Friday 30 December 2011

A Review Of 2011 And Further.

We're rapidly approaching the new year 2012 and it's often a time where we reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead. This is going to be nothing different.

The last blog post of 2011 was a list of 11 goals I was setting myself to achieve in this year. Now is the time to see how I've done and assess what goals I need to look at for the year ahead 2012.

1. Read 40 books 

I completed this. Though my Goodreads ticker only stands at 41, I know I have read at least 3 more that for some reason Goodreads didn't want to acknowledge. I'm not sure what that says about my taste in books!

2. Complete first draft of novel and subsequent edited drafts

This I did! And I'm thrilled with the fact that I did. It was hard work. I've had a lot of other things going on this year and I work full time, but regardless of that I still kept pushing myself, sitting down at my newly acquired office space that used to be a spare room and I wrote and I edited and I kept doing it and novel number one was born.

3. Query agent with completed novel

Believe it or not, I even managed to do this. I'm still in the anxiety riddled stage of waiting to hear back, but I'm pleased with what I achieved.

4. See a musical

Unfortunately this one wasn't completed. My other half lost his job earlier in the year do finances restricted social plans like this.

5. Lose 1.5 stone

Mmm. I can't seriously remember what my starting weight was when I wrote this so I can't say either way. That's not a get out clause. I genuinely don't know. I have lost some weight but I don't think it was in this ball park.

6. Start yoga

Oops. I forgot this one.

7. Submit 12 pieces of writing to competitions

I changed my mind about this one early into this year as I decided I needed to focus on the novel.

8. Write at least 6 blog posts a month.

In the main I managed this, other than September and October when I was in that last push to completing the novel. I'm happy with this one.

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

This, I think I managed. There's still room for improvement but I'm getting there.

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)

See, I should have done the bracketed thing with the weight loss goal. Ha! Not really. Who wants to put their weight in black and white for all to see?

Anyway, I think I successfully managed to do this. 195 followers! Bear in mind my last post where I discuss quality over quantity. I do want to improve my jnteractions.

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

Done. We have hyper mobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and I also have Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Not much to have a song and dance about but the objective was met and we know what we're dealing with.

So with this past year all checked out, what do I intend to focus on for 2012? Lets see.... I'm not sure I can come up with 11, never mind 12, but here goes.

1. Read 50 books and in a variety of genres.

2. Start Pilates and another form of exercise. 
Due to my medical diagnosis's I need to exercise more, but I need to be sensible in the choices I make.

3. Write book two.

4. Have a publishing contract for book one. 
This is out of my hands in the main though. I will work hard but the choice is ultimately be in someone elses hands.

5. Lose a stone in weight.
It's a constant battle, but a smaller goal is more achievable and I don't want to put things on this list just for the fun of it.

6. Make more quality connections when blogging. 
If commenting, to make sure I have something to say rather than a one sentence comment for the sake of it.

7. Keep in touch with the people who are important to me. 
We often let this slide in our lives. We become busy and time slips away. I want to make a conscious effort to not do this.

What do you have planned for the coming year?

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Holiday Cleanup.

It's that time of year when the Christmas festivities start to die down and everything heads to the one last night of the year and a new page is turned, or so we are led to believe. I think we actually do the page turning ourselves and I hope to make my 2012 a great year. More of that though later in the week when I look at past ambitions from last years list of what I wanted 2011 to be and what I want the next year to look like.

Now though, it's time to tidy up. Make room and create a clean page from which to work. So what am I talking about? Right here, right now, I'm talking about blogging. I had a great year on my blog this year. I took part in several blogging challenges and blogfests and built myself up a huge reading list of blogs. I can now see that the reading list is too noisy and unlike Twitter, there is no way to siphon the blogs into lists, so it is just a noise of words. I don't look at it often enough, so find I'm missing posts I'd have liked to have participated in and seeing posts that I do respond to but the blogger has no idea who I am or why I suddenly popped up and there's no return comment. This I'm afraid annoys me. I take the time to comment on someones blog, I'd like to be acknowledged, either by a responsive comment on the same thread or a look over Life in Clarity and a comment left here. Often there's neither.

So what is my plan and how will I create a clean page? I'm unfollowing. It may sound harsh, but I read something on a blog this week, and I apologise because I can't link to the blog because my list is so big I can't remember where I saw it, but the gist was about blogging and community. The blog talked about blogging being a community and not worrying about the size of readership, the interactions are what are important. It's no good having hundreds or thousands of readers if they don't read or interact. This struck a chord with me.

I believe that the blogosphere is a community and I want to know that community and not just blend in with the noise. So by unfollowing blogs I probably followed during a massive blog hop and neither they or I have visited the respective blogs again, and blogs I feel have too many followers and they no longer have the capacity to respond, I make that space for people I can talk with and share things with. So if you're here now, reading this, it's likely you are still being followed by me and we do know each others blogs. I still have a large list of blogs I follow, but I have managed to cut some of it down. There will still be blogs I don't have chance to visit on a regular basis, but when I checked them out, I liked their content and voice of the blog so they stayed.

