Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Day 88: Cats or ghosts?

Between You, Me and the Lamp Post

Day 88: Cats or ghosts?

I want to tell you a story. Actually, it’s not a story, it’s actual events, not a word of a lie, no embellishments. In short, strange things are happening at my place.

This morning I got out of bed and the first thing I noticed was that a book was lying face down on the bottom shelf. The book, ‘Stolen Beginnings’ by Susan Lewis. It’s an old book, dating back to 1990.

On the shelf next to it, I noticed this ... a book partially pulled out.

In this case the name of the book ‘Name Dropping’ by Jane Heller, published in 2000.

I haven’t looked at either of those books in years and years. So why was one lying face down on the shelf and was the other one was partially pulled out? Am I to assume that my cats have suddenly developed an interest in reading? Or is it something more sinister?

Where it comes to weird things happening, this is not the first time. There have been other incidents. Long-time readers may recognize the story, but for the sake of new readers let me tell it again.

I was alone at home (Dieter was on vacation in Belgium), had gone to bed around 11:00 p.m. and before going to sleep I was reading a few pages of a book. Pitoe and Floppy were sleeping at the foot end of my bed.

Suddenly the kitchen window rattled violently like someone got hold of it and shook it with all their might. The cats lifted their head and I stopped reading. What was that?

When all remained quiet, I relaxed somewhat, but suddenly there it was again, that violent rattle of the kitchen window. I dove under the duvet up to my eyeballs, glaring at the cats who also seemed alarmed. And I thought to myself … if this happens again, I’m outa here.

Five or ten minutes passed and then … the violent rattling happened again. I didn’t think twice. I got out of bed, slipped on my peignoir, grabbed my car keys and drove to my friend’s house. Joan laughed when I told her what happened, said that my imagination was running away with me, but agreed that I could sleep in her spare bedroom.

To cut a long story short, I slept at Joan's house for two nights, but when I saw a neighbor peeking from behind her curtain, seeing me come home at 6:00 in the morning, I realized that this couldn’t go on. I would have to brave it.

To celebrate Dieter’s homecoming, I invited Joan and her son Brendan for coffee and cake. I was in the kitchen when the window once again rattled violently. Joan, Dieter, and Brendan came flying into the kitchen. 
“What was that?” they said in unison. “That,” I said, “was what I heard that night.”
All of them were suitably shocked. 
“No wonder you were scared,” Joan stated. 
“Hm, now imagine this happening in the middle of the night,” I said. 
Joan wasn’t laughing anymore.

Now to go back in time a little bit … while all the creepy stuff was happening, another friend, Cheryl, invited me to her house for a long weekend. Eager to get away from my creepy house, I accepted.

After dinner and a movie, Cheryl, her mother and I retired to our bedrooms. Being out in the country my bedroom was pitch dark.

Shortly after I turned off the light, I heard the bedroom door opening and closing. Next, I heard cabinet doors softly being opened and closed and drawers equally softly being opened and closed. Whether it was Cheryl or her mother, one of them was obviously looking for something but didn’t want to wake me.

Suddenly, I felt someone sitting down next to me on the bed. I became alarmed, Cheryl was a good friend, but she wasn’t that good a friend – if you know what I mean. So I reached over and switched on the light … there was nobody in my room. I left the light on for the remainder of the night.

The next morning at breakfast I told Cheryl and her mother of what happened. “Oh dear,” her mother said, “not again.” Over coffee and croissants, they told me that strange things had been happening in that room. 
“And you put me there!” I said. 
“What else could we do?” Cheryl said. “We couldn’t very well put you in the blue room.” 
“The blue room?” I questioned. 
“Oh that room is definitely out of bounds,” her mother said. “That room is constantly ice-cold even now in the middle of summer.”
They showed me the room, and while I didn’t go inside, they were right … ice-cold air met me in the hallway.

Even though I had initially agreed to stay three days, I made a swift exit never to return to Cheryl’s house again.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Day 87: Who would join me?

Between You, Me and the Lamp Post

Day 87: Who would join me?

