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Stuart Lennon

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Pocket Notebooks

 

Sorry I’m late.

I promised to update you yesterday.

I am now the proud owner of Pocket Notebooks

I completed the transaction yesterday and spent the day doing all of the things that you have to do on day one of a new business. I believe that I managed to get through the entire day without breaking anything.

The website was setup by two cracking guys from the North East. They have another business, and as it took off, by their own admission, Pocket Notebooks suffered a little.

The site sells Notebooks. No, not powerful, miniaturised computers, but paper notebooks. I never go anywhere without a notebook, and I don’t always have a briefcase with me. So, I’m a big user of pocket-sized ones.

There is a renaissance of pen and paper. It is not a rejection of technology, but rather a recognition that for some things, technology is brilliant, but that for others, the analogue way still works best.

So, my new company, Loggedoff Ltd, will be offering a place to come and buy some old fashioned technology; Pocket Notebooks. You can even subscribe for a regular delivery of a curated collection of notebooks.

It will take me a few weeks to get everything stocked up and firing, but as I write I have two new lines in transit and some old favourites on their way down from the North East.

P.S. Forget the App, there’s a Pocket Notebook for that…

Dry January Goal

“Goal: Dry January,” you say?

Let me stop you there.

No.

That is that nonsense out of the way.

January the first is my Mum’s birthday. Happy Birthday Mum!

Soon she will join us here for lunch. As I type, my fantastic wife is cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Beef Wellington, accompanied by this sumptuous, velvety Rioja from Muga. This is a beautiful wine. Buy some and enjoy it. In February, if you must.

Last year I wrote about my goals and how I was filling notebooks with them. I had goals, objectives, sub-goals, milestones, action plans, all sorts of things intended to keep me focused and ‘on mission’.

How did I do?

Well, regrettably, I am not 4 stone lighter. For a while, I was a stone lighter at one point but now I’m probably a pound lighter. Not a dazzling success. Must do better.

Single-figure handicap golfer? Nope. Not yet. Playing off 12, which is an improvement. Good progress.

Publishing third novel? Nope. Not published the debut yet. Unacceptable.

I could go on for pages. Overall, I did reach several of my goals, but I did so at the expense of the core ones, the ones that I really wanted to achieve.

There is danger in over-complicating things, or being too ambitious. The older I get, the more I learn that multi-tasking is a word that means “doing lots of things poorly”.

This year – I’m not filling notebooks with goals, milestones, measures etc. This year I’m keeping it simple and I’m going public.

  1. Publish a novel.
  2. Lose 2 stone.
  3. Buy a company.

What are your goals for 2017?

Hold the front page! Candidate wins election.

tantrum

Oh, I’m sorry. But really. Can we not just get over ourselves?

What has actually happened?

The USA has chosen its 45th President (The 20th Republican).

There is some debate over the exact allegiance of some of the Presidents, but one reasonably popular set of numbers is 15 Democrats, 20 Republicans (including the Donald), 4 Whigs, 4 Democratic-Republicans (really), 1 Federalist and 1 George Washington.

I am far from a fan of the winning candidate. I find many of his utterances utterly repulsive. In their intention, their content and frequently their grammar. I am not alone in those feelings.

Yet 60 million (give or take) Americans voted for him in the election.

Depending on whom you listen to, this is because those voters are stupid or sexist. Racist or angry. Scared or scary. Some will tell you that he only won because the opposition was so poor.

As I write, disappointed citizens are demonstrating against the President-elect. Social media contains images of people likening Mr Trump to Adolf Hitler. The pollsters, the same ones that got the election completely wrong, are telling us that the redneck, misogynist, racist dumb-asses have won the day.

A detached observer might note that hip, liberal, political elite are throwing around unfounded hyperbole and nonsense about all those who voted for hyperbole and nonsense.

Many in the media are drawing parallels with Brexit. Not least the Donald himself. Once can see why. In both campaigns there was a degree of complacency. The British public wouldn’t vote Leave, surely. The Americans wouldn’t elect Donald Trump, obviously.

In both cases, there is a rush to explain how the redneck/mysogynist/racist/sexist/scared/scary dumb-asses have thrown the world to the dogs with scant consideration for themselves or their children. My God, think of the children!

Look, I am prepared to accept that I might be wrong. The UK may be about to plunge into depression and need to beg the Greeks for a bailout. Donald may be the front-man for the four horses of the apocalypse.

Is it too much of a stretch to believe that people voted for what they believed was best, quite probably for a whole range of reasons?

The British people have voted to leave the European Union.

The American people have voted for a Republican candidate in the election.

Those that disagree with those choices have every right to continue to make their case, voice their opinions and even demonstrate. These are rights in a democracy. However, I’m not sure that patronising and insulting those who disagree is a very effective way of winning them over.

This xenophobic cockwomble, for example, would still vote for Brexit.

 

 

E is for Editing

editing

‘Editing? That’s just checking the spelling and grammar isn’t it? Computer does most of it, doesn’t it?’

