Monday, 28 December 2015

Guest Post: Sharon Boothroyd - The Secret of Competition Success

Welcome back to Sharon Boothroyd! Last time Sharon was on the site to tell us the story behind, a e-magazine for short stories, articles and poems. This time Sharon's sharing her wisdom on how to succeed with competitions...


If you are a writer, I'm sure you have thought about entering a competition at some point – whether the competition is for a short story, a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a blog post, a play or a novel.
Competitions provide a variety of scope and can offer writers a fantastic freedom of style, tone and genre.
Here's ten top tips to the secret of competition success. 

1 Follow the rules 

It sounds basic, but you'd be amazed at how many people don't.
Some competitions are very strict about line spacing, size of font and even the font itself. Then there's the business of actually sending it. Do they want entries via snail mail or e-mail?
If it's e-mail, do you paste it in the body of the e-mail itself or send it via an attachment?
If so, what kind of attachment? PDF? Word? It can be a pretty complex business, and I can recall plenty of times when I've had to call upon my IT expert hubby for help!
Check out if your name (and writing name) is required on the story or if it's preferred without. Entry forms can usually be found on the organiser's website.
Sometimes a cover sheet with your details is all that's required.
Paying the entry fee –there's cheque and paypal. Make sure that the organisers have received your story and payment.
Don't forget the closing date, and the word count must be correct, too.
Also the genre, theme and brief should fit the rules. The judges see it like this – if you can't be bothered to follow the instructions, the judges can't bothered to consider your entry.
Harsh, but true.

2 Be prepared

Write down the closing date of the competition on your calendar.
Give yourself a generous time limit to include re-drafting. For a novel or a play competition, your 'tinkering time' will be obviously be considerably longer. From my experience I've found that for play/novel comps, I already have something in mind. Unless it's for a 15 minute stage/radio sketch!
Pick a length of time you feel comfortable with. The important thing is to prepare.
Remember that novel and play competitions may require a full synopsis, a list of characters, chapter or scene breakdowns, a detailed outline of your theme and a bio, plus a writer's CV and photo. Phew!
Time to get cracking. Write a first draft.
Go back, add and edit, print it out, then leave it to rest. Keep doing this
until you are completely happy with it.
When you've reached the 'completely happy' stage, leave it for a week.
When you return to it, you should be able to spot things you've missed. Run it past a writer friend and ask for their opinion, because you want to give yourself the best possible chance of winning.

3 Critiques

With some competitions, for stories that didn't reach the long or short-list, there is an opportunity to pay extra for an additional critique.
These critiques can be a bit hit and miss.
I've received good critiques and bad ones. The bad ones have offered me one or two lines only.
The good ones go through each weak point and suggest ways of improvement.
Is the extra expense worth it? It really depends on whether you plan to send that particular piece of work elsewhere after the competition.

4 Don't dump your back catalogue

Short stories that have 'done the rounds' are unlikely to win.
Don't think ' That one will do' and desperately re-draft a rejected old stock story to fit the specified genre or theme.
This rarely works, because the judges will see straight through it. It's the lazy writer's tactic. Always try and attempt to create something new.
Surely a fabulous prize and publication is worth the effort?
After all, if you are short- listed (or even if you win) this achievement can be proudly added to your CV.

5 Be aware of rights

Some fiction competitions want to grab all rights, including copyright.
Check the terms and conditions carefully before entering.
There are ones that state that they automatically hold all copyright to all entries.
Simply put - the organisers can use or sell submitted stories any way they like without your permission, because by entering, you have effectively given your work to them.
And if there is an entry fee, you've paid for the privilege too.
That means that your story is not yours anymore, even if it's got your name on it. You'd be forced to ask the organisers for permission if you want to submit your story elsewhere.
Writers often don't mind giving away just one story. Yet what if you're entering two, three or four pieces of work?
It's your call.

6 Anthologies

The prize for these fiction competitions is publication in an anthology.
Some of these printed books are sold to raise money for charity.
Some, however aren't. The ones I'm talking about are competitions run by private self- publishing companies.
If your story is picked for publication, the publishers may expect you to buy a copy of the anthology that contains your story. The price of this can end up costing you more than the entry fee!

7 The cost of entry fees

The cost of entry fees can quickly mount up, so make sure you keep an eye on your spending. Set up a spreadsheet to track your outgoings.
Comping can be very addictive, especially after achieving short- list status, runner-up success or an actual win!
Competition entry fees for novels and plays can exceed £10.The general rule is, the higher fee, the higher the cash prize on offer.
Bear in mind that the organisers need to cover the cost of advertising the competition, plus there's website costs, and often there is admin staff to pay as well.
Usually, the entry fees cover the cash prize (or prizes). The organisers will often pay a high profile writer judge (or a panel of judges) a fee too.
However, there are several free to enter competitions around. The downside to free ones are that they attract quite a lot of entries.

8 E- magazines, small paper press competitions and online fiction projects

There are literally hundreds of e-magazines and small paper presses that offer ongoing, open genre short story competitions.
The prizes are small, yet this is reflected in the entry fee, so it's worth giving it a go.
They usually publish more than one issue per year, and late entries are automatically considered for the next edition.
This means that the closing date is not preying on your mind, and with an open genre, you can pick and choose your subject.
The editors are often the judges.
As for online fiction projects - sometimes the prize is simply publication on their website.

9 Where to find competitions

A google search will bring up plenty of opportunities, plus links to hundreds of websites that list fiction competitions.
I have a network of writer friends who tell me about interesting competitions that are posted on their blogs or FB pages.
Please return the favour - I also let them know if I stumble across anything that may interest them, too. Of course, the Writers' Forum monthly magazine comp calendar lists plenty of details and Writing magazine holds a twice yearly comps special pull- out as well.

10 Carry on comping!

I love entering fiction competitions.
My entries have been long- listed and short-listed, they've been runner -ups too, and once I was lucky enough to win first place for a short story competition ran by a UK national monthly women's magazine (PRIMA).
It's an incredible feeling of elation and achievement to see your name up there on a website with the results!
The prizes I've received range from a plant (Yes, that's right - a plant) a book of short stories, a year's free magazine subscription to a kobo e-reader – plus cash and publication too, of course.
I relish the challenge, and I try my best to make my entry entertaining, engaging, different and original.
Last year, a writer friend of mine really hit the jackpot. Within the space of a few months, she'd scooped an incredible £900 from winning several high profile fiction competitions!
She told me that she'd treated herself to a beautiful antique desk with the winnings. It was very well deserved.
So work hard and carry on comping, but please - make sure you have fun too!


S.BEE is Sharon Boothroyd, who is the editor of KISHBOO e-magazine. It's FREE to read online.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Look Back At 2015

2015 has been a mix of writing highs and personal lows.

