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Filler Happiness

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Happy Autumn, everyone! The colours are gorgeous here in West Yorkshire and, despite the temperature dropping, I’ve resisted my winter coat so far… for how long though, who knows?!

With the year end looming ahead (how time flies), I’ve been thinking about my writing successes so far – I’ve managed five short story sales to date, which was my total count in 2014. I’d love to sell another and gain a personal best, but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t. After all I do work full time and reserve the right to be exhausted and stare at the TV in any spare hours I find. The other reason I won’t be too hard on myself is that I’ve kind of surpassed my sales in 2014 already, by having three fillers published this year too.

I never thought I’d be any good at fillers (comments, jokes, funny things that happened, tips etc, usually accompanied by a photo, generally found in womens’ magazines). I’m not a very good photographer and never seem to have my camera ready at the right time, plus I’m utterly hopeless at household tips (undomestic goddess). I never remember jokes either. But one thing I am quite good at is having an opinion and love a good old rant on my soapbox. So, with that in mind, I kept my eye on the Facebook pages of popular magazines like ‘Pick Me Up’, ‘Take a Break’ and ‘Real People’ and saw that they often ask readers their opinions, offering money (around £25 – £50) if published. I could write for ages on the popularity of selfies or whether a pre-nup agreement ruins romance. And I’ve managed to get some cash for my thoughts – £100 in total this year- nice! Oh, and gives me an excuse to browse Facebook too – it’s not always a waste of time!

Keep Going!

Beautiful illustration by Michael Thomas

Beautiful illustration of my story, ‘Bess of the Mill’ by Michael Thomas

My story, Bess of the Mill’ appeared in last week’s People’s Friend magazine. Michael Thomas did the illustration and I’m utterly delighted with it. The three main characters with the windmill in the background are exactly as I pictured them in my mind and I feel now as if they’ve been properly brought to life.

This story has a special place in my heart. I’ve been fascinated by windmills since I was a child – I find them so iconic and romantic. Before long I was desperate to write a historical short story set in one and began doing research, plus character portraits. It took a long, long time to get it right though. I started off with a story following three generations of women, all associated with the windmill – almost a mini saga. But the feedback from editors was there was too much going on for a short story and that the plot lacked focus. I tried a couple of re-writes, but in the end the story had to stay on my hard drive as I moved on to other things. As a writer you do sometimes have to let go…

Or not!

I still thought back to the windmill. I had done a lot of research and had documented a history, a time line and a lot of information about my characters. (Come to think of it, perhaps I should have turned it into a novel…) It seemed such a shame to let it all go to waste and something was niggling me – I knew I had something but couldn’t identify a way to make it work. It was over coffee with a writing friend that I decided to go back to the drawing board. She told me that a period story set in a windmill was something she would want to read and urged me to go for it. I’m so grateful for that chat – it made a big difference.

I knew my setting was strong, now I just needed to find a way to make it work as a short story. I looked at my characters and picked the one who spoke most strongly to me, the one I’d developed the most. This was Bess, a young lady whose father owned the windmill at the turn of the century. It was Bess and her dilemma over which man to marry that had enough in it to carry the story.

Finally I had got it right! The People’s Friend said ‘yes’ and it felt like my own happy ending! So, if you have an idea, setting or character that just won’t go away, I urge you to stick with it, play around with it, mix things up. You never know where it’ll lead.

In other news, I managed to achieve a short listing in the latest Word Hut competition. They are fun and well organised contests – here’s the link if you’re interested though they’re taking a break from competitions at the moment. This comp, run by Wrekin Writers, is taking entries though and the profits go to a really good cause.

I’m super busy right now and I know I keep saying this but I’ll keep trying to be a better blogger – watch this space and there might just be another post before Christmas!!

Take care all and happy writing.

