Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Atomic Summer by Elaine D. Walsh - A review

Atomic SummerAtomic Summer by Elaine D. Walsh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


 I had been recommended this book by the author and checked out the ratings and some of the reviews before I committed to reading and then reviewing this book. I started reading it pretty soon after I downloaded it and was initially a little unsure as to how I felt about it. For me, the plot moved quite slow at first, and I am that type of reader who likes to be engrossed from the start and particularly love books that has me frantically turning the pages. Normally I would put a book aside that doesn't instantly grab me and not bother to finish it but I did not want to do that with 'Atomic Summer' because for one thing,  the reviews raved about it and I wanted to give it a fair chance but more importantly, even though it was moving slowly, as I kept reading the characters began to come alive for me. Suddenly I found myself truly caring about Faith, Octavia and Bernadette. Not to mention Allan and Wesley. As I read I fell in love with Wesley and then there was Bernadette and the awful things she would say to cringe at but I also felt my heart break just a little for Octavia.
Towards the second half of the book I was indeed furiously turning pages and have just spent the last two hours not putting the book down until I had finished it and I am so glad that I persevered.
The author has an incredible talent of bringing her characters to life. She has created wonderful individuals that will mesmerise you and woven them into a truly memorable, heartwarming yet bittersweet story that will leave you thinking about them for days if not weeks after.  Throughout the story, the author kept me guessing and it was this need to find out the answers to many of my questions that kept me reading, and then, wrapping it all up beautifully in the end, she answered all of them and confirmed some I had already guessed.
For a heartwarming, poignant read, I would happily recommend this book.  You will find yourself transported back to the 1950's, live their hopes and dreams as if you were there, and return to your present day with fond memories, as if you really lived it.



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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Flowertown - by S.G. Redling - a review

FlowertownFlowertown by S.G. Redling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did.  I cannot remember now if it was recommended to me, or if I just bought it because I liked the sound of the synopsis, but either way it took me a while before I finally picked it up and read it. 
I can see how this may be turned into a movie, its one of those disaster type stories that I can see Hollywood picking up and what's more, the book ends with a door clearly left open for a sequel.

Flowertown is the name of the town where many residents have been quarantined for years after some sort of chemical spill that made them very ill and highly contagious to anyone who came close to them.  The author tells the story from Ellie's point of view, who by some sad twist of fate found herself in the town, even though she didn’t live there, at the moment when the spill happened and left her stranded there ever since.  She is a loose cannon, smokes a little bit too much pot and really isnt taken very seriously.  But as is always the case, there is much more to Ellie than meets the eye and the author takes you on an exciting, action packed journey that kept me reading until late into the night.

If this book was recommended to me, then thank you very much whoever did.  I, in turn, would highly recommend this, especially if you are fan of the apocalyptic genre.

A well deserved 5 stars in my opinion




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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Betrayed - by R.P.McCabe

BetrayedBetrayed by R.P. McCabe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll be honest, I did not expect to enjoy this book. From what I read in the synopsis, I had pretty much made up my mind that reading this would be one of my harder reads as I wasn't instantly pulled in by the promised story line and I usually don't make the effort with books that don't instantly grab me. In this case however, I had promised the author that I would read it and when I make that kind of promise, I will stick to it. So, it is with massive surprise on my part that this book turned out to be so much more than I thought and, in my opinion, totally deserving of the five stars I've given it.

There is no doubt in my mind that R.P McCabe treated the writing of this novel as a labour of love. The depth that he has gone to, to describe the many scenes and emotions is immense. The story line unfolds slowly - which if I am honest, in the beginning had me wanting it to speed up - but I am glad I stuck with it because I was left with a concise picture in my head. The characters and their surroundings perfectly vivid in my imagination.
Wally Stroud, the protagonist, is like your father, your uncle, your husband. There is no amazing attributes that sets him apart and it was the creation of this totally human character that had me reaching out to him and wishing everything would work out, had my heart breaking for the ordeal that he and his wife were going through.

Betrayed is unlike many books that I have read in that its not the good guy versus the monsters, but the good guy turns into a monster in order to fight back, yet you keep on loving him, mostly because the author has written such a tender hearted story that no matter what the underdog does, you still want him to do it - regardless of how dark and sinister those actions may be.

The thought process that R.P McCabe must have gone through in order for the protagonist to pull off what he did was certainly impressive and he pulled no punches when it really mattered, which meant that I didn't want to stop reading, even when mine was the next stop on my daily bus commute.

I will not go on too much more about what happens as I would not want to include any spoilers here but Betrayed was one of those books that I thoroughly enjoyed, even more so because I didn't think I would. It is very well written, if lengthy in some parts but it is also one of those books that when you read the last word, you are left feeling satisfied, and in some small way, even vindicated.

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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

It's all a scam

Ok, I know, its been a while.  I'll be honest, I just haven't been in the mood.  I must also be honest and say that I hate it when I get into that funk.  You know the one?  The one where you just couldn't be arsed with anything?  Well, ever since my holiday I came back with no inclination to write anything at all.  In fact, its been a pain in the arse to even respond to text messages - yeah, as bad as that - and I am constantly aware of this but again the 'oh I couldn't be arsed' feeling has been just too overwhelming.  Not cool I know, but there you have it.

But I have to tell you, its not all my fault.  There has been other things going on too, and I wanted to tell you about it.



For some of you who know me, you know that I have been trying to obtain my UK citizenship?  Well, this has turned out to be one of those horrible drama's where you wonder how this could happen to you.  Towards the end of last year I did some internet surfing to find someone who would assist me in this process.  I am not a newbie to the whole red tape process of trying to obtain legal documentation and in my infinite wisdom thought I would pay for the services of an institution that does this for a living.  So after much surfing I found a website called UK Visa and Immigration (please..click on that link!) and had a quick internet chat with a so-called advisor who promptly called me back (oh the service was so fast at first!) and after discussing my needs and my financial situation he quoted me the princely sum of £1250.00 for citizenship x 3.  What they promised to do is to guide me through the whole process, process my application on my behalf and to ensure that I had all the documentation that the Home Office would need and thereby ensure a pain-free process.  Of course this fee they were charging did not include the Home Office fee (which was another rather hefty amount for three of us) but I was willing to pay the price if it meant I didn't have to do everything my 'clueless' self and practically being guaranteed that it would be a smooth easy process.

I received a 'client care' letter, which included spelling errors with regards to our names and I pointed this out to them and this was amended.  They insisted I sign it and hand over the money promptly so they could begin the work on my behalf.  Of course, this is exactly what I did.

A few days later I received an email asking me to fill this and that form out and to send original passports/birth certificates/marriage certificate and other appropriate documents (most of these also originals) to them.  It took me a while to get this all together, mostly because I had to wait for my ex-husband to send me crucial permission for the children to take on UK Citizenship (which was a nightmare in itself) but a few months later, I was ready to send most of the documents to them and I called them to get a bit more advice.

This is where the problems started and right here, my little red flag should have gone up.  Well, if I am honest, it did...a little, but I didn't really want to deal or admit to myself that something wasn't quite right, so I ignored any doubts that were starting to whisper in my brain.  I would call and call and the phone would just ring.  Every now and then I would get lucky and someone would answer but my 'Case Worker' was always busy and would have to return my call.  When she finally did, she advised me to use an email address, stating that that was the best way to get hold of her.  I started to use that and would have to email a few times before I finally got a reply.  Anyway, regardless, I sent my original documents off to Birmingham where they were based and had to follow that up with a few emails and calls just to confirm that they had received them.
One time that I phoned and it was answered by an advisor who again claimed that my 'Case Worker' was busy, told me that my case had been closed when I enquired if they could check that my documents had got there.  Naturally I freaked out and frantically emailed about this unfortunate development to get a reply stating that it was an internal error and not to worry, that they were still working on my case and that the documents had arrived. They also informed me that they had moved offices and to send any outstanding documents to the new address.  (I was still waiting for that ever important letter from my ex that I needed to send to them).

When I received that I promptly posted to the new address and that, is where it all went dead.

