Friday, November 30, 2007

Quality Time

I'm heading for a very exciting weekend.

Here are some of the things it will include:
  • A Cornish witch
  • An Irish poet
  • A pipe and a pair of slippers
  • An eco fair
  • A gathering of blogging authors
  • A birthday (not mine)
  • Home made jam
  • Some of this ...
  • And a lot of this ...

So we might end up like this ...
Details when it's over ...

Gold standard advice for authors

The Writers' Workshop have a fab revamped site packed with useful tips.

Click through for advice on finding an agent, self-publishing and what to avoid, how to write a synopsis as well as stacks of information on how to create the perfect book and much more.

You can also check their blog here.

Splurt your coffee on your screen

That's what this made me do just now.

Don't know how to do the funny linky thingy to YouTube so click here.

Thanks to Bowen for bunging this my way.

Now where's the screen wipes?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Children writing about the sea

Hideously busy so I've allowed the fish to post the following:

1) This is a picture of an octopus. It has eight testicles. (Kelly age 6)

2) Oysters' balls are called pearls. (James age 6)

3) If you are surrounded by sea you are an Island . If you don't have sea all round you, you are incontinent. ( Wayne age 7)

4) Sharks are ugly and mean, and have big teeth, just like Emily Richardson . She's not my friend no more. (Kylie age 6)

5) A dolphin breaths through an arsehole on the top of its head. (Billy age 8)

6) My uncle goes out in his boat with pots, and comes back with crabs. (Millie age 6)

7) When ships had sails, they used to use the trade winds to cross the ocean. Sometimes, when the wind didn't blow, the sailors would whistle to make the wind come. My brother said they would be better off eating beans. (William age 7)

8) I like mermaids. They are beautiful, and I like their shiny tails. How do mermaids get pregnant? (Helen age 6)

9) I'm not going to write about the sea. My baby brother is always screaming and being sick, my Dad keeps shouting at my Mum, and my big sister has just got pregnant, so I can't think what to write. (Amy age 6)

10) Some fish are dangerous. Jellyfish can sting. Electric eels can give you a shock. They have to live in caves under the sea where I think they have to plug themselves into chargers. (Christopher age 7)

11) When you go swimming in the sea, it is very cold, and it makes my willy small. (Kevin age 6)

12) Divers have to be safe when they go under the water. Two divers can't go down alone, so they have to go down on each other. (Becky age 8)

13) On holiday my Mum went water skiing. She fell off when she was going very fast. She says she won't do it again because water shot up her fanny. (Julie age 7).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A small and imperfectly formed competition

OK. What's this?
Click on image to enlarge should you so desire.
The prize for the first person to give the correct answer is ...

... er ... me saying you've won.
(What do you mean by saying that's rubbish?)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reading and Weeping is not enough


I met him with my mother for half an hour in Bedford Hospital where i had been admitted. The guards stood with us. He [Sir Al Aynsley-Green] had kind eyes. Then he said to the nurse he wanted go to a private room. We went into the private room and the guards were sat outside.

Then, he asked me what is going on, i told him everything, my problems. And then he asked me “how were you before you were detained in Yarlswood?” I said i was really really happy with my friends. then he said “well how do you feel in yarls wood?” I said, “i feel really unhappy”. He was writing everything down. And then he said he was really really angry about what was happening to me.

He asked me if we went back to Germany what will happen? I said obviously the Germans will send us back to turkey and turkeys dangerous for us. And then he understood we were Kurds and didn't ask anymore about that.

He asked me how my mum was, i told the truth that she is really really depressed and I looked after her, she needs me. He said he understands.

He said why did you hurt yourself. I said because i was locked up in the detention centre for almost three months now. he said did you ever think about suicide outside the detention centre. I said i never even had that thought because i had my school and friends and my mum next to me.

After he spoke to me, I said to him look Mr Green are you going to after this conversation act like you never knew me or are you going to help me get released. Then he said I’m going to help you get released from here, and I guarantee you I will speak to the minister privately.

And then we just stood up and shook hands and left the room and he walked straight out. Me and my mum walked to our ward with the guards. After like twenty minutes or so, the manager of the guards was speaking on the phone, and then I heard him say "the stupid commissioner has got involved..." I felt bad, like Mr Green could not help me now.

