I’m so topical I don’t understand why I’m not an icon

Just call me Ms Demographic, Demi for short. I’m a babyboomer, for starters. Born between 1946 and 1964, and a little fed up that my retirement age moved from nicely handy to six years further down the line.

I’m a writer of breezy novellas who, thanks to the ebook and POD revolution, could publish myself. That’s a bigger demographic than you might realize. Last time I checked there were over 13 million books out there, and I checked Amazon.com right now, as I’m typing this – in my main category, Mystery Thriller and Suspense, there were 6829 new releases in the last 30 days.  (One of them is mine, 17 18, woohoo). There are over half a million in that category alone.  I do get pretty excited about occasionally popping into the top twenty thousand writers, but the reality is that only authors consistently in the top thousand enjoy the dizzying excitement of being able to support themselves with their writing.  Still. My books pay for my holidays, and I do take a lot of those.

I’m a mature single – that’s an absolutely huge demographic – and have been on a singles website for a few years now. Research, of course,  but I take my research seriously, been there, done that, got my heart broken (okay, dented) and wrote the book(s). (Being the mature single is the demographic, writing On Meeting Mr Will Do Nicely and a couple of novels was a bit more niche.)

I was made redundant  recently, that’s a growing demographic, and for the second time.  With all those extra years to fill in before I can start living off the fat of the land with a (partial) British pension, I’m part of that other demographic, the one that thinks oi, life the way it is hasn’t really ticked all my boxes or rung all my bells, is it time to try something else?

There’s the demographic of the many, many Brits who bolt to the sun to try that something else in a warmer climate. A staggering percentage of them chose Spain. Never one to buck a trend, I found a dilapidated (i.e. affordable) townhouse in a fairly perfect white village, and decided that was it, future sorted. Sell the house in Scotland, buy the house in Spain, which is way big enough to run a couple of Airbnb options (another growing demographic) and Bob’s your uncle.

Okay, working in Spain would be challenging, since my Spanish so far consists of knowing how to order coffee, and increasingly talented in the areas of point-and-or-mime, and that’s after seven holidays in rapid succession in Spanish-speaking territories.  All I can reasonably ask of the house is that it will earn enough to pay for its own maintenance and upkeep.

No problem. Teach the Spanish to speak English. So I did a TEFL course and am currently busily gaining vital experience as a teacher through an international online agency. That’s a smaller demographic, I’ll grant you that, but it too is growing.

Demographically, I am in so many Venn diagrams that Windmills Of Your Mind is becoming my theme song. I’m a human fidget spinner.

Surely I can turn this wealth of overlapping demographics into cash terms somehow? Brexit and the dratted General Election are playing merry havoc with the pound / euro exchange rate, and I do need that rate strong to do the house-and-fix-up thing. Scotland’s will-we, won’t-we rumblings about independence has slowed the house-sales market to a crawl. Tchah!

Ideas on cashing in on my demographic potential ? Anyone? Ta.

What makes a granny? This is not a rhetorical question, I need an answer …

What comes to mind when you hear the word Granny ?  And WHY in the name of all that’s holy is this a cross -section of what I get when I looked online for granny cartoons?  Rocking chairs, zimmer frames, grey or white hair – remember Wayne Rooney’s “granny” scandal? She was in her late forties.  Lots of grannies are. Do the math. Have a child in your early twenties,  your child pups in his / her early twenties –  don’t really need a calculator, do we?

So women with children have a reasonable chance of being a granny in their forties, a fairly good one in their fifties, almost guaranteed in their sixties:  yet all the cartoons show dear (or feisty) old ducks, Indian summer gone, winter well on its way, average age, hmm, 80?

And hey, on the subject of 80 – Sophia Loren is 80, and going on tour. The first word that sprang to my mind when I watched her being interviewed was not ‘Granny’.  I have a cousin who is roaring into her 80s. She’s tall, plays golf, skies, gardens, travels a huge amount, she’s fresh-faced and fit as a flea, you’d unhesitatingly knock 20 years and more off her age. She’s very good at being a granny, skies with the grandkids and all. Not a rocking chair in sight.

But back to the fifty-something granny – I said to a male buddy that I was looking into the granny thing and his instinctive reaction? He said he couldn’t help, he never met either of his.  He’s sixty, single, and has dated several .

