So there I was clicking my way across the Internet when I came across the MumpreneurUK website with its award scheme for website designs. Go on, my inner voice urged. Enter. What have you got to lose?
Today I'm glad that I listened to that voice because I heard I'd been awarded a bronze award in recognition of my ability to create a website that meets their requirements:
And my chest has been puffed out and my head held high for the rest of the day. I did it all myself ... yes, me! Techno-phobic, learn as you go along, believer in there's always a man (or woman) on Youtube to show you what to do 24/7, keep clicking even if you have lost the whole thing through your own incompetence and have to curse, cry and kick something in frustration til you get it right, ME!
So if I can do it - so can you.
PS. What do you think? Like it too?
The bluebells on my dog walk this morning.
There comes a time in a Mother Hen’s life when she knows she just has to let go. Along with other milestones in her chicks' lives, such as starting nursery, going to ‘big’ school and leaving home, she knows that at some point they just have to stand alone and can’t be watched 24/7.
Boarding the ferry to the Isle of Wight this weekend on the way to visiting friends, I was grateful as I witnessed other parents struggling with babies and toddlers, bottles, buggies and bags that I was long past that stage. My eldest has left home and started a new job, Middle Child was beavering away at her studies at home (or so she reassured me she would be after the party on Saturday night) and my Bonus Third Child taking up the last place in the car, squashed between me and his surrogate aunty. The long weekend of self indulgence stretched ahead of me.
Parking alongside the other vehicles on the car deck we gathered our things ready to dispense ourselves into the crowds. O.H. was dispatched post haste to secure seats for us on the deck above; surrogate uncle, the driver, wrestled with the boot to unload the Saturday papers, cardigans and cake while I intended to meander to the coffee queue to obtain the required fix for us all.
It was with some degree of haziness I registered the tannoy announcement asking for the owner of the silver Nissan to ‘please return to the vehicle as the alarm has been activated’ ten minutes later.
I looked at my friend. Her face fixed with recognition as she listened to the announcement again.
‘That’s our car!’ she exclaimed.
I looked around our small group of five. I counted three.
Turning round to scan the cabin for the others, our driver and Bonus Child were laughing as they approached us.
‘Thanks for leaving me behind,’ Bonus reprimanded us. ‘You locked the car and I couldn’t get out. I had to knock on the window and get the deckhand to help but he couldn’t hear me because the alarm was so loud.’
‘But I thought you…’ I accused O.H.
‘I was up here,’ he answered in his defense. ‘I thought you…’
‘Didn’t you check the car was empty before you locked it?’ I asked our driver.
‘He was bending down doing up his shoes. How long does that take? Anyway it must have taken at least 10 minutes for you two to get yourselves out of the car. I thought he’d gone ahead,’ he proclaimed.
Later as I headed back to the coffee queue the man in front of us looked around at my son.
‘Are you the poor lad stuck in the car?’ He asked. ‘I wondered how you would get out.’
Thanks for that, I wanted to answer. Just perfect. How to make me feel even more guilty for leaving him behind.
Let me just qualify here and dig myself out of my place as the worst mother in the world. Bonus Child is nearly 15 years old. He is 6ft tall, has size 12 feet and is Head Boy at his school. All attributes I feel that meant I could begin to relinquish my 24/7 watch on his movements. I don't think he's going to use this experience as evidence against us in court, nor is scarred for life. Like most growing Inbetweeners he was more concerned with whether we’d left any food in the car to see him through his ordeal. But it seems this Mother Hen will be counting her chicks out and counting them in again for just a little while longer.
It has taken a while in the making as I was undecided about what would reflect Suzi’s adventures best. But I'm very pleased to announce the new cover for my latest book Love, Suzi x.
Luckily thanks to my lovely friend, Charlie Plunkett, who put me on to the brilliant Bryan Hamilton of ekindled.co.uk we have managed to come up with a cover that I hope you will agree encapsulates just the right mood for the book.
Until I started I didn’t realise how hard it would be. How to be subtle but stylish, give a hint of the book content but not say too much and don’t even get me started on how difficult it was to choose the colours. In the end I chose the glow of sunset – my favourite time to be on a beach with a book. Hope it gives you a warm feeling too.
