Sunday 28 December 2014

A Picture In The Attic

I saw the light
Same picture without supernatural intervention
I do love a nice omen don't you. Recently a family member has been serving in Afghanistan. My life has been an omen quest seeking reassurance that he will be OK. The garden magpies are tired of being counted and saluted. I have studied tea leaves and cloud patterns. I have been opening books and selecting random words. Then there are the patterns of blowing leaves, not to mention songs on the radio. Not that I'm superstitious or influenced by these things of course. The fact is that all the omens were good and the lad has made it home for Christmas. On his last day there I turned on the TV by chance to see the movie Apollo 13 playing. It was the scene where Marilyn Lovell lost her ring down the plughole. Surely this was a post-modern reflexive omen with the message that things can come good even if there is a disconcerting omen.

The importance of being Artist
So, imagine my agitation this morning when a cosmic collision of omens broke my sense of post-Christmas stupor. I was in the lounge. I had moved a painting to an unusual place in order to rearrange the room. As I reached out to the bookshelf to get down my new 2015 copy of the "Writers' and Artists' Yearbook". I saw a shaft of light fall on the painting as if it were a sun. The edge of a window pane was refracting the light and focusing it. I noticed that the book I wanted was on top of the works of Oscar Wilde, containing of course "A Portrait Of Dorian Gray", in which a hidden painting reveals the true life of a man. This was omen OMG overload. I was trying to decide if 2014 was to be the end of my commercially invisible writing career. 2015 could be a scribble free zone with a proper paying job punctuated by meaningful three for the price of two experiences in Walmart. Was the cosmos sending me a sign? Should there be a third "Passion Patrol" title where the girl cop solves the case with supernatural assistance? She leaves her police equipment unattended while she cavorts in abandoned lust with her mysterious enigmatic lover. Later she opens her official notebook to find the writing of a phantom hand has provided a key to a major crime. Only thing is...... it hasn't happened yet!

The picture is by Dorset artist Graham Towler and is called Dorset Hill Fort.

Emma Thinx: Will we know it's the future when we get there?

Sunday 21 December 2014

New Year's Resolution - Walk This Way

author, writer, desk job, keeping fit at work, fitness in the office, keeping fit, new year resolutions, exercise, 2015 fitness regime

New Year's resolution! OK - I know the statistics on failure but this is for real. I'm walking right back to the eight stones of pure woman that is still cowering within me. I can never give up writing. I can never give up cuisine. I can never give up walking in my new treadmill office. If I stop I shoot right off the end. Imagine that in the middle of the first moment of passion after twenty pages of foreplay. It could be the first ever case of keyboard interruptus. Just think of the Amazon reviews!

So, here's the low down on my brand new home workplace set-up for healthier writing habits in the years to come.... The plan is to exercise as I write. Standby for scenes with lovers strolling through meadows and shopping malls.

My office is a corner in the dining room - there is limited space and we have to be able to eat in there, without it feeling like a gym.(I can get a bit warm but it is a well known fact that romantic novelists do not sweat).  I'm also on a limited budget.  I've pulled in all my Christmas prezzies as cash donations before Santa arrives and raided the piggy bank big time, but I'm all set for those New Year Resolutions.

office fitness, keeping fit at work, working and exercise
Of course you could go for the Rolls Royce solution and get a fully-branded high velocity, bells and whistles 'walking desk' ... but these run out in the region of $2000/£2000. Apart from costing all my writing royalties forever, they also have the disadvantage of coming as a solid homogenous lump. If (like me) your bones can't immediately face 12 hours on the go whilst you're scribing  - you'd need another separate desk and a chair to transfer to during 'recovery writing' periods.

My solution, although very much DIY, uses my usual sitting desk and converts in less than a minute to the new all-healthy version.

You will need:

1. A pair of comfortable trainers and loose comfy clothing (and if you're like me, YES pyjamas will do!)

desk treadmill, office fitness, keep fit at work
2. Office Fitness powered Walking Treadmill - currently on Amazon UK at £269. This is about 1.25m long and 0.6m wide and fits into the knee-hole space of a desk.  It has a little screen to tell you how long/far/calories have been achieved. It also has a safety magnet so if you should fall off (!) the power is cut. There are similar products on Amazon USA.

