Countdown to going solo 9…

Technically my last day of ’employment’  today, tomorrow back to self-employment.

Celebrated, in a way. Wasn’t intentional, but a few weeks ago noticed an offer for Senspa at Carey’s Manor not far from where I live, to get a spa day including a Tai Chi/Yoga class, a mud treatment, a 1-hour massage, full use of gym, pool, saunas, steam rooms and hydrotherapy, and a meal for an inclusive price. I booked it for today because I have a birthday coming up (allegedly the one where life begins, damn, I hope so!) and it seemed appropriate. I haven’t been to a spa before, although I’ve had a lot of massage – I trained as an ITEC Holistic Therapist, and was a case study as well as the regular class practise body. 🙂

My favourites included the Crystal Steam Room, which smelled amazing and had quite an intimidating chunk of amethyst for the steam to condense on and evaporate off, the Rhassoul Mud treatment was great fun – scary-looking stuff but has no smell whatsoever (my main concern!), and the massage was just amazing. I knew I needed some work on my shoulders from gardening, but wow, they crunched and popped like a bag of tortilla chips. And she did work all the kinks out. Brilliant.

The food was lush! I sat outdoors of the Zen Garden Restaurant to eat and was enjoying my Chicken Pad Thai noodles, when a robin flew up from behind me and perched on the chair to my right. I was eating alone up until that point, so I made a few whistling sounds, but it didn’t seem easily startled. After about five minutes it hopped right onto the table, doing a good impersonation of any other pet begging for food at mealtimes, so I gave it a morsel, which it promptly grabbed and flew off with, to enjoy in the bamboo flowerbed on the far side of the pond. Thankfully it left me alone during dessert, which was a white chocolate and banana bread pudding, with peanut ice-cream, brandy snap, caramelised banana and tuile biscuit. I had to have a rest in the Relaxation Room after lunch, as I felt so stuffed! 🙂

I thought I’d lost my locker key, which had been hooked on the strap of my tank top in the pool. One of the assistants turned the jets off to see if it was in the jacuzzi, but it wasn’t there – when I turned around he laughed and said “There it is!” It had gone right over my shoulder to the back of my shoulder-blade on the strap. Yay!

I didn’t take my phone or anything like that, so when I wasn’t sweating it out or splashing around rinsing it off – ahem – I caught up on reading more of Love Writing by Sue Moorcroft. It got to the part which I’ve been most concerned about – the nitty-gritty stuff. And the chapter was a real eye-opener (no, not in that way!).

Basically, it’s really honest, especially about how to ‘deal with’ being a writer of that subject – which I SO appreciated – and doesn’t expect you to be an expert on the subject. What I felt as well was that the chapter doesn’t assume you have any existing level of, er, experience (my problem encapsulated), and gives you the romance writer’s how-to, know-how, and tips on inspiration and writing practise suggestions, from scratch. To me, it was far less difficult a chapter to read than any article in a women’s magazine, asking you how often you do it and how it compares to all of your age group/friends/colleagues and similar. And how it works ‘in context’ of romantic/erotic fiction – what its role is in the story, how it appears being integral to both characters and plot. Probably the best piece on writing as a form of story architecture that I’ve read so far.

Even as an indie author with four completed books and others up my sleeve, I’m always on the lookout for new learning, new explainations, new insights on what makes novels work, and the spectrum of different people writing them.

I suppose it’s half about learning, and half about the age-old question: Where do I fit in?

Countdown to going solo 8…

…One day left to go, then I have to do the whole self-employed registration thing. National insurance, tax, yada yada yada… I’ve been self-employed before, as a nightclub door supervisor (sub-contractor). It’s not that hard. Just more paperwork, that counts towards hours spent working. 🙂

The whole not-making-a-profit thing isn’t a big deal either, it’s about doing work I enjoy, and vacating a job that someone else probably will.

Haven’t really been thinking much today. Didn’t sleep well, had some weird dream in which Darth Vader turned out to be Jeremy Clarkson, went to an appointment with my daughter, went to Tesco, came back and mowed the lawn in the back garden. It’s nice when things don’t have to be philosophical. But is that a philosophy emerging already? D’oh!

