Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Broad Abroad: Christmas in Jordan



Early evening, I’m sitting in Amman airport.  It’s Ramadan and the daily fast is about to end.  All around me are women and children, still and silent as statues, apart from occasional surreptitious glances at watches.  Suddenly, with no obvious signal, everyone moves at once.  Bags are opened, sandwiches unwrapped, fruit peeled.  The silence is replaced by murmurs of pleasure as hunger is swiftly appeased.  My neighbour offers to share her bag of dates.  I’ve not fasted, but they are so delicious, I almost miss my husband walking out of Arrivals.  So begins our most unusual and wonderful Christmas ever.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Elizabeth Chats With...T A Williams

In the last few months, I have become part of a loose groups of writers called West of England Authors who are exploring ways of promoting ourselves and our books in the increasingly crowded literary world. One of the people I have met is Trevor Williams who writes romantic fiction under the pen name T A Williams.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Time For A Change?

As the year draws to a close, many of us reflect on what we have achieved during the past twelve months and start planning for the future, This morning, I'm thinking about my blog posts.

Monday, 30 November 2015

And Relax...

As we get older, it appears that time speeds up. I seem to start every Christmas letter (and yes, I do write one of those dreaded things, but it only goes to a few friends that I know want to catch up on the details of our lives) with the words: where has the year gone?

Well today I am saying instead: where has the month gone? Four weeks ago, I posted about taking part in this year's NaNoWriMo. Fifty thousand words to write, thirty days in which to do it - plenty of time!

Monday, 23 November 2015

A Broad Abroad: Home is Where The Heart Is


Not long after the Soviet Union collapsed, I was asked to visit Kabardino Balkarya to carry out a technical due dilligence on a funding bid. A local businessman was hoping to convert a defunct electronics plant in to a factory for the production pharmaceutical infusions (large bags of sterile fluids) and had applied for a loan from an international bank to finance the project.

Monday, 16 November 2015

There Are No Words...


...to describe what most people must have felt when the news broke of Friday's atrocity in Paris. Angry, or distraught, or frightened, or belligerent, or heartbroken; they all seem terribly inadequate somehow.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Elizabeth Chats With...Terry Tyler

Two months ago, I interviewed my wonderful proofreader, Julia Gibbs. Now I'd like to introduce you to the woman who first put me in touch with Julia—her sister. She is a prolific author of contemporary novels described by her fans as a mix  of drama and romantic suspense with the occasional bit of rock fiction. She is also a book reviewer, blogger and originator of the highly amusing Zodiac files. This month, I am chatting to Terry Tyler. 

Monday, 2 November 2015

It's All About Quantity

November is the month when hundreds of thousands of writers from all over the world challenge themselves to write fifty thousand words in just thirty days. It’s sometimes hard to explain to a non-writer why we would want to turn out a large quantity of what is quite often garbage. Because, National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) is very definitely about quantity not quality.

Monday, 26 October 2015

A Broad Abroad: Victoria Falls

In the previous instalment of this occasional series based on a trip to 1990s Zimbabwe, we toured Hwange Game Park and saw the 'big five' animals - eventually. Now read on...

Monday, 19 October 2015

A Novel Is Announced

Anyone who has read part 3 of my Business of Writing series, Improving Effectiveness, or indeed read Terry Tyler's Z Files last week where I exposed my inner Virgo, knows that I set great store by planning. In fact, it is sometimes suggested I would get more done by spending less time writing plans and just doing things instead.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Elizabeth Chats With...Bea Hutchings

I first met this month's guest when she turned up at a meeting of our local writers' circle. Then she emailed us to say she was looking for guests for her radio show. I volunteered before I had a chance to lose my nerve and, although I was petrified going on air, my host was so relaxed and so professional, I loved every moment of it and have been back several times since. She spends a lot of time interviewing other people; this time we're turning the tables on her. I am delighted to be chatting with Bea Hutchings, or Sooty, as she is known to her listeners on Riviera fm. 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Chilling By The River

After three days of full-on treats, and rather more walking than we'd promised ourselves, today is a fairly unstructured day. We are meeting friends for lunch, but otherwise the day is ours.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Serendipity Day

Today we have plans for the afternoon and evening, but leave the morning to look after itself, heading in the general direction of Covent Garden. For people who usually know exactly where we are going - and how long it will take to get there - it is an unusual experience.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Where Have All The Years Gone?

