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Archive for February, 2009

The mysterious radgepacket...
The mysterious radgepacket…

I’m in a slightly weird position here. A few weeks ago I had a short story accepted by Byker Books for their latest anthology, which has the utterly unforgettable title of ‘Radgepacket – Tales From the Inner Cities Volume 2’. Of course, I was delighted – but I was also slightly baffled. And that bafflement has stayed, because in spite of emailing the editor regularly, reading the whole of the first anthology, and visiting the Byker Books website every other day, I still have no idea whatsoever what a radgepacket is. And that annoys me. 😉

There are a couple of clues. For starters Byker Books is based in Newcastle, so I’m assuming it’s Geordie, or at least north-eastern, slang. And two, they specialise in dark, gritty, even shocking urban fiction of the sort your Aunt Agatha would faint if she read, so I’m assuming it has something to do with that. But otherwise, I’m stumped – and what’s more, a friend of mine who was born within spitting distance of Byker has also never come across the term.

So, can anyone out there come to the rescue? Is it something horribly rude, or in spite of appearances is it actually quite normal and dull? I would love to know!

By the way, the story I’ve had published is called ‘Rock and a Hard Place’ and involves Jed, an ageing rock star whose pushy manager suggests he pretends to be gay in order to attract the pink pound and sell more records. Needless to say all does not run according to plan and there are twists and double-twists galore as Jed meets his supposed boyfriend Simon, goes clubbing, enters a lookalike contest for himself, and generally tries to stay sane.

Here’s a brief taster to whet your appetites:

It’s all old Hinchcliffe’s fault that Jed Lemmon turned gay. There I was lounging in bed one Sunday afternoon, hand resting on some blonde babe’s left boob, when there was pandemonium downstairs and before I knew it he was banging on the bedroom door. That kind of pissed me off. I mean, I know he’s my manager and I gave him the key myself, but even rock stars deserve some privacy – even washed-up old scrotes like me.

I patted Suzie on the rump and sent her home, then scraped my jeans off the bedroom floor and dragged them on. A quick swig from the flask I’d hidden by the bed and I was more-or-less ready to face the old man.

“Wotcha Jed,” he said, grinning from ear to ear and jabbing me in the chest. “How’s things with you?”

“Oh fine, just fine,” I mumbled, trying not to watch as Suzie’s Jeep sped off bad-temperedly down the drive. “What can I do for you, Mr H?”

It was the usual – of course it was. He dropped the bonhomie, even as he dropped his rump into an over-padded chair. “Business as well as pleasure, Jed. Records, to be precise. We’re not selling enough. Sales are down for the seventh month in a row – nobody’s buying your stuff.”

I took my time lighting a cigarette. “I’m sorry, Mr H. I’ve done everything you said. I can’t think of anything else.” Well, why the hell should I? It’s why I pay him a bloody great wad of my earnings every month.

“I know – and I’m proud of you. But don’t worry, I’ve had a brainwave.”

My heart sank. Great bloke, old Hinchcliffe, and I couldn’t have got where I am without his help. But his brainwaves are notorious. We’d already had the Jed novelty hats and the posters given away with Choco-flakes, and as for Jed Lemmon dressing up as an orange to advertise yoghurt – I’d had nightmares for months.

His jaw developed a horizontal crack that might have been a smile. “It’s simple. We tell the world you’re gay.”

If you’d like to find out whether Jed gets out of it all unscathed you can find more details on my website, or you can order the anthology direct from Byker Books. Be warned, though, their fiction is high-octane stuff. As they themselves say, don’t buy the book if you like happy endings or stories about kittens playing with bits of string. 😉

And someone, please, put me out of my misery and tell me what that darned radgepacket is….

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Public Lending Right

‘PLR’s aim is to provide an excellent service to all our stakeholders making annual payments to writers and other creators whose works are freely available in libraries. We will achieve this by maintaining a highly skilled team and making efficient use of all our resources.’

Basically, if your books (or anything else) are in libraries in the UK then you are eligible to a ‘royalty’ for each time it is loaned out.

Ho ho! I thought – even if Standish is the only book that is in any British libraries, and only in one library that I know of (Chesterfield, because a friend demanded they order it) – this sounds like a good idea!  Even if it’s only a little amont extra, ‘every little helps’ as a famous supermarket slogan says these days (ignoring the fact that the joke it came from was very rude.)