Living Hell eBookAlso I sold a copy of Living Hell on Kindle US. A few weeks ago I was interviewed for author Shalini Boland’s blog, which was posted online yesterday. Then this morning she sent me another link to Cartoono’s Satire Daily – where his site had picked up the link to the interview also, from our Twitter conversations. So in some convoluted way, publicity for this particular book found its way onto someone’s eReader.

It’s nice seeing my writing has a life of its own, now it’s available. I think once a story goes out into the world, how it appears in the mind of readers is something personal to them. I have my own ideas of how the characters and places look, as I said on here yesterday, but other readers have their own different imagery when reading. When a cross-section of romance fiction readers were asked to describe their idea of Mr. Darcy for a TV documentary, and their thoughts interpreted by a police artist, the range of faces that emerged was stunning. This wasn’t a failure on the part of Jane Austen to describe him fully – it was a success on her part to create a character which lived a life of his own, leaping off the pages into the varied imaginations of many generations of readers.

That’s what I think of as writer skill. To tell stories so engaging and create characters so alive, that people around the world and across generations can picture them in their own minds, hear their voices, and live in those times, for the duration of an enjoyable read.

Countdown to going solo 7…

Sherlock Holmes: Felt tip/MS Paint (c) Lisa Scullard 2011

Okay, sometimes I hear things wrong. But I’ll need to see a transcript of that Burger King commercial to be convinced one way or another if they’re advertising “New King Nuggets” or “Nuking Nuggets.” Seeing as it’s connected to the Transformers sequel release, I’m inclined to think it might be “Nuking.” 😉

That’s one of my graphic image experiments above, done for Phil van Wulven, whose Sherlock Holmes stories are on Smashwords and Kindle. I only have a very basic version of Paint, but the limitations are kind of helpful if I wanted to do graphics in that style – in terms of keeping a very basic consistency going. But the stuff I like – as in Abnett/Harrison’s Durham Red trilogy, and now the amazing artwork in Zombies vs. Robots: Aventure  is a far cry from my scribble above. It’s more about proper acrylic and oils, mixed media, and much more advanced digital techniques.

The Terrible Zombie Of OzThe image for Dorothy on the cover of The Terrible Zombie Of Oz is oil pastel on black paper, and I drew it around 15 years ago. The sketch was originally meant to be Kim the Blackmailer from Living Hell, but didn’t look as I pictured her when it was finished. So it just went straight in my portfolio of random stuff. I still haven’t done a definitive picture of ‘Kim’ the same as I don’t have one yet for ‘Lara’ in Death & The City. I know what each of them looks like in my head, but not in artistic represenatation yet.

However, when I was looking for a cover image for Dorothy, this was one image I had a digital copy of at the time, scanned by a former workmate ten years ago for my website that he’d designed. As soon as I put it together in the cover, it was obvious that this had always been ‘Dorothy’, even though the book came much later. It’s weird looking at the picture now on the cover of my book, and remembering drawing it all those years ago, and thinking how strange that this is where it was always destined to end up.

I’ve had that feeling before. I was working in a nightclub in Southampton, in my security post. A new doorman approached and asked if I was the First Aider, which I was, and asked if I would go to the cloakroom to see a lad about a cut on his eyebrow. As my usual route was blocked with customers, I took an alternative way around through VIP.

I was just in time through VIP to see one of the bar staff grab a doorman and point to a group who were arguing, so I went over to the group to see what the problem was – and just as I reached them, bits of glass exploded everywhere, and the nearest customer had his throat cut with a bottle.

I think the most I thought was along the lines of “You’re mine, then,” and grabbed him around the neck, closing off the wound, which I could feel trying to pump blood out against my hand. Unfortunately, he didn’t realise the extent of his cut, and thought I was doing the old-school ‘door-staff chokes out customer’ routine. So he was trying to shake me off and trying to get back into the fight, and I was keeping my grip even though he was getting more and more slippery.

