Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Harlyn Bay

I ventured onto the beach this morning to take a photograph of the cave. (see previous blog) Sadly the sun wasn't shining, but hopefully the above picture paints a clearer view in your mind's eye of the cave where I set a scene in one of my chapters.

This is my Brittany spaniel called Harlyn, enjoying the beach at Harlyn Bay. We named her after our favourite place in Cornwall, and as you can see, she's the same colour as the sand! Harlyn also plays a part in Lies and Linguine. She belongs to my hero, the troubled but talented artist, Daniel Cavanagh.

My other dog is called Brook. She's a springer spaniel but never stays still long enough to have her photograph taken! I've taken a few pictures of her this Christmas break, but they're either of her rear end disappearing into the distance as she runs after a stick, or she's swimming in the sea. Harlyn on the other hand, is a natural born poser!

Being days away from a new year, I believe it's time to mull over some changes/resolutions which I'd like to achieve in 2011. I don't so much want to change anything major. If anything I'd like to accept who I am and what I do. I'm a writer - I write.

But it's so easy to compare myself with other writers and find myself wanting. How do some writers turn a fish soup into a rich warming bouillabaisse? They add ingredients to a story which I wish I'd created. But I know this doesn't really matter - writers should never compare. How boring would bookshelves be if we all wrote alike? The bottom line is, I love the process of writing and become engrossed with my characters, their storyline and more importantly - my hero. My life merges into theirs, they become 'friends' which I can communicate with through my pages. It's so important to feel that connection. To be best friends with my protagonist and to have a crush on my hero makes dialogue so much easier to write.

Now my manuscript for Lies and Linguine has been sent away to my agent, the new year heralds the introduction of new friends in Sugar and Spite, my second novel. I'll fall in love with a new hero and I'm relishing the thought! What is his name? What will he look like? What will he do for a living? How will he and Erin meet ? (my new protagonist - I love that name) It'll also be a lot easier to use a possessive apostrophe without the name ending in an 's', like Tess, my previous heroine!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas in Cornwall

This Christmas the family are spending ten days by the sea in Cornwall. We've spent the last 15 years visiting this beautiful house over-looking Harlyn Bay. (far right of photo) As I type, I'm sitting by a crackling fire, mulled wine by my side and a box of Turkish Delight within arm's reach! If I can't find inspiration here, there's no hope for me!
I always think it's so much easier and more descriptive if a writer describes a place where they've visited. This morning I walked my spaniels along the beach. We stopped at the cave in the cliff which my protagonist, Tess, used to play in as a child. In one scene, Tess re-visits the cave whilst struggling with the dilemma of staying with her sick boyfriend or guiltily leaving him for the man she's fallen in love with. Guilt has a lot to answer for. How many lives have taken a different direction to the one which was desired, because of guilt?
The final scene to Lies and Linguine also takes place on this beach. I shan't elaborate - just hope that one day it will be published and you can read it for yourself!
I was thinking that if my novel was one day published, I'd like to print a few photographs in the back of the book. I read one of Freya North's novels where she'd done the same. I loved looking at the places she'd written about. It added a new dimension to the experience. With that in mind, on the next sunny day we have here, I'll be taking my camera down to the cave.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Mixed Blessings

Oh my goodness! What have I done?
I received an email this week from a relatively small publishing company. They wanted to meet and talk in January about publishing Lies and Linguine. I was over the moon and informed my agent immediately. As I'm new to all this, I needed advice from a professional. She wisely advised me to let them know that I now had an agent who was intending to put my novel out to larger publishing companies mid-January, but that I'd be happy to meet them anyway. This I did.
Unfortunately, this changed everything for the publishers. They said that they'd want me to sign the contract in January in order for my book to be published early 2012. This would be before my agent had tried to find a larger publisher who might be interested in my work. She obviously couldn't promise to find me a better 'deal' and could I take the chance at losing a publishing contract?
The bottom line is that my agent had faith in my work and I have faith in her. I've made the decision to see what 2011 brings with her help. I've said no thank you to the offer and they have now offered the contract to their next choice of author.
Very nerve-racking, but very exciting too.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Relief With A Hint Of Pride.

Well I've done it!
As another writer succinctly put it last night, I'm nolonger a public speaking virgin! I stood up and read my first chapter of Lies and Linguine to a crowd of novelists, poets, muscians, publishers and members of the general public. In the darkest recesses of my brain, I was half expecting to be pelted with rotting fruit and booed off stage. However, after hearing the first tinklings of laughter from the audience, at what I'd hoped was a witty remark by my protagonist, I started to relax, and actually enjoy it.
To be congratulated by talented writers was incredibly encouraging and a little seed of something strange stirred inside. Was I a little bit proud of myself? Remember the Grinch when his heart grew a little bigger and it shocked him? (Hopefully that's the only thing I have in common with the green creature!)
So now it's back to the final editing before my agent (still can't believe I'm writing that) puts it 'out there,' mid-January. PLEASE let 2011 be the year..........

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Beautiful But Disruptive

No, I'm not talking about my spaniels! It's the snow which is causing havoc - and not just to motorists.
My first public reading was cancelled due to the fact that the snow prevented a full show of staff at the venue, so they closed the building early. It can't be helped, and at least I have longer to rehearse. I'm not sure if my silly spaniels are good critics or not as they listen to me read out loud in my writing room. On the one hand they don't criticize or suggest a re-write, but on the other hand, they invariably fall asleep and start snoring whilst I'm still mid-flow! I don't think contemporary women's fiction holds their attention.
Talking about not holding dogs'/people's attention, when I do read my first chapter at Antenna, do I suggest the men sidle off to the bar whilst I'm reading romantic women's fiction, or insist that they stay put and perhaps learn how a woman's psyche works?
No you're right.
They'll be happier with a pint of beer!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

First Public Reading! Ahhhh!

