Fear not, faithful readers! There IS news in here, but no flash – so, no animation that upsets your iPad, no strobing photography, and no pictures of my arse.
Okay, maybe one picture of my arse.
But the point is – I have NEWS!
This week I had an exciting delivery. Several actually, which is one of the benefits of buying all your own Christmas presents – no, don’t feel sad! Trust me – it’s better this way. I get exactly what I want, and friends are over-rated anyway, and… and… *sniff*
Um, where was I? Oh yes. A delivery.
I received the FIRST EVER PAPERBACK COPY of my book ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’
(NB – if you haven’t bought the WOOL books already, you’re freakin’ crazy. Go get them ALL – right NOW. No! I meant after you finish reading my blog p… oh, what’s the point. You’ve gone already, haven’t you?)
But. No video. Because I’m too damn ugly. Plus I’ve spent the last week pulling 18 hour days trying to get my second book edited, so I’d look like hell even if I wasn’t damn ugly.
Instead, here is a pretty picture – of the book itself!
Oooh! See, I told you it was pretty!
Here’s a less-pretty picture of what happened to me last night during the editing process. I nipped to the toilet, and when I came back to my computer the ENTIRE FILE of Book 2 had been overwritten with bold asterisks?!?!
If I hadn’t just been to the loo, I’d have shit myself on the spot.
To cut a long story short, my trusty MacBook had spazzed out – probably because I haven’t turned him off in the last three months – and he was fine again after a reset. The document, however, was ruined, and I had to find my most recent back-up (from the night before) and re-do all that day’s edits.
So remember kids – ALWAYS back-up!
If I hadn’t, they’d be talking me down from the top of a tall building right now.
Anyway, before this gets too long, let me reiterate: ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ is now available in paperback! So for all those technophobes in your life, who refused to read it no matter how much you whined at them – now’s the chance! Get one for Christmas. If nothing else, the paperback version makes considerably better fuel for the fire than the electronic one…
Hm. I might start an ad campaign based on that. Buy my book – burn it – save a pensioner! (From the cold of course. I’m not suggesting you normally burn pensioners…)
Sorry! I’ve got lost again. Oh yeah. Buy my book! Because at long last, it’s a real book :0)
People keep asking me why I haven’t written a blog post recently. I’m well prepared for this question, with a whole raft of defensive answers citing how busy I am finishing off my second book whilst trying to keep the first one afloat. I rarely mention that my intense laziness plays a part in all of this…
But it inspired me to write about my typical day, and publish it on The Displaced Nation, an expat blog I regularly write for (see? Busy, I told you so!).
So for those who can face the inanity of a look into my life – well I guess that’s most of you, as that’s what this blog is generally about :0) – here it is!
As you can well imagine, it’s an extremely glamorous life, full of high-octane car chases, explosions and pithy one-liners… in my head, anyway.
I wake up at 6:40am. I’ve no choice, because that’s what time my wife wakes up. Much as I would love to moan at her about it, she’s doing it for me – in fact she gets up, gets breakfast and goes out to work, all in the name of supporting me while I lounge around at home, pretending to be a writer.
So, yeah, I figure it’s best not to grumble.
Even though it’s bloody freezing at 7am!
It continues to surprise me that it can be this cold in Australia. Who knew?
At random intervals throughout the day I receive instructions from the wife via text message.
‘It’s sunny out! Go for a walk.’
‘It’s raining – bring the washing in!’
‘Don’t forget to clean the bathroom today’
It’s because she loves me, but also because she’s lived with me long enough to know that I’m an idiot. Without these helpful prompts she’d get home to find I’d Tweeted my heart out, emailed everyone I know in this hemisphere and written thousands of words of my new manuscript – but that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.
Then, when she takes me to the gym I end up fainting halfway through the class.
Australia is an amazing place, for such a wide variety of reasons that I could fill this blog post waffling about them; but there’s one stand-out fact that makes a real difference at this point.
The wages here are good. Very good. So good in fact, that my wife, working part time as a cleaner, can comfortably support both of us! Now, we’ve been backpackers long enough to know how to live frugally. We rent a room in a share-house for example, rather than splashing out on our own flat. But other than that, I’d say we do okay. We eat out plenty, go to parties and the cinema, and have a gym membership so ridiculously expensive I sweat more thinking about it than I do using it – but we manage it all quite comfortably, on one part-time wage.
I’ve never found another country where this is possible.
A Good Morning!
After wading through a mountain of emails, Tweets and Facebook messages – some of which aren’t even spam – I finally get to start on the real work. And then…
10am – check my sales.
10:02am – shout “WOOHOO!” unnecessarily loudly, pissing off my student friend in the next room, who doesn’t have to be up ‘till 12.
10:05am – celebrate with a coffee.
10:10am – back to work, until…
10:30 – check sales again – just to be sure I wasn’t imagining things.
10:32am – Wake up students again with another cry of ‘Woohoo!’
10:35am – celebrate with another coffee…
As you can imagine, I also spend a lot of time on the loo.
There is a compulsion amongst self-published authors to constantly check our sales and our Amazon rankings. This is because, unlike ‘properly’ published authors, we have access to this information in real time. Watching sales tick up one by one – or watching them stubbornly refuse to do so – is a highly addictive (and utterly pointless) pass-time.
I DO NOT suffer from this.
I check less than five times a day – except on the days when I check more often. Which is quite often.
But I don’t suffer from the compulsion. At all.
I also don’t do denial.