The manuscript is nearing completion. Final edits are in place so watch this space to find out when it will be available to download. Rest assured I won't let you forget.
Bryan is an eBook formatter and designer, so if you are an author looking for your latest cover do look him up.
The container arriving at the farm.
Like many of you I multi-task. As well as writing and the family, I also own an e-store - East is East. I've been ask what it was like to import goods into the country so I thought I'd share my experiences with you about how I started importing home accessories from Indonesia.
It was as I stood and watched the articulated lorry beeping, backing its way through the huge farm shed doors I asked myself, not for the first time, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ After all I’d only wired a very large sum of money to a man I’d never met, on the other side of the world to get to this point. I was about to open the seals on a 20ft container piggybacked on the artic lorry. I prayed that it wasn’t: a) empty, b) full of damaged goods or c) full of stowaways ready to make a run for it.
I’m not ‘Made in Chelsea’ rich nor reckless but I have been itching to have my own online store for a long time. www.eastiseasthome.co.uk started in earnest when I tried to source an item I really wanted in my own home - genuine shell curtain tie backs; exquisite and beautiful. I searched the web. One retailer popped up on the screen. He was in Australia but I had to buy in bulk. That got me thinking. I decided to search further for other unusual items of home ware. I eventually unearthed marvellous tea lights and candle lanterns. East is East was born. If I worked on the premise that I only chose handmade, unique items that I would love to have in my own home, I was surely onto a winner? Most people like to be a bit different and if my products weren’t available elsewhere in the UK, that would be my unique selling point.
I researched more wholesalers in Indonesia. Some had websites I didn’t like. Some only had a few items I thought would appeal to customers in the West. I narrowed it down to two that I felt might work and emailed them. With the mind of a stalker I scoured the Internet for everything I could find on their history. If I was going to part with my hard earned cash I needed to know that I was likely to end up with quality goods. I emailed other retailers around the globe chasing up references, Facebooked and chatted to everyone I could think of who had experience in this field. Decision made. With everything crossed I chose a few samples and got them delivered to check the quality before I placed an order for a container load. If a few dozen items couldn’t make their way safely across the skies to my door, how could I expect my container to have a peaceful cruise? I said a trepid goodbye to my money and pinged it across the globe and waited.
One day not soon afterwards, I came home to a large box. The items had arrived. Some were perfect but others were too flimsy to survive their journey. I researched again. I produced a product list and sent it back across the world hoping that it could all be made in time for the Christmas trade. This was May. We had a total of five months to wait: two months to make the goods and three for them to cross the seas. I felt reasonably confident.
As the days counted down, an email arrived from the wholesaler. Although it was a sunny summer here it was monsoon season in Indonesia and the paint on some of my mobiles wouldn’t be dry in time if the shipment was to catch the boat. I could delay and wait or go ahead without them. Reluctant to wait any longer I decided that the few that were dry were better than none and that I could always get the others in the next order. It was mainly the baby tropical fish causing the problem. Kids eh? Always do make you wait for them.
A week went by. Another email arrived. My wholesaler told me he needed my Eori number before he could complete the import paperwork and release the cargo. Eori number? He might as well have said he needed my late mother’s waist measurement. I had no idea what it was nor how to get it. I returned to my trusty Qwerty. It seemed not only did I need an Eori number but I had to have something called a ‘Bill of Lading’.
For any of you who have tried to understand the Customs and Excise website guidelines you will know that you have to digest it slowly. For starters I recommend a dictionary, then a thesaurus for mains and a sugar laced dessert of Psychology. And in case of complete overload, wash it down with a large glass of patience. Arghhh… the days ticked away towards Christmas.
Then another problem reared its ugly head. When the ship arrived at the UK docks, I somehow had to complete all the import paperwork at this end in an allotted time otherwise the goods would not be released. As far as I could see I had two choices. I could either drive down to Southampton not knowing what I was supposed to do and hope for success or I could engage someone called a freight forwarding agent to process the documents in a more civilized fashion. It was all becoming a bit complicated.
