Dear Deirdre: Twitter Virgin seeks advice on whether to stray

Other small, chirpy blue bired are available Image: Pixabay

Other small, chirpily irritating blue birds are available
Image: Pixabay

Dear Deirdre,

I don’t usually write to Agony Aunts – their trite, condescending, outmoded and ill-conceived advice usually has me ranting in a very special ‘Mummy’s about to have a coronary’ sort of way I usually reserve for politicians and anything linked to Rupert Murdoch no offence. But I’m in a quandry and I really need your help.

First let me explain.

Blogging was my first social media love. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into the relationship – regular posts, commenting on other blogs, trying to do whatever I can to keep my stats healthy – and its repaid me with introductions to other bloggers and writers and to worlds and experiences I might never have known. Blogging has broadened my horizons and I adore it for that.

I just want to make it clear, I love my Blog and would never dream of leaving it for other social media.

In the beginning it was lovely, each new ‘like’ and ‘follower’ was wonderful and I didn’t look for anything else. But even though I was happy, something inside me craved more. I soon began to wander.

The truth is, I’ve been flirting with Facebook for some time. It’s just a casual thing really. Okay, so I get a lot of love from it, considering the little effort I put into the relationship – I send it posts, but they’re all links passed on from my blog, sloppy seconds if you will. It’s not that I’m ungrateful to Facebook, but there’s only so many photos of other people’s kids in fairy costumes you can see before you start to get a little jaded. I guess Facebook just shows me that I don’t have much of a life and who wants to be reminded of that everyday?

I want to keep Facebook, but I want to stray further, to something a bit more risky – something dangerous.

I’ve been thinking of it for some while, but the idea scares me. What if I get in too deep? What if I attract the kind of attention that’s cruel and cutting and wants me to do things I’m unprepared for? Yet still, the thought is exilharating and I wasn’t sure I could resist much longer. Then the other day, I finally did it.

I joined Twitter.

The idea of being amongst all of those people, of being exposed, of being a little out of control – of doing something so out of my comfort zone – is exciting and terrifying at the same time. So far, I’ve only signed up, but already, Twitter is bombarding me with emails – why haven’t I Tweeted yet? Do I even know how?

I thought being on Twitter would spice up my Blogging relationship, but I’m worried it’ll just leave me feeling dirty and used. 

Deirdre, please help me. I don’t know which way to turn.

Yours,

Virgin Tweeter.

P.S. If I decide to indulge in full blown Tweeting, will I need a Safe Word? 


Well, Deirdre’s been useless.

In her reply, she kept going on about contraception and respecting yourself when what I really wanted to know was as a writer/blogger, is Twitter a useful way to connect with potential readers?

Is there an online course a la WordPress’s Blogging 101 I can go on? The instructions I’ve read in the Twitter ‘Help’ section read like stereo instructions translated from Mandarin into English, then into Korean and back into English- indecipherable.

And is putting up with the inevitable river of hate and bile worth it?

Tell me what you think.

We’re going on a Cave hunt… Writing Caves #2

bus-stop-384617_1280

You may find it hard to believe from my beautifully crafted words (Ha! Ha!) but I don’t spend all day, every day, hidden in Writing Cave #1. There are times when I must surgically detach myself from my chair, brush the biscuit crumbs from my stiffened limbs and stumble, blinking into the light.

Leaving Dominic Silverstreak behind is a wrench. I should explain that Dominic is my Vaio laptop and a more gorgeous hunk you won’t find. Okay, so occasionally he refuses to work, he’s slow, sluggish and has been known to lose stuff, but I’ve grown so used to the feel of him under my hands, I can’t imagine another taking his place… Sorry, what was I saying? Ah, yes.

The days I have to leave my beloved behind (sigh!) are usually Work days. This is something I’ve been informed we all have to do to earn money. Now, much as I’ve gone along with this idea for the last thirty-odd years, I’ve never totally understood the concept. It all seems rather unpleasant and inconvenient. Rather than having to turf out of bed- leaving Dominic cold and alone- to do something that’s frankly quite hard and tiring, wouldn’t it just be more straightforward if I stayed at home, warm, cosy, doing what I love to do, and have someone pay me anyway? Just an idea for the future, policy makers of the world.

Anyway, to get to Work I have to cross town, catching two buses in the process, because *I DON’T DRIVE. Now, I realise that to some of you saying I don’t drive is like announcing I can get along without breathing, that I don’t like **Soap Operas and never watch Strictly or X Factor – but I never have driven and possibly never will.