So, we’ve reached lunch. Or rather, we should have. By this time I’m usually quite deep into the world I’m writing in – which for me is my own torrid past. Having to nail it down so completely, with colours and gestures and remembering what people said, sends me into such a vivid re-living of the event I’m describing that I lose all track of time. If I don’t get that text telling me to eat, I don’t eat.
Which is one reason why I’m so skinny, despite sitting in front of my desk all day.
When I do get the text, it scares the hell out of me.
I’m usually sitting in silence. I can’t work with music on, or else I end up listening to the lyrics and, inevitably, singing along with gusto. As the student in the next room can attest, I’m one of the worst singers in the entire country. Maybe even the world.
So all is calm, and quiet, and focus – only the rhythmic clacking of keys disturbs the air. Then my phone screeches at me and I jump three feet off my chair, in a move that amazes anyone lucky enough to see it happen.
“How the hell do you jump that high while you’re sitting down?” they ask.
“You must have some potent muscles in your arse!”
“Why thank-you,” I tell them. “It’s all the practice I get, talking out of it.”
My wife gets home and takes me out to the gym. I rely on her because I can’t drive – at least, I can now. I took a test in December (my first, at age 33), and passed with flying colours. But I haven’t driven since, so I tend to rely on her – not just for money, but as a taxi service too.
But anyway, we only have one car. Or more accurately, about 2/3rds of a car; it’s gotten considerably shorter since she crashed it into the back of the taxi a few months ago. But it still works, so what’s the problem?
Although I do have to put my hand under the bonnet to start it.
After the gym – assuming we’re not going straight out for dinner with friends, to pile all the calories we’ve just burnt back on at Nandos, we wend our weary way home.
She cooks, and I clean up afterwards – because a) she’s been cleaning all day, and b) I can’t cook for toffee. Seriously – beans on toast is the pinnacle of my culinary ability. And I usually burn at least one component of it.
While she cooks, I finish off whatever piece of writing was rudely interrupted by the end of her working day.
After dinner I Tweet, and Facebook, and email – but from the comfort of our bed, where we sit with our legs up watching a movie.
And eating ice-cream, because if you’re going to go to the gym four times a week, you might as well make it worthwhile :0)
And then it’s 10pm: well-earned sleep time for the wife. After all, she’s got to be up at 6:40 the next morning.
So I tuck her in and sneak downstairs, where I carry on Twittering, writing the odd guest post, sending out review copies of my book to bloggers, replying to emails from readers, making posts on forums and indulging in my two main vices: a glass of wine, and allowing myself to write a bit of a sci-fi novel I one day hope to publish. Ah, good times!
At around 2am I generally remember that I’ll be getting up at six as well, as it’s impossible to get back to sleep after seeing the wife off to work; it’s also usually around this time that someone living in a far more sensible time-zone strikes up an interesting conversation on Twitter…
I’ve entered a contest run by Cherie and Chris of Technomadia, where they’ve asked travellers (like me!) to write about how serendipity has influenced our lives. If you want to know why I’ve written SerenDIPity like that, check out this post about the contest. If you’re already here via Technomadia, welcome!
And if you’re not? Well, we can’t all be perfect. Welcome anyway :0)
This is my story.
I left England for Thailand, intending to spend three months volunteering in an animal clinic. I had visions of a tiny paradise island – and I was dead right! Koh Phangan had everything I could have asked for – postcard-perfect beaches, dense tropical jungle and a party scene so wild I very nearly didn’t survive it.
It was so good, I couldn’t even think about going home.
Actually I missed my flight.
It was accidentally-on-purpose. I’d sort of seen it coming; I hadn’t bothered to check my ticket for a long time, and I wasn’t exactly devastated to find the flight had left without me. I just climbed back into my hammock and appreciated one more fiery sunset over the ocean.
I ended up staying for nearly a year.
I had no desire to go back to England at all – I was taking people Scuba-diving for a living, still working at the animal clinic in-between times and still loving life on that tiny tropical island.
Every day was different; whether guiding customers through shoals of brightly coloured fish, nursing stray dogs back to health at the clinic, or rescuing irate monkeys from places they really shouldn’t be (like restaurants); as far as I was concerned, my life there was perfect.
Eventually though, I began to run out of money; I’d spent everything I could, then borrowed more and spent that too. My diving wages had all gone on dive gear and I was fighting the realisation that my trip was nearly over. The final blow was when a thief broke into my bungalow and stole the last of my cash. I was getting desperate. Being suddenly penniless 6,000 miles from home, in a country where no-one in authority speaks your language, is pretty scary. Home would be boring – it would certainly mean the end of my adventures – but it would be safe.
Then I got a phone call from my sister. She was on holiday in Australia, staying with a friend she’d met whilst traveling, and the two of them were planning a grand trip around the country. She’d called to see if she could convince me to leave Thailand, fly to Australia, and come with them!
I said I’d have loved to, if only I could afford it.
“No worries!” she said. Her friend Krista had a place I could stay while I looked for work.
It all seemed likely to end in tears – my sister and I have had a volatile relationship in the past, and being dependant entirely on her friend’s charity would be the total opposite of the freedom I’d become accustomed to.
Plus there was paperwork, and visas, and… that ever-present fear of the unknown.
But sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.
Trust to fate, I thought.
I went for it.
I flew into Perth on a maxed out credit card, arriving with nothing but the clothes on my back – the animals had destroyed the rest! My entire luggage allowance was taken up by one huge bag of diving gear.
