Monday 30 March 2020

Giveaway: Beat the Lockdown Blues With a Romantic Comedy

I think we're all getting fed up of being stuck inside now (has it only been a week?) so I thought I'd try to spread some cheer with a weekly giveaway of one of my ebooks on Twitter.

Here's how it'll work:

Like my giveaway tweet to enter

Every Friday a winner will be picked. The winner chooses one of my books (which is then removed from the list) until either
a) all the books have been won
b) we're let out to play

The first winner will be picked this Friday (3rd April)

The ebooks will be gifted by me from Amazon, so it's UK only as I can't gift to other countries

Friday 27 March 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: Surviving The First Week

*Me, the parent, not the kid

If you've been home-schooling for the first time this week because of the Coronavirus, give yourself a pat on the back because we did it - we survived the first week! (Almost, it isn't quite lunchtime as I'm typing this, but fingers crossed there are no major meltdowns this afternoon.)

I'm not going to lie, it's been a bit rocky these past few days. It started off great, but the novelty soon wore off for Isobel and learning at home was no longer fun. She was fed up and wanting to chill out in her pyjamas (I can't blame her, but this thing needs doing). BUT WE GOT THERE. It's Friday and Isobel is currently - and peacefully - working on a task set by her teacher online.

It's been a steep learning curve for all involved, but we're adapting. Chris and I are taking it in turns to take charge of the home-schooling (Chris has the mornings, I have the afternoons) so we both get a chunk of time where we can fully concentrate on our work. We have a little sign hung up on the door to remind Isobel (and us!) who's on 'duty' if she needs help.

Like the rest of the nation, we've had a go at Joe Wick's PE lessons on YouTube (I may never walk again without wincing) but Isobel's also been having a go at kids' yoga. There was a cute Frozen session, where the instructor tells the story while incorporating yoga poses.

We've also completed our first game of Scrabble, which was fun and we'll be starting a new game on Monday.

How have you got on during your first week? Any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below :)

Monday 23 March 2020

Home Schooling For Dummies*: Be Prepared

*Me, the parent, not the kid

I've been anxious about home-schooling Isobel, but it's something that has to be done and so I've thrown myself into preparing for our first week. I've read advice about home-schooling that says you don't need a routine or a schedule, but I know that for us, we definitely need some structure.

Isobel's school has provided a list of daily and weekly tasks and some online resources, which I've organised into a timetable for the week. I've also added some outdoors/physical time and some educational TV each day.

Joe Wicks is holding PE lessons every day on YouTube, and we're also going to look for some kids' yoga. When the weather's nice, we're going to crack on with some much-needed weeding in the garden, so we're ready to plant some seeds next month. Isobel's on a basketball team, but while the league has been suspended, she has a net in the garden so she can practice shooting and ball-handling skills.

For the educational TV, YouTube is our friend again as there are loads of BBC clips (around 3-6 minutes each) on there, from Shakespeare in Shorts, to history and science. I've saved loads of them in my Watch Later folder so Isobel can choose what to watch from there when the time comes. There's also Horrible Histories on Netflix, which we'll be watching (yes, me too, because I love it).

On Twitter, Noel Fielding is running an Art Club, where he sets a theme and the kids can create a picture or collage or model and send him a photo of it.

As well as the time-tabled lessons, we've also set up a community-style game of Scrabble. It's a more relaxed game, with one set of tiles, and we're taking our turns whenever we get a spare minute. It's going well so far...

We've almost completed our first morning, and so far so good. Isobel's just taken part in a live classroom lesson with her teacher on internet safety, which was a nice bonus for the day.

If you're home-schooling for the first time, how are you getting on?

Friday 20 March 2020

Home-Schooling For Dummies* (*Me, The Parent, Not The Kid)

Yesterday, I shared my tips for working from home during the Corona virus social distancing and self-isolation period, because this was something I felt confident I had covered. I've been doing it for a few years, so this wasn't a change for me.

Fast-forward a few hours and a text comes through from my youngest daughter's school. They're closing earlier than the government's planned nationwide shutdown so once they closed for the day, that would be it until who knows when. And that's when it really hit me: I'm now home-schooling my daughter. Her education is in my hands and I'm not prepared for this, even though I knew it was coming and it's only one day earlier than planned.

I have no idea how to home-school, no idea how to teach. The way maths is taught, for example, has changed a gazillion times since I left school (and I can't remember how to do most of the non-basics anyway) and, although I'm a writer, I struggle with nouns and adjectives (seriously).

So I started to feel rather panicky.

