21.6.17

Wordy Wednesday with Jack Strange

Welcome to Wordy Wednesday - today featuring Jack Strange!

wordy wednesday cat logo

Jack Strange has had a very varied career. He’s worked in a morgue, dug holes for a living, shifted heavy things on and off trucks, sold advertising space, and was, for a while, a Lawyer. 
Jack has always read voraciously and has wanted to be a novelist since the age of ten. He wrote his first novel aged fourteen. Jack enjoys parties and keeps himself fit. He is married with two adult daughters.

And so as usual I sat Jack down with a (virtual) beverage of his choosing, and we talked...

jack strange author

Do you have another job or are you a full time author? If you do something else (international spy?) what is it and do you like it?
Regrettably, I have another job. Two other jobs, in fact, so I'm on my way to rivalling George Osborne - but I don't get paid nearly as much as him. I'm a lawyer and a handyman, as well as being a writer. It's an odd combination, I know, but hey - we writers are supposed to be different, aren't we?

Why did you start writing?
To change the world, earn fame and fortune, and finally retire to a desert island with a good bar and a rocking city close to my beach house.

List 3 things that are guaranteed to make you smile.
My bank balance (that's an ironic smile by the way);
Tory party promises (so is that);
and any episode of 'Fleabag' (Google it, if you haven't heard of it).

Do you have any pets? 
No, I used to have a cat called 'Udi' and when she died I couldn't cope with the emotional loss so I never got another pet. They definitely would hinder the writing process. Udi used to demand attention when I needed time to myself to study law; she'd do the same if she was around when I was trying to write.

Who is your favourite author? Do they influence your writing or are they a total break from the sort of thing you write?
That's such a tough question as I could name twenty or thirty or more favourite authors who all have an equal claim to my affections. If I had to narrow it down to one, it might be Russell H Greenan, largely for his novel 'It happened in Boston'. We have things in common - we're both lineal descendants of Edgar Allan Poe, and accordingly, cats feature in my writing and in his. His books are hard to categorise, and maybe mine are too - but we both sit comfortably in the horror genre. And we both like to use dark humour in our books. I wouldn't want to claim I've written anything as good as 'It Happened in Boston' - but there's still time!

jack strange book

Which book(s) are you reading at the moment?
'Junky' by William Burroughs and 'Salvage' by Duncan Ralston. The opening of Junky is textbook, in that it's the perfect opening to draw you into a story; and the author's use of detail is outstanding. Would-be writers could do a lot worse than to read this book and draw a few lessons from it.

Which three cities would you most like to visit and why?
(1) Timbuktu - it's always seemed to me to be exotic, mysterious and remote. Plus it has some amazing libraries. I like libraries.
(2) La Paz - it's the current highest capital city in the world, I believe. The views from my hotel room would be tremendous, and I'm sure I'd enjoy a rocking night life there. I have a feeling the drinks are cheap, too.
(3) Novosibirsk - the largest city in Siberia. I'd love to snuggle up in front of a warm fire in a Siberian bar, with a vodka in my hand and the winter winds raging outside.

Tell us about the character that you've written that you like the most - no spoilers!
Henderson the cat. It's not just me - everyone who's read my books says he's their favourite character.
Here's a link to a recent review of a book of mine - note the comment about Henderson. Many readers have said similar things.
zomcats jack strange book

What is your favourite biscuit? 
Jack Strange never eats biscuits. He wouldn't be able to rock the pullup bar if he did.

In the film of your life who would play you? 
The young me would be played by the young Jude law (if we could go back in time!) - because we both had charm, insouciance and good looks in abundance in our youth. The old me would be played by Vladimir Putin if he ever turned his hand to acting - for obvious reasons.

If you could genetically cross an animal and a vegetable, what would you pick and why? I like the idea of asparagus and a giraffe...tender neck
A tory politician with a...wait a minute...they're a cross of animal and vegetable already. Mainly vegetable.

Amazon links to Jack's books:
Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse
Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Zomcats!
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

Confessions of an English Psychopath
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

20.6.17

Top Ten Twitter Turn Offs

I've blogged about Twitter before. But as it seems to change almost weekly, and as I'm closer to10k followers now (brag brag) I thought I'd do an update. But rather than tell you how to tweet, I'll tell you what turns me off a tweeter (and I'm not alone - I checked)


RTing too much. 
Everyone loves a RT and it's good to share other people's tweets and links. Bloggers especially adore it if you share their tweets with links to their blogs. But RTing the same person, all at once in a huge RT dump is lazy and annoying, after a RT I might take a peek and follow that person, if I'm not bothered I won't . If I follow them you don't need to RT 10 tweets of theirs, I'll see them anyway. And if don't follow them chances are it's because I don't want to see their tweets - a string of them is going to be a turn off. I might even turn off your RTs from my timeline, thus never seeing a single RT you tweet ever again, even the important ones. Do a single RT and suggest people follow the tweeter if you really think their stuff is that good.


