Posts Tagged ‘Mitzi TV’

Mitzi Szereto chats on BBC Radio Shetland

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo with the BBC Radio Shetland "Sideways" crew

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo with the BBC Radio Shetland "Sideways" crew

During my recent appearance at the Wordplay book festival in the Shetland Islands of Scotland, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by BBC Radio Shetland presenters Jonny Polson and Amz Fisher for the “Sideways” programme. Topics discussed include how I got started writing, teaching erotic writing workshops, my upcoming books (including Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts), and pretty much everything else I get up to that’s suitable for broadcast on the BEEB!

Listen to the interview here:

http://mitziszereto.com/Sideways BBC Radio Shetland with Mitzi Szereto

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A Valentine Bear’s Wedding

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

For those of you who don’t follow society events, you’ll be kicking yourself that you missed the major event of the season, if not the century!

Teddy Tedaloo and his lovely bride Ninny

Teddy Tedaloo and his lovely bride Ninny

I refer to the recent Valentine’s Day wedding of my beloved bear and the co-star of Mitzi TV, the famous Teddy Tedaloo. Just about everyone who was anyone was in attendance (except for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who was not invited due to his species-ist beliefs and his continued inability to get the site functioning properly). All the socialite bears were there, not to mention HRH herself, Queen Elizabeth II. Man, there was so much bling in that church you needed sunglasses!

Family portrait

Family portrait

The Queen, sweet old dear that she is, gave a little speech after the Archbishop of Canterbury did the whole formal nuptials thing. (Judging from HRH’s expression, I’ve a suspicion she was hoping her grandson and future granddaughter’s wedding this spring would at least equal in prestige and grandeur that of Teddy and Ninny’s.) Liz is a huge fan of Ted’s and even has a paw-print autographed photo of him in her private quarters at Buckingham Palace, so of course she wouldn’t have missed his wedding for the world. And with a bit of tinkling of the ivories by that other famous queen Sir Elton John accompanied by the delightful tones of Kylie Minogue, how can anything possibly go wrong?

Champagne

You just had to ask, eh? Well, the champagne was a-flowing and Ted was a-drinking… so much so, in fact, that he passed out in the coatroom just after the wedding cake was sliced up and consumed (he had three pieces). His bride thought he’d done a runner, only to discover that he’d fallen asleep! Apparently someone’s coat had fallen on him and – bears being bears – Ted thought it was time for hibernation. Poor Ninny was in a right state, until the groom resurfaced some time later, wanting to wrap up the evening as quickly as possible so that he could hurry home to change into his pajamas and watch Coronation Street featuring Leanne and Peter Barlow’s much-publicised “blessing.” (Unlike Teddy and Ninny, things didn’t turn out so great for Leanne and Peter.) Ninny, however, managed to convince Ted to take a quick spin around the dance floor first, though he still managed to get home and in his PJs in time for Corie.

Mitzi Szereto and her date Caramelo

Mitzi Szereto and her date Caramelo

To say it was a bittersweet moment for me, as a mum, would be understating the fact. You see, Ted’s an only bear, and to watch him taking his vows in front of all those people, well… I shed quite a few tears, believe you me. Thank heavens I had the comfort of my date, the very handsome Caramelo, who’d flown in all the way from Dubai to attend the wedding, along with his mum, who was Ninny’s Maid of Honour. Sure, it’s early days yet, but I think it’s safe to say that things with Caramelo and myself are progressing along quite nicely. I just hope that I’m not his rebound girl, because he was sort of interested in Ninny first.

Sexy Ninny

Sexy Ninny

As  for the happy couple, the last I heard they were heading off to enjoy their honeymoon, which, if this glamour photo of the blushing bride is any indication, should be a red-hot one, indeed!

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Author Holiday Monday: Another Royal Wedding

Monday, January 10th, 2011

The recent Christmas and New Years holidays (along with the never-ending Bank Holiday Mondays we get here in ol’ Blighty) have got me thinking. Yes, I do this on occasion. Having worked through the holidays nonstop, including Christmas Day and News Years Day, I began to wonder about those such as myself who spend our lives toiling in alternative forms of labour – ie authors and other creative individuals who don’t take home a regular pay cheque or get requisite days off (let alone sick days). Wouldn’t it be nice if WE got a special day off?

Yeah, I know it’s a lot to hope for, but what’s life without a bit of hope?