Would anyone join me at this cottage? I'll get to the why later.

We’re halfway through the NaNoWriMo challenge and for several people, it’s going really well. Every day I read about people who write 3,000 – 5,000 or even 7,000 words per day. I sit and wonder … where do these people find the time?

Don’t any of these writers have jobs? And if they are stay-at-home people, don’t they have work to do around the house? There’s always something to do: 

making/changing the beds, dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, polishing, laundry, ironing, washing the bathroom, washing the kitchen, washing windows, washing floors, cleaning the deck, shopping, tending to the garden, cleaning gutters, cleaning the car, cooking, doing dishes, and more. Am I to assume that these writers neglect their homes for the sake of writing?

I also wonder what these people write about. I know from experience that the first couple of chapters flow easily. Chapters one to three or five practically write themselves, but then the trouble starts … how to continue. 

Inspiration doesn’t come on command, plenty of good writers sit at their computer, staring at the screen, their fingers motionless on the keyboard. Eventually, they write something, only to delete it. They write something else and that too gets rejected.

In between, there are a ton of distractions: the cat needs petting, the dog needs walking, cups of coffee or tea are made, emails need answering, friends drop by for a chat, Facebook games need playing, etc. etc. etc.

Few will be willing to admit it, but writers are notorious procrastinators. They will start writing tomorrow, or they will start writing after … well, any excuse will do.

A friend of mine took a writing course and while it made her a better writer, it also made her a slower writer. She once told me that, in order to create the perfect sentence, she often plays with the words for 10 or even 20 minutes. Safe to say, my friend won’t write 3,000 words per day. Which begs the question, what is the quality of some writers’ work?

As for NaNoWriMo, it’s a nice incentive for writers to get their bud in gear, but what happens at the end of November. From what I’ve been told … nothing. There are no prices to be won and nobody looks at the manuscripts.

If writers can produce the required 50,000 words in November, why can’t they do the same in any other month? Do writers really need an incentive? Ask most writers why they write and they will say … because I have to. A day without writing is a day wasted.

That’s how I feel. Every morning I wake up with plans to write, but as I mentioned earlier … any number of things get in the way. 

Ideally, I need to hole up in a cottage somewhere, with no WiFi. So, I wonder, when looking at the cottage above, how many writers would join me for a writing getaway. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Day 86: Fifty Shades of rubbish

Between You, Me and the Lamp Post

Day 86: Fifty Shades of rubbish

The writer’s group I belong to is a constant source of inspiration. One of its members, Isaac F., posted a question regarding Fifty Shades. A string of comments followed, but the bottom line is … Fifty Shades was published because the writer knew someone in the publishing world who owed her a favor.

I can’t give you my opinion on the book, because I didn’t bother reading it, but I found this online …

Thanks to my ever-useful Kindle search function, I have discovered that Ana says "Jeez" 81 times and "oh my" 72 times. She "blushes" or "flushes" 125 times, including 13 that are "scarlet," 6 that are "crimson," and one that is "stars and stripes red." (I can't even imagine.) Ana "peeks up" at Christian 13 times, and there are 9 references to Christian's "hooded eyes," 7 to his "long index finger," and 25 to how "hot" he is (including four recurrences of the epic declarative sentence "He's so freaking hot."). Christian's "mouth presses into a hard line" 10 times. Characters "murmur" 199 times, "mutter" 49 times, and "whisper" 195 times (doesn't anyone just talk?), "clamber" on/in/out of things 21 times, and "smirk" 34 times. Christian and Ana also "gasp" 46 times and experience 18 "breath hitches," suggesting a need for prompt intervention by paramedics. Finally, in a remarkable bit of symmetry, our hero and heroine exchange 124 "grins" and 124 "frowns"... which, by the way, seems an awful lot of frowning for a woman who experiences "intense," "body-shattering," "delicious," "violent," "all-consuming," "turbulent," "agonizing" and "exhausting" orgasms on just about every page.

Another writer made the following statement. 