But all is not lost, because whilst in traffic jams (which in Bristol are many and varied), stuck at lights and trying to ignore the fact I have a stranger’s groin/ armpit/ dribbling toddler in my face, I carry the spirit of Dominic with me in the form of a notebook (And no, I don’t have names for my notebooks- that would just be weird.)

In the notebooks I scribble plots and ideas for upcoming stories, random thoughts, earwigged conversations, bizarre bus-bound happenings (perhaps the subject of a future post!) shopping lists and anything else that occurs to me.

So there you have it- Writing Cave #2: public transport.

Now, if you wouldn’t mind leaving- Dominic and I want some ‘alone time’.

*My hubby doesn’t drive either- what kind of freaks are we?
**I also do not like soaps and never watch Strictly or X Factor– that’s how much of a freak I am.

Wednesday Word Tangle

dictionary-390055_1280

I love random words.

It can be the most ordinary, every day word that makes me chuckle. Sometimes ‘doing’ looks like ‘doing!’, the sound of someone leaping off a diving board, or a ‘Shatterproof‘ ruler being really put to the test during a particularly boring science lesson.

How about the word ‘barroom’? That’s not a place to drink fermented vegetable juice, but the noise my son used to make as he drove his toy cars round the sitting room carpet.

But this post isn’t about me making myself giggle as my brain melts around language. This is about celebrating randomness. So today’s winning random word is ‘BLANCMANGE.’

You have to love this word for several reasons. It’s the name of a milk jelly that no one really makes any more, but was quite the height of sophistication in the post war period. The kind of thing Fanny Craddock tortured into the shape of a kangaroo and decorated with swirls of luridly- coloured mashed potato, angelica and glace cherries luminous enough to use as head lights.

It was also the name of an 80s synthpop band- remember ‘Living on the Ceiling?’

But most of all, I love the way that this very French word has been totally bastardised by English pronunciation. We don’t even bother to pronounce the ‘anc’ in ‘blanc’, but have changed it into something like ‘blur’, before having a rough stab at the ‘monge’.

I love this word because it actually makes the speaker sound depressed- you try saying it and sounding happy. You have to admire the power of a word that can change your mood whilst you say it.

So, the ‘Wednesday Word Tangle’ word of the day goes to BLANCMANGE for demonstrating beautifully how the English can snatch a word from its owners and mangle it into something of their own.

We’re going on a Cave hunt… Writing Caves # 1

by-looking-77311_1280

I’ve mentioned Writers’ Caves (Hello me, this is me) before, those personal places where scribblers spill their literary guts onto screens/ notebooks and if they stay still too long, short-haired pets and small children. Now, let me share mine.

The downstairs of our house is rather ‘open plan’. Now, if that phrase conjures some kind of Scandinavian, architect-designed work of genius with plate glass windows, a view onto a fjord/ out of town Ikea/ darkly twisted murder scene involving lovely stern ladies wearing fair isle knitwear, then I’m gonna have to disappoint.

Our version of ‘open plan’ is where someone knocked a ruddy great square hole between the living room and the dining room of our modest, Edwardian terraced house. I’m guessing it was the same ‘someone’ who removed the interior doors throughout. It means the light floods in, almost at the same rate that the heat floods out.

In the dining room, at the dining room table* is where I usually write. It’s where I’m writing this now, listening to the guttering overflow into the back yard, surrounded by a half-finished Meccano model, a BMX, a scooter and a stack of books that were supposed to have been donated to a charity shop before Christmas, but have now been accidentally recycled into coffee table/ clothes airer.

In the winter, it gets so cold in here I have to wear two jumpers, a thermal, several pairs of socks, drink endless mugs of tea and wrap in a blanket just to keep my fingers moving. It’s not a retreat from the world, it’s the centre of where the action happens in our house. We put our Christmas tree over there: we’ve had umpteen kids parties here: the exercise bike is tucked in the corner to my right, crowing over me and my sagging midriff because I write more than I cycle.

Despite the fact that it’s not really MY space, that I have to push nuts, bolts, coasters and table mats aside just to make enough room for the laptop, it’s my Writer’s Cave, the space I’ve drafted and redrafted novels and short stories, polished plots, critiqued friend’s work and created this blog.

It’s my main place to write, a homely space, choc-ful of distractions, but mine.

Look out for future instalments of Writer’s Cave: Sub-Caves and why every writer needs them.

