Boffins are my super-heroes

With Mr T chucking missiles out, left right and centre, insulting America’s allies, and continually displaying his ignorance about the rest of the world, I can understand it if world affairs might be leaving you a bit wobbly. So, today, I thought I’d share something positive. Something encouraging. Something nice. The scientists – that great community of dedicated boffins – are slowly but surely winning the war against cancer. Go Team!  Okay, there are still plenty who don’t win the fight, and it’s especially devastating when it’s a young person. But, just think: twenty years ago, when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was told that if it came back there was nothing they could do for me. I would die. So, when it did turn up again in 2011, I thought I might not make it to Christmas. But, here I am in 2017. I’m discovering that there are lots and lots of us who are living with cancer, rather than dying (quickly) from it. Okay, we’re all going to die of something, some time, and for me it most probably will be the cancer, but for a lot of us this disease is no longer a bullet train into eternity. YAY! Back in 2012, I was one of the first patients to whom my oncologist gave Denosumab. (Denosumab helps my bones fight the invading cancer cells and reduces the pain levels. God bless it.) It was still “experimental”. But these days, I often meet other people living with metastasised cancer, who are on this wonderful drug. Instead of sitting hooked up to a drip for half an hour every month, we get a quick jab in the tum; all over in minutes. Okay, for the next couple of days, I feel lousy, but it’s worth it. I was in the chemo room yesterday, waiting for my jab, when I met a lovely lady whose husband is also on the big D. He has been living with metastasised prostate cancer for the last nine years. Nine years! I can remember the days when that was an automatic death sentence of months, if you were lucky, not years. So, hooray for all the boffins, slaving away in laboratories all around the world. God bless you and your work…and I pray you’re kept safe from stray missiles and nasty budget cuts.   PS Please don’t send me diet tips; links to sites about marijuana; information about ‘faith healers’; links to articles about how the medical community are keeping the secret of the cure from me, in order to make money, or anything about the wonders of mung beans, tofu and aromatherapy. You might think I’m pathetic, but I choose to trust my oncologist. So far, what he’s doing is...

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TA – DA!

I have often wondered whether this day would ever come. I watched the years go by, with no indication of a result. Oh, I had little victories: several short stories sold and published; a few non-fiction articles; a regular spot in a satirical magazine for a few years; bucket loads of reviews published and, finally, a self-published book of which I was proud. But still, the big one eluded me. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I’ve written several novels but couldn’t get anyone willing to take them on. I have been ignored by some big names in the publishing world; not even a “no thanks” email. Others were very encouraging. “We like your style. We love the story. Your characters are interesting. But, you don’t suit our list/We don’t think we can sell this/No thank you.” I’ve been told by an agent that they were excited by the book and were passing it on up the food chain, only to find out – about six months later – that particular agent had left the agency and the group no longer dealt with fantasy. I’ve been asked to rewrite a book to change it from adult to young adult, but when I did that the agent told me it was “too young” and the publisher told me it was “too adult”. I’ve been told by a publisher, who specialises in authors and stories particular to my state, that “true stories don’t sell”. Even though, that’s their speciality. When I finally scraped some of my husband’s money together and self-published, I had trouble selling enough books to make it worth while. It’s really hard to do it all on your own. (Okay…it’s difficult for me.) But now – finally – I can announce that I am under contract!  A traditional publisher, Stone Table Books, has signed me up. They’re going to publish Dragon-friend (book 2 in the series: The Flight) and also do a reprint of Beast-speaker (bk 1). They will be launched together, later this year. That’s because I haven’t finished book 2 yet. That’s right! They signed me up for two books on the strength of my writing in the first book. Amazing! I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have someone believe in my work. Someone who is willing to back me and support me, and push to get my work in print. When I was first offered the contract, I admit it: I cried. I still find it all a little surreal. Is this really happening? What’s the catch? Perhaps I’ll finally believe it when I see the new covers, done by a proper illustrator. Perhaps I’ll finally believe it when I’m sitting at the book launch, signing copies. And, if it’s all a dream, then WOO HOO! Dream...

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The mouse invasion of 2017.

A few weeks ago, The Old Boy and I woke up on a Thursday morning, to a home without the Internet. We called the provider, who agreed to send a technician out. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t arrive until the following Tuesday. 5 days without the Net! Aaarrggghhh! So at first sparrow fart, on the Tuesday morning, the technician arrived. The Old Boy made him welcome. I mumbled something, trying to appear civilized, even though I was suffering from a mix of Internet-Withdrawal and Getting-Out-Of-Bed-Far-Too-Early Syndrome. (You know, if I could manage to be polite in those circumstances, then surely Mr Trump could have made more of an effort to welcome Angela Merkel. Just sayin’.) Surprise! A mouse had been chewing on the cables. I mean, what kind of deprivation and starvation are our mouse population undergoing that they went straight past the left-over dog food, in favour of plastic? Problem solved. Internet back on. Mouse traps set.  Everything was back to normal in Computer Land, Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday. Thursday morning we woke up to a mouse neatly trapped, and no Internet. The little blighter had done it again! We called the provider. The technician couldn’t come until the following Tuesday. A cold shiver ran down my spine. I got the shakes. I didn’t know if I could do it again. The Old Boy got an old mobile phone, filled it with data (I’m winging it here, as I am a techno-idiot) and we used it as a “hot spot”. I’m sure all you computer nerds will know what that means. From my point of view, it meant that I could occasionally send and receive emails. I’d get everything written and ready, before turning the phone on. And, usually, I’d have to get the Old Fella to remind me how to do it even though he said it was “simple”. (Insert emoji face with tongue poking out.) We caught another mouse. We watched more TV and read a few books. We played games on our ipad. We waited…and waited… Tuesday morning, slightly later than sparrow fart but still ridiculously early, the technician arrived. Oops! He’d forgotten to plug the hole through which the rodent had crawled. We didn’t know it was there, hidden inside the box where the cables came into our house. Sneaky little beggars, aren’t they?!! Once more the Internet is functioning in our house. Hallelujah! And, so far, so good. No more mouse bodies to dispose of, so perhaps they have given up. Perhaps they’ve moved next door. Perhaps they’ve found an easier food supply. Perhaps they’ve died of malnutrition. So many unanswered questions. So many mysteries.        ...

