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FANTASY FOOTBALL – A SEASON TO FORGET?

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We haven’t yet reached the Christmas break and I am afraid Belle’s Babes have not lived up to my wishful imaginings that August day when I first drafted in players and the season began. I am in 10th place in a league of 18; I am a sorry to say that my husband (manager of the Ciccola Dolphins) who even missed the first week has just overtaken me. I relied too heavily on non-performing Chelsea strikers in those opening games (they are still well off the pace and I have now sold them). I need to make 10 points more than the leaders for the next 10 games to have any chance of a top 5 finish. That’s not impossible but by this time in the year most people have identified the top points getters and can adjust their teams accordingly. What I need is a hat-trick from a outside ringer and I can’t think who that would be just now.

I won’t say I have given up. The mindspace that Fantasy Football takes up is precious territory. It brings hope, diversion and a loving shared interest with my son, now many many miles away in Australia. I get to debate fiercely (often by Skype) issues of no consequence, such as is it ok to pick a Man United player as my captain when they play is against Chelsea (answer: no, and I never have though my son claims I did two seasons ago — he’s wrong). And whether a player who costs less than 6 will ever produce that magic hat trick.

Belle’s Babes go into Saturday a good 80 points off the lead. I have to decide whether to make any trades, whether Aquero will continue his blistering goal scoring run against Swansea, or whether I should make Sturridge my captain this time as Liverpool take on Hull City away. Should I finally buy a Chelsea striker or stick with my front line of the above two plus Southampton’s Ricky Lambert, who’s been having a dry spell of late.  Many miles away, Gabriel is having similar thoughts, maybe even at the same hour that I am.

Luck and a good tail wind, as my father would say, may just see me through. I hope so. Tonight of course, it is Champions League football and I will be staunchly supporting Chelsea as they take on Basel in a revenge gig away from home. One point would put secure a spot in the last 16. I really don’t know why it matters that much, but it does.

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FIRST FEATURE — What fun!

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The Suffolk Press Press, a local paper serving the Sudbury, Suffolk area (circulation about 8,100) and beyond published a feature on me and my book, The Stones of Judgment last week. Yes, that’s me resting on the fence outside my sister’s cottage. I come from Suffolk and as some of the action takes place there, the newspaper was interested in the story. The exposure may even help to sell a few more copies, which was the reason for doing it. I am much more confident holding the pen and notepad than answering questions.

Word of mouth, going viral, spreading the news: there is no quick way, beyond super-celebrity endorsement, to get people to take notice of a new book by a first-time novelist. Even those who receive the praise, and plenty of media coverage, often don’t get the sales to reflect this. A good friend of mine has released a superb memoir (Mother, Daughter, Me) this spring that was selected by Oprah Winfrey as a best book for the summer and received rave reviews everywhere. It is selling well and always gets many-starred, enthusiastic reviews on Amazon but despite all this, it is not top of the bestseller lists yet.

The problem was follow through: the publisher did not take the good reviews and recommendations and push them with further advertisements and promotions. Why? Because at some meeting earlier in the year they must have identified the books they were going to support whole hog and this was not one. So even though my friend is doing a great deal of self-promotion and has trekked across the US talking at bookstores everywhere, she did not have the clout she might have gotten if her publisher was fully behind her. This is a great pity.

So where does that leave the self-published Kindle-only book: on the virtual shelf, I’m afraid, sadly waiting for someone, somewhere to hit the download button. It is a full-time job (and I already have one of those) drumming up the support and publicity that you need to start the recognition ignition. Approximately 2.2 million books are published annually, with about 20 per cent of those in English, according to UNESCO – and that doesn’t even include eBooks. Bowker, a US company, estimates that there were 3 million books published in the US in 2012 (including eBooks) and that very few sell more than 250 copies each.

That is both encouraging (I am not alone!) and really disappointing. eBooks are super cheap. Mine sells for less than £3, what you would pay to board a bus twice in London, but, depending on traffic, it can give you hours more fun.

