Sunday 31 March 2013

My Liebster Award

As you all know (I've been banging on about it for the past ages) I'm taking part in the A-Z blogging challenge throughout April.  I've been visiting people to say 'hello' and offer support for the upcoming month. While I've been wandering through blog-land, I noticed that a lot of people had been blogging about 'The Liebster Award', and was a teeny bit jealous that no-one had nominated me for the award.  You can only participate if someone else nominates you.  And guess what?!  I've been nominated *yay* by someone I visited for the A-Z challenge, and they visited me back.

The kind person who nominated me is Jak Cryton over at The Cryton Chronicles.  Thank you very much, kind sir.

As with all other blog-hops, this is a way of introducing bloggers to other blogs that they may not have seen before. 

So, the rules are:

  • Post the award to your blog (see above)
  • Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog (see above)
  • Post 11 random facts about yourself (see below)
  • Answer 11 questions that have been set by the person who nominated you (see below)
  • Nominate 11 bloggers with fewer than 200 followers to accept this award (see below)
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions (see below)

11 Random Facts About Me
  1. I always wanted to be a ballerina, but that dream was quashed when my toes grew to all odd lengths, rendering it quite dangerous for me to dance in pointe shoes.
  2. I have recently given up eating bread.  It's been quite difficult, because one of my favourite foods is toast, but I'm surviving! 
  3. The one place I want to visit before I die (mainly because it's pretty impossible to visit places after you die!) is Easter Island.
  4. When I was little, I was scared of balloons.  Birthday parties were never as fun as they should have been!
  5. My hair hasn't been its natural colour in at least 15 years.
  6. I love watching horror films even though the scare the life out of me.  I tend to watch them during the day so that I'm not scared before I go to bed.
  7. I've never smoked a cigarette and I never plan to.
  8. I played a Munchkin in my primary school production of The Wizard of Oz.  I was the tallest child in the school.
  9. I don't like eating food that has eyes or bones in it.
  10. I love rainbows and have arranged my books in spine colour order.
  11. I have dreadful handwriting.

11 Questions From Jak Cryton

1. What is your favourite colour?
Purple, although red does come a close second.
2. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?  Why?
Invisibility.  I'd just like to know what people really thought of me.  Maybe it would cure my paranoia, or maybe it would make it worse, but I'd still like to know.
3. If you were resurrected as an animal, what would you want to be?  Why?
I would love to be a dog in a great family, where I can sleep, eat, play, run around, and not have to worry about a thing!
4. What is the last book you read and/or currently reading?
I'm currently reading The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon for my book group.  I've only read about 5 chapters but it's pretty gripping.
5. Who is your favourite author?
Roald Dahl.
6. Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo or the A to Z Challenge before?  If so, what were your experiences like?
I did NaNoWriMo for the first time last year.  It was something I'd wanted to do for a while but never thought I'd be able to do it.  If I'm honest, I didn't enjoy it.  I felt like I was under too much pressure and that I'd be a failure if I didn't finish it.  I never set myself targets when I write, and I manage to get more words down each day that I did throughout November!  This year is my first attempt at the A to Z Challenge, and I'm quite excited about it.
7. What is (or was) your most anticipated movie to be released in 2013?
I'm not really a big film buff.  I do like films, but I never know what's coming out until it's already been released.  I have no idea what's due for release this year, but I'm sure I'll watch all the 2013 films when they come out on Netflix!
8. Who was your first movie crush?
David Bowie in 'Labyrinth' and Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser M.D.
9. What would your dream job entail?
I would love to be a full time writer, living in a secluded house where I would write uninterrupted.  However, there's always a chance that would end up like Misery, so I'd have to make sure that I never have any driving accidents in the snow!
10. Who has been the most influential person in your life?
I would have to say my parents.  They've always been supportive of everything I've done, and have helped me out whenever they could.
11. Do you believe in the supernatural?  If so, any experiences?
I know that things like ghosts and aliens don't exist, but I still can't bring myself to watch Supernatural Activity or any of the Alien films.  And you couldn't pay me enough to get me to watch The X Files!

11 Nominated Bloggers
  1. Where in the world are you right now?
  2. What has been your best gift?
  3. Can you play a musical instrument?
  4. If you could time-travel to any period in the past, where would you go?
  5. What's your favourite dessert?
  6. Who was your favourite teacher at school?
  7. Do you have any pets?
  8. Where did you go on your last holiday/vacation?
  9. What languages can you speak?
  10. What's your favourite word?
  11. If you could exchange lives with anyone, who would you choose?

If I've nominated you, please spread the love and share this award.  If I've not nominated you, hold on in there; you'll be able to participate in this in no time.

Friday 29 March 2013

Level 5

It's Friday, and that can only mean one thing.  We should be celebrating the small things.

I've been going to the gym for about 2 years.  It's something that I'd been wanting to do for a while, but thought I was far too unfit to go.  I assumed that the gym would be full of beefcakes pumping iron, grunting, and flexing their muscles in front of the mirror.  How wrong I was.  Don't get me wrong; these beefcakes do exist, but they're in the minority.  The majority are 'normal' people, and by that I mean people who just want to get fit so they go to the gym, do a but of a workout, have a bit of a chat, and generally don't take it too seriously.

I go with my mum, and we try to motivate each other.  We have both lost weight since starting, but that wasn't our main intention in going.  We just wanted to increase our fitness levels.

At the gym, there's a horrible machine called the cross-trainer.  For those of you who haven't used one before, it's a machine you stand on, and you kind of slide your legs forwards and backwards, and move your arms as well.