I said to the nurse about my supporters sending emails to the hospital for my birthday and could I see the emails because they were taking me back to yarls wood. The nurse said ‘yes of course you need to go the administration office’. I asked the guards but they said I couldn’t go, but I would have liked to read them. We waited until they discharged us. The guards didn’t speak to us at all. then we came back to yarls wood. it feel bad inside because we are locked up again, i don't know for how long. most of all, if i had a choice i would want to go back to school. I just wish I was with my friends, doing ordinary stuff, not being locked up like this.


Dear Sir Al,

I implore you to please do everything in your power to secure Meltem Avcil's release alongwith her mother so that they can pursue their legal battle to remain in the UK in relative freedom. Neither Meltem or her mother ever tried to abscond from their home despite repeated threats from the immigration authorities, there is no reason for them to be locked up in Yarlswood.

As you will be aware, Meltem has suffered considerable psychological trauma as a result of her incarceration. She has gone from being a happy child to a depressed self harmer seeking out suicide pacts with fellow young 'detainees' at Yarlswood, where some fifty other children are locked up. At her last bail hearing, the judge wanted to see medical evidence of her unhappiness, the existing medical notes from Medical Justice now confirm the obvious. Surely the Minister you plan to meet can now instruct the immigration officials to grant Chief Immigration Officers bail to allow Meltem and her mum back home to Doncaster?

This country effectively allowed Meltem Avcil to remain here for over six years, while officials dithered over whether she is a refugee or an asylum seeker. As you know better than me, a child growing up in a country for six of the most formative years of her life doesn't see a refuge or a temporary place; she sees her home, her country. And her fluent English with perfect Doncaster accent tells us that too. This is her home and noone has the right to take that - or her liberty for that matter - away from her. This child was also taken away from her home at dawn in August 2007, like a criminal, without so much as a chance to say goodbye to her friends and neighbours.We are fighting hard for Meltem to go back home to Doncaster, because that is her home in the truest sense of the word.

The current political situation in Turkey, where Germany will eventually return them to should they be deported to Germany, is such that they face certain persecution because they are Kurds. There is nowhere else for this family to go. Give it another year and Meltem would have had a legal right to stay here because of the seven year rule.

In 2003, I was involved in a campaign for the Ay Family, Kurds fleeing Turkey. The mother and five children were locked up in dungavel removal centre for 1 year until this country saw fit to deport them to Germany. Ironically, the Germans saw fit to grant the Ay family leave to remain on the grounds of the psychological trauma the children suffered in UK detention centres. You would have thought we would have learnt something.

Meltem's story has become something of a cause celebre. You will know that Diane Abbot MP raised the case two days ago, and the Independent newspaper gave the case extensive coverage on November 21, as well as Doncaster based newspapers and radio. Hundreds of emails went to Meltems MP, Rosie Winterton, who replied with template emails to each one saying she could not interfere in the 'legal process'. Hundreds of emails also went yesterday to the Prime Minister and the home secretary. Meltem has gathered more than 1200 supporters.Right now, we are hoping that the NUT will join in pressuring the government on this case. A petition by Doncaster schoolchildren to the Prime Minister is also planned.

All I am saying is, please, please do everything to help this young girl. She's our future lifeblood and might one day do this country proud - if only we would let her.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,
Robina Qureshi


Im One of Meltems friends at school and we are all very upset with what she is going through at this moment, we are going to help her as much as we possibly can, and are going to talk to our head of year and the head-master about the case, asking them to help aswel.
There is no need for Meltem and her mum to be tret like this , what has Meltem done? what exacly has she done! Nothing! so there is no reason for the way she is bieng treated, its disgusting!
Meltem We are all thinking about you and are going to help !
we are also going to write to you!

See also here (scroll down)

And here's a letter from Meltem to YOU!

If you are now feeling distressed, ashamed, angry ...
please check my previous post and ensure your voice is added to those who are appalled that this
attack on the human rights of a child can happen in this country


"I am so happy I think I will burst. This is my best moment ever. I want to say thank you to the children’s commissioner for not forgetting me. He had the kindest eyes ever."


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Raise your voices loud on this one

While we're on about People Power, please take the time to check this site.

The appalling manner in which this government treats refugees - the most vulnerable members of our society - is a subject I've returned to many times.
A post I published in March is still receiving comments.

Meltem Avcil is a 14 year old Kurdish child is desperate need of our support.

The Home Office have now canceled plans to remove 14year old Meltem Avcil and her mother by private plane this morning (NB THIS IS TODAY!) according to the Avcils' lawyers. The costs of deporting the Avcils by plane is believed to run into tens of thousands of pounds.

