Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Greece is the Word

September wouldn't be the same without my annual post about my holiday in Greece (sorry, no writing post today).

As many of you will know, if you've been following my blog for a while, Greece and its islands are my favourite place to holiday (apart from the Lake District). We try to go every year, picking somewhere new each time - although we are finding it harder and harder to find new places to fit our tough brief: quiet, scenic, green, little harbour, pretty beach.

To date, I have holidayed in Stoupa, Kardamilli and Parga on the mainland along with the islands of Corfu, Thassos, Kefalonia, Samos, Skopelos and Ithaca. All lovely. 

This year's choice was Paxos, a little island off Corfu, and what a delight it was - although at one stage we weren't sure we were ever going to get there. Due to the inefficiency of the long term car park staff at Gatwick (resulting in a wait of 50 minutes to hand in our car keys) we missed our flight. This also meant that by the time we'd caught another, at five in the evening, we'd missed our hydrofoil connection and had to stay overnight in Corfu Town. Not a great start to our holiday. Anyway, we got there in the end and it didn't spoil the rest of our beautiful week.

We stayed in a house just outside the harbour village of Loggos on the side of an olive-clad hill. This is the view of our pool.

The position was perfect, just fifteen minutes walk through the olive groves to Loggos and ten minutes to a choice of four small pebble beaches.

This is one of them. September is the perfect time to visit as the summer crowds have left and when we walked down to the beach for a swim at six o'clock, we had the beach practically to ourselves. What a treat. We're quite used to pebbly beaches, so the lack of sand didn't bother us. In fact, it's nice not to have sandy towels and feet!

Of course, as usual, we ate much too much. When we first holidayed in Greece we'd buy our lunch and eat it at wherever we were staying but in recent years we've found we can't resist the lunches in the tavernas: tatziki, tiropita (cheese pie) Greek salad, fried courgettes and saganaki (fried cheese) washed down with some Mythos beer. No wonder we always come home heavier than we arrive! I'd better not mention the bakery in the village which sold orange or walnut cake steeped in Greek honey and the best baklavas ever.

In the evenings, we were spoilt for choice as there are several lovely tavernas. In fact we never had a bad meal and after we'd eaten, we'd wander along to a bar on the harbour front for coffee and baklava and to watch the world go by.

I'm home now and my week in Paxos has given me the motivation to work on my first novel which is set on a Greek island. It's been put away while I wrote my second novel but now it's time for an airing... I can't wait!

If any of you have any recommendations for our next Greek holiday, do let me know.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Death of Her - Guest Post Debbie Howells

It's exciting when a debut author comes onto my blog but it is equally exciting to have an author visit whose previous two novels have been highly praised and who has earned a seat on the coveted Richard and Judy sofa! This is Debbie's second visit to Wendy' Writing Now and she is here today to tell us a little about her third psychological thriller, The Death of Her.

Over to you, Debbie.
The Death of Her is my third book.  It’s set in North Cornwall, along a stretch of coast I know well and takes in the sweeping countryside and some of the more secluded, wilder coves.  And of course, the waves…

Nothing is by chance.  A wave is the culmination of many factors.  There’s the swell, the wind, the shape of the coastline, the ocean floor.  It shows the divine timing to all things, because you can’t hurry the perfect wave. He’s taught me the need for patience as you see a set coming, the importance of relying on your judgement. The perfect wave will come when the time is right.

I stand there watching him as he deftly rides a wave to the shore then, instead of paddling out against the tide, catches the rip.  Its powerful flow is an easy ride out past the waves, when you understand the forces at work, as Rick does.  When you don’t, it’s an easy way to die.

One of the themes is the reliability of memory.  We’ve all heard someone recount a sequence of events that we remember quite differently and while I was researching this, it fascinated me to learn how easily memory can be suggested or false memories implanted.  There are a number of studies I read about, in which the subjects were convinced they’d been involved in an event in their childhood which hadn’t happened, even to the point of embellishing their memory of it.  It makes you think…

Back to my book… A young woman is found battered and left for dead in the Cornish countryside.  When she’s airlifted to hospital, she remembers two things – her name, Evie, and the name of her three year old daughter.  But as the police investigation gets under way, there is no evidence her daughter exists.    

