Sunday, December 5, 2010
Let me explain. My third novel, 'The Birchman' is complete and I'm in the throes of trying to find and agent for it. After sending out around eighty e-mail inquiries, I got a reply, dripping with flattery, about the sample of the novel, which I'd sent. Being suspicious, because most agents don't give flattery, I checked my list again, and discovered that this firm wanted a fee up front, from their potential clients. I wrote a polite note back to say that I'd submitted my work to them in error, which I had.
In my opinion, agents who prey on unknown authors' desperation to get published, are unscrupulous and shoddy. It's bad enough that they take advantage of people but also, they're actually telling some pretty bad writers that they are publishable, just to get their fees. The hopeful writer then goes on a deluded high for the next few months, until realising that their friendly agent hasn't and never intended to place their book with a mainstream publisher. If they do go as far as submitting the manuscript, the publisher, knowing them to be a rip-off firm, won't entertain them, since they know they handle some badly-written work.
No wonder agents like this have been likened to sharks swimming in a pool of unsuspecting people.
Monday, November 22, 2010
I hadn't been in my new job long before I realised that Pauline had zilch people skills and a propensity to talk several decibels above everyone else. Her actions ranged from demanding you speak to her, even when on the phone, butting in on conversations and hijacking meetings with her considerable, but no less annoying, verbal skills.
A memo came round one day stating that people weren't switching off the overhead lights above their desks, before leaving the office. For some reason, which defeated me and everyone else in the team, Pauline decided she should be the self-appointed, Light Monitor in our office.
Now, being a busy person, as I was, the last thing I used to think about before flying off here and there was my desk light. Pauline reminded me several times to switch it off. When I remembered, I complied. When I didn't, however, she got more and more prickly.
Her prickliness grew and grew until one morning, I got to my desk and reached up to pull my light-string, (to engage the light) only to find that Pauline had tied it in a bow too far to me to reach. I had to stand on my desk to unravel it.
"Let that be a lesson, to you," Pauline said, with a self-satisfied expression.
This carried on and on until I got fed-up and decided to take action.
The following morning, I got in early; much earlier than Pauline. I took out the scissors from my desk, stood on Pauline's and cut her light string off as far as I could reach. When she came in, and saw what had happened, I could feel her eyes, like flick-knives, sticking into my back. Without proof, however, she knew she could do nothing.
I can't begin to tell you how satisfied I felt, when hearing her get on the phone to the caretaker, and tell him she had no way of putting her desk light on!
Sunday, November 14, 2010
After cutting my teeth on my last two novels, I know that novel three, called 'The Birchman', is pretty damned good enough to be published by one of the big publishing houses. For that, though, I will need an agent.
As if endorsing my positive slant on 'The Birchman' a London agent got back to me this week to say, and I quote, "This isn't for us. However, we found the storyline intriguing. It's also clear that you are a competent writer." Okay, so it was still a rejection, but at least it wasn't a stock letter of refusal - wow, an agent actually took the time to write a personal - no. Strangely, I found that encouraging.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Before I go any further, I should inform you that foster carers in England are in short supply. Good foster carers are even rarer. Simon, unfortunately was saddled with one of the jaded sort. Let's call her Marion. Marion had been a foster carer since the invention of electricity and didn't really care about anything other than the money she got from giving the children a home. She also had health problems, and didn't have the energy to manage any child, let alone a teenage boy.
On our second meeting, Simon told me in confidence, that he didn't like living with Marion, because she was always niggling at him. "Do this, do that," he said, "And, she doesn't give me any privacy."
"In what way?" I asked.
"She goes through all my things when I'm at school. I know because I always find them messed up and not where I put them."
Being worried about the lack of privacy, I did the unforgivable, (as I found out later), and spoke directly to the foster carer about it. Marion didn't display her anger to my face, but by the time I'd got back to the office, I was met with her Link Worker (a Family Placement social worker working as an advocate for a foster carer), who told me that Marion had been on the phone, incandescent with rage at my having the gall to challenge her. The Link Worker, let's call her Sophie, another jaded person, told me in a haughty way that it wasn't my place to take up a problem with a foster carer, it was hers.
