Monday, 31 December 2012

My First Year of Writing

The river where I walk Bonnie - taken on a crisp December morning.

I took a break from writing over Christmas, but now is the time to look back at my first writing year.

I sent my first story to a magazine in April.

I had my first story accepted in August.

I have sold nine stories between August and December - 5 to Fiction Feast, 3 to The People's Friend and 1 to Woman's Weekly.

My first story was published in fiction Feast October, followed by two in December.

My first story was published in Woman's Weekly in December.

My first story will be published in The People's Friend on Jan 3.

I have 25 stories 'out there'.

I started my writing blog in August.

Wendy's Story Timeline was invented in December.

I would like to wish you all a wonderful 2013 and thank you all for supporting my blog this year.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Big Bad Bonnie Trap - She thought she'd got away with it!

For all you dog lovers, as promised, this is our YouTube clip of what Bonnie and her step-brother Bobby got up to while we were out.
Remember: Bonnie is NOT allowed on the settee (see blog post Bad Dog). We had a good laugh when we got home and watched the movie clip  - we were expecting to see Bonnie up to no good but we weren't expecting an accomplice!
Let me know if you enjoyed watching it.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My First Blog Award!

Thank you very much, Patsy for my 'Very Inspiring Blog' award. As a new blogger, I am chuffed!

I hope that readers do find my blog inspiring - I try to give hope and useful resources to new writers.

I have to tell readers 7 random facts about myself:

Here they are and very random they are too!

1. I first heard 'The Cure' play when they were teenagers in a friend's back garden and went to school with bassist Simon Gallop.

2. I hate the pitched black.

3. My secret wish is to be on Strictly Come Dancing and wear one of the sequinned dresses.

4. As a teenager I was invited to Brian Ferry's 'party' by his road manager ( I didn't go!).

5. My lucky number is 10.

6. I was a grandmother at 43!

7. I am addicted to Australian Masterchef.

Here are the rules:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. State 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

I have cheated a bit with my nominations as The Pocketeers contain several people so I've nominated nine others and counted them as five (Never try and expect me to split a restaurant bill!)

Apologies if any of you have been nominated before.

Teresa Ashby

Linda Lewis

The Pocketeers      Fay, Noelene, Patricia, Chrissie, Sally, Carol. Fenella, Margaret, Sally (already nominated) Cara (see below)

Cara Cooper

Julie Phillips

Anne Hamilton

The Bookshelf Muse

Marianne Wheelaghan

Kate Jackson

Joanna Campbell

Monday, 17 December 2012

Bad Dog!

Readers of my blog will be familiar with my step-dog Bonnie. This is her on one of her favourite walks. She thinks she is such a good dog and from the photo, it looks as though butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.... Well, the inventor of Wendy's Story Timeline and I know better.

Let me set the scene. When my husband and I married in 2010, and Bonnie became step-sister to my cat Bobby, I was a little apprehensive about having a large dog who (despite having a hose down after walks) seemed to always have muddy feet. I decided to impose a rule:

No dogs on the settee! Yes that means you, Bonnie.
Clever dog, learnt the rule very quickly - or so we thought. In time, we came to learn that while we were in the room, she would sit in her basket or on the floor by our feet but when we went out or went to bed, we'd find evidence that she had been on the settee - a warm dent in the cushion and  doggie drool!
Not to be outdone, we came up with a cunning plan - we would barricade the settee with cheap plastic expandable trellis when we went out. Last Friday we stretched the trellis across the settee and feeling smug, went to our salsa masked ball . We came home to find our good dog asleep in her basket (or so we thought). The trellis was on the floor, and the cushion had a warm drooly dent in it but Bonnie appeared not to have moved.

