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Showing posts from 2016

Merry Christmas to you all

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So it's Christmas Day tomorrow (just in case, perchance, you didn't know) and I'm officially signing off until the new year. May your last week of 2016 treat you and yours well, and safely usher you into 2017. However you spend it, all the best for the 25th.

What have I done this year?

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The big day is almost upon us and around this time in December each year, when my children have finished school and I've mostly prepared for Christmas Day, I like to look back over the past twelve months. Have I made progress? Did I get everything done that I had planned? What changes and surprises were there along the way?


January is my birthday month and this year was a special one. This year I turned fifty, that's half a century of 'me'. My husband treated me to a wonderful, romantic weekend in Venice while our children stayed at home with their uncle. 
I posted my reading list for the year, shared my thoughts on organising my online presence, told you about my Top 10 Books and shared my hoarding vice. I continued to send out my novel to literary agents and took up the reins on my next novel. 

In April, I took on Camp NanoWrimo for the second year running, talked about doubt as a writer, and told you how Shakespeare made a writer of me. That month also saw the arriv…

Something Useful for 2016 - Exercise No. 24

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It's December and, in  case you hadn't noticed, Christmas is speeding towards us. This weekend, my children helped me decorate our tree. The ornaments are a mixture of styles and colours but many hold wonderful memories. 
Most of you will have a Christmas tree in your home this month. My December writing exercise is to choose one of your decorations as an inspiration for your writing. The inspiration could come from where you bought your decoration (or perhaps it was a gift), or what the symbol of the ornament stands for itself (be it, an owl, a Santa or a snowflake). 
If you don't have a Christmas tree at home (or if you aren't at home this time of year), then choose an ornament on a tree in a shopping centre, or find one online. 
Which bauble have you chosen or what has it inspired you to write?

Photo Inspiration for December

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I came across this frosty bench while walking the dog this morning. What do you think? A meeting place hidden away from the rest of the world? A well remembered picnic spot? What would this inspire you to write?

What I'm doing this month - December

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This month I shall be running round like a headless turkey, or rather a stressed out mother trying to remember everything that needs to be done before the twenty fifth of December. There are cards and letters to be written, presents to be bought (half done already thankfully), people to catch up with, schools events to be prepared for and attended, and writing to be done.

Note how writing comes last on the list. I 'will' write this month in the way that my family 'will' enjoy the Christmas season. I'm determined (if a tad frazzled and fraught at the thought of it all).

Oh darn, I have to put the tree up too. I need the husband home to get it all down from the attic first. I also have to figure out how to puppy-guard the tree. I don't want Christmas Day ruined by a toppled tree or a pile of chewed presents (unless it's a present for the puppy of course).

Joy to the world and all that. I think I need a strong coffee and a mince pie.

Something Useful for 2016 - Exercise No. 23

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Last week, my family and I trundled into Chester on a chilly Thursday night to watch the city lights switch on. The streets were heaving with people, young and old, all come together to share the experience. When the time came, all eyes turned to watch Santa who stood on the walkway where the city clock sits above the main street. He waved cheerily as the steamers of fireworks raced into the sky from either side of him.
I say all eyes. I took a sneaky look at the crowds as they watched. I noticed the three teenage girls hunched together, the toddler doing his best to escape from his parents, and the old man blowing on his ungloved hands. All of them were strangers to me. I didn't know their names or where they lived, or how happy their lives were. I could only imagine.
This month, as the streets and the shops fill with crowds preparing for the festive break, take some time to people watch. Who catches your eye? Who could be the inspiration for a character? What exchange could pro…

Photo Inspiration for November

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One benefit to having a dog is the walks we go on. Since Bailey has been in my life, I've rediscovered the joy of walking for pleasure. I get exercise, I get to meet people and it also presents me with all kind of opportunities to take photographs.
I took this shot yesterday on our morning walk. Above this leaf-laden ground are masses of apples and berries, the bounty of the season. I'm sure that most passing people, if they look up, will see the fruit growing on the trees and bushes but very few will notice the fallen fruit at their feet.
The image of fallen fruit can mean many things - a fall from grace, something downtrodden, or the bottom rungs of the ladder. What does this image inspire you to write?