I couldn’t even afford a cup of coffee in the airport.
But then, who can these days?
Gill and Krista came to pick me up in a crumbling van they’d bought and decorated with multi-coloured hand prints! Appropriately enough, they’d called it ‘Rusty’.
Krista had set up an interview for me with a local job agency for the following day.
I started work the day after that.
She drove me in to work herself, and picked me up afterwards, every day for the couple of weeks it took me to get back on my feet. Sometimes she’d even bring me cookies or cake! I had so much fun hanging out with her, I decided to risk joining the grand adventure after all; as soon as I had a bit of cash saved up we all piled into ‘Rusty’ and set off for parts unknown.
Six years later, Krista and I are still travelling.
In that time we’ve hardly been apart, despite being residents of two countries on opposite sides of the world. We’ve had a lot of adventures and done a lot of crazy things – and we always trust to fate, or to Serendipity, to get us where we’re meant to be.
We were married last year in an English castle, with guests from seven different countries helping us celebrate.
I was a bit scared of marriage, at first.
But like with anything else, sometimes you’ve just got to go for it.
A storm was coming for Perth. One of epic proportions.
After a week of wild weather, winds bringing down trees and power lines alike, this was set to be IT. The Big One.
Batten down the hatches – we were in for a rough ride.
Word spread from TV and radio, from person to person – it was a storm – no, it was a tornado! Category 2, whatever that means, or worse – is there worse than a Category 2? I don’t know!
Facebook lit up with concerns about power outages and house damage.
“I have to park my car underneath a huge tree,” one friend explained. “I can’t do anything to stop it getting crushed!”
There was talk of flooding.
There was talk of snow.
Surely we weren’t in for a blizzard? I mean, I know it’s winter, but this is Perth! Right?
People hurried home from work.
We could hardly believe it – the traffic at 4pm was like rush hour. Businesses and shops closed early, sending staff home as soon as they could to avoid them being caught on the road when The Storm hit.
By nightfall the roads were empty. It was eerie, as we drove home from the gym, speeding unopposed down streets we normally had to queue down.
The cafes and restaurants of the popular Vic Park district were all empty; occasionally a terrified pedestrian darted across the street, desperately seeking shelter, cursing the cruel fate that had left them stranded outside in the face of the advancing storm.
At just after 8pm, Western Standard Time, it hit.
The noise of the wind was intense – well, probably. We didn’t hear it as we were inside eating schnitzels.
The storm surged around the house, making us occasionally remember it was there. Plans were abandoned: “We’ll have to put the bins out tomorrow,” I said gravely.
“We’ll have to close the bedroom window!” my wife informed me.
But we didn’t. We’re just that fearless.
Outside, the storm raged unabated.
Perth resisted with all it’s strength – but how could it possibly survive the night?
For minutes at a time we were battered by the rain, sheeting from the sky with enough force to make you really, really wet.
Then there would be a brief lull – then rain would pour down once again, flooding into our drains like… well, like it’s supposed to do.
The aftermath was one of subtle devastation.
Branches were down.
Leaves were down.
Hell, leaves were everywhere. It looked like Perth had been caught in the grip of a… big storm. Well, big-ish.
Across the region, fences were slightly damaged.
A garden gnome was seen to be unmoved in the hilltop vicinity of Roleystone, having narrowly survived the same terrifying ordeal that his friends had also narrowly survived.
Slowly, life returned to normal. People came out of hiding, glancing fearfully at the sky and counting the signs of destruction all around them.
Some of them needed more than one finger.
But long after the boards had been removed from our windows, long after the children had been rescued from beneath tables and under beds, long after 10am, when the sun had dried all remaining traces of the deadly rainstorm – Perth was still there.
Thankfully no-one lost their lives to the deadly downpour, though it is believed that a few weather forecasters lost their jobs.
Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, and with the idiots themselves.
United in their defiance of the storm, Perth residents have vowed: ‘We shall rebuild!’
Unfortunately, nothing was destroyed, but the sentiment remains important. Never again will this brave city feel as threatened by Mother Nature.
Never before, in the field of human-weather activity, has so little been done to so many by such a vast load of bullshit.
Now, you might have noticed that I haven’t written a blog for quite a while.
In fact, some people have even been complaining about my lack of posts.
To them, I must now offer a most heart-felt: “Screw you! What the hell am I, your bitch?”
In the nicest possible way, of course :0)
Alas, t’is true though. I have been even slacker than my trousers, and those puppies’ll slide right off just by looking at them. Honestly. It happens all the time.
Most of my excuse is that I’ve had an extended sojourn, almost two months in England, saying good-bye to my Granddad; I’ll doubtless write about it at some point, but I’m not quite ready yet.
The rest of the excuse is that, for an incredibly lazy person, I’ve been surprisingly busy lately! I’d like to say I’ve achieved a lot, but that would be a lie.
Instead, it’s been a weird time.
It’s been a month of ‘almosts’.
As in, I almost wrote a blog post…!
I almost missed my flight back to Australia (whilst looking at an iPad).
And I almost bought an iPad (whilst almost missing my flight to Australia).
I almost bought an iPad again, when my poor Macbook unexpectedly almost needed $800 of repairs… twice!
Oh, and I almost bought a house.
Perhaps it’s truer to say, I flirted with the idea of buying a house – or more accurately, buying land, building a house – and then selling it on for a whopping great profit. The scheme was simple enough (because I thought of it, and I have a reputation for being a bit simple); there were some blocks of land on sale near us for just $70,000! (That’s about £45k for you pommies!).
