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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Writing Resolutions

I love this time of year. The space between Christmas and New Year when you can assess the last twelve months and take stock. My New Year's resolution list is usually pretty long as I can always think of plenty of areas where I need to improve. Number one on my list is always the same:-

1. Get organised!

am getting better so it's not as if I completely fail each year but there is still room for improvement so becoming more organised will definitely be on my list again this year. It applies to all areas of my life including my writing. There will be no more scrappy bits of paper with important sentences jotted down on them which risk getting lost. In fact I have quite a few writing resolutions for 2013. In no particular order, they are as follows:-

2.  e-publish. I would like to e-publish Witch Wendy, Cats and Hats which was originally published by Macmillan but is now out of print. At the beginning of December I went on an e-book publishing course organised by Writing East Midlands. It was really useful and now all I need is the time to sit down and put what I learnt into practise. Watch this space!



3.  Fill the Well. This is a phrase borrowed from the fabulous Julia Cameron. I found her book 'The Artist's Way' hugely motivating when I was struggling with rejections and I still dip into it from time to time. It is one of those rare and precious things - a book for life.


Julia talks about the importance for a writer of taking time to do the things you love, the things which inspire you. For me one of those things is going to art galleries and last year I missed out on both the Leonardo and the David Hockney exhibitions because I left it too late to get tickets. I also didn't get out and 'fill the well' as often as I would have liked so in 2013 I plan to change that. Two of the places I would particularly like to visit are Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire and the Rene Mackintosh house in Northampton.



4.  Listen. To listen to my intuition so when that little voice in my head says 'this character isn't right' or 'why don't you take this diversion with your plot'. If I actually listen first time around instead of ploughing on and then discovering later that I should have taken more notice of my initial instincts it might save a lot of time and stress!

5. Relax. On the days when, for one reason or another, I can't write at all or don't have as much time as I would like, I'm not going to beat myself up. Sometimes an enforced break from writing or taking time out to smell the flowers is a valuable thing.



6. Improve.  I want to improve. I want to make progress and that is not always to be measured by acceptance from publishers. Sometimes just getting out old manuscripts and seeing how I could re-work them shows me how far I have come and that in itself is satisfying - if I allow it to be.

7.  Picture Books. Having said that I would love to have a picture book published! I've had a few near misses over the years and I'll keep on studying the best ones, endeavouring to capture that magic ingredient. Maybe 2013 will be my year but if not I'll have fun trying.

8.  Enjoy. This will be my last resolution and even if I fail at all of the others I shall try to stick to this one. I shall try to enjoy my writing, the difficult days, the boring days as well as  the days when the words flow. I shall rememer to be thankful that I have been given the opportunity and the education to write at all. And when my book, Last Chance Angel, comes out in June, despite the inevitable nerves, I shall try to enjoy every moment.

Resolutions are all about hopefulness and in the words of Christopher Reeve:-

'Once you choose hope, anything's possible.'



I hope you enjoy your writing in 2013 and that all your resolutions come to pass.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Absent Friends

I love Christmas when family and friends are all gathered together. But there are gaps in the midst of all the happiness and the gaps are caused by precious people who are no longer with us. Of course I miss these people throughout the year but at Christmas their loss is heightened. When the doorbell goes on Christmas Day I want it to be my mother standing outside with brandy butter in a silver grapefruit dish. She bought that dish from a house clearance sale. It was in a box of other things and was black. She lovingly cleaned it and from then on it was used, not for grapefruit, but for her homemade butter to go with the Christmas pudding. It is mine now and I follow that tradition.


From my mother and her side of the family I get my love of cooking, flower gardening, chickens and art. The Wilton Diptych is one of my favourite paintings and if you get the chance to visit the National Gallery in London it is well worth a look. For something that is over 600 years old it is wonderfully well preserved and the colours are stunning. This is one of the panels.



From my father I have been given a love of books, the countryside, walking, dogs and growing vegetables. He read a great deal but always returned to Charles Dickens. I love Dickens too, especially Great Expectations but my father's favourite was Bleak House.

 
 
I miss my father-in-law too. He was always the life and soul of any party. He was a good sportsman excelling at most things he turned his hand to. He passed on his love of cricket to my husband and sons. He would have loved England's recent victory over India in the Test series. This photo isn't the England team - it's even better! It's the members of Stoneygate Cricket Club, including my husband and sons and was taken on tour at Castle Rising in Norfolk.



