Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013 Writing Round Up


Here is a short round up of my writing this year.

Acceptances:

Short stories: 32  * update 33

                       The People's Friend (17)  * update (18)
                       Take a Break Fiction Feast (11)
                       Woman's Weekly (4)

Serial:            The People's Friend

Articles:
                       Writing Magazine (2)
                       The People's Friend (1)
                       Towpath Talk (1)

Publications:

Short stories: 27

                       The People's Friend (12)
                       Take a Break Fiction Feast (11)
                       Woman's Weekly (4)

Articles:           Writing Magazine (1)



Submissions still out there: (A few of these may have been rejected by a magazine and re-submitted)

Short stories: 28

Rejections: Taken as those stories rejected by all three womags and put away!

Short stories: 5

All in all, this has been a very good year for me with sales tripled since last year. I am also thrilled that I have managed to achieve my goal of 2013 which was to write and sell an article and a serial. In a way, this makes it harder for the coming year as I need to keep up the momentum which might be hard. Also I need a new writing goal (which I shall mull over with Tracy over teacakes).

But most of all, I have been overwhelmed by the support for my blog this year and for all my wonderful commenters. Thank you all very much, I really appreciate it... it's what makes this writing malarkey so enjoyable.

There is now nothing let but to wish you all a very happy and successful new year.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Welcome to my Blog Chain Thingy!


How exciting to be part of a blog chain thingy!

Patsy Collins asked whether I would like to be one of her victims and who was I to refuse such a kindly request.

Here are the questions that I have to answer:

What am I currently working on?

At the moment I am not working on anything as I am trying to give myself some 'White Space' (see post last week) but when I start up again after Christmas, I shall be concentrating as usual on my womag stories. I shall also be working on the third and final instalment of my serial for The Peoples Friend and I have an idea for an article that I want to start.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That's a difficult one and probably one that only regular readers of the three magazines I write for can answer. What I will say, is that I am not afraid to push the boundaries: for example I have written first person stories to magazines that generally prefer third, stories from a male POV to ones that usually like female protagonists and have covered many sensitive subjects such as bereavement, disabilities and illness.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I haven't had the 'big idea' yet that would make me want to write anything longer. I like the immediate gratification you get at the end of the relatively short length of time it takes to write a short story and the thrill every time one is in print. I'm probably too impatient to have to wait a year or so to complete a project.

How does my writing process work?

It's all very random and sporadic. I set myself the task of writing at least one story a week - if I write two it's a bonus. I don't have set times or days when I write - I tend to fit it around other things I am doing. I edit as I go along and then give the story to my husband for a final check and it is his job to tell me that Jim has turned into Tom halfway through the story.

The three lovely people below will be the next link in the blog chain thingy and will be posting their answers to these questions on 30 December, so please pop over to their blogs next week for a peek.

Keith Havers is a former engineer who is now a student supervisor and writer. His work has appeared in various publications in the U.K. and Australia. Keith's blog is called Dream It, Then Do It

Amanda Brittany writes short stories for magazines. Her stories have been published in magazines in the UK, Australia and Sweden. Amanda's blog is called Writing Allsorts

Tracy Fells writes short stories, flash fiction, the occasional article and drama for theatre and radio. Her stories have appeared in Take-a-Break Fiction Feast, People's Friend, The Yellow Room, The New Writer and Writing Magazine. Tracy's blog is called The Literary Pig

Finally, my I take this opportunity to wish all you lovely readers a very Happy Christmas and I'll be back for a round up at the end of the year.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Sing it Again - Read My Story in The People's Friend Fiction Special


I was very pleased to see my story 'Sing it Again' in The People's Friend Fiction Special today and thought I would write another in my series of inspiration behind the story.

The tale is about a young Italian woman who has left her beloved Italy and her budding career as an opera singer, to marry an English plumber. Her mother, once herself a great mezzo soprano, is devastated that she will no longer be able to re-live her dream through her daughter. They become estranged and it isn't until her husband becomes involved, that Francesca returns to her native Tuscany with her young daughter and faces the ghosts that made her give up her singing.