I got sprayed with blood head to foot – in my eyes, in my mouth, on my boots – eventually the realisation from this that he wasn’t going to end up with much left circulating in his body, had me yelling at him to come and get First Aid, or he was going to bleed to death. I then walked him out onto the pavement yelling at the bemused manager to call an ambulance right now.

Then the customer and I sat on the pavement by the railings in a big puddle of blood, and had a nice chat about who he was and who was with him, keeping my hand around his neck, until the ambulance arrived. Some police arrived first with rubber gloves and dressings and gave me a hand with what was left leaking out that I wasn’t already wearing.

Once he was in the ambulance, I remembered there was another casualty in the cloakroom, and went to see about him. His face was a picture. “What happened to you?” he asked. “Oh, it’s not mine,” I told him. “Someone just had their throat cut in front of me.”

I cleaned up the second guy and recommended he should have stitches in his eyebrow, and walked him out, where the police were taping off the railings where I’d sat with the other victim. Everyone was looking at me oddly. I vaguely noticed one of my work colleagues following me around with a spray bottle of D-10 and a handful of paper towels, cleaning all the doors after I walked through them.

The head doorman, Dominic, said I could go and get cleaned up, so I went to the disabled bathroom and saw what was in the mirror.

I looked like Sissy Specek in that scene from Carrie.

So I washed off what I could see and went back to watching the club. I got a glass of water, everyone asked if I was all right, and I said fine. It was only when one of the others came and tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I could start the incident report as soon as the customers were cleared out, that I turned my head sharply, and found my ponytail was full of blood as well. So he let me go and wash that out too. I still had customers to walk out at the end, and tried to discourage them from hugging me, as I didn’t know yet how much of my black uniform had blood in it. Everything felt pretty sticky.

After I got home, I peeled off the uniform, and it was all the way through, all the way down. I sat on the sofa with a cup of tea going cold for about four hours, like Simon Pegg in Sean of the Dead, before I eventually pulled myself together and had a bath. It was still coming out of my nose and ears and tear ducts the next day.

CID phoned me in advance of taking my formal statement, pretty much to say thank you. They said exactly what I’d been thinking ever since, which was “If you hadn’t been exactly where you were at exactly that time, he’d be dead.”

It gave me a really weird feeling about destiny. That all the times I’d quit other jobs, or taken up martial arts, or studied Anatomy & Physiology, or got my First Aid certificate, or moved across the country for no particular reason, or got over the fear of blood I’d had as a kid, or basically just happened to take that particular route on that particular shift, had all occurred so that I would be there at that exact moment in time, without any fear of blood, or fear of being punched, or fear of what people would think. I was just there to save that guy’s life.

In the newpapers later that week, a photo of the customer and his stitches was featured. He’d sustained a one-inch cut, half an inch from his jugular. Any closer and this would be a different story.

Countdown to going solo 6…

Had quite an interesting email chat on the dating site today. Mostly about books, which isn’t unusual. No further dates though.

However, I did kill time in between writing some more of the sequel to Death & The City, and replying to messages, by checking out the Browse Images feature on the dating site. And nothing changes there either, it looks like…

Okay. To put it bluntly… here’s how some of those pics translate in the mind of a female novice to dating…

