Saturday 29 December 2012

The PINK SOFA welcomes Vanessa Wester

Vanessa Wester is one of the many lovely writers I met on Twitter. Not only is she a prolific writer, a mum of 3 and a witty Tweeter, she is also a great cook and makes lovely cakes and cupcakes, frequently posting luscious pictures on line to prove it. I asked Vanessa to share her writing journey with us. This is what she said:

''I used to write all the time as a child and then a teenager, but as with many things, I lost confidence and became convinced I was no good. It was in 2010, after I watched an interview with Stephanie Meyer that a switch flicked in my brain. I had permission to write - I was not being silly if I wrote. Lots of people did, why not me? I still sometimes revert to my old way of thinking, but I'm glad that a lot of people seem to disagree...

I usually write in our small study on my ancient (but hanging on) computer. Although I have to admit that I started with a notepad as I looked after my one year old, and then transferred it to my PC or laptop. I watched TV and wrote too. Recently, I used a notepad again for a short story. I have to admit that even though it takes longer, the ideas flow naturally, no distraction.

I self-published via Smashwords as I got fed up with wasting time and money posting manuscripts to agents. I got a lot of feedback from self-publishing, which was great, and prepared me for publishing on Amazon two months later, and Createspace a month after that. I actually feel like a publisher now! Recently, I've compiled a book of short stories with 7 other writers; it's called Out of Darkness. Proceeds will go to charity, and we intend to publish collections of seasonal shorts throughout the year. (The PINK SOFA likes the sound of this!) 

The best thing about writing is the complete and utter escapism that comes with it. Creating a new habitat and species (for The Evolution Trilogy) was great fun; it still is. The worst thing about writing (since I am self-published) is the EDITING. So, so hard ....
I stick to a word count of about 2,000 words per chapter, aiming for about 50 chapters, or a total length of 100,000. This was what I was told when I started asking for advice and I have to say it works for me.

The Evolution Trilogy is a SciFi romantic suspense trilogy that charts the way a university student, Steven Thorn finds out he is a Hybrid, and how his attempts to live a normal life and the decisions he makes affect the ones he loves. It started as a series, but I decided to stop after 3 books, with the option to continue in the future. The first book, HYBRID is available from Amazon and Smashwords (Barnes & Noble, Kobo etc). It is also on Smashwords. 

The second book, COMPLICATIONS, follows Steven to a community in the Amazon jungle, where he thinks he has found a safe haven. Steven does not intend to let his hybrid nature dictate who he is, but soon realises he wants his own life and his girl back. The book is just out on Amazon and Smashwords.''

Connect with Vanessa via: Twitter @vanessa_wester. 

Thanks Vanessa. And a special thank you for bringing a lovely selection of tempting home made cakes and mince pies with you. I'm sure visitors to the writing garret are going to enjoy those! Vanessa is staying around to chat, so please join her on the PINK SOFA and find out more about her books.

Friday 21 December 2012

The PINK SOFA'S Christmas Party!

What is Christmas without a PARTY! So step inside the writing garret, gentle reader, and help yourself to a party hat, a handful of poppers and a tinsel wreath. This party is special - 2012 has been a momentous year for many reasons, and it is time to celebrate!!

BANG!! Ah, you found the box of crackers. No, I don't know what Vampires sing on New Year's Eve..... ''Auld Fang's Syne''. Hahah - love it. OK, while you're attacking the sausage rolls, grabbing a drink  and introducing yourself to the other guests, I'll just run through some of the events that made this year so special for me. Please share your special events later.

In February, as part of the BBC Radio 4 'Leap for Leap Year' Project, I had my first tattoo done. Live. On Air. While being interviewed by Eddie Mair and Robert Peston. It's the opening words of Caliban's speech from 'The Tempest'. Didn't appreciate then how appropriate the words would prove to be.

In May, I started this blog, really as a way of expiating the frustration I was feeling as book after book got turned down by mainstream publishers. Now, the blog has two lovely awards - thank you, and gets regularly visited by a lot of people every week who seem to enjoy it, so once again, thank you very much.

