk, telling them you have lots of presents to wrap, and take a bath instead (you can wrap the presents later. It doesn’t take that long). Have the last mince pie. Refuse to let anyone else use your favourite mug. And if the cat’s sitting on you, obviously you can’t get up and do the dishes. (Within reason, of course. If someone else has done all the cooking, then no. Get off your lazy bum).

And there ends my seasonal advice.

TL;DR: Don’t stress out too much, look after yourself, and try and enjoy it.

Have fun, folks!

 

 

What else would you add? Let me know below!

 

Cat Logic

Cat Logic

You knew it was going to happen. Why would you even try?

In the world of t’internet, there exists the term, “cat logic”. It’s both hashtag and explanation, description and exclamation, and it’s one of those wonderful phrases that makes me happy about the existence of social media and the internet in general. Seriously, google “cat logic”.

You’re welcome.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, I’m going to share a few examples of Layla’s cat logic, as it’s a wonderful thing. I may also attempt to relate them to the life of non-felines, to prove that I’m using my blog for more than just sharing photos of my cat.

That may or may not work.

Obviously, Layla shares the usual feline traits. If it was bought for her to sleep in or play with, she wants nothing to do with it. Favourite sleeping places are my lap (or back, if I’m in bed), or anywhere that makes it awkward to get up/sit down/open doors/carry on life in general. Favourite playthings (despite the half-suitcase of Australian catnip toys I carted back to France for her on my last trip) are my hair ties, a drawstring from the SO’s PJs, and crumpled bits of paper. Every time a cat sitter looks after Layla, they very diligently collect all the hair ties and put them away on a shelf somewhere. They must think I’m some sort of hair tie stripper, flinging multi-coloured elastic bands about the house willy-nilly. Because one hair tie is not enough, obviously. It must be every hair tie I put down, no matter where that may be.

This is fine.

I go through a lot of hair ties.

But these are all cat logic traits shared with most cats I know, along with the astonishingly accurate foreknowledge that allows her to come and sit on my lap at the exact moment I need to get up. But Layla has her own wonderful quirks.

She will only sleep on the spare bed if I’ve stripped all the bedding off, including the mattress cover. Apparently this makes it a wonderfully comfortable place to nap, so much so that she only moves for food. Which is unfortunate, as vacuuming mattresses is not as easy as washing cat hair off sheets.

If we’re going out for the day, she must go out in the last minutes before we leave, despite the fact that she’s lazy and spends almost all day sleeping inside. This goes double if it’s raining and/or we’ve spotted some of the neighbourhood strays in the area. With no cat flap, this means we spend all day wondering how many fights she’s got into (Layla has never been known to walk away from a fight. She thinks she’s posh because she’s from Harrogate, but she’s actually very scrappy for a small cat), and return home to an aggrieved kitty, complaining about being left out where she can’t get to her biscuits.

I don’t care if there ARE two doors and three other windows open. Open THIS one.

She likes to sleep in cupboards. This is something that she shares with many other felines, but the problem is that she can’t really meow. She puts an awful lot of effort in, and you can see her sides heave as she pushes the air out – but if any sound joins it, it’s a tinier squeak than most kittens have. Which means that, if we haven’t noticed her go into a cupboard, it can take a long time to find her again. She ended up spending all day in one when we thought she’d done her usual Great Escape, only to panic when we returned home to find she wasn’t waiting for us. It took about an hour of frantic calling and searching outside before we thought to check the cupboards. To be fair, she was sound asleep, so I don’t think it was much of an issue.

And it looks even worse in reality.

She doesn’t like fresh fish, chicken, or meat. She doesn’t even like fancy cat food. Which is good, because there’s never any need to worry about leaving food out, but also bad, because when she occasionally goes off her food, I don’t have many options. Not that I’m entirely complaining that the cheapest, nastiest supermarket own brand food is her preference. Oh, and pork pies. That’s the only food she’s ever stolen. Which may say something about the composition of pork pies.

Layla, unlike many animals, isn’t at all bothered by loud noises. I remember the first Guy Fawkes after she adopted me, I spent a fortune on a Feliway plug-in, Feliway spray, Valerian drops for cats, etc, etc. I tried everything I could think of (or read about) to make sure she was going to feel safe when the fireworks started. Her ears barely twitched. I, however, was a nervous wreck. On the other hand – apparently the SO’s winter jacket is terrifying and he can’t put it on in the house any more. (Edit – I also discovered yesterday that toothpaste boxes are Very Scary.)

