The world has gone mad, my family’s needs call…
but still Sweet Robin sings.
This too shall pass.
The world has gone mad, my family’s needs call…
but still Sweet Robin sings.
This too shall pass.
Not quite the jaunty start to 2020 I hoped for, but at least I can wish you a Happy New Year and Valentines Day at the same time.
One reason for my absence is my self-imposed, many-weeks long assignment to study, learn and act upon the querying process for memoir submissions. I’ve included a few links for anyone in the same boat. Or out at sea, as I have been, storm or otherwise.
Before the bad weather hit last weekend, I took a walk by the sea. A literal calm before the storm in the late afternoon.
It helps process thoughts in a writerly brain such as how to write a good elevator pitch. Razzle Dazzle: The Art and Craft of the Elevator Pitch by Ruth Harris gives some great pointers.
Hard to imagine how hard it can be to find a few good words with this view…
Writing a synopsis, an approximately 500 word, chronological summary of your entire book revealing the key plot with major twists, is no easy task either. Writing the Dreaded Novel Synopsis? These Two Simple Hacks Will Help by Anne R Allen gives great advice.
The snyopsis reveals the ending, unlike the blurb which keeps us guessing. Looking at this full moon in a clear, winter sky kept me guessing about the storm heading our way.
Jane Friedman’s excellent article, The Complete Guide to Query Letters pinged into my inbox just in time…
‘This post focuses on query letters for novels, although the same advice applies to memoirists, because both novelists and memoirists are selling a story. Nonfiction book queries are addressed here.’
The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2020 is a fantastic resource, packed full of agent and publisher submission advice.
I hope this is helpful, and if anyone has any memoir submission tips, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Storm Dennis is on its way this weekend (storms didn’t used to have names, did they?), but no seaside shots this time; I’m holding out for some snow…
Happy New Valentines Day!
Love Sherri x
What I wanted to tell you at Christmas is how spectacular the illuminations at Stourhead this year. I wanted to show you the carpet of lights twinkling down to the lake and the Pantheon lit up like a beacon in the distance with two little boats in the water…
A partridge in a pear tree…
And isn’t it funny? Life, I mean. Just when you think you’re on a hiding to nothing and you wonder where it’s all going to lead, something wonderful happens, something you didn’t see coming a million miles away.
Charli Mills held her Rodeo Contest at Carrot Ranch with a team of judges from her home community in Minnesota. You know, right there by Lake Superior in the snow. Lost in submissions and a crash of confidence, I didn’t think I could or would enter. But at the last minute, something wild came over me. So I did. Just one, the last: TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction) with the prompt, ‘Beans’.
I wanted to tell you at Christmas that my entry placed second and oh what a thrill to see my story with the other winning entries. The validation at any time but especially this time (for me) is a huge boost. Knock-backs take their toll.
Charli writes about the push and pull of entering contests and the fears, doubts and insecurities writers face. It’s an excellent read.
Thank you, Charli, from the bottom of my heart, for your faith in me.
Then I wanted to tell you at Christmas about the three bears bearing gifts
with plenty of ‘Grrrrr’ for the season…
And another kind of bear, that is Paddington Bear(s) in greetings from Bath
What I also wanted to tell you at Christmas is that my blogging friend, Michael S. Fedison, author of The Eye-Dancers and its sequel, The Singularity Wheel, is now offering Freelance Editing and Proofreading Services. I’ve known Mike and his wonderful writing for years and highly recommend him.
And also to tell you that Esther Chilton (she helped me greatly with advice and edits of my memoir manuscript) has a new book on writing tips coming out soon. Not to be missed with her writing expertise as an experienced tutor and editor.
There is an excellent writing blog I have followed for a long time: Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris. Great excitement in discovering that I once lived in the same place as Anne on the Central Coast of California. I’m her neighbour from afar! Anne has great advice in her recent post, Commenting on Blogs: The Easy way for New Writers to Build Platform.
More news I wanted to tell you at Christmas is the release of Sally Cronin’s new book, Life’s Rich Tapestry -Woven in Words, a collection of verse, micro-fiction and short stories. Author D G Kaye (Debby Gies) shares her 5-Star Review in a beautiful write-up.
