700 Blog Posts & Chatting About THE FUTURE… and scones.

My hands have been playing up, so I filmed a wee 17 minute video instead of spending 4 hours writing the equivalent. A free piece of stationery of your choice to anyone who counts the number of times I say ‘er’.

Those links I mention:

Thank you for watching!

Insomniac thoughts on: corona

Evening. Or ‘night’, since it’s gone 10pm? I’ve read a lot lately about how healthy it can be in these Troubling Times™ to stick to a routine, but I’ve also read that the optimum circumstance in which to fall asleep is one in which you are sleepy, so I am writing to you in the hope it sends me to sleep (you’re welcome).

I’m not an insomniac unless something is playing on my mind, so lately bedtime has been more of a vague intention than an actual experience. Will I fall asleep at a quarter to ten, wake up in the middle of the night and doze? Will I be awake at 2am? Who knows! I can’t seem to keep my eyeballs open very well in the day time either, so it’s not like I could embrace this newly night owl-ish me. Also I don’t want to be a night owl. I want my normal life back.

I’ll level with you: when the lockdown lark first started, I didn’t notice any difference. Most of my work is done at home; my final office-based client had just let me go when corona became a real threat. I have a very small circle of friends and an even smaller bank balance. Staying indoors, spending no money, reading a stack of books I’ve been meaning to get to? No problem mate. I’m used to living inside my imagination and spending hours inside my own head, writing or editing or emailing clients fifteen times a day about one paragraph of text and a hyperlink. I thought I’d be all right in isolation, because it’s a fairly normal state for me anyway.

Except it turns out that it isn’t. I can’t pop to the shops and run errands, then come back to my desk refreshed. I can’t take multiple walks a day figuring out a plot device or cooling off when a client has tested my patience. There’s no way to drop in to my nan’s, because I might kill her, and I can’t visit my mum, because it’s illegal. (If this were normal, I wouldn’t be able to visit her anyway because she was supposed to move abroad on Sunday. But if she had moved abroad on Sunday, normal life would be continuing.)

It’s enough to wish I still had a car to pootle about in, because at least it would make getting a change of scene possible. Technically I do still have a car, but I can’t afford to keep one and hate driving anyway, so my mum’s been using it since she sold hers. It’s nice not having to worry about insurance or petrol costs, but ironically the roads are so quiet at the moment that even I might enjoy going over 47 miles per hour on a dry surface.

Point is, I thought I’d do better than this. I have relatively little to worry about because universal credit will, hopefully, prop up my bank balance before that self employed wage thing comes in. There’s a roof over my head and everyone I know who’s had corona-like symptoms has recovered. My part in saving the world is a cushty one; I have internet access and food access, and I live in a safe environment. I reread Anne Frank’s diary a few weeks ago and although I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re feeling really low, it provided me with precisely the perspective I expected and needed. I know, logically, that I’m all right. I didn’t even like my old routine that much anyway.

But I can’t sleep.

I think part of it is the fact we are all living in a SERIOUS CRISIS. The sort not seen since the war, blah etc. There’s no road map, there’s no definite end date, we can’t hug people any more and it turns out way more of us are huggers than we thought. There’s also that sneaking suspicion that since the air is cleaner now, since we’re all managing without haircuts and £12 mojitos, maybe… this is a bit of a wake up call. What’s actually important to us? What do we really want? I think a lot of the time we continue in a mostly forward direction, and then occasionally life chucks something at us that makes us sit down and re-evaluate. Except now the entire planet is having to sit down. Apart from key workers, who we should maybe consider paying a bit more because we’re all feeling guilty that they’re treating covid patients while wearing bin bags, or pulling shifts in manual jobs we never wanted to do for very long. Also shouldn’t we be using this time to start a business and write a book or something?

I’ve done both of those things, and they’re both bloody difficult without the constant worry that venturing outside your house could kill someone.

I am nowhere near where I would like to be mentally. Or physically, come to that. (I can’t believe I miss Southend high street. I’d love the opportunity to hop on a bus or a train and go… anywhere.) But neither is anyone else where they’d like to be. I keep seeing that quote that goes ‘you’re not working from home, you’re trying to work at home during a crisis’ and it sums the whole experience up. We’re living in a weird time, with new conventions and coping mechanisms. I feel like the whole of society is at that point in a film where two highly strung main characters sit in an alleyway and go ‘ugh, aren’t we a pair. Just look at us!’ and then they lose their minds a bit more before coming back to life and normalacy, eventually, by the time the credits roll. Not sure if we’re in a coming of age drama or a dystopian thriller or a horror film. Guess we won’t know until after the credits have rolled. What an ominous thought.

