0

Rocking the Cosmos

IMG_2604

Industrial Oban (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Less than 2 weeks ago, I gave the Cosmos a bit of a kick up the bum and ordered a little bit of good fortune. I asked for Holly to learn how to use the cat flap, and I asked for some work or some sales or a competition win.

Well, I can proudly announce that Holly, that very intelligent cat, who thinks she can blend into the background and hide anywhere, and can open very heavy doors, has finally learned how to use the cat flap … or at least one way she has. She has yet to work out that the cat flap actually flaps both ways, and if she can push a big, heavy door, she can certainly shift a bit of perspex. So, round of applause for Holly, please, and a please-try-a-little-harder to the Cosmos. Thank you.

Last week I received a teeny-tiny follow-up job from a very satisfied client of the week before. I submitted the work Wednesday evening (late, after the fishing match), and he paid me yesterday. He also left me a second 5-star feedback. I LOVE clients like that.

And then this morning, a client I thought I may have lost has contacted me with a Big One. One that may take 3 – 4 weeks. Of course, he still may find someone willing to do the work for less and has every option to go there instead. But he contacted me, and that’s the main thing. I think I’ll be having lots of conversations with the Cosmos today, though.

So, how has the week been? Well, I started a new word count challenge on Wednesday, but as I’m doing it over several projects, I asked the poet to create a spreadsheet for me so I can keep tabs on how much I’ve written per project and how much I’ve written per day/month. He did that within about 10 minutes. I could have done it, but it would have taken me half a day, so I outsourced that work to maximise and optimise.

We had a cracking storm yesterday afternoon. I knew it was coming because the dog was barking at anything, everything and nothing. The day before we’d had a proper, tropical storm, with thunderless lightning and big fat raindrops. That left us feeling very muggy. Yesterday, though, it was a decent downpour that left everywhere feeling fresh again.

I’m back into the swing of CATCH THE RAINBOW, I’ve started a new short story, and I’m still doing exercises for ideas and markets. I’ve been editing 2 jobs this week, one is almost complete the other was filed on Wednesday. Next week I may get time to do some extra work as the poet is off to Germany again for a couple of days on business. So in all, I’m feeling quite positive on the work side of things.

I pitched for another job this morning that I was invited to, another regular proofreading gig. I hope to file the second of those editing jobs this afternoon, and get it invoiced (hurrah!). And then we’re off to the pictures this evening. We’re going to see JURASSIC WORLD. Tomorrow we have a very local music festival to go to. And Sunday … I don’t know yet what we’re doing on Sunday. Perhaps we need to get out and take some new photographs, as I’m running out of older ones not already seen … but I like the Oban picture. I like how colourful it is, yet how industrial.

Have a great weekend.

0

Diary of a scaredy cat, 2 July 2015

51RwstkNpwL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Writing companion of the week
This book is one of a couple I have by Chris Sykes and is in a very typical “Teach Yourself Books” style. It’s one of the current books I have on my Kindle (on all devices), and I like it because it has exercises in it that result in short stories that you can hone and sell or discard if necessary.

There’s some “theory” in there, in each chapter the author discusses the various aspects of plot, conflict, pace, etc. But there are also case studies, examples and, as I say, those all important productive exercises.

Last night, with this book by my side, I sat and wrote the first 900 words (almost) of a brand new short story, and it was completely different to anything else I’ve written – well, apart from the usual use of language, dialogue and structure that all writers tend to write in their own way. And I think I have enough meat in the idea to carry on for at least another 900 words – one of the longest short stories I’ve written in a while too.

So, this book works for me. It might work for you too. HOW TO CRAFT A GREAT STORY by Chris Sykes is available in Kindle and paperback from here. But my Kindle version on the pc is laid out just like a double-page spread, although the other devices are single pages.

Editing
I didn’t do a lot of work in the week following my last Diary … due to illness, dental and hair appointments, visiting family in Yorkshire and the Midlands, and loads of other commitments. But since getting back into the saddle I have completed the hard copy edits on 2 client projects and the electronic edits on 1 client project.