So, not content with creating timelines, my husband decided to set a Bonnie Trap to see what really goes on while we are away. The following night we went to another dance. I wonder if you can guess what happened while we were out. I will post the youtube clip in the next post.  
We know you will enjoy it!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Resources for Wendy's Story Timeline and Masquerades

         I hope you find these useful:

  • For world history, disasters, sports, entertainment and more timelinesclick here

  • For major world events 20th Century timeline click here
  • For kings and queens of England timeline click here
If you are wondering why there is a picture of a mask at the top of this post, it's because the inventor of the timeline and I are going to be salsa-ing the night away tonight at a masked ball at Eastbourne Town Hall.

Finally on further good note - another sale today to the lovely People's Friend!

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Big Thank You To Everyone

A big thank you to everyone who visited my blog and downloaded Wendy's Story Timeline. A special thank you also to Teresa and Patsy for mentioning it on their blogs and sending hundreds to view it! Thank you also for all your kind comments - if you use it for a story, please let me know how useful it was.

In the next post I shall be posting some links that I hope will be useful to use alongside the timeline.

I am feeling very Christmassy for various reasons:

  • On Saturday, my choir, Cantatrice, had our Christmas concert in the local church. The building is beautiful and sun streamed through the stained glass windows as we sang a mix of carols and lighter Christmas songs - it doesn't get more Christmassy than that in my book.

  • In the evening we had our ballroon Christmas dance. It was a lovely occasion - even though it was so full, we could only do the basic steps in each dance. We also had the chance to dance our Argentine Tango routine that we've been learning over the last few weeks - it was a bit scary as there were only three other couples dancing with us and everyone else watching.

  • We booked tickets for a salsa Christmas masked ball . (I've decided my husband should wear a Simon Cowell mask!)

  • We put up our Christmas tree.

  • I had stories accepted by both Fiction Feast and The People's Friend (not Christmassy - but it made me happy).

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Wendy's Story Timeline - Here it is!


First of all, let me explain. A while ago, I was writing a short story set in the present day with flashbacks to WW1. In the story, it was important to know in what year a character might feasibly have married, had a baby, become a grandmother etc. I got into such a muddle (I tried to marry off my lead character when she would have been only eight!) so decided to draw myself a time line to work from. This was time consuming, scrappy and only usable for one story.

When I looked online, I could find timelines but nothing specific to my needs.

These were the things I wanted:

  • My character's age to be automatically calculated against each year on the timeline..
  • A column to show major events logged against each year
  • A column where I could record events in my character's life
  • A timeline that could cover any century
  • A timeline that could be filled in for my story, saved and a new one started for the next

This was when I turned in desperation to my husband - who kindly dedicated an evening to creating the perfect timeline for writers. I want to share this resource with other writers and would just ask that you leave a comment or give me a mention if you use it or share it.

To go to Wendy's Story Timeline Click here. You will then need to click file and download to use it. It should be straightforward to use - after all it was made for me and I'm pretty useless at technology! I have filled in kings and queens and some major events but you can fill in events of your choice.

Below are simple instructions for how to use it. (Note: The timeline will show from 1961 but you can open up the timeline to increase the range of years.)

If you have any problems or questions about using this timeline, please let me know and I will try and help.

Monday, 3 December 2012

My First Story Published in Woman's Weeky

I'm sorry if  this post is a little excitable but I have just received my complimentary copy of Woman's Weekly with my story 'Too Much to Lose' in it. It is my first story with them and once again I am sharing the pages with Teresa Ashby - we must stop meeting like this Teresa!

What with this, my two stories in this month's Fiction feast and another sale, I am having a really good week after a fallow period. Writing really is a roller coaster ride.

In a couple of days I shall be posting my useful writing resource. It is for everyone to share. It took a while to work out how to get it on the blog so it could be downloaded but I think we've managed it now.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Read My Two Christmas Stories in Fiction Feast

I was very excited to see my two Christmas stories in the Christmas edition of Take a Break's Fiction Feast today. If you would like to read them, they are called 'Will Santa Come to Gatwick?' and 'My Kind of Christmas'.

It probably wasn't the best time to have seen them as I was due at the doctors for a blood pressure reading and the excitement made it sky high!