Apart from the fabulous illustration by Andre Leonard, the inspiration behind this story was the most wonderful holiday my husband and I had two years ago to celebrate a special birthday of mine. We had three days in Tuscany, three in the Cinque Terre and three at Varenna on lake Como - an absolutely magical holiday.


'Nothing had changed in the seven years since Francesca had last been in Italy. The Tuscan countryside, dotted with cypress trees, fell away to either side.'
This was the sight that met my husband and I as we drove to our hillside hotel and when we arrived, the villa that stood before us could have been Francesca's mother's house Casa Bianca.
 
'Stretching ahead of them was the road that would lead them towards the little town of Fiesole on the hill. The white villa stood on the edge of the hillside, its wide loggias looking out across the vineyards to Florence."
 
Like Francesca, we were able to stand in the garden of the villa and looked out across vineyards and as night fell, watch the lights of Florence in the distance.
 
The story itself is pure fantasy except for Francesca's flashback to her stage fright after she sees her fiancé the great tenor Adriano Giovani with a chorus girl. This is the second time I have written about stage fright and it is based on a real life experience of freezing half way through a poem during a speech and drama festival when I was a child (I've mentioned this in a post before, but couldn't find it).
 
'Sing it Again' was a dream to write - one that just flowed. How I wish they could all be like this.
 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Trying to Find the White Space


"Are you going to have a break from writing this Christmas?"
Tracy and I are sharing a coffee and a teacake in our local café.
"I don't know. I haven't really thought about it." I say.
I actually haven't, and if I'm honest, the mere idea of not producing any writing for a couple of weeks sends me into a panic.
"If you were in a different job, you'd have time off, though, wouldn't you?" Tracy says wisely.

It makes me think.

If I'm perfectly honest, my reaction to her suggestion has shocked me - after all, I have set my own weekly goals, no one else has. Maybe I should ask myself for permission to have a proper break.

Once I make the decision to wind down a bit, I feel quite excited at the prospect. I think of all the things I can do:  see my grandsons in their Christmas plays, last minute shopping, zumba classes without wondering if I could use the Columbian instructor as a male lead character, walks with Bonnie without the need to rush home to get a story finished. The fact that I make myself write two stories and an article that week, to feel I deserve my non-writing time, I can live with.

So far so good.Then comes the tricky part - turning off the ideas part of my brain. Of course, to see potential stories in everything you do is a blessing but when you have decided you want 'time out', it is nothing but an irritation. In her article in Writing Magazine on planning for 2014, Margaret James quoted novelists Rachel Louise Dove and Phillipa Ashley as saying that in order not to neglect our family and friends (not just at this time of year) we should all 'Try to let some white space into our lives'. What a lovely peaceful image - white space... if only my active brain will allow me to find some.

In her blog post this week, Sally Jenkins says that she finds it difficult to read a book without looking at it through the eyes of a writer. I am starting to find the same with everything I do.

In reply to her post, I commented that when I was an education officer at a nature reserve it took me two years after leaving my job to be able to go on a walk and enjoy it for what it was (rather than trying to analyse every animal track or identify every wild flower). Happily, the part of my brain that was locked into work mode, whenever I was in the countryside, eventually gave up and now I barely give a flower a second glance except to think, 'That's pretty."

... If only I could do the same now I am a writer.

Any tips on how to enjoy my two weeks of 'white space' will be gratefully received.


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Bah Humbug? Not Me!

 
In reply to the lovely Frances' Bah Humbug post:
 
Here are a few of the reasons why I love this time of year.
 
An excuse to snuggle in front of the fire and an excuse to get creative with the fairy lights.

 
 
An excuse to read my favourite Christmas stories to the grandchildren... again!
 
 
 
Lots of Christmas dances - so an excuse to wear my new 50s inspired dress.
 
