Tuesday 28 June 2022

Camping - and a tick saved the day

We had a lovely break up near Cardinham on a quiet campsite encircled by tall trees, looking out over a tapestry of fields, woods and two elderly donkeys. A perfect little place with very friendly owners and visitors.

I was a bit apprehensive about how the dogs would get on, but luckily there were no mishaps - forward planning has a lot to answer for - although on the Thursday Twig went missing at the end of a long, hot walk, and we didn't find her for about 45 minutes. You can imagine how we felt, then the huge relief felt when a dirty little face burst through the brambles. It was worth getting stung all over, to get her back.

Then that evening, Lainy had a pop at the Fella. He was only going to give her a cuddle but he did get a bit close to her face which is a real No No in Lainy's book and we were both shaken, mostly I think because we were exhausted and worried sick over Twig, so I burst into tears and he was worried at how upset I was, and what might have happened if she bit a child.

There are potential dangers with any dog, especially a reactive one. But as Lainy always wears a muzzle in public, she can't inflict any damage, and I am super careful whenever we're out, especially round children, so I do my best to rule out as many disasters as possible. Even so, I was very shaken and we were both a bit wary of her the next day.

On our way home, the following day, I discovered a tick on Lainy's leg. The Fella said that Vaseline helped smother them, so I put some on and then had to try and get the tick out - no mean feat. Most people would have let me struggle on my own, once a dog had tried to bite them, but he suggested we got her on her back, and he calmly held her while talking to her soothingly. She looked a bit startled, but she obviously trusted us both and just stayed utterly still while I poked and prodded at the darn thing till I got it out. She then jumped off his lap, shook herself and ran round the garden a few times. Job done.

It has to be said that neither Twig nor my Moll would have behaved so well. They would have growled, bitten and been utterly impossibly terrified, so hats off to Lainy for being such a star patient. And to the Fella for being so brave. We've all learned from the experience and moved on.

It's ironic that it took a tick to save the day.

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Research into self publishing

I have been sending out submissions for novels and a possible walks book to various agents and publishers and several have got back to me suggesting self publishing. In addition, I have met several people who have self published their books and all of them recommend the process, though it is complex and selling books is hard. Well, I know that from my walks books so there's nothing new there.

But after I met with another journalist friend and she very kindly talked me through her entire process - who she'd used for editing, typesetting, printing, distribution, book covers, formatting for Amazon and the marketing process, I realised two things. Firstly, that if she's done it - and actually made a profit from her novel - and be so very kind as to share her contacts, I could do it. Secondly, yes it is complicated, but with advice from other people, it's by no means impossible.

Since then I've had several other word of mouth recommendations for designers for the book cover, for printers/publishers and all sorts. This is partly terrifing and partly so exciting that I think I might burst. I need to research book covers, fonts and font sizes. Layouts. Line spacing. So many, many things that are essential in making sure my books would look professional, and not the kind of thing cobbled together after a few glasses of wine over the weekend. And then after that, the hard work is to actually sell the book and encourage people to read it, but at least some people know me from my walks books so that's a head start.

Self publishing used to be seen as something people would do if their books weren't good enough to be taken on by a traditional publishers. Life has moved on and so have attitudes. Of course, there are a lot of companies out there designed to rip people off, and trying to make headway through that is mind-spinning. But there is a way through. I have a Zoom call tomorrow to talk through possible options, and my novel goes for a last copy edit at the end of the month. Either way, I could set the ball rolling soon.....

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Planning - and unusual jobs

The above sculpture is at Princess Pavilions, where I went on Sunday for very good brunch from their community kitchen, before a long stomp at Constantine, and then a visit to Sasha Harding's Open Studios near Penryn.

I love her paintings - which are mostly of people and dogs/other animals but with a gentle and sometimes wicked sense of humour. How Mum would have loved these paintings! I particularly loved this one, which reminds me of The Fella's terrier....

She's also written and illustrated a wonderful book called A Brush With the Coast, about her walking the South West Coastal Path with her lazy and narcoleptic dog, Jess. As both were very unfit when they started the walk, it was a challenge in more ways than one. And it turned out that she self published the book, and said she would thoroughly recommend the process, so we had a long discussion about self publishing, and she said to get in touch if I wanted more advice, so that got me thinking...

As I'm researching for my next novel, I recently asked for suggestions for unusual hobbies for a man, and the response has been fascinating. I'm also thinking about what he does for a living, but I know, deep down, that he's a boat builder, because that requires a certain type of person.

My dad was always in despair as I kept changing jobs when I was younger. I have a low boredom threshold and in those days it was easy to change jobs, so I did, about every six months. I worked as a computer clerk at Saatchi and Saatchis, at a new product development company which developed the likes of the Black and Decker Workmate. My job was as receptionist and secretary to the head of the creative department - which was interesting as I couldn't type. Believe me, I learned - fast, weeping into my typewriter till 10pm most nights. I also moonlighted (moonlit?) as a masseuse at the RAC Club in Pall Mall, on ladies days as the masseuses there were men, and they didnt allow their Ladies to be massaged by men......

I've worked for the Youth Justice Team in Devon which involved looking after children going through the court process - a gruelling job that I always said was the best contraceptive of all. After that I ran the accommodation office for an arts college which turned into a university. And there were lots of other jobs in between. After my last Proper Job, Pip and I did up the flat where I still live now - and I have a rather wonky left big toe from where I inadvertently dropped the lump hammer on it while trying to excavate the living room fireplace. I checked people onto cruise ships and also did a lot of cleaning with a friend - we were going to call ourselves Scrubbers R Us until we realised it might give the wrong idea...

After that I did an online journalism course and started working as a journalist, then an author. And I haven't been bored since.

But what about you? What strange jobs have you had?