Writing Tips For Authors…

I haven’t done this in a while but I came across a range of websites and articles that I thought might be helpful for fellow authors and I wanted to share.

How to Get Your Book Distributed: What Self-Published Authors Need to Know

Three Things Most People Don’t Know About Book Cover Design

How to create a book cover

6 Ways to Get Creative with Writing Your Blog Content

The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2017

Winter of the World by Ken Follett

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Winter of the World is the follow on book from Fall of Giants in the Century of Giants Trilogy.

We pick up the same characters dealing with the aftermath of the first world war and watch them all try to navigate their way through their own particular hell in the second world war.

The book moves from the UK, to France, to Germany, to Russia, to America, to Pearl Harbour and back again so seamlessly tracking the characters on their travels.

You were connected to the characters in the first book and this continues on through the second. You want to keep reading to see what happened to them. The amount of detail makes you feel like you’re personally there.

I would imagine a lot of the historical content is accurate but that some of it is manipulated to include the fictional people. To be able to keep track of what is happening in different parts of the world to different characters at the same time and to keep the stories flowing takes a level of skill most of us could only dream of.

I can’t wait to read the final instalment in the series (Edge of Eternity) to see how the lives of the people I feel I know turn out. Although the book was over 800 pages long it in no way felt laboured to read, in fact it is the opposite, too hard to put down!

I found my copy of this book in the poundshop one day last year and I have to say it’s a travesty that it was there at all but my very good fortune to find it. I’m off now to order the last book.

Are You Planning Your 2017 Holiday?…

I came across this website the other day listing the best new hotels around the world and it made me want to book a holiday!

I thought I would share it for those of you out there looking for somewhere to catch some sun and relaxation this year!

The Best New Hotels in the World

Tuesday Cinema Club: Patriot’s Day

I ended up seeing Patriot’s Day earlier than I thought as Hacksaw Ridge was no longer showing. I guess I’ll have to wait till Hacksaw Ridge is out on DVD. I liked the look of the trailer, I love a good war film but my cinema companions said they felt like they’s seen the film already and it was boring.

Anyway to Patriot’s Day and the story of the Boston Marathon bombings. I remember seeing some of the footage at the time but I don’t spend much time watching the news. I find it all too depressing. So for me a lot of what I saw in the film I was hearing for the first time.

The film shows the lead up to the day, the day itself and the aftermath from the perspective of a number of key individuals from the police, FBI and general public.

It also shows background on the bombers themselves, which I imagine is from pieced together information, rather than accurate accounts.

They show some actual footage from the time, one of the most evocative scenes being Boston on complete lock down with deserted streets, like some sort of ghost town. When you think of the size of Boston is just doesn’t seem possible they could manage it.

The police in America get a lot of negative press and I’m sure in a lot of cases this is justified but it was interesting to see how they go about tackling the investigation of something so horrific. It’s hard not to want to react as a human being and lash out at anyone around you and seek revenge when something like that happens. It’s a spur of the moment reaction to your body being flooded with emotions all at once that you can’t process and control quick enough.

But as a professional you have to learn to get past that and engage your thinking brain to avoid loosing evidence in what it absolute mayhem. Where do you even begin to start controlling a crime scene and evidence chain under those circumstances when all people want to do is pile in and help.

As we know one of the bombers was killed whilst trying to be apprehended and attacking the police, run over by his own brother fleeing the scene. His brother is on death row, sentenced to lethal injection but it appealing his sentence. It seems he is no longer brave enough to take the consequences of his actions that day and what happened when he tried to escape the police.

The thing to take away from incidents like this is that the good in human nature will always come out when challenged and love with always overcome hate.

Tuesday Cinema Club: Hidden Figures

This film didn’t really come on my radar until I went to see Lion and once I saw the trailer I knew I would go and see it the following week.

There have been so many films made about NASA and their space missions that you think you’ve heard all the stories there are to tell, but this film makes you realise there is always something else to learn.

To see women excelling in high paced jobs and being given their proper recognition is something that should have happened much sooner. The black women in question are an inspiration to many others and rightly their story should be heard and now they have.

I found the whole film interesting and I’m glad I took the time to see it. I’m also glad that they didn’t try to explain any of the maths that they were constantly working on as it would have made the film very dull.

It was interesting to see that the very first computers were annoying and glitchy at set up and when you need them to be on top of their game, some things never change! But where would we be without them?