I am grateful for Barbara Eeles of the Suffolk Free Press for taking an interest in the book and me. I hope that a few more people will go online, Google it and opt to download. My son was amused that my royalty statement for 2013 won’t allow us to splurge on a new X-Box 360 for him as my readership is still struggling in the low double digits. But  I was encouraged this weekend when an acquaintance of mine won a Kindle and promised to buy it. So I am expecting to see a slight up-tick in sales over the coming week but probably not enough to change my tax status.

I am glad I made the effort to publish. I do have other books planned, full-time job permitting, and the fact that I can search for myself on Amazon is rewarding in a small way. However, I won’t be retiring to a writing life just yet — too many responsibilities  — though I am certainly looking forward to the time when I can.

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A Slow Start — Fantasy Football

Like the sales of my book, Stones of Judgment (see below for more details), Belle’s Babes got off to a slow start. I did manage more points that I have sales for the novel — but that is not hard! I picked Lukaku as captain and though he put in a spirited 35 minutes or so over two games, he didn’t deliver the goods — just four measly points.

I have some catching up to do and some team changes to make. I will think about this tonight ahead of Week 2, which starts at 12.35pm tomorrow. 

I did spend more time watching football than actually thinking about picking my players. First at Loftus Road, where it was brought home how long the season is going to be for Ipswich. They have a super skill deficit to overcome and I am not sure how that will happen. Gabriel, who Ms. Moneypenny of the FT would refer to as CC#2, and I sat among the QPR faithful who, to be fair, didn’t rate their team either until the 90th minute when they scored and sent three quarters of the crowd home happy. 

On Wednesday night we headed to Stamford Bridge for our first glimpse of Chelsea live. It was a balmy evening. An early goal (OG following loads of pressure) looked to set Chelsea on the way for a easy win but somehow all the midfield possession didn’t quite end up as a threat when it reached the 18 yard box, not for want of trying. Aston Villa took the initiative five seconds (I kid you not because I counted) before half time as Benteke slotted in what looked like an impossible shot. We were sitting way down the other end, which put us at a disadvantage in the second half as Chelsea was attacking away from us.

Ivanovic is a stalwart of both Belles Babes and Chelsea: he got me 15 points in Week One and secured three for Chelsea on Wednesday night. A thundering header from the middle of the six yard box off a great delivery from a free kick by Lampard. Lukaku had won the foul. No points for that for Fantasy Football.

So onwards and I hope upwards as far as the Pigeon Wing league table is concerned. I am languishing in 13th place but I have £2m in the bank and a few ideas. I will write more on why this is a good use of my time after Week 2. 

 

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Fantasy Football — Countdown begins

Though my son has already made his team, mine is still a work in progress. Belle’s Babes (highest position: second in league a few seasons back) have changed strip this year to reflect my love of blue (Ipswich and Chelsea) rather than the version of gold, which was what I had aimed for in years past to represent the Belle in the name (family pet – golden retriever, sleeping at the end of my bed as I write).

So what does work in progress mean: an attempt by me to fit as many top scoring players in the team as possible alongside some possible dark horses (Hull, Cardiff, Crystal Palace). In year’s past I have shunned Man U. players because of my antipathy towards the team and its manager. This year with a new manager and my previous two year’s dismal performance I have decided to relent and put Van Persie up front (at least for now). I’ve still got more Chelsea players though. 

Any tips welcome. I have until 11.30am Saturday to finish the squad!

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Anonymous and not so anonymous abuse of women

The UK press has been filled in the past fortnight with stories of cruel abuse via anonymous web posts (Twitter, Ask.fm etc.) of women and girls and old fashioned, hurtful chauvanism. The saddest story is of the teenager who committed suicide following on-line attacks from people who would not own up to their cruelty. That her suicide is not the first because of internet bullying makes the story even sadder. As a mother, this is almost unbearable: a child so distressed by words on a screen decides, with the door of her room closed, to end her life before it has almost begun.

