Sunday 27 February 2011

Ducks, Books and Summer Time

You see the ducks on the little pond in the photo on the right bar? All gone. They vanished mysteriously. They were very tame, very trusting. Some would eat out of your hand and there was a particularly pretty little grey duck that always came over to see the kids even if she didn’t want any food.

A local Estate Agent has donated seven white ducks to restock the pond. I just hope no one steals them. I think most of the people in this town have visited that pond at some time or another in their lifetimes to feed the ducks. My mum or my grandad would take me at least once a week when I was little.

Out of all the books I read in February, I liked the following best:

A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson. I love Milly Johnson’s books. Her characters are warm and likeable – except those who are horrid and worthy of being hated!

This book contains bullies and we all like to see bullies getting their come uppance don't we? Well do they? You'll have to read it and see.

The relationship between Lou and her sister and mother is just a small part of the story, but it is brilliantly done all the same. Lou is being bullied from all sides, but things start to change when she reads an article in a magazine about clearing the clutter from your life. They change even more with the arrival of the skip lorry...

The Dog with Nine Lives by Della Galton. I bought this ages ago when it first came out, but coward that I am I put off reading it because I knew it would make me cry and I was right, it did.

It really is a lovely book. The true story of the little dog Della rescued from a beach in Rhodes. I’m going to be buying more copies as gifts for friends because I’m not lending my copy to anyone! It is a lovely book, warmly and lovingly written and I recommend highly.

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo. Brilliant story. Made me cry at the end.

He is so skilful at taking a real event (in this case the tragedy at Slapton Sands during WWII) and weaving it into a story. It is written as a diary by Lily Tregenza who is one of 3000 people evacuated from their homes so that the forces could practice for the D Day landings.

Finally, The Stone Monkey by Jeffery Deaver. It is the fourth in the Lincoln Rhyme series.

It starts with the sinking of a ship carrying illegal immigrants from China to America and as with all his books the plot twists and turns until you’re tied up in knots. I didn’t guess the main twist at all, but then I never do with his books.

There is an animal sanctuary, Hillside, which is struggling at the moment with the huge rise in costs. Hillside was founded by Wendy Valentine, founder of Redwings Horse Sanctuary. They do a fantastic job as you'll see if you follow the link and it is so easy to donate - and if you do follow the link, do watch the film about Sugar, it really is worth watching and just illustrates the fantastic work they do. If everyone that reads this post donated a pound or bought something from their gift shop it would be brilliant and it's very easy with Paypal. If I could only donate to one charity in a year, it would be this one.

And the Double Summer Time debate. As far as I’m concerned I would love to have double summer time in summer and summer time in winter. It worked well during the war didn't it? Actually what I would prefer is that they didn’t bugger about with the clocks at all and we had consistent time all through the year. What do you think?

Friday 25 February 2011

Big Birthday, Spineless Me and Pocket Novels

My eldest son (or should that be elderly son?) is thirty on Monday. Happy birthday dear… I said HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR. He’s getting on a bit now bless him, and as from Monday he’ll be pushing forty as my mum would have said. Amazing, I was only five years old when he was born.

Hardly seems like yesterday he was playing with our dog big gentle Ben in the garden.

This week I have been discussing making a
Living Will – or Advance Decisions as it is now known with a friend. Interesting. I think I shall.

While I was out with the dogs yesterday, the postman who had been hiding round the corner in his van, whizzed round and put a card through my door to say he had a packet that wouldn’t fit through my letterbox.

You know what I thought it was don’t you? Well of course you do. One of those horrendously big fat brown envelopes which has insufficient postage stamped all over it. I gloomed and fretted about it all day – well for four hours until the sorting office opened up.

And spineless coward that I am, I sent the beloved in to get it – just in case the envelope had come open and all my rubbish stories had fallen on and maimed the sorting office cat.

He emerged with an A4 sized morbidly obese brown parcel and I nearly fainted until I realised it was the Amazon order I’d forgotten about. Phew. But there’s always today’s post. Never let it be said that I’m not an expert at this pessimism lark.