The main protagonist in my current work-in-progress, which is set in 2004, lives in Vauxhall and works out of an office in St Thomas' Hospital. So we start our day on Westminster Bridge, strolling along the embankment, taking in the sights she would see on her journey to and from work and trying to work out what the skyline would have looked like eleven years ago.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Country Mice Go To The City

"Let's promise ourselves we won't walk our feet off this time," says Michael as we pack our cases. I happily agree, knowing we will blissfully abandon our promise as soon as we hit the city. It happens every time: Paris, Barcelona, Granada; every city looks small on the map, but turns out to be much larger in reality.

Monday, 21 September 2015

A Broad Abroad: Why Do I Do This?

Before I 'gave up the day job' to write full-time, I spent many years travelling around Russia and the former Soviet Union countries. I had some wonderful experiences, met some amazing people - and yet, there were times when the thought of yet another trip, yet more nights in strange hotels in strange cities, became a bit too much. This piece was written on one such occasion.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Elizabeth Chats With...Julia Gibbs

Being a self-published author isn't about doing everything yourself; it's about taking responsibility for everything yourselfmaking sure you have the right team members in place to cover the parts you can't do yourself. This month I'm chatting to someone who plays an important role, not only in my team, but in that of lots of other authors (and I'm going to check this posting very carefully for typos before I hit 'publish'). This month, I'm chatting to Julia Gibbs aka Proofreader Julia.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Read, Reflect, Review...

You know how sometimes a topic seems to crop up in lots of different places at the same time? Well for the past few days, everywhere I turn, I bump into conversations about book reviews.

Monday, 31 August 2015

No Place For Bystanders

Anyone who's read any of my books on business skills for writers, or sat in one of my workshops at Swanwick, knows I am a strong devotee of the spreadsheet. Great for setting up simple accounts systems, wonderful for a quick and easy to-do list, and invaluable for planning the latest writing project. Well, this week, I've been using it for viewing and weeding out unnecessary characters in my novel.

Monday, 24 August 2015

A Broad Abroad: Leaving Ukraine

It is the end of a week’s training course in Kiev; Victoria and Lena are due to pick me up at noon for the short journey to the airport.  I get a call at 11.30am to say they’re running late due to traffic congestion.  Not a problem for me — I just sit in the foyer and read.  When they arrive at 12.15pm, they announce we have plenty of time and will have lunch first, but should eat in the hotel, since the traffic is too bad to risk going elsewhere.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Busy Doing Nothing

Socrates said: Beware the barrenness of a busy life. Those Greeks knew a thing or two, didn't they? When I don't write - and there are far too many days when that happens - it's never because I can't think what to write about. I may be 'blocked' on one piece of work, but there's always another one on the go that I can work on instead.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Swanwick 2015: Only in Swanwick...



...would the Dregs Party include an ensemble of musicians howling along to Werewolves of Gateshead...

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Swanwick 2015: Keeping The Faith

Stephen King (Photo courtesy of "Pinguino")
Thought for the Day: Sitting in Simon Hall's class on novel writing this morning, I heard the strongest reason for we writers to keep going, even when we think we'll never write a decent word again, or when we think no-one will ever accept our work or read anything we've produced: after thirty rejections of his first novel, Stephen King nearly gave up! His wife persuaded him to keep going - and the rest is history!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Swanwick 2015: Quizzing and Busking

A superb quiz from Phil Collins last night, and if our team hadn't tried to second guess the motives behind the final round, we'd probably have won, instead of coming joint second! But at least we got the town planning question right.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Swanwick 2015: A Right Royal Performance

Picture courtesy of Katie Write
Last night's guest speaker protested when she was introduced as 'the Queen of short stories' but we all agreed with Michael's description. Della Galton took us through her writing journey, from part-time to full-time writer via a dramatic house-fire and a roller-coaster of highs and lows. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Swanwick 2015: Elizabeth Chats With...

Humour, as always, plays a big part in the week. In our 4-part course on Novel Writing, Simon Hall keeps us laughing and groaning with his (hopefully deliberately) terrible jokes and puns. But the prize for the day's worst joke  (and it's only 10:45!) has to go to Rita who, in the middle of a workshop on character, described our villian, the owner of a fireworks factory, thus: he wasn't just any guy, he was Mr Fawkes!

