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Writer's Corner: Survival Skills For Writing Partners

Writer’s Corner

Survival Skills for Writing Partners by Ellie Campbell

Hi, we’re Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell, the ‘chicklit sisters’ who write under the name of Ellie Campbell.  538a9-elliecampbell1This always brings up questions, mostly about how we manage to avoid killing or alienating each other.  People understand creativity is an intensely personal thing – as one variation of a famous quote has it: ‘Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed’.  Given the intense emotions and vulnerability the process inspires, involving another person could be considered nearly as touchy as sharing a boyfriend – let’s just say you’d better have some strategies in place.   And frankly we are not the angelic siblings portrayed in “Little Women”: the four of us Campbell girls were infamous for flare-ups, squabbles, fist fights, marathon sulks – all the fun family dynamics we explored in our first novel ‘How To Survive Your Sisters’. But with our fourth novel, ‘To Catch A Creeper: A Crouch End Confidential Mystery’, ready to be launched on March 24th, we’ve decided to unlock ten of our deepest darkest partnership secrets.

What can you do to assist you and your writing partner in developing a common ‘authorial voice’?

Arrange to grow up in the same family, telling and retelling the same old stories, preferably with a Scottish accent that it will take years to tame into semi-intelligibility.  And make sure the younger one slavishly follows the elder, imitating her every gesture and move.

What do you do if you start to suspect you’re actually the better writer?

Keep it to yourself.  Remember all those times you’ve been stuck and unable to produce a coherent intelligible sentence and realize your partner is probably suffering from the same illusion.

What if there is a point on which you really can’t agree?

Maintain that this is an equal partnership and a democracy.  Ask her if she’d rather be right or be happy.  And argue that 18 months age difference carries a lifetime of seniority.

What do you do if you hate the pages your partner has just spent the whole day writing?

Say nothing.  She might hate it herself the next day when the glow wears off.

What if you had just had a disagreement with your partner about something else, do you take it to work with you?

Hell yeah. Add in a character that has all her bad characteristics.  And then give her boils, warts,  and whatever other awful retribution fits the scene.

What do you do if your partner is reading aloud a really bad joke which she thinks is hilarious, so much so that she can’t get it out for laughter

Agree that it is terrific.  Try your best to laugh alongside. Delete it slyly months down the line.

What if your partner takes credit for writing a scene or chapter that you have written?

Silently seethe.  Then later take the credit for something she has written.

What do you do if the story is taking a direction you don’t like?

Subtlety is required here.  Send her a day pass to a Spa that has to be used next day and take over.              

What do you do if your partner accuses you of slacking off? 

Insist you’ve spent the last few days on brainstorming, research and character background.  If all else fails, tell her your computer has malfunctioned and the internet is down.

What do you do if your partner is doing all the writing and you aren’t?

Accept that is the way that writing works.  Don’t fret too much unless she’s finished the book and insists on publishing it as her own sole work. Then that is worrying.

And finally, a freebie:

What do you do if you have a row so violent that you feel ready to storm over there and wring each others’ necks?

Feel grateful you live thousands of miles and an ocean apart.  Pour a large vodka, bitch to your husband and cut off all communication.  Hopefully you can laugh about it tomorrow.

Posted by Jencey Gortney 

via Writer’s Corner: Survival Skills for Writing Partners by Ellie Campbell.

Ellie Campbell says:  Thank you Jencey.  And remember that How To Survive Your Sisters is FREE this week on Amazon.com and Looking For La La is just 99 cents/99 pence until Sunday.

Ellie Campbell's Random Animal Facts

onmybookshelf – I Heart Chick Lit

To Catch a Creeper

The cat incident in To Catch A Creeper actually happened to a cat that Pam owned named Parker who closely resembled Cathy’s cat, Tic Tac.

Yes, we – Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell (aka Ellie Campbell) – are total animal lovers.  Not that animals have always loved us back…

 Ellie Campbell’s random animal facts

1.      Lorraine drove 18 hours to Kansas City and back to adopt a whoodle (got to love that name) named Remy, a wheaten terrier/poodle cross.  His misdeeds include eating the passenger’s seat of her brand new car, killing rabbits and burying dead voles in the marital bed.  He is also unbearably cute.

 2.     Pam has a tiny border terrier called Milly whose life’s ambition is to battle rottweilers and capture a fox. One of the sisters in “How to Survive Your Sisters” was named after her, yet they look nothing alike.

3.      Pam and Lorraine’s first dog was a wayward mongrel called Tippy who chased motorbikes, fought with male dogs and amorously pursued every bitch in town, hopping on and off buses, unescorted.  When about to move to England, the parents seized the excuse to find him another home at a distant farm.  They dropped him off, despite wails and protests, only to discover him back at the house within hours.  Clearly his knowledge of the bus system extended also to rural routes. 

 4.      Pam and Lorraine also owned rabbits, keeping the two does in a large aviary in the garden, separated from the buck called Dylan, who still somehow managed to procreate, bringing the total from three to nineteen with astonishing speed.  Pam liked to walk them on a leash in the local graveyard and turn them loose for exercise.  They would follow her around, leaping in the air.

5.      The two sisters were always horse obsessed, galloping down the street on their imaginary steeds, slaving and mucking out stalls in the local stables to cadge free rides. After leaving school they pooled their meager wages to buy a hot-blooded Anglo Arab named Eagle Star, often borrowing a scruffy old mule so they could ride together.  Lorraine and Star once had the unnerving experience of a hot air balloon descending straight at them, with the occupant screaming to get out of his way.  It added a whole new dimension to “hazards of the trail”.

6.      Pam and Lorraine used to win money at local fairs betting on their friend’s donkey, Bilbo Baggins, until the bookmakers wised up to his talents.  It was still an uncertain race because although extremely fast Bilbo had trouble turning corners and his jockey frequently fell off.

