How to be Dead: A book series by Dave Turner

‘In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?’ – Rainer Maria Rilke

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I’m not a natural when it comes to reading, I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can read, i just don’t enjoy it as much as some people seem to. I’m jealous of people who can curl up on a rainy weekend and get lost in a book (ahem Ang, Bev & Ruth), for me it’s binge watching old series of The Challenge! However I did get right into Dave Turner’s How to Be Dead series of novellas (nice and short, kept my attention span!) and now I feel the world needs to know about them!

Dave actually caught my attention on Twitter (it was the naked selfies he used to post back when there were no decency filters – fnar, fnar) – he started a parody  twitter account called @itsdeath which was based around Death as a character (called Steve – obviously) think of that scene from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey when Death follows the old lady round the supermarket and you’re along the right lines.

PhotoGrid_1494753375093It doesn’t hurt that Mr Turner (right) and my hubby Dave, could have been separated at birth!

All the best comedians have the ability to make the strangest subjects seems funny. Tom Stade does a hilarious skit about market meat vans for example. And being a chronic over thinker with previously diagnosed medical hypochondria there’s nothing less funny to me than death. Dave put a face to my worse nightmare and suddenly Steve Death was someone I no longer feared but was someone I wanted to share a bottle of Pinot Grigio with. I also found myself sympathising with him, he would often complain about getting bogged down with paperwork and bureaucracy, when all he wanted to do was get on with his job. He also loves a chocolate biscuit.

So from the Twitter account came the novels, after a small kickstarter campaign (which I proudly sponsored myself) the adventures a Steve, his assistant Anne and reluctant hero, ordinary man (also called Dave) were born. Of course the great thing about social media these days is when you’re planning on a writing a blog about your favourite author, you can reach out to them in the vague hope they may wish to contribute. So, seeing as Dave himself can tell his story was more articulately and funny than I ever could, here he is:

I’d like to say that I had a five-year publishing master plan from the start, but really I started a Twitter account as Death because I was bored in a dull office job.

An outsider looking in would be a good way to make jokes about the human condition, I thought. He’d be bored, befuddled and have an odd sense of humour after hanging around us for so long. People liked it. It was also a very convenient way of making observations that I wouldn’t make myself.

Then I decided I should do something with those jokes. I had an idea for a series of 3 novellas telling the story of Death and the problems he had trying to sort out the undead. “I’ll bash them out over the course of a year,” I thought. “It’ll be a nice little project to keep me out of trouble.”

Four years later, I published the last part of that story. It all started easy enough writing the first novella. It was called How To Be Dead (after a Snow Patrol song). People really liked it. That made me very happy. “I should probably write the second one,” I thought.

Then I was diagnosed with a seriously massive heart condition. You know when a footballer drops dead on the football pitch? That’s the bad boy I’ve got. There were hospital visits. Medication. Implants. Wires stuck into my heart. But I’m now technically a cyborg. Which is actually the childhood dream come true.

I’ll be honest, there were grim days contemplating my own mortality. What would my wife and kids do if I wasn’t around tomorrow? Who’d remove the Billy Joel albums off my iPhone before people discovered them?

Then I thought, “Hang on. I’m writing comedy books about death. I can probably use this.”This may go some way to explaining the number of Billy Joel jokes in the books.

When you stare in to the Abyss, sometimes the Abyss stares back. So you wave to the Abyss. Then you realise the Abyss was actually staring at something over your shoulder and it all gets a little bit awkward. And then you just bloody well get on with it.

An agent got in touch to say that he loved the first novella and did I want to turn it into a novel and be represented by him? “Yes! Of course!” I said. So I signed with the agency with ideas that I would be An Important Novelist. And I wrote a novel. Which I wasn’t

completely happy with. Then the agent decided he didn’t want to be agent anymore.

So I was left agent-less and holding a novel I didn’t knowwhat to do with. So I decided that since I’d had an idea for 3 novellas, I’d better start the second one. That was called Paper Cuts (after songs by Nirvana and The Boy Least Likely To). People seemed to like that a bit more than the first one. “I’d better write a third one,” I thought. So I did.

It’s called Old Haunts (after a song by The Gaslight Anthem).

After I’d dragged a story that’s been banging around my head for half a decade kicking and screaming into the world, I didn’t know what to do next. So I’m writing a fourth story. Simple as that.

Writing. It’s basically about just bloody well getting on with it

I’ve read all 3 books (twice now) and I change my mind every time about which one is my favourite. How To Be Dead is all Steve Death, and that’s what I loved so much about the twitter account, you can see him sitting in his office on Crow Road in London rolling his eyes and talking about the good old days.