I want to visit your blog and I want to interact with your blog. It's not a numbers game. It's a place to talk and share and I hope by having a bit of a clear out, I can become a better blogger. If you are reading this and believe I have unfollowed you by mistake, then please let me know.

What are your thoughts, idea's and expectations of blogging and where do you want to take your blog in 2012?

Friday 23 December 2011

Wishing You A Happy And Peaceful Christmas

It doesn't seem long at all, since I last wrote a Christmas post. Isn't that what we always say though? Christmas always comes around so fast.

The joy of blogs, blogging and blogging friends is that we can share this time regardless of where in the world we are, how we live or how we experience this day.

Whether this period of the year brings with it joy or sorrow, I wish to you a peaceful and calm period and hope where-ever you are, that you know you have a voice and within this community you can share and be heard. I look forward to blogging with you until another Christmas comes around all unexpected, like we didn't see it coming.

As for hopes and aspirations, that will appear in a post next week. Until then, all that is left to say is Happy Christmas.

                                       Our small tree decorated by the children.

Monday 19 December 2011

Recently Read - Taunting The Dead

A couple of weeks ago I read a book by a friend of mine, Taunting the Dead by Mel Sherratt. Mel has written a fantastic crime novel which is very character driven. You could accuse me of being biased which is why I'm telling you that I know Mel in the first place. But to be honest, It is a really well written, great book and I hope you check it out yourselves. It's in eformat only and a great price.  

I hope to pin Mel down, in the new year, for an interview. Watch this space.

Below is the review I left on Amazon. 

Statistics say nine out of ten murders are committed by someone the victim knows. So when Steph Ryder is found dead with her head caved in, Detective Sergeant Allie Shenton begins investigations close to home, starting with the victim's family and friends. 

As each one lies to cover up their actions on that fateful night, Allie becomes convinced husband Terry Ryder has something to hide - and he's not the only one. Powerful, ambitious and charming, Allie's attraction to the successful businessman grows with each interrogation, risking both her job and marriage. Can Allie uncover the truth before her life not only falls apart, but before she ends up a victim, too?

I loved the title of this book and wasn't disappointed when reading. The story starts, quite uniquely, by following Steph Ryders last interactions and those of the people around her. It sets you up quite nicely for the murder that follows and the subsequent police investigation. 

The story is told in a no nonsense sort of way and gives you a real feel of the lives the people within were living. The characters were gritty and three dimensional and I had no trouble understanding who they were. I did however, struggle to work out which of the bunch were capable of such a violent murder. I was kept guessing and being made to turn the pages right until the very end. 

If you like your fiction honest and believable this is a read you won't want to miss. 

You can find Mel on her Blog, High Heels and Book Deals, or on Twitter. 

Friday 16 December 2011

Invisible Illness Visible?

Yesterday I attended a hospital appointment to get the results of various tests I'd had done over the last three months. The tests included a 24 hour heart halter and a tilt table. The results of these tests concluded that I have POTS, or it's full name - Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. It's an autonomic disorder which means some of the functions that should work automatically in my body, don't. For instance my heart rate goes too fast sometimes, evidenced by the heart halter when I was sat at home in front of the TV. There are many things this syndrome does. I feel dizzy and lightheaded for little reason, I struggle to sleep and live with headaches and migraine. These are just a few of its effects.

POTS is fairly common within people living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Even though I have both these disorders I live my life as many other people without them, do. I work full time, I socialise, spend time with my family and try to write. Some days these things take it out of me more than others, but I don't let it dictate who I am.

It is on this point that I wondered about the visibility of invisible illness. My Twitter profile and this blog tell of the illness that no one can see. My thoughts on putting it out there was to connect with people who live with and understand the disorders. Twitter has been great for that. Yesterday though, as I thought about blogging the results I questioned the reasons or need to put this information out there. Should I leave the information visible, thereby raising awareness of a little heard of disorder and champion invisible illness in an small voice fighting stigma, or should I remove mention of it and live my life in spite of two disorders that attempt to restrict me?

What do you think of seeing this information, either as a well and healthy person or as someone also living with invisible illness?

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Wish I Was Here

Todays blog post is a bit of an escapism post. It's about sharing your ideal place for escaping the mid December madness. The post is in celebration of Janice Hortons release of her eBook Reaching For The Stars.

In the book, the main character Chef Finn McDuff feels he’s had enough of all the food campaigns, the TV cookery shows, the constant frenzy surrounding his private life and disappears into a self-imposed exile for a while. Hence the theme of the launch day extravaganza is ‘Wish I Was Here...’

So where do I was I was?

Surprisingly it's not some hot, quiet, getaway island. The place I would love to be as is the top of my list for places to go is New York. And what better time to visit than the run up to Christmas. You could easily get lost there and simply enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the big city. I want to walk in Central Park and eat in a cheesecake shop. I want to walk amongst the towering buildings and watch the craziness of the yellow cabs. I want to visit the statue of liberty and go on the Staten Island Ferry. With everything I want to lose myself in over there, I think I need the rest of December!

