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Here is the second extract from my short story: Someone To Call Me Tiger. The story is my copyright, however if you would like to publish it please get in touch for my terms and conditions. If you like it please let others know about it. Constructive comments are also welcome.

Extract Two:

Five days later an email arrived from New York. A long, charming email, a ‘hope you are well’ email, an email that brings tears.
‘I am missing you a lot, your chat, your fun, your green eyes, little tiger, your smile, your fingernails, especially your fingernails.
I read it first sitting at my desk with the early morning light sliding in, the blackbirds singing in the garden and the cat demanding breakfast. I wore a pale blue kimono, the one he had so admired and so loved taking off. I closed my eyes and imagined him coming out of the shower, a towel casually around his waist. I felt him against me, against my bottom, back and his hand reaching out around my waist, turning me to face him. His smell intoxicating, his hand caressing, his mouth buried.
I should have felt great about the email but I didn’t. I felt sick. The feeling soon passed as the humdrum of daily life took over. The bin bags had to be put out, the car needed washed, the garden was full of weeds and there was no point in being late for work. I went out my way to be cheerful and polite to everyone, even the double glazing salesman who rang first thing on Saturday morning. I wanted to meet some new friends, well men to be precise. I needed someone to call me tiger.
I thought about the ads in the newspaper personal columns, or even the internet. The sort of thing that comes under the heading; ‘Perfect Partners’. One depressing Sunday morning after eating three bacon rolls, yes three, I lay in bed and turned to the personal columns of Scotland on Sunday.

   SINGLE male, 34, likes to travel, enjoys wine, pubs and clubs. Member of a caravan club, Edinburgh, Voice Link No… Caravanning, for God’s sake! Who is going to pick up a babe by admitting that they like caravanning.
  INTELLIGENT male, 30, not bad looking, kind, humorous, sincere, a bit shy. Enjoys running, conversation, reading, music, seeks lady 30ish for romance, Edinburgh, Voice Link No… Sounds like he would run a mile from the red nails.
TALL, dark, handsome, male, 36, who can’t stand posers, seeks attractive, slim female for nights out and opportunity to wear Armani suit, Fife, Voice Link No
… Who is he trying to kid?

I wondered what I would write in an Ad:
Babe, gorgeous Angelina Joli looks, classy red painted fingernails, looking for a male who likes a tiger, who wants champagne drizzled over various parts of his body, Edinburgh, Voice Link No…

Oh, why bother? ‘Who the hell writes these ads anyway,’ I thought and went to get another bacon roll.

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Over the next few days I am publishing extracts from my short story: Someone To Call Me Tiger. The story is my copyright, however if you would like to publish it please get in touch for my terms and conditions. If you like it please let others know about it. Constructive comments are also welcome.

Extract One
Standing outside his door; that was how we parted. I noticed the big brass handle was covered with smudged fingerprints. My eyes were drawn to the cracks in the paint, wondering how the sunshine always found the weak points, always cracked the gloss. Bit like relationships really.
‘I’m leaving for New York in the morning.’ The words brought me out of my acute examination of his door.
‘What?’
‘I’ve got to get back. I have so much to do and my mother needs me.’
‘But…’
My eyes were suddenly drawn to his. They weren’t the same mesmerising blue that had almost hypnotised me a month ago. It was those eyes that had pulled me into an addiction of caresses and soft words. The mouth that had heightened my senses now looked cruel and the floppy black fringe was really terribly unfashionable.
We met at Steve’s farewell party. He had insisted that I go even though he knew that I had just split up from his best friend and it hadn’t been amicable. He was seeing another of Steve’s friends and I was still bitter, still old maidish about it all, still hurt.
‘You’re one of my best friends and I want you to be there, pleeease. The three of you will just have to put your personal feelings to one side for a few hours. I don’t care who is sleeping with whom, or not, just come,’ he had pleaded.
So there I was drinking too much, talking too loudly and intending to leave early. He came over and fixed those blue eyes on me as if I was the only other person in the room. We got talking. He was American and had worked all over the world including as a consultant for the United Nations. He now ran his own business from his flat in Edinburgh’s fashionable Leith. Very spacious and very comfy, as I was to find out a few hours later. We were giggling, dipping pieces of French bread into glasses of red wine. Our fingers met. He noticed my long finger nails, painted red and couldn’t believe they were real.
‘I’ll show you how real later,’ I thought.
Naturally we left together just after midnight. It was the start of a passionate affair. Tumbling over pillows on the floor, giggling, kissing, licking champagne from each others chests, testing, teasing, exploring, bits of bodies, sucking, exhaustion. My painted nails left sharp pink traces on his back.
‘My tiger, my little tiger,’ he muttered.
In the morning a sleepy haze dawned. With freshly squeezed orange juice and wholemeal toast we talked, oh how we talked. We solved the war in Palestine, found an answer to famine in Africa and worked out how to win the next general election. We solved so many problems as lovers often do. It wasn’t serious, of course, just fantasy, a dream that pervades the wonderful unsecure phase of boy meets girl when everything is rose petal tinted. It was rusty chrysanthemum brown now.
‘Why didn’t you tell me before now?’
‘I didn’t think, it wasn’t important. I’ll be back one day.’
He kissed my cheek. The tatty door closed. Tears pricked my eyelashes. I stood alone like a pebble on a vast rocky beach, dumped at high tide, insignificant.
‘It was you,’ I thought as I walked away, ‘You who came to me, who took my fingers teasingly.’
Then I realised it was actually my fault. I should have left the party early as planned. I had let the barriers down, gloriously enjoying myself, knowing that people, especially one, were watching. Now I was hurt again. I marched up Leith Walk with great big strides signalling a kind of strength to the outside world while inside I was wretched.

