Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Back Again

Well, it didn't take me long to get back into slovenly blog posting again now did it?

My excuse is that I started a new job on 6 December and its taking some getting used to.   Each day I've worked I've come back with my head so full of it that I haven't been able to find the head space to write.  

I've never worked in the voluntary sector before and its quite a different challenge, especially as the organisation I'm working for doesnt seem to be, well very organised.  I'm thinking that's why they've employed me.   They've already upped my hours from 10 to 15 a week, and working between school hours that will effectively be 3 days a week from January.  The lady I'm working with is also new though.  She's lovely and it will be great to be working together to, hopefully, make some big improvements.

I'm still doing my freelance work and working for my husband, so it hasn't left me much time to write, especially with the mad dash towards getting ready for Christmas.  It doesn't matter how organised I try to be, the week before Christmas always comes at me in a rush.   I think I'm nearly there though, apart from two cakes to ice and decorate, the food shop (although I do have the turkey), and some food prep.  Then I will be able to relax and enjoy Christmas and you never know, I might even find some time to write!

Hope you all are now nearly organised and not stressing in a last minute frenzy.

Take care

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Good News from The Weekly News!

I had a email from Jill Finlay today to say that they will be publishing a story of mine on 14 December.

That will be 3 in total - not a big deal in comparison to many of you out there but you have to start somewhere!

To be honest Jill had had the story for rather a long time and I'd given up hope, but I thought I'd send a query email just to be on the safe side.  I expected a "no" to bounce back, so this news was doubly exciting.  I suppose the message in this is to not give up hope, and that maybe after a long time, a polite query email, may actually do some good.

I've had a dance round the living room with  my boys, I think they think I'm quite mad.  The first question was "How much are you getting paid for it?"  the second question, which remained unspoken, I'm sure was "What are you going to buy me with it?"
 
Christmas presents perhaps? 
 
Now I'm off to have a celebratory cup of tea, and maybe even one of my son's chocolate chip cup cakes.
 
I know how to live don't I? 

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Misson Completed!

Yeah, its the end of November, and I have completed my challenge to post every day during this month.
 
I must admit that it has stopped me missing the challenge of NaNoWriMo, as although the wordcount is miniscule in comparison, I have still had to employ the discipline to post every day, which is something I have never managed to do before.
 
And it has felt a bit like my experience of NaNo in that I got off to a great start, had a bit of a low in the middle when I couldn't think of anything to post, and then had a bit of run towards the end. A bit like writing a novel me thinks.
 
There have been times, I must admit, when the posts have been pretty rubbish, so I do apologise for that. 
 
But thank you all for bearing with me, particularly Wendy and Teresa  who are my two most fervant followers and committed commenters.  Thank you ladies, your support is much appreciated.
 
Now, I'm going to go away and leave you all in peace for a while, but I will be back, and more often than I have in the past, now that I have proved I can do it.
 
But just before I go, I have another reason to celebreate the end of November, or should I say, Movember.  My husband has been growing a moustache this month in aid of men's health, particularly Prostate cancer.  And whilst I appreciate his intentions, I can't wait to see the back of the furry growth above his top lip!

Friday, 29 November 2013

How Do You Write?

I've been thinking recently about the best way to write.  I don't mean the nuts and bolts of writing, more about the phsycial way to get the words down.
 
I do find it easy to write straight to screen, in fact I used to do it a lot when I was at work and I was trying to sneak up my word count during quiet times (ssh!  don't tell anyone!).  Also when I was doing NaNo, I don't think I could have completed the word count if I hadn't written straight to screen.
 
But these days, although I do most of my editing on the lap top, I'm finding it difficult to write like that. Writing longhand seems to be the only way to get the words down. And although it does take longer, and then I have to type it up afterwards, I do enjoy the process of seeing the words fill up the paper.   It also feeds my notebook obsession.
 
I don't suppose it matters how you write as long as you do, but how do you get the story out?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Valuable Skill

Following on from my last post, I've been remembering when I received my first typewriter - then the cutting edge of technology. I'd asked for one for Christmas, probably without realising just how expensive they were. Mum decided that I could have one but to make it an investment, she also bought me a book teaching me how to touch type. I remember it was called "Typing Made Simple" and she said she wanted me to learn how to type properly, that the typewriter wasn't a toy. I spent hours in my bedroom after that, bashing away on the keys. 

Being able to touch type has been invaluable in my life, as a student, secretary and now as a writer, a well as in every day correspondence. 

So I owe a big thank you to my mum, for guiding me to learn such a valuable skill.

Thanks Mum, you're a wise woman!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Hidden Gems

Well, the devastation continues as we have now moved on to decorating the downstairs spare bedroom / junk room.  The contents of the cupboards are now displaced throughout the house but I've given up caring.  The hideous bright yellow walls and orange woodwork are disappearing, so that's something to cheer about.
 
Tipping out the contents of the cupboards, though, have revealed a few hidden gems.
 
Back in the early 90's, when I first started to think about writing, I signed up for a correspondence course with The Writing School.  I can't remember whether I ever completed the course, but yesterday I found some of the reference books which came with it.
 
I started reading the first one, Writing For Cash, and was amused by the following paragraph.
 
