Monday, 31 December 2012

To round off my year

Another year has whizzed by filled with plenty of small wonders & nuggets of enjoyment #smallstone

2012 has been a good year:

'I wish you all that you wish for yourselves- May 2013 bring joy and happiness to those who seek it.'

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Seriously, I don't think...

Seriously I don’t think I’d ever been as cold as I was yesterday in Koln/Cologne.

For the first time in my life I wanted to own a real fur coat, a real fur hat and fur lined gloves! All very Russian in style for a girl from the valleys. Having experienced the biting raw wind I fully appreciate why these garments are worn, without protest.

My host was keen for me to visit the Christmas markets in Cologne… hmmm, now how do I put this politely- let me see?

At the foot of the Dom, a brash rash of decorated sheds crammed full of ‘tat’ draws in the tourist by the bus load! Like lemmings careening over a cliff they buy gifts from the noisy bright gaudy arena that had little to offer or attract me, except perhaps as a people watching exercise.

Well dressed and warmly wrapped up against the cold, people stood around drinking gluwien and beer. There was no produce from local artisans, just items that were probably mass produced in China. I was reliably informed local artisans would not be able to keep up with demand; however I wondered if they had been offered an opportunity.

We headed to the Dom, the cathedral, to escape the cold. It was packed, tourists herded in droves wandered around the cavernous interior of this magnificent church, which could cope with the volume. It was a sombre space, as cold as outside and the ambient lighting was dimly lit and rather gloomy.

The stained glass windows, (one of my passions) were breath-taking, even on a dull overcast afternoon. Big windows that stretched from floor to ceiling, vast expanses of very precise very modern glass, mostly replicas of the original medieval work that had to be replaced after World War II.

The glasswork was perfectly symmetrical, beautifully coloured in strong colours that were too bright and too varied to be anything other than modern and yet it worked, the windows lost none of their majesty.

A beautiful modern glass panel, in the south transept, designed Gerhard Richter hangs like a child’s brightly coloured quilt dazzling the two more ornate side panels that were larger by far. This piece of work had ‘zing’ and was magical and my favourite window.

The gold Sarcophagus is/was staggering, a mass of opulence and wealth, and a statement like none I've seen before.

And as we departed into the approaching twilight I walked into the square and saw a symbol, high up on a building across from the church- No: 4711 that bought memories flooding back of my childhood.

When I was a girl my mother had No: 4711 on her dressing table, and it is still sold in the same green and blue branding from all those years ago. I never realized until that moment the connection between Koln & Cologne! The shop is still open for business; yet it has transformed its image whilst retaining the essence from the past.

As we wended our way back to the car park my host suggested we visit another market. I can’t say I was terribly enamoured with the idea. I was cold. I was tired, yet somehow he persuaded me it would be worth it. And he was right.

This was a smaller affair, a prettier market, offering slightly more artisan products, and the star lights strung high overhead in the tree branches and the twinkling cabin lights made it feel more magical. The merry go round was brightly lit too and twirled silently. Here we stopped to eat hot crepes filled with nutella, marzipan and amaretto- I can’t begin to tell you how delish these tasted!

Koln is vast and well worth a visit if you get a chance. The Christmas lights that adorned many apartment stores sucked us in and the Imaginarium had the cutest entrance to a child’s store I’d ever seen.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Have I fallen out of love with writing...?

I appear to have reached a strange impasse…and I’m not sure why or how this has happened, but I appear to have stopped writing fiction. I wondered if any of my fellow writers felt the same?

And I have to say this does feel quite curious, because writing has been part of my daily routine for the past four years. I’m writing this blog post to see if I’m alone in my new condition at this point in my writing career or is this ‘normal’- if one is able to determine what normal is?

Recently I’ve written a good number of long letters to close family and friends in the run up to Christmas and I’m focused on some course work which requires me to think and write, but all of this has to be fact, not fiction or my imaginings.

For some inexplicable reason my desire to write fiction and the need to share this work appears to have evaporated along with the warmth from the missing winter sun.
And curiously I’m really not sure why.

Maybe I’m entering a new phase of my life…

I’m feeling much better within my own body and I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve lost thirty pounds in weight since my operation last year, and perhaps as I’m feeling physically very renewed maybe my personal needs to write have shifted? Especially now that I’m becoming more active and less inclined to sit still and write.

However the other day I discovered the iPhone 4s will record dictation and convert and email my thoughts to me, so maybe all is not lost yet as I get more active.

Any thoughts, advice or opinions on my predicament would be welcomed

Friday, 16 November 2012


Every evening I turn on the news and somewhere in the world a person fights for their right to chose, a freedom that we in the UK appear to have become apathetic about, based on the uneventful PCC election figures.

Maybe it’s the media saturation of events beyond our control but I found it rather alarming that the turn out for yesterday’s PCC election was only 15.2%

It’s been less than a hundred years since women won the right to vote in the UK and then you had to be over 30 and a woman of means to be allowed a ballot paper.

So in truth an 18 year old who has more control over their body rights than their voice as they have only been able to vote since… 1969

Only last month a young girl fought her military oppressors for the right to go to school and was shot in the head. We were all shocked. That couldn’t happen here.

What bothers me is that if approximately 85% of the population failed to take an interest in the recent PCC election for a police commissioner in their area then I must presume that anywhere up to +40% of these were women/female voters like me.

Busy women with lives, jobs, careers and children to collect and deliver to various after school activities.

And in fairness I can see how easily this PCC event could have been overlooked. I didn’t see a leaflet drop in my area- and I don’t recall any local news coverage of the candidates- in fact the little news coverage of the event happened once it was upon us. However I knew the event would take place when my polling card landing on my door mat.

This meant I had to find the relevant information on the web to make an informed choice.

Perhaps some people didn’t have that access, or the time. But then again a voice can be heard even if it’s to make a protest vote by voting against the candidate who is most likely to win, or one who represents a party you don’t agree with.

