Monday, 30 September 2013

Guest Post - Lynne Hackles

Many of this blog's readers will know Lynne Hackle's name from the womags or her many articles in the writing magazines, or via her books. Her latest book, Handy Hints for Writers is currently on offer at only 99p for the ebook version!  Here's a lovely guest post from her, explaining how her short stories all hold a little bit of her, sometimes literally...


I was on stage in a small theatre giving a workshop on short story writing. I’d taken a mixing bowl with me and was dropping story ‘ingredients’ into it as I explained them – a clock to show you need a time-scale, a picture of a riverboat to represent setting, a string of paper dollies to show how many characters work (I’d rip the heads off the superfluous ones). When it came to what I consider my special ingredient – a bit of myself – I’d planned to rip off my bracelet and toss it into the pot. I’d chosen an elasticated bracelet especially. It would be easy to remove. Too easy as it happens, or perhaps I was too exuberant. The bracelet shot off my arm, flew across the room and hit a lady in the front row right between the eyes.

I bet she remembers my secret ingredient.

There’s a bit of me in all my stories. It’s the grain of truth that makes a story seem real. I used my fear of getting too close to a child when my son dated a girl with a ready-ade family. The story was nothing like the real experience but I was able to use my real feelings. The Monster Upstairs, one of my favourites, was written after I’d told my little grandson’s dad how to get rid of an imaginary monster. I used the method in the story - get a big box and a stick, catch the monster in the box and take it to the tip - but the mum in it
was single and wondering if her son would take to the new boyfriend. He was the hero who caught the monster.

When, for the first time in many years, the LSO and I visited a fairground I gave my experience of that visit to a character whose husband was in a rut and she took him back to the days when they met and had been to the fair.

Before I became a full-time writer I had over fifty different jobs. Most of them have been used in my stories as settings or minor parts of a plot – a building society, fish and chip shop, being a nanny... There is one yet to appear. It’s a tricky one. I watched dirty videos and typed reports about them when I was working for a company who put cameras down sewers.

For me, adding that bit of personal experience is the key to getting acceptances. It’s the sparkle in a story. My book Writing From Life came about because of this. The subtitle is ‘how to turn your personal experience into profitable prose’ (How To Books). When the editor read my proposal she said she couldn’t believe that I’d used my husband’s heart attack to sell stories/articles to half a dozen different markets.

Now I’ve put all my writing experience into a book. Handy Hints for Writers (Compass Books) holds everything I’ve learned about writing. It’s been described as informative, helpful and amusing. It’s only been out for a couple of weeks and is being sold as an ebook for 99p during the last two weeks of this month. Why not treat yourself? What I’ve learned over thirty years you can gain access to in a few hours.


And my final bit of advice –not in the book – Beware of elasticated bracelets.

Thanks Lynne! Great guest post, and your book is a bargain, now installed on my Kindle. I can also recommend Lynne's other book Writing from Life, which is available in print as well as ebook

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Novels and How Tos

This blog's been a bit quiet lately and I'm aware I've only posted links or guest posts for some time now. I thought you might be interested in what I've been working on recently, and what's become of the novels I've mentioned here before. So here's an update.

I've written two complete novels. The first was the one based on my family history research, and featured the lovely Henry who took over this blog on one of Sally Q's Blog Takeover days. I wrote and edited that novel, got some professional feedback on it, and then put it aside, knowing that it wasn't really commercial. That's the problem with basing fiction on real life - the facts get in the way of a good story.

I then wrote another novel - a time-slip one with two linked stories in different time period unfolding in alternate chapters. This also has a genealogical angle but is entirely fictional. The 1-line 'elevator pitch' for it is: What happens if, when researching your family tree, you discover not a metaphorical skeleton in a closet but an actual skeleton, buried in the garden of a house once occupied by your ancestors?

I loved writing this second novel, and am now trying to find an agent for it. There's been a smattering of interest - two agents asked for the full manuscript - but no takers as yet. I live in hope.

And now I'm planning another novel, also time-slip, with a contemporary and a World War Two story unfolding side by side. I also have an idea for a 4th novel...

In between, I've written a second How To book: Short Stories and How to Write Them. This follows the same format as my Ghost Stories book - ie it is part anthology and part how to. I'm waiting for my son to complete a cover design for it, and it needs a final proof-read, then it'll be ready for publication. Don't worry, I'll let you all know when it's ready!