A high profile campaign to prevent the deportation appears to have won the family some time while the family’s lawyers submit further representations. However, plans appear to be being made to resume removal directions which were previously abandoned on Thursday 15 November 2007. No date has been set for the removal of the family.

Meltem Avcil and her mother were removed from Yarlswood and admitted to Bedford Hospital yesterday, after concerns were raised about her mental state by doctors from Medical Justice. Both remain under close guard despite never having absconded since they arrived in the UK. Meltem’s medical assessment by Medical Justice doctors highlights the psychological trauma she has suffered in Yarlswood detention centre for the past three months.

So do you feel okay about what's happening to this child?
Because it's being done in your name!

Write directly to Prime Minister Gordon Brown to protest at the removal of Meltem Avcil. Email
Write also to the Home Secretary .

Please copy your mail to: and (email for Sir Al Aynsley-Green, children’s commissioner)

Sanity returns?

Remember the soup run debacle I blogged about here and here?
And then again here when it seemed some sanity was being injected in that at least the issue was being debated?

I'm delighted to announce the plan has been shelved.
(Thanks to the anonymous commenter who sent me the link. Is that you, Cheeky Monkey?)

And the lesson?
Poli-trick-ians will always try to sneak controversial measures in when they think no one's looking.

But we're looking.
And we're shouting.
And if we all shout loud enough, it WILL make a difference!

My Cup Runneth Over

My first book, Nirvana Bites, was first published in June 2003, with the mass market paperback coming out 18 months later.

Seems like a long time ago now.

But it's never too late for a fab new review! (See here for earlier reviews.)

The divine Clare Sudbery has posted her wonderful review here on her blog and also here on the Bookarazzi site.

It's a wonderful feeling when you can see a reader has really 'got' your creation ...
... And then goes to the trouble of making sure the world knows about it!

RIP, Real Books

Are books set to go the way of vinyl, cassettes, videos and cameras using film?
I first asked this question here in June 2006.

But things move fast in the digital age and the technology has advanced still further this week with the launch in the US of the Kindle.

There are of course major environmental costs associated with the every stage of the production of Real Books - from the conversion of trees to paper through the printing process, distribution, storage ...

So should we welcome this new development?

There can be no doubt it would make environmental sense.
And at $399 for the reader, books costing a mere $9.99 and 200 books stored on each device (with add-on memory available) it makes financial sense too.

Of course it would be a major blow for booksellers, especially the poor beleaguered indies ... and as for libraries ...

But on the other hand, there's a possibility that lowering the costs of production could reduce the risks for publishers and lead to more books being published.
So you could argue that authors would potentially benefit, especially those writing fiction (so-called 'coffee table' books would presumably still be in demand in their current format).

But ... but ... could the Kindle ever be a substitute for holding a Real Book in your hands?
Stroking the cover ...
Sniffing the pages ...

So, this is my conclusion:
As an environmentalist I say, yes - this is a logical and ecologically sound way to go.
As an author I say I hope it increases the chances for writers to have their work published.

But as a lover of books I say ... well, call me a dinosaur, but if Real Books faced extinction I for one would be weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth.

Please tell me I'm not the only one caught up in this contradiction.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thought made flesh (but not by me luckily)

I had a thought recently.
It was a good thought.
A clever thought.

And this is the thought that I thought:
What South London needs (I thought) is a homegrown version of Book Slam ...

A regular event, combining readings by writers and poets (both published and unpublished) interspersed with live music and a dj.

It would be in a cosy venue, with a small entrance fee, where people could buy drinks.

It would be hip.
It would be cool.
But it would also be warm, friendly, welcoming and utterly unpretentious.

Damn (the thought went) I'm going to have to organise it ...
Where am I going to find the time and energy?

Well, lucky me, cos not only had someone else had the same thought, they'd actually got off their arses and made the thought a reality.

Pipe and Slippers is a quarterly event, running since November 2005.
On Sunday it was held at The Ivy House as part of the Peckham Literary Festival (which I mentioned here) and I was there with G and Meloney.

There was an eclectic mix of performers (check out the amazing Beyonder) but the highlight for me was Marie Philips, fellow Bookarazzi buddy, who read from her bestselling book, Gods Behaving Badly.
The overall standard was very high and the audience appropriately appreciative.

As we sipped our drinks and nibbled on cashews, olives and heart-shaped biscuits, I reflected what a very good thought this had been.
And how very glad I was that someone else thought it before me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Soul food

When you read someone's words and feel they could have been written especially for you, you know that's you're looking at something very special indeed.

This has happened for me many times when I've read Wordcarver's exquisite poems.

