23 June, 2015

An Ugly Way To Go

I am excited to tell you that my story The Missing Signs and Wonders has just been published as the guest story in an anthology of quirky tales.

An Ugly Way To Go - and other Quintessentially Quirky Tales is the second collection from author Iain Pattison, and it's prety much what it sounds like - a collection of bizarre, flippant and light-hearted stories to make you smile. I was delighted to be asked by Iain to contribute to this anthology. I don't write quirky stuff often, but I had one story that I wrote many years ago which has been waiting to find a home ever since. Too long or too weird for most competitions and magazines, I've never sent The Missing Signs and Wonders out to find its way in the world, but I've always had an affection for it. I'm glad it's found a home at last!

In The Missing Signs and Wonders, Mr. Worthing floats above himself, watching surgeons trying to save his life after an simple operation goes wrong. When somebody else appears in his out-of-body experience and tells him that all the miracles have stopped, Mr. Worthing has to travel back through his past to find a place where he might have stored his own miracles before it's too late.

You can buy the collection on Kindle for £1.99 here.

12 June, 2015

Archive Autumn - Participants Needed!

A couple of years ago I ran a series of guest blog posts, each an original piece of flash fiction, basd around a sign of the zodiac and written for this blog by an array of talented writers. I had everyone from first-time writers to traditionally-published authors taking part. It was a big success for me, and I hope for the authors too (two of the stories are still in my Top 10 most-read posts!)

This autumn I'm doing it again. But it's easier this time! I'm not asking for people to write me something original; I'm asking all you writers out there to lend me something from your archive. Do you have a post that generated plenty of comments or interest, or just a post that drew no interest whatsoever but happens to be a favourite of yours? I'd love to re-blog it on my site - hopefully drawing more readers to your blog and/or sales for your books in the process.

I'm not just doing this because I'm lazy. As some of you may have picked up from subtle hints in earlier posts, I'm going to have my hands full again this autumn, as my one-year old (who already keeps my hands pretty full!) is joined by another little one in August. I'd be so grateful to anyone who can join in with my Archive Autumn while I try and keep my head above water in the family home!

I'd need to receive the archive post, along with any links you want to share, an author photo and a couple of sentences about you before the end of July. Can you help?

Please do spread the word!

02 June, 2015

Bateman's

The National Trust have announced that, from this month, they are celebrating the literary links to the places they look after with writers in residence, open days, author events and trails. Have you ever visited a famous author's house? Whose house would you most like to see into?

We love the National Trust in our household and have invested in Life Membership. We enjoy seeing all the grand and/or historical houses, and especially the beautiful gardens and estates you can walk in, but we are also proud to support a charity which takes care of a huge part of Britain's coast and countryside. I can't wait until our boys are old enough to take part in all the treasure trails, craft days and outdoor activities that they put on too. Digory already has a Twitter account to record his Trust visits!

We went on holiday recently, and discovered a few of the Trust's literary gems for ourselves. Our favourite trip was to Bateman's - the home of Rudyard Kipling. Here it is...



I love a house with a literary connection - Greenway, home of Agatha Christie, being another Trust favourite - and it was fascinating to learn more about such an amazing man and Nobel Laureate. I had Kipling down as an austere kind of gentleman, but it seems he was gentle and fun and a doting father. This was rather sad as one of his daughters died from pneumonia very young, and his beloved only son (who called him 'Dear Dada' and who he was very close to) was killed in World War I.

I know Kipling primarily through The Jungle Book and his Just So Stories - full of humour and life. I haven't actually read his poems and adult fiction, although the more I read about him, the more I'd like to. The few Nobel Laureates I've read in the past have blown me away with how amazing they are. Have you read any of Rudyard Kipling's work?

If you find yourself in East Sussex, I recommend a visit to Bateman's - for the gardens, food, Kipling's 1920s  Rolls Royce Phantom 1, and some lovely circular walks, even if the house isn't your thing! You can find out more about the houses of famous writers that the National Trust look after near you, by visiting nationaltrust.org.uk/writingplaces.

Digory enjoyed Bateman's too...

26 May, 2015

Future Library

Today, Margaret Atwood became the first author to submit a work into the Future Library. The Future Library is the idea of a Scottish artist, Katie Paterson, and involves one book a year being held in trust in a library in Oslo until 2114 when all 100 books will be printed. 1000 trees have been planted just outside Oslo to provide the paper for the printing process in 100 years' time.

I love this idea. The thought that every year a writer - some of whom haven't even been born yet - will produce a work that nobody will read for up to 100 years is wonderful. I can't imagine what it must be like for Margaret Atwood to know that something she has poured her creativity and time into will never be read in her own lifetime, but how special to be part of something like this. (I suppose it will be less romantic, but also less frustrating, for the last few authors who contribute books, as their works will be read in their lifetime.)

I'd love to know what Margaret Atwood has written - do you think she's written about the not-too-distant future as she did in The Handmaid's Tale? We'll never know! I wonder what the readers of 2114 will think of her. I only came across her work a couple of years ago myself, and have only read three or four so far, but I love her writing. I always tell people when I grow up I'd like to write like her!

It got me wondering what we might be reading now if some famous works of literature published in 1914 or 1915 were due to be published this year for the first time instead. Here are just a few of the works we'd be discovering...
  • The 39 Steps - John Buchan
  • The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
  • In Flanders' Fields - John McRae
  • 1914 and Other Poems - Rupert Brooke
  • The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist - Robert Tressell
  • Tarzan of the Apes - Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Dubliners - James Joyce
Any of your favourites in there?

1914/15 were also the years where the world was introduced to Jeeves and Wooster (PG Wodehouse) and when the Wizard of Oz (L Frank Baum) and Anne of Green Gables (LM Montgomery) series were going strong. It was a time of Rudyard Kipling, GK Chesterton, Thomas Hardy, DH Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, HG Wells, Hilaire Belloc, Arnold Bennett, WB Yeats, Arthur Conan Doyle and TS Eliot - which makes it seem like both ancient history and a golden age for literature! I wonder if the first people to read Margaret Atwood's secret novel will feel the same about 2014/15?

Which current authors would you nominate to write a book for the Future Library?

18 May, 2015

Grammar Wars

On our way back from holiday last weekend, we stopped off for a walk at Stourhead - one of the most famous gardens in the UK. Next to the new hand-driers in the toilets was a sign explaining their use, and on that sign was a grammar war. Here it is...



If you can't see that image, let me explain. The phrase 'dries your hands quicker', has been changed to 'dries your hands more quickly' by somebody. Somebody else, however, has added a note to say that 'quicker is OK'.

This is a grammar rule I get confused about a lot. Which words you can modify by adding an -er, and which you have to modify with a 'more' I get wrong a lot in conversation. Is there a definite rule, or is it a matter of just knowing which -er words exist? 

The day after we got back, we were in church and I spent an un-Christian amount of time pondering the grammatical correctness of the words to one of the hymns we were singing. Perhaps you can help me with this one too. The words we sing are:

Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?

My instinct was that the last sentence should be, Is it me, Lord? But am I right? My logic is that I wouldn't answer the question, 'Whom shall I send?" with the words, "Send I." I would answer "Send me." (Or "Don't send me", of course!) So the correct word in the full lyrics should be me and not I. What do you think?

And for reading to the end of a short but pedantic post, you shall be rewarded with another photo of Stourhead - one that is perhaps more indicative of the overall atmosphere!