I think what troubles me more is… slowly we seem to becoming disenfranchised; this government is keen to save money and targets those who can least afford the cuts and maybe the least likely people to protest until the decision hits them hard in the pocket.

When I went to vote yesterday- a mortuary would have been a busy venue than my Polling station!

I literally had the village hall to myself and a row of waiting smiles that finally someone had shown up. Compare that with USA where we saw TV images of long lines of people waiting inline for more than fours hours to vote last week.

Admittedly there had been a rather large build up to that event but…

I for one am an old fashioned feminist, I have to stand up and be counted.

I may not win but I will not go unnoticed. Nor left unheard.

Monday, 12 November 2012

I SHALL wear Red Lipstick

I shall wear Red Lipstick

because it enhances my photographic image

because I’m proud that I’m aging in a good way

because it reminds me that I can be sexier

because I’ve survived life’s recent vexing ordeals

because it challenges my son’s perception of whom I am…

because lippy is quicker to apply, than painting my nails

because my mother may disapprove

because it’s just for me- ‘a time-out moment’

because I can change the colour if and when I choose

because wearing bright red lipstick made me laugh at myself

because my eldest niece said: you kick arse

because it celebrates who I have become

a sassy middle-aged woman who knows what she wants!

by Kay Beer

I love poetry

Recently I purchased a second hand copy of ‘Staying Alive’ edited by Neil Astley for .80p in pristine condition. I wonder why anyone could/would discard a beautiful anthology of poetry that contains some amazing poems- but that’s a topic I’ll keep for another post.

Also I belong to a writing group, currently attendance numbers can be low (which is a shame) and that how’s I ended up chairing last months session and setting next months homework: Pick a poem, take the opening line of this poem as a prompt to write either your own poem or a short story.

The poem I landed on was ‘I shall paint my nails red by Carole Satyamurti,’ which struck a chord with me and I wanted to respond.

So my effort above ‘I shall wear red lipstick,’ is not really a poem as such, it could be regarded as free verse, but really it's more of a conscious stream of my thoughts thrown on to my paper, unedited!

Let me know if it resonates or strikes a chord with you

& Keep Writing

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Poor girls’ ‘chilli Tuna chowder’

The weather has turned chilly these passed few days and I need a new stock cupboard staple recipe so here it is:

I like to sauté onions and celery for a long time (about 20 minutes over a low heat) like the Spanish do, until the onions are slippery smooth but not quite caramelized. I do this by frying them gently in butter & olive oil (the olive oil stops the butter burning).

Then open a can of tuna & drain. Open a can of Butter beans & drain. And if you’re a girl with a large store cupboard open a can of sweetcorn while you’re at it. I think that butter beans add a smooth creamy texture to this soup.

The three items above can all sit in the strainer to drain while the onions cook. Tonight I used frozen sweetcorn so they needed to be blanched to defrost them.

To bulk up and stretch this mix you could add cooked potatoes too.

Then I measured out half a pint of milk into a jug. And make half a pint of stock with a Knorr cube. (What ever takes your fancy) add to this liquid a tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce. A pretty colour and smoother on the palate than fresh or dried chilli flakes, but you could use these as an alternative.

Season with salt & pepper.

Once the sautéed onions & celery are ready add the main ingredients and the stock (but not the milk yet) let this glorious concoction simmer gently for 30 minutes on a nice low heat. If you need you can cook for longer but keep an eye on liquid levels.

Just before serving add the milk, turn off the heat and let stand.

Prepare bowls & any accompaniments like garlic bread or seeded knotted rolls. You could add grated cheese but I’m aiming to keep the calories down so go easy with any additional items.

And voila- a hearty soup, that’s cheaper and lighter on calories than the far richer version of smoked haddock, prawns, bacon & cream, which I now regard as a luxury and a treat.

Let me know if it's a hit or a miss...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Smile please

If you smile at someone, they might smile back. ~

And yes he's sitting in a shopping bag...seems to love it by the size of that smile.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Smile 1

A smile confuses an approaching frown. ~

These 4 Bronze sculptures: 'Desert Quartet' by Dame Elisabeth Frink (1931-1993) can be found on top of the rear colonnade of the Montague Shopping Centre, Liverpool Gardens, Worthing, West Sussex.In the heart of the town!

Friday, 2 November 2012

A Smile

Starting tomorrow I'm giving away one smile a day.

A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he cannot get along without it and none is so poor that he cannot be made rich by it. Yet a smile cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give. ~

Let's see how many I get back?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Fooling around with words

"Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little" Tom Stoppard

Twitter is a great playground- a place where I can fool around with words and attempt to sharpen my concentration.

When I playing about I try not to focus on the grammar too much but muse on the sound of the piece I’m putting together.

Mindfulness is helpful as I focus on an item and try to describe what I see or how I feel. The weather lately has been shocking, in good ‘old Blighty’ and I find that my mood can be affected by lower than average light levels. (I need the sun to help me shine.) However on grey days I can be melancholic and reflective.

The limit of my playground is preset: 140 characters- which includes all words, spaces, punctuation and tags.

This makes me think about which words are shorter that can explain exactly what I want to convey, a bit like texting for the first time- it’s a phaf typing miserable when sad will do! And takes less time to type.

With Twitter ‘sad’ takes 3 spaces and allows me to convey/express more than if I use ‘miserable’ which would take 9 characters.

Thinking outside the box can lead me to using a sharper word, or one with a more exact meaning. It’s what most of us writers strive to achieve in our daily writing.

I try not to take too long over the #smallstone, as I fight the perfectionist in me because otherwise it would turn into a game of procrastination. And then nothing would see the light of day.

