Tag Archive | WRITING

Showcase with Linn B Halton

I have Linn B Halton joining me over on Showcase as she reveals the cover to her new novel Never Alone. Pop on over and have a look – there’s also two rather dishy fellas there too!  Click here to read more:

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My Next Big Thing

Having been double-tagged recently for the Next Big Thing by Gilli Allan and Joanne Lambert, I couldn’t really refuse, so hang to your hats and settle down to read about what’s simmering on the back burner of creation for Kit Domino.

The game plan is I answer a stack of questions about what I’m currently working on and tag five other friends to take part. The questions are easy to deal with, what isn’t is the sad fact I haven’t got five friends left to tag (Billy No Mates Left, me!) as most, it seems, have been tagged already. But what the heck, I’ll do it anyway. If you want to take part in next week’s bundle feel free. Let me know and I’ll add you as an official tag. Of course, you can just go ahead and tell us about your next big thing anyway. So… here goes mine.

Ten Interview Questions: The Next Big Thing

What is the working title of your book?  I’m currently working on Whitestones. The book is finished and has been for some time but is in the process of being reworked and updated.

Where did the idea come from for the book? The story was inspired from hearing a particular piece of classical music  for the first time. I’m a great lover of classical music but this is not one of those frequently played on radio, but the sort of tune that once you’ve heard it, you can’t help falling in love with it. I came cross it by chance on a complication CD. I thought it so beautiful, so dreamy and romantic I had to use it, even to the point of obtaining the sheet music and teaching myself to play it on the piano, and so plays an integral part to the plot.

What genre does your book fall under? That’s a difficult one to answer. I would class it as a romantic mystery, but because it has paranormal elements it’s been classed (by others) as a paranormal.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? There are four central characters within Whitestones. Keria Knightly would be brilliant Penny, the lead heroine, alongside Anna Friel. The jury’s still out over the male roles but I would love Kevin Costner to play Harry, the lead male, failing that, Patrick Demsey, with George Cloney playing the professor.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A story of music and love that transcends the barriers of time.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? ThornBerry Publishing will be publishing the ebook, hopefully next year if I can pull my finger out.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Probably about 12 months. It’s had many rewrites already as it was first drafted many years ago, long before Every Step of the Way.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? There is a touch of Rebecca in the beginning, and think Nicholas Sparks and Barbara Erskine and you would be on the right track, but because Whitestones is cross-genre, and has a story line that is, I have been told by “those in the know”, quite different to anything else around, I can’t think of a single book I could compare it with.

Widden Hill House. Picture courtesy of David Harper

Who or What inspired you to write this book? There were two inspirations. The first, a large mansion in the Cotswolds near Chipping Sodbury where I lived once upon a time (pictured). The other, the fact that I’ve always been fascinated by the unexplained, paranormal events, ghosts and hauntings etc. It was whilst watching a series on TV some years ago that explored many of the locations around Britain that were reportedly haunted, I realised that many of these occurrences had a familiar theme. I began to question what was behind these stories, delving and digging deeper and reaching my own conclusions in seeking to find an explanation. This is explored in Whitestones. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Picture the scene: A lonely house overlooking the Severn valley on a stormy night during the wettest summer in recorded history, Penny alone inside. Cue music – making Penny think she’s left a radio on somewhere in the house. Okay, cut music. … I said CUT MUSIC! Oh, you have? Ah, now that really is a problem because Penny can still hear it. In her head, playing over and over again. Constantly playing, for days at a time, enough to drive her to the brink of insanity and headlong towards a breakdown. And so begins her and Harry’s journey to seek out the source and find answers. What they discover will astound them, and you.

Okay … now over to you.

(Read my recent interviews with Carol E Wyer   and Nicky Wells)

Fellow author at ThornBerry Publishing, Shirley Wright also talks about her Next Big Thing is too! Click here to read

Top Tips for Book Signings – A Light Hearted Look

Sunday saw me at my first (and only) book signing at my local Waterstones branch. I chose this one for two reasons: it’s in a humongous shopping mall that’s always busy, plenty of free parking and close to an intersection of two major motorways; and at the moment the store is promoting local authors and you don’t get much more local than me at only 10 minutes’ walk away! The staff were wonderful, so friendly and helpful but it took a great deal of courage for me to go in and ask if I could use the store for my debut! I like to learn something new each day and having gone through the experience, thought I would pass on my top tips, the do’s and the don’ts for book signings.

