Saturday, 15 September 2018

Cover Me!


They always say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but that never stopped anyone.

I have received both praise and 'stick' for my covers. Interestingly, the praise has always come from readers, who appreciate the nuanced designs, with their nod to original Victorian covers. This is deliberate ~ if you read the novels, they are not just fast-paced detective stories, but a 'homage' to the style of novels of that period, which I frequently reference as I go.

The 'stick' has come from various publishers who've approached me to ask if I'd consider letting them take the series over ON CONDITION that they changed the covers.

Original early Victorian book covers

The fact that you are looking at the new cover for Fear & Phantoms (recently published via Amazon in both book and ebook formats) gives you an indication of my response. Thanks but no thanks. My covers are designed by designer and friend Gina Dickinson, thus adding an extra personal dimension to them. They also have background pictures supplied by photographer friends I follow on Twitter. They are now published under the Little G imprint (my own). They are special and it is a joy to share them with you.

It always amuses me, when scrolling through Twitter, to pick out the 'I bought an off-the peg cover' books. It's so easy to do. Frequently you see the same muscled bloke or shapely young lady with accompanying pout in different settings, and wearing different clothes depending upon the genre. There seems to be a smallish pool of cover models out there. And although many of the cover suppliers SAY they do not re-use a design once you have bought and paid for it ~ they do. Believe me. Seen it with my own eyes, Guv.

So I shall continue to have my own bespoke covers, using Rosewolf Designs and referencing Victorian ideas and scenes until I run out of ideas. And if you are interested, here's the blurb for the new book:

"When a young man's body is discovered buried deep beneath the winter snow, Detectives Stride and Cully little realise where the discovery will take them. Is his murder a random, one-off event, or could the death be linked to the mysteriously elusive individual who has already brought down one of the City's long-standing private banks?

Mishap, misunderstanding and mystery dog their footsteps as the Scotland Yard detectives find themselves in very murky territory indeed, at times struggling to keep their heads above water in the umbrous underworld of murder and financial fraud. Can they unmask the dark brutal mastermind lurking at the centre of it all, before he strikes again?

A taut, gripping historical crime novel that lays bare the dubious practices of the Victorian banking businesses and entices the reader into the shady world of high-class gambling houses, where fortunes can be made or lost on the luck of the cards.
In the great tradition of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, this sharp witty series of detective novels brings back to life the murky gas-lit world of Victorian London."


So that's my cover philosophy. That's how I roll. How about you ~ what makes a 'good' book cover? And can you really judge a book by it?



Monday, 3 September 2018

The PINK SOFA meets Writer and Farmer, Diana Ashworth



Many years ago, in 1961, I was sitting, age 11, on the floor of the Assembly Hall of Hatfield Girls' Grammar School. My navy blazer was itchy, my navy pleated skirt was too long and my socks kept subsiding. Sitting in the same row was a small blonde girl with a cheeky smile. I asked her whether she'd be my friend. Diana Buck ( as she was then) and I have travelled many different paths over the succeeding years. And now we are here. I have a new book out. Diana has a new book out, and THE PINK SOFA is agog and beside itself with curiosity. 

It’s a miracle!
Diana's new book www.logastonpress.co.uk

I can take it that you are all readers but I bet you take reading for granted. The process of reading is absolute magic – It’s a miracle! When you think about it – when you read someone’s sentence you are running their thoughts through your brain – through your neurones. Forget Sex – reading what someone else has written is a much more intimate act – You are sharing their very thoughts, memories and ideas (it’s all a bit more sophisticated than bodily fluids).

I’ve come to writing via a circuitous route – Carol will tell you that sitting behind me at school could be a painful and embarrassing experience if ever I was called upon to read aloud. Dyslexia hadn’t been invented (well, it wasn’t recognised) but it didn’t hold me back – just limited my choices a bit. 

I was a family doctor for 35 years.  I spent a lot of that time trying to work people out and trying to explain things in parables.  My first partner, Tom (the best doctor I have ever met) said ‘Never try to explain anything in abstract terms (especially not to men) always find a solid metaphor!’  He wasn’t sexist for his time – this was 40 years ago!
I also studied neuroscience – I think of personality as being the stuff of ideas hung on some sort of genetic matrix, like washing on a line or a clothes horse.   The washing is the memory of all those seminal events that have shaped us and the line is our personal wiring (my own wiring is not very quick when it comes to interpreting symbols).
 Some people think in a straight line, and hang their thoughts, their memories and their experiences out like that, on a line – and some of us don’t.