Have you ever phoned a company where the voicemail that greets you sends you into a loop?  Where, no matter what button you press you cannot speak to a living soul?  I checked the website and for some reason all the telephone numbers they used to have listed on it had disappeared.  The 'click here to talk to a live advisor' button had also disappeared to be replaced with 'click here to start your UK Visa Assessment' button.  Lucky for me, during my efforts over to previous weeks to get hold of them, I had written every number down, and I rang each one.  Not so lucky though, each number either rang dead or I got that same pointless voicemail.
'Press 2 if you wish to talk to someone in accounts or if you are calling to enquire as the status of your visa application, please dial XXX XXXXXX 'which as far as I could make out was the UK Border Agency office.  Pointless really when you don't even know if your application has been passed onto them yet, nor what your reference number is.  Pressing option 2 just takes you back to that same irritating voicemail.

By now, I was somewhat pissed off.  I wrote them one email after another, all of them ending with 'get back to me urgently'.  But there was nothing.

Even at this point though, I was in denial.  I did not want to admit that something was wrong.  I was making up all kinds of excuses in my head as to what could be the reason for this.  To admit that I had been scammed was just too much for me to do yet.  After a few days of constantly calling them and checking for an email response from them I finally got ugly.  I sent them one final email where I informed them that unless they contacted me urgently with the status on my application or fully refunded my money and returned my documents, I would be seeking legal advise and made other threats.  I copied my husband into this email and as he was on leave at the time and didn't have anything better to do, he went on the case.
Oh my god, this is when it all came out.

My husband uncovered so much information and pointed me to this site. (Yes, I should have spoken to him earlier I know) UK Immigration Barristers (click on it!) and I took one look at it and I knew.  The site was so similar to the old one I knew that the same template had been used.  He found out information regarding the so called director(s) of the company and found information that linked the two together.  Also, the names of all the previous companies they had traded under and had since dissolved to start over again and con more people out of their money.  The nightmare reviews he found (all so different from the positive ones they had on their website).  It turns out this was happening not just to me but to hundreds of people.  He found a page on facebook (since removed due to pressure from them to facebook) dedicated to showing these people for the scammers that they were.  And suddenly I was in touch with people who were in the same boat as me.

I was devastated.  I wanted to crawl under my desk and just lie there.  I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream.  I was lost and I didn't know what to do.  These people had my life's documents plus £1250.00 and they had done a runner with it.

We found their page on facebook 'UK Visa and Immigration' (since disappeared from facebook) and we started posting on it.  We weren't saying nice things and our comments were being promptly removed, as were other non-complimentary posts by other people.  We made screen copies of every one to prove that it had been there.  Once I had enough information I went to the Barristers site and clicked on the 'click here to talk to a live advisor' button (which has also now disappeared I've just noted) and Mike came online wondering how he could assist me.  I pasted a copy of my threatening email into the box and waited.  Mike took a while to read it and then profusely denied that they had anything to do with UK Visa and Immigration. I informed him that I had more than enough proof that they were one and the same and that I was now going to the police.  Gave him a few lil titbits so he knew that I did have info and then I signed off.

About an hour later my mobile rang.  It was Ash Shadat from UK Visa and Immigration on the line, who was acting as if they were still trading and he is just ringing me to tell me that he would be sending my forms back as I my daughter now needed to do the 'Life in the UK' test as she had since turned 18.  Well, you can imagine how that conversation went.  I told him I wasn't interested in his stories, that I knew the truth and I wanted my money and my documents back or I would be going to the police.  He was very sorry about this and would return my documents to me the next day and refund my money to me in full by the end of the next week. By then though, it was too late. I had already gone to the police and reported him, along with all his other friends names and business addresses.

I did get my documents back two days later and I will be honest, the relief of holding them in my hands again made me want to forget everything that had happened.  I have as yet still not got my money back and its now two months later.  I doubt I ever will, but I have hope because its not just me.  I have met a number of people in the same position as me and we are all fighting.  Its tiring, so tiring and there is a part of me that just wants it all to go away, but then I read or hear about another person that has been scammed and it just riles me up again.

Two blogs like mine you should check out to get a different version.  One from a guy who actually worked there: UK Immigration Barristers Scam and Don't be taken by these scammers who was scammed like me but fought hard and got her money and documents back but is fighting still so others can know.
For reviews: UK visa and immigration and here.

I could go on and on, but I won't because there is just too much info out there I would be here all night.  I wish so much I had done my homework before I had  handed over my money but there you go.  Its done.  Now just to fight to get it back.  Mostly however, I hope someone that is thinking of using their services will happen across this page and be warned and will stay away.  If I can stop just one person from giving away their money to them then it was worth spending the last 2 hours writing all this down.

As for me now, I am still in my funk and I spend loads of time playing pointless games on facebook and elsewhere and watching TV.  Its pointless but its brain numbing and that's all I am up for lately.  I do however know myself and know that it will pass and I look forward to it when it does because it would be nice to blog again, tweet more and get back to that novel I haven't touched in weeks.

As for these scammers, justice will be done, one way or another.  Watch this space.

Bx


An Update (24 November 2012):

Whilst writing the above, myself and a few other people were involved in a BBC documentary in exposing these people.  I was not allowed to say anything about it due to the BBC wanting to keep it under wraps and not alert them to what was going on.  The show was 'Inside Out' and it was to be featured on the BBC West Midlands channel and aired on October 22nd 2012.  While I felt very positive at the time that this would make UK Visa and Immigration/UK Immigration Barristers accountable and would get the Police and other legal people involved, as far as my knowledge goes, nothing has really come of it.  Ash Shadat was approached and agreed to go on air and admitted that there was 'some issues'.  However, he denied that they were trying to scam anyone and blamed everyone but himself for the lack of service and said that they had not received any money from the 'merchants' via which people had paid.  Funny that, when I had received an email right after I paid thanking me for my payment, which they have received that day.  He went on to say that he would gladly pay people back out of his OWN POCKET if need be, yet still ignored my emails after the show and still hasn't offered to pay me back.  He never will.  He is a liar and his smooth slick words on the show only show how good he is at it.  Sadly too, none of the other 'Inside Out' show across the UK region picked it up so the only viewership the show got was the West Midlands.  This is not only a UK wide problem, people abroad too should be seeing this.  It effects people across the world!

In saying this, the experience of doing the show was fun and there were moments I felt like a movie star.  Especially when filming on London Bridge and having hundreds of people gather round and watch what we were doing whilst I had a camera in my face and had to pretend like that, nor all the people who were staring were there!  Fun times and certainly something I will remember forever, and can now happily cross off 'Act on a TV show (on location)' from my bucket list. The guys at the BBC (Jane. Stewart, Giles, Gary) are wonderful too and I am glad to have met them.  I understand that there is only so much you can fit into a 10 minute TV segment yet I am still sad that the pain and heartache that was felt by not only me, but by the other 'victims' that were on the show didn't really come through, nor that anything positive (in my understanding) has come from it.

As stated above,  I have still not received any money back from Ash Shadat, despite emailing him again after the TV show and calling him on his promise to refund everyone.  I did however, get my money refunded from my credit card institution a few weeks back 'pending further investigation' so I hope they take him to the cleaners.  I somehow doubt it though.  If you have had your money stolen from these scammers and paid via credit card, I suggest you try getting your money back from your card agency.  You may get lucky?  I know some people who were denied this, but I am one of the lucky ones I guess. 

I have to be honest though, I have lost faith in the police and the legal system.  It seems they are either not interested, or they just don't have the power to take criminals such as these down? 

I am still trying to process my citizenship application, I am filling out the documents myself, which isn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be, though it is a pain in the arse.  I will then be taking it to my local council, who offers the service to check it for you, to verify your documents and make copies of them and give them back to you so your originals to not have to go to the UKBA, which is handy if you need them for travel or something. Check the UKBA website to see if your local council offers this service.  Its not free (nothing it appears is) but its a damn side lot cheaper than the fees that these scammers charge.
I am just about done with that and hope to be going there next week, at which time, assuming all is OK, my application will go through and it will then be out of my hands.  Either way, I am so tired of all of this now and sometimes wish I hadn't bothered, but I guess, if this all goes well the end result will be worth it. It's taken a year to do this, 6 months of which I lost waiting for an agency who promised to make it easier for me and ultimately stole my money and put me through this nightmare.  I cannot stress enough how bad they are, and how I wish everyone would read this and not give them a penny.  As long as people are paying, they will keep taking.
 