As more of Evie’s memory comes back, she appears convincing, but it soon becomes apparent that her memories are at best fragmented.  Not only that, but vital pieces are missing.  With no-one to back up what she’s saying, it’s impossible to believe her.
But from the darkest place she’s ever known, Evie knows her daughter’s voice, her chameleon eyes, every precious hair on her head.  But the police remain unconvinced – unaware that on the fringes of Evie’s life, there’s someone else.  Someone hiding, watching her every move, with their own agenda and their own twisted version of reality.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read this new book of Debbie's which is already receiving 5 star reviews on Amazon.

You can find out more about Debbie here
You can buy The Death of Her here

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Unfamiliar Territory - Guest Post Sonja Price

Most of the guests I invite onto my blog are people who I know but, a few weeks ago, I received an email request from someone whose name was new to me. It was an email that was so lovely and engaging that that I just had to say yes. That someone is Sonja Price and she's going to tell us about her novel, the Giants Look Down, and about what it's like setting a novel in a place you've never been to.

Over to you, Sonja. 

At an Arvon Creative Writing workshop Jim Crace, Booker Prize shortlist candidate, gave me some invaluable advice about depicting places I’d never been. You see, I decided to set my novel THE GIANTS LOOK DOWN in Kashmir, which was unfamilar territory for me. He told me not to write it like a travel report, but instead to take some aspect of the landscape and show its familiarity. So I described the image of the old women’s face playing on the rocks created by the moonlight:

We lived in one of the finest houses in the foothills, built of stone with a sweeping view of the valley from the veranda. From my bed I could see the Gilgul pass and the rock face that looked like a woman’s face with snow white hair. She used to smile at me when the moonlight fell on the stone. In early spring the scent of mulberry blossoms filled my room so that in summer I would climb and harvest basketfuls of berries from the tree outside my window for Sabri our cook, who made delicious chutney from them. With plenty of food in store winter never posed a problem. We always had a taste of summer in the house even when we were snowed in for days. I loved those days, when even Pa couldn’t get away. A blizzard would be raging outside as we gathered around the fire to listen to stories of what Pa got up to as a boy.

Writers go where their imaginations take them, and mine was ignited by a report on the car radio of the Great Earthquake in Kashmir of 2005. I discovered that the region, specifically the Vale of Kashmir, is breathtakingly beautiful. Majestic snow-covered mountain ranges, among the highest on this planet, cradle a valley lush in sycamore woods and fields of saffron interspersed with a pearl necklace of lakes. Wular Lake is all of 100 square miles and full of carp and trout; houseboats moor amongst the reeds, and on Dal Lake gondola-like boats called shikara laden with fruit and vegetables meet to form a floating market. As if the scenery were not spectacular enough, the vale boasts a rich history of maharajas, princes and princesses. But this paradise has been the centre of political strife over the past 70 years since Kashmir lost its independence with the Partition of India. Although its population is overwhelmingly Muslim, the Vale of Kashmir chose to become part of its Hindu neighbour, India. Two wars have been fought between Indian and Pakistani over it and both armies still stand their ground on the highest battlefield of the world, where avalanches claim more lives than armed conflict.
There must be a story in there somewhere for me, I thought to myself. What would happen if a 10-year-old Hindu girl called Jaya decided to become a doctor much to the chagrin of her mother and the patriarchal society of 1960s Kashmir? And how would she react to being transplanted to Scotland? I had my doubts about evoking Kashmir on paper but bolstered myself with the fact that Elizabeth George got away with basing her first published book in England before ever crossing the Great Pond and Andy Weir didn’t need to go to Mars to write THE MARTIAN. Well, publication brought relief when the reviews, including some from Indians, praised the authenticity of my portrayal of Kashmir. One reader even thought that I must have lived there for years! Well I did conduct some intensive interviews with Indians, but it’s amazing how helpful books, especially picture books, travel blogs and endless online resources such as google maps can be.

