Monday, 28 September 2015

Gardening Update

So on Saturday Dad announced that his lawn didn't look very good. I decided not to take this as an insult on my gardening skills, or lack thereof. Though to be honest I wouldn't blame him if it was. However he did clarify by explaining that it was the weeds and moss that he found offensive, rather than the uneven cut and persistent long edges.

His solution was that it required special lawn care stuff sprinkling all over it. Okay so those weren't his actual words, but bear with me I'm still a novice.

Now his two lawns aren't particularly big, but they aren't tiny either. At least they don't seem it when I'm mowing them. I think the same magic that makes time go faster at weekend’s works on lawns too. Only instead of time going faster the more fun you're having, the lawn grows larger with every shove of the mower. Of course it could just be that I'm overlapping with my wonky lines.

Anyway, I digress. My point is that I didn't particularly fancy lugging a big bag of Evergreen Complete 4 in 1 around the garden, while I sprinkled it on the never ending lawn. My solution was to procrastinate. Obviously I was much too busy all day to spend any time sprinkling.

I thought I'd escape it on Sunday too, especially when we decided to go out for a family lunch. There was just one snag. Somehow we ended up having lunch in a garden centre cafe.

Now don't get me wrong it's a lovely cafe and they serve delicious meals. But when I'm trying to wangle my way out of Dads gardening to do list, the last thing I want to do is take him somewhere where he's surrounded by inspiration. Where he sees rows of plants and gardening tools to transform his mundane garden into a colourful paradise, I just see more work.

To be quite honest the only time I enter the garden centre is to go to the cafe (it's conveniently located near my parents’ house) or to drool over the fantastic Christmas displays (but that's a whole other story for another blog).

Nevertheless, there we were right in the middle of enemy territory ruled by bees and wasps. In my opinion no good can come from Dad being in a garden centre, at least not while I'm still the substitute gardener. Somehow his visits always involve me doing heavy lifting, and usually getting mud stuck down my fingernails in the process.

I managed to get us safely seated in the cafe unscathed, but after relaxing over my toasted Brie and bacon sandwich I was a little complacent about my exit strategy.

"Oh look", said Dad and I snapped back to attention, but it was too late. A new gardening ‘must have’ had been spotted. I wasn't foolish to think we would manage to get out of the store without buying it, though at that point I was still baffling over what it was for.

To be fair to Dad, he did as it turns out have my best interests at heart. Sort of. It was a spreader. Its purpose; to sprinkle the weed killer and grass seed and make my job easier. Somehow I ended up thanking him as I lugged it to the till. Though I would have been even more grateful had he just not thought up the whole idea of treating the lawn in the first place.

So thanks to Dads impulse purchase I had no excuse for not dealing with the lawn. Somehow 'because I don't want to' didn't seem like a good enough excuse, especially as I'm not longer 5 years old.

I poured the stuff into the newly acquired spreader and then set about pacing up and down the garden pushing my little cart. I have no idea why, but for some reason it was actually kind of fun. Not that I plan on admitting that to Dad. Good grief just think of the jobs he'd find me if he thought there was hope for me as a gardener!

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Reluctant Gardener

In this age of modern, independent women, I am what my friends affectionately (I hope) refer to as a girly girl. Whilst I've surrendered my childhood preference (ok obsession) for all things pink (pink dresses, flip flops, hair ribbons, wall paper and carpet... Need I go on?) I still have a tendency for girlish squeals. Just place me in the vague vicinity of a bee, wasp or spider and you'll see what I mean.
However, as a result of my Dads recent stay(s) in hospital, I'm now basking in the sunshine of the great outdoors. Which loosely translated means I have temporarily taken on the role of looking after his garden.
So not so much basking, more trapsing up and down pushing a lawn mower, which I swear was lighter in the shop, in what I aim to be straight lines, but are actually more just a chaotic assortment of randomness.
Corners present a particular problem when it comes to attempting to turn said heavy mower. Did I also mention it's really long? Which means if I do muster the strength to turn it 360 degrees, I usually at this point find myself standing in the bushes, which for a girl who doesn't like spiders, is not a good place to be.
I feel however that I may have stumbled into a profitable new venture. No not a new career in landscape gardening, but I do think I could sell tickets to my neighbours for the entertaining show that they get witness every two weeks. After all it's got everything:
  • Intrigue and suspense - will she master a straight line this week?
  • Drama - when's she going to notice the spider in her hair?
  • And even dancing... Sort of. It's a whole new wasp dance, it could rely catch on, though it's not to be mistaken for the bee dance. That would just be insulting.
What would I do with all that extra income I hear you ask?
Simple, hire a gardener while I hide indoors.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Cinderella Shoes Published in Scribble Magazine

I came home last night and found the new issue of Scribble Magazine waiting for me.  As always I opened it eagerly, ready to dive into its short stories.  However there at the top of the contents page was a wonderful surprise... My name.

