Monday, 27 May 2013

Defending Sally Bercow

Super-quick blog post this week as I have limited time - as ever - due to work, son, Mum, visiting family (arriving tomorrow and I still haven't done my cleaning!) and the hustle and bustle of general life.

This past week left me a little confused (it doesn't take a lot!) but I just felt I had to post my thoughts.

I'm talking the whole 'Sally Bercow Tweeting Fiasco.'

Now the way I see it (and please don't shoot me down in flames here - remember this is MY blog, MY opinions) - yes, she was possibly in possession of certain information from inside rumours, but at no point did she reveal anything that should have seen her standing up in court to defend herself or paying costs.

An ambiguous tweet  'Why is Lord McAlpine trending?  *innocent face*' is not calling someone a paedophile.  We cannot have people in court for what a tweet MIGHT have implied.

If we can, because of the trickiness of words, the courts will quite simply not be able to cope in the future.

I can think of several people who would like to haul me over the coals for what I MIGHT have tweeted - but, at the end of the day, anything can be read into anything.

Give people the benefit of the doubt, guys, and don't read what you think is written.

Friday, 24 May 2013

The End of an Era

Today was my 17 year old son's last day at school.  Following a week's study leave he will then just sit the last of his A levels and then his schooling will be behind him.

How on earth did this happen?  Where did those years go?  It really feels like just yesterday that I was dropping him off at nursery, with a lump in my throat and his tiny hand in mine.


Regular blog followers will know that this hasn't been an easy journey for us.  School phobia at eleven and  then fighting tooth and nail to financially afford to keep him in the private school he grew to love, have left us with a huge sense of relief and achievement (and debt!).

But nobody has achieved more than him - our lovely young man.  After missing out on a full year and two part years of education he still managed to forge friendships and come out with 9 GCSE's and 3 AS levels.  We have quiet confidence in him passing his A levels this summer - but with teens, who knows?

Would I do it it all again if I had my time over?  Aside from the crippling fear which engulfed him, hell yeah!  I believe that every sacrifice we've made has been more than worth it and we've given him the best possible start in life - what he now chooses to do with that is up to him.  And even his anxiety can be turned into a positive - if I hadn't been there in my car for three years to support him, I may never have put finger to keyboard and written my first chicklit novel.   I guess all things happen for a reason.

In fact as my son often says, 'If it hadn't been for my mad phase, you might never have become a writer.'

Yes, he is one quirky boy!


So tonight, I shall raise a glass to my young man - who still doesn't drink and says he never will! - and reflect on the years which have flown by at a rate of knots.  All you mums out there with kids about to start school - love every minute because you won't believe how quickly they pass.

Now a new journey starts for my boy - job searching.  Watch this space ... 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Love/Hate Thing

I LOVE being a writer.  On any given day, I can become new characters with their own thoughts, lives, histories and problems.  It's like being a little girl playing dress-up all over again.  Or an actress, as I used to be. When I open up that Word document, I take control of the stage and my audience.

Yes, that creativity had to come out somehow.  And thank goodness I found a way that works for me.

So, what are the bonuses?  What makes my little author's heart beat the fastest?

1.  When I have that first exciting seed of an idea and it suddenly grows arms and legs faster than I can type or scribble my notes.

2.  Checking my sales figures on a day when I can put two fingers up to the publishing houses who were considering me and then changed their minds.

3.  When my husband reads what I've written for the day and looks at me with a smile and a nod, saying, 'I really want to know what happens next.'

4.  To have been able to be there for my son (when he's needed me - now, not at all!) and my lovely mum.  I am my own boss - I can make up time as and when I need to.  Juggling as 'The Sandwich Mum' has become my special talent.

5.  Looking at hunky guys on the web for 'research'.  We all want to have a clear image of the love interest, don't we?  It's a tough job but I hope my books are better for it.  (My excuse and I'm sticking to it).

6.  The thrill of having someone who didn't even know of my existence until a couple years ago, asking me when my next book is due out and telling me that they can't wait.

7.  Those reviews that bring a tear to my eye and make me realise that someone 'got' exactly what I was trying to say with my words.

8.  Getting up in the morning and knowing precisely where my characters are planning on taking me.  (Though sometimes cursing when life throws a curve ball at me - because 'you're not in an office so you don't really work, do you?')

9.  Having friends introduce me as 'a writer' - I still feel a fraud but, hey, why should I?   This is how I earn my money.

