Let me introduce you to a friend

I want to tell you all about a friend of mine. He moved to England a few years ago for a better life, but he speaks very little English, hasn’t yet found a job and has never, as far as I’m aware, paid any tax. He sits around a lot and his efforts to integrate with neighbours have been sub par; he’s quite antisocial to be honest, which I’ve always put down to trauma experienced in childhood.

dav

I’ve been meaning to make that joke for about 4 years. Originally it was going to be a YouTube video where I lift him up to the camera, but it’s hard to make a fuss of one dog without making a fuss of the other and although  Adonis has always been easy to pick up, trying to get too close to Fred is like trying to wrestle with an octopus.

Anyway, the reason I’ve finally got my arse into gear is that Donnie no longer looks remotely as happy about life as he did in that photo, which I think was taken last summer. He’s got prostate cancer (ironically given that I was writing a similar post about 6 years ago about leishmania) and the prognosis, a few months ago, was a few months. And I hate it when people make a fuss of friends and loved ones after they’ve died but not before, so. HAIL DON THE WHEEZE. One time he was so intent on killing a fly that he almost knocked himself out on a wall. Occasionally he falls off a bed and has to get up before anybody can see him. If you’re playing with Fred and he wants your attention, which is every time you’re playing with Fred, he sticks his head under your arm so you look down and see a nose sticking out of your armpit. It is a source of some regret that I’ve never managed to capture the phenomenon on camera.

blurry dog with very happy human
I was going through photos the other day and I can conclusively say that this image is probably the one that best sums up my relationship with my pets. I think I must have ambushed him while he was doing something, unless I was going through a phase of doing squats at every opportunity.

One day I might write both my dogs into a set of short stories or something, and fully retell the legendary tale of the time Donnie nicked a carrot from Fred while it was sticking out of Fred’s mouth, but I was cleaning up canine vomit at 6:30 this morning and at the vet at 8:30 listening to options regarding dehydration treatment and using phrases like ‘keep him comfortable’ so today is not that day. Have I ever mentioned that Donnie really likes the vet? He actually slipped his harness when we were in there once and escaped out the back to say hi to the nurses. It’s only because he makes a beeline for anyone who might make a fuss of him. What an embarrassment.

Anyway. Say hi to your pets from me. Say hi to your pets from you while you’re at it. Next time I write here I will almost definitely be one dog short of a pair, which is shit. They’re both my best mates, excepting those two or three epic fights they’ve had over the years, and Fred has leishmania (the irony of this entire year is starting to itch) and the thought of being entirely dogless by Christmas is completely appalling and look just say hi to your friends. I saw this bullshit Twitter post once that said something like ‘a dog might only be part of your life, but you are their entire life’ and terrible graphics aside the phrase has stayed with me. I’m aware this post has become kind of a downer and not the joyous celebration I was aiming for, so here is Fred wearing a Pilates mat. I was in the process of practising Pilates when he decided that he might like to take up the exercise as well. Spoiler alert I put up with him for a bit then gave up.

dog wearing a pilates mat

I think he was probably judging me on my downward dog.

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In which Southend is less shit than we thought!

Afternoon. You might have noticed I’ve redecorated the blog and changed the theme to something else white and blocky, although by the time you read this I might have changed it twice more and/or back to how it was.

I’ve hit a mid-afternoon slump and can’t actually remember what this blog was supposed to be about, so let’s talk about dead kings! Or princes, as the case may be. Or may not be. Who read about the Prittlewell Princely burial and felt a mild stab of pride at being from Southend? It was a fleeting stab – kind of a twinge? – but YES HELLO THAT’S A BIT OF VERGE I RECOGNISE. I’m going to the exhibition as soon as I can.

I actually remember, albeit vagually, visiting an exhibition about the burial in either Southend Museum or Prittlewell Priory 12 or 15 years ago, when it was quite a new find. I don’t remember being hugely excited but take two should be better, mostly because I now know how to read.