7.      Beside the horse, Eagle Star, Pam has owned or lived with cats, dogs, goats, fish, hamsters, rabbits, budgies, Java finches, chickens, lizards, snakes and rats.  Her least favorite was the python that thanks to father/son collusion was purchased with her very reluctant consent.  As soon as the men of the family went away on a camping trip, the python escaped.  Pam spent the rest of the weekend being afraid… very afraid.

8.      Lorraine has owned hamsters, horses, rabbits, cats, dogs, budgies, cockatiels, chickens, Indian runner ducks.  Her least favorite were the Indian runner ducks who lived up to their name by running in a panic whenever she approached. 

9.      Pam once frightened a house guest when he awoke to see an escaped hamster gnawing through a hole in the ceiling.

 

10.    Lorraine once went to throw a stick into the fireplace and realized it was a huge bull snake that had come in unnoticed when she fetched the wood.


12.    Pam was the first rider to mount Lorraine’s young feisty mare Luna in her early days of training.   They achieved half a dozen steps before Luna threw a monumental bucking fit and ejected Pam into the dirt. Pam was not impressed by Lorraine’s training.

 

13.    Lorraine was once on an elephant ride in Rajasthan when she persuaded the mahout to let her swap places.  No sooner was she perched behind its ears, when the elephant whirled and charged a man walking close by.  She realized then it had no brakes and she didn’t know the command for stop.

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14.  Pam once galloped around the Great Pyramid in Egypt on a runaway horse. She enjoyed it immensely.

 

14.    Lorraine once opened her barn door with cat food in hand, calling ‘kitty, kitty’ only to see a very large face emerge from the hay, followed by the rest of a magnificent bobcat who casually hopped out of an open stall door.  Her barn cats were all in hiding hoping to avoid becoming that morning’s meal.

15. Pam once had her shoes chewed on by rats when staying in a crummy hotel in Burma.

Rat_noir

16.    Lorraine and Pam both have the dubious distinction of having being charged and tossed in the air by cows. Pam in Delhi, Lorraine in Scotland. Neither knows why.

17.    Since moving to Colorado Lorraine has encountered raccoons, coyotes, skunks, rattlesnakes, bullsnakes, black widow spiders, bobcat, bear, elk, moose and mountain lions.  The mountain lions were outside her bedroom window.  For a while she stopped wandering outside to admire the night sky.

18.  Raccoons used to frequently break into Lorraine’s laundry room every night looking for a free meal.  A nervous friend living temporarily in Lorraine’s basement once called the sheriff when she heard sinister dragging sounds.  Turned out raccoons were having trouble attempting to haul a 50 lb tub of kibble out through the dog door.

19.     Pam had a fabulous cat called Parker who lived to the age of twenty-one. He was top “dog” amongst the other two dogs she had at the time and would condescendingly pat them on the head if they deigned to walk past.  He was originally a stray and not pretty but as he’d been at the rescue centre the longest, he was next in line for euthanasia and she felt compelled to take him home. If you stroked him in the wrong way, he would turn and scratch you hard, showing no mercy.

20.    Lorraine’s husband is not a cat lover and for a while banned felines, claiming to be allergic, but somehow they now own five, three in the barn, two in the house.  The house cats like to bring live mice indoors and let them escape.  Remy, the whoodle, then goes crazy tearing apart furniture to find them.  Lorraine swears the cats are sniggering. 

Thank you for stopping by!!!

 via To Catch a Creeper by Ellie Campbell / Book Review + Guest Post | onmybookshelf – I Heart Chick Lit.

La La at #3 in Amazon.com Humor…

More than a few of our reviews have suggested ‘Looking For La La‘ is quite the wild ride…

‘..total Mayhem from beginning to end…’

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But never more than this week! Thanks to our 99 cent promotion  ‘Looking For La La’ has jumped into the top 10 in all three categories, including #3 in Amazon.com women’s fiction humor.  And up to #138 in overall Kindle US charts.

That means we’ve almost made it into Top 100… with another 5 days to go…

 ‘Thrilling, Gripping and Unique 

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And puts our little indie chicklit mystery in with some mighty big fishes…

Laughs galore but also a murderous undertone…’

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Enough to put a grin on all our faces.

 ‘amazingly funny, brilliant and entertaining..’

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While  ‘full of mystery, gossip and secrets..’ –

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and ‘Filled with great characters…’

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everyone agrees that LOOKING FOR LA LA is

Literally a laugh out loud kind of book! ‘  G85A1832

So thanks from Pam and Lorraine to all our friends, reviewers and bloggers, everyone who bought, downloaded, gifted, shared… SP_A0251 IMG_1099

And we’re not done yet.  If you’re in the US you can still buy Looking For La La for a mere 99 cents until February 24th..

So if you haven’t already…

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‘Go on an amazingly funny, brilliant and entertaining ride with Cathy and her crazy cast of friends and neighbors!’

I Should Be So Lucky – Lucky! Lucky! Lucky!

cabin 2008 114_2I SHOULD BE SO LUCKY!!

Help! I’m being stalked by someone who wants to take me on exotic foreign holidays, shower me with precious jewels and give me shedloads of money, either £20,000 every month till I die, or a great big lump sum payment.

Why you, I hear you ask? Are you brilliantly bright, hilariously funny, a sexual athlete with an incredible libido or just amazingly attractive. Unfortunately none of these. I’m just a run of the mill kind of wife and mother, few wrinkles, bit of a podge round the tummy, arms that could do with a firm up, legs that could do with a wax…

And no I don’t need the help in deciding whether £20,000 per month for life’s better than a lump sum, taking into account interest rates, inflation, property prices, etc.

No my problem’s coping with the disappointment when I realise it’s yet another scam and really I’ll always remain as poor as a wee church mouse.

“You get nothing for nothing in this world,” my husband lifted his head up from the paper, when I brandished my latest Prize Draw Award letter.

