Tuesday, 31 July 2012

I'd Like You To Step Into My Office

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately where writers talk about their writing spaces - whether that be office, shed or kitchen table.

As my readers will know, my writing career began in my car - my tin box on wheels was my creative environment for three years and in many ways it was heavenly as there were no distractions and no excuses.  My working day began at 8.30 am and finished at 4.00 pm and every minute was spent productively - apart from the time spent eating chocolate and Wotsits.  I developed quite a thing for those delicious little cheesy puffs and always had a couple of family packs in the boot.

My working habits are completely different now - I’m based at home, from the kitchen table or on the sofa upstairs with the coffee table as my desk.  Sometimes I like to work in complete silence but, more often than not, I have GOLD TV on in the background.  How relieved was I to find that one of my favourite writers, Jill Mansell, works in much the same way - always with the TV on, notebook on her lap and her feet on the coffee table.

Sometimes I dream of having my own secluded writing shed - a space just for me - but then I worry that I’d have it all beautifully set out with pens and pin-boards and my writer’s bits and bobs and I'd just sit and stare out of the window, unable to write a word.  I guess I don’t want to mess with what I know works for me.

So while I may have high hopes for this ...

... in reality, I have this:

This scene shows my kitchen table mode - it’s the school holidays, so this is where I can currently be found.  The essentials are:

Laptop - I admire Jill Mansell for writing in long-hand in a notebook but it’s not for me.
Mobile - I can guarantee my mum will ring with a shopping list at some point.  This can range from a loaf of bread to a Microwave (really!).
Coffee Cup - if working at night, this would be replaced with a wine glass.
Notes for current work in progress - each chapter is roughly outlined and a word count kept up to date. Character studies in more detail.  This particular file also contains interviews and research.
Diary - to keep check of sales during the day.
TV remote - for when I realise I can recite the current episode of ‘The Good Life’ word for word.
Glasses - my eyes have aged since I’ve been writing.
Ashtray - not shown because that’s just yuck.
Kindle - for when I want a break and a quick sneaky read.

So, fellow writers, show me how you work.  I’d love to know!

I have 3 novels on Amazon and Lulu - a little bit of humour and a little bit of romance.  Why not take a look?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A Day in the Life of a Lazy Cow

I haven’t worked for anyone else for many years and for many reasons.  Firstly there was the birth of my son and I chose to be a stay at home mum - I was also fortunate enough to be able to do this because my husband was in well paid full-time employment.

Once my son started school, and it became clear that the stork had no further deliveries for us, I knew I had to find more to do with my life.  I re-trained as an adult literacy tutor and spent five happy years meeting some inspirational people who, in many ways, taught me far more than I taught them.  The main reason I stopped was because of the crappy funding in our borough, which constantly closed down classes until I never knew if my course was actually running or not.

But, as John Lennon so poignantly said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’.

I stopped teaching at just about the time my family commitments went up a notch.  No, not another baby but ‘stuff’ that meant I needed to be around just a little bit more - I won’t go into detail but between my mum and my son they kept me busy with ‘issues’ for quite a while and, in many ways, continue to do so.

As most of you will already know, my son’s problem was school phobia.  Had I been employed at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to carry on working.  I needed to be there to sort out this massive problem that had come from nowhere.  He now looks back and (thankfully) laughs.  He can’t understand, or put into words, the feelings that he had - but it resulted in me spending three years AT SCHOOL WITH HIM.

I look back over the years from 2006 until 2009 and often wonder how I got through them.  I guess the answer is, I had no choice - you deal with what life throws at you and I firmly believe that I turned (and continue to turn) a negative into a positive.  Because I didn’t sit in my car at the school and mope my days away - I read, read and read and then I wrote, wrote and wrote until ‘Diary of a Mummy Misfit’ was born.  Not one minute of my time was wasted - I was honing my craft.  In many ways, it was heaven - no distractions, no excuses, just writing and peace.

So from that rather odd start on my career path, and with some on-going commitments (my mum), I now find myself a full-time writer.

I’m not dabbling at this.  Not just sticking a toe in the water.  I live, breathe, eat and sleep writing.  When I’m not writing or promoting or tweeting or blogging or doing interviews, I may look like a ‘normal’ woman going through life but inside I’m writing that next scene, constructing that next dialogue.

So probably best not to say to me, ‘You choose not to work.’

Not really the wisest move, eh?

Because, trust me, I’ve had people say that and it doesn’t sit well with me.