So I logged in and – me being me – did it all completely wrong. See elsewhere for my posts of how NOT to apply for your ITIN for example. The site is ease itself, and very user-friendly. You have to give your personal details before you can register any of your books – the trouble IS is that before the final submit your details page (although it does, very helpfully, give you a percentage of the process so you don’t do exactly what I did) it gets you to print out your application form.  And here’s where I got sidetracked and didn’t progress to the end. D’oh!

So don’t do that.

The reason you have to print out the application form is to get someone you know (not a relative) to simply say that you are you – you post it off and Bob’s your mother’s slightly dubious brother your account will be activated within a few days.

(What I had to do, for those of you who cock up as regularly as I do, was I had to enter all my details again but not print off the form once more. They were incredibly helpful both by email, phone and letter. They obviously have had idiots pass their way before.)

Anyway, my account was authorised yesterday and I logged on and registered all my books. It was a real thrill to just input the ISBNs and find that the computer already knew the names and publishers!  One thing to be aware of, you must be honest about your Lending Right percentage, don’t go putting “100 percent” if you are in a 3-author anthology!

Other countries, Ireland, Canada and many others have a similar system apparently, and I’ll checking them out – and no doubt getting all the forms wrong there too!

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Okay, you need to go and read this article from Friday’s The Sun newspaper in the the UK then come back here and read what I have to say.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2233878.ece

Right, read it? And you came back. Good. I’m going to try and not over react to this but I’ll say from the outset that it will be hard. It’s difficult not to form very instant, very strong opinions about something like this. It’s also very difficult not to stereotype, so forgive me if I do. There are so many things about this story that are disturbing that I really don’t know where to being.

There are, hidden in the text of the article, some very interesting titbits of the family environment that these two children (and that’s what they are – they may be parents now, but they are still children) have grown up in. First, let’s take a look at Chantelle’s family.

She and her five (yes, five) brothers live in a local council-owned house with their parents – both of whom are out of work. This, of course, means that the family lives on benefit. Okay, so I could go off on one about ‘why are we paying for them to breed…” etc but I’m not going to. Look, my wife and I chose to wait until we could afford to bring up a child before having one. That was our choice. We’ve always know that some people choose not to wait and then feel it’s society’s responsibility to look after them. That is the nature of the society we live in.

What worries me is that these six children have grown up in an environment where NOT working for a living is the norm, so how can we really expect that they will go out and do just that in the future? We can’t. Despite what many ‘do-gooders’ will tell us, we still learn our ways from our parents and if parents don’t work, chances are that the children won’t either. And it’s been borne out to some extent by the fact that the 15 year old daughter is now expecting the state to pay to bring up her son. Because she certainly doesn’t have the money to.

And there’s a worrying quote from the mother/grandmother.

“She’s my daughter. I love her and she will want for nothing.”

And how, exactly, does she expect her to “want for nothing” when the family’s only income is from the state? My wife and I both have quite well paid jobs and I’d never say my son will want for nothing, because I know there will be times when he will go without because I won’t be able to afford it. He’ll have all I can give him, but it won’t be everything he wants, that’s for sure. But then, I’m not able to go cap in hand to the local benefits office if I need a new bed/sofa/TV etc. am I?

Then we look at young Alfie’s family. He lives with his mother “on an estate across town”. Now, just a small point, but if they live so far apart – how did they meet and become boyfriend/girlfriend in the first place? I digress. Aflie’s parents are “separated” which since the word “divorce” wasn’t used I take to mean they weren’t ever married. And his father is a dad to NINE (yes, 9) children.

Now, hang on a sec, but if daddy has trouble keeping it in his pants, is it any wonder that the son can’t control himself either? So, cynical question, how many children do with think Alfie will end up producing? And by how many different women? I mean, it’s not likely (and I don’t know for sure as it’s not mentioned in the article) that Alfie’s dad’s nine kids are all by the same woman, is it? After all, there’s no mention of Alfie’s loving brothers and sisters living with him and his mom.

So, these two kids don’t have what I’d describe as an ‘ideal’ home life. Their parents seem to be, and forgive my stereotyping here, “breeders”. They are reproducing themselves and evidently reproducing their own problems and inadequacies. And this can’t be good for our society. It’s already evident (and you don’t have to look hard to see it) that there is an ‘underclass’ in Britain. An group of people who live outside the normal rules that the rest of us live by. A group who are supported by the rest of the taxpayers and cause a lot of trouble that results in those taxpayers having to pay even more.

