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Lovely cuckoo “watch”

ATT_1427703943756_20150330_092031Well, it was only a couple of weeks in the end. But here I am, back again. Did you miss me?

I’ve been very busy getting used to the new work schedule. Adding a slot in the morning and again in the late afternoon for “housework” has been a huge help. Now I do things like put washing through, unload the dishwasher, put clothes or crocks away, etc, only during those slots and ignore the chores for the rest of the day. And it means I’ve been doing a lot more work in between.

I’m not convinced about the slow cooker we’ve just started to use, as I thought they were initially designed to save time. However, looking through the instruction manual, it does say the crock pot needs switching on for 20 minutes before adding any food, which suggests you have to do all the food prep before going to (or starting) work. This would be no use to us whatsoever as the mornings are already very full getting the poet up and off to work, feeding us all, and doing the chores already scheduled.

Yesterday, however, we gave it a go but prepared the ingredients and left them in the pot overnight. I’m worried this will amount to a marinade and might take some of the other taste away. It’s switched on now, though, with an extra half an hour to compensate for no pre-heating and we’ll find out at teatime if it’s workable that way or not. If not, it’s going on ebay …

Hints and tips gratefully received. :-)

The other thing I’ve been doing is preparing 2 new books for publication. One is TALES FROM BAGGINS BOTTOM BEST BITS BOOK TWO, which is due out on Wednesday … and still needs work for the Smashwords version to be accepted; the other is TWEE TALES TOO. Yes, I’ve finally collated enough material for a second volume of short stories. This one is due out on 1 May while we’ll actually, ahem, be otherwise engaged. I still have work to do on both, but the Kindle version of BBBBB2 is okay. The paperback may follow a week or so later.

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As you can see I’ve started to put book titles in capital letters. This is mostly because if I copy and paste any of the blog into another Baggins Bottom book it should save me a lot of time reformatting for Smashwords. It really doesn’t like too many bold or italic fonts.

I’ve also been working on my own fiction. There are a few short stories out there now, doing the rounds, earning their keep, and I’ve settled down to more work on CATCH THE RAINBOW and THE BEAST WITHIN, and made notes for THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME – a new Marcie Craig. Today I’m starting my GARDENING FROM SCRATCH diary too. At the weekend we bought 3 lovely new exercise books as I like to start work in those.

While I’ve been missing, I’ve registered on 2 new job boards too, and revived one I let go a few years ago. That means I now surf 4 job boards at least twice a week, but also have quite a few invitations to respond to in between.

I’ve cleared 2 jobs for lovely already client and sent those back to him, and I’m about to finish a 3rd before starting a 4th. So I’ve not really been idle. What have you been up to?

20150330_095959The poet spent his last few days over in Germany last week, we hope, and when he came home, via Switzerland, he was clutching this rather splendid cuckoo clock – or, as his German friends call it, a cuckoo “watch”.

Here he is saying hello. Do you like him? :-)

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And the winner is …

nightcrawler largeprintSusie Kearley! :-)

Susie, I’ll send you a message via Twitter or FB so you can send me your snail mail address. Thanks to those of you who entered the book giveaway.

The blog will be back to normal very soon, I’m just taking a bit of a breather while I decide what people actually want to see.

The large print edition of Night Crawler (the current giveaway) has probably run out now, so I’m going to check the details and then re-publish on Lulu another large print version of my own. I’m changing my name in May, though, and re-branding myself at the same time, so all of the books may be re-released, with new covers. “Previously published as …” will appear very clearly on the cover and in the blurb. I’d hate people to think they’ve had to pay for something they’ve already paid for.

I’m working on Catch the Rainbow still, and hope this will be ready soon. This is a prequel to Night Crawler, and then I’ll finish The Beast Within, which is a sequel. Then Marcie (and predecessors) will have a little rest while I write the prequel to Catch the Rainbow, which is going to be called Hattie’s Hotshots. I’m a great believer in paying attention to “signs”, and as one appeared on the telly last night that’s perfect for Hattie, I’ve decided that’s next on the list. The third Marcie-specific story will be Snowblind, so I’ll also have that one percolating in the background.

I’m also working on Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book Two, and collating Diary of a Scaredy Cat into a-year-in-the-life-of-a-writer-type thing. And as I work through various short stories and get them in circulation, I’ll also be collating the rest of Twee Tales Too.

So please don’t think I’m being idle. I’m just taking a breather, taking stock.

If you get chance, do let me know what you’d like to see on the blog. I know some of you have said to keep it as it is, but I’d love to hear from those who haven’t said anything too. And if that means more competitions and giveaways and less pictures and personal news, that’s fine. Thanks in anticipation for your time. :-)

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From the farmers’ market this week

P1030990On Friday, at noon, our fruit and veg boxes arrived. In our veg box we had: potatoes; beetroot; carrots; leeks; broccoli; tomatoes; mushrooms (in place of celery due to food allergy); courgettes. And in our fruit box we had: apples; pears; grapefruit; seedless grapes; bananas.

