Thursday, 2 December 2010

Enough, already!

Are you sick of the snow yet? Have you even got any?
I'm housebound for the 3rd day running. It's at least 3 feet deep here in Worksop (and a lot more where it's drifted) and my wee boots only come over my ankle so I'm not venturing outside.
I have fresh milk and milk powder in the store cupboard and I bake my own bread (ciabatta in the oven as I type) so this, coupled with a freezer stuffed to the gunnels (or should I write gunwales??) with Christmas goodies means I can feed the two of us at least until Easter! Even if it is prawns in filo for every meal.
This is the view from my window yesterday. It's even deeper today!
Normally, I'd treasure the time to get some writing done but nothing's flowing at the moment, so I'm filling my day with other activities like:

Cleaning the house from top to bottom
Clearing out the kitchen cupboards and fridge of last Christmas's now-grossly-out-of-date pickles, ready to re-stock with similar - why do I do that?
Sorting out bedlinen for guests over Christmas
Dressing the mantelpiece with a ribbon garland and reindeer - going for a purple/ jewel theme this year - though I draw the line at putting up the Christmas tree. I'm not that bored!

And talking of the tree, is it only me who goes into a flap each year about where to place it? It ought to go next to the fireplace, but if I do that, it obscures the view from the two-seater sofa to the TV. I mean, it's terribly important that I get to watch Moorecambe & Wise Special and all the Christmas soap episodes without jingle bells and gingerbread snowmen interrupting my pleasure.

Okay, so best move the sofa where exactly? And what about the side table and lamp? That'll have to move too. And all my ornaments displaced by cherubs and Santas?
It would be far easier to put the tree in the corner by the window, opposite the TV Except that space is occupied by Himself's precious Lazyboy recliner and you touch that on pain of death! Seriously, no-one moves the Lazyboy. I think Himself is planning to be buried in it.

But back to the tree, one year I lopped the top bit off it and stuck it on the windowsill but everyone moaned it wasn't a proper Christmas without full bauble overload. And while I'm on the subject...anyone else hate tinsel? I'm all for a bit of glitter and sparkle but I can't stand to see yards of tinsel draped over picture frames and around every door jamb. Especially the skinny sort that looks all crushed and apologetic. We once had a cat who ate some tinsel. Interesting outcome!

Ah well, this post has passed a few minutes. Time for another coffee and a dip into the Cadbury's Heroes tin. I'll leave you with a few more snowy pics.

My patio!

Who buried the car?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Wannabe a Writer We've Heard of?

Well, of course, you do. I know I'd like my name to trip off the tongue.

Lady in hair salon: 'Sue Houghton? Isn't she that highly-talented author of mega best-selling novels?'
Stylist: 'Yes. She comes in here you know. So witty and charming'

Um, er, sorry, got a bit carried away there. But, seriously, have you ever thought what happens AFTER you get the call from your agent (agent? What agent?) to inform you of the three-book deal with Publisher & Publisher? Well, if you don't have a clue, then buy Jane Wenham-Jones' Wannabe a Writer We've Heard of, published by Accent Press.

To quote Jill Mansell: 'I really, really recommend this guide. Seriously, it could change your life.'

At over 300 pages, it covers all aspects of what happens after your precious baby takes its first steps into the big, wide scary world. Jane offers tips from what to wear for the book signings/parties to how to cope with 'admirers' slash 'unwanted attention' under a small section entitled 'Nutters and Weirdos'!

Oh and there are tips and anecdotes from other authors. My pearls, for what they're worth (is it really so silly to be this excited that I'm listed in the index?)can be found on pages, 217, 225 and 254!

If you want to buy Wannabe A Writer We've Heard Of?
it's only £3.50 on Amazon with free P&P.
And if you didn't read Jane's first book Wannabe a Writer? then do check it out, too.

Friday, 5 November 2010

My Weekly

I got a sale from Maggie Seed at My Weekly yesterday. It's for a story she's been hanging on to for a while. I'd forgotten about it to tell the truth so it was a nice surprise. It'll be going in the 2012 Annual, available next October, I think. Seems a long way off but the good thing about My Weekly is that they pay on acceptance.

I do like the way MW has what they call their 'Inspiration Gem' at the end of the shorts. A simple 25 word note from the author on where the inspiration for the story came from. For some reason I always find this difficult. Probably because I want to waffle on. But anyway,this particular story was inspired by my addiction to watching TV make-over programmes. Which reminds me, I must set the Sky box to record 60 min Make-over this afternoon!

Click the link to buy from Amazon: My Weekly Annual 2011

Wedding Talk

Did I mention my daughter and her fiance 'won' their wedding day? It was a radio phone-in competition in association with a well-known hotel chain. It all seemed too marvelous - a free wedding! Trouble is, the hotel doesn't have a registrar's license for a civil wedding, nor can it accommodate 120-plus guests so sadly they've had to turn down the prize. Bit disappointing. And in my opinion, a bit stupid of a hotel to be advertising weddings if they can't come up with the necessaries. Lots of couples want civil ceremonies these days and don't want to be switching between venues.

