Good Things Come…

It’s been over a month now since I blogged about my novel – I was a bit preoccupied with BEDM14.

But that doesn’t mean that things have been quiet.

In my job I’m lucky enough to meet many different people within the industry: buyers, authors, illustrators, agents and publishers.

These days, I try not to wang on about the book too much. Most of the time I’m seeing these people in a professional capacity so I try not to make it all about me (difficult, as that’s generally my standard setting, in work or out), but occasionally, the topic will come up, one of my colleagues might mention that I’ve written a book.

When that happens, I tend to go for it, collecting names and numbers of people I should maybe think about sending the book too.

That last happened in March when I met someone who asked me to send her a copy of Memories of a Murder – I was mid-way through doing a massive edit on it, which I finished at the beginning of May, so sent it to her following that.

She promised to have a peek, and told me to nag her if she didn’t get back to me. That’s completely against my ethos, because I know I get enough people telling me that they’ve written a book when they learn that I work for WH Smith, and the last thing I want to do is read what they’ve written only to either give them false hope, or feel I have to lie to their face.

The people that I meet get it all the time, in the same way that doctors at dinner parties are asked about strange growths. People found out they’re in publishing and they get ‘I’ve written a book’.

I’m always reluctant to nag. I did email her again the other day, several weeks after I sent her the manuscript, as a gentle reminder, but I probably won’t nag her again.

But that’s not the advice I’d give to anyone else. For me, I’m not nagging because I will likely have to see these people in a professional capacity again, once they reject me, and I want to give them the option of rejecting me, rather than feeling they have to give me false hope.

But if anyone else out there is writing a book, contact agents, contact publishers and if they give you any shred of hope, grab hold of it, and run with it.

Having said that, if you find yourself in a social environment with someone in the industry, don’t tell them you’ve written a book like you’re the first person they’ve met who has ever done so.

#BEDM14: Toxic Friends

Sally sighed. It had been her birthday night out. Jamie and Daisy had taken her out to cheer her up, just the three of them. And then the other two had turned up.

She had become firm friends with Jamie and Daisy when she’d first met them in playschool, and now twenty years later, they were as close as they ever had been. It had seemed obvious that the three of them would live together.

But now she regretted it. Jamie and Daisy were twins, so naturally shared a close bond, and while Sally was close – with outsiders even suggesting she could be the ‘third twin’ – she wasn’t as close to them as they were to each other.

She always felt slightly on the outside. Then Jamie had met his boyfriend David, and Daisy had met her boyfriend Mark.

Now, she wasn’t even just a third wheel, she was a fifth.

She’d spent the night on her own again, watching her two best friends getting off with their perfect boyfriends. Lying in bed after more than a few drinks, she’d been kept awake all night by the sound of sex coming from both of her flat mate’s bedrooms.

Sally sighed again, grabbed her towel and headed into the bathroom for a shower.

*

The sound of a mobile phone vibrating angrily against a wooden surface woke him up.

Before he even opened his eyes he could feel the dull ache behind his eyes that told him he was hungover. Again.

Without opening his eyes he reached for his phone, but his fingers found only fresh air. He slowly opened one eye and found himself in a strange room.

Suddenly, he was aware of a weight behind him, a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head to look behind him, and as he did the memories of the previous night came rushing back to him. He wasn’t at all surprised to see Jamie, naked and smiling.

“Morning, gorgeous.”

*

Sally opened the bathroom door, and went to cross the hall into her bedroom. She stopped when she saw a movement at the end of the corridor.

He hadn’t seen her yet, so she stepped back and watched from the doorway of the bathroom. Mark was in the darkness wearing nothing but his tiny tight pants.

It was a sight that she was used to seeing, but she didn’t often see him sneaking out of Jamie’s bedroom. What had Mark been doing with his girlfriend’s brother, wearing nothing but his tight white pants?

*

Daisy looked up at Mark as he came into the room, in just his underwear.

“Where have you been?” She asked, looking him up and down. “And where are your clothes?”

“Woke up on the sofa, again. Must have taken my clothes off in the night. Fuck, it’s cold in here, why have you got the doors open?”

Mark crossed the room and shut the patio doors that led out onto Daisy’s balcon

“Oh, don’t – “ Daisy started, but Mark quickly shut them and jumped into her bed.

