Then and Now

I didn’t realise that Monday’s post was my 100th. Have I really done that much burbling? Have I really frittered away my time grinding out the words that hopefully someone will read and
appreciate? Did I keep an anxious vigil watching over the statistics pages? Did I agonise about when I’d be DISCOVERED? Nah, not really or at least only at the very beginning.

When I started off in January it was all deadly serious stuff about the writing process and my book Time for Your Life . Now it’s just random burblings interspersed with snippets from one of the two books I’m currently completing – both of which I’m sad to say have run aground on a sandbank and are sitting there waiting for me to rescue them.

I had no idea what to expect when I started blogging – certainly not to gain a respectable number of followers which I have – although most of them I suspect were just “fishing and farming” and have never been heard of again. I did think at first that they’d just got bored and “unfollowed” but wouldn’t someone have told me…who knows?

Those who have stuck with me I’ve come to regard as virtual and possibly virtuous friends and if I don’t hear from them I worry about them wondering if all is OK or whether I’ve just pissed them off too. I’m humbled (OK not obviously so) by their talent and facility with words.I try to give feedback and comment but I’m not as forthcoming as I should be. I have to be ruthless in allocating time to deal with social media otherwise I’d be lollygagging about all day, still in my PJs and curlers.

In these eight months of blogging so much more has changed than tying myself to my PC to write a blog. I’ve the one book under my belt – not a runaway success but then it was never meant to be. It’s done what I wanted; through licensing it to clients, it’s paved the way for me to spend a lot less time running after the day job and much more time writing. Any sales now are a bonus.

I’ve got back into the swing of writing short articles and features for magazines and I’ve even delved into the world of short stories and competitions although I don’t know the results of that yet. This week I received my first commission (as opposed to sending in a pitch) for an article as a result of someone reading this blog; I’ve broken into the national magazine market for the first time and most exciting of all I’m in discussions about ghost writing an autobiography for…mum’s the word.

I haven’t missed the day job; in fact the few days I do work at it I enjoy much more than I was doing twelve months ago. Its not just work; it’s an opportunity to socialise as well. That is one aspect that I need to add more off to the mix – there are times when I go a whole week without having a conversation with anyone except myself, the birds, the plants in the garden and my characters. It may seem odd for someone who is the author of a book about work-life balance, but then anyone who has read it will know that I put a lot of emphasis on making conscious choices about where and when to put time and effort rather than acting by default. But I do worry sometimes about becoming that batty old bag who waddles around the village muttering to herself so I just phone a friend.

What comes next? You’ll just have to wait and read the next exciting episode of Sheila in Blogoland.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Are we at war? Have I done a Rip van Wrinkle (I was going to write “sleeping beauty” but this is not a work of fiction)and just woken up? Actually yes I have but let’s not spoil things.

Why is my inbox loaded with weighty missiles? Some from a group called, as far as I understand it, the Trads and others from a bunch called the Indies. Whoever these people are they are trying to enlist me into their armies and me with flat feet and bottle-bottom glasses. But they’re everywhere sniping at each other across everyman’s (and woman’s) land known as the Blogosphere.

The Trads declare Indies are killing them indiscriminately and without editing aforethought. They rubbish the rubbish that Indies produce crying that it pollutes the totally excellent Trad streams of consciousness. They abominate the horrible cheap prices or worse, the freebies, that a poor ignorant civilian population gobble up because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking that cheap is good and never mind the quality.

Then we have the Indies – the rebels with a cause, crying “freedom and who needs agents and greedy publishers anyway?” They gloat over the effectiveness of their mass writing tactics and the high payoffs. They launch statistics about who bought what from whom and when and where (and probably how and why for all I know). With glee, they parade those (according to Trads) treacherous turncoats who have done a deal with the devil and joined the Indie cause.

All I ever wanted was to write and I have enough self-belief to think that if the Trads don’t want me then in the words of Ol’ Blue Eyes I’ll do it my way.

Now Trads and Indies – play nicely and kiss and make up.

