That’s What We Do

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Writers are a strange bunch. At first I thought it was just me. Some grave imperfection in my character, brought about by some loss or lack in my distant childhood. I’d be writing away merrily when suddenly it would all just become too much. I’d feel put upon, and unfairly used by all those around me, who probably miss the non-writing me poor souls, the one who used to make them three meals a day, bake cakes, and generally look in their direction when they spoke to me.

Last week, I felt particularly put upon. No electricity means no hot water, and not being overly fond of ice cold baths, my usual standards of hygiene slipped just a little. My publishing deadline looked like it was not going to be met, and with baby birds, big birds, and my beloved social networking to look after, I just could not concentrate or keep up.

Of course I had a tantrum. What was the point of it all really? Writing books, and stories, which in the normal course of events, don’t earn very much lucre for your run of the mill author anyway. I’m sure Stephen King doesn’t go short of a crust, but getting a book written and published is very hard work, bringing not a lot of revenue for the vast majority. Writers are also their own worst critics, which is why I won’t ever publicly post a bad review. I’d rather tell them gently what I think, because I know exactly how they are going to feel.

By Sunday, I was a gibbering wreck mostly, so I said to myself, “Damnation and crap on all of the above!” Time to give up the dream, never write a thing again, go and prune my rosebushes, look after mangled baby birds, and bake a batch of cheese scones. Much less stress.

Of course I changed my mind, after a gentle nudge from a caring friend, who occasionally has a meltdown of her own, so knows exactly what she’s talking about. The amazing thing about her support was that she was slap bang in the middle of her own crisis. She was going to pack it all in. What was the point of it all? Having got back on track thanks to her, I tried to do as she had, and get her back to her keyboard. The world of books would suffer a substantial loss if she really were to quit. She won’t, I know. Neither will I. I will always write. It’s what I do. It’s who I am now, and always will be. And I smiled to myself this morning, as I read the post of a talented published author, pretty much saying the same as I did without the profanity, and saying that he would be rethinking the whole writing palaver. What was the point of it all? He had lots of support from other online friends so I never said a thing, knowing that I shall see him cheerful, and writing away tomorrow. He can’t change what he is either.

Today has been fantastic. Little Kewpie seems to be on the mend. He is moving his leg, and putting slight pressure on it. He seems content now, and is munching happily on antibiotic laced Weetbix – a vast nutritional step up for him from the chocolate Pronutro of last week. His new bird family pop over to his basket regularly to say hi, and he clearly likes that a lot. I’ve run into a chapter which I don’t believe can be redeemed, even by an editor as tough as myself, so it’s rewrite away, deadline or not. Looks like poor Angus won’t be getting any cheese scones after all.

Till later friends xxxxxx

Edits, Baby Birds, And Cheese

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I’m sure that by now everyone is getting just a little tired of my updates about the state of the electricity in Karoi, good old Zimbabwe. I won’t tell you that it’s been off since Thursday then. Suffice it to say, the things in the fridge are not handling the heat. Not being one to tolerate waste of any kind, I forced poor Angus to eat a large packet of ham, and I myself made sure that a hundred grams of good imported Edam did not end up in Sprite’s belly. We are both not feeling very well, so the Roquefort and the Brie will definitely be dog food today.

Kewpie, the baby weaver, who fell out of his nest from the top of the tallest palm tree in the world last Sunday, and has understandably broken or dislocated his little leg, has had a bit of a hard week too, poor little guy. I have never intentionally killed or harmed an animal, but I do believe that if they are suffering excessively, they should be assisted to that paradise reserved for them. I google everything, so I googled “humanely euthanize bird”.

Lordy! There are some odd buggers out there! I strongly recommend that you don’t ever google that. It made it clear to me that death was not an option for tiny Kewpie, and the wise and warm counsel of my very good friend and renowned author Jennie Orbell, after my meltdown, made me look properly, and realise that he’s not actually in obvious pain. He falls over a little, and has to be helped up, but he found the time to leap on to my other little weaver angel, whose disciplinary remarks were hilarious. He refuses to eat anything other than chocolate flavoured Pronutro, and tweets rather a lot. He’s a high-maintenance baby, but that is alright. Even though he can’t use his leg right now, he seems pretty comfortable. I’ve had to feed him every twenty minutes, and trying to make sure that he knows we all love him has led to me editing about three words an hour.

