Get blogging girl!

Lately I feel this rotating bubble of energy inside.  Filled with possibility. I want to say I can to everything instead of I can’t.  I can’t implies weakness; my body maybe weak but my aspiration to become a successful author is strong. It’s ironic that at this point in time my balance, walking, neck pain, headache, fibromyaligia strikes so haphazardly that embarking on anything is a risk…but I don’t care.  I’m taking my chances…and a cocktail of painkillers.  I know the side effects of all my different tablets but I’m fifty two this year, ridiculously healthy other than my spine’s crumbling like Flake, so I need to embrace life now. God. Yes. Take the drugs. I need to live my best life now.  Just typing these words evokes a thrill…a flicker of a future beyond my four walls.

Like last Saturday was Book Club. The consensus was, I should stay put the day before, the day of, the day after.  I couldn’t.  This restlessness that has a hold of me had me heading to the local tanning shop.  For the first time in thirty years the buzz of bed three flashing on, heating my skin, warming my bones, browning the pale skin of my wasted muscles was medicinal. I can’t describe how peaceful and content I felt for five minutes. My son bought me a course and I’ve been three times now; skin cancer is the least of my worries. For a while I was in this vortex of negativity; the sunbed is a form of self care. Something I need a lot more of.  I’m off to the House of Lords on Tuesday, to a reception for Myelopathy.org the charity supporting my condition.  So that day I’m getting my nails done, it’s a luxury, but essential to my well being.  It’s going to be a tough day travelling to Westminster, standing around, turning my head to talk to people, getting home but I need to be with others with my condition, I’ve not met anyone else like me todate.  I’m excited to meet those that had the determination to create first the facebook group myelopathy.support then the charity. It goes without saying I hope there is champagne and canapies.

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Book club was great fun.  It’s very sociable; nibbles, dinner, alcohol, pudding, Jeffrey Archer.  I love it. I’ve made new friends, there’s catching up with old buddies, everyone is so considerate of my condition, the book chit chat is topical and indepth.  The charity https://myelopathy.org/ is supported by the group; I deposited £18 yesterday.

Once Random Attachment takes off a little more I’ll be putting a percentage toward Myelopathy.org.  Once I cover the printing cost of paperbacks, paid Amazon their share, there is hardly anything to put toward promotions.  I’m trying giveaways in return for a review should the person enjoy the book, Instragram promotions, Random Attachment merchandise for photos.  Published authors tell you it’s near impossible to self promote, you need professionals and I agree but I’m not in that financial position.  It’s fun though…coming up with mad ideas, arranging random items for a photo.  I think at the beginning I exhausted myself, I’ve taken a step back.  That’s why I haven’t blogged or vlogged for a while. I have to avoid dips in my energy level as negativity will creep in.  Inside all of us is a pocket of self-doubt, helplessness, anxiety, anger…having a long term illness with chronic pain my pocket balloons with negative emotion if I’m tired or rundown so I must take a steady pace. So, sprawled on my soft, pink sofa I binged watched The Crown.  It never appealed to me on TV but during Easter Kitty and I came upon it after procrastinating over Netflix and Now programmes.  I’m so happy we did; it was addictive whilst being relaxing and a change from our American teen dramas.

harrow italianAnyways the Sunday after Book Club I had a taste for more adventure. I can’t just go anywhere.  The longer I’m on London transport the more my neck will jerk.  The further I walk to a location the tireder my limbs will get. Together this leads to pain, immobility and my enjoying the event less. So we trained it to nearby Harrow, to an Italian coffee shop that’s more a cafe. It was highly rated on Trip Advisor and rightly so  because the atmosphere was vibrant, the choice of food was varied from a full English to lasagna to cake.  Kitty had a vegan breaky and I had the most delicious cheesecake.  The average person probably doesn’t give a passing thought to going for coffee.  That’s how different my life is…my flare ups are not fibromyaligia or myelopathy…these conditions are my norm, my everyday life…my flare ups reduce my symptoms: a burst of energy, remission of pain, a steadiness on my feet. Once, I too ran around the city from coffee shop to wine bar to brasserie. Popping off to Oxford Street, going to the theatre, clubbing in the West End.  I count myself lucky I experienced that.  I’m glad I was unaware of my congenital defects. That I’ve paraglided, abseiled, danced the eighties away, birthed four beautiful babies who make every day brighter for me.

