Friday, January 29, 2016

"It's their loss", no, really it is

So, a few days ago, I received my first rejection email of 2016 - or as I prefer to call it my first 'it's their loss' email. (Only reaching that stage after sobbing quietly for a few hours.)

Yesterday I received a 'we'd like to see more' email, which, strangely enough made me feel worse than the first one. You see it was from a publisher. Again you'd think, 'Well, that's good, isn't it?' But I don't know; I am suspicious. And I became even more suspicious after I googled them.

On the original publishing website they did say that they may ask for a contribution towards publishing costs, which can be a sign of a vanity publisher but, on the other hand, is like going to a regular printer if you self-publish, but that unlike a vanity publisher they would only publish if they considered it of suitable quality.

The reviews I read however suggested that everything would be of suitable quality and that the financial contribution requested could be very high.

So, yes, my reaction was: the only people who consider my manuscript worthy of publication are scam artists. Hence my misery.

Anyway we're off to Surrey for the weekend so time with grandchildren will cheer me up. We're setting off this afternoon so I'll miss any more 'It's their loss' emails that arrive - I find Fridays to be a 'good' rejection receipt day. I am convinced agents come to the end of the week and just want to reduce their pile a bit so fire them off willy nilly. 

I hope my next post will be more cheerful: I'm not really as horrendously miserable and dreadful to be around as I may sound. At least I hope I'm not ...

P.S. Vanity publishers came into the news a few years ago because they were taking lots of money from people to publish their books. They played on people's vanity and desire to be published - much like self-publishing - but at a great cost - unlike self-publishing. I self-published This Time Next Year at no cost to myself, unless you count blood, sweat and tears.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Especially for my Russian readers

Vchaira ya goulyaya ce cebakoy : phonetically spelled means 'yesterday I took my dog for a walk. Very roughly. Possibly. 

For some reason I learned one sentence - that one - of Russian when in school. I can't imagine why, or why it has stayed with me. But that's for my Russian readers. It's not actually true as I had women's group yesterday and didn't have time to walk George but I hope by Sunday I will be able to say it truthfully.

Now hair. Most importantly I saw a photo of the new baby, born last night, and very lovely he is too. And Andrew took very good care of me. I think he was working on the wrap-in-cotton-wool principle, looking after me while Mark was away. The style is slightly different from my norm but will soon fall into droopiness when I'm left to dry it myself. 
Dear me, what big eye-bags you have, Granny!

An afternoon spent sitting in the hairdresser's, though it gave me a good opportunity to read Brennan Manning's book - the title of which escapes me - did nothing for my step count. I'm going to have to go a bit to fit in another 6,000 steps before bedtime.

Big in Russia

My blog page view stats:
Australia 11
UK 131
Russia 632

I look at my stats every now and again out of curiosity. Obviously I'm big in Russia - and that doesn't include the 'istan' countries. Perhaps I make more sense in Russian. 

Well, as we all know, statistics never lie so Спасибо and хорошего дня.

(Thank you and have a good day - according to Google translate.)

Phoebe and me

I should be in the hairdresser's now. I would be if my hairdresser's wife hadn't gone into labour. I mean, seriously, like she couldn't have waited until the weekend?

So, instead, I'm going in later on to be cut by Andrew. Andrew is rather more avant garde in his styling. I may return with shaved bits. 

(A pigeon is trying to work out how he can reach the fat balls without falling off his perch. It's all we get on our front garden bird-feeder: fat pigeons. 'Don't let the pigeon eat the peanuts!' A phrase recognisable by parents of small children.)

So I've been wearing my Fitbit non-stop since yesterday afternoon (apart from when I was in the shower). It begins counting again each day at midnight; so far today I have taken 1,374 steps. It's 30 from bed to the toilet - I know because I counted - so it must add up quite quickly. Slightly worryingly though is the fact that it thinks I slept for 16 undisturbed hours last night. Oh and the fact that when I woke up it already registered 11 steps. I know i wriggle a lot in bed but I'm surprised it's enough to count as a step.

I'm hoping that the Fitbit - I know, let's call her Phoebe - will magically make me lose weight without me having to do anything. Now the woman who invents that machine will be onto a winner.

