Monday 29 December 2014

My Goals of 2014 - Did I Succeed?

At the beginning of 2014, I sat down over teacakes with writing chum Tracy and set myself some writing goals for the coming year - you can read the original full post here.

The goals (in brief) are below and I have commented on whether or not they have been achieved.

Goal: Increase my story output to three stories every two weeks.
Achieved? Yes and no. I managed this for several months until it became stressful! I realised that by forcing myself to write more stories, I was concentrating more on quantity than quality and unless my story is my very best, I don't want to send it. I also realised that by writing more stories I had to come up with more ideas and this started to feel like a chore rather than a pleasure. With this in mind, I dropped back to one story a week again - this feels just right and the ideas come naturally now.

Goal: Achieve my hundredth sale by the end of the year.
Achieved? I sold 102!

Goal: Write another serial
Achieved? Yes. Serial number two was accepted by The People's Friend and is almost completed.

Goal: Write a novel
Achieved? Umm... no. I started - really I did - but there was always something else I wanted to write. I'm a bit disappointed in myself but will try harder next year!

Goal: Publish a collection of my short stories in time for Christmas.
Achieved: A gold star for this as Room in Your Heart was published in September (available here.) It was only ever meant to be an ebook but after many requests, I published a paperback version as well.

So, as you can see, it was a mixed year but on balance, I was very happy with my achievements.

But do you know what the best goal of all was? It was to meet up with Tracy once a month to discuss targets and put the writing world to rights. We've managed every month for the whole year and I couldn't have a better writing buddy. I'll be posting my new targets for 2015 very soon - so look out for them.

Monday 22 December 2014

A Look Back at 2014

I thought I'd take a look at all the lovely things that have happened in 2014 (this won't include general short story sales or publications).

January - The year started well with some serious goal setting with writing chum, Tracy Fells. Had my my first article published in The People's Friend and tried (and failed) to get to grips with Scrivener.

February - Was interviewed by the The People's Friend for their website. Went to a Jive weekend on the Isle of Wight.

March - Finished my WW2 serial for The People's Friend. My choir Cantatrice won two classes at the Worthing Music Festival. Article published in Writing Magazine on how to be a good blog host.
April - Went to a modern jive weekend on Hayling Island. Took my grandson to London for the first time.

May - Was featured in an article in Writer's forum on how to break into serials. Went to Bruges and visited the Flanders Field battlefields of WW1. Met People's Friend writer Alison Carter. Went on holiday to the beautiful Lake District.

June - Had stories published in four magazines in one week. Karen Aldous guested on my blog.

July - Natalie Kleinman was a guest on my blog. Samantha Tonge was a guest on my blog.

August - Met fellow writer Patsy Collins. Sue Moorcroft was a guest on my blog. The two year anniversary of my first story sale. Had a story published in The People's Friend 2015 Annual.

September - Went on holiday to the Dordogne. Author Cally Taylor was a guest on my blog. Was featured in Phil Barrington's 8 days a Week article in Writer's Forum. Went to the paperback book launch of Juliet West's Before the Fall. Went on Della Galton's 'How to Market Your Book' course.

October - Launch party for my romance collection Room in Your Heart. Had and evening with Mary Berry. Kath McGurl was a guest on my blog.

November - went to the RNA Winter Party with author friend Deirdre Palmer and met many on-line writer friends. Had an article published in Writing Magazine on how I put together my story collection for National Short Story Week. My cover designer Sarah Hughes is guest on my blog.

December - Sold my 100th womag story!

All that is left is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Take Me to Bath, Mum!

I thought I would share the inspiration behind my short story, 'Searching for a Jane Austen Hero', which is published in this month's Take a Break Fiction Feast.

My daughter and I have always shared a love of classic romantic dramas. In the year before she went to university (five years ago now) we were thrilled when we found out that a national newspaper was doing a special offer of a collection of British classics on DVD and of course I sent for them.

