>February wrap-up

>Here’s what I achieved for February … just look at all of my “extras”.


  • update blog & gig list daily
  • gig list for March (still ongoing)
  • diary work for March
  • enter 24 competitions


  • OUTLINE Catch the Rainbow
  • OUTLINE Catch the Rainbow Ch1
  • #1 Catch the Rainbow Ch1
  • SUBMIT Catch the Rainbow synopsis (writing weekend)
  • OUTLINE Worsbrough Mill
  • writing weekend

Day job

  • weekly timesheet
  • website work
  • spring magazine
  • confirm contributors for spring magazine


  • attend at least one rock gig per week
  • monthly hair appointment
  • read 2 novels


  • weekly, fortnightly and monthly household chores
  • weekly grocery shopping


  • arrange AA membership (Automobile Association not Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • OUTLINE Catch the Rainbow prologue
  • #1 Catch the Rainbow prologue
  • #2 Catch the Rainbow prologue
  • #3 Catch the Rainbow prologue
  • SUBMIT Catch the Rainbow prologue to writing weekend
  • OUTLINE Catch the Rainbow epilogue
  • OUTLINE Catch the Rainbow afterword
  • #2 The Magic of Wilderness
  • #3 The Magic of Wilderness
  • EDIT The Magic of Wilderness
  • SUBMIT The Magic of Wilderness (competition deadline extended)
  • SELF-PUBLISH Night Crawler (POD)
  • 2 interviews for missing magazine article
  • arrange travel insurance
  • SUBMIT Night Crawler to 1 x regular publisher during POD transition
  • 1 reader’s letter/filler
  • spend 2 days moaning at Talk Talk trying to get phone/internet back up
  • FINALLY go the pictures to see Avatar

Lots got missed off the To Do list for Feb, but I think I’m justified in doing that this month because the Extras more than made up for them. This is why I say my lists and outlines and plans aren’t cast in stone because sometimes life takes over. I was disappointed not to meet the Heritage competition deadline, but I think I’d rather submit to them in the usual fashion anyway.

>Five years?!

>Happy Blogaversary to me,
Happy Blogaversary to me,
Happy Blogaversary, Happy Blogaversary,
Happy Blogaversery to me.

I can hardly believe it, particularly as it started as just a whim and I thought the fad would last, at best, 3 months. But here is my very first blog all those years ago.

So, what to do to celebrate? What to give away? What criteria to win?

The “prize”
Well, 2 weeks ago I published my first novel via Print on Demand. I’m not sure yet I’m going to continue down this route and I gave the book one last push at mainstream publishing before making my final decision.

I also still have galleys to check (the book lost some of its chapter formatting during publication and I need to iron that out), and, of course, there’s the small matter of the illegal dust jacket. I DO have an alternative artist lined up and this version WILL NOT be available for sale. However, I will give away one copy of this illegal, first edition, limited copy of Night Crawler.

Feels like a bit of a booby prize, actually … :o)

The blurb
It is Easter 1996, and a young, homosexual junkie has been murdered. His boyfriend is arrested and charged. Marcie Craig, local DJ and good friend of the prime suspect, knows he didn’t do it and sets out to find out who did. Along the way Marcie is beaten up, another friend is murdered, and another is questioned until, in the end, Marcie’s own life is threatened.

The criteria
All you have to do is leave a comment to this post, saying “happy blogaversary” and why you came/come along to the blog today/every day. BUT PLEASE REMEMBER TO LEAVE A NAME. Even if you choose “anonymous”, please put your name at the bottom, either your real name or one that I may know you by. IF YOU DON’T LEAVE A NAME I CAN’T PUT IT IN THE HAT.

I’ll put all the names in a hat, and draw the winning entry – so I’ll need a snail mail address if you win (but not yet), OR if the winner prefers, I can send an electronic version of the book via email. Please state which you would like with your comment/entry.

The closing date
I’m going to leave this “competition” open for 2 weeks, to catch anyone that’s on holiday or can’t get online, and to give me time to get a decent copy of the book in the post to me here that I can send out to the “winner”. (Ooh, all these substantial words feel very odd – competition, prize, winner, etc. I’m feeling very pompous.) So the closing date is Thursday 11 March 2010.

