Sunday, 9 May 2021

Writers without photo ID shouldn't submit

Over the years, I have seen some strange shall we say submission guidelines, but this one from Hawkshaw Press is the strangest one I have ever seen.

They only want writers over 40 years of age for submissions which is fair enough. Experience can make people better writers as they have more knowledge to draw upon and potentially wisdom. Or, at least that's the theory. 

But the requirement they have set is one that millions of people like me won't be able to fulfill for financial and sometimes ethical reasons (like believing cars and planes cause way too much pollution) - they want photo ID. 

To me that means a passport or a driving license. These are after all the only photo ID some people have as we didn't have the introduction of identity cards from the Westminster government - yet. 

Some people may have a work ID that is photographic but for most people this requirement for photo ID is out of their reach and yet another barrier to getting underrepresented writers published. 

What will writers be asked for next - DNA samples, fingerprints? 

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

The ouch diaries - Not writing

Ouch, that hurt!

It was 2-weeks ago now that I had an accident and badly sprained the ligaments in my writing hand from my wrist almost up to my elbow. 

The bruising has all but gone but even writing a a sentence with my hand is very painful. Any kind of jerking or twisting movement is painful and a lot of the time I'm it feels as if there's a mass of elastic bands in my wrist and they've all been overstretched and knotted. 

I am now officially a writer who cannot write. By that I mean I cannot physically write with my hand. 

Because I have to write - like other writers it's a natural imperative and not a choice - I now have to rely on speech to word software. Wow, that's been fun - I say that ironically. 

It's great when it works and saves me time but when it doesn't work it costs me time. That's unless I want to write a load of gibberish.

Harley is sad I can't play tug with him 

The worst thing for me is having to slow my speech down to a crawl because text to speech software is not designed for Scottish people or anyone who talks at any kind of reasonable speed. I have to talk very slowly or the words that are printed bear absolutely no relation to the words I have spoken.

Sometimes the results can be funny. Like when I type a perfectly normal sentence and it replaces one of the words with a swear word that I definitely didn't say.

Will I keep on using speech to text software once my wrist has healed? 

I might but it seriously needs to improve. Not everybody speaks like the Queen of England and it's time the software reflected that.

I think this evil wee guy came up with the speech to text software I'm using 

If you have a suggestion for some good text to speech software or apps I could be using, please drop me a line in the comments. 


Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Elisa Lam - What happened to her at the Hotel Cecil?


Elisa's disappearance captivated the world

I watch a lot of true crime documentaries but you have got as under my skin as the mysterious case of Elisa Lam.

Few facts are known about her last hours. This is what is known.

Elisa was a 21-year-old student from Vancouver who travelled to Los Angeles to see America. An avid user of the social website Tumblr here who talked about being bipolar, she found the hotel on the internet and decided that she would stay there. 

That decision would lead to her death. 

The Hotel Cecil had a dark, dark history of murder, suspicious deaths, overdoses and suicides. It's been said that Night Stalker Richard Ramirez used to stay there and when one night he turned up covered in blood nobody batted an eyelid, such was the regular craziness at the Hotel Cecil. 

Some people even believe it's haunted or cursed. Maybe both. 

19 days after she went missing, Elisa's lifeless body was found naked in one of the water tanks on the hotel's roof. An autopsy was unable to establish how she died because of the damage the water had wreaked on her body. 

After investigating her disappearance, police found hotel footage of Elisa acting erratically both inside and outside the elevator. At one point, she seemed to be talking to people or person's unknown outside the lift. In another, she's frantically pushing the button in the elevator as if desperate to get it to move.

The autopsy was long and drawn out. Ultimately it declared that this was a case of accidental drowning. There were no recreational drugs in her system or asthma. 

Here's what I think happened to Elisa Lam. Please note - this is only what I believe happened - 

My Theory 

Elisa was scared. Scared of the noise she heard coming through the hotel walls. Scared of the men who tried to hit on her. On her last morning on earth, she came out of her room looking through the keyhole several times to make sure no one was about. 

