Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Hello! Hasn’t it gone DARK and COLD?! It’ll soon be time for the snowman header to appear. Hope you’re managing to stay cosy and warm, wherever you are.

(Mini) Novel Update

A few people have asked me if I know how the pre-orders are going and the honest answer is, I don’t! I can only see the same as all of you on the Amazon website (other booksellers are available – e.g.: WH Smith and the paperback is slightly cheaper there!) and I haven’t dared broach the subject with my editor.

Ssssh, between you and me, I don’t know if it’s ‘the thing to do’ and it’s probably a bit early. It’s only been up for pre-ordering for just over a week, after all.

If any of you are registered with Netgalley (apparently you have to be a ‘librarian, bookseller, educator, reviewer, blogger or in the media’ to be ‘approved’ – but some of you may well be!), apparently the book is going on there at the end of the month, so look out for it and you might snag yourself a free copy, in exchange for a review.

I have a ‘new’ agent by the way – I’m no longer with Kate Nash, as my agent there, Robbie Guillory, has set up his own agency and kindly asked me and others, if we’d like to go with him. His new agency is called Underline. He’s very good but I think he’s been swamped with submissions since he set up, a few weeks ago!

New Mental Health Short Story Anthology

Over lockdown, the psychiatrist-and-novelist Joanna Cannon (did I ever mention that I interviewed her once…?) had a great idea, which she wrote about on Twitter. She wanted to pair mental health service users with best-selling authors, to tell the story of what it really feels like to live alongside mental illness. And now it’s going to happen!

An anthology of 12 stories (which Joanna will edit) will be published in October next year by Borough Press (an imprint of Harper Collins). Entrants must at some point have experienced a mental health condition, and, if chosen, will need to provide a letter from their primary carer or GP certifying that they are currently suitable to participate in the project.

Submissions open on 1st December 2021 and close on 7th February 2022. Entries can be made by sending a completed entry form (there doesn’t seem to be any sign of that yet but no doubt it will appear by 1st Dec!) to For terms and conditions, click here.

The Glencairn Glass Crime Short Story Competition c/d 31st Dec 2021

A lovely free short story competition has popped up, so I thought I’d let you know, in case you’re twiddling your thumbs over Christmas…

It’s free to enter, it’s open worldwide and there are fabulous cash prizes! (First prize is a tasty £1000!) And the theme is: ‘A Crystal-Clear Crime’. Make sure you read the rules carefully, as always and good luck!

Fingers Crossed…

And finally, there are at least 4 friends of mine who are ‘out on submission’ at the moment – looking for an agent or for a publisher for their novel. Obviously, I won’t name names but they know who they are and it’s a tense time so I’m sending them lots of positive vibes and fingers crossed for a good outcome. When you’ve got that deal, you’ll be very welcome on the blog to tell us all about it. X

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In Which My Novel’s ‘Uncovered’!

Bonnie has been in the wars

I started this blog post on Sunday and this is how it went:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a girl is knackered very tired and looking forward to a lie-in on a Sunday morning (*visions of not getting up until 10am*) she will wake at 7.30am and not be able to go back to sleep.

Yep, that was me this morning, folks. Very tired after a busy week recovering from the Writers Retreat I’ve been on (Retreats for You in Devon), wrestling with NaNoWriMo (I daren’t tell you how many thousands of words I’m behind) and the live workshop that I ran yesterday for Evesham Festival of Words.

And then I stopped writing and now it’s Tuesday and I’ll start again…

Blog post Take Two:

I was feeling rather pleased with myself today because I resisted emails and the Twitters and anything to do with t’internet until 3 o’clock.

We took Bonnie to the vet’s for the third time (she cut her leg in mysterious circumstances. The vet suspects barbed wire) and today she was having the stitches out. But, as she’s still inclined to lick the spot, she still has to wear her ‘frill’ (not quite as bad as a ‘cone of shame’) around the house. There she is, in the photo above, a vision in blue (and yes, looking rather sorry for herself).

After the vet’s, we went for a walk (sans frill) at Broadway Tower, which usually looks like this:

The second highest point in the Cotswolds.