1) Don’t pick a day when major sporting events are on television. In my case, the Wimbledon final and the British Grand Prix. The first couple of hours were busy, time flew by and books sold. Come 2 o’clock, the store was pretty much deserted.

2) Although very much out of our hands, try to pick a day that you know will be wet. The shopping malls and stores are always much busier at weekends when it’s raining. Or in my case, rain was forecast but they got it wrong again – the afternoon was bright and dry and mild.

3) Wait until all the furore over the latest current best seller has died down or else you won’t get so much as a glance. In my case, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy at discount was flying off the shelves, stacked at the entrance to the store, thus few ventured deeper into the bowels of the shop where my table was in the fiction section. I should have written a sex novel, even badly, and had a husband who was a PR manager. My book, Every Step of the Way, is set in West London in the locations where I grew up. Guess what? The author of Fifty Shades also comes from West London apparently. From my home town! Perhaps we know each other? I will have to find out… I wonder if her husband would be my PR manager too if I ask.

4) Don’t stagger in with extra copies of your book in case the store run out of stock. Be realistic. I didn’t and I was. I left my extra copies in the boot of the car, just in case some miracle might happen. It didn’t.

5) Do rally the troups, cajole, plead, beg and persuade, or in my case bribe with offers of a free lunch, family and friends to come into the store, preferably all at the same time. This creates a queue at your table and a crowd gathered around you. Great stuff – people are always curious and nosey and want to see what is going on, see what they are missing. Worked a treat. Thank you everyone who came in to say hello, take photos, buy the book. I love you dearly. Family – where the hell were you? Oh yes, I forgot. Most of  mine live 80 or more miles away, some even further afield, abroad. So, dear family in Spain. I am in need of a holiday and some sun. Can you arrange a book signing for me there? P…l…e…a…s…e…

6) Do contact your local paper in advance to tell them, particularly if they have previously covered you writing the book. They love a follow on story. … Except in my case. They didn’t and still haven’t returned my calls or emails. Shame on you.

7) Do approach people in the store with your book, it creates more sales and interest. Oh heck! When the manager told me this, I nearly fainted and backed out. You see, I’m a shy, nervous person who finds it exceedingly difficult to strike up a conversation with a stranger. My mum told me never to talk to strangers and it’s sort of inbred in me. The crowd around the table helped to spark interest. One or two did approach me later. The rest, I plucked up the courage and approached. “Hey, I love  your dress, where did you get it from?” “Are you here to buy anything specific or just browsing?” “Do you read historical fiction?” “Interested in the 1950s?” “Have you read this great book set in London and the West Country?” I felt like a shop assistant, particularly when someone approached me (smile, Kit, here comes another sale…) and asked if I worked there and could I tell them where they could find a book about some Russian or other. A teddy bear was thrown at my feet by a child in a pushchair. A friendly smile from me as I gracefully bent to retrieve and hand back the discarded toy, all the while thinking this is a good way to begin talking to the parent about my book. Well, it would have been if it had been a woman. “No sorry, love, I don’t do books. I’m here with the wife. She’s at the till buying Fifty Shades of Sex or whatever it is. I keep telling her she spends too much on books.” Oh well, foiled again.

8) Don’t drink copious amounts of tea or coffee or gin beforehand to calm the nerves else you’ll need to leave your table at frequent intervals and miss potential sales.  A swift coffee when I arrived and no food passed my lips all morning because I know what my body is like under stress. Too much detail? Okay, I’ll move on.

9) Don’t get your hair stylist to cut your hair a few days before the big day, particularly if they are zealous with the scissors. I looked like Ellie from Ice Age… still, I suppose I am that old. A bit of a relic, or is that wreck?

10) Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. It was a great experience, and as a writer, there was plenty to observe and note mentally. All good research material to use in a book one day. And you never know, I might one day be back there signing another new novel.

