Keeping A Weather Diary

Phew, it’s sweltering!

I have removed myself from the boiling hot house (where Him Indoors is playing music as loudly as a teenager), to my boiling hot ‘cave’ (I wish it were that cool!), which hasn’t had much ventilation for the past week and is … well GREENHOUSE HOT!

Excuse me while I just wipe the sweat from my top lip and the back of my neck.

Do you include the weather when you write fiction? It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently.

With short stories, I think you can get away without mentioning the weather unless it’s relevant to the story. But when you’re writing something longer – a serial or a novel – it would seem strange not to mention the weather whenever your characters are outside. It’s part of the setting and ‘world building’ of your novel, after all and the weather can have an impact on your characters’ mood and behaviour, it can add conflict to a story (storms, floods, snowdrifts..) you can use it to foreshadow events or illuminate themes.

But I think it needs to be done with a light touch. And it’s easy to lapse into cliché when it comes to describing weather. (Ooh, it’s suddenly gone really windy out there! Lovely cool breeze! Leaves and dust are swirling around outside and the sky’s going grey!)

A while ago I read some advice on-line for writers, about keeping a ‘weather diary’. Nothing too fancy or arduous: just write a few lines describing the weather each day (and don’t forget to add the date). If you need, say, to include a foggy day, or a windy afternoon in your writing at some point or you can’t remember what the weather’s like in April, you can refer to your diary and it might help with some details that you could otherwise have forgotten.

Now might be a good time to write something about the experience of living through a heatwave, of course (and thunderstorms!). And you might want to include more than just a physical description of the sun. What about the sweat on your skin, that I mentioned above, the difficulty in sleeping, the tips on daytime TV for combatting the heat eg: fill a hot water bottle with iced water; dogs having to be rescued from overheating cars, the lethargy, the extra effort it takes to do anything… ? You get the idea.

Funnily enough, a lot of my favourite novels are set during heatwaves: The Great Gatsby, The Go-Between, Atonement, The Trouble With Goats & Sheep.

People often behave strangely in extreme weather conditions, which is probably why novelists are drawn to them. In a heatwave, clothes and inhibitions are removed, rules change, tempers are short (having experienced a lovely bit of road rage yesterday, I can vouch for that) and your characters might interact more than they would in winter, when everyone’s enclosed in their homes.

Hmm, I think there might be a storm coming. Him Indoors has abandoned his head-banging music and is getting the washing in off the line!

Shall I go back to the house before the storm hits or stay here, pen poised…?

Posted in Novels | Tagged , | 7 Comments

The Pull of The Post-It

Last week I took part in a Zoom workshop led by author Julie Cohen, in which she talked about different ways of using sticky coloured Post-It notes in your writing.

It was fun and informative and while I’m not going to tell you everything that Julie taught us (she might want to run the workshop again and raise more money. She raised over £1000 for two charities with this one), I’m sure you’ve heard about or thought of using Post-It notes for plotting out a novel.

Author Sophia Bennett swears by them and talks about plotting with Post-Its here (she also points out that it’s the perfect excuse to buy stationery. And we all love stationery, right? I’m sure it was just coincidence that her article appears on a stationery company’s website, by the way…!)

And look what I did the morning after Julie’s workshop!

I wrote out the main events of my novel, colour-coded with a different colour for each POV (point of view) character (yellow’s not finished!).

Those are just the events that happen; I’m going to do it again with their emotional/internal journeys mapped out so I can see their character arcs.

I’ve always been a bit dismissive of processes like this but it’s a great way of seeing your whole novel on one A3 page and not have to keep trying to remember or hold it in your head.

I am working on my novel which needs to be submitted to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme by the end of August. Remember last year, when I missed the deadline? I am NOT doing that again. (Definitely not because even if it’s not complete, I can send a ‘partial’ but I don’t want to do that. I want to send the whole thing. And therefore, ahem, I need to finish this blog post and get back to it).

On Reading (and listening!)

I am usually a monogamous reader. Strictly one book at a time! But at the moment, I’ve got THREE on the go (this is what happens when you stupidly join two book clubs).