But today was looking like this:

Note the poppies all the way up the side!

I like the way they’d managed to give the scaffolding a Remembrance Day theme.

We came home to discover that the Severn Trent men STILL hadn’t been (we share a – I’m sorry but there’s no other way of saying this – a sewage drain with our 3 neighbours and every so often it gets bunged up. Hmm, this was one of those times. No loo flushing or showers for 2 days.. lovely. One of the joys of living in the country).

So, I went for a swim, mainly to get clean, got some Christmas stamps, pootled around, we had lunch and finally, finally, at 3pm, I allowed myself to go on Twitter.. and it had gone a bit mad.

Because of this:

Eek! Then I remembered that email from my publisher of a couple of weeks ago in which they told me that they’d be doing a ‘cover reveal’ for my novel on 16th November. And when they say they’ll do something, it’s amazing: they do it!

And I’d been pootling around all day, completely oblivious. So, obviously I pulled myself together and started retweeting and informing people like a madwoman. Apologies if you were one of those poor people inundated with a hundred tweets in the space of half an hour (I was panicking!). Perhaps you have unfollowed or blocked me on Twitter now and, to be honest, I wouldn’t blame you.

The novel is coming out firstly as an e-book, on 14th January 2022 and you can pre-order it here for the princely sum of 99p! A bargain, if ever there was one.

It will also be coming out in paperback a few weeks after the e-book publication, so if you want to hold off and get one of those instead, you are of course allowed.

I am alternating between elation and terror (but mostly terror) at the thought that Real Live People will, at some point in the very near future, read my book. And I have no control over that. I can’t wrestle it from their hands and suggest they might like a nice John Le Carre or a Jane Austen instead. It’s all a bit surreal and scary. But good too, of course. I know, I am lucky. And it’s all good.

Now, enough of this and onto other news.

Here are a few writing competitions that you might like to consider. Apart from the first one, which closes on 30th of November, they all close in March next year, so there’s plenty of time!

Love Letters to London
Write a ‘love letter to London’ (and submit by 30th November 2021) and you could win cash and glory. This one is run by the London Society, there are 5 categories for entrants: under 18s, students, open (other UK entrants), International, poetry. They’re looking for work of up to 500 words around the theme of ‘recovery and resilience’.
All the details are here.

Evesham Festival of Words Short Story Competition c/d 11th March 2022
No theme, 2,500 words max, £5 entry fee and the first prize has been increased this year from £150 to £200. There’s also an ‘early bird incentive’: if you submit your entry (or entries) before 31st January 2022, you’ll be put into a draw and you might win a £20 book token.

I’ve been a reader for this competition for the past 3 years but they’ve given me time off for good behaviour, so I’m not involved in the judging this time. The main judge is Simon Whaley.

Local History Competition: Pugmill Press c/d March 22nd 2022
If you are interested in writing about local history, this competition might appeal. Pugmill Press, an independent non-fiction publisher, is running a local history competition, with 2 prizes – one for an essay (£75 prize) and one for the best 300-word synopsis in relation to a book proposal on a local history topic (£25 prize). There’s plenty of time to enter. It doesn’t close until March 2022 and there’s no entry fee. If that sounds like your kind of thing, all the details are here.

Rosemary Goodacre Memorial Short Story Competition c/d 31st March 2022
Theme: Friendship. Main judge: Vivien Brown. Entry fee: £7.50.

To commemorate the life of saga author Rosemary Goodacre, who died suddenly in October last year, her friends are organising a short story competition with all profits going to her favourite charity Spadework. There’s a maximum word count of 1,500 and all the details are here.

This is a really nice one to support, if you can.

Posted in Books, Competitions | 19 Comments

A Scary Deadline…

As it’s nearly Hallowe’en I make no apologies for the spooky photos!

Win a Year-Long Novel-Writing Course with The Novelry
Here’s a fabulous competition (only requiring you to fill in a form, answer an easy question and keep your fingers crossed!) to win a ‘year long novel writing course’, courtesy of Stylist and The Novelry.