Anyway, fate being what it is, they've found another and much better hotel in The Sitwell Arms, Renishaw. Unlike the prize venue which was basically an ugly structure more suited to its general use as a conference centre, this place is very traditional with a lake, gardens and orchard. Just perfick!

It's family run and they have a great package deal which includes the cake, photographer, videographer, wedding breakfast, evening buffet, disco and lots of extras besides. There's even 50% off the wedding dress! We met the wedding coordinator the other night and she was very helpful and after sleeping on it, Amy and Tom have fixed a date for January 14th 2012. What with my son's Vegas wedding in October 2011, we can't wait!

That reminds me, Jill Hassall, a writing buddy, has her book out now. Click the link to buy from Amazon.The Greatest Guide to Your Dream Wedding (Greatest Guides)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Bit late but thought I'd post a few pics of the pumpkins carved by my daughter, Amy. I prepared them by scooping out the flesh and this I made into 3 pumpkin pies (2 with pecans)

and a big bowl of spicy soup. Jacket spuds with chilli completed the Halloween night!

Lazy Blogger

Yes, I know, it's been a while since I blogged, but I have an excuse...when I can think one up!
There's been a bit of heartache in our family of late and I think that's mostly to blame for my pathetic output. Weirdly, stress used to spur me on. Made me scribble furiously to put the bad things to the back of my mind but these days I seem to be overwhelmed with thoughts other than of a fictional kind. Once in a while a character will break through the fog and I'll scribble a few lines but that seems to be about all I can manage. This sort of thing has happened before so I'm not too concerned. Crap happens. I'll get over it.

So, now I've got your pity, what else has been happening here? Well, the family had a great weekend in Derbyshire last month. We took a 6 and a 2 berth tent and pitched up on a lovely campsite just outside Hope. The weather report gave showers. Ha! Bring it on!

After a late night walk in pitch darkness, aided by Google for navigation (thank you iPhone) we found a tiny pub crammed with other ramblers. The only seats were on the roof terrace beer garden where we sat watching the stars and giggling ourselves silly over what type of fart gives the best comedic effect!!

Back at the tent we found it slightly flooded but hey-ho all part of the fun. A few bottles of wine, cans of beer and Scotch eggs later we retired to our sleeping bags. Only to be awoken at around 2am by a fox munching on our left-overs! Too tired (drunk) to care we just turned over and slept till morning.

It rained most of that weekend but it didn't stop us exploring Castleton and visiting The Devil's Arse, aka Peak Cavern.

Tom even had a go at rope making.

Great fun and I can't wait until the spring when we can do it all again. But maybe without the rain!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Thinking of the 'C' word

Hate to mention the 'C' word but the big day is closer than you'd like to think. Already I've seen cards, trees and wrapping paper in the shops and that's before the kids have gone back to school!

Any short story submissions to the womags should've been posted/emailed off in August as they work up to 3 months in advance. I sent two off yesterday because I edited them to suit the winter period and thought better to send on the off-chance than have them languish for another year on my hard-drive. I got an automated reply for one of them and a short 'Thanks for the sub' for the other so I know they arrived safely.

Talking of Christmas, while I was doing some research for my story, I came across this website Called The Literary Gift Company, they have some lovely little gifts to suit your literary friends or relatives. Love this mug. I may buy it for myself. Though maybe it should read 'Go Away I'm Writing'!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A Hat Trick

I've had three magazine stories in print this past week. One in My Weekly called Will They Love Her More? - a twist in the tale (thank you Liz Smith for my contributor's copy).
The second is a mystery/cosy crime sale to The Weekly News called Caught (thank you Jill Finlay for my copy) and I've one in Fast Fiction, Australia with the same yet no copy but it may be stuck in the post so thanks to Anthony Lambert in advance. I've also had two 'short-listed' replies but I never count on those as they often disappear into the void.

My Weekly like their writers to add a bit about the inspiration behind their story. I always find this difficult for some reason, especially in so few words. I never know whether to go for pithy, tongue-firmly-in-cheek or make some serious statement. Think I went for the latter on this one:

Probably shouldn't have posted my 'Word from the Author' because if you intended reading the story, I've given the twist away. Ah, well!

I've also been busy emailing submissions. Around 8 are whizzing around the world at this moment. If one hits the spot I'll be happy as I need to top up my 'Vegas Wedding Fund'.

What else has been happening? Oh yes, I went with family to watch Toy Story 3 in 3D on Monday. We NEVER usually venture out of the front door on any Bank Holiday - we once spent hours on a motorway only a few miles from home and said that would be the last time.

