Having it all Swedish style.

We recently met up with the Swedish singer from the band that my son used to play guitar in. All the band members are at that marrying and having babies stage, and (I’ll call him) Lars is no exception.  Lars is a software engineer as well as trying to become a successful vocalist.  His wife works as a teacher.  Over a pleasant dinner and chat, I learned how easier it might be for a mother or father to ‘have it all’ in Sweden.  Although Swedish workers pay high taxes (anyone earning over £32,000 will find they are paying between 49 – 60% tax), the benefits are amazing (I’ve used British currency for my blog, as it’s easier for me to understand!).

  • Many Swedish hospitals have adjoining ‘hotels’ for new mothers and partners to stay in after the birth, whilst mother and baby are monitored by medical staff.
  • New parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, even when a child is adopted.  A mother can take the whole 15 months herself, or she can split it with the baby’s father.  For 390 of those days, parents are entitled to  nearly 80% of their normal pay.  The remaining 90 days are paid at a flat rate.  Those not in employment are also entitled to paid parental leave!
  • Parental leave can be taken until each child turns 8, and parents can accumulate leave from several children.  Outside the 480 paid days, parents have a legal right to reduce their hours up to 25% until their child turns 8.
  • The Government provides a monthly child allowance of about £94 a month for the first child, and an extra family supplement of about £370 per month for a family with more than one child.
  • Health and dental care is free for under 18’s.
  • In some Swedish cities, parents pushing infants in prams can ride for free on public buses.
  • When a child is sick, employees still get 80% of their pay if they have to stay at home.  Temporary parental leave is available for up to 120 days per child per year for children under 12.

The UK has a 40% tax rate on earnings over £54,000 and a 45% rate on earnings over £150,000.  However, compare the Swedish benefits for parents to when my own sons were new fathers.  They were entitled to only 1 or 2 weeks of paternity leave, which is now paid at £139.58 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)!  Granted, health care is free over here for any age on the NHS if you cannot afford to pay privately, and our child allowance is £82.80 per month for the first child, with £54.80 per month for each subsequent child.  However, for a father to be able to take over 7 months paid paternity leave or 120 days off to look after  sick child is unheard of!

As of yet, Lars and his new wife are not parents, but when they are, it will be much easier for them to carry on with their careers and still have quality time with their children. When my sons were babies I stayed at home, as all of my earnings would have gone on paying a childminder.  We had next to no disposable income, although we could pay all the bills.  I did not return to full time work until my eldest son was 12.  Sam took the regulation 2 weeks off as a new father.   Perhaps we should have moved to Sweden!

Can parents really have it all?  What do you think?

Tuesday Newsday- 27th September

On my iPad I have a BBC News app.  I read of the birth of Jamie Oliver’s fifth child, River Rocket.  Jamie and his wife have hired a night nurse due to the exhaustion of sleepless nights with a new baby and a tough filming schedule.

Oh yes, I remember those sleepless nights as if it were yesterday!  My (what would turn out to be hyperactive) eldest son never slept for more than half an hour at a time for the first year, and screamed for the majority of the time he was awake.  We were on our knees with tiredness, until my mother mentioned in passing the remedy for getting babies to sleep.  Apparently a tiny tot of whisky in my milk often knocked me out as an infant, and gave  Dot and John temporary relief from my evil presence when they could take no more.

I was appalled at this disclosure.  Instead, Sam and I took turns to stay awake on alternate nights.  It was just not worth both of us trying to go to sleep; we were comforted in knowing that we would be able to fall into oblivion on the night following our 12 hours of duty.  However, one night my turn at sleeping coincided with Sam needing to be bright and alert for a presentation he was doing at work the following morning.  He had had enough, and unbeknownst to me, slipped Leon a mickey in the form of a few drops of whisky in his night time bottle.

I woke up with a start at 6.30 to the alarm sounding, amazed to see Sam, groggy with sleep, waking up as well.  He told me what he’d done, and although we’d had had the best night’s sleep in a year, I was terrified to look into the cot.  Sam had a peep, and told me that Leon was ‘sleeping like a baby’.  Leon is now 34 and none the worse for his liquid cosh!

Do babies ever sleep?  Mine didn’t for years until the night of the ‘wee dram’.  I didn’t and Dot tells me she didn’t either.  My son and daughter-in-law haven’t had a full night’s sleep for nearly 2 years with their youngest. If we could have afforded it, a night  nurse would have been just wonderful.  However, a drop of whisky (just that one time, I might add!) had to do instead when we were desperate.




Smorgasbord Autumn Reading – The Donor by Stevie Turner – 99c until September 27th

Thanks to Sally for the promotion. Last chance today and tomorrow to purchase at a discount!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Smorgasbord Autumn Reading

Today’s featured book is the women’s fiction novel The Donor by Stevie Turner and it is on offer at .99 cents until September 27th.