I am very proud to have stories alongside those of well respected womag writers Della Galton, Teresa Ashby and Patsy Collins. If you haven't already, do take a look at their blogs.

Friday, 23 November 2012

My (hopefully) Useful Writing Resource Will Soon be on My Blog

The river near my house where I walk Bonnie every day - Lucky me!
Sorry it's been a while since I tantalised you with what will hopefully be a useful writing resource. Click here to see my previous post. I haven't forgotten - we've just been tinkering with it to make it as simple to use as possible.

I will post some instructions with it for those of you who (like me) aren't particularly tech savvy.

In the meantime, I would like to point you in the direction of Julie Phillips' blog - Julie's Quest. This week she set a challenge for writers to write in a different format, style or genre - to maybe take them out of their comfort zone - e.g. If you're a novelist, try writing a poem or if you are a short story writer, try writing an article.

I hadn't planned to take up the challenge but a seed was sown and while walking my step-dog Bonnie yesterday, I created a poem in my head which I then raced back to write down. I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it and was pleased with the result - so much so, that I've entered it into a competition. Thanks Julie for helping me to think outside my box!

How about having a go yourselves.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Answers to Redundant Words Quiz

I took this photograph of Brighton Pier from the Brighton Wheel

As promised here are the answers to the Redundant Words Quiz. Click here if you want to have a go.

Well done to Jan for being the closest (you only missed one) - sorry no prizes!
Memo to Teachers about Forthcoming Theatre Trip


It is essential that we plan ahead. The school party will leave for the station at 11.45 a.m. in the morning not 12.45. This was an unexpected mistake.

Although the theatre will be filled to capacity - as our visit comes at a time when pupils from language schools visit London - the theatre manager has said that as we are invited guests, they will add an additional row of chairs for our students. This is an unexpected surprise.

We have made a definite decision to travel by train but at the present time, we are not sure how we will make our way from the station to the theatre, but we are in close proximity to the bus stop and so might make use of the local bus service. We will be merging together our two groups before continuing our journey.

During the course of the interval, as an added bonus, the theatre has promised to provide refreshments and each child will be given a free gift of a programme at the end of the performance. When the play has completely finished we shall be leaving from the King Street entrance (in case any parents wish to meet their children). It is absolutely essential that parents let the school know if this is to be the case. Looking at the past history of these visits, we expect them to be few in number.

If the play runs late we shall have a difficult dilemma as the last train back is at 11.45pm. The end result might be that we will miss this train but as the train has been estimated to be roughly ten pounds cheaper than hiring a coach, the final outcome; if we changed our mode of travel would be an increase in parents’ contribution to the cost of the trip. Pupils might possibly be back at school earlier than suggested but we will postpone until later telling parents this information.

The theatre trip will be repeated again next year if it is successful and it still remains a possibility that this could become an annual trip.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Introducing Bobby

Those of you who have been following my blog will have met my step dog Bonnie. This is her step brother Bobby. I thought it rather fitting that he should choose the bookcase to perch on while I was writing. Bobs is nearly thirteen and his usual favoured spot to sit is between me and the laptop, while I am trying to type.There really isn't enough lap space for both!

When my husband and I got married two years ago (click here for our salsa wedding dance) I was worried how dog and cat would get on. I needn't have worried as you can see. I think this is the big Ahhhh moment!

Oh, and if anyone else wants to have a guess at the number of redundant words in the text from last post, you still have time. You don't have to email (though you can if you like) - just post your answer in the comments. At the moment, Claire, you are the closest. I will post answers soon.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

How Many Redundant Words Can You Find?

When you are writing, it is easy to add in 'redundant' words to your story.

I wrote the text below, to help a friend's daughter who is studying for the Literacy Skills Test (which she has to pass to become a teacher) and I thought that this is something that some writers might find useful.

How many 'redundant' words or phrases can you find? I will post the answer, with the redundant words highlighted, in a later post.

