Fortune’s Well Book 3: Days End released today!!

And look out for a future post titled ‘how not to launch a book’!

Life has other plans, right? Life gets in the way.

Today was meant to be a big day for myself and my co-author Sim Sansford, as we released the final book in our YA trilogy, Fortune’s Well.

To recap, as we were coming out of lockdown, Sim messaged me to see if I’d ever consider writing a book with another author. The answer was no – but Sim and I have similar writing styles and interests and get on really well as business partners and friends, so I said yes, why not?

He had a vague idea that struck a chord with me – the image of an empty jar, a jar full of nothing and two teenage protagonists battling with mental health and family drama. I quite quickly created JJ Carson and Sim created Darcie Duffield. I dived in and wrote the first chapter and from there it just snowballed! We were soon writing a chapter a day each, sending them back and forth via email and discussing our plans for the story via messages on Facebook!

The amazing thing was the lack of planning and plotting. It was all very fast and organic and seemed to just fly! We soon realised we had enough material for a trilogy and today the final book, Days End was released.

A few weeks ago we had grand plans of a launch event, competitions, sneak peeks, Facebook Lives and more! Unfortunately, with family drama/work pressures and every day stresses, neither of us have had the time. Amazon then did a spectacular number on us by deleting our preorder link! Sim dealt with this fiasco and there was no real reason given for it being deleted. Our preorders were lost, refunds issued by Amazon and we’ve been left hoping that those people went back and ordered again.

Not a great way to launch a book but it is always tricky with a series.

Anyway, that aside, we are hugely proud of our co-written trilogy and we have already started planning another book together. More on that another day! Right now I am having a glass of wine to celebrate the final chapter in JJ and Darcie’s intriguing story of superpowers, dark organisations, and family secrets and it would mean the world to us if you would consider purchasing the book. Both book 1 and 3 are currently just 99p for ebook!

Here is the link to Days End:

And the blurb:

All things must come to an end…

With the Organisation hot on their trail and their powers growing stronger by the day; JJ Carson and Darcie Duffield are more determined than ever to save Fortune’s Well from the looming darkness.

But when history threatens to repeat itself, and an unseen foe is watching their every move, who will make the ultimate sacrifice to save them all and bring about the end of days?

Days End is the highly anticipated conclusion to the Fortune’s Well trilogy.

The Joy Of Staying Childish

Confession: I never feel like I’m a proper adult.

I’m sure I’m not the only one. In fact, I know I’m not because this is a regular topic of conversation between me and my husband. We constantly look around at other adults and discern that we are not like them. They are indeed proper adults and we certainly are not.

I’m not sure we want to be. No, probably not.

I was never the kid who wanted to grow up in a hurry and I don’t think my husband was either. I think if he could have stayed a lanky kid playing football until it was too dark to see, he would have. And if I could have stayed a bookish kid reading and writing in her bedroom, I would. Oh that’s still me!

I don’t understand people who want to be adults. I don’t understand people who are adults. I find them really hard to talk to. Most adults I come across are really, really into small talk. Small talk about cars, mortgages, interest rates, remodelling their houses, shit like that. Shit I don’t give a shit about. I never know what to say in reply. I usually have to try and not laugh.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay (I love this photo. I feel like this will be us in the future)

I’m a giggler. And its getting worse. The older I get the more I want to giggle at everything. The slightest thing can set me off and my family know exactly how to get me going and make me choke on my tea. I’m not sure giggling with other adults happens much though? They all seem so serious. Or cheerful, about mortgages and new cars. I don’t get it.

Me and my husband just pretend at being adults. We both have jobs, though mine is one where I get to be silly with kids who love writing as much as me! My husband makes his job more fun by deliberately confusing customers or spouting random political opinions at them in a cheery manner.

As I type this I am laughing at a group chat we have on the go. I’ve got tears running down my face and my eyes sting. They don’t care though – they just make me laugh more. Sometimes I think they’re trying to kill me. My husband and I drove back from Wales yesterday after dropping our eldest back at University. I think we laughed the whole way back. At ourselves, at other people, at everything.