It occurred to me ages ago that it might be quite fun to do a series of posts about things in and around Southend that are actually quite nice (there are some excellent shops and a few interesting historical places and/or haunted places), but I never got around to it. Maybe I should start with the exhibition? Or the bit of verge under which the Saxon king/prince was buried for several centuries? The Aldi across the road is staffed by lovely people, but we might have trouble getting photographs that don’t feature traffic. Or tarmac.

no spoilers but I couldn’t be bothered to properly finish this post

Evening! I don’t particularly have anything to say, but I ate a snack quite late so I’m sleepy but I feel like lying down would be quite a bad idea. Sooo…. hello. How was your April? Did you enjoy the mini heatwave? Have you got hayfever yet? I had this monster cold with such bad congestion that I’ve still got scabs inside my nose, so bring it on, pollen. On the plus side, I was so ill I took a day off and slept through a lot of finally watched Line of Duty. My favourite part of the programme thus far has been the evolution of Steve’s waistcoats.

To be honest, that’s all I’ve got to say. Turns out I’m ‘about to crash with laptop open’ sleepy and I can’t even be bothered to source a gif of Steve in a waistcoat. I bet there are loads. I had a look on Twitter and a cursory scroll of @bbcone indicates there are some hardcore fans out there, but I think that particular rabbit hole is one for another day. Is there a directory for fandoms? So I could type in ‘waistcoat evolution’ or ‘steve’ and filter to British TV>Line of Duty and tadahhh Kaz from Hull has a crime drama Tumblr with 12 posts about wardrobe evolution. It would save a lot of searching, I’m just saying.

Phuket & the Soi Dog Foundation, Thailand, ft. DOGS

I’ve been eating a lot of curry lately, because there is almost no limit to what you can put in a curry except perhaps cabbage, and between that and that one part of The Umbrella Academy that’s set in Vietnam, I feel like South East Asia is calling to me. My bank account isn’t on my side, so I might as well share pictures of dogs at the Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket, which I highly recommend to the whole of humanity because DOGS.

So I virtually live blogged the 40-odd hour journey out of Laos into Thailand. We took such a weird route out of Vientiane because one of the places on my list to see in Asia was the Soi Dog Foundation. Originally established by Dutch expatriate Margot Homburg, in 2003 she joined forces with British expats Gill and John Daley, who wanted to do something about the estimated 70,000 stray cats and dogs on Phuket. It’s grown into an internationally-renown shelter dedicated to sterilising and re-homing strays and, if I remember correctly, helped eradicate rabies from the island of Phuket completely. It was also instrumental in helping the abandoned pets and strays left over from the Boxing Day tsunami and is campaigning against Asia’s dog meat trade – I first heard of it from an online petition.

Phuket is a lot bigger than it looks, and the Soi Dog Foundation was way further from our hostel at Karon Beach than I realised. It took the entire morning to get there by bus – but Phuket is a lot like Spain in that it’s virtually set up for tourists, so the roads were fabulous, especially compared to Lao and Vietnamese roads. Also, Thai motorists drive on the right. So do the Maltese. Sensible people. Anyway, the shelter is a bit hidden from the bus stop, so I got a lift on a motorbike from a volunteer, which was useful as a local dog, ironically, was doing a great job of nipping the back of my legs when the bike pulled up (get your vaccinations, kids, rabies eradication or not!).

 

If you’re going to Soi Dog hoping to get your fix of dog cuddles, you’ll be disappointed (I was). These dogs see humans all day, every day, they do not give a shit when another one walks into their home, although most were more than happy to come and say hello. The shelter is separated into sections: old dogs, puppies, cattery, specially-designed dog hospital (they play the dogs music!), non-human-friendly dogs, etc. The staff, who are mostly volunteers, take you on a tour and do a fantastic job of explaining how everything works.

 

Can we have these posters in England too please?

 

I visited not long after Gill Daley died (her husband John is still involved full time) and really got a sense that this is the sort of place people come to volunteer at time after time, because it’s a lovely place to work. I wish I could have spent more time there – I didn’t realise how long the journey would be – and really recommend you take the time to visit if you’re on Phuket on holiday, or if you’re thinking of getting involved with stray dogs or opening a shelter (hint hint Zakynthos).

There wasn’t a lot else on Phuket that we wanted to see – there were, like, children with their parents and forks instead of chopsticks and I was in Peak Shitty Backpacker Mode at this point – so after saying hi to Big Buddha, Maxim and I headed to the islands, where we split up to look for clues see different parts of Thailand.

 

I think they are planning to paint Buddha eventually?

