Sunday, 22 December 2013

Merry Christmas!


Good wishes to You and Yours over this Festive Season

I’m off on my Christmas break now, see you in January!

Reason 23 why sports cars are not a good idea!

You don’t know about the car? You can see it by clicking here.


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Happy National Short Story Day

To celebrate why not enjoy a little bit of ‘me’ time? Put your feet up and
click here to download a free story from the wonderful
 http://alfiedog.com/
 And instead of rushing around looking for last minute Christmas presents, did you know you can now send Alfie Dog Gift Vouchers to your friends and family from the comfort of your own pc, laptop or smartphone?

Happy reading!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Number crunching


 I’m pleased I didn’t attempt NaNoWriMo this year because I completely failed my ‘easier’ challenge to write 1,000 words a day throughout November. My grand total for the month was a measly 5,182 words – not helped by the fact that I wrote nothing at all on five of the allotted days!

In my defence, I should add that these were carefully chosen and edited words – not the crazy jumble that spills out during NaNo – so for every one I counted there were probably a dozen or more discarded.

As well as recording the number of words written, I made a note of where I’d used them, and this turned out to be a much more useful exercise.

About half of the words produced:
  • 4 new pages for my adult novel
  • half a chapter of my children’s book
  • a flash fiction story
  • 4 short blog posts 

And where did the other half go? Into comments on other people’s blogs and forums.

Conclusion  I’d do twice as much writing if I didn’t spend so much time reading!   

P.S. If you like reading and doing puzzles (and live in the UK or Republic of Ireland) National Book Tokens is currently running this competition to win a year’s supply of books.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Word of the week (21)



‘Yes, of course I can change the title, make the hero a heroine, delete this chapter, set that section in a different country, add an alien encounter, weave in a romantic sub plot, turn the cat into a wise-cracking parrot, reveal the end at the beginning, make the sad man happy, write a completely new story …. whatever you want,’ said the flexible writer.


Friday, 15 November 2013

Just what the doctor ordered


I didn’t take to my bed, but for more than a week I had a cold, niggling aches and pains, couldn’t think straight and generally felt under the weather. Keeping warm indoors seemed sensible but only added boredom to my other symptoms. Eventually, I needed to get some shopping and thought a short walk in the fresh air might make me feel better. It didn’t. 

I picked up a few essentials in our village shop and looked around the shelves in the forlorn hope of finding some miracle remedy. Cough mixture? I had plenty at home. Chocolate? I managed to resist the temptation. Then I came to the magazine rack …  

Many years ago, The People’s Friend was one of my main target markets. I bought it most weeks and read it carefully from cover to cover to get the feel of what they published. All that research paid off when I had two short stories and two articles accepted by the editor. But then I wanted to try other magazines and different types of writing, so I stopped buying it so often and gradually lost touch.

As I looked through the latest issue I was pleased, although not surprised, to discover it’s hardly changed at all (except it now has a Facebook page). Yes, I’m sure some people would describe it as an old-fashioned magazine – especially if they remember their mother or grandmother reading it – but the reason it’s survived since 1869 must surely be because it found a winning formula and has stuck with it. I wonder how many of today’s celebrity magazines will last that long?

I spent the afternoon sitting with my feet up, drinking tea and enjoying a good read.

Bliss! 

And, not only did I start to feel physically better than I had for days, but the fog in my brain finally cleared and a new story idea began to grow. It’s a feel-good story that I think might be suitable for the Friend … 


Sunday, 3 November 2013

A (short) commercial break



My short story Kerb Drill is published by Alfie Dog Fiction today.

It’s a feel-good, family story about a problem every parent has to face sooner or later: how do you let go of your children, yet still keep them safe?

Available HERE for just 39p!

In a variety of e-book formats – if you haven’t got a Kindle, iPhone or similar gadget you can download Alfie Dog stories to read on your ordinary, old-fashioned computer.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween

I’ve never celebrated Halloween and, to be honest, I don’t really understand what other people see in this mishmash of ancient superstitions and modern commercialism. But I did enjoy painting pumpkins and other autumnal vegetables at last week’s art group meeting. They’re a lot trickier than they look, but I thought this one came out a treat!



