Monday, March 31, 2008

When death is not the end ...

It may be 5 months since Dina Rabinovitch died, but her blog continues to attract visitors - at this point there are 106 comments on her last post.

Dina set herself a target - to raise £100, 000 for the CTRT appeal at Mount Vernon Hospital and she donated all the proceeds from her book, Take Off Your Party Dress, to the appeal.

The amount raised currently stands at £109,998.59 and people are still donating.

It just goes to show ...
Some people have a life force so powerful ... so irresistible ... that even death can't stop it in its tracks.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hey - who turned the lights out?

I assumed any attempt to persuade the ladz to participate in Earth Hour would be met with howls of protest and would be doomed to failure.

Oh me of little faith ...

True, First Born did check to see if he'd miss anything good on tv.
Fortunately (and entirely predictably) there was nothing but crap on.

At 7.55, crafty G put the kettle on and made a cup of tea.
Then we unplugged our electrical appliances, lit an array of candles and switched off all the lights.

We started by playing a game suggested by techno-boy himself, FB.
You tell a story by taking turns, contributing just 3 words each.
It was astonishing just how quickly every storyline dived into the depths of filth and obscenity ... (*sigh*)

Then 2 of us took turns to tell the story, while a 3rd flitted among the flickering shadows acting it out and the 4th provided sound effects.

After that, it was a few rounds of Who Am I? (mostly sports people I've never heard of) and the hour was up before we knew it.

Oh - and most importantly, we talked about why we were doing it, Little Guy expressing his disappointment at the number of lights he could see burning in the neighbouring houses.

Friday, March 28, 2008

7 continents. 6.6 billion people. 1 hour.

If you care about what's happening to the environment, would you be prepared to give one hour of your life if you thought it would make a difference?

You won't have to go anywhere.
No marches or demos to get to.
No distributing of leaflets or flyposting will be involved.
And it won't cost you a single penny - quite the reverse.

All you have to do is switch off all your appliances for one hour tomorrow (Saturday 29th March) at 8pm.

Is that too much to ask?

To see who will be joining with you in this initiative, check the Earth Hour blog here and the website here.

Thanks for the reminder to she who always backs up her words with action - the inimitable Sharon J.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Are you one in a million yet?

If you are, you'll know that Avaaz have reached their target to collect a million signatures to protest against the situation in Tibet.
Proof positive of the power of the internet and of YOU!

If you haven't signed yet, what are you waiting for?

Here is an excerpt from the latest email:

Dear friends,

We reached our target! In just 7 days over 1 million of us have signed the petition calling for human rights and dialogue in Tibet--the fastest growing internet petition in history. As the crisis continues, it's time to deliver our petition and make sure Chinese President Hu Jintao hears our voices.

An International Day of Action has been declared for Monday, March 31st. On Monday, thousands of people in cities across the world will march to Chinese embassies and consulates, and stack hundreds of boxes containing our petition outside them. 1 million signatures makes a mountain of boxes--it will send a powerful global message.

We have just 4 days left until the petition delivery. Could we get to 2 million signatures in 4 days? We can do it--if every one of us recruits at least one more friend to sign the petition.

Running (no) commentary

Some of you may have been wondering why I haven't done any updates re G's marathon training.

The truth is, I'm afraid all is not well.

G's been struggling for some weeks with a foot/ankle injury.
He's seen an osteopath, been doing ice treatments several times a day, massaging with glucosamine ointment, tailoring his regime so that he maintains overall fitness through mega gym sessions while not putting undue stress on his ankle ...

In these last few weeks, he should have been winding down his running.
Instead he's been unable to run at all.

On Tuesday, he ran on the gym belt for the first time for ages ...
... And his ankle became instantly painful and swollen.

He hasn't quite given up hope that he'll be able to compete.
The problem is that if he pulls out now, he would still get a guaranteed place next year, whereas if he took part but failed to finish (or ran a very slow time) that wouldn't be the case.

But the real problem is this: many people have already been kind enough to sponsor him.
My hope is that they will all realise they have donated to a really good cause whether G runs or not.
In fact my real real hope is that people will continue to sponsor him, even though there's a strong possibility he won't compete.

Tell me I'm not wrong to have this faith in human nature by going here and donating to SOS Africa.
Don't forget - 'It is our guarantee that every penny you raise or donate will go straight towards paying for the education and care of the children who need it most." (Matt Crowcombe, UK President, SOS Africa)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brave new world?

I switched on the tv for a quick glimpse of the news headlines.

First up - concerns re a new website called Miss Bimbo (I kid you not).
In exchange for Bimbo dollars you can clothe and feed your very own Bimbo and even pay for cosmetic surgery.
Apparently, girls as young as 9 have been accessing the site which I'm not going to link to for obvious reasons.