So I'm delighted to announce that they are to be published by Opening Chapter.

The cover is beautiful.
The words contained within are guaranteed to haunt, enchant and resonate.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Words fail me (and that doesn't happen often)

Rachel has posted about an appalling incident that took place in Leeds the week before Jean Charles de Menezes was killed.

A diabetic man (Nicholas Gaubert) with a low blood sugar (hypoglycemic attack) lost consciousness on a bus.
Armed police were called to the bus depot.
A gun was held to his head.
Luckily (!) unlike Jean Charles the following week, this man was 'only' shot with a Tazer gun - twice.

It was only once he was in the police van that they saw the tag around his neck stating he had diabetes and took him to hospital.

Why has this only come to light now?
Because the Independent (sic) Police Complaints Commission are now handling the investigation after the Crown Prosecution Service has stated that none of the officers involved should be charged with any offense and that no offenses were committed under health and safety laws.

Oh and why did they think this unconscious man slumped on a bus might possibly be such a threat?
They said he looked Egyptian ...

You can see the full story (including a photo) here.

In search of meaning

OK. This is a little odd and I'm not sure what it means - if anything.

Here goes ...

I was tidying the front room earlier and picked up one of First Born's grimy t-shirts ...
... and underneath there was a tarot card!

The Empress.
(This is the exact version.)

Now I do possess an ancient pack of tarot cards, though at this point I don't even know where it is in the flat.
And I have NO IDEA how this particular card got there.

Something similar has happened before when I came across a different (I think) card on the children's bookshelf - again with no idea how it got there.

I know very little about the tarot apart from it having resonances within Kabbalah.
(That's Real Kabbalah - as in Jewish mysticism - not the Hollywood version espoused by the likes of Madonna.)

I Googled The Empress and see words like 'maternal' and 'creative'.
But can anyone help me out here?

What's the significance (assuming there must be some) ...
... of the card itself, as well as the way it suddenly appeared?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Together we are strong


It seems the proposal to ban soup runs for homeless people is not going to slip through unchallenged after all.

If it wasn't for the likes of people like all of YOU being alert, aware and unafraid to challenge, I doubt if anyone would even have noticed until it was too late ....

So a big up to everyone who has made their voices heard -
- especially the members of Cheeky Monkey's car club forum who have not just whinged but have got off their butts and shouted at all the right people.

Over a year ago, and on a completely different subject, I published a post that included this quote from philosopher Edmund Burke:
'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.'

At the end of that post I said this:
I do believe blogging can help, because in the blogosphere we meet people we'd never otherwise encounter. People outside our pack. We can exchange ideas and join debates which, under other circumstances, we wouldn't be exposed to ...
Together we are powerful. Together we can change the world.

Plus ca change ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Street Wise

'You can't explain what war really is to someone who has never been there, just as you can't explain green to a blind person, or a man can't know what it's like to give birth. They simply don't have the necessary sensory organs. You can't explain or understand war - all you can do is experience it.'

This is a quote from One Soldier's War in Chechnya by Arkady Babchenko as featured in the Independent magazine on Saturday.

My experiences of war (when the US invaded Grenada in 1983) are very different, but I do know exactly what he means with this quote.

I would say the same is true for any major traumas - bereavement, for example.
You have to live it to know it.
'Who feels it, knows it,' Bob Marley once sang.

Or what about homelessness?
Anyone who has never been forced to sleep on the streets - fending for themselves, living with the dangers, the isolation, the scorn of those who cannot know - has a unique experience.

Luckily we have the technology to enable the voices of people who are usually dismissed or ignored to be heard.
We may not know how it really feels to live life on the margins, but we no longer have any excuse for not listening when we are told by those who do know.

I posted here about plans to make soup runs for homeless people illegal.

Almost immediately there was a comment.
Someone calling themselves Homeless Chicken responded angrily, assuming I had no experiences in my own life which would enable me to understand the complexities of life on the streets.

It would have been so easy for us to be polarised.
HC could have dismissed me as a patronising liberal do-gooder and I could have taken a smug and superior stance that would have placed each of us firmly on opposite sides of the barricades.

Instead we began a dialogue based on mutual respect.

You see, I wanted to hear what HC had to say and felt it was crucial to hear his or her voice.
I wanted others to hear too and was glad that my blog gave HC a platform for their words.

I don't know this Chicken.
Until recently I didn't even know his or her gender (I now know you are a woman, HC.)
Anyone reading her comments may have had an picture in their mind and I'll bet that image was of a white guy in his 20s or 30s - probably a drug user.

