The Top Ten Facebook Crimes – Chapter Five

facebook userBook Number Three, Chapter Five

Chapter One – An Unexpected Start to a Sunday Morning

Chapter Two – Sleeping on Your Front

Chapter Three – Destination Obal B

Chapter Four – Half a Hot Dog in a Handbag

 

Sunday morning into the afternoon, somewhere in the city.

I appear to have turned into a Facebook bore.

I know, Facebook. Like, who would bother when you’ve got Twitter, and Instagram? I just used to go on it for the occasional nose, and maybe once or twice I posted a pic of me and various other people getting drunk, or one of Corky the cat doing his cute-sy stuff. I maybe posted something once or twice a month.

I never posted up inspirational quotes about love, friendship and/or fitness, or a bet that 97 percent of my friends would never share this earnest quote about cancer, or reply to a post with one word, and preferably a word that was flattering, that described me.

But now? Now I seem to do all the above. And yet at the same time, I have ten times the number of friends on Facebook I used to have and people keep sharing my shite. Those inspirational quotes seem to be very popular indeed, and my Facebook friends appear to love all those sickly pictures and videos of cute kids I keep posting.

And not one person has made a sarcastic comment about this: Celebrating our 20th year of marriage. Can’t believe we’ve been together and so happy for so long. Love you so much baby. You’re the best which was posted a week ago.

20th year? Well, that ties in with the dodgy wedding pic on the landing I guess. Continue reading

Job Satisfaction

breadThe baker did her best. She sourced artisan flours from organic wheat. She hand-kneaded dough and left it to prove for a long time – often overnight.

She nurtured a sour dough starter, lovingly tending it and feeding it ever day so that she could produce the most delicious bread, rich and chewy its flavour fizzing on the tongue.

Naturally such bread did not come cheap. Her loaves were four times as expensive as supermarket squishy sponge as she referred to it.

Did you go into the business to make money, her friends asked?

No, only to make dough she was able to reply.

 

©Emma Baird 2016

Mad for the Mouse – The Disruptive Powers of the Cat

freddie next to computer

Gerroff my keyboard!!

I’m a fully-paid up member of the mad for moggies ladies club – so mad for them, I even wrote a book, Katie and the Deelans, where teenagers discover the power to change into cats. (Oh joy – can you imagine?!)

I’m not the only one to write a book with cats as the star. Editor, features writer and author Melanie Whitehouse was adopted by her cat, Gus, in 2003. He inspired her book The Tail of Augustus Moon (2008, Book Guild), which tells the story of Gus’s adoption of journalist Maisie and his experience of the chaos that is a 40-something woman in search of a man.

As a member of various writer forums, I’ve noticed a number of throw-away comments about cats and I began to wonder to myself: “Is there something to this ‘cats as inspiration’/’writers having cats’ feeling that I have?”

One thorough, scientific experiment later – well, a quick straw poll of a freelance women writers’ forum – and the results revealed themselves. Within minutes of posting up a question about cats, inspiration and how cats like to sit on your keyboard, I’d been inundated with responses.

And an awful lot of fabulous pictures of cats curled up next to laptops, cats sitting in in-boxes, cats taking up room on top of notebooks.

The overwhelming feeling was that cats make the writer’s life less lonely. In the main, freelancers work from home and the cat helps to make up for the lack of contact with human beings. Continue reading

Re-ordering Blog Posts and Getting Rid of Pingbacks

Power of WordsI’ve been tidying up book number three (working title: Parallel) as it appears on this blog.

I’d had feedback that it was confusing – which is understandable in that my book juggles the stories of three women so it can be hard to keep track of when it’s appearing in serial form on a blog. I added in some times and days for the start of each chapter and I also added in links to all the chapters on the blogs and on one page, here.

Incidentally, adding links in your own blog usually leads to pingbacks. According to the very useful website, WordPress beginner, pingbacks give software the ability to communicate between websites and if you link to an article on your own blog, WordPress automatically sends a self-ping.

I’m not entirely sure I understand it yet, but I did want rid of the feature because I found it annoying and, as it turns out, it’s easy to remove.

  1. Go to the dashboard.
  2. Go to settings.
  3. Go to discussions.
  4. At the top is an option – Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article.
  5. Untick this.

Voila – no more annoying pingbacks!

And here’s my new page setting out the location of all the chapters of book number three that I’ve posted here.

Killing Them With Kindness

TrollsThere’s an individual who has gained a certain amount of notoriety of late – I won’t mention his name or his website as that merely adds fuel to the publicity fire he seeks, but let’s just call him Randy.

In truth, I thought I shouldn’t write about him at all. There are a few people who choose to live their lives (and make money) through provocative behaviour. Commenting on them justifies their actions.

But I justified writing this blog to myself by reasoning that as I write an obscure blog, read and seen by very few (and by the way, I do treasure those of you who do read and follow my work) I am not adding fuel to Randy’s publicity fire and I haven’t mentioned him by name.

(According to one news source I read, his website experienced 82,000 unique visits this week. Hmm.)

Negativity, trolling and deliberately provocative remarks and behaviour online are often thought of as something that is too easy. Being face to face with someone requires rather more courage to say to them, “you are S*** and so is everything you write and everything you say”. (And that is probably one of the milder comments you can get on YouTube or Twitter.)

But actually, what is really easy is being nice. It leaves you with this warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Don’t believe me? Spend the next hour or so going through other people’s blogs. Comment on them all – hey, nice pics, or wow, thought-provoking article, I like what you have described or isn’t your cat so cute?

Feel better now? Feel like a nice human being? Mmm, me too.

