Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Apocalypse? Or just another Christmas?

Will it? Won’t it? Will we even notice?

This isn’t going the be the first time we’ve lived through the end of the world – the Millennium – the eclipse – not to mention the various prophesies that come and go.

So enjoy your mince pies and mulled wine. Have a great Christmas everyone and (if we’re still here) I’ll see you all on the other side.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


It was calm down by the marshes and I spotted this heron, standing so still that there wasn’t even a ripple in the water around him.


It is a time to reflect as the year draws to a close, and for me 2012 has been momentous – I got a book deal! And next year I will see my book in print!

I have also been reflecting on the direction of this blog. When I started it was simply going to be a writing blog, on which I would chronicle my journey to publication. But I’ve found myself blogging about other things along the way, and, since there are so many writers out there chronicling their journeys, I find myself wondering if I should change focus here.

So I thought I would ask you, my blog readers, what sort of things you would like to see more of.

Do you want to see more about writing in general and the process of publication?

Do you prefer my more general posts on the natural history and strange and quirky things I encounter in the countryside around where I live?

Would you like to hear about the science behind the themes that inspired Red Rock?

A combination of all three?

Or something else?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Review: Ferney by James Long

Now this is an interesting book.

I met the author at a Literary event in Yeovil back in October and bought it, partly for that reason, and partly because the subject matter looked fascinating. This is a new edition of a book which was first published some 16 or so years ago. It is one of those books that took off through word of mouth.

And having read it I can see why.

Ferney is a love story, but it is also so much more. It is a story of old love, reborn and rekindled, generation after generation. The landscape of Somerset is beautifully drawn, and is as interwoven with history as Gally and Ferney’s love for one another also is.

But in this incarnation Ferney is an old man, nearing his end, and Gally is young and married to someone else. And as Ferney awakens dormant memories this is bound to cause conflict.

This is a powerful book that will resonate with you long after you have finished the last page. A time-slip love story that I strongly recommend.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Wreck of the Minx

The coastline round here is steeped in history. The rocks that form the rugged cliffs and offshore ledges tell of a world of giant sea monsters and primordial forests. There are machine gun batteries and pillboxes that tell of a time of fear and war, and there are shipwrecks.

There are shipwrecks all round this coast, each telling a tale of tragedy and bravery, or looting and murder. Many of the wrecks are hidden beneath the waves, their only visitors fish and scuba divers. But some can still be seen.

Here on Frenchman’s Ledge lies what remains of the Minx, a coal barge who broke her moorings and drifted, un-crewed across the bay. That was in 1927, and now all that remains of her steel hull are a few ribs and a fragment of her bow.

And as for her cargo – I believe there were warm hearths in the local cottages that winter.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The 'Next Big Thing' Blog Hop

I was tagged to be a part of this meme by Thomas Taylor, whose own version appeared last Wednesday. (It’s a Wednesday thing.) It’s an opportunity to talk about a work in progress so I'm going to tell you a bit about my debut novel Red Rock which is going to be published in 2013.

What is the title of your next book?

Red Rock

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Many years ago one of the Mars Orbiters sent back an image of a mysterious white rock on the Martian surface. I started to wonder - what could it be....?

What genre does your book fall under?

Science Fiction Thriller for the 10+ age group.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Someone nobody has heard of but is going to be huge!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

The world is changing. The ice is melting. But as the icecaps retreat secrets are revealed, ancient ruins that have remained hidden for a hundred thousand years. A civilisation that wasn’t human…

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am represented by Julia Churchill of Greenhouse Literary and Red Rock will be published in 2013 by Curious Fox.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

About 9 months, but I'd been thinking about it for a lot longer.

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

Tricky, perhaps a Joshua files for girls

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My father is the person who inspired me to write.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The melting ice caps, rising sea levels and changing weather is already happening...

And in turn I tag:

Sara Crowe

Rebecca Alexander

Emma Shortt

Carol Hunt

Dean Crawford

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Words for the Wounded

It's Armistice Day, and I hope you will all pause and spare a thought for the brave men and women who have given their lives in conflicts past and present, and who will in the future.

But we must not forget the living and those who have been wounded in conflict and whose lives have been changed.

I would therefore like to bring to your attention to this new charity, Words for the Wounded, being launched today. a charity that raises money via writing prizes and donations for the rehabilitation of our wounded servicemen and women. Please give them your support, whether you are a writer or not.

The soldier standing here is Sam. He was wounded in a gas attack in France in 1916, but was one of the lucky ones who survived. I have the postcards  he sent home to his sweetheart, Emma, from the trenches. They have often been censored and all begin with the words "I'm in the pink, merry and bright..."

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Sea Ice and Seamagic

The Seamagic website is now up and running and packed with all sorts of fascinating pictures and articles, even a poem or two, from a variety of contributors – all of whom share a passion for all things marine. If you haven’t been over there yet then I suggest you take a look – and do bookmark it – there’s new stuff being posted all the time and it looks to be shaping up into a fascinating project!

