Monday, 27 July 2015

Facebook - a tool for wasting time or a tool for change?

 Sometimes I marvel at the way life works. 

'Volunteers heading to the cove'
Photo by Jaume Llinas
If you've been reading my blog lately you'll know that I've been getting upset about the amount of plastic in the sea. It's not just the disposal of the rubbish but the quantity of it generated. There are so many single-use items that will take thousands of years to decompose, if they decompose at all. Things that aren't essential to our survival but are ruining the chances of survival of so many other species.
  
The thing is, I know I'm at risk of becoming one of those boring, preachy types and I'd really rather DO something rather than moan about it.

But how to get started?

In a shop in Palma a few weeks ago, the owner of the shop asked me if I wanted a bag for my purchases.

"Only if it's paper," I said. "I'm trying to give plastic bags up!"

The shop keeper said she didn't like plastic bags either, and we got chatting about the state of the sea. I asked her if she knew anyone who organised beach clear ups and after a moment's thought, she gave me an unusual name that I promptly forgot.

A few weeks later it came to me, Biel Barcelò! I looked him up on Facebook and found a page dedicated to clear ups. It wasn't long before he posted a news report that a huge amount of rubbish had been swept up at one particular cove called Cala Vella. He set up an event inviting people to go out on a Sunday and help clear up.

'Sunday in Mallorca -
very different from our London life!'
Photo by Jaume Llinas
If you say to the universe, I WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS ISSUE! and then the universe replies, OKAY, DO THIS! you can't go, well actually I'm busy this Sunday, maybe next time...

My husband and I headed across the island and joined a small group of volunteers, plus a news crew who filmed the operation. It was a stunning day - every day is a stunning day in Mallorca - and looking out from the top of the cliffs, the turquoise sea made us doubtful there really was as much rubbish as had been reported.  

Half an hour later, we saw it for ourselves. Mounds of plastic. On the sand, between the rocks, in the bushes... it was everywhere.

We got to work gathering it up as best we could. Sixteen big bin liners were filled. If only we'd had sieves as so much of the plastic has been reduced to tiny pieces. However it's the tiny bits that gets washed back out to sea and ingested by fish and turtles, which then die an agonising death.

It was hot and sticky, but it was profoundly satisfying working alongside a group of strangers all wanting to do something for the good of the earth. Focused on the practical work meant I stopped feeling so annoyed and just got on with the job.

'16 Bin Liners filled - much of it from North Africa'
Photo by Jaume Llinas
Only later did  I reflect on the wonderful coincidence of walking into that shop. To talking to that lady - to her knowing of this man - and to being able to get involved doing something practical about an issue I feel more strongly about each day.

Facebook can be a massive procrastination tool or it can be a tool to make things happen!

What is it that annoys you? Perhaps there's something you can do about it... maybe the next step is just a click away!


Check out the Two Hands Project for an international Facebook page on beach clear up or leave a comment with other pages you've found useful. I've also just heard that World Champion Surfer, Kelly Slater, has just launched OUTERKNOWN, a clothing brand which makes its garments out of ocean waste!




Wednesday, 22 July 2015

And The Book Cover Winner is...

Thank you all so much for getting involved in choosing my book cover! There was a lot of activity on Facebook and Twitter, with lots of people commenting on their favourite. 

And the winner?

With 13 Facebook likes, 10 Retweets and 19 favourites, the blue and pink came in 2ND PLACE:



But with 53 Facebook likes, 10 Retweets and 15 favourites, the speech bubble was the clear WINNER: 



To the people who are disappointed with the choice, remember NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER! ;)

#PleaseRetweet is available to preorder from the Harper Collins website and direct from Amazon. Just think how lovely it will be to have a book pop up on your e-reader when you least expect it, or arrive through the letter box!

The ebook is released on 27th August.


The paperback will be out on 5th November. 

Bloggers, if you would like a guest post or author interview, please get in touch emily@emilybenet.com 


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Which Book Cover Would You Chose?

Bounce My malaise has lifted! I'm back to feeling positive and happy. It might have something to do with receiving the book covers for my upcoming novel #PleaseRetweet. Yes, book coverS plural! Neither I nor the publisher can make up our minds which one is the best choice. We are very much hoping you will help!

