A Gift To Remember by Melissa Hill

I received a free copy of A Gift To Remember by Melissa Hill from the lovely people at Simon and Schuster. It came in a lovely gift bag

Unopened gift bag. The gift bag has the same the dark blue design on it as the cover

Opened gift bag with the book next to it.

Darcy Archer works in a small bookstore in Manhattan. A daydream believer, she refuses to settle for anything less than being swept off her feet by the perfect man… literally. One day, when cycling to work, Darcy accidentally crashes into a sharply dressed gentleman walking his dog. He is knocked out cold, rushed to hospital and the poor pup gets left behind. Wracked with guilt, Darcy takes the dog and makes plans to reunite him with owner, Aiden. As she discovers the mysterious stranger’s world of books, travel, adventure and all the wonderful things she’s ever dreamt about, Darcy builds a picture of this man and wonders if he could be THE ONE… But does fantasy match reality? What happens when Prince Charming wakes up? Will Aiden be the happy ever after she’s always imagined?

I love books. Darcy Archer loves books even more than I do. And that’s saying something. Her love of books was one of the things I really liked about this story, it was ever present in both large and small ways making it seem very realistic.

This is a Christmas book which isn’t too Christmassy. I would have liked a little bit more Christmas feels in there to be honest. But that’s my only real criticism of the book (that and the fact that it would have been more of A Gift to Remember if the gift bag it came in had also included chocolate. But hey a girl can’t have everything,). If you are one of those weird people that doesn’t like Christmas books don’t let that stop you.

For ages I was convinced I knew how the book was going to end. I’m not going to say if I was right or not but I will say that it had several very unexpected twists along the way which really added to my interest and stopped it being as predictable as I’d expected it to be. It was a good easy read for the week before Christmas when I just felt like I needed a rest and something enjoyably low effort to read.

Quick and Dirty #Disability Theory

I posted on Facebook earlier this afternoon that I’d given someone a spur of the moment elevator pitch length explanation of the social and medical models of disability and they’d understood it without my needing to clarify any further. This was, and is, a win. Especially because I really believe they actually understood it and didn’t just say so to shut me up. Then one of my friends posted that she doesn’t speak disability.

And apparently I have blog entries on here dating back to 2006 but have never defined the models. Despite having both a social and a medical model category on here.

So here goes. This will be quick and dirty but hopefully makes sense.

The medical model of disability states that impairment and disability are solely caused by medical conditions and are not influenced by anything elses. This, I believe, is much more commonly used in America. According to the medical model I am a person with a disability and am disabled by my cerebral palsy as a result of which I use a wheelchair.

The social model of disability states that it is the barriers that society puts into place and the attitudes of those around me which disable me. It acknowledges the fact that yes, I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair but that if I’m in a fully accessible and supportive environment I can and do access things the same as everyone else. This model would say that I am a disabled person and my disability is caused by the failings of society to provide equal and fair access that meets my needs.

There are other models of disability such as the charity model (sometimes known as the tragedy model) which depicts disabled people as a victim of circumstances beyond their control for which they need to be pitied.

Further confusion can be and is caused by the language of disability. It’s also sometimes the cause of debate or even argument between disabled people. Persons with disabilities (often shortened to PWD) is a medical model term as I said above but it’s also used by some people who prefer it as it’s person first language and shows they are more than their condition. Others (myself included) prefer to use disabled people regardless of which model they subscribe to because it’s identity first language and shows what they identify as.

And then there’s the argument about whether or not the a in disabled and disability etc should be capitalised (i.e. disAbled, disAbility) to bring the focus onto our abilities and what we can so rather than what we can’t. Personally I hate that.

