Well, it was my birthday last week, and I wanted to share with you my number one present. For who knows how many hours, my mum has been secretly sewing away to make this amazing quilt inspired by Hidden Dawn.
I’ve long held the belief that my mum can pretty much do anything with a sewing machine. We had a huge trunk full of costumes when I was a kid, and I mean proper costumes, full-blown Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters, all made by her. There is no challenge – no Halloween school disco, no instrument cover, no awning, no yardage of bunting – that she won’t accept. And I’m still trying to process how completely amazing this quilt is.
It is, apparently, in the ‘flying geese’ design, with a teal background on the front and a sky-blue back (my favourite colours). Then she has gone material-scouting to find a range of patterns and colours that reminded her of my book. Around the border is a murky forest floor colour with silhouettes of antlers just visible through the gloom. The geese themselves are then patterns of trees, leaves, flowers and ferns, with water and wind geese, vast blue skies and the fiery oranges of all those sunrises that are endemic in Hidden Dawn. It all combines to bring a patch of Canadian wilderness into my den, and a bit of fiction magic.
I know fans can do extraordinary things to celebrate their favourite books – artwork, fanfiction, craftwork, cosplay – and I love the fact that one act of creativity can spawn a cascade of other acts of creativity. It’s a truly allelomimetic behaviour. The imagination is a contagious thing. But I’m left in no doubt as to who my number one fan is. Thanks, Mum!
It has been many a year now that I have been looking for a comfy chair to park my butt in over long hours of work and, of course, gaming. I haven’t been searching every day over those years, mind, but I have had bursts of enthusiasm when my lower back twinged every couple of months. However, nothing I saw seemed up to the job, or if it was, it was wildly expensive – more than I’d pay for a deluxe sofa kind of expensive.
Then, this last December, my back cried out to me once more, and I had a jolt of inspiration – why wasn’t I looking at gaming chairs? They are designed for comfort over long hours of button mashing. So I went on some gaming websites to look at their reviews of chairs, and I found that the Secretlab OMEGA series was consistently coming out on top, even above much more expensive chairs. Convinced, I went to the Secretlab website and found that their chairs were on sale – even better – and even better still, there was a waiting list for deliveries, which told me this was the chair that everyone wanted. So I immediately ordered one.
And this week, it finally arrived! And I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy with a return on investment as I am with this chair. Here she is in all her glory in my hideaway.
Firstly, I’ve never known a chair to adjust in quite so many directions as this one. You can recline all the way back such that throw on a blanket and you can call it a bed. The armrests adjust along three axes (that I’ve found so far!), and you can tilt back and forth as much as you like with a perfect amount of resistance. I don’t have to push against it, and it doesn’t push back against me. It just holds me with the support I need. I’d definitely call it responsive. It really has the individual in mind, and the designers have understood fully that every person has a unique shape and set of preferences for their seating experience.
Then there’s the comfort factor. It’s an odd thing, because the seat and backrest are firm but somehow really comfy. It might have something to do with even distribution of weight, but you can keep your squishy armchairs, as this is the future for me. It’s the feeling of being truly supported on every surface and in every direction. I was a bit worried that my somewhat chunky thighs might make me too wide for this model, but I was completely wrong. There’s plenty of room for someone at least a little bit into the overweight range of their BMI. I’ve also got quite broad shoulders, and they are not too broad for this chair either. Everything is just supportive, not overly hugging, and I can even cross my legs on it, which is important for a fidget bum like me. I’m 5’7″ and it fits me spot on, but my partner, who is 6’2″, also finds it comfy, despite the fact that the manufacturers only recommend the OMEGA for folks up to 5’9″. I’m not saying definitely get it if you’re over 5’9″, but if you’re slight of frame, it would probably be fine up to folks of 6′. If in doubt, just get the next series up, the TITAN.
You also get a nice head pillow that straps securely over the top of the backrest and a memory foam lumbar support cushion, which my lower back is very grateful for.
All in all, I know it’s just a chair, but when you’ve been struggling in rubbish, cheap chairs for so many years, and your back is getting progressively worse, a decent chair can have a huge impact on quality of life, especially considering how much time I spend on one. It’s not ridiculously expensive for what you get. In fact, I’d say it’s exceptional value for money. You could pay a lot more and get a lot less. And a happy back is priceless really. I’m actually happy to sit down to work every day now. When I sit in this chair, I can hear my back sighing in relief, and I know that I’ll be perfectly comfortable all day. I won’t ever look at another chair now. This is it for me for life. Thank you, Secretlab!
If there’s one thing that really makes my blood boil when it comes to books, it’s people who try to damage them. Be it cracking and wrenching a spine beyond recognition, dog-earing pages or writing notes in the margins, I am physically pained and sickened by the sight of book abuse. I can feel my heart beating faster even just writing about this.
But there is something else that really ticks me off and that I definitely class as book abuse: sticky labels on book covers! Gah! Curse the marketing goon who ever thought of it! And is it just me, or are they getting stickier? In the old days, you used to be able to easily peel labels off things without leaving a nasty, sticky residue, but these days, the marketeers have really upped their glue game. I suppose now that people buy their books online, the labels have to be robust enough to survive the journey from printer to warehouse to doormat. It would, after all, be a total disaster if their precious money/personal data-grubbing marketing message was lost in transit!