I believe it is especially important to show women as engineers. There is a shortage of people training to become engineers and in the future that could mean that we are left with little innovation in the world and that is a sad thing.

I worked for an engineering firm for 12 years and whilst I never trained, I was asked to look into mechanical engineering. For me it wasn’t something that held my attention. But after typing technical specifications for 12 years I could on occasion challenge something that didn’t feel right in the way it was included and more often than not I would be correct.

Even though I didn’t design any of the projects, I played my part and it was always nice to see the end photo’s and see it all come to life.

Maybe if we show more young girls and women this film we might capture the imagination of the next generation of women who decide to break down barriers to achieve their goals.

Tuesday Cinema Club: Lion

I’ve spoken to a few people about this film and not one of them had anything bad to say about it, me included.

I was told going in to have my tissues ready as it tugs on the heart-strings and they weren’t wrong.

It is the story of a boy who goes missing in India when he is 5 years old after falling asleep on a train and only being let out days later, thousands of miles away in Bengali speaking Kolkata. Unable to make himself understood he tries to walk home to his Mother.

You feel for this poor child alone in the middle of a strange town filled with people who don’t understand him, with no money and no way of knowing how to get home.

When you see later in the film the attempts adult Saroo makes to find his home you can only imagine the frustration he must feel.

I’m trying not to give anything away but most people know the broader aspects of the story. Never the less there was a very satisfying ending and most people had a chuckle and a smile on their face through the tears as they walked out.

I would recommend seeing this movie if you can, sometimes it’s nice to watch something real and not all CGI and blowing up cities.

Time to Talk Day 2017

Today is Time to Talk Day raising awareness of mental health issues and that is something that is close to my heart. I have a personal battle with depression, I have been quite open about it on my blog in the past, in the hope that it would help others not feel so alone in similar situations.

I wanted to share Time to Talk Day and ask you to have a look at how you can help. I’ve logged my conversations for the day and I want to share with you my thoughts.

If you’re struggling today and things maybe aren’t going the way you’d like then please use today to talk to someone about it and to reach out for help. There are no magic wands to fix people or situations but there are people who can be reached out to for help if you are willing to ask.

I believe in the power of having people you can trust to open your heart to without judgement, and how that helps to keep your mental health balanced. I find it a constant struggle to stop the darkness from over taking me when I am in emotional situations and in the past I have been guilty of self-destructive behaviour to make myself believe I am how others make me feel.

I found distancing myself from certain people helps in some ways but promotes the feelings of loneliness. At times it feels like I can either feel like a good person who has dreams they want to achieve and be around people or I can be around people and be made to feel like an embarrassment, figure of fun and someone to constantly put down. So to feel better about myself I stay away and feel alone.

I’ve been through a lot emotionally in the last couple of years and I’ve not really shared it with anyone. But last week I poured my heart out to a friend, via email because I was too afraid to say it to their face.  I didn’t want them to see me cry. I was scared at the reaction it would get, telling someone my deepest secrets for the first time but I trusted they would understand. The reaction I got was incredibly comforting. There was no judgement or making me feel inadequate, there was only love.

In truth that friendship has helped me to see that there should only be love. I’ve fought a lot in the past with that friend and tried to cleanse myself of them in many ways but years have passed and now there is only love. That love is allowing me to love myself for who I am and allowing me to be the person I want.

If people don’t like me or understand me then that is their loss. I haven’t met anyone like me so maybe that’s why people are confused. I’m not a screw up or an embarrassment – I just don’t walk everyone elses path. I’m an individual, I always have been and when you don’t feel the need to comply people don’t always get you.

My path is a little circular and lonely right now. It isn’t leading me towards my dreams but to some people it is giving them what they need at a time they need it. I need to find a path soon that lends me a kink towards my dream but I think in the long run things will work out for the best.

My horoscope is full of love connections at the moment and fun turning into long-term relationships. Even my fortune cookie advised me that a well-chosen word at the right time would bring miracles my way. I’m not sure I believe in these things but I don’t think it can hurt to hope for a while that they might be right.

For all I do for others and the person I am, I think karma owes me a little bit of happiness. One day it will have to be my turn to get my hearts desire, surely?!

So there you are, that’s how I’m feeling today. Why don’t you tell someone how you’re feeling. Let’s all use today as a Time to Change and a Time to Talk.

Time and Time Again by Ben Elton

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I’ve always been a fan of Ben Elton’s writing but I seem to have lost track of it in the last couple of years. I saw this by accident when looking for Christmas presents for others and added it to my wish list. From the jacket it appears that I have missed one of his books being released so I need to get myself a copy of that now.

