Wednesday, 29 December 2010

All Over!

It’s incredible isn’t it? We spend months preparing for Christmas and then its all over in a flash. Every year I sit down to Christmas dinner and wonder what all the fuss was about.

But I’m not being Ba Humbug anymore. Christmas is such hard work but I do love the giving of presents. Seeing the boys' faces light up as they open their presents. And sometimes the smallest of things bring the biggest delights - like the packs of Go Go’s - small plastic toys which are collectables and cost about a pound - which were the winning gifts this year.

I did have a lucky escape though. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve I put all the boys’ presents in the cupboard under the boiler in our spare bedroom. Normally I keep them in the wardrobe but I don’t like filling the sacks from there in case the rustling wakes them up. All was fine on Christmas Eve but overnight the boiler developed a leak and flooded the cupboard beneath. If it had happened a few hours earlier - well I don’t like to think!
We had a quiet Christmas Day, just the four of us. We went to church in the morning, the boys were shepherds in the nativity and it was lovely to sing all the carols. It was nice to take a few moments to remember the real meaning of Christmas which often gets lost amongst all the commercialism. Then we went for a drink in our local and met up with friends before dinner and an evening in front of the Christmas tele.
Boxing Day wasn’t quite so relaxing as we invited both families round. At one point the house was filled with twenty five people including eight children, so it was a little chaotic at times but nice to see everyone together.
Now its over and this is the time of year I really look forward to. No work, no school and once all the family commitments are fulfilled, I can slob out in my PJ’s until lunchtime, reading, writing and just doing exactly what I want.
What’s that darling? You want to play on the Wii? No problem!

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas too!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Anyone For Some Festive Spirit?

So are we feeling festive?   Er I don’t think so.

As my boys reminded me its only eight more sleeps until Christmas.

OH NO!  How did that happen?

It’s the same every year.  Despite that fact that I know Christmas is looming it always sneeks up on me, taps on my shoulder and shouts “Boo!”  I suppose it doesn’t help that I always go into denial until it’s too late to do anything other than panic.

But I did try and get organised this year.  I did! Honest!

I have a sister-in-law who goes out and does her shopping in one hit at the beginning of November. I don’t know how she does it. In November I don’t even know what to buy and I can’t remember everyone I need to buy for either as my memory is like a sieve and after a few hours of Christmas shopping I loose the will to live.  So by trying to start early all I’ve done is prolong the agony.

We’ve been having some work done on the house too. A few shelves here a few there, a new cupboard in one room, a curtain rail in the other.  Not major work I grant you but very messy!  So extra time cleaning up. And then my husband decided that he was going to redecorate my eldest’s bedroom on Monday.  Now, as he is a painter and decorator by trade, the opportunities to have my own house decorated are few and far between so I had to grab it with both hands.  End result – contents of child’s bedroom piled into the middle of the floor. I didn’t realise just how many toys he has that he never plays with.  It does rather beg the question why does he need any more?  I did intend to do my Domestic Goddess bit and sort it all out but I’m afraid the Clutter Fairy was busy. (Incidentally a neighbour of mine does actually use a clutter fairy but I’m afraid I’d be too embarrassed to show anyone the state of my junk.)  So yesterday I filled up the new shelves and stuffed the rest back under the bed.  I’ll sort it after Christmas – I promise.

And, if that isn’t enough I’ve not been feeling too well this week.  I have an abscess over my tooth which is proving rather painful.  It started earlier in the year and I’ve suffered various painful treatments which I thought I had cured it. But last week it came back so I had to go back to my dentist.  (I’m actually beginning to feel sorry for her.)  Now I’m rattling with antibiotics and am currently alcohol free – so can you see why there’s no festive spirit in my house?  My dentist has referred me to a dental surgeon to have something more painful done in the New Year so at least I’ve got something to look forward to.

Anyway.  Enough of my ba humbug. By the way someone sent me a picture of a grumpy humbug wearing a santa hat this earlier in the week so it’s Official. I did try to upload it onto here but it wouldn't allow me.

I’m going to spend the weekend working like crazy to get everything done and then when I finish work on Wednesday I’m going to spend a few hours snuggled up on the sofa with my boys watching some feel good films to get me feeling festive.

Or in reality – I’ll finish everything at midnight on Christmas Eve, collapse in a heap and then get up at six am to start cooking the turkey!

Anyway, happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

We Have Kittens!

Look here at the two new additions to our family!

Firstly meet Bobby.

And secondly meet his brother - Luke.
In actual fact these two little tykes have been part of our famiily for a little over four weeks now and they have certainly changed our lives - in a good way - despite the scratches to the wallpaper!
These two little mites may look cute but they have certainly been through the mill in their short lives.
Their mother was abandoned when she was pregnant but fortunately found her way to the RSPCA who saved her life and the lives of some of her babies. She ended up having a Ceasarean section and gave birth to five babies. Only two of those survived - see above. Even though my two little darlings did survive, they still needed to be resusitated at birth. Their mum lost her milk and they were housed with a wonderful foster mum who fed them by had on the hour every hour. They weere really poorly for a long time and their foster mum often wondered if they would make it but thanks to her determination and perhaps theirs here they are. Now they are full of life, tearing around our house like its a ready made race track and coulnd't look healthier. In the short time they have been with us they have both grown so much. I feel so privileged that we have been given these two little lives to nurture. I know that with us they will have a very happy home but I'm even more cetain that we will benefit so much from their love too. Having so much contact with humans from being babies they are the most affection cats I have ever known and its a real pleasure to see their cheeky faces whenever I walk through the door. All I can do is thank the RSPCA and their foster mum for not giving up on them because without them our family would not have had the chance of having these two adorable creatures in our lives and, now even at such a short time, within our hearts.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Where Did November Go?

It’s been a while since my last blog and the reason is National Novel Writing Month. I had meant to blog on my progress stage by stage but even though I completed the required 50,000 words last year, I did not anticipate how much time it would take me to complete the challenge.
And completed it I have, I'm glad to say. This year I was a little more organised and plotted out some of the story during October, got to know my characters and did some research.

This included reading some novels in my genre – chick lit (which was such a hardship – not!) and reading these two books which were invaluable. Together they really gave me a good angle on where I wanted to go with my novel and some pointers on how to get there.

A very big thank you to these authors for their invaluable advice.