I am a firm believer that there is someone waiting 24/7 to upload a video about ‘everything you want to know but are afraid to ask’ on Google. I tracked down a few forwarding companies. At random I picked one and rang. I explained to the woman on the other end of the telephone what I was trying to accomplish. She was extremely helpful and told me about the documents I needed to have in place before customs would allow me to get my sweaty mitts on my purchases. I clicked here and there between forms and websites whilst juggling numerous cups of coffee. I rang her again. She explained something else. I managed to fill in part of a form then, like in an exam, came to a question I didn’t know the answer to. I rang her a third time. With the patience of a saint my new best friend explained what I had to do. Good enough for me. If she could cope with a harassed, import-naïve newbie and still be polite, she could have my business.
Months later it was 8.30 on a dreary November morning when the phone rang. Other half, Nick, was walking the dogs. The lorry with the container had arrived at the farm where we planned to store our container, earlier than expected and the driver was having a cup of tea. Cup of tea! Why hadn’t I been told the moment he had left the docks at Southampton? We only had three hours to unload the 20ft container before we went into extra time and penalty charges. I rang Nick and shrieked at him to skedaddle his way home. The dogs would have to wait. An hour into our allotted time we both arrived at the farm.
Bolt cutters (I hadn’t realised I’d need them in my handbag) were produced to crack the seal so we could open the container doors. They swung open. My neatly stacked brown paper packages were tied up, not with string, but in some places nailed to the floor. First hurdle over. At least I hadn’t paid for the container to sit empty on the ship for 3 months and I didn't appear to have any unwanted visitors to declare to immigration… unless…I quickly opened the nearest box. Shredded newspaper like confetti tumbled out. I put my hand in hesitantly. What if a large, hairy fanged spider had stolen its way into one of the boxes and was about to give me a fatal bite?
‘Do you know if they have deadly spiders in Bali,’ I casually inquired.
In the end whilst the driver sat in his cab and looked at his tabloid, the unloading only took four of us half an hour. As the end of the lorry came into view I gave into temptation and started opening a few of the boxes stacked neatly in the storage. Like Christmas morning I got more and more excited as I pulled first one, then another exquisite handmade item from their wrappings. Beautiful butterfly tea lights, owl lanterns and real cowry shell curtain tie backs surrounded me. I lifted a large, green, wooden, duck mobile above my head and pulled the thread to make its wings flap to admire the paintwork and craftsmanship. Nothing seemed broken or damaged from its long journey over the high seas and after a quick count of the carefully labelled boxes, all seemed present and correct.
Now a year and a bit down the road, I can’t wait to arrange for another container to sail its way to me. Yes, it was a steep learning curve to import the goods from another country but… nothing ventured, nothing gained. And yes, I relied on my faith in my fellow man’s integrity. I was lucky, but yes, it is something I would do again.
East is East is having a sale of up to 25% off while stocks last. We are hoping to import new items this year and we are always on the look out for new stockists to sell our goods so that we can spread the word and help style your home from distant shores.
East is East
When the lovely Charlie Plunkett asked if she could come and visit my website on her blog tour, I was delighted. For those of you who don't know Charlie, she is the very successful self published author of four books. The latest being 100 Little Words on Parenthood - a delightful book on all aspects of parenthood written by parents, grandparents and experts, all neatly wrapped up in 100 word snippets.
My words of wisdom (ah..hem) are featured in the teenagers section.
As many of you are either self publishing or wanting to self publish, I asked Charlie if she would share some of her top tips with us on the secret of her success:-
'Since becoming a mum I have learnt to juggle, not in the circus skill way, the multitude of different things that motherhood entails. So then why did I add to the already huge ‘to do’ list by trying to become a published author?
Well for starters it has always been a childhood ambition of mine to write books and as a mum I am very aware that I can hardly encourage my child to reach for his dreams if I don’t try and fulfil a few of my own. I’m also incredibly sentimental and have kept diaries since I was 13 and when I was deliberating what my first book should be about it was the milestone moment in my life of getting married that prompted me to write The True Diary of a Bride-to-be. I wrote this book when my little boy was around six months old, using the computer whenever he took a nap. Shortly after the book was published I continued with the theme of ‘true diaries’ and charted my pregnancy The True Diary of a Mum-to-be and having a baby The True Diary of Baby’s First Year. My latest book 100 Little Words on Parenthood is a book I have complied with the help of 100 fabulous contributors.