For all your generous sharing and support, simply to you both:
Thank you from my heart.
And to all of you who read my blog and support my writing and for your friendship
and encouragement, I can’t thank you enough.
There is so much I wanted to tell you at Christmas.
In the crazy of this world and the darkness of these days, it is hard finding answers.
The light of hope in the lonely hours came for me through the words of a
book for our time.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,
by Charlie Mackesy.
When the night is darkest before dawn.
Introduced by the author as a book for anyone from eight to eighty, its message is as exquisite as it is profound. It will floor you then fix you.
‘The boy is full of questions, the mole is greedy for cake. The fox is mainly silent and wary because he’s been hurt by life…’
Simplicity in its purest form of words and illustrations, this book will, I know, crush the hardest heart. This book is a gift of hope.
‘”What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy.
“Help,” said the horse….’
Kindness, love and discovering that home isn’t always a place. And never giving up.
And that is what I wanted to tell you at Christmas.
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year.
See you back here in 2020!
Love Sherri x
Seasons Greetings, all! Things might have seemed quiet here at the summerhouse, but it’s been a buzz of activity behind the scenes. More on that next week in my Christmas post. For now, it’s great to return with a hearty welcome to my lovely friend, blogger and prolific author, Geoff Le Pard.
Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.
Some of you know Geoff well through blogging. I first met him five years ago at the very first Bloggers Bash in London and it’s great to catch up with him here and there. I’m delighted to help with the launch of Geoff’s latest novel, The Last Will of Sven Anderson, which continues with the misadventures of one Harry Spittle, first introduced in Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle. A third in the series follows next year. Congratulations, Geoff!
When Harry Spittle, nearly qualified as a solicitor, is approached to write a Will for old acquaintance Sven Andersen, he is somewhat surprised but rather pleased. That pleasure sours after he finds that the Will Sven actually signs is very different to the one he has drawn up, with Harry as the executor. Disappointment turns to horror when he discovers that Sven has been winding up his late father’s criminal empire and a number of not very nice people are interested in the Will’s contents.
If he is to remain in one piece, able to continue his career in the law and save his on-off relationship with his girlfriend Penny, who is unfortunately under suspicion of murder, he needs to find out what’s happened to the money and distribute it according to Sven’s wishes. The trouble is Sven has not only hidden the assets but also the identities of those who benefit. Harry will have to solve a fiendish puzzle Sven has left behind with the help of his sister Dina before his world comes crashing down. With so many people depending on him, Harry knows it’s time for him to grow up – it’s just that he really, really doesn’t want to.
Set in 1981 to the backdrop of punk, Thatcherite politics and an upcoming Royal wedding, this is a book for those who like their nostalgia served with a side of humour and a dash of optimism all wrapped up in a compelling mystery.
Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle
It’s summer 1976 and hotter than Hades. Harry Spittle, nineteen, is home from university, aiming to earn some money to go on holiday and maybe get laid. He expects he will be bored rigid, but the appearance of an old family friend, Charlie Jepson, his psychopathic son, Claude, and predatory wife Monica changes that. As his parents’ marriage implodes, Harry’s problems mount; before he knows it he’s in debt up to his ears and dealing in drugs. Things go from bad to worse when he is stabbed. He needs money fast, but now his job is at risk, his sister is in trouble and he has discovered a family secret that could destroy all he holds dear. Will Harry have to join forces with the local criminal mastermind to survive the summer and save his family? Can he regain some credibility and self-respect? Most importantly will he finally get laid?
Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated.
If Harry Spittle isn’t great entertainment enough for you, do scroll through for links to Geoff’s other books with updates at Geoff Le Pard’s Amazon Author Page.
My Father And Other Liars
My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.
Life in a Grain of Sand
Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015.
Buster & Moo
Buster & Moo is about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?
Life in a Flash
Apprenticed To My Mother
Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.
Life in a Conversation
Life in a Conversation is an anthology of short and super short fiction that explores connections through humour, speech and everything besides. If you enjoy the funny, the weird and the heart-rending then you’ll be sure to find something here.
