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

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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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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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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When the (micro)chips are down

As both of my readers know by now, rather than write my novels, I spend my time trawling the news sites to find things of interest (well I do have a PhD in procrastination, ask my wife.)

Anyway, I digress. I was looking at that well known news site (you know the next bit so well – the one run by the Broken Biscuit Company,) when I came across this fascinating but scary story.

Microchips. The future of the human race? Honda Asimo
The future of the human race?
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=140450

A Wisconsin company is to become the first in the US to insert microchips into its employees. Yes, you did read that right, people are being microchipped just like your dog or cat. The company in question is offering to implant the tiny chip into workers’ hands for free – and they suggest everyone will soon be doing it. The rice grain-sized chip will allow them to open doors, log on to computers and purchase food, all without any effort on their part. A spokesman for the company was very upbeat about the whole thing, focusing on the benefits of having the device, and so far, 50 of the 85 employees agree with him and have signed up to the deal.

Of course, I can see the advantages, but do we really need them and have we looked far enough ahead to see the problems on the horizon? The idea of mobile phones was sold on the basis they would simplify communications; make it easier to stay in contact with friends, relatives and, unfortunately, even your employer. And yes, that has happened – but the downside is that now, we only seem to be capable of communicating with people who are not in our presence. Next time you are in a coffee shop, take a look at around, I can guarantee most will be on their mobiles, texting, watching videos, playing games, anything except communicating with their present company,

Then there are computers. Sold as a device to make our lives a lot easier, freeing up our time to do all manner of things – except our time is spent tending to our new masters, trying to get them to do what we want, not what they want. Whether you like it or not, we have become their slaves. Not to mention the thousands of people who are now unemployed, replaced by a computer.

First edition of Orwell's 1984
First edition of Orwell’s 1984

For those of you, like me, who are thinking of Orwell’s 1984 scenario, a spokesman for the company believes this is the way forward, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. When the inevitable question about tracking arose, he assured the reporter the device had no GPS technology and was the same as the microchips in your credit cards.

Forgive me for being a little cynical here. It may well be the case the microchips are simply an identity device, such as in your credit card, but how long before some government, or business, sees the enormous potential of tracking the whereabouts of every citizen and works clandestinely to put that tracking technology in place. It doesn’t need to have the GPS technology in the chip; that handy little mobile phone I mentioned earlier, can be tracked from its signal strength at the cell towers.

This may be a conspiracy theorist standpoint, but do you trust your politicians to tell the truth, be open and honest and have your best interests at heart? Sorry, it may well be advantageous to pay with the wave of a hand and have the light come on when I enter a room; I don’t need to be turned into R2-D2 in the meantime. The more someone tells me something will never happen, the more I believe that will be the most likely outcome. That’s not cynicism, nor conspiracy theory, it’s experience.

The only chips I want inside my body come wrapped in paper and are liberally covered in salt and vinegar (sorry, my American cousins, those things in a foil bag are called crisps; you’ll get the hang of it one day.)

Have a good one.

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When a dog’s life isn’t a dog’s life

Dog with no name

As a Jedi, no – seriously, I am – anyway, as I was saying, as a Jedi, I believe things happen to us for a reason. We aren’t always sure what the reason is, and it may never become obvious to us, but it is part of your destiny, young Luke. On Sunday, one such thing happened and whilst it is a tiny thing, figuratively and literally, it is going to have an enormous effect on our lives.

Bahrain has a massive problem with stray dogs. Initially, these would have been dogs abandoned by their owners when they left the island, (just how someone can do that to any animal is beyond me, but that’s another story,) but now they are breeding amongst themselves and it is not unusual to see and hear large packs of dogs roaming around in the late evening and during the night. How they survive in this heat, with virtually no water, I am not sure, but survive they do and we see mothers with pups on a regular basis.

Dog with no name
© 2017 Glen R Stansfield. All Rights Reserved.

So, when our cleaner told us she had just found a puppy at the entrance to the compound, with no mother in sight, we were not prepared for the tiny, dehydrated, tick infested, bundle that was lying on our back doorstep. Her respiration rate and lethargy told me this dog did not have long for this world.

We cooled her by wetting her and she responded by trying to lick the water on the ground, so we gave her small amounts of water to drink and brought her into the house in a cardboard box. Mindful of the tick infestation and our two resident cats, the box was placed inside a plastic carrier bag to contain the myriad of ticks that were now dropping off her.

My wife spent the day looking for signs of the mother, as we weren’t sure if this little bundle was even weaned. Sadly, she was nowhere to be found and the poor little thing spent the night with us, hardly moving.

The following day she had regained some of her strength and found the cat food, not a good diet for dogs, but in the interim it was preferable to no food at all. Clearly, she had been weaned and was perfectly capable of wolfing down food as well as lapping the water, although still somewhat unsteady on her feet.

One trip to the vet later, the dog with no name has been estimated to be  just five-weeks old, de-ticked and de-wormed, supplied with suitable food and my wallet depleted.

A long discussion ensued as to what we were going to do with her in the long term (the cats never moved their position on this; one now lives upstairs and the other lives in fear of this overgrown mouse.) This resulted in us buying the inevitable chewy rubber toys, (which she ignores in preference for the tassels on the rug,) two feeding bowls and a litter tray (how she knows to do it on paper already, is beyond us)

I knew after day one, this little bundle of mischief was destined to be with us and was going to stay.