When we go to sleep we take the memories down, off the line, smooth them out, fold them up and put them away – to be retrieved as necessary (sometimes a little shrunk and sometimes stained by a stray red sock!)  That’s how psycho-analysis works – a process of folding up and putting away so that some great metaphorical purple duvet-cover doesn’t get in the way for the rest of your life.

When you run a writer’s thoughts through your neurones (when you read their book) you can tell how they think and how they process their thoughts, what sort of line they have – some have rotary driers with recurring themes – the yellow cardy of childhood abuse that is difficult to dry and comes round and round. An increasing number of literary prize-winners seem to put their thoughts into a tumble drier -- when they come out they are knotted and inside out, intertwined with other ideas.

Hemingway thought in a straight line without even the diversion of an occasional adjective. D H Lawrence wrote a knotted string, each paragraph a half hitch on a linear narrative giving a distinct rhythm. Others write in great arching hoops like a coiled hose pipe (Virginia Woolf). Me, in my head I have a three dimensional pictorial map of my world, and I hang my experiences on the low branches of trees, on gorse bushes (like a gipsy), on the backs of chairs, I hang them over gates -- sometimes the wind catches them and they soar into the air for a moment swirling and flapping and then splash down into the mud to be trampled by all the animals in my world. 

This sort of memory seems to give what I write what people call a strong sense of place. If I visit the town where I practiced medicine for years and I drive through its streets I am almost overwhelmed by the recall of events attached to almost everything I see – every road, almost every house has some burden of memory – a death here, a rape there, the drug addict with the flick knife that was faulty (thankfully) living up those steps.

Ten years ago after a series of seemingly random co-incidences we, that’s Alan (my husband), myself and Pedro (our newly acquired and wayward dog) bought a derelict farm in Mid-Wales with 25 acres.  We hadn’t intended to move, we had no connections to Wales and we had never had any desire to practice extreme farming -- something about the place just ensnared us.

‘They’ll do! They’re are the ones I want’, said the old farmhouse, probably in Welsh, and the couple, (the ones the old place wanted) were drawn into the life of the place – inspired by its beauty, its creatures, its moods and its stories.

I was telling a friend about all the delights, the strange differences we noticed in this new environment and the adventures that we were having -- she asked me to write a light-hearted diary column for the magazine she edits (only three issues a year) and that is how it all began.  A door that closed decades ago had reopened! 

Once she had tried to edit my first submission she must have had second thoughts because she encouraged me to go to Uni and do an MA in creative writing. This I did and it was very therapeutic, as was the Penguin Guide to Punctuation which is considerably cheaper!  After more than 20 episodes she suggested I send the collected manuscripts to a publisher she knew who occasionally sent the magazine review copies.   This I did too…  My book is now out.   

I apologise if this makes it sound easy – it wasn’t – it isn’t.  I read avidly (still slowly but retentively) and consume audiobooks and I re-read and endlessly correct my own work and…  I have been extremely lucky.  But, gosh, it’s satisfying!

Iolo’s Revenge, Sheep Farming by Happy Accident in Mid-Wales by Diana Ashworth is published by Logaston Press (www.logastonpress.co.uk)




Monday, 20 August 2018

I'm a self-published writer. So what?

New book cover (book/ebook publ.September)

Scrolling through Facebook the other day, as you do when you are supposed to be working, I came across a blog post written by an 'anonymous' independent bookshop owner, in which they listed all the reasons why neither they, nor any of their profession would contemplate stocking self-published/indie books.

Their argument was that far too many self-published writers produce amateur and inferior books, and then have the cool arrogance to think, my God, that they is going to place their shabbily presented and badly-written volumes on hallowed bookshop shelves! Quel horreur! (They made an exception for non-fiction books, which apparently were produced to a higher standard).

