It’s a Mum-derful Life

cloak

You may think the invisibility cloak is an object that was dreamed up by JK Rowling in a small coffee shop in Edinburgh. Think again. For I, dear reader, have at least half a dozen of these in my HOUSE. And, even more amazingly, I have discovered that  I have a superpower – I am a ‘Seer’. I alone can see through them! Observe the cloaks that I discovered dotted around only this morning. Note, I have moved the cloaks aside for you so you can see the items that would be lost forever if I didn’t have ‘the gift’.

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1. The Bathroom Floor Invisibility Cloak
Drapes itself around the wash hand basin, thrusting wet towels into non-existence to the minds of teenagers; their sudden vapourisation missed by eyes full of soap from a morning shower. There are two cloaks in our bathroom; the other is draped over a little known object, believed by young adults to be the stuff of myths and legends. It is called ‘the towel rail’.

2014-11-17 11.44.052. The Empty Toilet Roll Invisibility Cloak.

Cunningly throws itself over empty cardboard rolls after the roll has miraculously – and unusually – been replaced by someone other than ‘The Seer’. These hidden rolls may at some give up on life and dive off into the rubbish basket below. Or end up glued to a Cornflake packet for a school project.

2014-11-17 11.46.113. The Bathroom Shelf Cloak That Engulfs Empty Vessels.

This is a particularly nasty cloak, hiding empty packets and bottles from the much in need of feeding litter bin just FIVE Inches away. Thank goodness The Seer is here. As you can see, entire toiletry bags can also disappear under this one, while the numerous bathroom cabinets – almost directly below – are left wondering the age old question: ‘why am I here?’

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4. The Recycle Bin Starver Cloak

Quite often I walk into my kitchen in the morning, stare at what’s on offer on the breakfast bar and declare: ‘what a load of rubbish!’ This cloak takes all waste not suitable for the regular kitchen bin and hugs it tightly for days at a time, saying, ‘I really love you, empty bottles and egg boxes. Don’t ever leave me for that blue wheelie bin. You know, the one that lives a few steps away outside.’ If this house had no Seer, we’d all be knee deep in milk cartons before you could say, ‘hey, an Eggs Box One!’

2014-11-17 11.44.395. The ‘Anything That Falls on the Floor is Mine’ Cloak.

A newspaper, a sock, an empty crisp packet, toenail clippings and a few bogies which are caught and cloaked in mid air – no absentmindedly dropped item escapes the affectionately named, ATFOTFIM. Although, this one does have a fight on its hands if said article is edible, thanks to the invention of pet dogs…

Who lives in a house like this? Are you a seer? Is your home full of invisibility cloaks? What on earth is lurking under them?

Answers on an absentmindedly discarded postcard please… or tweet them using the hashtag #itsamumderfullife

Book Distribution Fun and Frolics.

lawfully weddedThose of you who read my Publication Update From a Terrified Author will be familiar with my journey to publication. If you didn’t, go there now. It’s okay, we’ll wait.

*Taps fingers*

*Answers the call of last night’s left over chocolate cake in the fridge*

Up to speed? Great!

So to update you some more: last week, several times as it happens, I published the paperback of The New Mrs D. I say several times, as with each proof review I spotted much needed formatting tweaks and kept taking it back down, which rather spoiled the all-singing, all-dancing publication fanfare approach I was going for. Lesson for today: buy an actual copy your own book and then wait for it to arrive before you try to sell it to others.

Me: ‘Hurray! It’s my publication day!’

Me one hour later: ‘Ooh, wait a minute there. The front cover has slipped slightly over to the back. Hold everything…’

Me twenty four hours later: ‘Hurray! It’s my publication day!’

Me another twenty four hours later: ‘What? Why? All the chapters are on the left hand page. Amazon said they were on the right facing page. Oh wait, right facing means the left page. Right. Hold everything…’

Me twenty four hours later: ‘Hurray! It’s my publication day!’

Message from reader of eBook that night: ‘Did you notice the missing apostrophe on page ninety-seven?’

It’s not coming down again because by now, quite frankly, I’m drunk. Which doesn’t help me when various people from Australia, where the eBook is still riding in the top ten humour bestsellers list after six weeks, start asking why they can’t buy it in the shops over there. The short answer is that expanded distribution takes – drumroll please – another six weeks. Expanded distribution being the means by which bookshops can find and purchase The New Mrs D wholesale.

Something tells me Tolkien never had these problems.

Anyway, book marketing marvel that I am,  you can always run along to my Goodreads giveaway page and try to win one of ten signed copies if you like, which I will then lovingly post to you with an added cheesy joke to prove it is me. Something like, ‘a body with its bum missing has washed up in the Thames. It’s the worst case of arsenic I’ve ever seen.’ This way you will absolutely KNOW what you’re in for when you read the novel.

