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Showing posts from 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... INTRODUCTION 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

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 st

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 (a

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.

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 mornin

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. ht

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 y

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

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 somet

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

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 h

Book Review: Girl on the Run by Rhoda Baxter

Rating: 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. @rhodabaxter 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… Review: 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 stro

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.

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 res

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 sect

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

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 CafĂ©, was published this summer and as you can imagine I was jump up and down excited to finally

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 o

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.

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: 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. Good criticism is not the same as ‘I like it’. If someo

The Skating Diaries: The Next Step

Handmade skating necklace from My second venture into the world of ice skating involved less laughter and a lot more fear.  I was seventeen years older and supposedly wiser, which failed to explain what had made me think that strapping two little bits of metal to my feet was ever a good idea. I pulled open the heavy metal door and, leaving the sunny spring day behind me, I stepped inside.  I stopped immediately.  That practical side of my ten year old self was now my predominant characteristic.  The door clanged shut behind me causing me to gasp as I swung round in surprise.  I wasn’t even on the ice year and I was a nervous wreck. I took a deep breath of the cool air which was heavily scented with Zambezi fumes and indistinguishable chemicals.  I tried to remind myself that I wanted to do this.  However as I forced my feet to shuffle forward it was hard to believe that it was true. Someone turned the stereo on and the Spice Girls blared around the massive rink. 

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 fanc