Friday, December 29, 2006

Inocente, inocente

No, that's not a spelling mistake, it's Spanish. December 28th is Holy Innocents' Day, when the Catholic church remembers the babies slaughtered by King Herod. There's a long tradition of pulling people's legs, much like April Fool's Day in England.

I forgot all about it, until my friend's kid mentioned it in the evening. So when I went home, I decided to tease my husband, Carlos.

He's 51, but looks much, much younger because he looks after himself. He doesn't smoke, eats plenty of vegetables, and he runs for an hour almost every morning before breakfast. He's tall and slim to start off with, and the sight of those long legs in short shorts cheers me up in the mornings. Several female acquaintances have mentioned that they see him on his morning run, and judging by the little smile as they say it, he cheers them up too.

Back to Holy Innocents' Day. When I got home that evening, I told my husband that the Local Police had been around earlier. Apparently they'd had complaints about somebody jogging "practically naked" in the mornings and they'd heard it might be Carlos. I'd told them that my husband did go jogging, but certainly not naked. "You do keep your shorts on, don't you? Tell me you keep your shorts on!" Anyway, they wanted to talk to Carlos themselves, so they'd be coming back on Friday at about 7pm, and plase would he make sure he'd be at home. The whole thing had been rather embarassing, and I'd like to get it over with.

I listened to myself with growing amazement, firstly that I was spinning this pile of tripe with so little effort or guilt, and secondly that Carlos was swallowing it whole. I suppose the first thing had a lot to do with the second. That and the fact that Carlos a) had completely forgotten the date, b) was tirede and had a heavy cold and c) knows that I don't do this sort of thing because I can't. Honestly I can't. I can write write it, but not speak it, because it takes several drafts. And there I was spewing it out, curious to find out what I was going to come out with next. It was the weirdest sensation.

Thinking it over, I suspect it worked precisely because I was so relaxed. I had nothing to loose, so I just let my creative subconcious get on with it.

Eventually I got the giggles, followed a second later by Julio. Julio had listened to the whole thing, wide eyed. Then, of course, Carlos realised I was having him on.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

King Kong

This is my son, Julio, with two of his Christmas presents, karate clothes (he's been doing karate for three months) and enormous King Kong gloves.

In Spain the big party is Christmas Eve, and we went next-door-but-one to my brother-in-law and family. We had a nice meal and chatted until midnight when we found that Father Christmas had left presents under the tree for us. Julio got a microscope, my husband got a miniature set of drums to play with his fingers, and I got a book called "What Howls at the Moon in Frilly Knickers?" We came home at about 1:30, and it was a good thing noobody had to drive.

So I wasn't going to get up at the crack of dawn to put a whole turkey in the oven just for the three of us. We had turkey roll and half the trimmings for dinner. Of course that was after the rest of the presents. But he best bit was actually spending the day together without rushing around.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


This is my id card on the left, and this is a recent photo of me on the right. Quite a difference wouldn't you say?

The dreadful photo on the left is the one on my id card. It was taken three years ago, when I finally managed to get out of the house after having a broken shoulder and broken ankle at the same time. I couldn't use crutches because of the shoulder, so I'd been stuck indoors for months, and I certainly hadn't been to the hairdresser.

The photo on the right was taken a week ago, when I was all glammed up for a Christmas dinner. I'd made a mess of blow drying my hair, but I like the cut and colour. Well, these days I have a friend who's a hairdresser, lucky me. But I've looked more or less like this since a week after the id photo was taken.

Here's the fun part. Every time I use a credit card, they ask to see my id card too So I hand over an id card and they check the names match.

I've had this card three years. It looks nothing like me at first glance. And yesterday was the first time in three years that a shop assistant did a double take. I wonder what would happen if I covered up the photo on my ID card with a picture of Mickt Mouse. Do you think anyone would notice?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

We Wish You a Messy Christmas

A friend just emailed photos of the decorations in her house. My goodness, her living room is tidy! Mine always looks like a tornado just passed through.

Several years ago, one of my friend's got burgled and of course the police came round. One officer said sympathetically, "My goodness, they made a mess, didn't they?"