Simon Seahorse – A Fishy Tale

Rifling through my desk drawers the other day in search of an elusive document I needed, I came across a file I had totally forgotten about. Opening its green cover revealed a spiral bound collection of short stories I had written – from a cycling pig to the story behind an oil painting I owned – well over twenty years ago typed on my old Amstrad 9512 (what a great word processor that was!). I had filed them away because I thought these stories were all pretty much rubbish. Looking at them now with a seasoned and trained eye, I’ve come to the conclusion they actually weren’t half bad. One in particular brought back fond memories as it was written as a bedtime story for my granddaughter when she was about two years old. She always asked for it whenever she came to stay.

Called The Adventures of Simon Seahorse, at the time I’d intended to write a collection of stories about this little seahorse, each with a moral. I think having written the first, I came to the conclusion I wasn’t really a child’s story writer and was still trying to find my feet as a writer. This was long before I’d even begun to think of writing whole novels; short stories being a progression from the poetry I’d written.

Reading Simon Seahorse now I can see it is very much in the vain of Finding Nemo but I am glad I hadn’t thrown it away, grateful for advice given to me at a writing course in London to “Never, ever throw away anything you have written. Never delete or erase for it will always come in useful somewhere one day”. I don’t think Simon will ever turn out to be the great adventurer I’d hoped he would be but it was fun writing it at the time and reading it my granddaughter. I wonder if she remembers him?

I’ve included a short extract below and would be interested to hear your opinion of it and ask as I do of my paintings: Hang, slash or burn? Or in this case: Publish, hide away or shred?

THE ADVENTURE OF SIMON SEAHORSE

Simon Seahorse heaved a huge sigh. He was so bored! Every day it was always the same – nothing but eating to do. Now, eating all day was all very well, and yes, there were advantages, of course, but let’s be honest about it, eating all day, day after day, isn’t much fun, especially when it’s always the same – nothing but plankton and seaweed. It was plankton for breakfast, plankton for lunch, and guess what was for tea? Yes, plankton, followed by a nibble of seaweed for pudding.

Simon wanted to have some fun for a change. The trouble was all his brothers and sisters ever wanted to do was eat. All the other little seahorses wanted to do all day was eat. They didn’t want to play and swim and enjoy the ocean. It was all so boring obeying his parents’ orders, for they were the same each day, too!

“Now don’t forget, children,” his Mummy would say. “Eat up all you can so you will go big and strong like Daddy.” “Yes, Mummy, we will,” all the little seahorses would chant in chorus. “Eat up all your greens or your tails will never stay curly,” Daddy Seahorse would add. “We will.” “And don’t forget to keep well away from Garry the Grouper, or he’ll gobble you up for his supper.”

“Okay Mummy, we won’t forget,” all the little seahorses would reply. All except Simon, that is. He would just open and close his mouth, pretending to answer. He wasn’t frightened of Garry the Grouper. He’d never seen him but he’d heard all about the big fat black fish that patrolled the edge of the Sargasso Sea where they all lived. Mean old Garry wouldn’t catch him for breakfast, nor for lunch and especially not for supper.

So today, Simon decided he was going to have some fun instead. He swam alongside all his brothers and sisters, pretending to nibble at the little bits of plankton that drifted by on the current, darting in and out of the seaweed, and when he was sure they were not watching, and keeping one of his little eyes on his mummy and daddy, Simon slipped his tail off the long weed stem he was holding on to, and swam silently away from the group.

He swam and swam, wiggling his tiny pink body over towards the next patch of floating seaweed where he knew his one and only friend, Julie the Jellyfish, lived.

Mummy and Daddy Seahorse didn’t like him being friendly with jellyfish as jellyfish are well‑known to be rather fond of eating young, tender seahorses, or any other little fish for that matter.

But Julie was different. She, too, was bored with floating about all day just trailing her long tentacles in the water hoping to catch a fish or two for her dinner. She would drift over close to where Simon usually hung about, but instead of wanting to eat him, she only  wanted someone to talk to and play with.

