Kids, Apps, and Knitted Toys


Happy Daughter

It’s been a strange couple of weeks. I’m trying really hard to get a grip on reality, but my connection keeps timing out. End of term is always a bit crazy, with parties and sports day and homework to be handed in.

I’m trying to claw my way off the edge of the black hole of depression. It’s too easy to let myself slip in, but once I get past the event horizon, it will be a long long way back out. So, as I’m glued to my phone killing dinosaurs, I decided to try for some app motivation.

I downloaded a running app and a yoga app (paying for both, shock horror!) I’ve used them both a couple of times and like them a lot, the running more than the yoga. The yoga is a bit fast for me, moving from one pose to another in a few seconds. It will probably be easier when I know what the poses are and I’m not trying to stare at a tiny screen to see what I’m supposed to be doing.


Winning Son

The running is a Couch to 5k app. I could probably run 5k already if I pushed it, but it would hurt. As I’m bunged up with hayfever, using an app to control how much I run is not a bad idea. I like it. I’ve been a few times in the last week or so, although I’m so goddarn tired it’s hard to find a time in the day to do it. But I ran over two miles at sports day on Wednesday, legging it between the Reception and Year 2 groups to watch my kids’ events, so I’m doing okay!


How I feel about Half Term

The children are on half-term this week and I seem to have started with a complete sense-of-humour failure.

I’m finding that looking after them is less physical but far more emotional/intellectual as they get older. I was just about okay at the dashing around, soothing hurts, rescuing from climbing frames, mopping up poop, because I only needed half a brain. Now I have to negotiate the tricky path of hurt feelings, setting a good example, and the constant challenges of my seven-going-on-seventeen year old daughter, I find I can’t quite cope. It’s not a great time to be an over-thinker, and that’s me with bells on.

So the books have taken a back step. I’m putting my creativity into knitting, and painting the garden fence, and planting flowers. My son asked for a knitted jester, and I’m trying out an Alan Dart pattern (not sure if I’m allowed to share the finished picture on here, he has pretty strict copyright!)

I’m reading a few children’s classics to plug a gap in my knowledge (The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett at the moment) and grabbing sleep when I can. Life isn’t a race, although it feels like it most of the time.

I’d like to get back to blogging more regularly. I tend not to blog because I’m worried it will be a misery-fest, a place to rant and be boring. It was never meant to be that!

JuneJournalsYesterday, while walking the dog, I came up with the idea of doing a June Journal, trying to find a positive thing every day to write about, even if it’s just watching the dog run through the corn, or sharing a passage from my favourite book. Of course that will probably be even more boring and annoying, but the first piece of writing advice is always ‘write every day’ so at least it will keep me writing! No one has to read it, after all.

Have a lovely bank holiday weekend, peeps, and join me in June for a month of happy thoughts. Here’s hoping.


Looking for Focus

Haven't Even Planned it Yet!

Haven’t Even Planned it Yet!

One of the problems I never thought I’d have with writing was too many ideas.

When I started as an author, I had to do a free-write, and then pants-out the first draft of a novel, to have any idea of a plot or story. If I sat down to think it through, my mind went blank and ideas refused to come.

As a result, I have half a dozen unfinished novels with some potential to be good stories, albeit with a LOT of work. (Pantsing tends to result in huge plot problems unless you have a rough idea of the outcome of the story!)

Every now and then I think I should grab one of those manuscripts and give it the attention it deserves.

At the same time, though, there’s no rush like the rush of starting a brand new project. Especially now I have some vague concepts of planning and character arcs and the like. And I have ideas. Oh yes. Although mostly those ideas come in the middle of the night, or while walking the dog, or are born out of convoluted dreams. (As an aside, I’m reading Gone by Michael Grant at the moment, and boy are my dreams weird and wired!)

On top of all that – the half finished stories and the stories yet to be born – I have a dozen stories already published that need some love. The adult books need promotion and possibly revamped covers. The YA book needs a sequel or two (well, a complete rewrite from part one, actually!) and the eight children’s books need illustrations. Or an agent.

Unfinished Sequel to Moon Pony

Unfinished Sequel to Moon Pony

Recently I had some image credits to use up on iStockphoto, after doing the covers for Josie and the Unicorn and Alfie Stanton Half-Baked Hero. I dug around to see what other stories were near completion and remembered I have sequels to Moon Pony and Will on the Water that are two-thirds done.

So I did covers for those.

And another idea for a YA book has been kicking around my head recently. So I did a cover for that.

