Thursday, December 15, 2011

Transgender Winter

Sorry, dear author, but I couldn't resist that title for this post. You did give me permission to reveal your identity. Yes, Douglas McPherson has changed sex and written a pocket novel and here's the cover of the Ulverscroft version which is available to borrow from public libraries or can be purchased from Ulverscroft on 0116 236 4325.
Nashville Cinderella is the rags to riches story of Cindy Coin, an aspiring country singer waiting tables in Music City, Tennessee, and hoping her prince can get her to the ball at the Grand Ole Opry!
And knowing Douglas, Oops! Julia, it’ll be a mighty fine read.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Wise words

When I was in my early teens my parents split up. When I was thirty I found my Dad again. My mother didn't like me seeing him and I'd get the third degree if she thought I had. Then I saw this letter in a women's magazine and copied it into the little book I keep all inspiring or thoughtful quotes in.
I don't know who wrote it. The letter was anonymous but, if you're out there, please know that your words helped me so much. Here they are-

You make us feel guilty, disloyal, emotionally torn and you cross examine us, even after we've been hurt so much. Who am I talking about?
The children of divorced parents. We are a product of when you were together and whatever your feelings towards each other now, please respect us enough to realise we still want you both.
Don't make us choose all the time - this isn't a threat to either of you. So please think next time you won't go somewhere because he/she will be there, or want to know every word he/she has said.
You've made your choice. Don't condemn us to a life torn between you both.

Friday, November 11, 2011


No apologies for re-using this from last year.

True Requiem by Edgar Billingham.

Not for you, soldier, mourn we,
Young, and dead quickly,
But for you, schoolgirl, who never knew him,
Yet who must now go unloved and childless to the grave,
And for you, father, so proud,
And for you, mother,
Remembering the little hands.

True Requiem appeared in Edgar's book, Midland Poems, in 1944 and was praised by J B Priestley and described as 'one of the most poignant fragments of this or any war'.
Edgar was a founder member of Worcester Writers' Circle, begun in 1941.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Three Beautiful Window Things

There’s a rainbow on my desk where the cold sunshine is coming through the window. I cup my hands so I can hold the rainbow.

Three tiny handprints show up in the condensation on the window pane. Proof that 21 month Amelia visited yesterday.

It’s raining leaves and feathers. Actually, only one of each. I see them drift past my window.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What are you doing Saturday?

That's Saturday 15 October, and I shall be in Wellington, Shropshire. Apparently Wrekin Writers ‘are delighted that Lynne Hackles has agreed to run the October workshop’. I hope they’ll be as delighted by the time I’ve spent the day with them.
The day is actually split into two workshops. From 10am to 12.30pm (£5 or £4.50 if you book in advance) I’m running one on Ghost-writing, something worth every writer considering if they are trying to earn money from their art.
From 1.30 to 4.00pm (£5 or £4.50 if you book in advance) there’s Short Story Writing. I shall be covering writing for magazines as well as for competitions.
To reserve your place on either or both of these workshops, log on to or phone Darren Bailey on 01952 405 178.
The Civic Centre, Wellington @ 10am and/or 1.30pm

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I can't lose these

Here are a couple of my pens. The duck one used to have green sparkly hair but he moulted. The red one is a perfect solution to anyone who ever fancied writing with a quill - a ballpoint with a feather! I love pens like this because they are easy to find in my handbag. They make people smile. They do not get lost and no-one ever walks away with them.

I learned the latter when, many years ago, I worked at Malvern Theatre in the box office. Customers would borrow a pen to sign a cheque and then, mostly men, would put it in their pocket. They didn't mean to take it. Pocketing it was just a natural response once they'd finished writing. Our solution was long green pens with vividly coloured plastic tulips on the end. Strangely, no-one pocketed them and if they did they noticed immediately and returned them with a smile. Those tulips stayed with us until the ink ran out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A gift from the LSO

It's perfect, isn't it? Perfect for me and for most writers.

And it's even more perfect when the LSO fills it with tea and deposits it on my desk without uttering a word and interrupting my flow of words. (I always pretend to be busy when he comes through the writing room door.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Has anyone got...

a copy of Take A Break with my story in it? I've been checking the magazine every week but obviously missed it and didn't realise until my bank statement arrived. (Looked good!)
If anyone has a copy perhaps you could get in touch, please.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ready to fight

I've recently been sent some old photos of my family and this is one I'd not seen before so it was very welcome.
My grandfather, Dennis Crump, is on the left. He was a Bantam, a soldier under 5 feet 2 inches. His best friend, Tom Young, is with him. This was WWI.
When Uncle Tom was around 95 and went into hospital he was asked if he'd ever been in before. There were no notes for him. I suppose this must have been in the early 1990s. He said he had, back in WWI when he'd been gassed.
One day, during the war, Tom was in France when he saw a little soldier. He asked if he was a Bantam and was told yes. So he asked after his best friend and was told the camp wasn't far away where he'd find him. Tom borrowed a bicycle and pedalled out there only to discover that Dennis had been sent home wounded.
As I grow older family photos mean so much more.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I was in a second-hand bookshop yesterday when one of the volunteers proudly announced that she had ripped up a children's book because it was unsuitable.
I had to walk out before I said anything but later, calmer, I returned and asked why. I was given the torn covers of the best-selling book for parents, called Go The F*ck To Sleep. I explained that it wasn't a children's book but one written by a parent for parents who'd had a child like mine - one who didn't sleep for more than two hours at a time for the first three years of her life.
And then I walked out before I started on about how she might like to start a trend and build a few book bonfires...

