Will my children like my girlfriend?

dating couple

I’m going to deviate from my normal blogging about my writing journey. Everyone needs to play from time to time, right?

I’m not one to brag, but allow me to gloat for a while. I went on a date the other night. It was with Eliza from Adelaide. Eliza is my age, but she’s lively, chatty, wears cool clothes and loves ‘hip’ music. If anything serious comes of our dates, Eliza may well party me into an early grave.

But we need to negotiate a few big hurdles before we get anywhere near that far. According to Eliza, there’s my taste in music, my dress sense, my dancing and my inability to be coherent after two glasses of wine. To be fair to Eliza, sometimes I struggle to be coherent before wine.

According to me, there’s Eliza’s use of her bragging rights whenever the cricket’s on.

None of those hurdles, except for maybe the last one, is insurmountable.

The bit I will spend more time worrying about is whether Eliza will get on with my children. Would they like her? Would she like them? What would she say when I inevitably phone her and tell her I can’t come out to play because Boy One is ill, or because I’ve got to take Boy Two to football?

You see, I’m a single dad.

Or to put it another way, I’m a dad with significant childcare responsibilities who would very much like not to be single for ever.

I separated from my wife just over a year ago. She has some issues which, from time to time, prevent her from being the mother that she would otherwise be. Our two teenage boys spend much of their time with me.

I love my boys to bits. I love them being with me, but I also miss adult conversation. In fact, with my boys being teenagers, I miss any conversation that doesn’t sound like a grunt.

My days are filled with domestic chores, from explaining the point of soap through to washing school uniform. As an added bonus I even iron it sometimes. I supervise homework and I break-up the fights. I probably start some too.

Occasionally, when I fancy a break from the routine and can find a respite carer (the boys won’t tolerate ‘baby-sitter’), I engineer myself a night out.

To start with, I wasn’t very active on the dating scene during these occasional nights out. All too often I would end up drinking with my married mates. But gradually my need for the odd bit of intimacy, rather than just hearing about my mates’ intimacy with their respective wives, pushed me to reconsider my stance.

It took me a while to convince myself that I was allowed to date again. I didn’t want my boys to think I was betraying their mother. Or, worse still, trying to replace her.

Being someone who likes to build a consensus before I act, I canvassed the views of the people who mattered most to me before I started dating.

‘You shouldn’t be dating yet,’ my mother offered, ‘it’s far too soon.’

‘You haven’t been dating yet?’ my friends asked, ‘has it fallen off?’

‘You shouldn’t bother,’ my sons mocked, ‘no woman will want you.’ Thanks boys.

In the end, a few months ago I chose to ignore my family’s advice and braved my first date. It was with Sue from Essex. She was attractive, intelligent and sophisticated. Probably too sophisticated for me.

We went out a few times together. We got on well. I was thinking of inviting her round to dinner with my boys, but I suddenly had a vision of awkward silences at the dinner table. Sue was a womanly woman, into make-up, fake eyelashes, enhancements and nail polish. My sporty boys would have been petrified of having to talk to her.

After a good deal of agonising, I opted not to continue seeing Sue from Essex. My mates called me an idiot.

Dating after kids is a different world from dating before kids. No longer does my date have to impress my mother over Sunday lunch before the relationship becomes serious. Now, I care more about whether she impresses my children.

What are the implications of this for me going forward? I will probably end up dating a young-sounding cool woman who doesn’t do rules and discipline. Someone who likes ‘alternative’, whatever that means. Someone from a cool place.

Someone like Eliza from Adelaide.

Update on my writing…

Six Months to Get a Life is my not autobiographical at all tale of a man’s struggle to come to terms with life after divorce. Will Graham Hope get over his ex? Will he continue to be a great dad to his kids? More importantly, will he ever have sex again?

The book continues to receive great reviews. I was interviewed on local radio a few days ago. The audio will be added to my website in the next couple of days.

Now that I am a full-time author, my second book, Six Lies, is progressing well. It would be no exaggeration to say that I am really excited about it. The aim is to finish a first draft by the end of June.

