Saturday, 15 October 2016

Oh Dear!



It’s quite shocking how long it has been since my last blog post.

What can I say?  The summer has been rather challenging and hasn’t left me much time or head space for writing and so I have felt that there has been little to blog about.

Summer is always difficult, trying to juggle work and childcare.  Although the boys are a bit older now and don’t need constant supervision, I can’t just abandon them for the duration – no matter how much they might like me to.

I did have a couple of weeks off, but unfortunately on my way to work my car died 20 miles away from home – literally – the engine conked out and I had to be towed all the way home.  Not a pleasant experience. It made me realise just how much I rely on my car, just to function, as I live in an area where you can’t do anything without having wheels.  The car was eventually resurrected because it was worth nothing for scrap but every journey in it now gives me the hibigeebees.  I’ve just lost faith in it.  

At the beginning of September my step-son got married which involved a degree of organisation and also an influx of guests.  My husband has a big Irish family who were staying in various houses around Chester and all needed to be catered for – they all give us such good hospitality when we go over there so only right to reciprocate.

And of course the summer wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory visits to A&E, and yes the plural word of visit is the one I meant to use – well that’s my boys.

So, the summer was stressful and exhausting but the wedding turned out to be a brilliant day, and didn’t my boys scrub up well?  Spot the child who caused one of the A&E visits.  As it was a rural wedding it wouldn’t be complete without a tractor either.








Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Strange Sounds In The Night

Last night I went upstairs when both of my boys were in bed.  There was a strange noise coming from one of the bedrooms - cue spooky music - on closer investigation the sound was that of a cat purring.

Now, our cats are not allowed upstairs and they both know it - which is why whenever anyone leaves the door open to upstairs they make a beeline to human beds.  So I was a little bit cross - either one of the boys had left the door open and one of them had taken advantage of it - or someone had sneaked a cat upstairs. (I dread to think what (or who) they might be sneaking upstairs in the years to come.)

In the room where the noise was coming from, son was fast asleep and there was no sign of a cat. To bemuse me even further when I went back downstairs both cats were fast asleep downstairs.

And then the penny dropped in my befuddled brain.  Recently my youngest has been struggling with mood swings - probably hormonal - but he's also been struggling to get to sleep at night. He's always been a child who needs his sleep and in an effort to help him drop off we have downloaded a white noise app on his phone - sounds like washing machines, hoovers etc.  So, the sound of cats was actually technology and not the real thing.  At least the phone won't be fidgeting dribbling and digging its claws in.

This on the other hand is the real thing sleeping.






Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Its All In The Detail



A few weeks ago I did something I've been meaning to do for a long time - I visited Cheshire Records Office.  I've drafted a book set in Chester in WWII and now that I'm editing it, I need more details of what life was really like in the area.  I'm fortunate that I don't have to travel far to get my hands on all this lovely history, but still I never seemed to make the time.

It might sound a bit boring for some, but for me it was a thoroughly enjoyable day.  I phoned in advance to book a microfiche screen and when I was there I had to register and was given a free membership card for the next five years.  You are only allowed to take pen and paper into the main library so I was given a locker key where I had to stow my bag away.  (I felt like a proper historian!) and then I was shown how to work the machine and where to find the tapes for each newspaper in the timescale I wanted.

Obviously I've done a fair bit of research already but what I really wanted to know was how the run up to the war affected people and what was in the papers at the outbreak of war.  

It felt really strange to read a newspaper which is still a weekly publication today, but from all those years ago.

These days we don't currently have a cinema in Chester but then there were three.  The week before war broke out, one was Showing Stage Coach with Claire Trevor, John Wayne and John Carradine and the other The Perfect Specimen starring Errol Flynn.

I found out what the main shops were in the centre and adverts which were truly of the day.

Browns of Chester have men and materials available now to black out your home in accordance with the ARP.

Each year Cheshire holds a county show.  Now its in June, based near Knutsford, but then it was scheduled for 7 September at the Roodee which is Chester's racecourse.  The week before there was a big page spread showing who was going to be show and the next a tiny box saying that it had been cancelled.

At the outbreak of war everyone feared that Hitler would instantly bomb Britain so all the precautions were in place but the saddest one I found was this:

Send pets into the country.  It is better to have your pet destroyed than to leave it to wander about.