This wouldn’t have excited me, were it not for companies like Aussie Living that advertise all the time over here – and guarantee to build a complete house – 4 bedroom, with home cinema, games room, bloody everything you could ever want – for $160k. Amazing. Unbelievable! And you can’t buy a house in our area for less than $350k. So…
It was so simple, I could even do the maths in my head:
$70,000 (land) + $160,000 (house) + $that contingency think they always go on about in Grand Designs = Bloody great big piles of loot for me!!
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I could end up deeply in debt, and homeless – but then I’ve been in debt and homeless for most of the last seven years, and I’ve managed to stay cheerful.
I called my parents to ask if I was completely insane. They agreed that I was, in fact, completely insane. Just as I’d thought! This plan was a goer.
But when I checked with a local bank to see if I could get a three-hundred-grand mortgage, and mentioned that I was a writer, the response went something like this:
“Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! (Draws breath) Hahahahahahahaha! (Sobbing), “Ah, for a minute there I thought you said… said… writer! BWAAhh, ha ha hahahahaha…”
I thought about protesting, and pointing out that in addition to me having the earnings from the book, my wife is also a part-time cleaner… but I got the feeling this wouldn’t help very much.
So. That was the end of that.
Never mind, I told myself. A house wouldn’t really fit into my backpack anyway, and if I did want to pay a mortgage I might have to do something a bit more serious than write daft stories about my adventures. Like, you know, get a job!
Oh Em Gee! Shock! Horror!
Realizing what a close brush I’d had with the world of gainful employment scared me a little; I had to take the rest of the day off and start drinking wine straight away (instead of waiting ‘till after lunch).
The life of a writer is notoriously difficult, but it does allow me certain little luxuries; like the ability to do sod all and get hammered, when the occasion demands it. Or, you know, just whenever.
Just My Luck…
So, after almost getting a job – or almost starting looking for one, at any rate – I rounded out the month by almost winning the Lottery.
It was the second Lotto ticket I’ve ever bought. The last one was back in 2008, and I didn’t win then, either, which discouraged me a bit.
This time though, with the jackpot at seventy-million dollars, there was a kind of fevered atmosphere gripping the country. It’s like being in London for the Olympics: I couldn’t not take part.
(Please note: The London Olympic Commission has seen fit to ban me from attending for this reason.)
Roo (my wife) bought the ticket and we dreamt of all the stuff you can buy with seventy million bucks. Pretty much the same stuff you’d buy with one million really, there’d just be a lot more change.
As the numbers came out, we got the first one. And the second one. And the third. When the forth came out, and was on our ticket in line with the others, I shit the bed. Just a little.
And then it was all over; no more numbers, and we’d won some poxy amount which we couldn’t check because the Lotto website was utterly overwhelmed and crashed. Still, four numbers out of six. We’d come SO close…
But no banana.
So on the upside, I am still writing another book. Because although it won’t help me to get a mortgage, it will at least keep me from having to get a real job.
Like, say, being a part-time cleaner.
Life is SO hard these days, eh?
I promise to work a bit harder from now on. At least when it comes to blogging… And possibly drinking. I’ll experiment with that too. :0)
Oh, and one other thing’s been keeping me busy: since the last time I posted a blog, I’ve almost sold 5,ooo books.
So life, whilst occasionally hard, is also quite good.
In preparation for conquering the world – at least as far as book sales go – I’ve been reading a fantastic book by John Locke called ‘How I Sold A Million Ebooks’. In it he advises authors to get to know their audience, and to write what their audience wants to read. Good advice. So I started to think about that.
Who exactly are my readers?
Well, based on the feedback I’ve been getting they’re of all ages (eight to a hundred and eighty eight) and genders (male, female, other), from a wide variety of countries (even Ireland! Who knew?). But they all have this in common: they are intelligent, sophisticated, highly attractive people – who love to laugh at me making an idiot out of myself.
So with this in mind, I trawled my archives (What? I can’t have archives now?) and looked for examples of me doing stupid things. I found plenty.
The result is this: here for your enjoyment is a short piece I wrote for a competition which I didn’t win, probably because I wrote the piece after the deadline had already passed. I know, I know. Always read the small print! Or, you know, any of the print…
Anyway. This happened while I was in Australia for the first time. Enjoy!
“Tony, wake up! Gotta get ready for work!” My girlfriend Roo was prodding me insistently – with the butt-end of a torch. Outside of our tiny tent darkness reigned and the civilised world still slept; but we had a new job to go to, on a sandalwood plantation, and one thing all agricultural work had in common was an early start. Damn it.
In fairness, this was the height of the Australian summer and our camping ground was in the far north. Intellectually I knew that by 6am the inside of the tent would be like a blast furnace. But I still loathed and detested 5am.
Dawn found us sitting in a rapidly disintegrating minibus, bouncing along a knackered dirt track towards the plantation. The vehicle was in roughly the same state of repair as the road; there were holes in the roof; there were holes in the floor. It needed to be push-started every time, and was stopped by ‘natural breaking’ – ie, coasting until it either ran out of speed, or hit something. Or both.
Eight other workers were crammed into the torn vinyl-covered seats alongside Roo and myself, and every one of us was braced in position with arms legs and in a few cases, heads pressed against what was left of the dented metal roof.
“She’ll be right!” The boss had said, in true Aussie fashion, when I’d commented to him that only the paint was holding his van together.