My advice to anyone thinking of writing a book is to simply go for it. Chose a topic that is dear to your heart and just make a start. My books have all been non-fiction but I do have a couple of ideas for fictional novels I’m keen to write. With ebooks becoming the phenomenal success they are you can write and publish a book very easily and if you decide to do it the independent way there is very little cost involved.
So you have an idea and you have a computer with Word that’s all you really need to start your novel, eek how exciting!
Start writing and DO NOT re-read until you have written at least three chapters otherwise you will simply get bogged down with errors and doubts as to whether your writing is any good. This first draft of your manuscript is the framework if you like and you will most likely end up altering and tweaking it once you get into the flow of things, but for now just write. Do not indent your paragraphs, write in arial size 12 font and double spaced as this is the preferred way for publishing houses and agents.
The best piece of advice I would give to you is that once you have finished and are happy with your manuscript get friends, better readers and most importantly an editor to look over this for you. This will be your first cost and the best money you will ever spend. With a good editor on-board they will catch any typos and grammatical errors you have made and offer their professional opinion on the story and other elements of your book. (Take their advice and try not to take any comments as criticism they have the same objective as you, for your book to be the best it can be).
So you have a great book what next? The cover is so important and will be your next little expense. For an ebook you will pay considerably less for your cover design than for a paperback, as there is the spine and back cover to be taken into consideration. Unless you have experience as a designer I would suggest you leave this to the professionals as an unprofessional cover will reflect badly, you wouldn’t turn up for a job interview in ripped jeans would you? You can help your designer by looking through the many excellent royalty free images on places like Dreamstime and iStockphoto. I would highly recommend the designer for my latest book 100 Little Words on Parenthood Bryan Hamilton @ekindled and he also is a whizz at formatting books for any type of ereader.
If you want to test the water without spending too much money then publishing on Amazon kindle for example or Smashwords is a great way to do it. Your book is easy to download, make sure you have formatted it correctly as it can look horrible if you haven’t. It’s easy to set up accounts and royalties will be paid into your account every month.
If you want to have a physical copy of your book then there are lots of companies who offer print on demand and will publish your book for you. I use Grosvenor House Publishing and I know of successful indie authors who use CreateSpace. The other option, if you have plenty of patience and do not want to spend any money yourself, is to send out query letters to agents and publishing houses. I have chosen not to take this route, but my top advice to you would be to spend a lot of time on your query letter. I know for a fact that if your letter is poor or doesn’t engage an agent they will not even read your manuscript.
If you follow all these simple steps you will have become a published author and this is when the hard work begins! Yes believe it or not the writing of your book is the easy bit, promoting and marketing your book is where all the hard will come in. Whatever route you take to getting your book published you will still be the one to whom the bulk of the marketing will fall on. Even established authors in this current climate are being required to go the extra mile in promoting their books and I think this is a good thing. Not unlike the journey towards becoming a mum you have dreamt of and given ‘birth’ to your book and as with your child no one else will understand your book the way you will.
Wishing you lots of luck.
To follow my blog and enter a competition to win 100 Little Word on Parenthood please visit my site www.charlieplunkett.co.uk'
I hope you found that helpful, I certainly did. With LOVE, SUZI x going to be out there soon, I need all the help I can get to market her into your hearts. If there's anything else you'd like to ask Charlie leave a comment here and it will be passed on.
The lovely Charlie Plunkett www.charlieplunkett.co.uk has tagged me into the seven line challenge. Thank you Charlie. Don't forget to have a look at her latest book 100 Little Words on Parenthood, especially the teenager section where you will finds some words of wisdom ( a..hem) from yours truly.
As one who likes a challenge here goes. I have to give you seven lines of my latest manuscript.Love Suzi x is based on my experience as long haul cabin crew for B.A. It is a 90,000-word contemporary, romantic novel told through Suzi’s disarmingly honest, humorous letters to her childhood friend, Eve.
If life for Suzi at 35,000ft is turbulent - life on the ground is hardly a breeze.
Here's seven lines from page 77 when Suzi is caught naked but for Ed's bathrobe, by his girlfriend, Candy.
'Take that bloody robe off,’ she said storming past me. ‘I’ll make the tea.’