If she’s outdoors and feels a hairball coming on, she runs inside and finds a rug to vomit on, then goes back out. (In one house, there was only one small rug in the entire downstairs, everything else being smooth flooring. She always found it).

She never, ever walks on the kitchen counter, but every other surface in the house is fair game. This is not something I’ve taught her.

I hate air conditioning, but if it gets really hot in the summer and I can see she’s getting uncomfortable, I’ll put it on. At which point she will always leave the room. Likewise in winter – she’ll sleep in the bedrooms where there’s no heating on, rather than in the living room where there is.

Without fail, she leaves the Christmas tree a minimum of two weeks before she attacks it. It’s always just at that point when we’re thinking, “Ah, she’s such a good kitty. We’re so lucky, not having to worry about the tree,” that we come home to utter devastation.

Soon…

Two other things about her, which have nothing to do with cat logic, but which I’ll share as more examples of her lovely oddity: she’s clumsy, and she snores. Both of which are adorable.

And I have, of course, utterly failed to relate any of this to human life, so I’ll just say this – we don’t always have to have reasons for our pathological hatred of certain jackets, or our affection for small cosy spaces. We don’t need fancy things to be happy when small things will do just fine. And, while we may know better, there’s nothing wrong with eating a little cheap and nasty food now and then, just because we like it. A little cat logic never hurt anyone.

How about you? Any examples of cat logic you’d like to share? Or just the lovely quirks of your pets?

What?

 

 

I Don’t Know What I’m Thinking, Either

I Don’t Know What I’m Thinking, Either

It’s short story week! Jump on over to read Glenda & the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or read on for a few thoughts about the story itself.


Yeah, and my bedside table is just as tidy as that. *snorts*

I do that writery thing you always read about, where I keep a notebook and a piece of paper by the bed. It seems like a reasonable thing to do, right? I mean, who knows what pearl of genius may rise to the surface in the night?

But this is what really happens:

If I wake up in the night, it’s because I need the loo, and I’m mostly concentrating on not walking into any walls or tripping over cat toys. If I survive that excursion, I sink gratefully back into bed and hope I haven’t woken the cat up. Because if I’ve woken the cat up, then she wants cuddles/play/food, and I have to either provide the first two or ignore the last, in the hope that she gives up and goes back to sleep. This is an unusual occurrence. She’s a very persistent cat.

However, assuming I survive this, I have every intention of going back to sleep myself rather than attempting to pen an inspiring note by the faint light filtering in through the curtains. My writing’s pretty illegible at the best of times. Half-asleep and in the dark, it’s going to look like the local spiders are sending us ransom notes.

Of course, I have tried, because it seems very writery, and I like pretending to be writery. But I’ll tell you now – my 3am dream thoughts are not lighting papers of story. They’re somewhere between a 5-year-old’s Christmas list and the ramblings of someone on a morphine drip. I mean, what do you do with “Rabbit. Green snow – bees. Yeah.”?

Not a lot.

However, I was evidently both relatively lucid and able to hold the pen like a normal human being when I wrote this one down: “Glenda & the Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.

I mean, it’s not a story.

But it was a seed.

Read on and enjoy!

 

Yeah, not QUITE like that.

 

Do you write down your dreams, or ideas that come to you in the night? Have they led you down some interesting paths? Tell me in the comments!

 

Pixies, Snail Tipping, & a Small Monster

Pixies, Snail Tipping, & a Small Monster

It’s short story week, and I’ve jumped into a little backstory to the BBN (Big Bad Novel). Just straight to the story here, or read on for ramblings!


Poor wee snails. Pixies should be ashamed of themselves.

I keep heading back to the BBN, because I like it over there. I know the characters, and they’re fun to hang out with, plus they have so much going on that just has no real bearing on the BBN itself, yet which make for entertaining stories (in my humble opinion, at least). And all the ingredients of this story really just felt as if they belonged quite nicely in the world of the BBN.

As to where the ingredients came from – honestly, I have no idea where the monster in the bathtub came from. I can’t remember. If it was from a tweet, thank you to whoever tweeted it. If it wasn’t – well, no idea. The snail tipping I do remember, however. I was horribly tired, and trying to say something about nail clippings (why, I’m not sure. I’m okay with not knowing that one). In my tiredness that became snail tipping, which led to a discussion with the SO about snail-tipping pixies, because of course it did. And because that was too appealing an idea to be left alone, it made its way over here.

