Remember, remember the 5th of November

Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot!

Ah, Bonfire Night. The evening where we all gather round fires and set off fireworks to celebrate the failure of what I guess would nowadays be termed an attempted act of terrorism. With the increasing popularity of Halloween, I fear that Bonfire Night is becoming rather overshadowed. But then again, judging by the barrage of explosions currently echoing around the valley, it would seem that in my part of Yorkshire at least the tradition is still going strong.

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The most famous of the Gunpowder plotters was a Yorkshire lad. Guy Fawkes was educated at St Peter’s School in York. Although the school has its own fireworks display every year, it never puts a Guy on the bonfire. Well, I guess it would be considered rather bad form to burn an effigy of an alumnus!

However, elsewhere in the country, there have been pretty impressive Guys created, including one of Donald Trump in his underpants. Got to love a bit of political comment on Bonfire Night!

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This year I attended my local firework display where I learnt that however stunning the fireworks are in the air, they nevertheless look pretty rubbish when I attempt to take a picture of them. You’ll have to take my word for it that it was spectacular and well worth the hour and a half we spent standing around in the cold.

Now that Bonfire Night is nearly done, I guess the countdown is on to the next big event of the year….Christmas? Oh yes, well there’s that of course. But before that is the 15th December, otherwise known as Publication Day of my book ‘Who Does He Think He Is?’ Exciting times!

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Murder mystery mayhem!

 

It’s nearly Halloween so it seems appropriate to have a bit of a gory theme to my blog this week. As you may know I’m a big fan of murder mysteries, and enjoy writing them myself. But what you may not know is that I also enjoying trying to solve mysteries. For the past few years my friends and I have  been going on murder mystery weekend breaks run by the fabulous Joy Swift. They take place in lovely country house  hotels across the country. From Friday night to Sunday morning we become detectives, working to solve dastardly deeds and catch cunning criminals. 

Basically among all the guests will be around 10 actors. They’re in character for the whole time and over the course of the weekend they’ll have huge arguments, catch each other in compromising positions and ultimately at least three of them will end up ‘dead’. Fear not, no actual murders take place! It’s then the task of guests such as ourselves to piece together the clues, crack codes, question suspects and come up with our solution. In between all the sleuthing there’s also lot of extra fun and games with quizzes, charades and a fancy dress disco. 


The mysteries certainly give the old brain cells a workout, and for the duration of the weekend, you end up forgetting what’s going on in the rest of the world. 

The company is celebrating its 35th anniversary this weekend, so happy birthday to all the team, and here’s to many more mysteries to get us sleuthing! 

One should always have something sensational to read on the train

As the nights draw in and the weather gets increasingly grim, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s thinking wistfully about my summer holiday.

At the beginning of September I packed my Greek dictionary, and set off for a little bit of island hopping with friends. We went to Crete and Santorini and had lots of adventures along the way. From being trampled by a herd of donkeys in Santorini to discovering quite possibly the best ice-cream shop in the world in Rethymno, Crete, I chronicled it all in my holiday journal.

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When I was little, my parents encouraged me to write a holiday diary and I’m so glad they started what has turned into a lifelong habit. I love that I have a collection of diaries spanning all my travels since I was about 14-years-old. When I read back through my travel journals, I am instantly transported back to the holiday and find myself recalling little details that I would otherwise have forgotten. And when I’m searching for ideas, sometimes a little incident from a holiday can spark the plot for a short story or even a book.

I think the character Gwendolyn Fairfax in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest sums up for me why a diary is a good idea. As she says, “One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”

Keep on running

This time last week I was running the Yorkshire 10 Mile to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. It was one of those things that you sign up for thinking “10 miles, how hard can it be?” and then when you’re actually pounding the streets, you realise, “Oh yeah, actually quite hard!”

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I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as a sporty person. In fact when I was at school, PE was my least favourite subject. On one memorable occasion, instead of watching the school tennis tournament, I sat and sneakily read my book! However, a few years ago at work a group of colleagues decided to do the Race for Life 10k together. After my first gasping training run, where I wheezed my way to the end of the lane and back again, somehow the running bug bit me. I was the only one of my colleagues to actually follow through and do the 10k, and since then I’ve done quite a few running challenges.