Anyway, we had a lovely carvery meal first at Treble Bobs pub, then off up the M1 to Cineworld, Sheffield, which on arrival looked like a mistake, especially as the showing was about to begin in 15 mins. BUT we found a parking space by chance and though we queued for about 10 mins for tickets, we got some great seats right in the middle towards the back of the theatre. The film was fun, though I'm already getting unimpressed with 3D.

Right, I'm off for a coffee and a read through my magazine copies.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


There's only a few days left to enter this one so get scribbling. Words below courtesy of their website.

Let's keep it simple, eh? We're looking for the best short story of up to 2,500 words. Please note that we are looking for the Best Short Story, not bribes. If you wish to send vast sums of money, tickets for sell-out concerts, rare signed first editions, feel free, but as the stories will be judged anonymously, it won't help you much.

1st Prize - £300
2nd Prize - £100
3rd Prize - £50

31st August 2010, 12pm GMT

All three winning entries will be published in the December 2010 issue of Words with JAM.

£6 for one entry, £10 for two.

Sue Moorcroft will be selecting our three winners from this year's shortlist. Sue writes short stories, serials and novels – her third novel, Starting Over, was published in November 2009, with All That Mullarkey to follow on 1 June 2010. She’s both editor of and contributor to Loves Me, Loves Me Not, a short story anthology celebrating the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s 50th Anniversary.

Also a creative writing tutor, Sue’s first ‘how to’ book, Love Writing – How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction, was published in January. for news and writing tips

Please CLICK HERE for information on how to enter.

To receive our FREE PDF e-zine, plus a reminder of the competition closing date nearer the time, CLICK HERE to sign up.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

National Short Story Week

National Short Story Week
is an annual awareness event. Its aim is to focus the attentions of the public and the media on the short story and short story writers, publishers and events. It is intended as a framework for promoting literary events and publications at a national and local level.

It's aims are:

1) to get more people reading and listening to short stories

2) to get more people writing short stories

3) to develop creative and commercial opportunities for individuals and organisations involved in the short story form.

The website is very informative with lots of stuff to listen to, download etc. and loads of opportunities to get involved. Patron is the lovely Katie Fforde. Read what she has to say here.

Not a lot changes.

Out of interest I looked back to see when I began this blog - Tuesday, October 3rd 2006. That's almost 4 years, with a lean bit around the beginning of 2008 when Google, for whatever reason, locked me out of my account.

My first ever post had the title Life Of Riley (scroll to bottom of page the link takes you to) and listed all the things I'd done that morning. You know, like chores and stuff.

How boring am I? I realise I've done exactly the same things this morning, the only difference being it's a Saturday and there wasn't an incidence at the supermarket checkout where I wanted to punch someone's lights out - though I did visit Tesco. Oh and as it's a Saturday the roads weren't blocked with school traffic. So, a little bit of variation on the morning but not a lot as Paul Daniels would say.

If you bothered to click on the PD link you'll know he too has a blog. I had a snigger at the comment he made about the Lovely Debbie McGee having her bottom fixed - he's referring to the boat they own and not his wife! Well, it amused me.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

It's All Greek To Me

I'm taking part in Sally Quilford's Blog Take Over Day again this year so here goes. Hope you enjoy!

A passport craves a bit of adventure.

Yes, I admit it, I am still smarting from being abandoned in that poncey Greek taverna, so no, since you ask, I am not in the right frame of mind to hear my owner is planning the next holiday debacle.

You know, there was a time I had my life planned out. The first ten years, anyway. The Caribbean, the Maldives, Goa. All inclusive, of course. Drinks package, the whole caboodle. But what do I get? Two-star self-catering in the same shit-hole for the past three years because milady here has a thing for a certain Greek waiter. Trollop!

Hello, what’s she up to now? On the phone to her sister wanting to know the meaning of ‘moral turpitude’. From what I can make out she’s filling in some on-line form. Something about a visa.

I wish I hadn’t mentioned the Greek incident now. Takes me right back to this time last year. She’d been on the retsina since she’d packed her suitcase and was still knocking them back on the plane - cheap seats. Last Minute dot crap.

We’d flown a day earlier than planned and she’d gone straight to the taverna to surprise Mr Greek. She did that all right. Caught him with his bread stick in another woman’s pastitsio. Get the picture?

Well, she picks up the pepper mill and lays him out cold. Next thing, she’s being escorted out to a taxi by some guy who’d been sitting at the bar (American - all loose tie and rolled up sleeves) and taken back to the airport. Somehow, in the kafuffle, I’ve fallen out of her handbag and become wedged under the dessert trolley alongside a stray olive.