She had to admit that she hadn't even noticed anything odd until she tried to put a tape in the video machine, and realised the machine wasn't there any more. The mess was perfectly normal.

My house is like that. It's not dirty, you understand, just chaotic. I think my mission in life is to make house proud friends feel smug at the comparison. I'm not showing you photos! You'll just have to use your imagination.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The singing cereal box

It's been a busy weekend. I put the Christmas tree up in the living room, and the little Nativity scene in the hall. Julio had a ton of homework that had to be supervised.

On Saturday afternoon Julio went to the observatory kids' Christmas party and had a great time. We got home at 8:15 and I went straight back out again to meet my friend Norma in town. Then it was my turn to have a great time. We had one of those marvelous rambling conversations about ex-boyfriends and music and how to give kids confidence and childbirth, until I came home decidedly merry at 1 a.m.

A couple of months ago, Norma bought a very old car from me, and she mentioned that it was struggling up the hills. So I invited her round to Sunday lunch so that my husband could take a look at it. I squeezed in a bit of housework this morning, then we all had lunch. Somehow or other, we wound up converting an empty cereal box and two potatoes into a singing puppet. I videoed it, and afterwards Norma signed up for You Tube and we put it up.

While Carlos was sorting out the car (fixable, thank goodness), I added audio clips to Norma's site at She's a singer-songwriter, and a good one too. The clips are on the "Records" page. It's the first time I've done audio clips, and I'm pleased with the result.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Making some Noise

Last night I went to the inaugaral party for the island's new cultural magazine, Ruido. My husband had hoped to go, but we couldn't get a babysitter so he stayed home.

I had a good time. There was the inevitable speech to begin with, about the magazine, its aims and the contents of the first issue. I wasn't mentioned, so I assumed I'd been bumped into issue two. Fair enough - they probably have enough egos to deal with. Then someone read some of the contents, and to my surprise, this included my micro fiction, "Dream On" (Sigue SoƱando), so I'm in after all. I don't get paid, but I got paid when the English version was published in Chat. It'll be the first time I've been published in Spanish, and it's the first time I've done my own translation. Best of all, people laughed aloud at the end, which felt GREAT!

Then we had music from a funk group. At the interval there was free beer (Thank you Dorada) and exhibitions to look at. I briefly helped out at the desk collecting signatures on a petition for a concert hall. There isn't a single one on an island of 80,000 inhabitants. Can you believe it?

After the interval, we were supposed to see a documentary about local groups, but that was cancelled due to a technical hitch. On the other hand, the best jazz group on the island played for longer than planned to compensate, so we were all happy.

I'm also pleased to say that the concert raised enough money to pay for printing Issue 1. It's early days, but I think this baby is going to survive. And like any baby, who knows what the future holds?

Saturday, December 02, 2006


My goodness, December already. As my brother put it in an email, Christmas is "rushing up like the ground at the end of a parachute jump!" except that in my case I forgot to pull the ripcord.

I lost most of the last week to flu, and the rest of it to helping a friend with a particularly traumatic house move (which still isn't over.) But the overseas cards and parcels should really be in the post already - and in my case, that's an awful lot of cards and quite a few parcels. I think I feel a major internet shopping spree coming on. I usually write the same letter to go in most of the cards, and haven't even started it. And just to make things really fun, my son, who is bright but rarely works at school, has to hand in all his coursework on Monday. He has a ton of work to do this weekend, and won't do any of it unless I'm there with him. It feels like pushing an elephant up the stairs.

Oh well, I'll do what I can and leave the rest. But I won't get much done on the novel for a week or so.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Why do people say they've got the flu? It feels like the flu's got me - in hard, sharp talons.

Mind you, at least my son is ten now. I got flu when he was about two, and he used to come and hit me on the head with a toy car so I'd get up and play with him. Now he gives me hugs and sympathetic little pats.

Once when he was, I think, four, I told him I couldn't play because I was full of cold. Ten minutes later he came back and asked, "Are you empty of cold yet, Mummy?"