E.L. James, a frumpy little housewife decided one day that she would write a book. By way of research, she found an erotica book, watched a porn movie, and then set to work.

When she was finished she took her work to a publisher who promptly accepted it.
Other writers when they think their work is ready for publication generally have their work proofread and edited. Next, they create a synopsis and a sales pitch. Then they contact one or several literary agents and hope for their work to be accepted. Unfortunately, before that happens, the writer might get one or several rejection letters.

Under no circumstances does a writer ever contact a publisher directly because all of them, at least the respected ones, do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. The writer has to go through a literary agent.

E.L. James had to do none of this. She went straight to a publisher and for some reason, her work was accepted.

She might have sold millions of books and her work might have turned into a movie, but did she gain respect … of course not, she became a laughing stock. Everywhere the book gets slammed and as for the movie … even the cast thought it laughable.

Personally, I think it’s sad and infuriating that such rubbish got published. Writers the world over do their best to produce a good story. They think, they write, they toil for hours to find the right words and tone, they research, and they rewrite their work over and over to reach near perfection.

When they submit their work to a literary agent they get rejected over and over and over again. Some take it in their stride and refuse to give in, others get discouraged and give up.

Fifty Shades was utter rubbish and was published, your manuscript might be beautifully written, but might be buried in obscurity.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Day 85: NaNoWriMo Project

Between You, Me and the Lamp Post

Day 85: NaNoWriMo Project

Anyone doing the NaNoWriMo project? It’s my first time and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Not only do I find it difficult to write on command but writing 50,000 words in one month seems like a daunting task.

We’re eleven days into the project and after a little over 22,000 words, my inspiration is failing me. As I said, I don’t do well writing on command.

When I sit down to write, I stare at my laptop screen and wonder what to say. I type a sentence and delete it. I write another and that one too gets rejected. However, let me start house chores, take a walk, sit in a coffee shop or lie in bed and the ideas come storming into my head.

I remember the day when I started my first novel ‘Waiting for Silverbird’.

I was at work, typing a manual for a military tank when I suddenly got this idea for a story. I started writing and the words flowed effortlessly onto the electronic paper. By the end of the day, the first chapter was completed.

Another thing that I don’t particularly like about the NaNoWriMo project is that at the end of November, writers are supposed to put their work online. This makes me wonder … what if someone sees my work and thinks … that’s a good idea. I can make it my own and make it better.

From what I understand, publishers don’t necessarily have to like a manuscript (they have editors to make the story better), but they have to like the idea, something original and that will sell.

Coming up with something original isn’t easy, it’s almost impossible. Look around at the local library, thousands of books about love, war, aliens, monsters, vampires, murderers, etc.

I can’t be sure, but I think for my new novel I have come up with something original. I’ve never read anything like it before, but then, I haven’t read every book that’s out there. Still, I feel confident about the story and as such, I feel a little hesitant putting it on NaNoWriMo for all to see.

Of course, everyone thinks that their story is the best, that they have a fish on the line that will mean their breakthrough into the publishing world. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if nobody wants to publish the book?

Those who have been published by respected publishing houses will say to keep going, to never give up. Every single one of them will tell you how they contacted literary agents and publishers and received one rejection letter after the other. But eventually found success.

I’ve been through the process a few times myself and I can tell you, it’s hard keeping your spirits up when one rejection letter follows another. For starters, it takes time and effort to contact literary agents. Then, there’s a waiting period. Some take only a matter of days to get back to a writer, others take a few weeks. 

Whenever I saw a reply from an agent in my inbox, I got my hopes up. Was this it? Did I finally find someone who was willing to take a chance on me? It never was. Eventually, I gave up.

Now it’s the NaNoWriMo project. Me, along with a few thousand others, are thinking and typing as if our lives depended on it. From what I understand a few writers have been discovered through the NaNoWriMo project. This time, I’m not giving up.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Day 84: Living and earning in prison

Between You, Me and the Lamp Post

Day 84: Living and earning in prison

Every now and then I hear or see the complaint that prisoners cost the country money.