 

Sort of can’t believe how good my tan is in that photo. Also can’t remember if the statues were especially large of if I’ve just got to get used to the fact I’m smaller than I think I am…

I’m going to make another curry. Come back in 6-8 months to hear about Koh Tao and Koh Samui, and then one of my favourite parts of the trip: Chiang Mai and Pai.

Introducing dragonnovel 1.0: Chapter One

Friends. Patrons. Darling readers. We’re only a week into 2019 and a cursory glance at the news suggests it would be greatly improved by princesses, dragons and unlikely heroes. So I have a dragonnovel-shaped gift for you! I wanted to do something fun for patrons in the new year, while I wait to hear back from agents about the manuscript (and also because it will be fun to have something to talk about that isn’t Brexit or my impending house move). It occurred to me that the first three chapters of dragonnovel 1.0, as I’m calling my draft, are just sitting in agents’ inboxes and on my computer, and that I may as well share them with patrons. So here’s the first chapter, on an epub document (which makes it look like a book/is viewable on an e-reader apparently). Come back in two weeks for the second chapter, and two weeks after that for the third!

If the draft is professionally edited and polished up before publication, it will be fun to compare this version with the finished one (which I’ll call dragonnovel 2.0 HOW ORIGINAL). I also get to do something on my days off other than refresh my emails hoping to hear from an agent, so it’s a win-win really…

All patrons have access to the chapters, by the way, from $1 tier to $5 tier. I think it’s a bit shitty to say ‘be a patron for cool exclusives’ and then demand a higher level of patronage for the majority of exclusives. Not a patron yet? No problem, just click on the big orange BECOME A PATRON button on my page and choose which tier you’d like to join. THEN YOU’RE IN OUR COOL CLUB UNTIL THE UNIVERSE ENDS… or until you decide to stop pledging, whichever comes first.

pink background with white text reading 'Francesca's Words, dark humour colourful language. meet dragonnovel 1.0. It doesn't bite, much'

Let me know what you think of the chapter!

RIP 2018 Etc

So. Farewell, then, 2018. I’m on the sofa rewatching Luther before my friend’s New Year’s Eve party. I never know if I can be bothered with anything later than 7pm these days, but my friend’s NYE parties are always excellent, as most events are once I’m there, which is what I’m hoping will be the case with 2019.

I didn’t do the Indifferent Ignorance Awards this year, because I’ve had more pressing things to do, but I think we can sum this year up as not as bad as 2016 but 2007 was probably less stressful? I finished dragonnovel, got a bit of sun, played with my dogs (one is leaning on me right this very moment and I clearly can’t get up until he does so bye party I’ve been blessed). No one in my immediate family or friendship group has died, been critically ill or pledged allegiance to the Republican Party, so let’s count 2018 as one of the good ones.

Last year I wrote ‘new year’s intentions’ which are supposedly more realistic and better for your mental health than new year’s resolutions. Goal 1 was to learn to do my hair. I mean, I’ve grown my hair. I brush and wash it occasionally. It’s difficult to plait, okay, there are a lot of layers. I consistently forgot to take good pictures, but it’s looked ace this year regardless. Lots of purple. I’ll change it up soon because you can’t bleach the same bit of hair too much but possibly in 2019 I should take more pictures for proof of Cool Dyed Hair? Unlikely, I bloody hate taking my picture.

Goal 2 was to look after myself a bit more. I did not bother with a running club, but the blue light blocker is on and I miss my Pilates class when I don’t do it, which must mean it’s good for my brain so CHECK CHECK.

The third goal, basically, was Get Money. And, check again. I got a weekend job, found another client, smashed my stationery business goals over Christmas and learnt that geeky mythological pencils are really, really popular. Onwards.

blue pencils reading STUDY LIKE ATHENA, purple pencils reading ARTEMIS WAS RIGHT

Luther’s getting tense so I will leave this here. Also, Donnie’s ear is on my keyboard. Hit me up with the fun things you did this year, or want to do next year, or heard of someone else doing something nice. Happy new year!

So. Farewell, then, first full-length draft of dragonnovel. No really it’s gone this time

I’ve sent the first three chapters/first thirty pages of my 54,000 word, heavily edited, double-spaced-in-Times-New-Roman-12-point manuscript OUT TO THE UNIVERSE. Or out to my preferred literary agents, at least. Now I’ve got 8-12 weeks in which I might get an email asking for the rest of it. Then I might get another email.