Saturday, 4 August 2012

Looking back

I have just returned from a week away with my family down to the south coast of England.  Hastings to be more specific. And while I don't think Hastings is the best holiday destination in the world, the weather wasn't too bad (for England) and all in all I had a good time.  This blog however, is not about the joys of my holiday or me informing you what we got up to, its about the thoughts that went through my mind while I was there.

Don't stop reading, I don't intend to bore you with a blow by blow account but I do warn you that it's going to be an emotional one. So where to start?

We left on the Thursday (a day early but we like to start things off early in our household) and spent the night in a Premier Inn in Aylesbury which is about 40 miles outside of London.  It was a good night and in true Davies fashion we sat outside in the dark, drinking a few drinks and generally having a good time.  A whole week away by the sea in the sun (hopefully) was beckoning so the moods were high and the laughter and wine was flowing.

Friday morning at round about 7.30 my phone rang.  We were up and had just finished breakfast, intending to get an early start and hopefully miss the traffic that I was expecting to find on the M25 as it was Olympic day in London and I expected it to be crazy.  I had no idea who could be phoning me so early on the first 'official' day of my holiday so imagine my surprise when I answered and heard the voice of my sister-in-law, Lynette, all the way from New Zealand.  A call at that time - and it being nobody's birthday - set off an alarm bell in my head and rightfully so.

She was phoning me with news that my mother was in intensive care in a hospital back in South Africa.  Something about gall stones and gall bladder and for the life of me (having had galls stones myself and my gall bladder removed a few years ago) I could not understand why she was in ICU?
Needless to say, the good mood spiralled right down and I spent the second half of the trip towards Hastings in a funk trying to reach my dad and find out what exactly was going on.  As my parents still live in South Africa its so frustrating that I am unable to run to her bedside when things like this happen and the helplessness I feel is crushing.  It must be just as frustrating for my bother and sister-in-law who live in New Zealand, who like me, were now scrambling around to obtain whatever information they could.  Later, I spoke to my brother and he said he had spoken to a nurse and she indicted that there was some liver damage too.  What the f*ck?  Just what the hell does that mean??

My dad was always the one we expected the bad news from.  Without meaning to sound harsh, but that's just the way it is.  He worked for decades underground and smoked for even longer and has been diagnosed with all kinds of lung problems, leftover issues from his career in the mines and his smoking habit.  It's not unusual for my mom to tell me my dad is not feeling well or is having problem breathing every now and then, so to hear that my mom is in the Intensive Care Unit with gall stone and liver problems was frankly, mind blowing.

Knowing that we were on holiday and not wanting to spoil things for everyone else, I put a smile on my face and attempted to enjoy the first day of our holiday.  I kept telling myself that it was only gall stones, like I mentioned, I have had the same problem and have been through the same operation and I had absolutely no after effects from the removal of my gall bladder, so my mom was going to be just fine. Right?

The next day, the news was even worse.  I received a text from my dad informing me that my mom has Cirrhosis of the Liver and to let my brother know.  We were travelling at the time when the text came through and I felt the bottom of my world drop out of me as I read it.    This could not be right.  My mother doesn't drink!  They must have made a mistake. I called my dad, just to confirm he hadn't made a mistake but there you go, it is what it is.  My mother has Diabetes and they suspect that the insulin and medication she uses to treat this has led to the liver damage and cirrhosis and life just fucking sucks right now doesn't it?

I called my brother and struggled over the words, stuttering and mumbling, not wanting to say them, because saying the words out loud would make them real. I can only imagine how my brother would have struggled to tell me the same thing.

Not to dwell on this subject too long, I can tell you that my mom is home now and is in good spirits. I spoke to her when she was out of ICU and in a normal ward and she was being kept in a few more days just to finish her antibiotics and she was feeling much better.  They are now awaiting test results back to see how bad her liver is and how treatable it is.  According to the doctors, if caught in the early stages it is highly treatable and she will be fine.  Here is hoping.  She has not been a diabetic her whole life...she was diagnosed about 8 or 9 years ago and as the diabetes got worse, the medication got stronger so I am hoping that its only the latest round of medication that has caused the damage and not years worth of it.  We will have to wait to hear what the prognosis is.

This bad, unexpected news however, did a funny thing to my head.  It made me dwell.  It made me look back and all the time while we were away on holiday I kept reminiscing.  Back to when I was a child, to memories buried in my head with my parents and my brother.  How lucky I am to have the life I have, the family I have and the wonderful memories I have accumulated over the years.  But mostly, it got me focusing on my own family and how much I love them.  
How much I love my husband and I found myself watching him and cataloguing all the wonderful things he is and does. How well he takes care of us, his polite nature when he drives, small things like how he will stop and allow people to go ahead of him, how he always has his hands in his pockets handing out money to the kids and will buy me and them whatever we wish for.  How selfless he is and always makes sure that everyone has what they need before he thinks of himself.  But his most endearing quality, that he is so easily pleased.  Give him a piece of meat, a fire to cook it on and a beer in his hand, and he is happy as Larry and giddy as punch.  I noted all this and wondered why I hadn't taken note of them before.

My daughter and how grateful I am that we have the bond that we do.  Many people were surprised that my 18 year old daughter still wanted to go on holiday with us and I wondered about this too.  But there you go, it is what it is.  She and I share almost a supernatural ESP.  We think the same and feel the same.  She confides in me on almost everything and we are like mirror images of each other in our mannerisms and actions.  She is loving and attentive and a beautiful person and I found myself looking at her and wondering how I got so lucky to have such an amazing child.  Yes, I admit, I am biased, but aside from the moodiness that sometimes descends upon her I still feel that she is the best daughter anyone could ever ask for.

As for my son, I marvel at his loving nature.  He may be oblivious to a lot of things, but his kind hearted and loving nature is so endearing.  He does anything anyone asks of him without a whisper of a complaint and his ready smile and loving arms he wraps around me from time to time make me marvel on how I got so lucky?  His happy-go-lucky nature is inspiring too and I should take a feather from his cap and learn not to dwell on the negative side of things so much.

I am in love with all of them.  I don't know how I got so lucky to have such incredible people in my life. My mom and dad, my brother, sister-in-law, my nephews, my ex mother-in-law who I still love dearly, my friends, and there are so many of them but a special mention to Maggie and Paul and I also love dearly, but mostly for Pete, Alycia and MornĂ©.  You make my life worth living.


Mommy, please get better.  I love you so much and cannot bear that you are ill.


Bx



Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Window Into The Dark

A while ago I considered moving my blog to a new cosy destination at Wordpress.  After I set it all up I had second thoughts - I like what I have created here.  I have awesome followers and awesome comments and I don't wanna give that all up.  So, after much thought I decided to keep the new blog but have something all together different.
A Window Into The Dark will feature things of a darker nature.  Poetry, short stories and the like, not only by me, but by various authors/bloggers (or wherever I can find a piece that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up).


I invite you to visit there occasionally and as always, I will love to hear from you if you have been there.   In the meanwhile, I will keep blogging my thoughts, reviews and the usual things that I do, but I now have a home for the darker things that I sometimes like to write about.

Fun times!

I have already posted something amazing which I read yesterday and absolutely loved, and have reblogged it from its original spot on the web. I love this guys work and have tried to feature him for ages on this blog and finally got my way on the new one.  For that, and hopefully much more to come in the future, please visit A Window Into the Dark 

Bx

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Getting Busy

I have just passed the 5000 word mark on the novel that I am writing.  Yes, I actually typed that - the novel that I am writing. 5000 words does not seem like such an incredible landmark, but it has taken me literally days to get there.  It's a hell of a lot harder than I ever thought.
I wont get into details about what it is about, but I will say that as I write I am now being faced with a lot of potential questions that I have no reference to answer. Well, that's my problem to solve I guess and considering it's my book, I can potentially write whatever I like and make it up as I go along?  However, I need to make it at least slightly believable, right?
I now find myself lying in bed at night wondering how I am going to explain this, or how I am going to make that happen.  Then, realising another huge obstacle that I will need to have some sort of explanation for to make it sound legit.  Urgggg!!  Its crazy!

Getting one page done can take ages.  I'll type a sentence, read it and then backspace and do it over, differently, so it reads better, and then backspace again.  This is why reaching those 5000 words is such an amazing landmark for me, I've literally written 15000 words, but deleted and rewritten most of it.

