Technical help…

I am starting to post exclusively now at this new site, and had planned on shutting down the old blog over the coming weeks. Now I’m in two minds… the last two days have been my best ever for follows, and every single one is following the old blog! (These all came immediately after I’d transferred all my followers over to this site.)

Were people waiting for me to finally shut up for a minute before they decided to follow me??

So, I’ll have to think about that one. One thing I did want to flag and get some feedback on is about comments. My WordPress reader seems completely thrown by the new website. Not all of your comments appear in my reader… a number get quarantined for no reason (even when you’ve previously commented successfully)… none of my replies appear in my reader… and now, even my comments on your websites seem to be disappearing too.

Blogging is all about interacting, and this isn’t making things easy (for me, certainly).

My questions to you are twofold:

  1. Have you been experiencing similar problems with making comments on this site, or picking up my replies?
  2. Does anyone have any technical insight to steer me towards resolving this?

Grateful for ANY help that you can offer, even if it’s only feedback to say that you’ve not had any problems! 🙂

Thank you!

Monday Musing… The Worst Day…

Everyone has a bad day from time to time. Maybe not “attacked-by-a-bear-then-left-to-die-in-the-woods” bad, but everyday bad. Even those we see as being particularly blessed will have a shocker now and again. Bill Gates will get his wang caught in his fly. Dave Grohl (“nicest man in rock”) will accidentally drop a “c-bomb” in front of his mum at a family dinner. David Beckham will get completely ignored in public, while his son gets spotted and subjected to trial by selfie. Donald Trump will accidentally put the hamster on his head, while his wig is being cleaned…

Yeah, I’m keeping this build-up light. Last Thursday was a shocker for me. And that saying about things coming in threes? Yep, that too.

Thursday morning, out of the blue, I got told at work I’m going to be made redundant. In the afternoon, a serious health scare for someone very close to me, that will need surgery.

These are both major shocks to the system, but it was the one that happened in between that made me break down and cry like a baby.

I saw my cat die.

While getting changed out of my work clothes, brain whizzing about with what I’m going to do next, how we’re going to pay the mortgage/ feed the kids/ get through this one, I watched my cat die on the bed, right next to me.

With no warning, she lay her head on its side, and just curled up like a leaf closing, pulling in on herself. The air slowly leaving her body. A balloon silently deflating.

I patted her and stroked her, saying her name over and over, but there was no reaction. I patted her a bit more urgently. Nothing.

Her heart wasn’t beating.

Her lungs weren’t working.

Nothing.

I started blubbing like a baby, sobbing her name.

Maybe ten seconds later, she lifted her head up and let out a couple of angry mews (pain?).

I went to stroke her, but she ran off and hid downstairs. She was a bit skittish for the rest of the day, but otherwise acted the same as normal. A bit mental, a bit stand-offish, very demanding about food. You know, like a normal cat.

I know my cat, and I know how she reacts to things. I am absolutely certain that she died. And yet here she is now, nuzzling around my feet, acting within her normal parameters of strangeness.

Maybe her throat closed or something. I don’t know. Do cats suffer from anaphylactic shock?

So with those big three things happening on the same day, the one that made me really cry, and is making me well up recalling it, was my cat dying. For a bit.

Go figure.

 

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My cat. Definitely just napping this time.

Ten Things That Writers Can Learn From "Finding Nemo"

At the weekend, I was watching Finding Nemo (again) with my boys. They love it. I love it. It’s in my top five favourite films of all time, which is really saying something bearing in mind I’ve seen it more often than the rest of the top four put together (and probably the rest of any top ten, if I ever went that far with a list).

(Yes, I know the (frankly disappointing) trailer for Finding Dory is out now. I care not for being topical!)

While watching Nemo, my thoughts drifted again to my own writing journey. This is dominating my thoughts at the moment… maybe yours too. And I realised that there are a bunch of things for writers to take away from the film, even leaving aside the obvious “write something even half as good and you’ll probably go a long way” point. I’m sure these lessons apply for many other paths through life too, but I’m working on Chuck Wendig’s principle that the internet is 55% porn/ 45% writers, and writing for the minority.