And I’d love to write a period children’s book, as I’ve really enjoyed reading Katherine Woodfine’s stories recently – set in Edwardian London – so I used my last credit on a potential image for that.

To top it all off, I had the vague idea of writing a fun book for hubbie, like I wrote Josie and the Unicorn for my niece. The kids threw in some ideas and we came up with Dad and the Dinosaurs. I wrote the first three-hundred words and ground to a halt.


That makes eight potential projects: Two NaNoWrimo projects, two Dragon Wraiths books, two half-finished children’s books, and two new ideas. And don’t even get me started on the fact that the Bridport Prize now has a category for novels with a deadline in a fortnight.

So what have I decided to do?

Sleep. Iron. Sleep. Clean. Kill dinosaurs. Sleep.

It’s two weeks to the end of term, and only two months until the children break up for the summer. If I could pick one project, it’s a good amount of time to get stuck in. But with no feedback, no direction, no deadlines or external force driving me, I’m in a quicksand of indecision.

Oh well. At least I’m on top of the ironing!

Need For Praise


My Daughter’s Painting

I’ve been in a funk this week. I can’t seem to shift it, I feel shredded and permanently on the verge of tears.

I’ve been trying to figure out if it’s tiredness, illness, depression, or just the slump after a stressful few weeks.

What’s hard is that it becomes horribly self-perpetuating. I snack on chocolate and bleed caffeine and try and sleep all day like a cat. So my body feels sluggish and the family neglected. Then I get grumpy and they get grumpy and I oscillate between anger and self-loathing.

I’ve worked out that part of it is finishing a book. As soon as it’s ‘done’ I want someone to tell me if it’s any good. But I’d say only a third of my books have been read by a person I know (if anyone!)
And it shouldn’t matter, but it does.


My Painting

I’m horribly praise-driven. Unfortunately that’s probably why no one who knows me feels brave enough to read my books and pass comment. Despite my reassurances that I won’t take their criticism personally, I’m always gutted if the feedback is negative (or worse, silent).

The awful part is that I always tell my daughter not to do things just for praise. It drives me nuts when we’re doing painting together and she spends the first half of the time asking, ‘Do you like it, is it good?’ and the rest of the time crying because my painting is better than hers, even when I try to make it rough and ready, and point out I’ve been doing it much much longer… Turns out the need for praise is genetic!

So once more I’m hiding upstairs, swallowing down tears, feeling like the most terrible wife and mother. There’s no food in the fridge or dinner on the table and I can’t find it in me to do anything about it.

Never mind. Next week I’ll start a new book, numb the fear, feed the kids, get on with life. What other choice is there?

What Happened to April?

Battling Dinosaurs

Battling Dinosaurs

This month seems to have flown by in a gust of Arctic wind and a flurry of chaos.

Our new bathroom is (almost) finished. Ignoring some poorly-laid flooring, terrible sealing, and lethal points on the window sill, it’s done.

We haven’t quite moved in, as it hasn’t quite been signed off, but it’s nice to be clean and not to have to run downstairs in the night for a pee. Plus I’ve had great fun buying matching accessories.

My daughter said this morning (as she was finally ordered into the bath when coaxing wouldn’t work), “Mummy, why have you bought purple towels and white toilet paper?” I had to explain it was like her choosing the right shade of tights to go with her dress. It might be another thirty years before she understands though!

New Bathroom

New Bathroom

The novel I’m writing for my niece is also (almost) finished. I’ve done one edit, and my daughter is currently reading it (and happily pointing out poor word choices and sentence structure. She’s 7.) She asked if she’d get paid for editing it, and I said when I get paid more than a pound for writing it.:)

Now I’m torn between doing more editing of previous books (needed), starting work on the Editing course I spent precious money on (probably wise), helping the school fundraise for new equipment when we move sites (mucho kudos), more ironing, house cleaning, and painting (too tiring!), or killing dinosaurs in the Jurassic World game that is the current family Martin addiction.

I have, of course, been doing the latter… Ho hum.

How I Feel!

How I Feel!

That’s when I’m not at my children’s school learning how they teach maths to five-year-olds, taking my son to cricket, daughter to Rainbows, or dog for a walk. Plus we’re off to a festival on Sunday, so that needs planning too.

Ah, now I understand what happened to April. Like every other month it passed in the madness we call life.

Books, Builders, and Bloomin’ Colds

Alfie Stanton

Alfie Stanton

We’re into the fourth week of our ‘two-week’ bathroom refit and I’m about done with having builders in the house. Especially builders that appear to be more pantsers than planners. Who looks at the toilet that’s been ordered the morning they’re going to fit it? Then has to send the client off to the nearest DIY store to buy a different one because the ordered one won’t fit?

