Blue and the bed squeaks

January and the blues are back. I’m never sure what it is about January and February that makes it so easy to get so blue. Maybe the bank account that is always so deflated after Christmas? Grey skies and cold winds? Or perhaps the custom, of making New Year resolutions, makes us spend too much time reflecting on our lives?

This is my second year of Janathon, a truly brilliant idea of exercising and blogging. Yesterday, I DID NOT manage to complete my goal of 10,000 steps. I went to bed after a rather difficult day 900 steps short. And I was rather surprised that the world did not end because I didn’t complete a task.

This leaves two questions, why are the blues back and why didn’t I complete my steps. I think the lack of sleep contributed to both.

My big January sale purchase was a new bed frame from Debenhams, which has done amazing things for my bad back. But this wooden bed frame squeaks if you put a coat on it. I toss and turn which causes the bed to make so much noise it’s impossible to sleep. I’ve phoned Debenhams, who have been helpful, admitted that it had a known fault. But have offered rather difficult solutions. Return it, but it must be put back into the original cardboard box, which is ripped, next to the garage and happily soaking up the rained. Fix it ourselves and get another discount on it.

What I wanted was bargain, but I also wanted something fit for purpose.  And we come to a common life problem. We get things that aren’t what we expect. And we have to make decisions that don’t give us the solution we want. ‘Making the best’ of bad situations is a familiar situation for most people.

The bed isn’t responsible for my mood, the lack of sleep is just one contributing factor. Life often plays tricks on you, and at that point you usually have two choices: accept the defeat and feel sorry for yourself or react with positivity and make the best of a bad situation.


Creating new habits

I’m a creature of habit, which is a double edged sword. Especially since bad habits are easier to form and maintain than good ones. A daily habit can take up to a month to establish, and sometimes more. This January I have been struggling to form a new habit, walking 10000 steps a day. Which if I’m honest takes a chunk out of my day. I embarked on this challenge in the hope to keep the ‘black dog’ at bay, get fit, and hopefully have time to mull over my ideas before I got on the keyboard.


Challenges like #Janathon are great because you are a member of a community. It doesn’t matter if its exercise or writing, it is best if you don’t take any days off during the early days of your new writing habit. It is also good if you keep track of everything on a calendar.


The way a habit works is very simple. MIT researchers have boiled down the habit loop to three components. The first is the cue, the second is the routine, and the third is the reward. If something you do is a habit, the moment you encounter the cue, the routine starts and you experience the reward without even completing the task. You experience it right away.


The secret to establishing a habit is to pick a cue. A good way to do this is to pick something that happens every day. Currently, I’m trying to get my steps in first. But since the morning was my prime writing time, I am having to restructure my day to find something I do every day to cue it is time to write. For example if you feed the dog after your walk, and generally have ten minutes to spare afterwards, the feeding the dog good cue to start writing.


Every habit you have — good or bad — follows the same 3–step pattern.

  1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behaviour)
  2. Routine (the behaviour itself; the action you take)
  3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behaviour)

So far, I have managed to reach my step goal everyday – it is not a habit yet. But it is effecting other things I need to do in my day, including writing. Knowing how a theory works isn’t the same as managing to incorporate it into your everyday life. So exercise AND writing is still a work in progress.


Great links to forming good habits:

Charles Duhigg’s best–selling book, The Power of Habit.



Winchester Reading Series

I am looking forward to seeing Ella Diamond Kahn of Literary Agents Diamond Kahn & Woods  who will be speaking on Tuesday 20th January in St Alphege 001 from 6pm – 7.30pm, Winchester University.

Ella will be discussing these questions with one of her agency’s newest debuts, David Owen, whose first novel, PANTHER, publishes in May.

Q&A. All welcome, free event.

This event is the first in this semester’s Winchester Reading Series, hosted by the two Creative Writing MA programmes.  The full events programme is as follows:

20th Jan: Literary agent Ella Kahn from Diamond Kahn and Woods Literary Agency and debut novelist David Owen (author of PANTHER, publishing in May).

