Monday, 28 December 2015

Time to swap my superwoman knickers for granny bloomers? I don't think so!

As I am now on the wrong side of 40 it often occurs to me that as I hurtle towards 50, I still feel like a teenager. I don't consider myself  'old' and have often prided myself on the fact that I am 'in with the kids' as my 22 year old son likes to tell me. So, you can imagine my horror at experiencing ageism not once this week but twice. The first time ever! To say I was a tad annoyed is an understatement. More so because the ageist comments came from my 21 year old step daughter! And, I thought she considered me pretty cool! (*face palm)

I suppose when my step daughter looks at me and her father she sees old farts and she made this point quite clear. But then, sometimes when I look at her I want to shove her boobs back in her top and wish her skirt covered her knickers but there you go! A little bit of ageism all of  my own there! The world would be a boring place if we all conformed. And, if that's what makes her comfortable in the world I have as little right to correct her as she has to correct me. But, if you can't take it then don't give it! Suck it up buttercup! Your evil step Ma is surfacing! I will admit to initially being very upset by the comments when they were made but as my friends have pointed out, they are the comments of a mere child! How true! But, as a fledgling writer it piqued my interest and made for interesting blog fodder whilst giving me the opportunity for a good old rant! What's not to love!

Did all you other old farts out there realise though that once we hit 40 we shouldn't be out dancing and making fools of ourselves? No? Neither did I! And, if we want to do such things we should just stay at home and enjoy ourselves there as we make bigger fools of ourselves trying to pretend we are younger than we are! I wasn't aware we were. I mean dear god who wants to be that young and stupid again? Not me! Who wants to just have a laugh, be proud of all we've overcome and remember how good it is to be alive? That would be me!

Ok now sit down before you fall down you old dears! The news was a shock to me too. Who knew that life ended at 40! And, it gets worse! 
( Oh no I hear you cry into your lace hankies. Hold on to your zimmer frames people!) Apparently there's a rule in some overly pretentious nightclubs, including the one she works in, that if your face doesn't fit then you don't get in! Not only is there a lower age limit but there's an upper one too! Time to hit the botox clinics and get out your giant knickers! But then, according to my step daughter why on earth would someone as old as me want to go to a nightclub!? I don't necessarily want to go to somewhere that is filled with idiots who think its cool to spend mummy and daddy's hard earned money on extortionately over priced alcohol or with men who wear more fake tan than me. But, and this is the crux.....................IF I WANT TO DANCE I WILL DANCE WHERE I DAMN WELL PLEASE! I don't frequent places because of the age group of the other patrons. I go where there is fun, great music and great company. The club where she works doesn't sound like the sort of place I'd ever want to go to anyway. I do have some standards but I am tempted to arrive en masse with a group of oldies!

Now, as someone who is almost a coffin dodger apparently, I can take the ridiculously immature, ill thought out and downright rude comments about age and the restrictions that morons have pulled from their empty heads and file them in my mental filing cabinet under G for Garbage! That is of course if I can find my mental filing cabinet in my old and crusty brain! It appears that with youth lacks a distinct balance of respect and the ability to form any sensible opinion about what it means to live life to the full and without limits.

Thankfully I am not decrepit enough to make a mass generalization about all the young uns. Most are pretty cool! But with others, some thoughts are best kept inside their heads with all the other fuzzy stuff that's stored there. Yes of course we've all commented on those people who do make complete eejits out of themselves on a night out but do we really have the right to give an opinion on someone who is clearly having a good time if all they are doing is having a laugh. They aren't endangering themselves or others but are simply enjoying a night out. I will valiantly defend my right to party!! Ok so I might need to pee more often but good grief I will have fun, Tena lady or no Tena lady!