  • PHOTO FEATURING PINT OF BEER/BOTTLE/ANY SORT OF ALCOHOL: Face it, you’re an alcoholic. Or wouldn’t mind meeting one. Or have a product placement deal.
  • DARK GLASSES: You are wanted for questioning, or by Immigration.
  • BALACLAVA/CRASH HELMET: You have made regular appearances on CCTV and have had many speeding tickets.
  • PHOTO TAKEN IN BEDROOM: Woman thinks “Is that a single bed? And no curtains?!”
  • PHOTO TAKEN IN BATHROOM: Not impressive, unless your bathroom is the size of Westminster Abbey.
  • PHOTO TAKEN IN CAR: The only place you could take own photo and not be caught by either wife, workmates, or pub landlord.
  • PHOTO OF CAR ONLY: Could be anyone’s car.
  • PHOTO OF SPORTING EVENT: Please, only if you are good at it, or dressed as the mascot.
  • PHOTO OF DOG: No.
  • PHOTO OF KITTEN: Cute. But still no. Could be anyone’s kitten.
  • NEKKID PHOTO: Depending on size of screen being browsed on, can be very unflattering.
  • NEKKID PHOTO CUDDLING DOG: No room for woman on sofa. And just wrong.
  • BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTO: You are embarrassed about having freckles.
  • PHOTO IN DEF LEPPARD T-SHIRT: You lied about your age.
  • PHOTO GAZING ADORINGLY UP AT WAXWORK OF SUSAN BOYLE IN MADAME TUSSAUD’S: You lied about your height.
  • PHOTO TAKEN AT WEDDING: So you’re married already – or this was taken ten years ago since it says you’re now divorced.
  • PHOTO ASLEEP: Not in the habit of staring at sleeping men. And who took it?
  • PHOTO CUT IN HALF SHOWING MYSTERIOUS ARM DRAPED AROUND NECK: *Automatically looks for wedding ring on disembodied draping hand.*
  • PHOTO OF PARACHUTE JUMP/SKYDIVE: Makes you look like Wallace out of Wallace & Grommit.
  • PHOTO RECLINING ON HEARTH IN FRONT OF 3-BAR ELECTRIC FIREPLACE: Not even if you are George Hamilton or Hugh Hefner.
  • PHOTO WITH YOUR 22-YEAR-OLD SON: Hey, wouldn’t mind meeting him.
  • PHOTO TAKEN AT FESTIVAL: You rarely change your trousers, and smell of bong.
  • PHOTO WITH 35 OF YOUR MATES: Which one are you? And the one at the back looks fit.
  • PHOTO OF YOUR TATTOO: Everyone has tattoos. And mine’s bigger.
  • PHOTO OF YOU SURROUNDED BY SCANTILY-CLAD WOMEN: Why are you here?!
  • PHOTO OF THE LAST FISH YOU CAUGHT: Unless it’s a Great White Shark.
  • PHOTO HIDING BEHIND TREE WAITING TO JUMP OUT AT SMALL CHILD: Nearly reported that one! Holy crap! Without even a tag describing what was happening?!! Kids in photos not recommended anyway. But that one, definite no-no. Play Hide-and-Seek in your own time. Wrongtastic all the way.
  • PHOTO OF JASON PRIESTLEY: Yes, we ALL remember him.

Now, this is going to be a contentious issue, I can tell. But maybe you guys are all still on these sites for a reason. Or shouldn’t be on them at all. For every photo of you on a moped is going to be another on a Harley. For every photo of you meeting Steve Davis is one of someone else meeting Simon Cowell.

If you were just being yourselves, not trying to fulfil what you imagine women want to see (viz, the fireplace, the ski goggles – they’re only sexy when we know James Bond is behind them) – you might not need to try so hard. Or be on these sites at all. Have a bit of confidence. Take back the manly role in being a man, instead of waiting for the internet to introduce you to Britney Spears or Angelina Jolie.

And it’d be nice to see more photos of guys smiling when they’re sober.

The strangest thing is the tag lines – things like FUN FUN FUN!! and ALL LAUGHS ALL THE WAY!! and even I WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY, posted above some of the most miserable, gloomy, unhappy expressions I’ve ever seen outside of a Post Office queue. Wow. At least match your face to the tag line, or vice-versa…

And they add things like ‘Not my best pic’ (so why not use the best one?) or ‘Better looking in real life or so I’m told’ (me too, in that case!). Frequently ‘Look and act younger than my age’ which requires a bit of quantum physics. Especially considering if they have said they’re 44, look 72, and have on a badger wig that would have made Limahl proud.

