Fraught week

P1020866aIt’s been a long and fraught week for us this week, considering we had a long weekend too.

First the poet snapped a section of his very expensive brand new fishing pole.

Then the clutch caught fire on the car – and they’re trying to say it’s user abuse rather than covered under warranty (the car’s 8 months old …).

Then the cat came home on Tuesday night with a massive hole in her side, had it cleaned and stitched on Wednesday, and now has a 2-inch long scar.

It’s all money money money. And if we add to that a broken plectrum and a Sky remote control no longer working (and no, it’s not the batteries), I’d say we’ve pretty much had our fair share now, thank you very much.

Holly, by the way, is actually fine. But she can’t go out yet and she’s climbing the walls – she’s very much an outdoor hunter but has lost weight since Wednesday morning, so she’s not happy. I just love this picture of her so thought it might make a nice illustration on today’s post. We have no idea what she’s done or how she did it, other than it isn’t from fighting or hunting. It looks like she’s fell against something that’s spiked her in the side. But at least it’s clean.

There hasn’t been a Diary of a Freelance Writer this week. That’s because of the long weekend and because I’ve been running backwards and forwards to the vets and to the garage, so I’ve not had a lot of writing time. The Diary will return next Wednesday, though, all being well, although Holly is back at the vet again Wednesday morning.

I’ve not done much NaNo prep work either, and that’s frustrating me. I hope to remedy that today.

It also looks as though I’m chasing another late payment too. As if I don’t already have enough to do, I really hate having to chase late payments as well.

I have been doing work on what I call the “pro bono” project. I usually give my time to some good cause or another, if it’s something close to my heart or something that interests me. I just have to limit them to one at a time.

This is memorial fundraising work in memory of a friend of Monkey Dust, the poet’s band, and I’m doing the publicity. So I’ve set up a new blog and a new Facebook page and have been sourcing, saving, uploading and crediting pictures that have been pouring in as well as the initial new setups.

I’ve done next week’s diary and allocated time to “pro bono work”, and now I need to step away from the notifications that seem to be happening all the time at the moment and crack on with some of my own work. Otherwise, I could be pecking away at it the whole time. And next week, I need to be finding time for that NaNo prep work too.

Apart from one gig in Sheffield on Saturday evening, we have the whole weekend off this week. We need to do some shopping (if we have any money left), but apart from that, perhaps we’ll do some more home DIY.

What are you up to this weekend?

The weekend beckons

The poet has just come to the end of his third week working in Scotland, and we’re both starting to notice it now. Hard. He has at least another week to go, but he could still be up there for another month after that. We’re not getting a lot done together during the week as a result, and so we’re having to cram a lot into the weekends.

BUT, it’s part of his job and his job’s what pays the bills. Doesn’t mean we have to like it, though.

So, this week has been busy catching up with work. I’ve sent a book back to the publisher for completion, after rejecting it on Monday (I rejected it), and my writer’s boot camp has finally started to pay off. Next week I should have some new material to send off on its merry way.

Yesterday evening we dropped my car in to have the exhaust looked at (if fell off a week ago last Tuesday). And the battery, and the rear screen washer, and the air bag warning  light, and the bonnet prop catch …

The mechanic has called us with a rough ball park figure to get it all fixed, and we won’t be driving it to the scrapyard just yet. We might not get it back until Monday, though, and even then if they can fit it in between the MOTs they already have booked in. It’s a good job I’m not as reliant upon it as I used to be.

I’ve had a dentist appointment this afternoon (boo!), then we grabbed something to eat and we nipped to the supermarket afterwards, only to be evacuated by the fire alarm. Then we got stuck in traffic coming home.

This evening we may go into Doncaster, as it’s Doncaster Live this weekend, and tomorrow we either go to Birmingham to visit the parents, or we help son #1 move some furniture from the garage to his house.

If we’re still up here, we may visit Doncaster again. If we go to Birmingham tomorrow, we may go fishing on Sunday or walking or anything else we feel like doing. But it all depends on son #1 and what we end up doing tomorrow.

On Monday the poet is working from home, then he’s off up to Scotland again Tuesday morning and won’t be back until Friday night.

What are you up to this weekend? Whatever it is, have a good un.

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Errands day

Walking near the Dales Way, just above Dent. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Walking near the Dales Way, just above Dent. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I always used to have an errands day. It was the day I went to the library to take books back or borrow any, the day I went to the bank, the day I dropped off work or picked work up, the day I nipped to the stationers. A proper errands day. I’ve not had one for ages and not a lot of non-work stuff has been done as a result. But today I had an errands day.

I’ve been to town twice, once to get cash out for the weekend and buy a few bits and bobs (such as malt extract for baking, and dull but essential things like slippers – only £6 from the market!), and once to get my radio re-coded in the car.

To save time, I knew I had to go back home and get a search party out for my log book, but I threw a request up on Facebook to see if any friends knew where my closest Citroen dealership was as they’d re-code the radio for free. By the time I reached home, 3 friends had replied with a selection of dealers and the phone number of one I called straight away.