3. A method of raising up your work zone - I found that standing up and on the treadmill, my eye and hand levels were about 0.4m above my usual sitting position.  Not great for back/neck/wrist health. I needed to find a way of lifting up my workstation and keyboard. Again there are some very sophisticated solutions available - the wonderful whizzy Varidesk has hinges and levers that let you do this with ease but these are not cheap either - around £300. 

screen stand, extender stand, keyboard stand, keyboard extender, screen raiser

I opted for a much cheaper, strong, extendable shelf.  This gives me a sturdy base to raise my Mac workstation, which is quite heavy. The adjustable legs get it to the correct height. A bit of a fiddle initially, but once set up it just stays in position from then on. The new shelf is quite slim and sits happily behind my Mac whilst not in use - I just lift the workstation into place when I want to use the treadmill. 

My keyboard and mouse are separate and need raising up too - I have a second extension shelf that sits on my desk and I've adjusted that to get the perfect working height as well - again about 0.4m.

The sturdy extender shelf ('Posture Stand') was £39.99 and came from the Back Pain Help website

The extender shelf for the keyboard was a cheaper version at £14.99 from ebay - not as robust - it definitely does wobble a little so maybe I should have just bought two of the 'Posture Stands', but it works for now.

adaptable office equipment, fitness office, workout, keeping fit
When I finish my session, I simply take the computer off the shelf and lean the treadmill up against the wall. I stow the extender shelves behind my workstation on the desk and wheel my chair back, for a nice relaxed few hours... before doing it all again in the afternoon.

My plan is to start doing two, one-hour sessions a day,  at the slowest speed - 1km/h -  to see how the poor old bods reacts to the movement.... watch this space for news of my progress!

Happy and Healthy 2015 to all who pass this way!

Emma Thinx:  Love can walk out. True love runs back, but never out.

Thursday 18 December 2014

A Complete Waste Of Space

I do not wish to offer any political opinion about right or left but neither do our political leaders. The vile jeering mob which we call the mother of parliaments, is put forward to more "backward" countries  as a blueprint for government that all should follow. Do we seriously believe that? Do we accept that our political leadership indulges in a self satisfied game of name calling and school yard sneering in our name? They sure don't do it on my behalf.

Yesterday the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable David Cameron MP informed his opponent Ed Miliband that he was a "complete waste of space". This embarrassing piece of bullying was accompanied by a chorus of chortling and jeering from his supporters. Seemingly, this is how we are led. This is democracy at work. This is analysis and debate!

Many of us have children. Many adults work with young people. How do we translate this kind of behaviour to them? Do we explain that this is just routine name calling and theatrical insulting of an opponent. Do we express our shame as experienced adults that this is a done in our name? Do we tell them to man up and learn themselves to call people names and jeer with the mob at others in order to dominate? Do we tell them to puff themselves up and treat all others as inferiors?

Recently I have been writing a small series of books for children. I have tried to use the "fairy tale" concept of the little guy coming good and the idea that it is wrong to be unkind, rude or to deride others. In the final tale "Kool Kid Kruncha" a small boy who is a bit different is called names by a contemptuous mob led by a bully. I try to show my young readers this is not the way to go. Probably my simple ideas are a complete waste of space. 

Emma Thinx: Leader - never stand still when the mob is behind you.  

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Emma's Spare Tyre Tummy Award For La Fenice Eastleigh

 Cibo Delizioso
A few miles to the north of Southampton lies the small town of Eastleigh. For me it has always been a unique gem of Britain. It is rightly famous for being the home town of the Spitfire fighter plane. It was once a hub of steam locomotive manufacture in the huge railway engine sheds. Rows of red brick terraced houses, a park with a bandstand and a legacy of factories make Eastleigh the kind of picture a modern Lowry would paint.

