Friday, 23 December 2011

A minor success!

A few weeks ago, I received a card saying that my entry for a short story competition had been highly commended and had been included in a published anthology. I'd forgotten about that but then this last week, I received my copy of the anthology and there it was, my short story on the printed page. What's more the secretary of the competition had sent me a letter and making an amusing reference which led me to understand that she had read the story and that it had some resonance with her. I found that as encouraging as having the story published.

I've been very lax about blogging of late but we have been busy decorating before Christmas and I am finding it hard to be motivated at the moment. I will take up my pen after Christmas - promise!

Monday, 21 November 2011

More on the balloon fiasco!

It was only after reading Marilyn's comment - thanks M - that I realised I had meant to post about the sequel to the balloon fiasco. The delivery was due on 1st November so on the morning, I very reluctantly tied the blown up balloon to a metal post on the edge of our front garden and next door's. When I looked out of the window about ten minutes later, the balloon had gone. At first, I thought that it had blown away then I saw that my next door neighbour was out cleaning his car and wondered if he had taken it down.

He confessed that he had and what's more had popped it! He'd thought that some trick or treaters from the night before (31st October) had played a trick and tied the balloon to the metal post. He was most apologetic but I simply laughed. When the delivery was made, I mentioned to the driver what had happened. I guessed from what he said that he didn't think much to the idea either and agreed with me that the idea probably originated with some university graduate trying to justify his existence.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Bit of a Rant!

Nothing has been happening, hence no blog for a couple of months. Now, two things have happened which makes me shake my head in despair at modern society.

The first was a letter from a well-known DIY store, I won't mention their name but it's got their name on it. It was about a delivery of something we purchased a week or so since. I'd already had two phone calls and now a letter confirming the date agreed. With the letter was enclosed a balloon and a piece of string. I stared at the balloon in puzzlement but all was made clear when I read the letter. I was supposed to tie the blown-up balloon to our gate post (we don't have one!) so that the delivery driver would know which house he was delivering to. To me, this implies that the driver doesn't have the common sense to check the numbers and if I was the driver, I'd be insulted. Needless to say, the balloon won't be going outside on our non-existent gate post and I shall tell the driver so when he phones up (again!) on the morning of delivery.

The other thing happened to my husband (not for the first time, I might add). He was queuing in a supermarket when a young lad, aged about 13, he thought, gave the cashier 50p to pay for a 49p bar of chocolate, thus needing 1p in change. Instead, he said to the cashier, 'Keep the change.' What!?!? Whatever happened to the saying 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.' With such an attitude no wonder the country is in such a mess.

Sorry, folks, rant over!

Friday, 23 September 2011

New Writers' Scheme and short stories

My report from one of the readers on the New Writers' Scheme of the Romantic Novelists' Association duly arrived a few weeks ago. (I've been very remiss about posting a new blog but it's been something of a busy Summer.)  The reader seemed to sense that it was very much a first draft and worded him/her highly enough. The report was thorough, fair, constructive and immensely helpful. (As there are quite a few male members of the RNA, I have to be non-discriminatory and say 'he/she'.)  Most encouragingly, he/she said that my 'manuscript is on the right track and is well worth perservering with.' He/she also advised leaving the MS alone for a few months and coming back to it afresh. That is good advice. Sometimes one can be up too close to see the wood for the trees (cliche! naughty!).

Talking of good advice, some time ago one of my Birmingham RNA colleagues, Sally Jenkins, advised  that The Weekly News was a good outlet for short stories. Accordingly, I sent for the guidelines and, after some delay, received them by email this week. Today, I bought a copy of the newspaper so that I could see what kind of story is accepted. To my delight, it was to find that one of the stories was by my friend, Sally Jenkins! If you are interested in writing, you might like to check out her blog (updated more often than mine is!) Sally Jenkins - she is brilliant at spreading the news about competitions, etc. Today, I emailed the fiction editor with one of my own short stories.