Have a great weekend…and don’t forget to wear your flak jacket.
PS The title quote is from Nietzsche

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Why is it that when I’m away during the week doing the day job, when I get to the weekend there’s a more than usual number of “must-do” jobs around the house and garden? These “must-dos” are not tasks that I’ve let slip (well not many really) but are things that have cropped up during the days I am away such as a delivery that I’ve planned. I explained to the courier when and where to bring it only to find that he washed up three days too early and seemed to have left my precious parcel with everyone and his dog in the village. By the time I finally tracked it down it was, shall we say, well handled!

And another thing…have you noticed that the whinge factor of my posts is on the rise? No? Well it’s just not fair. Pay attention please. I’ve been blogging since January this year and over the weekend I took a trip down blogging lane to revisit some of them. Over the weeks I noticed how they’re beginning to sound whiney. Too hard, too difficult, too much work, not fair, no-one will buy my wares blah blah blah. It’s a dangerous thing this increasing whinge factor – for one thing it exacerbates my rheumatism – have whinge will twinge sort of thing – but more seriously whinging raises the victim spectre. Poor me; all I ever wanted to do was write but “they” won’t let me. They insist I pay my mortgage; they insist I write something worth publishing; they say that unless…Oh get over yourself woman.

So there’s going to be a few changes around here. This blog is going to be less about writing, the writing process, Kindle and all the other writing/publishing nibbly-pibblies (bring back “Blackadder” please). Instead it will be more as I originally intended – notes from the coast and will probably not even mention the W word, the K word et al.

If this is not to your liking and you follow this blog (what wonderful refined taste you have) I’ll quite understand if my future musings are not your thing and you decide to “unfollow”. However it’s only fair to warn you that I am the neighbourhood witch and I know where you live.

OMG – An Award

Oh my gosh. Oh golly. This is so unexpected. Thank you so much Aspiring Scribbler for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I’m lost for words.

The Rules

1. Display Logo
2. Link back to the person who nominated
3.Reveal 7 things about yourself
4. Nominate 15…15!!! other bloggers for the award
5. Notify the nominees

7 Things about Me

1. Several years ago I accidentally walked into the gents toilets in a MacDonalds. I earned 100 quid from the experience. I’ll leave you to work out how.

2. I had aspirations to become an Olympic athlete after I won 1st place in an egg and spoon race.

3. By day, I work as a business and life coach; by night I talk in my sleep – it balances all the listening.

4. I used to have a grand piano – so every house I’ve lived in had to have an oversized lounge.

5. I got bitten by a pig and still have the scar. It throbs every time I eat a bacon buttie.

6. There is an immutable law of the universe that decrees that there’s always more month left at the end of my money.

7. I’ve got acres of wood panelling to paint so I’d better get a move on.

My Nominees

OK, I can count but I’m struggling. Clearly I’m one of the last bloggers every to receive this award. Everyone else has preceded me. I’ll add some more when I’ve had a fossick around.

To-do or not To-do – that is the question

Yesterday I continued my boxroom de-clutter in preparation for the Big Weekend Decorating Push and now the flotsam and jetsam of my life thus far is destined for the tip, the recycling centre and the charity shop.I’m sure I should write something deep and meaningful about that, about the post-apocalyptic symbolism of a broken relationship…but I don’t do deep and meaningful.

However, during this epic struggle with the evil “I might need it some day” Hydra, that kept subverting my good intentions to clear, clear, clear, my faithful vacuum cleaner snorted up one too many doses of dust, plaster and paperclips and is now moribund, only occasionally emitting an asthmatic wheeze.

I administered the last rites, abandoned it on the landing and trotted off to add ‘purchase new hoover-upper” on my to-do list – but said list was missing. I was desolate. One of my greatest pleasures in life is adding and crossing off items on my to-do list. There’s a technique to it, you see. The new items are added neatly, in standard Marian Richardson style handwriting – clear, open letters, no fancy loops or curlicues. The crossing-off items require different styles according to the degree of detestability of the task. So, really hateful or boring items get the slow, tongue-in-mouth-corner heavy scoring through the offending words. The houseworky-type items get a quick devil-may-care slash , preferably with a red pen and the go and buy myself something nice items disappear from the list with a frivolous wiggly-squiggly line. I could go on, but are you still here anyway?