Memo to Teachers about Forthcoming Theatre Trip
It is essential that we plan ahead. The school party will leave for the station at 11.45 a.m. in the morning not 12.45. This was an unexpected mistake.
Although the theatre will be filled to capacity - as our visit comes at a time when pupils from language schools visit London - the theatre manager has said that as we are specially invited guests, they will add an additional row of chairs for our students. This is an unexpected surprise.
We have made a definite decision to travel by train but at the present time, we are not sure how we will make our way from the station to the theatre, but we are in close proximity to the bus stop and so might make use of the local bus service. We will be merging together our two groups before continuing our journey.
During the course of the interval, as an added bonus, the theatre has promised to provide refreshments and each child will be given a free gift of a programme at the end of the performance. When the play has completely finished we shall be leaving from the King Street entrance (in case any parents wish to meet their children). It is absolutely essential that parents let the school know if this is to be the case. Looking at the past history of these visits, we expect them to be few in number.
If the play runs late, we shall have a difficult dilemma as the last train back is at 11.45pm. The end result might be that we will miss this train but as the train has been estimated to be roughly ten pounds cheaper than hiring a coach, the final outcome, if we changed our mode of travel, would be an increase in parents’ contribution to the cost of the trip. Pupils might possibly be back at school earlier than suggested but we will postpone until later telling parents this.
The theatre trip will be repeated again next year if it is successful. It still remains a possibility that this could become an annual trip.

Friday, 9 November 2012

What is My Husband Creating for You?

My husband likes to fix things - computers that have broken, cupboard doors that don't close properly, the arm of my reading glasses when it gets too loose.

So it came as no surprise that when I told him I had come across a problem with my writing, and couldn't find a suitable solution on the Internet, he said that he would create what I was looking for.

We have a prototype and I am so thrilled with it that I want to share it with everyone...but you'll have to wait until it is finished. I will post it very soon.

Can anyone guess what he had made for me?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A Doggie Dilemma

Readers of my blog will know that this is Bonnie my step-dog. She joined my family two years ago, when I got married, and she is step-sister to my cat Bobby (yes the story has been written and submitted!)

As you can see from the photo, Bonnie is a lab/collie cross and is the gentlest most loving dog...with people!

Unfortunately, she has an aversion to a lot of other dogs (especially those bigger than her or ones that run up to her) and so a walk will involve me scouting the horizon looking for other dog walkers and quickly putting her on a lead before the inevitable meeting.

I am afraid that I am now going to have a rant on my blog (an unusual occurrence). I can only do so much: walk at a time of day when we are less likely to meet other dogs, put her on a lead as a visual clue to other dog owners before we reach them, take her off the path away from said other owners and call out, 'Sorry my dog is nervous of other dogs.'

My question is this: Which part of these actions does the owner of the dogs who have been allowed to run at her despite these cues (visual and verbal) not understand?

I know a lot of you who read my blog are dog walkers/owners. Your comments would be appreciated.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Angels and Demons



The toys are put away. There are no small hands pulling at my jumper. I am no longer required to read Super Sid the Sausage Dog six times in a row. I have unpeeled the sticky shapes from the dog's back. The cat has come home. I can eat adult food again. I have had an unbroken night's sleep and can write in peace.
Yes, the grandchildren have gone home...and it is too quiet!


Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Blue Suitcase

This is what I had planned for today: visit my daughter and granddaughter, decide on the paint for the downstairs cloakroom, sort out the mountain of paperwork that needs filing, do the weekly shop, babyproof the house before the youngest two grandchildren descend on us at the weekend and of course...write a story!

BUT... that was before I started reading The Blue Suitcase by Marianne Wheelaghan.

If I'm honest, I decided to read it because Marianne ran the excellent writing which inspired me to start writing for magazines and because she has been very encouraging to me on her blog but the story is so readable that I haven't been able to put it down...hence my lack of productivity today!

The story is set in Germany and follows the life of Antonia, through her diary, from the age of twelve into young adulthood. The story begins in 1932 when political unrest has yet to begin its inevitable march towards war and the young Antonia is interested in the political upheaval, only in so much as it is dividing her family and spoiling her birthday.