I have had so much encouragement from so many wonderful people I cannot even begin to say, though I will try to mention some of them now.
Mark Frankcom has been a huge encouragement.  He is a published author and is constantly asking me how I am getting on.  Most times, I have had nothing but excuses, but he has egged me on relentlessly.  Jane Isaac too, another published author, who I have blogged about quite a bit has been a treasure house of information and encouragement.  She has shared with me ups and downs and tried to advise me on how to proceed and I have taken every little bit of information straight to heart.
My daughter, my biggest encourager pokes and prods me and asks me when I am going to get started writing and has patiently listened to my ideas and come up with her own ideas and is now avidly reading and the look of excitement on her face only makes me want to do more more more!  I fear though, that she would love it even if it was a epic fail. 
Veronica Stewart, who I have practically known my whole life has recently started writing and we bounce off each other too.  She has this giddy, excited attitude, which rubs off on me a little and I think, in a sense, we spur each other on.  But the best thing to have happened to me recently, and what probably really got the ball rolling on this 'novel' is Laura Jamez.  I met her on twitter and reading her blog and her tweets I realised I was looking at another me.  Our situations are very similar.  Around about the same age, with the same ambition, with the same life distractions.  So together, we came up with a plan.  Once a week, every week, we pass on a chapter to each other.  We critique it and encourage each other and advise each other if we get stuck.  The good thing about this is that I am now forced to type something. Granted I have a whole week to do just one chapter, but I now need to be disciplined enough to sit myself down and ensure I have that one chapter done.  Instead, I have found, I don't stop writing, and its this that has been powering me on to be able to tell you I have reached 5000 words.

Its early days I know.  I don't know how long we will continue to do this before some life distraction intervenes, and I am a realist and know that things constantly change, but I do hope that we will continue to do this for as long as it takes.  Because its good for me, and it's getting me focused.

Whether this novel ever actually gets finished remains to be seen, and if it does, whether it gets snapped up by a publishing house is a bigger hurdle to face.  There is always the self-publishing option to consider but right now, I need to focus on the next 5000 words.  Hopefully I will get there quicker than the last 5000 took.

Bx

Please feel free to visit Laura's blog by clicking here: Office Mango

Friday, 29 June 2012

Book review - Library of the Dead by Glenn Cooper

Library of the Dead (Will Piper, #1)Library of the Dead by Glenn Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It was recommended to me by a friend and I wasn't sure I would like it but read it anyway, mostly to humour her. Library of the Dead, started out slow, and confusing. There are a number of different timelines woven into the book, 777AD, 1947 and 2009, each with their own story. As I read, I wondered how they would all come together and I don't mind saying, I was a little confused as each time frame told a completely separate story. However, each story was interesting enough that I kept reading, hoping I would finally be able to understand how they all tied together. The more I read, the more I became engrossed. This was another one of those books I found I could not put down.
By the end of the story, I was amazed by how clever the author had been. Glenn Cooper has written a book so brilliantly, that even as I read, I had no idea how he would tie everything together, but he did, and did it so well, that when I put the book down, I immediately had to Google some of the points he had stated, just to check if there was any validity in it. That's how well I bought into the story. Either that, or I am just plain gullible.
I have only ever done that with one other book.

I will definitely be buying the follow up 'Book of Souls' and I do hope that he keeps me guessing and page turning, as much as he did with this one.
5 Stars for me

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Thursday, 21 June 2012

Fifty Shades of What???


Warning: this review contains some spoilers – Do not read if you haven’t read or finished the Fifty Shades of Grey series

A few months back a friend from across the pond asked me if I had heard of this phenomenon that had hit the States called Fifty Shades of Grey.  I hadn’t but went and checked out the link that he gave me and have to say that I wasn’t entirely blown away by the description.  Or at least, the book didn’t scream ‘buy me buy me’ when I was reading the synopsis.  I didn’t think much of it after that until a few weeks later when a very good friend of mine texted me one afternoon.  I won’t say exactly what she said to me (much too explicit!) but basically ordered me to get Fifty Shades of Grey and read it immediately as it was amazing.  Having now had two people recommend the book to me, I decided to bite the bullet and downloaded the first of 3 books in the series called Fifty Shade of Grey.

So, who hasn’t heard of this book?  It's what everyone is talking about at the moment.  It’s everywhere.  On Facebook, Twitter and if you stop and listen, I am pretty sure you will hear someone talking about it on the bus or on the train.  Fifty Shades of Grey has taken the world by storm, pretty much like Twilight did in its prime. 

My experience with these books has been a little bit up and down really.  The first one hooked me and drew me in and had me gasping for more.  It really does suck you in and before you know it, you are addicted.  I am not sure if I was addicted to the book or if I was addicted to Christian Grey.  I even tweeted and facebooked a few times about wanting my very own Christian Grey.  It would be heaven to have a man as gorgeous as the author described him, or as rich as he apparently is with that dark brooding side to be obsessed with me like Christian is with Anastasia.  Oh yes, I will have some of that thank you very much. 
But what sets this series apart from anything else mainstream out there is the kink.  You want to read about sex?  Well, you need to be reading Fifty Shades.  You want to read about bdsm?  Have you bought the book yet?  There is oodles and oodles of it in the book.  I have read in a few places that the byline for Fifty Shades is ‘Mommy Porn’ and I would have to agree with that. 
What is surprising is that it has gone mainstream.  I personally think that is great and that is one incredible thing that Fifty Shades has done.  It has taken a topic – Erotica – and has got everyone talking.  It has turned shy, reserved and conservative women into raving sex goddesses.  Suddenly, its OK if you are telling your best friend (and in some cases, the world) that you plan on being hogtied by your lover this weekend.  I just heard a woman tell another woman that her friend told her she was going to be buying her very own bondage kit this weekend after reading Fifty Shades and aside from giggling, nobody sat there stunned by this revelation.  I cannot see that being the case a year ago?  For that, I think Fifty Shades has been awesome.  A lot of woman (Mommy's?) will also be living out secret fantasies when reading this, keeping them hooked and turning pages at the speed of lightening.

After I read the books, I recommended them to a few of my colleagues at work and the feedback has been the same from all of them.  Hooked.  Love it. When is the movie coming out?  And that is another thing that’s got everyone buzzing. Who is going to star in the movie? Who is going to play Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele?  I admit that if I happen upon an article about casting for it, I stop and read it.  I have my own personal favourites who I hope will star in the role of Christian and its not Robert Pattinson!

Now for the downside.
EL James, the author, apparently finished reading Breaking Dawn from the Twilight series in January 2008 (I read this a few weeks ago and hope I have remembered this fact correctly) and decided she was going to write her own book.  It shows.  There has been some bad reviews regarding her credibility as a writer, just like there has been some for Stephanie Meyer, but who cares?  If you can write a book that is selling millions and has become a cult phenomenon, do you really need to write like Charles Dickens?  Indeed, everyone has stood up and is now paying attention.  But that's not the point I am trying to make.  It's the Twilight references I am referring to.  Fifty Shades of Grey is Twilight rewritten. Just take out the vampires, the paranormal and add kinky sex and you have Fifty Shades.  While I don't think that's an unforgivable sin I do think the writer let herself down.  She had a brilliant idea, and has taken a somewhat taboo topic and made it mainstream which is incredible, but would it have been such a bad thing if she had chosen a new and original plot?  Instead, almost right throughout the book I pause as I realise that this or that character represents this or that character from Twilight.  Christian is obviously Edward as Anastasia is obviously Bella.  Other obvious parallels are Mia/Alice, Elliot/Emmet, Dr Grey/Carlisle etc etc.  And then there is the plot.  Brooding, gorgeous, unobtainable man meets clumsy, naive young girl.  Welcome to my world he says...only this time, instead of vampires and scary monsters, its bdsm and scary rooms full of sex toys.  

Don't get me wrong.  I didn't hate it. Not at all!  I still loved the story and in some ways, when I spotted the references I smiled, but she could have done so much better.  She could have done anything!

