Before anything else, I was shocked 😉 to discover that not everyone has seen my video introducing Social Anxiety Revealed. If you’re one of those unfortunate people, here’s the link you need to sort it: [See it, say it, sorted. Don’t mind me; I’m just learning the lingo. See below.]

***

“It’s been an awfully long time since you last wrote a blog post,” said everyone.

“I know,” I replied, “and I’m awfully sorry, but life got in the way again.”

“You haven’t been travelling again, have you?” said everyone.

“Actually, I have.” I gave a sheepish grin. “I’ve literally spent like the last six weeks in various like places in the UK.”

“Picked up the lingo, too,” said everyone.

“Just trying to blend in. I didn’t like it when two people I met in Cardiff thought I sounded foreign. I mean… well… if I don’t sound British, then what do I sound?”

Making Welsh Cakes

Making Welsh cakes in Cardiff market

“Weird?” suggested everyone.

“Yeah, but apart from that.”

“What have you been up to?” said everyone, clumsily changing the subject.

“I went geocaching around Wittenham Clump. I did belly dancing and zumba. I walked in Devon, Cambridge, the Lake District, Chess Valley and Richmond. I travelled in cars, buses, trains, planes, a bicycle and a boat.

Cycling in Devon

“I got detrained in Newark. I know I did, because the guard said so, so I don’t care about that red squiggly line that’s appeared below the word. (And no, I don’t want to change it to detained, retained or restrained, but if you annoy me any more, Spelling Checker, you may have to restrain me to prevent me from getting detained.)

“I spent five days at an Arvon retreat and have some great ideas about how to complete one of my works in progress.

Totleigh Barton

“I ate in various restaurants, including Mexican, Italian and Indian. I ate sandwiches a little too often. I ate food on planes that I didn’t particularly like. I enjoyed home cooking that I didn’t have to prepare. The most delicious thing I ate was cheesecake in a Turkish café in Chesham.

“I visited art museums and an old house. I saw a musical, two plays and a film.

“I read books, including one that I loved: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I also read from one out loud, while taking part in a book festival.

Reading

Reading from Neither Here Nor There

“I had two dogs and a cat on my lap… at different times. But most of all, I met and talked to lots of people and had a great time doing it. I hope they enjoyed my company, too.”

Swansea

“Sounds wonderful,” said everyone.

“It was!”

Advertisements

I’m delighted to welcome a fairly new member of the Crooked Cat community of authors, Isabella May. Her brilliantly-titled novel is out next week. Over to you, Isabella.

Why I Wrote ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’

When my fellow Crooked Cat author, Miriam Drori, invited me to feature a guest post on her blog, I knew it could only be about one aspect of my multi-faceted, up-coming debut novel, ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’: Domestic Violence.

All of which ties in nicely – for want of a better word – with the subject of Miriam’s first non-fiction book with Crooked Cat (published last month): Social Anxiety.

[Miriam: Social Anxiety Revealed, for anyone who doesn’t know.]

But first a little backstory, if I may, courtesy of my book blurb:

Pavlova Book CoverKate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?

Contrary to the way domestic violence is often portrayed…
Many victims (men, as well as women) are living a double life. And I don’t just mean a double life in terms of masking what is going on behind closed doors and acting ‘normally’ in front of family and friends, work colleagues and acquaintances; I mean a full-on, in your face Double Life that would suggest their entire life is Just Perfect in every single way. I know because I have been there. That’s why it was so easy, and so important, to write Kate Clothier’s story, to hopefully help others recognise their mirror image, to hopefully inspire them to wake up, smell the coffee and get the heck out.

We need only look at high profile cases of DV to see this.
And here I mention no names, but there have been numerous accounts of the relationships of the rich and famous taking on a very different nature once the front door is slammed shut and the luxury velvet curtains drawn tight. From actors to pop icons, chefs to politicians, no stone is left unturned when it comes to physical and mental abuse. No amount of money or privileged upbringing can act as a harbour. 