The attitude whereby self-published/indie books are viewed by suppliers and bookshops as inferior, needs challenging. Contrary to anonymous' assertions of amateurism, many of us employ professional editors and proofreaders to check our manuscripts. We also shell out for bespoke covers (see above), working for weeks with designers, to produce the very best and most eye-catching ones that we can. You may well find the odd typo in our work, but hey, I have found them in many a mainstream-published book too, (certainly in my own books, when I was published by a 'big name'). I've also seen some pretty naff covers too, assembled from Adobe Stock rather than designed.

Now, I could, as a 'publisher' try to kick down the door, and get The Victorian Detectives into my local Waterstones, or one of the independent bookshops in the area, but frankly, m'dear, I can no longer be bothered. Waterstones' latest policy means that all books like mine have to be submitted to their HQ for approval, and I refuse to be treated like some kid who is handing in homework to be marked.

Even if I got an A on said homework, there is still the 'discount' hurdle to overcome. Bookshops expect publishers to offer them a 45% discount. It covers premises, overheads, staff etc etc. Fair enough. Large publishers can do this, taking a hit on some writers, while making big profits on novels by celeb writers, or hyped unknowns whose readability often seems in reverse ratio to their publicity. Subtract the discount from what a writer is paid in royalties, and factor in the sale or return policy most shops operate, and the faff of the paperwork, you end up with so little for your time and effort that it seriously isn't worth it.

Therefore, until anonymous independent book shop owner changes their mindset, and others their methodology, I am going to stay exactly where I am, mistress of my own little book and ebook empire, and enjoy the company of hundreds of other self-published writers, whose books are as professional, as well-written, and just as worth reading as any that you will find piled high in your local bookshop. What's not to like?

So what is your opinion? Are bookshop stocked writers 'better'? Have you struggled to get your books into local shops? Please share your views and experiences ....




Monday, 30 July 2018

Are You A Serial Offender? I Am.



As you probably all know, Diamonds & Dust, which was rejected out of hand by my former agent as ''not remotely publishable'' and subsequently went on not only to be published, but was listed for the CWA Historical Dagger, the Walter Scott Prize, the Folio Society Prize, and scored 110 + reviews on Amazon, is now developing offspring.

It wasn't meant to. Seriously. I didn't envisage trotting out the two Victorian detectives Stride and Cully again. But like lily pond paintings by Monet and Haydn String Quartets, once started, it seemed logical to keep going.

Thus the sequel Honour & Obey, which was published November 2014, Death & Dominion which came out in October 2015. Rack & Ruin (Sept 2016) was the fourth outing for Stride & Cully, Wonders & Wickedness (Sept 2017) was the fifth, and I am currently putting the final touches to a sixth book: Fear & Phantoms, which should be ready to read this September (see below for sneak peek of new cover)

There are those writers who regard a series as a bit of a ''cop-out''; after all, you've got your characters already written for you. To them I would say: writing a series is MUCH harder than producing a one-off text. And I know what I'm talking about: this is my second series of books. (The Spy Girl series for Usborne was the first)

The main problem is that unless you started with the idea of writing a series, and few authors do, they just tend to evolve, you are stuck with whatever you wrote in the first one. You cannot radically alter the appearance nor personality of the main character/s without readers going ''What the ...?'' After all, it was how they were in book one that will keep them reading books 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. You can and must develop the main characters, but in essence, they have to bear some resemblance to how they were in the beginning.

Then there is the problem of keeping the plot momentum going. I find book 2 is usually the easiest, as it seems to evolve naturally out of the first one. Book 3, however, is far more problematic. New areas have to be introduced to keep the reader interested. Some fundamental shifting of perspective must take place, or else book 3 becomes merely a watered down version of the previous two. Actually, book 3 is usually the pivotal one upon which the rest of the series rests. If you cannot pull it off successfully, it is best to admit defeat and pretend you only meant to write two in the first place.

By book 4, the pitfall is over-confidence. You have run the gauntlet of three books. You feel the surge of expertise as fingers hit keyboard. This, after the previous three, will be a doddle to write. You have your characters, you know how the story arc works. Sometimes this attitude pays off: I still think Dead Man Talking, the fourth Spy Girl book, is the best plotted. However, beware: book 4 can so easily wander off into alien territory, or become a repetition of book 3 with added lacklustre.