In the mean time I’m making plans for what happens if the next 8-12 weeks carry a) several polite rejections or, worse, b) radio silence. I’ve already decided that if no one wants it then I’m going to print it out, staple it together and sell it on street corners because I did not flare up my repetitive strain injury and have dozens of arguments with my mother about getting a ‘real job’ to leave the bloody thing in a Word document.

Well, I’ll publish it on my Patreon page for my patrons over the course of a few months and, if they like it, look into getting it an ISBN and printing it on demand to sell at the handful of craft fairs I do each year. WHAT A GLAMOROUS LIFE THIS IS. I’ve got to start the next one in the spring too. Not a sequel, but the next thing. I haven’t decided what that is yet but I’m moving in January so it will be something to think about while I pack/unpack/reorganise my sock collection.

I know that if anyone reading this actually wanted to pledge to my Patreon, you would have already – but I’m going to ask one more time because I’m really, really proud of this book I’ve written and I think you guys will like it. I’m not arrogant enough to assume it will be snapped up by Bloomsbury after a heated six-way auction, but I’d like for someone to see it who isn’t either me or my friends who have offered editorial advice. It’s a children’s book, by the way. I can’t remember if I’ve said that. Well, it’s for children in the same way as Doctor Who is officially for children. It’s in three parts, would qualify for the Diverse Fiction shelf at Waterstones and the full title is way, way longer than dragonnovel. There’s a My Chemical Romance reference, obviously. This cave influenced several paragraphs:

Melissani Cave Kefalonia

Anyway. Here’s the Patreon link again. Patrons can expect a lot of cave photos. Some playlists. The odd actual chapter…

Speaking of craft fairs, I’ve got on in Leigh-on-Sea this Saturday and I took a day off from my shop job for it so I’m hoping to shift quite a bit of stock (the less I have to drag to my mother’s new flat, the happier I will be). I’d better go and organise my price list and check the batteries in my fairy lights… Wave if you see me! Or better yet, buy a tote bag. They take up a ridiculous amount of space even when folded. I’m going to buy a box of Quality Street to entice passers-by. ‘Take a chocolate, buy a tote’ is not a bad slogan actually…

I Hereby Name Thee Miguel

I was scrolling through my Tumblr likes just now so I could dredge up some capital-C content alongside promotions and I came across a post my friend Tatchiana did in 2015 recommending this very blog. I can’t find the post now, but it gave me a fuzzy warm feeling that lasted long enough that I thought I’d come and say hello. I think I’ve been writing here now for nine entire years. That’s longer than most prison sentences, innit. Mad. 2015 doesn’t even feel like that long ago but I suppose it must be.

Sooo how have you been since 10 days ago? I’ve been good, cheers. Started another job (weekends! Retail! Say hi if you see me – wait no don’t make eye contact). Got to hang out with Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. Ish. Sort of. We said hi. I haven’t touched dragonnovel since I sent it to my cuz, but I am itching to make improvements. Not itching as in, I have eczema, itching as in, that feeling of when it’s almost the school holidays. I’ve already started sketching out ideas for my next book, which makes me feel like I’m cheating on dragonnovel. But I have to be realistic that a) dragonnovel might not get picked up, in which case I should start on the next, better, thing as soon as possible and b) dragonnovel might get picked up which means I need to look like I’m serious about this writing thing.

I just spent five entire minutes looking for a suitable dragon gif, no fucking dice. Come on, Shrek. First thing I’m gonna do if this book picks up is commission some cool dragon art.

While I’m thinking about it, it occurred to me the other day that since dragonnovel is actually nearly done (or as done as it can be without professional editorial insight), I’m going to have to stop renaming characters soon. Seriously, this one guy has had about four names. I think the first one was Pablo. Or it might have been Paolo. Then I think I tried to name him Raphael, but I already called someone Raphael. Anyway, my point is that if you were ever thinking of pledging to ye olde Patreon page in order to see a character named after you, you should probably do it soon because I need to start remembering characters properly or my synopses (that’s plural of synopsis, right? I’m scared to Google it) will be way out of whack. Oh, I think this guy was called Miguel at some point.  Miguel.

He’s so not a Miguel.