You’re probably asking what I was so busy doing that I couldn’t even take a minute to myself. Okay, where should I start? There’s this little matter called a deadline that had to be dealt with. Publishers set them – and it’s your job to meet them. So I was correcting the galleys for my upcoming book Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts (going over them twice, I should add). In addition, I was putting together a book trailer and website for the title, while also working on my new anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe (which likewise has a looming deadline), reading material as it came in and working closely with writers whose material I was keen on (I mean, being an editor does require some actual… errr… editing!). In between all this, I had to keep myself fed and watered, attend to my social networking responsibilities (and they are massive), do housework, and look after a rambunctious young bear, who doesn’t like being neglected. There was also the issue of a new vacuum cleaner that needed attending to (the previous and now-famous one having died on me right after the warranty ran out). Oh, yeah, and I was busy fighting an annoying cold I’d picked up from some germy bugger on an overstuffed tube train in London one night when I was on my home from The Smoke. Imagine the footage you’ve seen of passengers in India clinging vicariously to the sides and roofs of train cars and you get the picture. Though at least the Indians don’t pay the equivalent of a London pub lunch for the price of a tube ticket.

Of course I realise that I’m not the only person in the world who has a ton of things to do and not enough time in which to do them. But when you actually have to force yourself not to send out rejection emails to hopeful short story contributors on Christmas and New Year’s day, fearing it would make you look like “Mrs. Scrooge the Anthology Editor,” you know it’s time for an official day off.

A Facebook friend of mine suggested that maybe two authors should get married and give us a public holiday, a la Will and Kate. Since that seems to work as far as adding to the British Bank Holiday curriculum vitae, I said yeah, good idea. So I thought we can play matchmaker between Salman Rushdie and Jilly Cooper (that should get some notice!). Whether either of them is already married is beside the point. They can always get a quickie divorce in Mexico and hurry back here in time for their wedding.

Sadly, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I mean, no one really gives a darn about us poor writers toiling away in our dark and dusty garrets. The public reads our books, but do they care about how we are? Hell no. If we need someone to make us chicken soup when we’re sick do they come running with the ingredients and a cooking pot? Hell no. When they see us on the street, do they drag us into Starbucks and treat us to a latte with extra whipped cream? Hell no. They just use us and forget us. (Hmm… kinda like men, eh?)

No, it seems we’re on our own in a big old scary world without a proper and legally recognised day off. The entire world goes off on holiday and there you are, still slaving away and seeing your life flash before your eyes. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Even my gym kept shutting early because no one wanted to work. Blimey.

So on behalf of all us poor overworked authors, will Salman Rushdie and Jilly Cooper please hurry up and get married and give us an official day off?

I mean, is it really so much to ask?

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The Case of the Missing Glove

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

No, this isn’t the name of my new crime novel. Yes, I am writing a crime novel, but it’s nowhere near to completion for me to spill the beans about it. Worry not, however, for you’ll soon be hearing lots more about my raunchy and outrageous new novel Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts due out in spring!

As for the case of the missing glove, it is, in fact, a real case, and it takes place on the dark foggy streets of Londontown. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t so foggy when it happened…

Teddy Tedaloo and his mate enjoy a pint of Fruli beer

Teddy Tedaloo and his mate enjoy a pint of Fruli beer

The mystery all began thanks to my famous social butterfly and bon-vivant bear Teddy Tedaloo and his Christmas meet-up with a mate of his, who was coming down by train from “oop north.” Ted was in fine Christmas cheer attired in a dapper Santa suit, replete with hat, which ended up coming in quite handy for warding off the freezing Siberian cold that had draped itself like an old lady’s shawl over our little island. Of course no meet-up worth its weight in ale can kick off without first paying a visit to a favourite drinking establishment in Covent Garden – particularly one that serves Fruli strawberry beer. We were already halfway to the floor drinking our lunch when Ted’s Uncle Geoff turned up, at which point things began to lean a wee bit toward the surreal. Though frankly, I’ve become so used to surreal that if Salvador Dalí gave me a melting clock for Christmas, I’d likely not bat an eyelash. (The fact that he’s dead probably wouldn’t faze me either.)

Teddy Tedaloo on Thames River Christmas cruise

Teddy Tedaloo on Thames River Christmas cruise

We set off down to the river, where we availed ourselves of a Christmas boat cruise on the Thames. Little did we expect to be entertained by a commentator who could have put any of the top British comedians to shame, he was that good. Alas, nearly all of his humorous jibes went over the heads of our mostly foreign sailing companions, who seemed more interested in speaking as loudly as possible and instigating their screaming children to do likewise. But hey, it added to the hilarity of the moment, as did the gingery fizzy cocktail we were served. I mean, we really needed a drink to sober up after all that Fruli!

Once we’d teetered off the boat, we sobered up even more in the Arctic blast and had a look at the Christmas market set up on the South Bank, which featured among all the sweet sellers and soap pushers a babushka lady selling religious icons and statues from Minsk, Belarus. Now I ask you, what else would you possibly expect to find on London’s South Bank but a babushka lady from a convent in Minsk? It’s the first thing you think of, right? I have a feeling that Ted’s uncle was rather taken with her, but he decided to play hard to get by going off to buy some sweets, which we later stole off him, afterward topping up our hunger with some roast pork and sage stuffing sandwiches, which we ate while standing up, our frigid fingers clinging to our food for dear life. We next got some rubberised French crepes that were a challenge to eat, particularly with a plastic fork. These were eaten to the accompaniment of a musician whose hands were so frozen he could barely get any sound out of his guitar. Yeah, baby, it was cold.

