Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Making Changes - An Advent Calendar Full of Stories

Well, we hope that those of you who have been following our blog or indeed have bought and read the book have enjoyed all of our stories. I'm sure you'll agree that they're timeless and not just for Christmas. I'm afraid that's all for this year.
But Bridge House has other plans. There'll be an audio version of this next year and a brand new collection for 2009. Alongside it will appear a similar publication for children. And for after Christmas, our longer slightly darker stories.
But you won't have to wait that long. We have new anthologies coming out in the spring, summer and autumn.
So readers, stay tuned and writers get writing.
We hope you've all had as much fun with this one as we have.
Bridge House and all of its authors wish all of their readers a very merry Christmas and all the best for 2009.

24 December, Advent 24, Gill James, Mantek's Journey

Two days later we set off at dusk. The star shone brightly even then. We planned to travel mainly by night, so that we could always see the star. I believe it was actually so bright we would have still been able to see it during the day.
All went well at first. I was pleased that I had chosen the right horses. Each day we rode three and three carried our extra supplies. Archamid, the longest-serving of the Master’s other servants, accompanied us. The horses were well-behaved and strong. We made good progress, though I was not sure exactly where we were going. The Master talked to Archamid as though he were a friend and not a servant at all. They said little to me, and I was left to my own thoughts. But they didn’t treat me like a boy and they showed me every respect when they wanted to know about the animals. I was the expert then. I was allowed to do everything for the horses on my own. Except that the master always insisted in packing his own things. Every evening, I saw him place very carefully into his saddlebag. something wrapped in several pieces of cloth
We slept by day. It was warm then and we could get snug in our tents. I was much better cared for there than I was at home: the stable master always sleeps in the stables with the horses. Here, the horses were kept outside the tents and my tent was as fine as those of Archamid’s and the Master’s.
But on the third evening the trouble began.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

23 December, Advent 23, Jean Lyon, Before Twilight

It was that time of day before twilight when you can still see the colour of things, although the brightness is dimmed, a time when you might walk in the garden to check the growth of new carrots and wonder at the beauty of the magnolia, walk past the herbs and press a few leaves together to release their smell. It was the time just before the street lights at the end of the lane responded to the low light levels, opened their eyes and lit up the road for the motorists. Drivers need the street lighting so that they can get to where they were going in a hurry, she thought, but they miss so much. They miss the fading of the day, and the pleasure in that. It was early spring, before the clocks were moved forward to give the extra light in the evening. The weather was mild and the smell of freshness was in the air. All the people who lived in the village and worked a regular day had returned home by now, even those who worked in town, and so there was little traffic on the road as Betty left the house and walked towards the village.

Monday, 22 December 2008

22 December, Advent 22, Sarah Harris, A Present for St Nicholas

St Nicolas was tired. This time of year was always extremely busy but the older he got the quicker December seemed to arrive and the bigger the pile of presents seemed to become. The letters had been streaming in for weeks now and were in the process of being sorted. The 6th of December was looming. Mostly he looked forward to it. It was his big day, after all. The reason he existed as Pete, his assistant, kept pointing out. 'If only I had a day named after me,' he would grumble. 'Always doing things for other people and never getting noticed. But if it wasn't for me they'd all be getting the wrong parcels, the way you've been carrying on these last weeks.'
St Nicolas was usually able to cheer him up by promising him the pick of the presents and a slap-up meal at the end of it all, but this year was different. Pete was right. He seemed to have lost his touch, both with customers and colleagues. The trouble was he just couldn't get himself going. And there was so much work to do. Along with the dinosaurs and the dragons and the dolls that could dance, there were stacks of letters asking for Star Wars 6 or Harry Potter 7 and it all had to be compatible with Windows 3000. All these numbers and he never had been good at mathematics. It was making him feel positively dizzy. 'More post,' grinned Pete, as he dragged in another sack. St Nicolas' heart sank. He wondered what was wrong with him. He hoped he wasn't coming down with something. That would be most unfortunate.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

21 December, Advent 21, Rosemary Bach-Holzer, Sally and the Sign People

My name is Sally and I live by the sea.
It’s my home. And by the way, I’m a seagull. Although, science bit coming up... are you concentrating? What do you mean, no! Tough. Here it comes. Officially there is no such thing as a seagull. It’s a commonly used name to describe all the different types of gulls who live near the sea. Lesson over.
Where am I supposed to live? London? And catch the tube every morning while carrying my little briefcase under one wing. Or, perhaps I should move to the North Pole? Be a bit cold with only my feathers to keep me warm.
Do I sound a little angry? That’s probably because I am.
It all began the other day. I was on the seafront waiting for Mrs. Harris and her sardine sandwiches. My favourite! They were meant for me. Mrs. Harris had made that very plain.
“Come here my feathered friends,” she called out. “Let’s be having you.”

Saturday, 20 December 2008

20 December, Advent 20, Wendy Busby, No Smoking Please

‘You still serious about giving up then?’
Steve looks across at his colleague who is silently releasing wisps of grey smoke through his nostrils.
‘I don’t really think I have a choice Barry, the wife’s been ranting on for ages about my smoking contaminating the children’s lungs’
‘You smoke around your kids?’ asks Barry astonished
‘My missus wouldn’t let me get away with that, I’m not even allowed to smoke in the garden!’
Steve smiles at Barry who has just lit up his second cigarette in 15 minutes.
‘It was different before we started a family, Stephanie never seemed my cigarette butts or the smell, but now she’s like a lioness protecting her cubs’.

Friday, 19 December 2008

19 December, Advent 19, Linda Lewis, First Impressions

The roads narrowed. Trees were replaced by tall dark hedges.Tricia’s unease grew. Even the landscape was strange. She had no idea how different it would be. She’d been to Devon many times as a child, but they’d always stayed near the sea, never venturing more than a few miles inland. She glanced across at James. He looked as relaxed and happy as she was tense.
“We’re here,” he said at last as with practised ease he swung the car into a wide drive. “Come on, we can fetch the luggage later.”
She stepped cautiously out of the car and gazed up at the house. Several wide steps led up to an imposing front door. It looked enormous, easily twice the size of her parents’ terraced house in West London. She took a deep breath. Even the air smelled different.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

18 December, Advent 18, Yvonne Walus, Murder in the Air

“Belinda, are you all right?”
Belinda flinched, but she kept her on-the-job smile on as she turned to face one of the other girls. “Sure, Cathy. Why do you ask?”
“You look flushed, darling. Does it have anything to do with that passenger you are seeing? You know, the one who travels first class with us from Bangkok every week?”
“I’m not seeing anybody,” Belinda could feel the heat in her cheeks. “I’m engaged, remember?” She held up her hand so that Cathy could look at her ring. If you didn’t know, you might think the diamond was real. “Whatever made you think -”
“Don’t worry, Bel. I won’t tell a soul.”
“Won’t tell what?”
“That I saw the two of you together yesterday. In the centre of the Patpong red light district? Whispering like a pair of lovers -”
“Someone’s calling you,” interrupted Belinda. She felt dizzy. Damn Cathy all the way to hell! What was she doing in that part of town, anyway? There was nothing but sleaze in Patpong: no jewellery shops, no interesting temples.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

17 December, Advent 17, Linda Lewis, The Blue List

I turned the piece of bright blue paper over in my hand. It was last years’ resolutions made in an after midnight haze. Most of them made sense, but help an old lady with her shopping? I had no idea where that one came from.
I had achieved none of them. I managed without a cigarette for exactly one hour. A year on and I was still eating the same diet of pizzas, burgers and take aways, still a slave to the one eyed God as I called the TV.
I found the list as I rummaged in a drawer looking for a piece of paper on which to scribble this year’s resolutions. All at once, there didn’t seem to be much point.
I was nearly thirty. Still on my own, living in an easy to care for flat, conveniently situated ten minutes from work and five minutes from a fish and chip shop. Worst of all, I still had no steady girl in my life.