Trial by lens hood. Editor demanded a close up. 
As yet it remains undiscovered by the London commuting class. Yet, it is only an hour away from Waterloo station. Recently it has become famous for the demise of its Member Of Parliament and government minister, Chris Huhne. He was sent to prison for getting his wife to accept driving license points for his speeding offence to avoid a ban. Dear me! such vile wickedness in this world. Can you believe it? Anyway, since then it has become a marginal "swing state" political battleground with the UK Independence Party  Farage balloon tethered over the borough to repel foreign aircraft. For  my American readers I guess I could say UKIP is a kind of Republican Tea Party but with beer and cigarettes. 

So - once we hit Spring and elections in Eastleigh there will be
Real shops. Real town.
media with hordes of great and good politicos strutting the streets and holding babies/puppies/kittens/pints of beer. I've already planned my campaign of standing behind famous people and waving my books as the cameras roll. When all the words have been said, contradicted, twisted and re-said it will be time to eat. My advice - make for La Fenice in the High Street. I ate there on 22nd November with family. It was late but they fitted us in and served the most wonderful Italian food with an authentic ambiance. It is a family run business with a genuine friendliness. The pasta is all
Wot - no cars? A typical Lowry
freshly made and there is a superb menu choice. With a starter and wine for five persons it cost £105 for the best Italian food any of us had tasted. Eastleigh is gonna be BIG on the map. I urge David Cameron and his government to book their tables today at La Fenice to avoid disappointment. 

Emma Thinx: Why are they called speeding points when they loiter for years?

Thursday 4 December 2014

ONCE UPON A NOW - fairy tales for #children - launch #Giveaway #Kindle

Well, today's the day. I've had children, I was a child myself ( do writers ever grow up?) and I still like them. As a kid I loved to listen to stories and today I'm launching my own series of children's books.

The Fairy tale retains its potency because it still speaks truth, hopes and dreams. I've approached some modern day situations exploring contemporary dilemmas and issues that confront young folk.

These chapter-book stories are aimed at young readers, in the 7-10 year age group.  The books are all illustrated in a modern anime-style by talented artist Miko Abellera from the Philippines. This young guy has a real Wow style. He gets right in there in a special way. He's got a great career ahead of him.

Each book features unique links and scannable QR codes to take readers of both paperback and e-books to bonus material such as audio and video clips, downloadable photos and colouring pictures to enrich the reading experience.

All the books are also available in audio book format - delightful recordings by the poet Oscar Sparrow, who brings the stories to life in his own inimitable style. He also composed the words for the National Anthem of Zanubia which he sings in Alf The Workshop Dog. Well - singing may not be quite the word. I'd love to hear your opinions. 

Ideal as stocking fillers or pocket money purchases!

How could a scruffy dog in a bus depot and the call of crows, link back to another world of power and love?

The ancient Kingdom of Zanubia and a stray dog looking for scraps in an inner-city repair garage, hold the secret. 

A wicked king, a beautiful girl, a young prince and the struggle between right and wrong maintain the fable tradition.

There's something strange in the woodshed...

A poor little girl in a faraway land dreams of riding a pink bicycle. When she meets a strange animal, her dreams come true. Her happiness turns to sadness when a tragedy occurs in the town and her father doesn't come home.

Maybe her new magic friend can find him?

Charlie finds it tough when his parents divorce - but Auntie Kate helps him overcome his greatest fear.

When Charlie has to move from the country into the city, he needs new friends. With his small size and red hair, some people aren't kind to him. 

He wonders if he can face another day at school.

A trip to the circus gives him the strength to see himself and others in a new way.

To set the launch off with a bang I'm hosting a giveaway on Rafflecopter - something to really get your reading tastebuds fired up - first prize is a brand new 6" KINDLE TOUCHSCREEN! 

Nothing complicated required for entry and plenty of options to qualify for for extra goes.  If you don't want the latest Kindle, you can opt for a CASH alternative too. Oh - and I'll be giving away some books as prizes too, as you'd expect.   The draw is on the 17th December 2014 - so don't hang around to enter.

Find all the full details on my new ONCE UPON A NOW CLUB website or enter the Rafflecopter draw below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway