Friday, 31 August 2012

The Paralympics

After my return from Scotland I was ready to write of my experiences in that fine country, but I decided I had to write about the Paralympics which has now started in London.

What I noticed from the start of the opening ceremony, and which had carried on throughout the games, are not only the extreme hardships all the participants have had to endure to reach this level, but also their obvious enjoyment.

What a pleasure to see such happy people. The smile on their faces as they approach the start of each event is wonderful. In comparison to the more professional athletes of the preceding games (and it a lot of cases highly paid athletes) who at the beginning of each event had such stark and stern looks on their faces.

The only time they smiled was if they won a medal.

I can understand why they have such joy in their heart as they enter the arena. If you have a disability you face many hardships in life especially if you were born disabled.

A lot of these athletes will have had to face a life time of being bullied at school, sneered at by strangers and generally looked down upon.

What a feeling it must be to walk in front of eighty thousands cheering, clapping people who have paid to watch your sporting skills.

This is one thing all those people who thought they were better than them will never experience, and is one of the many reasons why I will be in the crowd cheering these athletes on. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Library

May 2011 had given way to July and July had given way to August. I was now in a settled routine of writing. From Monday to Wednesday I would be perched on the sofa with hot-water bottle, ice pack and pain killers and would write non-stop on new chapters. On Thursday I would complete my voluntary work and when this had finished at 14.00; I would hobble to the central library and sit there all afternoon making the changes to my previous weeks work.

Some people think the library service is doomed because of new forms of information gathering but you couldn’t be further from the truth. The library I use is always packed as it offers other services like internet access, restaurant, museum, children's library, tourist information and much more. In fact it was so packed on some days I had to hang around waiting for a chair and desk to become free.

It was never a bother waiting for ten minutes because just like being in a book store (as I explained in the secret to life, part one) there can’t be a more relaxing, and free, past time than browsing through a random selection of books.

On Friday morning I would do some more voluntary work then in the early afternoon pay a visit to the Chiropractor.

After being clicked to the left, and then to the right, and jigged about like a ragdoll on a roller coaster I would hobble my way to my local pub for some painkilling pints of beer and have a meeting with Dangerous John. As we swapped chapters and I took on board what he thought of my writing; I looked forward to the weekend off.

For just like any job I tried to keep the weekends free.


Monday, 27 August 2012

Joker's Monday

Here we are; Monday again. As this is being uploaded I am in Scotland for a holiday. I have my pad and pen with me as I advised in an earlier blog because although I am here to enjoy the delights of this wonderful part of the world I can’t help myself; I just have to write down for future use anything which may be of interest in any forthcoming  stories.
Mondays aren’t so bad when you are on holiday, but for those of you who aren’t here are a few jokes to cheer you up.

Pinnochio was getting moaned at by his girlfriend about consummating their passions. “She said that every time we make love she gets splinters,” he told Gipetto, the carpenter.
“Sandpaper, my boy, that’s what you need” was the carpenter’s reply.
A couple of weeks later the carpenter met Pinnochio. “How are you getting on with the girl now?” he asked.
“Who needs girl’s?” replied Pinnochio.

It was the night of the super hero’s convention, and Superman turned to Batman and said “I have just had a sexual experience with Wonder Women. I was flying over the city when I saw her sunbathing nude on the roof top, so I flew down, stripped off, climbed on and shagged her.
Batman said, “Blimey, I bet she was surprised!”
Superman replied, “Not half as surprised as the Invisible Man!”

An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He finally went to a doctor, and was fitted with an excellent new hearing aid.
He returned a month later for a check-up, and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect! Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”
The gentleman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family just let. I still sit around quietly; but now I listen to the conversation. I’ve changed my will three times already!”

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Volunteer

At the end of July 2011 I was still suffering in great pain because of the bulge in spine and seemed to be making no progress. Other than filling myself up with pain killers and alcohol (with the two mixed together I almost felt normal) I knew I had to keep active, or I would seize up completely. I would then have only two choices, go under the knife or spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.
I had been sitting down for up to twelve hours a day tapping furiously at the keyboard and only moving when I needed refreshments, or the toilet. Some days the stiffness and pain was too much to handle. I honestly thought I would be a cripple for the rest of my life.
The weather was nice and even though I love it when I can write, the sun was calling me to go outside, to take a break, and to do something different.
It was then I knew I needed, for at least two days weeks, to take some form of a break and work at something other than writing.
I didn’t want to go back into paid employment because in my mind I had a job, I was a writer (although I hadn't made a penny). No I wanted to volunteer for unpaid work and that’s what I did.
By the end of the week I had volunteered to help two different Charities for part of Thursday and on Fridays as well.
I have never let experienced writers block and hope never too. I think having these two different experiences during the week helps to keep my mind fresh.
I would recommend any writer to have other interests not related to writing so as to help the mind experience different states that it needs to absorb new ideas.

