Monday, 23 December 2013


Well, I did it! The draft of my next novel which I promised myself I would finish, is tucked away until after the Christmas break, ready for re-reading and revising. I must try not to think about it now so it's fresh when I next take a look...

There's lots to look forward to in the new year but for now, it's time to switch off the old Write Brain and let it freewheel.

Meanwhile I can get into the Christmas mood and catch up with family and friends.

Merry Christmas to all and a very Happy New Year!

Here's to an exciting 2014...

Saturday, 30 November 2013

NaNoWriMo... Or not

A writer friend (newly cometh to the writing life) asked me if I was an 'Edit As I Go Along' writer, or of the 'Write, Then Edit' camp. I'm definitely the latter. For some writers going over what they've written the day before works for them but for me, it would inhibit me to the point where I'd fret so much about what I'd already written I wouldn't make any progress at all. Get it down then get it edited, is my mantra.

This is one of the ideas behind NaNoWriMo,  - National Novel Writing Month, to the uninitiated - which ends today. Write every day in November and rejoice in what you achieve by the end. Many contributors have posted during the month, fretting or otherwise, about their daily word counts. And well done to all, whatever achieved!

I, meanwhile, I've been engaged in a different version of the NaNoWriMo concept and I've called it LoNoWriMultiMo - Local (my desk) Novel Writing Multiple Months.

Although I didn't give myself the end of November as a deadline, it seemed like a good idea to 'join in' and use the occasion to focus on completing the draft of my current novel before succumbing to the festive season.

So far, I'm holding my own (the evidence of all that hard work must be in the fact that I've done a post since 8th November!) and I dare to hope that by Friday 13th December (unlucky for some!) I'll have reached my goal.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Best of.. Worst of.. A Tale of Two Couriers

The Worst of...

Excitement! Books due for delivery! No problem - in all day.

Wait in anticipation, and wait, and wait. No delivery. Ah well, road works nearby, weather rough, hold ups... Message received. Re-delivery promised for next day.

Wait in. Again. Wait, wait, wait. Again. No delivery... Miffed! Phone call, complain. Grovels received. Promises for the NEXT day (Saturday).

YES!!! Box of books arrive, delivered by Saturday delivery man with a few disparaging words about his colleague for whom he's had to 'mop up' week-day left overs before!

But at least they're here... bit battered, though. Looks like the box has come open and they've been shoved back in... mmm. Not impressed. Complain again! At least the books seem to have survived their ordeal. Just...

The Best of...

Excitement! Bookmarks due for delivery! Email received: "your delivery has been dispatched and will arrive tomorrow." Hooray! No problem - in all day.

Second email the next morning: "Your delivery will arrive between 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm with Darren." Wow! Never had a time before.

Later, about 1.30 pm, notice it also says: "Click here to see where Darren is now." Give it a go... "Darren is here (mark on map!) currently delivering parcel number 36. You are parcel number 38. Darren will be with you in about an hour." Hey, impressive stuff!

Less than an hour later, a van pulls up. 'You Darren?' I call from the doorstep. 'Yep,' he replies, jauntily. 'And I'm 7 minutes early!'

Hands over box with a smile and is gone. That's what I call a service!

I won't mention the name of the Worst courier on this occasion, in case it's a mere blip but I'm happy to applaud the quality service of the Best.. .

Thank You Interlink!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Dead Man's Folly

Last night I watched David Suchet as ITV's Hercules Poirot, in Dead Man's Folly, filmed at Agatha Christie's holiday home Greenway, near Dartmouth, a place I was lucky enough to visit soon after it was opened to the public in 2009.

Agatha Christie's Greenway

Owned by the National Trust, Greenway is in a stunning location approximately 3 miles up river from Dartmouth. To add to the sense of 'stepping back in time' you can reach the property by steam train on the Dartmouth Steam Railway or by paddle-steamer on the Kingswear Castle.

Sadly, the series currently being shown on ITV, the thirteenth, is to be Hercules Poirot's final outing. So it seems fitting that this episode was filmed at the house which once belonged to Agatha Christie herself. Although she never actually wrote here - she would often visit having recently completed a novel - she entertained her guests by reading an extract from her latest book.

Dead Man's Folly was filmed in June this year and, amazingly, the house and its grounds remained open to the public throughout. Visitors were more than happy to alter or curtail their tours to accommodate the filming schedule. And why not? It must have been a wonderful sight to see the house and garden inhabited by residents dressed in 1930s costume - like a window into the past.

In the story, Zoe Wanamaker plays the mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver who has written a 'Murder Hunt' for the summer fete (treasure hunts having been deemed to be too old-hat). At one point, she tells Poirot that she was greatly relieved to be at 'Nasse House', as it has enabled her to get out of an Author Talk. "I have an idea, I write a book," she says to Poirot. "That takes care of the first minute. So what am I supposed to say for the next 59?"

