Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Sorry - Am I Boring You?

Have you ever been caught by one of those people who insist on shoving an album of their holiday photos in front of your nose and then rambling on for the next hour about how wonderful their trip was?

Well, I might be in danger of becoming one of those very people. I can't help it - I just can't! When I discover somewhere I love, I want to tell everyone about it, share my photos and say, "But why haven't you been there?"

In the interest of keeping the readers of this blog happy, I shall try to keep it short but there might just be a touch of over-enthusiasm from time to time. Sorry!

So where am I? Yes, you've guessed it. I'm back in my beloved Lake District - the setting of many of my People's Friend stories and also the setting of my second novel. One day, I hope you will get to read it. Actually, you will definitely get to read it as, come hell or high water, and whether it be through a traditional publisher or self-published, I will get this novel out into the wide world.

Whenever we stay in The Lakes, we take our dog, Bonnie, with us. Apart from one year, we've always stayed in one of the little miner's cottages in the village of Chapel Stile (this is where the family in my novel live too). This year, we were a bit concerned that Bonnie (who is twelve and a little arthritic) might not be able to manage the 8 or 9 miles of walking we were planning to do each day. We needn't have worried though as she appeared completely rejuvenated by the Lakeland air. Always in the lead, she splashed in rivers, scrambled over boulders and probably would have herded up the sheep if we hadn't stopped her! Cue cute photo of lambs.

We have a list of our favourite walks, and every time we holiday in the Lake District, we like to revisit four of these and then add on two new ones. We don't do high level walks but beautiful low or medium level ones with stunning views such as this one at Buttermere. I must admit, I'm pretty proud of this photo.

One place I've been wanting to visit for ages is Cathedral Quarry. It features a lot in the novel but I've never actually been there - just researched it online. Once inside, it made me realise that nothing can ever beat seeing the real thing. The quarry is reached through a tunnel which opens up into a forty foot chamber called 'the Cathedral'. Those more adventurous than me can take a torch and explore the other tunnels... but I prefer to see a bit of daylight.

As usual, when we weren't exploring, we were eating. We discovered a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Ambleside, called Fellinis, whose dishes looked as if they should grace an art book. It was linked to the local cinema so we took advantage of their combined meal and cinema offer and followed our delicious meal with a viewing of the film The Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. I'd been interested in seeing is at my People's Friend serial, Charlotte's War was also set during WW2 in Guernsey. I'm ashamed to say our long walk that day, a big meal and a glass of wine got the better of me and I might just have closed my eyes once or twice.

We also liked to stop off somewhere on our walk for afternoon tea. Well, it would be rude not to wouldn't it. This might be the reason we always come back the same weight as we leave, despite all the exercise!

My husband and I hated saying goodbye to The Lakes at the end of our holiday but I know it won't be long until we return. In the meantime, I have already written and submitted my latest Lake District inspired story to my editor at the People's Friend and hope he enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Which leads me onto writing news. Since I last posted, my stories have been published in these three magazines.

Also, I am The People's Friends 'Writer of the Week' and have been interviewed for their website. If you'd like to read it, you can find it here.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Still a Woolies Girl at Heart - Guest Post Elaine Everest

Today, I am delighted to welcome the lovely Elaine Everest back to my blog. I still remember how kind Elaine was to me when I first joined the RNA - taking me under her wing at the conference, introducing me to a host of people and always being there to answer my random questions about writing and the publishing world. Since then, Elaine has become the very successful author of her 'Woolworths' series and her latest book, Wartime at Woolworths, is in the shops now.  I decided to ask Elaine a few questions about her writing and, I have to say, there were one or two surprises in her answers!

The ‘Woolworths Girls’ series is set during the second world war. What drew you to that period?

I grew up listening to my mother talking about the war years. She was a child at the time and even though her family lived close to the banks of the River Thames in Kent she wasn’t evacuated. As a child they fascinated me and when I married and purchased a house, in Erith where my Woolies series is set, that had survived WW2 my interest grew.

When you wrote the first novel did you know it would become a series?

No I didn’t. I’d written a standalone book but readers took the girls to their hearts and my publisher suggested we try another, and another… Wartime at Woolworths is the fourth in the series, if we include the E-book novella Carols at Woolworths, and there’s one more to follow in November.