It’s a sign of the times that we of potential granny age aren’t seen automatically as grannies, and I’m very happy about that, but what word would sum up the woman whose offspring has produced offspring, if they aren’t dear old ducks?

Hence my opening question. What comes to mind when you hear the word Granny? This isn’t idle wittering, I’ve challenged myself to write a ‘granny’ story but this granny – you know me by now – is not a dear old duck.  I have no idea what her grandchild is to call her.

South Africans have a lovely option with the Zulu word for grandmother, gogo, pronounced gaw-gaw,  which I will absolutely claim in real life when the role is available. It’s a bit niche, though, Zulu not being one of the world’s widely-spoken languages.

I’ll be back to worry at this question later, but for now I’ll leave you with this, because it is currently my favourite cartoon.  In fact – I know Goodreads blogs don’t always include my pics – I’m going to add it to my profile, because I really do like it.  The credit to source shows on the photo.

 

H is for Hint / Help

Solitaire’s the only game in town – and this version offers hints for moves you might not have spotted. When you’ve moved everything you can see to move,  you press H for hint and the game may suggest a move you hadn’t seen. It isn’t always the best move, to be honest. But sometimes it was a really obvious move and you simply hadn’t spotted it.

That’s what my life needs. H for hint.

Show me a move I hadn’t spotted.

Please.

Because right now, the game I’m in, I don’t think it’s going to come out, and life doesn’t offer too many ‘undo last move’ options. Replay this game, or start over? Hah.

You see the hand. Looking pretty good. There’s a promising run building up there, and a couple of wins already in the bag, and a few cards sitting red on black or black on red which could be whisked away. It looks like it should work out, but everything depends on the next deal, the last deal.

No way of controlling the deal, that’s a given. But is everything set up as well as it could be to cope with whatever the last hand brings?

My life needs Hints.

(Turned out, this game worked. The black ace didn’t deal itself straight onto the last row, but there was a black ace, a move here, a switch there, shunt those cards to there, and YUP, game swiftly sorted after that. Do I take that as an omen? A – hint?)

I’m going to get an offer for my house – could be today, could take a month, but I know it is imminent. That will be the next hand dealt in my life. I have no idea how to play it. I’m overwhelmed with options, more accurately I have no idea how I should play it.

Press H

Goodreads and giveaways, grrrr.

Seriously, how hard should it be to set up a Goodreads giveaway?

Here’s how it should work. Click on your book. Look for the ‘would you like to set up a giveaway?’ option. Select yes, the start / end dates, and how many paperbacks you are actually throwing into the pot. Click save.

As a bonus, a little note will pop up on your profile for the duration so anyone actually looking at your profile, you know, interested in your writing, will see a helpful note saying ‘this author currently has a book on giveaway, click here to see details’.

HAH.

One particular little refinement of torture would have got me if I hadn’t already learned Goodreads’ little ways in earlier times. Before you can save / complete the giveaway (which includes some fiddly info supplied when you listed the book in the first place which should come up automatically and doesn’t, and a wheedling coaxing intro) you have to click a little box confirming you have read the T&C. Hmm, I thought, better read them. And because I learned the hard way once before, I copied my wheedling coaxing intro, which had taken some little while to tweak into shape, to a safe place. Then I went to the T&C.

When you finish reading them, you have to press a button marked BACK. Back, indeed, you go. To your profile. Giveaway details deleted.

Feel the love.

And is GR not owned by Amazon? I write under three names. On Amazon, they are linked. On GR, I cannot link the books under my other names to my main profile, because they have already been created under the other names. Uh uh uhhhh.
scold

Feel the love.

So hi. There’s a giveaway of The Money Honey coming up on GR. Or not. Who knows?  dunno

Ever researching on your behalf,

Elegsabiff.

 

 

 

 

Don’t know where, don’t know when – theoretically Spain –

Limbo … my office closed at the end of April, making us all redundant, and I have a tiny financial cushion while I look for another job – but what kind of job? Temporary, short-term, massive pay, would probably be best because my house is on the market.

If it doesn’t sell, I have to find something permanent (massive pay would continue to be a bonsella) or sell a lot more books to keep the bulldog in the extremely expensive food she has to have because of her pink skin problems.