Yesterday’s smallstone was my attempt to describe the external atmosphere that hung about all day and took only 68 characters:

A low slung sky, those scumble glazed grey clouds brim full of driech #smallstone

So why not join me and a few others when we do our #smallstone and as this tag takes 11 spaces then I’m down to 130 spaces before I’ve even started writing.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

To celebrate National Poetry Day


You are still, so still, my dear Myfanwy.
Why you? Why now? My heart must cry.
Let me hold you close, my dear Myfanwy,
I did not have time to say goodbye.
My world is shattered with out you,
How can I face my life alone?
God! Tell me why you took my dear one,
Is this compassion you have shown?

I remember when, my dear Myfanwy,
We met, those many years ago.
Our hearts were one from the beginning,
And we knew our love would flower and grow.
We have known life’s happiness and pleasures,
Such treasured memories we shared.
In all our days of closeness, dear
Myfanwy, beauteously you cared.

You have flown my love to heavenly pastures,
Your frail warmth fading on my breast,
Yet in my heart you shall be with me,
Though no longer sharing life’s quest,
Today, fate blessedly released you
From anguished suffering and pain;
In gods safe hands, sleep deeply, dear
Myfanwy, ‘til we meet again.

By G. E. Phelps (my dad) - Written in Portugal early 1996

Friday, 28 September 2012

Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill House is opulent & ostentatious. An amazing summer house that has survived more than 250 years of ownership. I couldn’t have been disappointed, not now that this gorgeous home has been loving refurbished and lavishly restored back to it original hedonistic days of the late 1790’s!

This Georgian jewel shines brightly despite the gloomth! A flamboyant Gothic revival house that exudes the charm of a gingerbread cottage-cum-castle. All delicately frosted and deliciously decorated, like a Christmas cake, complete with ornate baubles and over the top.

The strength of colours chosen, the imaginative stained glass work, the ornate ceilings and embossed doors and intricately carved locks are quite magnificent.

Horace Walpole designed the hallways to be deliberately dark and gloomy so that when his visitors entered the ornate decorated rooms they were overcome with awe at the bright gaiety of the light. He even produced his own guide book of his summer home. Usually the housekeeper took the visitors about the place but if the guests were posh enough then Walpole would be their personal guide.

If you haven’t been to visit Strawberry Hill yet then I would suggest you book a trip soon. It’s very easy to book 'timed entry tickets' on line and its right in the heart of Twickenham. Easily accessible via road or rail or river.

I found it impossible to pick one room as my favourite because there were too many temptations!

And to think that Walpole’s own Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto, inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein !

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Nostalgic thoughts

The nostalgia for passed eras is invoked at Goodwood Revival with spectacular success. The event is extremely well staged and on occasion it feels as if you have wandered onto a film set as an extra!
Spectators go to enormous lengths to ensure that their period outfit is correct in every detail. Sometimes it’s hard to photograph them in amongst the crowd and often people approach and ask to that a photo. This is how we end up with an array of individuals who have dresses splendidly and sometimes I worry that my photographs don’t do them justice.
There was no time to shop this year. Can you believe that? Well it’s true. There wasn’t. We walked. And I mean walked miles, back and forth, with the crowd and alone. Often at a casual stroll taking in all the sights especially the cars.

If there’s one thing you need for Goodwood, apart from stamina, it is comfortable shoes.

Last year I sat and watched the racing. This year I devoured the site and explored all the areas which resulted in me missing the racing! (Shame on me) and not seeing the expensive crashes!! Motor racing is dangerous but that is part of the attraction.

Tea was in short supply; queues were lengthy, sustenance was required to revive my flagging stamina.

Next year it has to be a three day pass. With a grandstand seat too. So that I can break down this enormous event into manageable sections, with one day dedicated to photography. The cars are really the stars!

And I think I’d like a few more shots with a few less spectators, unless there are in period dress.

I’ve no idea how I managed to drive home after the event. I was exhausted. Happy. Can’t wait for next year... not that I’m wishing away time.

Basking in Reflected Glory

Charlie & I set out to Goodwood, for the Revival, dressed to the nines under uncertain and gloomy skies. I drove the long way there, via Midhurst, chasing the sun and hoping that the inclement weather would improve.

Luckily by the time we arrived the skies brightened.

The atmosphere was electric. Swing & jive on full tempo blasted out and biker boys, both greasers and teddy boys swarmed in groups. Outfits inspired by the 40’s & 50’s & 60’s eras abounded. Some original, others a modern take with a twist.

There were land army girls on leave, and shoe shine ladies too.

Charlie looked stunning in her period dress, recently purchased at Marmadukes in Midhurst. A jumble sale of a junk shop that requires tenacity to find the gorgeous items amongst a whole hill of stuff.

I watched, filled with amusement, as photographers; paparazzi style chased after her to get her photograph. Snaps taken perhaps they hoped she was someone famous. She certainly turned a few heads. In the brightening afternoon sun her dress shone.

This glamorous outfit made in heavy peach satin certainly made her stand out from the crowd, especially with her nipped in waist. It’s tiny!

Out the blue a lovely lady approached us: Sarah Bradley and told Charlie how beautiful she was dressed. Charlie was handed a certificate and asked to be photographed for the 'Best Dressed Competition.'

Neither of us knew what to expect but I made certain her photograph was taken by the accredited photographer. Little did I know until further investigation that she was photographed by Matt Hind!

Later that afternoon I can’t tell you how proud I felt as Charlie joined the line up for the Best Dressed at Goodwood in the Veuve Clicquot tent. I think I have inkling now of how mothers launching debutantes must have felt back in the 50’s…

Charlie was nervous, her hands shook visibly. She is not used to this level of attention. There was stiff competition. Women far more experienced won the day but this was Charlie first time dressed in period style. And somehow I don’t think it will be the last although she did discover the limitations this dress imposed on her body. One of the winners wore an original 1947 Dior outfit. Her lifestyle choice and she dresses like this every day!

