Tag Archives: adventure holiday

A Comedy Writer’s Trip to St Kilda

I was found remaking a movie last month, on the top of the highest sea cliffs in the UK. Well, a book and a film if I’m honest. One minute I was Cathy, hand dramatically against forehead, searching for Heathcliffe through the romantic mists and only finding – and narrowly missing toppling off – real cliff-cliffs.

“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The astonishing view of St Kilda from Seamus Morrison’s boat

I could tell Mr wasn’t impressed with my literary show as we floundered about lost for a hairy quarter of an hour in the misty bog. Well, he couldn’t see me to be fair. And I couldn’t see him, which was why I panicked a bit when a giant sea bird chose that moment to dive bomb me from out of nowhere.

‘Woah! Not that form, Heathcliffe.’

We were extreme islanding; hiking to the top of ‘the island at the end of the world’, which we all knew was in Scotland of course. St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides to be exact. And even on that boiling hot, Scottish summer’s day – known locally as freak weather conditions – Hirta had its very own cloud which I’m convinced just sits there on guard all the time, like a giant, fluffy, white lizard from a 1950’s B movie.

Now, I know you’re not going to believe I did this, so here’s the photographic evidence of me doing ‘a Cathy’ just prior to ‘the Tippi’ which I’m going to tell you about next: 

If you haven’t heard of St Kilda until now, it’s an amazing place with a fascinating history which you must look up when you’ve had enough of reading this brief spin on my day here.

The people that had lived on the only occupied island, Hirta, since the Bronze Age were evacuated; forced to leave behind everything they knew, in 1930. Currently, the only year-round residents are military personnel, conservation workers, volunteers, scientists, wild Soay sheep and more birds than you can shake a mobile phone at. Which I absolutely did not do, after innocently and accidentally stumbling across a Skua’s nest while wandering about lost in the fog, just in case any member of the trust is reading this.

Which brings me to that Tippi Hedren in The Birds thing.

A trip to St Kilda was on my bucket list. I got off the boat and strode up that cliff side like the intrepid adventurer I was in my head, proud as punch to look back and find not another soul had been brave enough to follow us. Weren’t we fit and daring?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The mostly abandoned houses on High Street

No, actually. We were knackered, a little bit lost and slapped on the head a couple of times by the mahoosive webbed feet of an angry Skua that didn’t take kindly to my wandering too near their nest. You can’t blame them really. But it was an accident and I did back away without having disturbed anything but my husband, who thought I was having an altitude meltdown and was laughing until I opened my back pack and started pelting him with sandwiches in the greatest, most quick-thinking display of self preservation I’ve ever achieved.

Me and birds.

I wasn’t stood behind some bird watchers, with their cameras trained on 40,000 barnacle geese that had settled in a field on Gruinart, before shouting, ‘Luci, come look at this!’ to my daughter on a day in 2013 that this entry happened on the Islay blog either…

barnace

Many, many thanks to Seumas and our brilliant guide John of www.seaharris.com, for what was one of the most spectacular and amazing days ever, made only better by the three home-made portions of ginger cake we ate. Magic.

Advertisements

Porn Addiction IS No Laughing Matter

porn quote

It’s just five days since The New Mrs D was released and I have already had some wonderful feedback from readers, most saying they completely associate with her. One Amazon reviewer sums it up nicely:

It is so refreshing to have a main character who isn’t perfect, who is always struggling with weight, self-esteem issues and pants that keep rolling down (due to muffin tops and not sexual behaviour).’

However, yesterday I received an email from someone, who I must point out has NOT read the book, which has led me to sit down to write this blog post today.

The New Mrs D tackles the difficult, mostly unspoken about subject of porn addiction in a work of comedy fiction. The person emailing me asked why I would think porn addiction, which has blown up like a bomb in society, with many innocent people getting hurt every minute of every day, is something to laugh about. I will not name this person; it was a highly personal and confidential email from someone whose identity I am happy, indeed – determined to protect.

But I did feel a need to answer this question, lest anyone else should be misled into believing that this is what my book seeks to do. In fact, its purpose is far removed from making light of the subject. My reason for writing it was to bring the issue to the fore.

Editors called it ‘a laugh on every page’, ‘hilarious’ and ‘very timely in the year of the new Bridget Jones novel’. Yet no one wanted to publish it. They said it was ‘too close to the bone’ and an ‘icky’ subject. One editor said she just didn’t believe anyone would marry a man like that.