There are many reasons why I can’t take on a ‘paid job’ right now - a job where I have to be there from 9-5 regardless - and the people who say I ‘choose not to work’ should be well aware of those reasons.  Sadly, they’re not.

So, as someone who ‘doesn’t work’, let me take you through a typical day and see if you fancy ‘dossing’ as much as I do to earn approximately a quid a book.

GET UP:  Do all the usual checks.  Book sales (not a best seller yet), reviews (phew, no crap ones yet), email (no TV deals yet), Blog (great night for hits, no weirdos leaving comments), Twitter (lovely friends leaving positive comments and willing me to carry on) and DM’s (thoughts and ideas from Twitter friends).

COFFEE - work my way through any interviews or guest blogs I need to get done.

MORE COFFEE - Look through yesterday’s chapter, make changes and re-acquaint myself with my path.

CONTEMPLATE MORE COFFEE BUT HAVE WATER - to write or to promote?  My new novel is calling me but I need to be looking at ways of marketing my other three babies.  Search the web for review sites and other marketing ideas.

DRINK MORE COFFEE and sulk for a while.

BACK ON TO WATER NOW TO STOP THE JITTERS - need to concentrate.  My target for each day is 3,000 words but there are many days this doesn’t happen.  Fingers hover over the keyboard and … I’m away.


RING FELLOW INDIE FOR A MOAN - Michelle Betham and I started on this journey at the same time and act as lifelines for one another.  I truly do not know what I’d do without her.

CHECK TWITTER - another lovely reader has left a comment.  The vote of confidence gives me a boost and I hit my 3,000 word target.

This process continues for most of the day and into the night.  I’ve sold more books (and made more friends) during my night-time Twittering than through any other means.  Don’t tell me Twitter is crap!

Then, when the work in progress is complete, everything goes up another notch.  Reading, re-reading, editing, formatting, cover design, getting the word out there.  As an Indie, that month leading up to a book’s release is a killer.

Fancy giving it a go?  Would you still tell someone they ‘choose not to work’?  I can honestly tell you, I have never worked harder.

I’m not complaining - I love every minute of it - although sometimes I’d just like to be left to write the books and leave the rest to someone else.

But - not working? - I don’t think so!

Leave comments, if you dare!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Children Should Be Seen ...

I love children.  I was one myself once!  I’ve also given birth to a child of my own so, having been one and raised one, I think I’m able to speak with some knowledge on my chosen subject for this week’s blog.

And, yes, it’s a rant.  So if you don’t like ‘Moany Mummy’, or you’re one of those parents who let your kids run free, stop reading now.  You have been warned.

When I was growing up it was a huge treat to eat out or to go to the pub for lemonade and a bag of crisps on a summer’s evening.  But I knew that there was a certain way to behave.  These places were for adults and children who knew the rules.  You sat at your seat, remembered your manners and your parents were proud of you.  If I needed the loo, I didn’t need to announce it to the world.  Similarly, I didn’t need my parents to shout through the vocal equivalent of a loud-hailer, ‘Do you need a poo?’

What has happened to those very simple rules?

Just last week a Yummy Mummy felt it totally necessary to announce to all and sundry in the queue in WH Smiths that little Archie was a bit smelly and needed to get to the coffee shop loo ASAP.  WHY?  Do we really need to know?  Don’t turn and grin at me as if it’s the most important thing I’ll hear all day.  I don’t give a sh…

In a restaurant recently a group of mummies and daddies, clearly set on having their jolly boozy lunch, totally ignored three ‘little darlings’ who decided it might be fun to run amok and then constantly try to distract a business meeting by chucking their toys onto the table.  There was only so long the group could paste tolerating smiles on their faces before the masks started to slip.  I can only imagine where they wanted to shove those toys.

In a pub for Sunday lunch this weekend, a mother totally dominated a main thoroughfare with her baby twins - setting up camp with a blanket, toys, books and chucked clothes.  The bar staff were negotiating the obstacle with plates of hot food.  Not acceptable!  People should not have to be looking out for your kids and then possibly sued if something happened to go wrong.

I can remember, many years ago, finding myself in a heated debate with friends I’d made from my ante-natal group.  Our kids were about four at the time and we decided to head off to the local Pizza Express for a pre-Christmas celebration.  The only table big enough to accommodate our group of mums and kids was upstairs - a spiral wrought iron staircase with marble steps.

