Sunday, 20 December 2015

Season’s Greetings!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

I’m off on my Christmas break now. See you all in the New Year.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

It’s (nearly) Christmas!

Have you got that tingly Christmas feeling yet? Or are you muttering ‘Bah, humbug!’ every time you hear a Christmas song? Are you eagerly counting off the days on your advent calendar? Or already wishing it was over, stressed out with all the preparations?

Whatever your state of Christmas readiness, here’s the perfect remedy to cheer you up, calm you down, and get you in exactly the right mood.

Hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door, prepare your favourite tea, coffee, hot chocolate (or perhaps a glass of something stronger?), and enjoy ten minutes of ‘me’ time while you settle down with a Christmas short story from Alfie Dog Fiction. There are lots to choose from this year: some to make you laugh, some to make you sigh, many to remind you what this festive season should be about.

Oh yes, and there’s this one.

Ebook stories also make inexpensive stocking fillers, perfect for anyone you know who’s hoping Father Christmas will bring them a new tablet, laptop or iphone.

And for those who prefer ‘real’ books, Alfie Dog offers paperback editions of its anthologies, short story collections and novels.    

How many days is it now?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Funny how they turn out

Once upon a time, I had a stroppy teenage daughter who refused to learn how to cook.

‘But it’s important you know how to make a few, simple dishes,’ I said. 'How else will you feed yourself when you leave home?’

She just tutted and shrugged. ‘I’m going to be a famous TV presenter. I’ll be eating out in restaurants most of the time.’

And I tutted and shrugged back. ‘Well don’t expect me to send you food parcels!’

Just look at her now. Not only cooking, but blogging about it too!

Monday, 30 November 2015

Lost for words

I was surprised, but very pleased, when my story 'Forever' was longlisted for the

I was amazed and delighted when it appeared in the shortlist.

But when I heard it had been awarded 1st prize – that’s right, it WON – I couldn’t think how to describe my feelings. At least, not in plain English words that made any sense.

When I come back down to earth I’ll have a good look through my thesaurus.

Until then ...


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Something different (2)

In my last post, I said I don’t ‘do’ poetry, but when I woke up to fighter planes roaring overhead, a passing muse was so alarmed that she dropped some jumbled words into my brain. That’s my explanation anyway. The result is here.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Something different

I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo – and would advise every writer to try writing 50,000 words in 30 days (at least once!) – but I’m not signing up to the challenge this year. I’ve got too many other things going on in November.

But I can feel the excitement of NaNo all around me as other people begin their frantic scribbling, and it’s making me think I really ought to commit myself to some sort of writing challenge. But what?

A smaller daily word count?
A set number of new short stories to be completed?
A set number of old, rejected stories to be rewritten and resubmitted?
A set time to be spent on editing The Novel each day?       

As I wandered about looking for ideas, I saw this on my bedroom bookshelf.

Isn’t it beautiful? I was given this notebook for my birthday. Inside its gorgeous covers there are pages of smooth, white paper ruled with faint lines, a red ribbon bookmark, and a clever pocket at the back for storing … Treasure maps? Love letters? Secret recipes?

The only problem is that after drooling over admiring it, I had no idea what to do with it. Although it’s called a note-book, I didn’t want to spoil it with the kind of random notes that I usually jot down in cheap, jumbo pads of A4 or on the nearest used envelope. A beautiful book deserves beautiful writing. Something like poetry perhaps. Except I don’t ‘do’ poetry.

And then I found something else on that bookshelf. A copy of Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled. This book was also given to me as a present some years ago, but I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read it. I flicked through it when I received it, and thought it looked interesting with lots of examples of different kinds of poetry and exercises to try, but then I put the book away for ‘one day’ which, of course, never came.    

I have decided.
I’m going to work through Mr Fry’s book over the winter, and next year I will sign up for NaPoWriMo – National Poetry Writing Month – a challenge to write a poem a day during the month of April.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? If so, good luck!
Have you done NaPoWriMo? If so, how did you get on?  

Monday, 19 October 2015

Island by Nicky Singer

A new book is always a treat, but I was more than usually pleased to receive this one ...

  ... especially when I looked inside.

When I came across Nicky’s story about Island on the Notes from the Slushpile blog several months ago, I went into full Victor Meldrew mode.

 I don’t believe it!

Nicky Singer is a successful author with novels for adults and children published by mainstream publishers. She was commissioned to write a stage play for the National Theatre and came up with the idea for Island. The play was produced at the Cottesloe Theatre (now known as the Dorfman Theatre), was also taken on a tour of London schools, and received very good reviews.