So where was the errant to-do list. I expected it to be on the corner of my desk (my motto is always have a hard one to hand – sorry let me clarify, I mean hard copy) but all I could see was a pile of scrap paper with scribbles all over it. Closer inspection showed it to be the list, that unseen and unsupervised by me, had spawned little illegitimate to-do’s, overnight.

Oh no! This cannot be. I am the author of the best organise your life book ever (so my friends tell me – but then five ever so tipsy ladies do not make even half a rational critic).

The to-do list – I examined it, turning one limp page after another. Clearly said list was exhausted by the weight of tasks bearing down on it. How did these 2-minuter tasks get on it? Whatever happened to dump, defer or delegate? Who put one of my latest life ambitions on it? For in my world the ideal to-do list is short, relates to the present and near future and is specific. What happened?

It’s blogging wot done it.

You see the first half hour of every day used to be dedicated to the maintenance and updating of my to-do list. Now I spend that half hour composing my blog (yes I do put some thought into these blogs – they are not the ravings of a hermit on hash). I am going to have to give serious consideration as to the re-arrangement of my day.

Can I live in the shadow of an over-long, untidy scribble of a to-do list?
It’s touch and go.

You’ll have to hang on to the cliff and wait for the next bulletin.

Hearing Voices

One of my favourite pastimes is earriwigging – listening undetected to other folks’ conversations. I’m not a snooper, really I’m not. It’s just that whenever I’m travelling, it’s almost impossible to ignore the conversations going on around me, especially the mobile phone conversations. Some of what I hear is fairly inarticulate:
“like what? Well…you know…ugh, that’s so gross.”
Other snippets are quite intriguing like this one between two girls on a train:
“Yeah, he came to the pet shop. I nearly died when he walked in. Then he said he liked my hamster.”
“Never heard it called that before. Did he buy it?”

Writing a blog has given me yet another opportunity to hear voices – from the writing. I’m a newbie when it comes to blogging and so one of the things that struck me as I started to read blogs was the diversity of voices – not so much in subject matter – I expected that – but in tone and attitude. I hear angry voices, challenging voices, positive and negative voices, hurt voices – all the tones and emotions you can think of. This is rich pickings for a wannabe writer.

The point of all this is that I need to hear voices. As I move from non-fiction writing to fiction, I find it tough to discard my own voice (warm, friendly, non-preachy with just un soupcon of irony when appropriate)and find suitable ones for my characters. Somehow, and I don’t know why it happens, my own voice will insist on breaking through. So just as I approach the most romantic scene where my hero (tall, handsome with aquiline nose, finely chiselled jaw) is determinedly yet sensitively getting round to dating my heroine (beautiful, feisty but vulnerable),instead of persuasive, seductive, beguiling words, the voice in my head butts in and my hero says “get your coat on love, you’ve pulled.”

Should I try another genre do you think?

The Liebster Award kindly nominated me for this award…what exquisite taste she has. It’s just a shame I can’t get the logo-thingy to translate properly.

awardThe Liebster Award

The rules are:
* Share eleven facts about yourself with your fellow bloggers.
* Make sure to answer the awarder’s eleven questions.
* Ask eleven questions of your own.
* Nominate eleven bloggers for this award.

