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Sunday, 30 December 2012

A retrospective on 2012, with pictures. Nice ones.

2012.  For some, just a collision of appealingly bendy numbers with a nice little straight line in for emphasis.  If this is how you feel about 2012, then may I suggest cryogenic suspension, because you are really going to love 3030.  But for others, by which I mean me, because, despite my many qualifications (I am also allowed to use a chainsaw, handle a bat, milk a cow and I have a certificate that says I can swim the length of a swimming baths, but don't hold me to that one), I am not qualified to speak for anyone else, it was a year.

A year of stuff.  A year in which I won some awards that look like this -

only with more dust.  My wonderful publishers Choc Lit published my book that looks like this -

and my wonderfully chucklesome grandson, Phoenix James, made his arrival into the world.  He, his parents and his aunts and uncle (that being my children, in case you'd got confused and had to resort to doing diagrams on the back of an envelope) spent Christmas chez moi, where I, and the increasingly mysterious Mr Q, entertained them with gifts, a series of inedible nibbles and Doctor Who.

We also went for walks, accompanied by Phoenix and his mum Becci and dad, Tom.  Here, Becci is indicating to me how big my bottom looks, when viewed from behind, Phoenix is admiring any scenery which does not contain my bottom, and Tom is trying to see out from underneath his hat.

And now that year is over, well nearly.  It is being carried to its end, borne on a litter of crumpled wrapping paper, the spat-out nuts from Quality Street, gnarly old ends of cheese and more pine needles than you could swear one tree could carry, and I find myself infused with a kind of ennuie.  You see, last year - well, it's still this year really, but it isn't looking at all well, and may not make it to the end of the week - was so successful, so damned fantastic and filled with wonderfulness and gorgeosity and amazing new can 2013 possibly compete?  How is it not going to come off looking a bit sad and saggy in comparison to a year that held Olympics, awards and new arrivals?

I considered the option of spending 2013 sulking, kicking table-legs and muttering "whatevah" when asked to do something, although I didn't rule out stamping upstairs, slamming some doors and refusing to tidy my room.  But then I went on a walk and looked at scenery like this -
all right, so we couldn't get the dog-kite to take off, but even so, it was lovely.  And I realised that, just because 2012 was an unsurmountably fantastic year, one which will never be bettered (unless someone actually does manage to dip Tony Robinson in caramel and gift wrap him), that doesn't mean that 2013 will not have its own spectacularness!

So, dear blog-reader (or, in reality, more likely someone who googled 'rubber knickers' and ended up here by mistake, looking through my pictures in search of something a little, those of you who have been following my adventures thus far - stay tuned!  For I can feel it in my water that 2013 will offer us yet more adventures, and I take this opportunity to thank you for your strong-stomached attendance upon this blog these many past months (except you with the rubber pant fixation), and to wish you

                                                            HAPPY NEW YEAR!  

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Christmas Card to all my lovely friends - you are also allowed to read if you don't consider yourself either lovely nor a friend. Although, if you are an evil harpy, bent on world domination, please skip this page...

Come in, come in, pour yourself a glass of egg-nog.  Well, I call it egg-nog, even though we ran out of eggs, and I'm not entirely sure what 'nog' is, so I didn't put any in, so it's mostly water with a bit of yellow food-colouring in.  But pour yourself one, anyhow.  There's probably a slice of Christmas cake somewhere too, if you want to help yourself but...well, if there's any teeth marks in it, I should pass, if you know what I mean.

Anyhow.  I have gathered you all here today in order to raise a glass and toast you all with a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year...oh, whoops, sorry, don't worry, it's mostly water and the food-colouring will wash out eventually.  This has been a most auspicious year for yours truly, with awards and events and things happening all over the place, although I have been a little quiet on the SHOUTY front for the last few weeks, what with trying to get some actual work done, plus all the preparations for a family Christmas and the day job and everything, so if I have missed out on congratulating you on a personal triumph then I am very sorry and I shall raise another glass to you later. Without spilling any this time.  But you have probably used this period of uncharacteristic quietness on my part to remove your earplugs, breathe a sigh of relief and get on with normal life without having to worry about me suddenly SPRINGING UP and yelling at you.