“I missed you last night.” He said, snuggling into her.

*

Sally was sitting at the kitchen table, absent-mindedly staring out of the window, wondering where she had gone so wrong in life to keep ending up single.

Her introspection was interrupted when she saw a pair of feet slowly descend into view outside. She watched with curiosity for a moment, but curiosity soon turned to alarm when a pair of genitals also appeared, and then shock as she saw David’s face come into view.

He didn’t see her watching him until he had let himself in through the back door. He quickly clamped his hands over his groin.

“What were you doing on Daisy’s balcony?” Sally asked

*

Jamie jumped upright in bed as Sally entered his bedroom.

“There’s something I need to tell you.” She said.

“No, me first.”

Silence fell between them, Sally waiting for Jamie to speak and Jamie waiting to find the right words.

Sally held her hands up, gesturing for him to talk. He hesitated again, briefly.

“I slept with Mark last night. What am I going to say to Daisy?”

*

Sally left Jamie’s room and sighed. She was slowly piecing together the events of the previous night.

Before she could get any answers out of David, he had rushed into the downstairs toilet, hiding himself from her, and refusing to come out.

She’d gone to speak to Jamie about it, only to hear his bombshell about sleeping with Mark. What disturbed her most, was he seemed rather pleased with himself for pulling his sister’s boyfriend.

Sally hesitated, and then pulled open the door to Daisy’s bedroom. She found her best friend, crying, alone in her bed.

“Oh, Sally, I’ve done something terrible! I slept with David! I slept with my brother’s boyfriend!”

*

David found Mark, alone in the front room of the house. “I’ve got something to tell you.” He said.

“No, me first,” Mark said, “I’ve done something terrible… I… I slept with Jamie.”

“You slept with my boyfriend?” David stared at Mark for a moment, and then laughed. “Oh, I’m sorry. Sorry.” He said, noting Mark’s dumbfounded look.

They both sat down on the sofa and David turned to Mark. “I laughed, because I… I slept with Daisy.”

“What? But, you’re gay?”

“And you’re straight!”

This time, they both laughed.

Mark reached across and took hold of David’s hand. “You know, I was actually looking for you.”

David smiled, leant in and kissed Mark, gently on the lips, “That’s funny, because I was looking for you.”

They kissed for a moment longer before Mark pulled away. “We’re going to have to tell them, you know.”

They kissed again, neither of them noticing Sally walk into the room.

*

Sally sat at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of tea, and looked across at her four friends, all of them chatting as if nothing bad had happened.

She looked at her two best friends, both of them oblivious to the fact that they’d both had sex with each other’s boyfriends. Both of them oblivious to the fact that their boyfriends were having an affair with each other.

Her head hurt to think about it.

Suddenly, she was glad she was single. And she realised that by having spent so much time on the outside of the group, she was now very much at the centre. She held the power. She could hold the group together… or tear them apart

She smiled, realising that her birthday might be more enjoyable than she’d first thought.

 

Prompt: Write a short story

#BEDM14: Getting Mashed

There are four shelves in my freezer – bear with me on this one.

One of them is currently empty.

One of them is for ‘potato products’ – mostly chips, but sometimes waffles and a delicious new product to the market ‘Mashtags’ which are potatoes in the shapes of commonly used twitter characters: @#*

The third drawer is filled with chicken. Chicken nuggets. Mmm. They are my go to dinner when I just can’t be bothered. If I can’t be bothered, but am feeling a little bit adventurous, then it’s fish fingers.

The fourth drawer is a very special drawer indeed.

The vodka drawer.

It gets a drawer of its own, mostly because one of the bottles leaked once and I was getting pissed on chicken nuggets for weeks, but also because now, I’ve actually started to acquire more and more bottles.

Vodka is my drink of choice (mixed with lemonade) when I’m out on a night out – mostly because after all these years, it’s the only thing that doesn’t give me a hangover. Vodka and coke pretty much floors me, though.

I don’t really drink it at home, though, tending to stick more to wine. I recently had a Eurovision party, and bought myself a bottle, forgetting I already had a bottle. Someone else brought a bottle with them, so the vodka drawer is growing.

I’m going out tonight, and I will be drinking vodka, lime and lemonade – a combination I used to enjoy but had forgotten about.

