Farewell QuarterReads

Disappointing to hear of the closure of quarterreads.com – an original, intelligent and altruistic concept of bringing short stories by independent writers to the attention of discerning online readers, at a reasonable cost: a quarter (naturally) of a US dollar per read (equally naturally) of a short story, roughly 17p in the UK or 20 euro-cents if my maths is correct and exchange rates are the same as they were before the Easter break.

Hardly bank-breaking to the customer, you will agree.  But like many innovations, online or off, it was a plan with risks attached, and in the end it didn’t come off.

Yes I was a contributor, though not a prolific one.  Although I think short stories are a brilliant concept – the shorter the better – I don’t actually write that many.  Ironically I’m working at the moment editing a hard copy anthology, but my own name will only appear on the foreword and one of the content chapters.  The book’s community focus and desire to support talented but previously unpublished authors, however, owe a lot to the ethos of QuarterReads.   Tell you more nearer to publication time.

I’m quite happy with what I managed to publish on the site.  The stories had a bit more to do with my immediate environment, physical and psychological, than what I’ve done in longer form on Kindle/CreateSpace.  I’m also happy with the works of other writers that I got to read there: not all the genres and writing styles coincided with my own repertoire, but so what?  That certainly doesn’t mean they haven’t got an audience!

While writers can move on, and literary agents and traditional publishers can find other internet phenomena to turn their noses up at in favour of 800-page Booker Prize non-stories where nothing remotely interesting ever happens, it does seem such a waste: are the pointless selfies of your FB friends or the witterings of ITV2 celebs – or, more likely, their agents – really more demanding of your time than a good read?  A good SHORT read, if you happen to have the attention span of a goldfish?

‘Tis true, the gentleman doth complain too much.  But the fact is there’s so much to complain about.

The Next Day

The best Bowie comments I read and heard yesterday were either from people who’d worked closely with him – Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, Tony Visconti, even Rick Wakeman – or from ordinary folk who’d bought their first Bowie record in 197? and realised they were on to something.

The worst comments, needless to say, were from rentaquote celebs with neither of the above connections.

I thought Planet Rock did a fine job throughout the day, much better than the BBC.  Though both had their fair share of rentaquote news reports, Planet Rock wisely and sparingly let the music speak for itself, rather than lapsing into “stop all the clocks, let’s dig out as much from the archives as we can, makes us look good” mode.

There are plenty of excellent audio links and photos I’d like to put up here, but a few million other people have beaten me to it.

Same Difference

Madness is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

I’ve heard this quote, attributed to Albert Einstein though I’m not sure if it’s word for word, a lot lately – mainly by sports and political commentators to describe a persistent but ineffective strategy used by a team leader.

Needless to say it has many practical applications in the real world, as those of us who’ve been subject to a delusional friend or a bloody useless manager will testify.

But I think I might have to start applying it to myself.  You know the scene: you register FREE – the capital letters are not mine – for something online, like work for instance, and you think it’ll only be a matter of time before it starts flooding in.  Duh!

No – the only way to get work, if you’re not prepared to UPGRADE TO PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP at a price, or roll your trouser leg up, do the funny handshake and say the secret password, is to make it yourself or rely on your close friends if you have any you can trust – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and all that jazz.

I’m grateful to the internet for providing me with opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had.  I probably wouldn’t be writing this anywhere else but here.  Tweeting and Kindling, two of my other vices, are also conditional upon my online connection.  I keep doing them because I know I’d be very bored if I didn’t.

Next week, however, I am doing something different.  I have a rare opportunity to bring something online offline and into the community.  I’m doing some readings from one of my Kindle efforts, WHAT I HAD FOR DINNER, as part of an event for the Levenshulme Food and Drink Festival (Manchester, UK).  I’ve got a bit of pre-match nerves, as I’ve never done anything quite like it before: will anybody show up, will I fluff my lines etc etc.  But so far I’m keeping up the deep breathing exercises and drinking the herbal teas, and it seems to be working.