A violent partner isn’t violent all of the time.
One of the biggest myths when it comes to DV is that an abusive other half is constantly on the attack, be it with belittling words or fists. The reality is nothing could be further from the truth (although of course, I acknowledge in some cases, the violence can be incessant). Understandably, this makes it harder for somebody like Kate to flee. The ego will come up with excuses, many ridiculously ‘plausible’. In Kate’s case, antagonist Daniel might lob a plate of food at her across the kitchen… just a couple of times a year because he expected meat and two veg instead of salad, or pinch her calf beneath the shield of the table cloth whilst tucking into Sunday dinner with her parents in quiet response to her announcement she is off on another business trip… but only because he will ‘miss her so much’ and only once in a blue moon. The perpetrator might take to ‘gas-lighting’, enervating the diminishing self-esteem of their prey slowly but surely. Subtle manipulation is another tactic, all too oft employed like a wolf in sheep’s clothing; in particular the perpetrator might threaten to take their own life if the victim as much as hints that they will leave. Indeed the abusive mind is a labyrinth, diverting to avoid dead ends, twisting and turning until its goal of ultimate control has been achieved.

Domestic violence has no ETA.
Unlike the precious cargoes of books Kate sells to her overseas clients for her living, Daniel’s unpredictability can be viewed as equally damaging as any constant lashing out. Kate is perpetually stepping on egg shells; she’s flighty and nervous, full of procrastination and self-doubt. Her perpetrator is King of keeping her right where he wants her: unsure and terrified, less likely to leave him, more likely to stay.

Ultimately though, we need to get to the root cause of victimisation.
Here’s where I’m more than aware that ‘Pavlova’ could cause a little Marmite Divide; for this is a novel which dares not only to straddle genres, but to inject a little humour into the proceedings. And take it from me: comedy is one essential coping mechanism in any abusive relationship. No, not in the heart of any action, but as a general means of self-preservation, as a diversion from the hell that is daily life.

However, being self-aware of what is going on is one thing, understanding the spiritual journey we took to get there is quite another. Yet, it’s the only way to bring permanent change into our lives. There’s an intricate chemical reaction going on between the abused and the abuser. Until we address that with empathy, for both sides, we’ll keep on repeating the pattern – in all areas of life. This is my take on the subject anyway. It won’t sit well with everybody, but it is high time we delved deeper, unwrapped the layers of the onion to see what is at the heart of the things projecting out before us. If my words help just one person to do that, they’ll have been worth the blood, sweat and tears.

And that’s as much as I’m going to say about that. To find out more, you’ll just have to order the book!

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.

As a Co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – http://www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).

She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’!

Oh! What a Pavlova is her debut novel… and her second novel has already been submitted to her publishers: watch this space…

Thank you, Isabella, for that thought-provoking introduction to your novel.

You can follow Isabella May on her website and social media here:

www.isabellamayauthor.com

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/

Instagram – @isabella_may_author

Salt & VinegarCrispsUntil recently, it was impossible to buy Salt ‘n’ Vinegar crisps here. There were many other flavours, but not that. We missed them and always bought some when we were in the UK. Our children like them, too. I wonder why!

Nowadays, we see them for sale, occasionally, in the familiar blue box. We’ve bought them and enjoyed them. However, after two or three purchases, we’ve noticed a pattern. The crisps sold here have less vinegar than the ones sold in the UK. They’re okay, but they don’t have that specially sharp taste. They don’t make your lips tingle.

We’ve assumed that these crisps are purposely made with a milder quantity of vinegar to suit the Israeli taste. And the Spanish one, presumably. Come to think of it, doesn’t the version for the UK market bear the name “Salt ‘n’ Vinegar”? And isn’t there a “u” in “flavoured” in that version?

Advice on writing always includes tips about writing for the audience. And contrasting tips to write for yourself, because that way you come across as genuine.

I wouldn’t begin to tell other writers how they should write. Each has to make their own decisions. I’ve made mine. I couldn’t write to suit the people I assume would want to buy my books if the writing didn’t first satisfy me. My books aren’t crisps. They’re full of words that I’ve combined and edited and re-edited until I’m happy with the result. Of course, I hope they also satisfy others, but I can only produce products that suit my palate.