Without wishing to sound completely anti-social, one of the things I love about running is that it provides me with some vital thinking time by myself. As I run along, my mind is often busy mulling over ideas for my next book and working out niggly plot details. And as I have in a rush of enthusiasm signed up to do the Yorkshire Marathon in 2017 (gulp) the training runs will provide me with plenty of plotting time. Watch this space…

This just about covers it!

This week has been very exciting because the cover of my book ‘Who Does He Think He Is?‘ has been revealed to the world. In fact if you take a little peek below, that’s it there:
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So how did the cover come about? My publisher Crooked Cat really encouraged me to be part of the process which was brilliant. We talked a lot about how to make it bright and tempting to readers. I am very appreciative of how they were incredibly tolerant of the child-like sketches I sent them of some of my ideas. (Actually, most children can probably draw a lot better than me!)

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Early cutting and sticking job!

The sketches then graduated into some cutting out and sticking of pictures. I did a bit of brainstorming on a train journey to come up with the tagline, and then the marvellous Laurence from Crooked Cat worked his magic and produced the cover.

 

What do you think? I am so thrilled with it. Suddenly the book seems even more real and I can’t wait for 15th December when it is released….

Paws for thought

Oh heck, it’s autumn! In the last couple of days I’ve found myself digging out jumpers, zipping on boots and even contemplating putting the heating on.img_2565

But while I’m fighting the urge to hibernate, my dog is loving the change of seasons. Admittedly Humph loves all times of the year, but I think he’s particularly fond of autumn, judging by the way he dives into piles of leaves and drags me into the mud as he investigates all manner of interesting smells. He is the definition of exuberance, and his joy is contagious.

I can’t imagine life without a dog. After all, I was only 9 months old when my family got our first dog. So, it was only natural that dogs had to feature in my first book, ‘Who Does He Think He Is?‘ The heroine Aurelia has two dogs (lucky her!) called Morecambe and Wise who get into all kinds of scrapes. Like their namesakes, they take their role as entertainers very seriously. Aurelia may despair at their ability to drag her into embarrassing situations, but like me, she wouldn’t be without her doggy companions.
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And speaking of doggy companions, mine is looking at me with pleading brown eyes. I think it may be time for a W-A-L-K….

 

 

 

 

Writing, webinars and my 43 minute rule

I don’t know about you but sometimes it feels like there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done that I need to do. I fit my fiction writing around my day job as a journalist. Actually, to be honest calling it a day job is rather misleading. As a colleague once said to me, journalism is more of a lifestyle choice than just a job. When news is breaking, things like lunch breaks tend to go out of the window! I love the excitement and variety of my job, but it can be difficult to fit stuff around it sometimes.

I was therefore curious to find out how other people manage to juggle writing and other work. This week I attended an online seminar run by my publisher Crooked Cat where a group of authors discussed our writing methods. It was interesting to hear what works for different people. Some people swear by the daily word target, but I’ve found that works for me is a little technique I’ve called the ’43 minute rule’ which I thought I’d share with you too.img_2552
I’m a big fan of Netflix (bear with me here, you’ll understand the relevance in a second!) Specifically I enjoy watching TV shows of the American cop variety. You know the sort – White Collar, How to Get Away With Murder etc etc. I find it’s all too easy to sit down on an evening and indulge in an episode or two. I realised that if I could sit and watch an episode of something on Netflix which normally lasts around 43 minutes, then I clearly did have a little bit of spare time.
I decided to ditch the 43 minutes of Netflix watching, and spend that time writing instead. I find if I turn my wifi off, put my phone on silent and really concentrate for 43 minutes, I can get a fair bit of writing done. And more often than not, I’ll get really into my story and carry on scribbling away even when the 43 minutes are up. So there you go, that’s my little ’43 minute rule’.
And before you ask, I haven’t ditched the Netflix altogether…img_1570