 
 

An excuse to take the grandchildren to the late night Christmas shopping in town, where we also have the excuse to eat toasted marshmallows, admire the Victorian Christmas scene in the sweet shop window and browse the goodies inside.



An excuse to read my three Christmas stories in Fiction Feast (sorry, I couldn't resist that).


All this and still two weeks to go.



Sorry Frances, but I can't help it... I just love Christmas!


Friday, 6 December 2013

Guest post Tracy Fells - How to Succeed in Writing Competitions


I am thrilled to have as a guest on my blog today, writer and competition queen, Tracy Fells. I would have offered Tracy some of my home baking but I think my previous guests might have had a word with her and she suggested meeting in our local coffee shop... I can't think why!


Firstly, Tracy... congratulations on another competition success. Can you tell my blog readers a little more about your Hysteria win?

Of course, but first can I thank you for inviting me along to your writing blog. I enjoyed your recent Writing Magazine article, Wendy, and hope to be a well-behaved guest!

This is the second year Hysteria have run their short story competition, which is only open to women writers and you have to write on the theme of ‘women’s issues’. I was pretty excited to make the shortlist (and anthology Hysteria1) with a story in 2012, so this year I was ecstatic when I’d heard I’d won.

 
I was rather hoping that your story would be about two writers who survive an assassination attempt on their way to a writing workshop but maybe you could write that one next time. Could you tell us what your story was about, Tracy?

Sorry, Wendy, but I think you covered that particular story here, didn’t you? And thrillers aren’t really my genre. You can read a little more about the inspiration behind my story here, but really it’s a bit of a moral tale on how we should never accept people at face value. I also hope it sends a positive message on how we should be treating the elderly members of our society. It takes place in a Care Home for the elderly and involves mathematics and biscuits.

 
How many competitions would you say you enter a year, Tracy?

Hmm, this is a bit embarrassing as I enter a LOT of competitions. Probably up to a 100, maybe more. Now I’ve written that - the total does sound scary and I probably need to cut down!

 
Well that's 99 more than I entered - probably why I never win! Can you tell me what your three biggest competition successes have been?

The biggest have been:

Reader’s Digest 100-word story: I was runner-up in 2013 winning £100 worth of book tokens. So not necessarily a big monetary win, but to come second out of over 2,000 entries meant a lot to me.

Steyning Festival Short Story Prize: I won this in 2012. First prize was £250 and the real treat was attending the prize giving ceremony and lunch held at Wiston House (West Sussex). I got to meet the judge, Simon Brett, plus author Elly Griffiths who read out my story. The whole day was magical.

Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (with Writing Magazine): I won attendance to this summer school (6 days free accommodation, all meals and all workshops) in 2012 with a themed article. The package was worth about £500!

 
They are some pretty major successes - you're obviously doing something right. Is there a formula you follow that helps you write good competition stories? (You can whisper it to me if you don't want anyone else to know)

Wish I could say Yes, but no not really. If there is a theme then I spend a lot of time letting ideas mull around and try to pick something off-the-wall – never go for the first thing that pops into your head as everyone is likely to come up with the same idea. I keep a notebook with ideas and sometimes I keep an idea maturing until I feel the right competition comes up. For Hysteria comp I knew exactly the story to write and submit. And it paid off, call it intuition or a ‘tingle’ but it does seem to work for me (sometimes!).

 
Some competition entry fees are quite steep. I have to say, I'm a bit of a skinflint - is there a maximum you will pay to enter?

It depends on the prizes on offer. Worryingly, entry fees are increasing and you can normally expect to pay £5 per story for a first prize of £100-500 (or less!). It can vary enormously. Novel competitions can be steep too, over >£10 per entry. I personally now never pay an entry fee >£10 for a short story competition and this year won’t be entering Fish 2013 because I think the fee is too high (20 euros). And there are many FREE competitions, so I do enter as many of these as I can find.

 
I think that's good advice. Would you advise new writers to start with smaller competitions, with less submissions, or go for gold with one of the biggies like Bridport?