I apologised and asked whether she was have a word with Marion, and could she remind her that a certain amount of privacy is a fundamental right for anybody, especially a teenager in a maelstrom of hormones. The underlying message from Sophie's response was that we must tread warily around foster carers, lest we upset them. My efforts to get her to see the matter from Simon's perspective, came to naught.
The upshot was that Sophie reported me to my line manger, for being so argumentative and I had to explain the whole thing to him, ad nauseum. He, as many social work managers did then, sat on the fence.
When I next visited Simon, I told him he should try not to leave anything around in his bedroom that was deeply personal to him. He said he would carry his photos of his mother and other family members around in his school bag, since Marion always went through his things when he was at school. I also suggested he should try and make things up with Marion, because it was horrible for him to have to live there and not get on with her. "If you don't want to face her, why don't you leave a little note behind," I said, "before you go to school tomorrow." He said he would.
The following day, Sophie burst into my office to tell me she'd just had phone-call from Marion. "Why What's happened?"
"Simon left her a note before going to school this morning."
Feeling pleased that he'd taken my advice, I said, "What's wrong with that?"
"The note read - 'Nosey Cow'"
Now, I'm not the best person at holding back laughter and my gaffaws, I was told later, echoed out of the door and right down the corridor. When finally composed, I asked where the note was placed.
"She said she found it under his matress."
"I rest my case," was my reply.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Now, for something entirely different. (This is a Mish-Mash blog after all), I thought I'd talk about one of my most embarrassing moments. It was when I was a social worker and had to visit Peterborough court for Care proceedings.
I got to the court harried and hot, because I couldn't find the place, and threw my stuff down in the Advocate's lounge.
My case had been delayed, as luck would have it, so I sat down to relax. Next to me was a smallish man, with greying hair. Thinking he was a solicitor on another case, I struck up a conversation about how I'd never been to Peterborough before and that I'd heard the judge on my case wasn't very good, because he never read the papers. In a disgruntled tone I said he couldn't possibly give an informed opinion as to the rights or wrongs, without doing something as basic as that. The man seemed pleasant but strangely, non-committal. Thinking that he was bored with the conversation, I ended it but not befofe calling the judge a total plonker.
An hour later, we were called into the courtroom, asked to stand to greet the judge and - who should walk in but the man the little grey-haired man. He was the judge.
If anybody else has some embarrassing moments to share, I'd love to read them.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I'm not going to run on about rich countries turning a blind eye to this, knowing full well that Cholera, a water-based bacterial infection, is a swift, vicious killer. I'm not even going to write that corruption being at the core of the country's leadership is why Haitians, even before the earthquake, lived like rats. However, I am going to write that, as a race of people, we have markedly poor judgement, when seeing fit to give a footballer a six figure salary per week, while people in a far off land are living in a makeshift hell. What are we thinking of: that we can do that when dehydrated children are rolling their eyes into the backs of their heads and dying from the pain of this horrible disease!
Why, I wonder, does humanity value some so highly, while being ready to neglect those who need - only basic resources. Some might argue that we did our bit. Rich countries went into Haiti after the quake and threw a few million into helping put things right, that's true. However, if we put our honest hats on, we know this action was superficial - implemented only to satisfy others that we wanted to help. If not that, then I ask: why did we pack up and light out, knowing the most essential element necessary for human survival, clean water, was in jeopardy because of overcrowding.
Arguing that such action was an oversight on our part won't do either. Aid and health workers, must have warned that a cholera outbreak would happen. Indeed, anybody with a brain could predict that a few thousand people, clogged into one place with nowhere to place their waste, was as threatening as an activated incendiary device.
Now trucks are driving through the camps' miserable thoroughfares, intermittently throwing water at the crowd and watching them fight for it. Pitiful for the people it is, but it's lamentable to the power of ten for those who could have prevented this par-boiled damage limitation.
Ironically, in the same week, we gave a disgusting amount of money to one man, who just happens to be good at kicking a ball into a net.
Cholera in Haiti needn't have happened - we know that. We could have built more camps, and ensured that these had proper waste disposal facilities. Then refugees could have lived to a manageable level. As for the cost, to those countries who cared only about their money being poured into the place, I say that foresight and good planning costs very little.