About the book

When you meet the love of your life, the last thing you expect is your sister luring him away.

Clare faces this scenario when her sister, Isabel, marries singer and guitarist Ross Tyler. To make things even worse, Ross hits the big time, makes a fortune and moves to France with his family.

But when tragedy strikes, Ross and Clare are forced to revisit their common past, one which they must try to put behind them for Isabel’s sake.

Some of the reviews for The Donor.

From the word go this book grabbed my attention and kept it to the…

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Open Book Blog Hop – 26th September

This week we’re focusing on common obstacles. What are the challenges we face as writers? What was it like to be rejected? What kept us going when we wanted to quit? How do we deal with “writer’s block” or getting a negative review?


One of the biggest challenges of course, is trying to sell our books without spamming every single social media site known to man.  However, without a little bit of promotion, nobody is going to know that our books are out there, and so we writers have to choose the best ways of reaching out to readers without boring them witless.  I’m trying the theory that if I publish a non-spamming blog for 4 days out of 5 which is not focusing on any of my books, then readers could be more likely to take note of any book promotions I might do. I’m cutting down on tweets too.  Who knows?  I’ll give it a few months and see if it works.


Yes, we can all paper the walls with the number of rejections we’ve received.  It’s par for the course when you start sending your work off to literary agencies.  Consider it the norm to receive rejections, and you will then be pleasantly surprised when that email comes in from an agent asking to see your manuscript.  I’ve had a few requests from agents for whole manuscripts, and even a debate as to whether they were going to represent me at one point, but I’ve learned it’s best not to build your hopes up too soon!  When it happens it will happen.  Until then, keep learning and improving, and above all…keep writing!

What keeps us going?

I’ve never wanted to quit writing, so I don’t have a problem with finding ways to keep going.  However, there are days when I don’t feel like doing much, or the words won’t come.  On those days I put my trainers on and walk about the countryside I love so much.  Sometimes I even get my old bike out from the shed and pedal away.  It’s all flat in Suffolk, so it’s not too difficult for an old girl like me.

Writer’s block:

I find it’s best to write at least 500 – 1000 words every day.  If I go away and don’t write at all, then it’s harder to get back in the swing of things.  Writing a little bit every day keeps the writer’s block away.  That’s my motto anyway!

Negative review:

Again, we’ve all had them.  I work on the theory that it’s just somebody else’s opinion and that you cannot please all the people all the time.  A few negative reviews show that at least you’re getting honest reviews and that readers might be more convinced the 5 star reviews you do have are not all from Uncle Tom, Auntie Jean and Cousin Ernie.

How do others in the blog hop deal with these challenges?  Click on the blue button below to find out.

1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

Guest Author: Frank Parker

Transgression sounds intriguing! Enjoyed this interview of Frank Parker by C.M Blackwood.

Blackwood's Magazine

Hey, everybody! Top of the evening to you, and welcome back to our September Spotlight of indie authors here at Blackwood’s. Today’s special guest is the awesome Frank Parker! Let’s have a little chit-chat with him.

author_frank_parker Here’s Frank! (I really love this pic of him.)

  1. Everyone has a story about why they love to write. What’s yours?

I was an avid reader from an early age – one of those people that cannot resist reading the back of the cereal packet and sauce bottle whilst eating breakfast! And I was read to; my mother’s way of sharing her own love of reading with her children. Our knowledge and understanding of the world around us comes from reading. Our formal education consists principally in studying prescribed texts under the guidance of our teachers.

It was not long before I felt the need to challenge some of the discoveries I made through…

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Sandwich anyone?

As children there’s always the reassurance that there are at least two or maybe even three generations above us.  We are young, in the lower part of the sandwich, and the grandparents and great-grandparents in the upper part are old, as old as Methuselah.

There comes a time when we move up to be the filling in the sandwich.  We are now parents, looking after young children and also aged parents and grandparents.  We are running around like blue-arse flies, trying to please all the people all the time.

Fast forward thirty years.  Our parents and grandparents have died, and our children have flown the nest and have children of their own.  We are proud grandparents, in the upper part of the sandwich, no longer the fillers, and no longer running around like blue-arse flies (we can’t anyway, because our joints would complain).  We have the time to indulge our grandchildren, and then give them back to their mum and dad and carry on with our slower-paced lives.

Sam and I still have elderly mothers, although they are now housebound.  At our barbeque yesterday for Sam’s birthday it was the first time that Mum had not been there, simply because she can no longer get in and out of  a car, and because our house is not wheelchair friendly.  In effect at family gatherings Sam and I are now the upper part of the sandwich, enjoying the fruits of our labours, cuddling all four grandchildren, and knowing that in reality they think we are as old as Methuselah.  What a comforting thought!