I am lucky enough to have a very close group of 5 friends who have been there for me through thick and thin for over 25 years. We all went to school together and our friendship just grows stronger with every passing year. They are the sisters I would have chosen for myself. Whilst our hair has turned a little grey and our faces a little more wrinkled, we have never lost our sense of fun. Ever! Each of us has in turn had some traumatic life event or ongoing issue in our personal lives and the only way to deal with difficult times is to laugh your way through it with good friends. Imagine our shock to be told that we should only do that laughing and have that fun confined to our living rooms and in our slippers! I'm not sure we could or should deprive the sad old world we live in  of our girly giggles, mad dancing jiggles and snorting wine out our noses just because we are over 40!

So, in the spirit in which the comments were given, and ridiculous rules made, I have written this post. Yes its a bit ranty but being ancient has afforded me that right! If those young whipper snappers are entitled to an opinion then so am I. I do wonder if those who think that us oldies shouldn't have a life are the same young people who are constantly looking to us for money when they seem to so often need it, help with bills or fees or sagely advice when they have screwed up.  

Personally, I happen to think that my life is a little bit more exciting than counting grey hairs, cleaning the oven and clipping my toenails. After many hardships and a fear of following my dreams I find myself in the fortunate position of thoroughly loving life and taking on more challenges that I would ever have done in my 20's. Its time to chase those dreams now and have a wild ride along the way!  If my clapped out body hasn't died by the time my lovely step daughter is 45 years old I shall remind her of this conversation and laugh my denim clad ass off as I jiggle my way out of the house on a mad girlie night out! Oh and just in case you were wondering, the other ageist remark was that I am too old to go get my nose pierced. Now, that just sounds like a challenge to me! (insert evil laugh here).

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Nano What?

Someone shout at me. I had promised back in July to keep this blog a little more updated but as usual life got in the way! Shout at me on social media now and again if you see me being lazy with this blog! You have my permission to kick ass!

Anyway, lets get to the subject at hand. I participated in Nano this year! 'Nano what?' I hear you shout! NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. The challenge, to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. For all you smarty pants out there thinking 'Oh that's easy peasy,' just let me take a moment to slap you upside the head with my very heavy thesaurus!  Have you ever tried to sit and write 50,000 words. Have you? Hmm!

Last year I thought I'd give the challenge a go but only got as far as writing 2000 words. I gave up almost in the first couple of days and didn't really think too much of it. Then throughout the year I've been hearing about authors whose current book is a book that was written as part of the Nanowrimo challenge and it piqued my interest again. So, I signed up and bought the teeshirt (yup there's a teeshirt) and promised myself that come hell or high water I was going to complete the challenge this year if it killed me. It nearly did! But, I preserved and by the end of day 29 I was done! I was a Nanowrimo winner!

Is what I've written a really good book right now? Hell no! I intend to spend the next few months going through my original plotting plans and each chapter and adding and taking a few things away. I'll probably change the title too. Basically, a total re-write I would imagine because although the original challenge is over, my characters just will simply not shut up! I keep thinking of new things to add to their story! New plot twists and new characters! I think this will be an ever evolving thing until I am completely happy with it.

So, what did I get out of it? Well, its made me a bit more disciplined in sitting down and writing, even if its only the odd 100 words here or there or writing in this poor abandoned blog. A sense of personal achievement I think too. When I was writing the final chapters of the book I was sobbing. It was so overwhelming both physically and emotionally because on that last day I wrote over 13,000 words. Do I consider myself an author? Hmmm not really sure to be honest. Is there a difference between an author and a writer or are they one and the same? I write a lot, so am I a writer? I've contributed to a few published anthologies and co-wrote a book for charity. Does that make me an author? Hell I don't know! I wish someone would tell me! Or, am I a wannabe? What do I call myself? Answers on a postcard please. 