My ‘hold onto the seat of your pants’ life reduced to a ‘slippers in front of the fire life’ and the carer became the cared for.   I felt like I was lost in space but actually I was an astronaunt in hypersleep because I woke up with an idea that I could be an author…that I had another life yet to live.  So it’s a great high when I get positive feedback. https://www.instagram.com/p/BwnQQeTnPtp/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=6l7axdn0aghk&fbclid=IwAR2D_rM4mGI4MlOEK0jsFcn5FVJY_2nGbhfEjnhFOBRjNu3WvP05NgUpN50

beautyMy favourite book of 2019 so far is A Curse So Dark and Cruel, a contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  I knew it would be hard to follow and it was tough reading my book club book Kane and Abel.  I read it in my teens and couldn’t get enough of Jeffrey Archer material until his court case.  Back then, before social media, authors were as enigmatic as popstars, so it wasn’t often you heard their dirty laundry.  Also I found him a bit pompos and up himself so rereading Kane and Abel, although it’s a simple rich man, poor man tale, was pants.  However I did come across some jems recently: the endearing Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine who like Mia from RA has serious mother issues and two YA sure things by the fantastically named Rainbow Rowell: Fan Girl and Eleanor and Park.

meandtomMusic wise my song of the week is Lil Nas’s Old Town Road; both versions, his and the collaboration with Billy Rae Cyrus. Where do I get this bare chilled music from?  Spotify and my son Tommy who is constantly dropping me links of new music.  I don’t like all rap or all Emo, it’s got to have a distinctive voice and a killer corous.

Not only have I not blogged in ages I haven’t vlogged so I’m hitting it hard today.

Realistically I know I’m not going to be an overnight writing sensation but I don’t need a miracle I need for readers who like RA, to star it on Amazon, mention it on Instagram and copy by copy my identity as a writer will be validated. So if you love YA and you’re considering your next purchase take a chance on Random Attachment.  It’s a simple romantic thriller, nothing highbrow, nothing fantastical or magical but I’m proud of it.  I think it holds its own among other YA thrillers.  It would be lovely if you subscribed to my channel or followed me on instagram…slowly I’m building up my numbers.  Even if you don’t do any of this thank you for reading my post.

http://www.instagram.com/gertrudet.kitty

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UPDATE!

Feel quite guilty that I haven’t blogged for a while, but this self promoting business is time consuming. However watch this space. 🌸 Or even better download my book so I can catch my breath. No refunds…couldn’t cope with the admin 🤣🤣🤣🤣 Just kidding, you’ll love it, RANDOM ATTACHMENT is WICKED, ACE, PENG, SICK, LEDGE

Happy Popcorn Lovers Day

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I wonder if anyone, anywhere is celebrating with a popcorn party? I’m worried they’re not; that popcorn lovers are unaware of this celebration of the simple maize kernal.  It’s a little bit of magic the way this hard brown seed like thing heats and bursts into either a snowflake or a mushroom shape.  When I think of popcorn I remember the ban I put on microwave popcorn because it left the kitchen smelling like a tanning shop.  Every sleepover that weird smell would linger whilst girls drifted around looking for phone chargers whilst their eyelashes remained stuck to my pillows.

I’ve grown up with popcorn.  It was part of the attraction of going to the cinema; Butterkist toffee popcorn. Definitely the best in my opinion.

kittymeLast Monday my daughter returned to uni after being home for a few days. It was a Netflix…I mean a reading week. She’d taken a short break in Germany with her boyfriend and mates. Landing at the airport she got a coach home and just appeared…with her dirty laundry and an empty purse. Although we phone, text and face time we hadn’t seen each other since Christmas. I’d been feeling pretty lousy for a while; very slow and unsteady with constant head and neck pain.  For some unfathomable reason I can’t settle down to Netflix alone; I’m wired only to watch TV when I’ve company so her visit was a real pick-me-up.

