Thursday, 23 December 2010

Friday Flash: The Night Before Christmas

It was the night before Christmas, and Rosie had planned, shopped, wrapped, dreamt of a white Christmas and eaten mince pies whilst carol singing around the tree in the town.

Rosie’s two children were young enough to keep the magic alive, but too old to be fooled that it was not in fact Christmas Eve. As a result, due to one too many festive beverages, Rosie’s husband was already fast asleep whilst the children were still fidgeting, fighting sleep and sneaking peaks from under their duvets.

Rosie was aching with tiredness by the time she decided to have a long hot bubble bath. Afterwards, feeling relaxed and even more sleepy, she pulled on a brand new, long white nightdress, pushed her feet into her fluffy slippers, and did a final tour of the house.

It was one o’clock in the morning and finally the children were sleeping peacefully. A quick glance at her husband showed that he was well into his slumber. The sight of his mouth slightly parted as the sound of snoring filled the air made her grateful that they had a spare room. By ill-timed coincidence, he let out a fart, after which his lips curved in a grimace of a smile. Rosie left the room without a backward glance, to go back downstairs and finish her jobs.

Fifteen minutes later, with everything in place, Rosie crept back up to the spare room. Slipping in between crisp white sheets, she smiled to herself as she looked forward to her favourite morning of the year.

As the first tendrils of dawn inched their way over the horizon, Rosie awoke with a shiver. She saw the room was bathed in an eerie light, which could only mean it had snowed during the night. In her half-awake state, she glanced towards the window, when on the other side of her room there was a glittery shimmer and a flash of red.

“Rosie, as always, you have proved yourself as one of my most perfect helpers,” a smooth voice said.
Rosie turned towards the voice, and there he was. “You did come to see me again,” she said with a smile.
“I had a few minutes before dawn. I wanted to thank you, as always, for your hard work.”
With that, he walked towards her, bent over the bed and planted a gentle but firm kiss on her lips.
“Happy Christmas Rosie,” he said.

By the time that Rosie was fully awake, she was smiling at the thought of the day ahead. She lay in bed for a few peaceful moments, wondering if the children would notice the magic dust near the wall when they came running in to wish her a happy Christmas.

Have a wonderful Christmas! 

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

One Amazing Year for A Rusty Writer!

If someone had told me at the beginning of this year, that by the end of this year I would have had stories published in two anthologies and would have a contract with Ether Books, I would have laughed in their face.

But it has happened. I'm still ridiculously excited every time I look at a front cover of either of the books or the Ether website.

I thought I would get a couple of copies of each of the anthologies. One for my parents, one for my sister and one for us. Wrong.

So far, I have had to buy 34 copies of 50 Stories of Pakistan and 41 copies of Shambelurkling and Other Stories. Insane, I know!

I have had press releases published, made up marketing freebies, got them stocked in two Post Offices, and have a school visit pending. Even with all of these things, the thought of going into a proper book shop scared the life out of me. Somehow it seems a bit like The Big One.

I will admit this now. I went into the shop I had in mind once, a couple of weeks ago. I bottled it, and left with my question unasked. Today I decided to confront my nerves. I printed off a letter and packaged up one of each of the books in the vain hope that the manager wouldn't be there. But she was.

When I introduced myself and showed her the books, there was no hesitation. She didn't even open them to look inside.
"We'll take two copies of each to start with, please send me an invoice." I inhaled deeply and tried to hide my excitement. The fact that she said "I recognise that cover, someone who knows you was in here asking about this one ('50 Stories') made it an even more special trip.

I floated out of that shop.

What a year!

Links to both anthologies and the Ether website are in the right panel of this page.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Friday Flash: Driving Home for Christmas

It’s my favourite journey of the year. I travel down the motorway singing along to Christmas Carols that are playing on the radio, and anticipate going through the front door of my family home and seeing the whole family gathered together again.

The car is packed full of gifts and food and my suitcase, as I’m staying for a few days as I always do. I look forward to the sight and smells of a log fire glowing in the hearth, and my family gathered around it. I hope that this year, Uncle Bernard will keep his fierce opinions to himself. I involuntarily raise my eyebrows as I think of him and the arguments that he has caused.

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of white. Before I know what is happening, my car is struck from the side, and propelled forward. It ends up in front of the lorry that hit it, being pushed along sideways. I can no longer hear the radio. All I can hear is the sound of a blood-curdling scream that goes on and on. It takes me a few seconds to realise that the sound is coming from within me.

As the sideways motion continues, images fly through my mind. A table set for Christmas dinner with all of my family seated and a space where my seat should have been. A baby seat in the back of my car: not the current car but an unknown car from a future that may never happen. My boyfriends face.
I cling to the steering wheel as a drowning man would cling to a life raft. Everything feels like it is happening in slow motion.

Finally the movement stops. It takes me a while to realise that I am going to be ok, and as the car remains motionless facing the edge of the motorway, it is as if silence has descended on the world. Then reality hits me as I see the traffic racing past me and my ears start working again. I have to get off the road.

The lorry driver helps to push my car onto the hard shoulder. He apologises, in broken English, for not seeing my car. The police arrive and take down our details and I then get back into the car and drive slowly home. Later the car will be declared a write-off, yet I am completely unharmed apart from shock.

After everyone has heard all the details at least once, and stopped flapping around me, I sit by the roaring fire, warming my hands on a mug of hot chocolate. I listen to Uncle Bernard giving the room his opinion on the latest news bulletin, and smile. As I gaze at my family one by one, absorbing the details of their faces in a completely new way, I know that for me, this will be the best Christmas ever.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

'Shambelurkling and Other Stories': An Ideal Christmas Gift.

Shambelurkling and Other Stories is a delightful book, full of poems and stories for 8-12 year olds.

It has been published in aid of a charity, I have two stories in it and many of my friends from Twitter are in it. But thats not the point of this post...

Do you know an 8-12 year old who likes reading? If you do, I am giving away a copy of Shambelurkling and Other Stories. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is write a comment below explaining why your nominated person would enjoy this book.

The book will be sent directly to your nominated child first class on 20th December so will arrive in time for Christmas. I will also include a magnet which shows the cover of the book will wrap it up as well.

Please spread the word on Twitter and Facebook! You're indirectly supporting a great cause.

1. UK addresses only, sorry.
2. Competition closes at 6pm (UK time) on Sunday 19th December.
3. The quantity of books given away will depend on the amount of entries.

If you can't wait to get your hands on a copy of the book, please click on the picture of it on the right of my blog, and it will take you to the page where you can buy a copy directly.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Friday Flash: Grace

You would stand at the end of the playground, poised and graceful in your long brown coat.

“How are you?” one of us would ask.
“Fine thanks, how are you?”
“Fine thanks.”
But you were never fine, were you?

I’d see you often. We’d greet each other the same way each time.

I hoped that one day we would have time to move on from “fine.” That I’d get to know the person behind the friendly smile.

I had no idea that you were battling a demon.
You would always offer a smile; an illusion in a long brown coat.

But now you're gone.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Friday Flash: Project 247

They call me Robin but my real name is Project 247.

Every year Santa tells the children that he’s watching them all the time. But everyone knows that he can’t do that on his own. He has helpers.