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo observe safely from the sidelines

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo observe safely from the sidelines

We rounded off the evening by schlepping across the river yet again, this time to Somerset House to watch the ice skating, where we were joined by yet another mate of Ted’s. Enter the missing glove. Apparently somewhere between Waterloo Bridge and the ice rink Geoff discovered his right glove had gone missing. With no sign of Sherlock Holmes (Elementary, my dear Watson!), it was up to us to solve the mystery. A frantic search ensued, involving much harassment of the security people, neither of which yielded a result. We ended up inside the viewing galleries, warming up with tepid and obscenely overpriced cups of “hot” cider and dancing to some very peculiar Balkan-esque music being piped in, whereupon it was decided we’d find another pub once we’d escorted our out-of-towners safely to the tube station.

The pub never happened, which might, in retrospect, be a good thing. We were in the vicinity of Charing Cross station when our glove man, who was to catch us up after one more check with Somerset House’s lost-and-found, sent a text that he was returning back across the river to the South Bank to search for his glove. Had it been me, I’m not sure I would’ve gone to that much bother on a freezing cold night in a city that is exhausting even in the best of times. However, it was probably the temperature that drove him to seek out his glove rather than endure further torment.

Later that night when I got home, I texted Geoff to see if he’d found his errant glove. I didn’t receive a reply. My first thought was that he’d been mugged during his search or possibly even run off with the babushka lady. Indeed, perhaps his claim to return to hunt for his glove on the South Bank had been but a ruse to put us off the scent. I mean, you just never know with men.

The next morning I had an email informing me of the sad news: the black glove was never found. On the bright side, however, Geoff happened upon a right-handed green glove that some other poor soul had lost, thereby giving him a proper (albeit unmatched) pair. The last I heard, he was still wearing it!

So now you know what happens to all those lonely gloves you see scattered around London. They eventually find a new partner, and live happily ever after.

Happy holidays!

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Erotic Writing and Garlic

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo on the Isle of Wight ferry (on calmer seas)

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo on the Isle of Wight ferry (on calmer seas)

My sidekick Teddy Tedaloo and I are recently back (along with a cold) from our yearly jaunt to the Isle of Wight, where I was teaching my Literotica erotic writing workshop. Not unusually, it was a weekend filled with wind and rain and choppy seas. In fact, it was so dodgy on the way over that I’m certain I saw a few passengers on the ferry (and even some of the crew) texting the contents of their last will and testament to their solicitors.

As for me, I’m planning to leave everything to Ted and miscellaneous animal charities. Oh, but we were talking about my workshop, weren’t we? Well, it was yet another successful weekend as I witnessed writers breaking through their literary blocks and actually turning out some sexy prose that didn’t sound like something you might see written on the stall in a public toilet. Mind you, I threatened to chuck them off a cliff (and yes, there was a cliff nearby) if they so much as even dared to write something cringe-worthy. And having some muscle along with me (Ted), I’d clearly scared them into submission. (Notice all the double entendres?)

Although the weather proved inspirational to the writers, even more so was the howling and moaning they were treated to during one of the writing exercises I assigned. I’m sure they thought I’d brought along my own sound effects for the course, only to discover that the howling and moaning was not of the human variety, but instead belonged to the venue’s resident dog. I tell you, I’d never seen so many crestfallen faces in my life!

Now I’ve heard of students giving an apple to the teacher. But giving a bulb of garlic? Well, folks, you heard it here first – one of my students actually came up to me during a session and presented me with a bulb of garlic. Okay, so it was roasted garlic, and it was local to the island, but I’m not entirely sure how to take this. I wonder if it was some kind of weird karma thing, since the evening before I left for the island I received the publishing contract for my new anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance, a book I’ve had in mind to do for the last four years or so. And you can’t get much more gothic than garlic!

We also had a journalist from a popular women’s magazine on board to do a feature on me – and I got her writing some pretty good stuff, too. As for the photographer who accompanied her, although quite a few shots were taken of me, need I say who, as usual, stole the show? Yup, you guessed it. It seems the photographer was quite taken with Ted (who isn’t?), and frankly I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ends up on the cover of the magazine. As for the journalist, I’m hoping she’ll at least finish the article she’s writing before quitting her job to take her chances in the big bad world of erotic writing.

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at the Village Inn pub

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at the Village Inn pub

As I usually do on these Literotica weekends, I availed myself of the local pub in Shanklin village (along with some local ale) on the Saturday evening, since there’s always live acoustic music happening. Tragically, the hottie from last year wasn’t there anymore (*sobs*), but there was a chap playing guitar and singing, and he was very appreciative of his audience. In fact, he told everyone that he’d never performed for a bear before, then proceeded to dedicate a song to Ted. Man, I never felt like such chopped liver in my life.