Poor things - I'm not sure that I could have done that.  Mind you, I'm not sure if I had lived a city, that I would have been able to let my children be evacuated either.  

It just makes you realise how lucky we all are now.

But on a happier note, it was a thoroughly productive day, hopefully the first of many I will spend immersed in the past.




Saturday, 18 June 2016

Boxing Day!

No, I haven't gone completely mad, I know the year is going quickly but even I know its not Christmas already.  I'm sure it will be here soon enough though!

I'm talking about Boxing Day's as taken from Peter Jones' Book: How To Do Everything And Be Happy



Now, I have to confess that I read this book a long time ago, and its probably time I re-read it again - if only I had the time - ha ha!

But one of things which really sticks in my mind is his theory that Boxing Day should be the day that you do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it and that it should be a gift to yourself.  Also, Boxing Day doesn't have to be on that one particular day of the year, but that you should schedule in lots of Boxing Day's throughout the year.

Now, I've tried repeatedly to schedule Boxing Day's into to my but they don't seem to happen. I end up having unexpected work come in or sudden appointments, or there is just too much else to do.

But yesterday my lovely husband went away for the weekend golfing. (I did emit a small cheer when I dropped him off at the coach pickup point).  Now, I don't mean that in a bad way, I love my husband to bits, of course I do, but it meant that for one day I could do exactly as I pleased without being interrupted or having to do things for other people.  Yippee!  As it was cold, I also put the heating on for a little while, knowing that I wouldn't get caught in the act!

I shoved aside all thoughts of work, paperwork, cleaning the house or cooking (we all had pizza for tea) and set myself the task of doing exactly what I wanted to do, which was course was writing and reading, having a lovely long bath and going to bed with a good book and the whole bed to myself).

Now, I wouldn't want life to be like that all the time - I do miss him and am looking forward to him coming back.  But for the rest of the weekend I'm going to chill out with my boys and have a mini holiday myself.

Boxing Days - I can't recommend them enough.  Thanks Peter.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Me Before You



Last week I went to the cinema to watch Me Before You.  This film is based on the book by Jo Jo Moyes who, I understand, also wrote the screenplay for the film.

I'd already read the book (and wept copiously) so I was interested to see how the film would turn out.  Then I watched the trailer  and I decided it was definitely a film to go and watch at the cinema rather than wait for the dvd to come out.

And I was glad that I did.  I thought the film was wonderful and for a brief period I managed to escape my life and get lost in someone else's.  The film has caused quite a bit of controversy particularly regarding the fact that an able bodied person has written about disability without the knowledge of what disability feels like.  It has also brought controversy on the subject of assisted suicide.  I'm sure by now most people know the ending, but just in case anyone is reading who doesn't, then I'm not going to give it away.  But what I will say is that I don't think the storyline was ever meant to be representative of a group of people.  This story is a work of fiction and as such its the author's interpretation of what she thought it would be like to be a fit, healthy and incredibly sporty and competitive young man who had everything he could wish for, suddenly to have it all ripped away from him.  True, she wasn't writing it from a perspective of  having lived the experience, but the same could be said about historical novelists or crime writers; you don't have to have lived through the period or to have killed someone to write convincingly about it.  

Obviously this is just my opinion, but I think Jo Jo Moyes took this one fictional character and tried to imagine how he would feel and what he would do in that situation.  And what he did was make a choice.  It might not be the right choice for everyone but it was the one she thought he would make and at least he had one.  In her novel what she also did was successfully create characters the reader cared about. I cried when I read the book and the cinema was full of people sniffing into their hankies, so I think she got the screenplay right too.

Often when you watch a film after first having read the book, the film can be a disappointment as it can be chopped and changed around too much.  This didn't happen here, probably because she wrote it herself.  

The actors have received much praise for their roles in this film and I wholeheartedly agree with that.  The setting was wonderful too, and that was a pleasure to watch on its own.  

I think this is definitely going to be the Brit flick of 2016 and I hope it will be watched time and time again in the same way that Four Weddings And A Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill are.  

Just one last note, Mr Bates (Downton Abbey) was brilliant as the dad!

