Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Dear So and So ...

Another round of imaginary letters that I'd love to write but never will.  These are always such fun to do and are quite therapeutic as you get things off your chest.

Here goes:

Dear Employers of Young People
If you're offering an apprenticeship at a poxy £40 a week, please have the decency to send a one line email to tell your applicants if they haven't been successfulThat's all it takes and, frankly, it's rude not to.  Remember when you were starting out in your career?  It's a tougher world out there now and all these kids want is a chance or at least an acknowledgment.  Give them some hope that people are decent as they start out on life's journey.

Dear Old Age
You stink.  You rob people of their friends and siblings and then sneak in and continue to rob those left behind of their vibrancy and will to live.  Frankly, I want no part of you - I don't want to live a life of aching limbs and loneliness.

Dear Troll
I am so happy that you now appear to have a life.  Your daily comments were a bore and, with any luck, you are now taking literacy lessons to brush up on your spelling.  My 'ill-educated' scribblings earn me a living whereas your pointless rants get you nowhere.  Anonymity, when leaving comments on a blog, only shows you up for the sad loser you really are.
Dear Stalker
Sadly the above had to be crossed out and you needed to be upgraded to 'Stalker'. You haven't got a life at all, have you?  And there I was with such high hopes for you.   Try to enjoy your holiday in Thailand rather than focusing on me and my kitchen. Oh, and see my reply to you below.

Dear Mouse at the back of the radiator
I feel sorry for you trapped in there but what a bloody stupid place to go and hide!  There's a nice, humane trap waiting for you with a huge chunk of stinky cheese - if you just find your way out to that, I promise you I will set you free.  Your incessant scratching is driving me nuts and if you give birth in there I swear I'll call in the big guns.

Dear Brain
Thanks for putting me through the mill these last few weeks.  I don't think you realise that you are really only able to cope with one plot at a time - thank goodness you've finally settled on the right one.  Also, I'd appreciate it if, when it's bedtime, you shut down and go to sleep.  It's not the time to start telling me what should happen in Chapter Five or what the final line should be.

Dear Wandsworth Borough Council
 You are a bunch of a*ses and you will not beat me.  Do not put the wrong date on letters so that you can then tell me my mother is out of appeal time because I am on to you and you won't get away with it.  If my mother wants sheltered housing for the elderly, I'll fight you all the way and you will not pull the wool over my eyes.  Beware - I am like a dog with a bone if riled!

Dear Melon
Why?  Why would you do that to me?  I have always loved you and one minor slip-up with some parma ham has made me wonder if you will ever pass my lips again.  You made me suffer to the point where I Googled every symptom and discovered I could be dead within the week (!)  Lesson learnt: melon + parma ham = bad combination for me.
NB:  for those wondering why, the fat of the meat congeals and ferments the fruit.  Not nice.

Dear Hole in Roof
Well, you picked your moment didn't you?  Just as the heaviest rains of the year arrive was not ideal for us, really. We will beat you with buckets and towels and, if necessary, move ourselves one floor down.  Your gaping cavity will eventually be fixed and we will make sure it hurts - no anaesthetic for you.

Dear Agents and Publishers
I'm ready for you - where are you?  If you're looking for a hard working new writer with five books and a novella under her belt, and two new titles due out later this year, HERE I AM!  Go on, make me an offer I can't refuse!

All done and, I have to say, that's really set me up for the day.  Nothing like a good outburst to have you breathing a contented sigh, is there?  Go on.  Who would you like to write to and what would you say?

All my books can be found at Amazon UK here and .com here.  Or in paperback at Lulu.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Dear Kate ...

Dear Kate, (or any other new mum)

Firstly, congratulations. You're a mum for the first time and regardless of the spotlight being on you, you'll  be feeling like all new mummies - knackered and bewildered.

I only ever experienced those feelings once, nearly eighteen years ago, but watching your face as you left the security of your hospital room yesterday brought it all back to me.  It's an exciting and terrifying time - hugely rewarding, draining and a constant learning curve.

So here are Mummy Misfit's tips on surviving motherhood.