After which he’d introduced himself as ‘Johno’.
Johno loved to drive that wreck of a van. He loved to drive it at speed. He prided himself on knowing exactly how to coax what he wanted from the ancient engine. He deftly slotted it between openings in the fence and shot across makeshift bridges over a network of irrigation ditches. He was grinning at me in the rear-view mirror, as if to say ‘See?’
When suddenly the world turned upside down and the seat in front of me took a swipe at my ribs. I twisted as I fell, and ended up lying on my face across the mud-encrusted windows.
Roo was lying on top of me. And at least three people were lying on top of her. The van was on it’s side, nose down in a ditch, and I was slowly being suffocated. This must be what it’s like to play the Aussies at rugby, I thought.
“I can get out the window!” someone called from the front.
“Yeah, me too!”
And one by one we squeezed out of whatever opening presented itself. After all, there were plenty of them.
Johno stood on the bank, counting heads as we crawled up to him.
“Sorry lads!” he said cheerily, ignoring the presence of several women. “It gets a bit narrow there.”
Apparently this satisfied him that the situation was back under control. He pulled out his cell phone and took a deep breath before punching a number in.
“Hey there Big Man! Yeah, we’ve, um, had a bit of a crash…”
He held the phone away from his ear for a few seconds while the swearing on the other end subsided. His mood deteriorated as the noise continued.
“Yeah… that narrow part, by the ditch… yeah, in the ditch. Upside down.”
There was a final blast of abuse from the speaker.
“Yes,” he agreed glumly. “Again.”
The voice did not sound impressed.
Luckily for us, the crash-site wasn’t far from the job-site.
Johno, eager to get back in the good books, led us straight into the field and got us started. ‘Weeding’ would be an accurate description of the job that ensued. Not that I was sure exactly what we were weeding and why, but the contrast with our last job picking pumpkins was unbelievable. It was just so… easy! After two weeks of straining, back-breaking toil hefting gigantic pumpkins into the back of a tractor moving at jogging pace, this wasn’t even work at all.
I strolled over to Roo, who was busily pulling a small leafy plant from the soil.
“This is incredible,” I commented.
“I know! Shh!” She was obviously thinking the same thing – we had to keep this job at all costs.
Another lazy hour drifted by. I wandered up another furrow, pulling up whatever came closest to hand. There was a certain dark green, very persistent weed that seemed to be everywhere. “Check this out!” I dropped a handful of the plants in front of Roo. These things are in every row!”
“That’s because they’re the support plants,” she hissed. “Don’t pull them out. okay? We’ll get in trouble.”
“Oh, really? Shit. Sorry!”
She herself was leaving a trail of remarkably similar looking plants uprooted.
“What’s the difference?”
She sighed. She always had to help me with stuff like this. I was never a particularly observant person. “These are weeds.”
I took the proffered plant and studied it.
“This is the support tree.” The fingers of her free hand gently lifted the leaves atop the stalk nearest to her.
To me, they looked identical.
“Of course,” I lied.
“And what about this one?” I held up another of my recent victims. “We pull these out too, right?”
“That’s the sandalwood tree!”
“Oh! Now I get it!”
In spite of herself, Roo was starting to giggle. “How many… how many of those have you… ripped up?”
“Um, well… all of them. I think.”
She burst out laughing, but caught herself – with effort – after one guffaw. “Shit!” she coughed out between suppressed giggles. “Don’t… pick… any more!”
It was all I could do not to crack up myself. We were halfway through the day and I must have divested about a quarter of the field of it’s primary raison d’etre.
We picked on in silence for the next half-hour.
“Woah! Careful there!” It was Johno, stomping up the furrow behind me. “Don’t be pulling that one out, mate!”
I froze mid-motion.
“That there’s a sandalwood – just looks a bit different ‘cause it ain’t grown as much,” he explained.
I released my grip on the immature specimen.
“Phew! Glad I stopped you there!” And he strode past me towards the next keen plucker.
I stopped for a few seconds and mopped sweat from my forehead with a bandanna. “So those ones too eh? This job is harder than I thought!”
As Johno drove us home I couldn’t resist asking; “Is this job real? There has to be a catch? Like, deep underground you’ve got some super-secret weapons lab, and we’re just here to make it look innocent on the satellite photos? And you pay us eighteen bucks an hour to pick weeds so no-one rocks the boat, right?”
“Not quite that exciting!” He replied. “See, these sandalwood trees will be producing oil in a couple of years and that oil is expensive stuff. Some trees will make loads, some not as much, but when they’re mature they’ll be worth between three and fifteen thousand dollars each.”
There was a stunned silence. I couldn’t have spoken even if I’d wanted to. My throat had suddenly gone dry.
“F-fifteen? Thousand?” I finally croaked.
“Jeez,” one of the other workers exclaimed, “that’s crazy man! What if someone steals one!”
“Security. Whole place is fenced all around. Got cctv cameras on the fence posts. And our own fire station on site, in case a bush fire gets too close! Yeah, this field is worth something like eighty-five million dollars. They go all out to protect these babies.”
I felt vaguely sick. Whilst at the same time I had the hideous feeling that deep inside me was welling up a great big belly laugh. I’d worked here for one day. By rough estimate I’d done at least a million dollars’ worth of damage…
Roo was nudging me with her foot. I glanced over at her. Her expression was unmistakable ‘Say Nothing!’ it read. I was inclined to agree.