My short story 'Cinderella Shoes' had been accepted by the editor earlier this year, but I had no idea when it would appear in the magazine.  When I received the email to tell me that he wanted to publish my story I had been ecstatic, but that was nothing to the delight at finding my story in print in the magazine in my hands.

I have to admit that I regressed to my childhood and spent most of the evening periodically jumping up and down alongside gleeful declarations of "I'm published, I'm published".

Although I had my first story published last year, and have been fortunate to have a few more accepted for publication since, this is the first one to appear in physical form rather than online.  The thrill of actually being able to hold my story in my hands was (and still is) absolutely amazing.

The Forward Poetry Flash Fiction Anthology which includes my 100 word flash fiction "The Art of Conversation," was published on 31st August 2015, but I haven't seen it yet.  I can imagine that when I do there will be more jumping and squealing involved.


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Quest For The Perfect Excuse

I’m off to a party this week.  Am I looking forward to it? Well em, no actually.

It’s not that I don’t want to go. It’s just that I’m not really very good at that sort of thing. And by that sort of thing I mean any social event that involves people. I hate to admit it but l am the stereotypical writer. I’m quite happy spending time in my own company, shut away from distractions where I can lose myself in a world of fictional characters.

Work is different.  I can manage that.  Sitting in an office, even though I’m wishing I could be home writing, is something I’ve done for years. I’m used to it. However, put me in a room full of people outside of the work environment, and I am out of my comfort zone and my depth.

What makes it harder is that so few people know about my writing, so that doesn’t leave me much to talk about. Mind you I struggle even with people that do know. It would be so easy to end up sounding like an obsessed writer who spends every spare minute with a pen in hand. It may well be completely true, but I don’t really want everyone to realise it.

Socialising with other writers however is different. They get it. They understand the need to get up at some ridiculously early hour even though it’s Saturday, just so you can sit in front of a computer screen. They understand the necessity for complete and utter uninterrupted silence when you’re in the middle of a critical plot line. They sympathise with the constant edits and re-writes as you attempt to find perfection in something that will always be subjective. No matter what problem you’re facing, or how unique you think you are with your compulsion, chances are another writer has already been through it.  Everyone else though looks at me as though I am completely insane if I try to explain it.

There’s also the issue that socialising involves conversation.  Whilst one of the least favourite tasks of a writer is the editing process, we can’t dispute that it is beneficial. Unfortunately whilst I can review and edit what goes onto the page before it is viewed by anyone else I haven’t mastered this skill when it comes to speaking. I might be able to form carefully structured sentences as I write, but I lack that ability when I speak and it comes out as random babbling. The trouble is that as much as l and everyone else wishes I would just shut up. The more nervous I get the more impossible this seems to be.  Unfortunately real life doesn’t come with an undo button, and that stupid thing I just said is out there for good, etched in everyone memory for eternity.  At least that’s how it feels.

So needless to say I’m a little bit anxious about this party.  I was having one of those, ‘I should get out more and mingle with real people’ moments when I accepted the invitation.  I have them occasionally.  They tend not to last long though.  Usually only long enough for me to accept and then immediately kick myself for having done so.  This time is no different.  My good intentions have most definitely abandoned me and I am frantically searching for excuses why I can’t possibly go.

Any suggestions?



                

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Please Release Me: Stuck


Today I'm participating in a group blogging event to celebrate the launch of Rhoda Baxter's new book 'Please Release Me'.

I loved Rhoda's 'Girl On The Run', so I'm delighted to be a small part of her big day for her new book and wish her the best of luck with 'Please Release Me', which I'm looking forward to reading.


The blurb:


What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?

Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab opportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.

That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.

In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate.

But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after …

myBook.to/PleaseReleaseMe

Picking up on the theme of 'Please Release Me', the theme of our blogging event is 'stuck' in one form or another. When I sat down to think up ideas for the blog, ironically I was totally stuck. In the end I gave up, crawled into bed and switched off the lights. Then inspiration struck in the form of song lyrics.