Well in my first year of writing I entered just about anything, but the cost soon mounts up and my successes were rare. I’d recommend a new writer searches out as many FREE competitions as possible and targets smaller competitions. It can be difficult to determine the size of a competition, but the smaller the prize fund usually suggests a smaller number of entries, increasing your chances (theoretically). To put this in context: Bridport had 5,887 entries in the short story category in 2013. Competitions organised by Writers Groups are a good start, such as Greenacres, Christchurch (most advertise in Writing Mag and Writers’ Forum) and of course West Sussex Writers whose competition has just opened and closes in end March 2014 (quick plug for my group!).

 
Where do you go to research your competitions, Tracy. Can you name a good website which lists a lot of them?

The Word Factory (http://www.thewordfactory.tv/site/) publishes monthly news – for all types of writing competitions.

Also I’d recommend subscribing to Writing Magazine, which has a monthly pullout Writers’ News containing listings of many competitions and other writing news. The mag also produces a twice yearly pullout Competition special. But all other writing mags: Writers’ Forum, Mslexia, The New Writer etc list comps.

 
That's fantastic, Tracy - thanks for sharing. What about writing blogs that advertise competitions? Which do you recommend?

My favourites are:

Patsy Collins blogs regularly about FREE competitions, so worth following. Fellow blogger Helen Yendall also posts about competitions and generously shares competition news.

I believe The Literary Pig sometimes mentions a few competitions too.


Any advice for how to succeed in a writing competition... apart from not to enter the same ones as you or you won't stand a chance?

Ha-ha – I say this to another writing friend, Veronica Bright, who seems to win everything in sight (she was 3rd in the Hysteria competition). To succeed first you have to enter – so that’s Step 1. Don’t laugh, but many writers simply don’t enter competitions because they feel they have no chance of winning. But you have to be “in it, to win it”…

Step 2: If there is a theme then USE it and try to be quirky/off-the-wall (no well worn themes …sorry couldn’t resist that, Wendy).

Step 3: READ and FOLLOW the entry rules and guidelines. Obvious, I know, but it’s shocking how many comp entries are disqualified for NOT following the rules. I was a first reader for West Sussex Writers’ short story comp in 2012 and was amazed that we had to disqualify poems and articles when the rules clearly asked for short stories. What a waste of a fiver!

Step 4: Only send your best work. Ensure presentation is perfect and story well polished.

Step 5: Make a sacrifice to your chosen writing god. I’m not kidding. Every submission needs a little helping hand, because I’m afraid it can come down to just having the right reader for your story on the right day. Good writing helps, but writing is a subjective art form. What one comp loves, another will hate…

 
Thank you for having me.


And thank you so much for visiting my blog, Tracy. I'm sure many writers will find your advice invaluable. Also you were very well behaved! You can read Tracy's Hysteria win here. and her interview with Linda Parkinson-Hardman from the Hysterectomy Association here


Tracy lives with her family in a rural English village where her mind and writing frequently wander to other parts of the world and time. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in print anthologies such as The Yellow Room, Hysteria1 and Rattle Tales. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Fish International Flash Fiction Prize and appears regularly on competition credits. Currently she is working on a novel and has started an MA in Creative Writing. A recent addiction is writing drama for both stage and radio. Her first play made the longlist of the Kenneth Branagh Drama Award, an international One Act Play competition, which has only fired her enthusiasm for dramatic writing. She shares a blog with The Literary Pig (http://tracyfells.blogspot.co.uk/) and tweets as @theliterarypig. Actively involved in the West Sussex Writers, a local writing group, Tracy loves meeting other writers to talk shop.

 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Big Blooper!



Here is part of a short story I sold to a major magazine... just as well I have a vigilant husband to edit my work before it gets sent!


            "I sort of miss the toys and the mess. Callum seems to have grown out of that stage - he's only interested in his DS games now or his music, and we don't even hear that as it's plugged into his ears."
            "Well, we should be thankful for that," Lauren said, putting on the kettle. "Look, he's only eleven, Neil. He may be shooting up but he'll always be our baby.
 
