Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Big Move: Selling It All

I currently have six people watching my cupboard. They're not actually sitting in my bedroom waiting to see if it moves or anything, I've just put it on ebay.  

With 6 weeks left until we move to Spain, the pressure is mounting. It's time to sell the hardcore, heavy stuff. The 'collection only' items. 

It wasn't long ago we started buying things to make our rented flat more homely - a more stylish bed frame, a quality mattress, a sofa bed for guests - now we've got to find a way of recuperating some of the money.  

Every time I open a cupboard I find something big and heavy. I just came across the raclette oven we bought in a spirit of 'let's be more sociable and have friends over!' It probably weighs three times easyJet's luggage allowance.

"It's putting me off going," said the husband, this morning.

When I hear him worry, that's when I panic. He's a cool cucumber. All those things I would get into a flap about - upgrading phone contracts, switching energy providers, doing tax returns - he does all those things without breaking a sweat.    

"I'll sort it!" I said, hurriedly. "Leave the selling to me!"

I don't know how I'm going to shift all this stuff but I'm not letting a portable stone oven stop me going on an adventure!

Are we getting cold feet?

Yes. That's why we're moving to hotter climes.

Of course these next 6 weeks are going to be challenging, but if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, wouldn't they?

In the next blog post, I'll be worrying about giving up my income and saying goodbye to friends! Until then, thank you for reading!



Thursday, 19 March 2015

Confession: The Real Reason I'm Selling My Furniture.

So I may not have been entirely straight with you about my reasons for having a Spring Clean. Don't get me wrong, I do clean when I need an idea for a novel, but I don't go as far as trying to sell my furniture on Twitter, which is what I've been doing lately. 

In my workshops. I preach that you shouldn't bombard people with sales pitches on social media, and here I am, trying to sell a 2000 pocket sprungmattress and a leather sofa (subtle or what?).

Do you know what my favourite daytime TV show is? It's A Place in the Sun. If you don't know it, it's a property show,  where a British Couple is shown around a sunny part of the world looking for the right house. Usually the couple is approaching retirement age or already retired. It always seemed a shame to me to wait so long until you could enjoy the sunshine and a life lived outdoors. I'd look longingly at the Spanish fincas; bougainvillea climbing up the walls, a sundrenched terrace inviting me in, making me imagine every meal enjoyed al fresco.  

Have you guessed where I'm going with this yet?
It just so happens me and my husband are part of trend of people in their 30s leaving London, hoping for a better quality of life and a flat that costs less than half a million pounds.The only difference is we're not moving North as so many are, we're leaving the country.  
We're going to Spain. Mallorca, specifically. We both speak Spanish, half my family live on the mainland... is it so crazy?
This is how a conversation went with a patient at the osteopath, (where I work,) on hearing I was moving:

Patient: Wow. Have you spent loads of time out there then and fallen in love with the place?
Me: Uh, no. I don't really know it at all. I only went once for a wedding. My husband didn't come though. He's only been there once for three days.
Patient: But you have friends out there? Family?
Me: No, we don't know anyone on the island at all. Not a soul.
Patient: So you've never really been and you don't know anyone there...  so, why are you moving?
Me: (shrugs) Why not? We don't own anything and we don't have kids. If it's a disaster, we can always come back.
So there you have it, dear readers. We are packing up shop and seeing what life on a Balearic island is like. It's only down the road really, isn't it? We'll be back all the time. In fact, I'm already booked to come back for a Self Publishing Conference and Winchester Writers' Festival, so please do keep offering me jobs!

Good, I'm glad I've got that off my chest. Now I can focus on plotting my next novel. You'll never guess where it's set... 

(If you do happen to know anyone who needs a very comfortable double bed, or a sofa, please share the info. Free delivery withing M25! Thanks a million.)

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Big Clear Out - Making Space for Creativity

It's not easy to follow up that last blog post. However I can hardly keep the 'More Laughs than Bronte' tagline if I don't lighten up the mood soon. We gave my Grampa a good send off on Thursday and yes, there were tears and sadness, but above all there was love. 

I'm back in London now, my next novel #PleaseRetweet is at the publishers, meaning I need a new idea. 

At the moment, I'm preparing for the new challenge by having a big clear out. My Mum's solution to any problem has always been: CLEAN OUT A DRAWER! 

It makes sense to me that clearing and cleaning your physical space, has a direct influence on your mental space, increasing the chance of new ideas and creative energy to arise.

After reading the brilliant The House We Grew Up In, by Lisa Jewell, I feel very lucky that I don't have any hoarding tendencies! But still, even if you enjoy throwing things out, there's always objects that stop you in your tracks:

1. THE 'VINTAGE' TOYS - I went over to my Mum and Dad's and rediscovered my childhood in the loft. I got so much pleasure from seeing my collection of Trolls and all the memorable outfits for my Barbies. Now I can't decide if I should try to sell them on ebay, or whether in 5 years I'll get even more joy from seeing them again. My parents would like their space back though... what would you do?