So read on, enjoy, and watch out for those young pixie hooligans…

A Monster in the Bathtub

All she wanted was a nice peaceful bath…
The Possibilities of No

The Possibilities of No

How I feel when I say no.

I’m notoriously bad at saying no. The SO teases me about it quite a lot, but I feel it bears pointing out that the only reason we went out on that first date 7 years ago was because I didn’t know how to say no. I mean, obviously, I knew how to say no, but what if I hurt his feelings? What if he thought I was a truly horrible person, and our mutual friends thought the same thing? And was it a terribly impolite thing to do? Or… You get my point.

Part of my no-allergy is due to the fact that I made the decision a while ago to say yes to a lot of things I don’t necessarily want to say yes to – party invitations and get-togethers, usually. I do this because if I said no to all the things I’d prefer to say no to, I’d only ever leave the house under the cover of darkness in order to buy cat food and chocolate.

And while this yes-strategy has enabled me to retain the ability to interact socially (awkwardly, yes, but still – I can hold a conversation under duress), it also means that the line has gradually become a little blurred for me between what I want to say no to, and what I actually need to say no to.

He just can’t bear any more. Snigger.

Okay, some things are are easy:

Do I want to go to a four-day electronic music festival, living in tents and using porta-potties? Oh, dear god, no.

Do I want to go to a hunting exhibition, where we will learn to butcher animals and turn their skin into hats? That’s a really big no.

Do I want to go on an all-day wine tasting tour, where we will share our innermost stories with complete (and tispy) strangers? D’you know, no.

Only one of these is an actual invitation. I’ll leave you to guess which one.

Other occasions I’m more ambivalent about, and these are where I run into problems. I love my friends – they’re wonderful people, and they’re quite indulgent of the fact that I’m not a very social little animal. But, obviously, they only know what I tell them, so sometimes I accept invitations I shouldn’t, and only find out later that they run my reserves of socialness dry. Honestly, I’m still learning this stuff. In my drinking days, I just used alcohol to power through social events, with predictably dire consequences. These days, I make sure I have my own transport, and leave when things get too much. It works, and if some days are harder than others, it’s usually just because my socialness supply was a little low going in.

No list of ‘no’ would be complete without Grumpy Cat

And then there’s the fact that some strange little quirk of mine assures me that if I say no even once, no one will like me anymore, and they’ll never invite me to anything ever again, largely because a main activity at all social events from then on will involve throwing darts at an image of my face.

Which is a), probably not the case, because who prints photos these days; and b), weirdly egocentric.

However, the other day I did have to say no to at least part of some plans, because I knew it would wear me out entirely, and I’d go from being quietly socially awkward to grumpily socially awkward, which is an unpleasant combo for everyone involved. I felt awful, and kept apologising for messing everything up (and checking to make sure no one was carrying darts), but in the end we came up with another idea. Which, as it turned out, was an even better plan than the original for everyone involved. And my friend said, “If you hadn’t said no we’d never have come up with this. Sometimes someone has to say no so new possibilities can be explored.”

No.

Which was quite beautiful and profound, and went a long way to making me feel better.

It’s a lovely thought, that not all possibilities arise from ‘yes’. That ‘no’ has its own way of opening doors and changing paths. I mean, we all read the articles, right?

“Say ‘Yes!’ to Everything and Change Your Life!”

“Empower Yourself! Say Yes!”

“Embrace Positivity! Embrace ‘Yes’!”

Etc, etc. Always with exclamation marks and a picture of some improbably happy person, usually dressed in white and jumping on a beach somewhere. ‘No’, on the other hand, tends to conjure up images of either a tamtrumming toddler or a sulky teenager.

But, in my experience, saying yes isn’t a problem. It’s easy. It’s saying no that feels like stomping on someone’s ideas and feelings. Yet sometimes we have to, both for our own sake and for others. And maybe if we stopped being so scared of saying no, we’d find all the wonderful possibilities that arise from exploring other options, all the opportunities that can develop when we decide the current situation isn’t right for us.

Unless it’s a hunting exhibition. That’s a hard no, I’m afraid.

