Saturday, 23 July 2016

A flowery moment...

Been too busy to write over the last week, as I've been preparing for two separate holidays, helping Squidgeling J to make an infinity dress, celebrating Squidgeling T's birthday AND decorated church for a wedding!

Thought you might like to see what we created for the wedding, so here's the link to the St Mary in Charnwood Church flower blog, with lots of pictures of gorgeous flowers to ogle at...

Blog posts will be a bit thin over the next couple of weeks, but I'll tell you all about my adventures soon - I promise! In the meantime, make the most of this warm weather in the UK (summer might FINALLY have arrived!), enjoy your holiday time wherever and whatever you get up to, and fellow scribblers - keep scribbling!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The determination gene

Delighted to say that I've got a guest post up on the Writer's Workshop blog today, which tells of my long involvement with these fabulous folk who champion writers at whatever stage of their writing journey they're at. It also mentions the wonderful Cloudies...and quite a bit about how having determination and perseverance pays off in this strange old world of being an author.

You can read it by clicking THIS LINK.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Seven by seven by seven

One of the writing prompts I've found that's quite useful if you want to kick start a writing session, is the 7x7x7 prompt.

Basically, you go to your bookshelf. Select the seventh book on it, turn to the seventh page and find the seventh sentence. Use that sentence to start your writing...

Last night, we used this expanded idea at NIBS, our little creative writing group. Our theme was simply - SEVEN.

Our starter was to take 'seven' and do what we wanted with it. Could be a seven-line things...a thing associated with seven... Basically it was left wide open to the writers. As you'd expect, the variety of pieces after 15 minutes writing was huge; some took the letters of the word 'seven' to start each line of a five line poem. One person started from 'seven days' and multiplied the seven up and up and up, finding something that each multiple represented (like 42 days equals 6 weeks, the length of the school holidays).  Another began with 7Up, the drink, and passed through all sorts of associations until it came full circle back to where it stated, with 7Up...

My own little piece was based around stuff going on at home at the moment:

Seven rucsacs in the hall, belonging to just three people.
Seven Lindt chocolates left when a moment again there were eight. Squidgeling T?
Seven o'clock on the alarm - a veritable lie-in!
Seven veils of housework and routine...peel away the layers to find the dancer underneath.
Seven pots in the garden planted with summer colour.
Seven steps on the ladder to the revamped tree house.
Seven more shirts to iron...then no more until September.

We moved on from that to choosing one of three options, again linked to the number seven. Seven sisters (the cliffs or the water maidens of myth), the seven deadly sins, or seven NEW wonders of the world. They all sounded like fairly wide options with plenty of scope, but boy, did some of us struggle!

You know that sense of having a germ of an idea, but it just won't gel? And you end up crossing more out than you leave in? At least half of the group felt that way and didn't get very far at all. The other half, though were on a roll! There was a piece written with a lovely child's voice for seven new wonders, but the most outstanding piece started with the idea of the seven sisters paddling in the sea...which became the cliffs...which were a sign of hope - perhaps - to those seeking refuge on our shores. Very, very powerful and a lovely blending and linking of a mixture of images and themes into a cohesive whole.

My piece was one of the ones that didn't work. I had wanted to write about the seven NEW wonders, and thought it might be fun to write about them as wonders introduced by an alien race...but it went nowhere fast. So I gave up on it.

And you know what? It's OK to give up on something sometimes. I'm not going to flog myself over it, trying to force the idea to take shape. Perhaps I've captured enough of it to make it into something in the future, but for now, I'll turn the page.

So we moved on to the final part of the evening. I couldn't be sure everyone would remember to bring their seventh book, so I took a bagful of books with me, picked up from all over my house. Some were fiction, some non-fiction (Trinny and Susannah's What Not to Wear for eg!) and once everyone had chosen a book, we took the seventh page or seventh chapter and found the seventh sentence. We all got on a lot better with this prompt anyway, fuelled by the wide variety on offer.

Once again, I had an idea from the sentence 'He trailed bits of bark and soil as he crossed the room.' Unfortunately it faltered before I had time to finish it, but what little I did write took on a bit of a spooky/horror direction. I've edited it slightly, but here's where I got up to;

Jessum trailed bits of of bark and soil as he crossed the room.

Amara backed away, her hand pressed over her mouth to push the scream back down. The marks on the step should've stopped him! Certainly the cut on her thumb throbbed with the memory of its creation and the use to which it had been put. But then Amara saw the fine drizzle through the open door and the damp cat sitting where she'd painted the sigil...the sigil that was now blurred and smudged.

Jessum lurched a step closer and the grave-stink hit her then; peaty and meaty and rotten. 

"A...mmm...arrrrr...aahhhh..." A single wriggling maggot fell from his lips with her name. He reached out, the movement slow and stiff in death.

A sob escaped her then. "I'm sorry, Jessum! There weren't nothing I could do!"

And that's where it finished, because I hadn't decided what Amara had done to cause Jessum's death and why he'd come back for her or what would happen next! But it's a start. Of what, I've no idea, but it's a start. Keeps the words flowing, which is good as I've started to write notes for The Crystal Keeper's Daughter, my new WIP, in which you'll be introduced to a young lady called Zanni...

In the meantime, it's holiday season here so posts may be a little thinner on the ground than normal - expect HUGE ones when I get back around mid-August! Don't forget to take your copy of StarMark on your hols, or to enter the summer reading competition, and I'll catch up with you all soon!

Not officially 'on my holiday' yet, so here's
me and StarMark in my garden instead!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

StarMark's off on its travels...

