Mini Adventure

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Today I am on a mini adventure.

I have left the family in the capable hands of my husband and travelled to Brighton. The lovely Paula Harward has invited me to the launch of her memoir, My Life in Colour, which I was lucky enough to help edit.

So exciting.

I have to admit, though, that the most exciting/scary part is being away from home alone for the first time in eight years.

It’s fascinating how nervous I was about travelling down by train. Nine years ago I was wandering around Kuala Lumpur on my own (having tagged along on hubbie’s business trip) and yet I left John Lewis in a frazzle last week because two strangers were having a row.

When did I grow so timid?

Actually, travelling has never been without stress, mostly in the planning. I hate to be late, and it terrifies me that I’ll miss my train or get on the wrong one (and I’ve done both).

It is weird being away from home too. I feel sort of guilty and disconnected. I had to go buy headphones and a book, having forgotten both, and picked up a Holly Webb that I haven’t read. (It matches the B&B bedding, so lovely!) In it, a girl talks of being connected to her absent mother by a golden thread. Being away feels like that. Except it’s a white smartphone rather than a golden thread.

IMG_7145These days we’re never far from home. My daughter just texted me a love heart she drew and I could video call if I wanted. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. As a parent it’s comforting – I don’t know how my parents coped when I travelled around New Zealand, with only the occasional text message or sporadic email from a grotty internet cafe to let them know where I was and if I was okay.

IMG_7146At the same time there is a sense of never being free, of never getting lost (I used Google Maps to find the B&B), of always being tethered. Of being reachable, connected. Being able to receive messages from my son that are full of poop emojis!

IMG_7084I took the dog on a different walk last week, and it was exciting to meander without timetable or anyone knowing where I was. It shows you don’t actually have to travel to feel free, or always feel free when you travel.

(As an aside, I was actually glad of my phone. Last time I did that walk I got hopelessly lost, had no internet on my phone, called husband for help which he was unable to provide, and ended up walking through an off-road Landrover course and across two sheep fields, eventually having to heave our 28kg dog over a 5ft barbed wire fence. Got lost again this time and Google Maps rescued me in five mins! Haha)

Whether I’m free or not, connected or not, scared or content, it’s definitely an experience. I can hear seagulls outside my window and the sea is a five minute walk from here. In a couple of hours I get to meet the two people who set me on my path as an editor and see a paper copy of the first book I edited that wasn’t mine.

I’d call that an adventure.

 

Happy 5th Anniversary to Me!

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Image from Pixabay

Goodness me, apparently WriterMummy is five years old today. How time flies when you’re a manic Mum, eh?

These anniversaries keep popping up on me – notes on Facebook about releasing Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes, or it reaching some milestone during a free giveaway, or sending off Dragon Wraiths to a competition, full of naive hope.

In some ways it’s nice, because I feel like I’ve been writing long enough to have learnt and grown. But in other ways it makes me feel a bit of a failure, because I haven’t achieved more in that time. I haven’t found an agent, or won a writing competition, or even got much higher than 500 followers for my blog.

I get frustrated at myself because I know I could/should have tried harder. My blog is the first thing to wane when I’m busy, and I don’t visit and read and comment on enough other blogs to increase my followers. At the same time, at least I don’t feel as if I’m disappointing thousands of fans when I don’t write anything for a month!

The same goes for book promotion. I should have done more on Kindle, promoted the books more. Worked harder to get reviews. Sent more manuscripts to more agents. Engaged with people on Goodreads, sought out guest blogs and newspaper articles. I watch how one of the authors whose book I edited is promoting her memoir and she deserves all her amazing success.Blogging5yr

I’ve never got behind just one book and really sold it. But if I had, I would probably have driven myself bananas, and possibly have given up in disgust after the first dozen rejections. I would also have certainly written a lot fewer books. I’m much happier since I stopped checking for book sales every day. Now a royalty cheque is a pleasant surprise and a guilt-free cup of coffee.

And I have to celebrate the successes too. I’ve written over 700 blog posts, had nearly 40,000 views and 22,000 visitors. I’ve published 8 children’s books, three women’s fiction novels and one young adult book (which was also long-listed for an award). I’m having one of my books illustrated by a very talented illustrator and am super excited about it.

The most amazing thing is I’m still going. Five years is longer than any job I’ve ever had, and I don’t feel like quitting yet. So you’re stuck with me for a bit longer.

Here’s to the next five years, the next milestone, the next novel to be finished (Hope Glimmers, with any luck, a sequel to Moon Pony), the next happy post from Facebook to mark the passing of time.

Have some virtual cake on me.

Giving Up Guilt For Lent

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Guilt-Free McD

So it’s pancake day already. Not entirely sure how that happened. I’ve just been for a swim and realised it’s only the third time this year and we’re two months through already.

The heady world of work appears to have been short-lived. Having had a completely unproductive week last week checking my email every ten minutes hoping for the next project, this week I’ve had to rediscover self-motivation. Funny how it can be lost in a couple of fortnights of someone else’s schedule.

