Friday, August 30, 2013

Lydia D Brown - Guest Blog

Using to fund my Kingdom Kids Series Books

Name: Lynda D. Brown

Author Bio:

I was born and raised in St. Louis MO, where I still reside. I began my journey as an author in 2006, when my first book was published. I learned a lot working with the publishing company, so when I decided to write a Christian Fiction supernatural thriller series, I decided to start my own publishing company so I would have complete control over my work. This decision has worked out great for me.

My books are available in paperback, eBooks, and audio books.  Writing and publishing books bring me great joy and I just recently expanded into writing and publishing children’s books, inspired by the great authors I have interviewed on my Author Chat podcast on


Books I have written and published:

Invisible Enemies-Book One of the Invisible Enemies Series

Seed of Satan: Leah’s Story-Book Two of the Invisible Enemies Series

Powerful Prayers to Protect & Bless Your Family

Damien’s New Bike- Book One of the Kingdom Kids Series


My latest project is the Kingdom Kids Series. This series was created for pre-school-2nd grade to teach them how to deal with everyday problems and issues using biblical principles. They are very entertaining and not ‘preachy’.  The characters in this series are very diverse; they include Bi-racial, Asians, Latinos, African American and Caucasians, showcasing the wonderful melting pot of this great planet we live on.

Publishing this series requires me to hire an illustrator and I found a wonderful young lady here in the St. Louis area, who shares my vision, so I decided to use crowd-sourcing to help me fund this project.  Another author friend of mine had sent me an email a few weeks ago asking me to donate to his project and I discovered that he was using . I checked out the website and decided to use this website to fund my publishing project as well. This is my first time using crowd-sourcing and I’m very excited about it.

I’ve been an avid reader all of my life, books fueled my imagination and while reading, I began writing my own short stories in elementary school. My teachers were always impressed with my essays, and they encouraged me to continue writing. Parents should encourage their children to daydream. This is where the creative process starts.

I’m a huge fan of science fiction, horror and supernatural thrillers, and you can see it in my books. Two authors have truly inspired me, Stephen King and Frank Peretti.  

The feedback that I get from fans of the Invisible Enemies Series truly warms my heart. They have told me that not only are the books entertaining, but more importantly, they assist them in their lives as Christians. The overall message in my book is this: Let go and let God. Put Him first in your life and trust in Him. When Mel Gibson’s the Passion of The Christ came out, I was living a life far from God. I was a Baptist, however, in my teens; I developed a passion for the occult. I loved the power it promised, and since I wasn’t seeing that in the church, I left the church and began reading tarot cards, preparing horoscope charts for friends and family, chanting etc… I was also into drugs and sleeping around. This was my life from age 16 until 2004 when the Passion of the Christ was released, I left the theater in tears, realizing for the first time, what Jesus had went through when he  died on the cross.  I began to read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and gave my life back to Him. I was led one day in 2006 to Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” I realized that this scripture was referring to Christians!  Thisknowledge led me to write the Invisible Enemies Series.  When book one came out, several Christians shared with me that they had no idea that something as simple as reading your horoscopeor having your fortune told opens the door to demonic activity in my life!

Links to my sites:


Readers can also email me



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Glass of water and bag of crisps

I get nervous speaking to my publisher. I always feel like I've done something wrong or that I'm in trouble. However, the conversation yesterday was really nice. She told me to enjoy my weekend away, and extended my deadline to next Friday. It's still going to be tight getting the work in by then. But it was a weight off.

So after the phone call at around four in the afternoon, I told my girls they would have to make their own tea and went to bed.  At 5:45 they ended up in bed with me watching a variety of kids movies. My oldest daughter disappeared, and then returned with burgers for them, and a ham sandwich for me. I didn't complain about them eating in my bed. 

Hubby decided he's coming too, he wandered in at 9:30 last night worried about taking two days off work.

I know the dishes aren't washed up AND I haven't packed for our weekend away. Which is unlike me I like to have everything in the car the night before. My temperature is finally down, I'm feeling a lot better, except for the pain. It feels like I have badgers gnawing at my kidneys. 

I am warm, and comfortable writing my blog. Every so often some one pops their face around the door or wants a cuddle because they aren't sure what to do. And I don't feel like jumping up and getting everyone organised. 

In half an hour the plumber will be here to do work in the kitchen.

Hubby popped his head around the door and asked if I needed anything. I told him I'm suppose to take my tablet with food and he's come back with a drink of water, and a packet of crisps. For some mad reason this seems significant to me. 

So this leaves the question...if Mum checks out will we get to Swanage? 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stupid, stupid, stupid

There's no denying it I feel awful today, but at least now I know what it is. I saw the doc last week and he claims I need lots of tests. Then yesterday morning I went for blood test. I nipped out at lunch to see another writer. When I came home my daughter stood up and in her best 13 year old dramatic voice said 'the GP phoned you need to go to the practice right away.'

I must admit a slight squishy feeling in my gut. But on arrival, waiting for me was a prescription - I have a kidney infection. Of course the pharmacy didn't have my antibiotics so instead of going to a different chemist getting my pills and a large bottle of water (yes once again the cottage has no water - long story.) I took the girls to Fareham to buy school shoes and stationary. 

Did I get my prescription? No
Did I stop to drink while shopping? No
Did I drink lots of fluids when I got home? No

Did I wake up at 3 am weeing blood, throwing up? Yes

What the hell is wrong with me? I know this stuff!

My diet yesterday consisted of nothing in the morning, fasting blood test. Two home made ginger biscuits and lemon drizzle cake for lunch. I love Carol she is a beautiful lady, but she must have sold her soul to the devil to be able to bake like that. I ate the cake she sent home for the children in the car. Big Mac no fries (trying to be healthy by cutting out the potatoes. I had just bought school shoes.) Not forgetting just before going to bed I found a quarter pack of tortilla chips, all that salt, is it any wonder that today I'm in agony?