Daily Interview

It's Monday, the second week of the month - and time for one of my full-length interviews. But it's also part way through Swanwick and its associated daily blog. So today, I'm going to combine the two by chatting with a Swanwick buddy of mine.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Swanwick 2015: A Day To Remember

One of the most special moments each year takes place during the 12.20 pm service on Sunday, day 2. That's when the Book of Remembrance is opened and we hear the names of members of the school who have passed away in the last twelve months. This year, we remember: Ursula Kennedy, Pat Lowe, Hugh C Rae, and Catherine King. The list is shorter this year than last, but no less poignant for that. It's always sad to lose a friend.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Swanwick 2015: And The Winner Is...


Well, here we are again! And for those of you who, like me, think we've only just had Christmas, you've missed seven months of the year and  we really are in August once again! And if it's August, it must be Swanwick.

And the big news of today is that the Quaich was awarded this year to the wonderful Lois Maddox for all the incredible work she does in organising and running the Book Room each year. Well done, Lois!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Travels of a Navigator, 4th Class: The Final Straw

Today we go home. A simple journey: just head for the M4, the Severn Bridge and the M5 southwards. It's so easy, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, 31 July 2015

Travels of a Navigator, 4th Class: Our Industrial Past

Today, normal service is resumed, navigation-wise - and this time, it probably is my fault. The weather has taken a turn for the decidedly soggy, so we plot a route to Blaenavon, the World Heritage Town, containing an old ironworks and Big Pit coal mine.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Travels of a Navigator, 4th Class: Climb Every Mountain



Today there are absolutely no navigational problems! I get us exactly where we want to be - finding the road northwards towards Hay on Wye without a single hitch. The fact that the road, shown as a thin white line on the map, turns out to be a single track, between high hedges and with very few passing places, is really not my fault!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Travels of a Navigator, 4th Class: Not My Fault (Again)

Today we decide to start the holiday with a gentle walk - a couple of miles along the river to visit a waterfall just outside Glynneath, which is some twenty miles away from our hotel. We start off well: finding the required B road, making our way through a chicane barely inches wider then the car; crossing the weak bridge and driving through the village of Llangynidr at the other side.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Travels of a Navigator, 4th Class: Setting Off

Our trip to Wales is booked as the antidote to the two months of preparation and ten days of mayhem that was Chudfest. We've timed it precisely: giving ourselves a week to return all the borrowed cool boxes, crockery and bits of equipment; count all the money; and recover our sleep. I've written a ToDo list - and it's all finished bar a couple of items postponed until after the trip. We're good to go!

Monday, 27 July 2015

A Broad Abroad: From Everglades to Baseball

A whistle blew and the train trembled into movement. My home for the next twenty-eight hours comprised facing seats that slid towards each other to form a flat bed and a tiny, boxed-in commode with fold-down sink above. Compact — and all mine.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Got My Mojo Back...

One of the gifts I inherited from my father is the ability to sleep well. I am lucky enough to be able to fall asleep anywhere, any time: in hotel rooms, on planes, on Russian overnight trains; in the taxi between my hotel and the next factory to be audited; in theatres or cinemas where the warm, dark environment is just so tempting; in cold empty marquees; or in front of the TV - my husband will attest to the number of programmes I have snoozed through after settling down eagerly to watch them in the 'sleeping chair' as he calls my wonderfully comfortable recliner in our lounge.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Elizabeth Chats With...Tina Burton

This month's visitor was the first guest on my monthly interview slot back in October 2013. She's a fellow Devonian writer, although we met online long before we got together in person. Her second novel The Love Shack is published on 28th July, and she's popped back for another chat. This month, I'm delighted to be chatting (again) to Tina K Burton.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

I've Not Been Around Recently...



For the second time in less than a month, I've missed my regular blog posting this Monday. Once is excusable; twice is getting to be a habit! So I thought I'd better say a word about what's kept me from writing for the past few weeks.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sunday by the Sea

A Sunday afternoon at the English seaside often used to involve music: a bandstand, a few musicians playing their socks off, the audience dozing in deckchairs. And at the end of last month, it was a bit like that on Torquay seafront.