Now excuse me while I go off to get my EuroMillions lottery ticket.  I’m playing the same numbers that let me down last Friday, but the results will be different this time.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Drum Solo

Good Friday is as good a day as any to keep your promise.as any.

DAVE: THE DRUMMER’S TALE is now available on Kindle DAVE COVER-1at amazon.com/dp/B00VELVL6Q and I will as soon be as familiar with that number as I am with my date of birth.  Been doing some online marketing you see, mostly using Twitter, and for me it’s slightly less time-consuming to type out the URL than cut and paste it, though there is obviously the risk of typos.

The book cover is also provided.  It’s turned out to be, fittingly enough, a “cover” as the term is normally applied in pop and rock music – you can see this by comparing it to the photo I included in last week’s post.  Like the best cover versions, I hope, it takes the original and adds a little bit of the interpreter to it, making it a new piece of work.

Let’s rock!

It’s Been a Long Time Coming…

And furthermore, it’s had to wait until seven o’clock on a Saturday morning on the last day of Greenwich Mean Time, a time when you’d expect most creative artists to be away with the fairies – but then I always preferred to get up early and have a siesta in the afternoon, all afternoon if I could help it.

What’s happened since last I was here?  First and foremost, I have at last had my Christian faith confirmed, which is more important than anything.  Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things which are upon the earth (Colossians 3:2).

Don’t take that as meaning I’m not doing anything upon the earth!  Let me here give a plug to quarterreads.com first for publishing five of my short stories, but also for their general principle of allowing authors to publish online and make a small income from doing so.  I’m tired of the way that writing, unless you’re an A list novelist or a snotty tabloid hack, is treated as a form of voluntary work.

I also my plan to publish my new ebook DAVE:THE DRUMMER’S TALE on Kindle in the week to come – just let me get the cover sorted out.  The title, I hope, is self-explanatory – Dave is the drummer in a rock power trio, and the book tells the tale of the recording of their first album from his point of view: plenty of rock minutiae, plenty of ego, plenty of conflict, plenty of bad language I’m afraid, but I have to be realistic.

Meanwhile, @Seetuit1Joe is still going strong – 140 characters seems to have become my comfort zone, even when it comes to my politics, which was one of the reasons for me setting up this blog.  But I shall try to think of something worthwhile to say here before the May 7 election.

It won’t be “vote Conservative”, however.  I haven’t changed that much!drummer

Scam Scum Revisited

A long time ago I published a post called “Scam Scum”, title self-explanatory I hope, with a promise to make the exposure of scams, internet or otherwise, a regular feature of my WordPress activity.

What’s a promise worth these days?  Like a lot of people, I got sidetracked into posting photos of castles, cakes and cats so as to make my friends jealous – and went for long periods without blogging at all.  When I did do something consumer-related, it was only to moan about the NHS or trains not arriving on time and having no air-con.  Important matters yes, but not really what I came here for.

This morning, while on what I hoped would be a routine trawl through the Spam folder of my gmail account – my secondary email which doesn’t get as much traffic as the first – I was given a rude reawakening.

The contents numbered seventeen.  Apart from the usual rubbish from HMRC No Reply, there was one from Emilie, one from Sarah, one from Farah – see what they did there! – one from Cami, and others from females whose names I can’t remember and they’ve all now been deleted forever anyway.  But here are some extracts:

“I am new to city and looking for place stay.”

“We have not spoken some time I am taking courage write to you.”

“I have nice photo please click on link.”

“Would like you to come office talk” (though this might have been the one from HMRC).

Now it’s not difficult to spot a pattern here.  You feel sorry for them perhaps, and maybe a bit horny as well, so you get back in touch and 24 hours later you’re exchanging phone numbers and bank details – or at least you’re giving them yours. 