Now in my head these lyrics were sung by an amazing vocalist (obviously not me) and accompanied by a full band. Sadly there are technical difficulties with getting the quality of what I hear in my head to be heard by anyone who isn't tone deaf or wearing ear plugs. So I'm afraid you'll just have to make do with the lyrics. Let me know what you think...




Verse 1

I'm stuck on repeat going nowhere fast,
If this was a race I'd finish last.
One step forward and two steps back,
Forward motion I seem to lack.


Chorus

They keep telling me tomorrow's a new day,
A fresh start, a clean slate, but it's just a cliché.
Nothing changes over-night, tomorrow's just another day.


Verse 2

Stuck in a rut that I can't get out of,
I call it hell and you call it love.
Plan to leave but always seem to stay,
Second thoughts keep getting in my way.

Chorus
They keep telling me tomorrow's a new day,
A fresh start, a clean slate, but it's just a cliché.
Nothing changes over-night, tomorrow's just another day.

Verse 3
Stuck in a role I didn't audition, 
Guess I'll see it through to fruition 
Stick with what I know & fear what I don't 
Hope it'll get better but know it won't

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Summer Memories

When I was little my parents would load up my Dads Peugeot 205 and we would set off on holiday. The tiny boot was filled with our tent, picnic set, sleeping bags, cool box, camping stove, buckets and spades and clothes. My brother and I were usually surrounded by pillows on the back seat. As my feet didn't touch the floor that meant extra packing space beneath them too.

Climbing up the Welsh hills Dad always announced that someone needed to get out and push, as our little car groaned its way to the top. I was never entirely convinced that he was, as he claimed, only joking. Especially given Mums huge sigh of relief when we actually made it.

We had some fantastic holidays. We built amazing sand castles on beautiful beaches. Played hide and seek in sand dunes. Collected sea shells as we paddled. And enjoyed Dads fried breakfasts cooked on our tiny camping stove (that mum refused to use).

Of course it had its downside too. Long road trips filled with eye spy and counting red cars (it was always red for some reason). The four of us crammed into one tent. All to spend a British summer in the pouring rain.

Camping has changed these days. Now my colleagues talk of glamping. A phrase that could never have been applied to our trips. Believe me there is nothing luxurious about sleeping in the car when you discover that the camp site is rat infested, or chasing your waterproof exterior tent across the camp site in a storm in the middle of the night. Now the recollection of us untangling it from the bushes that it had become so fond of, and reassembling it over your somewhat soggy sleeping bags is amusing. I don't think that any of us experienced that emotion at the time though.

That was the end of our camping trips. Our tent needed replacing after its escape and strangely none of us were in a hurry to do so. The lure of hotels, with proper beds, running water and actual roofs were calling to us. We didn't put up much, or rather any, resistance.

To be honest neither Mum nor I were ever really outdoorsy kind of women. I'm quite impressed that we ever actually went camping at all. As for Dad, I think he was possibly quite glad to put an end to checking inside the sleeping bags each night before we'd go to bed (due to an earwig incident which involved lots of screaming).

Never the less I look back on our adventures with a nostalgic smile. The rainy days were cosy as we snuggled in our sleeping bags playing card games. The chills caught from sleeping on the damp ground no longer seem so bad. In fact it all seems like so much fun now I'm almost inclined to pack up the car and give it another go.  Almost.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Book Review: Sins of the Father – C.B. Hanley



Rating:

About the Author:

C.B. Hanley has a PhD in medieval studies from the University of Sheffield.  She has written both fiction and non-fiction books and specialises in the High Middle Ages.

Book Summary:

Set in England in 1217, Sins of the Father follows Edwin Weaver, the son of the bailiff at Conisbrough Castle, who finds himself thrust into an unfamiliar world when his father is taken ill and the Earl asks him to step into his role. In the midst of the civil war, Edwin is tasked with solving a murder in just two days…

Review:

C.B. Hanley’s extensive knowledge and research shows through in this gripping medieval mystery. The descriptions and characters are captivating and catapult the reader back in time, into the realm of castles, knights and sword fights.


The novel moves forward at a steady pace, drawing the reader in as we follow Edwin’s investigation. By seeing the castle, the Earl and his family, the knights and the impending battle of the civil war through Edwin’s eyes, C.B. Hanley cleverly enables us to learn with Edwin. The history and explanations of the workings of the castle and its subjects are fitted discreetly into the story, enabling the reader to gradually understand this world as Edwin does.


