What a fortnight!

Golly gosh wow, it’s been quite a fortnight. Since my last blog post, I have, in no particular order: been to Glasgow, had a tooth extracted, finished my novel again, gone on a very long and hungover walk in the Peak District, been very very busy with the day job, and had two bits of writing-related good news.

The first piece of good news is that I have won 3rd place in the Swanwick short story competition, details here: http://swanwickwritersschool.co.uk/news.asp?id=68&pgid=1

Swanwick is the summer school for writers which I went to last year and am attending again this August. The competition was for short stories on the theme ‘65 not out’ (because the school celebrates its 65th anniversary this year). Steering away from the obvious cricket reference, I tried to do something a bit different and, loosely inspired by someone I know, I wrote my tale in the form of a letter from a retired schoolteacher to one of her former pupils. ‘Dear Mary’ will be published in the Writing Magazine Competition Special October 2013. Congratulations to all the other winners, and hope to see you at Swanwick.

My prize is a year’s subscription to Writing Magazine, which isn’t quite as good as the 1st prize, (a free place at the summer school), but is a lot better than the proverbial slap in the face with a wet haddock. I’ve been entering a few competitions lately, and it’s great to have some success. Fingers crossed for those other competitions whose results are still pending…

The second piece of good news is more exciting, but I’m still just a little bit too paranoid that something is going to go wrong to want to broadcast to the world just yet. So it’ll just have to wait for a future blog post.

What next? Well, it’s 5 weeks until summer school starts, and if last year was anything to go by, it’ll be both inspiring and exhausting. Before then I have a busy schedule of work trips, visits to friends and family, barbecues, and a wedding. So I’m actually thinking I might give myself a little bit of a break from writing and try to recharge my creative batteries. But rest assured, I’ll be back on here to share any important news.

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Just a very quick update from me today. It’s now a month almost to the day since I finished my first novel, The Heartland of the Winter (you can read an extract here on this very blog). Having set it aside for a while to allow the beta readers time to get through it, and myself time to gain a little bit of distance, I’m now almost ready to start the final edit before sending it off to an agent (eek!). After a gentle nudge last week, my betas have assured me they’ll have some feedback by Thursday so I can start editing this weekend. Even if they’re a little late with getting back to me, I think I’ll have plenty to be getting on with – my own thoughts for minor tweaks, a few suggestions from my husband, and of course, thinking about the sequel. And I’m sure there will be a whole load more typos to correct – I swear those things breed when you’re not looking. I’m just hoping I won’t need to make a really major change (or two) which will require extensive re-writes. But if I do, I guess I’ll just have to get on with it with as good a spirit as I can muster. I’ve spent too long agonising over this book to want to send it out the door in any state less than perfection – or as close to perfection as I can possibly achieve.

While The Heartland of the Winter has been in beta-read, I haven’t been idle; I’ve written three stories for competitions. Here’s a brief extract from one of them, written for for Writing Magazine’s ‘fairy story for adults’ competition. It’s called ‘Amanita’. Enjoy:

It was a beautiful crisp autumn day, a carpet of fallen leaves underfoot, a multi-coloured canopy overhead. The forest was quiet around them but for the sounds of squirrels and birds. Valerie walked on ahead with a firm stride, basket hanging snugly over her shoulder, grey hair tied back in a pony tail, purple velvet skirt sweeping almost to the ground. Sarah followed, constantly shifting her own basket around to try to get it in a position which was comfortable to carry. She wanted to pause and look around her, absorb the tranquillity of the scene, but Valerie kept pushing on.

‘Can’t take too long,’ she said, ‘they say an awful lot of strange things about this wood. I don’t believe any of them, of course, but still, I’d rather not be stuck out after dark.’

‘Why? What sort of things do they say?’

‘Oh, you know, spirits, witches, the fae folk, all that rubbish. We’re not interested in any of that, we’re only here for the mushrooms. Still, if you see an empty fairy ring, don’t go inside. No point taking chances.’

‘An empty fairy ring? What are you talking about?’

‘A fairy ring is what they call a circle of mushrooms. They grow like that sometimes, it’s perfectly natural, nothing to be afraid of. But there are a few stories about them, from times when people didn’t understand them. One story goes that you should never step inside an empty fairy ring – one which doesn’t have a tree in the middle, that is – or else the fae folk will come and take you away.’

‘Take you away where?’

‘Nobody knows, because nobody ever comes back.’

A general update and an excerpt from new story, ‘Amanita’.