Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I'm not a celebrity, but I know how to become one!

So one of the reasons I've been silent is I have become to addicted to the TV show I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! I've occasionally dipped into it over the years, but this year I've become intrigued by it due to the presence of the indomitable Lady C, otherwise known as Lady Colin Campbell.

Yep, I've become fascinated by Lady C and her epic rants which make Hitler's tirades look amateurish. The bizarre thing is that by being completely rude and obnoxious Lady C is getting loads of publicity which seems a tad unfair on the other celebs who are far more polite.

But there is a lesson to be learnt from Lady C and I've worked it out...

If I turn myself into a vile, ranting witch I will get way more visibility for my books!

However, I have a problem: How do I make myself as mean and nasty as Lady C when I'm such a fluffy bunny rabbit type of person?

I finally figured it out today that there is only one method - I must inflict on myself the ultimate torture. A torture so severe that all the suffering I will endure will turn me into a bad-tempered, vile, monstrous creature and, therefore, propel me to celebrity superstardom.

What is this torture?

I think most women out there will know what it is...

I must shave off all my pubic hair and suffer the pain of spiky regrowth. 

Pubic hair re-growth - guaranteed to make any sane women insane.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Yes, I have been away for a while for what has been the longest absence from my blog which is truly shameful and pathetic. I have plenty of excuses which I might elaborate on about at a later date. However, in the meantime, I am here to say I intend to make up for my shoddy blogging output with a serious amount of blogging between 1st and 31st of December.

Yep, that's right on the 1st December I will be commencing 31 days of non-stop blogging!

As I am the most laziest and disorganised blogger imaginable, I have no idea what I am going to blog about so if you want to suggest a topic, news item, celebrity, song, book or whatever then feel free to thrown your hat into the ring. One word of warning though - don't expect any serious answers. I will be writing whatever is the first stuff that comes out of my head!

So battle down the hatches. Mrs T's Christmas blogging madness starts on Tuesday!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thoughts on Book Clubs and Women's Fiction

For many years I’ve been a member of a ladies’ book club. We’re all middle-aged with one or more aspects of our lives in common: teenagers or young adult children, jobs varying in pressures and fulfilment, husbands facing redundancy or career changes, and increasing responsibilities for our parents. At the same time, we're also facing the joint onslaughts of the loss of youth and age-related health problems. We’re a strong, supportive group with individual and yet universal problems that unite us beyond our mutual love of books. Our meetings are filled with lively, vocal discussions that sometimes go on until the early hours of the morning on just about any topic.

Except the books that brought us together in the first place.

It’s not that we never discuss our chosen books; it’s just that we so rarely discover a book that all of us have read and enjoyed to the very end that it warrants discussing it for any length of time. And forcing ourselves to read a novel to impress or to satisfy some quasi-intellectual need isn't necessary: We know each other too well. So, by the time we’ve got past the excuses: “I was too exhausted to read it,” (any lengthy literary novel); “It was too depressing,” (any novel featuring a child killer); “It was so predictable I watched a rerun of The Professionals instead," (any book with “teashop” in the title); and “How did this get on the Man Booker shortlist? My navel fluff is more interesting,” usually we're left with very few books that meet all our expectations.

Now I don’t want to make my friends sound uneducated or overly fussy because they’re neither. We have occasionally talked at length about some great books: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, The Help and so on. But what these particular books have in common, despite their literary statuses, is that they're easy to pick up and put down but are still absorbing enough to be entertaining and informative.

There is, of course, a lot of “women’s fiction” that is worthy of discussion which never grabs the headlines like the more literary novels. Anything by Jodi Picoult ticks that box, as would undercover successes like The Memory Book or Me Before You. These are the type of books that many women enjoy. They're books which don't require a degree or in-depth analysis to appreciate. They're emotive, engaging and frequently explore situations or moral dilemmas that create food for thought and conversation. To women with busy, exhausting lives these easy-to-read but captivating books are a gift because, after a harrowing day, not many of us want to face the challenges of Hilary Mantel or David Mitchell.

It was with these thoughts that I set about writing The Changing Room. But I also wanted to factor in one further element and write not just an easy-to-read and thought-provoking novel that would be appreciated by the ladies of my book club, but a humorous one. It would have an older heroine that readers would empathise with but who also did things they’ve wanted to do but haven’t quite had the courage or opportunity. A woman who would make them laugh and cry and, hopefully, inspire them.

I'm not sure why there is so little meaningful comedy fiction available for older women, but certainly finding any agent or publisher actively looking for any humorous writing that isn't a Christmas coffee table book, chick lit or dry literary humour is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Nevertheless, I was determined that it shouldn’t just be girls or academics who have fun in literature, but mature women too.

And so I created 45-year-old Sandy Lovett: mother, wife, carer and sex-chat expert. A resilient woman with a sense of humour and a strong moral, social and political conscience who was changing direction in her life.  A woman, I hoped, whose character and story would appeal to the ladies of my book club long enough to make it through several bottles of wine and a selection of exotic nuts.

Only time will tell if I have succeeded in my mission. But whatever the reception for Sandy Lovett, I will always hold the same affection for her as I do my book club ladies. All of them ordinary women, just like you and me, living their own extraordinary lives.

This article originally appeared on Random Things Through My Letterbox .

Friday, October 23, 2015

When the simplest things go wrong

Sometimes I wonder if I am cursed as it seems even the simplest things go wrong for me. Take for example, the last 36 hours...

I am the tennis centre working and I get some unfortunate news about one of the boys' tennis coaches which requires my contemplation. Whilst I am contemplating, I get an email from my publicist which is good news but requires my immediate attention. My brain is busy whirring over these two issues so when I get home at about 8.30 pm I discover I have left my handbag at the tennis centre. I ring the tennis centre and luckily they are able to locate it but I am not sure if all the contents are all there. I decide because I've only "lost" it for an hour and it was in the same place I left it that I'm going to trust to luck and honesty that all my essentials are still in my bag and collect it the next day as I've already done 5 hours driving and I'm knackered.

Initial trauma over, I go back to dealing with the publicist enquiry. At 11.30 pm I go to bed. I get up early the next morning, do a little more work and then attempt to get the boys off to school on the bus at 8am. I am exceptionally pleased with myself that after visiting my MP a place on the school bus has miraculously appeared for Master Jacob so I don't have to do the school run and can press on with my work earlier than usual. So the usual frantic pre-school checks begin. I tell Master Jacob to take money from his own wallet as he has overnight school trip and my handbag is still an hour away. I see him take it out of his wallet. Great. Master Ben packs his PE kit. Great. They both get out the door (late) but they don’t come back. Great.

I am free! I sit down to continue my work and...