Every child on our table was allowed - mid course and even mid eating - to play on that staircase with balloons they’d been given.  Every child, bar mine.

Mean mummy?


My son’s been brought up to know that a restaurant is for eating in and a playground is for playing in.  He had a colouring book, a puzzle and a mother that took the time to see that he wasn’t bored.  What more did he need?  ‘Ah but they’re only having fun’, my co-mothers told me.  Yep!  But in the wrong place.

Kids get bored in pubs and restaurants.  It’s only natural.  They scream, they cry and I totally understand that.  I pity the parents who do all they can to placate a child just to get through a meal (I’ve been there, believe me!) but it doesn’t mean they can just be allowed to do as they please.

Had I been brought up with those rules, I might now find that I chuck myself down in the middle of Sainsbury’s aisles and chuck my arms and legs about just because I can’t cope with another weekly shop.

Hmm … now there’s a thought …

Yummy Mummies drive you nuts?  Then why haven’t you read my books?  On Amazon and at Lulu.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Let's Part-a-a-y!

Aside from writing, my dream job would be party planning.  There’s nothing I like more than grabbing a new notebook (paper always features heavily in my life!) and scribbling down the jobs that need to be done for that perfect event.

I’m currently in charge of decorations for a friend’s 60th birthday and my imagination is running wild with the shocking pink and gold theme.  I can’t reveal too many of my plans here because I’d have to kill you (and aforementioned friend might be reading), but it’s going to be classy with a touch of wild!

Money is tight for most people now but I think it’s important to realise that you don’t need a lot of cash to turn on a special event.  My son was well known for his unique birthday parties (always at home) and I would spend weeks planning table designs and original activities - these included a Quiz Night Sleepover (never again with 6 over-excited seven year olds) Treasure Hunt, Dinner Party/Talent Night and a Murder Mystery.  They were heavy on time and light on money.

Similarly with our friends, I love to turn a simple dinner or birthday celebration into something a bit special.  We’re lucky to have friends as mad as us who throw themselves wholeheartedly into the proceedings and often reciprocate with an equally whacky theme.

So today I’m going to share a few photos from various occasions and offer some of my tried and tested tips.  Make this summer the time to gather a few friends, ignore the weather and have a laugh.


  1. Plan in advance.  Make sure everyone knows the date and the theme.  Decide if you’re doing a sit down dinner or a buffet.  Consider each couple bringing a course or a dish to lighten your load, work-wise and financially.
  2. Themes can be as extravagant as a Murder Mystery (cheap on eBay or in charity shops) or as simple as a Quiz Night -  the internet makes it so easy to set questions now.  Other favourites of ours are Room 101 - each guest nominates 3 things they want to get rid of.  They bring props and give their argument as to why they should be ditched.  The winner is the one who convinces most people their choices should go in Room 101.  Desert Island Discs - each guest chooses 3 songs they love and 1 they hate.  The songs are played as you dine and everyone votes on each other's choices, the winner being the one with the most points.  A Challenge Night - great for mixed ages and abilities.  Set 5 daft challenges such as ‘how many frozen peas can you transfer from one plate to another by sucking on a straw in 1 minute?’ or 'how many coins can you balance on your upturned elbow'?
  3. Consider using outside areas.  A simple cheapie gazebo can be totally transformed with a bed sheet, paper chains, fairy lights and hanging beads.
  4. Have a playlist suited to the night.  For our Royal Wedding Dinner we made sure we had suitably regal or nuptial music.  OK, The Sex Pistol’s ‘God Save The Queen’ featured but it had to really!  Our Hollywood Night had songs from musicals and stage shows and a few brave performances from guests.
  5. Never underestimate the Pound Shop.  In the past I’ve bought candles, both real and battery operated (ideal for kids' parties or windy outdoor events), champagne bubble-blowers, serviettes and Christmas wreaths that can be adapted to make a table centrepiece.
  6. Make your table stunning.  Cloths can be expensive and often boring - look at duvet covers and sheets as an option.  Old drink mats (also picked up for a song in charity shops) can be covered in funky wrapping paper and then coated in varnish or sticky-backed plastic.  Buy the gift wrap to coordinate with paper serviettes and work your colour theme around those.  For your next dinner, simply rip off the paper and re-cover.  Decorate small gift boxes for each guest and fill with chocolates. The lids can be adorned with the coordinated paper and topped off with old brooches or earrings.  Make ornate name cards to show each guest where they’re sitting.  For our Hollywood Dinner all names were on mini clapperboards that we printed on the computer.  Place a centrepiece of flowers or candles on an old mirror and it will double in size and look more effective.  Sprinkle the table with confetti, rose petals or beads.  A well laid table will make your guests feel loved.  A close friend always tells me I ‘give good table'!
  7. Kids’ party bags don’t need to be filled with expensive tat.  My son's friends once left a party delighted with artist pads and oil paints from the Pound Shop - useful, didn’t rot their teeth or end up clogging someone’s hoover!
  8. Costumes for events don’t have to be hired or cost the earth.  Most charity shops have heaps of stuff that can be adapted with a dollop of imagination.  For our 2nd World War Murder Mystery, I put together my uniform for just under £10 and adapted my husband’s shirt to ‘air force’ with ribbon epaulets and plastic medals.  My Audrey Hepburn dress for the Hollywood Dinner, came from Primark and hubbie adjusted it to become tailor made!