Small quantities of food which are high in fat, sugar, salt and calories that give little or no nutritious value. I can recite the warnings.

Will I stay at home today, drink fluids and take it easy? No 
 I promised youngest child that I would take her to her new friends house for a play date and I need to once again rehash the Frankenstein MS. Plus I've got to pack for our weekend break to Swanage, we are leaving tomorrow.

I feel, and I have felt rough for the last couple of weeks. I've had a temperature since the Umbrella Festival at the Groundlings on the 9th. But I kept chucking down a couple of paracetamol and ignoring it. When I finally went to sleep last night I dreamt I was hit in the back by a truck - this morning I could believe it happened.

Well it's big lifestyle changes now! I sent an email to friends last night telling them that I will be going to the gym more - and me and the girls have joined a running club. If you admit out loud that you are trying to get healthy people nag.

Once this play date is over, and I'm up to date with my outstanding projects, and I've got the house sorted. I am going to structure zen like relaxation into my day.


Stupid, stupid, stupid

There's no denying it I feel awful today, but at least now I know what it is. I saw the doc last week and he claims I need lots of tests. Then yesterday morning I went for blood test. I nipped out at lunch to see another writer. When I came home my daughter stood up and in her best 13 year old dramatic voice said 'the GP phoned you need to go to the practice right away.'

I must admit a slight squishy feeling in my gut. But on arrival, waiting for me was a prescription - I have a kidney infection. Of course the pharmacy didn't have my antibiotics so instead of going to a different chemist getting my pills and a large bottle of water (yes once again the cottage has no water - long story.) I took the girls to Fareham to buy school shoes and stationary. 

Did I get my prescription? No
Did I stop to drink while shopping? No
Did I drink lots of fluids when I got home? No

Did I wake up at 3 am weeing blood, throwing up? Yes

What the hell is wrong with me? I know this stuff!

My diet yesterday consisted of nothing in the morning, fasting blood test. Two home made ginger biscuits and lemon drizzle cake for lunch. I love Carol she is a beautiful lady, but she must have sold her soul to the devil to be able to bake like that. I ate the cake she sent home for the children in the car. Big Mac no fries (trying to be healthy by cutting out the potatoes. I had just bought school shoes.) Not forgetting just before going to bed I found a quarter pack of tortilla chips, all that salt, is it any wonder that today I'm in agony?

Small quantities of food which are high in fat, sugar, salt and calories that give little or no nutritious value. I can recite the warnings.

Will I stay at home today, drink fluids and take it easy? No 
 I promised youngest child that I would take her to her new friends house for a play date and I need to once again rehash the Frankenstein MS. Plus I've got to pack for our weekend break to Swanage, we are leaving tomorrow.

I feel, and I have felt rough for the last couple of weeks. I've had a temperature since the Umbrella Festival at the Groundlings on the 9th. But I kept chucking down a couple of paracetamol and ignoring it. When I finally went to sleep last night I dreamt I was hit in the back by a truck - this morning I could believe it happened.

Well it's big lifestyle changes now! I sent an email to friends last night telling them that I will be going to the gym more - and me and the girls have joined a running club. If you admit out loud that you are trying to get healthy people nag.

Once this play date is over, and I'm up to date with my outstanding projects, and I've got the house sorted. I am going to structure zen like relaxation into my day.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Victorious Festival 2013 - a picture blog

I've been going over some of the photographs I took over the weekend. I thought it may be nice to have a photo blog post of the Victorious Festival.

A working microphone, since they are going extinct I thought I better take a photo.

The lovely Zella Compton sharing a fairy tale with a twist! You can
read her work in The Ten Rules of Skimming.

 The family having a bit of fun.

Trying to get a few arty shots.

Getting a breath of air before the performance.

The talented James Schillemore who organised the Spoken Word Event!
Off the Post a great book for children.

Joe McQuilken is a great poet with so much energy - I love his work,
once seen never forgotten.

I always enjoy hearing Diana Bretherick read, she knows so much about her subject
matter. I was a little freaked out when she read the chapter of her novel. It was the
same chapter that  I had read the night before the event.
 I'm really enjoying the novel
 (but seriously - what are the odds?)
City of Devils by Diana Bretherick

Will Sutton was revealing some toe tapping talents. He's a
great sport, he even made time to listen to some of my daughters poetry.
I hope you buy his book
Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square

The lovely Annie Kirby treated the audience to a couple of chapters from the
novel she's working on. I hope it gets picked up by an agent or publisher, it's so
well written. If you have a story about Portsmouth you should get in touch. Annie is part of
the You, Me and Everyone Project.

It's the first time I've heard this kid read - but watch this space, the girl got talent.
I wish I was writing like her at her age. The name is Katie Gill. I'm
hoping she will be a guest on my blog before she gets famous.

Me having a great old time.

Thank you James

I've done a lot Spoken Words Festivals  - but James Schillemore has impressed me with organising the one at the Victorious Festival yesterday! 

I best give you a bit of the back story first. This man actually emailed, time, date location with ....the postcode...well in advance! He sent us ALL the details we needed to know. Our names were actually on the poster. He arranged that the performers get a free pass to get in and, then made sure we could pick it up before the day of the event. WOW.

But that is not all. When I turned up our names and the times of our performances was on the information given to the crowds. He found us a beautiful place to perform with a seriously professional back drop. A mike - that worked nearly all of the time. The stage was signposted. And I'm tearing up writing about this bit. There was a cafe AND A TOILET in the same building. We had a steady crowd coming through all day.