If you do see this film I hope you enjoy too.



  

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Enjoying the Sunshine



I don't know about you but it's rare that I get a day doing things I want to do.  Today, my husband went to golf while my children were happy to chill.  There was nothing on the agenda - no family commitments, no taxi service to administer, the house was as clean as it gets and the garden bin was full so I couldn't do any more gardening.  So for a change I decided to suit myself.

If the rain had been pelting down, I might have spent a productive day writing, but I'm afraid to say that I spent the day reading instead - well the laptop is no good in the garden, and it was far to hot to hold a pen.  It wasn't all indulgent reading though, I did some research, caught up with Writing Magazine and yes I did read my current book on the tbr list - The Lake House by Kate Morton.  As much as I love Kate Morton, I've struggled a bit to get into this book, but today I got well and truly engrossed in it.  (Much to husband's annoyance when I decided that I didn't want to go to the pub or eat / cook Sunday dinner - but that's another story.

I might be feeling a little guilty about not writing today when I had the time, but I'm justifying it by telling myself that there are days when you just need to recharge your batteries.  Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Hope you have all had a nice weekend and the weather has been just as good with you.  Long may it last, although judging by our climate it's highly unlikely.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Things That Make You Go - GRRRR!



In order of experience here is today's list:

1. Stroppy teenage tantrums

2. Ended up having to reverse down a narrow road due to road works even though the traffic lights were on green.

3. Work laptop wouldn't connect to printer despite turning printer on and off (repeatedly and turning hub off and on - again repeatedly). 

4. Figures in a spreadsheet that refused to add up.

5. Package delivered yesterday to home while I was at work and had to be rearranged for delivery today.  Of course, wouldn't tell me what time so on tenterhooks when I had to go out that it would be delivered when I was out.  Package containing leaflets urgently needed for work tomorrow delivered but turned out to be for a different company entirely! Still hoping (probably in vain that the correct ones will turn up).

6. Email on work laptop refused to work, despite (see 3 above).

7. Received a short story rejection in the post.

8. Received a rejection for another short story by email.

9. More stroppy teenage tantrums.

10. Received unexpected freelance work which needs to be done urgently, removing any time for writing.

Now, I think its time to go and have a glass of wine or three.

What things make you angry?

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Another Book Review

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The Secret By The Lake - Louise Douglas





I've never read any of Louise Douglas' books before but when I came across this one in the library, it intrigued me.  I'm glad I picked it up because it was a fantastic read.

It is set in 1961.  Amy, the main character, is nanny to a family who live in France.  But when disaster strikes, they are forced to return to England to a cottage where the mother of the family grew up, and has since inherited.

But the cottage is haunted by the past, and in particular, by the mother's sister who died there when she was just seventeen.

In order to move forward, Amy has to solve the mystery of what happened in the past and ensure that the unquiet ghost does not harm the family she cares for.

This book definitely has page turning quality as the reader joins Amy in her quest to solve the mystery, and I'll definitely be looking out for more books from this author.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Another Year Older



Or not as the case may be.

I know that might sound a bit cryptic but let me explain.

Last year on my birthday I convinced myself, probably because I'm rubbish at maths and my memory often plays tricks on me, that I was 48.  But I wasn't, I was only 47.   Throughout the previous year, I've been unable to shake off my mistake and have constantly fooled myself into thinking that I was actually a year older than I was.

So on Sunday, my birthday, although I was officially a year older, I was still only 48.  Good trick heh?

I can't say that I'm particularly bothered about my age, although I've noticed aches and pains creeping in, but the one thing that baffles me is where did the time go?

In my head I'm still young, ambitious with my whole life ahead of me.  But when I see my teenage decade described as social history, it does send me into a bit of a panic.  I love watching TV programmes such as the Back In Time programmes where families live in the conditions of previous decades and I'm horrified to see what I thought of then as state of the art technology,  is now viewed as old, clunky and obsolete.  (I'm hoping here that I haven't gone down the same route).

I still have so much more that I want to achieve, particularly in my writing ambitions, so I suppose I had better just get my skates on, and attach those fingers to the keyboard or pen to paper.