We look at other adults, other parents and then we look at each other, eyebrows raised.

We don’t mean to be mean, but we just don’t understand them, we just can’t gel with them. We both try hard not to get snared by anyone on the school run. Our tactics are similar. Stay in the car until the last possible minute, rush in, grab child, make no eye contact, rush back to car, phew! We don’t have a lot but we look at other people and feel glad we are not them.

Our response to life is to take the piss out of it. Our reaction to this dying world is to poke fun and laugh until we cry. No one will ever listen to us anyway, even though we know we are right about everything.

When I see a hill, I want to roll down it. When I see a tree, I want to climb it. When I see rocks, I want to jump from one to the next. I’m glad these silly childish urges have never faded. I hope they never do.

How to adult?

No clue.

It’s just not in our genes.

But my question to you today, is this. Do you feel like an adult? Do you ‘adult’ well? Does society accept and recognise you as a fully functioning adult person? Or are you like us? Do you still feel the same inside as you always did? Do you look in the mirror and find it hard to reconcile your ageing face with the childish nature inside of you?

I hope so. It’s much more fun this way.

The Difficult Dogs Who Change Our Lives

It’s been a few weeks now since I last blogged and that’s not for lack of things to write about! I just simply haven’t had time and other things have had to take priority. I also had two weeks of jury service to complete which was an amazing and fascinating experience! It’s back to normality this week though and now that my to-do list is somewhat under control, I have something I want to blog about, and it’s difficult dogs!

Followers of my Instagram and Facebook will know that I am a huge dog-lover, and that I currently own three lurchers. Tinks, is a 12 year-old scruffy-haired lurcher who I fostered as a puppy and ended up keeping. We don’t know exactly what mix she is but my guess would be deerhound/greyhound/whippet. She’s a lovely, easy-going simple soul, who, apart from being a bit vocal in her younger years, has never given me a bit of trouble. She came over on a van from Ireland with no history and just slotted right in.

Next we have Jesse, my almost three-year-old boy. He’s a greyhound/deerhound/whippet/collie/bedlington terrier mix who came to us as a puppy in between Covid lockdowns. He’s a smart, loving, laidback boy who I would describe as selectively reactive. If you’re not a dog owner, you might wonder what I mean by ‘reactive’. It’s what we call dogs who react to things we would really rather they just ignored. A prime example of this is barking and lunging on the lead when they see other dogs. This can be because they are excited and frustrated that the lead is stopping them from saying hi, or it can be because they are fearful of the other dog and they are barking at them to keep them away. And guess what, it tends to work, so reactivity then becomes a cycle you find you and your dog trapped in. Jesse can go weeks without barking at anything on the lead, then suddenly he will take a dislike to a dog and bark. Sometimes I can get his attention back on me, reward him for disengaging with the trigger and often, just saying hi to the unknown dog is enough to settle him down. In short, I don’t worry too much about his reactivity but we do work on it all the time.

And then there is Ada…

I wasn’t supposed to get a third dog! It wasn’t on the cards at all. However, I had been telling people that I was broody for a puppy and as Tinks is getting on a bit. I had started thinking about what I’d get in the future to go with Jesse. Jesse loves company and I know he wouldn’t enjoy being a single dog in the house. And of course, if you mention thinking about another dog, people who know you tend to mention it when they come across a dog that needs a home…

I received a message from a lovely lady who had taken a puppy from a breeder she wasn’t overly happy with. The puppy was not quite right for her and her dogs, but she was reluctant to send her back to the breeder. She sent me a picture and asked if I would consider her. I fell in love right away but was sure my husband would say no. After all, we already had two dogs! To my utter amazement he said yes, and the next day we drove to pick her up.

