Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The day no-one came

Remember I said I was doing a talk about being an author for the Nanpantan Festival? It was today.

I was all set. Books to sell alongside other craft items; a display of publications; speaking podium, props, and presentation all lined up ready to go...

...and no-one came.

Well, actually there were five of us at church; two ladies to serve lunches, a welcomer, the festival organiser, and me. But no-one came to hear the talk.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting a massive audience.

But not a single person?

Perhaps it was the weather. It has been torrential rain all day here and I don't blame folks for not wanting to go out unless they absolutely had to.

Perhaps it was because it was lunchtime, rather than the evening. Folks do have to work. And eat.

Perhaps people simply weren't interested? Although five minutes before I left the house, I had a phone call asking for an author talk, so maybe they are.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed - of course I am.

But I'm not about to let a no-show audience knock my confidence. The years of critique and feedback and rejection have thickened my skin so that I don't take things like this personally any more. Instead, I'm philosophical. I now have an author talk - with slides and notes - all prepared and ready for when it's needed.

I'm stronger than this setback.

And I'm going to spend this evening writing.

So there.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Weather tight

The garden room is now weather tight!

Mr Squidge has been working his little socks off in recent weeks, and things are very different now to how they were back at the beginning of April. For once, we've not taken lots of photos during the process, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that Mr Squidge built the skeleton frame; fitted the damp proof membrane for the floor; stapled another breathable DPM to the frame; clad the walls in shiplap; lifted plywood panels up to make the roof; cut the hole for the ENORMOUS skylight; emptied the rainwater out of the groundsheet which he covered said skylight hole with, and then he climbed onto the roof with a friend to glue down the rubber roofing material and fit the skylight.

I've been helping where I can, though that's not a huge amount. My job seemed to be limited to unloading planks from the Moggy (our beloved Morris Traveller) every time Mr Squidge took a trip to the woodyard (and reloading again when he got one lot home and discovered he'd picked the wrong ones up!), making tea, and sticking/stapling the breathable membrane to the frame.

The only thing Mr Squidge hasn't done himself was fit the doors, for the simple reason that it didn't cost too much extra (or take very long on the day) to have the experts fit them. And, if there are any problems, the experts will come back and fix it. Huge thanks to Midland Bi-folds for doing such a brilliant job.

There is still lots to do before the room is finished - insulate the floor, walls, and ceiling; skin the walls; put flooring down; paint the walls; clad what's left either side of the doors; fit guttering; find furniture; fit electrics and a stove - but it is going to be a lovely place for Mr Squidge and I to retreat to ourselves, or to send the kids to if they want time with friends without us oldies gatecrashing.

I have to say, it looks amazing, even at this stage.

The walls either side of the glass panels will be clad in red cedar shiplap to finish them off, and the doors will appear black; the white on them is protective tape.

The view from inside the room, looking back to the house. Do excuse the pile of earth, rubble and offcuts for the moment, and focus on how beautifully the apple and pear trees frame the view...

In the next pic, you can see a bit of the gigantic 8 foot by 4 foot domed skylight - it was chucking it down when I took these next couple of pictures, yet inside is still beautifully light. And the best thing is that the skylight doesn't leak - we were a little worried after some of the torrential showers we've had recently...

When the doors arrived, we'd completely forgotten that the level of our lawn was higher than the bottom of the doors when the doors were fully opened. So a bit of hasty digging by Mr Squidge, and we have a depression with a curved edge for the door end, and a square end for when all three panels are open. The plan is to fill this depression with slabs similar to our patio and fill in any remaining gaps (and the walkways around the sides and back) with pea gravel to help drainage.

The doors fold right back, leaving the whole front open...

I have to say, I was initially reluctant to build a monstrous shed at the bottom of the garden, but now it's here, I'm quite liking the idea.

Not so keen on the idea of it being a party shed and band practise room (for the Squidgelings) or a miniature railway or snooker room (Mr Squidge.) I have visions of using it for early morning Pilates...and a writing den, which is what I was told the room could be used for originally.

I daresay we'll find more uses for it as time goes on, and we'll settle into it. Next update will probably be when it's furnished!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

My author path

This Wednesday, I'm giving a lunchtime talk as part of the Nanpantan Festival.

I've called it Wordy Wednesday, and it'll be a chance for me to tell something of the journey I've been on over the last ten years.

It's been interesting to look back over that time and see that in fact, 2013 was the turning point, when I broke with the agent. I think at that point, I had begun to find out who I was as a writer - to be (fairly) fearless in what I wrote and how I was writing it. To not listen to what others were telling me I should be doing, but to beat my own path to publication.

And then, in 2014, I had my validation through publication; only a few short stories in some very good anthologies - novels were a way off still - but my writing was at last of a standard to be chosen for others to read.