The reason I’m out tonight, and the reason I’m telling you is because a certain Mr Matthew Hogan is turning thirty and is having a little (big?) celebration. Those of you who like the missing vowels round on Only Connect will find him on Twitter easily, everyone else can find him by searching for @mtthwhgn.

Tonight, I will be heading out and ignoring all four drawers of my freezer, but in fact, possibly paying homage to all four:

I’ll be getting mashed on vodka, and looking for some young chicken to take home with me – though likely will go home with nothing!

Prompt: Why is the freezer always full?

#BEDM14: 5 and a Half Reasons to Get Out of Bed

1) Really, really, really needing the toilet.

2) Wanting to get into the shower before the todger (#ReplaceLodgerWithTodger) gets there.

3) When the inconsiderate postman rings the doorbell at stupid o’clock in the morning (sometimes as early as 11am!), because he’s got a parcel for me. I mean, yeah, it’s my parcel. And yeah, I want it. And yeah, I don’t really want to have to drive over to the sorting office to pick it up. But, still… I’ve offered him a key so he can just let himself in, but he asked me never to talk to him again.

4) The very rare occasion when I wake up after a heavy night of drinking and finding a strange man in my bed.

4a) The even rarer occasion when I wake up after a heavy night of drinking and find myself in a strange man’s bed.

5) The even, even rarer occasion when upon waking naturally without my alarm having woken me up, and I feel completely and utterly well rested. I think about everything that I have to do that day and I’m excited by it and I’m not worried about anything at all. Life is good, the weather is gorgeous and no one’s going to spoil this mood

Until they insert random blank columns on a spreadsheet! GRR.

Prompt: 5 reasons you get out of bed

Shiny, Happy… Toasters

My toaster is about the only thing in my kitchen that I like at the moment.

Sure, it’s a bit grubby at the moment because I’m not the greatest cleaner in the world, but in theory it’s a very shiny red. Very posh.

The kitchen itself was put in when the flats were built five years ago.

A few people have said to me – why are you changing it? It’s only five years old!

But it was put in by the builders who were working to a budget.

It’s not a very big kitchen, the biggest issue I’ve always had is that it doesn’t have enough storage. But it’s generally a bit shit anyway.

SOMETHING under the sink has been leaking for a couple of years which has ended up rotting some of the paneling. Most of the cupboards are too small to be useful for anything and to top it all off the washing machine broke at the beginning of the year.

Obviously it hasn’t always worked a hundred per cent, because that would suggest a decent product had been bought, but this time it properly died.

My mum’s been doing my washing (and happily) my ironing since February.

I decided to get a new washing machine rather than repair the current one. But I also knew I wanted to install a new kitchen. I’d always sort of planned of doing it eventually now that most of the flat decorating is done, but I have moved it up the schedule a little.

The new kitchen is coming at the end of June. Once it’s installed you can expect lots of shiny instagram filtered pictures of it.

It will be a duck-egg blue that will compliment the light purple of the front room quite nicely.

I’m very excited about it, but it has occurred to me as I sit here imagining it in place, that the shiny red toaster will clash.

The only thing I like in my entire kitchen will have to go.

The upside is, I’m now in the market for a shiny, metallic blue toaster…

Prompt: The toaster. Discuss.

#BEDM14: Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

If yesterday’s blog post about perfection was a sequel to the one about regrets, then today’s is the closing part of the trilogy.

This is about the word ‘sorry’.

The reason I’m not keen on people who claim to have no regrets ‘because it made them who they are today’ have a disturbingly localised focus on life.

Either that or they’ve led an entirely blameless and faultless life.

Yesterday I said that in order to achieve perfection you had to stop measuring yourself against other people, and start measuring yourself against what you could be.

But that doesn’t mean you have to stop thinking about other people completely.

It’s too easy to forget than even the smallest of our actions have an impact on other people.

Sometimes just the way we phrase a daily greeting, or failing to make eye contact with someone while they’re talking to you, can have a ripple effect.

I discovered it myself this week, when a colleague of mine informed me of another colleague who had stormed out of the office last week in a huff. I hadn’t been around at the time, so knew nothing about it, but when I went to see him to ask him about it, I discovered that the reason, or at least part of the reason, was something that I had said.