Earlier this year, I entered a short story competition organised by a theatre renovation group. This week I received a card to say that although I had not won any of the prizes, I had been shortlisted and my story ENTERTAINING ANGELS would be featured in the anthology. I am as pleased about that as if I'd won because it means that once again my name is 'out there!' Self promotion doesn't come easily to me but it's something that has to be done these days. The card didn't say if I would receive a complimentary copy but I've ordered one anyway. Will post on here when it arrives.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Birmingham Riots - The Aftermath

Birmingham City Centre post-riot wasn't the scene of devastation that I had expected. I had seen clips on the tv news of young people smashing windows in New Street, one of the main shopping thoroughfares of Birmingham, adjacent to the Bullring. Somehow I had expected every shop front to be smashed but only certain shops had been targeted. These included JD Sports, The Carphone Warehouse, both stores of H & M, Boots (I read that this was for the perfumes and aftershaves), a newsagents (perhaps for cigarettes?) and for some reason, Specsavers. This immediately led me to think that the Birmingham riot wasn't so much about rioting as looting. On Saturday, there was a heavy police presence and on huge video screens were cctv pictures of those who are still wanted for questioning. The city centre, though, seemed to be as busy as ever and the mood was convivial. Of course, I do not know what the scenes were like in Handsworth, they may well have been worse. And my deepest sympathies go to the families of the three young men who died defending their community.

 I had gone to Birmingham for a regional meeting of the Romantic Novelists' Association. There had been some email discussion beforehand as to whether the meeting should go ahead but most of us had decided to carry on as normal. There were eight of us and, as well as talking about our various writing projects,  we discussed having a presence on Facebook and Twitter, how important that is to get one's name 'out there', and the benefits of having a Kindle. The latter is not something I've given much thought to but having to hang about the city centre both before and after the meeting before I could catch my train home, I can see that it would be quite useful. As well as most of the books available for downloading being cheaper than paper books, it gives previously unpublished authors the opportunity to get one's masterpiece 'out there'. As the software to do this is free from Amazon, it's certainly something to think about for the future. (Are you listening, Santa Claus?)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Empty Nest Syndrome?

Been busy this last few weeks finishing my rewrite of my second novel, Bitter Sweet Fellowship. I've now sent it off to the New Writers' Scheme of the Romantic Novelists' Association for to be evaluated by an established author. Fingers crossed for a good report!

It's only been two days since I posted it but I feel like my youngest child has left home! I really miss my characters, not to mention the writing! I didn't feel like this when I finished Save The Last Dance For Me because I always planned Bitter Sweet Fellowship as a follow-on using a few of the more minor characters from Save The Last Dance For Me. The epilogue in the latter hints at the continuation of the story. Now, though, I feel lost. I'm sure I'll be ready to tackle something else soon. As I've said before, I can't not write .......

Monday, 20 June 2011

A new venture for me!

I've written a poem!  This is an entry for an Arts and Crafts competition for the Chesterfield Federation of Townswomen's Guilds. I know it doesn't really sound like an arty-crafty thing but one of the categories was to write a poem with the theme of summer. I decided to have a go, even though I've always said I'm rubbish at poetry but I thought I ought to wave the flag for our very small Guild. It's in free verse and I've always thought poems had to rhyme to be poems but it seems not. So what's to lose? At the very least, I'll get a point or so for our own Guild. And every little helps!

Last Monday, I gave a talk and a reading at a local women's group and it seemed to go well. The theme was 'The Monologues of Stanley Holloway', in which I give some background details about Stanley Holloway and how the monologues came into being. The monologues included 'The Lion and Albert' which is very popular. I think it's something to do with me having a Lancashire accent. In case anyone doesn't know what I'm talking about, it begins 'There's a famous seaside town called Blackpool' and is about a family visiting Blackpool zoo, where the little lad gets eaten by a lion called Wallace, who has a delicate stomach. It includes the lines, 'You'd have thought it were t'little lad's birthday, (Wallace) wished him such happy returns.' Any payment I receive for such talks, goes to a charity which operates in one of the South African townships.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Debut Novel Competition - and photo

Following a lead on a fellow writer's blog, Sally Jenkins' blog, in which she mentioned a Debut Novel Competition, I decided to submit Save The Last Dance For Me. There's no entrance fee (highly unusual!) so why not!

