Showing posts from 2015

What have I done this year?

After the build up to Christmas and the day itself, my family and I are having a few days at home together. It's all very relaxed and with no real plans to keep to. Late nights, family games and good company. My husband and children are taking advantage of the lack of routine to have lie-ins so I'm usually first up, enjoying the quiet with my morning coffee. It gives me time to think and reflect on the year that's almost over. It's been generally a good one, in some ways quite magical, and definitely a year I want to remember.

Back in January, I posted my 2015 reading list and my goals for the year. I didn't do very well with the reading list, only completing three of the fifteen (even worse than in 2014). I must read more next year. I did better with my goals. I revised and polished my novel and began the search for an agent. I returned to the partial first draft of my second novel which now requires a massive rethink because of changes to the first novel. Due to …

Merry Christmas

Just a quick post to wish you all the best for Christmas. May the day bring you all that you wish for, and if that isn't possible (I doubt I'll get that unicorn this year - darn) then I hope you have the kind of day that you need. 
Corny I know, but this is from the soundtrack of  one of my favourite Christmas films.

My Christmas List

Have you made a Christmas list this year or are you just hoping that your family know you well enough to buy the right gifts for you? I've probably left this list a little late to be of any use to my family but just in case...

Firstly, I'd like a peaceful Christmas Day. Not peaceful as in alone, or with the family tied to their beds, but peaceful in that there are no cross words or bad feelings, towards anyone, just good cheer and lots of laughter.

Secondly, for my family to remember that when I'm tidying away the torn-off wrapping paper and fussing over some aspect of the food, I'm not being a kill-joy. I'm simply attempting to quieten my anxiety and keep on top of things. I'm enjoying myself, really I am, even if I'm frowning.

Thirdly, wouldn't it be wonderful to have a day without war, or murder, or cruelty? This is a long shot, and incredibly naive. Still, fingers crossed for that one.

I'd like a day without pain. I'm still suffering with my…

Something Useful for 2015 - Exercise No. 17

Have you seen this Christmas advert yet?

An elderly gentleman finds that the only way to bring his family together at Christmas is to fake his own death. This German advert has reduced most people I know to tears, including me.

Many families only come together to celebrate weddings or commiserate the loss of a loved one. For me, Christmas was the main time each year when my own family gathered in one place - aunts, uncles, cousins, friends who meant as much to us as family too - and it was these gatherings that often created the stories my family would tell and re-tell.

What Christmas tales did your family create from the yearly gatherings? Happy? Sad? Comical? All of those together?  Let me know.

Photo Inspiration for December

Early one morning last week, while my family remained warm in the house before school and work, I ventured outside to leave the bins for the refuse collection. It was hardly a romantic or glamorous start to the the day but when I looked up, I saw this.

In the midst of the lightening sky, a crescent moon and a star (or is it the space station?) sat shining alone together. It was one of those skies that made me pause (and obviously take a photo).

What does this sky inspire you to write about? New beginnings? Peace? Partnership? Let me know.

Choice Words for December

One of the questions I asked myself when plotting my novel, Shadowbinder, was how I could make things hell for my protagonist? And then, how could I make it worse? The next question I asked myself was how could I make the story's outcome matter to him?

Writer K M Weiland discusses this same topic in her article, When Your Story Stakes Aren't High Enough. Have a read.

It's that season again

Christmas trees are going up in people's homes (they've been up in the shops since the beginning of November). Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw a record spend by the British public. Bets are being placed on whether we'll have snow on the big day.

In the run up to Christmas, I think we all go a bit doolally in our quest for the perfect festive celebration. That isn't necessarily a bad thing but it can certainly cause as many arguments as it does rewards.

When I first started writing the 7 Ways articles, I posted one on how to survive the run up to Christmas. I think that 7 ways to keep your sanity in the festive season is still as pertinent today as it was back then. Go on, slap a snowman.

A major part of the preparations in the run up to Christmas is buying presents. Throughout the year, I make a note of all the things that my children mention they would like so I have a shopping list by the time I get to November. My husband is more difficult. This year I told him, …

What I'm Doing This Month - December

December this year finds me in a very festive mood and for once, I'm rather organised. I finished my Christmas present shopping in November. That's never happened before. I have Christmas cards ready to be written and wrapping paper at hand. We're not quite sure where the Christmas tree is going to go in our new house but that's only a minor blip on the festive horizon.

