Friday 31 December 2010

11 Things I will do in 2011

The end of 2010 is upon us and in a few short hours we will be stepping into 2011. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for my family and I this year on a personal level, but it's also been a positive year for my own personal goals.

I've completed and passed a couple of difficult courses with the Open University, gaining myself 70 credits towards a degree. I have also started writing. This being a very recent activity. Writing is something that I have always wanted to do, but never really did anything about it and 2010 proved to be the year I would act on this and take it seriously. My novel stands at a little over 21,000 words. It was started in October. It's been a little slow, but I have set myself 11 targets for 2011 and one of those is to complete the manuscript.

Instead of making myself a News Years resolution, I have set myself 11 goals. The majority of them are writing related because I really want to work on this in the coming year, but there are some personal ones in there.

1. Read 40 books ( Inspired by juppppy)

2. Complete first draft of novel and subsequent edited drafts

3. Query agent with completed novel

4. See a musical

5. Lose 1.5 stone

6. Start yoga

7. Submit 12 pieces of writing to competitions

8. Write at least 6 blog posts a month.

9. Be more organised. Set goals. Write things down.

10. Raise the profile of the blog and have an extra 12 followers by the end of 2011 (one a month. Today it stands at 15)

11. Push Doctors until a final diagnosis is agreed for son and I.

What do you have planned for the coming year?

11 things at two become four

Sunday 26 December 2010

iPad and Relationships

You may think it a strange combination to link an iPad received as a christmas present with a relationship, but for me it's perfectly logical. Let me explain.

My other half loves me to bits and I know this. Christmas day I knew this when he handed me a shiny new iPad for my gift. At first I was completely and utterly thrilled. I'd been coveting one for months. Well ever since they came out to be honest. I was so thrilled with my present that I didn't want to take out of it's perfect looking box for half an hour and just hugged it.
Once I removed it from its box, downloaded iTunes from my pc and syched it, I played with my new pad. Its lovely and stunningly beautiful as I expected.It's a little strange getting used to it as I'm used to my iPhone and the pad is, unsurprisingly a little bigger, but I'm getting there. 

I found the new iBooks app and downloaded several classics such as Little Women, Wuthering  Heights and Pride and Prejudice. I downloaded them because they were free and also because they are classics I would never have otherwise read and my reading experience should really widen it's horizons. I also bought some other ebooks and downloaded them. I think I went a little over board with the ebooks because it was so easy. I do have a pile of physical books waiting to be read, in my spare room, so I have a bit of a task on, to get through them before I can look at others I am interested in. One of the free books i downloaded is War and Peace. It could take me a while!  

Anyway, after playtime had run on for a while and it was starting to get late I started thinking about my precious pad and where it had come from. My other half had a bit of a windfall a couple of weeks before Christmas and without thinking of himself or anything else he went out and ordered me this because he knew I wanted one. 

Now I feel guilty. We're by no means flush. I wanted to go away for a weekend for my birthday next year and that money could have gone towards it and that would have been something we both could enjoy not just me. Now his complete determination to give me what he thinks will make me happy, actually makes me feel a little sad. I never knew this was coming and had I known I would probably advise we go away together for a weekend without the kids. 

Its not that I'm being ungrateful, but the idea of owning an iPad is just that, an idea. My other half doesn't need to buy me expensive gifts to make me happy. I love him and i didn't need an iPad to do it. I love him, I love he wants to do nice things for me and I love my iPad. I just realise I didn't need it. I hope that we still get that chance to go away in March. I would love to spend some quality time with him.

What have you received that has made you stop and think? or boot on the other foot, what would you get your other half if you got the chance? 

Friday 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing all, Life in Clarity readers, a very Merry Christmas
                             With Love, Rebecca                                                                                                        

Thursday 23 December 2010

Error with Writing Competition

Today I learned a valuable lesson regarding entering writing competitions that require postal entries.....

Make sure you put enough postage on!!

I sent a postal entry for a short story competition at the end of November. To my complete mortification I received an email today from the organiser informing me that I hadn't paid enough postage so the entry didn't get to her in time and to make it all worse, she'd had to pay the extra £1.10 fee. I wanted to cry into my phone. (Where I'd read the email)

I was upset that I hadn't been able to enter the competition but I also don't want to get myself a name for not putting postage on. Horrifically, I sent only my second postal entry yesterday, which I now know will be short on payment. I'm thinking I have to email the organisers and offer to rapidly pay the extra postage that will be required and hope that this can be done.

I mistakenly thought that because my letter was completely flat it was the ordinary first class stamp fee. I know that if it is thick you have to pay, I didn't realise that if it was wide you have to pay. (It was an A4 envelope) You see, I don't really post letters. In today's age where everything is electronic, I've become ignorant in the ways of the postal service.

I have learnt an extremely valuable, painful and embarrassing lesson today - Make sure you put enough postage on mail!

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Decision Between the Open University and Writing

I've recently had to make a difficult decision between continuing my studies with the Open University towards a Geosciences degree and leaving it for a year to pursue my dream of writing a novel, something I have always wanted to do.

It would seem that as I am getting older, I feel the need to push myself towards goals I maybe should have started or finished before now. The concerns about my ageing however is for another blog post.

The Open University 

I started studying with the Open University two years ago. Originally planning on doing a psychology degree, but after getting my knickers well and truly in a twist with a level 1 social science course, I decided to change direction and go for something more solidly science based. I am interested in the world around me and the how's and whys so chose geosciences. A study of our planet.

I've just completed the last of my level one courses with a very taxing 60 point basic science course that covered biology, chemistry and physics as well as the more interesting geology and global warming. It was difficult especially as I had health issues with my youngest and don't forget my very excellent excuse of working full time as well. I managed to get to the end however, despite these things. The next course, geology, started in November but I really wasn't ready to pick up the books that quickly so looked at my choices and found an environmental module starting in February. My problem was, it really is a big level 2 course whereas the geology was only 30 points (equate points to time required 60 is more than 30)

This is where I started to get confused about what I want to do in 2011. If I could have done the geology I could probably write as well, but I doubt I could write and do the 60 point environmental course. The option was taking a year off and doing the geology course next November.