On Tuesday I had a good look at the job board I use and pitched for 9 new editing or proofreading jobs. Two have already been awarded elsewhere, but I have a minimum fee now that I’ll work for, so any that do come in will be well-paid.

The electronic edit I completed on the other client project was done on my notebook/switch on the banks of a fishery last night, as I sat in the car. I love my new notebook/switch as it enables me to work on the go like this and, if the battery runs low, I can just plug it into the car. The one thing that annoyed me with a laptop is that the battery usually runs out within 2 hours if you have a high-spec device, and I always buy the highest spec I can afford as I may need to rely on it in times of powercut or holidays. But the notebook/switch had used hardly a fraction of the battery by the time we got home.

We also have a dongle that we can use to connect to the internet while mobile, if necessary, and the notebook/switch is perfect for that too. However, I waited until we got home last night to file the work, as I knew it would only take a few seconds and I wouldn’t even have to power-up the desktop.

CATCH THE RAINBOW
I’ve had 3 good sessions on CATCH THE RAINBOW and seem to be in the swing of it again now. I’m scheduling time in most days and only yesterday slipped up because it was too hot to work at my desk, and the work I’m doing at the moment needs to be done at my desk. It’s cooler today, though, so I’ll have another bash at it again. I’m currently at 5,313 words.

Book reviews
There’s a new page on the blog, did you see it? This is for book reviews. I used to do book and software reviews for one of my regular magazine clients back in the day, and get paid for them, and with all the reading I’ve been doing lately, I was toying with the idea of doing them again, for free books at least if not for remuneration at first.

Then, funnily enough, a writing friend on FB asked if any of her FB friends were doing book blogging at the moment, as another acquaintance of hers was looking for volunteers. And I volunteered. And we made contact. And he sent me the book already. So within hours of me setting up the new blog page I had my first gig.

Short writing work
With the books I have all loaded onto the Kindle (decreasing by the day as another one falls by the wayside), I’m doing quite a few exercises that will result in short stories, articles or fillers/reader’s letters. Last week I managed a 50-word flash-fiction short story (again, and like last night, while sitting on the banks of a fishery while the poet took part in a match), and last night, as I say, I managed the first 878 words of a brand new short story.

Word count challenge – July
And because I’m back on the writing wagon, I’ve set myself a new target for July: 23,000 words (1,000 words for every working day in July). Keep an eye on the word meters in the sidebar and wish me luck!

0

The best laid plans …

ATT_1435569876069_20150626_093312

We might get grapes this year. The vine seems to like its new home, although I think it could do with a bigger pot.

On Friday I made very grand plans in order to get ahead with my work … but then everything went pear-shaped when I tried downloading a new file to work on from my job board.

Google insisted that Chrome needed to run the “remove software” tool in order for this file to download correctly, as I kept getting a “network failure” error message. So, trusting Chrome quite implicitly – for me – I did it. It took a while, which took a chunk out of a working slot, and when complete it prompted a reboot.

Oh, how I wish I’d just settled for the chunk taken from one working slot … When I did the reboot the pc got itself into a loop, saying it was looking for an operating system … Yup, the “software removal tool” had removed all of Windows.

Now, I’ve not done a system recovery disk, mostly because it always asks for a disk and I never had a disk big enough – apparently. Instead I opted for backing up critical data, which includes any system downloads.

However, the only option I had on Friday was a full factory reset … (groan!) Although it wasn’t so bad as we only got the computer in November and I am getting into the habit of backing up that thar critical data (heap big thanks to that man who drummed this into me).

So that took several hours out of my day, which in fact was pretty much the entire afternoon in the end. Fortunately, my last critical data backup was just over a week ago too, so any files I hadn’t saved to memory stick were still in emails or on the job board.