Ha! If only it were that easy! Ms Christie's little joke, perhaps? Or maybe not...  She was one of the world's most prolific writers, after all.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

October - news - October - news - October - news

Please allow me to announce news of the paperback edition 
and e-book of my mystery novel 

The paperback is OUT ON MONDAY...
The e-book is available to download NOW!

A desperate crime, kept secret for 60 years... but time has a way of exposing the truth…

Esme Quentin is devastated when her sister Elizabeth is beaten unconscious, miles from her home. Two days later Esme discovers that Elizabeth has a secret past.

Desperate for answers which the comatose Elizabeth cannot give, Esme enlists the help of her friend Lucy to discover the truth, unaware of the dangerous path she is treading.

Together they uncover a trail of unresolved bitterness, blackmail and dubious inheritance and, as the truth emerges, Esme exposes evidence of a harrowing and pitiful crime.

Realising too late the menace she has unwittingly unleashed, Esme is caught up in a terrifying ordeal. One that will not only test her courage and her sanity, but force her to confront her perception of birth and family.

You can read an extract on my website or on Amazon.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Wannabe part 2...

Jane Wenham-Jones

The second part of the pilot of Jane Wenham-Jones's excellent idea for a TV show based upon her book Wannabe a Writer?, is now available to view.

Delphine Lever, the brave novice writer acting as guinea-pig for the pilot, goes to meet best selling author, Katie Fforde, who has lots of advice to give.

Katie explains to Delphine the importance of starting the story in the right place and reads an extract from her own very first novel, Living Dangerously, to demonstrate how to draw the reader in.

Living Dangerously

The clip is full of useful and practical information, particularly for those writers who are just beginning on their literary journey.

After their meeting, Delphine went home and, taking Katie's advice, re-worked her writing piece. You can read the 'before' and 'after' versions here and see how she has incorporated what she has learned.

Go to Wannabe a Writer TV Show now to watch the clip and add your comments.

Many people have expressed their enthusiasm for the concept and their hope that one day soon we will see it as a fully fledged TV show on their screens. And I'm one of them!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Looking around me

It's far too easy when I'm in 'the writing zone' to be so focused on the keyboard or the notepad that I become disconnected from my surroundings. Keen to complete a task or on a roll I don't want to curtail,  I can get to the end of a day realising that I've barely lifted my head, let alone looked out of the window. 

It's not uncommon for anyone, not just writers, to become switched off from where we are, even if where we love where we live.

Every now and again it's good to take a stroll and try to see familiar views and vistas through new eyes.

If you've read my profile you'll know that I live next door to a 13th century church. I see it every day... well, apart from the days when I realise I haven't lifted my head or looked out if the window...obviously!

So I took my own advice and wandered around the churchyard looking closely at little details of this beautiful historic building and snapping photographs. Here are just a few...

The view of the church from over the garden wall
A tantalizing peek inside!

The old west window

The wooden shingles on the tower were blown off once when it was hit by lightening.

Ah well, back to the writing...

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Curse of the creative brain

Visiting friends showed us some stunning ceramic pieces they'd bought but which the artist had wanted to give away (they insisted on buying them!), having deemed them 'rejects'.

Lack of confidence in the work we produce is not limited to ceramic artists. We writers also find our inner gremlins pouring scorn on what we've written. But as Helen Yendall's article 'Bad Rubbish, Good Riddance' in August's edition of Writing Magazine reminds us, even the most experienced writers have  gremlins. She suggests one way of dealing with them is to give them a silly name!

When mine starts muttering (I haven't thought of a name for him, yet!) I reach for my copy of Elizabeth George's book, 'Write Away' ('one novelist's approach to fiction and the writing life'). At the start of each chapter Ms George quotes from her journals, aptly illustrating that self-doubt is not merely the lot of novice authors. 

'What am I doing pretending to be a writer?' she despairs on one occasion, and on another confesses to feelings of inadequacy after reading 'The Constant Gardener' and marvelling at John le Carre's genius.

My favourite entry, though, is the one she wrote after receiving an outstanding review for one of her novels.  Several reviewers had apparently remarked that although they can't wait to read her next book, they're a little scared in case she hasn't maintained the quality of the last one. 'Gee,' she writes. 'They should be on this end of things!'

Friday, 6 September 2013

For wannabe writers everywhere

The ever resourceful Jane Wenham-Jones, author of Wannabe a Writer? and Wannabe a Writer We've Heard Of, has come up with an ingenious idea for a TV programme which will be of great interest to inspiring writers.

Along with journalist and TV producer Stephen Arkell, she has made a pilot episode of a 'How-to' television show in which novice writer Delphine Lever is taken to meet top literary agent Carole Blake for her comments on Delphine's writing.