I began the month on good form and the words literally flowed from my fingertips. Changing my approach from being a pantster to being a plotter really seemed to work. But then during week 2 I began to panic as I approached the precipice and realised that during October I had run out of time and consequently run out of plot. Then my task became a little more difficult.

I decided that I would find some time in advance of each writing session to do some more plotting so I would know exactly where I was going when I came fresh to my keboard.

Time is a pesky little creature I found, as elusive as riches so I had to return to my original mode of writing by making up the plot as I went along – a somewhat more scary business.

I found that I could not find much time to write at the weekends when family took over my life so I tried to write 2,000 words a day, scribbled into sections wherever I had a slot. Its not the best way to write but sometimes needs must.

By the end of week two I was struggling; searching forever for that elusive half way mark. Reaching that was like sweating blood but eventually I reached the crest of the hill and cheered from the top.

The ascent was much easier at first – I positively galloped over the 30,000 mark and thought that my troubles were all in the past. But then I really did run out of plot. A little nugget of advice came to me from long ago and I put in something dramatic. The rest of the plot slipped in after that with some new twists and turns which I don’t think would have come to me if I had been trying to plot in advance.

By 40,000 I was whizzing ahead and finished today, a day early with over 51,000 words.

I’ve still got some way to go until I reach the end but I’m determined to keep going. Another piece of advice – write every day – has proved itself to me again. Its so much easier to pick up the thread of the day before when there’s no long time gap in between and also because I knew the next day I would be sitting down to write, flashes would come to me when I was in the car or shivering on a football field as my boys played a match. That doesn’t happen if you leave it too long and that – I think – is where writer’s block comes from – fear of not knowing where you’re going next.

I also met some new people on line and because there as a new region in my area this year, a few writers who I’m aiming to meet up with in the flesh and who will hopefully become writing buddies. Seeing their wordcount going up day by day has spurred me on to up my count too, so perhaps I wouldn’t have done it without them. So thank you to you too.

Now I’m over half way through a very, very rough first draft but as you can’t edit a blank page I’m chuffed.

I can’t continue at the same pace though – especially not in the run up to Christmas but I’m going to set myself a challenge of writing 1,000 words every weekday and by the end of the year I hope to be so much further on and to be gaining momentum.

It’s a plan anyway. Then I will go back to Love Writing and See Jane Write, reread them and then start to revise. Also, for anyone who had just finished the first draft of a novel December’s Writing Magazine has a fantastic article by Sophie King on revision. Definitely one to rip out and look at next year when I’ve got that first draft on the page.

So that’s my plan for December – and perhaps no I’ll have more time to blog too. Thank you NaNoWriMo – I finally feel like I’ve got my MoJo back.
What method of writing works best for you?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Yesterday I was poleaxed with a really bad headache – not a great start for NaNoWriMo, but I managed to redeem myself later.

Having two young children doesn’t go hand in hand with illness so usually I drag myself out of bed and just get on with it no matter how bad I’m feeling.

But yesterday it was impossible, I just felt as though my whole head was being crushed in a vice.

Fortunately, hubby was around so he was able to take the boys to school. They were a little concerned though because they are not used to seeing me take to my bed. I reassured them that it was just a headache and I would probably be OK to pick them up later.

By the afternoon I was feeling a little better, mainly thanks to super strength pain killers, but as hubby called in from work he offered to pick them up while I pottered gently around the house.

I managed to pull myself together enough to take the boys to their swimming lessons but afterwards was exhausted so went for another little lie down.

At bedtime my youngest was worried but I reassured him that after a good night’s sleep I would be back on form. Quite rightly he pointed out that I had said that I would be OK to pick them up from school but I hadn’t. Cue guilt complex!

Later the older one asked me if bad headaches could cause brain damage. Nice one I didn’t think I was acting that badly. When I said no he answered:

“But you’ve had a bad headache today and earlier you forgot something.”

I was tempted to tell him that that happens as you get older or when you’re juggling so many things at once that you’re bound to let something slip but instead I asked, “What did I forget?”

His answer was “I can’t remember.”

Can’t win can you?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

I've joined a gym!

Or rather my husband has signed me up on a family membership. Do you think he’s trying to tell me something? I suppose the excuse of post pregnancy bulge must be wearing a bit thin. My youngest is nearly 7 after all.

I’ve never been what you call a gym bunny. In fact, put me in a room with exercise machines and people pumping iron who all know what they are doing and the exercise pattern I will show is running very fast in the opposite direction.

To my husband I say -
Ask me: Do you want a glass of wine? The answer will always be yes (unless I’m driving of course by which the answer will be no with an ill-contained snarl).
Ask me: Do you want to go out for a meal? Again yes
Ask me: Would you like a couple of hours to loll on the sofa and read a good book? Oh yes!
Ask me: Would you like me to take the children out for the day so you can get some writing done? Oh yes please!


Ask me: Would you like to go to the gym? Answer – Erm, probably not.

I don’t mind swimming and I don’t mind walking but finding the time always seems to be problem. I mean there are always plenty of other things to do aren’t there? Even cleaning the oven seems preferable to pushing my muscles (or lack of them) to the limit.

But now I am a fully paid up member and as he’s paid it for me he’s going to want to see a return on his money. I suppose I could always sit in the coffee lounge and write my novel instead. Do you think he’ll notice when a year down the line I am no more toned than I am today? No, I don’t think I will get away with that one!

And to make matters worse the membership starts on 1 November – on the same day that NaNoWriMo starts. Guess I’m going to have my work cut out for me in November.

Excuse me while I go and have a little lie down!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

It's Been a While!

It’s been a while, I know since my last blog and for that I am truly ashamed. My life is always really hectic during the summer with work and family but this year I just haven’t seemed to be able to catch up and now its nearly half term. Already! I’m sure there is a gremlin out there somewhere stealing time from me.

I have been writing though, albeit I can’t say that I’m entirely happy with what I have written and so I haven’t been able to find the motivation to blog about it. I’ve been flitting between projects too so haven’t really built up any momentum.

In reality I’ve been having one of those “Where is my life going?” moments, only the moment has lasted rather longer than I could have anticipated.

But this month I’ve given myself a bit of a talking to because let’s face it, the only person who is going to change my life is me.

The thing that has really spurred me on though is the fact that November is approaching and November means – National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short.

Last year I decided to enter NaNoWriMo on a whim. It’s a web based challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I didn’t think I would be able to do it because finding time is often difficult but its amazing what a deadline does for you. Each day I watched the word count dial go up a notch until I was a winner – the buzz was just amazing.