I’m not quite awake enough to edit this with a clear head, and spell check is glitching, so this post probably doesn’t look as shiny as it ought. I definitely don’t have the energy to source an image or some shit for Instagram. I can’t one hundred per cent be sure what I wanted to say when I began writing, except that it feels important to keep communicating. Figuring out this new normal is going to take a while.

I’m about eighty per cent sure I might fall asleep after this. Seventy five per cent? At least I don’t have to be up for anything tomorrow.

In which I revive memories of PE and they are as horrible as you’d expect

Readers, assemble. I need your advice!

I’ve been trying to use all this dead time to do a couple of minor tasks each day, since I have little inclination to do anything really useful (I was chatting to my cousin and we said that being isolated can feel a bit like having a cold – you know your brain cells could stretch that bit further, but they don’t want to).

This afternoon I started organising the drawer in my dresser. A basic case of moving some plasters to live with the other medicine stuff in a cupboard, moving a couple of make up things I don’t use that often to somewhere I can actually see them. It beats thinking about dinner, which let’s be honest is now everyone’s only favourite hobby. Then I came across this monstrosity, which had until a recent tidy-up been hiding in a bag some 10 years after someone gifted it to me:

small aerosol of Impulse Into Glamour Body Fragrance
My nails aren’t nicotine-stained, they were painted yellow last week

I gave it a squirt.

I thought, this is the scent of body odour.

I thought, I am in year nine getting dressed after PE.

I thought, this is the smell of thirty teenage girls who have just been forced to run in circles while a very unfit older lady chats to another unfit older lady on the side line and occasionally shouts at you.

Then I realised: the sweaty smell I notice on myself after a long day in adulthood is anywhere between ‘slightly gross’ and ‘god what did you do.’ But in my head, I’ve always considered it like, oh I guess I’ve done some sweating, good to know my skin works properly, I’m going to carry on with my life. I’d never really associated sweating with the actual term ‘body odour.’ I mean, I’ve inhaled next to some pretty disgusting humans over the years and it’s been a case of ‘oh, that’s a person who doesn’t have access to a home and a shower’ or ‘oh, that’s a person who probably needs prescription deodorant, that must be hard.’

At no point in the last 24.5 years have I inhaled bodily odours and thought holy fuck, someone please saw off my nose.

Until just now when I sprayed Into Glamour into the air and had a proper sniff.

I knew that smell can invoke memories in a way that other senses don’t, and I knew what sweaty human smells like. But I’ve only just realised that deep in my brain, Impulse’s nicely packaged Into Glamour Body Fragrance equals BO.

I’m never spraying it again.

What am I supposed to do with it? It’s still half full (I’m aware this means I probably took it to school in year nine). I know aerosols are flammable – I know a guy who chucked an old can onto a bonfire and it exploded – so is it a good idea to put it into the recycling? Or even the black bin? What if the crushy thing in the collection lorry pierces it and I kill the local bin collectors? No one deserves their last breath to be full of this stuff.

Maybe I should keep it to keep mosquitoes away? Or in case I ever have a date and need the person to leave really quickly? Or maybe I’m the only person who associates Into Glamour with disgusting teenagers and uncomfortable quick changes after PE?

I can’t believe I’m now thinking about PE. I THOUGHT I LEFT YOU IN 2010. I legitimately might have to go for a shower.

Drop me a comment if you have any suggestions for what I can do with this stuff! Let me know if you have any similar smell-memory stories! Oh and if you’re a brand rep from Impulse: it’s not your fault your product has activated some long-forgotten associations. I’m sure some of your other fragrances are lovely. I’m not likely to risk trying them out, though, in case they take me back to year eleven maths or something…

Mildly Good Things That Are Happening in the World 2

The time is ripe for another of these.

  • Remember when the main source of conversation was ‘Poor Caroline Flack. We should all take steps to be kinder, right?’ Now it seems to be ‘Fuck you I want 8,000 toilet rolls.’ BUT. Hairdressers have stopped stocking those bullshit gossip magazines. Ironically, we could probably use them for toilet paper in a pinch.
  • Electronic planes are on the cusp of becoming a reality. Fast, convenient travel without polluting the planet? Sign me up mate. Okay so perhaps it’s not quite on the cusp of reality… more like the cusp of the cusp. But I am confident that with funding (anyone know a billionaire? Someone who invested in loo roll stocks and shares? Or just invested in loo roll?) it will happen.
  • A white, statistically straight millionaire took a pay cut in order to give his employees a raise. The employees were happier. He was happier.
  • Right, I’m mentioning the C word for a minute. There’s a website called Covid Mutual Aid, which helps you find a local groups of people volunteering to help others during these batshit mad times. The groups organise shopping runs for those in isolation and help link people up with goods and resources if they need them (been stockpiling loo roll since 1982? It’s your time to shine, my friend). I’ve joined my local one because if you can’t volunteer to get someone’s shopping when they’re in isolation, then a) you’re a dick and b) seriously what do you do with your life.
  • Following on from that, a lady named Becky has made coronavirus postcards. Pop them through your neighbours’ front doors and let them know you’re there if they need you!