2. THE ONCE WORN PAIR OF SHOES - During my life I have made so many mistakes with shoes. I've finally learnt my lesson that cheap or synthetic shoes are bad news. Generally I spend more money on plasters and jelly pads than I did on the shoe. I was therefore most dismayed when what I thought was an intelligent selection of leather flats by Timberland ended with a severely blistered foot! My husband blames my feet. Anyway, they are in such good condition and my query has been try wearing them in, or accept defeat and sell them? (I've just decided to sell them - check them out on ebay!)

3.  THE MISCELLANEOUS PILE OF PAPERS - My urge is to rip my way through the pile. I don't think anyone can help with this problem. The solution is grit my teeth and deal with one sheet of paper at a time.

4. BOOKS - What's everyone's policy on keeping books? I'm keeping the signed ones, and the ones I might want to revisit to study their structure... but like most things, it seems a waste if they're not being (used) read by someone! Charity shop?

5. THE WEDDING DRESS - No longer a dilemma actually as I've sold it on ebay. Taking it out of the box and seeing how beautiful it was just reinforced my belief that it shouldn't spend the rest of its life hidden away! I hope the buyer has a beautiful wedding day and feels wonderful wearing it!

6. THE CHILDHOOD TEDDY BEAR - After selling my wedding dress I gave myself a pat on the back for being so detached from my possessions. But then I came across my first Teddy bear. Attachment flooded in. No way am I getting rid of him! The poor thing doesn't even have a name, but my god I'm holding on to him! 

Is this normal?! Do you still have your first teddy bear?

After all the clearing out, I'm bound to have a new idea for a novel very soon... 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Goodbye my beloved Grampa...

Dear Grampa
My Mum called me this morning.  All she said was, 'I'm in Wales...' and I just knew. I knew you had left us.

A coal miner, you had black lung, and had been having problems breathing. I'm so glad you weren't in hospital when you closed your eyes for the last time. I'm so glad you were at home. For me, it will always be the warmest, most welcoming home in Wales. I picture you in the armchair near the fire, having an och (kip) and Gramma  on the sofa opposite watching The Voice (Come on the girl from Cwmparc!).

Ninety one years young and dancing two nights a week until a few years ago. Any music would get you and Gramma dancing around the living room. I can hear you laugh now.  A whisky in your hand.  

As I sit here, I'm overwhelmed with grief. Think of the good memories, people say. I only have good memories and they are making me cry; I wanted to go on making more.  

I know  I'm so lucky to have had you as my Grampa. Everyone who knew you is already missing you. You were always so kind and generous. My Mum once told me how she had called you from London when she was young and homesick, and you had just got in the car and driven all the way to bring her home. It was no trouble. You would always go out of your way to help people.

I loved the way you would sneak twenty pound notes in our hands and say, don't tell your grandmother! As if she didn't know.  As if she hadn't just snuck a twenty pound note in our hands a minute earlier!

Grampa, you are Christmas; top of the table and never too serious to wear a paper crown. You are holidays in Spain; sitting in a fold up chair by the river. You are walks up the Bwlch leading us to the winberries for Gramma's pie.   

Oh Grampa, if you could see the tissues surrounding my lap top right now, you'd probably tell me not to be so twp! You would want all the family to get together and celebrate you... and we will. It's just going to hurt for a while. But that's because you were so loved.

I love you Grampa and hope you are at peace,

Your granddaughter


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Reader Spotlight - A book lover from California

One of the best things about being a writer is hearing from readers around the world. A few weeks ago I was thrilled to get an email from a reader from California. She had read the online version of The Temp (aka Spray Painted Bananas) and was after the new paperback copy. 

Thankfully she was not put off by the £7.00 postage fee and off the book went to America. I invited Caitlyn to the blog to share her love of books and offer her recommendations... 

What's your name and where are you from? 

My name is Caitlyn (Caitie) Towne and I am from Sacramento, California, though I am currently residing in San Diego while I attend university. 

I've got one day in your neck of the woods, what should I do with it? 

If in Sacramento, I'd say to head downtown and visit K Street and Old Sacramento. As for San Diego, I'd send you to Pacific Beach and Balboa Park. Both places have cute little shops and eateries, and fun places to explore. 

What's your ideal setting for a good read?

To go all out, I picture myself curled up on a couch with hot cocoa someplace snowy, using natural light and the fireplace to read by. I'm also perfectly content snuggling up in bed with my iBooks on night-mode. 

Kindle, paperback or hard back? 

I love a good hardcover, but I find myself using iBooks more and more: It's nice to always have a selection of books in my pocket for a long walk to class or a bus ride to the mall. If I really enjoy a book, or I think I will, I occasionally go for a physical copy. 

What's the last book that made you cry? 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman. There were just some moments that I felt picked at pieces of my own life and really stood out to me. 

And made you laugh? 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The plights of an introverted book lover in college as a plot sequence is quite relevant. 