After the play finished, Nicky decided to turn Island into a novel in the hope of spreading the story to a wider audience. But when she presented it to her publishers they said – No. Their reason for rejection? They thought the novel was ‘too quiet’ and ‘too literary’.

Fortunately, Nicky thought there might be some people ‘out there’ who like quiet, literary books. And she was right. She set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to publish Island, and I was just one of 100’s of people who were happy to be able to help. (One of the other helpers was the Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, who offered to supply the illustrations for the book.) I think we all gave a great, big cheer when Nicky announced she had reached her target and Island was going to be published.       

Island will be officially launched on 6th November. Do look out for it!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Home again

Back home from a wonderful holiday in Scotland.

We stayed in this holiday cottage in Forres, Moray (traditional outside, modern and comfortable inside – highly recommended) and went out from there to different places every day. Enjoyed lots of good, top down driving (top down on the car – not husband or me!), stopped to explore towns and villages along the way, and also managed many miles of walking up and down hills, through forests and along beaches.    

Good news – I finally got to see not one, but two red squirrels, although not in the nature reserves where I’d been looking for them.

Bad news – I was so surprised I didn’t reach for my camera until they had scampered out of sight.

Oh well, perhaps next time …

The only squirrel I managed to snap!
My plan to take a break from writing worked for the first five days, but on the sixth morning I woke up with one of those Eureka! moments. I found myself thinking about a story I’d started but then abandoned years ago. I suddenly realised what was wrong with it and how I could change it. I was itching to start writing straight away but I made do with a few scribbled notes and hoped they would still make sense when I got home.

I didn’t write anything else, but I did gather lots of inspiration for stories and articles everywhere we went. Just hope it’s all safely stored somewhere in my cluttered mind.

The first week back home was all a bit of a muddle. Lots to do, but I think I was still in holiday mode so everything felt a bit strange and took longer than it should. More or less settled into my ‘normal’ routine now – I think!

Hope to catch up with you all soon.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Time out

      A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.  (Eugene Ionesco)

Although I agree completely with the above quotation, I’m really going to work hard at taking a two-week break from my writing. See you when I get back!

 * * *

With thanks to a Writing Map where I discovered this quotation. An attractive and useful distraction for anyone interested in writing – or maps.

 (And there’s a clue to where I’m going in these maps)

Saturday, 29 August 2015

More animal distractions

It was going to be a day for serious work.
Oodles of doodles
I’d been faffing about for too long planning the next assignment of my children’s book illustration course. Today, I was determined to sit down and do a finished pen and ink drawing of cartoon elephants.

I estimated it would only take a couple of hours, and then I’d have the rest of the day to polish off another chapter of my novel. Easy-peasy!

I set out my drawing materials and realized something was missing. Tea. I needed tea.
On my way back from the kitchen, I happened to glance out of the window – and instantly forgot all my good intentions.

The field opposite our house had just been harvested and there in the middle of it, sitting up in full view, was this beautiful hare.

(If you’ve seen my other blog you’ll know that one of my ambitions is to get a good photo of a hare. I’m lucky enough to live in an area where hares are fairly common, but I usually only catch quick glimpses of them running away into the distance.)

I grabbed my camera and took some shots through the window. To my surprise and delight the hare didn’t move, so I went outside to see if I could get a bit closer. With those big eyes and huge ears, I was sure it had noticed me, but it didn’t seem too concerned. It was definitely looking and listening very intently at something though.

It began to move. A few steps this way, stop, turn, a short run that way, pause … A great photo opportunity for me, but what was it up to? I lowered the camera and saw the bigger picture. Its wanderings weren’t as aimless as they appeared. It was carefully zigzagging across the field, ready to run away at the first hint of danger, but gradually getting closer and closer to the allotments.           
A quick dash

Stop, look and listen.

Sneak in here

Now, what's for lunch?

When I came back indoors, my tea was stone cold. Never mind, it was coffee time by then. So I made some coffee and then uploaded my photos onto the computer. I couldn’t wait to see what they were like. (There's one that I'm very pleased about, but I’m not posting it here in case I can use it somewhere else!)

Right, what was I supposed to be doing? Ah, yes, back to the drawing board. Elephants. I had to think about elephants … but while my mind was deciding which would look best, curly elephants or shaggy elephants, my hand was sketching hares. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Distraction or inspiration?

I met this little chap last weekend …

… and came home with ideas for so many stories!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

I’m a dot com

Well, that’s not strictly true …

 I’m actually a dot uk.