But there are some very funny and intelligent profiles among the decidedly dodgy ones. Sadly, they’re also still waiting for Britney Spears. 😉

Countdown to going solo 5…

Sydney skyline

Intended to continue research by further reading of Sue Moorcroft’s Love Writing today, with another How-To title from Harlequin/M&B author history To Writer’s With Love by Mary Wibberley on the reading pile. But had a message to check out on the dating site, so I signed in first, and found that Sunday is apparently the business day for those on the look-out for an online chat, flirt, or messaging frenzy.

I did get a request for another blind date, which is cool. And also got messaged by a guy who’s said “hello” a few times before when I’ve been online, but he just wanted to say “u fancy comin over.” Well, much as I appreciate being considered eligible for a booty-call, it’s not what I’m on a dating site looking for. I’m on there because I want to Go Out, and haven’t been doing any going out, not because I want to stay in anywhere that I don’t get to do any of my own housework, or any writing. 🙂

Eventually, relationships do involve staying in. But not before going out. I’m not a Domino’s Pizza that can be ordered online for home delivery.

I guess that’s the difference between dating online, and meeting someone through being a regular in a bar or club, or other social situation. Once you’ve got to know someone through your local, or your sports club, or your workplace, being asked back to their place probably doesn’t seem too weird. But when someone suggests it when you’ve exchanged less than sixteen words online, don’t know if the profile picture is even of them, or whether it was taken in the last ten years, that’s different. I hope I’m not alone in thinking it’s a bit odd.

It definitely isn’t a scenario I’d expect to read in a dating book, or a romantic novel.

And I don’t think I’d want to write it as one either.

One guy’s profile even says, although he’s looking for his soul mate and best friend since splitting up from his wife, “just some NSA is cool too.” It took me over a whole day to figure out what NSA stood for. Sounds like the epitome of SA. I don’t think there’s any element of N about it. It’s one of the most misleadingly-named concepts in human interaction as far as I can imagine.

My idea of ‘no strings’ is going out for a coffee or a non-alcoholic drink without obligations attached.

Funnily enough, tonight’s episode of CSI was the one where Catherine had a drink spiked while out dancing in a bar after work. Pretty gruesome. Certainly not material for a romantic storyline – especially without a knight in shining armour to the rescue.

There are very strict rules in ‘romantic fiction’ regarding what the hero musn’t say or do, and what the heroine also mustn’t say or do. This is so that the whole reading experience isn’t cheapened by taking away the fairytale element, and the suspense. We mustn’t forget that we’re writing Cinderella stories for girls who need to hope and dream – rather like me.

The other rule is that the hero and heroine mustn’t get it together as a couple too soon. Unless they’ve got something fabulous to fight about and split them up again immediately, all the sizzle is lost if they’re doing bedroom gymnastics in the first chapter.

Erotica is another matter. It’s usually about fetishes and fantasies, which don’t want to be weighed down with chocolate, girly chats and shopping habits. It’s all about where to do it, how it’s being done, and who (or what) it’s being done with.

Sadly, something that I’m DEFINITELY not qualified to write about. But I do admit, I’ve plenty of experience in support of keeping the protagonists apart indefinitely. 🙂

Countdown to going solo 4…

Four days left of notice, not that I have any shifts to work… so I suppose I could say, four days left until change of employment status, without any change in the physical world of events. Rather like updating a status on an allegedly popular social networking profile.

I’m having romantic novelist’s feelings of inadequacy today. I know it’s from hearing about couple stuff – things like, family planning, property-hunting – decisions that couples get to decide on, what they do and when they do it. Having never been in a couple, it’s all stuff I never had the option of doing or sharing, or choosing when. I feel as though I did a lot of quitting on dreams and ambitions because I didn’t have the most basic one fulfilled that meant I would be doing something grown-up, i.e, having a relationship. There was no dating in school, no hanging out, no hooking up with friends of friends – all of it passed me by, while my friends all stopped asking my advice or opinion on boys, as it became apparent that I was the social gooseberry, not anyone’s equal in that department.

I got to try out being tough, or creative, or ambitious, or tomboyish, right up to being reclusive, and it didn’t matter who I was at the time, it made no impression. And I didn’t achieve in other ways to justify it. There’s still a huge hole in my life that hasn’t been completed by anything of an adult intimacy nature.