Because at the end of the day all writing is just someones experiences re-shaped, and retold in a different voice.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The writing plan

As my manuscript flowed from my brain through my fingers and onto the computer in that first month of May I soon found myself hurtled into the month of June and before long it would be July.
As July 2011 approached I found that during certain moments of the day I would have a flash back shoot into my head about a previous chapter, and decided I needed to make changes to it.
By then I had written thousands of words and scrolling through every page on the screen trying to locate the relevant sentence was a slow and at times very frustrating experience. It was then I knew I needed a writing plan so I could easily keep track, and is a great help to any new writer or even established writer.
Each person should have their own writing plan which is best for them, but the simple method I found that worked for me is as follows.
A single A4 sheet of paper with four rules columns running vertically.
The first column you write the chapter number.
The second column you write the chapter name (If you have one)
The third column should have the page numbers (e.g., 1-15)
The fourth column the number of words in that chapter.
As an example it would look as my plan looked below.
(1)  Mary  1-2 (197 words)
(2) Daniel 3-15 (3601 words)
(3) Forbidden Secrets 16-25 (2548 words)
Just high-light each chapter to get the word count. The great thing about keeping this simple structure to your manuscript is that when you get the first editor’s report back and it states. “You need to cut 20,000 words, or it says you need to add more depth in parts of the manuscript,” then just a quick glance at the word count per chapter should shout out to you where changes need to be made.
You will find that over time you will have ended up writing half-a-dozen plans as you have to redraft your manuscript, and it can be quite amusing to compare you final writing plan with the first one.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Jokers Monday

As once again another Monday looms in front of us. Here are a small selection of jokes which I hope will lighten your mood. These are a selection of Chav jokes (for American viewers, Chav’s are the British equivalent of people who live in trailer parks.)

For anyone from other parts of the world like Russia, Germany or China who regularly follow these pages you must have a similar nickname, but I’m afraid I don’t know what it is. 

It’s not nice to pick on people who maybe don’t have the same outlook on life as yourself, but without mockery there would be no humour, and without out this no comedy. And what a boring place this world would be without comedians.

Q. What’s the difference between a Chav and a coconut?

A. One’s thick and hairy, the other’s a coconut.

Q. Two Chavs jump off a cliff. Who wins?

A. Society.

Q. What does a Chav girl use as protection during sex?

A. A bus shelter.

Q. What do you call a 30-year-old Chav girl?

A. Granny.

Q. What do you call a Chav in a suit?

A. The defendant.

Q. What do you call a Chav with 9 Qualifications?

A. A liar.

Q. What do you call a Chav girl in a white Tracksuit?

A. The bride.

Q. What do you say to a Chav with a Job?

A. Bigmac please.

Friday, 17 August 2012

The secret to life (part two)

There I was at the airport ready to jet off to the sun for my annual holiday. It’s one of the few pleasures when you are stuck in the departure lounge for two hours without much to do. What is this pleasure? It’s slowly strolling around the bookshop picking out potential books to read while you relax by the pool or on the beach.

It caught my eye; I picked up the book and read the first page. I read a couple more then put it back. I already had the two books I needed to last me through the holiday. I stood there looking at the cover and somehow it called to me to pick it up again.

That was it, my mind was made up. I put down one of the other books and bought this one instead.

Over the holiday I read it from one end to the other and it made total sense to me.

I have read it every year since and passed it to others to read. You either understand it and slowly you will find that over the following years it will change your life, or you won’t and your life will go on as normal.

What is the books title?

It’s called the Secret by Rhonda Byrne.

All I can say is give it a read. Let me know if you already have and if you now know the secret to life, or not?  

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The secret to life (part one)

I love to read.
Once it just wasn’t books, but also newspapers where I could spend hours devouring the news from one end of the paper to the other. With the vast array of modern tools to access the internet the use of this paper based medium is in decline, as more people migrate to other means of gathering their daily news fix.

I must say I still prefer the routine, and in a way the excitement, of walking into a paper-shop and scanning the rows of news print to see what the outstanding headline of the day is, but these days it’s becoming less frequent as I take the easy route of just pressing a few buttons.

