Monday 28 October 2013

How Big is Small?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This hard... Help!

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

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

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

And then they did this with the polystyrene packaging!

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

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

Wednesday 23 October 2013

There are No Ponies on Exmoor

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was the start of our coastal walk...

...from the gorgeous little Porlock Weir.

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

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

Monday 21 October 2013

Writers Helping Writers

I'm really excited today as my favourite book writing-duo, Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman, have produced another two books in their writing series: The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus.These books are out today and I for one can't wait to add them to my collection.

As many of you will know from her guest post here, Becca and her co-writer Angela are the co-creators of The Bookshelf Muse, an award winning on-line resource for writers. They now have a new website Writers Helping Writers and a visit is a must if you haven't already been there.

Here's what the girls have to say about The Positive Trait Thesaurus:

It’s a writer’s job to create compelling characters who can withstand life’s fallout without giving up. But building authentic, memorable heroes is no easy task. To forge realistic characters, we must hobble them with flaws that set them back while giving them positive attributes to help them achieve their goals. So how do writers choose the right blend of strengths for their characters–attributes that will render them admirable and worth rooting for–without making it too easy for them to succeed?
 Character creation can be hard, but it’s about to get a lot easier.

Inside The Positive Trait Thesaurus, you’ll find:

* A large selection of attributes to choose from when building a personality profile. Each entry lists possible causes for why a trait might emerge, along with associated attitudes, behaviours, thoughts, and emotions
* Real character examples from literature, film, or television to show how an attribute drives actions and decisions, influences goals, and steers relationships
* Advice on using positive traits to immediately hook readers while avoiding common personality pitfalls
* Insight on human needs and morality, and how each determines the strengths that emerge in heroes and villains alike
* Information on the key role positive attributes play within the character arc, and how they’re vital to overcoming fatal flaws and achieving success
* Downloadable tools for organizing a character’s attributes and providing a deeper understanding of his past, his needs, and the emotional wounds he must overcome

If you find character creation difficult or worry that your cast members all seem the same, The Positive Trait Thesaurus is brimming with ideas to help you develop one-of-a-kind, dynamic characters that readers will love. Extensively indexed, with entries written in a user-friendly list format, this brainstorming resource is perfect for any character creation project.

If their first book, The Emotion Thesaurus is anything to go by, these two books will find a home on a lot of writers' bookshelves and if anyone thinks Becca and Angela are now resting on their laurels, they'd be wrong - a visit to their website shows that they are busy working on a new project: a talents and skills thesaurus... go girls!

All three books can be bought from Amazon here.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

I'm a Cover Girl! - Read My Story 'Letters From the Past' in The People's Friend

I was very excited when I got to the newsagents to see that my story, Letters From the Past, is the cover story for this month's People's Friend magazine.The girl in the picture is stunning and exactly as I pictured her when I wrote it.The illustration is by the talented Andre Leonard. I love his work and have been lucky enough to have had my stories partnered with his pictures a few times now.

Now for the inspiration behind the story. I was eating a bowl of mussels in a restaurant and it stirred a memory of a holiday I had in France when I was younger (before I had children). One place we visited was the Ile de Re on the west coast near La Rochelle. We hired bikes and cycled for miles round the island and then, tired and hungry, found a little seafront restaurant where we ate mussels and drank wine.

I knew I wanted to write about this place and decided to work it into the shared memories of the young couple in my story. The scene where Mark struggles with his French and asks for a fisherman instead of a peach is something I myself did on another French holiday a few years later!

This story is written from the point of view of the young man, so please don't think that just because the magazine is aimed at female readers that they will only accept female points of view. In fact quite a few of my stories have had male protagonists.

I always say, write a story you love and, whatever the viewpoint, you have a good chance of the editors loving it too.

Friday 11 October 2013

Destiny According to Doris - Read My Story in Fiction Feast

Another in my series of inspirations behind the stories.

The inspiration behind Destiny According to Doris, which can been found in this month's Fiction Feast, came from a memory I had of a day many years ago now. My children were around 6 and 10 at the time and we had popped into our little town's community centre as they were holding a 'holistics fair'. I only went in because I'd pulled a muscle in my neck and the sign outside mentioned a Reiki head massage which I thought might help (actually it was excruciating and made it much worse!).

While I was in there, I noticed a sign for a tarot reading at the back of the hall. I've always been fascinated by anything psychic, not because I believe in it (far from it) but because I love trying to work out how it's done.

For the first time ever, I decided to have a reading - just for a laugh. I had visions of a mysterious woman dressed in a gauzy headscarf with jingling coins around the edge - not sure where the image came from... the book of clich├ęs I expect. When I sat down though, I have to say I was immensely disappointed: The psychic turned out to be rather ordinary looking and dressed as though she'd just come back from a morning at Tescos.