Harry the Gent

Goodwood Revival is over for another and I’m uncertain whether to laugh or cry. It was fabulous fun. And attention to detail at Goodwood is legendary.

Whilst Charlie & I sat down for a cup of tea at the ‘NAFFI’ café, we had the pleasure of meeting Harry Gent, local spiv and gentleman friend who could and would procure all manner of goodies.

"You never never forget when you've done business with a Gent!"

Surreptitiously he opened his battered briefcase to reveal a glimpse of black market stockings. This furtive gesture led us into a conversation about coupons for petrol and other valued items.

"...stockings, petrol coupons and real eggs...not powdered!"

I laughed so hard during this brief encounter that I’m not sure how I managed to hold the camera still to get this shot.

His cigarette lit up with every inward breath, quite a relief as no smoking is allowed at Goodwood.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Celebrating... My Dad...

Today is the anniversary of my father’s death, and just like that day three years ago it was a glorious sunny autumnal day, something like this morning. Time has passed and I thought I would celebrate my Dad’s life with one of his poems. This is the first time it has been published anywhere.


Pastel green, the valley’s shade – naïve
As virgin-grass shooting from the spring-sown-seed,
Misting in the distance with the purple haze
Of sombre broken mountains, almost varicose, foreboding.
Frail, reluctant clouds nestle on those barren peaks
Like unfurled haloes crowning some unsaintly god.
Yet from the heart of that hideous range
Rise innocent fountainlets, embryonic streams
Which prance alone, then, hand in hand
Dance down craggy slopes to the pastel valley;
And on, through tributary adolescence
To cascade, at my feet there to mature
In the swirling intensity of the rivers flow.

The half light searching for receptive minds
In which to implant impressions of the glistening morn,
Sweeps through those haloes and dominates in turn
Those granite monsters, which cringe and shrink
From the imminent spectral fury we call dawn.
Gradually the brightness sears the eyes, challenging
Those mortals who dare defy the dominant star
To a duel that they cannot win. I bow, as tears of pain
Fall silent on my cheek, seeking solace in the pastel valley
Radiant with glittering reflections in her myriad streams.
Yet my patient friend, caninely immune to this silent symphony,
Senses my mood and obediently follows, as sobered I turn
From the turbulent river, toward the beginning of my day.

By G. E. Phelps

Midsummer 1973

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Part 4: Sex sells… & Finally!

When I was a girl, scantily clad women were often draped across car bonnets (hoods) to sell the idea that the latest vehicle would make a man sexier, more appealing. Very little has changed, although fewer women are draped over cars… these days.

Advertising can be blatant or subtle and subliminal. And yet I began to wonder if this novel, 50 Shades, was a vehicle for product placement?

Perhaps not intentionally, maybe E L James tried to anchor her timeline so that we, (the reader) would know the story was current. For example: Mr Gray gives his protégé subordinate a MacBook, an iPad and a Blackberry. So that he can keep in touch? Or more ominously perhaps, he can track her as he uses GPS.

But the other question I’m curious about is that this book trades heavily on a previously successful trilogy of books written by Stephanie Meyer. What is plagiarism again?

These characters bear a direct and striking resemblance to the originals and that’s because ELJ started her writing on a fan fiction website. She chose to write her own version of what happened and all that’s missing from her fantasy version is werewolves and vampires.

Bella in Twilight had divorced parents, so does Anastasia.
Edward had access to fast cars, an expensive life style and plays the piano, as does Christian.
Bella is clumsy. So is Anastasia.
Edward’s good looking etc… the list goes on & on. All based in Seattle.

I thought ‘plagiarism’ was: ‘a close imitation…’

It seems to me that this flexibility maybe a result of the publishing industry struggling to survive in these tough economic times and that flexibility means plagiarism is now okay?

Therefore paying homage to a chosen author is acceptable. I wonder what Stephanie Meyer thinks?

Here’s a thought: will this book’s success mean that ‘erotica’ will no longer be stocked on the top shelf at motorway service stations and small independent newsagents?

And finally the reason for writing this quartet of posts – reading this trilogy triggered several thought processes for me and made me more enquiring.

Far from being discouraged I’m encouraged to keep writing because if ELJ can make it – why can’t I?

Tomorrow, I’ll move on to something completely different after this little interlude!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Sex sells… Part 3

...interesting but rather disappointing for me.

Repetition is one of the areas that as a writer I try to avoid.

We, writers, are advised (by editors and many published writers) that our readers do not need to be told over and over again the same information and yet in this book the rule seems to have been ignored.

Therefore I have to ask this question: Is this what readers want? Judging by sales – sadly the answer is probably - yes!

Or maybe its not that simple.

There are passages in the book that irritated me because of the number of times a repetition of the same set of words ‘a hint of a smile’ were used. None of my work has ever survived editing with this many repetitions…

And why did Mr Grey have to have gray eyes? Just reading that line visually feels wrong. And if you believe all you read on the internet it can mean: “Gray is the colour of sorrow. People who favour gray can be the lone wolf type or narrow-minded – or - the Colour Gray is the colour of intellect, knowledge, and wisdom!”

His trousers are pants. Which conjures a peculiar image of a picture in my head but this is American English and it is accurate. There is nothing wrong with referring to trousers as pants but in this type of romance/erotica book it does affect my thought process, especially as I read – I visualise. It creates a wonky image, which I had to readjust.

But worst of all, the amount of ‘blushing’ or ‘flushing.’ I’m sorry but flushing singularly conjures an un-erotic image and for me was the worst offender in the repetition stakes.

Yet I’m not published and EL James is. So what do I know?

Her readership reach has extended beyond my wildest dreams, hopes and aspirations.

So it can’t be all wrong. Can it?

This book should be taken lightly, and accepted as an easy read. Not too taxing, perfect for a day at the beach or alongside the pool. It is easy to put down and pick up later.