Monday, 15 December 2008

16 December, Advent 16, Oscar Peebles, Toast and Jam

Great Granny’s eyes were a marvel. I don’t mean to make fun. I adored her, and still do. But as kids, it was great fun. We’d creep to halfway down the stairs each morning, and watch through the banister rails as she groped her way to the kitchen sink where she’d left her eyeballs soaking overnight in a jam jar. She’d take them out, shake them off, then pop them in. Then she’d turn around, and that was the fun part.
Granny’s glass eyeballs could be anywhichway in! One up, one down: crossed: both pointing the same way. It was a hoot.
Strangely though, once she’d put her eyes back in her face, it was as if she could see. She couldn’t of course. But I guess it was psychosomatic stuff, a sort of optical delusion.
Great Grandpa was all right too. A tall, gangly, scrawny man with a thin reedy voice … mostly dozing in his deckchair in the shade, or in his armchair beside the fire.
When we kids came to sit with him for a breather between games, he’d come alive and begin to tell us tales. But he was so slow. It was months between each word. We got fed up, or slumped down waiting, so the story lost all connection or interest. Half way through it, we’d either have gone to sleep, or gone off to play again, and Grandpa would lapse back into comatose.
It was Granny who told us his stories, sitting around that big old wooden table in the middle of the kitchen each morning … her eyes in all sorts of positions. It was spooky sometimes. It was always toast and jam for breakfast.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

15 December, Advent 15, Linda Lewis, Please Don't Call Me Herbie

This isn’t one of those clever stories with a twist ending, so I’ll come clean straightaway.
My name’s Gertie and I’m a car; an old Volkswagen Beetle to be precise. And before you jump to any conclusions, any resemblance to a certain Herbie, otherwise known as the Love Bug, is purely coincidental.
Unlike him, I can’t fly, or swim underwater, or do lots of clever tricks, but we do have one thing in common; owners who need a push start with their love lives. Take mine. Susan had been on her own for three years, ever since Patrick passed away.
I was his pride and joy, which explains why Susan didn’t want to part with me even though I’m not in the first flush of youth. It didn’t even cross her mind to get a new car, at least it hadn’t until six weeks ago. Now, it’s all changed. She’s met a man, thinks she likes him because he’s so very different from Patrick. I’m worried in case it gets serious.
Don’t misunderstand me. I want Susan to be happy. She’s only forty-four, she deserves to have a man in her life, so long as it isn’t this one.

14 December, Advent 14, Michael O'Connor, Slight Expectations

Some small flying creature brushed against his face and he waved his hand to deter it from landing on him. Suddenly, he felt lonely and helpless: a writer who could not see to write any more, standing in the graveyard where ‘Great Expectations’ had begun, with no expectations, great or otherwise, left to him anymore. ‘What would you do, Boz?’ he murmured aloud. ‘You never gave up. How can I imitate The Inimitable?’
There was a rustling of dry grass which he wasn’t sure could be attributed to the wind. ‘Is someone there?’ he asked. ‘Is that you, Jennifer?’ He knew it could not be her, for he would have heard the car return, but wanted to give the impression that he was not alone.
‘My apologies, sir,’ came an animated voice. ‘It was not my intention to disturb you. I come here sometimes to relive my past, but there is rarely anyone else present.’
Arthur turned to face the direction the voice came from. ‘That’s all right,’ he said, affecting an air of bonhomie. ‘It’s a free country.’

Saturday, 13 December 2008

13 December, Advent 13, Joyce Hicks, The Keeper's Keeper

AS TOM walked along the pathway for the last time that day, he was certain Rita would be there. She’d become a regular fixture in Victoria Park of late, and always sat on one particular bench. A strange old dear, certainly, but always friendly.

Sixty-odd he guessed, and overweight, she usually had a roll-up in one hand and a small bottle of mineral water in the other. At least, the bottle would originally have contained water. These days, Tom suspected, it was almost certainly neat gin or vodka. The most outrageous makeup (almost theatrical, Tom felt), and violent red hair with grey showing at the roots, meant Rita could never be overlooked, or ignored. Where, or how, she lived was anyone’s guess. She never discussed it.

“Isn’t it time you were going home, Rita?” he called out as he drew level. “You’ll freeze to death if you sit there much longer.”

“Impossible, dear,” she answered. “And as for ‘home’, don’t make me laugh!”

Friday, 12 December 2008

The London Do 6 December 2008

12 December, Advent 12, Noreen Wainwright, Choices

“If you don’t mind just taking a seat for a few minutes, someone will come to you. They’re expecting you. Would you like a coffee?”
Joe returned the receptionist’s smile and shook his head. “No, I’ll be fine thanks; I had a drink in town before I got here.” He sat on the edge of the comfortable seat in the foyer, and tried desperately to relax. It took a conscious effort to stop fiddling with his cuffs, his watch, his mobile; and sitting still didn’t come naturally - he was a fidget at the best of times. He wore a dark warm and expensive jacket, fairly new black jeans and the grey jumper Jackie had bought him for his birthday.
“It’s got cashmere in it,” she had told him, her eyes shining, her expression eager to please, and loving.
I’m a lucky, lucky man, thought Joe.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

11 December, Avent 1, Moving Magic, Nurgish Watkins

‘Hold it right there,’ she shouted. Like we were going anywhere, we were too shocked to move.
Within fifteen minutes we were at school and Mr Kemp, our headmaster, decided I should go home with Mum for the rest of the day, which seemed a pretty harsh punishment for half an hour up the town.
‘Have you done that before?’ Mum asked on the drive home. Her mouth was such a tight line she could barely get the words out.
She didn’t seem to take much notice of my answer for she said. ‘I’m glad we’re moving. That Frankie Mason is a bad influence on you,’ which was an unforgivable thing to say and I really hated her then.
Back home in my bedroom I slumped on my bed staring at the stars that Dad and I had carefully stencilled on the ceiling. I squashed my face into my pillow and howled. I’d never felt so miserable. Suddenly I heard my name being called, well shouted actually.
‘Lucy! Lucy, would you shut your noise?’

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

What inspired you to write "Dancing Man"?

I based the Dancing Man on a real-life character who resides in North Wales. I won’t say any more than that! I suppose Graham has elements of me in him (I was a journalist), but I’m pleased to report that my life is happier than his.

What other material do your normally write?

I like doing horror and spooky stories, though I also like contemporary stories such as Dancing Man that try to get under the skin of everyday life. There’s more to life than what we see and hear every day – I like taking that “ordinary” and expanding on it a little.

What made you become a writer?

In primary school at the start of every term we would be asked by the teacher to write a story. Most of the kids wrote about what they did during the holidays. I wrote fiction stories about haunted castles and the like. I used to draw a lot, and then I seemed to realise I was quite good at painting with words.

Which writers do you admire?

I have to be honest and say I’m not a huge fan of the literary style. You have to enjoy reading to do it, and if I’m finding each turn of the page a struggle I tend to put it down after a while and not return to it. I always liked Stephen King but haven’t read him for some time now. I like crime novels but I’m not a fan of series, which seem to be all the rage. I grew up reading George Orwell.

Tell us something about your writing routine.

This’ll be quick – I don’t have a writing routine! Or maybe I do…It starts with a blank word processor page. Then it breaks off for coffee, then a quick look at the BBC website, then back to the blank word processor page, then maybe another coffee. Seriously, starting is the hardest part. The second hardest part comes about halfway through, when you realise what you’re writing is not what you set out to write. I’m learning to go with it, because that’s what rewrites are for.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?

No, but I’d like one so I can develop a writing routine! I’ll have to cart the laptop around the house and experiment, to see where I do my best stuff.