I had quite a busy day yesterday with all the articles finally coming in for the magazine (aside from the ones my boss is doing and another late one that should be here by Friday). I also had a session with the Smoggie snapper/deputy editor. He’s done some mugshots for the dust jacket of the book, but some of them are so good I may have to use them as my profile pictures elsewhere too.

Last night I should have gone to a Help for Heroes concert, but I was so busy and quite tired, by the time I finished working I dropped straight into bed for an early night.

It’s going to be another busy one today, even though I’m at home. I’m feeling quite a bit overwhelmed at the moment, so this is when I do a To Do list for today. Here’s what I’d like to get through today:

  • launch 5 year blog contest
  • do an hour on the gig list for March
  • write #1 of Worsbrough Mill
  • tidy kitchen
  • write #2 of Catch the Rainbow Ch1
  • send a reader’s letter to Slimming World
  • prepare submission package for Country Walking
  • check the bank (pay day today) and balance books
  • go to the library
  • hair appointment
  • read

Look, see, it’s not so bad when you write it out like that … although there are a couple of biggies on there. I’ve already had my Facebook fix.

>Busy week

>It’s a busy week for me this week, but I suppose that’ll teach me to take a holiday in the middle of production, no matter how short.

Day job
I have around 4 articles to knock into shape today and Friday so that they’re ready for my boss to translate when he returns to work on Monday. I’ve just done my 3rd draft running order and it seems there are at least 2 he has to let me have next week – I think he was working on them while on holiday himself. Plus there’s a regular one he ghosts every issue I’m still waiting for.

There are also loads and loads of photographs to sift through from a VIP visit we had the week before last for our back page – and we were relying on this one to fill any extra spaces we had inside the magazine too due to 3 articles getting pulled after deadline, but I don’t think we’ll need it.

The website has had all the attention it’ll probably get for this month and the department brochures have been put on hold pending various decisions that are currently taking place.

There’s a competition entry due in on Friday which I’ve known about for ages but other things got in the way. It now looks like it’s going to be a push to get it in, but I keep telling myself it’s only 500 words … They have to be good words, though, and hopefully a good enough subject. I’ve done the outline, it’s only 500 words …

I picked up 3 new magazines yesterday to research: Yorkshire Life, Yorkshire Ridings Magazine and Country Walking. I also have a reader’s letter in mind for Slimming World Magazine. Plus I’m researching Heritage, the one I’m submitting the competition entry to on Friday … said she hopefully. AND I have this month’s writing magazines to read.

On top of this, I want to write draft 2 of chapter 1 of Catch the Rainbow. Plus there’s the work on Voices from the Dearne Valley we all already know about.

Today a book arrived from Amazon, The Freelance Photographer’s Market Handbook 2010. This book lists lots of outlets for photography, but it also lists the writing requirements and many fees of the same magazine and newspaper markets.

Gig list
It’s March next week so that means I’ve started work on updating the gig list. I’m supposed to be going to a Help for Heroes charity gig tonight but I really don’t think I’ll have either the time or the energy. I shall feel very guilty about that for weeks.

Tomorrow will be 5 years to the day since I first joined Blogger. I may have to do a giveaway, but I’m waiting to see the quality of Night Crawler before making up my mind.

>Solihull –> Barnsley + pictures

>I made the journey in record time, left Mom’s and Dad’s at 10:30am and was home by 12:15pm. I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever done it. The weather was kind, although there was snow lying in places as I got further north, the traffic was even better, and I got home in time to chill a while before work today.

So, back to the old grindstone. Today I’m back at the office and in mad production on the magazine as 3 x 4-page articles were pulled and we’ve had to replace them post-deadline and work on some of them ourselves.

I also need to crack on with Voices from the Dearne Valley. The deadline is looming, I know I have to do it, you know I have to do it, so we’ll just have to take it as read that that’s what I’ll be concentrating on over the coming weeks. I also have a new proposal I want to submit at the same time. Plus there are various chapters in 2 novels to be working on, the competition entry that’s due in this Friday, and everything else still on my To Do list for February.