Julie was delighted to see Simon swimming her way, although she was very surprised to see him alone today. Normally his parents wouldn’t let him out on his own for he was still very young, and the ocean was a very dangerous place for a little seahorse to be swimming about in all alone. There were lots of big nasty fish about, especially Garry the Grouper, who loved nothing better for breakfast than little lost seahorses, and there were lots of strong currents in the water that could sweep you away great distances so that you became lost, never to find your way back home again!

“Hello, Simon,” said Julie when he finally reached her.

“Hello, Julie,” Simon replied. “Will you play with me today? I’m so fed up with just eating. Let’s go and find some fun.”

“Oh let’s,” Julie said, shaking her long tentacles with excitement. “But are you sure? Does your Mummy and Daddy know where you are?”

“Of course they do,” Simon fibbed. “I’m almost grown up now. I can swim where ever I want to, as long as I’m home before dark!” He was so convincing that Julie believed him.

“All right,” she said. “What shall we do?”

The two friends decided they would swim out further along under the floating seaweed and see what they could find there. Neither of them had been that far before so it was going to be quite an adventure, so off they swam side by side.

As they went, they could see lots of other seahorses clinging onto the weeds by their curly tails and all were busy eating. They saw lots of other jellyfish too. Some small like Julie, others much, much bigger with long trailing tentacles that stretched for yards beneath them.

“You have to be very careful of those long tentacles,” Julie warned Simon. “They sting if you touch them and then they haul you in and gobble you up, so keep well away from them.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Julie, I’ll be careful,” Simon said. “Will your tentacles grow that long, and will you sting if I touch you?”

“I expect I will grow much, much bigger. As big as my Mummy and Daddy, I think. My tentacles already sting like theirs, but because I like you and you are my best friend, I will not sting you. Ever!”

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Don’t forget – you can catch up on my Slimming for George campaign here

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The Hippy Hippy Shake

So, here we are into February already. A full 12 months of not having to the do the 9-to-5, and loving it. But what has 2012 brought already? Well, apart from the cold setting in now, quite a bit to the Domino household.

I’ve become a Great Auntie again. My niece, whose baby shower I attended at the beginning of the year, gave birth to a beautiful little girl – Evie Faith. I am so looking forward to my first cuddle.

Talking of the cold, New Year’s Day was greeted by the first of this year’s crocus in bloom on the front lawn. A few days later, several clumps of snowdrops appeared and now all along my drive is a sea of flowers which, with the sun on them, open out brightening the day and putting smiles on passers-by faces. The hellebores are about to open too, only today after last night’s heavy frost, they are hanging limp and forlorn. But they will pick up again. I hope.

I’ve managed to complete a few paintings over the weekends  For one, I tried something different to landscapes this time. I think Pink Flowers it came out rather well. 



I’m close to completing the final edits of one of my novels, ready to be published soon. It is actually quite scary after all this time to be on the brink again. Like being on the edge of a precipice – will I fly or will I fall? But then, that’s me … always nervous, always shy.

There has been one other major event in my household in January. On the 12th, my husband underwent a hip replacement operation. He’s doing okay now, but we did have a few “difficult” days whilst he was in hospital and shortly after he eventually came home. I won’t bore you with all the details as I don’t want this to be a moan, suffice to say one ward care assistant is no longer employed at our local hospital thanks to her lack of due diligence and neglect of care.

Today he managed to walk to our doctors and back on his own with the aid of only one walking stick instead of two, and yesterday was able to make us both a coffee and carry it through to me. He still needs a lot of help with washing and dressing and getting into bed, and still eating a lot of painkillers, but it is early days. Thankfully, he has been fitted with a ceramic hip joint, not a metal one like there’s been all the fuss about lately; you may have heard.  This because he is still relatively young, still working and very fit. (Time now to look away if you are squeamish!)

He did rather grin widely when he saw on the medical form he collected today what our GP had written beside Likely Date Fit For Work Again: June 2012. The smile soon fell away when I reminded him he doesn’t get sick leave pay from his company, only SSP. Apart from which, I know him only too well. Come March he will be itching to get out and do some gardening, and by then he will also be missing his job and friends at work. I’ll give it until April. You can’t keep a good man down for long!

Click here for my latest batch of household hints and tips.