I've worked hard for my dream and thanks to a wonderful agent called Juliet, it has come true. Thank you Juliet for having faith in my work.

I know that finding an agent isn't a ticket to publication. Having read Natalie Whipple's blog, I know how difficult it is in the publishing world right now. Plus, you only need to read the papers/writing mags etc. But I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to find a professional in the business who sees something in my work, and that they're willing to put their name next to it.

I'm a member of two writing groups in Nottingham. Tomorrow, Nottingham Writers' Studio are holding a Word Of Mouth event at Antenna. I am reading the first chapter of Lies and Linguine, and although I'm very proud, my stomach flips each time I remember that I'm doing it! Will the public like it? Will the male audience yawn as I read contemporary women's fiction? Will it stand up against the wonderful other writers who are reading?

I suppose all writers have moments of doubt. But reading my work out loud for the first time is a bit like the nightmares I have when I'm naked in public!

I hope my next post is letting you know that I didn't fall over my words or even worse - chicken out!!!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Prophecy

I recently came second in Nottingham Writers' Group annual prose competition. We were given the theme of the darkness came and had to incorporate it into 250 words. Hope you like it!

The Prophecy

Mauve clouds bruised bi-polar skies, now grumbling miserably having been bright and sunny an hour earlier. Bird song hushed as rain began to dimple puddles.
It wouldn’t be long now.
The captain shivered, fear unravelling in his veins like a skein of wool. Would the prophecy come true? He was prepared. He couldn’t take the chance.
“Hurry up,” he called to his sons. “Have you checked that the food supply is secured?”
“Twice,” his eldest replied.
“Good. Help me get everyone on board. We’re running out of time.”
Father and sons hurried the couples along, their feet click-clacking upon the deck. The captain looked skyward, his eyes widening in horror. A dark curtain of rain raced closer, muting colours and beating a faster rhythm. Thunderous skies unleashed a deluge, staining stones a shade darker and painting a glistening patina on the wooden hull. Bubbling bulimic brooks spewed debris into the rising waters, as a white-forked tongue licked the sky. The clouds grumbled in reply as the water began to take the weight of the giant hull, causing the boat to rock gently to and fro.
“Close the doors,” yelled the captain, his brow furrowed with anxiety. “Fasten the windows and secure all on board.”
The darkness came, dampening colour and form. The captain peered through the gloom at his cargo, as sounds echoed around the vast interior. Startled eyes stared back as hooves stamped, nostrils flared, wings flapped and paws scratched. The ark broke free.
“It begins,” cried Noah.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

My First Novel

I've uploaded the first chapter of my first novel, Lies and Linguine. If you've just made a cuppa and have five minutes to browse blogs, please stop on my chapter and have a read. I'd much appreciate some feedback.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Lies and Linguine - First Chapter

Lies and Linguine

The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold. Aristotle.

1. Lip Service

Damn! That’s all he bloody needed.

Blake Snipes pursed his lips, his neck disappearing into a double chin as he looked down and tweaked the pulled thread on his shirt sleeve. Wasn’t it enough that the temperature was an unbearable thirty degrees and he’d run out of cigarettes, without the dichotomy of fragrant lemon roses assaulting him with hidden weapons? He turned the key and let himself into his girlfriend’s house.
The sweet smell of roast chicken greeted him as he placed his brief case on the bottom stair. Soft mumblings from his girlfriend’s hushed voice drifted from the kitchen making him smile, his ripped shirt instantly forgotten. Blake eased his foot out of his hot imitation brogue and was on the verge of calling a greeting, when he heard his name mentioned and froze.

Although the kitchen door had been left slightly ajar, the conversation hadn’t stopped, so he assumed that his girlfriend Tess Fenton and her best friend Holly hadn’t heard him come in. He bent to quietly remove his other shoe and crept down the hall, stopping at the narrow gap left by the open door. Inhaling the bitter sweet tang of waxed pine, he closed his eyes and listened.

Inside the kitchen Tess continued to scrape parsnips, their sweet pungent aroma smelling like cheap perfume. She considered Holly’s question before answering.

“I can’t remember.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Honestly. It was a couple of months ago.”

“Bloody hell Tess!”

Tess shrugged. Sitting on the worktop, Holly stopped swinging her legs and leant forwards.


“Does it count if the mattress bounces up and down when Blake has a coughing fit?”

“You know it doesn’t. What’re you going to do?”

Tess patted her friend’s legs by way of asking her to move them. Holly bent her knees so that they touched her chin, giving Tess room to retrieve a serrated knife from the drawer.

“You know what? I’m happier having a physical relationship with a four pack of Ferrero Rocher, a Jilly Cooper novel and my pillow. It’s tastier, very pleasurable and a lot more satisfying. He’s happy pretending to be Richard Branson in the office or planning his annual trip to a Star Trek convention, so let him get on with it.”

“Aren’t you, I don’t know….sad?”
“I’m sad that he’s changed since he’s been promoted. The old Blake was romantic. He used to book a surprise weekend away, suggest summer picnics and share the cooking. Now…” Tess nibbled the skin inside her bottom lip as she top and tailed the parsnips. “Now he’s always exhausted, he’s developed an irritating cough, works longer hours and drinks too much.” She shrugged again. “I’m just bored I suppose. I want to find my own Rupert Campbell-Black, because I’m fed up of reading about other people’s passionate love lives.”