And this underclass is getting bigger. I mean, my wife was one of a group of several women of a similar age at her place of work who all chose to have children around the same time. We’re talking late-twenties/early-thirties. And that group will probably have one or maybe two children each. They are all, as are their husbands, well paid, intelligent middle class, aspirational, professional people.

And yet the two families that prompted this entry have more children than all the professionals that my wife works with will ever have altogether. In other words, if they are part of the under class, the under class is getting bigger, while the aspirational class might well end up getting smaller.

And so we come to the other villains of this piece – the newspaper. One has to ask how much The Sun has paid these people for this “exclusive”. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s the right of the free press to pay for stories such as this – it’s long been a part of how the press in the UK works. But doesn’t it show just how much trouble that press is in when they feel they have to resort to this sort of sensational story to sell copies?

For those of you who don’t know, The Sun is a part of Rupert Murdoch’s News International group. It is aimed squarely at working class in this country and it’s said that it’s Sun readers who ultimately decide general elections in this country. Back in ‘92, the paper famously claimed “It’s the Sun what won it” after John Major’s government was returned to power in a surprise victory. On the morning of the election The Sun ran a front page with the opposition leader’s head in a light bulb and the headline “If Labour Wins can the last one to leave Britain please turn off the light”.

They are the home of the world famous “Page 3 Girls” and will happily have a woman showing her nips on page three and then complain about the over sexualisation of the country on page four. And remember, this is the same global media group who will kick people off its MySpace website for showing a nipple or two in their uploaded photos.

The press in Britain is in real trouble. Sales and ad revenue are both falling as people increasingly turn to the internet for their daily news. I haven’t personally bought a newspaper of any kind for five or six years. And I know lots of other people of my generation are the same. Why waste money on something you’ll only throw away at the end of the day?

So yes, when a certain type of person finds out that their 15 year old daughter is up the duff by the 13 year old from across town and decides to call in the gutter press for a nice fat fee, you know that the media is, in part, to blame. Not completely, I still lay the blame for this whole sorry affair at the feet of the parents and the poor example they have set, but would they have been so keen for the pregnancy to go ahead if they didn’t see pound signs in their future? And how long will it be before we get the documentary on ITV or the big Sunday supplement on how things are going?

I’d also like you to think about the quote from the anti-abortionist at the end of the article.

“We commend these teenagers for their courage in bringing their child into the world. At the same time this is symptomatic of the over-sexualisation of our youngsters and shows the policy of value-free sex education just isn’t working.”

Just what do you make of that? She’s painting these kids as some kind of heroes and then blaming ‘society’ for the situation they have got themselves into. The fault here is not with the sex-education taught in schools. The fault is with the total lack of control that the parents appear to have over their offspring. I’m sorry, but if this had been my 13 year old son he wouldn’t be appearing in the newspapers and he’d be out finding work in his spare time (and studying bloody hard to make sure he had the qualifications to get a decent job the rest of the time) to help support the baby. (I should point out that my son is only three, so I might have to wait ten years to put this claim into practice, by which time the economy might have recovered and there might actually be some work for him to do)

I know I’m ranting. But this is the sort of story that brings that out of people. The last ‘kid’ to be a young father was twelve and he said all the same things about being a good dad that Aflie is saying. And as the article reminds us, he and the baby’s mother split up after six months.

One final thing, contrast this story with the news earlier this week that a set of parents in Norwich who had their three children taken off them and adopted after, what eventually were proved to be false, accusations of abuse. They have been told by the court that, even though they didn’t abuse their children and were actually good parents, they cannot have their children back now they’ve been adopted.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/7885047.stm

Can I dare to suggest that for her own good, perhaps the same authorities might be thinking that young Maisie would be better off with some loving adoptive parents rather than being brought up in the very same environment that was responsible for her premature conception in the first place.

ps – over the weekend, it emerged that two other boys are claiming paternity over Maisie and now all three will undergo DNA tests to determine who is the father. Strange to think that 10 or 20 years ago anyone accused of fathering a child with a 15 year old would be demanding tests to prove tehy were NOT the father – not that they were the father. Have times really changed so much – or do all three of Maisie’s would-be dads see those pound signs ahead?

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Today on the day of lovers my free ebook Vision in Green is finally out.

It’s a short f/f story about two woman who meet in a night club. The main character Samantha is also packing, a topic I wanted to write about for a while.

