The Day We Died

Books and babies: remarkably similar

Babies and booksBooks and babies: remarkably similar? Some may take offence at this comparison, but as you can do with all my posts, if you don’t like it, please move on.
This morning, on my way to work I was feeling a little low and it didn’t take me long to put my finger on the problem, as I will explain at the end of this piece.
So why are books and babies similar? Let’s compare the cycle required to achieve both.

Conception

For most, this is a pleasurable experience, whether producing babies or books the conception is an exciting time, (we’ll not go into details here as there are plenty of books and videos on the subject elsewhere, especially about making babies!) From the writer’s point of view, the formulation of an idea to the point of it being viable gives a lift to the spirit. As for the other form of conception, well, you are all adults, so feel free to form your own conclusions. What is one partially sleepless night for the parents becomes the start of a whole period of sleeplessness for the author.

Gestation

Although the process is similar in that this is the period when both babies and books develop, there is a major difference. The gestation period for babies is pretty much fixed per species; not so for books. This can be anything from a matter of weeks to an entire lifetime. Other than that, the similarities are remarkable; developing from an embryonic state to a fully developed being.

Pre-natal

This is when all the planning takes place. For babies we think of names, decide what to buy in the way of clothes, toys, buggies, cots etc., how to decorate the nursery and choose where to have the birth. For books, we think of names, how to decorate the cover, decide where to advertise to spread the word, and choose where to have the launch.

Birth

Panic time! We are now in the period where all rational thought has gone outBabies and books are both born of the window. For a mother it is a time of excitement overshadowed by physical pain and anxiety; anxiety for the baby’s health and well-being – the father, well, at this point he is usually a gibbering wreck. An author experiences a similar excitement to the mother but is unlikely to be going through physical pain at this point. There will undoubtedly be anxiety and just as the mother will be feeling, the author will also have an overwhelming desire for it to end. The author will be a gibbering wreck, just like the father.

Post-natal

The baby has arrived, mother and baby are doing well and bonding already. The book is on the shelves, people are buying and the reviews coming in.
Then bam! For the mother, post-natal depression rears its ugly head and she has a difficult time. Not surprising as she has been on quite an emotional rollercoaster and now all the fuss has died down. And this is where the writer and mother differ. Our post-natal depression comes at the end of the pre-natal stage, once the book is as polished as you are ever going to make it and it is ready for its first public appearance. That’s when our spirits drop as the realisation hits, there is no more to do on this book.

That is where I am today. Watch this space!

Around the World in Eighty Dishes.

No babies here, just cookbooks

Time – Is time really money?

Hourglass - time
By User:S Sepp – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2949887

Time – we all know what it is, or do we? Try to define time and you may find yourself struggling, yet it appears in our everyday conversations. Examine some of the sayings about time and you start to get an uneasy feeling that we don’t really have a grasp of it – not yet, anyway.

For instance, when we do things to save time, where are we actually putting that time we save? Is there some sort of time bank where we can keep it for a rainy day? Clearly, the phrase isn’t meant to convey that message, we are merely shortening a process to … well … spend less time doing it.

There we go again! Spending time, as though it is some sort of cosmic currency stored in the Universe equivalent of Fort Knox. On the other hand, humans are notorious for wasting time. When asked what he had done with all his money, George Best famously said, he’d spent it on drink and women – the rest he wasted. Is that what we do with time, squander it on trivialities?

Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech is trying to understand time. He points out, time has a direction, which is why we can remember the past, but not the future. But time doesn’t have a size. We might think it does because we divide our days up into little parcels. It makes it easier for us when we can point to a specific point in time and give it a name. However, time is not constant throughout the universe, or even on our own planet – something that is perhaps a little deep for a small blog post.

White Rabbit - never on time - Lewis CarrollComing back to humans, I think we all know people who never have enough time, for them there are just not enough of those convenient parcels in another arbitrary period. Then there are people, like Seumas Gallacher, who are able to manipulate time in such a way, they never run out of it and can achieve any amount of work in a given time period. I once worked out his timetable and came to the conclusion he has a thirty-six-hour day.

Or maybe he knows the whereabouts of the time bank and is making withdrawals. He was a banker after all, and you know what they say – time is money.

 

Why I am wrong.

As both of my readers know, I have been quite vocal about being an independent writer and suggesting we don’t need publishers, and agents in particular; am I wrong?

Self-publishing was recommended to me when I first started this writing malarkey and I have no regrets about setting out along that path. When I was an apprentice in the airline business, I spent time in many different departments and it gave me an appreciation of the industry and how it worked. By being involved in the whole book making process, I now have an understanding of some of the problems associated with publishing and printing a book.

By doing it myself, I’ve learned about editing, creating a cover, formatting the interior, obtaining an ISBN, registering copyright and I’ve seen the printing process. I’m not an expert in any of those fields, but at least I have an understanding.

But, and it is a big but again (get that image out of your head,) there is one part I still struggle with, selling. It doesn’t matter what I do in the way of advertising, cajoling, suggesting or pleading, my book sales remain abysmally low, unless I am selling direct to the public at a signing.

Now, there are some out there who would suggest it is because my writing is rubbish, it must be, that’s why I am an indie. Well, I don’t believe it is, although it certainly improves with everything I write. So I have a  question for those who suggest it is – how do you know? If you haven’t read my work, you can’t possibly say what it is like, yet some remain unconvinced and tar all of us indies with the same brush. It is because of this I came to the conclusion, yes, I am wrong.

Some time ago I wrote a post about having direct access to some publishers thesePublishing Contract days, and I no longer saw the point of having agents. Well, I do now.

Agents are there working for you, doing the things that either you can’t or don’t have the time to do, with people who remain inaccessible to you as an independent, and that is why I have decided I must have some form of representation and that is the reason I am wrong about the industry. What we all need to realise is we are really on the same side, trying to achieve the same aims; getting readers to buy books which give them value for money and have them wanting more by the same author.

I will still self-publish some titles (I have a cookbook coming out in the near future, so watch this space,) but I think the bulk of my writing must be represented in some way.

This doesn’t mean I will jump at a contract if offered. I will need to feel it is the right person and the right contract for me. I want to establish a growing relationship, something that will be long lasting and fruitful. The right person and agency is out there, and so my journey begins.

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The urbanisation of the mythical troll

As both of my regular readers know, I sometime trawl, (perhaps troll would be more appropriate here) the news sites for …well…news. I was on that well-known site in the UK (yes, you are ahead of me, the one run by the Broken Biscuit Company) when I came across an article which inspired me to write a post on FaceTwitt.

Trolls and a fairy
By John Bauer – Illustration of Walter Stenström’s The boy and the trolls or The Adventure in childrens’ anthology Among pixies and trolls, a collection of childrens’ stories, 1915., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92923

We have to go back to the thirteenth century and Norse mythology for the beginning of the subsequent story. According to the legends, trolls lived in isolated places amongst the rocks and in caves, and rarely had contact with humans. On the odd occasion they did come across homo sapiens, the trolls would be unhelpful and belligerent.

The first signs of real trouble from the troll community came when trolls moved from their isolated places and started to live under bridges, as detailed in that incredibly accurate historical document, Three Billy Goats Gruff. It would appear, even as far back as the eighteenth century, wildlife was being driven from its natural habitat into more urban areas.

So, we come to the present day and my post, which was clearly in support of an ambulance crew who found a note on their vehicle, urging, nay, demanding it be moved from outside what can only be described as an incredibly self-centred person’s abode. Barely had the metaphorical ink dried on the screen when I could feel it, tremors rising up through the soles of my feet, the unmistakable approach of an urban troll of the clan Internet.

By Graham Richardson from Plymouth, England – South Western Ambulance VX09FYP, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13250417

Now, unlike their ancestors, urban trolls seek out humans whenever and wherever possible, so they can inflict their own brand of wisdom on these poor unfortunates. What had drawn this particular beast to my doorstep was the opening line in my post; Dear Ambulance Driver. Apparently, this is incredibly derogatory and laid me open to a not particularly eloquent tongue-lashing. Despite the intent of my post – support for ambulance crews who do a fantastic job under the most difficult of conditions – the focus of the troll was on her being offended. Oh dear.

I can’t speak for all the ambulance crews in the UK, but I am betting there would be very few that found this form of address offensive and indeed, I am sure the majority would see it for what it is, a particularly British term of endearment.

I have included a link to both the original article and the post which caused so much offence, for one individual at least.

Should any of you find something offensive in this post, or any I may do in the future, please forward your complaints in writing to the following address:

Mr Rhett Butler
Gone With the Wind
MGM Studios
Beverly Hills, California,
United States

…because frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Original article, here.

My ‘offensive post’, here.

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Now you see me…or do you?

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to find myself, not only on trial in Canada for the murder of two men but also being suspected of being a serial killer. Now, before you think there will be no further novels from me, I can assure you it wasn’t me, but had I lived in Canada, eyewitness testimony could easily have had me identified as the suspect.

The two photos below show me and the real suspect side by side. When shown this way, the resemblance is perhaps not as strong, but certainly close enough to cause a reasonable doubt, and the photo on the right certainly stopped me in my tracks and had me thinking that perhaps I was leading a double life.

Myself and the alleged murderer. Would eyewitness testimony see me arrested?
Myself and the alleged murderer

Some of you may know, some years ago I took a degree in psychology and went on to study forensic psychology for two years as a post grad. One of the many areas that interested me was eyewitness testimony. It can be manipulated by the way the witness is questioned to the point that people will swear they saw something they did not.

A classic experiment using a video of two vehicles colliding. One group was asked to estimate the speed of one of the vehicles when the collision occurred, a second group was asked a similar question but in this case the phrasing was ‘smashed into the other vehicle.’ This change of wording resulted in a significant increase in the estimated speed.

In another experiment, people were given a photograph then asked to pick out the same person from a hundred photographs. Twenty-five percent could not achieve the task even though they had a copy of the photograph in front of them.

There are numerous cases of people being wrongly convicted as a result of eyewitness testimony and subsequently being pardoned, and it still carries much weight, yet it remains one of the most unreliable forms of testimony. In my opinion, no one should ever be convicted on eyewitness testimony alone.

So now you know where to look for me if you don’t hear from me for a while.

2018, the year you see more of me, and see me less

Happy New Year to everyone, welcome to 2018…yes I know, we are so over that now, but this is the first time I have seen most of you (by that, I mean the other two of my three readers.)

I have been doing this writing malarkey since around 2011, seriously doing itMe in Bahrain that is. Obviously, I could write before that, but doing joined up sentences then making them into paragraphs, paragraphs into chapters and chapters into books, is something relatively new to me.

Once I had managed to achieve this, there came the problem of what to do with the finished article.

‘Sell them,’ they said. (I’ve never actually got to the bottom of who they are, but they do seem to say a lot.)

‘What a grand idea,’ I said, and that’s where it all came apart.

You see, everyone told me (‘everyone’ appears to be related to ‘they,’) that I need a presence on social media, Facer and Twittbook at the very least and so I did that.

Not long after going public with my private Facer profile, I gained my first con artist, a young lady from the USA, (probably a 55-year-old man from Croydon) who was doing her(his) best to wheedle her way into my life and separate me from my money. She failed and moved on to pastures new, I set up my ‘professional’ profile on Facer.

Ever since then, I have been active on my social media, some days and weeks more than others, and in all the time (well since 2014 anyway,) the organic growth of my followers can be measured on the fingers of one foot; the same applies to the followers of my blog. Now, maybe this is because I bore the pants off people, or maybe it’s because there are no longer enough people to go around all the bloggers, Facers, and Twittbookers. I suspect it’s a bit of both. As for the book sales, I sell more paperback copies than eBook because I sell paperbacks face to face (the pistol in my hand helps.)

Then there is the fact there are not enough hours in the day for me to read every post, tweet and blog, I suspect most people are in the same boat and I fear that as a tool, social media is fast becoming blunt. Followers are already following the ones they want to follow (officially sanctioned stalking is another way of putting it.)

So, I am going to reduce reduce my social media presence. I no longer intend to trawl through countless posts asking me to ‘like’ something to save a little boy in China, ‘repost my meme’ and twenty wishes will be granted, ‘cut and paste this’ and Microsoft will donate $20M to save the lesser-spotted cat ferret.  My time would be better spent writing more novels, magazine articles and continuing with my cookery interests and posts; especially as I have four novels, a screenplay and a cookery book on the go.

Coming in 2018

It’s not all negative though, and I’m not giving up on it altogether (I realise that might be a negative for some people!)  I still intend to pop in from time to time to see the fabulous people I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. As a bunch, authors have to be up there with the best. You are supportive, warm, generous and selling more books than me, dammit!

So how are you going to see me more if I am to be here less? I am nearing completion of a small (okay, not so small, it’s huge) recording booth and I intend to release some of my blog posts on video. I will also be recording some music tracks which will advertise my books, but their primary raison d’être will be the music (ear plugs will be provided free of charge.) I will be attempting to do my first audio book too. Just quite when this will all happen is not finalised yet (my round tooit is still in the post, apparently,) but happen, it will.

2018, the year you will both see and hear me…be afraid…be very afraid.

I was born under a wandering…fish?

Ill manIt has been several weeks since I posted anything on the blog. Whilst illness was the initial cause of my absence, I must confess sheer laziness and a lack of subject matter were the more recent causes.

At breakfast this morning, my wife was reading a newspaper, not something she does frequently, but on this occasion, it turned out to be somewhat fortuitous, as I now have a subject for a blog post.

As she turned the page, a headline caught my eye, ‘A Fish Called Wander.’ Whilst an obvious play on the name of the film, the content of the article proved to be interesting.

I’m not going to get into the evolution/creationism debate, but suffice to say I believe we climbed out of the primordial soup around 3.8 billion years ago, give or take a few millennia. Over millions of years we evolved into the magnificent specimens that you see before you, every time you look in the mirror; masters of all we survey and guardians of the planet…ok, I’ll come back to that one in a moment.