“Not true,” I replied swiftly. “Carol over the road won an emerald.”
“Hmmmm.”

OK the emerald was the size of a pinhead and you needed a microscope to see it, but if she’d won 200 of them, she could maybe have fashioned them into a ring of sorts, couldn’t she?

I’ve spent a fortune on phonecalls that last forever as they relay lists of items you haven’t won and where in the end you find your ‘three palm trees fabulous prize’ is an overseas holiday for which you receive free accommodation but have to pay double for flights and food (read the small print and you realise you have to eat at least twice a day in the hotels).

Or there’s the ‘£800 cash’ prize, which is a leaflet full of two-for-one offers on theme parks you’ve never heard of, restaurants you wouldn’t dare dine in and dull hotels situated in the back of beyond where no-one else wants to stay.

Last week I received a text message entitled WINNER.

HEY YOU ARE A WINNER. ONLY 12
HOURS IN WHICH TO CALL!!!

As the clock ticked towards the deadline, my brain fought an inner battle. One part warning me if I did nothing I might be missing out big time, but the other part telling me not to be a daft mare and cook supper for my family instead. I cooked supper.

Only yesterday my phone rang.

“Hi there.” (Bright cheery automated voice.) “As a past customer you have an unclaimed award. This was drawn in Spring 2013. Yes. You have won one of ten pcs, wide-screen tv’s, holiday for up to six people in sunny Tenerife. Your Prior Claim Code is 10. But better be quick,” the Alan Sugar sound-alike continued. “In order to share our award pool, call this hot line number.”

Then the cheery voice cut off and a normal boring voice said with lightning speed. “Calls costs £1.50 per minute and will last no more than five minutes.”

OK I admit it, I jotted down the number and had my finger on the dial before I reminded myself that this was me about to ring that number. Me about to win that magnificent prize. Me who never wins anything. Tell a lie, I once won a jiffy lemon at a school summer fete, but that’s it. Doubt my luck’s gonna start changing now.

But no, I can’t guarantee the next time, I won’t be tempted. As they say in AA, one day at a time…

10 Female Friendship Movies for National Friendship Day

Our Top Ten:

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café

As Ninny says in this movie “I found out what the secret of life is:  friends.  Best friends.”  Of course not all of us snatch our pregnant best friend from an abusive husband, take care of her and her baby, protect from said husband, aid in his murder and serve him up as barbeque to the investigating sheriff.  But we would if we had to.

Bridesmaids

Yes, your best friend can be petty, silly, jealous, ludicrous and outrageously badly behaved and you’ll still forgive her.  Especially if it’s clear it’s just an expression of how much she cares for you.  Or just incredibly funny. Drunken moments, swearing, total humiliation notwithstanding, there’s a great rapport between Annie and Lillian – you can just tell they have a great time together for all the crazy wedding malarkey.

The Joy Luck Club

These immigrant Chinese mothers remind me of my mum telling tall tales about her daughters’ great accomplishments while secretly chiding us for lacking all the graces and achievements of our cousins. No wonder there’s rivalry and resentment among the daughters of the mah-jongg players.  Still, like the novel, this movie shines with epic tearjerking stories of mother-daughter struggles, poverty and hardships in World War II China, and some tricky modern relationships in the present day. Luckily, although she had her share of problems, our Mum never drowned her baby in a bathtub or had to abandon any of us by the roadside…although I’m sure she was tempted.

Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion

Showing the deep bonded friendship you longed for in high school (and ever since.) Wouldn’t you love someone like Romy or Michelle with you at your high school reunion, making utter fools of yourselves, lying your asses off and basically having a much better time than all the cool successful people?!  Living proof that all a girl needs is one great friend to back up her most outrageous claims…or crimes.  Oh yes, and the girls know how to deliver a putdown.  “I hope your babies look like monkeys.”  Wish I’d said that.

Thelma & Louise

Well, who wouldn’t want to be Thelma or Louise – run off on a road trip with your best girlfriend, meet hunky Brad Pitt for some great sex, blast through the desert in your convertible with the top down, the wind in your hair and the radio on high, robbing convenience stores and shooting off guns along the way?   If this was a male road trip movie, they’d be getting drunk and getting laid without learning a darn thing from the experience.  Instead, realizing it’s unlikely they’ll ever have such a good time again (after all one is married and the other is wanted for murder) they drive off a cliff.  Friends to the bitter end.

The Witches of Eastwick

Like many tangled friendships, Cher, Michele Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon are best friends until devilish Jack Nicolson comes into their life, seduces them each in turn and stirs up envy and rivalry.  Unlike anyone we’ve dated, however, he gives them magic powers – big mistake!  And once they’ve disposed of him they get to live in his mansion and can fly around on their broomsticks and presumably conjure up dinner without calling for take-out.

Charlie’s Angels.

Sure, on the surface this movie is about three gorgeous karate-punching ass-kicking babes working for the mysterious Charlie, investigating crime and beating up bad guys.  Not so different from you and me then. But what’s really appealing is the camaderie and fun – these are gals that really like their job and the women they work with – no bitchy office politics here, they’re too busy wisecracking and dressing up in really cool disguises.

 A League Of Their Own

Who says women aren’t team players?  True, there’s some bitchiness and cattiness as Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell etc take over from the guys as baseball players when the men are at war and prove they’re just as tough and talented as any male team.  But it’s the chemistry between them that makes this movie sparkle, some great one-liners and, at the end of the day, it shows real female solidarity.  There’s no crying in baseball after all.

Steel Magnolias

Multi-generational women support each other through good times and tragedy in a small Southern town.  These are funny argumentative women who are as likely to pull an all-nighter at your hospital bed as dance at your wedding… which is the way we like our friends.  OK, the movie’s actually a wee bit sappy but it has a great cast and they’re always up for a bit of gossip.  “Well, as somebody always said: if you can’t say anything nice about anybody, come sit by me!” 