As a member of the human race, I'm ashamed that this has happened, and I hope those in power take a look at themselves as well. Right now, they should, at the very least, be balking with embarrassment at their, continuously turned on, fountain of power and plenty, while imagining the unimaginable suffering elsewhere.
As always, I'd love to have the opinions of other people.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Susie was a loved, well cared for child, of that there was no doubt. She also had a father still in the family home - another rarity. The problem was that Elaine was diagnosed with a paranoid personality disorder. Over the previous three years, there had been several referrals from her school, in connection with the way her bizarre behaviour was upsetting Susie. On one occasion, it was recorded that Elaine burst into the school and literally pulled Suzie out from the classroom, because she was convinced that one of the other pupils was picking on her daughter. The school said this wasn't true at all and that Suzie was only endorsing her mother's story that it was, just to please her.
When I got the case, I visited the home several times. There was no doubting that Elaine was an anxious person. She still maintined that Suzie was being bullied with a story that was so convincing, I was sure it was true. Then it began to dawn on me that in Elaine's mind, the story WAS true. She saw the world as a hostile place and that everybody in it simply couldn't be trusted not to cause emotional pain to her and her daughter.
Significantly, I spoke to Suzie's father on his own a couple of times. He confirmed my hypothesis by saying that Elaine always had a tendency to 'over-exaggerate'. Like Suzie's school, he was also sure the story about the bullying was untrue.
I discussed Elaine with her mental health worker. He said that Elaine's condition was borderline. That is, it wasn't enough to be a danger to herself and to others, but it was enough to give him concern. He agreed with me that, in Elaine's world, everybody was under suspicion. She'd also had a couple of delusional episodes, he told me, one of which saw her ringing the police because she was convinced there were giant lizards in her bath. Such episodes, he added, were short-lived and certainly, there wasn't enough evidence to Section her. Further, she was taking her prescribed medication.
I had to take the case to a Child Protection Conference after another episode at school, where Elaine actually got hold of a pupils arm in the playground and warned him not to harass Suzie any longer. The boy's parents complained to the school and insisted something be done about her.
For the conference, I wrote a report containing a chronology of all the incidents of Elaine's worrying behaviour. In the its summary, I tried to be sympathetic to Elaine. There was no doubt, I wrote that she loved Suzie and that Suzie loved her. Records related that she had never physically abused Suzie or had made any threats to do so. I ended by saying that Suzie's name shouldn't be added to the Child Protection Register, because her mother's abuse of her, which came under the category of emotional, was not something that she could help. I recommended that the mental health services step up their work with Elaine, and that social services should remain involved until the situation had improved.
In the event, my line manager said my report hadn't been hard-hitting enough. We disagreed - she attended the conference and said that, in her opinion, Elaine was a danger to Suzie. The conference went on for four hours and finally decided that Suzie's name should be added to the register.
This, I believe made matters worse. All it did was raise Elaine's anxiety levels, which of course, spilled over onto Suzie, who became just as defensive and as suspicious as her mother about the whole world.
If anybody wants to comment about this case, I'd be pleased to hear from them.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
I got a referral from Stevie's school, expressing concern about the child being exposed to frequent bouts of domestic violence between his parent.
From questioning Sally, it was clear she was a loving mother, who cared about her son. However, I became disturbed when she admitted that, even though she hated being hit by Kevin, it somehow made her think that he must really love her. Later, she told me she loved her father, but he used to hit her and her sister, whenever he got drunk.
Because the violence between Sally and Kevin had persisted for so long, Stevie's name had to be added to the Child Protection Register, under the category of Neglect. (Stevie was traumatised by the violence). The Child Protection Plan stipulated that, if Sally and Kevin got into any more violent altercations, Steve would have to be taken into care.
I quetioned Kevin on his own a few times and discovered that he too loved his son. As part of the Child Protection Plan, he agreed to have couple counselling at Relate. However, upon questioning him deeper, I discovered he'd had a fraught relationship with his mother. She was distant with him most of the time. He recalled being pushed away by her, whenever he needed comfort. However, she had a succession of boyfriends, whom she brought into Kevin's life.