I swear I can still smell garlic when she flicks through my pages and there’s a nasty stain on my faux leather case. That’s another thing...faux. Every passport I know has the real thing, though my preference would be for a nice Cath Kidston; the Provence rose one. Now that’s class. But no, Slack Alice here wobbled between fake Burberry and faux leather. Pink, faux leather. But I digress. The important thing, I suppose, is that the young chap who’d come to her rescue returned to look for me. For whatever reason, probably so she could refund him the taxi fare, young chap had given her his phone number and she’d called him from the airport when she realised I was missing.

Several hours later, we're back home, the suitcase is stashed under the spare bed, I’m back in the shoebox at the bottom of her wardrobe and she’s sobbing down the phone. No doubt to Mr Greek though it’s difficult to hear when you’re wedged under a pair of gladiator strappies.

Anyway, this goes on for months which brings us to the here and now. I’m lying on the desk with my spine crushed to buggery while she’s singing away to herself and tapping away on the computer. Then the phone rings and she’s on it like a German on a sunlounger.

Yes, she’s telling caller, she’s sorted out the visa. She can’t wait to see him again. And his ranch. Ranch? Fly first class? America? Max? Who’s Max? Of course! The guy who came to her rescue in Greece! He's the one she's been speaking to on the phone all along.

This passport is bound for Vegas, baby!

Whose point of view?

My fourth novel was originally written from a male viewpoint because it was the hero's story I wanted to tell, but maybe more so because it felt comfortable that way. A few chapters in I posted it on a well-known critique site. I received some useful feedback but was advised that I'd do better to swap to a female POV as that's what women readers preferred. Did they?

Anyway, I took this advise on board and my heroine, Roisin Connor, was born. Now, I love her to bits but I often wonder how the book would've turned out if I'd told Lex's story instead.

I was thinking about this when I came across an interview with Sue Moorcroft on the Singles Titles website. Her two novels Starting Over and All That Mullarkey, published by Choc Lit, both feature the hero's pov. Luckily, she has a male friend who can read her chapters to double check if her hero is thinking like a man. Particularly liked the line about 'lifting hems'. To see what I mean, read Sue's interview here.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Why Can't I get Published in the Womags?

Well, this is weird, I update my website and blog as I've been doing for the past 4 years but for the first time I announce it on Facebook and it generates quite a few questions from wannabe womaggers. Most wanted to know:

How come I can't get published in the Women's mags?

There must be a thousand and one answers to that one but I'll save time by cutting and pasting my answers from my archives. I doubt anything has changed!
Here goes...

First off, it probably has nothing to do with how well you write. And I trust you CAN write well before you attempt publication.
No amount of literary prose will impress a magazine editor unless it's what she/he is looking for. It must 'fit' his/her magazine (look I'm sick of being PC and writing 'his/her' so in future it's 'her' okay?).

I've seen some beautiful writing by folk with far greater experience and literary talent than I have, yet they can't sell to the womags. So, what are the womag editors looking for?

'I'll know it when I see it', is their usual response. I think they go as much with gut instinct as anything. But, they are experts at it and let's not forget their jobs rely on them getting it right. Their sales prove they know exactly what pleases their readership.

So how do we please them?

* Your story has to be a satisfying read - a hook at the beginning, no saggy middle and you must tie up all the loose ends at the finish. A reader should go 'Ahhh' at the close, not 'What the f***?'

* The characters must be well-drawn, the sort their readership would recognise and identify with. You don't find many tattooed bikers living with unmarried mums in The People's Friend, or wool shop owners wearing Tweed (the cloth or the perfume take yer pick) in Take A Break...see what I mean?

* Your character must come up against a problem which she resolves in a satisfying and believable way. The solution must be something she works through, not a sudden 'cavalry coming over the hill' type of closure. Remember Bobby Ewing waking up in the shower in Dallas? That's the type of thing I mean.

* And this is the hardest criteria to must be something an ed hasn't seen before. Something original. Or at least a different 'take' on an old plot.

So, you've made sure your story meets all the above requirements and still you can't get an acceptance? Then there's always the other reasons for non-acceptance...

* It was the right story at the wrong time. Magazines plan about 4 mths ahead. Don't send a summer holiday story out in August. Likewise don't send a Christmas one out in November.

* The ed loves your story but she needed a 1000 word piece and you sent in 2000 and there isn't time to ask you to cut it, so she chooses the next in the slushpile and you get a rejection...or if you're very lucky you go onto a short-list for next time there's a need for 1000 words. Except this short-list tends to be a very long short-list in most magazine offices. My advice is to re-send any short-listeds after 6 months.

* The story was well-written with great characters and a smashing ending BUT the editor regrets she took something similar last week.

* The editor has bought far too many recently - enough for another six months. They have a budget tighter than a camel's bottom believe me! Make a note of when the editor said she's ready for more subs and re-send when the time is up. But be quick, every other writer will do the same.