Throughout the year I keep an eye on them all. Some of them think I’m tame and that I go close to them and look straight at them to be friendly. In reality it’s so that the video and sound links can be sent back to headquarters.

They feed me scraps, they take my photo, and some of them even say I am their favourite bird.

If only they knew.


If you like this flash, you may well like my story about Santa's reindeer which is over on Tinsel Tales. This is a fun seasonal flash competition so you could also enter yourself!

I'd be very grateful for your comments and vote if you have an extra twenty seconds to give it a read xx

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Hating Game by Talli Roland

It was shortly after I met Talli Roland at a book launch that I saw her call for help with this Web Splash. I signed up immediately, so without further ado here are the details:

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback.  Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Writelinkers Magazine Christmas 2010

The Christmas 2010 Writelinkers Magazine has just been released. It is a feast of stories, poems and non-fiction with the theme of Christmas and nostalgia.

I'm delighted to say that two of my flash stories have been included in this magazine, along with a brand new piece of non-fiction, which is actually the first piece of non-fiction that I have written for submission.

Please do take a look, it is online and free to view. Be warned, it will make you feel very festive!!!

While I am mentioning Writelink, do visit their flash fiction competition page as well. Tinsel Tales is open to all and they are looking for flash fiction of up to 250 words on a seasonal theme.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Short Story: Benjamin Smithers

Mr Weaver is out. I sigh with pleasure as I watch his house. He must have been gone for a while. Maybe he’s even due to be home soon. That would be perfection. I slip my card through his door, then hurry back to the van and go on my way. Thick black fumes splutter out of the exhaust as I floor the accelerator to make the onward journey more entertaining.

In the next village a baby squeals, unsettled. I can remember that pitch from when my wife held our babies in her arms, cooing and pacing to lull them to sleep. I wait and watch as the sounds diminish. I can imagine Bethany Morris gently putting her little one down in his cot now. I expect she will settle down for a rest when her baby sleeps. A small smile tries to contort my lips when I see her blinds being closed upstairs. I’ll give her ten minutes.

As I get out of my van and walk towards the door, my finger tingles. The excitement mounts as I reach up and press the doorbell. I hold it that tiny bit longer than is strictly necessary. A high pitched squeal sounds inside, and I smile to myself again. My work is done. The door opens and I say, “Delivery for Ms Morris.”
A dishevelled, bleary-eyed face looks at me as she signs the delivery slip.

“Have a great day,” I say cheerily as I stride back down the path to the sound of the baby's screams.

My special training has paid off. It takes skill to know when people are out or resting. I settle back into the driver's seat and make another mark on my tally chart.

Benjamin Smithers Always Delivers shines on the outside of my van as I speed along the road towards my next victim.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A Year of Blogging

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved writing stories.

She always said that one day she would write a book, like her hero Enid Blyton.

The girl grew older, passing through school and university, and eventually finding a job.

When the girl became a woman and was into the second half of her twenties, she bought a copy of a big red book to inspire her and told her colleagues she was going to write a novel.

When she was in her early thirties she gave the book to charity and turned her hand to parenting.

It was only when she was thirty-eight that the woman realised it was time to take action. All the years of saying she would write a book one day. What would happen if that day never came? She didn't want have regrets. So, not for the first time, she opened a file and typed the word 'Novel'. But this time she saw it through.

The girl was always a bit nervous and lacking in confidence but the woman was even more so. Someone who seemed to know a lot about writing, suggested she set up a blog. She Googled 'blog', and wondered why anyone would want to read anything that she would have to say. And what would she say, more to the point? But she could tell the friendly stranger knew what she was talking about. So she set one up.

The End

Only it wasn't, was it?

I can't believe it has only been a year since I set this blog up, but when I did I had a real struggle with the idea of referring to myself as a writer. My first couple of posts on here show my nerves but I read them now and feel like a totally different person wrote them.

A lot can happen in a year but by far the best far of it for me has been getting to know so many wonderful people through blogging, Twitter and Facebook so thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and especially thank you for visiting my blog on it's first birthday.

Thank you also to my friend and Editor Sarah Franklin, who suggested that I set this blog up in the first place. We really *will* have to have that coffee one day!

x x x

Monday, 22 November 2010

Storyville: Women Writers Festival

Yesterday I had a day out in Brighton for Storyville: Women Writers Festival. In all honesty I went for one event, which was New Voices and that was because Caroline Smailes was on the panel.

I love Caroline's style of writing and am also an avid follower of the Bubblecow blog so I was really excited to be invited to tag along with Caroline, our mutual friend D.J.Kirkby as well as Clare Christian and Alex Brown before the event. We met up in the coffee shop next to the Brighton museum and Dome, and spent a good few hours having a chat about all manner of things from writing to publishing to families and even more random subjects. I enjoyed it so much; the time seemed to fly by.

The panel itself was meant to include three authors, but one of them didn't turn up, so it was Caroline and Anjali Joseph who both did a reading from their books and told us all about their writing and lives. I found the event fascinating and particularly loved hearing about Caroline's connection with Malta, and seeing her own copy of Like Bees to Honey with it's beautiful hand-crafted cover. Anjali Joseph described her novel Saraswati Park which sounded very interesting and is now on my 'to read' list.

After the panel, I had to say my goodbyes (and a quick hello to another writer I had met previously) and dash off back to the real world of families and houses. The cold water tank in our attic was leaking and my husband was replacing it as well as being on childcare duty. But that's another story...

You can follow the lovely people I spent Sunday with on Twitter:
@Caroline_S @djkirkby @clare166
 @alexbrownbooks  @anjalij

Saturday, 13 November 2010

'Shambelurkling and Other Stories' Published Today

'Shambelurkling and Other Stories' is an anthology of short stories and poems for children between 8 and 12 years of age, which has been compiled and edited by Marit Meredith (The Pages Magazine).

The book is now for sale via as a paperback or download. Whichever format you chose, the National Autism Society will receive £1.06 per copy sold.

I have two brand new stories included in this book and it is a pleasure to be included along with some of my online writing friends: Rachel Carter, Emma Kerry, Mandy K James, Cindy Schuerr, Ruchira Mandal, Trevor Belshaw, Jonathan Pinnock, Sharon Birch and Maureen Vincent-Northam as well as many other wonderful writers.

I hope you will agree that the cover is gorgeous. At just £3.99 a copy, the book will make an ideal Christmas present.

Saturday, 6 November 2010


I sit and write this, despite my migraine, despite the sound of building work in the kitchen and despite three children being in the house.

I sit and write because I know I can. I know I have to. I have it inside me and I have to get it out.

What's more... I know I will post this post, I will tweet the link on Twitter, and there will be someone who understands. I love the friendship, companionship and support that comes from the writing community.

If it wasn't for the support of others; Twitter users, blogging friends and Facebook friends, I would not be here now writing this, and calling myself a writer.

Out here in the real world I think my writing is seen as a bit of a hobby. A bit of a waste of time. Something that *adds* to my stress. Something that I *bore* people about. All of these things have been said or implied. The truth is, it calms me. I love it. I feel passionate about it and I take great delight from writing things down that resemble fiction.

I think the respect will come from certain quarters only when I start to make money from my writing.