What I like about my daughters is they’re givers…other than when they empty the fridge and leave with shower gel and makeup remover.  Kitty made dinners, numerous cups of tea, painted my toe nails, gave me a manicure and lifted my spirits.

In pjs all day, eating an abundance of sweet popcorn, we binged romances: I Feel PrettyTo All The Boys I Loved Before and Kissing Booth.  It was our love of this genre together with thrillers that led me to writing.  There just isn’t enough romance. Right now our screens are dominated by fantasy, superhero and reality TV.  I need a dark, mind games, noir romance. As a fully trained popcorn eater I can transfer popcorn from hand to mouth without my eyes straying from the tv screen; even under intense movie pressure. I want to feel unsettled, desperate, filled with longing as a man who can’t be trusted moves in on a girl who can’t trust. So I write what isn’t available on Netflix and I genuinely think Netflix would benefit from a movie version of Random Attachment.

boysMy boys love reality TV; there’s not a hint of romance unless girlfriends are on the scene.  They are brill in that they are self-reliant; they cook, clean, launder. Paddy makes me a coffee when he has one but they are lads and it’s mainly gym, football and Netflix boy stuff in our house now.

Anyone who follows me knows I have bad days; physically, mentally and emotionally.  I swing from confident to self-doubt, buoyant to sunk, thoughtful to selfish, mobile to housebound. Myelopathy with fibromyalgia is a very limiting, unpredictable condition. Reading and writing brings the world to me. I’m living through my books and that’s why they are emotional. Social media remains a friend and foe. Everyone has been lovely, not a negative word has come my way but it’s harder than I imagined to get followers to like your comment or retweet. It’s a bit demoralising when you put heart and sole into a blog and it gets seven views and one like.  Daily I check out others’ blogs; they are aesthetically brilliant, relevant, witty; I can see how hard it is to stand out. But it’s a challenge.  I’m on a journey to become an established author and blogger and on the way I hope to make genuine connections with YA readers and popcorn enthusiasts.

This is a hard one for me.  I’ve no interest in wealth, status or looks. Due to health issues I rarely travel beyond my High Street.  This makes instagramming and twittering a challenge.   Would I love to win the lottery? Oh my god YES! But I’ve never had spare cash…ever…in my lifetime so I don’t chase it.  However I do want to sell my book…because when I give it away I feel more like a mum than a writer.  Selling it cements my identity as an author and that I do need, that I am chasing. I want Random Attachment to pop up all over Twitter and WordPress and maybe I’ll have to travel the world (1st class because of my condition)  making tv appearances. For someone with no money I dream big.

Perhaps no one will read this blog…I get that I’m not cutting edge but I still have opinions and ideas.  It’s nice to while away the time with such a diverse community. I love talking about books…especially mine…sorry I can’t help it; I’m a version of The Picture of Dorian Gray!

So here’s my round up of last week. Grab a bag of popcorn and settle down.

DEAD TO YOU by Lisa McMann

YA. A missing child is reunited with his family nine years later when he is sixteen. Great concept; not original but reinvented nicely.   SPOILER ALERT!!!! I swallowed the fact that a DNA test would have been conducted early on, before Ethan was reunited with his parents. Sometimes for a great story to unfold there might need to be a little neglect of procedure; acceptable in YA but not Adult. SPOILER OVER I loved Ethan; he was authentic, vulnerable and angry. Lisa’s male POV was convincing. I loved Cami and how natural she was with Ethan. Their relationship was tender, honest and believable. I enjoyed Lisa’s quality, pacy writing style.

Unfortunately the timing was flawed. First the extended family reunion? This boy barely knows his immediate family; it would be totally overwhelming! Then school? I can’t imagine in any missing child case a child being rushed back to school after such a short reintroduction to family life.  “Mama says you’re going to school on Monday.” WTF? He’d been missing nine years! He’s 16, having panic attacks, doesn’t want to go to school but dad says he’s got to go? If my son was missing a week and said he wasn’t ready for school I’d say fine, I’ll sort it.  But I’m enjoying the book so I let the writer off the hook. This ‘Mama’ business is odd. In most books it would be the precursor to a haunting.  Why couldn’t she just be mum or mom? My last point. Although it’s YA and from Ethan’s pov, for the ending to hit hard I needed more invested in the relationships between Ethan and his parents.  I was very disappointed in the abrupt ending. Almost as if it’s tripping over itself to set up for a second novel; without giving care and attention to the first. It should have been the most moving chapter where we feel bitterly disappointed for Ethan and his mum. It was too casual and rushed.  So its a 3.5/5 for me