By the way, that's not me in that image (although I wish it was!).  I use this dreaded machine because it's supposed to be good for you, ha!  You can set various information on the nifty little computer screen, such as level of workout.  For the past couple of months I've been doing 30 minutes at level 4, on the various pre-set profiles, but today I thought I would increase the difficulty to level 5.  I got to about 26 minutes and wanted to give up.  My legs ached, I was sweaty, I couldn't breathe.  But I pushed through.  I know it was only 4 minutes, but they were some of the toughest 4 minutes of my life!

So this week I am celebrating the fact that I didn't give up, and that I managed 30 minutes at level 5.  Yay me!

Wednesday 27 March 2013

LLBG March

Last night was the March meeting of Lowestoft Library Book Group.  This month we have been reading Ancestral Vices by Tom Sharpe.  When I started it, I really couldn't get into it.  I had absolutely no idea what it was about or what was supposed to be happening.  My eyes took in the words on the page but they didn't make their way up into my brain box.  Some books get me like that.  However, I did get excited when I reached page 43.  Two characters are sitting down to dinner and are served turtle soup.  One character says, "The shell came from the Aquarium at Lowestoft and the contents from Fortnum & Mason."

However, continuing reading I still had absolutely no idea what was going on.  The book cover doesn't have a blurb, so I had a little bit of a snout around the internet and found out that, apparently, this book is really funny.  I thought it must get funnier the further I get into it, but one of the funniest bits in the book (according to t'internet people) was something I'd already read.

I like to think that I've got a pretty decent sense of humour, but this book was more irritating than funny.  And not irritating to the point that it turns into funny.  Just irritating.

I've been a member of this book group since 2009 (ish) and for a couple of years I would read part of each book (around 100 pages) but never finish them.  Then, at the start of last year, I made a bit of a resolution to read the books, even if I really didn't like them.  And I did it.  I pushed my way through hundreds of pages of dreadful words, but I read them.  Until now.  I tried.  I really did.  But I couldn't do it.  I couldn't bring myself to finish this book.  That shows just how bad it is.  I managed to get to chapter 12/page 154, but I'm not really sure what happened in those 154 pages, and I really don't care what happens after.


Our next meeting will be Tuesday 30th April, and we will be discussing The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon.

Weymouth Writing Matters

Welcome to my interview with Kathy Sharp from Weymouth Writing Matters.


Hello Kathy, can you please tell us a bit about your group?
Our writing group is called Weymouth Writing Matters. It was set up about 3 years ago, with funding, principally as a writing for health and well-being group. Many of the original members had health problems to deal with, but now it’s a mixed, small, supportive group. We meet fortnightly on Fridays at Weymouth Library, Weymouth, Dorset, from 10am to 1pm. Sessions are free and open to anyone.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
We are an informal group, so membership varies all the time, but on average from four to nine members attend most meetings.
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
My name is Kathy Sharp, and I was one of the founder  members of the group. There is no formal leader – we are more of a co-operative – but I usually take on the role of contact person and let people know when meetings take place.
How are your sessions structured?
There is no fixed structure to sessions, but in general we begin by exchanging news on writing projects, events etc, and then move on to one or two writing exercises. 
Do members of the group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
Anyone can suggest ideas for writing exercises. Sometimes we plan an exercise in advance, but as often as not, we decide on the spot what to write about.
What types of things do you cover in your group?
This tends to depend on the make-up of the group at any given time. We have looked at different types and styles of poetry, at character development and other fiction topics.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
Popular activities have included using pictures or postcards as a starting point for writing; bringing in objects and including them in a story; creating random phrases and using them as story/poem titles.
Do you have guest speakers at your group?  
We have not had guest speakers, until now, as the group has no membership fee, and thus no funds to pay a speaker. However, we have recently asked a published writer to come and tell us about her book, and this session will take place soon.
What genres do the members of your group write?  Is there a lot of diversity with regards to your members’ writing? 
The group contains poets, novelists, short story and article writers and a writer of children’s poetry, some published, some not.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology? 
We tried this for the first time just before Christmas, producing a very simple 16-page booklet of Christmas-related writing, which we printed at home.  We made about 65 copies, sold them all and made some money for the group. We are now working on a similar spring-inspired booklet.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
We support each other in many ways, from helping with basic ideas, to providing information on writing competitions and opportunities, pooling information on preparing synopses, etc, and warnings about vanity publishing. We also belong to the Dorset Writers’ Network which holds regular events on writing topics. Anyone who attends an event brings information/useful contacts back to the group.
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts for the group from?
From the Internet, from books, from other writing groups, and DWN events, as mentioned above. And sometimes just out of our own heads on the spot!
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Of course you can write fiction (I thought I couldn’t)
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Don’t be afraid to try ‘difficult’ things. You’ll learn something new however imperfect the result.
Does your writing group have a website/blog/twitter/facebook? 
Weymouth Writing Matters has its own Facebook page.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Enquire at Weymouth Library or email me to find out the date of the next meeting. Anybody can join us.
Thank you very much Kathy. 

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Writer - Shel Sweeney

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Shel Sweeny.  Enjoy.

