Friday, 30 January 2015

Things I'm not good at

One thing I really love about internet-land is the amount of wisdom that's out there. So many people are so good at so many things, and they're so happy to share it. People are always putting up useful information about how to do this and how to do that. It can be extremely useful.

As for me, well I'm not so great at so many things. I'm not really in a position to be giving anyone instructions on what to do. Which leaves me with a constant challenge, because I need to figure out stuff to put into my blog each week.

Anyway, I figured that I maybe there aren't that many things I'm good at, but there sure are a lot of things I'm not good at. And because, as far as I'm concerned, one of the main purposes of the internet is to share stuff, I'm now going to share you you a bunch of things that I'm definitely not good at.

1. I'm not good at playing guitar. Actually, I'm not that bad at playing guitar. I can belt out a few simple chords. But I'm definitely not good at it either. Whenever I pick up my guitar, my kids go running in the opposite direction. If you should ever see any tips on how to play guitar from me, do not pay any attention to them.

2. I'm not good at singing. Unlike the guitar thing, I'm just really, really bad at it. I'm especially bad at singing while I'm playing the guitar. All wildlife in a 20 km radius clears out at the very thought of it.

3. Blowing my own trumpet. Seems like everyone else on the internet i running around saying how great they are. As for me, well, I suppose all you have to do is read this post to see that I tend to take a slightly different approach.

Anyway, I could go on and on about being not good at lots of other things, but I guess I need a bit of time to actually be not good at those things. So anyway, for now, signing off.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

I know things are getting past me when I can't even put a band-aid on

I had an earth shattering experience the other day. One of those moments when you know the world has changed and you're not sure it's for the better.

It began very simply. I cut my finger. Not all that badly, but it was one of those fiddly cuts right on the end of my finger, where it tends to bleed quite a lot. Also, I was in the middle of washing the dishes when it happened (of course, washing the dishes was actually how it happened. Or to be exact, washing one of those new-fangled clever cutting thingies which we seem to accumulate in our kitchen). Obviously, I wanted to get it cleaned up and sealed up as quickly as possible, so I could get back to finishing the dishes.

So I run down to the bathroom and grab a band-aid. I have to give my finger a bit of a wipe because it was soaking wet, and everybody knows that you can't put a band-aid on a wet finger. When I get it suitably dry, I rip the paper off the band-aid and I go to put it on my finger. This is where the trouble started.

I couldn't figure it out. The band-aid was different to the simple, old-fashioned ones I was used to. It seemed to have tabs sticking out all over the place. I pulled and prodded and ripped and tugged and eventually managed to get the various tabs off, but by this point the whole thing had stuck to itself (as band-aids do).

I groaned and tossed it in the sink, and then tried another. Same deal. I couldn't for the life of my figure out how to get these band-aids to work. And all the while, my finger is dripping blood all over the sink.

Finally, after I think I'd tossed out about five, I managed to get a band-aid onto my finger. And then, because I wasn't actually able to apply it very well, I added a second, and a third. In the end, rather than a small cut, it looked like I'd chopped half my finger off.

But here's the thing. Since when were band-aids so hard to put on? I remember when I was a kid, I had no trouble putting band-aids on. But now, someone has invented a new and improved band-aid which is impossible to use.

To me it's a sign. A sign of a world I no longer understand? A sign of a world which, to me, is just a little more bonkers than it used to be. When I'm no longer able to do something simple, like put a band-aid on, I know that things are really starting to get past me.

Have a good week - and please be careful if sharp cutting things.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

You've heard about the grapevine. Well I'm a grape

People love to gossip. I'm a person. Therefore, logically, it makes complete sense to admit that I like to gossip too.

And I do. Give me a bit of juicy news and I'm more than happy to pass it on to someone else, or even lots of someone else's, as quickly as I can. Unfortunately, there's just one problem with this little arrangement.

When talking about gossiping, people often refer to the grapevine. You know, the tangled links from contact to contact that ensure a message quickly gets spread far and wide.  So as far as capacity to gossip goes, it's your position on the grapevine that defines everything.

If you're right in the middle of the grapevine, with links going off in every possible direction, then you're sure to be in the thick of things. Not only will you be receiving lots of really great gossip, but you'll be more than capable of spreading the word by passing it on to many, many others.