10 December, Advent 10, Phillip Dean Thomas, Dancing Man

The Dancing Man was performing on the pavement at the side of the road. He had the windowless wall of the social club behind him, and in front, across the road, a grassy slope which led away to a low cliff and a restless sea. Graham parked some distance away and watched him for a few moments. A driver tooted. Graham watched to see if the Dancing Man reacted to this, but wasn’t surprised to see he didn’t.
For his first approach, Graham decided to keep his notebook hidden. God knows if he’d get any sense out of him anyway. He’d asked the police about him and they claimed they didn’t know anything. Even his sources were no use. Their silence only made Graham more curious.
“Hi,” he said, standing on the pavement about twenty feet away.
The Dancing Man didn’t respond. His clothes were scruffy but in direct contrast, Graham noticed, were his shoes. They looked like new, gleaming in the sunlight.
“Fancy a chat?” Graham asked amiably.
There was no reply.
“How about a coffee? I’ll buy.”

Monday, 8 December 2008

9 December, Advent 9, Annie Bates, On the Feast of Stephen

But let me tell you about the workshop. For it is full of magic, like walking through a fairy tale or enchanted land. At least this is how it has always seemed to me: Glass is everywhere, shimmering and swaying, filling the room with light until it sparkles like sun dappled water on a mid summer’s day. Chandeliers, baubles, angels with outspread wings, all float in the air and cast their spells upon the animals and trinkets that nestle below amongst soft white tissue. Sometimes the light makes them ripple with life. It is as though they stretch and crane to see what he is doing. And sometimes they speak. Sometimes a gentle movement of air wakes them. And then eyes begin to glitter and to smile. “Tell us who we are.” They whisper. "Tell us."
Mother is shouting me to go down.
So now I must pull on my socks and tie up my heavy boots, for it is cold out and we have a long journey ahead of us. I must stand up and leave my room - for the last time. But before I do I take my special trinket out of my pocket and place it on the window ledge where I leave it to gather dust. I am not sure why I do this. Except I am angry. Inside I am angry and I am frightened.
I leave the room without looking back.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

8 December, Advent 8, Rebecca Holmes, Winter Blooms

Don’t hold with flowers in winter,’ Len grumbled when I told him what I’d been doing. ‘They aren’t natural. Winter’s a time for the earth to sleep. It’d be like us staying up all day and night, otherwise.’ He tapped his stick on the floor of the mobile library. ‘There should be no flowers till the first snowdrops.’
I could have pointed out the winter-flowering jasmine cascading over his garden wall, but I kept my mouth shut. He’d only say they didn’t count, or something along those lines.
I didn’t mind. I was used to Len, since meeting him on my first day on the ‘bookbus’, back in the summer. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks. My new job, that was, not meeting him. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t prefer travelling along winding country lanes, verges frothy with cow parsley, to being stuck in a dark building all day? I’d briefly been down similar lanes before, in the backs of cars, between foster homes. But that’s another story.
‘What’s up with your nose?’ His gruff voice that day had made me jump. Looking up, I saw opaque, almost milky, eyes magnified behind dark-rimmed glasses, a grizzled face complete with grey beard, and fingers that were stained, but not with nicotine or ink. ‘Had a fight with a stapler?’

7 December , Advent 7, Rosemary Gemmell, Midge and the Pony

The field where they played was really a big grassy waste ground that the village hadn't found any other use for. To get home, Midge had to walk up past a stream and round by the farmer's fields. He stopped as he always did at the field nearest to home. The two horses, both a chestnut brown colour, were grazing as usual. Midge stared at them longingly; that was what he really liked – horses. He had asked over and over if he could learn to ride, but his mum's answer was always the same.
"You know we can't afford something like riding lessons, Mark, since your dad died and anyway you're a bit small yet for even a pony you know." And she always finished with, "Wait till you're older and you might get a pony ride at the beach."
As Midge watched the smaller of the horses nuzzle the other one before they cantered off across the field, he longed to be on the back of one, riding off like the boy in a film he had seen on television. He was nine already and somehow he thought he was never going to get much taller.

Friday, 5 December 2008

6 December, Advent 6, Jennifer Robertson, Tricks of Firelight

“Look, the first star’s come out.” Antek had been clearing a small breathe-hole in the frost that iced up our one small window pane.
“The Watch Night star,” he said and scattered the traditional handful of straw over the log that we used as a table – we had no white cloth to put on top.
“Shepherds run to Bethlehem through the snow…” Antek tried to cheer us up with one of our beautiful Polish carols. I joined in, but Adam shook his head.
“It’s not safe!” he warned. “Those patrols are still out there. The slightest sound carries…”
“Adam’s right, it isn’t safe,” I told Antek. He stopped singing, too. “I suppose you’re right,” he agreed, “ and yet, the night’s so clear and frosty you can almost hear the stars sing.” He pulled on a tattered sheepskin coat and went outside.
He didn’t stay long. When he came in, stamping snow off his boots, we asked, “Well, did you hear the stars sing?”
“It was a hungry song,” Antek said, ruefully. “But I heard something else. Listen. Voices certainly carry.”
The tune was so, so familiar and so were the words. Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht… Silent night, holy night…
“They’re allowed to sing,” Adam said bitterly.

Submission Guidelines for Short Story Anthologies with Bridge House

General notes about our titles
Bridge House publishes books which are a little bit different. Making Changes gives you the flavour of what we are looking for. Each of the books listed below show working titles only. The title eventually comes from something in one of the stories.
12 Days of Christmas 2009
Thought-provoking stories 4,000 – 8,000 words long. See Making Changes “Jigsaw” and “Dancing Man” for guidance. 12 stories will be published.
Deadline: 30th June 2009 Publication November 2009
An Advent Calendar of Stories –children’s version 2009
These should be non-religious, thought-provoking, life affirming 1,000 – 3,000 see – Making Changes “Midge and the Pony” or “Toast and Jam” for guidance. 24 stories will be published. They should be suitable for junior school children. It should make a good assembly read.
Deadline 30th May 2009 Publication date November 2009
A suitcase full of stories – adult version 2009
Stories which will make you laugh or make you cry. 3,000 to 6,000 words. 15 stories will be published.
Deadline 31st January 2009 Publication May 2009

A suitcase full of stories – children’s version 2009
Adventure stories suitable for junior school children 2,000 to 4,000 words. 15 stories will be published.
Deadline 31st January 2009 Publication May 2009

Ghost Stories
Ghost stories, possibly true, 2,000 – 4,000, suitable for adults. These should be convincing and not gratuitous horror.
15 -25 stories will be published.
Deadline 31st March 2009 . Publication October 2009

Horror Stories
Stories suitable for teens and young adults. 2,000 – 4,000 words long. 15-25 will be published. Horror stories with a literary touch.
Deadline 31st March. Publication October 2009
Real Bible Stories
What was it actually like in those days? How did people see Jesus, or Noah? Most likely as really strange people. Tell it the way it was. See Making Changes “Ramini’s Eyes” and “Mantek’s Journey”. Aim for older KS2 and KS3. Also, Gill James on Author’s Den – “The First Pot Luck Supper”
Deadline 28th February Publication August 2009

Two sides to every story
Tell a well-known fairy story from the point of view of a lesser character or even the baddy. 3,000 – 6,000 .12-15 stories. Suitable for all ages.
Deadline March 31st Publication September 2009
Submission Process
Please email your submission to
• Your submission should be sent as a Word document attachment to you email.
• Use standard format: double-spaced, indent paragraphs, justified left, ragged right.
• House-style: double curly quotes for direct speech, italics for thoughts
• Please use a header and footer on your document. In the header, please put your name as you would like it to appear in the book, should we accept you, the full title of the story, the page number and the number of pages. Use the “view” function on Word. e.g.
Mantek’s Journey 2 of 17 Gill James
• In the footer, please put your full contact details and your name as you would like it to appear in the book, should your work be accepted. E.g
Gillian M. James, 43, The Crescent, Benton, Lancs M24 9BC, 0161 453 675,
• Please name your document the title of the story and your surname. You may shorten this if you wish; e.g.
Curious Incident Haddon.doc
• In the subject of the email, please put Submission for …. E.g.
Submission for Ghost Stories 2009
• In the body of the email, tell us a bit about yourself. This is just so that we get to know you and will not be used for anything. If you’re successful, you’ll be asked for a full bio later. No more than 200 words, please.