I think that because the reaction from family members has been quite muted I am reserving judgement myself. My husband tells people I am writing a book but not sure he'd call me a writer just yet. He's had to take on even more of the household and childcare chores than he previously had and hasn't complained once about doing so. He hasn't complained when I've sat at the laptop for 14 hours solid, unless you count an argument about whether we should have chips or mash for tea! My friends think its great but are worried they are going to end up in a book! (one or two have but shhhhh). My poor misguided daughter thinks I am going to be a multimillionaire and buy her a pony. She thinks writers make a fortune! hahahaah! My son just keeps making me cups of tea and giving me a hug to keep me going through the writing process. As for everyone else in my life..........there has been little or  no reaction or support which has been both surprising and a little disappointing. Maybe I needed to shout more loudly about what I was doing. But I'm a big girl and know how damn well amazing my achievement has been without endorsements from those with little or no interest. That is, until you come across my lovely online friends who have been truly astounding! What a supportive and encouraging lot they are! And, the advice and guidance has been amazing. I am very lucky to have such a wonderful bookish family.

One thing I do know for sure though is that something that evoked such passion in me when I was younger has over the last couple of years been awoken again and its taking over my brain. I feel like I've been invaded by a body snatcher and the symbiotic relationship compels me to write. Its all I want to do.............sit down and write. But, like everyone else, life keeps sticking its big nosy nose (not sure that was grammatically correct!) in and putting obstacles in my way! Juggling so many commitments both personally and professionally often means that my writing takes a back seat while I promote the books written by people who really are authors! Talented and wonderful people.  And, that is just fine. I love what I do in the book world and I love the friends I have made and the important industry connections.  I hate what I do outside that world but that's the job that pays most of the bills unfortunately! Maybe some day the universe will conspire to allow me to stay at home and continue with my book work full time while allowing me a few minutes each day to write. Maybe a nice publisher will pay me to work from home?? Come on universe! Cough up some good karma for me!

If you completed the Nano challenge then well done. If you didn't get to 50,000 words well done also. You sat down and you poured your heart onto a page. We are all winners! I'm very proud of you.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Where is my restart button?

Oh I seem to have been very lazy about posting here! I did start this blog with the best of intentions and it seems that real life just keeps getting in the way! Again! Anyway, I recently had a birthday. Not a big one. Well big enough for some. I was 45. Now, is that the wrong side of 40 or am I still on the right side or do we just round me up? Totally confused! I can see 50 looming on the horizon like a big fat thing, mocking me with promises of a body falling apart! Well let me tell you 50, my body fell apart long before you decided to rear your head!

After being relatively healthy, I have found the last few months have bizarrely turned me into one of those whinging people who clog up their facebook timeline with 'Oh woe is me' type posts. Very sorry for that. Even us super enthusiastic, annoyingly positive people need to vent. But, in the end even I was bored listening to myself. God only knows what I posted whilst drugged up to the eyeballs after a muscle spasm had me half carried to the doctors by a very worried hubs. Which goes to prove one thing...........we can be on our last legs and still find time to check out facebook! Sign of the times I am afraid!

The whole thing came to a head when I got up one morning, well kind of fell out of bed, and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. What stared back at me was a complete stranger! Who the hell was this woman with the dark sunken eyes, the hair that looked like a cat had spat it up and skin with a pallor Dr Frankenstein would have been upset by! Realisation soon dawned that this creature was me! And, I didn't like it one single bit! It was time for action! I had no time for this nonsense. I had work committments! I had caring committments! I had maintaining my sex goddess status committments! Time to get my big girl knickers back on and sort myself out!

So, what did I do? Well I brushed the cat spat hair for a start! I gave myself a makeover pampering session, painted my nails again and began my healthy eating plan again. I have been doing the 5:2 diet for over a year now and 2 stone lighter I have found this way of life was making me feel energised and positively great. However, I had let things slip and fallen back into bad habits. Time to kick the bad things out and look at what I was putting into my body again. Next, I dusted off the gym gear and got my fat wobbly ass back to the gym! I'd been a regular gym goer until recently.

I'm still by no means fully recovered from all the various ailments that seem to have attacked my body lately but I am feeling much better. I've even organised for a personal trainer to kick my ass some more once I come back from my holidays in August. I have improved my diet again, still allowing for treats.......and wine........... and I am trying to find the positives in each day. I don't think I was suffering from depression. I do think I was suffering from pure exhaustion and some bad habits and my body has decided to give me a wake up call! I didn't like it! Not one bit! Is there such a thing as physical depression? I think my body has been depressed about what I was doing to it! Luckily I have some amazing friends, both online and in the real world and a fantastic husband who just gave me enough space to let me do what I needed to do and brought me endless cups of tea, painkillers, heat pads and hugs to help me through. 