Maybe this slow pace is a good speed for an edit, because I am finding that I’m actually reading my own words properly, and not zooming through looking for oddly placed asterisks and awkward misspellings. Such as the one that I once made in a firmly worded email, where I typed “your precious communication” instead of “your previous communication”, to a man whose emails were the antithesis of precious. As far as African Me goes, I like it. Of course I do. And I think that it might very well just do.

Till next time friends xxx

The Hair On My Chinny, Chin, Chin

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I don’t often notice that I am a bit old now. I used to be vain about my appearance. It made me quite a bit of money after all, when I was a model hundreds of years ago. Maybe it’s because I had that – those few years of being one of the beautiful – that I really couldn’t give a damn now, and mostly ignore the wobbly bits and the grey bits. I quite like the grey bits actually – quite Morticia really. With my deadline looming, I find myself laughing at my blithe announcements that African Me will be perfect by the 31st. Possibly I’ve let things slide a little too far….

When you get older – and are a lady – men have this problem around sixteen, and don’t see it as a problem I think – your hormones go haywire. This leads to slightly frightened spouses and family, and also physical things – such as the extremely healthy, hard, and nasty single hair on my chin.

This is not usually a problem for me. I get great pleasure adjusting the old reading glasses and hoiking it out with my trusty tweezers.

This month has been so manic that I have forgotten all about this facial invasion, and it’s grown long and lush in my forgetfulness. Until an hour ago, when little LB the weaver, in a quest to find stringy bits for his/her construction, latched on to it, and buzzed around my face for a full five minutes, like a hummingbird, not prepared to let go at all! This caused an uproar – the parrots thought that I was having my eyes poked out, and immediately came to my rescue, and poor little Kewpie, who had been having a nap, resting his poor little broken leg, fell off his basket, and into the sticky packet of marshmallows in my open drawer. Not to mention me laughing until I cried.

Anyway…. I’m sure you are not expecting anything overly literary from me right now.

Love to you all – till next time xxx

New Kid In Town

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Never let it be said that it is boring in the wilds of Africa.  My efforts to present the world with a perfectly edited African Me & Satellite TV on the 31st October have become a little more manic than anticipated.  The internet woes are ongoing, and now I sort of expect to disappear from cyber world now and again.  The electricity gets switched off every day as usual, nothing new there. Although on Friday we had the extra bonus of a rather inebriated employee of the power supply company find the time between beers to confuse our transformer with someone else’s – someone else who hadn’t paid their bill – and gleefully disconnected us.  He then disappeared to continue on his drunken spree, who knows where, so off we remained until Monday.

 

The frog doesn’t get in the way of my efforts.  Other than peeing on my files last night.

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The weaver has been busy with a little construction.

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Sprite has got a new friend – although I think that crow thinks that that food is actually his, and he’s not all that keen on sharing.

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No, the nobbling of my writing trip is being caused by the new kid in town. A victim of the ridiculous winds we’ve had here for the last couple of months. He’s tiny, has a very sore foot (déjà vu), is currently encrusted with the porridge I’ve been trying to insert into his little beak, and not liking life indoors so far.  His perch of choice is my left index finger, and if not allowed to sit on it, launches himself into the wall – so……  I shall have to work on my tome in the wee night hours when all of these little beloveds are asleep I suppose, with just Prince the frog for company.  I really hope little Kewpie bird makes it though – he’s much more important than a book after all.

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Till next time friends xxxxx

 

Message In A Bottle

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There is no very literary word for sulking. That’s what I’m doing. Sulking. This is my third straight day of not being able to properly open my Twitter account, and I am having to sneak a lonely tweet in here and there from my blog site. It’s also the second Friday in a row that I am missing my Follow Friday festivals of love. I miss all of my Tweeps too – another very non-literary word – but hey, what the hell, I am sulking after all.

My grand and regal knight of that lovely blue sky @twiterhero, must think that I have abandoned him for another lord, and my sweet and musical @themarlinnelson has probably moved on, and is already sending the gentle vibes of my favourite song of the African rain to a new dragon now.

