The Upsetting Truth…Part Two!

The Upsetting Truth…Part Two!

Everything I do seems to have a sequel.  It’s funny how life can be like that.  I really felt that some points needed to be addressed, however.  There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Unseen Poor.  Let’s kick back with a cuppa and have a chat about a few of them, shall we?  Make yourself comfortable and come sit with me.  Keep your coat on, it’s not cold enough for heating, but you’re probably going to feel the chill in my house if you’re not used to it.  My family and I are used to it.  Our old house never had heating for three years, thanks to an indifferent and incompetent landlord.  While being evicted when he sold the house was distressing and has left me terrified it will happen again, this house is better.  Even with penetrating damp, crumbling walls and mould.  We had white fluffy mould and green mildew in the last house–this time we have black mould.  It’s good to switch it up, don’t you think?  Look carefully and you can make patterns and faces from it.  It passes the time.

Comfy?  As warm as you’re likely to get?  Great!  Let’s do this thing…

  • Jamie Oliver did not deserve your anger.  How dare you insult him?  He’s trying to help you, you ungrateful b**ch.  Get a grip, he’s doing the best he can.

Okay, now.  Hold your horses and calm down a little.  Take a deep calming breath.

My post was not a direct attack at Jamie personally.  I am disappointed that I am unlikely to get the chance to divorce ‘The Hubs’ and marry Jamie now, but it was not a sensationalist piece of writing done with the sole aim to piss off all my fellow Jamie fans.  What angered me is that the tag line for his show was “You Can Eat Like A King Whatever Your Budget.”  My budget, Jamie, is £45 a week to feed a family of five.   I eat healthy and I eat well, but it sure ain’t like a king.

I manage to do it and I never said I could not feed my children.  I said that there are times I might have to make do with a bowl of rice, so they can eat the 20p packet of spaghetti with a home made tomato sauce, pimped up with some Tesco Value dried oregano, so it tastes Italian.  I have said that there are times that I can’t afford to heat my house (I already spend £20 a week on gas, thanks to the meter taking a debt as well) and I have to choose between heating, or buying food.  I will drink a lot of water, instead of eating a lunch, if the cupboards are depleted.  The kids need that food, I am old enough to wait and bide awhile.  My mum helps a lot, but I do get by on the budget I have.  I don’t find it too hard, either.  I never meant to imply that £45 is not enough for food, it is.  Mostly.

Now, Jamie, what upset me…really upset me to the point of nearly crying, was when you, on your programme, Money Saving Meals, tried to tell me, with my £45 a week food budget, that I could save money by buying a £22 shoulder of lamb.  I am certain Jack Monroe was likewise appalled at the blasé presumption that this richly priced joint of meat could ever be seen as affordable by a large portion of the people you purport to be helping.  I hope that clears it up a little bit for anyone who thought I was simply laying into you for no reason.  My ire was not only directed at you, but at the producers, programme developers and all the rest of you who, rightly, do not have to live as I do.  It is not budget.  Give me a call, Jamie–you taught me all I know, I would be more than happy to teach you in return.  I make a wicked vegetable curry.

  • Sell your computer.  Get rid of your TV.  You have luxury items.

No, no and…no.

This is indicative of how well we are socially conditioned to believe those left wanting can heal their situation simply by getting rid of parts of their lives deemed superfluous.  My children, the three at home, are all at school.  Their homework requires the internet.  A lot does.  My son’s college course is entirely computer based (it is a computer course, so this makes sense).  He would love a laptop, but I can’t get him one.  He works part time and has recently had to purchase a new bed for himself as I could not afford it.  He went to Ikea and got a nice one–and my youngest daughter received a ‘new’ mattress as a result.  This is how things work, you see?  We re-use, recycle, stick together and get on through!  We have the one computer, which is my main source of income.  I am an author, I am just starting, in the scheme of things.  I have no agent, no publicist, no advertising budget aside from my Facebook Page and word of mouth.  And now this blog.  Yes, I will use it to promote my work; I self publish and I am only just starting to see anything come from it.  I had my first book out for free, to get my name seen, for several months, while I wrote the sequel.  I write–it is how I will make money and get off benefits.  If there are any legit agents out there…well, you know, I’m free.  You all rejected me once, but I’m open to the idea of a second chance 😉

