A Writing Blog Tour.

A couple of days ago, Ellen Arnison of  In A Bun Dance, asked me if I’d like to take part in a blog tour.
‘Sure’, I replied always grateful for something to write about. My blog is 3 years old now and I’m past the writing everyday stage; sometimes a girl needs inspiration.

But what’s a Blog Tour?, I wondered. I had only ever heard about Book Blog Tours, and I certainly haven’t written a book-yet. As far as I can tell, a Blog Tour is a little like a blog hop, with a ‘baton’ of questions being handed down to the next person (or people) after you’ve had a bash at answering them yourself. It’s a good way of reading a few blogs you haven’t seen before, and maybe getting a few extra readers yourself. For me, it’s also an opportunity to talk about writing; something that I haven’t discussed on my blog very often.

When I started this blog, one of the reasons I gave for its creation was to develop the habit of writing regularly. I’ve always enjoyed writing and felt that deep down I wanted to write something that other people would read, and enjoy. Ultimately my goal was a book, but as the years have gone by and the posts have gone up, my little writing exercise has taken on a life of its own. Not all writing products are books you know, there are lots of  people out there writing other things.

books

Anyhow, enough waffle. On with the questions…

What am I working on? 

Well, at first there’s the blog. There is always the blog. I aim to write a post 3-4 times a week these days and have found that it hasn’t affected my stats compared to when I used to write every day. I try and make it a priority though sometimes I’m not sure why.

Secondly, there are a couple of books.

One is a kids’ book about getting a puppy. I have the words down, and have done the illustration descriptions, but keep going back and changing bits. I’m probably just about ready for someone to have a look at this. I guess i’m hoping someone might take this on as it’ll need an illustrator, so I’m not sure self publishing is an option.

The other work is a YA novel about two 10 year old girls who accidentally somehow swap lives.  Bethany was born in the year 2000, but is flung into the Victorian era, while Eliza was born at the beginning of the 20th Century and finds herself having to survive in 2010. Both of them struggle at first, but eventually manage to settle into their new lives in a foreign time. I have spent a lot of time trying to decide at what point they give up on the idea of getting their old lives back but maybe they don’t?

This second book is a product of NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, and has been slowly brewing ever since. I’m now at the early editing, chop and change, stage and am hoping to hand it over to someone for a read through in the next month or so. My aim is to self publish, probably through Kindle.

How much does my work differ from that of others?

I’m not sure it does. Obviously, all writing is a product of the author concerned, so no two people are going to have an identical writing style. If you are aimimg to copy someone else’s style, how are going to develop your own?

But judging by all the ‘People who bought this also bought…’ and ‘ If you liked this, try…’ categories you see on various websites dedicated to books and reading , I think the general public likes to be able to classify authors as writing ‘like’ someone else.

Do we need a USP? I don’t know, I think it’s enough to not think too hard about it all and just get on with writing.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I feel I have to. Writing for me is like a cough or a sneeze; it’s a urge that I feel I have to obey.

The blog is to give my friends and family, who live scattered around the globe, a glimpse of what life is like for my family. It’s not noncommercial- I will happily do sponsored posts and reviews as I like to bring some money into the house if possible.

I’m not sure how I feel about my friends who don’t live so far away reading my blog. It’s a hazard of the job I guess, but part of me cringes when someone from school utters those words; ‘I’ve been reading your blog ‘. I wonder what it will be like if I ever get around to finishing a book!

Blog post inspiration comes from day to day events, news stories, photographs, days out and conversations with friends or things my children or pets do.  Oh and holidays; I also write about our holidays and the challenges of dragging four children around the world.

Book ideas just pop into my head, usually when I’m walking the dogs. If I ever finish the YA book, I have a second book queued up in my brain that is ‘that book’- the one that everyone has always told me I should write.

The children’s book idea  is different and has come from the fact that there seems to be a gap in the market for that particular kind of book.

How does my writing process work?

I take ages over blog posts.  I spend too much time on social media and always manage to find something else to do. I try and write posts in the morning, before I do housework and go and walk the dogs. Basically, it comes down to the same thing as it does for everyone, everywhere. If you want to be a writer, you have to write.