We tend to supplement potatoes and bananas, but the rest of it tends to last until the next box gets here. We do need a crock pot for spud, carrots and other root and tuber vegetables. But, generally, we’re using everything they send us and we have a variety of meals.

As it was the second Sunday of the month, we also nipped along to the farmers’ market at Wentworth. Here again we tend to see what’s in season or on offer, and use that as a basis for our meals and other shopping.

P1030994 This Sunday we bought: water buffalo sausages; water buffalo burgers; a giant Swiss roll; half a dozen pullet eggs; 2 ready made pies; a selection of colourful mushrooms.

I usually just buy closed or open cup mushrooms, button mushrooms and, occasionally, portabello or field mushrooms. So I had no idea what to do with this little lot. They did look pretty in their tray, though.

P1030997 The mushroom lady suggested a giant mushroom omelette, and that’s what I thought we were going to have for tea. But the poet changed his mind, having already promised me rosti potatoes one of the days. So he lightly fried the mushrooms instead.

We tend to use leeks instead of onions, and I suggested he do this for the rostis, which  he did. And I also had to go into the garage to see if I could find the steel pastry cutters, which I did.

P1040001I’ve never had potato rostis before, but from the way he described them, they sounded just like hash brownies. He made us 2 each and they were gorgeous. We’re definitely having those again.

Six bison bangers were baked in the oven to go with the rostis and the shrooms (he had 4, I had 2), and the entire meal was delicious.

We had the giant Swiss roll for pudding … well, not all of it. It usually lasts us a few days at least.

We’ve also been celebrating my birthday this weekend. On Friday evening we went to see Kingsman: The Secret Service and went to Pizza Express for our tea. We love Pizza Express. They’re always very busy, yet the staff are very, very well-trained, always seeing if we’re okay, always checking there’s nothing we need, always quick,always friendly and polite.

We got stuck in traffic going so were a little late, yet Pizza Express got us seated and served almost immediately. We both had their chicken Ceasar salad as it’s scrumptious, but we didn’t have time for pudding. Instead we had popcorn and chocolate in the cinema. We enjoyed the film too. :-)

Saturday was spent in Birmingham and in Doncaster visiting the parents. We didn’t go out Saturday night as we were glad to be home. And Sunday we were supposed to be going for a walk after the market, but we got distracted instead by the craft village where they have a huge antiques hall. So we had about an hour rummaging around in there.

It doesn’t end there. This evening, after work, we’re off to Mexborough for a Chinese meal, and this coming Saturday we have a football game to go to. We’ve had quite a celebratory fortnight for both of our birthdays. :-)

This week I have the “big edit” to shift electronically. I did send an email to the client to see if he wanted me to send it to the designer over the weekend, but as he didn’t reply I thought there can’t be the same rush there was. So I’ll take my time and get that gone – today, hopefully.

Last week I left gaps in the diary for editing work, and I’ll fill those in as I go along. I did, however, write in the writing work, study time and a few slots on the gig list. So I’m still, as ever, nicely busy.

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We have shelves

P1030989We’ve had a fairly productive week this week.

On Monday, after work, we nipped out to collect a routine prescription, making a mental note to register with the doctors closer to us. On the way back we went and bought the new shelves for an alcove in the living room.

On Tuesday, the poet had his annual review at work and officially received the news he’s been hearing on the grapevine and via others for about a fortnight. His role will be changing, which will mean much less travel (hurrah!), and he has roughly a 3-month handover.

He spent most of Tuesday evening fitting the new shelves, and claimed to be “happy as a pig in muck”. He does like his DIY, and I love that too. The shelves are floating shelves and, I think, look rather good and very “in keeping”.

On Wednesday we riffled through more boxes in the garage to (a) collect the rest of the books, and (b) decide what was going on the shelves. Aside from the hampers, which were Christmas presents, I think everything on the new shelves came from my old loft, and some of it hasn’t seen the light of day for nearly 10 years, such as my Alan Titchmarsh How to be a Gardener books 1 and 2, and my Discover Scotland complete partworks.

The lamp on there is currently wrong, but as soon as we see the right one, it will be replaced. And we need some bookends. But I think it all looks very nice.

That magazine rack also came out of my old loft, but was soon filled to bursting. The tall, grey pot in the top right-hand corner is one my mom bought me in Wales one year, a very long time ago (apx 1991), and the small black lacquer musical box on the bottom shelf (in front of the totem pole from Canada – 1999) was one my mom’s step-brother fetched her mother (my grandma) back from his national service in Malaya.

