Project Lifestyle – February Career Workstream

Project Lifestyle Purple Cover

It’s taken me a while to think about February’s Career Workstream or at least get some focus on it. I started off wanting to work on my attention to detail and find some tools to help me with that but I’ve struggled. I’ve not been motivated to go above and beyond my normal work load. I have scheduled in extra time to review the reports I produce in my job and plan to review them as though I was reading a book and reading the words for the first time, but I now can’t put that into practice until next month. So I needed to look at something else.

Then it hit me – Work Ethic.

Everyone has a different work ethic and commitment to their jobs. I struggle with comparing myself to other people at work. I haven’t yet learnt to monitor my own performance other than through appraisal systems or from other people’s feedback. I want to develop a improved work ethic where I am happy with my own performance and stop comparing myself to others.

But first of all I needed to do some research on work ethic and different styles.

“Work ethics pertain to a person’s attitudes, feelings and beliefs about work. The state of a person’s work ethic determines how that person relates to occupational responsibilities such as goal-setting, accountability, task completion, autonomy, reliability, cooperation, communication,honesty, effort, timeliness, determination, leadership, volunteerism and dedication. A strong work ethic – one that encompasses a positive and productive approach to work – is favored in the work force.” Wiki How

I have a strong work ethic:

  • I like to do a good, or excellent even, job

  • I like to meet all deadlines in plenty of times

  • I like to look for ways to improve or make myself more efficient

  • I like to help others

  • I don’t like leaving things unfinished

  • I like to be proactive (but it’s something I would like to improve upon)

  • I don’t like wasting time (I will find something to do at all times)

  • I don’t like doing things without knowing the value they will provide

  • I like to responsible for my work

  • I like to receive feedback as long as it is constructive

  • I like to be engaged in my work

  • I like to be challenged to try new things

  • I’m not afraid to ask for help and support

  • I prefer to work alone, but as part of a wider team (I like to own my role and be clear about what I do and how it adds value)

  • I like to be organised and prepared

  • I like to plan ahead and be prepared for work coming my way

  • I like to have to do list that I can cross things off of

  • I like to catch up with people while making tea

  • I like meetings to be focused and prepared

  • I don’t like unclear instructions

  • I like to do the best i can do with the time I have

However there are times I feel lazy or like I’m not doing enough work. I will often have a word document open to get out my thoughts or write things that end up being blog posts while in work at my desk. It feels as though I’m doing something, yet I feel guilty about doing it as know there must be something work related I should be doing. I have to remember that I have only been in my job a few months. I don’t know everything and I’m definitely still be over cautious in my approach. However I can’t keep on waiting for work to come to me. I have to take the initiative and make my own.

I decided to take another look at the values my organisation wants from it’s employees:

  • Love Places

  • Share Our Common Purpose

  • Inspire People

  • Think Long Term

Looking at these made me think again. I value these things and the additional details provided. I do some better than others and there are definitely things that are not my strong points, but I don’t disagree with them.  So what I am going to do is print off the values and behaviours and work through them and provide examples for each and improvement ideas for going forward. This will span over a few months most likely and are really what I am going for this year in the Project Lifestyle. I would like to get to the end of the project knowing I can demonstrate all of the values and behaviours so when my contract is nearing an end I’ll be able to apply for new roles and hopefully higher roles with confidence.

Adventures in Books… Blog Tour Cut Dead and Author Interview with Mark Sennen

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Cut Dead by Mark Sennen Released 27th February 2014

“‘He could be out there right now. Passing you on the street. You’d never know …’

DI Charlotte Savage is back, chasing a killer who was last at large ten years ago, a killer they presumed dead … Now he’s back and more dangerous than ever.

When three headless bodies are found mutilated in a pit, it’s a particularly challenging case for DI Savage and her team. The bodies bear the hallmarks of a killer who was never caught, last at large ten years ago, butchering girls on Midsummer’s Day.

Could this be a copycat or has the original killer resurfaced? With a steady stream of bodies arriving at the morgue and gruesome secrets from the past emerging DI Savage is up against it to find the killer before he attacks again? The past has caught up with them. And so has he…”

This is the third book in this series by Mark Sennen and although I normally read series form the beginning I was sent this book for review as part of the Blog Tour, so haven’t read the previous ones. I thought that might annoy me, but I really enjoyed this book. I like crime books where I don’t see the twists coming. and this falls into that category for me.

The story follows Charlotte Savage as she and her team investigate the discovery of several bodies and the disappearances of a single women every year. We get introduced the killer early on in the book, but we don’t know who they are, only brief glimpses inside his mind.  It’s creepy and thrilling to discover more about the killer each time.