Today I met a poet

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My morning has a set ritual:
Get up. Get children up. Do school run. Walk the dog.  This happens on every week day since Bailey the pooch arrived at our house.

This morning was a glorious day to get out and about, sunny but just chilly enough to need a coat, perfect for a stroll amongst the autumn leaves.



On the way back, I met a neighbour walking his two dogs. I was trying to take a photo at the time and he commented that he liked to take photos too. We chatted (while I tried to stop Bailey from jumping up at him to be petted and terrorising his dogs) and it turned out that my neighbour is also a writer, a poet. You can find his website here.
What I got most from our chat was how wonderful it is to talk to another writer. We writers are a fractured society. We don't generally gather en masse like many professions. We tend to work alone, only meeting up with like minded souls on occasion. Today was one of those occasions for me. What a great start to my day.

What I'm doing this month - November

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November 2016 is, for me, all about change. In fact, 2016 has been entirely about change, both in my personal life and how I see myself as a writer. We've had an addition to our family (Bailey the pooch), I've entered new social circles and interests, and I've committed to the process of submitting my novel to literary agents. 
Learning
This month will see me continue on my writing course with the International Writing Programme. Listening to the weekly videos from the writers involved in the course and taking part in the assigned writing exercises has been not only inspirational but has also opened my eyes to my own personal writing process. Additionally, returning to short story writing (for the assignments) has been a surprising joy, re-engaging my interest in a form of writing that I hadn't used in years. 
Writing
While my children's novel has been doing the rounds of literary agents and I've been planning the rest of the series, my muse has been elbowing me…

A Hallowe'en Dilemma

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Hallowe'en always finds me divided. One the one hand, the pagan in me sees this day as a time to reflect on loved ones who have passed, the thought of them brought closer as the veil between the dead and the living thins. That is what Hallowe'en (or Samhain) means to me on the deepest level. 

As a mother, I have always enjoyed the fun side of the day that my children are attracted to - dressing up, making spooky food, and carving pumpkins. Nowadays, my 'children' are older (teen and pre teen) so that side of things doesn't appeal to them so much but I know we'll be visited by lots of little witches and ghosts tonight on their trick or treating quest.

As a writer, there is a whole universe of inspiration around me in the shadows of this day and an immense heritage of literature that touches on the supernatural and horror genre. Most of my favourite writers fall into this group - Mary Shelley, Neil Gaiman, and Stephen King to name but a few. 

Hallowe'en mean…

Choice Words for October

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One of the problems I have always had with my protagonist, Steve is wondering whether readers will like a grumpy teenager. He isn't a magical like Blessing. He isn't gung-ho like Hartley. Steve is trying his best to find his way in a world that is constantly changing.

Writer, K M Weiland discusses this topic in her article, Worried Readers Won't Like Your Character? Have a look and tell me what you think.



Something Useful for 2016 - Exercise No. 22

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I'm taking part in the International Writing Programme's free online course at the moment - Storied Women. This week saw our first assignment, writing from the perspective of a child using the different ways discussed on the course to portray characterisation (speech patterns, movements, details, habits, drawing on life, etc.). This in itself is a writing exercise worth sharing but what I thought I'd discuss as this month's writing exercise is changing perspective.



I normally write from the third person perspective. It's my 'comfort' perspective and I find it easy to fall into. For my Storied Women assignment however, I chose to write in first person. I didn't make a conscious decision to do that. It just felt like the right thing to do. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote.

When Death Comes A-Knocking

     Grandma said that before the ghosts, children played outside, kicking around balls and climbing trees. Momma always told her to hush about that but I…

Photo Inspiration for October

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A little red devil just hanging around on a street corner. This was taken in York over the summer. It's easy to put your head down and miss so many of these little details that adorn that city. 
Is he friendly? Waiting for someone? On holiday? What do you think? What does this image inspire you to write?

What I'm doing this month - October

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Is the image a big enough hint? Yes, my October is all about writing. The rest of my life has settled back into its autumn routine and I can concentrate on getting the words down on paper/laptop.