"Tools for the Job
 
All you need to become a writer is a notebook, pen or pencil, paper and typewriter.  You may think that the typewriter is an unnecessary expense when you first start to write, but actually it is an investment.  Many editors will not consider accepting work that is not neatly typed and presented, and it is not necessary to buy a new or expensive machine.  Typewriter shops often have good second hand models which can be purchased at a fraction of the price of  a new one. 
 
Alternatively, keep your eye on the advertisement column in your local newspaper, and you may be lucky enough to pick up a bargain.  Unless you have room for a standard sized typewriter, buy one of the smaller portables, these weigh just a few pounds and can be quickly and easily moved around when required." 
 
How times have changed!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Lovely Rejection

Is that an oxymoron?  Until Friday I would have thought so too, but then I received the loveliest rejection I have ever received.
 
It was from The People's Friend and was full of useful feedback, telling me why the story wasn't right for them, which I very much appreciated.
 
But most of all it was the heartfelt encouragement telling me not to be too disappointed and to keep on sending stories to them.
 
Well I will.  I have another story which is earmarked for the magazine, which I hope to be sending out shortly. 
 
And I'm not going to give up, not when I get such lovely emails from this editor.  She is a credit to both the magazine and the publishing industry as a whole.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Bye Bye Ben

I was sad to see Ben leave Strictly on Sunday. I think that he is a better dancer overall than Mark. Mark does seem to be able to pull it off in the dance off though, and I do think the judges were right to vote Ben off. Ben did make quite a few mistakes on the dance off and as they have to mark solely on that  performance I felt they were being honest. More than you get on other shows at the moment.

All the same, it's getting to the stage in the competition when the people you like are destined to be voted off. Still compulsive viewing though.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Course Continues

I've just had my assignment back from my Writing Bureau tutor and I'm really pleased with the comments. He thought my play was well written, realistic and was suitable for radio.
 
I must admit, I've always found writing dialogue easier than description. I can do description when I put my mind to it, but its not something that comes naturally to me. 
 
The play was only a partial, but I was so encouraged by his comments, that I think I might complete it and see if I can get it accepted.  You never know. 
 
I read a really interesting article about one of the writers for The Archers.  I was brought up in a farming family and listening to The Archers is one of my guilty secrets - I download the podcasts and listen to it while I'm doing the washing up!  Maybe I could think of an interesting plot line for them , even if its just for a bit of fun.  
 
But I'm getting carried away with myself now.  When I got my assignment back I was also surprised to find that there was another assignment attached, odd, as I thought there were only ten assingments.  This one though is much easier, as its any piece of fiction up to 3000 words, on which I will receive some feedback.  My only problem with this will be deciding what to pick!
 
I wonder if there will be any more assingments after this? 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Strictly Addictive

Its midway now in the Strictly series, and I'm still loving it.  It's got to the exciting stage when the majority of the celebrities have become pretty good dancers.

This week, as much as I love him as a personality, I think it will be Mark's turn to go. Technically I think he's the least competant of all the dancers, and his dodgy knees don't help him much, but his personality will be greatly missed when he goes.

As for the rest, well, I've always loved Natalie and Ashley and I think Abbey's great too.  Susanna is running up on the outside,  she's improved so much in the last few weeks and I definitely think she's a contender.

Ben is great, for a big guy he's incredibly graceful and Patrick certainly has rhythm, especially in the latin dances.  Sophie is beautifully graceful and elegant, although she suits some dances better than others.

It's going to be tough to predict who's going to go over the next few weeks but I'm certainly loving it.

Who do you think will make it to the final?

Friday, 22 November 2013

A Return to Chaos

The day started off well, I edited an old assignment story and sent it off to Take A Break Fiction Feast, and then I edited a story I wrote on holiday and sent it to my writing group for a critique. Then I completed a mailshot for my freelance work and was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

This was all done before my eldest, who was off school with an Inset day, dragged himself out of bed.

Then, I gave up the computer so that he could catch up on his homework.  The only problem was that, because he was off school, he'd decided that he was going to spend the day on the Xbox.

During the ensuing meltdown, my husband came home and decided to redecorate the kitchen, so I ended up trying to supervise homework and get everything out of the kitchen so that he could crack on. 

On the one hand I'm really pleased that progress is being made on the house but I'm having to grit my teeth too.  Trying to make some lunch for us, with everything under the cover of dust sheets was certainly a challenge.

This afternoon, the joiner turned up to do some work in the living room, and I retreated to the spare bedroom to try to do some decluttering, because it's been decided that that's the next room to be attacked, next week.

Now I say spare bedroom, but its a downstairs bedroom which is basically used to store coats, bags, shoes, boots, stationery, filing, laundry and anything else you can possibly think of.  Its the only room in the house which has remained practically untouched since we moved in nearly ten years ago and is painted in a sickly yellow.   I'm looking forward to it being redecorated but its going to be a painful process.

You know the saying that you can't make an omlette without breaking eggs, well all I can see at the moment are shells!

But, I always try to look on the bright side. Firstly, I'm glad I managed to get some work done in the relative quiet of the day, and secondly I know it will be worth it in the long run.

I must say I'm looking forward to the day when my husband is working out of town, both the boys are at school and the house is just in its normal level of mess.  That day will be blissful indeed!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Track Record

I've been toying with the idea of submitting some articles to magazines recently.
 