Along with the fact that writing is not just a hobby to me, it is a *part* of me, only serves to make me more determined, more passionate, and more likely, in my opinion, to succeed.

I have been sitting on book one. It's there, it really is. All I need to do is finish off my synopsis and letter and address the email. That's it. Why haven't I? I'm scared... that is all. Scared of rejection. Scared that these people who don't 'get it' could be right.

Yet every week I write stories and people say they like them. I've even had some published. I have a contract for goodness sake. I am in a fighting mood as I write this. People out here in my real world don't realise that being negative about something makes me determined to prove them wrong.

I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo again. Oh yes I am. The people I mention have no idea. They think I am taking a break from my writing. Well I am doing it and I am loving it. I am *ahead of schedule*.

I am also determined now that before the end of November, book one will be out there looking for a new home.

I am *so* going to do this.

My six year old looked up at me on Thursday when I had a copy of '50 Stories for Pakistan' in my hand. He said 'Are you a published writer now, mummy?'
When I said, 'yes' he looked so proud of me. He gave me a big hug and said 'well done'. This is the thing that has meant the most to me out of everything I have ever done with my writing.

I am glad that my first book is a children's book. I know who I am going to dedicate it to.

If anyone has read this, thank you. It's one of those get-it-out-and-set-it-free kind of posts.
It's basically, just me...

Thank you.

x x x x

Thursday, 28 October 2010

50 Stories for Pakistan has been released!

I'm pleased to say that '50 Stories for Pakistan' has now been released and is available to buy from the Blurb website.

Proceeds from sales of this book will go to the Red Cross Pakistan Floods Appeal.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Publication in 'Shambelurkling and other Stories'

On Wednesday I was looking at Trevor Belshaw's Facebook wall and I noticed a link. Some may say fate was playing a hand with this as the previous thing I had looked at was D.J. Kirkby's blog post 'Wannabe Farm Girl'. I enjoyed this blog post a lot and my brain was already getting creative when I found a link to The Pages Magazine about an anthology that is being put together to help children with Autism.

Reality took hold and off I went to do the school run and a grocery shop. All the way around the store, a voice was whispering in my head. As soon as I got home, I wrote a story called 'Poppy's Party' and sent it off. It's a story told from the point of view of an autistic 10 year old boy.

By the time I got back from the school collection, I had received an email saying that my story was going to be included in the anthology. I do not have words for how this made me feel. I am actually not sure it has sunk in yet.

Getting to know D.J.Kirkby has enabled this story to come together. As you may know, D.J. has Aspergers, and since we have become friends, I have read a lot about Autistic Spectrum Disorder in the hope of understanding what she, and others with Aspergers/Autism, have to cope with every day. I was actually quite terrified of sending 'Poppy's Party' to her but she told me once she had read it that it was exactly how she had felt as a child. This made me feel incredibly proud of this story.

I have since written another story called 'Fabulous Fairies' which is also going to be included in the anthology.

'Shambelurkling and other Stories' is an anthology aimed at 8-12 year olds. It is going to be published via Lulu on 28th November 2010. It will also be available on Amazon at a later date. It is a fund-raising anthology and all royalties will go to The National Autistic Society Early Birds Plus Programme. If you would like to read 'Poppy's Party' and 'Fabulous Fairies' you know what to do, as they are not available to view anywhere else at this time.

Thank you for your support of this project.

Monday, 18 October 2010

My Adventures at Cheltenham Literature Festival

My first ever Literature Festival experience began with locating my hotel and checking in, then walking into town for my first event. I have been a fan of Dawn French since ‘French and Saunders’ began, so I had high hopes for her talk and she did not disappoint. As well as being funny, she talked about her writing which I found fascinating. (She said that she has never touched a computer and writes everything on paper with a pencil.) She was exactly how I expected her to be; interesting and funny, and I am looking forward to reading 'A Tiny Bit of Marvellous' now. I enjoyed her memoir ‘Dear Fatty’ a lot when I read it so I have a feeling that her novel will be a good read when it is released.

During the afternoon, I went for a walk around Cheltenham. Before I left home I had been on the British Red Cross website and discovered that there was a shop there, so I found the correct road and walked up to find it. It was quite a way, but when I spoke to the manager about ‘50 Stories for Pakistan’ she was absolutely delighted and took a huge heap of my postcards to display in the shop. The shop had a huge selection of books and was full of customers, despite the ‘out of town’ location so it seemed like a very good place to be leaving the cards.

In the early evening, I met up with a friend and another friend of hers at a lovely restaurant called Namaste. Somehow my thoughts of having one glass of wine turned into the three of us sharing two bottles. The food was absolutely delicious. They went off to another event and I wobbled up the road hoping that I wasn’t going to feel rough on Sunday. (I am a very light drinker and even one glass can make me feel a bit hung-over. I know, I know.) I decided that the only way to avoid this was to re-hydrate so I went to the cinema and sat watching a random film with a large diet coke and popcorn which luckily did the trick. By the time I walked back to my hotel room I felt great, not least because the girl who sold me the munchies asked if I had a student card. Bless her.

On Sunday I went to see Harry Hill at noon. To be honest I didn’t have much expectation of this; I have enjoyed watching Harry Hill on TV but I imagined he would be sitting and talking with someone and that it could be disappointing. My worries were totally unfounded, as he took to the stage alone and was absolutely hilarious. The first half an hour he basically did a bit of stand up and it was a bit hyper but made me laugh a lot. He turned heckles and questions into funny stories effortlessly. I considered buying his book and getting it signed but the queue was so long that I would have missed my next event, so I settled for a browse around the book tent and a peer in the direction of the signing table. I then dashed off to grab a sandwich and was treated to being called ‘mademoiselle’ in a rather sexy French accent. The man obviously did a double-take as I was ‘madame’ after that but you know, for about five seconds, I did feel positively youthful.

One hour later, the event that I first signed up for began. ‘Writing Romantic Fiction,’ a three hour workshop, with Katie Fforde. We began by introducing ourselves. I said a bit about myself, but I failed to mention that I was keen to do the course as Katie has always been so lovely when I have spoken to her on Twitter. (There were only four people from Twitter in the room at the time and although the other three 'Tweeps' may have understood I thought perhaps the remaining twenty six people may have thought I was a bit mad.) Anyway, Katie Fforde can only be described as delightful and lovely. And I’m not just saying that because she started the session by passing round a big box of chocolates. She helped me to banish one of my demons from the room, as we all read out some of our work and I realised it was not as traumatic as I had been expecting. That felt good. It was lovely to be in a room with people with the same interest and we did a group exercise which I really enjoyed. I also finally met Lisa Bodenham-Mason who I have been talking with via Twitter and e-mail for a while. We have a huge amount in common and I have a feeling that we may have talked each other’s ears off if we had been together for much longer, so perhaps it was just as well that I had to dash off to another event after the workshop, but not before Katie signed my book. I am currently reading ‘A Perfect Proposal’ so as it was in my bag. Convenient, don’t you think?

