Friday, 2 December 2016

Christmas Calling

If you’re a long standing follower of my blog you’re well aware of my views on Christmas and Christmas presents.  But if you’ve only just joined this happy band then please refer to the posts Christmas Cheer Episode 1 & Episode 2 of this blog to find out my true feelings on the festive season.

But now I’d like to get down to the serious business of discussing big store ad campaigns.  I’ve never really followed them much in the past but found myself inadvertently drawn in to the midst of the debate on which is the best one this year.

The first ad I spotted was by House of Fraser - this is the ad with all the dancers and the distinctly Thriller style dance scene.  That’s the main reason I noticed the ad.  

Ads in my opinion are an opportunity to get up and wash the dishes, make a cup of tea or pop some popcorn to enhance my sofa surfing experience.  But I spotted the musical reference (indeed a rare thing for someone as unmusically minded as myself) and thought, “The Christmas ad square-off has begun.”

At this point I knew there would shortly be a few more ads thrown our way now that House of Fraser had opened the floodgates.  So I eagerly waited for the supermarkets, and other high street stores to join the party.

The Aldi carrot offering didn’t do much for me, perhaps because I’m fond of carrots but am neither a horse, donkey nor reindeer.  Waitrose’s little robin battling its way through the wilderness to a mince pie in a suburban garden did get an Aaaah from me but that was about it.  

I was also rather underwhelmed by the Marks & Spencer offering.  I was sure they were going to give the others a proper run for their money.  And yes, it had a cute message and the very obvious motto that behind every great man is the endless hard graft of a brilliant woman. Duh!

The John Lewis ad caught me quite unawares.  I was feeling a bit blue due to the whole war in Syria, polar bears starving to death, Brexit & Trump and other world issues debacle when my eye was caught by the gambolling trampolining of a whole host of wild beasties, including a badger.  I’m particularly fond of badgers.  Don’t really know why, just am.  At any rate, by the end of the ad I was howling with laughter.  It really tickled my funny bone.  At that moment I was truly glad the advertising agency in charge of the John Lewis campaign had come up with this terrific concept.  It brightened my day no end.

So here for your delectation, and hoping it gives you that all over Christmassy buzz it gave me and still does every time I see this, is #BusterTheBoxer.

Friday, 25 November 2016


Ten months into my self-imposed reading challenge on Goodreads and I actually find myself 8 books ahead of schedule.  For those of you who think I’ve lost the ability to count – I didn’t actually start this challenge till February. The reason I'm this far along though is primarily due to books loaned to me by several fabulous students: Ari, Tobi and Tianna as well as the magnificent collection of Jacqueline Wilson at the charity where I teach.  It’s a difficult thing entrusting your beloved darlings to someone else but my students have faith in me and I hope I’ve not let them down by spilling spaghetti sauce all over the pages of their precious books.

In quick summary: the way I’m attempting to get through this challenge is by reading 3 books simultaneously.  I read one #bookatbreakfast), the second is my #bookbag and the third my #bedbook.

Reading this at bed time
 makes for very
exciting dreams

My summer holiday in Scotland gave me a fair bit of reading time so I added up the reading total on Goodreads quite nicely during that time.  However, the reading of adult fiction is going much slower than I would have liked.  I’ve also moved on to the second book in the Game of Thrones series for my #bedbook.  These are all weighty tomes and take a bit of getting through.  The only problem with this series is that I keep wanting to read tons more so am getting a bit sleep deprived.

However, I’ve resolved to have a fairly slim volume as my #bookbag in order to save my bag toting shoulder from undue injury.  So I may well be reading more than one children’s book at a time as they tend to be the slimmer volumes.

I’m now also constantly side tracked by the Bill Bryson books currently sitting on my coffee table just taunting me and urging me to read them.  It’s hard work resisting their pull.  But I’m determined to vary my reading as much as I possibly can, so Bill Brysons – you’re just going to have to wait till next month – or maybe later this month.  I’m so easy.

Believe it or not, I’ve only bought 7 books during this entire challenge – all of them from my local Oxfam which I can’t resist if I’m in the vicinity.  All the other books I’ve read have either been on loan from my beloved Carnegie Library or from the shelves of friends and students.  I’ve also read books which were given to me as gifts but had been languishing unread on my own bookshelf.