Just as often there is the speculation of what prisoners do all day. Do they sit in their cell talking to each other, playing cards or board games, reading or watching TV?

And then there is the question, how much do prisoners earn while incarcerated?
James D. posted the following:

This incentive is avoided by making the labor cost behind bar $1 - $2 below the current minimum wage of the state jail is in. For example: if the prison cell in California has the minimum wage at $10.00 hr; the incentive for the corporation should be $8 - $9 hr. If the prison cell is in Georgia and the minimum wage of that state is $9.50 hr; the incentive for the corporation is $8.50 hr.

I have the inside scoop on this subject. I recently started writing to an inmate and she told me that she earns nothing for her work in prison. Yes, you read that right, she earns nothing.

Alexa (not her real name) gets up every day at 3:15 a.m., has breakfast at 4:00 a.m. and then, together with some of her fellow inmates, moves to the kitchen to prepare lunch for 600 prisoners.

In the afternoon she naps, reads, writes or watches TV. In the evening there are unspecified chores, while on Saturday the inmates clean their dorm and do laundry. 

BTW the so-called trustees get to work outside of the prison, the general population does all the work inside the prison, while those in protective custody doesn’t have to work at all. They share a cell with one roommate and have a private TV.

You would think that with all this free labor, the prison would offer certain items free of charge, but that is not the case. When Alexa needs soap, shampoo, moisturizer, hand cream, writing paper, or any other item, she has to buy this from the prison’s store.
When I offered to send her some of these essentials or even some candy, she told me that this is not allowed. I can only send her books and magazines. To buy necessities, prisoners rely on donations from family and friends.

In case you’re wondering how I came to be in contact with a prisoner … this is something I wanted to do for some time. What stopped me was that I had no idea what these people were in prison for. They could be murderers, rapists, animal abusers, etc.

As it turned out, once I found a link to write to prisoners, I could see exactly who I would be writing to and why they were in prison.

After my first letter, Alexa let me know that I could email my letters, but she could not email me back, her letters would remain on paper. This means that she gets my writings within 48 hours and I have to wait for her letters for 8 to 10 days.

I can only say, this is something I should have done a long time ago. I look forward to Alexa’s letters and I’m sure she feels the same.

If you would like to make an inmate’s life a little brighter, have a look at these links:

Friday, November 8, 2019

Day 83: Mike Shreeve - scammer

Between You, Me and the Lamp Post

Day 83: Mike Shreeve - scammer

At any given time, Facebook is a hotbed for scammers. At the moment one such scammer is Mike Shreeve.

Mike claims to have been working as a freelance writer for the past ten years and now he’s willing to share his success template with you. Just to see what he was up to, I clicked on the link and was taken to a long (and I do mean loooooooooong) explanation of what this template could do for you.

I suspected right away that this was a scam and I was right. Near the bottom of the template Mike's true intention was revealed … to get the secret of his writing success, one had to pay $7.

I think you all will agree that $7 isn’t much, it’s little more than the price of a cup of coffee. Mike knows this and counts on it. If you’re thinking that he can’t do much with $7, you would be right, but a true scam is a long con.

Think about it. Facebook has thousands of members and while $7 may seem like nothing, if 1,000 people fall for his scam, that’s $7,000. He only has to run his ad once a month to make a very comfortable living.

To get to the bottom of this, I did a little research and I have to admit, Mike Shreeve put a lot of effort into his scam. He created a website, he designed his so-called ‘No Pants Project’, he even roped in a few people who supposedly made big money with freelance writing.

Someone called Kate claims to make $100 an hour while Pete claims to make $1,000 a day. Every professional freelance writer will see right through this. There is no way, and I  mean no way, that a freelance writer gets paid $100 an hour or that someone can make $1,000 a day. If that were true, people everywhere would quite there day job and start a freelance writing career.