postcard with information for people to fill in in order to offer help during coronavirus outbreak

I may use some of this distancing time to finish up some blog posts I’ve been sitting on. I’ve been thinking of a post about working from home, since I am a seasoned pro at spending the day indoors? Let me know if you’d like my accumulated wisdom. In the mean time, look after yourselves and make sure your grandparents stay at home!

The Poor Person’s Guide to Helping Creators Make Money (without spending any of your own money)

I’m a writer and have a mini-but-growing stationery business. I also work in marketing. Thus, most of my day and quite a bit of my evenings are spent trying to get consumers (you) to buy into brands (my batshit stories and smartarse pencils, or my clients’ very sensible businesses). There are a billion ways to entice people to part with their cash, and there are a billion resources that will teach you the ins and outs of those ways. Something I’m more interested in is how people with no money can help small businesses and creators grow.

This is partly because I don’t have much disposable income to spend on indie creators or new businesses, and partly because most of my friends don’t, either. I feel like we’re still consumers, though – we’re just consuming with our eyeballs instead of with money. (Although as anyone who’s seen me at a merch stand at a show can attest, when I spend my money on a creator, I spend… all of it.)

Here are several ways you can help boost your favourite creator’s reputation and bring them more income without actually parting with your own money. For ease of writing I’m going to call your favourite creator Jiminy Snicket, because I think we’ve all met a Jiminy Snicket. Jiminy probably draws slightly off the wall comics, straightens their hair à la 2007 and lives with their mam in the Midlands.

Share and reblog social media posts (don’t just click like)

…unless the channel’s entire currency is in likes (hi, Instagram). This is the single best thing you can do to support Jiminy Snicket – in some ways it’s better than spending money on their comic or joining their Patreon. Sharing posts to your feed and followers puts Jiminy’s work in front of a new audience. Let’s face it: if you aren’t coughing up your cash for them, you can at least put their stuff in front of people who might.

Send work to friends who aren’t on the same channel as the creator

I have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (two, actually), Tumblr, LinkedIn, Patreon… Jiminy Snicket is probably also on Discord, Twitch, Snap, Ko-fi and other ridiculously-named channels, because they’re really keen. Most people are regular users of three of those channels, tops. If you’ve seen something cool on Instagram that your friend might like and your friend isn’t on Instagram, email it to them. Text them. Carrier pigeon. Maybe your friend uses Twitter? Jiminy uses Twitter! Your friend can find them on there if she likes their stuff.

Comment on posts

Social media channels (and social media marketers) love talking about engagement. ARE YOU ENGAGING ENOUGH, shouts every marketing website in the universe. NO, YOU ARE NOT, GIVE US YOUR MONEY AND WE’LL TEACH YOU OUR SECRETTTSSSSSS….

All that shit means is, is Jiminy Snicket commenting on other people’s posts? Are they hanging out in their chosen online cesspit community? Spoiler alert: Jiminy does little else. They’re following hashtags and leaving comments and ENGAGING DAMNIT, INSTAGRAM, SHOW JIMINY’S PHOTO TO THEIR FOLLOWERS. Engage right back at Jiminy by commenting on their posts, tagging friends who might like to see their content, doing those shares. Then Instagram or Facebook or wherever will show you Jiminy’s posts more often, and show Jiminy’s posts to other Instagram or Facebook users more often. Those other users might have money to spend on a comic artist from the Midlands!

Click on their website

Most websites cost money to make. Trust me, it’s part of my day job to build and maintain them. They don’t just magically appear on the top of Google either; that takes a mixture of organic searching, clicks from other websites and clicks from things like social media and newsletters. So if Jiminy shares a fancy new website on their Twitter page, click on it! Then go to Google and search things like ‘Jiminy Snicket portfolio site’ or ‘indie alternative comic book artist in the midlands’.

It takes a bit of time, but JiminySnicket.com will start to make its money back and show up for ‘indie alternative comic book artist in the midlands’ or even more vague searches like ‘comic artist in the midlands’. (This also relies a little on Jiminy having a properly optimised website… give me a call, Jiminy, I can help with that.)