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Quiz

Sunday night at Caerleon is Quiz Night. Helen Yendall and Christine Cherry set the quiz and ask the questions. They must devote a lot of time to this and always treat us to a good night. We split into teams of six. So why are there five of us here? That's because Simon Whaley took the photo. Our team's name was Whaley's Women and we came second.

From left to right. Irene Yates, author of over 300 educational books and regular short story writer for Woman's Weekly.

Elizabeth Moulder who writes stories for Woman's weekly and other magazines.

Me, who does a bit of everything (except poetry and porn), hence my course name for next year's Writers' Holiday - Butterfly Writing.

Paula Williams. Fast becoming the name to go with Teresa and Della when it comes to short stories and serials. Paula took this year's class on short story writing.

Angela Lanyon, playwright and author of a fantasy trilogy - The Swordsman's Reel.

What good company Simon had! You could have company like this too. Everyone mixes and everyone is friendly at Writers' Holiday. Think about booking for next year. Info will be on the website soon.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Holiday in Writers' Holiday

At the last moment, just before leaving home, I made the decision to leave my laptop behind and concentrate on the holiday part of Writers' Holiday at Caerleon. I wondered if I could go cold turkey and give writing a rest. So, for the first half of the week, with stomach churning and hands shaking, I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to the painting and drawing class.

The last time I had a paintbrush in my hand was when I was 14 so nerves were to be expected but once I'd got started I really enjoyed painting this scene.

Several men were asked if they'd like to see my etchings.

More on Caerleon tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Countdown to Caerleon

Not long now. Only 4 Big Sleeps and I’ll be there, at Writers’ Holiday which is held at the University of South Wales, Caerleon, Newport each year.
I wish I could go back to 2007 when Jane Wenham-Jones, Trish Maw, Irene Yates, the beautiful Maureen Devlin, who died in 2009, and I shared a floor. (There are five en-suite rooms to each floor.) But we can never go back in time. Each year changes, but every one of them has been good.
I think this will be my tenth year and this time I am a delegate. Usually I teach so this is going to be different again. What is always the same is the friendliness of Writers’ Holiday, the huge amounts of good food, the generous tutors and speakers…
If you’ve never been then think about 2012, when I’ll be teaching and Jane Wenham-Jones will be a speaker, and go to to keep an eye out for next year’s programme and booking forms. It’s worth every penny. And if you can’t wait and can cope with last minute decisions, nip over now and put in a late booking, then introduce yourself to me on Sunday.
You’ll have to be quick. There’s only 4 Big Sleeps remaining.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A word from Wolfe

A few words, actually. They are from Humbert Wolfe and I'm not sure when they were written. Definitely ages ago.

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
Thank God, the
British journalist.

But seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there's
no occasion to.

News of the What?

My old Gran would have hated it - the death of News of the Screws. She would read it from cover to cover, every Sunday without fail, and all the time she would be tutting and sucking in her breath. And she'd mutter very quietly, 'It's all S...E...X!'

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Smooth or ribbed?

‘Smooth or ribbed?’ groaned Sir Walter, hose around his ankles, as he reached into his doublet pocket for his trusty Durex.

Think I’ve gone mad? No. I’m just mad about a silly story in The Telegraph announcing that ‘Mills and Boon “cause marital breakdown”. Apparently romantic novels are a cause of marital breakdown, adulterous affairs, unwanted pregnancies, and are a danger to relationships and sexual health.
That is the verdict of an article in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, which said women struggle to distinguish between romantic fiction and real life. Poor us. Stupid women who can’t tell the difference between the ‘chiselled menfolk' of fiction and the bloke with the beer pot we’re actually married to. (Not the LSO I hasten to add, in case he reads this.)
Miss Quilliam, who is a sexual health professional says her profession ‘like condoms - for protection and for contraception - and they (romantic novels) don't.’
To learn how dangerous romantic novels are to your sexual health and relationships click on the link below to read more extracts from Miss Quilliam's article which was published by the BMJ on behalf of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Yesterday - the final piece

Today's post is the final section of my friend Josi's piece on some childhood memories. Enjoy!