* He might be a real Prince but every son is a Prince to his mum.  Remember he's YOURS.  He's your precious bundle and what you say goes.  Spend time with him, get to know him, don't let people insist they have a piece of him.  He COULD be your only child - no one can predict that they'll have the 2, 3, 4 they want.  Cherish every minute as if he's your last baby.

*  If you want to breast feed, give it a go.  If you can't, don't beat yourself up.  Some can, some can't.  It's not a competition and you can only do what works for you and your baby.

* You'll sometimes feel like you don't have a clue what you're doing and everything you do is wrong.  You'll ask for advice and some of it will make sense but you'll still want to try to have a go at doing things your way.  Sometimes it will work, sometimes you'll stuff up and wish you took the advice.  That's part of being a mum.  Don't let people give you advice you don't want - tell them politely that you're fine.  Opinions can overload your thoughts to the point that you don't remember your own.

* There will be times that you're cross-eyed with tiredness.  I had a baby who liked to feed every hour on the hour for the first year of his life.  You'll get to the point where you think you can't cope.  You will.  You have no choice.  And it does come to an end.

*  Your body will do what it wants to do, in its own time so be kind to yourself and don't expect too much too soon.  What's wrong with a 'baby belly'?  Wear it with pride - it's much more attractive than the wrinkles and grey hairs they give you as they get older!

*  You'll never sleep the way you used to, pre-baby.  From those early sleepless nights you'll move on to  colic, teething, nappy rash, coughs and colds.  As a mum you develop a third ear - what was that noise?  Are they OK?  Then they grow up, refuse to go to bed, play loud music, go out on the town and leave you awake and worried. Your sleeping days are over!

*  He'll  bring out instincts in you that you had no idea you had.  You'll become a fighting, spitting tigress if you need to.  Only a mum can know this and it will surprise you the first time it happens.

* Your husband is your best friend and ally. Don't fight one another when you're both tired because you both want the same thing - a happy baby and a good night's sleep!  Keep talking and, when you can, have a giggle.

* You'll think that every mum is doing a better job than you.  They're not - every baby is different so if your best friend's baby is sleeping through the night at six weeks, big deal.  Your baby's the best, and you know it!

*  One minute he'll be snuggled on your lap and  the next he'll be a strapping lad with thoughts of his own.  You won't believe the speed with which that happens.  For a while, it passes slowly then ... woosh, they're an adult.

There you go - my Misfit tips on motherhood.  I may have only had one baby, but the feelings are the same and if just one of my thoughts goes on to give a new mummy an ounce of comfort, I'll be happy.

Above all, enjoy your time and sleep whenever you can - that final piece of advice is one I never took.  Why would I want to sleep when I had a lovely baby boy to look at?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Facing the Critics

I learnt in the week that there are some writers who never read their reviews.  I find that really odd!

Now I can see that if you avoid looking at them, you never get upset by the people who don't like your offerings but then you'd never get to see the praise from those who do, would you?

As a writer, I love to know that someone has enjoyed one of my books or that I've made them laugh or cry - it makes my job worthwhile and never fails to bring a smile to my face.  I'm fortunate enough to only have received a handful of bad reviews (so far - touch wood and all that malarkey!) and I have to admit they hurt for a little while but then I go on to remind myself that they are in the minority and you can't please everyone.

A couple of my funniest have been from someone who insists on buying all of my books and then slating them - why?  Give up on me! I'm clearly not writing the stuff that you want, so move on.  To call the characters in 'Stilettos and Stubble' bizarre, is just ... well, bizarre!  It's set in a drag club!  Would you have preferred nuns?!

Then we had the only ever 1* review for 'Diary of a Mummy Misfit', stating:

Plastic dummy
Sorry, I found this lady empty and rather sad, could not get into the story, I just wanted to redirect the girl into more important things! 

Erm ... it's chicklit!  It's about a mother at a school, finding her feet and making friends and enemies along the way.  Had I wanted to write about Mother Theresa and a pitiful orphanage or saving the rainforests, I would have done!

But enough about my reviews, I also spend a lot of time reading other authors' reviews too - it's part of the job and helps me to see what chicklit readers like and dislike. I can assure you, there are some truly nasty people out there.  Let me share some of my findings with you (without revealing the authors' or reviewers' names)

*  there are a good number of readers who will download a book when it's free - knowing full well that it's not their usual genre - and then give it a 1* review because it's 'chicklit'.  Rude!  Very, very rude!