But be quick because it closes at midnight on 1st November, which is next Monday. In the competition blurb it talks about ‘the winner’ but in the small print it says ‘x 15’ and talks about ‘winners’, so I don’t know how many prizes are up for grabs. I’d be surprised if it was as many as fifteen, so I think that might be a typo. Anyway, who knows? But it’s definitely worth a go if you want to write a novel or are in the middle of one!

Me, talking about my novel? Boring?

And talking of which, who’s gearing up for NaNoWriMo, which also starts on Monday, 1st November? I am going to use it to kickstart novel #2 (yes, you read that correctly. The ‘start’ bit, I mean!)

I have been doing some research and getting some ideas for my second novel but have I actually started to write? Erm, no I haven’t. And I have until 18th March to produce the first draft. So, there we go. I’m not panicking at all. Oh no. *cancels Christmas*

I am going on a writing retreat next week – more about that next time – so hopefully I will have time to get some words down.

I used NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago to get a big chunk of novel #1 written. I didn’t try to write chronologically, I just wrote scenes, descriptions, anything I could think of (that related to the story, obviously!), aiming for 50,000 words and it was helpful. Not everything I wrote made the cut but it didn’t matter.

Another reason that I haven’t got going yet with novel #2 is that I’ve been working on novel#1. I’ve seen and approved the proposed cover (squee!*) and the proposed tagline and blurb (double squee!*) and I have to write my dedication and acknowledgements. So, it’s all starting to feel quite real (and surreal) now.

* I swore I would never do a ‘squeee’ but sometimes, nothing else will do..

I’ve also been working on the novel’s line edits. (I know, I know. How many edits are there? Millions, is the answer). And I’ve realised that I have an awful lot of nodding and head shaking (the characters, not me).

You can get away with a few of those in a short story but in a novel, it starts to grate. It becomes repetitive and there’s a danger the reader will notice it and start to get annoyed (as I did with the Steig Larsson novels when they drank coffee on practically every page).

So, one of the things I’ve had to do, is go through the manuscript and take some of the nods and head shakes out completely or change them (and not to ‘she moved her head up and down’ or ‘he moved his head from side to side’ either, which I have seen someone on another site suggest!).

What’s your favourite character gesture? Do you have lots of furrowed brows, or smiles or sighs? Because most people don’t speak like robots. We move our hands, our faces and our bodies when we talk. Often, we give away what we’re really thinking – even if our words are saying something else – with our body language. So, gestures are important when our characters speak.

Just not always the same gestures, right?

Yes! No! Nods, shakes head.

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Writing Novels & A Giveaway!

If you want to write a novel (are you mad?), Curtis Brown are running a free webinar on 4th November 7pm – 8.30pm on that very theme.

Your Novel: How To Get Started‘ is currently full but they’re trying to ‘open up more places’ (my terminology!), or failing that, it will be available to view on YouTube, as a recording.

Why are they running a free webinar? As well as being a prestigious literary agency (authors on their books include Marian Keyes, Jojo Moyes, Lisa Jewell, Adam Kay.. need I go on?), Curtis Brown run lots of writing courses and there’s a good chance that they’ll want to let you know about them, once you sign up for the webinar. But you can always unsubscribe and I’ve never found it too much of a pain. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, (or a ‘free webinar’) as the saying goes.

Here‘s where you can register your interest in the webinar.

They are also running the event to help promote their ‘Discoveries 2022’ scheme, which is free and open to unpublished female novelists in the UK and Ireland. Be warned, last year they received over 2,500 entries for their Discoveries programme, but it’s definitely still worth a go if you’ve got 10,000 words of a novel (finished or unfinished) to send in.

You’ve got until January 2022 to get your submission in. More details here.

Book Giveaway: ‘The Smallest Man’

By complete coincidence, the author of the book I’m giving away, Frances Quinn, is a former student of a Curtis Brown Novel Writing course.

Her debut novel, ‘The Smallest Man’, was published earlier this year and I’ve got a paperback copy to give away, courtesy of the author herself. It’s even signed!

The book is set in the 17th Century and is inspired by the true story of Jeffrey Hudson, court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I.

And here is a painting by Van Dyck of the Queen, with Jeffrey, painted in 1633.