Here is the cover and a short excerpt:

Excerpt:

Samantha wound her way around the nightclub, her fingers tapping with the rhythm of the music as she moved. The beat vibrated through her whole body, making her heart race and her feet want to dance.

As she walked she looked at the faces of the dancers lost in the moment, their bodies writhing close to one another, glistening with sweat. Samantha felt turned on just watching the scene in front of her, her hand unconsciously running over the fabric that covered her new toy.

She wondered if any of them could tell that tonight she was packing. She was nervous but excited; she could feel it pushed up hard against her leg as it tried to break free of her trouser fabric.

The best thing about this story is it’s totally free just go over to Phaze and pick it up from here: http://www.phaze.com/valentinesday.html

And if you are curious about packing please head over here to find more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Packing_(phallus)

Enjoy and Happy Valentines Day!

Nicole Gestalt

Erotically Eclectic

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Tomorrow is Valentines day a time for all lovers to get romantic and exchange gifts, cards you name it.

However in Wales there is a similar celebration but a month early. St Dwynwen’s Day (Dybb Santes Dwynwen) is on the 25th of January.

She is the welsh the patron saint of lovers and her tale as most saints are, is filled with heartache.

She lived it is said around the 5th Century and was one of twenty-four children. After being betrothed with someone more or less from birth she was devastated to fall in love with another whom she could not marry.

She prayed to God to let her forget all about her beloved and be able to carry out her father’s wishes. In response he was turned into a block of ice and she was given three wishes.

Using the wishes wisely she asked for him to be thawed out, and for lovers everywhere to have their hopes and dreams met.

After which she devoted her life to the service of god and formed a small convent off the west coat of Anglesey the remains of which can still be found today.

So next year why not celebrate the day of the lovers a few weeks early?

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Linking someone to Fiona’s recent post on the vanishing apostrophes on Birmingham’s street signs reminded me of something, which sent me to Guardian’s style guide.

(Should you be interested, “St James Park home of Exeter City; St James’ Park home of Newcastle United; St James’s Park royal park in London.”)

I must recommend the Guardian’s style guide. I far more often need to turn to my faithful Strunk and White, for dealing in American English, but I can waste goodly chunks of time reading the Guardian’s – it’s such a excellent combination of useful information, useless information, self depreciation, sense, and general British-ness. All this and they helpfully provide an online edition, so I can waste time all over the place, not just when near my shelves.

For example, take a look at the H section, which offer everything from where to put the apostrophes in the name of a famous girls’ school to the correct spelling of hyperthermia and hypothermia, via hi fi (how we listened to music in the days before iPods), hummus (you eat it) vs humus (you put it on the garden) and a long digression on the construction of an excellent headline.

Who can resist that sort of miscellany?

* For those as might not recognize the nickname, the Guardian is a major national paper in the UK. In the 60s it was renowned and ridiculed for its poor proof reading. As they say in the introduction to the printed edition of the style guide: The ‘Grauniad’ nickname, once well-earned, has been hard to shake off, but we do better today. ”

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Missing apostrophe

Missing apostrophe

Birmingham City Council has been getting a lot of stick lately for its decision not to use apostrophes on street signs.

As a writer part of me does worry about this. It’s yet another erosion of the traditions of our language and grammar, and yet another blow to the trusty old apostrophe, the use of which baffles many people already.

But just how important is this? Fair enough, something like St Paul’s Square really should have an apostrophe because it’s called after St Paul’s Church, which is called after… St Paul. The apostrophe is there to show possession. Place names, on the other hand, tend to be less clear-cut. Kings Heath perhaps ought to have an apostrophe because it refers to the heath owned by the king (singular). But how about Druids Heath? Is that singular or plural? Where should the apostrophe go? It might well be better in that case to leave it out than get it wrong. And as for Acocks Green, is this even named for someone called Acock or does it come from a different source altogether?

As the article I link to above says, many of the apostrophes were already dying out in the 1950s so this is hardly a new phenomenon. Indeed, I have an old map of the area which shows Kings Heath spelled without the apostrophe as far back as 1880 – and many other such names around the country have either lost their apostrophes or never had them in the first place: Kings Pyon, Bishops Itchington (yes, really!), Canons Ashby.

So perhaps Birmingham council deserves a bit of slack. After all, I’d much rather see a road sign spelled Kings Heath than the sign I saw in a computer superstore this lunchtime, which read “IPOD’s”. That really did annoy me!

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