Merry Christmas!

We break up today, for 2 weeks. But please don’t think we’ll be resting on our laurels. We still have lots and lots and LOTS to do …

… like buy and wrap Christmas pressies, do the Christmas supermarket shopping, put shelves up in bathrooms and bedrooms and garages, repair or replace curtain poles, hang curtains when they come back from the seamstress, replace the letterbox in the front door, replace the cat flap in the front door, replace the weatherboard on the front door, unpack the studio and connect it all, replace the bulb or the floodlight at the back, hang 3 more guitars on walls, bake mince pies, put noticeboards up in Abbey Road, decorate the Christmas cake, put the tree up, make a trifle, write and deliver cards for the new neighbours, do a Santa run to Birmingham and to Leicester and to Doncaster, shop for rugs, cook a Christmas dinner …

Above all, we’re going to enjoy our first Christmas in our new home and explore our new surroundings just as soon as we can.

I may be packing work up today, but that’s the guaranteed paid work. I also have an ebook to finish proofreading, then I want to get it published on Kindle, and I have another new book to edit down (from over 100,000 words to 45,000 words!). I want both of these jobs finished by the end of December.

Then I want to do some writing. I want to finish and polish the stories I’ve already written, I want to write the stories already outlined, and I want to do a brainstorm for ideas for June and July topicality. AND, if I get chance, I want to continue with Catch the Rainbow.

So, a very merry Christmas to you and yours, from me and the poet, and a very happy and prosperous New Year. See you on the other side.

Ian n Diane

Light at the end of the tunnel (list alert)

We’ve had a very busy time towards the end of 2014 with loads and loads going on. Things are starting to settle a bit now, and we’re achieving much of what we set out to do at the start of the year. We’re also coming to terms with things out of our control and getting into a routine with those.

I had a deadline on Friday for an 80,000-word editing job, and I had a deadline yesterday for a 78,000-word editing job. Those 2 jobs alone took up a lot of time in the past week and a half, and I also did snagging on another, shorter job about to go to print. I finished both of those jobs on time, although I was working until gone 10pm last night. The poet, bless him, made tea and supper while I worked. 🙂

Now I have 3 new, shorter jobs waiting to be started, and another snagger waiting to go to print this week. I’m also getting a corker of a writing itch.

The time has come for me to give my daily work schedule a massive kick up the bum. It has been working, but with the prospect of an extra hour a day, with the poet working closer to home and not leaving the house until 8:30am, which is too late – really – for me to go back to bed, that’s an extra 5 hours per week. I’d love to fill it with writing time.

4 seasonsI use several books on writing when I’m limbering up. And I do limber up. Yes, I do have tons and tons of ideas, but I like to do idea-generating exercises too so that they’re not too stale. (I don’t do writing exercises for exercise sake, if they’re unlikely to lead to something marketable, they’re not really worth the time and effort to me.)

The book I took on holiday to Dent with us this year was Four Seasons of Creative Writing by Bryan Cohen. July was Camp NaNo and I tried to write something every day, even if it was a limbering-up exercise.

With the help of this book I came back with first drafts and outlines of several short stories. It was the middle of July but I was using prompts for January as, at the time, that’s what the fiction editors were looking for.

So, this coming year, I’m going to continue to dip into this book when I want to, and I’m going to develop those stories I started in July but was distracted from by earning a living and life. They’ll go off on their rounds, but they’ll also be pegged for Twee Tales Too and beyond …

One of my New Year resolutions is to find an alternative to using Amazon – I have my reasons. Therefore, the link for this one you can find here. (It’s still free.)

If you have any tips for my rejigged working day, then do let me know below. Things I tend to include, value added or not, are:

  • editing
  • proofreading
  • job hunting
  • writing short material (fillers, readers’ letters, articles, short stories)
  • writing long material (novels, books, anthologies)
  • blog posts
  • admin (filing, invoicing, trips to post office, etc)
  • daily competions (I’ve won more than £3,500 in cash as well as numerous prizes)
  • personal appointments (dentist, hair, doctor, etc)

Thank you for participating.

Discussion: Shorthand

101 journaling promtps (2)This morning I didn’t know what to write about on the blog, and so I consulted a little book I bought exactly 2 years ago (apparently): 101+ Creative Journaling Prompts by Kristal Norton.

The book is targeted at very arty people who like to create any kind of visual works of art. But there are also some gems in there to crank up the writerly juices and thought processes.

The very first section is Hopes, Dreams, [sic – see *Note*] & Goals. And the very first prompt is “What is something you want to learn how to do?” (Grammar note: There would usually be a full stop after these quotes, but as there’s already one included in the question mark, it’s not completely necessary any more.)

If you’d like to buy this book, you can find it here.