We only have the area beneath the stairs to sort out in the living room now, and then that’s done.

Also on Wednesday we did a mid-week weigh-in after starting our sort-of-diet on Sunday, just to see if it was having any effect. We won’t be weighing ourselves more than once a week usually, and the poet hardly ever weighs himself anyway. But we wanted to make sure we were on the right track with the not-eating-between-meals and making healthier choices. I’d lost a pound and he’d lost three! (Yay!) So we’re carrying on.

In other news this week, I’ve almost finished the “big edit”, I identified 2 more stories that were ready to be typed up, and one of those has been typed up and is currently cooling, awaiting a polish before it goes off on its merry way. I had a hair appointment yesterday afternoon, brought forward from today, so I knocked off work early and went shopping first.

When I opened the boot to load in the shopping, I was shocked to see the boot already full with 2 guitars and a foot-pedal-board, all in cases. This very valuable cargo had only been in there since last Saturday! I can’t believe we forgot to unload them and pack them away.

Then I was torn between taking them home or continuing on to my appointment. I decided to continue on with the idea that if I couldn’t park outside the salon where I could see the car, the guitars would have to come in with me, and I’d just have to risk all of the shopping being on display on the back seat. Fortunately, there was a space outside the hairdresser’s, and so we could all keep an eye on it. They came out as soon as I got home, though.

What a wake-up call.

Anyway, today I want to finish the “big edit” and get that sent off for printing. It doesn’t need any author feedback as all I’ve done is stylise it and fix any continuity issues. It’s due out later this month, so we’re cutting it fine with that one.  I’m also waiting in for our fortnightly fruit and veg box delivery, which should be here around noon.

This evening, we’re off for the first of my birthday treats – to see Kingsman: The Secret Service and have something to eat at Pizza Express. Tomorrow, we’re off to Birmingham to see my parents, and then stopping off at Doncaster on the way back to see his parents. We were thinking of going to a gig on Saturday night, but we think we may have enough on this weekend and, anyway, we’re not sure we fancy all of the company there.

On Sunday, my next birthday treat is to visit the farmers’ market at Wentworth, with, hopefully, a day out somewhere nice to follow. On Monday, my actual birthday, he’s taking me out for a Chinese. And next weekend, we have tickets to see Leeds v Nottingham Forest, which will be my first foray into Elland Road. We were going to go there for his birthday last weekend, but he had a gig Saturday night and we didn’t want to leave the dog on his own twice in one day, so we went to Derwent Reservoir instead.

Don’t forget, then, because it’s my birthday on Monday, we’re having a draw for someone to receive a free book. If you haven’t left a comment yet, there’s still time … Thanks to everyone who’s joined in so far.

Have a great weekend.

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Diary of a scaredy cat, 4 February 2015

lonely planetWriting companion of the week
This is another book I’ve had on the shelf for a while, but there is an updated edition available. Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing is a lovely little thing packed with advice and information. There are interviews with authors and editors and a whole section on resources.

My only gripe with this book, if I have one, is that the font used is very, very tiny. Follow the link if you’d like to know more.

Short writing work
Last Wednesday I polished a brand new short story  and sent it off on its merry way the next day, after it had (a) cooled overnight, and (b) been checked for accuracy.

With the latest guidelines out from fave short fiction market, I need to have a look at the work in progress and do some market study over the next week. If I don’t have any story ideas percolating or in various stages of draftdom, I’ll dip into one of my ideas books to help get me going.

Longer writing work
Any work on anything full-length has significantly stalled over the past few weeks. This situation needs to change quite rapidly.

Editing
Last week I started the current “big edit”, and I’ve been dipping into that every day. I need to get a shake on, though, as I think it’s due out later this month …

Yesterday I pitched for 4 new editing or proofreading jobs. This morning one of them – editing a travel brochure – asked if I had a BA in the destination language … In the first place, the client obviously has ideas above her product’s station. Secondly, if she wanted a degree she should have asked for one, and so saved us both some wasted time. And thirdly, as a very British English person with 30 years experience editing and writing, I think I trump any BA in our particular destination language. Just my opinion …

Word count challenge
My target word count for February was 20,000 words, and I managed 21,752. I’m very happy with that. With 22 working days in March, and at 1,000 words per day, my target for March is 22,000 words.

Fiction writing course
The only thing I’ve managed to do on this over the past week is go and buy a small selection of magazines that publish short fiction. Fortunately, 3 of the specials are out at the same time, so that will save time in the long run. I need to crack on with this.

Work in progress
So this coming week I still have the “big edit” to do, short story writing to kick up the backside, and the fiction writing course to get on with.

What’s in your WiP this week?