I'm vaguely planning to use CreateSpace to produce a print version of the two How To books in one volume. They're both a bit short to be worth printing by themselves, but will work combined into one. What do you think - would you buy it?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Timeline Tool

A short guest post from Wendy Clarke introducing her new, improved writers' timeline tool:

You may remember last December, I told you all here on this lovely blog about a free resource my husband had created to help you with your planning: Wendy's Story Timeline.

I wanted to let you know that my lovely husband has been at it again!

Whilst using the timeline for one of my stories, I came across a problem. I knew that I wanted my character to be age 18 at the beginning of WW1 (1914) but unless I used my fingers (I'm not too good at mental arithmetic) I had no idea in which year she would have been born, in order to place her on my timeline.

 'I'll sort it,' said my husband and he set aside a Sunday to solve the problem for me (and you).

He has created a new version of the timeline to include a fantastically useful 'Date of Birth Calculator'. You can put in the year of an event and the age you want your character to be at that time and the birth calculator will tell you in which year they were born. You then add the character's year of birth into the timeline and - hey presto - you have all the information you need for your story.

The new timeline can be downloaded from my writing blog for free. Once again I would just ask that you leave a comment or give me a mention if you use it or share it.


I hope you all find it useful.

Thanks Wendy! Here's the link


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Haunted Hallway

I'm delighted to be a guest in Sarah England's Fiction Hotel this week. She's put me in the Haunted Hallway and asked about my Ghost Stories book, and also about my current writing projects. Please pay a visit - it's very spooky in there all by myself!


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Wannabe a writer - part 2

Part 2 of Jane Wenham-Jones's marvellous pilot TV show is now available to watch here.

You might remember in part 1 the very brave wannabe writer Delphine met top agent Carole Blake and got some hard-hitting but very useful feedback on her novel. In part 2 Delphine meets best-selling writer Katie Fforde, and picks up some tips and techniques on how to improve her novel for when she resubmits it to Carole. A must-see!

If you're interested in taking part in a possible series of this TV show, you can sign up on the website here.


Another, and possibly easier way to find an agent is to research them via this new website - LitFactor. You can search for agents, find their requirements and track your submissions all in one place. If you're at that stage with a novel it looks like a very useful site. Along with AgentHunter I'm thinking the old way of finding agents by thumbing through the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook is looking decidedly outdated!



Monday, 9 September 2013

David Young

Nip on over to Sam Tonge's blog where she's having coffee and cake with the rather dishy David Young, illustrator for People's Friend. If you've ever wondered who paints the pictures which go with your stories - here's your answer!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

A couple of things to check out...

1.  Amanda Brittany is running a series of interviews on her blog with writers who've made the jump from short stories to novels. The first one, with Cally Taylor, is up there now and well worth a read.

2.  And to give yourself a kick start if crossing over to novels is what you want to do, check out the competition which Lynne Hackles writes about here. Send your novel's first page for a chance to win a weekend writing retreat at beautiful Kimmeridge, just down the road from where I live. I'll be entering - I really fancy this prize!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Back to School

Tomorrow my 15 year old (creator of this wonderful little trailer for my Ghost Stories book) goes back to school, and starts his final year of GCSE courses. And in two weeks my 18 year old (star of the trailer) goes off to university for the first time. The sun's still shining down here in Bournemouth, but summer's almost over. We'll go blackberrying at the weekend and make jam, and that's usually the full stop on summer activities.

Last week while on holiday I read Cally Taylor's anthology, Tears and Rain, which she wrote about in the guest post below. It's a superb little anthology - the stories are all linked by a loose theme of hope after loss. I can highly recommend it.

And just when I thought I was catching up with reading all the wonderful anthologies you brilliant writer-friends have published, along comes another which I just had to buy. Have a look at the product description for Douglas McPherson's collection of serials (previously published in My Weekly) The Blue Rinse Brigade and you'll see what I mean. Sounds irresistible, and only £1.98!


Great cover, isn't it? As a follow up to Cally's post on self-publishing, you might be interested to hear this cover was created simply using Kindle Cover Creator, and used a free image from the limited selection available, which he then cropped.