Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year 2012! I'm going to write my second novel at last!

Happy New Year!
My New Year Resolution for 2012 is to pick up the threads of the novel I started three or four years ago and finish it!
I've done lots of research as it's another historical one, but set this time during the First World War. Of course, I could have made it easy for myself and concentrated on the 1930s again, but I enjoy exploring the past, and writing about it is a great way of doing it. I would love to travel backwards in time, just as an observer, rather like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, (so nothing could be changed) and see how people really lived, but as that's impossible, the next best thing is to use my imagination.
Writing my novel is going to take some time. My last one had nearly 40 chapters with about 2500 words in each, so even if I wrote as little as 500 words a day (that's 2 A4 double spaced sheets, Times New Roman font size 12), it would take 40 weeks, supposing I didn't write any at the weekends!
It will be quite a challenge, because for the past two years, apart from editing Gipsy Moth, I have been writing short stories of about 2000 words each. I wonder how easy I'm going to find it to extend my writing into a novel again?
As I said, I've done most of the research, but will have to read it through again. I've already re-read, the chapters that I've begun, and with my editing eye, I can see that there's quite some work to be done on them too!
I'm going to get some of the 'clearing up after Christmas' jobs done next week so I can make a clean start on January 9th.
Good Luck with your resolutions for 2012!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

In the week before Christmas, I love to read A Christmas Carol. The five staves, or chapters, are just right to read one a day and recapture cold foggy, nineteenth century London on Christmas Eve.
The copy I read is on the right and is part of a set of bound novels for children which I bought for my family over 20 years ago. Each was accompanied, as you can see, with a magazine telling about the author, and the times in which they lived.
2012 marks the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth with major TV programmes marking the event, including Great Expectations, over the holidays, with Gillian Anderson as a chilling Miss Havisham.
As a child, I loved the BBC adaptations which used to be on at Sunday teatime, and I wonder how this will compare. Technically superior I'm sure!
One of the best Dickens' adaptations for Christmas is The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine as Scrooge, along with Kermit (Bob Cratchit), Miss Piggy (Mrs Cratchit), and Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig. It does sound a little corny, but none of the story is lost in this film which is best watched on Christmas Eve, when Kermit sings, 'There is only one more sleep 'til Christmas!'

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Yule Lads and Northern Lights in Iceland!




The temperature in Akureyri last week was minus 22 degrees, that's colder than the freezer in my kitchen! Luckily, when we were there the week before, it was only minus 2, a much better temperature to go hunting for the Northern Lights!
The snowfall made it feel very Christmassy, together with the fact that the local householders had already put up their Christmas lights to counteract the long winter nights.
On the first evening we drove about 100 miles on an included tour to find the Aurora Borealis, but we only saw a smudge in the sky. Happily, that meant that we could go out again the next night to try and find them again.
On the second day we took a minibus tour to Lake Myvatn to see the volcanic landscapes highlighted by the snow: pseudo-craters made by trapped water bubbling up, rather than lava; stacks of lava; geothermal pools where some of our party bathed - not me, it was snowing; sulphur fields; and mystic Dimmuborgir, home of the trolls. Harry, our driver on the first night, had told us how Iceland has not one, but thirteen Santas. They come on each of the thirteen nights before Christmas. Children put a shoe on their windowsill, and if they are good they get a treat, but if they are bad, they get a potato!
Rabbi, our guide on the second day, also told us the story, but I don't know whether he expected to see some of the Yule Lads, as they are called, at the cafe at Dimmuborgir! They were filming an advert for the Icelandic Tourist Board, and completely in character, fooled around like The Monkees or The Goodies whilst we had our lunch. Then when we moved on to the fissure where Iceland is splitting apart with the Eurasian plate pulling east and the American plate pulling west, we saw them again. It was like going to Lapland and seeing Father Christmas, only better because it wasn't at all commercialised, and felt very real.
At last the second evening arrived, and we went out again with Harri. We had only been going about 15 minutes when a lady in the back of the minibus pointed to a shimmering line of green in the sky, and said, 'Is that them?'
'Yes!' said our driver, finding a place to park.
We spent about an hour photographing the breathtaking Aurora Borealis which spread across the heavens. Keen photographers set up their tripods, and experimented with long exposures, but it was also good to lean back on the bonnet of the van and just look up at the sky and marvel.
It was a really magic trip and I would definitely return to Iceland, but maybe in the summer next time!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Trip to Iceland and a Surprise Award!


I've just got back from a trip to Iceland to find that I'd been award the Liebster Award from Rosemary Gemmell. You may remember that she was the one who showed me how to make the magic links to Amazon and Smashwords on my blog. So thank you very much, Rosemary!
She has at least two blogs that I know of: Reading and Writing
where she talks about writing her NaNo novel, among other topics, and Flights of Imagination, all about children's literature. She went to the book launch of Viking Gold by V. Campbell recently, and I'm going to have to read it, now that I've been to Iceland!
'Liebster' means dearest in German, and this award is to encourage new writers and bloggers who have less than 200 followers, so this is what each recipient has to do:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger

2. Choose your 5 bloggers to receive the award and tell them by leaving a comment on their blog

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog

4. Hope those five people send it to their chosen bloggers!

So now I'm going to pass the Liebster Award on to the following five whose blogs I have
enjoyed:

Susan E Willis for her delicious A Food and Love Story Writer. Every blog has irresistible
photos of food, as well as interesting stories.

Dot Scribbles for her fabulously detailed reviews of the latest books.

Scarlet Wilson for her informative and helpful blogs for the new romantic writer.

Angela Bell for her inspirational blog about literature and art with beautiful illustrations.

Catherine Miller for her entertaining and inspirational blog with great photos.

Best wishes to you all!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Self-Publishing - Gipsy Moth Book Signing!



