Eleven facts about me:
1.I was born and bred in God’s own county, Yorkshire, (in the North of England)
2.I made my appearance in the world on 5th November, Guy Fawkes Night just as the first fireworks were being lit. I sure knew how to make an entrance back then.
3.When I was 7 Phillipa Tucker pushed me off a slide and I broke my arm
4.Notwithstanding 3 above I went on to become an excellent mediocre pianist with more style than substance
5.I once spent the night in a St Tropez jail cell after my supposed employers failed to collect me from the airport. The gendarmes were gorgeous though (licks lips lasciviously in memory)
6.Took part in the 1968 Grovesnor Square anti-Vietnam war protest outside the US embassy. Never again. Well have you ever had a horse’s bum shoving you in the face?
7.Notwithstanding 5 above, France is one of my favourite countries
8.Went skiing in Andorra and got stuck for 2 hours half way up a mountain in the ski lift; spent the rest of the holiday croaking as I developed laryngitis and a putrid sore throat.
9.My first dog was called Jet and my last dog – Holly
10.I’m Sheila and I’m a lifestyle magazine junkie
11.After a career as a dedicated fag hag, I gave up smoking a year ago and haven’t missed it…yet.

Now to answer the awarder’s questions.
1.If you had to choose between D.C. comics and Marvel comics, which brand would you choose? Why?
I don’t think I could choose. My parents forbade any comic from entering the house although I do remember a couple of Superman comics getting past the guards. So it would be DC I guess
2.Are you a snowstorm person, a thunderstorm person, or a sunny day person?
Snowstorm no no no; sunny day maybe if I’m feeling Pollyana-ish; thunderstorm definitely yes – it’s good to know that God needs to move her furniture around and I love the light show.
3.If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
The Galapagos Islands
4.If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
Run around naked. It’s the only thing I can think of that I wouldn’t do if I could be seen; me and my body haven’t been friends for years.
5.What’s your favorite nonfiction book? Why?
Am I allowed to say my own Time for Your Life? Thought not but it was worth a try. I think at the moment it would be Black Diamonds – The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty by Catherine Bailey. Well written and charts the demise of two families even more dysfunctional than my own. That’s always a comforting thought.
6. Do you have a hobby? (Writing doesn’t count.)
I really enjoy designing gardens (not for others, just for me). Where I live now will be the 8th in 20 years and probably the last.
7.Quick! What’s the most memorable thing you heard someone say during the past week?
I haven’t spoken to anyone much this week but I read a phrase in a blog by Experienced Tutors that really cracked me up. Talking about writing a novel he says he “went at it like a pig at a potato”. I get such an image of that probably helped by the fact that I like pigs and used to keep a few.
8.Favorite vacation spot:
To date, cruising round the Maldives
9.Where do you get your news?
Mrs B in the village stores; my friends and, oh yes the BBC now and again
10.What’s the most odd food you’ve ever eaten, and what situation were you in when you ate it?
Oysters. See Fact 8 above. I was in Andorra suffering from laryngitis and a very sore throat after an ordeal in a chair lift. Oysters were all I could eat as they just slid down – tasteless rubber. Didn’t do anything for the libido either.
11.Which flavor combination do you like best: chocolate and mint, or chocolate and peanut butter? Or peanut butter and mint?
Decisions, decisions – it’s too early. Choccy and mint.

My eleven questions (this goes on for ever)
1.What’s your greatest achievement to date? (You may plug your own work!)
2.What’s your most embarrassing moment?
3.When you are thinking, are your thoughts in words or pictures?
4.Where, on this planet, would you most like to live?
5.What kind of music are you into? If any.
6.If you could only choose 3 books, which 3 would you take for a 2 year stay on a desert island with no other human company?
7.What have you learned from life so far? Please limit your answer to no more than 3 things – no-one likes a smart-arse.
8.What will you not do today, that you ought to?
9.What’s your favourite tipple?
10.Who would you most like to have an after-dinner, slightly boozy but intelligent conversation with? (I know, prepositions…end of sentences..)
11.What three things would you like to be written about you in your obituary

Eleven nominations – bloggers who have amused, challenged, helped or given me a head’s up
The Accidental blog
The Journal Files
The BiBliophile Chronicles
Help me Help Holly
Chris Martin Writes
You’ll think of me
Immature Fruit
Breakroom Stories

Whew, got there.