I am just looking forward to the day when I can teach her to drive like this owner has. What a dog’s life, eh?

Dog Driver
© 2017 Glen R Stansfield. All Rights Reserved.

The way to curry favour – or in this case, soup.

When I first started this writing malarkey, my intention was to write a novel, just the one, and that would be it. The malarkey however, was not prepared to let me do that, so not only have I now written two novels, have two more in progress, with a further two in the planning stages, I also make a monthly contribution to Bahrain Confidential, a local glossy magazine and write a weekly cookery feature for another Bahrain based publication, Weekender .

Titled, Around the World in Eighty Dishes (thank you, Jules Verne,) I cook a dish from a different country each week, photographing the ingredients and finished product, as well as writing a brief history of the food or the country, and supplying the recipe.

Selection of Dishes

Shortly, we will be arriving in the Caribbean, and as I like to be a couple of weeks ahead with the articles, this week I cooked a traditional recipe from Jamaica.

As is usual with these dishes, the quantities I cook far exceeds what the two of us can reasonably eat in one go; sometimes we have the same dish over two days and sometimes we freeze a portion. On this occasion, I decided to combine the leftovers to make a soup.

As is often the case, something that is effectively thrown together, as this

Curried Goat Soup
Curried Goat Soup

soup was, far exceeds your expectations, so much so, I decided to turn it into a recipe so you can give it a go yourself.

It is time consuming, with each stage taking several hours, and that is probably what made this dish taste so good, the final ingredient – lashings of time.

The full recipe can be found here.

Sixty – going on twenty-five

When I was twenty-one years old (some four or five years ago…if you believe that, would you like to buy a used car? One careful lady owner, never raced or rallied,) it seemed to be that anyone reaching sixty years of age could be considered to have had a good innings. Let’s face it, once you reach that age you’re past your prime, physically and mentally, ready to be put out to pasture Old Man in a Bath Chairand see out your last couple of years in a bath chair, covered with a blanket, living in a world of your own, right?

On the twenty-fourth of June, I had what they call a significant birthday. As far as I’m concerned, all birthdays are significant because it means I’m still alive, but this was one of the biggies, apparently. I have reached the age I once considered to be the turning point, and you know what? It is.

I am not ready for the bath chair just yet, although my joints ache enough for me to consider one; it’s too hot here to be covered with a tissue, let alone a blanket, and my wife would tell you I already live in a little world of my own, but mentally I don’t think I have ever gone past the age of twenty-five. Combine that with another thirty-five years’ experience of living on this planet and you have a pretty awesome combination; experience and youth.

No longer how I imagine sixty years of ageI will continue with my writing, which like me, can only improve with age, I will continue to have an opinion, tempered with experience meaning I won’t necessarily voice it (who am I kidding?) and I feel ready to take on the world.

Does that mean I’m not ready for retirement in a few years’ time? You bet, I’m ready, but retirement for me will mean having the time to do all those things I don’t have time to do now, because someone expects me to turn up every day to work for them (okay, I need the money too.) I have a list as long as your arm of things to be done and they are just the ones my wife has waiting for me, but I’m not ready to be put out to pasture, not by a long chalk.

Sixty is no longer the new forty, it’s the new twenty-five; I say so.

 

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What a Hullaba..loo

As both my readers know by now, I am constantly trawling the news sites for snippets which are worthy of inclusion in this esteemed literary masterpiece (okay, it’s a tatty old blog, but my first version sounds far better.)

Once again, the famous news site, run by the Broken Biscuit Company, has come to my aid in finding something on which to comment.

Man on a toiletNow, we Brits have always found both embarrassment and humour in the most basic of bodily functions, number ones and twos, tinkles and poos, call it what you will, but there is a love-hate relationship with the process that every human, and indeed living creature on this planet must go through, the excretion of waste.

We all know a least one person who delights in the passing of gas at the most inappropriate times, and another who never seems to visit a toilet, ever, but it would appear embarrassment far outweighs entertainment for many people, regarding all matters toilet.

Renowned for being something of a reserved nation, I thought the Brits would be at the top of the league in this department, but according to the article I read, the Swedes are up there too. What we sometimes refer to as schoolboy humour isn’t at all humorous to schoolboys after all.

One town has come up with an idea to drown out the nefarious sounds of the

Brass Band
This may be a common sight in toilets in the future..
By NawlinWiki at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3960443

loo by installing music in the school toilets. It seems that both primary and senior high school students are loath to use the loo for fear of being overheard.

According to Centre Party Councillor Cecilia Cato, in the town of Tingsryd, some children are so concerned that they refuse to use the toilet all day. She suggested the musical solution to the local council.

“I don’t think it’s just about number two on the toilet, but many also don’t do number one,” Ms. Cato said.

I just wonder about the choice of music. Would that be left to the individual concerned, depending on their circumstances? On occasion, I have been in public toilets when the person concerned would probably require Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with cannons and for some, maybe Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee would find favour. Then of course there is Handel’s Water Music….perhaps I should leave it right there.

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