Novel

With my first novel polished and doing the rounds of literary agents, I'm flipping between working on the plan for the rest of the Haven series and editing the draft of my second novel in the series. I'm using my murder mystery writing head to pick up the clues from the first novel to develop in the following books. The plan is a bit of a hotch potch at the moment as I keep swapping around the order of events to find the perfect fit. I know the ending. Now, I just have to decide on the middle.

Learning

I didn't intend to concentrate on anything but my novels this autumn but when a friend flagged up a new online writing course, I just had to have a look. Then, I signed up for Storied Women, run by the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa. It runs through O…

Choice Words for September

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As you know, this year I began to submit my novel 'Shadowbinder' to literary agents. After ten rejections, a reassessed novel, and a rest over the summer break, I'm about to re-start the process. I'd like to say that I'm revved up and raring to go but the truth is that doubts are beginning to chip away at my self belief. I've come to the conclusion that the only way to get where I want to go is to keep on keeping on so I'm readying my next submission.

Novelist, Claudia Cruttwell writes about this whole process in Finding An Agent: Why You Shouldn't Give up. Well worth a read if you too are feeling fraught from submission rejection.

10 easy ways to put agents off in your submission letter Piers Blofeld

What I'm Doing This Month - September

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So here we are at the start of a new school year and a new season. I have peace and quiet in my home, well, during school hours, and the chance to get back to my writing in earnest.

The first novel is complete. The second novel is drafted. I have a rough plan for the entire series.

I'm also looking into the whole process of self publishing. I'm still on the look out for an agent but I think it's wise to be open to options.

Away from writing, this is my daughter's birthday month which will entail two weekends of celebrating (with us here at home and then at Grandma's house). She's growing up and the toy aisles no longer interest her. She's already beginning to think about what she'd like to do for a living and looking at course options for her exams at school. When did my little girl get to be so grown up?

What are you doing in September?


Something Useful for 2016 - Exercise No. 21

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I'm sure all writers pull from their own lives and experiences for at least a small part of their writing content, sometimes unconsciously, sometimes knowingly and in precise detail. Using what we know can ground our writing and add believability (apologies if that isn't a real world but it sounded right).

This month's exercise is to look into your own experiences and memories to find something unusual, or bizarre, an event or detail that was out of the ordinary, and embroider that memory or detail into a piece of writing.

My own memory happened on a winter's night on a railway bridge. My car skidded on black ice and piled into a lamp-post, thankfully preventing us from tumbling off the bridge onto the train line below. My then boyfriend was belted in but the force of the collision smacked him into the windscreen. I remember him screaming and then silence. Almost immediately, he went into shock.

The passing drivers all pulled over and helped. One drove to the local pub…

Photo Inspiration for August

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This entrance is close to where I live. My family and I traipse through it a couple of times each month. That's as much information as I'm going to give you. What do you think it is? Prison? Castle? Barn? Garden gate? What does it inspire you to write?

What I'm Doing This Month - August

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August has crept up on me. Who am I kidding? August has grabbed me by the heels and dashed me through the past ten days in a whirl of family trips and events. It's always this way during the school summer break, finding ways to keep my kids (now teen and pre teen) amused and fed, and throw in my normal routine too. I wrote about this back in 2009 when I called it the August Monster.

With the first draft of my second novel completed (last month's target), I decided to take a step back from it all before I went any further. My muse, however, had a different plan. Cue several nights of tossing and turning and making notes on my mobile phone whenever ideas dived into my head.

I had always planned to write the Steve Haven books as a trilogy but the more I threw around the events that had to happen in the story, the more I realised that a series of books would suit much better, allowing me to tell the whole story rather than rushing through the bare bones.

The August target is ther…

Photo Inspiration for July

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A foreboding entrance or a gothic welcome? What do you think? I found this gateway whilst on holiday with my family. What story could this lead to?

What I'm Doing This Month - July

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As I expected, June outdistanced me in a race towards the end of the school term, dragging me behind it (and preventing me from posting anything on this blog - sorry about that).

July always brings mixed feelings for me. There is so much to arrange and finalise before the school holidays and yet once the summer break is here I can relax. Only eleven more days to go.

With a puppy to amuse along with my children, this year's summer break is bound to include many many visits to dog friendly sites. Fingers crossed the weather is good enough for time spent outdoors.