Since I was at school I can remember enjoying writing. Wanting to write a book but I never did anything about it. Now as I rapidly approach 40 I decide I will do it, no matter what. I will write it, I will edit it to within an inch of it's life, do all the writery things I've been reading about on writery blogs and I will the get myself an agent. I will.

The problem here is that writing is time consuming. It is a little less pushy than doing a course because I don't have deadlines banging on the door. Saying that though, I really don't intend for this to take me the rest of my life, so I do what I can when I can. Between work, kids, housework and procrastination I do try and keep my word count going. My current first draft is on, at this point 20.5 thousand words. If I take the year off the OU I can concentrate on the book. I really want to do this book but feel a little guilty just letting go of the OU.

I had to make this decision by today as that is the registration deadline for the environmental course. I made the decision. This books needs finishing and a year off gives me that time. I just feel as though I'm letting myself down a little even though I'm still working on something.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Creating the Pseudonym

During the last couple of days I have made a firm decision on using and choosing a pen name for my writing. It wasn't a difficult decision to use one as I want to keep my day job and writing completely and utterly separate, and after a brilliant idea by a colleague, the name itself is a natural. I have found the practicalities of actually creating the name on various on-line platforms quite difficult. I'm creating a brand and that brand is me, but under another name.

I have created a new email address and I have also created a facebook profile, using the same photograph I use here and on twitter to save confusion.

Confusion however, did arise for me yesterday, when I emailed for a writing competition entry form, using said pen name email address and nearly signed off with my real name!

You may notice that I have changed my name on this blog to Rebecca (my chosen name). This caused me a few issues as blogger won't let me change my initial log in email, so it feels like I have a split personality, posting as Rebecca, but having to log in as Jane still.

I have then  had to consider changing my twitter username, the @ name, to my pen name so my online platforms link up. I need to be able to do this without causing confusion to everyone as well as myself. I think this is a sensible option, but I'm concerned about my twitter friends who know me as Jane. Do I appear sly by completely changing it? I created my twitter account as a personal social networking tool and have grown to love it and the people and interactions I have on it, but I have to face the reality that as a writer I need to be seen to have and use social networking sites. In changing my twitter name I'm not changing who I am, I will still keep it personal to me, but it will help link up everything that creates the platform for my dreams. The dream being, one day I will be a published novelist.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

What Christmas Means to Me.

Christmas is rapidly approaching, at a rate of knots that is unstoppable. The problem with Christmas is that it means so many different things for so many different people that in the end, the main factor that comes out of it is, we spend an inordinate amount of money trying to make people happy, specifically the little people in our lives, our children. It has become one big present fest with lists as long as your arms for what they want without a flicker of recognition that it could be difficult for mum and dad to do this.

What else is there at Christmas?


I've regularly been told from being, I don't know, a teenager and probably about the time I started to get less interested in it, is that Christmas is a time for families to be together. This can be seen as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your family I suppose. You either love getting together with a bunch of brilliantly socialising cousins or you're left shouting into great aunt Betties hearing aid. Personally due to this little Christmas add-on of what you should do at Christmas I never really get to spend the Christmas I want to spend, which is at home with my own family creating new and special memories for my children. I always feel pressured to do what other people want me to do or expect me to do.


I can't really say a lot about this part of Christmas other than I thought Christmas was supposed to be about Jesus being born and a celebration of his birth but I hear little about this other than knowing a bunch of drunks grace their local churches for midnight mass Christmas eve just to say they've been and the ignore the whole religious thing for another year after that. I have my own thoughts about God and religion, but it's not something I'm going to go into here. I don't go to church the rest of the year, so I'm not about to go for one event in an attempt to soothe myself about the greed that occurs over the Christmas period. Do many families thank God for Jesus Christmas day or is it literally all about the presents now?


The gifts that children want now are far more expensive than anything I ever wanted as a child. Their worlds are now filled with gaming machines and the TV throws up adverts for the very latest releases, creating very loud "I wants" across the country. This places immense pressure on families to provide, because as I've noticed, every Tom, Dick and Harriet seem to manage to acquire their hearts desire (and that's not just confined to Christmas!) we shell out because we believe the expensive items will make our little darlings immensely happy and then try and catch up with running a normal house for several months afterwards. 


This is something I do want at Christmas. An ability to create happy memories for my children at Christmas and not by buying them everything they want (though they will get most of it I admit) but, as I read in A Mothers Ramblings, blog this week, memories of things that come with Christmas. I want them to remember the little things. The pretty tree we had in the corner of the living room and the huge one that took up so much of the hallway that you have to turn sideways to get past it. The tin of chocolates that was a treat and not a norm. A trip to eat rubbish on Christmas eve at the nearest McDonalds that seems to have become a tradition. Getting excited about finding the stocking as we never remember where we put it in the past year. All things that aren't expensive, but come with Christmas, they're not forced or demanded of us, but things we do and feel. These things are what I enjoy about Christmas.

So what does Christmas mean to me?

Between the pressure to conform to what other people want and expect me to do and the money tree not really being at the bottom of my garden I find Christmas generally a pretty stressful experience and imagine I'm not alone in this. The saving grace for me however are the memory making moments. The small things. They may not be mentioned as something brilliant about the day at the time, but I know from my own memories that the little things do matter. I can't remember many of the gifts I received but I most certainly do remember Christmas, so it kind of shows to me that it's not the present giving bedlam I generally believe it is, there is a little magic involved, it just doesn't poke you in the face, it's a subtlety that is lasting and it's what I will be doing this Christmas - making memories for my children. 

What does Christmas mean to you?

Monday 13 December 2010

Decembers Monday Mentions

OK, so it's been a while since I did my one and only Monday Mentions blog post, where I promised to make it a weekly occurrence of what I had found interesting to read that past week. Well as you can see, it didn't quite materialise, so how about we try doing it once a month? It sounds a little more achievable doesn't it? We'll see....