When they arrived - a whole stack of them - we were in heaven choosing which ones to watch. Luckily it was the long summer holidays (I was still a teacher then) so my husband wasn't forced to watch them. When he came home from work, he'd say, "What have you two been doing today?" and when we looked guilty, he'd shake his head and say, "Don't tell me... you've been watching britches films again!"

What can I say? It's true... we were obsessed!

The years passed and my daughter went off to university but when she came home for the holidays, we'd watch our 'britches' films over and over again (any wonder that a lot of my magazine stories are historical).

Boyfriends came and went (for my daughter, not me!) and then one day, after visiting her grandfather, she came home and said, "You'll never guess what Grandpa said!"
Apparently he'd told her that he was more likely to go to his own funeral that to her wedding and that she'd better get a move on.

"You'll have to take me to Bath," she said to me. "It's my only hope!"

I found this exchange so funny that I just knew I had to write a story about it. My daughter hasn't read it yet, as she's in Germany for a year, but when she comes home for Christmas I shall show it to her... in between watching britches films!

Also, this week, I am very pleased to have a story in The People's Friend bumper Christmas issue. It is a WW1 story about the ceasefire in the trenches on Christmas Eve. I wrote it last year but Shirley, the fiction editor, wanted to keep it for the this Christmas as it is the centenary of the Great War. I'm glad she did.

I think you'll agree, the illustration, by Mandy Dixon, that goes with it is simply stunning.
Finally, before I go, I am happy to tell you that I am a guest on author Natalie Kleinman's blog. Natalie's blog is very new, so it would be lovely if you could pop over and support her :)

Thursday 11 December 2014

Publication, a Win and Father Christmas

Phew - what a week! Firstly, I have had three stories published in the women's magazines.

Two are in Take a Break Fiction Feast. The first, Don't Fall for a Singer, is a Christmas story and the second, Searching for a Jane Austen Hero, was inspired by my daughter and will feature in an inspiration behind the story post very soon.

My story More than Meets the Eye in The People's Friend Special is the second classroom story I've had published (I'm surprised I haven't written more as I've sent most of my life in one!)

Another lovely thing that happened this week was a weekend to Hamburg to visit my daughter who is working there for a year. We timed it so that we'd be able to go to the Christmas markets and what a sight they were! I took the photos at one of the biggest markets held in the main square.

We even saw father Christmas! (I'm rather proud of this photo!)

When I got home, it was to receive the exciting news that I've won a competition held by Karen Aldous (author of The Vineyard and The Chateau) and Tay from book review site Chicks That Read. The prize is a makeover and masterclass with Karen's daughter - celebrity make-up artist Gemma Aldous. I've looked on her website and Gemma has a list of celebrity clients as long as my arm including the gorgeous Pixie Lott and Emeli Sande. I can't wait... though I think it only fair to warn Gemma that she may have her work cut out!

Monday 1 December 2014

How I Coped with Writer's Block

When it happened, after three years of writing, it took me by surprise. One day I was happily writing away and then the next day... blank. There was absolutely nothing in my head – no ideas, no little seeds to germinate. Just emptiness.

I couldn’t believe it. Surely I hadn’t succumbed to the dreaded writer’s block - I'd thought it was something made up... fictional... like my stories. Not wanting to panic, I pulled out my little book of ideas, knowing that in it would be a wealth of story nuggets that I could mine.

Running my eyes down the list of ideas accrued over many months, I felt a sense of relief and sat down at the keyboard to write... again nothing. I couldn’t form a story out of anything. Never mind, I thought, I’d get out one of my history books and have a browse – many of my historical stories have started this way... again nothing. Just the cursor blinking on my screen.

Since I started writing for magazines (two and a half years ago now), I’ve never had this happen. When people have asked me, Where do you get your ideas? and How do you write so many different stories? I’ve always looked at them in surprise and told them they are just there in my head, bubbling under the surface of my consciousness. Except now they weren’t!