But I posted here last year about Emily - a Jamaican Big Issue seller in her 80s.
There is no homeless stereotype, only homeless PEOPLE.

In case you haven't been following HC's comments on the original post, here are some of the things she has said that we really should be listening to.

HC on survival of the fittest
... the first rule when using soup runs in London,is GRAB NOT,GET this i mean its the strongest who survive,some people get loads of stuff, some nothing at all,there are many times,the run runs out of soup,bread,sandwiches,tea,coffee,clothes,and mentioning clothes, you be surprised the amount of people who grab clothes,only to sell on their market stall the next day,this causes lots of friction,we call them the plastic homeless,they look the the part, but are you say homelessness comes in many shapes and forms, and their are lots of impostors as well. 6.43pm Nov 3rd

HC on donated food

the food which is given out at "HANDOUTS" which are called soup run,s,we see lots of stuff, coming out big supermarkets,surplus,end of sale date,etc..and is given to us free..
Should be a homeless hostel resident,okay housing benefit pays rent etc, but breakfast, dinner, if your lucky,and evening meal you have to pay for out of your benefit noney,there is a organisation called Fairshare, that collects,and delivers, free food as they call it, to hostels,and daycentres we use ... you have to pay for it, its not free! nominal charge its called,explotation i call it,these are so called Charitys for the homeless,Dont give your money to a begger, give it to a charity for the homeless,
Makes you kind of think don,t it
and as a footnote to that im not street begger,or charity fundraiser either,just homeless, but not braindead
6.45pm Nov 4th

HC on staying in touch with your own humanity
At this moment in time,have just left lincon,s inn fields,in central london,Handout at 7.30 [soup run] which was supllied by the Ba Ba people from a temple in Kensington,meal consisted or rice,and chicken stew,a banana,club biscuit,and tea,or coffee from many flasks,very soon afterwards came the Hari Krisna Handout,rice again,and veggie meal,orange juice,there may be one or two more yet to arrive .... the soup runs not only feed people its also a meeting place to keep up with the street politics ... There is a soup run that comes out early every morning to us called the Simon community..tea, sandwiches,and they only go to people people like myself,living on the streets,at least there ain,t no pushing,and shoving,caucse we respect each other,All in the same Boat..

just thoughts during day got lots of time to think,if nothing else. 8.39pm Nov 5th

HC on life
when i started in the b log disscussion i was staying at a freinds place i knew,but he wanted his privacy back,so okay will leave,been on streets before ,do it again,no problem ! wish i could say "Life is a Adventure "depend i think which angle you are looking from, Alice in the Looking Glass?

8.58pm Nov 5th

HC on hostels

many people including myself are around, or living more than one homeless label,in a week... the number of times the comment has been passed to me,"you should be grateful what you get",and this from a paid homeless sector worker,as if they are doing me a big favour, plus within hostels there are quite a few workers who are bullys to people who are a homeless resident in hostel, the reason 2 fold 1. you a not a tennant, you sign a licence when you go into a homeless hostel,which means you sign your rights complain about anything,they have the ultiminate deterent," THERES THE DOOR DONT COME BACK" sorry bit of a rant there, been there got the tee shirt..and dont forget the average hostel in london charges £300 a week, admittitley housing benefit pays this,but there are many services in a hostel,you dont,or may not want to use..
9.02pm Nov 6th

HC on true words
Homelessness is the most extreme manifestation of poverty...

only words, but so True!
8.39pm Nov 7th

HC on causes
Root causes,as many and as varied as people,over the years ,that i have been homeless,i have never met two people,who fell into the abyss the same,yes of course we talk to each other,on the streets,we are wearing the same label..but you have to be careful what you say,and the way you say it,if you give away a weakness in yourself,some my use this as a lever against you,self-preseversation thats what it boils down to, can make you very insular,and inward looking,live from moment to moment,day to day,no forward looking or planning..Roots, causes, of homelessness/ can you plan a cure?of a event? before it has even happened..

