Monday, 31 December 2012

Reflections on 2012

I could write the same blog post at the beginning of each New Year, in fact here are my words from early January 2012.
I'm going to be more focussed on my writing, I'm going to declutter my house, get my life organised, lose weight and get fit.

So this year, whilst my intentions are the same, I'm simply going to say that I want to think of a way to make more use of my time. I'm either going to have to stop watching telly, stop sleeping or find some other way to find ways of being more productive. I know I run the risk of the same blog post in 2013 but I really hope not.

Be careful your words might come back and bit you on the bum.
So, have I been more focussed on my writing?

Well, I’ve tried but I’m not sure I have achieved much, certainly not in the way of publication, so this year I need to try and be even more focussed.
Have I decluttered the house?

Well, actually, I have made some progress, but not nearly as much as I wanted to.  There is still plenty of room for improvement, so this is still on the list.
Have I got my life organised?

I wish!
Lost weight or kept fit?

In many ways, my life has not changed fundamentally since the beginning of the year, except in one way. 

I was made redundant.
This is a good thing.  I keep telling myself anyway.  This is my chance.  My opportunity.  To work for myself and also to make the writing work.

So, what are my resolutions for 2013?  Simply to make some money independently.  To be my own boss.  To be my own success story.  2013 really needs to be the year I focus, focus, focus.
Oh, and by the way, I need to declutter my house, get my life organised, lose weight and get fit.

Ho hum.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Wolf Hall - The Verdict

Well, I persevered with Wolf Hall, and I did eventually finish it, but I can’t say that reading it was a pleasure.  In fact it was definitely more of a chore, 650 pages later though, and at least I can say that I got to the end.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy parts of it, and I did get an insight into Cromwell and his rise to power in the reign of Henry VIII, but I didn't find it an absorbing read.  It certainly wasn't unputdownable as some of the reviews suggested. Like I said before, perhaps I’m just not literary enough.  I don’t think I’ll bother with the sequel, although I have downloaded a sample, so I might give that a go and see if I get on with that any better.  Although not for a while.
I got so bogged down with the book that I had to take a break from it for a while, and so in between I read Carole Matthews’ book, With Love At Christmas.


I read her previous book, Summer Daydreams and thoroughly enjoyed it. The first chapter of With Love At Christmas was in the back of the book and I loved it too. Just goes to show what a good marketing technique this is as I couldn’t wait to get this book. I thought it would help me get into the Christmas spirit in the run up, and it certainly did that. In my eyes, Carole Matthews never fails to disappoint.

It is the story of Juliet, a working mum with a grown up family.  Like a lot of women these days, Juliet belongs to the sandwich generation.  Not only do her grown up children seem incapable of looking after themselves, her daughter is also relying on her for child care. To say that they are spoilt is a understatement and actually, this was the only thing about the book I didn’t like. I wanted to shake her and tell her to make the kids stand on their own two feet, but Juliet was too nice for that. 
She also had to contend with her own parents, a father who was grieving and a mother seemingly slipping into dementia.  But all through this Juliet’s love for them all, as well as her love of Christmas makes her a, truly charming character. 

But as understanding as he is, can her husband put up with being continually last on her list?  You’ll have to read the book to find out. It’s a truly cracking Christmas read. 
I can’t wait to download her new book, A Cottage by the Sea, which is due out on 3 January.

And while we’re on reviews, one of my Christmas books was Jenny Colgan’s, Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams – yes it was one of the ones I chose myself.  I’m only part way in but I’m loving it too.
If you have any Christmas books to read, I hope you’re enjoying them too.

Happy reading.

Friday, 28 December 2012

'Tis The Season

Forgive me blog followers for not wishing you a Merry Christmas in advance of the season, I meant to, honest I did, but, as ever, events ran away from me. 
I was trying to be extra organised this year, and was doing quite well, until I managed to scratch my eye taking out a contact lens and had to spend a day in bed because I couldn’t open it.  For several days it was very sore and swollen and even attempting to look at a screen or the printed word was a complete no no.
It all seems to be better now, thankfully, although I haven’t attempted to put my lenses back in since and have been wearing my glasses which I hate.  Still, it’s a small in convenience compared to earlier in the week, and it’s made me realise just quite how much we take things for granted.
I always go a bit mad at Christmas and try and prepare everything myself, so Christmas Eve, saw me making pate, mince pies, cheese sauce and the list goes on.  By the time evening came round I was so tired that I wanted to cry. Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through it, when I’m sure everyone else would be just as happy with something picked up from a supermarket.  I suppose it’s my equivalent of a medieval hair shirt. 
I do enjoy cooking though, I just wish I could pace myself a bit better.  Now we have a glut of food in the fridge that no one seems to want to eat.  Still I suppose that’s all the fun of the season.  The diet will have to start when the mince pies are gone!
Although it was just the four of us for Christmas day, it was still hectic early on.  Now the boys are a bit older I thought that the present opening might not be as much fun but, if anything, it was the opposite. They were so excited by their presents that it was a joy to watch and justified, almost, all that trudging round the shops and searching websites.
I didn’t do too badly myself, although I actually picked some things for myself because it’s the only way to get want I want.  I did get a furry new hat for my winter walks though, so that was great, and I received a brilliant book on Charles Dickens from a friend of mine and an Amazon voucher from my mum, which I am really going to enjoy spending.
The day followed the usual church, then a drink with friends before going home to finish off the dinner.  After dinner is my favourite part of the day, sitting down with a glass of wine and the Christmas TV.  Christmas day telly was brilliant, although I was horrified by the ending of Downton. (I won’t reveal in case you haven’t watched it, although I imagine that by now all fans will be in the know). How sad, but then part of the programme’s success is down to the brilliant writing and the many twists and turns in the storylines.
On Boxing Day my family came to visit which was lovely, but more cooking, so I am now relieved to be having a few days down time just to chill.  My eight year old did a star turn by developing a sudden and unexpected passion for washing up.  It only lasted for one day but it was nice while it lasted.
I love the days between Christmas and New Year the best, but the weather isn’t exactly making me want to go outside, so the boys are going a bit stir crazy.  Playing board games and doing jigsaws just isn’t the same for dispelling their energy levels as a good run around.
For now though, I’m happy to catch up on my reading and start planning my next writing projects, when I’m not refereeing that is.
I hope that whatever you are doing you are managing to get some ‘me’ time in.  Everyone deserves that at this time of year.
Take care!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Here's One I Prepared Earlier