I have some articles in mind and some publications, but so far I've put off actually doing anything about them because, quite honestly, I'm scared.
 
I know that sounds silly, I have no qualms sending my stories off to magazines, even before I had any published, but with articles it is somehow more daunting.
 
Catching up with December's Writing Magazine, I read what I thought was a brilliant step by step guide to submitting articles, but the thing that made me quiver, was the bit about telling the editor what articles you've had published before.
 
I've had a few fillers and recipes published but I don't think that would make an editor choose me over a more experienced writer, neither am I expert on the subjects I would like to write about (local and family history) but I am very keen on these subjects.  Would my passion be enough?
 
It's daft really, my fear of failure has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
 
How do you get that first article published?  Any ideas?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Completion!

Finally finished the dreaded last assignment and sent it off this afternoon.  I feel free!!!!

Actually it hasn't been such a bad exercise as the play was based on a story I wrote in draft a while ago.  For the length of the script I've had to give it much more depth, and now I'm wondering if I can convert it into a serial, which I've never tackled before.  Should be an interesting exercise.

For a while now I've been a bit of a butterfly brain, flitting from one project to the next and never getting anywhere.  This week, I've got so fed up with it that I've adopted a strategy of prioritising each project and working on it until its finished. 

I know that probably sounds simple, but I just haven't been doing it.  It's worked with the assignment, so next I'm going to tackle a story I wrote for assignment 9 of the course.  I'm hoping with some careful tweaking I can turn this into a story for Take A Break Fiction Feast (Its a bit too gritty for The People's Friend). 

By working this way, I'm hoping to complete  a lot of projects which have been stagnating.

How do you prioritise your writing?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Writer's Bureau

Despite the distractions of the decorating, I've managed to get some work done today, but writing has eluded me once more.
 
I've tried to make up for it tonight though by starting to edit my last assignment for the Writer's Bureau short story and novel course I've been trying to finish.
 
I can't say this course has been a resounding success for me.  I think it would be very good for complete beginners, but after have done other courses before, I don't feel I've learnt a great deal from it.  Also, I've found that the course has concentrated more on the short story side, and I wanted more of the novel element from it.  The last two assignments have been about writing radio plays.  Having never written these before, I've been rather stumped by the lack of guidance and so have put off completing these last two assingments.  In saying that though, by having to do this, I feel that I have learnt something about a genre I wouldn't normally consider.
 
At one point I did wonder if I could be bothered to finish the course, but I don't like quitting anything I've paid for and will now be glad to get to the end.
 
I hope to finish the editing tomorrow and will be able to send the assignment off with a grateful sigh.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Disruption!

Being the wife of a painter and decorator, my house is usually last on the list.  In fact when I had a new kitchen installed, I waited three years for the decoration to be done.

So, yesterday, when my husband said he had a day free today and was going to do the living room, who was I to argue, despite the fact that it was a mad rush to get everything out of there.

Now the rest of the house is in chaos, I have furniture in the kitchen and electrical equipment, lamps and books in the dining room. 

Of course, it's been far to disruptive today to write, or even do any work, instead I went out and started the Christmas shopping - not that I made much headway.

But never mind, it will all be over in a few days, I'll have a clean and sparkling living room, and then hopefully I be able to get back to work.

Can't wait.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunnier Times

Today was grey and dismal and a bitter wind cut through me as I was standing on the side of the football pitch this afternoon.

So to cheer myself up, I thought I'd look at some pictures I took in spring.  This is a beautiful little village, near to my home, where I used to work.

Hope they bring some much needed sunshine into your life.






Hope tomorrow is a brighter day and that the rain keeps away!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Christmas Is Coming ......

And I am getting fat.  (I keep meaning to go on a diet but that's another story!)

Every year, I try to stay in denial about Christmas for as long as I possibly can, but it appears that I can deny it no longer.

It might be something to do with the fact that Christmas cards have been in the shops since August, or that the supermarket over the top adverts are gracing our TV's at every opportunity, or even the school newsletters which are full of requests for money and Christmas gifts.

But mostly its due to my husband who has been muttering all week that we need to start doing something about Christmas.

I'm not sure where the "we" comes in, I think loosely translated it means me because I'm usually the one who ends up doing 95% of the preparation. My husband is one of six and I am one of three, and although we dont buy for the adults, we do buy for the children, some of whom have children of their own. 

It's not that I mind, just that its such a mamoth task, the whole thing daunts me and I my instinct is to bury my head in the sand until such a time that I have to lift it out again.

That time has come.  Today I bought my first two presents and now the need to get organised has become insistent.

I feel a list coming on, I simply can't do it all without it!

Ba Humbug!

 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Inspirational

As I'm typing this I'm watching Children In Need.
 
As ever, the stories of the children who benefit, or who need to benefit,  from the money raised are both heartwarming and heartbreaking.  It never fails to amaze me how optimistic people can be in the face of such adveristy. And it always makes me appreciate just how lucky I am in my life.
 
So this is going to be a very short post because I'm off to make my own donation.
 
Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

List Mania

I've always been a bit fan of lists, in fact, if I didn't write things down, I would be in a right pickle because I'm sure I'd forget half the things I'm supposed to be doing. So when I finished work last year, I wrote down a list of things of all the things I wanted / needed to do, because I was determined to remained focussed.
 