I'm still unpacking boxes with the target of having it all finished by mid month, and delighting in re-discovering all kind of gems that I'd packed away during probably the move before last.

I have a new desk for my first ever study. I'm sitting at it now as I type. This will probably be the last room I'll sort out but I'm all kinds of giddy to have all of my things together, unpacked and in view.

So what of my writing for December?


After sending off my novel to three agents mid November, I'm waiting for a response. One got back to me almost immediately to say they were l…

Take the time to share a story

On Sunday night, my children, my husband and I sat down at the dining table to play a game of Cluedo. We try to make a point of having a family board game most weekends. Sometimes it might be Scrabble, other times Monopoly. It doesn't really matter what we play. The main value of the experience is in coming together, away from gadgets and TV, to concentrate on spending time with each other. Most of the conversation will be centred around the game but we'll also swap stories about the week that has just passed and discuss what might be coming up in the days ahead.

As a child, board games, card games, and family gatherings were a regular event. Sometimes it would just be me and my parents (I'm an only child). On other occasions, the neighbours would come in, or for a special night like New Year's Eve, there'd be a party of friends and family filling the house with laughter and chat.

Whether there were few of us or many, the gathering would always lead to the telling …

7 ways to stay motivated (or get motivated in the first place)

Are you a self-motivator or do you need a nudge or a carrot to keep going? I'm a bit of both depending on the task at hand but over the years, I've come up with a number of ways to motivate myself.

1. Treat Yourself
This is the 'carrot' I mentioned above. Promise yourself that when (not if) you complete the task, you'll treat yourself to something. What that 'thing' is depends of course on you. You might choose simply to have a cup of tea and sit down to read a book. You might decide to go out somewhere. You might even take yourself shopping for a new bag, book or other item. You know what kind of treat will keep you going (plus what you can afford in the case of a shopping trip) but make it something that really delights you and raises a smile.
2. Visualise the end result
This is not to be confused with day dreaming. That way, only procrastination lies. You can visualise the end result in your mind, have an image on your computer screen or go the whole hog …

The die are cast

This morning I did something that I've been longing to do for years. I submitted my novel to a literary agent. Actually, I submitted it to three.

I'm lucky to write my plays for a living but to be a novelist has always been my number one dream. I've written and honed, and rearranged, and edited my manuscript for the past few years. I've sought professional advice and assessments on my writing. I've turned to my favourite writers for advice and inspiration. I've even put together a cast list of actors for my characters. I've taken my novel as far as I can.

Submitting my manuscript today made it all feel very real, and quite terrifying. I read each agent's submission requirements, located the correct person to submit to at each agency and nervously emailed off my novel.

I'm hoping for a good response from at least one of them. I know that I may not hear anything until the new year. Let's be honest. If they're not interested, I may not hear an…

Something Useful for 2015 - Exercise No. 16

Around this time every year, I compile a set of family photographs, one for each month, to create a calendar for the following year. December is a shot from the previous year. It's always a pleasure to look back over the last twelve months and remember.

Looking back over my photographs for this year, along with the family shots are images that I took that don't show my family. They're shots of the garden or landscapes or other things that took my fancy. They tell a story in themselves.

Choose twelve photos, one for each month of the year (November and December can be from past years if that's easier). Now, looking at the photos as a group, weave them together into a story.

Here are mine.

Choice Words for November

There is so much advice and opinion out there about how to write a novel (or how to write anything, for that matter) that after a while it can all turn into a blah shade of grey, the same thoughts, techniques and scenarios repeated over and over again. For me, the most informative advice is the kind that comes from a writer's personal experience, illustrated with their own 'story'.

Nathan Filer's TEDx talk, How to write an award winning bestselling first novel, is just such a lesson. If you can spare fifteen minutes, then it's well worth watching.

Nathan Filer

Photo Inspiration for November

I like unusual buildings and entrances, in fact any kind of threshold that is a little out of the ordinary. I took this photograph back in March on a family trip.
What do you think of this? Is it inviting or just a little bit intimidating? Would you like to drop in? What would you find if you ventured through that door? Who might live here?
What does this inspire you to write?

What I'm Doing This Month - November

November is here, harbinger of winter and bringer of light in the form of Bonfire Night (a very British celebration). The darkness arrives noticeably earlier each afternoon and the central heating is on. I've taken to snuggling up in my shawl when I write, hot drink to hand.