With books I still like to use the time honoured system of the bound copy. I have not let made the leap of faith to the Kindle or one of the other devices that will eventually send the average book shop in the same direction as the record stores; to the dustbin of history.

Looking through rows of books at a leisurely pace is one of the rare moments we can still enjoy in this fast moving world and still a pleasure I follow. It was during one such lazy hour that I picked up a book which was to have a profound effect on my life and which I will divulge in my next blog.  

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Artist

It could be a strange coincidence or maybe we all have a guiding hand in life, but we just don’t know it or we just can’t see it. I needed someone to help bounce my chapters off and Dangerous John stepped into the breach, then I had this idea about having some illustrations within my finished book. But where was I going to find an artist who had the skill to complete the illustrations, and for free?

Sometimes there is only one place to find the answers to many a conundrum and that is the pub.

It was the end of May in 2011 and I had over the last four weeks settled into a regular routine of writing from Monday to Friday then meeting with John down my local on Friday evenings where I would hand over that week’s work and collect the previous weeks writing.

I would note John’s opinion over a few beers and this would set me up for the following Monday.

It was during this Friday evening while I stood at the bar; I was introduced to a fellow drinker and we chatted as easily as the beer flowed. We had both taken a big leap in changing our career paths with Kevin following his dream by becoming a mature art student at university.

By the end of the night a deal had been sealed.

He would complete the illustrations and in the near future I hope my book will make him a famous artist.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Jokers return

It’s Sunday and no matter how to look at it the worst part of the week is on its way, Monday morning; especially if you had such a good time as I have had over the last five days with the visit of my friends from Germany. They have now gone on their happy way and life is now back to normal (well as normal as can be in my world). I was going to carry on with my story but instead, after the success of my joker’s corner blog the other week; I thought I would start with some one-liners to cheer things as Monday approaches before carrying on with the journey.


Women like silent men; they think they’re listening.

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

The older you get, the better you realize you were.

Black holes are where God divided by zero.

Corduroy pillows: they’re making headlines!

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

To be intoxicated is to feel sophisticated but not be able to say it.

I doubt, therefore, I might be.

I do hope the above brought a smile to your face as you hurtle towards Monday morning and if you know any more then please pass them on in the comments.

Before I go I just wanted to say what a fantastic spectacle of sport the world has enjoyed from the London Olympics. Well done to everyone from every country, and how great it is to see all the peoples of the world united in friendship and not hatred. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

Don't mention the war

Today is Friday the 10th of May 2012 and as I post this blog I have the pleasure of having two German friends visiting, and staying at my home. They are a lovely retired couple we first met in Cuba while on holiday.

Cuba is such an unspoilt country because of the American embargos against it. I don’t know much about politics other than the modern bunch of politicians we have set before us seem to be a bunch of cowards who won’t or can’t tell the truth, and who hide behind a false vale of political correctness so they can make their way up that greasy pole to power.

One person’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter; one man’s piece of rubbish is another man’s bargain; one person’s view on art is another person’s view as junk. All I know about Cubans are that Americans are losing out on the chance to meet some of the friendliest people in one of the safest and historical countries in the Caribbean.

Anyway back to the present. When our friends first visited there were two stereo types about the Germans which were blown out of the water. The first is that German people have no humour. This is so untrue. We never laughed as much as we did when in their company. The second is, do not mention the Second World War, just like Basil Faulty in the classic comedy of Faulty Towers in the episode when he has German guests staying. He hurts his head and goes around telling everyone not to mention the war.

When our friends first visited we followed this belief, then one afternoon after a long day site seeing they wanted to relax in front of the television. I turned it on and walked out to make everyone a cup a tea.

When I returned I was horrified for I had forgot the last channel I had been watching was the History one and there on the screen was a programme about the Second World War. I went for the remote control to turn over to another programme, but my guests insisted they were happy to watch it. At that point in the programme was someone who been in the resistance against the Nazis.

Although they were only children during this period they still feel a collective guilt by what was done by their forefathers in their name, but we forget that hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Germans were murdered for their resistance to the Nazis. Democrats, socialists, communists, trade unionists, journalists, and churchman plus many other people who resisted in their own little way. Hundreds of thousands more fled to carry on the resistance outside their home country.

We should never forget what horror fascism is. But at the end of the day I would rather be friends with people be them Cuban, German or any other person of a different race, colour or creed than live in the past, and be an enemy of them.  