Straight after that I walked rather quickly over to another venue to see, ‘Chavs, Snobs and the Afterlife,’ with Grace Dent and Tamsyn Murray. In this case I am happy to admit that I went because of my contact with Tamsyn on Twitter. However it was also because my first novel is for children and I am trying to load myself up with information on what may lie ahead for me in my future as a novelist. The highlight of this event was seeing Tamsyn read from ‘My So-Called Afterlife’ and Grace read from ‘Diary of a Snob: Poor Little Rich Girl’. I have to say they were both amazing readings, and it was fun to see the children in front of me reacting to what was being said. I would have bought both books on the strength of this if I didn’t already have them at home. As it was I bought another one of Grace’s books and she signed it for someone (I won’t say who in case they read this), and had a brief chat with Tamsyn. (I already have all of Tamsyn’s books at home, which she kindly signed the last time we met.) Both of these authors looked stunning and I was so desperate to ask Grace how she walked in her heels. They were impossibly high. Somehow though, the moment never arrived.

All in all it was a great weekend. My only regret is that I forgot to take my camera.

Friday, 15 October 2010

50 Stories for Pakistan: More Updates.

Today, thanks to the lovely people at my children's school and pre-school, quite a few people will be on the receiving end of my note in a newsletter and/or one of my postcards. If you found this post because of that, hello! I'm delighted that you stopped by to find out more about the book.

The tentative publication date for the book has been announced now. It's 28th October. There is also a photo of the full cover over on the Facebook page for the book. I think you will agree that it looks absolutely stunning.

The book is going to be sold for £5.95 plus P&P. For anyone that I see regularly though, I'm hoping to do a bulk order which could save you a bit on the P&P cost so let me know how many copies you want and I will put you on my list. (Obviously this only applies to people that I see in person fairly regularly.)

If you would like to help spread the word about the book, please do look at my competition and leave a comment beneath it to be included. The winner will not only receive a copy of the book but also some of my postcards and stickers.

I must away, I have a press release to write...

Thank you for your support of this project.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Short Story: The Giving

She gave and gave and gave until her children had grown, her husband had flown and she had only one thing left to give.

Leaving everything in order, she locked the door to her immaculate home and headed out through her manicured garden towards the woodland.

She looked straight ahead, without a backwards glance at what once was her reality. Bare feet crossed already dampening grass, the hem of her white robe skimming longer stems as she walked.

Faces turned towards her in the moonlight as she approached. Blank expressions evolved into barely-visible smiles.

She accepted that it was time. She would be leaving nothing and be missed by nobody, so she had no reason for doubt.

With the smallest hint of a final sigh, she made her final sacrifice.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Those little gestures that mean so much.

I have been very lucky recently to be at the receiving end of some wonderful kind gifts from companies.

Two weeks ago I was contacted on Twitter by Interflora offering to send me some flowers to brighten up my day. To begin with I wasn't sure if it was actually a joke, or if they were suggesting I buy some, but no; the following day the most beautiful bouquet arrived at my door. It lasted for two weeks and it has raised many a smile. The photo isn't the best, but you get the general idea of how gorgeous it was.

Then, since my story was accepted for '50 Stories for Pakistan', I have turned into a bit of a marketing obsessive. You may have noticed! I actually thought to myself 'well it's for charity' and paid a good chunk (enough to make me think twice) of money to Vistaprint for 500 (I know, I know) postcards to help me spread the word. I have used Vistaprint before several times and always been delighted with their products so it was a no brainer for me who to use.

After I placed the order I emailed Vistaprint and also called them the following day to discuss the possibility of a discount as this was a charity project. I was told that I already received a good offer on the order by the Customer Service lady on the phone. She was very polite and helpful, and I thanked her and told myself it had been worth the try. End of story... or so I thought.

Imagine my delight when I logged into my email this morning and discovered a refund of half of the product price that I paid!

I wouldn't often blog about big companies but these two definitely needed to be mentioned and thanked. Those gestures may be a tiny drop in the corporate ocean, but they make an enormous difference to individuals like myself.

Thank you.

Friday, 8 October 2010

50 Stories for Pakistan: Competition!

As I type, 50 Stories for Pakistan is less than a month away from publication. All very exciting and as much as it's going to be wonderful for me personally to see my story published in a book, the only way this project will raise a decent amount of money for the Red Cross Pakistan Floods Appeal is if people find out about it and buy it.

So, I'm going to buy an extra copy when it's published, and you can try and win it if you like. We need to spread the word as much as possible about this, so I will enter your name into the 'hat' as follows:

If you write a new blog post (from the time I post this onwards) about the book  - 5 times.
If you tweet about it - 1 time
If you add a status update about it on Facebook - 2 times.
If you invite your friends to join the Facebook group - 1 time for every 3 friends that click on 'like'

Don't forget to tell me (by commenting on this post) which of the above ways you have helped to spread the word. Once I have checked them out I will enter your name into the 'hat'. 

Thank you for your support of this project.

The winner will be selected at random on the day the book is published.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Short Story: A Listening Ear

This story includes words inappropriate for young children.

A Listening Ear

You think I’m a good listener don’t you? You come to see me often and while I’m getting on with my work you blurt it all out. Perhaps it’s because you visit me regularly and feel like you know me.

You think we’re on the verge of a fabulous friendship don’t you? Well in a few cases it has happened, but most of the time it’s just a job to me.

You walk in here with your, “Poppy did this at school,” and I smile as I sound enthusiastic. You tell me all about the award winning vegetables that your neighbour grew. Do I care? Hell, no. But I put on my soothing voice as I express an interest.

Then there was the time you visited for two hours. You said, “My husband’s away on business”. But your eyes said it all. You knew he wasn’t, didn’t you?
The following visit you spat “I can’t believe he went for the stereotype; his secretary for fuck’s sake!”
‘More like a fuck for the sake of it,’ I thought, but I offered you my listening ear.

I listen to you, and it’s not only you. Others visit through the day and they treat me like a counsellor. Affairs, illnesses, engagements, separations, deaths, and visits to the goddamned vet. I hear it all.

You think I’m a good listener. I am. I never forget a word.
And one day, I may surprise you.

National Poetry Day: View from the Shore

It's National Poetry Day today. I haven't written any poetry in a while so you're in for a treat (or a laugh) with this one. I wrote in on 15th November 1993. (This is exactly how I wrote it back then.)

View from the shore

The sun shines so brightly, the cool wind is light
The waves break around me, the gulls take to flight.
I stand and I stare out to sea for a while,
And strange, the sensation that turns to a smile.

I ponder the feelings that keep me subdued
I long for a time when my faith is renewed.
I feel all alone though there's crowds on the shore,
And turn my attention to nature once more.
A solitary tear marks a path down my cheek,
And deep in my dreamworld I hear someone speak.
As I look at the pebbles and shells on the sand,
I feel that there's someone who might understand.

I turn to ask questions, but see only space,
Once again watch the waves in this enchanted place;
Now I know I can't wish for what never can be,
And I finally feel happy; at one with the sea.

A friend I have found in the form of the sea,
The voice was a gift that was given to me
As I live for each day, but I know when I'm gone
That the sea in it's wisdom will still carry on.

When I came to the seashore it was to lament,
As I leave it I realise I feel so content.
I'm glad to discover I'm happy once more
As the waves wash my misery far from the shore.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Short Story: Genre Dance

Miranda had prepared for her evening out with care. A tall, dark, handsome man had presented her with roses when he met her at the restaurant. The dining room was lit by candlelight alone and during the time it took them to dine, Miranda’s companion complimented and flattered her until she felt beautiful and adored. After they had ordered coffee, he held her gaze as he gently took her hand across the table.
Miranda was disappointed when she was dragged from her dream by the sound of the mail clattering through the letter box.

