Thursday, 31 October 2013


I made it! I made it to 42,719 words, which is the official halfway point of my magnum opus. I'm feeling a lot better about it now, like I've broken the pain barrier. My characters can have one more Very Important Conversation, and then I can unleash all hell.

Watch out, reader(s). I'm coming for ya.

And good luck again to all my NaNoWriMo friends. I know you can all do it. Much love.

Monday, 28 October 2013


Warning: This is a very miserable post.

Last night, I had a trawl through the dating site and realised my options are totally depressing. I'd never claim to be any great catch myself, but really. At 35 I'm left with the dregs. A lot of this I bring on myself, I admit. I don't like children, I don't want a man who's been married before (I've tried it, and I needed a 60,000-tonne cruise ship to carry all his baggage), and I'm a smoker. I don't care about jobs, cars and houses, and a lot of men don't believe that. The number of men on there who think women are obliged to do things for them - everything from having sex with them (see previous post) to shaving their legs - is disgusting. I think men are obliged to not be total pricks to me, but it's never made any difference so far.

I rewrote my profile a bit, because I'm tired of being nice to them. I don't want to hear from men with no photos, because that usually means they're in a relationship of some kind, so I wrote no photo, no reply, and if they messaged me without a photo I'd assume they had reading comprehension problems and still not reply. The messages keep coming. They're special, you see. My requirements don't matter to them, and if they can't even respect my wishes on one, small thing like that why would they respect me at all?

My heart has been broken so many times, and it was only being held together by hope. Last night I cried, because the hope is gone now. I'm stone inside. I've always tried to avoid being bitter, but here I am. I'm bitter because all the good men are gone, to non-smoking women who want babies. Women who are prettier and funnier and kinder and nicer than me. Or they've settled. It's not perfect, but they're happy enough. Good luck to them. I always say I won't settle, but then I realised it's never been an issue because nobody's ever wanted to settle with me anyway. I'm the also-ran, the temporary ego boost, the stop-gap until someone better comes along. I know it's me. I'm the common denominator, but I have no idea what's wrong with me so I can't fix it. I've tried being aloof, I've tried being enthusiastic. I've tried making the first move a few times, and most men are nowhere near as comfortable with that as they like to think. None of it works. I can't give anyone what they want. I'm the dregs they're left with, and that really hurts, because I think I had a lot to offer the right man before I froze and cracked. "You're a really nice girl, but..." will be inscribed on my tombstone.

Freedom comes at a price, and the price is loneliness. I have the most amazing friends and I love and cherish them all. I'm still capable of love, and that's something. But I won't waste any more of it.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Mission: Creep

I belong to a dating site. For some reason a tiny part of my brain keeps telling me there's an awesome man out there who's perfect for me, despite all evidence to the contrary. I don't mean there aren't awesome men out there, because there are - loads of them in fact. They just seem to pass me by.

Two nights ago I got a message from one of them. It was perfectly polite and normal, asking if I'd seen a particular TV programme, and all spelled correctly. I didn't find him attractive but I'll usually respond if I think I can have a decent conversation. I jumped on to his profile. This dating site gives you questions to answer in an attempt to match up personalities but how effective they are I don't know.

For the question "No means...?" he'd answered "A no is just a yes that needs a little more persuading." I went back to his profile and blocked him.

Did he really not consider how reading that would make me feel? What would he do to persuade me? Would it involve drugs? His fists? A knife? Would he follow me home or bombard me with phonecalls, texts or emails? It shows a breath-taking lack of empathy for women. Most women have feared sexual assault at some point in their lives, even if it's not all the time, or even every day, or just in certain situations. Such as being with a man who thinks he's entitled to persuade her to have sex with him. Some men answer that question "No means yes!" and they are rapists. They should be in jail. In fact, I think if my local police force set up a fake account on there they could probably solve some outstanding rape cases. These men are saying women are obligated to have sex with them, they won't take no for an answer, and they're quite willing to admit this, in public, in full view of women they're presumably trying to form a relationship with.

I do think "Yes means yes" would be a more effective anti-rape campaign, simply because too many men are thinking "Well, she didn't say no" when sexually assaulting passed-out girls at parties. It's bad enough that they're rapists without having to listen to their weaselly semantics.

As an aside, another thing that worries me is how prevalent it is in romantic comedies to have men chasing after women who've said no. If I turn a man down, I don't want him showing up at my place of work with flowers, crashing my nights out with friends, or following me down the road in his car. Why do women think this is romantic? Call the police and get an injunction. Or maybe this is a play hard to get thing I don't understand. Women thinking men want to be treated that way. Men thinking women expect them to behave that way. And then those of us who think it's totally creepy behaviour get swamped by people who think this is how it should be.