So, in time-honoured tradition, here are my top ten Finding Nemo takeaways for writers:

  • 1) The start of the journey will not be auspicious
    There may be a thousand writer-eggs born that start the journey, with protestations of “I’ve always wanted to write a novel“, but then the barracudas of life sweep in and suddenly the field thins down to… just you. Damaged, possibly emotionally and physically, but determined.
  • 2) The path to your ultimate goal is not easy, or linear
    There will be numerous challenges along the way. It does not matter how you reach your goal, only that you do reach your goal. If life offers you a chance to speed along on the writing equivalent of the East Australian Current, then take it. (And if any fellow writers have any insight as to what the EAC is for us, then please let me know in the comments!)
  • 3) Strange bedfellows will help you on your journey
    You will come across many types of people that you would not ordinarily hang around with, let alone rely on. These may turn out to be your greatest allies. “Fish are friends, not food.”
  • 4) Push yourself beyond your limits to achieve
    Even if you prefer the comforts of your writer-cave, rubbing yourself continually against the anemone of reassurance before venturing the smallest distance, that won’t take you very far. Embrace new experiences and challenges… You will have to risk rejection, in fact risk everything, to achieve your goals.
  • 5) Trust in your friends
    You cannot complete the journey alone. You will need the support of partners/ family/ critique partners / beta readers / fellow writers to make it. Take a small handful into your confidence, and trust them completely. If they tell you to move to the back of the whale’s throat, you move to the back of the whale’s throat.
  • 6) Understand the industry / agents / publishers
    Rejection is not personal. You are a fish. Those in the industry are birds. As Nigel the pelican says to Marlin and Dory:
    “Sorry if I took a snap at you at one time. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta eat.”
  • 7) Creating a buzz will help you succeed
    If “the whole ocean’s talking about it“, then it may just help you over the finish line when all hope seems lost. This buzz is created organically, without seeking attention.
  • 8) Plan thoroughly
    If your plan is immaculate, and executed to perfection, it is still no good if it leaves you floating on the sea in a plastic bag, with no obvious means of bursting the bubble to finalise your escape. “Now what?
  • 9) Success may not be what you expect
    Achieving your goals may result in you ending up back where you started, physically, but in an entirely different place, mentally and emotionally.
  • 10) Never give up
    The most important lesson of all comes from Dory. “Just keep swimming.”

 

So, those are my top tips for writers from Finding Nemo. Do you have any to add to this list, or advice gained from other unlikely sources?

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/roome/313385621

So, er, this is awkward…

Yesterday was a real rollercoaster of a day.

Having psyched myself up for surgery, following all the advice on what I could and couldn’t eat and drink at the relevant times, I kissed my family goodbye and caught the bus to the hospital… where I sat around for several hours, fully gowned-up in finest hospital-style, before being told that an earlier emergency surgery had over-run, and that my operation would have to be re-scheduled.

Bugger.

It’s one of those annoying annoyances that you can’t even really be annoyed about. As babbitman put it, it’s “someone having a slightly worse time of things that slightly inconveniences you”.

I now await the call – hopefully on Monday – to reschedule. Obviously I’m hoping that it’s not too long a wait. Thank you to everyone for your lovely messages. I will re-read them once the op has actually taken place <3

As a little postscript, I had gone into the hospital without wallet, keys or phone, anticipating being collected by my wife post-surgery, and not wanting to risk losing my valuables. She was spending the afternoon taking our eldest to a climbing centre with his Beavers group…

The hospital let me call my wife on her mobile after giving me the news, but the only information I managed to get from that short, crackly call was the name of the venue, and that it was “somewhere near the Victoria Centre” (a large shopping centre).

I had a bus-pass, £2 in change, and no real clue where to go…

I set off, determined to be as resourceful as Jack Bauer, and find this venue within the hour (before they finished and moved on – no phone, remember). I even had the “24 beeps” in my head. I used my bus pass to get me near the Vic Centre, and hotfooted it across town (for two reasons – 1 – the clock was ticking, and 2- I was wearing “loose fitting hospital wear”, and looked like a hobo. I didn’t want to bump into anyone I knew!)

So anyway, I thought I’d be clever and ask at the information desk at the Vic Centre… they’d never heard of it. Nor had the cleaner. Nor had some random guy walking by with his kid. Dammit! So I turned to a basic GCSE-level knowledge of Central Business Districts, and thought about the areas of the city centre most likely to house a climbing centre… then basically wandered around a bit until I found it!

How on earth did we survive before we had mobile phones, complete with maps of everything and everywhere in the world? Did we just wander around like this all the time, muttering dammit under our breaths??

 

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This was just like me, apart from the gun. Guns kill people

Powering down…

As well as it being my weekly “offline Saturday”, this week I will be shutting down in a more literal, medical sense. As this is posted, I will be under general anaesthetic for an operation to hopefully cure the issues that have kept me off work for three of the past six months. Post-op recovery is likely to be painful, for at least a few days, possibly weeks.

As a consequence, I may be around less in the coming week… it is also possible that I’ll go the opposite way, and plug myself into the matrix completely, as other options will be limited.

On the bright side, there’s only a one-in-50,000 chance that I’ll actually die, as my doctor cheerfully informed me.

Never tell me the odds!