10.  Typing THE END.  And then the buzz I get knowing that I'll soon be typing 'CHAPTER ONE' again.

BUT ...  there is a flip side to every coin.  What do I hate?

1.  The days that I spend forever either staring at a blank screen or a boiling kettle as I drink endless cups of unwanted coffee because my characters seem to have gone AWOL.  I refuse to call it writers' block - the ONLY time I have that is when I'm waking up to the idea that I'm writing the wrong book.

2.  A bad review - thankfully I've not had to weather too many but, ouch, they hurt!  Thank you for taking the time to tell me that my baby is ugly, dear reader, I hope you always feel guilty when you indulge in your secret pleasure.

3.  Editing.  Don't get me started.  Regular readers will know - it's a time of great stress and exhaustion in the Misfit household.  If I never had to edit another book with husband again, I'd ... oh, I don't know, I'd run naked around the neighbourhood singing a 'Radiohead' song with a feather in my cap.

4.  Promoting.  Again, you all know why.  I JUST WANT TO WRITE!  If a character is calling, I don't want to have to put them to bed so that I can look at new ways of selling myself.  I'm a writer not a hooker.

5.  The fact that Indies are, generally, still not considered to be real writers.  And the attitude of some  traditionally published authors.  Get over yourselves!

6.  Knowing that I only have a window of a couple of hours before either chauffeuring, shopping or carer's duties and if I don't get all my thoughts down then, I'll be stuffed.  On days like that, I'd like to put my brain, or other people, into 'freeze mode'.

7.  Getting HALF WAY through a manuscript (about 40K words) and realising that I've fallen out of love with it.  The chances are, the feeling will have been creeping for a while but I've chosen to ignore it (a bit like when a relationship sours with a dodgy boyfriend).  I now have several hidden in a drawer - (books, not men - that would an arrestable offense and just a tad odd) but, the good news is, there have been characters within those rejects with such strong voices, they've either emerged in other books or are waiting in the wings for the next. 

8.  When I wake up in the middle of the night with THE BEST plot twist and I'm too lazy to turn over and write it down.  I can guarantee that it won't come back to me until about four the next afternoon.

9.  Always wondering if it's time to approach agents again.  With my 'stable' of books and my rather lovely reviews, am I doing myself a disservice by continuing to struggle as an Indie?  Is it time for me to have my faith in the profession restored?

10.  The first few weeks after releasing a new book and wondering if even my most loyal readers will hate it.  I can take the bad reviews from a one-off reader but if a 'regular' came back and said I'd lost the Egan Spark, I might lose the will to live.

So, that's it!  As a reader, I hope I gave you a bit of insight as to what goes on in a writer's head.  And to all you writers out there  - do you agree?  Tell me your thoughts, please - I'd love to know I'm not the only one who has this love/hate relationship with writing.   Oh!  And my latest novel is due for release on June 19th!  Sneak preview here.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Go Dotty for Lottie!

It's a little over a month away until my new chicklit novel 'Lottie's Luck' is launched on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback at Lulu.  So I'd like to give you  little taster by offering you the blurb and Chapter One for your comments and thoughts.

Grab yourself a drink, get comfortable and meet Lottie ...


I’m Lottie Truman
and this is my story.

My life was simply tickety-boo
until a neighbour’s prediction
seemed to coincide with
my luck running out.

Join me on the path
I needed to take to get me
to where I am now.

But don’t judge me.

Because sometimes you have to
make a few diversions to allow fate
to push you in the right direction

* * * * 
Lottie's Luck

I want to tell you a little story.  Some of it may frustrate the hell out of you and could even have you screaming in protest at the pages (or at me) but I’d like you to be more than just a reader - think of yourself as a friend and non-judgmental confidante, living through this tale with me, and I think you’ll see why everything had to happen the way it did.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The day that things really began to change started with me winning another sixty quid on the lottery.  I opened my ‘Rainy Day’ book and noted the figure down.  Almost five hundred pounds in the past year - not bad for someone who only did a couple of lines a month.

Mum and Dad did the lottery religiously, using the same selection every week - birthdays, anniversaries, old door numbers.  The same numbers with the same dream in mind - to finally get that cruise they’d dreamed of all their married lives - and yet they barely ever won a tenner.

If my luck carried on, I was hoping I’d be able to treat them for their pearl wedding anniversary the following year and that would make me really happy.