Missing my blue birdie daily fix, I seem to have fallen into a cycle of mindless nibbling, and the look of horror on my husband’s face when he opened my desk drawer for something innocuous – an envelope I think – and suddenly found his ankles awash with squished up chocolate wrappers, chip packets and a variety of half eaten bags of biscuits that I had foolishly stuffed in there with some force, thinking never to be discovered, made me blushingly decide to get a grip, and analyse where I had gone wrong.

Beginning to list the various of my failings that probably need to be addressed, I pondered some of my more obviously aberrant behaviours.

Such as why I chased an invading rat out of the kitchen door with a broom, screaming, “Vermin!”, like a banshee, rather than gently putting down bowls of water for him, as I do for Prince (the frog), when Prince has some pretty alarming hygiene deficits himself.

And also why, having found myself carefully lifting rose beetles out of the sink to put outside, did I soon after take great pleasure in stomping on an unsuspecting visiting roach, when said roach was clearly just passing through on his way to the window, and the rose beetles are now very likely chomping down on the pale petals of my Queen Elizabeth.

That, I am sure you will be relieved to know, is about as far as the self-examination went. I can’t think of a good enough reason to be any less odd than I am. I’ve found a nice basket anyway, to stash my illicit vittles in, and I should be safe, unless my dearly beloved decides to take up knitting.

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Quick, Brush It Under The Carpet!

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I can’t open my Twitter account today for some reason, but I can tweet this from my blog site, so I’m really hoping that new friends will read this, and not unfollow me in a perfectly legitimate fit of pique, at being so rudely ignored. Hi guys – wait for me!

I wrote a book review the other day, and when I logged on to Amazon to load it up, another review of the same book caught my eye because it had awarded only one star. I had awarded five because I had loved the tale, and had found it both engrossing and well written.

Intrigued, and wanting to know what had so appalled this reviewer, I read on and saw that the reason for the one star and scathing words was that the book apparently not only condoned rape, but positively encouraged it.

So now we have politically correct fiction?

The book was actually about a woman in an abusive marriage, and her journey out of it, to find wholesome and “normal” love, and beautifully written. To me this sort of writing does not condone or encourage anything. It merely brings to the fore a problem in our society. We should notice these deviations and wrongs, and avoid them, not mimic them.

If you are a rapist, I don’t believe that you can blame your violent repulsive acts on the reading of a book.

If you read about any sort of abuse, does that encourage you to rush out and do the same?

If you read the Kama Sutra, would you insist on your mate balancing on one ear with his or her toe…. Well, never mind that one.

Don’t slate anything merely for the sake of slating. You just make yourself look foolish really.

Right, I’m off to read about eating quite a lot of chocolate, and to pray to the Gods of Twitter to please let me back in. Till later friends. xxxxx

xxx

REVIEW – Exorcism Of The Species by Gail Briggs

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Everything about this book is unexpected. When the Xartheans, a demonic species that was banished to a pretty nasty realm aeons ago, find a portal back to the realm of humans, they come rushing through, vengefully determined to kill and consume everyone.
It is left to the unlikely team of psychic Elena, and the hilariously foul-mouthed demon, Thanatos, to try and save the world. They enter the evil and dark realm of the Xartheans in their quest to close all the portals that could let these creatures through, and battling all manner of demonic beasts, they find themselves more friends than foes.
And in the end, a very strange and unexpected twist. For lovers of horror, and witches, and the evils that lurk in the shadows, this one is for you!

REVIEW – Starfish by Jennie Orbell

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What a beautiful story. When I started reading Starfish it happily occurred to me that I had found an author who would carry on from my much loved, and sorely missed Maeve Binchy. It very quickly became apparent that Jennie Orbell will never need to carry on from any other author. Her own style puts her right in front with the best of them.
Livvy Mallen, emotionally broken and deeply physically hurt, believing that she is the one that is at fault, because of one of those vile abusive men that unfortunately really are out there, finds her way back to normality and to a perfect love.
I loved feeling all the emotions in this book. Humour, angst, and the warm, comforting day to day things of life are woven cleverly together, and draw you in completely. I could hear the Christmas carols on the radio, smell the New Years feast and see the cliffs and sea rushing in. I felt Livvy’s terror as the disgusting William returns to hurt her again. I especially loved feisty Molly and Martha, and Jules the camp hairstylist. I suggest you read Starfish, meet them yourself, and grow fond of them as I did.
A perfectly crafted book. I don’t say it lightly, when I say that Jennie Orbell is clearly one of those rare finds, an author, and a master of her craft. You would have to be both illiterate and completely lack imagination not to love this story from the first word to the last.
If I were to recommend only one book this year, this is it.

