Stark staring mad – again

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I don’t know. I get a new diary and the first thing I fill it with is this … 45,000 words in 31 days in July, or 1,452 words per day.

On Sunday I picked up some books about steampunk – 1 on writing steampunk, 2 steampunk novels/novellas (they’re quite short), and the complete Sherlock Holmes. Sunday evening I started to read the writing book and the Arthur Conan Doyle – and I fell in love with the Conan Doyle straight away. This is the first time I’ve ever read any Sherlock Holmes, but I think I’m reading it with the current BBC cast in mind, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman – the latter is also a hobbit, of course.

Sunday night was muggy and close, it was difficult to settle, but then my imagination started to go into overdrive. Not only did it overflow with steampunk ideas, it also resolved some plot blockages I’m experiencing with The Beast Within (the 2nd Marcie Craig mystery).

At 1am I was still trying to sleep. At 2am, I was scribbling away. At 3am I was letting a cat out. At 4am I was listening to an owl. At 5am I was fetching in the milk. At 6am I was letting another cat out and the other one in. At 7:30am, I was being woken by next door’s grandson squealing at something as he got into the car outside my bedroom window …

Anyway, I’d started to populate my steampunk world and on Monday morning, when a mate plugged CampNaNo for July, I was hooked and have been looking into it all week. I’ve clearly gone totally and utterly stark staring mad. Again.

On Monday I didn’t get any walk numbers in so I didn’t need to do the walks report for the local papers. I did, however, receive a phone call from the CEO’s office at my telephone and internet provider regarding my interruption to service last Thursday afternoon. Because it’s a residential account and not a commercial one, they were unable to reimburse me for half a day’s loss of wages. As a goodwill gesture, however, they were able to send me a cheque for £50 (apx $75). Result.

Tuesday was a work day, editing the latest historical novel. I also had an appointment in a nearby village, which my nice lady next door neighbour took me to as I was without wheels. I was going to go on the bus and then walk the rest of the way, but once she knew what time I had to be there, and that it was when she was collecting her grandson from school, she said it was no trouble.

After the appointment I walked the 10 minutes to have a look at my car. All the lads were almost ready to go home so we had a nice little group chat around my car while I recovered from the price of the work. At the rate I’m currently going, I’ll have a whole new car built around the shell. It was nice to get my motor back, though, and it’s running nicely again. I’ll have to keep a closer eye on it now it’s 10 years old, until I can afford – or win – a new one.

Wednesday was my do diddle day and while I planned to do diddley squat all day I actually worked.

A while ago I installed my digital transcription kit onto the laptop, but I couldn’t for the life of me get the foot pedal to work. The whole point of audio typing is that the foot controls the tape while the typist concentrates on the typing. I was having to click the PLAY button and then the PAUSE button, sometimes the REWIND button, and so on, and several times at that. And the fact that I couldn’t get my audio foot pedal working was one of the excuses I used for not cracking on with transcribing interviews.

So, as Wednesday was a do diddle day I decided to empty out all the bags in the cupboard under the stairs I’d brought with me from the office when I left work to see if I could find the missing part.

There wasn’t a missing part … but I did find the original installation disks (I think I’d used a copy before) (a back-up copy …).

So I tried to install the program again and it kept saying it was already running. I went into the control panel to delete the original program, but it kept saying it was already running. I couldn’t see it running so I rebooted and it let me remove the program that time. I installed one .exe file and ran it and – voila! My foot pedal works. Result.

I’m blummin good at times, me … and now I have NO EXCUSE other than time (and pathetic excuses) not to get these interviews transcribed and the first sample chapter of the non-fiction book written. And if don’t have the time, I have to make it.

On Thursday it was back to work and back to editing, with a vengeance, as the proofreading boss has decided to send me an editing job this time. That means I’m proofreading non-fiction and editing non-fiction and fiction now for them. Result.

There are also a couple of writing jobs in the pipeline, which I’m quite excited about. I hope they come off because then I’ll be full again. 🙂

I also updated the blog and my ALCS account with a few more books I’ve worked on and carried on with the steampunk research and reading. Thursday is also diary day.

Today it’s raining so I won’t be distracted by hanging washing out or anything. I have a whole day stretching ahead of me in which to work and catch up again. I’m editing today, mostly, but also doing some writing work – planning and prep for CampNaNo.

Have a great weekend – mine’s packed, I’m off to Birmingham tomorrow and the seaside again on Sunday – and let me know if you’re also giving CampNaNo a go.

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Clipped wings

Maybe the Universe couldn’t manage the nice weather I ordered for my research trip. Maybe that’s why my car broke down and I couldn’t go. It’s horrible being grounded, though, and nowhere near any rail stations. I feel as though my wings have been clipped. The weather anyway, for the midsummer weekend and super moon, was atrocious. Blustery showers and grey skies the whole time.