Ada’s mix is not dissimilar to Jesse’s. Her dad was a greyhound/deerhound and her mother was a merle collie/whippet/bedlington terrier/greyhound/bearded collie. However, it quickly became apparent that Ada’s mind and personality are 100% collie. That is a risk you take with lurcher pups because although they are predominantly sighthound crosses, they often have other breeds mixed in, usually collie or terrier. Ada is my fourth lurcher and I’ve fostered over 100 of them in the past and I have never come across one with so little sighthound traits.

Sighthounds are obviously bred to be extremely fast and athletic and they hunt by sight, hence the name. Once they have had a good run, they are usually known for being couch potatoes who like to laze around all day and I’ve always found this to be true. They can be very smart but they will decide what they want to do and often their favourite thing is just sleeping!

When Ada arrived she was very confident. She acted like she had always been with us and was instantly extremely affectionate with the whole family and made great friends with Jesse and Tinks. I was so pleased with how well she slotted in. I figured I’d train her as I had the others, work on recall and disengagement from a really early age, and before she was allowed out for walks, she had mastered all the basics and more. I’d carry her around as much as possible to help her socialisation and I signed her up to Life Skills classes with the wonderful trainer we know. I was so excited! But it soon became apparent that things were not going to go as planned or hoped…

The first time Ada met a strange dog, she was still not old enough for walks but I hoped they could say hello quickly. It was a small friendly dog but Ada’s reaction was to bark at it in fear. I didn’t have my other dogs with me at the time so she wasn’t copying them. She just didn’t want to say hi. Not long after that we started Life Skills and I could see right that she was not comfortable with the other dogs in the class, or the other dogs she could see in the distance of the field. She would focus on me and was amazing at her training but she would bark if she heard another dog bark and I felt my stomach sink. No, this couldn’t be happening. Not again. Not another reactive dog. And at such a young age? I was so upset and worried. I wondered what I had done wrong.

We continued with classes and she was amazing. She started coming out for walks, on lead and off with my other dogs and again I could see that she was not happy with other dogs, and worse than that, she was starting to bark and lunge and react to bikes, scooters, cars, joggers and children. Pretty much everything, to be honest! I tried not to panic. I told myself it was the puppy ‘fear stage’. She would get over it. I just had to keep taking her out, keep meeting other dogs, keep rewarding her when she didn’t bark and so on. But inside I felt sick with worry. She was only three/four months old. Where had these fears come from? Where would they lead?

For a while, it got worse. Ada off lead would run up to other dogs barking. She would never reach them – she would always turn back or circle around or go and hide. It was all fear, but it didn’t look good! On lead, she would lunge and bark and growl at cars, bikes, joggers, kids and dogs. It was so embarrassing because she still looked like a puppy. I almost died in the vets when she went in to get weighed. She was fine with a little dog sat next to us but when an excitable spaniel straining and panting on its lead came in, she lost her shit! After that, two big labs plodded in and she froze in terror and wouldn’t stop barking. I had to pick her up. I almost cried. It was awful. A trip to the pet shop was equally as embarrassing. I started wanting to hide away. I thought, I’ve made a big mistake here. What is going on?

Thankfully for me I know lots of lovely, well-informed and educated dog people, including my wonderful trainer Jodie. One Facebook friend pointed me in the direction of collie-based information and articles and everything began to click together. Off lead with my dogs, she acts like a border collie herding sheep. She runs to the left or right, she crouches, prowls, lies flat, stares, fixates, pounces, then runs ahead again. It was fascinating to watch but she seemed to have no bond with me when out. She was not paying attention to me at all – she was was all collie thinking independently and trying to herd the other dogs. Her reactivity to cars, bikes, joggers and dogs was movement based – it was the movement that was triggering her. Collies are notoriously sensitive dogs. Their senses quite literally go into overdrive – so a moving car, a flapping bird, a loud bang, a barking dog all at once or after the other, can be hugely hard for them to cope with. They tend to bark and lunge because they are on lead and cannot control the movement.