Also while I LOVED Fifty Shades of Grey, for me Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed didn't quite measure up.  I will admit that this is entirely a personal choice, but I loved the edgy, sexy side of book 1. While there is a constant supply of sex scenes through all the books (believe me, it never stops!) I missed the naughty, erotic scenes that was the focus of book 1 and became less and less so in the later books. Also, it felt that slowly the power started to shift from him to her and the story started to evolve into more of a love story than what it originally started out to be. In a small way, this was disappointing as I was initially totally enthralled by our hero Christian and it turned out he was just a regular guy after all.  Nothing wrong with that of course but the man that I read about in book 1 was really the man I was hoping to still be reading about in book 3 and it felt less and less like it the closer I got to the end. 
Perhaps EL James had intended to make him the flawed, soft hearted (yes, that he is!) man that he ended up being.  But I missed the tough guy with the firm voice and controlling manner.  Perhaps I am just a little kinky myself but judging by the reaction of all these women who are reading and raving about Fifty Shades, I don't think I am the only one.

Did I hate Fifty Shades?  Not at all. I loved it! I rated it 5 stars on 'Goodreads' and I am not changing my mind. It's a great story and its written in such a way that you cannot, nor will you want to put it down.  Do I understand the hype? Not really if I am honest.  But I do love that an 'Erotica' book has gone mainstream and perhaps that's what all the hype is about.  Everyone can finally talk freely and openly about kinky sex and not have people thinking you're a pervert.

Though I could be wrong about that? :)


Bx

Monday, 18 June 2012

A daily blog?

Should I be blogging everyday?  This is a question I have just been asking myself as I read the tweets that move down my timeline by other bloggers who seem to do so.  I don't know if they just have something to say all the time, or if they are just dedicated enough to do so.
When it comes to blogging, I am an emotional writer.  I write when I feel strongly enough about something that I need to put my feelings into words.  I have always been like that.  If something has upset me, left me emotionally charged or has got my brain thinking really hard I tend to turn to this blog and write it down.

That's why I think, I struggle so with getting my novel off the ground. I have started it - believe it I have - but it takes such motivation and dedication to go back to it daily - which I don't - and I wonder if I will ever actually get one done. 

There are days I think to myself that I should write something on here as I am aware I haven't blogged for a while, but if the need isn't there, or the topic isn't buzzing in my head, then I don't.

But should I?

Would it not teach me dedication?  Would I, in forcing myself to write something creative everyday, not teach myself tenacity and would I not develop the willpower (or even get into the habit) of writing a few thousand words a day and hence finally finishing my novel? I am not sure?

I do know that if I continue on at this pace, this novel will never get done so one way or another I need to pull my finger out. 

I have a few readers who diligently read each of my posts on my blog (for which I am so grateful) but would they get tired of reading something I felt I had to put up on the blog just for the sake of saying something on a daily basis?  Probably.  If it lacked imagination and creativity I am sure they would.

But is it something I need to train myself to do?  To milk my imagination? To force those creative juices into  flowing, rather than to just write when the moment is hot?

Hmmmm....something to ponder on I guess.

What are your thoughts?

Bx

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A review on An Unfamiliar Murder by Jane Isaac

An Unfamiliar MurderAn Unfamiliar Murder by Jane Isaac
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jane Isaac's book - 'An Unfamiliar Murder', is as fast paced as it is full of twists and turns. Unfortunately, I am one of those readers, that if a book doesn't grab my attention from the beginning I don't usually persevere with it for too long. 'An Unfamiliar Murder' however, did grab my attention and I found myself eagerly turning the pages so I could find out what would happen to Anna next?

Anna Cottrell is a young woman who inadvertently finds herself thrown into a web of murder and intrigue when she comes home one day to find a dead body in her flat. As more and more details of her life unfold, details that Anna herself did not know, you cannot help but wonder what she will find out next and where it all leads? Who is this person watching her and is it who I think it may be?
The other leading lady in this novel, DCI Helen Lavery is portrayed as a hard working, ambitious woman, with an enormous task on her hands - that of solving the murder. As the reader I attempted to solve the crime myself many times, only to find out I was wrong and to absolutely feel Helen's frustration.
All the characters of the book are really well written, the plot is brilliant and the story totally believable.

When I started reading 'An Unfamiliar Murder' I was reminded of another non-fiction British crime author by the name of Mark Billingham. Ms Isaac's writing and the pace of her novel is to me, comparable to Mr Billingham's novels as DCI Helen Lavery reminded me very much of the main character in most of his books and for all readers who enjoy the pace and style of Mr Billingham, will not be disappointed by this new 'up and coming'. I often recommend him to friends and I will certainly be doing the same for Ms Isaac.

I am pleased that the author is writing a sequel. I look forward to the next story and know that if it is anything like this one, it will be one of those books I bury my nose in the moment I get it and not put it down until I have turned the last page.

View all my reviews

A review on Slave by Sherri Hayes

Slave (Finding Anna #1)Slave by Sherri Hayes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was 2am on Saturday morning when I finally put this book down. I had started reading it the day before and had become so engrossed in it, I refused to stop reading until I had read the last word.
'Slave', is unlike any other BDSM genre book I have read, and I have read quite a few. It is also, in my opinion, the best one I have read. Don't expect to be reading sex scene after sex scene with this book. In fact, there are none. Nor is it one of those that you will get your rocks off on, at least it wasn't for me, however, it does delve deep into the world of dominance not sugar coating any of it.

The book deals with the journey two people make who are both in the scene. One, willingly, the other, not so much. Stephen (a Dominant) is an affluent business man who 'buys' a slave girl (Brianna) in order to 'save' her. The journey is slow and hard for both of them. For him, as he gradually comes to terms with his deeper feelings for her and for her, as she slowly realises that she is indeed free. There were times I felt he made the wrong decisions/choices, yet as you read you might agree that you would have done the same and it only made him more human in my eyes. The characters are exceptionally well written and the book fast paced - I was not bored in a single paragraph. Although dealing in-depth with the sometimes controversial topic of BDSM, 'Slave' is heart wrenching and poignant and I find myself wanting to scream from the rooftops for everyone to read it, although I do understand it might not be to everyone's taste. I have read that some did not like the ending, but I feel that it was staged perfectly to lead into the sequel.

I have done a few reviews, some at the request of the authors, but with 'Slave' the moment I had finished reading it, I wanted to jump on Amazon and Goodreads and tell the world how 'WOW' it was but as it was in the silly hours of the morning and I was desperately tired, I opted for searching for the author on Twitter and told her instead. This review could wait till the morning.

Worth every penny I paid and the 5 star rating in my opinion and I will definitely be buying the sequel to this. I do hope Ms Hayes will be publishing it soon.

View all my reviews

Beautiful Blogger Award - woot! Go me!

Its always lovely when you find out that you have been nominated for a blogger award so I was thrilled yesterday to find out I had been nominated by the incredible Jane Isaac for the 'Beautiful Blogger Award'. Check out her amazing blog here: Caffeine's not a crime and while you are at it, find out why she is such an amazing author by downloading/buying her debut novel that is causing quite a stir. An Unfamiliar Murder.


Now, as part of the award, I have to tell you 7 things about myself and nominate 7 bloggers to share this award with. Here goes:


  1. I'm accident prone. If someone is going to fall down, it's probably me.
  2. I’m a Titanic fanatic
  3. I’ve got a very strange fascination with serial killers and devour everything there is to know about them.
  4. I am short and usually sit with my legs tucked in under me on the computer chair because my feet don't reach the floor.
  5. I'm age phobic (whoa!!! I bet nobody knew that!)
  6. Purple is my favourite colour.
  7. When I have my iPod headphones in, I sing out loud, know I cannot sing, but don't care.
I am only allowed to nominate 7 bloggers, which is actually very hard, because I could nominate many more.  However, here are my 7 chosen favourites:
  1. Curse of Ancient Shadows – by Rod Tyson. A YA author who is an amazing person with an interesting cat-with-no-name
  2. Daemonwulf - Home of the Lord of Wulves – by Daemonwulf.  I don't believe I have ever had a dull conversation with him!  The hairs at the back of your neck will stand up when you check out his blog.
  3. essential guide to being unpublished  – by Nan Bovington quirky and she so reminds me of me.  She, however, is a way better blogger
  4. fuonlyknew - by Laura Thomas. Averaging 2-3 blog posts per day (ok, that's a guess) I read almost every posting and am influenced by more of her book reviews than she probably knows.
  5. Its worth a try – by Veronica Stewart. Relatively new blogger who adds a new chapter of her (soon it will be a novel) story about fairy adventures.  I've known her practically my whole life.
  6. Morgue of Intrigue – by Cory Eadson. Winner of a recent flash fiction competition that had 88 entries and what can I say about Cory that I haven't already said on this blog and tweeted.  I miss him
  7. There's always cracks – by Alycia Bezuidenhout. Obviously, I am biased when it comes to this young lady. I hope she knows how incredibly proud I am of her.
As I said, I could have nominated a load more but sadly I have been limited to 7. Know that even if you don't see your blog here, I still think you are beautiful