If you're a susceptible sort, she was very convincing. The reading was taped and for a small sum you could buy a copy to take home. This I did and when I got home I enjoyed going through all her comments and working out how she had come to each one.

I found the tape the other day at the back of a drawer and I would like to be able to tell you that what she said was:
  • One day you will write for magazines
  • You will inherit a very bad dog called Bonnie
  • You will marry a very handsome inventor of a story timeline
...but of course she didn't. What she actually said, amongst other generalisations, was:
  • I see someone in your future (obviously noticed the ringless finger)
  • You will have some problems to overcome  (obviously noticed the children rampaging round the hall)
  • Any money worries will improve (obviously noticed my empty purse as I paid her)
A bit of a let down all in all, so I decided to make the psychic in my story much more interesting - I think I managed it!

Monday 7 October 2013

I Am in Awe!

I watched (or rather heard) an amazing thing happen on Saturday. Our choir Cantatrice sang in the 'Last Night of the Proms' concert with the wonderful Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra.

As always, I was very nervous - which is rather silly as there are over ninety of us in the choir - but there it is. One of my problems is my worry over learning the words. When I was a child, I used to be entered into speech and drama festivals (as my mum's a drama teacher). Mostly it was fine, but one day, I went out on stage and blanked... seriously blanked. It was one of those 'I hope I wake up soon' moments and the memory has stayed with me to this day (hence the worry every singing concert).

Anyway, on this occasion, our lovely musical director Zoe was singing, as a solo, the verses of Rule Britannia. She is a very confident singer and puts us all to shame. We stood transfixed, as she started her recital - standing there in a Union Jack ensemble. Imagine my shock, then, when I realised in the second verse that Zoe was singing "" very beautifully and confidently. I checked my sheet (we were singing the chorus and had been given the words) - nowhere did it say "".

It was then I realised that she had forgotten the words but was brazenly carrying on regardless as though nothing had happened... how brilliant is that! Britannia may have ruled the waves, but Zoe certainly ruled that stage.

I think confidence is something you either have or don't have. Unfortunately, from my earlier experience, I know I'm in the latter category... but my own horrendous experience did have its positive side. I used the stage fright in a story and it was my first ever story published in Fiction Feast.

I have another in this month's Fiction Feast called Destiny According to Doris. It's a bit different to my usual as it is humorous so I hope you like it.

Friday 4 October 2013

Some Little Hints

When I was at school (rather a long time ago now) we had to write book reviews. I'll be honest - it was my least favourite activity. If I knew I had to review or pick apart a book, my enjoyment of it would decrease in line with the amount of thinking I was doing regarding the task that had been set. Some love it - I don't!

This puts me in a bit of a quandary. Many of my writing friends have brought out books in one form or another recently - there are some great fiction and non-fiction books around and of course I'd love to give a full review of everything I have bought/downloaded/been emailed but as soon as I try to analyse the book I'm right back in that classroom sucking my pencil and wishing for break time.

So what I've decided to do is to tell you lovely readers that if I have posted about a book on my blog, it is a given that I have read and liked/enjoyed/been amused by or been informed by it.

So... now that's out the way, I'd like to introduce Lynne Hackles' new writing 'how to' called Handy Hints for Writers which can be bought from Amazon at a snip for just 99p.

I was lucky enough to win Lynne's book in a competition and read it on holiday on the canal boat (maybe that's why I missed the heron!)  -  how better to introduce it than by listing my ten personal favourite handy hints from her book.

Thanks for these, Lynne.

1.  Train yourself:

Train yourself to look for ideas and to ask what if? Every person you meet is a potential character. Every place you visit is a potential location. Every problem you hear is a potential plot.

2. Too busy:

Never think you are too busy to write. Learn to delegate jobs, gardening, shopping housework. If you really want to write, make time. Real writers do.

3 Believe in yourself:

Ignore the voice in your head telling you that you are not good enough. Tell yourself you can do it and then get on with it.

4. Our unique voice:

Admire other writers, admire their styles but be yourself.

5. Write it down:

Keep notebooks and pens with you at all times. We all tell ourselves we'll remember that incredible idea for a story or article but wonderful ideas can pop into the mind as easily as they can pop in.

6. No clocking off

Writers never clock off. They work wherever they are. They meet people, see places, get ideas and inspiration.

7. Rewards:

Successes should be celebrated, however big or small.

8. Hup two three:

Physical exercise can help if the mind seizes up. Do anything active. It'll get the circulation going and stimulate those little grey cells.

9. What to take note of:

If yours is not the normal printed rejection but, instead, has something personal in it, then please take note. They do mean it.

10.  Be gripped by your story line:

If you aren't, why should anyone else be?

If you want to read loads more handy hints, Lynne's great book can her bought here.
and here is Lynne's blog.