In July, after much toil and travail, I published my first Ebook.
It is a re-written version of a novel originally published by OUP, which was long-listed for the Carnegie. I haven't made my first million yet, but it has got some great reviews, and the experience of publishing it was ... er ... interesting.

In August, the PINK SOFA arrived in the writing garret at the top of Hedges Towers. Since then, it has hosted some of the cream of independent writers such as:

              Not forgetting
two very special people without whom this year would have been quite different: Juliet Archer, writer extraordinaire and good personal friend, and Talli Roland, who has patiently steered the Good Ship Hedges through the choppy waters of the social media world. 

Also in August I signed up to Twitter @carolJhedges. I found it a bit daunting at first, like joining a new school, but now I have made so many great friends - looking round, I can see loads of them are here at the party, so can we all raise a glass to: LynnHap, Joe, Rosalind, Sooz, Jacy, Anne, Val, the Carols, Jo, Mandy, Richards, Chris, TT,, Bev, Vanessa, Lizzie, Jolene, The Romaniacs,the A-mericans and the Blokes-with-very-plain-blogs (Hahaha). And to all the rest of you of course, too numerous to mention.

Then there was the Public Inquiry in December, closely followed by the big event of the year, which of course, is the wedding of DD. No formal pics yet - but here's one that got taken earlier, on the day she bought her beautiful wedding dress at a charity designer bridal sale for a fraction of what it should have cost. 

Ah - I see Ralph has arrived with the music. And Kate's got a tray of lovely cocktails ready. And Andrew's all ready to recite us a Christmas poem. So, if someone would like to push the PINK SOFA over against the wall, let the festivities begin - and a Very Happy Christmas to You All!

Saturday 15 December 2012

Law and Disorder

Roman Snail
First, here's the good news: I have discovered a new diet. Ditch Dukan, forget fasting, sack stomach stapling and bin breaking everything into little pieces so that the calories fall out. This diet is called: Drrrrrr (drum-roll) The Lay Advocate Diet!

Our Public Inquiry has finished, and I can now fit into the kick mother-of-the-bride dress I bought that needed, ooh, a tad less hip and a tad more hooray to be totally comfortable. I am slowly readjusting to not being constantly referred to by the Council's unpleasant lawyer as 'The Applicant', which made me sound like a character out of a novel by Charles Dickens - one of those who hung around outside workhouses looking indigent.

And I haven't had the recurring bus dream for several nights: Long story. Not enough time to relate the surrounding circumstances now. Suffice to say that the therapy is helping greatly, thanks for being concerned. The Inspector has given me a couple more weeks to make my final written submission, as Chummy (the nickname we gave the Council's obnoxious self-important barrister) put in so much extra documentation outwith the exchange protocol, I didn't get time to study it all. So I shall continue to be a razor blade in their candyfloss for a while longer.

Highlights of the past few days: Prancing around in a pencil skirt and smart tailored jacket. Getting away with almost being a lawyer - then realizing that I don't have to pretend to be one again. Ever. Being applauded for my speech. That memorable moment on the second day when Chummy sneeringly remarked that, 'as the Applicant is not a qualified lawyer, I'd better explain the Beresford Case to her,' and the Inspector slapped him down with, 'I have read Mrs Hedges' folder and listened to her opening statements, and I believe she has an extremely good grasp of the law.'

Regrets? I have a few, but then again, too few to mention - oh go on, since you asked: Discovering  that my 'intelligent' face seems to be identical to my 'one brain cell and it's out to lunch' face. Also it would have been nice to have finished completely. It would have been equally nice to have got up, crossed the floor and punched Chummy when he subjected one of my lovely volunteer community witnesses to a bullying cross-examination. Most of all, I regret never getting to use the word  'bailywick' somewhere in the proceedings because it is such a great word, and I hadn't come across it before the Leveson Inquiry and I've been dying to use it ever since. But then, I'm not a lawyer, so it's not strictly my bailywick.