After the house move in September, visiting Chester Festival and planning Hallowe'en costumes for my children in October, November feels like an altogether more quiet month.

On a personal note, I'm about to start learning Italian (enough to pass as a tourist at least) for a birthday trip/delayed honeymoon to Venice in the new year. I'll let you know how both of those go.

I'm also suffering from a shoulder injury which means I can only spend short amounts of time at a keyboard without my shoulder and arm clamping up. Bedtimes are a series of contortionist feats to sleep without pain. As the doctor said when I went to see her about this, "Perhaps ice skating at your age wasn't such a go…

A Sunday Morning Chat

This is where I found myself on Sunday morning. This is Chester City Hall. As part of the Chester Literature Festival, I was booked in to speak to a lovely lady called Carrie Kania, an agent from Conville and Walsh. The slot was for fifteen minutes, not long, to discuss the first fifty pages of my novel which I had previously emailed to her.

I was directed up a sweeping staircase to wait on a wooden bench. I don't know if it's allowed but I took the opportunity to photograph the impressive, gothic interior. You can find a couple of shots at the bottom of this post.

After waiting for only a couple of minutes (I was early), one of the heavy wooden doors opened. The writer before me left and Carrie invited me in, a small dog trotting at her heels. Her dog is called Foxy and once he had barked at me sufficiently to let me know who was boss, he settled down for a snooze. I nervously took a seat, notepad in hand, ready to hear the verdict on my writing.

Carrie was relaxed, chatty a…

Photo Inspiration for October

I recently walked into my study and noticed that there was a white smear on the window. When I looked closer, I found this.

 Can you make it out? It's an imprint of a bird that must have collided with the window. You can see its beak, breast feathers and the feathers from an outstretched wing.

I checked the garden but there was no dead or injured bird, and no sign of feathers either, just in case a local cat had taken advantage.

The imprint was created by something completely normal but it signifies a suspended moment in time, a reminder of the past, a ghost.

What would it inspire you to write?

Something Useful for 2015 - Exercise No. 15

It's autumn. The trees are shaking off their greenery. My morning journeys are wrapped in fog from the fields that I drive past. There's a chill in the air even when the sun is shining. I can feel it in my bones (or maybe that's a touch of rheumatism). Everything is on the shift.

This month's exercise is inspired by a word that, for me, denotes this time of year.

Change is ever present although sometimes the change is so gradual that we don't notice it. On other occasions, change can be brutally quick, shocking even.

If you were to write about 'change', what would your story tell me? Who would it be about? What would be its tone? How does change inspire you?

Choice Words for October

It truly feels like autumn now, the turning of the year into cooler days and tawny shades. I love this season for the same reason that I love spring - there's change in the air.

My choice words this month come from the award winning writers Doris Lessing and Octavia Butler.

The wonderful Doris Lessing talks about writing.

What I'm Doing This Month - October

Where have the last few weeks gone? I wrote September's post about my plans for the month with the full intention of posting lots more in the following weeks. Then, our house move happened and somewhere in there our internet connection was cut off for several days too.My time has been hijacked by continual carrying, unpacking, searching and way too much cleaning. I'm still surrounded by boxes but at least now they're only knee high and I can see my family over them.

Yesterday, I handed over the keys for our old house and so today, I can finally sit in my new study without any immediate deadlines to drag me off my chair.

So what's happening in October for me, as a writer?

My Novel

I'm still working on my novel, editing and polishing. I was excited to return to it this week but nervous too. Time away from my writing allows me to look at it with fresh eyes and I worried that I might have lost the thread of my storyline in all my editing but that doesn't seem to be…

What I'm Doing This Month

Yes, I know it's mid month and I really should have posted this at the beginning of September but it's been a hectic couple of weeks and I've only just sat down (reaches for coffee).

No, really, it has. The beginning of September saw my children return to school (youngest child joining his big sister at high school) which should have given me a chance to catch up on everything. I say 'should' because around the same time, my husband and I decided to start the cogs turning in the 'moving house' process. The documents are signed. The boxes have been purchased (and several of them packed). We have keys to collect and measurements to make in the new house. It's all good but it's also time-consuming.

My daughter also turned into a teenager, this weekend just gone. There were presents to buy and wrap, and arrangements to be made for a birthday weekend away. We got back late last night.