No performing in a tent in a gale force wind, no drunks throwing bikes, no mother holding up her toddler with the legs in the background so they can have a wee! Instead a oasis of calm which talented performers could stand up and read their work.

Thank you James

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Victorious Festival - before the performance

It is the morning of the Victorious Festival. I haven't been happy with my last couple of performances. I've let others take me out of the zone, drunks, microphones and car passengers. So back to basics.

I've been watching the Facebook pictures of the masses of people with dread. No one can deny that this is a big one. So I'm reminding myself that leading up to a performance is a stressful time and most people will get a bit nervous, it is normal and healthy to have a bit of adrenaline running through your veins. 

Before any performance being prepared is the most important factor.  Rehearsing and knowing exactly what you are doing will give you piece of mind and you will automatically relax.  If you are a Mum this is harder. You have to make sure that kids are ready, packed and haven't forgotten anything before you leave. So the massive checklist was done YESTERDAY.
I'm currently writing my blog and having a quiet moment to myself.  I can hear the girls laughing and chatting downstairs. But I'm lying on my bed running through the performance in my mind to get me in the right head space.

Many people have individual preferences of how they relax and it is about learning what works best for you.  My suggestions include; being prepared, meditation, listening to music and breathing techniques.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Roz Ryszka-Onions Guest Blog

I'm really pleased that thriller writer Roz Ryszka-Onions agreed to be my guest today. I do hope you will check out 'Hidden Evil' on Amazon Kindle.

After gaining a BA in German and Politics from Salford University I moved to London where I worked in Media Sales for several years. Bored and tired of the commercial world I went on a quest to reinvent my working life and drifted into writing. 
After several years of being side tracked by a cosmetics business I ran with my husband, an interior design course, motherhood and a fascination with alternative therapies and all things New Age I've decided that I am now a full time writer and have gravitated towards my first love, which is the humble thriller in its many guises.

Features for the esoteric press; Kindred Spirit, Soul and Spirit, Chat Its Fate, Natural Health, Prediction Magazine.
Chichester Writers Anthology.
Chichester University Otter Gallery Poetry Anthology, due out soon.
My debut novel, a supernatural thriller available on amazon kindle; Hidden Evil.

1. I am presently editing my latest novel, a psychological/political thriller set in Bosham against the backdrop of a romance.

2. In a way writing seems to be the only thing which fits and literature across all the genres my most enduring love; except for my family and house bunnies!

3. Although I didn't know it at the time, part of what inspires me to write comes from the thrillers I read as a young teenager. Whilst at the time I would have said I didn't enjoy school or sixth form, studying German and French literature at A Level shaped me more than I realised, as did my Economics teacher.

4. I don't feel equipped to second guess my readers, but I would hope that they enjoy reading my work and, at times, that it gives food for thought.

5. 'Hidden Evil' doesn't have a message per se. It is loosely based on my own experiences and those of other people and I hope it reflects some aspects of life or, if you pardon the pun, it being essentially a ghost story, death.

6. A lengthy one! I tend to visualise each scene, scribble the bare bones down in a pad, then type that up and then re-write it to fit some sort of coherent framework.

7. I had this (I realise now) strange notion after growing up in Manchester and living in London that village life would be charming, calming and a delight. What I didn't realise is that humanity is more suited to living in small neat cities rather than disparate clusters of houses built on stretches of land with a powerful spirit of its own.
Whenever my husband and I stayed in a B&B in the middle of nowhere, it was peaceful and exciting. A far cry from living in a house set in pitch black and driving home on my own without the aid of street lights and so my writers' imagination got to work!

8. Love comes from the heart and can't be forced. Even witches shy away from love spells! My daughter does love to read and when she was a baby I bought hundreds of picture story books about dinosaurs, rabbits, tigers, trolls, monsters and other such delights and we used to read them together, but I think if the love is there it will show itself anyhow. We are lucky in that we coincide in our love of books and film.

9. I've endeavoured to write an entertaining page turner whilst aiming to shine a light on, what is quite often treated as a dark topic, that of poltergeist activity, hauntings and mediumship.

10. Books have been a comfort to me. When I've felt isolated I've re-connected with the world through the words and perception of other writers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I am not alone

4am in the morning. Nature hasn't even woke up. The gaggle of girls have FINALLY quietened down. And, the dog decided to come in again, as I knew he would and complain. 

4.30am the kids and the dog finally sleep. But the dog sleep complains. He tuts, mutters, growls and sniffs in his sleep.

Now I first started having sleep problems at 14, i've been on and off tablets since 17. But, when it is other people stopping you from dropping off it is more irritating. I want to write, but the words won't come. 

So I scrolled through Facebook and Matt Wingett had shared a link, a funny video about a girl having a rant. I don't know this woman, but I felt such a strong connection. I can't get over that somewhere on another part of this planet, there is someone else, from a different country and race who has the same sort of breakdowns that I do! I can't work out if I'm pleased, or freaked out that I'm not unique.

But I have prayed that this beautiful young woman gets some peace.


Not only have I been feeling the natural nerves associated with performing at a large Festival, I'm a bit anxious about giving feedback on other writers work at The Writers @ Lovedean tomorrow. It's like drinking to much coffee, my hands tremble and my heart dances out of beat.  I really need to shake my self up and get through this. Especially since the Victorious Festival is this weekend.

My oldest daughter was fabulously helpful  last night. She read my work and gave some great feedback. It was nice getting the pep talk rather than giving it. I think she enjoyed quoting cliches back at me. 

It's been great writing fiction again. I like the way the story is unfolding at the moment. It's not a commercial piece, I'm simply having fun again. Plus I'm finding it beneficial to have my teenage daughter nag me into more fiction. 