The beauty of wrimo is that it gives you the freedom to write whatever comes into your head. It doesn’t have to be perfect prose as long as its down on the page and that gives you the freedom not to beat yourself up if the words aren’t coming out exactly how you want them. It also gives you the freedom to be a writer. I had a deadline that counted and until I had done the daily 1666 words needed to reach the target my family just had to wait. It didn’t seem to do them much harm either so it just goes to show.

I’ve continued with the novel I started at last year’s wrimo for the rest of the year, albeit at a slower pace, and so far have reached 120,000 words. Now I know that sounds a lot but it is a bit of a saga and I have a tendency to overwrite, so when I come to edit, that wordcount will be pruned down massively.

I have attempted this novel on a bit of a flying by the seat of my pants basis, so it does need a lot of work and now I think is the time to sit back and take stock.

I know I should continue with this novel and see it through to the end but the lure of wrimo and getting another 50,000 words down on paper is just too much for me to resist. I’ve had an idea for a chick lit novel floating around in my head for a while now and November seems to be the perfect time to catch it.

This year I’m approaching the project with a little more professionalism though. Instead of being a pantster I’m going to have a go at being a planner for once. During October I have been concentrating on doing my research, developing my outline, getting to know my characters and where they live and work and generally having some clue of where I’m going with this. I’m not there yet but I’m really enjoying getting my teeth stuck into something new.

So fingers crossed for November and I’ll let you know how I get on, if I haven’t worn my fingers out on the keyboard that is.

And then December is back to novel 1 which I will finish. I will, I will, I will!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Procrastination - The Root of a Writer's Evil

Why is it, when we say that we love writing, sometimes we would rather do anything other than actually get our bum on the seat, fingers on the keyboard and brain in gear?

Is it that we love the idea of writing more than writing itself? Is it that we love the finished product and the thought of, “I did that” but don’t always want to be bothered to actually put the hard graft in first?

Perhaps it’s a combination of the two, but for me there’s something else too and its called fear. Fear that the idea which sounds brilliant in my head isn’t going to come up to scratch when I put it down on paper. Fear that when it comes down it to I can’t actually get the right combination of words to make my story flow.

And so I procrastinate. I check my emails, I read blogs, I read writing magazines, I read other authors and I make lists. But I don’t actually write.

But not this week. This week I have written. And this week I have almost completed an assignment for a distance learning course am I doing (more about that next time) which has been getting the better of me for a while now. Next week, with a little more editing I will be able to send it off and that will feel like an achievement.

So why has this week been more productive than others? Have I had more time? Nope. I’ve had a million and one things to do this week and horror of horrors the kids have broken up from school and I’m having to sort out child care alongside work and home etc, etc.

No, the reason I’ve got my act together this week is down to three fellow bloggers who I want to publically thank here.

And the winners are:

Jayne over at Novice Novelist. I’ve been following Jayne for a long time now and I was delighted to hear that she has finished her novel and is sending off into the big wide world. Well done Jayne. It’s thanks to hard work, determination and a refusal to listen to the inner Doubting Thomas that Jayne has got this far. And so I’m inspired. Yes, I need to get back to that novel, keep putting the words down and then, spend however long it takes to edit it. It won’t be easy and I know I might fall by the wayside from time to time, but because Jayne has done it, I’m determined that I will get there too. So a big thanks to you.

Inspiring blogger number 2 is India Grey who blogged a huge dollop of inspiration to me this week. Sometimes the thought of actually sitting down and starting work is too immense, hence the procrastination. India suggested in this blog to tackle the work 250 words at a time – and do you know it does work. Because 250 words is quick and achievable and most of all is not scary. So I’ve been sitting down to dash of my 250 words and before I know it they have become, 500 then a thousand and then I have finished the piece I have been putting off for so long. So thank you too India.

And finally, cue drum roll, the third inspirational blogger is Stewart Ferris. This is a blog I read about in a writing magazine. Stewart has blogged about his editing process and although I have read this after the event, I feel I’ve really learnt something. But what has really inspired me this week is this post in which Stewart says that he likes to achieve something towards his future every day, be that his writing, doing up this house, or learning something new. And so I have been following Stewart’s example and making sure that every day I’m investing in my writing future. And do you know what – it makes me feel good that every day I have achieved something. So thank you Stewart – along with the others, you’ve made my week.

And on this inspirational note – tell me – what inspires you

And by the way, this is the first time I've ever done links so if they work,it will be a miracle.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


I went to two parties last night - my nephew's 18th at an Indian restaurant and a friend's birthday at her house.

I can't remember what time I staggered back and I do mean staggered - two steps forward and one step back.

I was woken this morning by my husband's alarm going off at 7am - he's playing golf - and then his friend coming to collect him and ringing the doorbell, waking up the children.

My head is pounding. No pounding isn't the right word. It feels if I move it too quickly it might actually fall off. That's if I don't hack it off myself with a blunt knife. I swear I'll never drink again.

Until the next time.

Happy Sunday everyone.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

And Finally ....

So, three down, one to go. This last book I read on the plane home and then continued, sporadically after my return and is: The Kissing Gates by Mackenzie Ford.

This story is set during WWI and starts at the Christmas Day armistice when both sides had an unofficial ceasefire.

It describes how two officers from opposing sides of the war reacted to each other when they met. The German officer, Wilhelm, lived in England before the war and fell in love with an English girl but then was called up to fight for England’s enemy.

Wilhelm, tells the English officer, Hal, where his girlfriend lives and because he is unable to contact her himself asks Hal to take a photograph of him to show her that he still loves her.

Hal is later injured and is shipped back to England, never to return to the trenches. During his recovery he seeks out the English girl on behalf of Wilhelm. On meeting her though he falls in love with her and doesn’t actually carry out his task - a secret which blights their relationship for the rest of the time they are together.

I enjoyed this story on the whole but at times found it rather slow. The author included a lot of information about the times and it often seemed as though he was showing off his research rather than allowing his story to speak for itself. Certain things also kept repeating themselves and I thought the story could have been told much more succinctly.

Generally I felt that the book didn’t quite live up to its blurb which is a shame because the premise for the storyline was excellent.

What I enjoy most about holiday reading is that you can really get into a book, whereas at home I have to read during brief snatches of time. However, a train trip to York enabled me to start another book on my tbr pile. This book was Girl Friday by Jane Green.