Frances’ main character, Nat Davy, is definitely fictional though and her novel starts with a great couple of lines, that really pull you into the story: “My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story….”

Do you remember in my recent post about editing, I mentioned Frances and her book and how she had to …ouch… scrap and rewrite quite a bit of ‘wordage’ at the end of the book? But of course, it was all worthwhile because the book’s been very well received. I’ve read it myself and really enjoyed it.

There’s another lovely interview with Frances here, if you’d like to know more about her and her second book.

So, if you’d like to be in with a chance of winning this lovely brand new signed (did I say it was signed?) paperback (UK only, folks, sorry!), all you have to do is tell me the title of another historical novel you’ve enjoyed reading.

That way, we’ll all end up with a lovely list of books to read.

The Historical Writers Association, by the way, classifies ‘historical fiction’ as ‘fiction set fifty years before the present time’ (ie: 1971 and earlier) but the Historical Novel Society apparently classifies it as 30 years before the present time (1991 and earlier!).

So, take your pick but it all sounds very recent to me!

I’ll put all the names into the random wheel name picker thing to choose a winner a week today, Monday 18th October at 6pm.

My stepdaughter made me this cake at the weekend. Early birthday cake. Yum!

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Sending Your Work Out

I am feeling fragile today. It’s completely self-induced, do not pity me. We had friends round last night, I went to bed at 2.30am and I have a hangover. Yuck.

It’s such a waste of a lovely Sunday (and what was supposed to be a writing day and a going-swimming day!). I am annoyed with myself. Never again.

Until the next time.

I was out late last Saturday night too but this did, at least, have a link to writing.

I ventured into Birmingham to meet up with four other mentees from the Kate Nash #bookcamp scheme.

I’d never met any of them ‘IRL’ and they’d come from all over the UK to meet up for the weekend. Needless to say, we had a great time and didn’t stop talking all night.

The drive into Birmingham was less enjoyable, though, I must admit! I hadn’t driven there for at least 3 years and it had all changed! And I couldn’t park! Nightmare!

In the end, an angel-in-hi-vis – a parking attendant for one of the eateries – must have seen my panic-stricken face and took pity on me. He removed some cones to let me park across a bay, thereby blocking in a couple of cars. It would be alright, he said, they wouldn’t be moving until the morning.

So I dumped the car, thanked him and dashed across the busy Hagley Road, wondering a) whether the car would still be there when I returned at midnight and b) whether it would be rammed by irate boxed-in drivers (It was/wasn’t. Phew!).

Sending Your Work Out – Online Workshop

Some of my fellow mentees have novels out on submission (I can’t say who, of course but when they get their book deals I’ll be shouting it from the roof tops!).

As we know, it’s a long and scary business (a bit like driving in Birmingham: not for the faint-hearted). If you’re about to launch yourself into that process too, then this on-line workshop, Sending Your Work Out into the World run by novelist Beth Miller (a New Writing South event), might be of interest.

It’s on Friday 22nd October 4pm – 6pm and it’s a very reasonable £10 or £8, depending on your circumstances.

This is the blurb about it: “You’ve finished your novel, memoir or non-fiction proposal and polished it to within an inch of its life. Congratulations, that’s a huge achievement! Now it’s time to send it out into the publishing world to agents and editors. How can you ensure that your submission is as good as it possibly can be before you hit the send button? In this session Beth will cover just about everything you need to know: from researching agents and publishers, writing the dreaded synopsis, tricky query letter and perfect pitch, to handling the inevitable rejections. She’ll also talk a little on how to handle success when it comes your way.

Where’s Bonnie?

Dementia Fiction

Here’s news of a free writing workshop (1st November, evening, 2.5 hours) and the opportunity to be mentored by an established writer and see your work published in an exciting new anthology of short stories which will explore the theme of dementia in a variety of different ways. There are 12 places available for UK/Ireland-based writers and you need to apply by 15th October. Details here.

National Poetry Day: 7th October

It’s National Poetry Day on Thursday and the theme this year is ‘choice’. Even if you’re a fiction/prose writer/reader rather than poetry, you might find inspiration on the website, which is bursting with competitions, events and, yes… poems!