Belated Book List for 2014

books

I like to keep a list of everything I’ve read over the year and then post it on this blog, partly because I’m just a bit geeky (or odd…) and also to make sure I remember what I’ve read! I do like to challenge myself to finish at least 30 books a year too. I’m afraid to say though that not only am I hopelessly late in creating my list, but I also only managed 28 books in 2014. But, hey, a lot of other stuff was going on and both reading and writing ended up taking a bit of a backseat…

So, here it is. Favourites are in bold:

1. How to Write and Sell Short Stories by Della Galton

2. Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

4. Doubting Abbey by Samantha Tongue

5. Stoner by John Williams

6. Wood Angel by Erin Bow

7. Prarie Rose by Catriona McCuaig

8. Good Husband Material by Trisha Ashley

9. How to Make £10 in 10 Minutes by Linda Lewis

10. One Day for Me by Sally Jenkins

11. Meltwater by Della Galton

12. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling (re-read)

13. Short Stories and How to Write Them by Kath McGurl

14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (re-read)

15. Dear Life by Alice Munro

16. The Gilded Fan by Christina Courtenay

17. Twisted Sheets by Jo Derrick

18. Ten Teatime Tales by Simon Whaley

19. Easy Money for Writers and Wannabes by Maggie Cobbett

20. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

21. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

22. Behind Closed Doors by Karen Clark

23. Oska Pollock- The Last Hope by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf

24. Story Collection No 1 by Jo Styles

25 The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

26. The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay

27. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

28. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

I’m not setting writing targets for 2015, as quite frankly, any writing is a big achievement right now, but I am celebrating a publication with The People’s Friend magazine this week as my story, ‘After All These Years’ is in their current issue. I love how they’ve presented it and the illustration captures my main character perfectly!

Wishing all my lovely followers a peaceful and productive 2015. Enjoy 🙂

Short, Beautiful Days

I’m on the fence about autumn. On one hand you get scenes like this –

Alnwick

Ambers, golds, pumpkins and bonfires… what’s not to like…? But then the clocks go back and we hit dark nights. And each and every year, I feel my spirits drop as I know that come late afternoon, all the daylight will have gone. I find it really hard to motivate myself at this time of year. Work seems to finish in the middle of the night and once home the only option is to stick the telly on and curl up in a dressing gown with a mug of something hot.

There are ways round it though. My home is currently filled with flowers, candles and heating which go a long way to chase off any sad feelings and I’m trying my very best to get on with as much writing as I can, which *always* puts me in a brighter mood. Once I’ve broken that ‘procrastination barrier’, that is, which seems to get much thicker once the temperature drops (though lets face it, we’ve been pretty lucky with the weather so far this autumn…)

Am I doing Nanowrimo? No, I’m not. I’m still not motivated enough for that, but hat’s off and bon chance to those who are. I am getting stuck into short story writing though as I really do need to get my number of pieces ‘out there’ with magazines and competitions up a little higher than my current total.

I was really happy to hit the longlist and shortlist in this writing comp run by the lovely Greenacre Writers. If you have a 1000 word story you’d like to submit or fancy writing one, they’re running another competition right now as well. Entry is £4 per story and the closing date is 20th November. Or, if you fancy writing something even shorter, Helen Yendall is running an equally lovely competition on her writing blog and entry to this one is free! It closes on 11th November though so you’ll need to be quick.

Oh, and if anyone remembers me talking of my lnterest in Alaska on here a while back, I had a short story published in The People’s Friend the other week set there. 🙂 The illustration was so gorgeous that I ended up cutting it out and laminating it – that probably makes me very sad, but do I care?!

Hope you’re enjoying your autumn and I guess when all else fails, there’s always wine! 🙂

Versatile Blogger

versatile blogger

Thank you so much to Rosie Canning who has nominated me for a ‘Versatile Blogger’ award! I’m not sure I deserve it, given my long hiatus, but still, I’m very pleased. Rosie writes a really inspiring blog – it’s of full of news and interesting information. I’ve been lucky enough to attend one of Rosie’s courses with Greenacre Writers as well. It was brilliant.

So, as a versatile blogger, I understand that I’m to give seven random facts about me, then nominate others to do the same. I tend to stay fairly focused on writing here and I think you all know about the types of stuff I write (I go on about it enough – LOL), so I’ll try and make these facts *not* about writing to be different!
 
1. I grew up in the north east of England, but sound like I’m from Surrey, which always seems to confuse people.
 
2. I was once a volunteer ‘lookalike’ in a police identity parade.
 
3. I tend to worry about big things late at night.
 
4. I often eat cake instead of lunch at the weekend.
 
5. I’m lucky enough to be blessed with the most wonderful family and friends. 
 
6. They may be all the rage, but I really dislike onesies.
 
7. I watch Harry Potter films when I’m ill, upset or hungover.
 
I’m not very good at nominating people and I’m not sure who’s done it already, so I nominate *anyone who reads this and fancies having a go!* Sorry if that’s not in the rules/lazy!
 