RSVP to events even if you’re not going

Looking at you, Facebook Events! When you click ‘interested’ on a Facebook event, it’ll show up in friends’ feeds and sometimes their notifications, therefore telling them that your mate Jiminy Snicket has got a new experimental art show at the local comic store.

Covert ops support

There are ways of boosting Jiminy’s ~general standing in the universe~ without telling lots of people (or Jiminy) about it. Are there competitions or awards you think Jiminy could win? Nominate them. Have a friend who might like their stuff? Pass on their business card (while we’re at it, tell Jiminy to invest in business cards. They’re invaluable).

owl hopping
from Giphy

There are some content-specific things you can do, too. Supporting a writer? Request their books are added to your local library (authors get paid when library books are taken out). Add or review a book on GoodReads (The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes is on GoodReads and it’s not even out yet – you can add it to your to-read shelf in about three seconds and help drum up some noise about it, for example).

Something else I think can work – or is quite fun, at least – is hiding Jiminy’s work in real life places. I gave a handful of Princess and the Dragon samplers to friends who popped them into the bookshelves of coffee shops. Or if they haven’t, they’ve kept schtum about it. The odds of people picking up the samplers and then pledging to my Patreon? Slim; has not happened yet. The sense of smugness when I’ve looked at bookshelves were I personally have left samplers and the sampler is no longer there? Immense, although there’s always the chance that it got chucked away or used as a napkin. It’s a gamble, but so is life.

Not so covert ops support

If you’re both on a site like Wattpad, Archive of Our Own or DeviantART, go on a liking or commenting/reviewing spree on Jiminy’s pages to boost their stats – and their confidence. Are loads of people going to see your heart emoji on a DeviantART post or your rambling review on AO3? No, but you’re doing your bit to make some noise and you’ll give Jiminy the warm fuzzies. While we’re at it, follow Jiminy on every channel you’re both on. Sign up to their newsletter. You don’t have to read and respond to everything, but a boost in numbers will remind Jiminy that there are people out there who are paying attention. Jiminy’s an artist, so will appreciate the stoking of their ego/increase in follow numbers.

Jerry and a Canary from Tom & Jerry GIF
from Twitter

Appoint yourself brand ambassador

You know, like Instagrammers do with those diet tea products. Except Jiminy’s not going to pay you for this. Do you have a moderate following on Twitter? Have you got tonnes of Facebook friends? Consider writing a recommendation post and linking back to Jiminy’s web page and their online handle. Something as simple as ‘My friend @JiminyS has a new comic out and it’s brilliant! You can find it on Patreon at patreon.com/jiminysnicket and see previews on their Facebook page: facebook.com/JiminyS.’

Have you joined Jiminy’s Patreon? Nope. Have you even read the comic? Probably not, because you aren’t the sort to request to read for free something Jiminy is trying to make money from via Patreon. But you’re adding to the noise around Jiminy’s Patreon page, you’re informing the world that Jiminy means business and is in business. Worst case scenario: no one clicks on Jiminy’s stuff but Jiminy gets the warm fuzzies. Best case: people click both links, they like the Facebook page, they become a patron. Jiminy gets both the warm fuzzies and some cash.

This works especially well if Jiminy’s doing something niche and you’re a member of a community (online or offline) that fits the niche. Has Jiminy done a new comic for Pride week? Did it make your howl your eyes out and consider joining a local activism group? There are hundreds of LGBT groups, online and in real life spaces in your town. They’re not all serious and activism-y, some are just places for hanging out. Share the comic to those spaces and Jiminy will notice a lot more engagement. Or maybe they won’t – maybe you printed the comic out and pinned it up in your local friendly queer-run coffee shop. Maybe in six months’ time, a customer sees the comic, howls their eyes out, whips out their phone and types in the Patreon link that Jiminy cleverly included on the comic. This person is in a higher socio-economic bracket than you or me and immediately pledges to Jiminy’s highest Patreon tier. Jiminy thinks it was down to the gods. It wasn’t. It was down to you.

Tom and Jerry gif
from Twitter

Ask after them

I nearly didn’t include this, since it’s not all that practical. Texting Jiminy occasionally and asking about how the new comic’s coming along, or if the Patreon page is growing at the desired rate, or if they want to meet one Saturday to complain about social media algorithms, won’t bring them income. It might do the opposite if you meet for overpriced coffee in an overpriced chain store.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about what genuinely helps creators day-to-day. All these suggestions help more than you’d think, by confirming to Jiminy that they aren’t shouting into the void, that the hours they’ve put into social media schedules and web pages aren’t wasted. The thing about making things for other people to consume is that the process is twofold. First you have to get people to take what you make seriously. Then you have to make them want to pay for it. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked for free work, or told I don’t have a real job, or had family members glaze over when they ask how work’s going and instead of telling them about marketing work or a retail job, I talk about how my book is going. Books cost £1.99 on Amazon, so there’s no way I’m justified in asking people to pay more than that on a regular basis just to get the thing onto Amazon!