I have been working on the follow up to Vampire State of Mind (currently entitled Love Like Blood, but that's just its working title, it's probably going to end up called something like Five Little Ducks Go Shopping, or something, because I'm rubbish at titles).  It's full of trouble, zombies, family arguments, and there's one or two sexy vampires thrown in to the mix just to add a bit of je ne sais quois in the bloodsucky department.  Sil's in trouble, Jess is under stress, Zan is being unexpectedly nice - and Liam has bought an inflatable Cyberman suit.

I'm also working on my Astrophysicist book, about a really accident prone astrophysicist, his best friend who is, inexplicably called Link, a slightly traumatised young woman with a horse called Stan, and local folktales.

So, that's what I'm up to.  But, for now, I'm busy wrapping, peeling, cooking, propping up the cards that keep falling over in the draught, cleaning out hens, dispossessing many, many spiders of ancestral webs, scraping stuff off every surface, as, I suspect, are most of you.  So it only remains for me to wish you all
See you on the other side....

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Amateur crastination... what happens when you really *do* listen when sleigh bells ring...

Why I am spending so long dwelling on the lyrics of well-known Christmas songs is entirely down to that nasty little gremlin known to all working writers as 'Procrastination'.  Why I have to be 'pro' I'm not sure.  Maybe I'm professional at crastinating?  Can one be an amateur crastinator?  Probably not, since I'm so good at it, I'm assuming that professional status was thrust upon me without my knowledge.... 

Pretty much all Christmas songs end up in death and mayhem you know.

But whatever has caused it, I have just spent an unreasonable amount of time pondering on whether I've been naughty or nice. I'm probably coming down most firmly on the 'nice' side, I've not actually managed to do anyone any physical harm this year (although not for want of trying), and I've been generally well-disposed towards cold-callers and telephone sales people, so I'm hoping these things qualify me for the 'good children' list, which should, at least, guarantee me some chocolate.  Possibly bath-salts, if those things still exist.  If I try really hard for the next week or so, I'm hoping to upgrade to bedsocks, although I fear for my sanity if anyone tries to pull the 'hat and scarf' double whammy.

Also, what would I do if I actually did  see my mother kissing Santa Claus?  What would be a suitable implement to rush at the pair with, and who would be most likely to be in need of my ministrations?  I'm betting Santa can hold his own, but my mother can be really determined and, you know, he's got a job to do and everything - that's a lot of houses to get round in one night and he wouldn't want to be held up by a single-minded pensioner with a lot of time on her hands and a vested interest in diamonds, would he? 

And 'Jingle Bells'... 'over fields we go, laughing all the way'?  Seriously?  I would have thought, by the time you'd hit the third field-gate, it would be more of an hysterical screaming - someone needs to get control of that horse before you hit the ditch on the far side, otherwise it's going to be Christmas dinner through a straw for all the occupants, and that sort of thing can really put a damper on your Christmas spirit, particularly when you're not actually allowed any Christmas spirits because of the antibiotics.

While we're at it, has anyone, ever, in the annals of Natural History, tried to 'slip a sable under the tree'?  Have you seen the teeth on those buggers?  You try slipping a sable anywhere, other than in the vicinity of other sables, and the results will be very badly bitten fingers, at the very least, with an option on possible nose-removal and, once again, we are looking at a Christmas largely spent in A&E.
Cute. Huge teeth. Very pointy.
And now, safe in the knowledge that you will never again be able to sing a Christmas song without wondering exactly how terribly it will end, I shall leave you so that I may procrastinate some more, in a different fashion.  Degrouting the bathroom appeals...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Socks of astonishment, the unwisdom of buying...

Right, so it's time for the annual 'Christmas Shopping' post.  My apologies in advance if I get a bit ranty and sweary, you may prefer to view this blog through a copy of 'Miffy By the Sea' or something similiarly innocent, so that your eyeballs remain untainted by the foulness both of language and smell that is bound to issue forth from this blog.


There, that's got the first bit of swearitude out of the way.  I should, of course, make it plain that I'm not talking about ALL men here.  Well, obviously not, I don't have to buy presents for all men.  I'm sure there's quite a few that I haven't even met yet, and buying presents for men is hard enough without having to buy for men whose names you don't even know, let alone whether or not they have any interest in bar-billiards or possess a golf handicap.  Moonpig probably wouldn't let you send a card that just said 'Happy Christmas MAN', unless you were, like, a misplaced hippie or something. But anyway.  Men.  Difficult to buy for.  Unless they have a particular hobby, like golf or football or drinking, or are sufficiently metrosexual to be happy with lots of smellies and bath stuff.  I once gave my younger son the Christmas gift of socks, to which his reply was 'How old do you think I am?' (he was about 16, actually, but everyone needs socks, right?  I mean, the younger you are, the more socks you get through...).  So, lesson learned.  No socks.