Next up - the NUT is discussing whether to ban the army from schools amid fears that the MOD is presenting a distorted and propagandist view of the realities of life in the armed forces.

What kind of brave new world are we creating for our children?
I despair ...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just desserts

Planning to cater for a barmitzvah party for 120 people?
(11 weeks and counting ...)

You'll need lists, lateral thinking, lists, teamwork, lists, forward planning, lists, a clear head and some lists.

Here's a guide to how to deal with the desserts.
  • Buy ingredients and drive to dad
  • Defrost dad's freezer
  • Inform meteorological office you've located disappearing polar ice cap
  • Allocate tasks
  • Crush 10lb digestive biscuits
  • Mix with 5lb seedless raisins
  • Add 10 tins condensed milk
  • Melt 5lb butter and 5lb plain chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
  • Add melted butter and chocolate to biscuit mixture and mix thoroughly
  • Spoon into 15 greased tins and flatten
  • Freeze
Right. That's the pudding done ...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thud ... ouch ... thud ... ouch

That's the sound of my head banging against a brick wall.

You see, I'm starting to think I'm ill-equipped to play this game.

I went to a seminar at the Society of Authors yesterday on how to get the best out of your publisher.
It was full of useful tips and contacts, but it all boils down to one thing -
- if you're not prepared to pimp ... oops, sorry, I mean self-promote ... you don't stand a chance.

Now, herein lie my problems:
  • the skills involved in writing and those related to self-promotion are very different and may in some cases (*self-conscious cough*) be mutually exclusive
  • you will have to do a huge amount of work in the face of publicists who will tell you to leave it all up to them - which you must on no account do while bearing in mind that's it's crucial not to alienate them
  • you have to be self-confident without being obnoxious and assertive without being aggressive
  • which means you will need to have the balls of a rottweiller, the hide of a rhino and the soft hand of a seductress
  • if successful, you will probably have morphed into someone you won't like very much
Thud ... ouch ... thud ... ouch

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Become one of the million

I've just received this email from Avaaz re Tibet.
Please sign the petition and link on your own blogs to spread the word.

After decades of repression under Chinese rule, the Tibetan people's frustrations have burst onto the streets in protests and riots. With the spotlight of the upcoming Olympic Games now on China, Tibetans are crying out to the world for change.

The Chinese government has said that the protesters who have not yet surrendered "will be punished". Its leaders are right now considering a crucial choice between escalating brutality or dialogue that could determine the future of Tibet, and China.

We can affect this historic choice--China does care about its international reputation. China's President Hu Jintao needs to hear that the 'Made in China' brand and the upcoming Olympics in Beijing can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention--and we need it in the next 48 hours.

The Tibetan Nobel peace prize winner and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama has called for restraint and dialogue: he needs the world's people to support him.

Please sign the petition
--and spread the word--our goal is 1 million voices united for Tibet.

We will deliver our petition directly to Chinese officials in London, New York, and Beijing.

Hot tip re cold method

Others might already know about this, but I thought it would be useful to share just in case ...

It's the Snowflake method for writing a novel.

I haven't checked it out myself and quite possibly will never feel the need to, but what works for one person won't necessarily work for another, so I think it's good to know about the different strategic options available.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Unlikely combinations

They say you should never judge a book by its cover and the analogy is usually used as a warning against making assumptions about a person from their appearance.

So there I was on the bus.
And there was this young guy engrossed in a book.
He wore a sharp suit, his hair was gelled into spikes and he had a laddish glint in his eye.

And he was reading ...
Daphne du Maurier.

What's the most unlikely combination of reader and book you've seen?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Damn the damp

After my mum died, I filled a small suitcase with some special treasures: her passport, glasses, makeup bag, a couple of floaty blouses, some silk scarves ...
Nothing valuable in financial terms but every item selected for its sentimental value.

It may be over 16 years since she died, but in this time when we're building up to First Born's barmitzvah, I miss her more than ever.
I decided to retrieve the case and share the contents and their memories with the grandchildren she never met.

I went to find the suitcase in the cupboard but it seems a certain person who shall remain nameless had seen fit to move it to the garage.

As soon as I saw it and gasped at the side eaten away with damp I knew what I would find inside.
The contents were almost unrecognisable, disintegrating into dust as I tried to prise them apart.

'It's OK,' said wise FB to his howling mother. 'It's what you carry inside of you that matters.'
He's right of course, but it's hard to let go altogether.

I've managed to retrieve a few pieces that aren't visibly damaged, but they smell foul.
These are not the kind of things you can bung in a washing machine.