It may not sell.  My small town on the Firth of Forth is lovely, but short on public transport and therefore not in brisk demand. Scotland generally is unsettled, due to La Sturgeon’s ongoing determination to cut us adrift.  Investors are leaving, not buying, and my erstwhile employers are far from the only national company quietly moving operations down south. These are not ideal selling conditions.

If it does sell, though – hmmm. Spain? There’s an enormous townhouse there, in a lovely little town perfectly positioned for quiet tourists, which would convert into four holiday apartments plus a flatlet for me (I did say enormous!)  Right now, it’s a white elephant of note. Weeds are waist high in the terrace, two of the ceilings are sagging in the most alarming manner, and plaster doesn’t so much flake off the walls as fall off in sizeable chunks. That does mean it is affordable, and it has location location location in Velez: Costa Tropical beaches fifteen minutes away in one direction, spectacular Granada half an hour away in the other, and the ski resorts of the Sierra Nevada beyond that.  I’m about to list some of alarming photos and videos on the house’s Facebook page.  I took my daughter to see it last weekend. She thinks I’m demented. You’ll doubtless agree.

Fair enough. If I achieve everything I want to achieve with it, I’ll look back on the photos and videos I’ve taken and will be pretty astonished myself that I bought it, but that’s in limbo too. Demented I may be, but not to the point of buying it without a structural survey. I saw the house on Valentine Eve, fell in love with its shabby charm and potential, and requested said survey. We are now, hmm, 10th day of May. In theory the survey, promised almost on a weekly basis, is booked at last, for the 19th. Then, and only then, can I make an offer and of course in the meantime anyone could buy it from under my nose.  That would be fun, especially if my house sold at the same time.  Oops. Nowhere to live, and nowhere to go.

The thing is, if this house doesn’t sell, I have fourteen years of mortgage still to clear. Fourteen years! That takes me past retirement age no matter how often our caring government moves the goalposts. I’m not even sure I have fourteen years of life left, and I know for an absolute fact I don’t have fourteen years of Indian summer, it doesn’t work that way. I don’t want to spend those years working to pay a mortgage. The elefante blanco would be bought cash, and although it would never provide enough income to live on, it could reasonably be expected to cover its own upkeep and maintenance. That’s incredibly tempting, a self-sustaining home, erratic flow of visitors, a better lifestyle generally that even costs less. I adore Scotland, but the winds do seem to be blowing.

I’ve let chance and circumstance run my life for nearly twenty years now, and no regrets, not one. Being a straw in the wind brought me to the UK, then to Scotland, into this house, and into writing those books you see in the margin. (Are you up to date on the books? There’s a new one out, and one coming up and about to go on pre-order, make a note in your diary.)

grin

I blew off to Europe increasingly often to meet eclectic members of the singles website I joined to research some of the books. One resulting friend lives near Velez – straws that blew me to the door of #21 Calle de Martires. It feels right. It feels terrifying, at the same time. A stray breeze blew an email from a TEFL college into my mailbox, so I signed up to do a TEFL course – teach English as a foreign language – towards the future, and am enjoying bending my brain. Learning Spanish I’ll leave until when (if) I get there – courses are regularly offered for free either in Velez or a nearby town, and I’d get to meet other newcomers learning Spanish, win win.

Right now, the straws are hanging motionless, and I’m waiting for the wind to pick up again.

There’s a house viewing booked for tomorrow, only the third since I listed the house.  A brief breeze, which will drop again, or the start of a strong driving wind – who knows? Not a clue.

I need a windsock.

Walking the dog – a musing blog, not making any point whatsoever. Pass quietly by.

I was tugging a little impatiently on the dog’s lead today on the walk – definite nip in the breeze, lots to do back home – when I had one of those epiphany moments which for all I know she had beamed straight into my head.

To me – an item to be ticked off my day’s list, sandwiched in between laundry and writing and finishing the design of the bookmarks and and AND

To her – the highlight of her day. Oh, she likes eating, very much, and sleeping is good, and charging through the dog flap into the back garden to squabble through the fence with the westie which passes every morning on its walk and the border collie every afternoon, that’s high on her list – but her walk is the cherry on top. That’s when she checks out her little world from corner to corner.

There’s a set ritual to the whole thing. She has to be on the lead for crossing the road, and until I can be sure we’re good to go. She pulls as far ahead as it will allow, in her impatience, then stops to check some enthralling smell I can’t begin to imagine. Then she charges past me again to lead the way to the next smell. Progress is – jerky.

