Friday, December 23, 2011

Festive Greetings


Thanks for your support and for following my blog this year - even though I haven't posted that often over the last few months. Will do better next year!

I hope Christmas is filled with your favourite things, and wish you all a happy and healthy 2012.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?


I was chuffed to little mint balls - as we used to say Up North - to see that my novel has finally appeared on my German publisher's website. It's real. It's got pages. My name is on the cover. Okay, so it's not out until next September, but it exists and that'll have to do for now.

I called it My Future Husband, but the German interpretation is quite different and roughly translates as 'Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained' (I think!)

There's no hint of the time-travel contained within its pages, but I'm not complaining. Oooh no. I'm just really happy to see it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tears and Laughter

Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After is the project I mysteriously referred to a while ago - a short story collection now available on Kindle at a very reasonable price. Hurray!  Not that you HAVE to buy it, but you'd be mad not to. Oh and I'm in it, by the way.

The paperback version will be out in time for Christmas - which is rather handy and I hope, if you do fancy a peek, that you find something to your liking.

All the contributors are members of the short story writing group I joined three years ago, and without it I'm certain I wouldn't have gone on to sell so many stories (*cough, seventy-five, cough*) and I'm very proud to be in such good company.

And now for the blurby bit ...

"Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After" is a vibrant and varied collection of tales from writers who between them have had hundreds of short stories published in women’s magazines in the UK and around the world. Contributors have also won or been placed in dozens of competitions, published novels and written non-fiction for many UK magazines.


As the title suggests, the twenty-six stories encompass the heights of happiness, the depths of sadness, and every emotion in between. Within the pages are a housewife with a surprising secret, a beekeeper with a problem and an undertaker with something unusual on his mind. You’ll encounter angels, ghosts, aliens and other intriguing characters. And, in the end, may just find the path to happy ever after.


“This anthology has something for everyone. It’s a delight.
I only wish I was in it!”
Della Galton


“Like diving into a big box of Quality Street”
Kate Long

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All I want for Christmas

Beth Prince has always loved fairytales and now, aged twenty-four, she feels like she’s finally on the verge of her own happily ever after. She lives by the seaside, works in the Picturebox – a charming but rundown independent cinema – and has a boyfriend who’s so debonair and charming she can’t believe her luck! There’s just one problem – none of her boyfriends have ever told her they love her and it doesn’t look like Aiden’s going to say it any time soon. Desperate to hear ‘I love you’ for the first time Beth takes matters into her own hands – and instantly wishes she hadn’t. Just when it seems like her luck can’t get any worse, bad news arrives in the devilishly handsome shape of Matt Jones. Matt is the regional director of a multiplex cinema and he’s determined to get his hands on the Picturebox by Christmas. Can Beth keep her job, her man and her home or is her romantic-comedy life about to turn into a disaster movie?

The lovely Cally Taylor's new novel, Home for Christmas, is out today and although it's normally my policy to put off thinking about Christmas until the very last moment, I'm going to make an exception and read it as soon as possible.

All the main character, Beth, wants for Christmas is to hear the words "I love you", which got me thinking about the things I wanted for Christmas when I was growing up.

To be honest, it was mostly a puppy - but we weren't allowed one because my mum (quite rightly with hindsight) felt she'd be the one who ended up looking after it, and she already had four children to contend with. (They were hers, I hasten to add - not four random children she'd taken in especially to avoid having to buy a dog.)

Books always featured highly on my wish lists, and I definitely got plenty of those. We didn't have a TV growing up so reading was our entertainment. That and pestering our parents for a puppy.

But my best-ever present was a camera when I was fouteen. I'd put one on my list, not holding out much hope, and was over the moon to find one in my stocking. (Pretty uncomfortable, I can tell you. HO HO!)

It was an old-fangled one with a cube-flash on top. PLEASE tell me you remember them? Barely a step up from my gran's Box Brownie, but it led to a love of photography that's stayed with me.

I now have a fancy-pants, all-singing all-dancing digital SLR, but I still remember the thrill of that little plastic one - not to mention the look of glazed boredom on people's faces when I begged them to pose again, one last time ...