Right, I have to go and find more aspirin… have a good week!

Posted in Competitions, Kate Nash Agency, Poetry | Tagged | 2 Comments

Edit. A Four Letter Word?

Since I last wrote I have been working on ‘structural edits’ of the novel.

Yes, this is still the first novel! (Not the second, as someone asked me the other day. Oh, if only….!)

I know this might seem strange. After all, hasn’t the book already been through a round (or two) of edits with the agent and now been accepted by a publishing house?

Well, yes. But this is the process. It’s why you have an editor. And it’s part of the reason that getting a book published seems to take forever. It doesn’t mean the book is rubbish! (Honestly!) But very few novels, especially first novels, are delivered to an editor without the need for a little polishing, at best or a complete rewrite, at worst.

If you’d like to read more about the ‘lost art of editing’, there’s a really interesting (old!) article on the Guardian website here which I came across when I was trying to find a witty title for this post. I failed, obviously.

Frances Quinn, whose debut novel ‘The Smallest Man’ has been published recently to wide acclaim, has admitted that she had to ‘scrap the last 30,000 words and write a new ending’, at her editor’s behest, before the book could be published. Ouch!

And just today, novelist Clare Mackintosh has tweeted that her first novel ‘I Let You Go’ was ‘rejected by Macmillan, Hodder, Harper, Michael Joseph, Random House and Transworld before finding a home with Sphere Books.’

Those other publishers are no doubt kicking themselves, as the book has sold over 1 million copies across 40 countries and is both a Sunday Times and a New York Times bestseller. However, she does admit that ‘it needed a LOT of work. More work than most editors were prepared to take on.’

It’s very honest of Clare to admit that. And, reassuring for the rest of us, that a book doesn’t have to be perfect in order for an agent or editor to say ‘yes’. You simply need to find someone who has that ‘vision’ for the book and you have to be prepared for what might be a heck of a lot of work. Because although an editor (or agent, for that matter) might make suggestions for the book, you still have to do the re-writes and tie yourself in knots (and untie yourself again) until it all makes sense.

I’d like to bet that Clare’s subsequent books (and she’s written 5 more, including her latest thriller, ‘Hostage’ which I have on my Kindle and I’m dying to read) haven’t needed as much work because you definitely learn, as a writer, from that editing process. I am hoping, for example, that I’m not going to make the same mistakes as I write my second novel, as I did with the first. (But, ahem, let’s see!)

The structural edits that were suggested to me were, apparently, a ‘light edit’ because the manuscript was already in pretty good shape. But it was still 4 typed pages of suggestions for improving it, including moving things around, bringing characters into the story earlier and giving all the characters – even some of the minor ones – more of a character ‘arc’.

It’s gone back to my editor (somehow in the course of the tweaking I’ve also managed to add 5000 words!) and will probably still need some work before we move onto ‘line edits’. (I’ll talk about those another time).

Writers & Artists Yearbook
In addition to their annual (free to enter) short story competition, which is open until 11th February 2022, those lovely people at Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook are running another competition to win a place on their ‘How to Write a Page Turner’ on-line course (worth £350).

You have to send the first chapter (max 2000) words, plus synopsis, of your unpublished, un-agented novel (could even be a ‘novel in progress’ because they’re not asking to see the rest). But this closes soon – 30th September, to be precise, so there’ no time to lose! Good luck if you decide to go for it!

30-word Mini Saga (Theme: AUTUMN)
Still time to enter the Evesham Festival 30-word (+ title) flash fiction competition, which closes on 30th September (at 5pm, note, not midnight!). It’s free to enter and there are book token prizes.

And I am one of the readers for that… so come on, impress me! (but it’s all done anonymously, so if you don’t impress me, I’ll never know it was you!)

Workshop: Saturday 13th November 2021 10.30am – 12.30pm, Evesham

If short story writing is your ‘thing’ and you don’t live too far from Evesham, you may be interested to know that I’m running at 2-hour workshop on ‘Short Stories – Catching The Judge’s Eye’ in November, which is aimed specifically at those who are entering, or who want to enter, short story competitions.