And that's probably why I'm single.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Breasts and beheadings

Facebook has decided to let beheading videos back on to the site. Link to the BBC article.

I don't want to watch people being beheaded, and if any of my friends posted a link to such a thing they'd be unfriended pretty quickly. However, I am anti-censorship and don't believe such things should be banned from the internet entirely. It wouldn't be possible anyway. Facebook individually has some pretty weird standards, though.

From the article I've linked to:

Its terms and conditions now state that it will remove photos or videos that "glorify violence" in addition to other banned material, including a woman's "fully exposed breast".

So, no tits. Now, there are plenty of places on the internet to see fully exposed breasts, and again that's fine. What puzzles me is how a naked breast is on the same level as glorifying violence.

Facebook has previously removed photos of mastectomy survivors, link to Huffington Post. These images are often posted by women who want to let other people know that there is life after breast cancer, that they're still women, that their bodies are scarred but alive. There are many instances of them removing photos of women breastfeeding. In many cases the photos have been reinstated, or shared by so many people it's impossible for Facebook to remove them all. These photos come from a position of strength, and I'm tired of women's bodies being viewed as weak or objects of lust. I applaud women who use their bodies in any way that isn't all about men. Videos of beheadings come from a position of violence. I don't know how many of these videos show violence against women, and you'll forgive me for not researching it I hope, but statistically some of them will. I would rather have strength than violence.

Ultimately, my issue with this is that the policies make no sense. If Facebook wants to have a blanket ban on nudity and violence, that's absolutely their prerogative. It's their site, and we're just all guests there. I think what's happened is, rather than sitting down and forming a coherent policy, this has been cobbled together as they go along. It puts breastfeeding on the same line as sexual violence. Of course it's possible Facebook users are reporting images of mastectomies and breastfeeding as obscene, in which case they need to be told to shove it and grow up. There's an intelligent policy in there somewhere. It's up to Facebook to find it.

Saturday, 19 October 2013


This has nothing to do with writing.

Just so we're clear.

I'm in my mid-thirties now. I'm single, never been married, and I have no children. The children thing is entirely by choice. God only knows which of my previous disasters I'd still have to see every weekend if I'd had kids. But, I would very much like to get married. I am under no illusions about my suitability for such an arrangement, to go all Jane Austen about it. I'd be a terrible wife, if you accept the definition of "wife", which as far as a lot of men are concerned is "child-bearer, maid and sex slave."

I have personally encountered "My wife doesn't understand me!" It was in a pub, about two years ago. He started chatting to me and the first thing I looked for was a wedding ring. And there it was. That's your first mistake, mister. I don't do married men. Never have, never will. It's bad karma. So, he starts in with the whole "You're a very attractive woman" thing. I said "Isn't your wife an attractive woman?" and he prevaricates and then it turns out he has three children. So, his wife is sitting at home looking after kids this man shot sperm to conceive, while he's out chatting up other women and SHE doesn't understand HIM? Heh. Yeah. I said "Why don't you divorce her, then?" It was like he'd been slapped in the face. Divorce had never occured to him, and why would it? He's got a woman at home pushing out kids and doing all his washing and ironing for him. I can understand it on an unemotional level - I'm free. I don't have a noisy house, I wouldn't make demands on his time, I would be something different and interesting. Until I wasn't interesting or different anymore. One thing I've learned is that in general, men don't stay in relationships that don't suit them anymore. And if they don't suit them, they'll play low and dirty. I'm enough of a bitch to be immune to their manipulative shite, but not every woman is. Especially if she's financially reliant on him. Maybe he didn't really want to marry her, and maybe she didn't really want to marry him. Maybe they settled. They did what was expected of them.

I would not and will not settle. I won't do that. It doesn't interest me. And I think too many people do it. I don't mean it as a criticism. It can be hard to go against the flow and choose to do something different. But I've met so many women who end up trapped in unhappy marriages once they have children. Women with children often work part time, and those that work full time are often hit with huge childcare costs. They simply can't afford to be single, even though I would argue once you have kids you can never really be single again, male or female. At least whatever else happens in my life, I won't be trapped. I will always be free.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

I accidentally started the third book

I thought of a really great character, but there was no way to shoehorn him into the current work in progress. (WIP.) He also doesn't fit in to the very loosely-plotted second book. By "loosely-plotted" I mostly mean firing up Microsoft Word and winging it. I really should outline because I get myself into terrible muddles, but that's boring. I like my characters to tell me where they're going to end up, rather than the other way round. This is very liberating, until they end up in some kind of plot black hole.