Saturday 8 December 2012

The PINK SOFA Welcomes Richard Hardie

Richard Hardie

The PINK SOFA is delighted to welcome a very special guest. Not only does Richard Hardie write YA adventure books with feisty female heroines, as I do, but today is the launch of his second book in the Temporal Detective Agency series. It's called Trouble with Swords and The PINK SOFA is honoured to be part of the celebrations. To mark this wonderful occasion, there are coloured fairy lights and paper chains, as well as sweets and bubble gum on the coffee table (YA food). Tuck in.

The PINK SOFA asked Richard some questions. Here's what he said:

" I love writing for Young Adults, or to put it another way, anyone from the age of 12 to 80. The plot is everything, but I have to admit sometimes I don't know what is going to happen next, though I find the characters always know. I always know the main plotline and how the story is going to end and why.

The Temporal Detective Agency is a series of books that follows the adventures of Tertia (15) and Unita (17), two of Merlin's apprentices. In the books, Merlin is actually a woman, and the Agency is formed when she and Arthur go off to the Isle of Avalon together. The Agency moved from Camelot to the 21st century to get more interesting cases and better bathroom facilities. It uses Merlin's old cave as an office and her Time Portal to move in time. Galahad is now a celebrity chef and runs the Ole Grill Spanish themed restaurant as a front.

The idea came out of a Gang Show script that I co-wrote with Terry Pratchett in 2002 for the Scouts and Guides Association. I always thought it had potential as a book. 10 years later, with multiple rewrites and edits, the first and second books have appeared as ebooks. A third book is scheduled for May 2013.

I write in a large study at home, equipped with chair, settee, TV, business phone, fax, stereo and coffee. It's also equipped with a cocker spaniel called Benjie, who is threatening to be in Book 3 of the series. I find that writing in any other room is difficult because of the many household distractions. Twice a year, when I take Benjie down to the Gower peninsular in Wales I usually manage to get in at least two hours' work, and frequently plot solutions will occur to me as we stride along the coastal path, soaking wet, totally alone and enjoying every minute!

Like many authors, I occasionally go off at a tangent, and need to do ruthless editing to bring the story back on track. One piece of advice I'll always hold dear, is the instruction from an agent friend. I have it on a piece of paper above my PC. It says GOWTS, which stands for Get On With The Story, and is the best advice I ever had.

If I had any advice for an aspiring writer, it would be listen to your friends and to other writers. If they say what you've written is great may just be. However if they hesitate and say it's okay's probably not very good at all. Time for a rethink and a rewrite. Terry Pratchett gave me an excelletn piece of advice when I told him I wanted to write a book. He told me to keep the day job! I have, but I still hope that one day I'll be able to support my family by writing about the Temporal Detective Agency. 

Above all, writing a book is a long and complex process. It's not a 100 metre sprint, it's a Marathon, and as Thomas Edison said: 'Inventing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.' So it is with writing. Having said that, keep trying. A good author thrives on rejection. I did, and so did someone called J K Rowling!"

Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords are both available as ebooks on,, Goodreads and Authorsden
Richard's website and blog is at: He is also on Facebook at The Temporal Detective Agency page.

Thanks Richard - what amazing sounding ebooks! Richard is going to drop in during the week to meet and greet, so leave him a comment - and try not to stick your gum under the coffee table, please!

Saturday 1 December 2012

Legally Insane

As many of you know, I am the lay advocate on a Town Green Public Inquiry. Briefly, our local town council wants to cram an inappropriate Tesco School of Architecture development on to a disused allotment site, now designated a Wildlife area, and containing rare Roman Snails. They are so rare they are IUCN Red Listed all across Europe. (Think White Rhino, but smaller and in a shell). We are trying to preserve the adjoining Playing Field, which they have also woefully neglected over the years, and which we suspect they have in their sights as well.

'Lay advocate' means that I know sweet F.A. about the law, but I'm piling in anyway. Mainly because we can't afford a proper lawyer. I've already blogged about my attempts to construct my legal arguments (A Law Unto Myself). If you haven't read this and want a laugh, do check it out on the Archive. After writing that particular blog, I found myself 'followed' by several lawyers, who appear to think I am the funniest thing since public executions.
Westfield Playing Fields

Every now and then though, something happens that lightens the darkness that descends when I contemplate the enormity of what I am about to do. Like the discovery that the council, eschewing the free in-house legal services, have hired themselves a specialist and no doubt horrendously expensive barrister to 'fight' me, thus completely losing the moral high ground that they weren't holding in the first place.