So what is Writer’s Block? It’s simply losing the ability to produce new work and the most common causes for this are:

·         Running out of inspiration

·         Being distracted

·         Adverse life circumstances

·         Pressure to produce work

·         Feeling intimidated by precious successes

I put on my psychologist’s hat (yes, that was my degree many years ago) and thought about which of the above might apply to me. I realised that it was the last two and I'll explain why. 

I believe that bringing out my romantic short story collection Room in Your Heart, and having such lovely reviews for it, has made me worry that I will never be able to produce work like that again. This, along with the pressure I've put on myself to keep up my output of short stories, has caused the big freeze.

So what did I do about it? Well, I decided to give myself a complete break from writing short stories for a bit and concentrated instead on my serial, as I knew where that was going. I completed the fourth instalment and then gave myself permission to switch off. It was such a relief.
Then one day last week, while at my mum’s house, I was sitting looking out at the willow tree in her wonderful garden when out of the blue, a story came to me - just like that! Not only that but it was fully formed (unheard of for me). I wrote it up as soon as I got home and sent it.

I hope the magazine likes it but, if not, I won’t mind because I’ve learnt a valuable lesson: to be kind to myself.
My ideas had not gone, they were just resting.

* UPDATE* I sold the story!

Monday 24 November 2014

I Went to the RNA Winter Party - Well Done Me!

I did something very brave, last Wednesday - something that took me out of my comfort zone. So what did I do, I hear you ask - Did I skydive from 30,000 feet? Did I walk through a field of bulls? Did I sing karaoke in my local pub?

No, It was none of these things. What I did was to go to a party. Not any old party, but the RNA Winter Party. Why was this brave? Let me make you a list.

  • I don't like parties
  • I don't like talking for long periods (I like dancing)
  • I don't like London
  • I don't like tube trains
  • I've nothing to wear

Why then did I decide to do it? Well, it all started with a pair of shoes - not my shoes, I'd like to point out, but a lovely pair that writer Sue Moorcroft had talked about on Facebook.

"I love them but where would I ever wear shoes like that?" I asked.
"To the RNA Winter Party," she replied.
"But I'm not a member."
"You don't have to be."
"But I don't write romantic novels!"
"No, but you write romance."

And the seed was sown. I couldn't let the chance to meet up with so many on-line friends pass me by, so I made up my mind to go.

Luckily, RNA member Deirdre Palmer (from The Write Romantics) said I could go with her. She also said we could go by bus from Victoria station which eliminated problem four so I moved swiftly on to problem five - what to wear. I have three dresses. I don't wear them very often and when I tried them on one was tight, one was very tight and the third one is best not spoken of. I opted for the first and hoped I could get away with standing with my back against a wall. I then made the mistake of deciding it would be a great idea to wear these shoes for three hours!

Once I'd decided on my outfit, other doubts started to surface. What was I going to talk about for three hours? What if people found me boring? What if I caught them staring over my shoulder in the hope that someone else more interesting had come in? What if they asked me to name ten romantic novels starting with the letter J? The answer was clear - I would have to find a pillar to stand behind.

... only nobody told me there weren't any!

So, what did I think of my first RNA party? 

To begin with, I felt like I was participating in some sort of party game. Everyone wandered round the room looking at each others stomachs (where the name badges round our neck seemed to hang) and when the music stopped we talked to the person nearest to us. Well, all right, I exaggerate, but you get the idea. When you have a room full of people you are dying to meet, most of whom you have only ever seen in a small Facebook picture and you have no glasses with you, it can all get a bit excitable. Speed dating would seem a doddle in comparison!

And the verdict... I had a great time!

I got people mixed up, I called others by the wrong name, I asked well-known people what they did and I put my foot in it a few times (and then got a blister on it).

But as well as this, I talked to some lovely, interesting people, the time went by in a flash and I came away having made many new friends (here I am with Talli Roland, Natalie Kleinman and Elaine Roberts.

So, would I go again? Absolutely!