Because I’m quite busy now I’ll leave you with a very small selection of pictures from the weekend. (I’m keeping others in case of publication).

Here is our hotel, the Fishguard Bay Hotel:

I always find a boat wherever I go, even in the inland bits:

Fishguard has 3 mosaics depicting various parts of the town’s history. Here is a detail from just one of them. It shows part of the last ever invasion of Britain in 1797:

I dropped on lucky with these cottages above Lower Fishguard. I can see this picture getting a lot of use:

And, as usual, to prove I was there and to give perspective, here I am with the standing stone circle above the harbour. I’m 5′ 4″, the stone to my left is about an inch taller than me, the one to my right is about 6″ taller:


>Fishguard –> Solihull

>We awoke on Sunday to glorious sunshine and everyone a lot more relaxed and less shy than we’d been at the start. With the last 2 sessions we could read our work out and get decent feedback. I had a really fun and useful time but it was time to go, exchange contact details and say goodbye.

It was lovely to see everyone, old friends and new, but it was especially nice when me and the LSO actually recognised each other after something like 15 years or more. (Hands up everyone that also knows the LSO …)

And, oh, what a difference a different day makes. The weather was glorious, the drive to my parents’ was a dream. I made it in 4 hours flat.

Last night was mostly resting and relaxing as I have a bloodshot eye – probably from the strain of driving a long way in snow on Thursday – but I have the last leg to do today and there are rumours of more snow between there and here.

>Fishguard day 3

>There were lots more visitors in the dining room at breakfast time yesterday, so we didn’t have time to look outside at the view or the weather. We didn’t get served at table either and had to go and collect our breakfast. I was most disappointed that there were no mushrooms this time, but everything else was fine.

My breakfast buddy yesterday was Lynne Hackles and it was great to catch up on old times, on latest news, and have a good old gossip about mutual acquaintances and friends.

With a busy schedule – we had 4 workshops – I didn’t have time to “escape” as time between sessions was spent relaxing and chatting with the others. We are 8 in our group and it’s quite interesting to hear how others are working, or not as the case may be, and it made me realise what I miss about being in a writers’ group. I think the feedback and group brainstorming is really useful.

So we worked on setting and character and conflict and in the final session got to do some writing. I should have written chapter 1 to submit ahead of the course, but I decided to send in the prologue instead. That meant that my first scene yesterday was actually chapter 1. It’s only 800 words at the moment and it needs to be 2,000, but I look on the first draft (of anything I can’t do in my sleep) as assembling the skeleton. Later drafts are used to hang flesh and blood on the bones, then the final drafts are for editing, honing and polishing. The main thing is, I got something written.

I found out yesterday that I was in the presence of a “BM”. (Thank you, Carol.) I wonder how many people also know who I mean …

Today we only have 2 more sessions, plus my own one-to-one with the tutor. Our tutor often comes to Rotherham and we’ve said we’ll have to meet up and “do lunch” next time she’s up. After lunch today we say goodbye and I’ll head back to Birmingham for the night.

I’m feeling very fat with all this good food and sitting around.

>Fishguard day 2

>The day dawned bright with a terrific sunrise, but while we had breakfast, a sea hoar drifted in. When the mist lifted, it was snowing. Then the snow turned to heavy rain before the breeze blew the weather inland. The sun strained throughout the rest of the day, but didn’t quite make it back again. Later I found out we’d also had hail. We were told if we look out the window and don’t like the look of the weather, not to worry, it’ll be doing something else in five minutes. Welcome to Pembrokeshire.

I had a hearty breakfast, fruit juice, full Welsh cooked (bacon, sausage, fried egg, best mushrooms I’ve ever tasted, declined the tomato), and a bowl of cereal. Then I rather stupidly said I’d walk into Fishguard – we can see the upper town from the hotel. I wandered around Goodwick (where the hotel is situated) first before going gung-ho up the hill … that hill almost killed me. By the time I reached the top I was ready to catch a bus back. But I stayed and became a tourist for a few hours and took lots of photographs.