Sir David Attenborough, who has been on the planet a fair amount of time himself, long may it continue, presents one of the Broken Biscuit Corporations better offerings, Blue Planet II.  Not a flashback to the decorating programmes of the late nineties and early noughts,  the programme celebrates the amazing diversity of life on earth.

What caused me to read this article was the revelation that Sir David’s teamFish with legs had found a species of fish that had evolved to use its pectoral fins as feet and could walk along the bottom.

Although I am of a certain age, I am not old enough to remember when life first emerged from the oceans, but I am fairly sure it would be in a way similar to how this fish has evolved. Now, given the state of the planet under our guardianship… I told you I would come back to this… and the fact there are many who would rather put profit before planet, I couldn’t help wondering if we are witnessing the emergence of a new master race. One which perhaps understands that money isn’t real, you can’t eat it and the accumulation of wealth beyond a certain amount is pointless.

You have been warned, A Fish Called Wander is coming to a beach near you.

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Stansfield – What’s in a name?

My last blog post was about DNA testing, and the origins of my own family, Stansfield. It seems to have been a popular subject because I doubled my readership from two to four. However, I suspect at least one of them was someone who stumbled across my site by accident while searching for Arachnids of the Lower Amazon Basin, but I’m not complaining, I’ll take who I can, when I can (get your minds out of the gutter, I’m talking about readership!) Anyway, I digress.

Some of you may remember a singer by the name of Lisa Stansfield. She had a string of hits starting in the eighties and is still producing good music. Well, it was thanks to her I managed to avoid a rather long wait in Greece.

Athens at Dawn
By User:Leonard G. – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2205944

I was working for a local airline and as I was not a citizen of Greece, I had to register as an ‘alien’ to pay my taxes (there are some who say I should register as an alien just to be on this planet, but I ignore them.) I was taken to the Alien’s Bureau by the Greek company representative, Petros, who was there to ensure things went smoothly. I handed in the duly completed forms, along with my passport and a declaration of what I had eaten for breakfast (only kidding about the last one, but those of you who have ever had to deal with the Greek authorities will know they take the meaning of bureaucracy to whole new level.)

The normal waiting time, after handing in the paperwork, was around two hours. After being seated for only five minutes, my name was called, much to the dismay of Petros who was convinced there was a problem and we would have to return another day with a missing piece of paper. One minute later I was out of the office with all my documents in hand, everything completed and I was now a fully-fledged alien.

It seems that when asked if Lisa was a relative, my reply of ‘yes, she is my

Lisa Stansfield
By Lisa Stansfield By Daniel Åhs Karlsson.jpg: Daniel Åhs Karlsson;derivative work: Berita – This file was derived fromLisa Stansfield By Daniel Åhs Karlsson.jpg:, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33964082

cousin,’ was the perfect response. If you are reading this Lisa, (I wish,) sorry for using your name in vain, but I’m sure that somewhere in the dim and distant past, we once shared a relative.

On another note, I am related to Gracie Fields, (Gracie Stansfield,) for those old enough to know who she is. For those who don’t, you could try Google, or one of the multitude of other search engines.

So, there we have the proof; it’s not what you know, it’s who people believe you know.

 

DNA – Digging for New Ancestors

The internet is full of adverts for DNA testing. At first I thought this was as a result of yet more government cutbacks and we were now being told to solve even the most serious crimes ourselves. It seems this is not the case, but a new craze doing the rounds, to find your ‘roots.’

DNA double helix
By brian0918™ – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=404735

Clearly, I don’t mean the roots that are a different colour to the rest of your hair, but your ancestors, forefathers, call them what you will. They are the people without whom you would not be reading this, because you wouldn’t exist.

These DNA kits are guaranteed to give you results. Whether they are the right results is the subject of much debate. Now, clearly these kits are not to CSI standard. To start with, you don’t get to arrive in a Chevy Suburban, nor do you get a fancy jacket to wear while taking the sample. And from all accounts, their accuracy can be a bit hit and miss; even the providers will admit to their being some latitude in the results. So, if yours come back stating you are fifty-five percent orang-utan, twenty-percent blue whale, and twenty-five percent Wensleydale Cheese, don’t be surprised. Apparently, the secret is to shop around and not use the first one you come across.

Have I used one of these kits to determine my ancestry? No, you see, I don’t need to. My family name is traceable back to its origin, so it is said.

One Wyon de Maryons, follower of William de Warrene Earl of Surrey, who came to England with William the Conqueror and fought at the battle of Hastings in 1066, was given the village of Stansfield, in what is now West Yorkshire, as recognition for his support for the King. He took the title Lord Stansfield and it is from there the family name originates. My own birthplace is not too far from the village, but on the proper side of the border; I am a Lancastrian!

I am sure there will be some of you who doubt my story, despite the extensive documentation, so I therefore offer you this evidence of my heritage, taken shortly after the battle…

…it’s on Facebook, it must be true.

Viking Family

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