Leaving the warmth of her bed, Miranda glanced in the mirror and saw to her delight that her make up was as perfect as when she had fallen into bed the previous evening. Pouting at her reflection in the mirror, she pulled a silken robe around her low-cut satin nightdress. Sliding her feet into kitten heel slippers, she had descended the stairs by the time the doorbell rang. As she opened the door, her robe slipped off her right shoulder. Miranda smiled lasciviously as she spotted the rugged looking gardener on her doorstep.
“I’ve come to sort out your bush,” he said, and she raised her eyebrow suggestively.
“Come on in,” she whispered, “don’t mind my outfit”.
“Oh, I don’t mind at all,” he said under his breath as Miranda led him into the kitchen.

The coffee pot whistled as Miranda looked out through her kitchen window. With a puzzled expression, she wondered where the gardener had disappeared to. As she watched, his image materialised from nowhere. She was either imagining things, or there was a magical force taking hold in her garden. She shook her head as she poured steaming black coffee into the waiting cups.

As Miranda observed, the gardener picked up a shovel. Strong, solid muscles twitched in his forearms as he began to dig with a determined look on his face. It didn’t occur to Miranda that he was meant to be pruning foliage, not digging a deep rectangular trench in the soil. She went upstairs and enjoyed a relaxing shower. She failed to hear the footsteps climbing the stairs…

“Honey, are you in there?” Simon yelled above the noise of the shower.
“Yes, I’ll be out in a second” Miranda replied, wondering why Simon was home mid-morning. As she turned the shower off and wrapped herself in a thick towel, she shouted, “The gardener finally came to sort out that overgrown shrubbery, thank goodness.”
But as she returned to their bedroom, she noticed the grey, drawn expression on Simon’s face.
“What’s happened?” she asked urgently, her heart sinking, “is it the kids?”

Simon took a deep breath.
“I am not sure how to tell you this, but I am not of this world,” he began. “I was hoping to be able to stay, but it seems that my time has come. Seven years has passed so it is time for me to leave.”
“Is this some sort of sick joke?” Miranda began, incredulously. “Is there someone else?”
“I know you won’t believe me,” Simon gently replied, “but I am sorry to tell you that when Zac is seven he will also follow in my footsteps. That’s how it works when we visit from Zoriagon.”

Meanwhile, across town, Zac and Millie were sitting in a sandpit with some friends. Zac was nearly four and Millie two, but they always played together at pre-school. They were enjoying their time building sand castles, and were surprised when their dad came out into the garden to see them. He hugged them close and said, “Goodbye” which made them feel even more confused. They giggled as he tickled them, but didn’t turn to watch when he left. It was only ten minutes until Benny the Bear was due to show up, and everyone was excited about that special visit.

Back at the house, Miranda washed up coffee cups then gathered Simon’s clothes into bags to drop at a charity shop on the way to the pre-school. She opened the French window and strolled around the garden.
‘That rectangular patch of earth could do with being planted out,’ she thought. ‘I will pick up some bulbs from the garden centre before I collect the children.’ She smiled to herself as she whispered aloud, “That gardener will fertilise the soil nicely”.

The only thing left to sort out was the matter of her scheduled overseas mission. That was going to be impossible to pull off now that Simon had gone and she had no other full time childcare options available. She was sure that The Agency would understand.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Writing Tools: Six Minute Story

As every writer knows, there are times when the ideas flow and we have free time and an open mind to channel these stories.

There are other times when we have very little time and a million other things to be doing. We all know that life can be hectic, and it can be frustrating when you want to write and you can't seem to fit it in.

These excuses have been made redundant due to a fantastic website called Six Minute Story. You simply go to the website, pick your prompt, and once you click in the text box you have a total of six minutes to write and edit your story.

You can pick which prompt you wish to use, or if you want to be really daring you can go straight to the site and click in the box to see the prompt of the day. That means you have to think on the fly. I admit, I have yet to take the latter approach.

Six Minute Story is like a micro version of NaNoWriMo, and similar to Dr Wicked's fabulous Write Or Die. With all of these tools, you end up with a piece of writing but the pace is furious. It's not for the faint hearted but it is a fabulous adrenaline rush and will remove your writer's block and make you feel like you have achieved something even with very limited time.

Why not give it a try? It will only take up six minutes of your time.

If you would like to see some of my Six Minute Stories alongside the prompt photographs, please take a look at them on the Six Minute Story site.

Friday, 24 September 2010

50 Stories for Pakistan

Today I heard that my story Listen has been selected as one of the stories to be included in '50 Stories for Pakistan'. This book is a project that was started by Greg McQueen who was also responsible for '100 Stories for Haiti'. Proceeds from sales of this book will go to the Red Cross Pakistan Floods Appeal and I am deeply honoured to have had my story selected for an anthology that will be raising money for such a worthy cause.

On a personal note, this is the first time that I have had something published on paper since my poem Images was published in 1986! For that reason alone I am delighted at the inclusion of my story.

I think you will agree that the cover of this book is stunning. I was ready to buy a copy on the strength of that alone. And now, because of my story being included, you'll be hearing a lot more about it from me as time goes on...

Harvest Festival: We Will Go Out With Joy

For the past few years I have been attending the Harvest Festival in a nearby village where my children go to pre-school and school. The pre-school are often invited, so since my daughter was 3 in 2005 I have found myself listening to "Autumn Days" and similar hymns, sung by children and teachers alike. This not only reminds me of my childhood, (they use the same hymn books: Come and Praise!) but also of the fact that I do like a good sing. But anyway...

From 2005 I have always had the child that is there with their pre-school or school, plus one other. A baby, who may or may not scream or want a feed at the most awkward time, or a toddler who is more interested in flicking the kneeler pads off the hooks in front of us.

This year I attended and two of my children sat with their school groups and the third one sat with the pre-school. I have waited for the day when I can just sit and watch them all. I've waited and longed for it. Yet now that the time has come, it really hit me that, for that half an hour at least, they no longer need me.

When I welled up in the church this morning, it was not only because I could see my son smiling as he sang, and I could see my daughter singing without skipping any words. It was also because a small part of my heart was breaking for the loss of those early days.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Short Story: Temptation

It was five thirty and the children were eating when he arrived home. He hugged his wife and whispered “I’m feeling a bit fruity tonight.” But then the baby cried. 
“Later,” she promised with a sigh.

Later never came. Or rather, later came, but with it the tiredness that led to instant sleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows. Nothing could have prepared him for the dreams:

He was walking along Temptation Avenue.

He looked left. Full bouncing orbs, hanging downwards but still firm. He wanted to reach out and feel the smooth skin under his fingertips. He resisted and won.

He looked right. What seemed like hundreds of tight, round, reddish buds. He had the urge to touch and tease, then to gently caress them with his tongue. Instead he looked away.

Ahead he saw large round mounds of tight flesh begging to be stroked. He scrunched his eyes tight to avoid further temptation.

He woke with a start. The sun was slowly rising on a chilled Saturday morning.