Pumpkins

There must be a glut of pumpkins out there both in England and in France. So many people have asked me for my pumkin cake and chutney recipes that I am diverting from the main subject of this website and talking about pumpkins instead of writing and editing.
I actually won a prize at the St Luc fete in Gavray, Normandy, last year for my pumpkin cake. But don’t get too excited as I don’t think it won for the taste, rather the carefully crafted sugar paste pumpkins that I decorated it with because, quite frankly it didn’t taste that brilliant. So I now actually make pumpkin cake using a carrot cake recipe instead, just substituting grated pumpkin for carrot.
The trouble with pumpkins is that they do not have much taste. If I make pumpkin soup I add a couple of teaspoons of curry paste and some cumin seeds, likewise roasted pumpkin works better with some spices and herbs.
We have some enormous pumpkins already this year to a mistake translating from German. My daughter received a gardening kit for her birthday in March which included some packets of seeds but they were all in German. My husband, who did German at school, translated them as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and beetroot. As I hadn’t bought any cucumber seeds at that stage we sowed the German cucumber seeds.
They flourished. They got bigger and bigger. They looked like Jack might appear to climb up them as they entiwined their way along the roof of the polytunnel. They had enormous leaves, then produced enormous flowers. They just didn’t look like cucumbers. They resembled Triffids.
They have turned out to be pumpkins and being in the warmth of the polytunnel are enormous. I hack them back, but still they grow. Large pale orange on the outside, bright orange on the inside, a variety I have not grown before.  I have already make ten one litre jars of pumpkin chutney. Fortunately we like chutney in our house. My husband is now banned from translating anything from German and the rest of the seeds sit unused in case they too produce Triffids.
Anyway here are the recipes below. The chutney one I can thoroughly recommend, the cake one you might end up throwing to the dog so I have also added a carrot cake recipe for which you can use pumpkin.

Pumpkin Chutney (also works for courgette and apples)

1.25 kg tomatoes
900G onions
1.6kg pumpkin
6.25 g brown sugar
1.75 litres pickling vinegar
2 tbs paprika
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 tbs ground ginger
5 chopped chillies (optional)
Chop all the vegetables, add sugar, vinegar and spices and simmer gently for three to four hours. The chutney is ready when you can drag a spoon through it and see the bottom of the pan

Pumpkin Cake (you might have more success than I did)

225 g self raising flour
550g pumpkin
250 ml sunflower oil
275 g light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of allspice
Roast the chopped pumpkin in an oven, 200c for 40 minutes. Cool and puree. Mix the oil and sugar, add the eggs, sift the flour and add the spices. Pour the mixture into a prepared tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes at 180c.