Creating ~stuff~ is the best fun. Jiminy will make their peace with realistically never owning property and being the cousin/friend/child who can’t afford to join in with events that cost more than £30. But they’ll get lonely sometimes, when they’re the only person in the room without a salaried job or meetings with mortgage brokers or the money to spend on a night out. So, if you know a Jiminy, drop in and ask how things are going. A message from a friend about a specific bit of a project or asking whether they finally worked out that issue with that file reminds Jiminy that they have a life and people outside the all-consuming mindset of making stuff. If you’re of the creative mindset too, Jiminy will appreciate hearing from someone else who’s in the When Will You Get a Real Job trenches.

Rachel and Phoebe from Friends hugginh
from Giphy

This post has been my favourite for a while. I think I quite like Jiminy. Thank you to Tatchiana for the suggestions, let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any useful tips and, in the spirit of what the post is about, here’s my Patreon and my quite expensive portfolio site.

Things I Googled for The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, in Order to Look Slightly Competent

I’ve been clearing out some old pieces of paperwork lately (it’s probably more accurate to say I’m always doing it, just at a rate of about one piece of paper per week). One of the scraps I found was a couple of random things I googled when I was writing The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes. I actually started a post about this very topic months ago, so as today is an extra day and should probably be productive, I’ve finished it:

Do violets have a scent?

Um, yes. They smell of… violets.

Can rabbits wear harnesses?

Yep. They look like this.

Can rabbits eat aubergine?

Yes, although the internet advises that one should not over-feed one’s rabbit aubergine.

False imprisonment

That’s it. That’s all I searched. I think it must have been something for The Prince in the Tower, the second of the stories (so were the rabbit questions, actually). I think I was just checking I hadn’t confused false imprisonment with something else. Genuine imprisonment? Who knows.

Is all suede beige?

Not really? Some suede looks more cream and less, well, beige. This was also a question for The Prince in the Tower. I can’t believe I managed to write a novel about all the things I am interested in (magic! Hot weather! Teenage girls saving the world!) and still include my least favourite colour. 

Thus concludes my list. I like to think that without the internet I would have found out the answers, but without the internet the novel would likely still be on my computer collecting dust. Instead, you can read the opening chapters here and the rest by joining my Patreon! That segue was a hint, by the way. Your life will be far richer for knowing why I needed to know if rabbits can wear harnesses. And if you’re reading this and it’s still Leap Day 2020, you’ll get a story commission from me as well as the usual bits and pieces (a character named after you! Name in book thank yous! A book featuring rabbits and/or harnesses!) when you join up. That’s just until 11pm today, though. The real reward, I think we can agree, is the rabbit thing.

rabbit wearing a harness that reads 'police'
Thank you to Bunny Approved for this wonderful image (and useful information)

Some Ancient History ft. a Dinosaur Front-flipping into a Boat

I was in a good creative flow all day and forgot to have a shower until about 4:30, which is too early for pyjamas but too late for proper clothing so this post is coming to you from someone wearing a dinosaur onesie. With a tail.

gif of a dinosaur front flipping onto a boat

 

I feel bad for not coming to say hi here more often but I’ve been writing a lot of short stories and they always take up a lot more screen time than I expect them to. It’s really satisfying to post a story every week though – I’m tentatively hoping I can keep it up until March at least. That said, there’s a very real chance that I’ll cheat and just share a haiku if I’m stuck. SPEAKING OF POETRY:

Mum and I went to the British Museum yesterday to see the Troy exhibition they’ve got on. Good points: tonnes of ancient artwork of naked people and/or gods; some medieval books that look like they should only exist in fairy tales; at least one statue of a dying Achilles; enough information to fill my brain for years. Bad points: it was quite dark and so busy that I might have to purchase the very large companion book just to understand all of the above, because there was no way to read all the plaques.

Got some pictures of my favourite Valentine’s cards while I was there too:

I Would Fall into Tartarus with You card held in front of dying Achilles statue at British Museum Troy Myth and Reality exhibition

If you follow me on Instagram you can expect more from where that came from, just saying.

I think that’s all from me, except to say that if you like short stories and would like to commission me one, you can do if you join up to my Patreon before the end of February. Story itself can be expected some time before the clocks go forward. Ish.