Beaches

I didn’t WANT to but I had to include it.  The two girls meet as kids.  (Can’t help feeling would have been much easier if Facebook had existed back then instead of all those letters.) There is a love triangle: Bette Midler has the talent and personality, Barbara Hershey has looks, money and class.  Guess who the guy falls for? Barbara Hershey, of course, but somehow Bette ends up marrying him.  Once the husbands are out of the picture and the women – long estranged – admit their lifelong jealousy, the friendship resumes… until Barbara dies of a fatal disease and Bette has to raise her daughter – which might not be as drastic as barbecuing an abusive husband but still qualifies as serious payback.

For more insight on female friendships, good and bad, don’t forget to download When Good Friends Go Bad, free on Amazon.com this weekend through 4th August.

 

They're funny, they're gorgeous and yes… they're free!

NEWS FLASH!!!!!

To mark our official launch of When Good Friends Go Bad and How to Survive Your Sisters in the USA, we are doing a series of promotions. The fabulous new covers have all been created by Andrew Brown, Design for Writers and we think he has done a brilliant job.

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 *GOOD READS GIVEAWAYS*

Want to win a free paperback version of these novels?  We are holding three Good Reads Giveaways– 2 copies of each book: When Good Friends Go Bad, How To Survive Your Sisters and Looking For La La.  Sign up now and try your luck.

Dates for your diary:  NOW until 13th August – on Good Reads. 

*FREE KINDLE COPIES*

For those who use kindles (or smartphones, ipads or PC’s with kindle aps) there are three more dates to put in your calendar.

Looking for La La

In celebration of National Parents’ Day on 28th July… this weekend we’re holding a FREE downloads of Looking For La La globally  through Amazon.  So whether you’re a mother who needs a little moral support, a parent who needs a hug, or a chick lit lover who appreciates a good laugh, you can find out for yourself why Looking For La La has been getting 5 star reviews and was rated the #3 Humor bestseller on Amazon UK.

Dates for your diary:  26th, 27th and 28th July, free Kindle copies of Looking For La La on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Starting like, NOW,  all the way through to Sunday midnight.

 So if any or all of these three novels are on your wishlist, now’s your chance.  Get downloading, get entering and tell all.

It’s Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

With a little help from my friends… MISTAKEN: the movie.

MISTAKEN: an indie thriller.  (Or how a Nandos chicken dinner saved the entire film production.)

Sadly I (Lorraine) have missed my and only chance to become a movie star, being in the USA when our nephew Anthony was casting his friends and family members in a full-length thriller he wrote, directed, starred in and produced himself. As the July 20th premiere at the Cineworld in Wandsworth, London approaches, I decided to interview him.


What made you decide to make a movie?Anthony head

I missed acting, and wanted to be in a film.Figured it was quicker to make one than do years of casting for a lead role.

Did you ever think you’d achieve what you have – did you have doubts?

Never beyond my wildest dreams… actually if you told me we’d get a cinema box office showing, and a DVD release is on the cards, I would have laughed.

How old were you when you started and how old were you when you finished?

23-27

What was your budget? 

I’ll tell you once I’ve sold it.

How did you get the equipment?  Actors?  Locations?

I bought the equipment wanting to start making wedding videos. I turned to friends for actors. Some I asked, some asked me. Some I nagged. A lot. Some I bribed with chicken dinners.

How was it directing amateurs as actors?

GunfireVery different to how it’s normally done. There are very few long scenes in the film and a lot of switching angles during the scenes. It was a case of pointing the camera at them and making them say the line over and over until they said it the way I wanted. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get the same direction with my performance. Some people really grew as actors and some had some surprising natural ability. Using friends definitely gives better out takes for sure. Like Jamie’s line ‘you’re bleeding from your femoral artery’ which came out as ‘you’re bleeding from your feminal orgy.’  Priceless.  And Mat’s Italian accent always sounded French – unless he was shouting and then it sounded German.

What did you think/ foresee would be your biggest challenges?

Biggest challenge by far was keeping people interested long enough to keep mistaken - suitsturning up for more scenes. One of my friends was super keen to play a hit man and halfway through decided he didn’t want to do it any more.  I had to bribe him with a Nando’s chicken dinner. Another friend was cast in a major role but twice failed to show up when we were scheduled to shoot.  When we finally managed to get him back on set a second time, we killed him off instantly.  He kept saying, ‘this isn’t in the script.’… hah, hah. Thankfully I had a few friends who were really keen from start to finish.  It was hard enough getting 10+ people to take a day off work to come and film all on the same day Plus we needed good weather on the day…. in England! 

How did you come up with the idea for the script?

I dreamed I was being chased by loads of different hitmen. I’d escape one and round the corner there’d be another one waiting for me. I woke up sweating and thought if I could translate that to a movie and make it half as entertaining as the dream I’d be winning.

What were your roles in the film?

Writer, Director, Producer, Actor, Editor, and Special Effects.

Did you have any experience in writing, directing, producing, editing?

None to begin with – I’d won a competition or two making football videos, and filmed a few weddings. That’s it.  I learned filmmaking with constant months/years on Google and tutorials on YouTube. A few books too. 3/4 of the ‘Mistaken’ process was about learning, making mistakes and correcting them.

What help did you receive?

mistaken - filmingA lot. Apart from various friends playing cameramen, and the huge amount of extras. We had some amazing locations such as Nonsuch Mansion (designed by King Henry VIII) in Surrey. They were supporting local projects and let us use the Mansion for our film. We had help from local police, councils, my old work offices, a farmer with a barn in Devon, mine and friends’ families, and all sorts. People were really keen to help out, which was immense. I’ve got a long list of people to thank.

What was the biggest drawback of using friends and family?

