Monthly Archives: May 2016

Let Your Eyes Wander…..

To quote Chris Cornell’s lyrics “Let your eyes wander wild and free”.

How often do you really look around you? How often do you pause for a second in your hectic day to appreciate your surroundings?  When did you last stop to listen to the birds sing?

As Spring moves seamlessly into Summer, the world around us has become a riot of colours. This was something that I only noticed  the full extent of the other day.

We all lead busy lives and are always dashing from here to there. It’s so easy to jump in the car rather than walking to your destination.  If you’re cocooned in the car, you miss so much of the beauty of the world about you.

What struck me when I was out early one morning last week was just how many different wild flowers were growing along the edge of the road. No, I’m not talking about flowers and shrubs in people’s gardens but plants that are growing wild and free.

Yesterday I retraced my steps, camera in hand, to capture some of these. Yes, I got some odd looks from passers-by as I was sat on the pavement photographing what to a lot of people are considered weeds. When I got home and downloaded the images onto my laptop, I was amazed by how many I’d taken. (Don’t panic they’re not all coming up !)

There’s a whole beautiful world out there if we only slow down long enough to look. So “Let your eyes wander wild and free” as Mr Cornell suggests and have a look at your world. You might be surprised by what you see!

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A little tale from a “special guest”

guest blogger

I  thought I’d share something a little different with you this week.

I have a “special guest” contributor.

For the past few years this young lady has had a love/hate relationship with English in school. Last year, however, she found herself in a different class with a different teacher and, after a shaky start, he’s managed to “flick the switch  to On” and now she “gets it”.

The transformation of this young lady has been a joy to watch.

For years it has broken my heart that she was so dis-interested in reading. How could my own daughter not love books? The house is full of them! Now, she’s steadily devouring them…well my Harry Potter ones at least but it’s a start and a huge leap forward!

Recently, she had to submit an essay for her  English exam portfolio. We chatted a little about possible topics but I never really gave her any ideas or storylines. I never gave her any help worth mentioning. She’s always had a leaning towards darker characters so her final choice of topic didn’t surprise me. (Now that he’s got to know her, I don’t think it overly shocked her teacher either and I’m relieved to say that social services haven’t arrived at my door!)

I was given the chance to read the final draft of her essay  before she submitted it.  I was blown away by it! Now I admit, I am a little biased here but I’m her mother so I’ll beg your forgiveness.

With Girl Child’s permission,  I’m proud to introduce her as the first guest writer on my blog page. I hope you enjoy her short story.

Temptress

People deal with pain and loss in different ways. Some people go to therapy, some go to self-help groups filled with people dealing with the same issues, others bottle everything up inside until they can’t take it anymore and eventually blow their brains out with a double barrel shot gun between their teeth. However, I turn to my one true love. Heroin. Oh my sweet mistress dressed in brown. She takes all the pain away and holds you tight showing you only the good in the world.

It starts with a tatty old belt round the arm to make a beautiful blue target full of blood. When the needle goes in and the plunger goes down, your soul leaves your body. The mistress’ work has begun.

It is hard to describe what it’s like taking heroin. Normally, for me, it is like enlightenment. It feels like there is gold rushing through your veins, making you pure and at peace. The warm seas of gold fill you up and drown all the evil inside. It is the closest that a drug addict will ever get to heaven. After a few hours in heaven the mistress brings you back down to your pit of despair called reality.

However, with this hit there was no gold and no heaven. The gold seas were replaced with pools of tar. The evil was multiplying and pouring out of my eyes in the form of hallucinations. Heaven was replaced with judgement day.

The first hallucinations my mistress brought to me were of the past. My ex girlfriend, mother, father, younger brother and grandmother were having a family meal in my parent’s house. All around there were smiles and laughter. My family loved my girlfriend just as much as I did.

Soon the family meal melted into the floor and was replaced with a bath. The bath filled with water and so did my eyes. I knew exactly what was coming. The body of my ex-girlfriend appeared in the bath. Her body was as cold as ice and her skin was the colour of snow. She held a razor in one hand while her other wrist poured seas of rubies. Lying on the floor was a note. Her pretty curly handwriting wrote that she couldn’t cope anymore, that I was abusive, that she was scared of me and what I would do. She wrote that this was her only way out. It was after her funeral that my mistress found me.