Yesterday, when I was young....
We were the “Happy Hoppers”. We went on "Holiday" to Kent every August to pick hops. There were cheap tickets on the railways and we had old fashioned prams to put stuff in because they held a lot and were easy to push. We went every year and were there when war was declared. We didn't go back to Walworth until we were forced to.
Mrs. Tolhurst owned the farm at Paddock Wood where my Dad was a Polepuller. He had to cut the bines that held the hops up until they were ready to pick.
The picking made all your fingers black and sticky and all your food tasted weird because there was nowhere to wash your hands. We knew some lovely people there. They must have been the only real friends my Mum and Dad had because my family was always 'moonlight-flitting'. But every summer there would be the Porter and Collins families from Cable St, East London.
After half a century I would still recognise any of those people.
The four of us slept in a hut about 12' by 12' square. If it rained during the day, we lived in it too. There was one big bed with straw in the mattress. We two kids slept at the foot. Oil lamps, all smoky. Outdoor cooking. Four privies for about two hundred people. So much for hygiene. There wasn't a washbasin with a tap for about two miles. And toilet paper did not exist as we know it.
The Red Cross had a little Hoppers Hospital where first aid was freely given. My Dad was eating a slice of cake one day and rested it on the edge of the bin, (plates were for cissies!) When he bit into the cake he had bitten a wasp in half. The working bit stayed in his tongue. He almost choked and had to hold on tight to a pillion for a motor bike ride to the little cottage hospital at Five Oak Green to get the sting out. That stopped his swearing for a bit.
My Mum was given a grey coat by the lady she cleaned for. She said it was November coloured so she had it dyed maroon. She looked lovely in it, Regal even. She went to Tonbridge for the day and got caught in a downpour. All the red dye ran down her legs and into her shoes. She was helpless with laughing about it but my sister thought she was crying and got hysterical.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yesterday 3

Here is more from Josi's life. Beneath this are two earlier extracts. Final one tomorrow.

Yesterday, when I was young........
I seemed to be always hungry as a kid. Mum fed us as well and as often as she could.
I would walk down Dalyell Road and smell the privet blossom in one of the hedges. I would peek round the gate to see if there was a bottle of milk on the doorstep. If it was a half pint I would drink it all and take the bottle. If it was the tall one I would drink some and put the bottle back. I had free milk at school too. I don't know how often or how long I did this. One day a big hand picked me up by the shoulder and shook me like an old yellow duster. I looked up and there was this very big policeman, (about eight foot tall I thought.)
I wouldn't tell him where I lived; it was on the same street. So he took me up the road to Bon Marche and across to the police station. They put me behind the counter and I could not see over it. “A terrible crime!”, they said. Milk was rationed in those days. I wasn't seven yet.
They had to go and fetch my Dad. He wouldn't come and get me until after the Greyhound racing on the wireless. I was very hungry and I cried. The police gave me a jug of milk and a glass. I had a sleep. My Dad still hadn't come. I asked for some tea. They gave me some milk to drink. I thought I was in prison for ever.
Finally my Dad dragged me home and I cried all the way. Then I got a good hiding for stealing and probably because his bets went down too. We had to go to Quinn and Axten's shop because some German named Mister Hitler was coming to get us for my being bad, Mum said. And we were in their shelter in the basement when a landmine dropped nearby. It had not exploded so we were all led out by the Wardens. It was like daytime outside, with long streaks of lights all over the sky.
I could see the police station. Every window had a fire in it and it burned right down to the ground that night.
I was very happy.
I have not drunk milk for sixty years.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yesterday, when I was young...2

Yesterday, when I was young......
I got the cane most Mondays at my new school in Stockwell. The first two or three Mondays I got it for being late after assembly, two stripes on each hand with a cane. After that I got it for insolence. That's what they called it when you can't say why you were late, (or won't.)
On Fridays Mum would give me the two half crowns wrapped in a bit of paper and the receipt to go to the shop on a corner in the Lambeth Walk. I collected the bundle wrapped in a white cotton cloth with a very big pin in the fabric to keep it closed. We had our clean clothes for Mass, altho my sleeves got very short (mum said I was growing too quickly) and we did have to keep them very nice. Sunday night the bundle was placed on the chair in the kitchen near the door so that I could not forget to take it with me in the morning on the way to school. Harvey and Thompson the pawnbroker did not open til 9.
Assembly was at 9. So I got the cane. Just before we broke up for half term the youngest teacher asked me in the playground, "Did I see you in the Lambeth Walk waiting for a shop to open this morning?" I said yes..
"You are there every Monday?” I said yes.
I never got the cane again..

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yesterday, when I was young...

The next few blogs are written by my friend and fellow writer, Josi Birkbeck. Josi is 'getting on in years' and her writing is raw and, I think, beautiful. See what you think.

