Tag Archives: writers

A Writing Contest and a Chance to Save the Wolves!

Wolves in a snowy landscape

Writer and wolf-lover extraordinaire, Kate Johnston, aka 4am Writer, is running a fun writing contest over on her blog. Help Kate save El Lobo, the Mexican gray wolf, and write a 250 word story which features a wolf in some way. But I’ll let Kate tell you the rest, so hop on over there, and hurry, the deadline is 31 March – Contest link.


Do you have a spare 5 million? If so, I have a bargain for you

And I’m not joking. This really is a bargain (for those who have around £5M). For that, you could bag yourself Bleak House – the former summer home of Charles Dickens, and the very place where he wrote David Copperfield.

Bleak House

Imagine what a wonderful and inspirational place this would be to live in and run writers’ retreats at. I know this sounds like something that is going to lead to a punchline, but it isn’t. Plus it’s in a great location, right by the sea, so has wonderful sea views, and the icing on the cake is that it’s only about 20 minutes away from where I live, so I can come and visit you, (Yay! Right?).

Inside of Bleak House

I spotted the article about it in our local online newspaper (KM’s KentOnline) this week…

Article about sale of Bleak House

I would certainly dispute the last line on that snippet though – one of the most renowned, yes, but one of the most expensive, certainly not! There are plenty upon plenty of more expensive properties in the country. Take this example, a fourth floor apartment in one of London’s most prestigious areas, £25m, nearly five times as much as Bleak House…

London flat for sale

A very nice apartment, yes, a very nice location, sure, but does it come close to living in somewhere like Bleak House in Broadstairs? With its history? As I say, Bleak House is quite a bargain by comparison. Direct trains from Broadstairs into central London only take 1hr 20mins too, so it’s really quite perfect in every way.

And look at these other excerpts from the news article…

Excerpt from news article

See the bit in bold? A mere 3 years ago it was only £2m, and now it is £5m, wow! How much could it be worth in the future?

I genuinely can’t understand why millionaires aren’t racing to snap it up; it’s been on the market since October. And I’m also really surprised that it is just available for general sale for anybody to buy like that.

And look at this bit…

Excerpt from newspaper

It’s already operating as a business, geared up for bed and breakfast, so perfect for running those writers’ retreats, right? So who wants to come in on it with me? And when I say “Come in on it with me”, you need to put in all the money and I’ll…erm…help run the writers’ retreats. Ooh and I can make cakes too; writers need cakes.

Long term followers of this blog may just remember that I did a short video about this very house a few years ago when I was part of Limebird Writers. Here it is again… (sorry that it’s really hard to hear me during part of it because of the wind.)

So I did a video about it, and now it’s up for sale, that means it’s destined to be mine, right?

Would you buy this house if you had the money? Can I visit?

Here’s a List of Things You Can Buy for 99 Cents

Do you have 99¢ to spare? Then let me help you spend it. Take your pick from one of the following:

  • Three quarters of a small serving of McDonald’s fries.
  • A manicure for one of your fingers at a cheap backstreet salon.
  • 9 minutes viewing of an average length movie in an average priced Manhattan movie theatre (yes, I did the math).
  • Anything from the 99¢ store.
  • A book comprising a collection of science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal short stories to intrigue, surprise and entertain you. WHAATT?! NO WAY! Yes way! Only 99¢. Courtesy of author C.S. Boyack, who you might recall helped me make bread rolls a while back.

The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack. Don’t you just love that title? And don’t you just love the cover? Designed by Rachel Carrera.

Experimental notebook cover

I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of this book and really enjoyed the range of stories. Some of the comments I gave Craig were:

“This story is deliciously macabre!”

“Ha! Good unexpected twist!”

“I’ve never seen something like that before, I think it works really well.”

“I could imagine this as part of a full novel that I would want to read.”

“This story really carried me along, eager to find out where it was going to go!”

Tempted? Then why not pop along to Amazon, and order your copy now? (UK residents go here to buy). Unless of course you’d rather have three quarters of a small serving of McDonald’s fries, but quite frankly they’re cold now, whereas Craig’s book is hot off the press!