It’s a ‘hands on’ in-real-life workshop, costs just £15, including refreshments. It’ll be fun! And, hopefully, you’ll come away feeling inspired and may even have some ideas to start working on.

More details – and booking form – here.

Posted in Books, Competitions, Kate Nash Agency | 9 Comments

I Got A Book Deal! (And 3 things that helped…)

FINALLY, finally, I can tell you that I have signed a 2-book deal with HQ Digital (Harper Collins). Squee! Eek! and other words of excitement.

I have known about this, of course, for a little while (sorry) but I was sworn to secrecy, on pain of death (!) because the publishers’ marketing team have a strict schedule for announcing these things and if I’d blabbed, I may well have put a spanner in the works. Whoops! Wouldn’t have been the best start.

So, now I don’t have to pretend any longer, which is a relief.

I have been out for most of the day, as my two classes at Chipping Norton Theatre started again. Yes, it was ‘back to school’ for me as well as the millions of school children who returned to the classroom this morning. And very strange it felt too, after 18 months away (including a year of teaching on Zoom).

In fact, what with that and the impending announcement from HQ, I hardly slept last night. It was like the night before Christmas!

When I got home and switched on the laptop and saw all the lovely messages of congratulation on Twitter and Facebook, I must admit, I welled up a bit (overtired, moi?). And they’re still coming in now….!

I am right in the middle of editing the novel, which had the working title ‘Maggie’s War’ but which is to be called ‘A Wartime Secret’ when it comes out in January 2022, firstly as an e-book and then, a few weeks later, as a paperback.

It’s a WW2 saga. But more than that, I cannot tell you – yet – (erm, mainly because it’s still being tweaked, here and there).

So, what are the 3 important things I did, that led directly to this happy day?

1. I did NaNoWriMo. A few times. And learned from it. I learned how to ‘churn’ the words out (to be sculpted and manicured later, of course). I also learned what not to do – ie: that I need to plan, at least a little bit. And when I did NaNoWriMo in November 2019, I wrote a big chunk of this now-to-be-published novel.

2. I joined the RNA. The Romantic Novelists’ Association. My novel has got romantic aspects to it but I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘romance’, per se. As long as your work has relationships or, obviously, an element of romance in it –then you qualify to apply for a place on the NWS (New Writers’ Scheme) and as part of that NWS membership, you can get a full manuscript critique. And not only that, there’s a deadline. I need like deadlines.

But it’s not only the critique that’s good about the NWS. Everyone involved in the RNA is serious about their writing and about getting published. And it rubs off and makes you take your writing more seriously too.

3. I got into Twitter! Actually, this happened a long time ago and I am a big fan of the Twitters. So, when those lovely people at the Kate Nash Literary Agency announced their competition (on Twitter) for writers with unfinished novels last year… I saw it and because I’d done 1 and 2, I had a partially-finished novel and a synopsis, that I didn’t think was too bad. So I sent it in .. and got an agent. And my agent encouraged/worked with me to get the novel finished and then sent it out and… well, I’ll shut up now. You know the rest!

Posted in Books, Kate Nash Agency, Novels | 41 Comments

Cringeworthy Fiction Required!


So much to do (who ALLOWED me to start watching MAFSUK*?!) and so little time, so just a quickie from me tonight.

Miranda Dickinson Mentoring Opportunity

Firstly, you might like to know that novelist Miranda Dickinson is running a short story competition and offering a prize of 6 months of mentoring.

There are more details on her Facebook page so have a look.

All you have to do is send her a story of 1000 words or less, in any genre, any theme. Closing date 1st December.

And she says, “Anyone can enter, whether you’ve written for ages or this is your first time, whether you’re published or yet-to-be published. Just write me a short story of 1,000 words or less and send it to: by midnight on 1st December.”

Women’s Comedy Cringe Flash Competition c/d 9th September

Not long to enter this one – and you have to be a woman to enter – but you only have to write up to 250 words, so that won’t take long!

This is what they’re looking for:

“We need your cringeworthy fiction. We’ve all said the wrong thing, snogged the wrong person, fallen over and then pretended we hadn’t – now it’s time to celebrate misfortune… for humour purposes! Show us your best cringe fiction.