At the moment I’m talking about sea ice and posting pictures I took in the arctic during my days on board the survey ships.

But I’m also talking about sea ice because of its relevance to my forthcoming novel, Red Rock.

You may have already checked out the blurb for the novel which is now up at the Greenhouse website. And if you have you will have noticed the opening lines:

“The world is changing. The ice is melting. But as the icecaps retreat secrets are revealed” …

There isn’t any sea ice in Red Rock. In fact it’s all gone, but that’s the point. And as the ice melts this has an effect on other things – sea levels rise, the climate changes.

If I went back to the Greenland Sea I’m not sure how much ice I would find, compared with what I saw all those years ago. So I’m posting those pictures of the ice that was – a seamagic that may soon be gone.

The world is changing….

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

My first school visit – as an author!

School visits are something I’m already quite used to – I’m often asked by teacher friends of mine to take in my collection of rocks and fossils during Science Week, or when they are studying Rocks, or planning a school fossil hunting expedition.

But the other week, when I was telling one of these friends about my book deal, he asked me to come in and run a writers workshop with the kids.

Now this was something really rather different from handing around a load of ammonites, so I picked the brains of authors I know who do such workshops on a regular basis, and I came to the conclusion that the best way for me to do something a bit different, was to tie in my workshop with one of the themes in my book.

So that’s what I did, and we blasted into space. I enjoyed it! I hope they did too!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Man Booker Prize.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize 2012 has been announced and is Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel – which makes her the first British person and the first woman to win the prize twice, having won it before with Wolf Hall in 2009,

Earlier this month I took part in The Booker Debate at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil. This is an annual event run jointly by the Yeovil Community Arts Association (YCAA) and the local branch of Waterstone’s. A panel of six guests each review one of the shortlisted books and discussion is then thrown open to the audience.

I was, once again, invited to participate on the panel, and I have to say that this year’s debate was the best yet. There were a number of book groups in the audience who had read the shortlist and the varied views led to some lively discussions!

My book was Bring up the Bodies which I thought was superb. However, not all the panellists felt the same way about their allocated books, and the audience didn’t necessarily agree! More fuel for a lively debate!

And it was great to meet up with fellow authors Sarah Lean (A Dog called Homeless) and James Long (Ferney).

I’m so pleased that Bring up the Bodies won. In my opinion it was well deserved and if you haven’t read it I can strongly recommend you do!

Thursday, 11 October 2012


As you can no doubt imagine, the past few days have been a whirlwind of excitement. I'm still trying to get my head round the idea that my book is actually going to be published! I've been allocated an editor and I'll be going up to Oxford to meet her sometime in November, which I'm very excited about.

But there has been another interesting development too.

I've been contacted by a group of authors and illustrators and invited to take part in the Seamagic Project. This will be a collaborative blog based on a shared love of the sea and the magic it evokes in writers and artists.

Seamagic is the brainchild of author KM Lockwood and you can find out more about it here.

Readers of this blog will already be aware of my passion for all things marine. But in case you are wondering how this relates to Red Rock, the blurb has just gone up over at the Greenhouse Website, so why not take a look and judge for yourself.

I'll keep you up to date with Seamagic and how it evolves. And of course with Red Rock and its journey to publication.

Friday, 5 October 2012

I Have a Book Deal!

At last I can tell you!

My debut novel Red Rock, a thriller for the 10+ age group, will be published by Curious Fox in 2013.

The champagne is chilling and tonight I will be celebrating in style!

I couldn't be happier!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Lessons in Patience

If you want to be a writer the first thing you must learn is patience, for you will need it in abundance. Writing is not something that gives instant gratification. Success takes time to arrive, but I can assure you, when it does it will be all the sweeter.

You need to have patience at every stage in the game – and here is why:

1. Learning the craft. This takes time. We are not born writers. It is a skill we assimilate over the years, first through reading and then through taking up a pen ourselves. Take time to learn the craft. Attend workshops, join a writers group or forum, but above all write! The more you write the better you will get. But all this takes time. Don’t rush it.

2. Finding an Agent. The reason this can take a long time is because many people start submitting way too soon. They haven’t got past stage 1 yet – they’re still learning the craft. But even when you are ready, it can still take time. Some agents take months to get through their submissions. They’re busy people. And if you have a full request it will take them a while to read it and come to a decision. It’s all right to prod if months have passed, but don’t be impatient.

3. Getting a book deal. So you’ve been signed by an agent. That means the book deal is just around the corner – doesn’t it? The answer my friends is no. First your agent may ask for revisions. Take your time to get this right, otherwise your MS will only come back to you with more red ink! And then, once you’ve honed your novel out it goes. Do they come back immediately? They might, but more likely not. Some people can be on submission for a year before their book sells.

