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Showing posts from 2010

It's almost here

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Christmas is over. I've eaten my chocolates. The new toys are put away. Life is on the way back to relative normality. There's just one more thing to do before the children return to school next week.

I'd like to wish you all the very best of new year celebrations and a truly joyful 2011.



May it bring you what you wish for, but more importantly, what you need.

Here we go again!

Just one more day to go

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before I can watch my children rip off the wrapping on their presents and I can sit down with my family to enjoy a Christmas lunch. We put so much stake on this one day and then it's over so quickly and we return to our normal routine for a few days until the new year celebrations begin.

For many of us, the day is all about our children. For others it is a time to bring family together, especially if we've lost touch with them over the year. For us, Christmas Day is about both of those things. The morning is for our children. The afternoon is for visiting family. The evening will be a time to relax with a glass of wine and think of loved ones who aren't with us this Christmas, or at least not in body. If that sounds like a sad end to the day, please be assured that it isn't. Remembering those who loved us and shaped our world is always a cause for celebration.

So with less than twenty four hours until it all begins, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas. …

7 ways to give to your writer friends at Christmas

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1. Magazine Subscription

I'm a firm believer that staying informed on not only your craft but also your industry is important for all writers. There are various writing related magazines that can serve this purpose and that also run competitions. A good choice for all writers is Writing Magazine which incorporates Writers News. A similar publication is Writers Forum. For women writers, there's also Mslexia.

2. Writing Software

There are all kind of writing related software packages that you can buy for your writer friend. New Novelist provide a package that I've found quite useful in compiling the details of my novel and constructing a chapter plan. For help with creating your characters Character Writer provides what looks like an in depth approach that includes an enneagram based character generator. Storybook provides an open source (free) novel writing programme that can be downloaded from their site.

3. Books on writing

I personally feel that there is an unnecessary…

A little festive advice from 2009

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I wrote this blog article last year but I thought it might come in handy this time round.

7 ways to keep your sanity in the festive season
Enjoy.

A new writing record

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As you know, the month of November saw me taking part in National Novel Writing Month, the aim being to write 50,000 words. I started off well, remaining on target until the middle of the month when life intervened in the form of ill children and work commitments. Still, I broke my writing record from past NaNoWriMos and managed just over 26,000 words.

I may not be an official NaNoWriMo 'winner' (the term used for those who have achieved the full 50,000 words) but I feel like a winner none the less. For the entire month, I sent my internal editor on holiday and just kept on writing. The resulting prize are several chapters of first draft quality which I'll look back over next week.

Writing in this way, without editing, felt risky at times and stumped me at others. The world of my story grew, the  details and colours gradually sketching themselves in. My characters fleshed out in often surprising ways. A couple of minor characters became more important and a new villain was…

30 Plays in 30 Days

As you know, I'm currently in the middle of National Novel Writing Month in an attempt to write 50,000 words over the thirty days of November. However, I was sorely tempted to join B L Goss in her attempt to write 30 plays in 30 days.

This is her final project on her Major American Authors course, running from 15th November (today) to 15th December. She will be posting each play on her blog daily and she invites other writers to join her.

Read her full article here.

Photo Inspiration

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As the nights draw in and the weather turns rainy, I thought I'd bring you a little summer photographic inspiration this time.


A Literary Treasure

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Image via Wikipedia When I fired up my computer today and opened a browser, I was met with the latest Google image - pirates, sailing boats and treasure. Puzzled, I investigated further and discovered that on this day, one hundred and sixty years ago, Robert Louis Stevenson was born.

I've always associated him with the novels Treasure Island and Kidnapped and of course the films of these novels. What I didn't realise until today was how extensive his writing talents were. He was not only a novelist (also penning The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde among other novels) but an essayist, a writer of short stories and a poet.

Born in Edinburgh, his life would take him to London, Europe, the USA and further still. He finally settled in Upolu, one of the Samoan islands where he died at the age of 44. His was a life lived richly and extensively. It's no wonder that his novels were so numerous and so varied.

I must, I must...

I must improve my NaNoWriMo wordcount.