These days, all I want for Christmas is for everyone to be happy and a plentiful supply of food. Oh and an offer to publish my novel would be nice. Harrumph!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sunshine and Tinsel

An incongruous sight while out shopping during the recent heatwave. Cloudless blue sky, people flashing flesh in summer clothes and ... tinsel. Oh and a hanging teddy bear. I was quite disorientated, I can tell you. I still don't know what the bear was doing up there.

I keep thinking there's a story in that picture somewhere, or at least a caption, but I haven't come up with anything suitable yet. (Call yourself a writer? - Ed)

I've been shimmying around the country on trains for the past two days. Up to York to spend a day with family - typically the sky went surly and a breeze sprang up the second I stepped on the platform - and today to spend time with writing friends, to discuss an exciting new project (top secret at the moment! Don't you hate it when people put that on their blogs? I know I do.)

I love travelling by train, I find it genuinely relaxing. I got more writing done than I would have at home, which made me think I should take a long journey every single day. Then I realised I'd be broke by the end of the week and quickly came to my senses.

Does anyone remember when train travel used to be cheap, or am I imagining that?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Crossroads


So, what's happening on the novel-front? I hear you cry. There was the German deal you were rattling on about over a year ago (God has it been that long?!) and then ... everything went quiet. What's happening?

Well ... not much is the answer. Apparently, my timing is off. No reflection on me or my writing, just that publishers have over-bought in the romantic-comedy (chick-lit) genre and aren't taking on anything new right now - or for the forseeable future.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you how that news has made me feel after my excitement last year, having allowed myself to believe it could actually happen. 'It' being an actual book on a actual shelf in an actual bookshop with an actual cover and everything. *pauses for a prolonged bout of teeth gnashing, hair-pulling and general weeping session.* In the UK that is. Thank GOD for my lovely German deal. It gives me hope.

So, what to do? Well, I could keep writing in this genre and wait for the market to pick up, then trying submitting again down the line. Try and find another agent. Did I mention I no longer have one? (Sob.)

I do understand. It's business after all, and if a client isn't making you money you have to let them go.

I've been advised to try writing for Young Adults - a growth market right now - but it's not for me. I read and enjoy YA books; there are some brilliant ones out there and Meg Rosoff is one of my favourite writers, but I don't think it's possible to write convincingly in a genre you don't feel completely comfortable with, or passionate about.

I do have a psychological thriller all mapped out though, so I could try that.

I'm dithering. I feel a bit jaded. A lot less sure of everything. Not about wanting to write - I'll always want to do that, and the short stories are going well so I do have that, but -

I still believe in my novels.  I'm six chapters into novel 3. Another romantic comedy. I'm enjoying writing it, so maybe I'll plough on and finish it for my own satisfaction then pop it in a drawer with the others.

Remind me again why I do this ...

Hope I haven't come across as a self-pitying whinger. I know it's a brutal business and it's one I entered into with my eyes wide open. I just wanted to explain, in case any of you were wondering.

I kind of feel better for it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cake-free summer



Hello August - what the heck happened to July? I must have blinked and missed it.

I know it's summer because it rained, hailed and thundered yesterday, and then got dark quite early.

Also my mum's staying which she does every year, and oddly I manage to squeeze in quite a bit of writing while she's here as she likes a lie-in in the mornings, so I get out my net-book and type away in bed before she gets up. Maybe if she moved in permanently I'd be sure of doing some writing EVERY single morning.

They say it takes 3 weeks to make or break a habit, but I'm still pretty bad at establishing a routine where writing's concerned - though I have managed to give up cake.

This is no mean feat, as I'm sure regular readers will know, and I have to confess it's all down to hypnotism. I don't mean I looked into someone's eyes while they were swinging a gold watch in front of me (do hypnotists still do that anywhere outside fiction anyway?) but rather I've been listening to a download recommended by a friend, of a reassuring chap called Trevor from thinkingslimmer.com who assures me every night before I go to sleep that I actually DON'T NEED cake at all. Unbelievable, I know.