I've had a go at scanning the newspaper photo in but the result isn't good. Unfortunately, the newsprint from the reverse of the photo is showing through. Still I'll include it for anyone who's interested. I'm the one to the left of the photo with the dangly earring and large nose! (Thanks Dad!)

 As I said in my previous blog, it looks like Princess Anne and I are sat at the same table but in fact, we were on adjoining tables. Maggie Chilton is a member of a Chesterfield Guild and she is also a former National Chairman of the Townswomen's Guilds. If anyone reading this is interested in the organisation, perhaps with a view to joining, you might like to look at their website, Townswomen's Guild

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Another disappointment - but in company with royalty!

Well, I heard back fairly quickly from the publisher I sent a synopsis and three chapters to of Save The Last Dance For Me. Unfortunately, they said no. However, one spark of hope was that this time it reached the commissioning editor for consideration. On to the next publisher on my list!

The disappointment was tempered quite well by the fact that my photograph appeared in our local weekly newspaper, the Derbyshire Times, and it looks like I am sitting at the same table as Princess Anne. In fact, we were at adjoining tables! It was also featured on the Derbyshire Times website. I would like to have posted the link but no doubt the web page will have changed by now. I'll have a go at scanning the pic in then adding it to a blog.

The other bit of news is that I have started on the redraft of my new novel. I need to get that done in the next few weeks in order to submit it to the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers Scheme. Someone actually said to me 'Why bother writing another one when you haven't sold the first one yet?' The answer is simple, I can't not write! I always have to have some project or another on the go. And as long as I continue to enjoy writing, what harm is there? You never know, I could end up selling the first one on the back of the second one! One lives in eternal hope.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A right royal occasion plus a sigh of relief!

I don't think I said in my profile, but another of my interests is the Townswomen's Guild (a bit like the Women's Institute but with an undeservedly lower profile). I am a member of our local Guild and although it is a small Guild, we are an active and friendly bunch. On Tuesday, 10 May, another TG member and I went to a national event held in Newark, Nottinghamshire. The theme of the day was 'Women of Vision' about how the movement had started soon after women got the vote. The morning session was presented by a semi-professional group who used  women's clothes of the period to demonstrate the transition from the Victorian suffragette to the thoroughly modern miss of the 1920's. It was both amusing and informative - and we loved the clothes! During the afternoon, various TG members presented their own favourite Women of Vision. These included Bess of Hardwick; Octavia Hill, founder of the National Trust; Sister Dora of Walsall (not Warsaw as it said in the press releases!) With us for the afternoon was our Patron, the Princess Royal, who said she had thoroughly enjoyed her time with us. For all of us, though, the highlight of the day was a personal introduction to Princess Anne! We were all organised in small groups with a leader who then introduced each member as Princess Anne came round to  each group. Everyone said how pleasant she was, no airs and graces, and very chatty. Read about the day here. Chatty Princess charms

My other snippet of news is that this last weekend, I finished the first draft of my follow-up novel, Bitter Sweet Fellowship! I shall leave it alone for a few weeks, using the time to catch up with a few jobs I've put off to complete the task. Then it will be down to a rewrite/edit. Just to finish the first draft gave me a lot of satisfaction though.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A senior moment? or sheer stupidity?

On Saturday, 14th May, I should have been going to Birmingham to meet up with fellow writers' from the Romantic Novelists' Association. Like everyone else, I'm being careful about money these days. According, I ordered my train tickets online in April. Imagine my horror when the tickets arrived and I found that I had ordered them for 12th May not the 14th! I am doing something else on the 12th which is why I got confused. I immediately rang up to ask if I could change them for the 14th but was told it would cost £10 a ticket (ie there and back) which would cost almost as much as buying new tickets. So, rather than incur more expense, I am not going. I'm most disappointed as it's always encouraging to chat to fellow writers. Is it any wonder I felt totally stupid?

