Monthly Archives: January 2013

if you only do one thing today

I don’t know how many of you click on links on my blogroll.  Not all that many if my stats are correct.  Which is a shame as I think they are all pretty darn good in very different ways.

One blog will not be getting any new posts.  But if you do only one thing today make yourself a cup of tea and sit down with Alice’s Bucket List.  Alice was 17 and died yesterday of Hodgkins Lymphoma.  This is not a schmultzy blog, nor is there any self pity.  This is one girl’s story of having terminal cancer.  It is funny, it is sad, it is a teenage diary.  But it also takes cancer out of the closet.  It doesn’t happen to other people, terminal illness can happen to anyone.

I lost a friend I had only just reconnected with before I “got around” to making arrangements to meet up.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Write that letter, make that phone call.  Remember all those “promises” you made to catch up when you wrote your Christmas cards.  Keep them



And now the the next thing bigger than the one before

So I didn’t tag anyone at the end of the last post.  I had to have a bit of a think.  I like to think.  A bit like Pooh I often wander around when I think.  I rarely find any heffalumps, but that could be because I am so busy talking to myself or whistling that if a heffalump sat down in front of me and broke wind as presumably only a heffalump can, I would probably merely walk around it, havering away to myself as I do.

So, after a walk, a think and a bit of a chat to myself and some sprightly renditions of Kate Dalrymple and Colonel Bogey, I give you

Seymour Writes

Caroline Smailes

Thoughts from the Shed

Ailsa Abraham




The next big thing

What better way to start the New Year than with something I ought to have done over a month ago.  My excuse is whooping cough, chest infection (me) and then something called Christmas followed by tonsillitis and glandular fever (Runner2).  It has been rather busy.

Jackie Buxton invited me to expose all and so I shall …… as part of a blogfest no less.  Fear not, all I am exposing is my current work in progress.  The Next Big Thing is inviting writers around the world to share their work, and here is mine

 What is the working title of your book?
 Timesmudger.  I once went on a half day course intended to help you find the perfect title for your novel.  I ended up with “The Boy in the Laundry”.  I’m sticking with the gut feeling and Timesmudger.  (If you are interested, the course was a sort of literary equivalent of painting by numbers and though the tea and biscuits were good I’ll pass on the rest of the series).

– Where did the idea for your book come from?
The Amazing Mr Blunden by Antonia Barber and then made into a film starring Lionel Jeffries.   I loved the film as a child and was fascinated by the idea of children going back in time to right a wrong.

– What genre does your book fall under?
Young adult thriller/mystery

– Which actors would you choose to play characters in a movie rendition?

All the children must be unknowns.  I don’t want any preconceptions with their characters.

Please can I have Alan Rickman for Ambrose.  He is just the look I had in mind as I was writing him, tall, dark and just a little bit ambiguous.  And if it ever got made into a film I could spend days on end on set swooning in the corner.

For his wife Agnes I would like Julia Sawalha the soft and bouncy contrast to her husband.

For Poppy’s eccentric parents, Miranda Richardson and Jim Broadbent no question there!


Carmen du Sautoy for Helen’s mother, she needs an air of mystery that isn’t explained until the end of the book.

Finally Julia’s mother, this was hard, as though she isn’t a large character she is absolutely essential to the story and is in the background all the way through.  After much thought I’m plumping for Emily Watson please.

Emily Watson in Anna Karenina


– What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Be careful what you wish for.

– Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
That’s rather up to fate I think!  I have had two professional assessments, one the closest thing to a full blown edit I am ever going to get without a real editor.  Both were invaluable.  After the first assessment I am ashamed that I ever sent it out to any agents and am hardly surprised they rejected it.  It has had a full re-write and I’m on the final edits now and it’s a far better book which has had positive feedback from the second editor.  So once the edits are over I’m going to start sending it out again and see what happens.

– How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
From start to finish about 3 years.  But I started it and then left it for two years so when I picked it up again I had to start pretty much from scratch.  So about a year.

– What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Although my book is for children and young adults I think it is a story which would resonate with adults as well.  It takes a similar theme to The Time Traveller’s Wife and looks at the effect that moving backwards and forwards in time (and sideways in my case as well) can have on those who are not moving around.

Inevitably as it is set in a boarding school it will be compared to Harry Potter but I don’t think there is much else other than the setting to compare it.