Shel Sweeny

Hello Shel, can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Shel Sweeney, based in Glasgow.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was 8 years old; so 36 years!
 What first got you interested in writing?
My dad occasionally used to write erratic, frantic, meaningful poetry in a beat-writer sort of way. But I have been the most persistent writer of the family. I have written all my life, but the first piece of writing that I kept and still have today is from when I was eight years old. I wrote poems, plays and stories. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about stories. You get the picture – I love words, I love a well-crafted sentence or poetic phrase, I love weaving worlds from words!
Do you attend a writing group?
I attend the Scottish Writer’s Group and just started this year.
Why do you attend a writing group?
I just moved to the area and wanted to meet people with the same passion as me; to be involved in writerly conversations; to be part of a group to bounce ideas around with; to have my work critiqued; to support other writers.
What is the most valuable thing you have taken away from your writing group?
Courage: to present my work to a ‘live’ audience.
Encouragement: to write and keep writing.
What genre(s)/types of things do you write?  What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
Most genre really. Recently I have been interested in historical fiction – having come to the UK from Australia (with a short European history), I have been fascinated by the history of UK. Young Adult fiction – I have a teaching background and like freedom and creativity that this genre offers to explore tough issues. Poetry: I like the denseness of poetic language and the possibilities to play with language. Travel writing: what better way to combine my love of travel with writing! Essays: usually about aspects of writing – I enjoy the research process, learning mew information and applying this to my own ideas.
Are there any genres that you don’t enjoy writing?  Why?
Horror – because I’m a scared-ey cat really!
Ha!  That's the main reason I don't write horror!  Have you ever had anything published? 
I have had several short pieces (stories, essays, poetry) published before:
  • Gumbooted and Blanket Wrapped, in ‘Splinterswerve’, Issue 9: ebb / flow, February 2013, Calgary and Victoria, Canada.
  • Critique of Young Adult Fiction, in ‘The Copperfield Review’, vol. 12, no. 1, winter 2013, USA.
  • The Stone Floor, in ‘Vintage Script’, Issue 4, winter 2012, London.
  • The Leaving, in ‘Southerly: The Journal of the English Association’, vol. 70, no. 2, 2010, Brandl & Schlesinger, Sydney.
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?  Have you received any rejections?
No, I send my work to literary journals. I have received a MASS of rejections; it’s par for the course.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?  Why/why not?  Are you interested in eBooks, or do you prefer the old fashioned paper-made books?
Possibly. With self-publishing you then face issues of marketing. It doesn’t matter how good your work is, if people don’t know it’s available, you’ll sell very little. 
I love paper books, but have no negative feelings towards e-books.
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
Jeanette Winterson is my all-time favourite author. Her use of language is beautiful.
My parents, son, husband and close friends have absolute faith in my abilities, so I have no shortage of support.
My inspiration comes, I think from my background – the way I was taught to see the world: My mum is an artist and I grew up surrounded by ideas of magic and beauty, my dad is an idealist/socialist. My active imagination was encouraged from an early age.
How do you come up with your characters’ names and personalities?
Sometimes through research, sometimes from the spark of someone I know, but mostly from the characters themselves and the situations they fnd themselves in – they kind of evolve.
Do you have a writing routine?
I usually write in the mornings for anything from 1 to 4 hours, depending on how much I get into it at the time.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I never have a complete idea for my writing, although the concept I start with is quite strong and vivid. I never used to plot anything at all, just write. Now I am trying to plot my stories out in more detail, but I have found if I plan in too much detail, I don’t find the writing process as creative – so it is a balance.
Do you have an editing process?  
I usually leave the first draft for a while – I need a bit of space between the writing and the editing so I can come back to the wok with less emotional attachment. I have been known to print a story out and cut it up into sections and physically move these around until I find the right ‘flow’. I like to see the whole thing – a bit harder with a novel!
What is your writing environment like?  
I have a desk beside a window – I like to see the sky. It is stacked with books and notepads, but isn’t too messy. I use a laptop. I often head into a library of café with my laptop to write too – I like the background sounds and the hustle and bustle of life. I don’t usually listen to music because I get too caught up in singing and forget to write!
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I most enjoy the creativity of it – making up worlds that didn’t exist before. I like finding expression to feelings and giving voice to stories floating in my head. I love how a story will occupy my thoughts day and night and randomly.
I don’t like the small amount of money that I can generate via writing. I wish it could be more financially viable.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Even if I couldn’t share my writing, I would still write. However, without a readership, my writing is less polished, the challenge is lessened.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won?
Yes I have entered, but never won anything.
Have you ever attended an open mic night for spoken word performers, and either an observer or a performer?  
No I haven’t.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Read your work out loud to yourself – it helps you work out the rhythm of your work and resolve any awkward phrasing that you may not have noticed.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Just keep writing. It took me a great number of years of writing sporadically to really get that what a writer does is, well, write…so make a commitment to write at least 5 days out of 7.
Would you rather write a masterpiece and only sell a handful of copies, or produce a badly written book and sell millions?
Maybe somewhere in between…but what writer doesn’t want to sell millions? Or write a Masterpiece?
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Yoga – practicing every second day keeps me grounded and relaxed. I am interested in education also. Playing guitar (badly) and singing (equally badly) – lots of fun!
I love singing (badly), especially when I'm in my car on my own!  What types of things do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
I try to read a range of things. I love libraries! I select books at random, read the first page and if that is interesting, I will read the whole book. This helps me to read things that I wouldn’t usually choose – like crime fiction – and it helps me find authors I might not have read before. But, apart from Jeanette Winterson, I like David Mitchell, Terry Pratchett, Australian Young Adult fiction writers, Michael Pryor and Isobelle Carmody. Steampunk is pretty awesome right now, and of course I love historical fiction too.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
Anything by Jeanette Winterson, Keroac’s On the Road, anything by William Boroughs or Haruki Murakami, or William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing or The Tempest.

