Welcome to my blog - a collection of thoughts and musings on the world of writing, books and all those wordy type things.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Another Submission

Yes, I hope you were sitting down for that one! I have indeed sent off another submission. And this time it was actually a novel!

As you know, I've been umming and aahing about sending this off - or rather about who to send this off to. I've been through the whole trying to find an agent thing previously, although not with this book admittedly. I did actually secure an agent way back then too, but although I got some good feedback from a few of the publishers, no deal was ever struck.

In the meantime, I had been working on other things, as one is meant to do so I wasn't just sitting waiting by the phone, but when it came time to send this baby off into the big, bad world, that experience was still in the back of my mind.

I realise it's not a unique to me experience either. That's not what I'm getting at. It's just that whole big waiting game thing. And sometimes you don't even get an answer so it's hard to know whether the agent has read it, binned it or even received it. I did send postcards with a mss previously but that doesn't really solve the 'have I left it long enough to contact them' dilemma.

Anyway, in the end, it became irrelevant because as I was pondering the problem, I happened to see a competition being run for novels. It was already close to the final day for submission but as my book was all ready to go, I thought it might be worth a shot. I know the date that decisions are being made so if I don't hear from anyone then, I'll also know I didn't make the cut. At that point, I can resume along the original path but, for the moment, this felt the right thing to do.

So, wish me luck and I'll most definitely keep you posted.

Congratulations to all of you who completed NaNoWriMo. I hope that it proved useful for you and that you're now taking a well earned couple of days rest.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Time Out and a Submission

Hello everyone!

It's been several weeks since I was here so, sorry about that, but I've come to realise that sometimes life just gets in the way of all our plans and that just has to be accepted, mostly by me. I'm getting better at that, but that isn't to say I don't still find it frustrating when health and stuff gets the upper hand for a while.

Still! I haven't been totally resting on my laurels - although resting was something that took up a few weeks, unfortunately. Firstly, I'd been having some pain and numbness in my hands and knew this as a sign than I needed a trip to the osteopath. True to form, there were some pretty big knots that had built up and so a fair amount of squashing, twisting and crunching went on.

I usually feel a bit off for a couple of days after these sessions but this one was particularly bad and I was pretty ill for about a week. Just as I was picking up from that, my ankle decided it was time to have one of the worst flare ups it has ever done. Perfect timing. Just as we book a real holiday for the first time in nine years, I can't even walk on it! There was nothing to do but rest it as totally as I could in the hope that it'd be ok in time for the trip. I was so stressed as it was so bad, we really were unsure as to whether we would be able to go. The holiday involved a certain amount of walking and hopping on and off trains, so crutches wasn't exactly an option.

Long story short, a perfectly timed check up with my surgeon meant that he was able to whack a steroid injection in to help settle it in time. I'm not a big 'trainers as fashion' girl but I could get my ankle supports in my boots so with a bit of fudging about, as much resting as possible, and a stock of painkillers, we were ready to go!

The flower garlands we were greeted with

Finally at the top after five hours on the UNESCO 'Toy Train' from Kalka to Shimla

Last time we visited here, it was dazzling in midday sun. The sunset visit this was just as amazing

The incredible sight of the Palace of the Winds, Jaipur
We took the trip through Great Rail Journeys and whilst it was great to visit, and sometimes for us, revisit the sights of India, the schedule was pretty full on. I'd taken my writing pad for any ideas and scribbles on our days off, and a journal to record thoughts in, but I only got a few days journaling in and never even got to look at the pad! It was literally up, breakfast, trip, dinner, bed. And there were some very early starts (4.50am in the foyer, anyone?!). Hence, very little inspirational writing took place.
On the other hand, I did have a couple of ideas and one of which was to twiddle and then send off a short story that I'd had written for ages as part of the Writers Bureau Course - an assignment I still haven't finished. Oops. And guess what, I actually did it! Off it tootled in an email. Whether anything comes of it, who knows, but at least I have tried. Short story writing isn't something I've done a lot of at all so I'd be over the moon if it did get published!
And whilst time to ourselves was very short, and brain and body was generally too exhausted to even think of picking up a pen, I've stored all the sights, sounds, and yes, smells (!) away for reference purposes in the future. That's the good thing about being a writer, no experience, big or small, is ever wasted.
I hope all of your projects are coming along well, and good luck to anyone tackling NaNoWriMo this month!
Happy writing!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Picking An Idea

I currently have several ideas bubbling around in my head. I spend time just staring into space, turning over story arcs, character possibilities, time periods, and imaginary locations. Of course, whilst we all know I am 'working', to others it does indeed just look like I'm staring into space! The trials of a writing life...