So, I am learning to know when I have reached my physical limits. I am learning to be kind to myself sometimes and most of all I am learning to take a little bit of 'me' time which isn't always easy with all I do. Given that my master plan has always been to live forever, I hope on still on the right road to immortality!  You aren't getting rid of me that easily! (insert evil laugh here).

Friday, 8 May 2015

What is Bravery?

Just what do you think of when someone asks you to define bravery? Is it the firefighters who pull people out of burning buildings or the police officers who patrol our streets? Do you think about our brave soldiers fighting in wars at home and in far flung countries to protect us from tyranny or the doctors and nurses who save lives and tend the sick? Is it the social worker who gives up time with their own family to help less fortunate families through difficult times?  All of these people are definitely heroes and deserve an amazing amount of respect. However, maybe we should look at what bravery means to ordinary people. To you and me.

This week I saw an extraordinary little girl do something brave. That little girl is my daughter. I didn't want to use this blog as a platform to talk about her too much as I used to have a different blog in relation to her and how wonderful she was. But, this week every time I look at her I just want to shout from the rooftops how proud I am. You see, my daughter has a learning disability and autism and is afraid of many things and struggles with much. Despite all this she always wants to help other people and so has decided to get her lovely long hair cut and donate her hair to The Little Princess Trust. This charity provides wigs, free of charge, to children who have lost their hair through cancer or other illnesses. I have spent a great deal of time discussing how getting her hair cut will change her appearance and how she might feel uncomfortable getting so much hair cut off. However, she is still insistent that is what she wants to do. She has also begun raising sponsorship money for the charity. Her selfless act really got me thinking about the whole bravery issue. Imagine doing something that you know is going to be difficult but still having the courage to do it.

For me, bravery is the people who struggle through life but still get out of bed every morning and live that life no matter how difficult it may be. Bravery is those who are in pain every day but still manage to greet the day with a smile and hope that the day will bring relief. Bravery is about the parents who manage to get dressed and run a brush through their hair despite only getting 2 hours sleep! Bravery is standing up and asking for help even though you know there is a risk you may be judged. Bravery is walking that extra mile when you are too exhausted to put one foot in front of the other. Bravery is taking a risk on love or walking away from a love that is disappearing before your eyes. Bravery is the person who trudges the streets every day looking for work and never giving up despite numerous knock-backs. I could go on and on. I think the message that I am trying to get across is to look around you and look at all the people who are being brave and probably don't even realise that they are heroes! Are you one of those people? I bet you are! Bravery is all around us in the little things we do that have more of an impact that we could ever imagine. Sometimes, the biggest heroes are those people who get up each day and think, 'I will not give up today.' What's your superpower? 

Friday, 3 April 2015

To Pay or Not to Pay..........that is the question! Or is it?