Do you judge books by their covers?  How important is cover art to you as a reader and a writer?
I try not to, but when you are faced with so many books and authors, cover design can become a selection factor. Cover is all about marketing, and this IS important as it can affect sales of a book.
What is your favourite/least favourite book to film adaptation?  
High Fidelity – John Kusak rocks that role!
Agreed!  Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotes?
“Every journey conceals another journey within its lines: the path not taken and the forgotten angle.” Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a novel currently (my first), I blog every other day and I’m researching myth, legend and fairy tales – looking to write an essay or critique of these genre.
Where can we find you on the internet?
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?  
The following small piece is taken from The Leaving: a short story of love found and the all-consuming grief of separation told in a series of vignettes that fluctuate between sensuality and melancholy. The raw emotions are carried along by strong imagery that reveal the actual and inner life of the main narrator. With a strong sense of place in streetscapes and interiors, this is the tale of a disintegrating relationship.
His suitcase lies open on the bed. Carefully considered items are neatly placed within. Balled socks fill vacant spaces. And over all of this is the scent of her. He presses his face into the piled clothes and inhales. How can it be that he has been here only six months and already she has permeated his soul? The smell of her, the feel of her hands over his shirt. Damn hard to leave.

He draws the zip around the case. If only he could seal off this part of his life as easily as a zip teeths shut. He feels a biting at his heart. One last thing to do. Pen in hand awkwardly forming the words his tongue cannot. I love you. I will miss you. I don’t want to leave you. Come with me. It all seems clichéd, flat, empty.
The ink smudges like a blackberry stain. He screws the paper within his fist. He sighs, picks up the case and leaves. A gush of winter air swirls behind the closing door.
© Shel Sweeney
Thank you very much Shel. 

Monday 25 March 2013

Celebrate The Small Things

As most of you should know by now, I'm taking part in the A-Z Blogging Challenge (there's still time to sign up; do it, do it now!).  There are two main parts of the challenge; to write 26 alphabetical posts throughout the month of April, and to visit other bloggers on the A-Z sign up list and comment on their alphabetical blog posts.  Bloggers will get to make contact with new bloggers, and will be able to extend their online community.  

Leading up to the challenge, I've been stopping off at a lot of blogs on the list, just to make myself known and to encourage those taking part in the challenge.  While browsing a few blogs, I came across something called "Celebrate The Small Things".  This is the brainchild of 'VikLit', and she outlines everything on her blog, Scribblings of an Aspiring Author.  

Once a week (on a Friday), you write and publish a post about something that you've achieved during that week.  It can be a small or large achievement, from passing an exam to tidying out a drawer.  It doesn't matter what it is; it just has to be something that you're pleased about.

Since thinking about the A-Z challenge, I've realised that I don't blog enough.  I'm excited about being able to post every day throughout April, and by taking part in Celebrate The Small Things I'll have a reason to continue blogging and posting things that I hope will be of interest to some people.  Plus, it will be a tiny slice of positivity in a world where we get bogged down with bad news whenever we look outside.

The posts will be made each Friday, so I've got a few days before I can start, but I can keep my eye out for something to celebrate.

Writer - Gaynor Cobb

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Gaynor Cobb.  Enjoy.