4. Seeing your book on the shelves: Oh yes – now you’re in for another wait. If your book has sold to one of the big publishing houses with a full schedule ahead you can be looking at 18 months to two years before you see your book on the shelves. Smaller and newer publishers may have faster turnaround, but you’re still likely to be waiting a year or so.

So here’s to patience, and here’s to success.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Where do you set your stories?

Or to put this question another way – would you ever set a story somewhere you’ve never been?

I’ve met authors who do and they don’t seem to have a problem. They feel they can get enough of a feeling for a place through reading about it, or through film and television.

But for me that isn’t enough.

You see there’s more about a country than can be gleaned from the web – every place ‘feels’ different, smells different, and it’s these small things that bring a place to life, the telling details, the rats in the market place, the smell of spice on the old man’s fingers, squabbling gulls on the harbourside.

So you’ll find that most of my stories are set in places I’ve visited.

But not always.

Sometimes it’s simply not possible to visit the place you want to write about. And in these cases decent research is vital. I once read a story a friend of mine had set on the Moon. He made me believe he had flown through space and walked on that lunar surface, even though I know he hasn’t! But it was those telling details that convinced me.

So have you ever set a story somewhere you’ve never been?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Booker Shortlist 2012

This year I have, for the second year running, been invited to join the panel at the YCAA annual Booker debate.

It’s an interesting shortlist this year with small publishers Salt and Myrmidon making the cut. It’s always good to see this sort of recognition for the smaller presses.

It’s also interesting reading the comments in the media. I have to admit I’m a bit concerned by remarks along the lines of ‘The judges have turned their backs on readability’ opting instead for ‘the shock of language’ and books that are ‘Conceptually challenging’.

Last year I was allocated ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes, which went on to win. Yes, it was readable, beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So why is readability such a dirty word? A book can be literary AND readable!

So now I’m wondering what I’m going to be allocated to read this year.

Here’s the shortlist – just in case you haven’t seen it:

The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon Books)
Bringing Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
The Lighthouse – Alison Moore (Salt)
Umbrella – Will Self (Bloomsbury)
Narcopolis – Jeet Thayil (Faber)
Swimming Home – Dehorah Levy (Faber)

Monday, 10 September 2012

An End... and a Beginning

Yesterday the Olympics came to a close. The children took part in a huge parade through the town, dressed up as sea creatures in a vast array of colour. And when we got home we watched the closing ceremony spectacular on television.

I’m sad to see it go. The Olympics have been wonderful. They made this summer special. But summer too is coming to an end.

The seasons turn.

Yet there’s no time to be sad. Good things are happening. New adventures beckon. And for me it’s time to pack away the beach gear and get back to the serious business of writing. The WIP is entering the final act – the race to the curtain – and I hope that I’ll get the first draft down by the end of the month.

And there’s more…. Only I’m going to make you wait….

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Reading in the Greenhouse: A Few Reviews.

I’ve been reading a few books by fellow Greenhouse authors – In fact both myself and Ruth Steven have set ourselves the challenge of trying to read ALL the books by our fellow Greenhouse authors, but so far I’ve only managed three.

A Dog called Homeless by Sarah Lean

My name is Cally Louise Fisher and I haven't spoken for thirty-one days. Talking doesn’t always make things happen, however much you want them to.
Cally Fisher saw her mum bright and real and alive. But no one believes her, so Cally’s stopped talking.
A mysterious wolfhound always seems to be there when her mum appears and now he’s started following her everywhere. But how can Cally convince anyone that Mum is still with them, or persuade Dad that the huge silver-grey dog is their last link with her?

This is a wonderful book aimed at children in the 8-12 age group. I found it deeply moving and yet uplifting at the same time. It is beautifully and sensitively written. I dare you not to cry. A strong recommend.

Fracture by Megan Miranda
By the time seventeen-year-old Delaney Maxwell is pulled out of the icy waters of a frozen lake, her heart has stopped beating. She is in a coma and officially dead. But Delaney pulls through. How? Doctors are mystified. Outwardly she has completely recovered. But Delaney knows something is very wrong. Pulled by sensations she can't control, she finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her brain predicting death or causing it? Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who lost his whole family in a car accident and emerged from a coma with the same powers as Delaney. At last she's found a kindred spirit who'll understand what she's going through. But Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature - or something much more frightening?
Oooh – if that hasn’t sent chills up your spine nothing will! This is a thriller that keeps you guessing, right until the end. Great stuff, and the bleak winter backdrop makes for an atmospheric setting.
The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother's heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat.

This book is absolutely stunning. I’ve never read anything like it. I wasn’t sure at first how a book written entirely in poetry would work – but this really does. It’s a delightful and touching story.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Forest Folk

They were there, amongst the trees, watching me. Shadowy people, almost not there, standing on the marshy ground between the birch and ash. Forest Folk.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Bunting and Sailing Boats

The games are in full swing and the country is caught up in Olympic fever. Down here on the coast the atmosphere is electric.