Thank you again Jane :)

Friday, 8 June 2012

The Gremlin and the Fox - Guest blog by Trish Doucette

I have known the author of this piece for a number of years.  Though quite a few years younger than me, we developed a bond that I have not made with very many people.  I would find it hard to put Trish in a box and label her for she is so many wonderful, diverse and exciting things to me.  Her personality is infectious and to know her, is to love her.  After having spent a year in Canada she returned to Manchester and we met up for lunch in February this year.  The girl I saw there was but a mere shell of her former bubbly, happy self.  I had not seen someone so sad and depressed and down on life and my heart went out to her.  Nothing, not even the smile she tried to give me, convinced me that she needed anything less than professional medical help and I urged her to do that.  I also asked her to write her feelings down and 4 months later, we met again.  This time, it was a different girl that I met.  Back, was the Trish that I knew and loved. Back was the girl full of life and laughter. During lunch, she took out her journal and read a piece to me that she had written in the midst of her depression. I was incredibly moved by it and asked her if I could blog it.  I'm grateful to say she agreed.  The piece below is very sad, yet it is hopeful. I believe this was the turning point for her and her slow recovery began here. Read it and draw your own conclusions. The picture is her portrayal of Mortimer. I hope you can appreciate this as much as I did.  Thank you Trish xx


the gremlin and the fox

I have once again stayed up consumed with the dread of facing another day. I watched television trying to distract/numb the fear. I craved the further escape of a book and climbed into bed approaching midnight. Despite feeling exhausted I continued reading. One o’clock came, two o’clock came, three o’clock too. Still I couldn’t give in to sleep. For reasons I will never understand the dark masks failure. It feels less concrete, less solid. The rising sun and what seems like endless daylight exposes the loser I have become. But back to the book. Its title amusingly enough is ‘Before I go to Sleep’. The protagonist has amnesia and perpetually arises to another day not remembering the past 20 years. As the story unfolds you discover she was a victim of a brutal attack and I quickly become engrossed. I long to forget my memories, to have my brain wiped clean of links to my past, happy and sad. And by the time I turn the last page I feel horrendous. My skin is putrid, my lungs burn, my head is filled with furry static. I turn out the lights fearing tomorrow, hoping I can sleep the day away. And then for whatever reason a glimpse of hope, the first in 6 months. I think to myself I can volunteer with an organisation until I resume my studies. The gremlin creeps up, the bad idea wolf growls “what organisation would possibly want you, you can’t do it, you don’t care anymore. Animal-lovin Trish is long gone”. And then a glimpse of a fox I saw crossing the street last night. My curtains were ajar for the first time. I was quickly checking my emails when the distant figure caught my eye. And somehow, someway I almost smiled. The corner of my lips slightly curved upwards. It could so easily have been missed but I felt the warmth somewhere deep inside. This was the first time since descending into darkness that I allowed an animal to bring me any joy. So I lay there thinking of that shadowed figure and I said “FUCK YOU, YOU WOLFY GREMLIN”. I am going to try. I want to try. Trying doesn’t seem so scary. But first I need to sleep. Shit, more wolfy gremlin. Let’s call him Mortimer. So Mortimer says “you are going to feel like fucking death warmed up tomorrow. Your skin is going to repulse you; you will want a smoke more than Pooh wants honey. You’ll be fat and fatigued, sickly and sore”. And I replied “YUP. BUT dearest Mortimer, you’re forgetting something. Trish is running this show. You are right, I will feel like death warmed up, my skin will repulse me and I will want me some honey. I’ll be pudgy and pathetic, ill and irritable but damn it I’ll have this. This mere moment way too late near the end of March when broken down and completely destitute I felt like me”. Clarity is mine and if I have to scramble deliriously to record this moment then that is exactly what I’ll do. So I am going to explore my options, contact my professor and allow myself some hope. Not only will I throw myself this bone but I will not stamp an expiration date on it. I have until September. Three months of experience would be stupendous. Living the rest of my life with joy, strength and humility means more. If I manage to sleep now I am going to miss a lot of tomorrow. But I hope that when I wake I will have the strength to walk with my Mom after eating a very late breakfast, finish that bastard sky in the missing one motherfucking piece puzzle, take Capone for an early evening stroll with my amazing fiancĂ© and finish it all off with a new movie. Will I struggle with my appearance, absolutely! But I have caught a glimpse of Trish and though it seems an eternity I looked straight at that exhausted reflection and declared I WILL GET THROUGH THIS!!!!!!!!! Now I realise this first fleeting moment of catharsis will not cure my ailments but it’s a fucking start. Mortimer has held an iron grip for many months, for many years and today I think maybe just maybe I’m tough enough to beat this son of a bitch. It’s time to start walking down another street. OR possibly even drive but we’ll save that for another time.

Tata for now, signing off a tired but hopeful lady


Thursday, 31 May 2012

Invisible

Warning: This is going to be a rant

I'm sure each and everyone of us has felt lonely at some point in our lives.  And I am willing to bet, that most of you have felt lonely in a sea of people? You know what I mean?  When you are surrounded by people everywhere, yet you feel unseen and unheard.
This happens to me sometimes.  And I will admit, it's probably tied to the kind of mood I am in at the time.  Normally, I am the kind of girl who will go into any room and start talking.  In crowds of people, it's usually me that's trying to crack jokes, who is laughing and who is having conversations with various people.  I can be loud and I can be giddy.  I usually am.  I am not afraid to meet new people and I am usually making a new friend every other day. 
So, when the day comes that I am standing there, and people are milling around me but I am quiet and feel like going to stand in the corner, it can be quite disconcerting.

Today has been a funny kind of day.  The day itself at the office was fine.  I was quite busy and my general attitude to the job was positive.  I didn't growl at too many people and was quite eager to help where I could and give a pep talk where it was needed.  The weather was crap though.  It has been a bit of a reality check after having almost 2 weeks of SUMMER in Manchester to wake up this morning to the grey and rain that is the bain of my life. By 10am this morning, my straightened hair was showing clear signs of waves, and by 2pm, curl melt-down had occurred.  On top of that, I had managed to get my shoes soaked through and cringed with disgust every time I had to put them back on. However, it was the 'bad news' after 'bad news' that I got today that seriously put a damper on things.

First, it was a text from hubby letting me know that his work van had been broken into.  A number of things had been taken, including a Satnav and his own personal CD's amongst other things. What made it worse for me was that his boss had blamed him and told him off about it. That is something I would never do.  I am sure you would feel gutted enough as it is and not need someone to hold you accountable for something so totally out of your control.

Next though, was the email I got from my mom.  Out of the blue she informs me that she has been in hospital for the last 4 days due to a very high sugar count and her diabetes has gone through the roof.  The only reason she was admitted in the first place was because she had complained to the doctor about back ache.  The back problem took a back seat the moment they checked her sugar levels and rushed her straight into hospital.  I can understand why she didn't tell me when she was first admitted.  Besides, there really isn't much I can do 5000 miles away, but I was still upset.  Not only because she is clearly not well, but because I AM 5000 miles away and helpless. 

I jumped on the phone after reading her email and called her. I needed to hear her voice and make sure she really was ok now.  And aside from sounding very tired, I believe that as long as she sticks to the diet they gave her, and injects the insulin as she has been instructed, she will be ok.  As for the back, well, it turned out to be something quite minor. 

Yet I felt my mood drop right through the floor.  Its been nearly 5 years since I have seen my parents.  Sure, I talk to my mom often, and we chat on Facebook as you do, but I haven't seen her in almost 5 years.  Each year we talk about going back to South Africa to see them, but that silly old issue with money keeps coming up.  You won't believe how much it costs now-a-days for 4 people to fly return to Johannesburg.  And then other, more affordable things come up - like trips to Greece, new car, citizenship, and trips out to the where-ever....and you think, next year.  I will go to SA next year.