As the story, and the war, progresses we come to see how ordinary German citizens and Antonia herself, move from being supporters to becoming victims of Hitler's reign.

Harrowing at times, Antonia's often pragmatic diary entries make you want to carry on reading to the end to establish the fate of the young woman and her family.
Marianne's second book Food of Ghosts, a crime novel with an exotic twist, will be out in November so I had better expect a few less stories to be written next month!

I shall review Marianne's new book in a later post.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

People's Friend - A Friend Indeed

I was reading an article about 'The People's Friend' by Tina Jackson in this month's Writing Magazine and one part in particular stood out for me.

In the article, Editor Angela Gilchrist stated that they 'value writers who are prepared to work with the editorial team' and 'like writers who can accept criticism and react to it.'

She also said that 'if we see potential in a writer, the fiction team will work very hard with that person to get them their first acceptance.'

I thought I would tell you about how The People's Friend has helped me - in more ways than one.

I think it is fair to say that if it hadn't been for the fiction team at 'The Friend' I would never have become a published writer - the irony is that my first published story was not in this magazine at all but in Fiction Feast.

After a few straightforward rejections from the magazine, I received a lovely letter from one of their fiction team saying that a short story I had submitted was 'well written but the story was not strong enough'. Fair enough. Pleased with this feedback, I carried on writing stories for them and continued to get helpful and encouraging letters back.

One letter in particular said that they really liked a story I had written but it was unsuitable for their audience. It was suggested that I try sending it to a magazine with a younger audience. I sent it at once to Fiction Feast who bought it. It was my first sale and is called 'Try Saying Yes' -  it appears in the November issue. Thank you 'People's Friend'!

I was so grateful for their help with my first sale that I was determined that I would write a story that would suit their market. I sent another one off and my contact from the fiction team said they really liked it but there were some lose ends. Suggestions were made and determined to succeed this time, I rewrote it. To my surprise and great pleasure the story was accepted.

Finally, a Christmas story I sent to them was liked very much but the editorial team thought the characters more suitable for another market...hence my next sale to Fiction Feast!

I continue to write stories for 'The People's Friend' in the hope that they will like them, even though their payment isn't as high as the other magazines. A story I have been working on with them is on the fiction editor's desk at this moment and I am keeping my fingers crossed for another sale. They were the first people to believe in my writing and without their help I may have given up hope of publication. With their guidance, I think I am becoming a better judge of my audience and I am hoping that this will lead to more sales to 'The Friend'.

In conclusion, a message to all you new writers out there - have a go at writing for this friendly magazine...who knows where it might lead.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Adiemus - nothing about writing, all about singing

Anyone who has been reading my blog will know of my love of dancing but there is something else I love - singing!
I have belonged to  Cantatrice ladies choir since it formed in 2004. Our wonderful musical director is Zoe Peate and we sing a range of songs some simple and melodic, others more challenging. It is hard to believe that there are are now over ninety singers in our choir.
The exciting thing is that tomorrow we are singing at The Hawth theatre in Crawley along with three other choirs. The highlight of our evening will be singing 'Adiemus' Songs of Sanctuary by Karl Jenkins.
What is original about this piece is that there are no lyrics as such, instead the vocalists sing syllables and 'words' invented by Jenkins. The whole thing has a mystical 'New Age' African feel to it - which sounds strange but is really beautiful to listen to.
Have a listen to Enya singing an extract from Adiemus. It is truly haunting.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Remembering the Storm of 87

"Earlier on today apparently a woman rang the BBC and said she had heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well if you are watching, don't worry, there isn't."

I woke up and knew that something was different. The bedroom was eerily dark - and there was a rumbling and blustering outside the window that I hadn't heard when I had gone to sleep the previous night.

My first thought was for my six month old baby. The light switch flicked uselessly and I had to feel my way along the walls, out into the corridor and into my daughter's room, where, to my relief, she was still sleeping soundly - thumb in mouth.