That’s right, folks, I finally have a website. I began one with Weebly way back in 2012, but I didn’t make it public then because I didn’t think it would be of the slightest interest to anyone else.

There’s not a great deal on it now but, looking ahead to the day when I send out my completed (and utterly brilliant) novel, I thought it would seem more professional to add a link to my website rather than a link to my blog.

(There are links to my blogs from the website of course, but I’m hoping I’ll make such a good first impression that a busy editor or agent won’t bother to delve too deeply …)

Anyway, on the subject of good impressions, if you can spare a few minutes to take a look at the site and you notice a spelling mistake or a sentence that doesn't make sense – please let me know! I've checked it about a zillion times but I have a horrible feeling I might have missed something. I promise I won’t be offended and I’ll gladly return the favour if you want me to check your website or blog.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Tricks - and a treat!

I was, of course, very pleased when my short story Tricks of the Trade was accepted for publication as an Alfie Dog Fiction ebook. But the thing that had me jigging with joy was this comment about the story from the person behind Alfie Dog, Rosemary Kind:

'I didn't work out the ending in advance which always tells me it's a good twist.'

For a writer, the trickiest thing about a twist in the tale story is that you know what the twist is going to be right from the start. It’s very difficult – if not impossible – to judge if a reader will guess the ending too soon, or will find the twist too contrived.

With Alfie Dog now offering over 1,700 short stories, I thought Rosemary must know every trick in the book when it comes to twisty tales, so I was very surprised that I’d managed to surprise her!

If you want to try surprising the Alfie Dog editors, and win £200 plus the opportunity to have a story collection published, you’ve got until 30th September to enter their 2015 short story competition. Click here for full details.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Word of the week (25)

The writer frowned at the advert for retro mobile phones. Wasn’t it only yesterday that a mobile was the latest thing? How could they be retro already? Perhaps the advertiser was trying to sell last year’s model; something fashionable young people wouldn’t be seen dead with unless it could be flaunted as being retro.

The writer’s frown deepened. If last year’s mobile was now retro, what did that make her? Vintage? Or just plain old? If she didn’t stop frowning she’d soon be a wrinkly.

Are you young enough to think retro is cool?

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Not looking!

We all know a watched pot never boils, but far more frustrating is the fact that important email never arrives in your inbox if you keep checking for it.

I’m going away next week (a trip ‘up north’ to visit family) so I’ve been busy this week tidying my writing room, getting rid of clutter, putting papers I want to keep into physical files, reorganizing and backing up computer files, and drastically pruning my to-do lists so I can get off to a fresh start when I come back.

I checked my writing records and realized I haven’t heard anything about five submissions I’ve made: three short stories entered into competitions, a children’s picture book story sent to a publisher, and the first three chapters of a children’s novel with another publisher.

I’m hoping that no response from the publishers might be a good sign – I’m happy for them to take as long as they like – but I'm puzzled as to why the competition results haven't been announced yet. The organizers have had plenty of time to come to a decision.

I will have access to the Internet while I’m away but I’ve decided, no, I’m going to be on holiday. I’m going to resist the temptation to check my emails every day. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed that when I get home I might find something interesting amongst all the spam clogging up my inbox!

P.S. Just received a very quick response to a submission I made to Alfie Dog Fiction. I’ll tell you about it when I get back.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Opposites attract

When I first wondered aloud if I could get a story published in a women’s magazine, my husband was completely supportive.

Good idea! Why not? Yes, go for it!

So I did. And when the rejections arrived he was very encouraging.

Never mind, don’t give up. Send it to someone else.

And when I received my first acceptance he seemed as pleased as me.

Well done! I knew you could do it!

But when that first story appeared in print I was puzzled by his non-reaction. He glanced at my name in the magazine when I pointed it out, but he made no attempt to read the story. I was a bit disappointed but assumed he would read it later when he had time to give it his full attention. I left the magazine on the coffee table and waited … and waited …

The same thing happened with my next published story – and the next. He was enthusiastic enough while I was writing and trying to get published, but he clearly wasn’t interested in reading the finished product. I began to suspect that he had secretly read some of my work and didn’t think it was any good. Was he keeping quiet to spare my feelings?

The penny finally dropped one evening when he came home from work and started telling me how he’d solved a problem with some sub-standard concrete. (He was a materials engineer in road construction).

Gosh, that was clever of you! How fascinating! 

I did listen to what he was saying, and tried to nod in the right places, but he might just as well have been speaking double Dutch with a bit of Chinese thrown in.