Yesterday, when I was young...
Real carrier bags made of shiny brown paper with little cotton handles. Every week we would walk from the Walworth Road to Smithfield Market, no mean feat when you are seven and your kid sister is five and a half. My Mum was like a wraith. At Smithfield the chicken man would give my Mum big parcel of offal called giblets. He rolled them up in a newpaper parcel and then put them into the carrier bag. There was a tea wagon near London Bridge and we could have a sip of tea and a custard cream each before we crossed over the bridge. I used to look through the bridge railings up the river at the ships unloading at the back of Tooley Street.
Then we walked home again. It would take all morning.
I would help my Mum separate and wash all the parts of the meat. There were five kinds. Mum would be happy if there were lots of livers so we could all have them for tea that day. Then we helped to wash them all and cook each type seperately. Mum would make a pie for the next day and a big soup for the day after that. Every time Mum would say, "The best sixpence I could ever spend."
The giblets would just about last the week. Sometimes the man who served my Mum at Smithfield Market would slip in some other chicken part, like a leg or breast, and when she opened the parcel on the scrubbed kitchen table she would give this lovely smile. Every week. My Mum didn't have much else to smile about.

Friday, June 10, 2011

And the winner is...

...seen here being pulled out of the Boss Hogg hat.

And it's CekaTB.

I'll send you a copy of Ghostwriting, Ceka, if you let me have your address. Contact me at lynnehackles at onetel dot com

70% of nothing is nothing

Take a look at this link - and read about some of the realities of self-publishing. One of the biggest self-publishing companies admits that is has published the worst collections of poetry the world has ever known - not that the world will read it as most books only sell to friends and family of the so called author.
It's as a writing friend said to me the other day, 'The public are now reading the slush pile'.
And a non writing friend said she had been given a novel to read and if it had been her first she'd never have read another book. I knew the author and had to explain about real publishing and self-publishing. The public don't know the difference but most know good from bad.
I'm not saying all self-publishing is bad but do read the link. I could have written it myself, but didn't. And I didn't ghost it either!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Lorraine Mace

And here she is! Lorraine Mace, fellow columnist in Writing Magazine.

Lorraine kindly asked me to contribute to her blog. The subject, Ghostwriting. Thanks, Lorraine. You can find me over on

A reminder. You still have a chance to win a copy of my book, Ghostwriting - How To Write For Others. Just visit the blog entry two below this one and answer a ridiculously simple question, or copy everybody else's answer and I'll pull a name out of a hat - yes, a real hat, on June 10th.

And in case you missed it, I've a double page spread about ghosting in the new Writing Magazine.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The LSO and I were in Cornwall all last week and we searched for this phone box. I'd seen it in a newspaper. The locals have transformed an out-of-use phone box into a tiny library.

Don't you just love it?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Win a copy

OK. Another book means it's time for another competition. The winner gets a free copy of Ghostwriting, signed by yours truly.

Ghostwriting is rife now and absolutely anything can be ghosted so how do you think the reality of the New York bestsellers' list really reads?

1. Are all the books on it written by the names on the covers?

2. Are they all ghosted?

3. Have almost half the books listed been ghosted?

Put 1,2 or 3 in comments and I'll pick a winner on June 10th.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And here it is

My new book finally arrived yesterday. It's been quite a wait.

Why did I write about ghostwriting when it's been done by the greats, like Andrew Crofts? Two reasons. First of all I was asked to write it (and who would turn a request like that down?). Secondly, Mr Crofts had covered life stories and I knew that it was possible to write a completely different book. I have covered lots of little ghosting jobs over the years and know they can bring in extra money for a competent writer.

If you need to be making a bit extra and like people or learning new skills then there may be something in my book to help you.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Cuts and Bruises

Thanks to Teresa and Suzy for awarding me The Versatile Blogger award.
Now I have to write seven things about myself so I thought I’d forget writing and dysfunctional family and do accidents. When I was growing up my mother refused to move house because we were ‘nice and handy for the Casualty Department’. In other words I’m accident prone. The following is not for the faint-hearted.

1. I’ve a six inch scar on my left thigh. I was seven and fell through a window. When the stitches were out and the scar still raw I visited everyone I knew to show them and they all gave me money. Was this the beginning of a career in accidents?

2. I was eight when I tried riding my bike no hands and no feet. Pity the road had been re-gravelled. It took two years to pick the gravel out of my face and then I had what would now be called facial reconstruction which involved over 100 stitches. The day after coming home from hospital I returned to school. Mom wrote a note to say I wasn’t to swing on the bars – just in case my face exploded. I visited everyone I knew to show them and they all gave me money.

3. When I was ten I invented the skateboard by balancing a short piece of plank on one roller-skate. I then took off down a steep hill, fell on my face, blacked both eyes and broke my nose. I visited everyone I knew to show them and they all gave me money.

4. At eleven a boy stuck a piece of glass in my finger because I wouldn’t kiss him. I’ve an inch scar. I visited everyone I knew to show them and they all gave me money.