Can anyone beat that?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Snow Queen - Read My Story in The People's Friend Christmas Special


 
Here is another in my series 'Inspiration Behind the Story'. Today, I am going to tell you about how I came to write my upstairs-downstairs story The Snow Queen, published in this month's Peoples Friend Christmas Special.
 
When my children were small, during the week leading up to Christmas I would let them choose their bedtime stories from the Christmas shelf. Although there were many books to choose from, I could guarantee which ones they would choose.
 
Not surprisingly, their favourites were open the flap, pull the tab books with beautiful illustrations. One thing they all had in common, though, was they were all set in the Victorian era - even at such a young age my children could sense the magic of Christmas at that time.
 
 
Recently, my nine year old grandson came to stay. I wasn't sure if he would still want a bedtime story but he nodded eagerly when I suggested it. I went to get him some water and when I came back, he had the Christmas books spread over the bed. "Can we read these?" he asked.
 
It may not have been Christmas, but I was thrilled... another child to share the Christmas stories with.
 
 
When I started to read, I noticed that what linked each book was a huge Christmas tree in the hallway of the large houses where the stories were set. These pictures I have shown are from different books but the magic of the tree is obvious. "I wish I lived there," my grandson said.

 
As well as the grand hallways, dining rooms and ballrooms above stairs, the books often showed the bustling kitchen below stairs as well - with steaming puddings, turkeys being taken out of the oven and footmen walking up and down the servant's stairs. As we looked at the beautiful illustrations and read the simple stories, I knew that I wanted to write my own story about a large Victorian house at Christmas.


And as soon as I came to the snow scene in 'The Nutcracker' above, I knew I had my story.

Monday, 25 November 2013

A Little Help Needed, Please


I was wondering if someone could give me a little bit of advice. The reason I am a writer and not an accountant is that words make sense to me but numbers don't.

Luckily, they do make sense to my lovely husband and with the help of a great little accounting package which is free called QuickFile he is happy to keep track of all  my magazine sales.

The question I want to ask is a simple one and I would be grateful if someone could enlighten me, please. Here it is:

If a magazine accepts a story from you, but they don't pay until publication, do you enter that sale in your accounts as the day the story was accepted or the day you receive payment? This is most relevant, when the story is accepted in one tax year but payment isn't made until the next.

It would be interesting to know how other writers manage their accounts and if there are any other accounting packages that they would recommend to others.



Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Curse of the Piggy, Currant Eyes


Oh, to have the eyes of a heroine in a romantic novel or short story.

But it is not to be. I suffer from the curse of the piggy, currant eyes (once described by a boyfriend as black and unreadable) and this, combined with fair, flyaway hair, maketh not a romantic lead. As far as I know, leading ladies also don't go to dances wearing a different shoe on each foot, as I did last week (unless they're Cinderella, in which case they might only wear one).

I was reading through a few of my published stories recently (how sad is that) and realised that my leading ladies nearly always have blue or occasionally green eyes and my leading men, blue or hazel eyes.

Then I looked at their hair. Chestnut features frequently for the ladies but I have been a little more flexible with the men - allowing them to have blond or dark brown hair (invariably collar length, tousled or curly).

Oh dear, I fear I am falling into the romantic hero cliché.

Time for a change...

He looked into her piggy, currant eyes. "Marry me," he said.
"I can't," she said, turning away. "Not unless you grow your hair and get some blue contact lenses."


Do you find your heroes or heroines share any characteristics?


Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Wait is Finally Over


I was talking to my writing friend, Tracy, from The Literary Pig, last week and we were discussing the pros and cons of posting about your successes on your blog. I was worried because I've been going through a good patch recently (not a worry in itself of course) but it has created a problem for me.

On the one hand, I've wanted to share any good news with all the people who have supported me since I started my blog last year and prove that success can be had, but on the other hand, I realise it might be annoying to some of you, especially if you are in the middle a bad period (which I hope you're not).