Making my way back to bed, I parted the curtains and a scene from a bad horror film confronted me. The trees waved savagely and the thin arms of the lilac whipped at the ground but the worst of it all was the roaring of the wind.

The walls of the house trembled and I clutched at the bedclothes.

"I'm going to check downstairs," said the baby's father, feeling blindly for the door.

"Don't go," I said.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Mind Mapping your Stories

If you use an iPad or have an iPhone or iPod touch, I have discovered a great free mind mapping App that can help you with planning your stories. It is called Total Recall. The maps are easy to create and edit at the touch of a finger and it is a brilliant way to organise your thoughts and ideas.

This is, of course, if you are one of the lucky people who are able to plan their stories. I am not one of those writers. How I wish I could plan. I have sat with a notebook in my lap or with my new beautiful mind mapping bubbles just waiting to be filled in and come up with a big fat nothing.

The only way I can write a story is by coming up with the kernel of an idea. I then sit down and write...whatever comes into my head and gradually the story forms. At this point I don't even know how the story will end. A walk with Bonnie helps to pull all the parts of the story together and sows the seeds of an ending and by the time I get back to my computer, the story has usually come together in an organic way.

The good news this weekend is that I have sold my first story to Woman's Weekly.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Proofreading Your Story

Who proofreads your story? A word of warning to any new writer out there reading this - never think you can proofread your own writing satisfactorily.
After I have finished a story, I leave it for a day and then read it through again for any mistakes. I will often find things that I hadn't noticed the day before - a mistake in the punctuation or a typo that's slipped through when spell checking. I will then read it again and maybe find more things. At this stage I am convinced that the work is perfect with slip ups erased.
Do I then send the story off? Oh no. I learnt that lesson the hard way when having read through a rejection, found I had slipped from first to third person in the last paragraph. How I would have berated my year 6 for that crime!
My next step is to pass my work to my husband. I don't know how I would manage without his proofreading. Last night he read my finished story and said, "I like it, but who's Sam?"
"Why he's the main boy, the male love interest. who did you think he was?"
"I don't know," he replied. "But I do know that he used to be called Dan!"
He was right. When I looked, the boy was Dan for the first half  of the story and Sam for the second half. When I had finished the story on the second day, I had obviously not checked his name. I had missed this glaring error at least three times.
The moral of this story: Never trust your own proofreading!
Who proofreads your work?


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

First Story Published - in Fiction Feast

This is a very exciting day - seeing my first short story in print.

If you would like to read my story 'Try Saying Yes', it is in the November issue of Take a Break's Fiction Feast. I thought the first sale couldn't be topped but nothing beats seeing your first story published.

When I opened the magazine, what I really loved were the photographs. To think that time has been spent creating an image to go with my humble writing. It's worth buying the magazine for the picture of the busker - he's even better than in my imagination!

Monday, 8 October 2012

When Can You Call Yourself a Writer?

When can you call yourself a writer? This is a question I know a lot of new writers ask. Is it when you have successfully completed your writing course? Is it when you have finished your first short story, article or novel? Is it when you have sent off your first manuscript? Is it when you receive that exciting email saying that you have had your precious work accepted or when you receive your first payment?

I have the answer: It is when your husband tells you that in answer to the question from a work colleaque,"What does you wife do?" he has replied, "She is a writer." I don't know it he's right but for me that was a very special moment.

When did you feel you could call yourself a writer?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Tribute to Big Jim Sullivan

I had been invited out with a group of friends to see a local duo and, having recently divorced, I remember the oddness of going out on a Sunday night.

The small room at the back of the Chequers was crowded. It was the early nineties and the air smelt of beer and cigarette smoke. On the stage stood two men, drinking pints and chatting amiably. One in particular caught my eye. He was large and twinkly eyed with a shock of white beard.

His name was Big Jim Sullivan and his music partner was Willie Austen. When they started playing, the room came alive - feet tapped, bodies swayed and songs were mouthed with the band. It was the best night out I had had for a long time and was one I would repeat many times over the years.