Thankfully, my books arrived on Friday lunchtime, just in time for my book signing on Saturday. So many thanks to Clare and the team at Direct POD for pulling that off for me! It's amazing how much room one hundred books take up; that's just a few of the boxes in the picture. But the beauty of print on demand is that I can order as many more as I want. I'm really glad that I didn't order 1,ooo! I don't know where I would have put them!
The book signing went very well yesterday. I sold quite a few in the beautiful barn where the farmers' market is held, and I got some leads where I might sell more which I'm going to follow up. I also got some ideas, e.g. make some notices with 'Book Signing Today' 'Local Author' and the price, '£7.99', because they answer lots of questions! Also, Direct POD sent me some posters and postcards, blank on the back for me to fill in. I thought that I could do it as I went along, but I didn't have the time, so I've printed the short description of my book that I wrote for Smashwords on the back with my blog and email details. Prospective customers can therefore pick them up to see what the book is about. I did distribute some on the tables laid for tea and cakes, but I think they would have been better with more information.
The stall beside me was the WI tea and cakes stall and I was desperate for the coffee and walnut cake which was gradually disappearing, slice by slice, beside me. I couldn't have any because I'd have got sticky hands, so I've made some little coffee cakes for tea today!
I've been checking my progress on Amazon. Today, I'm number 11,975 in the Amazon best sellers ranking, not bad considering I started at about 88,000!!!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

I've published Gipsy Moth on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords!


At last I've published Gipsy Moth on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, and sent my final pdf copy off for printing!
A week last Saturday, I was sent the loose leaf proof copy of my book, wrapped in it's lovely new cover, see left! (I think Samantha Groom did such a good job!) I worked solidly to go through it and get it back to Direct POD as soon as possible. I posted it back last Monday, proudly having used the proofreading marks from Collins Dictionary for Writers & Editors!
Clare Lill sent me the pdf corrected copy, but some of the line formatting hadn't been done. So I feverishly went through the whole book again, putting things right and finding some more of my own errors. There were two problems on Saturday: firstly I kept getting a message that some of the header or footer was outside the printable area, and it took half a day to find printable area under Page Set Up - Page Attributes- Manage Custom Sizes - Printer Margins - User Defined, and phew - that did the trick if they were set to zero. Secondly, although the title pages and body of the text were in one doc file on my computer, they would only save as two in pdf, but Clare said she would be able to sort that out for me. At last I was satisfied and mailed them off. Hopefully they will be back on Friday for my book signing at the local farmers' market, where I hope there will be lots of people wanting a paperback with their organic sausages!
As far as the epub copies of my book went, I found, as I said before, the advice from Freda Lightfoot and Catherine Ryan Howard invaluable and the Amazon copy uploaded without any hitch. Hopefully, the Smashword copy or copies, as they are made for multiple formats are all ok too. At the moment, although it's published, I'm waiting for the AutoVetter to check it for the Premium Catalog so it can be distributed to the Apple iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo and others.
I would like to thank Rosemary Gemmell, as well, who told me how to add the buttons to the right, (through the design tab in dashboard) so I could make a direct link to Amazon and Smashwords.




Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Fantastic Book Cover by Samantha Groom



Here is my fantastic book cover designed by Samantha Groom. I'm really pleased with it.
I sent her some ideas, but she came back with some even better ones, and was pleased to change the layout, shading and font until we arrived at this on the left. She also designed the spine and back of the book because I'm having some paper copies printed as well as listing it on Amazon.
I'm so excited about it all and I was thrilled to see all her suggestions dropping in my inbox.
I can really recommend her for her excellent service.


My novel should be on Amazon within the next week. I'll put up a post when it appears.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Self Publishing - Sending off Typescript to Printers and Formatting for Kindle.


I had a delicious lunch in The Gipsy Moth pub in Greenwich yesterday, to celebrate sending my typescript for Gipsy Moth to Direct POD, the print on demand company!
I have checked and re-checked the typing, spelling, continuity, and those pesky chapter headings which seem to jump about every time I changed something else. At last it was ready, and the final cover design arrived too (I'm going to tell you more about that in a later blog).
I phoned Clare to check that I'd done everything, and pressed send! The proof copy should come back soon, and then I'll have to re-check it , of course and send it off again for the big print run! It's so exciting to be actually doing it at last!
Meanwhile, I'm formatting it for Kindle. I've been using Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard, and Easy Way to Publish ebooks on Kindle, a booklet from Freda Lightfoot. They are both very good, and it's a bit like making a special dessert and taking the best advice from Delia and Nigella to make the flavour that I want. The cheesecake above at the pub was Mascarpone and Amaretto. Umm!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Self-Publishing - A Weekend in Madrid with Final Editing and Formatting Book for the Printers when I got home.

It wasn't a good idea to go to Madrid for the weekend when I was trying to do the final edits on my novel, so I took a hard copy with me, and it was quite inspiring reading about Kathy's flying lessons when I was 39,000 feet in the air!
Madrid is a beautiful city with a clear blue sky and amazing white rooflines shining like intricate wedding cakes against it.
We had dinner at The Botin Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records! Ernest Hemingway used to eat there.
'In his book The Sun Also Rises (1926) he writes, "We lunched upstairs at Botin's, it is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drunk rioja alta.". Then again in Death in the Afternoon (1932) he writes, "I would rather dine on suckling pig at Botin's than sit and think of casualties my friends have suffered." '
Whilst I was away Clare at Direct POD printed out my cover to check that the colours worked, and she sent it me with no laminate, a glossy laminate and a matt one. The matt one was best, although in all the colours were good.
At last I finished the editing and then I had to get to grips with formatting. It didn't take as long as I thought, but it was fiddly getting the chapter headings to stay in place and making sure that the page numbers started on page 7 and not before! But I'm quite satisfied now. I've only got the Amazon Kindle to do and by all accounts that's far worse!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Self-Publishing Gipsy Moth at Last with Direct POD!


After a flurry of activity in the summer, researching into self-publishing, I began to have second thoughts and didn't do any more. Then the other Sunday, my husband was reading in the paper (on his i-Pad) about success in self-publishing and said I should really give it a try, so by the end of the day I had enquired about having a cover designed, more about that in a later blog, and I had asked for some quotes to have it printed! My aim is to have it ready for a book signing at a local farmer's market in November!
I wanted to have 100 copies printed to see how they sold, and it's amazing just how much that costs! In the end, I decided to go with Direct POD, because they gave an online quote immediately, which proved to be the best out of all the others.
We visited them yesterday to just see what their finished books were like and Clare was very helpful, answering all my questions patiently and apart from giving me a sample copy of one of their books, she also gave us a tour of their vast printing works where my book will be printed!
I felt that, at last, it was really happening!
Afterwards we asked about a good place to have lunch, and she suggested The Aviator at Sywell Aerodrome. Perfect, as my book is all about flying a Gipsy Moth! The hotel is situated in the original club house, and they have kept all the old panelling, windows and fittings to give it the real atmosphere of the 1930s. We even saw a small plane come in to land! I hope it's a good omen for my book!

