Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Charity Bike Ride – 95 Miles in Aid of Macmillan

On Sunday my husband is taking part in the Wiggle Dragon ride – 95 miles up (and hopefully down) some of the hardest climbs in South Wales. Jez says it’s the equivalent of going twice up Mount Snowdon! He’s doing this for Macmillan, and just because he’s a bit mad, really.

Here he is after completing a Tour of Britain ride last year:

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I was hoping some of you lovely people out there might be willing to sponsor him – you can do this easily and securely by going straight to his Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/Jeremy-Phillips I can’t imagine cycling 9 miles, let alone 95, and I’m constantly amazed at his energy and dedication. He even cycles to work two days a week – and this is not an ordinary commute! We live 28 miles away from Chester, so that’s a 56 mile round trip with a working day in between. Bonkers!

So let’s give him a great big cheer and say ‘Good luck for Sunday, Jez!’ (I think he’s going to need it.)

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The Summerhouse is Finally Finished!

I’m lucky enough to have a small office at home (which doubles up as the spare room), but last summer I found myself feeling frustrated at being stuck in all day working while the sun shone outside. We came up with the idea of buying a summerhouse – one that I could use as a home office, but also a relaxing space to enjoy the garden even when the weather wasn’t quite so good. Now, finally, my summerhouse project is finished and ready to go!

Here is my summerhouse journey, starting with the before picture …

Summerhouse beforeThis was the spot where we used to keep our chickens a while back, so it needed to have a brand new base …

Summerhouse base

And then the summerhouse arrived …

Summerhouse

This was quite late into the year, though, so I didn’t get around to painting it until recently. My lovely brother-in-law put in some electrics for me and I started collecting old bits of furniture out of the garage ready to go in my new office.

And finally, on Sunday, the summerhouse was completed and ready to go!

Summerhouse completed

 

Summerhouse close up

 

Summerhouse desk

 

Summerhouse relaxing

The only brand new thing I have in there is the comfy chair from Ikea – the desk is an old one that didn’t make it into my office make-over last year, the glass bookcase used to be in hubby’s shed, and the wicker chair I’ve had for years and years. I can’t tell you how lovely it feels working in there. I used to stagger out of the house and walk to pick up my daughter from school blinking in the daylight and feeling bleary-eyed and dazed – now I feel as though I’ve been outdoors all day, and it’s so lovely to have the garden to look out on …

Garden

Plus, it’s amazingly quiet.  I can hear birds singing and bees buzzing around but not much else. Wonderful! And of course, it’s warm and cosy, with a radiator and lots of blankets, so I’m sure I’ll be using it all year long. Cupid’s Way will be finished in there very soon too :) It was a project well worth waiting for, and now I can’t wait to get to work in the mornings. My commute is about twenty five steps, which isn’t bad at all when you think about it.

So what do you think? And what kinds of lovely working spaces do you have?

 

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Photoshoot – Tips and Tricks

A couple of weeks ago I had ace photographer Stuart Bingham come round to my house so I could have a new author photo taken. The old one I took myself two years ago by propping the camera on top of a mirror and pressing the self-timer. It’s done me proud, but the time had come to go a bit more professional – plus the photo is quite out of date!

I asked around on Facebook for advice on getting the best out of your photo session. Wear bright colours, relax and smile, were some of the tips I got back. Great advice – but I was still nervous. As I said to Stuart when he arrived, he had a pretty tough job to do. The problem is, I’m not very photogenic, but I am very vain! :)

We spent a bit of time chatting, and this really helped to make me more relaxed. I had the option of a studio picture, a home session, or of choosing a location that was relevant to my books for the photoshoot. I do think photos taken outside look better, but the weather was so awful (it was the Wednesday of the big storms!) it had to be at home. Clothing-wise I chose three outfits, which were basically just changes of tops – one in bright red, one in relaxing grey, and one in blue. You can see the results of the session below.

My personal top-tip is to spend some time before the session thinking about the kind of photo you want. This sounds obvious, but all I’d really thought was – I want one where I look nice! I thought I wanted a simple head-shot, and we spent a lot of time on the pictures with me in the red top, the portrait-type ones. The interesting thing is, once the photos arrived I far prefered the ones taken in my office, with me sitting at my desk nice and relaxed, and wearing a more muted colour. This photo not only looks more like me, it represents what the photo is all about – me being a writer. I didn’t have the photos taken for the fun of it (it was fun, but it was also hard work!) – the purpose was to get an image I can use across my websites and social media that says ‘writer’.

Out of all the photos Stuart sent me – and he sent loads, it was fantastic value – my favourites are below. But really all that matters is that one shot – the one I’ll be using from now on as my official author photo. And that is …

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this one!

I think Stuart did himself proud with this, it’s a very talented photographer indeed who can make me look this good, believe me! And this is my office, the place where it all happens, and if I look happy and relaxed it’s because I was :) The other photos were fab too, of course, and they will be perfect for different situations – some are more formal, some are more suited to advertising, that kind of thing. All I can say is, I expected it to be horrible and it definitely wasn’t, and I’ve never smiled so much in an hour before. But thanks to Stuart for making it fun, and for giving me some great images. I’ll just have to hope I don’t age too much now so I can keep these photos going for a long time to come.

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You can see out into the lane behind our house – it was a very rainy day!

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One of the more formal shots …

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And a more serious one …

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Often photos where you’re laughing look better in black and white!

My top, top tips have to be – find a photographer you feel comfortable with; look your absolute best on the day (hair, make-up etc); wear clothes you feel comfortable in; be yourself. And trust what the photographer says – he/she is the professional, after all.

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Why I Hate the Term Chick Noir

Joanne Phillips:

Great post here about a new chick-lit sub genre that I’d never heard of. Chick Noir, anyone?

Originally posted on findingtimetowrite:

I haven’t been the only one to notice the spate of recently published books with the word ‘wife’ or ‘husband’ in the title. Some have even hastened to call it a new (sub)genre. Rosamund Urwin calls it ‘chick noir’ and claims that readers are attracted to the horror at home, the ultimate unknowability of one’s life partner. Lucie Whitehouse in The Guardian calls it ‘the marriage thriller‘ and argues that it is about the life stage most female readers are in, rather than just trying to copycat the success of Gone Girl.

I really liked Gone Girl, although I wouldn’t necessarily want to read five more books similar to it. However, the reason why I object to the idea of a new genre (let alone the terrible term of ‘chick noir’) is because marriage is not just for women. It is cynical to market such psychological thrillers to…

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