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Monday, 26 September 2016

Forthcoming releases - one knitted octopus and some birds

What have you been working on so diligently, Jane? 

Well, thank you so much for asking... I knew if I went quiet for a while someone would come wandering along to see what I was up to.  Either that or you wanted to steal my biscuits, which, ha!, is NOT going to happen and don't think I didn't see you trying to lay hands on my HobNobs...

I have been working. Hard.  I've just submitted my Christmas Novella, which will hopefully make it out onto your e-readers in time for Christmas (the short fiction doesn't come out in book form at present, it's too short.  It would basically be all cover).  It's called The Boys of Christmas, and it's about a young woman who inherits a house from a Great Aunt, on the condition that she (Ruby, the young woman in question) scatters the said aunt's ashes in a particular place.  Trouble is, that there are lots of places that fit the criteria, and Ruby and her best friend Toby have to find out which place her aunt had in mind, whilst dealing with some terrible weather, a kitchen range of malevolence, two snowed-out archaeologists, an abusive ex, and a knitted octopus called Cthulu.
A bit like this. Only jollier.

And if that isn't quite up your street (or even if it is, but you also want something longer), then my newest novel will be out in the New Year (date as yet unspecified, but, don't worry, I shall be telling you soon!).

This is called The Little Tea Shop of Horrors.

It's set in an old stately home called Monk Park Hall, open to the public and run by the Heritage Trust.. Amy runs the tea shop with the help of her best friend Julia, cares for her grandmother (who is of the opinion that she is looking after Amy), and is forming a tentative friendship with Josh, the claustrophobic young man who lives in an old caravan and flies birds of prey.

When the Trust appoint a new administrator to the Hall, who wants to close the cafe, Amy is forced to do things she would never normally consider, in order to keep her job and her home.

There.  That's what I'm up to.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go and open a new packet of biscuits.  You've had your fingers in this one...

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Is being free a good thing? Or is it Lidl beans forever?

It might come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, but there's an increasing wave of demand for us authors to provide our work free.  Many do, for things like 'first book in a series' or older books - just the one going free on Amazon to encourage readers to buy further books - like a sort of 'taster'; those little bits of cheese that you get on top of the cheese counter that you stand thoughtlessly eating whilst you're waiting for the man to cut you four ounces of cheddar (I know I should be asking for it in metric units, but I know what four ounces looks like and I'd probably ask for something daft like 'two micrometers of Wensleydale' and everyone would look at me strangely).

But there are other authors for whom being read is more important than earning money, and they make all their content (it's always called 'content', I don't know why) permanently free.  They just want their words to be out there, and available to as many people as possible - and that's fine.

But.  Because some authors are permanently free, there is a bit of a movement out there for all authors to make their work free.  I can understand the reasoning, if some people can do it, why not all?  Why not have all words available to everyone, with no filthy lucre involved - a kind of pure intellectual exchange?

And here's where it gets messy...

I live alone. In order to make more time for my writing, I have a job that isn't 9-5, pays just above minimum wage, but is flexible enough that I can go off and teach workshops or, as this week, spend three days solid sitting in my bed writing (I know, I know, but I'm on a deadline!  I do emerge, every now and again to feed the animals or gnaw on a loaf of bread).  Like just about every other person, I have bills to pay - rent, Council Tax, water, electricity etc.  I live in the middle of nowhere, so I have to keep my car on the road with regular injections of road tax, insurance and diesel. I also quite like food.

So, should I give my words away free?  I'd like to think that, if I were a billionaire I'd make my work available to all because I wouldn't need the income from it - the earnings from my writing are ESSENTIAL (and yes, I do mean ESSENTIAL, see all the bits about living alone and having to float an entire household worth of bills alone from a NMW job that isn't even full time), but I probably wouldn't.  Do you know why?