She was in the hallway when she heard someone coming. She frantically jumped in the elevator to avoid them, frantically banging on the lift buttons trying to get the door to close. She made the same mistake many of us make when we're in a hurry and unwittingly pressed the buttons to keep the door open for two minutes instead of the correct ones to close it. 

She panicked

That's when she had a discussion with someone outside the lift. It freaked her out so much - as any interaction would in her highly stressed state - she ran up the stairs to the roof to avoid this person or persons. 

When she got to the roof she thought she had evaded them but all she'd managed to do was leave herself with no escape or place to hide. 

Then she saw the four water towers that supplied the Cecil Hotel's water. Not wanting to get her clothes wet, she hurriedly took them off and placed them on the edge of the water tank at a point she thought they couldn't be seen. 

She climbed into the water tank

She then climbed into the water tank using her fingertips to try and desperately hold on to the top rim and waited for the person to leave. But she misjudged how far away the water was from the hatch or lid and as she tried to frantically keep herself from dropping into the water she accidentally pulled her clothes full in. 

One item of clothing was heavy and sunk to the bottom. She went down to retrieve it and that's when she drowned because she couldn't get back out. 

Her hiding place became her tomb.

This theory is pure conjecture on my part. We may never know the true story. 

My agoraphobia

I have personal experience of living in the type of sheer terror I believe Elisa suffered in her last hours on earth. I suffer from agoraphobia - defined as the fear of wide, open spaces, to me, it's more about the fear I have of other people. 

My agoraphobia was brought on by the extensive bullying I suffered throughout my teens. When I lived alone, I would go into hypervigilance mode and before I stepped outside I would check that the coast was clear. This would involve looking out the window, peering through keyholes, listening at the door for anyone coming. All part of the reconnaissance I would do before I would leave my home/room.

Her story draws you in

What we do know is that the Canadian student who wrote about the difficulties of growing up on Tumblr that she used like a Dear Diary, will never be forgotten. Through reading about her disappearance at the Cecil Hotel and watching the Netflix documentary, we feel as though we have gotten to know and care about her. 

Elisa may have perished but she lives on in the minds of everyone who's heard her story and those who've read her amazing words on her blog. 

I have no doubt that she would have made an amazing writer. Like so many talented people she died too soon. 

Monday, 8 February 2021

submitting to publishers and agents is tougher than writing the actual book


So you think you've done all the hard work? - submitting to publishers and agents is tougher than writing the actual book.

I know this is not what you want to hear. It's not what I want to write either. You've worked tirelessly to get a finished manuscript. Honed it as best as you can. Edited and edited it to perfection. 

Now you are ready to send your baby off into the world. 

This should be the easy part, right? This is where I have to be totally honest with you. I find submitting the book to publishers and agents is much tougher than writing the book itself and it can take just as long if not longer.

The reason? The different guidelines that agents and publishers have for submissions.

And when I say different guidelines the very between individual publishers and agents and noticed agents and publishers.

Take the latest book I am submitting to agents and publishers (yes, some do accept manuscripts directly from authors). One publisher I'm submitting to want 5000 words that best shows your author's voice. And they don't necessarily have to be the first 5000 words of your book. 

This as an unusual request because submissions usually involve sending your first 3 chapters or 5000-10000 words or similar.

At the moment, I have 7 different publishers and agents on my top list and they all have very different submission guidelines which means some submissions can take a day or even days to prepare. 

What is a synopsis?
The synopsis is a case in point. There seems to be a difference of opinion in what exactly a synopsis is and what it should contain. To some, it's a rundown down of the story, whereas to others, it's more of a pitch for your book mentioning how you think it will stand out who will beat it and what competing books are. 

It's differences in what you have to submit and what interpretations are of what that material should contain that make submitting your novel so difficult.