For a light-hearted, entertaining read, you can’t get much better than Jane Green. In saying that though, I think that recently I have begun to read more like a writer than just a reader. That in itself is a double edged sword. It’s good because I think it will help to improve my own writing, but in doing so it does diminish the pure enjoyment element of reading as the little critic in my head keeps voicing its opinions.

This book is written in the present tense which I found a bit jarring at first but I got used to it as I read more of the book and stopped noticing it so much towards the end.

I indentified with the characters straight away and settled into the story quickly and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, but then came the back story which I felt slowed it all down a bit.

This made me think. When do you introduce the back story and in what quantities?

In an ideal world, I think the back story should be drip fed in, in small quantities so that the reader hardly notices that its there. But this in itself is hard to do because we need to get to know the characters in order to empathise with them and we need to do this fairly early on in the story. However, if too much back story slows down the plot so much aren’t we in danger of losing the reader entirely?

I’m tempted to read this book again after a bit of a break so that I can identify whether my criticism is just because I was a first time reader anxious to find out what happened next.

Once I’d got over this hurdle though I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story.

So, over to you, how do you fit in the back story without making the reader want to do a runner?

Monday, 5 July 2010

More Reviews

Now, I’m going to try and do better and blog a little more often, so here are reviews of the next two books I read on holiday.

The first is The Adulteress by Noelle Harrison

This book is about Nicholas, who after finding out that his wife has had an affair, impulsively moves from Dublin to rural Cavan to buy a ramshackle house which he intends to renovate. He soon finds out that the ghost of June Fanning inhabits the house. She wants to talk to him about the adulteress but in his present state of mind he doesn’t want to listen. Eventually he finds he has no choice and gradually develops a liking for his ghost and a desire to find out what happened to her.

June move
d to the house with her husband during the Blitz in London and the majority of this book is written from her viewpoint as it gradually tells the story of her life. It tells us how isolated she felt when she moved to the house due partly to her husband’s increasing remoteness once he returns to the home of his childhood. He refuses to let her in on the secrets of the past which are beginning to seep into the present day. Leaving her feeling unloved, and pregnant, he joins the RAF to fight in the war.

Longing for company, she meets a male neighbour, someone her husband does not want her to get to know and begins to unravel the secrets of the past. In doing so she gets closer to her neighbour and explores the possibility of adultery from her own point of view.

June’s story delves into her own childhood, growing up with a mother who was a serial adulterer and shows the effect of what this adultery had on the whole family.

The second viewpoint is Nicholas’. As he learns more about June’s story, he gradually comes to terms with
his wife’s betrayal, and begins to understand his own part in the breakdown of his marriage.

Another viewpoint appears periodically throughout the novel from an unknown adulteress as she describes her encounters with her lover. Who the adulteress actually is isn’t revealed until almost the end of the book.

I found this book interesting as it explored the reasons why people are driven to be unfaithful and the effect of their actions on all who are involved in their lives. I did feel, however that at times it became bogged down by the back story and I would have liked to have seen the story developed more in the present from Nicholas’ point of view.

On a positive note though, it is beautifully written and the description is so atmospheric, you really do feel as you are there. Noelle Harrison’s style reminded my a little of Joanne Harris, whose books I enjoy. I think I will look out for this author again to see what else she has written.

The next book was What To Do When Someone Dies By Nicci French

I saw this novel on the bookshelves after reading a feature in June’s Writers Forum on the authors. Nicci Gerrard and husband Sean French write together as the bestselling thriller writer Nicci French. What intrigued me most in the article was that they actually write separately – Sean in the garden shed and Nicci in the attic. They email sections back to each other in a relay race style. I wondered after reading this article whether I would be able to distinguish any “seams” in the writing. I obviously greatly underestimated these superb writers as from the moment I read the first page I was hooked and if I hadn’t already known, I would never have guessed that this book was written by more than one author.

The book is a fast paced thriller. The main character Ellie Faulkner is immensely likeable and you can’t help but feel for her as on the first page she is visited by two police officers who tell her that her husband has been killed in a car crash. As if that isn’t bad enough she is also told that the body of an unknown woman has been found with him.

Whilst her friends are prepared to accept, seemingly easily, that Greg was unfaithful, Ellie cannot accept it at all.

The author(s) provide enough clues for us not to believe that Ellie is totally irrational in her belief in her husband as she embarks on a dangerous quest to find out what was really going on in his life.

This book is definitely a page turner and it was the best book I read on my holiday. I will definitely be looking out for more.

More later in the week.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Holiday Reading

It's been a while since my last post I know and I did promise a post the next day, slaps own wrist, but life sometimes has a habit of getting in the way, especially now. Ever since I got back from holiday I don't seem to have stopped running either at home or at work and I'm desperately trying to carve out writing time on top of all that.

The holiday seems like a long time ago but it was a much needed break and helped me get my head round the news that my current job will be ending at the end of the next academic year. Now I'm trying to look on the positive - a year is more than most people have in job expectancy and it could be the era of change for the best. So I want to spend the next year saving as much money as I can, writing as much as I can and trying to find some freelance options, writing or otherwise, so that I can organise my life a bit better around childcare. You never know it might be a much needed opportunity to kick start a new career (fingers crossed).

I digress, what I was going to blog about was reading. One of the things I look forward to in a beach holiday is all that lovely reading time. Picking the books I'm going to take with me probably takes me longer than packing my clothes, because its a difficult choice from my ever increasing tbr pile.

Now, I'm going to tell you a little bit about my choice of books and if the technology works this will be complete with pictures. If not I may be asking for advice. So here goes.

The first book I read was Barbara Taylor-Bradford's Being Elizabeth.

I grew up reading The Woman of Substance series and dreamed of being as successful as Elizabeth Harte, so I’ve always had a soft spot for this author.

This book was a present for Christmas so has been on my TBR pile for a while now. The story is about Elizabeth Turner, a young woman who inherits a dynasty from the Deravenal family and is one of a series.

Barbara Taylor-Bradford paints the settings with her usual carefully detailed brushstrokes, and I enjoyed reading about the lifestyle of the rich, however, I was largely disappointed by this book. I must admit I didn’t really like the main character very much. Everyone else in the book revered her, thought she was brilliant business woman and was deserving of her success but I felt that this was down to both her inheritance and the people around her rather than from anything she had succeeded for herself and as such I found her character unconvincing.