Monday 17 November 2014

In Praise of National Short Story Week

What is National Short Story Week? Basically, it is an annual awareness event, whose aim is to focus the attentions of the public and the media on the short story and short story writers, publishers and events. Find out more about it here.

The short story is considered by some to be the poor relation of the novel but this couldn't be further from the truth and this week is a good time for the myth to be dispelled. There are wonderful anthologies and collections of short stories around, written by known and lesser known authors, and what better time than National Short Story Week to read some of them or add them to your reading list.

So, what have I been doing for National Short Story week?

This month, I was very excited to publish my own collection Room in Your Heart (romantic short stories previously published in The People's Friend magazine).

First, I had my launch party which, if you couldn't attend, you can read about here

Then, I wrote an article in Writing Magazine about my experiences of putting together my collection for kindle.

Initially, I was only going to bring the story collection out as an e-book but was persuaded to publish it as a paperback as well. I am so glad I did as my collection can now be read by everyone - with or without an e-reader.

Having Room in Your Heart as a paperback has meant that I was able to show the collection to my lovely local bookstore: The Steyning Bookshop. It's a fabulous place to browse and buy books and I was thrilled when the owner asked if she might have a few for her display for short story week - as a self-published author, this is a great honour.

The fabulous Cobblestone Tea House in my village, (where I meet with my friend Tracy once a month for teacakes and writerly chat) and where the seed was sown for the collection, has been really supportive too. They were delighted to promote Room in Your Heart by having my book on show and bookmarks for visitors to take home. I can't thank these local businesses enough.

Having a paperback has also meant I could sell books to members of my local choir and dance groups (I felt very proud when I was asked to sign them). The support I have received from local people has been overwhelming and I am very grateful.

I don't want to finish this post without mentioning the short story magazines. Without them, I would not be doing what I love best - writing short stories! There are fewer now than there used to be but those that still print short stories are much loved by their readers.

Room in Your Heart is a collection of my People's Friend romances and one of my book reviewers said, '... after enjoying them all so much I think that this is one magazine that I really should start reading.' which says it all! You can read her full 5* review here.

But enough about me. I want to share with you two wonderful anthologies which I am sure you'll love:

Fugue a collection of contemporary short stories which includes a story by my good friend Tracy Fells and
Winter Tales an anthology of uplifting stories, by the Write Romantics, with proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

There are many more wonderful short story collections which have been written by my writing friends and I would love to name them all but won't as I would hate to leave someone out. What I will do though is leave you with this thought: whatever your reading tastes, find some time to read a short story this week - I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

Monday 10 November 2014

Why I said No No to NanoWriMo

For anyone who stumbles upon my blog and doesn't know what NaNoWriMo is, here is a short description taken from the horse's mouth:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. 

'On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.'

I thought fleetingly about a novel. In fact, I fleetingly think about my novel every day. I started it in the summer... it reached three chapters and then stopped. It stopped because I was too busy wring magazine stories, my serial, a Writing Magazine article and putting together my short story collection, Room in your Heart.

You would think that NaNoWriMo would be perfect for me then - the push I needed to get up earlier and go to bed later in order to write the novel alongside everything else. Why then did I turn away from the yearly event that could have seen its completion? I considered it - I really did, so why eventually say, "NoNo" to NaNo?

It was simple really. When I taught English to my year sixes (could it really be nearly four years ago?) I would often get them to highlight key words in a text or on the questions of test papers. I did the same thing. Let's look again at the definition above. The words that stand out for me are highlighted: Fun and seat-of-your-pants.

I'll look at 'fun' first. I am lucky that I don't have a 'proper job'. I can be flexible when I write and try and balance my writing with other things (dog walking, my choir, Zumba and FitSteps and my dance classes) not forgetting grandma duties! I love my writing time simply because it is not forced on me. I realised that if I gave up some of the things that balance my writing life (even if only for a month) I would be a very sad writer indeed, probably bored out of my mind and with chronic back ache. Not a lot of fun in any of that!