Tess took the roasting tin out of the oven and tentatively pealed open a steaming foil parcel with her fingertips.

“Have you talked to him about it? Can’t you explain that your relationship’s dying?”

“Dying? It’s flat-lined!” Tess leaned backwards to let the billowing steam escape from the foil. “There’s more life in this half-cooked bird.” She poked the chicken and watched the oily blood ooze down its pale skin. “It’s time to face facts, Holls. I think we’re over.” She placed the tray back on the shelf and slammed the oven door shut.

On the other side of the door Blake reeled in shock as he leant his forehead against the door surround. Its wood grain was out of focus as he breathed rapidly through his mouth. He slumped back against the wallpaper, the pulse in his neck throbbing in time to his pounding heart. Slowly, Blake slid down the wall and sat on his heels. He closed his eyes and squeezed them tightly beneath his fists.

What did Tess mean, she thinks it’s over? Why wasn’t she impressed that she was now dating an associate director? And who the hell was Rupert? As for romance, he thought she understood that his coughing and long hours wore him out. Surely it was romantic of him to drive over to see her every evening, despite being so tired.

Oblivious now to their conversation, Blake held his head in his hands whilst hyperventilating as quietly as he could. His face felt hot, pins and needles prickled his finger tips and his eyes stung. He was horrified at the thought that he might cry. God, he hadn’t cried since…..since Spock died in The Wrath of Khan. He needed a plan – and quickly.

As the seconds slowly passed by, a shameful thought pricked at his mind making him hold his breath.
Plan A was to impress.

Plan B was unforgivable.

A few days later, Tess closed her eyes and faced the warm slice of sunlight which was cutting across their table in Caffe Nero. She concentrated on the kaleidoscope of colours behind her eyelids, caused by the hot July sun flickering through a canopy of leaves on the high street. They’d timed it perfectly, pouncing on the still warm tan leather armchairs just as the previous occupants had vacated them. Blake had been talking into his mobile for the past ten minutes, so with her elbows on the table, Tess rested her cheeks on her clenched fists which stretched her mouth into an imitation smile.

Turning away from the comforting beam of sunlight, she distractedly pulled apart the remnants of her mozzarella and tomato panini. The nutty smell of coffee and sweet aroma of melted cheese hung in the air amidst the general hubbub of conversation and clattering of crockery. She didn’t know why she’d agreed to meet Blake during her precious lunch hour, especially now that she’d admitted to herself and Holly that things had changed between the two of them. It wasn’t just that the spark had gone. She felt like their viewpoints and horizons had shifted over time, like seismic plates grating and jostling for new ground.

Tess wiped her hands on a flimsy single ply serviette which instantly ripped beneath the pressure of her greasy fingers. She scrutinized her boyfriend over the rim of her coffee cup, her smile belying her thoughts as she caught his glance. She watched him lean backwards on his chair, one hand clutching his mobile to his ear and his other hand supporting the back of his neck. His generous stomach revealed a button ready to burst free from his shirt. Tess mused that she had a lot in common with that button. They were both at a loose end and letting the pressure get to them.
She peeled the skin off a slice of tomato and tried to remember when their romantic dinner dates had stopped and when his flatulence had started. She glanced back at him. Come to think of it, where had his cheek bones gone?

Despite the fact that she was sitting opposite him, Tess saw Blake’s eyes linger on the tight black skirt which looked vacuum-packed onto the pert buttocks of their waitress. The girl’s hips banged against an adjacent table as she moved backwards and forwards, cleaning the surface in circular movements. He seemed mesmerized and unblinking as he stammered into his phone.

“Yes, yes I’m still here. I was distracted by…….” He caught Tess’ eye and at least had the manners to shift uncomfortably. “….sorry mate, carry on.”

Tess nibbled on a piece of mozzarella as she watched Blake lean forward, pick up his teaspoon and slowly stir his lotta-chocca-mocha coffee - or whatever its silly name was? She knew that at his house he’d throw a palm full of a supermarket’s own brand coffee granules into a chipped mug and slurp away to his heart’s content. Now, she thought gloomily, even his drink had taken on an air of superiority. Perhaps he thought she was impressed. Had he forgotten that she knew he couldn’t find matching socks this morning? Didn’t he remember that she’d caught him playing with his man boobs in the shower five hours earlier?

“Super,” he purred. “If you can navigate your way around that little humdinger, I’ll shout you a bottle of Bolly to celebrate….indeed….affirmative….indeed….cheerio.”

Cheerio! The closest Blake got to cheerios was eating a bowl full of them for breakfast, thought Tess. She lowered her latte and feigned interest for conversation’s sake.

“Big business deal?”

“You’d better bloody believe it.” Blake laid his mobile on the table. “Halcott Manor’s coming on the market at last. It’s a huge mansion in the Vale of Belvoir and I’ve been sweet-talking the owners for months. Have you any idea how much commission I’d make if I sold that place? Fucking shed loads. I’d say goodbye to my overdraft for starters and then I’d book a ticket to Amsterdam for Kent’s stag weekend in November. Now bloody Henderson’s Agency has got wind of it. Parasites! I’d better ring Kent at the office to see if he can head them off somehow. I’ve had too many ball-breaking conversations with that pompous Lord What’s-his-name to lose the Manor now.” Snatching up his phone again, Blake dialled the office. “What I’d give to join the lads in Amsterdam.”

