Juggling time, Bonnie dog update and giftbox…

As my friend often says, ‘time is elastic’. You can stretch it out to fit your priorities and he hates it when people say ‘I haven’t got the time’.

His response: ‘Well go and make it!’

To some extent he is right – you can often pack more into a day if you really want to – but then you also have the option of saying no, especially if you need down time and rest.

Having juggled a number of projects over the past few years, managing time has become more of a priority. My own advice is never to put more than three significant things per day on your mental or written ‘to-do’ list.

My kitchen clock!!

What – only three? Already I can hear the protests that nothing would get done if you focussed so narrowly .

The key is that little word ‘significant’. Of course we have any number of smaller tasks to get through in a day, but only a few can be considered important. By priortising the significant stuff – and strictly limiting this to no more than three things – you are homing in on what really matters. The rest can be fitted in, pushed forward, or even deleted altogether.

It is a system that works for me, while balancing time on written journalism features, a long term project, a new role in broadcast mentoring, being an adviser to the board of Coast FM radio and writing books.

Oh – not forgetting the Motor Home travel and Bonnie dog’s ‘Pets As Therapy’ care home visiting role. Both of these have been put on hold by Covid restrictions but are now starting up again in earnest. As I write this we have just got back from a short MoHo stop-over at Lizard Point – only a few miles from where we live but it’s great to have the freedom to hit the road again.

Lately, it is the creative writing that has taken a bit of a back-seat but that is about to change big time in the coming year. (Have some exciting news to report on this soon!).

When people ask ‘How do you fit it all in?’, the simple answer is that I don’t – sometimes life gets in the way with unexpected challenges thrown into the mix. Time is a valuable currency and has to be used wisely. It also has to include that all-important ‘me time’ which needs to be factored in with the same discipline as all those other things.

Overall though, this simple method really does work – give it try and see how it goes.

Bonnie dog has made her first return PAT dog visit to our local care home following the Covid lockdowns and restrictions. During the intervening 19 months, we have posted a few on-line updates for the residents – all created by Bonnie herself of course! – but it didn’t make up for being there physically.

Paul and Bonnie in matching yellow outfits!

Of course visiting isn’t the same now with lateral flow and temperature checks, wearing masks and being restricted to one designated area of the home. Still, it all went well, with the care staff enjoying it as much as the residents. We’ve seen first hand just how much happiness a PAT dog can bring and her regular appearances have been missed – it was heartwarming to see everyone smiling after such a long absence.

Another bit of Bonnie news to share – she is also a calendar girl with her photo featuring on this year’s British Cockapoo Society calendar in aid of Hearing Dogs. My friend Russ managed to grab a rare shot of her looking straight to camera!

Bonnie’s Calendar appearance!

Now for a cheeky bit of promotion given that it is coming up to Christmas. We all know what valuable work carers do across the board – whether in the care related professions or within voluntary groups and families. xButterflyBoxesx have come up with this lovely bespoke afternoon tea gift-box aimed at carers which includes my book of short stories ‘Shorts and Thoughts’ and all details are on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/903972491/finest-carers-gift-box-for-her-him-thank . Half of all the book proceeds go to the Social Worker’s Benevolent Trust charity swbt.org and I’m now one of their supporting authors. So if you are looking for a gift idea while helping a charitable cause, then take a look!

Tea time gift box aimed at carers

Road trip, Cornwall on the box and book review…

Has the world of TV gone overboard in its extensive coverage of all things Devon and Cornwall?

Wearing my television production hat, I’ll come back to that question – but first a bit of news about our recent Motor Home road trip, the first long journey away since March 2020.

Although we love living in West Cornwall, it is still good to get a change of scene, especially after these recent extended lockdowns.

The MoHo was in real need of a decent road trip after months sitting on our driveway, while we were keen to see friends and family face-to-face rather than speaking on the phone or chat rooms.

First stop was Porlock in Somerset, followed by trips to the Cotswolds, Warwickshire, Whitby, Keswick and then into Wales – Llanberis, Aberaeron and Cardiff. The whole journey took 15 days and we covered over 1,200 miles. Gulp.

Our favourite stop off? We stayed at some great sites (most of them Club run or affiliated) but the five star one was the Derwentwater site in Keswick.

Derwentwater site Keswick

You could stroll into Keswick town and Derwentwater was just a short walk the other way. The site staff were great, the pitches roomy and the facilities including the shower area, were first class. We couldn’t fault it and the only regret was that we didn’t book for a longer.