I did, though, read the author’s note at the back of the book and was intrigued to find that the author had based the story on the life of Elizabeth I but had set it in the present day. I’m a big fan of Tudor history so I enjoyed seeing how she had replicated history in modern times and this was probably the biggest incentive for me to keep reading.

Next time, I'll tell you about some of my other reading.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

I'm Back

Hello to anyone out there, I'm back from my hols. Well actually I've been back for nearly a week now but it seems like a lifetime and lying by the pool with the sun beating down on me is but a distant memory. But at least I got there.
The week before we went was a bit traumatic to say the least what with little one breaking his arm on the Saturday. I apologise for my outpouring on Saturday night but despite my attempt at being up beat it did deal me with a bit of a blow initially.
But I pulled myself together and decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to look at the possitive - he was OK.
I knew we wouldn't find out from the hospital until the day before we were due to fly whether they would let him so I carried on as though we were going and started the mamoth packing job.
And the stripping the bathroom out job. Oh yes, we had decided to have our bathroom revamped while we were away so that had to be prepared, bathroom suite ordered, tiles ordered and chosen, so in addition to packing we were rushing around town trying to sort that out too.
And then on Thursday our tiler snapped his achilles and it was all off! Incidentally, this was also a football injury - how I cursed football. But seriously, I do feel sorry for him because it will take ages to heal and to anyone who is self-employed knows just how damagng that can be.
I must admit I did begin to get spooked again - what's going to happen next? But on Friday, despite an horrendous wait at the hospital all was well. The fracture wasn't as bad as last time and we were fit to go. The problem with broken limbs is that they can swell up during the flight. So what they do is cut the cast part way through so it is still secure but in case of an emergency someone can pull the cast off and stop the circulation from being cut off (or have to prepare for an emergency landing!)
And then all I had to do was finish doing everything and then pile us all on the plane an exhausted wreck.
I'll tell you more tommorrow

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Life is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Other Plans

Nineteen months ago my husband and I were idly watching tele with a glass of wine late one Friday night when we received a phone call. We were told that my husband’s best friend, who lived in Ireland, had died very suddenly, on a football pitch as he was training his youth team. He was fit, he was healthy, he was the life and soul of the party. He was forty seven and suddenly he was no more.

We were devastated.

My husband had known his friend since the first day at high school. They had shared everything. And despite the fact that they lived quite far apart he was closer to my husband than some of his own relatives.

In Ireland funerals are supposed to happen within 48 hours, so plans were quickly made to travel and my parents stepped into the breach to look after our children. The funeral itself was the was most emotionally traumatic experience I have ever encountered. And then during the wake I phoned home to check on the kids, only to find out that my youngest son (4 years old) had been playing football at school and had broken his arm.

My baby was out there, in pain, needing me and I wasn’t there. The only thing I wanted to do was to get on a plane and get back to him. But I couldn’t. My only consolation was that he was with my parents - if me or my husband couldn’t be with him then as far as I was concerned they were the next best thing.

Those were a bleak few days and to be honest I almost became afraid to get out of bed because I was wondering what was going to happen next - they say things come in threes.

We were due to go on holiday to Egypt a few weeks later. Then we were told that the break to his arm wasn’t a clean one and he would need a full plaster cast which would prevent him from flying.
We cancelled the holiday.

We never got to Egypt but in retrospect, we were both grieving and I’m not sure we could have coped with being together with two children twenty four seven for a week so perhaps it was for the best.
We’ve been on holiday since and had a great time, so we were really looking forward to the holiday we’ve booked for 12 days starting next Saturday.
Today the boys went to a friend’s party at his house. Two hours after I’d dropped them off I got a phonecall - my youngest had hurt his arm playing football. Deja vue! The hospital confirmed that he has broken his arm - the other one this time. Not as bad as the last but I won’t find out until the day before we go whether or not he is fit to fly. Thank God he is OK that’s the main thing but the phrase “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” keeps running through my mind. I think it’s a lyric from a John Lennon song, but today as far as I’m concerned its particularly resonant.
I'm trying to be positive. - worse things happen at sea and all that, but it's stirred up alot of questions and painful memories.
Take care everyone out there and be safe - you never know what's going to happen next.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Five Years and when life gets in the way

Don’t you just hate in when real life gets in the way of doing the things you really want to do? That’s what my life has been like recently. My head is so busy trying to remember the things I’m supposed to be doing that I can’t seem to clear enough space in it to write about anything in fact.

So thank you to the lovely Jayne from A Novice Novelist who tagged me with five years and who has given me something to blog about. I don’t think my answers are very original but they may strike a cord with all of you jugglers out there.

Where were you five years ago?

1. In the same house and in the same job

2. Looking after a one year old and a three year old and spending most of my wages on childcare

3. Watching Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder (so some things have improved – actually I quite liked the Thomas stories, I’ve got a thing about model railways – quite keen on miniature everything in fact – always wanted a proper doll’s house too).

4. Trying to write short stories and my first ever novel (now in a draw where it deservedly belongs to be) in my spare time which was limited.

5. Falling into bed each day exhausted with the thought of facing another day on the hamster wheel.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

1. I would like to work from home making my living from writing. Not asking for mega fame and fortune, just enough for me to be able to get by.

2. I would like to have sorted out my work/life balance a bit better and have more time to myself to do what I want to do and not the constant round of tidying and cleaning up after other people.

3. I would like to have visited more of the places of interest and historic houses in Cheshire which I keep meaning to go and visit.

4. I would like to have a revamped my garden so it’s a nice place to sit and read or write on sunny days.

5. I would still like to be with my husband and have a good relationship with my kids who will then be approaching dreading teanagedom.

What is on your to do list today?

1. Work

2. Having son’s friend round to play and for tea

3. Exercise – going on holiday in two weeks and need desperately to get rid of the flabby bits (Ha ha dream on! Will probably end up covering them up.)

4. Gardening - garden is a shambles – especially at the front and feel like we are The Clampitts compared to our neighbours who all have immaculately clipped lawns and hedges. (Kind of hoping it will rain which will give me a good excuse not to do it.)

5. Watching Midsummer Murders – I do like a bit of cosy crime

Oops left out writing – will have to squeeze that in somewhere in between – as ever

What five snacks do you enjoy?

1. Crisps

2. Cheese – Grommit

3. Chocolate brownies

4. Flapjacks – especially sticky gooey ones.

5. White chocolate chip cookies – extra large from Sainsburys.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

1. Give some away to local charities – somewhere where I can see that it has made a difference to people’s lives rather than filtered into the pockets of institutions less deserving.