The phone rings. I hear Master Ben's voice. The phone cuts off. It rings again. Garbled teenage talk. I try to make sense of it but I'd have more luck deciphering the Enigma code. The phone cuts off again. My anxiety starts to rise. I decide to ring back. Master Ben answers. There's more teenage garble and phone interference. I finally work out (whilst my blood pressure is rising) that he has left his PE kit on the sofa and Master Jacob has forgotten his money. By this time I am shouting:


The phone cuts off again.

So far I have deduced that Master Ben doesn't need his kit till lunchtime. However, then I realise that Master Jacob will need his money before he sets off on his trip at 9.00am and it is already 8.35am. We live approximately 12 mins by car from school travelling at 60 mph for approximately 10 of those minutes. In normal hours. At rush hour that journey can easily take 35 minutes. 

I am about to spontaneously combust. The side effect of this near and very vocal combustion is that Mr T, who is off work, decides he will get up and see what is going on. In the interests of road safety, I give him the football kit and extra money from Jacob's wallet (as I have no idea where Master Jacob has left the original money) and send Mr T off to school.

I decide to chill for five minutes before resuming work. I make a cup of tea and check up on the listing of my children's story Fantasia on the professional review service NetGalley which I have been told will go live that morning. I follow the link the administrator has sent me to its page and see it listed. The cover looks great and has already got 8 "likes". I read through the blurb I'd sent just to check all it as it should be. It reads fine. However, when I get to the bit that says "Advance Praise"  I read this:

Advance Praise

"I don't have any reviews for this book, Kellie. However, I've seen some traditional publishers just pick out general praise for the author in these circumstances So I've done that. If you can beat 'em join them!"

Yep.The admin has just copied and pasted. So everyone knows that the following three (awesome) comments I have listed have been selected by myself.


Eventually I decide that my 8 "likes" are either sympathy votes or a reward for supreme navel gazing. I contemplate a) murder b) spontaneous combustion (again) c) toast heavily laden with butter

I opt for c). Only because I haven't got a shotgun.

Mr T comes home. I ask him whether Jacob has any idea where he left his money as I still can't find it.

Mr T informs me that Master Ben was just joking about that. Master Jacob had his money all the time!

I butter some more toast.

* * * * * *

So today is a new day. I have my handbag safe (complete with contents). Master Ben has gone to school. Master Jacob is still on his trip. Master Sam and Mr T are still in bed. All is quiet. I have just made my tea and checked my netgalley listing to see if the adminstrator has acted on the email I sent her regarding the faux-pas.

She hasn't.

I am going to butter some more toast.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Gransnet and a new experiment from Mrs T

I am on Granset this week espousing on one of my favourite subjects: The Problem With Plumbers. Do pop over and give it a social share or leave a comment if you enjoy it.

This week I have also been busy working on my book promotion and I have taken time out to make a video for my book.

I am also currently putting a few articles together and I'm looking for anyone who has had some bad/funny (or even good!) changing room experiences. So if your knickers have fallen down in public, or you've lost your child while you were trying on a bathing suit in M & S, or you split some trousers and put them back on the rail then I want to know!  Please leave a comment or email me at jane@sweetandsaltybooks.net. You could be immortalized in one of my articles!

*So long as you promise not to sue me*

Monday, October 12, 2015

New Release: Fantasia

Those of you who have read my short story collection for adults, A Modern Life, you may have read my short story, Fantasia.  It was different from the other stories in my collection in that it was a universal story whereas the others were what I considered to be "adult" fiction. (Yes there was even some sex in A Modern Life.)

Yes, I know - shocking! Who would have thought the mild-mannered Mrs T would write about sex?

Ho hum.

Anyhow, I really wrote Fantasia as an educational story for children as a way of discussing climate change and the social responsibility we all have to each other and to our environment. (Alongside the fact that I'm just a big kid and like writing silly stuff.)

Well, at long last, I've finally got around to publishing Fantasia as a separate entity so it can reach its intended audience. Currently, it's just as an eBook on Amazon but long-term I'd like to make it into an illustrated book if there's enough interest. I also have plans for two more children's books. One is a story that I made up to entertain my eldest son in the car when he was feeling travel sick and the other is a recent story that came to mind when I wrote about Johnny Potato VC during the April A to Z blog challenge. Both these books will also have to be long-term projects because illustrated books cost a serious amount of money to produce.

Now Fantasia is finished, my next project will be The Very Best of The Witty Ways of a Wayward Wife where you will be able to read the best (or worst) of this blog in book format edited and proof read. Yep - you'll finally be able to read one of my blog posts without the obligatory typos. I originally intended to publish The Very Best of  The Witty Ways Wayward Wife late last year, but I had a rather nasty health scare which, fortunately, turned out to non-life threatening but meant that I shelved the project and have been somewhat preoccupied with my health this year. It's time though to get back to writing and editing. Life is short and I still have a lot more to do!

So I leave you with Fantasia. It's on Amazon for 99p/99c or free if you're a member of  Kindle Unlimited. However, if any of you would like a copy for your kindle to inflict on your children, grandchildren or on yourselves please email me at jane@sweetandsaltybooks.net and I'll send you one. In return, a few words, good or bad, would be welcome on Amazon.

Design by Jessica Bell

The year is 2031 and Walt Disney, suspended in cryogenic suspension since 1966, has been brought back to life by Dr Corey, a scientist researching brain function for the purpose of suspending life for space travel. But Dr Corey gets more than he bargained for when Walt awakens. Opinionated, arrogant and still in love with films, Walt is overawed when he discovers what has happened to the world in the intervening years: films are a whole-body experience, all human organs except the brain are replaceable and research is underway to preserve life so mankind can reach the outer edges of the universe.

But what affects Walt most is the shocking news that the world is being affected by catastrophic climate change...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Fashion Rant and My Design for Rick Owen

Yes, it's time for my annual fashion rant. Hoist up the bridges, affix your armour and be prepared to do battle with a host of Mrs T's anti-fashion hyperbole and rhetoric.

Now, as usual, I manage to keep calm about the catwalk most of the time (even though most of the designers are clearly bonkers) until I see an outfit that is truly horrendous and my fashion steam gauge goes ballistic.

This happened a few days ago when I saw these pictures from designer Rick Owen's exhibition at the Paris fashion show. If you feel you can suffer the video footage the YouTube clip is below.

Now I've looked at this video several times. Apparently, the concept of female models carrying other female models is meant to be meaningful and saying something sincere about The Sisterhood. ( etc etc.)

Give me a break! I can read about that sort of feminist claptrap in The Guardian. But at least when I'm reading their diatribes I'm not vomiting over my keyboard.