I'm horrified to realise that a year on, some of the same items are still on the list.  And although I have achieved many things over the last year, the list has grown rather than diminished. 
 
Some days when I look at the list I feel demoralised by what still needs to be done and instead of it being helpful I feel haunted by it. In an act of retaliation I go off and do something completely different just so I don't have to look at it any more.
 
So I was interested to read that Peter Jones had had a similar experience in his book, How To Do Everything and Be Happy (see yesterday's post). He recomends lists to the power of three, ie to prioritise the three most important things, write them down, and then chose one things from the list.  At least only having three things on the list gives you a sense of achievement as you cross them out. 
 
I've tried this and I do feel a sense of empowerment by being able to cross things off, but I have to admit that I do have a tendency to remember other things which need to be done as a priority and my lists do sometimes grow longer.
 
Sometimes I wonder if the tail is wagging the dog and I decide to stop writing them at all, but I just can't go cold turkey.
 
Do lists work for you or do they make you feel like you are living in a mental straight jacket?   

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

How To Do Everything And Be Happy

It's an interesting concept isn't it?  And one which is much needed in my life,  so I was keen to read this book, written by Peter Jones.
 
I read it on holiday and thought that what he said made perfect sense.  At least while I was on holiday it did, now that I’m back at home, I’m finding some of his ideas incredibly hard to implement, although that is probably more a reflection on me.
The book made me think about what I really want from my life and whilst I was away I was determined to put my writing first, well at least before some of my day to day challenges.  Hasn’t quite worked out that way though.  Must try harder!
One of the recommendations in the book is to have a Boxing Day once a month.  A Boxing Day is a day which you set aside, and when you get up you spend the day doing what you want to do, not what you have to do.  Its fine if that includes work, housework, or even DIY or decorating, as long as you’re doing it out of choice, and you haven’t planned it in advance.
He recommends that you strike out a day in your diary to do this and that a Boxing Day can always be postponed but should never be cancelled.  Now, with the boys, I can’t set aside an entire day but what I’ve decided to do is set aside a day between school hours.  I also need to choose a day when my husband is working out of town, because when he’s working locally he has a tendency to call back at home and ask me to do things for him.  I could always explain the concept to him but I don’t think he’ll take it too kindly when most of the time these days he’s working seven days a week.  Call me a coward but it’s just easier to plan this for a day when he’s not around.
So with that plan in mind, I decided to go for the first Tuesday in every month.  I set a date for the 6th November.  Then I realised that my eldest needed to go to the orthodontist on that day, so I postponed it to the 7th.  Then I was invited to go for an interview for my job on the 7th, so I postponed it until this week as I had to work for the rest of that week.  On Monday I went to the web site skill share and yesterday I had a meeting, so I decided that today was going to be Boxing Day. Yeah!
Half way through yesterday morning my meeting was postponed until today, so Boxing Day was postponed yet again.  Tomorrow I’m working and from Friday and all next week my husband is working in our area, in between redecorating our living room.  At the moment I can’t see a Boxing Day on the horizon, but I will try to get one in before the end of the month if I possibly can!


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

November Challenge

Well it's the 12th of November (how did that happen?) and this is my 12th post so I'm pleased that I've managed to keep up to my challenge so far.  I can't say that it's been easy, quite a few times I've panicked myself in the evening remembering that I haven't posted and haven't got a clue what to write (apologies for the drivel).  But the discipline of having to post every day, and having to think of something, however trite, has been a good one.  Normally I promise myself that I will try to post at least 10 times during the month, and each month I fail spectularly, so at least I've broken my own record.

Coming to this blog every day though has made me realise that it's looking a bit tired (or is that just me?)  I need to spruce it upand possibly learn more about how to do that.  For instance, I've noticed that I have the title Followers on the blog and no one listed.   Now I know I have followers (at least they used to be there), so I think this is just a technical error.  Anyone know how to fix that?

My new challenge for the rest of the month is to give my blog a make-over, and try and think of something interesting to say each day, so I don't bore you all to death along the way!

Take care.

Monday, 11 November 2013

New Beginnings

Today I unoffiicially started my new job - a lot earlier than I expected.   I went to meet some website designers with my new boss to discuss the company's website.

I was really keen to make the most of this opportunity as I am hoping to design my own website for my Virtual Assistant work. 

I can honestly say that I learnt a lot, but what I realised is that there is so much I don't know about technology that I really need to address this problem. More research is needed before I can even dip my toes in the water.  But that's not a bad thing, I like learning new things, and it's been on my list of things to do for a long time now.

I also found out that quite a lot of the company's literature as well as the website needs re-writing.  Something to really get my teeth into.

I can't wait to get started.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Lest We Forget

I couldn't post on Remembrance Sunday without paying tribute to all the men and women who have given up their lives to keep this country free.
 
I always make sure that my boys attend a Remebrance service, because I think it's important for the younger generation to realise what previous young men and women have done for us.
 
I've been doing some research on the Second World War, particularly reading accounts of people who survived in the Forgotten Voices series of books, and  I have been humbled by what people have been prepared to do to keep this county safe.
 
It's all to easy, with the passage of time, to forget the sacrifices which have been made, and I feel that our children, who really are living in a time of privilege, should be made aware of just how lucky they are.
 