A Sense of Place

Location plays an important part in novels. It sets the scene, helps brings the story to life with realism, especially when actual places are used, places readers may know and can envisage. In each of my novels location has proved invaluable to creating atmosphere: London and the River Thames in Every Step of the Way and Queenie Queenie, a Cotswold Georgian mansion where I once lived in Whitestones, and the Greek island of Thassos in Where Two Worlds Collide. This last location, although a very real island, is one I have not visited yet but, being a lover of all things Greek and having over the last 12 years had the fortune to visit many Greek islands, a vivid imagination knows how that island must look. That and images and descriptions found on the Internet, of course.

So it did come as a great shock when recently holidaying on Corfu when I found myself staying in a beautiful bay on the east coast that exactly mirrored the bay and location I had created in Two Worlds. In this novel, a time slip, I describe a large villa built against a cliffside, spread over three levels. There is a swimming pool on the second terrace and rough stone steps flanked by blue morning glory, oleander and hibiscus bushes leading down to a narrow sandy beach in a shallow bay guarded by high headlands. A short walk along the beach on a rickety boardwalk takes my heroine to the nearby village, otherwise reached by a dusty dirt road over the cliff before descending to a scattering of houses and tavernas. I have no doubt innumerable bays and resorts around Greece mirror this but there was something else about Agios Gordios that made this extra weird.

In my book, there is a cave leading up through the cliff to an old village set way back in the hills. The entrance is hidden from view by a rock stack in which there is a huge wasps’ nest at the summit. Just as at Agios Gordios!

Imagine then my surprise at finding just such things at the hotel I stayed at. Built over several terraces, a swimming pool on the second, stone steps down to the beach, the village reached by a short walk along the beach, the high cliffs flanking the bay and that eerie monolith of rock hiding caves. Caves, I did not venture into, I hasten to add. Weird things happen there in my book that I didn’t want to happen to me.

As I watched the sunrise over the bay that very first morning, it was like a homecoming. The sense of déjà vu overwhelming as the cicadas ceased their singing and slunk back into the dank undergrowth and the birds trilled in the growing light, for I knew the place well. It was scary and yet comfortable all at the same time. My travelling companions were taken aback when I led them to the village by the long route through dusty paths between semi-derelict and bougainvillea-clad houses and guided them to familiar tavernas spread along the beach, knew what time the fishing boats came into the narrow jetty. How? Because I had written about it all, described each element.

Perhaps I had been there before, in a past life or in a dream. Whatever the reason, Agios Gordios will remain in my memory for a lifetime. It will have to as I have probably lost all my holiday photos thanks to a computer error. Hopefully the Greek Gods will look down kindly on me and restore them or else take my path back there some day so I can take some more whilst sampling one of the many cocktails served at Agios Gordios.

A Serious Case of Writer’s Block

Is there such a thing, or is this a term used by writers who know they want to write, know they must write, but are frightened to put pen to paper or put fingers to the keyboard? We all go through a phase when nothing seems to come into our heads, and the mind and page remain blank.

Writing is a habit, one is easily broken by distractions of life and home cutting in. You set yourself tasks, allot your precious “writing time” into your busy schedule yet nothing spills out. Or you reach a point in your current WIP, often in the middle when the plot and story sag, or in my case droop, and you don’t know how to move it forward. It’s happened on numerous occasions, particular when I haven’t been able to work on one of my books for a long time. Artists also experience this self-same thing so, obviously, it must be some electrical brain impulse thingy hard at work blocking the brain stems from creativity. So what can we do to get the right synapses working again?

In the many years I’ve been writing I’ve developed a few  ploys to jump-start the creative juices so thought I would share them with you. They may not work for you, but in all cases, it doesn’t matter what you write, it can all be totally incomprehensible and probably end up being deleted but at least you are writing, and writing is all about habit. Or you may find, as I have, that magic scene you were searching for comes alive. The missing part to get from B to C materialises. Or you find you really need a new dress to wear to next week’s party.

1)      Put on some music. Your favourite CD. Music is mood enhancing. Music retrieves memories. Both of these can inspire. Not working? Then write about the actual words you are listening to. Write down the lyrics. Write your own lyrics to the melody. They might not make sense, but somewhere there will be the prompt, that little spark that turns on the word gush.