Now it's not that I have anything against the idea of  The Sisterhood - I mean us girls having been watching each other's backs for years and many of us have been forced to wear sacks and babies on our backs since the beginning of civilization. So what we don't need is some overpaid, pretentious male fashion designer thinking he's saying something new and profound about The Sisterhood whilst his models have the indignity of having each other's backsides in their faces. Because, Mr Owens, us women already know what being a woman is all about and the difficulties we've faced and continue to face all over the world.

Also, Mr "Fashion" Designer, we don't want to see these poor women further humiliated wearing ugly, overpriced, ludicrous, not fit-for-purpose hideous carbuncles of clothing which are falsely masquerading as "fashion."

God, I am enjoying this rhetoric. I should have been a speech writer. If anyone out there needs one, I'm available for hire. Furthermore, you can get me for a reduced rate if you supply me with a selection of this season's designs from Marks and Spencers.

Now, I don't want you folks to think I haven't considered these designs seriously. I have. I also considered them alongside Rick Owens earlier fashion show which had men wearing designs with peepholes in them so you could see their assets.

Glorious. Just the sort of outfits I want to see when I'm picking up my kids from school or a loaf from the bakery.

Now we've all heard the argument that designs like these are just trend setters and when they translate into high street fashions they're more conservative.

So, in other words - the "women carrying other women" concept will become a very small backpack. Made of hessian. However, in Top Shop it will have sparkly bits stuck on it and a machine-stitched patch that says "Love Me, Love My Bag."

Joy. I so need one of those. I must ask Mr T to get me one for Christmas.

And the men's peephole garments will turn into...um.... um...ordinary trousers. Because anything else with a hole in it below the waist will result in being charged for public indecency.

So basically, the original designs don't translate into anything remotely similar and all this silly stuff on the catwalk is just exhibitionist, pretentious, arty-farty, egotistical fashion gibberish.

Rant over.

Anyhow, because it's a Saturday night and I'm in an artistic mood (and have nothing better to do) I've designed my own outfit especially for Rick Owens using his "peephole" concept. Imaginatively, I've called it "Man Wearing Romper Suit.". I am showing the "below-the-waist" rear view. Hopefully, Rick will wear it at his next show.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

One Small Moment, One Big Tear

There are few words I can say to express my joy at having finally receiving my first press review for The Changing Room.

So far The Changing Room has been wallowing in obscurity. I am certainly not foolish enough to believe one review will alter its future but, for a brief moment in time, it gave me a deep satisfaction to know that for at least for one professional reviewer my story worked. In fact, I couldn't have asked for a better review and it's true to say a tear of joy ran down my cheek. It is only one brief moment, but for me it will be a memorable one.

The review is now circulating up North in the UK and so far appeared it has appeared in the Lancaster Evening Post, The Blackpool Gazette, St Helen's The Reporter and the Yorkshire Evening Post.

You can read it HERE.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Daily Challenges

I am on Shaz's book blog today doing a Question and Answer session.

I amazed myself by actually giving sensible answers. Well mostly sensible ones - a few rogue answers may have slipped through the net.

In other news, I have been having a fairly traumatic time of late. Luckily, this has not been open heart surgery. However, yesterday it consisted of blocking the sink, spilling caustic sink unblocker over my trousers and visiting my MP to let off some steam about a) Britain's overlooked children in the state school system and b) the lack of school transport which now requires me to do the school run twice a day again. Ugh.

On the plus side, a) I made a lasagna which I didn't burn (too much) and b) the cover for my children's short story Fantasia arrived. More about that soon.

Now I feel I should end this very short post with a Justin Bieber song now I am an official fan. However, I think I'll go for something even more (dis)tasteful and get you in the mood for Christmas.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Female First

You can find me on Female First today with my Top Ten Things I Want My Readers to Know About Me

And yes, I did steal a few one-liners from my blog and drop them in amongst the new stuff. Time was of the essence.

You know I've discovered the pressure of being an almost celebrity is enormous.

Although, sadly, I still have to make my own lunch.

Bah humbug.

Right, now I'm off to do some more work.

*Runs bath water*

Monday, September 28, 2015

My World Comes Crashing Down

Oh. Dear.God. I've had the most horrible day. I am in terrible despair and must call into question my whole outlook on life.

Now I know, readers, that you will be concerned about poor Mrs T and curious to find out what has brought her to the edge of the insanity. So let me now regale you with the tragic event which has been the source of my misery and which happened this very afternoon...

Mrs T (moi) is having a bit of a jig to an unknown but rather catchy tune at the service counter in the restaurant at the tennis centre.

"Who is this?" says Mrs T the to the gentleman making her tea.

A flash of  horror passes across his face as he plops Mrs T on the counter.

"Justin Bieber," he replies.

And so, dear readers, my world came crashing down.

It's official. Mrs T has lost all her musical taste.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why I Love Being British

I love being British. There's a lot of rubbish that's said about us but frankly I wouldn't want to live anywhere but in ol' Blighty.

Because we have stories like these.

Now I know I shouldn't laugh, as potentially this could have been very serious, but I'm afraid I am.

Other countries have wars, terrorists and mass murderers - we have a lone ginger-haired guy who wants to shoot Prince Charles and put red-haired Harry on the throne.

If that idea wasn't funny enough, this fella's reading material consisted of:“The Terrorist Handbook,” “The Complete Improvised Kitchen”, “The Jolly Roger Cookbook,” “Assorted Nasties,” “Silent Death” and “The Poor Man’s James Bond.”

Oh God. I fear I may never stop laughing.

There's a story in this story. It might just have to be me who writes it.

"The Ginger Who Would be King."

Oh lord, this is too much entertainment for a Wednesday afternoon. I do hope this poor man gets the help he needs.

It's not the hair colour that worries me. It's the haircut.
 And the vest. Especially the vest.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Do men ever grow up?

I am interrupting my lunch to report on this important article at The Daily Mail.

Now if you can't be bothered to read it, I'll summarize. Apparently some dating guru did some research and came up with this astounding theory:

Men of all ages like young women best. Preferably about 20 years old.

No, really? You could knock me down with a feather.

This dating guru also put his research results into graph format and gave a lecture on it.


What the *uck?

I feel sorry for him. Pity the PhD in philosophy or atomic structure didn't work out. But a hey a job' s a job! 

Anyway, I need a job so I reckon if I stick some really obvious crap onto a graph and get myself a microphone and a couple of speaking gigs I could make a fast buck too.

I'll start with a comparison of the two graphs below.

Ps. I should add that I love men. Just not the stupid ones.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

How I learnt to fly and other news

So if you've been wondering where I have been of late, I have been having one of those interludes where life all goes pear-shaped. Hence the lack of blogging.

