Finished Products and Life Update: July

My finished products this month are:

W7 Lemon Meringue anti-redness eyeshadow primer

Cien Volume Mascara in Black

Cien Argan Oil Body Milk 400ml

L’Oreal Elvive Colored Hair Shampoo 750ml

Beauty Formulas Coconut Milk Facial Scrub 150ml

I hit pan on my Kiko Cream Crush eyeshadow in shade 05, Silver Rose.

July, as always, is Camp NaNoWriMo month. I wasn’t convinced about which project to work on and I couldn’t think of anything new so I edited some short stories I have.

I emailed some magazines as I am still wanting to publish my work. I am trying with short stories first as well as still looking for a publisher for my novels.

I want my writing projects to reach the disability organisations who helped me in my life as well as anyone else who may be interested.

I feel happy that I have started contacting magazines and that some of the disability organisations got back to me.

I didn’t get into the AutoCrit Writing Challenge Anthology, but it was fun working on my story for it this year. I will keep trying to get into the anthology.

I watched the video for the AutoCrit Destination Unknown Challenge, which I did last year. I am glad it’s back again. I saw all the videos that followed and took part in the challenge. I chose 1000 words as my goal to keep it short as I didn’t want to do anything longer. I finished my story in the first week and edited in the second. The story doesn’t require submitting anywhere through this contest.

I am 142 books into my Goodreads Challenge and since I originally thought I’d get through 50, I am pleased to have discovered so many good books.

I have decided to do the Dewey’s Reverse Readathon again. There are eight optional pre-Readathon prompts and the event itself is on August 6th and 7th, starting at 8PM EST on August 6 and ending at 8AM on the 7th, instead of going from AM to PM like the Readathon usually does.

I have now had the two doses of the Coronavirus vaccine, as has my husband. More about that in another post.

Overall, it has been a pretty productive month, especially when I wasn’t sure how productive I’d end up being.

#CaptainTom100 Day 1: 100 Writing Prompts

Happy birthday Captain Tom!

Captain Tom Moore walked 100 laps of his garden during lockdown to raise funds for the NHS. As someone born in England, I have felt humbled that he wanted to do this and that he achieved it through sheer determination and effort.

Anybody who follows my blog will no doubt know by now that I love my challenges. So, when I heard of the #CaptainTom100 Challenge starting today and running the whole May Bank Holiday (for those not from the UK, this means today, April 30, until May 3) I quickly came up with some ideas that would be fun for me to do.

I am still self-isolating for my own safety and protection and out of personal responsibility. I let my mind run wild, as it often does when I am faced with a challenge.

My first thought was that I could eat 100 cookies or marshmallows or do 100 different makeup looks, but then I thought “As much as I love my sweet treats and makeup, I want to do something related to writing (as if I haven’t done enough of that this month with 2 summits, and Camp NaNoWriMo, but I love writing projects).

I decided that each day will be a theme related to writing or books.

Today’s is 100 Writing Prompts, so here they are. Pick as many as you like and see what you come up with. There are different genres here.

Can’t find one?

Prompt number 100 is create your own prompt!

Good luck!

  1. Your best friend has a dark secret and you have to find out what it is. What do you do?
  2. Your puppy has just turned a year old, how do you celebrate his or her birthday?
  3. You go to the doctor’s for a routine appointment but they find something shocking. Write about your experience.
  4. You never thought you would be able to have children, but you are pregnant. Describe the moment
  5. A much-longed for vacation goes wrong
  6. You are about to buy your first house
  7. Your parents have just been told that you, their baby son or daughter, has a disability. Describe the moment.
  8. A haunted house is at the end of your street and you want to go in, but something doesn’t want you to…
  9. You had a sister who passed away and she wants to contact you
  10. You are a dog walker and the dog goes missing in the woods
  11. You are going to have your first sleepover at a friend’s house.
  12. You find a magical book in the library. What do you do?
  13. You have to make your best friend’s birthday cake
  14. You have just moved house and all seems well, until you discover a ghost in the cellar/ basement
  15. Describe your first kiss
  16. Describe your dream vacation
  17. Describe your identical twin sister
  18. Describe your pet
  19. Your favourite season and why
  20. A spring day
  21. A summer day
  22. A summer’s evening
  23. Autumn/ Fall
  24. A winter’s day
  25. A snowball fight
  26. A Christmas scene
  27. Hanukah
  28. Going to church or your place of worship
  29. Easter
  30. Your birthday
  31. Your bilingual family
  32. A long-lost cousin/aunt
  33. Engagement ring
  34. Wedding ring
  35. Wedding reception
  36. Honeymoon
  37. Flower bouquet
  38. The perfect date
  39. Disaster date
  40. Movie retelling
  41. Fairytale retelling
  42. Cinderella
  43. Prince Charming
  44. The Evil Witch
  45. Sleeping Beauty
  46. Snow White
  47. A fairytale of your choice
  48. Bad Villain
  49. Unexpected Hero
  50. Unexpected Heroine
  51. Good fairy, witch or other character
  52. Tall dark and handsome
  53. Standout looks
  54. Beauty contest
  55. Makeup
  56. Lipstick
  57. Fashion Show
  58. Heels
  59. Cowboy boots
  60. Favourite shoes
  61. Best Outfit
  62. Favourite jeans
  63. Vampire romance
  64. Witch and wizard in love
  65. The Twilight Saga retelling
  66. Your favourite book
  67. Your favourite movie
  68. Retell your favourite book
  69. Retell your favourite movie
  70. Something you love
  71. Something you dislike
  72. Secret crush
  73. At the pool
  74. At the movies
  75. At the shopping centre/ mall
  76. Superhero
  77. Superheroine
  78. Sunrise
  79. Sunset
  80. A hobby of yours
  81. Getting back at someone
  82. Making Up
  83. Missing someone
  84. Pick a character from your favourite TV show and write a story from their point of view (as if you were them)
  85. Pick a character from your favourite movie and write a story from their point of view (as if you were them)
  86. A day in your town or city
  87. Your favourite place
  88. Baking cookies
  89. Ice cream
  90. Your brother or sister wants what you have in life
  91. Best friend or frenemy?
  92. Caring for someone in your household
  93. You have a son or daughter who has a disability but they are denied help. How do you fight for them?
  94. Unexpected circumstances
  95. A home in space
  96. A magical place
  97. A box has arrived for you. What’s inside?
  98. Happy memories
  99. Bad times
  100. Create your own prompt (any genre)