Of course I despised him at first, wanted to punch him in fact, and even tried to argue with him, but slowly, surely his monotone words have dripped into my sub-conscious and I've found myself not even wanting to eat anything remotely sugary AT ALL. For a whole month now.

I'm highly suspicious and doubt it will last, but in the meantime my bottom has shrunk, I'm saving money (I used to eat a LOT of cake, especially those lovely ones in Costa - and I can type that now without drooling)and if I ever meet Trevor I might have to take him out for a coffee and say thank you.

 Just a coffee. I won't even look at the cakes ...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Horses for Courses


My lovely writing friend Helen Hunt is holding a short story workshop at the end of July, aimed at the women's magazine market. She's had plenty of success in this area and knows her onions, so if you're looking to break into the market ... don't sign up. There's enough competition out there already. I'm kidding. No really, I am. DO sign up - I know you'll have an enjoyable and informative experience.

I once did a creative writing course at a local college, when the children were little. My ex-husband didn't believe me and thought I was having an affair. With three children under five, I can't imagine how he thought I had the energy to cheat on him AND write a short story to show him when I got home. But I digress...

Several people on the course were, in my opinion, genuinely talented - one young chap in particular had us in stitches every week with his inventive, off-the-wall tales, and I was certain that one day I'd be either reading his bestselling novel, or seeing a screenplay he'd written. We all did.

I bumped into him in Boots the other day. He works there full time now, and gave up writing soon after the course ended and I couldn't help thinking what a shame. Writing obviously wasn't for him and yet ... I'd bet my life that if he'd persevered he'd be wildly successful by now, because he was a hell of a lot more gifted than most of us in the group - myself included.

It made me realise whoever said writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration is absolutely true for those who stick with it, and the rest?

I guess they'll never know.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Inspiration Genie


There was a character in Case Histories on BBC1 last night who was a a novelist, and in one scene a nurse says to him, "There's something I've always wanted to ask. Where do you get your ideas?"

The look on his face said it all, and I gave a wry little laugh. It's one of those questions writers dread as it's so hard to answer sensibly.

It would be great if there was an ideas bank where you could go and withdraw inspiration when you're running low, but for me I find that the more I write the more ideas seem to pop up, and they're everywhere.

A while ago the lovely Teresa Ashby ran a 'first line' competition on her blog, which I entered. I didn't win, but the line stuck in my mind and I've just sold the resulting story I wrote to Woman's Weekly.

A few months back my daughter rang on her way to work in a panic, with the immortal words, "It's only half past six and I've killed a cat."

I think I managed an appropriate response, but I was secretly thinking what a brilliant story opener and subsequently sold that story too.

Sometimes a line on the news or in a TV drama, or in a newspaper or magazine, or an overheard snippet of conversation in a cafe, or something I see in passing will plant itself in my head, and I know there's a story lurking that I want to write.

I've even woken up lately with stories half-formed in my head, that haven't seemed completely ridiculous a couple of hours later.

Maybe it's like exercising a muscle that keeps growing stronger and it's got to a stage where I'm subconciously seeing stories everywhere.

I don't want to put ideas in Teresa's head, but my daughter did demand a cut of my earnings from the dead cat story, as she said I'd never have written it if she hadn't phoned me that morning. (The cat wasn't dead, by the way.)

Which, to be fair, is spot-on.

She did back down though, once I began droning about the unpaid labour that's gone into parenting her over the past twenty years.

Wherein lies another story. Probably.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Piles of patience required

After I got my feedback back from Lovely Agent, regarding novel 2, I re-read my manuscript for the first time since submitting it; about 3 months.  And oh boy - it read embarrassingly like a first draft. 

Even though at the time I was convinced it was as good as it could be, it would have benefitted from being thrust under a cushion for a while and a complete rewrite, because things leapt out of the pages, even without the feedback.

A couple of gaping plot holes, a fairly unlikeable main character, and WAY too many repetitions of the word 'heap' for a start. As in 'heaps of fun' and 'piled into a heap' and 'a heap of toast'.  What is it with me and the word 'heap'?  I wasn't even aware I liked the word, and I certainly can't stand it now.

I think at the time I was too keen to get it sent out, worried the agent might think I wasn't up to the task of completing another novel if I messed around for too long - but with hindsight I should have waited a while. 