RTing competitions. 
Everyone loves a RT comp. I know I do, I've even won a few but try to space your RTing of them out a bit, otherwise you'll clog up people's timelines with tweet after tweet of "RT to Win", and quite frankly that's boring. As above you might find people switch off RTs from your account, but worse, people that don't know how to do that - or those of a tetchy nature, might just mute you or unfollow.

Auto DMs.
On twitter there is the ability to send a private message or 'DM' (direct message) Some apps allow these to be automated and they can be used as a greeting. Some bloggers swear by them for increasing interaction on other social media but in my experience, and the experience of many other people, it's a huge and annoying turn off. If I get a DM I expect it to be necessary and important - if you just want to say hello or thank me for following, you can do that in a public reply. Thanks. Personally I reply automatically to auto DMs with the following:
 
You are welcome to use this approach too.

Auto tweets. 
Horoscopes are high on this list. Why do I care about your horoscope? But also telling me how many followers you have gained and lost on a daily basis (I don't mind occasionally being told you are having a clear out btw, that's amusing and we all like a good purge, it's the automated tweets that are so tedious). Or game auto tweets, I don't care your grew a new fish, killed an extra ninja, gained a new star etc. Why not take a wee look through the applications that have access to tweet on your behalf once a month and remove the ones that you don't need. The saddest accounts are the ones where a tweeter has left twitter and for the last 3 months all there is on the timeline is a stream of horoscopes....

Huge reply 'chains'. 
Recently twitter introduced a fabulous new feature which sounded cool until you actually used it. The Twitter names of people in @replies no longer count toward the over all character limit. Handy if a couple of people are in a conversation, but less so as more and more people join. In fact for reasons no one understands, Twitter allow up to 50 people in a single tweet. If you are chatting in a chain of people this large and each person replies to each tweet (often with an inane 'LOL me too' ) you mentions column on twitter goes crazy. Luckily you can mute conversations, but of course you might miss something, it's a risk I take though. Once there are more than 5 people in a tweet, I bail out. It doesn't help that Twitter hides the list of people so it can be hard to spot that you've joined a huge chain.


Unsolicited advice. 
This can range from the best place to buy a dress to medical advice, most of the time if people want advice they will ask. If you know someone really well of course it's like any friendship and you can chat away, but if you have just followed someone, or worse, still don't follow them but spotted a random tweet about diabetes, telling them you have a cure is definitely a twitter turn off! People often chat about things and ask for help, if you like helping there are plenty of tweeters out there for you to @reply to, just try and confine it to those that ask. No one moaning about "another night up with my colicky baby" wants to hear that they are doing it wrong and you are the guru, if they want advice they'll ask, otherwise, assume they tried your idea already.


Constant link drops.
If you are a blogger or even if you read the news a lot it can be tempting to add lots of links to interesting articles (I do it myself) but try and chat as well. On mobile phones many people won't click through to read now and will forget about it later. Add a few links by all means but keep up the chat - a tweet stream that is all links is broadcast media, not social media, to be social we start debate, and we reply. Give it a go.


Never replying to anyone. 
Following on from the link drops, those tweet streams that are just post after post with no interaction at all, annoy me. If you never reply to anyone else it shows a lack of social-ness in your social media. Don't be the person that is all 'me, me, me' . Reply to people that send you @ messages but also reply to tweets people send. You liked a cute cat picture? Tell the person that posted it. You laughed when they dropped their ice cream in their lap? why not tell them about when you sneezed on your dentist to make them feel better, have a chat, it's nice.(Thanks for reading this far by the way, have you done something new with your hair? it looks nice)

Tagging someone in a conversation that's about them!
Unless it's something nice. If person A is slagging off person B do not tag person B in the tweets. The same for companies, if the original tweeter wanted them to know they could tag them themselves. If you think it's worth tagging, for example a brand has let someone down, send a DM to ask them if they know that 'company B' is on twitter, tell them the @name and let them tag if they want to. Of course if someone is saying how absolutely fabulous and amazing I am, then do by all means tag me, somethings should be shared....