I didn’t just decide to pick something controversial to sit down and write a comedy novel about; I felt it needed to be addressed. All of my research and experience has shown me that plenty of people have and do marry men like that. Plenty of people live with porn addiction in their relationship on a daily basis, slowly letting their self-confidence reach the point of shut down without ever telling anyone what is happening, purely out of shame. They think it is their fault. Or, that in some way it makes them look bad for not being able to cope with what is fast becoming acceptable in modern society – the sexualisation and objectification of women in everyday media outlets. I would go as far as to say it is probably more people that each of us know than we realise.

How many people reading this post have been in some way affected by a partner’s porn addiction and never told a living soul? How many people reading this are thinking, ‘pah! Like it’s a real problem?’ Naturally, there are people on both sides of the fence.

What would you think if I told you of women that have left a room in tears after what to most people would seem a harmless, everyday advert, featuring a perfectly toned woman in a state of undress, appears on the TV? Does that sound excessive and neurotic to you? Then you have never been the partner of a porn addict. To the partner of such a person, every picture like this becomes – to their mind– a potential trigger to the addict. Think, ‘sparkly glass of wine in front of an alcoholic’. And you are the grape juice in the dull glass beside it.

The question on whether this is really a problem is an interesting one. In ‘The New Mrs D’ it most certainly is, as the partner uses porn instead of making love to his wife. He, in fact, is unable to make love to his wife but can reach ejaculation whilst watching porn. An editor who wrote a feedback report on my manuscript asked the question, ‘would porn use really cause a sexual dysfunction?’

Norman Doidge of The Guardian wrote a very interesting and revealing article on the Brain Scans of Porn Addicts. It told of how ‘scan images show that watching online “adult” sites can alter our grey matter, which may lead to a change in sexual tastes.’ He concludes with this story:

‘In her book, Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion, Izabella St James, who was one of Hugh Hefner’s former “official girlfriends”, described sex with Hef. Hef, in his late 70s, would have sex twice a week, sometimes with four or more of his girlfriends at once, St James among them. He had novelty, variety, multiplicity and women willing to do what he pleased. At the end of the happy orgy, wrote St James, came “the grand finale: he masturbated while watching porn”.

Here, the man who could actually live out the ultimate porn fantasy, with real porn stars, instead turned from their real flesh and touch, to the image on the screen. Now, I ask you, “what is wrong with this picture?”.’

Porn addiction in a commercial comedy novel may be considered by many to make uncomfortable reading. Bringing the issue of what many people consider virtual adultery is, I grant you, different and edgy. I believe difficult subjects can be made more palatable and accessible to a wider audience in works of commercial comedy fiction. It is not easy and it is a work that has taken me almost two years to complete in the hope that I have handled it sensitively.  But what if I can help people to be able to say out loud, ’actually, I hate this porn culture we live in’? What if I can trigger conversations about matters that were once kept behind closed doors?

In my search for publication, I was asked if I would remove the porn addiction element. In edits, I was advised to try altering the age of the protagonist to a woman in her thirties (Mrs D is in her forties) and maybe consider changing my name to a male pseudonym; anything to make its subject more comfortable and marketable.

I wanted to write about a real person, in a very real situation. I also like to make people laugh and offer something different in an increasingly androcentric world.

The comedy part of my novel is not around the subject of porn addiction, it is around a women’s

Wonderful review from Amazon Australia
Wonderful review from Amazon Australia

life altering honeymoon alone in Greece where she discovers a lot about herself. I sought to speak to women, empower and educate them. It follows the laughter, tears and moments of clarity in the life of the partner of a porn addict. If I’d have removed the porn addiction element of the story, The New Mrs D may well have been published traditionally. I chose not to, because then my reason for writing the book in the first place would have been lost.

I’ll let the readers decide if I did her – and this very timely subject – justice.

You can buy The New Mrs D HERE. And please do come back to tell me your thoughts.

tumblr_mmx2fiKAi01r9mgqro1_1280

The ‘Let’s Have a Break From The World Cup and Talk About Death’ Blog

First – NEWS! The New Mrs D is now available
to PRE-ORDER on Amazon! Hooray!(Follow the link)
Here it is again in case you missed it – LINK

And second…

skul 1

I have a confession. I’m drawn to graveyards. Which is just as well because there are no less than
two in the lane where I live and sometimes – just sometimes – I take a detour walk around one of them with the dogs.