I have regular small meltdowns about it, because in any social situation or even passing conversation, I feel excluded – like the unwilling teenager in the room who doesn’t get the undercurrents or implied meanings in discussion. I don’t understand soap operas which are all based on family dynamics – the conflicts, the issues over jealousy or possessiveness. I don’t know what it feels like to have a man’s support, and in turn I don’t know what the role of a woman is in a man’s life. Well-meaning friends and family joke about the stereotypes of relationship issues, but it’s not helpful. I can’t even empathise with their humour about it. It doesn’t give me any more insight than I can get watching a sit-com. And even those I struggle to watch as well. I don’t identify with the ‘situation’ in the situation comedy.

When I wrote my most recent book, Death & The City, the whole idea behind the main character was that she was in the same situation – no previous relationship history, and was in a state of permanent emotional limbo between childhood and adolescence, while having to deal with some of the unpleasant work situations thrown at her without any attachments, whether real or fantasised. As I wrote it, though, a relationship dynamic developed between the character, Lara, and one of her antagonists, Connor, which I hadn’t planned at the start of writing. But as the chemistry between the two was working, I wrote it anyway. It turned into the main theme of the first two finished books in the series. It was the positive comments on this relationship dynamic that made me consider writing specifically for the romance genre.

But already a few chapters in to a new project, I’m not feeling qualified for it. I don’t feel acknowledged, let alone romanced, in my everyday life. I don’t have qualifying memories either. I don’t know why I think it’s something I can achieve, and when I read chunks of Death & The City back to myself, I don’t know how I wrote it before – unless at the time I had some remainder of hope left, which has since deserted me in the real world.

I think part of me has a deeper issue with attempting to write romantic fiction – that maybe if I can write about it, I’ll feel some sort of achievement equal to having had a real-life relationship. Or if I can write about it, it will somehow qualify me to achieve it in reality, in a sort of reverse-qualification-testimonial, opposite to having the physical experience in the first place qualifying me to write about it afterwards.

A bit of me seems to believe that writing about it will be a way of that kind of intimacy somehow revealing itself to me in the real world. That if I learn to understand the code, speak the language other adults speak when they have romantic inclinations, research the body language and unspoken signals by writing fictional scenarios, some door in the real world will unlock, and I’ll finally be allowed through into adulthood myself.

On the other hand, perhaps the reverse is the case. That writing about it is the only way that other people in the real world will eventually be able to understand me.

Countdown to going solo 3…

Went graphic novel shopping today. Couldn’t find an Abnett/Harrison Durham Red: Scarlet Cantos or Vermin Stars (I already have The Empty Suns), but found an amazing Zombies vs Robots: Aventure and the unbelievably cute Toxic Planet – like Charlie Brown with gasmasks. Love it.

And got inspired, as you can see by my scanner mash-up/MS Paint cut-and-shut collage above (not a lot to do at 3:00am, and the neighbours wouldn’t be happy if I tried to do housework right now). So along with finishing writing another chapter of my ‘official’ romance novel, and starting to format a short story collection, I’m now thinking along the lines of graphic novels. I’ve got lots of material in terms of stories, and I can do a good scribble – so maybe I’ll have a go. It’s backgrounds I need to practise, mostly. Faces are easy. Have a feeling I’ll be out with a camera looking at buildings and things for inspiration.

No news on the dating front today. Went to a writing buddies meeting, discovered I like cinnamon in coffee, and started reading Sue Moorcroft’s “Love Writing ~ How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction” which just arrived earlier. Great stuff, and some excellent advice – and in the first pages, I was relieved to read about the habit of romantic writers to ‘people-watch’ others in relationships (although I haven’t taken notes on a napkin yet!) – so glad it’s not just me that does that! It’s encouraging to learn that not everyone who attempts romance fiction writing is going into it as an expert. I am totally NOT one of those experts!

