Dory’s Avengers Book Launch – One Year On

One year ago today was the best day of my life. I went to bed on 28 August 2013 as a mere mortal, and woke up the next day as a published author.

IMG_1521Wow, I’m a published author. Those words still bring the hairs up on the back of my neck. My publication day, complete with book launch in the Cambridge branch of Waterstones, was everything I’d daydreamed it would be – and boy, can I daydream! Dory’s Avengers was released into the world in style; friends and family gathered to help me celebrate, sales were healthy and I managed to get through my speech without tears, despite coming close as I spoke of how I wished my sorely-missed parents could have witnessed my momentous day. Not so sure my mother would have approved of some of the choice language occasionally used by Dory’s Avengers’ more forthright characters, though…

One year on, I’m reminiscing fondly about my book launch. OK, I’ll admit I had expected to have attended a star-studded Dory’s Avengers film premier by now, or at least be anticipating the autumn airing of a Dory’s Avengers BBC drama. Sadly, neither has materialised. Would I have published via a different route if I’d known two years ago what I know now? Quite probably. Things haven’t really gone as I’d hoped at all, but nothing can detract from the memories of my wonderful publication day, or my pride in having published such a beautiful book, and nothing ever will.

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The last year has seen my life go through yet more changes. During the publishing process I found out I have a natural aptitude and a huge enthusiasm for editing, and my fledgling copy-editing business, Alison’s Editing Service, is starting to find its wings and fly. Back in April I met fellow author, prolific blogger and champion of independent authors, Debbie Young, following a talk she was co-hosting at the Cambridge Literary Festival. Two days later we met up again at London Book Fair, where Debbie introduced me to Helen Hart, publishing director with SilverWood Books. This forward-thinking company offers every service a self-publishing author needs to produce a professional work – including copy-editing. I am proud to say that I have been employed by SilverWood Books to edit a number of manuscripts, and thanks to this work, along with manuscripts from an ever growing group of independent authors who like my editing style, I am lucky enough now to be making a living doing something I love.400dpiLogo

If anyone had told me a year ago that by the time I celebrated the first anniversary of my book’s publication I’d be successfully running my own business, the likelihood is I’d have laughed in disbelief. Mind you, if anyone had told me three years ago I’d realise my dream to become a published author it would probably have elicited a similar reaction.

Happy anniversary, Dory’s Avengers.

Champagne, anyone?

Book Launch Champagne 1

The Monday Moan – Looks Like Christmas Has Come Early, Again

I know I’ve been banging on about the weather we’ve been enjoying in the UK recently, but it really has been unusually gorgeous. Instead of doing the usual ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ thing of rushing outside en masse on the rare occasions the sun breaks through the rain clouds, and ending up with third degree sunburn in an effort to achieve something resembling a suntan, we’ve been treated to day after day of beautiful sunshine – with a slight blip over the weekend when the tail end of Hurricane Bertha hit our shores. Even my normally gleaming white legs have a bit of colour to them. Yes, we Brits are enjoying a proper summer for once, and I’m loving it.

On Saturday I attended a wedding reception. No surprise there; after all, we are in the height of the wedding season. Naturally I didn’t want to turn up empty handed, so headed into town on a baking hot day, appropriately clad in shorts, T shirt and flip flops, to buy a card for the happy couple.

So, to reiterate:

  • It’s the beginning of August
  • The weather is hot and sunny
  • It’s the wedding season.

Bah HumbugCould I find the wedding cards in the card shop? Well, I did locate them after a couple of circuits of Clinton Cards, stashed away at the back of the shop to make way for – you’ve guessed it – Christmas cards.

Come December, when the weather’s cold and damp, it’s dark by 4pm, and hats, scarves, coats and boots are the clothes of choice, I’ll be dripping with Christmas cheer. To paraphrase Greg Lake, my eyes will be full of tinsel and fire. I love Christmas; it brightens up what would otherwise be the darkest, most dismal month of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s fun.

In December.

Not in bloomin’ August in the middle of a heatwave!

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Guest Post by Daphne Holmes – Five Ways to take Good Care of Your Pet

I am delighted to be hosting an exclusive guest post by ArrestRecords.com writer DAPHNE HOLMES. Regular readers of my blog will know that animal welfare is a subject very close to my heart, and I hope you will enjoy reading Daphne’s post as much as I have. To find out more about Daphne please click on the ArrestRecords link above, or contact her via email on daphneholmes9@gmail.com.  