At a time of great stress and worry I found that writing was my salvation.  It was a distraction from things that I had no control over, but plenty of worry about.  It gave me a reason to get up and do something when I could easily have sat in a dark corner and wept. But most of all it led me to discover a world full of like-minded enthusiastic people who have been a source of inspiration and hope.

Back in January I joined the RNA New Writers Scheme. Although I wasn’t able to attend any of the events this year due to an illness in the family, being a member of this incredible association has been absolutely fantastic.  The NWS review of my romantic crime novel was invaluable and I now have a clear plan in mind for what I need to work on.  Through the RNA I have met so many wonderfully helpful, supportive and friendly people and I love the comradery between the members. The weekly #TuesNews on twitter is a great way to stay up to date with what’s happening and to show support for those who have been so encouraging.

Building on the knowledge that I’ve gained since starting a creative writing course in October 2014 I have spent this year rewriting my historical romance novel. Thanks to the encouragement and support of some of the RNA members, I’ve now joined the Historical Novel Society as well and am looking forward to meeting everyone at the conference next year.

This year I launched my guest post section on my blog where I welcome writers to chat about something that matters to them.  A huge thank you to Sharon at Kishboo Magazine for being my very first guest blogger and I’m looking forward to welcoming her back for another guest post on 28th December.  It seemed fitting that she should be back as my final guest for 2015.  Thanks also to my other fantastic guests this year; Rhoda Baxter, Heidi Swain, Louise Marley, Emma Davies, Wendy Clarke, Holly Martin and Sam Tonge.  I’ve loved reading your posts and appreciate all your support.  I’m looking forward to welcoming yet more guests to my blog in 2016. If you’d like to be part of it do contact me @Elaina_James

Whilst I was hosting my guest blog I also got to be a guest myself over on Heidi Swain’s blog.  Thank you Heidi for inviting me to be part of your  #MyWritingLife series. I loved reading about everyone’s journey.

2015 has been a year of firsts for me.  I had my first short story; ‘Cinderella Shoes’ published in print in the Autumn Scribble Magazine and my first article; ‘If You Don’t Try’ and poem; ‘A Writer’s World’ published in Kishboo.  I also collaborated with a musician who brought life to some of my lyrics.  

And if all of this wasn’t exciting enough, in 2016 you’ll find me over on Mslexia as a resident guest blogger from February to April chatting about writing from the perspective of a songwriter with stage fright.  I do hope you’ll stop by and say Hi.

For now though I wish you all a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Guest Post:Sam Tonge - Want To Be A Writer?

This week I'm joined by Sam Tonge, author of Doubting Abbey and Game of Scones. 

Want To Be A Writer?

When reading through magazines or newspapers, you often see an advert headed “Want to be a Writer?” This got me thinking... would I actually recommend it as a profession. Whilst I have five romantic comedies published now, I still remember The Wilderness Years as I remember them, full of rejection, tears, the occasional high but a lot of lows, accompanied by my (futile) declarations that I would give up my passion.

Yet, having though about this question I have quickly decided, yes I definitely would, because I’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed so many amazing experience since signing my deal that, in my opinion, are made all the sweeter because of the hard times I went through. And here are my top five experiences you can look forward to, if you stay determined, develop a tough skin and never stop believing you could be just moments away from finding that one person (agent or publisher) who loves your work:

  • Seeing the cover of your first book. It is impossible to imagine what it will look like and fascinating to see how the design team transfer your story into pictures. I loved mine – the Christmas cover to Doubting Abbey – with snowflakes falling and a beautiful mansion in the background. I had it printed onto canvas (as I do with all my covers) so that it now hangs on the wall.
  • Getting your first round of revisions from an editor, because whilst this is scary, it’s proof that your writing is being taken seriously and a chance to learn from the experts how to improve your own ability. I am continually in awe of how my editors pick out flaws, minor and major, that I would never have seen on my own.
  • Reading your first great review. The rush of relief, pride and gratitude. Yes, bad reviews happen to us all and can be painful, but in my experience, they are forgotten in the face of just one great one where a reader has totally understood why you have written the book and what you wanted to achieve. And I am particularly fond of reviews where readers say my books have cheered up their day. Nothing can make me feel more satisfied.
  • Having more opportunities to meet authors in the flesh, at writing events. Since becoming published I have joined the Romantic Novelists Association and attended several glitzy events, with Prosecco flowing and laughter filling the room. Those days are ones I dreamed of before getting published and kept me going through the tough times.
  • Getting to know readers and bloggers. I have made some lovely, supportive, generous friends during the last two years and their friendship means such a lot. Promoting a book is hard work and I never forget the selfless help of others who support me.

In putting this list together, I realize, I could go on and on. 2015 has been a great year for me, with my summer bestseller Game of Scones winning the Love Stories Best Ebook Award at a fancy ceremony in London, and two of my other books going into shops. But whilst the big things are fantastic, it just means everything that my work is finally reaching people. All I have ever wanted is an audience. So keep on going. It’s great to want to be a writer. Let your dreams fuel you along the rocky road to publication.

Author Bio

Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family and a cat that thinks it’s a dog. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award in 2014. Her summer 2015 novel Game of Scones hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart.


Things don’t always run smoothly in the game of love…
As her Christmas wedding approaches, a trip back to snowy England for her ex’s engagement party makes her wonder if those are wedding bells she’s hearing in her mind, or warning bells. She longs for the excitement of her old London life – the glamour, the regular pedicures. Can she really give that all up to be…a fishwife? There’s nothing for it but to throw herself into bringing a little Christmas magic to the struggling village in the form of a Christmas fair. Somewhere in amidst the sparkly bauble cakes and stollen scones, she’s sure she’ll come to the right decision about where she belongs…hopefully in time for the wedding…
Perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk and Debbie Johnson. Don’t miss the Christmas Wedding of the year!







Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Reluctant Gardener: Hanging Up My Gardening Gloves

As 2015 draws to a close it seems only fitting to update you on my gardening progress.

Towards the end of October I mowed the lawn and put the mower away, satisfied that I wouldn’t be needing it again until the spring.  Then I spent the next few weeks uncharacteristically cursing the mild weather and literally watching the grass grow.

Before I grudgingly got the mower back out of its winter hibernation though one of the neighbours offered to cut the lawn for me. I don’t think he was quite anticipating the eagerness with which his offer was accepted.

So I settled back and admired the short lawn which seemed so much better for not having had to do it myself, plus it lacked the wonky lines which always emerge despite my best efforts to walk in a straight line. I delighted in the blissful knowledge that now it definitely wouldn’t need cutting again before the spring.

That was it.  My role as the temporary gardener filling in for my Dad had been completed for the year.