When I looked at my calendar, I also saw that the first weekend of NaNo, I had a theatre trip in London with my mum on the Saturday and a charity tea dance on the Sunday. I could do these things or write an enforced 1,667 words or worse - do these things and have to make up the word count later in the week. I could feel myself getting stressed before I had even begun.

The other key word was 'seat-of-your-pants'. Now, don't get me wrong, I love that word. I plan my articles meticulously, but when it comes to writing fiction, am a pantster. So what's the problem? Well, the 'seat of your pants' element for NaNo is to just write... anything! Although I often start writing with just the seed of an idea, I cannot just write and write. I edit and change as I go and when I have finished, there is very little I change (I am talking short stories here). If I felt I was just writing words for the sake of it, I would lose the will to write.

I have heard of writers who have been jubilant to have completed their 50,000 words only to have their manuscript languish in a drawer because they know it was rushed and needed complete re-working or they were sick of the sight of it. Many people plan their novel meticulously before the beginning of November to give it a better chance (a very good idea) but one which wouldn't work for me being the aforementioned panster!

So now you know why I didn't join the thousands of writers taking part in NaNo this year but of course this is just my own personal opinion and what is not right for me, will be perfect for other writers... and who knows, maybe one year I'll join in.

So, I will finish by wishing everyone taking part good luck... and a comfortable cushion!

Monday 3 November 2014

Meet My Cover Designer - Guest Post Sarah Hughes

I would like you all to give a huge welcome to my very talented cover designer, Sarah Hughes. Sarah graduated with a degree in illustration from the University of Lincoln in 2013 and is now pursuing a career in illustration.

I am absolutely thrilled with the cover Sarah has created for my short story collection, Room in Your Heart, and thought it would be nice if she could give us an idea of what it's like to be an illustrator and the steps behind creating a book cover.

What made you decide to be an illustrator?

I always wanted to do something art related. Throughout school and college, I dabbled in various art and design subjects and it was just a matter of narrowing down my choices. The freedom of all that illustration can encompass is what ultimately led me to choose that route - along with the ability to bring in elements of the other subjects should I want to.

Tell me a little about winning the cover design competition at Lincoln University.

There was a competition to design a cover for a children's novel, The Strange Encounter of Sally Shakespeare and Toby Tinker by Adam Rawlins, that was being published by a local publishing company (Hawkward Books). They targeted our university in particular for entrants so I was up against most of my classmates. Ultimately, the publisher and the author felt I had best captured the essence of the story, without being too direct, while also suiting the audience. They thought the cover looked nice too - but you could say that about plenty of the other entries - so these were some of the specific reasons mine stood out for them.

I absolutely love your cover design for my romantic story collection, Room in Your Heart. Can you take us through the process of how you designed this cover, Sarah?

Well, first I read a couple of the stories from the book to get a feel of what kind of personality the cover should have. From there, it was a case of getting out a bunch of ideas, starting with quick thumbnail sketches. These were then narrowed down and I worked with what was left to create more finished, detailed artwork before narrowing these down again, deciding on the final design and turning them into the finished image.

How do you work with the author in order to create the perfect design?

I involve them in each of the narrowing down stages so I know that I'm not completely off track and that the author is getting what they want. Also I make sure I have enough information to understand what an author wants from their book: sometimes there are nuances in genres and I don't want to misrepresent the author's work. For example, for this book the genre was romance but romance can be epic, chic lit, family drama... and those would all call for different covers, so getting a feel for the author's work is important to me.

How many drafts do you have to do before settling on the final design?

It mostly depends on whether I have a clear idea of what I want the image to look like early on or if I need to work through different ways to do things to find what I'm looking for.

How important do you think a cover is to a book's success?

Pretty important. I'm sure if a book had the worst cover on earth but was a truly spectacular book, then word of mouth would eventually get it to where it deserved. Generally speaking though, there are a lot of books out there and a good cover is one of the best ways to stand out amongst them.

Would you say you had a signature style?