5. My back started hurting when I was twenty. At thirty I had discs and bone removed. The scar is twelve inches long.

6. The slash across my wrist is where I had a ganglion removed. It looks like a failed suicide attempt. Don’t have ganglions surgically removed. Mine was back the day after the bandage came off but a friend hit it with a Bible (to drive out the devil) and bandaged a penny over the spot. It didn’t come back after that.

7. Before I actually joined the line-up on Deal or No Deal I was sitting in the audience when one of the crew asked me to leave the studio, ‘quietly and discreetly’ to get ready to take part in the show. I fell down the stairs and knocked myself out. When I opened my eyes the audience were on their feet to see what was going on. The 22 in the line-up were going Nee-naw (ambulance sounds) and the warm-up man, Mark, was standing holding the mic. The producer took me to hospital. I’d damaged the tendons in my foot and ankle and spent a year recovering. Noel was very impressed with my bruises.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Being creative

When I’m not writing I like to bake. I fill the freezer with large cakes and small ones, make pies and pasties and get all creative in the kitchen.
When I am writing we’d go hungry if the LSO hadn’t learned to cook years ago.
Sometimes I buy ingredients for a recipe and then never get around to making it because I start writing. So what do you do with an old celeriac and a bunch of wilted chives? You make a little friend!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Malvern Hills

Each night throughout the long winter I have been visualising myself walking again. I’ve had a bad spell when a wheelchair was needed. Now, along with the weather, I’m improving and yesterday managed one of my visualised walks.
The LSO drove up the Malvern Hills and through the Wyche Cutting – a pass between Worcestershire and Herefordshire. We then parked up and walked a parallel path on the hills, no ups or downs, until we reached The Kettle Sings. Don’t you think that’s a wonderful name for a cafĂ©? And there we had cake and cold drinks and read a few obituaries before returning. This morning my leg muscles are like bricks and my back aches, but I did it.

The obits were from the Telegraphs’s Book of Obituaries. My favourite was the self-styled Lady who listed many jobs but drew the line at being ‘a whore or a spy’.
The cake? The LSO had coffee and walnut. I had lemon sponge with inch thick cream filling and lemon icing on top.

I've added before and after pictures.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Circus Mania reviewed for World Circus Day

Next time the circus comes to Malvern I’m going to see it. I’ve often seen the big tent set up on the common but never been attracted, but I am now. After reading Circus Mania by Douglas McPherson, modern circus intrigues me. I’ve learned all about the history of circus – in fact, the circus chronology begins in 329BC. I’ve heard the circus people telling Douglas about their lives. It’s been explained that Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise and Ken Dodd are all clowns so why are so many Brits clown-phobic? It seems that this particular phobia is a British one. Circus has changed over the centuries and continues to change. The ‘traditional’ circus, the sort I went to as a child, and ‘contemporary’ circus, such as Cirque du Soleil which attracts large sophisticated audiences, are both covered. Actually, all circus is covered. The love of circus and the amount of research the author has put into this book shines from the pages. And for those who automatically link circus animals and cruelty there is an explanation of how loved these animals are and how different official bodies have never found any evidence of animals being mis-treated. Douglas has not written a one-sided book. He has carefully and thoroughly given all sides to every argument. Having had dealing with the Arts Council I wasn’t in the least surprised to hear that traditional circus has to carry on without help whilst some of the new circus troupes get hand-outs for performing acts that baffle the public. Baffle here has nothing to do with ‘How the hell do they do that?’ when watching someone execute a seemingly impossible feat on a trapeze. In this case baffle means, ‘What’s it all about?’ (Someone being a tree. Think Emperor’s new clothes.) Circus Mania is one of those rare non-fiction books that you end up reading as if it is a novel. It has great characters and plots and beautifully written descriptions. Recommended by Lynne! You can save £5 off the recommended retail price by ordering Douglas’s book direct from the publisher, Peter Owen. £10 postage-free in UK (£2.75 postage worldwide). Send cheques to: Peter Owen Publishers 20 Holland Park Avenue London W11 3QU Or phone: 020 7373 6760 (office hours).

Friday, April 15, 2011

I was Millie T Wakefield!

‘Everything except poetry and pornography,’ I answered when asked on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester what sort of writing I did. That’s not always been strictly true. Last night I remembered when I was Millie T Wakefield producing ‘poetry’ for the local newspaper. Yes, it’s a strange name to pick but at the time I was a shop assistant in Wakefield’s and our opposition was Milletts (Millie T. Get it?) This was many moons ago when I would produce not poetry, more doggerell, for anyone who asked. And then for my husband who complained about his sandwiches being boring. The fillings remained the same but little notes were added, like this one – (you should know first that I have a severe allergy to eggs) This egg I boiled and mashed and spread With some sauce upon the bread. It won’t mean much to some, I know, But to me it means I love you so. When you bite into this sandwich thick, Remember the sight of it made me sick. Yes, it’s bad but these little bits were my first attempts at writing and I gave up ‘poetry’ quite early on. The LSO still has all his little verses. They are now over 30 years old.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

a limerick competition

Pop over to Frances Garrood's blog. She's holding a competition for limericks. It's under L for Limerick. That's because Frances is blogging her way through the alphabet. K for Knickers is worth a visit too!