And don't worry; I'll soon lose my enthusiasm for reporting every detail from Phoebe. She's already making my wrist feel itchy ...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Inherent Vice

So, to clarify: I think the covered cage was something to do with Roman Catholicism. The parrot was just my imagination. But a better idea I like to think.

Fitbit. It's took 24 hours for me and then Husband when I gave up to set up my Fitbit, to wirelessly sync it. (Don't ask me what that means.) It's still sitting on my desk looking at me in an annoyed fashion. Okay, I'll put it on, shall I? ... Right, it feels okay, quite soft strap, but the display seems to be a bit too far around my wrist but you can't adjust it because that's the way the gubbins is set up. Once I accept that and don't go to change it each time I look at it I'm sure it'll be fine.

Well, my heart rate is 65 and so far Fitbit is proving accurate in that it records my steps as 0. I've already argued with a till today so I can see me and Fibit having a few show-downs. The trouble with arguing with a machine is that you can never win. Even if you're right the machine won't admit it. I'd better decide on a name so when people say, 'Are you talking to yourself?' I can say, 'No, I'm talking to Hermione.' Or whoever.

I was going to take a photo of Fitbit on my arm but then I noticed how hairy my arms are. Dark hairs too. It's one thing to bleach your top lip, quite another to tackle two arms.

* * * * * * * * 

One of my Christmas presents from Husband was a dvd called Inherent Vice. Apparently it was on a 'recommended for over 55s' list. We watched it last night. The main character is a private eye called Doc - I only know that because I just read the write-up on Amazon. Prior to that I thought he was called Dug or Dog. In fact I should probably have read the synopsis on the web before watching the film: I may have known what was going on then. Here's an excerpt from one of the reviews:
Doc's journey takes him through a dead biker, Mental Asylum (Straight is Hip), Chinese smuggling, Dentist pedophile, massage parlor, and government conspiracy involving the FBI, DOJ and the Aryan Nation. Try to keep up.

I failed to keep up but having said that it's not an entirely bad film. To its credit you can't fall asleep while it's on; you have to concentrate. Younger Son just said we should have had subtitles on and I do think that would have helped because they did mumble so. And, apart from his sideburns, Doc was a reasonably nice person.

I see Netflix will be showing House of Cards season 4 this year. Husband is a big fan but we watched the first season just after Breaking Bad and I couldn't cope with any more horrid people so gave up. I like nice.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I can understand the cover-up but why a parrot in church?

My style of driving Alfie Porsche is best described as 'Pick a gear, any gear'. Don't tell Husband though.

Today it was sunny. Good. But it meant I had to pull the sun visor down. Bad. It hits me on the head and covers most of the front windscreen meaning I can see very little of what's ahead. I also couldn't see what was behind me as the mirror was adjusted for Husband and if I move it it falls off.

So pity anyone following me on the road today. Still I got home in one piece. 

To play with my new Fitbit! Having said that, after the initial 'oh, isn't it pretty?' excitement I haven't touched it. I thought I could just put it on and hey presto that would be that but no, it seems it has to be charged and then, quite possibly, linked up to NATO HQ.

While it was charging I visited Sainsburys (how many times can one woman go to Sainsburys in one week? Better add on another once as I've just remembered what I forgot) and child-minded. I bought chicken nuggets and oven chips to try and tempt grandchildren to eat something other than bread and hummus or 'yellow' i.e. with butter, toast. 

The chips were cast aside as being too thin and crunchy and the chicken nuggets weren't even tasted. So I had finish off everything. As well as eat my dinner. I did intend to have a smaller dinner, honest, but the cheese and coleslaw just seemed to creep onto my plate.

Oh yes, the parrot.

In RC mass with Uncle on Saturday - a special mass was said for him in honour of his 90th birthday - and I couldn't help but notice the covered cage just behind the altar. Obviously you wouldn't want a parrot  - or maybe budgie - to be talking away during mass so the cover I can understand. It's just why have a birdcage on the altar at all?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Today is the first day of the rest of my life

And even though it's started badly - on the scales this morning I found that my already excess weight has increased by one pound from last week - I am feeling in better spirits. A new start. Sensible eating, fitting in more exercise (or trying to at least), writing daily (ditto), and, most importantly, living life to the full. (As Leslie reminded me I'd resolved to do!)