7.50pm Nov

HC on labels
There some red faces around today,the people like myself, who spent the night "OUT" the red face because of the cold wind,took a while to get moving at 6am this morning... found a sandwich shop that puts its leftovers out just after five,and being friday,there is more than i can eat,so have put bag in a safe place,and share with others later... Issues; labels, labels ,labels where does it stop.There is plenty of crossover,and looking at one issue,means you can miss others more relevant to the person... people on the streets with mental health problems,there are a couple of people i have got to know, NO WAY should they be on the streets..just hope they are found soon by outreach workers ,and helped..which just goes to show Care in the Community,social policy lets down a lot of people,we need more dooers, not talkers,

8.48pm Nov 9th

HC on so-called experts
we are never really asked what we would like,at times this can come across as very,condesending,and patronising,example: They has been many surveys conducted about homelessness,i have been in a couple,was given a five pound reward? for taking part,Classic both times,first question,whats your name,date of bith, its comes across as authority,and we do not need to go down that road do we,

strait away its them and give them lots of false answers,cause they dont know any better,and as a woman on the streets,you have to protect yourself,there is a invisable circle around me, and you "DONT" come inside, unless i invite you... why do i use IT cafe,s, cheap,warm, and best of all,treated the same as anyone else,and most importantly of all allows me to express my thoughts,as a person..being homeless is transitional,not a characteristic
7.44pm Nov 11th

HC on Xmas
start of christmas run up,party on the streets,xmas food laid on, big smiling faces,from volunteers,if your lucky, a director from the charity involved will be there,with a photographer,to get his picture taken for the annual yearly report..

"Life is an adventure
Life is like a good book
There are many chapters
10.12pm Nov 11th

I wish it was possible for you to have your own blog, HC, but grabbing sessions in internet cafes is hard, I know.

Meanwhile I'm more than happy for you to use my blog as a platform to ensure your voice is heard.

Take care, stay safe and I hope there's a bright future waiting for you around the next corner.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Debi and her Dad. Part 8


A big THUMBS UP to:

Dr TG at Barnet Hospital

  • He's seeing dad regularly
  • Transport is arranged automatically each time
  • He's monitoring dad's condition and tweaking his medication accordingly
  • He phones me whenever he has dad with him
  • We discuss progress and agree together on the best way to proceed
  • He listens to what I have to say and treats me with respect so that it's clear we both have the same aims ie what is best for dad
  • He has a gorgeous voice

Dad's crap GP practice

  • Who have excelled themselves in terms of utter crapness. More of this to follow.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wonder woman!

Natalie d'Arbeloff who blogs at Blaugustine, is a fellow Bookarazzi bod and is the author of this utterly delicious book whose launch I went to a while back, has some amazing news.

She's won the Mary Stott prize competition, which means she will be ...

... editor of Guardian Women for a week some time next year!

Way to go, Natalie!

I'm a Power Queen

It must be true, cos Minx says so.

It doesn't mean I can change a plug (though I can).
Or that I'm ruler of all that I survey (cos I ain't).

Apparently it means I've been awarded a roar for powerful words.
A pink lion, no less, from the Shameless Lions.

So now I have to come up with 3 things I deem essential for powerful writing:
  1. Trust your instincts - even when your rational self says they're leading in you in a weird direction.
  2. Learn to distinguish between your inner critic and your inner editor. (See here.)
  3. You have to care about what you are creating - write from the heart, not from some idea of what might be commercially viable.
So - now I have to nominate 5 other recipients for a pink roar:

Dina Rabinovitch - whose powerful words will live on even though she's no longer able to acknowledge the award.
Absolute Vanilla - who's never afraid to speak her mind.
Rachel North - an inspiration who's been missed during her recent break from blogging but who is triumph-over-adversity incarnate and is back with an articulate argument on behalf of thinking bloggers and writers everywhere.
Sharon J - ditto re the triumph bit.
Zinnia Cyclamen - who's one of my favourite people at the moment and who gives us a window into the life of a funeral celebrant. And you can't get much more powerful than that, can you?

A Half Life ... A Whole Book ...

I have to admit I was nervous.
'What happens when an average nuclear family is hit by a one megaton bombshell?' it says on the cover.
'What happens when an average blogging author receives a book written by someone she cares about?' I wanted to reply.
'What do I do or say if I don't like it?'

Well thank goodness my fears proved unfounded.
A Half Life of One by Bill Liversidge is a taut and chilling story about a man caught in a deadly trap of his own making, set in a vividly-drawn frozen Scottish landscape.

Nick Dowty is depressed, self-pitying and lacking in any ability to empathise with others. His abrupt mood swings launch him from the depths of despair to euphoric heights - often with no justification outside his own twisted mindset.

He's a man who has completely lost touch with all that is truly important - the simple pleasures derived from companionship and shared lives. Instead he has been sucked into a homegrown version of the American dream, where he believes his worth can only be measured in terms of financial wealth, material possessions and the status accorded by running a successful business.