Shortly after my talk with my mom I got another email from a very good friend and she was asking me how I was.  Of course, I told her about my mom, and the car and how sad I was at not having seen my mom or dad in so long and she pointed out a few obvious things I could do.  Saving money being one obvious one, but she also asked why I don't just go by myself. If only just for a week, to spend some time with them.  Admittedly, flight costs for me would be a lot cheaper, but I would feel selfish not taking the children with me and then there is hubby to think about too. So what to do? What to do?

This evening, I came home to find the CSI (yes, you read that correctly) parked outside my house, doing a thorough 'Crime Scene Investigation' on the work van. A little bit of action that would normally have had me giddy with excitement and I just ended up sitting on the couch bored with it all, looking at the take-away menu, wondering what to eat. I couldn't even decide on that.

Tonight, I went onto Twitter and after reading through a few tweets, marketing my new blog for contributors, felt totally lost and lonely.  All these people, tweeting, chatting and what have you, and I may as well have been invisible, because that is how I felt. I spotted people there, who were tweeting, who I tweeted yesterday and who hadn't replied to me, so I felt ignored by them.  My mood dropped even further, and the thought 'Lonely in a sea of people' came to mind.

So, here I am blogging about my feelings tonight and thinking to myself that the reader is probably thinking I need to get over myself.  The reader would be right in saying that too, because I do need to get over myself. As I type this I am thinking exactly that.  But, as I have said many times, there is nothing better, than writing my feelings down, for me to best express myself and get it all off my chest.  I usually walk away feeling better for it anyway and that is perhaps the quickest way for me to get over myself.  But every once in a while, we do have a down day don't we, and I personally think it's allowed. 

So, if you ever feel like you are alone amongst hundreds of people, be it Facebook or Twitter or whatever other social media or situation you are in, you are not alone.  There is probably always someone there who is just wishing someone would reach out to them and include them.  As for me, I will most likely be back to my usual loud/happy self tomorrow but for tonight, I'd like very much to feel sorry for myself thank you very much.

Miss you mom and dad xxxxxxx


Bx




Monday, 7 May 2012

Misunderstood

It wasn't as if this was new to him, people looking through him as if he wasn't even there. The giggles he would hear coming from the young secretaries when they did happen to notice him. Sneers on the faces of the jocks, as he called them, and sometimes those very same men would punch and kick him when they knew no one would be looking. A typical day would involve Sam burying his head in paperwork or staring intently at his computer when he was at his desk, or hurrying through the corridors at work, eyes downcast, feet moving at great speed to get to where he needed to be.
Even at the lifts, nobody would ever hold the door open for him. No, he was much more inclined to see the doors slide shut as he hurried towards them, the occupant/s of the lift usually looking away, as if not wanting to see the defeatist look on his face as he tried, yet again unsuccessfully, to reach the lift in time.
This was a typical day in the life of a man who was tired, so very tired, of being misunderstood.

After the incident, nobody could quite say what was the snapping point? What was the ‘stressor’, if you happened to be listening to the FBI or ‘the straw that broke the camels back’, if it was the interview with his mother you were listening to. A lot of people had a lot of ideas, but nobody knew for sure. Only Sam knew and Sam wasn't saying.

The morning before it all happened started out like any other. Getting to work earlier than normal, Sam went to his desk and put down his bag. He was immediately concerned when he noticed that the pile of papers he had left on his desk had been moved. Furthermore, the hand-outs he had done, ready for the meeting at 9am this morning, were missing. After spending a few minutes going through ever single pile of paper on his desk, Sam realised that they were gone. Where the hand-outs had ended up, he could only guess, and he wondered if perhaps David had his hand in this, as David had been hanging around close to his desk yesterday evening when Sam had finally finished putting them all together. No matter, he thought, there were two things in his favour today. One - he was early in the office and two, the documents were all saved on his hard drive.
And so, Sam went about making another eight copies, printing and stapling them and had just finished the last one, when his co-workers started making their way into the office.
Sam peered up and looked at the clock on the wall. Ten minutes to nine it read. Desperate for a cup of coffee but not wanting to be caught out again, Sam put the newly printed hand-outs into his top desk drawer and made his way to the kitchen. Gretchen, his boss’s secretary was stood gossiping with Penny, the biggest gossip in the typing pool. When he came closer they both glanced up and looked at him. Gretchen rolled her eyes and Penny giggled, but neither one said a word while he hunted for his coffee mug. Sam felt his face begin to go red as he searched and searched, his coffee mug nowhere to be found. What made it worse was that neither Gretchen nor Penny spoke a word while he searched, but rather, just stared at him, irritation on their faces, as if they couldn't wait for him to get lost so they could continue talking, talking about him probably, he thought.

"You lost something loser boy?"
Sam peered out from behind the cupboard he was currently searching and saw David standing by the kitchen door, looking down at him.
"Erm, my coffee mug, I cannot find it."
"I am sure I saw the cleaner throw it out yesterday. She said something about it being the most disgusting mug she had ever seen" David replied, sneering and both Gretchen and Penny giggled.
Sam stood up. He knew at that moment that his coffee mug had probably been thrown out, but doubted very much it was the cleaner.
"Oh, OK, very well" he muttered and looked down at the floor.
"And don't even think about laying your prissy hands on any of my mugs" David said, moving towards Sam, the size of him enough to threaten, if not the fact that his body language was screaming that he would hit Sam at any minute.
Sam sidestepped David and made a hasty retreat out of the kitchen, but not quick enough so as not to hear all three of them laughing as he left. He pondered with the idea of going outside and getting a coffee from 'Cafe Nero' - a coffee shop just around the corner, but glancing at the clock again, realised that the meeting would begin in 2 minutes and that he had run out of time.

It wasn't unusual for Sam's boss to ask him to make coffee and tea for attendees of his meetings. Sam wondered why he didn't ask Gretchen, his secretary to do this, but normally, he would wave Sam over and instruct him to make a certain amount of cups of tea, and/or a certain amount of cups of coffee. Having made 5 cups of tea, 3 cups of coffee and having run downstairs and ordered a dozen croissants from a nearby bakery and depositing these on the table in the boardroom, Sam finally found himself back at his desk and opened up his email.

'Loser' was the title of an email in his inbox, sent at 5.43pm last night.  Clicking it, Sam noticed the email body was empty, but there was an attachment with it.  He double clicked this and finally saw what had happened to his hand-outs from the previous day.  In the picture was a set of hands holding his print-outs.  Sam was pretty sure it was Derek's hands - A guy who was so huge he appeared to be on steroids - that sat at the desk next to his, but  Sam couldn't be sure. The person who was holding the print-outs was in the process of feeding them through the shredding machine.  Sam looked over at the shredder and indeed, lying in the paper receptacle was his print-outs, shredded into a million coloured strips.
The sender of the email was 'Youre_a_loser@mail.com' but Sam knew that there was no point in reporting this.  The guys at IT treated him just as bad, if not worse than most of his co-workers. He sighed, deleted the email and moved onto the next one, so beginning his work day.

By lunch time, Sam had got through a significant amount of work and decided to take the book he was currently reading with him to the coffee shop around the corner.  He didn’t enjoy reading or eating at his desk, mostly because people would talk too loud, or tease him about the book he was reading or make fun of the sandwich his mom had prepared for him. At least at the coffee shop, he was almost guaranteed to get a good hour of relative peace while he read.  He bent down to retrieve his book from his satchel but found his bag was missing.  He heard a few titters around him.  People who had obviously been waiting all morning for him to discover the theft and felt the heat rush to his face as he blushed.  He looked to the left and the right of his desk. Gone.
His wallet was in the bag, his library card, and the keys to his home.  He felt the edge of panic and looked around the office; unable to help the look of pleading he was sure was all over his face.
"What you looking for Sam?" Gretchen asked, looking up from her computer, a mock look of concern on her face.
"My bag, it’s gone!"
"Bags are for girls, Gay boy" Derek retorted getting up from his desk and grabbing his coat.
"I'm sure I heard David say that he saw a bag in the men's room earlier." Sarah volunteered from the other side of the office without looking up from her computer, a trace of a smile on her face.

He knew it was a trap.  Of course it was a trap.  But there was nothing that Sam could do.  He desperately wanted to get it back, to know that he had all his things back again, to get his book and to escape from this wretched place and so, with trepidation, made his way to the men's room, the sound of sniggering and soft voices trailing behind him.