Of course the main significance of October 31 for thousands of people all over the world is that NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I’ve decided not to do it this year, but I’m also having pangs of regret as I feel the excitement mounting all around me.

So I’m going to compromise and set myself a mini-NaNo challenge:
 1,000 words a day throughout November.

I won’t be creating a new novel, but I’ll try to use the NaNoWriMo energy to increase my writing speed as I work on several projects that have been clogging up my brain and computer for far too long.

If you’re using Halloween as an excuse for a party – have fun!

And if you’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo – good luck!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Cut, cut, cutting





 
      If I could explain
       the whole thing
        in one page
          it would be
           a short story!













 Am I alone in suspecting that publishers and agents ask for a synopsis as a way of discouraging would-be novelists?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Word of the week (20)



The writer was schbuufy with joy when her novel was accepted for publication.

(Puzzled because you can’t find schbuufy in your dictionary? Take a look at Fran’s Hill’s blog to discover the origin of this expressive new word.)

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Short but sweet

So it’s only 75 words, and there’s no payment, but I do feel quite proud of getting a paragraph accepted on Paragraph Planet today. It’s one of my favourite websites for these (short) reasons:

  • It takes less than a minute to read each daily paragraph but together they cover a huge range of genres, subjects and styles.
  • Telling a story, introducing a character, or describing a scene in exactly 75 words forces a writer to examine every one of those words very carefully.
  • If you want to improve your own writing skills you can click over to Paragraph Planet’s companion website Writing Workout and try some of its very short exercises.

 Now back to the  l-o-n-g  job of editing The Novel!


Friday, 6 September 2013

An invitation


No time to write anything here today, as Henry Mitchell has invited me to put a guest post on his blog Tales and Wanders. I met Henry through Alfie Dog Fiction and was immediately impressed by his elegant writing style. I was surprised to find that he didn’t decide to start writing fiction until he was in his 70’s, but I’m not at all surprised to learn that his first novel is soon to be published.

If you haven’t come across Henry before, do click here to take a look at his blog, it's well worth a visit.


Sunday, 1 September 2013

How this writer’s mind works (2)

I took a day off from writing to catch up on some jobs I’ve been neglecting in my other world. One of the items that’s been on my to-do list for a long time was to make some cushions. I saw this teddy bear fabric in the market and couldn’t resist it.


As I sewed, I started thinking about all the bears I’ve known over the years: my own long-lost childhood companions, my children’s teddies, those perennial favourites, Rupert, Pooh, Paddington ….

And as my mind filled with cuddly images I began making up a story. Something about teddy bears? No, that would be too easy. This one’s going to be a really complicated murder mystery …



Do you love bears? Have you written about them?

 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Word of the week (19)


 encouragement


What’s disappointing and uplifting at the same time?

An encouraging rejection!

(With thanks to the editor who took the time and trouble to say, ‘Sorry, no, but …’)
 
 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

How to write more

I’ve finally discovered the secret of how to write faster, ignore distractions, and generally be much more productive. All I have to do is take a holiday!

At the beginning of each month I optimistically make a new writing ‘to do’ list, but I rarely manage to tick off all the items before the end of that month. I could pretend I’m being too ambitious and giving myself too much work, but I know the real problem is that because I have 30 or 31 days to reach my targets it’s all too easy to get complacent about them – until I suddenly notice those 30 days have dwindled to 2!

After I’d written out my list for July, I realised I would only have 25 writing days because I was going on holiday at the end of the month. I could have made the list shorter of course, but I decided to leave it as it was and carry over any outstanding jobs to the following month.

I set to work straight away and completed everything on the list – with a couple of days to spare! Surprised? I was completely astonished, amazed and flabbergasted!

So my new plan is to include a holiday on my monthly ‘to do’ lists. Now then, where shall I go at the end of August? And September? And October ...?

Monday, 22 July 2013

A book, a film – or both?

I didn’t think I was a fan of vampire fiction but I did enjoy reading The Radleys by Matt Haig. It’s about Peter and Helen, abstaining vampires who are so desperate to be accepted as a respectable, middle-class couple that they have kept their true nature secret even from their teenage children.

