Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Next Big Thing

I would like to thank Savita Kalhan for inviting me to take part in this series of blog posts where authors share what stories they are working on. If you'd like to discover Savita's 'Next Big Thing' then please click on this link.

What is the working title of your book?

Magic of Light

Where did the idea come from for the book?

From the shared love with my late father of the entire process of black and white photography and how old photographs can link generations.

What genre does your book fall under?

Steam Punk - think the new Sherlock Holmes films or Hugo where the world is filled with clockwork gadgets and things run on steam.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Sam (the lead) I'd nominate Jude Wright who currently plays Marcus Elliot in the TV show 'Spy.' I'm not sure on the second boy character but the lead female (mother and grandmother to the two boys) would have to be Julie Walters.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Sam is catapulted back in time, giving him the chance to save the life of his father and the grandmother he has just lost in his time.   

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'm looking for an agent at the moment so would love this to be traditionally published.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I'll be honest I really can't remember the first draft was started in August 2005 as part of a creative writing I was studying. It sat for many years on my computer until I rediscovered it and started a total rewrite which has so far taken me three months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

  • The Orphan of Hugo Cabret by Brian Seiznick
  • The Juniper Chronicles - The Secret of The Red Spot by Leonardo Ramirez
  • The Steampunk Detective by Darrell Pit

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I'm not sure about the original idea as it was so long ago. However I decided to send the manuscript to a professional proof-reading/editor and she highlighted some issues. At the time I was reading a steam punk novel. It occurred to me if I re-wrote in this genre the story might just have a chance of working. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
This is my first novel for older children so I'm just keeping fingers crossed that a child who enjoys the steam punk genre may just take a chance on my work. 

If you would like to discover what other authors are working on then why not check out:
Children's author Sanda Ann Horn's website by clicking on this link  

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Where I Found Inspiration For My Writing

Normally I exam mark over the summer period however this summer I worked for a language school and helped run a student residence, something I've never done before. The building was just weeks old and had a large number of teething problems including lifts not working, the basement flooding due to heavy rain, toilets mysteriously flushing etc. etc. Although the hours could be long and some of the issues frustrated me the experience has fuelled my imagination. I have so many new ideas I just don't know where to start.

Idea one: A picture book story about packing a case that came to me as I packed my bag (I had to stay on site at least three nights a week).  

Idea two: Another picture book idea which popped into my head whilst I took the picture on the right showing members of staff saying goodbye to another. 

Idea three: Yet another picture book idea which is based on a conversation I had with another member of staff. This one I've already written and sent off to my editor, so fingers crossed.

Idea four: An idea for a non-fiction title which was prompted by a chat with another member of staff. The exciting this is I already have an editor wanting to see the synopsis and it will mean I'll be writing with a co-writer for the first time.

Idea five: With each passing day more ridiculous things happened and I found myself madly scribbling things down in the note book I carry everywhere with me. Now I feel I have enough material for a mad-cap sit-com. I've never written one before but I now have the urge to give it a go.

So next time you're stuck for an idea go and give something new a go. Work outside your comfort zone. Meet new people. You never know it may fuel your imagination as mine has been. Now I'm off to work on the story for idea two.  

Unashamed plug for my latest children's writing course starting 6th October 2012

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

As Cool As A Cucumber

Whilst I was working on my book The Greatest Guide to Green Living (available as an eBook and a physical book) I collected the best hints and tips for reducing, recycling and reusing as I could find. I also found uses for everyday items for example I discovered baking soda and vinegar are great items to help you clean your home and help cut down on the use of cleaning chemicals.

I am still an avid collector of such useful tips and thankfully family and friends still send them to me. I recently recieived an email from a friend containing tips for alternate uses for the humble cucumber. Although I've only tested the results for tips one and five (both of which worked for me) I still wanted to share them with you. So here are five of the most useful tips she sent me:

Fed up with your bathroom mirror misting up each time you enjoy a hot bath or shower? Then cut yourself a slice of cucumber (or use the end you would normally put into the composter), rub over the mirrors surface then buff with a soft cloth or tissue. It should cut down on the this annoying little problem.

Do you love your garden but hate to use chemicals to wage war on those bugs and slugs that are eating your plants? If you place a few slices of cucumber in an aluminium tin those little critters will move next door. Apparently the chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminium and this reaction gives off a revolting scent humans can't smell but garden pests can.

Rather than reach for the shoe polish reach for a cucumber. Cut a slice of cucumber and rub over your shoes for a quick shine that also repels water. Obviously this does not work on suede or similar textured surfaces and doing a small test patch first is always advisable when trying something new.

That squeaky door hinge driving you crazy? Rub the offending hinge with a slice of cucumber and the problem should be solved.

Sinks and taps in need of a shine? Again reach for that cucumber. Slice, rub then buff with a soft cloth or tissue and your taps and sinks will regain some of their lustre.

As I've already said I've only had a chance to try tips one and five and found they worked for me. If you decide to try any of the above please note I take no responsibility for the results.

However if you try any please let me know the results (good or bad), so I can update this post. 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Water, Water No Longer Everywhere

As I enjoyed a walk with the dog in the glorious sunshine I noticed one of the ditches had a few mounds of frog spawn in it. Looking around to check no one was watching (friends and family think I weird, I don't want the locals to also think I am) I got on all fours to get a closer look. I watched in awe as the little black bodies wriggled in their transparent shells. It then struck me that water is something we take for granted. However for these little creatures water is life, no water is certain death. 