Ever spent time wishing you were a thousand miles away? I think, not-so-sweet Candy, must have spat in my tea it tasted so foul. She sat in the kitchen with a face like a bulldog, screwed up and ready to pounce. I retreated upstairs and changed back into my uniform. My suitcase was still in the boot of my car at the airport so I only had the clothes I arrived in. Just as I finished buttoning my blouse, my stockings thrust into my jacket pocket -I couldn’t be bothered to put them on again, anyway my legs were brown enough not to look too bad - Ed pulled up outside the house in my Peugeot.
I am passing the baton over to some wonderful writers who will entertain and delight you with their storytelling.
James Garcia Jnr - jamesgarciajr.blogspot.co.uk
Wendy Reakes - www.wendyreakes.weebly.com
Terry Tyler - Terry Tyler blog
Jane Isaac - www.janeisaac.co.uk
Writers, this is the mission: Go to line 7 on either page 7 or page 77 of your manuscript and do a post with the next 7 lines, then tag 7 people to keep the challenge going! This a short and savvy way to see what others out there in the blogosphere are writing.
For those of you wanting an update on my latest manuscript Love, Suzi x, the book version of 'Diary of a Long Haul Stewardess' that I have been blogging about, I can tell you that I have posted the first approx 10,000 words on this writing site:-
If you want to see how it's turning out, click on the link, pop over and have a look. Other writers are offering feedback and are saying the nicest things. If you are a writer yourself I would definitely advise putting some of your work on writing sites. Most people are extremely friendly and only want to help you make your work better with their suggestions. You can of course, take as much notice of their comments as you wish but when they are like this:
'I'm not a chick (more of a... well whatever the masculine is?) but I found this hilarious. Seriously, if you're having a bad day you need to flick a quick read of this. Fast, saucy, well written and very funny.
The opening chapter had me rolling in the aisles (ahem!)... especially the bit where Suzi was trying to save the man's life.
There are some other great lines too, like: 'I have a training manual so large it needs a chauffeur'
'concertina men all holding hands in a row. One picks up his pint and it’s a signal for the others to do the same.' So true!
If this book sold only to cabin crew it would be a best seller (I know a few who would definitely love it).
But really, this book's for anyone who enjoys a little light hearted adventure, is keen to know what cabin crew REALLY get up to... and likes a good laugh.
Well done. I feel on cloud nine after that!
or this :-
Hi Teresa; I have just read your first two chapters.
I don't know why you labeled this as chick-lit because I certainly aren't a chick and I loved it.
It's rare that I can be made to beam like a fool but you achieved it with the first chapter particularly. By the time I got to Suzi's miraculous, unclothing, hands treatment I was beaming from ear to ear. Can't believe she left a pregnant woman behind though, LOL, in chapter two.
Despite the many funny moments in this it does not change the fact it is also an excellently written work. Faultless to be honest.
I found both the flow of the story and the content to be fantastic. I do not say that lightly. I know we are supposed to offer up tips and corrections here, but I honestly can't. The only thing I could possibly suggest would be to say 'One month earlier' near the beginning of chapter two, or something like that. Only due to the fact that I was enjoying it so much that I didn't pay much attention to the small dates. But that is being hyper-critical.
I wish you all the best with this and am sure it will do well.
As for me, I shall be watchlisting this for if I need cheering up on a rainy day.'
... it's hard not to feel glad that random strangers are beginning to 'Love Suzi' just as much as I do.
I'm planning on my latest book, LOVE, SUZI x being published soon. It’s a contemporary romantic comedy based on my experiences flying around the world as a 'trolley-dolly'. Though you'll have to guess which ones are true...
Suzi Frazier doesn’t want the life mapped out for her…boyfriend Matt wants her to be sensible, settle down and have his babies. Suzi knows something is missing- but what is it? Becoming a long haul stewardess opens up a world of possibilities but if life for Suzi at 35,000ft is turbulent, life on the ground is hardly a breeze.
Here's an extract to whet your appetites:-
‘My husband’s dead!’ My mind quickly scanned for the training manual that I had been studying so fervently the last months. Nope, I couldn’t remember any page where it advised how to cope with this eventuality. Mind you, this was exciting stuff for my first flight as a bona fide stewardess.
‘Let me come and see, madam,’ was the best I could come up with, flinging back the galley curtain whilst motioning to my colleague that I needed her. Following the woman up the darkened cabin, I picked my way through arms and legs that were sprawled out over the seats into the aisles. Like children at a sleep-over, the passengers were watching the films after being fed and watered.