Tonight the girls are having their friends sleep over. So I'm not expecting much sleep. Even if the girls don't giggle all night. The dog will keep coming in to grumble. It's not as if he doesn't like guests, he just thinks that after 45 minutes they should go home again.

Watson feels the need to go and see what they children are doing, snuff and complain at them, and then come into my room to snuff and complain, and so it goes on...If he's asleep and someone wakes him, he can become quiet unpleasant, rather like Father Jack from the Father Ted series.

He doesn't approve of children laughing and playing. He objects to high pitch screams. 

BUT I need to have my head examined. It's ridiculous to be nervous of a sleepover because the dog doesn't approve.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rising above the clutter

Despite a full hour of erratic dithering yesterday morning, I'm very proud of how much I achieved. Some jobs you can over look, but bathroom, kitchen always need to be kept on top off for obvious reasons. Then, if the house is cluttered my mind feels cluttered. 

The annoying thing with getting the big things done. The grass and the ironing.  Is that you can work all day and the place still looks like a tip. 

My oldest daughter decided she wanted to decorate her room. She proceeded to box up all her belongings and stack them on the landing at the beginning of the holiday. And then  she left it there. She got busy with her social life. When I ask her if she is going to wipe down the wood work so we can paint it's 'yeah, I will, tomorrow.'

It is slowly driving me crazy.  

Tomorrow the girls have friends staying over. They are nice kids. But I've always struggled living with other people. Even at Uni I was unable to share a house. Until I married I went on holidays on my own. I intend to retreat to my bedroom and leave them to it. 

I am aware of the chaos. I am simply going to rise above it.

Today, it is a matter of focusing on the workload ahead. I need to do massive rewrites for my second manuscript and the publisher is breathing down my neck for it. I'm determined to start the day with a bit of creative writing as a reward for the 14 hour day I put in yesterday. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Yesterday, I had a couple of hours writing fiction. It acted as a balm. It didn't help me sleep. I had a rough night, when I wasn't tossing and turning, I was up and down. The snakes and monkeys in my head were chattering. But, my mind could turn to fiction ideas. I'm not sure where this piece of writing is going, but I'm having so much fun with it.

The big dilemma is that last week I didn't do the ironing or gardening. The house is a tip and garden is a...growing.This afternoon I have to get Abigail into the village for her asthma check which will be fun without the car. I also have to re write my manuscript for 'Frankenstein the Play' and get the exam answers out for 'I know why the Caged Bird Sings.' There is a possibility of more work from that direction and my publisher has arranged a telephone conference with me tomorrow at four which I'm really nervous about. I feel like I've done something wrong, and that's why they need to talk to me - which I know I've not! CBT time.

While I'm at the GPs I'm going to make an appointment for a little nagging thing that still hasn't gone away after eight months. I'm going do it. I have cheques to send, and paperwork to fill in. And, I know that the temptation is to try and do everything which I won't get done. Leaving me feeling like a failure.

So lots of things on my to do list, nothing underlined in red. And I don't seem to have the confidence to even work out an action plan. But what I really want to do is play around with words.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Neil Gaiman in Portsmouth

Neil Gaiman, the amazingly famous science-fiction writer of page, stage, screen and film came back to his home town of Portsmouth yesterday. Me and the girls are huge fans so we went along to see him. 

I am loving the current support from my beautiful daughters. I'm not suppose to be driving and living in the sticks poses a problem. Thankfully hubby dropped us off at Cosham before putting the pedal to the metal and dashing back to London. Then we trained it to Portsmouth. The journey home was not so simple but ex Brownie and two Girl Guides made it.

My anxiety level was high over this evening, but I did it, and I am glad. I didn't seek out any fellow writers and sat between my girls. Then Dom Kippin came on stage and both girls got so excited because we knew him, it made the evening so worthwhile.

Gaiman, whose previous credits include collaborations with Terry Pratchett, the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book as well as penning episodes of Babylon 5, and most recently Doctor Who, was born and raised for most of his childhood in Portsmouth.

He now lives in the US, and is back in the UK to promote his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Portsmouth council  named a street after his new book yesterday.

He was such an inspiration. It's been a rough couple of weeks and it was so soothing to hear someone speak about writing. Just listening to beat and positive advice. He admitted getting excited about writing for four different gaming companies, hours of work down the drain and never getting paid. His readings where fabulous - very clever.

And there seems to be no end to the talents of Mr Dom Kippin - he was a great interviewer. Much better than the guys on telly who only want to talk about themselves.

Unfortunately, we had to dash to get our train so we didn't get to the book signing. All three of us were babbling about different writing ideas on the way home. Fabulous. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tiredness and Sadness

I have found writing to a template for an educational publisher extremely difficult. My first attempt was bounced back, very distressing. I have had another go, this time refusing to think about the deadline. Instead, I focused on getting it right. 

Working from home can be so difficult. I write lists, and colour code them. I am not allowed to move onto the next task until I have completed the 'code red' item. This means that the washing, ironing, gardening and all other household duties have not been completed this week. Not until number one on the list - finish first draft and edit - is complete. Yesterday, I started work after I dropped my youngest daughter at a sleepover at 1:30pm and I didn't stop until 3 am. I got up this morning at 8am and worked until 10:50am. My second attempt is now complete and ready to go. Even my toe nails are tired.

I am praying that this one is acceptable and ready for peer review. 

I still have to find all the exam board information and write a couple of exam answers. I am not looking forward to this. But, I'm also not stressing about it either.

Tonight is the Neil Gaiman evening. I'm hoping to 'bump' into a couple of other local scribes and get a bit of work for autumn this year and spring 2014. This is another aspect to writing that I find exhausting. Giving your all to the project on your plate while keeping an eye out to the horizon for more work. 