I honestly believed that.

In my posts for C and D, I wrote about creativity and deadlines. Once I set myself some writing deadlines and got my inner creative out, the words flowed all over the page. I had not planned the book as such, I was just letting it flow.

As instructed, I left my drafts alone for a while. Locked them in a drawer. After a few months, I pulled them out to read them. I felt pretty certain that the odd grammar issue would have slipped through.

“Hmmmm.” I mused.

“This is crap.”

Approaching a novel with no clear plan works for some people, I’m told. I thought that it worked for me. I now have two chunky wedges of paper that are clear testament that unplanned novel writing produces well… unplanned prose that wanders off in all sorts of directions.

Editing for me is about bringing some order and direction to the prose. Helping the story make sense. Two people have helped me enormously in this area – Anne Rainbow who runs a fantastic web course on editing over at her blog www.scrivenervirgin.com and my writing buddy Amanda Fleet who gave me some fantastic insights into her planning process, which thankfully, is flexible enough to be used retrospectively.

Editing my second novel will be so much easier than my first – at least I will have planned the second before I write it.

 

C is for Creativity

Creativity-definition-1

In my last post, I wrote about a growing addiction to stationery – particularly to notebooks.

With a new notebook and a full pen you can go anywhere. You can be anyone. At the end of the day – you just make it up. Yesterday, I blogged about the wonderful Bureau Direct. I must also mention Spotlight Stationeryanother company that provides gorgeous things.

I thought that finding creativity was the challenge. Overcoming the blank page.

I learned that the secret was fifty words. If on any morning, I could write fifty words, then I could write five hundred, a thousand, fifteen hundred. The key was to churn out those first fifty. That’s it! I thought. I’ve cracked Creativity. I’m a writer. Eureka!

I am learning that a writer must be many things. Creativity is a part of it for sure, but for me, it is just the first part. Once the imagination has run riot, another ‘C’ needs to step forward; the craftsman needs to emerge and fashion the writing into a novel. Then the marketeer must emerge and promote the book.

If this draft is to become my best-ever debut novel, then the craftsman is going to need to work with the creative. At the moment, I’m not sure that they are even on speaking terms.

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Find out more about it by clicking here.

Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Ugly Social Media

Click on this if….

No. Stop it.

Gradually, I am overcoming the dramatic gastric impact of Spinning, which is a great relief to the dog and many local residents.

However, I am increasingly annoyed by the tactics some organisations are using to garner positive social media statistics. You know the posts that I mean;

“Like this page if you believe that a soldier who saved his platoon, sacrificing his life should be honoured while this malicious paedophile should not!”

Seems a bit of a no-brainer.

Then you look to see that the post originates from a page called “Lovely fluffy British folk”. Curious fellow that I am, I look at this page.

It turns out that the page should more accurately be called;

“Racist, xenophobic dimwits? You have found your online home.”

Many of these ‘like-farm’ posts are using images of the military to lure people to anti-immigration or anti-muslim organisations. The implication being a polar relationship. “Military Good, Military fight Bad. Immigration Bad. Muslim Bad.”

I thought I might take a moment to relate to you an anecdote.

4-British-Army-Getty

(Getty Image taken from the Independent website)

I live adjacent to Salisbury Plain, home to Stonehenge and essentially an adventure playground for the British Army. I play golf (badly) at Tidworth Garrison Golf Club, which as the name might suggest, has strong military connections.

Tidworth is a garrison town.

On Tidworth high street, I went for a haircut in a busy barbers. Three barbers were working and four more customers were waiting. I’m fairly certain I was the only non-serving military man there. I was the only one not in camoflauge for a start.

The standard cut seemed to be, “number 2 back and sides and short tidy on top please Kemal.”

You see the barbers were all Muslim Turks. Really.

Immigrants too. Good heavens.

Please don’t associate images of the British military with stupidity, ignorance or prejudice. They’re way too good for that.

Incidentally – best haircut I’ve had in ages.

Whining on Wine

glass_of_wine_book_candle

Me again.

This morning I awoke full of the joys of the New Year. I had resolved how the next few days would be spent.

I am particularly looking forward to a couple of nights away with the long-suffering wife, Margaret. In a particularly sensitive moment, Nero the dog has gifted us a stay at a very posh hotel in the Cotswolds.

Walks in the countryside, lounging in the spa, delicious food and fine wine with the love of my life. What could be better?

Then the Chief Medical Officer (Dame Sally Davies) came on TV to tell me how dangerous drinking was. “Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone…”

Fortunately, I have recently read “Doctoring Data” by Dr Malcolm Kendrick. If you read only one book this year, read that one. Actually, read two, because I’m going to release a novel too.

Dr Kendrick very mildly points out that we might want to be a little bit careful about guidance and advice issued by people like the Chief Medical Officer.

Equipped with the mental tool kit that Dr Kendrick has equipped me with, I was able to note a few things that I might ordinarily have missed from the brief item on the morning news.

