TIPS OF THE DAY

Gardening:

Beware the dreaded lily beetle is already on the prowl in South West England.

These pesky things are an absolute menance and ruin not just lilies, they like any of the lilium family and frequently attack crocosmia, day lilies and hyacinths. The little blighters contrary to belief can fly. Their young look like black blobs of sticky excrement, which is exactly what it is. They cover themselves in their own poo to hide from predators. I don’t like using any chemicals or sprays in the garden, particularly as we have a large koi pond but I’m afraid I rage war on these creatures. I use a systemic insectide, one especially made for lily beetles. Their method of escape is to drop to the ground and burrow into the soil if they see so much as a hand spray near them. I’m just not quick enough to catch them any other way.

Kitchen:

Never run out of fresh milk again. Milk freezes very well so always keep several pint bottles of fresh milk of the sort that comes in plastic bottles. Milk freezes well. It does look yucky when frozen but returns to normal and thaws swiftly. Other than that, you may have to buy a cow.

Arty Things:

Do you ever find the plastic caps on your tubes of paint break, becoming useless long before the paint’s run out. If by strange chance an empty tube still has it’s cap in tact, thoroughly clean, scraping out any conglomeration of paint on the insides, and keep as spares.

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Novel competitions are rare compared with the plethora for short stories and poetry so last week’s announcement calling for submissions to the 2012 Harry Bowling Prize for unpublished novelists is most welcome. It also prompted my first blog proper. I want to tell you a little story. Sitting comfortably? Coffee at hand?  Good, I’ll begin.

 

Every Step of the Way
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a wannabe writer worked for 10 years alone in her ivory bedroom writing and dreaming of being a published author. A fairy godmother appeared in the guise of the Artists’ & Writer’s Yearbook telling her of the Harry Bowling Prize. But there were strict rules to follow: 10,000 words plus synopsis. Unpublished. Any genre. Must be set in London. Our heroine had written two and a bit books. None fitted the last criteria. Undaunted, knowing London well, she set about writing another, centring on something unique to that city. The task complete, she sent off her entry. And waited. And waited. Waited until the day a buff-coloured envelope arrived. Excited, she ripped it open. The dreaded word “Unfortunately” leapt out at her. Disappointed but not disheartened, she began to write another book, a ghost story. Woooo oooo. Spooky.

Two years passed. 2004 arrived. The next HB competition opened. The same rules applied. This time her book was set in London. Well, partly. And it still needed a synopsis. Arrrgh the dreaded synopsis, she thought, almost giving up then and there. Harry Bowling, she learnt, wrote London sagas. Ah ha, was that the magic formula needed? If she turned hers into a saga would it stand more of a chance? After all, that’s what he wrote. So, waving a magic pen, she switched genres, the Goldington Ghost changing into Every Step of the Way. She kissed her entry goodbye, sending it far, far away to the land of the MBA Agency.

Each day she anticipated the coming again of the buff envelope. It never arrived. August almost ended, two days to go before she was to fly away on holiday, the telephone rang. Oh how her heart somersaulted hearing those wonderful words, “I’m delighted to tell you, you have been shortlisted.” She screamed. She cried. She laughed all the way to cloud nine with no aeroplane wings to get there, her feet never touching the ground for months after.

An invitation arrived requesting her presence at the presentation party where the winner would be announced. In an upstairs room of a little French restaurant in London, accompanied by her two ugly (sorry) beautiful twin sisters, she ate delicious canapés, drank copious wine, and met friends she knew from the RNA and many more besides. Such fun, such laughter. Such tension.

Every Step of the Way didn’t win but our heroine was far from sad. For her, being shortlisted was happiness enough. The runner-up prize money enough to buy a flat screen for her computer, the box of chocolates greedily scoffed on the train ride home, the HB book indeed a great read, these things were insignificant to the real treasures received that day. These were the gifts of acknowledgement and recognition she could write good, proof she had something valuable to say. People finally sitting up, taking notice, saying, “Here is a serious writer”. A giant kick to boost her ego, a foot through agents’ doors and a springboard over the slush piles. And finally, joy of joys, she found a top London agent.

(Pssst: This is the part where you grab a tissue) Unfortunately (why is there always an unfortunately?) the agent didn’t find a publisher. “The market’s flooded with sagas at the moment.” “Sagas aren’t popular any more.” “We can’t take a gamble on an unknown in today’s financial market.” Horrible words our heroine didn’twant to hear. But despite all, she never gave up trying to change from a wannabe into a real published author.

A happy ending to my story hasn’t been written. There isn’t one. Not yet.

However, it is certainly not a tale of misery or woe. On the contrary. It’s one of determination and encouragement, of not giving up, of wanting to live the dream and trying one’s damnedest to make wishes come true. For our heroine, entering the fabulous Harry Bowling competition was one of the best things she ever did, from the valuable lessons learned, the tantalizing glimpse of what can be achieved, to all the marvellous, supportive and close friends made along the way.

And friends, this isn’t a fairy story.  It’s true. I know. I am that heroine.

So go on, give the Harry Bowling a go. It’s worth it. And Good luck.  I might even try again. Who knows?

Every Step of the Way, a 1950s London saga, is scheduled to be released on Kindle during 2011.

Kitchen Tip of the Day:
Fed up with cleaning the oven floor? All those horrible burnt on bits? The smoke? The spray cleaner fumes? A pain in the proverbial to kneel on floor to clean, even worse trying to get back up? Do what I do. Place a large, cheap or past-its-best baking tray on the oven floor and leave there. Take out and wash occasionally or chuck in dishwasher every now and again. When it gets really bad, place in dustbin and buy another tray. Sorted.


Hello world!

Hello and congratulations if you have stumbled upon this blog.  Before you do anything else, please make a note in your diary of today’s date. It is a historic one. One I hope you will remember. For today is a first. My first blog! I always said I wouldn’t write one, I wouldn’t need one, that I didn’t have the time, that I didn’t have anything interesting or worthwhile to say that others would want to read. So today I would just like to introduce myself. I write. I paint. Simples. Well actually no, it’s not.

If like me you write, be it short stories, long stories, novels, articles and letters or just plain greeting cards you will understand how complicated, frustrating and exhilarating it is. If you paint, you will know how relaxing and enjoyable it can be. If you do neither, there may still be something here for you.

Over the next few weeks/months/years/eons/millennium the intention is to immerse you into the exciting world of writing and painting. I will introduce you to fellow writers and artists, link you to sites of special interest, hold discussions, interviews, share my experiences and where requested, offer advice. There will be items on writing, on art and on food, wine and cookery. Hopefully a regular recipe or kitchen hints and tips  as a starter for ten.

I hope it will be fun. I hope it will be entertaining.  I don’t know at this point how often I shall write here but hope you will visit often.  If you have read thus far, I have at least held your attention. For a writer, that means everything. Thank you.

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