With rock stars of varying levels of fame popping off on an almost daily basis since the year began, and all of them only a few years older than I, it's time to grab those moments again.

Monday, January 18, 2016

With a little bit of this and a little bit of that

I've spent the afternoon submitting three novels to five agents. The rule about multiple submissions doesn't seem to apply any longer; I think they've realised if authors have to wait eight weeks between each submission they could grow old waiting for success. So I've sent novel 3 to three different agents.

Now it's all done by email it's quicker and less hassle although each agent seems to want something slightly different. One may ask for three chapters and a synopsis; another wants a detailed letter about the author; another wants a short synopsis; another a long; another your blood and tears. The only thing they seem to agree on is that the manuscript should be in Times Roman, size 12, and preferably double-spaced.

And before you even get to submitting you have to decide whether the agency is right for you. Some are altogether too highbrow. Others make it so complicated you give up before you start. But the other thing they have in common is that they all - without exception - stress how unlikely it is that you will be successful. Because out of the thousands of manuscripts they receive each week they only take on 2 new clients a year. Not necessarily because your novel isn't publishable but it's got to 'really grab the agent'. 

And that could depend on all sorts of things that have nothing to with your novel or writing ability. The agent may just have burned her tongue on a scalding hot coffee or had a row with her boss or found out that her rival has a prize-winning author on her hands. 

So submitting and sitting back to wait for rejections isn't really being pessimistic. Just realistic.

* * * * * * * * * *
A good number of years ago, in a different life, I was asked to write something for a Christmas concert. I duly wrote and practised my piece and turned up all ready and prepared. Halfway through the concert one of the organisers crept up to me and whispered, 'We're running late. Is it all right if we drop your piece?'

This last Christmas Sean left the planning of the carol service in Zac's to me. 'I trust you,' he said. 

People can say you're valued but sometimes their actions speak louder than their words.

* * * * * * * * * *
Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I reminded myself of that trite little phrase this morning. It may be trite and a cliché but it's true, as I reminded the men in prison when I spoke there the Sunday before last. I was encouraging them to search for hope and a new beginning.

A new year doesn't just start on January 1st. Which is just as well as I've been feeling pretty rotten for most of this month. Still suffering with the remains of the cough/cold that has been my bugbear for months I tell you, months - oh, okay, a few weeks - but more so with an inexplicably heavy black cloud that I've been unable to escape from.

It hasn't been consistent and I've had good times but underlying my pleasure has been the feeling that I'm just not good enough. For whatever I'm doing. Even when I'm doing something worthwhile I feel I should be doing something else. Or doing it faster or better.

I think I'm beginning to escape it now, hence the enthusiasm for submitting my novel, and even writing this blog post. 

Which is becoming a bit depressing so let's do something about that.

For Christmas I bought Husband these racing OAPs:
As you can see Grandad has an inbuilt advantage being motorised. Granny was further disabled by the loss of her foot on Boxing Day ...

Oh yes, and over the last week we've lost Husband's cardigan (or rather I've lost it he claims), his glasses (again my fault but it was me who found them behind the tomatoes), four tins of baked beans and a jar of tomato salsa. If you come across them, please return to owner.

And now I'm off to circuit training. I spend each Monday waiting for the phone to ring and for Jules, our trainer, to say he's broken his foot - drastic I know but a small price to pay for a night off.

But I've also ordered a Fitbit. More out of curiosity than anything else. I walk twice as far as I need to because I have a bad memory.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Christmas television as seen by me - and the odd book

Doctor Who - take it or leave it.
Stick Man - absolutely brilliant and delightful.
Call the Midwife - that'll do for me, thank you.
Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special 1 - standard, nothing hilarious.
Sherlock - disappointing. Too much time leaping, addiction side effects and general hoo-ha.
And Then There Were None - in spite of having seen it before on television and on stage couldn't remember whodunnit. Well produced and atmospheric but not a lot of laughs ...

And I think that was all I watched. Oh, just before Christmas we did watch Michael Mcintyre on Netflix and he was hilarious. not his latest show obviously but well worth watching if you get the chance - and if I could remember the title.