* Then we have the ones who loathe a book so much they have to give the whole plot away to spoil it for any future readers.  Amazon insist that no spoilers are given but they will turn a blind eye and ignore anyone who complains to them.  I once spent many hours on the phone and writing emails to try to get a friend's spoiler review removed  - to no avail.

* An odd category here - the readers who purchase a book and then give it 1* saying, 'Haven't had time to read but I'm sure I will enjoy this book.'  What the?  With one fleeting sentence, you've brought a writer's ratings down because of your stupidity.

* People will also get on their high horse about prices of celebrity books.  I've seen many 1* reviews for books that were 'Far too pricey to buy. Not lining their pockets!'  OK, I agree celebs are flooding the market with overpriced tat but it's the publishers who set the price and to leave a review based on that is just wrong.

* I once saw a review for a book that had obviously been purchased second hand on Amazon and the buyer gave the author a 1* because the book 'was bent and smelly'!  Had I been that author I would have had to leave a comment or at least found where the person lived and slapped them with a frozen lettuce.

* There is one charming young lady on Amazon who only EVER leaves 1* reviews.  Clearly the right book has never been written for her!  Frustrated writer, maybe?

* Many readers will happily download free or affordable Indie works and then write review after review about how much the book needed a 'good editor'.  Do they ever stop and think why they're getting a bargain read?  Indies have to price their books to sell - we are swimming in a sea of anonymity and we need to do everything in our power to get our books flying from the virtual shelves.  That means a realistic price which doesn't allow for the luxury of a professional editor.  Capish?  Yes, mistakes can slip through but nobody's perfect - not even the top publishing houses.

So there you go, my thoughts and findings on reviews and reviewers.  If you're an avid reader and have loved a book, do you leave glowing reviews?  If you've read a book that you hate, do you just keep quiet? (like me! - I hate to diss somebody's baby)

Next time you read a book that you love, leave a few lines at Amazon.  It makes us writers smile and as I always say, 'Your words help to sell mine.'

Monday, 15 July 2013


An early blog post this week as I need some thoughts and advice.

'Lottie's Luck' has been out for just under a month now and I have never seen a book (of mine) sell so many so quickly.  OK, it doesn't mean everyone will love it (I only have 13 reviews so far) but it's certainly flying off the virtual shelves.

Why?  Why is this?  Is it the blurb, the cover, the fact that my status on Amazon is gaining momentum?  Or is it just a short flurry of activity before my bubble bursts?  Yes, I am a glass half empty kinda gal!

Now I have my own theory on the madness of my sales this month and, if it's true, it leaves me with a bit of a dilemma.

'Lottie's Luck' is the youngest, most formulaic chicklit novel of mine to date.  The Mummy Misfit diaries are hugely popular with Mums, Misfits and people who like a giggle.  'Completing the Puzzle'  is a more middle-aged tale of love, family and friendship.  'Stilettos & Stubble' is a romcom but, being set in a drag club, not your usual read.

Is this why 'Lottie's Luck' is selling?  Is the traditional market, who know what they want from their chicklit and like it to do everything it says on the tin, finally discovering me?

Because if that's the case - I need to have a rethink.

You see, The Misfit readers have been begging me for a third instalment and that was going to be my December release - yes, it's a work in progress that I'd been keeping to myself!  But now I'm wondering if it's the right direction to go in.  I know I should write what I'm happy with but, let's face it, sales are important - they keep the roof over my head.

So now I'm in a quandary. To Misfit or not?  To light, fluffy chicklit or not?  My poor, frazzled brain is finding it hard to settle to anything at the moment so I'm going to quietly work on editing my Christmas novella and let my thoughts gel - again.

In the meantime, if any of you gorgeous readers have any opinions or feel you can help me throw a light on the subject, please contact me here, on Twitter, Facebook or email me.

Confused Misfit!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Indie Chat with Jamie Dougan

Today, I'm delighted to welcome Twitter friend and fellow Indie, Jamie Tucker Dougan.