DIY MFA Poetry Summit Review Plus My Poetry “Origin Story.”

I have done a few summit events by DIY MFA and also their 3-video course and reading challenge. Every single event has been so memorable, and DIY MFA is the go-to site I come back to for advice, resources and courses.

When I got an email announcing the poetry summit, I signed up straight away.

A big theme to start off each class is that of the “origin story,” or how you came to be interested in writing. I will include that specific origin story in another post, but for now here’s my poetry “origin story”.

When I was in the early years of Primary school (around the ages of 6 0r 7 and up for those of you who are not from the UK), I can remember that our usual teacher was away at one point and we had a substitute teacher called Mrs Wainwright. With her curly salt-and-pepper hair and kind, approachable manner, she soon became one of my favourite teachers.

She taught us poetry. I can remember feeling a lift inside my heart when it was reading time. I also recall that what I first enjoyed about the poetry genre was the rhythm of the words because, even though I didn’t understand all of them, it felt like music and was relaxing. I would try to look for the story in the words and was constantly curious as to what the poem was trying to say, and why the poet may have used specific words. I remember how the words of the poems would swim around in my head and intrigue me all day.

I decided to work on a poetry book for Camp NaNoWriMo some years ago because I wanted to represent myself in poetry, my life, my likes and dislikes as well as my feelings. At the time, I was part of Inked Voices online critique group and submitted some there. They did quite well there.

Since then, I have not gone back to poetry for lack of what to add to the project and also because of working on others, but now I have done the poetry summit by DIY MFA I am inspired to go back to my poetry as I have some topics I feel I could build a poem from.

The Poetry Summit included a video a day of around 45-50 minutes and there was one that was an hour long. I found this workload manageable compared to other summits.

There was a choice of what videos to sign up to during the signup process and as I love to learn and learn as much as possible, I signed up to them all. I was sent an email to say I was in and another with my schedule.

With other DIY MFA summits, I was able to view the videos directly via their website after signing up, but for this summit, I had to enter my email on the video page then check my email with the access link. The video then opened and loaded.

I have done another course with this layer of protection, but if you haven’t do not let this put you off. It’s a quick process, and nowadays with internet security going up, it is a good thing.

Once I was in, the fun could begin. Topics and speakers from the course were:

Reading, Writing and Building a Poetic Life by Kim Addonizio

Exploring Poetic Forms by Marilyn Singer

A Writer’s Journey. From Prose to Poetry by Kim Rogers

A Poet’s Eduction by Manuela Williams

A Deep Dive into Poetry by Danielle Mitchell

Imagery and Detail by Michael Torres

The Art of Teaching Poetry by Brendan Constantine

From Page to Stage by Marcus Omri

Can You Afford Not To? The Business of Writing Poetry by And I Thought Ladies

Building a Career as a Poet and Writer by Joseph Bruchac.

I thoroughly enjoyed them all. I loved Kim Addonizio’s enthusiasm, Marilyn Singer’s wit and Kim Rogers’ journey was fascinating. I gained a very good insight into Manuela Williams’ education as a poet and I identified with her love of libraries and books and still do. Danielle Mitchell’s deep dive was informative and she explained concepts well. I identified with her more difficult start because of the difficulties I experienced due to my physical disabilities.

Imagery and detail are something I love and include a lot in my writing projects so I identified with Michael Torres’ passion for this and gained an insight into the link between art forms (graffiti and poetry).

Brendan Constantine gave an interesting presentation class on teaching poetry.

From Page to Stage was insightful. I am a fan of books that reach the stage or cinema screen and have often wondered about the process so this showed me how to get there. This is what I would one day like for my books, for them to become a film or musical.

And I Thought Ladies were fun and realistic. I already do some of what they suggest as in use social media for sharing but was fascinated by the business side and indeed the clothing side.

Joseph Bruchac has a great story to tell and I enjoyed his and Kim Rogers’ mentions of indigenous culture within their lives and writing.

I would definitely recommend the Poetry Summit and liked it so much as it is a different approach to poetry, with author stories and anecdotes as well as a very good class from all the speakers.