Or so I thought.

“The tubs of fuchsias need to go in the greenhouse before the frost comes,” Dad announced two weeks ago.  I looked out of the window and scowled at the six big 18 inch tubs filled with soil.

Reluctantly I found myself outside shivering in the chilly November wind, pondering how to get the pesky tubs off the terrace, up two steps and across the lawn to the greenhouse. Thankfully Mum pitched in and between us we pivoted, dragged and cursed the heavy things all the way into their winter home.

With the greenhouse full and my fingers numb I headed back into the warmth.

Dad looked at me apprehensively. “You know the damp fallen leaves that the wind has swept up along the bottom of the shed will make the wood rotten if they’re left there…”

Monday, 7 December 2015

The Writing Class: Second Person Narrative

The writing class last week looked at second person narrative.

Based on Lorrie Moore’s collection of short stories; ‘Self Help’, we were set the task of writing a somewhat sarcastic instruction in the second person about how to be a writer.

Here’s mine:

Stop telling the world that you want to be a writer and actually write something. Anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. After all your aim was simply to be a writer, be it good, bad, or more likely just unread.

Buy a dictionary, or at least learn how to use spell check. It even helps you out with squiggly red underlying to give you a hint as to where your errors lurk.

Proofread, and no that doesn’t mean skim read.

When you think of that perfect phrase, write it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s 3am, you’ll only curse yourself if you forget it. Alternatively it might just echo around your head all night like a child that demands attention and refuses to be quiet. It’s easier to give in and write it down.

Of course in the morning you’ll probably realise that it was rubbish and you’d have been better off sleeping, but at least you didn’t forget it.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Songwriting News: The 2015 UK Songwriting Contest Results

The 2015 UK Songwriting Contest results are out!

I’m delighted to have lyrics in the semi-finals again this year with ‘Back to Before’. Sadly they didn’t reach the finals, but there’s always next year…

You can listen to the winners from this year’s contest online at:

The Lyrics Only Winner was Debra Gussin with her powerful and emotional lyrics ‘Best Actor’. You can read her winning words here:

My favourite song in the contest this year is the Country Winner; ‘A Moment Doesn’t Matter’ by Jayne Sachs, Victoria Banks and Brett Mandel.  It’s a beautiful song, fantastic moving lyrics and a great sound. I’d love to hear more by these guys!

I also loved ‘My Favourite Time Of Year’ by Leigh Haggerwood, which won the Music Video category. The work that must have gone in to producing this video is incredible.

Congratulations to all this year’s winners, finalists and semi-finalists. I’m looking forward to next year’s contest already.

And just in case you were wondering about my own entry, I’ll leave you with the lyrics to ‘Back to Before’. I’d love to know what you think.

Back to Before
Verse 1
You thought you could break me and make me fall,
But I will rise back up and withstand it all.
You can knock me down but you can’t knock me out,
I’ll survive without you I have no doubt.

I ain’t going down with your ship,
You’re not gonna set my dreams adrift.
I will find my own way to shore.
You’re like an anchor weighing me down,
But you’re not gonna make me drown.
Now there’s no going back to before.

Verse 2
You’re battling demons no one can see,
But you didn’t need to turn your war on me.
I was your ally I was your only friend,
I would have stayed with you until the end.

I ain’t going down with your ship,
You’re not gonna set my dreams adrift.
I will find my own way to shore.
You’re like an anchor weighing me down,
But you’re not gonna make me drown.
Now there’s no going back to before.

Middle 8
From time to time you throw me hope like an old life ring,
But empty promises just don’t mean anything.
I am finally done weathering your storm,
Your apologies are hollow and your excuses worn.

I ain’t going down with your ship,
You’re not gonna set my dreams adrift.
I will find my own way to shore.
You’re like an anchor weighing me down,
But you’re not gonna make me drown.
Now there’s no going back to before.

No there’s no going back to before.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Guest Post: Holly Martin - Do You Believe?

I love the idea of Santa Claus. As a child, the excitement of going to bed on Christmas Eve was often too much to bear, knowing that this great jolly fellow was travelling across the world giving presents to every little girl and boy. Soon he would be in my house, leaving presents under my tree. It was the stuff of fairy tales; magic, flying reindeer and a sleigh big enough for millions of presents and as children we lapped it up.

I love the lengths parents will go to purely to keep this magic alive for their children. Once, when I was little, I left a note out for Santa on Christmas Eve, along with the obligatory glass of sherry and a carrot, asking Santa to tell me the names of all his reindeer. That night, as everyone settled down for Christmas Eve TV, or ran around in the last minute madness of Christmas meal preparations, my Mum and Dad were ringing round everyone they knew to try to find out the blasted names of some imaginary reindeers. Remember this was pre Google, if you wanted to find something out in them days you went to the library. They managed to get six and told me he didn’t have time to write the other two, there were lots of children to visit after all. Even the handwriting was one that I didn’t recognise. The carrot would be given to the dog to chew on, the sherry, which my Dad hated, would be drunk. And my unwavering belief in Santa Claus continued long after my brother told me it was all rubbish. It continued even after I’d seen my grandparents bring the presents in late one Christmas Eve. When I’d asked the next day why it was them that had brought the presents in and not Santa, they told me that Nan and Granddad were helping Santa to unload his sleigh and I believed it, because I wanted to believe.

I love the variations in the stories parents tell their children too. If the children of the world ever sit down and take notes there would be some gaping discrepancies. We didn’t have an open chimney when I was younger. We had some electric fire but that was OK because Santa had a magic key. We didn’t write letters to Santa, we simply told Mum and Dad what we wanted and they phoned Santa up and placed the order, a little like Argos I imagine.

My friends have an open fire, and every year at the beginning of December, my Goddaughter writes her letter to Santa and they light a fire and throw the letter up the chimney. The first year that Megan was old enough to do this, the letter went up the chimney and came back down a few seconds later only to catch fire on the roaring flames. Megan stared at her letter as it crumpled in the heat and her Mum hugged her and told her that the smoke would take the words to Santa. Of course she accepted it because as a child you trust your parents completely.

But should the belief in magic fade just because we are now older and supposedly wiser? No absolutely not. We all need a bit of magic in our lives. That’s why I love books, because amongst their pages is the ability to transport people to magical worlds with fantastical creatures, to introduce people to rugged heroes and brave heroines, where the impossible is possible and the ordinary is lifted to the extraordinary. With books, we go on journeys to exotic locations, we make friends and we fall in love with characters more real and tangible than a mythical fat man in a red suit.

So give the gift of a book this Christmas, one that transcends the limits of the imagination. Treat yourself to one too, curl up with a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine and believe in magic once more.

