Tuesday, 21 January 2014


You would not believe how unwell I have been the last few days!  I haven't actually been right in weeks.  I have had this on/off sore throat/cold/virus thing since mid-December but the annoying thing was that in between the bouts - and even during the bouts sometimes - I didn't feel ill; I just felt under the weather.  The sore throat would arrive, hurt for two days and then go and then three days later the sneezes would come for 24 hours and then the sore throat would come back.  It was actually getting right up my nose - literally!  And then, lo and behold, last Friday I started to cough.  I woke up Saturday with a sore throat (again) and by Sunday I had lost my voice completely and the throat felt like it was full of razor blades (remember those? They were what we used before No-No came long - allegedly).  I went off to the doctor yesterday morning and guess what?  I have laryngitis.  So I am on antibiotics.  And all day Sunday and yesterday, I also had a raging temperature.  So I didn't go to work yesterday.  And I didn't go today (the first days I have had off sick in around 18 months).  Finally by about mid-morning today, I began to feel noticeably better.  And my voice - although still gravelly and hoarse ( nay -I said hoarse not horse!) and somewhat sexy like Honor Blackman - is slowly returning to normal.  I am going back to work tomorrow and my manager has promised to find me something to do that will not require me using the phones for the day - which is fine by me.

My sister Sharon - bless her darling heart - said to me "Why don't you use the time to write?".  And I said to her "Good idea!".  But today is the first day I have actually felt like a) getting back to the laptop and b) thinking beyond the next daytime TV show or snooze.  Ah well - never mind - at least I seem to be on the mend now.  And don't you just hate blogs where all people talk about is how ill they have been with their man-flu or aches and pains?  I would never do such a thing!  Honest - you know what I'm like!

So - how are things out there in Blogland?  Do you know what I did the other week in between sore throats and sneezes?  I set up a proper Twitter account.  And guess what?  I already have 12 followers (hey - I know others have got thousands.  And Stephen Fry has about eight million!) but I am a novice tweeter so I don't think 12 followers after two weeks is so bad.  At first I thought - now what?  Do I personally reply and thank everyone?  Is that what Stephen did with his eight million?  He must have tweeted once a minute for the past 750 years to manage that!  In the end I posted one tweet thanking everyone who is following me for following me.  I wasn't sure what else I could do.  And I am still not sure, if I am honest.  I suppose it is like everything else - it gets easier the more you do it.  Now where was I - oh yes - asking how things are in Blogland.  I would also like to physically ask any other writers who regularly blog to tell me how I can follow their blogs?  Nothing feeds off writers like writers and I think it would be really nice sometimes to find out what other writers are doing (as well as writing, I mean) but I don't even know how to start.  So if you are reading this and you are a writer, could you let me know?

Okay - that's quite enough from me.  And if I sound a tad flippant, pray ignore.  I am probably delirious from the hot lemons and antibiotics .....

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Bitter Pills And Honey

I was within a hair's breadth today of giving the go ahead to the publisher who expressed so much interest in The Book.  The one I particularly liked offered a very good service, including promotion, marketing, proof-reading and editing and was not the most expensive of the dozen or so companies I have contacted recently about this book.  They have a good website and I am convinced they really do care - unlike some of the others who lurk outside the doorway of opportunity like half-starved wolves, just waiting to pounce.

Here's a little story.  It is a true story and I know it is true because it really did happen to me.  I was eleven.  I had only just gone up to secondary school.  I wrote this children's adventure story entitled The White Admiral.  It was a simple enough little tale about a young boy who inherits an ivory elephant  (the White Admiral of the title) from his grandfather .  He does not much like it but, because he has fond memories of his grandfather he decides to keep it.  Later that night, unable to sleep, he goes back to have another look at it and makes a startling discovery - it is full of jewelery and money.  And just at that moment, his  unscrupulous uncle creeps in to steal it.  I cannot remember exactly how it ends (this was written over forty years ago don't forget) but I know the uncle produces a gun, which the boy wrestles out of his hand and accidentally shoots him with - only a flesh wound, I hasten to add, nobody gets killed.  All the noise wakes the rest of the household, the uncle is taken to hospital (and presumably later charged) and the boy gets to keep his treasure trove.  This was my first ever attempt at a children's adventure story and I was really proud of it.  I even drew some illustrations if I remember correctly, and I can't draw to save my life!  Anyway I found a publishing company and sent them my book - the only copy I had (another big mistake, but I was still learning my craft remember). And - joy of joys - they took it.  I got an official letter of acceptance and was told a contract would follow.  And it did.  But with it came an invoice for - and I can remember the exact amount to this very day - £249.  I begged, pleaded and cajoled my poor mum to beg, borrow or steal the money, but she was not happy; her maternal alarm bells were ringing.  We went to see a solicitor who advised us to get the manuscript back and avoid this company with a ten foot barge pole forever.  The company was what was then called a vanity publisher.