Decisions will be made within a few days of each submission deadline. However, we may reject your manuscript before that time if it is obviously unsuitable. Do try again.
If we hang on to your script for longer, this is a good sign. We may ask for revisions, sometimes substantial. Some scripts need less revision. Those are of course more attractive to us. This can lead to a later rejection of some scripts. In this case, we try to give you some feedback.
There were a lot of “almosts” for “Making Changes”. We hope those people will try for one of our other anthologies.
We offer a high royalty – it is in effect a 60% profit share pro rata. That’s the equivalent of a single author 15%, after first 100 books have been sold. Authors may also purchase books at 75% of retail price and may sell them on. They still get the profit share royalty on these.
We do not have a massive publicity budget – we market to the big guys and hope you will do the small stuff, but we’ll give you masses of help and pointers.
Everyone involved in our first anthology will probably agree it has all been great fun.

5 December, Advent 5, Linda Lewis, It's a Wonderful Life

“I can’t stand it any more. I’m going to jump off the nearest bridge.” Helen’s outburst got the response she’d half expected – nothing.
She looked round the room. The table bore the remnants of their meal, red, gold and green garlands criss crossed the walls. Dozens of cards covered the mantelpiece, but despite all the glitter, it didn’t feel Christmassy to her. Even the wonderful tree, festooned with tinsel and dozens of twinkling white lights didn’t lift her spirits. All Christmas meant to her was extra work.
As she cleared the table, her brother Bob looked up from the TV. “If you’re going to the kitchen, make us a coffee, will you, sis?”
“I’d rather have tea,” said his wife, Patty, “and the kids could do with some more lemonade.”
“I wouldn’t say no to a sherry,” added Helen’s mother.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Nott'm Writers at the Royal Concert Hall

Ian Douglas reports:
"Last night's event, organised by the Nott'm Writers was reasonably attended. I presented a snatch from the book along with five other writers and actors doing their presentations. Feedback recieved afterwards indicated the audience greatly enjoyed the snatch from 'The Croc at Coopers Rock'. I sold four books and donated one to the Writers Studio library.
The event was held at the Royal Concert Hall, with the Human League in the auditorium next door. Luckily their music didn't filter though to our event. Phew!"

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

4 December, Advent 4, A. J. Humphrey, I borrowed a Poltergeist

“If this place is practically deserted,” I mused as I perched on the end of the bed and pulled off my boots, “how come they stuck us in the smallest room in the place?”
“We only got what we paid for,” she replied from through the doorway into the en-suite. “Anyway, what are you complaining about? You could get the court of King Caractacus in this bathroom!”
Lucy was right. Although the bedroom was small and narrow, dominated by the sturdy double bed on which I was perching, the bathroom – inlaid with black and white mottled marble, with polished brass rails – was little short of palatial. I could almost imagine a movie star of yesteryear, draping herself becomingly in the magnificent stone bath. Lucy was plucking her eyebrows in front of the mirror, possibly aiming for something of that old sophisticated glamour herself. I was now down to bare feet and had abandoned my tie, letting it fall in a heap on the edge of the bed. At least, that’s what I thought I had done with it. When I looked again, not half a minute later, it was neatly folded and resting on my pillow.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

3 December, Advent 3, Ian Charles Douglas, "Cooper's Croc"

“What ya doing?”
The words caught Jana by surprise. She wheeled round. It was the Aboriginal boy, coming down from the guesthouse. Jana had seen him before, running errands for the landlady. Jana’s mother didn’t approve of her talking to the Aboriginal children. Still, Mum wasn’t there now.
“I’m waiting,” she said grandly.
“Waiting for what?” the boy asked, scratching his thick mop of hair.
“Waiting for Mum to come back. Waiting to go home to Sydney. Waiting for the world to end. Waiting-”
“Alright. I getcha Missy. Where’s your Ma?”
“At the Observatory, she’s important.” Jana was talking in her queenly voice.

Mum said she had a gift for it.

Monday, 1 December 2008

2 December, Advent 2, Sally Angell "Ramini's Eyes"

Uncle was leaning against a rock half way up the hillside. He didn’t seem surprised to see Ramani, and nodded quietly. His flock were roaming, or standing in the sheltered place. The shepherd boys, Aman and Rajive were sitting under a tree.
“Greetings Uncle. Greetings Rajive, Aman.”
Ramani knelt down by a small sheep that wasn’t standing up.
“Hello, little one,” she murmured.
The sheep was black and frizzy and not like the others. Ramani remembered helping with the birthing, back in the spring. She loved to see the tiny creatures fall out and wake up to life, and she never minded the blood and strange smells and the wetness. She had named this lamb Night, fed it with milk and took it home with her to keep it warm. Night had been so weak they didn’t think she would live. She was still much smaller than the others. Ramani held out her finger and the little sheep nuzzled it.
“Ramani, will you watch the flock. We are needed down in the village.” Uncle looked at her as if not wanting to frighten her. “A babe has died. They need all the men down there.”

Sunday, 30 November 2008

1 December, Advent 1, D A Hobbs-Wyatt, Jigsaw

"I haven’t seen Dad since that day but I know he is somewhere because everyone is somewhere.
I saw Grandad after he died. He died in Bognor Regis but he was born in Germany. He was struck by lightning when he was trying to fix the satellite dish.
Rule Number 1: Nothing totally disappears.
So I’ve been trying to find Dad. I’ve been thinking if we’d finished the jigsaw would there still have been a fire? That’s when I got the idea that if I could change one thing maybe Dad would still be here. But that means I have to figure out what really happened."
Did you enjoy that snippet? Read more in "Making Changes". Click the button on the right to order.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Our Media Presence

Pam Pottinger appeared in The Herald on 15th December.

Nurgish Watkins has been in the Thame Gazette - quote: "The pen is mightier than the sword in most cases, but for one Thame woman the pen is mightier than the scissors.'

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


14th November 2008

Last Friday there was a very successful event at the Museum in Bangor to launch Making Changes, an anthology of stories, three of which had been contributed by members of the Cellar Writers Group.
There were about 60 people in all, and we had a great time: lots of friends, lots of new friends, wine and fantastic cakes (from the cellar!), music and a lovely atmosphere. Everyone was a writer or was interested in writing.
Gill James (who used to be a member of this group herself), was both editor and publisher of the book, and she began by describing what had led her to call for submissions for the book; she received nearly 500 from all parts of the world from which to choose 24. Her own story, ‘Mantek’s Journey’, is the final one in the book.
Debz Hobb-Wyatt was the first reader. Her story, ‘Jigsaw’ opens the book and was the inspiration for its title and the book’s cover. Debz had also negotiated with Esther at the Museum, and told half of Gwynedd about the book!
Phil Thomas (who has been responsible for all the press coverage we have had) read the first part of his story, ‘Dancing Man’.
Jean Lyon concluded the readings with the first half of her story ‘Before Twilight’. She had arranged the catering.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Annie Bates

What inspired me to write this story?

As a child my mother used to say to me 'but of course that is only your story,' whenever I had a spat with my sister or brother. I guess it has grown from there. Now I read something or hear a tale and can't help wondering...these days we hear a lot of negative stuff about people coming into this country, taking our jobs, living off benefits. It's good for us to turn it round and ask the question - How do they feel?

What other material do you normally write?

Anything. I write all the time. On my computer, on little bits of paper when I'm out of the house, in my head when I'm busy with other things. Always fiction, for young people and adults. Recently I have written a poem about dating at sixty for a local writing group, a story about a heart-red balloon getting caught in a bush and have a longer project going with a working title of 'Girl in a Silver Dress' which is a story for all, young and old alike.

