Hello, and thank you for visiting my site. I hope that you'll return often and always find something of interest about my world and what inspires me to pick up a pen. (This is a figure of speech, unfortunately. My handwriting is terrible!) Here's what I've been up to recently...

Every Little Helps!

As well as writing stories, articles, reviews and even the odd poem, I’ve always enjoyed submitting ‘fillers’ of all kinds. My little handbook Easy Money For Writers & Wannabes was a best seller when it first came out and, although publications have come and gone since then, is still a useful guide to the basics. There will always be a market for anecdotes, jokes, handy tips, amusing photographs and so on and they can be rewarded with prizes or cold hard cash. The former can range from an electric sander from a DIY magazine to a caddy full of loose leaf tea from The People’s Friend, as in the image below.

                 

I always enjoy reading stories by fellow contributors to TPF and the one mentioned above particularly caught my eye.  What home spun fun children enjoyed before the advent of computer games! 

 

7 February, 2021 Make the first comment on this story

Spirit & Destiny

The inspiration behind A Locket Full of Love is a story very dear to my heart.

                  

             

Readers of my novel Shadows of the Past  know that a locket plays a significant part in that story too. It can be seen three times on the front cover: draped over the photograph of the young couple, worn by the girl and just glimpsed to the right in the photo of the older lady. 

The true story behind the locket is just as poignant as the fictional accounts that I have woven around it. My maternal grandmother fell on hard times after losing her first husband, who left her with three children to bring up alone. Marrying my widowed grandfather and having his son and then two more babies to look after drove her further into poverty and the little jewellery she’d had was sacrificed to keep the family afloat. Her eldest  son Albert, pictured below, swore that he’d buy her a gold locket as soon as he could afford it, but that was not to be. He went down with HMS Ardent during the Battle of Jutland in 1916, leaving his mother to mourn him until her own death in 1930. She did get the  locket, though, deciding to devote the meagre compensation she was awarded for the loss of her son to its purchase. In due course the locket passed down to my own mother, who wore it throughout World War 2 while my father was away with the Army and she left it to me, her only daughter. I never knew either my grandmother or my uncle, but their memories and the locket are very precious to me. I also have the bronze memorial plaque my grandmother, like millions of other bereaved people, was sent. It’s colloquially known as ‘the Dead Man’s Penny’, which some believed bitterly was all that the government thought their sacrifice was worth. 

 

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29 January, 2021 There are 2 comments on this story

The People’s Friend is definitely my friend too!

This week began very well for me, when I was featured on TPF’s website as ‘Writer of the Week’.

 

My latest story, inspired by my television work, appeared today and I’m delighted with the illustration created by Sailesh Thakrar. One might almost wonder if Sailesh is psychic, because we’ve never met and yet the main character is wearing a jacket almost identical to one I’ve worn several times on set. What do you think?

Spot me in the background of Emmerdale’s Woolpack?

There are many good things about writing stories for The People’s Friend and I shall list a few:

The Fiction team is ever receptive to new and experienced writers alike.

 Each writer, once his/her first submission is accepted, is allocated an individual editor.

The editors are unstinting with their advice and support.

Writers are paid on acceptance of a story. 

The magazine does not demand all  rights. 

 

To top it all, I heard from my editor today that another of my stories has been accepted. WATCH THIS SPACE!

18 November, 2020 Make the first comment on this story

August 2020 – a month to remember for (almost) all the wrong reasons!

Sadly, August 2020 will be recalled with very little pleasure by most people, myself included. My heart has gone out to examination candidates embroiled in the shambles surrounding their ‘results’ as well as business people and travellers whose lives remain on a roller coaster with no end in sight. The cancellation of the Writers’ Summer School, the high spot of every year since 2006 for me, pales in comparison but was nevertheless a huge disappointment.

With most normal activities curtailed, not going stir crazy has been quite a challenge. However, some people have worked very hard behind the scenes to provide ‘virtual’ substitutes for their normal programmes and I’m particularly grateful to the dedicated staff of Ripon Community Link, the Swanwickers who organised the ‘virtual book room’ and Peter Page, Ripon Writers’ Group’s indefatigable Secretary.

 

There have, of course, been compensations. The sunflowers in our back garden – a ‘blush’ variety –  have reached triffid-like proportions and provided both colour for us and a source of nourishment for the bees. The tomato plant donated earlier in the summer by our good neighbours is groaning with ripe fruit* and the same neighbours have been kind enough to share their plum harvest. *Yes, I’m aware that knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it into a fruit salad! 

We haven’t ventured far from home, preferring to walk along the canal or riverside, but we did manage a brief visit to the east coast. More popular resorts being ludicrously crowded with ‘staycationers’, we walked down to the sands at Hunmanby Gap. (Hardened by childhood holidays in Bridlington, I was the only one to venture into the North Sea for a paddle!)

This has not been a productive month for writing, but I generally do better once the evenings start to draw in.  No doubt Jago, who loves having his family at home almost all the time, will continue as my co-editor. Watch this space!

3 September, 2020 Make the first comment on this story

Plus ça change…

Over a month has gone by since my last post and I was hoping to report an improvement in the situation. Sadly, that was not to be. Despite some restrictions having been lifted, face masks in shops and most other indoor spaces are compulsory from today. £100 fines are threatened for those who refuse to conform.