I'm sure there're a dozen other reasons and any editors reading this blog might like to chip in.

Conclusion: If you know you can write, don't take a rejection to mean your story is unsaleable. Try a different mag. One with similar guidelines, obviously, unless you're prepared to edit to fit, which a writer with a professional approach will almost certainly do.

PS Apologies to any wool shop owners(my friend Kath)who wouldn't be seen dead in anything tweed.


I've spent a few minutes applying for our ESTA's or Electronic System Travel Authorisation forms which replace the Visa waiver form you used to fill in on the aircraft before landing in the US. Application can only be done online so if you don't have a PC or a friend able to fill in the form for you, its tough luck! They're valid for 2 years and free until Sept 9th then they'll cost £9 after that. Think I've got that right.
Loved some of the questions on the form - like anyone's going to tick the 'yes' box!

B) Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or have been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or have been a controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?
C) Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?

My application went straight through while Himself's is 'pending further investigation'. If he disappears suddenly I'll know the FBI have caught up with his criminal moral turpitude!

PS. Beware of scam websites that are not only virus-ridden but are asking for around $50 for the application.
See Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert's website for more detailed info

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Mid-week Wanderlust

We, that's Himself, my daughter Amy and her fiance Tom, drove out to the Peak District last week. We haven't been that out way since we moved from Sheffield when it used to be a regular thing to just hop off up into the hills. I don't know why we stopped going as it's only 30 miles away from Worksop where we live now. Anyway, I'm glad we went because I'd forgotten how beautiful it is. Helped by the fact we had good weather. I have memories of horrible, biting rain and clouds so low you couldn't see the top of Mam Tor.

There was a bit of mizzle on the way to the Blue John Cavern but the sun came out later on as we descended into Castleton.

This is a pic of me and Himself, completely inappropriately dressed for a trip 300 metres underground but my excuse is we'd only intended to visit Castleton (pub lunch) and I'm allergic to fleece.

After we came out of the cavern (exhausted after climbing 400-plus slippery steps - and note to cavern owners: Please sort out your disgustingly-smelly toilets they smell worse than the sheep!)we drove down into the valley. The scenery is absolutely stunning.

We stopped in Castleton for a pub lunch at The Castle where the service was extremely slow but the food was worth the wait. Real food, if you know what I mean. None of that freezer to microwave rubbish as proven by the caterpillar on Amy's tastefully-arranged vegetables! But we forgave them because we were having such a jolly time. See, I'd never use the word 'jolly' EVER, but that was how the day made me feel, jolly!

There's a Norman church in Castleton and anyone who knows me will guess I spent a happy hour there snapping away. I don't find these places eerie or feel the need to tread carefully around the graves. Why place a magnificent headstone dedicated to your loved ones if you don't want folk to gawp? I find them fascinating and more than once have I written a story based around a headstone. Like this one.

Who were these children? Why did they die so young and one after the other? Why the memorial (obviously not a poor family)and why were they later interred in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin? What is the story behind it? I've done a bit of digging n the Net but so far I haven't come up with anything. No doubt if I'd gone into the church at the time and asked they'd have had some info but our little group wanted to be off to the Lady Bower reservoir.

Derwent Reservoir was next on our list. We found a large picnic area, sat on a bench, ate crisps, drank cola and ducked (why?) as a military helicopter flew over the treetops right above our heads.

We followed the A57 across Derwent viaduct and headed back home making a detour to a Nottingham shopping mall to pick up a 6 berth tent and fleece clothing for any further wanderings into the dales. In fact, Amy & Tom christened the tent this weekend. They are, as I type, camped in a farmer's field with 6 of their mates. And I'm jealous!

PS. I also got a great snap I'm going to send to My Weekly or maybe The People's Friend for their readers page. I earned £50 for My Weekly's star letter last month so not to be sniffed at!

Friday, 30 July 2010


Cupcakes instead of a traditional wedding cake? No problem, I can make those! How difficult can it be?

Trial run this morning:

1. Go to Sainsbury's to buy 2 dozen ready-made fairy cakes. Of course I'll make everything from scratch for the big day but this is about practising the decorating, isn't it?
2. Return home only to discover (Dur!)I forgot the butter for the icing.
3. Try corner shop but the only stock salted - need unsalted so reluctantly go back to Sainsbury's. No trolleys and only checkout available is the self-checkout ones I avoid at all costs. Nice assistant offers to do it for, self checkout?
4. Back at my car, realise I forgot the butter so go back and while I'm at it, pick up disposable icing bags (on special offer), sugar strands, mini-marshmallows, choc sprinkles, and some aspirin for the headache.
5. Get home to find I already have all of the above in my cupboard but never mind, if I'm going to be making 120 cupcakes for daughter's wedding, I'll need them.
6. Getting icing to correct consistency proves difficult and maybe I've used too much red food colouring.
7. Start again.
8. Knock over food colouring
9. Spill sugar sprinkles trying to catch food colouring.
10. I can't do this
11. Why did I ever begin this?
12. Can we buy them in instead?
13. What's wrong with a traditional wedding cake anyway?