Is anything in your novels based on a real-life experience?

It has to be every scene in Ruby’s house in Alexandra Road in Erith. Number thirteen is the house I purchased along with my now husband on Maundy Thursday 1972. We lived there for twenty years and I’d go back in a flash if I could. At that time there were people who had been born in the road of bay-fronted terraced houses and told such wonderful tales of the close community. Did you know that poet, Wendy Cope, lived in the road at one time when her parents were managers in the department store Hedley Mitchell? In my mind I can see the house as it would have been before the trend for ‘through lounges’ and removal of chimneybreasts. I can see Ruby putting the kettle on in the original kitchen and the air-raid shelter where Sarah gave birth to Georgina. They are like ghosts in a house that still stands in Alexandra road. I’ve been told that people have been seen stopping to look at the house. I apologise for the new windows we had put in after a horrendous fire there back in 1988 – they seemed a good idea at the time.

Do you think it’s easier to write a series than a standalone novel?

I’m not sure about any book being easy to write. There is more planning in a series, as we need to tell a complete story but then be able to pick up the threads of the friends and throw more at them in the next book. I’m aware that some readers will not have read the earlier books so it is important not to give anything away about earlier stories, which can be hard sometimes. I found introducing new characters each time also kept the books alive. Some are transient characters but then a few, like Gwyneth and Mike Jackson, demanded to remain.

What was your favourite chapter to write and why?

It has to be the prologue, as I love to give a hint of what is to come and tease my readers. Wartime at Woolworths does have a few heart breaking scenes and I did my best to treat the situations with sensitivity, as I know that my readers’ and their relatives could have faced the same situations. In my book there is a time to laugh and a time to cry.

You used to be a Woolworths girl yourself – do you have any funny anecdotes of your time there?

I recall the day that I played truant from my Saturday job. Along with my mates we worked half day, telling the staff manager that we had a ‘school trip’ in the afternoon. With our pay packets burning a hole in our pockets we jumped on a train in Dartford and headed to London to visit Carnaby Street. It was 1969 and we had great fun but made sure to return home at the same time, as we would have done if we’d worked all day. For some reason my friend, Amanda, travelled home sitting in the luggage rack. Thanks to social media we made contact recently. She now lives in Australia and the years disappeared as we chatted about our childhood.

Is there any particular book, or author, that has influenced your writing?

I’d have to say it is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I wanted to be Josephine March so much that I would write plays and have my siblings and friends play the parts. Even as a child I was a fan of musicals so would throw in a song or two.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I was going to say I catch up on my reading but instead will say ‘read more’ as I never stop reading. I enjoy the garden but I’m no gardener. I leave that to my husband although I do like to supervise and visit the garden centre to purchase more plants. I also have my writing school to oversee and I’m always planning lessons and projects for the talented writers.

What project are you working on now?

I recently filed A Gift from Woolworths with my editor, Caroline Hogg, at Pan Macmillan. This will be published in November.  Already I’m working on a book for May 2019. It is a step away from Woolworths as we head to the Kent coast and Lyons Teashops and I hope readers will take my new ‘girls’ to their hearts as much as they have Sarah, Maisie, Freda and their families. 

Any advice for budding authors?

Don’t be in a hurry to be published. Read books, which are currently on sale in your chosen genre. Take feedback on the chin and be brave.

Many thanks for visiting my blog today, Elaine.

About Elaine

Elaine Everest, author of Bestselling novels The Woolworths Girls, The Butlins Girls & Christmas at Woolworths was born and brought up in North West Kent, where many of her books are set. She has been a freelance writer for twenty years and has written widely for women's magazines and national newspapers, with both short stories and features. Her non-fiction books for dog owners have been very popular and led to broadcasting on radio about our four legged friends. Elaine has been heard discussing many topics on radio from canine subjects to living with a husband under her feet when redundancy looms.
When she isn't writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school at The Howard Venue in Hextable, Kent and has a long list of published students.

Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, The Crime Writers Association, The Society of Women Writers & Journalists and The Society of Authors as well as Slimming World where she can often be found sitting in the naughty corner.