I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Yesterday I took my son Julio to the oculist. He'd been complaining of headaches and seeing funny things. I thought it was probably just that he needed new glasses, but we both thought it was best to get it checked out properly.

Why do they give people an appointment for 3:45 if they're not going to see you until 4:30? and then after the briefest look he said that Julio needed much stronger glasses, but to get it just right he needed to dilate the pupils. So we went back out to reception where they put stingy drops in his eyes, and said we had to wait 20 minutes for it to take effect. Julio was already very bored, so we popped out to a bar. (Julio wanted to go to a games arcade because he hasn't for some time, but I insisted that there wasn't time.)

We got back on time. And then we waited another 20 minutes. And then the doctor saw Julio again, and said that his prescription had more than doubled. In fact the difference was so great that if we gave Julio his new prescription, he'd feel sick and dizzy. So he recommended a change now (he wrote it down) and the rest in three months. Then he had a good conversation with Julio about Pokemon and we left. Fifty euros please.

Julio couldn't see too well with his pupils dilated. I was very glad it was cloudy. I thought we'd better get the new glasses ordered straight away, so we went to the opticians. They said they had the lenses in stock and could fit them in about 20 minutes. Please to come back then.

So Julio got his trip to the games arcade. Although when we got there, half of it had been converted to a cyber-cafe, and most of the rest was bust. But we had two good games of table football.

Then we went back for the glasses (22 euros please - not nearly as bad as I'd feared). Julio still had his pupils very dilated (or as he said, diluted!) and with the new glasses he kept saying it felt like he was a head or more taller.

This morning Julio's pupils were still dilated (or even diluted) but he could read the back of a cereal packet so I sent him to school.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Things are looking up

Things are going rather well here.

Inky's face is getting better. The infection's gone, the wound's scabbed over and shrunk, and she has a little bit of fur growing back where the vet had to shave her. Believe me, on a black cat, 1 mm of fur looks a lot better than bare skin. She's happier too, and very affectionate.

I finally made a little money with Adsense - the targeted ads on my web site. Not a lot, but now that I've earned a little, I feel I can probably earn more.

Recently I've been setting myself one writing target and one domestic target every morning, and usually meeting them. The result is that I have an almost-finished short story and a house that's almost recovered from last month's exhibition.

Best of all, my son's working more at school, and got a good mark in his Language exam. So we had pancakes for tea.

And we still live on La Palma. Every time I see a charter jet leaving the island, I think of all the tourists going home and I think, "Nyer nyer na nyer nyer." I know it's immature, but even after almost 16 years here, I can't help it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More wild mushrooms

I went hunting wild mushrooms again with the same group as last week. I found out it's a formal society, so I've joined (only 20 Euros). The fungi in the photos beside this paragraph aren't edible, just photogenic, but we found plenty of others. There were the same sort as I took home last time - Russula turci - but when I took tiny nibbles they all burned my mouth, which meant they weren't edible. I also found three large fungi which I hoped were Russula delica. There's another, inedible muchroom that looks very similar, but the cut stem stayed white and they didn't burn my tongue, so Russula delica they are. We also found a lot of Lyophylum ovisporum which i haven't tried before. Unfortunately most of them were too old to eat, but I've got enough for past sauce for two. Oh, and I got a few little nacidas Rhizopogon obtextus, which look very like new potatoes poking out of the ground, plus two Niscalos - Lactarius sanguifluus - which look dreadful but everyone said, "Oh you lucky thing!"

Lyophylum ovisporum
Russula delica

And this time I didn't dash back to my family as soon as the fungi had been identified. I stayed and joined in the picnic. There was russula omlet and pizza, plus bread with local sausage and cheese, nuts, crisps, and tiramisu and chantarel liquer to finish. I'm already looking forward to next Sunday.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Making some Noise

We're going to have a new cultural magazine on the island, called Ruido, which means "Noise". I volunteered to sort out the web site, but then someone else volunteered, and to be honest, I was relieved.