Tess didn’t think he was looking forward to perusing the clog collection in the markets or choosing the latest hue in tulip bulbs. She knew his idea of heaven would be smoking dodgy cigarettes and looking at even dodgier women sitting in red-fringed window parlours wearing next to nothing.
As he waited for his colleague to answer, Tess sipped her latte and looked at him - properly looked at him. Seriously, where had his cheek bones gone? They must be under there somewhere. They’d been there when they’d first met. Where had the romantic charmer gone? And where the hell had that belly come from? Tess noticed that the loose shirt button was now missing and a hairy white mound of flesh was protruding through the gap. The escaping bulge of skin resembled a forgotten marshmallow which had been lost under a bed and become covered in carpet fibres. She shuddered involuntarily.

“He’s not picking up. You cold?” Blake snapped his mobile shut.
“No I’m fine.”

“That reminds me. What was wrong with you this morning?”


“I heard you scream in the bathroom.” Blake licked his finger and stabbed at the remaining crumbs on his plate. He nibbled them off his crusted fingertip, crunching them between his front teeth as he waited for an answer.

Tess clenched her teeth, irritated that a small golden crumb nestled in the corner of his mouth. “If you must know,” she snapped, “I found a grey hair this morning. I’m twenty-six and I found my first grey hair.”

“A grey hare? What the fuck was Bugs Bunny doing with you in the bathroom with you?”

Blake threw his head back and guffawed at his own wit. He reached for his cup and sniggered as he drained the dregs of his coffee. Mid-swallow it occurred to him just how hilarious his remark was and jerked forwards with another uncontrollable snort. Coffee sprayed from his nose like a high pressure hose. A gloopy stream of dribble hung from his lips like bungee elastic, as a large crumb of panini abseiled down it. Through bloodshot eyes, Blake croaked, “Sorry, dangerous sport - being funny.”

Tess stared at him motionless. She felt eyes boring into her head from all directions and decided that she’d had enough. Reaching under her chair she grabbed her handbag and mumbled, “I’m heading back to work.”

Blake sniffed coffee back up his nose making him cough and swallow. “Already? What about lunch?”

“I’m tired, Blake. Tired of letting things drift. I feel as though my grey hair was trying to tell me something. I’m getting older but not wiser. I’ve put up with your moods and your bloody dirty washing for long enough. We don’t even live together! If I just got the occasional thank you, or maybe taken out for a meal, it wouldn’t be so bad.”
“I’m sorry, okay? I’m so busy at work now that I’ve been given more responsibilities. I know I’m not free to do the things we used to, but I’m working hard for us. I don’t understand why you’re not pleased that I’ve got a promotion. One day you’ll move in with me and we’ll get married and have kids. All this hard work is laying the foundations for our future. Isn’t that what you want?”

Tess sighed and leaned back against her chair. “I don’t know.”
“What’re you saying?”

“Nothing. I don’t know. I need to get back to work.”
“It’s the grey hair isn’t it?”

“What is?”

“Why are you being like this? It was just a bloody grey hair Tezz.”

“Just! That’s like saying The Great Wall of China is just a garden boundary! Besides, it’s patronizing to suggest that it’s a grey hair which is making me feel how I do.”
“How do you feel? I’m not a bloody mind reader.”
Tess shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.”

“I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.”
“Fine! That suits me just fine.” Tess stood up and grabbed her cardigan from the back of her chair. “I’ll see you tonight,” she muttered as she walked past him, almost relishing the thought of inhaling a lungful of traffic fumes. Just before she reached the swing doors to freedom, she heard Blake yell her name across the packed room.


Turning slowly, her eyes met a room full of faces staring back at her, eager to see who the tight-fisted Tezz was. Mortified and with her face stinging like a bed of nettles, she walked with her head bowed back to the table. She slapped a £10 note on the table.
“Is it too much to expect lunch from my boyfriend once in a blue moon?” she hissed, aware that conversation in the room had stopped and ears were straining to hear her. “I cook for you four or five times a week and do you ever hear me asking for a contribution?”

“It’s the end of the month, that’s all. I’m a bit short.”

“You and me both, Blake. You and me both.”

She didn’t give him chance to answer as she turned on her Kurt Geiger heels and marched out the air-conditioned coffee shop and into the sticky heat. She didn’t look up or wave as she passed him sitting in the window. Her lips were pursed into a straight thin line as tears stung her eyes. How did he manage to embarrass her at every opportunity? Thanks to his loud self-important telephone voice and his choking fit, they’d been the comic entertainment for lunchtime diners for the past thirty minutes. She weaved her way across Maddox Square and through a long queue lining up in front of a Mr Whippy ice-cream van. She could have spent the last hour crunching on a Flake stuffed into an ice-cream cone and then looking around the July sales with Holly. She had face wipes to buy and needed a French stick to feed his silly face tonight. Too late now!

