Monthly Archives: May 2013

Blog Number Nine – Remember Happiness

ImageIt has been a pretty strange week by all accounts. Recent incidents made me go cold and grateful that I live in the countryside.

The world is getting too dangerous. Why should I want to bring a child into a world where it is in our nature to destroy ourselves? Yes, I know, I’m quoting Terminator 2 here, but I always quote films in times of trouble.

Then I remembered that throughout the whole of history, there have always been dangerous and violent people. Several hundred years ago, Vikings came over to Iona in Scotland (not a city by any stretch) and slaughtered the monks in their abbey. They would’ve been defenceless. Let’s not forget the Tudors, the Romans, the Nazis and the IRA. All, I’m sure, believed what they were doing was right.

But the effect is on the victims, and the victims’ families. Ultimately, they lose a loved one and I don’t know what I’d do without my husband, my family. And I’m scared I could lose everything because of someone else’s violent act, or if illness descends.

What power does the average person have? None, and I’m glad I’m not a politician right now. So what can I do?

Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. OK, so I’m quoting Dumbledore now. But it makes a succinct point. If there was a media blackout on these events, it would make the country a dictatorship with a censored media. We are not China or North Korea.

I read somewhere once that when something bad happens, always look for the people who are helping those who have been hurt. It’s worth remembering compassion and it must be celebrated.

So draw on the polar opposite of sadness. What is the point of life? There is love and happiness. Even if we aren’t in love, we have a right to be happy. And what is there to be happy about?

I can think of plenty of things. My family, the way my spaniel snorts when he’s happy, lambs pronging, piglets asleep in a pyramid and twitching as they dream. I love writing, gardening, watching the interwoven pink clematis and yellow laburnum sway in the breeze.

I don’t think I really have a bucket list. I’ve written a book, I’d love for it to be published, but that is kind of out of my hands right now. I’d like to do some more travelling, but that is only a plane ride or car journey away.

Looking after myself and keeping healthy for the sake of my loved ones is my priority. My day job means I can easily sit down at a desk for anything up to three hours at a time. So here is my pledge, I am going to exercise at least once every other day, be it gardening or walking the dog. At least while the summer months are here. I can’t guarantee I’ll go back to snuggling under a blanket on the sofa when it’s snowing outside. Limber up. Sorry, that’s from Zombieland. Another point well made though, if survivors of a zombie outbreak can remember the importance of staying healthy to stay alive in all that chaos, then so can I.

Please visit to see photos and read sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey.


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Blog Number Eight – The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of



Ah, the power of dreams. I usually dream about stilt-walking and piglets that look like pugs. This morning I dreamt a complete short story. There was even a twist at the end, making me wake in tears. As I scrabbled through my not-yet unpacked suitcase for my notebook, I was desperate to remember as much of it as I could. I found my trusty Doctor Who notebook at the bottom, and wrote down the narrative in note form before I forgot it.

Yesterday was an exceptional day. My journey home from holiday took one and a half days, involving two ferries, several buses, train, plane and car. Several hours in an airport is enough to drive anyone rather bonkers, but for someone who only encounters a dozen people a day (at the most), sitting by the thoroughfare for the security check-through was fascinating. So many different faces and cultures, from a girl wearing eight-inch sparkly pink stilettos, to a gaggle of women in hijabs. Not to mention muffin tops of both genders, the mandatory screaming kids and old people shuffling (then stopping with no warning) causing mammoth tailbacks to that of tractors at rush-hour. Going through the duty-free department, I came out wearing a perfume which cost more than I’d pay for a pair of jeans. Husband and I later agreed that my wrist smelled like the nappy bags we use to clear up the dog’s poo. That kind of sensory overload was bound to have an effect on my subconscious.

My desired lie-in at home was rudely interrupted by husband’s alarm on his mobile phone at seven o’clock, the time we got up the previous day to catch the train from Oban to Glasgow. My betrothed has the knack of maintaining blissful sleep despite the electronic shriek. It takes several shoves from me to wake him and get him to disable the din. I’m certain that if World War Three commenced, he’d sleep on oblivious.

Having managed to doze off again, then came the half-sleep when anything is possible. In previous dreams, I have ridden on top of tunnelling trains, fallen down stairs, found the ability to fly, and told jokes so funny I’ve woken up laughing. Most times, my dreams are fragmented, too small to do anything useful with in a creative sense.

This time, I dreamt a short story and the ending was so bittersweet, I woke in tears. How can my own brain have the power to surprise me like that?

I first dreamt the idea for a novel, when I was at university. When I woke, I went to my Brother typewriter (I could hardly call it a computer, it didn’t have the internet or even a mouse) and wrote until midday. This led me to write my first novel, and like all first novels, it was terrible, loaded with clique and depression. Of course I thought it was brilliant, and who wouldn’t snap it right up? It got rejected by many agents, but I’m glad I dreamt that morning, or I might not have gone on to attempt a second novel, a crime thriller. That still sits unfinished in my computer. I’ve since written my third book, an autobiography about our smallholding and I’m determined to get it published one way or another.

I’m a novel girl. I like to read a novel, not bite-sized narratives, but I had underestimated the power of the short-story genre to my shame. I am converted. Now I just need to see past the piles of holiday clothes washing, and a generous shell collection from my beachcombing efforts, so I can actually do the dream justice.