Highly recommended whether you have experience with poetry or not.

A Relaxing Easter Day

Last Easter, we were in lockdown. This Easter, Alfredo and I watched some movies. We saw Noah yesterday (the story of Noah’s Ark) as well as Mr Magorium’s Magic Emporium. I realised Star Trek Into Darkness, the second of the most recent Star Trek films was on, so we saw that.

We are self isolating still but wanted as relaxing a day as possible. We ate our usual salad and soup and had one of my favourite foods, pasta. Easter eggs not forgotten, we ate some of those, too.

Camp NaNoWriMo started on April 1. I am working on a short story which is in the paranornal romance genre and am 1,800 words in.

I liked Daniel David Wallace’s recent summit and he was hosing a 6-day course called Copying the Greats. It finished today and involved coming up with my own paragraphs from excerpts of famous novels. I found some parts easier than others but I am glad I took the chance to do this short course. Each task took 10-15 minutes and was challenging. The course, like the summit, was free.

I have not worked on my creative projects at all this year, so Camp NaNoWriMo seemed a good place to start.

DIY MFA Weekend Writing Sprint Course Review

Wanting to get back to my writing, I signed up again to the Weekend Writing Sprint this past weekend. The course consists of six short videos and 27 minutes of recordings in all.

Everything covered focused on tips for planning such as setting smart goals, mapping out three ideas, organizing and setting time limits.

Rivalry is something that’s found in any activity. The course will give you tips for avoiding this and being true to your own writing.

Inspiration may be what is needed…or not. The course debunks myths surrounding whether you need it to write or not.

Gabriela teaches us that embracing wins, and indeed any type of progress, is good and that above all we should never give up.

The course is quick yet has some interesting details and examples as well as tips that made me think they were all good suggestions.

Gabriela teaches in a way that things are clear within the time limit and it was enjoyable. I think the course is good for all skill levels and if you have done it before like I have then it is a great tool for revising concepts.

My advice is to sign up for DIY MFA emails and follow on Twitter @diymfa.

The course is free of charge but it is available for a limited time every time it is taken out of the DIY MFA vault.

6 Figure Author Challenge-7 Days to 7x Your Leads, Sales, and Referrals by Launching (or Relaunching) A Book Chandler Bolt Course Review

On 10th September this year, I signed up to a new writing challenge. This one was taught by Chandler Bolt of Self Publishing School. Find out more HERE The course was initially for 7 days and then was extended for another 3 days with bonus sessions. Each class was around an hour long and was taught in a Facebook group. The time difference with the US meant that the classes did not arrive in my inbox until early evening which meant that I was able to watch some live and others only by replay. Even so, the course was full of new stuff to learn. My favourite classes were one about lead magnets and another on self vs traditional publishing. although I enjoyed them all. At the end of each daily class, there was a short homework task we had to do then share in the course’s exclusive Facebook group. Overall, I did find the classes incredibly interesting and I learned a lot as well as reinforcing somr things I knew. I met a lot of supportive likeminded people in the Facebook group.

J Thorn Supercharge your Scene in 5 Days Course Review

When I found out this was free , I decided to do it. 
Spread over 5 days from Monday 15 June to Friday 20 June, the course premise is to teach you how to write a better scene. 
I have been seriously into,and active, with anything related to writing since 2013 but have never done any course that was specific at the scene level.
The course is based on short videos (1 each day) which address different concepts: 

There was a video uploaded on the 14th of June and the title was Prep Work: How to decide on the scene or article you want to write and why you must write it. At this stage, I went through the extensive prompt PDF. 
I was torn between women’s fiction, YA general fiction and thriller so spent some of the 14th mulling over which prompt I was finally going to use. 
 I have never worked on a thriller before and felt I needed a lot more practise in the genre before I did, so I chose women’s literature. 
Starting on the 15th, the first video was: 

How to frame the scene, so you know what you want the scene or article to accomplish. 
To use NaNoWriMo terminology, I have tried planning and “pantsing” novels and my work and either way works for me. in fact, I often do a hybrid of both. So am a plantser really. 
Tuesday 16 June: How to ignite the motivations of your protagonist and antagonist. Motivations are always something I have struggled to show but this was clear and gave me more confidence with that. 
 Wednesday 17 June: How to guarantee that your scene or article explodes on the page- I love my work to be detailed in the right places and have great visuals or small details that make people resonate with characters or decide what they think about them as much as possible. 
Thursday 18 June: How to create a difficult, complicated decision for your protagonist that readers can’t possibly ignore- this had me thinking more, but in a good way. I love a challenge! 

Friday 19 June : How to utilize the protagonist’s consequence when you start the next scene- Just as a hook is important for the beginning of the story, the ending has to leave people satisfied too. This video helped with that step. 
Saturday 20 June: This was a day with a bonus video. 
As well as daily videos, J Thorn created a Facebook Live schedule for this event with videos on 13,16 and 19 June: 
June 13, 2020, 12:00 pm Eastern time – “What do you want to get out of this challenge?”
June 16, 2020, 6:00 pm Eastern time – “How’s the challenge going so far? How can I help you?” 
June 19, 2020, 9:00 am Eastern time – “What do you need to write your scene, short story, or article?” 
I took part in the first 2 and asked a lot of questions. I did not take part in the last Facebook chat since I worked on my piece each day and felt confident about it. 