Eventually, out of the 2 dozen fairy cakes, I end up with 14 only-slightly-wonky cupcakes.


Sunday, 25 July 2010

Famous Five gets a make-over

Should dated language be edited for a new generation of readers? Alison Flood, a writer on and former news editor of The Bookseller, poses the question here.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Quick Update

Still a lot of angsty stuff going on in my life - or rather in the life of those around me - which means I spend less and less time updating blogs and doing any writing in general. Strange thing is I'm not missing it. Perhaps I needed a break from it, who knows. But, I still keep sending stuff out. Not new stuff, but stories that I've been unable to sell, or ones whose contract has ended with a particular mag and can now be tried overseas.

Anyway, after a day's editing and re-jigging, I got 2 sales last week. 1 to The Weekly News and the other to That's Life!Fast Fiction, Aus. Both are twist in the tales with a ghostly influence.

What else's been happening? Oh, crikey, almost forgot (how did I forget the most important thing that's happened here? I told you my head was all over the place) my daughter, Amy has got engaged to her boyfriend, Tom. He proposed on 4th July at the top of the London Eye. And he went down on one knee, hence the reason he looks a bit short in this photo when actually he's around 6'7"!

Note the guy in the background oblivious to this momentous occassion. Apart from Amy's brother, Russ, and his fiancee, Maria (who were in on the surprise)there were some American tourists in the pod, none of whom said a word. Amy had a fit of the giggles and had to be reminded that she needed to reply to Tom's question of 'Will you marry me'. She said, 'Yes'. No date set as yet. Russ and Maria get married in Vegas next year so you never know, maybe there'll be a double wedding! There again, I have 2 other sons who might join the Betrothed Club. Gawd, 4 weddings...gasp!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Slush Pile Hell

Thought I'd pass on this link to Slush Pile Hell. Much mirth reading the query letters from wannabe authors!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Literature Map

Ever finished a book from favourite author and can't find another of theirs you haven't read? (Sorry, clunky sentence!) If so, try
Simply put the name of your fave author in the box, press search and it'll bring up names of authors who write in a similar fashion.

And because I can't find a suitable picture to make this post more interesting, here's a pic of Vic and Bob, my goldfish, instead. No relevance whatsoever, but they've cheered me up on what has been a frightful couple of weeks! Don't ask!

And, yes, I know it's not a very clear photo but you try getting fish to look at the camera!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Anatomy Of A Book Cover

Don't judge a book by it's cover? Are you kidding? The cover needs to tell almost as much of the story as the text does.
Best selling author Elizabeth Chadwick shares her insight in the process of creating a cover here

Elizabeth Chadwick website

Monday, 17 May 2010

Just For Fun

I've been neglecting my blogging duties but there's been so much domestic stuff going on here that I've not felt up to it. Apologies.

I don't know about you but when I'm feeling I'll never write again, a quick jaunt to my writing pals' websites/blogs to see what they're up to usually lifts the brain fog and stirs me into scribbling.

Which brings me to those story generator thingamabobs. I've used them before with a few results so thought I'd try the one on Val McDermid's site. Glad I did because not only did it give me a giggle (death by custard pie? Sounds mad but you had to be there!)but it started the old cogs churning and I think I now have the bones of a crime story. So thanks for that Val!

Try it for yourself here

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Pig Baby Weekend

If any of you live down in East Sussex, here's something for you:
Pig Baby Weekend - is a fantastic weekend of poetry, short stories and literary fun in the Sussex countryside at Beechwood Hall, Cooksbridge, Near Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 3QG.

Good Vibrations

Spring has sprung, summer's just around the corner so in anticipation I spent yesterday evening changing my wardrobe around. By that I mean storing away the coats, scarves and boots etc that kept me cosy throughout one of the coldest winters I can remember and replacing them with cool linen trousers and summery tops that I'd stuffed un-ironed in a drawer after last year's holiday.

Happily I've dropped a dress size or two since last September but as we don't have a holiday planned for this year (new central heating boiler ate our spends) I'm not going to buy too many new clothes. I should be able to pull in the waistband drawstrings and add a belt to any baggy tops. If I look like a badly stuffed cushion, so be it!

There is one thing I am spending money on, however. After lots of research, I've bought a power plate exerciser from the shopping channel. The hope is I can tone up the dinner lady arms and get the rest of this old bod in shape, because losing the weight's one thing, tightening the flab to fit neatly back on the bones is another!

Surprisingly, Himself didn't remind me that the cross-trainer, air-walker and sit-up ball I owned all ended up on eBay or that there's still a training-bench in the cupboard under the stairs and several dumb bells clattering about under the spare bed.