Apart from the kids’ book, my longer bits of writing have all started out as NaNoWriMo projects. I do enjoy slogging away at something for a finite length of time. It’s taken me years to come back to my Time Swap novel, I’m not sure why. I think it’ll be a pleasant and interesting read when it’s finished and I know that some people will enjoy it.

It’s all the marketing and ‘getting it out there’ I’m not looking forward to.  I know that it won’t interest some people, and I want people to be honest with me. I’ve seen first hand what happens when people don’t feel they are able to be honest about someone’s writing.

And I’ve seen a number of authors of different genres take the inevitable poor reviews badly. These are strong, confident women who find it really hard when someone doesn’t like their work. I’m pretty sure I will be no different, although I am hoping to avoid tantrums.

This is all new to me, so I’m not sure how the editing process is going to work for me. Right now I’m reading through what I’ve done, changing various dodgy bits and adding the ending that I never got around to finishing. Then I thought I might draw up a time line, and play with that for a bit, but if anyone has any better ideas, I’m all ears!

 

That was a mammoth post! If you are still with me after that then pop over and take a look at the three blogs I am handing the Blog Tour baton over to. 

They are all proper writers, ie they write for a living, but only one of them writes books.  Check out the writing of  Rachael LucasCressida Downing and Lucy Dimbylow.

 

writing

The Gallery: My Favourite Place

I was going to post a picture yesterday morning of one of the woods I walk the dogs in. I love it, especially at this time of the year. It’s all green leaves and bluebells; you can almost see spring unfurling in front of your eyes.

But I didn’t have time to post before we left the house yesterday. DH is off work this week, so I was determined that we were going to drive to one of our nearest beaches, West Wittering.  I’ve only been there once before, about 7 years ago and I wanted to return with the whole family this time.

The first time I went by myself with a 4 year old, a 3 year old and a 9 month year old.  All I can remember is watching the older two go further and further out  in the shallow water , while I wrestled with breastfeeding a sand-phobic crawler.  What was I thinking? I don’t think I really enjoyed the experience, but as a Kiwi-in-the-UK I feel somewhat guilty that my children’s lives so far have involved very few days on the beach. Beaches featured very strongly in my less than ideal childhood but I do remember feeling very calm and settled whenever I was near the ocean. The beach used to be my very favourite place.

So, yesterday;  the weather forecast was for blue skies and sunshine although it was going to be a bit nippy. I still wanted to go, so bullied DH and the kids into some appropriate clothing, got together sandals and crocs and chucked some food into a cool bag, then hustled everyone into the car.

It took us two hours to get there and when we did arrive we found it was a lot cooler than it had been at home. But the kids loved it.

We bought buckets and spades and the kids set straight to work digging holes and making castles that eventually sucuumbed to the incoming tide.

Buckets and spades
Eventually, the call of the sea was too great and they downed their tools and went paddling. Fully clothed.

Paddling at Easter

And then they came racing out, screaming it was cold.

Coming out of the cold sea

And then they got into their togs and spent the rest of the day getting wet, coming back to the towels to warm up, then going back in the sea again. In April! Crazy kids.

After all the earlier rushing around, I just sat and watched my children play on the beach, the way I had as a child, all those years ago and almost 12 000 miles away. At the end of the day we ended up driving for 6 hours to get 3 hours of beach time, but it was totally worth it.

It seems the beach is still my favourite place.

For more Favourite Places, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

Galllery-Badges

 

 

Screen Time, Scream Time

In our house we have too many screens.

We have too many Nintendo DSs, 3 smart phones, 5 tablets, 3 desk tops, a WiiU, an Xbox360, two TVs and a couple of laptops. Our children have plenty of screens and games to chose from and our challenge is usually, not to keep them entertained, but to limit their screen time.

Usually we say no games or Youtube during the school week; we save these for for Friday nights and weekends. And then we try and limit their time for a couple of hours at a time. But it can be hard work keeping them to these limits; they always want ’5 more minutes’ and getting them to put the screens away can often feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

But every now and again, usually during the school holidays, we throw caution to the wind and declare it a screen-time pyjama day.  The rule is that as long as they behave themselves, don’t argue or upset anyone else, they can play on whatever screen they desire, for as long as they want to.