HEREDITARY

Right. This is a fairly disturbing movie.  It’s not your slasher or paranormal jump out of your seat horror.  I don’t want to define it; part of why I liked it was it didn’t immediately fall into a horror category.  It’s an uneasy watch and a film I would rather have missed out on.  Reason being I know one night I’ll wake up at 1.11 or 3.33 and feel a little uneasy and this film is going to creep under my skin and give me the heebee jeebies.  As usual Toni Collette is excellent but the film is stolen by Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff.  My only criticism would be length; it’s about half an hour too long. 4/5.

STATE TROOPER by Bruce Springsteen

In my teens I was a big Springsteen fan.  I saw him at Wembley Stadium on 4 July in the 80’s. Not that it’s relevant but my dad died five years later on 4 July.  I’d not thought about Bruce in years because there is just so much amazing new music that I roll forward more than backward.  One of my top films is Rust and Bone which features this song.  It’s just so melancholic and a reminder that the choices we make during our lives can leave us surrounded by loved ones or lonely as a cloud.

 

WHILE YOU SLEEP by Stephanie Merritt

Adult. A woman with family issues crosses the sea to a remote Scottish Island where she rents a house with a dark history. Being a writer has not softened my reviewing of fellow writers. I hope that I’m fair but I do worry I have a touch of the Simon Cowell’s; that perhaps I’m a little mean.  It’s difficult when I’ve been raised on literary giants like Val McDermid. Yes, it’s increasingly difficult to be original because it feels like everything’s been done…and done brilliantly. I’ve read some good thrillers recently and While You Sleep did not come up to scratch.  ‘Edgy and terrifying’ this was not. Stephanie Merritt can write; I think she’s capable of weaving a good tale, I liked her writing style very much. Unfortunately the sexual, Rosemary’s Baby, hocus pocus was thrown at us too soon and too obviously. Either something bold strikes quickly or tension should build. Also there are only so many times I can read: hairs stood on end, goosebumps; it was very stereotypical fear, sex, occult. It didn’t grab me. It had potential but if you’ve ever experienced living in a spooky place by the sea, you’ll have heard every Gothic tale a hundred times so it takes something original to creep you out. Sorry this was very tame and I didn’t feel about the characters one way or another.

So that’s it but I want to say be kind to yourself, be forgiving, read a little and love a lot. 

PS If you like YA here’s the link to my novel x https://www.amazon.co.uk/RANDOM-ATTACHMENT-Gertrude-T-Kitty/dp/1790375347/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=random+attachment&qid=1552570680&s=gateway&sr=8-2

 

 

International Women’s Day

I wouldn’t say I was born to write.  If I hadn’t become disabled I’d still be teaching in an FE college.  It’s ironic that I worked whilst raising my children yet I ended up unable to work when my children were independent.

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Hard at work thinking about Henry Whittle’s Revenge

As a working mum I felt I had to do it all: contribute financially, maintain a career, cook amazing nutritional meals, clean my house till it gleamed, launder, raise happy, well-balanced children and drop it till it’s hot in the bedroom. I spent ten years close to exhaustion. I think that’s why my condition went undetected for so long; I thought every working mother felt this crap.

I think about how hard the suffragettes worked for equality, their risks, their compromise, even their blood and somehow that’s been misinterpreted. Women can’t do it all; nobody can.

As a woman I want opportunity, choice and equality for my daughters. On the same hand I want my sons to be able to take parental leave without feeling their jobs or promotions are threatened.

I won’t claim to have raised my girls and boys the same; in fact I didn’t raise my two girls the same. I took into account my children’s strengths and weaknesses. Their opportunities though were equal; they all did martial arts, swimming lessons, played with each others toys, learnt to cook, put a wash on, cut the grass and paint.

meI was born in 1967, to Irish parents.  I felt being pretty, well-mannered, happy and singing were my parent’s expectations of me. So I worried I was fat but covered it with a smile whilst singing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.

