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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Five easy ways to annoy a writer

So, as another in my series of 'How To Write a Book Whilst the World Conspires Against You', I bring you my List of Annoyances, otherwise known as Ways to Annoy The Writer in Your Life (Should You Want To Risk All You Hold Dear). 

You'd think writing would be a fairly relaxing activity, wouldn't you?  On the flopometer somewhere between a warm bath with candles and an undemanding episode of 'Shed of the Year'?  Oh, how wrong you would be! It's quite astonishing the things that will irritate a writer, particularly when they are mid-manuscript, and if you wish to avoid the wrath of a writer close to you, here are some simple ideas for things you should not do, for fear of riling them beyond all mortal understanding:

Want Things. If your pet writer is mid writing-stream, then avoid wanting anything at all costs.  Questions like 'how long should I cook this chicken for, then?' or 'when do these fish want feeding?' should never be asked...if you need an answer to your question, then make sure you do not disturb your author, but Google instead.  Although Google, to be fair, probably won't know where you put your socks.

Try the big cupboard on the left. Behind the sheets.
Ask How They Are Getting On.  Particularly if you have an opinion about how fast they should be writing and/or what they are writing about. You have no idea what is going through the head of your writer - it could be anything from the next plot point to wondering whether there are any chocolate digestives left in the cupboard, so don't make them feel any worse about sitting staring at the wall.

Turn The TV On Loudly.  Especially if you then walk away, returning only to complain 'I was watching that!' when the author in question turns it off.  Be warned, an author with a long stick can turn a TV off from quite a distance away.  If your author also has white, thin lips whilst this is going on, then be very careful, authors are quite adept with that long stick and can rearrange your undercarriage very quickly, should they be sufficiently annoyed.
Just imagine this coming at you with extreme prejudice and a tight-lipped writer at one end...
 Develop A coughing, clearing your throat repeatedly, humming, tapping your foot or, in extreme cases, even blinking.  You might think your author is completely involved in their manuscript, but, believe me, that author is just waiting for a reason to explode away from the keyboard, shouting something along the lines of 'how can I work with all this NOISE?'  In the case of the blinking, you may find this confusing. Trust me, it is normal behaviour from an author.

Offer Help.  Trust me, if your author needs help they will ask. Or, more probably, shout. It doesn't matter how gently you ask, or how carefully you approach, you will be met with a 'what do you want, now?' and a waving of the long stick in a threatening manner.  Leave your writer to come to the conclusion that they need your help in their own time.  Most likely they will source this help by suddenly yelling at you, out of the blue, a random question such as 'so who the hell did win the Grand National in 1955, then?!'  Again, here Google is your friend.  And never ask why they want to know - they just do.  It's safer if you don't know.
Quare Times, actually.
 So, if you do have a writer in your life, it's probably best if you stay at quite a distance while they are writing. At least, further than the length of their stick.  And learn not to hum.

It's for your own safety.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

My brother, the rover...which sounds like the opening line of one of those folksongs. know the kind of folksong.  The ones which start with a long nasal note (perhaps, as Terry Pratchett speculated, to give bystanders the chance to get away) and then descend into a lot of vocal twanging and that sort of 'singing with a clenched jaw' that gives everybody a faux Irish accent.  The songs are usually wildly mysogenistic too, lots of 'dewy maids' doing euphemistic things to cows and their herders.

But I digress.  The title of this blog is actually literally true, my brother has been a bit of a rover.  In fact, he has just been the first person (properly really and everything) to spend 24 hours travelling on a London Underground train.  It might be news to you, but the Tube has just started to run a few 24 hour services on Friday and Saturday nights (I always vaguely wondered how Londoners got home after late nights out when there were no trains. I assumed buses, but for all I know there were licenced Pogo-Stick suppliers and you had to hop your way back after a late date).

Anyway.  The boy done good, he spent 24 hours on the Underground, without ever breaking surface, and he did it to raise money for the Samaritans.  You can read some of his story here, it comes with pictures of said brother, so be careful.  And, should you wish to donate to his cause (which is a very good one and everything), then here is the JustGiving link - both he and the Samaritans will be extremely grateful for anything you can spare.

This is him.  No, not the big red circle, that's the Underground symbol.  He's standing next to it, and isn't the big long silver thing (that's a train).

The part that really worries me is that he wasn't allowed to leave the station at any point, so all his food and drink came courtesy of the vending machines on platforms, and...and I want to be delicate here... he could only use the station toilets.

Anyway.  If you admire his spirit, ability to stay awake, and restriction on toilet usage, then please pop over to his JustGiving site and leave a few pennies to support the Samaritans.  Otherwise I shall subject you to folk songs until you do...

Monday, 15 August 2016

I go to the seaside...

You know the best thing about being an author?

No, it's not the biscuits - although, I must admit they are a contributing factor.  Neither is it the free and ready access to Lovely Tone (well, I get to mention him frequently, anyway), or the fact that I can sit around the house in my jammies covered in egg stains, staring out of the window and say I am 'working'.  No.   The best thing is being able to go to places and call it work.