Back at the camp site that evening we discussed our options. Well more accurately, Roo discussed them while I fell around the place laughing. “It’ll take them a long time to get it out of my salary!”
“Come on, seriously!” Roo chastised me. “What are we going to do?”
I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and sat on the scrubby grass next to her.
“If we don’t go back it’ll look really suspicious,” I pointed out. “On the other hand, if we do go back and they spot my little mistake, it’s quite possible they’ll drown us in a ditch.”
“Or they could just put us in a car with Johno driving…” Roo added.
“So what do you reckon? Shall we look for new jobs?”
With a theatrical sigh, Roo reached for our cell phone. “I put Johno’s number in here, I’ll send him a text.”
I watched over her shoulder as she typed.
‘From Tony and Roo. Thanks for an amazing experience.’
Which I thought was quite generous. She paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Not much else to say,” she said. And added ‘We Quit.’
So, did you enjoy that one? I hope so! Let me know what you think in the Comments. And if anyone wants to be told when my next blog post comes out, please feel free to stick your email address in the box on the sidebar. It only sends you an email when I publish a new blog post, and I don’t do that too often – I promise you won’t be deleting stacks of emails from me! I usually manage to post about once every ten days or so. And I try to keep it amusing! Well, thanks for reading! You can also find me on:
For them that’s wondering (and have been hiding under a stone for the last week while I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops) – the free promotion of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ was a huge success. Okay, that’s not big enough; it was a
In total, 22,701 people downloaded a copy of the book – that’s Twenty-two thousand, seven-hundred and one for those who prefer text to figures.
I rose as high as no.9 overall in the Amazon.com free charts, and held onto the coveted no.1 spot overall on Amazon.co.uk for most of the day!
I’m over the moon. Obviously! Which is why I’d decided to write this post, thanking everyone who helped me to spread the word, and helped made this day the incredible trip that it was.
Here’s a screenshot I’m particularly fond of:
I took dozens of them! But this one, showing me at the top of the ‘humor’ category in Amazon.com – the world’s biggest bookshop – just blew my mind.
So, without further ado, here is the Roll of Honour:
A MASSIVE THANK-YOU to everyone who mentioned, re-tweeted and followed me over the two days. Messages were flying back and forth, so it didn’t occur to me ‘till after it was all over to do a search for ‘That Bear Ate My Pants’ – and there were hundreds of Tweets in that list, all from people who don’t even know me on Twitter!
So here is my list of Top Tweeters, by no means an exclusive list – just a few good souls who seemed to be working hard on my behalf :0)
@JoeVampireBlog (Steven Luna)
@fuentes_kate1 (Kate Fuentes)
@KatherynLane (Katheryn Lane)
@vickiejohnstone (Vickie Johnstone)
@emeraldkell (Allison Bruning)
@stantondaniel (Daniel Stanton)
@DavidAntrobus (David Antrobus)
@jacquehopkins (Jacqueline R Walton)
@unknown_templar (John Paul Davis)
@GerberMgerber (M.H. Gerber)
@KristineCayne (Kristine Cayne)
@rennabruce (Renna Bruce)
@judith_price (Judith Price)
@christinenolfi (Christine Nolfi)
@roberto_baggins (Rob Powell)
@DavinaPearson (Davina Pearson) – Nomad!
@sandranorval (Sandra Noval)
@Flickimp (Imran Siddiq) – Nomad!
Please share the love by following these awesome people!
I’d like to say a specific thank-you to ‘Joo’, a reviewer and active member of the UK Kindle Forums, for being a one-woman promo army!
I’m sitting here in my lounge, waiting for my good friend Peter Allison to appear on Channel Ten’s ‘The Circle’. Yes, I’m name dropping here! So sue me. Peter is the best-selling author of three books, including ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ and his brand new book set in South America called ‘How To Walk A Puma’.
I’ve been on TV now and then, for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into here (because who cares, right?!). One thing I know is that whenever you’re waiting for your ‘bit’ to come up – it takes forever. It’s ALWAYS the very last part of the last section, one advert break past the point where you were sure there couldn’t be any more advert breaks. The show is long enough that even your most stalwart mates, who’ve been sitting on your sofa with a bribe of beer, will start to make excuses to leave. It begins with a sigh, followed by “Oh, I just realised I’ve gotta make a phone call…” and ends with them distracting your attention by setting fire to your rug and then diving out the window while you throw yourself bodily onto the flames.
Although to the casual outsider it may look like I lead the life of a loafer (I haven’t had a ‘proper’ job since December 2009!) – it’s not true. Honest! I tend to be quite busy and I frequently work up to 18 hours a day between writing my new book and promoting my first one.
So I had no idea daytime TV was laced with so many infomercials!
Now, I am a very suggestible person.
It’s funny, because only last night I was writing a chapter in my new book about it; how I can’t help doing whatever people tell me, up to and including licking a prickly cactus. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t be allowed to watch infomercials on my own. At least, not if there’s an active phone line in the house.
So… I’ve bought two packets of Bug Mesh and a Miracle Wonder Bra.
I only narrowly avoided buying a triple-box of ‘EKO Crystals for only $78.75’ because I was busting for a shit. Seriously, if that advert hadn’t happened to coincide with my morning bowel movement my credit card would have taken another pounding.
How I will live with my body’s rampant acidity levels in the absence of these miraculous crystals I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure Roo will be happier, knowing that I spent that time on the toilet.
I also got to sit through a delightful segment on shoes, promoted by a woman in a blouse so hideous even my Mum wouldn’t wear it. Well okay, my Mum probably would wear it. With her nylon trousers and crocs.