My friend Norma is one of the editorial team for the magazine, and she came round this afternoon. She's a musician, and we spent some time on her web site ( Then she mentioned that the person who was going to do Ruido's website might not work out. The upshot was that we created a "Ruido" page for her web site, then an English version of the same page, and then I added the English page to my own site. You can see it at

And then I changed the background colour for my own site, to pale green. I think it goes better with the photos. Please let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Toadstool,part 2

Well on Wednesday I finally got time to clean the russula fungi and stew them. It took a while because the pine needles were well stuck onto the top, and because I had to take a tiny nibble of each one. Any hot ones had to be dicarded. And we finally ate them last night, with cream and pasta.

They were delicious. And we're all still alive.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Poor little Inky

We have two cats, Bib and Inky. Both are black, but Bib, the mother, has a white bib under her chin.

Last week Inky came home with her face all swollen. I only just had time to get her to the vet before they shut at 8pm, so the vet said to leave her overnight. It was an abscess almost as big as a golf ball and she'd need a small operation under general anaesthetic.

When I collected her on Wednesday, the poor thing had a dirty great drainage tube poking out of her cheek, and the vet said I'd need to squirt hydrogen peroxide into the hole every day for five days to prevent re-infection. He gave me a seringe without a needle to do it with.

Can you imagine a cat sitting still while you do that? In his autobiography (On Writing) Stephen King describes the daily cleaning of the pins into his broken leg as being "like someone poured gasoline over my leg and then set light to it." That sounds like hydrogen peroxide.

On Wednesday morning I wrapped her in a towel so she couldn't escape or scratch me. Then I squirted the stuff into the wound.

It was like a cartoon. The cat shot at least a foot into the air and whizzed out of the door. I didn't see her again until late evening.

On Thursday it was surprisingly easy to catch her, and I wrapped her up much more tightly, so I could do the job properly. Boy, did the poor thing howl.

On Friday and Saturday I couldn't get near her, although I did manage another squirt on Sunday.

And on Monday the drainage tube was supposed to come out. Well I finally caught her in the evening, wrapped her, and pulled on the tube. Nothing doing. My husband went for some tweezers. I managed to get a grip on it, but it still wouldn't come. Then I noticed that there was a stitch going through it. My heart hammered, but I managed to cut the stitch and pull it out, and Inky didn't seem too bothered by my efforts. After that the tube came easily, but there was pus with it, so I had to give the poor thing another squirt of the dreaded H2O2.

And to my astonishment she didn't even leave the room afterwards, and she was letting me stroke her again within ten minutes.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


One of my friends goes hunting wild mushrooms every Sunday, and today I went with her.

We were in a group of about twenty people, all spread out over the hillside in the pine forest. I was hoping to find nacidas - the only wild fungus I can reliably recognise on the island, because they look like little new potatoes poking out of the ground. Well I did find nacidas. I found three, and they were all too old to eat. (When they're old the inside turns from white to grey.)

What I did find was lots of a mushroom called Russula Turci. They grow under the pine needles and it's easy to walk over them before you see them. I pulled up enough to fill my basket.

And then everybody got together to show the expert (a high-school science teacher called Pepe) what they'd found and have it identified. And we got a little lecture on how to collect fungi so that it could fruit again. You don't pull it up, you cut it.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Making an Exhibition of Myself

I've got an exhibition of photos up at the local airport, so life's a bit strange at the moment. We start the day with a mad rush to get my son to school, then I go straight to the airport and open the exhibition. For most of the morning there are just enough people coming through that I can't settle to anything else, so I get thoroughly bored. Once or twice a day there's a big charter flight, and then the place is packed. After all, it's at least an hour between check-in and boarding, and there's not much else to do. A good percentage of visitors ooh and ah, or say nice things to me about the photos, but nobody's bought a thing so far. Of course they've all checked in their suitcases, haven't they? My husband had the brilliant idea of selling postcard-sized prints: small enough to go in the hand luggage and cheap enough for an impulse buy. The only catch is, I can't get to the photo shop because I'm stuck in an exhibition all day, and he can't go either because he's stuck up a mountain. Maybe I'll manage it at the weekend. On the other hand, my business cards keep going, and with a bit of luck a few people will order from the web site. Of course this means that the web site will need serious work as soon as the exhibition's over.