My mistress then brought hallucinations of the present. The first to appear was my mother. She looked much older than I remember her being, she was breaking her heart crying. I could see she was holding a picture of me as a baby, tears fell like rain drops onto my smiling chubby face. She kept asking herself “where did I go wrong?”, as more tears came pouring out. I wanted to reach out and hold her, tell her I’m sorry and cry with her.

Like the others, my mother melted into the floor and was replaced by a man. My father. He was far from tears – he was stomping around my old bedroom tearing posters off the walls and breaking everything in sight. “I ONLY HAVE ONE SON!” My father always favoured me as I was the oldest. He always had such high expectations of me, and now I was dead to him. I wanted to help him tear everything down and erase every memory of me.

My mistress ignored my pleas for the hallucinations to stop and once again my father melted into the floor and was replaced by a 15 year old boy. This was my younger brother, James, he was sitting at a lunch table in school with his friends. They looked to be laughing and joking about one of his friends getting shouted at in English because his work isn’t as good as his brothers was when he was in school. James said, ” I’m so glad I’m an only child, no teachers have anyone to compare me to”. His friend turned quietly and asked, “James, don’t you have an older brother? Fred or something like that?”. My brother turned and said, “he died years ago”.

My own little brother was denying my existence. He told people I was dead. How could he be so cold and emotionless. I fought the bullies at school so they would leave him alone. I helped with his homework. I taught him how to ride a bike. Did I really mean so little to him?

My cruel mistress then brought hallucinations of the future. It looked to be a crematorium that appeared. There was a coffin, a minister and two figures sitting in the back. As the figures became clearer I could see they were older versions of my parents. This was my funeral. My mother was still crying her heart out. My father was so still and shed a single tear. “I’m so sorry for your loss”, said the minister. “Thank you, we only wish we had helped him sooner. He had so much potential, accepted into Oxford University to do a masters in theoretical physics. He could have done amazing things with that brain of his.”

I had never thought about it before. I was smart, extremely smart. I could have made them proud, but all I’ve done is disappoint them. I broke their hearts. I drove my girlfriend to suicide. I had killed the person I used to be.

My mistress finally released me and I was left lying in a puddle of my own self pity. I couldn’t live my life like this anymore. I had to get rid of my mistress for good. She made me a shell of who I used to be. This wicked temptress had worked her way into my life making me feel special just to turn and judge me for who she made me.

 

 

 

 

 

To Be Read To Or Not To Be Read To…..

 horror-audiobooks

 

Audiobooks? Thoughts?

Personally, I’m not a fan, however I can see the benefits for people who, for a wide variety of reasons are unable to read a paperback, a hardback edition or a Kindle e-book.

We’ve Thomas Edison to thank for inventing the phonograph in 1877 and making recording the spoken word possible. His vision was for this to be an invention that would “speak to blind people without effort on their part.” The first recorded instance of the spoken word is Edison’s own recital of Mary Had A Little Lamb. I’m glad to report that things have matured somewhat since then!

There have been many formats of audiobooks over time. Having initially been sold in cylinders in the early 1900’s (each cylinder only held 4 minutes of spoken words so books were an impossibility), audiobooks moved onto vinyl where the listening time was increased to around 20 minutes per side. By 1970’s cassette tapes became the format of choice and due to the significant increase in capacity, talking books were now feasible. The commercial audiobook market was born!

The audiobook industry grew rapidly through the 1980’s and 1990’s. Advances in technology and in compressed audio formatting in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s  saw further growth in the industry as audiobooks moved into digital format.

Audiobooks have come a long way since Edison’s first recording!

Audiobooks are primarily aimed at the vision impaired but are also popular with many other “readers”. They  play an important part in education, particularly with dyslexic students and those with other learning difficulties.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), a UK charity, offers a Talking Books library service and currently has over 18000 titles available.

So how does an author get their book into audiobook format?

That’s been a question that I’ve been pondering for a while after receiving a few enquiries about releasing my book babies in this format.

As those of you who follow my ramblings will know, I have self-published both my “babies” through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space options.

Did Amazon offer an audiobook service? Yes, they do! ACX.com

So I registered my book babies as available projects and started the search for a narrator who is prepared to work with me on a Royalty Share basis.

I selected sections from each book to be used for audition purposes. (Not as easy a task as it sounds, trust me!)