Not for the first time in the last few months have I stumbled across a debate online regarding book reviews and whether a writer should pay for them or not. This, it appears is a thorny issue and quite an emotive one, although thankfully during this recent debate no-one wanted to burn me at the stake or was horrible as has sometimes been the case. Nice to be able to debate subjects with well rounded individuals even if I didn't necessarily agree with them. (Waves at any who are reading this post)!!!Anyway........
Personally,  I don't think its a great idea when someone says to you 'pay me a tenner and I'll write a review for your book luv!' How can you be sure that its an honest review and they are just not giving you your money's worth? Amid lots of cries of 'totally dishonest' and 'paying your way to the top of the Amazon charts, tut, tut.'...........I think we should stop and have a look at this from a totally different perspective. My perspective! Only kidding. But, lets examine a few key points.
As most or some of you know, I run Brook Cottage Books which organises virtual book tours and other promo events for authors. Of course, most of the work I do has no cost attached despite long hours put in. However, for such things as the tours, yes there is a cost attached. The question is.........are you paying for a review by using a tour company? My answer to that is............No! You are paying me to be the 'glamorous' (?) in-between person who spends hours toiling over an overheated laptop putting together press kits, linking with tour hosts, getting word about your book out via a newsletter, organising tour banners, putting tour pages up etc etc etc. so you don't have to do all these things and can get on with the very important job of writing more wonderful books! All of my amazingly talented tour hosts, or my bookish family as I like to call them are extremely professional people who do an amazing job with their reviews. They just won't write what you want them to write. They will be honest. If they loved your book they will tell you. If they didn't, they will tell you that too. All I ask is that they are not rude or hurtful in their reviews.
Another point that was raised during the debate about book reviews was whether or not reviewers get anything out of taking part in tours when the tour organiser is getting paid. Let me clarify a few things...........
The money paid to organise a tour barely covers the man hours put in to get a tour off the ground and keep it running for the life of the tour. If worked out, it would be hugely less than the minimum wage. My day starts at 5am when I work on book stuff, paid or unpaid. I then go to the day job where I work on more tour stuff during my lunch and tea breaks. Then I get home and work until about midnight most nights on ......... yes you guessed it........more tour stuff. Why do I do it? Because I love it. Simples!
The statement 'what does the reviewer get out of it? Nothing. But you get paid.' I have to say that this one irks me a little. Lets look at some comparisons between a reviewer taking part in a blog tour and a reviewer reading a book to review at the direct request of an author.............
Scenario 1
Author request - 'Dear lovely reviewer, will you review my book?'
Reviewer response 'Oh yes certainly.'
What's in it for the reviewer? ..........A free book, making new networking links, increased traffic to blog, being kept in the loop about latest book news, making new bookish friends, being a part of the wonderful book world.
Scenario 2
Tour organiser request -  'Dear lovely reviewer, will you review this book for a tour on a particular date?'
Reviewer response 'Oh yes certainly.'
What's in it for the reviewer? ..........A free book, making new networking links, increased traffic to blog, being kept in the loop about latest book news, making new bookish friends, being a part of the wonderful book world.
Am I missing something here? Hmmm. As a book reviewer myself I have never once felt that I have been taken advantage of by blog tour organisers. Although I organise book tours, I also take part in a tons too that have been organised by others. As a result, I get lots of lovely readers to my blog. If a reviewer feels that they are being taken advantage of then they shouldn't take part in a tour. You'd tell an author politely that you do not wish to review their book so you should take the same stand with a tour organiser if you feel so strongly. But, don't agree to take part in tours and then complain about it!
The question of money exchanging hands in the book world seems to be one that causes debate after debate. It seems that a lot of people place very little value on the written word or what it takes to get that word out there. However, the very talented Rowan Coleman hit the nail on the head recently during one such debate on Facebook about why eBooks are so expensive! (?) Rowan very clearly pointed out what is involved in getting an ebook out into the world and its no mean feat! So, why shouldn't the author get paid a fair price for working so damned hard! In my opinion, they should be selling their books for an awful lot more! Adding to this, I'd just like to ask.........'Why shouldn't book tour organisers get paid?' Would publishers, agents, editors, proofreaders, book cover artists, printers etc etc do their job for free? Why do people expect me to?'
I'd love to hear your views on this.............but keep them respectful please. We are all entitled to an opinion. Mine is just opinion. Yours might be different. That's ok. Just remember though that the common denominator here is our love for books and that's why we do what we do..........paid or unpaid. Happy reading! x

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Only 24 hours in a day? You cannot be serious!!!