Thus, I think Kevin was deeply insecure. As is the case with many insecure people, he had an overwhelming need to be in control. Most of the arguments between him and Sally were because he perceived she was looking at other men. A fact which Sally said wasn't true.
Because of Kevin's own deep trauma, I tried to get a clinical psychologist for him, but because of budget constraints, this never happened.
One morning, I received a phonecall from Stevie, telling me that his mum was being hit again and that there was blood all over the floor. I, and three policemen rushed round and discovered Sally so badly beaten, she had to be hospitalised. Kevin had vanished. Sally later told me Kevin hit her because a man had come to the door selling something, and Kevin thought she was making eyes at him.
Stevie had to go into temporary foster care. To get him back, Sally knew she had to agree to stop seeing Kevin. However, she made the choice to live with Kevin and let Stevie stay in care. "I just can't live without him, (Kevin)" were the last words she said to me.
This was the first case of mine which made me think about how people can act out trauma from their childhoods with another person. Kevin, acted out his anger about his mother with Sally, and Sally, embroiled in the role of being her father's victim, had a psyche skewed enough to believe that every time Kevin hit her, he was somehow validating how much she meant to him.
If anybody has anything to say about this case, I'd love to hear from them.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
As a green Social Worker of zilch experience, I remember being allocated a family of two adults and six children. The father, Ben and mother Clara (not their real names) had been known to the Social Services Department since they themselves were children. The father, being out of work, used to spend all day on his computer playing games and drinking cans of lager. He was known for his short fuse and was well-known to the police. Clara smoked sixty cigarettes a day and like the odd can of lager as well.
The main concern about the parents was that they weren't putting their children's needs before their own. The children's schools reported them coming lessons, unfed, unkempt and looking tired most of the time.
When I first looked through the files - all nine of them, I saw there were countless occasions where Clara came to Social Services for money to feed her children. There were also recorded instances of Ben hitting Clara in front of the children.
Ben also had a collection of pornographic movies, which the children had access to.
Eventually, after one more failed attempt at getting the parents to make changes, I had to take the case to court. In the event, the Interim Care Order wasn't granted, because of insufficient evidence of neglect. However, six weeks after this, the father rang me and said that if I didn't remove the children that day, he would kill them. That was enough evidence to take them, and we did.
Most children in Foster Care aren't happy. One day I might elaborate on that, but for the purpose of this post, I just need to say that these six children weren't happy, because they missed their parents and hated being 'different' from their peers at school.
Six weeks after the children were removed, I learned from a Community Midwife (Clara was pregnant again) that a new puppy had been introduced into the, home. When questioned about it, Ben said he loved his new pet and would never want to be rid of it. "After all," he added, "A dog is for life, not just for Christmas, isn't it?"
Monday, September 13, 2010
At first I was unhappy about this. After a couple of days musing, however, I realised it wasn't my writing that was the problem, it was a compilation of a couple of things. First, I don't write about vampires and I don't write about sex. I don't think there's anything wrong with these genres, it's just that they aren't the subjects I choose to be concerned with. However, I know that these are the hottest genres at the moment and that many people, when they go to buy a book online, actively seek them out.
The second reason is that I don't sell myself. I've joined writers' and readers' sites in an effort to get myself known, of course. I also blog and read others' blogs. However, paying for my books to be put in the foreground on these sites, to me, smacks of desperation, ditto paying for a reviewer, and I simply refuse to do these things. I work on the premise that if people want to read my work, they'll do so whether I get my money out or not. As a reader myself, I get pretty pissed off with the hard sell, and would prefer to browse my way around unhindered by intrusive advertising.
Now for my Burning Issues Spot. If anybody reads this blog, they'll know that I'm a political animal and like to discuss the events of the day.
The biggest news story at the moment is the mosque near the Ground Zero site. I've read both sides of the argument, and believe myself that the mosque shouldn't be so near to where thousands of people died. It's not that I think all Moslems are fanatics. I know that the majority are peaceful, and it's just a handful of idiots, with a control problem who are making life invidious for them. For me, not building the mosque is a question of respect for the dead and nothing more.
I abhor any form of fanaticism, which means I'd place the preacher from Florida, threatening to burn the Koran, up there among the supremest of fanatical idiots. I just wish people would understand others' need to worship the way that they choose and be done with it.
