Friday, 18 July 2014

Interesting times

Writers don’t have problems.
Writers have interesting experiences that inspire new stories.

At least, that’s what I kept telling myself as I encountered one ‘interesting experience’ after another.

Here are a few highlights of the past three weeks:

No computer for two weeks (see previous post).
Car broke down in middle of busy road.
Car in garage for over a week.
Twisted ankle.
Broken teapot.
Coffee spilt on favourite white shirt (and no, that miracle stain remover doesn’t work!)
Mysterious and very itchy rash.
Thunder fly invasion.
Leaking washing machine.
Worrying news about a relative rushed to hospital.
Worrying news about a friend rushed to hospital.
  (Thankfully, they are both now recovering at home.)
Finger slammed in fridge door.
Delays, misunderstandings, missed phone calls ...
Jammed window catch.
Objects vanishing and then re-appearing in odd places.
Bad hair days. (It’s amazing I’ve got any hair left at all!)

Hoping for some quiet, and completely uninteresting days so I can start getting back to something like normal soon.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Holidays and workdays

After a lovely ten days away, I came home itching to get back to work. I'd written another chapter of The Novel in longhand and wanted to get it typed up while I could still decipher my handwriting. I also had some notes and ideas that might come in useful later, dozens of photos to download and sort, and I couldn't resist buying a few new books to put on my 'to-read' shelf.

I switched on my computer - and it refused to work properly. I guessed it was sulking because I'd left it alone too long.

After switching it off and on again, and doing whatever else people-who-understand-computers do to fix misbehaving machines, my resident expert decided that the only solution was to send it on holiday to the repair shop. So that means I've got to take some more time off.

Fortunately, I'd backed up all my important stuff before I went away so I should be able to carry on from where I left off easily enough when I get my computer back. In the meantime, I can borrow a laptop for essential work - such as this post - but finding my way round a different system takes a lot more time so I'll be putting most things on hold for a week or so.

Hope to catch up with you all soon!

P.S. Just received one piece of news that I can't wait to share. I've won 1st prize in the Worcestershire Lit Fest & Fringe Flash Fiction competition. (I know, I can't believe it either!)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

How this writer’s mind works (3)

I once had a very nosy neighbour whose main aim in life was to find out every little detail about everyone around her. She had no sense of tact and simply asked whatever she wanted to know, no matter how personal or intrusive it was.

I wanted to tell her to mind her own business. I wanted to make her understand that her constant prying was not only annoying but often very offensive. But, being a polite British person, I just avoided her as much as possible and, if she managed to waylay me, I feigned deafness and answered her questions with remarks about the weather.

When I moved house I was so relieved to find new neighbours who were friendly but liked to keep themselves to themselves.

But my nosy neighbour obviously stayed in my subconscious because she popped up again some years later – in one of my stories. It was a new genre for me that I really enjoyed writing, a mystery story that may (or may not) involve a murder!

And it is now available as an ebook from Alfie Dog Fiction for a mere 39p. 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Getting there

What’s better than being shortlisted for a writing competition?

Being shortlisted twice!

I couldn’t decide which of three very short stories to submit to the Worcestershire Lit Fest & Fringe Flash Fiction competition so I entered all three, and two of them have made it to the shortlist.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go to the festival because it clashes with a holiday I’m taking to help my little sister celebrate a big birthday. It looks really good though, packed with all sorts of interesting events, so I’m sure it will be very enjoyable for everyone who can get there. Perhaps I’ll make it next year …

Are you going to any festivals this summer?


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Concealing and revealing

In a recent post on her blog, Sally Jenkins asked how other writers respond to questions about their writing. I was a bit surprised, but relieved, to find I’m not the only one who hates talking about his or her work. Admitting that the story you think is your best ever has been rejected for the umpteenth time, or that no, your novel hasn’t been published yet because you’re still working on the second draft, all sounds so boring – especially to non-writers.

For many years, only my closest family knew I was writing, and if they embarrassed me by mentioning it to anyone else I always played it down. I’ve only had a few stories published. It’s just a hobby. I’m sure it’s not the sort of thing you’d be interested in reading, etc. etc.