So, I sit and stare at Amazon, and Amazon stares back, and I flick through DVD's and games and books and things, and realise that I have no idea what to buy, and then flick back to the socks page, because everyone needs socks, and I'm running out of ideas and it's nearly Christmas Eve, and then panic sets in and I find myself in the middle of Marks and Spencer with a basket full of cardigans and cheese, drawn inexplicably towards the sock department as though I'm some sort of attractive metal and socks are magnetic.

With girls, it's so much easier.  Smellies are always welcome, as are nick-nack-type things, jewellery, stationery, hell, they even quite like socks.  But you try giving a man a bunch of nick-nacks and some earrings and see what happens!  And yet, I draw the line at sitting them down for a pre-Christmas chat that includes the words 'tell me what you want for Christmas, and tell me explicitly, with drawings and, prefererably, a link to the page on Amazon, or the actual shop where I can purchase these things'.  Because that just takes all the fun and surprise out of Christmas, don't you think?  And the fun of Christmas is to be surprising, and buy the people in your life goodies that they don't know that they want until they receive them, when they are astonished and delighted.

And I do have to admit that socks are not all that astonishing.

The men might have a point.
Socks are probably the male equivalent of the mini-hoover or the stair carpet - things we women are aware are useful, and, at times, necessary, but they are not the sort of thing we want to find gift-wrapped at the end of the bed on Christmas morning.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Hissing Fits, Being Warm and Tony Robinson in a Hat.

I was, predictably enough, going to blog about Christmas... the eternal search for the perfect present, the agonies of crowded shopping centres and the concomitant bruising; the annual plea for Santa to bring me exciting presents that aren't DIY related (assuming, of course, that you Do Your Own hoovering and dusting and don't have a little goblin that does it for you), yada yada.  Sadly predictable, and if there's one word which should never apply to me, it's predictable.  Sad, yes, although relatively rarely in the 'boohoo' ways and far more often in the modern parlance, ie my (to others) inexplicable fixation with Tony Robinson and HobNobs. (Actually, idea there for Christmas, get Tony moistened and rolled in HobNob crumbs...)
Gratuitous Tony Robinson picture, courtesy of the BBC.  HobNobs not pictured.
Where was I?

Ah yes.  The thing that distracted me from Christmas.  Today, my truly wonderful Other Half (hereafter to be known as The Mysterious Mister Q, or just TMMQ for short) fixed my central heating system! If you have never been in the position of sitting in bed, wearing four layers but with the tip of your nose so cold that you fear it may actually have fallen off and be forming that lumpy thing that you're sitting on, leaving you with nothing but a nose-hole, like a syphilis sufferer in Primark jammies, you will not understand.  But anyone who has, will.  And, in the course of following TMMQ around the house with a little brass key, bleeding radiators and occasionally journeying back to the Boiler of Origin to tap the pressure valve, I found one of the most satisfying experiences known to man.

The hiss and squirt of a bleeding radiator.

They look like this.  Roughly.  Only with more rust, and the paint behind them is peelier. Also there is dust. And dog hair.
There is something so intrinsically satisfying in feeling the heat rising up your erstwhile chilly metal, while the valve hisses and chuffs like an overweight man making an unwise attempt at fell-running, and eventually splutters with a sound similar to a goblin having a chuckling fit, finally spurting water into your (hopefully) carefully held cloth. I know it sounds boring, it sounds as though it would come second only to sitting next to a tuft of turf with a ruler and waiting for results to fill in on your 'Grass Growing' chart, but, trust me on this.  I'm actually hoping that the pressure has dropped, so that we can go around the house with the brass key later and do the 'hissing' thing all over again!

Okay.  You can all go back to staring at the picture of Tony, sucking your teeth, shaking your heads and muttering "Really?  I mean, seriously?' now.  But if you'd like to leave a comment, telling me about your own peculiar enjoyments, I shan't judge.  I may laugh, of course, but I shan't judge...