“Harvest time,” he whispered to his slumbering wife, “I’ll go out and gather up some fruit right now before I forget.”

Monday, 6 September 2010

Beta Readers: Feedback on my Novel

So it's the first day of term and my first child-free writing time in a long time. I am currently collating my feedback from a number of readers (26 in total!) who have read two versions of the first couple of chapters of my novel.

Last week I decided (as you do) that perhaps the story would read better in the first person, present tense instead of in third person, past tense. I re-wrote the beginning of it and was quite happy with the result. Luckily I am able to type very quickly, so I rewrote the first tenth of the book in under an hour. I still felt quite uncertain which version to go with though, so decided to ask some friends to have a read, and see what other people thought.

I started off asking some peers. Their feedback led me to think, why don't I ask some readers in the target market of 9-12 year olds? I ended up getting feedback from a total of 17 children between the ages of 7 and 14. I have to say I know some LOVELY children, they all came back to me quickly and with very helpful comments.

First of all I would like to share some of their thoughts:
I am pleased to say that none of them told me that they hated it!
EB (9) said, "I really wish this book could be published".
HE (14) said, "It's weird because I was never really a year seven, (thank goodness)but moving a lot, that's exactly what you feel like! Even asking where the bathroom is was really embarassing."
JD (12) asked her mum to ask me if I would sign a copy for her when it is published. Her mum also emailed me this morning to say she has told her friends all about me. Bless her.

My friend Rachel and her three children read it and she sent me this comment: "They liken the book to Jacqueline Wilson (which you must take as a huge compliment as they read everything by her!) They liked hearing about Sam, and her personal problems, both can empathise having been bullied and like the real life aspects..."

I also had several people who said that they would like to read the book when it was published (not all of them children!).

I'm so impressed with all of the feedback I received, especially as I only asked whether they preferred one version or another.

That of course, was the most important question. And the results:


An EXACT 50 / 50 split!
Then when I look specifically at the 9-12 year olds it is... an exact 50 / 50 split again.

So... which version am I going to go with?

You'll just have to buy the book to find out...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

I Am Pinching Myself...

As you probably already know, I have been working on my first novel since November 2009, when I wrote my first draft. I've been reading about how to contact agents and publishers since I started writing, and recently feeling a bit worried about how to approach that next step. I imagine I'm not the first writer to feel a sense of dread about getting *that* letter together.

So, imagine my utter amazement yesterday, when I was contacted by a publisher, who has requested to see my manuscript! Yes, I *know*!!! I am pinching myself as I write this. I won't say any more just yet in case they decide that my story does not fit their list, but still, it's very exciting.

The past 24 hours has been a bit of a weird dream-like experience actually. In a good way.

Only this lunchtime, I was carrying out one of the gazillion tasks involved with my other "job" and making some cheese sauce, when it dawned on me that I was so overcome by this request that I have not even mentioned my other publishing achievments this year.

As a result of gaining over 30 votes for my story 'A Knowing Look' on Authortrek, this story will now be considered for inclusion in an anthology of short stories. (Please do still visit and vote by clicking on the beige button just above my photo if you have yet to do so. I'm determined to get as many votes as possible!)

Also this year, I have submitted three pieces for charity fundraisers which are moving towards being published too. All in all, this year has been quite a success, when I stop and think about it.

For now I am waiting for the school "holidays" to finish, and then I will be able to polish my book until it shines and send it off.

And then, who knows...?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Friend or Faux?

In this world of virtual friendships and social networking, it is easy to imagine people are as you would like them to be, and assume that everyone uses the same sites as you for the same reasons, and that they are all like-minded.  

This is a false sense of security, as people are different everywhere in the world and the internet is no different. There will always be a wide range of characters in every human group, whether online or out in the real world.

As a writer, it is hard enough to put your work online but when you consider the personality behind the piece, it is not always easy to judge accurately. Some of the most powerful writing in history has been created by people with mental illness or deeply ground issues that you may never suspect by reading their work. Even when a piece is strong, and a writer is a bestselling, famous author, the person behind the mask could be crumbling when faced with a negative comment on their work.

Recently on Twitter I have witnessed people that have only every demonstrated that they are lovely, helpful and friendly people be attacked by others. This usually happens in an anonymous way, and is done people who hide behind fake names. Sometimes referred to as trolls, they seem to get pleasure from upsetting others.

I think I am the exact opposite of this. I watch what is being said to people that I like, and I feel the anger rising up inside me. Not the sort of anger that wants me to be aggressive or violent, but the type that makes me want to go and administer hugs, chocolate or a stiff drink, and to tell the person that is being attacked how wonderful I think they are.

It is usually the gentle, friendly types who are subject to this sort of flaming. This is what bugs me the most. The people who lash out think they are being clever or amusing, hiding behind fake names and flaming people for sport. They have no idea or worse, no mind, for the amount of upset they can cause. I could name (but I won’t) four people in particular who I have grown fond of on Twitter, and each of them has been subject to this sort of mindless behaviour.

One of them said to me recently, “This always happens to people who are influential.” I wasn’t so sure. I did wonder whether it was a case that anyone would do. But now I think she may have had a point, and that it is indeed a way for people to try and get noticed.

I was a victim of playground bullying. I am now 39 years old and it is only this year that I have been able to forgive the ring leader, and this was because someone who knew both of us (and had no clue about the bullying) recently told me what the bully herself had been through at a younger age. It helped me to understand and forgive her 11 year old self, but at the same time my character was formed during those experiences as an 11 year old, and I have spent my entire life suspecting that people dislike me. Somehow, despite this, I am an eternal optimist, and I have no idea how this tallies, but I always see the best in everyone, until they prove me wrong.

This knowledge about me may help people to understand that when I put my work out on my blog I am constantly waiting for the negative comments. It has literally blown me away how many lovely, talented and gracious people have commented positively on my blog posts again and again.

My first dip into the world of constructive criticism was when I emailed one of my earliest short stories to a few fellow writers that I had got to know on Twitter and to a couple of friends. I had a few “loved it” comments, which is always a pleasure, and then one of the writers, who I admired and had a lot of respect for – ok I was kind of in awe of – gave me more of a critique as an answer.  The bristling happened, the hackles went up, there was a quivering lip and a ‘bloody… sodding … flipping’ type rant as I stormed around the house, thinking “I am crap, it is crap, I give up.” This is my in built reaction to criticism, I admit. However, I braced myself and I went back and looked at this writer’s blog. I realised how much she knew that I still had to learn. I read the message again. I no longer have the original, but the thought is lodged in my brain. It was all about removing unnecessary words, and only including words that were vital. This person has given me a gift. She has helped me to sharpen my knives and slice and dice every piece that I have written since. She has been like the teacher that you completely respect and love at school and want to impress.  She has taught me so much and yet she treats me as an equal. Imagine how I felt when I saw her comment under my last short story and it said: “This is extraordinary, the descriptions, the measured pace, the emotion but without being overly sentimental. The emotion built up over the story. This is my favourite of everything you've written.” Imagine, also, how it felt when she refers to me as her writing twin. Especially as she feels like mine too.