As she marched angrily back to work, she realised that she wasn’t just bored of Blake and irritated by his superior attitude now that he’d been promoted. She had fallen out of love with him. It was as simple as that. Yes he’d put on a little weight, but it wasn’t his increased BMI that she didn’t love any more. It was him. His being. The part of him that made him who he was, and more importantly, who he would become. Suddenly everything became clear. She didn’t want to meet him in her lunch hour or have his photograph looking back at her every time she opened her purse. It also occurred to her that she hadn’t doodled Mrs Tess Snipes in over a year. She resolved to finish with him before the end of the month.
That gave her six days!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Back to School

I recently attended a one day editing workshop with Nottingham Writers' Studio. It did remind me of being back at school - notebook at hand, notes written on a board, raising a hand to speak and listening to 'sir.' I must say I enjoyed it far more than school!
A writer never stops learning and I found it enormously helpful. One exercise was to edit some of our work by changing the way in which we'd written it. For example, change the tense, swap from 3rd to 1st person, exchange each verb with a different one. I did try this exercise, and was pleased to find that the initial way I'd written it, appeared to work the best.
Another reason I'd urge writers to join writing groups and attend workshops, is friendship with like-minded people. Although your loved ones are thrilled with your successes, they don't always 'get it.' My best friend is delighted for me, but has never asked to read my book; in fact, she doesn't read at all, bar the odd magazine!
So I made new freinds and chatted about writing, blogging etc without a glazed expression sliding over fellow writers eyes. Now I'm looking forward to the next social at the writing club on Thursday. A glass of wine and more book talk!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Beware of Acorns

So, autumn's here with all her wondrous russets, golds and bronzes. Shall we write a poem to celebrate her beauty? Shall we set our latest short story in an arch of canopied branches, dripping with bracelets of honey-coloured leaves?
Having read the papers this morning, what we should actually be doing is erecting signs underneath trees, warning passers-by that acorns, conkers etc may fall on them!! Health and safety gone mad! They'll be stopping us from growing roses next, due to their dangerous thorns!
Please stop this madness and enjoy the changing seasons.
I think it's a corn-y idea!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Whoosh of Memory

I joined Nottingham Writers' Studio last week, a new writing group. Unfortunately I wasn't free to attend their workshop, but I met up with several members at a poetry reading event at Waterstones. After cakes, hot chocolate and some beautiful poetry (not necessarily in that order), I walked to The Lace Market with two other writers.
I love the beautiful ornate buildings in The Lace Market. The writers' studio is in one of these such buildings. What I wasn't expecting though, was the rush of memories that invaded me as we walked up the spiral staircase to the second floor. The bitter-sweet pungent smell of old wood reminded me of being a young girl, making my way up a dark, cool, spiral staircase to ballet class each Saturday morning. As I walked the spiral staircase to the writers' studio, the evocative smells took me back to the days of pink leotards, pony tails and scuffed ballet shoes. Like a fading perfume, the patinaed wood whooshed me back through the years. A heady, almost acidic fragrance.
It's wonderful how aromas can conjure up a particular place, time or person. When writing a scene in my novel, I love to introduce the sense of smell. Whether it be mown grass, a roasting chicken or wood smoke, it adds another layer to the picture I'm trying to paint with words.
As well as aging wood, the perfume of the flowering redcurrant bush always transports me back to my childhood garden. Smelling the heady fat pink blossoms each summer, I can almost feel the sunshine on my bare legs as a ten year old.
Hope you like my poem about my favourite flowering blossom.

Pink With Pleasure

Underneath the silver birch
They'd hang, pink with pleasure,
Blossoms blushing
Full and frothing.
Beneath the birch's lolling boughs
I'd read, or sing or dream.
Looking through the dappled light
To pale bare skies
Where contrails paint across the blue.
As a child, so many days
Spent beneath the verdant boughs
Embracing their beauty.
And today
When many years have passed,
I smell their fragrance
And remember
And smile.

Angela Barton

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Art Of Procrastination.

Occasionally it's difficult to keep motivated when it comes to writing. I can't always think creatively when work is piling up, the dog's sick or the accountant is chasing me for a meeting. I've regularly been entering competitions for my writing group (which I'm delighted to say I've come 1st, 2nd and 3rd in recent months) but procrastination has been order of the day when it comes to my second novel, Sugar and Spite.
I know I must pin myself to the chair and write, irrespective of the day to day irritations which halt my creative flow! The thing is, if I do tell myself to ignore the dishwasher and washing machine and sit down to drag a few hard-thought words out, then before I know it, I've written 500 - 1,000 words. The very action of forcing myself to sit down in a wordless mist, enables the fog to clear and the words to flow.
So, it is with this in mind that I'm decorating the room my eldest son has recently vacated. My first chick has flown the nest. (Two more to go!!) If I have my own writing room, surrounded by my reference books, pens, pads etc, I won't be looking guiltily at the washing machine or dish-washer. Nor can I see the pathetic pleading eyes of my two spaniels, trying to guilt me into taking them on a walk!
Just writing about it, makes me want to get on with Sugar and Spite! : )

White Canvass

White Canvass

The bare blue sky stretches and beams
Upon an upturned face.
A child's tongue, tasting the tingle
Of snowflakes.
Diamante blanket cocoons in winter white.
A stunning silence
Hiding beneath its chilly softness.
The child squeals with glee
Folowing a constellation of tiny footprints.
Robin or sparrow?
Now flown,
Darting and flapping to the ice-frilled branches,
Viewing silent drifts and snow-laced fences.
Winter's clarity hides all flaws.
Broken gates, peeling paint, a rusty hinge
Vanished beneath a weight of white.
A clear canvass for footsteps to paint,
Or to crack mirrored puddles
Beneath their tread.