Unfortunately, even though I've been excited about this evening for weeks my nerves are jangling. I got the tickets for myself and a few others. One of which was the lady who 'accidentally' tried to scupper my chances at getting more work at my last networking opportunity. 

I'm acutely aware that I only have power over my own actions. What will be will be. If more 'accidental' stirring occurs tonight, I will deal with it IF it happens again. No use worrying about something that might never happen.

Besides we have had strong words since, and I have prayed and reflected on the incident. I'm proud of the fact that the chattering monkeys in my head have quieten in record time. I think this is partly due to me owning up to the fact I needed help. I have been shocked and humbled by the support of some friends, and even people who I viewed as writing acquaintances. I have accepted the 'we told you so's' and 'didn't I tell you's' with good grace.

When I think about the incident it is with a deep sense of sadness. I can still see the best side of the person. And even after everything that happened, there are good qualities. I'm going  focus on nice aspects of the relationship. It's sad when someone is trapped in a hole of misery, jealousy and feelings of victimisation. No one can get someone else out of their own hand made living hell. I pray that one day she will create her own self help ladder and climb out of it herself. I hope that I haven't delayed her own healing by my attempts to rescue.

BUT tonight is another author event. Despite me focusing on healthy ways to deal. I'm still a Lancashire Lass at heart and pragmatic. My mothers advice;

'We are taught to turn the other cheek. But it best to keep enough distance between you and trouble - so that they can't reach you to slap the other one.' 

echoes in my head. So in future I intend to be a bit more careful who I drive to events!

Heigh ho, there is nothing more queer than folks.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Back to Uni

Many writers consider getting a Master of Fine Arts degree. But is it worth it?  I’ve heard both sides of the argument: some believe it’s essential for becoming a better writer, while others think it’s a waste of time and money. There really is no right or wrong answer. There’s only what’s right for you and your writing journey.

I'm excited about being accepted onto the MA in Creative Writing at Winchester University. I've opted to do the degree part time over two years. I'm currently writing educational resources which is a lot of work and if I'm going to do this degree I want to have the time to give to my writing. The majority of the sessions with be in the evenings, leaving the days free to hopefully work. 

At Tesco my eyes kept straying towards the back to school stationery giving me little jumping beans of excitement in my tum. It is a huge investment for my small nuclear family. At this moment at least I'm determined to give it my best shot. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013


The grass isn't cut and the weeds are partying.
Plated are washed up but are still 'drying' on the draining board.
The ironing pile has finally collapsed under its own weight.

And I don't care.

My latest project is late, late, late.

I've been sitting down to write but I've been chugging along at around four words an hour. last night the damn broke and I'm finally writing again. I sat down at 6pm and was up until 2am. An absolutely fabulous session were I was just able to get it down. Bliss.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When someone undermines your brand.

What is your "brand"? Marketing experts will generally answer along the lines of "a brand is your business image." But a brand is more than just your business image. It also includes your customers' experience and the expectation you set when doing business with you. In short, it is promise.

One of the things I learnt from the social media guru Chrissie Lightfoot is how important it is to create your brand or a name. As a freelance writer it’s your bread and butter. You want to be the name that clients think of when they need a professional. You want to be the go-to person for someone who won't let them down, if they are holding a festival or putting together an anthology they need to know that you will provide professional content. You do this by promoting yourself and your work through social networking sites, blogs and positive word-of-mouth.

Recently I have had to have a word with another person. The reason? My major aim is to gain another publishing deal. I'm a freelance writer when the person asked to accompanied me to events where I'm networking and hoping to find work, was undermining my brand. My first port of call was to sit down face to face with a drink and in a nice friendly manner, tell her what I was trying to do and why her comments were making me unhappy. I explained my plans for the future and, offered to help to her with her own writing career. Unfortunately, even after I asked her to stop politely four or five times - it carried on. Luckily another freelancer pulled me to one side and had a little word in the ear. Well a little word in the ear and a long email. Bless the Americans they understanding creating a brand, customer service and getting sales!

This is the advice fellow freelancer sent on Friday. It took a bit of time to digest:

'Be risk averse towards the 'sneaky' or 'saboteur.' These people are harder to work with than the openly competitive colleagues because they like to undermine through devious means, including making other people around them look bad. A sneaky competitive tends to see everyone else as potential threats. You can spot a sneaky competitive by the things they conveniently leave out, "forgetting" to send emails to you that concern you, or down playing your successes, undermining what you are trying to promote, using you to gain opportunities but never sending you news on events and competitions that may benefit you. Such a person is unlikely to change her spots, and you'll need to manage around them as well as standing up for yourself.'

This made me sad on so many levels. I hadn't thought of the other person as a 'competitive.' I'm sort of a bouncy, willing to help anyone kind of person. Although I do get grumpy if I'm taken advantage off. I certainly don't keep any of my plans a secret. I'm afraid that I did feel hurt on a personal level. I usually invite people along to events.  I try to see if I can get them a spot too. I share news of opportunities. But the next bit hit home.

'Are you serious about a career in writing? Do you want to be a professional or is this just a sideline? Is this a game for you?'

I'm pretty sure that anyone would agree that those are substantial questions. And I realised, I am very serious in making this into my career. Here is the last bit of advice from my American friend:

'When you're vexed by a sneaky negative person write directly and call them on their tactics. This lets them know you're no pushover. Successful freelance writers have created a brand of themselves. There is no exception to this and the reason is simply client trust. You work hard, build up and outstanding list of satisfied clients and understand that with every new and satisfied client your network is expanding. Successful freelance writers understand that the brand they create is an extremely valuable business asset and they promote it constantly.

Focus on maintaining the Golden Rule in all of your interactions with others. Don't stoop to their level – responding competitively or with snarky comments. It will foster more negative competitiveness rather than improving the situation. BUT PROTECT YOUR BRAND AND YOUR NAME.'