One Kashmiri journalist understandably questioned my intentions and asked me how I could deal with the conflict so superficially. Given the complexity of the situation, it was a reasonable question. But I countered that I was simply endeavouring to tell a story: nothing more, nothing less. My aim was solely to entertain and amuse the reader; I did not want to take sides nor deliver a message, yet at the same time I still tried to depict the situation as sensitively and genuinely as possible. Drawing attention to the plight of Kashmiris could surely not be a bad thing in itself, I added. Well, he seemed to agree and printed my interview in full together with a picture of yours truly with her book:

Going to Kashmir, if only in my mind has been a wonderful journey that started in my car!
You can find Sonja on Facebook
You can find out more about Sonja on her website here
Twitter: @PriceSonja
The Giants Look Down can be bought here

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The End of the Fairy Tale?

This was not the post I thought I was going to be putting up today but, sadly, life doesn't always go the way you'd like it to.

After the post about finishing my novel called Not Giving Up and the one following that about my glowing RNA New Writers' Scheme report, A Small Step closer, I had hoped that the next post I wrote would be giving you good news.

Sadly, it's not to be.

This afternoon, I had a telephone call from my agent. Imagine my excitement! But she wasn't ringing to tell me how much she loved the novel... or about the next step... or even that there was work to be done together. Instead, she was ringing to say that, due to changes within the agency creating greater workloads, they would no longer be able to give the time needed to work on a debut novel. In other words, with regret, they would be having to let me go.

After feeling so elated at having finished the novel, and after having had such positive response from my RNA NWS reader, you can imagine how disappointing this was to hear. It's also sad because I got on well with my agent. It doesn't seem five minutes ago that I was writing the post in which I told you how my submission had been picked out of a slush pile of 10,000 and how it felt like winning the lottery.

But I refuse to be disheartened and this is why:

  • I now have TWO novels to offer a new agent
  • I have the fabulous words of my RNA NWS reader to give me the confidence to start the whole process again
  • I will now be able to self-publish more collections of my magazine stories

I know it's not the news you wanted to hear but it's not the end of the road... just the beginning of a new journey.

One that I hope you'll continue to travel with me.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A Small Step closer...

This is a short follow-on post from last week just to let you know that, since posting, I have received my novel critique back from the RNA New Writers' Scheme (NWS). When the email came in, it took a while to pluck up the courage to go online and download my review then, in my haste, I forgot to put this year's password in and couldn't understand why it wasn't there. Luckily, the lovely NWS organiser was very patient with me and explained what I'd done wrong.

This year, I asked to have the same reader as last year (all critiquing is anonymous so I had no idea who it was but for ease of reading I shall call my reader 'she'). The reason I asked for the same person was my submission last year, for my first novel ,elicited a critique (of several pages) that was so astute that I just nodded in agreement at what had been written. She loved my writing and enjoyed my novel but knew it wasn't working on a few levels. I trusted her opinion and thought it might be interesting for her to take a look at my new project.

I stared at the screen... What would she think? Would it be another, I love your writing, but...

Eventually, I opened the file, expecting another several pages of suggestions but, instead, there was only a page and a half of writing with an apology for its brevity... it’s because there’s really not very much I can say that would improve it.

As I continued to read, I felt a warm glow inside - she loved the plot and thought my characters tremendous and believable. She also said I built up the tension wonderfully, every scene raising the stakes. My agent had asked me to write a suspense and it seemed I had managed to do it.

There were also small suggestions on how to increase the pace of the first few chapters and some queries about some plot devices I'd used (which I will definitely look at) but, overall, she loved it... hurrah! One tiny step closer on the long path to publication.