The blurb*: (*I know, I know, it's a little wordy at the mo)

Social media whizz kid, May Sparks has landed her dream job.  Well, not quite, but the salary is great and all May has to do is handle the online profiles of Z C – list celebrities who have the tendency to say inappropriate things.  Easy, right?  #wrong

May’s clients include an ex big brother star (she's definitely not going to sleep with #neversaynever), a disgraced TV presenter (who wants May to sort out his marriage as well as his Twitter account), and a woman who once flashed her boobs on X-factor. They're all relying on her to turn them into stars. But they're not going to make her job easy. 

As May is sucked further into her job she begins to lose her grip on real life.  Her friends don’t ‘like’ her Facebook posts any more and her gorgeous neighbour, who once was on the same wavelength, criticises her career choice. Worse, May’s clients start getting trolled by an annoying tweep, who May happens to agree with. 

Then May’s secret online identity is leaked, causing her to start trending on Twitter.  It looks like the status update is over.  Unless May can leave the superficial social media word behind and find her own voice again…

The Covers: 

1. The yellow speech bubble




2. The Blue and Pink Blocks




Which is your favourite?

Vote by popping over to Harper Impulse Facebook page and leaving your comment! Or connect on Twitter @HarperImpulse

Alternatively, leave a comment here on my blog, it would be amazing to hear your thoughts! Thank you so much!


Monday, 13 July 2015

How to Stay Bright and Breezy in the Face of the Apocalypse (or similar disaster)?

A cuddly dementor
I watched the news the other day. Big mistake.

All the soul-sucking ghouls of fiction - the ring wraiths in the Lord of the Rings, the dementors from Harry Potter - sound like cuddly bears in comparison to the real life villains out there.

Why are there so many people intent on blotting out all the happiness in the world? Can't they be miserable, and hate women, and human rights, and music, and dancing and generally squeeze the fun out of everything, one irrational rule at a time, in one SMALL area rather than strive for world domination? 

And what exactly are we supposed to do after we watch the news? 

Hey everyone! We're going to show you how unbearable life is for half of the population - and then you can carry on with your lovely dinner! 

I switched off the TV and noticed that my enthusiasm for life had promptly evaporated and I felt utterly powerless. 

Social media addict that I am, I reached out to Twitter for answers: 


Everyone replied 'B'. I suspect the 'A's' were too depressed to tweet because they'd just seen the news. 

Even with the telly off, you can't escape the evidence that, to put it lightly, human beings are a plague on the earth. Not light enough? As you can see, I'm really struggling to find my happy voice at the moment... 

Yesterday I took a snorkel to my local beach. On the surface it looks like paradise. What I saw under the water, left me feeling sick. There was a cemetery of plastic - bags, spoons, bottles, takeaway containers. I picked up a few pieces but I couldn't bring myself to touch the adult nappy. It was just further proof that we're completely disconnected from the planet we're living in and eventually we're going to poison ourselves to death. 

*Deep breaths* 

It doesn't really sink in until you see it for yourself. I always think if there was a live video of sweatshops when we went shopping, we wouldn't feel so happy about bargain clothes. But out of sight, out of mind, I guess. 

So, how do we writers keep our stories upbeat when the stories around us are so flipping depressing?

I don't know! I'm hoping you lovely readers are going to give me some advice...


Friday, 10 July 2015

Restless Writer Posts Attention Seeking Blog

I'm restless. Unbearably so. My upcoming novel #PleaseRetweet is coming out next month with HarperCollins and its book cover has yet to be decided. I'm hoping next week I'll have two options to share with you. Will you help me choose the winner? 

I'm SO excited about its release, even though I've done sod all publicity (hard to do publicity without an image!). I'm just praying that word of mouth helps it climb the book charts. Your mouth would be nice. I like your mouth. 

While I'm jumping up and down in anticipation of #PleaseRetweet's release, I've been working on my new novel The Hen Party. Trouble is the characters are doing my head in. If you've ever been a bridesmaid and had to organise a hen party, then you'll know why. Too many overexcited voices mixed with too much booze. Fictional booze that is. 

I don't go along with Hemingways' philosophy Write Drunk, Edit Sober - I expect he would've had a lot less editing to do if he'd ignored his own advice and written sober. 