You would think the kids would be ecstatic about this, wouldn’t you? You’d think they would be eternally grateful, plug themselves into their chosen device, and lose themselves in the digital world for the rest of the day.

But no. In our house, we have peace and quiet for a couple of hours max. Then they inevitably  stop for a snack and a run around outside, and when they come back to their screens they start fighting.

‘It’s my turn on the Xbox’, ‘ I want to be controller number one’, ‘I want to play something else’, ‘She’s killing all my cats’.

At which point I get cross and turn off all the screens and all hell breaks loose.

Screen days in this house often end with four grumpy, disillusioned children who are too under exercised and too over stimulated to go to bed nicely.

I need to remember this next time I suggest a ‘Screen Day’. It’s a bit like childbirth, and I keep forgetting the pain involved.

Kids on screens

 

The Gallery: A Photo I’m Proud Of

Sunset at Swakopmund
In August 2012 our summer holiday took us to Namibia and South Africa, where we  hired a car and drove around on deserted gravel roads for 3 weeks.

It was quite an adventure and I had many great photo opportunities, but I think this is my favourite photo. I’ve posted it before but I still get a kick out of looking at it.

We were staying Swakopmund, a small city on the East Coast of the African Continent, for a few days.  It was a winter there, and because it’s surrounded by desert on three sides, you get this sea mist that rolls in off the Atlantic ocean most mornings but usually clears up later in the day. The temperature often started off in the mornings at around 10C, which was quite chilly after the warmer days we’d gotten used to. We were pleased we’d  bothered to pack our fleeces after all.

In the evening we wandered down to the beach front and watched the sun go down. It always looked enormous  and there was a concrete viewing platform that allowed a good view. One night the kids were in the playground, and I was on the beach watching the sunset, when a lone figure wandered out onto the platform. I quickly moved along the sand a little, so the figure looked like they were standing right in the middle of the sun and took a few different shots.

I liked this one especially, because of the mural/graffiti on the wall by the platform and newly lit streetlamp to the left of the picture.

After I took the photo, the figure walked down past the playground and proved to be a teenage girl. I approached her and gave her my email, and said I would send her a copy of the photos if she contacted me, but she never has.

To see more photos that make people proud, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.

Galllery-Badges

Brace Watch; 12/14 Months On

Another late one, which means there will be another update along very soon.

DD1 went back to the Orthodontist at the beginning of February; a year after her braces first went on. The Orthodontist felt that her canines weren’t coming down the way they should, so she removed DD’s wire completely, and left her with just the brackets.

This is what her teeth looked like before treatment started in January 2013.

impacted canine teeth upper jaw
And this  is her mouth now, at the beginning of April 2014.

retained canines. 12 months of braces

You can see that DD’s canines have come right down now after a couple of months of no wire attached to the brackets. Hopefully the wire will go back on to start the job of straightening again, at her next appointment which is…well, who knows?

We had an appointment for last week which we had to cancel, so are now on the ‘waiting list’ for an appointment. Last time this happened DD didn’t get seen for 4 months. The joys of NHS treatment, eh?

The possible good news is that our Orthodontist is leaving and we are getting a new one. She’s supposed to be very nice, which will make a change as the one we have at the moment is very brusque and not at all empathetic when DD gets worried about some aspect of her treatment.

But we’ll see. Right now, we are just holding out for another appointment with whoever we can get, after which I will update ‘Brace Watch’ promptly for a change.

Review: An FM Transmitter That Works!

I spend a lot of time in the car.

I use it to get to places suitable for walking our dogs, to pick up and drop off children to activities and parties, and our holidays, which often involve a fair bit of driving.

If the kids are in the car with me, I like  to chat to them about their day and where we are going, but sometimes it’s just me by myself ( or with the dogs!). I usually spend the time listening to the radio but have often wondered if there was a way of making better use of that time. The answer to that appears to be yes, there is.