To me, Big Jim was the one who smiled benignly, the one who took a back seat as Willie charmed the crowd but he was also the one who could play guitar - and I mean really play. I Look back at that time in the pub (that seems so long ago now) and realise how little we knew the real Big Jim.

Did we know that he had been one of the best session musicians of the 60's and 70's? No. Did we know that he had played with Tom Jones? We certainly didn't and likewise we were also ignorant of the amazing fact that he was a regular drinking buddy of Elvis.

What we did know, in those carefree days in the pub, was that we were listening to someone special to us, the locals. That is the memory that I wish to keep - Big Jim in the Chequers playing his guitar rifts behind his back just because he could.

I heard a rumour that he died quietly while listening to music...I like to think that it was to Johnny B Goode, the song that started my love of modern jive. I wrote my blog post 'Dancing' three days ago. The day before Big Jim Sullivan died.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


At the end of my last post I said that I'd just had two stories rejected for Woman's Weekly. I was disappointed as I haven't sold a story to them yet (and would really like to) but did as all good writers must - I sent them on to another magazine.

Imagine my surprise when today I received a lovely email from someone else at WW today saying they liked one of my stories but wanted me to change the end and send it back! Too late! There was obviously a communication mix up at their office. If I had only waited......

To cheer myself up, I am going to show you a video of my salsa first wedding dance (mu husband and I met at salsa classes and got married in 2010). I would like to say I usually dance better than this, but it's difficult in a long dress. Nobody knew that we were going to be doing salsa at the end of the dance, so I hope it was a nice surprise.

I started dancing Salsa about twelve years ago, when I felt I needed a new challenge. I started off learning Cuban salsa and then moved on to LA (cross body) style. In the video we are dancing LA style which I prefer because I like all the styling and spins you can do.

Monday, 1 October 2012


Anyone that knows me will know about the hobby that has been a part of my life for the last sixteen years - dancing. You name it - I have probably tried it!

Modern Jive. Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Lindy Hop, Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Ballroom, Tango, Argentine Tango, Quickstep, Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba........

It all started when I went to see a band playing in our local pub. I can remember them playing Johnny B Goode and as the song got going, two couples emerged from the rows of people watching the band and started to dance. How I wanted to join them - my feet were itching. It looked like Rock and Roll but different in some way and when I asked one of them after wards what dance they were doing, they said it was Ceroc or Modern jive.

I found out there was a class near the town where I live and decided to join. Luckily, I went with someone who had been dancing a while and, with his help, picked the dance up quickly (it is the best dance to start off with as you don't have to do any set footwork). This was in 1996 - little did I know that sixteen years later I would still be dancing - this and other dances.

What is great about Modern Jive classes is that you don't need a partner. Classes are organised so that men stand in one line and women stand in a line facing them. You dance with that partner and the teacher teaches you the first move. When the next move is taught, the women move on a set number of men so you have a new partner. It is a great way of getting to know people before the freestyle dance session at the end of the lesson.

The freestyle session at the end is arguably where, as a woman, you will learn the most. At this stage you can't be shy! It is perfectly acceptable for the women to ask the men to dance (if you don't, you may end up not dancing all evening) and the men will be very pleased if you ask them. If the man you dance with is a competent lead, you will be led easily into moves you haven't even been taught and of course each dancer has his own unique style. When I was first learning to dance, I made a point of asking the better dancers to dance so that I could learn faster.

Most importantly - don't give up! It may take a few weeks to feel you are getting the hang of the dance but once you do, you will have a hobby for life.

When you feel more confident, there are dance weekends that you can go to. These are great fun. My husband and I go to one on Hayling Island. There are dance workshops during the day and dances in the evening - you also get fed well.

Next weekend we are going to a jive dance near Battle and staying overnight in the hotel - what a treat!

The bad news - two rejections from Woman's Weekly (a magazine market I have yet to crack).