Fudge brownies

My brownies are cooling so I've made my way to the keyboard. Today I am being creative in the kitchen. We have guests coming to dinner - our gift-son, Andy, and his partner, Emma. It's an excuse to make some of Lorraine Pascal's fudge brownies. The recipe includes two whole bars of dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) , plus a whole packet of Oreo biscuits. About a million calories and I'm up in my room so that I'm not tempted to test one, or two, or...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Andrew Easton Show

I wore bright red with lime green. Had on green shoes and carried a green handbag along with a copy of Diamonds and Pearls and Writing From Life.
I’d visited BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester several times in my pre-Wales life so felt comfortable there. Andrew Easton was lovely and so easy to talk to, not that I ever have much of a problem talking.
We discussed both books, talked about Deal Or No Deal – he’s a big fan and couldn’t believe anyone could take the risk that I had (10p or £75,000 just in case there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard. There can’t be.) Malvern Theatres also turned into a subject as I mentioned one of my many jobs was working in the box office there when Nureyev came to dance on his final tour.
The half hour raced by. I had a good time and am now a Friend of Radio H/W. I was even told I’d be asked back.
The only thing I missed was I had to do my own make-up. Clever make-up ladies did it for me when I was on Deal.
And it was nothing like the first radio studio I visited after winning their short story competition, back in the early 80s. A girl sat on the floor under the desk and, while the DJ tried to speak sensibly into his mic’, she plucked hairs out of his legs trying to make him squeal.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Whatever next?

Two posts in one day from a not so regular blogger? 'Whatever next?' I hear you ask. Well, a radio chat is next. Tomorrow in fact. I am to appear (can one appear on radio?) on BBC Radio, Hereford and Worcester, on Andrew Easton's show. 2.30 Tuesday 12th April. I'm wondering what to wear. The LSO says it doesn't matter - it's RADIO. But it matters to me. If I look good I shall feel good and will therefore be more confident. Shame it's too late to go and buy a new outfit.

Inspiration in a garden

I saw it advertised in the local paper. A garden open to the public so off we set in this glorious spring sunshine. Moors Meadow was just across the border into Herefordshire, at Collington. We drove up a very long track to it, wondering if we were on, well, the right track. We were and it was worth it. These gardens were established over 50 years ago. I can’t believe I’ve never been there before. They were the magical sort. Not manicured with flowers in rows. No, this garden looked simple and beautiful, which every short story writer will know means a lot of work has gone into it. It had everything I love in a garden. Lovely plants, trees and shrubs (I won’t bore you with the names though I do know lots of them) as well as plenty of wild flowers – violets peeping from beneath trees, cushions of primroses, a few shy bluebells starting to open. Little offshoots of paths led into secret corners. Then there were sculptures, including a pale blue dragon whose name we had to guess. I stroked her long nose and she whispered that she was called Moonshine. And there were plenty of places to sit and admire the views and to wait for the butterflies to settle so we could enjoy their colours too. I should have taken pictures to show you but I forgot the camera. (I can see Simon W shaking his head at that admission.) They are all in my head though and I shall be going back to watch this magical garden through the coming months. Did I find inspiration there? Not really. I found peace and pleasure and a break away from writing that we all need every so often. I suppose it could be used as a setting but it's usually people who give me inspiration and ideas. That dragon might come in useful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In good company

I wasn’t expecting to make an appearance in Jane Wenham-Jones’s new book, Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard of. I had forgotten I’d written a piece for her to include. This book, a follow-up to Wannabe A Writer, is all about getting publicity once you’ve had a book accepted, and there are lots of ideas I shall be using. It was good to see my Deal Or No Deal experience in the section on how to get on television. I was about to use Jane’s tips on how to get on to radio when the most unexpected thing happened. An email arrived asking if I would be prepared to be interviewed about Writing From Life on Talk Radio Europe. It was to be a fifteen minute slot, live, on their Book Show. The email said that other writers interviewed included Marian Keyes, James Patterson and Fay Weldon. You can imagine my first words on reading that. After the expletives came the thought that this must be a hoax but I clicked on the website and there it was. Talk Radio Europe, Spain’s largest English speaking radio network, broadcasting to approx half a million listeners. I said yes then read Jane’s tips on how to be prepared for all sorts of questions and, on the day, waited for the phone call. It seemed more of a friendly chat than an interview, thanks to Hannah Murray who appeared really interested in what I had to say. The LSO, listening in downstairs on the laptop, reckoned I did all right and there weren’t too many umms and arrs but I have to admit that doing this via a telephone was far more daunting than any face to face interview.