And each is in a different format: on my Kindle I have ‘Humble Pi’ (for Book Club #1). This is non-fiction, a ‘comedy of maths errors’. Hmm, there are some interesting anecdotes but also some quite technical, boring maths stories, so the jury’s still out on this one.

Then, an ‘actual’ book: Lissa Evans’ fabulous ‘Their Finest’ (originally entitled, “Their Finest Hour and a Half” which I’m really enjoying (WW2, romantic comedy, highly recommended. The film’s great too).

This is partly ‘research’ as I’m attempting to write a novel set in WW2 (see above) but I can only dream of writing something this good…

And finally, on audiobook (get me!) I am listening to Joanne Harris’s ‘Gentlemen And Players‘ (for Book Club #2). This is good but oooh, audiobooks are so long! I reckon I could read the novel in about 2 – 3 hours and the audiobook is … over 11 hours long!

BUT, I read an article on line today about how audiobooks are going through a BOOM.

Apparently, we’re all reading more in #lockdown, for obvious reasons and audiobook sales have gone through the roof, in part because it’s reassuring, in these troubled times, to have a calm human voice read us a story. (Ah, bless).

Do You Think You’re Funny?

The Funny Pearls Short Story Competition 2020

If you’re a woman who can write funny stuff (and I know there are lots of you out there who can!) you might be interested in this competition, which actually doesn’t open for email submissions until 1st September but you could start getting your entry together now.

It’s “open to women of all nationalities from any country. It is free to enter the competition” and they’re looking for funny stories of between 1000 and 2500 words.

As always, don’t forget to read the rules carefully before you submit and good luck!

Posted in Books, Novels | Tagged | 9 Comments

In Which I Wish I’d Done Joe Wicks’ Workouts

Bonnie and her bestie, Rosie, socially-distancing.

Things are gradually opening up a bit, don’t you think? The hairdresser has finally been to this house! BUT, for Bonnie the dog, not me. I’ve got an appointment but it’s not until 11th August. Aagh!

We have had friends round (confined to the garden and our annexe!) and we tried to keep 2m apart (but it’s quite hard to remember to do that when you’ve had a drink or two!)

We still haven’t ventured out to a restaurant or a pub but we did have a take away Sunday lunch last weekend, with a cocktail to start and that was a very nice treat.

But as things ease off a bit, I’m also starting to berate myself for: a) not writing more and b) not exercising more, during lockdown. Anyone else?

My Pilates classes are being held outside now, at the local cricket club and I have booked to go on Monday evening (weather permitting) but I’m still waiting to hear about when the swimming pool is going to open. Ooh, I miss my dose of chlorine. I have visions of sinking to the bottom, when I do finally make it to a pool, due to Lockdown Lumpiness.

I am now wishing that I’d done the Joe Wicks workouts since the start of it all… (don’t look at this link if you are feeling at all lumpy too. These people are seriously smug about their Joe Wicks-ified bodies and how he’s changed their lives).

Volunteering

If you’re feeling a bit ‘volunteer-ish’ – as I think a lot of people are, in the current climate. ie: that you want to do some good to counterbalance all the cr*pness that’s around, you might find this article on the Penguin website of interest: How to volunteer with a reading charity in Britain.

Another charity which isn’t mentioned in this article but which I think is fabulous, is Story Book Dads, which helps prisoners (male and female) stay in touch with their children by recording them reading bedtime stories which are then sent to the child. They need volunteers too. Details are here.

Retreat West Competition

Here’s a nice ‘first page of a novel, memoir or short story’ (400 words) competition, to win a writing retreat in Spain in November (or you can take it at another time if you can’t make November). It closes on 23rd August.

I rather fancy this myself but, a note of warning: it costs £15 to enter, which isn’t cheap, so read the rules very carefully if you’re going to submit and make sure you don’t eliminate yourself (say, by putting your name on the entry).

A clean (ish) plate. Take-away Sunday dinner gets the thumbs up!

