Sunday, February 27, 2011

One more to go

This morning (taking my writer friend Bill's advice to make the most of Dave's absence) I finished the second to last story for my crime anthology. This one's about a schoolgirl and a kettle, loosely based on a recent headline in the news. With fourteen stories ready and waiting I could send the collection in now, but I'd rather have fifteen stories - it's a nice 'round' number and probably represents better value for the readers, assuming I get the thing published.

Which means there's only one more story to go. I have two in mind as possibles, one about an amnesiac which is further along but proving difficult, and one about a mad axe man with a difference which is great fun but still in the early stages. Hmm. Decisions, decisions. I guess in the end it just boils down to working on whichever one I get inspired by most. Whichever it is, I'm now very hopeful that I could have a working product to submit to publishers by the middle of March.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

All on my ownsome

Dave has gone off to an astronomy weekend in Preston and left me on my tod. Before we met I quite often spent weekends alone but once you're married you get out of the habit and when it does happen it feels a little strange.

I'm keeping busy, though. Yesterday I got on with some decorating in the living room; we inherited a pleasant but very neutral colour scheme (cream carpet, cream curtains, off-cream walls) and I'm zinging it up a bit using a spare pot of yellow paint we brought from Brum.

Today one of the neighbours is popping in for a coffee and to pick up armfuls of 'stuff' for a jumble sale in aid of Cancer Research. She's on the local committee and helps to organise fund-raising events and we're downsizing and desperate for a good home for some of our unwanted stuff, so it makes sense to get together. This time I'll be handing over a couple of unused sleeping bags, an attache case, and a whole bin liner full of 'bits and bobs'. It's amazing what you can find stuffed in the back of cupboards when you really start to look.

Tomorrow if the weather's half decent I might pop out for a local walk - the waterfalls should be impressive after all the rain we've had. And after that, suddenly Dave will be back and I won't have done half the things I wanted to get done while he was out of the way. I spoke to him briefly on the phone last night and he was already having fun so I'm looking forward to hearing all about it when he gets back.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fun day out

It's half term and our friends and their son are staying no more than fifteen miles away from us. Yesterday we arranged to spend the day together and because it was cold and wet we suggested the Lakeland Motor Museum which is under cover, dry, warm, and fascinating to boot.

The five of us spent a good couple of hours crawling all over the cars, fire engines, motorbikes, pedal cars etc and had a whale of a time. Unlike many museums this one constantly updates its exhibits and this time there were new features on the Womens' Land Army, and on a 1930s car showroom complete with 'contemporary' write-ups on the 'brand new' cars and a on-the-road price - of about £200!

As well as all the vehicles and associated stuff (driving fashions through the ages; car themed crockery; motoring posters etc), the museum houses a small but separate section on the making of ultramarine 'blue' for the laundry industry. My Mum still had a little 'bag blue' hidden away under the sink and I suspect many people remember their parents or grandparents using them in the wash. The museum is housed in an old building that used to be a 'blue' factory - in both senses of the phrase since the powder got everywhere, inside and out, and dyed the walls bright blue. You can still see this in places inside as they've left one or two walls untouched to show how it would have looked.

All in all it's a fascinating place to poke round and our friends thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Just as well since the previous day they'd done the Bond Car museum at Keswick which they said was utterly disappointing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Perfect Alibi crime writing contest

If anyone saw this advertised on the Alibi channel last night but can't track it down, don't worry - you're not alone. The url they quoted ( was wrong and only leads to a rather alarming '403 Forbidden' message, which made me wonder whether they wanted to advertise the contest at all.

However, it really does sound good. The channel and their associates HarperCollins are seeking the crime-writers of the future; the prizes include tickets to a crime writing festival in Harrogate; and the overall winner gets a holiday in Sweden, a Kindle and a library of books. And I guess there's always the possibility that if you are placed, you'll be accelerated to the top of the HarperCollins slush pile. ;)

So, if you want to enter and can't find out where, don't despair. Muggins here trawled the Alibi website earlier and can reveal that the real page for the contest, complete with instructions, terms and conditions, and closing date, is here.

Happy scribbling and good luck.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Isn't it amazing the howlers you can find in your own writing, even after you've been through it two or three times? Yesterday I was editing a story for the crime anthology and came across the following:

'And he'd found the barn, cycling down to the river in search of fish.'

Hmm. Must have been an abnormally large bicycle, then.


Saturday, February 12, 2011


Yesterday for various reasons I could NOT concentrate on writing. The sun was half shining, birds were singing, there were squirrels bouncing around in the trees, and Dave was making an ungodly racket in the study next door. In order to look and feel as though I was still doing something, I began to check some of the vast store of available markets in my 'favourites' folder.

I've collected these over a number of years. Markets I've spotted whilte trawling the net, markets I've tried and failed; markets I intend to try... one day. They're divided into various categories - magazines, small press, print publishers, electronic publishers etc - and for no particular reason I started with the magazines.

It soon became apparent that I hadn't checked them for a while, as link after link turned up dead. Some had posted nice little messages on a cut-down webpage ("We're sorry but we've gone out of business"); most had simply vanished without trace. I deleted all the ones that no longer led to viable publications and my favourites list is a lot less daunting as a result.

One or two of the dead markets were ones I'd had stories published in and at least one of these (Bent Magazine) had still been available until fairly recently. But, like the parrot in the famous sketch, it is no more, so the next thing I had to do was go and root out all mention of that story on my website. While I was at it I took a brush and dustpan to the site, fixed a few other broken links and did some general tidying up. Which means, hopefully, that it's also a lot less daunting as a result.

Some of the mags that had disappeared were small, amateur webzines that tend to be fly-by-night and have the life expectancy of a gadfly. One or two, though, such as The Reader and Pen Pusher, were well established print magazines and it's sad to see those go.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Christmas paragraph

For those of you who missed my offering at Paragraph Planet on New Years' Day, it's now available to read on the site archive.

You can find 'Home for Christmas' by clicking the link below and then selecting Jan 1st from the drop-down box just above the featured paragraph.

It's only a daft little thing but hopefully will give you a giggle on a damp and somewhat depressing February day.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Those Porlock moments

So there I was yesterday morning, wrestling with not one but two versions of the same story and desperately trying to marry the best bits of both into one homogenised whole. Then the doorbell rang. Oh bugger it, I thought, and then - no, it might be important. I legged it down three flights of stairs (my study's in the attic) and unlocked the front door. A fat bloke was standing on the step grinning at me out of a moon-like face.

"Morning luv," he said. "D'you want any 'orse manure for your garden?"

Oh dear.

For some reason it was terribly hard to concentrate on lyrical prose and serious writing after that....

I know Coleridge was cursed with the man from Porlock (hence the title of this post) but do other writers find the same thing?