This woman was the in-house fashion expert for the show, and was on there showing a selection of shoes which the presenters hated. “But I own these shoes,” she protested, when told they looked like a Grandma would wear them.
Hardly surprising – the woman reminded me of one of my old high-school teachers. I think I would have come across better as a fashion expert in my stained board shorts.
Anyway, Peter’s slot, when it arrived, was delicious – and short. About half the length of time devoted to the shortest infomercial (about a miracle fat-busting powder that I’ll almost never use). The presenters themselves seemed horrified, and asked Peter if he’d come back to carry on their discussion when they had more time! Like, say, at the start of the show, before whatever viewers it attracts have already given up their will to live for the day.
Just goes to show that, write a great book – which Peter has – and people still don’t give a shit. Show up in person and fascinate them, and they’ll finally give you the time of day, become interested, read your book and love it – but until then? I can almost see the show’s guest booker in conversation with the producer.
Booker: “So, we’ve got Peter Allison, this best-selling author type guy…”
Producer: “Really? *Yawns* Okay, stick him in somewhere.”
Booker: “But not before the bras?”
Producer: “Hell no! He’s just an author. You know, books n’ shit.”
Booker: “So after the acne powder?”
Producer: “Acne powder eh? Interesting..! Double its slot. And yeah, stick whatshisname on after that. Oh, but put an ad break I first. Let’s try and make some cash for a change…”
Sucks to be an author. It’s not a bad way to make a living (if you are making a living doing it!). But where’s the respect, eh? Where’s the love? Peter’s new book took him two years to write. I’ve read it and I love it. But those 15 minutes of fame… well, if it is 15 minutes – are pretty fickle.
Yet another reason why authors need a tough skin!
And that’s reason enough for me to need that Acne cream.
(Look, it was THREE tubes for the price of ONE, okay?)
My aim with this promotion is to make a huge splash – by the end of it I should be wetter than… um… okay, I’ll let you finish off that sentence. In case there are children reading this. (In which case, Oi! It’s okay, you can carry on reading, but still – Oi!)
So. Wetter than a Welsh Wednesday, which in fact it is. Wednesday, that is, not Welsh or wet – I live in Perth Australia for gawd’s sake, we haven’t seen rain since the continents shifted. If water fell from the sky here, thousands would adopt religion on the spot.
Right. Went a bit off track there. Sorry ‘bout that.
This is what happened the last time I did a promotion for the book – during its launch on July 1st, 2011:
SO! I have a task for you, my minions…
In fact I have TWO tasks! (Yes, I am a demanding evil overlord. But my health plan is worth it.)
1) DOWNLOAD MY BOOK! If you haven’t already. Did I mention, it’s FREE? Hell, if you have got it already, get it again! Oh wait – Amazon doesn’t work that way. D’oh. Well then, tell someone else to get it instead.
Which leads me sneakily on to Mission Two:
2) TELL SOMEONE ELSE TO GET IN INSTEAD! What I’m getting at here is, spread the word people! You all know how utterly awesome my book is (unless you don’t, in which case let me tell you this: it is utterly awesome). Imagine how grateful your friends/family/pet gerbil/chemistry teacher/that nutter that always sits next to you on the bus will be, when you tell them about an awesome book they can download for free – and it will make them wet themselves!
*Note: certain species of Bus Nutter are already adept at wetting themselves, and should NOT be encouraged. Tell the driver instead.
To help you spread the word, I’ve put together a couple of Tweets and Facebook messages that you can copy-and-paste if you want – because I’m a lazy, lazy man, and I can’t exactly complain if my minions are the same, can I?
Best-selling #travel #comedy THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS! by @TonyJamesSlater is FREE TODAY on #Kindle – grab it quick! http://amzn.to/thatbearus
FACEBOOK (If you’re from the UK):
Hey everyone! My friend Tony James Slater has made his awesome book ‘THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!’ available for FREE on Amazon Kindle! It takes one click to download it and it’s pants-wettingly funny. Even if you haven’t got a Kindle, you can read it on any Mac or PC, iPad or smartphone with free Kindle software!
What are you waiting for? Here’s the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/
FACEBOOK (US/Everywhere else):
Hey everyone! My friend Tony James Slater has made his awesome book ‘THAT BEAR ATE MY PANTS!’ available for FREE on Amazon Kindle! It takes one click to download it and it’s pants-wettingly funny. Even if you haven’t got a Kindle, you can read it on any Mac or PC, iPad or smartphone with free Kindle software!
What are you waiting for? Here’s the link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057P6FNO/
Please feel free to alter any of the above however you want, or tell people about the book in your own way – you can even send ‘em to this blog, like this:
Right! Thanks for that folks! I mean it when I say, I really do appreciate all the help you give me. I’m literally doing this on my own otherwise, and honestly I don’t think I’d stand a chance.
The OTHER GOOD NEWS – is that, once this is over you’ll never have to worry about me pushing my book on you again! Because anyone who doesn’t get it when it’s free – well, there’s a good chance they just don’t want the damn thing. So rest easy folks! The end is in sight…
From next week: Business As Normal. So stay tuned for an exciting story about… ah, who the hell knows? I haven’t written it yet. Watch this space.
I love you all,
Ps. If you come late to this post and have missed the free days, go to the ‘Contact Me’ page and send me an email. If you ask me nicely I’ll probably send you a copy – because I’m nice like that and, ultimately, a sucker.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for us here in Perth.