One thing about this challenge is that you absolutely do not have to be on Facebook to participate and complete it and that the Facebook community is completely optional. This was a new aspect to me and one which differentiated this challenge from others I’ve done. 
The AutoCrit challenges I have done, as well as some related to DIY MFA, while immensely enjoyable, are more closely linked to the need to be on Facebook. 
There’s a downloadable worksheet (in Word and PDF format) to use as you work through the challenge. 
The assignment for the challenge was to come up with a scene of 2,000 words and under by the 23rd of June. 
The idea was to wait until the end of the five days to do the work but I wanted to get it done so I could relax. 
The scene can also be a standalone short story, article, or blog post. J Thorn says Creativity needs constraints, so the scene must stay under 2,000 words. 

Of course, there are prizes too! 

Every writer who completes the challenge gets automatically entered into the prize pool drawings, which include:

A FREE signed copy of Three Story Method: Foundations of Fiction

A $50 Amazon gift card

A FREE 30-minute, 1-on-1 consultation with J.
The course is free until June 24th at 12:01  EST. 
Overall, it was a really fun experience and very well organized. I even managed to get 4 edits in. 
I submitted my scene a few days ago and am proud of it. 

 The course is a very enjoyable way to spend 5 days if you want to improve your writing at scene level and love a challenge. 
Join J Thorn’s writing community HERE.  

I took part in the participant bonus mini course too. That’s free until 12:01am EST on 24 June too. Review of that to come. 

My Review of the AutoCrit Destination Unknown Challenge

I joined this challenge because of the mystery the title evoked. I had done the Short Story Challenge  which   involved funishing a story from a prompt in 2 weeks. 

The AutoCrit Destination Unknown Challenge ran from June 2 until June 16 this year and involved using the following prompt for a story: 

We reached the third day of our journey, and, to be honest, things were not going well.

There were 3 live streams on both Facebook and YouTube on 2 and 9 June and the winner’s live stream was today. 

During live stream #2, another “twist” was announced- this time for the ending sentence which had to be: 

I’d rather be a bird than a fish. 

The third twist was to use the Repeated Words tool in the AutoCrit  Free Forever account. I have this account. At first I was nervous about using it but it went well. 

I’ll review the account in another post. 

Thanks to Jocelyn, Beth and Kevin for organising this fun, and well “challenging ” (but in a good way) challenge. 

Another huge thanks to Kevin for answering my questions during the challenge. 

I’d do it again. 

You can find my entry HERE


This is my entry for the AutoCit Short Story competition 2019.

I take the eyeshadow out of my makeup bag and scrutinise it. The pale shadow has a subtle sheen to it yet is classy, like the vanilla buttercream my mother used in the butterfly shaped fairy cakes when she was small.

I look at my reflection in my dressing table mirror; high cheekbones below huge brown eyes that my mother had said were pretty. Today, they are outlined with dark liquid liner and I’m wearing my signature look: perfectly smudged charcoal grey shadow. I look over to my bed where a huge array of Vogue and Elle magazines lay strewn. Not the best when it comes to order, I do not really care. I live alone anyway, and every inch of this London flat is mine.

I look over to my computer as a sound alerts me to an incoming email.

Dear Rina,
We are delighted to invite you for an interview at 10 AM on Thursday 15 June with Alicia Freymore.

I smile and punch the air, it seems like mum is smiling down on me today. I sit in my chair and think awhile before typing my reply.

Dear Jenny,
Thank you for your email and considering me for interview.
See you on the day.
Kind regards,
Rina Meyers.

I hear a meow and look down to see my black cat Nightshade.
“Hi girl,” I say as I bend to scoop her up for a cuddle. Nightshade’s warm body vibrates with purrs and I feel myself relax. If I ace the interview, I’ll be one step closer to following my dream of owning my own makeup brand. I am already a makeup artist as my mum was before me.

I let my mind wander awhile, Doing makeup at London Fashion Week. Paris, Madrid the world could be my oyster. That is far off now, but I can dream…..Who knows? Maybe one day I can make that my reality.
I make a move to get up and Nightshade leaps gracefully off my lap and onto my bed where she curls and sleeps. I busy myself with chores before taking a long hot bath and crawling into bed.
Interview day arrives after a week that seems to crawl by. I have bitten my nails down to the quick, but, thanks to my supply of fake nails, my hands look manicure ready with pale rose polish. I chide myself as I smooth down my burgundy skirt suit, a much loved wardrobe staple from my time as a fashion editor for Trendsetter, a small fashion magazine.

My heart beats with painful memories as I remember the way I left work the day my mother had a massive stroke.I wipe an errant tear away and my eyes fall on the photo of my mum on my bedside table.
“Wish me luck, Mum,” I say, fighting to keep my voice steady.
I look around for Nightshade who is nowhere to be seen, grab my car keys and rush out the door as fast as my Prada heels can carry me.