In Paper Cuts the story is developed more and we’re introduced to Deaths old mates (the other 3 horsemen of the apocolypse – naturally) who also have their own personalities. The banter between the 4 of them is hilarious and reminds me of my own Dave and his 3 best mates (I won’t go into who i think is who though!)

And I love, love, love Old Haunts. Mostly I think because you learn a bit more about Anne, Death’s loyal PA and how she  came to be Steve’s loyal sidekick. Having worked as a PA myself for doctors, surgeons and professors in the past, working with people who believe the fate of mankind lies solely in their hands is something I can relate to.

Oh, there’s also so zombies and suicide cults thrown in there for good measure too! If you’re looking for something to read this summer, the HTBD series won’t disappoint. All i’M waiting for now is for it to be turned into a TV series then I need never read another book again!

My favourite quote from the series:

Dave: Some people say dreams are visions that you can predict the future or see into the past
Death: Yeah well some people say that a rich tea is a good biscuit. People are stupid

You can buy all three books here

And find out more about Dave here:

Twitter: @MrDaveTurner

Instagram: @MrDaveTurner

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mrdaveturner/

How I Created My Own Burger with the Fat Hippo

At the base level, a burger is a piece of meat and a bun with something on it. It’s simple but it seems to make a lot of people happy’ – Danny Meyer

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Way back in August last year I sent this tweet to Newcastle Burger joint The Fat Hippo:

Little did I know that this little tweet would eventually lead to quite possibly the greatest achievement of my life (no exaggeration – I haven’t achieved much in my 33 years).

I love ‘brand bantz’ on social media; when companies or businesses interact with their followers. And in the interests of ‘shy bairns get nowt’ what followed was what I would like to call ‘gentle persuasion’ but I’m sure the HF guys would call ‘annoying badgering’ with a few further tweets every now and again just reminding them of my, let’s be honest genius idea of adding Marmite (the foodstuff of gods) to a burger.

 

Then my lovely Twitter friend Katie (@Ladyfromatramp) got involved with her genius name suggestion of the Knuckle Tattoo and this whole thing really started to build up speed.

Skip forward a few more dozen tweets which went pretty much along the same lines, all our ear bending seemed to have finally ground the burger gurus down and they let us know they making the Love/Hate Burger to add to their Valentines menu. Turns out even Marmite themselves wanted a piece of the action too and hopped on board to aide the creation!

Every foody’s dream isn’t it?

The Love/Hate Burger launches today and is available all throughout Valentines Week (8th – 14th Feb). It contains 2 juicy beef patties, monterey jack cheese and our very own marmite baconnaise.

If you fancy giving the burger a try at either of the Fat Hippo branches, please make sure you use the hashtag #KHFHLH (Katie & Helen’s Fat Hippo Love Hate)

We already have our thinking caps on to challenge the chefs once more!

 

When Does Debate Become Trolling?

‘Now don’t be offended this is all my opinion ain’t nothing that I’m saying law’ – India Irie

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I love to debate but I hate to argue. The problem is, one inevitably follows the other, especially if you happen to be in the pub or alcohol is somehow involved. It’s easier face to face though, you can smile and laugh and playfully shove each other to show you’re joking. Not the same story when it happens on Facebook though as I’ve found out a few times over the last couple of months.

I truly believe that one of social media’s advantages is being able to engage in lively debate with your friends (or even strangers sometimes) as it opens you up to a world of people whose thoughts and opinions you may have never otherwise come across. I believe that healthy debate and discussion is a great way to expand your mind and learn, in a way that is less scholastic than reading a news article or text book. I find social media particularly engaging as the language is often much more easily digestible. I love to read a good debate on twitter on Facebook, especially when there are ‘hot topics’ floating around (such as the recent general election) and I genuinely gain a lot of knowledge from reading other people’s viewpoints.

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I also truly believe that if you’re going to come out on a social platform with a sweeping statement or opinion about something potentially controversial (politics, religion and children seem to be the biggest fire starters) then you have to be prepared for someone to disagree. And to me, it’s how you handle that challenge of opinion that dictates whether you’re having an adult debate or whether you’re venturing into troll territory.