Celebrate Christmas in White Cliff Bay this year. Christmas at Lilac Cottage ( and Snowflakes on Silver Cove ( are out now.

Follow Holly on Twitter @hollymartin00

Or on her blog

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Mslexia Guest Blogger

I'm absolutely delighted to announce that in the new year I will be taking up a 3 month residency as a guest blogger for Mslexia

At this point I feel I should apologise to anyone who knows me and has already heard this news multiple times in the last few hours.  Usually in a high pitched, sing-song voice whilst I jump up and down.  Common sense and maturity will prevail at some point I promise... But I make no promises as to when that might be.

My guest blog will be looking at the writing process from the slightly different view point of a lyricist with stage fright.

Whilst I write short stories and novels, my love of writing started with writing lyrics. This is still the form I am most passionate, and yet most secretive about.

I'll be looking back at my journey from a disastrous debut performance as a singer songwriter, through years of confining my dreams to secret notebooks, to finally finding the courage to enter a song writing contest. 

I hope that by sharing my experiences I'll shed light on the lessons I’ve learnt and the humorous way I discovered them.  Writing, in any form, requires you to take chances and criticism. I hope that my story can encourage others to be brave (and in key).

I do hope you'll stop by the Mslexia blog and say Hi.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Guest Post: Wendy Clarke - Moving From Short Stories to Novels

Wendy Clarke - Biography

Wendy Clarke is a full time writer of women's fiction. Since starting writing three years ago, she has sold over a hundred short stories and her work regularly appears in national women's magazines such as The People's Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman's Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles. Room in Your Heart and The Last Rose are Wendy’s two collections of short stories. She has just finished her first novel.

Moving on from Short Story to Novel

When lovely Elaina invited me onto her blog, I thought long and hard about what I could write that might be useful or interesting. I thought I could write about my journey to becoming a writer, how to write a magazine story or even just talk about my typical writing day. I soon realised, though, as I sat with my fingers poised over the keyboard, that I’ve covered all these topics before in other guest posts. What I wanted to share was something new.

Most people know me as a magazine writer but not everyone knows that I’ve just finished my debut novel. It’s been a steep learning curve that’s for sure, and it occurred to me that this was what I could talk about – the things I’ve learnt moving from short stories to novels.

Everybody loves a list, including me, so here they are – the five main differences I found between short story and novel:


Okay, I know this sounds rather obvious but when I first started my novel, I hadn’t quite grasped just how much longer 80,000 words was than 2,000. Really, I hadn’t! When I write a story, I finish it and send it off within three days; I live with the characters for a relatively short time and then say goodbye to them. By the time I finished my novel (it took me the best part of a year as I was writing short stories at the same time) and sent it to the first agent, I felt as though I’d married and divorced the entire cast of characters. Novels need stamina that’s for sure… and the novelist needs a lot of TLC during the writing process (well this one did).


I don’t think I even knew the meaning of this word before I started my novel. I don’t do it – it’s as simple as that. I’ve sold nearly a hundred and fifty stories and I haven’t planned a single one of them so why would I need to do it for a novel? I had my novel idea, I knew my characters, I knew the ending - all I had to do was write it. Simple. Only it wasn’t. By chapter four, I had no idea how I was going to get my characters from where they were to the point where I’d write The End. I had to concede that I would have to have my chapters sketched out, if only loosely, or the characters would be in danger of wandering around aimlessly. So, in order to keep tabs on all the story threads and tighten things up, I bought myself a special book and made myself work out the plot in more detail. It was rather a sketchy plan but it worked for me.


Which leads me nicely on to difference number three – the plot. Before I started my novel, I thought that the longer length just meant there would be a lot more things going on but I soon realised it’s more subtle than that. Although the overall shape of the story arc is the same, in a novel there will be peaks and troughs. I wasn’t used to that – in a short story there is just a beginning, a climax and a resolution. Troughs? What troughs? Luckily I’m a quick learner. Also my short stories never have subplots – there’s no time for them. If my 80,000 word novel didn’t have subplots, the reader would be snoring after chapter two.


Sometimes I’m very daring when writing my short stories. I’ll whisper this very quietly… I sometimes have two main characters (and maybe a couple of extras). Usually, though, I stick with one. What a luxury it was then to be able to have not only two main characters but also a cast of thousands (well, all right ten). Not only this, but I was able to explore their lives in a way I never would be able to in a short story. It was like having my own puppet show… I just had to make sure I didn’t get all the strings tangled.


When writing my novel, I didn’t realise how much I’d enjoy the luxury of being able to immerse myself in a setting, to flesh out a character and linger over a scene. In contrast, short stories have less back story and a faster pace. Any detail of a setting is drip fed into it in order to not slow the pace of the action. In other words, short stories need to make a quicker impact. At first I found this strange… and then I loved it.

So there you have the five differences I encountered when moving from short story to novel. It’s been a challenge – but one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I still love short story writing and have no immediate plans to stop but will I write another full length piece? Absolutely!

Which just leaves me to say a big thank you to Elaina for inviting me onto her lovely blog.

Link to my blog:




Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Writing Class: My Writing Self

Based on Jorge Luis Borges – “Borges and I”, this week’s task was to consider our relationship with our writing self. 

So let me introduce you to my writing self:

She lives in my head as a constant distraction.  I’m working on spreadsheets while she’s dictating dialogue.  She won’t be hushed or ignored. She requires immediate attention. She’s far more demanding than I would ever dare to be. 

In the end I surrender and scribble down her words.  I know she’ll just keep repeating them until I obey.  Her fear of forgetting a theme or a phrase is more overpowering than my own task at hand.

While I would be content to drift through life in my own little bubble, she watches and listens to everything around her.  She analyses it all, remembers it and stores it away.  Sometime later it’ll re-emerge as a new work of fiction.  It’s origins now completely indistinguishable.

She can put into writing the things that I could never say.  She takes chances that I would never dare to make.  She digs into the past that I would otherwise forget and salvages a memory which she won’t allow me to neglect.

Though she shares my experiences, she’s nothing like me.  She’s more daring and braver, tougher and stronger.  While my practical side is laden down by responsibilities, she’s not afraid to follow her dreams.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Guest Post: Emma Davies - The Wonderful World of Words

This week I'm delighted to welcome Emma Davies, author of Letting In Light and Merry Mistletoe to the blog.  Over to you Emma...

The Wonderful World of Words

Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest to your blog Elaina. It’s always hard to know what to post about, particularly when you have a new book out. You don’t want every post to be a slight variation on the last that people have seen countless times before. So, as we’re now in November and approaching the end of what, for me, has been a very momentous year, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of my experiences from the year, or, what is essentially things I have learnt about the wonderful world of words.