2. Put some in trust for my kids but not hand it to them on a plate

3. Share it around the rest of the family and friends but not so that I’m seen as a soft touch and only good because of the money.

4. Buy a large ramshackle house by the sea and do it up and buy another house aboard in the sun to escape to.

5. Get a housekeeper and gardener so I don’t have to do the chores anymore!

So there you have it my five years. I’m not going to tag anyone but if anyone wants to take up the mantle please feel free – and let me know so that I can read your answers.

Now I’m off to my to do list. Going to have a relaxing weekend with the family this weekend a) because I’ve earned it after the week I’ve had so far this week and b) because its my birthday on Saturday– and if you can’t lounge around on you birthday when can you?

Monday, 26 April 2010

St George's Day - To Celebrate or Not?

So do you think we should celebrate our Saint’s day? Personally I think we should. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I named my youngest son George, so now we always make an occasion of it, but on reflection I think why not? Why are we Englishers afraid of celebrating our history? Or perhaps we are just apathetic? I’m not sure, but with my husband’s family having Irish roots I’ve certainly learnt how you can celebrate something if you want to put your mind to it.
So how did we celebrate St George’s day - or should I say weekend?
We live not far from Beeston Castle- a medieval ruin which stands 500ft above the Cheshire plain. On a normal day it’s a great place to g - once you’ve puffed your way to the top - the views are out of this world.
This weekend my two little knights jousted all the way to the top where we then enjoyed a picnic. It was a beautiful sunny day but all that way up it was a little windy so after we’d eaten our fill and the boys had explored the ruins, we made our way back down to the bottom where we enjoyed the real entertainment.
A re-enactment group was in full force - brightly coloured tents were sent up and the wood fires were burning - they should have been roasting a hog - and it was just like something out of Merlin.
A juggler was entertaining the crowds - and boy was he funny, whilst entertaining the youngsters, he also threw in enough double entendres to keep the adults chuckling away. This was followed by an re-enactment of St George slaying the dragon and then a jousting tournament with the clashing of swords and the clanking of full armour. With the sun beating down on us it was really an afternoon to remember and afterwards the boys even got to try out the helmets for size and feel the weight of the swords - I don’t think they’ll forget that in a hurry.
Then on Sunday my eldest took part in the St George’s day parade with cubs. We all met at Chester Castle - not quite as impressive as the views from Beeston but just as steeped in history - and then the boys, and girls, marched through the city centre to the sound of the brass band. Do you what? Its great when the police actually stop the traffic for you and a brass band is always rather stirring.
But whilst we were following the parade a thought struck me. We’re really good at the pomp and ceremony, so why don’t wee do it more often?
In my opinion when we try we’re pretty good at blowing our own trumpet when we make the effort, so why don’t we do it more often? Celebrating what’s good about being English isn’t something we should be afraid of. And it shouldn’t mean that we don’t embrace other races or religions either. Just that this country does have a history and we should be proud of what is good about it.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Shirley Valentine and Times Gone By

The other night as I was idly flicking through the television channels I came across the film Shirley Valentine. No matter how many times I’ve watched the flim, it always comes across as fresh as the first time I watched it and is just as poignant.

The film was at the hilarious point where Shirley meets her old school friend (Joanna Lumley). Shirley admits that she thought her friend was an air hostess and Joanna comes back as says, “Good Lord no, I’m a hooker.” or words to that affect.

The bit that really got to me though is when Shirley is on the bus going home, and is remembering how she used to be when she was a girl, full of hopes and dreams for the future.

I think that bit really got to me because I had a similar experience recently. At the end of March I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary. Ten years – where did they go then?

We decided to celebrate by going away for a weekend without the children which we have done so rarely in the last ten years. (I was pregnant with our first son on our first anniversary, so technically we haven’t yet had an anniversary on our own).

We looked at various different options but settled on a weekend in London. On the Friday morning we travelled down on the train, stayed at a really nice hotel close to Tower Bridge (with swimming pool and spar), had a champagne flight on the London Eye and went to see Phantom of the Opera at the theatre. All in all a wonderful and memorable occasion.

I enjoy going to visit London because for nine years I used to live there. I’ve always had a fascination for our capital city and decided to go to polytechnic in north London when I was 18. I didn’t come back to the north west until I was 27. I lived in a variety of places and had so many experiences there that I can barely remember them all. But sitting on the tube and exploring places where I used to go or live brought a lot of them back to me. On the Saturday we got the tube to Richmond where I used to live and work and then followed the river all the way round to Chiswick; also a place I have lived in.

It was really weird, as though those things had happened to a different person in another lifetime and I found it really hard to reconcile the person I am now to the person I was then.

I’m not saying that I’m unhappy with my life or how things have turned out just that the years have flown by so quickly. In my head I’m still in my early twenties and sometimes it comes as a bit of a shock to realise that I’m actually in my early forties (despite the continual reminders from my boys).

I also began to think about all the time I wasted when I was down there, when I should have been out and about and making the most of the attractions of such a wonderful city and its made me more determined to make the most of what I have here, especially now the sun has started to shine.

Have you had any profound or thought provoking experiences recently?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Aiming High

Hello to anyone out there.

I've been away from blogland for a while, mainly due to juggling Easter school holidays with work. I really wish that I had a term time only job, but then again at the moment I'm one of the lucky few who does have a job so I shouldn't really complain. But I'm back now and will try to be a bit more of a consistent blogger!

One of the questions which niggles me as an unpublished writer is: "Am I any good?" followed closely by: "Will I ever be any good?" and its those kind of questions which can drag you down and mean that you don't write anything at all. A self fulfilling prophecy is ever there was one!

But this Easter I was taught a lesson in self-belief from my 6 year old son.

He was telling me that he was sad because it was Good Friday and it was the day that Jesus died. My eldest son is about to take his first communion next month and little fella is taking a keen interest in everything his older brother is learning. He's actually one of the few children I know who enjoys going to church (I don't suppose it will last). So with his current interest at a high I casually asked if he wanted to be a priest when he grew up to which he promptly answered "no". I then asked him what he did want to be expecting the usual answer of a footballer or a chef.

So I was completely floored when his answer was "I want to be God". Now if that isn't aiming for the top I don't know what is.

So there you have it. If my six year old can aim to be God then becoming a published writer should be a piece of cake. Shouldn't it?