The diary that I ordered on Thursday was here on Friday. That’s quite good going considering they only charged me £1.50 for 3 – 5 days delivery (apx $2.30). Next day delivery would have cost me a lot more, and I got it anyway. Friday evening I had a lovely time acquainting myself with the new diary.

When the post came in on Friday and on Saturday, I touched it once, and shredded or binned it straight away. I had some money-off vouchers come from Tesco, more than £5-worth (apx $7.75), and those went straight into my purse.

When I went through the pile of post last Monday, I had to throw 3 lots of money-off vouchers away – 2 from Tesco and 1 from Boots – because they’d expired, and some only the day before. Those were probably worth about £15 (apx $23), and all for things that I buy anyway. This was one of my motivations for touching it once in future. (Although I did manage to save some coupons, £3-worth for the Co-op – apx $4.60 – and 60p-worth plus extra points for Boots.)

On Saturday I did some baking. I made a Quiche Lorraine and a plum crumble – yes, I’m hard enough to make a plum crumble … Sorry. Ahem … I walked the dog up to the Co-op to get some odds and ends, I took a rucksack so I could carry it home and still have my hands free for the dog. And I took the rest of the day off. I faffed, played games, caught up on old NCIS episodes and generally dossed, and baked.

I’ve started to do a big shop at Tesco just once sometimes twice a month, getting all the tinned, bottled and other heavy stuff, and then filling-in in between on a weekly basis, usually locally. It’s working out quite a bit cheaper, approximately £40 – £45 a month (apx $75), and I’m throwing even less food away.

On Sunday I had an idle lie-in and faffed some more. Then I knuckled down to some more baking (choc chip muffins), housework and then some writing work. I picked up 5 books on Kindle for just over £6 (apx $9.30) to read up on a potential new genre. When I wasn’t reading I was watching telly, but just for an hour. I would have liked to have gone out, but my wings had been clipped … I do miss my car.

When I get the car back I’ve discovered I can get to Leeds for the Saturday afternoon write-ins a bit quicker and a bit cheaper just by going to a different railway station. It’s not in a nice area, so I’d need to look at the car park security, etc. But if it saves me nearly £3 (apx $4.60) and about 20 minutes each way, it might be worth considering. It means the dog won’t be left so long on his own too.

This week, then, I have a new historical novel to edit, the walks report to write and submit, the daily comps to enter, job boards to surf daily, a well-woman clinic to attend, the gig list to upload for July (July already, sheesh!), a do diddle day, a book to write, diary work, invoices to raise, a trip to Birmingham, and – hopefully – a research trip to Derbyshire (weather and car permitting). Then I change to my new diary.

What are your plans for the week?

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A super summer moon

I’ve had a few days of anguish as one then another of my local stationery superstores has closed down. I don’t even know where my nearest stationers is now, apart from a branch of WH Smiths in town, but it’s such a small store they don’t have a great deal of stationery.

There’s a bigger one in Parkgate, Rotherham, but that’s more of a trek and they have bigger book and magazine departments. But they may be my closest stationers now. And, of course, Tesco carries some stationery these days too.

I’m without my car. Now, my car can sit there from one week to the next and not be used, but the minute it’s not there I can think of 101 reasons to go out in it.

Yesterday, as work started to come in for July, I thought, ooh, I’ll just nip out to get a new diary (as I use an academic, mid-year one for work). Then I remembered I didn’t know where the nearest stationer was … and then I remembered I didn’t have my car.

Again yesterday I decided to nip to Tesco to get something nice for my tea … then I remembered I didn’t have my car. I had to walk to our Co-op instead, but it’s only a teensy, weensy little Co-op, so there wasn’t much choice.

Tonight a mate’s band is playing in Leeds at a pub I know I can get to in about half an hour. I’ve never seen this band, he keeps asking me and I keep promising. I would have gone tonight too … but I don’t have my car …

And then yesterday, while I was in the middle of a quick job search, my internet fell over. There was a problem with the phone too and the only people I could call were the phone company (who also provide my internet). I had a massive, massive argument with them – for a start they insisted on calling me Mister Parkin … that’s never a good thing to do and is downright rude and unprofessional.

I kept having to explain the situation to foreigners in a foreign country who insist on responding to a script they must get in drop-down boxes, but it turned out they’d flicked the switch and turned me off.

We confirmed there was nothing owing on the account and I demanded they flick the switch back on again, but, of course, they can’t do that – apparently. It takes 24 hours to flick the switch back on, even though it didn’t take them 24 hours to flick the switch off in the first place.

They promised it would be back up in half an hour … I got it back at midnight …

As the work I potentially lost, and any knock-on follow-up work as a result, cannot be quantified, instead I calculated half a day’s lost income at my usual daily rate and fired off an invoice, plus the price of 2 stamps due to not being able to email the invoices. Had it still been out today, I would have invoiced them again for a full day. Time will tell if they pay it.