Twitter: @elaineeverest

About Wartime at Woolworths:

The Woolworths girls have come a long way together . . .
Fun loving Maisie, is devoted to her young family and her work at Woolworths. But her happy life with her RAF officer husband, their baby daughter leads her to think of the family she left behind . . . With the war now into its fourth year, what will she find when she sets about searching for them?
Sarah and her husband, Alan, are blissfully happy and long for a sibling for their daughter. But dark days lay ahead for this close family. Freda heads home to Birmingham, to go in search of her family, back to the life she fled – far from the safety of Woolworths and her new friends.
With families’ separated by war, will the Woolworths girls be able to pull together?
Wartime at Woolworths is the fourth moving instalment in the much-loved Woolworths series by bestselling author Elaine Everest.
‘A warm, tender tale of friendship and love’  Milly Johnson
‘Heartwarming . . . a must-read’  Woman’s Own

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Did Someone Say Ghost? - Guest Post Natalie Kleinman

Natalie Kleinman is my blog guest this week. Natalie was one of the very first guests on Wendy's Writing Now back in 2014 so I'm delighted to be welcoming her back. Natalie's Regency romance, The Ghost of Glendale, will be published on 25th April and I wanted to find out a little more about the novella and also about her writing life.

We’re stuck in a lift. You have two minutes to persuade me to buy The Ghost of Glendale before help arrives. Ready, steady, go!

Phoebe Marcham is twenty-four years old and resigned to spinsterhood, unwilling to settle for anything less than the deep love her parents had shared. Then Duncan Armstrong rides into her home and into her heart, larger than life and with laughter in his eyes and more charm in his little finger than anyone she’s ever met before. The French Revolution is history and he’s been travelling on the Continent, indulging his love of historical artefacts and enlarging his collection. Home now, his thirst for adventure hasn’t abated and, far from ridiculing her family ghost, Duncan resolves to help Phoebe solve the mystery which has left Simon Marcham a spirit in torment for two hundred years.

The Ghost of Glendale is a Regency novella, what attracted you to this period in history?

Oh that’s an easy one. I was weaned on Georgette Heyer who is my all-time favourite author. She had wit and charm and a wonderful grasp of her subject. What can I say about her that hasn’t already been said? She brought that period in history to life for me and for so many others. In a way it took a lot of courage to write this book. It felt a bit like reaching for the stars. Georgette Heyer had done it before and done it better than anyone else in my opinion. But there was a compulsion which I couldn’t resist. I had to try.

What three words would you use to describe your protagonist, Phoebe Marcham?

Feisty, Engaging, Tenacious

How long did it take you to write your novel?

This was a joy to write for many reasons but way up there was the fact that it was always only ever going to be novella length. The main thread was in my head from the start and it just fell from my fingertips. It took something in the region of four months, though it’s over a year since I wrote it. It was submitted to and accepted by The People’s Friend as a pocket novel, which is why I have chosen for the first time to self-publish. My justification to myself was that if it was good enough for DC Thomson it was sufficient endorsement to go ahead.

Are you a pantster or do you plot?

Although I do plot more now than ever before, I am by nature a pantser. For instance, (and I’d be interested to know about your own experience in this field), when writing short stories I always have the beginning and the end. It’s getting from the one to the other that is a mystery until I start writing. In a way it’s similar with a novel, although I do try to have one or two sub-plots waiting in the wings. That said, something may come to me, seemingly from out of nowhere, and take me on its own sweet way. I have been known to write myself into a corner on occasions but mostly it works. The book takes on a life of its own and I go where it takes me.

Do you believe in writers’ block?

Am I allowed to say yes and no? I have suffered – oh how I have suffered – from staring at a screen in despair, wondering what on earth I was going to write next. But I believe these are the times just to get something written, anything written, in order to get things flowing again, even if it’s discarded later. Is that writers’ block? I don’t think so. It’s just a momentary lack of inspiration and that’s where the perspiration comes in.

You have written short stories for magazines. Do you prefer writing shorter or longer fiction?