Anyway, my Vibrapower Max Trainer with *6 free bottles of Bio Energy Fitness Water arrived this morning. I was at home but didn't hear the courier knock. Luckily I saw him pulling away in his van and eager not to miss my delivery slot, ran to flag him down. He'd left it somewhere safe, he shouted. In the wheelie bin! Luckily the blue one (paper only) and not the green bin (household waste) or I would've been scraping last night's curry off it.

So, after lots of puffing to get the thing inside, more puffing and cussing putting it together, I got my first go at power plate exercise. Seriously, I can't begin to describe what it's like to stand/squat/perch/lean and lunge on a rubber mat that's being vibrated/oscillated at over 35-50 times per second. Thank heavens each routine is only for 3 sets of 3 mins per session, every other day. And hey, it doesn't involve breathlessness or sweating...amazing!

It promises a host of benefits, ranging from an immediate improvement in blood circulation, to a variety of other measurable outcomes such as increased muscle strength and flexibility, improved range of motion, decreased cellulite (woop, woop), increased bone mineral density and reduced arthritic pain. I think they omitted to mention it can loosen teeth, too!

I'm not expecting miracles and nor am I fooled into thinking *Bio Energy Fitness Drink is anything but sweetened water, but I'm giving it a go. Who knows, It might rattle my brain cells enough to let a few story ideas fall out.

Monday, 26 April 2010


Pop over to Sue Moorcroft's blog for some wise words on epilogues.

The last few books I've read (currently half-way through and loving Number Ten by Sue Townsend) there's been a prologue and an epilogue. My own novel has both, though they're quite short.

I wish I could recall which agent it was who said he liked neither and most agents he knew felt the same. Bit of a sweeping statement and probably just a passing trend as with all things literary. Anyway, whatever the current trend, I'm sticking with mine. One agent I sent my novel to remarked that he liked my epilogue and the fact that it's title is 'The Beginning'. Pity he didn't like the preceeding 300 odd pages as much!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

RIP Alan Sillitoe

Sad to hear the news that Nottingham-born novelist Alan Sillitoe has died aged 82 in Charing Cross Hospital. His novels marked him out as one of the Angry Young Men of British fiction.

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning was made into a successful film starring Albert Finney after the novel was published in 1958. Then came The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner starring Tom Courteney. Both films were seen as classic examples of kitchen sink dramas reflecting the reality of life in Britain.

He also published several volumes of poetry, children's books and plays.

A Million Womag Writers

Amanda Brittany has started to compile a list of womag writers on her blog. Boy does she have her work cut out! There must be thousands of us out there, all scribbling away hoping to please an editor. Which got me to thinking about when I first started out submitting back in 2001.

A sub to People's Friend would take approx a week to 10 days for a yay or nay answer. A sub to Woman's Weekly or My Weekly maybe three to four weeks. Take A Break usually got back to me within 4 to 5 weeks, 6 at the most. How times have changed!

The People's Friend still remains the quickest, with all the other mags taking up to 6 months and in some cases over a year for a decision. That's if they bother to answer at all. Increasingly, some are adopting the 'if you don't hear from us assume it's a rejection' attitude, which I find irksome (a bloody liberty). Yes, I know you're busy but how difficult would it be to hit the reply button on an email? If any editors who've adopted this stance are reading this my comments - I don't want to be black-listed! Which, I suppose is exactly why they get away with it.

My pet hate is editors who don't EVER get in touch. Not even to say 'Stop sending me your pathetic drivel'. A certain overseas mag editor hasn't replied to me in years, though she accepted the first thing I ever sent her so she must like my writing. Maybe I should take it as a sign she's not interested but until she actually says so I'll keep sending. No, I wont get tired and disheartened, Missy. I'm made of sterner stuff! You don't get rid of me that easily.

Maybe she needs to take a leaf out of Fast Fiction Oz who have an automated reply system to acknowledge receipt of a submission which I think is a brilliant idea - but even that's hit and miss, especially following their (frequent) editor changes.

The nice people at My Weekly generally send a brief 'Got it, Sue' email as does Woman's Weekly. They may then take months and months to give a definitive answer, but at least I'm not left wondering if it ever arrived in their in-box.

But then never having been an editor I can't imagine what it must be like to open my in-box on a Monday morning to find it crammed to busting point with submissions. And not all of publishable quality at that!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Rowan Coleman's short story Comp

There's a great short story competition being run by Rowan Coleman
Rowan worked in bookselling and publishing for seven years before entering and winning Company Magazine Young Writer of the Year Competition in 2001. Since then Rowan has written eight novels for adults and six for teens.

All you have to do is write a 1000 word (approx)story on the theme of starting over.