You can enter the Goodreads giveaway here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The New Mrs D by Heather  Hill

The New Mrs D

by Heather Hill

Giveaway ends October 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Anyway, off to write another book. Sincerest apologies to those one star reviewers… Speaking of which, the lovely Dylan Hearn wrote an excellent blog this week which it is my great pleasure to link back to. It is loaded with fantastic, writerly advice and I urge you to read it:

THE TEN MOST VALUABLE WRITING TIPS I’VE RECEIVED

Standing On My Tiptoes

Today is another day on the emotional roller-coaster known as ‘trying to succeed as a writer,’ because this arrived:

In truth, I had a little cry, thought of my long passed father and looked up to the heavens to say, ‘I did it dad.’

I didn’t sell a million copies, win a book deal or become a famous author; I just made a book I could hold in my hand at last, after a long time of thinking I might never see it in print. And the first thing I wanted to do was tell my dad. The message might well have missed him, because I’m not sure he is flying about up in the sky to be honest, but he’ll understand the sentiment.

So here it is and I’m sad I had to do it myself, but I wrote a book and I got it printed. Now I don’t have to go through life wondering, ‘what if I’d tried?’

At five foot nothing, I have spent many hours standing in crowds on my tiptoes to be able to see and have people see me. To me, self publication feels like that. So, in some ways, I’m experienced.

The New Mrs D is available as an eBook on Amazon and will be available on paperback this week. I hope you will look up to see little me.

Many, many times I have said this but I shall take this opportunity to say it again:

If to see your own work in print feels like something that’s only in your dreams, all you have to do is open your eyes and get to work. You may only sell one copy (to your sister) or a hundred copies (to yourself) and then have to store them in the garage. But you will never again have to wonder, ‘what if I’d tried?’

Do it X

From the brilliant, indie published poet Erin Hansen
From the brilliant, indie published poet Erin Hansen

 

Feeling Your Nuts For a Good Cause

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Illustration by Rob Dicken

Sometimes I agree to do things, then only afterwards wonder if I have the necessary tools with which to complete the task in hand. Case in point – my latest endeavour to write a post for the CheckOneTwo #feelingnuts campaign.

CheckOneTwo was founded in 2012 by brothers, Simon and Andrew Salter, who were inspired to make a change after recognising that men are needlessly dying from one of the most preventable forms of cancer.

If testicular cancer is caught early, it is 100% curable. However, being blokes themselves, they understood the male attitude towards health and knew that guys are all a little too laid back to keep a check on their love grenades.

Last month CheckOneTwo approached me asking if I could write a blog on their September challenge subject: naming your balls.

‘Sure, I’ll do a blog,’ says I. ‘Anything to help raise awareness for a great cause.’

The challenge is to share the hilarious pet names men have for their balls, tagging your posts with #feelingnuts and challenge others to do the same. After all, it’s been proven that once something has a name, you’re bound to take better care of it.

It was only a short while after agreeing that I noticed a slight hitch; I don’t actually have any balls. No, really… So I had to send the weirdest email EVER to a few of my male pals and associates. A few of the folks I contacted are even still talking to me now too. So anyway, I call mine ‘Scruples’ – because I clearly don’t have any. Here is what the guys had to say:

Ivor-Baddiel

Ivor Baddiel, comedy writer & author:
‘I call mine Gilbert and George because whatever I do, they’re always there…and because one of them wears glasses and the other was born in Italy…and because they’re a bit reclusive…oh, and because they’re gay…’

 

 

AFAJN2VE_400x400

Jon Rance, author.
‘I’ve always had a close relationship with my nuts. They’re like family and so I’ve always lovingly referred to them as Mum & Dad. And like Mum & Dad, I don’t mind them being there during the day, but at night when it’s time to have some fun, they just hang around awkwardly getting in the way.’

 

10304431_10154367158700315_3112302952959316077_nWill Stockham, MD, ScottishRoutes.com:
‘Sometimes, mine are simply referred to as “The Boys”. No comedy reason other than to call them ‘The Girls” would be weird. Other times, they are referred to as “The McVites”… as in Ginger Nuts.’

 

 

 

Teddy-avatarRoss ‘Teddy’ Craig, Writer & Stand Up Comedian

‘In general I tend to call them my nuts, partly to facilitate some grim jokes about the health benefits of nut butter. Occasionally, other titles have occurred (McCoist & Hateley. The classic combination of one being bigger than the other but combining perfectly when it comes to scoring), but over the years it’s become apparent that while women accept testicles and their role, they tend not to be enthused by attempts to use them as part of an analysis of the 4-4-2 system.’

FAfRvtqU

Dylan Hearn, Author
‘I just call mine “balls” to be honest. But my son calls his “peanuts”. Well, he is only seven… and he never leaves them alone…’

 

 

Phil_Resized1_thumbPhil Purdie, MD, SnowSkool.com
‘War & Peace…reflective of the two-dimensional approach of my genitals to life and their unnerving ability to get me in and out of trouble. Peace hangs a little lower as he is more relaxed…War is balled-up tight, like a coiled spring…’

photo

Seaumas Gallacher, Author
‘I call mine Francie & Josie because they always provoke more laughs than me!’  