During week one of National Novel Writing Month, I carved myself a regular writing slot. Once the children had been delivered to school and my husband to work, I would sit at the computer with a coffee and write for a couple of hours. I was not only achieving the suggested daily word count of 1,667 but bettering it. For the first time in the history of my NaNoWriMo attempts, I was ahead.

Week Two is notorious for being the week when most of the lunatics, I mean contestants of NaNoWriMo falter in their attempts and gnaw through more than one pencil (not sure if that metaphor works for keyboards...). I was ahead though, hair flying in the sweet breeze of success. I laughed at the thought of anything going wrong with my progress just because we'd hit the second week of our challenge.

On Monday morning, I found a rash on my daughter's neck and my son had a fever. The doctor was called and my daughter was diagnosed with an unidentified virus. …

Bonfire Night

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Image via Wikipedia Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.

My husband and I were trying to remember this poem today in the car. Like Christmas Day, in our household Bonfire Night is all about our children. Our plan tonight is to wrap everyone up warm and head out to a local castle for a bonfire and firework display, unless we get the torrential rain that the weather people say is heading our way. In that case, it'll be fireworks at home tomorrow night.

However you celebrate Bonfire Night, have the best of times and stay safe.

When is your writing slot?

When are you at your most productive during the day or night? For me, it's when I've just arrived back from the morning school run. My creative mind tends to start turning over on the drive home and by the time I sit at the computer, I already have the details of what I'll write next. This slot has worked out well for my NaNoWriMo adventure this year, giving me a chance to write my November novel undisturbed and when my brain is energised.

Today, however, my routine was thrown. I had offered to help out at my daughter's school in the morning. Then I had to buy some replacement school uniform (my children keep growing). By the time I got home, it was almost noon. My muse was on her lunch break. I managed about 400 words before other duties called.

Tonight, I decided to push on and upped my daily word count by another 2,000 words but it was hard work. I was tired, my children were noisily settling for the night and I felt bad neglecting my husband so my writing stopped a…

And we're off!

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins today. I mentioned this in October and ever since then I have been putting together a chapter plan for a quirky, dimension travelling, fantasy novel. Then three days before the month began, I changed my mind about which novel to write and started all over again with a different story idea. Am I mad? Probably but then I think, to an extent, most NaNoWriMers are a little mad. Why else would we throw ourself into the lion's pit, battling through a monthly wordage of 50,000? That's 1,667 words per day.

I started as I always do in my NaNoWriMo onslaught (this will be my fourth year) with blind enthusiasm and a childlike rush of excitement. With my chapter plan (well, what I could manage to put together in three days - fourteen chapters) beside me, I managed to achieve 2,467 words today.

I'm quite impressed with such a good start but the challenge will be to keep the momentum going. Wish me luck.

A Writerly Hallowe'en

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I've been reading a lot of Hallowe'en related blog posts about everything scary recently - carved pumpkins (that's ours on the left), costumes, recipes and films - but I was surprised how few mentioned books.


So I've put together a short list of reading suitable for this night of ghosts and ghouls.

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

This is the fourth Pratchett novel about Tiffany Aching, reluctant witch and the noisy but loyal Wee Free Men. Tiffany is just settling into her new home and witchly community duties. She's doing her best but things get complicated when an evil ghost fixes its eerie sights on Tiffany.

http://www.terrypratchett.co.uk/

The Witches by Roald Dahl

My children love books by Dahl but I've kept this one back for now as I find it quite frightening myself. The High Witch plans to rid the country of children by turning them into mice (and if that isn't bad enough, she's placed a large order for mousetraps). Thankfully one young boy …

Pan's Labyrinth

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Image via Wikipedia Hallowe'en films don't all have to be about gore and zombies. Sometimes they can be more subtle in their terror.

Like the best gothic fairytale, there is something both frightening and enchanting about the award winning film, Pan's Labyrinth. Directed and written by Guillermo del Toro, it tells the story of the stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer who escapes from her miserable life to a terrifying but magical fantasy world. The film is set in the fascist Spain of Franco and balances the cruel family life of Ofelia and her mother with the often disturbing but ultimately preferable world of the labyrinth. The mythical cast includes a caustic faun and a monster who sees through his hands.