By the way, I forgot to mention, I did complete NaNoWriMo.  In the end I was so fed up with my writing that at 45,000 words I sat down and refused to come off the computer until it was finished.  It was a bit of a slog, but an amazing sense of satisfaction.

Whether I'll ever by able to bash it into something that is a coherent piece of writing is another matter.  The trouble with writing to this deadline means that sometimes you write a lot of rubbish and waffle just to get your  word count for the day.  And I have to admit that my plot changed as I wrote, so the end story probably doesn't match up to the story I started at the beginning.
But anyway.  It's done. I have 50,000 words that I didn't have at the beginning of the month, and may be one day I'll be able to do something with it.

Now, I'm off to have a look at the novel I had critiqued by the RNA in the summer, it's been sleeping for too long in my desk drawer and it's time for it to get some exercise.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Wolf Hall

I don't know about you, but I have a list of books I want to read and a list of books I feel I should read.

Wolf Hall has been at the top of the second pile for, well, actually it seems like forever.

But it's such a big book that its one I didn't want to have to cart around with me, so I've been putting it off.

It's been jeering at me from the top of the pile, even more so since Hilary Mantell won a second Booker prize for its sequel.

So, finally, I decided to take the plunge.

Wolf Hall is set during Henry VIII's reign in the period where he was trying to get his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annuled so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. It's a period of history I'm particularly interested in, so in theory it should be an engaging read.

But I have to confess, I'm struggling. I'm now at page 350 of this 600 page book and it has been an arduous journey. Perhaps I'm not literary enough but I find it hard to follow as it keeps jumping from present to the past and then back again and by the time I've worked out where I am, it's jumped again. The cast of characters is extensive and they too constantly change, or sometimes are called by their actual names and sometimes by the titles the King has given them in his court.

One of my favourite authors is Philippa Gregory and I never have a problem keeping up with her books, set in a similar period (as well as others). In fact I become so engrossed in them I can't put them down. But it's just not happening here, so perhaps its me.

I'm disappointed because I really wanted to like this book and keep hoping that I will get into it; that the second half will be better. But I'm beginning to doubt that it will happen.

Fingers crossed, but I'm determined to get to the end. I've invested so much time in it already, and I don't like being a quitter. But I am looking forward to reading something else. I think I'll chose something a lot lighter for my next read.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Silence Really Is Golden

Over the weekend a friend's children came to stay, a boy aged 11 and a girl of 7. They are lovely, lovely children and at the moment their mum is in hospital and has been for several weeks. My heart went out to them because they are so obviously missing her and needed lots of attention, which I was more than happy to give.

But it's amazing what a difference two extra bodies can make to a house, it seemed to shrink to the size of a matchbox and by the time they left I was exhausted and my ears were buzzing.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, my lovely husband took my eldest to his football and made the youngest go and watch too. After clearing up, I sat down and started to read a copy of Writer's Forum amidst the beautiful sound of silence in my house.

It felt like heaven and really recharged my batteries.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

When You Can Deny It No Longer

Christmas is coming. It's a fact, and one I try to deny every year. Until it creeps up on me and I realise I need to do something about it. Pronto. Sighs.

I don't want to be bah humbug but I can think of a lot more useful things to be doing with my time than trawling around the shops or the internet, looking for things to buy that I can't actually really afford - especially not this year.

And then just when you think you've got it in the bag you think of someone else you need to buy for.

So every year I put it even thinking about it for as long as possible and then get really annoyed by the smug people who, in mid-November, smile and say,

'Oh Christmas shopping, I've finished mine.

Grinds teeth to a fine powder.

So today I'm going to bite the bullet and get started on my Christmas card list. If I can get all the ones I need to post out of the way, I might feel some small sense of satisfaction.

And then I can get on and do something that I actually want to do.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Bad, Bad Blogger

I've been meaning to post for a while now - honest guv! But of course the longer you leave it, the more there is to write, and the longer it will take, so I kept putting it off!
So, what have I been up to?  Well for a start we went away for half term - yeh!  Ten days in Lanzarote.  It was quite a small all-inclusive complex in Costa Teguise, which meant the boys could have a bit more independence, make new friends, and I could read - and yes, write!
I took my trusty Kindle with me, which has been collecting books and free downloads for a while now, and I managed to spend some time idyling in the minds of my favourite authors, while lying in the sun - in October - what more can you ask for? We certainly needed the break I can tell you.