Anyway, important matters, what have I found interesting this past week or so? Three blog posts that have drawn my attention recently are;

A chat with Melissa Hill on the blog High Heels and Book Deals. Lets see why I liked this blog post... Oh yes, I won one of the books!! Plus I loved the little snippet of advice that was, it's ok to use the word, said. 

No Ferroro at Christmas is like not having turkey on the blog A Mothers Ramblings. A little reminder that Christmas brings with it, not just bundles of gifts for kids, if they're lucky, but so many other memories.

Why Many Authors Choose Pseudonyms on the blog AOS. A topic that is an issue for me personally. WHEN I get published, it will be under a pen name. 

Saturday 11 December 2010

Assessing Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

Early last week, following my diagnosis of fibromyalgia by the rheumatologist, I visited my GP. I broached my concerns regarding the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, talking to him about what we had been through this year with my son. I talked about the initial diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome by the paediatric consultant, the concerns that it was a collagen problem raised by the haematologist and the diagnosis then being rescinded by an EDS Doctor. My obvious concerns being that Fibro pain and exhaustion are very similar to EDS problems and I felt it a little strange that EDS was considered by two consultants in relation to my son and I'm diagnosed with fibro.

For the first time since my son and I's health became an issue, I actually felt listened to and heard. Instead of making notes, appearing to have a diagnosis at the ready and not listening to what I was saying, he listened and acknowledged that it did seem strange. He said that he would write to the rheumatologist asking if EDS could account for my problems, especially as he had stated that I am hypermobile. He also agreed to refer me to a specialist in London if the rheumatologist doesn't want to reconsider his diagnosis. The London consultant specialises in fibro and EDS so he should know one way or another which it is.

The reason I want this sorting out for both of us one way or another is that fibromyalgia though pretty debilitating at times, it is not progressive. EDS on the other hand brings with it various health issues that need monitoring. If it is in fact EDS, I want my son to be cared for properly.

I know I seem to update my blog about these things weeks after they've occurred, but it takes me that long before I can get my head around the words.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Being a Working Mum

Today I found the harsh realities of being a full time working mum quite difficult to take and became quite stressed about it.

I work about an hours drive away from home, so, an hours drive away from my children's school. Add snow, ice and freezing fog to the "normal" drive to and from work and you can imagine it's a bit of a trek.

Today whilst at work I received a phone call from my son's school, saying, "Nothing to worry about but son has stabbed himself in the neck with some pencils and he's a little upset"

What happened it seemed, is that son was walking in the classroom with a pencil pot and he didn't see one of the other kids shuffling under a desk after dropping something and tripped over him. Said pencil pot and son went for a tumble and as he fell to the deck, the pencils stuck themselves in the front of his throat causing bleeding and lots of tears.

"I'm coming to get him" I said. Only I have an hours drive...

This then turns into one stressed out mum, trying to drive in the above conditions attempting to get to a crying child after having pencils rammed into his neck.

I struggled to care about the conditions on the road, only concerned with getting to my son and wrapping my arms around him. I had to remind myself as I drove as fast as the conditions would let me, that I wouldn't be able to soothe him if I was dead in the road, so I tried to hurry and keep safe. The longest hours drive from work I've had so far.

He's fine. He was sat with staff eating his lunch when I got to school. His neck has three small cuts covered by drying blood where the pencils have actually punctured his skin. I've given him ibuprofen for the pain and he's now happily watching Phineas and Ferb as I type and is perfectly ok.

I have to go out to work. I think many families now have two working parents, but today was hard. It wasn't serious, but it was stressful. I think we both deserve some pampering today.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

The Snowiest December.

I wasn't going to do this as I imagine you are overloaded with snow pictures today, but it's so picture postcard, I couldn't stop myself.

I was supposed to be heading to work today, but last night blew a snow blizzard and there was no going anywhere this morning.

So instead we took our little boy out and our dog, a beautiful Springer Spaniel who happens to love being out in the snow!

It's completely disruptive. I couldn't get to work and the local shop is running out of milk as they aren't getting their supplies and this is terrible news, but it really is a picture postcard.

We also spent some of the afternoon clearing drives for a couple of elderly neighbours. It's quite scary for them, so let's not forget to see if they are ok.

I've seen the pretty snow now. I'm ready for life to get back to normal!

Sunday 28 November 2010

Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

I know it's been a while since I wrote a blog post. I haven't been able to form the words for this post until now and still I'm unsure what I want to say..

Nearly two weeks ago I attended a hospital appointment with a consultant rheumatologist.

I've been having health problems for about three years now. Noticeable ones anyway. I've always suffered with debilitating migraines so I don't count them, they're just a part of life.

Prior to attending I'd got it into my head that he would look at me, say nothing was wrong and send me away. It's what I've come to expect of the NHS after it took me two years to be diagnosed with a dis-functioning gall bladder and also their inability to understand what is happening with my son and the issues around his bleeding all over his body from his capillaries. It's not really causing them any concern. Anyway, Imagine my surprise when I walk out with a diagnosis. The consultant diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia.

I had never heard of fibromyalgia until that day. He handed me a leaflet and told me to go and read up on it and then manage it with my GP.

Fibromyalgia is described Here

I'm in a strange place now. I'm happy to know that the pain and fatigue haven't just been in my head, I actually have a diagnosable condition, but I now have to come to terms with the fact that this is permanent. I have to learn to live with it. I'm going to live my life with pain, using painkillers in an attempt to continue being mum, wife and working woman, plagued by fatigue and having trouble sleeping. I have nothing to show outwardly what pain I'm in or how completely exhausted I can feel. In fact I look perfectly healthy from the outside.

After the appointment I went home and I cried. The few weekends prior to the appointment I had been feeling particularly drained of energy and had said to myself that I would do something with the children the next weekend or a couple of weekends away and now I know it's not just a passing phase because the weather changed and I can't determine when it's going to come and go. My kids caught me crying and were wonderful. They hugged me and told me they loved me.