What inspired you to become a writer?

All sorts of things. Watching my father create pictures about things he cared about - he was an artist. A love of reading. When I was in primary school I read every single book in the school library by the time I was nine years old and the headmaster used to take me to the town library once a week to choose more books.

Which writers do you admire?

Too numerous to mention, but here are a few; Michael Morpurgo for the ability to write simplistically without losing integrity or emotional impact. David Almond for his clever stories that map the everyday lives of children with an almost mystical air. Jostein Gaarder, a philosopher who writes lovely stories...Phillip Pulman, Ann Fine, Margaret Atwood, Tracy Chevalier, Sebastian Faulkes.

Tell us somehting about your writing routine?

Not as regularly or as frequent as I would like. This is where writing in my head comes in handy; it can give one the air of being a little distracted or even 'dippy' as a friend of mine once described me, but it helps to satisfy the need to create stories.

Whaere is your favourite writing place?

In my dreams I have this little space dedicated to nothing other than writing. No one else is allowed in; it is reasonably tidy and has all the accoutrements of a well equipped office. It is sunny, warm has a lovely view...possibly from an attic window, overlooking a valley with a river, some deciduous woodland. In reality I write at a small table in a corner of my bedroom, sharing my computer with my three children. Today, as I write this the dog is sitting on my feet snoring, which keeps my feet warm but is a little distracting. Out of the window I can see several mature trees, birch, oak, beech. The autumn sun is painting the leaves golden.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Gill James

Gill is the one in red, waving her arms around.

What inspired you to write “Mantek’s Journey”?

I always try and write a story for Christmas time. I usually post this for free but with a Creative Commons copyright notice. It all came about because I received some very nice handmade cards form people who are artistically talented. Now, I’m more into writing. It seemed a bit pretentious, though, to send everybody a copy of my stories. But I did post them on my Author’s Den site and invited friends to read them. I decided to invite other people to do the same and “Making Changes” came about. I particularly like to unpick Bible stories and work out what it must have been like for the people living at the time. But not all of my Christmas stories are to do with the Christian celebration. Take a look at them on my Auhtor's Den site.

What other material do you normally write?

I write mainly for 9-11 year olds and for Young Adults, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m also experimenting with a bit of life writing. I love blogging. I hate writing marketing copy – I don’t have the patience. As I’m a university lecturer I also have to write academic articles. They’re quite difficult but not unpleasant. My real passion, I guess, is my Young Adult fiction.

What made you become a writer?

I always loved writing and I always had this vision of me being a writer. At one time I wanted to be the next Enid Blyton. Later, it was J K Rowling. It took me a long time to realize I could pursue that dream.
I used to be a teacher of foreign languages, mainly in comprehensive schools and took that as far as I could, having some success as Head of Department at a difficult school and getting better exam results and happier staff. Then I asked myself “What next?” A period at home with an ear problem gave me some time to get on with my writing. I loved it! So, that became the next thing to do.

Which writers do you admire?

Brooke Biaz, Maeve Binchy, Philip Pullman, Judy Waite, Tabitha Suzama, Aidan Chambers, Kate Atkinson, Charles Dickens, Emile Zola, Heinrich Böll, Beverly Birch, Jane Austen, Stephen King – oh and so many others. Anyone who can fascinate me and entertain me, or thrill me with their wonderful writing. Some of my students are great as are many of my unpublished friends. And of course, the other authors in “Making Changes” are absolutely fabulous. If anyone writes well enough that I stop editing their work, and get absorbed in what I’m reading, they’re winners with me.

Tell us something about your writing routine.

I try to write for at least two hours a day and I like to write at least 2,000 words or edit between 6, 000 and 10,000. And I’m always very happy if I have a deadline looming and have to write more. I do notice, though, that I really slow down after the first 2,000 words so the extra hours are often less productive. This morning, for example, I completed well over 2,000 words in one and a half hours then hardly anything in the last half hour.
For years, I’d do my writing first and then everything else started at about 10.30. Now, though, I’m full-time at the university and also have to commute and get on the car park by 8.30 or I don’t get a slot. Some of my university work is writing, anyway. Now, I do my writing at the end of the working day and funnily often have more than two hours available. Plus there is one research day a week and I like to get about six hours’ writing done on that day. However, often things encroach on research days and I’ve actually only managed two this semester.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?

Well, I’ve got a cosy study at home and I quite like my office at work. I do like to write straight on to the computer, but on the other hand I like the feel of holding a pen in my hand and touching the paper with my words. Trouble is, I can rarely read what I've written afterwards.
I can actually write anywhere, but keep myself away from windows with views – especially ones of busy streets – much too distracting.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Oscar Peebles

What inspired you to write Toast & Jam?

The advertisement Bridge House ran in Writers’ Forum magazine. All that was needed was a Christmas/Children’s flavour added to some thoughts that were going around in my head at the time, mixed with my usual metaphysical current, and Toast & Jam was born for a Christmas Pud of a story.

What other material do you normally write?

Inspirational stuff; Essays and comments, if something stirs me enough; and a record of personal events. I should love to be part of some kind of global expedition, as the writer of its story. I should like to write it in situ, perhaps sending back in installments for publication: perhaps posting a blog for interested parties back home. The world is not a secret any more: I should like to help it get to know itself better.

What made you become a writer?

I love writing. I have always written. At primary school my stories were read out in assembly, and I got through to Grammar School on the back of my writing. Jack London’s White Fang inspired me to want to have a go myself, but only lately have I succumbed to the being published bug in any serious way. So, now, I’m into editing…a process I find I like just as much as writing. I get a buzz out of whittling. And I am trying now to hone my writing into something more fulfilling, more proficient, more interesting and exciting than just banging out words onto paper. I love the art of writing, of fashioning a sentence, of playing with words.

Which writers do you admire?

Ah, now you’re asking! Writers who take me on down a fast and interesting path. Those who tell a good story…I want to be entertained. I cut my reading teeth on Denis Wheatley, then devoured Alistair MacLean, Hammond Innes, Desmond Bagley, Arthur Hailey, Dick Francis, T.H. White, Roald Dahl, Bryce Courtney, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Martina Cole, Nicci French, Colleen McCulloch, Susan Howatch, Michelle Magorian to name but an incredible few. James, Rendell, Cornwall, Wesley, Forsyth, Hodgson Burnett. So many, many others. Names well-known, and others: unsung literary heroes, but thumping good reads. Bring ‘em on! I love them all. I could read for the Olympics. I love the story.

Tell us something about your writing routine.

It begins when the inspiration strikes, then swallows me up until it’s finished. I write from the hip, on the spur of the moment: while the energy is still alive and unique. That way it remains fresh (even if in need of editing), because you’ve captured the moment. And each story comes with its own pseudonym: I love that. Everything is written longhand, and then it is all typed up. Then it is left for a week or two to simmer. Then brought back for de-fragmenting.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?

Yes…in my head! Then curled up in a chair, and transferred as fast as my fingers will allow into empty hard-back books…I just love the blank, lined page! I’m a sucker for pads and pens! I can’t walk past a stationery shop without stopping to ogle! I have to stop myself from buying. I find the inspiration flows far better through pen and paper, and I enjoy the hands-on process. Lucky me; I love writing!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Linda Lewis

What inspired you to write the stories you have contributed to "Making Changes?

The blue List

I like to try and have at least one Christmas or New Year story published every year. The idea behind the Blue List came to me when I was thinking about resolutions and how often we break them. It’s written from the male point of view because those often sell more easily.

It’s a Wonderful Life
Again I was trying to come up with a story for the Christmas season. I was thinking ahead to the seasonal films like Wizard of Oz, Scrooge, and so on, when I thought of one of my favourite films – It’s a Wonderful Life. The story is a simply my modern take on the film, but with a bit of a twist.