I married a man of Irish descent and continued on my path of being the woman who did it all as and that’s what he expected.

Yet stay at home mums criticised me for abandoning my children and colleagues resented the time I took off for my children.  My mother in law decided I didn’t fulfill either role particularly well.

I raised my kids to be independent, to enjoy life as individuals, to be content with their own company and not be ruled by money but by dreams.

They still have childhood wounds and insecurities. My marriage, though happy, had glitches. As parents we’ve done a better job than our parents but we’ve made mistakes. My children have seen how I’ve deferred to my husband throughout our relationship and it’s led to the girls being assertive and the boys being respectful of women’s opinions.

I don’t differentiate between my children emotionally; boys are as susceptible as girls to doubt,  identity anxiety and mental turbulence especially now they’re expected to be shredded.  My husband had a hang up about boys crying but I wanted my sons to let it out, express themselves, be open with their feelings.

But today I’m focusing on women.

There are so many amazingly strong and focused women who have paved the way for the rights women have today.  In a way it’s a lot for women to live up to.  I’d probably be a disappointment.  Even though I was emotionally strong and juggling the world I was letting the side down. What was I to do? Be someone I’m not? I was raised to please, to put others before myself, to be subservient. I didn’t know how to challenge my husband.  How to negotiate sharing the load. I didn’t have that skill set when our marriage fell into a traditional pattern. Of course this all turned on its head when I became ill.

I went through a few bleak years; multiple surgeries, chronic pain, immobility.  What floored me was losing my identity. I couldn’t teach or keep house. I spent weeks at a time in bed, high on drugs, low on energy. Who even was I? Other than a burden.

henry front coverIt was the impetus of three women together that changed, not just the course of my life, but who I now am; Grace (Gertrude), Alison; the writer; that’s me (T) and Caitlan (Kitty).  My daughters said write a YA novel; mum you can do it.  In among the regular round ups of how the novel was progressing we came up with a title The Rebirth of Henry Whittle. Which is the first in a trilogy; Henry Whittle’s Revenge and RIP Henry Whittle. The bantar was never ending because we’d turned it into a Netflix series and regularly changed the cast.  We created a soundtrack.  We looked and found an agent. We got our heads around rejection from publishers. The girls supported me when I decided to withdraw from my agent and take ownership back of my work.  Part of me hoped to secure another agent but my attempts were halfhearted. Proceeding down the traditional route without the woman who’d taken a chance on me and supported my development as a writer was too sad.

gertrudetkittyI was very poorly in the Autumn and after a week in hospital in November I panicked that I’d get too ill to fulfill my writer’s dream and so calling on my daughters to scramble a cover together I plunged into self publishing.  I didn’t research it; I have to conserve my energy for writing and I’d no spare cash for professional editing. I didn’t know the rules of social media or the protocol of book reviews so I bowled in with…look at my book!  When you have a degenerative disease and spinal cord damage your health is unpredictable from hour to hour. Pretty much you’re in the shit. I’ve thesaurused; SHIT is THE word!

IMG_0359I’m Twittering; trying to genuinely connect with readers, particularly young adults, through posts that reflect me.  My book shamefully has appeared in every post.  In my defense, other than my children and marriage, my relationship with writing is my greatest comfort. Today Gerty advised me to stop the hard plug; she’s right of course. It’s because Random Attachment  defies my disability;  it’s concrete evidence of my empowerment. I am a woman of substance, yet a free spirit. I’m soaring so high even though my body is sluggish.  So I know I’ve been OTT, pushy, presumptuous.  Yes I’ve much to learn and I will learn. Yesterday I conquered widgets on WordPress.

I’m three months into my self publishing career; I’ve sold books; I’m an author.  I have reinvented myself. Historically I haven’t exhibited feminist behaviour and I’m not writing groundbreaking literary masterpieces, more Mills & Boon with edge.  Yet finally I’m a woman my family are proud of; a risk taker, a chancer, a dreamer.

I live with uncertainty but I know one thing for sure…I will write till I die.