I'm still undecided whether the ending is sad or not. Watch it and make up your own mind.

Lucky lucky me

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I consider myself to be a lucky person. I have a wonderful husband, two lively, loving children, my health, good friends, so many things to be thankful for. However, I don't generally win competitions, of any kind. It's not that I think 'oh, I'll never win'. It just doesn't generally happen. In fact, I can count the number of times I've won anything on one hand, until this month.

October has been my extra lucky month. Firstly, I won this beautiful jewellery from Aspire Style. They've just opened a new store in Solihull, but you can also find their shops in Warwick, Oxford and Stratford on Avon. Or you can shop online through their delightful website.

My second win was of a Hallowe'en competition run by Retro Chick for a spider web shawl, umbrella, wallet and compact mirror also from Aspire. In addition to selling retro and vintage clothing and accessories, Retro Chick runs competitions on a regular basis with some lovely prizes.

Both of these websit…

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Photo Inspiration

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Here's your monthly photographic inspiration. Enjoy!




On your marks...

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get set... We're almost there. In just under three weeks, National Novel Writing Month starts. For NaNoWriMo virgins, here is their press release.

Novel fever takes the world by storm.
Symptoms include flashes of brilliance, questionable plotlines, and blatant use of mixed metaphors.
Berkeley, California (Oct 1, 2010) - At midnight on November 1, armed only with their wits, the vague outline of a story, and a ridiculous deadline, more than 200,000 people around the world will set out to become novelists.

Why? Because November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, the world’s largest writing challenge and nonprofit literary crusade. Participants pledge to write 50,000 words in a month, starting from scratch and reaching “The End” by November 30. There are no judges, no prizes, and entries are deleted from the server before anyone even reads them.

So what’s the point? “The 50,000-word challenge has a wonderful way of opening up your imagination and unleashing creativity,” sa…

Remembering Charlie

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Monday was the birthday of my late father, Charlie. He would have been 88 years old. That's him in the photo, standing in a street in York with my mum.

He was an ever supportive influence in my life, softly spoken, strong, thoughtful and eternally optimistic. He was probably better thought of and more kindly remembered that he realised.

He was a hard worker, my dad. He was also a dreamer, full of ideas and thoughts. He did his best to improve himself so that he could support his family which often meant we only saw him at weekends, a treasured forty eight hours when family time was spent out walking, maybe driving in the countryside, or in the garden. A country lad at heart, my father usually found a way to drag us out into nature.

When he retired, my father decided to research his family history. I can remember the trips he took to London and Edinburgh (sometimes with my mum and on other occasions alone) and holidays spent traipsing through overgrown graveyards in Scotland. One o…

The first day of autumn

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I am a child of change. I always have been. Life can be as harmonious and bountiful as you like but if there is no room for change, then I just can't be happy. It's not that I'm ungrateful for the joys I've been given. It's just that I don't like to sit still for long - on to the next project or improvement. That's why I like autumn - it's a sign of change.

Like spring, autumn heralds a turn in the year, a handing over from the summer's long days to winter evenings that wrap us in their shades of darkness. The autumn equinox marks the second day in the year (the first being the spring equinox) when there is a balance between light and dark, a brief harmony before the world carries on towards winter.

Today is the autumn equinox, the first day of autumn, called Mabon by pagans. For me, it's a day of being thankful for what the year has brought me (my harvest), looking to see where I'm out of balance, and finding ways to bring harmony into my l…

End of Day

The cool, sharp tang of the sea
carries on the evening breeze
as the husky sigh of the wind rises
to drown the murmur of shallow waves.

Final echoes of the sun
lay weary on the water,
auburn dimming to grey.

Like dust before a broom,
the clouds disappear,
leaving only the solitary moon
to watch over the night.

Untouched

I wrote this in July 2000.


Untouched, yet felt,
a guilty glance offered
with the knowledge that
once accepted,
once succombed,
there is no going back.