If like me you are at that stage the best of luck to you. You have entered one of the most frustrating aspects of being a writer - the crazy world of what a proposal should contain.
Please let me know how you get on.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Emergency lockdown pandemic dental kit and DIY dentistry


It seems I'm not alone in having problems with my teeth during lockdown. Following my post about a chipped tooth, a few people have asked me how I did the temporary filling and got it to stay in. 

Here's how I did it (after many tries which made me realise dentists do really earn their money) - 

Please be warned, this information is not aimed at replacing your dentist. It's for you if one of your fillings has fallen out and you need a temporary filling until you can visit a dentist which is virtually impossible for many people right now.  

Get yourself an emergency dental kit. The best one I have found to be the best is Dentek and I bought it from Amazon. 

The white material you use to replace a filling (the pic shows just a small piece) comes inside a very small plastic jar think dolls house size. Follow the instructions on the packet. 

Tip - it's easy to over-estimate the amount of dental filling material you need. Aim for as small amount as you can get to replace the filling

When I applied the white filling material one of the first times, I used too much of the filling material and the end result was it caused a protruding bit on the tooth and hurt my mouth. The filling fell out and took part of my tooth with it. Ouch.

Tip - before you put the filling material in the tooth, brush your teeth and use a medicated mouthwash if possible. You want to avoid getting an infection.

If you do get an infection, your dentist may be able to prescribe antibiotics for you over the phone.

Tip - whatever you do, always make sure the filling material is in an airtight container to make sure it can be used again and doesn't dry out. I put the white filling material in the plastic jar that comes with the product and then inside a glass jar I got some herbal medicine in.

Tip - you will need a mirror. One of those small mirrors on a stick is ideal that you get in dental kits, so you can see see you have put the dental putty in correctly.

Good luck😊


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

How to make a killer - the Night Stalker

Are some people born evil?

The question is often asked whether the monsters who commit evil crimes are the product of nature, i.e they were born that way and nothing could have prevented their evil course, or nurture, i.e their life experiences shaped them into who they were. 

In the case of Richard Ramirez otherwise known as the Night Stalker, the subject of a gripping Netflix documentary outlining how he was caught, it would appear at first that he was born evil incarnate. 

Those who were raped, bludgeoned and stabbed and throttled by one of the most notorious serial killers to have ever scorched this earth, would probably say he was the devil. That the devil came to their homes. 

But on watching the Netflix documentary there were a few throwaway facts about Ramirez that were never fully explored, possibly because no one wanted to make any excuses for such a unapologetically sick killer. 

These facts that would point to Ramirez being the result of nurture, or in his case the lack of any decency in those who should have taken care of him.

Fact 1 - When Ramirez was just 12 years-old, his cousin Miguel (known as Mike) would show him pictures of war crimes he says he committed whilst in the US army. Those pictures are said to have included ones of a dead Vietnamese woman he raped. She'd been decapitated.

Could that be the source of Richard Ramirez's sick compulsion to rape and brutalise not just women but children? 

Could being shown such vile images at a young and impressionable age have led Ramirez to think that sex and violence were intrinsically linked snd resulted in him recreating the kind of brutality and inhumanity his uncle had shown his alleged victims? 

Fact 2 - The very same vile cousin Mike shot his wife in the face and killed her in front of the young Ramirez. 

Again, we have someone young and impressionable seeing someone he looked up to commit cold-blooded murder. A man who would smoke cannabis with the boy. 

Is there a possibility that had he not been shown any photographs or seen his cousin murder his wife, he wouldn't have gone on on to become one of them worst human beings to have ever lived? 

The answers is we will never really know. 

Lessons on breaking into homes 

Fact 3 - After his cousin killed his wife, Ramirez was sent to live with his sister and her husband. Her husband was a peeping tom and used to take Ramirez with him as he peeped on women. 

Is that how the man also known as the Walk-in Killer was able to sneak into his victims homes? Had he not been shown how to creep about undetected by his brother-in-law would he have been able to sneak up on his victims?