– Who or what inspired you to write this book (story)?
As above, the initial inspiration came from The Amazing Mr Blunden.  But I also wanted to concentrate much more on the relationship between the two key characters of Poppy and Edwin.  I hope that this will be the first of a trilogy, ending with Edwin going to war in 1915.  That is a key part of the story, even though it is the end and the final chapter of Noel Streatfield’s autobiography “A Vicarage Family” when John returns from the Front has haunted me all my life and the personal horror of the war is something I wanted to focus on as the final scene is played out.

– What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Timesmudger is not so much about time travel, though of course that is essential to the story, but about the fragility of our existence.  Things are not always what we perceive them to be and our failure to see the truth can have a devastating effect when we are least expecting it.

Now it’s my turn to choose five writers for the next stage in the Next Big Thing’s journey and I haven’t got a clue who to ask.  Do you have any suggestions?



My best year yet or stocktaking for beginners

There is a hardware and general store in Bonar called The Corner Shop.  It is tardis like in that it really isn’t very large but I defy anyone to go in and be told that whatever they are after is not in stock.  I went up one day last year and was surprised to see that it was closed.  On my return the following morning I was told that they had closed for stock taking, they were almost done now but it helped speed things up a bit if they could shut just for one day.  You have to have seen the shop to have even the faintest idea of what a challenge stock taking would be.  There is no space from floor to ceiling that is not usefully taken up; yet a request for anything usually results in only the slightest of waits before it is located.  To have only one day off to stock take is an achievement in itself.

It was with this in mind that I began this year’s personal stock take.  The ins, the outs and the net growth.  What have I achieved and what have I failed to do.  The latter is just as important, we learn from our mistakes but only if we know what they are in the first place.  I didn’t need a stock take to tell me that there have been some pretty huge additions on both inventories but even I was surprised by some of them.  You think you know yourself, and certainly your immediate history (even I can just about remember as far back as 1st January 2012) but try the exercise yourself and let me know if there aren’t any surprises, and I’ll tell you that you haven’t been completely honest with yourself!


  • I finished Timesmudger (see below for disappointments).  Even if it is the world’s worst novel I still think writing 70,000 words of relatively coherent narrative with a beginning lots of middle and an end is something for which I deserve a pat on the back.
  • After point one below I had a professional review, completely rewrote and have a far better novel that after yet another review (thank you Caroline) will be ready to go out early this year.
  • I started a new, completely different novel and had two professional commentaries (one free and one paid for) both were very encouraging and I patted myself on the back for that just in case nobody else would.
  • I have been going to yoga classes regularly since September 2011.
  • I have managed to set aside time for reflection, meditation, writing morning pages and so forth most days.
  • I learned to say I cannot cope and need help.
  • Along with the wonderful Liz we set up the village’s first Messy Church and if we say so ourselves, it’s been a success.
  • I made contact with old friends.
  • I have made new friends and maybe even business contacts on Twitter and through blogging. – don’t diss social networking.


  • Every single agent rejected Timesmudger – lesson learned – I need an editor.
  • I am even heavier than I was at the beginning of 2012 – lesson learned – get off your lardy bum and keep a better eye on what you eat and drink
  • I am not infallible – lesson learned – and this was a big one – when everything appears to go pear shaped, when you think that you will never know why to smile again, don’t do anything stupid.  Ask for help, or if you are lucky enough surround yourself with people who will do it for you.  I had both.  I’m not quite sure where I would be if I hadn’t been so fortunate.
  • The vegetable garden produced almost nothing this year – lesson learned – even if you do live somewhere now more appropriate for rice and water lilies than brassicas and tomatoes you do still have to get out there – the garden does not garden itself.
  • I didn’t get half as much done as I intended – lesson learned – first do check the size of your list and the stuff you put on it.  Then learn not to procrastinate and waste time.  Am investigating a number of strategies to overcome this and will report back later in the year.

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions but I do make a plan for next year.  I like plans, they make me happy, but more usefully they help me keep on track.  I am so very easily distracted as everyone who has ever taught me will testify.  I have tried various planning systems including variations created by me or adapted by me but until I discovered The Best Year Yet four years ago nothing really worked.  No, I am not on commission, no they don’t even know I have mentioned them (but if you are reading this anyone from the team – please can you reply to my email about renewing – without a US Zip Code you won’t take my payment which is a little irksome for both of us).

I’m not going to tell you what it is, or even how it works because that’s something you are best learning as you go along.  They have 30 days free trial on at the moment (though if you live outside the US renewing is proving rather difficult see above!). Give it ago.  What have you got to lose?

All the very best to you all for 2013, may this year bring you love in all its many forms, hope, peace and the realisation of a dream or two.