The ‘dead’ husband was slumped in his aisle seat. I wracked my brain for what to do. The manual said that as the first crew member on the scene I must make a decision and act. It was so dark it was impossible to tell if he was just deeply asleep or indeed dead. Being a large man, there was no way the two of us could lift him, to lay him on the floor for mouth to mouth, if that was necessary. I ran my tongue around my teeth and found a little something stuck in the groove of a molar. I had only just finished a tuna roll. What had he just finished? I shook my head. Mouth to mouth was quite unnecessary. I shook his shoulder. No reaction. I shook him harder whilst shouting in his ear. Nothing.
A. B. C. – ‘Clear the airway,’ came flashing into my mind. This is what I had to do. A stood for airway, B for breathing and C for circulation. Well, this was an emergency.These steps are fundamental when assessing a person for signs of life. I instinctively started to undo the tight belt around his portly waist. I looked at his wife who had unceremoniously climbed over his inert body and back into her seat, anxiously clutching her knees to her chest and staring at me.
‘Is he on any medication?’ I questioned her. ‘Or had a lot to drink with his meal?’She shook her head, her eyes wide in the darkness.I struggled with the catch. It wouldn’t pull tight enough to unclasp the hook. I tugged again, pushing his bulging flesh in slightly with my other hand.
I didn't get very far. Obviously the very action of interfering with the man's trousers brought him round from wherever he was, pleasantly I hoped. His eyes fluttered and opened as he grabbed my hand to stop me undoing his clothing.
‘What do you think your doing?’ he shouted in disbelief, as I quickly backed off and let his trousers go. I opened my mouth to explain but the cries of joy from his distressed wife overwhelmed him as she clasped his face to cover it with kisses.
It’s not every day you bring someone back to life, become a heroine, (his wife thought I’d performed a miracle) and keep up the cabin crew reputation for customer satisfaction. All in a day’s work, eh?
I hope you liked it. Any feedback is gratefully received. I'm going to need all the help you can give me to get Suzi out there and into everyone's hearts when it's launched!
Blowing out the candles!!!
For the last 17 years the 5th November has been a special celebration for us. No, not because of bonfire night, but because it is the day that I produced my second daughter (who aptly shot out like a rocket). Last night was no exception and along with 30,000 other revellers (and that was half of the usual number who attend) we were braving the cold, autumn air to watch the spectacle that Lewes is renown for. For those of you not fortunate to live near to this exquisite town, it is the biggest celebrated 5th November event in the world - not to be missed.
We first starting join the throng who line the streets to watch the torch-lit processions six years ago when we moved down from London. Since then, although we spend the first part of the evening on the pavement, we soon learnt to get maximum enjoyment out of the evening it was a great idea to take a table in a particular restaurant where we could keep warm, eat and hang out of the upstairs window to watch the crowds below. ( I book the table a year in advance.)
For such a huge amount of people packed into a small town, there is usually very little hassle. Yes, you get jostled. Yes, there are drunken revellers vying for a good vantage spot to watch the bands, magnificent costumes and large effigies that are pulled up and down the streets and yes, one year a woman told me off for pushing (it wasn’t my fault but the people behind me, m' lud). But the party atmosphere is enticing. Even afterwards when the crowd disperses to watch the five, large bonfire displays that occur at different sites around the town, the ooohs and ahhhs are still enthusiastically heard as the magnificent fireworks light the sky. (I thought the elderly man standing in the field next to me was about to wet his pants with excitement as he threw his head skywards and exclaimed at each firework as it lit up the sky – then his childlike enthusiasm was explained when he mentioned his half empty glass of cider.)
Last night might be the final time at our restaurant. By next year the birthday girl will probably set her sights on pastures new as the clubs of Brighton and beyond come (legally) into her range but I will always be grateful for the revellers in Lewes for attending her birthday celebrations and making them go with a bang. (And wish that the cleaning fairies that do such a marvellous clearing up job by the time the town wakes up on the 6th might make it as far as my village.)
If you want to know more about the what goes on in Lewes on the 5th November, here’s a link:-
Lewes Bonfire Celebrations