There're some fabulous prizes to be won.

FIRST PRIZE: 3 months creative writing online mentoring from Rowan Coleman, Tea and Cakes at Random House Publishing with Arrow Publishing Director Kate Elton and Rowan Coleman, a letter of introduction and agent feedback from David Higham Associates, £100 to spend on Random House books, your story to be published on Rowan Coleman's blog/website and a signed copy of THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS.

SECOND PRIZE: 1 months creative writing online mentoring from Rowan Coleman, £50 book vouchers to spend on Random House books and the story to be posted on my blog and a signed copy of THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS. THIRD PRIZE: £25 Worth of vouchers to spend on Random House books and the story to be posted on my website and a signed copy of THE HAPPY HOME FOR BROKEN HEARTS.

All the details and guidelines for submission are on her blog.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

I'm in the My Weekly Spring Special

Woop, woop! It's a super issue, too. 15 stories in all, some from my writing friends and a couple I don't know but am sure to come across at some time. Congratulations to all. Teresa, if you're reading this, I loved your story!
I always like My Weekly and Woman's Weekly's illustrations. The one accompanying mine has the Colosseum in the background (of course, because it's set in Italy)and a woman pointing at a Roman gladiator - though to me he looks oddly like a Viking with his flowing locks and beardy thing going on.

Not sure about my little author box comment. I always find them so difficult for some reason. And other writers' sound so much more interesting. This time, I had to supply a few words on my favourite flower and I don't really have one to be honest so I wrote that I like sweet William because when I smell them I know summer's not long in coming. Wish I could smell them now, because though the suns out here in Notts, it's blummin' chilly still. Hopefully, it's going to get up to 18 degrees at the weekend so I might save reading the rest of the stories until then when I'll sit out in the garden, swaying in my hammock, sipping a glass of pinot...I can dream can't I?

I'm currently putting a pitch together for a 3 part serial aimed at My Weekly. I've yet to be successful with a serial. They usually come back with 'We've carried a similar subject before'. Well, this one has a fairground as the backdrop. It's a mystery with a touch of romance and a splash of humour. Still only got a working title and I've only written the first episode and first episode synopsis which I might send off today. Then if I get a rejection, I haven't wasted my time. Not that one word will be wasted, I'll probably finish it at some point, but where can you place a 9000 word womag type story these days?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau comps

Thought you might like the details of the new JBWB SUMMER 2010 COMPETITIONS

including the poetry comp.

There's also the NEW 'chuckle bonus' for poetry entries. As Jenny says:

We all need a lift in these depressing times, and this quarter, JBWB will add a £20 bonus to your prize, whether you come first, second or third, if your poem also provides us with the broadest smile, longest chuckle or deepest belly laugh. So consider this when you write, and see if you can add some humour to brighten up our days...

The latest competition prize-winning stories and poems can be found here and here

I know I haven't been blogging of late but there's been so much domestic stuff going on I've neglected to update. I'll be back soon as I've got my latest attempt at a serial off to My Weekly!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Lady

Just a reminder to watch Cutting Edge tomorrow at 9.00 pm, The Lady and the Revamp,a documentary about changes to the mag. Might pick up a few tips.

Friday, 26 February 2010

First Page Promises

I wonder how much of a short story submission an editor actually reads. My guess is she (I only know of 2 male eds at the womags so I'll call her 'she') will speed read the first paragraph and decide immediately whether it's worth another five minutes of her precious time. I could be wrong, of course, but judging by the amount of rejections I've had this month I'd say I've been failing in what Sarah Duncan calls The First Page Promises - the need to grab a reader's attention as soon as possible with the promise they're in for a treat if they carry on.

In a short story I'd call it First Paragraph Promise or maybe even First Sentence Promise incorporating the who, what, why, where elements.

Here's an example taken from one of my shorts (Killing Doc Latimer) published in Woman's Weekly 2005:

Louise twirled spaghetti around her fork, unaware she was firing specks of sauce over her T shirt.
"Want to hear a confession?" I said.
She stopped twirling and gave me a hapless look. "Don't tell me anything that has to stay a secret, Donna. I won't mean to let the cat out of the bag but you know me and my loose lips."
"Relax. It'll be general knowledge by the weekend, anyway." I took a deep breath. "Thing is...I've killed Doctor Latimer."

Now I'm not saying the above is perfect but those few lines plunge you straight into the action. You get a sense of place, time and an insight into the characters and their relationship. Hopefully, you'll be intrigued to know why Donna's killed her GP and why she seems not to care too much if it becomes general knowledge.

Unless you're completely new to writing you'll be bored by now so I'll impart some more family news: My eldest son, Russ, has announced his engagement to Maria. The'll marry next Las Vegas! I need to sell an awful lot of stories to get me to Vegas, so I'd better stop blogging and do some serious scribbling.