 

 

Jim Park, Stand Up Comedian JimPark publicity photo-1

‘I call mine “Labour” and “Tory” because they are just so alike.’

 

 

And finally, from Mr Hill:

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‘I cover mine in minty chocolate and call them Torville & Dean, because they do a great Ball Aero.’

 

 

 

10153937_226644234197823_5854779169206959961_nCheck your balls and share to save lives. For more funny stuff, get #feelingnuts and join the movement at www.checkonetwo.co.uk

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In Celebration of the One Star Amazon Review

In the spirit of sharing my writer experience and journey with you, today I got my very first one star review for The New Mrs D – in Australia where its promotion at $0.99 has just begun. Here is the review in all its glory. I am now author-initiated.

Mrs D

At the same time, I discovered The New Mrs D has gone to no 2 in  No 1 in OZthe Amazon 100 Best Sellers Humour chart, no 2 in the Women’s Fiction Best Sellers chart and is currently – as I type – the Best Selling Kindle eBook on the entire Australia site.

I was expecting a mixed bag of reviews. Comedy is so subjective, therefore I am surprised to have had the luxury of going for two whole months without a one star review. I have held my breath before opening each new addition, waiting for the worst; the slap in the face. But now it has landed, I can confirm that to me it feels no worse than all of the publisher rejections The New Mrs D received. I feel pretty okay to be honest. And of course, am fully aware there will be loads more to come in my career.

Yet for today, on Amazon Australia at least, my book is outselling ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. I understand the Australian site is quite new and small at the moment, but this still feels like a lovely and significant achievement. There is nothing to do but remind yourself of one important thing: the rejections and the bad reviews are just people’s opinions. If they were all bad, then perhaps I would rethink this new commitment to writing. Happily, they are not.

So to new writers, established writers and aspiring writers I say this: You HAVE to concentrate on the positive to keep going. I love to write and I don’t intend to let anyone discourage me. I do think it is important to look at the negative comments as learning tools and search for common aspects in order to inform future works. All I wished to achieve was to make a living, pay the bills and have room to breathe by doing that which I love and I intend to just keep plugging away at it. A terrific writer who is far more experienced than I – author of ‘The Humans’ Matt Haig – put it so well on his Facebook page today:

matt haig

The love of writing and being able to put that work out into the world to be read in itself is intoxicating. I’m 43 and at last and for the first time ever, I love what I am doing. I think it takes a lot to put your creation – your heart – out into the world, particularly knowing you are open to public criticism. Take heart. I did a quick scout of some of my all time favourite books on Amazon, to see what their one star reviews were like. Turns out, these books are all boring too ;-)

Let’s have a one star review party!

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
great expectations
Great Expectations – by the great ‘Charles Darwin’ ;-)
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - a book I unashamedly ADORED
Eat, Pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert – destroying civilisation as we know it according to Voldermort.
One of my favourite reads of last year - 'Life After Life' by Kate Atkinson
One of my favourite reads of last year – ‘Life After Life’ by Kate Atkinson What is this? First she has a life, then another life?!? This is NOT as advertised.

 

jingl;e
Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – Rubbish! I’m so angry I leaned on my keyboard! Go away, thank you.

 

pride and p
Damn you Amazon! I came here to buy a horse head mask and accidentally bought a Jane Austen Classic! Clearly deserving of one star and, if Jane is reading this, ‘can I exchange please?’

 

save

Buy My Book! Buy My Book! Buy My Book!

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This is The New Mrs D on the first page of the TOP TWENTY Amazon UK 100 Best Sellers for Women’s Fiction Humour chart as of five minutes ago. On the same page as Helen Fielding and Maria Semple, author of one of my favourite recent reads, ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette?’.

Maybe for one hour, maybe a day… or maybe it will have fallen off by the time you read this. But thankfully for me, I have captured forever the moment that I WAS there.

My ‘unmarketable’ and now self published comedy novel for women actually reached number 11 on this chart within 24 hours of its release for pre-order for about an hour, but guess who didn’t take a screen print because she couldn’t believe her eyes? Guess who genuinely believed someone had placed it there by accident or that it was some kind of fluke? Guess who made a mock up cut and paste shot of it sitting at number one? Ha! Just kidding on that last one!

Note to self: hide evidence. Other note to self: Don’t forget to delete this bit.

I’m thrilled and so very grateful for the wonderful messages I have received telling me how much people have enjoyed the book. Self publication is no easy feat; it is as I feared, like throwing a fish into the ocean. There are so many great books out there and when nobody knows who the hell this ‘Heather Hill’ is, it is a very difficult business to sell yourself. So, in the great tradition of giving oodles of my comedy writing away for free over these last few years, there’s a sneaky peek of a chapter of the book below for you.