Before it was time to embark on the high seas back to the mainland, along with the hell that is known as “commuting through London,” Ted and I were treated to a lovely country pub lunch by our friend Ray Allen, who’s best known for creating the hit BBC TV series “Some Mothers Do Ave Em.” Ray absolutely adores Ted, and was thrilled to have an opportunity to hang out with him again (the last time we all met up was in Wales at the Caerleon Writers’ Holiday, which Ray and I both do gigs at). I had the best pie in my life, and had I not been looking at such a long journey home, I would’ve had an entire pint of the local ale rather than just a half.

Teddy Tedaloo meets The King

Teddy Tedaloo meets The King

Of course, the whole getting-home shtick is never without its usual drama – and like our return journey from the Wordplay book festival last month in the Shetlands, there was yet another strike on the London Underground. I was stressed out by the time I reached Waterloo station, but the gods were watching over us, and we got there in enough time to catch the tube before it shut down completely. I also had my faith in Englishmen restored (well, for a few seconds anyway) when a lad on the train insisted on carrying my suitcase up some stairs, and kept asking me all about myself, at which point he introduced himself as Ian.

Ian. Do  you think this could be yet more of that weird karma at work? Probably not. Though he didn’t tell me his surname, I’ve a sneaking suspicion it wasn’t Somerhalder!

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Mitzi and Teddy Hit The Shetlands

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Shetland IslandsMy famous furry sidekick and partner in crime Teddy Tedaloo (or McTedaloo) and I are recently back from a glorious weekend in the Shetland Islands of Scotland (aye, laddie), where I was invited to appear at the ninth annual Wordplay book festival. Though I’ve been to other parts of Scotland (see my blog posts 1, 2, 3), this was my first visit that far north, and I was warned of high winds that might blow me over into Norway, but instead I just ended up with my hair being blown the wrong way.

On the Saturday I did a talk and performed readings from my short story “Hell is Where the Heart is” from Getting Even: Revenge Stories and two selections from In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales. I think it went over fairly well, since I didn’t hear any snoring. On the Sunday morning I conducted one of my erotic writing workshops. The somewhat unusual fact that it was scheduled at 10am on a Sunday morning was pointed out to me by several people, and, though I worried that it might conflict with church services, I went ahead with it anyway, playing to a sellout crowd who clearly found some divine inspiration!

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo on the boat cruise

I tell you, it was all happening in Lerwick that weekend. Aside from Wordplay, there was Screenplay (the film festival), and even a blues festival taking place. Ted and I managed to squeeze in the screening of Requiem for Detroit from film director Julien Temple, who was in attendance. We even went on a boat cruise to Bressay and Noss, which left at least one person seasick (Ted was looking a bit green himself) due to the rough seas, though it was great fun when we went along at a swift clip. We were at the aft with some of the heartier passengers, hanging on for dear life to a pole, the wind in our hair (and fur), as we rode our watery roller coaster. It left me feeling unsteady and queasy for the next 24 hours, but hey, it was worth it!

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo with BBC Radio Shetland presenters Amy Fisher and Jonny Polson

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo with BBC Radio Shetland presenters Amy Fisher and Jonny Polson

When I landed in the Shetland Times, I figured I was a pretty hot commodity. I (along with Ted) was also interviewed by the presenters of BBC Radio Shetland’s arts and culture programme “Sideways”, and they were most impressed with Ted’s erudition and fine fashion sense. In fact, I suspect the young lady presenter quite fancied him (can’t say I blame her, Ted being an extremely handsome bear). I suppose with all this publicity it shouldn’t have been surprising that the entire town seemed to know who I was – from the local tourist office to the blokes who operated the tour boat (one of whom suggested I teach erotic writing to the other passengers). I tell you, I was feeling like a real celebrity. Until…

…I found out that Teddy had almost made the cover of the festival brochure. At that point I began to suspect that it might not have been me the festival folk wanted to grace their stages, but Ted. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been upstaged by him; however, things really became glaringly obvious when Julien Temple entered into a discussion with Ted about doing a film about his life, only to end up in tears (Julien, not Ted) when they couldn’t agree on a soundtrack. Julien wanted The Sex Pistols; Ted’s more a Temptations bear. He loves their song “My Bear.” (I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day…)

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at Fort Charlotte

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at Fort Charlotte

Which brings me to the subject of food. Did I mention the breakfasts at our hotel? You’d never get that kind of breakfast in London, EVER. I asked for a small kipper to accompany my other selections, and I got a kipper the size of a vintage Cadillac. And it was a real kipper, not some freeze-dried, shrink-wrapped, bargain kipper either. One breakfast was enough to feed me for an entire week.