I have great discussions with my nearest and dearest about whether the interactions I’ve had on line recently could be classed as trolling. Some think so, as they were debates where there has seemingly been no point in continuing a discussion when neither parties are going to back down or come round to the others way of thinking. I tend to disagree, I would never seek something or say something with the sole purpose of starting an argument, my intention will always be to show ‘a different side of the coin’ but as I say, written down in black and white, meaning is often lost and you invariably end up offending someone. I’ll give you a couple of examples and you can make up your own mind:

Example 1:
Last summer Mumsnet posted a meme with the classic Athena style ‘man holding a baby’ sepia imagine and scrolled across the top was ‘As a parent, I achieve more in 7 minutes than most people do all day’. I would try and find the said meme but the very thought if it still makes me so angry my blood boils to a temperature that would be classed as medically unsafe. Anyway, this did the rounds on my wall multiple times throughout the course of the weekend and I’d had enough. I posted what I thought was an innocent comment pointing out that although I’m sure mums and dads do work very hard, that doesn’t mean us childless contingent don’t. I think what I actually said was something like ‘just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I sit around all day drinking wine and picking my nose’ I even followed it up with some winky faces and a couple of kisses to prove I was just being daft. Oh how wrong I was. The barrage of abuse that followed would make Katie Hopkins wince (the fact that my profile picture at the time was me drinking straight out of a bottle of wine didn’t exactly help my cause I must admit). I had poked a stick at the wrong bear and was tore a proverbial new one. I was called all sorts from ignorant, to stupid, to lazy, someone even took the time to look through all my previous profile pictures and comment on my appearance and weight.

I mean, I get that having children is hard, and I don’t have them so perhaps the bigger issue is that people feel I’m unqualified to comment, but I loathe the attitude that just because you’ve managed to bear life, it somehow makes you superhuman. And just to be perfectly clear, all my friends and family that have children are brilliant parents, and have adapted to the parent/pre-parent life balance brilliantly.It’s a very small section of the population that I’ve come across that seem to have this attitude and it’s this small section that felt the need to gang up on me and personally insult me.

1384385_10153398023625296_958118039_nThe offending profile picture that started the abuse!

Example 2:
A friend of mine posted a link to an article which was championing essential oils as medical treatment and was commenting on her disbelief that anyone would believe that as reliable medical advice. One girl then commented on her beliefs on essential oils and how she knows someone who knows someone who has a dog who’s married to someone who used essential oils and it cured her cancer. I commented (among many many other people) that I felt her argument to be paper thin at best and that she (and the original article posted) ought to be careful giving out advice they’re not medically qualified to give. Once again, I’m ignorant, I’m small minded, she knows more than me etc. I will hold my hands up and say in this instance, I may have made some snarky comments back, it’s hard when you’re trying to make a valid point, to keep your cool when someone if just throwing insults at you. And that was wrong of me, I get a black mark for that.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there for the sake of my own blood pressure.

Wikipedia describes an Internet Troll as

‘a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion’

I don’t think anything that I said above would fall in that category (of course, I would say that, it’s me and I’m bias) In both those examples, I could have prevented them. I could have not said anything, not rocked the boat, not offered an opinion. I accept some responsibility that I perhaps should learn to pick my battles a little more carefully and know my audience. However I feel that the torrent of abuse I got back was not warranted against the statements I made. In fact, in the case of the first example, it was downright nasty.

I never insulted anyone personally, there were no low blows, I didn’t call anyone a bad parent or a tree hugging, magic bean believing hippy. The word that bugs me the most and which seems to be most people’s go to insult in these situations is ‘closed minded’. No, I’m not closed minded, I just don’t agree with you. Massive difference.

So what have I learnt from my little tete a tetes on social media recently? Well, it hasn’t put me off expressing an opinion, after all, I think people, and thoughts and feelings is what makes the world go round. It has made me perhaps be a little more cautious about what I say and to whom and I would never want anything I say to be taken as gospel or cause offence.

My advice would be know your audience. If you’re the one Newcastle fan wading into to a discussion with 100 Mackems, chances are you’re not going to win. Safety in numbers is the name of the game and logic and compromise will go straight out the window – you won’t win. Pick your battles; ask yourself what you’re really hoping to gain. If you disagree with what someone is saying try and back up what you’re saying with fact. Avoid insults and low blows at all costs, remember there’s a person at the other end of that keyboard. Be nice to each other, in the same way you believe what you’re saying, they believe what they are, be respectful.

And please please, whatever you do, don’t piss off Mumsnet*!!

*only kidding Mumsnet, love all that you are!