At lunch time I close the exhibition and have another mad rush to pick up my son from school, feed him, and get back to the exhibition by three. Usually we're a little late. Then we try to get his homework done. Now my son isn't very good at concentrating at the best of times (and believe me, sitting in an exhibition isn't the best of times) so the homework takes forever. Then he plays with his Game Boy or my laptop, and gets thoroughly bored. At eight we shut up shop and have another mad rush to get dinner and get him to bed. I try to fit in a little cleaning or email before I collapse into bed. It's surprisingly tiring sitting still almost all day.

On Wednesday a friend babysat the exhibition for the afternoon, and I had a mad afternoon turning the house from filthy to grubby, and dyeing my hair. (Look, my hair colour is my own, all right? I paid for the bottle.) This afternoon my son went to his Godmother's, since the homework can wait a little. My goodness am I looking forward to closing for the day on Sunday!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Osama bin Laden and the Paris Hilton

We're on holiday. We just spent five days in Paris.

Guess when we were supposed to be flying to London?

When we left the hotel at 11am, the receptionist checked the web and said there was a problem at Heathrow, but it looked like London Luton wasn't affected. So we took a taxi to the airport and checked in, they said we'd have a two hour delay because somebody had tried to get a bomb onto a plane at Heathrow. We sighed and shrugged our shoulders. Two hours isn't fun, but hey, we'd been through worse. We went through security (which was normal at the time) and I passed some of the wait on a seriously expensive Internet connection and caught the breaking news from London Heathrow, which was pretty vague at the time. In due course we got onto the plane three hours after the official time and waited. The crew apologised for the delay, saying that things were pretty bad in London airports. It's the first time I've seen cabin crew look frazzled. And we waited. And waited.

I was really glad that Julio had his Game Boy.

Then the pilot announced that he was very sorry, but we appeared to have one suitcase too many, and he was annoyed because they'd had an extra three hours to sort out our luggage. However, there was no way we could fly until they'd cleared this up.

So we waited some more. And waited. And got chatting to the mother and daughter behind us. Julio made friends with the girl, who was a little older than him and called Louise.

And then the pilot announced that he was really, really sorry, but he was now out of hours and it was illegal for the crew to fly. We'd be provided with a hotel, dinner and breakfast, and we could either fly in the morning or claim a refund. Please to go back, claim our suitcases, and someone would come with information.

So we went thought passport control into baggage reclaim, and one suitcase sat on the carousel going round and round and round. That was almost certainly the one that caused the hold up. Julio got really friendly with Louise.

Eventually somebody appeared and began talking to 120 scattered people at normal conversational volume. It wasn't until I yelled "INFORMATION!" that people gathered around.

We were booked into the Hilton! Dinner would be at 8pm, and we had to be back in the airport for 6am.

The promised shuttle buses never appeared, so we had to walk with luggage for about 1/4 mile and queued and queued for reception. When we finally got to the room we attacked the mini bar and spent 18.50 Euros in about 20 minutes. But then we found out that the normal price for the room was 748 Euros per night.

Kim and Loise were in the next room, and the kids spent most of the time before dinner under Julio's bed, giggling. If they'd been just a little bit older, I'd have been very worried. As it was, I went to soak in the bath. Carlos had a shower (there was a separate shower).

Dinner was a set menu, but very good. Especially when you consider that they produced dinner for 120 people at one hour's notice. And we all went to bed soon after, having had a tiring day.

We got up at 5:15 and went down to reception. Our departure time had been moved back. Breakfast would be served from 8-9, please to be in the airport terminal by 11. Obviously we went back to bed.

Just before breakfast, we spent some time surfing news channels, and they all said there would be no hand luggage in or out of London. We repacked.

We got to the airport well before 11, and found the information desk to ask for details about check in and hand luggage. Nope, no hand luggage except passports, medicines, and tampons without a box. The check in didn't open until 11am, (for a 1pm flight when there's a security red-alert. Hello???) and the queue was extremely slow. So I went down to the front in search of extra luggage tags, seeing as our repacked "hand" luggage was now going in the hold.