I caught my breath in a little café where before I’d even sat down a complete stranger, also a customer so not even the hired turn, burst out laughing and told me I had to listen to this poem he’d just read in the newspaper. Then he proceeded to read it, and read it, and read it … and finally gave up, saying there were 6 more verses. He left soon after and I was able to enjoy my bara brith (Welsh fruit tea bread) in relative peace … until a handbag at the next table suddenly announced in a patronising voice: “Take the next left …”. The handbag’s owner had left her sat-nav switched on.

My little mementoes this trip are 2 slate coasters with a different Celtic design on each, a mood ring that changes colour in front of your eyes (it’s currently amber – nervous, unsettled, cool), and one of Alison Chisholm’s books. I spent the grand total of £6.

According to my pedometer, I walked 12,979 steps, burned 389 calories (is that all?), and covered 7.78km (apx 4.8miles). I’m quite happy with that, although I’m disappointed the hill almost did me in. I should be fitter than that.

While sifting through my Worsbrough Mill material, I stumbled upon 2 booklets of walks in and around Barnsley, starting at 3 miles and working up to 7 miles. So I’ve scheduled in about 3 per month over the coming weeks – the main reason I’ve not made it on my other walks is because they’re so far away I’ve not been able to justify the petrol money. Walking in Barnsley shouldn’t really break the bank before I even get there.

Back at the hotel I chilled, took time out, read for a while, rested a while, and got ready for the 6:30pm evening reception and official start to the writing weekend. I couldn’t manage all of my tea – plaice followed by apple and rhubarb crumble – I’ll be fatter than a pig by the time I get home.

We met our tutors, had a chat, got given homework. At 9:30 this morning we have our first session.

>Fishguard day 1

>I drove through fog, drizzle, rain, sleet and even snow to get here yesterday, but once I emerged from Swansea into Pembrokeshire, the clouds broke and glorious evening sunshine accompanied me the rest of the way. The snow was a nightmare, they were driving far too fast on the M5, and I almost turned around and went home to Mom and Dad. Not the best of journeys but I’m glad I persevered.

It was lovely to catch up with Alison Chisholm again, who I’ve not really seen since I stopped working for Writers’ News, and her husband Malcolm, who I first met more than 10 years ago when Alison did a poetry workshop for Birmingham Writers’ Workshop. It was nice to meet Kate Walker at last, and fellow local history writer Stephen Wade. Lynne Hackles hadn’t arrived yet, but I can’t wait to see her later today. And it was good to meet The organisers, Gerry and Anne.

We had a lovely slap up meal – I had cod mornay followed by banana melba – and I ate with 2 ladies that are here for the painting workshop.

The trouble arrived when I tried to connect to the internet. My laptop could see it, I fed in the key, but it just doesn’t want to play. I’m going to try again at various intervals, but I can see me composing my daily postings on Word and uploading them from memory stick. I’m currently squatting on Gerry’s laptop (and writing this last night before bed). He very kindly said I can use his laptop and upload from the memory stick, or take as long as I need and do whatever I need to.

Incidentally, if anyone wants to come to Caerleon this year, or Fishguard next year, if you book and mention my name or this blog you’ll get a £10 discount and so will I. So do follow the link and have a look around.

Last night back in my room, I flicked through the magazine running this current competition, did some brush up work on my chosen subject, and roughed up an outline. Today I can explore all day until we reconvene at 6:30pm – it looks like it might be a nice day so I’ll take my camera – and at some point I want to write draft 1 of the competition entry. At only 500 words maximum, it shouldn’t encroach too much on my novel work. I’ll also be thinking about whatever I decide to write on Fishguard.

>Barnsley –> Solihull –> Fishguard

> Today I leave Barnsley at about 10am to drive for 2 hours and 100 miles down the M1 and M42 to my parents’ in Solihull, near Birmingham.

I’ll drop the cats off, have something to eat, then get back onto the M42 and M4 for 4 hours and 220 miles to Fishguard in Wales.

I should get there at about tea time. When I do I’ll explore a bit and hope to have a nice evening meal.

I have no idea what time the weekend starts tomorrow, but I’m hoping to have the whole day free. Thanks to yesterday’s royalty payment, I also have spending money.

The map came from here.