My problem is that there is only so much your husband, partner, family or friends want to hear about your writing and when you're fit to burst with excitement over an acceptance, who do you turn to? Well, in my case it's you... as we are all striving for the same thing - to make a success of our writing.

Tracy was very sensible and said that as long as you also post about the disappointing times as well, nobody should begrudge you your yippee moments.

I've thought back to the posts where I've been in rejection city after several 'not suitable for this magazine' letters have dropped on the door mat or 'well worn theme' messages have popped up on an email in one day. I am also the inventor of 'The Rejection T-shirt' which I have worn many times and which some of you like to borrow from time to time. I really have worked for my good news... honest!

With that in mind, I am going to believe Tracy and tell you some more exciting news (turn away now if you don't want to read about it). My first serial for The People's Friend has at last (after a nail-biting wait) been given the go ahead. I don't want to say too much about it at this stage, only that it will be a short three part serial. I loved writing the first instalment and can't wait to get stuck into the rest.

If any of you are thinking of having a try at writing a serial, Cara Cooper has written a fantastic series of posts on how to go about it, on her blog... they certainly helped me, so thanks Cara.

Also, this week, I share magazine space with Eastender Dot Cotton as my story 'Crossing the Line' is in Woman's Weekly. It is another short twist in the tail. When I wrote it, I started from the ending and worked backwards. I shan't be doing an 'inspiration behind the story' for it as I have no idea what the inspiration was... except to get another story into that magazine!

I'd be interested to hear your views on this topic - go on, I won't be offended.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Doubting Abbey - Guest post Samantha Tonge



As Samantha was such a delightful guest on my blog in September (anyone who read my article 'Be My Guest' in Writing Magazine this month will know how important this is), that I decided that she deserved to be invited back to tell us about her new book Doubting Abbey which was published yesterday by Carina UK as an e-book.
Firstly, welcome back to my blog, Sam. You must be a sucker for punishment after the burnt flapjacks on your last visit. Thought I'd play safe and buy in this time... digestive?

Aw, I was looking forward to coming back and I feel at home with burnt fayre – reminds me of my own cooking!

That's very kind of you to say. Anyway, it's very exciting news that your novel Doubting Abbey was published yesterday (I love the title by the way). Can you tell me a little about it?

Thank you! Yes, the story revolves around pizza waitress Gemma, who must pass herself off as best mate, posh Abbey, for two weeks, in order to win a reality show and save run-down Applebridge Hall. It is a light read with heart, that also demonstrates the struggle aristocratic families face in maintaining their ancestral homes.

Gemma Goodwin is the heroine of your novel. How would you describe her in three words?

Impulsive, loyal, fun

I'm glad you didn't describe her as 'feisty', Sam - I think the term is becoming rather over used, don't you? I know you are a fan of Downton Abbey. What are the links between the drama and your novel?

It fascinated me how the public became obsessed with a series set in a time so different to ours, where people had to deal with their problems within very conservative restraints. Today we tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves and society is a lot more liberal. I asked myself how a thoroughly modern gal would cope in such an aristocratic setting.

Who do you think would be Gemma's favourite Downton character?

Ooh, good question, Wendy – I think Carson. If she could have got him on-side, he would be a marvellous confidante and father-figure. And I think she would loosen him up a bit and make him chuckle.

Whenever I like a character, they seem to kill them off, Sam! How long did it take to write?

Not long – about five to six months. But I did a large chunk of it in just 6 weeks - my own kind of Nanowrimo!

Wow! Impressive! I believe your novel is e-first. What made you decide to go with a digital deal?

I was just thrilled to be offered a deal by such a big romance publisher, e-first or not. Carina UK is part of the Harlequin house where, I feel, long-term – with luck on my side – there could be the potential to develop my career as a romance writer.

Good luck with that - I've no doubt you'll succeed. Do have a preference yourself for e-readers of paper books? I have to admit to being a paperback girl myself.