Posted in Bonnie, Competitions, Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

‘The Elephant In The Zoom’

That clever title’s not mine, I must confess. It comes from a newspaper article about ‘Lockdown Lingo’, in which ‘The Elephant in the Zoom’ was described as: ‘the glaring issue during a video-conferencing call that nobody dares mention eg: one participant has put on three stone, suddenly sprouted terrible facial hair or has a bomb-site of a living room visible in the background.’

So, are you sick of Zoom? If you use it for work then you probably are and even if you’re only using it for family get-togethers and quizzes, the novelty may well have worn off by now.

I must admit, I resisted using Zoom for teaching my creative writing classes at the start of lockdown. I’d never used it, neither had most of my students and I was envisaging complete chaos and unhappy participants.. plus, like most people, I was feeling stressed enough and just couldn’t face any more worry.

But then I was persuaded to try it by the leader of a group for which I volunteer. Someone who’d used it for years gave me a few hints and tips – and a practice session – and… hey presto! It was all pretty straight forward and.. well, easy.

Now I use Zoom for two book clubs and a weekly session that I run for my Stratford writing group for seniors. If we still can’t manage to be together ‘in person’ in September, then it’s likely I’ll be running my two Monday classes via Zoom too.

Apart from the odd (temporary) issue with video or sound, everyone in the groups has managed to join in and use Zoom without too much bother, so if it’s something you’ve been considering for your group (and it’s such a shame, I think, in this current climate, if people can’t meet up, at least virtually), then why not give it a go? Let me know how you get on. Or, if you’re already using Zoom for teaching or meetings, how are you finding it?

Devon

I have been away at the seaside in beautiful North Devon for a week since I last wrote!

We were self-catering and took a car-load of food (plus the dog) and pretty much isolated ourselves. No visits to any pubs, restaurants or cafes but lots of walking, reading (and eating!!) and we still felt very grateful to be able to get away at all.

This break was booked over a year ago and for a long time it looked as though we wouldn’t be able to go but then Boris gave things the green light and – hurrah – we were off! (And a highlight was seeing the Verity statue in Ilfracombe).

Richard & Judy’s ‘Search for a Bestseller’

This novel writing competition is back and open for entries from now until 14th August 2020, so if you’ve got a completed manuscript to send them (they want the whole novel – aimed at adults – plus a synopsis and a short author biography, all within the same document), have a look here.

You must be a UK resident and over 18 and un-agented and… oh well, as always, read the rules very carefully! And good luck if you decide to go for it!

This is what Verity looks like from the other side.

Posted in Competitions | Tagged | 2 Comments

Coffee, Comps and (Hair) Cuts

Right, I’ve had my hair all cut off ..oh, and I’ve been in the pub all day. Hic.

Only joking!! I haven’t been near any hostelries or salons and don’t intend to for a little while.

How about you? Have you ventured out into the big wide world?

When I do get a hair appointment, which hopefully won’t be too far off, I’m going to get dressed up! Yes, I am. As though I’m GOING OUT – which of course, I will be. Going Out for the first time in 3.. or 4 months! What a treat.

Amazingly – because I have a habit of missing deadlines – I managed to get my submission off to the Kate Nash Literary Agency #BookCamp mentoring scheme in time (i.e.: with 3 minutes to spare). Results won’t be out until September. If you submitted too, good luck!

I have also signed up for ‘Audible’ – the audiobook ‘branch’ of Amazon. Now that I’m in two book clubs I’m running out of time to read all the books coming my way, so I’m hoping that listening to audiobooks will help me keep up!

I’ve downloaded ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney as my first book and I’m looking forward to that, as I enjoyed the TV series.

I have lots of writing ‘snippets’ (good word) to impart and hopefully there’s something that you’ll find interesting, so here goes:

Costa Short Story Award c/d 3rd August 2020

The Costa Short Story Award is now open for entries. The Award is for a single, previously unpublished short story of up to 4,000 words written in English.