The New Mrs D is currently on offer until 2nd September at just 99p. That’s less than a tube of  toothpaste from the Pound Shop. So why not have dirty teeth, support some exciting, new comedy writing and buy a copy?

PS you may have noticed subtle shades of self promotion in this post. Ignore (pink elephants) them, you are just (pink elephants) having hallucinations after that third (pink elephants) glass of wine last night.  images

Chapter Four

Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beeeeeep! This isn’t an episode of The Osbournes… We’re renting mopeds!

At the age of 18, I passed my driving test and wrote-off my dad’s car on the way home. I lost all confidence and handed back my keys, deciding never to take to the wheel again.

I’d only taken my eyes off the road for a second – to throw my L-plates into the back – when a corner had caught in the brushed nylon roofing material and pinged back at my head. But that wasn’t when the crash occurred… the crash occurred when I stooped to pick them up for another go. ‘It could have happened to anybody,’ didn’t seem to convince my Dad as I handed him the now-detached steering wheel of his prized Sierra Cosworth.

From then on, I’d relied on others to drive me around. Following a barrage of ‘Are you stupid?’ type abuse from my furious mother when I got home, and my own realisation that I must be the most accident prone woman on the planet, all the confidence gained in 30 weeks of driving lessons was lost forever.

‘My darling Binnie, I’m going to teach you to drive if it’s the last thing I do!’

With David gone there wasn’t going to be anyone to drive me around or teach me to drive – I was on my own. My driving license was in my handbag ‘just in case’ David could talk me into hiring a moped – though I’d been convinced he’d never be able to do it. My choices were to stay round the hotel pool with a group of unadventurous, sunbathing couples, or to get out and explore the real splendour of the island alone. It was no contest. For the sake of doing everything on the adventure tour group itinerary, I was going to have to take to the open road alone. Never had I needed some freedom to explore as much as now.

The short walk from the hotel to the moped centre took me past shops where I was able to purchase supplies to aid my sickly stomach. Bye-bye sugar low – hello very large bag of mini chocolate croissants, two cartons of orange juice and a packet of mints to stop my breath vaporising the faces of all the new people I was about to meet at the painting class. I downed the first carton of orange juice greedily, but still my suffering, grief stricken belly wasn’t accepting any food callers.

‘Now, remembers Mrs Dando, you drive with bike on the right. It is not like in the English.’ The boy from the hire centre handed over the map he’d drawn to Chris’s villa and searched my face for a glimmer of understanding as I sat astride the moped. Peering through the visor of my oversized helmet at the controls that he’d just spent an age explaining, I nodded… and the world went black. Pushing the helmet around until I could see again, I took the map and his pencil before grabbing the handlebars. This didn’t look so hard; what had I been worried about? Front brake. Back brake. ‘Why would I want one half of me to stop and not the other?’Accelerator.

‘And this button is…?’

‘BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!’

‘Oops! That’ll be the horn,’ I laughed, as several mystified faces appeared from nearby shops to see what the noise was. The boy, who looked about 12, failed to see the funny side. Judging by the look on his face in my rear view mirror, he was pretty worried.

‘How on earth do people manage with the island heat in this headgear?’ I asked, turning towards him but finding one-half of my view of his face missing, as the mahoosive helmet remained facing forwards. I adjusted it again, just in time to spy him rolling his eyes.

‘Don’t they make these things for people with normal sized heads?’ I muttered into the sweaty, foam lining.

‘Mrs Dando,’ the boy began, gravely, ‘do you understand? Do not forget. You drive on the…’

‘… right side of the road. I get it. Really, how hard can it be?’

‘Mrs Dando,’ the boy waved a hand in front of my face. ‘Are you going to be okay?’ he asked.

‘Fine,’ I said, a little more confidently than I felt. I turned the throttle on the bike. ‘Let’s do this!’

‘Okay. And Mrs Dando?’ he continued. ‘Can I have my pencil back?’

Except I didn’t have the chance to respond to that last bit because I was already revving off, giving an awkward ‘I’m okay’ wave to the lad. Which I wasn’t, because I hadn’t meant to move forwards at that moment. Where did he say the brakes were?

Even over the sound of the engine and through muffling headgear, I could hear shouts from behind and risked a swift peek over my shoulder. Seeing the boy waving at me, I waved again but struggled to keep control of the bike, which mounted the curb sending several stray cats scattering up trees to safety.

‘Aww, come on!’ I complained, revving the engine a second time. Looking back to the hire centre, I saw the boy had been joined by what looked like two huge Greek men, and all three were now running after me, gesticulating wildly. Shit, was I about to be arrested for pencil theft?

I turned the throttle to full and, as my head was almost torn off my shoulders with the force of sudden forward motion, I threw the pencil to the ground behind me with a shout of, ‘There’s your pencil!’ The moped charged onwards, bumping up a cobbled side street. It seemed there was no way to stop, even if I wanted to, without crashing into something.