The Bird Is The Word: My 6 Years on Twitter

We’re on Twitter with one side of our personality, and Facebook with another, and LinkedIn with another side of our personality, and we’re toggling between them. That’s just a version of what an impostor does: shifting from one side of their personality to another with lightning speed’ – Walter Kirn

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I joined Twitter on 10 May 2009, this was my first tweet:

Since then I have tweeted 17.4K times under 7 different twitter handles . I love twitter way more than Facebook because it suits my short attention span. Info you get is in reel time and limited to 140 characters so no massive long rants or albums with 200 pictures in. It’s quick and accessible and easy to ignore anything you don’t want to read or aren’t  interested in. It also gives you access to your favourite celebrities and find out what they like for breakfast.

Here’s what I’ve learnt in my twitter lifetime:

The Follow: Getting a new follower is always excities me. The excitement is usually short lived when I realise that it’s just a marketing bot following me because I tweeted the word ‘diet’ or ‘run’ or a Taylor Swift lyric. I have a rule that I will always follow back apart from these exceptions: 1. You don’t have a profile picture 2. You try and sell me something 3. You tweet quotes from the bible 4. You ask me to follow you

The Unfollow: Followers go up and down more often that a bride’s nightie sometimes and normally it’s the above mentioned spambot who will unfollow me when they realise I’m not following them back. Apps such as ‘Who Unfollowed Me’ are great because you can see (as the name suggests) who unfollowed. What I will never know though is why. If I see someone’s unfollowed me who wasn’t a spambot I often contemplate on whether I may have said something that has offended them. They’re clearly not a fan of 90’s boyband lyrics!

The Retweet: I’ll be honest, I love it if someone retweets me. It’s like a virtual way of someone laughing at your joke or saying they agree with what you’re saying. I like to retweet people too for that reason, it’s a way for me to say ‘look how funny this person I follow is, you should follow them too’ or ‘this verbalised exactly how I feel about X, Y or Z’. Too many retweets can be annoying though, so i try not to do it too often. There’s a theory I’ve heard that people who retweet praise or a celeb tweet (see below) are arrogant or attention seeking. I see the point, but come on, we’re on twitter, if you really were that private a person and all demure, you wouldn’t be on there. Twitter is the home of self indulgence, if someone’s praised you I don’t see any harm in retweeting it if you’re chuffed about it!

The Favourite: A Favourite is a smaller version of a retweet and i’m not a massive fan. I guess it’s for when you like something but not enough to bestow it on to your own followers. I’ve noticed it’s a way of people saying ‘I’ve seen your tweet, i agree, but i’m not responding’ it’s quite pointless in my eyes.

The Hashtag: I use hashtags on a regular basis particularly for my #lyricoftheday which is try and tweet everyday and pick a lyric that will denote how I may be feeling that day or dedicated to someone if it’s their birthday or whatever. I also love a comedy hashtag, or when hastags go wrong (for a brilliant example of this google #susanalbumparty)

The Trending Topic: LOVE things that trend they can be the most random thing ever or major news stories depending on whats happening in the world. I found out that Michael Jackson had died through what was trending on twitter (US News seemed to pick it up first since it was late in the UK when it happened).

The Celebrity Tweet: Following celebrities is one of the main reasons i’m on twitter. I’m not a fan of celebrity twitter accounts that are run by their PR people and just endorse their latest movie, album, TV etc (I’m looking at you DiCaprio) I want them to tweet for themselves, I want to know what they drink at starbucks or that they’re obsessed with Made in Chelsea as well! A celebrity feud are also brilliant entertainment (for examples of these, following Katie Hopkins @KTHopkins is a must!) I’ve even gotten into a few twitter spats myself (don’t piss off the Directioners or anyone affiliated with Mumsnet would be my advice!)

More than anything thought it makes celebrities more accessible and I’ve been lucky enough to have some tweets from celebrities my self and after digging around in my twitter archive have been able to find some:

Kimberly Wyatt (former Pussycat Doll) after I sent her a picture of my limited gymnastic ability!

Kim Wyatt2Kim Wyatt

That brief 24 hours when ex Newcastle United player Rob Lee followed me:

roblee

Huey Morgan from Fun Lovin Criminals:

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Comedian Adam Hills:

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What is now known as ‘Mick Quinn Gate’ in my family after the ex Newcastle United star retweeted me and I got a barge of witty responses:

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And most recently, UK rapper Sway:

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I’ve actually made some quite good friends through twitter, it’s a good place to find people with similar interests as you and have a banter about you’re favourite music or TV shows, it’s also enabled me to reconnect with old friends from school and stay in contact with friends who don’t live near me so for me, it’s the perfect social networking tool. Here’s to the next 17.4K!