But my question is, when you have various ideas pulling at your brain, which one do you go with? How do you choose? Should you always finish something else before you start to write the new idea that is bouncing off the inside of your cranium? And yes, I realise that was several questions and not just one. Sorry.

I'm in the above situation now. I have one novel that is fairly complete in a First Draft (Very Rough) way. Should I continue on bashing that one into shape and put this entirely to the back of my mind or should I get this one spilled out onto paper (or screen) asap, or perhaps a mixture of both? The 'idea' at the moment is set a little after the Second World War. I wasn't around then, my parents were tots and I don't have grandparents to ask so I have a fair bit of research to do when it comes to getting the setting right on that. So I have been thinking that perhaps I could work on the research of that one, and when it's writing time, save that for the 'official' WIP.

Any ideas? How do you handle these dilemmas?

Happy Writing!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Reading Suggestion

I've just finished reading a really interesting book called The Housekeepers' Tale by Tessa Boase, and I wanted to pass on the recommendation to read it.

The book takes five different housekeepers, of varying periods and tells of their lives below stairs, the sometimes complicated relationships between them and their employers and what happened to them if they fell foul of these employers. It really shines a light on how hard their work could be, especially when hired as a cook slash housekeeper, which wasn't uncommon when the gentry were trying to tighten their belts. What surprised me is the age that many of these women worked until - and no extra consideration apparently thought of with their age in mind. Yet many of these women continued to work for the house for decades, even though they may note their frustrations in their private diary. It is easy to see how servants could be almost institutionalised within the walls of the house when you think that they lived in, working often seven days a week, with time off only for church attendance, and perhaps one afternoon a week. With the ease of travel today, it is easy to forget how limited movement was the servants of these great houses, which were often situated miles from towns.

I was especially interested to read of one of the housekeepers of Uppark. We know more of Sarah, this housekeeper, perhaps because she was mother to H G Wells. This grand house is now in the hands of the National Trust, and one we visited several years ago. It has a run of underground tunnels, lit by skylights, for the servants to go about the house without the fear of bumping into one of the family. It was chilly the day we went and the tunnels felt a little dank, despite the light streaming down. A great fire tore through the house in 1989, destroying much, but the 'below stairs' area was pretty much untouched, with thoughts that the dampness of the area made it much harder for the fire to gain any ground here. And yet this was where people lived and worked every day - it makes you wonder for their health, both physical and mental. Having read this book, I am now keen to go and revisit the house with this extra insight into Sarah's life.

This book was a gift, and I think it is always wonderful to be given a book that you then thoroughly enjoy. I am a lover of visiting these great houses, so it was intriguing to read about the people who haven't got their paintings on the wall, (for the most part - some families had a quirky tradition of having some of their staff painted), and how a life could depend on the whim of a mistress.

I really recommend this book. It is an enjoyable, and interesting read. My only quibble was that the author did occasionally drop in her 'imaginings' of what the housekeepers were thinking, etc, but it was only on occasion and not enough to ruin the book by any means. Should you be writing any sort of historical novel, I think this would be a great read to get a information and a feel for how servants were treated, and also an insight into the lives of those employing such staff. The trials and tribulations of trying to find a good housekeeper are in fact illustrated in one of the chapters.

If you do get a chance to buy or borrow this book from the library, I do hope you enjoy it and I'd love to hear your opinion on it.

Happy writing!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Pondering and Procrastinating

These two could probably be one and the same thing, albeit not intentionally. But when it comes down to it, I still haven't got any further with sending my latest finished novel off to anyone to take a look at, and immediately get into a huge bidding war with several publishers vying for my literary affections. Ok, so not exactly, but we all have to dream a little (lot?), don't we?

I had all good intentions of sending it off a couple of a month's ago, heading out to the most local Waterstones to snap up a copy of the recently released Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2015 with the plan to look up a couple of direct publishers, to see what I could glean about them. I also wanted to take a look at which agents might be looking for novels in my genre. I was a little surprised therefore, not to find the original publisher I was thinking about listed. I wasn't too worried about this but still thought I'd like to take a look at some agents' listings before I made my final decision. And this is where things rather stalled.