When I started reading the book I was a bit puzzled by the author's writing style. The whole story is told in the present tense and the chapters are very short, most only two or three pages long. At first, I thought this might be a ploy to entice younger readers – the book was originally written for adults but there is also a Young Adult edition - but then I discovered that The Radleys is being made into a film and suddenly the style made perfect sense. I don’t know if Matt Haig was looking ahead and thinking about film rights as he wrote the novel, but any filmmaker reading this book would be struck by how easily it could be rewritten as a screenplay. The chapters are really scenes and the present tense (he says, she walks, they sit down …) enables the reader to instantly ‘see’ the action as you do when watching a film.

I suppose the next step I should be aiming for – after the little matters of actually finishing my novel and getting it published – would be to have it turned into a film. But I’ve just realised that:
  •  my chapters all contain several scenes
  •  a lot of the ‘action’ takes place in character’s heads
  •  there are flashbacks with different characters having different memories of the same past events
  •  some of the ‘dialogue’ is in the form of thoughts
  •  none of my characters look remotely like any famous actors or actresses 

I could start rewriting the whole thing again …
But do I really want to commit to all that extra time?
No, I think I’ll just stick with what I’ve started – that’s difficult enough!

Do you have your sights set on Hollywood?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Overheard

A few gems I collected while doing the weekly shop this morning:

     'I don't want nuffin' sparkly. Me sparkly days are over.'

     'D'you want a sandwich for your lunch? Or something like a sandwich?'

     'We've all got to take him a birthday present. What d'you give to someone
       you can't stand?'

So many stories, so little time ...!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Word of the week (18)

The writer wavered between writing and watching Wimbledon.

 

(The strawberries and cream helped to make up her mind!)


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The whole story

One of the drawbacks of writing stories for magazines is that once they've been published (as wonderful as that is) the possibility of them being seen anywhere else is very small. Commercial magazines are only interested in previously unpublished stories. Some small press magazines accept reprints but they offer little or no payment. I was lucky enough to sell a few of my early stories to foreign magazines after they'd appeared in the UK, but these days most magazines want more than just First British Rights - even if they don't intend to use those other rights  - so that option is becoming rarer.

Having a story appear only once is, of course, better than not being published at all, but it's particularly frustrating when you find that your story has been edited in such a way that, at first, you don't even recognise it!

In 2000, I was thrilled when my short story Dreamers was a runner-up in a Woman's Realm writing competition. Part of the prize was publication in the magazine and I couldn't wait to open my contributor's copy! The competition results were announced over three pages and, understandably, the first prize winning story took up most of that space. I could see Dreamers had been drastically cut to fit its 1,000 words into half a page. Never mind, it was still my story. Or was it? I think I probably groaned out loud when I started to read it. Some of what I had thought were the important details of the story were missing, and one paragraph simply didn't make any sense at all! I imagined other readers groaning too. How had this story been chosen as a competition runner-up? It was rubbish!

Fast forward 13 years ...

I discovered Alfie Dog Fiction, an independent publisher specialising in short stories, and - oh joy! - they're willing to consider stories that have been published before. I submitted the full version of Dreamers and I'm very pleased to report that they have now made the whole story available to read on a kindle, computer, iphone etc. for just 39 pence!
     

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

90,000 new stories!

Congratulations to Roxanna Toyne and Olivia Hunt who were the gold prize winners in BBC Radio 2’s 500 words children’s story competition. You can read or listen to all the winning and shortlisted stories here. The thing that surprised me most about this competition was that they received over 90,000 entries!  

When I was a child I was always making up stories for my own amusement but I can’t remember ever being encouraged to write fiction by my teachers or parents. The only creative writing I did at primary school was essays – we called them compositions – with uninspiring titles such as What I Did in the Holidays. I confess I sometimes made them a bit more interesting by adding some fiction!   

I loved reading, but I think I assumed that the people who wrote all those stories lived on some remote planet. They certainly weren’t ordinary people like me – or anyone I knew. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up (why do adults always ask children that impossible question?) it never occurred to me that being a writer was even an option.