The competition is open to any writer, published or unpublished, aged 18 years or over and resident in the UK or Ireland. This is a pretty prestigious award BUT it’s free to enter and if you’re not in it, you can’t win it, so if you think you’d like to have a go (prizes for the top 3 stories are £3,500, £1000 and £500), read all the terms and conditions here.

You can also read last years’ top 3 stories, if you want to get a flavour of what they might be looking for. (I read last year’s winner ‘The Dedicated Dancers of The Greater Oaks Retirement Community’ – which I enjoyed, although, be warned, there are a few ‘strong’ words – but one thing I did notice: THREE mentions of coffee! Not specifically Costa coffee, but coffee nonetheless. May I suggest you might want to slip some mentions of coffee-drinking into any story you send in…? Just an idea!).

Evesham Festival of Words ‘Lockdown Limerick Competition’
Tomorrow (Sunday 5th July) the Festival is launching a free Limerick competition. You read it here first! Have a look on the website tomorrow if you’d like to know more.

Australia

OK, confession time: I am watching ‘Love Island: Australia’.

It’s quite difficult to understand what they’re saying at times (but there are helpful subtitles) but otherwise, I LOVE it. And I know you are probably rolling your eyes at me but I don’t care. It makes me laugh and it’s a complete (welcome) distraction from everything going on in the world. AND it was filmed in 2018, so there’s none of this social distancing stuff going on.

But still on the subject of Australia, I have just discovered a great writing website, from Down Under, namely, Australian Writers Centre.

And, on the first weekend of every month (i.e.: THIS one!) they run a free 500 word short story competition (‘Furious Fiction’) which is open to anyone, anywhere.

For July’s challenge, the criteria are:

• Your story must take place at either WEDDING or a FUNERAL.
• Your story must include something being cut.
• Your story must include the words “UNDER”, “OVER” and “BETWEEN”

The winner will receive $500 Australian dollars, which is about £278. All the details are here but remember, if you want to enter July’s competition, you’ve only got until the end of the weekend Aussie time… the countdown is on the website.

Even if you don’t enter the competition, you could use it as a writing prompt.

The Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing 2020: The Next Chapter is open now and it’s free to enter.

There are actually 2 short story competitions with a word count of 2000 words. The first ‘Open International’ competition (with a first prize of £100) is for ‘feel good’ and ‘optimistic’ stories.

There’s also a separate competition for Yorkshire residents only (£100 first prize for that one too) and the theme is ‘The Yorkshire Coast’.

Closing date 31st August 2020. All the details on the website.

Pandemic Diaries

I’m trying to keep off the subject of You-Know-What as much as possible on here but just a little something to tell you about… if you’re keeping a diary in these strange times – or are interested in reading other people’s (from all over the world), you might be interested in this website.

Yes, most of the published diary entries are from the USA (although not all – I scrolled through quickly and found one from Australia and one from Wrexham) but perhaps you could redress the balance, by sending in something from your part of the world?

Bonnie finds the sunshine

Posted in Bonnie, Books, Competitions | Tagged | 10 Comments

Hitting a Brick Wall

Actually, I’m not hitting a brick wall at all but, given the photos below, it seemed like a good enough title! I hope you are well in this strange coming-out-of-lockdown world and enjoying the nice weather. This was the sky here today:

Do you remember a while back we had squirrels in the loft? I realised I hadn’t told you the end of that story. Blasting them day and night with bright lights and Radio One did the trick!

The pest control man confirmed that they’d left (the droppings were old, in case you’re interested…!) and so we filled in the gaps in the roof and hopefully that’s IT.

But he also told us that he’d spotted a beautiful bat in there: a brown long-eared bat, to be precise and he said not to worry, it could find its way out of the tiniest hole, so all was well.

The mess in the garden

The latest ‘disturbance’ is that we’re having a stone wall built between us and one of our neighbours. It’s being built by one man (and his dog) so it’s taking weeks (and gallons of tea).

Do you find it’s easy to forget about social distancing when you’re outside and/or faced with someone new? When our wall builder first arrived, about three weeks ago, my OH went straight up to him and SHOOK HIS HAND! And then – with a gasp – realised what he’d done.