Oh, both have their place in my heart. There’s a real joy in writing a short story. To create a world and resolve a conflict in a couple of thousand words is very satisfying. My short stories aren’t always happy ever afters but they’re always rewarding, for me anyway. That said, I don’t think anything beats the euphoria of completing a novel and, after however many edits, knowing you’ve done the best you can and told the story you want to tell. I never type ‘The End’. I know when it’s the end.

Is there anything you wish someone had told you before you embarked on a writing career?

Oh yes! I’d like someone to have said “Are you crazy? Don’t you know how hard this is?” But I’m glad they didn’t. I’m where I want to be.

What was the first book that made you cry?

There have been so many, I don’t remember which was the first. In many ways it’s like going to the movies. When I was younger I would bite my lip and either not give way to tears or at the very least hide them from my companions. It was the same with books. Nowadays I cry unashamedly, at films, at books, and even at some of my own stories.

What next for Natalie Kleinman?

I’d love to write another Regency. I’m hoping this one is well-received. In the meantime there is a plot in my head. I know the beginning. I know the end. I just have to get from the one to the other.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Wendy. I’ve enjoyed it so much.

At twenty-four years old, Phoebe Marcham is resigned to spinsterhood, unwilling to settle for anything less than the deep love her parents had shared. That is, until adventurer Duncan Armstrong rides into her home wood, larger than life and with laughter in his eyes and more charm in his little finger than anyone she’s ever met before. Far from ridiculing her family ghost, Duncan resolves to help solve the mystery which has left Simon Marcham a spirit in torment for two hundred years.

The Ghost of Glendale can be purchased here Amazon

Natalie is a published novelist and short story writer whose addiction to the books of Georgette Heyer and love of The Regency have been the inspiration for her latest book, The Ghost of Glendale. 

Working on the premise that you never stop learning, she goes to any and every writing event and workshop she can. In addition she attends The Write Place Creative Writing School in Hextable in Kent, one of the rewards for which is an abundant supply of cream cakes to celebrate the frequent successes of its students. 

Natalie is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. She lives with her husband in southeast London.

Social Media Links –

Blog: https://nataliekleinman.blogspot.co.uk/

Natalie's interview has been part of a blog tour organised by Rachel's Random Resources.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Writing Inspiration in Mallorca - that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Alright, I admit it. I've been away again but I'm not going to feel guilty.

The reason I'm not is because of my neighbour. She and her husband are in their eighties and are not able to do the things they used to do. Even a trip to the village shop is a major outing for them these days. Whenever I stop for a chat with her, she always says to me, "Wendy, do as much as you can, while you can. One day you'll be old and may not be able to do everything you want to do. Make the most of life while you can."

These words were an echo of those of a dear friend who passed away two years ago and it made me think about the truth in them. Life is for living... for enjoying. I've had periods of my life when things have been challenging but, at the moment, life is great. None of us know what's around the corner and, while we are able, my husband and I have decided to make the most of it. Having wonderful breaks in beautiful places such as the one we've just had in the Tramuntana Mountains of Mallorca, being one way.

We were there for five days and stayed in a simple finca on a hillside studded with orange and lemon trees. This photograph was of our garden and, each morning, we'd pick oranges from the trees and have freshly squeezed orange juice with our breakfast.

Each morning, we'd wake up to the sound of sheep bells and birdsong, and, when we opened the shutters, the air was filled with the fragrance of orange blossom. Once, we looked out to see a heard of mountain goats in our orchard!

Fifteen minutes down a steep and cobbled track (and over stepping stones in a stream) led us to the village of  Fornalutx, which prides itself on having the title of the prettiest village in Spain. It was obvious why - nestled in the mountains, its cobbled streets and warm stone houses with their red-tiled roofs are a delight.

The place is a walkers' paradise but, having only brought trainers, my husband and I were content to take the footpath through the olive trees to Soller in the valley below and then on to Port de Soller. If we were looking for a beach resort, this is probably where we'd choose as it was lovely.

Feeling a bit lazy, we caught the little tram back to Soller, then walked back to Fornalutx, stopping for a well-earned chilled glass of white wine in the square.

The rest of or days were spent, visiting the lovely seaside resort of Puerto Pollensa, discovering the villages of Valldemossa and Deia and eating good food. We were lucky to have several restaurants in the village and didn't have a bad meal. In fact, the paella we had on our last night was probably the best we've ever eaten.