Of course, it's my agent who I really need to love it but at least now I know I haven't written a great big pile of rubbish (sometimes you can't help wondering if you have).

So now all I have to do is be patient and wait.... which I can guarantee won't be as easy as it sounds!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Not Giving Up

This week, I gave up on two things.

The first was a book:

When I was younger, I would plough through a book to the end, regardless of how badly written/boring/annoying it was, just because I felt I ought to finish it. I'm not sure why I thought this. Maybe it was because I'm from a generation that was taught to eat up all their dinner because there were starving people in the world (I never understood that one) or finish the egg and spoon race even when there was no longer an egg in your spoon.This week, I had no qualms in giving up on a book that had many high-scoring reviews but which, to me, had narrative that was amateurish and a formulaic plot. I have too many books waiting to be read to waste time on those that aren't entertaining me so I gave myself permission to leave it and start a new one.

The second was a future concert:

Earlier this year, I was encouraged by some members of my choir to join them at the Royal Albert Hall in November to sing The Messiah. I was in two minds (not really knowing the piece and not being very good at reading music) but agreed to give it a go. For three months, we've been practising and last week I gave it up. Why? Because it's hard and to sing it well would need more time commitment than I am able (or willing) to give. The main reason though is that I was just not enjoying it. I know I'm probably in the minority here, but I found the music and words all rather depressing. His 'yolk' might have been 'heavy' and his 'burden light' but my burden was massively lightened when I gave myself permission to give the concert up. Luckily, someone has taken my place. Someone who I know will get a lot more pleasure from it than I would.

But, in a week where I've given up two things, there's been something I haven't given up on (even when the going's got tough) and this has allowed me to say these magic words:


Yes indeed - novel two has left the building and is with my agent. It's also been sent to the RNA New Writers' Scheme for a critique. Yay!

I could easily have given up after my agent suggested that novel number one (which I still love) be put aside so that I could work on a different project. I could have given up when new ideas wouldn't form. I could have given up when I got to twenty thousand words and stalled. I could have given up when I was nearing the end and thought 'I've been here before'... but I didn't.

Why? Because this is something that's important to me. Because I knew I had it in me to do it. Because, as I wrote the book, I fell in love with it and you don't give up on something you love unless there's a mighty big reason, do you?

I was going to try and find some inspirational quote to end this post but gave up (ha ha). Instead, I'll just say this:

If it's not right, if it doesn't give you enjoyment, if it won't alter your life unbearably if you give something up, then give yourself permission to do so. But, some things are worth pushing on with and fighting through the hard times for. If you love them enough, you'll know which ones they are.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

5 Top Tips for Editing Your Novel - Guest Post Alison May

I'm a big fan of Alison May. Why? Well, firstly, because she tells me it's OK to be a pantster (she's one too). Secondly, she gave the RNA Writing Conference 2017 a great lift with her humorous and informative talks. Mostly, though, it's because (despite her soft spot for aliens and her penchant for writing 'this is where stuff happens' in a synopsis) Alison clearly knows what she's talking about. So much so that after hearing her talk about editing in one of her conference sessions, I nabbed her and asked if she'd like to write a post for me on this same subject.

Luckily for us all, she said yes. So over to you, Alison.

Five Top Tips for Editing Your Own Novel

Editing your own novel is hard. It’s really hard. It can be really difficult to know where to start, and even more difficult to know when to stop. Editing is vital though. So often writing a first draft is a journey towards having something terrible. Editing, on the other hand, is a journey towards having something good or even – fingers crossed - great.

So having ridden my story-writing pony through the rocky outcrops of the self-edit a fair few times now, here are my top tips…

1. Editing is fun

Honestly it is. At least it can be, and if you try to view it as something fun and empowering rather than a trial that has to be survived, the process will go more easily. I think of it like this - you’re basically god of your own tiny universe, but unlike actual God if it turns out the world you’ve made isn’t that great, you get to change it around and fiddle with it until it’s all perfect and lovely.
So don’t feel overwhelmed by the challenge of revising your manuscript – try to feel empowered. You can do this. You can totally do this.