It’s getting there

Right, a couple of writing things for you, that may be of interest:

Weald and Downland Living Museum (which is in Chichester and is re-opening on 6th July!) is running a historical fiction short story competition.

Entry is free (although you can donate the usual £7 entry fee if you so wish). ‘Historical’ in this instance, covers 900AD to 1930AD (So, no Second World War stories!)

Prizes are modest (publication and annual membership of the museum) and there are lots of rules, so read them carefully, if you’re intending to enter. It closes on 4th September 2020.

The Worried Writer
Someone recommended this website to me which claims to help you ‘overcome fear, self-doubt and procrastination, to get the work done.’ I must admit I haven’t had time to dip in and out of it very much yet but there are lots of podcasts and interviews with authors, advice and tips (and no adverts!) and Sarah Painter, who runs it, has a lovely voice! Might be worth a look.

Book Camp Mentorships

The Kate Nash Literary Agency is offering ‘Book Camp Mentorships’ to 6 aspiring un-agented authors (writing adult fiction or narrative non-fiction). Sorry there’s not a lot of time for this one – applications close on 1st July 2020.

What they’re looking for:

The first 15-20,000 words of your work-in-progress, along with a 1-2 page synopsis and introductory letter, in one Word document, by the end of 1st July 2020. In your letter, tell us about yourself, where your book would sit in a bookshop and what you hope to get out of our programme.

What they’re offering:

Over six months, from September 2020 through to the following March, our mentees will receive:

• Representation at the Kate Nash Literary Agency
• Feedback and editorial support to help you bring your manuscript to completion
• A programme of workshops and round tables sharing industry knowledge and writing craft tips
• Regular one-to-one meetings with a literary agent, to discuss progress and help shape your work
• An evaluation of your outline for film and TV potential

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Hmm, I think I might have a go myself…

Bonnie Takes a Break

Posted in Bonnie, Competitions | 8 Comments

Poppies, Paperbacks & Pilates

Bonnie, strutting her stuff.

Hello!

I have been quiet for a little while because there’s not been much to tell you! Except: POPPIES! Loads of them in one of the fields on our daily walk. It’s amazing how cheerful they make you feel.

Books
Now, as you probably know, bookshops are preparing to re-open in England from Monday 15th June (they’re not re-opening in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland just yet).

How do you feel about that? Will you be making a dash for Waterstones on Monday?

I won’t, for two reasons… I still feel a little uneasy about making all but the most essential visits to shops and secondly, I have about a zillion books in my TBR pile.

I have over-committed myself by joining another book club (this one is JUST while we’re in lockdown) and it meets on Zoom every two weeks, so a lot of frantic reading is being done.

Our first book was ‘The Accidental Tourist’ by Anne Tyler, which is brilliant (but, oh my goodness, the film is terrible!).

Book number 2, which I have to read by next Wednesday, is ‘Slumdog Millionnaire’ (originally published as ‘Q&A’) by Vikas Swarup (who, according to his Twitter feed is an “Occasional Author and full time diplomat”. Wow!).

I loved the film, so I have high hopes for ‘Slumdog Millionnaire’.

In between all of that, my Evesham Festival book club met this week (on Zoom, of course) and our book was ‘The Bean Trees’, Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel, which I had to rush-read in a day or so (luckily it’s short!).

We voted for our next book (someone suggests 2 books and the rest of us vote for our favourite), which is going to be Joanna Cannon’s ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep‘ (which I’ve already read twice! But it’s good, so that’s OK).

The novel is set in the heatwave of 1976, which prompted a chorus of ‘I was conceived in that year!’ from some of the younger members of the group, followed by anguished wails (from me) of, “You’re making us feel old!” (Someone also added – not me – “I think I got divorced in 1976!”). As ‘chair’, I had to reassure everyone who still had to cast their vote, that they did NOT, as part of their deliberations, have to reveal in which year they were conceived. Peace was restored.

Pilates
I did a strange thing the other evening: Pilates in my next-door neighbours’ garden!