The first thing I would like to share, in fact I want to underline it in thick black permanent Sharpie is the wonderful people that there are in this world of words. The bookish community has to be one of the most friendly, supportive and generous communities around. Everyone I’ve come across has been unfailingly polite, and hugely encouraging of my fledgling career. They have given of their time unstintingly, their praise copiously and their generosity by the bucket load. We have shared each other’s lows and celebrated each other’s successes, and as someone very much wiser than me said; ‘There’s no point in being jealous of any one else’s success as nobody ever reads just one book. There is room for all of us, and all of our books.’ It’s certainly a sentiment that people seem to have taken to their hearts. And as for book bloggers, well don’t get me started … there’s a whole blog post available for you guys. I know you get free books to read, but seriously you are a very special breed indeed, and it’s enough for me to hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.

The second thing I’ve learned, and this is a very personal thing, (but I’m sure experienced by many) is what happens when you open the writing floodgates. Like many, I’ve been writing for years, but it was just that thing I did from time to time, you know a bit of a hobby, like knitting; something I could pick up and put down whenever I wanted. And the reason for this? – Well, I was busy; forging a career, getting married, having babies, etc. etc. etc. but bizarrely throughout all this time I know I always had an accompanying little voice at my shoulder whispering ‘Don’t open the gates, not the whole way, just open them a little bit so that only a trickle can come out, but don’t whatever you do open them the whole way, because if you do … And so I didn’t, I never surrendered myself to my writing because I knew that it would consume me and for one reason or another it just wasn’t the right time to do that. And now it is … and I totally understand why getting dressed, eating, doing the housework, or actually talking to people is suddenly something I have to remind myself to do. It’s a strange kind of twilight zone existence, but one I’ve waited a very long time to experience. In any case my kids think it’s quite cool, but only because I’m not ‘normal’ any more ….

I also love the way my whole perspective on things has changed. I see everything in terms of words on a page; is there a plot in that? Would that make a good setting? and I watch people for character traits far more than is probably good for me, in fact I might get arrested soon … My mind is constantly adrift in a sea of possibilities, but I so enjoy this plotting and planning, this playing with ideas and scenes, the perfect first line, or the plot twist no-one will see coming. This world of words is just so wonderfully big. Impressive words, little words, common words, or downright tongue teasingly good words, but my very favourite words are potential words, for potential words are very powerful words indeed.

Lastly no self-respecting post about things I’ve learnt as a writer would be complete within reference to the one important thing that we all seem to share, and that is our complete fetish for notebooks, or in fact stationery of any sort – seriously, do you want to see the photos? I bet you do …

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Book Review: Girl on the Run by Rhoda Baxter


About the Author:

Author of Please Release Me, Doctor January and Girl on the Run, Rhoda is a former scientist who now works in the field of intellectual property.


Book Summary:

The story follows Jane, the ex-girlfriend of a famous musician, as she tries to flee from the lime light and create a life of her own after she catches him with another woman.  However one celebrity gossip magazine just won’t let her go…


The insertion of snippets from the magazine that’s determined to find her and the use of texts and emails through the story was and interesting and clever idea. I was a little apprehensive about reading emails in the middle of a story at first, but I have to admit it worked really well.  It was carefully balanced so it wasn’t overdone, but it was sufficient to give the reader an insight into what was going on beyond the characters verbal conversations.

It’s a great story with a strong cast of characters.  It covers friendships, family (I love the relationship between Marsh and Stevie), the pitfalls of fame, as well as office rivalry and the perils of office romances.  What more could you want?

I raced through the book desperate to find out if Jane’s identity would be revealed and how her new friends and colleagues would treat her if they knew it was her in pages of the magazine they all loved to read.  But most importantly I desperately wanted to know if Jane could be the woman that tempted Marsh to risk another office romance…

Monday, 26 October 2015

The Writing Class: Voices

‘Find your voice’ is advice that all new writers will hear, but what does it really mean?

This week’s writing class gave us the opportunity to ‘try on voices’.  We mimicked the voices of other authors by identifying the qualities that make up those voices and in the process learned a little about finding our own.

In many ways the concept of a writer’s voice is one of those things that we all instinctively know and yet struggle to define. So here’s my attempt to provide a little clarity.

Everyone has their own outlook based on their personal experiences and emotions. This outlook is unique to us. It’s at the core of who we are as individuals.

Our outlook is influenced to some extent by people and events. Our parents, siblings, teachers and friends will guide us. Our studies, work and lifestyles will challenge and change us. But even though we may share the same experiences or have friends in common, how they affect us and what we draw from them will be different.

We have our own likes and dislikes. Our own hopes and fears. Our own quirks and eccentricities. We have our own personalities.

It seems to me that finding your voice is essentially about finding the ability to convey who we are on the page. It’s about not being afraid to dig deep and express genuine emotion. It’s about being willing to allow people to see a glimpse of us in our writing.

Our ‘voice’ is the ability to express our individual personalities in our writing and create something that’s not only fresh and unique, but also authentic because it is an extension of ourselves.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Guest Post: Louise Marley - The Ghosts of Conwy

With Halloween just around the corner I'm welcoming Louise Marley to the blog for a spooky themed post...

The Ghosts of Conwy

by Louise Marley

A tale of ghoulies and ghosties, and four-leggedy beasties …

And a monk who likes a pint in the night …

There was once a Cistercian abbey here in Conwy, which had to be moved to make way for Edward I and his new castle. But despite Edward I’s best efforts at relocating the monks, it appears some of them might have never actually left.

The Abbey of Aberconwy was founded in the 12th Century and built on land donated by Llywelyn the Great. It became the burial place for many of the princes of Gwynedd, including Llywelyn and his sons, but after Edward I conquered Wales and built Conwy Castle, the abbey was forced to relocate to Maenan in the Conwy Valley – and they took Llywelyn’s remains with them! So if anyone was going to haunt the town, Llywelyn would surely be a prime candidate – his revenge for not being allowed to rest in peace. But as it turns out, Llywelyn is just about the only spirit who doesn’t haunt Conwy.

The most famous ghost story centres on Plas Mawr a 16th century town house built by Robert Wynn. There are several different versions of this tale; a few even ascribe the haunting to the castle itself. The story goes that while the master of the house is away (sometimes it’s Robert Wynn himself, sometimes merely a descendant), his heavily pregnant wife and young child take to going up the narrow, twisting steps of the watch tower to look out for his return. You just know this isn’t going to end well and, sure enough, one evening the lady suffers a terrible fall while carrying the child, and both are mortally injured. A doctor is sent for but says he can do nothing to help them. A servant, worried what the master will say, locks the doctor in the room before he can leave. When the master returns, and the servant finally unlocks the door, the woman and her child are both dead and the doctor has vanished. The master, distraught with grief, kills himself. His ghost can still be heard pacing up and down, trying to find the missing doctor.