Friday, March 25, 2011

More tales of the unexpected

My Gran always used to say, ‘You never know what’s around the corner’. I wrote a story with that title once. The message though is that life is full of surprises and we should enjoy and make the most of the good ones. It’s my belief that writers get more surprises than non-writers. Why? Because we send work out into the unknown and there’s no way of telling what might come back. Yes, it might be a rejection but it could be an acceptance and a reason to celebrate, or a request for more work, or a letter from someone who has read your work and written to you. I’ve had all of the above. One such letter came from a long-lost cousin of the LSO’s. She lives in Australia but has been over to visit twice so far. Another was from another lost relative, this one from New Zealand. And, of course, I got my sister, Glynis Scrivens, via my writing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tales of the Unexpected

(From my regular column in FLAIR FOR WORDS)
No, I’m not going to be writing a Roald Dahl type short story with an incredibly clever twist at the end. This is going to be about all the unforeseen things that happen when you are a writer - the unexpected emails, invitations, new friends…
Many years ago, as secretary of Worcester Writers’ Circle and therefore a creative person, I was asked to join the Worcester in Bloom committee. I wasn’t expecting that! Oh, the ecstasy of waving regally at friends from the back of the Mayor’s chauffeur-driven Limo’ as we sailed past them. And the added bonus of getting to look around hundreds of gardens and meet the gardeners. And all because I was a writer.
The experience provided me with enough material for several stories. At least three were published in women’s magazines but couldn’t be sold to an Australian market as they were too English.
But all that was a long time ago. What’s been happening recently? I’ll be telling you over the next few blogs.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Do It Now

Get over to and make a bid, or just read some of the bids and see how kind most of the world is.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another good cause

There are so many good causes around but don't overlook Diamonds and Pearls. The authors have donated their royalties to the charity, Against Breast Cancer.
This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to write women's magazine stories. A lot of the stories in it have been published in magazines, including my own - I'm the final entry. A chance to enjoy a good read, analyse some stories and support a charity.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mrs Mozzie-rella

Writers are always on the look-out for characters but some, when they arrive, are so over the top that they’d need to be diluted before any magazine would accept them as ‘fully rounded’. Take this one, for example.
The LSO and I were in an Italian restaurant when this magnificent character with man in tow, burst in through the door, looked around the empty tables – it was early evening – and plonked herself down next to us. Her conversation was loud and entertaining and had me reaching for my notebook. It was obvious that this couple weren’t used to Italian cuisine and, according to the waitress, had only turned up because they’d cut an Eat for Half Price coupon from the local paper every night that week and were working their way through the menu.
This large lady, draped in a gentleman’s grey overcoat which she didn’t remove, checked the menu and declared loudly, ‘I don’t want any of that mozzie-rella,’ and leaning towards her own LSO, informed him, in a booming whisper, ‘It’s Italian for hard boiled egg white.’ Then Mrs Mozzie-rella, as I christened her, joined in with the backgroundmusic and serenaded us, between mouthfuls of pasta, with -
‘All over Italy they know his concertina,
Poppa Piccolino, Poppa Piccolino,
He plays so prettily to every signorina,
Poppa Piccolino from sunny Italy.’
I quietly joined in with the last line. After all this was a childhood favourite that my Dad used to sing to me. The LSO gave me one of those looks and, being telepathic, I knew he was warning, ‘Don’t you dare ask for an encore.’
What a gift though. A great meal and a fully formed character for a short story.
(Mrs Mozzie-rella is mine. No borrowing please unless I haven’t used her before this time next year.)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Seven Things About Me

Thanks to Teresa Ashby for giving me the Stylish Blogger award and something to blog about because I am now obliged to tell you seven things about myself.

1. I often start a blog and then realise I could use the content for a Novel Ideas column (Writing Magazine) or something longer. The downside of blogging is that you can’t sell what you write. (Or can you? Someone contradict me, please.)
2. I’ve been writing for a very long time.
3. I’m no longer a daughter but I am still a mother and a grandmother and a wife.
4. I haven’t seen my son for ten years. He married someone who couldn’t share him with anyone else. (Do I want to tell you this? I’ve deleted it twice and then put it back again.) I have never seen my granddaughter but have almost finished a book about the subject of grandparents not being allowed to see their grandchildren. It’s a book for children. Perhaps she’ll read it.
5. My daughter’s son, my grandson Dan, was recently described in a newspaper as a ‘prodigious golfer’. He’s 12 and is going to buy me a red Jaguar when he hits the big time.
6. My daughter is coming to Writers’ Holiday, Caerleon with me this year. I usually teach and am now going to experience the other side of the week, being a delegate.
7. I try to be positive all of the time, fail some of the time. Am becoming more in tune as the years pass (psychic) and receive a daily message from The Universe. You can too if you sign up with