*Lynn Love, in the Dining Room, with a laptop- guilty as charged.

Awards- huh, good God, y’all!

liebster2

I’ve never enjoyed award shows. I like finding out the results- best actor, best actress, best novel- but I don’t want to hear people thanking their manicurist, their personal trainers, the woman who washes their underwear. All valuable jobs, I know, but I just don’t want to hear it for hours and hours… And anyway, awards are totally subjective, they’re not a reflection of the quality of your work, only of internal politics and the size of your PR budget. Right?

Well, maybe. But today I found I’d been nominated for a Liebster Award, an award for bloggers voted for by bloggers. Now that’s the kind of praise we all like, isn’t it? When other writers say lovely things about my stories, it’s the very best praise and makes me feel slightly taller all day. Anyway, must crack on, because there are RULES WHICH MUST BE OBEYED.

(1) Un- Put the Liebster Award logo on your blog.(Very proud of myself with this. As you might guess from my largely blank posts, I’ve struggled with inserting images, mainly cos of the copyright stuff- tres confusing.)

(2) Deux- Thank and tag the blog who nominated you.
So, my thanks go to the lovely Divya, writer of Another Teenager’s Time Capsule, who nominated me. Merci, cheri.

(3) Trois- Answer their questions and come up with 10 (dix) new ones for your nominees

(4) Quatre- Nominate 8 blogs (with less than 200 followers), let them know you’ve nominated them and link them in your post

(5) Cinq- No tag-backs.

For parts trois and quatre, see below. (My apologies for slipping into schoolgirl French today- the excitement has obviously kicked a few synapses into a spasm, shaking loose some brain-luggage I thought I’d lost.)

Here are my answers to Divya’s (tres difficile)questions.

1. What do “Little things” mean to you? Ladybirds, matchboxes, atoms, those bits of nail that hang off, but seem to catch on everything.

2. What is the real-est advice you’ve ever been given? Never eat anything bigger than your own head.

3. What is your favourite season? Le Printemps- wonderful Spring, when the cherry blossom blooms and the bees start to bumble.

4. What is your favourite vacation-spot? Don’t go on holiday, pretty much ever. Wouldn’t mind seeing Italy- Pompeii, Rome, Herculaneum. LOVE old/ dead stuff.

5. Would you rather eat at a restaurant or a fast-food joint? A restaurant- deffo. I have Coeliac disease (no wheat, barley, rye or most oats) and am vegetarian, so most fast-food places don’t cater for weirdos like me. NEVER invite me to dinner- I’m a nightmare.

6. Why did you begin blogging? I meant to start years ago because I’m trying to write and authors are expected to have ‘platforms’ and ‘brands’ these days. I really enjoy blathering on, though.

7. What is your “Happily ever after”? Huge publishing deal, film rights optioned on everything I ever write. My son to carry on being beautiful,lovely and happy. Health for me and mine. Oh, and for the people of the world to stop kicking seven shades of poo out of one another. Not too much to ask, is it?

8. Where would you like to work? In a tree house, in a massive oak tree, with light, heat, a view of the sea/ woodland and tea and coffee making facilities. And a loo.

9. Which fictional character do you relate to the most? This varies from day to day. At the moment it’s Petronella from ‘The Minaturist’. When I was a kid it was Will Stanton from ‘The Dark is Rising’ by Susan Cooper. I just wanted to be him. When I write, it’s my characters. Edie from my YA book. Neil from my supernatural mystery book. Pat from my historical crime novel. All have bits of me, bits of the ME I want to be. (Ooh, that rhymed.)

10. Do you have a favourite question yet? How would you like to write for a living? What are you doing here so early- wet the bed?

Second part of numero tre (slipped into Italian now), ten questions of my own.

(1) What was your favourite book as a child and why?
(2) If you were a Supervillain, who would you want to be and why?
(3) If you could only save one animal from a global extinction, what would it be?
(4) Where’s your happy place? Describe.
(5) E-readers or conventional books?
(6) If you could choose one piece of tech from a Bond movie, which would it be?
(7) What are the three foods that you wouldn’t want to live without?
(8) If a griffin fought a hydra, which would win?
(9) What’s the favourite post you’ve posted?
(10)What’s the best piece of conversation you’ve ever overheard? (Mine was one old lady talking to another- ‘She follows her Dad with that nose.’ Brilliant.)