My agent is reading a section of The Hen Party at the moment so perhaps next week she'll have some book-saving advice for me - no pressure Laura!

Thank God for my reporting job with SeeMallorca. It's the only thing keeping me focused. It's a very dangerous occupation you know. 

On Monday I reviewed the cycling holiday operator Mills and Honey and road a bike for three hours in 36 degree heat. It was like being blasted by a gigantic hairdryer. 

The route was peaceful, the landscape heavenly. Eventually I had to stop after a not too shabby 35km, because I mistook a sheep for a cow and I felt like I might be about to vomit. 

Don't let me put you off. I hadn't cycled in 5 years and the muscles in my thighs are made from tissue paper.  

I recovered quickly from my cycling escapade. We reporters must be resilient. I had a pressing date with Palma's new San Juan Gastronomic Market. Another dangerous assignment. 

I almost died from deliciousness. "DD". Yes, it's a thing.  

Do I sound on edge? I feel on edge. I just can't wait any longer. I want my book to come out! I want you to read it!

Did I mention you can help me choose the cover? 

Come over to my Facebook Author Page and help me avoid another a disaster! 

*Nervous laughter* 

It can't be long now...

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Spain vs England - 2 Months After the Big Move

My Spanish office has better views...

It has been nearly two months since I left London for Mallorca. 

To celebrate I'm going to compile an in depth, expertly researched list of the differences I've found so far. 

Brace yourselves. You'll want to take notes.  




1. SUMMER

Spain has one. 

2. GOING OUT

England: 
5 pm:  "So, what's the plan tonight?"

Spain: 
11.30 pm: "So, what's the plan tonight?"


3. DRINK MEASUREMENTS


















4. VIRTUAL LAUGHTER

England: Hahahahahahaha
Spain: Jajajajajajajaja

5. SIESTA

England: a cheeky nap
Spain: an essential recharge activity so you can stay awake until suppertime

6. SHOPPING

England: shops open all day, all weekend
Spain: shops close between 1-5, Sundays closed* (*unless in a tourist area!)

7. DRIVING

England: left
Spain: right

(MY DAD: middle)

Enough of that list, any more simplistic and I'll be writing that they speak Spanish in Spain and English in England! They also speak Mallorquin here of course.  

Top Tip:

Don't tell someone from Mallorca that Mallorquin and Catalan are basically the same.

They might get the hump, and rightly so. It's much more different than I previously thought and I have trouble eavesdropping when they're speaking quickly to each other. Luckily for me and my husband Spanish seems more common where we are and we're settling in happily. 

I'm sorry London, I'm not missing you yet. I have a supply of Yorkshire Tea in my cupboard and my parents are coming over to visit in 10 days. My plan is to spend the week trying to convince them to move over to the island. 

Failing that, I might have to chuck their passports in the sea.... ahem, I mean, recycling bin. I'll let you know how that goes down with them!


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

6 Beauty Spots in Mallorca and 1 Ugly Problem

There are so many 'firsts' when you move country. The first piece of real post (thanks Gramma!), the first new friend you meet, the first piece of paid work. This week we had our first friend come to stay.

We rented a car and set off across the island and soon our jaws were dropping at just how beautiful it was. Here are the best bits...  

1. Lookout at Cabo de Formentor




2.  Sunset at Cap de Formentor 




3. View of Playa de Formentor  



4. Unnamed Beach in the Cala Blava area





5. Cala Pi 



6.  Rockpools at Es Raco de S' Arena





 And the 1 UGLY PROBLEM?

7. PLASTIC!




I spent a very happy half an hour exploring the rock pools of Es Raco de S'Arena - which at first glance seemed so clean. But when I looked closely I found so many tiny flakes of plastic, as well as balloons, and bigger pieces like plastic bags and bottles. There was even a can of furniture polish, that judging by the Arabic writing might well have floated all the way over from Africa! 

It's such a tragedy that we are so careless in our disposal of waste. Even though there are recycling containers everywhere in Spain, so many people just can't seem to be bothered to separate their rubbish. I feel strongly that we could be doing better - and it starts with the little decisions. 

Can we buy products with less packaging? 
Could we be recycling more? 
Is it really worth buying our children balloons at the cost of marine life suffering? 

If we don't take more care of our world, I worry these beautiful places won't stay beautiful for much longer!