2. You’re allowed to hate your own book

In fact I pretty much insist upon it. If you never reach the point of utter despair and absolute certainty that the whole story is a steaming pile of poo then you’re probably not being sufficiently self-critical. As a writer, you need to be your own toughest critic AND your own biggest fan, sometimes simultaneously, which can be a little bit challenging.  But you do need to look your own book squarely in the eye and be honest with yourself about what doesn’t work. Focussing on the negatives will make you hate the book. Don’t panic – it’s temporary, I promise.

3. Always know what stage you’re up to

Editing is not just one process. It’s at least three processes, and one of the most common mistakes I see from newer writers is the tendency to jump past the bit where you make the actual story work, and onto proofreading.
I break self-editing down like this:

Stage 1 – Major Revisions
This is where you look to see if the actual story works. Are your characters consistent? Are there gaping plot holes? Does your timeline make sense? If you’re anything like me the answer to that last one is invariably no. My first drafts are replete with two month and two year pregnancies, but editing can fix that. So stage 1 is where you tackle the actual bones of the story and character arcs.

Stage 2 – Line by line
Now the story hangs together we can look at the prose itself. Is every sentence as punchy or as elegant as you can make it? Does your dialogue have the believable rhythm of speech? This might also be when you fact check any outstanding little details. Could your heroine really have travelled from Edinburgh to Bath in a day in 1901? What is the legal driving age in Mauritius? I have no idea, and you probably don’t either - this is your last chance to check.

Stage 3 – Proofreading
This is spelling, punctuation, and grammar time. It’s also time to check that you’ve been consistent with any disputed spellings eg. OK, Okay or Ok, and to check things like chapter numbering that might have been messed up if you moved things around during Stage 1.

Know which stage you’re at as you’re editing and resist the urge to jump ahead.

4. Don’t cut corners

Because editing is not just one process, that means it takes time. Don’t be tempted to submit your work (or publish your work) before it’s ready. Allow yourself enough time to edit and revise. If, like me, you’re somebody who writes without much of a plan, it’s quite likely that you’ll need longer to revise and polish the manuscript than you did to write a first draft. That’s fine so long as you allow yourself the time you need.

5. Know when to stop

This is the flip side of number 4. It can be very tempting to keep tweaking forever, and you could easily do that. No book is ever really finished – I never read my books after they’ve been published because I know the editing pen would want to come out again. Ultimately though you reach a point where you have to stop. Knowing what stage you’re at helps with that. When you’ve finished your proofread (the final stage) you’re done. Time to press ‘Send.’

Good luck and happy editing!

About Alison

Alison is an author, creative writing tutor and freelance editor. She has published five romantic comedies and numerous short stories https://alison-may.co.uk/books/ Her next full-length novel, All That Was Lost, will be released with Legend Press in 2018.

Alison is the current Vice-Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She is also a qualified teacher with a degree in Creative Writing. She runs novel-writing workshops and offers individual tutoring and manuscript appraisals. Her next scheduled courses are in Birmingham in November 2017, looking at Dialogue and Synopsis Writing: https://alison-may.co.uk/for-writers/workshops-and-courses/

You can find out more about Alison at www.alison-may.co.uk, on Facebook www.facebook.com/AlisonMayAuthor/ or on Twitter @MsAlisonMay

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Confessions of an RNA Conference Newbie - Guest Post Susan Griffin

What's it like to be a first timer at an RNA Conference? I thought I'd ask this question to friend and fellow writer, Susan Griffin. who attended this year's conference at Harper Adams University. Susan is a member of the RNA New Writers' Scheme.

This was your first RNA conference, Sue. What made you decide to go?

I was keen to meet other Facebook writers and to get to know more about the publishing industry and how it works.

You’ve been back from the conference a week now. Looking back, what was the highlight of your weekend?