I had all good intentions of doing this but I just haven't got around to it. There always seems to be something else to do - helping out my parents with a few things, something I always want to do as they have done so much for us in the past, and continue to do so, it feels good to be able to repay the favours whenever we can. We also had a friend being deployed so wanted to get together with them, before he flew off, dealing with some ongoing health issues and just the day to day, ins and outs of this thing called life.

I know that people say you have to just sit down and write and I know that - and I try and do that as much as possible. The health issues mentioned mean I rarely have as much energy as I could really do with to get everything I need to done. Some things have to get sacrificed. It took me a long time to realise that, and it's still hard and I don't always get it right but the important thing is to try. And try I will. I have to admit, the thought of traipsing metaphorically around the agent list once more doesn't exactly fill me with glee. I remember all those rejections last time. Although, I do take heart in that quite a few of them did have hand written notes on them saying nice things.

This weekend is a bit crazy, as it's Air Show season in the world of UK aviation and Advance Helicopters will be exhibiting at our home base of Shoreham. Feel free to cross fingers, toes, eyes and legs for good weather as it really helps bring out the crowds (the good weather, not the eye crossing!) and proceeds go to a great cause.

After that, amongst everything else on my ever growing To Do list is to sit and go through the yearbook and make a note of any agents who deal in my genre. I suppose, in the back of my mind, there is a nagging doubt of 'is it worth it', when all we hear is about tv 'celebs' being asked to write books whilst those of us who don't have such connections or fame are lying untouched in an email slush pile somewhere. Or am I being too cynical?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the above and any tips you may have? It's quite a few years since I sent fiction out to do the rounds so I'm grateful for any helpful suggestions!

Happy writing!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Could New 'Snooping' Law Cause Trouble For Writers?

News of a controversial new 'snooping' law the Government is trying to introduce in Britain has caused upset amongst some who feel this is too much of an invasion of privacy. The law will give the police and MI5 the power to read peoples' email and tap into phone conversations. This new law is a reaction to the unrest in the Middle East and the threat of terrorism on home soil.

Personally, I'm not bothered. In the same way that I'm not against the many CCTV cameras that span our towns and cities. These have proved themselves in the past to be of use in providing evidence in crimes and really came into their own with the London Bombings in 2005. My view is that if I'm not doing anything wrong, then I've nothing to worry about. This goes for the emails and phone too. Perhaps that's a little naive but if someone wants to listen in on how well my tomatoes are doing, then so be it. I know this isn't the view of everyone, and that's fair enough. But I do have one slight niggle...

What happens if they look at browser history? I, like many other writers, use the internet as a research tool. And sometimes I'm researching how a person could commit a crime of some sort; if they did so and so, would forensics be able to track them? What is the least traceable poison? Looking at a writer's browsing history could give a very false impression of the kind of person they are! Let's hope the powers that be have allowance for us creative types.

Happy writing!

Sunday, 29 June 2014


At last! The final edit is done. It's definitely taken longer than planned due to a few other factors, but isn't that always the way with life?

As it is, it's done. I'm just letting it sit now for a few days when I'll go back through once more and just check that I've got the layout right. And then comes the scary bit - sending it out into the big wide world.

After that, there's not too much I can do but live in hope.

Wish me luck!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Nearly There!

Yes, I am still editing the novel. You may remember in my last post that my 'first reader' - also known as hubby, was now doing his thing and finding all the mistakes. Well, that plan which worked pretty well in the past now no longer really fits.

Once upon a time, hubby worked in London and had an hour's commute on the train. This allowed time for a kip on the way up and any reading I needed him to do on the way home. These days he no longer works in London and so doesn't have that commute. He also runs his own business which means that work doesn't stop at the door. So, whilst he did try and do some, it was pretty obvious that it wasn't going to be the ideal set up.

After some pondering, I took over the job and once more am going back through the novel trying to winkle out typos and 'am-I-entirely-sure-that-makes-sense' moments. I'm nearly there. Probably about 30% left to go through, according the Mr Kindle.

I downloaded (uploaded?) the manuscript as a pdf onto the Kindle to make it nice and transportable, initially for hubs, but it worked pretty well for me too. I have to admit it's a bit fiddly noting down the sentence and what it needs to be changed to in the accompanying notebook but I'll see how it goes when I get to the transcribing part. I'll let you know! 