To tell me to lose the web and to sell my PC (A GIFT FROM A FRIEND) is to tell my children they cannot do their coursework, studies, homework and research to the absolute best standard available to them in this country.  It is to tell me I do not have the right to work as an author.  Work.  I do not, as has been said, lounge around writing blogs for my entertainment.  I am a selling author and have been for 7 months.  I have no intention and no reason to sell the TV.  It is the only one in the house, and the kids enjoy it.  Why shouldn’t they?  Giving up the TV will not make the hard times better.  These suggestions are painful to read.  You are telling me that I can ‘fix’ my poverty by removing a television and my source of income.  It’s not fair to assume a torn off limb could be mended with a plaster; please realise this situation is not going to be helped by losing my children’s source of enjoyment and it will be worsened if I cannot write and earn royalties from my books.

Thank you so much, all of you who bought a book.  You have no idea how fast the 29p royalties add up when hundreds are buying.

  • You took your daughter to Cardiff

This one is an easy one.  I should not have to justify taking one of my four children somewhere for their birthday, but I will.  I’ll also tell you how I did it.

Meg, my daughter, turned 16 shortly after the new year.  All of her friends are doing the big American parties and ‘Sweet Sixteen’ stuff.  I said I would try and find a free hall, maybe pay for a DJ and lay out an Iceland Party-Style buffet.  She said no, thank you but no thank you, because it would end up very expensive and she’d have nothing to show for it afterwards.  She said it was a waste of money.  I save up for the Big occasions, and 16 is a milestone.  I told Meg I would give her a party, that I could afford it.  She said no.  She asked, instead, to go to The Doctor Who Experience.  She asked in October–do you know many 15 year old girls who would have the foresight to ask 4 months in advance to go to to something where the tickets cost £16.00 for an adult?  Me neither, but my daughter did just that.  I Immediately went onto  They gather all the backpacker hostels on one site, you punch in a postcode, they show you what’s available in that area.  We stayed in a room with bunk beds and a single bed.  My mum came to help cover the cost of the room, and to buy us some food while we were there.  Luckily, the Nomad has a big kitchen you can use, so it’s almost like self catering.  They also feed you cereal in the morning.  All this is £40 a night for the room and breakfast for three people.  I booked in October and paid a £20 deposit.  I then started squirrelling the money away for the extortionate train tickets and the tickets for Doctor Who himself.

We did not spend a fortune in the mall–I said go prepared to spend a lot, because it is very expensive…if you buy anything.  I should have added that we window shopped in that mall for 6 hours.  It was good fun.  They have a Lego Store and we looked at individual Lego, but we did not buy any.  We walked to Cardiff Castle, and we looked at that too.  We did not pay £22 each to walk up the stairs and actually see it.  That’s how much they charge, to walk past the gates.  I never had that much in my purse, not for me and Meg to go.  Had she really wanted to have seen inside, I would have paid for her ticket and sat looking at the walls, with my mum.  Meg said no.  The Saturday night was spent in the recreation room of the Nomad, talking to a backpacker and watching the voice, munching on a Tesco salad bowl.  The high life of luxury?  Not quite.

I loved visiting, but I found it over priced and impossible, even though I left all my family at home, bar one daughter.  Please do not resent her birthday present.  She has a right to be allowed gifts and treats, just the same as other children.  Without my mum, we could not have gone at all.

  • You should not have bred.  You shouldn’t have had children.  You’re not fit to parent.  You should have got Critical Illness Cover.  Kill yourself, they’ll be better off.  Just go die somewhere and stop moaning.  You should have insurance.  You should have saved.

This is simply ignorance at its best, isn’t it?