Once I read more and more about the collie brain and what it had been bred for, I began to understand this complex little girl all the more. She is insanely clever and extremely motivated to learn. Jesse will get bored of learning new things after a while and he will just wander off. She now attends trick training once a week and for that entire hour she focuses on me and learns at a fast pace I know my other lurchers would not cope with. I’m on the waiting list for Hoopers and I hope eventually to try agility and scentwork with her. We do little bits of these activities at home already and she loves them.

Her sensitivity at home was bewildering until I understood it too. If you get cross, raise your voice, say ‘no’ or just mutter a swear word to yourself about something that does not concern her, Ada will get very worried. She will run away and hide. If I tell off a child or another dog, if I say ‘no’, that’s it, she’s gone. So, I can’t use those words or that tone with her, not ever. If I do, if I lose my cool, or get frustrated or impatient with her, she shuts down, she won’t learn. It’s not worth it.

She responds to positivity. She absolutely loves being told she’s a good girl! We have been slowly working our way through fears and anxieties. I think I had to grieve a bit first, for the dog I thought I was getting and I had to accept the dog I have. Now that I understand her, life is getting easier for us both.

I take her out on her own as much as I can. I have to be very careful not to push her too fast though. But she does need to gain confidence on her own and I can work on her issues easier if it’s just her and me. This is time consuming, of course! We are slowly getting there. The other day I took her to a fairly busy area and she only barked at two dogs out of eight. I call that progress! She now has two local friends because some of my neighbours kindly agreed to help me with her reactivity by walking with us or down the lane in front of us until she learned to relax and disengage. She has friends at her trick training class and knows not to bark at them! Her confidence is slowly creeping up with all things. She still barks at dogs if they’re too close, too sudden, too scary and maybe she always will, but we will never stop working on it.

I don’t care what anyone else thinks of us. I’ve had to let the guilt and the embarrassment go because it was just getting in our way. We want to move forward. I want to get the best from this unique girl and I believe I already am. Most people don’t understand dog reactivity and a lot can be very judgemental. Some people get easy dogs and a lot of the time it is just luck. Try telling them that though! When you know you’ve put way more training, work, article reading and effort into your dog than they have with theirs, it can be hard to see the rolling eyes, and the judgement in people’s faces. But I don’t care because my dog is amazing.

Ada is the most affectionate dog I’ve ever owned. My other dogs have all been loving but she takes it to another level. The whole family adore her despite her quirky ways, because she is just so adorable. She will lounge over anyone’s laps, grunting softly like a sleep puppy, staring adoringly into your eyes. She follows me everywhere, has to be involved in everything. Her behaviour at home is exemplary!

Here is a list of positive things Ada does:

recalls, stays, gives paw, gives other paw, crosses her legs over when asked, retrieves and gives, middle, circle, orbit, backwards, around things, over things, standing tall, arch, beg, wave, pretending to cry, hugs on command, waits when told, doesn’t try to get our food, lies nicely and watches you eat, was easy to house train, never chewed anything she wasn’t allowed, doesn’t pull on lead (unless very nervous), behaves nicely in car, spins, doesn’t jump up.

Here is a list of negative things Ada does:

Sometimes barks at other dogs and things that scare her when on walks.

That’s it. Otherwise she is a perfect girl. She is an incredible girl. I have never experienced a dog like this before and I feel lucky and privileged to be on this journey with her. Yes, there will be hard times ahead. Yes, there will be days when all three of my dogs decide to react and bark when I really wish they wouldn’t. Yes, there will be days when other dog owners mutter at me or think the worst of me and my dogs. Yes, there will be days when I get tears in my eyes and want to hurry home to hide. Yes, there will be days when I get it wrong.

But I know we’re going to have good days too and I already know that Ada, this tricky, complex, difficult dog who was not at all what I was prepared for, is changing me and my life.

She is forcing me to learn new things, she is encouraging me to get over myself and my own selfish fears and doubts. She is making me go out there every day to help her, whether I want to or not. She is forcing me to be more patient, more calm, more positive and I feel like it’s spilling over into all areas of my life. This dog has changed me and my life and she is only seven months old.