These days, I do put ‘Writer’ on forms that ask for my occupation, but in social situations where I can’t hide behind a ‘proper’ job I’ll mumble something like, ‘Oh, I do a bit of writing.’ But then I change the subject as quickly as possible!

But when writers are asked about their reading it seems the opposite is true. The Alfie Dog Fiction blog – Alfie Dog Bites – is currently running a series of Writers on Reading and it’s obvious that the featured writers all love talking about other people’s writing.

Perhaps the next time I’m asked what I do, instead of saying I’m a writer I’ll say I’m a reader. That will be so much easier!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Three encouraging sentences

The most important quality every writer needs to cultivate is a dogged determination to keep on writing – and then write some more. Easier said than done, but it helps to know you're not the only one struggling with the disappointments and frustrations of rejection.

One of the most encouraging things I’ve read for a long time is this sentence from the acknowledgments page of Henry Mitchell’s novel, The Summer Boy.

Thanks to the almost two hundred agents and editors who passed on my queries, thus compelling  me to keep searching until the right publisher found me.

TWO HUNDRED??  Now there’s a lesson in persistence!

* * *
The Internet is awash with advice on how to get your work accepted by agents and publishers, how to self-publish, and how to ensure your book achieves bestseller status. So if you just follow the rules laid down by all these experts success must be guaranteed, right? Wrong! And that was why this sentence by Beverley Birch leapt out at me from her article in Notes From The Slushpile.

The truth is that no one knows how to publish successfully in the 21st century’s multiple currents, cross-currents and swirls – least of all publishers.

And Beverley knows what she’s talking about. Not only is she a published author of over 40 children’s books, but she has also worked as a commissioning editor for a respected publishing house.

Am I dismayed that someone with her experience and insider knowledge doesn’t have a secret formula for publishing success? No, her words felt like a very welcome gust of fresh air. Her only advice for writers is to keep on writing the story you want to tell – and that’s exactly what I’m doing!

* * *
And finally … perhaps the most encouraging sentence of all.

We would like to publish your Rave in the next issue of Mslexia.

Mslexia’s Rants and Raves feature is where readers describe something they love or loathe. It’s only a paragraph, but I almost didn’t submit my Rave because I thought it would be considered too flippant for a serious literary magazine.

Whoo-hoo! This one little acceptance has cancelled out at least a dozen previous rejections!

Onwards and upwards!

What encourages you to keep on, keeping on?

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Alfie Dog Fiction at Realitas

This is me dipping my toe into the big, scary world of book promotion.

I find it very hard to advertise my own work. And that is why I had a big problem with Alfie Dog Fiction.

I’m very proud that Alfie Dog has published a few of my stories as ebooks, but even a modest plug on this blog for one of my Alfie Dog stories seems uncomfortably like showing off. On the other hand, because it specializes in publishing short stories – something many other publishers ignore – I do think the company deserves to be better known by the reading public.

Then I had an idea …

I spend most Saturday mornings with an amateur art group in the Realitas Community Arts Centre in Market Deeping. At the heart of Realitas is a very popular tearoom and I noticed that a lot of customers there use their iPads, laptops and smartphones while enjoying the delicious refreshments on offer. Some people even read ‘real’ books borrowed from Realitas’s art library! It seemed like the perfect place for introducing people to the wide range of Alfie Dog stories.

After getting permission from Neil, who runs Realitas, and Rosemary J. Kind, the owner of Alfie Dog Fiction, I launched a free prize draw with ebook stories as the prizes. It attracted a lot of attention, and I found myself doing a lot of explaining. For example, several people said they didn’t read ebooks because they didn’t have a Kindle. This gave me the chance to explain how easy it is to download ebooks to other devices such as their home computer. Mentioning that the Alfie Dog list includes stories for children also attracted quite a bit of interest – mostly from older people who were concerned about the amount of time their grandchildren spend playing computer games. They thought it was a great idea to have bedtime stories on tablets and laptops.

Spreading the word about Alfie Dog was surprisingly easy and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Perhaps when I get my novel published, and need to boost sales, the trick will be to pretend I’m promoting it for someone else …?

Do you find it difficult to sell your writing?

P.S. If you’re ever in the Peterborough/ South Lincolnshire area, do make a detour into Market Deeping and pop in to Realitas. The people are friendly, there’s always something new to see, and their homemade cakes are amazing!