As always, the smell of stale urine assaulted his senses as the 'Men's Room' door swung closed behind him.  There, in the urinal, soaked through with what was obviously pee, lay his satchel.  David, Greg from the IT department and Derek were standing at the basin washing their hands.  
"Is that your girlie bag lying in the piss?' asked David looking at Sam through the reflection in the mirror.
Sam moved forward to retrieve it, his nose screwing up at the smell, disgust washing over him as he touched it and felt it was soaking wet.
"If you want to be a man, you should get yourself a briefcase and stop with the girlie bags, gay boy' Derek said, smoothing his almost-there moustache and grinning at his own reflection in the mirror.
"Look, please leave me alone.  I don't do anything to bother you." Sam said, feeling disgust at himself as he heard the pleading in his own voice.
Greg, moving quickly, was suddenly stood in front of him, blocking his escape route from the men's room.
"Are you going to take that ladies bag, all covered in piss with you?" Greg questioned him, the look of revulsion clear on his face.
"Please..." Sam heard himself beg
"You are a sick, messed up loser" Greg replied and pushed him hard.
Sam fell backwards, his back hitting the white tiled wall, but his feet slipped out from under him and he fell with a thud, landing in the urinal, the back of his pants immediately soaking through with piss and water.
David and Derek both laughed at him and shook their heads.  Greg, as if enraged even further by this, kicked Sam's satchel, sending it flying across the room, into one of the toilet stalls.
"You piece of shit, you make me sick" He snarled, the look of loathing all over his face.
"Chill Greg, he isn’t worth it." Said David, still grinning and he held the door open, waiting for Greg to follow him and Derek out of the restroom.

Mortified, Sam got up and retrieved his bag. His body was shaking - From fear? From anger? - He thought it was probably both.  The seat of his pants was wet through, the legs of his trousers wet in places and his satchel reeked of urine.  He opened the bag and dug inside and found his book too was soaked through.  Everything inside was wet and stank.  He felt tears prick his eyes.  He couldn't go back into the office now? Wet and smelling like this?  He couldn't go to the coffee shop either, not now that his book was virtually unreadable.  They had taken everything away from him.  His print-outs, his coffee mug, his bag, his book, but most importantly, now his pride.  Sam would put up with it no more.
Lifting his satchel up and throwing it over his shoulder, Sam wiped the one tear that had managed to escape and was making its way down his cheek.  He stood up and squared his shoulders and with all the determination he could muster, Sam headed out the door and headed for the lift.

People waved their hands in front of their noses and some made gagging noises as he walked past, but he no longer noticed.  Gretchen, on seeing Sam as he hurried past her, noticed he was wet from the waist down, wondered if he had pee'ed himself and for the first time, felt a small sense of disgust when she looked over at Derek and David, seeing them grinning and realised what had happened.  She shook her head softly from side to side but continued typing.
The doors to the lift were closing as he neared the lift, but this time, Sam stuck his hand in the way and doors opened again.  He stepped inside and not a sound was uttered by any of the 4 occupants as they travelled the 12 floors down. Even if someone had said something, it's doubtful that Sam would have heard, the buzzing in his ears was too loud, the anger too acute.

Sam didn't stop at Cafe Nero's that lunch time. No, for the first time since he had started working in the city, Sam hailed a cab and gave the driver the address to his home.  He took no notice of the questioning look on the taxi driver’s face, nor did he notice when the driver rolled down his window to allow fresh air in the cab.  When the taxi cab pulled to a stop outside the home that Sam shared with his mother, he asked the cab driver to wait and without waiting for a reply, or paying the driver, Sam fished in his bag for his key and entered his home.
Throwing his satchel to the ground and pulling his wet pants off, Sam threw them into the corner of the room. Next, Sam removed his underpants and his shirt.  He walked over to the washing basket and dug out his old sweatpants and a t-shirt. Then, replacing his office shoes with loafers, he dug out a clean, dry bag from his cupboard.  Finally, Sam headed over to his grandfathers safe. Long dead now, the safe was where his mother kept her father's things. His papers, the deed to the property they lived in, a few sentimental items and his gun with a few boxes of bullets.  Sam packed the gun and all the bullets into the bag, swung it over his shoulder and headed out the door, back to the waiting taxi.

The taxi driver smiled to himself, pleased that his fare had bothered to change out of those reeking clothes and wasn't surprised when his passenger told him to head back to the office block he had picked him up from not 15 minutes earlier.

********

Standing, outside the building, Gretchen was almost hysterical with not knowing what was going on.  There must have been 15 police cars and at least 4 ambulances all converged outside her office building and she was surrounded with weeping and bleeding people.  She didn’t spot a single one of her co-workers and the news that was filtering through to her wasn’t good. A gunman, someone said they thought his name was Sam, had apparently gone into the building and began shooting everyone. 
“I need to get inside, please!” she begged the tenth police officer that ran past her, but like all the others, this one only shook his head. “I’m terribly sorry ma’am, nobody is going in and only the injured and the dead are being brought out at this time.”

Somewhere deep inside of her, realisation finally hit and Gretchen fell down to the ground on her knees, screaming out in anguish, tearing at her hair and thanking God that she had left the office to run the errand that her boss had given her.  She screamed and screamed, and even though there was no blood on her, paramedics ran over to her and swiftly loaded her into a waiting ambulance and sped away with the hysterical woman.

Friday, 27 April 2012

A Day in the Life of an Author - Guest blog by Jane Isaac


I am honoured and very excited to present this guest blog by the incredibly talented Jane Isaac, author of 'An Unfamiliar Murder'. A novel I urge you to buy if you enjoy exciting thrillers that leave you guessing until the last page.  She has posted her website url so please be sure you visit and if you are so inclined leave a comment on her blog. Thank you Jane for allowing me to feature you here.



First, I would like to thank the wonderfully talented Bernadette Davies for inviting me to grace her blog presence. I have been a huge plan of her blog, stories and poetry forever, and feel honoured and humbled to accept the invitation.

A Day in the Life of an Author

I can still feel the bounce in my stomach the day I received the email offering me a contract for my debut novel, An Unfamiliar Murder. I still pinch myself to believe that it is all true. I’d dreamed of the day I would get published, the day I would see my book on the shelf in Waterstones, receive feedback, reviews, do book signings...

Book promotion is an ongoing basis and something I’ve had to fit into my already hectic daily schedule. Once I’ve bundled my daughter off to school in the mornings I spend half an hour on the computer dealing with emails, answering messages, tweets etc. Then it’s off to the day job for me. (Like many new writers I squeeze my writing into my marginal time.) I usually return around three and run around the field with my incredibly naughty, but wonderfully lovable Labrador, Bollo. Then, back onto the PC to catch up again with social media, whilst welcoming my daughter in from school and cooking the dinner, occasionally to disastrous results (luckily my guys are very easy going)!
 
The evening time is when I start to think about the real love of my life: my fiction. A few evenings a week, around 8pm, I sit at the PC for an hour or two, gather my thoughts, and spend some time either researching, editing, or writing a new stretch. I don’t give myself a daily word count – if I manage 1000 words it’s a bonus – but prefer to write in scenes. Depending on their complexity I can research for hours, days, sometimes weeks before I am ready to get the words on the page.

For me, one of the most interesting elements of novel writing is research and it’s incredible what direction that can take. Most recently, I had a meeting with a former Murder Detective, watched several episodes of Top Gear, and listened to rap music on YouTube; all in pursuit of my goal!

It may seem that I don’t have much time to write, but my characters are never far from my mind and often in the supermarket queue, or by the pool during my daughter’s swim class, I’m jotting down notes that will later form some prose in my next novel, the sequel to An Unfamiliar Murder.

One of the wonderful things about becoming an author and sharing your work are the lovely messages you receive from readers through Face book, email, Twitter, telling you how much they enjoyed your book. They still both surprise and thrill me, and I’m so touched that people have taken the time to get in touch that I like to respond to them all individually.

The day my books landed in Waterstones, Kettering was a very exciting moment for me. Seeing my book sit on the shelf above one of my favourite crime authors, Peter James, is still an exhilarating moment, every time I visit the store. I have my first book signing there on the 26th May and am really looking forward to it.

Jane Isaac’s debut novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was published by Rainstorm Press in February 2012. You can learn more about Jane, read her blog and an excerpt from her novel on her website at www.janeisaac.co.uk




Follow Jane on Twitter and you can also download or order her book from Amazon here: UK and USA