It wasn’t until I was well and truly grown-up that I started to wonder if anyone else might be interested in my stories, and it still took several years of writing in secret before I plucked up the courage to show some of my work to a publisher.

I think it’s wonderful that not only are so many of today’s children producing imaginative and well-written stories, but they also have the confidence to share them. The only problem is that my ‘must read’ list is going to keep getting longer and longer!

How old were you when you decided you wanted to be a writer?

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Word of the week (17)


 
The writer searched for a new word. She was fed up with saying, ‘It’s raining,’ every day.

                    Precipitation
                    when it starts
                    can be a mere dampness,
                    a patchy, light mist
                    with odd spits and spots
                    that grow into mizzle,
                    and a bit of a drizzle,
                    but then comes a sprinkle
                    of drips and some drops
                    that make up a splashing
                    or maybe a shower,
                    till all at once the heavens open.
                    Now it’s a cloud-burst, a downpour,
                    a drencher, a soaker,                                                        
                    tipping down torrents
                    and streams of cats
                    and dogs, not to mention the
                    teeming stair rods.
                    Being polite, I’ll say it’s persisting,
                    chucking it down in buckets
                    and sheets – it’s pelting!
                    The deluge has left me wet to the skin
                     - but at least I avoided the RAIN.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

How this writer’s mind works


A movement caught my eye. Something fairly large and light brown had fluttered over the field opposite my house and disappeared into the ditch on the far side.

A hare! I thought, followed (almost) immediately by, Don’t be daft, hares can’t fly!

Common sense told me the half-glimpsed creature had probably been a pheasant or duck, but the picture it planted in my mind insisted on growing bigger, brighter and more detailed. Of course there’s no such thing as a flying hare - I know that - but that’s not going to stop me writing a story about one!

Another senior moment, or a flash of creative genius? You decide.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Word of the week (16)

She was skilled at promoting the goods and services of others, so why was the copywriter
overcome with modesty when it came to selling herself?

(I'm setting up a website to showcase some of my writing but I can't decide on the right words for the front page. Any tips?)


Thursday, 2 May 2013

I am un-sprung!

Not a good start to the merry month of May.

I'd been planning my spring cleaning campaign for weeks, drawing up a mental list of all the jobs that needed doing in the house and garden, but I kept putting off the actual work because the weather was too cold and wet. Then, last Sunday, I heard the magic words: dry and sunny for the next three days!

I spent Monday and Tuesday enthusiastically washing, dusting, polishing, sorting out and re-arranging. I was so pleased at how well I was doing that I even decided to paint the garden fence. With hindsight, I realise this wasn't such a good idea ...

As the weather forecaster predicted, May Day was beautifully warm and sunny - but I was in no state to enjoy it. Every joint and muscle hurt, including all those I'd forgotten I had. Walking was agony, sitting was uncomfortable, and simple tasks like making a cup of tea had me groaning with pain.

I thought I'd try to do some writing to take my mind of all the aches and twinges. I usually begin a new month by ticking off the goals I achieved during the previous month (if any!) and making a new list for the coming month. Problem is, I can only think of one thing I really need to do - get fit!    

At least the garden's looking good and most of the house is clean and tidy. I still have to tackle the back bedroom but you can see on my other blog why I'm leaving that till last.

Hey, ho, the joys of spring!


Friday, 26 April 2013

Live first, write later

I've been a fan of Adele's music ever since I first heard her, but my admiration went up several notches recently when I read she's turned down a large sum of money to write her autobiography. What a sensible young woman!  

Celebrity biographies may be a good source of income for publishers, ghostwriters, celebrities and their agents, but I do agree with Adele that, at the age of 24, she really is too young to start penning her life story.

Have you written your autobiography? Do you plan to? What do you think is a good age to tackle such a project?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Word of the week (15)


The novelist noticed that all her characters shrugged when they were faced with a problem. ‘I’ve no idea how to fix that,’ she said, with a shrug.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Where does it go?


Why is it that putting the clocks forward in spring always seems to make time speed up?