As you can imagine, we were very sad to leave our little finca but holidays must come to an end. My husband needed to get back to work and I needed to get back to my writing. I like to think of these breaks as inspiration for my magazine stories - needless to say, I have already started one set on this beautiful island. 

Speaking of magazines, I came home to find I had a story in the latest People's Friend magazine and here it is!

Monday, 2 April 2018

What's Happening With Your Novel? Who knows?

"What's happening with your novel?" 

That's the question I've been asked a lot recently, by family, friends and also by some of the lovely people who have been following my writing journey on this blog.

The honest answer is I'm not really sure. In many ways, I've been extremely fortunate, my novel has won a competition, and several agents have asked to see the full manuscript, but it's just the first step in a very long process. I'm trying to be patient and optimistic but it's surprising how quickly the initial euphoria at sending that manuscript off can change to nail-biting self-doubt as soon as the waiting begins again.

With no news you start to second guess, deciding the reason you've heard nothing from an agent is because:

a) They haven't had time to read it.
b) They have had time to read it but have been too busy to email you.
c) They've read it and loved it but want a second opinion.
d) They've read it and didn't like it but didn't know how to tell you.
e) They've read it and didn't like it but forgot to tell you.
f) The email with the attached manuscript went astray and they never received it.
g) The email offering a contract went astray.
h) The email rejecting your novel went astray.

... and so on.

In the meantime, I've been trying to put it out of my mind by busying myself with writing more stories for the magazines. This week has seen three of them published (one in the People's Friend magazine and two in Woman's Weekly Fiction special). I'll leave you with some pictures of them and promise that if I hear any good news regarding my novel, you will be the first to know... after my husband, children, mother, brother, sister and writing chum Tracy Fells :)

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Pitch Perfect - My Day at the Write By the Beach Conference

On Saturday, I attended the Write By the Beach Conference, run by The Beach Hut Writing Academy. It's the third year I've been to this event, with writing chum, Tracy Fells, and I've enjoyed each one, so I thought I'd give you a little taster of what the day was like.

Rather than have us wait around on cold station platforms (as snow had been forecast) my lovely husband offered us a door to door taxi service. How could we refuse! After picking up writer, Liz Eeles, we were chauffeured to the Friends Meeting House in Brighton, where the conference was to be held. Arriving early (and worried there might not be any coffee served until the break) we popped into the nearby Lanes Coffee House, conveniently situated opposite, for a quick cup.

It was the first year the conference had been held in the Friend's Meeting House but, with its high ceilings and spacious meeting room, it proved to be a good choice. The previous two conferences had been held in a lovely townhouse on the Hove seafront, but it had been rather a squeeze to fit everyone in. This venue fitted the bill perfectly.

The lovely Kate Harrison and Laura Wilkinson were our hosts for the day and they did a brilliant job, welcoming people and making sure everything ran smoothly. After saying a quick hello to fellow RNA writing friends, Merryn Allingham, Deirdre Palmer and Sue Griffin, we took our seats for our first speaker. It was Julie Cohen and her talk was Plotting With Post-it Notes. Although I've heard Julie speak on this subject before, she is so engaging that I didn't care and was soon sticking Post-Its into my book with the best of them! It was billed as a fun, interactive workshop and it certainly was. 

The next session I went to was run by Kate Harrison and it was called Pitch Clinic: 7 steps to make your book irresistible. Well, making my book irresistible is pretty important to me at the moment, as I'm at the agent subbing stage, so I was hanging on to Kate's every word! Thankfully, by the end of the session, I realised that I'd already done most of the things Kate had recommended. Just as well, seeing as my submission was already with one of the agents I was seeing later that afternoon.

After a coffee, it was back to the meeting room for a panel talk, where agents from Janklow and Nesbit, Conville and Walsh, DHH Literary Agency, The Bent Agency and David Higham Associates were going to be telling us what was needed to catch their eye with a standout submission. It was really interesting to get an insight into the workings of the different agencies: how many clients they took on through events like this one and how many from the slush pile; what they didn't want to see in a covering letter and what the next trend might be - 'uplit' apparently. 