In church today, the children spoke of our freedom.  Without the people who fought in previous wars, whether they lived or died, we wouldn't today have the priviledge of that freedom, and that is something more than worthy of remembrance.
 
So, this blog post, is my message of thanks, to all those people who scraficed so much for our futurres.  We owe you so much.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Back to Reality

After the excitement of the last few days, today is defintely back to normal.  Saturday morning was the usual standing on the sidelines of the football pitch - fortunately, unlike last week, the sun was shining.   My son's team won and it wasn't too stressful for me as the team largely kept the ball away from him. As he plays in goal that's always a good thing.  I've aged so much since he started playing in goal!  Last week, even though they won 4-2, he was really upset on the way home because he'd let two goals in, bless!
 
This afternoon has been uber exciting, defrosting two freezers and a fridge, supervising homework, and cleaning the bathroom!  Don't I know how to live life to the full?
 
Now though I'm off to have a long hot bath before watching Strictly, the highlight of my weekend!
 
Hope you're all having a much more exciting time.
 

Friday, 8 November 2013

I'm In The Friend!!

I'm so excited to see my story published in the November 9 edition of The People's Friend.
 
The story was originally titled The Proof of the Pudding, but they have renamed it Playing Cupid which is fine by me (maybe an improvement?)
 
Its so long since I read this story that to read it in print was a wonderful, I didn't even cringe too much over places where I thought it could be improved.  In fact, as I was reading I thought it sounded like it was written by a proper writer, not little old me.

Half of the anticipation of seeing it in print was wondering what picutre they would use to illustrate it.  I'm not sure I envisaged seeing my couple sitting across a cafe table, but I do like the obvious spark they have for each other.
 
It's really spurned me on to send some more stories off to them, I don't think the novelty of seeing my work in print will ever wear off.
 
I just have one query though, now that I have had a story published would it be considered cheeky to send future submissions to the editor who commissioned this one, or should I just send them addressed to The Fiction Editor as before?
 
Any advice would be much appreciated.
 
Have a great weekend everyone, I'm off to celebrate what has turned out to be an exceptional week.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Glad Tidings!

Well, now I need to say goodbye to Mrs Pessimistic because I got a phonecall today to say I got the job!
 
I'm so chuffed.  It's only two days a week, but that's enough to enable me to continue with my freelance work and trying to write.
 
I can't wait to get out into the real world again.
 
Big grin!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Rejection

One thing I've learnt about being a wannabe writer, is that rejection is not a reflection on the person you are.  Perhaps your writing style doesn't suit the editor, or the subject matter of the story isn't quite right for the magazine at the moment.  And remember, one man's meat etc, so while one editor might not want it, it might be just what another is looking for. 

So, whenever a story lands on my mat with a thud, I take a look at it, see how it might be improved and send it right back out again to a different magazine.

The route to publication is based on perseverance. Or so I keep telling myself.

Today I went for an interview for a part time admin job.  It's only ten hours a week, but would fit in nicely with the freelance work I'm doing and still might leave some time for writing.  It was a nice set up, I liked the people I would be working with if I got the job, and as it is a new position there is plenty of scope for making the job your own.

Yet, despite the fact that it is only 10 hours a week, my interviewers told me that they had had a massive response to the advert.  

I felt that I answered the questions well, but as I have learnt from my writing, I have no idea what they are looking for. 

Now I'll have to sit tight until they have made a decision, and if I don't get it, then I will just have to get back on the horse so to speak and start looking for something else.

A little bit of me can't help hoping that this might be the one though, just like when I send out my stories, I hope that this time might just be the one.

What is life without hope?



Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Remember, Remember

Well, this is the quietest November 5 I can remember, but perhaps that's because most people seemed to be celebrating it last weekend.  I must admit, Bonfire Night is much more furn when you can wrap up warm against the crisp autumnal air.  It's quite different sinking into squelchy mud while rain slowly seeps through your clothes - I had quite enough of that watching the boys playing football at the weekend, thank you ver much.
 
But thinking about bonfire night reminded me of something which happened years ago.
 
When my eldest was developing his reading skills, he took a fancy to history.  One day, whilst reading about the life of Guy Fawkes, he said to me, "Mummy, did you know that Guy Fawkes' step-father was a Catholic but his mother was a prostitute."
 
I only just about managed to keep a straight face before asking if he meant Protestant?
 
Out of the mouths of babes!
 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Is Writing Really a Form of Madness?


Sometimes, amidst the clutter of my family life, TV, the internet, emails and texts, I struggle to find the head space in which to write. 

On holiday I like to disconnect from technology and the outside world and exist in a bubble of my family, reading and writing.

I refuse to have a laptop and don’t even watch TV or buy a newspaper, and whilst my husband is snoozing in the son, and the boys play in the pool, I scribble away in my notepad.  I’m sure my fellow holiday-makers think I’m a complete loon. 

Fortunately my family are used to me and don’t bat an eyelid when I whip out my notebook while they are watching a game of football in a bar.  In my mind it frees us all up to do what we want to but who else goes on holiday with the aim of being more productive then they are at home. 

Perhaps I need to invest in an apartment in sun kissed climes where I could take my family every holiday (I wish).  Imagine my output over a six week summer holiday – I can but dream.

For now I’ll just settle for the crazy lady who scribbles in her notebook while lounging on a sunbed or ignoring the football.