Angela Barton

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Inspiration for the Soul

I was invited to a fund-raising evening in the tiny village of Orston last Saturday. It's only two miles from where I live, but I clambered into the mini bus along with a handful of lovely neighbours. The evening was to raise money for research into the treatment and prevention of ALD. (
Martha and the Vandellas flew over from Detroit especially to perform on a temporary stage in the back garden of the parents who've lost a son to ALD. The couple picked up the trio from the airport. Can you imagine?
"See you later. Just popping out to pick up Martha and the Vandellas!"
They even stayed overnight at the house where the event was taking place.
What an amazing night. We ate pie and peas whilst sitting 8ft away from Martha and her sisters singing the original Jimmy Mack, Dancing in the Street and Heatwave. She was witty, modestly self-deprecating, as fit as a fiddle and still has an amazing voice at 70! She had us dancing on the lawn and singing along. She sang a tribute song of Michael Jackson's and I only wish I had as much energy!
As well as being an incredible night full of soulful melodies, as a writer, I had my eyes peeled for new characters, overheard conversations and even the latest bit of juicy gossip. I found it in spades!! I had to draw the line at taking my ever present notebook out of my handbag, but I gathered information which I scribbled in my notebook the next day.
I saw an eminent doctor having a crafty cigarette, a famous singer from the 60's squeezed into some eye-wateringly tight jeans to accompany his tinted hair, a tipsy judge and some blatant flirting whilst spouses back's were turned. All in all, some fabulous characters to work into a chapter of my next novel, Sugar and Spite.
The evening itself had a mauve haze to it as dusk fell. The heady fragrance from the flowers and ladies' perfumes added a spice to the colourful characters and laughter-filled huddles. I made new friends as well as caught up with old ones. The weather was as mild as a Mediterranean memory as we topped up our glasses and sang along to Mowtown and Soul legends.
A writer's dream!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Trapped Butterfly

I was delighted to win first and second places in a recent poetry competition. The theme for the poems was, turn back the clock. Here is one of my poems.

Trapped Butterfly

Trembling behind gauze, like a trapped butterfly
Listening to the scrunch of rubber on gravel.
He's home.
A door slams as headlights fade.
How can a lover become a stranger,
As swiftly as a once polished plum
Becomes covered in a delicate froth of fungi?
Turn back the clock to those heady fruitful days
When love blossomed.
Shared dreams divided by time
And split like parched wood.
His footfall, once a welcoming tread,
Now splinter my calm with regret
As he strides on the polished parquet.
Turn back the clock to a time when our words tumbled
Like a rushing brook in a spring thaw.
Before the wordless air ambushed me,
Squeezing my breath at his glance.
A look which once glowed with love,
Now glowers.
Loving praise decayed into mute criticism.
A curl of his lip.
Turn back the clock to a time when the sun shone
On entwined fingers, and a passionate embrace.
His kiss, once lingering and heartfelt is but a memory,
Bleached pale by time's incessant race.
"Goodnights" unspoken.
An extinguished bulb
Signals the end of his day.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

An Accident Waiting To Happen.

Last Saturday, a party of us went to a lovely restaurant to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday. As it was a lovely evening, we decided to order drinks outside in the late sunshine. The men settled on garden chairs and loungers, whilst three of the girls, including me, sat on a padded circular lounge area.
We ordered our drinks and caught up on family news, when suddenly the three on us on the padded seat, dropped a few inches. Seconds later, before we had time to grasp what was happening, all three of us fell backwards into a deep hole. We fell about six foot, landing on our backs on pipework. As I looked up at the sky through the opening of the hole, several faces peered down at us. I thought at first we'd fallen into a well!
We were all hauled out, luckily with only cuts, bruises and pulled muscles. I shudder to think what might have happened. Falling six foot onto your back isn't something the health and safety inspectors would condone!
It appears that the hole was a drained jacuzzi with a shelf removed, making it deeper than it would have been if water had been in it. My sister-in-law and friend were soaked as they'd been holding drinks at the time. Not a very promising start to a birthday celebration. One member of staff muttered that they would get a notice made to stop others from sitting on it!! A bit like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted I think! And why was there padding on the top, inviting diners to sit down? Why was our drinks order taken whilst we were sitting on it, without a word of warning as to what we were sitting on?
A visit to the doctor on the Monday morning, thankfully only revealed a twisted knee, pulled muscle in my back and a beautiful display of purple and black bruising up my calf and thigh. I suppose looking on the bright side, it's some new material for future chapters of my new novel! Inspiration can be found from the bottom of a smelly jacuzzi!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Sparrows and Parrots!