Where do you wish you could be?

Visit Janice's Blog to see fellow bloggers ideal destinations.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

My New Favourite Place

 Today I found my idea of heaven. A place that caught hold of all of my senses. A place that felt warm and inviting and a place I fully intend to make a frequent place to visit.

Scarthin Books in Cromford, Derbyshire.

I fell into this wonderful wonderland of books by accident. I was with colleagues when we called in for a hot drink while travelling and the result was I nearly had to be physically dragged away because I just didn't want to leave.

As you walk through the shop door the smell of books hits you straight away, and then the sight of floor to ceiling books adds to the feel of a real old fashioned, cosy, comfortable place to be.

The shop was on three to four levels, I can't remember, I was feeling so excited. I actually felt like a child during that first Christmas where you start to understand the joys Christmas can bring. The entire place is filled with books including the stairways. Everything you could ever wish to read about, you could find here. I saw books I desperately wanted, but had never considered reading before. Non-fiction books that drew my interest but are something I wouldn't necessarily browse for when I shop online for ebooks, or even hardcover books for that matter. The world opened up in that one shop I very nearly didn't get to know about. It showed me that bookstores like this really do have a place in our technological world.

There was a wonderful childrens room, which had the ceiling decorated very originally and was obviously created with children in mind. I've already discussed the shop with little man and said we can spend an afternoon there and he was thrilled. Especially when I showed him the photographs. I love that he shares my love of books and hope that this continues as he grows.

I completely feel like I'm on a sugar rush, even hours after leaving, only it's a book rush. It's a wonderful place and I'm so glad I came across it.

I will leave you with a couple more photographs and a suggestion to visit it if you can.

 Do you have a similar book shop you visit? Tell us about it. They really are wonderful places and deserve our support.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Time To Read

It can't be denied that reading is good for us. It's educational, inspirational, motivational. It widens horizons, shares experiences and provides a place to escape. It exercises the brain cells, promotes spelling and language and can be experienced anywhere you want.

So, with that said, why do I feel guilty when taking that time to read at home rather than before going to sleep or while I'm eating my lunch at work?

I work full time, I write, I spend time with my family. Sitting down with a book feels a little like I'm using up valuable time I should be making better use for.

As a writer I often hear that reading is a must, after all, how can you write if you don't read. So reading is a must. I keep reminding myself of this, that reading is a necessity rather than a luxury but my brain can't convince my emotional side.

Do you find sitting down with a book easy or do you have to convince yourself it's a positive? I'd love to hear how people deal with this quiet pastime within busy lives.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Patricia Cornwell In Harrogate

Last weekend I was lucky enough to get a ticket to an amazing event in Harrogate where the United States queen of crime, Patricia Cornwell was being interviewed on stage and then book signing.

Prior to the event I met up with a couple of lovely friends and we shared a cream tea. It was heavenly, if only the service would have matched the taste.

After that we all filed into the hall to find our seats, where after sitting somewhere close to the back, I was found a wonderful seat, just four seats back.

The event was great. Patricia talked about how she has stopped ageing Scarpetta as she doesn't want to age her and potentially retire her.

She explained the moment Lucy walked into her line of sight in one of the episodes and she found out Lucy was gay. It's a very organic way of writing. The characters have their lives and do their own thing.

Cornwell did admit to regretting killing Benton off, almost immediately, so she brought him back.

She did say she absolutely would not kill Scarpetta off, so that's a blessing for fans.

As far as the movie goes, it's still early stages, I think screenwriting was mentioned. Angelina Jolie is still "attached" to the project. The film will not portray any of the books but will stand alone and in Kay's earlier career, hence using a younger actress I presume.

After the interview she stayed around to sign books. As far as social media goes she's very interactive with her twitter and Facebook. Check her out.

I will leave you a slightly blurry image of her signing some books.

A truly great evening and one I was glad I shared with friends

Friday 25 November 2011

Something For The Weekend

I haven't had a great deal of time for reading recently as I've been going full pelt at my manuscript, but I thought I share with you, some of what I did manage to read.

Now this book, when you hear what it's about are either going to say - yay! Or put your head in your hands and wail.

The Radleys, written by Matt Haig.

Book blurb:

Meet the Radleys - Peter, Helen and their teenage children, Clara and Rowan, live in a typical suburban English town. They are an everyday family, averagely dysfunctional, averagely content. But, as their children have yet to find out, the Radleys have a devastating secret. In this moving, thrilling and extraordinary portrait of one unusual family, The Radleys asks what we grow into when we grow up, and explores what we gain - and lose - when we deny our appetites.

My Thoughts:

The Radleys family secret is that they're vampires. The children are unaware of this at the start of the book but that changes one fateful weekend when a party goes wrong for the Radleys daughter. She is stunned to find out she's not actually ill as she'd originally thought she is in fact a vampire. I really really liked this story. It's set in suburbia based "normality" and the vampires are living pretty ordinary lives. It's a lovely modern twist on a vampire themed novel. I loved that the family could be anyone and anywhere. They tried so hard to blend in. It's wonderfully written and something that is worth checking out, even if you're not a vampire fan.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Liebster Award

The ever lovely Liz Crump a wonderfully chatty writer who can be found over on her blog here, has very kindly nominated Life in Clarity for the Liebster award .