In the last two weeks, amongst a number of other longer-term issues I have had to contend with, I've filled my car up with the wrong petrol (not quite as bad a crashing it which is my usual norm), had a very unpleasant bout of food poisoning and discovered one of my sons is dyslexic.

Let's deal with this dyslexia diagnosis first.

Now some of you who have read this blog for a long time may recall that, on occasions, I have indulged in the odd vitriolic educational rant.

And, quite frankly, this very late diagnosis of dyslexia seems to justify yet another one. My poor son has endured twelve years of being ignored by the state school system - in spite of very vocal attempts by me to bring his obvious difficulties to the attention of his teachers.

So I am afraid, that even with all the good will in the world, I cannot find any excuse for the appalling negligence I have witnessed which has had a very negative effect on my son's education and emotional well-being.

Anyhow, I am not going to go into one of my full-blown rants today. I have already had enough verbal ones these past two weeks and I am tired of fighting. I'm gonna save myself for an article in The Daily Mail. (That should really get their backs up at school!)

I will also spare you the details of my food poisoning. Only to say it was pretty darn awful and it was NOT the result of my own cooking. It took me quite a few days to get over it. Aside from the very obvious side effects (I don't think I'll go into the details other than to say there is now a shortage of look rolls in the Western hemisphere) the most unpleasant one was how much my stomach bloated (more than it usually does!) after I had started to eat again. It blew up to such a proportion I looked like I was pregnant with hippo triplets.

And, of course, what goes up must come down. (Said the nurse to the vicar) This means that in the course of time my stomach had to de-bloat.

That is when I discovered the art of levitation.

This is Mr Salmonella who was residing in my gut for a while. I issued him
with a parking ticket, but he still overstayed his welcome. Bastard.

Anyway, on to other news. If you are a registered Netgalley reviewer you can pick The Changing Room up for free in exchange for an honest review. If not, it's on offer for a few days at £1.99/$2.99 before my relaunch starts on the 24th. You can check it out on Amazon here.

Back to the bonkers stuff from now on. Hurrah.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Update on The Changing Room

Next week, my boys return to school and I will begin the final preparations for an event that I have been working for a long, long time.

On September 24th, a publicity campaign for The Changing Room organised by leading publicist Becke Parker begins. So far, my novel has been read by very few - finding visibility as a self-published author is almost zero particularly if you write outside of romance, thrillers and niche genres like science fiction. However, I am hoping that with help from Becke and publishing specialists Whitefox who have supported me for almost a year on this journey, I may be able to bring The Changing Room to the attention of the wider world and kick start a career as a professional author. I am, however, prepared to fail. In many ways, success or failure may simply depend upon whose desk my book lands, if it even gets that far. Of course, it would be upsetting to fail but if there's any one message that my novel sends forth is that life has its tragedies and disappointments but you should never let them overwhelm you and to be prepared to change and adapt. We should always be thinking about moving forwards, never backwards. And so, whatever happens, I will be content that I did my very best and continue to write even if it is only madcap waffle here on my blog if circumstances dictate I can't devote time to a full-time writing career.

In preparation for the launch, I've had a new paperback cover designed for The Changing Room and moved the original cover by Gracie Klumpp to a hardback matt laminate edition. The new paperback has been designed by Emma Rogers (Labyrinth, You Had Me At Hello) and illustrated by Grace Hawes (A Thousand Splendid Suns). I hope you like it - it is very different from the original cover but whilst the original cover is very much how I see my "brand" I think that, very possibly, this cover will have more mass market appeal. 

So that's my news, folks. It's make or break time for Mrs T. Wish me luck! And any help anyone can give with spreading the word by social media, by mouth or by any other means would be most appreciated. There are even downloadable A4 colour posters on my media page!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Say "No!" to Camping!

*This is an article I wrote for the BBC a few years ago. Normal zany service will be resume next week along with an update on my self-publishing journey and some news relating to The Changing Room.*

Say "NO!" to Camping!

With the prospect of long summer evenings and some pleasant weather ahead I won’t be the only housewife fantasizing about lying on a beach, nibbling grapes, sipping Pina Coladas and being waited upon by a handsome young manservant.

Unfortunately, when I’m in the middle of these and other exotic fantasies a whining voice asking an annoying question often brings me back down to reality. A recent example of this was when I had my hands immersed in the washing up bowl whilst dreaming about surfing with Damien Lewis when suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by the question every mother dreads;

“When can we go camping?”

Now imagine the onset of acute postnatal depression combined with the news that Daniel Craig has quit as James Bond and you will have an idea how such a question cuts me to the quick. What I’d really like to do in such circumstances is to stick my head in the oven. However, due to the small personages to whom I gave birth and who regularly attach themselves to my purse at the sweet counter, I have to abandon such thoughts and attempt the “Distraction Technique.” It goes something like this;

“Would you like some sweets?”

“Oh yes please, and when can we go camping?”

“You can have the sweets and I’ll put on that new DVD.”

“Oh great! And can I take my cricket bat with me when we go camping?”

“Why don’t we talk about camping later? These are your favourite sweets.”

“Daddy loves camping.”

“Daddy has been working hard lately. He needs a rest. Here, have a milkshake.”

“Oh goody. Strawberry, my favourite. When we go camping, can we stop at MacDonalds so I can have chocolate flavour?”

Okay, what I’m saying is the “Distraction Technique” which is usually a foolproof method of diverting children’s foolish escapades doesn’t work with camping.

Blast and double blast.

What is it with kids and camping? It’s almost as an attractive proposition to them as Christmas. Thank goodness retailers haven’t reinvented Christmas in July. The thought of having to stick up streamers and Christmas trees in a tent is like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock film. Forget The Birds and Psycho imagine The Campsite…

The night before Christmas, silence reigns over The Campsite. A bedraggled mother is found hanging from an impromptu washing line. Children lie quivering in their sleeping bags. A man dressed in red is seen stalking the nearby flooded toilets. Who is this strange being? Is it Santa or a holiday maker with sunstroke? What dark and deadly secrets lie beneath the fa├žade of The Campsite? Find out the horrifying truth this summer at a cinema near you!

Yes, you might have realised by now that to me camping is the most unappealing “holiday” ever. I use “holiday” very loosely in this context – in my opinion no such thing as a “holiday” exists when camping. Indeed, the thought of using public conveniences or squatting in a field whilst the 7.15 express from Plymouth to Paddington hurtles past is about as seductive as spending the night in a mortuary. And no one mention those portable toilets; last time I went camping I thought it was an ice box and ended up with some funny tasting bacon and eggs.