My only problem really is on my return, trying to decipher the handwriting smeared by suntan lotion or the after effects of too many glasses of vino!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn


 

 

I’ve heard so much hype and good things about this book that when I saw it on Kindle just before I went on holiday that I couldn’t resist. 

I must admit, I struggled to get into it at first but I’m not sure whether that was because I was reading it on my Kindle, as sometimes I do struggle to connect initially when I’m reading things electronically.  I have to admit though, the more I got into it, the more I struggled to put it down.

This is a book that does need to be read quickly. There are so many twists and turns that I think I would have struggled to have remembered what had happened previously if the passage of time had intervened.

It is the story of a woman who goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary.  Her husband comes home to find her gone with evidence of a struggle in the living room.  The story is told from the viewpoint of the husband, and from past diary entries of the woman which gradually lead up to the day of the abduction.

Right from the beginning, the reader is aware that there is something wrong with this marriage, but it takes a while to find exactly what that is.  Both narrators are in some way unreliable but to say any more would reveal too much of the pIot. 

This book is a master-plan in plotting. The twists were exceptional but in retrospect, clearly signposted and Gillian Flynn made me care about  people who, on pape,r should have been unlikeable.  Definitely one to re-read, to really analyse how she did this.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Good News!


I had a productive month in September, submitting five short  stories to magazines.  Sadly these weren’t new stories but some of them have had extensive re-writes so I’m pleased that at least I’ve got a few more stories out there.

Sadly, I didn’t manage to sub anything in October, but I did draft my final assignment for my Writer’s Bureau course and drafted one short story and half of another one. 

Mostly, though, I’ve been thinking seriously about how I want my career / work life to pan out and how I can set the wheels in motion.

And finally, I’ve had some good news from The People’s Friend.  My story “What’s Cooking?” which was accepted a while back is going to be published in the 9 November edition of the magazine.  I can’t wait to see my story in print!

Friday, 1 November 2013

November Madness


Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, so good luck to all you scribes out there who are aiming to get 50,000 words under your belt this month.
Sadly, this year, I feel that I have too many unfinished pieces of work to start on a fresh one, so I’ve decided not to take part.    But November would feel slightly empty without some sort of a challenge. Right?

So I was delighted to read the article “Ten inspiring ideas to try instead of NaNoWriMo” on pages 12 & 13 of the November issue of Writing Magazine, and it set my little brain buzzing.
And, in light of my very poor number of blog posts in October, I’ve decided to issue myself the challenge of posting each day in November.   It seemed like a good ideal at the time, but I’m beginning to wonder if I'm not just a little bit insane.  Now it does feel like it’s the first day of November.

I’m sure some posts will be very short and some will probably be complete rubbish, so please bear with me.
One down, only 29 to go!

Happy November everyone.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Apologies For Absence


I haven’t been around much at all in Blogland this month – so apologies to you all for not keeping up with your blogs.  I don’t have much of an excuse except that once more my life seems to have taken over me.

The first half term of having a child in high school has been a revelation.  My eldest has settled in well, in fact he loves it, and I can’t believe how mature (on the whole) he is behaving.  Homework is a bit of a challenge though, and although he is being vigilant at keeping up with it, he still needs help in prioritising it (and he’s asking me?)

The fact that he comes home each night and starts his homework is great though, and has had a positive effect on my youngest who is being much more conscientious about his own homework.  I’m so glad that I can be around to help them with this, even though it takes time (and patience).

October is the month of my Mum’s birthday and last year we were very organised and bought this year’s present (tickets to go and see Wicked and The Palace Theatre, Manchester) in advance.  My Dad and brother aren’t big musical fans but my husband likes to go as well as the boys.  My sister-in- law is mad about The Wizard of Oz – she even took part in an Am Dram production last year as the Wicked Witch, so it was a great opportunity for Mum to go with us and all her grandchildren (the other men just don’t know what they are missing).

I didn’t know much about Wicked except that it was connected to the Wizard of Oz.  I purposely didn’t find out much about it before we went because I wanted to enjoy it without having any preconceptions.

It was a truly magical show telling the back-story of the Wicked Witch of the West.  The two main characters (the Wicked Witch and the Good Fairy) really did carry the show. It was fabulous and made me wish that I could dance, sing or act (sadly I can’t do any of them!)

Half term has been taken up with our annual holiday.  I can hardly believe that we haven’t been away properly this year, so we booked a week in Lanzarote.  A chance to get some sunshine before coming back to the mizzle and drizzle of winter.  We had a fabulous time – mostly spent lazily on sun loungers, although there was a rather pathetic attempt to play tennis (least said about that the better). The complex was quite small so it gave the boys for a chance for a bit of freedom (while we could still keep an eye on them) and make new friends.

There was plenty of time to read, write and reflect and I’ve really got my head around what I want to achieve over the next few months. Now I’ve just got to act on it! We’ve had some brilliant family time and I’m trying my best not to bump back down to earth too quickly despite being straight back into a busy week, and all the washing and ironing!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Strictly Autumn

You can always tell when autumn is upon us because Strictly starts. Oh, how I love Strictly, I'm even hooked on It Takes Two, the weekday spin off which brings us all the news from behind the scenes (saddo alert!).
 
I must admit, I wasn't overly impressed by the line up for this series, but then again, so many celebrities have already taken part that the selection process must be getting pretty tough.
 