The highlight of the conference was my two one-to-one pitches which I found really helpful.

Tell me a little about how it felt to be a ‘first timer’ and what was done to make you to feel welcome?

I immediately felt part of the whole conference experience despite being a first timer as soon as I arrived. Everyone was very helpful and friendly and there was a welcome drinks get together, in the lovely Kate Thomson’s kitchen. This helped me to connect with other first timers and break the ice.

A big part of the RNA conference is the one-to-one sessions with industry professionals. I know you took advantage of a couple of these. How did you prepare for them?

I prepared by writing notes on the novel I was pitching to the agents. This included key things about the novel I was likely to get asked, and anything I felt they needed to know about me. I also noted down a couple of questions I wanted to ask them.

I’m guessing you were nervous before your sessions. Do you have any hints for first timers on how to remain calm?

I did feel nervous about my one-to-ones and felt the best way to overcome this was to be well prepared.

The talks and workshops were many and various. If you could pick out two that were particularly helpful to you, which would they be?

The two workshops I found most helpful were: Playing with Time in Romantic Fiction, by Pia Fenton and Anna Belfrage, and Building Characters from the inside out, by Fiona Harper.

You’ve told us about the business side of things, what about the social aspect? As a first timer, was it daunting being with so many other writers?

It was good to meet with other writers I’ve only communicated with before through Facebook or Twitter. I enjoyed chatting to them and hearing about their publishing experiences.

Any tips on what to take with you?

Coffee and tea are provided so I took milk, snacks and my favourite tipple of Gin & Tonic (essential). Other than that, comfortable clothes and a dress for the Gala dinner is all you need.

Did this year’s conference, make you want to go to another?

Yes it did and I fully intend to go to the conference again next year in Leeds.

What is the main thing you’ve taken back from the RNA conference 2017?

A better idea of the way the publishing industry works and some very valuable feedback from the literary agent Felicity Trew.

Any tips for first timers thinking of going to the 2018 conference in Leeds?

Don’t feel worried about attending the conference, even if you’re thinking of going on your own. There is so much you can learn and experience while there, you’ll come away full of enthusiasm for your writing and with added knowledge about the whole industry.

Contact Susan:

Twitter @suegriffinwriter

Susan's novel, Bird in a Gilded Cage can be bought at Amazon

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

RNA Conference 2017 - and how I survived the door of doom.

Why the big smile? Well, it could have been because I had just arrived at the Romantic Novelist Association (RNA) Conference (at Harper Adams University in Telford) or that I'd just found out that the other writers in my university accommodation didn't drink Prosecco - only gin and tonic. You decide which.

Actually, I don't want to give you the wrong impression from this photograph. The weekend was more than just kitchen parties and bubbly. It was about attending talks and workshops to improve your writing and about meeting like-minded people. I went along with three of my writing friends, Liz Eeles, Sue Griffin and Merryn Allingham and we had a great time. Here we all are, complete with the obligatory name badges.

I could tell stories of trying to open the door to our flat by swiping the small plastic key fob against random articles instead of using the key, trying to grasp the mechanics of a second automatic door (nicknamed the door of doom) which kept shutting two of our party out into a darkened lobby and the underhand tactics we used to ensure we got a table at breakfast... but I'd better not.

Now, enough of the shenanigans and onto the serious stuff. The weekend consisted of a series of talks and workshops. Among others, there were sessions on writing dialogue, creating believable characters, using social media, timeslips and time travel, and how to not panic when you receive your novel revisions from the editor. There was even one on how to write unforgettable sex scenes (no, I didn't go to that one). 

It would take too long to list all the wonderful conference sessions so I'll just tell you about my favourite. It was a talk by Alison May and Bella Osborne called Plotter Vs Pantster and what a delightful double act they were! Strangely, I'd always considered myself to be a pantster, as my short stories have no plan, but after answering a few simple questions, I realised that, when it comes to my novel, I'm not. I came out as a rather smug 'inbetweener' veering slightly towards the plotter end of the scale. Surprised? I certainly was. Here's a picture of Alison in full flow.