Since the third book deals with the theft of a Very Important Thing, I thought there was nobody better to find a thief than another thief. He's gorgeous in a crooked kind of way (crooked in the sense of criminal; he's not at a funny angle or anything) and I intend my female main character to have a bit of a will they/won't they thing going on with him. I might decide it's too tedious and wishy-washy. I spent most of Jane Eyre shouting "Oh, just get ON with it, woman!" and don't wish to inflict the same kind of frustration on my reader(s). Although it would be quite funny to put her through agonies about whether to go for it or not only to find out he's gay. I'm sure I mentioned before I have the evuls.

This hasn't served to kick my current WIP up the arse quite in the way I'd hoped, but at least I got something written. The second book, all 128 words of it, is quite openly glaring at me with undisguised jealousy - or is it contempt? Hard to tell - but at the moment I'm more interested in getting words on a page than being all linear.

The third book was my only realistic shot at NaNoWriMo, too, so that is totally blown. Unless I can come up with another brilliant idea in the next two weeks, which could happen. It won't be anything to do with this series. Three books is quite enough for this lot, thank you. I might try a spin-off, just to be original.

Friday, 11 October 2013

How to spot a scam

I spend a lot of time on an awesome writers' forum, Absolute Write. (AW.) For those of you who have busy lives, which I most certainly do not, here is how the Bewares, Recommendations & Background Check forum works, and some warning signs fledgling writers should look out for.

1. Poster asks innocent, reasonable question about a particular publisher. Perhaps this publisher is new, or doesn't have much information on their website. Sometimes their website is riddled with basic spelling and grammatical errors. Now, if a publisher is offering services to writers, I'd expect them to know how to construct at least two error-free sentences in English, or learn the difference between it's and its. I is a purblisher! Send all you're workings too me!

2. Regular AWers discuss the merits, or not, of a particular publisher. They point out the website errors, or the vast array of genres the publisher accepts. This is not a good sign - legitimate small publishers usually start with one or two genres. It's also not a good sign if they boast about how many books they're publishing. Small presses only take on what they can handle, both in terms of editing and promotion. This is a sign that they make their money selling books to readers, not writers. They may not offer advances, or very small ones, or they may be e-publishers. Small does not in any way equal scam. Usually a trip to a publisher's website can sort a lot of it out. Do they feature their books front and centre, and include links to buy them? Are the submission guidelines there, but not immediately obvious? Is there a testimonials page? You're looking for yes, yes, no here.

Think about it. Do you have any idea who published the book that's in your bag, by your bed, or on your Kindle right now? With the exception of romance and erotica, few people buy books by publisher. They buy them by writer, or by seeing it in a bookshop, or by recommendation. Have you ever gone to a bookshop to buy the latest Random House? Neither have I. Publishers should be almost anonymous to readers. The fact it's in a bookshop tells the reader someone has read the manuscript (MS), loved it, bought it, edited it and sent it out into the world all shiny. If in fact a reader even considers the mechanics of how the book got in front of them; I know I never thought about it much before I started writing. But a website aimed at writers is all about selling to writers not readers. Sure, the writer can sell the book to readers (mum, dad and Auntie Edna), and I'm not suggesting writers should do no promotion whatsoever, but the fact is a writer is one person versus publicity teams, catalogues and salespeople.

3. The publisher's website proudly proclaims "We don't edit!" This may be a controversial statement, but writers who don't think they need edited aren't writers - they're hobbyists. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being a hobbyist, as long as they don't fall into the trap some vanity publishers set and then proclaim they're published authors, complete with a book full of spelling mistakes and dreadful grammar. I'm about to "publish" my family history via CreateSpace, and I've had several of my amazing writer friends look over the MS. Now, this is a book that is of interest to precisely seven people, and two of them aren't old enough to read yet. But I still want it to be the best book it can be. There was no need for me to let anyone see it, but I don't want it to be confusing dreck. (Everyone was called Patrick.) Being able to accept criticism is vital to a serious writer. This isn't to say vanity or self-publishing isn't valid - it has a place. There's no need to spend thousands of pounds or dollars to a vanity publisher when Lulu or CreateSpace can do the same thing they will for a very small outlay, if any. CreateSpace will even give you a free ISBN. They don't edit either, but neither do they claim to be legitimate publishers.

4.  Owner of publisher swoops in to AW and posts a vitriolic rebuttal of all the "negativity" going on, and how nobody cares about writers except them and big publishers are teh evuls and nobody takes on new writers anymore. This just isn't true. For big and small legitimate publishers, you have to write well. If you think you have a great MS and nobody understands your genius, and rejections don't make you think "Maybe I need to work a bit harder here" then you're a prime candidate for a vanity publisher. And they know it. Now, some people with genuinely great books can't get agents or publishers to take them on. Like it or not, publishing is a business and despite aspirations to high art, we can't get away from that. But if someone has the acumen and wherewithal to promote a vanity-published book, then they can self-publish just as effectively. Would you like to go with a publisher who thinks so little of you and your work they can't engage with writers without being abusive? Not everyone on AW is a writer - some are editors, publishers, cover artists, graphic designers or agents. Their opinions count, but often the owner will discount what they think, or ask a multiple-published writer "Who are you? What have you published?" when 60 seconds on Google would sort that out. Why would a vanity publisher try to disguise it? If they're genuinely proud of and confident in their business model, and releasing a great product and making a name for themselves, why would they get upset? It's an especially bad sign if they then rush to their website, blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed to castigate everyone involved.