So, no great news but I thought I'd just give you an update on things. I'm itching to finish now but almost dreading it too because then it comes to the point where it has to go out into the big old world on its own and possibly get maimed by editors. But what can you do? I suppose that's all part of the process. And I know that. And I know that people like John Grisham and JK Rowling were turned out a tonne of times, just as most of us have been, but it doesn't make it any easier or less painful, if we're being honest!

I'll be back - hopefully soon - to say I'm finished!

I hope everyone else's projects are going well in the meantime and wish you lots of luck if you're in the sending out stage already!

Keep writing!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Paper Edit 1 Complete

Phew! Have finally finished Paper Edit Number One. I say finished. I've finished making a hideous scribbly mess on the paper manuscript but now have the joyful task of transposing all those squiggles on to the computer version. Fun!

I'm feeling quite good about the changes I've made - at the moment. Probably, like most writers, if you come back to me in about, ooh, say five minutes, I'll be of the opposite opinion and the belief that what I have written and/or changed is terrible and what was I even thinking? But that's all par for the course, isn't it? (Isn't it?!)

I've got to page 56 so far, and obviously still have plenty to go. The thing that did strike me as I've been doing all of these edits is that I've been enjoying going through the novel again, and spending time with my characters. I'm really hoping that may suggest that if I've enjoyed reading it, then there might be other people out there that will feel the same way...fingers crossed!

The plan is to finish transferring all these changes onto the main document and then give it a few days before doing another read through myself. I'll make any changes then that I feel need to be done and then I'll be passing it onto my First Reader (also known as hubby) for an opinion and another pair of eyes for picking up random letters and bits of punctuation that I've left lying around. After that, well, we'll see!

I'm aware that it may seem strange to some that a man is my 'first reader' when it's a romantic novel. Whilst I can understand that, I also think it's good to get a fresh perspective for me. I realise that there are some men who wouldn't be in the slightest bit interested in reading a novel like this and I understand that too, completely! And I have to say, if he was picking out a book to read, it wouldn't be in this genre, and that's fine. But in this case, I've found that it works for me. He'll tell me what he likes and what he doesn't, or what he felt wasn't clear, for example and I trust him to do so. He won't say 'Oh, it's wonderful, darling!' if he thinks it stinks because he knows that I wouldn't want him to do that. Conversely he's not going to nit pick at every tiny thing as I have heard of happening at various writing groups. Personally, I think the two most important things you need in your 'first reader' are trust and honesty. That isn't determined by gender, or genre preference.

In the meantime, I hope everyone else's work is coming along well. Keep on keeping on!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Paper Editing

Yes, I am still editing the current novel. I'm on the paper version now, having already gone through it on  screen. I'm about half way through at the moment and hoping to get a bit more done later on today. It's turning into a fairly big job as there were some scenes that needed to be moved about to stop a bit of 'time travel' and I think it'll flow better in the places that I've put them. That's the plan anyway.

I know a lot of writers really dislike editing but I'm not too worried about it. It's all part of the process to me and at least, when I print it out, even though I still know there's a tonne of work to do yet, I can still see that I've got a novel in front of me. Which is pretty exciting!

And come to think of it, it's just as well I am on the paper edit at the moment as I'm about to be offline for a little while for a computer rebuild. When I replaced my laptop a while ago, following a long and loyal service from my Sony Vaio which needed retiring thanks to the many strange noises it made, not to mention the fact that it was even slower than me at waking up in the morning, I wanted something a bit smaller  and opted for a SSD. On the plus side, this is super whizzy, on the down side it has less storage. So, the time has come to upgrade its innards to give me some more space. We knew this time would come, and I'm still really happy with the machine itself. The slow start up used to drive me mad and the fact there's no moving parts is great when you're clumsy like me and it wouldn't be unheard of for you to trip over the lead...

So, I may be offline for a little while but I shall be back and hopefully I'll be reporting that Paper Draft Number One has been completed! Let's hope!

Good luck to anyone else editing at the moment.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Does Spelling Matter?

Spelling is one of those things that seem to incite fairly different views - a bit like Marmite. Either bad spelling really bothers you or you're really not too bothered by it at all.

I fall into the first category and it seems that to some, this means I am labelled a pedant. I don't think that's necessarily true. It just means that I was taught that spelling was important and whilst I agree and accept that language changes, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse (don't even get me started on 'chillaxing'!), I still think there's a very big place for correct spelling.