‘Mrs Dando! MRS DANDO!’

Another rearwards glance showed that the sales boy had now jumped onto a rental moped with the beefy henchmen on another, all in pursuit. Oh god, this was it; I was about to be ambushed… maybe even killed! The island newspaper headlines of tomorrow flashed into my head:

BRITISH PENCIL THIEF RUBBED OUT BY LOCAL HITMEN

Would a stolen pencil really warrant such an elaborate daylight operation? Of course not, stupid woman. Maybe I was being mugged. Was it the stash of Euros in my purse I’d flashed while paying for the moped? Oh no, wait – they surely weren’t after my faux diamond emblazoned Primark flip-flops?

In a panic, I kicked one off into the path of an elderly couple as they strolled out from a hotel car park. The shoe shot straight into the old man’s portly, bare stomach with a sickening slap.

‘They have the diamonds!’ I called, mercilessly pointing them out to the gangsters before whizzing onwards to make my getaway.

But it was all for nothing; the roar of bikes continued behind me. I slowed to turn a corner into another side street and heard a shout.

‘Stop! Mrs Dando! You stop NOW!’

What on earth could they want? I reached down with one hand, trying to take the other flip-flop off to throw back as a ransom, but dropping it instead. As I cursed myself and looked up, an ancient Greek woman on a scooter was zipping round a bend straight at me, only swerving at the last second to avoid a collision.

‘What the…’

‘WAAAAHHHH!!!’ We screamed the last part in unison; ‘Waaaahhhh’, it transpired, being the international synonym for ‘OH SHIIIIIT!’ In an instant, her front wheel bounced off the kerb, sending both the old lady, and the basket of lemons balanced on her handlebars, flying, Frank Spencer style through the air towards a couple of teenage boys. Christ, I’m in a Carry On film.

‘Save the lemons!’ I called back, rattling onwards with no time to look behind again or wonder why my first manic thoughts were for Frank Spencer and the fruit – not the little old lady. Speeding away from the increasing chaos behind, I rounded a honking car pulling out from a driveway and yelled at its startled occupants, ‘CALL THE POLICE!’

Despite the throttle being fully open it seemed the tiny moped engine had no more to give and the roar from the biker gang got closer. Turning round once more, I could see the two bikes were still in hot pursuit, and for the first time I noticed the boy had a very fat man riding pillion. So there were four of them! And the fourth had mad lady-killer written all over him. Heart pounding with fear, I grabbed the nearest thing to a weapon from the moped basket and began hurling ammunition overhead at the assailants. However, taking my eyes off the road to lob miniature chocolate croissants was a last, fatal mistake.

Crunch!

The moped bumped straight up a kerb, sending my stomach boinging up to my lungs and my knicker tops rolling back down below my belly again, as the bike came to a near halt. This was it, the end. I waited for my life to flash in front of me… but a massive, spiny bush got there first. Without testing the moped’s brakes and fuelled by an extraordinary burst of adrenaline, I dived off, sending it ploughing, un-helmed, into the bush. This was where, in a moment of TV cop-esque brilliance, I rolled over-and-over onto a grass bank before springing back to my feet.

‘Whoa!’ For a split second, Mrs David Dando was Lara Croft; crime-fighting, tomb raiding stunt rider. That was until My Big Fat Greek Assassin got off his bike and made towards me and I remembered who I actually was. Bawling Binnie – with her knickers rolling down again.

‘Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me! I’m unarmed!’ I yelled, trying – and failing – to get my helmet off before throwing up my hands in surrender to the waiting gang.

‘Other side, Mrs Dando! Other side!’ yelled Zorba the Crook, taking a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe bits of chocolate and pastry from his fat sweaty face. Spying his accomplices coming up behind, I turned around and flung myself face down in the dirt with my hands behind my still helmeted head.

‘Okay, okay,’ I whimpered, ‘just, please don’t hurt me.’

There are moments that should flash through your mind when you think death is imminent; the faces of loved ones, lifelong friends, long-forgotten happy moments, childhood memories. This was my crucial moment – and I was going to die wondering if Greece had body bags big enough for me in this colossal monstrosity of a biking helmet.

The Fat Assassin flopped down beside me and prodded my shoulder. ‘Oh God,’ I thought.‘He’s really mad! Goodbye cruel world!’

Dear Facebook, today I was so hot. Oops, bloody mobile phone typos! I was s-h-o-t.

‘Mrs Dando…’

As I lay there with my eyes screwed shut waiting to feel a gun in my ribs, (please God let it be a gun in his pocket) hearing him huffing like a muddy, wet contestant on Total Wipeout, his voice took on a calmer, more sinister tone.

‘I not kill you. You kill yourself.’

I froze. Oh my God, he was going to make me shoot me.

I heard him take another deep breath and cough. ‘Mrs Dando,’ he said finally. ‘You drive with the moped on the other side!’