Friday, 30 September 2011

My daughter and I have read 'The Way We Were' by Elizabeth Noble

My daughter (aged 18) read this on holiday, and I've only just got my hands on it. Like with my other favourite authors, I've collected all Elizabeth Noble's books. I've loved them all, except for perhaps, Alphabet Weekends, where I felt that the idea of 26 weekends doing activities from A to Z was a bit forced. But, all the others were great.
This one is a bitter sweet tale of Susannah and Rob, childhood sweethearts, who meet again and try, despite a partnership with quasi-step-children and a marriage, to get back together again. Her relationship with her best friend, Amelia, is beautifully described too. I won't tell you the ending which is only revealed in the final 10 pages or so, but enough to say that my daughter and I did not agree with each other that the outcome was right.
Just one quibble, RAF Cranwell, the officer training college is in Lincolnshire, not Leicestershire. I know, because I've written about it in my novel!


Friday, 23 September 2011

Pointless Ways of Writing a Short Story for a Competition

This broken pencil is pointless, and, not very useful for writing a story, but have you seen the new television teatime quiz show, Pointless, with Alexander Armstrong?
Each day the contestants have to guess the least likely answer given by 'one hundred people in one hundred seconds' on such various topics as countries ending in 'a', or the films of Doris Day, or the periodic table of elements (not my favourite!). If they're right then the counter goes down to zero, and they win the jackpot in the final round.
What am I getting at? Well, my point is that we're often told in books and magazines when considering a competition entry, write a list of all possible scenarios and then write some more. In similar way to the Pointless programme, you have to try and think of something that no one else has thought of so your story is unique. It's not easy, but give it a try!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Why I enjoyed The House of the Hanged by Mark Mills

I don't usually read thrillers or murder mysteries, but I've loved all the books by Mark Mills, starting with The Savage Garden which I read after reading A Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson. They had very similar storylines, but I liked Mark's best because of the local detail and characterization.
So again, these aspects stood out for me in The House of The Hanged which is set in a bright 1930s summer in the South of France, close to the area of Deborah Lawrenson's The Lantern that I blogged about recently.
As I've mentioned before, I like to link up the books I read if I can, and this one begins in Petrograd (St Petersburg), just after the Russian Revolution which I read about in The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall.
Tom Nash of the British Secret Intelligence Service escapes from Russia after the execution of his girlfriend, Irina. Sixteen years later, having made a new start on the French Riviera, his life is threatened, and he has to discover from the gathering of friends around him who has betrayed him.
It's a great story, and makes me want to read Mark Mill's books again. If only someone would invent a way of reading books more quickly!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

I enjoyed The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall on my Baltic Cruise.

I love choosing books set in the country that I'm visiting, so when I saw The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall, earlier this year, I couldn't resist taking it on my Baltic cruise. I was also delighted to find that I had gone up the staircase on the cover, or one very similar to it in The Hermitage museum. Wow!
The only other book I'd read about the Russian Revolution was Sashenka by Simon Sebag Montifiore, the husband of one of my favourite novelists, Santa Montifiore. Simon, being an historian, painted a grim, but truthful picture of a young woman from a ruling family caught up in the violence and ruthlessness of the workers determined to change Russia for a new world which they believed in.
Kate's story, too, focuses on a similar young woman, Valentina, her family and Jens, a Danish engineer who wants to make the city a better place. Although it doesn't go as far into the twentieth century as Sashenka, it nevertheless graphically describes the violence and murder fanned by the desires of fanatics. Other characters represent people caught up in the struggle are Arkin, their chauffeur, but a secret revolutionary, and Popov, a Kossak who is loyal to Valentina.
The ending is full of suspense, and I loved it far better than Sashenka's dreadful fate.
Just having visited St Petersburg, I could place some of the events at The Winter Palace, the Nevsky Prospekt, and The Aurora, the ship which sounded its horn to start the Revolution. Peter the Great built this city to surpass those in Europe with its gold statues, and pastel coloured buildings. What a setting for a novel.
I wondered why Kate Furnivall chose it for her story and visited her website which told me that her mother spent her childhood in Russia, China and India, and Kate used her experiences in another novel, The Russian Concubine. Well, I enjoyed this one so much, I'll certainly be reading the other one too!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Writer's News Success Again, This Time With First World War Story


Great News! I was shortlisted to the final judging stage in the Writer's News Short Story Competition on the theme of Optimism. I know that I haven't actually won but, as I said before, it really boosts my confidence which is important because another magazine submission boomeranged its way back to me yesterday, and I was all for giving up.
The First World War soldier in the middle of the photo is my father, and I based my story on the actual events of the day he was shot in October 1918. Of course, he survived, or I wouldn't be here, or I would be nearly 100 years old . . .
He 'plays' Will Walker in the story which I also based on the nicknames that soldiers gave each other at that time, so therefore, he's called 'Johnnie' for Johnnie Walker whisky. The name I like best is 'Smudger' Smith ( I think that this comes from the smudges that blacksmiths would get on their faces from the coals and ash). Anyway, Smudger is my optimist in the story called Toot Sweet. Perhaps that's him peering over my dad's shoulder, he looks a bit of a likely lad.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

'Love Always' by Harriet Evans - A great holiday read!


I have enjoyed all Harriet Evans' books, especially this one about how Natasha Kapoor discovers a diary written by her Aunt Cecily in 1963, the summer that she fell to her death down the cliff steps - or was she pushed?
In trying to unravel the fate of her aunt, Natasha also sorts her own life out - her unhappy marriage and her failing business.
This is a great story, set at Summercove, the family house by the sea in Cornwall and in Brick Lane, London.
I would definitely read it again.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson- Paperback or Kindle?