Luckily the holes are easily plugged, and the word 'heap' has been banished forever, but once I've finished the rewrite I'm going to take the advice I've read so many times before, and print the whole thing out for a final read-through (our printer is dodgy so this option never really appealed before).

THEN I'll shove it under a cushion and let it rest for a bit.

After that, I'll send it back knowing it really IS the best it could possibly be; and hope Lovely Agent agrees.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Post by Alison Pick

I'm delighted to introduce author, Alison Pick, to my blog.  Alison is the author of acclaimed new novel Far to Go, a beautifully written account of a Jewish family living in Czechoslovakia just before World War II, whose existence is threatened with the arrival of German forces. 

I'll be posting a full review of the novel next week, but in the meantime Alison tells us about one of her favourite books ...





To ask a writer about her favourite book is like asking Old Mother Hubbard which of her many children she prefers. Which is to say, there is no single answer, or the answer changes from moment to moment, day to day. Still, though, it’s something I love to ask other people, with the understanding that tomorrow the answer will be different.


So. At the moment, the book I love the most, the one that is keeping me up at night, is called ‘Everything I Ate: A Year in the Life of my Mouth.’ It is a fairly straight-forward concept book in which the author, a photographer, took a picture of every single morsel he consumed over the course of an entire calendar. It seemed, on first glance, somewhat banal. As I started turning the pages, though, I realized it was in fact incredibly intimate. Food is deeply personal, we all know that, but to see these photographs laid out, mediated only by the barest amount of text, was like reading someone’s private diary.

I wanted to look away. I felt I should look away. But I just couldn’t.

For someone who spends their life immersed in Literature with a capital L, there was also a palpable relief in a book like this. It was a gift from my old publicist—another reason I love it—and I gather he felt the same. There is no investment. You don’t need to give yourself to this book, try the first chapter and see where it leads. Rather, it just takes you and won’t let you go.

Part of what makes this book fascinating is that the author’s eating habits are atrocious. From January to December there is nary a vegetable to be seen. A handful of green beans, the occasional salad at a restaurant or a friend’s home. Mostly, though, our hero eats cookies. And cupcakes. And grilled cheese, and burgers, and enough pizza to feed a small African nation. All of this is documented without the least trace of self-consciousness. On the contrary, I came away with a sense of the author’s true reverence for food. What we eat, he seems to imply, is who we are, and both are cause for celebration.

I don’t think it’s too much to say that this book will change the way you feel about food.

Warning: It will also make you hungry.

*I already am, Alison!

You can read more from Alison at She Reads Novels and she'll be stopping by The Book Club Forum tomorrow.

Thank you to Headline for my review copy

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Murder in the aisles

I've been in Tesco's a lot lately. Not shopping. That's waaaaaay too boring.

No instead, I've given up a child for adoption, had a couple of affairs, abseiled down a mountain, murdered a woman on a cruise ship, talked a man out of killing himself, joined a mother and toddler group and made a scarecrow.

Okay, not literally. I've been hunched over my netbook in the cafe there, writing stories, fuelled by tea and cake. It's become an addiction. (Not the cake - that was already an addiction.)

In spite of the noise I seem much more focused than at home, where a starling darting past the window can distract me into cutting the grass, or a hint of cobweb can lure me into hoovering the curtains. Or opening an email can lead to hours on the interweb, laughing manically at a moonwalking hamster on You Tube.

I think the staff are puzzled. They slip round corner where I sit out of sight and sneak looks at me while wiping down tables. I make sure I buy a cauliflower or a chicken pasty or something when I've finished, to show I'm actually a perfectly normal housewife. The family still has to eat.

Anyway, they should be careful or they might end up in my next story, battered around the head with a courgette in the veg aisle.

Of course if I was ever invited to do one of those 'Writing Room' features in a magazine, it would look a bit odd. None of the ones I've ever seen has featured a scowling waiter and a dishcloth, or a man in a vest with a trolley filled entirely with beer.