When the dream turns rancid, his world falls apart. He can no longer hear his long-suffering wife when she says they were happiest when they first met and had nothing, but instead is convinced that his ambitions are selfless and revolve around his desire to look after his family.

As he gradually unravels, his desperation leads to the utter disintegration of his moral framework, with appalling results.

I wondered what had happened in Nick's past to lead him to such extremes and was concerned Bill might not give his readers this information, resulting in us having difficulty believing in - or caring about - his main character. I needn't have worried. Bill finally tells us what we need to know in the closing pages of the book - a clever device.

Bill has self-published A Half Life of One - a decision I know he didn't take lightly and which I wholeheartedly support. Therein lies my only real criticism. For a self-published book to be given the serious attention it deserves, the quality has to be on a par with any book published by traditional means.

In other words, there has to be an editing process. Simple errors that would have been picked up by a copy editor or proof reader prevent the book from being the best it could possibly be.

More seriously than the typos and repetitions, there are a few continuity errors (the kidnap victim blowing her nose when her hands are tied behind her back; Nick saying he heard her voice for the first time when she had already spoken several times on the previous page ...) that any decent editor would have picked up on.

This may seem churlish and petty. After all, the major concerns of an editor - plot, characterisation, structure, style - raise no fundamental problems. Maybe that's why I was even more aware of some of these smaller details.

That reservation aside I'm delighted (and relieved!) to say I heartily recommend this book. It is indeed an 'easy but dangerous read' as the cover warns us.

I'd add that Nick Dowty is such a well-written and credible character, and so convincing, that I worry the police may come knocking on Bill's door some day soon!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Somebody loves me ...

I've realised it's been a long time since I posted about what's happening with my own writing.

Truth is, my current book - the 5th in the Nirvana series - has taken longer than any of the others for a complex set of reasons.

What I needed was a boost.
Something to reassure me that I'm not wasting time with my creations.
That there are people out there who care about my characters and want to see more of them.

And - hey - thank you, life, because yesterday I received a wonderful email from fellow blogger and Bookarazzi pal, Zinnia Cyclamen.

I read Nirvana Bites on Wednesday evening, and Trading Tatiana this afternoon. (Er, yes, quick reader.) And now I want to read the next two! I loved them both ... because they're damn good books. I thought the characters were original and delightful. I like the way you don't make heavy weather out of their damagedness, but weave it into the story as and when it's relevant to what's going on, rather than beating the reader over the head with it. I loved some of the cameos like the Rasta guy in Trading Tatiana.

Trading Tatiana seemed, and I hope you don't mind me saying this, more accomplished than Nirvana Bites; more as if you knew what you were about. (Although I did really like Nirvana Bites too, honest - and I love the energy and the humour and the humanity in both books.) And, again, although I learned a lot about human trafficking, I didn't feel as if you were beating me around the head with the Issues, but telling me a very human story.

I really liked the way you made Trading Tatiana a kind of sequel that wasn't entirely a sequel, with a different main character and, initially, a different setting. I was interested to see how you dealt with backstory from Nirvana Bites so that Trading Tatiana could be read as a book in its own right but also worked as a sequel. You made it look easy. I bet it wasn't! But for me as a reader, it worked really well.

So, anyway, thanks for writing them!

Right! I'm on the home run of the 1st draft of The Gene Pool now and it's whispering insistently in my ear again.
Thanks for giving me such a well-timed and motivating kick up the rear, Zinnia!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Peckham - the centre of the literary universe

Just look at what I've stumbled on.

Peckham. Gangs; council estates; the odd drive-by shooting. Oh, and Del-Boy – let’s not forget Del-Boy.

And then more recently an award-winning upside-down library, and some very fetching rusty bollards. Regeneration.

Hmmm. If that’s what you think, then you’re awfully out of date. The cognoscenti know better (‘cos by definition that’s what cognoscenti do). Peckham really is Britain’s number one creative hotspot, with artists’ colonies breaking out all over the place, heaving with thesps and musicians, and of course writers.

And it is these latter that this festival is all about – from the authors and poets who live in the area currently, to those who have drawn inspiration from the area in some way over the centuries. Actually, it is about any old literature, so long as it is good. It is a celebration of books and words and Peckham, all rolled into one.

I wish I'd known about it earlier.
As an author whose books are all set in Peckham, this festival is right up my street in more ways than three.

The eclectic list of events, ensures there will be something for everyone.
The festival runs from 14-18 November.
See you there?

Friday, November 02, 2007


I've just received a vital email (lucky this one got through) alerting me to this.