This is feeling more like a theatrical production than a book!

There are over 40 000 audiobook samples from potential narrators available on ACX to listen to. Fortunately it is possible to narrow down your search based on genre, gender of narrator, accent, vocal style etc.

I narrowed the search down to about 250 samples and began to trawl through them. This is where I hit stumbling block number one.

I hate being read to! I’m really struggling to select potential narrators to contact to invite them to audition. I’m sure they are fantastic narrators but most of them so far are making me cringe.

Stumbling block number two is cost. There are very few narrators that I’ve identified who are prepared to work on such lengthy tales on a Royalty Share basis. Most are seeking a fee of a minimum of $100 per finished hour. For both books that would amount to roughly $3000. WAY beyond my purse!

So, here’s my plea –  are you or do any of you know any fledgling narrators trying to establish a portfolio presence who would be prepared to invest the time on a Royalty Share basis? Do any of you know of other avenues to convert my book babies into audiobooks with minimal financial outlay?

There’s a whole new group of readers ..ok, listeners… out there and I’d love to introduce them to Jake and Lori and all things Silver Lake.

 audiobook

(images sourced via Google – credits to the owners)

 

People Watching

On my fourth train of the day- at last! This one is taking me home after a long day.

Each of the four trains and four stations that I’ve travelled through today have been busy- yes, even at 6.25 this morning when the journey started.

Where do all these people come from and go to?

On the two trains this morning, I guess the majority were going to work, like I was, but where do they all work? What do they do for a living? Do they enjoy their jobs?

There was a wider variety of passenger on the two trains and in the three stations on the return leg of the journey.

I’ve been in Edinburgh (well, just outside of the city centre to be more precise) so the majority of folk who were crowded onto the first train of the evening were heading home from work. It was a packed rush hour train but I was lucky – I got a seat!

Glancing round, over the top of my kindle, I pondered what kind of day they’d all had? Were they as knackered as I was feeling at that point?

There were several people listening to their iPods. What were they listening to? Did any of them share the same taste in music as me? Were they in fact listening to an audiobook and not music?

Others, like me, were reading their kindles. What plot twist were they caught up in?

The gentleman opposite me was doing neither. He was wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses and sat watching me the whole way to Glasgow. It felt a little creepy and I was relieved when he didn’t get off at the same stop as me. Whew!

When the train stopped at Glasgow’s Queen St station it was easy work out where a large proportion of the passengers were going to. There was a sea of black on the platform heading for the exit – black leather, black denim, black eye make-up, black hair and Black Veil Brides t-shirts. Andy Black, aka Andy Biersack front man with BVB is playing a solo show at the O2 Academy in Glasgow as I type. (For my rock chick friends who are there – hope it’s a great gig!)

It’s been a glorious spring day today so the city streets were filled with late night shoppers and folk enjoying an al fresco meal or just a few drinks with friends in the early evening sun.

Jealousy was kicking in around about this point as I was both hungry and thirsty but I had a final train to catch.

The strains of an expertly picked tenor banjo echoed along Gordon St as I hurried towards the Central Station. I had expected the street entertainer to be older, greyer and more wizened (ok, I was stereotyping!) but instead discovered it was a young boy. I now regret not fishing out some change to drop into his velvet lined banjo case. The boy was great but I had a train to catch!

Glasgow Central too was busy. True to form, I just missed a train by two minutes. Bugger!

As I waited by the board for the platform number to be revealed, I watched all the people rushing through.

Where was the guy in tuxedo off to? And the guy with the bike laden down by a huge rucksack? What was his story?

The guy with the black dreads – how long had he been growing those?

People all around me were focussed on their phones. Were they texting a loved one? Instant messaging a friend? Playing a game? Checking Facebook or Twitter?

Even now that I’m on the train home (Hallelujah!) the couple opposite me aren’t talking or interacting with each other. She’s got huge bright pink headphones on and is reading a pamphlet. He’s playing on his phone. What happened to conversation?

As for me, I’m sitting here listening to my iPod (Alter Bridge’s Fortress album for those who may be interested), writing this blog entry, checking my phone for the occasional message and dreaming of the bacon sandwich and glass of wine waiting for me when I finally get home. Five stops to go!

In the meantime, there’s more people to watch and who knows, some of them may be the inspiration for characters in a future book baby!