You see there’s something you should know about me as we start on this journey.  People were always telling me how lucky I was and I could only agree.  Born to the best parents in the world, an older brother who I only wanted to kill occasionally, a best friend who I knew would never let me down, my own thriving business (more on that later) and a boyfriend who made Brad Pitt look like Gollum - I felt I was truly blessed.

But it wasn’t just those things that made me feel fortunate.  Whatever I turned my hand to seemed to turn to gold.  Dad reckons when I was about two, I scribbled on his racing pages on the day of the Grand National and, sensing it was an omen, he had a little wager on the horse I’d marked with a snot green crayon.

It came in at forty to one and he made a nice little profit.  It soon became the family joke to get me to predict the winner each year but I’d only ever give a hint if I got a really strong lucky feeling.

And things continued in the same vein.  Family holidays would see me winning the jackpot at bingo or first prize in a raffle.  School contests always saw my name on the winner’s certificate and any magazine competitions I chose to enter would see a prize of some sort plopping through our letterbox.

You may think I’m exaggerating but have a look at a snapshot of some of my escalating wins to date and then you can decide for yourself:

£5 book token in year three at primary school - best project on dogs.

A year’s supply of NestlĂ© chocolate - aged ten.  Shared with brother Simon and my best friend Amy.  Almost put us off chocolate for life.

Make up set and brushes - aged fifteen from a crap teen mag.  Gave to Amy as preening has never really been my thing.

A week’s holiday in Portugal for two - just as I’d finished college.  Took Amy with me.

A pair of Christian Louboutin shoes worth £500 - also gave those to Amy as I don’t do heels.

A brand, spanking new Ford Transit van complete with insurance, MOT and service for three years.

Pretty lucky, huh?  But that last prize was the one that finally liberated me from my dull working life and gave me the opportunity to begin living my dream - or so I thought.  As it turned out, it did so much more than that.

I’d been working as a receptionist in a vet’s surgery for five years and, although I enjoyed my job, my goal was to start up my own dog walking venture.  I had a business plan, a logo, all the information I needed about insurance and pages of ideas to get the word out there.  But without decent transport, ‘Watering Lamp Posts’ would never get off the ground.

Mum suggested I started off small and just walk a few dogs, using my battered old Mini to get to and from clients’ houses, but Dad and boyfriend Nathan disagreed.

Dad said it wouldn’t look very professional and I was better off waiting, saving and doing it properly when the time was right.

Nathan merely turned up his nose and said he didn’t see the point of me starting up a business if we were eventually going to get married and have kids.

‘You’ll only end up ditching it and becoming a housewife - stick at the vets.  No point slogging your guts out just to fold as quickly as you started.’

Yes, Nat had very definite ideas about our future and, on good days, I could envisage myself at home with 2.4 kids, doing the school run and preparing dinner parties for his important clients.  But on the bad days … well, let’s just say I got a little bit panicky.  I loved him, so I was sure it would all work out for the best, but I knew I still needed to have a crack at my dream or I’d always live with regrets.

So when I entered the competition to win the van, I sent up a little prayer and even drafted my resignation to the surgery to help visualise the reality.  Positive thinking always worked well for me and this occasion was to prove no different.

But the words which made me realise that my dream might actually come true, also warned me that it may not finish in quite the way I’d expected.

‘I see a tin box, fur and a diamond … these things will change your life in more ways than you could ever begin to imagine.’

It was a miserable Friday afternoon and I’d popped next door to our elderly neighbour, Venetia, to tell her about my latest lottery win.  Now I loved Venetia, and I still do, but she’s seen by some - well, most - as barking.  She fascinated me from when I was an impressionable child of five and she first moved in.  With her swirly, velvet skirts and huge jewels, I could look at her for hours and listen for even longer.

I’d lost count of the amount of times Mum or Dad told me off when I was little.

‘Lottie will you stop staring at Venetia?  It’s rude.’

‘Lottie, come home right now and stop bothering Venetia.  She doesn’t want you hassling her all the time.’

But she didn’t see me as a nuisance.  She loved me too and our bond grew over the years.  Whenever I needed advice or guidance, I’d hop over the side fence and slip through her back door.  Sometimes she’d just sit and chat to me but as I got older she began to do readings - tarot cards, tea leaves or the crystal ball - and she was always spot on.

And that particular Friday, without either of us realising it at the time, she hit the jackpot.

‘If you take on this gift of the tin box, you must be prepared to accept changes out of your control.  Life will seem tough for a while but all will end well.’