A sight that strikes fear into the heart of every living woman

As for those so-called “inflatable” beds, have you ever tried sleeping on one with someone substantially heavier than you? Well, it’s like being at sea and being tossed up and down like a dingy. After spending a night on one with my husband once and alternating between bouts of seasickness and nightmares of being trapped inside a whale I was forced to go out and buy my own the very next day or (and this may come as a surprise to you) hang myself from an impromptu washing line. Anyway, those mattresses should be renamed. Something more akin to “The Slowly Deflating Mattress” would be more truthful. Yes, why is it that at 2 am when the water is trickling under the tent and there’s a force 10 gale blowing outside do they require pumping up? I think they should carry a government health warning;


Further, an extra warning could be added for increased awareness. I suggest something like;

“This mattress may cause reduced blood flow, impotence, headaches, sciatica, visual disturbances and near-fatal heart attacks.”

However, camping is a positive for anyone who wants to follow the Atkins diet. Kids and men seem to love no end of sausages, burgers, eggs and beans at 8am in a field in the middle of nowhere. But after 2 weeks of a meat only diet most women would outpace Paula Radcliffe in a sprint to the nearest Thorntons’ outlet. (Although possibly Paula has quite a lot of experience at camping so it could end up being a tight contest.) But if a race to Thorntons is out, you could always join the race to wash your dishes at the nearest available standpipe which makes the chore of stacking the dishwasher seem quite blissful. Yes, it’s remarkable how all those things you took for granted like prepackaged pizzas, loo roll and a shower that doesn’t conk out when you’ve got soap in your eyes, suddenly acquire luxury status.

Sadly, camping seems to appeal to most men. This one is even reading Camping Weekly which may have come in handy since he appears to have forgotten his loo roll.

Now it would be unfair of me to imply all women don’t like camping but I did do a survey amongst my friends and acquaintances and only one lady actively enjoyed camping. After some pertinent questions I deduced this was due to an indecent amount of alcohol and a failing memory. Admittedly, these are probably very useful assets when camping. However, I’m not sure if I like the idea of wandering into a stranger’s tent in a drunken stupor and asking if I can have a ride on their boat.

Anyway, this year I’ve taken the precaution of booking a holiday abroad, so I’m saved from yet another trip to hell and back. Well, not unless you count camping in the back garden. But hey, whilst my boys are frying their bacon and eggs I shall have my feet up and be daydreaming about that tasty young manservant.

I wonder what it would be like to get stuck in the outback with Ray Mears and a Pina Colada?

Hmm… hold that thought Ladies.

Especially if you’re going camping this summer!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Stairways to Heaven: The Lovely Bones meets The Shack

*It's the school holidays folks, so I am interspersing my normal mad posts with some ones I have written around the net. Don't expect the kind of sensible stuff below too much because next up will be my rant "Say, "No" to Camping!" *

Have you ever wondered how you will die? I suspect the most satisfactory outcome for most of us would be to slip away peacefully in our sleep after a long and fruitful life. However, in my experience, that is unlikely to be the case. In fact, when I look back at the lives of people I’ve loved and lost death has either been a long and painful process or sudden and dramatic. Either way, there was no easy way to come to terms with their loss. It was only the passing of time, the knowledge that natural death comes to us all and my belief in another existence that helped to ease my sorrow.

But what if death is unnatural? What if death is caused by a bizarre misfortune, a car crash or negligence? How does one deal with such a loss? How does one deal with exacerbated feelings of guilt, rage and injustice? Does it make you embrace your beliefs or abandon them? And what if something worse were to happen? What about the ultimate sin?

What happens if your child is murdered?

Imagine all the feelings of loss you’ve ever had, multiply them tenfold, a thousand fold even, and maybe you’d still only be half way to experiencing the horror of being the parent of a murder victim. Fortunately, child murder is something only very few of us will experience but I’m sure most of us can empathize and understand how it might call into question fundamental beliefs.

So as a parent with a religious upbringing it was with trepidation that I approached two hugely popular books which featured themes of child abduction and murder and visions of heaven; The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and The Shack by W.M Paul Young.

by Alice Sebold Publisher: Picador 2002

"As he kissed his wet lips down my face and neck and then began to shove his hands up my shirt, I wept. I began to leave my body; I began to inhabit the air and the silence."

The Lovely Bones is the story of 14 year old Susie Salmon who is raped, murdered and dismembered by her neighbour, Mr Harvey, a loner who builds dollhouses. On her death Susie is transported to heaven where she observes the destruction and unhappiness wrecked upon her family and friends in the wake of their grief and their struggle to rebuild their lives. In The Shack the story is narrated by Willy who recounts the story of Mack whose youngest daughter, Missy, is snatched and murdered by the notorious “Ladybird” killer. Unlike The Lovely Bones, which attempts to portray the effect of loss on numerous people, The Shack is primarily about Mack and how he confronts the annihilation of his beliefs and his subsequent reconciliation when God requests his return to the shack, the scene of Missy’s brutal murder.

 by W.M Paul Young Windblown Media/Hodder & Stoughton 2008

"I am good, and I desire what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt, condemnation or coercion, only through a relationship of love. And I do love you."

In The Lovely Bones and The Shack Alice Sebold and W.M Paul Young present, in parts, fascinating glimpses into the human psyche. The strengths of both novels lie in the areas where the authors have truly reflected upon their own experiences and beliefs. To this extent, I felt the earlier chapters of The Lovely Bones in which Sebold deals with the murder and the immediate aftermath of the Susie’s death were the most successful. Sebold’s own experience as an 18 year old rape victim, narrowly escaping death, has clearly impacted on the story which is heartfelt and poignant. However, in the latter half of the book, the timescales change, the plot begins to weaken, the events become more fanciful and it is evident that Sebold’s vision of heaven is really only a device used to explore what is happening back on the earth.

In contrast, in The Shack the murder and the prelude to Mack’s meeting with God have none of Sebold’s finesse and seem almost perfunctory. The language is prosaic and at times grates on the nerves whereas Sebold produces exquisite turns of phrase which draw the reader in. But where as Sebold uses heaven to explore earth, Young uses earth to explore heaven and as such I didn’t feel emotionally involved with the characters until Mack finally confronts God in the shack. At this point the story takes on a new and vibrant form. Young’s beliefs begin to shine through and his joy in heaven and God is uplifting and addictive. Like Sebold, Young’s early experiences have shaped his writing and his life; he was raised by missionary parents and until the age of 6 lived amongst a primitive tribe who assaulted him and practised cannibalism. He freely admits that those early days provided a sense of identity which grew alongside his more Christian upbringing. However, his identity and beliefs were all called into question when family tragedies and personal failings led him to a place of despair, a place he called The Shack. This period of his life, which he attempts to mirror using Missy’s death as a catalyst, is what led to the resurgence of his beliefs and his acceptance of God.