Jamie will be doing a free promo of his Kindle book 'Grande Plage' from today till 14th July.  Grab a copy here while you can.  You can also follow his blog here - yes I do feature (!) or contact him on Twitter @JamieTDougan

I downloaded 'Grande Plage' earlier this week and would thoroughly recommend it as a coffee break read.  It's a sweet romance from a male's perspective - which I found refreshing.  Set in France, I felt as if I were there and it brought back some vivid teenage memories for me.

From his reviews:

'It's very sensual, and being written by a man you'd expect it to be all about the sex. However, it is not. It's very romantic in parts and has a happy, heartwarming ending.'

'Short story about a young footballer who falls head over heels for a French girl but has to leave her behind. Good story to read when you are travelling or have a few minutes to spare with a coffee.' 

So I welcome Jamie to the blog as we settle with a Pernod and ice (what else?) and pose some questions to him:

You've decided to do a free promo of 'Grande Plage' to recognise your wife's 40th birthday, which I think is a very romantic gesture.  As you write stories and novels on the steamier side of love, would you call yourself a romantic at heart?

Very much so. A few movies from the 80's have influenced my writing. Movies like 'St.Elmo's Fire' and 'Some Kind of Wonderful'. I like the 'happy ever after'.

If money were no object, how would you treat your wife on her birthday?

First thing I would get her is a new computer. Her current desktop is well past its best. She needs a decent computer for her little card-making business. I'd also buy her a new car and take her on a holiday to the destination of her choice. Which would be Disneyland Florida. A holiday for the kids ... and the big kids.

You're hosting an evening for five celebs - who would they be and why?  You must include one who you would invite just so that you could hit them with a frozen lettuce as I know this is one of your favourite sports!

Well Katie Hopkins would be first on the list to be bombarded with the freshly frozen lettuce by the other guests as they arrive. I'd just whack her a few times in passing. My second guest would be my childhood hero, football legend Kenny Dalglish. As well as telling me many stories from his footballing career, he'd make me laugh too because his one-line sarcasm is brilliant. Next would be French singer Alizee. She would provide musical entertainment and talk French to me (ahem). I'd invite actress Alyssa Milano too, just to help with being the visual muse for one of the characters in my current WIP.  And finally I'd have Prince Charles because I think he'd be an interesting guy to talk to.

What's your ultimate goal as a writer?  Do you dream of a publishing deal or are you happy to remain an Indie?

I'm happy being an Indie. It was never my intention to become a published writer. Writing for me has always been a hobby. A way of living the virtual world I sometimes escape reality to. But an old friend suggested I publish 'Grande Plage' (on more than one occasion I may add). Now, my hobby is seen by others. 

This question was once put to me and I had to find a tricky way around it - I'd be interested to know your take on it.  You are offered a huge amount of money (squillions of millions!) but, by accepting it, you're never allowed to physically write another word.  Would you take it?

Money is a necessary evil to me but it causes more problems than it does good. I'd be a far happier person if there was no money at all. The more some people have, the more they want and that's just pure unnecessary greed. Personally, I think we should better ourselves through knowledge rather than financial gain. So the answer would be no thanks!

Tell us your most embarrassing story - one that haunts you to this day?

It doesn't haunt me much but it was bloody embarrassing at the time. Let's just say it involved a country road lay-by ... steamy windows ... and a police car stopping to ask if we were okay.


Pudding or cheese? -
Pudding, preferably containing chocolate

Suit or jeans? - Jeans... I wear a shirt and tie for a living, so I don't when not working

Night in or out? - Night in

Dancer or watcher? - Watcher

Kylie or Dannii? - Kylie

Indian or Chinese? - Damn... can I have both? Okay, Chinese!

Home or away? - Home

Twitter or Facebook? - Twitter

Music or TV? - Music

Huge thanks to Jamie for joining me on the blog today - come on guys, give his wife the best 40th ever and download a FREE sensual story now.  Happy Birthday Mrs Dougan - what a lovely hubbie you have!

PS:  The frozen wet lettuce is a standing joke.  Tell us in the comments below, who you'd like to wallop over the head with one.  Go on!  You know you want to!

You can buy Jamie's other short stories here.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Outlook's Sunny!

It’s been a good week in the Misfit house - and I mean a really good week.