In my head the conversation went a bit like this

“Have the new findings and recommendations come from a thorough and rigorous test that has recently finished?”

“Um. No actually. Broadly speaking, we have read a lots of the studies that have already been done and reported on and sort of put them all together.”

“I see. So every single study?”

“Well No. Not all of them. Some were a bit dodgy.”

“Let me guess. The dodgy ones were the ones that suggested that a few glasses of wine with dinner and friends was actually good for your long term health?”

“Spot on. You are clearly a very perceptive man. Outrageous that a study should suggest something like that isn’t it?”

“Hmmm…”

In a nutshell, there is absolutely no new evidence.

Let me repeat that.

ABSOLUTELY NO NEW EVIDENCE.

Some very well meaning folk (all of whom have spent their entire careers telling us that drinking is BAD) have ‘proved’ that drinking any alcohol increases your risk of cancer, and they have proved it by reading a lot of studies already done.

Dr Kendrick explains it a lot better than I do. Read his book.

I don’t want to rant, nor do I want to suggest that lots of heavy drinking is good for you. I’m pretty certain that It isn’t.

I will leave you with this little nugget that appears at the end of the BBC News website coverage of the story.

“Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, an expert in understanding risk from the University of Cambridge, said it was important to put the 1% risk in context. He said an hour of TV watching or a bacon sandwich a couple of time a week was more dangerous.”

I was going to have a bacon sandwich for breakfast, but for the sake of my health, I’m going to turn the TV off and have a glass of wine.

Cheers.

 

Editing

DSC02324

That is the Danube flowing between Buda and Pest.

I have two first drafts. Catchily titled “Sean 1” and “Sean 2”. The first was completed in a burst of writing in October. The second is my NaNoWriMo novel; blitzed out entirely in November.

I suspect that they are both quite crap. I am reassured that this is almost invariably the case and that the real work comes, not in producing a first draft, but in editing and rewriting until that draft becomes a polished bit of writing.

I have had a couple of weeks off and Sean 1 was done and dusted a month and a half ago. I have some distance. I feel ready to think about some editing.

I have been taking a course in editing with the fantastic Anne Rainbow. Well worth looking at her site for information on Scrivener (excellent software to write on) and Red Pen Training (Anne’s approach to editing).

The first question that I need to address is:

“Do I have two first drafts or, two halves of one first draft?”

I had intended to pose this question here in the blog, on twitter tonight at #writingchat, and by email to Anne. However, in looking out the photo above and writing this post, I arrived at the answer all on my own.

Buda and Pest were born as separate cities. As more and more bridges were built across the Danube, they became interdependent, until at last they came to be known as Budapest. So it is with Sean 1 and 2.

Right now, I have a big chunky first draft that needs some pruning.

Time to get to work.

immigrants

Stop spouting uninformed nonsense about immigration and immigrants.

I posted about this before.

I am prompted to do so again by the horrific images currently all over the media.

A school of thought is emerging that we have an obligation towards refugees but that economic migrants are a major problem.

I don’t want to pontificate, so I will limit myself to a story or two.

I married the daughter of two immigrants. Economic migrants in fact. In post-war Sicily, there simply was no work.

My father-in-law packed a bag and worked in Germany, Switzerland and Glasgow before settling in London and becoming a postman. Hardly the Cosa Nostra is it?

Once he had saved enough money to buy a house, he brought his wife and three daughters over. His wife and ultimately daughters got work in the local hospital.

My wife came along in London as a little surprise. Testament to the poor quality of British television in the sixties perhaps.

Margaret got a university degree and has never been without work.

Britain has done well out of these particular economic migrants.

I even got a wife out of the deal, which I’m very pleased about.

This year, my wife’s cousin has made the move from Sicily. In post-crisis Sicily, there is simply no work.

My cousin-in-law packed his bag, come to London and become a bus driver. He is hoping to soon have enough money to bring his wife and child over.

The parallels are obvious.

On the phone the other day, my cousin asked my wife why no English people drove buses in London.

All of his colleagues are immigrants. All of them.

I daresay that some would say that all the bus driver jobs are taken by immigrants.

For this to be true, I would need to believe that the major bus companies are intentionally filtering out indigenous English people at interview stage.

I really can’t see why this would be.

We might speculate why immigrants are that much more successful in becoming bus drivers than the indigenous population.

We might wish to look at motivations of employers and applicants.

Anecdotally, an employer might tell you that an immigrant is more likely to be flexible, and to find a way to work.

There are good people of all colours, creeds and nationalities. There are bad ones too.

That a man (or woman) wants to build a good life for his family is to be admired, not feared.

We must stop demonising immigration and immigrants.

Bloglovin

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14019309/?claim=etwk34v5gjh”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Hopefully – the above means that you can follow me through an app on your smart device or through a website where you can collect all of your favourite blogs.

Just click on the little button for Bloglovin’ to the left.

I am sure that there are many ways to manage blog feeds, but I am experimenting with this one – as it seems to bring everything in nice an neatly on my smart phone.

Go have a look – its free…