Then I understood that he had the same problem with my writing. He knew it was important to me, so he tried to take an interest, but he didn’t read fiction of any kind and the world of women’s magazines was completely alien to him. If one of my stories was published that meant it was good, didn’t it? There was nothing else he could say about it.    

When he – very reluctantly – retired, I wondered what he would find to do all day. Would he expect me to retire too, and spend all my time with him? What on earth would we talk about?

I needn’t have worried. Although we’re both at home all day, we still  ‘go to work’ separately. And when we meet up at mealtimes and in the evenings, or agree to take some time off to go for a walk, or to enjoy an outing together, we find plenty to discuss. I tell him about my writing and art, and he explains how he’s helped a friend with a computer problem and spent all morning tinkering with his beloved sports car …

And we both pretend to be really interested, and we both know the other person is just pretending …

But it works. Which is probably why we’ve made it through another year.

Are you and your significant other like peas in a pod, or as different as chalk and cheese?


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Dream on …

I always feel a bit disappointed if I wake up in the morning and can’t remember my dreams. Aren’t dreams the main reason for sleep? A dreamless night feels like a wasted night.

Mind you, most of the dreams I do recall are of the nonsensical variety. I have no idea where they’ve come from, and I certainly don’t want them to come true.

For example, there was the one in which I was standing on a house roof in the pouring rain. Someone shouted at me to come down but I calmly explained I was testing a new umbrella and the roof was the best place because the rain was harder up there than on the ground. Crazy! In my waking life I don’t like heights, so I’d need a much better reason than umbrella testing to get up on the roof!

In another dream, I had to guide an airplane that was trying to land in a small, suburban garden. Left a bit, right a bit, mind the rose bushes … Luckily, I woke up before the plane reached the ground!

But last night, I had the strangest dream of all. I was sitting in a posh office – lots of wood panelling and shelves of leather-bound books – and someone gave me a document to sign. It was a book-publishing contract. I was just about to sign it when the door was flung open and a man rushed in shouting, ‘Noooo!’ He slammed another document down in front of me and told me it was a contract for the film rights to my story. Book or film? Film or book? I had to choose one or the other – but I was still dithering when I woke up.

I wonder what it meant?

Have you had any good/ weird/ inexplicable dreams lately?

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Word of the week (24)

The writer was singing along to the old songs on the car radio:

                    Wild thing
                    You make my heart sing
                    You make everything

‘That’s what the world needs today,’ she said. ‘More grooviness! (I wonder if I’ve still got my embroidered flares?)’

What outdated word or phrase would you like to bring back?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Butterfly alert!

I don’t mean the real butterflies that have made a welcome appearance in the spring sunshine, but those jittery, flittery ones inside me.

And what’s got me all in a tizz?


It’s my first assignment for the Illustrating Children’s Books course that I’m doing with the London Art College. I had to do a double page illustration for the rhyme 'Row, row, row your boat'. I’m enjoying doing all the exercises – and I’m sure I’ve learnt a lot already – but I’m sooo nervous about showing my work to the tutor. 

It’s ridiculous! I know my artwork is far from perfect, that’s why I’m doing this course. I want some professional feedback and advice on how to improve it. There’s no logical reason for this swarm of butterflies, but here they are!

I can’t remember when I last felt like this.

Oh, yes, I can. It was the first time I plucked up the courage to send a little children’s story to a publisher. I had nightmares about them suing me for wasting their time. But that episode resulted in my first publishing acceptance, and those butterflies of apprehension turned into butterflies of excitement. Here’s hoping the same thing happens again.        

What gets your butterflies fluttering?

Monday, 23 March 2015


Another first! I’m the featured writer over at Alfie Dog Fiction.

(Does this make me a celebrity?)

Thursday, 19 March 2015

That was the year that was

The only thing wrong with our holiday in Scotland last year was that it was too short. We wanted to see so many places but only had enough time for brief visits to a handful of them. Even before we packed to go home, we decided to treat ourselves to another holiday there next September.

As we’re barely into spring, I hadn’t thought about looking for accommodation yet, but my husband found a holiday cottage on the Internet that ticked all our boxes and booked it.

So, that’s September sorted.

Thinking about summer reminded me of a summer holiday story I began writing for People’s Friend last year, only to abandon it when I realised I’d left it too late to submit to them. I found the story and dusted it off, but before I set to work to finish it I checked PF’s fiction editor’s blog. Good job I did, because I discovered she was buying summer themed stories back in February and is now looking at autumn/ winter tales.

Plan B – I’m now busy writing a Christmas story. I’ve also made a note in the back of my diary to submit the summer story in January 2016.

How was your 2015?

How far ahead do you plan?