So, back to the topic at hand (need more coffee), my post, this post,…

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - a book review

One of the delights of my recent family holiday was having the time to read. The literary gem that I took away with me was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I love a book that enthralls me so much that I forget time and my surroundings. The Night Circus was just such a book.

This is a novel of magic, illusion (magical, mechanical and emotional), gameplay and love, set at the turn of the twentieth century in Europe and the USA. These are the first lines that I read.

The circus arrives without warning.
   No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and  billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

To me, this opening does two things. It announces the arena that the novel will take place in, the circus, and it employs the magic of the circus (that most of will have experienced) to pull us in as an audience. We want to read on and find out what happens.

The various cover designs (my copy looked like th…

Choice Words for September

It's the first day of September (pinch punch, white rabbits, something like that) and the last day of the summer holidays for me and my children. Tomorrow, I go back to being a grown-up. Today, however, I can still relax - phew.

So along with the first day of September, this is the first monthly Choice Words post. Today, I'm sharing an article about another 'first' from the Writer's Digest website written by novelist Jeff Gerke, 4 Approaches for the First Chapter of Your Novel. I've started my novel with approach no. 2. Have a read and you'll see what I mean.

7 ways I cope with my anxiety

I was diagnosed with 'anxiety' a number of years ago. I had been suffering from continual tiredness, achey muscles and a general feeling of being 'just not right' for a long time before that. Physically, I've generally been very healthy throughout my life so feeling unwell for such a long time, and not being able to put a finger on it, was a worrying development.

The diagnosis of anxiety was, to a large extent, a relief. It was a problem I could solve myself so I accepted all the literature that the doctor gave to me and I began to research the condition. Page by page, article by article, things fell into place - physical conditions, emotional reactions. It all made sense and moreover, I could see when the anxiety began too.

I've been coping with my anxiety ever since. It doesn't ever go away completely but that's ok. I've developed a number of ways to manage it, to ensure that it doesn't rule my life. I'm not medically qualified in any way …

Photo Inspiration for August

This month's photograph was taken during a walk in the Grosvenor Park in Chester with my children. I can't find any information on the archway anywhere. It is simply described as a 'relic'.

There's a smaller archway to the right hand side and behind me is another archway. Looking at the three together, it was probably the two ends of a walkway at one time, but why the very small arch?

What does this image make you think of? The people who have passed through it? The building it was originally a part of? The era of its creation? What would this inspire you to write?

Something Useful for 2015 - Exercise No. 14

Did you have an imaginary friend when you were a child? I did. Mine was a puppy - a very naughty puppy that always stopped in the middle of the road to have a poo when we were supposed to be crossing over, much to the annoyance of my mother.

I'm an only child and although my parents were loving, I was left to amuse myself for the large part of my time at home. I also wanted a puppy but after a failed attempt at mixing a toddler and a young red setter, my parents put thoughts of a pet aside until I was older.

So I created a friend, and a puppy, to keep me company and make trips out with my parents much more interesting.

What about you? Did you have an imaginary friend? What kind of conversation would you have with your imaginary friend if they visited you now?

Change, change, change

During my time away from blogging to work on my novel, I reconsidered the use I was making of this website and I've decided to alter a few things.

Tuesday Choice Words

While there is a lot of brilliant advice out there for writers, what I've found in searching for new links and videos to bring to you each Tuesday, is that a large percentage of it is repeated advice, different slants on the same literary gem. So as of this week, Tuesday Choice Words will cease to exist.

What I will bring to you instead is a monthly post of an article or video that I think really stands out from the crowd, something that has helped me personally.

Book Reviews

Although my writing has taken precedence recently, I love to read. I also love to share my literary finds. Expect more resulting book reviews.

My Journey

I started this blog (back in 2009) as a way to explore and share my own writing journey. Somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost that. Now that my novel is nearing the final polish, I wa…

I'm back

It's been a busy few weeks since I last posted on this blog. I've weathered the emotional storm of my son's last year at primary school (I knew I should have taken tissues to the leaver's concert - darned un-waterproof mascara), tackled the first half of the summer holidays with my children (zoos, ice creams by the sea, computer games), and through it all, I've worked on my novel.