First Impressions
I particularly enjoy writing stories from more than one point of view so that the reader gets to see what’s going on inside two (or more) different characters’ heads. Again, the inspiration was seasonal. It concerns a woman’s fears and worries when she’s faced with meeting her prospective in laws for the first time, the twist being that we also get to know what her future mother in law is thinking too.

Please don’t call me Herbie.

I find that films and television programmes often give me ideas for stories. This one was inspired by The Love Bug ( a.k.a. Herbie), a film which I’d seen as a child. I started to wonder how an ordinary car could affect its owner’s life, and came up with Gertie. She’s an old VW Beetle, like the famous Herbie, but she can’t fly or do anything amazing like that. The story is written from the car’s point of view.

Which writers do you admire?

That’s easy. My favourite right now, and has been ever since I discovered him five years ago, is Terry Pratchett. I read everything he writes, including his children’s books. I especially love the Discworld novels. His characters are so real, they really live on the page. I’m a big fan of Death and his logical, take on life (and death). He’s an amazing comic creation, but then you could say that about all Terry Pratchett’s characters. Regarding other authors, it’s hard to choose as my taste is very eclectic. If it’s well written, I’ll read it , from crime to fantasy, from romance to non fiction. Of the books that have impressed me most recently, The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and The Time Traveler’s Wife spring to mind. Both were quite brilliant, and I wish I’d written them. I also like Clare Calman who deserves to be much more successful.

What other material do your normally write?

I like to try a bit of everything. Mostly I write short stories for women’s magazines because it pays well and because I enjoy the challenge of having to think up new ideas. I write as many stories as I can, and aim to sell one or two every week writing under my own name or using the pen name, Catherine Howard.
I also write non fiction. I started out by writing about tropical fish for magazines both in the UK and USA.
These days my articles are mostly writing related. I write the I’m Puzzled column in The New Writer where I try to answer readers’ queries.
I also write a column for Writers Forum which is called Short Story Success. The aim is to motivate other writers by letting them know that being a writer isn’t all plain sailing – I’m successful because of the amount of time and effort I put in.
As I enjoy new challenges, I’ve just started a course on Writing for Children. I’m finding it very useful and great fun. I’m also working on two novels – one of which is aimed at teenagers.

What made you become a writer?
I’m not one of those writers who’s been writing all their life. I loved English at school but the thought of writing for a living didn’t even occur to me. Let’s just say my parents weren’t the encouraging type.
When I reached my thirties, I got married for the third time (long story) and began to think about missed opportunities. My husband was possibly the first person in my life, apart from teachers, who encouraged me. Thanks to him I started an OU degree which led to a BSc, and also a writing course. The course led me to write an article about my favourite tropical fish. The tutor suggested I send it off. I did, it was accepted and soon I was writing between two and five articles a month for various ‘fishy’ publications, including Aquarium Fish in the USA.
That was in the early 1990s. In 1997 my husband died at the tender age of 46. My world fell apart. I lost all my confidence. Going out to work became increasingly difficult and I began to concentrate more on writing. I let my fish tanks run down, and turned to fiction. I suppose you could say that I became a full time writer by default – I couldn’t stand to do anything else.

Tell us about your writing routine.
If I had a routine, I’d be laughing all the way to the bank. It’s something I’m working really hard on, but still find difficult. It’s so easy to be distracted by other things. I suffer from having far too many ideas and can never make up my mind what to do next, so I spend far too much time deciding what to do. My best time for writing is the morning. I write at least five days a week, sometimes seven. For me it’s a full time job. It has to be, because if I don’t write, I don’t earn any money.

Do you have a favourite place for writing? In short, no. I find I can write anywhere so my favourite place changes according to the circumstances. At home, I usually write sitting at a table in the dining room but I’ve written stories in the garden, on holiday and in an auction house. What I do like is some kind of background noise. I don’t like silence.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Sarah Harris

What inspired you to write A Present for St Nicolas?

St Nicolas is like Father Christmas here in Belgium - he comes down the chimney on the 6th December bringing presents and you write him a letter and leave it in your shoe the night before. My husband is Flemish and we've three daughters so we have always celebrated St Nicolas. I think children and adults all want to believe in the magic of these moments and I hope this story reflects something of that.

What other material do you normally write?

I have written a number of children's books, some of which have been translated into Dutch and French. You can find out more about my series of sheep stories on Last year the National Theatre of Scotland made a stage production of one of the books. I recently started writing articles for magazines and newspapers and am working on an adult novel.

What made you become a writer?

I've always loved books and have written poems and stories ever since I can remember. In between I've done a lot of different jobs but it's something I've always come back to. After my mum died I wanted to concentrate more on writing and have since set up my own business together with my husband, producing our own books and educational material and running writing workshops in schools and adult educational centres. People have such interesting stories inside them and they can be very inspirational. I love finding stories that really speak to you.

Which writers do you admire?

John Berger, Carol Ann Duffy, Rose Tremain, Helen Dunmore, William Trevor, Penelope Lively, Maggie Gee, Sebastian Faulks, Helen Simpson, Jackie Kay and many others. I also love discovering new contemporary authors.

Tell us something about your writing routine.

Ideally I write in the mornings and do everything else in the afternoon but it doesn't always work like that! There's usually a lot of administrative work connected to the business, washing to be taken out of the machine, dogs to be taken for a walk etc. If I'm doing workshops then I'm out a lot but if I've got a deadline I write all day if I can.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?

I write mostly at my desk straight onto the computer, looking out over beautiful trees. I'm really lucky to live opposite a park so I can watch the birds and the leaves falling from the trees and daydream!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

A.J. Humphrey

What inspired you to write "I Borrowed a Poltergeist"?

The story materialised during a short break in London with my wife a few years ago. We were staying in a fantastically Gothic hotel just off Russell Square, that was in the middle of renovations, and the whole place was crying out to have a story set there. I also have to confess that my wife has been known to help herself to an entire shelf full of hotel toiletries, on the grounds that when we pay for the room we pay for the toiletries, so it wasn't too great a leap of logic to go from there to an irate poltergeist who wanted them back!

What other material do your normally write?

I'm better known as a poet, really. I've had 20+ poems published in small presses (including Aesthetica, Envoi, First Time, Monkey Kettle and Pulsar) and anthologies (including two Ragged Raven Press anthologies, alongside some well respected names in the poetic world) and I've won several prizes in national and international competitions (including four First Prizes). Almost anything can provide inspiration; many of my recent poems have come from nature (birds, wild plants, the weather) or from reminiscences of childhood and my student days, but I try to avoid being simply a nature-and-nostalgia poet; it's important for me that my poems tell a good story, and have some resonance with the human world beyond the subject of the poem. I've had short stories published in Dark Tales, Delivered and Scribble, and on the Writers' News website. I write my short stories as A.J. Humphrey, rather than Andy Humphrey, because there was an established short story writer called Andy Humphrey already having some publishing success when I first started sending out my work, and he and I have a gentleman's agreement to use different names so as not to confuse readers!

You can read some samples of my writing at

What made you become a writer?

I've written stuff ever since I could. It wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened - and still happens. I've always been drawn to telling stories. I think of writing as an urge, rather than a career choice. In my working life I'm a research scientist, so my writing has to fit around a pretty demanding day job.

Which writers do you admire?

I'm a sucker for the classic fairy stories. Fantastical stories are great because the story can be an extended metaphor, a safe space in which the darker and more difficult bits of life can be explored, challenged, and maybe worked to a resolution. Some of my favourite writers today - people like Jeanette Winterson, Joanne Harris, and Carol Ann Duffy - are brilliant at re-telling these classic stories in a modern way. There are a lot of so-called "children's writers" who are equally gifted, but whose work is under-rated because they were writing for under-18s, and I'd love to see the likes of Diana Wynne Jones, John Gordon, Alan Garner and Peter Dickinson given the same respect as today's literary authors. I also adore the great Victorian gothic writers - the Brontes, Wilkie Collins, Robert Louis Stevenson - for the depth and excitement of their storytelling. But my literary hero is JRR Tolkien. His mythology is infused with so many layers of metaphor, parable and social comment that I never, ever tire of reading it.