If you want a bit more of Craig, and why wouldn’t you? Here are his links…

Blog: http://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com
Novels: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00ILXBXUY
Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/Virgilante
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9841203.C_S_Boyack

Mike and Vanessa Give Thanks, with Pumpkin Pie and Ballet Tights

You’ve read the blog, you’ve seen the book, now meet the author, it’s Mike Allegra ladies and gentlemen! He’s here to shoot the breeze with me and to give away a copy of his wonderful children’s book, SARAH GIVES THANKS, to one lucky blog reader – it could be you!

Mike 3-D

Mike Allegra – he writes, he blogs, he draws, he looks fabulous in a pair of 3D glasses.

Right then Mike, let’s get the boring…er, I mean…the exciting biography bit out of way first…

Thanks Vanessa…what do you mean boring? Well nevermind, here goes – I have earned my living as a writer and editor for the past 15 years. My first picture book, SARAH GIVES THANKS, was released in September 2012 by Albert Whitman & Company. The book has earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, is an Amelia Bloomer List selection, and is now in its second printing. As a playwright, I have had my work read and performed around the U.S. and was the recipient of a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship. A former journalist for North Jersey Newspapers, I am currently the editor of The Lawrentian, the alumni magazine of The Lawrenceville School (Lawrenceville, NJ). During my tenure, The Lawrentian has won a dozen regional and national awards, including Gold and Silver honors from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

There, that wasn’t boring was it? Vanessa? Vanessa?! Are you asleep?

What? No, of course not! I was just…well, let’s move on to the book. In one sentence, what is SARAH GIVES THANKS about?

Sarah Gives Thanks cover

One sentence? You gotta be kidding me.

OK. Fiiine. Here goes:

SARAH GIVES THANKS is the story of Sarah Josepha Hale, a 19th century New Englander, who led a 36-year, grassroots campaign to turn Thanksgiving into a national holiday.

If I had more than one sentence, I would’ve also mentioned how Sarah was the first female magazine editor in America. And her magazine eventually became the most widely read periodical in America. And she founded charities. And she raised money to preserve historic landmarks. And she became a tireless advocate for women’s education. And she wrote and/or edited dozens of bestselling books. And she is the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” And she did all of these things while raising five children as a single mom.

Well I’m only allowing one sentence Mike, so you can’t say that other bit. Sorry. Now, I’m always interested in how long the writing and publishing process takes, so how long was it from the time you first thought of the idea for the book, until the day it was published?

Too long. But the circumstances were unusual. Partway through the process, my editor quit her job. Also, the first illustrator, after much hemming and hawing, decided not to sign her contract. This delayed the book for a year. In the end, however, this hiccup turned out to be a huge blessing because my new editor, Kristen Ostby, shared my vision for SARAH GIVES THANKS in a way my first editor never did. And the illustrator Kristen selected, David Gardner, had the exact same artistic style that I had imagined for the book.

So it took a while, but everything worked out perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.

You’re not really answering my questions are you Mike? Let’s see how you do on this one – for the benefit of us Brits, what’s so great about Thanksgiving?

I don’t know how much Brits know about Thanksgiving, so forgive me if what’s below is common knowledge.

Way back in the early 1600s, a group of religious zealots were tired of being persecuted by the British king. So they sailed to America and set up a colony at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.  Once there, they immediately began to persecute themselves with far more zeal and enthusiasm than your king could’ve ever imagined. These folks were the Pilgrims. They dressed in black and liked wearing buckles on their hats and shoes. They also liked accusing each other of witchcraft.

The Pilgrims had a tough go of things on these shores, and many of them died during their first New England winter. In 1621 however, with the help of the indigenous Native Americans, they managed to have a decent harvest. So Pilgrims and the Native Americans had a feast where they thanked their Maker for the food, their friendships, and their good fortune.

The Pilgrims were not America’s first colony, and they certainly weren’t the most successful or the most forward thinking, but that Thanksgiving feast did tap into America’s sense of idealism. The idea of a special feast to thank God for all the blessings in one’s life captured the imagination of many New Englanders.