Monday, 22 June 2015

A Broad Abroad: My Indian Ocean Bath

In the more than 20 years I worked internationally, I visited some under-developed countries and on some occasions, conditions were quite difficult. But that wasn't always the case. There was one trip in particular that will always remain a happy memory for me...

Monday, 8 June 2015

Elizabeth Chats With...Morgen Bailey

You know those days when you just can't think what to write about? Well on a day like that, the website run by this month's guest is one of my go-to places. Her writing triggers have got me out of a rut on many an occasion. I'm delighted to be chatting to Morgen Bailey (and yes, that is how you spell her name!)

Hello Morgen; thanks for popping by. Usual question to start with: what is your earliest memory — and how old were you at the time?

Monday, 1 June 2015

Interview Round-Up


I was going to talk today about spending Sunday afternoon in a musical marquee in Torquay (we certainly know how to live down here in the South West). 

Monday, 25 May 2015

A Broad Abroad: Snapshots from Kazakhstan

On the flight from Almaty, I fall asleep above a river winding across green terrain at the foot of snow-capped mountains. I awake to a brown expanse, striped alternatively light and dark. It looks like some parts are cultivated and others not. The patches are huge - much bigger than any fields in Europe. I am told they are mountains. There must be a translation problem—there are no such regular mountain formations anywhere on earth.

Monday, 18 May 2015

A Day at the Races

One of the other hats I wear, apart from writer of elegant fictional prose (!) is that of editor of Chudleigh Phoenix Community Magazine. In that guise I applied for a press pass to the count for the district and town elections earlier this month. Somewhat to my amazement, my application was accepted. In fact they also offered me one for the Parliamentary count the previous evening, but as we live in a constituency with a very safe Conservative seat, there weren't going to be any surprises there, so I declined.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Elizabeth Chats With...Berni Stevens

Many people have commented on the beautiful cover on my novel Gorgito's Ice Rink and, as I had no hand in designing it, I'm happy to agree with them. My interviewee this month is the woman responsible for that cover - and for many other great designs on our bookshelves at the moment; she is also an author in her own right. I'm delighted to be chatting with Berni Stevens. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

When Did We Get So Fearful?

In our house, there is a level of uncertainty and anticipation about this Thursday’s elections - but it’s nothing to do with the national poll. For the first time in thirty years, our small town has more candidates than seats and we are being asked to cast our ballots for the members of the Town Council.

My husband is already a Councillor, elected unopposed following a mid-term resignation three years ago. But this time, he has to fight for his seat. So for the first time since we were members of the Young Socialists nearly forty years ago—then searching for Labour votes in the safest Tory constituency in the country—we’ve been pounding the pavements, delivering leaflets and asking people to vote. And I thought I’d share some of my reflections on the past week with you. [And, no, this isn't a party political broadcast.]

Monday, 27 April 2015

A Broad Abroad: Death in Business Class

‘There’s no problem; it’s alright — I’m with British Airways,’ a short dark-haired woman is screaming in my ear. I slowly return to consciousness, as though forcing my way through mist.  I am lying on a trolley, being pushed at high speed through a concrete tunnel with no windows.  Stark neon tubes burn above my head, illuminating central heating ducts and an occasional doorway. Even in my disoriented state, I know everything is definitely not alright!  

Monday, 20 April 2015

A Tough Day At The Office: An Indulgence


It's the third Monday of the month, which means it's not only personal essay day here on the blog, but it's also Chudleigh Writers' monthly meeting. And today, we broke out of our little room in the Town Hall and hit the road to Stover Country Park. What follows are my somewhat indulgent musings on the day.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Elizabeth Chats With...Margaret Barnes

My guest this month is a fellow member of Chudleigh Writers' Circle and my writing buddy. In 2012, when we were both working on our debut novels, we met each week to work through our manuscripts together, honing our critiquing and our editing skills at the same time. She is a retired barrister, living in Devon, whose fiction is set in the law courts of London, a city where she spent much of her adult life and for which she has 'an unrequited love'. I am delighted to be chatting with Margaret Barnes.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Quantity Over Quality?

This Friday will be 10th April and it’s a special date for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the day on which my late parents got married. This year, it will be their 65th anniversary and I will, as always, raise a glass to them, as I’m sure they are celebrating somewhere. It’s also the second publication anniversary for Parcels in the Rain, and I will be trying to think of an appropriate way to celebrate that fact too.