Go on… indulge us… we need to hear EVERYTHING. The cringier, most embarrassing, #awkward on the page, the happier we will be. You know you want to, make us laugh – in 250 words or less!”

There’s a prize of £300 for the winner and it’s free to enter.

Mary Lawson – New Book & Interview

I’ve loved the writing of Canadian author, Mary Lawson, ever since I read her first novel ‘Crow Lake’ back in .. .oh, I can’t remember when but a long time ago. Anyone else? She should be better known! If you like Anne Tyler (who, incidentally, she credits as an influence), then you’ll probably like Mary Lawson.

I was so pleased to see, in a Penguin newsletter that I received today, that she’s got a new novel out and there’s an interview to go with it. Read it and you’ll find out which two novels she credits with teaching her ‘how to write a novel’. (And yes, join me in rushing out to buy those novels!).

Talking of which … I *may* have some news on that front on Monday, so come back then, won’t you…?

*Married At First Sight UK. (I know, I know, but a girl has to have a little bit of downtime!)

Posted in Books, Competitions | Tagged | 6 Comments

Horsing Around

The National Stud at Newmarket

I have been off gallivanting again since I last wrote (for the last time this summer, honest!)

Last weekend we were in Newmarket and while we were there, we had a tour of the National Stud.

Among all the beautiful, incredibly valuable stallions (which we weren’t allowed to touch and obviously, I was too scared to even photograph as I don’t have a picture of any of them! #AweStruck), there was a ‘companion animal’, Albie the Shetland pony.

Albie the Shetland

Isn’t he sweet? Look at his little hairdo!

You can see how small he is here with a couple of non-stallions (geldings), that the guide (also pictured) took us to feed with polo mints. (Polo mints being, basically, sugar cubes).

It was a great tour and we learned all kinds of weird and wonderful things although there was perhaps a little too much information when we went to the ‘covering shed’ (I think that was its name. Don’t quote me), which is where the serious business of making future racehorses takes place.

I’m sure Jilly Cooper must have done her research at the National Stud, before she wrote her book ‘Mount’, which I mentioned here back in 2016.

Writing Groups/Classes: New Term

If you live anywhere near Chipping Norton (or even if you don’t but you like a long drive), then you might like to know that the 2 writing groups I teach/take are resuming IRL at the theatre in Chippy from Monday 6th September and there are spaces!

Only £80 for a ten-week term, which is just £8 a session. A bargain! And might be useful if you want encouragement to write, a deadline each week (because I set ‘homework’!) and some feedback on your work.

They’re not, strictly speaking ‘lessons’, although hopefully we all learn something each week and they’re daytime classes (2 hours from 10.30am or 1pm), so I know that’s no good for a lot of people but if you’d like more information, Iet me know.

If you’ve been watching Jeremy Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime (I know, I know, I didn’t think I was a fan of Jezzer’s either but the programme is brilliant), you’ll know that the farm is in Chadlington, just down the road from Chipping Norton, so if you come to the class, there’s always a chance you’ll see Kaleb or Jeremy wandering around Chippy’s backstreets, chewing on a straw…

Free Stuff – Competition + Festival

Middleway Words 5th – 11th September 2021

This is an on-line book festival, show-casing Midlands-based writers, taking place in September and FREE. Details here.

Writers Kate and Mark Hamer are running a FREE, non-fiction writing competition for over-40s, living in the UK, who have not had a book published. Closing date 25th October (‘at dawn’, which I rather like!).

Evesham Festival of Words Flash Fiction 30-Word Story Competition

It doesn’t open until 1st September but here’s a ‘heads up’ about Evesham Festival’s latest writing competition, which is free-to-enter and open to everyone over 16 (one entry per person, so make it count!).
The theme is AUTUMN and your entry must be exactly 30 words, plus title.
All the details are here.

Good luck!

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Messing About On The River (Dart)

Since I last wrote, a couple of weeks ago, what a lot has happened!

So, please excuse the all-over-the-placeness of this post but that’s ‘where my head’s at’, as the young people say.