We’ve been going to Pilates classes together for a little while but then of course, all classes were cancelled. But now we’ve got that 6-people-not-from-the-same-household-outdoors-socially-distanced rule, the Pilates teacher is organising classes for 5 people.

So, we got a small group together and she came to my neighbours’ big lawn, to take the session. It was, I have to admit a bit chilly! But it was lovely to be able to lie on my mat, looking up at the sky and to finally have a proper stretch.

Picnics
Oh it’s handy that the latest Spectator competition fits my alliterative post. Here it is, if you want to have a go!

No. 3155: al fresco
You are invited to supply a poem entitled ‘The Picnic’. Please email up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 24 June.

Posted in Bonnie, Books, Competitions, Novels | Tagged | 3 Comments

Happy to be Home Alone

My story i strålkastarljuset which means ‘In the Spotlight’ in Swedish. (but you knew that, right?)

Ah… peace! But it nearly didn’t happen…

My OH was due to play golf today at a faraway club (he’s allowed now!) which would mean he’d be out from midday until about 8pm tonight. And it would be ‘safe’ because it wouldn’t involve stopping anywhere on the way or the way back (you know how men can manage without loo breaks!) or having anyone else in his car and he’d be ‘social distancing’ on the course.

But last night, disaster struck: he read on-line that the place he was due to visit was a ‘virus hotspot’ and so it looked as though the intended trip was off. Noooo. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed. (I’ve written about the joys of being a golf widow before, you may remember).

But, it’s turned out this place isn’t a hotspot at all – and actually has fewer cases than we have here – but it’s gone from ‘none’ to ‘some’ in the past few days, so that’s skewed the figures.

So, in short – he’s gone! And I have the whole day to myself*. 🙂

Zoom Book Launch

Yesterday I attended the digital book launch of Jane Corry’s new thriller ‘I Made a Mistake’. (If you’re wondering, I just spotted it advertised on Twitter, asked if I could join in and was sent the Zoom link). The e-book, by the way, is currently (3rd June) on special offer for 99p on Amazon).

Jane has written in various genres and under quite a few different names (I don’t think that’s a secret or that she’ll mind me saying) and I remember her teaching a course at the Writers’ Holiday in Caerleon, which I attended, several years ago, when she was writing as Sophie King and it was excellent.

And now, she seems to have my perfect life! She’s a successful novelist, she plays tennis, lives on the coast with her dog and family and SWIMS in the sea most days. Ah, that’s one thing I really do miss at the moment – swimming (in the local public pool, I hasten to add, sadly I don’t live anywhere near the sea). The closest I am getting to a ‘watery space’ is my daily exposure to the bright blue rectangle of the table tennis table…

Anyway, an exciting thing happened in the digital book launch because we could ask questions (by typing them into the ‘comments’ bar. There were over 70 attendees so it would have been chaos if we’d all tried to speak!) and it was announced at the start, that Jane Corry would choose her favourite question and the person who’d asked it would win a copy of the brand new book….

And she picked mine! (I asked how she researched the court room scenes in the novel and she liked that because it gave her the chance to tell us how she went to the Old Bailey – which anyone can do, apparently – and sat in the public gallery. It was fascinating).

Scandinavian Scandal..?

This morning the postman brought a copy of a Swedish magazine that contains one of my stories. And look how it ends! Bit harsh!

So, those are the highlights of my week. How about you?

PS: The latest Spectator competitions, if you want to have a go, are as follows (it’s not entirely clear but I take the second one to mean they want you to write a piece in the style of a well-known children’s author and it’s probably worth saying which one):

No. 3152: domestic bliss?
You are invited to submit a poem about the pleasure — or pain — of a staycation. Please email up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 3 June.

No 3153: sneezles and wheezles
It can be tricky explaining Covid-19 to little ones, so you are invited to enlist the help of a well-known children’s author. Please email up to 16 lines/150 words to lucy@spectator.co.uk
by midday on 10 June.

*I will of course be delighted to see him when he returns but it’s just nice to have some solitude, after 8, 9, 10 (how long has it been?) weeks of ‘enforced togetherness’!