I enjoyed learning about DCI Savage as well.  She is strong women working in a predominantly male world. She is also dealing with personal tragedy from her past, which we find out about and the story develops as additional plot to main story of the crimes. I like sub plots as they often allow you to get to know the characters better and in this case they really worked for me.

The premise or motive for the crimes was interesting. The cakes left by the killer at each crime scene was intriguing. It kept me glued to the book to find out why these women were chosen and then how they were chosen. At the end of the book I thought it all came together very well.

Overall I thought it was a well written and smart book that kept me engaged and wanting to find out more about the main characters and of course who did it!

Hi Mark Sennen! Welcome to Wandering Angie! I’ve just finished reading Cut Dead and found it thrilling to read. Could you tell us a bit about your book, Cut Dead?

In Cut Dead DI Savage finds herself chasing another serial killer as a cold case suddenly turns hot. The signature of this particular killer is that he takes his victims on the longest day of the year. As the book opens we are just seven days before midsummer…

Where did you get your inspiration to start writing and then to write this book?

I started writing a science fiction novel way back, eventually completing it in the year two thousand. The book did the rounds of several agents, but none liked it. I then began a novel featuring Harry, the killer in Touch, but never finished it. It was when the Amazon Kindle came out that I was inspired to get on and rework what I had into Touch. All I wanted to do was write something and have a few other people read it. Amazon gave me (and everyone else) that opportunity.

For Cut Dead it wasn’t so much inspiration as perspiration. As the third book in the series I knew it would be the clincher if I was to get another deal. Although many people have said Bad Blood (book two) was a much better book than Touch (book one), it wasn’t as popular. It was the creepiness in Touch that readers enjoyed. I didn’t want quite the same elements in Cut Dead, but I knew I had to produce something equally disturbing. I don’t know whether I succeeded, but I certainly scared myself writing it!

I really like books out now that involve a strong female lead, what made you chose to base the book around Charlotte Savage?

I, too, like strong female leads. Conversely I don’t get on at all well with strong male leads, neither do I particularly like the stereotypical male detective who’s a failure with women, tends to drink and has an unhealthy knowledge of a particular music genre. I think there’s room for one or two, but every time? No. When I began to write the first book in the series, Touch, Savage was a man (although not named Savage). I really struggled to get him on the page and what did appear was either too bland or fitted the stereotype. To avoid the stereotype I tried to make him a family man, but I couldn’t get the passion to flow. His wife, who was in the Royal Navy, turned out to be a stronger character. Pretty soon I realized I had the characters the wrong way around: Charlotte (still not yet Savage) would need to be the detective and her husband, Pete, was now the naval officer.

Did you base the character of Charlotte on someone you’ve met or a character you are particularly fond of?

No, but I guess like many characters she’s a composite of real and fictional women and men. It’s going back a bit but I loved the Ellen Riply character in Aliens. Funnily enough I believe in James Cameron’s first script she too was a man.

I found the crimes themselves very unnerving, how do you research and come up with ideas for these characters and parts of the books? 

Writing the killer is always the part I find easiest! I have read an awful lot of ‘true crime’ serial killer books (and some were truly awful) and while I don’t take any ideas from them directly all the depravity rubs off. I’ve also found that whatever fiction can throw up, real life is far, far worse. The deeds of real serial killers would never work as fiction because they are too horrible and because there is rarely any motive. For me only when the killer has a motive does the story work. I need to try and put myself in their position and feel the anger or frustration which causes them to kill. It’s not easy and is unnerving for me too, but a piece of writing advice I read once was to go one step beyond what you find comfortable. In other words to look at the page and think ‘what could be worse than this?’ In Cut Dead I distinctly remember a scene where I thought I’d gone too far. I put the question to my editor. Her answer was ‘no, it’s fine’! (just so you know where she’s coming from in Bad Blood, book two, she said at one point ‘I think we might need another body…’)

This is the first book I’ve read of yours and I would love to read more about Charlotte savage life before this story, could you tell me a bit about your previous books and future plans for the character?

Touch and Bad Blood are the first two books in the series.

In Touch we are introduced to Charlotte and the Major Crimes’ team as they hunt down a killer. We learn about Charlotte’s loss (the death of her daughter) and how this feeds into her desire to stop others getting hurt. The book is written from several viewpoints, particularly from that of the killer. While we don’t feel a whole lot of empathy for him, I’d say it’s OK to express a little sympathy, especially when we learn the whole story (not that Charlotte feels this way, of course!).

In Bad Blood DI Savage is hunting a very different type of killer and DS Darius Riley becomes as much a part of the book as Savage. There’s a more complicated storyline involving members of Plymouth’s underworld and introducing some new ongoing characters. Bad Blood was a challenge to write as it involved merging together multiple storylines – historical and present – but I discovered that this is what I enjoy. I don’t plan anything and the thrill when it all magically comes together is the best bit about writing.