You may have heard that My Weekly Pocket Novels are required to be fifty thousand words in length in future - full details here. The pay isn’t great at £300, but there are large print rights to be considered and PLR – well while we still have libraries anyway. And it’s a pleasant way to hone those novel writing skills and get a bit of writing practice in. Well that’s how I sees it anyway.

I’ll have a look over the books I’ve read during February and see if there is anything there to recommend. Until then, enjoy your writing and I’ll see you in a day or few.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Has Spring Sprung?

I think it may have. I woke up this morning to bird song and it wasn’t the tentative little chirrups we’ve had over the past few days, but the full on dawn chorus. Not quite as loud as it gets later in the year, but good to hear all the same.

The bird that says “Weeeeeeeeeeeeep,” was there and the doves coo-coo coo-ing and all the other little trills and whistles were going on.

There is one group of birds that never fails to turn up all through the winter for a bit of yodelling and that is the gulls, particularly on dustbin day.

I noticed over Christmas when we missed a collection, the gulls still turned up on the Monday in full voice.

When I was out with the dogs yesterday stomping through the soggy fields, the wind was blowing off the sea and I really thought I could smell a brighter day coming.

And this morning here it is. Bird song. Sunshine. Blue sky.

I like gulls. I like the way if you throw bread up in the air they swoop in and catch it mid-flight. I like that loud noise they make when you can see their throats moving. It makes me sad that they are considered pests by some people. They’ve as much right to be here as we have.

Besides, they’re soul birds. And if you don’t believe they contain the souls of dead sailors you should go out and ask my great grandad. He’s been around since I was a child – he’s out there now stretching his wings on the roof opposite.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

A Big Adventure

Sometimes something happens that eclipses everything else and makes all the things you were worrying about seem like nothing.

My youngest son has been very ill. He seems to be on the mend now, but it’s going to take time.

The 15th February is the anniversary of my mum’s death eight years ago. It was, as she would have said herself, a happy release. The weeks leading up to her death were hell for her and for all of us who loved her.

She was a great mum. She contributed far more to my education than school, spent endless hours with me in the library, read every single one of my published stories – and wasn’t afraid to tell me what she thought of them.

Throughout her life she had more than her fair share of tragedy and heartache and was hurt more than she deserved to be, but she remained cheerful and always ready with a joke. Every day I phoned her up and asked how she was. “Pissed off,” would come the reply, then she’d laugh and tell me about her day.

She enjoyed the Second World War. It was, she said, a big adventure and she rarely talked of the heartache of losing friends and her first husband just two months after they married and only once of comforting a dying boy sailor who was crying for his mother.

She preferred to remember the good times.

I was so lucky to have her for as long as I did and for most of the year I do remember the good times, but around this time it’s harder and for some reason this year has been harder than usual.

If you’ve ever read any of my stories, chances are you’ve met my mum. She’s been in a lot of them, often in the guise of the rebellious mother. She loved it. “That’s about me isn’t it?” she’d say with a gleam in her eye. How I miss her.

Friday 11 February 2011

Crime Writing Competition on Alibi

I think I may have posted about this competition when it was held last year. Well here it is again.

Alibi’s search for a new crime writer 2011.

Deadline noon on the 1st May so you’ve got loads of time to get your entries in. And they only want between 1000 and 2500 words.

If you follow the link to the competition, you can read the top three entries from last year, go on the message board and read tips from Swedish author Camilla Lackberg.

The prizes are good too. The eight shortlisted writers will win tickets to attend the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival with bells on. The winner gets a holiday in Sweden, 100 books (100 books!) and a Kindle.

It’s been a worrying week here and I haven’t had my writing head on so that’s why I’m not posting a proper post. You know how it is when you’re worried. It’s difficult to settle to anything.

Anyway, what are you doing sitting there? The story should refer to your local region, so get out there and soak it up then write about it – oh and don’t forget the crime! Good luck!

Friday 4 February 2011

Don't Give Up!

I have talked a lot about rejections with fellow writers and most of us seem to agree on many things. What I haven’t done for a while is talk in any depth to someone as yet unpublished about them.

So now I have and I learnt a few home truths. I have always said that we’re all in the same boat and rejections hurt no matter how many times you’ve been published, but I’ve had a rethink on the subject.