Why do we fall for it?  As an occasional EFL tutor, I despair of different people who make the same errors of grammar and punctuation – and you should too.

Maybe I should offer my services as a spam scam scum letter writer who can do reasonably competent English.  Must be worth a couple of hundred squid an hour, don’t you think?

Etiquette, Netiquette but never Schmetiquette

I take my responsibilities very seriously.

If I say I’m going to be in a certain place at a certain time, I’m there – usually waiting for some idiot who thinks their time is more important than mine, and shows up half an hour late.

When online I always follow back and confirm friendships, whether I’m in Manchester, Peterborough, Granada or getting my degree in Ho Chi Minh City (where the Open University is now based, according to FB).  I don’t think it’s too much to expect other people to do the same – I’m not a troll or a timewaster, honest!

I try not to swear too loudly when I’m frustrated by buffer wheels, Aw Snaps, beep beep boops and Google Docs that won’t page down – and the people I’m supposed to be “sharing” them with don’t bother to look at them, let alone add anything meaningful to them.

What I’m trying to say here, I suppose, is a bit of reciprocity never did anyone any harm.  It’s not about you being like me – God forbid! – but about us both following some simple standards: what used to be called “netiquette” in the nineties.

I don’t think any civilised person would have a problem with that.

Free Travel Feature: Ludlow in a Day

Ludlow has recently been flagged up as one of the cheapest places in the UK for a short break.

That’s as may be and, while it has a number of attractive guest houses and pubs with accommodation, it may be more practical, given the town’s relative compactness and easy navigability, to consider a day trip instead.  The West Midlands/Welsh Border location make this quite achievable for many people in mainland Britain

If you’re also fortunate enough to live near the Manchester to South Wales line, a day trip by train, without the annoying need for a change at Crewe or Shrewsbury, is also on the cards.  Two hours each way from Manchester, and it was possible to buy advance tickets from the Arriva Trains Wales website for a total of £28 – though prices can and do vary considerably.  This allowed for eight hours in the town, which was plenty, and in midsummer enabled a trip that could start and finish in daylight.

Don’t expect perfection.  Arriva’s wi-fi-free zones – what do you think this is, the 21st Century? – mean that you’re going to need a crossword or two to hand if you’re not prepared to sit back and enjoy the scenery; and the promised trolley service didn’t materialise until Shrewsbury.  But the sunday morning outward journey was comfortable enough and quiet, except maybe for the screaming kids off on holiday who thankfully left the train at Crewe.

Ludlow station is a minor affair, unstaffed and free of ticket machines, coffee bars and, for a lot of the time, passengers as there was only one train per hour each way.  The town plan on the platform was ultimately more help than could be provided by any human, though.

One of the first things you’ll see if you arrive by train is the Ludlow Brewing Company, which proudly announces that it’s open to the public.  An ideal place to spend a couple of hours waiting for your train home, were it not for the “Private Function Only” sign on the door.  Welcome to Middle England, where inbred faces haunt the cobbled streets, and dog owners discourage their pets from interacting with strangers.

That said, the town centre is well worth a look.  Free for the most part of the chainstore nightmare of most market towns, there are plenty of reasonably priced places for the book and antique collector to search.

Castle Square hosts a themed market on Sundays and Thursdays, and the regular themes are food and antiques. In addition, there are annual Food Festivals in May and September. Pork pie heaven, although vegetarian and gluten free alternatives are available.

Not surprisingly, you won’t have trouble finding a pub or cafe for lunch, or eat alfresco at the market if weather permits. As ever, the less costly (but equal in quality) places are set back from the tourist traps.

you can spend time in the castle if you’re happy to part with the £5 entrance fee, but if you’re reasonably fit and don’t mind a couple of slight gradients, take a free walk alongside the River Teme or the town walls. Few visitors seem to want to take this option, but those who do will be well rewarded by the views.

The return journey would have been alright if the train’s doors and air conditioning had been working. Unfortunately they weren’t.