I just hope I can do her justice. I hope I can be the owner she deserves. She tries so hard to get it right, she makes me want to be a better person, for her.

So, if you ever get a difficult dog, the kind of dog other people tend to judge, just hold your head up high and keep going. Keep doing what you need to do for that dog, the dog you have, the dog you ended up with. At the end of the day, all I care about is helping Ada feel more confident so that she can navigate the world with less stress. Other people won’t know that, they won’t know her, they won’t know what’s going on in her collie brain, but I can advocate for her and make sure I’m setting her up for success. She is so worth it!!

What Are You Waiting For? Write The Thing!!

Image by yogesh more from Pixabay

There is something in your head.

Something that keeps you awake at night. Something that pops into your mind at the weirdest times. Something that you ponder over and wonder about. Something that you can’t let go.

Maybe its been there for a long time. Maybe it only came to you when you got older. You know what it is yet you constantly push it down and deny it, because to admit what it is would be dangerous.

You have an idea. A glimmer or maybe something more. You have something growing inside your brain without your permission. No one knows how it got there and you don’t understand why it keeps evolving, taking up more and more space. It wants to be listened to. It wants you to look at it. It wants you to write it!

But if you are like a lot of adults I’ve known, you’ll keep ignoring it, pushing it away, denying it, trying to forget it. You’ll tell yourself it’s silly, you’ll tell yourself it’s stupid. You won’t tell anyone else about it because chances are they’ll say the same thing, right?

People are unkind to writers and negative about writing, even though telling stories is what makes us human and is what has drawn us together through shared experiences throughout time. It’s how we’ve passed on information, it’s how we’ve stayed alive, it’s what makes us different to the animals. It’s not silly, it’s important. It’s not stupid, its magical. But you won’t find that out until you give in and write the thing.

So, what are you waiting for exactly?

To get more time? Who is going to gift you more time? No one. Certainly not this life or this world. If anything, they’ll just keep sucking more from you, if you let them. Give up on the idea that you will ever have the time to write. No one has the time to write. They make the time to write. They demand the time to write. They steal it back and make it theirs so that they can finally write the thing.

What else are you waiting for? The space to write? Is someone going to magically deliver a special writing room or secret loft or wooden cabin for you? No chance. Grab your space, steal it just like you need to steal your time. You just need a desk, you just need a chair. You just need that thing that is in your head!

Are you waiting for confidence? Forget that and write it anyway! Whose permission do you need? Everyone is a beginner when they start. Everyone is a novice, and amateur, learning as they go. Why are you any different that you can’t push that aside and write it anyway? You’re not. And you can.

Are you waiting for your skills to develop? They can’t do that unless you start exercising them! Let go of the need for perfection and write it anyway. Write the thing and let the thing guide you and teach you. Let it out.

Are you waiting for self-doubt and imposter syndrome to go away? Don’t be silly, they never will! Writers are anxious introverted people. We observe the world and absorb its pain and beauty. You’re going to explode if you keep all that inside of you!

Do you think its silly? Self-indulgent? Selfish? A waste of time? It’s none of those things. It’s there in your head waiting to be set free. It’s there for a reason. What is it doing there? How did it get there? You’ve got an idea, an itch, an inkling. Don’t you dare push it aside and focus on your boring job and household chores. Life is short. We are a long time dead. We will never get this moment, right here, right now, ever again. What are you waiting for?

Are you afraid of failure? Put off by the publishing industry? Made to feel not good enough? Maybe you don’t know how to start. Just start! Just do it! Just write the thing, write the thing down in all its ugly, clumsy, upside down glory and then breathe out in victory because you’ve started the journey and no one can stop you now.

There is something achingly tragic about a writer who never wrote, a human who never told their story, never voiced their fears and dreams, never let the thing run riot from brain to hand to pen to paper. Forget everything else. Forget publishing, forget editing, forget readers, forget sales, forget reviews. None of that matters when there is a thing in your head clawing to get out. Write the thing and leave the rest for now. It is your duty to set it free.

What on earth are you waiting for?