Now, I didn’t like the sound of that one bit and I told her so.

‘What d’you mean, tough?  I need to know more, Ven.’

‘Oh, shush Lottie.  That’s all I can tell you at the moment - the mood has gone.  Now go and pour me a Baileys and Guinness and let’s talk about Big Brother - I can’t believe what that couple got up to in the jacuzzi last night!’

Venetia seemed to live on her trademark foul cocktail concoction and Mum and Dad knew to have plenty in stock when she came in for a chat.  We’d known her for twenty one years and she’d never missed a birthday or Christmas party, supping in the corner on her unique tipple - life just wouldn’t seem right without her sharing our festivities.  When she’d first moved in, I was convinced she was already about a hundred, but I’d got to the point where I didn’t see her as having an age at all - she was just a dear, if slightly wacky, friend.

‘Ven, you’ve scared me!  I don’t want bad things to happen to me - they never do.  Why should they start now?’

It’s true to say that, aside from being lucky, I also seemed to be protected - almost as if a guardian angel was shielding its wings like a cloak around me.  Again, I hear you say, ‘Oh don’t be so ridiculous!  You’re deluded!’

OK - then try these for size.  They’re the more minor examples of my good fortune but still a fairly valid testament that bad stuff simply passes me by.  I’m Teflon coated - it slips off me and dissolves into thin air.

When the whole of Year Six went down with chickenpox, I didn’t.  But, even better, I was told to have the week off school - no point going in if no other kids were there.  I spent the whole week playing in the back garden.

The massive puddle that the Number 23 bus hit and then soaked all of my friends as we were heading off to my 15th birthday party totally missed me.

The food poisoning which struck all my friends after that same birthday party also passed me by.

When there was a cock up with our GCSE English papers, I was the only one who got the right paper in our year.  I got an A* and every one else had to retake.

Granny has never knitted me a hideous Christmas sweater but chooses to give me gift vouchers instead.  My brother Simon, on the other hand, has spent every festive season sporting an itchy jumper which has either been two sizes too big or too small, with reindeer, Santa or snowmen emblazoned on the front.

Oh yes, I’ve been blessed.  So hearing Venetia say that things might be rocky for a while didn’t seem possible.  I needed some answers.

Curling on her plum chaise longue, she tucked her legs under her scarlet skirt and lit a brightly coloured cigarette, batting away the smoke along with my fears.  ‘I didn’t say bad things would happen, did I?  Just things over which you’ll have no control - it will be a journey that will set you on the right path.  That’s all I can say.’

And the very next day I received the letter to say that I’d won the van.  My entry had been picked from thousands of other hopefuls and I was to go and collect my prize the following week.

‘Aha!  The tin box!’ Venetia had said with a glint in her eye when I went in to announce my good news.  ‘This will be the beginning.  I knew it!’

I was too excited to dwell on her words so I handed in my notice and began to put my plans into action - much to Nat’s disapproval.

‘Lottie, I’m just not convinced this is the right move for you.  I mean it’s not exactly the ideal job for an accountant’s wife, is it?  Please say you’ll reconsider.’

But my mind was made up and no amount of begging or cajoling from Nat would make any difference.  I was at the start of my adventure and nothing or nobody was going to stop me.

The sign writers did a great job of my ‘Watering Lamp Posts’ logo and picture on the side of my van and when Venetia came out to admire it she pointed to a cute, fluffy puppy alongside the writing and said, ‘Aha!  The fur!  All is becoming clear.’

I have to say, as much as I love Ven, at that point she was beginning to piss me off and freak me out in equal measures so I threw myself into my work and tried to ignore her predictions.

And things seemed to go well for me.  My ‘tin box and fur’ were doing me no harm and business began to boom fairly early on.  I had fifteen clients within the first month and, thanks to word of mouth about my top quality service, that soon doubled.  I was finally living my dream and once more I felt truly blessed.  I’m not one to take things for granted, you see.

After I’d been up and running for around six months and not been knocked over by a bus or struck with Beriberi, Venetia’s psychic reading soon began to fade into the depths of time and I’d all but forgotten her warnings.  Life was good, I’d got my ideal job at last and was spending my days doing what I enjoyed the most - being out in the fresh air, walking dogs and chatting with other dog walkers.

Then came the diamond …

* * * *

 Hope you enjoyed that morsel - remember the date for you diary is June 19th.  Do YOU want to know what happens to Lottie?  Comments here, on Twitter and Facebook will be gratefully received.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A Blogless Blog

Sorry but I don't have time to blog this week ...