By the time you reach book 5, you can say with confidence that you have planted your flag upon the summit of Series Mountain. Whether your trajectory goes up or down is now up for debate. I can say from avidly reading crime series, that some writers manage to sustain plot, characters and reader interest beyond book 5, but many more don't and the result is a series of  flat read-alike stories with little variety at best, or downright daftness at worst, (bounty hunter Stephanie Plum's hamster has survived longer than any hamster should or ought!)

The trouble with series is that publishers LOVE them. They are easy to market, and each book sells on the back of the previous ones. Thus the temptation to go on churning them out year after year, when by rights the whole thing should have been allowed to quietly slink off and hide in a dark corner after the fifth one.

I have been told though, that the ''real money'' comes from a 5 book series, which means most other writers will have been told this too. Mind, I never thought I'd get as far as a third or fourth. My former agent didn't see any mileage in the first ... and here I am already tentatively starting a seventh.

So what's your experience: Do you prefer to read a series? Or a one off novel. If you are a writer, have you ever tackled a series, or does the prospect fill you with horror? Do share your thoughts .... 

Cover c/o Gina Dickerson (Rosewolf Design)


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

10 Top Tips for Writers



1. If possible, write on something that is NOT connected to the internet. That way you aren't tempted to check Facebook/Twitter every 5 minutes. Or less.

2. If you are writing on an internet-free laptop, make sure it isn't in the same room as the internet connected one (see 1).

3. If you can't accomplish 1 and 2 for physical/financial reasons, try to allocate yourself specific times of the day to Tweet/update your Facebook. Do not weaken.

4. Unless specific, dickering about on Google is not 'research'.

5. Checking your Amazon rating and sales figures every two days is liable to lead to suicidal feelings. Ditto reading posts from other writers who do this.

6. Ditto reading the 'I wrote a whole novel today - go me!' claims on social media

7. There is no such thing as 'Writer's Block', it is just a posh excuse for not writing.

8. The only way to write a book is to write a book.

9. If you are not constantly awash with doubt/fear/insecurity/self-loathing/envy/anxiety/panic, you probably aren't a writer.

10. Follow your dreams by all means. But make sure you have a day job.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Why Is My Laptop Bullying Me?



About a year ago, my elderly and much loved eMac died on me. There was no warning. I woke up one morning, switched it on and nothing happened. It went on not happening for several days during which I attempted to extract stuff I hadn't backed up (DON'T TELL ME!!!). It went on not happening even when Computer Expert Husband of Friend came round and performed the equivalent of CPR on it.

Eventually I had to face reality: the computer had died, taking with it 26 thousand words of the new book into some internet black hole. There was nothing I could do. There followed a short period of mourning. I missed my computer. I missed waking up to its elegant presence on the desk. I missed the response time that was so slow, it was quicker to walk. I missed the way it let me get on with the writing without bothering about silly things like punctuation or misspelled words. I missed seeing Thermidor, my red beanbag lobster glowering at me from the top.


The desk wasn't the same. My writing wasn't the same. And I was now 26 thousand words down with a 9 month deadline looming. Enter a small purple Acer laptop. And with its arrival, my literary life has moved to a new dimension. Not, alas, for the better. The original idea was to use the laptop purely as a writing tool, like its former incarnation. Therefore it was deliberately not connected to the internet. Not that it could ever be connected to the internet, as there is no internet cable in the Writing Attic. But by some devious process of its own, the laptop has managed to locate some internet. And it doesn't like being separated from it.



Thus every time I switch it on, it messages me. Usually to inform me that I am not connected to the internet. It refuses to accept that it is in 'flight mode' and has developed a strategy whereby it locks access to my files every few months until I reconnect it to the mothership downstairs. It also dislikes the sloppy way I write, snarkily underlining stuff in red wiggly lines, and tutting to itself (OK, maybe I am fantasizing, but it FEELS like tutting).

I do not recall Charles Dickens having stand~up rows with his quill pen. I find no references to Wilkie Collins threatening to throw his writing apparatus out of the window. Last week, the ultimate happened: the laptop wouldn't let me save a chunk of the new book because 'someone else is working on the file'. Whaaaat? The cat has been questioned, but denies being the secret ghost writer. I can only conclude that the laptop has decided to produce its own version of the book, as I am clearly inadequate.

This blog post is being written downstairs on the office desktop, which is connected to the internet. I am assuming by the time I return to the Writing Attic after posting it, that the small purple Acer will have read it. I expect it will immediately start working on its revenge. Is this what they mean by the rise of artificial intelligence? Send help ~my laptop is bullying me!