Friday, 8 April 2011

Disappointed but not discouraged

Well, I heard back from that publisher to whom I sent a synopsis and three chapters. Unfortunately, my style of writing didn't suit their kind of books. Ah well, at least I received the courtesy of a reply. However, as you can see from the title of this blog, I am not discouraged. Today, I've sent out a synopsis and three chapters, plus a query letter (and one of my flyers!) to another publisher. 

It occurred to me that, having mentioned my novel, Save The Last Dance For Me a couple of times, it might be nice to put a blurb about it on this blog so here goes.

The year of 1956 was a cataclysmic one. It was the year of the Hungarian Revolution when ordinary people dared to rise up and question their masters only to be crushed by military force. It was the year of the Suez Crisis which heralded the end of the British Empire.

It was the year that introduced the youth of Britain to rock n'roll and its early proponents, Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.

It was also the year that brought together Kathy Armstrong, a well brought-up grammar school girl and Nick Roberts, a Teddy boy from one of the meanest streets in a Lancashire mill town. In the new Elizabethan age, Nick realises there is more to life than dance halls and drinking and Kathy learns that Teddy boys can be dangerously exciting.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Report from Publishers & Readers Day

My friend and I enjoyed the Publishers and Readers Day. However, there was a problem in that of the several workshops we could have attended, three of them that we particularly wanted to go to, were at the same time in the morning! It would have been better, we felt, if another session, perhaps in the afternoon, could have been arranged for them. We said as much in our survey forms. We did attend two workshops, both of them listening to various East Midlands writers talking about their books and reading from them. From a writing point of view this was good for me. 

 I did hand out my flyer to a few publishers, not as many as I would have liked, because several of them were only interested in poetry, guide books or pamphlets. The good news is that one of the publishers suggested I send in a synopsis and three chapters. This morning, that is what I have done! I've just checked my emails and have had a personal response from someone there. I found this encouraging instead of the usual auto-response. 

Fingers - and toes! - crossed.


Thursday, 10 March 2011

This coming Saturday, 12th March, I am attending a Publishers and Readers event with a friend organised by Derbyshire County Council in Matlock. Besides workshops with various local writers, there will also be stalls of various independent publishers from the East Midlands. I'm hoping it will be an ideal opportunity to promote my own novel Save The Last Dance For Me. To that end, I've had great fun compiling a flyer with contact details, a photograph, and a blurb about the novel. I'm quite excited about the finished result. I've done a couple of years studying desk top publishing at a local adult education centre so it was good to put my skills to work. Wish I could post the flyer on here but it would take up too much room.

I'll let you know if I have an favourable comments!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

A bit more about my writing

Although I've been lucky enough to have many articles about family and social history published in one of the best-selling national genealogy magazines, for the past few years, I've been concentrating on the fiction market. A couple of my short stories have been published in national publications and I've won 2nd and 3rd prizes in short story competitions. The phrase 'never the bride' comes to mind! After many rewrites, I finished my novel Save The Last Dance For Me last year and submitted it to an independent publisher. As I didn't hear anything from them, I've just submitted it to another publisher. I'll post here if there's any progress. In the meantime, I'm writing a follow-up novel featuring several more minor characters from 'Save The Last Dance For Me.'

That's enough for now, folks! (Possibly some of you are saying, that's quite enough!)

Friday, 18 February 2011

The Write Spot

If you're a 'senior' like me,  the poem, 'When I am an Old Woman' is brilliant. It's about wearing purple with a red hat, if you want to, when you are old. The poem was written by Englishwoman Jenny Joseph in 1961 and popularised in the United States by Elizabeth Lucas in the 1980s. For a shortened version of the poem, see Wearing purple.

When I took early retirement, I vowed to take my interest in writing more seriously. And with great good fortune, that is what I have been able to do. Like all writers, my ultimate aim is to get my novel (about which more another time) published but the world of publishing so far remains unconvinced.

Confession time now. This is the first time I have blogged so hope I've done it right!