Untouched, once more,
we talk around the heat
that hangs between us,
levels of meaning
silently entwining,
warm in our minds' caress.

Untouched, we part,
and sigh that friendship
held our hearts in virtue.
Regret is sweet,
and yet I wonder.

Heathers

Another poem I wrote in 1991.


Laughing with shared secrets,
we sprang across the moors -
boots heavy with peaty-earth,
faces radiant with the winter air
and each other.

The heather was our sampler,
where new joys,
unwrapped in the shivering air,
were offered, tasted and savoured.

Too impatient, our eyes too naked,
we could not see what would become
of our wilderness shared.
The eager cold, goose-pimpling us,
would numb our emotions,
and the the moors would be scorched grey.

The School Gates

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Written by me and included in an anthology called 'The Write Moments' in 1990/91.

She left me at the school gates.
Alone, with a multitude of lost faces
I watched, we watched, as she, they, waved,
and the gates closed like a final sentence.

I, we all, turned to the tarmac wasteland,
precisely traced  with circuits of white paint.
Our new parent, hovering, twittering,
bird-like behind immense round spectacles,
gathered us up in her nestling embrace,
trapping our backward glance.

We became a form, as the minutes tumbled by,
of black and blonde, and brown and blue.
Wellies, coats, bags, hooks marked with duck-shaped
stickers, and words,
our names gloriously written in rainbow crayons.

She was forgotten, our home maker.
She did not enter our minds,
was pushed out by new textures, new tastes.
She was not now, but later,
when we charged into the afternoon.
She was waiting where we had left her,
or she had left us,
by the school gates.

Great way to start the week

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Image by Getty Images via @daylife On my journey home from the school run this morning, I listened to this song on the car radio. What a brilliant sentiment for a grey Monday morning.

Beautiful Day by U2


Photo Inspiration

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Some more shots for you.





Hoarding with Pride

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Yesterday I wrote an article on my family history blog called Hoarders Anonymous. It talks about how the habit of hoarding has become a negative concept but that to geneaologists, the hoarded clutter of a relative or family can provide a treasure trove of research clues and information.

The collected clutter left to me by my parents sits under the stairs until I can free up a cupboard for it all. I've already filled one cupboard with photographs (note to self: must buy photograph albums and put these all in order) but I need more cupboard space for old family bibles, my parents' love letters and documentation that stretches back a number of generations. To this end, I started going through the cupboards in our study.

What I found was an interesting mix of craft materials (mainly for the children), the aforementioned photographs, an over abundance of candles (bring on the power cuts - no, don't, please - I need my computer), a graveyard of old gadgets that my husband hasn&#…

Roald Dahl Month

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Image via Wikipedia  My daughter has developed a penchant for paperback novels. She can devour one in a single sitting. Not unusual for an adult but this eager reader is only eight years old. It was her birthday this weekend so I treated her to two books that I loved at her age, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, both by the wonderful writer, Roald Dahl (pictured), an apt purchase because September is Roald Dahl month.

This celebration of Dahl was originally launched on 13th September 2006 on what would have been his ninetieth birthday. 2010 sees this celebration stretch to embrace an entire month of festivities.

 "Roald was a great believer in birthdays being filled with treats, so he would be happy that this tradition seems to be becoming an annual event," said Dahl's widow, Felicity.

Events this September include:

'Fantastic Mr Fox' performed at the Little Angel Theatre, Islingtona staging of  'George's Marvellous Medicine&#…

Muse calling. Come in, Writer!

Where do you get your inspiration? Where does your muse strike you on the head, shouting "Oi! Numpty! Try this on for size."

As a busy mum, my brain is often on multiple tasks, for instance, making packed lunches while getting my children breakfast and ensuring my husband is out of bed. Even in bed, I'll be mentally planning the day ahead.

However, there is one place where I concentrate solely on the task at hand and hence clear some space in my mind - the shower. Whilst soaping up this morning, I had a moment of clarity about my novel, a realisation of what was missing and how that could be solved. What was a two horse race has found itself an additional runner. Bricks have fallen into place and although it may mean that I have to rejig my chapters and plot, I'm confident that this new development will add richness and a new appeal to my novel.