‘I didn’t mean… I wasn’t… oh!’ Ah. Right… I rolled back over to face him, but again, met with nothing but blackness. Bloody helmet! So, I wasn’t going to be bumped off for stealing the island’s only pencil. Or for assault with a supersized bag of mini croissants.

Twisting the monstrous headgear off and easing myself upright, I was met by four nonplussed faces caked in, well… cake.

‘Oh,’ I said, smoothing my hair in an attempt to recuperate some composure. ‘Well, er… why didn’t you just say so?’

RIP Mr Comedy

I have to confess, on my work schedule for today I had, ‘write comedy blog.’ And then, while reading a book in bed at 12.55am this morning, a message popped up on my phone:

ryan

This was how I learned the news, in a KIK message from my son.

My first reaction was to (want to) believe it was a terrible hoax, so I took to Google. When I found out it was in fact true, to be perfectly honest, I lay back in my bed and sobbed for half an hour or more, crying for a person I never knew or met.

This is the mark of true genius.

Like many people today, I am watching the news, the tributes, the social media outpourings and reading all the reports, seeking answers as to why he is gone. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this in my lifetime. It would appear that the incredibly sad and untimely death of Robin Williams touched just about everybody in the civilized world. The newsreader on BBC1 this morning even seemed to be struggling at times to read her script on the tributes that were pouring in. I am crying again now as I type.

I just can’t take it in and I hardly understand the depth of my own grief. But then:

‘What’s wrong with death sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can’t we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and God forbid, maybe even humour. Death is not the enemy gentlemen. If we’re going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.’

Patch Adams is one of my favourite films of all time. I think I have watched it maybe twenty times or more. It hit home to me because eighteen years ago I was an auxiliary nurse who was often in trouble for behaving, shall we say, ‘less than seriously in a very serious environment’. Many of the patients on the ward I worked on were terminally or life threateningly ill. I have been present as countless people came to the end of their lives and to say it was a humbling, life-changing experience for me would be an understatement. Those people taught me how fragile life is and that every day is a gift. They also taught me that laughter can lift us through the most trying moments of a lifetime. I once told an elderly and very proud amputee, who had refused a much needed bed bath out of awkwardness and embarrassment, ‘not to worry, at least there is less to wash.’ He laughed. And you could literally feel the tension leave him. He would only let me do it from that day forwards.

My own father was an amputee. When people asked what had happened to his leg, he would tell them he’d been biting his toe nails and forgot to stop.

More than teaching us that humour can be a powerful medicine; more than its showing us that humility is one of life’s greatest and most admirable traits in a person, this scene from Patch Adams tells us it is okay to say how we feel when someone we loved and admired has died; that no one has to suffer from indifference.

Today, I confess I was unable to write my comedy blog. I could only come here to tell you that I loved Robin Williams, ‘as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.’

He was that hilarious alien on the telly when I was a girl. The army DJ I loved to impersonate when I was 16; the Peter Pan who reminded me how much I missed my father when I was 20; the madcap nanny who helped me laugh away the tears from the pain of divorce and the quick-witted comedy genius I wished I could emulate.

Robin Williams did that thing I try to do in my own work – find laughter among the most serious of subjects, putting a little unashamed heart into everything and being able to leave the world having made as many people as possible in some way changed. Even in his last act, Robin Williams has taught us yet another important lesson: that depression is a darker and deadlier thing than a great many of us realise. Today I suspect many people will contact that someone in their lives that they worry might be or have been a little lost and reach out a hand to say, ‘I am here should you need me’. I know I have – twice already.

So I am sad today; I have nothing funny to write and have failed miserably on the indifference scale concerning the death of someone I have no right to grieve. He wasn’t my relative or my friend.

He was just a guy on the telly that made me laugh, cry, think and – yes goddammit – feel. There is, was, nor will there ever be anyone else like Robin Williams.

Sorry Robin, yesterday the world lost a spark of madness.

You will be missed. x

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You’re only given a spark of madness. You musn’t lose it

 

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Dear God, I Think I’m Too Short For The Man Booker Longlist

From one of my favourite films of all time.

The Man Booker Prize long list has today been announced, and, I know what you’re thinking but, no… I’m not on it. Maybe it’s because I am, in fact, short. Or maybe it’s because I’m more Rita Walters than Hillary Mantel ;-)

However, with The New Mrs D shockingly overlooked – despite its obvious brilliance – in the spirit of getting into the starting blocks for 2015, I’m now working on book two.

‘So she thought she would write great works of fiction; stroking clean pages with her literary eloquence. She’ll bleed over her words lest she might carry her reader to deepest, darkest Peru (it’s not that dark) (okay, it’s night-time in the story, shhh!), filling their noses with the sweet aroma of long journeys; of heat; of airplane turbulence; of the blood of innocents; of a brisk, early morning swim through clear, cool Mediterranean waters.