Friday, 28 September 2012

New People's Friend Guidelines

Why has my azalea started to bloom?

As I look out of my kitchen window at my rather sad looking rain and windswept autumn garden, a flash of yellow catches my eye. It is my azalea deciding that it is spring. Isn't nature a strange creature!

I am writing today with some useful information about The People's Friend that I read about in the fantastic Womagwriter's blog. The magazine will be given a new look and more pages have been added - hence more stories (seven in fact - one for every day of the week).

They have also changed their story length guidelines: stories should now be 1,200 for shorter stories 2,000 - 3,000 for longer stories.

The new guidelines for The People's Friend can be found here.

I really like writing for this magazine and am hoping that with more pages I may be lucky enough to make more sales - we'll see.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Piece of My Writing

This is a piece of writing I did in my writing class that is very different in style to my magazine stories. It is a description of a foster child's bedroom and was runner up in a flash fiction competition. The illustration is by my niece, Hannah.

Eyes Wide Open
However much they are tugged, the curtains, with their sailing boats making endless voyages across the billowing seas of cloth, spring apart where the tracks do not quite meet in the middle. A street light casts its crazy neon spell across the duvet. Only hands pressed hard against eye balls can shut out the light.

Pick, pick. A finger finds its way through the much washed fabric of the cover to delve deeply into the yielding guts of the duvet. After two days, its boy smell is encouraging. It offers soft comfort that Blankie can no longer give. Cramped between the wall and bed, Blankie has been discarded - a laundry fresh betrayal.

Damp pyjamas, still warm, hide beneath the privacy of the turned mattress. Alongside lies a holdall, its zippered grin revealing two small pairs of socks and pants, a grey sweater and a much washed t-shirt, ‘Welcome to the Jurassic coast’ still visible above the spiral of an ammonite. Inside its soft folds lurk treasures of other places – other lives: a plastic stegosaurus, a photograph - its myriad of creases aging the smiling face of young woman; a ring, its solitaire eye unblinking in the dark.

Books, carefully chosen, wait to be opened on the shelf. A shelf too high for a small boy to reach except on tiptoe- made in another time for another boy. ‘Welcome!’ says the card balanced on top of ‘Harry Potter’ – but no one is listening.

Shadows shift – phantoms of a childish memory. In this room, the fetid air is not fuggy with sweet smoke and the menace of stale whispered conversation. There is only clean emptiness and always the silence. In a corner, the solitary bed with its cocoon of duvet at last offers sleep.

Eyes wide open. As morning sun creeps tentatively around the edges of the curtain and diffuses through that stubborn chink, boats bob. Muffled morning sounds creep under the door – a voice singing discordantly to Madonna, a dog’s impatient bark. A dog!

The carpet is soft under a small boy’s feet, worn lino a fading memory. Hands reach for ‘Harry Potter’. The card floats down……. ‘Welcome!'

It is picked up and wrapped in the soft folds of the ammonite.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Two Authors Writing as One


Nothing to do with my post. This is one of the beautiful bouquets that arrive every month - last year's Christmas present from my mother.

I am fascinated by the idea of two people writing a book together as one author, as in the novel ‘The Hypnotist’ by Lars Keppler (which my husband is reading) – in which a Stockholm family is brutally murdered. The investigators of the case decide to hypnotise the family's teenage son, who is critically ill, in the hopes of leading him to provide clues as to the identity of the murderer.

I recently found out that Lars Keppler is a pseudonym for the husband-and-wife writing team of Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril.

It's fascinating to hear how they work. Apparently, they sit side by side at a desk with two computers. Each writes a scene and then after about twenty minutes they email each other their writing which they then add to and edit. This happens over and over again until they forget who’s written what.

A fascinating interview with them can be watched on the  Richard and Judy Reading Groups for Everyone site.
I asked my husband if he could imagine writing a book with me this way and his reply was:
'No, because you would edit and cut everything I wrote, whereas I wouldn't dare change anything you'd written.'
How well he knows me!