The bizarre thing was that my therapist offered the exact same advice. Obviously, without all the Americanism's such as 'competitive.' 

'When you hear of damage done, address the problem quickly. Once the damage sets in it can become fact in people’s minds. Wait long enough to get your anger or other strong emotions in check. They make it impossible to think and talk about the issue professionally, which is what you need to do. It doesn’t matter if what was said is true or not. It doesn’t matter if the people criticising you did it to your face or behind your back. It doesn’t matter if the slight was caused by ignorance and inexperience, jealousy or misunderstandings. You must address it.'

I certainly didn't expect this when I was dreaming off selling best sellers and getting lots of nice contracts. What has really surprised me is that I feel better after letting that person know that I find her behaviour unacceptable and being assertive about it. I'm feel positive and ready to move on.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Blankets and stress relief

Internally, we all respond to stress the same: blood pressure rises, the heart pumps faster, and muscles constrict. When stressed, our bodies work hard and drain our immune system. Externally, however, people tend to respond to stress in three different ways: some become angry and agitated, others space out or withdraw, and still others freeze up.

I tend to have an overexcited stress response – I tend to become angry, agitated, or keyed up under stress. The two reactions I have that I hate are;

Becoming loud and acting the comedian.
Getting really snappy and irritable with others

I respond best to stress relief activities that quiet me down. Progressive muscle relaxation involves a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body. It's good - but it takes time.

I like using my senses. Focusing on taste. I often joke about chocolate stopping me from serving a prison sentence because I let it melt the bitterness away. I do find that it helps. Sipping a good cup of tea. Dipping a biscuit, the smell and taste - not so great for the figure!

I'm learning that walking the dog can help if I'm only mildly stressed. 

Then there's music. When the children were little I use to sing or hum a favourite hymn or listen to uplifting music.

But what I really like is being wrapped up in my favourite warm blanket. Being warm and cocooned. I find that once I'm calm and I'm listening to my heart beat I get my best writing ideas. That magical dreaming time when a little seed of a idea is allowed to grow. Your character comes to life, your mind drifts and the plot develops. So why feel guilty about a bit of down time? 


The sardine on the plate

The good news is that I have been told I should never go on a low fat diet - yeah! Bad news is that once again the sardine is on the plate. 

Depression is an indication that certain hormones are out of kilter within the brain, specifically, beta-endorphins and serotonin.  When our bodies lack adequate levels of seritonin and beta-endorphins, that balance out our brain chemistry, we may feel hopeless, sad, depressed, touchy to criticism, offended, crave sugar and alcohol and feel isolated and lonely – all signs of depression. And that of course triggers the anxiety and PTSD.

My list of 'upper' foods which have all been in the news claiming that they help mental health problems are:

Brazil nuts
Salmon (sorry but I can only eat tinned and, then with half a bottle of salad cream)
Tuna (same as above - but I throw in a bit of sweetcorn)
Spinach (I use the other half of the salad cream)
Chicken and turkey 
Dark chocolate 

The list of food to avoid is much longer and contain all my favourites. Now 'they' claim you should avoid potatoes and tomatoes because they belong to the deadly nightshade family they were classed as ornamental foods and, were in fact considered poisonous. Some of the problems associated with consuming large amounts of this food group can include arthritis symptoms and .....the big D. But we are always being told to cut out different types  of food. I've gone off potatoes at the moment anyway.

The big problem is that once again I'm being recommend to eat sardines. In tomato sauce which is actually deadly nightshade - which I'm suppose to avoid - work that out!

It is the 'ultimate' fish in terms of health value.

She says, 'It is an oily fish and one 7 inch sardine can also provide one portion of
protein. There are also lots of small bones so you are getting added calcium in your meal. If it is tinned in tomato sauce, you are also getting the benefits of lycopene - another cancer fighting nutrient.
'Some fish eaters may be worried about chemical residues in fish called PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls. These were chemicals that were dumped in the sea decades ago, but are still showing up in fish, animal and human fats.
The Food Standards Agency says the amount of PCBs found in fish is so small that it is still safe to eat the recommend amount of two portions of oily fish per week. They say the health benefits of eating the fish outweigh any health risks from PCBs.'

I'm not worried about PCBs. I'm worried about this sardine on my plate.

I just don't understand why in this day and age it can't be processed to look like a burger, sausage or fish finger.


Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.  One of the things I was really looking forward to when I bought a dog was being greeted exuberantly every time I came home and getting writing ideas while walking. Watson provided me with neither. But he did come with an unexpected extra - laughter.

The thing with a 'challenging' pet is that they make you laugh. Most of the time Watson loves his agility training. We took the video camera and he refused to cooperate. The moment we turned the camera off he peed on his trainer. 

Laughter makes you feel good. And the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humour helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.

More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in the fun.

One essential characteristic that helps us laugh is not taking ourselves too seriously. We’ve all known the classic tight-jawed sourpuss who takes everything with deathly seriousness and never laughs at anything. No fun there!

Some events are clearly sad and not occasions for laughter. But most events in life don’t carry an overwhelming sense of either sadness or delight. They fall into the grey zone of ordinary life–giving you the choice to laugh or not.

Checklist for lightening up
When you find yourself taken over by what seems to be a horrible problem, ask these questions:
Is it really worth getting upset over?
Is it worth upsetting others?
Is it that important?
Is it that bad?
Is the situation irreparable?
Is it really your problem?

When I'm writing a piece for a live event I try to write humorous pieces. I think they tend to go down better at live reading. I don't see it as being a comedian. I am a writer. I write educational resources, short stories, poems, and novels. I do think about the audience I'm writing for and most people want a laugh.