The task that I set myself was to rewrite my novel bearing in mind the advice I'd received from my manuscript assessment. This meant re-engineering some existing chapters, scrapping others and creating some completely new ones. 
The patching together of all of these has been a challenge. I've removed a lot of bit-part characters, reduced the number of villains, given one of my favourite characters a larger role, and I've cut the point of view down to two characters. I've also made my main protagonist, Steve Haven, much more pro active which has felt good.
One of the more …

Ta Ta For Now

It's Monday. I'm just back from a weekend away with my family and after the lovely distraction that those few days have been, I've picked up my determined hat and rammed it firmly onto my head. Ouch!

Over the next few weeks (right through to the end of July), I won't be posting anything on this blog. I may add the occasional link of interest to my Facebook page, but that's all. For the rest of June and throughout July, my main focus (never mind the ironing and feeding my children - pah!) will be to complete the rewrite of my novel.

So until the month of August rolls by, au revoir, toodle oo, have a great time and wish me luck.

Tuesday Choice Words

One of the things that interests me in writing a novel is breaking it down into its structure - beginning, middle, end, inciting events, resolutions, and so on. A well-formed structure can make all the difference, carving a path for the reader to follow.

Janice Hardy discusses The Act One Problem on her website, Fiction University, "the  bridge between the beginning of the novel and the middle". Have a look.

Counting Words

After a surge in my writing/editing during Camp NaNoWriMo in April, my non writing life took control in May. Add to this the fact that I couldn't get my head around a new scene that I needed to write and my wordage ground to a halt.

After throwing ideas around for that evasive scene for a couple of weeks, I finally managed to get it down on paper this week - phew. I also came to the conclusion that my writing output suffers when I don't have a plan in hand, a regular target. I've therefore returned to an old friend.

I've talked about the Pacemaker website before. Using your own choices of regularity of writing and wordcount etc, Pacemaker creates a writing plan for you. My writing plan looks like this:

Target wordcount: 25,000 (I've already written around that amount. Another 25k should finish my novel). Start date: Today. Finish date: 17th July (I want to complete this before my children break for the summer and take over my sanity). I've chosen the 'Stea…

Tuesday Choice Words

I like to blog. It gives me a  chance to connect with readers and other writers, discuss my writing progress and swap ideas about what works (and sometimes doesn't work) for me as a writer. I'm definitely a supporter of blogging.What about you?

On the Indie Plot Twist website, Danielle Hanna discusses The Benefits of Blogging for Novelists. Have a look.

Photo Inspiration for June

It's summer in the UK and with it, fun fairs begin to crop up in the most unexpected places. In case, you didn't know, this is a Helter Skelter. You run up the stairs in the tower and slide down the outside on a sack or mat.

What do you think about this image? Does it bring back warm childhood memories, or perhaps thoughts of your children? Look a little closer. Stepping  through the open yellow door takes you into darkness. Who waits at the top? Where is this, with it's forest surround?

Joyous childhood ride or scary trap for the unsuspecting? What does this inspire you to write?

Tuesday Choice Words

What kind of beginnings do you like to your novels? Action? Mystery? Description? K M Weiland gives her opinion on what makes a good start to a story in her article, Why Avalanches, Wolves, and Lightning Storms Aren’t a Good Way to Begin Your Book. Have a look.

In a Quandary over James

I have a decision to make in the re-write of my novel. Having added two new characters, James and his younger brother, Michael (Glitch), I have to decide whether to kill James off.

If I do kill him off, then it would mean that Hartley would take Michael under his wing and his roof. There is certainly a role for Michael to play in this story and rest of the trilogy too.

If I don't kill James off, then there is no way that he would abandon his brother (James is 17, Michael is 10). They're street kids who have survived without adults for a long time. Could James and Michael still have a purpose in the trilogy if they weren't so close at hand?

Knowing who attacks James (and kidnaps Michael), I can see a purpose to his death. It would be a method of showing what the villain's magical power is but with a healer in our party of friends, surely he could be saved.

My son (also 10) says it would be too sad to kill James. I'm still undecided. Hm. I think I need more coffee.

Tuesday Choice Words

During the current rewrite of my novel, I found that it was necessary to cut certain scenes, chapters and characters. It was all a little sad, and scary, and brain-wrecking, but I can see that the story will benefit from all these changes.

In her article, Does it serve the book? Killing your darlings is a mark of writing maturity, Roz Morris discusses just this topic. Have a look.