I’m sure, with trademark Lane optimism, that it’ll all be alright.

I’ll just park this here in the meantime…

 

The Soundtrack of My Life (TGBOL)

This week’s prompt for The Great Book of Lists is “the soundtrack to our lives”. To explain:

“We’re going to write about the music themes and songs that are engraved in our dearest memories that can evoke a memory faster than anything else, or make you feel good and giddy. What music is so intertwined with your life and personality that you can play it in your head without actually hearing it ? What musical pieces remind you of a particular time in your life like it was yesterday ?”

So many great songs with fond memories to choose from, but this is THE soundtrack to my life, in roughly chronological order…

Childhood –

Adam Ant – Stand & Deliver – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B2a6l6wM2k

The first music that I remember ever getting into was Adam & The Ants. I’m stupidly excited by the thought of seeing him play at the Isle of Wight Festival this summer.

Honourable mention here for the Bouncing Song from Not The Nine O’Clock News (“I like bouncing, boing boing boing, Up and down until I get a pain in my groin”). I had an album – on VINYL – of their best sketches… and look at what I’m writing now. It’s all there…

Uni Days –

Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mln0RciE2o0

I co-hosted a student council party at the end of my second year… the opening riff was played every time I took to the stage, looking rake-ish with painted-on sideburns, the jester king in court. Or something like that… great night, great memories.

Honourable mentions for Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bad Medicine, or Roxanne – any of these jukebox staples take me back to the dingy, red-linoleum-floored college bar, spending hours avoiding writing that essay that was due in the next day, and endlessly trying and failing to “beat” the quiz machine. (The quiz machine, incidentally, at which me and my future wife first got talking. She was much better at it than me!)

Love –

Rolling Stones – Wild Horses – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNaqBBjrIZw

Our choice of song for our first dance at our wedding. This may have been slightly Buffy-inspired on my wife’s part…

Honourable mentions to Spandau Ballet’s Gold, or Flight of the Conchords’ I’m Not Crying: my wife’s two favourite songs!

Friendship –

Blur – Country House – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci0fyRAw21Q

This is a song that takes me straight back to the second greatest party of my life… a best friend’s wedding. A ridiculously good night.

Honourable mention here for Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby, and one of my best friends taking this with him everywhere he goes in the world… no karaoke bar, or living room, is safe! Also, Gin and Juice as covered by Hayseed Dixie. 

Personal challenge –

Rocky theme – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I33u_EHLI3w

I ran a half marathon a few years ago. (I’m a big lad… I don’t know what I was thinking.) I went really overboard on the playlist to get me round the course, and it was predictably, fittingly, inevitably the Rocky theme that got me through the toughest part of the race.

My boys –

Blur – Tender – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T8LMZhz6FQ

This was my “go-to” song to soothe both boys when they were little babies; a perfect nursery rhyme for those parents who are sick of actual nursery rhymes! I’ve included the link to the live version they performed at Glastonbury in 2009, which adds another layer to my love for this… I was there in the crowd with my friends singing it back to them. A magical moment.

Honourable mentions:
Muppets – Ma Na Ma Na. You know the one. More addictive than crack, and stickier than superglue. 
Pharrell – Happy (aka “Minions song!”). Even stickier than Ma Na Ma Na!
These are both big favourites in the Lane house… I have shortcuts to these on my phone to wheel out when needed!

And because this is me, this is also the soundtrack to my death… these are the songs I’d like played at my funeral.

Nick Cave – Death Is Not The End – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJXN5VPkyH8 (Listening to this again now, I realise how similar this is to Tender…)

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird (the full ten-minute version, as my coffin is cremated… the silly side of me likes the thought of the audience looking at their watches, tapping their feet in boredom, wondering how much longer they have to stand there for!) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=np0solnL1XY

Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9IfHDi-2EA

 

What are the songs that form the soundtrack to your lives? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Words That Matter (TGBOL)

This week’s prompt for The Great Book of Lists is “words that matter”.

“Words, as simple as they may seem, possess power. Once spoken, you cannot take them back. Once said, it’ll be either white or black.

“So today, let’s make a list of those words that has pushed you forward, to do good, to be glad. Words that kept you standing. Words that encouraged you to keep moving. Words that picked you up. Words that lit you up. Words that introduced you to an unknown world. Words that explained you the meaning of life, even beyond earth.

Those words deserve to be shared, so let’s share them today.”

Here is my list of words that matter:

“I will”
The promise made on my wedding day. Not the “I do” that you tend to see in films and stories, but the forward-looking “I will”. And I will.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
This is a quote from Yoda in Empire Strikes Back, back when his lines actually carried some deeper meaning rather than just being backwards-spoken gibberish (yes, this is another moan about the prequels). If you set out to “try”, you are already accepting the possibility of failure. Set out to “do”, and let your positivity carry you forward.