After tweeting about it, another writer who is already home-schooling reached out and offered to share the schedule she's set up for her boys. I really appreciated the offer because not only did I have something solid to work towards rather than a series of increasingly anxious thoughts floating around my brain, it was also a reminder that I'm not alone in this. There are so many people going through this strange period, and we can help each other, whether it's sharing tips and ideas or simply reminding others that they're there too, winging it as best as they can. So, if you're as anxious as I am, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

The school has provided a list of daily and weekly tasks for next week, plus links to online resources, so this has also helped to ease my anxiety a bit as we haven't been thrown in the deep end and left to sink or swim (I can't swim very well, so I'd definitely sink).

I'm going to be blogging about our home-schooling - the good, the bad and the ugly. It may help somebody else in the same situation, and it'll certainly help me to document what's happening. I'm a writer; spilling the weird thoughts in my head onto screen is what I do.

Wish me luck. Lots of it. And if you have any tips, please, please share them :)

Thursday 19 March 2020

5 Tips For Working From Home

Times are scary at the moment (thank you, Corona), and we're being asked to stay at home more and more, whether you're social distancing or full-on self-isolating. Part of this involves working from home if you can, so I thought I'd share a few tips I've picked up as a writer over the past few years.

1. Embrace the Slob

Some of you will start off this working-from-home journey with good intentions. You'll tell yourself you're going to treat working from home as you would going into the office; you're going to dress smartly, put your make-up on, brush your hair. This may happen - for a little while or for the duration of your home-working - but really, what is the point? Nobody is going to see you (not even the postman, if they're still working by the time I hit publish on this. Simply shout through the letterbox that you're self-isolating and they can dump the parcel on the doorstep and run like the wind).

Embrace the slob. Work in your pyjimmies (or jogging bottoms if you really must get dressed). Forget the make-up. Laugh in the face of your hairbrush. When will you get this opportunity again?

Important note: brushing your hair is optional, brushing your teeth is not. You can take the whole Waynetta thing too far.

2. Beware the Fridge

This is a difficult one, because the fridge is right there, just a matter of steps away, with yummy food tempting you throughout the day. It'd be so easy to nip in and grab a snack, over and over again. This isn't so bad if you're self-isolating for 7 days. But 12 weeks? That's a lot of snackage. Of course, this may not be a problem if the crazy stockpiling continues, because your fridge will be bare anyway...

3. Social Media Is Your Friend

If you're used to working with others, it can be a bit of a shock to suddenly be on your own with nobody to chat to about last night's telly, so social media is a godsend. You may not have colleagues within speaking distance, but there are millions of people in the same boat as you. Get on your social media platform of choice and get nattering (just don't forget to do some work as well!)

4. Take a Break

It's tempting to grab something to eat at your laptop, but I always make sure I have a proper break at lunchtime. The laptop is shut and put out of reach for an hour, which is the perfect amount of time to catch up on some telly or Netflix. If you're not a coach potato like me, you could read a book or go for a walk (unless we're on complete lockdown by the time I publish this) or potter around the garden. Now is an ideal opportunity to have a natter with your social media colleagues.

5. Headphones Are Also Your Friend

You may not be the only one in your house while you're trying to work. My husband and I have been working from home together for the past seven years and we haven't killed each yet - and that's partly down to headphones. They come in particular use when I'm listening to festive music; my husband doesn't want to hear Christmas music in December, never mind in March when I'm editing a festive novel and want to set the mood!

Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below :)

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Let's Catch Up

I've neglected the blog lately but, in my defense, I have been very busy. Not only have I been writing and editing Book 11, I've been working to revamp Everything Changes But You, and it now has a much-needed makeover. I absolutely love the new cover and I hope you do too!

Book 11 is coming along nicely and it'll be published later in the year. I've loved writing this book and I can't wait to share Maisie's story with everyone. If you're a newsletter subscriber, you will have had a sneak-peek at the blurb, but I'll be posting it here on the blog soon if you missed it. 

As well as working on Book 11 and Everything Changes But You, I also squeezed in a short story, which went out with my last newsletter, and I'm now starting to plot Book 12. As with The Accidental Life Swap and Book 11, I'll be giving one of my newsletter subscribers the chance to have a character named after them, so make sure you've signed up if you'd like to take part!

As well as writing, I've also been working on my TBR pile, though I did start the year off by re-reading a book that I'd previously loved. It was a great way to start the bookish year, and my TBR pile was still waiting for me once I'd finished it, as patiently as ever.

I've challenged myself to read at least one book on my Kindle per month, because I have loads of books that I've one-clicked on Amazon and neglected. I've managed it so far (though we are only at the beginning of March, so I will have to keep giving myself a prod so I don't abandon my poor Kindle again!)