I wouldn’t say it’s been a lazy one, because I don’t ‘do’ lazy, but it has been a little more laid back than usual and it’s given me time to come to terms with decisions I’ve made and let them gel.

My December release is flying along but my next big job is to get started on the editing of my Christmas novella which will be out in October - never a dull moment here.

So what else did my week bring?  Aside from seeing my son leave his much-loved school, we had SUNSHINE!  Don’t you just love it?  Unlike the yummy mummies who holiday (at least) thrice yearly, I haven’t set foot out of this country for 15 years so when the sun comes to me I jump for joy - OK, with the temperatures we've been having in London, it’s a bit of a lethargic jump, but I still do it.

Of course I dream of heading off to sunnier, more exotic climes but every penny I earn goes to our mortgage and I also need to be here to care for my mother so that’s not possible right now.

But as a writer, I’m lucky enough to be able to set up the office in the garden and enjoy the concept of a holiday while still working - it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it?  There aren’t many jobs that allow you to do that!  And apologies if I’ve made any of you green with envy.

With the arrival of the glorious weather, we entertained some close friends with a meal in the garden on Saturday night and took part in music wars with some neighbours who were having a family barbeque a few doors down - their reggae trounced our Dean Martin hands down but we accepted defeat graciously and had a giggle with them about it the next day.  The evil mozzies also had to back down from battle as I’d managed to find a very effective insect repellent and, although we all stunk and could well have gone up in a puff of smoke with one ignition of a lighter, we all remained bite-free.

I also featured on two blogs.  Here and here. And my friend Jamie Dougan moved his blog to a new web location so if you haven’t caught up on the piece I did on ‘My Writing Essentials’ check it out here.  He’s also doing a free promo of his short story ‘Grande Plage’ from Thursday and I'll be interviewing him here at the end of the week.

But the BEST thing this week has been my book sales.  Good grief!  If I could have more weeks like that, I would be one happy Misfit Bunny.  Paperback sales at Lulu have been great and I’ve also been hovering around the two to three thousand chart rating on Amazon (which, when you consider that there are over two million Kindle books in the UK Amazon store, isn’t too shabby a position for an Indie). Then on Sunday I was over the moon to see that I was at #4 in paid Chicklit (released in the last 30 days with 5* reviews)  How cool is that?

Apart from that, the teen is applying for jobs and not hearing back from anyone - probably something to do with his hair colour (!) and I bought a pair of size 12 jeans (not bad for a fatty!)

AMENDED on 10th July - the week just keeps getting better.  Sales have gone mad and we also received a letter telling us that our son has been given an award at school.  We'll attend the drinks reception and ceremony on 17th September.  We're such proud commoners parents! 

2nd amendment - added 7.50pm on 10th July!  I have also been quoted on the Daily Mail webpage, ranting about the vile Ms. Hopkins!

So … life’s good.  Who needs fancy holidays when you have a laptop in the sunshine?  Putney suits me just fine.  Oh, and the cats quite like it too.

 Check out my books here - everyone needs a light read in the sun. All under £2!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Hop on by, Katie!

An extra blog this week because I need a rant - and we all know that the Misfit needs to vent her spleen every now and again.

Remember, you heard it here first - I would lay my last penny on the vile and obnoxious Katie Hopkins of ‘The Apprentice’ fame announcing a book deal soon.

There can quite simply be no other reason for her outburst and subsequent exposure - we had it with Samantha Brick and we’re being groomed again now.

For those who are not aware of the history, Ms. Hopkins appeared on ‘This Morning’ earlier this week and declared that she won’t let her children play with kids with ‘common’, unusual or geographical names. I refuse to give the YouTube link or any related articles as I don’t want to drive more traffic her way - unless of course it’s an out-of-control articulated lorry!

Not quite sure that she completely stands by her views as, ironically, her children are called India, Poppy and Maximillian. Go figure!

But apparently children who are not given traditional names such as Harry, Sophie or Emily come from ‘stupid’ parents.  These children are always late for school, don’t complete their homework and are not allowed to be around Katie’s little darlings.  Sweeping generalisation, huh?

This from the woman who has shown herself up by not being able to spell synchronicity in a tweet and is unable to use an apostrophe correctly: ‘It isn't just the child's name is it? It is the manner in which it's mother yells it across the playground.’  Sloppy homework, huh?