A bump in the road

On Friday evening I had a bit of a bump in the road and needed to get a bit of help to be nudge back onto the straight and narrow. So this week I will be focusing on getting my head back into the game.

Anxiety isn’t a pleasant sensation, so it’s only natural to avoid it if you can. One of the ways that people do this is by steering clear of the situations that make them anxious. If you have a fear of heights, you might drive three hours out of your way to avoid crossing a tall bridge. Aside from the inconvenience factor, the problem with avoiding your fears is that you never have the chance to overcome them. In fact, avoiding your fears often makes them stronger.

Exposure therapy, as the name suggests, exposes you to the situations or objects you fear. The idea is that through repeated exposures, you’ll feel an increasing sense of control over the situation and your anxiety will diminish. Anyone who knows me will know I'm a big believer in exposure therapy. 

Friday was the Umbrella Festival at The Groundlings Theatre.  

Due to my wobble  -  its back to basics when it comes to facing the world.

Identifying your negative thoughts
Challenging your negative thoughts.
Replacing negative thoughts with realistic thoughts.
Learning to recognise when you’re anxious and what that feels like in the body
Learning coping skills and relaxation techniques to counteract anxiety and panic
Confronting your fears (either in your imagination or in real life)

I'm back on creating a step-by-step list to cope. I (with my youngest child's help) had prepared the notice board, leaflets, book marks. I'd worked out and practised what to read. My girls had wanted to perform to so I had to make sure they were ready. Then it was the packed lunch etc.On Friday, we were up early, breakfast and tidy up, dog sorted, car packed and then after a couple of relaxation exercises I was ready to go. I'd reminded myself that even though I'm a nervous driver I had been to The Groundlings before. I had contacted Richard to check that everything we needed was sorted and that members could park in the school. I had done everything I could at my end. But we are guests - I did not control the environment. So if things were what we wanted at the other end I was just going to let the complaints flow right over me.

 I usually give a lift to a friend who - bless her - panics in the passenger seat because she has forgotten something and gets very nervous before performances plus needs validation after the event. In the past I have been able to give a bit of support, but at the moment because my own nerves are frazzled I just get really snappy and impatient. Which I hate. Which makes me feel bad. Which triggers anxiety. And I'm back in the pattern. But I can only control my own thoughts. 

My therapist kindly reminded me that the ability to manage sources of stress, both internal and external, is key to reining in and managing anxiety. Whether your anxiety is generalised or defined by specific factors such as panic attacks, phobias, or obsessive-compulsive behaviours, learning to recognise how stress affects you—and what you can do to quickly reduce it—is the first step toward bringing your life into balance. She said I know what to do - reduce the stressful situation.

I'm not falling off the wagon without a fight. Not when I'm looking after two beautiful girls on my own. So although its going to be a difficult conversation from the heart. Unless passengers can control their own anxiety - no lifts from me when I'm performing. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Working with other writers you find that it's not unusual to get frustrated with a piece of writing that you know is not working, you just want to throw it in the bin. It's soul destroying, you're spent ages on it. You are sure it's a good premise - but in its present state it just isn't working.

Before you ditch a good idea it is sometimes a good idea to stand back and look at it. Instead of throwing it away - can you recycle?

If you have written a love story from the eyes of the female or a murder story from the viewpoint of the murderer perhaps you can experiment with writing from another characters viewpoint. Writer David Dunford impressed me with his ability to write the same story from three different perspectives. A stalker, a victim and...the stalkers mother. The result was remarkable. Three entirely different pieces simply by altering the view point of the central character. 

There are other ways to recycle. I have recently changed a story from an omniscient, all knowing third person voice to a first person account from a previous minor character. I realised that I was telling the wrong persons story. The story wasn't the parents of a disabled child, rather the story of a young adult trapped with over protective parents and the disability wasn't central to the story. It was secondary - wanting to gain independence was what the story was really about.

Sometimes the rework can be done quite easily. And then of course with writing - it can be more challenging. Still it is useful to explore other perspectives. It stops us falling into a rut. Poet Audi Maserati did a workshop at The Writers at Lovedean.  While I was driving him home he suggested looking at some of my stories and finding a phrase or paragraph I was proud of and using it as the basis of a poem. So even if the piece of work can never be 'fixed' the spark of the idea you started with isn't lost.

Think about the wisdom of Albert Einstein
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

You can’t keep doing the same thing everyday and expect different results. In other words, you can’t keep the same writing routine and expect a different piece. In order for your writing to change, you must change.  The degree that you are willing to change your actions and your thinking is to the degree that your writing will change.

When characters disrupt your editing pen

When I read my work I read what I think I have written - not the actual words on the page. I've tried everything. Leaving it for a couple of weeks and months. Reading it aloud to myself or a group. I still tend to read what I THINK I have written.

 I've printed it out on coloured paper, a trick a lot of dyslexics use. I've read it one sentence at a time backwards, couldn't do it! I've tried not reading and editing until I have finished the piece. I have tried editing yesterdays work before I start writing for the day.

And it's not just the spelling and punctuation. Repetition! Holes in plots! I haven't given my characters enough time to complete a task. Sometimes my characters repeat the same action - putting the kettle on all the time. Worse of all, my characters forget they are educated and middle class and display working class behaviour. I can't think why?

Then an easy mistake to make is - making leaps. One minute they are in the kitchen the next, in the garden. It's enough to drive you insane.

The worse is when my characters flatly refuse to end up in the place they should be. They resist the ending in my head and finish in a place they think they deserve to be. 

Checklist for The Writers at Lovedean Anthology

Every year I produce an anthology of The Writers of Lovedean's work. I make it clear to the group that this is not a commercial venture. I also stress not to include any pieces that they may want to send elsewhere as some publishers won't accept a piece that has been previously published in any form. 