To make matters worse, I had a really unexpected reaction on telling a friend of the diagnosis. Her reaction was to tell me I needed a second opinion, making it clear she thought I couldn't possibly have this. She then went on to say, pre-empted by the phrase “Don't take this the wrong way but...” did I think it could be the painkillers causing the pain as she's read they can cause all sorts of side effects and painkiller addiction can do strange things. I told her I know my body and this wasn't a reaction to painkillers and I don't have an addiction. When I have good days, I don't take the pain relief, but if I'm in pain, I really can't function in my role at work without them. I felt so invalidated and this is also a reason the difficulty in my dealing with the information.

It's been a couple of weeks now, so here I am, ready to talk about things.  

Friday 12 November 2010

Friday Flash: Comfort Blanket

The glass is heavy in her hand as she sits in front of the small oval table. The cut of the glass reflecting light from the overhead bulb in rainbow prisms. She rests her elbows on her knees and swirls the glass around in her hand. The golden liquid rocking, leaving a trail around the glass like a slug might. Her nose tipping over the rim she breathes in it's warmth. She knows how it will wrap itself around her, like a blanket, comforting. She needs the comfort. Just this one. A small blanket to offer comfort, just a small comfort.

She tilts the glass gently, almost lovingly and inhales, feeling it's warmth as it slides down her throat. She likes how it feels and tilts it further, draining the amber fluid, it's slug like trail the only sign of her downfall. She grabs the bottle and doubles the comfort. A sense of bravery pervades. It's just a small blanket.

The blanket gets warmer, the bottle gets lighter, she no longer cares, she is warm.

The glass is heavy in her hand as she slumps across the sofa in front of the small oval table. She hears the door whine and raises her head. The small child framed in the doorway looks at the glass and then in her mothers eyes. The blanket is ripped away savagely as guilt slams it's hard iron fist into her bowels.

The glass is heavy in her hand. She has every reason to stop.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Emotional Attachment to Food

I have real trouble with food. I love the wrong types of food and today is day three of me attempting to lose more weight. I've lost a stone this year, but being only five foot tall, I don't carry weight well, so I do need to lose more. I know I'm not alone in this, because several thousand people are members of one slimming group or another. Statistically more woman diet then men, with almost two in five (37%) women dieting most of the time, compared to around just one in six (18%) of men.

Why is this? I don't believe it's just an urge to be thin. All the talk about aspiring to look like those women in the popular publications. I actually believe, for me, it's more about an emotional attachment to food and it's a pretty deep rooted one at that.

The minute I get stressed I start eating. If I'm sad, I eat. If I'm happy, I go out to celebrate, I eat.

Why is it I can just not see food as a fuel for my body, a means to function, rather than an emotional crutch with which I can support myself at required times.

Whilst I find that diet clubs do work, I feel they only work when you are in the right “zone” to enable you to follow the plan and once you follow the plan correctly, the weight drops off. But what about the times when your emotional place takes some bombardment and there's not a cat in hells chance of you sticking to the plan?

I've been off plan for about seven weeks now. I have been eating everything in sight. I have an urge to shove things in my mouth (mucky minds out of the gutter please!) A need for the food to heal something within me.

I genuinely feel it is this emotional attachment that needs dealing with. The disassociation from comfort, support and the shovelling until you can't move, type of feelings . We all know the way we should be eating, but recently I lost my brain, to pure emotive eating, which goes on to add a few pounds, making me even more miserable and away we go.

Is this emotional attachment to food, inbred into us? Or do we learn it?

I think some of it may be learnt. I had one of those upbringings where I was made to eat everything on my plate regardless of whether I liked it or not or whether I wanted or needed it.

Another time in life, when dating, we eat out a lot, or I did, so another emotional attachment to food was made. Happiness happens around food.

A life of different messages with food, have led to a middle aged short person constantly unhappy with her height and shape, yet seemingly unable to correct it. I'm not lazy. I've lost a stone. But with the stresses of a potentially ill child, boundary pushing teenagers and a busy working life, I seem unable to do what I know that I should.

Does anyone else have emotional food attachments to food and how do you deal with it?

Monday 8 November 2010

Monday Mentions

I've decided I'm going to have a regular feature on the blog called – Monday Mentions

This Monday feature will include blogs that I've found interesting over the past seven days. Why a Monday and not at the end of the week you may ask – or may not. It began with an M. Simple. 

I will look back over a weeks worth of blogs and pick out a couple that I think are worth a read for various reasons. As you can see from my blog, I'm all over the place, this isn't a themed blog and the mentioned blogs won't be following a theme either, they will be posts I've read that have interested me for one reason or another.

I have three blog posts to share for my first Monday Mention and they are;

 Milestone wings  I Loved it's innocence. A brilliant post on a child finding out that there is no tooth fairy. Sometimes it's nice to have magic in our lives.

Food, Wine and Drink. An interview with an guest author on writing your characters eating. Eating is simple, we do it every day (some of us more than others) but it can add a real touch of realism for your readers.

Contraceptives for kids. A highly topical and emotive subject and one handled brilliantly.  

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. 

Saturday 6 November 2010

Pen Name

On Thursday I received an email stating that a short story submission I had made to an ezine had been accepted.

Yesterday I entered an online Fridayflash competition.

I've got a couple of short stories written up, that just need editing, that I am intending to enter into other writing competitions and I am also working on a novel, which I would hope, could possible make into the published world one far off day.

This got me to thinking.

I work in the public sector and the writing work and self publicising I am doing could potentially get me found by a google search, if people I come across in my day to day working life, decided to google me to see what they can find out. (Yes, this really could be a possibility) I absolutely do not want the two worlds to cross in any way, shape or form and want to keep my private life, just that, private. So with this train of thought, I've decided I need a pen name.

Now I just need to come up with of one. I think I would probably prefer to keep my own first name (Jane) and then assign myself a different Surname. It sounds easy enough, but it's not. I have no idea what to call myself. I mean, it's not every day you get to pick your own name is it?

Do my blog readers have any idea's or suggestions of what would go well with Jane? Or do you think I should go for a complete overhaul if I'm using a pen name anyway and change both first and surname?

Any suggestions are very much appreciated.