I reported the bug to the job board owner, as it’s the third time a file has been corrupted by them now. And, of course, they blamed my virus software. But I’m quite cute with viruses now (except for dodgy Chrome software removal tools, obviously, although that will never happen again), my virus/malware/spyware software is bang up to date, and I’m anal about deleting duplicate files and running scans. I also pointed out to them that this has only happened since they recently merged with another, far inferior (in my opinion) job board site.

Thanks to the mobile phone I was able to send an apologetic email to the client and ask him to send me another version of the file, which he did immediately. And I’ve just grabbed and saved that new file now, so it’s nice and safe (and clearly nothing to do with my virus software!).

So there’s a new job added to this week that I hoped would be cleared by the end of last week, but it’s only a small file, so shouldn’t take too much time.

Friday evening we did the shopping and nipped over to deliver greetings cards to all three kids. It was the twins’ birthday on Saturday and it’s son #1’s birthday tomorrow (same day as my brother!). Then we got a takeaway for tea and chilled in front of the telly.

We had a do-diddle-day on Saturday. We got up when we liked and did pretty much what we liked all day. It was a glorious day, which meant shorts on. And we spent the entire day in the garden, playing with the dog, wearing him out, the poet painted and finished a picture, and I read. We listened to a cricket roadshow on the radio, then we had a barbecue for tea (cheeseburgers, chicken/mushroom/pepper kebabs, sweet potato wedges) and watched another film on the telly.

Sunday was a busy day as my dad had asked the poet if he’d like to take him to Alrewas again this year. It was an extra visit to Brum, and they had a nice time while I stayed with my mom (we had a larf), but it meant a total of 6 hours of driving for the poet (I did offer to drive back …), so he was shattered by the time we got home again. And we had another evening in front of the telly.

This week, then, is another full and normal week for me. I’ve already put 2 washloads through and am about to hang the second out on the line, I’ve done gig list admin, and I’ve done the daily competitions – and I’m over an hour ahead! Then I have a full 2 hours of writing and a full 2 hours of editing. Tomorrow is more of the same, but with surfing for work having 2 hours allocated to it too.

I’d best go hang that washing out so I can crack on with the writing work. :-)

0

Statistics

ATT_1435307807443_20150626_093247

The poet hates gardening, but his hanging baskets are thriving at the moment.

So I was still feeling a bit sorry for myself when the poet started to spout statistics at me, reminding me that in order to win it, you need first to be in it. He pointed out that as I’ve been so busy editing and proofreading other people’s work I’ve not really had much time to write any new work of my own, and all the stuff I’ve been submitting is stuff that was written a while ago – in the main.

When he started to ask me for figures, I decided to check my record. And he’s right. Not only have I not been writing very much new material recently, I’ve also not really been submitting very much either.

When I checked my record of submissions, I worked out that in the past 24-month period I’ve actually had a success rate of 26.6%. Some were fillers written and submitted on the spot, and pretty much instantly accepted; some were older stories still doing the rounds, although there are also 3 brand new stories in there since January of this year. I did it over 24 months because, as he says, I’ve hardly submitted anything recently so that’s the latest I have to go on.

I suppose, then, that 27% isn’t really a very poor return. It’s more than a quarter. But I am keen to change the ratio of work in favour of my own in the coming months.

Back on the wagon, then …

We went fishing on Wednesday evening. The poet had a chance to join a match and we’d already spent several hours there on Saturday in quite pleasant surroundings so I wasn’t adverse to doing the same again. I took some work with me, and some reading, and we both actually had quite a successful time. I managed to write a 50-word flash-fiction story and almost 700 words of stream of consciousness; he just missed out on a prize by coming 5th – not bad when he was up against around a dozen anglers who regularly fish the lake.