Now off to indulge our granddaughters for the rest of the day, and tomorrow morning as well. See you all on Monday. x


Friday Roundup -23rd September

1.  Thanks to Mary Walton for these 10 proofreading tools for writers.


2.  6 answers fiction writers have for the Grammar Police by Kassandra Lamb:


3.  Thanks to Helen Sedwick for these 5 legal terms every author should know.


 4.  Good advice from Nail Your Novel about how to blog about your book without giving too much away.


5. Thanks to Nicholas C. Rossis for these author tips:


6.  Good one from Gem Stone on finding beta readers:


7.  Thanks to Pearls Before Swine for this message to authors:


8.  Have We Had Help has some advice for authors regarding marketing:


9.  Good advice on sentence construction from Matthew Anderson and Jean’s Writing:

Are your adjectives in the right order?

10.  Thanks to Silver Threading for these 6 ways of evoking fear in your writing:

F is for Fear – 6 Tips on How to Evoke Fear in Your Writing – Author Zoo

11.  Thanks to Ana Spoke for writing about her experiences with Patchwork Press and NetGalley:

My experience with a NetGalley co-op by Patchwork Press

12.  Last but not least, my thanks of course goes to Sally Cronin at Smorgasbord for getting the word out regarding my book promotion this week:



Thanks to Chris, the Story Reading Ape, Nicholas C.Rossis,  Anita Dawes & Jaye Marie, The Write Stuff, and Kim’s Author Support Blog,   for the re-blogs.

Thursday Cite & Insight Invite -22nd September

This week’s quote is by Tim Fargo,  American author, keynote speaker, and entrepreneur, who is best known for co-founding the insurance fraud investigative company, Omega Insurance Service in 1996, which became the second biggest insurance fraud investigative company in the US.

‘You don’t have to learn from experience; if you don’t mind repeating the course’.

Ha ha!  If you are a parent, how many times have you wished that your children would listen and benefit from your experiences?  You have already made the mistakes and have the bruises to prove it, but will they listen?  No, they will not.  Your children know it all anyway, and will steam straight ahead and make the same mistakes that you did all over again.  It’s frustrating, but then again, did you listen to your own parents?  I know I didn’t, and that’s probably why poor old Dad had lost most of his hair by the time he was 40!

Isn’t it strange though how the young will not take advice?  The ‘you can’t put old heads on young shoulders’ saying springs to mind, and it’s absolutely true.  My eldest son and daughter-in-law wanted Sam and I to view a cheap house that they were interested in buying.  We looked at it, and also drove the car there one evening and sat outside for a while.  The house was fine, in good repair, and well worth the reduced price.  However, we could see big problems ahead for them with its location in the middle of the kind of rough council estate that we had both lived on as  teenagers, where police, fire engines and ambulances were called out to day after day after miserable day.  We told them we had both lived in similar areas for years as youngsters, and definitely not to buy it.

Leon and Kelly didn’t listen and bought the house because it was cheap and their mortgage would be less.  Within a few months they’d had paint thrown over their car, a brick thrown through their front room window, and somebody murdered in the street outside.  When the whole house caught fire (thankfully when they were out) they decided they’d had enough.  The insurance company moved them to a temporary home a few miles away, and when the house was repaired they sold it as quickly as they could.

Move forward a year, and they’re looking for a house again when the bank of Mum and Dad managed to divvy up a deposit.  Once more they ask us to look over the house.  The house is fine, in good repair, and well worth the price.  We sit outside.  Nothing!  This time they actually ask us if they should buy it.  We cannot find any fault at all and the sale goes ahead.  So far so good….

Have you repeated the course, or did you listen to your parents?

Guest Author: Stevie Turner

Thanks C.M for the interview!

Blackwood's Magazine

Good day, my friends! Today we have author Stevie Turner with us, and she’s going to bare the secrets of her soul. (Just kidding. She’s only going to answer a few questions.)

stevie-turner-badge Custom badge created by author Y. Correa

  1. Everyone has a story about why they love to write.  What’s yours?

I’ve been writing ever since I followed in my mother’s creative footsteps and won an essay competition at school when I was 11. Writing poems and short stories saved me from being a somewhat lonely and introverted ‘only’ child, and now that I’ve taken early retirement in my fifties due to health problems, my new-found ability to write novels fills every one of my days and gives me a reason to get up in the mornings.  Increased book sales are adding to life’s pleasures!

  1. If there’s a particular book you’re trying to market right now, will you tell us about it?

Luckily this promotional spot coincided…

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