At Christmas time I usually reread Lord of The Rings as it remains one of my favourite books from the moment it was first given to my 12 year old self by my mother.  But this year I think that may not happen as I'll probably be scrambling to finish the 100 books required for this challenge.

So far this challenge has seemed daunting at times but now I’m starting to feel like I might just finish what seemed like an impossible task a few months ago.  Shortly before Christmas I plan to do a post on my top 10 reads during this challenge.  Till then I'll keep #reading.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Awesome Autumn

Photograph courtesy of Elisa Tomassi

Despite the fact I’m a summer baby and love nothing better than sunshine beating down on my bare skin, I’m rather taken with autumn.  I love the turn of colour in the leaves, the gusts of wind that steal my hat and give me earache, the scurrying of squirrels hastily storing food for the oncoming winter, the leaf litter piling up ungathered on my unkempt lawn.

But these are only a smattering of the reasons why I think autumn is awesome.  Here are a few more.

I start looking longingly at my winter wardrobe and anticipate the hats and scarves I’ll soon be able to reclaim from my accessories shelf. Many are birthday gifts from friends and others are gifts I gave myself.  I love a new hat or two.  And then there’s the jacket I bought while in Edinburgh in September.  I’m on tenterhooks as I wait for the weather to turn cool enough for me to don this fabulous garment.

Then there’s the steamy baths after a day of tutoring or writing.  I choose the aromatherapy oil most in favour that day, sink in to the tub with a good book to hand, unsteam my glasses and settle in till I’m all pruny.  The orchids who are permanent residents of the bathroom also seem to approve of this particular regime.  Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly anarchic, I languish in the bath – wait for it – in the MORNING if I don’t have any tutoring or am suffering from admin procrastination.

And then there’s hot chocolate and Milo.  I’m personally more of a fan of Milo but keep a stock of hot chocolate in the cupboard for friends and family.  Let’s not forget the hot toddies and the mulled ginger wine.  This of course reminds me that with Christmas on its way there’ll be even more of an excuse for mulled wine and cider.  Not that I need much excuse for that.  This is the only time of year when my alcohol intake goes up considerably and that’s saying something as I barely drink at other times of the year.

Another thing about this time of year; it heralds the start of engrossing drama on telly.  In October I couldn't get enough of The Great British Bake Off, Poldark, Ripper Street, Our Girl, Cleverman…  Well, the list goes on and on.  That’s only on the Beeb.  I haven’t even touched on what’s available on Channel 4, starting with Humans And if anyone thinks The Great British Bake Off is not a drama then they clearly haven’t watched it.  

If you're wondering why I’m not naming any Sky/Virgin/Netflix programmes that’s because I don’t subscribe and if I did I’d become permanently glued to my sofa and never do a solitary bit of writing.  At any rate, it’s easy to see how I regularly have to force myself off the sofa to tango classes and milongas.  I can tell you, with all this temptation on the box it’s a tough ask.

Well there you have it.  These are only a small percentage of the reasons I think autumn is ABSOLUTELY AWESOME.  To know the rest you’d have be totally crazy enough to be a part of my family or a bosom pal.  And let’s face it – not everyone is that crazy.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Published Again – III

There is no end to the celebration!

About the Book

Brueberon is the loneliest dragon there ever was on Long Upon A Time World.  Vandabar the Wizard is away on holiday and can provide no solution to Brueberon’s problem.  So he’s off to seek help from Kastaspella.  But will Kastaspella’s costly magic really help him?  What if everything goes wrong when he takes her potion?  And how will it affect a dreamer like Clarissa Henry who loves drifting in and out of Brueberon’s world? 

There are consequences to every decision we make in life and Brueberon is about to find out that quick solutions are not always the best option to a problem.

Buy the paperback – get the Kindle version for 0.99p (offer limited to 12 weeks)

Friday, 14 October 2016

Independence & Me

I’m an Indie author!

The very idea of it still makes my mind boggle.  How exactly did I get here?  And why on earth would I choose to be independent when it’s so much damned hard work?

Why this seemingly insatiable desire to self-publish? 