My nominees are-
Making it Write
Only 100 Words
The Book of Greg
Good Woman
Writing Stories Rocks
Marco Batenburg
Homemade Naturally
Nova Scotia Roots

I’d like to thank my primary school English teacher, the man down the fish and chip shop who gives me free battered bits every Thursday…

Hello me, this is me

Wouldn’t we all like a second version of ourselves?

There are days when you’ve just got too much on. You have to do some cleaning because there are week-old Hula Hoops crushed into the rug and the remains of a’scientific experiment’ going green behind the living room curtains (It will all be worth it on the day your little darling wins the Nobel Prize for Chemistry- honest.) The dog is wearing a haunted expression which suggests if you don’t take him out for a walk soon, your carpet will be dyed an attractive shade of Rover Wee Yellow.

And that’s before work. When you reach the day job, you have to use your lunch break to call a plumber, because an underwire’s sneaked out of your favourite bra and has wedged inside the washing machine, making it squeal like Hamish the hamster did when Auntie Jeanie’s Jack Russell finally worked out how to open his cage.*

Then there’s deciding what to cook for dinner, bearing in mind that there have to be several meal choices available as no two people in the house will eat the same food at the same time. Buying food, cooking food, eating, washing up… If only we could all be in several places at once.

The life of a writer is no different. You see, what writers want to do, what they really want to do, now brace yourself… is write. All day, every day, locked in their own heads in their Writer’s Caves (like a Man Cave, but with fewer spanners and Premiership Fixture Lists).

Whereas if they want to be successful what they also have to find time for is-

dealing with agents and publishers: networking- in the flesh and online: attending book signings, talks, book fairs, festivals: doing their tax returns, accounts, and getting their heads around the nightmare that is publishing payments and rights: building their’brand’, promoting themselves and their work to an overcrowded market with a very short attention span. (Being an as yet unpaid amateur at this writing mullarkey, I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve missed.)

Add to this the fact that many writers also have a normal job to pay their bills, and you find a group of people with a big chunk of stuff on their proverbial plates.

Now, what writers need are clones who can do all of the adminy, networky, boring stuff, leaving the creative free to shuffle Gollum-like to their Writer Caves, where they can hide in their nests of empty coffee cups and biscuit crumbs, drooling over their Precious Creations until they’re ready to send them tottering and blinking into the light.

Hmmm. Maybe not.

*No hamsters were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

How to love you kitchen cupboards

Our kitchen is scruffy.

The windowsill cradles an array of dessicated cacti, swagged with dusty spiders’ webs. Oh, yes, I know I could grab a cloth and clean the spiky little blighters, but I don’t. It’s not because I’m a terrible housewife, though that is certainly true, having always thought there were better things to do with my time- use this blog to rattle on about being a bad housewife, for one. But the webs also stay because I don’t want to evict their creators and (being an old Goth at heart) I like the feeling that I live in a Haunted House fairground ride.

Our kitchen units were installed in the days of Bananarama, shoulder pads and mobile phones the size of house bricks, so the cupboard doors drop at the hinges now and the drawers sag so that you have to complete a clever push-down-and-pull-out manoeuvre just to open them- a move so complex it could become a new Olympic sport.

You won’t see granite worktops or marble slabs for making pastry. Our worktops are a plasticised artificial wood, complete with painted grain and knots, just to add some class. We don’t have steel racks for pots of herbs or bottles of wine, we don’t have spotlights or a portable island for chopping lemon grass and mooli. And it’s mint green- a misguided attempt on my part to make it bright and airy. Unfortunately, when the sun shines, the paintwork bounces the light, so we all look like we’re suffering from jaundice.

Worried it all sounds pretty depressing? Then look at the cupboard doors.

No, not the exposed chipboard corners and the appointment cards for dental check-ups– look at the pieces of flapping, damp-crinkled paper. There’s a certificate my son received from school for supporting other students in their work: a photograph of the solar system reproduced in flower petals: a self-portrait my son drew in felt tip pen, his face so bright pink, it looks as though he’s been dipped in beetroot juice: a drawing of a Dalek: a drawing of an alien called ‘The Consumer’: a piece he wrote in admiration of the amazing Mae Jemison .

And then there’s the photographs: my lovely son, aged three wearing a stripy woollen hat that’s slipped rakishly over one eye: the same lovely son, aged a few months old, with the biggest, maddest smile and a pint of dribble splattered over his delighted face.

So, it’s tatty, full of spiders and needs gutting, but thanks to my son, the kitchen is a joyful place to be.

Thanks to the Daily Post for the prompt!