It wasn’t a flash in the pan either, or not so far. Yesterday I ticked all of the jobs on my list and in the middle of it all managed:

  • 677 words on CATCH THE RAINBOW
  • an hour of study work (fiction writing course)
  • 21 hard copy pages edited

Today I sneak in a swift editing job – just one chapter revisited of a book I edited last week – and hope to do more work on CATCH THE RAINBOW. And all those books on the Kindle? Weeded down to:

  • 5 mystery magazines – 2 x Ellery Queen; 2 x Alfred Hitchcock; 1 x Sherlock Holmes (market study)
  • 7 how-to-write books, complete with exercises (kick up the bum + exercising the writing muscle)
  • 3 collections of short stories – Arthur Conan Doyle; Teresa Ashby; Della Galton (market study)
  • 1 non-fiction book on the IRA (research)
  • 3 novels – Peter May; Robert Tressell; Jack Higgins (R, R & R – rest, relaxation & research)

I’ve just added another freebie on habits, but I’ve not looked yet to see if it’s a keeper, a saver or a deleter. But there’s plenty for me to dip into there, and the how-to-writes and the fiction writing course are keeping the ideas coming.

What’s on your Kindle/TBR pile this weekend? Y’all have a goodun!

0

Famous last words ( *** list alert ***)

ahmmSo on Monday I bragged about us both shaking off our colds … and then yesterday I was hit by a relapse that completely knocked me out and back into bed. Talk about famous last words.

I’m still not right today, but the time in bed gave me lots of navel-gazing opportunity in a bid to banish those crows of doubt that have been circling recently.

I think I’ve given myself the kick up the bum I needed, but time will tell. But there’s no diary of a scaredy cat this week as, well, I’ve not done a lot …

… other than the following:

  • bought 3 new magazines (digital versions) I’ve always wanted to target with short fiction (including the one in the picture) – market study
  • loaded older versions of previously bought same magazines (all to Kindle Home) – market study
  • loaded previously bought collections of short stories by Della Galton and Teresa Ashby to Kindle Home (1 each) – market study
  • loaded a total of 18 how-to-write books to Kindle Home for browsing and dipping into
  • loaded a further book to Kindle Home on getting organised, 1 on habit-forming, and another 2 for idea-brainstorming (I do love my Kindle …)
  • researched and bookmarked 22 websites that buy short material from freelance writers
  • subscribed to Duotrope
  • submitted 2 short stories to UK markets this morning
  • submitted 3 short stories to Duotrope listings this morning

I’m also aiming at splitting the diary into:

  • am – my writing work (including market study/research)
  • pm – editing/proofreading work (including surfing job boards and other work-finding and administration activities)

More bed-based work yesterday included synchronising all the bookmarks on all of my wi-fi devices so that I don’t have to keep sending myself links. And I did a lot of reading.

I need to concentrate on my own writing again, whether that be novels, books, articles, short stories or fillers. I’m less likely to spend much time on article-writing, unless it’s a reader’s true experience (RTE) I can rattle off or something I don’t need to personally research very much.

And I need an injection of confidence.

And the opposite of a lazy pill …

How do you kick yourself up the bum to get you working again?

0

Kicking the Cosmos up the bum

IMG_2385

The Nevis Range (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I’ve been giving the Cosmos a good kick up the bum. It’s been AGES since I sold a book or had a story accepted or won a competition, and just recently it’s ignoring all requests for Holly to learn how to use the cat flap too.

The crows of doubt did start to creep in, but then I gave myself a good kick up the bum too. I need to seriously revisit the law of attraction, so if anyone has any suggestions of books to read, please do so. Ta. :-)

On Friday I went to the dentist and I have to go again in a few weeks, to have a filling. :-( It was followed by an early trip to the hairdresser in case they could fit me in ahead of my appointment, but they couldn’t. Friday was not the most successful of days, but at least I have a full week ahead of me this week.

Saturday morning we went to the supermarket to do our weekly shop. We/I normally go on a Thursday, but neither of us really felt like it last Thursday, so we went on Saturday instead. When we got back, we packed the car and went to a local fishery for the afternoon. We were toying with going to one of the local music festivals, but we both wanted to sit quiet. So he did on the water bank, fishing, and I did in the warm, comfy car, reading.