I am always intrigued by other people’s concept of heaven and, like many, I have my own, albeit incomplete, vision of heaven. Sebold’s heaven is also incomplete, in fact so much so, that it felt not so much like heaven but a form of purgatory. Indeed there is no mention of God and his presence is elusive. The heaven Susie inhabits is rather like the parallel universes of Dr Who where you can walk the same streets, live another life but with the addition of being able to watch and sometimes influence the other world. Personally, I’m not sure that when I die I would want that option so I was pleased there was the suggestion that, at some point, Susie could move on to another, perhaps more sympathetic and complete form of heaven. However, when the event that might trigger Susie’s onward journey finally occurs it is only for her to inhabit a friend’s body and make love to a teenage boy she once kissed. Although touchingly written, I was saddened that her reconciliation required her to take on human form again; it felt more of an exercise in sexual maturity rather than in spiritual growth. Disappointingly, Sebold’s heaven seemed to be one where both heaven and earth are inextricably and permanently entwined even after death. Personally, it’s not an image of heaven that appeals; I’d like to believe that heaven is a place of unremitting joy where entry isn’t won, earnt or gained through earthly associations but granted to all out of love and forgiveness.

Conversely, in The Shack it is Young’s vision of heaven and exploration of his beliefs which bring salvation to a book which struggles at times to portray the heartbreak and grief that Sebold captures so well. However, The Shack does offer a more complex and deeper insight into heaven than The Lovely Bones. Whilst the fundamental principles are Christian in concept, in particular the exposition of the Holy Trinity, The Shack is by no means a simple enforcement of Christian doctrine and there will be many who will take issue with how Young embraces all religions and portrays God as a black African American mama and the Holy Spirit as an ethereal Asian female. There were times when my imagination was stretched, in particular with an episode which was reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind but, nevertheless, it was impossible to read The Shack and not be infused by Mack’s joy in reconciliation and the love of God.

Of course, we won’t find any real answers to what lies in heaven in any work of fiction but both novels do provide interesting sounding boards for thought and discussion. As novels, neither is perfect and both suffer from weak endings. However, a novel doesn’t have to be perfect to be a worthwhile read and it is impossible to walk away from either book without feeling some degree of satisfaction. The Shack is perhaps more memorable because of the infectious happiness that that accompanies Mack’s redemption whereas The Lovely Bones leaves a feeling of melancholy as despite Susie’s apparent moment of reconciliation she continues to walk the earth, watching and waiting.

It would not surprise me if The Shack remains Young’s only mainstream novel. The story is really a testimony to Young’s own personal tragedies and his triumphant return to God and thus his deficiencies as a writer are overshadowed in what is a powerful and influential story. His words will, I’m sure, give hope and encouragement to all those who seek comfort, faith and salvation. As for Sebold, there is no doubt she has a greater gift of expression and a genuine talent for telling tales. Hopefully, The Lovely Bones will be the catharsis for the brutal attack that left her so deeply scarred. If The Lovely Bones acts as a means for Sebold’s own reconciliation then, like The Shack did for Young, it will be a means for her to move on with her life in a positive and joyous way.

As for the rest of us we can only be grateful when we read stories like The Shack and The Lovely Bones that portray in greater detail the horror of child murder that we never have to endure such agony. And for those few unfortunate parents who do, we can only pray that when they climb their own stairways to heaven it will bring them the peace that, no doubt, avoids them in this earthly life.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A Childhood In Fiction

Books played a vital role in my childhood. Forty years ago, before the advent of computers and game stations my days were spent drawing, making mud pies and, most significantly, reading. My world was one of fairytales and fables, myths and legends, witches and wizards. With no Sonic or Mario to distract me the open pages of a book were the places where my imagination took flight. Like Dorothy, I was swept away to a land of make believe.

My first school memory was being the second child drawn to the front of the class to read aloud from a newspaper, the reward for becoming a competent reader. I recall too that Sarah, my best friend, was first and though pleased for her I jealously noted that she was five months older and so must have received an unfair advantage.

Those early days were filled with Ladybird editions and picture books where simple texts were enhanced by pictures of handsome princes, hideous ogres and rosebud princesses. I remember too sitting in my grandmother’s high bed listening to her read more advanced texts like The Little Princess. I was fascinated by the written word and, more often than not, in my mind I became the central character. Indeed some nights, before I understood religion, I prayed that I would be left a sparkling dress like Cinderella. Of course it never happened but nevertheless the disappointment never stopped me from fantasizing.

But it was in 1973, having just turned eight, when something happened that made me not just an imaginative reader but an avid and inspired one. My grandparents took my sister and I on holiday to Portugal and one day, whilst browsing the gift shops, my grandparents stopped to peruse a rotating bookstand on the sidewalk. Exclamations abounded as on the stand they found a copy of their son-in-law’s first novel, Run Down. They were amazed to find it in such an unexpected place and duly bought the book and a postcard to send him on which they wrote “Run Down to Faro.”

You'd never guess from this cover that my uncle's book
was published in the 1970s would you? (cough, cough)

Of course, for a young girl interested in books, it was exciting enough to discover my uncle was an author but whilst my grandparents enthused something even more important was about to happen. As I too spun the bookstand I found a book that would set me on course for a lifetime of reading. For there, amongst the holiday reads, I discovered The Famous Five.

I can't remember which adventure it was now, although my favourite has always been Five on a Hike Together, but Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy awoke in me a new love of fiction. Their wonderful adventures seemed almost real and tangible; I didn't need golden tresses or magic tinder boxes, all that was required of me were potted shrimp sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that on returning to England, I made fast tracks to our mobile library and within a very short time I'd read the entire collection.

I say, what a super, corking read! Hoorah!

The library was my salvation. My childhood was relatively frugal and books were purchased sparingly but in the library I found an endless supply. Having quickly devoured the likes of Enid Blyton, Ruth M Arthur, C S Lewis, and Tolkien I moved into the adult section. No one ever queried my reading choices and nothing was off-limits. It was a less politically correct world back then and thank goodness for that.

At about nine years old I was moved into the notorious Miss Walsh’s class. Although past her prime, freckled and with slightly hunched shoulders Miss Walsh was still sharp in intelligence and tongue. Miss Jean Brodie was, alas, but a poor imitation. Miss Walsh frequently interspersed her teaching with tales of The Blitz, London’s theatres and other curious events but when it came to education she meant business and her speed reading challenge was one of her favoured tools. It was glorious to win but then there was always the catch - recounting the story in minute detail to the entire class. No doubt Miss Walsh was an oddity but if ever I thought her tales were untrue my thoughts were banished when in the course of time I inherited from her a 1935 copy of Theatre World, autographed by Laurence Olivier.