The rest of America’s colonies, however, which had their own unique histories, generally ignored the holiday.

That is until Sarah Josepha Hale came along.

Thanksgiving meant a great deal to Sarah, not because of the Pilgrims, but because the holiday forced people to put their lives in perspective. Then, as now, it was so easy to get bogged down with all the aggravations in life. It was so easy to dwell on the negative. Thanksgiving, however, was all about reflecting on the positive. Or, as Eric Idle once wisely sang, “…the bright side of life.”

In Sarah’s case, the holiday helped her to cope with the death of her husband and find a way to support her family. If Thanksgiving could help her, Sarah reasoned, it might be able to help others. And so Sarah began her campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Thanksgiving, she believed, was good for America’s soul.

So that’s why Thanksgiving is important to Americans. People also use that day to get a day off from work and watch football.

Well I was looking more for something like “It’s so great because we get to eat lots of turkey and pumpkin pie.” Something like that, you know? But ok. Let’s go a bit wild and crazy now – can you tell us a random fact about yourself; something that you’ve never mentioned on your blog, and very few people know about you?

I recently took a test online to see if I was an introvert. Out of 23 questions posed, I provided 22 introverted responses. And that lone remaining question was sort of borderline. I think I will go hide under my desk now.

Well that certainly was wild and crazy Mike, thanks. Let’s find out now a bit more about what makes Mike tick. What are your favourites of these…

You’re just asking these questions so you can spell favorites, with a “U,” aren’t you Vanessa? Admit it!

I admit it! But let’s do it anyway:

 a) Your favourite joke –

I don’t care for jokes, really. I’m more of an amusing anecdote person. But I do like this one:

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting co–

b) Hehe, MOOOOOOO! Now, what’s your favourite fast food –

I try to avoid fast food at all costs. My very first job was manning the broiler at a Burger King. I only did it for one summer, but the work left me with severe emotional scars. Also grease burns. If I were forced to pick, however, it would be Roy Rogers’ roast beef sandwich. It doesn’t taste exactly like roast beef – the texture is all wrong – but it’s close enough.

c) First you make a joke about a cow, and now you want to eat it! Nice. Right, what’s your favourite TV show –

I am a new fan of Breaking Bad, which just ended its run on TV. I have been buying the old seasons on DVD, however. It is, in my view, one of the most sharply written and superbly acted shows ever.

d) And the final one in the favourites round – Who is your favourite person from England who is funny, charming, and intelligent, whose name begins with V, and who has interviewed you?

Dang. There have been so many. Vanessa Redgrave… Lord Voldemort…

Oh, Vanessa, it’s you. Definitely you!

My goodness Mike, that’s so unexpected, I don’t know what to say! Thank you. And the very final question, going back to your playwriting, if you were to write a play where you would take the lead role, what type of story would it be, what type of character would you be, and who else would you like to be in it with you?

Years ago I wrote a comedy/drama titled Rebounders. One of the characters, named Sean, is a complete and total pig. I had so much fun writing for that character. Audiences find him hilarious and the actors who have tackled the part over the years loved the opportunity to say and do such gleefully offensive things. I’m too old for the part, really, but that would be the one I’d pick. As for other people I would want to act with…? There is a good part in Rebounders for a talented actress. Interested?

Oh Mike, yes, it would be so wonderful to be on stage with you again! Do you remember the last time we were on stage together…

Mike and Vanessa as ballet dancers

I certainly do Vanessa, what a memorable performance that was.

Ok, well, we’re done here, except to say that to be in with a chance of winning a copy of SARAH GIVES THANKS, just leave a comment below by the end of Wednesday 6 November, and one lucky winner will be randomly selected after then. Oh, and if you don’t follow Mike’s blog already, you really should – heylookawriterfellow.

Thanks Mike!

Thanks Vanessa! I wonder where I put those ballet tights, what with Halloween coming up…

Mike Allegra

Mike Allegra

Jennifer’s Paper Wishes

Today I am delighted to welcome back one of my personal heroes, the wonderful author, Jennifer M. Eaton – Hurrah! Welcome Jennifer, do sit down…

Jennifer M Eaton

…Oh you are already, perfect!