We can have a bit of a laugh about the big brown envelopes thudding on the mat and say how it gets you down but you have to pick yourself back up and start again.

But what I haven’t been doing is going back to when I first started. Until you are published there is always that voice at the back of your mind asking, “Am I wasting my time here?” It’s still there when you have been published, but you can usually shut it up by slapping it round the gob with an acceptance letter.

But before that first acceptance, it is very hard to keep going. And a standard rejection letter really can feel like the end of the world – or rather the end of your writing career which amounts to the same thing. It is worse when you’re unpublished and it is wrong to pretend otherwise. So I apologise to anyone who is still striving for their first acceptance in the face of a seemingly never ending stream of rejections for saying it still hurts. It does, but not as much when you haven't had an acceptance to cushion the blow.

Someone arrived on this blog by searching for “how many rejections did it take before someone accepted you?” I was going to answer this, but I can’t find my submissions records from before 1985. I know it was a lot!

I know some writers who had their very first story submission accepted only for it to be followed by a string of rejections. I know others who wrote dozens before their first success.

I do remember the despair if I let myself. I remember the gut-wrenching sight of my own brown envelope coming back through the letter box. I still feel it, but time and experience do make it easier to handle.

I remember tearing stories to shreds and vowing never to write another thing. I remember my eyes throbbing - yes they actually burned and throbbed - with disappointment as I fought not to cry. There have been occasions in recent years where I have been reduced to tears, but those times have been exceptions.

All I can say to those of you out there who are still trying, still battling a seemingly never ending stream of rejection slips is don’t give up. If you want to write, if your gut insists on it and you can’t live without it, then keep doing it. Don’t Give Up!

And finally I found a picture of me taken a few years ago at my desk at the end of the living room. This is the view my family saw of me every day. Looking back and having them all suddenly grown up and producing children of their own, I wish I’d turned round more often.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Calling 13s and under!

Heard about this on the Chris Evans breakfast show on Radio 2 this morning. It’s the BBC’s Year of Books and they are holding a competition for 13s and under to write a 500 word story.

We all know that children, unfettered by the self consciousness that creeps up on adults when they start to take writing seriously, write brilliant, imaginative stories so if you know anyone out there that might be interested send them

There are writing tips from Anthony Horowitz, Howard Jacobson and Oliver Jeffers – just check out Anthony Horowitz’s fantastic bookshelves at the start of the video.

The top 50 young writers get to watch the breakfast show broadcast live from Hay on 3rd June – how great is that?

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Diamonds and Pearls and January's Page Turners

You may have heard that Diamonds and Pearls, an anthology published by Accent Press is now out.
Elaine Everest had the idea to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her own survival from breast cancer and has done a brilliant job as editor. A donation from the sale of each book will go to the Against Breast Cancer charity. The book is selling fast on Amazon and can also be ordered direct from Accent.

On the subject of books I plan to choose my own page turner of the month from those I’ve read.

January was difficult when it came to making a choice because I read so many good books. In fact I couldn’t pick a top one so here are the two I really enjoyed above all others.

First of all
Liane Moriarty’s Three Wishes was a brilliant read. I’ve mentioned before on this blog how much I enjoy Liane’s books. Three Wishes was Liane’s first novel, but I’d already read her later two and enjoyed them.

The book tells the story of triplets, Cat, Gemma and Lyn. It’s a book about relationships, family dramas and heartbreak. It’s funny and touching and you get to know and care about the Kettle sisters. It begins with the birthday brawl and ends… well you’d have to read it to find out. She has a gift when it comes to the small details of what makes people tick. Definitely a page turner.

Next up is
Bernard Cornwell’s The Gallows Thief. This book has it all, adventure, romance and murder! The prologue drew me in with the vivid description of a hanging in 19th Century London. Rider Sandman, hero of Waterloo is asked to investigate a case on behalf of the government. Is the artist due to hang for the murder of a countess really guilty?

You’re really walking those London streets, meeting the people that lived there – and you will probably smell them as well. I was left hoping that Bernard Cornwell will write more about Rider Sandman. Another page turner.