Finally there’s the people who say you shouldn’t use the term able bodied because we’re all able but in different ways. The term nondisabled is the most commonly used and it’s the one I like but it’s difficult for people to understand. And to be honest no other minority describes the people outside of it by what they’re not so I don’t know if it will ever fully replace able bodied. Another term that is sometimes used is temporarily able-bodied or TAB (some people use currently able bodied, I don’t mostly because I heard of TAB first and the acronym for currently able bodied would be the same as where I volunteer and so confusing). This refers to the fact that statistically speaking most people will become disabled as some point in their lives whether due to illness, accident or simply aging.

My own journey with disability theory and the language of disability is ongoing and ever evolving. If you go right back to the beginning of this blog you’ll see the term PWD used a lot but it’s a term I no longer use. I’ve used TAB a lot in the past too but I’m not sure I’ve done so for years. Neither term feels relevant to who I am and where I am now.

Gracie’s War by Elaine Everest

I received a copy of Gracie’s War by Elaine Everest to review.

Do our actions and decisions mark us and stay with us for the rest of our lives? Gracie has her life before her as the dark clouds of the Second World War gather.

Though she and her family cope well with the stresses on the home front, Gracie’s transformation to adulthood is swifter and more brutal than she could have ever imagined.

Gracie meets Tony, who arouses such feelings in her that she has never experienced before – not with Joe her regular beau who considers her his girl. Then, one night, one mistake, and she realises she is carrying Joe’s child.

And now Tony has gone to war.

I really like fiction set in and around this time period (I’m sure I’ve mentioned that many times before) so not only did I think the story sounded intriguing but I was extra keen due to its setting.

Gracie’s War is a very short book. In fact I’d say it’s too short. It covers all the highlights of the story and hits them well but there are multiple time jumps of months or years in the book and that makes it seem rushed in places. There would be a twist in the story and I’d wonder how they would get out of it but then it would skip a year forward and you would miss what could have been a great part. So as much as I liked this story it didn’t hit the mark for me.

One aspect I really enjoyed was the scenes around D-Day. Without posting spoilers I can’t say too much but it really showed Gracie’s spirit and also the strength of her relationship with her dad (who was one of my favourite characters). I think this was one of the strongest parts of the book.

Her enduring friendship with Peggy was also brilliant and added to my enjoyment. I’m not sure I have a friendship like that but then I doubt many people do nowadays. Gracie and Peggy make and adapt clothes. Their skill and enthusiasm made me want to inject new passion into my own (currently languishing) crafting. Which is a good thing although I must admit not something I expected to come from reading Gracie’s War

Gracie’s War is only available as an ebook and at the prices I’m seeing at the moment well worth the money if you want an easy, quick, and for the most part enjoyable read to take your mind off of Christmas.

The End of NaNo

So it’s the end of November and Nanowrimo ends at midnight.

I’m a nano winner in that I’ve written over 50,000 words this month.

I’ve not written a book. I’ve not even written anything vaguely like a first draft of a book. Some of my friends are talking about submitting for publication pretty much straight away. They are either much better writers than I am or totally insane. Or both.

What I’ve written is a mess. It’s a variety of scenes from the idea I had. Some I planned and some I didn’t. Some work and some make me cringe just to think of them. I suspect when I look back some of the ones I thought worked probably won’t and some that made me cringe will turn out to be better than I remembered. I hope so anyway.

I’ve also come away with the feeling that the idea I had is actually for two stories rather than two arcs in the same book. And that very possibly I’m using the wrong perspective and the wrong main character. I wrote a bit using the new main character on Thursday and again yesterday and I like it a lot. It feels like better writing. But I think I’ll miss the person I thought was the main character. Which is why I’m thinking this is two stories not the one I thought it was.

More importantly being able to lose myself in my writing has helped me deal with a very difficult month with major wheelchair problems, several very sad happenings and lots of stress.

Taking part in NaNo has got me back into the habit of writing regularly once again. And it’s reawakened my love of writing. I needed that.

NaNo for me isn’t about writing a book, or finishing a book or anything like that it’s about writing and the fact it makes me do it. And tomorrow I get to go drink cocktails with a couple of very good friends (one I met through NaNo and one I got to know better through NaNo but knew before) and a bunch of new friends to celebrate that fact.