Jennifer is here to talk about her new book, Paper Wishes, do you want to see the cover? Of course you do!

Paper Wishes Cover

Don’t you just want to reach into your screen, grab it, and start reading right away? Of course you do!

The reason Jennifer is one of my heroes is because she started out 2012 by saying “I WILL get published this year,” and that’s exactly what she did. Her first published story “Last Winter Red” was part of the “Make Believe” anthology at the end of last year, and since that first one she has scored publishing deal after publishing deal. But it’s not only that, she also offers plenty of invaluable help to other writers on her website, by sharing her own personal writing experiences, as well as passing on tips and advice she has learned along the way. And she does all this alongside a day job and family commitments.

Well, enough gushing from me, let’s read a little biography and find out what Paper Wishes is all about…

Jennifer Eaton lives on the East Coast USA with her wonderfully supportive husband, three energetic boys, and a pepped up poodle. She hosts an interactive website jennifermeaton.com aimed at making all writers the best they can be.

Her new winter romance “Paper Wishes” cools down the summer heat in August of 2013. Jennifer’s also-winter-themed Dystopian novelette “Last Winter Red” is available as part of the “Make Believe” Anthology from J.Taylor Publishing. Both are available in ebook format from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com
Paper wishes strip

Paper Wishes (A two-part novella)…

Part One – Connect the Dots: Jill writes her most intimate Christmas wish to God—and throws it away for its ridiculousness—but Christmas wishes have a way of coming true, even when you don’t know what you’ve wished for.

Part Two – A Test of Faith: One day after her Christmas wish comes true, Jill faces a wrenching choice that tests her deepest beliefs. Will love prevail over conviction, or is happiness nothing more than a fairytale?

Available in ebook format from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com and everywhere else great ebooks are sold.

That’s great Jennifer, and now I have a few questions, is that ok?

Sure, go ahead.

Ok, firstly…oh…hang on a minute, is that a bag of chocolate covered blueberries you’re hiding behind your back there? No? Only it looks just like…well, nevermind. Let’s kick off with a tricky one. Describe ‘Paper Wishes’ in one word.


Honest, good word. Now can you describe your perfect writing environment, include important details like what snacks and drinks you like to have on hand, you know, like if you enjoy having any chocolate covered blueberries or anything like that?

I really need to be alone to write… with no distractions.  I should probably be cut off from the internet as well. I’m a certified communications junkie. No! I am! I even majored in it in college! Ha! Seriously though, I do write better in quiet. I enjoy a hot cocoa or hot tea, or a green Gatorade (cut 50% water) in my mug holder. Treat choices are anything that crunches and won’t get my keyboard sticky. Pretzels work pretty well. And if I’m writing an action scene, or need a little pep, my new favourite is chocolate covered blueberries. Yummy!

I knew it! Now, something that many writers wrestle with – when you are writing and editing a novel, or novella, how do you know when you’re finished?

Ugh. I never feel finished. In general, I am very anal and would like to get through a complete read from start to finish without making changes. That’s when I know I’m done. Reality is, though, that even if you get that far, an editor is still going to find things to change. That’s just the nature of the beast. I try to control myself and get to a point where I have eliminated my show verses tell issues, and there are also no points where I stumble over the speech, or the pacing is off kilter. At that point I send it out to beta readers to see if they agree. I then revise according to their comments (if I agree) and then start working on the query.

It sounds like quite a serious business, but when you’re not being all serious, what makes you laugh?

Realistic slap stick amuses me to no ends. Someone tripping or falling out of a chair.  Not sure why. Jokes and “forced” stuff usually only makes me smile. I guess I find the “funny” in the silly things that happen unexpectedly every day.

Ah yes, thank goodness for video cameras so these moments can be shared with the world! Now, this might sound like an odd question, but I think you’ll have an answer. What color is “Paper Wishes”? The story itself; if you had to attribute a color to it, what would it be?