The boats in the harbour are decked out with bunting and out in the bay the racers skim over the swell, their sails sporting their nation’s colours.


There are bands playing on the harbourside, and on the beach two large screens make sure we don’t miss out on any of the action.

I’m impressed with how well organised everything is, and how much there is to see and do.

Even the weather is hinting at summer! (Just hinting mind – this is Britain, after all)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Lost Village

“That’s the Medieval Village of West Ringstead,” said the man as I passed. He was standing in the long grass beside the footpath staring out across a field, wild white hair and sun bronzed skin. “It was destroyed by the plague in the 14th Century.”
My husband gave him and odd look and hurried on past, but I paused and looked in the direction that he was pointing. The field was a wide grassy meadow and over on the far side I could see a series of humps and bumps. I’d never noticed them before.
“If you stand on them you can see the layout of the village, the streets, the houses,” the man continued. “But there’s a fence here now.” He prodded the barbed wire with the tip of one finger.
There was something forlorn about those grassy mounds, and I couldn’t help wondering about the people who lived there, and how they must have felt as the plague took hold.

When I got home I tried to find out a bit more about this village. I found it is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. I also found another explanation for what happened to it – a rumor that the village was destroyed by French pirates, who kidnapped all the women and children and took them away. J

Which explanation do you prefer?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Review: Weymouth Bound by Paul Weston

Set in 1800, Weymouth Bound is the story of Jack Stone, whose life is changed forever when his ship, the Cicely, is boarded by the French when on passage to Weymouth. Jack discovers that the Cicely's capture is the opening move in a French scheme to strike at the heart of the British establishment, and that he must do his best to ensure that the plot does not succeed.

I picked up a copy of this in my local independent bookshop – Imagine Books, attracted by the cover and nautical flavour. It’s published by Roving Press which I know is a great little publisher specialising in local interest books.

I really enjoyed reading this. The author clearly knows his naval warfare and the scenes on the ship were not only historically fascinating but I could almost taste the salt and feel the roll of the deck as I read. If you are a fan of all things nautical you’ll love this – and even if you’re not it’s a cracking good story.

I couldn’t help wondering at the amount of research that must have gone into this. The whole thing felt really authentic and I learned an awful lot about shipping circa 1800. The descriptions of the London docks and of life aboard ship made me feel as if I was really there, living it with Jack.

In fact reading this put me in mind of Monsarrat’s ‘The cruel Sea’, or Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ (only without the bits about whale anatomy), which I also loved for all the same reasons.
I do hope we see more of Jack Stone.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Christmas in July

Have your seen this amazing opportunity?

A few months ago Ruth Lauren Steven and Michelle Krys opened the doors to children’s authors with a chance to jump the slushpile and receive feedback from an agent.

Well this time they’ve gone one better!

This time there are ten – yes you heard me TEN agents involved and the doors are open to pretty much all genres!

But don’t take my word for it! Head over to Ruth’s blog and check it out for yourself!

Christmas in July

Monday, 25 June 2012

Me and My Kindle

My new kindle arrived the other day.

I haven’t had a kindle before. I have a kindle app on my ipad, and when I got it I downloaded a couple of books – loads of those wonderful old Victorian novels are available for free – but I never got round to actually reading anything on it (too many other potential uses).

So I linked up my shiny new kindle to my Amazon account and was pleasantly surprised to find all my earlier downloads were there for me. I also downloaded a couple of other books. After meeting Babs Morton at the Brympton Festival I’d been meaning to read her novel, Mrs Jones. So I downloaded that one first. And then I saw that MG Harris’s The Descendant, was available for free download – so on that one went as well.

Am I looking forward to reading these on my kindle? You bet!

Do I think the advent of the e-book means the death of print? No, of course not. Print will always have a place.

And will having a kindle change my reading habits? Not at all. The books I read will be the same – it’s only the format that’s different.

So tell me – what do you think of your kindle? How has it affected you as a reader?

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Portland Giant

I had heard tell of a face in the cliffs above East Weares, staring out over the bay. So today I went looking for him. And there he was - The Portland Giant!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

When Authors Meet

But not just any authors - I'm talking about Greenhouse authors.

Last weekend I was in Bournemouth with my daughter and by fortuitous coincidence Sarah Lean, a fellow children's author who is represented by the lovely Greenhouse Literary Agency was in Waterstones that day doing a book signing for her recently released book 'A Dog Called Homeless.'


It was the first time I've met a fellow agency sister - I do hope Julia's ears weren't burning too much ;-)


 But of course, this fellow was the real star of the show.

Friday, 25 May 2012


There was a discussion recently over in a certain writing forum that I frequent about whether a main character needs to be likable, and of course, the resulting debate was really quite interesting.