Because I am poor, I should not have children?  I work and work hard.  So does my husband.  We did not know what was coming and we were young enough to feel immortal.  Why would I have thought of critical illness cover?  I have life insurance–when this illness kills me, which it will one day, my husband and children will be shooting out of this poverty trap.  I have to die to fix this.  I will not cancel an insurance I had the foresight to take out aged 22.  Not to save pennies.  It’s a good policy and I got it before my condition.  It will leave my family comfortable.  I myself will be going off to medical science when I do die.  Rest assured, it won’t be because I have taken the above advice though–that would void my insurance.

On a side note, when I said ‘the good times’ they were simply comfortable, not rich.  I could fill my cupboards and not worry about feeding us all.  I was able to replace shoes/trainers and I could meet expenses.  At no point have I had enough to take my kids abroad.  They have been on two Haven Holidays; one in 2004, to Warmwell (it was amazing, even though I was pregnant), and one in 2006, just before it all went downhill, to Clacton-On-Sea.  They loved it and I hope to be able to go again, one day.

Now that’s over, onto the good stuff!!! (Yay, I was depressing myself, and I’m not a gloomy kind of gal.)

  • Food Banks do not require Social Services Intervention.  You will not be deemed as Too Poor To Parent, if you go to your GP and get a referral.  The Citizens’ Advice Bureau can also do this, as do some churches, outreach programs and community-based groups.  Some do not need a referral.  If you are in dire need and cannot find these resources, please contact your local Sikh Temple.  I was contacted by a few dozen lovely people from a temple who said all are welcome to sit with them, enjoy a vegetarian meal.  It is, to the Sikh Community, a religious obligation to help their fellow humans and treat all equally.  They will welcome you and your children.  Women, please wear a headscarf, if you have no scarf, they will supply one for you.
  • There are a lot of benefits a lot of the ‘invisible working poor’ are not aware of.  If you are struggling, please go to your Citizens’ Advice Centre.  They will make bloody sure you are getting all you can.  I have done this and I *do* receive all I am entitled to.  It is simply not enough to cover rent, council tax, heating, water, electric, other bills…you get the idea.  You, though, may be in a different place and there may be more help available to you.  I shall be applying for this PIP allowance everyone has told me about.  I have had a little over a thousand messages and comments telling me about this.  I was turned down for DLA, but who knows, eh?  I’ll be doing that next week.
  • There are community groups that might sound a bit like a communist soup kitchen to the uninitiated, but are actually amazing when you delve a bit deeper.  These places will have community gardens and often an attached hall.  Sign up, learn some gardening, cook and eat what you grow with new friends–all in the same boat.  You can ask about these at your local council offices.
  • Poverty is a big issue amongst LGBT people.  Please know there is support and people out there who will be able to talk to you and help you.  There is no need to be alone.  If you want advice, a chat, or help with anything, please contact Stonewall as a starting point–they will point you in the right direction.
  • You can get emergency payments to cover rent, from your local council, if you are entitled.  It is not simply Housing Benefit.  This is a further award that might be given, if you are in dire straits.
  • There are support groups as well.  These vary considerably depending on where you live, but they should be there.  If not, come out as ‘poor’ and see if one can be started.  I have had an overwhelming response.  Not simply from people who are jobless and on JSA, but nurses, teachers, office staff, waiting staff–the list is as varied as any community ever is.  I…we…are not alone, and we have nothing at all to be ashamed of.  Poverty shaming only works if you allow it to work.  Group together and stand tall.

Please please please feel free to contact me via my Facebook Page if you need a friendly ear, or are unsure of which way to turn, just email me or send me a FB Message.  You are not alone.  I have asked a friend and my husband to help admin the site.  We are keeping on top of all messages and, where we can, we will point you in the right direction, if you need help.  Even if you just need to offload and reach out to someone, that’s okay too.  Please be aware that my page is all about full equality in all things.  Please be respectful of everyone who likes it and pops by to visit.  We’re a motley bunch of all things Rainbow.  We don’t care how you identify, what your sexual preference is, or where you come from.  You will be welcomed.