***

Social Anxiety Revealed has a five-star review that delights me because it shows the book has helped someone. I hope it helps many more. Remember, you can also read the book to discover how to help a friend, family member, colleague or student.

When I ordered this book I didn’t realise it would have the ‘Wow’ factor! I lost count of the amount of times that I thought ‘wow’ when reading the comments from people interviewed and discovering that I am not alone. There are other people who feel and act the way I do. It soon became clear during the reading that the author was offering me a much needed insight into like minded people and although it doesn’t offer a ‘cure’ (possibly the wrong word) it helped tremendously.

The wonderful, amazing, one-of-a-kind Ailsa Abraham, who often goes by the name of Otter, chose me as the winner of her competition at my recent launch party for my new book: Social Anxiety Revealed.

I chose to win one of her short stories. For the topic, I chose a socially anxious otter, of course. Here’s the result, sweet and satisfying and… probably with an underlying message. What do you think?

ISOLOTTERED

Ask anyone what their first reaction to the word “otter” is and 75% or more will say “playful”. This is usually correct. They are one of the few mammals who still play as adults, just for fun, not developing skills but enjoying each other’s company.

This is why a very small female otter was so different. She had been the runt of a very large litter and never gained full mature size so was easily bullied by her four brothers. This meant that she also went without food a lot of the time which didn’t help her growth.

Anxious Otter

She sat on the riverbank, desperately wanting to join in the mud-slide game, knowing how it was played but too timid to try. One after the other, her brothers slid down the mud, cleaving gracefully into the water, emerging spitting and laughing. Her empty tummy turned over. She wanted to slide. She should slide, it was what otters did. It was her right to slide. The rest of the “romp” were casting sidelong glances at her odd behaviour.

Grabbing the moment when her courage was highest and her self-doubt squashed, she launched herself at the mud-slide just as an elderly matron otter was wiggling her bottom to get traction to start off. The two of them became a tangle of legs, tails and frantic squeaking, rolling over and over to make a resounding splash as they hit the river with anything but grace.

The elderly female had produced several litters and was forgiving of the clumsy youngster but the little otter swam away, disgusted with herself. She had tried to join in and had nearly killed someone respected in the community. She would go hunting. She was hungry and the one thing she could do very well was a solo activity. She was happiest when catching fish, finding a concealed spot on the bank and stuffing her belly.

From there is became a fear with her of standing out. She remembered the whole group looking at her in disbelief and never wanted that to happen again. She had a small number of females of a similar age who would tolerate her but in general she kept to herself, which is how the accident happened.

As the others were playing at chasing butterflies and the little otter knew she would just be in the way, trip them up or fall on her back, she wandered off to stray into Man land. She had been told to avoid humans as they were usually trouble and their “rolling feet” were always fatal in the end. She found herself by one of these rolling feet paths and lay, terrified by the monsters as they rushed past. She could smell a good place on the other side of the path, what little she could smell over the stink of their bums! It called to her and she dashed out to cross the path just as a monster appeared out of nowhere. It did not hit her but the rush of air knocked her over and she bumped her head on the hard ground.

When the little otter woke up she was in a very strange place that smelled of many different animals, Man and very clean stuff. Raising her head she saw hard things like reeds in front of her face. Putting up a paw she felt them, cold, solid and immoveable. She was surrounded and trapped by the hard reeds and she began to cry. Next to her, in another set of hard reeds, was a cat. She knew cats. They came by the river to hunt rodents and never bothered the otters. The cat was difficult to place, male or female and its voice was drowsy.

“No cry. All good here.” That was all she could make from its mewing.

“I am frightened. I want my holt. Want my… my …group.” She didn’t say friends because she didn’t have any. The last word came out as a hiccup and she didn’t think the cat would understand.