It helps that I’m solo parenting this week, so having to be extra organised and switched on. Also the children ask me what I’ve done while they’re at school and I can’t keep shrugging and saying ‘slept’.

But it’s hard now I’ve tasted ‘earning money’. It’s hard not to feel guilty sitting down to watch Brave while knitting (albeit knitting things I hope one day to sell). It’s hard not to feel guilty taking the dog for only a short walk (because rain) or sitting in McD after my swim when I could have lunch for free at home.

But equally I’ve just resurfaced from the one week a month when my medication falters, as it comes up again hormones, and I have to fight the black thoughts. A week when tall buildings and deep rivers look inviting.

Today I feel joy in life again, after a week of, ‘Tell me, what’s the point?’ And, despite some horrific stories on my FB feed that have left me sick and sad, I’m aiming for content today.

My kids asked me about Lent as I made pancakes this morning. I explained about giving things up. They immediately suggested that wine and chocolate should be on my list. How well they know me. But I generally turn to those things to fill the hole in my soul when life seems stupid and pointless, or when I feel like a terrible wife, mother, writer, person. Which is often. Being unable to give them up makes me feel weak and pathetic and guilty that I’m not a better human being.

So this Lent I’m giving up guilt. Or I’m going to try anyway. It’s harder to judge whether you’ve slipped, compared with finding a glass of Pinot Grigio in your hand or scoffing down a big fat bar of dairy milk. But Lent’s about the effort right?

Working

Things I’ve learnt from being a part-time working parent (forgive me, you probably all know this already!)

  1. It is possible to live in ten times more filth than you ever believed you could
  2. Laundry breeds like gremlins in a bath
  3. A husband can locate clean socks on top of the tumble dryer if needed
  4. Children cannot locate clean socks anywhere
  5. A husband can make dinner (heat pizza) if required
  6. Dogs still need walking when you’re busy, or they misbehave
  7. Guinea pigs poo a lot. It doesn’t stop when you’re busy
  8. Kids can survive being told, ‘be quiet, go away, Mummy’s working’
  9. Kids mostly ignore being told, ‘be quiet, go away, Mummy’s working’ and will take it as permission to do a full song and dance routine when you’re trying to look up the plural of piranha
  10. Half term passes much less painfully if the kids are frequently told, ‘be quiet, go away, Mummy’s working’
  11. Coffee is not a food group, but it comes a close second
  12. A working coffee machine is essential. Make sure a new stove-top espresso maker is on order from Amazon
  13. If you go to bed exhausted at 8pm you will be woken up at midnight by husband and dog snoring and will lie awake for three hours
  14. 5.30am feels really really early when you were awake half the night
  15. Ironing doesn’t go away if you ignore it
  16. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ give you energy. Not hearing it makes you tired
  17. You can miss vegetables
  18. You can miss exercise
  19. You can miss boredom
  20. Getting paid is really satisfying
  21. Knowing you’ve done a good job feels good
  22. The saying ‘a change is as good as a rest’ is complete rubbish
  23. Eye strain sucks
  24. You can forget how to spell
  25. You can have to look up whether ‘hers’ takes a possessive apostrophe
  26. Working in bed is really cool and surprisingly productive
  27. It’s easy to take an accidental power-nap when you work in bed
  28. It’s nice telling people you work for a living
  29. Editing helps you understand what makes good writing
  30. You will edit everything you read forever

 

Cramp

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Healthy work habits

If I continue the analogy that I used in a previous post, of this year being about swimming away from Mummy towards Amanda, I think it’s fair to say that I now have cramp.

I’ve always been a bit all-or-nothing. My therapist said it was the cause of my poor mental health, that I see everything and live everything in black and white.

January was no different.

As well as working on the project I managed to secure through Findaproofreader, and planning and executing my daughter’s 8th birthday party (you know, making a glitter ball pinata and glitter jelly and glitter ball cakes and a playlist and all that jazz), I’ve also been buying and selling furniture to get our house where we want it.

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Knitted pouffe

Oh and knitting my daughter’s pouffe for her birthday. And trying to stay on top of all the domestic stuff like cooking and ironing (yawn). So, in the end, there’s been no time for actual swimming.

It turns out proofreading someone else’s novel takes a hundred times more energy and concentration than editing your own. To begin with, I only managed a couple of hours a day before my head was ready to explode. Thankfully it’s a good story, and so I wanted to know what happened next. I sent the finished work off today, on time and on budget. Hurrah.

But what’s really giving me cramp? The juggling.

I have always known how very lucky I am not to be a working parent. But there is one thing knowing you’re lucky, and another living the other life for a while. Especially at a time the school decided to double the kids’ homework (grrr to homework full stop, but especially for six and eight year olds), never mind Beavers and Brownies and karate and clubs and parties and play-dates. Oh my goodness, I don’t know if it’s Tuesday or Easter (or whatever that lovely phrase is).