The novel still has to be edited and I'm working on that too. In between mowing the grass, sucking up cobwebs and laughing at moonwalking hamsters.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Royal silliness


I've shamelessly pinched this idea from the lovely Sally Quilford - mainly as a distraction from the editing pit, and also as a nod to the upcoming royal nuptials.

"What's your royal wedding guest name? Start with either Lord or Lady. Your first name is one of your grandparents names. Your surname is the name of your first pet - double barrelled with the name of the street you grew up on."

Simples.

Mine would be Lady Ethel Bomber-Coniston.  Which is plain ridiculous.  Bomber was a budgie by the way.  Not a fashionable pet these days.

I think you get the drift.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Losing words


Well, the verdict is in on novel 2 and it's mostly very positive. BUT - there's editing to be done.

And there was me thinking it would be ready to publish by Monday ...

The main thing is, I need to lose around 100 pages to increase the pace - which is easier said than done. I've tried shoving them down the back of the radiator, setting them alight in the garden, fashioning them into origami swans, sliding them under the mattress and taking an axe to the buggers, but the last time I looked they were - well, surprisingly they were still there.

I suppose that means I'm going to have to do it the hard way. By actually writing - or should that be rewriting? Obviously it's not as simple as lopping a few chapters off the end - the dynamic of the story will change with every word that's cut, affecting all the words that follow.

Obviously.

Which means I'd better stop messing about and get to it - those pages aren't going to magically vanish. Which is kind of ironic when you consider my story is about a witch.

Wish me luck. I may be some time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

All change


I've decided to update my blog and have included a short story page if you'd like a peek. I may post a new one now and again on a whim - depending which way the wind's blowing, and whether or not there's an i in the month.

Okay, okay I'm procrastinating - still waiting for feedback on novel 2 and wondering if novel 3 is the one I should be writing, or whether I should go back to the novel that was going to be novel 2 before the original novel 3 became novel 2.

Confused? I know I am.


Meanwhile I was lucky enough to meet up with a group of fellow writers on a lovely, sunny day in Peterborough last week, and it was amazing how many times over lunch we all blurted, "there's GOT to be a story in that!"

Once you're in the zone it's quite easy to imagine fictioning up the most mundane situation. When I popped to the Ladies to powder my nose at Marylebone station, and noticed a woman caught trying to leap the turnstile rather than pay thirty pee for a pee, part of my addled brain was thinking, hmmmm - there's GOT to be a story in that.

The thing is ... would anyone want to read it?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An award and 7 things



Two lovely and talented lady-writers, Lydia and Teresa Ashby have gone a little bit mad and bestowed this handsome award upon me - which is nice.

The rules state I have to tell you 7 things about myself, but I've bored you all senseless in that department in previous posts, so instead I'll list 7 things that are on my desk that have nothing to do with writing.

1. A half-empty packet of digestive biscuits. Can't think who ate them, but it couldn't possibly have been me.

2. My lucky mascot, Quackers. My grandma knitted him years ago, and seeing him reminds me of her. (Not that she looked like that I hasten to add.)


3) A tube of effervescent (love that word) vitamin C tablets and a carton of cranberry juice, both my husband's. He's on a bit of a health kick. Unlike me.

4) A mangled, half-chewed biro I rescued from the dog, which she obviously mistook for a rat.

5) A silver sharpener I used earlier for my eyeliner pencil.

6) A copy of Grazia magazine. So I can plan my summer wardrobe dahlings.

7) A crumpled contact lens and a Penny Red stamp lying rather poignantly side by side. My husband's a collector of the latter and the first is the reason I can only see properly out of one eye at the moment.

Looking back at that list, I'm slightly ashamed and will be doing a spot of tidying forthwith.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Keeping Quiet

Yesterday at work we were discussing the weekly coffee mornings at the library, and I was asked if I'd be interested in giving a talk about being a writer.

Inside my head this happened ...


On the surface I smiled pleasantly, though my first instinct was to scream NO! I once gave a 'best man's' speech at a friend's wedding years ago, and have never been so close to vomiting and fainting all at the same time, even though it went quite well in the end.