Finally, autumn is here again. It's my favourite time of the year, and I'm off to the coast to catch the last remnants of its sunshine, before the winter sets in.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Here I am, sitting at my computer, listening to the incomparable soprano, Marita Solberg in order to refresh my mind and consider my next move. After almost three weeks of trying to join PayPal – I’m still unable to do so.
The debacle started because the publisher of Sabine Dolls only does monitory transaction through PayPal. I had no choice, therefore, but to join - or as I said, try to.
I opened a rudimentary account, only to be told that they'd put a restriction on it because they'd detected some "unusual activity". In order to lift the restriction, they said, we only need a proof of address from you.
I tried to send them a copy of an official letter but discovered they only accept files with certain file extensions on them. Now, being a complete numskull around computers, I had to get the computer "medicine man" in the town to change my chosen proof of address letter to a different file extension. (PayPal, I also discovered when I tried to send one with a query e-mail, doesn't accept attachments of any kind).
After finally sending them a copy of the same letter, this time with the correct file extension, they came back to tell me they now needed one of my bank statements, so I had to wait until my bank did one for me. Bulgarian banks, you see, don’t bother putting addresses on their statements.
In between all this toing and froing, I got several stock e-mails from PayPal, all from different people, saying that I only had to send my proof of address and then they would unlock my account. Unlock my account? It had never even been opened. But I couldn't be bothered to tell them that because, apart from running around getting bits of paper for them, I still have my third novel to complete – an activity which to me is much more interesting.
A few days after sending the required bank statement, I checked my account again, to find a new requisite which was proof of identity. After a bout of consequent unrepeatable language, it occurred to me that PayPal must have suspected by then that I was a member of the Bulgarian Mafia, which made me laugh - a lot!
All this brings me up to this morning, when I tried to upload a copy of my passport, (only the page with the picture) which PayPal promptly rejected because the "File was too long, please reduce it." (They said somewhere else, "please make sure the picture is large enough to see", but no matter) How the hell am I going to bloody-well reduce a simple passport picture with my computer skills, I thought? Ah well, I'll use my Drivers Licence instead, so off I go to get it. When I pulled that out, I saw with a sinking feeling, something I'd forgotten: it has my last address on it, which was in the UK. Bulgaria accepts UK passports but -"Oh my Gad", I thought, if I send PayPal that, in their arid way, they'd think: a woman living in Bulgaria, taking ages to produce a bank statement with an address, and then sending us a driving license with a different address to her Bulgarian one - she really must be a Mafia member!
What to do now - get frustrated and then try again? I think not. I've just written to my publisher to say that PayPal can - well - do the other thing, and we’d have to find other ways of me getting money to him, and he getting royalties to me.
What I wanted to say here is that organaisations like PayPal: beauracratic, emotionless that they are, purport to perform a service, but are only too ready to present obstacles, when a hapless, potential customer, isn't fitting into one of their boxes. They should know this: they aren’t doing the public a service, the public are doing them one by paying them to transact for them. If they cared about causing annoyance to people, which they say they do, (while coining in their commission, of course), they’d accept simple e-mail attachments, like most mere-mortal organisations. If they are worried about viruses, then I say there are enough good anti-viruses around now to zap anything untoward that some, deranged person, might want to send them in an-mail.
Hey-ho, so I've got to find another way of getting copies of my book from my publisher now. But I'd rather suffer the vexation of that and still hang on to my sanity.
So, I'm going to put on another of Marita's arias and write another passage or two, while I think of what to do next. PayPal? PayPurgatory fits better, I think.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Al-Megrahi's cancer was terminal, we were told and he wasn't expected to live more than a few weeks. Yet, months later, he is blissfully happy living in his home land, receiving heroe status, after receiving a heroe's welcome.
According to popular opinion, the decision to release the man wasn't out of mercy, so much as greed. It's being whispered in some very prominent places that this odious man was exhanged for an oil deal with Lybia. It occured to me at the time that dirty tricks might have been involved here, but I didn't want to think that politicians on my side of the Atlantic could be so insensitive as to put oil before people's grief. But, in the face of many heart-driven denials by Salmond and the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, many people believe that this is exactly what has happened.