The thing is though, I had to dig deep to find Mike Shreeve’s contact info. Wouldn’t you think that as a businessman he would make his contact info easy to find? But no, his potential victims have to read a lot of blah blah blah. Blah blah blah that tells them how much they can earn and how easy it is. By the time they reach the end of the page, they are brainwashed that what Mike Shreeve promises is actually true.

There’s only one thing missing … Mike Shreeve’s work. Yes, he has a website and a so-called project, and quite a few sites where he promotes his (scamming) business, but when browsing the Net, he has no articles. Now, wouldn’t you think that such a successful writer would have articles online? Something with his byline?

Yes, some writers are ghostwriters for a magazine or a website, but I dare say that all of these ghostwriters, at one time or another, have written something under their own name. That is not the case with Mike Shreeve, I could find any articles with his byline.

Mike Shreeve also has a couple of books on Amazon, with 5-star reviews. Also bogus. The ‘books’ are barely 80 pages long and contain nothing more than a senseless dribble. All rehashed advice of what he could find online. Basically, copying other writers' work. As for the review … I guess we all know by now that there is such a thing as paid reviews.

Do not fall for Mike Shreeve's scam. Do not pay that $7. If you want to be a freelance writer you’re gonna have to do what any other freelance writer has done … put in the time and effort to produce quality material. Once you make a name for yourself, you will get clients and you will make money. How much money is up to you.

The bottom line is … Mike Shreeve is a scammer, a talented scammer, but then scammers usually are.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Day 82: Writing erotica – (sexually explicit content)

Between You, Me and the Lamp Post

Day 82: Writing erotica – (sexually explicit content)

Do you want a good laugh? Hang out in a writer’s group. You’ll either laugh out loud or if your sense of humor deserts you, you’ll sit there shaking your head at the ridiculousness of it all.

Writers everywhere are trying their hand at erotica. Little do they know that writing erotica is one of the most difficult things to do. If it’s not done correctly, it becomes ridiculous and laughable.

I know quite a few authors, respected mainstream published authors, who purposely avoid sex scenes for this very reason. Yet amateurs think they know better and so … they rush where angels fear to tread.

Take Amanda (not her real name) for instance. She wrote and I quote “his pulsing two-foot manhood ..." His what? Two foot!!! I laughed so hard it brought on a coughing fit. Afterward, I did some research and found the following:

Meet Roberto Esquivel Cabrera. He is 54 years old and lives in the city of Saltillo in northeastern Mexico. He claims to have an 18.9-inch penis.

18.9 inch is 1.5 feet and it looks like this

So, Amanda, it’s quite impossible for your main character to have a two-foot penis. BTW I doubt he’ll see much (sexual) action. What woman could accommodate such a guy?

And this is not the only mistake Amanda made. She also stated that the woman’s perky DDD breasts heaved in desire. If she ever gets any readers the will roll their eyes. Unless they’re made of silicone, DDD breasts are never perky. Has Amanda ever seen DDD breasts? DD breasts look like this, can you imagine what DDD breasts look like ...

Then there’s Steffy (not her real name). Steffy has the nerve to call herself a USA Today bestselling author. Again I did a little research …

To ensure a spot on The Wall Street Journal's Bestseller list, you need to sell about 3000 books in the first week and to hit gold and the New York Times Bestseller list, you'll need 9,000 copies sold in the first week.

As a self-published writer, I doubt Steffy had this much sales. Neither can she lay claim to being a USA Today bestselling author as USA Today has never heard of her.

So, while I’m not exactly an authority on writing, I would urge erotica writers to keep it real. What is wrong with B or C cup breasts? Why does it have to be DDD?

As for a man’s member … call it penis, a dick or a cock, anything but ‘his manhood’, and give him a reasonable size. Gentlemen, don’t feel bad if your member isn’t two feet or even a foot long. I found the following online:

In the Journal of Urology study, researchers found the following among the group of 80 men: An average penis size of 8.8 cm (3.5 inches) when flaccid. An average penis size of 12.9 cm (5.1 inches) when erect.

Then again erotica writers … thank you for the laugh. I’m sure I won’t be the only one who has a chuckle with this.