I've just received one of those slim cardboard packages from Amazon with an easy-open tear-off strip which revealed The Lantern, the latest book by Deborah Lawrenson which she describes as a 'modern Gothic novel set in Provence'. I can't wait!
I love the smell of cardboard and new books as I rip them open, and the breeze on my face from the creamy pages as I thumb through them. Mm! You can't get that sensory heaven from a Kindle, although it is probably exciting when it arrives, but you only get that feeling once.
I met Deborah Lawrenson at a party a few years ago, and she was very kind and helpful with suggestions on how to get my novel published. It had taken her two and a half years to get The Art of Falling into the shops because it was a new direction for her after writing three other successful books. I was very impressed and bought it from Waterstones on my way home the next day!
It tells of Isabel's search for her father, Tom. Her story is in the present and his is set in Italy at the start of World War II. In fact I liked it so much, I must get it out again and read it.
I often like to do that: read the books by a particular author one after another, and really immerse myself in their world. And of course, although we all know about the convenience of owning a Kindle: instant downloads and easy to take your library on holiday, nothing beats displaying the works of your favourite author in a colour coordinated row on your bookshelf!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Short Story Success in Writers' News!

I had a lovely surprise this morning when I opened my Writing Magazine, and found that I had been shortlisted in the Members' Club Short Story competition in Writers' News.
Ok, I didn't actually win, but every little bit of success helps!
As you can see, the story was entered in the Great Expectations competition, and that had to be its title too. I got the idea last year when I was waiting for the finalists to be announced in the Brit Writers' Awards Unpublished 2010 competition. I had got through to the third round with my novel Gipsy Moth, and was really hoping to be chosen, but I wasn't. However, always eager to use experiences in my writing, I jotted down my feelings at the time and used them as the basis for my story when the theme was announced this year in Writers' News. That is as far as it goes, the rest of the story is, of course, fiction!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Balancing Self-Promotion with Writing and Reading

The Romantic Novelists are still talking about self-promotion. They had report of a teenage reader who said that she found most of the many books she read online in recommendations from other readers and writers, but did not like books being pushed at her all the time. Other members said that they didn't have time to keep up a blog, Facebook and Twitter, and really needed more time to spend on their writing. I think that I agree!
I started this blog in January, and I've spent the past few days adding some pages, as you can see above, about me and my novel. I've also uploaded a summery short story which I hope you'll like.
This blog is very much a work in progress, as I'm learning how to do it as I go along. However, Catherine Ryan Howard (Self-Printed) is passionate about blogging (five days a week), Tweeting and keeping up her Facebook pages, as well as preparing her second travel memoir for publication. I don't know how she does it. My blog is taking up all my time, and I really need to get my book ready. . .
The other thing I have less time for is reading. I started Harriet Evans' Love Always a few weeks ago, but got side tracked on Mousestrapped and you've guessed it, Self-Printed, plusWoman's Weekly which I try to keep up with to help me write a suitable story to get published in their magazine!
This week, I think, was indicative of the new sort of stories that they want. One, by Rachel Lovell, was about a couple that had moved to France because their foster child had told a 'squalid tale' about the husband which had ruined their lives, but they found a new meaning in life by helping a French family. The other story from Bernadette James was about a woman waiting for a reunion with her sister years after they had both loved the same man. I found these stories both quiet and thoughtful.
Anyway, I'm back with Harriet Evans now, and loving her new book.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Self-Printed, Self-Publishing, Self-Promotion and The Time Sculptor's Secret


I've finished reading Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard. It's a thorough account of how to self-publish using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Createspace and Smashwords and how to promote yourself using blogs, Facebook and Twitter. She has been successful with these methods in publishing Mousetrapped and, of course, Self-Printed, itself, and she has given me lots of food for thought.
Interestingly in September's Writers' Forum, Helen Hollick tells how she self-published some of her out of print novels using SilverWood Books. Whereas Catherine published hers for next to nothing, Helen went for a complete publishing service, and felt happier with it even though it cost £1400 on average per book, although they are helping her with her promotion.
The Romantic Novelists have been talking about self-promotion being annoying when authors are always trying to push their books on others, and today there was a link to Allison Brennan in America, Money Can't Buy Love. She'd been to two conferences, and self-promotion was discussed at length at both of them. She said that ultimately, it is the quality of the book that promotes it through Word of Mouth: the most unpredictable method of promotion, but the one which can bring in the best results.
So more food for thought there!
Lastly this week, I've got a new follower, Jane Gray. I've visited her blog and it is fantastic! She's writing a novel set in Tuscany called The Time Sculptor's Secret, and her current blog describes this area which I love so well, that I can't wait to read her book. She also gives a short quote from the text to showcase her writing and a lengthy one from Charles Dickens who visited the area in 1844. Together with some excellent pictures, it looks like the perfect blog for self-promotion!!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Self-Publishing- I've been reading Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard.

This week I've been reading Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard. She's given me a lot of food for thought, and I feel I must get on with building an 'online presence' and coming to grips with Facebook and Twitter, when I've hardly got time to write my blog!
Catherine says that an individual cover is essential to make your book look its best, so I've also got to look into getting mine designed. One quote was $1000! Just a little out of my league.
Other printers and publishers have also been recommended, including one in Hunstanton, Norfolk, where my parents met and we had many happy holidays.
Phew! At the moment, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

I'm getting Started with Self-Publishing


These nameless volumes represent how much I know about self-publishing, so I've been to work on the internet, helped by the adverts in my pile of writing magazines.
The companies vary and I think I will have to make a very careful decision as to which I choose.
Briefly, my first impressions are that Matador assess your book's possible success first: 25% don't get accepted. They seem to be quite pricey, but I've yet to draw up a spread sheet to compare the others.
I would like to have an individual cover, so I don't like the limited range of covers from GHP and Indepenpress.
Antony Rowe's site looks a bit like Matador, but doesn't seem to be linked to Amazon, you can have an individual cover though, and they do self-publishing workshops in Chippenham.
Spiderwize is a cheaper package, but you can provide your own picture for a glossy cover.
And Direct POD looks like a good printer to work with giving lots of information on their website, but I'm not sure whether they can help you with ebooks.
All a bit confusing, isn't it? None of the companies provide exactly what I'm looking for, so perhaps I'll have to make it on my own . . .

