Monday, 30 December 2013

Turkey tales

We didn't have turkey on Christmas Day. We had ours on Saturday last, when Mr. Squidge's side of the family came on their festive visit.

Unfortunately, we had a few problems with the bird.

To begin with, we had to leave it chilling in the garage 'til the last minute; our cat, in the past, has scratched the plastic wrapping off and left claw/teeth marks in the meat. Although the bird wasn't exactly at room temp before it went into the oven, cooking officially started at 9am.

By 12.30, I knew we had a problem; the bird was not cooking.

As a result, the three-and-a-half hour planned cooking time (as determined by St. Delia - and she stuffs her bird, we don't) dragged on into four hours and the juices were still running pink. Dinner - to have been served at 1pm - was looking like it needed a lot longer...

We finally sat down to eat at 2pm, and I'm pleased to say the turkey was perfect. My stress levels, however, had gone through the roof.

Having waved all our guests off last night and straightened the house this morning, I stripped the carcass (there's something rather satisfying about that job - perhaps it's my caveman roots) ready for turkey curry tonight and probably turkey stew tomorrow and turkey salad after that... Mr Squidge did buy a big bird.

By the time the last mouthful of turkey has been consumed, we'll be into a new year. I won't be making any resolutions - other than to avoid turkey for a while. But I will take the turkey lesson on board; that the things we want to achieve often take a lot longer than we think.

And they still turn out right.

So, there's hope for my stories yet...

Monday, 23 December 2013

Looking back - and looking forward.

I'm going to take a break from the Scribbles over the next week - unless something awesome happens that I need to share - so it seems a good time to look back over my year of words.

I've been published - six short stories in five charity publications. And I was runner-up in a short story competition, to be published as an anthology ebook of winners and runner-uppers in 2014.

I parted company with my agent. An unfortunate event, but the silver lining is that it has forced me to write what I enjoy writing rather than what I think will please other people. Whether that means success or failure in the future, I do not know...

I edited the heck out of Rurik and submitted him to new agents. He's been thoroughly rejected by 'the industry', in spite of being favourably received by readers...I've even been asked for the next story in the series.

I started a new WIP - Ani's story - which is coming along slow but sure after I finally found my voice (with some help from Les Edgerton).

I attended the Festival of Writing, a great weekend with old and new writer friends.

I started Squidge's Scribbles late in June, jumping straight into the Ultimate Blog Challenge in July. I really enjoy blogging and it appears there are quite a few folk who like what I say; today, I'm almost at 9000 hits and have a small band of followers, so at least I know I'm not talking to myself most of the time!

I did a little bit of paid editing work for a publisher - and a lot of unpaid editing for fellow writers. It's really satisfying to see good stories grow and develop into some brilliant work when authors take on board the feedback and apply it in the way that suits them.

As for 2014...

Well, Granny Rainbow will be published in January if all goes according to plan via Panda Eyes, a local indie publisher. Getting the work formatted, edited, contacting printers, working with a publisher and cover designer AND seeing my characters come to life in illustrations has been the steepest of learning curves, but I am looking forward to getting a book of stories (that are entirely mine) out to an audience. I'm also scared witless for the same reason!

I will write, of course, though which project to focus on, I have no idea. Depending on the success (or otherwise) of Granny, Rurik may or may not be self-published. Ani's story is still begging to be told, as is Peril in Pergatt, the next book about Rurik. Add to that blogging, Word Clouding, Helping on the Stories for Homes blog...there will be lots of words.

But between now and then comes Christmas and New Year. A chance to take stock and count my blessings in what has been, on balance, a very good writing year. Thank you, dear blog reader, for sharing the last six months with me. 

As we finish 2013 and turn our faces towards 2014 and whatever it may hold for us, all that remains is for me to wish you and yours a very

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

(Source; 'Tales from the Rainbow Room' blog)

Monday, 16 December 2013

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

I've been very, very good this year. Please can you bring me a couple of books to get stuck into in the New Year?

1. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett.

I'm a big Discworld fan. My ultimate aim is to have all the Discworld novels on my shelf at some point; I think there's only a couple of the Tiffany Aching stories and Eric and I'm there. I am in awe of Sir Terry's ability to create such a believable world. I've learnt a lot about characterisation and economy of words through reading Mr. Pratchett.

2. That Close by Suggs.

I don't usually go for autobiographies. I've often been disappointed by the content when I have picked one up, and I'm not really into 'celeb' culture. But every now and again, I will have another go with someone I admire. Such is the case with Suggs.