In fact I just don't have time FULL STOP.
I'd like to reach the end of my tether but it keeps moving the goalposts.
So I'll just keep recharging my batteries and, in the words of my lovely dad, say 'Keep going you fool!'

Because I have no choice ...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Sending Mr Misfit Skywards

Last week I was offered the opportunity to take a helicopter flight over London. Yep!  Me!  Mrs Cowardy-Custard-Misfit.  It couldn't have been a day clothes shopping with a blank cheque or a night at The Ritz, could it?  No, it would have to be something which had me laughing hysterically and saying in my best Miranda voice, 'Thanks to you very much, please, thank you. No!'

Suffice it to say, I'm not great 'up in the air' - I practically have to stop myself from kissing the ground when landing and, for me, flying is merely the terrifying act of getting from A to B.  NOT something I would consider merely for pleasure.

So I managed to wrangle the flight for my hubbie instead and, I have to say, now he's done it and shown me the pictures and video, I'm just a tad jealous.  I actually think I might have enjoyed it.

Anyway, he survived to tell the story so today I'm welcoming Mr Misfit to the blog to tell us about his adventure.

Now, I know you love flying (and that you were dumb enough to do a bungee-jump) but was there any small part of you that was apprehensive about this ride? 
Do you mean apart from the fact my flight came just weeks after a chopper crashed after hitting a crane jib nearby?  As you know, I love new experiences, and in particular those that get my adreneline going, but my business background in contingency planning means that I always assess the risk first to give me comfort.  When I did the bungee jump, I made sure there were secondary fallbacks like another rope and D-links.  But where's the 'Plan B' with a single engined aircraft?  Happily I learned that a helicopter can glide (gyro?) in if it conks out. 

How would you convince a nervous passenger (me!) that there's nothing to worry about and do you think I would actually have enjoyed it? 
To quote from the blog I wrote about my experience, it feels quite natural to take off and land in something that is essentially a familiar car cabin environment that flies.  Despite not being scared of heights, I once had a bit of vertigo looking down from the London Eye but felt none of this in the chopper - it somehow seems to cradle you by being suspended under the power source rather than being thrust forward in a giant metal cylinder!  It feels really safe and not at all scary, so I think you would have loved it. 

Were you made to feel safe and secure - what precautions were taken? 
All the bases were covered.  The welcoming team talked us through seatbelts and lifejackets (we flew over the Thames), just as you'd expect on a plane, and the whole operation was professional and integrated with the control tower and heliport crew outside.  The chopper could even land on water. 

How long was your flight and what route did you take? 
We were in the air for about 20 minutes, taking off from Battersea and heading East over all the major landmarks as far as Greenwich/Canary wharf and then back West to Putney/Wetlands before looping back to base.  There's also a service from Redhill, Surrey. 

Are you given a running commentary by the pilot? 
As far as the other incoming air traffic broadcasts would allow - but you wouldn't want to override those!  We were all rigged up to a 5-way comms system via headphones and mikes.  In some ways it might have been preferrable if there'd been some sort of automated commentary as they have in galleries, but it's encouraging to know you can speak to the pilot if you want or need to.

What was the best part of this experience? 
Well, apart from getting up close and personal with the higher tourist attractions like The Shard and the London Eye, being able to smugly look down on the people there and thinking "I can see further than you can!"  I also got a real feel for London's layout and was amazed that places were as close together as they are from the air - it usually takes an age to get even a few miles to anywhere on the ground. 

Would you recommend to others.  If so, why? 
Hell, yeah!  It just gives you a whole different take on what you see from a fixed panoramic structure on the ground, no matter how high it is. 

Was the pilot good-looking?  Sorry, had to ask that - I do love a man in uniform! 
Well, you've been spoiled by marrying me, so everything's relative really.  I'm not used to looking at men in that way, but he did look pretty dapper in his crisp starched white shirt with epaulettes and his Aviators slung nonchalantly by one arm in his breast pocket.

Thank you Mr Misfit for joining me here on the blog today.  For any readers who may be interested in taking their own flight, here's the link to Mr M's blog and further details are listed below.  Just maybe I'll reconsider and take to the skies myself one day - I rather like the sound of that pilot! 

Twitter - @thelondonheli

Flights from: Batersea and Redhill
Cost - Battersea £199 per seat.  Redhill £129 per seat