I would also like to say if you would like to donate and help food poverty, contact your local food banks or The Trussel Trust, who will be able to help you.

Please feel free to pick up one of my books (shameless plug, I know, but it is seriously the only job I have to be able to work my way out of the Grey Area).  The series is called Searching For Eden, and there are currently two books available here (uk) and here (rest of world).  The paperback of #1, Into The Woods, can be found here.

Thank you all again for all the support.  I am humbled by you all.

Robin Williams: A lesson in life, not depression.

A few pertinent words from my editor. With love.

My Fluid Self: My search for a narrative


I woke up and in keeping with an unhealthy routine rolled over and checked Facebook. The first post I saw was aghast at the death of Robin Williams, the second revealed it was alleged to be suicide, and with that I predicted the flood like a Nine-to-five Noah. I read on, irrationally, to the third post. It was a quote of an anecdote from Watchmen;

Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says “But Doctor… I am Pagliacci.”

As poignant as it is, applied to the life of Williams it is a misnomer, casting him as the desolate trope of the tragic clown…

View original post 1,177 more words

The Upsetting Reality Of Modern Day Poverty.

The Upsetting Reality Of Modern Day Poverty.

This is a post about a subject very close to home.  My home.  It is about politicians who wouldn’t know poverty if it chewed on their overpaid arses.

It’s about, in part, Jamie Oliver.

Now, to put this out there, I love Jamie.  For years and years, I idolised the man.  He taught me to cook, when I could barely operate a Pot Noodle and we lived off Smash (dehydrated potatoes) and pasta (we even overcooked that).  I would watch all his shows and learn, slowly, from the TV.  In less than a year, I was able to cook a three course meal for 15 people.  Gourmet became easy and I was soon laughing my way through 3 meat roasts and cooked-from-scratch curries.  I owe my skill in the kitchen to Jamie.  I have a lot to thank him for.

Jamie Oliver was good to watch, when I had money.  Before I had six operations, culminating in a partial mastectomy of my right breast.  He was great, before I had a heart attack–caused, in part, by the amount of strain the constant general anaesthetics put on the organ.  Before I was diagnosed with Unstable Angina (that’s the bad sort, if you’re interested.  It means there are days when rolling over in bed causes my heart to seize up and my oxygen levels to fall drastically–on these days, I can just about, with the constant administration of GTN spray, make it to the loo).  Jamie was excellent, before I had to leave a well paid job and fall back on the State and Child Tax Credits, just to help me survive.

I lived comfortably and we wanted for pretty much nothing important.  We were young, in our late twenties, with well paid good jobs and four beautiful, if a bit spoiled, children.  Life was good.

Until it wasn’t good and all I could do was watch, helplessly, as it spiralled down the pan.  I was laid out on the couch every day with a sick-bucket as my constant companion.  They don’t tell you that part–heart failure makes you puke.  A lot.  I couldn’t walk to the shop, 100m from my front door.  I had to stop and rest, sitting on my neighbours walls, every couple of feet.  Work was an impossibility.

Enter the recession.  Goodbye Hubby’s job…thank you and goodnight.  We were now, without question, in the deepest shit it was possible to get into.  Then our landlord sold the house from under us and we were homeless as well.  Luckily, we found another house and my husband found another job pretty bloody quick.  It’s important to feel as though you’re earning money and not sitting on your arse having it handed to you.  Trust me, I know this from experience; it is a major reason I started writing ‘seriously’.

My Food Budget?  About £45 a week.  That’s for five days worth of packed lunches for four people, two lunches for five at the weekend, and seven evening meals.  £45.00.  I was over the moon, when I saw Jamie had a new show on 4oD (yes, I know it’s not *new*, but I don’t watch a lot of TV).  Food on a budget, that sort of thing.  “Hooray,” I thought, “he’ll show me how to feed us all on the money I have.”