However, despite my maudlin, Sunday was a lovely day.  Had a long lie in reading a book, was surrounded by my lovely boys (well they were trying their hardest) and the sun was shining.  In the evening I had several glasses of wine with friends in my local country pub. What's not to like?

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Having A Clear Out

It looks at though the womag editors have had a busy week.

On top of my rejection from Take A Break last week I had another two on Thursday and then one from Woman's Weekly on Friday.

I few of my fellow online group have also had rejections from TAB so it looks as though they are having a spring clean and clearing the clutter from their desks.

So much for reaching my target of ten for the end of May, I'm now down to only three.

Better get writing and subbing again!

Hope you are all having a better week.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Balancing Act - Joanna Trollope


I used to adore Joanna Trollope's books and then I fell out of love with them a bit.  Recently a friend bought me Balancing Act.



I decided to read it with an open mind and I'm so glad I did.  I literally raced through it in a matter of days and if I'd had the time, could probably have read it in one sitting.

Susie Moran is a woman who owns her own pottery company making all kinds of tableware.  She has three grown up daughters who all work in the family business with her, along with one of her sons in law.  

Susie has always been very driven and likes to be in control  but it seems that her daughters have very different ideas about how the company should be run.

In Balancing Act Joanna Trollope achieves what she does best, exploring the family dynamic and how each member of that family are affected when circumstances change.  Her characterisation is brilliant and I found myself liking them all and sympathising with each one's point of view.  

It didn't have a fast paced plot because it didn't need it.  The characters were what drove the story and Joanna Trollope is definitely the master of characterisation.

Definitely a good read.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Submit, Submit, Submit


No not in a 50 shades kind of way, I'm talking here about short story submissions.




Last year I only had two short story submissions accepted but when I reviewed my submissions at the end of the year, I found out that I had only submitted ten throughout the year.  

Don't get me wrong, this wasn't the full extent of my writing during the year, but it did bring home the fact that you really have got to be in it to win it.

Rather than setting a target based on number of submissions throughout the year, in January I decided that I was going to aim to have at least ten short stories under consideration at any one time.  

By the end of March I only actually had four under submission, so I decided that I wanted to submit another three during April and three more during May so that by the end of this month I would have achieved my aim.  Obviously this is with the hope of building on this to exceed my target by the end of the year.

By the middle of April I had only submitted one story and then the following week I received one back so it was time to get moving.  

To be honest, I haven't written much new so far, but I have been trawling through my laptop and found some I had written earlier!  Some I've been editing, some I've completely re-written.

By Thursday though I still hadn't submitted, so I started on a period of intense editing and by yesterday afternoon I had hit my target!

Feeling quite pleased with myself as today I have edited another story which I plan to send to a competition.

Maybe finally I'm getting into the swing of things!

Hope your weekend is going just a well as despite the weather!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

I'm In The People's Friend

I'm delighted to say that this week the story which was accepted by The People's Friend just before Christmas published.  

Originally it was called Stage Fright but has been renamed to Second Chances.  

The idea of the story came when I was watching my sister-in-law perform in a PTA school production of the Wizard of Oz.  She had never acted before so to watch her was a bit of a revelation - I've never had the guts to go on stage myself, and was very proud of her.



It made me think about what would happen if someone had acted professionally before but had to put that career on hold.  What would happen if all of a sudden she was back in the limelight again - albeit on a small scale.

And so the idea was born.  It's taken quite a few re-writes to get the story to a stage where is it publishable but it was worth the effort.  

I usually hate reading my stories once they are published, I'm hyper-critical about what I could have done better but I actually enjoyed reading this one.  Perhaps its because it has always been one of my favourites.

So, this is story number 5 that I've had published but the thrill of seeing my writing in print isn't wearing off yet.

To celebrate I sent another story to the People's Friend this week, I have a couple out with Woman's Weekly and a few more with Take A Break.  

The aim: keep on sending stuff out so I've got more chance of seeing my writing in print again.

By the way - my sister in law does not look anything like the picture above!

Monday, 21 March 2016

List Mania



Have a week full of appointments this week - as well as work - so in my effort to be more productive, here are my current thoughts.