The making of a serial killer

If there was ever a set of circumstances that created a serial killer Ramirez's would be almost textbook. And that's before we even looked at his childhood brought up in a home with a violent father.

Whether Ramirez was made and not born a despicable human being, his being dead makes the city he held in the grips of fear, Los Angeles a much safer place. 

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Going to the dentist during the pandemic Covid-19

The other night I was sitting having a cup of tea and reading through my latest work in progress when I felt the front of one my teeth break off. 

In a total panic I managed to scoop up the bit of tooth before my dog ate it and put it in a tooth saving jar that had come with a temporary filling kit. 

I had some crazy idea that the dentist would be able to glue the front of my tooth back in. Oh, how he laughed when I said that.

I spent a whole night in terror of the thought of having to 1, visit a dentist, or, 2, being unable to visit a dentist because of the pandemic. 

As terrified as I am of the dentist I don't want to be left in agonizing pain. 

I have a phobia about going to the dentist. The very thought of going fills me with utter terror. When I get there - and that's after I've tried to avoid going by using every trick in the book such as "this isn't really toothache I've got, it's just pain caused by TMJ" and "everytime I go to the dentist my teeth just get worse"- I always look for escape points. 

Yes, I may be that crazy woman you saw running screaming out of the dentist that time with my long hair trailing behind me because I'm running that fast.

Tip - phone the dentist as early as you can. They have very limited appointments because they have to leave a set amount of time between patients.

I got up the next morning and started calling my dentist as soon as it opened not knowing what to expect. 

It took a long time to get through to them and I thought that they might actually be closed and just have an answer machine on. Eventually I did get to speak to someone.

For those of you who need to go to the dentist urgently and don't know what to expect as I did, here is what happened to me. 

Note - I live in Scotland and it might vary because of where you live but the principles will probably the same - 

1. WHEN YOU GET THROUGH YOU WILL BE TRIAGED - most dentists are only seeing emergency patients. They need to make sure it genuinely is an emergency. 

What constitutes an emergency?

When I did my research, I was told that a broken tooth, chipped tooth, abscess in a tooth, pain and uncontrollable bleeding in the mouth are all considered emergencies especially when they are accompanied by extreme pain.

Because I had a chipped tooth I qualified.

Note - you will only be offered an appointment after you have been taking through a series of questions to ensure you do not have covid-19. If you do you will be referred to hospital for treatment.


Whenever I go to the dentist, my mum goes with me as if I'm child which I pretty much am when I hit the dentist chair. Because of the chance of infection I wasn't allowed to take anyone with me. 


I know that might sound crazy as you will have to remove the mask at one point but when you do take off your mask the dentist will be wearing a face mask or visor to limit the risk of infection.


This means you can't be early or late. This is because appointments are scrupulously timed so that there is exactly one hour between them so that the room can can be properly ventilated with windows open before a new patient. The examination room also has to be washed and disinfected in between patients. 

These measures are meant to stop the spread of covid-19. 


This might seem tedious but they have to make sure you are not going to infect their staff. 


Be warmed some dentists as can only do extractions. The first dentist I spoke to at my practice told me that was all he could do because of the limited PPE (personal protection equipment) he had. 

Luckily, I was able to get an appointment with my own dentist who had better PPE. 


Going to the dentist was scary but they were very nice. As long as you follow instructions you should be fine. 

I was told that if my tooth was infected I would have been given root canal treatment over 2 visits. 

Thankully in my case, my tooth was just chipped and there was no tooth decay. The dentist told me that the temporary filling I put in was fine and to leave it until the day he could do a filling. If it had not been for the virus I would have hugged him! Yes, I was that relieved. 

DI Duncan Waddell - Detective in a Coma Book 2

Writers without photo ID shouldn't submit

Over the years, I have seen some strange shall we say submission guidelines, but this one from Hawkshaw Press is the strangest one I have ev...