And the mess! Anyone who has had building work done will know that dust travels faster and further than gossip. Add to that the new radiator that required pipes to go down an old chimney (think of a soot-apocalypse and you won’t be far wrong) and it’s hellish.

For someone that never does housework I’ve done more cleaning in the last fortnight than in the last year!

I’m trying to write a book for my niece amidst this chaos and that is also behind schedule. It was a crazy plan to begin with, as I started the book last Monday to be ready for her birthday on Saturday. I’ve written a book in a week before, it didn’t seem too hard, but I hadn’t factored in the gazillion tiny decisions that have to be made every five minutes when there is a bathroom fitter, a heating engineer, an electrician, and a decorator in the house.

There have been some wins. Alfie Stanton Half-Baked Hero is now available on Amazon in print and ebook format. I found a couple of great illustrations for the front cover when I was looking for something else, so went ahead and got it live. It’s enrolled in KDP Select so I can try and bribe people to leave the odd review with a free copy! Watch this space.

My Niece's Book

My Niece’s Book

And I have almost finished the first draft of my niece’s novel – Josie and the Unicorn. I would have finished it yesterday but I keep getting these bizarre dizzy spells that last all day and one hit me in Waitrose as I tapped away at my final climax. I’ve pretty much been in bed since! Might be time to see a doctor.

But before then I have to go see the lovely man at Oundle Carpets because the decorator says the vinyl we bought for the floor won’t match the violent violet paint we’ve chosen for the walls (regretting that decision already, but it’s only paint!)

Toilets and vinyl and tiles and soot-sweeping and washing my hair in a sink. This author is really living the dream! J

Looking For the Window

Sunny Skegness

Sunny Skegness

So another door closes, as the longlist for the Chicken House competition was announced last week and I wasn’t on it. I didn’t expect to be, of course, but while there’s silence, there’s hope. And now I am looking for the open window, because if you don’t keep hoping, keep trying, what’s the point?

Having spent the holiday knocked out with Flu, struggling to be up for the children for our annual caravan holiday on the East Coast, the last thing I feel like doing now is fighting. But the more books I write, the more I can believe I am an author. I just need to find the outlet.

My latest plan (crazy scheme?) is to do an editing and proofreading course. If I can make some money perhaps I can afford an illustrator. With decent pictures, I would be much happier self-publishing my children’s books. Like I say, more a crazy scheme than a plan, but if nothing else I’ll get better at editing my own books.

In the mean time, the kids are at sports camp for two days, so I can try and find order in a house full of builders, start conquering the feral ironing, and get myself better for the fight. Pass the spinnach.

Somewhere, there’s a window open, waiting for me to squeeze through and find my way forward. Let’s hope it’s not raining out there.

The Finish Line or the Starting Post?

Ready for posting

Ready for posting

It’s the last day of this four-week term and somehow, through illness and doubt, computer disaster and credit card fraud (you have no idea how many passwords you have until you decide to change them all), I have a completed entry to send to Good Housekeeping.

It was touch and go. I’ve been distracted by excellent novels (I read Divergent and Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, in two or three long sittings this weekend) and trying to declutter the house. I’ve been distracted by failing to repaint the playroom, and by wishing I’d asked the decorator to put our wallpaper poster a foot to the left.

I’ve been collating things for a domestic violence charity (research for the novel has been a cold dose of reality) and emptying the loft for the builders. Well, hubbie’s been doing that – I’ve been trying not to intervene and protect stuff from being thrown away.

And somehow, I dragged out a 70,000 word first draft. Definitely a first draft, especially as I was aiming for 80,000, and reading Divergent has shown me how much emotion is missing from my work. But the competition only calls for 5,000 words and a synopsis, so a first draft is fine.

Should have gone right to the window...

Should have gone right to the window…

But sending submissions – the 1,000 word synopsis that brutally reduces all that work into a few hard facts – the last proofread, and then just one more – the 100-word bio (do I talk about me or my books?!) – All this is like the years studying for an exam, the weeks revising, and then the two hours you are judged on. It is too much and never enough.

The biggest question is, when I send my submission off, will it be an end or a beginning? I hover between optimism and pessimism: someone has to win, but it really isn’t likely to be me. And I won’t know either way for months.

And until then, there’s the wait.

But it’s the Easter holidays, it’s Spring, the new bathroom is coming. I still have Allegiant to read.

Today is definitely a beginning.