The building is imposing grey stone with mirrored windows; AF Associates is home to the beauty brand that’s a household name for anyone who is anyone in the beauty industry. I throw away the disposable coffee cup and quickly rummage in my black Kate Spade bag for some breath freshener spray. I avoid mints, too much sugar. I reach into my bag and flip open my gold pocket mirror, checking that my reflection is as perfect as possible. Urban Decay is my favourite everyday beauty brand, but I’m wearing a slick of my rose gold toned Chanel lipstick for the occasion. Satisfied, my reflection smiles at me and I take a deep breath and walk towards the building.
Sitting in Cassie’s, my favourite coffee shop, later, I grip my cappuccino with a firm hand as I run back over the interview in my mind. Had I answered well? Did my voice betray me? Honestly, I hadn’t noticed, I’d just wanted to get through it. I need to put the moment out of my mind with a little treat, I decide as I swallow the last of my drink.

Urban Decay’s shop is my paradise; it is where I can relax. Minutes later, I leave Cassie’s and walk through Urban Decay’s electric doors. I see row upon row of foundations, blushers, eye shadows and accessories. A beauty addict’s dream. I whip my phone out, snapping photos of the products that catch my eye.

The silver bullet of the lipstick gleams under the shop lights. On sale! A red card announces. My hand shoots out for a tester. The creamy fuchsia shade is outrageous against my skin, but I love it. Grabbing a black wire shopping basket, I fill it with my beauty essentials.

I stop off at the supermarket for a bottle of wine for myself and some special cat food for Nightshade. I can’t help myself but I have a good feeling about the outcome of the interview.

I am really feeling the hunger pangs by the time I get home. The Underground was slow. I throw my keys on the counter and phone for a pizza.
Half an hour is enough time for a quick shower before it comes. Twenty minutes later, I’m sat on the couch in a peach fleece and my comfy jeans, a small folding table by my side, wine and phone at the ready. The doorbell rings; I get up to answer it.

Just as I do, my phone buzzes. Indecision slices through me: phone or pizza? My stomach growls and I near the door.
I take a bite of the steaming pepperoni pizza and relish the taste as I chew. Nightshade, lured by the smell of food, comes into the room and gazes longingly at me. I laugh and say, “Not for you I’m afraid, this is my treat. Anyway, you’ve just eaten.” Nightshade jumps onto the sofa and delicately sniffs the air.
“I know, the garlic’s strong, isn’t it?” I finger a piece of garlic bread and moan at the buttery deliciousness that assaults my taste buds.

I swallow and my mobile rings. I reach for it.
“Hello?” I look around for the time. The retro cookie shaped clock on the wall reads 5:20. I know AF Associates are open until 5:30PM but maybe it isn’t them. I take a dainty bite of pizza and swallow it as quickly as I can and answer the phone.
“Hello, Rina?”
“Yes? Speaking,” I say politely.
“It’s Jenny, from AF Associates.” My fingers tremble and I try to get a grip on my phone and myself.
“We really want you as part of the team, Congratulations!”
I resist the urge to fist pump. I want to run round the house screaming “Yes!” but I swallow my excitement just like I had the pizza only moments before.
“When do I start?”
“Monday at 9, have a great weekend. And congratulations again.”

I can hear the smile in Jenny’s voice and my heart lifts at what I have achieved.


That Monday, I near the familiar office buildings. The sun glints off the plaque which reads AF ASSOCIATES: A NEW KIND OF BEAUTY.
My hands are sweating and I have nowhere to wipe them. I suddenly feel extremely self conscious, like maybe this is a bad idea. But no. I have to follow through. My mum’s voice sounds in my head. If you want something, you have to fight to get it. I’ve got this far so I will continue, I must.
I take a few deep breaths and open the glass door.
Jenny welcomes me in the same friendly manner she’d done when I was here for my interview. I greet her and take the gold panelled lift up to Alicia’s office.

Alicia is turned out immaculately in a dove grey trouser suit and a wine shirt. Wine toned stilettos are on her narrow feet.
“Hi Alicia, great to see you again.”
“Great to see you too, Rina. I hope you had a good weekend.” She extends her hand and I shake it.
“Welcome to the team, there’s your desk, just there.” She gestures to a white table with an iMac. I raise my eyebrows; I have never had the money for one.
“OK,” Alicia says. “Lunch is at 1 and as my assistant you’ll be expected to get my lunch and any coffees as well.” Suddenly, I have a flashback to the scene where Andy arrives at Runway in The Devil Wears Prada. I feel intimidated. Is it me or is Alicia being bossy?” I’m only a newbie; maybe I am being too sensitive. Whatever the problem is, I hope Alicia is just having a fleeting bad moment.

Suddenly, Alicia smiles and says “Rina, relax, I really am glad to have you as my new assistant.”
The phone rings and Alicia gestures to me to pick it up. I shake my head mutely; my blood runs cold and goose bumps form on my skin.
Alicia nods insistently, gesturing towards the phone with an upturned palm.

I relent and answer. “Hello, AF Associates, Yes….I’ll put you through.”
I direct the call to Alicia while Alicia closes the glass door between her office and my desk for some privacy and focus on my computer screen. I play around a little, changing the colour of the screen from lilac to fuchsia and changing the AF Associates logo, two lipsticks, each with one of Alicia’s initials on the end of the bullet, to a spinning bright gold 3D version instead of the usual black 2D.