So that’s my last few days.

The car is fixable and they are fixing it, but it’s a big job and they had a full schedule, so they couldn’t promise it back before next week. This means I’m grounded – again – for the whole weekend. Again. Unless some kind soul wants to come and take me (and Rufus) out on Sunday?

Now, if you remember, I’d planned a research day on Sunday, in Derbyshire. I ordered nice weather so I could take nice photographs. Well, it looks as though that’s been postponed until next weekend now. No worries, everything happens for a reason. I’ll be watching the news closely this weekend and hoping there aren’t any major road disasters between there and here …

Today is the summer solstice – peace and love to all. Then on Sunday, we have a super moon booked. Do you remember I said Friday would be the planets? Well, it looks like it’s the moon. This is when the moon is at its closest to the earth and it should look huge. If we have a clear night I may take pictures of that instead.

Have a super weekend and enjoy the moon. I’ll probably be working if I can’t get out.

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Thanking the stars

On Monday night it took me nearly 3 hours just to open the post. Straight away I was able to get rid of 3 piles. 1. straight in the rubbish; 2. straight in the recycle bin; 3. shredded and then into the recycle bin. The shredded pile took the remainder of the 3rd hour and filled 4 shredder bins or 1 dustbin liner.

I was able to dispatch a 4th pile pretty much straight away too, into an envelope and off to someone else, while pile no 5 went straight into the filing folder. That left pile no 6 for “reading later”, and pile no 7 for “dealing with NOW”. That was the urgent stuff I was looking for.

I’ve never had so many piles …

It was quite traumatic, I must admit. But it was nice to get my 2 mailing trays back (in and out) and the now-vanished pile of post was good Feng Shui.

I really, really need to get into the habit of touching the post just once – whether that means shredding or binning or recycling it straight away or, heaven forbid, actually dealing with it immediately.

Of course, the filing pile is now a different story. I’m going to have to do daily 5-minute bursts to try and get that shifted. I’m almost certain I have another pile of filing shoved away in a cupboard somewhere too.

I finally sank into a bath at 10:45pm, but at least it was another job jobbed and it did feel good to have the clear desk and all that rubbish gone.

On Tuesday, when the post came in, I touched it once … and shredded, recycled and binned straight away. That felt good too.

Tuesday was a glorious day and as I’d finished the proofreading job I was scheduled to finish, written and filed the walks report, met an obligation in town, and delivered one of those urgent forms I needed to fill in NOW, I decided I fancied and deserved a nice run to the seaside. Rufus had a great time there, we had fish and chips, a lovely walk along the beach, and we headed home at a reasonable time.

But halfway along the motorway the car cut out and I managed to limp onto the hard shoulder. We waited for over an hour for the AA to come out but he could only do a recovery, and he was close to his driving hours too, so we also had to give him a 45 minute break. He got us home for about 1am.

On Monday I was talking to the Universe; today I’m thanking stars. But I have a lot to be thankful for – for being in the AA, for the motorway being relatively empty, for not losing control of the car, for the dog not escaping across the carriageway, for not being alone, for nothing crashing into us on the hard shoulder, and for getting home safely. It could have been so much worse.

We had to abandon the car outside someone’s house, but my lovely mechanic has been out this morning to collect it, identified the problem, and will look at it as soon as he can. Meanwhile, and if it’s too expensive, I’m grounded again. But we’re all safe.

I couldn’t hand-deliver the job I finished yesterday, so that will be going via the post office later on this afternoon.

Today a new job landed on my desk – I touched it once, put it straight into my work folder and disposed of the packaging. Now I have to decide whether to crack on with that one, and therefore invoice it quickly, or carry on with the plan and write up the first chapter of my non-fiction.

I’m a bit tired, so I’m doing pc and internet admin stuff for now. I’ll see how I feel later on today and decide then.

Friday – the planets … 😉

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A chat with the Universe

Oh my goodness. I know it’s been a while but this whole interface has changed. It definitely wasn’t like this on Friday. I wonder why this happens. And I wonder why they can’t leave anything alone.

Anyway, Saturday was a very busy day in that I didn’t even surface for air. I surrounded myself with my diary, with my dates dictionaries, with my folklore calendar, with article-writing textbooks, with notebooks, the lot. And I sat down and I planned for England.

I had a really productive day and I created a schedule whereby, for example, right now (June) I should be “thinking” December, “querying” November, and “writing” October.

Then I went through the diaries and the almanacs to see what’s happening in those 3 months.

I’ve identified some upcoming anniversaries that interest me and that I hope I may be able to interest a magazine editor or 3 in as well.

I’ve identified some October and November topics I can write some speculative fiction for.