When I read a book or a magazine then I expect things to be spelled correctly. After all, this is something I have paid money out for and these people are doing it for a living. And for the most part, things are, although I did come across a bit of a honker in a copy of Sew magazine a couple of issues back, and it wasn't an isolated incident. There does seem to be an issue with the production in some magazines, not so much with spelling, but with getting the 'right' version of words when there are two that sound the same. English is not an easy language as we have an abundance of such words to trip us up, but these are people who are being paid to publish something made of words. Shouldn't they therefore have higher standards?

The argument brought up against 'good' spelling is that language evolves and we shouldn't be so hung up on the idea of how something is actually written down, but should instead concentrate more on the meaning. I can see the point of this argument in that the meaning of something is obviously tantamount to the experience of reading, but to make it into a 'one or the other' choice is detrimental.

Pre school children can work smartphones and the like better than the actual owners in a lot of cases and that's understandable. They are being born into a world of technology that has moved on faster than almost, if not any, other period in history. It's part of their world. It's not 'new technology' to them, it's just there. It's normal. However, when children are handing in essays written in text speak, and are either losing the ability, or never even being taught how to really spell words, then we have a problem.

Arguing that they don't need to learn spelling because even homework is done on a computer these days, as handwriting becomes a lost art, is only a half truth. Yes, a computer can check the spelling, but is your computer set to the correct language? Not correcting 'color' for 'colour' isn't an error if the language default is still US English and you're writing for a UK audience, whether that's a teacher or a magazine readership. And of course, the other thing with computers is that they are checking for spelling but don't know the difference in context between there, their and they're, for example. All of these are correct but they don't all fit in the same hole.

Personally I don't think we're doing any favours with the lack of spelling education in the classrooms. It's like the lack of competition debate. Yes, I get the idea of not encouraging competition so that 'everyone's a winner'. That made sense in a meeting, I'm sure. But in reality? Perhaps less so. And this is coming from someone who was pretty much always in the last couple to be picked for sports teams. Teams were generally picked by the cliquey kids who were also often good at sport and I was neither cliquey not sporty, so whilst an attempt to make me feel more included would have been nice, I don't think it would have worked. Competition is part of human nature. It's going to happen. Out in the big wide world we have to fight for everything - including jobs, which is where we come back to the spelling issue.

One of my PA jobs involved opening the CVs (or resumes, depending where you are reading this) received whenever we had a employment opportunity. I had a pile that I'd hand to the boss and a pile that went to the shredder. My boss' first criteria was that he didn't want to see CVs or application letters that were full of mistakes. His view, and one held by many employers, was that if someone hadn't taken the time to get things right in the application, how much commitment would they have to their work? That might seem unfair but applicants get whittled down and that was the first hurdle. It's important to remember that, whatever technology gives us, spelling is not irrelevant.

I'm not saying choose spelling over creativity, not at all! I'm just hoping that we can have both.

As a last note, these thoughts are only about 'everyday' spelling. Issues like dyslexia, etc are obviously a lot more complex and are in no way being included in these thoughts. As someone who has both relatives and friends who deal with such struggles, I completely understand what a challenge these can be and would never trivialise such things.

I also realise that 'resume' should have an accent over the last 'e' but there doesn't seem to be any way to insert anything like this within Blogger. Perhaps I need to start writing the posts in Word and then copy and paste. If anyone does know any different, I'd love to hear from you.

So, am I being pedantic in liking things to be spelled correctly? What's your view?

Monday, 3 March 2014

Falling in Love Again

Apologies for the absence. Any of you that have read the blog before will know that last year I had a publisher let me down on a contracted book right at the last minute and, to be honest, it put me off writing for longer than I expected. I did take a break at the time and then try and get back into it, but I don't think my heart was in it. It was the second time I'd experienced a deal being pulled, despite a contract and I think there was a lot of  'why am I bothering' still lingering around inside me.

However, I pulled out a novel that I've been trying to finish editing for ages and got stuck into it. I really enjoyed the first read through (I hope that doesn't sound too vain!) and now Screen Edit 1 is complete, I'm about to start the first paper edit - having first had to schedule in some serious paper buying!

It's taken a while but I've fallen back in love again with, not only my current novel, but also the act of writing itself. I am, once more, bumbling about with my head in the clouds and talking to people who don't exist. It's brilliant!