Ode To The Short Story

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First and foremost I love to read.  Ever since I was a small girl, my nose has been buried in a book of some kind.  Beatrix Potter and Dr Seuss progressed to Enid Blyton.  Then there was a small, furtive digression into Mills and Boon and Barbara Cartland during my teenage years.  I make no excuses for my brief addiction to these tales of young love, and the terrible horniness of the Dukes and waifs of bygone days.  It is natural, I think, for teens to be drawn to anything remotely sexual.  Perverted little buggers we were!  Then on to the laughter of Douglas Adams, the intellectual silliness of Pratchett, the terror of King, and never forget the more high-brow literary gems that we inflicted on ourselves in our twenties, pretending to have enjoyed Leo Tolstoy’s daunting tomes, War and Peace and the slightly less agonising Anna Karenina.  Following were those unforgettable, riveting, and down to earth tales, like Fried GreenTomatoes, and The Colour Purple.  You connect with the people in those worlds.  I will always remember Izzy and Celie.

Apart from an unreasonable quantity of recipe books – yes I unashamedly worship the Goddess of the often eye-wateringly embarrassing plays on cute words, Nigella, and feast my ears and eyeballs on the profane manliness of Gordon Ramsay, not to mention marvel at Guy Fieri’s impressive bite capacity – anthologies have always made up a large part of my collection.  I would usually buy them because one short story had caught my eye.  Very occasionally I would enjoy every one in a collection, but not often. Some anthologies, like Jennie Orbell’s compilation, Eternal, have the quality of any good novel, and leave you wanting more as you come to the last page of the last story, but there are very few of those. The problem that I often found, due to my obsession with never leaving anything unfinished, was that I would manfully plough through every tedious page in a book on principle, and feel merely irritated at having wasted precious reading time at the end.

And then I discovered the single short story.  There are well over sixty thousand of them on Amazon alone.  With the thousands of full length novels selling for ninety nine cents, or going for free, why would I pay for one lonely little story?  The answer to that is the same as why I would pay fourteen to twenty dollars for any other book.  Because I want to enjoy what I read, and not just grit my teeth and stubbornly hope to find a good bit, reading through something which I really don’t enjoy, merely because it was cheap or free.  A decent sized slab of my other addiction, chocolate, is a little more expensive and gone in a lot less time.  So my single short story collection grows on my Kindle, as does the list of my newly favourite authors, and my own contributions to that genre will also grow, unapologetically, for those of my readers who enjoy only one, small and twisted tale now and again.

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Till tomorrow – if those fickle Gods of the internet allow it.  xxxx

Review – The Treasures of Suleiman by Kevin Ashman

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This is a book that I have been eagerly anticipating.  After reading and loving The Dead Virgins, the first book of the India Summers murder mystery series, I opened the pages of the Treasures of Suleiman with relish, and was not disappointed.  Once again Kevin Ashman had me neglecting work and family because I could not stop reading.

India and Brandon reunite to solve the murder of an old acquaintance.  So begins their quest to find the Piris Reis map, which should lead them to a treasure like no other, and they are off on a journey of danger and intrigue, from the palace of Sultan Suleiman The Magnificent to exotic Istanbul and over the Caribbean to an island filled with danger from the earth, as well as danger from a man that wants them dead, and an ending that had me wanting to find this place and hunt for the treasure myself.

An absolute triumph of a story as far as I am concerned.  It all came alive for me, as did the first story in the series.  Kevin Ashman combines history, mystery, and a fantastic modern tale that makes you believe that it all happened, and has you gripping the sides of your kindle when the action starts.

I recommend it as highly as I can.  It stands alone, but having read book one I can’t wait to see what happens in the third.