You can, if you want, seek out Randy and bombard him with nice comments. I don’t mean faux nice comments (Hi Randy, I can tell you’re unhappy. Never managed to get a girlfriend hmm?) but proper ones: Hi Randy, have a lovely day! Or Hi Randy, hope you are taking very good care of yourself – which neatly steer away from any endorsement of his actual views.

And in the meantime, here’s a little bit of cheeky Friday flash fiction.

Notice Me

With a snigger that smacked of Beavis and Butthead, Randy clicked ‘Send’ and sat back, launching his latest hate-filled 140-character rocket into the ether.

Sure enough, within seconds the rocket exploded and his phone pinged once, twice… and more. The responses were coming in thick and fast.

“Randy, you in there?”

“Mooooommmm,” he whined as his mother came in, bearing sandwiches.

“Whaddya doin’ son?” She was an understanding kind of mom.

“Tryin’ to get this woman’s attention, Ma. She’s an amazin’ feminist and I dunno what else to do to get her to notice me. Wish I could date her!”

 

©Emma Baird 2016

A Notable Woman

A Notable Woman: The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey PrattA Notable Woman: The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt by Jean Lucey Pratt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Notable Woman is an extraordinary book – painful reading at times, but very worthwhile. Simon Garfield has edited the journals of a 20th century woman. Jean Lucey Pratt kept journals for 61 years up until a couple of months before her death and the journals record her daily life, her feelings and what was going on at the time.

There are small details that make it incredibly fascinating – Jean loved cats for example, and there is the question about how you fed cats during the Second World War, and there is also her growing realisation that her cigarette habit is doing serious harm to her health (smoking having been thought of as mostly harmless up until the 1950s).

But most of the book is about Jean’s loneliness. It makes for very painful reading at times and you rather wish a nice man would come along – or rather, that she would stop falling for such awful cads. Her descriptions of people are rather fabulous, if often unflattering, but there’s bravery running through the writing, a kind of unflinching determination to write about herself and what is going on in truthful terms.

The book is a perfect choice for book groups, as it is bound to elicit plenty of discussion. Just a warning though – it’s a whopper (700 plus pages).

View all my reviews

Writing About Teenagers – Can You Keep Up?

teenagersLast year, I finished a book about teenagers – specifically a teenager with mental health issues. I enjoyed writing the story and I felt reasonably proud of it once I had finished, but I knew work needed to be done on it. It needed re-writing in places and it needed some re-ordering of the plot half-way through.

[I find beginnings easy to write and endings fairly straightforward, but the middle of the novel – the rising arc seems to give me issues.]

I started the re-writing and then ground to a halt, beginning another novel instead and letting that take up my time. One of my issues with the book about teenagers is my feeling that I can’t possibly keep up. When I started book number two, I felt reasonably confident that I knew how teenagers lived and existed day-to-day, but as time went on I lost that confidence.

How do teenagers live these days? Do they talk to each other at all? Or are they too busy, heads bent, hands curled round a mobile phone awaiting updates on whatever social media platforms they belong to? And what social media platforms are they on? Is Twitter now passe? Have young people grown bored of Instagram yet? Have they moved onto Periscope? And how exactly does Snapchat work?

Modernity feels as if it’s difficult to accurately reflect these days because it moves so very, very quickly. I’m sure anyone writing about children and teenagers 40 or 50 years ago could confidently feel that their book would be as relevant at the end of a decade as it had been at the beginning of one, but I don’t feel that way about teenagers living in 2010, compared to teenagers living in 2016.

The answer to this dilemma? Who knows… Writing about teenage vampires or teenagers living in a futuristic world where they need to take part in games to stay alive? Maybe that’s the answer.

Oh. That’s been done already. Oh well.

 

A SANDWICH AT THE END OF THE NIGHT

sandwich 2A little short story for you – that could become something longer…

They met at university – that is to say, Nell was a student at university and Digby was a 20-year-old young entrepreneur who had figured out that the students who came into his High Street deli shop for gourmet sandwiches might appreciate the availability of those sandwiches at other times.

Times such as a Thursday night, post the weekly disco held in the union hall.

He had persuaded his dad to lend him the money to buy a cheap van, which he then converted into a mobile sandwich-making and preparing venue and he parked outside the union hall every Thursday from 10pm. At that time of the night, he was targeting the swotty students who weren’t prepared to sacrifice study time on a Friday for a hangover.

As the night progressed though, sales rose dramatically. He had always been a practical person and he couldn’t understand why students wouldn’t reason to themselves that they were only yards from their student halls and bedsits so why not conjure up their own sandwiches at tiny costs to themselves?

As he said to his Thursday night sandwich assistant, ‘ours is not to reason why’ (congratulating himself on the high-brow sound of the phrase which seemed imminently suitable for the university setting) as they enjoyed raking in money from the leery students who crowded round the van and demanded sandwiches, often two at a time.

Nell wasn’t a frequenter of the Thursday night disco. Not because she was a swotty type – though she had progressed well at university so far – but because she loathed not being able to hear herself think and being chatted up by drunken morons. (Her words, not theirs.) Continue reading

Miami Vice circa 1985

Some flash fiction – January-themed:

Jamie’s 2016 New Year resolution was to model himself on a 1980s lounge lizard whenever at parties.

Thus, he dressed in chinos, a polo shirt with a pastel-coloured jumper tied loosely round his shoulders and deck shoes – no socks. He also magically materialised beside any woman in need of a drink top-up or a light, proffering either a bottle of wine or a lighter.

Unfortunately for Jamie, he hadn’t taken into account Dry January. Most women didn’t require a drink top-up because they were abstaining (ditto the ciggies).

Jamie’s appeal depended almost entirely on the blunting haze of alcohol.

 

If you can do better (you can, you know) why not submit a story to the FridayFlashFiction website?