http://www.troubador.co.uk/matador.asp
http://www.grosvenorhousepublishing.co.uk/
http://www.indepenpress.co.uk/
http://uk.cpibooks.com/self-publishing/

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

First small self-publishing steps


This Gipsy Moth sketch is an attempt to design a cover for my novel, called - wait for it! - Gipsy Moth. I might need some professional help!
I've been thinking over the questions that I asked last week:
I've decided to look for a package that produces the book in paperback, because I really want to have something to hold and say it's mine, and in ebook format so I can sell it on Amazon.
(Love Always by Harriet Evans arrived on Friday, and my daughter asked why I didn't have a Kindle. I showed her the lovely pink and blue flowery cover as it came out of the cardboard wrapper, flicked through the pages and smelt them. Umm, that's why I like paper books! But I don't mind selling e-ones to those who can't live without their Kindles!)
I think that 100 to 200 is a good number to have printed. Not too many to store, but still reducing the cost per book compared to having just a few done. I will have a go at marketing it myself. I don't know whether I can be as successful as Catherine Ryan Howard who, when I last looked, had sold thousands of copies of Mousetrapped since March 2010! But I'm certainly buying her book on self-publishing called Self-Printed.
One important thing I need is an ISBN number so my book can be ordered by bookshops and online - if I'm so lucky (!).
I still hope that I'm doing the right thing!

Monday, 27 June 2011

I loved 'Mousetrapped' by Catherine Ryan Howard!


I really loved Mousetrapped by Catherine Ryan Howard.
Last Wednesday, when I decided to self-publish my novel, I found Catherine Ryan Howard as a guest blogger on Talli Roland's blog. She was actually promoting Self-Printed, a guide to self-publishing, so I was very interested. But she also mentioned Mousestrapped, a non-fiction book describing her experiences working in Disney World, Florida, for eighteen months. I couldn't resist it, ordered it from Amazon, began it on Saturday and finished it in 30 degree Florida-like weather on Sunday afternoon.
I adore Disney World, and it was great to have a free visit, courtesy of Catherine's book. It was great to revisit the Kennedy Space Center too! I managed to see a Shuttle lift off several years ago. We left Orlando very early in the morning and arrived to park by Indian River just as it took off. We were so lucky, as other people had camped there all night. What a shame there is only one Shuttle flight left. Back in the time of the Apollo missions, we thought that by 2011, which was a long way in the future, we'd all be travelling to Mars!
Christine has a great style that just sails along through all the reasons why she decide to try her luck in Disney World, and the problems she had living in Florida - without a car!- and how she solved them. I would certainly recommend it. I've ordered her self-publishing book too, and I'll let you know how I get on with that.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I've decided to self-publish my novel!


Yes, I woke up this morning, and in that sleepy quiet time my thoughts turned my novel. I have been writing it over many years and I've had it assessed by Cornerstones, and the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme, I've sent it out to thirty agents and it's come straight back again, I even got my hopes up when Robert Hale asked for the complete manuscript and opened a 125ml bottle of Champagne, but as yet, no success.
I've decided, therefore, that because I've spent a great deal of time on writing and research, (the old cliche is that it's my baby and it's true), I can't let it rot away in the old computer paper box under my desk. I should at least let my family and friends have a chance of reading it. I don't think my dream of being a Sunday Times Best Seller or having a poster on the curved tunnel walls of the Underground will come true with this book, (but maybe the next which I've already started).
So I grabbed some of my writing magazines and sat up in bed with a cup of strawberry and mango tea, and began to do some research.
There are many questions to be answered:
Do I want to do it all myself or buy a package?
Do I want to print enough for my friends and family, or print more to sell?
Am I ready to take on the marketing?
Do I want paper books or ebooks?
How do I get an ISBN number?
How am I going to choose between the providers?
Which self help book should I buy?
Am I doing the right thing?
I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

I've been reading The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly this week.


I've been enjoying The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly, after seeing it reviewed in Woman's Weekly. It's set in modern London, about a family of girls who are the descendants of Jo March. (You've really got to have read and loved Little Women by Louisa M Alcott to appreciate it though!) This family of girls mirror the characteristics of their ancestors: soon-to-be-married Emma is Meg, clever Lulu is Jo, who I think may marry her professor(!), and actress Sophie is the vain Amy. Lulu finds Great-great-grandma Jo's letters to her own sisters in the attic, and finds parallels in their twenty-first century lives. On the cover, Penny Vincenzi calls it 'a personal treasure trove', and I know what she means. It's like finding letters written by your own great-great-grandma or aunt.
I've always preferred American nineteenth century novels to the English ones which means that I've never been a fan of Jane Austen. (There, it's out - I've said it!) I think it all stems from the introduction I had at school to Jane Eyre. Yes, I know it was written by Charlotte Bronte, but I connected the terrible treatment that Jane had at Lowood School with all the other English novels of that time. Little Women was much more my cup of tea, and although the family lived in hardship whilst their dear papa was off ministering in the Civil War, the book came over as far more cheerful and fun. The other book I loved was What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. Of course, she had to cope with becoming an invalid, but still I loved this story and read them both again and again.
Anyway, back to Little Women. There have been many films and TV series, and whilst Katherine Hepburn will always be the definitive Jo, I remember the BBC version in 1970 with Angela Down as Jo, Martin Jarvis as John Brooke, and Patrick Troughton as Mr March. One scene that sticks in my mind is a shot through the window of the girls and Marmee sitting together sewing on Christmas Eve and singing The First Noel .
A few years ago, I visited Boston, and was able to take a 'side trip', as they say over there, to Concord, Massachusetts and visit Louisa M Alcott's family home which inspired her to write her novel about a family of sisters. Like the March girls, they used to put on the plays that Louisa wrote, and you can see the recess and curtains that acted as a stage for their productions, and if I remember correctly, the wonderful pair of long leather boots that Louisa used to stride about in!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Agatha Christie and Greenway