But now it seems like it was a long time ago - even if it was only a few weeks ago - but I've been a busy bunny since I've been back.
Of course there has been the usual post holiday washing and ironing - yuck - although ironing does give me a chance to catch up on all the TV programmes I've recorded - the freeview box was nearly full (ouch).  We also had a 31 October deadline for applying for a high school for my eldest - it was a bit of tricky dilemma.
I've also done a few short story courses recently - one online and one in Leeds last weekend, more of that later, I've done some freelance work and I've signed up for NaNoWriMo.
Readers of this blog will know that I've completed NaNo twice, the challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I didn't do it last year and I really missed it, so I decided to go for it this year, even though I had so much on before and during this month.
Well, I started off really badly, in fact I didn't even start until 3rd November, and I've been playing catch up ever since. There have been days when I haven't been able to write at all and days when I've written a lot, but despite that I was still behind. Yesterday, though, I managed to catch up. The stats on the website are brilliant, and I have to admit to becoming a little obsessed with them. When you update your word count, it averages your daily word count, estimates how many words you will have to write each day to finish on time, what day you will finish if you continue writing at the current speed - I've gone from 6 December to 29 November yeh! And there's even a graph showing where you are and where you need to be! Oh I love it. My aim was to hit the line on the graph and yesterday I did it! I'm now at 28,700 words and one the homeward run, trouble is I'm running out of plot. 30,000 - 40,000 are always the hardest to write so I'll have to hope I come up with some inspiration, otherwise I'll be writing complete nonsense! Who's says I'm not anway.
So, in a nutshell, that's what I've been up to lately. And now that I'm catching up a bit, I'm hoping to be able to blog a bit more frequently - I also need to catch up on the blogs I haven't had chance to read yet as well!
I don't know if any of you remember, but before I went away I found a cat in the road. In the dark it looked as though the cat had had a injury behind it's ear and by the way it was behaving it was obviously not quite right. It turned out that the thing behind the ear was a massive tumour - poor thing. A note that I put up in the local post office, managed to locate the owner, but when they contacted the vet, they decided that the poor thing was too ill to go on and so she was put to sleep. I was saddened to think that the poor little thing is no more, but can only console myself that she is no longer in pain. And it was a much more dignified ending than being hit by a car.
On that note I'll go now, but I'm hoping to be back soon. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

You Just Never Know

One of the frightening things about life is that you never know what's round the corner. Then again, I supose that if you did, it would be even more frightening.

Last week, it was my niece's birthday, she was eleven, the same age as my eldest.  On Sunday my brother and his wife were preparing a family party for her.

My brother took his beloved dog for a walk to the local river where she loved to swim.  She jumped in but couldn't get back out.  My brother jumped in after her, and managed to get her out, but it was too late, even though he tried to resussitate her.

People who don't have pets, don't really understand what a big part of your lives they become.  She was a member of our family and she is going to leave a big hole in our lives.  Particularly my brother.  The words if only are the saddest two words in the English language.

When I got home it was dark, there was a cat sitting in the middle of the road.  It wouldn't move, even when  I got out of the car and tried to shoo it to safety.  It was obviously distressed but even though I eventually managed to get it off the road, it went back on it again.  It looked terrified, was crying, and there was a dark patch by it's ear.  My vet lives nearby so I asked for his advice and then with my husband, managed to get a now very disturbed cat into a cat box and took it to him.  She is now a resident at the vets. She's very old and doesn't has a chip, and although she has a collar there is no tag.  

I've put a poster in the local post office, but apart from that there's nothing I can do, if she's not claimed then she will end up at the RSPCA.  I know alot of the cats in the neighbourhodd by sight but she's not familiar.  I wonder how far she might have travelled.  Is there a family out there, wondering if she will come back but she won't be able to find her way home because she is at the vets, albeit being looked after.  Does anyone know if there is a missing cats website?

In hindsight I wonder if I did the right thing, but I dread to think what might have happened if I'd left her in the road.

So you never know do you?

Sorry to be so downbeat.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Big Declutter

The last few weeks have been rather strange.

Leaving the job I've been at for the last eight years was a poignant experience.  I started there when my youngest was a baby and now he's in junior school - how the time has flown and how much things have changed since I first started.

My redundancy had been looming for so long that I was almost at the stage of just wishing it was over, but everyone gave me a good send off and so I ended up feeling rather sad.

And since then, have I had all the time in the world to get stuck into my wrting?  The short answer is a resounding no.

We go on holiday next week, which I'm really looking forward to - we didn't go away in the summer so we all deserve a good break.  We're off to Lanzarote so I'm hoping for some serious sunshine, swimming and some reading and writing.

But before all that I have to get rid of eight years of clutter.   We have a family of four coming to stay while we are  away, staying on until after we get back, and looking af the house, I was struggling to work out where we were all going to sleep.

We moved into this house eight years ago too - that was a busy year - and since then we have collected all sorts of clutter as the boys have grown and their bedrooms were a disgrace. 

So I spent the whole of last week sifting through lego, plastic toys, marbles, jigsaw pieces and a wool mill full of stray socks under beds.  The bedrooms now look sparkling and woe betide anyone if they mess them up again. 

This week I started on the spare bedroom and tomorrow - wish me luck - its the turn of the kitchen.

I did think that once I finished work I would be able to concentrate on builing up a business and doing some serious writing, but it seems that the house has taken over. 