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Anyone who has had a pet knows how quickly they become part of the family, working their way into every aspect of home life. And as much as we rely on them to brighten our days, pets also count on us for proper care. Healthy animals live longer and have better quality of life, so the family wins too, when pet care is at its best.

Caring for animals, like cats and dogs, requires individual approaches based on breed, size, age, along with any special health or nutritional needs a particular animal may have. And like raising children, caring for pets is a long-term commitment that only grows more demanding as pets age, rather than slowing down. Although each situation is unique, and animals’ needs vary, responsible pet ownership shares a number of similar features, regardless of the particulars. Use these tips to get started on a trouble-free experience raising house pets.

Educate Yourself

Parents seldom go into their roles as mothers and fathers without doing some research and getting a handle on the basics of raising kids. First time parents simply have no first-had history with newborn children, so they rely on a wealth of resources to lay the groundwork for successful parenting. Pet ownership carries many of the same responsibilities as caring for an infant, so there are lessons to be learned from the comparison.

Before acquiring a pet, if possible, educate yourself about owning such an animal, using first-hand owners’ stories and other accounts tied to the species and breed you are considering. Individual breeds carry personality tendencies, for example, which may or may not suit your living situation. Dogs that need to run, for instance, are a poor match for close quarters. And certain cat breeds shed more than others, making them poor choices for owners prone to allergies. The more acquainted you become with the needs and habits of animals you’ll keep as pets, the better ownership choices you’ll make, as you match pets with your lifestyle.

Cat Dog[1]

Work with a Professional

Veterinarians are well-equipped to advise pet owners about an animal’s specific needs, so establishing a relationship with a trusted professional furnishes answers new pet owners need. Feeding animals, for example, can be perplexing to inexperienced owners unsure how much to feed their pets, and curious about the benefits of higher-priced food. Animals are subject to some of the same illnesses people experience, so maintaining contact with a vet, through regular checkups, is the best preventative care.

Exercise and Physical Needs

Each species and breed have their own unique needs, so it is a mistake to expect animals to adapt to inappropriate surroundings. Responsible pet owners are committed to providing precisely what their animals need to survive. Exercise requirements, for example, are different for each animal, so owners need to provide access to the types of exercise pets need.

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Regular walks suffice for many dogs, but certain breeds need to open up more, running and playing in larger outdoor spaces.   Hygiene is another owner responsibility, which includes dental exams and inoculation against common pet ailments.

Balanced Nutrition

Pet food represents an overwhelming array of consumer options, which can be difficult to navigate without experience raising pets. To keep your pet healthy, consult with your veterinarian about particular needs and recommendations for your breed. In some cases, higher-priced food is more nutrient-rich than mass-produced brands, so pets actually eat less. Balancing the cost of food this way benefits the animal as much as the owner, but may go unexplored without the proper recommendation.

Identification

Despite measures used to keep them close to home, pets stray at times. Their natural curiosity and instincts are to blame, more often than not, so it can be difficult to hold them accountable for being true to themselves. What every pet owner hopes for, however, is a safe return home, even when animals misbehave. Whether it is done using an implanted microchip or an identification tattoo, marking your pet is essential to its safe return, if lost. Collars and tags are added safety features, which make it easier for neighbors to help corral wayward pets.

Doing right by your pet means learning what it needs and furnishing an environment in which it will thrive. Proper grooming and health care, as well as nutrition and exercise, provide cornerstones of responsible pet care.

Author:

Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from ArrestRecords and you can reach her at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.

Pavarotti in the Pavilion (AKA Something Silly for Saturday)

Have I mentioned that I’m terrified of thunder? I am absolutely whimperingly petrified of thunder – not of lightning, which could do me real harm, but of the angry growly noise that follows. As a matter of fact I love watching lightning, but I have to clap my hands over my ears after the flash or resign myself to shrieking like Ned Flanders.

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Ellesmere, Shropshire. Photo by Stewart Mackellar, reproduced courtesy of BBC News.

Where I live, the last few days have been scorchio. My partner’s taxi recorded an outside temperature yesterday of 33 degrees Celsius, which is crazy hot for England. Unfortunately for me, hot = thunderstorms, and I managed to get caught out in one this morning while walking across the local recreation ground. In between pathetically begging the thunder to go away and leave me alone, I idly wondered if Pavarotti would be singing in the cricket pavilion.