Nope.  Not a bit of it.  You see, to Jamie Oliver, a £20 shoulder of lamb is ‘cheap’, because it can do two meals and it’s not the leg, so costs less per kilo.  Two meals, Jamie?  For twenty bloody quid, I want at least four meals.  It’s a sad day when I get angry at Jamie Oliver for being a pretentious arrogant prick.

The reality of poverty is not what you might see on TV, with those delightful characters from Benefit Street (Channel 4).  It isn’t all about people, cursing loudly in the street with a fag in hand and their pyjamas on, while they scream at little 2 year-old Albie to get ‘the fuck indoors, ya little shit, or I’ll faaahkin slap ya, innit!’  It’s not sitting around on a bench with a can of Special Brew, unwashed and stinking of urine, roll-up in filthy fingers.  I don’t smoke.  I can’t afford to smoke.  I don’t know many people who can.  I have bars of soap next to my sinks and I am able to use them to good effect.  I am not dirty.  I am relatively poor.  There is a difference.  It’s not even about food banks, because I don’t know what the hell you have to do to get referred to one, but it’s complicated, a long process.  I have a fear the food banks might be linked to Social Services and I, like most of my peers, were raised to avoid them at all possible costs. (please see part 2 of this blog for details of how to find and get help from your local food bank if you need one.  I know, now, that it is not complicated and does not involve social services.)

The reality of poverty is counting the 2p & 5p coins saved in a bottle, and sending a 10 year old to buy a packet of cheap pasta and a tin of tomatoes, because it’s sort of embarrassing to have to pay with coins and count them out while there is someone behind you with a £20 note.  The reality is eating plain boiled rice and pretending to like it, so the kids don’t know there’s no other food except for what is on their plates.  The reality is having an electric meter, running always on emergency credit, because you can’t afford to get out of the cycle you’re trapped in.  It’s making the choice between putting the heating on for an hour, or going cold and being able to buy a pack of sausages and some potatoes.

The reality of relative poverty is going to the butcher and asking for a pound of mince to be separated into three bags for three meals.  You’d be amazed what I can do with mince.  The reality is going to the supermarkets just before they close, and buying all you can for a fraction of the cost, because it’s going out of date tomorrow.  That’s okay–you’re eating it tomorrow.  It’s value priced peanut butters and cheap cuts of fatty meat.  It’s poor-quality chicken and eggs from barn hens.  It’s learning to mend, reuse, recycle and go without.  It’s washing your hair with washing-up liquid, because it’s all you have until Wednesday, when the Holy Grail of Child Tax Credit hits your account and there’s £50 for shopping.

The reality of poverty is the shame of always having to say, “Sorry, I can’t afford it.”  It’s calling your mum, in tears, because there are bailiffs pounding on the door.  It’s drinking so much water you feel ill, simply so your stomach isn’t painfully empty.

So, Jamie, forgive me for not watching your show.  Forgive me for breaking up with you.  You’re as clueless, you see, as those politicians you hound into raising the school meal standards.  I can’t afford for my kids to eat school meals–not at £2 per child per day (that’s £20 I simply don’t have) and we can’t get them for free, because we’re not ‘on the dole’.  I suggest, before churning out the tripe you film, you come and spend a day in my world.  I’m so cold I can’t feel my fingers as I type this blog about poverty on a computer bought for me by a friend.  I will let you sit next to me and we’ll laugh at how you can see your breath misting in the air above my charity-shop desk.  I’ll show you which needle is used to stitch a hole in the toe of a canvas trainer.  I’ll make you a coffee, but only if you don’t have sugar–that’s a luxury we only buy in if we’re going to make a cake.  You can help me scrub some of the mould from the walls, before it takes over the house entirely.

We can do all of that.  Then, maybe, you’ll realise what poverty is.

Read More here: The Upsetting Truth…Part Two! A follow-on from this article.  Please read this BEFORE leaving comments on this page.  Many thanks.