As Arnie says, we’ll be back!

Most of the places we visited on the tour were dog friendly with great walks and eating places happy to accomodate pooches. Again, Keswick was right up there for dog friendliness.

Our best meals? Fantastic fishcakes from the Bulls Head pub in Meriden where we met up with a foodie friend. Then a rare takeway, a pizza from Mama Mia in Keswick, delivered to the site piping hot and delicious. It was the night of the Euro Cup Final – we all know how that went! – and it was ironic that so many people were ordering pizzas for the England v Italy big match. But hey ho, it is a food that just lends itself to watching sporting events and easier to share than fish and chips!.

At the time of writing our home town of Marazion – in the far West of Cornwall for those not in the know – is rammed with visitors. It always gets busy in the summer months but this year is something else. With few people venturing abroad, staycationers have flocked to this part of the world in their thousands with camp sites and holiday lets full.

Meantime our telly has been awash with programmes about Cornwall with everyone from Rick Stein, Julia Bradbury, Susan Calman, Fern Britton (and more) telling us about their love of the county and showcasing its scenic delights. Next up is Coastal Devon & Cornwall with Michael Portillo on Channel 5. Then there was the G7 Summit back in June with broadcast crews from all over the globe. Although it is great to see Cornwall featured – some of my friends have even made guest appearances! – there is a limit to what can be covered with lots of subject overlaps.

Fishing — tick.

Former tin mines – tick.

Landscape artists and writers. Tick again.

Oh and those great sweeping majestic shots of beaches, villages and craggy hillside walks. A mega tick here.

Not forgetting the celebrity chefs and artisan products.

To be fair, Simon Reeves did a brilliant programme looking at the other side of Cornwall – including the the foodbanks and poverty – but it is the scenic, touristy, escapist Cornwall that ticks all those television boxes.

As I know only too well from my experience as a television producer, commissioning editors are often risk averse. Stick a celebrity in a beautiful location with lots of artful drone shots and what can go wrong?

Overkilling a subject, that’s what.

Yes, you can have too much of a good thing and my guess is that the crews will head further afield next year – let’s face it, the viewers have already had more their their fill of the same visuals and the inevitable ‘jam or cream first?’ debate.

Having said this, my recommended book. ‘A View From A Cab’ is one that does feature Cornwall – from the point of view of writer and recently retired Cornish bus driver, Gray Lightfoot.

Squeezing through Mousehole village!

He grew up in Lancashire but his ancestors are from Cornwall – in fact he is the first of his family to be born outside the county in over 350 years. After training as a teacher, (as well as working as a postman), Gray and his wife moved to the far west when the time felt right. As a child he used to holiday in Cornwall with his grandmother and once stayed for a full 6 weeks with an aunt while his mother was recovering from an operation. It was during this extended stay that he had fantasies of becoming a Cornish bus driver – a dream that became a reality several decades down the line.

‘A View From A Cab’ is a mix of prose and poetry with lots of anecdotes, both funny and poignant, about being a bus driver in this part of the world. There are the challenges – reversing down narrow lanes in a double decker open top bus – along with the stunning views from his ‘cab’ and the chance to eavesdrop on those passenger conversations.

Far from getting in the way of his writing, Gray says that bus driving has helped – there is time to think on the less challenging and more familiar routes – and he has now decided to give up the day job to spend more time on those written projects.

I read the book while preparing to interview Gray for a radio programme. It is delightful, well written and observed, showing his love for this remote part of the country and its people.

When we recorded the radio chat, it occurred to me that following some Cornish bus drivers at the height of the summer season would make a great documentary or drama. A sort of Cornish ‘On The Buses’! (If you don’t know that old 1970s sit-com, just Google it).

Oh Lordy – and after everything I’ve just written about this part of the country being everywhere on the box?

Perhaps a few years further down the line then..

Details of ‘A View From A Cab’ book available on Amazon.

Indie writers, MoHo trips and a gift with a difference…

‘What extactly is an indie author?’ a friend asked when I told her I was taking part in the recent #indieauthorweekuk, a series of events aimed at independent writers.

Trust me, it is a question I’ve also asked myself especially when faced with the uphill task of marketing and getting your books ‘out there’ in an already crowded market.