Of course, no venture outside of my front door is complete without some mishap. My worst fear on returning home was the tube strike, which began at tea time on the day of the evening I was to fly back to London. When I arrived at Gatwick, it was pissing down with rain. However, the adventure had only just begun, for my suitcase had not arrived along with us. I suspect it had remained behind at Edinburgh airport (where we changed planes) to avail itself of the whisky-tasting table at the duty free. Note that I’d carried this piece of luggage with me for the two flights on the way up, but encountered a problem at Sumburgh Airport in Shetland, where my tweezers appeared to spark fears of a terrorist attack.

They searched my suitcase and everything in it looking for my sinister contraband – you’d have thought I had a bomb strapped to my back from the way they were going though my stuff. When they found the offensive item and threatened to take it off me, well… I wasn’t having it. I can’t buy those tweezers anywhere (and they never caused a problem before in a carry-on), so after a few minutes of discussion, they agreed to mail them back to me if I paid for postage. Then it was suggested (especially since the plane was a small propeller one) that I should just check the bag all the way to London. By that time I would have agreed to anything, therefore I hurriedly checked it, instantly regretting it and having an ominous sense of foreboding that it would not be arriving with me. All during the flight I feared the loss of my mobile phone charger, my camera charger, numerous items of clothing, my favourite black suede boots, the Shetland fudge and Scottish tablet I’d bought, bits and pieces from the festival…

Despite my scarily accurate sixth sense, my tale has a happy ending. The suitcase was recovered (and fully intact) and delivered to my home the next night, and Teddy and I are now making really quick work of that Scottish tablet and Shetland fudge!

If you fancy trying your hand (so to speak) at a bit of erotic writing, you can catch me at my Literotica workshop in the first weekend of October on the Isle of Wight.

(A bit of after-party merriment, featuring fellow Yank, Will Kaufman.)

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Mitzi and Teddy’s Excellent Adventure in Norfolk

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo (the "Norfolk Hayseeds")

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo (the "Norfolk Hayseeds")

My beloved sidekick Teddy Tedaloo and I are recently back from our first in what will hopefully be many visits to the wonderful county of Norfolk. When friends told me that things are a bit quirky in those parts, I knew it was the right place for us – and I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, I got a bit of ribbing about all the inbreeding and webbed hands and feet (the same kind of jokes you get about Wales, which is a beautiful place!), but I saw no webbed hands or feet (except on the ducks), and the locals I met were friendly, pleasant and helpful.

The plan was to soak up lots of local colour for a quirky novel I’m going to write, and soak it up I did in abundance! The quirkiness kicked off a few minutes before my train arrived at King’s Lynn, with my friend and hostess sending me a series of progressively panicked text messages informing me that she was stuck in the soap cycle at the car wash and could not get out. I ended up waiting outside by the taxis with some poor woman whose friend apparently forgot to collect her from the station, and we amused ourselves by watching the gulls deposit their waste onto parked vehicles until a car came skidding to a halt before me. My friend had arrived.

Well, I felt really let down, especially after all those text messages. I’d expected the car to be covered in soap suds like some giant bath sponge, but apparently my friend managed to make it into the rinse cycle, and hence to freedom. And off we went for a Magical Mystery Tour of Norfolk that lasted for several days and probably put a couple of pounds on me from all the eating I did (did someone say “pudding“?).

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at a Norfolk pub

Mitzi Szereto and Teddy Tedaloo at a Norfolk pub

Now there’s nothing Ted and I like better than country and village pubs, and we availed ourselves of plenty while there. My favourite pub was in a village straight out of Midsomer Murders, replete with a local vicar drinking there… only he wasn’t a local vicar as I soon found out. In fact, he was a Welsh vicar with a parish in Essex. You figure it out. Even he thought it was a scream. It was in this quaint old pub where I found the perfect inspiration for my novel – and I sketched out the entire plot on a scrap of paper in between exchanging quips with the vicar, who was a bit of a comedian. It seems his parish is very near the part of Essex where the ferries go to the continent, only he said his parish was for “the incontinent”. I kinda got the impression he wasn’t too crazy about Essex when he told me: “I love everybody, but I don’t have to like everybody.”

The Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads

Welsh vicars from Essex aside, you haven’t lived till you’ve gone to a pub with a black labrador that’s in season. We’d all just come from a lovely walk on the beach, barely missing being swallowed up by high tide, and were in the mood for some real fish ‘n chips (not sure what the lab was in the mood for, but let’s not go there). Anyway, there was this smaller male dog at the bar giving her the eye and, well… let’s just say he was interested and leave the subject before it disintegrates into non-family content.

Actually, forget about the horny dogs. You haven’t lived till you’ve been on a boat in the Norfolk Broads piloted by Ted. He’s a pretty good driver for a bear, and, in fact, he was a damned sight better at driving our boat than my friend (who continues to assert that I ran over a swan when I took the helm). But I had to get to the Broads and at least see what David Bowie was singing about in “Life On Mars“.