I grew up with Madness. Heck, I still buy their CD's now (and damn good they are too!). Suggs as a person looks to be a fascinating character, and a sneaky peek into the book when I popped into Waterstones last week indicated that the book is filled not only with his story but with his unique poetical lyrics and pictures drawn by the man himself.

They're a bit too big to fit in my stocking, Santa, but if you can slip them under the tree, that'd be just as good...


Katherine   x

Go on then - what books are you going to ask Santa for this year?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Got a warm, fuzzy feeling...

Christmas makes me feel good at the best of times, but this morning, I have two extra reasons to feel warm and fuzzy.

Reason 1. 
A Test of Time - the short stories group anthology that was published at the end of November - has, to date, raised around £50 for Foodbank. The wonderful Vanessa Wester has already put the money to good use, just in time for Christmas. You can read Vanessa's original post here.

Vanessa (right) and the book, handing over a stack of goodies
to Hannah King, the manager of the Cowes branch of Foodbank.

Reason 2.
Last night, at the first launch event in London for Stories for Homes, a cheque for £1500 was handed over to a representative from Shelter. (The book itself continues to climb up the charts, officially designated now as a 'bestseller'.) 

A symbolic cardboard cheque, signed by all the authors present

I played only a small part in both projects - a story for each - but I am humbled and in awe of the people who were the driving forces behind both.

So a big shout-out first to Vanessa Wester, who has been the driving force behind not just A Test of Time, but also Out of Darkness, A Festive Feast, Love is in the Air, and Reading is Magic, supporting a variety of charities. (Not to mention her own books, The Evolution Trilogy and Gurnard's Book of DelightsYou can find details of the short story collections either on my 'Where I've been published' page, or here.)

And another big shout-out to Debi Alper and Sally Swingewood, the masterminds behind Stories for Homes, who brought together an amazing team responsible for producing a world class anthology of short stories in just three months. They are wonderful!

The last shout-out goes to everyone who's bought a copy of either publication - and there are lots of you, I know!

Shout-outs aside, I realise that some of you might be reading this post and judging the 'success' of these two publications according to the amount of money they've raised. Please don't. From my point of view, both A Test of Time and Stories for Homes have been equally successful, because the money they've raised will help change people's lives for the better.

If you're going to judge these books, judge them on the difference they are making in the world; that's something you just can't put a price on. 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The morning after the day before...

Just to say a huge, Squidgey, rainbowy


to everyone who shared in the Book Blast for Stories for Homes yesterday. I think it's fair to say that we had a noticeable web presence - and as a result, we saw the paperback shoot up the Amazon charts for most gifted AND anthologies. If you don't believe me, google it; Stories for Homes pretty much dominates the first two pages, even this morning!

Virtual hugs to all of you for helping to make a difference!

(And if you missed it, you can still get a flavour of it here or drop into the Bookseller Crow on the Hill (London) for the first launch event TOMORROW, 6pm onwards.)

Plans are afoot for a Nottingham event - keep your eyes peeled...

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Book blast - Stories for Homes

Nearly 85,000 children will be homeless in Britain this Christmas. 

Eighty-five thousand. That's more children than the entire population of my home town.

It's not their fault if mortgages or rent can't be paid through illness, separation or redundancy, so their home is repossessed.

It's not their fault if councils won't lend the support their parents need.

It's not their fault if they're forced into temporary or low rent accommodation whilst their parents wait for social housing to become available.

It's not their fault that they are subjected to poor living conditions which affect their health and emotional well-being.

It's NOT their fault.

But these kids will still be homeless at Christmas.

exists so that no-one has to fight bad housing or homelessness on their own.

To do that, they need funds.

Stories for Homes is a book of short stories, written and produced with the sole intention of making a difference. The dedication inside reads 'To everyone who knows what it is to struggle and to those who work to make a difference.' The 63 authors involved - and a good many other folk besides - gave of their hearts and time to make the anthology a reality and in a small way, make a difference.

Today, in advance of the first launch event for the paperback at The Bookseller - Crow on the Hill (London) - on the 13th December, we are SHOUTING about this book all over the net.

Every penny of profit goes to Shelter to make a difference to someone who no longer has somewhere they can call home. Please, share Stories for Homes. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter it, link and like. Watch the video. Buy a copy if you haven't already. Pop into the launch in London on Friday evening, or visit Andover library at 2pm on the 18th December to hear some of it read.

Above all, make a difference - and let's find those 85,000 kids (and their families) somewhere they can call home.

Katherine x

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A caricature - of ME!

Tomorrow, there's going to be a Book Blast for Stories for Homes. And I'm joining in...

