#104 Coping with cats


While clearly adorable, cats do make life more interesting and sometimes more challenging for the people they own.

In a recent post, I shared the obsession  that one the cats who has shared ownership over me had developed with my bow tie. I can now report that this activity has reached olympic sport levels where every day I hide the bow tie in different, seemingly secure, location and Cat finds it, liberates it from its captivity and drags it to his food bowl. For example, yesterday I left it in a zipped bag and somehow Cat managed to unzip the bag and retrieve the tie. Hiding it in a cupboard no longer works as this only results in a lot of annoying cat related cupboard scratching.

I tried giving up and leaving it in his bowl but he brought it back for me to hide again. It was damp.

One of Cat’s other obsessions is drinking water, not from the expensive water filter we bought, from the tap. The other cat who owns the house, Kit, has decided to join him so that now both of them drink at the sink making ablutions more difficult and subject to lengthy delays.


When he isn’t finding bow ties or drinking out of taps, he’s trying to sit on my laptop. The laptop in the photo died, I think it was due to the volume of hair which had slipped through the keyboard and clogged up the inside.

Such is life with cats. They entertain and they’re an excellent distraction from writing.

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#103 Sitting around while they cut down the Amazon

bird s eye view of woodpile

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

This week, the BBC reported that heavily armed miners had invaded a remote indigenous reserve in the North of Brazil and stabbed one of its leaders to death. The tensions in the Amazon region have heightened after the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has stated that he is against the reserves and has vowed to open some of them to miners. He says the reserves are too large and his critics have accused him of encouraging the violence. He announced his intention to forcibly integrate indigenous peoples and said it was “a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated the Indians”.

The news comes just days after The Guardian newspaper reported that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has surged above three football fields a minute, according to the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe). Bolsonaro criticised the NGO for publishing the data saying that it “prejudices” the country complaining that he should be able to review the data before it is released so that he doesn’t get caught with his pants down. July was the first month for several years in which Brazil lost an area of forest bigger than Greater London.

According to The Guardian article, during a recent G20 meeting, Bolsonaro told the German chancellor Angela Merkel that she had no right to criticise because Brazil’s conservation record was superior to that of Europe’s. This is a dubious claim, according to Climate Observatory, which cites World Bank data that shows Germany has given protected status to a bigger share of its land than Brazil.

The ex-coordinator of the Brazilian Forum of Climate Change, Alfredo Sirkis, has said that President Bolsonaro is stimulating environmental crime, saying that Bolsonaro’s words are like viagra to those deforesting the Amazon. And this in the same week when the BBC reported that the speed and extent of current global warming exceeds any similar event in the past 2,000 years.

A petition to the UK Parliament is calling for the EU & UN to impose sanctions on Brazil unless it halts increased deforestation of the Amazon. It says: “The government of Brazil led by Bolsonaro favour the development of the Amazon rainforest over conservation, escalating deforestation. Deforestation threatens indigenous populations who live in the forest, loss of a precious and complex ecosystem and a vital carbon store that slows global warming. Indigenous people have called for the EU to impose trade sanctions on Brazil to halt the deforestation because they fear genocide. Also, the UK parliament has recognised a climate emergency. Since the Amazon rainforest is an important carbon store, absorbing huge volumes of CO2 each year, it’s deforestation is of global significance. The intrinsic value of the rainforest should also be recognised.
Trade sanctions are used elsewhere for important issues as an effective means to force action.”





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#102 Choosing book covers for a series

cover options 1000 x 754

One of the most important aspects of marketing a book is the cover but before the cover is designed, the blurb must be written.

Writing a couple of hundred words for a blurb is a completely different skill than those required for writing an 80,000 word novel so it’s no surprise that so many independent authors struggle with the task.

This was my attempt for Living with the Headless Mule:

A car crash and an encounter with a priest turns Teresa’s reunion with her daughter into a life changing struggle.

Teresa is a drink dependent, middle aged Brazilian who just wants to be reunited with her daughter but her ex-husband’s accidental death leads to a fight for custody of their child.

Bob is a pastor with secrets. He makes Teresa an offer which seems too good to refuse until the truth about him is revealed. Teresa must choose between her daughter, the pastor, or her life.

Book two in the Teresa Da Silva series,  Living with the Headless Mule is an occassionally spicy psychological suspense novel which can be read before or after M J Dees’ debut novel, Living with Saci, for which this is a prequel/sequel.

The next step is for my cover designer, Jackie from Salt & Unicorns to create cover illustrations based on aspects of the story.

Here are the three concepts which I shared with the members of my email list to choose their favourite.


The London Eye option was the most popular but there still remains the issue of the font which will need to work with both of the current books in the series.

If you would like to help me choose the font you can do so by completing this short form.


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#101 Putting shelves up


Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I have recently moved house again, hopefully for the last time in a while.  The move was almost three months ago and yet most of my clothes are still in suitcases and many of my other belongings still in boxes.

However, this week we managed to make a major leap forward when we got a guy from the insurance company round to put some shelves up.  Now, I know what you are thinking, you are thinking: ‘What kind of a man are you Dees? To need a stranger from an insurance company to come round and put up a bunch of shelves that you, as a 47, soon to be 48, year old male should be completely capable of putting up their own shelves.’