Everyone has a story to tell. Each one as unique and individual as the person telling it. Some of the most fascinating stories are of events which have happened between childhood and old age. Real stories. Memories, experiences, life-lessons and circumstances which leave lasting impressions, all add to the personal compendium of individual lifetimes.
My first memory was of sitting on my father's shoulders, hanging on to the railing of Buckingham Palace. I remember peering throught the metal bars at soldiers in bright red uniforms. I also remember that he used to cut my toast in to the shape of a house, therefore making it more appealing for a fussy toddler to eat!
In later life, after I'd met and married my husband Paul, a darker experience shaped our lives. It left such an impression on me, that I wrote a sub-plot for Lies and Linguine around the theme. Paul hadn't been feeling well for weeks and so decided to make an appointment with his doctor. Without any specific symptoms to speak of, the doctor told Paul that there were more sparrows in the sky than parrots. This flippant remark obviously meant that Paul probably wasn't suffering with anything exotic, and to get on with his life. Which he did!
About a fortnight after hearing his doctor make this remark, Paul shouted for me to hurry into the kitchen. He was pointing at something sitting on our garden fence.
An exotic parrot!
Now we live in Nottingham, not exactly a tropical rain forest! It'd obviously escaped from its cage, but nonetheless, it made the goose bumps tingle. For the next few weeks, Paul hadn't felt any better. It came to a head one cold, dark November morning, before anyone was awake. A strange, terrifying noise woke me from a deep sleep. It sounded like an animal in pain. NEXT TO ME!
I switched on the bed-side lamp to see my husband, unconscious on the bed. His face was grey, his lips were blue and a trickle of blood dribbled from his mouth, from where he'd bitten his tongue. The children came running in to the bedroom because of the loud noise their daddy was making. After calming the children and calling for an ambulance, things happened quickly. Paul was assessed and allowed home, with an appointment to go to radiology for a brain scan.
Arriving in radiology, at the QMC, we were once again shocked into silence, on seeing a poster behind the receptionist's desk. A heading proudly boasted, 'Parrots of the World.' Suddenly there seemed to be a lot more parrots than sparrows in our lives.
Paul was diagnosed with a brain tumour, which was miraculously operated on successfully. Paul's recovery and absence from his company, led to the folding of his own advertising agency. It also instigated a house move, as Paul wasn't allowed to drive. But, ten years on, Paul is well and we look back on that episode in our lives, as a lesson learnt.
Life is short. Make the most of it. Don't get hung up on trivial arguments or irritations.
You don't know what's round the corner.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Joys of Blackberry Picking.

I think Peter Pan had the right idea. It's no fun growing up!
Why do we have to leave the heady excitement of childhood behind, just because we grow out of our childhood bodies? I miss the carefree spontaneity of yelling goodbye, slamming the front door and disappearing off to explore parks, play two-ball against brick walls and jump over elastic stretched between two play-mates knees. I don't think my knees are up to it now, but it's the giddying euphoria I miss. The simple pleasures which buoyed the soul.
As Wordsworth wrote of childhood, "The heavens laugh with you, in your jubilee: I feel - I feel it all." Why then as we grow older does he write, "Shades of the prison-house begin to close/Upon the growing boy."
I've tried to capture that love of simple pleasures in Lies and Linguine. My heroine, Tess, finds pleasure in picking blackberries, not using her Blackberry. She loves nature, visiting the fair, daydreaming, eating 99's and noticing the changing seasons.
I come to a letter I received from an agent returning three chapters of Lies and Linguine. She'd scribbled in a corner of my returned submission letter, that my writing was "really rather good," but that the plot seemed a little implausible. Life does seem implausible sometimes! Just read the papers and a past blog of mine about life being stranger than fiction.
My plot includes a deceitful boyfriend lying for his own gains, a hero with mild OCD brought on by past tragedies, his sister who is battling breast cancer and a heroine who - although she loves another - stays with her boyfriend for longer than she should, through misplaced loyalty. Jealousy, manipulative people, crime, betrayal and fear all have a part to play in my novel. But friendship, support and simple pleasures all go a long way in helping to heal all concerned, despite a few hiccoughs and twists along the way.
Such is life! It's the agent's perogative not to like my storyline. But implausible?
I call it life's challenges.

Friday, 23 April 2010

The Big Smoke

It appears to me that trying to get to Hampstead Heath for a spot of research for my book, has similarities to trying to get published! Neither are a smooth journey.
I first attempted the journey to London last September on my birthday. I wanted to be selfish and indulge in my passion for that day. But not being writers, family members thought it strange that I'd want to spend the day alone. They missed the point that I would be spending the day surrounded by the characters in my book. So I ended up in Cambridge, and spent a lovely day with my mother and daughter instead.
Autumn also conjured up obstacles to defer another attempt. Still, writers know all about waiting patiently!
I made it to London last Monday. Uninterested people waved a nonchalant hand when I asked for occasional directions, just as uninterested agents have rejected my manuscript. I got on the tube going in the wrong direction, just as I'd received a letter from a publisher offering to publish my work....for a fee! Not a direction I wanted to travel down.
When I reached Hampstead Heath, the sun was shining and the blossoms were bursting. People pointed me in the right direction with a smile, just as some agents have been very complimentary about my writing and urged me to continue. Isn't it wonderful when an experience exceeds your expectations? I reached the summit of Parliament Hill, taking the same journey my fictional family did in Lies and Linguine. Sitting on a bench, shining with a polished patina from thousands of bottoms, I looked over the huge metropolis and felt as if Denise and her family had actually sat there before me. Just to add a further dimension to my visit, a group of impromptu gospel singers sprang into song on the summit of the hill. I drank in sun, the constellation of dandelions, the children's squeals, the smell of the grass and the distant rumble of traffic. It makes so much difference to visit a place you want to write about.
I also visited The London Book Fair. The quote of the day for me, was by author Richard Ford who was being interviewed in the Literary Cafe. He said, "Every writer experiences rejection. We all have to have a turn in the cold shower. Ultimately, be yourself. You've got to write what you've got to write."
How true!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Big Smoke Beckons

Has a year passed already? It doesn't seem like twelve months ago that I was sitting in a masterclass entitled How To Become Published at The London Book Fair. And no - I haven't - yet. I've been told these things can't be rushed!
So it's with a skip in my step that I'm off to The London Book Fair 2010 on Monday. Seems like a good time to mull over my achievements since last year's fair.
Well, a year ago I hadn't won a competition for my first chapter. I hadn't had an agent request my entire manuscript having read my first three chapters, and I also hadn't started my second novel, which is now well under way.
I'm happy with that progress!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Life is stranger than fiction!