“Chanel HQ wants us to design some eyeshadows and lipsticks for a new collection. They say surprise them with a theme. I think this will be a good challenge for you to start with,”
I can’t believe it Chanel!
“Great, when do we start?”
“You have 2 weeks and will be working with Gerry, who’s our design team chief. Amy will take you to his office.”

Suddenly, a tall, rail thin blonde stands up from a desk and crosses the room.
“Hi, I’m Amy.” Her hand shoots out and I shake it gently as if it’s made of paper.
“Pleased to meet you.”
“Me too.”
“Bye Alicia,” she says as she leads me away. Alicia smiles at her and winks at me. My heart speeds up. What does that mean? I don’t know, but I am determined to impress my new boss.

A few polished wood floor metres and another clear glass door later, we are outside Gerry’s office. Amy knocks daintily and waits before opening the door.
“Amy, how are you doing? And who is this?”
“Rina, she’s new.”
“Hi Rina, pleased to meet you.” Gerry has a tall, lean physique and blonde hair that is slightly wavy. His skin is lightly toasted, and I wonder if he travels much and where to. I fleetingly think I wouldn’t mind taking him places….his grey eyes are mesmerising and I find myself drawn into their sinister depths like a sudden storm over a previously calm tropical paradise. Oh, how I want to discover that paradise….
“….design team.”
“What? Sorry,” I blush as I realise my mind has wandered.
He fixes those mesmerising eyes on mine.
“I said welcome to the design team.”
I can’t stop thinking about him in the car on the way home. Those eyes. That smile.
I am still smiling as I unlock the door to my flat.
As soon as I do, Nightshade winds herself around my legs, meowing for food.
“Hi girl, oh it’s good to be home.”
I feed Nightshade and then turn on some chillout music and pour myself a glass of wine. I let the alcohol and music calm me as I heat up some spaghetti and meatballs in the microwave. Nightshade jumps up on the sofa and sniffs around me.
I finish my food, have a bath and go straight to bed. I try to concentrate on at least a chapter of the book I’m reading but I can’t. I can only think about Gerry. We’ve only just met but why do I have a hunch about him?

A week into working with Gerry, I feel like we are getting to slowly know each other. He’s funny, and a real gentleman. I sip my coffee and pass him my sketch of the lipstick tube. Rhinestones decorate the black, cat shaped tube. I want something fun, and the tube is complete with fake fur cat ears and a tail. The Black Cat Collection is Halloween inspired and created in honour of Nightshade. Each black cat has different coloured rhinestones and eyes. Pink, purple, turquoise and red.

“I love it,” Gerry says as he clutches the printout. He looks into her eyes.
“What does Alicia think?” My heart sinks, I haven’t thought at all about Alicia. I feel the same nerves I had felt at school when I was in the queue waiting for my exam results.

“Be right back,” I say grabbing the printout and racing out of his office.
”She loved it!” Back in his office minutes later I can’t contain my excitement as I tell him.

He gets up from his desk chair where he’s sitting to wait for me and goes to close his office door. He turns back to me and suddenly I am in his arms and he is trailing kisses down the sensitive areas of my neck, stroking me and kissing me on the lips again and again. When we have finished, I feel dizzy with hope and desire.
“Fancy some proper coffee sometime?” he throws our empty cups from earlier in the bin.
“Proper coffee?” I ask, eyes shining.
“I want to take you out, Rina.”

My stomach hitches. “I really enjoyed this week working together and I want to get to know you more, spend time somewhere away from work.”
I take a breath in but it comes out shaky. “Where?”
“My Nonna’s cafe, my family’s Italian and she makes the most amazing food and serves the best coffee this side of Rome.”
“OK,” I say.
“Great,” I say.
“I’ll come to yours,” he suggests. “7 OK? Tomorrow night?”
My answer is a kiss.

Driving home that night, I sing along to the radio, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.
Nightshade is ready and waiting for company and cuddles.
I eat a quick salad and then go into my bedroom to pick out what I am going to wear the following night. Nightshade jumps onto my bed and my heart is in my throat. I cover my heart with a fluttering hand and laugh, stroking my beloved cat’s onyx fur.

I reach into my wardrobe for first a black dress with a sweetheart neckline, a side slit and a deep scoop back. I then find a blood red V neck dress with a ruffle hem. Nightshade sits by the black dress and starts purring louder. I laugh again.

“Great choice Nightshade.” I scratch my beloved cat behind her ears and her tail starts swinging like a grandfather clock pendulum.
One by one, I put my dresses back and settle on the sofa to watch some TV.
Work goes quickly the next day and I happily leave at with a spring in my step. I want to get back as quickly as possible to have enough time to get ready. I want to create a knockout makeup look. Maybe I’d do something different with my hair, too. My long brown poker straight hair could do with some curls. I get out my curling tongs and leave them to heat and then practise. It’s so long since I have styled my hair that the first time the curl doesn’t come out right. I search YouTube for some curly hair looks and find a few I like. I add them to favourite videos in my account and then run a bath with lots of bubbles.

As the bubbles and hot water relax me, I feel my mind go back to when I had first become interested in makeup. I remember my mother getting ready for work one day when I was about 8 years old. In the memory, the hot pink lipstick was bright against the dark wood of the dressing table and I picked the tube up after my mother left the house. I squinted at the worn sticker on the end of the tube and, if I concentrated hard, I can just about read the name Electric Rose. Cute but edgy.