In the second half of the programme, Delphine receives valuable advice from best selling author Katie Fforde.

Jane plans to pitch the idea to TV companies this autumn and would welcome viewers' comments.

To see the pilot episode go to where you can leave feedback and, if you are feeling brave, apply to be considered for future programmes.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The burden of proof...

Or rather the burden of proofs... plural.

This week the new book cover design for the paperback and ebook of Blood-Tied pinged into my inbox for my comments. Exciting times! I was happy to agree with everyone at SilverWood Books that the designer has managed to capture the essence of the story in the strong and intriguing design.

I look forward to posting an image of the cover here as soon as everything is finalised - watch this space!

Meanwhile, the interior proofs (the book's text) are being carefully scrutinised for errors.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) defines proofreading as "the quality check and tidy up" before an author's work goes to print. But this goes way beyond merely checking spelling, punctuation and grammar.

And if you're thinking: anyone can be a proofreader, right? It's only about spotting a few typos, isn't it? Then I suggest you try the society's 'Self Test' and see how you get on. Click here to have a go.

You never know, you might find you've discovered a new career... or not...

Good luck!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Late summer gems

When I first started gardening the jewel box of early summer plants was so extensive that I loved them all and we filled the borders with them.

By August the limitations of our choices became obvious - the garden looked flat and colourless as the early blooms finished for the season

So in this garden we made a positive attempt to make space for late flowering plants, a particular favourite being the beautifully vibrant Rudbeckia.

We can't remember where we got the gorgeous allium - we don't even know which sort it is but it's fantastic at this time of the year, like hanging pink pearls.

And with a few Dahlias in pots on the patio August isn't a wasteland of scruffy foliage and spent flowers any longer. 

It only took us about ten years to learn the lesson!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Slip back in time

If you're in the mood for some time travel, take a trip to Crowcombe Heathfield station on the West Somerset Railway around 11.15 most mornings and relive the age of steam.

Buy a cup of tea in the waiting room, take it out on to the platform and find an old Great Western Railway bench to sit on. 

As you sip your tea and take in the view around you - the leather suitcases piled high on wooden trolleys or the old 'lamp room' made of painted corrugated iron - listen for the distant huff-puff of a steam engine in the distance as it climbs towards you.

Soon after it arrives in the station you'll hear the sound of another engine from the opposite direction, rhythmically puffing its way up the track until it too pulls in alongside the platform. 

As you sit mesmerised, lost in the smell of smoke and coal, passengers will alight from one train and hurry cross the rails to the opposite train. Carriage doors will slam (very Railway Children, that bit) and with a blast on the whistle, the first engine will pull slowly out of the station, its speed increasing as the rhythm of steam builds.

When the second engine departs, its chuff-chuff-chuff gathering speed as it fades into the distance, you'll hear the clunk of the signal changing. And silence.

Finish your tea, take the mug back to the station master, return to your car... and back into the 21st century.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Plotting in the garden

Yes, I do mean plotting rather than potting - though I might do that too! But the garden is a great place to let the brain wander freely while pondering on a particular knotty plot problem.

It's also the opportunity to lift my head and see what's been happening while I've had my writing head down.

After the last rains, everything has suddenly found a new lease of life, breaking into exuberant growth and enlivening the garden.

Clematis niobe climbing up the roses on the house
Crocosmia always brightens up the garden at this time of the year.

The agapanthus we bought in the spring is looking stunning and it's not fully out yet!

Ironing gives me the same benefits as far as a free-wheeling brain is concerned - but the photographs aren't nearly so attractive!

Friday, 2 August 2013

To read... Or not to read...

There was a time when I would consider it an obligation to finish a book once I'd started it.

But as the years have gone by my perception of time has shifted. I've decided that life's too short to waste it reading a book I'm not enjoying.

Little wonder then, as I compiled the list of books I've read on GoodReads that none of them score lower than 3 stars! (I suppose I could recall a few which I metaphorically threw over my shoulder in order to redress the balance but that seems a bit mean...)

As far as I can tell, there are just three categories on GoodReads : 'books I have read', 'the book I'm currently reading' and 'books I want to read'. I have a suggestion for another. How about 'books I've read more than once'?

Some books are too good not to be revisited every once in a while. The book in my 'currently reading' category is one of those  - Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It's a joy to lose myself in its pages. Oh to be able to write so beautifully!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Author's notebooks

In an article in August's Writing Magazine  John Curran tantalisingly recalls discovering a cardboard box full of Agatha Christie's notebooks on a visit to Greenway House prior to its hand-over to the National Trust. It took him over a year deciphering and transcribing her scribbled notes into 73 individual Word documents.