We can all point out characters who are grumpy and disagreeable. In some genres, crime for example, this appears to be a prerequisite. And yet as readers we devour these characters and are hungry for more.

Don’t we all just love a good villain? (The number of times I’ve found myself rooting for the bad guy – even though I shouldn’t be.)

Because it’s not all about being likable. These characters are often fascinating – or they touch something deep inside us that we can all relate to. And as a result we can’t help to engage with the surly detective or angst riddled teen. It’s all about empathy.

Now I wish I had some amazing tips to give you at this point – some magic formula that will bring your characters into focus and cause the reader to instantly warm to them, empathise with them and become totally invested in their story.

But I’m afraid I don’t.

And yet it is something so vital. Something we all need to be aware of. And I’m asking myself as I take my new MC or her tortuous journey – will the reader empathise with her enough?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Analysis of Rejection

I see it all too often, on the writer’s forums I frequent, on blogs, on twitter, and even at my real life writers group – aspiring authors who have written their first book –  who love every word, and can’t let it go – despite the piles of rejection slips that they are accumulating. They blame the publishing industry, the agents and editors, for their failure. Often these authors look for other ways into print. Maybe they self publish – after all – they’ve put so much work into it - it ought to be out there.

Or should it?

Take a step back. Look again. Rejection is all part of the learning process. All we can do is move one and try to become better writers. And so, for anyone out there currently hunting for an agent – here is my analysis of rejection.

Type 1. You receive nothing but form rejections.

This is tough I know. You started sending out your novel, full of hope, certain that everyone must love it as much as you do. But the truth hurts. It isn’t good enough. You’re only at the first stage in your journey and you have a lot to learn. Join and writing group, attend workshops, read up about the craft. Write a better book.

Type 2.  You receive a couple of personal rejections.

These can be hard to spot because agents often send out rejections that look personal but in fact use standard wording. Clues to look for are some specific reference that relates to your book or a hand written note.

This is encouraging. They see something in your work to stop and make comment – and believe me, with the size of the slushpiles these people are working through, that is quite unusual. But as with Type 1 you still have a lot to learn. Join and writing group, attend workshops, read up about the craft. Write a better book.

Type 3: Rejection on a full

This one is so disappointing. When that full request came in you were dancing round the room – at last – someone is going to love your work. Maybe you even had multiple requests for a full. This is it….

Or maybe not.

Take heart. You’re getting closer, you really are. It’s just that this book isn’t the ‘One’. Maybe the concept and writing are there, but the plot sags. Hopefully though, the lovely agent will give some feedback, although not always. There’s only one thing you can do. Try to work out where this one went wrong and – Write a better book.

Type 4: Rejection on a Rewrite and Resubmit

So you’re still not quite there but oh – so close. And it’s frustrating after all the work you put in trying to incorporate the agents comments, but your vision and theirs for this piece of work just don’t match up. Learn what you can from the experience. By all means keep sending it out – after all – you only need one person to love it! But in the meantime – Write a better book.

Type 5: The submission Process

You’ve signed with an agent who shares your vision and out it goes on submission and – guess what – it all begins again!! Time to write a better book!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Interview with Three Past winners of the Yeovil Prize

Please welcome three past Yeovil Prize winners - Terri Armstrong, Jackie Gingell and Babs Morton – in fact the very same three authors who I shared a panel with at the Brympton Festival. They have kindly agreed to answer a few questions for this blog.

Please tell us a little bit about yourselves and your writing.

Babs: I’m a Geordie girl living in a small village in North Northumberland. I’ve written all my life but only sat down to write a novel when our family escaped the rat race, moving from Newcastle to Upper Coquetdale. I write primarily crime fiction and historical fiction and tend to write more in the early hours when there are fewer distractions. Living in a such a rural location, I rely on contact with other writers through an online community.

Jackie: Along with my identical twin, also a writer, I am the eldest of six children.  I have a degree in English Literature from the OU and am a long term and active member of the Yeovil Cre8ve writing group.  I work as a School Secretary.  I initially took the job on for six months, twenty three years and six Headteachers later I’m still there.  I’ve always written, ever since I could hold a pencil.  I have kept a diary for the past twenty-five years, chronicling life’s ups and downs.  I have been successful in writing competitions and have had articles published.  Ee Eye Addyeo is my third novel but the first to be published.

Terri: I’m lucky enough to work part-time (not sure for how much longer!) so I can spend time writing.  I’ve always loved to read; novels are a fascinating and vital way of learning about society, individuals, ourselves.  In writing fiction I can both tell a story and explore complex ideas about how, why, when? The possibilities are endless.  I try to write about ten - fifteen hours a week.  Never on weekends (it’s called ‘work/life balance’ my husband tells me).

Tell us about your prize winning novel.