Friday 5 November 2010

My First Friday Flash


“Get away from me!” She screamed.
He looked at her, feeling defeated.
“If you come near me one more time, I swear to God I will cut it off with a hack saw!”
He winced

Night was drawing in and the blinds had been closed. The bed covers were strewn across the end of the bed, rumpled and discarded whilst the television mindlessly chattered. He took a deep breath. He hated to see her hurting this way. Her words cutting him, their sharpness stinging his cheeks. He wanted to walk away, if only for a minute. To take quiet air in, gather himself and then go back. He knew he couldn't. He had to stay, had to listen. He shifted uncomfortably on his feet.

“I hate you so much right now!” She continued her tirade. The volume of her words accelerating rapidly upwards. He watched as her fists clenched, her jaw working between outbursts. He wanted so desperately to hold her, to tell her everything would be OK, but he knew he couldn't. He had to stay where he was and take what she threw, silently, without protest. It had been going on for such a long time. He wanted it to stop. He looked at her lovely face, so contorted, beads of sweat running from her hairline as she screamed louder.

 Hot and sweaty, he had never seen her more beautiful, than now, as she gave birth to their first child.

Monday 1 November 2010

First Short Story Rejection

Remember me saying that I submitted my first short story to Take-a-Break? well, I've had my first rejection. I knew it would come. How many people get lucky with their first submission? I doubt many. I expected the rejection and thought I would be fine with it, after all, it's rejection from a distance, but it did still did hit a nerve. I loved my first story. After I submitted it, I asked a friend who writes, to read it. She critiqued it and from that I confirmed with myself that it would be rejected. I have since started editing it as think the idea I was trying to convey, is good, I just need to make the middle section less......dull.

I thought I would share the original version with you. The edited version now has huge chunks missing that I need to rewrite. This is my first ever short story, my first attempt. I like it (well I would, wouldn't I) but I do know where it falls down now, but I thought here would be a good place to keepsake it.


The Arum lilies were beautiful. Stems, brightly green with stunningly, swirlingly, beautiful cream flowers. She loved the way they curled and the strength of the stems as she held them. A strand of ribbon binding the six lilies together. She clutched them tightly, breathing in deeply, allowing the floral scent and emotion to fill her senses.
Her eyes were closed.

It was her wedding day, every little girls dream. Her husband to be, by her side. It was her perfect day. Christie remembered the days in the run up to the wedding, visiting the small, family run cake store to check on the cake prior to delivery, three tiers, frosted to perfection and holding intricately made frosted lilies. She remembered trying on her dress to obsessive levels, watching how it flowed around her body as she danced in front of the mirror. The white bodice and capped sleeves, showing her tiny frame perfectly, whilst the drop of the silk from the bodice, swam around her slender legs, giving her the feel of a princess.

She had shopped for thank you gifts for her two bridesmaids, Sarah and Lucy. Christie and Sarah had been friends since the first day of infant school, at just five years of age, all pigtails and frilly socks. Both girls in awe of the large full time school and the new experience, latching on to each other in their mutual newness and fear of such a momentous occasion. Lucy had joined them a year later, moving to the area after her parents had split in a very acrimonious way and her mum had moved as far away from Lucy's father as she could. People often say that having a friendship of three is difficult to maintain, but Christie, Sarah and Lucy clicked, and true friendship held fast. The gifts were personal thank you's, not only for being a part of her big day, but for the years of treasured friendship. The trials and tribulations of teenagedom, where everything was a drama. Bad skin, boys and some fairly horrific fashion disasters. It had been a typical teenage roller coaster of a ride for the girls and one that bound their friendship even tighter together. The friendship bracelets were her tribute to them and all that they meant to her.

Now she also had Jonathan in her life. She noticed him when he started working in the large offices that were Peterman and son, conveyors. She noticed his tall frame, dark styled hair and endearing smile, the minute he walked through the large antique wooden framed double doors, into the open spaced office area. She figured he was out of her league. Not only was he incredibly handsome, but he was kind and gently spoken in any conversation. The day he asked to take her out, had been, at that point, one of the worst days of her career. He found her in Coffee-tup, the coffee shop on the corner of the block where they worked, her smudged mascara, giving her a look of the crazy, and her hair, having hands driven through it twenty times a minute had taken on a life of it's own. She was distraught after dropping the proverbial ball at work and having been hauled over the coals by her supervisor, and had promptly left for a strong sweet fix in her favourite place. This was where she was sat when Jonathan walked in. Christie hadn't noticed him enter as she had cocooned herself into the corner of the shop, as out of view as she could possibly be, sitting with her back to the rest of the shop in an effort to hide the demented panda look, which she was sure, was not the current look being shimmied down the London catwalks.

He had sat down quietly in front of her. He didn't even say anything, he sat and he looked and he waited. Bewildered, she gave an uncertain smile and at that, he quietly took her hand. The difficulties of the day forgotten and a place in her heart filled. From there, conversations, picnics, restaurants and days filled with laughter ensued, a journey to her place in front of the alter where she would give her life to this man. It couldn't be told in a dramatic way, her love was assuredly and definitive as time itself and she knew with all that she was, that it was consummate.

She could see the guests, the colours and smiles. The joy and emotion was tangible. It felt warm and sure, slowly caressing her as it enveloped and secured her. He was there beside her, everything, her world, her soul, her reason for being. She looked at her father, the man who gave her away, traditionally handing her to her husband, giving her new life.

She lifted and touched the flowers to her nose, taking a moment in the fragrance and feeling the heat of love. The softness of the petals caressing the tip of her nose. The sweet scent stirred something in her.

She opened her eyes.

Confusion welled up, a deep knot from her stomach, churning up into her chest, up welling, taking her very breath from within her. She held on to the strong stems, soaking up the scent into every pore of her being, she felt the gentle hands of Sarah and Lucy cupping her elbows and knew it was time to let go. With a breath taken from the depth of her soul, she looked down, deep into the dark hole in the earth opening up in front of her and opening her hands, released the beautiful cream Arum lilies, watching as they fell softly into the ground.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

The Secret Diary of a Teenagers Parent

This blog post is being written off the cuff. No neat editing or thinking about what I could possibly blog about. This is me, sat at my computer simply typing the feelings and frustrations out. The frustrations of parenting a female teenager two months shy of turning fifteen and a teenager who is throwing herself into her life head first with little regard for anything that may be sitting waiting for her to bang her head on.