The attacks on feminist campaigners via Twitter were sickening for their instant, graphic and violent misogyny. Who could wish rape and abuse on anyone, and in particular people who campaigned to have the image Jane Austen, the politest of writers,  on the £10 note? Do some men really want to hurt women so much that they would threaten such vile physical attacks, torture and murder after what seemed like such a positive summer story (at least to me)? Have they read Jane Austen and find the ridicule of some of her male characters so distressing that they should take it out on her supporters, two centuries later?

The police have not released the names and details of two of the men they have arrested so far but with reports of abusive tweets every 60 seconds the day after the announcement, it would seem they’ve got a lot more cells to fill. I have to say I am curious to see what a Twitter troll looks like and whether they resemble the barrister and judge who this week stigmatised a 13 year-old girl in open court as a sex predator, suggesting that the middle-aged man who was charged with her rape was defenceless in front of her female wiles? That many men don’t see how outrageous this is beggars belief.

These three attacks on women and girls have made me look somewhat fearfully at the men who cross my path in daily life. Where do all those normal looking people stand on the spectrum between friendly neighbour to raving misogynist?

I signed up for ask.fm, the website that had been used to persecute the teenager who committed suicide and posed one question: would people say the things they type if they saw someone face to face? No answers yet. Ask.fm announced its commitment to anonymity with pride, as if it were some kind of medal for freedom of speech.

It isn’t.

Anonymity may provide the frisson that comes from getting away with something risky, like shoplifting from a pavement display or not getting caught when you’re travelling on an expired ticket, but it shouldn’t allow criminals to get away what are real crimes. In the case of the judge and barrister who slandered a 13 year-old, they have had to face the opprobrium they deserve — in measured criticism from almost everyone, including David Cameron. I am waiting, however, for the stories of the Twitter trolls attacking the many women who spoke out against what happened in court. If Jane Austen could provoke abuse, then the women who took the judge and the barrister to task are hardly likely to get off scott free.

What still perplexes me, and several of the women I have spoken to about this, is how little it took, particularly in the case of the Jane Austen supporters, for men to lash out so outrageously and with such venom. The punishment did not in anyway fit the crime. But, to reference another classic, the perpetrators will in the end be forced to reveal themselves. The law should help ensure that the frisson of anonymity will be fleeting.

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Keeping to a routine: dogs, football, pelicans and other friendly subjects

I have blogged now for a month. Three things are obvious: dogs get the greatest response, friends do not have staying power, and time is the hardest constraint. I have thus resolved to do the following:

1. Write about my dog at least once a week  — and other animals too if possible

2. Tie everything I write about my dog (and other animals — see pelican below) to promoting my book in some way. This has proved hard with the pelican.

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3. Abandon trying to get my friends to start the word of mouth necessary to get people I don’t know to read my book. They mean well but it’s just not happening folks

4. Start writing about football — it’s a love I share with billions of people, and some of them even read books. There are not many games during the summer so I have to keep my interest alive — and who knows, my next book might be set inside the world of football – I’ve been inside that fortress in Switzerland known as the home of FIFA and have even met Mr. Blatter — I have credentials.

Let’s see what the next month brings.

ps. This is the link to the book if anyone wants to download it. There are no pelicans in this one but it’s a great summer read — I will have to say that myself as others haven’t quite picked up on it yet! 

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When a tail gets in the way of a story

My beautiful dog, Belle, has had a story to tell. Her tail is now tweet-sized, novel but short,  following a radical edit. It all started on a bright and sunny day in early May when I took her to the dog hair salon. She returned clean and clipped but later that night her tail developed a sore.

Two weeks later, after many visits to the vet and the vet hospital, much stress, worry, medication (for both of us) and cost, she now has a stub where her gorgeous tail used to be and is wearing an accessory, mocked by many a passerby.

Because of all this, I have failed in my main task in life, which is to become a bestselling author. I will get back to this grail in the coming days. Belle’s stitches will be removed on June 6th. I should be in top 100,000 on Amazon shortly thereafter.Image

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