I can’t tell you much about future plans (I’m halfway through book four at the moment), but there will be at least six books all told. As to where Charlotte is heading, that’s up to her and something I have little control over.

What can we expect from you next and when?

Tell-Tale (book four in the series) will be out in the spring of 2015, but there may well be a self-published novella/novel before then since after completing Cut Dead I did quite a bit of work on a standalone. Provisionally titled The House on the Moor, the action takes place in the present day and also back in the sixties in what was historically one of the worst winters on record. The moor in question is Dartmoor and the house is not the type you’d want to rent as a holiday cottage. Exactly when the book comes out all depends on how Charlotte and friends behave in the next couple of months.

What are your favourite genres to read? Which authors would you recommend in the genre/s?

I do read a lot of crime and I think you have to go a long way to beat Graham Hurley’s Faraday and Winter series. Although a million miles from my plots I’ve certainly been influenced by his attention to the detail of police procedure (much to my editor’s annoyance – she wants to cut down the number of both acronyms and characters).

Outside of crime I like the type of epic science fiction done so well by Peter F. Hamilton and was a big fan of Iain M Banks. The Culture was an amazing creation: who wouldn’t want to live in it?

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers out there? 

It sounds lame, but keep at it! With self-publishing so easy (and it’s no secret to say I think as good a way as any), there’s no excuse not to get on and finish your book. But you’ll only finish by writing, writing, writing. Get into the habit of sitting down and banging out a few words as often as you can. Set aside a specific time when you’re not going to watch TV, not waste time on your phone/tablet, not read the newspaper; you’re going to write. Even if you only write 250 words a day you’ll have a novel-length manuscript in a year. Note: you’ll have a manuscript, you won’t yet have a novel (there’s as much work from the first draft to finished article as there is from zero words to first draft), but you’re a whole lot closer than the writer who doesn’t have a first draft.

If you are struggling with technique then the best advice is to look at successful writers whose work you like. What length chapters do they have? How do they start or end scenes? How do they use speech? Do they use adverbs? Look at all facets of their writing and try to emulate them. In time you’ll develop a style of your own, one you feel comfortable with, one you no longer have to think about.

 

Back to Angie – I would like to thank Mark to taking the time to answer my questions and also writing the book. I am excited and happy to be part of the blog tour and hope to more as long as interesting books head my way.

Adventures in Books… Him and Me

jack-book

Him and Me by Jack and Michael Whitehall

“This book is a portrait of the pretty odd relationship I have with my elderly father. It’s given me an opportunity to share memories of him losing his temper with foreigners on holidays, being rude to my mother’s family at Christmas and failing epically during the fathers’ race at my prep school. He’s also written some stories about me, but can I just say, before you read anything, that I recall being a calm, well-behaved and learned child, not the intellectually subnormal, mal-coordinated dipshit that he paints me as. Nor am I, as he suggests inside, a sex addict, a flasher or a Scientologist.’ Jack

‘How dare Jack refer to me as elderly! People always tell me how young I look for my age. In this book, I have at last been able to recount the many occasions when I have been let down by my only son. He failed on the stage, the sports field and he even screwed up the interview for his first boarding school by pretending he had mental health issues. Despite being practically illiterate, he tells stories about me, strewn with grammatical errors and peppered with endless exaggerations and lies. I was a kind, doting father, who guided his son through his formative years with love, care and respect.’ Michael

‘I’m not your only son, what about Barnaby?’

‘Oh yes, I forgot about Barnaby.’

Packed with anecdotes, some embarrassing and indiscreet, many warm and touching, Him & Me is lavishly illustrated with family photographs and Jack’s original illustrations. Friends, relatives, neighbours, teachers, actors, none are safe once Jack and Michael have opened up the Whitehall archives and shared their hilarious memories with us.”

This was the last audiobook I got at the end of 2013 and it’s taken me a while to read it as I haven’t been in the car anywhere near as much as last year, so I’ve been listening in bed (often falling asleep in the middle of a chapter) as a way of not watching TV in bed.

I really enjoyed this book as I loved how it showed children and parents see and remember the same things differently. It was fun to listen to the banter between Jack and Michael. I actually preferred this format of comedy (and with Miranda Hart’s book) to stand-up comedy. It was more laid back than a TV show.  It also didn’t feel like a book. It was more like being privy to someone else’s conversation and that made it weirdly enjoyable.

I can’t say I learnt anything from this book other than people we think of as famous, have very similar lives to us. They go through the same growing up stages and deal with the same issues at school. The same goes for parenting.  It was funny listening to the different perspectives and understands the relationship between father and son. It was totally different from what I was expecting, but in a good way. I was expecting a more current affairs type books, rather than an autobiography, but it wasn’t quite that either. It was something along the lines of autobiographical, relationship, comedy (if that makes sense?).