Pumpkin cake (carrot recipe)

250g grated carrot
3 eggs
250 ml sunflower oil
225 g brown sugar
225 g self raising flour
tsp of mixed spice, nutmeg and ground ginger

Whisk the oil and sugar and add the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour and spices and add the carrots. Put in a prepared cake tin and bake 180c for 30 to 40 minutes.

There is an article in today’s Daily Mail called ‘My Home Office Hell’ which has compelled me to write this posting. You can read the article here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1377947/My-home-office-hell-Long-lie-ins-daytime-TV-freedom-boss-Dream-on.html

It is enough to put you off the idea of working for home so I want to explain that with the right attitude it can actually be the answer to getting your work/life balance just right. It has worked for me and I have been successfully working from home as a writer, journalist, editor and photographer for almost 10 years.
Although I am the first to acknowledge that working from home does not suit everyone, reading this article makes it sound, as the headline indicates, like some kind of hell. My experience is very different. I started working from home after my job, as a journalist on the Mail on Sunday, meant long hours away from home and not seeing enough of my husband and three young children, twins then aged one and an older son aged two.
So I took the plunge and gave up my job. We had a room in the house next to the kitchen that I turned it into my office. We put in two desks, one for me and one for my husband as he too thought he might be able to work from home one day a week. And crucially, we installed a second telephone line. This to me is one of the most important things you need to do to be able to work from home – keep your work and home telephone numbers separate. This means that you can avoid one of the main problems mentioned in the Daily Mail article which is receiving work calls outside of what most people would call normal working hours. If you are a freelance the cost of the second line rental etc is a legitimate business expense and tax deductable so there really is no excuse not to do so.
A women friend liked my lifestyle and wanted to work from home. She too had young children but she ignored my advice to get a second telephone line. The result was that she had no professional credibility as business contacts would call and find the telephone answered by a child or be put off by a child’s noise in the background. No matter how family orientated you might be I am afraid that the general opinion is that children screaming in the background while you are on the telephone just doesn’t give out the right impression.
If your children are old enough you also need to explain to them that your office is just that, a place where you work and not an extra place to play. My children soon cottoned onto the fact that even if my office door was open, a sign that they could come in if they wanted, then they should still look to see if I was on the telephone before rushing in and bombarding me with questions. This is not cruelty, it is reality. My children now regard my office, which is now in a detached barn separate from the house since we moved to France, as a haven where they can do their homework if the house is too noisy.
The other big tip I have is to have a room dedicated to be your office. Working from the kitchen table, from the bedroom or from the dining room really does not work well. For a start, you need somewhere to store all the paperwork associated with being self employed, for the computer, your books etc. You need to be able to have a proper, ordered working space that doesn’t have to be cleared away at the end of the day.
You also need a space to work where you can close the door. This is very important because as a working mother (or father) you will need to work sometimes in the evening or the weekend. This is because if you are taking your work life balance seriously then when there is suddenly a really nice day and the children are on holiday from school you might actually want to take some time off to go out. This is important; it gives you the flexibility that you wanted in the first place. But it does mean that you will have to catch up another time, and that usually means in the evening or for a couple of hours at the weekend. So being able to go into your office and shut the door from everything else that is going on is vital.
Time keeping is also pretty important and depends on you circumstances. I start work at 7am and generally work through with a short break for lunch until 4.50pm when the children arrive home from school. My husband gets the children their breakfast and sees them off on the school bus before he goes to work, which is just four kilometres away. Holidays are more difficult and we have never lived near grandparents or other family members so have no childcare help. So holidays take planning. I try to lighten my workload during the holidays and work for a few hours in the morning as the children generally get up later and then I can spend the rest of the day with them. Then I work in the evening. It can be tough, but it is not tough all the time.

Finally, you need to have the right attitude. You don’t take breaks to do the housework. Now as a busy working mother of three children I know that it is not easy. It is very tempting, especially if a particular piece of work is not going well. Suddenly the ironing and even cleaning the windows seems much more tempting that sitting at your desk. But you have to ignore the temptation. Yes, I do take regular screen breaks and I might hang out the washing, or bake a cake for the children when they come in from school, but that is it.
I am writing this as the sunshine streams through the windows of my office. The door is open and one dog is lying in his office bed while the other wanders in and out. My screen breaks so far have consisted of hanging out the washing and checking that the greenhouse is not too hot. The children’s bedrooms are a mess but that will have to wait for another day, probably Friday when I can’t get a hold of anyone in the UK because it is the Good Friday bank holiday. This afternoon I will make a chocolate brownie cake for the children when they come home from school then supervise their homework before making dinner. Then about an hour of work this evening to catch up with emails and admin. To me this is the perfect work/life balance.