It was then time for lunch (a delicious Indian buffet) and a chance to have a chat with other writers (although I have to admit my appetite had rather left me as I knew my agent pitch was coming up).

But, before the pitch session, I had another talk to go to. This time, it was Erin Kelly talking about the history of the psychological thriller. For me, it was the highlight of the conference as it was relevant to my writing. In Erin's view, Jane Eyre was the first psychological thriller - she may well be right.

As my pitch session was in the middle of the next talk (a choice of either Erinna Mettler's 'Short Stories' or Bridget Whelan's 'Memoirs') I took time out to calm my nerves and look at the book table. I then joined the others outside the room where the pitches were taking place. Strict timekeeping was kept by the ringing of a bell, reminding me of parents' evening, and you could almost feel the nervous energy from those waiting.

Thankfully, the agent I'd chosen to see was absolutely lovely and soon put me at my ease. She'd made notes on things she wanted to discuss about the three chapters and gave me a couple of pointers. Then she told me how much she'd liked what she'd read and asked if I'd send her the rest. I couldn't have been happier. It was also a relief to be told that my covering letter had hit the mark.

Having done my pitch, I could now relax and enjoy the tea break where drinks were accompanied by a choice of the most delicious tray bake cakes I've seen (or tasted). What a treat. The final session was an author panel talk about different types of publishing then, before we knew it, the day had ended and we were on our way home, tired but buzzing from all the information we'd absorbed. 

I really hope the Write By the Beach conference returns next year. If it does, I will definitely be there.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Another Bugbear - the semi-colon

I had no idea just how popular my post on commas would be last week! If you missed it and would like to have a look you can find it here.

In your comments here on my blog, on Twitter and on Facebook, several of you mentioned that the incorrect use of the semi-colon (or semicolon) was something that irritated you. For me, it's not so much the incorrect use of the semi-colon but the use of a comma when a semi-colon should be used.

If you're confused by these fiddly punctuation marks, you're in good company. Most people find them the trickiest to master. My year six class certainly did and, if they moved on to secondary school with an understanding of them, I'd give myself a little pat on the back.

"Just put one in your SATS writing task," I'd beg. "The marker of your paper will think you're a genius!"

So what is a semi-colon?

Basically, it's a type of pause - longer than a comma but not as long as a full stop.

There are two reasons why you would use a semi-colon.


This is the simplest use of the semi-colon. Usually, you'd use a comma to separate items in a list but what if the list is more complicated? More descriptive? This is when you'd use semi-colons.


(simple list) In my bag is a pen, comb, a receipt and a purse.

(more detailed list) In my bag is a red pen with a missing lid; a comb with no teeth; a receipt for a coffee and a beaded purse with no money in it.

Easy peasy!


This is a little harder to explain but bear with me. Many writers make the mistake of using a comma to join two complete sentences. DON'T! This is the dreaded comma splice and, if I see you use it, I will shout SPLICE at you very loudly (something I made my year six children do if they identified one in a list of sentences I'd written on the board).

Look at these two sentences.

The boy pushed open the window.
He climbed in.

We could write them as two separate sentences using full stops.

The boy pushed open the window. He climbed in.

There's nothing wrong with this but, if you look closely, you'll notice that the two sentences are closely linked. The first is about the window being opened and the second is about the boy climbing through it. Because of this, it would be more powerful to link the sentences together with a semi-colon.

The boy pushed open the window; he climbed in. (note: no capital letter is used after the semi-colon.)

So, to recap. They must be two complete sentences and they must be linked by theme or topic to each other if a semi-colon is to be used.

What you MUSTN'T do (sorry to shout again) is use a comma! A comma can only join a sentence with a part of a sentence. If you try to join two complete sentences with a comma, it is a comma splice... arggg! Stand outside my door!

To finish, which one of these sentences is correct?

a) Bonnie is a bad dog; she likes to chase other dogs.

b) My cat is very old, he sleeps most of the day.

c) My husband is good at fixing things; if they're broken.

d) I can hear  traffic outside my window; I'm going to the cinema.

P.S If you say b I might never speak to you again!

The semi-colon is, sadly I feel, going out of fashion. do you ever use it?