Thursday, 23 June 2011

Coconut the cat, before the op...

Hours of fun with a piece of Fusilli pasta...

Bad Drivers and Webbed-feet. Are they connected?

Asturias
I live in a part of the world which has remained isolated from the rest of the country until very recently. Asturias, in northern Spain, is so isolated that it is proudly boasted as the only part of Spain not to come under Moor control.

It is only in the last few decades that Asturias has been connected to other communities through EU funded communications construction. Even to this day, that work ploughs on unabated, often to the detriment of the beauty of the region.

Isolated peoples
Isolation in itself isn't a bad thing, so long as you avoid in-breeding, naturally. But it does throw up a few odd quirks which are unique to the people involved. Some people seem to think the French have webbed-feet, whilst it is true that on an island in Indonesia lived a Hobbit species as recently as 12000 years ago.

Roundabouts
Isolation under Franco led to Spain becoming one BIG carpark
In Asturias, the locals have developed a unique system for negotiating roundabouts. They will never use the inside two lanes, no matter what exit they are taking. In Oviedo, capital of Asturias, everybody drives round in the outside lane, thus reducing a three-laned roundabout to a one-laned roundabout. It also adds to the fun factor for visitors from the outside, as they try to exit the roundabout from an inner lane, only to discover a local driving into the side of them. Indeed, even the locals often get it wrong. One only has to stand at the side of any roundabout in the city (but the ones on the ring-road are the best) for a bit of local entertainment. Just keep your eye open for any foreign cars.

I have it on good authority - and have seen it myself - that drivers under instruction here are told by their instructor to always take the outside lane, no matter where you want to go, as it is 'complicated' to choose the correct lane. Once you leave Asturias, you'll find drivers able to deal with the complexities of roundabout lane choice without too much effort.

Isolation, it does throw up some oddities...

(PS. They are crap at designing road systems too...)

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Dream Pills and the Real Cost

My fantasy series is about Dreams (with a capital 'D' -  see My Writings). For this reason I am particularly interested in Dream Pills and their consequences.

So, do you Dream? Of course you do - we all do, every time we sleep. In fact we Dream numerous Dreams each night, whether you remember them or not is dependent on numerous factors. Now, the experts can tell you how the universe was formed, what killed off the dinosaurs and why your hair turns white and/or falls out but they can't tell you why you have Dreams.

Coming back to to my post title. Maybe you remember your Dreams, maybe you don't give a monkeys? Maybe you have great Dreams, maybe you want better Dreams? Maybe you are one of those unfortunate people who fear sleep...?

Pills
We can get a pill for nearly everything these days.

Grey hair? Here, take this.
Overweight? Here, take this.
Want more muscles? Here, take this.
Don't want babies? Here, take this.
Made a baby but don't want it? Here, take this.
Hungover? Here, take this.
Don't want a stroke/heart attack? Here, take this.
Pride & joy letting you down? Here, take this.

The list, as you know, is endless. These days we can get a pill for just about anything and everything. And now you can even take control of your Dreams! And why not? We do, after all, spend a third of our life sleeping, and therefore Dreaming. So why not make the most of it? No more pointless, wasted Dreams. No more 'WTF was that all about?' or 'Why the fuck did you wake me?!'

Costs
How much would you be willing to pay me for a Dream Pill? You get to choose the category - fantastical, romantic, domineering, sexy, kinky, back-Dream, future-Dream, dead-relative Dream, superstar-encounter-in-a lift-Dream or just a plain crazy Dream. You can also get nightmare pills for a fee, but you'll have to sign a waiver for these.

Each Dream category has sub-categories. For example, foreign-language Dream, exotic location, photocopier and uniforms. (Natalie Portman & Clive Owen Dreams cost slightly more). Please be advised that we don't do animals or children without a police criminal records certificate beforehand.

Drawbacks
These pills are no more physically addictive than aspirin, but you must understand that the Dreams you will have will most definitely be addictive. You chose them, as you might wish to choose a different life. Let's face reality here, you can go back to where you left off - with who you left off with - night after night after night. This is the danger. This is the addiction. You may well begin to wish for Dreams more than life itself.

So I ask you again, how much are you willing to pay for a Dream Pill?

Monday, 20 June 2011

The President and the Light-bulb

In Spain, each building has a President representing the community of the building for all matters communial.

So when we bought our new academy and discovered the twin-light bulbs had blown on the landing outside our door, causing us a problem in getting the key into the hole, it was to el Presidente that we turned...

'Can't see a thing old chap, need the bulbs changing please.'

'Er, well, you need to write a formal letter to me, explaining the situation. Only then can I get somebody in to look at the problem,' he says.

'But,' I says, 'it's just a fucking light-bulb...'

'Yes, therefore we need to get an electrician in, so, if you could write me a letter?' he insists ( it is an important position, after all...)

'OK, of course,' I reply, as understanding as any Englishman can be in Spain.

Before el Presidente reached his 4th floor apartment both bulbs had been changed and the communidad wasn't charged a penny...

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The sofa and the fridge

'But where is it?' she asked, turning to look up at me.
'Er, it had woodworm,' I lied. 'So I had to throw it out.' She stood staring at the red replacement sofa I'd hauled up the stairs some years earlier, a hand-me-down off a neighbour.