Lovely to feature you today, Geoff, and we wish you all the best with your latest launch.
In early September, my family whisked me away to a delightful cottage (a one time Calvinist chapel) in the heart of the beautiful Sussex countryside. This was my ‘big’ birthday getaway, plotted and planned with great secrecy.
With stunning views all around, we ate breakfast on the roof patio, took walks in the surrounding woods and fields and visited the quaint and historic towns of Battle (site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings) and Rye.
I didn’t do a thing: the kids cooked, cleaned up, arranged some meals out and eldest son’s girlfriend made a divine birthday sponge cake of lemon and blueberry with lemon-curd butter icing. They also kept me topped up with bubbly. They know their mum well, obviously.
With cards, gifts and a video slideshow of family pics put to a few of my favourite songs, I struggled to keep a dry eye.
But best of all, my adult children gave me their gift of time in days filled with love, laughter, silliness and joy.
And this: a hand engraved ink bottle with ‘Stories Yet to be Written’ inscribed on the front, their personal message on the back…
They knew of my euphoria when I finished my memoir before this milestone birthday, but not of the strange lull that followed. They couldn’t have known how a few simple words so lovingly considered and etched on an ink bottle would lift me.
The power of the written word…
‘Get it out there, be like Nike Girl’, a friend recently urged me. ‘Just Do It!’ Not so out of reach, but the beginning of a new chapter.
The message behind the message my family commissioned for me, like the gift itself, is priceless. Not only because of their love, but for the philosophy of the person who crafted it…
Andy Poplar, founder of ‘Vinegar & Brown Paper‘, tells it like this on his website:
‘Advertising creative gets burnt out by the industry. Quits. Becomes stay at home dad. Has an idea about etching words onto glass.Sets out to mend his head with [vinegar & brown paper]. As [vinegar & brown paper], I’ve spent the last 7 years taking vintage or iconic items of glassware and bringing them to life with the tools of typography, wit, wordplay and a slightly askew way of looking at the world. From the humble British milk bottle to beautiful laboratory glass, nostalgic filled sweet jars to vintage mirrors, each item is individually etched in my studio in the North of England and it never fails to amaze me, that you can now find pieces of [vinegar & brown paper] on bookshelves everywhere, from York to New York. Andy Poplar
Ideas etched in glass’
Holly Tucker MBE (Founder of Holly & Co , champion of small businesses,) interviews Andy on her ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ podcast: ‘The Healing Power of Becoming an Artisan ‘. Andy talks about leaving his city job, his struggles with mental health and his recovery through the fulfillment of his creative dreams.
My heart is full of love and gratitude for my family.
And I would like to tell Andy that my treasured ink bottle sits in pride of place on my desk in Somerset, inspiring the flow of words for Stories Yet To Be Written.
Greetings, dear friends! After a few weeks away at work (memoir submission) and play (birthday fun, catch up post next week), today I’m delighted to welcome author, Hugh W Roberts, to the Summerhouse.
Hugh is on book blog tour with his second short story collection, More Glimpses. Thrilled to jump onboard and help spread the word, I knew I was in for a treat when Hugh’s book arrived in the post.
It is no secret to those of us who have read Hugh’s stories on his blog and debut collection Glimpses (published in 2016), that he knows how to keep us riveted with his masterful storytelling.
Whether funny, sad or downright deadly, from drama to comedy, science fiction, murder/mystery, paranormal and horror, Hugh leads us through a gamut of emotions and keeps us guessing to the end with a twist in every tale.
”More Glimpses’ gives the reader an opportunity to take a peek into the lives of normal, everyday people whose lives are all on a path full of twists, turns and unexpected endings. But it’s not only about the humans; nothing escapes the extraordinary journeys Hugh has planned for you.’
