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.