Liz made an incredibly kind comment about the Life in Clarity blog and it made my day, so thank you Liz. I urge you to go check out her blog.

So on with forwarding the award to five other blogs.

In accepting the Liebster Blog Award, the recipient agrees to:

- Thank the person who gave them the award and link back to that person's blog
- Copy and paste the award to their blog
- Reveal the 5 blogs they have chosen to award, commenting on their blog to break the news!
- Hope those people in turn pay it forward by accepting and awarding "The Liebster Blog Award" to bloggers they would like to honour

This award is for anyone with fewer than 200 followers. :)

The five blogs I award the Liebster award are:

Teresa Morgan at The Wittering Woman. Teresa is an aspiring romance writer who blogs with honesty and humour, oh and yes, a fair share of handsome hunks appear on her blog pages. A girl can't go wrong!

Working Stiffs a collective of crime writers. If you're a crime kind of reader, you can't go wrong.

Annalisa Crawford who is wonderfully lovely and honest and has a blog that makes me smile.

Linda K whose dogged determination is inspiring. Life always manages to get in the way, but as writers we need to keep going. Linda does just that. A lovely blog.

Ranae Rose a lovely but red hot romance writer :)

Sunday 20 November 2011

A Weekend In York.

This weekend I went away to York with friends I've known since school. We went on Friday and came back late yesterday. I had a ball. We laughed constantly and the weather was on our side. To say it was mid November the sky was blue and I got away with wearing just a light jacket.

York is a beautiful place so I thought I'd share some photographs of my time there, with you.

The Minster at night.

It would seem Christmas is on its way.

The Minster set against an unbelievable November blue sky.

The ghost walks of York.

York is just so beautiful.

Last but by no means least... I had to have my photograph taken with a Storm Trooper. Who wouldn't?

What is one of your favourite cities of beauty?

Friday 18 November 2011

The Second Book.

So while I'm waiting patiently to hear back from the agent, (Guess which word in that sentence doesn't quite ring true) I thought I'd have a relaxing couple of weeks. After all I'm not going to the day job and then having to come and slave away at my home desk to complete the first book. I thought I'd be able to catch up with my To-be-read pile, which is growing, literally, by the day, and I could spend a bit more time downstairs with the family. I figured I'd do this before starting on book two.

Who was I kidding. The story for the next book in the series is nudging me in the brain day and night. It just won't go away. So two days after sending the first book to the agent for them to look at and respond to, I'm already putting together the next book in my head. Not just in my head though, oh no. I've written two pages of notes and googled a few points I need to look at for research.

I was under the misguided impression that I could try write this book and if I couldn't do it, I would go back to finish the Open University degree. That was what I said in a blog post in about October last year. Now though, now I realise I really really want to write. Stories. All the time. So regardless of what happens with this one agent, I'm sticking with it. I will do any rewrites necessary and keep submitting and I will also make a start on the second book.

I have the bug. I think I'm a writer.

At what point did you realise you were a writer and not just dabbling, that it was seriously what you wanted to do? Was there a specific point it became more real for you?

Tuesday 15 November 2011

The Next Step And Waiting.

I haven't really said anything about this on my blog because I was scared to. I was scared to because I didn't want to put a jinx on anything. A jinx, can you believe that. I actually thought that if I discussed it too much the opportunity would go away.

Now I'm tentative and cautious, but a bit more willing to write about it here. After all, my blog is not only an ongoing conversation with fellow bloggers and readers, but a permanent reminder for me to look back on. A place to chart the trials and tribulations of attempting to get published. To have a novel, or further, a series of novels, out there for people to read. It is with this in mind that helped me come to the decision to finally write about what is ongoing. That and the fact that it's gone and I can't get it back. My novel is actually out there in the big wide world.

Okay, so six months ago I sent an enquiry off to an agent. I was aware the agent was interested in finding new crime writers, so I bit the bullet and sent an email, telling them what I was writing. (I am purposefully keeping this gender none specific, still worrying about jinxes etc!) I sent the first few chapters and synopsis and was then asked to send the full manuscript when I had completed it.

That was nearly six months ago. I worried I was taking too long and the request would be rescinded. I recently made contact again and informed them it was completed. It was confirmed that the agent was still happy to read it and yesterday I sent my manuscript to them via email.

I'm terrified. It's my first submission and a no thanks is expected, but I've now spent a year of my life writing this and it's going to feel personal, no matter how well I'm turned down. I'm trying to lock all emotions away as I wait and deal with what comes in a detached manner. That's the plan. But for now, it's a waiting game. Who's going to sit with me?

Wednesday 9 November 2011

When To Stop Editing

As you know, I'm in that final push mode with my manuscript. I've polished and checked and polished some more, but I'm now wondering if I'm so close to it am I going to make a complete hash of it? I'm not sure which way is up anymore, or if I alter something, I wonder if I will take away what was good about it?