A wonderfully engaging and fantastic read, I highly recommend More Glimpses with my 5-Star Review on Amazon, adapted here:
‘With Prudence Pebblebottom, the Easter Bunny and The Queen, to name a few, how can Hugh’s stories fail to thrill? Tiny people, elderly time travellers and a boarded up music hall transport us to unknown worlds. ‘Murder in Evershot’ takes us to a quaint English village in deepest, darkest Dorset I know well; Miss Marple will never be the same again. My favourite story is ‘Dream Catcher’ because as Hugh knows, I love a disturbing twist. So pull up your chair and turn down the lights (except the one you read by) for a page-turner collection in the mind- popping tradition of Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone. You won’t be disappointed.
Hugh’s opening story, The Whistle, contains a secret within a poignant and powerful read. It gripped me from its first line:
‘When will it come? Every anticipated moment is like torture.’
The only way to find out, of course, is to read the story. But first, Jack, the main character, has a few words to say about it, insistent on writing Hugh’s guest post:
Can You Keep A Secret?
Before you answer that question, you may like to read what I have to say first. You
see, I have a warning for you. Something that you should take very seriously. My name is Jack, and I’m a character in the story ‘The Whistle’, the first story in the new collection of short stories, More Glimpses, by Hugh W. Roberts.
I fought hard not to appear in that story because it was a place I didn’t want to go, but Hugh refused to allow me to leave. Just like some secrets which are held like a prisoner, Hugh locked me into the story and threw away the key. I found that heartless and thought I’d never trust him again.
However, over time, I grew to trust him, and even though it took him months to finish
the story, it wasn’t until he told me that he was going to reveal a secret that I finally
stopped plotting to escape and agreed to stay.
As Hugh tapped away at the keyboard, he kept promising to reveal the secret to me.
But, as the author, he also knew that if he told me too soon, I’d have caused him
trouble and relentlessly tried to escape before he had finished the story.
Without me, Hugh knew that the story would never have had the same impact as it’s been getting in the reviews for ‘More Glimpses.’
Now, where were we? Oh, yes. Secrets. How many secrets have you been told? Are
they even secrets once they’ve been told?Just like the nearest person to you right now, we all have secrets, don’t we? Some of us find it challenging to keep them safe (one of the biggest mistakes us humans can make in life).
As soon as you unlock the door to the place they are held, and allow them to roam free, you allow ‘uncertainty’ into your life and those who are locked inside the secret.
I’m one of the first to agree that not all secrets are unsafe when freed, but most of
them can grow into a creature that will unleash unhappiness, terror, and darkness
into the lives of so many of us.
They can not only split families apart but can summon up another monster that visits us way before it should do. You know who I mean, don’t you? Yes, the green-eyed monster.
If I told you the secret that Hugh told me, who knows what you would do with it. You
may promise me that you’ll never pass on that secret to anyone else but ask yourself
what would tempt you to reveal it. Is there anything in your world that would entice
you to unlock the door to my secret?
If you answered ‘no’, ask yourself if you really are being truthful to the person that matters most in your life. Who’s that person? You!
I can’t reveal the secret I know to you, but if you read ‘The Whistle’ you’ll find out
what it is. I wonder what you will do once you know my secret. Will you create a
monster from it, or lock it away and hope nobody ever finds it?
Can you keep a secret? It’s up to you.
Don’t worry, Jack; your secret is safe and sound at the Summerhouse. No spoilers here. But for those of you wanting to find out more about Hugh and his writing, a lovely warm welcome awaits you here (and I can vouch for that):
Blog: Hugh’s Views and News
‘Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Toby and Austin. Although he was born in Wales, he has lived around various parts of the United Kingdom, including London where he lived and worked for 27 years.Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of online friends he considers as an ‘everyday essential’.His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain in taking the reader up a completely different path to one they think they are on. One of the best compliments a reader can give Hugh is “I never saw that ending coming.”Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was released in March 2019.A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and enjoys relaxing with a glass of red wine and sweet popcorn.Hugh shares his life with John, his civil-partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.’
Hugh, it’s been an honour to feature you and your wonderful book at the Summerhouse today, and I’m sure my lovely readers will join me in wishing you every success with all your ventures, secret or otherwise.