Perhaps if we all reach for the stars we may at least end up a little bit nearer to the sky.

Take care everyone out there and aim high. You know you want to.


Thursday, 18 March 2010

I've Got My Mojo Back

For a long time now I have been dabbling with short stories in between my attempts to write a novel.

I do enjoy writing short stories as they give you a more instant buzz of satisfaction than the lengthy novel – and when it comes to editing the task is a lot less daunting!

In the past I have entered numerous short story competitions (mainly in Writing Magazine and Writers News) but sadly have not as yet even been shortlisted. I’ve also sent my short stories to magazines, mostly to be rejected. But if nothing else I’m persistent and I refuse to let this lack of success daunt me and will carry on writing my short stories regardless; mainly because I enjoy writing them even if I am their only reader.

However, of late I’ve been finding it very difficult to get into the swing of things. I’ve discovered that the way I work out my plot is by writing the story and seeing where it goes. I know this is not an ideal way to write as I tend to go off on all sorts of targets that I don’t really want to but it seems to be the way I work. I’ve tried sitting down to block out the plot but I just end up staring at a blank page so even if my stories don’t always work out least I have something down on paper.

For a long time though it hasn’t been working. I start with an idea and then it doesn’t go anywhere and I dry up. I’ve endied up with so many incomplete stories that I was beginning to wonder if I’d lost the knack.

And then I started the Writer’s Bureau short story and novel writing course. One of my first assignments was to study the markets, identify one in particular and then write a story aimed at that market.

So I started reading, new copies and my old copies of Woman’s Weekly. At first I felt guilty. I was spending all of my time reading and none of it writing. But the story I eventually wrote is so much the better because of that which just goes to show that reading time isn’t being lazy time. I adapted one of the stories I had discarded a little way in, took the characters and the setting but completely changed the dilemma and the outcome. And lo and behold I had a finished story for the first time in months.

And would you believe my tutor thought it good enough to send off so I have. And now I’m keeping my fingers and my toes crossed.

Not only that but my reading sparked off lots of other ideas. So it’s on to the next assignment – another story and a big thanks to the Writer’s Bureau for giving me my mojo back.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Inspiration Strikes

I’d not long posted my last blog when I opened my March copy of Writers’ Forum and saw Sue Moorcroft’s article called “Research Secrets”.

Last year I was an avid follower of her Target Practice series and even sent in a short story for The Weekly News competition.

I was practically jumping for joy when I received Sue’s very positive feedback on my story and was even more delighted to learn that it had been forwarded to Jill Finlay for consideration to the final stages of the competition .
My story didn’t win but it did come highly commended and was published in The Weekly News.
Apart from readers’ letters this was my first (and to date only) published short story which had me practically dancing for joy.
So now whenever I hear or read the name Sue Moorcroft I am on instant alert. Again, she didn’t disappoint. She too referred to research as the chicken and the egg situation. She describes her process as initial research to find enough about the subject followed by the writing of the first draft and then more research to plug the gaps in the editing stage.
Over the last few weeks I have identified areas in my plot which need significant research and with the help of this article I can see clearly now that I need to hit the books again to resolve my plot before I can get back to the writing.
So thanks Sue, again your advice has been invaluable and now its time to hit the archives, internet and whatever other sources I can find.
On a final note for today, the article also plugs Sue’s latest book: Love Writing - Romantic or Erotic Fiction; that’s definitely one I’ll be adding to my “To Be Read File”.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Research - The Chicken and the Egg

A large proportion of my novel is set during World War II. I love historical fiction because I love reading about times gone by. I remember watching a television series when I was at school (more years ago now than I care to remember) called “How We Used to Live” and I that programme shaped my fascination for the past. I wonder what happened to it. I would love to be able to see it now; just to see if the reality lives up to my memory.

So doing the research for my novel isn’t a problem for me. In fact I can easily spend hours delving into the facts to get things right. What I want to do more than anything is to create an accurate and vivid portrayal of the lives of my characters as they surmount the trials of war so this really is essential to the credibility of my novel.

When I had the idea for the novel i starting reading round lots of the subjects I thought would be relevant to the story and I read, and I read, and I read. And then I thought to myself, “Stop” as the novel was in danger of never getting to the writing stage.

Feeling as though I had some idea of the flavour of the times I began to write. And then I wrote and I wrote and I didn’t let the facts get in the way.

Now, though, I need to go back to the research. The tricky part is either finding the evidence to fit what I have written or having to completely change some of my plot lines. This I accept is inevitable if things didn’t happen the way that I have written but I keep looking in the hope of finding evidence to show that it could have happened that way.

I’m seriously beginning to think that my writing process is a bit rubbish. I should have either planned the novel out better in the first place, done my research, planned some more and then written it, or researched as I went along. This is certainly a thought for the next novel. It’s all very well having the words on the page, and no writing is wasted because you can learn from whatever you write, but it does pain me to think that I may well have to delete a large chunk of what I have already written.

How do you do research?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

I'm A Bit Stuck

I’ve reached the 75,000 word stage and now I’ve run out of plot. I know where I want to get to but I’m not too sure how to get there.

As I’ve already mentioned, I started this novel during NaNoWriMo and have tried to carry with it since, albeit much slower.

Because I had a specific word count in November to get through each day, I decided I would write what flowed easily so I jumped from one event to another depending on how the mood took me.

The result is that I have a lot of text but also quite a few gaps and I’m not sure how to fill in those gaps.

I’ve taken a methodical approach and printed off all I have, read through it and made a list of the missing bits. Unfortunately quite a few of the missing bits read “What happens next?” which isn’t particularly helpful.

I could do with sitting down for a few days, immersing myself back in the book, and do nothing but concentrate on sorting these problems out, but unfortunately at the moment life keeps getting in the way and I have to grab my writing time in fits and starts.

Does anyone have any helpful hints on how I can start to kick start some plot solution ideas in the limited time I have available to me?

Any help would be much appreciated!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Dodging The Doubt

Self doubt, I think, is one of the hardest things a wannabe writer has to live with. The questions which buzz around my brain a lot are, “Am I any good?” or “Will I ever be any good?”

I suppose the only way we can tell is by getting our work “out there”. Sometimes even that doesn’t help though, especially when the rejections keep flooding back in.