At what point do you know to stop editing? I imagine we can't be fully happy. Or can we? Is there a point when you know it's ok to let it go and genuinely believe that or are we doomed into an ever decreasing circle of editing?

I'm so close to this manuscript now that it feels a part of me. How do you let a part of you go?

And when you do, what happens then? You give it to someone who's going to pass an opinion on it.

*runs off to hide at this point*

Do we ever get too close or if we're still polishing it, does that mean it still needs it or are we polishing the nice shiny bit off?

When do we know it's time to let go?

Monday 7 November 2011

It's Just.....

Yesterday I went through my manuscript looking for words I overuse. I checked each one and if it wasn't necessary it got cut. I cut over 100 of the word "just".

Really, what an innocuous word, but it had taken over the entire manuscript.

Another one I'm halfway through checking is "that".

I was also pretty bad with "yet"

What words do you overuse? Are you aware you overuse them?

Do I really want to see the answers to this blog post? I daren't check for any more overused words- I might not have a manuscript left!

Saturday 5 November 2011

Networking While Writing

Networking while writing. How do people find the time to network with fellow writers when in the throes of writing?

As you know, I've have failed miserably at keeping my blog up to date as I do this last push to completion. It's not just the lack of upkeep though. Blogging works and is important, not because of the things we write in our posts, but because of the connections we make with fellow bloggers and writers (if you're a writer and reading this).

Writing is an isolating hobby/job. It's something you do on your own. So for me, connecting with my fellow bloggers is important. It is you, yes you reading this, that are important to me. So the problem comes when you're pushing so hard at your work in progress that you can't keep up with the people you probably need a friendly word from, a cheer as you gallop towards the last hurdle of the current stage in the quest for the golden gauntlet of publication.

How do people marry up this difficulty. Spend a little less time writing? Or hope that those friendly blogger you think are so great, will wait patiently for you? Or is blogging a fickle world?

How do those crazy people (only my opinion) manage to do NaNoWriMo and then go on to socialise on the official site? I couldn't do both!

How do you write and network? Can both happen in a working persons life? I'd love your views on this.

Saturday 29 October 2011

The Wanderer Returns

It's been a while since I last came on my blog. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, because, on a personal note, I've generally had a terrible month and my blog and Facebook were forgotten about for a while. I continued in my attempts to keep moving my writing forward but there was little energy left for much else

Secondly, when I did find a place where the personal stuff had been dealt with in my small headspace, the writing took over. I've been so busy with a self imposed deadline of mid November to complete this by, that I'm going into a bit of a panic and doing little else but writing when I can. This again affects my blogging as you have seen.

The reason for this push on the writing front is when I've finished the manuscript I'm sending it out into the big wide world on submission. A scary process but one as writers we have to take.

I realised though, that I should start to give my blog some love again and catch up with everyone. So I hope some of you remember me. I'm looking forward to catching up and finding out what you've been up to.

Friday 9 September 2011

How Do You Write?

I've been wondering about this for a while now, but as you have noticed, I haven't been big on blogging recently. The main reason is my hours have been changed at work, so I'm working longer days, but on the flip side, I do get extra days off, so it's all swings and roundabouts. The other reason I haven't been here a lot, is that any spare time I do get, I'm spending on my Work In Progress (WIP).

I'm on the fourth draft now and it's really starting to take the shape of what I imagined it to be. I've added the pressure, by creating a self imposed deadline for finishing it. That deadline being the end of this month. Now you can see why I'm taking every opportunity I can to sit and work on it. It's no chore though, seeing it take shape is exciting and I can't get enough time with it.

As it's my first novel I've had to feel my way around the creative process and I've come up with a way of working that appears to be working for me. (Ask me if I still think that when I send my baby out!) It works, as in, it keeps my flow and focuses me.

I thought I'd share how I've worked this book. It's in drafted stages.

Draft one - Free write.

Draft two - Plotholes.

Draft three - Timeline.

Draft four - Character building and fact checking.

Draft five - Edit.

Each draft has come with it's own issues and frustrations, but setting myself a definite task of what I was working on during each current draft helped focus me on that and helped me complete what I set out to do. EG - Repair that massive gaping hole in the plot two thirds of the way in.

I'm on draft four. I'm rounding my characters and checking my facts and filling in the holes I left when I didn't know definitive facts. I'm so close, I can taste it!

How do you work when writing? Are you structured or do you just keep going through it until you feel it's right?

Friday 2 September 2011

Knowsley Safari Park

Yesterday the family and I took a trip to Knowsley safari park. The kids are back at school next week so I took a days annual leave to make one last day trip of the holidays. It turned out to be a lovely sunny day and I loved it. I'm a big kid really.

Little man and I had the opportunity to hand feed a giraffe. I think it was good timing for us. We were on the viewing platform when the manager came out with a handful of leaves and started handing them out. I was as giddy as the children on there. The manager was handing out the leaves to the kids and little man had a few. I had to ask if it was ok for grown ups to do it! Giraffes are beautiful creatures.

