Dog Rules…or rather The Dog Rules

 

If my dog were a child, I would be judged a particularly poor parent. Before the words ‘dog training’ form on your lips, I would just like to say, in terms of man hours, if not academic ability, I could have trained as both a doctor and a lawyer in the time I have spent in dog training classes and squealing like the most interesting person that you JUST have to run back to on the hill.IMG_2054small

When the kids were young, I probably qualified as one of the strictest parents on the block. Wasn’t quite in the organic apricots rather than Smarties in the party bag camp but definitely in the ‘fizzy drinks are the devil’s spawn’ fun monitor brigade. Of course, I wouldn’t have bothered beating myself up with carrot sticks if I’d have known that all attempts at healthy eating would go to hell in a handcart when they were teenagers. The mums who were thrusting bags of Dunkin’ Donuts at their kids while I proffered oatcakes would clap their hands if they could see me now: wading ankle deep in sweet wrappers and crisp packets stuffed behind the sofa.

But somehow, the discipline that I managed for the kids, resolutely refusing to budge with my ‘Stop asking the same question and hoping for a different answer’ mantra, seemed to have been eroded by the time the dog arrived.

Here’s where it’s all gone wrong:

  • Unlike the kids who would be packed off to bed at 7.30, the dog feels that it is her canine right to be part of every social event, weeding out the person who most hates dogs and making them jump with a judiciously placed snout (or sopping wet Schnauzer beard) at various intervals. The equivalent of me letting the children wander in and out of a dinner party with a pop gun. WP_20160424_15_42_48_Pro
  • If we try to shut the dog in a different room, she barks and barks until all conversation centres around the dog’s terrible behaviour. I feel totally inadequate like I used to when mums gave me advice on how to make my son read (rather than hang upside down off the sofa fanning himself with Biff and Chip) or how to cure my daughter’s fussy eating (Ha! They didn’t know everything. She still hates sausages and gags on pear.)
  • I never had a problem with the children eating poo. The dog hoovers up horse manure nuggets like a box of Thorntons.
  • I did manage to teach the children not to wander off with strangers. Poppy, on the other hand, will happily trot home with you for the sniff of a sausage roll.
  • The son eventually grew out of snatching Power Rangers, Hot Wheels and Scalextric cars. I have this warning for all dogwalkers on Reigate Hill…do not throw a ball with a squeak in it anywhere near us. We could single-handedly revive Candid Camera.
  • There’s a fifty per cent chance of the kids leaving alone anything I’ve designated as a ‘Do not eat that’ zone. The dog can sit out a whole birthday lunch snoring in her basket, then waits till I go outside to wave people off, rattles into life and sucks back the leftover smoked salmon and cantuccini biscuits. Just glad the dexterity of her paws doesn’t yet lend itself to the wire on the champagne bottle.
  • She doesn’t accept that ‘when I’ve finished this’ is a valid option. As she hasn’t yet learnt to scribble on walls in protest, she’s adopted the ‘hunt the shoe and slipper in the wet, muddy garden’ revenge tactic.
  • She’s far better at hide ‘n’ seek than the children ever were. The sheer audacity of her hiding places – the white sofa, the furry throw on my bed – plus her ability not to giggle wildly when I’m calling her name and the stealth with which she creeps off when I’ve blinked makes her an Olympic H&S champion.

 

Here’s where it’s gone right:

She’s such a character, I couldn’t imagine life without her.

 

My new book, After The Lie, comes out this Friday 29 April. It’s an emotional story of love, loss and family secrets…with some lighthearted relief from a dog called Mabel…based on you know who! You can order it here for the bargain price of 99p: http://amzn.to/1ST8uWC

 

Ten Things Kerry Fisher Wants You to Know About Her…

Yes, this was actually the title of a feature I had to write for Female First. It probably loosely translated for readers as ‘Stuff I could have easily lived without knowing’ or ‘Why would I want to know anything about Kerry Fisher?’ But just in case you’re done with Twitter and there’s nothing on telly…knock yourself out on the most trivial of trivia…

 

I’m eternally dissatisfied. When I started writing, I just wanted to get published. I imagined that I would flop down in an armchair and think, ‘Phew. I’ve done it!’ Unfortunately, every time I reach a goal, I have about two minutes when I think ‘Brilliant!’ then immediately raise the bar. I was absolutely thrilled to make the Kindle top 10 – way beyond anything I’d hoped for. But now I find myself thinking, ‘Hmm, I’d actually quite like to be number one.’ But I think Grey will have that slot for some time to come…

 

I’m quite prudish. I find the idea that people I know are reading my sex scenes absolutely excruciating. I wanted to staple ‘those’ pages together when my Mum was reading The Island Escape.

 

I’ve totally ignored the advice I give my children. I’ve met some people I’ve got to know on Twitter in real life and they’ve become great friends. A bonus by-product of becoming an author has been finding a new tribe to share my fascination for the minutiae of the book world. So nice to hang out with people who don’t suddenly find an urgent need to go to the loo when I say, ‘I’ve got a great idea for a novel.’