What about you? Where does your muse coming calling?

7 ways to get over writer's block

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Step away from the keyboard (or pen and paper). Do something completely different for twenty minutes then return to your writing. This usually helps me reboot my imagination.Re-read what you've written. Of course this only works if you have actually written something already.Look over your notes or synopsis. Try to work out what it is that you're attempting to achieve with this piece of writing. Is your synopsis at fault? Would it be better to change the order of events? Is there a knowledge gap that is preventing you from taking the next step? Are you trying to make your character do something that they just wouldn't do?Write something different. You're stuck on chapter three so write chapter four. Act three is being a pain, so move to act four. Alternatively, if you're a blogger, go write a blog article (perhaps about writer's block). If it's your blog article that's causing your writing muscle to cramp, then revisit that novel or poem that you've…

Season of Bounty

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Yesterday I wrote about my affection for the month of September but  autumn in general is a favourite time of the year for me. Like the harvest from the fields, orchards and hedgerows, this season always feels like a time of reward and fruition. As I mentioned yesterday, autumn brought to me my daughter and my husband. This was also when I got married.

In her '52 Qualities of Prosperous Writers' newsletter, Christina Katz wrote this week about being 'bountiful'. She writes,

Bountiful implies that your cup is already overflowing so you simply tip your abundance into the hands of others. No sainthood required!

One thing I'm always thankful for is the abundance of ways in which I can apply my writing. There's this blog of course, the plays I write for Murdering The Text and the ideas I have for novels too. More recently, my writing 'cup' has overflowed and with the help of my husband (who is also my writing partner), we've taken the scenario and cast of…

September

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'Mellow' is the word that always comes to mind when I think of September. The days are still warm, there are flowers in the garden and we have time after school or work to go walking. And yet the way the colours of the garden and countryside have faded and the drawing in of the nights remind us that autumn and ultimately winter is on the way.

I like September. My children return to school and I can reclaim the house from a battleground of toys and abandoned socks. The extremes of summer (the long days, the brightest colours and cloudless skies) give way to a kinder, less challenging season.

I met my husband in September, an unexpected and warmly remembered encounter that set me on this well-loved path. My daughter was born in this month and my father was taken from me too. It has always been a time of change and fresh avenues into the future.

This September is no different. Today I posted off our sitcom pilot script to the BBC. My husband is in the midst of writing a second sc…

Murdering The Text Autumn Newsletter

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The autumn newsletter for Murdering The Text is now available online.

With details of our latest play and autumn productions, have a look at the newsletter here.

Writing.Com

Writing.Com will be ten years old tomorrow and will be celebrating from 1st to 10th September with birthday themed writing contests and special activities.

There'll be prizes and giveaways of over 10 million Gift Points and if  you're already a member, you'll be gifted 1,000 points per day just for logging into your account.

Writing.com is an online community for writers of all interests and skill levels.

Summer waves goodbye

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This last week of the summer holidays has taken me away from my writing as I prepare for my children's return to school. Already, autumn whispers in with it's cool breezes but before the holiday season is over, I thought I'd share some old summer photographs with you and a poem (not written by me) too.

See you in the autumn.

Joy Is Measured
Joy is touched through that we touch daily. golden light stripes the wall in morning as apparition appearing (though no false god this!) to silently nudge slumber with a most gentle alarm of holiday dream. was it a dream? - no matter. to heat, to water! to the green depths of lake that curtain summer stage. a dive, then first breath, the slow  blurring of edges, the lack of form between things. soon a plot unfolds. cloud and shadow scheme, draw plans on distant hills while breeze, waiting in the wing, rehearse with wave their entrance and exit, the tricky part, all the while whistling vaguely in the manner of summer. ah yes, summer. the season meant to rem…

Calling all scriptwriters - a competition for you

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The people at Scripped are holding a scriptwriting contest in partnership with actorsandcrew.com. They're looking for a tennis related low budget script.

