Saturday 26 September 2015

A Fit of the Naughties!

Dusty has naughty days when he keeps gathering things up. Often he’ll come in from the garden with a stone, a leaf or a stick. Sometimes it’ll be one of Harley’s beds or a toy or a shoe. I took all these photos one afternoon after school when he got a fit of the naughties!

With Mr Potato Head's lips

With Mr Potato Head's nose

Hiding behind Harley, eating my poppies

With a lid from the toy tea set

He is extremely quick to learn (except when it comes to walking nicely on the lead) and I have inadvertently taught him that if he brings me something, I will exchange it for something tasty. He usually brings his finds and sits in front of me with them as if to say, “Where’s my treat?” 

Indy used to do the same when the children were playing. In his case, I think he just wanted to join in the fun. I think Dusty does too - the treats are an added bonus!

He finds things when we’re out. At the moment there are a lot of windfall apples to be found and we can have quite a lengthy game of fetch with one of those before it disintegrates.

Last weekend he saw this at the beach.

He approached warily, walked round it, cocked his leg up at it, then moved on. But I wanted a photo of him with it and the only way to get him back was to offer him a dog biscuit – so that face he’s pulling is his eating a biscuit face.

This lovely September warm spell has enticed him back into the water. He’s been doing a lot of swimming over the past few days. When the tide is out he swims in the creek, but it’s too dangerous to swim there when the tide is in. It’s very deep and very fast moving. 

Swimming in the creek

Swimming in the sea

Saturday 19 September 2015

The Mysterious Hettie Barton

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome the mysterious Hettie Barton to my blog. Hettie, under her other by-lines, is one of my favourite short story writers. Her new book, which is available on Kindle is called Short Story Secrets – Turning Words Into Money.

I’d already read Hettie’s Handy Hints For An Easier Life. I love how Hettie describes herself as “Hettie Barton Busybody”.  

I fell in love with Hettie's forthright manner and her succinct easy to read format, so I guessed Short Story Secrets would also be a good read.

There are lots of how-to guides on the market, but Short Story Secrets is different. Hettie doesn’t tell you how to create characters or write dialogue, but she does tell you how to go about being a writer, from how to present your work to finding your way through the new contracts.

So without further ado, here’s Hettie!

I know that you are a successful writer with publishing credits in the hundreds – and I must admit to being a fan of your stories, so what made you decide to write a book about writing?

I love to read and I love to write – most of all I love to read about writing. So I thought it would be interesting to see if I could write a writing book of my own. I really enjoyed the experience and the words flew onto the screen. Which I suppose proves the old saying that you should write something you’d like to read.

It is very different from other writing books and quite unlike any I’ve read before. In fact it felt like having a chat with another writer about the business of writing. Did you see a gap in the market or is this the book you wish had been about when you started out?

I wish I could say I had identified a gap, but unfortunately I wasn’t thinking that clearly. But, yes, I do wish there had been something similar to this when I first started writing – if only to give me a bit of confidence that I was on the right track and that rejections are normal.

I remember being amazed when I found out other writers got rejections too. Why did you use a pseudonym?

Pseudonyms are brilliant – I have a few. Sometimes, I might use one because I’m writing a different style of story. For Short Story Secrets, though, I avoided using my own name so I could write what I wanted without feeling inhibited. I’ve tried to be as honest as possible in this book as there’s no point offering advice if you’re going to hold something back. If I’d been using my own name I would probably have toned it down a bit.

There is something liberating about using a pseudonym isn’t there. Do you have a favourite writing book yourself?

I have shelves and boxes full of writing books and I love most of them. For short stories, though, I’d have to say Della Galton’s How To Write And Sell Short Stories is a must for anyone writing for the womag market. I also have a spot dusted on my keepers’ shelf for the time you might write a writing book.

That’s a great book to recommend – and thank you for keeping a spot dusted for me. Do you write every day?

Oooh, I don’t. I know I should, but somehow I’ve never quite been able to manage it. Sometimes, as with this book, the words just write themselves – those times are a joy and I can’t wait to get back to the keyboard so I did write every day when I was working on this project. But then I’ll need a rest and I might not write much else for months.

Any writing mascots or charms?

Not as such, but I have to admit to a quiver of nerves when the post office changes the colour of stamps. Especially if they no longer match my envelopes and paperclips. I also like to post my stories from the same post boxes (I have three favourites) – because I’m sure that makes a huge difference to how the editor will judge my story. I always stick my hand into the box to make sure the envelope’s properly in. And I’d never leave a submission in a post box overnight – if the post’s gone I’ll hold on to the story until the next day. Though this last one is probably less superstition and more good sense as I’ve heard some horror stories about what can happen to post boxes and I know I’m not alone in worrying about this. It makes my life much easier when publications accept email submissions.