(*Note*: This is not really the Oxford comma. The Oxford comma is properly used these days to avoid confusion, when the items in a list of words are not single words, as in “I like to eat my grandma and dogs” v “I like to eat, my grandma, and dogs”, rather than being optional at the end of any list of single words and before the word “and”. You can find clarification here.)

teeline for journalistsI’d like to learn shorthand. I wanted to learn shorthand at school, but it was classed as a dying skill in the late-1970s when I did my “options”, and my teachers wouldn’t let me do it. (They wouldn’t let me do drama either, but that’s another story.)

However, since then I’ve discovered that shorthand forms the bulk of the widely recognised NCTJ courses for journalists. I did a C&G (City & Guilds) in broadcast journalism, with BBC Radio, which was all of the NCTJ course but without the shorthand.

I’d love to learn shorthand so much I’ve started this book several times: Teeline for Journalists by Dawn Johnston. There’s a CD that I’ve already loaded onto my mp3 player, but I’ve always fallen down because I’ve not had anyone to read the “read out loud” exercises to me, and I’ve always stopped at that point.

So, this week’s discussion is shorthand. Do you have it? Would you like it? Should I have it? How best can I learn it?

Bonus discussion: What books help you when you need a prompt or two?

Thank you for participating. 🙂

Minor temporary disaster

So, the brand spanking sparkly new 3-in-1 printer I bought from part of my recent winnings stopped working yesterday.

The good news was it waited until it had printed the 78,000-word job I wanted to start hard copy editing next.

The bad news was the gig list needed doing and a lot of the gigs were in a Word document, for printing, for ease of copy typing. (Blogger doesn’t like copy & paste and, anyway, the entries needed inserting into an already alphabetical list.)

The good news was I managed to fix it by hijacking some similar drivers online when I couldn’t find the exact make and model.

The bad news was I lost more than an hour of work time.

The good news was, the gig list got done and was posted at about 5:30pm.

I finished work at 6:30pm, went to do the weekly shopping and to check on the other house, came back for a very quick tea (at gone 9pm! – that’s far too late for me), and settled back down at the computer to try and email the recently completed 80,000-word book to the author and the client …

Only it was too big for my new Windows (8, for those interested) to send. And Yahoo forced me to open a Dropbox account. I finished work again at 10pm.

I hate having to store anything anywhere that isn’t within my complete control. I’ll continue to use the Dropbox account for when Yahoo refuses to send anything for me, but I won’t be putting anything personal on there. The new Windows setup also wants me to open a Cloud account, but I won’t be doing that either.

Call me a bluff old cynic, but you do hear these horror stories of various individuals and organisations who access online guff like this.

But anyway, it’s fixed again now – no idea what happened, but there you go. The author acknowledged safe receipt this morning, something I asked him to do with Yahoo forcing me to open the Dropbox account.

Today, then, I have to continue with the new 78,000-word project, which was originally due in at the end of the day but with the house move is now due on Tuesday, and I’ll be doing more of that tomorrow. I find that clients are perfectly reasonable when you give them plenty of notice. Had I told them at 5pm today that I might not make it, they would have had every right to be cross. I sent the warning off on Monday and received acknowledgement – and thanks – on Tuesday.

I have an invoice to raise today too. (Hurrah!)

I also have admin to do regarding the sale of the house as the buyer’s solicitor has requested various safety certificates.

One of these safety certificates was another reason for the trip to the other house last night. I couldn’t find the latest gas safety certificate but remembered our tenant saying she’d put her copy in the kitchen cupboard. And sure enough it was still there. So I have a letter to write to the solicitor today. I’m also going to use the new (and now working) 3-in-1 printer to scan in copies of all of the certificates in case any get lost again.

This afternoon I have a dentist appointment (boo!) and a hair appointment (hurrah!). I have a poorly poet at home too (boo!). He went into work Wednesday morning and was home again within the hour. He’s spent much of the time ever since in bed and I had to pick up an electric blanket from Tesco last night because he was frozen to the core and just couldn’t get warm. He’s caught my cold, but – of course – it’s been far worse than mine was … 😉 but he’s getting better now. (Hurrah!)

Tomorrow, then, I’m working, and Sunday – all being well – there’s a trip to Birmingham that’s overdue. If he’s feeling better, we also need to go to the DIY shop to get TV cables and a new letterbox. There isn’t a proper letterbox on the new house and with the torrential rain we’ve been having over the past few days, it’s pouring in.

What are you up to this weekend?

pheasant (2)
This chap came to see what we were feeding the birds.