Writing is hard work.  It's sitting alone in a room (except for the spiders and crane flies, do not get me started on the spiders and crane flies saga), bashing away on a keyboard for so long that your fingers go all numb and your wrist does this thing where it clicks.  It's turning down extra shifts at work because you're on a deadline and have to get something to your publisher so you don't lose your publication slot.  It's wracking your brains for another way to say 'it's snowing', so your readers don't get bored; it's living off nothing but Lidl beans for a fortnight because the money ran out, and putting on more jumpers than humanly possible because you can't afford heating, but you'd rather be writing than anything else.
Also, sometimes we fall off the roof of the kennel, and that makes us cross
It's actually a bit like being a drug addict, when you come to think of it, except I can't think of many drugs where you have to turn your brain inside out to feed other people's addition.

And if I gave away those resulting words, I would be devaluing all that effort.  Not just my effort, but the efforts of all my fellow writers.  Just as I wouldn't expect a decorator to come round and paint my entire living room for nothing just so I could see whether I liked the effect, I wouldn't expect a writer to produce an entire book so I could see whether or not I like their writing.  Because, nearly in the immortal words of FAME - 'writing costs.  And right here is where you start paying'.
A writer's life is almost never anything like this.

Believe me, it isn't just readers who pay for books.  Writing the things isn't easy either (see above re no heating and there's also bum fat and lack of socialisation to take into account.  You can always tell a writer at any gathering, they are the ones with wobbly buttocks and a tendency to burst in while other people are talking and try to lick their faces).

So.  Free books, or sane and happy writers?

Tch, listen to me.  Sane and happy people don't write books...

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Things someone should invent...

...I mean, I'm giving you the ideas but I'm not very good at practical things.  I mend most things with a bent nail, which is tough when it's the underwiring in your bra that's gone, but I am also a dab hand with sellotape (lots of) and, when all else fails, wrapping it in toilet paper.  But there are some things that I think the world needs, and, if I had the time, I would go off and invent them properly.  But, since I don't, I am putting those ideas out there for someone else to do the hard work on...

A washing line brake.

I've got one of these.  And I live on a very windy hilltop.  If you have ever experienced the delight that is trying to peg out damp towels whilst the washing line rotates at a speed equivalent to that of a turbine blade, you will know what I am talking about. It is no fun to bend down for the next item in the basket, only to straighten and be kicked in the face by your own underwear.  So, something that would stop the line turning, so I could reliably hang things out without having to run around it, like someone tied to its central pole.

A Wireless Freeze Device

This may already exist, I don't know.  But what I need is a device that can be set to cut off the wireless to my laptop.  I know I could turn it off, but being able to turn it off means that I can turn it on again at moments such as wanting to know whether anyone has emailed me. whether Twitter has anything to say on the subject of biscuits, and whether there are any particularly fetching pictures of kittens anywhere on the internet because, after all, this book will virtually write itself as long as I have a HobNob in each hand and lots of pictures of kittens.  What I'd like to be able to do is to 'freeze' my wireless, so, for example, for four hours each day I could NOT turn it back on again, and would thus be forced to sit in front of a word document and eat biscuits hopelessly.  And, possibly, you know, write something.  I am aware that this device is actually called Willpower, but I don't have any of that,. although I do have lots of HobNobs, and I now think those two things may be connected.

An Arm Cage.

Full body cage, actually might be more use...  You see, I spend a lot of time out of the house, at work.  So, when I am home, I like to be around my dogs - they have enough time on their own, plotting and scheming and generally eating the furniture, so I think it's only polite that, during my 'not at work' times, I am available.  However.  I have a work station under the stairs (no, it's not in a Harry Potter sort of way, my stairs are open plan and everything), where I sit and work on my laptop.  It's in the living room so I the dogs come and sit on my feet.  And my lap.  And then the cats come and stomp all over my keyboard, and try to sit on my head, and the dogs climb up on me and try to chase the cats, and it all becomes one big mass..

So I want a body cage, in which I can sit. I'll still be visible, and the dogs can sniff me and know that I am there, but I will be able to work even if they are sitting on the top of my cage.  I suppose this is otherwise known as 'going into another room', but they can't see me in there.

Plus, they won't be able to steal my biscuits...