Blue, for many reasons. Blue is cool, and Paper Wishes takes place in winter. But it also represents sadness. Jill tries so hard to hide her sadness that she misses out on being happy. (Until a little divine intervention gives her a little nudge in the right direction)

Blue? A bit like blueberries? Like chocolate covered blueberries? What IS that behind your back?…Anyway, as the book is called “Paper Wishes”, I clearly had to have a wish-based question…Imagine I have the power to grant you three wishes, with rules attached, what would your wishes be? The rules are; RULE 1) The wishes must be related in some way to reading or writing. RULE 2) The first wish must be for yourself, the second wish must be for somebody you know (you don’t have to say who it is), the third wish must be for the wider world.

FIRST WISH – For myself, and this may seem selfish… but I’d love to write a book that so many people have read that it is a household name, and people could strike up conversations about my world. This is not stemming from a desire to be rich or famous. I would just find it incredibly satisfying to know something I created had touched people and brought them together.

SECOND WISH – For someone else… I know quite a few authors who are brilliant, but unpublished. One in particular is really good, but lacks the self-confidence to finish a project. My wish would be for her to gain the confidence to finish her novel so she can feel the wonder of success (or at least the excitement of publication).

THIRD WISH – For the wider world, I would love it if people would embrace books.  The truth is that most people read only what they have to. The wonderful worlds that have been created are lost to many, because they do not take the time to read about them. I think this is getting worse due to people’s tight schedules, as reading takes time. I wish people had more time to read. I think the world would be a better place.

Thank you Jennifer, great answers!

Thanks so much for having me and for coming up with such interesting questions! This has been fun. I hope everyone enjoys Paper Wishes – a little winter romance to cool off their summer. Thanks again! Oh, and here’s a little something for you Vanessa, I hope I haven’t squashed them behind my back here…

What is it?…oh, chocolate covered blueberries! For me! Yay! I had no idea that you had anything hidden behind your back! Thank you so much, and thanks again for visiting us today.

Chocolate covered blueberriesJennifer’s Networking Links:

Email | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Manic ReadersGoodreads | Amazon

I won’t be able to reply to comments for a few days, but Jennifer will be stopping by, so do leave any comments or questions you have for her below, and I’ll be back to join in the chat too in a few days…

What the Dickens is going on?

This is a little spoofy video report I made about Charles Dickens with my friend, Stacey Morgan from Morganic Films, for the Limebird Writers site where I also blog. I thought I would share it here too. Apologies that my voice is at times hard to hear over the sound of wind and the sea! We had a few microphone issues…

If the embedded version doesn’t work, you can go to it here http://youtu.be/i2Qizp3QNZw

Hope you all have a good weekend!

How was Lorna supposed to know? Win her book and find out!

book-coverLorna Lee

Does lightning ever strike twice in the same place? It does if your name is Lorna Lee. To find out more, you’ll have to read her newly published memoir, ‘How Was I Supposed to Know?‘. This book will make you laugh, cry, and laugh some more. True tales of near misses and direct hits, and did I mention lots of laughs? Lorna has a talent for finding the comedy and the positive side even where there really isn’t any. Readers of her blog, Lorna’s Voice, will know what I’m talking about.

I’m going to put a pot of coffee on now, so please join me and Lorna for a chat, and if you leave a comment at the end of this post, you will be entered into a draw to win a copy of her book.

Beautiful inside and out, charming, intelligent, funny. But enough about me, let’s talk about Lorna (the old jokes are still the best, right? Right?!). But of course I was talking about Lorna. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and make some noise for the wonderful Lorna Lee!!!! Woohoo!!!

Hello Lorna, glad you could join us.
Hello Vanessa, thank you. Wow, what a welcome!

Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Please do.

Firstly, the obvious question – what prompted you to write this memoir?
Since I knew from an early age I ‘had a book in me’, it was either this or ‘Little Men, Big Problems.’ I already had piles of short stories about my youth that I wrote as therapy when I became ill with dizziness-blondeness (Chronic Fatigue). So I chose to go that way. Plus I needed to put the past behind me for good. Writing this memoir did that for me.