Next, I remember I turned my hand facing palm down and dragged the lipstick over the back of it as if drawing with a brand new crayon. This was how I felt then, excited. Mum’s lipstick, although well used, was well cared for.

From that day on, mum loved me wearing makeup. She would do my makeup on any special occasion in my life, from school fun days to carnivals to school plays, and then when I left school and before I graduated as a makeup artist .

I bought more and more makeup, and promised myself that one day I would make a living from it.
Suddenly, I feel a pang of nostalgia and wish mum was there to do my makeup.

I sigh, and some bubbles from the surface of the bathwater float upwards. I reach my hand out and touch them. They don’t pop. Maybe there’s still hope for my dreams.
Back in my bedroom and now in the dress, I sit at my dressing table. Makeup palettes are spread before me and I have a makeup mixing palette to one side but within reach. What look shall I go for?
Anything looks good with black, but I want my eyes to be the focus tonight. I prime them with my favourite primer. The product glides onto my lids and I mix deep burgundy eyeshadow with a red glitter one in my beauty palette. The result is a deeper, richer colour with some sparkle. It isn’t overpowering but it does not need to be.

I highlight the inner corner with a soft gold shadow and add the dramatic flourishes of bright gold eyeliner and finally lots of deep black mascara. I keep my base and lips light with powder foundation a slight dusting of nude blusher and warm, peachy nude lipstick. I add some random curls with the curling iron. A spritz of perfume I’m done.

The doorbell goes and Nightshade is unusually nervous, pacing and flighty, meowing more than usual.
I open the door to Gerry in a dark plum shirt and pale jeans.
“Hi Rina, bought you some flowers,” He hands me the deep red roses and kisses me. I kiss him back.
“Hi,” I say as I let him in and smell the flowers. “They’re beautiful, thanks!”
“You’re so welcome,” he says, flashing his smile that makes my knees weak. I grip the doorframe to steady myself.
“Hi kitty,” he says as Nightshade winds herself round my legs then shoots out the open front door.
We laugh.
“She’s protective of you,” Gerry observed.
“Yes, she is my own personal guard cat.” Whoa, bad joke, Rina, what’s wrong with you?”
I laugh good-naturedly, and walk to the kitchen for a vase. He follows me.
As I set the vase of flowers on the coffee table in the sitting room, he looks at his watch.
“We’d better go, my Nonna’s waiting.”
I feel intrigued. “Where are we going?” I ask.
“It’s a surprise,” he says mysteriously as we begin our walk into town.
“Here we are,” he says as he opens the door to a small restaurant. “My Beautiful Little Italy was owned by my grandparents. Nonna has run it alone since my grandfather’s death.”
“Wow!” I look around me. White tablecloths on small square tables, dark wood chairs. Rust red walls packed with coloured and sepia photos and family memorabilia show happy times. The place is cosy and homely.
“Nonna, hi!”

Nonna is petite and deeply tanned with salt and pepper hair in a bun. She and Gerry greet each other with a kiss on each cheek.
She sees me and says “Ah, I finally get to meet Rina.”
“Nice to meet you,” I say.
She places kisses on my cheeks.
“Dinner is served.” She leads us to a central table where food is laid out. First pasta in olive oil then a pizza to share and tiramisu.
Nonna smiles. “I’ll let you have the restaurant to yourselves.”
We make small talk, kissing now and then as we make our way through the home cooked culinary feast.
Then Gerry says “So, ready for the real coffee?”
He gets up and goes to the kitchen, returning with nutty smelling coffee which wafts round the restaurant.
After the meal, satisfied and happy, we walk slowly back to mine.
No sign of Nightshade.
“Probably on a night prowl.”
“Yeah, maybe.” We smile knowingly.

We talk some more and then somehow end up kissing. First slow, then more insistent. His arms feel tight, but secure around my body and I feel a safeness I do not remember having felt in so long.
We stay like that for some time and he cradles me as if I’m the most important thing to him. We are interrupted by a meow and Nightshade walks in.

“There you are!” I laugh. Nightshade jumps up and walks across the couch and then our laps before settling on Gerry’s lap.
“I think she likes you!” We laugh once again and sit there for a few minutes while he strokes a purring, very relaxed, Nightshade.
“Fancy a tour of the house?” I stand up, tugging on his arm. He gently moves Nightshade to a new spot then gets up and follows me.
“I think you have a nice place here” he says as we walk from room to room.
“Thanks,” I smile at the compliment. The touch of his hand in mine sends shivers down my spine. I love the fact that he likes how I live. Yes, my life is cosy and quiet and I have done the best I can to get by since mum died.
I try to push the memory of that day away but a tear trickles down my cheek. Gerry must notice out the corner of his eye, because he turns to me and asks “Hey, you OK?”
I sniff and fumble in my pocket for a tissue. Finding none, I she sniff louder and breathe deep as I try to control the flow of my tears.
Gerry stops looking around the room and puts his arms round me. “Look, I know we have not known each other long at all but whatever it is, you can tell me, OK?”
I nod, and we resume walking along the corridor. I say “In here, I want to show you something.”