Those people who are not quite so close to the centre will find it a bit more of a challenge. Sure, you'll get the news eventually, but you won't have quite so many people left to pass it on to. Still, as long as you're somewhere on the grapevine, you'll still have some capacity to be involved in the gossip-spreading business.

Which leads to me.

I know exactly where I sit on the grapevine. I'm a grape. And we all know where the grapes are positioned. They're right at the ends of the branches. Once the gossip has reached the grape, it's got nowhere else to go.

That's exactly how I feel about my position when it comes to gossip. Almost inevitably, I'm the last person to find out. Sure, the news does reach me eventually, but by then, it's pretty old and stale. But of course, part of the fun of gossip is spreading it on, and this is where the biggest problem is. You can bet for sure that by the time I've find out about anything, pretty much everybody else already knows it. There's absolutely nobody left to tell.

So that's me and gossip. I like the idea in principle, but when it comes to my ability to be involved, I'm pretty much stuck. Still, there are times when being a grape isn't so bad. I wouldn't say no to a nice drop of red in the evening.

Have a good week.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Keeping it in while letting it all hang out

I've been reading a really interesting book lately. It's called Quiet and it's all about introverts and introversion.

"What, me an introvert?" I hear you ask in amazement. After all, I'm all over the joint when it comes to social media. You can find me hanging out on Facebook and cavorting on Twitter, not to mention Goodreads and of course this blog. How could someone so utterly social-media-ised consider themselves to be an introvert?

Well, hard as it is to believe, it's actually true. Even though I appear to be Mr Social Media Party Animal, that's really not the true me at all. To be honest, I'd sooner pack the whole thing in, lock myself in a room, and read a book. Actually, to be truly accurate, I'd rather be writing that book instead of reading it.

The fact that introverts like myself find ourselves out in the noisy world of social media is just one more of the kinds of challenges we face (and exactly the sort of thing that is covered in Quiet). And I can tell you that from my perspective, it's not always easy. How does someone with an inward focus force themselves outward? How does someone who likes to keep things private deal with a world in which over-sharing is the norm? How does someone who finds any sort of social interaction overwhelming cope with the pure social-ness of it all?

Truth is, I have no idea. I just bumble along, from one post/update/tweet to the next. Have I said too much? Have I said too little? Have I interacted enough? Have I not interacted enough? Do the people out there know the true me? Do I even want the people out there to know the true me? These are the kinds of questions that go through my head on a daily basis.

In the meantime, I somehow force myself to keep going. Every week, I get my blog out, trying to reveal just a little bit about myself while still feeling that I haven't given too much away. My Twitter and Facebook continue to fill with my regular random comments. For better or worse, I seem to have figured out a way to get myself out their, while maintaining my desire to keep myself as private as I possibly can.

After all, that's the modern way. I just have to figure out the right set of rules that will work for me.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Taking a great big leap into 2015

It's here, whether we like it or not - 2015.

Sounds really odd to me. 2015 seems like a date that should be way off in the future, with flying cars and robots everywhere and people dressed up in Star Trek suits. Hard to believe that it's actually today.

As a new year starts, so I like to lay out my plans (hey, I can't help it - it's just the sort of guy I am). So, whether you call them new year resolutions or just a rough road map to the year ahead, here are my writing and publishing goals for 2015:
  1. The detective novel (current title A Fate Worse than Death) - we're well advanced on the editing front here so I'm hoping to have it released some time around March/April.
  2. Two picture books (Maddie's Monsters and Bella and the Blue Genie) are both scheduled for release later this year - Maddie in April and Bella in November.
  3. Last year I made good progress on my YA/MG fantasy novel (tentative title Through the Flame). Depending on how quickly I can get the detective novel going, there's a not unreasonable chance I can also have this released before the end of the year.
  4. As mentioned last week, I've just started work on my dinosaur story (tentative title Dinosaurs - maybe not so original but I like it). This is most likely going to be a novella-ish thing, in the same style as Doodling and Flidderbugs. Given the three goals above, I'm not sure if I'll have it ready for release this year but we'll see how we go.
  5. I'd like to keep developing picture book ideas for future publication. As with last year, I plan to produce at least two new picture book texts.
  6. Anything else? Given how long it takes me to get a novel into publishable form (at least 2 years) I feel like I should at least be trying to make a start on something - otherwise, 2016 is going to be a much quieter year publishing-wise. I have a few rough ideas in my head at the moment.
So those are the plans. I like to at least try and set achievable goals for myself, but in this case...Well I suppose I'll find out at the end of the year.

