Missing the light: Chatsworth, Autumn 2015

Autumn light: Chatsworth

If you are one of the 60 or so people who took advantage of the free offer of my e-book, “Koi Carpe Diem“, thank you! 

Brief plug which may sound arrogant but isn’t: if you like Terry Pratchett, and Jasper Fforde, you may like my stuff. I am *not* claiming to have anything approaching their talent, or wit. If however you prefer your fantasy served up with more surrealism and humour, than shiny swords, and unicorns, I may be your woman.

Although, so there is a unicorn.

Lance the unicorn, from "The St Jude Care Home for Mythical Creatures". Art by the fabulous Tom Brown

Lance the unicorn, from “The St Jude Care Home for Mythical Creatures”. Art by the fabulous Tom Brown


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Beer Goggles, Toolboxes, & Time to Change: World Mental Health Day 2016

A few of my favourite things: mental health toolbox

A few of my favourite things: mental health toolbox

I spent part of this year’s World Mental Health Day (WMHD) at the student’s union at Sheffield University. Each WMHD has a theme: this year’s was psychological first aide. Unfortunately, I thought it was the “wellness toolbox” from the wellness recovery action plan (WRAP) which was invented & developed by Mary Ellen Copeland.

Whilst gathering together my Time to Change materials, I also grabbed a few things which represent things which help keep me well, eg, writing, Doctor Who, music, cake, tea, and nature. I also took along some sticky notes & pens, so visitors to the event could list the things that would go in their mental health toolboxes.

The Peanuts sticky notes (see below) were a gift from my mother, who died six years ago. Sometimes thinking about her helps, sometimes it doesn’t. Similarly, sometimes none of my toolbox items help me. Other times, I don’t use them soon enough.

Wellness toolbox, complete with illustrations

Wellness toolbox, complete with illustrations

It wasn’t until well into the event that I remembered that the character of Lucy was the one who used to set up a stand with the sign “The Doctor is in”, and charge five cents to listen to the others – usually, Charlie Brown – tell her their problems.

The “beer goggles” in the blog’s title refers to the stand run by Sheffield Health and Social Care’s drug and alcohol services. They also had a pair of “drug goggles”. Both give the wearer the impression of what it’s like to be under the influence of alcohol, or drugs.

Beer googles: a flattering look, I'm sure you'll agree

Beer googles: a flattering look, I’m sure you’ll agree

Whatever is in your wellness toolbox, I wish you a happy, healthy – if belated – World Mental Health Day.

At the Time to Change Stand.

At the Time to Change Stand

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Writer, Author Pimp, or Both?


Cover art for by Tom Brown for “A Yorkshireman in Ohio”

Warning for: Free book!

Not much of a warning, I know. I’m sorry if you’re disappointed that I won’t be swearing this time. Don’t worry, I’m sure it will happen soon.

Do you, oh gentle and I hope breathing (1) reader, know what an “author pimp” is? It’s my alter-ego as the volunteer presenter of the Book It! show on Sine FM. On it, I highlight the work and stories of (other) authors, and writers. I’ve been doing it for over five years now, and most of the time, it’s good fun. Great fun, in fact. If you’ve ever thought about putting in some (free) time with your local community radio station, I heartily recommend it.

Just now, I’m preparing for our 2nd Annual Live Halloween Broadcast. I say “our” because the live broadcast is a joint venture between guests, Sine – especially the amazing Jon Kelly – and myself (2). This year, I’m sharing the microphone with authors Craig Hallam, Stephanie Cage, Angela Wren, and Viki Meadows.

Halloween on the radio!

Halloween on the radio!

Unlike last year, when we broadcast on the day (31st), this year Halloween on the Radio is on Saturday 29th October from 10 – 11 am, British Time. We’re also broadcasting from Sine FM’s new premises, which won’t be nearly as spooky as the old one, but I think we’ll soldier through.

I love my non-paying career as an “author pimp” almost as much as my so-far non-paying career as a writer of comic short stories, semi-serious poetry, “Time to Change” and  other mental health blogs (3), the odd music review, etc.

Note, “almost”.

It often feels like the world is giving me big, whacking hints to stick to the pimping, and pack in the writing. Well, maybe not the “shove it in the drawer” kind. More the “please read my books, please publish my stuff”.

Such is life. We get all fired up about stuff, and, meanwhile, the world and its budgie yawn like a bored cat. We then carry on regardless. For example, just now I’m trying to publish “A Yorkshireman in Ohio”, the sequel to “Koi Carpe Diem“.

This sort of carrying on is sometimes called “adulting”. Which, sometimes, sucks. And as is especially true of any venture, the only sure way to failure is to give up.

Meanwhile, back at the non existent ranch, did I mention my short story collection, “Koi Carpe Diem“, is free for download this weekend?

Say it with chocolate.

Say it with chocolate

(1) I do so hope you exist, for my sake; and breath, for yours.
(2) Pre-recorded broadcasts – a necessity when you work shifts – also require the help & cooperation of guests, & Jon Kelly. In addition, they receive massive support from my husband, David. Thanks, love.
(3) Good lord willin’ and I don’t get hit by a bus, my next blog will be about “World Mental Health Day”.

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Leaves Like Shoppers – a Poetic Blog

Al, close up & personal (& in a tree)

Al, close up & personal (& in a tree)

All the tree knew was that it thrilled with life” – Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology

The picture above was taken earlier today. I happened to be taking photos of the garden when Al – aka the Cat Who Came to Dinner – went up the elder tree, and after a bird. As well as successfully coaxing him down by appealing to his stomach, I managed to get this shot of him.