Thursday, 10 May 2018

A Bad Case of Mobile Madness


As many of you know, I have a tenuous relationship with technology. Actually, my level of competence is so low, you couldn't limbo under it. And so, at the back end of last year, the Other Grumpy Old Sod persuaded me to buy a Doro mobile, on the basis that it was advertised as ideal for the elderly and mentally incontinent, thus rendering it eminently suitable to my requirements.

The suggestion was made on the back of my previous three mobiles going wrong (the most technical I get upon these matters), plus the fact that every time I used his iPhone, a conversation ensued containing the phrase: 'Now what have you done?' And for a few months, it was good. Very good. And then last Bank Holiday Monday, I lost it at the garden centre.

In my defence, I was minding the 2 yr old and 4 yr old at the time while their mother was somewhere else buying plants, and before you roll your eyes, your options are extremely limited if you are standing in a pay-queue with a loaded tray and the grandchildren suddenly decided to re-enact The Great Escape. Unless you have taken the pre-precaution of tying them to you with strong cord. Which I had failed to do.

In the ensuing fracas, my mobile must've dropped out of my bag. It took me 24 hours to realise it was missing. A further day was spent scouring the house/daughter's house and car. I then used the landline to ring back places I'd visited, and lo! second call elicited the joyous news that the mobile had been handed in at the garden centre and it was in their safe. Safe.

You really want this to now end with 'and they all lived happily ever after', don't you? Sadly not. Between the loss of the phone and its subsequent return, something had happened to the relationship between it and the charger, which refused point blank to charge it. Thus, armed with charger and phone, I sallied forth to the EE phone shop once more, and explained to the 12 year old behind the counter that I had suffered another #phonefail.

After testing both items, it proved to be the charger that was at fault. Which didn't entirely surprise me, as it is plugged in by the gas hob and might, possibly, have got closer to a lit gas ring that it should've. The 12 year old then looked thoughtful, did some lip-pursing, and frowning, and told me that if I wanted to save £7, it would be actually cheaper to buy the rock bottom 'I wouldn't give a phone like that to my cat' mobile, as the charger that came with it was compatible with my phone.

So that is the reason why I am currently the possessor of two mobile phones, upping, at a stroke, my potential for #phonefail by 100%!  OK, in theory, I am in a better position, as I have a fallback phone. But don't hold your breath, is all I can advise.




Sunday, 8 April 2018

Of Mice and Moan


Every now and then Hedges Towers is invaded by mice. They come in from the cold, like in a John le Carre novel. Unlike in a John le Carre novel, they then find themselves face to face with a small tortoiseshell cat with a rodent fixation. They do not survive long. Unless I get out of bed at 3.35am in the morning and rescue them. Or as the cat thinks: join in the fun, but then selfishly take the small furry toy away.

I tracked their current invasion to under the kitchen sink. There is a square hole where the water pipes go out. After the last invasion I'd blocked it up, but fitting a new outside tap on the Summer meant it had been unblocked. I re-blocked and applied peppermint oil. Cat then spent two nights staring fixedly at the cupboard door, like a replica of that old HMV advert with a small dog and a wind-up gramophone - but this time with a cat and a cupboard.

Sadly, misfortunes like buses always arrive in pairs. I now discover that I must expend a shedload of money on new glasses.This is because our nice local optician told me on Friday that my reading glasses had basically 'had it' - I think she used some technical word, but the bottom line is, they can't bend them back into shape any more without the whole frame breaking apart. And the little nose thingies have split and cannot be replaced.

Most of the damage has been done over the years by me putting them down to do closeup reading and then lying on them. Or dropping them off various surfaces and then stepping on them while trying to find them again. The rest of the damage has been done by Little G and Small. Apparently grandchildren are a HUGE source of glasses damage. Who knew?

So a frustrating hour was spent trying on alternative glasses - frustrating because I basically want The Identical Frames and they no longer make them. And I am so flaming short sighted that I can't 'see' myself clearly in new frames without coming within licking distance of the mirror, which is undignified on so many fronts.