Well, my answer to you is to stop being so sexist and ageist. There is absolutely no reason why a woman of my age or indeed a person of any gender of any age above, let’s say, 13 shouldn’t be able to knock up a few shelves with the right tools.

And therein lies the problem. I am well aware of the old adage ‘a bad workman blames his tools’, and it is true I do have a spirit level, screwdriver and drill, however, the problem is this: Our apartment building seems to have been constructed with a material not of this world.

Whatever intergalactic space travellers descended to earth and constructed our building seem to have used a material so durable and impenetrable that even the insurance man with his industrial mega blaster state of the art f**k off drill managed to break one of his bits (if you know what I mean). Never in his long career of drilling small holes in walls had he encountered a wall so impervious to being drilled into.

The poor bugger must have spent an hour and a half putting up nine shelves, most of which were simply to facilitate the cats having a better view of the street in front but some of which were to house my growing collection of the world’s greatest, and some of its worst, literature.

With my library now in place, I have been able to recommence my occasional readings of my own body of work. You can hear me reading sections from all of my books on my YouTube channel here. Happy listening.

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#100 Writing a blog


It seemed apt that the 100th post on my blog should be about writing a blog and what better way to celebrate than by taking a tour of the most popular posts of the last five years.

Although we are not even half way throigh 2019, the most popular post of this years looks set to be the most popular post of all time. It’s a recent post of me complaining about my cat hiding my bow tie.

The cat post has already had twice as many views as the second most popular post of this year, a post encouraging readers to not sweat the small stuff. This post was just as popular as the one informing readers that I was moving house (again).

A post that I imagined would have been more popular than those above was a post that had been very popular on my previous blog, Our Man in Sao Paulo, which still receives a steady numbers of views. It’s a post about the ten best things about Sao Paulo.

Last year, the most popular post was one in which I described the process of preparing a book for launch.  This was followed in popularity by a post wondering what will happen when the world’s resources become scarce, the subject of my third novel, WHEN THE WELL RUNS DRY. Just as popular was a post about testing Amazon giveaways.

The most popular posts in 2017 were a post about the re-writing process and onecabout getting stuck in Zurich for three days during which time I chose the cover for my first novel, LIVING WITH SACI.

The most popular post in 2016 was about getting my first rejection letter from an agent followed by one about getting married. And finally, the most popular post of 2015, when the blog began, was, appropriately, starting a blog.

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#99 General strike in Brazil.

images (1)

Yesterday, there was a general strike in Brazil which meant that the metro wasn’t running and I couldn’t get into school to teach the children how to be dramatic.

The primary reason for the strike was the reform of the pension laws which is currently being discussed in the Brazilian congress, however, many Brazilians are also unhappy about budget cuts, the economy and the agenda of Jair Bolsonaro’s government.

The pension reform would raise the retirement age of men to 65 and women to 62. Students and teachers are also unhappy about the government’s plans to take $1.85 million from the public education budget at a time when spending more on education would seem the long term solution to many of Brazil’s problems including crime and poverty. The government has promised more money for education but it is dependent on the passing of the pension reform.

Many are unhappy about the Brazilian economy, the Washington Post writes that: “Gross domestic product shrank in the first quarter of 2019, while inflation hit nearly 5% in April, the highest in more than two years. Unemployment also remains high at nearly 13%, but even greater —over 30%— among Brazilians aged 18 to 24. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes recently told Brazilian magazine Veja that he would quit his position if Congress tried to pass a watered-down version of his pension proposal. Without the reform, Guedes said the country could go broke as early as next year.”


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#98 Hiding bow ties from cats


My day is meant to begin at 05:45 when my alarm is set to go off but more often than not I am woken earlier by one of the cats who obviously feels that 05:45 is far too much of a sleep-in and that attention is required at least 25 minutes earlier than that.

I generally try to pacify said cat with a couple of strokes and it is usually satisfied with sitting on my wife’s head until the alarm goes off.

At 05:45 it is time to officially drag myself out of bed, load and switch on the coffee machine, feed the cats and head for the bathroom where I will find one of the cats already waiting for me to turn on the tap as it prefers this method of drinking to his boring water bowl/filter/waterfall which cost a small fortune.

This morning I was awoken at 4 am by the sound of metal scraping. One of the cats was trying to drag my trousers out of the room and the belt buckle was scraping on the laminate floor.

His interest was not in my trousers specifically but rather in the bow tie I had hidden from him in my trouser pocket. I had not come back from an oscar ceremony, nor do I dress up to write my books, during the day I work as a drama teacher in a local international school and my tweed bow tie is part of my eccentric drama teacher costume/uniform.

Cat, for that is his name, has taken a liking to my bow tie, fishing it out of my jacket pocket and dragging it off to his food bowl where he positions it in the perfect position for it to watch him eat.

He has even developed the ability to undo the zip on my bag and remove the bow tie from a hiding place I had thought was impenetrable.

When I came home this evening he presented the bow tie on the floor in front of me to demonstrate he had liberated it from my jacket before dragging it off to his food for it to watch him eat.

We have just moved so previously cupboards were not an option but even then I wouldn’t underestimate his ability to retrieve the tie from a closed wardrobe.

If anyone has any handy tips for hiding bow ties from cats, please let me know.


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