Yesterday I went to Scarborough.  There's nothing truly remarkable about this, Scarborough is a nearby town and I'm often found there. usually in the winter, accompanied by howling gales and dogs and showers of spray that threaten to knock me off my feet.  When you live near the sea, especially a seaside town which tends to be overpopulated in summer, you don't go that often in the Season.  But I had Visitors (my brother and his wife), who fancied a trip to Scarborough, so I took them.  It's all right, I brought them back as well...

Anyway.  Having toured the sea front, with its arcades and smells, I took them into the Old Town.  It's not generally recognised by many people that Scarborough has an Old Town, but before it was a purveyor of fried food and bingo, Scarborough was a working harbour, with ship owners and an old castle, and once you get up into the steep streets of little houses and views over the whole bay, it becomes a lot nicer experience.

At least, it's a nicer experience until my big face looms up over it.

Of course, they had to paddle, but they are from Down South, so that was all right.
And I took them to visit Anne Bronte's grave, and we walked along the headland that divides the two bays and looked out to sea.  All in all it was an example of 'how to look under the surface of the expected' - which is a writerly lesson if I ever heard one.  Superficially, Scarborough is a tacky, slightly down at heel seaside town with far too much face paint and the smell of fried food.  But when you get a bit off the beaten track you can find yourself looking at the place from a whole new perspective.  With a fresh doughnut in each hand, admittedly, and often wearing a 'Kiss Me Quick' hat, but at least you are getting some culture...

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Perfect Hero...must have own head,, and no My Little Pony tattoos.

Right.  I now know what I must write to make big mega-bucks...  I've been conducting a survey (for which read looking at a lot of book covers and blurb, because I don't have time to survey..I barely have time to get up and dressed...actually, no, not time, that's not the word.  Ah yes, inclination. I barely have the inclination to get up and dressed).  And this survey (yes, yes, all right, I only looked at covers, it's hardly scientific) has shown me a few trends that I really should get in on, in order to sell those millions.

Right.  The hero should be (in no particular order) at least three of the following: - a motorcycle rider, tattooed, ex (or current, jury is out) Navy SEAL (I'm not quite sure what one of those is, I'm imagining a lot of swimming and looking cute, which never did any hero any harm, and, come to think of it, the motor cycle had better be one of those huge big throbbing jobs, I'm fairly sure a Vespa won't cut it.  And the tattoos shouldn't be 'I Luv Mum' or a My Little Pony one..), billionaire, troubled (dark past optional), bringing up his nephew/sister/child-after-traumatic-death-of-his-wife (see, dark past), immensely HOT (probably looks-wise. Unless they just mean that he has trouble with heat regulation and is often sweaty), protective, unable to take 'go away, I never want to see you again' as an answer. If his 'trouble (optional dark past)' can also cause him to have episodes of 'brooding', that appears to be good too.

If the covers are anything to go by, having a head is optional, but he must possess a torso that looks like a tarpaulin stretched over builders' sand and planks.  How the hero and heroine are ever to have a conversation when he hasn't got a head is a question one must ask, but I suppose conversations are not required when he's a hot tattooed, motorcycling SEAL billionaire - once you've got the 'take me, I'm yours!' out of the way it's pretty much grunts from there on in.

But... y'see, my main problem with heroes like this is that I have to be able to believe in them.  And I just find it very hard to imagine that a man who spends most of his life either in the gym (working on those concrete abs) or riding his motorcycle moodily up and down the corridors of his multi-million pound business, will make a good partner for more than six weeks, before he gets either bored or moody and rides (or swims, if he's a SEAL) off in search of the next pretty girl.
Sigh.  Tony wouldn't do that.  Mind you, I'm struggling to find him on the above list, unless he's got secret tattoos, of course...

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Home Decorating - a fancy excuse for not writing that novella...

My life at the moment seems to be spent racing ineffectually from one thing to another.  All right, I've decorated most of the living room, but there is still the Wall of Shame in the dining room that hasn't been painted (mostly because it's falling down, so it's less of a wall and more lots of separate lumps of plaster of various textures).

I need to hire a carpet cleaner too, but am reluctant, on account of the terriers thinking that, in the absence of a good walk, the carpet will do just as well for an emergency wee (they never do this in front of me, which is the only reason I even suspect them of being housetrained).

And it's all really just prevarication, because I'm supposed to be writing a christmas novella.  Well, I am writing it, just very slowly.    So, all these things, not one of them finished. Throw in a lot of hours at the day job, and you have a picture of a slightly frazzled person, dashing from place to place and getting nothing much done.

These are the colours. Yes, it's all grey.  No, it's not fifty shades - it's currently four shades, although I suppose 'dust' is another shade of grey. But I cleaned the windows (it's daylight outside - who knew!) and it's all looking rather lovely (apart from the carpet, which is best described as 'patchy').  And most of the walls have needed at least four coats of paint to look reasonable, which means, in effect, I've painted this whole room four times (excepting the Wall of Shame of course, which needs something done - it currently looks like something out of Sleeping Beauty's castle, what with the cobwebs and the peeling paint and the patchy plaster).

Oh well.  That's the trouble with decorating.  You get it all looking nice, and then fifteen years later you have to do it all again...