So here’s some photographic evidence [CLICK TO ENLARGE].  Hope you enjoy and that it inspires you to have a go.  Oh, and if anyone wants to give me a book deal on party planning, you know where to find me.  I’m no Pippa Middleton but then most people don’t have her family’s budget!

 Our 10th wedding anniversary in our back garden.

The same Argos gazebo was transformed into a
Big Top for our son's Circus Murder Mystery.

Our son chose lilac and purple as his theme
for his 8th birthday quiz and dinner.

 ... and black and white for his treasure hunt dinner.  This is
where we used a duvet cover as a cloth.  Each guest had a
menu to choose from, 'champagne' bubbles and chocolate box.

 A Christmas table or two.  Cream and gold
was the theme that year.

 Our Royal Wedding Celebration.  Pink for a Princess.

 For our Italian/French themed Murder Mystery we went
a little bold.  The plates are hand painted by ... me!

 Which meant the costumes were bold too!
Yes, I'm wearing a wig.  

 Our 2nd World War Murder Mystery table.

 And the costumes that went with it!

  We made a gramophone from a cardboard box
and put a tape recorder in it for the event!

For my Mum's 80th we made a dummy of her to greet her
on arrival.  This shows work in progress from stuffing her 'legs'
to papier-mache head and the finished product.
My mother's hair is NOT orange but it looks it in this photo!

 Son at 11 decided he wanted a Swinging Sixties
party - flowers added by me to charity shop gems.

My 'Audrey' for our Hollywood Night!

For a friend's gangster night.  I was meant to be Diana Dors!

I've even been an Asian lady (again a Murder Mystery).
Mrs Sengupta, eat your heart out! 

'On the Titanic' at a friends' house.

 A Lords and Ladies Night - boys against the girls! 

So there you go.  Have I inspired you to host an event?  Let me know and, if you've any other party tips, I'm always happy to add more. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

When I look back now ...

I’ve been tagged this week by a Twitter friend @icetuckerv2.  You can view his blog here.

My task is to name 5 songs that remind me of a holiday, time at school, time at college/university or a particular spell in my life.

So I’m going back almost eighteen years in time to my wedding day - the time that I barely had a care in the world or a bra in my drawer.  Breast feeding changed all that - I now have a teen to worry about and sport a pair of 38C’s!

But on my wedding day, I looked like this.

My wedding video began with this boppy little number by Bette Midler - one of the opening scenes shows my best friend winding me up by miming that my dress was tucked in my knickers and the gay vicar bursting into fits of giggles! (forgive the bad video clip but it was the best of a bad bunch on Youtube)

Hubbie and I chose to walk down the aisle to the theme music from ‘St Elmo’s Fire.'  Bridesmaids and ring bearer first and then me with my brother-in-law who gave me away.  Listening to this piece of music always lifts my spirits and takes me back to that lovely day.

We left the church as man and wife to Bette Midler’s ‘The Rose’.  Brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it.

This song was played at our reception and featured heavily when hubbie and I were courting.  Yes, we really did ‘court.’  I love the word, so old fashioned and proper!

And as our bridal waltz we chose Dr Hook’s ‘Years from Now.’  To this day, the words are still so fitting.

Ah, nothing like a trip down memory lane to make you feel old!  Thanks Tucker!

So guys, which five songs remind you of a time in your life?  If you blog let me know or leave comments here.  Are any of my songs special to you for different reasons?

You can buy all 3 of my 5* books at Amazon for Kindle or at Lulu in paperback.