So if you fancy hearing about my author path, the ups and downs of writing and what I get up to as an author, do come up to St. Mary in Charnwood Church for midday if you'd like lunch beforehand (£5 for a Ploughman's, cake and tea, I believe) or at 1pm for the talk, which is FREE.

I'll have my books there - £1 from every copy sold will be donated to a church project I'm supporting, the extension and refurbishment of the Rainbow Home in Pudukottai where I visited last year.

There will also be some unique cards designed by Laura Buckland, Granny Rainbow's illustrator.

Rainbow coloured wings for the Rainbow Home

Squirrel! Which is what I was called before it was shortened to Squidge...

There's also a beautiful peacock - a nod to India's national bird - and a couple of huggy hedgehogs, with all designs available as cards printed on elephant poo recycled paper, or as prints. In addition, there will bracelets made by a partially sighted member of our congregation, Georgina, with profits from all sales given to the Rainbow Home fundraising.

I look forward to seeing a few folks and sharing my own personal story with them, as well as maybe raising a few quid for a good cause, too.

Friday, 12 May 2017

The TBR pile

I don't think I've ever had a TBR pile before. (To Be Read, in case you didn't know what I was on about!)

At the moment, I find I'm developing quite a stash, probably because I'm writing lots and I haven't got the time to do both.

So what's in it...?

Trainspotting. I've never seen the film, though Mr Squidge has. He raves about it, so I thought I'd give the book a go.

The Grey Bastards, by Jonathon French. (Kindle) Recently won a self-published fantasy blog off, and has been recommended by Mark Lawrence (of Broken Empire Trilogy and Red Sister fame)

The finalists...

Colonial Compromises by Stephen Terry. (Kindle) I've read chunks of this over the years on the cloud, and I like Stephen's style.

The Magician's Guild, Book 1 by Trudi Canavan, (Kindle) because a reader of StarMark said he thought my style was similar to hers.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Paperback) a recommendation from my mum!

Introduction to the Old Testament and Introduction to the New Testament, both by John Drane. (Big, brick sized paperbacks!) Background reading for my course with church, and actually quite interesting. I've already dipped into earlier editions for what we've done so far, but I'm finding the historical stuff so fascinating, I bought myself copies to read at my leisure.

Anything else you think I should have on my expanding pile?

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Hacked off

I'd be the first to admit that I am not tec-savvy. When things go wrong with the computer, I get stressed and panicked pretty quickly, because half the time I simply don't know what to do to put things right.

So to discover yesterday morning that my facebook profile had been cloned threw me into a right spin.

I changed my password immediately, then posted on facebook to say what had happened. Then I tried to contact facebook admin to report it.

First stop - the security place in settings. Not a hint of what to do to report problems. I ended up following a link from a friend down-under to find out what I should be doing. It seemed really odd that you have to find the bogus profile before you can report it; I have, as a result, discovered that there are quite a few Katherine Hetzels in the world, but only one had nicked my identity.

Anyway, it's all sorted and the offending profile was taken down within minutes of being reported. Hooray!

But technology hadn't done with me...I have recently had to give up my old phone - a complete brick of a pay-as-you-go Nokia, whose numbers were worn out.

Mr Squidge wanted to add me to one of these packages where you get unlimited texts and calls for the whole family, so it made sense to get a new phone as well.

The replacement was an equal brick of a Samsung (used to be Squidgeling T's until he refused to use it because it wasn't cool enough) and I've had to relearn where all my options are for everything I was used to doing. Hate it. I've lost my 'budink' text alert, my sand dance ringtone, and I'm having to input all my contact numbers again because the transfer only took about a dozen over, in spite of us saving them all to the SIM...and don't get me started on the predictive text spelling options!

The 'new' phone!

To top it all off, Squidgeling T's on my back throughout, telling me I should've got a smartphone. I tell him it's pointless, because all I want to do is make calls and send texts. I can do without all the other gubbins that comes with apps and games and whatever other rubbish smartphones get filled with.

Third thing...I've been really excited writing Effie's story. For almost three weeks, it's been going really well. Then I downloaded a book that had been recommended to me by a reader of StarMark ("Your writing reminds me of said author.") I started to read and was gutted - GUTTED - to discover the premise of this other story is almost exactly the same as what I'm currently writing for Effie.


And it's only Thursday... Things've got to get better, right?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

News and musing

News item, the first.

Remember, back in 2013, I had a story accepted and published in Stories for Homes, the best-selling anthology which has raised over £3,000 to date for the housing and homelessness charity Shelter?

This year, the SfH community began to stir again. Was it time for a sequel, they wondered? A new batch of stories, a new anthology, another opportunity to fund raise for Shelter?

Yes. It was.

256 submissions were received for SfH2. 55 pieces were selected for the book, and another 29 for the website. Mine was one of the latter, so sometime between now and September, you'll be able to read Potato Soup online, in the company of some other flash fiction, short stories, poetry and real life stories about housing and homelessness.