We turn into the bedroom. I lead him straight to the bedside table where the photo of mum sits.
“This is why I’m sad,” I say. He’s silent, just looking at the photo. “This is my mum, she died.”
“You look like her.”
I do, I have the same long dark hair and eyes. I’m tall like her too. My gut squeezes I look away trying not to show him my tears as they began to fall.
“Hey, it’s OK. I’m here.” He hugs me tighter, which only makes the tears flow quicker. I suddenly feel a wave of gratitude for having met him and hope there can be more between us. Maybe that will come in time.
Back at work, I realise how lucky she am to have found something I love doing, I am even getting to know Amy better. Alicia is not as strict as I had feared. I remember that I was nervous at first but I feel like here is where I’m supposed to be.

At the end of the two weeks, Gerry and I are called into the office and given some paper with gold lettering on it.
“What’s this?” I ask.
“The invitation to the product launch, the manufacturer really liked the lipsticks and they want to do a special event.”
The day is here. Gerry and I are driven to the event in an official looking car with tinted windows. I bought a new dress for the occasion, and he’s in a new suit.

After a short while, the car stops outside the building where the event is. The chauffeur opens the car door and Gerry takes my hand leading me.
Inside, the building, chandeliers glow and tables are filled with food. We mingle with people we know.

Alicia comes up to us and says, “Well, this is a big night for you, isn’t it?”
“Yes definitely.” I look around in wonder at the building’s high ceiling and classical design. It really is the perfect place to have this event.
“We’re up next,” Gerry says, as he pulls me to the front, where a microphone sits on a podium in front of a glittery backdrop. A large banner with the name of the event hangs across the room. I say a silent prayer and hope that I do my best in this presentation. I get nervous in presentations, and have done since I was at school.

I breathe deep. “Welcome to the launch for our product. It’s a collection of lipsticks which are completely original and you have different colours and designs within the same collection.” The company have paid extra to have people hand out a product sample to each of the people at the event and I see people doing that.

People grab the products and they seem impressed and there are exclamations of “Oh, this is cute!” “Really original.”
We have break for lunch. As we near the tables trying to get around the crowds, I hear a voice that makes fear slice through me. My hands start to shake and I drop the sausage roll I’m holding. Gerry is piling food onto his plate and doesn’t seem to notice.

That is until the person shouts “Hey, great to see you, Rina!”
Rooted to the spot, I look around for the exit. I look at him, trying to convey a silent message that we should just leave. He understands and lets me lead him to a corner of the room behind people. I think we’ll be well hidden.
“We have to go,” I say to him.
“What? Why?”
“It’s Sandy Braymer, from my old job. She was the one who wanted me out, she made my life hell.” My urgent whisper catches the attention of people near us who turn to stare.
“We can’t leave,” he protests. “Today is our big day.”
“Ah ha! There you are!” The chilling voice cuts through the room’s atmosphere and I freeze.

People start whispering louder, fidgeting, looking concerned.
Suddenly, Sandy runs up to the mic and pushes the guy next to her out of the way.
“Rina!” she shouts. “You think this is your big day? I was meant to be successful! My ideas are so much better than yours! You are incapable, You ought to know that. It’s obvious to me, ever since you stole my idea about the diamond-infused eyeshadow.”

She turns to the event organizers and says “And her products should not be on the market!”
Suddenly, two burly security guards are on either side of her and one of them quickly turns the microphone off so we are spared the rest of her rant as she is led away.

“Wow, she’s intense,” Gerry says.

People start gossiping again and staring at me.
“Right, I need to set the record straight,” I walk through the crowd to find Alicia.
“You know this rubbish isn’t true,” I say.
“Yes, I do,” she says. “We checked your references when we employed you and that didn’t come up.” She hugs me. “Don’t worry, today’s your day.”

I feel worry niggle still and say “Thanks, but I have to set the record straight.” I grab Gerry’s hand and lead him up to the front of the room. People are still murmuring but I forge on.
“Erm, hi,” I say. “That was something that I wasn’t planning on- she’s crazy. I didn’t steal her idea for an eyeshadow.”

Suddenly, Alicia is by my side talking to the organizer. A slide with my employment credentials is on the screen. People gasp. Then the clapping starts. Cameras flash left right and centre and then there are questions during which there’s an avalanche of possible buyers and investors for my lipstick campaign.

I feel amazing. My heart is singing.

“Well done!” Alicia hugs me once everyone is gone.
Gerry does too, and he’s not ashamed to do so in front of my boss.
“Look after her, she’s special,” she advises.
“Oh I will do,” he assures her.

And once she’s gone, he kisses me once more.

So, I did it, I created my own brand. I couldn’t have done it without Gerry though, and as for Nightshade, she’s a real celebrity. Sponsors of the brand have provided cat treats and toys for her as well as rooms at the best cat hotels so she can have her own pampering sessions.

Oh, and did I tell you Gerry proposed? Well he did. And guess who will be the ring bearer? You guessed it-Nightshade!

And we plan to go to Italy, Paris and Madrid. Nightshade will come too because even the hotel will be pet friendly.

So, a lesson to take away from my story. If you don’t fight, you don’t get what you want. With a fighting spirit, love, and a little help, I have renewed faith that anything is possible. I feel a glow, and know mum is looking down on us and feels proud.

Featured on the Blog Undercover Superhero! 

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I was contacted by the owner of the disability and lifestyle blog Undercover Superhero to share my story.