Writing

With my novel in the hands of several agents, I've made the decision not to send it out to anyone else until I've completed the entire trilogy. My target this month is to complete the plot, chapter plan and story arcs for the trilogy and finish the first draft of the second novel, with the summer break target of completing the first draft of the entire trilogy.

Mslexia Children's Novel Competition

I'v…

What I'm Doing This Month - June

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Summer arrives this month in the UK, with its warmer days (mostly and not necessarily without rain), vibrant colours and the chance to unwrap from winter woollies (or is that just me?). As a mum, this season is dominated by the summer break and amusing my children. What new adventures and fresh horizons will the long break from school bring this year?

For the last couple of months, my life has felt chaotic with new interests and the latest addition to our family, puppy Bailey devouring a large slice of my time. Now she's settled in and I've got my head around the additional activities in my life, it's time to reorganise.

Catching Up

I've let a lot slide over the past few weeks so June and the summer will be all about catching up with the tasks that I've pushed to the back of my mind and only touched on recently.

Along with the housework and my health regime, I desperately need to carve out a daily niche for my writing. I managed last month's writing target (one…

Choice Words for May

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Write what you know is a phrase that's often thrown at writers. I've even talked about it myself on this blog. Like most lessons, it can have different meanings and challenges to different people.

Author Emma Newman wrote about this topic in The Untrue Truth of "Write What You Know" as a guest writer on Chuck Wendig's terribleminds site. Her article is well worth a read with its discussion of transferable skills. Have a look.


Photo Inspiration for May

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This image was taken from my back garden tonight. What do you think? UFO? Hovering helicopter? Angel? Or just the moon.
What does this inspire you to write?

What I'm Doing This Month - May

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May has brought sunny weather to where I live, which is ideal for getting out and about but not so great for persuading me to knuckle down to some work.

After writing around 18,000 words during last month's Camp NaNoWriMo, I now have a clearer idea where my second novel is going. I  enjoyed the freedom of working on a first draft, just writing without worrying about any level of polish. It was definitely a useful exercise and made me look at my storyline with fresh eyes.

One of the things that interrupted my writing flow in April was a new arrival in our household. Meet Bailey. While I type, she's having a nap nearby. At this stage, she's needs a lot of attention so my study isn't seeing a much of me at the moment. I'm currently typing at my dining table (using the laptop battery so there are no dangling wires to tempt her). Fingers crossed she settles down and allows me to return to any kind of routine very soon.

I suppose I'm therefore adding fuel to the Bail…

Catch Up

April has been a month of running to catch up and I'm still not at the end of it yet.

I made a good start on Camp NaNoWriMo, keeping to the thousand words target until mid month when life intervened as it has a habit of doing. I'm up to almost 17,000 of the 30,000 target I'd set but it's given me a good start to novel two.

One of the major things that got in the way of my writing was the arrival of our new puppy, Bailey. She's still tiny so needs lots of attention and constant monitoring (she's taken a liking to the lounge curtains - we may need to shorten them out of reach). It's like having another baby or rather a very active toddler.

On the literary agent front, I've had another two rejections - both saying, as usual, it's not for us but keep sending it out - so I'm submitting my manuscript to more agents later today.

So apologies for my lack of posts this month and please excuse me while I go and play with Bailey. I'm not sure who'l…

How Shakespeare made a writer of me

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Brought up as an only child in a house full of books that I was given free rein to investigate, the books that I always found myself drawn to were theatre scripts, and most specifically two collections of Shakespeare's plays.

The one with the green cover in the photo belonged to my mum. The other collection, a children's version of Shakespeare's plays with certain sections summarised rather than printed in full, was my father's. I spent many an hour as a child and teenager, thumbing through these books, visualising them on stage, playing the parts in my mind and yes, reciting the speeches in my bedroom - quietly.

At high school, I was keen to learn more about the plays but equally disappointed when my enthusiasm wasn't shared by many of my friends, and horrified when certain teachers presented the plays in a way that not only bored their class but turned many people off Shakespeare for life.