While I am writing my first novel my day job is journalism. I am a freelance writer and editor and I write for a number of investment, financial and property websites, as well as a daily blog for a perfume company and some expat websites. I pride myself in providing not only up to date content for these websites, but content of the highest quality.
It is now becoming even more vital that content is not just any old junk since Google introduced its Panda algorithm update to detect and devalue low quality content. Now, I am by no means a techie, in fact I know basically nothing about search engine optimisation but I can clearly see the importance of this as so many sites are really of exceptionally poor quality.
Now it seems it is working. I received a press release today with research showing how effective it is. The data from search marketing specialist and technology firm Greenlight reveals big winners and losers, visibility wise. As soon as Panda was released in the US, Greenlight built a sample keyword set and started tracking visibility for this keyword set on Google.co.uk on a daily basis.
It shows that the winners are largely made up of well known news sources such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Yahoo.com, Times Online and The BBC, along with YouTube and a couple of other sites.
Meanwhile, big losers appear to include article and content directories such as HubPages and Ezine Articles, review sites like DooYoo.co.uk, ‘how too’ sites like Videojug and eHow.  One review site, Ciao, has lost 99% of its search engine visibility in Google.co.uk.
Greenlight says that the effects of big algorithm updates tend to last a while, with ranking fluctuations occurring for several days or even weeks.  Given this being early data, Greenlight will be following up once things have had a chance to settle down, to see if anything has changed. It will be most interesting to learn more.
It also shows that if you have well trained writers who can actually write and not just cut and paste then you won’t have to worry about low quality content. As I professional writer with over 25 years experience I get terribly fed up with websites that pay a pittance to freelances in India and Malaysia for re-hashed web content. I am lucky, I can make a reasonable living from my writing but there are many freelances out there with solid experience who are struggling and having to accept a few pounds for hundreds of words because that is what others, often with poorer quality English, based in other countries charge.
There is one particular freelance website that I refuse to have anything to do with that regularly posts jobs for freelance writers where the employer is prepared to pay less than £5 for 1,000 words, this is nothing short of slave labour. I can only dream that perhaps these poor payers might suffer at the hands of this new quality control but no doubt they will find a way round it.

I have just been researching information for my novel on rich Americans visiting France in the 1930s and found some amazing footage of an old home made movie on Youtube.
It is just what I needed to get into the right visual mode as seeing scenes and people in your head can really help the writing process. It gives the writer an idea of costumes, how the landscape was different and the kind of transport rich people would have used.
I thought I would share it with anyone who is interested so here is a link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VAKbGmr_Y8&feature=related

My website is now live

Well, here it is, its only taken me three years to get around to sorting out a website for myself. As well as shamelessly promoting myself as a writer, editor and journalist, the aim is to let everyone see for themselves what kind of writing skills I have.
As I am also writing my first novel it will also chronicle the ups and downs of the writing process. Having spent 20 years working as a journalist, half of which have been in some kind of editing role, I can write short pieces with my eyes shut.
But tackling a much longer 130,000 to 150,000 word novel is another matter. I have told myself time and time again just to be more disciplined. So I am trying to organise myself so that all my current money earning work is done in the morning. This means a horribly early start at 6.30am while my husband Eric gets the children up and ready for school.
It means that by lunchtime I have done the work that pays the bills. Then it is about an hour to go through emails and prepare some work for the next morning in advance.
So that from 2pm to 5pm when the children come in from school I can just work on NWC (Normandy Wives Club). Then it is a screen break to supervise snacks and homework. Although Alasdair likes to come into my office to do his homework where it is quiet and away from the twins it does mean not much is done from my point of view but it is a chance to beat back the emails into submission.
Then after supper it is more work, either on NWC or emails, or prep for the next day. Who said a writer’s life was glamorous? It does indicate that to work from home, as I do, you need to be disciplined. But you can be creative when it comes to having a screen break – such as putting the washing in the machine, picking tomatoes, makes scones, and even doing the dreaded ironing for ten minutes.
Screen break over – on with the work.