And that's before I start packing.

I know its only been a week and a half but I don't think I could be a permanant housewife, and I'm hoping all this work now will free me up to do the things I want to do. 

One thing is for sure, once I get settled back after my holiday, I'm going to get myself into a routine.  Because I don't honestly see how writer's can write unless they are in a good routine.  I know this writer can't.

So its going to be a case of learning to switch off housework head and velcro my bum to my desk chair!

Wish me luck.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

No Let Up

You would think that now I have finally finished work, life would be a bit easier but I'm still in catch up mode.

Its been a hectic few weekends what with the "Birthday" and going to Leeds for the weekend.

That was brilliant actually.  My boys support Leeds because they are following in their dad's footsteps who, although Chester born and bred, has supported them since he was young when they were at their best.

When they were little I thought they might be taken the mic out of for following a team that wasn't part of the trend, but now I'm really proud of them, because they are not just following the team who is most popular at the moment.

Because there are only a few supporters in this area though, and no shops selling the kit, it was an uplifiting experience to be walking to the ground with hoards of fellow fans all wearing the same colours. 

We had seats in the family area which was great, and right where most of the action was for a large part of the game so we had a bird's eye view.

And Leeds won, which gave us all a happy feeling.

In the evening we found a World Buffet restaurant to eat in.  To be honest,  I wasn't too impressed at first, it felt a bit like a rugby scrum trying to get your food, but actually it turned out to be really good.  The buffet consisted of Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Sushi, and good old English carvery and practically every food you could possibly think of.  Everyone was catered for without any fuss, and although I'm not a dessert person, the puddings were to die for.

After a drink in the bar we retired to bed and the comfiest bed I have ever slept in.  I would defintiely recommend the Novotel Leeds City Centre hotel. 

The next morning we work up to the 11th birthday - where did that time go?  After a hearty breakfast we visited the Eland Road store to bujy the birthday present - latest kit and then drove home.  Another football match and then tea with friends to celebrate the birthday.

I always worry because I want to make the big day really special, but I think on this occassion we can truly say we did him proud.  And that was before the party.

The week that's followed has been really hectic, but that's the contents of another blog.

I promise to be back shortly.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

For the last eight years I've been working more or less full time but as I mentioned in my last blog, my job finishes at the end of this month.

For a long time now, I feel as though I've been stuck in a rut, but have been unable to change anything because I didn't want to jeopardise a potential redundancy package.

The truth is, I've become comfortable, my life is familiar and on a day to day basis, nothing really challenges me (apart from the moods of my family but that's another story). Part of me is really excited by new challenges but as the time grows closer when I will lose my safety net, part of me is just a little bit scared too.

Last week I had a meeting with a consultant, to give me some advice on setting up as a freelance. This was all part of my redundancy package from my employer, which I think is a real bonus. I've been talking about working for myself for a while now, but this was one of the first real steps towards doing anything about it. At first I was just a little bit nervous, but it actually proved to be a beneficial experience and he is now working on drafting a new CV for me, which I can use as a marketing tool.

The next day was another new experience as I travelled to Southport to go to a Chapter lunch with the RNA. I'd never met any of members before, and I hadn't been to Southport for years either so I didn't even know the area. However, it was a real treat to be travelling by train and I even managed to get some work done on my journey. The lunch was a sit down affair, so it wasn't that easy to mingle, but the people I was sitting beside were lovely and made me feel right at home. To spend an entire day thinking and talking about writing was a novelty.

A novelty which was to be repeated on Friday as I went to the Woman's Weekly Live exhibition in Manchester. Now, this was an event I nearly bottled out of, not because I didn't want to go, but because it would take ages to get to by train - my preferred choice. The obvious thing to do was to drive there as it would take half the time, but I'm absolutely hopeless at driving in places I don't know, especially in cities. Of course I've been to Manchester loads of times, but usually as a passenger, and that's completely different. I have absolutely no sense of direction; it's almost as if that part of my brain is missing. Whenever I have to go to new places around home, ie taking the boys to football pitches that I've never been to before, I usually try and do a dry run first and my lovely husband is very patient with me.

But on Friday I was on my own, so I loaded myself down with directions - perhaps I need to invest in Sat Nav? - and went on my way. The first bit was easy as it was the journey I take to my mum's but the second half was the new bit. But I did it. I did get a little bit lost at one point but found my way out of it and was really pleased with myself. I even managed to get myself back too, not always easy to the do directions backwards. Well not if you're me anyway. It certainly got the adrenaline pumping but it was worth it.

The event had several fiction workshops, which was my reason for going, and was run by Gaynor Davies herself (fiction editor), Della Galton and Jane Wenham-Jones. All three of them were absolutely lovely. The event had an entry fee of £8 but that was for three days. Of the five workshops, you were only supposed to be able to do two per day. Unfortunately I could only go on one day, so I booked myself in for the two I wanted to do most. On Friday though, the workshops weren't fully booked so we were allowed to join the other workshops too which was fantastic.

It was so good to be able to meet Gaynor as she was able to give us an idea of what she is looking for in the short stories she selects. As far as market research goes, you can't get better than that. I think it really shows that Woman's Weekly is committed to giving new writers a chance and now, I just hope I can translate that into my writing and hopefully some sales.

One of the sessions was a one to one which I had with Jane. She was really helpful, and showed me how I could improve the story I had taken with me.