And I identified some imminent annual events locally that I can attend and photograph now, research after, and query in December in time for next year when they come around again.

I also decided on which subjects to initially specialise in and honed my list to incorporate as many anniversaries and events that come under those subjects (traditions & customs and great days out).

Yes, folks, the freelancing hat is back on and I’m hoping to get back into it with a vengeance.

Then I went through all of my outstanding WiP – short stories, RTEs, fillers – to see what can be finished now and submitted, and what can be slotted in for completion to the WiP file.

I also filled the diary and noted when I have some holes in the workload. Some of those holes can be plugged immediately with some work someone has specifically been waiting for but that won’t earn me any dosh just yet, so it was a low priority. However, it should earn me a nice crust at some point and I need to invest some time in that.

For the rest, I did some Cosmic Ordering, and I had a jolly good chat with the Universe about new work and people who owe me money.

Yesterday was a day off as it was Father’s Day and I was down in Birmingham with the dog.

Today I was up and at ’em and raring to go and I started a brand new job that should only take me a couple of days.

I fielded 4 telephone calls – four! I don’t normally get that many in a whole week let alone a day, and a single morning at that. And I received 2 very nice emails. One was informing me that a payment only authorised last week has been released, that should hit my bank account tomorrow. The other was asking if I’d like another editing job …

Remember that jolly good chat with the Universe? Well, case rests, mi’lud.

This evening I have some admin to do. I have this heap big massive pile of post and I know there are at least 2 forms in there I need to complete quite urgently. I keep trying to keep on top of the post pile, but it takes over every single time. I need to learn the touch-it-once principle, I really do.

I have a book to proofread, a book to edit and a book to start writing. I also have a walks report to write and submit plus whatever other writing WiP I can fit in this week. Yup, that’s this week’s to-do list …

This week is nicely full and on Sunday, weather permitting, I’m off for a ride around some of those imminent local annual events armed with my camera and my dog. I’ve ordered nice weather too, so I can take lots of lovely pictures. Let’s hope the Universe continues to be so accommodating.

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A bit of a rut

I’ve been in a bit of a rut. I find that when people owe me money, I get distracted. I get distracted because when everybody does it, basically I have no money, and I really do struggle to function with no money. In May just one client paid me. Another went on holiday for 14 days and forgot to pay me before they went. Others just dragged their feet. This left me in quite dire circumstances for most of May and, as a knock-on, also for June.

It’s not as if I haven’t done the work and don’t have money due. I think it’s downright rude when clients don’t know my personal circumstances. Perhaps they think I do my work as part of a little hobby, seeing as I do it from home, and clearly I don’t need the money or I’d have a proper job. Whatever, it’s just not fair.

Anyway, I’m not going whinge and moan. But I do need to ensure it doesn’t become a regular event. It’s just that when I’m distracted, I don’t work as well; and when I don’t work as well, I seem to lose interest in getting the work in too.

So now I have daily and weekly targets. I’d already upped my weekly wage minimum requirement, but with folk choosing not to pay me that didn’t work very well either. Instead I need to send something out every day – every working day – be it a completed job (edited novel, proof-read book, written book proposal), a short story, an article, a pitch for an article, a filler, a puzzle, a bid for a job.

This week I’ve sent out 2 brand new short stories. I’ve been editing a novel, I’m proofreading a book, and I’ve bid for 14 jobs. I already have a RTE (reader’s true experience) stewing, ready to be sent next week, and a long, nostalgic article doing the same.

I’ve printed off a magazine’s latest guidelines to see what I can come up with plus an anthology’s upcoming projects to see if there’s something I can send to them.

I’ve bought some of the red-top magazines to see what fillers and readers’ letters they’re actively looking for at the moment. And I have an article pitch currently stewing for one of the specials I write for. A special I used to write for has asked me for some ideas, and another special in the same field has also asked me for ideas. I need to get the ideas hat on.

I’m checking the job board every day (just one now, I do actually get enough work from the one, when they pay me, the others don’t seem to be so professionally run) and I’m back doing the daily competitions – well, I live in hope and I have won some very nice nights out that I wouldn’t normally be able to afford.

I’m writing a sample chapter for the non-fiction book as I really really really really need to get the updated proposal off and, hopefully, the contract sorted, and I’m writing the sequel to Night Crawler.

I’m also fielding and prioritising creditors. Fortunately, most of them are reasonable people and, for the past 5 years, I’ve had an impeccable record. It is a juggle, though, and a distraction I could do without.

Not having anything very uplifting to blog about, that’s probably why I’ve been quiet. A collective kick up the bum might be a useful thing just now, and thanks in advance to those who oblige.

This picture is on the June page of my calendar. It was taken on a walk from Locke Park to Worsborough Country Park, Barnsley.

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