Why do teenagers feel they could only possibly look good if they are orange in colour, blacked eyes from too much mascara, short skirts and high heels? And why am I always in a constant battle with her?

There is an under eighteens event being held in a pub in our nearest town on Thursday night. She wants to go. All her friends are going. I contacted pub watch or licensing or whoever else I felt could clarify details of this and it is a legitimate event and support by the local Police. I don't understand why everyone feels it's ok to introduce teenage girls (and boys) into nightlife at such an early age. Now she's planning and demanding a dress and has picked out the most ridiculous pair of high heels she wants. I simply do not want her to go. I don't feel comfortable with her going to a pub on a Thursday night (It's half term) when the rest of the pubs are serving adults so drunken adults will be in the vicinity. I don't feel comfortable with the way she is going to want to look when she goes. Yet I feel alone in this. Her friends are going, their parents buying dresses and heels and probably more makeup. If I put my foot down and say no, I am at risk of ostracising her from her friends because she can't join in what they are doing, but if I let her go, I'm seriously not happy, in fact, I'm passed not happy, I'm outright stressed.

I wasn't going to pubs until I was 16 and I know that was still too early, but it just seems so far away from where she is now. She's made terrible decisions this past year. I don't trust her judgement on the safety of situations or for herself. All she is interested in, is how good she could look, in her eyes, and what others will think of her. It's a constant battle. I'm always saying no. I don't want her to enter the world of adulthood yet. It's not the place all youngsters think it is!

This is only going to get more and more difficult the longer it goes on and she gets older. I know there is no magic age where I can suddenly trust her, but she's not ready, she see's life as a big game and party whereas the reality is a little darker.

Thursday 21 October 2010

School Reunion

Recently, on Facebook, I appear to have been located by several people whom I used to attend school with, many many moons ago. I've been located and sent the obligatory friend requests. Now, although I am not sure if stepping back to a time I wore fixed braces, my family couldn't afford all the current trends and I was socially inept, is a good idea, but I accepted the requests, regardless. The thought processes behind these acceptances? I'm unsure.

Why do people feel the need to put on rose tinted glasses when remembering yesteryear and even in the remembering, why take that step and start adding and collecting old friends and acquaintances like a pack of cards? Why go on an friend requesting rampage, adding everyone you can possibly find, that links you back to a time of hormonal teenage angst. People you most probably lost touch with for a reason.

For me, I can't even remember half of the people that have sent me friend requests, yet I have surmised they are old school pupils from the ever growing lists of mutual friends, when clicking on their profiles.

To take this social networking nightmare to the next level, several old school “friends” have decided next summer would be a great year to hold a school reunion. We all turn forty next year. Need I say more?

Will it be fun to catch up? I think I will only remember half a dozen people and if the rest aren't wearing name tags, then I'm doomed. I acknowledge that there are a few people who it would be genuinely lovely to catch up with, but I know I'm definitely not the timid little girl I was back then and interactions are likely to be comparatively different.

Saying that though, a school reunion brings with it, self doubt and self image anxiety. How do I look? Does my bum look big in this? What have I achieved and what does this say about me?
All questions that I will torture myself with regardless of whether the questions have life breathed into them by another.

I will be forty. I work full time in the public sector, I have a modest house, a stable marriage and two wonderful children (OK, that bit can be debatable depending on when I'm asked!) I may also have had, at least one short story published by next summer, but will I feel I have achieved enough?

What is enough? What am I measuring myself against? And what do we expect from each other at these events?

As well as personal self doubt, I will also worry about being the cause of those similar feelings I have described, in some I meet again. Whilst their life decisions and changes will have no bearing for me, could I, without trying, cause some others personal anxieties and self doubt to rise to the surface? I'm not the person to compare and contrast our current lives, but, there's no getting away from the fact that if I'm worrying what they will be thinking of me, you can be sure, that someone else in the little gathering will be having the exact same concerns.

School reunions and stirring the pot of the past, is a hot bed of problems and issues, all silent and unspoken, yet an event, that seems ever popular.

Do we judge ourselves by others standards and achievements? Are these gathering merely a selfish tool to up our own invisible status by scorning others or is there a genuine wish to see old friends?

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Update on Sons Health

It's been a while since I updated the blog on the progression of the investigation into my sons health, so I thought I would do a quick update this evening. 

We did see the head Ehlers Danlos consultant, several weeks ago and she didn't think he quite fitted into the EDS category just now. He is hypermobile, but he could be more hypermobile then "normal" people or a little hypermobile. She just didn't want to call it. 

She mentioned his chest wall shape isn't right, but didn't elaborate. She didn't know what the leaking capillaries were about, so said she will see him again in a year.

A few weeks later, I received a letter from her, where she informed me she had attended a conference where she had spoke with a German Doctor researching children with capiliritis type issues and asked permission to discuss my son directly with him, to see if this can help in a diagnosis for him. I returned contact informing her it was definitely ok.

We then went to a follow up appointment last week, with the head paediatrician consultant who original diagnosed Ehlers Danlos. He took on board what the specialist had said, but when I asked if it could be a different connective tissue disorder and mentioned his chest shape, he really didn't know. He's now keeping an eye on him six monthly, to see if there are any progression of symptoms or new arrival symptoms. 

I'm hoping the German Doctor has something to offer, as seeing my little boy bleed into his skin on his torso regularly, really doesn't feel right for me, in fact it just make me anxious. 

I am a lot calmer than I was before, though. I'm no longer climbing the walls. My son is generally healthy within his day to day life, so I will take this in my stride, even if I am watching him like a hawk!. 

Saturday 9 October 2010

Creating and Using Twitter Lists.

The Twitter lists function has been available for about a year now. They are an add on feature to the twitter – user interface.

Not all users quite know how to use them though, so end up avoiding them altogether and yet follow hundreds if not thousands of people. This huge amount of following of people causes a lot of noise on a twitter feed, and often, this noise is irrelevant stuff that you really don't want, or need to hear.