I miss my grandparents who gave me so much love and time and my wonderful godmother for her gentleness and wisdom. She was brilliant with words too and I treasured the chatty letters she sent when I was at boarding school. I miss my beautiful friend, Charlotte, who was killed in a car accident when we were only eighteen. I often wonder what sort of life she would be leading now and if we would still be friends.

We make new traditions. We make new families. In the New Year a baby will add to our number and the family will shift and grow again. But it is those who have gone before who make us who and what we are now. So at Christmas I will pour myself a glass of champagne and make a toast to absent friends. I hope that all of these people and others I haven't mentioned are up there amongst the stars looking down on me and my family.




Thank-you for reading my blog over the past few months and I send you special wishes for happiness and peace at Christmas and in the year to come.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Last Chance Angel

This week I am writing a little about my latest book, Last Chance Angel, which is due out in June 2013 with the wonderful Templar Publishing,http://www.templarco.co.uk/



The roots of this book stretch back a long way.  I was 17 and living in Oxford whilst I took my A'levels.



One afternoon, cycling along the Banbury Road into the centre of town a car pulled out from a side road, right in front of me. I applied the brakes but it was raining, the road surface was greasy and I couldn't stop in time. Thwack! I hit the side of the car, somersaulted over the bonnet and landed in the road. By some miracle I was unhurt although the driver didn't bother to stop and find that out. Over the years I have looked back at that incident and thought how extremely lucky I was. My guardian angel must have been with me that day.



So that is where Last Chance Angel starts, with fourteen year old Jess cycling home in the dusk and drizzle, without lights. Jess is not as lucky as I was. When she collides with a car she ends up in hospital, in a coma. Hovering between life and death Jess is called to Heaven where she meets Darren, an Angel of Death. But Jess has been called on the wrong day and Darren is afraid of his mistake being found out so they strike a bargain. Jess can return to her earthly body and, in invisible form, she is given the chance to visit her friends in order to say goodbye. But when she does, nothing is quite as she expects it to be. I suppose if I had to write a one page synopsis of my book it would be that - 'things never turn out quite as you expect them to.' Or to paraphrase Heraclitus -

 
'Expect the Unexpected'
 


Certainly, when I started this book I never anticipated that it would take me quite so long to write or the turmoil that would overtake my life during those few years of on/off writing. I stuck with this book through the deaths of both of my parents, health issues, legal problems, family rifts and difficulties within my husband's business. At the same time I was dropped by my previous publishers, Macmillan, spent 6 months working on a series for another publisher which came to nothing and received rejection after rejection for other pieces of work. I considered giving up writing for publication and took a year off to re-train as a reflexologist. But I loved my tenacious heroine, Jess and she would not let go of me. So, little by little I was drawn back to this story and to writing in all its forms. I was forced to acknowledge and accept a simple fact:-

 
'I need to write'
 
 

To see that written large on the page looks a little meldramatic but writing is a large part of what makes me who I am. My mother used to tell me that I thought too much and she was right. But I believe that getting those thoughts down on paper is good for me. My family would confirm that it certainly makes me easier to live with!

Last Chance Angel was not an easy book to write and I am incredibly grateful to those friends and family who supported me throughout the project and showed faith in my ability when I was lacking faith in myself. I'm also grateful to my editors at Templar who have been so enthusiastic about the book and helpful in refining it. I love Jess despite the fact that it was at times exhausting putting myself in her position and I hope readers will love her too. If I was ever lucky enough for this book to be made into a film I would want it to be set in the U.K. and I'd definitely want a British actress to play Jess, preferably someone completely unknown.

I'd like to give a big thanks to Debbie White for asking me to write this blog as part of The Next Big Thing where authors nominate other authors to blog about their latest work or work in progress. You can read about Debbie's latest novel, Deceit, at http://deborahjwhite.blogspot.co.uk/

And finally to everyone out there who is struggling with a piece of writing or getting those rejection letters dropping on to the doormat, just keep on going, have faith in yourself and in your work. It will pay off in the end.

Thank- you for taking the time to read this blog.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Christmas Tree Spree

I love Christmas! I don't like the decorations going up too early and I hate to see Christmas paraphernalia for sale in September but on the first weekend in December a nearby village holds a Christmas tree festival and we've been going for about the last seven or eight years. This is when I begin to absorb the spirit of Christmas.

This year we navigated the country roads on a bitterly cold and foggy Friday evening but it was worth the effort. The church of St. Andrews was warm and welcoming and as for the Christmas trees - well they were magnificent, better than ever. Here is a small sample of what we saw:-


This one was covered in little felt decorations and was called 'A Heartfelt Christmas' My photo doesn't do it justice. It was very pretty and loads of work had gone into making it.