(A quick addendum: thank you all so much for the messages of support and the overwhelming goodwill.  Answering messages, sending people to the correct links, where they can get help, is time consuming, so please be patient – I am only one person.  Please get in touch via email, if you know of organisations that could be of help to others.  I will be sure to pass all information along the line – and share it all on my Facebook page.  If you are looking for help, advice or just someone to talk to, please contact me either through email or my Facebook page HERE.  I am great at finding numbers and websites that might help.

If you would like to donate to any of the causes that have cropped up thanks to this article, please contact your local food bank, or the Trussel Trust, who will be happy for any donations you can give!

I am an author. I am Indie-Published and I sell my books through Amazon.  I am very new at it all (in the scheme of things – only 7 months old) and I have no outside help or agents to publicise me, pay me, or do any of ‘that stuff’.  I live in rented accommodation and I *do* receive a small amount from Child Tax Credits.  My husband works.  We are above the ‘cut off’ wage of £16,190 p.a and are not entitled to any more than we already claim.  While I see the goodwill behind the thousands of comments telling me to claim free meals, Working Tax Credit etc. etc, we are not entitled to them.  We live in the Grey Area of the benefit system and actually make less than those on benefits, after taxes (but the amount after taxes is not the amount used for calculations).

To do my ‘job’, which is writing, I need the computer to be able to both write and publish my work.  My work supplements my husband’s wage.  It is a necessity not a luxury.  It is the tool of my trade.  While it seems to make sense to say that my computer is a luxury, it was actually a very generous gift from a friend who was staying with us for a while, when he was made homeless after a bereavement.  That I feel the need to justify having a computer is indicative of the ‘stigma and shame’ surrounding poverty.  As though not having a TV, not having Internet, not having a computer, keeping the gas off, eating less…(the list here is endless) will somehow magically change the poverty-stricken situation into one of good times and plenty.)

My books can be found here if you are in the UK, and here if you are elsewhere in the world.  Thank you.

As so many people have asked…here is the link to the paperback version.

A Weekend Of Daleks And Angels.

A Weekend Of Daleks And Angels.

I’m a bit of a secret (okay, not so secret) nerd.  Or is that meant to be geek?  I can never remember, although I have been told the difference enough times.  I think I am maybe both.  Anyway–I went to Cardiff last Friday, because in those Welsh mountains, nestled amongst the castles and sheep, is the Doctor Who Experience.

Doctor Who scared me as a small child.  Cybermen gave me nightmares and I think, but can’t be sure, it was banned in my house because I really suffered from some doozies.

That’s neither here nor there, though.  When the good Doctor came back to our screens, I watched.  I sat in my living room and watched every episode on Virgin’s Catch-Up service.  Ecclestone? Yup – loved him.  Tennant? Oh, yes please.  Matt Smith? Took a bit of getting used to, but, yep – loved him too.  Capaldi? I adore the man.

My daughter loves The Doctor too.  With a passion.  So, it happened that for her 16th birthday, we could be found posing alongside Cybermen and crouching to pat K-9.  My daughter ‘drove’ the TARDIS (and crash landed it); stole a crystal from a Dalek (and woke it up); wandered through a forest of Weeping Angels and, at the end of the day, saved the world.  It was great fun, well done and had just the right amount of terror/peril.

The backpacker Hostel we stayed in was pleasant.  If you’re on a shoestring budget and want to be in the centre of Cardiff, then I recommend the Nomad…just don’t expect frills–there ain’t none.

All in all, I would go again.  Maybe just for one night, though.  The prices are inflated, the tourism expensive and the streets haven’t been cleaned since the paving was laid down in Cardiff Central.  Seriously, it’s black and has more chewing gum attached to it than Wrigley’s has produced this century.  If you’re thinking of a visit, do yourself a favour and go to Cardiff Bay.  Get the bus from there to the centre for the castle (if you want to pay £22 to walk up some steep steps, of course), and to go to the huge mall the city centre boasts.  Be prepared to spend a serious amount of cash–it’s super expensive.