Being mean. 
You'd think this would be obvious but starting a fake account, lying, trolling (*deliberately saying provocative things you don't mean, just to get a rise out of someone), and being unpleasant for your own entertainment is the biggest Twitter turn off of all. At best you'll be blocked and ignored, you may be reported to twitter. At worst case scenario you can be reported to the police. Play nice or don't play. You have 140 characters, try and spread joy, we really have enough pain in the world without your 2ps worth.

Big thanks to the other bloggers and tweeters who shared my pain.

What the Redhead Said
A Cornish Mum
The DADventurer
Tattooed Tealady
Counting to Ten
Over 40 and Mum to One
Amy Treasure
Scrapbook blog
Illustrated Teacup

What are your top twitter turn  offs? (oh and do we follow each other there? @Tattooed_Mummy )

15.6.17

Let's Race, in which I am Michael Schumacher

I have been struggling for a way to tell you about something. You see I was given tickets to a thing in exchange for a review and I know people reading will be all 'oh well the tickets were free, of course she loved it.' but here's the thing, I did love it!

How to convince you? Well let me tell the tale of my trip to Let's Race with 17 year old DD. DD is learning to drive, I'm 51 and have been driving for years. Let's Race is a Formula 1 simulator race track for up to 10 people to race against each other. Neither DD or I are particularly keen on F1 racing but we thought it sounded interesting so off we went.

When we arrived we signed a form (presumably to donate organs in the event of a high speed crash, who knows!) and then we wandered into the 'race zone' (as I shall call it) a large room filled with F1 simulators (which look like F1 cars without wheels) and computer screens and a viewing grandstand. The first thing we noticed in the darkened room was the cold, it was freezing, like a fridge (if you are going to go as a spectator, take a coat!) and we wondered why....the second thing we noticed was the noise, the roar of the engines, and the swirl of the simulators, it was all very exciting.

Let's Race simulators and screen

Next we had a safety briefing, some top tips about racing and some info about the safety in the simulator itself. And then we went to our cars. DD found hers padded out with cushions (she's a shrimp) something I don't think Lewis Hamilton probably has in his car...As the cars are modelled on the real thing we had to slide in, and add the steering wheel afterwards! a quick explanation of gears and pedals and we were off on our trial lap.


Well it was hilarious, we laughed, we screamed, we flew off the track in a shower of (virtual) gravel, and when we crashed into each other (we are very competitive) we felt it! The simulator cars move about and totally recreate the feel of being in a real car, I wished I had cushions as padding! The one thing that was a real shock was how hard it is the steer an F1 car! Used to power steering as I am it took a lot of strength to haul my car around that track. After one lap I was hot, after the actual race I was sweaty! Suddenly the room didn't feel so cold at all! The race laps were excellent fun as by now DD and I had sorted a driving style, and while not beating any lap records we were faster than before and crashed less. The giggles, screams and swearing continued.

After our race (DD won in the trial lap, I narrowly beat her in the race) we were exhausted, so much so that I couldn't get out of the car! (You'll recall I have weak muscles due to Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease) oh how DD laughed as two young men offered to lift me out, luckily I managed to scramble to safety on my own.

I have more respect for F1 drivers after our race, and we only raced for half an hour! My arms ached, I was hot and sweaty, and out of breath! But still giggling, it was so much fun.

We were given print outs of our laps, with details of our acceleration, braking and speeds etc, which was fun to compare and made a good souvenir. It's also given us targets to beat for next time, as DD has already decided it's the perfect place for an 18th birthday party.

It would be good for all sorts of parties actually, and with a nice looking diner on site and a good selection of delicious ice cream (we sampled them as we were so hot, and they were excellent) you could easily spend half a day there.

ice cream at Let's Race

Prices start at £14.95 per person, and they are open 7 days a week until 11pm

and they offer a car for disabled drivers too (maybe I should have opted for that one in hindsight!) so as long as you are big enough (no age limit - minimum height 1.5m) you can have a race. They even offer a young driver experience package.

Based near Gatwick Airport, just outside Horley it is easy to get to and has free parking. It has been added to our 'places to go when it's wet' list. I had no idea that something many people would think of as a 'boy thing' would be so much fun for a middle aged woman and a teen girl! Surprise yourself, choose a car, wriggle in, pedal to the metal and Let's Race!

Perfect gift for Father's Day too!!