My landlady was tiny and frail, and so like my own dearly-departed grandmother that I just wanted to hug her. I wasn't sure who was older - Gloria or the cast-out sofa. But I loved this lady, and I just couldn't hurt her by saying I'd thrown it out because it was ugly and about as comfortable as lying on a hoover. Even the charity collectors had looked shocked when they came to collect it.
'Er, sorry, we don't do sofas...' was all they could mutter as they quickly backed out of the door. And so it had been tossed out onto the pavement for the council to collect and burn - or donate to a museum.

'But it was new,' she said, befuddled. I stared up at the tapestry-thingy I'd hoovered and returned to its pride of place on the wall above the sofa. I registered that I still had to clean the spot under the bed where it had been hidden for the last five years.
'No Gloria, not new. Second hand, like the fridge.' Shit, I shouldn't have mentioned the fridge. They did take the fridge away, at least that worked. Constantly.
'Is the fridge here, or did that have woodworm too?' she asked, concern etched all over her face.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

What should I put on my on-line profile to help me become a published author and where should I put it?

Damned good question. And let's face it, if you are only just thinking of building up an on-line profile then you probably aren't yet published, and know very little about the business that you are trying to break into. Just like me.

I started to think about this question a few years back, when I was about halfway through my first book. I realised that the more people who knew me and took an interest in what I was writing, then the more chance I had of people actually going to the shops and ordering my new book once I announced its release. I also appreciated the wider audience that the web could give me.
  • Facebook. At that time I was addicted to Facebook, and so it was with Facebook that I started experimenting. First of all I built up a bigger following than usual - why delete people you hardly know/decide you don't like when they could well be a future customer of yours? I also created a group for friends from my childhood to add pictures and comments to help me out with a childhood autobiography I had started.
  • Twitter. Then I read about Twitter and opened up an account just to see if it was useful to me. It kind of fell off and I stopped using it for a while. I found it a little unusual at first and basically used it to bad-mouth people/companies that had pissed me off.
  • Blog/website. I had been running numerous blogs over the years, initially as an outlet for my increasing desire to write. Many of these were eventually left to gather dust, although I did enjoy writing Bloggerithms, but that too fell into disrepair, and now only looks a shadow of its former self. However, I learnt a lot about blogs, blogging and the all important keywords
  • LinkedIn. I had a LinkedIn account in relation to my career, but couldn't see the point in having it broadcasting all my details across the web so I gave that up, although I didn't actually delete it.
So now I find myself close to finishing two books and getting knocked back by rejections and worrying about my lack of on-line presence. It was by chance that I found BubbleCow on Facebook, and began to read with interest the articles they posted. Because of BubbleCow, I began researching more and more and eventually decided to do something about my on-line presence.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Time that doesn't exist & an OLP

I don't have time to do everything that life demands of me and write my book. I am a night-owl, and writing comes at the end of the day (or the beginning of the day on most nights). After the requirements of earning a salary are complete, the animals are sorted out, domestic life is organised and I get to sit down, the sand is quickly running out of the clock on my desk.

So, I need to write lots (and I can easily write 2000 words in a sitting) yet to get published I am told that I need to have an 'on-line presence'.

An on-line presence (OLP)? What's that all about then? Well, we live in an age of technology and at a time when everybody is writing a book. (You're reading this post so I guess you are too?). Therefore publishers can be choosy - very choosy - when it comes to parting with some cash for a new book. They need to be sure that the money invested in you and your work is going to be returned, with profit. So that's where an OLP comes in.

Are you marketable? Have you even considered how to promote your book and yourself? These type of questions are what publishers are asking when they consider your mss. The obvious way to show them you are - and that you've considered all of this whilst writing your masterpiece - is to have an OLP. After all, if loads of people already recognise your name, have had an interesting build up to the release of your book and have stayed with you over all these years, then you must be saying something right and you have a ready-made list of potential buyers of your book. This is what they are looking for on your CV which you took in behind the synopsis (why does that word always make me shiver?)

So, have you opened up a Twitter account to get out there? Do you have your own blog/site? These types of OLPs take years to build up, just as it took you years to write that book. So it stands to reason that you have to run these OLPs alongside your writing. Basically, unless you have written one of those rare masterpieces that sells itself, no OLP = no book deal.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. If I don't have time to write my book (and that's not a real 'if'), then how the hell am I supposed to find the time to create a substantial on-line presence?

Mm...

Monday, 6 June 2011

How not to write a book...

If you don't want to write that book that's been in your head for the last 7 years, why not buy a business in a city 5 hours drive away and decide to slowly move house there, taking over a month to do so? Oh yeah, and pack everything single-handedly and move everything yourself over 4 weekends!!!

'You look tired...'
I did, and it's working marvelously. I'm not writing my book! OK, like my wife, you are probably thinking 'but he's posting this post at 2am????' Yes I am, but I have an excuse - I am tired so I have been working on the company website for the last 3 hours...

And before you say 'commit yourself to your book more!', let me explain. I spent 2 hours loading the car on Friday, drove for 5 hours, unloaded at two different places, then spent the weekend cleaning, shifting and reorganising the academy, slept on a miniature, semi-inflatable mattress each night then drove for 5 long hours  back home this morning.

Oh, and then I went to class and taught for a few hours. Oh, and cleaned up after my cats....

Did I mention dropping off and collecting my dog at the kennel?

So no, I am not writing my book tonight!!!!

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