It's true that life resembles fiction more than fiction resembles life. If I wrote about certain co-incidences or experiences, an agent may comment that it was a little unbelievable.

Take for example one day when I took our two spaniels for a walk on the paddock. Our Springer, Brook, as usual only had one thought in mind - retrieving the ball which I was throwing for her. Harlyn our Brittany spaniel, was busy tree-watching for any slight movement. A bird would be good, a squirrel would make her day! To her delight she locked eyes with a squirrel and so started a long stand off. No amount of bribery from me with a pocket full of treats would budge her. Eventually, I think the squirrel got bored and decided to make a leap for it. As it leap from the canopy of one tree to the next, it fell - onto the upturned face of Harlyn! She fell to the floor, the squirrel scampered off and Harlyn stood up and looked at me as if to say 'did that really happen?' The thing is, only me and a slightly over-weight red and white dog were witnesses to the drama. And although she swore me to secrecy over her embarressment, I thought it would be a good story to demonstrate just how crazy reality can be.

Great news! I received an email yesterday from a literary agent asking to read my full manuscript. Fantastic! I've worked on Blake, my antagonist, and hopefully he'll show a nicer side to his character.
I've also entered another competition. Describe a winter storm in 200 words. It's not a story, but a moment in time.

Winter Storm

Mauve clouds bruised the bi-polar skies, now grumbling miserably having been bright and sunny an hour earlier. Skeletal canopies lurched to and fro to the wind's egotistical demands, hushing bird song. Slowly at first, raindrops dimpled puddles like a rash. Tip tap on the dustbin lids.
A grey curtain of rain closed over the village, muting colours and beating a faster rhythm. Pewter skies unleashed a deluge , staining fences a shade darker and painting a glistening patina on pavements. Rain lashed against windows and over-flowed from gutters, splashing onto the tarmac below. Down pipes frothed and gurgled. Bulimic drains spewed leaves and debris into the road, unashamed and unrepentant. As the wind whisked up shrivelled leaves and prised roof tiles from their fixings, icy marbles played a deafening drum beat on car bonnets. Clattering. Rattling.
White-forked tongues licked the sky as the winter storm hit a crescendo. The clouds grumbled in reply as weak limbs were torn from scarred trees and scattered across the village green. As if shocked by its destruction, the wind sighed. The rain slowed to a gentle drizzle as a pale shaft of sunlight hinted at a smile from behind the clouds.

Friday, 19 March 2010

I Need Help!

No, not psychological help - although if you have any suggestions.......
I need help with my blog. I've just been browsing the net (and picking up the lingo!) and there are so many interesting blogs with photos, links etc. Just when I'm proud that I've actually worked out how to add a new post, I find out that I'm still at the starting block. A bit like my writing actually! Still, even the greatest writers had to start by learning how to spell their names!
I've tried following some written advice on my laptop and to be honest it looks like a foreign language. I'm not slow - honest. I passed my eleven plus and everything! But my head gets a faint buzzing sensation as I'm trying to process a list of, to me anyhow, technical mumbo jumbo. I suppose the buzzing could be from the sugar rush from the bag of Tutti Fruttis I've just eaten.
Anyway, my belated new year's resolution is to make my blog a little more 'all singing and all dancing' and to get a few followers! My lovely sister has signed up to follow me so already I don't feel like I'm talking to myself!

Watch this space!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Gossamer Wings

Gossamer Wings

If my resting place be this crescent of golden sand,
Will it cradle my bouquet of life's memories?
Will my shadow fly on resplendent waves
with each skyward-tossed champagne spray?

If my ashes were laid upon soft grains,
Will gentle zephyrs carry my soul?
Will I remember when I wed barefoot on these sands
in flowing gown, 'neath bare blue skies?

If my essence drifts through murmuring boughs,
Will you hear me whisper through autumn leaves?
Will my spirit walk each winding path,
re-tracing steps I took in life?

If my soul floats with fragrant blossoms
Drifting on a summer's breeze,
Will I dance, as night falls and stars a-light,
with golden angels on gossamer wings?

By Angela Barton


I'm back! Has it really been so many months since I last gave an update?
As well as moving house and setting up a new business with my husband, I've also found time to write. I've started my second novel called Sugar and Spite, but at the moment I'm tweaking Lies and Linguine. That's the new working title of my first book.
I've had some wonderfully helpful feedback from two literary agents and two publishers. Before you congratulate me - wonderfully helpful doesn't always mean good. Yes I've had some confidence-boosting praise, which acts like the sugar that makes the tweaking easier to swallow! I've been told my novel is better than chic-lit, very competent, pacy and engaging with some good imagery. Not only am I delighted to hear this, but I'm grateful that these busy professionals took the time to let me know what they liked about Lies and Linguine. Not as lovely - but equally as valuable, is the tweaking which is also suggested! My antagonist is apparently too antagonistic. Having re-read my book, the agents are absolutely right. If I was Tess, the protagonist in my novel, I wouldn't have stuck around for half as long! So I've spent the last two months tweaking Blake! This encompassed giving him a conscience and some redeeming features. Just enough to make Tess stay with him until the last straw!
I've also joined Nottingham Writers' Group since I last blogged. We meet twice a month, alternatively listening to a speaker or sharing our work with the other writers. I'd recommend this to any new writer as it helps to receive positive critisism by people who understand that your work is precious to you, but that it also might need improving with the help of tactful suggestions. At last night's meeting we held the 'Verse of the Year' evening. I will hunt out my entry and post it shortly.
I've sent out two further submissions to literary agencies and I'm crossing everything!