So thank you all ladies, it was a brilliant day and excellent value for money. If Woman's Weekly hold an event near you, I would definitely recommend going.

This week, I'm going to take things a little more quietly. Last week was about challenge, this week is about catching up. On Saturday though the family are off to Leeds. It's my eldest's birthday on Sunday, he will be 11. Where did that time go? He supports Leeds (football) so we're off to the match. Can't wait! But I get to stay the night in a hotel and I am getting used to watching football, it's one thing I get plenty of practice at these days. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

New Beginnings

I've always been rather fond of the month of September - like January although with better weather.  Although I wasn't very fond of school itself, I did enjoy the academic process and being a bit of a paper addict, it was good to have fresh notebooks and a pencil case full of new pens.
Several years on, academia has passed me by but I still look on September as a month to assess where I am in life and a chance to set myself new targets.  (And it does help that the kids have gone back to school - yeh - and I can get back to a weekly routine - even if I'm not looking forward to the football season.)
This year it's even more of a challenge as I am being made redundant at the end of this month.  It's something that has been in the offing for a long time, so I'm not exactly devastated by it.  It is rather sad, as I started the job when my youngest was a baby and he will be nine in January, so it has been a big part of my life. 
But I'm looking on it as an opportunity to change my life.  In this financial climate I never would have left the job of my own accord, but I was getting a bit stuck in a rut and working five days a week left little time to do anything else. 
So, as I have no hope, as yet, of earning a decent living from my writing, I've decided to play to my strenghts and set up my own freelance administration business.  I've been an administrator / PA for more years than I care to remember now, and people have told me that I'm rather good at it, so with the advent of technology, and with smaller companies needing someone to organise them, but not having the resources to employ them, I thought I would do it solo.  I have a couple of potential clients so far, so fingers crossed I will make a success of it. I just need to find a new working routine, combine it with writing, and do it all during the hours of 9-3. 
No time wasting then!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Sean Bean But Not As You Know Him

I must admit I'm enjoying the dramas which have started recently.

Ruth Rendell's Thirteen Steps Down, a physchological thriller based on a man obsessed by the killer John Christie, was chilling and I'm looking forward to the conclusion on Monday.

An old favourtie - Celebrity Masterchef - has returned to brighten up my days, and a host of other cookery programmes have ignited my desire to cook "proper food" again.

Then, of course my guilty pleasure X Factor, is due to start shortly.  I vow every year that I will not get sucked in, and every year I do.  I tend to get bored half way through the live shows, but I love the auditions.  It's the car crash syndrome I suppose.

But I think the jewel in this week's TV crown was definitely Sean Bean in Accused.  Now I've always enjoyed his performances in Lady Chatterley and Sharpe but I can't say I expected to ever see him dressed as a woman.  In this week's episode, written by Jimmy McGovern, Sean plays a transvestite Tracy, who finds herself on the wrong side of the law. I don't think that he made an attractive female - well you wouldn't expect him to, but he did bring a sensitivity to the subject matter which just proves what a fantastic actor he is.

Tracy's male persona, Simon, is as boring as Tracy is flamboyant and that was another surprise.  I never imagined the day when Sean Bean would remind me of Roy Cropper from Corrie.  An excellant programe and performance and I'm looking forward to next Tuesday's episode.

Happy viewing everyone.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

All Over Now

The country seems a quieter place now that the Olympics have ended. Even though they were centred in London, the "vibe" was certainly felt up here in the north.

I'm not the most sporty of people - not even the armchair variety - so my cup wasn't exactly running over with excitement in the run up to the big event, even though I was proud, and a little nervous, that it was being held here.

I have to admit, even though I wasn't glued to the tele - unlike some members of my family (namely youngest son) -  I did enjoy the bits of it I watched, especially the women's football which was a bit of a surprise. I also caught a bit of the tennis and watched Tom Daly achieve his bronze on the edge of my seat. I'm so pleased that he got a medal, and whilst people were hoping he'd get gold, I think the bronze was an amazing achievement and I'm looking forward to seeing him in Rio, when I'm sure he's going to be even better.

The sport I enjoyed most though was the equestrian. Now, I don't understand dressage, so I didn't find that particularly entertaining, but I just loved the three day eventing and the show jumping. I took me back to my teenage days when I was horsey mad, and I have a sudden craving to re-read my old Jilly Coopers.

I'm delighted that Zara did well and that we got two more golds. The show jumping team event had me biting my nails down to my knuckles. I was a bit sad for Nick Skelton though, as it would have been nice for him to get the individual gold. What an amazing person, to have come back from a broken neck, a hip replacement and now due to have an operation on his back, and to ride so well. It just goes to show that people can achieve anything if they put their minds to it.

I've read a few writerly blogs recently, comparing our craft to training for the Olympics. And whilst we may not have the physical endurance and stamina it certainly takes a lot of dedication to get that book or books on the shelves. It's easy to become envious when you see those shiny spines on the bookshelves, just as it might be to see athletes on the podium, but it must be remembered that its the tiny steps which are taken each day which lead the end result. A poignant reminder to keep slogging away.

I'm pleased that the Olympics have gone so well, both from an organisational point of view and that we bagged so many medals. Britain has shown itself in its best light this year, and it's definitely been a year to remember.

But on a more personal level, whilst part of my is sorry that its over, I'm quite pleased to get
some decent drama back on the TV, of the none sporting variety.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Up, Off and Away

Well, by now my RNA New Writers' Scheme script will be winging its way to the reader, courtesy of Royal Mail.