Teddy Tedaloo piloting a boat through the Broads

Teddy Tedaloo piloting a boat through the Broads

The only thing actually wrong with Norfolk (and there isn’t much) are all the Londoners coming in and trying to change it into a smaller version of London. There are quite a few so-called “celebrities” and other assorted riff-raff with too much money and no sense who descend on the county in their requisite Sloan Square attire, poncing about and trying to be all country-ish and “bishy-barney-bee” as they shop at the London clone shops and eat in the London clone restaurants (lovely old pubs that have been bought out and destroyed by the gastro craze and certain “celebrity chefs” who fob off their overpriced kibble on you). I have suggested putting barbed wire up to keep these Londoners out, or better yet, an electrified fence. I mean, if you want Primrose Hill, then stay in Primrose Hill!

Of course, coming home is never without its own excellent adventure, particularly when the train driver can’t be bothered to stop at my stop, or indeed, two of the previous stops, when they are ALWAYS scheduled stops. Just one more great mystery brought to you by British Rail. I had been so elated that for my journey home I wouldn’t need to schlep my heavy suitcase up and down countless stairs as I had to on the way to Norfolk (resulting in a slightly sprained hand), but not only did I end up at the next town up from mine, I ended up having to deal with stairs when I was forced to make the reverse journey back to my town. Thankfully my plight was put to an end when a young gentleman intervened and took over suitcase duty. I have often said there are no gentlemen left in Britain (especially in the London area), and I continue to adhere to that statement, therefore it was a pleasant surprise to actually find one (the only ones still alive are usually walking with zimmer frames). Mind you, this particular gentleman (not surprisingly) was from out of town.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to getting a start on my new novel, and I might at some point need to pop back up Norfolk for an inspiration fix. And who knows, maybe I won’t leave!

Bishy-barney-bee
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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the High Street

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I often wonder if I have some magnetic force field operating around me that causes strange things to happen. I admit that I keep a rather low profile locally, since I don’t want hoards of fans queued up at my front door with copies of “In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed” for me to sign. (I prefer they do this in a bookshop, where I won’t be obliged to make them cups of tea.) But low profile or not, I only need to walk a couple of minutes from home before something odd transpires.

For instance, the other week I was heading to the post office when I happened on a busker and her dog. The busker, an Irish woman who seemed to think that I was also Irish (apparently I have an Irish accent), was playing guitar and singing, and the dog, who was wearing a bonnet straight out of a Jane Austen novel, was her devoted sidekick.

I guess I’m a soft touch when it comes to animals, so I put a few coins in the busker’s guitar case, slightly ashamed at the paltry offerings of the locals. Anyway, I got chatting with the woman, who was about to pack up for the day, and somehow from all this I ended up taking on the job of dog minder while she headed off to find a public loo. There I was, sitting on a bench with this dog in a Jane Austen bonnet parking her furry bum on my foot while all and sundry filed past. A few people offered me a friendly smile (I don’t think they were serial killers), including this guy I’d met earlier, who returned to pester me to join some new gym in town when I’d earlier told him that I was happy with the one I already go to – especially since his gym would have cost me double what I now pay.

When the busker returned, I was at last free to do my post office run, afterward heading off to the bank, where, along the way, I ran into an elderly lady I thought I knew from a writers group I’d given a talk to. (By “ran into” I mean on foot, I wasn’t driving.) Turns out it wasn’t her at all, but that didn’t matter, because she invited me to go Scottish dancing in Upminster (which is nowhere near Scotland, by the way). When I explained that I didn’t have a car and, although it sounded like good fun, it would be rather difficult for me to get to, she tried to entice me with tales of men in kilts, suggesting that perhaps I could find out what they wore beneath them. Well, I’d never been so shocked in my life! Okay, maybe I have. I think she just wanted to take me along as some sort of foil, and I probably would have gone, if she’d offered to pay for the taxi.

No sooner had I recovered from this adventure when yet another landed on my doorstep, for just the other day I was running some errands when, in the process of barreling toward the greengrocer’s, I was waylaid by a sweet little old lady with one of those push trolleys. She gave me a big smile and asked if I might offer her my arm so that she could get to a nearby bench to sit down. I saw a couple of old codgers seated there and, although I suspected her intent might be to chat them up rather than rest her elderly bones, I allowed her to borrow my left arm. (She didn’t much care for my right.) There we were, moving along at a snail’s pace and discussing that all-time favourite of English topics, the weather, when suddenly out of the blue she asks me why I think Jesus died.