Today, I’m thrilled and honoured to guest post at Hugh Robert’s wonderful blog, Hugh’s News & Views, on the challenges of balancing blogging, writing a book and the curve balls of life. And the fascinating coincidences bloggers regularly discover through online friendships, though ocean’s apart. Thank you, dear friends! ❤
Blogging, in my experience, is a strange beast. Show your blog you’re in charge and it behaves. But turn your back for just one minute, and it’ll sink its teeth right into you snarling, ‘Who is Master now?’
My early blogging years had a slow start for the first six months, and then one day, I found my poor blog under lock and key in spam prison. Back then, I had no idea what was going on, so I posted a plea for help. I didn’t think anybody would notice, but they did. Relieved to learn it was a widespread problem at the time (and nothing I had done wrong, phew!), it was soon rectified.
Better yet, I discovered a kind, caring, all-embracing community in the great wide ether that I hadn’t known existed.
From then on, blogging became a way of life as my blog took off. I kept…
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Last week I bought some curtain material from Laura Ashley, thanks to a great sale discount. It’s been a long time since I did any sewing. My steadfast sewing machine since my days in California still works a dream thanks to a voltage converter.
Talk of sewing never fails to remind me of a certain teacher in middle school. I don’t know about you, but I did not like middle school one bit. Granted, this would have been the mid 70s when ‘Group Projects’ ruled the day. And Needlework.
Getting a group of twelve and thirteen year olds to cooperate while the teacher, a middle aged man in shiny trousers and long, black sideburns (it was the 70s, remember) trying to keep order was not pretty.
Needlework was in a class of its own (sorry…cliches, puns, going with it today…) Teacher, a matronly woman with short hair and a never a smile to cross her face, gave instructions on how to buy a pattern and material for our selected items. In my case, a pair of navy, flared trousers.
Teacher measured me and told me the size I needed. Except her measurements were way out. ‘But…they’re too big…’ I protested, albeit meekly, afraid of making her cross. Which I did anyway.
‘Nonsense’, she snapped.
My mother, who did a lot of sewing in those days, said the same thing when I showed her the measurements. Utter nonsense.
Better do as Teacher said, we agreed. The last thing I wanted was to be singled out in front of the whole class…
Alas, it was as I feared; as I pinned the pattern pieces to the material and cut them out, they looked huge. ‘I’ll look like an elephant,’ I moaned to my mother back home.
Teacher then told us to take the pieces home for the weekend and tack them together with temporary, hand stitching. But my mother had another plan. ‘Don’t mess about with tacking,’ she said, ‘here’s a short cut.’ Great, I thought, a head start, as she showed me how to stitch the items together on her sewing machine.
If I had wanted to prevent being singled out, I went the wrong way about it. Teacher, furious, made me sit through the whole class and into lunchbreak if necessary, unpicking by hand every single stitch. Then tack them together, by hand, as she had first instructed.
And yes, I ended up with what forever would became known in my family with great hilarity as those ‘Elephant Trousers.’ Needless to say, I never wore them. Strangely, it didn’t put me off sewing, thanks to my mother’s short cuts…
Lessons learned? Some of value (group projects and needlework aside…) but I couldn’t wait for the last day before the summer holidays, ‘School’s Out For Summer,’ blasting from the radio.
But of course, life long learning is a very different animal to sitting behind a desk bored and fed up and avoiding Teacher’s dirty looks. If only I had had more teachers like someone I’ve known since my early blogging days, life long educator, writer and wonderful friend, dear Norah Colvin.
Best described on her About page as an …’experienced and passionate educator. I teach. I write. I create..’, Norah also links to fantastic resources for school age children both in school and at home from her wonderful website, readilearn. She also writes flash fiction at Carrot Ranch and is a great friend to many throughout the blogosphere.
So I was thrilled when she recently invited me to share my thoughts as a guest for her ‘School Days, Reminiscences‘ series. Thank you so much, Norah! Teachers like you (and I take my hat off to you all) make the world a better place. I’m truly honoured to sit in your classroom today.
School’s out for some, the sewing can wait, but today I’m in Australia taking lessons from the best. I do hope you’ll join me!