The Silkworm had been sat in my Audible library for a while. I hadn’t actually realised it was written by JK Rowling using her pseudonym until someone mentioned it during a lecture.
It’s been awhile since I have read a crime novel. I used to love reading them but since starting my own writing journey, I have been trying to widen my net and explore a range of genres and styles.
I find listening to audiobooks is a great way to pass the time, especially when driving to and from university. I tend to mix up my listening between podcasts and books, learning about the craft as well as enjoying the stories.
I haven’t read The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first in the Cormoran Strike series, but that didn’t seem to matter. I was still able to follow along with the story regardless and there were enough subtle hints within this book to give me the gist of who Cormoran is and what had happened in the past.
That said, I’m not sure how I’d find the references if I had read The Cuckoo’s Calling first. Other books where I’ve read the first and then gone on to subsequent books that have too many past references tend to not finish as they bore me.
One thing this book did open up to me was how using quotes at the start of a chapter may work well when reading the book yet when you are listening to it, it can become quite jarring and even confusing until you get used to the style. It took me till chapter six or seven to not find myself wondering if I had inadvertently pressed something on my phone to make the story move on or switch over.
So what did I think of The Silkworm?
Setting a novel in the world of literary agents and publishers was a very clever way for JK Rowling to explain how this environment ticks to the masses who presume that once you find an agent and get an editor, that’s the end of it.
Exploring the emerging world of ebooks in this way too shows that she is aware of the pushback many agents and publishers were experiencing at the time the book was written. Although many people within the publishing industry had moved slightly forward by the time the book was published and the industry had started to understand where ebooks stood in the grand scheme of things.
Starting the story as a missing person enquiry gave the book an interesting beginning, allowing the reader to think the story would go in one direction. Then as the story progresses and the clues are woven through until the body is found, you realise that actually, the story you thought you were going to read isn’t the one you are.
Using concrete references in the story set it firmly in 2011, the Royal engagement and the fact the News of the World is still being published, make the story more believable and relatable. Interesting how JK referenced the NOTW journalist whom Strike helped out with his biggest story at the start of the novel paying a police officer for information on the Quine case. A nod to the Leverson inquiry I think.
The development of Cormoran’s character in relationship to Robin, his secretary/assistant, and her development independently is an interesting strand that I am looking forward to seeing grow in the coming books. Aside from the tension that many partnerships in crime novels have, the external factors of both characters allow them to become three-dimensional, such as Cormoran’s ex-Charlotte marrying and appearing in Tatler and his turmoil with these feelings and Robin’s fiance’s mother’s death and funeral allow us to explore them independently and away from the main focus of the story.
The portrayal of the agents and publishers Cormoran encounters during his investigation allow us to wonder if these are in actual fact complete works of fiction. I’m not entirely sure they are!
The twist at the end really works well, although I have to say I had an inkling that it was going to happen yet it didn’t leave me feeling flat like some novels where I have predicted the ending.
Definitely worth a read.
“You’re the funniest thing she knows. That’s why she always draws you in color.”
Can you remember One Foot in the Grave?
Victor Meldrew causing misery for his wife and neighbors with his grumpiness.
This book, A Man Called Ove, reminded me so much of that long forgotten TV show.
Ove, the main character in the book is an ‘old’ man, aged 59, who recently lost his wife and starts every day trying to get to here.
He tries to hang himself and the hook breaks, he tries to jump in front of a train and he ends up saving another man, he tries shooting himself and ends up taking in a lodger and on and on it goes.
The book tells the tale of Ove, the main protagonist through flashbacks and present time scenes. An interesting device, allowing the reader to understand why Ove is the way he is. It shows his childhood, meeting Sonia, his wife, losing their only child and her disability, all the time still return to the present and his attempts to join her.
A new family in the street take him under their wing (or maybe its the other way round) and he finds a new lease of life.
Although he comes across as a grumpy old man, deep down he has a heart of gold, who will do anything for his neighbors, with a little moan, yet he is still the one they all count on.
An interesting story, written with great wit and a real sense of getting to know the internal workings of all grumpy old men out there.
Coming up with a word for the year ahead is harder than you think.
I have been doing this for the past few years and each time I have chosen a word and thought I knew what it was going to mean for the year, it then turned out completely different!
Take last year’s word, Purpose. As I explained in my last post, this word took on a completely different meaning to what I thought it would. Rather than finding my purpose outside the home, it actually reinforced my needs and responsibilities at home.