Naturally, being only eleven and seeing my dream heartlessly wrenched from my grasp, my entire world collapsed.  It took me a long time to get over the heartbreak and the disappointment.  And I never did get my manuscript back either.  Okay - so we all have to learn from our mistakes, but I think that experience at such a young age has left a very bitter taste in my mouth about paying for publication which makes me still wary today in the click-and-fix world of self-publishing.  Don't get me wrong.  When I was in my mid-30s I self published a whole series of poetry collections, one of which went to three reprints because it sold so well.  And really if you stop to look and do some proper research, there are self-publishing, POD and partnership-publishing companies everywhere, plus there are e-books which are doing amazingly well thanks to Kindle and Kobo.    So I am not, in any sense of the word, tarring all such companies with the same brush.

But it still goes to show how, as writers, we all feel the need to prove ourselves.  I have a list of published work as long as my arm, including the Yucketypoo books.  Yet I still feel this urge to prove myself - mainly to myself - even if I have to pay for it.  And even with that list, I have so struggled to be taken seriously by publishers and agents since My Writer was born three years ago.  I know they are inundated with unsolicited manuscripts and work incredibly long hours and invest oodles of pounds shillings and pence into their authors.  But when you have been writing and publishing stuff as long as I have, a form letter telling me to look at The Writers And Artists Year Book - as if I am a ten year old novice - is soul-destroying!  So, can you blame me as the months and then years have gone by since I wrote The Book, for feeling a tiny bit frustrated?

Anyway, I have not committed The Book to that company as yet despite the fact they appeared to tick all the boxes, because another possibility has come along that may yet solve the riddle of why it has taken me so long to reach this point with my masterpiece.  And on that note, I will sign off till next time.  Watch this space..........

Sunday, 12 January 2014

On Our Way ...

Amazing things are going on in my life.  I had a meeting at the library yesterday to dot the i's and cross the t's for the relaunch of the Young Writers and guess what?  We start again on 8th March (see http://addiscombeyoungwriters.blogspot.co.uk for more details) and have another four sessions pencilled in between then and the end of April when it will all be reviewed with more dates being added to the calendar.  I cannot believe I have managed to pull this off when the group looked, less than three months ago, as if it had reached the end of its yellow brick road!  I know it is early days yet.  Quite possibly nobody will turn up on 8th March in which case I will know I have been whipped and bow out gracefully to lick my wounds.  But  I can't see that happening. A few weeks ago two of my original members came up to me on the tram and asked when it would be starting up again.  And of course the fact it is in the library means that it can all be a little more consistent, with no last minute cancellations so I am strongly of the opinion that the library has actually saved this group and I will never ever be able to thank them enough.

All this means that I am going to be ultra busy throughout the remainder of January and the month of February getting The Word Out, contacting former members, issuing posters and flyers and just making sure everyone knows about it - and you can help by spreading the word!  So if you know any budding  J K Rowlings or Roald Dahls please tell them about Addiscombe Young Writers - and tell me too so I can send an  info pack out to them!

Had a massive fright earlier today (changing the subject just a bit) when I went to turn my laptop on.  It wouldn't work.  At all.  Well, that is not quite true.  The screen lit up but zilch happened.  I pressed this button, that button.  I pressed CTRL, ALT, DELETE time after time.  But it just glowed passively at me, not a click or a whir to be heard.  What was wrong with it now?  Steve is absolutely convinced that computers are out to get him.  I only switched it on because he wanted to go to some webpage or other (he is Technophobe personified - unless it is the TV or Stereo, and lately his basic little mobile phone which I got him for emergencies  a couple of Christmases ago, all of which he seems to master in a matter of moments - so maybe he is just a computerphobe, who knows?).  When he came into my new spacious and airy study (such bliss, I am completely at home in here) and saw the glowing screen and my dejected look he took it very personally and asked that exact question. "What is wrong with it now ?"  Followed by the grim promise that he would throw it out of the window if it did not sort itself out right now.  Then he said something that scared me even more.  "What if you can't get it back?  All that stuff on it!  All those photos!"  This made me Think with a capital "T".  I know I need to back everything up but ... erm ... how?  Most of the photos are still on the memory stick - but not all of them.  And what about my poems.  My book?  My article?  All those letters?  All that previous Young Writers stuff?  It either seems to cost a fortune or, when I finally got it back and its manufacturers sent a pop up to back everything up, I was told I needed three blank DVDs to do it for free.  So I figure I should get those tomorrow and give it a go.  You will not believe how relieved I was when it did finally awaken from its self-induced coma.  And how did it do that?  I pulled the plug on it and let its own battery die, then plugged it in and prayed it would re-boot itself. And  - phew - it did!