Please visit to see photos and read sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey.

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Blog Seven – Animal Checklist For Dad


Morning Routine

First off, feed the sheep first (one ice-cream scoop in the green tray), then feed the lambs (one scoop) in the metal trough in the creep feeder.

Then you can get through the gate – make sure you put the top loop over the gate. Feed the pig first by the fence (1 ice cream tub full from the sack in the black dustbin. VERY IMPORTANT Do not feed the sheep pig nuts as it can kill them). The electric fence isn’t on, please leave it off.

Make sure the pig has water (she’s drinking a lot now she has babies). If you’ve got time, count the babies through the hatch at the back of the sty – you can get in through the other field. (There are three black and seven orange ones)

Then feed Thomas The Ram (use the black bucket on his gatepost) his quarter of a scoop. Then give him his haynet (just one a day)  – do NOT go in the field with him, he gets very headbutty these days. Check he’s got water too.

We built a ramp out of mud at the front of the sty so the piglets can get in and out – mama pig keeps destroying it. Just make sure they aren’t stuck outside without her if it’s really wet or really hot.

If it IS hot, mama pig likes a wallow, which can be made by spraying the hose on the mud – otherwise she tips up her trough and makes her own, then ends up with no drinking water.

The dog: He needs a mug of biscuits in the morning, half to one cup at lunchtime, one cup at dinner. He has pulled one of his front claws off quite badly, so just keep an eye on it. Please don’t give him cooked bones of any variety. DON’T leave/let him in the field with the sheep – they WILL beat him up.


Feed animals any time from 5pm onwards. Same routine and amounts as morning.

Count the piglets and check pig’s water.

Make sure the gates are closed behind you, especially the gate halfway up the field.

Other stuff:

If you are worried about either the sheep or the pigs, call Richard’s brother as a first port of call or the the vets (numbers enclosed).

If you need to go in with the animals, always have a bucket of food for distraction while your back is turned. This is important with the pig and the ram. IF ANY ANIMALS ESCAPE THEN SHAKE A BUCKET OF FOOD – THEY WILL FOLLOW YOU.

Good luck and thanks for helping us out!

(Please visit my Facebook author page for photos and updates on my writing progress)


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Blog Number Six – Writing Preparations


Today I have been mostly recovering from a mild hangover and picking up the dog’s toys strewn around the field in case it rains.

Next, I have to finish transcribing my diary notes into a plot structure for my sequel book. What do I find myself doing instead? Playing around drawing pigs on the Paint application. But it was for my Facebook author page, so it wasn’t a wasted task. Even if it looks like a child did it.

Getting ready to go on my writing holiday, I have to muck out my writing folder. At the moment, my work bag consists of my laptop and my writing folder, which is starting to bulge. I tote this around every day so I can write in my lunch break. I’m concerned that one day my bag straps will relent. Sending my laptop to meet its smashed fate on the ground. Something must also be done before I end up in a sea of paper.

This is as bad as clearing out my wardrobe or sorting my general postal correspondence. Letters often get squirreled in a drawer, rather than be sorted and filed in an appropriate manner. I hadn’t realised this guilty habit for what it was, until Hubs came to put some of my clothes away and found a stash of letters in my sock drawer.

Post now gets stashed in-between books and DVD’s in the bookcase. But the writing folder has to be sorted, if only to spare me lugging it up to Scotland (I’m thinking of my arms and back here).

What have I found languishing in the purple plastic folder? Some old receipts, an itinerary from the Arvon course two years ago, where I came up with the idea for my piggy book. It changed my life and I will hold on to any keepsakes from it. But for now, it doesn’t need to come to Scotland with me. I make a pile for things to go up the loft. With it, goes an old version of my first piggy tale chapter, and some old print-outs from the crime thriller attempt. Although, after reading Margaret James’ comments in Writing Magazine about not cluttering up rooms with reams of paper, I might just use it as scrap paper. With another book to write, I’ll need it.

What else? I’ve found some useful story plot outlines from my first piggy book. They can stay. It’s helpful to see how I planned the structure. I need the comfort of corset-plan right now. It’s quite scary attempting another book.

There’s a chapter of Piggy Tale I’ve yet to read out at writing club. That can stay. Short-hand diary notes and another half-dozen versions of the first chapter. They can go.

Workshop notes – what does the protagonist desire, what is the obstacle? Do they get what they want? All important stuff to remember. That stays.

Scribbled ideas for future novels. They stay. I might to use them for procrastinating purposes.

Wow, now I have a pile to go on the bonfire and a pile to go up the loft. Don’t mix the two up. My writing folder is now saggy, having undergone drastic liposurgery. I’ve got rid of about eighty per cent.

The sun is out now, so armed with old story drafts I traipse up to the top of the field and burn them in the urn where we have our barbecues. Big Pig wakes up from sunbathing and demands a treat, so I pull up some grass for her.

I’m ready to start putting my writing things back in the folder. I find my David Tennant Doctor Who poster which is definitely staying. He’s telling me to write. Looking very stern. How could I chuck that away? Hush my mouth.

Now the serious business of getting all my plot notes into a proper order. Cue more paper. Argh….

Please visit to see photos and read sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey. 

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