Surrounded by Sadness

After I wrote the things that make me happy post on Saturday I’d planned to write some more on the subject. I will write more on the subject I’m sure but tonight sees me writing about the opposite of happiness.

Because there is a hell of a lot of sadness around me lately.

I heard of the death of a friend of mine and my parents yesterday.

It was I think the sixth death I’ve heard of in the past seven weeks. Plus my Dad was saying he and my mum know of two others who have died recently.

Two distant family members. For one she was in her nineties and I think it wasn’t unexpected. The second was unexpected and frankly in shocking circumstances.
A very vague acquaintance I’d not seen in years and who probably didn’t remember me
Two people within the wider challenger sailing community, one of whom I’d met briefly once or maybe twice but mostly exchanged a few emails with. The second I don’t think I’d met or at least his name didn’t ring a bell. But he was sailing when he died and I do know the person who was on the boat with him at the time which got me a bit…
And now our family friend.

Funnily enough mum and I used to quite often see him and his wife at the arts centre. We were there three times last week and I’d commented to mum that we’d not seen them for ages and I was surprised they weren’t at the talk on the power station. Then we went to Gyles Brandreth on Saturday and we saw his wife (we know them because she was my carer when I was tiny before I went to school and they used to visit us at least every Christmas until I was well into my teens) with who I assume to be one of her granddaughters. She was telling us about her husband. How he was poorly and in hospital but it sounded like he was in good spirits. We said “send him our love” or words to that extent. And then we went into the show.

And afterwards I was by the merchandise table waiting to get my book signed. She came by and looked at the books. Picked one up saying she’d get it signed for her husband because he’d been meant to come to the show with her. Joined the queue behind me.

Then mid morning yesterday my phone rang.

When my mum rings in the middle of the day in the week it’s usually something wrong or some sort of specific question that needs an immediate answer, often tech support for her computer. And I could tell it wasn’t going to be one of those situations where I’m on the end of the phone trying to tell her how to find something on her laptop and getting annoyed because it’s so obvious if she’d just look properly and she’s at the other end getting even more annoyed and declaring “stupid computer!” In the tone of voice she gets when she’s about ready to chuck it out the window.

And it wasn’t.

She was ringing to tell me of a trip to Tesco, of hearing that our friend had died and a long hug in the middle of the supermarket.

Yet more sadness. Like a bolt from the blue.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of problems lately. Wheelchair issues with both my manual and powerchairs, anaemia, the hospital transport disaster last week. I’ve been feeling crap. I’m run down I think and pretty stressed.

But at the same time all I keep hearing lately is about sad things. People struggling and so many deaths. I don’t remember ever hearing of so many deaths in such a short period before. And in a way that scares me.

It’s like I’m surrounded in the periphery at least by sadness and people struggling.

Am I sad? Yes and no. I’m sad about our friend who just died. I had a drink at the arts centre at lunch with some other friends. It was weird to think he’ll never make me jump again by appearing behind me in there to say hello. I was sad to hear of the other deaths too. But most of all I’m sad for all the people around me who are struggling because of that.

So as much as I planned to sit down tonight and write my follow post about things that make me happy, I can’t. Because happiness and sadness go hand in hand. And I needed to write about that sadness first.

Things that make me happy

Mum and I went to see Gyles Brandreth in his one man snow Looking for Happiness this evening. It wasn’t what I was expecting but it was was really good. The only reason it wasn’t what I was expecting was because I didn’t really know much about him in advance of the show tonight and was expecting something a little more stand up like. Some of his stories I’d not heard of the people he mentioned but unlike with some other acts when I’ve been too young to know some of the things or people they were talking about that didn’t matter.

I picked up a copy of his book after the show and he signed it for me. When I told him my name he said “Emma, they should write a book about you.” And I asked what it would be about, expecting him to say something which could only be categorised as inspiration porn. He said it would be “Emma: Her Story.”