27th Jan: Debbie Young, self-publishing expert, editor and blogger for the Alliance of Independent Authors.

10th Feb: Literary magazine AMBIT.  Three poets/members of Ambit’s editorial board will read and talk about the publishing scene for poets and writers of short fiction.

24th Feb: Marcus Sedgwick, Costa-shortlisted YA novelist with a previous life as a publishing sales director. He also writes gothic thrillers for adults and co-authors graphic novels. Latest novel: THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN.

3rd March: Simon Nicholson, script writer (Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam et al) and children’s novelist of new YOUNG HOUDINI series.

17th March: Claire Fuller, debut novelist, OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS (Fig Tree, Feb 2015) and winner of Radio 4 Opening Lines competition; one of The Observer’s New Faces of Fiction 2015. Graduate of MA Creative and Critical Writing, University of Winchester.

24th March: Roma Tearne, Sri Lankan-born author of five novels whose first novel, MOSQUITO, was shortlisted for the Costa Prize. Roma is also an artist, filmmaker and journalist.

For more information, please contact Judith.Heneghan or Julian.Stannard at Winchester University.

#Janathon Update.

So far every day I have managed to complete my goal of 10000 steps. This doesn’t count my weight training or cardio sessions. However, despite the exercise routinue my general mood has dropped. Could the constant walking/back ache and time away from the keyboard be responsible?


VAT on Ebooks

VAT on Ebooks

The tax return self-assessment deadline is looming. Self-employed writers now have another set of financial deadlines to cope with: quarterly VAT returns.

So what does it mean?

Under the new regulation, VAT on digital products and in my case I’m talking about ebooks, will be chargeable in the place of purchase rather than the place of supply. I’m a UK writer, but if I sell an e-book to a customer in Germany I will have to pay VAT for that sale at German rates rather than UK ones. And every writer, which sells ebooks online to customers overseas, is affected by the EU’s new VAT MOSS regulations, which came into effect on the 1st January.

These new regulations are intended to stop online multinationals such as Amazon and Google from diverting their sales through countries with low VAT rates. However, for me and other small business it doesn’t seem fair that I am expected to use the same corporate compliance procedures as multinational companies.

So what are my choices?

I can individually register for VAT in each territory I make a sale, which is time-consuming and complicated. Or, I can set up a VAT Mini One Stop Shop (VAT MASS) by registering for VAT in the UK. The MOSS does the registering of VAT in the EU. One you have registered with VAT MOSS you are liable to apply VAT to everything you sell. Writers will then have to divide their business between sales to UK and EU customers to ensure VAT is paid on supplies to EU, but not UK suppliers.

VAT returns have to be filed quarterly. So for sales on and after the 1st of January until 31st March the deadline for the first quarter is the 20th April.

Prior to 1st January 2015, there was a Vat Exemption Threshold for businesses supplying digital products.

So if you are a small business or sole trader and you are using an e-marketplace such as Amazon then the e-marketplace is responsible for the VAT accounting.

Checkout Amazon’s VAT guidelines for its KDP authors

If you have existing titles, Amazon will adjust the prices to bring them in line with applicable VAT points. From 1st January, authors have had to set list prices that are inclusive of VAT – for example, if an author set a list price of £2.50, Amazon will deduct the applicable level of VAT to calculate royalties.

I am not happy about the changes, and I have signed the online petition to uphold the threshold in order to protect small business, I hope you do too!

Janathon Update.

Well, so far I have managed to hit my 10000 step a day target every day. I have also done two cardio sessions and one weight training session a week on top of that. But I’m tired. I know that my goal isn’t a lot for most people, but it has been quite a challenge for me.


When active isn’t active

Well today has been a real struggle to get my work and step challenge done. But it has been an illuminating day.