Well, I’ve found a little wrinkle that might come in handy if your book cover has been savaged by glue. I recently purchased a book that came with one of these hideous decals promoting a wine-tasting holiday, or some such impossible-to-win prize draw, in exchange for personal data. Perfectly irrelevant to me because I don’t like the taste of alcohol! Anyway, after I’d carefully peeled this thing off, there was a huge circle of stubborn stickiness that was not amenable to any amount of rubbing. Then I remembered that nail varnish remover is pretty good at removing most things, not just nail varnish. So I whipped out my bottle, applied some to a cotton wool pad, and hey presto! The gluey slime came off without a fight, with absolutely no damage to the book cover. I also had a go at some kind of dirt residue on the same cover, and that came off like a dream too.
So there you have it: my tip for removing sticky nastiness and muck from book covers! I wouldn’t recommend scouring away at it for ages, as, like I said, nail varnish remover is good at removing most things, so I wouldn’t want to be responsible for advice that leads you to rub off any ink or varnish from your covers. But I just dabbed on a little bit, did a few swipes, and there was no damage at all, just a nice, clean book cover.
Here’s something you need to consider if you are self-publishing your book in the UK. If you are publishing a paperback version, you will at some point receive a request from the legal deposit libraries for one copy of your book for each of the UK’s designated deposit libraries. There are six of these libraries in total:
Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford
Cambridge University Library
The National Library of Scotland
The Library of Trinity College, Dublin
The National Library of Wales
The British Library.
The deposits for the first five in this list are handled by the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries, which has its office in Edinburgh. The British Library will send their request separately.
Publishers (and if you are self-publishing, that means you) in the UK are legally required to deposit one copy of every paperback they produce to these six libraries, under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act, 2003. And yes, this does also mean POD books, such as those you can make on Amazon KDP. I’m not sure you’d go to jail if you didn’t comply, but it’s probably considered very bad form if you do not. In fact, I had to delay sending copies of my books off to begin with, as they weren’t up to the standard I wanted them to be at for permanent posterity in the six biggest libraries in the UK. During that delay, I got a second email from the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries to tell me I still hadn’t delivered the books to them, so I guess their tactic is just to continuously email you until you comply. And if you’re a good little citizen, like me, you’ll do as you’re told.
Before I got the requests from the LDLs, I was aware of such libraries and such legal requirements, both having been to Cambridge University and having worked in publishing. But I wasn’t aware that this applied to self-published authors. Where on earth, I thought to myself, would they keep all these gazillions of self-published books? Surely, it must just be publishing companies that fall under this requirement. But, no. I assumed incorrectly. And to be honest, I actually found it quite the financial burden to bear. I publish my book through Amazon, so I had to buy six copies of my own books, pay for shipping on Amazon, and then pay for shipping to the LDLs. Fortunately, five of the books go to the same place (the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries), so this saves a little bit on postage costs, but it’s not an insignificant amount. So please be aware of this as an additional expense if you are self-publishing.
Apparently, this legal requirement does apply to ebooks (and seemingly every other digital publication, such as webpages, which they seem to harvest themselves), so if you only publish your books as ebooks, you’re technically still obliged to deposit a copy. However, I never got a request email for all the time that my ebook was published. It was only when I did a paperback version that the system kicked in. Perhaps it’s just the case that they do not enforce their right to digital content. But if you have your book in print and digital, they want the print version. They won’t accept digital if you have it in print. I guess this is one of those situations where large institutions are twenty years behind the rest of us. It’s a bit crazy, if you ask me, because if you could just deposit electronic copies, they wouldn’t need so much real estate to store physical copies and we penniless writers wouldn’t need to spend so much cash getting the books to them, but there you go. What do I know?
If you want to know more, here are the relevant websites:
As a nyctophile and a chionophile, this is a good time of year for me. We don’t celebrate Christmas in my household, but because almost all Christmas traditions are descended from pagan mid-winter festivals, you’d never tell! We have a tree with decorations, and fairy lights around the house, and we have a big feast on the solstice. The only thing I don’t allow is cake with fruit in it. Because that’s just wrong.
So why do we celebrate solstice?
Well, for a start we are atheists. Of course, I don’t think it’s wrong to celebrate Christmas if you aren’t a christian, but Christmas has become extremely commercialised in recent years. Really, this is what put me off Christmas. Endless adverts programming you to buy, buy, buy or risk disappointing all the people that matter to you. I will not be dictated to by retailers and fat cats. I retain the right to control my own purse strings. It’s for this reason that I don’t engage in other commercial holidays like Black Friday. My computer and TV get turned off on those days. I will spend my cash on what I want, when I want.
So, by celebrating a commercially unrecognised holiday, I don’t have to deal with this retailer rubbish. I’m taking those sentiments that were once associated with mid-winter festivals, and are now associated with Christmas, and removing the negativity and the pressure and the Chinese container ships full of tat. It’s a much more enjoyable time then. It’s about family, friends, feasting and, of course, celebrating the turning of the year and the cycle of the seasons.
Whatever festivals you celebrate through winter, I hope you have a wonderful time. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year.