Delighted to say that I've heard of several folk planning to enter the summer reading competition...there could be trips to Mauritius and Gozo on the cards, as well as a sailing holiday in Menorca! Some readers are planning on staying closer to home, as demonstrated by StarMark being read up a tree here in Loughborough (Though there's no photographic evidence - yet.)

So, if you've got a copy of StarMark, take a pic of you reading it wherever you spend your holiday time, (remember, I'll post some photos on the blog, so if you don't want your face on the internet, try to take the photo in such a way you can't be identified) and email it to me. Details are on the competition post which you can find by following the link above.

Happy holidays! And happy holiday reading...

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Giveaway time!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

StarMark by Katherine Hetzel


by Katherine Hetzel

Giveaway ends July 31, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

If you haven't already purchased a copy of StarMark, then how about trying to win one? There's a Giveaway on Goodreads if you're interested...starts today, ends at the end of the month. 

Saturday, 2 July 2016


Well, it's gearing up to the summer holidays - not that you'd believe it, the amount of rain we've had during June - and lots of folk will be going away and looking for something to read on the plane or by the pool or on the beach.

Can I suggest StarMark?

And just to make it interesting, if you DO take StarMark on your holidays, why not send me a photo of where you end up reading it?

In fact, why don't we make it REALLY interesting and turn this into a competition?

There'll be a StarMark T-shirt as a prize for the most interesting place where StarMark is read. And as a lot of readers so far have been adults, why don't we have an adult AND a children's category? TWO T-shirts...And yes, if it's on your Kindle rather than a paperback, you can still enter!

So to recap;
1. Take a copy of StarMark with you wherever you go over the summer.
2. Take a photo and mail it to me at before the 1st September. (I will share some of the photos on the blog, so please only send them in if you're happy for your fizzog to be on the internet OR take the picture in such a way that it doesn't show your face but we can still see you with the book...)


Happy holidays everyone!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Hexing...and not a spell in sight

What a week. In the UK, we're still reeling after the results of the EU referendum and everything seems very topsy-turvy. To say that I am worried for our future is an understatement, but I am trying to keep positive and let things run their course. Although how the heck we do that with no effective political leadership at the moment is beyond me...

However, in an attempt to keep things positive, I have been doing some nice things. Like decorating church for a wedding, cooking nice dinners for the family, playing around with the Crystal Keeper's Daughter, (my new WIP - I've gone back to the writing chart and am trying to write something every day) and I've been hexing.

No, not spells - quilting. Over the last couple of months, I made up hexagons of fabric-on-card (known as hexies in the quilting world) to produce flowers for a single bed quilt in the spare room. I stitched them all together and last week I added the border and backing and got some advice from Sue at Quorn Country Crafts about cotton for top quilting, and I was on the home straight...

No two flowers the same...

Now, my rainbow quilt was machine-stitched together, then hand quilted. This hexie quilt is hand stitched together and machine quilted. It took a long time to hand quilt my rainbow squares, but I never realised how much time it takes to machine quilt too!

The full quilt top with the border added

I've decided I'm a bit anal about straight lines and whether or not top stitching takes away from the pattern in a fabric by stitching all over it. (It doesn't, as proven by the fabulous quilts that were on display recently) But with my hexie quilt I decided to have a play. My ancient 1950's machine only does straight stitch forwards and back, so I could do straight lines or irregular wavy ones... I decided to follow the lines of the hexies with a beige/grey/cream mixed cotton, gradually adding lines in different directions until I was happy with the finished effect. In the end, I've gone with three directions, so the flower section will look as though it's made up of lots of little triangles, and I end up with diamonds down the sides of the green border.

One problem I've had has been the tension on my old machine. For some reason, the tension can vary in any one run of stitching, and I'm not sure whether that's to do with the difficulty of handling the weight of material and I'm feeding it through too fast, or whether it's just the machine. Because it's so inconsistent, I daren't play with the tension of the bobbin, and I've resigned myself to the fact that nothing's going to come un-stitched because there's so many lines of stitching - so it's going to be a Unique Feature of this quilt. *winks, and hopes you never look at the back side of the quilt*

Grandma Betty's sewing machine...

Another problem is that when I began stitching, there were tucks on the backing fabric, even though I'd pinned all the layers together. I had to undo the lines to allow the tuck of fabric to smooth out and resew; I was not happy. I wondered if it was because I was being lazy in only pinning the layers? Some quilters tack everything together for security before top-stitching, but that would take even more time... Eventually, I realised it was probably due to the direction in which I'd placed  the pins; they were at right angles to my line of stitching, so the fabric couldn't move with the stitching. Once I changed the pinning to the direction of the sewn lines, the problem disappeared.

The last problem was the cat, who took great delight in cosying up on the quilt while I was still trying to machine it!

The look that says 'Yes? You have a problem with this?'

He did the same when I was working on the rainbow quilt too...

The quilting stage is one of the most physical parts of quilting, and I can't do too much at a time on the machine before my neck and shoulders are aching. And, funnily enough, my hip on the left side - even though the foot pedal's operated with my right foot. I must sit funny on the chair...

I'm almost at the end of the quilting phase and then it's onto binding the edges, which is tough on the fingers but more satisfying because I can hand sew that bit. Everything's prepped and I'm hoping I can get the quilt finished in time for camp in August, because I think I'll be a lot toastier in my sleeping bag and under that than wrapped in a blanket!

After that, who knows? I have a growing stash of fabric in my dining room that's just begging to be made up into something...