“Try this at home”
Frank Turner is a particular inspiration to me. His folk-punk music, and “try it yourself” attitude, directly led me to take up the electronic pen and try poeting on my own. I could quote so many of his lyrics, but the following two are particularly important to me:

And I won’t sit down
And I won’t shut up
And most of all I will not grow up
“Photosynthesis”

Because we write love songs in C, we do politics in G,
we sing songs about our friends in E minor.
So tear down the stars now and take up your guitars:
come on folks and try this at home.
“Try This At Home”

“Love you, Daddy”
Yes, it’s cheesy, but I could hear this all day long, from either of my boys. They light me up, every single time.

“More money, more doughnuts”
I wanted to end on something different… this phrase is one my six-year old came up with recently. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more succinct summary of capitalism 🙂

So, these are the words that matter to me. What words matter to you?

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/_sk/2638831430

Coming Up!

I’ve settled into a regular-ish blogging routine now, based around a handful of challenges that I enjoy, and that tolerate my continued wibbling. So, in an attempt to manage my own time as much as your fervent expectations (honestly, it’s like Beatlemania meets Biebermania every time I step out of my own front door), this is what you can expect each day, between now and April (when the poem-a-day blogging challenge kicks in, and I cry myself to sleep every day for failing to prepare despite having no excuse this year).

The BIG NEWS is that I have secured an exciting guest blogger to come and join me every Monday until April… See Yi-Oh will be sharing the benefits of his business nous (in haiku form, obviously) in a new series “The Two-Minute Manager“. I hope you’ll give him a warm welcome when he joins me tomorrow!

MONDAY – Limerick Challenge / The Two-Minute Manager

TUESDAY – Haiku Challenges – Ronovan & haiku horizons

WEDNESDAY – Secret Keeper’s Challenge

THURSDAY – Pop-Culture Thursday… the name needs work, but it’ll be something rhyme-y whyme-y, about something pop-culture-y

FRIDAY – The Great Book of Lists

WEEKENDS – no planned posts, unless for a specific challenge. I’ll be spending Saturdays entirely offline. Go and have some outdoor fun, people!

Plus there will be other bouts of randomness as and when inspiration strikes.

If there are any burning topics, ignored by better poets, that you think need covering in rhyme, let me know below the line 🙂

 

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The scene outside my front door every morning… makes the commute to work a challenge…

Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/613445810

Unplugged Saturday

I mentioned in my Friday list post that one of my New Year’s Absolutely-Not-A-Resolution (But-Kinda-Is) was to spend one day a week completely offline. Well, I tried it yesterday for the first time…

In a normal day, I spend hours checking and replying to emails, checking Facebook, scrolling through Twitter, refreshing news pages, looking at rugby scores… Even if I’m watching a film or a TV show with my boys, chances are I’m on my smartphone at the same time, giving each half of my attention. Sound familiar to anyone else?

Well, not yesterday.

I went completely cold turkey.

COMPLETELY.

Now, as a smartphone user, this meant pretty much hiding my phone away all day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist the little counter at the bottom of the screen telling me there were 15 or whatever new messages to check. I turned off automatic syncing, so the numbers stayed silent, and temptation wouldn’t flash before me.

Then, just to make sure, I turned the ringer volume up and left the phone in a different room.

(I contemplated hiding it under a cushion, but thought that might be going overboard.)

We had no big family things on yesterday – the youngest went a birthday party, the oldest to play with his friends down the road for a couple of hours, the usual weekend parental taxi-ing – but unusually I did get an hour at home to myself. Prime Facebook time…

But I decided to read instead.

Crazy, right?

I’m always complaining that I don’t have time to read, so I thought this was a golden opportunity to put my money where my mouth was.

I’d started Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover the night before… I finished it yesterday afternoon. I can’t remember the last time I got through a book so quickly. The book’s amazing, and a quick read… so there I was, on a Saturday afternoon, in an empty house, crying at the end of a book for the first time in … a very long time.

After tidying myself up, I picked Louis Sachar’s Holes from my reading pile, and started on that… another great choice. I’m halfway through it already, completely hooked.

Better than Facebook anyday.

The flip side of this day offline is (a) not having any phone to distract me while we watched an awful film for Film Night (The Little Vampire)… and (b) having 205 new emails to catch up with on Sunday morning… but an hour on the laptop to focus on those saw to that (and write this post into the bargain).

Batched living. It’s the way forward!

So, it may take me longer to reply to emails and messages, but you know what… it can wait…

Enjoy your Sunday. And whatever your doing, give it your full attention 🙂

 

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