Thunder over the rec

Thunderstorm over the rec. No lightning, just thunder

Guess what – he was there, practising his scales.

Pavilion Plaque

…And is frequented by opera singers

OK, it’s highly unlikely that the great Luciano himself makes a regular guest appearance in the cricket pavilion of a south Cambridgeshire village, but a tenor with a pretty good voice does flex his vocal cords on a regular basis in this humble location. I often hear him as I scoot around the village to clean various houses, and he always makes me smile. Our cricket pavilion has its very own opera singer. I love random things like that, and this morning, as I took shelter from the storm under the pavilion’s porch, he helped take my mind off the scary thunder.

Pavilion

Gimme shelter!

It was a sweet moment.

Here’s Luciano Pavarotti (not my pavilion tenor) singing the beautiful Nessum Dorma. Enjoy!

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The Monday Moan – Suffering and Cruelty Are NEVER Funny Things.

Those of you familiar with my Monday Moans will know that they are usually light hearted pops at the little things that irritate from time to time. Nothing major; nothing important. I hope I haven’t lulled you into a sense of security too much, as today’s post is somewhat different. The subject of today’s moan is something about which I feel very strongly, and as such it’s going to be an unusually serious post. Perhaps I should have waited until tomorrow and called it ‘The Tuesday Tirade’, because this post has the potential to turn into a full blown rant.

Deep breaths, and let’s begin.

Years ago, I regularly used to listen to a radio breakfast show. One of the features on this show aired listeners’ stories about some misdemeanour in their past to which they now wanted to confess. The stories (like my Monday Moan) were meant to be light hearted and designed to amuse, and confessions along the lines of ‘I painted my brother’s bike pink and blamed the milkman’ or ‘I ate all my mum’s prized strawberries and blamed the postman’ usually had the desired effect.

HamsterHowever, if the introduction involved an animal I knew that, far from making me chuckle, the story was going to make me 1/ seethe, and 2/ very upset. You see, the animal was inevitably going to meet an unpleasant, certainly painful, probably terrifying and simply NOT FUNNY death as the story progressed. Call me simple, but I cannot for the life of me see ANYTHING funny about the suffering and death of any creature. Furthermore, I think the portrayal of animal suffering as funny is irresponsible in the extreme. There are people in this world who will pick up on the idea that eating their sister’s goldfish or standing on their boyfriend’s hamster is supposedly hilarious, and will set out to impress their equally moronic mates by inflicting pain, suffering and premature death on a helpless creature.

Now, I appreciate not everybody loves animals as I do. However, whether or not you like animals they share our planet, they are essential toGoldfish nature and they deserve our respect. I’m reading a book at the moment, which on the whole is a good book, but I was very upset by a flippant, throwaway line about a cat being locked in a shed full of savage dogs. The tone of the writing suggested to me that at worst the reader should shake his or her head at this, maybe tut a bit then, wearing a wry smile, carry on reading. That didn’t happen with me. Instead, I stared frantically at the words for a while as I tried to rid my mind of horrific, unwelcome images of a defenceless, terrified cat being…

You get the picture, I’m sure. Cruelty and suffering are not things I find amusing. If the book had told of a baby being left at the mercy of the savage dogs everyone would be (quite rightly) horrified, so why is it ok, funny even, to treat a cat so appallingly?

‘Oh, it’s only an animal,’ someone might say. Well I’ve got news for you, mate – SO ARE YOU!

‘Oh, well I hate cats. Cats torture and kill small animals for fun,’ another might say. I’ve two replies to that:

1/ Not all cats hunt and kill small animals. I’ve had the privilege of sharing my home with six different cats over the years, and only one’s been a hunter. He’s merely acting on his instincts; he doesn’t realise he’s being cruel.

2/ Not all humans torture and kill animals for fun, but some do. Unlike cats, humans have the capacity to understand that torturing a helpless creature is cruel, cowardly and despicable, but they do it anyway.

BudgieTo be fair, most people do tend to react with horror when an animal victim of cruelty is a cat or dog. The radio breakfast show stories never involved either of these popular pets, but time and again I heard about the sad demise of mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, and all manner of birds and fish. The radio show in question was on for everyone to listen to at work, so short of running, screaming, to the toilet with my hands clapped over my ears I couldn’t get away from hearing. Yes, I did write to the producers of the show, interceding on behalf of small animals being sacrificed the length and breadth of the UK in the name of entertainment, but to no avail. The DJ has long since moved on to pastures new, and I can only hope that no small animals are being harmed in the making of his show these days.