Not quite as signature a style as some illustrators but there are some elements to my work that reoccur. It's more related to the way I use colours and create the art than having a specific way to draw things. I do eventually hope to fine-tune my style to a point where someone who knew my work would recognise something else I had done as mine. I would like to build up my signature style over time.

Are there any books you have seen where you've thought... I wish I'd designed that?

Maybe in terms of money but seriously, not really. If I like a cover that much, I'd be more likely to save it to a folder somewhere on my computer as inspiration, than wish I'd done it.

Where would you like to be in five years time?

Well, I would love to be at a point where I have published a graphic novel and have a steady stream of requests for book covers. I would also like to have a line of my illustrations on T-shirts in a high street shop and designed album covers and posters for musicians. There are quite a few pathways illustrators can branch down and I doubt in five years I'll have made a success of them all but I would like to get the chance to work on a variety of projects. Mainly, though, I would just like to get to the point where I can be making a living wage out it this, meagre or otherwise... preferably otherwise!

Thank you very much, Sarah, for being my guest this week and I wish you every success in your career.

If you are interested in discussing illustrations for your own project or would just like to find out a bit more about Sarah, she can be contacted here:


Room in Your Heart, a collection of romantic short stories, previously published in The People's Friend, is available for Kindle and in paperback here

Monday 27 October 2014

Room in Your Heart Launch Party!

Welcome to the party to celebrate the book launch of my romantic short story collection: Room in Your Heart. Let me take your coat and please take a drink from the tray. Bubbly all right?

I hope you don't mind me leaving you for a few minutes but others are arriving and I just need to let them in. Why don't you help yourself to a canapĂ© while you're waiting? They were freshly baked this morning - I bet you're impressed as you know I don't bake very often!

Right, I'm back now - hope you've been OK talking amongst yourselves but my special guest: proofreader, photographer and writing chum Tracy Fells, has just arrived with her very large ruck sack and I needed to make sure it was put somewhere out of the way. What was that? Patsy Collins has blocked the neighbour's drive with her campervan? Not a problem, the neighbours are all here anyway. Love the outfit, the colour really suits you - mind if I ask where you bought it? Thought so.

Yes of course I'll tell you something about Room in Your Heart - I'm glad you asked. It's a collection of twelve romantic short stories, all previously published in The People's Friend. Which story did I like best? Oh, that's a difficult one but I think it has to be the first story, Read These When I've gone. There's something very poignant in Rachel and Mark's shared memories of their early married life and it was one of those satisfying stories that just rolled off the keyboard.

Oh, do please excuse me, I think I heard the doorbell ring again...

Back again - sorry to break off our conversation. Let me introduce you to my People's Friend editor... I really think you should take off that bobble hat, Alan, you'll get awfully hot in here with all these people. No, I'm sorry, Susan, bribing him with a glass of red wine will not guarantee a sale - even if it is a particularly good Burgundy. It's a shame Shirley couldn't make it but I'd like you all to raise a glass to her in her absence.

Ooh, I might be getting a bit tipsy, but I think I could be forgiven as this is the publication of my first book.

Ah good, Sally Jenkins has arrived. You really must meet her - if it wasn't for her book: Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners, Room in Your Heart would probably still be floating around in cyberspace! What was that, Sally? You want commission? Sorry, but until someone buys Room in Your Heart, you'll have to make do with a sausage roll.

Let me take you over to meet some other very important guests - Marianne Wheelaghan, who runs the writing class where it all began, and two of my creative writing teachers, Natalie Scott and Ann Hamilton. Who's this lovely young woman? Oh, it's Sarah Hughes my cover designer - I know it's fab, isn't it! Next week Sarah will be special guest on my blog, so don't miss it if you want to know more about the work of an illustrator.

Do help yourself to a petit four - quick before Alan eats them all! While you're eating, I'll give you a little taster of Read These When I've Gone, the first story in the collection.

Rachel is sitting in the corner of the restaurant by the window, staring out at something I can’t see. Although still only dusk outside, the waiter has lit the candle and I look to see if its light catches the diamond in her engagement ring before remembering she won’t be wearing one – or her wedding band. The menu is open in front of her but I can see she is not reading it; instead she is staring at the reflections in the window.