I quit my job today!

champagne bottle

This week is a momentous week. I have officially handed in my notice. I have quit my job.

I leave on 30th April.

I will be saying goodbye to lots of fantastic work colleagues, all of whom care passionately about their work and the good that it brings to others.

I will also be saying cheerio to a regular salary, good banter at the water cooler, regular supplies of cake and paid annual leave too. Gulp.

And all because I want to be a full-time author.

I want to spend my days inventing and crafting stories. Having written my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, I now know that being an author is my passion of choice. It’s what I want to do. It’s what I want to be known for.

I have learnt something about myself over the past few years. When I respect myself, all is well in my world. I feel confident to face life’s challenges. I feel ten feet tall. I am proud that I have taken the decision to give writing a real chance.

But quitting my job is a huge financial gamble. I am a predominantly single dad and have a mortgage to pay. This will be the first time in my adult life that I haven’t brought home a regular salary. Some people may call me selfish for putting my family’s financial future at risk for the sake of a dream. They may be right.

Before writing my resignation letter, I took a long, hard look at my two boys. What would the impact of my decision be on them? They may have less fancy holidays in the future, but they will have a newly energised dad. And one who will be there to see them off to school and to welcome them home in the evenings. On balance, I am confident that I am making the right decision.

If it doesn’t work out, I can always get another job. Even in that case, when I look at myself in the mirror as I am shaving on the morning that I start my new job, I will nod to myself and be satisfied that at least I gave my dream every chance of succeeding.

Talking of resignation letters, I thought it would be fun to reproduce the resignation letter that Graham Hope, the protagonist in Six Months to Get a Life, writes to his employers. My own letter may differ slightly from the below, but one thing’s for certain, it won’t be dull!

“Hello soon-to-be-ex-colleagues,

After ten years of paper-shuffling, I am putting the world of logistics behind me and moving on to bigger and better things.  I can honestly say that I can’t wait to go, and if any of you lot had any balls, you would jump too before you are pushed. 

I will not miss being required to spend half my life thinking about blue skies or what is outside a box.  I am sick of cheap tea bags and can’t face another stale egg mayo sandwich.  Away-days are tedious beyond belief and appraisals aren’t worth the paper they are written on.  I won’t miss pretending not to notice Daniel’s tongue hanging out whenever Sarah walks in to the office.  I didn’t miss Sarah snogging Dean the post-room apprentice at last year’s Christmas party.

I will, however, miss Sheena from accounts.  I will miss being paid whilst spending the whole of the first half of 2012 searching online for Olympic tickets – I got loads in the end.  I will miss inserting rude words into lengthy performance reports just to see if anyone actually reads them.  After ten years of doing this, I can categorically say that they don’t.  Basically, I will miss the money. I am not sure I have earned it but it has come in useful.

Don’t bother writing a card or having a collection. I never put a penny into your birthday, wedding or new baby cards so I wouldn’t want you to have to feel you should contribute to a leaving card for me.  Actually, Danny boy, I hope you don’t mind but when your birthday collection came round a couple of months ago I was a bit skint at the time so I took a couple of quid out and paid for my lunch with it. 

Love and kisses.

Graham”

(Extract from ‘Six Months to Get a Life

What have JK Rowling and I got in common?

We are both published authors.

As of today, I am as much an author as JK Rowling. ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is now just as much of a book as War and Peace, Jane Eyre and No-one Ever has Sex on a Tuesday (yes, that is a real book – I haven’t read it yet but I want to).

How do I feel? In a word, proud. The months of plotting and re-plotting, of furious typing, of shunning social events and my children in favour of spending time with my leading characters and their shenanigans were all worth it, just to experience this feeling of pride. ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is immortal. The e version will exist forever. That is quite a humbling thought.

I also feel hugely excited. Not at the prospect of the money pouring in as people queue up around the block to buy the book (!) but because they will be investing their precious time in my book. It might sound a bit conceited, but I know most of them will enjoy it. I am excited that I will be making people I have never met before smile and maybe even laugh out loud on their way to work, while they are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room or wherever they happen to be.