This book hooked me in and I didn’t want to stop reading. The story of a time traveller, trying to alter the course of history by changing the worst thing that happened is interesting.

How could you know if you were really making things better or not by altering the truth?

That is exactly what the book explores. There are twists and turns which keep you hooked. The characters are likeable and you become attached to their story.

It does make you think about whether or not time travel would be a good thing and what you would do if you were faced with similar choices. Maybe by the end you’ll be challenging your own earlier thoughts on the matter.

If you like a good, well written story with lots of drama then I think you will enjoy this.

Tuesday Cinema Club: Live By Night

It feels like it’s been a really long time since I last went to the cinema. 2016 was a mixture of not many films of interest and being too busy or tired to fit in a visit. Let’s hope 2017 will be better!

We had a choice this week to pick an Affleck with both Ben and Casey starring in films at present. We chose Ben this week and I think we lined Casey up for next week.

Live by Night was an ok movie. My friend described it as instantly forgettable and I can see why he said it. I should add that our enjoyment of the film may have been impeded by the fact, the theatre was so cold I had gloves on and my thermal winter coat hood pulled right up but still couldn’t feel my legs. It’s the first time I wished I’d stayed at home in the warm rather than going to the cinema!

The film had all the classic gangster movie themes. At two and a half hours it was quite long compared to some movies, but it didn’t feel overly long, although it could have ended sooner. The actual end of the movie we found a little confusing in terms of the timeline. It almost felt like trying to cram in details without it being totally necessary.

The acting was good and it’s always nice to see English actors appearing in big Hollywood movies. Although I must say Sienna Miller’s Irish accent was a bit much and not in a good way.

I do wonder if I would’ve enjoyed it more if I had been warmer at the time but all in all it was entertaining. Would I be in a hurry to watch it again? Probably not. It’s probably not going to be on anyone’s all time favourite movie lists, it wasn’t a bad movie, just a little bit predictable and forgettable.

Goodbye 2016 – 2017 What New Hopes Do You Bring?…

2016 for me like so many others was a roller coaster of a year. I had personal struggles with family, friends, work and ended up feeling very tired and alone by the end of the year.

In some respects it is a year I wish I would forget quickly but there are parts that I would like to remember forever.

I slowly watched my Nan deteriorate and waste away from a loving, bright, funny, big built woman to someone who weighed next to nothing, refused to eat or drink and behaved in increasingly strange ways.

The 2 weeks before she began the final decent were some of the weirdest with her behaviour being completely erratic. I remember my friend telling me she obviously had no intention of going quietly and she really didn’t.

But that last week, prompted by a fall took everything that she had left. The last 3 days a slow decent in front of our eyes, as she walked to the day room for lunch of a mouthful of soup and couldn’t walk back, but still had the manners to thank someone for handing her a napkin, to not eating at all to no longer being able to drink and finally not being able to move.

Yet I saw something the day before she finally decided to rest that I always hoped would be the case but didn’t dare to believe. On the Sunday I went to see my brother to tell him that Nan would be joining him soon and ask that he come back to be with her so she wasn’t alone on the journey. My Mum went to the home to visit her and it was the last cognitive day she really had, she was laughing and joking and they said it was like she didn’t have Alzheimer’s at all.

Cut to Wednesday the day after her last visit to the lunch hall and she was bedridden and almost completely out of it when I arrived to visit. I rang everyone and rallied the troops knowing in my heart looking at her that this was the end. We opened her christmas cards and she touched them as they were read out to her. I wrote out her card for Grandad and she almost managed to give it to him. I was hoping she would be able to make a mark on it at least but that wasn’t the case. He said she was following me with her eyes as I walked around and spoke to her so I think she was able to recognise movement at least.

At first she took sips of drink but as time passed she pushed my hand away when I tried so I let her be. My Grandad showed her the photos in the picture book I made her and she touched them even though I don’t think she could really see them.

Her eyes had glazed over by the time the others arrived, I don’t think she was following the light anymore. She still tried to move her legs a little bit in the bed.

But the most amazing part to me was how she reached out for something that wasn’t there. She did it a few times when we were alone. At one point she was facing my Grandad and I caught a word whispered on a outbreath ‘home’ the last word she ever said.