This story, in various forms, appears in several ‘true-life’ ghost books, particularly in the latter part of the last century. And because it doesn’t appear in any of the records much before the early 1900s, it’s a bit of a clue this story may have been, shall we say ‘embellished’; OK probably completely made up. Sorry!

However, while Plas Mawr has one very famous ghost (possibly two; there’s a theory the poor doctor perished while trying to escape up the chimney!), Conwy Castle is practically overrunning with them. It withstood a siege in 1295, and another one during the English Civil War in 1649, so it’s hardly surprising it should be home to a few disgruntled ghosts. Visitors have reported the distinct scent of incense in the castle chapel, and the silhouette of a man wearing armour looking out through one of the castle windows – backlit by flickering candlelight. A cloaked figure has been seen stalking the battlements and the ghost of a monk likes to watch the tourists walk around the castle.

Down by the quayside ghostly monks have also been spotted at The Liverpool Arms pub (insert your own joke about spirits here), which backs onto the medieval town walls. Another monk (or possibly the same one?) enjoys walking along the quayside and through the churchyard at night. Slightly randomly, the churchyard is also home to a ghostly cat.

A second ghostly cat haunts the neighbouring Castle Hotel – apparently he likes to make himself comfortable on the beds. No one has ever seen him, just felt him walk over their feet … And the hotel is also home to the spirit of a chambermaid, upset at being buried in the churchyard rather than taken back to her home village on Anglesey. Even after her body was relocated, she continues to haunt the hotel …

Happy Halloween!

Louise Marley

About Louise

Louise Marley writes romantic comedy and romantic suspense. She lives in Wales, surrounded by fields of sheep, and has a beautiful view of Snowdon from her window. Her first published novel was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which was a finalist in Poolbeg’s Write a Bestsellercompetition. She has also written articles for the Irish press and short stories for UK women’s magazines such as Take a Break and My Weekly. Her latest book is Something Wicked.



Twitter: @LouiseMarley

Something Wicked

Evil can be tempting …

Katrina Davenport has opened a coffee shop and bookstore at the notorious Raven’s Cottage, once the home of a 17th century witch known as Magik Meg. The locals have told Kat stories, of how the cottage is haunted by the witch and her demon lover, but Kat doesn’t believe in witches, or ghosts, or anything going bump in the dead of night. Every strange occurrence must have a perfectly logical explanation.

Unfortunately it doesn’t really matter what Kat believes, because something wicked has returned to Raven’s Cottage …

And this time it’s come for Kat.

Amazon UK:

Amazon USA:

The Joys of an Open Plan Office

Usually my working day is accompanied by the low hum of the air conditioning system.  On a good day, when it’s working properly, it’s reminiscent of being on an airplane, and I daydream of being whisked off to somewhere more exotic than yet another spreadsheet.  When it’s malfunctioning though it has a tendency to sound like a spaceship about to land on the roof. Of course this could just mean I’ve been looking at said spreadsheets just a little bit too long…

There’s also the usual office noises, which helps to distract me from thoughts of invading little green men. Phones ringing.  Impromptu meetings at the surrounding desks. The random burst of applause coming from the next section as another leaving presentation is made. Or on rare occasions an eerie silence befalls us.  At which point we become accurately aware that everyone can hear our conversations.

Last week though there was a new sound to add to the list; the irritating tap-tap tap-tap of table tennis in the next section. I have to admit it’s a strange problem to have in the office.

To be fair it was just for one day.  It was part of the company’s programme to encourage us to get more active and promote sports.  From the laughter and cheering that was going on in the next section I’d say they had a great time joining in the fun. 

And in case you’re wondering what my department did for this event…  We all joined in a group wide activity of muttering under our breath at every cheer that drowned out the person on the other end of our phone calls.  “Could you repeat that please, I couldn’t hear you over the table tennis game,” was an interesting phrase to find yourself saying.  Repeatedly.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Writing Class: Autobiographical Novels

This week’s writing class was all about autobiographical novels. These are novels which have been based on personal experiences, but fictionalised until the line between fact and fiction blurs beyond recognition.

For a writer one of the most important skills is to create deep and believable characters. Using our own experiences can help us do this. Fictionalising those experiences can (sometimes) make them more interesting and help protect us and others from being exposed in our work.

The strongest characters will have emotional credibility. Where better to look for the inspiration for their emotions than within ourselves? As my tutor pointed out, we need to be able to feel what our characters are going through. If we can’t, then how can we expect our readers to?

In many ways my characters are an extension of me. Not an exact replica (thank goodness), but an exaggeration of a tiny part of me. An emotion, a hope, a dream, or a real experience can be built upon, exaggerated, changed and placed into an entirely different setting. The end result is a character and situation that is completely different to me and my life. However, if you look deep enough, right to its core, you might still find a teeny tiny distorted reflection of me.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Guest Post: Heidi Swain - The Do's and Don't of Social Media

Hello Elaina. Thank you so much for inviting me to feature on your lovely blog and write an indulgent few words on something I am particularly passionate about. I must admit I thought long and hard about what I could wax lyrical about and I’ve settled on… social media.

Now I can hear some of you groaning already but love it or loath social media is here to stay and for us authors it now forms a huge part of our marketing and promo experience so I urge you to get to grips with it, embrace it and above all, enjoy it!

Personally, as a relentless chatterbox, I love the online author experience and blog, tweet, post to Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram on a regular basis. The opportunity to engage and network with authors all over the world from the comfort of my sofa is fantastic but even more thrilling is the chance to make that connection with readers!

My debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café, was published this summer and as you can imagine I was jump up and down excited to finally secure that deal, bag myself a world class publisher, stunning book jacket and fizz filled launch party however, exciting as all that was, reading reviews and readers’ comments and experiences has surpassed all expectations.

The thought that my novel is someone’s bedtime read, holiday read, even a welcome distraction on a monotonous journey is an absolute joy and the fact that these fabulous readers are prepared to tell the world about it through the means of social media is even better!

However, even though this is all hugely exciting it is important to remember to play by the rules if you want to make the most of your online presence. No-one is interested in a continual hard sell, the whole ‘buy my book, buy my book!’ frenzy simply drives me and everyone else on the planet to distraction and it doesn’t work to boot.

Of course around publication time you need to be promoting and sharing but what about the person behind the pages? That’s who readers and the world in general is, in my experience, really interested in. Who is the person behind the keys? What makes them tick? Social media gives us the opportunity to form relationships with people we quite probably wouldn’t have any chance of meeting in ‘real life’ so set up that account, share crazy cat pictures, gardening triumphs, craft projects and bake fails and prepare to make friends and have your horizons broadened!