Anyway I think that is enough for now.  This is the longest post I have done for a while.  Hope you aren't too tired!

Good writing!!!!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Let's Get Writing ...!

I got a brilliant email the other day (actually, I got two but I'll talk about the other one later).  It was from my contact at the library.  I have now got the go-ahead to re-launch the Young Writers!  I am having a meeting this Saturday morning to finalise some dates.  I would love to start it this month but I am going to suggest February so I have plenty of time to get The Word Out.  I need to contact all the former members, get some flyers out, put some notices up and - if I can - get some letters out to the most local schools.  I also want to get The Advertiser and Guardian (the local Guardian, not the national one) back on board but I will have to tread carefully.  It might need to go through the library's own press office.  I do not want to be stepping on any toes, especially since the library will not be charging me anything to take the place over two hours a month!  You know, I think I must be one of the luckiest people in the world!  And here's a little secret.  It isn't the first time I've done it either.  When I was in my late teens I decided that what my then local area needed more than anything in the world was a drama group for children and teenagers.  There were lots of drama groups about, but most of them were for much more - shall we say - mature people.  There were a few youth clubs about (anyone anywhere remember Centre 21 in Cheam?) - but there were a lot more bored kids running around; bored kids who loved taking part in school shows.  I joined a local social committee and within a few months - with a lot of help from my committee mentors and my family - Ace of Spades Drama Group was born.  We did six or seven shows over the next three or so years; all with members aged from 11 to around 17 (and were later joined by Jack of Spades which catered for younger kids).  Maybe I will tell you the whole story one day, who knows?  The point I was making - and this very important - is that anyone can achieve anything if they have faith in themselves and their abilities.  You just have to believe.  Anyway keep an eye on this blog (and the Young Writers one) and I will keep you updated.

As for the other email - well, here's a little mystery.  I somehow stumbled upon the website of a new publishing company I had never heard of before.  This must have been last Thursday or Friday.  I read through it, liked what I saw, and sent them a brief enquiry about The Book (yep - just realised that the other day I gave its actual title so the cat is out of the bag).  And Guess What?  They have asked for a synopsis and some sample chapters.  Yes!  Yes! They really have!  Yet this time last week, I had never heard of them so how did that happen?  I will probably organise that tomorrow night.

And now, my invisible and silent friends, I have to go.  I am desperate to start sorting out my poems and making my lovely spacious study look less like a parcel depot full of sundry boxes.

Good Writing!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Oh Boy ... !!

Hello!  I am in such a good place right now!  The Study Swap is completely done (I still have some sorting out to do but I am in), I have just been given the go-ahead to re-launch the Young Writers (http://addiscombeyoungwriters.blogspot.co.uk), I have done a bonus session with young Michael with another one scheduled for tomorrow evening (although that will be the very last one, I think), I am within an inch of publishing The Book, I have my new Year Book and I am utterly fired up!  I have written so many new poems over the last few weeks and I am itching to get back to The Epic.

Believe me, I have big, HUGE, G I N O R M O U S plans for 2014.  I love where my desk is now.  I am right in front of the window (where the rain is pattering away - again), I have my nephew's CD playing softly in the background (he was quite a big singing star as a little boy and sometimes I still like to hear his beautiful voice as it was in those days) and I am teeming with ideas and enthusiasm.  I hope this lasts.  It is a Writer's High matched only by seeing one's name in print.

Went to visit my old mum today, bless her.  She was in good spirits and we had a nice visit.  I never stay more than a couple of hours because she just gets so whacked out.  She had her 83rd birthday on 27th December and the whole family turned up to help her celebrate. It was brilliant but she was completely exhausted by the end of the day.  When I was 16, I got my first acceptance letter from a magazine who had taken an article and commissioned a second one.  It was the letter I had waited my entire childhood for and on that day, when it arrived, I ran sobbing into my Mum's arms I was so overjoyed to have finally made it. We talked about that momentous occasion today and I just have to say a huge thanks to her.  She has always encouraged me in my writing endeavors, supported me through many a rejection and shared in my joy at publishing another piece.  When my first Yucketypoo book was published she was as over the moon as if she had written it herself.  Naturally, since meeting Steve, I have found another cheerleader and my grandchildren think having a writer for a gran is the coolest thing on earth.

Maybe its is because things have got back to normal - Christmas is back in the loft, everyone is back at work - but I just feel so incredibly thankful for everything.  My life is amazing.  My life as a writer even more so.  And I have my blogs.  What more can I ask?