Now I’m off to bed to try and dream about my new hero. If I believe in him, then the readers will. I just hope they don’t think my taste in men is odd.*

*Don’t worry. I haven’t described him in this book as ‘Prince Harry meets Ray Mears’ – I’ve been watching some movies, and found a new muse. But I’m not saying who. 😉

Countdown to going solo 2…

Today was the day of Blind Date #2, coincidentally enough. I don’t know that driving an hour in fickle weather (Sun! RAIN! Sun! RAIN! Repeat until drenched both inside clothing and out) for a cup of tea (didn’t even get to finish it, he had to be somewhere else – these business types!) is really a date. More of a speed date. I think that’s what first dates are – a quick look to check you’re the same person you appear to be online, before they rush home to check their other messages.

Well, biting the bullet about not blogging about blind dates, I figured why not do it anyway. It’s not as if I have a lot else going on right now.

The irony is, I wrote a newspaper article about online dating around ten years ago, when it was all fairly new and *exciting*. I seem to recall comparing the categories of potential date to varieties of sliced bread… It’s amazing what hasn’t changed in online dating since then. It’s as if the internet found a niche market that needs a certain kind of attention and interaction, got it right first time, and hasn’t had to do anything else with it since.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as they say. Rather like sliced bread.

I can play around with my profile settings to prevent certain kinds of contact through the site. One thing I’ve found odd is if I check the box ‘Must not be married’ it still lets through messages from men who are ‘Separated’ (even if their definition of ‘Separated’ is sleeping on the sofa most nights). Computer filters are all well and good, but it’s human honesty you’ve still got to judge for yourself.

As a non-intimacy type thus far in life, I’m fascinated to hear that people my age have actually lived with other people, and been married to them, had their clothes in the same washing machine as other people, been on holidays with other people, and made whole new people with other people. Is this what they call ‘baggage’? I mean, I left home at seventeen. There’s people out there who have been married longer than I lived with my Mum, even! What’s it like to share a bed? Do they make duvets big enough for two people who both like to roll themselves up at night like in a strait-jacket? How do you stop your socks getting confused with theirs? Who gets to go in the bath first? What happens if they have friends who like to ‘pop round’? How do you deal with all of that stuff?

And what’s this thing about wine and a DVD and something called ‘snuggling’? Usually while a DVD is on, I’m writing and trying to avoid the temptation of raiding the kitchen for snacks. I have been known to make cookies after midnight. It’s a good thing I’m not a Mogwai. I don’t drink alcohol more than once a year. Wine only tastes all right on fish and chips – eventually.

You see, there’s lots of inappropriate questions I would LOVE to ask on a blind date. I won’t be in my 30’s for much longer, but the depth of my ignorance and inexperience of relationships is bottomless. When Blind Date #2 asked me today what kind of man I was looking for in a relationship, I had to say I didn’t know because I haven’t had one before, so would have to wait and see. I’m pretty sure ‘attraction’ is meant to be involved, but I didn’t think that announcing in my naive fantasy world that my ideal man would be a cross between Prince Harry and Ray Mears was going to sound like it was something I had a great deal of worldly insight on. Or maybe it does, I’ve never tried admitting to that before out loud.

One thing I have realised so far, is I want to go OUT on dates. If any man suggests to me that I could go round, or could they come round as a first date, or follow-up, it’s like, no way! That’s not a date. It’s not the stage I’m at, wondering what their sitting room looks like yet, let alone any other room. And my house is a writer’s house. Other people don’t come into it (literally and figuratively). They’d have to be very special to be allowed in and appreciate my chaos. Plus the fact it also houses Junior DS10 and her review blog of world domination, so technically it’s a house where two writers live already, occasionally crossing paths at the bathroom sink.