“I had go-to-sleep-milk. Will be well. Man come touch you. All well.” The cat dozed off again, his head against the hard reeds, so the otter put her paw through them to keep contact. Her fingers rested on his whiskers and she felt comforted. It smelt male but not quite male.

She must have gone to sleep herself then because the next thing she knew a human face was on the outside of the hard reeds, looking in at her and squeaking, softly. The noises made no sense to the otter but the feeling coming off this one with female smell was “mother”. She dared to look at the face and saw no teeth bared but the eyes were squeeze-shut like a cat’s when it is happy. The little otter poked a paw out between the hard reeds and squeaked “lonely” at her. The cat was awake and said

“Good human. Friend. Play nice. No bite.”

The little otter had never bitten anyone in her life, apart from fish, so when the human put a paw in to pick her up, she just curled into a ball and trembled. She found herself next to the female’s chest being stroked and hearing small, comforting sounds. It was like being in her litter with her brothers but she had this body all to herself. She found herself nestling in and being at ease.

***

As soon as I walked into the post-op room and saw Sarah holding the otter, I knew exactly how it would go. It so often did. She was a one-woman walking animal rescue centre and we sometimes wondered how she managed it on her salary. We often paid her overtime in animal food and she said that now her two boys were off her hands she had plenty of pocket money. Perhaps the animals filled the gap left by them.

“Well now…is this an adoption I see before me?” I wondered.

Sarah turned, reddening.

“Sorry, Geoff, she was being unhappy and I had to hold her. Look, she’s quite contented now.”

Happy Otter

“So would I be in her position!” It was a standing joke in the surgery that Sarah’s breasts came around the corner a minute before the rest of her appeared and she laughed, good-naturedly at my jest.

She popped the young otter on the table for me to examine again, gently resting her hands on its neck to stop it running away.

“No damage from the accident but look here, I’m sure her eyesight is poor. She seems uncoordinated.  I wonder if she is a runt that shouldn’t have survived?” I shone the light into the animal’s eyes, then encouraged it to walk a few steps. “I really don’t know if we could risk putting her back, not smelling of vets and a bit wonky.” Sarah’s eyes met mine above the table. We both knew.

“Well, in that case, I’ll take her home with me and keep an eye on her. We don’t have the cage space here for her. If she looks any better I’ll bring her in and if you think it’s right, we can return her to the wild.” Sarah said as she scooped the otter up into her arms, its head on her shoulder again.

“Looking at how she’s taken to you, I doubt very much that she’ll want to.” I turned to leave the room adding, “Take some fishy cat food with you. Your new guest is going to need feeding up, she’s tiny.”

***

The little otter had finally found a friend and in that friend’s house, a new group to which she could belong. Different animals with different handicaps, all a bit wonky but all loved to bits. There she could socialise and feel at home.

 

The Monster (Hebrew: Mifletzet) sculpted in 1971 by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, is a well-known landmark in Jerusalem and one that is enjoyed by children, who love to slide down its three-pronged tongue.

The Monster

The Monster

Usually.

When I walked past it, yesterday evening, it looked different – a bit sad and funny.

MonsterClosedReducedI posted the picture on Instagram with the caption: What have they done to the monster? And to the English language?

As you may have seen from the edit of my precious post, Facebook lost the live video I made yesterday.

But today I made another video (not live) which appears below. Make sure you have tissues ready…

 

Not me, apparently.

My publisher, Crooked Cat Books, posed a challenge for its authors: to GO LIVE on Facebook, all on the same day: tomorrow – Wednesday.

My first reaction was

NO!

My second reaction was

Maybe…

Well, I have made a couple of videos, including this one:

My third reaction was

 I’ll do 11am French time. I don’t believe I said that…

So apparently I’ll be live on Facebook tomorrow at 10 UK, 11 France, 12 Israel… I don’t know what I’ll be talking about, but I’m sure the words “social anxiety” will come up more than once. “Books,” too.

See you then! Eek!

EDIT: I’ll be doing this from my Facebook Author Page.

EDIT2: I did this, and then Facebook lost the video. (Expletives have been removed.)