It was with Miss Walsh’s expert training I sped through the shelves of the mobile library and by my early teens my first port of call was the returns section which I would scan for interesting unread novels before heading to look for my preferred authors. With a taste for adventures with the human touch, I became particularly fond of wartime tales, both fictional and autobiographical. Nevil Shute, Douglas Reeman and Alistair Maclean were firm favourites. But by then, I'd also discovered Ian Fleming and it was with Bond that my destiny as a thrill-seeking, adventure-loving, gun-toting groupie was finally set.

Today, now I'm past my prime too and heading for Sunset Avenue my reading has diversified. In recent years, as a member of a book club, I’ve read novels that previously I would never have even contemplated. It’s been, I guess, a “novel” experience. And now, with or without my Book Club Ladies, I’ll read just about any genre and attempt any book. It’s been rejuvenating. However, without a doubt, my first true fictional love will always be the wonderful world of adventures that began on a bookstand back in 1973.

You know, over the years there’s been as much criticism as there has been praise for Enid Blyton but I, for one, will always be grateful to her for setting me on the path to a lifetime of thrills, spills and spiffing good yarns.

Not as gruesome as my uncle's book but that witch in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
was pretty beastly I can tell you.

And now I write my own novels too for entertainment. What could be better? Both reader and writer. It's a good life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What are the Secrets to Happiness?

A couple of my new blogging friends, Wendy and Paula have been participating in a weekly meme called Wednesday Hodgepodge run by Joyce Daley over at From This Side of the PondIt looks kinda fun so I thought I'd join in once in a while. Today I am going to do last week's meme otherwise I'll miss out on all the great questions from last Wednesday and, conveniently, there's no meme this week as Joyce is on hols. Now I think the idea is that Joyce posts random questions (hence use of the word "hodgepodge") which then everyone answers. Easy peasey!

1. Four (supposed) secrets to happiness from around the world are:

a) overcome your fears by facing them head on

b) allow yourself to relax and reset

c) work to live versus living to work

d) find the good in life.

Which of the four do you struggle with most? Which one comes most easily to you?

I think I am pretty good at A and D. In fact, sometimes I probably take A to the extreme to the extent that not being cautious about challenges becomes a hindrance rather than a help. I definitely get a big of kick out of facing challenges head on, especially in my car. (Have also faced some of these "challenges" from the rear end - cough, cough.) However, I also don't waste my time challenging myself to do things I know I won't enjoy in any way ( like going on a big rollercoaster for example) or ones where I don't have any chance of succeeding ( i.e passing the MENSA test.) However, when I was younger, I would often face irrational and rational fears head on irrespective of the consequences far too frequently which could have ended disastrously - for example I would challenge myself to walk down an unlit alleyway because it was a short-cut and because statistically the chances of being attacked were pretty low. What a complete twit. Nowadays, I would think that behaviour foolish and would encourage all women to take their personal safety seriously.

I probably struggle most with C. But unlike most people I probably spend too much time "living" and not working hard enough. Partially, that's because I am heavily involved in my children's sporting endeavours but also because my lack of organisational skills is diabolical. I also waste far too much time reading The Guardian and various other news sites for pleasure/amusement. If I had more self-discipline I could have written several more books by now. GRR.

2. How would you spend a found $20 bill today?

dream about finding a stack of cash! But I'd be happy with $20. Unfortunately, the most I've ever found was a singular pound note. That was in about 1970. I was with my nan at the time and she made me give it to the local village bobby (policeman). Pah. How unfair is that. I could have bought 100 half-penny chews at the local sweet shop!

So $20? That's about £12.80. Now much to my displeasure, that's not enough to afford the airfare to the USA when I would stick a giant marrow (connected to some electrodes) up the ass of that dentist who shot Cecil the Lion. So instead I could go for either of two ebooks which I would like to own but are currently way too expensive so I am waiting for the prices to go down. The first is The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey which is currently £9.48 (around $14.80) for a 304 page ebook or RIP by Nigel Williams which was given such a dreadful review by The New Statesman that I'd like to read it just to form my own opinion. I have the feeling that as Nigel Williams is a comedy writer the reviewer may simply not have "got" Mr William's sense of humour - on the other hand it could be a pile of pants. Hmm. However, at a staggering £12.99 ($20.28) for a 336 page ebook I am happy to wait it out until it becomes a more acceptable price.

Hmm - I still I haven't spent the $20.00. Okay, for £12.80 I'll either go the cinema and watch the latest Tiny Tom Cruise "saving the world whilst diving out of a multistorey/plane/car" film and have a (very) small pot of popcorn or if I am in a philanthropic mood I'd give it to WWF in honour of Cecil the Lion.

3. Ego trip, power trip, guilt trip, round trip, trip the light fantastic, or trip over your own two feet...which 'trip' have you experienced or dealt with most recently? Explain.

I had a bit of a "trip" last night. I got "high" on chocolate which I am not supposed to be eating because of my hiatus hernia. However, I'd had a stressful day and needed to wind down (read "comfort eat"). Unfortunately my " high" soon turned into despair when I discovered my chocolate bar had melted (I'd left the uneaten portion on the sofa next to my leg) and Mr Bond, my cat, was licking it. I had to chuck it in the bin as shortly before licking my chocolate Mr Bond had also been licking his private places. Or what's left them after the op. I suppose he was taking his revenge on me. Which just goes to prove you should never, ever, trust a cat.

4. If you could master any physical skill in the world what would it be, and how would you use that skill?

Hmm tricky. I rather fancy being a skillful mountaineer. Imagine all the places you could gain access to and all the opportunities that would arise. I could even becomes a stunt woman on a Mission Impossible film! They'd probably use me to stand in for Tom Cruise. We're probably about the same size without heels. (His heels that is.)

5. As July draws to a close, let's take inventory of our summer fun. Since the official first day of (North American) summer (June 20th) have you...been swimming? enjoyed an ice cream cone? seen a summer blockbuster? camped? eaten corn on the cob? gardened? deliberately unplugged? watched a ballgame? picked fruit off the vine? taken a road trip? read a book? Are any of these activities on your must-do-before-summer-ends list?

Swimming?  Yes. I swim all year around in my endless campaign to keep my derriere from looking like a baboon's arse.

Ice cream cone? Yes. I ate a Magnum a few weeks ago. It was very hot. And I was comfort eating. (Again.)

Film? Yes. I went to see Terminator 4 with Arnie last week. It was great. I am a big Arnie fan. Sad I know, but that butt of his still has a nice shape to it and that's all the justification I need.