Did you know giraffes have blue tongues?

We also drove through the monkey enclosure. Our car was covered in red bottomed baboons who thought it was great fun to pull on the windscreen wipers.

We had a close encounter with a camel who actually walked into the side if the car.

Just look at the colour of the sky!

The lion enclosure was amazing. Huge, sleek, powerful animals.

And for anyone interested in creepy crawlies, I leave you with a spider.

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Living With The Spoon Theory

I'm starting to understand the spoon theory. The theory created by one girl trying to describe to a friend how she only has limited reserves of energy a day as she lives with a life long medical condition. Full details can be found here.

I knew I was feeling more fatigued this past year but this week it's actually dawning on me how it works, in practical terms for me living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

Today I did an nine hour shift at work. There was an hours drive each side of that, so I was out the house eleven hours. When I got in I wanted to head straight into my home office before sitting down and getting too comfortable, and do some work on my WIP. Tea had been sorted by my wonderful other half. But my little man had come in upset after a disagreement with his friends and he wanted to watch a film with me we had recorded last week.

That's where the spoon theory and choice came in. I didn't have enough spoons (energy) to watch the film and spend quality snuggle time with little man, and then get up and do some work. I chose the main priority. Little man. There are plenty of days he plays out and doesn't want his mum but I felt a little frustrated as I have self imposed deadlines for work I'm doing and I have to accept I can't do everything.

I do actually have to spread out the things I want to do and work hard as hell on the novel when I get chance. Today wasn't that day. I will make it up at some other point though.

It's about living and recognising and planning. I can do everything, just maybe not all at the same time.

Friday 26 August 2011

Sparkfest Blogfest

As previously posted, I am taking part in Christine Tylers, Sparkfest Blogfest.

The reason and rules of the blogfest are these: 

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 
What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

As writers, we're always striving to get out a message of inspiration to others. This blogfest is a celebration for those who have done this for us. Join the Spark Blogfest, aka Sparkfest, by posting your answer to any of the three prompts above (or make one up as long as it fits the theme).

I'll make it worth your while!
  • There will be three Amazon Gift Cards ($15, $10, $5) awarded to random participants!
  • The blogger who writes my favorite entry will get an interview on my blog so they can tell us more about their awesome source of writerly inspiration!
  • By networking with other writers, you gain followers and comments for your own blog.

Only one Sparkfest post August 22-26 is required to participate.

My response to What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?

I can't quite remember the timeline of how this happened, but it was around the same time. I started my current (and first) WIP (Work in Progress) and read Stephen Kings, On Writing within a matter of weeks of each other. 

I read On Writing without having read any of Stephen Kings novels. It was recommended to me by a friend and I'm so glad I read it. It is part biographical on how it came to be that King started writing and his early life, and part writing advice. 

The book is practical and not preachy. He advocates writing what you want to write and how you want to write it and it gave me so much enthusiasm for following my dream and making sure I wrote the book I wanted to write.

This current book is about sitting down and writing it in the style I want to write it. It's not about writing what I think the book market wants, it's about putting my passion into my work and enjoying doing it. Why write if you don't enjoy it? 

If any writers out there haven't read this book, I'd recommend it and if any writers out there haven't read this book and are stuck in a rut or not quite feeling it at the minute, I'd highly recommend this motivation piece of writing. King writes with honesty and a great understanding of what he writes and who he writes for. Go on. Take a peek.  

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Missing in Action

This is a bit of an apology for being MIA for the past week.

Following the most fabulous Theakstons Crime Writing Festival, which as you know, I thoroughly enjoyed, I went a bit down hill health wise.

Energy levels were depleted to zero and I've been slowly doing more and more. I went back to work last week and the energy levels I was getting back have all been stolen from me by my working time!

I love my job, but it's mentally taxing and when I return home I feel I have barely anything left in me, so anything that requires thought, eg: a blog post, has kind of got laid by the wayside. Twitter is also a victim of my being enthusiastic at work and wearing my brain out.

The good thing though, is I'm not failing altogether. The little reserve of energy there, is being used on the third draft of my novel which I'm really pleased to spend a little time every day on. It just comes in front of all the other things I want and need to do.

I hope to try and keep going, but please forgive me if my posts are a bit hit and miss for a couple of weeks.

Monday 15 August 2011

Author Interview - David Jackson

Todays guest author interview is with David Jackson, author of the previously reviewed, on Life in Clarity, crime novel Pariah. It is with great pleasure I bring this interview. I managed to meet Dave at the recent Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and he is true gentleman.

Your book, Pariah, is based in America yet I believe you reside in the UK. How did that decision come about?

There's an overused saying: 'Write what you know.' What I dislike about that advice is that it's often interpreted far too narrowly. As an alternative I would offer the phrase 'Write what you read.' The novels you read say a lot about the type of stories you prefer, and you are much more likely to enjoy and to be successful in writing stories that follow those interests. Personally, the novels I tend to prefer are crime thrillers set in the US. Favourite authors of mine include Ed McBain, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Robert Crais and Michael Connelly. It seems natural (at least to me) to write stories in a similar vein. Of course, the downside of making a choice like that is that you have to do a lot of research and to have an
ear for dialect if you're going to have a hope of sounding authentic. Fortunately, people tell me that I have managed to pull it off with Pariah.