Sometimes it occurs to me that I do too much. I have a lot of friends, both online and in the immediate vicinity plus a husband who confirm this and nag at me a fair bit.  I often sit down for a few seconds and wonder if I am doing the right thing by continuing with this hectic lifestyle. The answer that I keep coming up with is 'Hell yeah!' What's not to love about my life? Every now and again I go looking for more things to do! What do you suppose that is all about? With working, blogging, book touring, writing (sometimes), being wonder wife and supermum oh and still having a bit of a social life, 24 hours in a day are simply not enough! I mean who had that idea of only 24?
If I was to look at it from an outsiders perspective it might appear that I am trying to fill some sort of void. Freud would probably have had a field day with what goes on inside my head. However, the simple truth of the matter is that I wasted too many years not doing anything! No I didn't sit on my backside and twiddle my thumbs! Of course I didn't. Its not my nature. I've been working since I was 13 years old for goodness sake!  What I mean by wasting too many years is that I was too sensible too soon. I grew up fast in a less than normal childhood and suddenly became Ms Mature long before I wanted to be. I put family commitments above all else and did was what expected of me whether it made me happy or not. I gave up a lot of dreams. Oh and there was also the little problem of not having the motivation or bravery needed to do what I wanted. So, a lot of the problem was down to me.
However, a couple of things happened to change things. Firstly, I suddenly found myself a single parent who was soon to meet and eventually marry a man who would offer unfailing support and encourage me to push myself to do more of what I wanted. Then, a couple of years ago something else happened. Book blogging happened and with it a new way of life. Yes I know it all sounds a bit arty-farty but that's what has happened!
The book blogging community is such a wonderfully warm and loving one. Fellow bloggers and authors alike are some of the most friendly and encouraging people on the planet. Once I joined this inspirational community something stirred inside it wasn't was the desire to read and write more. The desire to immerse myself in all things bookish again. Memories from a childhood hidden in books soon surfaced and I realised what had been missing from me. Books!
So, now that I have rediscovered my oomph for all things literary it has given me a new zest for life because I am doing so many things that I love and meeting lots of new people and having lots of new experiences. I push myself harder because I never want to lose that sense of achievement that I now have. Of course I know that my dream of doing something bookish full time may of course remain precisely nothing more than a flight of fancy.  But, you know what? I don't care. I just know that I am happy now. (psssstttttt if anyone is reading this and wants to offer me a job, well you know where I am.) I may be 44 (said in quiet sobs over a glass of wine and a Twix) but by God its time for adventure! Bring it on!

As well as trying new ventures in the bookish world I am trying on new adventures in Debbie Land. Oh you know, like hiking up the odd mountain, abseiling, running in charity events, going to the gym etc etc. It may take me longer, I  may complain about a dodgy hip, bad hair and a constant desire to pee but so what!! I'm doing so much more than my younger self ever would have dared, if you don't count the getting drunk and stealing a horse or dressing up as a milkmaid. Life couldn't be better or more fun! I'll rest when I'm dead!


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Rubbish She Wrote!

It suddenly occurred to me this week when I was the focus of not one but two interviews that I love to talk about myself! Hey who doesn't!? Right? Just me? Ahhh ok. So, for this reason, which is purely narcissistic, I have decided to start this blog. It will be full of totally boring and random stuff but sometimes my head just doesn't have enough room to hold it all in. It'll be observations about life, my feelings on certain subjects, things I am getting up to and of course the odd rant here and there...........actually probably a lot of rants. I promise to stay away from the computer when I've had wine! And, for you men reading this blog.............I apologise for the total girlie overload! Try and look past all the pink fluffy stuff now and again and read what I write! As this blog will be a continuing work in progress for a while please be patient with me and don't be surprised if it looks different every time you visit! I like to keep you confused!
I always kept a diary for a number of years when I was a teenager and kind of fell out of the way of writing in it each day. You know what its like when real life gets in the way. But over the last few years I have become involved in the writing community and rediscovered a love of writing again. Oh no not another wannabe writer I hear you shout. But, yes I'm afraid to say that I am. I'm probably not very good at it and I never really share it with anyone but its there, in my head all the time. So, for this reason you are all going to have to put up with me blogging and boring the pants clean off you! Sorry about that. The exit is right over there ----------------------->
And, if you are a teeny bit interested in reading the two interviews I took part in, you can find them HERE and HERE. Happy reading!