Recently one of the people I follow, made comment about the amount of useless noise on his twitter feed and stated that they could no longer keep doing complimentary follow backs.

The simple organisational tool to rid yourself of the twiffle and ramblings that come with a large amount of followings is twitter lists. It gives you the ability to syphon off the stuff you don't want to hear, whilst still maintaining the original follow. Obviously if people you are following, hold no interest for you at all, then just don't follow them, click on the “unfollow” button.

To start using this fabulous creation, go to the right of your web based twitter, where you will find all your twitter needs, trending topics, saved searches etc, and there you will find twitter lists. Below the lists title is a “new list” button. Click. Create a name for your list, using whatever labels you want for various people. Some examples for list names are; great-Tweeters, Authors, Creative Cookery etc. and create the list. You can create multiple lists. This will help you phase some of the noise in your time line that twitter can create.

Once you have created your lists you can then go through those people you are following and allocate them into your newly defined lists, or even press the unfollow button. I mean, how often do you actually go through the people you are following and check if you even recognise the name or if you are getting anything from following them, conversation, or something as simple as a daily smile at a tweet they wrote.

So now you are ready to go. If you want your feed to be a bit more noise free, click on one of your lists and those you allocated in that list, will be the only people you will see tweets from. It's easily clickable to change lists to keep an eye on lots of twitter friends.

Another good point about twitter lists is that you can happily stalk twitter celebs without having to to actually “follow” them. You can simply assign them to a list (mines named Celebs who Tweet) and occasionally keep an eye on them by checking that list from time to time.

Twitter lists, for the lovely feeling of being organised. (Even if you're not really)

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Take a Break - Submission Guidelines

I've been busy this past few days,so haven't really written anything, so thought I would post these guidelines for any fellow short story writers. I emailed the women's magazine Take a Break last week, querying short story submissions and whether they take unsolicited mail. The response arrived today, that they did and the below are guidelines for the stories and submission. I hope you find this helpful.


Basic requirements: We are looking for contemporary stories aimed at women from their mid-twenties upwards. We require about 1000 words (N.B. Please note reduction from max of 1100 words) with a strong plot and a good twist in the tail. We do not have a weekly serial, so stories must be complete in themselves. It is highly unusual for us to buy stories written in the first person (I), we prefer third person narratives, (He/she).

N.B N.B. N.B !!!!!!

The twist MUST arise out of the plot, rather than simply turn on a detail, which the characters know but is deliberately kept hidden from the reader in order to mislead:
To check your twist is a genuine twist - not simply a deception - imagine your story were being made into a film and ask yourself - would the surprise still work? If it wouldn't, I'm afraid it's not for us.

Subject matter: We particularly like settings and situations which readers can recognise and relate to, rather than say, country house murders or stories about drugs’ rings or jewel thieves. It's essential to read several issues of the magazine to get the flavour of the type of fiction we publish before writing a story aimed at Take a Break. Many writers waste a lot of time and effort because they haven't done this. Please avoid straightforward romance i.e. boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. Also avoid historical backgrounds, science fiction and stories narrated by animals or small children. Take a Break is a family magazine so graphic murders etc. are not acceptable.

Common plots to avoid: UPDATED

* The heroine/narrator is revealed to be a cat, dog, fox, or whatever! This is a complete no-no.
* The victim of a rip-off tradesman or horrible motorist etc. turns out to be his or her new
boss/emergency dentist/VAT inspector.
* The policeman/woman is really a strippagram/singing telegram.
* The woman discovers her husband's secret lover is a man (or man discovers wife's lover is a woman).
* A husband/wife's mysterious arrangements turn out to be for a surprise gift/party - not an affair.
* The character who sees 'ghosts' is actually one him/herself.
* A shifty antiques dealer or similar dupes an old lady out of what he thinks is a priceless antique and it
turns out she is making them by the dozen.
* Anything to do with twins.
* Someone nervous about a first day at school turns out to be the teacher; or about a wedding, turns
out to be the vicar; or an interview, the interviewer and so on.
* Anything to do with bumping off elderly relatives for the inheritance; in fact 'Wills' in general are best avoided. stereotypes please! It's all too easy to fall into the trap of having lazy husbands and put upon wives, battle-axe wives and put upon husbands, grumpy old people and their longsuffering relatives, lonely single mums and their matchmaking children… Stories about super-husbands and overly-cheery grannies can be equally dull.

Because many writers write to this type of brief, their stories become boring and perhaps a good
twist is wasted. Be open-minded about your characters but keep them real!!!!!!

Because our stories are so short, it can be confusing if you have too many characters. A maximum of four is usually best. The main character should always be a woman.

Stories must be your own idea and original work, previously unpublished, and not on offer to any other magazine or publisher at the time sent to us. Should your story be accepted we would probably have to edit it to conform to page length and style.

Presentation: No e-mail submissions or floppy disks please!
Typed manuscripts are quicker and easier to read, but if you can't get your story typed, write clearly in double line spacing.

Please ensure your name, address; e-mail address (if you have one), and telephone number are on each page of the manuscript as well as on any accompanying letter. An accompanying letter is not necessary. Please include a stamped address envelope large enough to hold your story. Self-seal envelopes are especially appreciated. It's advisable to keep a copy of your story to guard against the remote chance of loss.

Features and articles should be sent directly to the Features Department with a covering letter.
It can take 10-12 weeks before a decision is made concerning your manuscript, so please be patient. If your story has not been returned after 12 weeks, please drop me a line giving me the story title, a 2-line synopsis of the plot and the date sent. Include your phone number (and e-mail address if poss.) and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Should your story be rejected it can be for any number of reasons. Sometimes we have already published or have in stock a similar story. More likely though, I feel it will not appeal to our readers. This does not necessarily mean I will not like another of your stories, so please don't lose heart.

Payment: £400

Usage Terms: First British Serial Rights with extended usage only across all media platforms
Stories sent for specific issues, such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween etc, must be sent at least three –four months in advance of issue date.