I say winging, but judging by the weight of it, it might be bumping along rather slowly.  I thought I might have to take a second mortgage to post it, but if the critique is anything like last year's, it will be worth it.

I thought I had finished the final edit when I realised it was over the preferred word limit, so rather desperately I went through it again.  In the end I managed to cut 9,000 words to bring it well below the upper level.  I was actually shocked that I managed to cut so much out without affecting the plot, it just goes to show how much of my writing is superfluous. It taught me alot and made me aware of words I repeat which just aren't necessary.

I'm sure the novel is still too long for the market, but I'm hoping the critique will show me where it could be reduced.

I do feel that at the moment it is the best that it can be but will obviously reflect on this later, when I have the critique in my hot little hands, and have let it rest for a while.

For now though, I'm catching up on my reading and then it's back to writing some new short stories.  I've had a few rejected recently, so I'll have a look at those, see if they can be recycled and then start writing again.  I'm looking forward to doing some writing rather than constant editing and I'm also looking forward to writing some shorter pieces of work.

But for this weekend, I think I'll just enjoy the sunshine and hope that it lasts for as long as possible.

Have a good weekend everyone.


Monday, 16 July 2012

Wallowing Through Treacle

This just about sums my life up at the moment. Whatever I do seems like two steps forward and one step back. And that's before the children break up for the summer holidays. Experience tells me it's only going to get worse. All routine will go out of the window and I won't be able to find much head space to write.

And write I must because I really need to send off my NWS manuscript within the next month and I feel that it's nowhere near finished.

I have this increasing urge to run away from my life, find a country cottage or a log cabin somewhere, deny internet access, turn off the mobile and become a hermit.

Of course, this is all just wistful thinking because there is absolutely no chance of escape - or even getting away for the weekend without my family.

So I need to find solutions not problems. I've downloaded Peter Jones' book - How To Do Everything and Be Happy. Now I just need to find the time to read it.

Take Care

PS - Must stop downloading Kindle books - the ever increasing to be read pile - both physical and digital is just adding to the stress levels!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Books, books, books

Hi all

Yes, there's more book reviews on today's blog - I'm nearly catching up, I promise.

Here goes:

The Perfect Hero – Victoria Connelly

I loved A Weekend With Mr Darcy and couldn’t wait to read Victorias next novel. Knowing that it was based on Persuasion, I decided to re-read the original first. Im glad I did because I hadnt read Persuasion for a very long time and probably wouldnt have got some of the references if the novel hadn't been fresh in my mind.

I do love Austen, and anything which brings her characters into the present, which Victoria Connelly does so well, but I did find some of the plotting predictable. Within the modern day romance the big question is will our main character, Kay, end up with her perfect hero? Unfortunately I became so frustrated with Kay's blindness to who the real hero was that I kept wanting to shout out ‘hes behind you! Despite that it was still an enjoyable read and it hasnt put me off reading the next book in the trilogy, Mr Darcy Forever, which I have just downloaded onto my Kindle.
Daughters In Law

The last Joanna Trollope I read was Friday Nights. In the past I've been a big fan of Joanna Trollope but this book, quite frankly, bored me senseless. I kept reading it though, because I believed that it would, surely, get better. Sadly it didn't and this book put me off reading any future ones. However, this, and my next review, were recommended to me by a friend who's tastes are very similar to my own and so I decided to give it ago.

In style, Daughter's In Law was written very much in the style of Second Honeymoon, which was a book I loved. It is the story of a mother of three boys who has to deal with the fact that once they are all married, she is no longer the central person in their lives and takes second place in the new regime.

I must admit I did enjoy the book and it was definitely a page turner but it did annoy me the way the family over-analysed every single set-back in everyone's relationships. I think if my family behaved like this I would have to emigrate. However, then there would be no story. An enjoyable read nevertheless.

The Best Of Friends

This book, I think, was the better of the two. Its the story of two friends - one male, one female - who marry other people and have families. The two couples remain close friends but when one of the marriages breaks down the whole dynamic falls apart.

I really enjoyed this book and raced through it to the end and I was disappointed to turn the last page and leave the story behind, always the sign of a good read.

Things I Couldn't Tell My Mother - Sue Johnston

I'm not a lover of celebrity autobiographies but I was prepared to make an exception for Sue. I've been a big fan of hers since the start of Brookside and have loved the roles she has played in many other programmes since, especially Waking The Dead. I particularly admire her role in this programme because it highlights the benefit of the experience over youth. Anything which champions the older woman rather than casting her aside because she may not be in her first flush of youth is good in my book. Besides which, she seems to have a knack for choosing good programmes so I will always be interested in watching anything she appears in.

The writing style of this book is lovely. Sue draws you in with her down to earth voice and its easy to become a part of the picture she paints of her life. She is a northern girl, as I am, and was brought up not a million miles away from where I was. Even though we were brought up in different generations, I don't think that working class principles changed that much from her childhood to mine, and I easily identified with her family's values.

I can honestly say that I devoured this book. If I had had the time I would have read it in one sitting and, in fact, the only thing that prevented me from reading long into the night was that I couldn't resist reading bits out to my husband and he had an early start the next day so I took pity on him. I can thoroughly recommend this book and I would defy anyone not to enjoy it.
Well, that's all from me for now.  Enjoy your Sunday.