Oh, and one last writing thing – I have a story in the October issue of Take a Break Fiction Feast – I believe it’s out in the shops tomorrow or in a couple of days – very exciting as it’s the first one I’ve had published with them 🙂
 
This entry was posted on September 3, 2014. 2 Comments

A Dust and Polish

Umm… does anyone still follow this blog?! If you do, then please accept my very humble apologies for being so silent over the last (gosh!) four months.

A number of things that can generally be categorised by the word ‘life’ have managed to prevent me writing for some time, so that’s why this poor blog has become so neglected. But the good news is that I’m back and ready to give it a good dust off and polish, so that in no time at all, it’ll be sparkling like new.

And there IS lots to celebrate. Over my quiet months, I did actually have some writing successes, and I’m going to make up for not saying anything much about them at the time by mentioning them all now. 🙂 (brag alert – sorry).

So, in no particular order my achievements since March 2014 are as follows:

– A story shortlisted in the Erewash Writers Themed Flash Fiction Competition. (they run lots of fun competitions – check them out. Some are free too.)

– A story Highly Commended in the Northampton Literature Group Flash Fiction Competition.

– A filler published in Woman’s Own (a nice, easy way to make £25. Check their Facebook page for call-outs.)

– A story shortlisted in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Short Story Competition (more of that later.)

– My second short story accepted with The People’s Friend magazine. (it’s awaiting publication.)

– A story published in Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special.

and….. (drum roll)

– My first EVER acceptance with Take a Break magazine!! YAY! (this was a real ‘happy moment’ – it’s also awaiting publication.)

So, there’s plenty to feel hopeful about and, as ever, lots more reasons to keep on writing.

I also went to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for the first time this year. Being shortlisted in their competition gave me an enormous boost and the experience proved an excellent means to re-focus, write words, attend brilliant courses and meet some lovely people. It was particularly exciting to meet Shirley Blair, the Fiction Editor at The People’s Friend, who gave a talk and a short course about writing for The Friend. I could write a whole blog post on her hints and tips, but for now will stick to this – they don’t get many stories at 3 – 4,000 words but are inundated with stories at 2,000 words – worth remembering if you want to sub to them.

I was far too busy to take any photos at Swanwick – but did manage this one – a beautiful lilly on the lake.

Swanwick Lilly

I am now on a diet that will last roughly the rest of my life, however, after a week of the famous ‘Swanwick Food.’

So, no more excuses –  those of you who know me well, please, please feel free to nag me if this blog ever looks unloved and sad again!

This entry was posted on August 18, 2014. 8 Comments

Full Circle

It’s been an exciting week. First off, I celebrated the publication of one of my short stories in Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special. My mum and I went out to pick up some copies and then had celebratory coffee and cake in a lovely tearoom nearby at a table overlooking their garden. It was then that I realised that I’d sat with my mum in the same tearoom (and at that very table no less…) pretty much a year ago to the day, gazing out of the window and daydreaming about ideas for a new short story.

My mum had been telling me a funny though unfortunate story about two sisters fighting over their late mother’s precious silver teapot, which had ended up being placed on a gas cooker and meeting a sorry end. My mind began whirring – I could use that! Now, it so happens that the garden at this tearoom has some very unique features. They have placed items of crockery in amongst the plants – I spied saucers in the daffodils and teapots posing as flower pots. My mind whirred even more, and the result, several months later was a short story entitled ‘Porcelain Flowers’, with the silver teapot transformed into a china one. I was utterly delighted when Woman’s Weekly emailed me to tell me they wanted it and of course treated my mum to a big slice of cake to say thank you for the idea!

And, as we sat down to yet more treats the other day, I realised that I’d come ‘full circle’, from an initial idea to a published piece 🙂 If only all story writing was as satisfying as this!

Image

I’m not much of a photographer, but hopefully this image captures the teapots in the garden and shows how they sparked off my idea.

And… as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one week, I have a story in The People’s Friend magazine as well! This is my first success with them and I’m delighted that my historical tale opens the magazine with a really stunning illustration, by the very talented David Young. I just wish I had more weeks like this 🙂 Must keep writing!