Well, all I know is that I wanted to buy some of those lovely Spanish peaches before the season was over, therefore I was unable to shed any light on the subject of her query. Undaunted, she continued in what appeared to be a very concerted move to convert me to Christ, or at least drag me into a church. Okay, everyone’s entitled to their own gig and I respect that, but this was getting a bit much, particularly when we got to the bench and she made no effort to let me go – or to sit on the bench she claimed she needed to sit on. By the time she began fiddling in her sleeve for some of those Jesus pamphlets, I’d caught on to what she was about and made my departure before lightning struck me dead.

When I arrived at the greengrocer’s, I got chatting with the cashier and mentioned what had just happened, only to learn that a few days earlier she too had met with the very same elderly lady who had asked for her arm to help her get from point A to point B, only to be given the exact same pitch word for word. The cashier went on to say that a friend of hers had also met with this elderly lady, and so on and so on. Seems she was working the entire street! What bothered the cashier the most (she told me she was raised a full-on Christian, btw), was the degree of sneakiness and dishonesty involved, which she felt gave Christians a bad name. In fact, she didn’t believe the old woman was infirm enough to require assistance at all, and had merely been using this as a ploy. Indeed, we fully expected to see our doddering granny go jogging past the shop at any moment! We both concluded that we would very likely think twice before lending our arms to anyone. As for me personally, I never felt so cheap and used in my life!

The following day I returned to the High Street for a bit of grocery shopping and no, I didn’t see the elderly lady, but I did encounter a group of Native American Indians in full regalia performing tribal song and dance. Having by now learned my lesson, I didn’t stop to chat.

I bet you’re thinking that it’s only my local High Street where all these curious adventures take place, but it seems that no matter where I go, this magnetic force field of mine follows – even in the middle of Central London (or, in this case, beneath it). One night I was on a standing-room only underground train when I and several of my fellow passengers noticed a moth sitting on the handrail (at least it had somewhere to sit). The man near me was discussing with his mates what a moth riding the tube might eat, and I remarked that it was quite likely curry, since the moth was yellow. He agreed as to the logic of my argument, at which point several more people joined in the conversation. We then started taking guesses as to which stop Mr. Moth would get out at. I said Liverpool Street (turns out I was right). After so much speculation on the life of the Central Line moth, we were sorry to see it go, and when it came time for our little group to disband, we did so with tears in our eyes. (Okay, so maybe we didn’t, but we did part fondly.)

You’re probably saying that all this random weirdness must be some eccentric English thing, not a Star Trek-ian force field that has attached itself to me. Well, I’ve got news for you: it isn’t. Just wait till I tell you what happened when I ran into a bunch of Klingons in France!

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Amazon Book Reviews: Pure as the Driven Snow?

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

If you’re an author, you have a certain expectation that your work will, at some point, be noticed and reviewed. And with online booksellers such as Amazon allowing for the bibliophile equivalent of Joe the Plumber to post their reviews at the click of a mouse, there’s more chance than ever that something you’ve had published will actually be reviewed by someone. Sounds good, huh? – all nice and egalitarian! Well, in theory, yes. In practice, however, it has its pitfalls…

Unbiased "customer" reviewer

Unbiased "customer" reviewer

…The main one being that an unbiased review by Joe the Plumber-turned-Reviewer may not, in fact, be so unbiased. One of the most recent and highly publicised examples of this involves historian Orlando Figes, who wrote negative reviews of his competitors’ books on Amazon. This sounds like something straight out of an episode of Inspector Morse, minus the murder and Oxford setting. Now imagine, if you will, the number of times this happens that we don’t get to hear about. I suspect it is not at all uncommon and has probably happened to most authors at some point in their careers, whether they’re aware of it or not.

I’ve had a handful of suspect reader/customer reviews myself, and the instant I read them a red flag went up, because they didn’t sound as if they were written by a layperson at all. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that they might actually have been penned by someone who either had a “competing” book out or who submitted work to me that I rejected. I’ve edited a number of anthologies and dealt with a number of egos, so believe me, this is not as paranoid as it sounds. There are just certain things that ring false, and after awhile you get good at spotting them.

So is it a personal attack or a way of trying to swing the vote away from a competitor by lambasting his/her book? Like, duh! Anyone who thinks it’s a touchy-feely love fest in the book business is living in another hemisphere, especially in this era of dwindling imprints and dwindling disposable incomes to pay for such luxuries as books. The expression “dog eat dog” didn’t come out of nowhere. Heck, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if whoever coined the phrase was a writer!

The point is, these reader/customer reviews are intended to be unbiased and absent of any agendas (or vendettas). Joe buys book, Joe reads book, Joe loves or hates book, then gives us his verdict by writing a review – at least this is how it is in theory. The key to having this process work is very simple and straightforward – unbiased book reviewing from the general book reading/buying public that is not subject to any outside influences. However, it seems that the purity of the process is becoming even more corrupted in ways beyond those mentioned previously. For example, what about authors/editors who give away free copies of their books to any Tom, Dick, Harry (or Joe) who will agree to post a review? Is it likely that someone who is handed a free book direct from the hot little hands of an author is going to write a review proclaiming that said book is total shite? The odds are they won’t, even if the book IS total shite. So much for that unbiased reader/customer review from Joe, eh? Now I’m all for self promotion (as we all know!), but this is crossing the line into the inappropriate – and I’m not sure how happy the average book buyer will be to discover that all those rave reviews posted by other “customers” were actually solicited in this manner.