I was ironing at 7:30 this morning, doing a post-Christmas spring clean of the living room, cleaned the windows. Then it was time on the laptop, making business calls, taking wet sheets to the laundry to dry in my lunch hour. So at 3pm when I checked my steps on my Fitbit I was confident that I had done at least 8000 steps, when in fact I had only done 3500. What an eye opener. Could this be the problem? On days when I’m really busy working and squeezing in household chores I think I am doing a lot more steps than I actually am.

So tired, but it turns out not from walking – I did a cardio training session and in the evening still had 4000 steps to make up!

I finally hit my target at 7:30.

And I now know that I have really overestimated my movement levels. You can see the image below that today I have spent more time moving, but it is always in the red. So activities like ironing, dusting, trying to move your feet while taking a call, aren’t making enough different to get my movement to yellow or green.




Janathon Day Four

I’m a writer, reader, drawer, knitter….I can carry on with my endless list. But the point I’m making is that most of the things I enjoy are activities of a sedentary nature. I do walk every day, all weathers. Not just because I’m a dog owner, but to beat the blues. On average I take 3-5,000 steps a day. Plus twice a week when most weeks I engage in some sort of formal exercise.

This is my second year of #Janathon – exercising and blogging every day during January. I like it, it’s a good way to kick off the year. This year my official goal was 10,000 steps a day. I was also hoping to go back to the gym as well as my regular scheduled exercise sessions.

It never occurred to me for one moment that I wouldn’t be able to have a go. I have always been overweight, and my twenties and thirties were littered with yo yo diets, all which made me fatter. But I have never let my weight stop me from doing what I want. I’m a qualified scuba diver, I’ve completed a fifty mile sponsored walk, tried mountain climbing, anything I’ve fancied really. I’m always up for a dance at a wedding.

And then last night I watch Katie Hopkins #MyFatStory.

If you want to lose weight, eat less exercise more. Is there anyone out there that doesn’t know this? All fat people make excuses for their weight. No some do, most don’t. I know better than anyone that ‘me’ and my diet are to blame. I have successfully lost weight many times. But guess what I have put it back on and more.

What I disliked about the program the way Katie stood staring around the street calling everyone else around her. It has baffled me. I was out exercising on New Year’s Day, but as Katie put it, if she saw someone like me exercising she would think and say ‘look at the state of her.’

Have an opinion about what the NHS spends their money on, write to an MP. But why create a group of people with one thing in common, weight or lifestyle problems. All ‘fatties’ are the same, and the same solution will work for them all.

Maybe I’m a selfish or completely self-absorbed. But I spend my time thinking about my life plans, my goals, how much writing I’ve done, when my assignment is due in, the deadline for a competition. My kids – thinking about my kids take up a lot of my mental capacity. Currently I’m thinking about my own fitness goal.

Do I notice other people? I thought about this long and hard. Yes. I notice the man walking alone near a playground – yes – that’s a whole other issue. I notice babies, hell, I’m likely to trample someone to see a new born. Old people, I was taught as a child to always look out for anyone who may need help. If someone seems a little too interested in my open bag, I notice. If a good looking man passes by, yes I notice.

Have I looked at someone and judged them on their appearance. Of course I have. I am not a saint. But I am also aware that it is wrong to do so.

The result was that this morning. January 4th, my #Janathon goal was hard. Not because I wanted to lie in and finish my book. Not because I’m fat or because my back hurt. But because it was hard to face up to the fact that some people have a massive obsession with other people’s lives.

In the end I did my 10,000K. So far I have never not completed any challenge I have taken on. I was successful in last year’s #Janathon, #AtoZChallenge, and several years at #NaNoWriMo. Because so far I’m a winner who actually achieves their goals.

Unlike Katie, who failed to lose those last 11lbs and lied to herself and others by stating she didn’t really want to lose them. She was underweight when she started and looked better with the little extra weight. I don’t believe that.

So it was hard getting my steps in this morning, and then I saw a swan, and my dog found a friend and I discussed a project with my husband. I gradually I realised that even if this (I’m not sure what she wants to be called and I really don’t want to offend real celebrities) self-absorbed woman hates me because I’m fat. It is in fact her problem.

#Janathon step goal 10335.