I had to laugh – the times I’ve almost got my hand stuck in a post box trying to push my envelope down! Which do you prefer writing, novellas or short stories?

I adore writing short stories. I only wish there was a bigger market for them. I love that I can write them fairly quickly (despite being a slow writer). I love that after acceptance they (mostly) get published quickly. And I love the whole experience of going to the newsagent and flicking through the pages of the magazine to see what the story looks like in print. And sometimes (most of the time) I’ll tell the newsagent and everyone who happens to be in the queue that I have a story published in that particular issue. Cool is not my middle name.

That is a lovely feeling isn’t it. And I think Cool could well be your middle name! What comes first for you, the characters or the plot?

This is a difficult one. Most of the time I’m not too sure where an idea has come from. Occasionally it will be something in real life that’s set it off – maybe an overheard conversation, or something that’s happened at work (with names changed to protect the guilty). So I think, in those cases, the idea for the character and the suggestion for the plot arrive together. The only time I’ve really been aware that character comes first is if someone has annoyed me – then I’ll write a story around them. There’s nothing better than getting revenge in print.

Revenge can be so sweet – plus you get paid! What for you is the best bit of being a writer?

Creating something from nothing. Knowing that when a reader picks up one of my stories, I have a direct link through to their mind (which sounds a bit sinister, but I only use this power for entertainment purposes). And actually being paid for it. I still can’t believe people actually pay me for my words.

Well I can. Your stories are lovely and I can relate to that special connection with the reader. And the worst part of being a writer?

The worrying. The waiting. And the email and postman stalking. And the silence from editors (which can be frequent and lengthy). Before I started writing I always thought I was quite patient. Turns out I’m not.

I think that is my worst part too. Has the success of Short Story Secrets taken you by surprise?

It has a bit. When I published it I didn’t really expect much to happen, but it sold a number of copies fairly quickly. It seems to have gone down quite well, too, which was also a surprise. Some readers have sent positive private messages and a few have posted welcome and very kind reviews, for which I’m very grateful. Sometimes people are so lovely.

The reviews are well deserved. So what next for Hettie?

Hettie’s thinking over lots of ideas.

The first is for a Christmas Book (though I’ve probably left it too late for this year). This will be another Handy Hints type book.

I’m also keen to do a book of angry rants – this will be a selfish book, full of some of the things that drive me barmy. I’m not sure it will appeal to many readers, but the older I get the more crotchety I become and I feel the need to tell the world, even if the world isn’t interested. I’ve a feeling having a pseudonym will be a good thing for this one.

Hopefully I’ll manage more writing books, too. Ever since I read Rachel Aaron’s book, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, I’ve been fascinated by how quickly some speedy souls produce stories.  I’ve been toying with writing about it and maybe mentioning the techniques I’ve found useful. I have a title ready (borrowed – with permission – from a friend’s recent blog post) – now I just need to get the words done.

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog today, Teresa. I’ve long been a fan and I’m so thrilled to have been able to visit you here.

Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. It’s been a pleasure having you and I’m delighted to know Hettie has more ideas in the pipeline. I particularly like the sound of the angry rants book. I do love an angry rant!

Short Story Secrets – Turning Words Into Money is available on Kindle UK and Kindle.

Wednesday 16 September 2015


I had an MRI scan this week. The dental problems which turned out to be sinus problems turned out to be neither. All those antibiotics I’ve swallowed over this past year have probably been in vain, not to mention all the saline nasal sprays, steam inhalants etc etc etc.

After having a camera poked up my nose in August, the ENT doctor said my sinuses looked very clean and healthy with no evidence of a recent infection and the CT scan I had confirmed that. So he booked me for an MRI.

Half an hour they said it would take to have the MRI. My appointment was at 11.30 so I thought I’d have plenty of time to get back for school pick up, but we’d agreed that if for any reason I wasn’t out by 2, my husband would come back to get the children and I’d walk to the railway station and catch a train.

The two guys doing the MRI took me into a room where they explained what would be happening. They couldn’t have been nicer or kinder. I felt a bit scared when they said there was a remote chance of an allergic reaction to the dye they were going to inject, but they reassured me that it was very rare and if it did happen, they knew what to do.

Did I have any questions? Yes, will I be out by 2? They both laughed. “You’ll be out in time for lunch,” one of them said. “They always tell you it’ll take longer than it does.”