I've been to an RNA conference once before (two years ago) and took advantage of the one-to-one sessions with an industry professional. This time, I attended the conference in the rather nice position of already having an agent and so was able to just relax and enjoy the talks without the worry of having to pitch anything.

The best thing for me, this year, was meeting writing friends I've made via social media in 'real life' and finding them just as lovely as I'd imagined them to be. Susanna Bavin, Kirsten Hesketh, Elaina James and Ellie Henshaw come to mind.  I also met two fellow People's Friend writers, Kate Blackadder and Ann Peck. It was so nice to be able to chat with other's who were part of the Friend family.

Speaking of which, I'm rather chuffed to have two stories in the last issue of The People's Friend. Here they are. 

Not only that, but before I went away, I received an email from a People's Friend reader who wanted to let me know how much she enjoyed my stories.. isn't that just lovely. Overall, a very good weekend.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

London... Really?

Have I ever mentioned that I am a bit of a country bumpkin? No? Well I am. If I haven't seen green fields or a cow for a while then I start to stress (actually I start to stress when I DO see a cow - but that's another story).

For the last thirty years, I've lived in a beautiful little town where I only have to walk down a road, and over a stile, to reach the river. The other direction takes me to the South Downs. Utter bliss. The only problem is... the longer I live here, the harder it becomes to spend a day in a city. A whole day without longing to be back in a place where there are no crowds, no back-to-back buses, no busy roads and no noise.

Is it because I'm getting older? Maybe.

So why, after explaining all this, was I up in London twice last week. Yes, TWICE! Well, the reason is, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and confront something you dislike in order to do something lovely. If I only stayed in my little town and never got on a plane, or a boat, or a train (don't get me started on my travel anxiety or we'll be here all day!) I'd have no new experiences and nothing to write stories about. Ultimately, I'd be missing out.

This is my daughter. You'll have met her in my previous post about Bath which you can read here. We do lovely things together and on Tuesday we did another as, for my birthday, she had paid for us to have an afternoon tea bus tour of London (yes - bus and London all in one breath but my daughter knows I love food so was unlikely to refuse her gift). She was right.

Wanting to make full use of our day, I caught the train in the morning, anticipating, as I always do, all the things that could go wrong before, during and after my journey. I can tell you, It's very tiring being me!

Happily, no disasters occurred and I arrived safely at Victoria Station to be met by my daughter. First stop was No.11 Pimlico road - a contemporary bar and restaurant - for a mezze lunch. We couldn't fault it and were only worried that we might not have room for our afternoon tea at 5pm (My agent's office is near here so I shall have to remember this lovely place for next time I'm in the area).

So far so good. Next on the agenda was the river bus to London Bridge Pier - gorgeous on a sunny day. The plan was for my daughter to give me a tour of The City of London, where she works, as I've never been to this part of the city before.

First, we bought a drink and sat on a bench in the beautiful garden in the ruins of  St Dunstan in the East. This little gem is in the heart of the city and is a must if you're in the area. The photo at the top of the blog post shows the garden through one of the empty windows (I love the contrast with the modern building in the background).

After that, we walked through the Victorian arches of Leadenhall Market to the Gherkin...

 ...and then on to the incredible Lloyds of London Building. All the electrical conduits and water pipes are on the outside, giving it the nickname 'inside out building'. It was like being on a sci-fi set. 

This building was amazing too - with all its coloured lifts on the outside. I have no idea what it is. Maybe someone could tell me.

Gone were the tourists, gone were the foreign students on their day visits. This was the habitat of the young office workers: the financiers in their slim blue suits. The advertising executives in their pencil skirts. I was the country cousin again, loving the spectacle but glad to be just a spectator.