I’ve only had a Kindle for a few months and absolutely love it! Holding it in one hand and a coffee in the other, whilst reading, is perfect!

I know there is a reality show in the book. Do you like reality shows yourself and do you have any favourites?

I love the jungle one, ‘I’m a Celebrity’, particularly the eating challenge – which I would be awful at!

A witchetty bug or two never hurt anyone. What are you plans for the future now, Sam? Another novel or are you going to stick with the short stories?

I am thinking about a sequel to Doubting Abbey, but I hope to get back to writing short stories again, soon. Not only do I love writing for the People’s Friend, the reality is I still have to build myself as an author, and selling short stories is the – very enjoyable – way I earn my income.

Thanks for having me Wendy – and, um, sorry, I seem to have eaten all the digestives!


No problem. Thanks for popping over to my blog again, Sam, and good luck with the book.


Here is a little introduction to Doubting Abbey to whet your appetites.


Swapping downstairs for upstairs… How hard can it be!?

Look up the phrase ordinary girl and you’ll see a picture of me, Gemma Goodwin – I only look half-decent after applying the entire contents of my make-up bag, and my dating track-record includes a man who treated me to dinner…at a kebab shop. No joke! 

The only extraordinary thing about me is that I look EXACTLY like my BFF, Abbey Croxley. Oh, and that for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve agreed to swap identities and pretend be her to star in the TV show about her aristocratic family’s country estate, Million Dollar Mansion. 

So now it’s not just my tan I’m faking – it’s Kate Middleton style demure hemlines and lady-like manners too. And amongst the hundreds of fusty etiquette rules I’m trying to cram into my head, there are two I really must remember; 1) No-one can ever find out that I’m just Gemma, who’d be more at home in the servants quarters. And 2) There can be absolutely no flirting with Abbey’s dishy but buttoned-up cousin, Lord Edward.

Aaargh, this is going to be harder than I thought…

You can buy Doubting Abbey here
Samantha's lovely blog can be found here

Thursday, 7 November 2013

My First Article Published!


I was very excited when I woke up yesterday as I had achieved one of this year's goals - to write and have an article published - and couldn't wait to buy a copy of Writing Magazine to see my technology feature about guest blogging in print.

Getting the idea for my article wasn't hard. I had just posted up a guest post from the lovely Samantha Tonge to promote her anthology of short stories and was thinking about how easy she had made it for me. She had written a polite request, had got to know me through our womag writing, was a reader of, and regular commenter on, my blog and sent everything I needed for the post in good time. In contrast, that week, I'd had a request for a guest post from someone starting... 'Dear Fellow Blogger...'

Needless to say, I didn't reply.

It made me think that just as there is an etiquette to being a house guest, there is also an etiquette to being a blogging guest. This was the light bulb moment: I had my article idea.

But how to pitch it? Never having written a feature before, my first port of call was the brilliant series of articles in Writer's Forum written by another of my guest bloggers. Douglas McPherson. Following his guidelines, I pitched the article to Writing Magazine (I chose this magazine as I had already had a star letter and a further letter published in it about Wendy's Story Timeline.)

Surprisingly, Jonathan Telfer got back to me within hours saying he wanted the article and the rest, as they say, is history. I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to my article: Tracy Fells, Samantha Tonge, Cally Taylor, and Marianne Wheelaghan.

A second article has today been accepted by the People's Friend which makes me feel that I am not just a one-trick womag pony.

Having said that, I will never enjoy other types of writing as much as I enjoy writing my magazine stories. At the newsagents, I also bought a copy of this month's People's Friend Special. In it is another first - my first historical story. It is called The Gypsy Bride. I loved writing it and have sold a few more historical stories since then.

To finish my post, I just wanted to tell you that the 50's swing dress from my last post arrived in a day and fitted a treat - I can't wait to dance in it.

I hope you will all join me next Monday to welcome  Samantha Tonge to my blog as she is back to talk to us about her fabulous new novel 'Doubting Abbey' which will be published on Sunday... you see, as my article said, if you are a well-behaved guest blogger, you get invited back!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Rockabilly Me - Like the Dress?