That’s when I thought to mention that I have difficult veins. When I had the blood test to check my kidney function, the nurses had to get a doctor and he ended up managing to squeeze just enough blood out of a vein in my wrist for the test. “It might take a little longer then.” I don’t think any of us realised quite how long.

I can’t get over how nice they were. So courteous and kind. They offered to put the radio on but I opted to just wear the headphones. I’m glad I did as I’ve since been told that it’s nigh impossible to hear the music anyway and that would have just annoyed me.

I had been warned it was noisy (several of my friends have had MRIs) and at first I thought the tapping and thrumming wasn't too bad, but I was unprepared for the burst of pneumatic drill like noise and the vibration. Then out I came and had to stay perfectly still – not that difficult with the frame thing round my head – while they put the cannula in.

Suddenly it seemed I had no veins. They tried so hard to find one and had one attempt, but it failed and so they called a doctor. I couldn’t see him because of the frame, but he sounded like the one who had done my blood test. I had tourniquets round my arms and was doing the squeezing of my fists. I’d had plenty to drink beforehand too as I knew that would help.

I found it difficult to hear what he was saying with the headphones on and at one point he said “Little scratch” and I thought he said “Squeeze”. Oops. He said he didn’t want to use my hand as it can be more uncomfortable, but in the end he tried that to no avail. Then suddenly he found a vein in my arm – a good one!

And back into the machine I went for the scan to be repeated with the dye this time.

When I came out, one of the guys took me back to the waiting room and said I should stay for a while just in case I had any reaction. I was gobsmacked to find it was 1.40. I had had no idea how much time had passed. After drinking several cups of water to flush the dye out of my system, I was able to leave.

Great timing. We left the hospital by 2 which had been our deadline.

I felt rotten though – the extra time it took must have used up their lunch hour and by the time I left, their next patient had arrived.

I’ve always had awkward veins. Even when I was young and skinny they used to bury themselves deep and I’ve had to have blood taken from my hands in the past.

It is the longest Dusty has ever been left in the house on his own. Well he had Harley and Poppy here for company, but when I came in I expected to find chewed shoes at the very least, but... nothing! He had been very good.

Harley kept an eye on things!

Coming soon: I will be speaking to a mysterious writer here on my blog… Watch this space!

Happy Writing.

** The machine makes a pleasant sort of pulsing noise which is almost musical even when it isn't being used. You can hear some of the different sounds in this link. **

Friday 11 September 2015

September This and That

On the second day of September my oldest granddaughter who is eight split her toe open at the swimming pool and neither we nor she has any idea how it happened. All we know is that there was blood, lots of blood (made worse by the fact that she was wet) and a few tears. Thank goodness for the first aid kit in the car!

I cleaned her up and put a plaster on and thought we’d have to go to casualty, but it stopped bleeding by the time we got home and although it was a long cut, it knitted together quickly thank goodness.

Next day my youngest grandson tripped and fell on his face as we were on our way to Clacton pier. He was more bothered about his hurt knees because he didn’t realise there was blood, lots of blood, coming out of his mouth. He’d grazed his upper lip too and his top lip was swelling up. He sat quietly on the pier with an ice lolly (ice and sugar – good for sore mouths) and the swelling went down so he was ready for action and the others took turns going on the little rides with him. He’s not quite tall enough for the bigger rides yet.

On Friday my youngest son and his family arrived for the weekend and on Saturday we had a tea party with all the family here. It was chilly, but we braved the garden and the kids kept warm by knocking hell out of a piƱata. I got one in the shape of a treasure chest because I don’t like the thought of bashing the animal shaped ones with a stick. 

We caught Dusty on the table, wolfing down chocolate cupcakes. He’d walked past all the other stuff, so he knew what he wanted. Luckily everyone had finished eating by then!

Sunday was our Ruby wedding anniversary and we had another family party. This time the weather was lovely and I didn’t take any photos – I completely forgot!

It is frightening how fast the time flies by. It’s over ten years now since I started looking after my first grandchild during the day. This week they all went back to school and my littlest one has started now too.

The summer holidays went by so fast – too fast.

 I miss having him around. I miss all of them, but I’ll still pick four of them up after school and see them in the mornings. And I have my lovely art wall they made (or should I say walls). 

Love is very important. If someone is being horrible don't love.

So much to learn.

Art wall. Inspire. Draw. Touch.


I potted up the Avocado I’ve grown from a stone and I have another which has sprouted a root. I am ridiculously pleased.

So why did we choose the month of September to get married? Does anyone want to guess?

Happy Writing!