In stark contrast to what we'd seen before, our next stop St Bartholomew the Great was a very big step back in time. Founded in 1123, it is the oldest church in London and has been used many times on TV and in films. If you look at the photo, you can see why.

It was at this point we looked at our watches and realised we were not going to have enough time to walk back along the South Bank as we'd planned. 

Instead, we hurried along the North Bank before it became obvious we'd never get back to Victoria in time to catch our afternoon tea bus. What were we to do? There was nothing for it - it would have to be the tube. The mere though sent me into a cold sweat but we had no alternative. Gritting my teeth and trying not to panic, we traveled the four stops to Victoria. Luckily, it wasn't crowded, hot or too deep underground. I survived. I can say no more.

Thankfully, we made it in time to get to Victoria Coach Station where our tea bus was waiting. We had the executive seat at the front on the top deck and the whole experience was wonderful. The tour is run by B Bakery and I have to say the food was delicious. What an experience!

Of course, if I'd stayed at home (as my country girl voice was telling me to do in the days leading up to this) I would have missed out on so much. It was a fabulous day.

So what of the second trip? Well, that was to see the spectacular 42nd Street at The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane with my mother and sister. Little did we know when we booked that it would coincide with London Pride Day... now that's another story!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Finding Mr Darcy in Bath

This post is for those of you who love beautiful places. It's not about writing but it is about inspiration. the weekend before last, my daughter and I had a weekend in the city of Bath. It's not the first time I've been but it was my daughter's first visit and I was keen to show her everything this amazing city had to offer.

The last time I was here was with a group of my girlfriends. Unfortunately, I had flu while we were there and can only remember wanting to be in bed... the rest was a bit of a blur. Trying not to spoil a visit for others is hard when you're running a temperature and ache all over. What I did get from that visit, though, was inspiration for a story. It was a contemporary story about a mother who took her daughter to Bath to find a husband but came back with one of her own. I sold it to Take a Break Fiction feast in 2013.

My husband remembers that story so was a little concerned when I told him my daughter and I would be going to Bath to 'find Mr Darcy' and that I was determined to enjoy my visit this time.

We stayed in Bathampton at the Tasburgh Hotel - a boutique hotel set high on a hill overlooking Bath. This view  was taken from my bedroom window. We could have easily just spent the weekend in the lovely gardens but we had places to visit and husbands to find.

A twenty five minute walk, along the Kennet and Avon canal, took us into the centre of Bath. After collecting our pre-booked tickets from the tourist office, we began our adventure. First, was an orientation tour of the city on the hop-on-hop-off open top bus. We stayed on for the whole circuit and found the commentary interesting. We then retraced the route but this time on foot, stopping at The Circus and No 1 Royal Crescent to see how the other half lived in Jane Austen times.

We walked back via the Assemble Rooms and popped into the fashion museum. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it but it was fascinating. How did people have such tiny feet!

By now it was very hot and we found this tiny square, shaded by trees. There was a little market there and lots of interesting eating places and shops. The perfect place to cool down after our sticky walk.

We finished our day with a meal in a Moroccan restaurant. It was delicious meal but might have been better if the waiter hadn't tipped my daughter's mussel shells into my lap as he was clearing the table!

The following day was just as hot. After breakfast, under a sunshade on the terrace, we made our way to the Roman Baths. At this time of the morning, there were no queues and we walked straight in. This has to be the highlight of our visit. It's the third time I've been there but I never tire of it.

Our weekend finished with afternoon tea in The Pump Rooms, complete with piano player, then a boat trip along the river to Bathampton. My friends were amused that I went to the city with a tick list of everything I wanted to do and see but I'm glad I did. It all went like clockwork and I'm happy that even if I didn't find her a husband, my daughter had a weekend to remember in a beautiful city.

My husband tells me he has never been to Bath so I feel another trip coming on. Of course, I won't need to find my Mr Darcy - I already have him.

And, hopefully, there will be another magazine story in it for me... I don't want to break with tradition now do I.