You can see why I don't often do reviews: I am rubbish at them!

Oh yes, I did read The Santa Klaus Murder. It was Featured Book in Waterstone's just before Christmas and with it you got a free mince pie and coffee - or in my case, tea and welshcakes.It's a British Library Crime Classic written by Mavis Doriel Hay and is a proper old-fashioned murder set in a country house during a family Christmas gathering. Recommended 4*.

And crazy like Christmas

I missed the last circuit training of 2015 and the way I feel right now may miss the first of 2016 (tomorrow evening) too.

I've had a cold/cough/sore throat/snuffles in some shape or form for what seems like months but is actually only about four weeks. I've been dosing myself up on vitamin C and echinacea (as well as proprietary cold drugs) but they don't seem to be doing the trick. Maybe I should just let this virus have its wicked way with me and get it over with. 

Although  I think I may continue with the Vicks chest rub and Olbas oil on my nightie: they're rather comforting and warming. Speaking of which, since before Christmas, we've had no heating in the bedroom as the valve on the radiator has gone. It's taken me back to the days of my childhood when I wore as many clothes to go to bed as I did to go out in the day. Husband is waiting for Monday to fix it in case he needs to call a plumber.

Which all sounds rather grumbly and miserable when really I've had an excellent Christmas season. Brief highlights - at least those things I can remember - follow, mostly for my benefit to look back upon.
The Tuesday before Christmas it was the Zac's carol service.
On Christmas Eve I went to RC mass with Uncle and thyen for curry with Husband, Younger Son, Nuora and her brother, Luca, over from Italy.
We had Younger Son, Nuora, Luca, Uncle in his wheelchair, Daughter, Son-in-law and three grandchildren for Christmas lunch. Then it was Doctor Who, Stick Man and Call the Midwife.
On Boxing Day I helped out with lunch for the homeless in Zac's.
Next day it was Nuora's birthday celebrated with lunch in Castellamare and cake for tea.
Little gap I think then before Elder Son, Daughter-in-law and two grandchildren arrived to stay. Including a visit to the pier with the intention of going on the beach. However the wind was so strong we took refuge in the arcade instead, where, remarkably I started off with 50p of 2-pences (or '2s?' as the change man asked me with a puzzled voice when I asked for them) and finished with 46p. (Until I gave them to GrandSon1 to use up.) And Elder Son's shepherd's pie with spicy parsnip mash.
Much fun, eating and merriment interspersed with visits to Uncle and sick friend, and child-minding for Daughter who is about to move. And more time and money spent in Sainsburys than I find possible to believe. 

I still have the tree to take down and feel in need of a Me Day but I suspect that it - the Me bit - will be put off for the foreseeable future! Life's too busy and too good.
Santa's reindeer 

Fry-up at Zac's
I was a bit puzzled by the first present I unwrapped (from Husband)

Antipasti starters for Christmas dinner

But it all made sense later
A Boxing Day walk
Nuora and Luca making gluten-free pasta for Younger Son's lasagne

And then it was Nuora's birthday
Celebrated with lunch at Castellamare 
You can't tell from this photo but the waves were washing sideways across the Pier beach _ I was almost blown over trying to capture it

The compulsory Christmas ice cream with GrandSon1 at the Pier.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Live extravagantly

A few years ago I made the resolution to live extravagantly. I hope I have on occasion done that over the years but I think it's time to re-resolve.

By live extravagantly I don't mean spend extravagantly. I have no intention of foolishly frittering Husband's hard-earned and squirrelled-away cash. (And Husband would have something to say if I did.) No, I mean live extravagantly.

Without a meanness of spirit but with a generous heart and soul - and passion for life. Live as if it's the only life I have. Make the most of it with extravagant courage and energy. Refuse to be beaten down by the negatives; search out the positives and declare them to be the only possible option. In the face of those who will shake their heads and say, 'just look at the world today,' I will look at the world and see its beauty, all it has to offer.  

I will (continue to) gallop and skip, to roll down hills, to run into the wind pretending to be an aeroplane, to get things wrong, to laugh at myself, to love my family more than life itself, and I will try to be brave. To not give up. To not expect it to rain.

And I won't be disappointed in myself if sometimes I do give up. As long as I try.