I think you are taking people out of their comfort zone when not using experienced actors, which they don’t always like. However, it’s character building, and I would say everyone is a better person for it. I don’t think anyone looks back thinking “shit I regret that”. Although Mat was initially drafted in as an extra for one scene only and decided to grow a funny-looking beard for the day’s shoot.  Because he turned out to be really good and was keen, he became one of the main characters.  He had to live with that stupid beard for three years.

What were your biggest surprises?

How much is involved in making a film. I thought I’d get it done over one summer and it would be amazing. Three years later…   In fact because it took so long we had an issue with the main detective character, (Jamie), putting on weight.  He starts thin, gets chubby midway through and then slims back down at the end because I stuck him on a diet.  I think we just about get away with it.

What were some of your funniest moments?

Mistaken - screamJamie couldn’t say I love you convincingly to his on screen wife (who was his girlfriend at the time) – that was funny.  Someone called the police on us when we were filming an over-motorway shot because they thought the camera was a bazooka.   The one real actor we hired found it hilarious that the make-up artist wasn’t on set and we had to drive to her house to get make-up put on first while her mum made us all tea.  Another of my friends had a really bad upset stomach on the day of his scene.  He was in a lot of pain while filming a big shoot-out… he started begging me to kill him so he could go home.

And then there were the ten hitmen that we talked a start-up extras company into supplying.  When we got to the location there were these massive scary-looking blokes waiting for us. We were all debating who was going to fight them… and at first none of us even wanted to go over and say hello. I said to mat ‘OK, you’re fighting that huge bald bloke, ha ha.’  Of course they were all great people to have in the film and really helpful.

Also I lured another friend Pedrum in to film in the middle of December.  He came wearing his best suit and the script had him down to be thrown into a rubbish bin or trash dumpster.  At the last minute I opted to chuck him in the freezing swimming pool. It was a bit mean but funny.

How about stunts – any challenges there?

I had to drive a car at my sister in one of the scenes while operating the camera at the same time. I also had to make a 6 foot jump off a roof onto the top of a van. Mat had to get dangerously close to a cliff edge in one scene and we nearly dropped the camera off the cliff.  And Jamie managed to stab himself with a knife in the chin during a fight scene.  It was at his heaviest stage so his brother kept asking ‘which chin did he stab?’

Did you ever lose heart?

Yes, once – for 6 months. Then I carried on and didn’t look back.  In the middle of it too I did a round the world trip which I’d had planned for ages.  I did a rough cut of the film before I went, which I was really pleased with. I didn’t show it to anyone. When I came back I hated it and decided to work on it for a further year. The ‘creative break’ did wonders for the film.

How did you manage the special effects?  Blowing up buildings? 

I filmed the building and added all the effects in afterwards. I had to do a lot of research into how I’d make this happen. I found some great packages online, and spent literally months on tutorials.

What was most difficult for you  in the whole process?

DSC_1401Biggest sacrifice was time – in the end I had to take some time off working to get it finished. I had to learn an awful lot and there were probably about 30 different versions of the movie before I was happy with it. I was broke, skint, totally penniless. I went out in the same pair of cheap Primark boots so many times that it became an ongoing joke amongst friends as to how battered they’d get before I’d finally stop wearing them. I’m now finding them hard to throw away – they make me laugh every time I look at them. I lost a girlfriend over the film too… it took up every minute I had.  I wouldn’t change any of it though.

What do you think will happen now?

I think we’ll easily get a DVD release. The trick is convincing the world to watch it. I hope more people will attempt what I have. Maybe ‘Mistaken’ might inspire someone out there to try it themselves.

What do you want to do next – what are your wildest hopes and dreams?

Well, first is the Mistaken premiere on 20th July at the Cineworld in Wandsworth.  I’m working on content for a couple of YouTube channels I want to launch. Then I have amazing ideas for more films and also some crazy website ideas. I’m always going to be learning more and making (hopefully) better and better things. I’ve just learnt the hard way to do one thing at a time.

For more information on Mistaken and future films ‘Like’ us – www.facebook.com/takehomeproductions and follow @takehomefilms on twitter.

"London To Paris… on a tandem? Do I look crazy?"

The Reluctant Cyclist

That time of year again. Ugh!

I loathe exercise with a passion. Oh, I’ll happily walk the dog, toil at my allotment, play badminton, even drag my cumbersome vacuum cleaner around the house until perspiration pours off me and I’m cursing like a trucker.  But aerobic classes, treadmills, rowing machines and all those other scarily complicated contraptions…double ugh!   And the worst?  Cycling.

Which does not jive well with my marriage.

A few years back, when my marathon-running, bike-racing, mountain climbing, bungee-jumping, sky-diving, fire-walking husband asked me to cycle to Paris on a charity challenge, I guffawed loudly and slapped him on the back for cracking a good one.   After all he was well aware I’d rather do an Irish jig on a bed of nails.  When I realised he was actually serious and I’d retrieved my jaw from the floor, my answer was a firm “Not on your Nelly”. He was undeterred.  Six months later, broken by mysterious powers of persuasion my husband has perfected over the years, I found myself on the back of a rickety old £100 tandem cycling through the Bois de Boulogne heading for the Eiffel Tower.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArrival at Trocadéro

A tough 3 days.  175 miles and not without incidents.  The group had endless punctures, my bum felt like it had been whipped by a cat o’ nine tails, plus I got a bad stomach en-route. I’ll spare the details. Suffice to say there are very few public toilets alongside the River Seine.

So, challenge over, did that sate my husband’s appetite to get his exercise-phobic wife to join in with his charity fundraising? As heck as like.  Cycle challenge followed cycle challenge. Next year Redhill, Surrey, UK to:

Brussels

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA‘Bike It Belgium”

230 miles.  My my stomach held up, but my lower back kept spasming due to the flatness of the route and being unable to change positions. I blamed it all on the saddle. I raised it I lowered it. I raised it again. I popped pills. I cried (a bit). There were constant thunderstorms. We’d get drenched, then the sun would appear, we’d smile as steam would rise from our wet bodies, then we’d get drenched again.  Never have I been so clean.  Or cold. Or hot. Or wet. 