I’d been fairly dismissive of a piece of work he was doing, partly because I knew he didn’t believe it had any value, but I basically told him I wouldn’t have anything to do with it, because I was too busy.

I was busy, but that doesn’t excuse it.

The fact was he’d spent some time on it, because he had been asked to by his boss. Turns out, he completely agreed with me, he thought it was a waste of time and had argued as such with his boss.

By the time he’d gotten to me, he’d spent a couple of hours working on it, when he could have been getting on with something more valuable. And I just shot him down.

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, to use an old adage.

Anyway, my point is, I could have probably phrased my response a little bit better. Though I didn’t know how stressed he was, ignorance is – as with most things in life – no defence.

As Elton John once sang, sorry seems to be the hardest word. And I think the reason why it’s so hard is because it admits to a failing on our own part. Admitting, that somehow, we are weak… not perfect.

But think about it the other way round.

All those other words, those other easy words that we just throw out there without thinking about it, the ones that sometimes lead to us needing to apologise, can ruin someone’s day.

‘Sorry’ can make it better again. It should be the easiest word.

Prompt: Apologies for that

#BEDM14: Raindrops On Roses…

I happen to use six different kinds of social media on my phone. They’re a bit like supermarkets in a way. They’re all very similar, they all offer very similar things, but each of them are just slightly different.

I’m going to use this blog to tell you my favourite thing about each of them

 

LinkedIn – The Boring One

I don’t mean to be rude, but let’s face it, by design it’s the corporate side of social media. All a bit serious, all a bit po-faced. Not gonna be many drunken selfies on here, and if there are, you’re probably doing it wrong.

The good thing about it, though, is it gives me the chance to dream. I can see an amazing job across the other side of the world and I have a shared connection with the person who posted the job.

Maybe, just maybe…

 

Grindr – The Slutty One

Ok, so this one doesn’t actually live on my phone. At the moment. I briefly downloaded it again on Saturday night, before deleting it quickly again on Sunday morning.

Grindr’s great for meeting new guys… when you’re in a town or city larger that Swindon.When you’re in Swindon, it’s just full of guys you’ve already dated, or already rejected.

It’s perfect for when you’re on your own in a new town. Doesn’t just have to be about sex, but it can be if that’s what you want.

 

Instagram – The Arty One

Hot guys. Blokes that take nearly naked selfies of themselves. That’s one – amazing – side of Instagram.

The other side to it is it allows me to fool myself into thinking I’m a photographic genius. Real photographic geniuses probably hate it, probably think it’s a watering down of their art, but I love it.

I don’t like photos of me, but I like more of them since I discovered Instagram

 

Snapchat – The Silly One

I don’t like photos of me, and I like them even less since I discovered Snapchat. But they delete themselves after 10 seconds – hurrah!

Snapchat allows us to have a bit of fun with our mates, and its disposable. It doesn’t matter if we don’t look quite right (or if we’ve taken a picture of something we shouldn’t have), it’s just a bit of messing about.

 

Facebook – The One You Wish Wasn’t There

Facebook feels like the one that you keep because you feel you ought to. It’s quite handy to have around, mostly because it helps you keep track of birthdays of people. In short, Facebook keeps in contact with people so you don’t have to.

The added benefit to Facebook is that you can look at people used to know and feel good about yourself because of how fat they got.

 

Twitter – The Popular One

Twitter kind of has the best bits of all pieces of Social Media. Mess around with your mates. Make business connections. Keep in contact with old friends. Meet new people in new places.

Most importantly, look at pictures of hot guys with their tops off.

Twitter stops you from being lonely. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or where you are. There’s usually somebody, somewhere doing the same thing as you. You can have quick disposable conversations, or you can really make some good friends.

Best of all, there’s a 140 character limit – you don’t have to put up with people wanging on about anything for very long.

 

 

In summary, social media’s great. But actually, the social aspect of all of these have existed for a long time before smart phones were even invented. The media element just makes it more accessible, more efficient.

Sometimes it’s good to put the phone down, grab a glass of wine, and go and sit outside with a friend.

(And look at hot guys with their tops off)

Prompt: Six of your favourite bits of social media

#BEDM14: Let’s Get This Straight – Or Not

It almost seems fashionable to be ‘a little bit OCD’ these days. To put the record straight (because even a little bit wonky is WRONG) I’m not OCD.

