1) The monkey harassment officer was up on the scaffolding on the block Partner is working on. It was the weekend and he was wandering up to the Land Rover.
He called out to her, ‘You should wear a hard hat.’ (She was wearing toe-tectors but no hat).
‘I’ve got to climb up here to shoo the monkeys away,’ she replied. So there were no monkeys on the fifth or sixth or seventh floor or whatever it was. They were all sitting at the bottom laughing at her climbing up and down the scaffolding trying to make them leave.
2) A resident of the same block had gone to his mother’s funeral. They’d left the windows closed but not catched. When they returned, a monkey was sitting happily on the table. S/he had found a tin of Quality Street, carefully taken off the plastic wrapping, opened the tin and dived into the sweeties. Next to the monkey, in a tidy little pile, were all the sweet wrapping papers. Not scattered all around the flat, but left tidily for the flat owner. The monkey looked at the people, and then skipped off happily back out of the window.
3) And on sweets, which I should add, are not good for monkeys and can lead to increased levels of diabetes, another resident of the block upset his wife for stealing the Maltesers.
‘But I haven’t,’ he said, perplexed when she accused him of the crime. Then he looked out of the window and the monkey beamed at him, surrounded by four empty packets of Maltesers.
4) Wandering up to the car park with Little Rat to see Partner on his lunch break because we are soppy like that, we espied a monkey sitting on the wall of the Trafalgar Cemetery. Monkey espied us. Monkey then jumped off the wall and soared into the trees. What is difficult about that? Nothing.
I was chatting to one of the monkey harassment officers after that. I was saying that I didn’t understand why people were frightened of them. OK, I can maybe understand frail old people with shopping bags aren’t quite as assertive as me, but they could always buy a grandma/pa trolley.
But monkeys are not stupid. They may be wild animals, and like all animals they work on tribal/pack rules. So being dominant and not showing fear is a good idea. Fear, in this case, is definitely not the key, Mr Christian. (Mutiny on the Bounty).
The monkey HO told me that the government received telephone calls from the people in the rich houses across the road from where we were talking. A small monkey was in their garden and they wanted it removed. So therefore, the HOs have to jump to the command of the rich person who doesn’t like a small monkey in their garden. Why can’t said rich person shoo the monkey away themself? Still, job creation, so who cares?
5) This is Partner’s favourite monkey tale. Another resident had gone out, leaving the spaghetti bolognaise on the cooker. Monkey climbs up scaffolding, slides open window, wanders into kitchen and sees/smells tasty food. As we all know, monkeys (like me) are vegetarian. The food given to them daily up the Rock tends to be fruit and green veg. Monkey carefully ate the pasta, the sauce and avoided all the mince. Too clever. There is nothing worse than being given a meal with meat in when you are vegetarian, and having to spit out or avoid the bits of ham or chicken or beef. Well done monkey, you deserved that pasta and sauce.
Onto other tales.
Self-publishing and two reviews
My head is spinning with the self-publishing world. I really can’t believe how many people find the time to not only write novels, or poetry, or whatever, and then go through the tortuous route of self-publishing on wherever. And go to work!
That’s before you even get into the promotion and marketing aspect of it all.
For some reason that eludes me, I seem to have fallen onto a number of self-publishing authors’ blogs, perhaps because they are readable so it’s hardly surprising they enjoy writing.
I don’t have a Kindle or a Tablet or any such contraption, and poor old Hal is so old that he can’t talk to the software that you can download for free from Amazon to read ebooks.
However, some of these authors have very kindly sent me PDF copies to review.
So I’ll start with two of the ones I’ve been sent. Very different. And yet, some similarities regarding the impact of childhood.
Firstly, the first one I was sent.
Marionette by T. B. Markinson.
I was stunned when I started reading this. T.B. has a couple of great blogs, one about writing and one about what she wants to achieve, ie films to watch, books to read, places to go – and pub reviews in London :D
Unlike my blogs, they are polite and civilised so I was a bit surprised to plunge into the first chapter about an attempted lesbian suicide where our heroine swears more than once. It wasn’t what I expected. I hadn’t anticipated something so gritty.
So once I’d moved on from my preconception, I got stuck into the novel. Paige is one hell of a strong character and dominates the novel. Her childhood is always there in the wings, impacting on her life, even when she has left home to go away to college/school/university or whatever Americans call it. This constant draw on her from the past was powerfully done, not too much, but always there in the background. She comes from a rich family, but one without love. Well, not for her anyway.