Tucked away, like one of her mysteries, in the woods high above the River Dart in Devon, you can just make out 'Greenway', Agatha Christie's summer home until 1959. A Devon girl, born in Torquay in 1890, Agatha Christie bought this holiday paradise with her second husband, Max Mallowan. It is now a National Trust property, and is open from March to October and you can even arrive up the river by boat!
Following in the tradition of writing about what you know, this famous author used her house, which dates back to 1700, as a setting for some of her novels. For example, Deadman's Folly (1956), Five Little Pigs (1943) and Ordeal by Innocence (1958).
She also set many of her other stories in the surrounding area, one of which is The Regatta Mystery (1939). This is set in Dartmouth at Regatta time, and it is thought that The Royal George Hotel is based on The Royal Castle Hotel, a popular inn for seamen in the seventeenth century and later a coaching inn, now a well renowned hotel on The Quay. And, coincidentally, it was used as part of the set for the shooting of Ordeal by Innocence in 1985!
So grab your pile of Agatha Christie novels or your Kindle(!), and head down to the River Dart for a summer of mystery!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

My Writing Spot



This is actually a photo of a very small corner of my writing spot!
Of course I have a computer, that's how I can do this blog, but I find it easier to get my thoughts down with good old pencil and paper first, without technology getting in the way.
Despite the secretarial course that my mother insisted upon (thanks Mum), I can use all the right fingers in all the right places, but not all of the time!
So, I scribble down my story, then type it up at leisure, editing it as I go. Funnily, placing a ruler (mine's pink) under the written lines helps me to type more accurately!
I have a nice set of Penguin pencils too, printed to look like the spines of paperback books. The one I'm using at the moment is inscribed Laurens Van Der Post - Venture To the Interior
I don't know if it helps my writing, but it looks impressive, and it's a cheerful pink as well.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Why I want to 'Take a Break' with 'Woman's Weekly' and 'People's Friend'.


I want to take a break with these magazines because I love the stories! Of course a novel is lovely to curl up with and lose yourself in for a few hours, but there isn't always time to spare. That's where the excellent fiction in magazines comes in. For a few minutes, you can whisk yourself away wherever the author wants to take you. For example, in this month's Take a Break's Fiction Feast you're transported to the Mediterranean, Cornwall, and the world of TV!
I've grown to love all the authors too. Some are regulars like Geraldine Ryan and Teresa Ashby who has three stories in the current issue of Woman's Weekly Fiction Special! Others are short story experts like Della Galton (How to Write and Sell Short Stories) who has stories in both Fiction Feast and People's Friend Fiction Special, and Paula Williams who has an Inspiration column in Writers' Forum where, amongst other ideas for would-be writers, she wrote about the inspiration for an unusual story published in Woman's Weekly about a man and an eleven-year-old boy climbing a mountain.
So I'm really enjoying them, the only problem is the growing pile of magazines beside my bed!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Have you read Dot Scribbles' reviews?


Hello, have you read Dot Scribbles' reviews?
http://dot-scribbles.blogspot.com/
I was surfing the net, looking for something else, when I came across her blog, and in my photo are just some of the books she's covered. She's trying the Book Chick City Reading Challenge to read 100 books in a year.
http://www.bookchickcity.com/2010/12/sign-up-100-books-in-year-reading.html
To prove she's doing it, she blogs a review for each one. It's well worth a visit.
I wish that I had the time to read like that, but perhaps she reads very fast! I always have a pile to read, and have to stop myself from buying more, but it's very hard!
At the moment, I'm reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton which I think will take some time as it has 600 pages! However, I'm getting into the story of Edie and Milderhurst Castle, and the secrets of the three sisters who live there and who took Edie's mother in as an evacuee in the war.
I've also just read a story by Kathleen Conlon in the current Women's Weekly Fiction special (Issue 4: 2011), called Serenity and Solicitude about Isabel who moved to the country after the war and was befriended by the two elderly women who lived next door as a refuge from her arguing parents. The story tells how these two ladies came to live together under very surprising circumstances, and how their mutual understanding helped Isabel see her own life in a new light. I loved this story and will look out for some more work by this author.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

I Loved Getting Away With It by Julie Cohen!


I really loved Julie Cohen's new book Getting Away With It! If you remember, in my earlier blog, I went to the book launch in Reading Library.
Ok, at first, I didn't like Liza very much, but I don't think I was meant to as a contrast to her hardworking, charitable twin, Lee. But as I read on, I found myself rooting for her as she tried so hard to pretend to be her sister and cover up for her disappearance. And the finale in the final pages was straight out of Hollywood!
I know Wiltshire quite well, and it was fun to guess where Stoneguard might actually be.
It was also interesting to watch Exile this week on BBC One with the excellent John Simm and Jim Broadbent. Although the story went in a completely different direction and was more of a tragedy, the elements were the same although in that case it was the long lost brother returning, and the father who had Alzheimer's.
And the beetroot and horseradish in the photograph? You'll have to read Julie's book to find out!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Easter at Cliveden




The sun shone so brightly on Good Friday that we decided to have a day out at Cliveden, a beautiful National Trust property near Maidenhead. Our SatNav with the voice of Homer Simpson, "You have reached your destination, and you can hold your head up high, for you are a genius!", took us to an entrance where we had to walk miles to even reach the house, but we saw the gardens on the way and I even managed to get my National Trust passport stamped in the shop. We had our picnic in a wooded glade by a little lake, but not too far to go back for ice creams!
The formal gardens were full of tulips and forget-me-nots, but with Easter being so late, were really past their best. Having been to Florence and Rome since my last trip to Cliveden, I could really appreciate the Italian architecture, and the balustrade which had been purchased from the Villa Borghese which we had visited in Rome. All in all, a fantastic day out.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Agatha Christie


When I was in Torquay recently, I saw this bust of Agatha Christie who was born there in 1890. She wrote over 80 detective novels which were translated into more 103 languages. Known the world over for Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, her books have been produced for stage, film and television. Her play The Mousetrap has run for over 23,000 performances.
She famously disappeared for 11 days in 1926, and to date there has been no real explanation. Her maiden name was Miller, and she married Archibald Christie, an aviator on Christmas Eve 1914. They divorced in 1928 and she married Max Mallowan in 1930. She spent many happy years in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, and is buried in the graveyard at Cholsey. The town has produced a leaflet called the Dame Agatha Christie Trail which takes you from the Corn Exchange in the Market Place, where she was the President of the Sinodun Players from 1951 to her death in 1976, to St Mary's in Cholsey and back again via The Red Lion.
www.wallingford.co.uk

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Spencer's Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr.