I've heard something similar to that - write what you love, which is, as you say for you, US crime. It does work. If I didn't know you lived in the UK I would never have known otherwise.

Can you describe your route to publication?

The path I took was slightly unusual in that I approached the publisher direct, without an agent. Macmillan runs something called the New Writing scheme, which gets a lot of submissions. In fact, I think the scheme is temporarily closed while they try to catch up! Competition is therefore pretty fierce, but fortunately mine was picked from the slushpile by the reader who went on to become my copy-editor.  I think one of the things that helped me to get noticed was the fact that Pariah had previously won a Highly Commended accolade in
the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards. Other authors who have been discovered through the scheme include Ryan David Jahn, Len Tyler, Brian McGilloway and the Orange Prize longlisted author Ann Weisgarber, so I feel I'm in very good company.

That route to submission is a rare one if reading fellow aspiring writers blogs are anything to go back. The Macmillan scheme is a great one for writers to know about.

How long has your interest in crime been alive and what fascinates you about it?

I think I've always read crime novels. As a young kid I read Enid Blyton's Secret Seven and Famous Five books and loved them. Later on I became interested in science fiction, but still maintained an interest in crime and thriller novels. I remember avidly reading the whole series of James Bond novels (if Jeffery Deaver steps aside, I'm your man!) and then worked my way through Christie's Poirot stories and the Sherlock Holmes books. I read a lot of other stuff too - I've just read 'My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece', which is brilliant, and currently I'm reading Bill Bryson's 'At Home' - but I always return to crime.

What fascinates me about it? That's a much tougher question. I suppose it's the desire to explore and understand the darker side of humanity, and with fiction we can do that without actually being touched by fear and violence ourselves. I think it also allows us to satisfy our need to feel that there can be justice and righteousness in what often seems a very unfair world.

What is your guilty pleasure in genre reading? I've recently admitted to being a bit if a chick lit fan.

Probably kid's books. One of the advantages of having children is you get to read to them and to go through the books on their shelves. It's been great revisiting classics like Dr Seuss and Anne Frank, but also discovering some of the newer stuff like Meg Rosoff's 'How I Live Now'.

As a writer, the world is our oyster. We can go anywhere and do and be anything. For each of those three (go, do and be) if you could, what would you choose.

Two things occur to me. I'd love to know what it's like to be a bird, with that ability to fly wherever I want and look down on the world. And, just for a day, I'd like to become a young child again, to re-live that purity of honesty and innocence and to remember what it's like for everything to have a huge question mark hanging over it.

In relation to the exploring and understanding the darker side of life, it's something that is written about a lot by crime writers. Do you think there are any boundaries to what we can put on the written page and if so what should our limits be?

I wouldn't like to set boundaries for other people, but I have my own. There are some things I just wouldn't feel comfortable writing about, and I think that my unease would show through. For example, rape and child abuse are subjects I shy away from.

On a couple of lighter notes; if you could meet someone, dead or alive, who would it be?

There are all the usual suspects, so I have tried to come up with something different. I think I would want to meet one of my ancestors - say from about 200 years ago. I would want to know how they lived and what it was about them that guided their decisions in life. I suppose that, in knowing them, I would hope to learn more about myself.

If a movie was made of your life, who would you want to play it?

Tom Cruise. If he can play Jack Reacher, then it should be less of a stretch to play me. Literally.

Thank you for such a great and open interview Dave, it's been an absolute pleasure having you here. I wish you best of luck with your next release and if Pariah is anything to go back, I really can't wait to get my mits on it!

You can find Dave at the follow locations; His Blog, Webpage and Twitter  

Friday 12 August 2011

The Liebster Award

This week I received the Liebster blog award from Sarah at Empty White Pages and I'm so happy to have been selected from the many blogs that Sarah follows and participates with, so Thank you Sarah! 

The rules of the award are as follows:
The Liebster Award (meaning “friend” in German) is meant to connect us even more and spotlight new bloggers who have less than 200 followers – but hopefully not for long. The rules are:

1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet – other writers.
5. And best of all – have fun and spread the karma!

I love receiving awards, but hate having to choose who to give them out to, there are so many great bloggers out there! Anyway, I've done as the award states and here are my five great bloggers I suggest you check out.

Jenny at Fulfilling Dreams. A lovely blogger, always supportive and chatty. 

Rosalind at Writing in the Rain. A generous blogger who chooses some interesting topics to blog about. 

Annalisa at Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep. A great blogger who is charting her writing journey with honesty.

Julie at What Else is Possible. An animal conscious blogger who is writing her first novel.  