It’s worth a visit.  Just go prepared to be a bit, well, bored.  There’s not much to do.  The lady at Tourist Information was bored of me by 12 noon on the Saturday (I got there Friday teatime) after already telling me five ‘all day’ excursions.  They took an hour, with my 65 year old disabled mother tootling along with her walking stick.  Also, as a side note, saying a place is a tourist attraction because The Doctor ran past it, once, isn’t really true.  It’s a rather dull shop front, really.  They sell more overpriced touristy-gumpf.  Save yourself the trip.

Drive down, spend an afternoon at the Bay (hopefully they will have turned the water tower back on – it was off while I was there), then if you fancy a drink in the evening, stay in a Travelodge before heading home the next day.  See some Daleks and pose with an angel, then drive back, pleased you’ve been and pleased to be in the best place in the world.


Exciting Times…

Exciting Times…

You may have noticed that there is a ‘new’ book on my Author Page.  An all new book, with the same title as the old one.  What’s that all about, then?

It’s been an eventful few weeks since Christmas. To say the least.

You see, my first novel, Into The Woods, was in dire need of editing.  I knew this, of course, but only in a vague sort of way. I was brand new to the authoring game and greener than the grass in the next field.  I’d written the book, had fun writing it and, so I did not chicken out of publishing it again, I literally typed the final sentence and uploaded it to Kindle.

It was both brave and stupid, in hindsight. Ah, hindsight, you beautiful beast, you.

So it’s edited, with the assistance of an amazing man, Sam Flaco.  Of course, this means that The Call of The Dark will also have a complete do-over, but now, oddly, I am looking forward to the process.  It’s fun.

It was a leap into the unknown, when I hit that PUBLISH button.  Luckily for me, most people I have encountered have been nothing short of lovely.  I don’t mean a little bit nice, either.  I mean welcoming me into the fold with open arms, guiding me in the right direction, helping me when I got stuck.  All that and more.

I was able to get invaluable feedback.  Most people, knowing it was a first book, were constructive.  Some were not.  The ones who weren’t, well…it took a few weeks to realise that not everyone in the world is nice; that some people just enjoy hurting other people.  No, I don’t mean they gave a bad review.  Bad reviews come with the job, so they were expected.  I mean the people who thought they were clever in directly contacting me to pull my work apart.  The ones who have not grown past senior school (maybe they are still there) and think being mean is fun.

A heads-up.  It’s not as funny as they think it is.  It truly does hurt to have to be the victim of someone else’s ‘cleverness’.  To have to look at a deliberately evil ‘critique’ and be expected to be able to shrug it off takes a thick skin, a few tears and a fair amount of Pinot Grigio…

Most people, however, showed what beautiful souls there are out there in the world.  One reviewer was in contact with me for the three days it took him to read Into The Woods to point out my typos and errors.  He made my day. (well, night, really—he’s in the USA and I’m in England.  Our conversations happened at about 3am for me, but it was still great.)

Anyway, this brings me to the importance of editing.  A lot of the mistakes I made were avoidable.  They would never have been printed, had I taken the time to ‘sit’ on the manuscript for a few weeks, read through it, be critical and, crucially, check the bloody thing over for errors.

The new Edited edition of Into The Woods is miles away from that first, unlooked at, manuscript that was uploaded to the world in a leap of faith.  I will always treasure the first edition, though.  I can look at it, see its mistakes and learn from them.  It is that manuscript that, in spite of the bed reviews, gave me the courage to keep writing and keep learning.

It can be picked up for free here:  for the next few weeks.  All of you who took the time to read the first ever novel of a brand new author, I thank you.  Please accept the Edited Edition with love.  If you can take the time to review it, that would be marvellous.

As for me, would I go back and edit first, had I known?  That’s harder to answer than you might think.  Yes, it would have meant that I would have had a polished manuscript, but I wouldn’t have learned half as much as I have.  I would still have a thin skin—but for an unedited manuscript, I think the stupidity and bravery paid off.  It gave me confidence.  It made me friends.  And people enjoyed it, despite its failings.

That, above all else, has to be the most important thing to remember.


Thank you to Jay Aheer for the fantastic new cover!