Most excitingly, after several days of viewing shitty flats and rooms your granny wouldn’t dare live in, we moved into a nice big room in a brand new share-house.
We LOVE this place!
It’s cool (22 degrees in fact – I know, ‘cause it says so on the remote control for our in-room air-con!)
It’s modern – there is a fingerprint scanner on the front door instead of a key lock! This causes both Roo and I to run around screaming “MY GOD IT’S THE FUTURE!!” every time we successfully use it. Which, I have to admit, is far more often than we actually leave the house.
But most importantly of all, there is a 50 inch TV!
Yes, that’s right:
It’s also bizarrely empty, like an executive ghost-house. We’ve lived here for almost a week now, that 50” TV is sitting right there surrounded by comfy red sofas – yet to my knowledge I’m the only person who has ever turned it on.
People live here – allegedly – and occasionally I’ll sit bolt upright in the middle of the night when a strange sound disturbs the silence – a cough! From one of the rooms surrounding ours… there IS life on planet NewHouse!
The place is immaculate. Spotless! Roo and I are supposed to be on cleaning duty this weekend, but I honestly can’t find anything to do! The dishes seem to get washed up and put away right after anyone eats. It happens so fast I get quite nervous during dinner, half expecting someone to steal it off me and wash it before I’ve finished my sausages.
As regular readers might recall, my parents have not been quite so lucky with the properties they let out; in fact we viewed a house just before this one which was only two years old, and already the carpets were ruined. Massive grease stains tracked right across the floor and up the stairs. How such a mess was even possible I don’t know. It looked like a giant squid had given birth in the living room. I began to wonder if the last tenant had brought his Harley Davidson inside for an oil change.
Well, we didn’t rent that house. (Sorry Wayne!) We held out for the biggest, nicest, cleanest house I think I’ve ever lived in. Then, when the owner called us and told us we’d been chosen out of a dozen applicants, I went to the bank to withdraw rent money, only to find out that my card has been blocked by the bank. Something to do with them not knowing I was in Australia… despite the fact that they’d spent the last two months handling my emigration paperwork.
Hm, what else?
We also bought a car.
Now, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what a minefield buying a used car can be. We did a lot of soul searching beforehand, and came up with an honest, no-nonsense approach; we trusted to fate.
I had a good feeling that day, as did Roo. I’m a big believer in the power of positive thought, and in trusting the Universe to help me out. It’s a happy, calming philosophy to live with, and it’s been a long time since I felt in control of my life enough to be so free and trusting. Far too long in fact; because what I should have remembered is that Fate really fucking hates me.
Honestly, I think there should be a disclaimer on some of these self-help books, the ones that advocate sitting back and letting the universe do the driving. Somewhere in the small print it should say ‘WARNING! First ensure that Fate is on your side. If not, discount all previous advice.”
So, yeah. I channelled my inner hippie, placed my trust in Fate and bought the car that seemed right for us.
And Fate smiled, and laughed, and then fucked me.
The car began to squeal. It had to be the brakes, because they were the only thing not covered by the warranty. It was definitely a brake-y type of squeal.
We took it to a mechanic, who told us the ‘rotors’, were so groovy they also needed replacing – and here, I didn’t even think our car could fly! Apparently I’d bought a helicopter. And a groovy one at that.
Replacing the rotors was one of those jobs that made the mechanic suck air in over his teeth. I felt an instant pain in my chest – right where my wallet sits…
I called the guy who sold the car and moaned at him until he agreed to split the cost of the repairs. This was my one minor victory for the week, but it was soon overshadowed by a strange knocking sound…
We’d had the car back for less than a week. The central locking had packed up, but we could live with that. The inside light being broken as more of a pain. The air-con wasn’t really cold anymore, but Roo was about to start work, which meant no-one would be driving the car in the middle of the day anyway. So we could deal. But the knocking… whenever we turned right, it would start. CLUNK-CLUNK-CLUNK – getting faster as the car did, and getting louder day by day. At first we decided to ignore it, on the grounds that we couldn’t afford to fix it no matter what it was. But by the time it was drowning out the stereo (the one thing still working inside the car), we figured there wasn’t much choice.
I typed the symptoms into a diagnostic site I found through Google and it came up with a message that said ‘Congratulations! Your car is knackered.’
To cut a long story short, we needed a new CV joint. So the mechanic cut the old joint off and ordered a new one which turned out to be the wrong one which couldn’t be fitted which left the car up on blocks at precisely the time Roo was due to start her first day of work since 2009.
There, that was short! Poor Roo couldn’t cancel, so she spent two hours researching a route via public transport (which co-incidentally also took two hours to travel). She got up at 5am to start work at 8am, and as she sat on the bus/train/bus/bus/bus and then walked a kilometre and a half, I lay in bed cursing Fate. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t like me.
The silver lining? Roo earned marginally more than her combined bus and train fare, the bank still won’t let me use my cash-card so I’ve put the car repair bill on a credit card (which is the same as not having to pay it at all, right?) – and the car can now turn corners without causing people nearby to duck for cover.
We live in a beautiful place, although we can’t buy any food, and… did I mention the 50-inch TV?
On the way home from the mechanic the car developed a strange clicking sound, like two bits of cutlery hitting each other, which grew faster as the car went faster and louder as we continued driving…
But it’s still quieter than the stereo, so we’re not worried.
So… What I’d like to know from you folks is, how’s your week been?