So this years word I have thought long and hard about, trying to encompass every meaning it could mean to me but I wanted a word that captured my determination to take control of my life and steer it in the direction I want it to go.
My word for 2017 is:
This is the word that completely encapsulates my ethos for the year ahead.
I will strive forward, achieve my goals and be the best me for my family, friends and of course me!
This year has certainly been interesting.
It has been a learning curve on the steepest of levels.
A real year of two halves.
As 2016 started, I was entering into the second half of my second year at University, feeling the stress of the change in pace and expectation.
Assignments that would actually count towards my final degree and these, in turn, held a larger mark and were fewer in number than the previous year.
Add to this, as the year progressed a teen with anxiety going into his final year in school, not the start I was hoping for.
My word for 2016 was
My purpose for this year was to be there for my family.
Not what I thought this word was going to look like when I chose it, yet life has a way of showing you these things, the things that matter most, when you need to see them.
This realisation helped shape the rest of the year.
I have, for far too long, allowed life to pass by, without living with purpose and intent, allowing situations to control me rather me controlling them.
I have acted like I was in control, made those around me believe I was when really, life was controlling me.
Purpose was my activation word, my wake up call, my call to action.
My purpose is to be the best version of me, not just for me but for all those in my life as when I am present and purposeful, things get done and life is better.
I have taken this realisation and turned it into action.
2017 needs a new word and a new plan, to fulfil my purpose, be the best me for my family and achieve my dreams.
(Excuse this self-indulgent post, but if I have it published I know I am holding myself to account )
How does a business mum with a micro-business or big ideas take the next leap forward in boosting her income? Here are my top three ideas to get you started.
Manage your time.
Of course this is easier said than done, and I’ve heard it said that time is unmanageable, but with effective planning you can assess what you can realistically achieve in the time you have available.
Think about when you will work. Try drawing up a schedule of your week, and write down when you can fit work in. Consider how much childcare you have and whether you want to work evenings and weekends. Consider what your childcare costs will be and check the latest tax credits advice on www.directgov.uk You may be able to arrange childcare swaps with another local mum. I find it helps to even plan when I will fit in some housework time, relaxation time, and social time so that I can keep a good balance in all areas of my life.
Make a business plan.
This can sound daunting. Before I started a business I thought this was a long complicated document that you had to present to a bank manager, whilst wearing your smartest suit. However, after training with Ace Inspire I realised that you can start with a short written plan just for yourself, detailing what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there. It will summarise your finances and how you are going to grow. When you consider that it’s the story of how your dream will play out it becomes quite exciting.
Add strings to your bow.
If you’re honest with yourself about where you’re aiming to get to you may identify areas of your business that you could improve on. You may need to outsource some tasks, or get extra training and knowledge so that you can take on extra elements of the business yourself. Consider things like bookkeeping, PR, social media and business blogging.
Earning a living around looking after your kids has never been easier.
It is many mums’ dream to earn a living whilst still enjoying time with their children as they grow up. Even being able to be there to do the school run can bring a lot of comfort for both you and your child.
There are a number of ways you can make your dream a reality.
The dream becomes more achievable when you break it down. Stop thinking of how to make all the money you need from just one thing. For example trying to make £1000 from one type of work is a big challenge, but earning £250 a month from four different income streams sounds instantly more achievable. Your target may not even be as much as £1000 per month, perhaps you only need an additional £400 a month to top up other incomes to the household. Well, now we only need four different income streams that earn £100 a month each. That sounds much easier doesn’t it?
So what can you start doing right now to earn your target income?
Grab a pen and paper and list *every* skill you have. Don’t be modest here: you need a good long list to work from.
You should include all the tasks you’ve learned in previous jobs, all the skills you’ve honed from being a parent and housekeeper. Think back to every time someone has praised you for a job well done, what were you doing? Are you well-known amongst friends for being particularly good at certain things?
If your list doesn’t have at least twenty-five things on it then you’re being too modest! Ask friends and family to suggest ideas to help.
Now, think about your passions, hobbies and new skills you’d like to learn. Add these in a separate section at the bottom of your list.
You should have at least thirty things on your list and these are the basis for your new future income streams!
For every idea on that list think of at least three ways you could make money from it and note them down. For example if you are great at making cupcakes your three ideas might be; baking and selling cupcakes, running small cupcake making workshops, starting a blog on how to make cupcakes and earning through taking advertising.
You will now be on your way to almost 100 ideas about how you can make money. Now it’s time to take action and start working on those ideas. Pick the easy ideas first. Try each idea until you can find a combination of three or four that get you to your target income. Some ideas may take longer to get going such as if you need to retrain. If you have one idea that really takes off, that’s excellent! Run with it!