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Mrs Cranky Pants

I’ve recently finished draft #1 of the novel I’ve been working on and it’s now with a couple of readers. I have no idea where to send it, once it’s ready for submission, as it’s a bit of a hybrid – which are no-nos in the publishing world. I’m making progress with bk #2 of the Beast-speaker series (Dragon-friend). However, I’m not romping along because I’ve yet to hear whether a certain publisher will take it or not. The CEO is hesitating because of the graphic and confronting content, which is hard to avoid when one is writing about child soldiers. The indecision and uncertainty is a tad stressful, which leaves me a bit cranky. Also, I know I have very little power to change the craziness that the world is descending into, therefore I need to exercise what little control I do have. I’m just going to say it… Your = belonging to you. You’re = a shortened form for “you are“. Yore = long ago; eg: there were knights and dragons in days of yore. Yor = … This word doesn’t exist. Definitely = certain; take my word for it; eg: I’m definitely going to the game. Yes sir! Defiantly = waving a fist in the air; saying or doing what I think even though you told me not to; eg: I went to the game defiantly, even though the Taliban threatened to kill us if we did. Quiet = barely a sound; eg: It was so quiet, I could hear my heart beating. Quite = absolutely; eg: I am quite certain, or = fairly, to a certain degree; eg: it’s quite warm today. I hear you cry, “Who cares if we mix these words up?” ME! I care on behalf of the English language, which is dying from a thousand cuts every day. I care on behalf of decent communication and clear speech. I care because I think language is important. Otherwise, let’s all just go back to grunting at each other, while waving a leg bone from a T-Rex in the air. If you are a writer, or editor, or both, please check your spelling and grammar before hitting Post when writing on Facebook. I agree that not many people do it; in fact, it’s a chat site so the rules are relaxed. However, if writing is your profession I want to see you do it well, even on the internet. I find myself hesitating to purchase books written by people who don’t seem able to spell or parse a sentence correctly.  And, I’d never think of sending my manuscript to an editor who makes simple grammatical mistakes. It’s not a good look. You might think this makes me a literary snob but…that’s the way it is. Okay, my rant is over. I’ll get back to writing books that, probably, no one will get to read even though they have excellent spelling and grammar....

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Kids and their stories.

I’ve finished marking all the submissions to the children’s writing competition. The courier has collected the very large box, reinforced with kilometres of tape because I re-used the box they sent me. Now I await the short listed entries, so I can go through the process again, but on a smaller scale. (Oh frabjous joy, calloo callay!) I have learned a lot about story writing. Here are the main points:- Your story should always have a beginning, a middle and an end. Don’t kill off the person telling the story. Never, ever, finish your story with “…and then I woke up and it was all a bad dream”. Never! Write appropriately for your market. The contestants were writing for children aged 6 – 9 (a first reader). Unfortunately, stories about 18 year olds, blasting their way through enemies, friends and zombies, aren’t really suitable. If you’re writing about fairy princesses, make them do something interesting. Give at least one of them a bad attitude. Fairies that don’t do anything other than twinkle and float around gardens with unicorns, is not a story. Make sure the ending fits the rest of the story, and is a proper conclusion. Don’t write about kids who are homeless and on the run from the police, (an interesting story and I’m with you so far) and then you realise you’ve nearly used up your word limit so an alien suddenly wipes them all out. Don’t strew huge, obscure words throughout the story. It’s obvious you can use a Thesaurus but hardly anyone, other than adults with an obsession for crosswords or scrabble, will know what you’re talking about. So, how have you all been? I’d like to report that things are a bit cooler here in the Great South Land but, quite frankly, we’re all singed beyond repair. If we were steaks, we’d be well done; so well done, you’d throw us out and eat the chicken instead. (And this from a person who likes their steak well done!) I gather my friends in the Northern Hemisphere are still digging their way out of massive snow drifts. I’d sympathise but, quite frankly, from where I’m sitting (under the overhead fan), that sounds delightful. Our Prime Minister thinks we should turn from renewable energies and use “clean” coal. I assume that’s coal that’s been washed before use. There are many things I could say about that but I’ve decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s been sizzling hot in Canberra, so I could assume his brain has been fried. Then again, he’s been in a right bad mood ever since Mr Trump hung up on him – he even yelled at sweet Mr Billy Shorten in parliament – so, I blame Trump!...

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