A friend has just introduced me to Audible, an App that lets you listen to audio books on your computer, tablet or MP3 player. I love it but I don’t like wearing headphones while driving the car; it doesn’t seem safe.

Recently I was contacted by My Trendy Phone, an online store that sells all kinds of mobile devices and associated accessories. They asked if I’d like to review an accessory of my choice, and as one of our dogs had just eaten my mobile phone car charger, I asked if they had a replacement one  I could try.

They had a variety of in-car chargers to choose from but in the end I went for something a bit different. I chose this car charger that comes with four different adapters, so it can be used with a wide variety of mobile devices. But that’s not all; this charger also functions as an FM transmitter, which means that you can listen to anything that you have stored on your phone or mobile device.

fm transmitter/car charger

We bought a different brand of FM transmitter a few years ago for a long drive from the UK to the Alps, and were distinctly underwhelmed. It really didn’t work very well at all, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. But I figured that if it didn’t work, then at least I could use it as a charger.

I was pleasantly surprised. It works well. You have to make sure the FM frequency you have the LED screen set to is not near the frequency of the radio station you are listening to otherwise you do get some static, but the device charges up my Samsung Galaxy Note II very nicely.

But the best thing about this product is that the FM transmitter works too. The sound is not crystal clear in my car; I have to turn the volume up quite loud to be able to hear whatever I am playing from my phone, and there is quite a bit of white noise as a result, but it’s perfectly enjoyable. I started out by listening to music, but then I realised I could listen to  books being read to me through the Audible App. Now when I’m in the car by myself, that’s all I do. My time on the road is now filled with all those books I’ll never get around to reading otherwise.

This FM transmitter/ Phone Charger is a great little gadget and will come in very handy when we go away on our next driving holiday. I’ve only used it with my Galaxy phone but it also works with iAnythings and most other mobile devices.

It retails for £12.60  from My Trendy Phone and works straight out of the packet. Just don’t forget to turn the volume down before you switch the radio back on.

I was sent this FM transmitter/Charger in return for this review but the opinion expressed above is my honest opinion.

 

Exam Nerves

There is only one thing more terrifying than having to sit an exam yourself. And that is to have your child take a test or an exam.

All that practice, all that revising, all that time and money spent on the subject and they only get one chance. It’s only 1 small fraction of a day for your offspring to demonstrate all they know. Will they bomb? Will they sail through? Only time will tell.

Lots of  careful preparation may increase the odds but it’s no guarantee of a good end result. Too much work may put them off the subject for life. And in the end it’s completely out of your hands and everything is up to your child. You have to trust them to keep a clear head and do their best. It’s scary.

On Monday DD3 sat her Grade 1 piano exam. She’s eight, so has been learning for a couple of years and there is no doubt she is musical, but her learning curve has flattened out over the last few months. Learning three relatively complex pieces, a handful of scales/broken chords, practicing sight reading and aural tests is a far cry from trotting out a couple of John Thompson tunes a week.

DD3 is a bright girl, who has managed to get through school so far without having to try very hard at all. This is why learning a musical instrument is so good for her. She has had to discipline herself to practice and get everything ready for that 12 minute slot a couple of days ago. She has struggled a bit; one of her pieces is quite weak, but she plays the other two nicely, knows all her scales and chords, is an excellent sight reader and her aural tests come naturally to her, so we are fairly sure she will pass.

She was very anxious but I took her out of school early for a quick practice and a snack, then got to the exam centre in plenty of time. We sat out in the car for a bit, listening to some of her favourite songs and chatting and didn’t head into wait until the very last minute. She seemed fine when she went in and did okay.

I think. I don’t know for sure as the room the exam was in is RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the waiting area and I could hear everything! I couldn’t stand it and went back outside to the car. One of her friends was sitting as well, and her mum said DD sounded fine so fingers crossed. DD keeps talking about the possibility of a distinction but I don’t think so;  going by how she was playing at home she’s more likely to end up with a good pass, or possibly a low merit.

Whatever happens, she’s got her first formal exam under her belt and next time should be easier for her.

I’m a different story, I think my nerves get worse each time!

supervising kitten