As I watched I decided three things. 

Firstly I'll keep going back to that ditch and if needed I'll lift the frog spawn and try to save those little tadpoles. 

Secondly I wanted to take this opportunity to encourage people to look after the wildlife around them by taking action when needed. This could be a simple act of taking a dolphin by the tail and dragging it back into the water: 

In less that four minutes 30 dolphins are saved 

To making small changes in lifestyle. For example as water is my theme here are three simple to follow tips that will hopefully reduce water usage:

No butts!
Take a look at your guttering and see if you can find a place to safely situate a water butt. If you can take a few measurements and invest in one and install. Then during dry periods use the water collected to care for your precious garden plants.

Drinks for all
How often do you not finish an entire glass of water? Don't just throw that water down the drain use it to water your indoor plants or add to your newly installed water butt. Also remember when you have a party and keep drinks in a large bucket of ice don't waste the water. Once the ice has melted give your plants a drink.

The right time
Try to avoid watering during hot periods of the day to reduce evaporation. Also cut your grass slightly longer than the regimented 0.5mm (1/4"). You'll have to water less as the soil will keep the moisture in for longer.  Also cover flowering borders with bark chippings or similar, this should also reduce evaporation.

If you've found this interesting and feel the urge to make a difference, however small then why not check out my book The Greatest Guide To Green Living or spend a little time researching on the web. As the video shows we can all make a difference. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Story Behind the Stories

In October of 2011 I finally published a collection of stories featuring the character Anansi The Trickster Spider as an eBook. I say finally because it was in 2003 when I was asked to work on a project to help promote a local cultural venue called Aklowa.


Aklowa was an African village set in the Hertfordshire countryside, within minutes of Stansted Airport. A friend's friend, Felix Cobson, had set it up some twenty years before. Originally born in Ghana Felix moved to the UK and had spent his life teaching children about African heritage. This included traditional clothing, cooking, music, crafts and stories. This is where I came in. I started my writing career writing for craft magazines and I was asked to write a book that would appeal to children about African crafts.


Knowing little about the subject I jumped at the chance to visit Ghana. I spent a wonderful week with friends visiting villages known for their pottery making, Adinkra block printing and Kente strip weaving. I also visited markets and talked to makers of musical instruments and carvers of masks. Based on this trip I created a synopsis for a book and approached The British Museum Press. To my delight they liked the idea and in 2005 they published African Crafts: Fun Things to Make and Do from West Africa.

Now you may be wondering where Anansi came into all this. Well Felix relished in his retelling of the traditional stories featuring the trickster character Anansi. Being a collector of words I scribbled the stories down. Knowing how I enjoyed the stories Felix was kind enough to lend me a couple of books. From these scribbled notes, borrowed books and research, I began to write my own retelling of these stories. As with many such personal projects other things took me away from it. So these stories sat on my computer, almost forgotten. However in the middle of 2011 I had time to return to them. Finally after eight years my collection of Anansi stories was published as an eBook and is now available on Amazon.

Unfortunately I'll never be able to show Felix the fruits of my labour, as he passed away before I had time to complete. However knowing Felix he'll be looking down, with that wonderful broad smile of his, trying to decide which story to treat me to next.

P.S. If you'd like to purchase a copy please click on the relevant flag (top left and top right of this blog) 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Why Do We Love Them?

One way or another there has always been a dog in my life. Each has had their own unique traits and habits, which have often made me wonder why I love them. Take for example my first dog Mitzi, she was:
  • Extremely fussy about her food
  • If she decided she'd walked enough that was it, she went no further

And yes this is me with Mitzi

Then there was Sally who would only sleep if I rested my hand on her back. This meant each night I fell to sleep with a hand slowly going numb.


After Sally came our yellow ball of fluff Bonny who:
  • Hid chewed, sticky 'treasures' under my duvet
  • Stole sweets and hid them behind the settee
  • Emptied bins when she became annoyed with us (normally when we went shopping)


Then there was Jodi who:
  • Played lets jump through the banisters and land on heads
  • Dragged plants (roots and all) in from the garden through the dog flap
  • Buried clean (they had to be clean) knickers, socks and bras in the back garden
  • Jumped into any car with an open door expecting to be taken for a drive


Then came Tasha (out current canine friend) who:
  • Steals socks, even taking them from the washing machine
  • Takes all the space on the settee
  • Chases anything that runs
  • Believes every ball in the world is hers, even acquiring whilst still being played with
  • Has 'entitlements' and unsutbly tells you when they are due


However there are also habits they have shared including:
  • Leaving footprints on a newly cleaned floor
  • Shaking and splattering mud up clean walls
  • Creating unsavoury odours

So why do we love them? The answer is simple. They are family and whatever they do they get under your skin. And as a writer I have the added bonus that they feed my writing, they are my muse. Take for example my picture eBook Captain and Nugget (available from Amazon UK and Amazon US). Many of the things my canines friends have done appear in this story and without them I'd never have been able to write it.

So I was wondering what has your canine friend done to make you question why you love them?

P.S. If you'd like to purchase a copy of Captain and Nugget either follow the links about or click on the relevant flag.