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Chiropractor

Wednesday the 11th of May 2011.

It was the one of the three days a week in which I made my faithful journey to visit my Chiropractor. After the previous night’s experience at the gates of Hell, next came the humiliation. I hobbled to my car and slumped into the driver’s seat. The humiliation came twenty minutes later in the car park which was about five minutes’ walk from his practice.

I couldn’t get out of the car.

I had just managed to get in and never gave it a thought about how I would get out at the other end. I made attempt after attempt to swing my legs around and bend my neck down at the same time to get out through the door, but the pain was so excruciating, I failed every time.

I got to the stage where I was asking complete strangers if they wouldn’t mind coming over to “help me with something in my car.” The only problem was that the only people coming into the car park at that time were single women of different ages. I got some funny looks and it dawned on me I must have looked like some pervert on the prowl. I thought any minute now the police would be called and I would end up in the cells.

I had no choice; I lowered my head and threw myself out of the car, and ended up face down on the gravel writhing in agony like a worm in the dirt. I pulled myself up and started what should have been a gentle and enjoyable walk to the Chiropractors.

I arrived late but the receptionist looked very concerned when helping me in as I panted and sweated my way through the front door. I was ushered straight in to my Chiropractor and was soon lying face down on his bench as he manipulated my spine.

As I lay defenceless to his healing hands it suddenly sprung into my mind in a flash of inspiration that he (The Chiropractor) would make a great character in any future books. He could either be a good character who healed or he could be the bad guy who used his hands to torture people.

As I left his office I hadn’t made up my mind which way it would swing, but the walk back to my car became a hell twice as bad as the walk in. Every time my right foot touched the ground it felt as if I was in bare feet and had just walked onto some broken spiked glass. After five minutes an old lady stopped me and asked if I was ok as I tried to hold back the tears of pain. After twenty minutes an old man with a Zimmer frame stopped me and asked if I need any help.

What should have been a five minute walk took me half an hour, and as I slumped into the driver’s seat of my car in a semi-delirious state I still couldn’t decide if the chiropractor was a saviour or a torturer.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Mysterious Ways

After my first day of writing I hobbled to my bed after necking four paracetamol and rubbing on half a tube of pain relief gel over my lower back. For regular followers you will know that I was inflicted with something bulging from my lower spine which pressed into the nerves. As it got worse the more I became crippled.

Looking back I think a combination of an unhealthy life style due to terrible work related stress and the subconscious measures I took to counteract it, like heavy drinking and excess eating of pleasure food, and thus the weight gain attributed to this was one of the two factors which finally broke my spine’s resilience to take any more.

The second factor I now know was the subconscious stress I was feeling about giving up a secure job and my career. My muscles had been slowly tightening over the time I worked out my extended notice period. I had a constant stiff neck and more knots in my muscles than a sailor’s rope. If I thought it could not get worse then I have never been so wrong in my life.

I had been seeing a Chiropractor three times a week after deciding to give the conventional medical system a miss. Using Chiropractic care is like going on a diet. There is no pill or procedure which will give instant relief. You may have to go through months of hard work (the more serious the complaint the longer it takes) before you see any beneficial effects and the first two months are the hardest.

Tuesday the 10th of May 2011. 01.00 am

I awoke screaming.

My right leg was on fire. Fires so intense it would have made Hell itself feel as cold as the Arctic. I tried to straighten myself but even the slightest movement sent pulsating flashes from my lower back, down my leg, to fuel the pain that burned so terribly.

My heart was beating so fast I thought I was having a heart attack and the sweat started to stream down my face. At that point if a surgeon had said to me the only way to stop this pain would be to have my leg amputated I would have signed the consent form there and then.  In fact if I could have reached a knife I would have carved off my leg myself.

Slowly, very slowly I raised myself through gritted teeth that where biting down so hard a piece of tooth came loose, but eventually after my personal fight with the devil I was leaning my back against the head board. I knew I had to get out of bed but this was easier said than done as just the slightest movement sent me screeching for relief.

Slowly I rocked from side to side until I rolled over and just like the children’s nursery rhyme, I fell out of bed. I was now on all fours and had to stand up and straightened my back before I could even think about getting any relief.

For ten minutes I tried, but that final push to get me to my feet is pain I never want to experience again, and one which women going through child birth must be praised for, being able to handle that for hour after hour is unbelievable.