If you’re a grammarian then it’s likely that some of the sentence structures will trip you up or leave you reeling but let’s hope the desire to hurl the e-reader across the room is not enacted.

And don’t get me started on similes and metaphors; some terrible descriptions were adopted that conjured up odd images rather than shocking. Personally I would rather not read a bad metaphor.

This story is meant to be read as a fantasy.

It is not real life.

My real concern is that in the wrong hands and if this book is given credence then it could become a weapon of destruction. It could be used in away that I would find dangerous if women lost rights.

At heart I’m a feminist. And I find it a worrying trend that this book could if the media runs away with itself, and twists it out of perspective, then women as a group in society could be pushed back centuries and loose all the gains we have made in recent times.

I’ve no desire to be a subordinate. Nor a dominatrix. Unless it suits my character…

Ultimately I have to take my hat off to EL James because there can be no denying that this women has succeeded in a tough industry.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Sex sells… Part 2

It didn’t take me long to read 50 Shades of Grey. I’m a fast reader. And this is an easy book to read. Definitely a light summer read in my opinion. E L James has successfully window dressed erotica sufficiently for it to be a huge hit in main stream publishing.

This book has apparently made soft porn more acceptable. Especially as the national media has dubbed it ‘mummy porn,’ an oxymoron if ever there was one. Now adopted as a sales pitch!

And perhaps at the end of a hard day being a domestic goddess, when the shirts are ironed and the kitchen floor is washed, then maybe a little light reading can restore the equilibrium of an exhausted mother and restore her energy levels turning her into a bedroom diva?

It seems to me that by leaving out crude or direct terminology and specific sex related words this book has appealed to many more readers.

Women have talked about it openly perhaps more openly than they would normally, to other people outside their usually group of friends.

Also this book has rattled the bars of the established writers who have thrown their hands up in horror, some with good reason. There are aspects of this book that have been heavily debated in other media’s, namely: Grammar and editing, just to name two topics.

Have you read any erotica recently?

I ask this because if you have you will know that there are many more badly written pieces available to read alongside others works that are far superior and excel. I know this because I’ve shared, discussed, some of the ‘how to not to write a sex scene with other writers.’

Many writers find it hard to write sex scenes. Preferring to gloss over the event. Perhaps because their own personal sensibilities come under scrutiny. It can make some writers squirm to share such delicate intimacies.

I’ve read several articles and heard snippets of programmes and various sound bites about this runaway success, ‘50 Shades, trilogy,’ and there has been an almighty fuss.

You see I’m looking at this from a different perspective, literally a different point of view. (As an aspiring novelist) I don’t have daughters to protect. However I do have nieces and I wouldn’t recommend they add this book to their reading lists, until they are old enough.

However the two eldest nieces are discerning readers, they will make their own decisions and not be swayed by advertising, both have very high expectations of their reading material.

Luckily I’m older and wiser. I’ve been round the block. And I believe my views about sex are liberal and liberating and not kinky or perverted. Make of that what you will because again it very much depends which side of the fence you sit to view this topic.

I decided to read ‘50 Shades’ so that I could form my own opinions and not rely on other peoples judgements. There will be no spoilers here as I see little point in giving away the content.

The speed of book sales has been astonishing. I have to admit that I’m envious of E L James achievement!

She has completed her novels which are selling supremely well. She has established a wide readership that appears to be loyal to buying all three books. And these readers have recommended her books to friends, mothers etc. ‘a personal recommendation is often regarded very highly.’

And if I put all the hype to one side and pay attention to the simple fact that she has managed to write a trilogy of books, whilst working full time. I must acknowledge - this is no mean feat. I know I’m battling to write mine.

E L James publicised her original work via a fan fiction platform which ultimately led her to secure her fans, her dedicated following, her readership, a publisher and the success she currently enjoys.

So I have to conclude that building a platform prior to publication can assist and work for an unpublished author!

To top off her remarkable success Hollywood is talking about producing a film… Seemingly her success is unstoppable.

Tomorrow I’ll attempt to tackle the content…

Monday, 27 August 2012

Sex sells! No kidding…

So what is it that E L James has achieved?

Well in my opinion she has achieved that which I desire most…

A Best Selling Blockbuster of a Novel.

Which is Top of the Best sellers chart - both here in the UK and USA and abroad in other countries.

This author now inhabits a new territory alongside other successful women like : J K Rowling & Stephanie Meyer - because love or loathe them, these three incredibly successful women, have achieved herculean successes in a business that is notoriously hard to break into, let alone succeed and out sell all others.

50 Shades of Grey has got women talking...

Women travelling to France by train openly read and talk to each other, as they travel south armed with a holiday read, as this book has acted as an ice breaker.

In airport lounges across the globe young, helpful daughters can probably embarrass their mothers as they announce in clear innocent tones, ‘I’ve found that book you’ve been looking for mummy… 50 Shades...’ As another mother dies a little inside wishing Smith’s didn't have such a large and easily accessible stand, whilst admiring her daughters growing reading ability and confidence.

So what…

As an aspiring novelist I would like to have a similar success!

And the importance of this book can not be over rated. This book has succeeded where others may have experienced far less success. E L James has connected with her readers. Given them what they want, apparently, in these tough economic times, these readers have parted with their hard earned cash.

Whether this book is well written or not seems to be irrelevant to the vast majority of her readers. Many of whom, it appears, do not read that often or frequently or broadly.

Therefore E L James has succeeded where other novelists may have failed; her readers buy her book and read them. How else could they continue to recommend it?

Several of my friends have recommended I read the book. However the furore in the press led me to think that maybe it was a book I could forgo & I would be none the worse off.

The tumult turned into a huge media hype. Mostly it seems aimed at denigrating E L James’ achievements.

I sat down and read 50 Shades of Grey last week.

More about that in my next post…

And have you read it yet, from a commercial perspective?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

What underpins your story?