What’s that about intelligence, Katie?

Not annoyed enough by this witch?  Try this.  Any mums out there with ginger children?  One of her tweets this morning stated,

‘Ginger babies.  Like a baby, just so much harder to love'.

We might expect this from the likes of Frankie Boyle but not from a so called ‘loving mother'.

She has continued to post tweet after provocative tweet this morning and is making herself look like a demented woman who has lost the plot.

But more likely she’s stirring up the hornet’s nest of public opinion before she hits us with her ‘bestseller'.

I’d do anything to get a book deal, to get my works out there to the reading masses - but nobody could ever pay me to be hated.  Which in effect is what she’s doing by compromising any dignity she might once have had.

So, I wish her well.  If there is a book it will no doubt go to #1 in a flash, but hopefully disappear just as quickly ... along with her.  If there isn’t, I hope she gets the professional help she needs.

Rant over.  As you were …

If you want to read about a NICE mummy who battles with the NASTY mummies, check out my Mummy Misfit books here.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Happy Ending to our School Journey

Last night we were delighted to attend the Upper Sixth Leavers’ cocktail party at my son’s school.  Those of you who are regular followers of the blog or my books will know that my son suffered from school phobiawhen he changed schools at eleven.

I couldn’t have wished for a better school to help and guide us through this awful experience and I feel that the time is now right to name that school and shine a light on the staff in all their wonderful glory.

In 2006 my son moved from a very small prep school in Putney to his secondary school in Barnes.  For whatever reason the transition didn’t go well (we’d recently had my elderly mother living with us part-time as she was suffering from panic attacks - who knows what effects this had on a young boy?) and he went through a very dark time.

There were occasions when we thought that the only thing we could do would be to move him on to somewhere else - but where?

With the support and unfaltering understanding from every single member of staff at The Harrodian we managed to (eventually) create a boy who is sad to leave a much loved school.

The Harrodian is a very special place - you only have to walk around it to sense that- and we first saw this on one of our many initial visits.  Every child is seen as an individual - no one is expected to be good at everything and that felt so right for us and our boy.

The Harrodian School, Barnes, London

From his first ‘blip’ - when he suddenly couldn’t bear to be in a classroom- we felt that help was on hand and that whatever happened they would see us through it.

Some would say ‘Money talks’ and, yes, The Harrodian doesn’t come without its price but there were many times when we struggled to find the school fees and the school did all they could to set us on the right path to find the assistance we needed.  Without the ‘beyond the call of duty’ assistance from Mr Hooke or Dr Parmley, my son would not have had the wonderful education he has been privileged enough to enjoy.

But, money aside, I don’t know of many schools where they would have been happy to have a mother sitting and reading (or writing!) on a sofa, just to see that their child would go to classes.

I’ve been slated, slagged off, called a bad mother and a soft-touch for what I did but I would say to any of those (small-minded) people, ‘Walk in my shoes and THEN tell me how you would have dealt with it.’

All I know is that I now have a very bright and well-adjusted young man who’s sad to leave a school he grew to love - in his own time.  What more could I ask for?

School phobia is nasty but very real.  We all hope that our kids deal with transitions in life with ease and excitement - but it doesn’t always happen.  All children are different and, as parents, we have to deal with the cards that we’re given as they grow and change.

We just happened to be lucky enough to choose the right school for a very unhappy boy who grew to be happy.

In the words of his Principal, ‘They say your school days are the best days of your life but I hope those days are still to come when you go on to realise your ambitions and dreams.’

And in the words of his Head, ‘The Harrodian is more than a school - it’s a family.  And a headmaster’s ‘chicken and chips lunch invitation’ is permanently extended for whenever you wish to return and update us with your news.’

These are the reasons we chose this school and why we’re happy/sad to leave. It was one hell of a journey but we got there in the end!

With extra special thanks to Andrew Parmley, James Hooke, Alison Heller, Shirley-Anne Burton, Ben Roets, Adele Monsef and Jake Murray.

 Dad still has to tie my tie!

 More hair, almost more height!

 Mum and son.

With his nanny.

 By the pool at school.

 Best music buddy.

 The boys!

With special thanks to the Head.