If you are reading this post and have got this far, you may have seen what happened yesterday when someone left me a ‘helpful’ comment on my latest story. Perhaps they genuinely thought they were being helpful.  Parts of the comment did in fact tally. But the thing that stood out for me was that this person felt the need to hide behind anonymity. There is no way I can discuss what they have raised, or ask them more about their point of view, or even understand their own experience and see how it relates. I have no idea who this person is. It could even be someone that I consider a close friend.

Anonymity is a useful tool in some cases. Personally I would rather let people know that it is me giving the comments. I also hesitate to criticise unless I know it will be considered helpful. I am the first person to advise people not to listen to critics as it is only one person’s opinion. I actually don’t read reviews of films or (generally) books, as I think each to their own, and I like to make up my own opinion, and in many cases I have loved films that have been panned by the media.

I’ve made the decision now that I will treat anonymous comments on my blog similarly. I appreciate every comment that I have received from friends, writers, and everyone else who has commented and put a name to their words. It is helping me to develop both as a writer and a human being. But an anonymous comment only leads me to wonder who is behind it, and actually the reality is that I prefer to know who it is that I am meant to be respecting the opinion of.

I also appreciate more than I can put in to words, my reliable bunch of Twitter and Facebook contacts who I now think of as friends.  It constantly amazes me how people that I only know online can feel so important in my life, but you really do. You know who you are. You’re amazing.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Short Story: A Knowing Look

This is the original version of this story.
I have since edited it a number of times, and it has been published in a collection called A Knowing Look and Other Stories.

I grew up in a National Park, the rolling heat of the African plain a constant companion, along with the mammals that we observed. A child born of two rangers, it was natural that I would grow up and work in the base camp.

I was twelve when I had my first close encounter with an elephant. Elliot came to us after being attacked by an angry bull. Being young and defenceless, he hadn't stood much of a chance, yet he limped towards our camp after his escape. The bull elephant must have been distracted to leave him before he had finished the job.

For four days we fought to keep Elliot alive. We fed him formula and cared for him day and night, but we were still learning and it wasn’t enough. I held his head on my lap as he slipped away from us. We buried him under a large Boscia tree, and the next day his family group arrived. It seemed that they had been watching from afar. Mimi, the matriarch, and her team of cousins, aunts and sisters gathered under the tree and somehow unearthed his shallow grave, only to cover it again with leaves and branches. Week by week they visited and carried out their rituals as I watched. When Elliot was nothing but dry bone, still they gently covered him with leaves and lightly stroked his jawbone with their trunks.

Life felt balanced in our base. Animals and man lived in mutual respect. The problem we faced was the tourists. Although we were not in a tourist area, certain trips passed our way. They treated us like a curiosity, and named us on their ‘must view’ lists, after the Big Five.

Mimi and her family visited regularly, yet always seemed to be absent when the tours came by. My parents, the other rangers and I also tried to melt into the landscape when these invasions occurred. Apart from when it was the tours ran by Benson. When he came to the base, his clients were always given fresh lemonade and respite from the scorching sun for a while, as my parents told them a little about our work.

My family always joked that one day Benson and I would have a family of our own. The son of two former rangers, he now lived elsewhere but always called in when he was passing. I learnt all I needed to know about biology from the animals we observed. It was to be expected that once I was of a certain age, he and I found a quiet space and did what came naturally. I wasn’t quite sure how I was supposed to feel, but he smiled each time as he walked away. Studying elephant for years had made it clear that males were not designed to stick around.

As I neared the age of twenty, Benson’s tour was diverted to another area of the reserve, and the visits ceased. I had no concerns that he no longer visited me. These things happened all the time.

Our elephant family continued to visit. Years after Elliot died they still congregated under the Boscia. It was fascinating to watch.

The summer of my twentieth year brought changes. My once easily bronzed skin began to burn. I stayed inside for longer as nausea burnt my throat. Once I recovered, I ventured outside again. One afternoon, in the shade of the Boscia tree, I fell asleep.

Waking suddenly I felt claustrophobic; an unusual sensation on the wide open plain. As I reluctantly opened my eyes, I saw Mimi and her family standing above me. They encased me on every side yet avoided trampling my body. I shivered in the afternoon temperatures as one of them touched me. Suddenly their trunks were all over me. Their gentle, tender explorations meant me no harm.

They slowly turned and walked away, until only Mimi was left. Her trunk casually held above my midriff, she gave me a knowing look before walking off behind her family.

I thought nothing more of it. Nothing unusual happened for a few more weeks, until the time when the cramping came. I thought of Benson and our time together. I grabbed my cleanest shawl and headed off to the forest edge, crouching alone, until the cramping ceased.

As I walked back to base, the shawl swaddled my offspring. Red rivulets ran down my legs as I had not thought to stem the flow. The baby scrunched his eyes up against the searing sunshine. I shaded him with my shadow as best I could, as I searched the camp for my mother.

“Look, Mama,” I said as I showed her the newborn.
“Oh, gracious,” she exclaimed as she sat down, knowledge and realisation mixing like an emulsion.
She gazed at him, his tiny black eyes wide in a mocha face, and knew more than I that he was yet another reason to hide when the sunburned tourists came passing our way.

For three weeks, I strived to feed him. But the camp was a harsh place and infection took hold. The raging sun made it impossible to get treatment in time. Mama assured me that she would look after Benson. I let go, knowing that he was in safe hands.

There was no priest at my burial. I was laid to rest as I had requested, on the other side of the Boscia tree. It was fitting to be with Elliot again; another who I had tried and failed to nurture. As my Mama took over the raising of Benson Jr, the love that she had felt for me transferred to my son. She held him close and smiled through her tears as they left me that day.

Deep, searching, soulful eyes watched the burial from a respectful distance. Mimi and her family then approached, and stood under the Boscia. Their trunks gently skimmed the freshly laid earth as they grieved again. Their visits lengthened and became more frequent, as they mourned an equal and a friend.

Benson never did return to the camp. But Mimi revisited until Benson Jr grew up and left. It was as if she was keeping him safe and willing him to thrive. As, once, I had tried to do for Elliot.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Short Story: Our Favourite Place

Another story written in six minutes thanks to Six Minute Story
The prompts for this story were: green-clad man, rain and a tan.
I edited to remove a surplus "just" in this copy.

Our Favourite Place

I stand on the fine sand, gazing out to sea. We stood here before, didn't we? You and I. Younger, then. Innocent perhaps. Lovers learning about each other in those early days.

The time we spent on this beach was perfect. Like an advert on TV for far flung luxurious holidays. Our own private paradise. We didn't want it to end, did we?

A man walks past. Dressed in green trunks, he glances at me. I signal to him and buy. He's feeling lucky now. Selling watermelon and coconut is not easy at this time of year. I feast on the melon. Sticky juice runs down my chin and neck. I don't care. I can swim later and wash it off.

It's funny being here alone now. Not so innocent. I wear factor 30 sunscreen, taking a gamble with health to try and gain a glow. You don't worry about health any more, do you?

They'll never find you. The tides and the rain can do their worst. I dug down deep enough to find the wet, thick sand, and your remains won't be found until I am long gone. Or maybe you will become sand yourself, and have footprints trodden into you.

I watch the sea with a complex smile.