There’s no point in dedicating a set time each day to write if you spend the entire time staring at a blank screen / piece of paper, so its important to plan what you’re going to work on before the allocated time.  That way you can hit the ground running and grind Mr Procrastination into the dirt.

And this is where lists come in.  I’m of big fan of a list and quite happily write endless bullet points of things I want to do.  But, unfortunately the lists themselves seem to strangle me with their own enthusiasm because they are so long that they become unachievable.  So whilst I will probably never be able to contain the urge to put everything in my head down on paper, its important for me to prioritise.  

From now on I’m going to pick three things from the list and make them my priority.  That way the list won’t seem so daunting and I’ll get things done.

There’s nothing like the satisfaction of a ticked off list - I must be a very sad person!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Best Laid Plans

So, today I had a plan. 

I was working from home for my real job.  I got my head down, focussed all day and was really pleased with what I had achieved by the time it was time to pick the boys up from school.  Dinner was planned, so all I had to do was cook it, and then spend some quality writing time while the boys were eating.

And then it all went wrong.

Youngest son got in the car and said, "Mum, I really hurt my arm playing football at lunchtime."  
Now, he's not really one to complain, there's always something happening with the pair of them, and usually it doesn't last very long.  But when I asked him to show me where it hurt, and to lift his arm up, I realised by the look on his face that a trip to A&E was in order.

He told me it would be fine, but as he's broken wrists four times before (playing football) I thought it would be best to get it checked out.

Three hours and an x-ray later and it was confirmed - he'd chipped a bone in his humorous - believe me it's not funny!  Nothing too serious, his arm will be in a sling for a few weeks and there's no football for a while.  He shed a few tears at that.

But seeing as its the Easter holidays after next week and I was planning for him to go to football camp while I worked it has kind of set the cat amongst the pigeons.

Next week was already looking busy with an orthodentist appointment, a dentist appointment and a school trip, now I've got a visit to fracture clinic to squeeze in between work as well.

Quality time for writing?  Not today I fear!




Monday, 14 March 2016

Teenage Tantrums




The trouble with teenagers is that they always think they know best; they refuse to listen to their parents (particularly their mothers) when they are talking sense; they can't see the point of keeping their bedrooms tidy (even though they fly into a panic because they can't find what they need two seconds before they need to leave for school); and despite all this they still expect the bank of mum and dad to be open all hours, and taxis to be available 24 / 7 without any prior notice.

The plus side of this frustration is that I spent the most part of this weekend trying to avoid my own truculent teenagers.  I was so annoyed that I didn't feel guilty about spending some time on my own instead of pandering to their every whim and I actually managed to edit two short stories.  

So, the moral of this story is, there is a plus side to everything, even after tearing your hair out!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Summer of Living Dangerously - Julie Cohen




I read this book on holiday and I was glad that I had the time to read it without the interruptions of daily life.  OK, so I might have been tempted to put it down if my boys had been drawing in the pool but apart from that there was little that could drag me away from the story.  It is a book I have been meaning to read for a long time and the anticipation of it in no way disappointed.




From the moment I started to read I was instantly involved with the main character, Alice.  Alice is trying, and failing, to get on with her life but you can tell from the beginning that she is a woman who has a seriously troubled past, a past which she is trying to block out  - a recipe for disaster in any good story.

Alice writes articles for technical magazines but she is bored and blocked by her writing until she sees an advert for Eversley Hall, where the owners are re-enacting true life events which took place in the house in 1814.  The advert inspires her to pitch an article to a woman’s glossy magazine.  The article leads to meeting the owner of the stately home and that results in her becoming part of the re-enactment team.

Back in 1814 Alice finds her character a much more pleasant person to be as here she doesn’t have to confront her issues in the present.  However life has a habit of getting in the way and as past and present collide, Alice is forced to deal with her problems and decide who she really loves and wants to spend the rest of her life with.  

I’m a big fan of Julie Cohen because she creates characters who walk straight off the page and into your heart and this book is no exception.  She is definitely the kind of writer any wannabe would aspire to become - I am so completely envious of how she makes her characters come alive.

The Summer of Living Dangerously provides a fascinating insight into Regency England whilst also having a heartbreaking story in the present day.  If you have any interest in Jane Austen or stately homes, I challenge you not to enjoy it.