The people at the front of the queue were repacking their stuff, because they'd only just found out about the new security regulations. The people behind them were doing the same, but as far as I could see, nobody else was. No wonder the queue was moving as fast as a glacier. So I grabbed a handful of luggage tags and handed them out, explaining as I went. Most people believed me. After that the queue went a bit faster. God knows why nobody from the airline thought to do that. Everybody would have believed it coming from someone in uniform.

We finally checked in at 1:30. Even though we weren't the last by a long way, we were told we had to hurry through security. The queue was gigantic, and even though our flight was no delayed by 24 hours and supposed to have special security, we didn't have a special queue. I did get frisked, but nobody checked the hand luggage. We got to the gate at about 2:20, and were told in no uncertain terms that we didn't have time to go to the snack machine even though we hadn't eaten for six hours.

Once on the plane we waited and waited for the remaining passengers. And waited. And waited. And waited. The crew - the original crew stranded since the day before - handed out water and apologies, including the flight crew. Since they only had the original food from London, they were going to have to ration it, and couldn't do that until they had everybody. And we waited. And waited. Since Julio and Louise had been parted from their Game Boys, they were seriously bored. I taught them "You'll never get to heaven" with a new verse.

Oh you'll never get to heaven
By EasyJet
Cause this darn plane
Won't take off yet.

Then we sang "The quartermaster's stores" with:

There were delays, delays,
For days and days and days
In the stores, in the stores...

The guy in front of us started phoning on his mobile.

Mobile? As in potential detonation device?

The captain appeared and politely confiscated it until we got to Luton, leaving us wondering open-mouthed about the competence of security that took twice as long as usual, and still let something like that on the plane. To be fair to the passenger concerned, he didn't speak much English and probably didn't know he wasn't allowed to take it on board.

The final passengers appeared at 3:25. We took off to rousing cheers at 3:35. The cabin crew dashed round with FREE snacks and drinks, and we got to Luton at 3:15 to more cheers. (No, that's not a typo. London is 1 hour ahead of Paris.) We collected the hire car just 28 hours late. And the rest of the journey to my brother's was uneventful.

So I finally got to stay in the Paris Hilton, courtesy of Osama bin Laden.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dr Slither

One way and another I haven't written much lately, so I was relieved when my story "Slugs" went down well at the critters writing group. I edited, it, changed the title to "Dr. Slither", and sent it off to Farthing magazine.

Now I average one sale for every ten submissions, so I was stunned and delighted when they bought it after only 12 days. The only catch is that it won't be published until issue 5, which will probably be early next year.

Now all I need to do is to send off another twenty submissions or so.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

How to Sound Like a Lunatic

Yesterday I emailed the tourist office in Orkney to say that I was writing a short story with a heroine who was working at an archaeological site on Orkney, and please could they tell me what sort of soil she'd be digging through. I'd like to be a fly on the wall when they read that one! If nothing else, it should give them a good laugh on a Monday morning.

Or does anybody reading this happen to know about Orkney? I think I've dug myself into a hole here.

But maybe that's appropriate for a story about archaeology.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Been there, done that

New writers agonise about rejections. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that I average about one sale per ten submissions, so I try not to get too hopeful about any one story. I send them out, and they get rejected I tell myself that’s 10% of a sale and I send them out again somewhere else. I keep doing that until either they sell or I run out of possible markets. Plus I usually have at least five stories out at any one time (at the moment it’s nine), so when one story comes back I have plenty of others to feel optimistic about.

That’s the theory. Most of the time it’s the reality too. But lately I had one particular story I was hopeful about. I thought it was one of the best stories I’ve ever written, and perfect for this market that I’ve been trying to gatecrash for twelve years. And last week they rejected it. And I got another rejection the same day.

Been there before, done that, got a wardrobe full of T shirts. As per usual, I blasphemed, took a deep breath, and started thinking of alternative markets.

I already have a story at alternative market #1. So after some head-scratching I came up with alternative market #2. Now I haven’t bought that magazine for some time, and magazines do change format. Maybe they used to print 1,000-word stories but now they want 1,200 or 700 words. Chat went from buying 800-word stories to using several tiny stories of exactly 60 words. (And they bought one of mine. See ) So I bought a copy of alternative market #2 and looked at the story.