 

'I don't know anything about muddy footprints on the bed'

‘I don’t know anything about muddy footprints on the bed’

 

I own a naughty Lab/Giant Schnauzer called Poppy. I spend half my life running around the hill near our house, waving chicken and squeaking balls, while she hoovers up picnics and runs amok with kites. We’ve just built a boot room in an effort to contain the vast quantity of mud she shakes all over the kitchen in the winter. The builders think it’s ridiculous that it’s the only room in the house with underfloor heating.

 

Photo by wallI made a bet with my teenage daughter that I’d dye my hair pink if The Island Escape made the Kindle top 100. I never thought I’d get there so I was enjoying the kudos without thinking I’d ever have to deliver. I rather like it though.

 

I love the way teenagers feel everything so deeply and sharply. Watching my 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter grow up is like seeing life lived with all the jaded layers of experience removed. I’m also fascinated by how embarrassing they find me, especially if I sing to the radio or wear a bikini.

 

The first thing I map out when I’m planning my characters is what they really want from life. It’s an interesting and potentially dangerous question to ask yourself if you are prepared to dig beyond ‘I want my family to be happy and healthy’.

 

I love travelling. I was a very restless teenager with a fascination for foreign languages. I did a degree in French and Italian, then lived in Corsica for a year, Spain for two and Tuscany for five. When I came back to the UK, aged 29, I’d missed so much popular culture – TV, music, films – that I felt like an alien. Now I love disappearing off on my own to explore, but nothing beats coming through the arrivals gate at the airport, knowing I’ve got a family to come back to.

 

I hate shopping and don’t give a hoot what people wear. I never notice unless it’s outrageously awful or absolutely wonderful. When I got married, I bought a grey trouser suit a few weeks before and thought, ‘Well, that will do if I don’t have time to look fpicatprintersor anything else.’ My stepmother took me in hand and I ended up with a bright red dress.

 

One of the best days of my life was seeing my debut novel, The School Gate Survival Guide, come off the presses with my old dad. At the printers, they pressed a button and the whole factory turned into a sea of red covers. He was so proud and I was so touched.

 

Welcoming a true star…Jo Bartlett

I’m delighted to welcome Jo Bartlett onto my blog today to talk about the inspiration behind her new book, Among A Thousand Stars – AATS%20Coverout on 17 June 2015.

You know one of those hectic Monday mornings when you catch sight of yourself magnified in the rear view mirror of your car and realise your roots need doing but you’ve only got time to colour-in the grey with a mascara wand? Or maybe that’s just me… Either way, I suspect we’ve all had times when we wonder how our lives have turned out to be so ‘ordinary’?

As a ten year old I wanted to be a glamorous air hostess, jetting all over the world, but I grew up to have a hip circumference distinctly incompatible with such narrow aisles. Of course the reality of the job would have been totally different to my childlike imaginings and I doubt there’s anything very glamorous about trying to keep control of a stag-do on a budget airline bound for Benidorm. So I became a university lecturer instead, which is about as glamorous as it sounds.author%20pic

Looking around on one of those hectic Monday mornings I described, I couldn’t help wondering if other people’s lives really are less ordinary. After extensive research, a.k.a. people watching, I’ve come to realise that we all have facets of the ordinary that knit together the foundations of our lives – whoever we are. At my son’s primary school, one of his best friend was the son of celebrity and fashion photographer, Perou. Now there was someone whose life seemed distinctly less ordinary than mine. He’d be heading off to New York to photograph Dita Von Teese, at the same time as I was on my way to a university faculty meeting about student retention. Only by the next week, he’d be back in the thick of it, with the rest of us parents, trying to elbow his way to the front of the school hall to get a good seat for the nativity play. Actually he’s much cooler than that, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

In a roundabout way, that’s part of how the idea for Among A Thousand Stars came about and how freelance photographer, Ashleigh Hayes, found herself in a world of glamour but with plenty of the life more ordinary along for the ride – including a mother who’s only too happy to strip off in front of her friends and an alarming ability to put her foot in it. It’s a story about the insecurities we all carry, the ups and downs of a less than perfect family life and how the right person can suddenly help it all make sense. After all, that’s what makes any life less ordinary, isn’t it? Love. It certainly does for me.

 

http://jobartlettauthor.com/

@J_B_Writer

 

 

 

Welcoming Helen J Rolfe to my blog

Today I’m welcoming Helen J Rolfe to my blog to talk about her debut novel, The Friendship Tree, out on Tuesday 24 February. A big hello to Helen!

Tell us a bit about yourself

I write contemporary women’s fiction and The Friendship Tree will be my first published novel. I have the classic ‘bottom drawer’ novel, which was my first attempt, and I feel as though I’ve come a long way since that one was written!