By the time my Mum got there she had reached out a couple of times and as I was telling her about it she seemed to do it again. But this time her eyes went as wide as they could, as if she had seen something that shocked her. That’s the moment she left us. Her spirit was taken home by the loved ones who returned to be with her.

Whatever you believe of life and death if you had seen her that day you would come to the same conclusion.

After that eye-opening moment she wasn’t really there. Her last day spent completely still with no recognition and air passing through her until my Mum and Grandad left and she finally decided to rest on 12th December 2016 at 3.50pm.

We waited until after Christmas to bury her. She is in the same cemetery as my brother now, something she would have liked. She is on the same hill looking down on him but still quite near given the 29 year gap in passing.

We had a lovely service for her. I wrote a eulogy that brought the essence of her 87 years to life and included her top phrases – ‘I’ll be singing in a minute’ when someone poured her a drink but we left her final farewell to what she wrote in birthday cards or what she’d say if she saw you drinking ‘don’t get drunk’.

So now we have to make sure that Grandad continues to carry on with life and picks himself up. I feel guilty that after not working for so long, I have to go back to work, and can’t spend as much time with him as I did last year. It’s hard but I’m not getting any younger and I need to move forward with my life.

I haven’t used my brain for work for so long that it’s turned to mush. The last year and a half of my life has been hospital appointments and healthcare. When I looked back over my 2016 calendar to transfer birthdays into the 2017 one I realised the sheer number of appointments we had.

I feel like most of last year I spent sitting in traffic in my car either going to or coming back from an appointment or visiting Nan. No wonder my body is so stiff and I’ve been getting back ache so much.

But 2017 will be a better year all round I hope. I hope to find a job that will give me some purpose in my life again. It will be good to not be a surrogate Mum to everyone and focus on myself for a while. Although I suspect I will still be expected to be the surrogate Mum.

I’ve been asked a lot over the last couple of weeks what I’m looking to do, now Nan has left me technically unemployed. I really don’t know. I haven’t made plans for myself for such a long time. I haven’t even dared to think about me and what I want as it felt selfish.

It’s funny how the more you do for people the less they realise or understand. I’m seen as the pathetic joke but really no one could or would do what I did. No one would put other people first the way I did. They see it as an excuse but it isn’t. I didn’t want to give up my life when I felt I was just starting to get somewhere. I was a victim of the circumstance and stepped up to the plate, allowing everyone else to carry on as they were. Some would say that deserved some recognition and appreciation.

2017 needs to be a year for me though. I need to start thinking about what I want to do and achieve. But honesty I have no idea where to start. I feel so tired and lonely, I don’t know who I can talk to anymore. Some of my friends became busy last year and didn’t seem to have time for me anymore. It’s a shame but its life. I know they’ll check in from time to time and I’ll see them sometime but it’s a bit sad too.

Maybe a new job will find me some more people to interact with and have fun. I’ve really missed not having people to laugh with and spend time getting me out of my mind and away from the routine. I have a part to play in some of it too. I didn’t always know what to say to people when my life was just one hospital appointment after another.

One of my biggest fears at the moment is attending interviews. I can’t remember half the stuff I’ve done and I’m worried my personal sabbatical will taint their view of me. I’m also worrying about finance and if I’m honest I’m worried to admit to myself that I’m alone and not just lonely. Accepting that is tough, but I just have to carry on regardless.

I also feel guilty. I feel like it’s my fault that Nan died because I didn’t do enough to save her, even though I know I did everything I could. I hate the fact the last words we spoke to each other were when I put her in the nursing home and she called me every name under the sun. When she begged me to take her home and I ran out and left her when she wasn’t looking because she had to adjust to the new surroundings and she would never understand.

I cried getting into the car that day. I had to turn myself away from her and me and Grandad stood looking at each other with tears in our eyes over the garden gate as we knew she would never be there again.

I stood at the curb outside the house on the day of the funeral waiting for the hearse to arrive and as I saw her slowly coming along the road I asked for her forgiveness.

I’ll never know if I really did enough or if the outcome was always going to be the same. Maybe all I did was buy her comfort and time. I just hope that 2017 forgives me and I get some peace.

I hope we all get some peace this year. I hope we all find what we are looking for and have the courage enough to go searching for it and work hard to secure it. Tell the people you love how you feel and take more photos because you never have enough. Make sure you write down all the special times or record them so you don’t forget. Live everyday to make you happy or at least find some small happiness. Life is too short to be unhappy and unloved. Love yourself and find your happiness.

That’s what I hope 2017 brings, love and happiness to us all.

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