Gaynor Cobb

Hello Gaynor, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Gaynor Cobb and I am based in Kent  ( New Romney).
How long have you been writing for?
I have been writing for around for over 20 years.
What first got you interested in writing?
I started writing as part of my work as a teacher, writing material for use in the classroom and plays for a drama group I ran at the school where I worked in Tunbridge Wells. Part of my job was to write a whole school play for Christmas. This was usually written in August.
Do you attend a writing group?
I have attended a local writer's group and found it very enjoyable. I am not involved at the moment, but I am secretary of the local History Group in New Romney. I did find that when I went to the writing group, I spent a lot of time on stories for the group rather than on my own work. I also teach English and find that marking and planning etc takes up a lot of time.
What genres do you write?
I have written creative teaching resources for RE/ Literacy/ Citizenship and also a children's adventure story which was based around the first Easter. My work contains quite a bit of poetry and I also like to write plays for performance in schools. I am interested in historical and religious fiction in particular.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
I do not enjoy writing anything autobiographical or anecdotal!
What types of things do you write? 
I write short stories, poetry, educational resources and plays as well as novels. I have written song lyrics for plays but would love to find someone who could write the music for them. I also write meditations and prayers for church.
Have you ever had anything published? 
I have had two teaching books published: Teaching Christian Citizenship ( Kevin Mayhew publisher) and Eyewitness Assemblies ( BRF publisher). I have also had a children's adventure story self published by Authorhouse -The Sign Of the Fish. BRF had planned to publish the story but decided that a religious children's story might not be easy to market. The story is aimed at children 10years and above.
Have you ever contacted agents/publishers?  Have you received rejections? 
I have not contacted agents although I may do so in future. I did try to get an alternative publisher for “Sign of the Fish” when BRF changed their mind, in fact their commissioning editor was very supportive and suggested a contact but it did not work out.  
Would you ever self-publish/e-publish?  Are you interested in e-books, or do you prefer the old fashioned, paper made books?
I think self publishing can work ( it certainly has for some people) but it is expensive, especially if the book is marketed successfully. I think you have to know the possibilities and have a clear plan. I am interested in e-books. The Sign of the Fish is available on Kindle, which I was pleased about. This is an aspect of marketing for the future that cannot be ignored and a way of reaching a wider audience. Paper books are still important and it is good to share them with others. My church has a monthly book sale where we raise funds by selling our second hand books. We have an enjoyable Saturday morning and can discuss the books over a coffee!
Who what inspires you? 
I am inspired by historical/ spiritual and religious issues in particular.
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities? 
My characters names need to fit the period of the story. Their personalities grow as I describe their thoughts and feelings, although I know what they will be doing before I begin to write.
Do you have a writing routine? 
I really don't write as often as I should, although I always hope that in the future I will have more time and be more focused. I actually write best when I am on a train. I think this is because I can't wander off and do something else ( like cleaning the house!)  I think I would have written a great deal if I could just travel around the country on trains.
Do you start out with an idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best? 
I have note books that I can jot ideas down and try to have a plan for the story.
When I wrote Eyewitness Assemblies, I worked from a plan agreed with the editor. We met in London and drew up an outline. It was a really easy book to write because of the plan. Even though I was working full time, I felt that the book wrote itself!
Do you have an editing process? 
I always read my work through after it has been printed out because it is very different reading it on the computer. My husband often proof reads for me and it is useful to have another opinion and someone to pick up typing errors.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing? 
I really enjoy creating something new. I think that writing is even more enjoyable than reading a book because you are creating the action and people yourself. Characters can seem so real, you almost feel you know them.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won?
I entered a short story competition at the local writer's group. It was judged by Pamela Oldfield who had written a large number of historical novels. I won the competition and Pamela made some very kind comments about my work.
How important is it for you to share your work? 
I enjoy writing but I think every writer wants to share their work. Writing seems unfinished if no-one reads it, a bit like baking a cake which remains uneaten.
And it is virtually impossible to leave a cake uneaten (well it is for me anyway!).  What's the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
I think advice about planning has proved invaluable because it makes everything so much easier.
What advice could you give to a new writer? 
I think passing on advice can depend on the age of the writer. I teach English and I know that my experience as a writer has helped me enormously with my teaching. I advise young writers to read and re-draft carefully and to tell their story gradually, leading the reader through the action and feelings of the characters.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests? 
I am involved with my local church, St. Nicholas in New Romney and in the local History Society. I am a member of the Art Fund because I love visiting art galleries and museums. I am a Liverpool FC supporter and go to matches whenever I can.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been? 
I would love to have written something like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or Harry Potter because they deal with the struggle between good and evil  and the ultimate sacrifice to save others.
What types of things do you like to read? 
I have recently read Simon Sebag Montefiore's excellent book on Jerusalem which was very thought provoking and informative. In the past, I have read a lot of excellent literature, including Tolstoy, Sartre, Hemmingway , Henry James and Scott Fitzgerald. I also enjoy detective novels but really don't know if I could write one!
Do you have any favourite quotations? 
Deepak Chopra in his book “Life after Death” 2006 quoted form the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore:
“The night kissed the fading day with a whisper
“I am death, your mother,
From me you will get new birth”
Where can we find you on the internet? 
I have a website : and a developing Facebook page which is in the early stages!
What are you working on at the moment? 
At the moment, I am working on a book of short stories for adults. I started the book as a joint writing project with someone else ( we were to write half the book each)but have ended up working on all of it. It is near completion and I have enjoyed writing it. The stories are fictional but with a historical/spiritual twist.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
At present, I am writing online teaching resources for Teachit.  I have written resources in the past for "Career Paths Online" in Literacy with a Citizenship link.  I use resources in my teaching and find it useful to write them as well.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your writing? 
This is the beginning of a short story from the collection.

Crossing Over

Gasping,  Peter’s breathing laboured and he felt his eyes, drugged and heavy, closing against the fading light of the room. They’ve given up on me, he thought and wondered if he’d given up on himself after all. He’d been fighting, determined to survive, every hour a victory: but why? He gasped again, knowing he was losing the battle. Why was life so dear to him when he couldn’t think of anything to live for? His work perhaps? Even that had gone; the pain was too much. It was all too difficult, even breathing, just staying alive was a Herculean task. 
So, this was where it ended; this hospital room; little of comfort. There were cards, curled and dusty, no messages of hope. What could they say, now they knew he was dying? Certainly not “ Get Well”. He was glad he couldn’t see their faces now, the forlorn eyes: comfortless. He’d kept his sense of humour; just;. cynical certainly. He would have laughed out loud( if he had been able) had he seen the sombre black figure passing by by the door, pausing, hand hovering over the handle and then turning away with a shake of the head. 
No, you’re not going to save my soul. I’m not changing my mind, through some misplaced fear. This is it: the end. Peace at last. But not your peace. My peace; drifting into nothingness. Like putting out the lights and closing the door on life. All over now, no more pain. As you would say, alleluia to that. His chest tightened and the struggle increased with each laboured breath. No more strength to fight, he thought. No-one here. Why wait for them to watch him die.?

© Gaynor Cobb 
Thank you very much Gaynor. 

My theme for the A-Z challenge is ...

In one week, over 1300 bloggers will be taking part in the A-Z Blogging Challenge.  Throughout April (Mondays to Saturdays, with Sundays off for good behaviour) we will be publishing posts beginning with a different letter of the alphabet.  It has been advised (although it's not compulsory) to have a theme with regards to the posts, in order for bloggers to find blogs related to their interests.

I've been keeping my theme a secret, but today I will reveal it to the world.  Are you all on the edge of your seat?  I thought so!

Well, I'd already decided to write posts related to the craft of writing, and for those of you who know me, you'll know that I love love love love Oulipo.

So my theme for the A-Z challenge is ...

***** Oulipian Writing Constraints *****

I bet you can't wait for that!

Sunday 24 March 2013

Word Clouds - How Novel?