Coast to Coast

Coast to coast

C2C” – I never knew England had so many hills

Started with our back wheels in the Irish sea at Whitehaven (West Coast), finished with our front wheels dipping into the North Sea at Newcastle (East Coast). 140 miles of horrendous hills, stunning countryside, more horrendous hills, more stunning views.  We crossed the Lake District, Penrith, the Eden valley, Northern Pennines and Durham Dales.  “Push push push”, my husband urged as we tackled another sheer climb.  I felt I was giving birth all over again. I wished I was giving birth all over again. At least I could have opted for gas and air.

Montpelier,   South of France

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Red2Med” -I’m the one in the middle not wearing the “official cycle shirt”.   It emphasised my stomach. (Vain, moi?)

630 miles over ten days.  Searing heat, especially as we neared the Mediterranean.  Main memory is the last few miles, lying almost sideways on the bike, trying to keep out of the sun and saddle, begging every five minutes for a break or water.  Tearful with pain and tiredness. When we got there, all ran joyously into the sea. I just lay on the ground exhausted, shellshocked. I swore I’d never do another one.

Gibraltar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Red2Rock”

How’d I know we’d have a monstrous 4800 foot climb almost as soon as we left the Spanish port of Santander? We were almost beaten and we’d only just begun.  Had I attended the briefings, I’d have realised a) there were three mountain ranges to go over before hitting Gibraltar (otherwise known as “The Rock”) b) that that the whole trip totalled 800 miles and c) that temperatures would soar to 41 degrees (105.8F) as we neared Seville.  We found ourselves slightly insane with the heat. At one point our small group, spotting a river running by, veered sharply off-route, threw down our bikes and dived in fully OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAclothed. As days went on, to avoid cycling the 80 odd miles per day in blistering temperatures, we’d leave in the wee dark hours. Huge great trucks hurtled past with inches to spare as we’d wind our way up mountain roads – tiny head torches lighting our pitch-black path.  I faced my fears of downhills on that trip. Racing down a steep mountainside my husband told me to use my “never to be touched on pain of death” back brake.  I yanked it hard, nothing happened.

“I said brake!” he yelled as we gathered speed, now reaching over 40 miles per hour.

“I am doing!” I yelled back, “Use your front ones.”

“I am doing!” he replied. For a moment I knew I was dead as we headed for a tight bend, then he added with a laugh, “Only joking,” and braked violently.  The day I lost my sense of humour.

La Rochelle

2011 July La Rochelle - July 2011“French 500” -He even used those powers of persuasion to rope in our daughter(We’re smiling but it’s only pure relief)

We’d done France twice, so why again? After Gibraltar the sound of a challenge with no mountains seemed like a doddle.  Through the lush Loire Valley.  I imagined myself arriving early, sipping chilled wine as the sun went down.  How was I to know (again ignoring information evenings) that we’d arrive late at campsites, exhausted by the long mileage. Last day was the worst.  Cycling against a strong headwind. On and on we went heads down, legs aching, not getting anywhere.  Swimming against the current.

Amsterdam

IMG_2668“Amsterdam 500”

500 kilometers – 310 miles – through France, Belgium and Holland. Thankfully lot of ferry crossings. Which meant lots of breaks.  At least this one was flat once we hit France.

Paris twice more

2005 June Paris

The route to Paris is now firmly etched in my mind. I know all the ups and downs all the way to the first night’s stop at Newhaven.  Ferry to Dieppe.  Then more up and downs to Gournay.  I know all the staggeringly high hills in and out of tiny villages, the long flat miles along the Avenue Verte and later the Seine. I know exactly how many miles I have to do before my back goes into spasm, or my stomach starts playing up and when I have to pop the pills.  I know where the toilet and lunch stops are. I am not doing this one again.

So this year’s challenge is ‘vonderful, vonderful’ Copenhagen (as Danny Kaye once sang).  Although I may not feel so wonderful when I arrive.  Over 100 miles per day for 3 days.  First morning we have to be up at 3am to leave at 4  then cycle 105 miles to the port. AND IF WE DON’T GET THERE ON TIME WE MISS THE FERRY.

No pressure then.

As ever, I’m avoiding husband’s emails to me and the other 50 or so brave souls cajoled into doing this, preferring to keep head firmly under stone, trying to “be really, really busy” on training dates, praying for rain, faking fever, encouraging him to take his racing bike instead of the heavy old tandem with the even heavier wife perched on the back.

So… To Date:

tandem~66[1]Have I lost weight?

No.

Do I feel fitter?

No.

Does my bum stop hurting now I have some “miles under the saddle”?

No.

Will I say never again?

Yes.

Will I do another next year?

Probably.

What am I?  Mad?  Certifiably insane?

Very definitely.

10 Things We Loved About Our Mother

Since it’s Mother’s Day here in the States, we wanted to do a tribute to our ‘dear old mum’.    She was a character all right, feisty, funny, unique… Her are just ten of the many attributes we loved about her.

1.  Her Lack Of Prejudice

pam mum croppedShe loved people of all colours, races, ethnicities, backgrounds.  She accepted all, not giving a hoot where people came from or what they did for a living or what others said about them.  (Although she did secretly want us both to marry Sidney Poitier).  She was an army nurse in India during the war, posted to Singapore and Japan just after the surrender. She’d learned enough foreign expressions to be dangerous.  She’d walk in Chinese restaurants and say “Please” and “Thank you” in Japanese, oblivious of the great traditional hatred between those two nations. We were always expecting an enraged Chinese cook to burst from the kitchen and attack her with his cleaver.  But somehow she won them over.