As you work through your ideas think about how much each is earning and how much time each one takes. Focus on the income streams that generate the most money in the least amount of time. Don’t forget that one of your important goals is to spend quality time with your family.
Being a mum in business, not only do you have the usual battles of bed time, teeth brushing and eating your greens, you also have the battles with time, client demands and making sure your business is a success.
All of these stress can make it seem that you should give up and get a job, but in my recent post, Is being a WAHM affecting my kids, I shared the main reasons I want and need to be a wahm. Running your own business can and is difficult but not impossible.
Here are five ways to help you with your tug of war:
- Structure. Make sure that you have in place a structure for not just your business but also for your family. Create a timetable for each week, especially for when the kids return to school, so that you know exactly what is going on each week, when you need to be working and when you need to be there for your family. It will not only help you not to miss anything important but also let your family know when you are working.
- Understand Your Why. Why did you start your business in the first place? Was it to fulfill a lifelong ambition, provide an extra income or to be there for when your children need you? Mine is a mixture of these three but primarily to be there when my children need me. Try to remember your reason why and you will find it actually inspires you to work harder in your business but, if like me it is so you can be there when your children need you, remember this too and be there for them with feeling guilty (i know it’s hard)
- Prioritize. Once you have your structure in place, you need to prioritize your time and not got sidetracked by things that are not beneficial. It is easy to get caught up in something on social media or answer a call that ends up taking an hour, so try, where possible to limit these distractions. This is also important were your family is concerned, make sure you make their important activities or work a priority and factor them into your schedule. Homework, reading or concerts are all areas that you need to attend so don’t feel guilty for leaving work to watch your child, this is why you work from home in your own business.
- Your Business is Serving Your Family Too. If you find your children and/or partner are constantly moaning about you being distracted or working so much, help them understand that you are also helping them out too. Explain that if you had an employed job you wouldn’t be there for them when they really needed you and I’m sure they like the little extras your businesses income helps with.
- Remember You. I left this one till last as this is something we always do, as mums and business women. We are always the last person we think about but you need to remember to do something for you too. You are in the middle of this tug of war, taking all the strain and stress on your shoulders and there really is only so much you can take. So whilst you are setting up your schedule, ensure that you factor in some time for you. Be it a walk in the park, coffee with friends or a long soak in the bath, make sure it is something for you, to nourish you and your soul.
I love being a work at home mum, especially as the summer holidays where coming but I do often wonder if being a wahm really is the best decision I made and just how is it affecting my kids?
The main drawback of being a wahm, especially in the holidays, is that I still have work to do so I often find myself saying, “wait a minute”, “I need to just finish this” and “I’m working”. I also find myself wondering if I would actually be less stressed and more financially stable if I had an employed job that brought in a set wage.
But then the benefits of being a wahm pop into my head, the ones where it means I can attend school events at a drop of a hat, organise my work so we can go out and actually do things as a family during the holidays and not have to leave the children with others to look after them.
As I have thought more about this as a whole, I feel that although being a wahm does impact upon the children, it also has many benefits that my children would dearly miss if I stopped and went back to working for someone else.
The main point of this article is to show that there are both positives and negatives to being a wahm, but you need to work out what they are and ensure you balance them to try to limit the actual impact they are having on the children.
Knowing what we put on our skin really is as important as knowing what we are putting into our bodies. With this in mind, I am on a continual learning journey to improve my family’s health both internally and externally. Making our own products may take more time, but this tiny factor really is nothing compared to the benefits of knowing what we are using without any of the chemicals that can be found in many products these days.
Chamomile is such an amazing flower. It brings with it properties that can help with treating hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders.
In this recipe, it is the main ingredient in a simple cooling facial cleansing gel that can be used daily. This recipe will give you enough gel to use for at least a week, as long as you store it in a refrigerator.
As with anything homemade, please try this product out on a small area of skin prior to using all over.
- 1 Chamomile herbal tea bag
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tsp whole flax-seed
- 1/2 cup rolled oats, ground finely in a blender
- Boil the water in a sauce pan and remove from heat. Add the tea bag and let it stew for 5 minutes.
- Remove the tea bag and add the flax seeds and return to the heat and reboil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a sterile glass jar.
- To use, sprinkle small amount of oats into the palm of your hand and mix with the flax gel mixture. Massage into face and rinse well.
- Store both the flax gel and ground oats in separate containers in your fridge and they will keep for a few weeks.