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Amazing space

But it’s also great. I love having work to do. I am living the saying, ‘if you want something doing ask a busy person,’ as I’m getting much more done in a day than I used to. And I’m managing to work for more than a couple of hours a day, as my brain adjusts. New glasses help! (Turns out my eyes are getting better – there had to be some compensation to getting older.)
The best bit is spending my wages on a new wardrobe for my daughter (although that caused its own drama), not just to make her happy, but to sort out her room to make me happy.

Of course I’ve probably spent my wages about eight times over, but that’s not the point! The point is I have wages to spend. And let’s hope there is more to come, because I’m so jealous of my daughter’s fabulous wardrobe, I want to do our room next!

But in the meantime, I’m actually glad it’s half term in a week. I could use the rest, and perhaps, finally, get a chance to go for a swim.

Proofreader: Found

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All lovely things I’ve bought

It’s no secret that I’m a complete shopaholic.

It’s a terrible thing to admit in a world devastated by frivolous consumption. But I am a true child of the 80s and shopping makes me happy. Especially finding charity shop bargains or nabbing a deal on marketplace sites.

But life as a self-published author is not exactly lucrative. It’s a good year if I break even between what I make selling books and what I spend on editing and cover art.

What to do?

Well the obvious solution has always been get a job. But it isn’t that straightforward. Our life works because I don’t. We’ve made choices to allow me to be at home, running the house, and my reward for large amounts of tedious boredom and no income is huge amounts of time to swim, read and knit.

But oh, the shopping.

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Cutie Caramel

I miss guilt-free ‘it’s my money, I earned it, I’ll spend it how I like’ shopping. It doesn’t matter that I know part of my husband’s income is due to me for the cooking, cleaning, ironing and childcare. It’s not the same. That’s just pin money.

Until now.

Through a series of marvellous coincidences, I started working last year, transcribing audio, and then editing a memoir.

This year I decided to take a risk and pay to advertise on Findaproofreader. And, what do you know, it worked! And now I am working too.

So if you or a friend need a proofreader, editor, audio-typist, or writing buddy, look me up. You’ll be helping me make my house beautiful and my kids and guinea pigs happy. Of course, I’d still rather sell books than time, but both are awesome.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shopping now…

Envying the Extraordinary

Raven.jpgI have just finished The Raven King, the last in The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater.

Oh. My. Lord.

Mind. Blown.

I loved the first book in the series, The Raven Boys, when I read it way back when (three years ago, apparently), and was bereft at how it just ended dead (well, bloomin furious is probably closer).

Then I read Dream Thieves and darn me if it didn’t happen again, although the beautiful organic prose made it almost okay. So, when Blue Lily, Lily Blue came out, I was still a little resentful, and not quite ready to re-read the first two and catch up.

I’m glad I waited because it meant I could consume all four books inside a month.

I’m trying to describe how I feel, without giving anything away: it’s a series that has to be appreciated without anything resembling a spoiler. The reveal, the experiencing alongside the characters, is the heart and soul of it.

To borrow a shadow of Maggie Stiefvater’s masterful imagery, I feel like I have hiked up an impossible mountain, thinking the view couldn’t get any better, certain I’ll be disappointed. And then the top is a panoramic view of a magical world. And then – and then – there’s a crystal ice-clear lake, and I jump in, and I’m shocked and shaking and tingling and alive all at once.

That.

I want to hold the book, the characters, the story, the journey, hold it to my face, like I do the guinea pigs, and sink into the warmth and comfort and escapism of it.

And yet.

I also want to write like that. And I know I can’t. And it’s okay.

Sort of.

It’s like at school, when I didn’t do A Level Art, because I was never going to get an A, and I wanted to go to Cambridge University (or other people thought I should want to, I can’t really remember) and because the other kids were just so amazing at all sorts of artistry I couldn’t even dream of, and I was never going to produce something like that out of my mundane and stubborn imagination.

So I did History and Maths and English Literature, and quietly slowly smothered my creativity and turned myself into an academic and then a number-cruncher.

*Shudder*

I can’t let my awe-ful (in the full-of-awe sense) admiration, hunger and desire for these books, this writing, this powerful imagery and incredible world-building, I can’t let it stop me being the writer I am. Just because I can’t get an A, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t continue to create.

But oh my. To write like that. To be able to give ten years to a set of books – ten years! To persist and dream and create and build and then – let go! How hard must it have been to finish? Just finishing reading them was hard enough. The only thing I admire more than the talent and vision is the sheer dedication and determination. I get bored writing a book after ten weeks.

Anyway, I’m still rather swept up in the Raven Cycle , the hyperbolic, dreamy, electrically charged world. So, sorry for the slightly dreamy hyperbolic post.

I’m not quite ready to come back to earth.

Normal service will resume when I tear myself away from the mountain top. Just a little bit longer.