Anyone have any ideas how I can get rid of the smell?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'm weary of conversations like this

The other day I was introduced to someone as an author.
The conversation (not the first of its kind) went like this:

Him: Published?
Me: Um yes. I've had two books published.
Him: How many copies sold?

At which point I go into mutter mumble waffle mode about sales being ok but given the state of the publishing industry ... etc etc.
And then you watch the other person's eyes glaze as they turn away, clearly dismissing you as unworthy of further attention.

Of all the questions you could ask when introduced to someone who writes books, why is it that the one that so often comes first is related to sales?

I need to come up with a standard response in situations like this that doesn't leave them feeling justified in writing me off and doesn't leave me feeling like a two-headed twat with an unpleasant dribbling habit.

Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

(On a brighter note, I met someone else yesterday who said how much she'd enjoyed both my books and that she'd passed them on to her sister-in-law who had also loved them and had now loaned them to another friend. Those readers won't have registered as sales, but are the kinds of responses every author craves.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Who said bloggers ain't powerful?

The Guardian has published a list of the world's 50 most powerful bloggers.

How did they manage to limit themselves to 50???

DIY for authors

Given the current state of publishing (see here and track back all the links to previous posts for the full picture) it's no wonder so many writers choose to self-publish.

On the one hand, it's never been harder to get a traditional deal ...
On the other, there have never been so many alternative ways of getting your words out there yourself.

Here's an example:
YouWriteOn had formed a partnership with Legend Press offering packages for self-publishing writers, covering editing, text-setting, cover design, registration, sales and marketing.

See here for details.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Debi and her Dad. Part 11

So off I went to dad, looking forward to seeing him for the first time for ages without him having toothache.
(I took him to have some major dental surgery at the hospital last week which was traumatic for him to say the least.)

Aaaaggghhh! His face was covered in livid bruising and swelling down one side and across both lips!
And it wasn't connected to the dental extractions ...

He thinks he fell in the street yesterday.
At least this time his nose and glasses remained intact - and I suppose he doesn't have as many teeth left now to knock out ...

'Did you have your stick with you?' I asked, knowing that he's recently lost two of them.
'It was probably the bloody stick I tripped over,' he replied.

Yes, he still has his wicked sense of humour in spite of everything ...

LG came home from school and said they watched this video today and it made the kids really sad.
It feels appropriate to post the link here.

I had intended to try to fiddle with my template and get it back to how it was (don't like change!).
If I'd got it right, I would have been afloat on the sea of ultimate smugness.
Somehow it doesn't seem important now ...

That'll teach me

Bah! I thought I'd just nip in to update my links to include the lovely new bloggers I've recently met and I've only gone and changed the appearance of my whole blog!

But while I'm here - just a teensy mini meme.
This came in before I made the decision to back off and anyway it's from the lovely Lucy Pepper.
More importantly - it's short.

So I turn to page 123 of the nearest book to hand - Pomes by John Ahearn.
I'm supposed to go to the 5th sentence and then transcribe the next 3, only I'm going to do this as lines not sentences.

anyone would wish, given a choice,
propped on clean pillows, the family close,
framing their last thoughts, in their last voice.

And now I have to pass it on (at which point shouldn't a meme become a youyou?).

Shouting to Sharon at her brand new, stripped down sparkly blog and to Leslie, because I've never zapped her before.

Right - off to dad now, editing on tube with right hand and making lists with left.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Back seat blogging

Big changes are afoot and they're going to impact on my blogging for the next few months.

We're now 14 weeks away from First Born's barmitzvah (which I mentioned in passing here).

We're utterly overwhelmed with the amount that needs to be done - mostly by li'l ole me.

Poor FB has to learn his huge portion to read in Hebrew - particularly challenging for a kid with dyslexia.
Little Guy also has to learn a significant portion.

And I have to:
  • teach them both
  • design and send invitations
  • organise the procedures for the service
  • organise the party venue
  • shop
  • do all the catering
  • juggle lists
  • panic
G's main function is to do the driving including the part where he drives me up the wall and round the bend.
This is actually valuable as it's a sort of pressure cooker role - enabling me to freak out occasionally and let off steam.

The point is that I'm going to have to drop some of my other commitments for a bit.
Obviously dad remains a top priority.
Homework will still need to be done.
And I'm working extremely hard on freelance editing, which is essential.

But many other things - including this blog I'm afraid - are going to have to take a back seat until mid-June.
I'll still post here and let you know what's happening, but with regret my visits to other people's blogs are going to be rare.
And please please please don't tag me for memes etc!

Hope you understand!
If there's anything you think I might miss but really should know about, please leave a comment here or email me.