Actually the answer is simple. A so-called ‘indie’ author is one who publishes directly to a platform – the big one being Amazon but there are a growing number of other players – rather than doing it through a traditional publisher. A bit like those indie musicians who go directly to YouTube, Spotify etc.

Right from the outset, I wanted to learn about the book publishing process from start to finish. Not just the main writing bit but commissioning a cover, creating a book ‘blurb’, formatting, bringing in test readers, proof reading, marketing – the learning curve goes on. Note that word ‘commissioning’ because not all of those elements are done by me. However, I am involved actively in all of these stages and have been gaining knowledge along the way.

Certainly the decision to go the ‘indie’ route wasn’t made as a result of any rejection. To date I have never approached a traditional publisher or agent about my fictional work, despite having past dealings with some top publishers about factual books.

More writers, (including some who have already gone the traditional publishing route), are opting for independent publishing because of the creative freedom it gives, the ability to get their work out more quickly and to keep a larger share of any royalties. Nobody is saying it is easy – trust me it isn’t! – but there is a satisfaction in being able to say ‘this is down to me’ and to involve the people of your own choosing.

Indie authors are growing more savvy and realising that strength comes from a sense of community. Which brings me back to the #indieauthorweekuk annual event. Linked to a regular networking group, this was set up 4 years ago by Sue Miller, founder of #Team Author UK, which provides Assisted Publishing services to independent authors. Sue was looking for bespoke indie author festivals/events and because she couldn’t find any, she created one.

This year I did a series of Q&As with five authors, (Jude Lennon, Amanda Davey, Lesley Rawlinson, Chris Turnbull and Su Echo Falls S’ari aka Rose English). It was great to learn about their work and to share it across social media. Their individual writing journeys were fascinating and different – we have all vowed to keep in touch and try to meet up when things return to normality.

Jude Lennon and I also did a recorded chat about short stories. Aside from a few virtual sound gremlins – we are all getting used to those aren’t we? – it was good fun and I hope we might have encouraged a few people to take the short fiction writing plunge.

Talking all things short stories!

During our short story chat, Jude and I discussed our love of heading off in our respective mobile ‘homes’ – in Jude’s case that is a vintage VW Camper Van and mine is a Motor Home. It is a great chance to escape, chill out and to catch up on reading. Short stories are good to dip into but whatever you chose, road trips and reading go hand in hand.

Recently yours truly, my husband and our dog Bonnie, took two mini breaks in our MoHo – the first was an overnight stay at the Cosawes site in Ponsanooth (mid Cornwall) and the second was at Tollgate Farm in the seaside town of Perranporth, where we stayed for two nights. Both were great places with good sized pitches and brilliant dog walks.

Neither are far from where we live but it was a chance to give the MoHo a much needed run out and to get a change of scene after months of lockdown.

On both occasions we struck lucky with the weather and at Ponsanooth we walked to the ‘Stag Hunt’ pub ( a bit of an uphill trot getting there but less onerous on the way back!). It was our first experience of eating out since January’s lockdown and the meal didn’t disappoint. The staff were friendly and the pub decor was reassuringly traditional – the local Treen’s beer was also good according to my other half who knows about these things!

On our first day in Perranporth, the sun came out big time and the beach was packed but the following day it was much quieter. After a decent walk – there are several local routes to choose from – we had lunch in the ‘Watering Hole’ restaurant/bar right on the beach. It took a while getting to grips with the pesky QR electronic ordering system (!) but our drinks and food arrived quickly – again the staff were delightful. Even managed to buy a couple of pairs of jaunty flip-flops which scream out ‘summer has arrived’!

Flip flops posing on our balcony!

Our next MoHo trip will be a two week tour of places ‘up country’ as they say here in Cornwall, including Somerset, the Cotswolds, Warwickshire, the Lake District and then into Wales. After months of going nowhere, we can’t wait

This is usually my cue to recommend a book but this time I’m going to give a mention to the fabulous butterflyboxes people who combine their love of books with special gift boxes. I stumbled upon them when I was looking for a family present with a bit of a difference and have since ordered several boxes. Having decided to donate half of all the proceeds from my short story book, ‘Shorts and Thoughts’, to the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust Charity swbt.org – which gives help to frontline social workers experiencing hardship – I contacted butterflyboxes to see if we could do a special tie-in gift box for carers and those in the wider caring professions.

The answer was a yes!