But supposedly I write good romance, according to some readers of Death & The City, so I must be getting my yearnings for intimacy from somewhere. Either human nature, or just twenty odd years alone with just an imagination about what a relationship might be like. It doesn’t mean I can tell anyone honestly what sort of relationship I’m looking for, or what kind of person I’d be in a relationship. For example, the words people use to describe themselves on their profiles. How do you know if you’re ‘tactile’ if you haven’t experienced being with someone in that way? How do you know if you’re sensitive? How do you know if you’re ‘outgoing’ if you’ve had no-one to ‘go out’ with? Do you just guess if you like dancing or not? What’s with people who enjoy something called ‘staying in’? Isn’t that what I’ve been doing, on my own, writing novels so far??? *Shrugs*

I can’t describe my relationship personality because I haven’t been that personality yet, the same as I didn’t know what my parenting personality was going to be like before I had my best holiday souvenir ever. And people tell me ‘Oh, it’s different with every person’. So why do they then use the last one as their benchmark to describe their own ‘relationship’ personality to new people on these dating sites? *Scratches head*

I think I will sleep on it, because nature is definitely telling me I am tired as I have just made one of my best ever Freudian typos, and no, I’m not going to tell you what it was. 🙂

Countdown to going solo…

Lisa Scullard on Amazon

Just so you know it's me. 🙂

Hello! Long time no see! Well, actually, it probably isn’t that long, especially if you’ve just popped in from Twitter or Blogspot to find out what’s new with this particular renegade mercenary writer now.

Well, having been tutoring the use of WordPress to a fellow writer, I’ve realised how much fun it is, and rather than besmirch my other blogs with being myself on them, decided to set up one of my own and blather on about whatever takes my fancy, whether it has anything to do with writing or not.

If you haven’t guessed so far, I’m Lisa Scullard. Gosh, that sounds weird. Just Lisa Scullard on its own. Not Lisa Scullard the NHS Health Care Support Worker, or Lisa Scullard the patient announcing arrival for a hospital appointment, or Lisa Scullard the door supervisor taking your details for a First Aid nightclub incident report. Not even Lisa Scullard the author, desperate to sell some books so she can justify writing some more, LOL! 🙂

It’s been a long time even since I had to say, Lisa Scullard the parent. Not in an official capacity. Since my holiday-romance baby, now nearly a teenager, has been registered as schooling at home, there’s a refreshing lack of red tape around the whole issue of parenting. Still a small amount, but it doesn’t revolve around school spam mail, charity begging letters, uniforms, shoes, P.E. kit, lunchboxes, clock-watching, sports day blackmail, ransom demands in the form of requests for official sick notes, pointless phone calls in which teachers apparently never SEE bullying occur, and reminders that ‘your child is a representative of the school’ even when they’re walking home in their own time, with their shirt untucked, kicking a football. Well, it doesn’t seem fair that way around. What about the school being representative of the child? Such as sticking up for their rights, to learn in a classroom where they’re not being excluded and bullied?

Anyway – not our problem anymore. But I have to say, it’s not something to be taken lightly. I’ve found through various jobs and hours and shiftwork over the last eight years, that it doesn’t really work out for me being a single parent trying to work and fit in home education – unless you’re earning enough to pay for private tuition – especially when there’s the added consideration of ongoing counselling, and special needs assessment for Asperger’s Syndrome also in the pipeline.

What I’ve found works best in this scenario is working from home. Writing – ideal, especially when your own child then reviews your books on their blog. 🙂

I always thought I was being a role model for my child by going out to work, without realising how much we were missing out on and she resisted it. But when she said she wanted to read my book I’d written and published in my spare time, and told me how great it was, and that if she goes back to school she’ll be able to say I’m an author and show other children my books – I realised that the thing she was most impressed by was that I had a creative hobby. Not that I went out and saved lives, or broke up fights between drunk people, or worked in a hospital tucking old people into bed. She was impressed by something I did right at home, watching the TV, with my cold cup of tea, and a pile of laundry on the chair next to me, where she could get one of her five-hugs-a-day on demand.

So I’ve given in my notice, guessing that there’s more to life than what I thought were good standard examples of ‘lifestyle’ or ‘work’ – whatever they are. I’ll just have to call it self-employed, and wing it. 🙂

I took her to see Shakespeare performed outdoors last weekend, without a clue whether she’d enjoy it or not – and she’s already asked to go to another one. And I got to be there with her while she laughed, and joked, and had such a great time. That’s something I definitely wouldn’t have missed.