What about you? Are you a no-er or a yes-er?

Just say no to carving up trees. How would you like it?
Honestly Odd

Honestly Odd

I don’t know. They might just make you more weird. Kids are weird enough to begin with.

I have weirdness aspirations. Which is potentially weird in itself, but I do really admire anyone who is completely comfortable in their own oddness. I don’t mean Manic Pixie Dream Girl-type oddness – I mean real-life oddness. For instance, I’m clumsy in a way that results in bruises rather than cuteness, and socially awkward in the sense of struggling to make small talk and descending rapidly into silence while wanting to go sit in a corner behind a potted palm, not having adorably deep conversations about life and flowers. For the most part, I accept this, and prepare myself for social events by thinking a little about what I can talk about, and making sure there will be people there I know. I also carry plasters and ibuprofen at all times.

But while I accept my weirdness, and am in some ways even comfortable with it, I wish I could embrace it a little more. For example: I was walking down to the shop the other day when an elderly lady on the other side of the road ducked behind a lamp post. She wasn’t a big lady, but lamp posts aren’t particularly big either, so I could still see her – and obviously I had to look again, as nothing draws your attention like someone trying so hard not to draw your attention. As soon as I looked her way, she ducked lower, as if that was somehow going to compress her into something that could hide behind a lamp post. I decided the best thing to do was to pretend I hadn’t seen her, but of course I had to check back before I reached the end of the road.

She ducked every time I looked back.

One day, I’m going to go around freaking people out by hiding really obviously from them. And then I will be satisfied that I have arrived at maximum acceptance of my own oddities.

Cats fully embrace their weirdness.

And here’s something – I thought, when I first started this whole excursion into blogs and social media and all the rest, that I could do it at arm’s length. Project what I wanted to project, but keep enough of myself back that it was Writer Kim you were talking to, not me. Because Writer Kim is quite straightforward. She likes cake and tea and cats, and reads a lot and writes a lot, and doesn’t swear, and is all-round pretty inoffensive and not that weird at all.

She’s also kind of boring, but that’s okay, because her writing isn’t boring (she says bravely). It has dragons hoarding barbecues and crashing Women’s Institute meetings, devious creatures sabotaging your diet and gargoyles busting organ trafficking rings. So that speaks for itself, right?

Why would this be weird?

Probably more than I know, to be honest.

But then I discovered Twitter, and Writer Kim was a wee bit lost there. Because 140 characters doesn’t allow you a lot. Because there’s no time to talk about knuckers and tiddy ‘uns and sock monsters there. There’s no room to explain yourself. So Writer Kim liked a few things, and shared a few things, then retreated. Because she couldn’t hold a conversation. Not without the real me sneaking in there. And wouldn’t that be a horror? If my oddness was revealed?

So I left Twitter, at least for a bit. And in that time I discovered something else. Some of those blog posts got a little personal. Not a lot, just a little. And people enjoyed those more than the arm’s-length ones. People liked the weirdness (people may need help). So it seemed that maybe I could let a bit of actual me out into the online world, and that’d be okay. Maybe.

I see nothing weird about this. The gravel is lava, after all.

I tried Twitter again. I commented on things that weren’t just about books and writing and cats (although a lot still were). I made some bad jokes. I made stupid comments (because that is who I am as a person), and most people kept talking me. In fact, more people talked to me. And I talked back (because social media is so much easier than actually being social. I like talking to people on t’interwebs). Actual me is a little weird and goofy, but it appears that weird and goofy is much more acceptable on Twitter than it necessarily is in the outside world. I even made some Twitter friends who seem to share a certain amount of oddness with me, which was quite a lovely and reassuring thing.

And Writer Kim kind of vanished. It’s been a curious lesson about acceptance, the idea that by projecting what you think is the best part of you means that you connect less to people, even online. And sure, I’m still awkward on social media, but people tend to commiserate, or at least laugh at me fairly kindly.

Which is a long way around to saying that letting my own odd self out online has led to me being less concerned with my own odd self in person. Maybe not less worried about what other people think (that’s a lifelong problem that I’m still working on), but more sure that while not everyone may warm to my weirdness, there are people that will.

And if not, the cat still loves me. Most of the time, anyway.

What about you? Do you feel you’re able to be more yourself online, or less? And do you have any weirdness aspirations?

Me, facing another day of trying not to be too odd.
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