In saying that though, I throughly enjoyed this weekend's shows.  There are quite a few people who may not be the best dancers (yet) but they certainly put on a performance.  And I was particularly impressed with Natalie Grumede who abused her poor husband Tyrone in Corrie.  After that storyline, it's probably good for the public to get to know the real person, she is nice you know.  As my husband says when I get involved in Corrie storylines - 'It's not real!'
 
So yes, I'm looking forward to snuggling up on the sofa this autumn.   Let's face it, we all need a bit of glitz and glam on a Saturday night even if you are wearing your PJ's and slippers.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Golden Times!


Last week my parents celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary.  50 years – wow what an achievement!  I’ve got 37 more years to go!
 
Mum didn’t want a big fuss, so they went away for a week to the Isle of Man where they went on honeymoon all those years ago.

They had a lovely time, but we couldn’t let the moment go unmarked, so on Sunday, my brother and his family and my auntie and uncle went out for a meal.
 
It was a lovely occasion, the food was excellent and our waitress was the daughter of my brother’s best friend so the service was brilliant too.
 
We’d sent Mum and Dad off on their hols with some spending money, but surprised them with some more personal gifts at the meal.
 
And then came the cake. Months ago, my sister-in-law and I had decided that this would be personal too.  So I made a fruit cake and on a visit to my parents, surreptitiously switched it to the boot of her car so she could decorate it.  I say she, my sister-in-law iced it, and was director of purchasing and operations, but my 14 year old niece designed the cake and did all the “art work”, including making all the decorations herself.
 
The result was beyond words! Well, it brought a tear to my eye and to my Mum’s too.

 


 
But not only was the result a family affair, it was so personal.  My Dad grows sunflowers and has lots of potted plants on the patio, and the pair of them like to sit on their little bench with a cup of tea.  My brother also has a new dog, depicted at the bottom, getting intotrouble as usual and breaking things!

I know it’s not very British to boast, but what a talent that young girl has!

And it was a wonderful day, one we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

 
 
 
A good friend, who knows my taste in books, bought me this book for my birthday. And I have to say I could hardly put it down.  The book is the author’s debut adult novel, although she has written over 15 novels for children and teenagers.  I first heard about it when it was listed in Richard and Judy’s summer book club.
 
It’s the story of Gen who gave birth to a still born daughter eight years ago.  She was told by the doctor and her husband that the baby was so badly disfigured, she would be better not to see her. 
 
It is perhaps because she has never had any closure that she has struggled to get over the loss of her child and hasn’t been able to conceive since, despite courses of IVF.
 
Then one day a stranger turns up on her doorstep and tells her that her daughter didn’t die at all, and worse, that her husband knows.
 
Gen begins a journey to uncover the truth, even though she no longer knows who she can trust, least of all her husband.  It’s a journey fraught with danger, which threatens both Gen’s life and those of the people who try to help her.
 
This is an absolutely brilliant book, with fantastic plot twists which keep you turning page after page. I kept promising myself I would only read one more chapter but the hooks at the end of each chapter were just too enticing to let me put it down. 
 
I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Moving On


The lovely Teresa Ashby posted about back to school
I agree that as a child I never relished the thought of going back to school, I didn’t have a big group of friends, was pretty much middle of the class academically and was no good at sport – not much to look forward to then.
As I became older I began to enjoy studying more and relished the challenge of a new academic year. 
In my last job I ran a distance learning course at a law college, so September always felt more of a New Year than January.
So now I like September.  To me, it’s a time of fresh starts – of opportunities and new beginnings.  
BUT, I do agree with Teresa about the school uniforms.  It really winds me up that the “Back to School” uniforms are on sale even before the end of the summer term.  And if that’s not bad enough, I walked into a card shop the other day to be confronted by a bank of Christmas cards!  I think the world has gone bonkers.
Today, though was a momentous occasion as my eldest started high school today.  Doesn’t he look smart in his new uniform?  Hope I can pay off that second mortgage it cost! 


 
I know he doesn’t look that happy in this picture, but that’s because he won’t smile for photos any more now that he has a brace – sad hey?  But he was positively bubbling up with excitement – has been packing his school bag since the weekend and got himself up and showered at 7am this morning.  Can’t see that lasting too long.
But he came back today full of enthusiasm for his new school, which I’m really pleased about because he’s not overly keen on the academic aspect of school.  Sports, not a problem but lessons – well that’s different.  But he’s a confident little soul and I’m really pleased for him.  Another milestone marked.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Disappointment

Yesterday I received my script back from the RNA's New Writer's Scheme.
 
It's always a tense moment when you fight through the tape on the jiffy bag, slide out your work and begin to read the reviewer's comments.
 
But as I began to read, I felt myself crumple with disapointment.  My book, it appears, needs to be completely re-written.  There's not enough plot and the characters' motivation and actions aren't right either.
 
OK, I know that its only one person's opinion, but you do have to respect the fact that the person who is reviewing your effort, is a lot more experienced than you are.  And on reflection he/she is probably right, in most respects anyway.
 
My reviewer did suggest some ways to improve my novel and said that my writing style was good, and if they didn't think I could do it, they wouldn't have made the suggestions, so at least there was something positive about the report.
 