The works of Shakespeare are treated as part of the British, if not world…

Doubt - We All Do It

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I recently joined the PTA at my children's high school (Parents and Teachers Association) because I felt I had something to offer in the form of my murder mystery fundraisers and past experience with PTA groups. I also wanted to help the school because any improvement in school resources has to help my children. Finally, I wanted to meet some new people and socialise outside my mainly home based existence.

I was nervous about attending but had a lovely evening with parents and teachers alike. I came away happy and feeling that I'd offered up some useful ideas and generally added to the enthusiasm shown by everyone there. I arrived home chirpy and chatty.

The next morning though, I began to doubt myself. Maybe I'd talked too much. Perhaps the teachers had just pretended that my ideas were good when actually I was being annoying. What if they didn't ask me back? What if I had earmarked my children as the offspring of that tedious, writer woman? What if, what if, what if…

Photo Inspiration for April

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I love taking photographs of doorways, gates, and paths leading off around a corner. It's not just the beckoning of a threshold but also the idea of what is unseen. What possibilities might jump out at you if you dare enter?


This is a path that I didn't take. My family pulled me past it. I've yet to find out what lies beyond the gate at the end. What do you think? What story could lurk out of sight?

Choice Words for April

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I know, I know. I'm late in getting this post on here this week, but the joys of the Easter school holiday and the challenge of the April Camp NaNoWriMo writathon have kept me busy.

One of the hardest concepts that I've had to face as a writer (and I still find it difficult) is that of the character arc. The two point of  view characters in my novel both change but it's subtle and I'm unsure whether it's enough for the reader, or authentic.

On the Helping Writers Become Authors site, K M Weiland discusses just this topic in her post
The Hardest Part of Writing Good Character Arcs - and How You Can Make It Look Easy!. It's well worth a read. How do you approach character arcs?


What I'm Doing This Month - April

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I put off posting until this time because in the UK, today is April Fool's Day where jokes can be played all morning, hence the multitude of fake articles on cities being taken over by coffee shop empires, film directors quitting and proof from the space station that UFOs really do exist.

This month starts with the Easter break. My children are on school holiday so I'm keeping them amused (oh yes, and fed too) along with all the things I normally have to do each week.

On top of this, I'm taking on the April Camp Nanowrimo. My target is to write 30,000 words of the first draft of my next novel before the end of the month, that's 1,000 words each day. Today, I met my quota (just over the thousand). Fingers crossed, I can maintain that pace throughout April.

I'm therefore doing my best to avoid taking on any extra workload this month so that I can concentrate on my writing but of course, if anyone out there wants me to write them a murder mystery script I wouldn'…

Camping out in April (again)

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Now that my first novel Shadowbinder is doing the literary agent rounds, I thought I would use the Camp NanoWrimo experience to kickstart my next novel.

My first go at the April writefest was this time last year when I managed just under 25,000 words during that month. This time round, I'm setting the target at 30,000 words. Surely I can manage 1,000 words a day. I'll post my progress on my Facebook page each day, and Twitter too.

Wish me luck.



Something Useful for 2016 - Exercise No. 20

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The second writing exercise I ever posted on here was called 'Through the Window'. This month, I'm using another kind of threshold for inspiration - a door.

Closed doors. Open doors. Locked doors. Hidden doors. An image and a description of any of these can tell a story in itself. Some doors make us feel uneasy. Others welcome us in. Today, I'd like you to choose one of the door images below as your inspiration.







What story does your door  tell?

Photo Inspiration for March

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At the beginning of the year, my camera broke. Then a couple of days later, the camera on my phone stopped working. Thankfully, our visit to Venice didn't suffer as my husband took his new posh, multi lens camera with him. It produces incredible shots but I find it too large and bulky to carry around with me. I wanted something that I could have with me on the off chance that I saw something I wanted to photograph.

My husband came to the rescue with a surprise mother's day gift, a neat, little digital camera that is small enough to fit in a jacket pocket. I've been trying it out, and all its settings, ever since. The result of one such experiment is this.


What do you think? Spooky? Inspirational? What story does it bring to mind?

Choice Words for March

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No matter what stage of my life I was in (childhood, teens, adulthood) or what roles people identified me by (daughter, secretary, colleague, wife), I always thought of myself as a writer. There have been stops and starts, and lulls in my writing, but it's something I have always persevered with, even when it seemed that the world was telling me I was wrong. I will always be a writer. I will always write.