A woodpecker on his nuts

So we seem to be finally settling, despite having a busy weekend and me having a shocking cold that almost completely debilitated me Friday/Saturday. It seems as though the poet may be getting this now – we do like to share so many things …

Friday was busy because he had a gig over in Doncaster and it took us 40 minutes to get there. Friday night gigs don’t give him much time to get ready when he’s been at work. Driving home in the early hours we saw our first hard frost of the winter and half-expected snow over the weekend.

On Saturday he cleaned windows and we went shopping – household and DIY shopping. We also had our first pair of woodpeckers in the garden, following a nuthatch the day before. The poet was quite chuffed, saying he’d never had a woodpecker on his nuts before … or, for that matter, a nuthatch. I, of course, have had both. 🙂 On Saturday night he had another gig, this time over towards Pontefract. That took us 40 minutes to get to too.

On Sunday he put up shelves (having first adapted them to fit the space) and 2 guitar brackets, Hoovered the stairs, baked bread, and slow-cooked us a lovely lamb dinner – he even made the mint sauce himself. I either worked on a book or put things on shelves and emptied more boxes. Here is how those shelves in the office are starting to look (I’ll share pictures of the studio when he’s more settled up there):


Both Rufus and Domino are in this picture …

The bread he baked was our first ever sour dough bread, and we weren’t sure what to eat with it or on it. We tasted it warm and dripping with butter and I, personally, think that’s fine. But he’s made sandwiches with it too, and he says that’s fine as well.

We spent some time at the living room window, watching the birds on the table, and looking for the woodpeckers again, when a pheasant bobbed over the fence and came to see what we were feeding everyone. This was a first for both of us. Apparently pheasants like nuts but they need to be ground so they don’t choke on them (thank you, Susan).

Both days we intended on going for our first walk in the area, but I wasn’t really up to it on Saturday, and we ran out of daylight and clement weather on Sunday – and yes, we did see flurries of snow. That wasn’t what put us off, it was the squally showers in between the flurries that we didn’t want to be out in.

During Sunday I was editing one of my big projects in between putting things on shelves and helping where I wouldn’t be a hindrance. I still have that book to finish then I have another that’s due back on Friday. I also have 2 books in now that need checking. I have most of my work stuff around me now and hope to get into a routine again this week.

Keep everything crossed.

Back up and running

Well, it was a bit of a slog, but we made it. We still have a lot of work to do – a lot! – but at least we have one empty ex house, two empty cars and the makings of somewhere to sit, sleep, eat and work. The spare bedroom is still packed to the rafters and so is the garage. But the setting is so, so beautiful, it really was worth all the hard work.

The removals people were a nightmare. Despite being asked several times to let us know when they were going into the room the dog was in, they still let him escape – at the new house. They damaged the bigger of the 2 settees and got mud all over it. They dropped loads of bedding in the mud. They broke a toolbox and a tool chest. And they rammed everything in any old where despite everything being clearly labelled. We have spent three days this week just taking stuff out of rooms and putting it all back in some order, in the right place, and with room to move around it all.

On Thursday we hired a van to take a load of stuff over to son #1, and to fetch some furniture back that’s more in keeping with the new place than all the modern stuff we had between us. Friday morning we had to go and pay the deposit and everything. And we were back by 12 noon where the removals people had at least already been working for 20 minutes. After 2 trips with the van, 1 trip in my car and 2 trips for the poet in his car, it was gone 6pm by the time we finished. But we had to go back a day or so later to get a load of stuff that had been left, and that filled both cars with the backs down and the front seat pushed forward.

We have so much junk between us it’s untrue. But at least the weeding process has begun, with some of it being done along the way.

Since then we’ve been re-moving boxes and furniture, rebuilding furniture and rearranging everything. One job for the poet was to cut down my huge, mahoosive, wonderful desk to fit the new space. Abbey Road is smaller here than it was at the other house, but we still have the office at one end and the studio at the other … but because I needed the office to start work today, that’s been unpacked (although there are still shelves to go up and more boxes to unpack). The studio needs unpacking and connecting, but with 2 gigs this weekend, there are 2 guitars and a pedal board already accessible.

Yesterday we finished at gone 5pm but off we toddled to Doncaster to get my new computer system. We decided to spend some of my winnings on the latest gear and software to help me do my job in the most professional manner I can.

So here, for now, is how my new office looks:


Of course it’s totally useless when I have a cat who wants to be in my face:


But I’m up and running and raring to go.

Today, then, I have a finished book to take to the post office to send back to the client. I have a big non-fiction I’m in the process of editing. I have snagging for 2 books apparently on the way. And I have the odd box or bag to unpack. I also have a novel to kickstart, which was stalled during, and leading up to, the move. And I have a new Office package to get used to, as well as bookmarks to set up on the new pc, etc.

Oh, and I see the snow is back on the blog. It must be December. 🙂

I’d best crack on. Toodle pip.