I bought this book on a recent visit to Schuyler, Virginia, where Earl Hamner Jr. based his stories of Walton's Mountain. This is the original book, but it took a little while getting used to 'John-Boy' being 'Clay-Boy' and 'Elizabeth' being 'Patty-Cake'!! Thankfully 'Olivia' is still 'Olivia'! Also, although we are told not to write in the way people speak, but to give just a suggestion by using key words etc, Earl Hamner Jr. uses 'goen', 'loven', 'sawen' etc, which again takes time 'getten' used to.
However, the book doesn't disappoint. It's on familiar ground if you loved The Waltons. And you can almost hear the music playing as you pick up the book which tells of Clay Spencer, the father, building his house on Spencer's Mountain from the trees that grow there, and Clay-Boy's attempts to get a place at the University of Richmond, whilst Olivia gives birth to twins and seemingly just gets on cooking enormous meals for her family of nine other children and her in-laws! Well, how times change, but I expect Grandma and the older girls give a hand with the chores indoors, which he forgets to mention!
All in all, if you loved The Waltons, you'll love this book, and if you can ever get yourself to Schuyler,Virginia, you'll love that too!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Julie Cohen's Book Launch - 'Getting Away With It'


Have you ever tried beetroot and horseradish ice cream? No, neither had I, until I went to the celebration of the publication of Julie Cohen's new book Getting Away With It at Reading Library last night. There was quite a crowd there from staunch library supporters who had been to various evenings at the library, and had come to Julie's event to find out all about her exciting new book, to her own supporters from Reading Writers and the local Romantic Novelists, plus her agent, Teresa Chris and her editor, Sherise Hobbs, of Headline.
Everyone one was treated to some complementary fizz and some Purbeck Ice Cream, because in the book, the protagonists make the beetroot and horseradish flavour. (As to why, you'll have to read it!) It's made from the true ingredients and it's interesting that although Julie thought the finished colour would be magenta, it's the colour of strawberry ice cream, because beetroot juice is what they use to colour it!
All in all it was a lovely evening, thanks to the library staff. And the ice cream? A strange flavour which sat somewhere between an accompaniment for cold roast beef or mackerel, and dessert! We all agreed we loved it and I hope that you'll love Julie's book too!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake



I bought this book because I thought it might be like Anita Shreve's novels set on the Eastern Seaboard which I have loved so much. I also thought that 'the one night in London the fates of all three women entwine' might be because they fell in love with the same man. But no.
The novel could so easily be called The War Reporter as it does centre around Frankie Bard, the radio reporter who records the voices of people caught up in the exodus from Europe to America in 1941. But, she is also the postmistress because she has a letter to deliver.
A motif in the story is that you can't see outside the photo. You can only see what is in the picture at the time it was taken. Similarly, Frankie can never find out what happens to the people she talks to after they have continued on their journeys. In the same way you never find out what happens to Frankie, Iris, the real postmistress, and Emma, a young bride, after the book has finished. It's just a snapshot of their lives at this time.
Reading this novel with the news this week about the people made homeless by the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and possible nuclear accident, and others desperate to escape to their home nations, reflects and highlights the plight of those people Frankie could only capture for a moment on her disks.
This is a fantastic book, haunting and real. I will read it again.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Jo Brand at The Watermill Theatre


Last November, I went to see Jo Brand at The Watermill Theatre near Newbury. There were only a few tickets left and I had to sit in one of the seats on the side balcony in this wonderful old wooden mill where I once remember seeing Far From the Madding Crowd with cast of six (or it may have been just four)!
Jo was being interviewed for the theatre Book Club, and promoting the next volume of her autobiography Can't Stand Up for Sitting Down. I had a good view of her from my seat, apart from the railing in the way. She talked about how she kept putting off writing her book and in the end had to do it in six weeks! Afterwards she did a book signing, and I told her that my copy was going to be a Christmas present to me, so she signed it and wrote 'Happy Christmas!'.
Because I enjoyed this book about her comedy career, I also bought the first part of her autobigraphy, Look Back in Hunger.This one is about her growing up and eventually becoming a psychiatric nurse. You can really hear her voice coming through off the page and I think I would quite like to get the audio CD versions of these books.
Now, that's an idea for a Christmas present this year!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

I Think I Love You


I love this new book by Allison Pearson about two thirteen year olds from Wales who enter a competition to meet David Cassidy. Allison draws such a real picture of the young girls who describe themselves as "two Welsh chicks who have to be in bed by eight thirty" and Bill, who had spent his final year at uni "honing his pinball skills on Brighton pier", and whose job is to write letters from "David" in his fan magazine. The story then moves to 1998 where Allison describes the feelings of the same middle-aged women who go to Las Vegas with Bill to meet David at last.
I can recommend this book to anyone who loved David Cassidy, anyone who remembers the Seventies, and anyone who loves a good read.
If you were ever 13. If you ever kissed pop star posters on your bedroom wall goodnight. If you ever dreamed of going up to London and meeting your favourite pop star, then this book is for you.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Success at Last!


Success at Last! In 2010, my New Year's Resolution was to get a short story published, a) to get some recognition for my writing and b) to hone, as they say, my writing craft. I entered every competition in Writing Magazine, Writers' News and Writers Forum, plus those set up by authors, Rowan Coleman and Cally Taylor and also one in Mslexia.
Although I had some good feedback, it wasn't until December 2nd, that I had an email to say that I'd come second in the Writers' News competition for a story about "Impatience". I think I'd been very patient, don't you?! Anyway, I was over the moon!
The results are in this month's issue and it's great to see my name in print at last! However, I couldn't find my story on their website which is where it should have been published. So I contacted Jonathan Telfer, the Editor, who said that their new website will be launched soon and my story will be on there. Hooray! I'll let you know when it appears and you might like to read it!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Gipsy Moth Pub