I live in Bath, UK with my husband and two children where we live in utter chaos since moving back from Australia at the end of 2014. I’m a big fan of Pilates and yoga, I’ve signed up for badminton lessons, and of course I love to read. If I ignored the housework I’d get to enjoy books a whole lot more!Author photo - Helen J Rolfe

Can you tell us a bit about your novel, The Friendship Tree?

The Friendship Tree tells the story of Tamara, who leaves the UK and joins family in Australia in the hope of leaving behind bad-boy Bradley. Jake, the new vet in town, has a past he’d rather leave behind too, and the pair will soon learn that running away doesn’t solve anything.

Tamara is drawn in to a small community where she becomes the coordinator of an old-fashioned friendship tree, a chart organising the town’s residents in times of need. The Friendship Tree is rife with themes of romance, family secrets, friendships, business rivalry and an abduction which unites the entire town.

What do you love the most about the book?

I really enjoyed setting The Friendship Tree in a fictitious town in Australia. It allowed my imagination to freely create the place and its people … I even drew a map of the town and where houses were located so that I could stay on track as I was writing!

Some scenes were set in Sydney, others in the UK, and I really enjoyed varying where my characters found themselves. The changes in location mirrored changes in the characters’ lives which were important in the book.

What’s the most exciting part about being a published author?

I’m excited that other people will finally be able to read my story. Mind you, it’s daunting too … I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to family being able to see what I’ve been working so hard on!cover ebook

And finally, what are you working on at the moment?

I am making the final touches to my next novel which is set in Melbourne, Australia. I haven’t quite decided on the title yet, but it’s a story about learning to love again and living life to the full, even when life has dealt a cruel blow. More on that soon, I hope!

Thank you for hosting me on your blog.

My absolute pleasure…best of luck!

 

For more about Helen J Rolfe …

www.helenjrolfe.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/helenjrolfe

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@hjrolfe

Blog: http://thewriteromantics.com

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/helenjrolfe

The Friendship Tree is available from Amazon:

  1. Amazon.com – http://amzn.to/1wd47Mz
  2. Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/1Lu57zf

 

The summer of letting go…

You're not going in anything faster than that...

You’re not going in anything faster than that…

For the parents whose children are starting school this week, there comes the swift realisation that during school time, at least, they are no longer in control. For me, after five years of banging on about eating cucumber, sharing the Playmobil ambulance nicely and not jabbing people in the eye with a pencil, it came as a bit of a shock that I couldn’t directly influence what happened between nine and three-thirty any more. In short, I had to ‘let go’.

Ten years later, I’m discovering that process all over again. In fact, it’s been a summer of letting go. Mainly out of necessity as this year I graduated from ‘unsuccessful author’ (as my son described me to his teachers) to ‘published author, still to prove herself’. So this summer I wasn’t quite as available to my children as I normally am. I was often flat out, working on publicity, blogs and the next novel. Previously my novel-writing (accorded the same status in the house as weeding, dusting and shoe-polishing – nice but not essential) managed to fit around their need to be ferried into town, their inability to find bread in the freezer and the necessity of topping up their phones now! Something had to give. We live on a big hill, with town a fifteen-minute drive away. The children are at a school with a wide catchment area and of course, have found friends that even the crow gets tired flying to.

At twelve and fourteen, I decided that bus, train and Shanks’s pony were the way to go. How young is too young to be gadding about Surrey without a parent in tow? Pre-mobile phone days, I got the train to school every day from the age of eight and walked a mile at the other end. Different times? Well, maybe. However, the need to cross the road on your own, work out a train timetable and ask a bus conductor where to get off by the time you leave home remains the same. So, with a little bit of fear and a lot of instructions, I let them loose.

The daughter, at twelve, turned into Dora The Explorer. ‘I’m just getting the train to Maddie’s.’ ‘I’m getting the bus to swimming.’ ‘We’re all meeting in Croydon.’ The son immediately decided that he didn’t need to go to the gym, after all.

But he did manage to wangle himself an invite to stay with some friends of ours in Spain. To my surprise, I discovered that at the age of fourteen, a child can fly unaccompanied with EasyJet. I gave him the choice of EasyJet on his own or BA accompanied. ‘That’ll be really embarrassing, they’ll just want to talk to me about school and stuff.’

So I found myself at the airport, waving off my precious first born, with a host of warnings about not getting burnt and not being ‘silly’, plus a couple of entreaties about not diving in anywhere shallow – or anywhere at all – or even thinking about drinking. He looked so young disappearing off into security. I snivelled all the way back to the car.

So far, both children have come back to me safely and I’m hugely grateful and relieved. It’s the start of another round of letting go, the necessary step of allowing them to become adults, of teaching them to manage risk, not avoid it completely. However, I have decided to stockpile an extra hour of sleep a night from now until my son learns to drive on the grounds that I can’t imagine how I’ll ever shut my eyes again once he does.

Kerry Fisher is the author of The School Gate Survival Guide, out now.