2.  Her Hatred of Housework

She loathed housework so much that she turned the whole thing into a game for us four children. Making beds meant we had to stand opposite each other, yell “One two three” then somersault over the other side before tucking the sheets in.   Repeated until the whole bed was made. She’d wash blankets in the bath, plonking us on top to trample them under water. Polishing wood floors consisted of us all having rags tied to our feet and skating around the room to her favourite pop music – Tom Jones or Elvis.  And like Peggy in How To Survive Your Sisters she’d put aside unpleasant tasks for the maid, Mary, and then when she could procrastinate no longer she’d play-act at being ‘Mary, the maid’ to get them done.

3.  Her Love of Singing

Elvis_Presley_promoting_Jailhouse_RockBoy would she sing!  Every day, all day. Whenever, wherever, and usually at the top of her voice, which was a great source of embarrassment to all of her children.  (Like when we’d pass school friends and she’d be singing some Hawaiian song and waving her arms Hula style). Her voice wasn’t completed tuneless and she knew all the words to all the musicals and made sure we did too. We heard every war song, every music hall number from the 30s and (oddly) all the old negro spirituals and minstrel songs.  Many a long Scottish winter night was spent huddled around the fire with song sheets singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Way Down Upon De Swanee River”.  But she also loved “Elvis the Pelvis,” Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck – just as long as they were shaking and grinding those hips.

4.  Her Culinary Skills

She made great chips (French fries) but apart from that…  Her steaks were shoe leather.  Vegetables overcooked and soggy.  Porridge like glue. You could break a tooth on her scones – but then all baked goods were saved for unexpected visitors and given to us when well and truly stale. She’d toast just one side of the bread under the grill and tell us it was “French”. She burned everything, the oven was constantly puffing out black fumes. It wasn’t until we left home we realized fried onions weren’t always black charred cinders.  And the war had made her frugal.  Green mould on the bread or cheese? “It’s penicillin, darling.  It’s good for you.”  Clumps of soured milk floating on top of your cup of tea?  “Perfectly fine, just give it a stir.”    And she had her own way of making us eat things.  “But I made it specially for you, darling.  I knew it was your favourite.’

5.  Her Sense of Humour

There’s a scene in How to Survive your Sisters where a neighbor and friend, heading to the shops, teases Peggy about her lack of gardening skills, suggesting she’ll be lucky to get anything growing in that small dusty patch, and when she walks back, Peggy’s previously bare front yard is a riot of colour – planted with plastic daffodils, roses and tulips, given free in those days with boxes of laundry soap.   That friend laughed about it for years.  That was Mum.  And a true story.  She loved to joke, tell funny stories and find any way to brighten people’s day.  She could put a comic spin on anything, even adversity and personal disasters.    She had quite a hard life in some ways but never looked for sympathy.

6.  Her lack of embarrassment

She once stood behind a young male hippy at a bus stop and said in a loud voice, “You know they grow their hair long so they can be pulled up to heaven”.   She’d boldly walk past “No Entry”, “Keep Out”, “No Trespassing” signs with us timidly behind convinced we were about to get arrested.   She would chat to everybody and anybody. Reveal all our secrets. Tell everyone how her daughters “aren’t interested in boys.  They spend all their time up the tree at the bottom of the garden”. Fine when you’re six but not sixteen!

 7.  Her Love of the Great Outdoors

SP_A0251Life was much too much fun to spend indoors.  “Blow the housework,” she’d say, sticking on her hat, grabbing her bag and running up the road with us in tow to the nearest bus stop.  (She didn’t learn to drive until we’d long grown up).  We’d go off on jaunts, up to the Braid Hills, to the beach at Portobello or her favourite Corstorphine Woods, frequently getting lost because she refused to take the same route back. Once she spotted a rope hanging from a tall tree, grabbed it and swung over a huge bomb crater, forgetting to jump until she was at the highest point. How we laughed when she emerged covered in mud and leaves.

8.  Her Love of Animals

Sylvarr horseShe’d go out of her way to rescue animals.  Be it a bee or an ant.  Spiders would be lifted very carefully under a glass and removed to the garden.  She hated cruelty of any description and all the animals that we grew up with, cats, dogs, rabbits, were all from rescue centres.   She once went down a shallow disused well to save a dog and we two (maybe 8 and 10 years old) had the almost impossible task of pulling her back out.  Another time she walked around for three day with a baby rabbit tucked in her bosom as he had missed his brother and sister rabbits who had found good homes. She encouraged both of us in our love of horses and urged us to go and ask down at the local stables if we could help out. Later, when we were desperate for a horse of our own, she coughed up her hard earned money to help us buy it.

  9.  Nothing was Off Limits

We knew that whatever we did wrong, we had her forgiveness and her support. She was unshockable.  Not that we were really terrible kids, but we were given free rein at a young age to wander wherever, come back whenever.  She trusted us and we always knew that we could talk to her about anything.  If there was some sort of infighting between friends, she wouldn’t necessarily jump to our defence, but she’d try and make us see the other person’s point of view, while acknowledging our pain or anger.  She had a real gift for finding the right balance between interfering and just being there.  We always knew she was behind us loving us and backing us in whatever we wanted to do.

 10.  Her laugh

You could hear it a mile off.  A cross between a sealion and a braying donkey.  She loved laughing and would find numerous things in daily life hilariously funny.  If our friends were around to play, we’d be dreading somebody saying something vaguely amusing as it would set her off.  She also loved making people laugh and would think of numerous ways to brighten up all occasions.  Many years ago when she was nursing, there was a dying patient, and she’d tell him all her stories about her bicycle called Mathilda.  “Oh Mathilda and I went off to Chichester this afternoon”, “Mathilda and I are going on a ride along the sea front”, “I bought Mathilda a new bell yesterday”. The patient, a young soldier, seemed fascinated.  So, against all rules and regulations, one day, she put ribbons all over Mathilda and wheeled the bike, all dressed up into the ward to show him.  The patient was thrilled. The Matron was not. Even when she was dying herself, with an inoperable brain tumour, she would have the nurses in hysterics with her mad jokes and silly sayings.  They all came to her funeral.