You'd like to find out what happens? Well, you're in luck as Room in your Heart can be bought here!

Just going to put on some music. Must leave you for a moment to grab my husband for a dance... did you know we met at a dance class? Well that's another story (one that will be told in an article I wrote for The People's Friend). Anyway, without him, this book wouldn't have even got as far as cyberspace - it would still be sitting on my laptop waiting for someone clever to turn it into a book!

Thank you so much for coming to my launch party. If you buy and enjoy, Room in Your Heart, please consider leaving a review on Amazon... I'd be really grateful.

But enough about me, I'm monopolising the conversation, what about you? The story collection is all about love so how about telling me the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you.

Now for my Gwyneth Paltrow moment. Room in Your Heart is dedicated to all the special people who made it possible:

My lovely husband, proof reader and technical wizard, Ian.
Marianne, Natalie and Ann from Writing Classes
Illustrator Sarah Hughes
Shirley and Alan from The People's Friend
Tracy fells at The Literary Pig
Sally Jenkins' Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners


Monday 20 October 2014

Happy with your proofreading?

I've been thinking a lot about proofreading recently. This is because I have been getting my short story collection, Room in Your Heart, ready for publication next week. Considering my stories have all been published in national magazines, I had thought that I had submitted them error free... how wrong could I be!

Once I'd uploaded the collection onto kindle, I checked again and four sides of A4 later, I realised how much had been missed by both me and my lovely husband (who proofreads for me). My writing buddy, Tracy Fells, looked at the stories again - she'll be reviewing my collection soon, so look out for that - and found more!

I thought that would be it, but when we were preparing the book for print publishing with CreateSpace we found more! I now know what an amazing job our magazine editors do before our stories are finally printed in their publications.

It also made me realise how absolutely essential it is to use a professional proofreader for a longer piece of work - such as a novel... fresh eyes and all that. If anyone has used a proofreader who they are pleased with, please feel free to add their names in your comments.

Shame a proof reader wasn't used for this children's book. I was glad, when I looked at it with my granddaughter, that she can't read yet - or it would have been a pretty ropey lesson in punctuation and she wouldn't have been happy about that. Can you spot all the errors?

Finally, I will be holding a launch party here on my blog next Monday and I would love you all to join me... and invite your friends!


Monday 13 October 2014

So What if I Can't Bake!

How exciting! Mary Berry came to our little town to give a talk as part of a food festival. I think it was a case of someone thinking, 'We'll ask her and she won't come, but we've nothing to lose." She did come though, I'm sure that the inviter (is that a word?) is still recovering from the shock.
A great evening was had by all. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were handed a glass of local bubbly and Mary's latest cookery book, then we joined a queue to have it signed. 
As we waited, I tried to think of something smart and witty to say but all I managed to come up with was, "Hello." I did try to say it in a smart, witty way though, and I think she was impressed as she said, "Hello," back.
After a rather nice meal, the owner of our local bookshop interviewed Mary and it was really interesting.
Three random things I learnt about Mary:

1) She took Home Economics at school as that was the lesson for the 'not so bright' ones. (who's the smart one now, Mary?)

2) She looks way younger in real life than on the TV.

3) The dress she was wearing came for Phase Eight and looked way better on her than it did on me when I tried it on the previous week.

I think my friends were rather surprised I went to this event as I can't and don't bake. During audience questions at the end I wanted to ask, "What should I do about a soggy bottom?" but they wouldn't let me. Oh, well.

In other news, I have just sold my 90th story - which somewhat makes up for the fact that as far as baking is concerned, I'm someone who uses a smoke alarm as a timer!

Monday 6 October 2014

Writing Dual-Timelines - Guest Post Kath McGurl

I am very pleased to have as my guest this week the very lovely Kath McGurl. If you are a short story writer, you will probably know Kath as Womagwriter, whose blog has inspired and helped so many writers (myself included) on their journeys to becoming published magazine writers. Recently, Kath secured her first publishing deal with Carina and I decided to ask her about her writing life.