Novelist Pat Walsh is very much of the same opinion. In this interview (Keep Writing, Keep Reading and Never Give Up) on the Notes From the Slushpile blog, she discusses her love of the supernatural, mythology and fairytales, her novels and how she came to be published.



What I'm Doing This Month - March

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Spring starts this month (20th March in the UK) but there are already daffodils and crocuses in the garden, and birds chasing each other around in an amorous fashion.

I like spring. Seeing the buds on the trees and petals poking through the earth makes the world seem a happier place to live in. With the milder winters in the UK, I'm not sure if any of our animals hibernate anymore, but spring always feels like the land (and my motivation) is waking up.


Writing

Not a great deal to report here except that I'm getting on with what I was doing in February. I initially had a plotline for the whole trilogy but after making so many changes to novel 1, I had to rethink the entire story arc. I discussed part of the process of doing this in Cut, Paste, File Away and now I'm dipping back into novel 1 to make sure all the clues needed for the big reveal at the end of book 3 are in place.

Literary Agents

I'm still waiting on hearing from a couple of agents. The latest rejection had …

Cut, Paste, File Away

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I'm a bit of hoarder. It's a habit I inherited from my parents who lived through the second world war when the rule of thumb was 'make do and mend'. I hang onto things well past their useful date. Thankfully, necessity and several house moves have meant that I've had to let a lot of things go. The only area of my life that I have never de-cluttered is my writing.

I have diaries from my childhood up to adulthood, books and files of old writing, and a couple of novels that I wrote in the past and will one day revisit. That's just the writing that's been penned or printed out. There is a whole world of writing on my laptop and hard drive. Every scrap of writing that I have scribbled down, typed onto the note app on my mobile phone, or saved onto my laptop has been kept because I always have that niggling worry that I might just find a use for it all some day.

This habit has recently come in very handy while working on my novel, well, the novels that will come…

Something Useful for 2016 - Exercise No. 19

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Years ago (decades), I took part in a production of Confusions by Alan Ayckbourn, a set of five interlinked plays that dealt with the concept of loneliness and miscommunication. I played Beryl in the final play, A Talk In the Park, where the five characters talked at (rather than to) each other as they sat on a series of park benches.

It's an interesting visual approach to use a bench, made for more than one, to discuss loneliness.


Humans are by nature gregarious. We like to be with others, to belong, to be part of a community (be that family, village, football supporters club or work force). It isn't surprising then that we fill our leisure spaces with seating made for more than one.
Think of a bench. It could be a park bench, a garden bench, or even a church pew. Add a cast to your bench of one or more. What would your bench story be?

Choice Words for February

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I enjoy naming my characters, both in my plays and in the novel I'm working on. Some of them come ready-named, introducing themselves to me in a way that they could never be altered. Others take some time to work out. Hartley Keg was one of the former. So was Blessing Hawkes. Cormac Moran, on the other hand, went through several names before finding the right one.

In Naming your characters and settings, Roz Morris discusses the importance of name and how she finds them for her books.


Photo Inspiration for February

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It's blustery here today. Storm Imogen is rattling our bones and hurrying us along. I'm sure that most people would prefer to stay indoors if they could, which made me think of this photo.

Hot chocolate and a croissant on a cold, rainy day. 
What does this inspire you to write?

What I'm doing this month - February

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January seems to have flashed by in the  blink of a watery eye and suddenly February is here with its promise of spring. I feel like I've spent the month in a curious limbo, coming down after my birthday trip to Venice and reeling at the loss of so many icons.

First, there was David Bowie, such a wonderfully creative man, the brilliant actor Alan Rickman who I'll always remember as an irreverent angel, Glenn Frey from the Eagles, then finally the velvet tones and kindly ways of Terry Wogan. January seems to have left the world a little less colourful.

So February needs to be a new beginning, with fresh colour and creativity, and a renewed intent. That's how I'm treating it. Let's get this year started.

Novel(s)

Novel 1 is still away with a handful of literary agents so I'm working on the next two novels. After eight rejections that all had much the same feedback (loved reading this, keep sending it out, but it's not for us), I posed the question to writer K…