Tell us something about your writing routine.

My writing has to fit around a day job with long working hours and a hellish commute, so I have to snatch fragments of writing time whenever I can. Most of my poetry gets developed on trains! I'm often scribbling in my notebook, tinkering with a sentence here and an image there, because that's all I have time for in one sitting. But lots and lots of little sessions like this eventually add up to a finished poem or story. I try and get up early at weekends to grab a bit of more sustained writing time, which I use for typing up and re-drafting work, and for getting submissions together. My wife's a late sleeper at the weekends and we don't have children yet, so I can usually grab a couple of uninterrupted hours most weekends. But the idea of having a daily block of writing time seems like a far-away luxury just now!

Do you have a favourite place for writing?

No. I have to make do with with any opportunity that presents itself. On trains, buses, in the odd lunch hour at my desk at work, standing at bus stops. Even in the lab I sometimes have to stop what I'm doing and grab a Post-It note to write down a fragment of a poem before I forget it!

Rosemary Bach-Holzer

What was my inspiration to write Sally and the Sign People?

The lousy deal seagulls receive in Cornwall. They are treated as pests and I think that’s wrong. So, I wrote what is (hopefully) an entertaining and funny story aimed at all ages. I’d got divorced and sold my home on the Atlantic and was attempting to relocate to France and failing miserably. Meanwhile I was trying to get Sally Seagull going when I noticed a dog hoovering up the bread I’d thrown out for the birds - so you could say Sally and the Sign People is based on a true story. Sure, it has messages within but I don’t want to overanalyse it. It’s not Michel de Montaigne.

What other material do I normally write?

Varied. I’ve recently started work on a crime/mystery novel that I didn’t envisage in a million years. Generally I stick to humorous real-life articles. I’ve also had success with articles about my cats (they make great copy). I’m putting finishing touches to a self-help book and a natural and cruelty-free beauty book that gives out tips and how you should change your loo brush more often and I’ve recently finished a story about a spider who goes up in space. I’ve also written a hen-lit contemporary humour that’s on the hunt for an agent.

What made me become a writer?

Good question. One I often ask myself. I can’t help it. It’s something I have to do like an itch that has to be scratched. I write for myself but if someone else connects to it then that’s great. I also think this particular itch has been with me since before birth like I didn’t have a choice or say in the matter. My grandfather was a German comedy playwright and although he died way back in 1929 (my father had me in his fifties) his plays are still being shown today.

Which writers do I admire?

Anne Fine, James Herriot, David Renwick (One Foot in the Grave), John Esmonde and Bob Larbey (The Good Life), Jimmy Perry and David Croft (Dad’s Army), Dennis Bardens, Peter Moss, Mark Gold, Jack Higgins, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Arnold & Bach.

Tell you about my writing routine?

I don’t have one. I can write up to 14 hours a day and then not write for six months and on some days I tend to favour hours better suited to a vampire, I seem to come alive after dark. I don’t want to dwell on this because as soon as I mention I have ME/CFS people tend to zone in on that and forget about everything else. I only mention it now because that’s the leading factor as to why I don’t have a set routine, as such. Simply, I do things differently because I have to. My health dictates and I listen.

Do I have a favourite place for writing?

No. Right now I’m happy scribbling from my bed (in a room that is overflowing with packing cases) surrounded by books, my stereo, writing magazines and scrap paper and pens and my laptop for when inspiration and energy come together. In Cornwall I had the best office with the best view and wrote some all right stuff there, however, I’m not one of those who subscribe to the opinion you must have flowers on your desk along with your favourite treats and endless cups of whatever at hand. Going by that premise, writers, the PM, plumbers or teachers can only work productively after consuming a chocolate bar and sniffing an aesthetically pleasing fresh bunch of sweet peas?

Surf on over and visit me at:

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Debz Hobbs-Wyatt

What inspired you to write "Jigsaw"?
I had just completed the first draft of my third novel, 'The Reluctant Clairvoyant', when the idea for 'Jigsaw' came to me. It was actually one of those when you sit down and type a first line. Since it is in the first person and from the point of view of a child it is not my usual type of writing, but it was as if the child's voice spoke through me and before I knew it, I had a short story on paper!

What other material do your normally write?
I have written a fair number of short stories but I mainly concentrate on my novel writing these days. My first novel may never see the light of day, my second novel Colourblind is with agents and the feedback has been encouraging. The third is a work in progress. I guess you could call it paranormal psychological fiction for adults, although I like to think it has a heart and my stories will change the way you think!

What made you become a writer?
I have been writing since I was a child. I think when you're young you're more in touch with your spirit and choices that you made for yourself in this lifetime (or I would like to think that's true.) I was obsessed with books as I grew up and wrote my first novel when I was nine! Okay so it was a Famous Five rip-off but come on, I was young! So even back then I was waiting for the postman to bring me a letter to say they'd publish it. They didn't of course but they encouraged me! Science got in the way for a number of years and the creative stuff took a back seat but it was always there. I was always going places and saying- hey one day I'll put this in a novel. It was like that for The Reluctant Clairvoyant inspired by a trip to Alcatraz 8 years ago when I discovered that civilian families lived there. Five years ago I started to write compulsively and now it is my obsession! Since I lost my partner, Lee three years ago, at the tender age of 32, writing became my therapy. It still is. Now I want to give everything else up to write. Work gets in the way! But it pays the bills! Still, I won't give up! I consider that I am now serving my apprenticeship and have recently started my MA in Creative Writing to that end. Dreams come true if you believe!

Which writers do you admire?
Stephen KingJodi PicoultLionel ShiverDean Koontz Loads!

Tell us something about your writing routine.
I get up at 5 am, read for an hour (as you can't be a good writer of you don't read as much as you can, by a range of authors!) Then I write for an hour. I work full time and try to write when no one can see my computer screen! I imagine its like sitting in front of a piano and not being allowed to use certain keys! So frustrating when all you want to do is write! I hate work!!!! In the evening I write for three hours. At weekends I try to have a day off although I am usually at a critique group talking about writing! The other day I try to clock up 6 - 8 hours.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?
I can write anywhere but I tend to sit on my bed with my laptop with the window in front of me so I can see the mountains of Snowdonia and the birds on the feeders! My two little cats (my saviours!) are usually at my side diving on my toes if they move and trying to plonk themselves onto the keyboard as only cats can!!! But they are the best company!

Jenny Robertson

What inspired you to write "The Tricks of Firelight"?
The first draft of Tricks of Firelight grew out of my feeling for the importance of Advent and my wish to re-tell the Christmas Eve story for adults. I used the Polish setting because I love Polish Christmas Eve. I have lived and worked in Poland and have made this country my life-long study.

What material do your normally write?
I write poetry and prose. I have pubished three collections of my own poetry and around thirty books for adults and children as well as contributing to anthologies, magazine, radio and television. I'm now turning back to children's fiction with Polish themes.

What made you become a writer?
My mother who read to me - but she read to my twin too and she became a nurse. I have been writing stories and novels since my earliest years. Poetry came rather later. Housebound with my first baby I began to send my work out to publishers and my writing life developed from that.Which writers do you admire? George Mackay Brown; Keats; Shakespeare, of course, Chaucer; Dostojevsky, Tolstoy: all well-crafted work.I read voraciously in Polish and English.