What struck him was their chaotic nature and lack of chronology, suggesting that several were in use at once. It led him to conclude that where ever she was at the time, she must have grabbed whatever notebook was closest to hand to jot down the thought or plot point which had popped into her head.

I know the problem! Having forgotten a gem of an idea before now, between the blinding flash and arriving downstairs in search of a notebook to write it down, I now have several notepads, strategically placed around the house.

I haven't yet found myself a version that I can use in the shower (where many of my better (?) ideas come to me) but I believe there is such a thing available...

John Curran's books:

Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks
Agatha Christie's Murder in the Making

Thursday, 25 July 2013

E-books and frugal times

According to The Bookseller yesterday, Nielsen predicts that e-book sales will out-strip print sales by 2014. But as e-books sell on average for less than print books revenue is also likely to be down.

Debbie Young ( in her excellent book Sell Your Books!, confesses that since she acquired her e-book reader, many of the e-books she has bought have been impulse buys.

A friend who works in the cosmetic industry always maintains that an economic downturn has less impact on sales than one might suppose. Feedback suggests that a customer sees spending a few pounds on a lipstick as a 'treat' to cheer themselves up.

Perhaps this rationale is working for e-books too!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Wonderful York... with a few surprises

 Every now and again we writers need to lift our heads for an injection of inspiration. And what better place to do that than in the beautiful city of York.

We have just spent a few (very hot!) days staying in a great pub right on the city walls. It even had a beer garden which looked up at York Minster.

The Lamb and Lion, Higher Petergate, York

Despite the heat, we enjoyed exploring the city using an old guide book we'd bought on another visit back in the dim and distant past (scarily, about 24 years ago!). We weaved around the narrow streets and up and down the snickleways - the alleyways and passages which link them. They have such marvellous names. The Shambles is well known but there are others; Jubbergate, Ogleforth, Finkle Street,  Mad Alice Lane (apparently poor Alice Smith was hanged here in 1825 for... well... for being mad) and, my particular favourite, Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate.

We walked the walls, honoured the visiting steam engines of The Great Gathering at the National Railway Museum, took a trip back in time to the age of the Vikings at the Jorvik Centre and climbed York Minster tower to gaze across the roofs of the city. 

And just when we'd seen everthing we'd expected to see, we saw something we hadn't expected....

... a hedgehog trotting along the street! Priceless.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Smell the roses

This year the roses in our garden have been stunning, particularly 'Malvern Hills' (above), the scent of which wafts over us every time we step across the threshold of the French windows.

Interesting, the sense of smell. When we were choosing which roses to grow we found that some varieties which I thought had a gorgeous scent my husband couldn't smell at all - and visa versa!

A recent study found that smells can take a person further back in memory than visual or verbal clues. 

Sharing 'smell memories' with my husband we realised that those on the list which evoked the strongest recollections were those which we never smell nowadays. 

He recalled plaster-of-Paris (broken arms were his forte as a child!) and the soapy smell of hot steaming washing being transferred from the drum of the twin tub into the spin drier with huge wooden tongs.

I remembered the oily pong of the paraffin heater during my first ballet lessons and the burning whiff of the decorators blow torch while our house was painted when I was about 4 years old.

Intriguingly, both of my memories are associated with anxiety. I remember I cried going to ballet and the blow torch terrified me so much, I refused to go out into the garden! Oh happy days...

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Art of Using Leftovers

I'm usually pretty adept at finding ways to use up left over food. Even so, there are times when I save bits and pieces more in hope than expectation. Then they sit at the back of the fridge until they've died a natural, if bizarrely coloured, death when I can throw them away with a clear conscience.

But now that's about to change, since I read about Suzy Bowler's book The Leftover Handbook in the subscribers' pages of Writing Magazine.

Set up in a simple to use A- Z format of ingredients, it suggests clever ways of turning those little bits and pieces into something inspirational.

I can see it getting well-thumbed in my kitchen - oily, sticky and splattered with food; the sign of a good cook book!

Find out more on Suzy's blog

Why tennis is like writing

As I watched the gladiatorial battles at SW19 this week, it occurred to me that tennis players are like writers. They fluctuate between self-doubt and self-belief.

But while we writers despair that what we're writing is rubbish in the privacy of our darkened garret, Wimbledon's finest must fight their internal demons in the full glare of the world's spectators.

I'll take the garret anytime!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Better late than never

I'm not usually the dithering sort but taking the plunge to set up a blog has taken a long, long time. I have been pacing up and down around the edge of Bloggerland with the wariness of a nervous swimmer who could be persuaded that the water is lovely but is still not sure they might drown.

But here I am, finally, jumping right in and posting my very first blog on the eve of what the forecasters are saying is The Start of Summer 2013.

So I look forward to sitting in the sunshine and engaging my 'write' brain to come up with thoughts to share, in my new blogging adventure!