Here are a few handy do’s and don’ts for authors new to social media:

DO - Remember to say ‘hello, how are you?’ when someone new interacts with you
DO – Always say thank you for a comment, retweet or review
DO – Share and Tweet news of fellow authors, cover reveals, 5 star reviews etc
DO – Post images of pets (cats especially) in ridiculous poses
DO NOT – Follow an author or potential new reader and bombard them with dm’s and links
DO NOT – Pitch to a publisher, agent or other via social media. I know, but it does happen!
DO NOT – Continually post about your book – if someone likes you they will probably go and find it

Well I guess that’s it. I hope my few words have encouraged you to make the most of the online author experience. I look forward to connecting with you soon!

H x

Heidi Swain Author Bio

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of Galaxy bars, vintage paraphernalia and the off bottle of fizz, she now writes contemporary fiction and enjoys the company of a whole host of feisty female characters.

She joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in 2014 and is now a full member. The manuscript she submitted for critique, The Chery Tree Café, is her debut novel published by Simon and Schuster in July 2015.

She lives in Norfolk with her wonderful husband, son and daughter and a mischievous cat called Storm.

Links Twitter:

The Cherry Tree Cafe


Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe...
Lizzie Dixon's life feels as though it's fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there's only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.

Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home. She has just bought a little cafe and needs help in getting it ready for the grand opening. And Lizzie's sewing skills are just what she needs.

With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago...?

For everyone who loves settling down to watch Great British Bake-Off, the Great British Sewing Bee, or curling up to read Milly Johnson or Jenny Colgan, The Cherry Tree Cafe is a coffee-break treat.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Writing Class: A New Year

I arrived at the classroom a full 30 minutes early. I take not wanting to be late on the first day to a whole new level.

We’re in the room next door to last year’s classroom.  It’s laid out in the mirror image, so it feels a little backwards.  It’s like stepping through the looking glass into a world that’s similar but not quite the same.

It’s not just the room that’s different, but the people too. There are only five of us continuing on from last year, so it has a completely new vibe.

I’m not very good with change.  I like familiarity and consistency.  I knew that it would be different and yet somehow it was a shock that it was. I knew, but I’d tried to overlook it in the hope that it wouldn’t be true. Perhaps I am spending too many hours writing. Because I can change a characters situation to be what I want just by writing it down, I seem to think that the same works on reality just by hoping.  It doesn’t.

By the end of last year I’d just about settled into a state of uncomfortable acceptance with the idea of reading my work out to the group. I was going into the new year with the confidence that I could do it, because I already had. I didn’t like it, but I could do it.

My confidence completely evaporated the moment it was my turn to introduce myself to the group.  The fact that I already knew the tutor and a few students was absolutely no help.

Over the summer I’ve had 2 stories published and a couple of other pieces accepted for publication.  I’ve had my novel reviewed by the RNA New Writers Scheme and I’m three quarters of the way through a rewrite.  Yet all I managed to tell the group as they waited with baited breath was that I like to write stories.  Duh!  

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Writing Class: The Long Days Of Summer

I don’t know what happened to the summer. Did we have one? Did I miss it? I don’t just mean in terms of the weather, I mean the whole thing.

I had all these plans for what I would achieve over the summer.  However, October’s arrived and guess what? My plans are still just that. Plans.

I don’t know why I thought I would achieve so much in July to September.  Did I somehow overlook the fact that I have a full time job and it doesn’t come with a term time only working arrangement?

It seems that the notion of my elusive summer of productivity stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t attending my weekly writing class during that period.  Sadly I failed to consider that my class is only 2 hours once a week, so not going to class only freed up one evening for a few weeks.

When I look at it that way perhaps I wasn’t as unproductive with my ‘summer off’ as I thought.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Guest Post: Rhoda Baxter - My Journey to Publication

Today I welcome Rhoda Baxter, author of 'Girl on the Run' and 'Please Release Me'.

Like most writers, I’ve been writing in one form or another for as long as I can remember. Becoming a novelist was always the big dream, but I am, at heart, pragmatic. I didn’t study English Lit as I’d wanted to. I took my father’s advice and did science, so that I could get a ‘real job’. During the long years at university, I put my writing on hold – apart from the odd film review for student publications. When I got my first job, I went back to writing. At the time, the BBC ran a forum called BBC Get Writing. I learned an awful lot from haunting the Get Writing boards. The three most valuable lessons I took away from it were:
  1. Write often. I used to try and do their 8pm flash challenge at least four nights a week. It was good discipline to sit at the computer every day at the same time and just write about something. Anything.
  2. Good criticism is not the same as ‘I like it’. If someone tells you that something doesn’t work check and see if you agree. If TWO people tell you the same thing is wrong. Fix it. Yes, it’s hard to take. Suck it up.
  3. Submit. You’ll never get your work out to anyone if you don’t SEND it to them. If they reject it, refresh/reprint and send it out to someone else.

When the BBC Get Writing site closed (waaaah! I still miss it!), I did a couple of creative writing courses, which didn’t teach me much, but did link me up with Jen Hicks, who has been my critique partner for over 10 years now. Jen and I both have a gloves off approach to critiquing. We can be quite blunt to each other, but I love her work and I hope she still likes mine!

The next step change came when I joined the RNA. It was like I’d stepped off a sleepy country road and found myself on the dual carriage way. I learned a lot from lurking on their message loop. I still do. The publishing industry was just starting to change back then (around 2007). Ebooks were on the rise in the US, but weren’t considered to be ‘real books’ the UK yet. The indie publishing phenomenon hadn’t even begun.

The things I learned from the RNA were:
  1. Above all else, think about STORY. If your story is dull and flabby, all your lovely ‘literary’ sentences are just navel gazing. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for literary books with… um… less obvious…storylines. It’s just harder to sell one of those.
  2. Network. People are more likely to look favourably on a manuscript submitted by someone they’ve met, or even heard of. So network. Go to events. Join in the conversation on social media. Get out there.
  3. Learn about contracts. Know what you’re signing away.
  4. You’re going to write more than one book. Think of it as a career, not a big splash. This only works if you actually write more than one book. So… write more books.

My first contract was with Uncial Press, a small ePublisher in the US. They had a respectable track record and offered me a very reasonable contract. Their editorial input was superb. I learned a lot from working with Uncial and they are some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. My first book, Patently in Love was published in eBook format in 2012. I really wanted to be published in
print, but bearing in mind this is a long game, I decided ebook was good enough for me. That was then. Now ebook is the norm. What a difference 3 years makes!