Monday, February 14, 2011


I wish I could say the LSO hurt his back when he was carrying a body on a stretcher across the hills on a dark night in sub-zero temperatures. He did that as part of his Search and Rescue training but the truth is he was cutting his toenails when his back locked up. ‘Facet joint lock-up,’ said the physio and handed him a pair of crutches. ‘Terrible pain,’ said the doc and handed him a prescription for hefty painkillers. ‘No alcohol,’ he added so LSO didn’t tell him it was our birthday. (Yes, we share a birthday.)
We went out for a meal with friends, “A” and “E”. They are young enough to be our children so were able to manhandle LSO into their 4x4 and yank him out at the pub. We all pushed and heaved him in through the door. ‘Every table full. Sorry,’ said the landlady. We heaved and pushed the poor LSO back down the path and into the car. Eventually we found a pub with an empty table (Recession? What’s that?) I couldn’t see the menu because it kept moving – got an ear infection which affects my balance. The LSO drooped over his cutlery trying to ease his facet joints. “E” filled two chairs, one for her seat and one on which to rest her poorly knee. “A” set off for the loo, ear cocked (Oops!) to listen for any pings in the pan. He’s waiting for kidney stones to pass. We didn’t mention ailments all night. The meal was excellent and a happy time was had by all. I'd recommend the trio of school puddings with a jug of custard. Pure comfort food!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Making the best of a bad germ

There’s a great aspect to being a writer. I’ve been ill for a week. It’s not flu but it’s definitely a horrible cold and sore throat and that affects the asthma. Fortunately I’m a writer and work from the next door bedroom to my sick bed so I can crawl out of bed, write a bit and crawl back. No need to look presentable as I would if I was employed in an office. No problem if I’m coughing and spluttering as I have no co-workers. I sit at the keyboard surrounded by inhalers, nasal sprays, cough sweets, Vitamins, hot lemon drinks… OK I’m milking it but only because the LSO likes looking after me. (And I am really poorly – all say Aaah!)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Exclamation marks!!!!

Many years ago, in the days of typewriters, I sent a children’s book to a publisher I picked from a list, using a pin, and with my eyes closed, of course. Then I waited for the contract to arrive and old Walt to get in touch and discuss film rights. (Weren’t those days of ignorance sheer bliss?)
I got a no but a kind editor gave me some advice. He pointed out that his company didn’t actually take the sort of book I had written and told me about something I’d never heard of then – The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.
I had asked, in a cheeky covering letter, if he thought I should sell the typewriter and buy a knitting machine. He was kind enough to tell me to hang on to the former but to learn my craft and then came the sentence that has stuck with me ever since. ‘The overuse of exclamation marks is the sign of a true amateur.’
Nowadays I am always surprised how many I see scattered around students’ assignments and stories sent to me for critiques. (I shouldn't be because I probably used even more when I started out.) Naturally, I have learned that ! is not necessary at the end of nearly every sentence and should only be used for exclamations. The clue is in the name. It’s an Exclamation Mark!
Save them for real exclamations such as Ouch! Help! Look out!
As every rule is broken you will discover that the children’s stories in certain magazines contain, on average, fourteen exclamation marks, most of which are not needed. But, if a magazine likes them and uses them I advise students to write their piece first and add the ! later.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


This is Brisbane where my sister and fellow writer, Glynis Scrivens, lives.
She was not directly affected because she lives on high ground but the garden was underwater and now there's the problem of shopping. There's been no milk or bread for a while now.

Friday, January 14, 2011

100 stories for Queensland

"100 Stories for Queensland" is a charity anthology to assist the victims of the Queensland floods. Stories are donated by writers from across the globe. 100% of the sales profit will be donated to the Queensland Premier's Flood Relief appeal. The anthology will be available in digital and print form, and is expected to be ready for release late February/early March. Copyright of all work remains with all authors. Please read the submission guidelines carefully and ensure your story meets both the guidelines and the word limit. Thank you ~ Jodi Cleghorn
(doc, rtf, jpg)Size limit: 500 - 1000 words By submitting a story authors are granting eMergent Publishing the non-exclusive rights to publish their story in print, digital and audio. Copyright of all stories remains with the originating author. If you have any questions please email GUIDELINES 1. Stories must be original and of an uplifting or upbeat nature. Stories with gratutious violence, demeaning content or narratives dealing with death and destruction will be automatically removed from consideration. 2. Stories are welcome in ANY genre and for any age group. 3. All stories must be beta read, line edited and proof read prior to submission. 4. ONE submission per writer. The first of any series of multiple stories will be accepted and the rest removed from consideration. NOTE: Stories previously published to personal blogs are acceptable for submission on the understanding the original blog post is taken down if the story is accepted. DEADLINE: Friday, 28th January 11:59pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) Please include a short bio of less than 50 words in your covering letter. Biographical information will only be used on the website to assist with promotion and will not be included in the final anthology. Please ensure your story meets ALL criteria before submitting. Submit