Scroll down past the items about litter, chewing gum and public toilets and go to page 14.

It is proposed to prohibit the distribution of free refreshments on land designated by a London borough council. It would also be an offence to cause another person to distribute such refreshments. To be designated, land would have to be in the open air, and open to public access. Unlawful distribution of free food would be an offence, and would be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale. Exemptions would be included, for example, the distribution of refreshments to people taking part in sporting events or giving out free samples outside retail premises. Comments are welcome on the proposal to prohibit the distribution of free refreshments in designated areas.

In case you're having any problems getting to grips with the meaning behind this bureaucratic blurb, they're talking about banning soup kitchens for homeless people!

The deadline for registering comments is TODAY!

Please, please, please email

You can use this template below or create an email of your own.

Dear Oliver,

I'm writing concerning the proposal to restrict the distribution of 'free refreshments' as contained in the "Proposals for a tenth (London Local Authorities) Bill" for Deposit in November 2007.

I am concerned by the lack of recognition of the important role that organisations wishing to assist the homeless have. In addition to the premises-based services on offer to homeless people, such 'refreshments' or 'soup-kitchens' provide an essential supplementary service to homeless and destitute individuals. Soup kitchens enable distribution of food without expensive overheads.

I would urge London Councils to completely drop this proposed legislation, or to substantially modify it to allow services to continue without causing undue disturbance to nearby premises.

[Suggest your own solution - e.g. a license.]

[Give your own story about how you may have helped homeless people, or about people you know who help]

I look forward to your response. I can be contacted on the details below.

Yours sincerely,

[your name]

[your address]

I am here. Honestly.

Am I the only one who has these stupid problems with my emails?

I've just received one from someone concerned that I hadn't replied to their previous one a couple of weeks ago.

But I did!
It's in my sent items list.
And it didn't bounce back.

So does this explain why I haven't had any response to various urgent emails I've sent recently?
Did they not get through?
Or did the replies to me not get through?

How come I never seem to have problems receiving spam? Over 50 items a day of the stuff?

Bloody bloody bloody techy stupidity.

UPDATE: And now bloody Blogger won't let me play either! I've just wasted an entire morning trying to comment on other people's blogs - without success. Doh and double doh!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Some of FB's gorgeous friends

Debi and her Dad. Part 7

I seem to have spread quite a bit of doom and gloom about the NHS with this series of posts.

But in essence - and compared to countries where the equivalent doesn't exist at all - it's a wonderful service and one we should never give up on, but must fight to maintain.

You see, sometimes things go RIGHT!
And it's nearly always down to the hard-working and committed people working within the system.

Yesterday dad went for his appointment to have a 24 hour tape fitted to monitor his heart.
Having failed to speak to anyone in Cardiology, I gave him a letter to take with him.
Early afternoon, I received a phone call from the Cardio Dept.
A very helpful woman told me the tape had been organised as a result of his recent falls.
She explained the procedure to me and said the tape could be removed a day later and a courier would call to collect it, to save dad having to come back to the hospital.

At 5.45 his carer called saying she could get no reply from dad's flat which was in darkness.
I phoned Patient Transport (heart racing a little) but no one answered.
I tried Cardio (heart a-flutter now) assuming there would be no chance of getting through.

Instead, a Real Live Human Being answered!
She called Transport herself and, when there was no reply, she sent a colleague round in person to check what time dad had been collected.
Meanwhile, she regularly came back to the phone to apologise for keeping me hanging on.
Finally she said there was no one in the Transport Dept but maybe the traffic was bad ...
She asked me to call her back to let her know what was going on.

Having no idea what else to try, I phoned dad (heart thudding).
And guess what - he answered, sounding chirpy and energetic!
Presumably he hadn't heard the doorbell ...

I said I'd be round the next day to deal with the tape.
'Tape? What tape?'
'The one on your chest!'
'Eh? There's nothing on my chest ... Apart from some hair. There's something in my pocket though ...'
'Oh. Right.' (Heart sinking.) 'Well don't worry. I'll come tomorrow and we can sort it out then.'
'You're coming tomorrow? Oh. Hang on. There's something stuck on my chest ...'

I call Cardio back to tell them I've tracked dad down and all is well.
'Oh, thank G-d!' the woman breathed.

You see?
She really cared.
Like the woman who had called earlier, spoke to me in a way that was both clear and helpful and organised the courier.
And the carer who was concerned enough to call and alert me to a possible problem.

What a difference people who care can make ...