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A Few Manners Go A Long Way…

Alvarado-Theater-Etiquette-

Call me old fashioned but manners cost nothing.

A few days ago a friend and I went to an all-seated show in Glasgow. Yes, it was a music event, an acoustic show, but the setting was most definitely more akin to a theatre setting than your standard rock venue.

Now let’s make something quite clear from the start here. I am not against folk against folk having a few drinks and a good time at a show. OK?

It was the lack of manners on several levels that quickly got under my relatively thick skin.

I have been in the habit of visiting theatres and concert halls and attending rock shows for over thirty years. (EEK!) I’ve always been taught that if a show is all-seated then there are some basic rules of etiquette to be followed. They’re not difficult!

The first is common courtesy – arrive on time!  (yes, I know folk get stuck in traffic etc. etc.) Please don’t arrive half an hour or, as was the case with several folk, an hour and a half late and expect to be shown straight to your seat, especially if said seat is in the middle of a row of folk who actually arrived on time and are enjoying the show. I’ve also a word of caution for the theatre staff here. Please be careful where you are pointing your torches as you escort latecomers to their seats. Repeatedly we were blinded by a member of staff pointing his Maglite torch in our faces as he walked to the front section of the stalls. Point the damn thing at the floor not the audience!

The second rule, especially when there’s clear signage on display, turn off your phone and don’t attempt to take photographs or record parts of the performance. If it’s the theatre’s policy, then please comply. There’s no one who enjoys capturing a few photographic or video memories than me but, if the venue says “No” then I’m happy to comply. The man with the torch was policing this by shining his torch directly on the offenders but yet again was blinding those in his path to the offending fan.

The third rule is around food and drink in the auditorium. I appreciate that this is a sensitive area and that I am in the minority as, in general, I don’t drink alcohol at a gig. Never have, never will. (Makes you need to pee and also leads to fuzzy photos!) If, however, you feel the need to bring drinks into the theatre then please do so at the start and during breaks in the show and not in the middle of the set. The traffic to and from the bar throughout the entire show was ridiculous and unnecessary! This behaviour also leads to two other issues. The first of these is spillage. From our elevated seats, I watched numerous music fans who were happily enjoying the show have to stand up to allow folk to return to their seats and who got slopped with beer for their courtesy. It kind of goes without saying, if you drink too much liquid then you need to pee so by the latter half of the show there was a constant stream of folk heading out of the auditorium towards the toilets, again disrupting the show for those around them. Now, if you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go (as an IBS sufferer I totally get that) but in these surroundings be considerate to all concerned, including the performers on stage.

The fourth rule in my book is no talking during the performance. Now this one can be relaxed a little as singing along was most definitely called for throughout the night. However, among the worst offenders for talking loudly throughout the entire show were the two “mature” members of the theatre staff, who were manning the doors to our left. The music may not have been to their personal tastes but they of all people should know that you don’t carry on a full conversation at normal conversational levels during a performance. There were many,many other offenders throughout the evening. At one point, someone on their way back to their seat explained in no very direct terms that he hadn’t come there to listen to a particularly noisy group of music fans but had paid money to listen to the guy on the stage. The piece de resistance though was the guy seated diagonally behind me who either made a call or answered a call on his phone and sat having an entire lengthy conversation in the middle of the set.

The fifth rule links back to rule three. If you’ve got an allocated seat, sit in it! Again, it’s different if the show allows for the audience to be on their feet or if the performance has earned a standing ovation which this one did. Rule six links in here too. Keep your feet off the seats but also don’t interfere with someone else’s seat by leaning on it or kicking the back of it, even if you are kicking in time to the music!

I’d love to know what the performers on stage thought of this behaviour. These guys had travelled thousands of miles to bring this show to the stage and a large number of the audience didn’t even pay them the common courtesy of arriving on time and paying attention to the magic being spun on the stage.

It’s sad…..tragic almost.

One music fan caught my eye late on in the evening. He was seated in the stalls near the front and several seats in from the aisle. He waited for a lull between songs before leaving his seat, quietly slipping from the auditorium. Upon his return, he stayed at the back until the song in progress on the stage was over then walked back down the aisle towards his seat. The star on stage launched straight into the next song. Did this music fan barge his way back into his seat? No, he stood in the passageway until the song was over then re-took his seat. It was nice to see that not all manners had been lost.