I don’t know why, but they hold a certain morbid fascination for me. In particular, the very old gravestones. The inscriptions can tell so much about someone’s death, but also, they make me ponder how they lived.

The nearest one to me is where they bury people that have more recently passed. And by that I don’t mean just strolling by as Sally the lab cross and I do now and again, thankfully.

The other is Stonehouse Old Kirkyard, which is a fabbie – if spooky – place full of real historical significance. Here is where I really like to hang out, trying to decipher some seriously old headstones. My family will tell you I don’t often go out and visit the living, so they’d be amazed if they knew how much time I spend visiting the dead.

Stonehouse is in the heart of old Covenanter country, so the old Kirkyard is full of people that died in the name of religious freedom. (Covenanters were a Scottish Presbyterian movement that played an important part in the history of Scotland). But even more interestingly, it has a witch’s stone. Yep, at the end of my road.

Witchcraft was (allegedly) rife here in Stonehouse between the 16th and 18th  centuries. Kirk 1In fact, at one  time people would only  dare travel through the village whilst carrying a  branch of Rowan, said to keep bad spirits away –  and a handy thing for swatting all the midges. The  Rowan  tree  remains ever present in some  of our  gardens to this day, swaying quietly in the breeze while keeping us safe. That  is, if  you  believe in all that mumbo jumbo, which I,  being of  sane mind and character of course, do not.
The witch’s stone, or ‘bloodstone’ is, to put it in my own words, ‘a stone that bites you when you prod it.’  It’s a table stone with a skull carved on, that has a hole below the mouth. It belongs to one James Thomson,  who died at the battle of Drumclog in 1679. And one day, a wise person, let us call him, ‘Thomas McThumb’, came  along, poked their finger in the hole and pulled it out to find blood on it. Gasp!

Now, thanks to Thomas running home to tell everyone about it, this eerie phenomenon brings visitors to the village, queuing to have a go at getting their own fingers bitten too. NB: This has nothing to do with the red ocre running through the stone – nothing I tell you! The witch’s stone is spooky and it maims you. Keep coming here, the local Coop needs your sticky plaster buying business.

What is the Covenanters’ grave to do with witches? Legend skul 2would have us believe that Stonehouse, being almost encircled by the river Avon, has its ancient witches trapped, due to their inability to cross running water; hence why they are still here biting folk in the Kirkyard.

Where am I leading you with my historical tales of witchcraft and bleeding fingers?

Well, the last time I was there, leaning in for a little look and wondering if the witch would bite me if I just, poked one little digit into…..

Garghhhhhhh! (That was me by the way).

There was a snuffling, scratching sound that made my heart stop.  Then a clod of earth hit my back. This was it; the Stonehouse witch had got me and I was going to die here, with my finger stuck under the mouth of this skull like a sort of gone wrong game of Operation.

BBBBBBBBUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

‘You touched the sides! You touched the sides! Your cardboard patient with the boozer’s nose is DEAD.’

2014-06-19 18.13.37
Sally – with witch grave on her nose.

Without removing my finger, because you never know, it could have been plugging the way for a few more escaping ghosties, I turned round to see Sally enthusiastically kicking back earth, attempting to dig up the body of James Thomson.
I. Kid. You. Not. So, let me tell you, he may be mysterious and have a spooky witch sleeping on his head, but his bones smell delicious.

I snapped Sally back on her lead and we  ran home to hide… behind our Rowan tree.

20140619_123245
Our very own amulet against witchcraft.

The New Mrs D – For Daughter’s of Narcissistic Mothers

tiny buddha

My novel ‘The New Mrs D’, although largely comedic in content, has a serious message.

When people read that my main character married a man with a porn addiction, without reading further into the book some have asked, ‘why would any sane woman do this?’.

The answer is that this kind of thing is more common than you might think. My protagonist, Bernice Dando, has been needy. Wanting. She has given her all to everyone to the detriment of herself. Why? Because all her life up until now, she has lived in the shadow of a narcissistic mother and as a result, has a codependent personality.

What does this mean?

Besides the almost crippling low self-esteem, codependents have trouble when it comes to communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. And, if you don’t know what you think, feel or need, how can you ask for what you really, truly want? You won’t own up to your truth. You’re actually scared to be truthful, because you don’t want to upset people. Instead of saying, “I don’t like that,” you might pretend that it’s okay. Instead of saying, ‘no, I won’t  marry you. You have issues that are very hurtful to me’, you may say, ‘I do’. And all the while, you are thinking, ‘I can/will fix him’.

“Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves. They’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned, even if they can function on their own. Others need always to be in a relationship, because they feel depressed or lonely when they’re by themselves for too long. This trait makes it hard for them to end a relationship, even when the relationship is painful or abusive. They end up feeling trapped or settling for less than they are worth. If someone else has a problem, the codependent person wants to help them to the point that they give up themselves. It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but codependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. They keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.” – Mark Banschick, M.D
Psychology Today – THE INTELLIGENT DIVORCE

The New Mrs D is about a woman who finds her truth at last… on a honeymoon alone. It is a lighthearted tale with a serious message, following one woman’s journey of discovery that leads back to her long lost, authentic self. And it is, as one editor has described it, ‘a laugh on every page’.

What’s not to love about a female character with very human flaws, who has deep emotional issues and regular, everyday anxieties a great many women have experienced? A character who starts out wobbling along like Bambi taking his first, tentative steps out into the sunshine and emerges at the finish line, plunging half naked through the Aegean crying out, ‘who cares how this ends?’

For anyone unfamiliar with ‘narcissistic personality disorder’, the work of Dr. Karyl McBride was a huge source of information for me when researching the character of The New Mrs D. Her website, WillI EverBeGoodEnough.com‘ lists Twenty One Characteristics of a Narcissistic Mother. She describes  a daughter’s experience thus:

‘Narcissistic mothers teach their daughters that love is not unconditional, that it is given only when they behave in accordance with maternal expectations and whims. As adults, these daughters have difficulty overcoming feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, emotional emptiness, and sadness. They may also have a fear of abandonment that leads them to form unhealthy relationships.’

If you are the child of a narcissistic parent, Dr McBride has written a wonderful book to help you realise you are not alone.

I hope to be able to bring The New Mrs D to your bookshelves soon. Writing it has been a unique voyage of discovery for both my writing and myself. I hope it can be the same for many of you.

You can contact me anytime, should you wish to be informed of the date of release and I would urge you to do so! Prospective publishers love that 😉 Send an email to: hell4heather@gmail.com

The New Mrs D – A Greek Travesty

Bearded lady, 41, slightly used, with squishy, puffball belly subtly disguised by low-lying nipples, seeks man with GSOH, porn allergies and willingness to share razor.

     As I finished the last pistachio and gazed over the blue Aegean Sea, a promise of marital happiness peered back at me in the form of that annoying bastard – the romantic evening sunset.
‘Oh fuck off!’ I told it.  It didn’t…

Most people might see a week’s holiday on a stunning Greek island as an opportunity to relax, rewind and recharge their batteries.  Not me.  As each day of my ‘break’ passed just last year, a novel began to emerge in my head that tap, tap, tapped me on the shoulder each day and night until finally, in an attack of “I can’t stand it anymore,” I bought a beautiful views of Greece emblazoned notebook at the airport and wrote an entire fourteen chapter overview for a comedy novel on the plane home, all the while chuckling to myself like a mad woman.  Am now hoping said notebook might have a place in a museum one day beside J.K. Rowling’s writing chair.  One can dream..

Relaxation breaker or not, it was good to get it all out on paper.

”The New Mrs D’ is the story of a woman’s action packed solo honeymoon in Greece. And yes, I said, ‘ solo’ honeymoon. 

Don’t ask me why, during a holiday away with my own husband, I was dreaming up a scenario where a newly married forty something kicks out her louse-spouse and embarks on a series of holiday experiences of a lifetime alone.  Because my answer would have nothing at all to do with enjoying a romantic, taverna-by-the-sea evening meal at a table conveniently placed in front of the TV for the European cup finals or any dashing, young Greek waiters I didn’t notice whilst not being distracted.  No.  Nothing at all.   Love you Mr Hill!  (Has he looked away yet?)  Phew! 😉

With the tagline “when life throws shit at you… grow great, big, f*ck off roses!” The New Mrs D follows a two week voyage of self discovery with our heroine as, among other hilarious antics, she rides a horse through the sea at sunset, learns to paint, performs a duet on a nudist beach, contributes to a Greek fish explosion and snowboards down an ‘erupting’ volcano, all the while realising a series of hopes and dreams she had long forgotten existed.  Mrs Dando is newly single on her honeymoon. The possibilities are endless…

To read a synopsis of THE NEW MRS D, Click HERE

Coming to a slush pile near you soon.