I'm back on the procrastination wagon (in between doing actual work) today.  This year I'm taking part in the A-Z Blogging Challenge throughout April (you can sign up here if you haven't already done so), and part of the challenge is to go and look at other people's blogs and comment on their posts.  As it's not yet April, I thought I'd take a trip through blogland and visit a few of the blogs already on the sign-up list. While perusing a few blogs, I noticed that some had word clouds, and like a magpie, I was attracted by the pretty words and colours and shapes.

After finding a site that produces these clouds (I think there are a few out there, but I used I thought I would give it a go.

I copied the text from my book, 12 Days of Krista May Rose, available from Amazon (dot com, and dot co dot uk) and pasted it into 'Wordle', and after trawling through fonts and colours, I created this cloud.

And it looks a bit like a Christmas tree, how appropriate.  The only thing I don't like about this is that it doesn't seem to recognise the use of apostrophes, and one of my most commonly used words in the text is "don", which I assume comes from "don't".  But apart from that, I like it.  

I then copied the text from my novel, Lexa Wright's Dating Sights, and came up with this.

Again, "don" is in there, along with "didn".  But it's quite interesting to see which words I've used the most.  Maybe I should see if I can write a story just using those words.  Not now though.  I've got work to do ...

Friday 22 March 2013

Writer - Sam Lenton

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Sam Lenton.  Enjoy.

Sam Lenton

Hello Sam, can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Sam Lenton and I’m currently based in Southampton but I’m originally from Norwich.
Ah Norwich, a very lovely city.  How long have you been writing?
I wrote poetry in my teens as a way of expressing ideas and emotions and dabbled in scriptwriting whilst studying my A-Levels, after being inspired by a performance of An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde, but it was at university that I began to take writing seriously, producing short stories and scripts. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to co-direct a production of one of my plays at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and this gave me a real spur to continue and to develop my craft.
Do you attend a writing group?  Why/why not?
I tried a local writing group once but it was a little inconvenient to get to and I wasn’t convinced it would help me that much. Although I like putting on productions of my plays and showing my work to people, I find writing quite a private activity and so I’ve never been sure that I would benefit from a group environment.
What genre(s) do you write?  What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I have two main directions my writing takes, as I write materials specifically for communicating the narrative of the Bible (often for performances within a church environment) but I also work on novels and plays for a wider audience. Writing for the church appeals to me because I get excited about being able to bring a fresh approach to stories and characters and, in doing so, communicate the incredible message of salvation that has the power to transform lives. My novels, on the other hand, are undoubtedly influenced by the modernists and by more recent authors such as Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood. I love their style and enjoy reading character-based novels and so I find this is what I most naturally write as well.
Are there any genres that you don’t enjoy writing?  Why?
I’m not interested in doing significant research for a novel and so Historical fiction doesn’t appeal. Similarly, although I’ve enjoyed reading Fantasy novels over the years, I don’t feel I would have the discipline and creativity to create these alternative worlds in sufficient detail.
Have you ever had anything published?  
I’ve had a production of one of my full-length plays put on for a five night run at Cambridge University and two other scripts were chosen for workshops with a professional director by The Marlowe Society. I self-published my debut novel, Accidental Crime, in May 2012 (available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback) and a collection of monologues, It was the tree’s fault, in December 2011 (available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback). I have recently had two short stories accepted for inclusion in What the Dickens? Magazine. I am planning to approach publishers with my next novel, as I believe it has the commercial potential that Accidental Crime perhaps didn’t.

Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?  Have you received any rejections?
I have approached Christian publishers with a proposal for my monologue collection and have received positive feedback but ultimately rejection due to the product not being considered sufficiently marketable.
You mentioned earlier that your books are available on Kindle.  What are your views on self-publishing/e-books? 
I’ve enjoyed self-publishing and have completed the whole process myself, including design, editing and marketing (see an article I wrote on the process here). I think eBooks are great – I own a Kindle and use it regularly – but I hope we never lose paper-made books! I’d like to think that we now have more options available to us and so this is, in many ways, a great time to be a writer.
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
My Christian writing is influenced by my faith and my mainstream writing is influenced by the interactions I have on a day to day basis, the books I have read, the films I have watched, the music I have listened to and the bizarre ideas that pop into my head every now and again!
How do you come up with your characters’ names and personalities?
I find I often base characters on myself or those close to me and then I make significant changes or stretch aspects of their personality to the extreme. If you know me well then you can see aspects of my character in my creations but they will almost always be quite distorted and certainly not a direct mirroring of my attitudes and opinions.
What is your writing routine?  
Unfortunately, I have a demanding day job (sixth form English teacher) that gives me little time to write but I have tried to establish specific routines to enable me to make progress. I try to write something once a week where possible but sometimes work doesn’t allow it and then at other times I write every day and really get into the flow. Sometimes mornings work best for me but I often find that I annoyingly have moments of inspiration and drive just when time is running out late in the afternoon or evening!
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I tend to have a rough idea that I want to explore but it can begin with as little as a single line. For the play Radically Traditional that was performed in Cambridge, all I had was the opening line of the play and then I worked from there as I felt it established an intriguing premise that was worth exploring. With the current novel, I did write out a summary of what might happen but I’ve deviated a fair bit and I find that this makes the work far more interesting and exciting as the characters take on a life of their own and the plot moves in unexpected directions.
Do you have an editing process?  Do you have someone else read over your work?  Do you read your work aloud to yourself in front of the mirror?
I have a few people that I trust to read my work and provide me with honest appraisals and so I often go to them with what I have written. With Accidental Crime, I gave the first draft to a group of people from different backgrounds and received written feedback that enabled me to make crucial changes for the final draft.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
Writing is probably the thing I enjoy most in life and it’s a hard thing to explain as the emotions involved are quite hard to pin down and can range from great frustration to passionate joy, sometimes within the course of the same paragraph! As a scriptwriter, I love coming up with dialogue that makes me smile and I can take great pleasure over a single phrase that I’m proud of and that marks out my distinctive writing style.
Have you ever attended an open mic night for spoken word performers as either an observer or performer?  
I’ve read poetry at an open mic event in Cambridge and have enjoyed the contributions of others but Southampton doesn’t appear to have the same opportunities. Or, to put it another way, I don’t really have a lifestyle now that frees me to go to this sort of thing. Oh to be a student again!
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won?
I’ve submitted two short stories for What the Dickens? Magazine and have been successful in having my work selected. I have only ever entered one short story competition and I don’t feel particularly driven to enter others.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
As a scriptwriter, I expect the words I write to be performed and so it’s important to me that I seek out and secure opportunities for this to happen. Fortunately, my plays have been very well received over the past few years and so I’ve always had a way to share my writing. Self-publishing also gives us a great opportunity to share our work and I was pleased to make Accidental Crime available to give readers a taster of what I’ve been doing and what I will hopefully go on to do even better.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given with regards to writing?
I think the most valuable advice I’ve been given is to take myself seriously as a writer, to claim that role as something I am worthy of and to not feel intimidated by it. By doing this, I then approach my writing with greater professionalism and adopt a mindset that is focussed on producing the best I possibly can.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
As with many crafts, you get better at writing by doing it as much as you can. New writers need to be aware that they are unlikely to be producing their best work at the start, however good the work might seem at the time, and yet this work is not wasted time but is actually essential to honing your skills and finding your voice. Try different styles, experiment with ideas you’re not sure about, and take a plunge by getting others to read your work. Don’t be disheartened if people don’t like it but try and learn from what they say. Criticism is hard to take but often people have said something helpful, even if they don’t say it in the most helpful way!
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
I’m a big football fan and have collected music since my early teens. I don’t buy as much as I used to but I still follow a wide range of bands.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
Although it’s not necessarily the best novel ever, I remember feeling fed up when reading Saturday by Ian McEwan that he’d got there ahead of me and already written the sort of thing I’d wanted to write!
What types of things do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
I mainly read literary fiction and the books that I need to teach my classes. I enjoyed American Literature at university and so I read a few American authors from time to time. I wish I could read more but my job doesn’t make it all that easy to read at home for pleasure.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotes?
Yes but I’d have to go away and look them up as I can never remember quotations...
Do you have a website/blog/twitter/facebook dedicated to your writing?  
I have a personal website – – that provides news of my writing projects and a place for people to buy products, while I blog at and have a Facebook fan page at and can be followed on Twitter: @samlenton
What are you working on at the moment?
My main focus is my latest novel, which I am really pleased with and hope to send to publishers by the summer. It’s in a similar style to Accidental Crime but is more of a conventional thriller and so should prove to be a gripping read! Alongside this, I am working on the draft of a screenplay for a Christian film and have recently made an important contact in the film industry who will hopefully help make the dream a reality.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work? 

Excerpt from Accidental Crime:

Their hands met. The first contact. In that moment, Jarrod pictured future hugs, long-familiar embraces, deep, sensual kisses, the all-enveloping celebration of flesh entwined, two unified as one, the glimmer of rings, the incessant screams of unwanted children, the decaying of frail, aging bodies, the funeral he would stagger through as a man defeated, heartbroken as the last whisper of life’s breath passed through his watery, wrinkled lips.
Or, perhaps that was it. One handshake, and a rather statesmen-like one at that, defining the everlasting boundaries of their relationship. Janine? Oh yes, she was someone he met at the canteen once. Works in reprographics. Talks funny. You know the sort. Nice girl though. Nice girl.
He did afford himself a glimmer of a stroke of the finger tips as their hands withdrew. It wouldn’t be enough to provoke uneasiness but at least it was something, a sensation to replay throughout the afternoon whilst his now-lonely fingers skipped across the already-tiresomely-familiar keyboard.
‘Have you worked here long?’ she inquired, continuing to fulfil the role of lead-questioner with a surprising confidence that defied the gentle blush that had arisen on her delicate cheeks.
‘Oh, er, no, no, not really,’ Jarrod responded, offering the occasional glance upwards at her steady stare while his fingers continued to grabble with the plastic encasing his tuna sandwich. ‘First week actually. Feels like my fiftieth, of course, but no, it’s just been four days so far. Well, three and a half. I guess this would be the fourth day. Yeah. But, you know. I don’t expect to be here long. Just a stepping stone and all that. Something to tide me over for now. I mean, no-one ever intends to stay somewhere like this do they? How long have you been here? A couple of weeks? Three perhaps?’
‘Five years, actually,’ she responded, before tucking into the bagel.


Accidental Crime is available now from Amazon and from Sam’s own website.
© Sam Lenton 
Thank you very much Sam. 

Thursday 21 March 2013

Writer - Laura Marshall

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with Laura Marshall.  Enjoy.