Babs: Mrs Jones is a fast paced crime thriller set in New York, which follows a British girl, Lizzie, as she evades the unwelcome attentions of the mob, aided by Tommy Connell a New York detective. It’s been described as an action movie in print ... and the longest foreplay in literary history

Jackie: Ee Eye Addyeo is a romantic comedy set in a fictional Somerset Village.  It tells the story of a farmer who is desperate to inherit the family farm but can’t because he is single.  Unfortunately he is also useless with women.  Into the village and into his life – after many setbacks – comes Margot, a romantic novelist from London who is most definitely a square peg in a round hole.  Throw in some quirky village characters, a philandering builder and a hidden secret and you have the tale of one man’s quest to find the perfect mate.

Terri: Standing Water has three main characters, all on the cusp of change in their lives, who come together in a harsh Australian landscape; their relationships and interactions affect the choices they make. Developing characters the reader could believe in and empathise with was my main focus – I had a general idea of the whole story when I started, but it flexed and changed as the characters developed. I chose to set it in a very arid, damaged landscape, as I felt this mirrored/highlighted the characters’ situations.

What inspired you to write it?

Babs: Pure escapism. The premise of a naive young woman being thrust into the centre of a conspiracy in a foreign country, opened up opportunities for a complex plot. Throwing in a “will they, won’t they” sub plot allowed me to develop the main characters a little further.

Jackie: It started out as a writing exercise at the Yeovil Writing group.  I pulled the character of a farmer out of a hat and was told to write a story about him.  A chance conversation with the local farmer in my village about how difficult it was for young men in the farming community to meet girls gave me the theme of the novel and once I started I never looked back.

Terri: I thought, years ago, when I started writing short stories, that my first novel would be very political, but it didn’t turn out that way  (though if the personal is still political…).  I may have worked out that the novel is not a good medium for polemical arguments.  I did know that I wanted to write characters who are marginalised in mainstream society.  I suppose I had some idea of trying to emulate Martin Millar (author of such beauties as ‘Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation’ and ‘The Good Fairies of New York’), in the way that his disenfranchised characters and their world are completely central – it’s mainstream society that’s on the edge of things.  I don’t think I achieved that at all. But no matter –  the characters in Standing Water are strong, and my style is my own. 

Please tell us about your journey to publication?

Babs: I’m a member of an online writer’s community. A friend on site persuaded me to enter the Yeovil Prize. After learning I’d been short listed I submitted Mrs Jones, my first novel, to a publisher. On the day I received news of my success in the competition I also learned I’d been accepted for publication. Mrs Jones was published in December 2011.

Jackie: Not an easy one!  I entered the Yeovil Prize and was Highly Commended.  I used this as an opening in letters I sent out to agents and publishers.  I had an incredibly encouraging letter from an agent who loved my sense of humour and my style of writing BUT (there’s always a but) it wasn’t quite right for him.  However, he suggested I try a smaller publisher who might be willing to give an unknown writer a chance.  I sent off the synopsis and first three chapters and was asked for the rest of the manuscript.  Ee Eye Addyeo was actually published six months before I expected it to appear so the promotion was a whirl of talks and book signings but I loved every minute.

Terri: It was a long one…I don’t like to think about it!  Literary fiction tends not to have the mass-market appeal of other genres, so even though agents and publishers said they liked the book, they were worried about sales figures.  I had a lot of rejections.  I’m very grateful for the Yeovil Prize, and to Pewter Rose Press, a small independent publisher who picked up Standing Water after I won the prize.

What has the Yeovil Prize meant for you as a writer?

Babs: Discovering that my novel had achieved second place in the 2011 Prize, gave me the assurance and confidence to believe in my own work. I’m sure it also influenced my publisher’s decision. The Prize has also opened other doors. I was recently interviewed by North East Life Magazine and was privileged to be invited along to Brympton for the first festival. This allowed me the opportunity to experience public speaking and sharing my work with others by reading excerpts; a wonderful experience, with some equally wonderful people.

Jackie: It has given me tremendous confidence.  I am now a long list judge for the Yeovil Prize and I know that just to get to the short list is a remarkable achievement as the standard is so high.  I would not have had the courage to put my novel up for publication had it not been for the Yeovil Prize.

Terri: Recognition! As I’d had a number of rejections from agents and publishers prior to winning the Yeovil Prize, my writing confidence was low; now I had confirmation that my writing did stand out. It wasn’t complete trash.  I carried on.

What advice would you give to the aspiring writer?

Babs: Write what you like to read, rather than following perceived trends. Listen to all advice but only make changes that you are happy with. Don’t be disheartened by rejection, believe in yourself and the story inside of you.

Jackie: Don’t talk about it, just get on and do it.  I joined the BBC Radio Scotland Write Here, Right Now writing initiative.  You had to commit to 1,000 words per day, every day in February.  By sticking to this I attained continuity and fluidity in the narrative and didn’t lose my thread.  Believe in your writing and above all really care about and love your characters.  If you don’t care your readers won’t either.