Hope you achieve all your goals and 2015 is a fabulous year for you. And watch out for those flying cars.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

End of year round up for 2014

I can't believe it. It always seems to come around so fast. One minute, it's the promising start to an exciting new year. The next minute, it's all over. How could another year have slipped past so quickly?

At this time of year, it's always a good thing to look back on the writing goals I set myself to see how I went.

All things considered, my expectations should be pretty low. It's been an exhausting year for a number of reasons, both on the personal and work fronts. I'm not even sure how I've managed to find any time for writing at all.

And yet...

When I look back on the goals I set myself at the start of the year, I've actually done pretty well. Here's a quick summary:

1. Publishing
  • I finished and published the third of my Neville Lansdowne stories - Scrawling. It took longer than I originally planned, but the extra effort was worth it. I think it's definitely the best of the Neville stories.
  • Thanks to the good people at Evolved Publishing, I was extremely excited to publish my first picture book, Thomas and the Tiger-Turtle. The feedback I've gotten from young readers has been amazing.
  • I had my novel Magnus Opum republished by the good people at Booktrope Publishing. Great to see Magnus in print at last.
  • Am now in a fairly advanced stage of editing for my next novel, a comic detective thriller titled A Fate Worse than Death.
2. Writing
  • I completed several drafts of my YA/MG novel (tentative title Throught the Flame) to the point where I believe it's not far away from being publisher ready.
  • I set myself the goal of writing two new potential picture book texts, and I was able to meet it. The titles for these two new stories are Bella and the Blue Genie and Rory and the Rainbow Bird.
  • As of this week, I officially made a (very small) start on my long awaited dinosaur story (tentatively titled Dinosaurs).
Not a bad effort for 12 months. I guess now it's time to start thinking about those goals for 2015.

Hope your 2014 was also a good one.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Calling the good Doctor

Today is one of those days when I feel like delving back into my history.

I'm thinking about way back when I was a kid, and we had regular visits from a good Doctor. And just who was that Doctor, I hear you ask. The answer is easy to find when you swap the words around. I'm talking about Doctor Who.

I loved Doctor Who when I was a kid. I loved all the monsters - the Cybermen and Sontarans and Zygons and especially the Daleks (exterminate, exterminate!) I loved the resourcefulness of the Doctor, and how he was always able to beat the monsters using his brains and wits. I loved the imagination and creativity. I loved the cliffhanger endings, and how you always had to go back the next night to see how everything turned out.

It didn't matter that the costumes were pretty shonky and the sets looked like they were about to fall apart. The stories were so strong and the characters so great that you could easily suspend disbelief and get completely sucked into whichever amazing environment the TARDIS had taken the Doctor into.

I find it kind of amazing and more than a little bit amusing to think that these days Doctor Who is a huge international success. Back then, it seemed like something a bit special. Something for us British Commonwealth people to enjoy. Sure, the Yanks had Star Trek and Star Wars and Lost in Space and all those others. But we had Doctor Who and that was the best show of the lot. It was our own special little secret.

For a long time, the good Doctor disappeared from our screens, but he remained in my memory and my heart. And then he came back, bigger and better than ever. More complicated stories and a way bigger special effects budget. Suddenly, it wasn't just a local thing. Doctor Who became a big international hit.

I still like watching the new Doctor Who on and off, though I can't say I'm dedicated like I was as a kid. People can have their David Tennant or Matt Smith but I'm still a Tom Baker kind of person. And I like to think that a bit of the creativity and ingenuity of the episodes I used to watch rubbed off on my writing in some way.

On top of my computer at work, I have a little Dalek and a little TARDIS, just to remind me about that person I used to be, and maybe still am - just a little bit.