When I look at reviews posted on Amazon or other sites, I tend to give more credence to those from legitimate and established publications and websites (ie Publishers Weekly, The List, Midwest Book Review, The Library Journal), professional book reviewers, and websites/bloggers/authors who have some sort of track record as book reviewers (and are accountable for their words by using their real names). Mind you, even so-called “legitimate” reviews can be laced with a bit of subjective arsenic. Professional reviewers have agendas too, and it isn’t unknown for them to trash a book for personal reasons.

Of course it isn’t only books that fell prey to this kind of thing. There are product reviews as well on these sites. Some time back I heard about negative reviews on various websites that were discovered to have originated from competing brands, which wanted to get one over on their competition. I’m sure it continues to go on, but again, the average consumer is likely unaware of it.

I am certainly not advocating the annihilation of reader/customer reviews. But when no one is guarding the hen house, how can you ever be entirely sure of their legitimacy? You can’t. The point is, take these reader/customer reviews with a grain of salt. Although the majority are probably kosher, rest assured there are some that are otherwise. So buyer beware!

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Ian Somerhalder, Where Art Thou?

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Ian Somerhalder with his mate Teddy Tedaloo

I’ve been invited to speak at the upcoming Social Media in Business Conference in London on the subject of social media for creative artists, and it’s really got me thinking (I do indulge in this on occasion). As the “Queen of Facebook” (according to Wikipedia and my hapless suitor Mark Zuckerberg), not to mention author and editor of numerous books, blogger for “Errant Ramblings” (you’re reading it now!), creator and presenter of Mitzi TV, and the mother to my famous bear Teddy Tedaloo, it’s probably safe to assume that my name carries a bit of clout. You can find me pretty much everywhere on the internet. Heck, I’m a social media goddess!

I have thousands of fans, friends, followers, tweeters, and stalkers from nearly every country in the world, running the gamut from authors, poets, tech geeks, musicians, pensioners, estate agents, educators, students, actors, film producers, social media gurus, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs, journalists, politicians, pervs (see “politicians”), exiled Communists, serial killers, PR people (see “serial killers”), dead rock stars, and teddy bears – to your aunt Tilly from Temecula who no one ever talks about since the cops dug up her back garden and discovered all those bodies. (But hey, they got great wi-fi at Quentin, so she’s always wired and ready to go – well, at least until they strap her in the chair.)

Sounds like I pretty much know everybody, right? Then why is it with all my contacts, not a single one has responded to my request to fix me up with Ian Somerhalder? Yes, I mean the very same Ian Somerhalder who plays the dishy but nasty vampire Damon Salvatore in “The Vampire Diaries“. What exactly is going on here? Where are all these people I’ve cultivated and made so happy with my many posts, tweets, rants, and raves? You know who you are, so don’t even try to wrangle out of it.

Fine, so you retweeted me a few times – big deal. But what have you done for me lately? Where are you when I really need you? I’m beginning to get Jewish mother syndrome here. I do so much for you, I sacrifice, oy oy oy.  Yet the minute I ask for something, everyone runs to the hills. (Hey, wasn’t that a really bad Iron Maiden song?)

Am I supposed to believe that with thousands of people at my electronic beck and call, not one of them will show their appreciation for all my hard work and sacrifice by having a word in Ian’s shell-like? Okay, I do expect flowers, but he doesn’t have to go all out and blow his entire pay packet on them. (I’m not one of THOSE girls.) But heck, if I’m willing to offer up my tender neck, I expect him to be enough of a gentleman when he sinks his teeth into it. On second thought, tell him to ditch the flowers. Some nice chocolate will suffice. Let it not be said that I don’t have my priorities right.

I’d always vowed never to get involved with an actor. Having served some time in Los Angeles, let me tell you that you can get weary of actors very quickly. And they don’t necessarily make the best waiters either, despite popular opinion. Could be one reason why there are so many sushi bars in LA – you don’t need that many waiters to staff them. The thing is, you can’t always predict or control whom you’ll fall for. Actor, bus driver, binman… It’s in the lap of the gods.

As for Ian, I think we’d be really great together. (Sorry, Mark!) And, even more importantly, Ted likes him. Ian’s a big animal lover and, although his love seems to focus more on cats and dogs, Ted’s pretty certain he can win him over with his ursine charm. In fact, judging by that photo of them together, I’d say it’s already working! (Mind you, I just hope that Ian’s not trying to use him to further his own career. You tend to get that with these artistic types.)

So Ian, what time are you coming to get me?

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