This is the latest version of the box which includes a selection of teas, coffee, biscuits and of course the short stories book. Here is the link: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/903972491/ and they do a variety of other boxes which are well worth looking at.

Gift box aimed at carers. Photo x.butterfyboxes.x

That’s it for now – Slainte!

5 Questions To Independent Author Su Echo Falls S’ari aka Rose English – Indie Author Week UK 2021

https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/indieauthorweekuk

Tell us about your ‘Miss Ruby Heart’ character – a cute talking toy Spaniel.

– Miss Ruby Heart is a King Charles spaniel character from my book ‘Young Ebenezer ~ A New Christmas Carol’. She is the Ghost of Christmas Past and along with a magical clock called ‘Grandfather Time’ they try to help a naughty young lad to mend his ways. It is a modern-day version of the Charles Dickens classic but for kids. The talking part came about from my lovely author friend Deb McEwan who has a beautiful rescue dog called Sandy. Deb discovered the ‘My Talking Pet’ app. You take a photo of your pet, adjust the facial features then record a message into the app and your pet talks the message back to you. I thought it would be fun to have Miss Ruby Heart review children’s books!

You have been part of the ‘Share a Story’ event on Instagram. What is the idea behind this?

– I believe this first came about via the March World Book Day Events, they had the hashtag #ShareAStory. I liked it and it kind of stuck – I use it in my Miss Ruby Heart tagline now.

You like visiting ‘bespoke’ shops and are an admirer of metal sculptures from ‘Paul’s Metal Crafting’ made from recycled materials. Tell us a bit about your love of independent and quirky shops.

– I adore unusual things and greatly admire the gifts that people have. I am in awe of the passion people put into their art forms be it books, painting, the amazing ‘Metal Crafting’ from Paul, or quirky tea shops with delicious cakes! I am a Yorkshire lass and have lived and worked in many places but Herefordshire is now my adopted home. A beautiful city not too big but has just about everything from great architecture (Hereford Cathedral) to adorable Independent shops.

A few years ago you wrote a short story ‘Lost Love in Spring’ under your pen name Rose English. Intriguingly it features an A-Z of herbal remedies! What inspired you to write this? 

– First and foremost, I am a read~a~holic. I devour books on all subjects and my local library has been a source of unusual books. I think I picked up an old book on ancient remedies and somewhere along the way I was inspired to write a story. Because it was a short story, I thought it might be nice to expand the book to include the A-Z of herbal remedies. I already had lots of research so I put it to good use. For each plant I included a piece of ancient poetry. I also added the history and features of the plant along with its ancient and modern medicinal use.

Finally – the one that I have to ask! What have been your lockdown saviours?

Lockdown, what lockdown? Only kidding I work in the NHS so like many keyworkers (not just in the NHS but elsewhere too) we have been working flat out and to be honest I barely noticed much difference. The biggest thing has been wearing a face mask almost all the time and being extra vigilant ‘Hands, Face, Space’. I have great admiration for Independent Authors and small businesses that have adapted through the hard and challenging times. Wherever possible I have tried over the months to help #SpreadTheWord on their behalf. Oh – and there is always cake!

Miss Ruby Heart on WordPress https://missrubyheart.com/

@MissRubyHeart1 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

I also share lots of Indie Author news on Instagram under Indie Book Banter https://www.instagram.com/indie_book_banter/

 🌹📖🐾 Su with her ‘talking’ Miss Ruby Heart character!

5 Questions To Independent Author Chris Turnbull – Indie Author Week UK 2021

https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/indieauthorweekuk

You do a broad range of writing which includes detective novels, time travel and children’s books.  A tough one, but which genre is your ‘favourite’?

All my non-childrens books are set in the past which I love as it allows me to learn more about the time in which it is based. My books are also set in real towns and cities so I get to discover what they looked like and how people lived there. So despite the different genres I see them all as ‘historical fiction’ mixed with time travel or crime. Research is the biggest part of my writing, and this is the part I love the most. However children’s books are the most rewarding – I often get children sending me drawings or photographs of themselves with the books or their pets.

You have a fascination with Whitby, where one of your characters, Detective Matthews, is based and the town features in a number of your other books including ‘Whitby’s Darkest Secret’. Tell us about how you create a real sense of time and place in your writing.

