Saturday, 14 September 2013

A special visitor was waiting for me today

Every now and again you get a nice surprise; I'd even call it an unusual one--for London. When I came home from the bike shop I'm practically living in, I shoved the bike I'm test-riding after servicing through our front garden and was delighted, yet confused, to see a goose sitting in the grass.  It didn't give a damn about me and just looked up as if to say, 'You got any nice food for me, or what?'  I took some pictures of the wonderfully cooperative model:

Well, I didn't have food for it, for I don't really know what they eat. Not bread, that's what I've learned from a sign in the nearby Finsbury Park; I guess it's some sort of seeds, like budgies eat. I shall research a bit about it. Of course, being an animal friend--particularly reptiles and feathered ones, I was worried it may have got lost or whatnot. As it was curious enough to come closer to my rustling bag, and when I didn't have anything interesting for it, merrily picking away on the grass, I knew it wasn't hurt. Great relief! After consulting a few people I was confident that it'd find its way back to the park. It most likely popped out for a snack in peace in quiet, like a husband goes down the pub for a drink to leave behind his bickering wife.
And the little cutie brought a big smile to my face. A rare sight in London, but a welcome one.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

A review site reviewed: 1 star for effort

An iguana stuck in a sock
Did you miss me? I bet you wondered if I'd committed suicide or were writing another novel in secrecy. I can assure you neither was the case. I've just been busy and didn't have anything writing-related to rant about. Today, though, I've taken time off to tell you about something that happened in August. Yes, yes, I know, I could've--or should've--written about it back then, but I was stuck in a bike shop, seven days a week from morning till late in the evening--don't ask.
So, now I've got this wordy explanation out of the way, I'll cut to the chase; the review site I'm talking about is Awesome Indies, a site that claims to be run by professionals of the industry. Funny, considering they've been rather unprofessional. When I was still in the throes of writing and eager to get noticed as an indie author, and when I heard about them and their 'harsh' criteria to be listed on their site, I accepted the challenge and submitted my book Excuse me, where is the exit? to them. It had been favourably reviewed by Big Al, and was therefore listed. That was about a year or so ago. Well done, me, right? Err, not so, as it seems, but I'll explain later.
After that I submitted No Wings Attached to them. Because I couldn't find a reviewer this quickly, I was offered to have one of their dedicated readers read my book and they'd then decide. Said reader couldn't get into the book (apparently too boring)--a clear no. Eh? That so-called professional site doesn't judge on merit, but on the taste of one person? Interesting. I was told I could re-submit once I found a 'trusted' reviewer (as listed on their site) who gave it four stars. I grinned to myself and submitted to reviewers, who promptly gave the book four stars, but didn't bother to re-submit to AI.
I sent my Thriller to two of their reviewers, though. It's written under a different name and both thought I'm a first-time author. Both also felt need to educate me; one hadn't got the balls to critise me at first, then, when I probed a bit, he patronised me with how well read he is and how I rushed my writing. Eh? No, man, that book took me eight months, I certainly didn't rush anything. One glance at his book, however, revealed he shouldn't be let loose as a reviewer, for he's not even capable of punctuating dialogue, and his writing wasn't convincing either. Made me laugh, to be honest.
The other reviewer was equally patronising, but definitely more on the professional side. Awesome Indies doesn't take to 3rd person omniscient point of view, which is ridiculous. Done correctly, it's one of the best POVs you can write or read. Challenging, yet perfectly acceptable. Anyway, I, again, was told that I could resubmit if I received a 4-star review from one of their listed reviewers. I got them, but couldn't be bothered anymore. AI had lost their appeal and my respect long before.
However, in August, they've topped their inadequate behaviour once again: I received an e-mail, together with three other authors--yes, they'd addressed us all in the same e-mail--informing us that our (in my case the iguana in a sock) book covers weren't good (professional) enough for them to be listed on their site, but that Thalia Newland's daughter would do covers for 20 dollars ... I scratched my head, laughed, and ignored the kind offer.
A few days later, I received the next e-mail, this time a hard-sale: her daughter had made a new cover for me, with example words on it, attached was a link. I opened it and almost fell off my chair when looking at the wonderful creation. Need a laugh? Check out the 'superb' cover that would not only cost me a mere 20 dollars, but also get my book re-listed on their site, for it's just so professional. Who can resist such a great opportunity?
Anyway, here are all my books and covers, just in case you're feeling creative ... I'd like to see if someone can top that cover Thalia's daughter did in ridiculousness. Feel free to post your links in the comment box.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Please, someone wake me up!