She then advised for me to go away, have a glass of wine and in a while, start to think about a re-write.  As it was 11 o'clock in the morning, I thought it was a tad too early, even for me, to start on the wine, so I went to the post office and bought myself a Magnum instead. Ice cream is a good substitute.
 
Its so disapointing, after having spent most of this year working on my novel, to learn that I need to start again.  But that's the nature of writing I suppose, its not about the wriitng, its about the re-writing.  One thing I do know for sure, is that I need to kick start my job search again.   Not just for the money - although this is a major influencing factor -  but also because I need some kind of focus where I feel as though I'm achieiving something.  Then my writing can become my hobby again, and I can take my time and enjoy it more. 
 
And I will rewrite the novel.  Just not yet.  In between short stories, I'm going to have another go at last year's NWS script, because that doesn't need quite so much work done on it, and I have a bit  more distance from it, so hopefully will be able to see things more clearly.
 
My conclusion from all this is that when you fall from the horse you have to get straight back on it.  This writing lark takes guts doesn't it?
 
Have a good weekend everyone. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Now They Are Three


My gorgeous feline friends were three on Monday. It’s hard to imagine life before these beautiful creatures joined our family and yet on the other hand, it seems like only yesterday that they decided to become part of our lives.


 

I say they decided because that’s how it felt at the time.  The wonderful RSPCA foster carer brought them to our house to introduce us. They came out of their carrier, had a good nose around the living room and then seemed reluctant to leave. 

It was love at first sight as far as we were concerned and they obviously felt the same.  They are certainly the most placid and affectionate cats I have ever known and they are loved by everyone who meets them.

 

Happy  birthday boys, you make our family complete.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Interesting Ancestors


I'm playing catch up this month and not only am I trying to catch up on writing posts here but I'm also trying to fnd time to read blogs that I haven't had a chance to look at recently.

One blog that particularly interested me was Della Galton's post on her family history and that there is a possibility that she is related to Emmeline Pankhurst - wow, wouldn't that be amazing if she could find out if it's true?

I've blogged before about my own interest in genealogy and that my family tree has been recorded by George Ormerod, an eminent historian in the Victorian era. My own family became landowners after helping to record information for the Doomsday book. 

The family tree links to various other landowning families in Cheshire, including the Fitton family who were the owners of Gawsworth Hall, now a National Trust property in Macclesfield.  Gawsworth Hall is reportedly haunted by two ghosts, one a court jester, and the other who was a daughter of the family, Mary Fitton.

Mary became maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1595, but was "led astray" by William Herbert who later became the Earl of Pembroke and became pregnant.  Pembroke was sent to Fleet Prison after admitting paternity but refusing to marry Mary and Mary was banished from court.

Mary returned to Gawsworth in disgrace and was banished from living in the family hall. Instead she went to live in the Old Rectory.  She gave birth to a baby boy, but the baby died.  It is possible that the baby died from syphilis, inherited from his father.

There is also a suggestion that Mary was the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets, although I supsect that this is only a rumour.

Mary further scandalized her family by having another affair and child out of wedlock and her mother disowned her.   

Mary lived until she was around 69 years old.  She was buried in Gawsworth but her ghost is reputed to be seen in Gawsworth churchyard, on the road leading from the local pub, and in the rectory.  Even after death she refused to be ingored!  I wonder if her spirit cannot rest in peace, or does she just enjoy the noteriety?  She's certainly an interesting woman to be related to find in the family records.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Success with The "lovely" People's Friend!!!


I didn't want to say anything at first, in case I jinxed it, but I've had an acceptance for a short story!  It’s the first one I've had in a long, long time and only the second one to date, and it's with The "lovely" People's Friend.

In times gone by, whenever I sent a story to The People's Friend, it seemed to bounce back with a standard rejection so fast that I used to check for the elastic attached to the envelope.  I felt that I was so way off the mark in subbing for this magazine that it wasn't worth bothering.  But recently a few writing friends have had such positive feedback asking them to resubmit, following which they made a sale, that I began to wonder if I should try again.

After reading Wendy Clarke's blog, and her glowing reports on the mag, I began to do more than wonder.  As Del Boy used to say, "Who dares wins", so I flicked through some past copies of the magazine, decided on a plot that I thought would suit and wrote it. And then rewrote it.  And rewrote it again.

When I received a response almost by return you could have knocked me over because this time it wasn't heralded by the ominous thud on the mat, but was from a lovely lady called Alison Cook.  She sent me a long email explaining why it wasn't quite right for them, but giving me options to change my plot and characters, and that they would be happy to look at it again.

To be honest, I was just chuffed to receive such detailed feedback from an editor that I thought about what I could do for a few days, and then sat down an rewrote it. 

And then I didn't hear from them for ages.  I tried not to get my hopes up that it was being seriously considered, and kept expecting an email back saying "sorry not this time", so when I did receive the email I hardly dared open it.

But I'm glad I did because it was good news, and Alison seemed thrilled to be telling me that it was going to be published.  I think my family thought I'd finally lost the plot as I danced round the house in joy.    When I signed the contracts and posted them back I felt like a proper writer. 

The good thing is that The People's Friend pay on acceptance not on publication, so the money's in the bank and I can't wait to see my story in print whenever that may be.

So now, its nose to the grindstone to get working on some more.  No point having a success if you don't capitalise on it!