Terri: Write, write, write.  Cut, cut, cut.  Cut again. Never give up.

What are you working on next?

Babs: I have a few projects on the go. I’m putting the finishing touches to Molly Brown, the sequel to Mrs Jones. Wildewood, a Historical Fiction/Fantasy set in medieval Northumberland, is ready for release by my publisher and two crime thrillers one U.S and one UK are my current works in progress.

Jackie: “Judging by the Cover” is a comedic murder mystery/thriller about a Vicar found dead and naked in the church vestry.  Like Ee Eye Addyeo it is set in a fictional Somerset Village.  It is not so much a whodunit but rather a why-on-earth-would-they-dun-it novel.

Terri: I am in the process of completing my second novel

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Greenhouse Funny Prize

Here’s an amazing opportunity for any children’s authors living in the UK or Ireland who write humour!

The Greenhouse Funny Prize

And just look what the prize is – an offer of representation from the awesome Greenhouse Agency – and I’m not just saying that – they really are - as well as a free weekend at the Writers Workshop Festival of Writing in September.

You really couldn’t ask for a better than that!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Brympton Festival.

During the past few days this stunning house in Somerset has been the venue for the first ever Brympton Festival.

The first day, Friday 20th, was Diversity day with food and dancing from all over the world, and I went along, both as a host, and as a speaker. I was on a panel of past Yeovil Prize winners talking about what our success in the Yeovil Prize has meant to us as writers.

Unfortunately, due to work and other commitments, I was unable to attend on any of the other days, but I’ve heard only good things! There was an amazing line up of speakers with stacks going on so that we were spoilt for choice.

And the setting – the house was amazing – walls of antlers and huge fireplaces, but with the front door open a particularly cold wind blasted down the corridors and I couldn’t help wondering what it must have been like to actually live there!

I believe the organisers are planning to run it again next year. But this year’s festival is still going strong – last day on Thursday – so if you’re in the area I recommend you check it out. There are some more pictures over on my Events page.

Monday, 16 April 2012


The first draft is the caterpillar, munching its way through the vegetation, laying down words like layers of fat. It grows bigger and bigger, lumpy and spiny and vaguely formed, until it is huge and bloated. The first draft is complete.

Then comes the chrysalis - the editing process. The internal tissues are broken down and reformed. New structures are added, others removed. Flabby prose is deleted and replaced with colour and richness. A little fine tuning and it is ready.

The pupa splits open and the butterfly emerges, fanning its new wings in the spring sunshine – a creature almost unrecognisable from that clunky caterpillar. One final check and it is ready to fly.

Click on ‘send’ and off it goes.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Rise of the e-book

A couple of years ago when we looked for something on Amazon we would probably have a choice of hardback, paperback or audiobook. But now, with the rise of the e-reader we can buy our books as e-books too.

The more formats our books are available in then the more accessible they become and the broader the readership they can reach. There is more choice for readers as authors and publishers are making their backslists available as e-books – books which have otherwise gone out of print! And for authors in some genres – most notably romance – the advent of the e-book has opened up a wealth of new small publishers – and with them, new opportunities.

And look here. Two of the anthologies from Hadley Rille Books that I have had short stories published in are now available as e-books – Ruins Terra and Ruins Metropolis. For less than £1 you can’t go wrong!

Monday, 19 March 2012

A Fresh Perspective

Every day the sea is different. In fact it can change within hours – one moment a mirror like calm and then a storm can blow up seemingly from nowhere and the waters are heaped into spray streaked mountains.

Sometimes it’s not so easy to spot the changes - soil creep on a hillside. Have things changed since I last climbed up here? I’m not so sure.

It’s when you go back after a time away that you start to see the differences. You spot where the winter floods have changed the course of a stream, or a rotting tree trunk that is now covered with cramp balls.

Or in this case that the cliffs have crumbled back a little further.

In the same way I’m taking a break from my WIP. I’ve promised myself that I won’t even look at it for this entire month. That way when I read it once more I’ll be coming to it fresh, and if anything isn’t right I’ll (hopefully) spot it.

And anyway, it’s fun to do something different, to dabble with new ideas, meet new characters and explore new settings.

No writing time is ever wasted time.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Writers Block

"What do you want to look at that screen for, when you can look at me!"

So what get's in the way of your writing?

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Real SeaSerpents

A long time ago people thought these strange coiling creatures were SeaSerpents, turned into stone by saints or gods. They called these rocks Serpentstones.

Of course we now know that they are ammonites, ancient cephalopods that swam in those Jurassic seas much like the Nautilus does in our oceans today.

Or are they.... ?

Thursday, 23 February 2012


Looks like I've been tagged - twice!!

First by Jess and then by Celesta

Instead of answering two sets of questions I've mixed them all together and picked a random subset of 11. So here they are along with their answers.