She’ll seek to lead them to sadness, anger or elation with long, graphite-busting paragraphs of original, erudite prose. She’ll pass on feelings, experiences, haunting images and tastes to book-hungry minds.

And she will win prizes. Studious types will debate over the symbolism in her writings; academics will quote passages in her name. She is scholarly; she is art in its purest form. She can be called, ‘writer’.’ She might even get a Wiki page…

She takes her pencil out and stares at another blank page. What great, opening line can her readers look forward to in book two? And in a flash it pours forth – the legend:

‘Sometimes, I’m so lonely and so frustrated that I buy sexy vegetables.’ Cathy Spires, widow, aged 68.

And so begins book two. Working title: ‘I Can’t Believe You Bloody Left Me’.’

Here’s to (WO)Man Booker 2015…

Jon Rance – This Family Life Blog Tour

NEW AUTHOR PHOTOAuthor Jon Rance has invited me to host his blog tour this month, which I was more than happy to do as I am currently enjoying his latest, brilliant novel, This Family Life. The book is a hilarious and heart warning sequel to the Amazon top ten best selling book ‘This Thirtysomething Life’.  

Jon says:

Firstly a HUGE thank you to Heather for hosting what is the thirteenth stop on my ‘This Family Life’ Blog Tour. I can’t believe this is stop thirteen, only four more left. Blimey! If you missed the last blog you can see it here http://www.suewatsonbooks.com/

OK so let’s get cracking. There are lots of subplots in the book that I really enjoyed writing and one of them is the pub quiz. Like most of the book this idea was born out of my own experiences of pub quizzes. It also gave me the chance to give the main character Harry some bloke time with his friend Steve, and new neighbour Mark. I was thinking up ways to get these three together (I can’t divulge why without spoilers), and the idea of the pub quiz just popped into my head and I’m so glad it did.

The pub quiz not only gave me the chance to get the boys together, which definitely helped along the plot, but also gave me the chance to add lots of comedy. I’ve said this before in a few other blogs, but comedy is always about creating scenes where humour can flourish, and the pub quiz is definitely one. As soon as I started writing the pub quiz scenes, I immediately knew that pub quiz team names could play a part in the comedy, and that’s where the idea for the Harry Potter team came from. I loved the idea of Harry, Steve, and Mark, or team ‘Beers for Fears’ having a rival team that come dressed up as characters from Harry Potter. It definitely adds some great comedy moments.

One of the things I love about writing comedy is the room it gives me to be a bit silly. Being an author of comedy drama, a lot of time I’m focusing on character development, plotline, dramatic scenes, and trying to squeeze in some humour too, but occasionally I just get to be silly and the pub quiz scenes gave me that chance. It’s lovely to sit down to work and the only thing on my mind is, ‘Right, let’s write something really bloody funny and a bit silly.’ Below is an excerpt from the first pub quiz scene.

7.35 p.m.

Off to the pub. William asleep. Emily looking a bit frazzled. I gave her a kiss on the cheek, pulled a Cornflake from her hair and she plodded upstairs to bed. I’m off to drink as many beers as I can while answering general knowledge questions with Steve and Mark – or as we’re known on the pub quiz circuit, Beers for Fears.

11.45 p.m.

In the kitchen. Emily and William asleep (phew). Eating crisps and drinking a beer.

 Quiz night went far better than I’d imagined. It was a bit stuffy at first, but soon Beers for Fears united in our competitiveness and mutual hatred of team Quizzitch (a group of four IT nerds who actually came dressed as characters from Harry Potter).

We got there and managed to nab the last table and then the quiz began. It took us a while to get into our stride, but once we delegated areas of expertise we were flying.

Steve took Entertainment, encompassing music, musicals, film & TV, and celebrity trivia. Mark took Sports and Geography, while I took History and Literature.

‘What character did Una Stubbs play in Worzel Gummidge?’ said Brian – the portly and pissed pub quiz host. Brian had obviously confused pub quiz night for pub pissed night.

‘Aunt Sally,’ whispered Steve and I jotted it down.

‘In which Shakespeare play did the character Puck appear?’

Mark and Steve looked at me. I wasn’t completely sure, but I went with my gut.

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ I said.

It was during the early rounds that we first noticed team Quizzitch. Every time they knew an answer they would all shout out phrases from Harry Potter like, ‘Furnunculus!’ or ‘Muffliato!’ Then they started getting personal, and looking at other teams and saying things like, ‘Must be Mudbloods,’ and then they would all laugh. We were sitting next to team Let’s Get Quizzical and we were both tired of Quizzitch before the half-time sausage rolls.

‘What’s up with them?’ said Mark.

‘Seems like they have a case of the Potters,’ said Steve.

‘I’d like to shove a Muggle right up their Hogwarts,’ I said and Mark and Steve laughed and we vowed, along with our allies Let’s Get Quizzical that we had to beat them. Unfortunately, Quizzitch won the quiz with an impressive forty-seven out of fifty and we came in third with forty-four. Team Quizimodo came in second with forty-five.