The story’s heroine was the same age as mine. Great. Her basic problem was similar to mine. Even better. Most magazines like stories with heroines that the readers can identify with, you see. So they tend to be superficially similar.

The story’s heroine dealt with the problem in a similar way.


Although the endings are completely different, and I think my story’s better (well I would, wouldn’t I?) there is now no chance that alternative market #2 will buy my story. It’s just too similar to the one they just published.

Oh well. Been there before, done that. Blaspheme, take a deep breath, and start thinking of somewhere else. Better yet, go and write something else. It's the best way to improves, after all.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


The first draft of the novel "Frankenstein" was written by Mary Shelley during a holiday in Switzerland, as a dare. Consequently my email group of writing friends (the Critter Litter) ocassionally have what we call a Shelley - a date to produce a story on a certain theme by a tight deadline. It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be done. The point is that the worst thing you write beats the best thing you never got around to writing, and you can always polish it later.

We held a Shelley recently, and the theme was slugs. It's not what I would have chosen, but I signed up anyway because it's high time I got back to work and I hope it would give me the required kick up the rear.

It worked. I wrote a very strange story which I finished a day late and I really enjoyed writing it. I think one reason was that I didn't think I'd have a hope of publishing it, so all the pressure was off. And reading it over, it needs polishing, but I think I can sell it after all.


Where did the last week go?

Last week I asked a collegue if she was looking forward to the Easter Holidays.

She said, "It's not a holiday. It's just a change of activity."

How right she was. We only get Holy Week off school, and it zipped past somewhat faster than a headless chicken. But I got 5 submissions sent off, set up a web site for my friend Norma
and cleared up some of the domestic chaos that's been annoying me for a month or more.

Is a change as good as a rest?

Of course not, but it certainly beats the same old, same old.


Saturday, March 04, 2006


We've just finished Carnival here. Both my son's school and the school where I work shut for the week, and we've had friends visiting from the UK. I had hoped to do loads of stuff around the house, but instead I've had fun and submitted some stories. I actually submitted seven stories in February, which is almost back to normal. The ideas are flowing again. Now I just need to get back to writing regularly.

I put up some photos of Carnival up on my web site.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I have a new writing job. I've become the Comments Editor at HeroicStories. People email in comments on the stories, and it's my job to chose which comments to run (which is most of them) and edit them until they say what the author would have said if they'd known how to write well. The trick is to make the English clear and correct, maintain house style (American spelling, give authors first name and state only, spell out numbers under ten unless they're ages) while still sounding like the original author, not like me. It's a lot harder than I expected. I don't get paid, but it's good training. Best of all, people write in to say how the newsletter made their day or inspired them to help someone.

In other news, my story "If At First You Don't Succeed…" won equal first place in rspublishing's "Short not Sweet" contest. It's not a huge amount of cash, but it feels great, and I have a nice certificate displayed on my web site.

Now I really must go and do some work on my friend Norma's new web site.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Last year I submitted 35 stories. That netted me four acceptances and nineteen rejections, and the other twelve haven't replied yet. Two of those will probably reply later, and six might still reply. Call it four acceptances and twenty-three rejections. That's the best ratio I've had in a long time.

Incidentally, the last submission of the year broke the land speed record for getting into print. I sent my dark flash story off to rspublishing ( ) on December 30th. Iit was accepted on Jan 7th, and up on the site the same day. You can read the beginning of the story for free. If you want to download the rest you have to pay $A1 (that's $0.75 US or £0.42) by Paypal, and I get $A0.30 each time someone does that. It's my first time at a pay-per-download site. Should be interesting.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Butterflies and Helicopters

My son, Julio, was telling me he was nervous. "It feels like a helicopter in my tummy."

I told him that most people describe it as butterflies. Then I explained that the tingly feeling was caused by your body sending the blood away from digestion and towards to the big muscles, making you strong for an emergency. "So the heli in your belly gives you more welly."

When you're nine years old, that sort of thing is hilarious.