1. How old were you when you started writing?
I've been writing ever since I was old enough to hold a crayon.
2. What's your favourite movie/book?
Tricky question - how do I decide this one! Okay - let's go for the book I've read the most times and in that case it is The Crysalids by John Wyndham.
3. If you were the main character of a book, what genre would it be?
Some sort of Space Opera - definitely!
4. What genre do you write in?
I write SciFi thrillers for kids.
5. If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
I would be able to take away sadness.
6. What do you like to read?
I read pretty widely. But I particularly like discovering new authors.
7. What is something unusual that you've done?
I once had a snowball fight on an ice floe in the Greenland Sea
8. How do you get names for your characters?
Phone book, and baby name lists.
9. List the top three websites you use.

New Scientist
Will it rain today - well I do live in Blighty :-)

10. Besides reading and writing, name two other hobbies you have.
Hillwalking and growing my own.
11. Where in the world would you like to go?
I'd love to go to Japan.

In turn I will tag the following Campaigners from Rach's Platform Building Campaign. And I'm asking each of you the same set of questions.

Sher A Hart: My Best Part
Six Impossible Things
alberta's sefuty chronicles
David Powers King
Gina Carey
Katharine Gerlach
Imagine Today

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A Feast of a Festival

There’s an exciting new Festival coming to Somerset – The Brympton festival which will include literature, music and art as well as fine food and lots more.

There’s an impressive lineup of authors – and an exciting programme of events. And guess what - I’m going to be one of the authors taking part.

On the evening of Friday 20th April I will be part of a panel of authors who have been successful in the Yeovil Prize. We have been asked to talk about what our success in the prize has meant for us as writers.

I have to admit I feel like a bit of a poor relative at this one – all the other authors on the panel have already got book deals for their successful novels while I am still at the Agented but not yet Published stage. I’m also the only one who writes children’s books and Sci-Fi!

Lets’ hope a bit of their success rubs off on me.

In case you are interested here are the websites of the other authors on the panel:

BA Morton
Terri Armstrong
Jackie Gingell

And you can find details of the Brympton festival here:

Monday, 6 February 2012


I've blogged about these things before but I couldn't resist putting up another one.

This one is on a different corner of the same church tower. Rather wonderful isn't he?

But what sort of creature? Some kind of lion with cloven hooves?

And what possessed those 12th Century builders to put him up here among the saints and apostles?

If anyone knows do comment!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Lightning Bolt

I knew in my heart that something wasn’t right. My inner editor was whispering to me. Only I had no idea what the problem was.

So I set off over the cliffs to mull things over.

There’s nothing like a blast of salt spray air on your face, the running tide and the blustering wind to make everything clear.

And as I watched the whitecaps rush in and crash against the rocks it hit me.


Not my main character’s motivation. His motives have always been quite clear, but that of one of my minor characters.

And as I worked out what was driving her, the whole thing fell into place – suddenly the plot had a structure that until now it lacked.

My inner editor can sit back (for now). But my work has just begun - this WIP needs some serious editing.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

After We've Gone

There's something about old discarded farm equipment that fascinates me. It's lying around all over the place - in thickets beside the fields, by old gateways, or in a clump of nettles by the side of the footpath, like this one.

I wonder how long it's been here? It hasn't been moved for a while and it's reddened with rust. The nettles grow around it in a feral, stinging clump that rises in a mound from the sheep nibbled turf.

Maybe, though, it hasn't been here as long as we might think. And I can't help wondering how long it would take, if our civilisation crumbled, for the only remains to be hulks of rusting metal, like this, the purpose of which has been long forgotten.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Your Inner Editor

It is always a good idea to pay attention to what your inner editor is trying to tell you – he knows a lot more than we often give him credit for!

Whenever you’re not 100% sure about something – a scene perhaps, or the way a character reacts in a particular situation – then don’t just leave it. Your inner editor is telling you that there’s something wrong – so fix it now. Otherwise the instant it goes for critique – to an agent/editor – guess what the first thing covered in red ink will be!

The same applies to these moments when you’re reading through your work and you knock up against something that pulls you, just for an instant, out of the story. Again, it’s your inner editor. Listen to him. He’s right. Even if you can’t immediately see what’s wrong, mark that bit in red and come back to it.

We all know that moment when someone points out a flaw in your work and you think to yourself. “Drat – I knew that wasn’t working.”

That’s when you haven’t been listening to your inner editor.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Welcome to the Apocalypse!

A new year - new beginnings and new opportunities. What will it bring I wonder?

Some people think that the world will end. But I prefer to take a more optimistic view. Perhaps it will be a year of change.

I'm not going to make any resolutions this year. I think I'll just blow with the wind and see where I end up.

The idea that took seed a few months ago is taking form. Perhaps that would be a good place to start the year.

Happy 2012 everyone!