Well, you certainly pull off dizziness-blondeness very well. I wonder, what song would you pick as the theme tune if your book was made into a film, and why?
I ruminated over this question for a long time for two reasons: I’m not a music aficionado, so my selection of tunes is limited to songs I like to sing or dance to and none of those songs were perfectly appropriate for the theme of the book. ‘The Long and Winding Road’ by the Beatles is my all-time favorite song by that group and it connotes the twisty path my life has taken, but it’s kind of soulful and my book is upbeat. ‘Open Arms’ by Tina Turner is what I’m going with. It has a snappy beat. The lyrics are positive and upbeat, while acknowledging that life isn’t always that way. I’d say that captures the spirit of my memoir. Plus, Reggie (my cockatoo) and I used to dance to this tune all the time.

Yes I’ve heard all about your wild dancing nights with Reggie. Now, apart from the dizziness-blondeness thing, what road blocks did you have in writing this memoir?
I had too much material and didn’t see a way to organize it. Memoirs need a theme like fiction needs a plot. Once I settled on a theme, the book took shape. Then there were the days when I doubted myself. My illness is one that affects my ability to think coherently. I would be writing and stumble because I knew there was a perfect word for what I wanted to say, but couldn’t ‘find’ it in my brain. What kind of writer loses words? Finally, telling this story involved more than just me. I was concerned about my ex-husband and how he would react to my honest tale. Making the decision that this was my story told from my recollections and feelings, I forged on. If he wants to tell his side, it’s a free country, he can write and publish a book. Who am I kidding? He probably won’t even read the thing!

Speaking of the effect you have on others, if you were stranded on a desert island with a group of people, which skill/s do you have that would help ensure the group’s survival?
I sure hope that desert island has lots of shade, doesn’t get too hot, and has lots of fruits (the edible kind, not the looney kind). The only skill I could lend to ensure our mutual survival is my natural aversion to conflict. I am a peace-keeper. As a highly sensitive middle-child, I have learned how to anticipate when tension is brewing and use my humor and/or negotiation skills to avert conflict. We may be stranded, but I’d make sure we were all cooperating and being nice to each other.

Those are important skills Lorna. No shelters or rafts are going to get built if everyone is fighting, right? Now, looking back at your life, what advice would you give to your teenage self?
Use your unique voice, Lorna; don’t squelch it just to please others. You don’t have to put on an act. The real you is a show worth seeing. And get some help with that drinking problem.

And finally, and this isn’t a hint (although I am free on Saturday), if I came round for dinner, what would you cook for me, and what sort of entertainment would you provide?
I make a delicious vegan eggplant parmesan with quinoa pasta (gluten-free). I would serve it with a fresh tossed salad with a homemade dressing of aged balsamic vinegar and Tuscan herb olive oil. And my specialty: challah, which I couldn’t have, but you could. For dessert, a bowl of fresh fruit drizzled with mango sauce (no sugar added). Healthy and delicious. Oh, and Melbeck wine from Argentina (that’s Phil’s favorite wine). I’d have seltzer water. As for entertainment…Scrappy has an amazing number of adorable tricks. Maybe not a whole evening’s worth, but I’m sure we’d find lots to chit-chat about too. [Editor’s note: Phil is Lorna’s man, and Scrappy is her dog, in case you thought it was the other way around]

Sounds great! 7pm ok for Saturday?

Thank you so much for your time Lorna.
My pleasure.

Right, the giveaway works like this…
1) You leave a comment on this post by 11pm (GMT) on 31 January 2013.
2) I put the names into a hat and get one of my kids to draw one out.
3) I let the winner know that they have won a copy of Lorna’s book, ‘How Was I Supposed to Know?’ and they can pick either the paperback version or an e-book in their preferred format.
4) They get their book.
5) They read it and love it.

If you would like to buy the book for yourself, then this page on Lorna’s blog has the buying details – http://lornasvoice.com/how-was-i-supposed-to-know-a-memoir/

Well, what are you waiting for? Let the comments begin!