I've just been reading Julia Douglas' (Douglas McPherson's) vintage clothes romance, Polka Dot Dreams, in which Natty Smalls, the heroine of the novel, has a vintage or reproduction outfit for every day of the week. I love this era and its clothing.


Many of you will know that I am a keen dancer (ballroom, Latin, salsa, Argentine tango and modern jive).

Last night my husband, the famous timeline creator, and I went to a jive dance and I kept thinking how much better I would dance if I had a dress like Natty's. So today I spent a long time on the Internet and came up with the dress above. I've never bought a dress on-line before so am rather apprehensive as to whether it will fit. Hopefully it will.

I shall buy a net underskirt to give it an authentic 50's look and then I shall be ready for all the dances I have lined up for Christmas.

 I may not look quite like Natty, but I will certainly feel like her... can't wait!


Apologies to those reading this on I-pads or I-phones who can't see the above vintage video clip - I'll keep it in for those viewing on PCs.

My story in this month's People's Friend Special (out Wednesday) is nothing about dancing but I hope you'll enjoy it anyway.

Monday, 28 October 2013

How Big is Small?

This is one of three new items of furniture we have just bought for our bedroom from a well known store. The email said that the furniture would be delivered, assembled and the packaging taken away.

When the items were delivered, they were placed in my bedroom and the delivery men turned to leave.

"Aren't you going to assemble them?" I asked.

"No, we're just the delivery men." And then they left.
,

The boxes said 'Very Heavy' and stated that two people would be needed to construct the furniture.

I opened a box and got out the instructions - how hard could it be?


This hard... Help!

I'm not very good with visual instructions. You know the ones that say attach A to B using C.

I'm afraid I didn't get any further than looking at the page.


Luckily my husband is not only good at creating timelines, he is also good at putting together furniture and decided that as my step-son was staying, it would be a good opportunity to teach him some important skills (ones that I am obviously lacking). As you can see from the photograph, they did a great job but it took them ALL DAY!.



And then they did this with the polystyrene packaging!


We finally checked the email again to see there was an asterisk beside the statement saying that they would deliver and assemble the furniture. The small print said that they would not assemble 'small items'.

My question to you is... Would you call three large chest of drawers small? There may be an idea for a story here.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

There are No Ponies on Exmoor


Instead there was this chap. Isn't he cute - if I didn't have a morbid fear of anything bovine, I would have hugged him.

OK, so we were on yet another mini-break. I know, I know... I've only just posted the photos of our mini-break to the Peak District but the fact is, my husband had a week's holiday left and we decided to split it into three mini-breaks and this is number two.

We thought long and hard about where to go: it had to be near enough to give us enough time once we were there, be Bonnie friendly, have walks on the doorstep and amazing views. Oh, and it had to be somewhere we didn't know.

Having dismissed the idea of staying at home (which has all these things except the last), we decided on the pretty town of Porlock in North West Somerset. "Good," I said. "Now we can add ponies to the list."

When we got there, we found that our cottage, which was a converted stable block next to the main house, had this view from the bedroom window...

 and a paddock behind the house for Bonnie, along with dog-friendly pubs nearby.






This was the start of our coastal walk...


...from the gorgeous little Porlock Weir.






It took us to Culbone Church. This is the smallest complete church in Britain and measures just 13ft by 11ft. It was in the middle of nowhere and has a leper window (so lepers could watch the service while staying outside.)

 
The following day we had a lovely walk along the river from Tarr Steps, which took us through Exmoor. Can you believe we didn't see a single pony? We had to drive home the next day through the New Forest just to get a glimpse of one!
 
All these amazing sights - and another wonderful sight was seeing my story, 'Only Skin Deep' published in the This Week's People's Friend. It is the second story they've published where one of the main characters is blind... maybe it's because I am aware of how much we should all appreciate the wonderful things around us.
 
And to help with my appreciation, I must get on and plan the next mini-break!