Tell us something about your writing routine.
It gets interrupted by family agendas, visitors, travel, peoples' needs and sunshine! Most days I try to write from around 9.30 am with breaks for meals. When a novel is going well I work at it all the time, but research comes into the pattern. I used to find lots of thinking happened in the bath - but I have showers nowadays so my thinking happens on the bus or in the swimming pool.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?
When I started off I wrote by hand and typed those endless carbon copies, full of mistakes. I kept my files in wicker basket I bought in Glastonbury, but they got too heavy and the bottom fell out. To my immense surprise I found that I enjoyed writing straight into a computer. I think it's because you can see your work appearing on the screen. Nowadays I mostly use a lap top. I sit at an old writing desk that belonged to my grandmother,the sort with a fold down lid. The drawers are full of notebooks. I look at the blank wall ahead ofme,with a picture of two seal cubs my daughter drew long ago and a quote from Joseph Conrad stuck up next to them. There are pictures on every other wall, books and photographs around me and I can lean back in my chair and over my right shoulder I see a garden and trees.

Rebecca Holmes

What inspired you to write ‘Winter Blooms’?

I love hyacinths in winter. They brighten the house during the darkest days, especially after the Christmas decorations have come down, which is when I most need cheering up. I’m also fascinated by the way everyone has hidden depths, no matter how ordinary they appear. Somehow the two themes came together, and ‘Winter Blooms’ was born.

What other material do you normally write?

I mostly write stories for women’s magazines, where I’m published fairly regularly, but also enjoy delving into the ‘darker side’. My ambition is to be a published novelist, and I’ve been writing a contemporary saga set in the Lake District, which I try to work on when I get the chance between other projects.

What made you become a writer?

I never ‘became’ a writer – it’s always been there, along with reading, though pushed aside when other aspects of life have had to come first. Joining a writing group provided motivation and encouragement, and still does. I get very irritable if I haven’t had my writing ‘fix’.

Which writers do you admire?

Thomas Hardy, the Brontes, Jane Austen, Graham Greene, Anne Tyler, Anita Shreve, Neil Gaiman, Sarah Hall, John Steinbeck… The list goes on, and is quite a mixture.

Tell us something about your writing routine.

I don’t have a routine as such, but fit it in when I can. I try to write most days, even if it means holding a sandwich in one hand and a pen in the other. When I do get in a full day’s writing I’m afraid I drink far too much coffee.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?
My main base is the spare bedroom, which needs a really good sort-out, and I keep promising myself I’ll organise it into a proper writing room. I write drafts in longhand then put them on the computer, so I can write pretty well anywhere if necessary. For instance, I’ve sold stories whose first drafts were written on the shores of Coniston Water.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Rosemary Gemmell (

What inspired you to write ‘Midge and the Pony?

I like to start with a character. When I saw a cute photograph of a boy with a pony, the idea of Midge, a boy who prefers horses to football gradually took shape. To make it more contemporary, he is almost bullied at school because of his size and he has no father.

What other material do you normally write?

I’ve had many adult short stories and articles published and sometimes write poetry. I also write children’s fiction, from picture book age to about twelve. Now I’m concentrating on novel length both for children and adults. Two children’s books and an adult novel are with publishers at the moment, in the hope of some positive interest!

What made you become a writer?

I’ve read anything and everything since I was old enough to understand words and adored being transported into make-believe worlds. I also loved the rhythm and rhyme of poetry and started writing it when going through a romantic teenager phase. It was only after many years of work, marriage and motherhood I realised I could actually be a writer and get published. Joining my local writing group was the turning point.

Which writers do you admire?

The classics like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Dickens, Virginia Wolf and EM Forster. Classic crime writers like Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, PD James and Ellis Peters. The romantic suspense of Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and the regency of Georgette Heyer. Contemporary writers such as Janice Galloway, Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Waters and Ann Donovan. Children’s writers JK Rowling, Philip Pullman, Catherine MacPhail and Theresa Breslin.

Tell us something about your writing routine.

Not as organised as I would like! Mondays and Tuesday morning are for creative writing if possible, then two or three other afternoons for rewriting, research or planning what to do next.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?

I like my study area in our extension, with computer, desk and rows of books, when typing up my work, but much of my best creative writing is done in longhand in my favourite Costa with a cappuccino!

Joyce Hicks

What inspired you to write 'The Keeper's Keeper'? Joyc'es story is ideally read on 13 December
My story is called 'The Keeper's Keeper'. What inspired me was an article in Writing Magazine. It was basically talking about the avoidance of stereotypes. One example given was that of guardian angels who, the article suggested, might be far more interesting if they weren't young and beautiful and 'celestial'. How about if they appeared to be old, down-and-out, alcoholic, etc.etc. And so Rita was born. I did a little research on park keepers, and the main theme of my story (rundown park, threat of closure, and its rescue by a determined keeper, lottery money and volunteers) actually happened in the UK a few years ago.
What other material do your normally write?
These days I write only short stories. I started my writing career with novels, and wrote four, all of which came winging back to me. It was the start of my writing career, I was still learning, and they simply weren't good enough. I've also written articles, for a small press, local magazine, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The magazine eventually closed, and I didn't pursue article writing.
What made you become a writer?
I don't think I actually 'became' a writer overnight, as it were. I've always loved writing (and reading). I was always good at English grammar at school, and loved essays and compositions which never seemed to require any great effort for me to write, so I was lucky in that respect. From there I think my need to write evolved into letter writing for many years, especially when I lived in Australia for a very long time. Long letters home to friends and family were my lifeline. And when I say long letters, we're talking about between 2,000 - 4,000 words per (typed) letter!
Which writers do you admire?
Almost too many to count. All the classics, e.g. Austen, the Brontes, Dickens, Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Wilkie Collins, Jerome K .Jerome, F. Scot Fitzgerald, Henry James. And then there's Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, Frederick Forsyth, Harlan Coben, Robert Harris, Ian Fleming. And those are just the ones I can remember!
Tell us something about your writing routine.
Basically, I don't have much of a writing routine at all. But as soon as I get an idea for a story, then I give it full attention, and everything else goes by the board. I'm also constantly thinking in terms of plots and characters and situations, and I think subconsciously I'm always tuned in to possible ideas for stories. You sort of develop an antennae that's 'on' all the time, whether you're aware of it or not. So in a sense you're writing all the time, even if it's solely in your head.
Do you have a favourite place for writing?
I write in our spare room, which was once our daughter's room, although she's long since vacated it and now lives in France. But this is where the computer is now, plus shelves groaning with books, and the whole room is set up as an office, with folders and files and shoe boxes full of bits and pieces of paper, notes, etc. I try to keep some semblance of order and sometimes manage it. Other times it looks like an explosion in a paper factory!

Michael O' Connor

Michael's story is ideally read on 14th of December.

What inspired you to write SLIGHT EXPECTATIONS?

I live quite close to St James' Church in Cooling, Kent, which is where Charles Dickens set the opening of his novel "Great Expectations". I went there one day to see it for myself, and standing there alone in the churchyard, with a slight breeze rustling the grass and crows cawing overhead, it seemed to me that if I closed my eyes for a moment, the ghost of Dickens might appear. That was the basis for my story.

What other material do you normally write?

Much of my work in the past has been what is termed 'genre fiction' i.e. fantasy, horror and science fiction. However, I am moving away from that now into more mainstream work, although I suspect I shall never be able to forgo of an element of fantasy in any story I write.

What made you become a writer?

I cannot remember a time when I wanted to be anything else.

Which writers do you admire?

Unsurprisingly, Dickens and many of his nineteenth century contemporaries are particular favourites of mine. More contemporary authors I admire include Michael Moorcock, Peter Ackroyd, Jasper Fforde and Anthony Burgess.

Tell us something about your writing routine.

I don't really have a writing routine. I do it as and when the inspiration happens to coincide with the free time. I do a lot of reviewing, editing and proofreading for other people, which generally has deadlines, so my own work tends to be squeezed in around that.

Do you have a favourite place for writing?

I have a spare room in my home which I grandiloquently call a 'study' (so much more literary than 'home office'!) and I do all my writing there