Posted in Competitions, Magazines | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Confessions of a Suspense Author: Guest Post – Wendy Clarke

Today I’m delighted to welcome my virtual friend Wendy Clarke to the blog!

Although we’ve never actually met ‘in the flesh’ (!), I feel that I know Wendy, having followed her excellent blog and her writing journey over the past few years.

She’s also been a follower of this blog for a while, often comments on posts (thank you!) and, as some of you will remember, she judged the last ‘Random Word Flash Fiction’ competition I ran. (Her dog is also called Bonnie, as is mine. See, we’re kindred spirits!).

I don’t think she’ll mind me saying that she started writing relatively recently (compared to the tortoises amongst us – ie: me – she’s definitely a hare!) and she’s moved from short stories to serials to novels in an astonishingly short space of time.

Wendy’s third novel ‘The Bride’ has just been published as an e-book and paperback by Bookoutre.

I find her success an inspiration and I hope you will too. I’m sure, if you post a question for her in the comments, she’ll be only too happy to answer.

So, it’s over to Wendy to answer my fiendish questions….

Can you sum up your new novel, ‘The Bride’ in one sentence?

When her best friend goes missing after a whirlwind romance, Alice is forced to confront her own fears in order to find out the truth.

I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

My journey started in 2011 when the school I was teaching in closed. After doing an online writing course, I started writing short stories for magazines followed by serials. After having over three hundred stories published, my thoughts turned to longer fiction. My first novel won me an agent who later decided she wanted me to write a psychological thriller instead. After I’d written it, the agent had to let some of her clients go and I was one of them. The novel I’d written, ‘What She Saw’, went on to win the Flash500 novel competition, and not being able to face going down the torturous agent route again, I submitted it directly to Bookouture. Imagine my delight when within days I had a phone call to say they’d love to offer me a two-book deal. This was followed a year later by a second deal and I have now published three books with them. My third novel, The Bride, came out on May 20th and the next will be published in December.

You’ve written 3 psychological thrillers to date. Have you always written in this genre?

No, I haven’t. When I was writing fiction for the magazines, I wrote mostly women’s fiction and romance. There were certainly no deaths or missing brides!

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I am absolutely a pantster at heart although having a contract makes this hard as I have to submit a synopsis for each new book. Let’s just say the synopsis is brief and I invariable go off-piste! I do have several ‘how to plan/structure your novel’ manuals which I love reading but that’s as far as it goes. I basically just sit down and write. It takes around six months to write a first draft and then another few weeks to go over it before submitting to my editor. After that, it’s five months of structural, line and copy edits before the book is in any way ready for publication.

Could you describe your typical writing day?

I don’t think I have one. When I’m writing a novel, I set a target of 5000 words a week which usually means 1000 a day with the weekend off. I find that if I’m strict I stick to this, I can meet my deadline easily. I don’t have a set time of day when I write – if could be morning, afternoon or both. I never write in the evenings though. I like to spend that time with my husband.

Tell us something that might surprise us about your writing process or your journey to becoming a published novelist.

When I was competition judge for the SWWJ, I was invited to the award ceremony and afternoon tea in London. Sir Tim Rice was the other guest and I shared a table with him. When he turned to me and said, “I really admire what you’ve achieved,” I nearly fell off my chair! Needless to say, I’ve dined out on that story for years!

Who are your favourite authors?

I love Rose Tremaine and Ann Weisgarber and, in my genre, I think Lisa Jewell is the queen.

What does your family think of your writing?

I am lucky in that my family are incredibly supportive. My husband is an engineer so is great at working through plot problems with me without getting bogged down with the details. He also always reads my novels through before I submit to my editor and tells me what is and isn’t working. My mum and all my children and stepchildren read my books and genuinely love them which really warms my heart.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?