A dusty imprint
My friend and subscriber to this blog has e-mailed me, asking if I'd given up blogging, for I haven't posted in a while. Well, no, I haven't given up, but my life has become somewhat stressful due to the move (which I regret deeply), and I've been insanely busy--in a good way, though.
If you've read my last blog post on the 18th of July, you will know that my landlord's asked me to move, for he needed his flat. An (un)lucky coincidence had it that another flat (his dad's) in the building became vacant and he offered it to me. Because it was the simplest and stress-free solution (so I thought), I accepted. In the meantime, I was at the bike shop every day, helping to service our Japanese bicycles in order to prepare 20 bikes for an event, a Japanese picnic. Because I was still new to the whole bike-mechanic business, I wasn't the fastest and needed quite a bit of help from Noah, who found himself busy dealing with repairs and customers due to the summer finally showing up on our door step. And every time we had a bike or two done, customers would come and buy them right away. (Pesky customers; how dare they buy our bikes!--just kidding.) The date of the event came closer and with it, our days became longer; we literally ended up working till midnight. I have to say, I enjoy working late, without interruptions, good music and a beer or two an hour before we finish up. And in between the 7-day-late-night-weeks I packed boxes and moved into the other flat. It was a time with little sleep, much cursing when I hurt myself, and plenty of hugs needed. I still loved being in the shop.
What I didn't love--at all--was the gross discovery of an unwanted gift the former tenants left me: a massive cockroach infestation!

Behind the sofa

At the sink

Three of them

German cockroach on kitchen worktop
I've never had cockroaches in my life, and I'm most certainly not obsessive with cleaning. Nope, I don't mind to keep my dishes in the sink over night; and I'm not going berserk just because there's a bit of crusty tomato sauce on my counter, or a few bread crumbs. I still never had cockroaches. Until now. Because I didn't know the signs/smell, I didn't realise when I viewed the flat. I mean it was 'clean' from what I could see, and I knew I'd give the place a good scrub anyway--I can't call a place my home until I've cleaned it myself. And that's what I did, I cleaned the bathroom, the kitchen (inside cupboards, etc.) then opened the oven and slammed it shut again immediately; it was gross. Everything was greasy and crusty, as if they've roasted chicken (and I knew they did that a lot because I could smell it when passing their flat), but never cleaned it afterwards. Later, it took me an hour to clean the two racks! On the Saturday, when I'd brought the last bits down and my friend, who'd helped me, was gone, I moved the sofa in the living room and spotted a cockroach. A big, fat, brown one that quickly slipped under the skirting board, leaving me in a a state of panic. Although I didn't know anything about roaches, I knew that where there is one, there are probably hundreds. And I learned that I was right, because when I went into the kitchen (it was late in the evening) and switched on the light, the floor literally parted. I jumped back and choked on my squeal; I hated the thought of having those disgusting critters in my flat. That was the starting point of my being on edge. Constantly. I can safely say, that I haven't been able to relax in my flat since the 10th of August. When I called my landlord next day, quite understandably upset, he bellowed at me the following: "Then don't take the flat if it upsets you that much!"
I was speechless. Had I known there was a problem, I'd most certainly not taken the flat and I'm more than pissed off with the previous tenants who kept it all a secret. The landlord didn't know anything about it, and they didn't tell me either. And that's a guy working as a chef! Later on I confronted him and he said he didn't know there's a major problem, but he said he'd put poison every day and sprayed Raid.
Yeah, right, you fucker, and you didn't think telling me about it isn't important? I was fuming. So, now you see why I wasn't really compelled to blog, plus I didn't have Internet until just recently. My day-to-day routine is completely thrown overboard; it takes me about an hour to be able to prepare some sandwiches for me, to feed the iguana and else, for all I'm doing is wipe, clean, disinfect everything, and then do it all again after food preparation. In the evenings, in particular, I need to dry all dishes and store them away, and dry all surfaces as I've put DE (diatomaceous earth) everywhere--including all cupboards--in order to fight the infestation.
 Diatomaceous earth & disinfectant
One reason I'm glad to have the bike shop to go to, because I can easily live with a tool infestation. There, I don't need to worry where I tread, or keep an eye on a sandwich lying around, waiting to be eaten, unlike at home, where I can't leave my food out of sight for two seconds. Ever! I'm a keen chef, can you imagine what this situation does to me? I haven't cooked properly since I've moved in. My landlord, by the way, merrily went to Ireland, leaving me with my unwanted intruders on my own. Only two weeks later, long after I'd bought the DE and had started to fight them, he'd ordered his son to come and clean behind the fridge and washing machine, and put down some boric acid, which, I think, is doing nothing. He's supposed to come again today, but I don't trust this arrangement. The smell's still there, and I'm killing on average 10 roaches a day (day and nighttime)--the nymphs as well as adults. I always have one of my flip flops at hand as I know I'll make use of it. After killing them by slapping them hard, I need to wipe and disinfect the area. Two nights ago, I didn't. I killed one, then left it, surrounded by DE in hope that other roaches come and eat the dead one, then walk through the DE, but in the morning I found the roach was gone and mouse dropping were left instead. This building is worse than a Swiss cheese. I have no idea why they'd come to my flat, as I've no food lying around; everything is in containers, rubbish is disposed of immediately, everything is cleaned and disinfected ...
I've ranted about it on Facebook and am sick and tired of people making the most ridiculous suggestions like: get Zorro to eat them, or that I should call EH. First of all, Iguanas are vegetarians and sleep at night, and even if he'd eat insects, I'd never want him to eat cockroaches as they're not particularly picky about their food and would eat feces. EH gave me exactly the answer I knew they'd give me, I've only called them up so I could tell people to shut up and keep their silly advice to themselves. It seems there's nothing I can do about it, other than continue with the strict regime and hope, but, to be honest, at the moment, all I want is to pack my things, fumigate everything I want to keep, and move out of this hell. I feel like I'm a nightmare and can't wake up.