I necked back more pain killers and used the last half of the relief gel on my back and leg and started the slow descent down my stairs to the freezer. In here I had an ice pack which I had just purchased and after filling the hot water bottle I settled as best I could on the sofa. I had two pillows to support my back and the ice pack pressed against my spine freezing the pain, and the hot water bottle resting on my leg smoothing the tension away.

More importantly I had the laptop on my knees and a nice cup of tea. It was now 02.30am and I started writing. By 05.00 the sun was peeping around the closed curtains and I took a break to refreeze my ice pack and refresh my hot water bottle. It became a routine throughout the day and before I knew what had happened it was nine thirty at night and I had been writing for eighteen hours. My mind was exhausted and so was I as I hobbled back to bed.

They say God works in mysterious ways and over the next three months he worked his painful hands over me because every night at 01.00 I would awake in screaming pain and would end up sitting on the sofa with pillows, ice pack, hot water bottle, cup of tea and my laptop.

In these three months 112,000 words flew out of my imagination and my first rough draft (and it was very rough) was complete.

Friday, 3 August 2012

The first day

Monday the 9th of May 2011, 09.00 am.

So here it is, the first day, the very start of what I hoped would be the beginning of a new career.  I had ended the weekend the same way I started it with a stinking hangover and my back still crippled with pain. I had decided that as it was my last weekend of being in paid employment, like a condemned man with his last meal, I would have a blow out with the booze, and what a good job I did of it.

I settled down on a chair with a pillow for support and leaned on the dining room table. With notebook and pen in hand I scribbled furiously as the first chapter, pent up for so long within me, like a virgin on his wedding night, came spurting out in a joyous burst of exuberance.

I had purchased a notebook computer as I had lost the use of my company laptop when I handed it back on my departure. I planned to write by hand then transfer it onto the word processor at a later date. By the end of the day I had made an executive decision to bin the pad and go straight onto the computer, after it dawned on me that I was just doubling my work load.

It may seem a logical thing to type my manuscript straight onto the computer, but at the time I had no idea, what so ever, on how a person went about writing a book or even how to get it published.

I had joined the long list of hopefuls whose head was stuffed full of dreams and now I felt as if a bottle had been smashed across my skull as the reality of it all shattered into my head .

I sobered up very quickly.

The words flowed like verbal diarrhoea, but rock comes from lava, and looking back these early beginnings was the foundation on which I would eventually build my manuscript on.

I have learnt that there are five basic rules for any new writer or anyone else who can’t get an agent or publisher interested in their manuscript (or want to enter main new writer contests) which they must follow from the beginning. If they don’t then all that will happen is it will be given a quick glance then will be thrown into the bin.

Rule number one.

No manuscript must be hand written. All agents and publishers will ask for the first three chapters either in digital form by email or printed neatly on A4. If they want to take it further then they will all ask for the whole manuscript to be emailed to them. This you can’t do if your precious piece of work has been scribbled down on an A5 pad.

Rule number two.

All wording will need to be double line spaced. Stories abound about people in the industry who will simple bin the manuscript without reading it because it has been typed 1.15 spaced and not double.

Rule number three.

The font size should always be 12 and use a basic text like Calibri or Times New Roman. Please don’t think it will impress the end reader if you have used some fancy text because it will not. You manuscript will end up on top of the pile in the bin with the other rejects.

Rule number four.

All pages need to be numbered. It might sound a basic request but it’s required. The end reader will go through hundreds of pages a week and if they are unable to note a particular page or the pages get mixed up then the story is for the chop.

Rule number five.

If you are writing a story for children or Young adults (generally 8-17 year olds) then be careful it’s no longer than 70,000 words. How the rule of thumb goes is as follows 8-12 year olds up to 30,000 words, 13-17 year olds 30,000 to 70,000. Of course there are stories for this age group above these totals but these generally have been written by established writers. If you are unpublished thus unknown, and you send in a manuscript of 140,000 words stating, this story is for young children, it will end up in the bin without even being looked at.

All five rules have to be used together. You may just think that agents and publishers are being fussy but they aren’t. They will receive thousands of manuscripts a year from new unknown writers and will have to whittle these down to just maybe fifty which could be publishable.

What would you do in this situation?

First impressions count, and if you had this massive pile of slush to go through, you would automatically bin the ones which don’t match these five basic rules.

If you have received rejection after rejection then check first you have kept to the above. It may not be the only reason you get rejected (you story may just be a lot of hot wind) but at least it may help to getting it reviewed in the first place.