The relationships between the characters are moving and the mystery is enthralling. The plot twists kept me guessing throughout the entire book, until the surprising, yet gratifying conclusion as all the pieces fall together and the murderer is revealed.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

It Takes Two - The idea behind KISHBOO e-magazine - Guest Post: Sharon Boothroyd

I'd like to welcome my first guest, Sharon Boothroyd.  Sharon is the editor for KISHBOO magazine, an e-magazine which will be celebrating its first birthday later this year.



Getting Started

It was my husband Keith who had the idea of producing an e-magazine in the summer 2014.

As a semi-pro freelance writer, I loved entering short story competitions - some of these competitions were run by small paper presses or fiction based online projects.

The editors usually chose the winner and runner- up.

We began to sketch out a concept of a quarterly fiction based e-magazine. We thought how we could set up and fund our own short story competition, plus how readers would vote for the winners and runner- up places in each issue.



Our History

My hubby had already published a chick lit- novella of mine on kindle for me.

We called our publishing brand Ryecorn Digital Publishing, after Ryecorn, the fictional Yorkshire town in my novella.

To keep costs down, we set up a free website to help promote it: www.ryecorn.orgfree.com

Keith has several free android apps games published on the google playstore and he has professional web design experience too. I had previously written the text for his corporate client's websites, so we were used to combining our skills and working together as a team.

Plus, we'd already enjoyed minor success with another online project of ours called 'A Quick Read.' This entailed uploading stories onto a website that we owned and onto our accompanying free android app.

So – we had published online,on kindle and on the android app format. We both really warmed to the idea of publishing an e-mag on 3 digital platforms.



Target Market

Who was our e- magazine for?

We realised from our experience with the 'A Quick Read' project that there's an awful lot of writers out there who are starting out and can't secure a publisher.

KISHBOO is aimed not at full- time professional writers, who are confident of selling their work very easily or for authors who earn a living from their writing, but for new and fresh writers, or anyone who is eager to grab free publicity (We offer free promotion of books/sites/blogs etc with all published articles).



Funding The Project

With the 'A Quick Read' project, we didn't charge writers a fee for publication, and the website cost around £60 a year. Even though we were overwhelmed with work, as time passed, we couldn't see how the project could develop, so sadly in 2014, after two years, we decided to close it down.

With KISHBOO, we realised that we could fund the competition prizes through the competition entry fees and kindle sales, and now we realised that we could use online advertising via google's Adsense to cover the cost of our website. It was risky, yet we decided it was worth giving it a go.

To make our project more appealing, we decided KISHBOO would be free of charge on two of our digital platforms – online and on the android app. It would also be non- subscription. (We've now dropped the app in favour of a mobile phone friendly site)

The kindle version is 99p.



Finding A Name

What could we call our magazine though? We thought of hundreds of names, yet sadly, the domain names were all taken, so we hit upon the idea of blending our names to create something truly different.

We really hoped that the name 'KISHBOO' would stick in people's memory. It also happens to be an anagram of BOOKISH!



Promotion

In August 2014, we were ready to launch the project! We'd bought a domain name. Keith had designed the website and I'd written the text for it. However, the actual magazine wasn't published until October, as we needed stories and articles to fill it.

I began to send press releases out to magazines and my network of writer friends helped spread the word for us by featuring our project on their blogs and sites.

Keith worked hard on search engine optimisation, and I began to tweet for the first time in my life!

My volunteer publicity work is ongoing - I post on Facebook and twitter regularly. We have 3 FB pages – one for Keith, one for RDP and one for KISHBOO. We also have a links swap project in place.

I've sent information about our story competition to relevant sites and magazines, and they've been kind enough to publish our details. Unlike other e-magazines, we've been very lucky, as we haven't needed to pay for any advertising whatsoever.



Non-profit Status

So far, all the income from the KISHBO project – comp entry fees, online advertising and kindle sales – have gone back into the project. It needs to be self- funding to pay the cash prizes. Keith and I haven't taken a salary from it. We see KISHBOO as a hobby - it also acts as our online portfolio to highlight both our skills.


Future Plans

Our project is growing bigger. From our fourth issue, published in July 2015, we've published 15 stories instead of ten and we've also recently introduced a poetry corner slot. We do have more plans but sshh! It's top secret!

For more information, please visit: www.kishboo.co.uk

Visit our facebook page: www.facebook.com/keith.boothroyd.77

Follow us on Twitter: @KishbooMag


Sharon Boothroyd, editor of KISHBOO.