1a solid foundation laid below ground level to support or strengthen a building.
2a set of ideas, motives, or devices which justify or form the basis for something:

I’ve been struggling to complete my novel(s) - Why? If I knew the answer to this question then I could solve the mystery myself.

I love writing. I write because I want to capture an idea that has floated into my conscious mind. Sometimes I wonder if I’m running on empty, perhaps this is why I’m struggling to complete my novel. Again I’m not sure.

I do get distracted and I like to think that I write about different things and yet I know that most of my writing ideas are along similar themes. I write about people and their interaction with the world.

People who have read my work or heard me read it have said that my writing is often charged with emotion.

Short story ideas keep surfacing and I find it far easier to capture these ideas.

For me a short story should be a piece which captures a moment in time. To me, as a writer, there’s completeness in writing a short story.

And sometimes if I’ve portrayed that moment well, the reader may be left wanting more than I have to offer. But perhaps to a reader my short story is more like a taster…

I want to enter one of my newest short stories into a competition and yet I fret that it is not long enough and that it might be too emotional for the judges. At 770 words it is definitely a short story.

So far six people have seen this story; each reaction has been the same. Shock!

It means that I’ve achieved a false sense of security and then delivered the unexpected. The shock factor has not been liked, because it has turned the story on its head, twisted a moment and knocked it out of shape.

Often my short stories do not include a twist, its not my forte. However the response to the latest twist has grabbed my attention. The hard work begins now as I revise my short stories and try to find the missing twists, add them/it to the story so that my work turns the readers head.

I was at the beach last weekend and stood for a while to watch a man build stones into towers, not quite as simple a task as it sounds. He had an immense amount of persistence. Each stone was selected with care and consideration and then positioned and placed, one atop another. If he rushed the stones collapsed and scattered. He was patient the reward was obvious.

So maybe I just need to persist.
Keep writing.
Keep entering competitions.
Keep submitting my work.

Friday, 10 August 2012

How has your week gone so far?

I think setting my list of goals set at the end of July has helped me to keep my focus and prioritize my workload and time this month.

I’ve managed to complete the private project that I put at the top of my list. I’m currently waiting for the return of the first printed draft from the publisher, which I will use as a proof document. I used Lulu publishing, because I found their system very easy to complete the print process.

And now that this project is almost done I can move on to other tasks, especially as I’m fired up to get another short story published. So that has become my next focus for this balance of this week.

But this morning I distracted myself, by sorting through old papers on the pretext of looking for documents! It happens… little tricks that take me away from the main task but in doing so it reminded me to print off hard copies of recently written work to add to my file of short stories.

Next week I’ve promised myself I will lay out my novel and start to pick over the framework and work out where to go with the plot. Even if I only establish that I need time to reflect and a place to store all my papers. Little things will come to me and the next thing I’ll do is write.

I accept that writing a novel is a major task and not easily accomplished. So it will need dedication and application, therefore from 13th August I have to get my head down and write…

I have set myself a daily target of 1000 words on day 1 and 500 words on day 2 and so on for the rest of that week. I think this will let me break down the daunting aspect of the task at hand whilst increasing my word count towards the final goal.

How will you break down next weeks tasks?

Oh the excitement, whilst I have sat here typing this post the post lady has delivered the book of my Dad's poems! Can't wait to see how they look in print.

Monday, 6 August 2012

No strings attached…

When you were a kid… what did you watch on telly?

I remember hiding behind the sofa. I was terrified. ‘Dr Who’ was real. The Yeti’s walked along the London underground tunnels. I was afraid. I have a grainy grey and white memory of a scene when the army tried to defend London. It was too authentic, so I hid. This episode aired in 1968!

However: Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet were no where near as scary as Dr Who. Just listen to the soundtracks on You tube.

Stingray ‘Anything can happen in the next half hour.’

5,4,3,2,1 ‘Thunderbirds are go.’

Captain Scarlet ‘The Mysterons, sworn enemies of earth!’

Despite the passage of time these soundtracks hold a special place in my heart and even though these shows had few special effects compared to today’s block busters… I wanted to be Destiny Angel, or Lady Penelope or Aqua Marina.

These shows were marionette puppets; make believe with visible strings and wobbly scenery. Interspersed with close up shots of genuine hands and occasion shots that felt realistic. But we all knew that how ever spectacular the rescue attempted by International Rescue, the Thunderbirds team weren’t going to arrive in real life.

The storylines convinced the younger version of me. And I would happily watch these old series with my young nieces and nephews, (given an opportunity) to transport them to time when the world seemed a different place.

But is it? We all still want the same things. Don’t we? Good to fight evil. Goodness to triumph and win the day? The message hasn’t changed, has it?

My characters for my novel need to be convincing. There needs to be a protagonist and an antagonist. One of them needs to be a baddie who finds redemption. Now that’s sorted… I just need to settle down to write my blockbuster. If only it was that easy.

Which series did you love watching when you were a kid that you would re-visit now?

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Action plan update

So far so good… I’ve edited two short stories this weekend and rewritten the documents but I can’t share them until I decide what to do with them now.

One story I want to submit to a competition and the rules are very clear.

My work can not be previously published or printed. So that rules out posting anything on my blog that I wish to submit elsewhere to be judged.

Next decision is simpler. Do I send my work to a paying submission or a free competition?

I didn’t go to writing group… *smacks own hands* and I’m not sure why however I did make myself sit down and review my two short stories so perhaps subconsciously I wasn’t ready to share my work with others.

Not found a copy of '50 Shades of Grey' as I’ve no intention of paying for a copy yet if I can get one buck-she, must ring hairdresser on Tuesday!

Hope your weekend is successful.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

August Action Plan

What made me think this was a good idea?

The plan looks a bit daunting even to me but if I get some of these tasks completed I shall be extremely happy.

A personal project: to publish a book of poetry written by my father.