Over the phone we established that yes they could do it, yes it would be free of charge, yes I had the chassis number, yes they could call up the code, and yes I would need my log book and at least one other form of identification. I then searched every tray, box and basket for my log book, which I knew had recently been replaced by a new format, so it would be in my post somewhere … I eventually found it, properly and safely filed where the old log book always was, and the defunct one already shredded. I should have gone to the proper place in the first place.

Then it was back to Perrys of Barnsley, who had my code waiting for me, and I was straight home again.

Bloomin’ marvellous.

And now I have music and other noise inside my car again. I’ve been without for the best part of a year, maybe more. The next non-work chore will be to burn some favourite music to CD so I have a selection without risking damaging the originals.

So that’s pretty much taken care of today.

This week I’ve also updated the gig list, negotiated new work, discussed and reviewed old work, visited my parents, and loads of other bitty jobs. Tonight I’m taxi-ing friends to a gig, tomorrow I’m taxi-ing for a charity boxing match, tomorrow evening I’m probably taxi-ing for another gig, and Sunday we’re having a doss day.

Today’s picture was taken during a walk in the rain on out last full day in Dent. That’s a map around my neck.

Have a great weekend.

Posting weekly

Wordsworth’s garden – come on in … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Isn’t this a lovely picture? Makes me want to wander in, settle down and daydream. It was taken at Grasmere, at William Wordsworth’s house, and it’s one of the poet’s.

Last week just got busier and stressier. I took my car in Thursday morning, which took a chunk out of my day. I had intended to do some work at the library, but lovely mechanic man said they wouldn’t get around to it for hours, so he took me home instead.

The car wasn’t ready until midday on Friday, but I had a lift there and was glad to get it back. It’s running a lot more smoothly, but I just can’t rely on it any more. This is a massive problem, as I can’t afford a new one either.

I started a new non-fiction but revisions came in for a fiction and it seems I have to drop everything when that happens, regardless of workload or work queue. If I don’t act on them immediately, I get nagging emails. Some clients do need to know that they’re not the only ones I have, but obviously I make them feel very special …

The revisions were done but by about 3:30pm on Friday I’d had enough of last week and called it a day. Then it was a really busy weekend, with a gig over in Doncaster Friday night to see a favourite band, then a long session at Doncaster Live on Saturday, culminating in the Buzzcocks – free of charge! – at the end of the night. And on Sunday we were back again to see another friend’s band I’d not seen until then – and they were really good.

This week has been busy again, with that non-fiction edit to finish. I did the manual edits on Monday and started the electronic edits on Tuesday, and I wrote the walks report and sent it on its merry way. But I’m not really very well at the moment. Neither of us is. I don’t know if we picked something up in Dent and it’s been incubating or if it’s something else, but we’re both very fluey and feeling very sorry for ourselves.

Despite this, while I worked yesterday, I did have cups of coffee appear, as if by magic, on my desk, and I did have dinner (lunch) cooked for me. The poet was having a Do Diddle Day! But by teatime we were both really flagging and today I think we’re worse.

This doesn’t get the work done, though. And no work means no invoices and that means no money. So I have to shift that edit, get it invoiced. Then I have to do another revision. Then I have a new edit to start, a novel this time. I also have an article to write.

I seem to be posting weekly at the moment, but that will change again – just as soon as I get back into a swing of things.

I’d best crack on – enjoy the pic. 🙂

Pesky car

It’s been another busy week, we’re still only halfway through (the working week), and there’s still loads to to.

I’ve been doing the electronic edits on the historical novel I finished the manual edit for last week, I’ve been writing and planning The Beast Within, and I’ve had more drama with the car and the dog.

Yesterday my day was broken in half by an appointment and I didn’t finish work until about 6:30pm. The dog hadn’t been walked and I needed to get petrol, so I headed out to kill two birds …

… I didn’t make it out of the village. My car cut out again, but fortunately I’d gone far enough to be able to call the AA. They got to me at about 7:30pm but, thankfully, were able to perform a roadside rescue this time and get me back on my way.

Phew! I thought it was going to be another expensive job, but it was something he was able to fix and the fix should hold for several weeks – two fixes, actually. One was an accident trip switch that had become dislodged, bounced against something in the engine, and cut the power. At least we now know it’s there and that it works …

The most traumatic part was when Rufus, who I’d taken out of the car because it was still too warm to leave him in there, escaped from my clutches and dashed across the main road after another dog, right into the path of an oncoming Transit van. Fortunately the van driver had time to gauge whether or not it was safe to slam his brakes on, and he slammed his brakes on.

I was upset, the van driver was upset, a young lad from the village who was keeping me company was upset, and the couple whose dog Rufus had dashed across the road for were upset. I was talking to someone on the phone at the time, screamed down his earhole and dropped the phone – so he was upset as well. Rufus was laffing his head off!

And he really is in my very bad books now. He’s old enough to be doing as he’s told and not dashing across main roads, so I’m being particularly strict with him at the moment because he really, really should be behaving himself by now.