 
 
I loved the simplicity of these pieces of driftwood with just some lights wound around.
 
This next one was actually called 'Simplici-tree'
 
 
This one below was beautifully made of pine cones and was called 'WARNING - This tree may contain nuts'.
 
 
There was a 'Christmas Carol' tree with this tombstone to the side.
 
 
 
 And in the junior section ' A Shoe Tree'.
 
 
 One of my favourites was  'Come in and have a nice CUP OF TREE'.
 
 
The winner in the adult section (which the Dearly Beloved voted for) was 'Wild Floristree'.
It had silver twigs
 
 
Furry bees and baubles containing photographs of flowers
 
 
As well as an owl!
 
There were 55 entries in all so this is only a taster.All proceeds will go to leukemia and lymphoma research, St. Andrew's Church and Burton Overy village hall.
 
 There is one more tree I have to include -
the tree for Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young Adults
 
One of the messages on this tree particularly caught my eye.
It was written by a nurse called Lisa who said.:-
"At Rainbows we laugh, we play but above all we can make every single moment count."
 
So when I'm getting stressed over Christmas about whether everyone has the presents they want or if the turkey is going to be dry, I shall try to remember the children at Rainbows Hospice and Lisa's words. They put everything into perspective.
 
Thank-you for looking at my blog. Next week I'll be writing about my latest book, Last Chance Angel which is to be published by Templar Books in June 2013. This is a book which I was writing through some of the most difficult times in my life. It was a book I vowed to finish, a book I was so committed to that I promised myself that if it didn't find a publisher I would publish it myself. It is a book which has really challenged me as a writer and I hope you'll return to hear a little more about it and where the idea came from.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Next Big Thing - Pippa Goodhart

This week I'm delighted to welcome Pippa Goodhart as a guest on my blog as part of The Next Big Thing, where authors answer questions about their latest work or work in progress.
So, over to Pippa:

What is the title of your next book?

 ‘Finding Fortune’

 
Where did the idea for the book come from?

My mother had a family ring that always intrigued me.  It was a Victorian golden ring set with a bit of quartz stone through which ran a streak of natural gold.  It had, I was told, been given to my great great grandmother by her brother who had brought it back from the Klondike. 
 
 
 
So I started reading about the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush …..

 
What genre does your book fit into?

Historical adventure for readers of about eight to twelve.

 
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, I’d certainly want Maggie Smith to play Grandmama, even though I had written that character before Downton Abbey hit our television screens!  Fa and Ida I would like played by brilliant actors I’d never seen in anything before so that I could truly believe that they were those characters.

 
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Escaping stuffy family expectations, Ida runs away with Fa to travel many thousands of dangerous miles in a search for gold, but also a search for a life for their little family now that Mama has died.

 
How long did it take you to write the first draft?

Gosh, I’m not sure!  I did so much research and note-making, then wrote with false starts before even getting to writing the first draft, but it certainly took (enjoyable) months and months.

 
Will your book be self-published or are you represented by an agency/publishers?

It is to be published by Catnip in March 2013.

 
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I suppose my own ‘Raven Boy’ was similarly an adventure based on real history, although that book is set in 1666 London, with plague and the Great Fire, and the ravens at The Tower. 

 
Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The ‘what’ would be that golden ring.  The ‘who’ would be the important people in my life who believe that my writing is worthwhile.

 
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I discovered so much of interest when researching the Klondike Gold Rush that I was in danger of over-stuffing the story with facts.  My way around that problem was to have Ida writing occasional letters to Grandmama back home, telling odd and interesting  and funny details that she thinks will amuse or impress the old lady.  She doesn’t tell Grandmama that she gets chased by a bear!

Over a hundred thousand people set off to find Klondike gold, most travelling many thousands of miles, going into completely wild, almost Arctic, terrain.  Each had to carry a ton of goods on which to live once they got into the Klondike.  They scaled mountains, made their own boats, then sailed and rowed and poled those boats down rapids and rivers for thousands of miles as the ice broke in the spring …. Giving them just a short sub-Arctic summer in which to pan and dig and sift for gold before winter closed in again.  Crooks and heroes, innocents and hardened adventurers all went, and so did women and some children. 
A big thank-you to Pippa for telling us all of this and roll on March 2013, the publication date of Finding Fortune. I can't wait to read it from cover to cover. If you want to know more about Pippa's books check out her website at www.pippagoodhart.co.uk