Short story submissions to competitions – find three + submit work.

Draft Anthology of my short stories – 1st edit.

Rewrites of short 4 stories that need a bit more oomph!

Novel: get word count up to +60K.

Post one spot a week minimum – try for two (need inspiration + focus)

Find a new writing course for the autumn to inspire me.

Go to writing group.

Letter writing: Keep friends + family abroad up to speed with news.

Ether Books: Submit one short story…

And finally read more…frequently.

I’ve tried to persuade myself to read, '50 Shades of Grey,' to see for myself what the furore is about, and so that I can form my own opinion. My hairdresser, (bless her) has assured me I need to read this book! To date I remain unconvinced but me thinks it might be a good idea to see why it has been so successful.

Anyone out there that follows me, do you have an opinion on 50 Shades of Grey?

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Getting back on track

Well I have to say that I am surprised that July is almost at an end, I’m really not sure where all my time went… because it did go fast.

On reflection I don’t feel I’ve achieved much with my writing this month but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it and what to do next.

So for August my drive has to be to get my focus back. I’m feeling stronger, my new medication should help as I’ve had to accept that my body needs to be medicated if I’m to get back to full capacity and I’ve grown tired of performing at below my par!

My goal list is long. It is ambitious.

My reasoning for setting the goal this way is that if I achieve half of it I will be further forward than I am now. However if I only secure one or two items off the list by 31st August then I will still have made a step in the right direction.

This goal setting idea might not suit everyone, but it is the summer holidays and I need to allow for an opportunity that the weather may improve and I might decide to run away to the seaside. So by giving myself a ‘get out clause I hopefully won’t feel too bad by the end of next month.

I’ll post my task list tomorrow – it’s drafted, but I need to ensure necessary appointments and, more importantly birthdays are time allowed so that I don’t screw up in spectacular fashion.

What keeps you on track, keeps you motivated to write and submit your work?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Formula 1 Racing #F1

What’s not to love? The smell of the fuel. The roar of the engines. This sport is dangerous, and the weather can play a key factor in the success of a driver’s race as the track heats up or turns into slippery lane a wash with rain that slows the race car down, a fraction.

And then there are the drivers, glamorous handsome young men who have earned their right to drive these fabulous vehicles. These guys, who drive these super fast cars, constantly amaze me! Their ability to make split second decisions whilst driving at plus 200 miles per hour is remarkable. And yes their brains have been proven to be wired up differently from the rest of us, mere mortals.

I have my favourites.

And I have to admit that I am biased.

In joint first place: Lewis Hamilton alongside Jensen Button. In second place: Paul de Rosta. In third place: Mark Webber . So this would be my dream line up if I had any influence over events. And finally in fourth position would be Micheal Schumacher for his sheer grit and determination after all these years… it’s obvious that racing is his passion and in his blood.

However the rest of the drivers do not interest me, (much) except when they get in the way of my favourite guys. And this impartiality bears no relationship on their ability to drive simply that I am a home girl and I will support the home boys, GB and a sneaky allowance for one Australian guy.

Last week at Hockenhiem, Button battled his way to the front and chased Alonso, the leader.

I was on the edge of my seat. Willing Jensen to win, probably along with a good number of the UK F1 populace. We could do with some good news especially as Lewis had to retire from this race.

And tomorrow, Lewis Hamilton starts the Hungarian Grand Prix in Pole position.

There will be Twitter silence from me until this race is over.

You see if money was no object I would attend every F1 race track event around the globe. Not a big wish but a suitably improbable one. Naturally I can get to Silverstone with ease. However I’ve just discovered that my brother only lives two hours away from the Hockenhiem track, how did I not know this sooner…

So could I write a novel based around this glamorous life of motor racing. Probably not. But then my blog isn’t about emulating racing. Except it takes guts to get in a racing car and race your heart out.

But I think it takes the same sort of guts to put your writing out in the public domain.

What do you think?

Does it take guts and determination to push our work out to editors, readers, and the general public?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Watts Gallery

Continuing with my theme of fascinating places to visit if you’re here on staycation this summer or a visitor from further a field… I would strongly recommend that you add the next idea to your list:

Watts Gallery, near Compton in Surrey

I found this gallery after it had been featured on the Restoration programme on BBC2 and came in second place some years ago. However the programme did secure funds for this venue to be saved, because the roof leaked and the water damage to the fabric of the building had deteriorated and was in danger of destroying the art work. The building was at risk. Since then it has been restored.

Watts Gallery is a wonderful place. Currently the exhibition on display is celebrating Dickens, until October.

However my favourite part of this venue is seen on the approach to the art gallery.

The Watts MEMORIAL Chapel

This is a Victorian Arts & Crafts movement at it absolute best! An extraordinary piece of architecture designed and built by Mary Watts, wife of George Frederick, the painter. And a beautiful and wonderful place to be buried.

The Chapel is rich in symbolism and I’ve just discovered a book written about it, so that has been added to my wish list. And I have enclosed some photographs for you to get a flavour of the place. Because each visitor I have take here has been mesmerized by the place. It has a quiet beauty.

#Staycation idea no 4

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Staycation idea no 3: A Garden centre

It’s rare I would suggest a garden centre as a place to visit but this one is special. Take a camera because there are plenty of ideas to shoot, angles to play with and generally have fun.

Petersham Nursery, Richmond, Surrey - you can even catch a ferry to arrive in style!

Whenever I visit this garden centre in Ham, I feel I have been transported to an arid climate… somewhere remote, say the south of France.

The access point to this amazing place can be easily missed, as the entrance is tucked tight between two house, so arriving by car can be a tad tortuous as the narrow lane refuses to allow more than one car entry at a time… so don’t be surprised if you have to reverse.

It is far better to arrive on foot, or by cycle, and a walk along the Thames seems the best way to experience this wonderful venue.

Romance seems imminent amongst these pots and blooms!