I hate that feeling. I'll shake, my voice will shake, I'll go red and the audience will know I'm nervous and feel nervous for me. However, IF I ever get published *cough, in this country, cough* I might be expected to give a talk here and there, so I figured it could be a good way for me to cut my teeth. Who would these people at the coffee morning be, I queried.

"Oh you know a few old dears, some mums, people wanting to support the library, that kind of thing. There's one old man who likes to come in for a cup of tea and a sleep."

I said I'd think about it. And then I said no. Because I'll only spend the next few weeks fretting about it and making myself feel ill otherwise.

Also, I feel like a fraud without an actual book I can hold up to prove I AM a writer. I can just picture the scepticism as Gladys demands to see my credentials, wanting tangible proof that I know what I'm wittering about.

Secondly, if it was people specifically turning up to hear someone talk about writing it might not be too bad, but it's not. Topics vary from week to week - from Medieval Chesham to finding a job online - but the audience remains the same. I'd only bore them rigid.

Thirdly ... well I suppose I'm a big ol' coward.

If I do ever get that publishing deal I expect it'll be a different story. I'll be begging them to let me give a talk about my 'journey'.

The problem will be shutting me up, but until then I'm keeping it zipped.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Art of Relaxing


Does anyone else suffer from ET (Extreme Tension) while writing? I'm going to assume the answer is YES, otherwise it might mean I'm freakish.

Mine tends to travel around my body. Sometimes it's in my neck, others my back and at the moment it's all in my tummy. I'm not aware of it as I'm writing, it's only afterwards when I realise I can barely move/breathe/nod my head when somebody offers me cake.

Once it's got a grip of a particular area it stays for a while before moving on, like a grubby student on a gap-year. No matter how many stretches and deep breathing exercises I do before or after - or in between - those pesky muscles tense up the second I begin writing.

It can even get quite painful, but it's such a sub-conscious (unconscious?) thing I can't control it. So what to do?

Well, put up with it I suppose and keep doing the stretches. On the other hand someone's suggested a rather vigorous form of yoga - see above - that's supposed to keep the muscles loose and relaxed no matter what. Thing is I'm a tiny bit worried about snapping my arms or spraining my waist - which would be even more painful, obviously.

Plus I don't have time to learn how to wrap my knees round my throat. I'm too busy writing, see?

What do you do to relax?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Finito


I've finally finished the first draft of novel 2 and have emailed it to Lovely Agent.

Now the nail-biting, email-watching waiting begins again. If she doesn't like it I'll bloody shoot myself. Not really, but let's say I'm more realistic about the whole process this time round, and not quite as giddy with excitement as this time last year.

I'm going to miss my characters, though I'll no doubt be revisiting them in the edits. I've almost started to believe they were real.

I didn't realise there was an underlying theme to my story until I'd finished, which means I'm either a terrible writer or a wee bit simple, but nearly all my characters have dysfunctional parents which has affected their adult relationships.

It's nice to know there is a theme, and that it's not just a Very Silly Story - though it is that too of course.

Anyway, hello real world - I've missed you.

A bit.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

This 'Ol House



I've noticed recently that in all my novel attempts so far there's been a recurring theme. Actually it's not a theme, it's a thing.

Houses. BIG houses. Stately homes, mansions, manor houses, country piles, the bigger the better.

It's quite bizarre for someone who was raised in a three bedroomed semi with one bathroom. Mind you we often traipsed round stately homes at the weekends, and I still quite like visiting them now.

Delusions of grandeur maybe? Not really. I'd actually hate to live in a house with a wing - or more than four bedooms. Apart from the cleaning I'd soon be convinced there were ghosts loitering round every corner waiting to bash my head in, or that a dangerous prisoner had escaped from a nearby lunatic asylum and moved into the attic, waiting to bash my head in. Or that the house was evil and about to start sprouting flies from the toilet bowl. In fact no film plot would be left unturned.

I suppose that's what it is really. Big houses make for good plots, though I might buck the trend in my next novel and have all my characters squished into a one-bedroomed flat in Barnet.

Do you have recurring Things cropping up in your writing?

Change of address...

To coincide with my 10th year of blogging (TEN YEARS??!!!) I've decided to move my blog over to my website, where I hope to update...