Friday, 6 July 2012

Chasing My Tail

I was a very bad blogger during June and I promised myself that July would be better.  Well, so far I’ve not lived up to my own expectations.

At the moment I feel as though my life has gone mad. The last few weeks have seen me rushing from one event to another, and in between there has been precious little time to do anything apart from get ready for the next event.

Of course it’s a busy time at school, what with summer fairs, sports days, performances and other special events.  My youngest has had the rare opportunity to spend 6 days at a local outdoor centre.  This has taken place on odd days over several weeks which is a disruption to my routine (I do like routine), and has meant a split school run as eldest son has still been at school.  

Eldest son has taken part in the annual district sports competition – 100 metres sprint, varying football practices, a school performance and is currently attending both cubs as scouts as he is going up to scouts in September and is being given some ‘taster’ sessions.

Youngest child has taken part in an 11 school dance festival (he introduced his school to around a 500 people audience – I nearly cried with pride) and has completed his first holy communion at a thanksgiving mass and party.

There have been several birthdays and parties too and six more to come over the next few  weeks.  

My mum had an operation on her shoulder a month ago and wasn’t able to move her arm at all for 3 weeks.  My dad’s been doing a brilliant job but as their only daughter I have wanted to look after them. They live 30 miles away which isn’t far really but I’ve only managed to get up there to help out on a few occasions.  They’ve both been grateful for what I have been able to do, but it doesn’t feel like I’ve done enough.

In all this time I haven’t been able to get my head round writing much.  I’m desperate to finish my WIP for my NWS script and even though I’m nearly at the end of my current draft I feel as though I’m never going to get there.  After the current draft I’m going to have to do one quick read through and then send it off.  It’s nowhere near the shape I wanted it to be in but it will just have to do.   Maybe with the invaluable NWS feedback I will be able to back to it in a few months time with a clearer perspective.

With school breaking up in a few weeks time, I’m hoping that things will calm down soon, and that the weather picks up too, in time for the ‘summer holidays’.

I usually dread the summer holidays as it’s my busiest time in the job I’m in.  Sadly, this will be my last summer here though, as I’m being made redundant shortly.  It’s not a great shock, as we have been winding down the course for the last three years now, but I was hoping that my employers would be able to find me another job.  At the back of my mind I’ve always thought that this wouldn’t be possible but have been living in limbo for a while.

At least now I know where I’m up to and in a way am looking forward to new opportunities.  My redundancy package should buffer me for a little while so I can finally get my house sorted out and hopefully set up some freelance work.  It would certainly be nice to have a better work / life balance than I do at the moment.

Have a nice weekend and try and keep as dry as you can!

Linda xx 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Locked In

Last night we got locked into the living room. Oh yes.  The handle on the door to go out of the living room has been a bit sticky of late but although the other half and I have both been meaning to have a look at it, neither of us have had the chance.

I was ironing when my eldest tried to open the door to go to the loo.  He kept grabbing at the handle but it wouldn't open.  Exasperated I attempted to show him how to do it (again)! Only I couldn't open it either.  So my husband came strutting into the living room from cooking the dinner (I have a husband who cooks how lucky am I?). He then attempted to show us all how to open it but he couldn't do it either.  He tugged and tugged and then..... the handle came off in his hand and he flew backwards.  Fortunately the sofa broke his fall.  Unfortunately my youngest was sittting on said sofa cuddling the cat.  The cat took umbridge at being pounced on by a human adult male and did a cartoon impresssion of a cat in fright - back arched with claws extended.  Unfortunately for youngest child the claws extended into his leg leaving a lovely criss-cross pattern up his legs.

Husband managed to get in from the front door and took the handle off from the outside and hey presto we were released!

There must be eaiser ways to go to the loo!

Take care - and watch those door handles - they have a habit of biting back.


Monday, 18 June 2012

Holiday Reading

My holiday at Easter may seem like it was in the dim and distant past but thankfully, the books I read are not.

So here's some reviews of the books I read.  First of all is:

All That Mullarky by Sue Moorcroft

I've been a big fan of the previous two Sue Moorcroft books I've read - Starting Over and Want To Know A Secret?

All That Mullarky certainly didn't disappoint. I wouldn't go so far as to say the kids could have drowned while I was reading it but it might have been a close call.

Sue creates such wonderfully vivid and likeable characters that you can't but help want to become involved in their lives and travel with them on their journey.

At the beginning of this novel it looks as though Cleo's marriage to the controlling Gav is at an end. When he tells her that she has to choose between him and going to a school reunion, she chooses the school reunion because she doesn't like his ultimatum. Half way there, though, she has a change of heart but when she returns home she finds that Gav has packed his bags and scrawled a nasty message on the bedroom wall. Distraught, Cleo goes in search for her sister for a shoulder to cry on but ends up having a one night stand with the irresistible Justin. It's an event that changes the course of Cleos life, but Im not going to tell you any more, youll just have to read it for yourself.

Next I read:

Sweet Temptation by Lucy Diamond

I love Lucy’s books, her characters are so down to earth that you instantly fall in love with them. Sweet temptation is the perfect holiday read (despite the fact that you are probably overeating). It's the story of three women who, at the beginning of the novel, are overweight and unhappy with their lives. Determined to loose the weight they join a slimming club called Fatbusters. Through hard work and a good support network, they not only become fitter and healthier but together they learn how to make their lives better. If you want to loose some pounds yourself, read this book and you will be inspired. Unfortunately inspiration alone does not loose the pounds
Emily's Innocence by India Grey

A Portuguese Prince and an English aristocratic ballerina - you can't get much more decadent than that, and the hero and heroine of India's novel do not disappoint.