Once I can see far enough in every direction to be sure the westie, the collie, or any other dogs, are nowhere to be seen, the lead can come off, and she’s free to roam. It isn’t the longest walk, because she’s portly by breed, and getting elderly now (I’m not in the first flush of youth myself).  At some point known only to herself, slightly different every day, her fascination with every clump of grass is sated and stage three – the ball-throwing – follows. There’s no more sniffing around, this is serious stuff, the charge followed by a canter back with stately dignity to demand the next throw. Eventually we reach a point where she’s breathing hard and decides she’ll just carry it now, thanks, and we turn for the walk home.

Nothing fancy – but it means so much to her that I felt thoroughly guilty about the tugging. Maybe if I followed her example? Perish the thought I’ll start snuffling around the same spots, that would be eccentric and I don’t have the nose for it anyway, but I resolved to enjoy it, chilly wind notwithstanding.

Actually, pretty nice out there, what with it being spring and all – Scotland is always a little late to spring but some utter genius  in the town council has turned whole swathes of land over to wildflowers, which are starting to build up their energies. The Firth is always beautiful, in every mood, and the foreshore is so vast that we mostly have it to ourselves. You’re reading this on my website, right? Look at the picture at the top. Just been there.

It was a good walk.

Happy endings (no, not that sort. Although mentioned.)

“If you want a happy ending you have to decide where to stop your story – Orson Welles”

I am slightly addicted to twists whether I’m writing a whodunit, a microstory, or any of the other ways in which I kowtow before my muse. The one on the drawing board has several twists. There’s one, though, which turns the whole story from a slightly OTT love story (the alert reader is already saying hang on just a minute) to a slightly creepy stalker story, to abrupt terror. In two paragraphs it goes from mildly steamy (and wildly romantic) to chilling, and I didn’t even plan it that way. I love it, though.

Hence the Orson Welles quote. I could literally stop the story at its happy point and leave most of its readers contented.

Not going to, though. The book in question (and I only say this because I am personally annoyed by dangling hints and coy half-references) is still in process,  The Money Honey, and it’s odd in many ways.

Only once before have I had a young protagonist*, because I find mature characters much more intricate and interesting, but Miranda’s story starts when she’s around twenty, in 1996, and the reader follows her for the next twenty years.

She only came into existence because she’s a large part of the backstory for Seventeen Eighteen Past Lies Waiting, which is being published soon. I wrote her story separately, to get it clear in my head, and then I got engrossed in the challenges it presented. I hadn’t a clue who my target reader was, but sometimes books take on a life of their own and this is one.

There was tons of rewriting for Seventeen Eighteen, as it happened, but the beta readers who have now read both books were pretty positive in their feedback. However, the beta readers who only read Money Honey weren’t. They found the ending, with its sudden introduction of a bunch of amateur sleuths from the Lawns, thoroughly confusing.

By the time that feedback was trickling in, I quite liked my Money Honey but I could see their point, as a stand-alone book she would need an ending of her own. So I borrowed from a few other authors faced with similar situations, and Money Honey has three endings.

Miranda’s whole story is about the unorthodox choices she makes (the working title was Step By Step) so it felt right to let those readers who have engaged with her make the final choice for her.  They will choose whether she calls an old friend for help, which is where Seventeen Eighteen came into the picture – or whether she tackles the situation herself, the way she’s always done – or whether the original storyline from Seventeen Eighteen holds true, but this time she and her son take on the challenge together.

No confusion there, then.  grin

It really has been a very challenging book, I’ve put it aside at least five times and every time it has come yammering after me demanding attention. She’s so unlike any of my other characters, and so very in need of a happy ending.

And yes I know the other meaning of that phrase. In fact that’s why Money Honey is going out under the Clarissa name, not EJ Lamprey. Lots of happy endings, and never, it seems, one for her.

Seventeen Eighteen has finished its rewrites, gone off for editing, started its countdown, and will be out shortly. Oh, and one other oddity – they share the same cover photograph. Slightly different cropping, a lighting difference, but the same photograph. I’m not being cheap, I’m not even being Scottish and practical, I simply couldn’t decide which cover to use it on. It feels right to have it on both.

 

 

*Lucy, in Time Before Time, by Joanna Lamprey