Monday, 2 March 2015

One for the readers

What would we do without readers?

     Writers would have to talk to themselves all the time (instead of just most of it).
     Publishers would go out of business.
     There’d be no need for bookshops or libraries.
     Even Amazon’s profits would tumble …

Which is why I was so pleased to see this competition for readers.
Alfie Dog Fiction is offering £100 for a very short – 30 to 50 words – review of one of its titles downloaded during March. Not bad for an investment of only 39p, the cost of its short story ebooks.

If you want to have a go, but can’t decide which story to choose from the 1,600 currently available, may I humbly suggest you take a look at my stories? I promise I won’t be offended if you write a less-than-glowing review of one of them, but I will be delighted if you win the prize!

Pass it on …

Monday, 23 February 2015


Isn’t it wonderful when you don’t have to spend ages trying to invent a clever plot and interesting characters because you suddenly find a ready-made story right in front of you? One such serendipitous moment happened while I was doing a spot of late night shopping, and it didn’t take much creativity on my part to turn it into this 75-word story for Paragraph Planet

With much thanks to an anonymous, middle-aged shelf stacker and Aretha Franklin!

Have you ever been given a story?

Friday, 13 February 2015

Sometimes you win when you lose

Last Christmas (that seems such a long time ago now), National Book Tokens had a puzzle on their Caboodle website where you had to solve picture clues to find hidden book titles. I enjoyed trying it, but I only managed to guess 16 or 17 of the 20 titles. 

So I was very pleasantly surprised last week to get an email from Caboodle saying that everyone who had taken part, but hadn’t qualified for the top prize, had been entered into a prize draw and I’d won a £10 book token. 

Some more books for my To Be Read shelf!

If you’re a book lover and you live in the UK or Ireland do have a look at Caboodle. They have regular book giveaways and competitions, all free to enter, and you can also sign up for special offers from your local bookshops.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Word of the week (23)

The writer frowned at the sentence she’d just written.
WEIRD looked weird.
‘I before e except after c,’ she muttered, but WIERD looked even weirder.
She checked it, and wondered how often dictionary compilers make mistakes.
Perhaps she should use an alternative version. WYRD worked for Terry Pratchett. (But she didn’t want her readers to think she couldn’t spell.)
She rewrote the sentence using a different word.
It didn't work. STRANGE wasn’t weird enough.

Which correctly spelt word looks wrong to you?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

How this writer’s mind works (6)

Looking back over my writing records for 2014, I realised that – apart from blog posts – I’d only written fiction during the whole year. Nothing wrong with that, and I don’t think I could stop writing fiction even if I wanted to, but as one of my 2015 ‘hopes’ is to earn more money from writing, producing the occasional non-fiction article seems a sensible thing to do. In the past, I wrote non-fiction on all sorts of subjects and usually found it easier to sell than my stories.

I started by checking the latest editions of the women’s and lifestyle magazines in the newsagents. I couldn’t afford to buy every one that caught my eye, but I bought a couple of my favourites to do some in-depth research at home and quickly leafed through the others.

In almost every magazine the main features were about dieting and/or fitness. (Am I the only woman in the country who hasn’t made a New Year resolution to lose weight or run a marathon?) The second most popular subject seemed to be about saving money. There were headlines such as:
  • Save £££s on Household Bills
  • Best Budget Beauty Buys
  • Feed The Family For Less
  • Low Cost Travel
  • Thrifty Home D├ęcor Ideas 
Inspiration! I was certain I could write a similar article. After all, I’ve spent all my life finding ways of living within very moderate means. I’m an expert in saving pennies here, pinching pounds there. All I had to do was choose a subject that a magazine hadn’t already explored. The answer was right in front of me.
How To Cut Your Magazine Bill.

Once I started brainstorming, the ideas came thick and fast. I could include tips for starting a magazine-swapping club. I would advise readers to seek out magazines online and in libraries. I could list sources of free and discounted magazines …

And then I noticed the one, tiny flaw in my brilliant article. Which magazine will want to publish it? 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Not a Happy Bunny

… but it’s awfully difficult when you’re coughing and sneezing and your brain has mysteriously turned into a lump of soggy cotton wool.
Almost everyone I know has been battling a bug that’s not as bad as flu but seems to last a lot longer than an ordinary cold.

If you’re suffering – Get Well Soon!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Word of the week (22)

It was the writer’s favourite day. She had a new diary, new notebook, new list of new goals, new stories to write, new markets to crack, new competitions to enter, new books to read, a whole 365 new days of possibilities …

Happy New Year!

What new things are you looking forward to in 2015?