Thursday 28 November 2013

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

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

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

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

Monday 25 November 2013

A Little Help Needed, Please

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 20 November 2013

The Curse of the Piggy, Currant Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

Time for a change...

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

Do you find your heroes or heroines share any characteristics?

Thursday 14 November 2013

The Wait is Finally Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 11 November 2013

Doubting Abbey - Guest post Samantha Tonge

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

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

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

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

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

Impulsive, loyal, fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 7 November 2013

My First Article Published!

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

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

Needless to say, I didn't reply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 4 November 2013

Rockabilly Me - Like the Dress?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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