I am yet to find myself at a stage where I have a novel good enough to send out to potential agents. So far I have completed first drafts of two novels. The first will probably never see the light of day and languishes on a bookshelf in a folder. It is, I think, a poor first attempt but maybe one day I’ll dig it out again and see whether it has any glimmer of potential. The second, I was part way through a first edit when I lost my way and was then side-tracked by the thought of writing something completely new during November and the challenge of completing the 50,000 words with NaNoWriMo.

At the moment I am concentrating book 3. Since the end of November I have completed another 15,000 words and am hoping to reach 100,000 by the end of March, that’s if I pull my finger out anyway. Then I will break away from it, try to finish the first edit of book 2 and then return to edit book 3. Well that’s the plan.

Over the years (and I do mean years) I have been trying to test my talent, or lack of it, with short stories. And herein is where rejection lies. In fact so many of my stories have been rejected that whenever an A4 envelope comes bouncing back through my letter box I refuse to take it personally. I simply open it up, look at the standard rejection slip, sigh, re-read the story, edit, print and send it somewhere else. And then after four or five rejections I put it in a folder, alongside novel number one, and chalk it up to experience.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I have been on several courses and have received some very positive feedback. I know (or at least I think I do) where my strengths and my weaknesses lie and am determined to work on both. And then last year, one story which I had dusted off and sent out for the third time, actually came highly commended in a Writer’s Forum competition and was published in the Weekly News. Proof positive that not making the grade first time round isn’t an indication of whether something is any good. So maybe I do have some talent after all.

I’ve tried a couple of writer’s circles in my area in an effort to get some outside feedback but neither have worked out for me and there I’ve drawn a blank. So I need to find some way of testing the water without publication and without paying out a fortune on critique services.

I was hoping to join the Romantic Novelists Association, New Writers Scheme, and have a novel critiqued that way. Sadly though, I missed the boat for this year and now the scheme is full. Maybe next year I’ll be a bit more on the ball/

In the meantime though I’ve taken the plunge and signed up for a correspondence course with the Writer’s Bureau on Novel and Short Story Writing. Watch this space to see how I get on.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Tracks and Trains

The other day I watched a film I had recorded a few weeks ago called Under The Tuscan Sun. The film is adapted from a book written by Frances Mayes and stars Diane Lane. It’s a film I’ve seen before and is a lovely feel-good film – especially seeing sunny Italy as opposed to the miserable weather here at the moment.

The film is about a just-divorced writer who buys a villa in Tuscany on a whim, hoping it will be the start of a change for the better in her life. What Frances really wants to do is to meet her soul-mate, fall in love and to fill her new home with people and laughter.

But she despairs of ever meeting Mr Right and during a conversation is told a story about a train track which was built to link Austria and Venice. The track was built through mountains even though, as yet, no train existed which could scale such heights. Eventually though, such a train came about and the tracks were put to good use.

And in the end, Frances does get her wish even though it is not entirely in ways she expected.

The film reminded me of a time in my life when I too was despairing of ever finding Mr Right. Most of my friends were marrying and having babies and I thought I was going end up a lonely old spinster with only my cat for company. At the time I was also living in shared – rented accommodation and was longing for a place of my own and some stability.

Then one day I made a decision. If I was going to end up a spinster, I was going to do it on my own terms. So I took another job, saved up and bought my own house and shoved all thoughts of finding Mr Right to the far recesses of my mind. And do you know? Before I even moved into that house, I met the man who would later become my husband.

And that is how I’m going to look at my writing this year. I need to forget about the big dream for the time being and start building those tracks, section by section. Then maybe one day, my train will come along, just as the man did.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Luxuriating In Indulgence

If someone asked me what I want to achieve most in my life, my answer would be to be able to make a living from writing. That is of course an ideal. I would be more than happy to make part of my living from writing. Just so long as I had a few days each week where I could sit down at my computer and say, my job today is to write; this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

As it stands, my writing is classed as a hobby, or an indulgence. Bringing up a family and working produces so many demands on my time, that often I feel I can only allow myself the indulgence to write when everything else has been done. And of course everything else is never done!

Of course this is wrong. How am I ever going to achieve my ideal if I don’t occasionally put my writing to the top of the list? I keep telling myself this. I keep telling my family too that I deserve to have an hour or even half an hour a day to myself to do this. And my family do listen – or at least my husband does. That could be down to the fact that he likes to play golf so doesn’t really have a leg to stand on, but he is supportive. My worst enemy is often myself. At least I know I’m inventive, because I’m always inventing excuses not to put my bum on that chair and attach my fingers to the keyboard.

So my plan for an hour a day at least gives me a small sense of satisfaction, even if my ideal is to be able to loose myself in a project rather than having to fit it around everything else in small bursts. Now I just need to stick to it.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

New Year Focus

Although I haven’t been blogging much, or writing much come to that, I have been doing a lot of thinking.

At the end of one year and the beginning of another most people reflect on the past and the future but I think writers do so even more. And I suppose because we are not just saying goodbye to a year but a whole decade reflection is even more poignant.

In my personal life, the last ten years seen the greatest change to my circumstances. I was married in 2000 and now have two sons aged 8 and 6. I also moved house and now live in a village on the outskirts of a city, where the sense of community gives me a wonderful sense of belonging. So yes, on that score my achievements have been great.

Not so great on the writing front, although it’s not for want of trying. I have written plenty over the last ten years but have only had one small success in that a short story of my was published last year. After years and years of trying that one success though had me dancing on the ceiling and it did take me a while to come down. I’ve also written the first draft of two novels and half of another one.

What are my goals for 2010? Well I suppose consolidation is the key. My writing efforts have always been a bit sporadic. I’ll get into a routine and then life gets in the way and that’s it for a while. This year I’ve set myself a goal of doing something writing orientated for at least 1 hour a day. So far I’m managed this, but as I’m doing quite a bit of historical research for my latest effort, most of this has been reading rather than actually making any written progress. I think I need to break this down a bit, so that at least at the end of each week I’m seeing some more words on the page.

Also this year I want to finish the first draft of the novel I started for NaNoWriMo, complete a first edit of my previous novel, and try and write some more short stories. And I want to master the art of blogging. At the moment all I can do is post a blog. I don’t know how to do links, or add photos, or add anything else to my blog so any tips will be much appreciated. Or does anyone know of an idiot’s guide book to blogging - and I do mean one which does what it says on the tin, and is self-explanatory for a complete novice like myself?

Just quite how I’m going to achieve all that I’ve set myself I haven’t quite worked out yet. But I’ll get there. In the end. Hopefully.