Lovely Dartmouth in Devon

I’ve been on a mini-break to lovely Devon (Dartmouth, to be precise) and the place where we stayed overlooked the harbour, which was rather swish!

While we were there, we visited Agatha Christie’s holiday home ‘Greenway’ which is well worth a visit.

As we arrived, the heavens opened and the fire alarm went off – simultaneously.

So, we were ushered into the walled garden (which was presumably the ‘assembly point’), where we stood under dripping trees and got soaked! It wasn’t the best start but luckily, within a few minutes, the rain stopped and the ‘fire’ was declared to be a false alarm and we could get on with our visit. (And yes, there was a big greenhouse where we could have taken shelter but it was full of people and we were doing our Covid-distancing thing!)

The walled garden where I was drenched.

Another Celebrity Book

In other news, the Olympics have started, of course – and almost finished – (and typically I’ve only got into them towards the end) and Sarah, Duchess of York, has launched her first adult novel, ‘Her Heart For a Compass’, published by Mills & Boon and written ‘in partnership’ with veteran Mills & Boon author, Marguerite Kaye.

The Duchess was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’ programme and when asked about the ‘writing process’ with her co-author, she admitted that, having left school at 16, she had a ‘vision’ for the book but is “very much a director rather than an actual scribe” – which leads me to believe that Ms Kaye probably wrote all most of it. So why, I wonder, does her name not appear on the front cover? Seems a bit mean not to credit her on the front!

Apparently, the dynamic duo are all signed up to write a second novel for M&B. Perhaps the Duchess will show her commitment to the romance genre and join the Romantic Novelists’ Association? And I might rub shoulder-pads with her at one of the legendary RNA parties! (I’ve never been to one, by the way but perhaps one day…)

Novel Submission News

The news is.. there is no news. But there might be soon.. (sorry, I know that’s annoying. Just conscious I haven’t mentioned the novel since 13th June but it has not been forgotten!)

Maeve Binchy

I was reminded of the fabulous, late Maeve Binchy recently when replying to Sharon’s comment about Bill Bryson’s retirement. Maeve Binchy was one of those authors who never retired. She announced her retirement in 2000 but the books kept coming. She simply couldn’t stop. There’s lots of good writerly advice on Maeve’s website by the way and on the anniversary of her death, 30th July, someone tweeted her ‘life advice’ which I have posted before but I think it’s great and worth another look:

“Learn to type. Learn to drive. Have fun. Write postcards. (Letters take too long and you won’t do it, a postcard takes two minutes.) Be punctual. Don’t worry about what other people are thinking. They are not thinking about you. Write quickly. (Taking longer doesn’t usually make it better.) Get up early. See the world. Call everybody by their first name, from doctors to presidents. Have parties. Don’t agonise. Don’t regret. Don’t fuss. Never brood. Move on. Don’t wait for permission to be happy. Don’t wait for permission to do anything. Make your own life.”

Ninette Hartley

Back in 2013 (aagh, can’t believe where the time has gone), I went to Italy, on a writing holiday – I have just re-read my posts from that time and it’s made me smile. Sometimes having a blog is better than a diary.

One of the many lovely things that happened on that trip to Umbria was that I met Ninette, who was living in Italy at the time and who joined the group for one day.

We’ve stayed in touch, our paths have crossed at other (sadly, not so glamorous!) writing holidays and she’s now not only published a memoir, Dear Tosh (and she’s planning another about her time in Italy) but she’s also just started a monthly newsletter.

As soon as I saw the newsletter mentioned (on the Twitters, of course), I signed up and, just as well, because she kindly gives a mention to this very blog, (in fact, she ‘recommends’ it! Ah, too kind).

Have a look at Ninette’s website and there’s a button on her blog if you want to sign up for the newsletter.

Christmas Flash Fiction Comp

And finally, in this hotch-potch of a post, as much as I do not like the ‘C’ word to be mentioned this early, I feel I must draw your attention to the ‘Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest’ which is running again this year and is open to entries until 15th November.

It’s free! There are prizes! And (or should that be ‘but’?) it is seriously weird…

That’s all for now, folks!

Posted in Books, Competitions | Tagged | 15 Comments