Even outdoors, caution is required, as shown by my first post-lock down hair do. Not only were masks worn during the proceedings, but I had to wash and blow dry my own hair afterwards. It’s still going to be messy for a while as, after years with the same ‘style’, I’ve decided to let my fringe grow out. Until it’s possible to tuck my hair behind my ears again, I’ll be resorting to a variety of grips and slides to keep it out of my eyes. Unfortunately, with the addition of my specs, I’ll probably bear a strong resemblance to Olive from ‘On the Buses’! Remember her?

Usually by this time of year I’m making plans to go to Swanwick, having attended the Writers’ Summer School every August since 2006. Unfortunately, that too has been cancelled along with just about everything else I had planned for the rest of 2020.

However, thus far family and friends are in reasonable health, the countryside is flourishing after copious amounts of rain and a fair amount of sunshine, the road outside our house is newly resurfaced and Jago didn’t get his paws into the fresh tarmac. There’s always something to be grateful for! (One of the workmen recommended cleaning said paws with vegetable oil, should the worst happen, but we were able to keep our very resentful cat indoors until the danger had passed.)

As for writing, I’m entering a few competitions and keeping up with Ripon Writers’ Group’s virtual meetings via our group email. Getting together again in the flesh seems a distant hope at the moment, but nothing lasts forever and ‘this too shall pass away’.

 

24 July, 2020 Make the first comment on this story

Life in the Time of Covid-19

For millions of us, this seems like the film Groundhog Day. We wake up each morning and realise that we’re about to relive the same day as yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. This was brought home to me recently when I decided for some reason to wear my watch and realised that I hadn’t yet put it forward to British Summer Time. With no urgency to do anything on a particular day, even to remember which day of the week it is, lethargy can so easily creep in.

So what have I been doing? Well, if I’m honest, not a lot. I’ve discovered that I work far better under pressure and that is sadly lacking. I know that I shall kick myself one day over all this time I’ve wasted and yet getting my brain into gear to do some serious writing is proving impossible. Glorious weather has played its part in that, of course, with the garden and long walks exerting more pull over me than my desk. Ripon, blessed with three rivers, a canal and the glorious Spa Gardens, has more than its fair share of beauty spots to enjoy. 

It’s been good, though, to see the odd article, ‘filler’ and short story submitted before lock down appearing in print. Now that the weather has cooled down, I’m hoping to be more productive. Watch this space!

6 June, 2020 Make the first comment on this story

Reviewing ‘Oliver’

      

Having spent a great deal of time researching the history of workhouses for my latest book, it’s going to be a real pleasure to review Ripon Operatic Society’s production for the local press. Although my story is set several decades after that of ‘Oliver Twist’, conditions were still appalling for the poorest children in our society.

20 February, 2020 Make the first comment on this story

A very welcome newcomer to the newsagents’ shelves

With so many publications jettisoning fiction in favour of celebrity claptrap – well, that’s my opinion, anyway – this new title is like a breath of fresh air. As well as offering a new market for short stories, it’s open to all, unlike some magazines that won’t consider submissions from new writers.

So, I’m very pleased to have a story in the very first issue. Categorised by the editor as ‘spooky’, its illustration is very appropriate.

 

20 February, 2020 Make the first comment on this story

Christmas Jingles in Northallerton

PYA (Promoting Yorkshire Authors) put on a show to thank the library staff for their support during the year. In a tea shop setting, with copious free refreshments for all, craft and games activities for children, a raffle, book sale and Santa’s sack, we read out poetry, prose and even burst into song occasionally.

Seen from left to right are Bryan Pentelow, Helen Johnson, John Jackson and Kate Swann. Bryan and Kate read some of their poems, Helen gave an illustrated talk on Yorkshire customs at Christmas and John, who really looked the part, read extracts from A Christmas Carol.

Also from left to right, I read a story about a family’s first Christmas in Australia from my Had We But World Enough Collection, the indefatigable Neelie Wicks – who set up the whole thing and provided just about everything that was required – took charge of Christmas hat and card making with the children, Paul Smith narrated the tea shop scenario and Vasiliki Scurfield read a very moving tale about a young girl’s compassion for a German prisoner of war at Christmas.

NB I may have made a new fan during the morning, because the book I read from had disappeared by the time we bade the audience farewell. Happy reading, whoever you are!

22 December, 2019 Make the first comment on this story

Back to Bedale!

We spent a couple of happy years in Bedale after our move to North Yorkshire and next week I’ll be back. It will be interesting to see if there are any familiar faces in the audience and, less likely, perhaps, if they remember me from our boys’ playgroup and nursery school days.

 

 

 

The event takes place in the splendid surroundings of Bedale Hall, part of which functions as a community run library. 

22 November, 2019 Make the first comment on this story

Check Out My eBooks
A working holiday in France for so little? “It sounds too good to be true,” says Daisy’s mother, but her warning falls on deaf ears.
The 20th century has just dawned when David is apprenticed to a Yorkshire coal miner. But what of the younger brothers and sister he has been forced to leave behind in their London workhouse? Will he ever see them again?
If you can't be famous, be infamous. Wheelchair bound after a tragic accident, revenge is on Kaz's mind when she joins the school trip to Paris...

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