This is the chap who got away:

A lucky robin

A lucky robin

My mood is as changeable as the weather, not helped by the fact that I’m officially a Crumbly. Thank you, “slightly reduced bone density”. Whether this is due to radiotherapy, medication, or my age, is a coin toss. So is whether my moodiness is down to my bipolar, meds, or circumstances.

Add to this, I’ve not been spending much time outside. My excuse has been I have a lot of writing to do: true, but not helpful when I piss about on the internet instead.

Sometimes, the walk to and from work – especially from, if I’m not too tired – helps fill my green spaces gap. It can also provide food for writing. I’m fortune that my commute includes this:

Foggy Donny, autumn 2015

Foggy Donny, autumn 2015

I love autumn, but it doesn’t always love me. Once again, I’m struggling to get to folk club, and to the monthly “Spoken Word” events. Which is sad, because I enjoy them, even if my writing is too weird, and / or not right on enough for most tastes. The wine, beer, and company are excellent, however. It’s worth going to folk club just on the off chance that Mick and Angie will play and sing “McCafferty“. The link is to the Dubliners. To imagine Mick and Angie’s version, change the accent from Irish to Yorkshire, and the instruments to guitar, and harmonica.

With National Poetry Day just a week away, it seemed a good time for a poetic blog.

With Leaves like Shoppers

Yesterday, I was okay
with autumn
with the damp grass
which tags along,
on boot, and cuff,
the dark bird which pops
over, and hops
to check its mate’s
breakfast, a miniature,
single-toned penguin,
waddling up
this muddy path.

Later, a chill
sweeps through
pink pirate scarf,
and purple uni sweatshirt,
as leaves rush past
like busy shoppers,
impatient for Christmastime.

I hope you enjoy the autumn, and its beautiful light. This is a summer song, but it seems apt.

Autumnal sky, 30 Sept 2016

Autumnal sky, 30 Sept 2016

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On the Naming – & Reading – of Cats

You can call me what you like, it doesn't mean I'll show up.

You can call me what you like, it doesn’t mean I’ll show up.

The naming of cats is a difficult matter …” – TS Eliot

This is Al, aka The Cat Who Came to Dinner. So inevitably, today’s song is this one. No cat references, but lots of Al ones. I love most of Paul Simon’s work, and whilst I’m not a big Chevy Chase fan, I think he’s fab in this video.

Around a dozen cats have padded and slept through my life so far: I’m hoping many more will mew, purr, and yes, occasionally barf in my home, and garden. (1) That’s not counting friends’ cats, or the cat who lives near my work, and likes to say hello whenever I pop to the shop, or the pillar box.

The black and white cat pictured below is the late, great Jake, from whom the name Sgt Jake Cat comes from. Jake’s original name evolved considerably from a ridiculously long and indeed ridiculous name, to Jake, though his Sunday name was Jacob.

Big cat, big heart, big personality

Big cat, big heart, big personality

Thomas the cat: Brave, and sunny natured, if a bit thick.

Thomas the cat: Brave, and sunny natured, if a bit thick.

Speaking of names, at a recent writers’ group, I read a bit from my current work in progress, “A Yorkshireman in Ohio”. In it, I referred to the fictional Jake as “Sgt Cat”. This resulted in a somewhat surreal discussion about cat surnames.

Talking of cats, here are my top five favourite cat books:

  • Close Encounters of the Furred Kind” – Tom Cox (non fiction / humour) More than just a cat book, this, and Tom Cox’s previous book, “The Good, the Bad, and the Furry” are funny, beautifully written, and touching. The final section of “Close Encounters of the Furred Kind”, about a homeless cat named George, contains some of the most moving writing I have ever read. Highly recommended. I interviewed Tom on “Book It!” earlier this year. It was such a pleasure, as was going to see him in Sheffield this summer. I can go a bit fangirl when discussing his books, so I’ll move on to the next book.

    Tom Cox at Sheffield, August 2016

    Tom Cox, August 2016

  • The Door Into Summer” – Robert A Heinlein (sci fi) This is a lovely book for cat and science fiction fans alike. Published in 1957, I first came across it as a teenager, and loved it. It’s about time travel, cats, and love, in almost equal measures. Heinlein went a bit strange later on (2), but when he was good, he was very, very good.
  • The Silent Miaow” – Paul Gallico (non fiction) Beautifully written, with beautiful photographs by Suzanne Szasz. Sadly I don’t own a copy, perhaps I need to correct this. By the author who wrote the touching, and evocative, “Snow Goose“.
  • It’s Like This, Cat” – Emily Cheney Neville (children’s lit) I have fond, if hazy, memories of this one. I have a feeling it’s one of those books I borrowed time after time from my local library. This was a Newbery Medal winner in 1963. I suspect it would be classified as Young Adult (YA) if it was published today.
  • Why Cats Paint” – Heather Busch & Burton Silver (humour) One of the strangest books I’ve ever owned, read, and loved. I think my copy was a gift from Mum. Subtitled “A Theory of Feline Aesthetics”, it features beautiful photographs of cats, er, painting, as well as commentary on how and why the cats approach their artistic works. Includes cat tray art.Happy reading! Remember, winter is coming: it’s an ideal to curl up with a book, and, if you’re fortunate, a cat on your knee, or lap
    Bookless at bedtime: Al

    Bookless at bedtime: Al

    (1) I’m not a fan of barf, but sick and hairballs are part of the price you pay if you share close quarters with a cat.
    (2) “Number of the Beast”, anyone?

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