The days are getting longer – but they’re whizzing past a lot faster!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

On show

I did it! I managed to get three paintings finished, framed and delivered to the Realitas Community Arts Centre in time for their weekend Art Education Fair. (If you click on the Realitas link to find out more you don’t have to sign in to Facebook – just close the sign-in box)

 
I know my paintings are far from perfect, but believe me they’re a big improvement on my first efforts just over a year ago! I’m so pleased I managed to find the courage to join the art group and ‘have a go’.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Word of the week (14)


‘I’m not talking to myself,’ said the playwright. ‘I’m trying out a soliloquy.’

(That was her story and she was sticking to it!)


Monday, 4 March 2013

Diversion ahead

I succeeded with the February Write1Sub1 challenge by writing a new children’s short story (but haven’t decided where to send it yet), and submitting the adult short story I wrote in January to the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook competition. I also started another short story and managed quite a lot of work on my novel.

My writing to-do list for March is equally ambitious but I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to tick everything off. A major distraction is looming …
The amateur art group that I belong to has been offered some exhibition space in the wonderful Realitas Arts Centre. We’ve got just three weeks to produce three paintings each – properly mounted and framed – to be put on public display. I don’t think any of my past efforts are good enough so I’m going to have to spend a lot less time at the computer and a lot more at the easel!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Five minutes of fame

There wasn’t any mingling – my Word of the Week post below was just wishful thinking – but I did get a little glimpse of the celebrity lifestyle when I was presented with my prize for coming joint third in the 2012 A.Vogel Dormeasan ShortStory Competition.

© Bioforce (UK) Ltd 2013
I was invited to go to Bourne (Lincolnshire) where I met David Shepherd from the company that sponsored the competition. I had my photo taken as I received a cheque and goody bag and, as it would have been a bit of an anticlimax to go straight back home afterwards, I gave myself the rest of the day off. I enjoyed a leisurely look round the town, did a bit of shopping, and treated my chauffeur/personal assistant (otherwise known as husband) to lunch.

I could get used to this!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Thursday, 14 February 2013

An endless affair

It begins when I least expect it. I’m hanging out the washing, leafing through a magazine, standing in the queue at the Post Office or making a cup of tea when suddenly, there you are. And you’re amazing. You’re beautiful, perfect, the one I’ve been searching for all these years.

I want to shout out Yes! Yes! Yes! and tell the whole world about you. I want to introduce you to my friends, invite you to dinner with my family, parade you through town, but I’m afraid that if I show too much eagerness, too soon, I might scare you away. My heart is pounding and I’m floating several inches above the ground but I keep the delicious secret to myself. You are the first thing I think about when I wake in the morning, I can’t concentrate on anything else all day and, if I’m lucky, you’ll be haunting my dreams.

Slowly, I approach you. I need to find out everything about you. I try to make it sound like a casual conversation but I can’t help asking: What if? How do you feel? What happened in your past? Every answer delights me and draws me closer. Then comes that magical moment when we hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes. I allow my own feelings and experiences to mingle with yours, and I know that together we can create something remarkable.

We settle into the comfortable routine of dating. We meet whenever we can, enjoy each other’s company and make plans for the future. I’m still besotted with you, but now my feet are firmly on the ground. I know exactly where I want to take you. It doesn’t occur to me that you might have other plans.

I can’t pinpoint the moment it starts to go wrong. One day, I look at you and see that you’re not quite as wonderful as I once thought. I still like you, still care about you, but now I have to admit that you’re not really so special. You’re not much different from all the others. In fact, you’re quite ordinary.

I don’t give up easily. I smile and carry on for a while, hoping to find some way of re-igniting the spark. Perhaps if I can persuade you to change …. Anything’s worth trying, isn’t it?

We come to the end of our journey together. I can’t pretend any longer. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say. ‘It’s not you, it’s me.’ I give you one last hug, promise to remain friends, and set you free with my best wishes. I really do hope someone else will find you; someone who’ll recognise that unique quality that I saw in you, someone who will be able to overlook your flaws and love you just as you are.

So here I am, on my own again and deciding it’s time to change. This is the end, I tell myself. I’m going to stop wasting all my time and energy on pursuing an impossible quest. From now on, I’ll live a sensible, uncomplicated life.