But I have a problem in that when I’m trying to discipline my dog, onlookers start to fuss him, making “ahhhh” noises and saying he’s not doing anything wrong, when clearly he is. This is undermining my discipline of the dog and not helping at all, and it does make me quite cross. I’d understand it if I was taking a big stick to him, but I’m just telling him off (he knows “bad boy” and he knows “naughty!”). Please let me discipline my dog!

Afterwards I went and got my petrol, but he didn’t get a walk. Instead I bought a KFC for my (very late) tea and treated myself to an ice cream as well – they gave me a fork to eat it with …

Today I had another meeting that cut my day in half, and I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. But it turned out to be very useful as I appear to be entitled to working tax credits, so as soon as I got home I set the ball rolling for that too.

On the way home I dropped in to see my car mechanic to make sure that the fixes the AA man did will hold until I’m due in next. They know my car there and assured me it would be fine, but I do need to take it back at the end of August.

I’ve done the gig list but I still have to take the dog for a walk. It’s cooler today and I’ll take him shortly. Tonight we’re off to see a friend of mine talk about her latest book.

Tomorrow I may get around to doing some work again …

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.

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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30k in 30 days

Historically, although I’ve always been über-busy, even when I was a prolific and constant freelance writer, writing for my own pleasure has always taken a back seat. If I have paid or contracted work to do, that work always gets done first.

For years I’ve been trying to carve out regular time for my own writing pleasure, but always the paid gigs come along and take priority.

These days the “day job” is the editing and proof-reading I do for other people. This pays the bills, it covers the mortgage, it enables me to have a car, and it means we eat – or most of the time at least. I don’t drink or smoke, it’s not a fast car, I don’t even dye my hair any more, and I don’t have package – or any kind of – holidays. I really do work to live and, most of the time, I make ends meet.

I lost the last day job in May 2011, and the first year was spent doing jobs around the house and gradually kick-starting the freelance career again, building up work and contracts. On 6 April 2012, I officially became self-employed again, after a 6-year break, and it’s taken the whole year to get the balance right between working and getting that work in. And in April 2013, I decided it was time to prioritise my pleasure writing again, particularly as some of it will be paid writing eventually.

I set myself a challenge to write 30,000 words over 30 days in April – 30k in 30 days – thinking that, once again, my own writing would get pushed aside to make way for the paid gigs. But do you know, I seem to have done it. There’s still one day left, but a quick look at the word meter in the side bar reveals just how well I’ve done it, considering my previous output had been zero.

So, aside from the word count accomplishment, in April only I’ve also completed eight separate items (short stories, articles, fillers) and with one day to go have written a perfectly respectable 28,922 words.

I’ll definitely do it again in May (1k a Day in May) and may even raise the bar, but we shall see about that. April got particularly busy and I’m still catching up on both lost time and a job taking much, much longer than I thought it would.

Do Diddle Day
As it turned out, and in case you didn’t notice, I did take my Do Diddle Day off last Friday after all. I finished the long job at around midnight on Thursday, and then burned out, quite simply. I didn’t have a diddle in me, let alone anything else. So I took the day off and spent it doing whatever I felt like.

That started with a lie-in until midday. I was shattered and I slept despite next door having a new hot water system fitted. The dog barked a bit, and there were drilling and cutting noises, but I was zonked out.

When I surfaced, I took the dog to Pugney’s Water Park near Wakefield for a good run, but when I got home I thought my car exhaust might be blowing a bit. I dropped the dog off and did some shopping – and treated myself for all of my hard work – but by the time I came home from the supermarket there was no “thought” about it. My exhaust was definitely blowing.

There was nothing I could do about it then, though. So I chilled in front of the telly for the next 5 or 6 hours, pigging chocolate and swilling cider. I needed the time out.

The weekend
I’d promised one of my editors that I’d catch up with a job on Saturday, but I ended up taking my car in to the garage to be looked at. I was supposed to be going out to Leeds on Saturday night, and to Birmingham on Sunday, but I didn’t want to risk it if the exhaust pipe might drop off at any moment.

While they looked at the car, I nipped up to have a chat and a cuppa with the gig buddy, who has a shop nearby, and when I went back, the mechanic confirmed my fears. I need a new exhaust. Or the front and middle sections at least.

This is not good. And it meant I had to cancel my trips to Leeds and to Birmingham.

The car’s going in tomorrow morning and I’m going to take some work to do in the library. Then I’ll collect the car, collect the dog, and head down to Birmingham anyway for the rest of the day. They said if I can get my car in for 8:30am (har har – and there was me thinking I’d given up early mornings), then it will be ready by 12 noon. That still gives me time to have a couple of hours with my mom and dad.

The promised job was worked on on Sunday, with me not going gallivanting about after all, and delivered late last night. I’ve had enough of these late nights for now. They don’t make Diane a very happy bunny; in fact, I get quite grumpy when I don’t get enough sleep.

Looking ahead
My April achievements will be up tomorrow, it being the last day of the month, and my May to-do list will be up on Wednesday, it being the first day of the new month. Some of my April jobs have moved along to May, and that 1k a Day in May will have started too.

So, hopefully, I’ll see you Friday.

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