Camped? No. I last went camping about ten years ago. I hope it will be another ten before I go again and preferably never. In fact, there is not the remotest chance of me going camping unless for some obscure reason I have to share a tent with Gerard Butler.

Gardened? Yes. I was forced to help Mr T erect a new fence. Under pain of death.

Corn on the cob? No. Not one of my favourites. It doesn't come out of packet.

Deliberately unplugged? No. I love films, music and communicating. Unplugging would give me a panic attack (unless I was in the wilderness sharing a tent with Gerard Butler.)

Watched a ballgame? Yes. I watch sport all the time, especially cricket and tennis. I was watching tennis most of the day yesterday. But, believe me, when your kids are playing it ain't always relaxing. (Hence the chocolate bar.)

Picked fruit of the vine? No. But Mr T picked the blackcurrants in our garden. Does that count?

Any of the activities above on your to-do list?

Sharing the tent with Gerard Butler is definitely on my to-do list now I've got over the fear of camping and accepted it as a necessary no-fear challenge. I am still going to pass on the corn-on- the cob though.

6The Republican Presidential candidates will debate on August 6th. What's your question?

Imagine you are in England and have a meeting with the British PM and you want to dress to impress. Do you wear pants or briefs?

7What's your most listened to song so far this summer?

This one. It's an old one but I am addicted to it.

8Insert your own random thought here:

I think I would be really cool in a film with Tom Cruise or Arnie or even Gerard Butler. Happiness comes in many forms. This could be one of them.

Oh I forgot the book question. I just read The Principles of Fasting by Leon Chatow, I am currently reading Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut and Still Alice by Lisa Genova and the next book I am going to read is 10% Human by Alanna Collen.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Why not? An interview with me by me!

I have been trying to organise my files on my PC this morning and came across this draft interview that I submitted to an ebook site ages ago which never got published. So I thought - why not stick it on your blog Mrs T and let your readers tell you what you did wrong!

Let me know what you think, folks. I have my own ideas where I went wrong but you can sock it to me any way you want. Answers in the comments please or you can mail me at idiot@idiot.com

When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?

I first discovered I loved writing stories when I was at school and realised I could write stuff in them that I wouldn't be able to say aloud without being rebuked by teachers. You can get away with a lot when you write fiction; I'm currently planning a novel about a woman murdering her husband. Don't tell my husband.

No, there’s no particular book that made me want to become a writer. I do, however, suffer from the “I could do better than that syndrome.” Enid Blyton has a lot to answer for.

What is your favourite book?

My favourite book is the children’s story “The Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business” by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch. Its brilliant toilet-humour comedy for children and adults and educational as well – especially for kids who live in built-up areas and are unfamiliar with the sight of what nature can attach to your boot. When my kids were small it was my first choice to read to them at night; mainly because I'm a ham actress at heart and like to indulge myself in all sorts of silly voices and sound effects. The Little Mole was also my “babysitting book” so I inflicted it on all my friend’s kids too. There’s a lot of kids out there who are probably permanently scarred from my readings. The Little Mole does, however, prove my point above that you can say stuff in fiction that you wouldn't dare say aloud. Imagine Holzwarth at school:

 “Stand-up, Holzwarth, and talk for three minutes on your favourite subject.”

 “Yes, Frau Snitzel, I first discovered faeces were interesting when I trod on….”

“Sit down, Holzwarth.”

 I suspect the scenario would be pretty much the same for all writers:

“Stand up, Cornwell, and tell us about what you did last night.”

“Well, Miss, last night I saw a blowfly on a decaying mouse. It had a gross black body…”

“Make sure your father comes to parents’ evening, Cornwell.”

“How about you, Clancy?”

“I tested out some fireworks, Miss. The dark red one had a very interesting trajectory. In fact when it veered off at an angle of ninety degrees…”

“Go to the corner and put a paper bag on your head, Clancy.”

See what I mean? If most writers said aloud what they're thinking they'd all be banged up.

What was your favourite book as a child?

My favourite book as a child was Five on a Hike Together by Enid Blyton. As I said, she has a lot to answer for.

Where do you get your story ideas from?

Some of them are from my life which, on a day-to day basis, I usually manage to screw up even if it’s only in a small way. But mainly I just sit down and the stuff flows out of my fingers. Principally, I like to write fun, entertaining stuff which also has a social conscience. I don't plan my stories so whatever is on my mind or in the news tends to work its way into it.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received as a writer?

It’s my own advice I’m afraid. It goes like this: “Remember when your English teacher raised her eyebrows and ridiculed your story and typos in front of the whole class? Well forget it – you’ve got an editor and a proof reader now. Let them take the flak.”

Where do you usually write?

Anywhere but my desk which is an abomination upon mankind. It a huge beast of a desk that once belonged to my grandfather so I can fill it (untidily) with stuff that for most writers would constitute the contents of an entire room. The sad fact is I am probably the untidiest person ever to have lived and can extend my mess far and wide across every surface. I suspect that if I die before my husband he will put on my gravestone “Thank God she’s dead. Now I can see the kitchen worktops.”

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

I believe other writers suffer from Writers' Block. I'm just lazy.

If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?

Seth McFarlane. Family Guy consistently makes me laugh and I don't mean just giggles. I could barely breath I laughed so hard the first time I saw the bank vault episode where Brian eats the contents of Stewie’s nappy. It was probably the most simultaneously revolting and yet funny sketch I've ever seen.

What's your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

Oh I say!  Are you trying to get me to admit to reading erotica? Well I am not going to. I'm an upstanding pillar of the community and couldn't possible reveal my fondness for whips and chains in public.

What made you decide to self-publish?

Lots of things. The whole face of publishing is changing and the door is wide open for authors like me whose writing doesn’t fit comfortably into those genres we hear so much about. Also, when people tell me I can't do something or try to enforce their ideas on me I have an innate desire to prove them wrong. Luckily, no one’s dared me to abseil down the White House stark naked whilst singing “My Way.”

Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you'd like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?

I’m not good at giving writer’s tips. In fact I abhor them. I like learning from my mistakes; it’s more fun and doesn't require the reading of boring academic books that tell you to look out your window and write a passage about the first object you lay eyes on which is usually hideously dull – like a small potted plant or a Toyota Prius.  So I say, if you're stuck, join the Alliance of Independent Authors or hop onto one of the big sites like The Creative Penn for some professional advice.  Other than that, I think I've found my way around most problems by closing my laptop and opening a bottle of red and tackling it the next day. Sex is good for down-time too. Hmm…that’s probably not the advice you're looking for, is it?

How much money have you made from self-publishing?

A big fat zero. I’m in the red. Take pity on me and buy my books. If I cover my costs I can publish another. If I promise to put whips and chains in it will that help?