Most of the action is set around Paige’s time at university (?) in Colorado and the characters she mixes with. Secondary characters are well-portrayed and I felt I was there with her.
It’s very much a novel about a young woman growing up and overcoming everything, her wealth, some bad family incidents in the past and accepting her homosexuality and being open about it.
T. B. also uses a real incident that happened while she was at college. A young man was beaten up for being gay and later died, and an adaptation of this appears in the book. For me, this was a turning point in the book, when it seemed to get harder and very, very realistic. Life away from home, isn’t just about drinking and chatting and fancying people. It’s about victimising people because they are homosexual and killing them.
I liked the harshness, the well-portrayed characters, and the superb main character. I liked the unexpected twists towards the end. It was a good read, and T. B. has also sent me her first book to read, ‘A Woman Lost,’ so I’m looking forward to that one too.
Kevin Cooper’s book ‘Miedo’ is totally different in terms of style and subject.
While T.B.’s is set at university in Colorado and deals with a wealthy young woman, Kev’s is set in working-class Hull in Yorkshire. You couldn’t get much more different.
Kev also plunges you into the fears of a frightened child with his Prologue (Miedo is Spanish for fear). But then goes on to write about the idyllic times of his early years when the family lived with his grandparents.
I loved the style. It is told from a distance and yet you are right there with him, playing in the garden, on the railway lines, in the lorry yard.
Then he is plucked out of that perfect childhood when his father and stepmother move to their own home with Miedo and his two older sisters.
His next years are a total contrast. It is not an easy life. And yet, through it all, despite the fear, I read some determination to survive, to do whatever he could, to make his own life at that young age.
Powerful is vastly over-used when describing novels, but I really found this one was. All the more so, for the understated style describing events so factually without emotion.
For anyone from Hull, Yorkshire, a working-class background, the north etc etc, this will really resonate, and I would say it is a must-read. He later moved to the USA and spent 18 years there, so I would say as well that it is a good read for anyone to understand or wonder why people emigrate.
Kev will shortly be re-publishing a revised version of Miedo, so I would recommend waiting for that if you are interested in buying his book.
In the interests of openness, both T.B. and Kev sent me the PDF copies for free, and with no payment for a review. I am however, editing Miedo for Kev. But there again, I wouldn’t have agreed to do it if I didn’t think it was a good book. I do not edit for T.B.
For those of you out there who want to self-publish, T.B. says, always get a professional editor.
If you don’t want to pay for proofing/editing, here are my tips. (As a professional editor, sub-editor, writer, journalist, PR manager blah blah).
Read through it time and time again. Take time away from it so the words aren’t buzzing across your eyes meaninglessly.
Do not rely on spellcheck, that is totally useless. Read through it for sense as well as literal errors (ie spelling errors).
Have a good quality hard copy dictionary next to your computer and USE IT.
Also, get yourself a grammar guide. Learn about different from/than/to. And all right and alright.
Finally, if you don’t want to use a pro editor, print out all those hundreds of pages and ruin the environment. Because that’s what you will need to do.
Go through it line by line, either with a pen, or a ruler, or use a sheet of paper to cover the rest of the text as you move down the page line by line.
Get your partner or a good friend to go through it too.
You will still miss some errors though, and your work will look unprofessional.
I asked someone to send me a few pages the other day for me to look at – totally out of nosy interest and personal arrogance.
It had already been through his publishing house and he had proofed it as well. Did I find errors? Yes.
There are very few novels these days without errors.
Proof-reading and editing are undervalued. If you think you can do it, go ahead and use my free tips. Then send me some pages and I will find your errors.
There again you can send it to a ‘pro’ and I will probably still find errors :D
I admire self-publishers. And quite frankly, their work is as good as, or better than, some of the crap that you see published traditionally.
I do have other books to review, but if people want to send me books (ie a PDF version), and accept there is a backlog, I’m willing to write about your books. There is a backlog because I hate on-screen reading.
I’ll add some more editing/self-pub comments on a later post, but for now I’m off to chill in Spain. As our Chief Minister of Gibraltar said, ‘Have a good Easter/Passover.’ And for those of us who aren’t religious, at least we get bank holidays. And that will be my one kind comment about religion for the rest of my lifetime.