During the show he asked a few people what made them happy. Most of them said family, children, husband, grandchildren. During the interval mum said her first thought had been cake.

My first thought for what makes me happy was sailing, because that’s the sort of thing you can tell people and it doesn’t require any explanation about what it is and people don’t look at you like you’re weird. Plus it does make me happy. Often I’ll go on the water and by the time I come in I’ll feel a lot calmer and better about things. I sometimes think a few people who know I sail but have never been there or seen me so it think it’s a much bigger part of my life than it is though. I may be selling it/myself short there though.

Then my next thought was that my wheelchair makes me happy. In many ways that’s probably the thing that makes me happiest. The manual and the power but in different ways. Because the manual gives me my mobility and my independence but my powerchair gives me my freedom.

So on my way home I was thinking of what makes me happy. Here is my not conclusive list in no particular order other than what they came to mind as I was typing this.

My family
My friends
My manual chair
My powerchair
Feeling that I’ve made a difference
Putting loud music on and singing along
Going to new places
Feeling I belong
Disability culture
Time to myself
Jacket potatoes done in the oven so they have crispy skins smothered in cheese
Dyeing my hair bright colours
Painting my nails
Watching live parasport
Learning new things

Random Bullet Points of Life

+ It’s been ridiculously long since I last finished a book. Too busy writing. I started a book at the hospital on Wednesday but couldn’t concentrate on it. It’s a good book I think just too distracted at the hospital.

+ I went to wheelchair services on Wednesday and got a new pommel put in my cushion. The OT also adjusted my footplates to what she thought would be a better position to me. She did one and I was all it’s too high, my knees feel like they’re up around my boobs. But I asked her to change the other just to see and once they were both set to the same height that feeling went. It’s different but it’s not bad. I really like the new pommel though so that’s good.

+ By the time I left the hospital on Wednesday night, several of the admin staff for that section of the hospital, the duty lead nurse for the entirety of the hospital, the duty manager of the ambulance service, several of the nurses and the ward clerk for the inpatient ward of the section of the hospital I go to were all aware of my existence and the fact I was having serious problems (transport got me there really late so I missed my slot to go home – I actually wasn’t at the hospital at the time I was meant to go home). Not to add the fact that I was already seeing the head of wheelchair services because of my previous appointment and those issues. What was really nice about that was they advocated for me so getting it sorted took loads of energy but I wasn’t constantly on them to do something which would have taken more energy. I’ve complained about this and wheelchair services have also reported an incident. As I said it’s really nice not to be fighting alone.

+ On Tuesday I went to a free talk about how they are going to demolish the power station. It was really interesting but I’ll be sad to see the power station go, it’s such a landmark locally. And as a child it was how we always knew we were home. Several of my local friends have similar stories. For us it was always “the holiday isn’t over until you can see the chimney pots.” They showed an animation of how they intend to take it down and what I took to be a sad “ooooh” went round the room each time one of the towers fell.

+ Yesterday I went to a warm up gig of Jon Richardson. I really enjoyed his set. The name of his warm up act escapes me but I didn’t enjoy him as much (but he still managed to be better than either Shappi Khorsandi or Andi Osho both of whom were terrible earlier this year and who mum and I use as a scale to judge comedians by. Shappi was the worst).

+ Tomorrow we have tickets to see Gyles Brandreth. I’m not sure what to expect.

+ And finally talking of gigs, a couple of weeks ago mum and I went to see Mark Thomas. He was absolutely brilliant. And mum liked him a lot too which I was really pleased by because I’d not been sure what she’d think as he’s quite political and it’s more satire than regular stand up.

Writing thoughts or tips

With it being November and NaNoWriMo I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I’ve also been thinking about writing a lot and I’ve spent some time with groups of writers. Some of these are published writers. Some write fiction, some write articles. Some are very experienced and have written novels for years but aren’t at the stage of submitting them yet. Some just write for fun, and some are just starting out.