SYNOPSIS

Things that might happen during your first year of parenthood:BeFunky_NEW-JACKET-FOR-AMAZON.jpg

1. You’ll get covered in a ‘nuclear’ poo.

2. You’ll be convinced your son is talking with a Japanese accent.

3. You’ll worry that when your son waves, it looks like a Nazi salute.

Of course, this might just be Harry Spencer.

Taking up where This Thirtysomething Life left off, Harry Spencer and is wife Emily are back and trying to survive their first year of parenthood. It has its ups and downs (and a few bits in the middle), but along the way they begin to understand the true meaning of family and what it takes to be a parent.

Featuring a hilarious cast of extras including Harry’s father-in-law Derek, who has a unique problem with Scotch, Steve and Fiona, the parents from children’s entertainment hell, and a yoga instructor with a prominent camel-toe, This Family Life is the ultimate comedy for anyone who is a parent, has a parent, or is thinking about becoming one.

This Family Life is available for just 99p on Amazon HERE

Thanks to Jon for stopping by :-)

 

Interviewing Myself – Meet: Bernice Dando

Meet My Character – A Blog Hop

You know you’ve really made the big time when you decide to interview yourself about your new book. Which, for those that don’t know or visit often, is called, ‘The New Mrs D’.

But, actually, the lovely Anna Mansell invited me on a blog hop and, once I’d ascertained there was no physical exercise required, I jumped at the chance – metaphorically speaking.

So here it is, my interview with me. Although, at least one of these characters may have been changed in order to protect their identity.

Me:So, what is the name of your main character? Is he/she real or fictitious?

Me2 (The one that wrote the book)My main character is called Bernice, although her husband calls her ‘Binnie’.  Interestingly, she hates this nickname but has adopted it, even referring to herself as Binnie in the beginning of the book. This is because she has a codependent personality due to being raised by a narcissistic mother. One of the traits of codependency is taking on other’s views as your own;  pushing your own thoughts and feelings out of your awareness because of fear and guilt and a wish to please others.

Bernice is very much fictitious, although she is an amalgamation of several people I have known.

Me: When and where is the story set?

Me2: It’s set in a beautiful, small, non-touristy island in Greece, which is exactly where I wish I was now so I could get on with the sequel. Please send plane tickets.

Me: What should we know about him or her?

Me2: That she doesn’t mince her words, is perfectly flawed and that she has a wicked and sometimes dark/gallows’ humour. Oh and she swears a lot – but frequently wishes she didn’t. This is also a symptom of her own lack of self worth; she even tries to suppress her natural personality so as not to displease others.

Me: What is her main conflict?

Me2: She is just five days into her second marriage – and on honeymoon – when she realises her husband is addicted to porn. She knew he had used it in the past, but didn’t realise it was an addiction. He can’t stop and it is becomes painfully clear it is the only way he can achieve sexual gratification. Her dilemma is deciding whether this is a good enough reason to leave, particularly as their marriage has only just begun. She is hurt, degraded and heartbroken but grapples with the notion that society would expect her to stay and work on it with him, despite his inability to take the problem seriously. She does believe in marriage and using porn is – in her eyes – probably not generally considered as actual infidelity. Is it a good enough reason to leave? She knew he’d done it before, she knows there are women who don’t mind and indeed share a taste for porn with their partners; is it her problem or his?

Me: What is Bernice’s Goal?

Me2: First and foremost, it is to get as far away from her husband as she can and just have some me time. Doing this on your honeymoon is, I grant you, rather unusual but after a shaky start she begins to enjoy the ride and find out a lot about herself. There are other goals too, which fall by the wayside – like keeping herself covered up and not making a fool of herself. But she fails at these – sometimes in a seriously spectacular fashion.

How come you’re writing this on Friday when your blog hop slot was Monday?

Me2: That wasn’t one of the questions!

Me: I know, just tell everyone how you are off on holiday tomorrow, to a beautifully remote part of northern Scotland.

Me2: Oh yes, I’m off to Sutherland tomorrow for a relaxing week away. Thanks for reading; possibly while I will be looking at this and not feeling at all bad in my swimming costume:

Photo is Balnakeil beach in Sutherland

And so, onward with that baton – to Trish Hills. Trish and her fiancé have recently decided to leave the rat race and move into a caravan while doing up a bus to tour the UK in. She is a wannabe writer, a bookworm and blogger at www.tishylou.wordpress.com

And to Kate Wilson. Kate is a blogger, arts professional and aspiring writer. She currently works for Literature Works, the South West Literature Development Agency where she supports a range of projects including Exeter Poetry Festival and Plymouth International Book Festival. For Kate there are few greater pleasures than curling up with a good book and you can keep track of what she’s reading on her blog: www. katejwilson.com 

Falling off treadmills & running home to blog about it

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