Are there any books you've read more than once? 

City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare. I wasn't too enthused by it the first time around, but the girls in my book club all recommended it highly, so I read it again. I just finished the third installment in two days, so I'd say I enjoy it.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Need I say anything about this one? No matter how much the Literature department in every high school in the US tries to run it into the ground with over-analysis, it never loses its luster. 

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. I first read this in English, then in Spanish. Beautiful. 

After reading The Temp what's your conclusion about leaving spray painted bananas around a city - Art or Litter? 

I'll say this: I feel like recreating the project could critically change modern art as we know it.

Thank you Caitlyn! I'm looking forward to reading your recommendations!  

Fancy being on the blog? If you've read The Temp and want to share your love of books, get in touch, I'd love to hear from you!


Download The Temp for just 99p! 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Reasons to Keep Your Wedding Dress vs The Truth

Valentine's Day is nearly upon us and here I am blogging about selling my wedding dress. If you think that's unromantic, you should have heard my husband last night. He said if he was given a one-way ticket to Mars, he wouldn't think twice about going! Thanks darling.

My wedding dress is the most beautiful thing I've ever owned. It is luxurious and expensive, with four layers of silk, gorgeous lace with sparkling swarovski crystals and baby pearls. It has a long train and a elegant open back. Our wedding day was a beautiful, happy day; the man I married four years ago still the man I hope to spend the rest of my life with. 

Despite all this, I don't feel sad about selling my dress. I think it's sadder that such a stunning creation should only be worn once, and then stored away in a box*, (*even if the box is rather lovely too and included in the price!).

For some people it's rather controversial selling your wedding dress....

Reasons They Tell You Not To Sell

It's a beautiful reminder of your wedding day.  
Aren't 200 photos a reminder enough?  

Your daughter could wear it for her wedding.
Does this really happen? I would never have thought of wearing my mum's dress. I'm sure long sleeves and high necks were all the rage in the 80's but I would have felt more nun than princess if I'd worn it. Incidentally my Mum did the classic 'I know, let's turn it into a skirt and blouse', which is another thing people suggest you do. Of course she never wore it again.  

You can use it to make a christening outfit.
Who do you think I am? Vivienne Westwood? I can't even sow a button on.   

You could dye it black and cut it short.
Or I could buy a short, black dress and sell my wedding dress.

You could make a set of curtains.
With the amount of material on it, I probably could. However, ivory curtains are rubbish at keeping the sun light out. Back to the drawing board genius.  

It's unromantic to sell it.
That's where you're wrong. The money I get from the dress will go towards something for me and my husband like... the rent!

Kidding! We'll have a little adventure together.

Come on, I write romantic comedies, I'm as romantic as they get. My inner romantic is imagining that dress emerging from captivity to make someone else's day and be danced in once again...  

Sarah Houston 'Demille' Wedding dress £249.00 (RRP £3000). Includes 'Barcelona' veil and travel box. View details on ebay. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

The 'How to be Happy' Myth

It turns out my formula for success and happiness is flawed. It's a common one. You might share it. It goes like this:

"If I work harder, I'll be more successful.
Then, if I'm more successful I'll be happier"

The problem is as soon as you reach that moment of success, you change the goal posts. 

When I received my copy of The Temp in the post, I was ecstatic. For one whole hour, I wanted to dance around the flat. But soon enough, the happiness faded, and I started thinking how it didn't mean much unless it was selling. My goal moved to selling the book rather than getting published, and once again, my happiness was over there, in the distance.  

"If happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there," says Shawn Achor, in his uplifting and humorous TED talk.  

He goes on to say that our brains function much better when we are positive. Our energy, creativity and intelligence rises. Basically we will be more successful if we are happy now, not in the future!

Enjoy the journey! I'm always telling aspiring authors. It's something I need to constantly remind myself too. Seven years ago I did 350km of the Camino de Santiago. The excitement of arriving at Santiago de Compostela was ridiculously short-lived . The memory of the journey however, will always make me happy.

Shawn Foer says it doesn't take long to rewire and train your brain to work more optimistically and successfully. Here's one way of doing it:

The 21 Day Challenge to Creating Positive Change

3 Gratitudes  - Write down 3 new things you are grateful for each day so your brain starts scanning for the positive rather than the negative.
Journaling - Write down a positive experience every day so your brain relives it.
Exercise -  Exercise will teaches your brain that behaviour matters.
Meditation - Daily meditation will help your brain focus on task at hand.
Random Act of Kindess - Send a positive email to someone every day.

So, Shawn, after I've done all this I'll be happier right?

D'oh! I guess my brain hasn't been rewired quite yet... 


Other Happy Stuff:

1) The Temp is getting lovely reviews like:

"Kept me page-turning past bed time!" - read reviews

2) The paperback is out and it's lovely and shiny

3) The kindle version is only 99p at the moment

Oh, and if you'd liked a signed copy, just click below: 

     Signed Copies of The Temp