Writing groups are interesting things. I’ve been part of several different versions of two very different writing groups over the years. One of those groups no longer exists. The other does but basically in name only because I am the only person still attending regularly from when I joined in 2007 and it’s set up is completely different. I like it but it no longer gives me what I would like in a writing group.

Anyway that’s a bit of a long winded way to say I’ve been thinking about what tips I’d give to people who are doing NaNo for the first time or who just want to get into writing.

Do it because you want to. Writing is not easy and it’s not going to make you masses of money. And certainly not anytime soon. At the last nano meet up I went to someone said Danielle Steel is quoted as saying it took her 15 years to become an overnight success. Most people think My Best Friend’s Girl is Dorothy Koomson’s first book. It’s not, it was just her first smash after being part of the Richard and Judy book club. Her first book was The Cupid Effect published several years before.

Pick the right people to talk to about your writing. I have several great friends I can talk to about writing in general. Tips, tricks, mechanics it’s all good. But with a couple of them I’ve learned not to talk about what I’m writing. One of them doesn’t like the sort of stuff I write and thinks it isn’t “proper writing”. The other does but if I say “I’ve started a story where XYZ happens” they immediately tell me everything that’s wrong with the idea. I’d happily show them a finished project for nitpicking (although probably not as my first beta reader) but not for new idea encouragement.

Read. Read lots. Read things that are like what you want to write and which aren’t. I’ve not been reading many books this month, I’ve mostly been reading fanfic. And I’ve been thinking there was something missing in what I’ve been writing. A few days ago I started listening to an audiobook and I twigged. It felt flat because it needed more descriptions of setting etc. I’m not sure my writing is much improved by that but it feels better.

50,000 words is not really a novel. It’s not long enough unless your writing kid lit or YA. Nor are you like to come out with a finished novel (hell I doubt I can ever call what I’ve got a first draft). Put it away and then go back to it fresh in a few days/weeks/months to finish it and give it a damn good edit. And for the love of god do not finish writing it in November for NaNoWriMo and submit it to publishers in December. Apparently that happens a lot. From what I’ve heard from a few publishing types they hate it and generally end up wanting to bitch slap people who do that for the sheer stupidity of it.

Support of a sort

Tonight is Children in Need.

I don’t like Children in Need. I think it’s inspiration porn and support for charity designed to make people feel better for all the excesses they have (or perhaps in the current climate used to have) by making them pity those who don’t have as much. Or who have disabilities or other so called disadvantages.

I wrote about that over on Bea this morning in Be a Hero

And I wrote about the same topic here on my blog last year: Inspiration Porn.

Random Bullet Points of Life

♥ I got my powerchair back yesterday and I took it out for a very long wander around this afternoon. I came back cold but with the cobwebs well and truly blown away and feeling happier.

(An Instagram I took as proof I went out and because I thought it looked nice. Road, trees, sky, cars going past and the power station in the distance)

♥ I can’t remember if I posted here that I was going to take the creative writing class again. It was going to be a five week class with the same tutor I had before. The first one was last week but the rest have been cancelled due to low numbers. Which didn’t surprise me. It’s a shame but I’m not as bothered as I was because I wanted to take it to help me find my writing mojo again and I’d already located it.

♥ my GP just called me (at 7:20 PM). My iron levels were back to normal when tested but my stores were still low. I may need to keep taking iron on a very low dose long term however. I feel this is a perfect time to declare “sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…” (Who sang that?) retest in December.

♥ it’s probably over a week and a half since I finished a book.

♥ I actually finished a craft project! Well a couple of weeks ago but the recipient has it now so…


(Pink crocheted baby blanket, crocheted in the round. Large bright pink stripes interspaced with a few narrower light pink ones)

♥ I have 26,437 words written for NaNo. They are mostly crap.