Sunday was a very busy day. It was Father’s Day, so off we toddled in the morning to see the poet’s dad, and then we drove down to Birmingham to see my dad. We saw our mothers too! :-) Then, when we left, it was back up the motorway to see both sons, as they wanted to see their dad on Father’s Day too, and it gave us the chance to see son #2’s new house too.

By the time we got home, at gone 7pm, we were ready to drop. But, fortunately, the poet had left a beef casserole in the slow cooker, and we ate that in front of the telly.

This morning we’re both still shaking off last week’s colds, but I’m delighted to say the time management is still working. I’ve already ticked off several jobs this morning before starting the blog, which I was due to start at 11am and I was 10 minutes early. :-D

For the rest of today I have 2 hours of writing time and 2 hours of editing time. But the way this post is going, I’ll get extra writing time. Result.

I’m not sure yet what I’ll be working on, writing-wise. As I said, the crows of doubt have been circling and I think I need to do something that’s likely to sell, just to give myself a bit of a boost. But I’ll let you know.

For the rest of the week it’s pretty much more of the same, but with a couple of hours study time thrown in for good measure.

What’s in your schedule this week?

2

A write-off

IMG_2309

Falls of Falloch, Loch Lomond (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Not anything in particular, like a car or something like that. But the week. This week has pretty much been a write-off.

Well, it started very well, with me getting through lots and lots of work on Monday. I did everything on my list. Monday was a Very Good day.

So was Tuesday. On Tuesday I had my first jolly-day in a long, long time. And it was good and interesting and inspiring and motivating, and all the things a jolly-day should be. However, I was exhausted Tuesday evening, following some slightly stressy driving on 2 new motorways I’m not used to at fairly busy times, but it was another good day.

On Wednesday, the entire morning was spent changing contact details with a lot of finance people – and there are still a few left (tax office, pension company) – the DVLA, and other bitty places, like loyalty card details in stores. I also changed the name from Parkin to Wordsworth with Microsoft as my tracked changes were still coming up by Diane Parkin. And I sorted out my Outlook to receive emails from the new email address. I’m getting far too much spam on the new address and I don’t know (a) how that happened so quickly, and (b) why the spam filters aren’t picking them up and spitting them out. That’s something I still need to look into.

Wednesday afternoon it all started to go downhill. I’d had nagging “shivers” since Sunday, I’d been shattered Tuesday evening, and now a nagging “bit of a throat” was starting to creep in. And with the poet already fending off tonsillitis, what’s the betting he’d shared his germs with me – as ever? (He’s so generous.) I packed up work early and went to the garden centre to get bedding plants, canes, a nozzle for the hose, compost, a new toy for the dog and some herbs. When the poet got home he planted everything up (he hates gardening …) while I made tea.

When I woke up on Thursday I was ordered to stay in bed – I must have looked awful. So I did. And that was Thursday, pretty much, apart from a FB conversation with a friend helping her to pop her Kindle cherry. After a day’s work, the poet came home and did all of my chores before doing some of his own. He emptied the dishwasher and filled it up again, fetched washing in from the line and put it all away, and he did the poo patrol. Then he cut the grass, watered the plants, and made tea. (Did I mention he hates gardening?) He also did the gig list. By the end of the evening he was exhausted too!

But there went pretty much the rest of this week’s best-laid plans. I have time this morning to catch up on a few computer-related things, and the diary (hurrah!), but this afternoon I’m at the dentist (boo!), at the hairdresser, and then we have this week’s shopping to do as we didn’t go last night.

I am feeling better, though, so maybe the rest did me some good. We’ve both still got niggles, but we’re better than we were.

Over the weekend we have Barnsley Live that we’re thinking of tomorrow, or we may get bundled up and I’ll sit in the car while he sits on a water bank fishing. But there’s rain forecast, so we haven’t decided yet. Sunday is Father’s Day, so we’re off to see both of our fathers.

Hopefully next week will be better. Have a great weekend.