Patricia at Journey Through the Pages. Blogging her way through the self publishing journey.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Recently Read - Cuckoo

In the past I have written book reviews and also on another post I explained what my reviews will be like - more of an explanation of a book so you have an idea and a choice if you're interested. As a writer, I'm not interested in being a critic. So with that in mind, I'm changing the titles of these posts to Recently Read, rather than Book Reviews. I hope that you understand the subtle change and maybe go on to enjoy some of the books I've read.

Today's Recently Read book is Cuckoo by the very Lovely Julia Crouch.


Rose has it all - the gorgeous children, the husband, the beautiful home. But then her best friend Polly comes to stay. Very soon, Rose's cosy world starts to fall apart at the seams - her baby falls dangerously ill & her husband is distracted. It appears that once you invite Polly into your home, it's very difficult to get her out again.


The story starts out with a sweet family with a strong bond following a difficult first year. When an old friend asks for help after her husband dies Rose the mother of the house is quick to offer her a place to stay. That was her first mistake and things start to go wrong and not necessarily as you'd imagine.

It's a slow burner this book. At first it builds up the characters and domestic bliss before psychologically pulling you under with them all.

I found myself not knowing which characters to trust in the end and felt stunned at the final scenes.

If you like a slow burning, character led, psychological thriller that stops your heart at the end then this is for you. If you prefer action all the way, it may prove a little slow.

It's a great book and I was shocked and thrilled by events that overtook everyone. A great read.

Friday 5 August 2011

Professional Envy

Professional envy was mentioned within a comment on Life in Clarity a short time ago and while I dont believe the sentiment from the person saying it was completely true, I do believe there is quite a bit of professional envy amongst our peers and I own up to feeling this way sometimes.

It's a difficult subject to get into, but I wanted to bring it out into the light, air it a little and take away some of that cloak and dagger and hide this dirty little secret away, business.

When I say peers, I mean those writers who are in similar places to where you are now or a step or two in front. You've built that online bond, but then one of you hits the dream first and is published.

At this point I would imagine I'd be feeling two things. Absolute joy at a friends well deserved success. After all, I know just how damn hard she worked for it. But - I would also, deep down, get a niggle of envy - the, why can't I get there, type feelings.

I've decided it's natural and nothing to be ashamed or worried about. It happens in all sorts of lives and scenarios. Not just in writing worlds. It's human nature to look out at what others achieve, to want more for ourselves and to feel a little let down - importantly - by ourselves rather than those who are achieving. It's something we need to acknowledge and then try to deal with it sensibly and be absolutely thrilled for your friend and tell her you expect equal bundles of excitement when you get there.

It's a long arduous journey this road to publication and watching people you know getting there before you is just another of those bumps. Keep at it and keep smiling.

Monday 1 August 2011

Tomorrow Is Now Today

The phrase is always - The diet starts tomorrow.

Well tomorrow has come. Today it starts and I'm serious.

I'm only five foot tall and carrying extra weight really shows on me. I can also feel it. I feel cumbersome lugging this weight about. I'm having trouble with my hips and knees so know losing weight can only be a positive from that point of view.

I really struggle with diets. I lean towards food when I'm upset, stressed or bored. It's often hard to see the bigger picture (excuse the pun) when I'm about to eat something I know I shouldn't. It's difficult to stop and tell myself it's no good for me. The gauge for sense around food is broken and I need to attempt to repair it and cut back on the things that are keeping me this size and resulting in the unhappiness in my own skin.

I know I can be slim. I'm petite. When I was 21 I weighed in at 7st 10lb. Now I don't want to go back to that. But I'd like to get somewhere closer to that figure than the one I'm at.

This isn't going to be easy. Struggling with my weight has been an ongoing issue. As soon as I look at food the weight goes on, so you can imagine what happens when I'm eating the wrong things. And just because I've announced I'm back on the slimming wagon, it doesn't mean I will somehow magically stick to it and the weight will drop off. This is going to be hard. Fighting to stay off the foods I'm used to eating is going to be hard. Some days I will probably not do very well but today I'm saying that I'm going to try. I'm unhappy with the way I look so I need to do something about it.

Now tomorrow has come and it's called today.

Wednesday 27 July 2011


Blogfests are a great way to find new bloggers and for other bloggers to find your blog. It's all about the interaction and I love social media for the opportunities it gives you for interacting with people who have similar interests.

With that in mind, I recently found a writing related blogfest that I want to take part in. You may also be interested. The blogfest is hosted by Christine at The Writer Coaster

Click the below image to go to the hosting blog. The blurb below it is copied over from Christines blog. I love the prompts. Will you be posting?

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 
What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?
Or, Is there a book or author that changed your world view?

As writers, we're always striving to get out a message of inspiration to others. This blogfest is a celebration for those who have done this for us. Join the Spark Blogfest, aka Sparkfest, by posting your answer to any of the three prompts above (or make one up as long as it fits the theme).

I'll make it worth your while!
  • There will be three Amazon Gift Cards ($15, $10, $5) awarded to random participants!
  • The blogger who writes my favorite entry will get an interview on my blog so they can tell us more about their awesome source of writerly inspiration!
  • By networking with other writers, you gain followers and comments for your own blog.

Only one Sparkfest post August 22-26 is required to participate.