If it is true, then my view of the men and women of Westminster and Holyrood has plumetted from viewing them as weaklings, with an iffy sense of integrity, to lying, cheating, self-centred miscreants.
I don't blame President Obama for being angry and, as a British woman, I can only speak of my shame that my fellow countrymen have sunk to such a low-level of crassness.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
I've also had my second novel, "Parallel Triangle" accepted for publication by Penumbra Publishing. I'm working on the cover art and last minute edits at the moment. The reason I'm going with Penumbra as opposed to Bluewood Publishing, who have Sabine Dolls, is that I wanted an American publisher for this novel.
Now for a different topic. I've just got back from a holiday on the Bulgarian coast. It was pleasant to have had a change of scene, but oh how we missed home and especially our dogs! Anyway, what I wanted to record down here was how shocked I was at the lack of modesty on the beach. Now, I have very little time for fuddy-duddies. All the same, while watching hoards of young women walking around in thongs, some of whom were topless as well, I felt saddened that they all seemed so willing to compromise their mystery in this way.
As a writer of romance, I have to be able to get into the psyche of the male many times. (I've also been around a long time on this planet and have spoken to many men, which has helped.) Suffice it to say that although we women have evolved a long way since emancipation, men have largely remained Neaderthal in the way they view women. Oh I know they might say that they're modern, but most of them would rather a woman covered up in public, thereby leaving their imaginations to run riot.
As a species, men are conservative on the subject of what women should or shouldn't show. They might sit and ogle a beautiful woman with everything on display, of course, but most of them don't really want the women in their life to do the same. Also, young males, deep down in their hearts, would rather not choose a girl whose body has been viewed by the world either.
I'm well aware that this makes me sound old-fashioned but, this is my blog and I don't care - so there!
Monday, May 17, 2010
I await next month's sales with some concern. And of course, I hope that Bluewood doesn't go the same way as some other E-publishers, who tried, but couldn't quite make a go of things.
I'm now in the throes of trying to get exposure to the novel. I've sent it to Dear Author and Bluewood should be sending it to Smashwords and Coffee Time Romance. I hope that will be enough.
On a flippant note, "Lost" is coming to the end of the final season. I've been telling all my friends that I don't know what I'll do without it. I don't watch that much TV, but it has been a treat to be able to see somehing so imaginitive and well-acted.
Friday, April 23, 2010
So, what have I been doing? I've finished the final edits of Sabine Dolls at last and that should go out as an e-book soon. I've also completed my second novel: Parallel Triangle. I've been trying to get an agent for it, to no avail. I've learned not to expect too much in that area though, since getting an agent is, as far as I'm concerned even harder than getting a publisher. Anyway, there are quite a few new online UK publishers springing up, and most of them don't require you to be agented.
No matter how I try, I can't seem to get away from newspapers or the radio talking about the banking crisis. Seeing the bankers still taking their massive bonuses takes my breath away. How do they sleep at night. Quite easily is the answer to that, since they don't have a shred or altruism in them. What a disgrace when, all around us, people are having their homes re-possessed and these corporate bankers are creaming off all the wealth of the country.
I don't like Capitalism now. But then - what are the alternatives. If we were to install another "ism" into our daily lives, I daresay within a year, it would resemble the same structure. That is, one to two percent of the population with all the money and the rest scratching about to live decently.
So let's try and end on a positive note. Ah yes, I've got some good friends coming round for dinner this evening. That thought will keep me going for a while.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I'm not one for gloom and doom prophesies as a rule. However, this man spoke from the heart, even crying at one point, about how he's been forced out on to the periphery simply because he had the courage to air his prophesies, which now seem to be coming true. What's the most alarming, for me, is that he's exposed how governments in the USA and the developed West have pushed the problems of dwindling Earth resources and the dangerous, unsustainable population explosion under the carpet. They simply aren't making provision for the masses, when the crunch comes. And dammit, they should be because a lot of people are going to die as a result!
I'm stocking up on candles, seeds and self-sufficiency books. Thank goodness I'm a veggie, that methinks, will make things a little easier, since keeping hens is relatively less complex than rearing meat. Oh, and I'm going to learn how to drive a pony and carriage! Happy New Year.