This story is also on the Six Minute Story website.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

My First Book: The Story

When I decided to sign myself up for NaNoWriMo, I didn’t really know where my story was going to go, but I enthusiastically entered some text in the synopsis box. This is what I wrote:
Sam Hendry is not looking forward to starting at her new school. Things go from bad to worse as the day of truth arrives and all of her fears come true… and then some.
The main character, Sam, is eleven years old and just about to start at senior school. She’s a gentle, happy soul but she is quite shy. That’s all it takes for the stronger and less pleasant characters in her class to single her out and bully her.

During the course of the book, Sam finds some really good friends who help her to deal with the situation that she is in, and encourage her with her more positive pursuits. She also has some very positive adult influences in her life, which lead her down a path that is both character building and exciting for her. Although the subject of bullying can be intense, the overall story in the book is a positive one.

The book is aimed at the 9-12 age group. I was originally intending to write for an older readership, and have Sam move schools after settling in at one, but as I wrote it, I decided that I would prefer to write it for children who are just leaving primary school or are in the early stages of senior school. If they take anything from the story, I hope they realise that it is not good to be a bully. Or, in the case of being a victim, that there are things you can do to help yourself out of the situation. They may also enjoy the part about it being good to follow your dreams, but I won’t say too much about that, as I don’t want to spoil the story for you completely!

Bullying is a subject that is close to my heart as I have been a victim of it myself and I know what a huge impact it can have on someone. It is only recently that I have developed more confidence and decided that this subject matter should be the basis of my first book, as I wanted to "put it out there". It is by no means a "how to..." guide, but it will hopefully raise awareness of things that may happen.

I know many people who have been bullied, at school as well as at work. It’s so common, and it impacts on people’s lives. I feel so passionate about this that I will be donating a percentage of any profit I make from this book to Bullying UK.

My second book, by contrast, will be women’s fiction. I have a main character in my head and the book will form itself during November 2010.

If I have any time between the two, I will continue to write flash fiction, and work on another novel (again, women’s fiction) that I have been gradually writing for a couple of years.

I would be very grateful for any comments. Especially if you know of anyone who may want to read my book when it is published.

Thank you for reading this. I really do appreciate it.

For further details on my writing process, please see my blog post: My First Book: The Process.

My First Book: The Process

In the past couple of weeks, people have been asking me about my book quite regularly, so I thought I would write about it in more detail here.

I wrote the first draft of this book during NaNoWriMo 2009. I then took a huge step back from it and did not open the file up again until earlier this year. NaNoWriMo is very intense, so I think I needed that breathing space to be able to re-focus both my attention and enthusiasm.

In the meantime, I did a lot of reading on the process of getting published. I read a lot of articles that were shared via Twitter, and finally bought ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2010’ and Carole Blake’s book “From Pitch to Publication…” which re-emphasised a lot of what I had read previously, and included some new information too. I highly recommend these books for anyone else who is hoping to get their work published.

I had done four edits of my manuscript myself by this point. I got to the point where I was happy with the first chapter so I sent it off to three trusted friends of mine for their thoughts. Rachel has many years experience of working in publishing and a keen eye for typos, Keris is a published author, and Sarah has experience in all sorts things to do with writing and publishing, many of which I am still finding out about. By this stage I had almost had enough of my story, so I waited for the feedback with mixed feelings.

All of the feedback I received was helpful. Sarah, who is obviously a very clever cookie, sent the chapter back to me fully edited. This renewed my enthusiasm to edit. I am pleased to say that she is now going to edit the whole book for me. Hopefully, I will have it ready to hand over soon. Sarah is wonderful at many, many things, but singing her own praises is something that is not on the list, so I feel the need to do so. Follow both her and Keris on Twitter and you will not be disappointed.

My plan is to try and get this book finished before October so that I can start my next one during NaNoWriMo 2010. Luckily I write by sitting down and typing what comes in to my head. I have a main character in my mind, but that is all of the planning that I will do before 1 November.

Further details on the subject matter for my book can be found here:

My First Book: The Story

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Short Story: A Deep Voice

I’ve been here a while. I like to observe.

Check her out: slim and brown, yet can’t seem to form an attachment. She’s too shallow by far.

Look at that hairy beast! Tries to approach people, but always dismissed with the flick of a hand.

As for her down there, she’s constantly hoping to rise to the top, but is too drippy to do so.

People zip past all day. Thinking perhaps?

I remain unnoticed despite my glowing personality. I’m looking for ‘The One’, and when I find them, I will stick to them like glue.

It’s lonely being a lump of snot, bobbing up and down in the pool.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A Day in the Life of a Writer / Mum (Unedited)

I wake. Is it dawn? The sky looks as if it could be. I check my mobile. 4.45 am. I feel wide awake. Voices arguing in my head. They’re back. The characters are crying out to be made real. Their voices want to be heard. Should I get up and write?

The decision is made. But then I hear a thud. A door opens, then footsteps across a carpet. A sad face appears. “These chickenpox are getting more and more,” says a tiny voice. I lace some lemon squash with Piriton and hold a cup while he slowly sips through a straw. It takes minutes but I must be patient. He snuggles down in my bed. A few moments of fidgeting and moaning, then he is still. His breathing slows. The house is peaceful again. He is sleeping, yet I still feel guilty when I sneak out of the room.

I creep to the kitchen. The kettle sounds like a steam engine. It’s a toss up between running caffeine-free and risking the kettle waking another sleeper. I open up my laptop. Voices calling louder now, more incessantly. The huge Whittard mug is empty before I have time to think. As I sip I check my Facebook and e-mail and finally settle on Twitter. I refill my cup and it’s time.

I arrange the paper in front of me. Familiar now, having been no more than a meter away for the past forty-eight hours. My manuscript and I should be joined by an umbilical cord. I’m trying to give life to it. Desperately trying. When I can.

I transfer changes from paper to laptop. Smiling, I feel the flow. Small changes, then entire paragraph rewrites. My pace quickens. Then I hear it. Another door. Thud, thud, thud down the stairs. It’s 6.10am. I close my laptop.

Through the day I glance at the closed computer. I work on the paper, which is easier to do in stolen moments. Red on white. Red for improvement. Willing the marks to transfer themselves to the screen. The stolen moments are few and far between.

A time comes, all the children are playing nicely in the garden. Peace. I gently lift my screen. I open the file but before I can find the right place to start, two people are standing by my side. “Mum, I need to ask you something.” “Mum, I need you.” These voices are more incessant, more demanding, more unforgiving than the others. I give up, again. I troubleshoot. It’s currently the top item on my job description.

It’s nearly noon by the time I take my first trip to the bathroom. It shouldn’t be, but it is as there has been no time, no peace. I consider combining the trip… I glance at my papers… but no, that would be taking it one step too far.

The day continues. The voices whisper at me constantly, but are drowned out by the here and now. Food is made, I am not even hungry. I just feel frustrated as my papers gather dust.

Bedtime comes. Settling three is a full time job in itself. By the time they are all in bed I reach for my manuscript. A few red marks then I give in to reality. I have to sleep as I will be up at five again.

I get into bed. The house is silent but all I can think of is my stories. Should they do this, would she say that? When I wake in the night I never know if the voices that wake me will be my children or those of my characters.  Then suddenly, it is dawn again.

You can see how I cope with the following school summer holiday in my new post: Writer/Mum Part 2.