Oh how we’d love to hear her laughter once more.

We love you, Mum!

Pam and Lorraine  xxxx

FREE – LAST DAY TODAY. This is the last day to get your free Kindle download of Looking For La La from Amazon US or UK.  That book deals with a mother too – and someone is sending love postcards to her husband…  Don’t miss it.

Loincloths, spankings and 'Sexy Rexys' – 10 classic movies (and actors)to make our Mother swoon.

In honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day (May 12th in the States) Pam and I have compiled a countdown of the old classic movies and stars that won my mother’s heart. And yes, there does seem to be a common thread.

10. Samson and Delilah.

Victor_Mature_-_publicity

Mum had a thing for Victor Mature. He ran around in Biblical epics like ‘the Robe” and ‘Demetrius and the Gladiators’ displaying his shaved bare chest, emanating square-jawed virility. He was what Mum called a ‘sexy rexy’. She wasn’t particularly religious so I don’t think it was the content that thrilled her so much as those muscular thighs.

9. Tarzan.

Tarzan_the_Ape_Man_1932_posterWe had to watch every Tarzan movie that ever came out and it wasn’t just for the elephants and chimpanzees. Nothing thrilled Mum more than a man in a loincloth (see Victor Mature). Especially if he was pounding his chest, yodelling and flying through the air on a dangling vine or diving into a jungle pool and emerging half-naked and dripping wet. Her favorite Tarzan was Johnny Weismuller who was an Olympic gold medallist. She liked the other Tarzans too although we were all somewhat dubious about the one who ran around in slippers. In the jungle? Really?

8. Spartacus.

Another stud in a loincloth (see Tarzan and Victor Mature) although any movie Spartacus_-_1960_-_poster (1)with Kirk Douglas was a fave. He was a bit too intense for us as children but he was the definition of manliness and Mum liked his passion and the dimple on his chin which I convinced Pam was caused by falling on a nail. She liked his son Michael Douglas too until she saw him in Fatal Attraction having sex on the kitchen sink with Glenn Close. We could never persuade her that it wasn’t real and they were merely acting. But then again who knows… After all Mum was right about David Bowie (and all the other stick-thin pop singers) being on drugs in the 70s when we as innocent teenagers hotly denied the possibility.

7. Robin Hood.  Or Captain Blood.

Robin_hood_movieposterErrol Flynn was a real Hollywood bad boy, handsome, dashing, with a womanizing reputation and a flashing blade that dared anyone to suggest his tights were in the tiniest way unmasculine. He laughed with head flung back, hands on hips, his grin was pure devilment and when he swept a woman into his arms…. Well, no wonder Mum swooned. We did too.

6. Top Hat.

astaire_rogers - CopyWe could never miss a Fred Astaire musical, not matter how often it was repeated on TV. Didn’t matter if he looked like a turtle and lacked some of the physical attributes of the loincloth brigade. My mum and grandmother always had the same eternally entertaining conversation as Fred tripped lightly around the ballroom with Ginger in his arms. Nana: “I just don’t understand why he didn’t marry Ginger Rogers.” Mum: “Because she couldn’t stand the man, Mother.” Two minute pause, then… Nana: “It’s such a shame those two never married.” Mum: “Mother, I just told you, she hated him.” And so on until closing credits.

5. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.

Seven_brides_seven_brothersHoward Keel was big and brash with a fine head of hair, a swagger in his step, and a beautiful deep voice. Mum loved him in buckskins singing “Bless Your Beautiful Hide” and slapping his thigh and she loved him as Fred/Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate, waggling his funny pointed beard and spanking Kathryn Grayson. There was nothing like a good spanking to titillate the older generation. I seem to remember Maureen O’Sullivan was always being bent over John Wayne’s knee in all those old Westerns and given a sound thrashing to show her who was boss.

4. Going My Way.

220px-BingCrosbyTheBellsofSaintMarysTrailerScreenshot1945Yeah, Bing Crosby could always make her cry but put him in a dogcollar standing over a dying priest singing ‘Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra’… You’d need boxes of Kleenex. Maybe a bucket.

3. Singing In The Rain.

Singing_in_the_rain_posterWell, of course. Terrific story, fantastic singing, dancing and comedy and it starred two of mum’s favorites, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Gene Kelly could do no wrong, especially dancing in a downpour with his good looks, natural athleticism and unstudied grace. But Donald O’Connor almost elbowed him out of mum’s heart clowning about in the song, ‘Make ‘Em Laugh.’

2. The King and I.

Lawrence_BrynnerNo offence to Rex Harrison who played the role in the dramatic film version, Anna and the King of Siam, but there’s no way he could compete with Yul Brynner. Bald head, exotic accent, open-legged arrogant stance, Yul played the fiercely unpredictable king with colourful costumes and yet another bare chest – what’s not to love! Yes, there’s some great musical numbers. – ‘ Whistle A Happy Tune could be Mum’s theme song – but Yul as the King of Siam, prowling around his palace, barking out orders followed by ‘etcetera, etcetera, etcetera’ to a bemused but feisty schoolteacher, was the showstopper. Not to mention the story of star-crossed lovers was guaranteed to get the tear ducts flowing.

1. Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.

Poitier_croppedBig stars in this one – Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn but most of all…trumpet blast, please… Sidney Poitier. He was Mum’s all-time hero, partly because he was tall, handsome and soft-spoken, partly because he’d done the unthinkable in his era, become a black leading man and box office star, the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. And this was such a great movie. Even if Sidney spends all of it wearing a boring old suit.

DON’T MISS OUT. 

To celebrate Mother’s Day USA we’re holding a two day giveaway weekend  for our new novel, Looking for La La.  Free Kindle Downloads on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th at Amazon.Com and Amazon.co.uk.