2)     Turn everything off, open the window and just listen. Listen to the sounds in the street, those around you. Can you hear bird song? Traffic noise? People talking? Something else? Write a few sentences about what you can hear. Now, what can you see? Again, write it down. Next, smell the air. Is it sweet, damp, of mown grass, or full of  bbq fumes? Imagine what’s going on and write it down.

3)     Open the wardrobe door. Look at your clothes. Pick out your favourite outfit or dress or pair of shoes. Imagine the place where you would most like to wear it. What you would like to happen. Whom you would like to meet whilst in that sexy little red number? Imagine your heroine in the outfit. Would it suit her? Would it be her style? If not, what would she like to wear, and why.

4)      Too cold, wet or windy to have the window open? Then what can you hear indoors? In your writing room. A clock ticking? The hard drive on your computer whirring? What memories have you of clocks? Computers? The neighbours arguing? The kid across the road battling hell out of his new drum kit? Can you recall a funny instance concerning any or all of the things you can hear? Write it down. Create a scene. Unblock the mind.

5)      Turn on Google Images. Type in where you would most like to be in the world. Look at the photos that come up and then imagine yourself there. What would you be wearing? Why are you there? Are you meeting someone?

6)      Write the last scene of your novel and work backwards to where the lull in the middle is.

7)      Take a book from your library, preferably one you haven’t yet read, more preferable, one you are liable not to read. Write the second-to-last paragraph out. Then, using this as an opening gambit, write what happens next. Or, if you prefer, write a scene leading up to this final paragraph.

8)      Open any page in today’s newspaper. Pick one article or one leader. Write your own slant on it.

I bet you haven’t got writers’ block now. I bet your thought processes are flying quicker than you can type after just one of these exercises. I hope I’ve given you a few ideas that will work for you. Do tell me about it or of any tricks you have to fire up the imagination.

The Good In This World And The Bad

The Good in this World

I have been overwhelmed by the generosity in sponsorship for Walk for George taking place at the end of this month (see earlier post). Many of you have already sent donations and I am truly grateful, as I know George and his parents will be. So on behalf of the family, a huge, big THANK YOU. There is still time to sponsor the walk if you wish. All money raised helps pay for George’s therapy and treatment. It is our hope that this time next year, this adorable 4-year-old will be able to take part in the walk too, even if it is just a few unaided steps.

And the Bad

I was horrified, as I am sure you were, to see and hear of the dreadful treatment metered out to residents at a care home near to where I live in South Gloucestershire, brought to the public’s attention by this week’s Panorama Report.  I am also appalled that despite complaints being made in the past about this home, nothing was ever done to stop their suffering at the hands of ill-trained, thoughtless bullies. What horrifies me even more is the thought that little George could have ended up in such an institution if were not for the love and devotion of his parents and the support of family and friends in providing the care he needs. Not all children are so fortunate.

Whilst I readily agree not all care homes and hospitals are the same, indeed many are run by dedicated trained staff who are committed to providing the best care and quality of life they can to their clients, it does beg the question: if it goes on here, where else is it happening? Because it does happen. It always has, from the days of Bedlam and beyond, but that doesn’t make it right.

So, please, dear friends, if you hear even a whisper of such goings on in a home or hospital near you, do report it. Blow the whistle as loud as you can. If we can prevent just one person being treated so appallingly, it will have been worth it.

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Tip of the Day: Always Leave on a Good Note – so here’s one!

I was delighted and thrilled at being asked to join the website community of  Loveahappyending.com, part of Writers Following Their DreamClub founded by the lovely Linn B Halton. This new website, launching on 29th June amidst strawberries and champagne, aims to interactively promote and support selected newly published authors in almost all genres, especially those published independently. We will also be following, helping, encouraging and sharing the journeys of “new faces”, unpublished authors on course to achieving their dream – that of being published. To learn more about the community of Loveahappyending.com do visit the website. And if you love reading, you may well be the kind of associate reader we are seeking to join our Associate Reader Club.

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Coming soon: my EasyPeasy Fruitcake recipe. No foodmixer or whisk required!

Almost There with Harry Bowling

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.