And, a few days later, I’m hanging out the washing or leafing through a magazine when, suddenly, I feel a presence … Oh, yes! This is most definitely going to be THE ONE!

 Happy Valentine’s Day!

Are you in love with writing? Are you still enjoying the honeymoon period? Or contemplating divorce?
 
    

Sunday, 3 February 2013

You win some, you lose some

Good news: My short story Tree Hugger  has won joint third prize in the A.Vogel Dormeasan Sleep Story Competition. You can read it here.

Frustrating news: A story I’m hoping to enter in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Story Competition is 400 words too long so I’m busy cutting and rewriting.

‘On the bright side’ news: The editing process inspired my latest Word of the Week (see below).

Bad news: Because I wrote the story in January, but had to delay submitting it, I failed the monthly Write1 Sub1 challenge.

Never mind, new month, new challenge – and it will be more of a challenge as it’s the shortest month!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Word of the week (11)



The writer ruthlessly cut words, sentences and even whole paragraphs from her story, and then wondered what happened to all those remnants.


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Hard at work


I’m trying to write a story to enter in the Choc Lit Short Story Competition. I began by jotting down a few vague ideas but I wasn’t very impressed with any of them. I decided I needed to tackle the problem systematically and that meant doing some in-depth research. I went to my favourite coffee shop and instead of my usual coffee I ordered a large hot chocolate with cream and chocolate sprinkles. (If a thing’s worth doing it’s worth doing properly.)

It’s a hard life being a writer …

Have you ever suffered for your art?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Word of the week (10)


‘I’m writing a variation on the classic love triangle plot,’ said the romantic novelist. ‘It’s about a girl who can’t decide which of three young men she loves the most. I’m calling it a rhomboid. Get it? Rom boyed?  Like a rom com only with more boys.’

(Yes, I'm cringing too. Sorry, I’m hoping normal service will be resumed when the snow’s gone! See my previous WOW)

Monday, 14 January 2013

A blurb too far?


I’ve just finished reading a novel that was on the bestseller lists not long ago. Sadly, I found the most positive thing about it was that it turned out to be a good choice for bedtime reading: two or three pages each night and I was fast asleep. The plot was predictable, the characters unremarkable, but I kept turning the pages hoping it might improve. I was disappointed.

After plodding on to the boring end I re-read the blurb on the cover that had attracted my attention to this book in the first place. It included quotes from well-known writers and critics featuring words like superb, remarkable and brilliant.

Of course all readers and reviewers have different tastes, and one person’s literary masterpiece is another’s mediocre potboiler, but I couldn’t help wondering if some of these adjectives had either been taken completely out of context or had been accidentally attributed to the wrong book.

So what words would I like to see on the jacket of my novel if it's ever published? How about superb, remarkable and brilliant? Now all I have to do is make sure the story inside the covers lives up to the hype!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Word of the week (9)


I’m too cold to think. My brain is in its hibernaculum.

(Wondering what my Word of the Week is about? Click here for an explanation.)


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Making plans


The problem with New Year Resolutions is that it only takes one slip to break them.

You resolve to adopt a healthy diet, and then find a box of chocolates left over from Christmas …
You resolve to write 1,000 words a day, but on the first day the sun’s shining so you go for a walk first, and have a potter round the garden, and then it’s time for lunch …

I much prefer to start a new year by writing down a list of goals I hope to achieve over the next 12 months. Some are specific (I will finish that novel!); others are vaguer (I’ll try to read more modern poetry).

If a writing goal doesn’t already have a deadline attached to it, I’ll add one. I also put a start date on some projects because I tend to waste a lot of time thinking about what I want to write instead of actually sitting down and putting words on paper or computer. The important thing is that most of these dates are flexible, so if I’m a day or two late I don’t feel that I’ve failed.

But I’m always looking for ways to be more productive so this year I’ve accepted the Write 1 Sub 1 monthly challenge. The idea is to write and submit one new story each month. There is also a weekly challenge for more ambitious writers.

Do you make resolutions or aim for goals? Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping on track?