But tonight, I'm sharing the caricature drawn by one of the book's authors, Kara Tobin, as part of the project. Not only does Kara write, but she's also an extremely talented musician and likes drawing too. Her aim is to have produced a cartoon for every one of the 63 authors in the book, plus Debi Alper and Sally Swingewood, the masterminds behind it all. You might see a few more popping up tomorrow...

We were asked for our eye colour, a favourite item and our favourite I'm sitting on a rainbow in a purple dress!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

What does Christmas mean to you?

My church has an Advent community project running; an Advent calendar of flags, made by members of the church and local community groups, and displayed outside homes in the parish in the run-up to Christmas Eve. (You can see the flag I made for the 1st December here.)

As part of the project, we were visited by a film-maker, who has put together some 'thought for the day' snippets...and I popped up today! Thought I'd share it with you...

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Hooking your reader

After the difference that Les Edgerton's book 'Finding your voice' made to me, I recently bought his book 'Hooked' to peruse as well.

Having received several more rejections of Rurik - in which the sentence 'it didn't really grab me' featured yet again - it's starting to become very clear that I have to do something different to what I am doing in order to catch an agent's attention. I think the opening is probably part of it.

Les talks in Hooked about lots of things you can improve to make your opening the best it can be, but the one I learnt most from was about identifying the 'inciting incident' - the thing that happens in the story that is the REAL reason the main character embarks on the journey that I, as the writer, take them on. He offers some useful examples which made me realise I had not identified the correct 'inciting incident' in Rurik...assuming I've understood this right!

Rurik's story opens with him waking up and cursing the fact he's not 13. He ponders for a while about the death of his father, which has meant the poor kid can't become an apprentice cobbler as planned. There is no money left to buy a new apprenticeship and Rurik's mother must remarry within 12 months to keep her home. So, over breakfast, Rurik's uncle offers to take the boy on as his apprentice instead - only Rurik has no idea what his uncle's job entails.

If Les is reading this, he's probably face-palming right now, because I've just listed at least three of the pet hates of editors and agents about openings; waking up, internal dialogue, eating breakfast...and I didn't even mention the backstory. Sorry, Les.

Laying all that aside, there's actually a bigger problem for me here; I'm struggling to decide what the inciting incident is - is it the death of Rurik's father, which sets off the whole train of events? Or is it actually the moment at which Rurik finds out about the plan for his new apprenticeship?

Gut feeling tells me it could well be the latter, in which case, I have also found my 'story-worthy problem' - the finding of a new apprenticeship. Not, as I'd originally thought, Rurik's adventure to find an object which is lost.

If that's the case, then I need to start my story later. Not much later, granted; but it definitely needs to start at the point where Rurik finds out about the apprenticeship. I feel a rewrite coming on...

If, like me, you're struggling with grabbing your reader from the start, it might be worth looking at Hooked. It might just make the all the difference.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Make Christmas cards. Tick.


Like me, do you have a humungous list of things to do?

There's something about the deadline imposed by 'Christmas' that seems to eat away at me, because I HAVE to get the cards written, HAVE to buy pressies, HAVE to wrap them, HAVE to sort a tree, HAVE to buy enough food to feed an army...on and on it goes. Add to that church and family commitments, school stuff, visitors, illness - I feel like December is one long list of things that need to be ticked off.

This morning, I managed to shorten the list; I made my Christmas cards. Well, strictly speaking I'd already done a bit on them, but they needed all the fiddly hand-finishing. So while the wind has done its best to blow the house, fence and neighbour's scaffolding down, I finished the cards.

Here they are;

From left to right...

My favourite. The star aperture is backed with gold mirror card and then I added
 a gorgeous handwritten sentiment I found on the internet. I love playing with fonts...

The cracker aperture is backed with red mirror card and 
then I added a joke slip from a pre-printed sheet.

Silver mirror card behind the crown aperture, and a text stamp I designed a few years ago. 
The stars are highlighted with a clear glitter Sakura pen to give a bit of sparkle. 

 Green mirror card behind the tree-hole, with a short length of 
'Merry Christmas' ribbon underneath and a hand-drawn red star to finish.

So all I need to do now, is write my Christmas letter to be posted with them, go to the Post Office for stamps, write the envelopes...

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Tired Tuesday

We've had Black Friday and Cyber Monday - I'm on Tired Tuesday.

The virus does not seem to have shifted at all, so I've not had the energy to do anything much over the last week. I'm looking at a pile of half-created Christmas cards, knowing that I really need to clean the house, I have various church commitments to honour (which fortunately involve more words and sewing than physical action) and I need to organise my pressy-shopping and Christmas letter-drafting before the weekend.

I suppose I should add a bit to Ani's story too, just so I don't lose the thread.

Brew me a Lemsip, I've got work to do...