I would definitely recommend this book as an audiobook to listen to and enjoy. It was funny and set at a nice pace. I could have carried on listening for a lot longer, so I hope they do another one!

Adventures in Books… Code

code

Code by Kathy and Bendan Reichs

“Life appears peaceful on Loggerhead Island – rescued from financial disaster, the research institute is flourishing once more. But the tranquillity is quickly shattered when Tory Brennan and her technophile gang discover a mysterious box buried in the ground.

A seemingly innocent treasure hunt soon turns into a nightmarish game of puzzles, as it becomes clear that one false move will lead to terrible, explosive consequences.

The clock is ticking. Can Tory and the Virals crack the code in time to save the city – and their own lives?”

This is the third book in the Virals series by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs. I borrowed this book from the library (after replacing my lost library card). I enjoyed the book, but not as much as the previous two. It just didn’t capture me as well as the previous books. I think it is because there wasn’t much about where the series is going, just occasional mentions of finding a cure.

The story was an interesting one. It’s really geocaching gone wrong.  Tory and her friends find a box that leads them on a deadly game.  We got to know the characters a bit more in this book and saw a bit more of their daily lives. We also got to see how they reacted to being threatened and cope under stress. I liked the pace of the book, although I did feel it went a bit back and forth moving between locations very quickly. I didn’t really get a good sense of time from the book though and seeing as there were time limits placed on the clues they find, I didn’t feel it was urgent until the last minute. Something just didn’t work for me with this book.

Overall it was a fast and fun read. I’m looking forward to the next one as I hope it will tell us more about what Tory and her friends have become and if there is a cure.

Food Addiction

I was really impressed with a recent blog post by Hank over at The Business of Losing WeightYou Wouldn’t Give a Drug Addict a Cheat Day.

I am also a food addict. I’ve never thought of it that way, but food is always on my mind and I eat to comfort myself in times of extreme emotion (or any emotion really). Food it the first thing that comes to mind in the morning, and food is the last thing on my mind at night. It’s not a peaceful place to be.

The post by Hank really resonated with me. I’ve no trouble sticking to things or stopping things as long as they aren’t food related. With the below quote I thought I was actually saying it myself:

“Being addicted to food is worse than being addicted to a drug like heroin because my body NEEDS food. I can’t quit food cold turkey. I can’t detox off of food. The ONLY thing that I can do is MANAGE my addiction.”

If I could quit food completely I would avoid temptation. That is not possible. We all need food to survive. Therefore I have to go food shopping. I have to eat and put food in my mouth. I have to go out for meals with friends to have a life. Food is everywhere and therefore temptation is everywhere, so all I can do is manage my addiction. For me that means avoiding trigger foods and tracking my food intake. It also means using my CBT tools to manage my thoughts and behaviour.

“And the only way to MANAGE it is to fully embrace the idea that overcoming your addiction means changing the way you think about food and committing to living as if you truly WANT to change.”

I have to want it. I have to make Project Lifestyle what I want in order to make it sustainable and liveable forever.  I have always used cheat or treat days. I used it as something to look forward to each week. I would plan it out to make the most of it, but really it was just a binge. A behaviour I want and need to stop. The next paragraph hit me hard.

“Would you ever consider telling a drug addict that it would be ok for them to have a cheat day? A full day in which they were allowed to do whatever drugs they wanted. No? How about offering them just one cheat high? Not a full day of uncontrolled drug use, just one fix. A cheat “meal” if you will.  That would be ridiculous, right? Offering a drug addict a day to go back to their old ways would ruin every effort to help them overcome their problem.  So why should ANYONE who is grossly overweight because of their food addiction be allowed a day to cheat on their recovery?”

It would be ridiculous to offer some addicted to any kind of drug a cheat day. So why do we promote it for people who are overweight and addicted to food? I know I can undo an entire week of good work in one binge! I’m not exaggerating as I’ve done it. One binge can for me might as well have meant I’d eaten exactly what I wanted all week and not binged at the end. This next quote was a kick in the stomach and made me want to change my attitude and approach.

“Cheat” days or even meals for an obese person are a sign that someone doesn’t truly want to change themselves. They have not set aside their former self for their new and improved self.”

I want to change, therefore I have to change. There will be slip ups along the way, but that is what recovery is about. It’s not about being good or bad, but rather recognising that food, for me, is not simple. I want to eat to live, not live to eat.

My name is Angie and I’m a Food Addict.

Changes I will make:

  • Be active everyday

  • Focus on whole foods with little processing

  • Cook my own ready meals and make use of my freezer

  • Do not buy trigger foods – chocolate, cake, biscuits – anything with processed sugar

  • Try new foods – legumes and grains first

  • No more treat days – enjoy every meal for what it is and how it fuels my body

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