As Fiction Feast is a short story publication we can be very flexible about the length and type of fiction required. However, do read Fiction Feast every month to get the flavour of the magazine. Please note we rarely, if ever, publish stories written in the present tense. If writing with us in mind, please think carefully whether your story wouldn't work just as well in the past tense!

Please check the 'common plots to avoid' list (updated) above. Remember, too, that stories must be original, previously unpublished and complete in themselves. (Sorry, no serials) If you have good, strong 750 - 3,000 words, suitable for a family publication, I'd be delighted to consider it.

Presentation: as for Take a Break (see above)

Reading time: It can take 12 weeks for a decision to be made regarding your story. If you haven't had a verdict after 12 weeks, please drop me a line, giving me a brief synopsis of the plot, and date submitted. Include your telephone number (and e-mail address if poss.) and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Payment: which is generally on publication, depends on published length, starting at £200 for a single page.

Usage Terms: First British Serial Rights with extended usage only across all media platforms
If you have any specific queries about submitting stories to Take a Break or Fiction Feast, I will be happy to answer them. Please write to me, Norah McGrath, Fiction Editor, Take a Break 24-28 Oval Road, NW1 7DT.

Thursday 30 September 2010

Social Networks - Announcing Death?

Last Friday I logged on to my Facebook account and happily read down my home page, updating myself with friends activities. I then came to a few entries made by the same person, in a short period of time. I was stunned and emotional by what I read. Ivan (for protective purposes) had announced his wife's death,that was just 10 hours earlier, on his Facebook page. Not only had he announced her death, but he had made several messages about her fight against the illness, how much he loved her and the pride in their two children. It was emotive reading. 

Ivan is not a random internet friend, he is someone I know in person, but one of those whom I haven't seen for a few years, but with the help of Facebook, complete loss of connection is never quite reached. This made the shock more palpable. I knew this man, he is a good man and I can't imagine the pain he must be feeling. He isn't much older then I and his children are teenagers. All grieving. 

Being teenagers, Ivan's children also have Facebook accounts and made comments of support, love and loss. It became too personal for me and I looked away. 

I voiced my surprise to the announcement being made on the social networking site to my colleagues, and was greeted by one comment that made some sense. "It's an easier way to let a lot of people know at once, without having to keep telling people over and over again" 

A valid point I suppose.

Is there a difference between Twitter and Facebook for social networking and what you can and can't post or what you will or won't post?

I for instance, have put my issues with my son's health, in snippets of information on Twitter, whereas I haven't uttered a word on Facebook. Is it to do with personal allocations of what online places represent for each individual person? Twitter for me is an open network, with all but one person, unknown to me in person, whereas Facebook is that more personal and I know the majority of the people on there. I don't wish to make announcements on Facebook to people who know me, yet don't Know me, about something as personal as my son's health, but am willing to whisper it into the ether of people who do not know me.

I personally felt a little uncomfortable, not with Ivan's loss and grief, but with the further open discussions on the network between him and his grieving son's, when I imagine they were probably in the same house. 

This week, I saw more use and purpose for the medium as Ivan gave quite simple details of funeral arrangements and requests for donations instead of flowers. After his initial outpourings, the Facebook feed was quite quiet. I think it served it's purpose of being a place to let some emotion out, but is Facebook the place to let that kind of personal emotion out? Are we living in a world where nothing is ever sacred, nothing is ever personal, it's just an open world, where humans and computer connect as one and no matter where that leads or to whom it leads in such a vastly open space that is the World Wide Web.

Do we need to draw ourselves in a little or venture further into the open space where there are no boundaries, the world is an open space for all to share, lines of human interactions and living, blurred with the extension that is fast becoming who we are, the open lines of the internet? Do we share too much, do you have personal thoughts and feelings that are yours alone or yours and one other living person? Can you exist in your own little section of the world without reaching out as far as they eye can see and beyond or is who you are intricately entwined with the technology that enables the interactions we are currently using?

What is social networking in today's world? What is the purpose of so called social networking sites and are there any boundaries? How do you know what the boundaries are, if they exist, and what do you use social networking for?

Thursday 23 September 2010

Started writing

Well, I promised myself I would make a concious effort to start writing fiction this year, after many years of putting it off, writing one or two chapters and getting no further or just simply making my life far too busy to do it.

This time I decided that enough was enough, with all the issues going in on my household over recent months I need to do something for me as well.

Yes I do currently have the Open University to contend with, which is why I thought I would try my hand at writing short stories first, just to get some practice in, and also, generally write more, joining the ( I didn't know it existed!) blog community.

This week, though I should have been concentrating on a very rapidly looming Open University final assignment and when I mean final, it's the final assignment of nine months work and if I don't complete it, I fail. Not really an option, it just means I have to work really really hard at the last minute. Anyway, the point being, is that this week, I have written my first short story.

It started out as an idea scribbled down in a note pad, and then promoted to the ranks of my computer screen where I typed idea's, paragraphs and characters. I went a little off course and reigned it back in, edited it, read blogs giving advice, took notice, added things in and then today I was very nearly happy with what I had. I spoke about what I had been doing with two colleagues who were in the office with me at the end of the day.

I enthusiastically offered to send it them via email for their honest opinion and regretted the offer as soon as the words passed my lips as I knew that if they found it bland or just plain rubbish, then they would just be polite to me.

I heard the bleeps on the computers as the story arrived and watched as both female colleagues looked at their screens and started reading. Iris stated she would give critique if I really wanted her to, so I sat quietly yet fidgetly waiting. She finished first and said it was really good, all sentences and paragraphs in the correct tense and she really hadn't expected what was done and that it was really well woven in.

I then moved my attention to H as she read, and I waited. She stopped reading, looked up me and I saw she was crying! Oh my, words I had written had taken her into the story and she had cared so much she cried. She loved it. What a compliment!

Yes, as a first short story I fully expect it not to be made to publish level, but I need to do this, get plenty of rejections, learn my writing and my own style and keep going. I'm really serious this time. But honestly, it really did have me grinning like the proverbial cheshire cat when H cried.

I think I just started writing!