Choc Lit started up around the time I was first submitting Patently in Love. I bought the first book Choc Lit published (The Importance of Being Emma by Juliette Archer) and decided that THIS was the publisher I wanted to work with, but Patently was too short (65K) for their submission guidelines.. More and more friends from the RNA signed up with them. I talked to them. I stalked Choc Lit on Twitter. I read and reviewed nearly every book they brought out. I joined their newsletter. By the time I wrote a book long enough to submit to Choc Lit (Doctor January), they already knew of me. Doctor January came out in ebook and print soon after. I finally had a book in print!

The things I learned since becoming a published author:
  1. Promotion is important. No one can buy your book if they don’t know it exists. Publishers will do a bit of marketing, but the bulk of it is up to you. Print bookmarks, give talks, talk to book bloggers and readers (I don’t mean bombard them with stuff about your book, I mean TALK to them). Be nice to people and they might buy your book because they like you. With any luck, they’ll like the book enough to buy the next one.
  2. The making of a bestseller requires a huge marketing budget, hard work or a huge dose of blind luck. Possibly all three. If the only one of those you can control is the hard work bit. Do that.
  3. Most novelists don’t make a huge amount of money. Don’t expect to give up the day job.
  4. Write the next book.

Please Release Me

My latest book, Please Release Me, came out in September 2015. It’s had some great reviews so far. A large part of the story is set in a hospice and deals with fairly heavy themes like grief and bereavement. Because I didn’t want to deal with such sensitive topics and get it wrong, I spoke to some people at Martin House Children’s Hospice. It seems only fitting that I’m donating half my royalties from Please Release Me to the hospice.

My website: (@rhodabaxter on Twitter)

Buy Link for Please Release Me:


What if you could only watch as your bright future slipped away from you?

Sally Cummings has had it tougher than most but, if nothing else, it’s taught her to grab opportunity with both hands. And, when she stands looking into the eyes of her new husband Peter on her perfect wedding day, it seems her life is finally on the up.

That is until the car crash that puts her in a coma and throws her entire future into question.
In the following months, a small part of Sally’s consciousness begins to return, allowing her to listen in on the world around her – although she has no way to communicate.

But Sally was never going to let a little thing like a coma get in the way of her happily ever after …

Monday, 28 September 2015

Gardening Update

So on Saturday Dad announced that his lawn didn't look very good. I decided not to take this as an insult on my gardening skills, or lack thereof. Though to be honest I wouldn't blame him if it was. However he did clarify by explaining that it was the weeds and moss that he found offensive, rather than the uneven cut and persistent long edges.

His solution was that it required special lawn care stuff sprinkling all over it. Okay so those weren't his actual words, but bear with me I'm still a novice.

Now his two lawns aren't particularly big, but they aren't tiny either. At least they don't seem it when I'm mowing them. I think the same magic that makes time go faster at weekend’s works on lawns too. Only instead of time going faster the more fun you're having, the lawn grows larger with every shove of the mower. Of course it could just be that I'm overlapping with my wonky lines.

Anyway, I digress. My point is that I didn't particularly fancy lugging a big bag of Evergreen Complete 4 in 1 around the garden, while I sprinkled it on the never ending lawn. My solution was to procrastinate. Obviously I was much too busy all day to spend any time sprinkling.

I thought I'd escape it on Sunday too, especially when we decided to go out for a family lunch. There was just one snag. Somehow we ended up having lunch in a garden centre cafe.

Now don't get me wrong it's a lovely cafe and they serve delicious meals. But when I'm trying to wangle my way out of Dads gardening to do list, the last thing I want to do is take him somewhere where he's surrounded by inspiration. Where he sees rows of plants and gardening tools to transform his mundane garden into a colourful paradise, I just see more work.

To be quite honest the only time I enter the garden centre is to go to the cafe (it's conveniently located near my parents’ house) or to drool over the fantastic Christmas displays (but that's a whole other story for another blog).

Nevertheless, there we were right in the middle of enemy territory ruled by bees and wasps. In my opinion no good can come from Dad being in a garden centre, at least not while I'm still the substitute gardener. Somehow his visits always involve me doing heavy lifting, and usually getting mud stuck down my fingernails in the process.

I managed to get us safely seated in the cafe unscathed, but after relaxing over my toasted Brie and bacon sandwich I was a little complacent about my exit strategy.

"Oh look", said Dad and I snapped back to attention, but it was too late. A new gardening ‘must have’ had been spotted. I wasn't foolish to think we would manage to get out of the store without buying it, though at that point I was still baffling over what it was for.

To be fair to Dad, he did as it turns out have my best interests at heart. Sort of. It was a spreader. Its purpose; to sprinkle the weed killer and grass seed and make my job easier. Somehow I ended up thanking him as I lugged it to the till. Though I would have been even more grateful had he just not thought up the whole idea of treating the lawn in the first place.

So thanks to Dads impulse purchase I had no excuse for not dealing with the lawn. Somehow 'because I don't want to' didn't seem like a good enough excuse, especially as I'm not longer 5 years old.

I poured the stuff into the newly acquired spreader and then set about pacing up and down the garden pushing my little cart. I have no idea why, but for some reason it was actually kind of fun. Not that I plan on admitting that to Dad. Good grief just think of the jobs he'd find me if he thought there was hope for me as a gardener!

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Reluctant Gardener

In this age of modern, independent women, I am what my friends affectionately (I hope) refer to as a girly girl. Whilst I've surrendered my childhood preference (ok obsession) for all things pink (pink dresses, flip flops, hair ribbons, wall paper and carpet... Need I go on?) I still have a tendency for girlish squeals. Just place me in the vague vicinity of a bee, wasp or spider and you'll see what I mean.
However, as a result of my Dads recent stay(s) in hospital, I'm now basking in the sunshine of the great outdoors. Which loosely translated means I have temporarily taken on the role of looking after his garden.
So not so much basking, more trapsing up and down pushing a lawn mower, which I swear was lighter in the shop, in what I aim to be straight lines, but are actually more just a chaotic assortment of randomness.
Corners present a particular problem when it comes to attempting to turn said heavy mower. Did I also mention it's really long? Which means if I do muster the strength to turn it 360 degrees, I usually at this point find myself standing in the bushes, which for a girl who doesn't like spiders, is not a good place to be.
I feel however that I may have stumbled into a profitable new venture. No not a new career in landscape gardening, but I do think I could sell tickets to my neighbours for the entertaining show that they get witness every two weeks. After all it's got everything:
  • Intrigue and suspense - will she master a straight line this week?
  • Drama - when's she going to notice the spider in her hair?
  • And even dancing... Sort of. It's a whole new wasp dance, it could rely catch on, though it's not to be mistaken for the bee dance. That would just be insulting.
What would I do with all that extra income I hear you ask?
Simple, hire a gardener while I hide indoors.