Again I’ve enclosed photos to give you a flavour of what might except to find if you visit and these pictures can and may change with each visit.

It is an inspirational spot to take photographs. Even on an overcast & dull day it has a beautiful feel to the place, and shopping never seemed so relaxed!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Staycation: Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden

In case you’re planning a ‘staycation’ this year I thought I’d recommend a very beautiful spot that is worthy of a visit this summer.

Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden

This is a must. Take a picnic. Spend as long as possible. It is one of the most inspirational places I have visited. Tucked away in the depths of the Sussex countryside, pieces of sculpture from large pieces to quirky ideas can be explored as a walk takes place through ancient woodlands, and manicured lawns. Hidden in corners or displayed centre stage there are pieces/installations that may encourage thought processes or inspire awe, and if you’re like me I find it hard to resist touching but resist I must!

The house is one I would willingly stay in so is the cute cottage, a prefect retreat for a writer. Time to unwind and notice nature at its best interspersed with beautiful sculpture. I think a few days here spent as a writers retreat might inspire some interesting writing and ideas.

I’ve enclosed a few photos to give some idea what to expect however some of these installations may have changed or been sold since I took these photos.

For an up to date version visit. This amazing and beautiful venue can be found @: Standon Lane, Ockley, Surrey RH5 5QR Tel: 01306 627269

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

One of my favourite places:

At Goring-by-sea you will find the English Martyrs Church, and from the outside you would have no idea that there is a magnificent ceiling hidden beneath the curved line of the roof.

Address: 1 Goring Way, Goring-by-Sea, Worthing, West Sussex BN12 4UH

An exact & glorious reproduction of the Sisten chapel.

Each time I go to visit; I usually go to introduce a friend, I’m always amazed at how beautiful and lovingly the ceiling has been recreated by Gary Bevans.

The stained glass windows are equally mesmerizing, and it's one of the few churches I would like to lie down on the floor and just stare up at the ceiling. Probably not etiquette, and I have not tried it yet!

If you get a chance to drop in and have a look, I would suggest you go soon.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Trying to get some perspective.

It was an odd night last night… I left a friends house late, and came home glad to crawl into my bed, with the intention of falling fast asleep. But sleep eluded me. Frantic phone calls occurred in the wee small hours. A crying hysterical friend on other end… her adorable kitten was lost, presumed escaped as I had left the house!

It’s strange but I was certain the kitten was quietly ensconced somewhere in the house, curled up fast asleep doing what I wanted to achieve. Oblivious of the wailing and desperation. It was a dirty night, sodden rain water logged roads and dark out here in the sticks.

I tried to pacify my friend. I tried to sleep. I failed on both scores here. The kitten turned up safe and sound some hours later, the text came in at 6.34am. I was relieved. I was dog tired. I’m not grumpy today, just slow; everything seems to be an effort.

The rain woke me up eventually. It’s a familiar sound. And now there is a tiny patch of blue sky.

Today is a good day.

My sister made it home safely from Torquay with my nieces yesterday even though it took twelve hours, crammed in the car, instead of a probable 5 hour journey. They had to find alternative routes that weren’t water logged.

The kitten was not lost and my friend has rung to apologize for her frantic calls.

I wasn’t one of the unfortunate spectators, standing in a water logged field watching their hero or hero’s race at frantic speeds on a water logged track at Silverstone and I wasn’t stuck under an umbrella on Henmans Hill!

Because this weekend promises to be an interesting sporting event. Rain may stop play but there again…

My home hasn’t been consumed by fire like the people in Colorado who only have ashes and burnt timbers of their once beautiful homes and I didn’t die in my bed like those poor people in Russia, when the flash flood waters rose in the night as they slept.

I’m not a refugee living under a piece of canvas in a swamp infested region in Sudan fleeing for my life and there have been many floods in Bangladesh that have surpassed anything we might have suffered in the UK. A quarter of a million people were displaced here, with 800 of them losing their lives.

My heart goes out to anyone who has been flooded out… whether it’s their home or their business premises. It must be stressful. It can’t be fun.

This summer is a wash out so far.

We did have some gorgeousness in March, remember? A distant memory now and from today forwards I’m going to do my best to ignore the weather, wear layers that can be added and removed and just get on with having a good time.

I suggest we do what we do best – apply the stiff British upper lip – because truly it could be worse. And where we can offer support. Financial or other.

And I’m going to put my feet up. Switch on the telly. Fix my lunch and watch some great British sport, thankful that I can participate as a spectator, even if it is only from my armchair.

And I hope the summer weather improves across the globe.

Friday, 6 July 2012


Over the years I have drawn immense pleasure from watching my nieces grow into beautiful young women. Jenny is no exception. In my opinion she is exceptional and I might be biased! Having just finished her gruelling GCSE exam sprint under immense pressure to succeed, but this didn’t stop her from fretting in the run up to the exam period, and she studied hard to get to the end. I’m incredibly proud of her achievement because from a young age she has been gifted, and now she is destined to go to Charterhouse, this September, because on her own merits, she has secured and won a scholarship. She will attend sixth form as a Flectherite. Who knows what will come next for her, Oxford maybe?

Prom night was last Friday. There was a mad dash to get her ready as her last exam was just the day before. Her fabulous dress had been ready for a while but she wanted help with hair and make up and this assistance came from her sister and cousin. As you will see from the photos, Jenny looked stunning. Hannah did a beautiful hair make over and Jenny's make up was exactly the look Jenny wanted to achieve.

I know that Jenny had a fantastic evening and felt like the belle of the ball, as did all the girls from her school. Even so Jenny was surprised how many people wanted to have their photo taken with her, and that might have something to do with her lovely sunny personality and perhaps, because this young woman has potential to go far.

Jenny’s big sister Charlie (Blondie) make up artist & Hannah hairstylist to the rich & famous (maybe)