Franzi has sent me this photo of The Gipsy Moth pub in Greenwich. www.thegipsymothgreenwich.co.uk
It is called this because Gipsy Moth IV, the boat that Sir Francis Chichester sailed around the world in in 1967, was on display here for several years before being restored and sailed around the world again in 2005.
What is the link between Sir Francis and the Gipsy Moth aeroplane? Well, he flew solo to Australia in one in January 1930, and named his boats after the iconic little bi-plane.
PS Franzi has a beautiful blog if you'd like to visit it at http://franzifritsch.blogspot.com/

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Books Beside My Bed


I have got five books beside my bed waiting to be read:
I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson, The Postmistress by Sarah Blake , Spencer's Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr, A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French and Parky's People by none other than Michael Parkinson.
I've been dying to get round to the Allison Pearson one, firstly because I enjoyed I Don't Know How She Does It so much. I was hooked as soon as Kate distressed her Sainsbury's mince pies with a rolling pin to make them look as if they were home made! This book is about a young girl obsessed by David Cassidy. I loved The Partridge Family. Each week they would meet a new person on their travels, solve their problem and sing a song. Wonderful!
I chose The Postmistress simply because the cover caught my eye and the blurb looked interesting. It's about three women whose lives change forever one night during the war.
Spencer's Mountain is the foundation for another favourite TV show of the seventies: Walton's Mountain. On a recent trip to Washington, we drove out to Schuyler and found the Walton's Mountain Museum set up in the old elementary school. It had homespun displays and hospitality, but it was worth it. I felt as if John-Boy was going to rush in, pushing his glasses up his nose at any moment.
I picked up A Tiny Bit Marvellous at the airport. I love those offers in WHSmith: two books for £20. And even though they are more expensive than a normal paperback, you can often get them in this inbetween format before they come out in the cheaper paperback size. But as I've had this one since November, it probably has already been released!
Lastly, Parky's People. I usually only have hardbacks for Christmas. I wanted this one to recapture his iconic interviews with Hollywood stars such as Fred Astaire.
I'll let you know what I thought of them another time.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Get Writing 2011


I thought I'd tell you about the Get Writing conference which was held yesterday at the de Havilland Campus of the University of Hertfordshire. Great for me because the novel I was pitching was called Gipsy Moth (built by this aircraft company!).
I was very nervous. Firstly because I didn't know anybody there and secondly because I was going to pitch my novel. However, I needn't have worried because everybody was very friendly from enthusiastic new writers like Lucie Wheeler and the lovely Fran from Germany who made sure that I didn't leave my handbag behind in the lecture theatre (!), to the writing professionals like Jean Fullerton, Sue Moorcroft and Sarah Duncan.
Waiting for the pitch was the worst bit. I think it would have been better to hold the pitches in the morning instead of the afternoon, so everyone could relax over lunch. As it was, I didn't dare have my glass of Merlot, in case it would impair my performance (!) and had to wait until I got home.
Walking up the two flights of concrete stairs to the scary room 208 was, well, scary. However, Simon Taylor wasn't, and the five minutes passed very quickly and I was soon walking back down the stairs relieved it was all over.
The title of the conference was Get Writing, and think that the organisers, the Verulam Writers' Circle, did everything to make sure that we did.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Writing my Novel


Hello, I thought I'd tell you how I wrote my novel. I started with the first 1,000 words, and decided to do some research before I went any further. So I travelled to Devon and revisited the area as well as doing some research in the public library in Exeter. Then happily, I set off and wrote forty chapters. I was very proud of my work and asked a local reading group to access it. Ouch! Their comments really hurt! I also had a report done by Cornerstones, and although honest, it was helpful and I realised that I had a lot of work to do. The trouble was that I couldn't bring myself to get on with it for several months until I went to one of their workshops run by Helen Corner and Lee Weatherly where I met lots of lovely people, including Ava (Aiveen) McCarthy, and was finally kicked into action. I even got a letter published in Writing Magazine about it to show how determined I was! However, despite lots of submissions to agents, I still wasn't published, although Robert Hale showed some interest, they thought it wasn't for them. So last year I joined the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme. I had a wonderful feedback, which although wasn't quite what I wanted to hear, showed me where I'd gone wrong. So now, I hope at last that I've got it right!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

My Novel




Hello again!
My novel is called Gipsy Moth and is set in Devon in 1930.
I've always loved Devon and was amazed when I first went there in my teens to see the countryside - the rolling hills - rolling right down to the sea! This was after spending several holidays in comparatively flat East Anglia, or the metropolis of Brighton and Hove.
I had also adored Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge, set in Torbay during the days of Nelson. However, for my novel, I choose the 1930s because Devon was a favourite holiday destination for my family between the Wars.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Welcome to my Writing Blog!


Hello, I thought you might like to know how I came to love writing.
I always loved books as a little girl - always wanted them for birthdays and Christmas when anyone asked. Our school also had a Public Library in the basement and I can remember the crisp new tickets we were issued - four yellow ones for fiction and two green ones for non-fiction. I used the yellow ones most. I adored The Bobbsey Twins and so did a boy in my class, therefore I had to rush down after school to make sure I got the book I wanted before he did! I also loved The Famous Five and all the other Enid Blyton books, such as Mallory Towers and the adventures of a boy called Barney and his monkey, Miranda. Eventually, my friend's mother, who belonged to a Writers' Circle (I always imagined them sitting round a cauldron like witches!), gave me A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I loved it and would sit up in bed and read it again and again. She also gave me The Magician's Nephew.Then, I borrowed The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe from my friend and didn't want to give it back! You'll be relieved that I bought one in the end with my pocket money, and there it is in the photo!
That's how I started reading, and I continued through the years through Elizabeth Goudge, Jean Plaidy, Thomas Hardy, Daphne du Maurier and on to more modern writers like Maeve Binchy, Marian Keyes, and Joanne Harris, not forgetting the books about the Moon and Mars by Ben Bova!
I'd always wonder about what happened next when a book was finished, and what a certain character would do about this or that. Then, one day when surfing the web, I saw something about a lady called Marian Mustard and a boat. I thought, I could write a story about her, and I did!
Later I went on a Creative Writing course at the local college. The lecturer said that she would give two tickets to a literary lunch to the person who wrote the best 1000 word introduction to a novel. I didn't win, but I had started my novel!