India has created characters who pull at the heart strings with her fragile yet strong heroine and her haughty, bad boy hero with a hidden heart of gold which only Emily can melt.

The pages simply explode with passion as we fight for the two to overcome their insecurities and flaws and end up with their rightful ending, in each other's arms. Thanks India, you've done it for me again.

And finally for today we have:

A Sister's Gift - Giselle Green

Two sisters - Holly, a stay at home, dependable, married woman, who desperately wants a child but is unable to; and Scarlet, much younger and ambitious, working to protect the rainforest.

Scarlet is following in her mother's footsteps, who also worked in the Amazon and was killed when Scarlet was very young. Scarlet was brought up by her mother's friend and later, by Holly herself.

When Holly asks Scarlet to be a surrogate for her, Scarlet initially refuses, but as her personal circumstances change, she agrees.

This is a story of obsession and betrayal, and shows how a personal desire for something can destroy everything.

At times this story is rather bleak but it confronts serious issues and there are plenty of twists and turns along the way. I think this book would make an ideal book club read because it would spark plenty of healthy debate.

Not a light read but enjoyable all the same.


Friday, 15 June 2012

How Time Flies!

I can hardly believe that it’s the middle of June already and this is my first blog of the month.  Can I use the bank holiday extravaganza and half term as my excuse? Probably not, but in between everything else, I’ve been working on the edit of my submission for the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme.  I’m just over half way through the third draft of my novel and am doing a massive re-write. 

I suppose that I should have sorted out a lot of these problems before now, but I’m consoling myself that it’s all part of the learning curve.  I’m much happier with what I’ve written and am hoping that after this draft, a quick read through will be enough to reach a stage where I’m happy to submit it. In saying that, I may not have an option as I’m rapidly running out of time.

Time, as with most people, is my biggest enemy.   I’ve just downloaded Peter Jones’ book How To Do Everything And Be Happy onto my Kindle.  I came across this book on Della Galton’s blog. (Sorry can't put the link in here but it's  Unfortunately I didn’t find it in time to get it free (what does that tell you?) but at £1.99 it’s still a steal.  It will take a miracle to sort out my life but even if the book gets me closer to getting organised, it will be a bonus. Personally I think only not needing to sleep would work at the moment.  Still, here’s hoping. Now I just need to find the time to read it!

It seems like a long time ago now but I thought the Jubilee weekend was fantastic.  Apart from the weather that is, which was a real British disappointment.  It’s such a shame that it couldn’t have been like it had been the previous weekend.  All that hard work dampened by the lack of sunshine. Mind you if it been, no doubt there would have been problems because it was too hot. Never happy are we?

I know a lot of people aren’t overly fond of the monarchy, viewing it as an outdated institution and a drain on society, but the Jubilee celebrations really made me feel proud to be British.  

When we want to, us Brits can really put on a good show, and that was clearly shown.  To me the events of the weekend put the Great back into Great Britain.  

This country has the most amazing history, especially as far as our Kings and Queens are concerned, and that heritage generates revenue through tourism. I’m not an economist and couldn’t possibly comment on whether the money the monarchy generates outweighs what it costs, but there is more to life than money.  And I do feel that our current Queen sets us apart from the rest of the world.

I was exhausted after the couple of parties and events I went to over the weekend but it was nothing compared to the Queen’s schedule. At 86 years of age you can’t fault her stamina and dedication to her duty, not just in the last few weeks but throughout her reign.  When you think about the changes which have happened during that time you have to respect her for still being so popular.

She’s had some horrible years, particularly in the recent past, and she hasn’t always got it right; her response to Diana’s death being an example of where the nation’s favour turned against her.   But she has learnt and adapted and now I feel that the key members of her family are so much more respected because of the way she has guided them.

There were particular highlights of the weekend for me, firstly the flotilla on the Thames.  The river has always been a major character in the history of London and I felt it fitting that it was included in the celebrations.   In times gone by the river was the main transport system through the capital as well as a link to trade with foreign countries. It’s poignant to think that whilst it has been a means for celebration, it is also the method by which traitors (or alleged traitors) were transported to the Tower and their subsequent deaths.

I was particularly moved to see the “Little Ships” included as without these private individuals who responded to Churchill’s plea, so many more lives would have been lost at Dunkirk. It is this spirit which makes me proud to be British and it was important that they were remembered.  

You have to admire too the way that the Queen and Prince Phillip did not sit down once throughout the journey, although I fear that the weather may have brought on Philip’s subsequent illness – he is 90 after all!

I thought the concert on Monday was an amazing success too, particularly the set where Madness played on the roof of the Palace.  The lighting team were outstanding. 

To be honest I’ve been a big fan of Prince Charles but I found his speech at the end of the concert moving.   I felt that he came into his own over the weekend and I’m sure his mum was so proud of him.

Now, I hope that the Queen has a bit of chill out time – she certainly deserves it and we don’t want her getting ill now do we?

And on to the next thing – Euro 2012. As you may know from this blog my menfolk are big football fans, so we will be watching England tonight and on Tuesday with our fingers crossed that they will get through to the next stage of the Championship.  I think it might take a lot more than crossed fingers though!

Have a good weekend.