Actually, I can. I was sitting in a café with a group of writers in Brighton and my eye was caught by a black and white photograph on the wall. It was of an old dockland warehouse building which I guessed was in London. I loved the small-paned windows with their arched brickwork, the heavy wooden doors that opened onto iron railings, the rope and pulley system used to haul goods to the upper floors still bolted to the wall. I knew this could be the perfect setting for a thriller and from that moment my mind started whirring. What if the building was the only one converted into luxury apartments in a derelict wasteland? What if someone went missing? The idea for The Bride was born.

What next for Wendy Clarke?

A rest? No, that’s never going to happen. I’m just coming to the end of the first draft of my fourth psychological thriller and when that’s submitted, I shall be working through some ideas for the next one, ready to pitch it to my publisher. If anyone has any ideas to spare… please feel free to share!

More About Wendy:

Wendy Clarke started her career writing short fiction and serials for national women’s magazines, quickly becoming one of The People’s Friend’s top writers. She has also had stories long and shortlisted in competitions including the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition. She has published three collections of short stories and has been a short story judge for the Chiltern Writers Group, Nottingham Writers Group, The Society of Women Writers and journalists, the NAWG and Flash500. She has also written articles for Writing Magazine.

Moving away from short stories, Wendy has had two psychological thrillers published by Bookouture – What She Saw, which won the Flash500 Novel Competition, and We Were Sisters. Her third thriller, The Bride, will be published in May this year.

Wendy lives with her husband and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

Wendy can be found on:

Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

Her website is here.

You can buy Wendy’s novels here.

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The Pomodoro Technique & Other Good Things

Have you heard of the ‘Pomodoro Technique’?

I’m sure many of you have. It’s a very simple time management technique, to help reduce procrastination, which basically involves working in bursts of 25 minutes and then having a short break (and once you’ve done 4 pomodoroes… pomodori? … you earn a longer break).

It’s called the ‘pomodoro’ because that’s Italian for tomato and the original idea was based on a timer shaped like… yep, you’ve guessed it. Given my predilection for timers and things-to-make-me-more-productive, I’m amazed that I haven’t talked about the pomodoro technique before.

Anyway, I’ve set the virtual pomodoro timer for 25 minutes to write this post, so let’s see how I get on.

If you want to know more about it, all the details are here.

A Good Thing happened today (and in these ‘unprecedented times’, it’s important to stay positive, right?). So, the Good Thing (and if I had a Gratitude Journal I would definitely write it in) was that, after 8 weeks our Green Bin was finally emptied!

Hurrah! It’s produced a burst of gardening from me. I had no incentive before today because the bin was full and there was nowhere to put the weeds. It does make you grateful for all the things you previously took for granted when, suddenly, they don’t happen.

One positive development to come out of the current situation, is that there are lots of freebies on-line. Both Stratford and Hay Literary Festivals, for example, have gone virtual and you can register for the events free of charge and/or watch them after the event.

I’ve taken part in two Zoom author events recently: an interview with two debut novelists and a ‘Writing Masterclass’ run by Adele Parks (which had 162 participants, all on Zoom at the same time!), both of which were FREE and were really interesting (when I say ‘taken part’ I mean, I watched them – live – and sent in questions. I didn’t actually interact with anyone, heaven forbid!).

One of the challenges Adele set us (and she’s just published her 20th novel, so I reckon she knows what she’s talking about), was to try to distil the concept of our novel down to a 10 word pitch. (And she said we could send them to her if we liked. I bet she made that offer because hardly anyone ever does…! It’s not easy).

She did this for her first novel, ‘Playing Away’, which is a light-hearted romp about infidelity and she described it as “Anna Karenina Meets Bridget Jones but the heroine gets to live.” (She also added that you don’t have to compare your novel to other, published novels but it does act as a useful bit of shorthand.. provided, I supposed, that people ‘get’ the reference).

Right, my pomodoro has beeped, so I have to go or I will turn into a pumpkin! (mixing my fruit and veg nicely there).

Come back on Thursday when I will have a GUEST POST by the fabulous Wendy Clarke, who’s made the move very successfully from short story writer to novelist and has just published her third psychological thriller. See you then!

Not a pomodoro but a poppy from today’s walk

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