There are certain things I like, and I like them in certain ways. But I can leave the house if a picture isn’t hung straight.

I don’t need to check the locks 13 times before leaving the house.

I actually quite like the fact that the phone hung on the wall somehow always manages to make itself a little bit wonky.

I revel in the fact that when my flat mate isn’t in the house, I can have the volume on the TV on an odd number.

I don’t have a tea ritual, but I do have a tea routine, and I take comfort in it.

I drink one in the morning, one in the afternoon. At the same time I get another one of my colleagues a drink. She doesn’t actually work in our area of the business anymore, and some days I don’t even see her, but twice a day I leave a drink on her desk.

The routine has evolved over the years, but it has changed, continues to change, and will change again in the future.

I take comfort in the routine, I enjoy the routine, but I also enjoy the excitement of spontaneity – as long as I’m given twenty-four hours notice.

Sometimes, I don’t go for my two o’clock tea until two-thirty. Excitements.

I do not have OCD. I have no rituals of any sort.

But it DOES really, really bother me that the flat mate seems to dig for dinosaur bones in the butter.

Seriously, what kind of animal can leave the tub of butter in that state and not be bothered by it?

Prompt: What’s your [insert beverage of choice] ritual?

Can I tell you the story of my life in 250 words exactly?

Probably not, and especially not now that I’ve wasted 13 of those words on the blooming sentence.

And now thirty.

Thirty three.

ANYWAY, I was born and raised in Swindon.

I spent the first eleven years of my life living with my mum and dad and sister, until my mum and dad divorced (a story that would take 250 pages, let alone words).

My dad moved out – I remember being quite surprised at how quickly it happened – and then life changed, and I adapted and everything was ok. No big trauma sorry.

Life ticked along, I went to college and studied Psychology, Law, English Language and Philosophy. At the same time I got a job in the local WH Smith.

Worked my way up through there, and eventually got a job in the head office where I’ve been ever since in a job that’s the same as it always was but also completely different.

I’ve written a book, but you knew that.

I bought my own flat in 2009 and am only just finishing the decorating.

In 2011, I travelled around Australia and just after I came back, I met my best friend Aaron. He currently lives with me. We drink a lot and eat chicken nuggets.

I ran the marathon in 2012 and won’t ever do it again.

That’s the story of my life in a nutshell and I’ve still got two words left.

And: Gay.

#BEDM14: Bonus Time

When I first looked at the list of #BEDM14 topics, I had thought that this particular post was going to be an easy one to write – albeit perhaps not an altogether interesting one.

And then I realised that today is a Bank Holiday, which changed my plans somewhat.

The prompt was simply: 5pm today. I had considered talking about my journey home from work, or maybe that feeling one gets at home time, an excitement left over from being stuck in school all those years.

But a Bank Holiday? That changes things.

Now that we’ve grown up (some of us more so than others) the joyous, lengthy six weeks of holiday that we experienced in school is not something that we’ll see again very often. Until retirement that is.

But a Bank Holiday is one of those rare things that distills that childlike joy of six weeks summer holiday into just a single day.

5pm today, will mark the end of that ‘bonus time’, that extra day off. It marks that change between a special day, to the normal evening before work on a Tuesday.

I don’t want to get to 5pm and think I’ve wasted day, however, having said that, I’ve not made any specific plans.

I wrote about this in a previous blog. Taking advantage of any and all time you get to write.

But I’m cheating a little bit with my blog posts. It’s actually 11pm on Saturday just gone when I’m writing this, and I find myself in a bit of an odd place with my writing.

I’ve spent the last two months editing my manuscript. I finished going through it with a red pen on Thursday night, and am now transferring those updates onto my electronic version. I will likely finish that tomorrow (tomorrow for me as I write this, yesterday for you as you read it). So I’m not exactly sure what writing I’ll be doing on Monday.

By the time I get to 5pm, I may have started to write my next book. I may have cheated and gotten ahead on a few more blog posts. Or I could have started that horrendous process of trying to get an agent.

Wherever you are at 5pm, at the end of the bonus time of your bank holiday, make sure you’ve used that time wisely. And if you haven’t used it wisely, make sure you at least enjoy it.

Prompt: 5pm Today.