To ‘proud’ and ‘excited’. I must also add ‘grateful’. Without wishing to appear like I am rehearsing for my Man Booker prize-accepting speech, I do want to say a huge thank you to the many truly inspirational people I have met during the course of my ‘author journey’ (have I ever told you how much I hate that phrase. I just can’t think of a better one). Wendy Clarke and T.O.Weller have both offered me advice along the way, as well as providing me with some much needed exposure via their excellent blogs. Wendy, I am still smiling now after dropping in to your Facebook chat the other morning!

Yvonne, Nicki, Gareth and Dana are all people I have never met before but would now willingly buy lunch for if I ever did meet them. I am sure there have been others too who I will have just offended because I haven’t mentioned them by name.

My boys don’t read this blog (it doesn’t mention Fifa 15 enough for their liking) so I won’t bother droning on about them except to say that they have inspired me in the way they have coped with our real-life changing circumstances. They were a major influence behind the feel-good factor in ‘Six Months…’ Perhaps somewhat fittingly, my eldest is off school, ill, today. We all cope with these situations somehow, don’t we? Essentially, without getting too deep and meaningful, that’s what ‘Six Months…’ is about. Well, that and a bit of a love interest…

Proud, excited, grateful… And apprehensive. I am now the ‘star’ of a US podcast on dating. The word star is in inverted commas for a reason. Billed as a ‘podcast for men’, the ‘chick whisperer’ (oh my God, I can’t believe I am mentioning it by name) is, without doubt, the most ridiculous interview I have done to date. I am so British and reserved. Talking about dating to a raw steak-eating US podcast host isn’t something I do every day. That’ll teach me for writing a HuffPost blog. I just hope they are right when they say that no publicity is bad publicity. If you listen to it, please feel my pain…

Other book promotion I have undertaken has been much more satisfying. I think I will get a mention in the Sunday Express Magazine this coming Sunday. That one will be good for me, although it takes a more serious angle to the angles I normally use to promote my book.

You may also find me on a few more blogs over the next week or two. Get me, I’m banging on about myself again…

I am also having a party on Friday night. I am feeding and watering my friends, and then not letting them out of the house until they have bought at least fifteen copies of my book each, for their mother, their neighbours, their friend whose birthday is coming up in March, that woman over the road who is feeding their cats while they are on holiday etc. etc. I might even make them write reviews while they are there! Ah, reviews… Hopefully they will come flooding in over the next few days.

What’s next for me? Who knows? The book is on sale now. It hasn’t by any means jumped to Number 1 on Amazon. It did reach number 7 in some obscure sub-category for a while. There are a number of ways things could go from here. I am not going to do pessimism today. Being optimistic, people who read the book will love it, share it with their friends who, in turn, will love and share. Sales will go up gradually over a period of weeks and months and by the summer Six Months… will be selling nicely although not spectacularly.

Being even more optimistic, my publicist will find me some more significant exposure and, so long as I don’t mess it up, things might start happening at an accelerated rate. But please, no more American dating shows…

Introducing ‘Six Months to Get a Life’

I have always been a writer but recent life events have convinced me that the time is now right for me to become an author.

Meet Graham Hope, the principal character in my first book.  Graham is a newly divorced dad of two. On the day Graham’s divorce is confirmed, Graham sets himself six goals that can collectively be summarised as ‘getting a life’. ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ charts Graham’s progress in achieving his goals.  How does he come to terms with being a ‘part-time dad’? How will his kids cope? Can he get over his ex? Will he get back on the property ladder this side of the third millennium? Will he learn to trust another woman? Will he ever even meet another woman? Basically, will he ever have sex again?

Despite those who know me probably disagreeing, this book is not my autobiography. It does draw upon personal experiences, feelings and anxieties. But other than that, it is a work of fiction.

Over the coming months I will use this blog to test out some ideas. There will no doubt be some shameless self-promotion but I also really hope that others will read this, maybe empathise or even disagree with how the characters are developing or the emotions they are showing.  Silence is boring so please, if you are reading this, give me a shout.