I guess to understand it we have to look at the traits inherent in my family line.  I think stubbornness and single-mindedness spring to the forefront when I consider this.  Then there’s a particularly strong strain of what South Africans call ‘the agitator’ in my gene pool.

My maternal grandmother eloped with my grandfather as they were from very different cultural backgrounds.  Her father and brothers were not best pleased.  To add to this, my grandfather was a member of the ANC so it’s easy to see that the rebellious streak in my family is in fact rebelliousness² on the maternal side at any rate – I don’t think I need to say much more on that score.

The paternal side of my family are made up of Dutchmen and Kalahari tribes-people.  Both these peoples are known to be extremely hard working and resourceful with strong survival instincts.  Some might say I have too much of the Dutch need to diary every event I attend or plan on attending.  Then there’s my rants about fellow drivers not signalling their intent at roundabouts but let’s leave that for another post.

Now, given all this ancestral evidence, surely you’re beginning to understand my leanings towards authorial independence.  But there was a more personal and emotional journey which led me to where I am now.

Uncle Phil & Dad in Oz
In 2006 I made the firm decision to leave teaching and write on a more full time basis.  When I told my dad of my decision he didn’t blink an eye and supported me without a moment’s hesitation.  In 2012 my dad died and my rebellious streak asserted itself in a desire to do something to honour his passing.  I had a completed novel which I was editing whilst sending letters and emails to agents and publishers – getting the usual rejection mail as expected.  His death prompted me to do SOMETHING more concrete with my novel. 

Unbelievably, an opportunity arose to publish in e-book format without any expenditure on my part at all.  At that time e-publishing was a much debated topic and people were convinced it would have no place in the world.  I thought, “Well, what the heck – it’s not costing me a penny.”  Tons of no risk no gain sayings crossed my mind:

  • Nothing ventured nothing gained
  • If you’re not willing to risk the unusual you’ll have to settle for ordinary
  • For who that dare not undertake, by right he shall no profit take

So I forged ahead.

I didn’t have the slightest clue what I was doing but the e-book went into the world and I told my friends and family all about it.  I made the sum total of £12 in royalties and could not have been prouder.

What I hadn’t counted on was all the other stories in my head just begging to be let out.  So naturally, I had to do something about them.  My first toe dipping experience of self-publishing stirred the desire to write more, learn more, develop as both a writer and independent author.  I realised I’d started something which needed to be taken to the next level and the next thereafter.

“Bring it on!” I thought.

So here I am.

Indie Author - Me!

Thanks Dad!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Published Again – II

Still celebrating! 

Six Dead Men is now available to buy through Amazon

About The Book

First you’ll encounter snapshots of six dead men – their lives steeped in squalor.  Six lives extinguished in mysterious circumstances.  In life they infected what they touched and in death they continue to wreak havoc.  Then you’ll meet Detective Inspector Robert Deed.  Even contemptible men deserve to have their deaths explained.  Don’t they?  So reasons our detective.  And he has a suspect in his sights – Madison Bricot.

But what about Madison?  She just wants to live the normal life of a twenty-six year old.  But now her boyfriend is dead and she’s not quite sure how she feels about it.  Soon she’s about to learn some things about herself which terrify her into running. 

Meanwhile Detective Inspector Deed will have to battle against his attraction for Madison and prove what he already knows - her guilt.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Published Again - I

I’m celebrating!


Where Rainbows Hide is now available to buy through Amazon

About The Book

It is a Science Fiction novel for young adults with a 19 year old protagonist at odds with her world and struggling to make important life decisions.  Neera Luxquaera still has no clue where her life is going.  Hopelessly drifting from one job to the next she finally applies for a job onboard a shuttle heading out on an expedition beyond her Domed world.   Will this last ditch attempt to find her niche in a fractured world finally help her see the rainbows she’s been searching for so long?


The great news is that I appear to be on schedule with all my republishing plans for this year. I reaped the benefits of joining The Alliance of Independent Authors immediately as I was able to gain valuable advice from members on their Facebook page.  But in particular, massive thanks to Ian Hooper who spent a whole morning on Facebook going through the financial ins and outs of Createspace with me.   He took a very panicked me through the process step by step, ridding me of my initial anxiety and in my opinion is a god amongst men.