Perhaps the day will come when everyone realises that suffering and cruelty are NEVER funny things. In the meantime, I’m going to do what I always do to counter the fury I feel about cruelty to animals: I’m going to find my cats and tell them how much I love them.

Bess and Mo on Sofa 1Ken on Sofa Long

 

 

 

Trains and Rituals

I like trains; I always have. No, I’m not one of the beings seen at stations around the UK from time to time, huddling at the end of the platform, wearing anoraks and frantically scribbling the numbers of passing trains into their notepads. Are trainspotters only found in Britain? It wouldn’t surprise me, and the fact that spellcheck doesn’t believe that ‘trainspotter’ is a real word rather compounds that belief.

The trusty OED says, ‘Trainspotter: noun, British (I knew it!), a person who collects locomotive numbers as a hobby.’

Really, I am not a trainspotter; I simply like trains.

Footpath to Cambridge 2

My favourite walk into town along the banks of the River Cam takes me under a railway bridge forming part of the busy line to the midlands, and it’s one of my ambitions (seriously!) to be walking underneath this bridge as a train goes over it. This would have to occur naturally, though. If I hear a train approaching I’m not allowed to hurry in order to be in position as it rumbles overhead, nor am I allowed to loiter if a train is on its way when I’m underneath the bridge. Today, to my dismay, a train passed over the bridge as I was only a matter of feet away; if I’d been a few seconds earlier my dreams would have come true, but no. Instead, I was left making a complete fool of myself, waving my hands at the train and saying ‘Oh, train!’ in my most admonishing tone as it trundled off towards Cambridge.

Railway Bridge

Grumbling, I carried on with my walk, passing under the bridge and emerging on the other side just as – you’ve guessed it – another train rattled over the bridge. I could almost imagine that the trains were laughing at me, but I’m not quite ready for the men in white coats to come and take me away yet!

About five minutes later I heard an impressive rumble behind me, and turned round to see a massive freight train going over the bridge. Oh what joy it would have been to stand underneath the bridge counting the wagons on that, but, alas, it wasn’t to be.

I wasn’t even close enough to spot the engine’s number.

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Randoms

According to Word’s red squiggly lines, ‘randoms’ isn’t a word. Ppphhh! It is if I say it is. I’m a copy editor. Trust me.

Apparently, ppphhh isn’t a word either.

The Alison’s Editing Service office conversion is coming along…

…very…

…slowly.

I have now acquired a cushion for my hard chair to save my poor posterior from becoming too uncomfortably numb. Isn’t it pretty? The cushion, that is, not my rump!

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The cushion I did intend to buy. What I didn’t intend was to return home the proud owner of a new lamp. I shouldn’t give in to impulse buys, but it’s so cute.

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I’ve now convinced myself I did actually need a lamp. It helps me see the keyboard on my laptop. No, really, it does…

On my way home from my slightly indulgent shopping trip I noticed this graffiti on a Cambridge wall. Balancing my cushion and lamp between parked cars, I risked life and limb in the middle of the road to bring you this photo.

Grafitti 11 June 2014

Priceless, isn’t it? If you’re old enough to remember pacman, that is.

Today has been beautiful in England: blue skies and blazing sunshine. We don’t get treated to many perfect summer’s days here, and it will probably provoke a ‘Phew, what a scorcher’ headline from the tabloid newspapers. Knowing how unpredictable the English weather can be, even in the middle of summer, I took an afternoon stroll over the meadows to make the most of it.

Ditton Meadows 12 June 2014

I popped into the local supermarket following a very pleasant walk in the sunshine, and happened to overhear the following conversation between a checkout assistant and a zombie usually seen pushing trolleys around the car park.

Zombie: ‘Hot enough for you?’

Checkout assistant: ‘At least you get to work outside and enjoy it.’

Zombie: ‘BRAINS!!!’

No, that’s not what the zombie said at all, because he wasn’t actually a zombie. Certain similarities, yes, but not a real zombie.

What he said was: ‘I hate it. It’s too hot for me. I’ll be glad when it cools down again…’

As I’m sure it will very soon. Good God, no wonder the Aussies call us ‘Whinging Poms’!

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