Being from Yorkshire, Whitby has always been one of my favourite places. The old town still has many of the buildings where my books are set which makes visiting all the more more special. Research is a key factor in my writing and it’s important that I am not placing something into the story that hasn’t been invented yet. I also adore the Victorian photographer Frank Sutcliffe who took many photographs of the fishing town in and around where my books are set. They can be fantastic sources for ensuring I’m not straying too far from the truth.

Your latest children’s book ‘Olly and The Treasure Map’ features a Jack Russell (based on your own Jack Russell) and his fictional pal, the Labrador Luna. How would you sum up their doggy duo adventures?

‘Olly & The Treasure Map’ is book 2 of the Olly The Jack series. It is a series that I have wanted to do for a long time, and now seemed right. In book 2 we meet Luna the Lab – Olly’s real life best friend. The two of them have been friends since they were puppies and it’s adorable how they play together. In the book I wanted this friendship to come across, and the illustrations by Izzy Bean have done that perfectly. I couldn’t be happier with the results and am thrilled to say Izzy is currently illustrating book 3.

You’ve decided recently to have a change of career after working for over a decade in higher education. As you answer these questions, you are in Sri Lanka working for a month on a sea turtle conservation project! What prompted you to make this change? 

After 14 years working in higher education I felt that it was time to move onto something new. I had always felt as though I had fallen into my career by accident, and although I loved it once, I knew it was time for change. Before jumping into the next thing I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to do something that has always been a huge bucket list item… volunteering to work abroad in conservation. Shortly after handing in my resignation I applied to go to Sri Lanka and was accepted. As I write this I am enjoying a whole month in the country before I return to the UK and start a new job in a completely different sector.

Finally – if you had to show just one of your favourite authors around Whitby, who would you choose and why?

I think I would choose author Martin Ferguson. Martin is the author of ‘The Relic Hunters’ series, and currently one of my favourites. They are a brilliant blend of historical fiction and modern day adventure. In Whitby I would take Martin to the ruined Abbey, and try and talk him into writing a Hunters book based around it.

Keep up to date with Chris at:

www.chris-turnbullauthor.com

facebook.com/christurnbullauthor

twitter.com/christurnbull20

instagram.com/chris.turnbull20

AMAZON UK: https://goo.gl/lmV7Qg

AMAZON US: https://goo.gl/nfML4O

5 Questions To Independent Author Lesley Rawlinson – Indie Author Week UK 2021

https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/indieauthorweekuk

Tell us about your latest children’s book ‘Magical Tales from the Woodpecker Tree’.

– The book is the third in a series that began with ‘Tales from the Woodpecker Tree’ published in 2017, followed by ‘Christmas Tales from the Woodpecker Tree’ in 2018. Each book is a collection of short stories, many of which are aimed at increasing children’s awareness of the natural world. From friendly owls and grumpy badgers to a three-toed Woodpecker, it’s all there!

How did you first get into writing children’s books?

– As a primary school teacher, I was always writing. I loved making up stories with the children or sharing my ideas with them. After I retired in 2013 I decided to see if I could do anything with the stories I’d written and was lucky enough to meet author Jude Lennon and go on one of her writing courses. Through her I met Sue Miller and became involved with Team Author UK – that set me on my way.

Where do you like to write and do you have any ‘writing rituals’?

– In the summer months I like nothing better than writing in my conservatory, with the door open on to the garden, or even out of doors. I dream of having a writing shed in the garden, but I’d need a considerably bigger piece of land! I don’t think I have any rituals really; when the muse strikes I just sit down and write. I used to be a pen and paper girl, but now I prefer to write and edit straight on to the computer.

What is your next writing project?

– In 2020 I published my first novel aimed at 9 -12 year olds, ‘De Morville’s Sword’, and I knew then that, although I love writing short stories, longer novels are what I really want to do. Since then, I’ve been working on a book called ‘Osprey Girl’ set in the Scottish Highlands. Maggie is a little girl who is trying to adjust to a new way of life and she becomes involved in a drama, trying to save an Osprey nest from disaster.

If you had to pick one author to invite around for dinner, who would you chose and why?

This is so difficult! I enjoy reading such a wide range of books, but as a children’s author I think I would like to sit down with Emma Carroll whose life experiences mirror my own in many ways: former teacher, cancer survivor. I’d love to discuss how she is inspired by historical events as this is something I have in mind for future books of my own.

You can find Lesley on: www.lesleyrawlinsonauthor.co.uk

Facebook – @LesleyRawlinsonBooks

Twitter – @lesleysworld