Laura Marshall

Hello Laura, can you tell us how long you've been writing?  
I have been seriously studying the craft since 2008, but have been writing since I was a teenager.
Do you attend a writing group?  
I just recently found one in my local area. It’s been a huge blessing to have some interaction face-to-face with other writers. 
What genre(s)/types of things do you write?  What drew you to this/these genre(s)?  
I write a nonfiction series of devotionals titled the Battle Cry Devotional Series.  I stumbled into nonfiction when I did a personal study on finding the Lord’s Rest.  I also write fiction which would be classified as inspirational romantic suspense.  My first novella in my Raven’s Cliff Castle Series of three was requested by a publisher.  I am waiting back to hear if they will pick it up or if I self-publish.
Have you ever had anything published? 
 A Mom’s Battle Cry for Rest is available on Amazon.  The link is in the BIO information below.  I hope to have it up on Kindle within the next week or two.

Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?  Have you received any rejections?  
I’ve written several children’s stories and received some very nice, cordial rejection letters.  I also had a dialogue back and forth with an agent who liked my fiction work, but in the end didn’t pick it up for representation.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?  Why/why not?  Are you interested in eBooks, or do you prefer the old fashioned paper-made books?  
I am self-publishing my Battle Cry devotionals.  They are set in an easy 7-day format and I am not sure a publisher would pick up a 70-some odd page book.  I think they are important though, in the lives of women and mothers, so I am self-publishing the series.  I love paper books, but am offering the series in ebook form.  My husband convinced me some busy Moms may not take the time to wait for a paperback in the mail, although the paperback has benefits such as space for writing.
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?  
I write what God puts on my heart.  I get my inspiration from my own life as the mother of five sons and also, in my fiction, which is what I would like to read myself if I were to buy a book in a book store.
What is your writing routine?  Do you write daily or just when you feel like it?  Is there a certain time of day where you are at your most creative?  
I write every day.  I carry a notepad in my purse if I’m not going to be home and also, I have a paper and pen close-by during the day for moments of inspiration.  I also do type directly into Word, but write with paper and pen as well.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?  
I usually start with one scene in my head or an epiphany of sorts that I try to search out and understand.
Do you have an editing process?  Do you have someone else read over your work?  Do you read your work aloud to yourself in front of the mirror?  
I have several people I run the work by before I would think of publishing.  I have friends who read it for content and understanding and a few that have helped me edit before publishing.
What is your writing environment like?  
My house is very busy.  I tend to write when my guys are at school or in the wee hours of the morning.  Sometimes I get up at 3:00 am and then go back to bed at 6:00 for an hour’s rest before getting the kids up and ready for school.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?  
I love words strung together that actually bring life to a moment or thought and transport you to that place.  I can write something, edit it, and then read and reread and wonder in awe how all of those words put together convey what I was meaning to say or had pictured in my head.  The thing I least enjoy about writing would be releasing them to the world.  It’s like saying goodbye and exposing myself.  It’s all part of the process though and I believe, if I left myself behind in a closet somewhere, people wouldn’t really be interested in what I have to say.
How important is it for you to share your writing?  
I read somewhere along the way that being a writer is like being a bell.  If you just sit there and don’t do anything then you’re not doing your job.  A bell is meant to be rung.  A bell is meant to be heard.  I think at the end of my life, if I hadn’t shared any of my writing, it would be okay for me personally.  I tend to be on the shy side.  However, is that what God intended when He made me a “bell”, a writer?  So, I push the shyness aside and the self-consciousness and share who I am and what I write.
What advice could you give to a new writer?  
I have a great post on my blog about writing and dreams and doubts.  Believe it.  Write.  You can view it here:
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?  
I love to spend time with my kids and my husband.  I enjoy sewing and creating blankets for friends and family (and had a few shown in the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Christian Women’s Voice Magazine).  What’s better than a soft cozy blanket?!

A soft, cozy blanket, with a steaming mug of hot chocolate (cream and marshmallows are optional)?!  If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?  
What I’m writing now.  Every writer’s voice is different.  It would be hard to fit into another person’s words. 
What types of things do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?  
I read the Bible.  I read inspirational historical fiction, romantic suspense, cozy mysteries.  I do read things outside of these genres and enjoy learning about new things and being exposed to the unknown if it is for building up and not tearing down.
Do you judge books by their covers?  How important is cover art to you as a reader and a writer?
I do judge books by their covers.  I think a nice cover is very important.  This is something I will invest in if I publish the Raven’s Cliff Castle Series on my own.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotes?  
“Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow.” - Margaret Atwood
Where can we find you on the internet?
What are you working on at the moment?  
I am working on the second book in my fiction series.  The first book is finished and the third book is just waiting for an ending.  I want to tie them all up in the last book, so I’m writing the second.  It’s a joy to write about rambunctious Kate all grown up (from book one).  I am also finishing up the second book in the Battle Cry Devotional Series, A Mom’s Battle Cry to Overcome Fear.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work? 

When God first brought this book to mind as I wrote the chapter “The Sword” in A Mom’s Battle Cry for Rest, I resisted the thought.  Later, as again it was brought before me, I cried out in my head, “I can’t!”  That’s when I knew that somewhere deep down fear still had me in its grip and though it wasn’t somewhere I lived, a part of me was still enslaved. 
Several nights later I had dreams of running through a large home, securing the many windows and doors.  They didn’t seem secure enough or strong enough to keep whatever it was I was afraid of out.  It was there.  It lurked and watched me.  I could see one door was still open yet it was unreachable.  The dogs outside in the yard barked and pawed the ground.  They felt the watching too.  Did they sense my fear?  I cried deep inside, “I don’t want to live there again.”
But here I am again; I take this journey with you.  Not from the same depths as before, but I climb again and make the ascent. 

This is A Mom’s Battle Cry to Overcome Fear.

© Laura Marshall
Thank you very much Laura.