You have had a wide variety of writing published: non-fiction, short stories, novellas and now a novel. Which do you prefer writing?

Novels and novellas, definitely! I like being immersed in the story and characters for months, and being able to unfold the story bit by bit, building and building towards the climax.

How hard did you find it moving on to a full length novel?

I’d attempted novels when I first started writing but didn’t manage to complete one then. Then in 2010 I began a novel based on my own family tree research, and used that as my practice novel – the aim was to get to 80,000 words and then edit it, just to prove I could do it. I did, and then went on to write The Emerald Comb. In the end, part of that practice novel got re-written as my novella Mr Cavell’s Diamond, so it wasn’t wasted work.

Your new novel, The Emerald Comb is a time-slip novel. Can you explain the term for anyone who doesn't know?

Strictly speaking, it’s dual-timeline rather than timeslip, but my publisher refers to it as timeslip! It has chapters which alternate between an 1840s story and a current day one. The two stories are linked, and each informs the other. In ‘proper’ timeslip novels, there’s an element of time-travel or slipping from one time period to the other.

How long did it take you to find a publisher for the novel?

In the summer of 2013 the novel was completed, and I tried to find an agent first. I had some interest – two agents wanted to see the whole MS, but in the end both turned it down. Then in summer 2014 I sent it to Carina UK who snapped it up and offered me a two book deal (to my immense delight!).

The setting of your new novel is Kingsley House. Is this based on a real stately home?

It’s loosely based on a house in the Avon valley outside Christchurch which I have cycled past many times, also on a house in Edenhall, Cumbria which belongs to a friend’s parents. It’s more a large Georgian manor house than a stately home though.

In your novel, Katie researches her family tree. I know that you've researched yours too - find any skeletons?

Nothing like Katie found! But I did uncover an interesting great-great-great-grandfather who was a bit of a black sheep – he was born into aristocracy, separated from his wife, took up with a servant girl with whom he had 13 children, and was disinherited by his family.

If you could give one of your characters a piece of advice, what would it be?

To Georgia: Walk away. Marry for love. Don’t be fooled by Bartholomew. He only wants your money.

Have you any desire to write in a different genre - crime perhaps?

My favourite books are dual-timeline, and I have several ideas for more books in this genre. I also love writing historical. Having said that, there is an idea for a thriller kicking around in my head, and maybe I’ll write that some day soon… I’m also planning another non-fiction book, self help for writers…

Now that you've written your first full length novel, can you imagine writing short stories again?

I’ll write occasional shorts – for my writing class end of term competitions at least! But I don’t think I’d go back to just writing short stories again. Though you can never rule anything out!

What's been the hardest part of your journey to publication.

Finding the time to write everything I want to write! I have a full time job and other demands on my time, and far too many ideas. I know I work best when I can keep at it and write quickly, but sometimes life gets in the way and that isn’t possible, which can be very frustrating.

Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog, Wendy!
You are very welcome, Kath - lovely to have you join us today.

The Emerald Comb
One afternoon, Katie takes a drive to visit Kingsley House, the family home of her ancestors, the St Clairs. She falls in love the minute she sees it. It may be old and in desperate need of modernisation, but it is her link to the past and, having researched her family tree extensively, she feels a sense of belonging to the crumbling old estate.

When it suddenly comes up for sale, she cannot resist persuading her family to sell up and buy it, never telling them the truth of their connection with it. But soon the past collides with the present, as the house begins to reveal the secrets it has hidden for generations. Does Katie really want to discover what she has come from?
You can buy The Emerald Comb here

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, with her husband, sons and cats. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

When not writing or working at her full-time job in IT, she likes to go out running or sea-swimming, both of which she does rather slowly. She is definitely quicker at writing.

You can find out more at her website,, or follow her on Twitter @KathMcGurl .