I'll keep dropping links on my facebook page as the project progresses...

News item, the second.

I don't usually enter competitions, because they can be pricey. But the inaugural Leicester Writes Short Story Prize caught my eye - not least because I got a discount for living in Leicestershire!

This week I was delighted to discover - by chance, when the shortlist came out - that one of my stories, The Pink Feather Boa Incident, was longlisted for the prize! That means publication later in the year in the prize anthology...

Unfortunately I didn't make it onto the shortlist, but good luck to everyone who did.

News item, the third.

In an attempt to get a few reviews onto Goodreads in advance of publication of Kingstone, I offered a pdf ARC to a few folk I knew had read StarMark, in exchange for an honest review.

Within 24 hours I had the first one back. (You can read it in full here)

In summary; 'All in all, a highly recommended page-turner suitable for pre-teens upwards.'

*One happy Squidge*

News item, the fourth.

Effie Purse, the new story which has pushed Crystal Keeper's Daughter to the sidelines, is flowing well. I'm hoping to finish the first s***y handwritten draft (I've already used up two biros!) by the end of June, and first type by the autumn. 


For the SfH2 publication I needed to update my bio, so I looked to see what I'd written for SfH1. Back in 2013, I was apparently still fine tuning The Ring Seekers (shelved for the time being, having gone through many, many incarnations and edits but never quite making the grade...), had only just started writing these Scribbles, and had only just seen the publication of Granny Rainbow and the Black Shadow in a charity anthology.

It made me realise that most of the 'success' I've had so far in writing has been in the four years since then. In fact, there's so much that I can't really list it all in a bio - and if I did, it would sound like I'm bragging! Probably more accurate to say that most of the advancement in my writing has occurred since then.

This time round, I can include the publication of two Granny Rainbow books, StarMark and (by the time the bio goes live) Kingstone. I can also include the several short stories published in various anthologies (I think there were twelve or so when I added them up) and the visits I've been making to schools to run creative writing sessions. 

It seems almost unreal to think that all of that and more has happened in the last four years. It made me realise it's good to sit back and take stock sometimes, to give yourself a pat on the back for what you've achieved, and then determine to do more of the same. 

So today, I'd encourage each and every one of you to take a minute or two to see what you've achieved in the same time. Don't focus on what's not happened - life can be a pig sometimes and get in the way of our dreams and desires. Instead, look for where you've made progress - even if it seems like it's only baby steps forward - and if you'd like to, share it in the comments below. 

Let's celebrate progress!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Giving up? Or going with my gut?

I've been writing The Crystal Keeper's Daughter for a while now - almost twelve months. I began writing it after a very busy and reasonably stressy time (my trip to India, Mr Squidge's back op) and the story didn't seem to come as easily as Kingstone had.

I tried to write more over the summer - but that was busy too, with Charnwood 2016 and a Flower Festival at church. I confess, I ignored CKD for long periods of time, trying to work out the finer details of  the plot, ending up feeling as though I was simply digging myself deeper into the mire.

Then I was poorly. The cough virus hit me in September and after the initial week in bed, left me six weeks later with a chest infection bordering on pneumonia that took two courses of strong antibiotics to shift. I didn't have the energy to stand up, let alone the brainpower to write. I only started to feel better around Christmas...

So far this year, I've plodded on with CKD, trying to tell the story I want to tell, but writing time has remained somewhat limited by the fact that I am on a course with church at the moment, and it needs a lot of reading preparation. Reading that takes up what would have been writing time.

But on last Thursday, 14th April, things changed. I was doing a book signing in Waterstones, and had taken a notebook in case inspiration struck.

It did.

Effie Purse introduced herself, and told me her story - what she'd found, and how it changed her life. I liked the idea, and went to bed for a few nights after that unable to sleep as I mulled over what she'd told me.

I was excited for the first time in a long while about writing. I asked a few folk what I should do; here was Effie's story, from start to finish. Should I give in to her and write it? Leave CKD on ice for a bit? I don't like to give up on anything I start, and I know that CKD will be a good tale - when (if?) everything clicks into place. And of course, part of me is wondering whether I've actually wasted the last year persisting with a stuck project. Will I be wasting more time if I stubbornly continue writing CKD just because it happens to be my WIP at the moment?

The common consensus seemed to be 'go with Effie if she's calling to you.' And my gut is telling me the same thing. So... I've left CKD where it is and have started to hand write Effie. It's flowing, it's relatively easy, and it feels a bit like Kingstone did when I began to write it.

I'm aiming to get first s****y draft finished by the end of the summer...and edited by the autumn.

Fingers crossed my gut is giving me good advice, and I'm not using the excitement of a new story as a cover to give up... I don't suppose I'll know until the first draft is finished.