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!

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15 Responses to Messing About On The River (Dart)

  1. Julia Thorley says:

    I’m so fed up with celebrities (and I use the term loosely in the duchess’s case) putting their names on the cover when they haven’t written a single word. I know I’m pushing at an open door here, but it REALLY annoys me! I read an article the other day (in The Guardian, I think, and I apologise for not being able to remember who wrote it) about actors turning to writing. Many of them surely get signed up just because they are already famous. The article used the case of Tom Hanks as an example of someone that no publisher would turn away if he announced he had written a short story collection. Well, I read ‘Uncommon Type’ and it’s a bit so-what. I’m sure he’s crying all the way to the bank.

    • I agree with all you’ve said, Julia. And short stories are notoriously difficult get published (the exception being if you’re an established novelist, then sometimes a publisher will take a punt on a collection of short stories from you). Tom Hanks skipped the novel-writing bit (I think!) and went straight to the short stories, didn’t he? I have his book but haven’t dived into it yet…

  2. Ninette90 says:

    Helen…thank you so much for the mention. I’ve received some great feedback from my first newsletter — now I just have to get my head around setting up the automatic ‘sending out of the newsletter’ when a new subscriber comes along. It’s all a big learning curve.

    I have to agree with Julia — I too am sick of ‘celebrities’ who are not ‘writers’. I know that memoirs of famous people can be interesting and I don’t mind that too much but why get into novel writing? Especially if you can’t actually do it on your own!

    Not jealous of their success honestly… 😩
    I love Maeve Binchy’s advice, thanks for posting it. xx

    • philippabowe says:

      Hi Ninette, congrats on publishing your book, such a great achievement! I’ve signed up to your blog and look forward to reading your news (once you’re at ease on the learning curve!). xx

      • Ninette90 says:

        Thank you so much Philippa…I’m in the process of updating the WordPress blog and website – should be sorted in a few days. I’ll be posting on the blog next week and I’ll get you signed up for the newsletter too! Thanks again. x

  3. philippabowe says:

    Love that life advice Helen, thanks for sharing! And I’m with Julia on the whole celebrity-writing thing…invest in real writers for goodness sake! 😉😆

  4. Ninette90 says:

    By the way…did you know that my brother wrote ‘Messing About on the River’ ? Just saying. He’s a bit of a celebrity but hasn’t thought of writing a book. 😂

  5. Sharon boothroyd says:

    I too hate to see the celebrity or well- known names popping up as so called novelists.
    The only good book reviews I’ve heard about (via word of mouth) written by a well- known person is the Richard Osman murder novel.
    Hate me for saying this, but I just think why didn’t you start to write much earlier in your career?
    However, saying that, Ben Elton in the late eighties, at the height of his popularity, dropped out of stand- up comedy and tv scriptwriting to write novels.
    My guess is, due to the progression of time, most have lost their status within their career. Work has dried up, so I reckon their agent says, ‘Why not write a novel? If you can’t think of a story or can’t write creatively, that’s no handicap. We can hire a ghost writer. With your name splashed on the cover, and lots of publicity in the media, it’s bound to sell.’
    Sorry to be cynical but I honestly feel that in the majority of cases, that’s the way it is!
    I hope the ghost writers are being paid well.
    At least the duchess is humble enough to admit she had a great deal of help with the novel (Katie Price also admitted to having a ghost writer) but I agree it should be co- authored equally and the 2 names should be on the cover, Helen.
    Strictly dancer Anton de beke confesses he simply dictates, not writes, his novels. Well, I can’t actually dismiss that, as this is how Catherine Cookson also wrote!

    • Thanks for your comment, Sharon. I don’t have an issue with Ben Elton turning to novel writing (she says, graciously!) as he was a screenwriter and writer for TV before that, so has always been a writer. But agree with you that it’s annoying when celebs seem to put their name to a novel, just as they would a perfume or clothing brand, simply because their agent suggests it and it’s a way of making money, when for many of us, having a novel published is a lifelong dream. *Sighs*

  6. Love that Maeve Binchy advice!

    • Yes, it’s great, isn’t it? I especially like ‘Don’t worry about what other people are thinking. They are not thinking about you’ – because 99% of the time, that’s absolutely true! And I for one am guilty of worrying too much about what other people think and I need to stop!

  7. Eirin Thompson says:

    I agree that it can be exasperating to see yet another celebrity get a juicy publishing contract. And it doesn’t end there – they also seem to get the prime free publicity on television, radio and in print, which is almost more galling! However, I do remember a point made by a senior editor at a big publishing house, whose talk I attended (admittedly, this was quite a few years ago). He said that it was due to the considerable sales of big-name authors that his publishers were able to back a number of ‘unknowns’ every year – without the big hitters, they simply couldn’t afford to publish riskier newcomers. So that’s another angle.

    • That is indeed another angle, Eirin and it’s a good point. All the publicity around the Duchess of York’s novel won’t have done Mills & Boon any harm and, by association, their dozens (and dozens?) of writers. I see they’re promoting ‘Her Heart for a Compass’ as suitable for ‘fans of Bridgerton’ so it might well bring a whole new group of readers to Mills & Boon – or to reading per se – which can only be a good thing for us writers! So, it’s not all bad news.

  8. Sharon boothroyd says:

    That’s a fair point, Erin. But how did publishers manage to run themselves as a business before the celeb novel craze hit?

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