For further details and how to enter, follow this link.

Writing about where you live

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Image by EraPhernalia Vintage via Flickr This links back to 'drawing from your life experience'. The block of flats you walk by on the way to the bus stop or the railway station you use on a morning can all provide locations in your writing.

I've lived in various areas of England and Wales, and beyond that family connections have leant further familiarity to places in Yorkshire and Scotland. I can picture my home town with great detail, even though I don't live there anymore and have used that city for one of my novels (as yet unpublished).

The first few murder mystery plays written for Murdering The Text were based in and around an imaginary market town called Dedleigh. Dedleigh is based on several similar towns in Yorkshire.

A children's novel that I wrote a few years ago (again, unpublished) used a house and area where I lived near Croydon, Surrey.

In the novel I'm currently writing, the future set, modern city is completely imagined but the old town where th…

Progress with my novel

Actual writing of my novel has slowed down as the rest of my life seems to have taken over during the summer holidays. However, I've come to the conclusion that the title 'Split' isn't the right one for my novel so I'm thinking on that one. The title 'Dark Divide' keeps coming to mind but I'm not 100% sold on that either. I think the novel itself will probably supply a title from the words of one of the characters. Fingers crossed.

The second development has been a realisation of the arc of my story and how it will expand into the other two books in the trilogy. A seemingly minor character in the first book will crop up again and a storyline mentioned in passing in book one will carry us through to the final instalment. A second minor character from book one will provide a large part of the storyline in book two and this will involve a new magic user who uses jewellery and stones to influence people.

That all sounds quite vague but I'm pleased that …

Another competition for you

As a writer, I always look forward to getting my yearly copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook. An incredibly useful resource of listings for publishers and agents, it also includes an excellent range of articles on different areas of writing.

You can win a copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook 2011 or the Children's Writers and Artists Yearbook 2011 by visiting this link. I've entered already. Good luck!

Win a book!

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Image via Wikipedia Fans of sci fi, fantasy and the writer, Peter F Hamilton should get over to the Pan Macmillan site where they're holding a competition to win a signed copy of Peter F Hamilton's novel, The Evolutionary Void.

The Evolutionary Void is the concluding volume in the Void Trilogy. It is tentatively scheduled for a worldwide release in September 2010.

Peter also has a blog if you'd like to keep up with the latest news about his writing.

Here's the link to the competition page.

Do you back up?

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I trusted my laptop computer completely, until one day it died. As it happened, I was mid-write, working on a murder mystery play. I was on the final straight, approaching the finish line and *puff* the screen went blank. I quietly cursed my laptop as I tried to remember whether I'd saved recently. What I'd written was still fresh in my mind though so past the initial annoyance, it wasn't a disaster.

I pressed the 'On' button. Nothing happened. I checked the power supply which was fine and pressed the 'On' button again. The laptop remained lifeless on my lap. Fighting the rising panic, I tried again. Still, there was no response. My laptop was dead.

At that time, I was not in the habit of backing up but thankfully everything was not lost as my husband, an IT bod, managed to strip down my laptop and rescue the hard drive. Still, it taught me a particularly important lesson - back up your files.

I now back up on a regular basis onto a separate hard disk. It m…

Drawing from your life experience

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Write what you know. That phrase comes up time and time again in creative writing tutorials. For many years I dismissed this piece of advice, not through disrespect but because the story ideas I had required me to write about things I didn't know. I didn't know about living in a Tolkien-esque world. I didn't know about fighting in a battle. I certainly didn't know about grieving the death of a loved one.

In my early twenties, I attended a writing class run by a very talented poet called Pat Borthwick. Pat placed great value on life experience and encouraged us to use our memories and every day lives to enrich our writing.

Most of my class members were older than me and it seemed at the time that they had so much more 'life' to write from compared to my own twenty or so years. There was a wonderful American lady in her sixties or seventies who had lived in Burma for many years. If I remember rightly, her husband was a diplomat connected with the American Embassy…

Photo Inspiration

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Taken from old slides that I recently scanned in.