I think it's an excellent venture for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is quite common to have excellent pieces of writing that don't fit anywhere. To long to be flash fiction, not the right length for a short story. Perhaps the subject is unsuitable to send away. Secondly, some members don't want to be constantly trying for publication but want to see their work in print. Thirdly, it's a great place to put some of the work produced during the year from writing exercises and group exercises. Lastly, it's a nice reminder of hopefully happy times.

I'm actually cutting down on the amount of editing I'm willing to do. I'm not good at editing and I don't have time at the moment. So, I'm asking that the members take as much care as they would if they were sending it away. I'm also putting aside a little money from the groups fund to ask a member to proof read. 

In the past we have focused on spelling, punctuation, and the layout of dialogue. However, for the members who have been coming to the group for a number of years I would like them to look at the following list before they edit their work.

Do you start the story in the right place? Is there a hook, question or conflict?
Do the characters need to solve a problem or tricky dilemma?
If you have a sub plot to your story - is it necessary? Does it add anything to the central conflict?
Is there enough description? Is there too much description?
What's your vocabulary like?
Have you checked for cliches?

I hope that work is sent for this years anthology - the deadline - and this time it is a real deadline because I will be starting my degree is the 31st of August.

Writing and the HMRC - Part two

I'm currently in flux in deciding what to do with my 'writing life.' I am eagerly preparing for my MA in September, but I'm also keeping an eye on on the jobs pages. I am doing lots of festival performances, but I'm also open to new opportunities.

Yesterday, I wrote about whether your writing is an hobby or if you are self employed (even if you don't know it!)

However, should you decide to make writing your business, here are a few things to think about. If you decide to become a self employed writer the HMRC will see you as a sole trader. Unlike when you are writing for a hobby and you have to pay for things such as Writing Magazines, stamps, a couple of back issues of a magazine so you are familiar with the basic style - these can suddenly become business expenses.

There is a massive list of what can be called business expenses. Check out: tax/relief-self-emp.htm

Remember that you can only claim for items used solely for your business. Some of the things that a writer maybe able to claim for are:
- Proofreading and  copy-editing services
- Setting up a website
- Travel costs for business trips
- Postage, phone bills,  internet, software (grammarly) and stationery

You need to keep accurate records. Keep all bills, receipts, invoices, PayPay notification etc. 
Add up everything you earn from your writing - turnover. 
Then add up everything you have had to pay out - expenses.
If your turnover is more than your expenses you have made a profit.
If the expenses are more than your turnover you have made a loss.

You have to set this against any other income such as earnings from other employment and savings. If you earn less than your personal allowance (£9,440 for 2013-2014) you can carry that loss forward so you pay less tax the next year when you hit it big and get that three novel book deal from a leading publishing house plus film rights..

If you send work to the US that income can be affected by the IRS!

Remember - everyone's situation is different when it comes to tax. So if a fellow writer is not doing the same thing you are, they may not be doing anything wrong. It is more likely that the are in a different category to you. And it is another reason not to take tax advice from other writers and go instead to the HMRC help line. For example I know my personal allowance - I have no idea what it is if you were born before 5 April 1948 - it's all different.

Keep records - be honest - and ask for help from the HMRC


Writing and HMRC - part one

It's so much fun getting cheques for your writing, but you need to take care of yourself.

I was privileged enough that once my second child was born I was able to have a career break for a number of years, there were odd times when I needed to do supply or get an odd job to make ends meet, but for the majority of the time I was in the envious position of my husband being the sole bread winner. At that time, writing was a hobby fit in between school runs and PTA meetings. Any money I earned from letter pages, the odd article or competition wins was put into a separate account. I was proud that I paid for an holiday for four to Florida and a trip to Lapland to see Father Christmas. (Obviously the money was allowed to mount up over years!) 

For those years I enjoyed writing. I entered several competitions every month. I frequently wrote to the magazines I enjoyed reading with ideas. I did not take the money for granted. Similar to a lady I knew who was obsessed with entering competitions - IT WAS A HOBBY!
Some bitter writer once reported me to the tax office. Luckily, my husband has a limited company and I was already familiar with the tax situation. I had previous contacted the HMRC to see if it affected anything. As long as you are upfront and don't try to hide anything they are really friendly.

For the next few years my husband and I were self employed running a franchise, any money that came in from writing was needed immediately. But I was protected again because everything I earned was sorted and looked at by our accountant.

Things have changed again. There is an excellent article about it in this months Writing Magazine. Just remember that in any circle of life their is always someone unpleasant who may get upset by someone else's success however small. Don't think that because the amount you have won or earned is less than the income tax threshold that you are safe!

When you speak to the HMRC what they really want to know is your intentions.
Expect questions such as;
- Do you charge for your work?
- Is there a profit seeking motive?
- Do you have clients?

So keep records! I regularly publish a writing group anthology on Lulu and Kindle - I can prove easily that I'm not using this as an income because I would be able to show the number of sales.

If you want advice - don't take if from other writers because everyone's situation is different. Contact the HMRC 0300 200 3504

The real question is - will the government see you as self employed?

Ah you may say - but I'm not making any money. OK did you know that if you self publish a novel on kindle and are marketing it you can still be classed as self employed. Why? Because your intention is to sell your work - the fact that you are broke and only two friends have downloaded doesn't matter. Those tweets can be seen as marketing and 'actively seeking customers.'  If you are in the process of writing your second book while tweeting about the first you could be seen as 'looking for customers while continuing production.' Your family may think that you are wasting your time, but the government may decide to believe in you. How do you know that you won't be the next 50 Shades of Grey?

So keep records of everything you gain AND everything you spend and don't be afraid - be honest.