The frames I like: the ones where you only have actual bits at the sides, (I refuse to channel Irene Apfel) cost over £350 - I have an unerring knack of picking out the most expensive stuff. And the lenses - don't go there. Trouble is, no glasses, no writing life. Currently we are scrabbling around down the back of the sofa and tipping out the penny jar.

So, if anybody with a mouse problem wants to hire a small tortoiseshell cat - completely unreasonable rates, but mouse problem pretty well guaranteed to be solved, please apply. Elderly myopic writer needs new glasses to write blockbuster to pay for new glasses.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Snippets from the Far Side of Sanity


So that was Easter. Despite the usual plea to the other Grumpy Old Sod not to buy me an Easter egg, I got one. A large one. Resistance gave out on Sunday evening, when almost the whole lot was eaten. In one sitting. It was interesting, in a detached way, to then observe the effect of far too much sugar on a member of the zimmerati.

Prosecco affects me completely differently. One glass, and I am the life and soul of whatever gathering I am attending. Two glasses, and I am still the life and soul, but only I think so. Nobody will ever tell me what happens after three glasses.

Be that as it may, sugar in excess makes me verbally aggressive, and  I managed to get into some great scraps on Twitter on Sunday night. An ability to spell abusive words would have helped. But you can't have everything in this life.

Monday morning, the scales told me I had overdone it. Since the cancer thing, I've been trying not to put on weight, but it's hard, on account of getting breathless far more than I used to, and finding exercise difficult as a result. Nevertheless. This was depressing, and I was so upset that I had to finish off the remaining chocolate to compensate.

However ironic this state of affairs may appear, it is NOTHING in comparison to the Brexit Blue Passport Debacle. For those who live in their own bubble: our beloved government has decided that when (if) we leave the EU, we MUST have our own British Blue passports, like we used to have in the good old days of Empire (only they were black, I still have mine from 1965).

The work was put out to tender, and a bid accepted. From an EU company, based in the EU which we are in theory, leaving next year so that we can 'take back control'. Oh how wonderful! Several of the madder patriots immediately fell over themselves justifying this on the grounds that the government was getting the best deal for the British taxpayer.

Sadly, the British company who lost the bid, doesn't agree, and is now suing the government. On what grounds, I cannot imagine ~ patriotism? Sore losers? Who knows. Whatever way you cut it, you get irony in your slice. Sometimes, you just couldn't make it up, could you?


Monday, 26 March 2018

Nitty Gritty (Adventures of L-Plate Gran)



Little G and Small LOVE their nursery and frequently bring home stuff they've made (in Small's case, with help) or paintings they've done. Sometimes, they also bring home things that are slightly less welcome. Like nits.

We have had several bouts of nits ~ refuting the myth that it's only 'poor kids whose parents don't wash their hair' who have them. You must be mad attacks the little blighters with a 'nitty gritty' comb. I don't have such an article in the house, so they tend to get gone over with the cat's flea comb, which works just as well, though the cat isn't too chuffed about it.

Small, however, is proving harder to rid of nits. His hair, now the colour of golden syrup, is thick and curling over his ears. There is a reason for this: the one and only time You must be mad took him for a haircut ~ to one of those places where you pay a small fortune for your kids to sit in cute little cars with their own personal videos, he refused to co-operate. The resultant haircut looked as if the hairdresser had been snipping at a moving target. Which is pretty much what happened.

Things have now reached a tipping point, however. Not only is there the nits sitch, but whenever Small indulges his love of dressing up as as a Pink Fairy**, complete with wings and a wand, I can get his hair into two tiny ponytails. You must be mad freely acknowledges there is a problem, but really doesn't want to go through the same rigmarole as before.

Step forward our lovely local hairdresser, who is going to give it a go on the basis that her own son was a total nightmare at a similar age, but she managed to cut his hair. Little G and I are going to do some pre-haircut indoctrination, on the lines of combing Small's hair and pretending to snip it, while chanting 'Snip...snip...snip ' in jolly voices which we will get him to repeat. L-Plate Grandad (Small's favourite person) will sit him on his lap. I will provide a selection of toys, and we will apologise to the rest of the customers in advance.
What could possibly go wrong?


** The 'Trans Activists' would tell me that Small is self- selecting his own gender. To which I say: if there are TWO dress-up fairy dresses and your big sister is wearing the WHITE one, and you like to copy her, it only leaves you the PINK one, so don't be so silly.