5. Not every clueless publisher is a scam, and not every scammer is clueless. Some of them are well-intentioned but don't know what they're doing. Some know exactly what to say to make a writer feel good. The result for the writer is the same, though. Lost or tied-up books, mess, and stress. If you can't get a legitimate publisher to look at your work, it's time to start again, or write something else. Writers are often sensitive souls and we love what we write, but sometimes we have to accept it's just not working. Just keep going. What's the worst that can happen?    

Thursday, 10 October 2013


Ah, November. A month of general fabulousness. Fireworks. I do love fireworks but every year I stand around in the cutting Arctic wind wishing Guy Fawkes had had his brilliant idea in June, and it's also the month in which I was unleashed on the unsuspecting world. Mwahaha.

But for writers, and their long-suffering friends, partners, spouses, dogs, cats and goldfish, National Novel Writing Month gives November its real sparkle. Of terror. Of fear of failure and the unknown. I've never been particularly disciplined in any area of my life, and my writing is no different, so if I do participate it'll be unofficially, with plenty of chocolate lying around in case of failure. But one of my great skills in life is as a cheerleader. So GOOD LUCK to everyone doing NaNoWriMo, and I hope your book kicks arse.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Why the whole single parent thing is bollocks

So, you'll often read in the right-wing press about how "single mothers" are responsible for the whole horror that is heaped upon society. I've never bought this, and I don't now. To be feminist about it, for every single mother, there's a father who's not around. Now, this may be due to violence, death, or general not-giving-a-fuckedness, but it's really unfair to imply that women randomly get pregnant by any sperm donor going. I've read about men complaining that their pregnant exes are taking up too much of their time or wanting money for abortions, or actually expecting some kind of financial support after the squawling brat is born. Know what could save you all this stress and hassle, men? Wear one single condom. Maybe she's not on the Pill. Think about it.

I don't like children. I really don't. But that's beside the point.

My great-great-great grandma Isabella Stewart (c.1856-1901) was a single mother. In Victorian Scotland. When it was all Presbyterian and stuff. She was a Catholic, so probably didn't care what the Presbyterians thought. Most of my Catholic ancestors were either pregnant when they got married, or had children before they did so. This whole idea of "Victorian ethics" is kinda blown out the water, dontcha think? Maybe it was only Protestants who had Victorian ethics. I dunno.

Men all over the world who want to place the blame on women for their own sexual mistakes are weak, and they are cowards. People have autonomy over their own bodies first and foremost - my body is mine to do as I please with. I choose not to use it to produce children, and that's just as valid as women and men who do decide they want to bring another life in to this world. But except in very limited circumstances, such as rape, refusal to use birth control is a joint deal. It's the whole basis of mysogyny - she made me. I couldn't help it. Well I didn't think she'd get pregnant. But at the same time, women who don't want babies have an equal responsibility to make sure it doesn't happen. If you're lying about your contraception, getting pregnant to trap a man, or deliberately deceiving him to get a tiny human being who's going to puke on you a lot, then hell mend you. I'm constantly amazed at the number of adults who can't have a serious conversation about this. If you can't say the word "condom" without giggling then you're really not emotionally old enough to be having sex.

My point is, there is always a story behind everything. And this whole idea that women were chaste and pure before they got married is bollocks. I notice no such requirement has ever been placed on men. My Isabella could take your grandma any day.

Friday, 4 October 2013

In which there is frustration

Why can't I just WRITE?!

Why do I spend so much time worrying about writing? Every thousand words seems to require an almost endless wrestle with my muse, like I have to repeatedly punch her in the face just to get the tiniest bit of information out of her. Uh... that's my 24 rewatch overdose showing. Sorry 'bout that.

I've now broken the 40,000 word barrier on my magnum opus, and I know exactly how it ends. The ending is going to break hearts and have my reader(s) cursing my name at the horror I've unleashed on my unsuspecting characters. When I last saw them, they were having a friendly chat about Post-It notes and cocktails, and I'm about to ruin their lives. There is a cackling sociopathic side to my personality that finds this amusing, but then I worry that I could go too dark.

Anyway, I should be writing. I won't always talk about writing here. I'll generally rant about whatever I feel like. But mostly writing.