Last week, my spirits were also lifted by the discovery of a little picnic bench, that mysteriously 'appeared' on the field. The Council Fairy has, it seems, decided to make a visit. Bear in mind that we have been asking them for some seating for years. Now, two weeks before a Public Inquiry, and a site visit from the Inspector, who will see for himself how run-down and neglected our park is, we have seating. Mirabile dictu! (My Inner Cynic is currently bent double with laughter).

I am posting a photo of the little bench, because I wouldn't put it past the council to remove it after the PI and put it somewhere else more deserving. So here it is:
The little picnic bench

The town council's current mission statement is, Closer to the Community. I have suggested they might like to change it to, May contain Nuts.

Next week: The PINK SOFA is dusted down and made ready to welcome a new guest. There may be some Xmas decorations to admire as well.

Saturday 24 November 2012

A Lovely Blog Award

Scarcely has the dust begun settling gently on my first Blog Award, when Rosalind Adam of Rosalind Adam is Writing in the Rain (  - a blog I highly recommend you check out for its beautiful and often very moving poetry and prose, lands me with this one.

The deal is that I have to write about my experiences, good and bad, as a blogger, then recommend 5 other brilliant bloggers for the same award. As I've recently written a post about blogs, however : A Blog about Blogs, I thought I'd go short and sweet and open this one up to you.

When I posted my first blog, 'In the beginning was the deed' on May 7th, I had three visitors, two of whom were family members I bribed into reading it, and one comment. Now, six months on, I regularly get 250+ people reading the blogs - which rose to an unbelievable 665 when I ranted about Waterstones, and upward of 20 comments. Not to mention the comments on the comments. People are meeting each other on my blog, falling in love and getting married - no, no they aren't really, it just seems like that sometimes.

This is still short of some of the American blogs I follow however, where it takes so long to scroll down to the comment box that you almost loose heart! (sorry, Kelly - don't mean it!) And it leads me to ask: what makes an addictive blog? What keeps you returning to the same writer time and time again? 

Does the style influence you? Or is it the content - and if so, what makes 'good' content? I think the rise in my readership coincides directly with my appearance on Twitter - does being present on social media forums increase traffic? Does blogging sell books? Over to you..... oh, and it's ONE biscuit each!

My choice for this Award is slightly unusual: I'm not recommending 5 individual bloggers, but a group, The Romaniacs ( To me, their joint blog embodies everything that a good blog should be: funny, informative, endlessly entertaining and they are generous sharers with other writers! Ladies - please accept this award; you richly deserve it.

Saturday 17 November 2012

The PINK SOFA welcome Chris Hill

Chris Hill
Chris Hill is one of the many lovely writers I met on Twitter. He was kind enough, on a very short acquaintance, to let me scrounge a guest blog to publicize Jigsaw Pieces when it came out in August, and so it is a great pleasure to return the favour.
Chris is also the first man to climb the rickety stairs to the garret at the top of Hedges Towers and grace THE PINK SOFA with his presence, and there are special Danish butter cookies on the coffee table to celebrate.

So, Chris, tell us about yourself , and your writing trajectory?

I work in PR for a children's charity. Before that, I was a newspaper journalist, starting as a reporter, then a news-editor, sub-editor and finally editor. It's a job where you meet all manner of people from every station in life, which I think helped me as a writer. At home I have two sons who keep me busy, so I do the usual family stuff. I run sometimes, when I can be bothered, and I did the London Marathon a couple of years ago (THE PINK SOFA is impressed. The only exercise it does is jumping to conclusions) - mostly I'd rather sit around in front of the TV or listen to music though. Oh - and I read; I'm always reading.

I remember writing as a child - maybe even when I was at junior school. I used to write scraps in the back of old school notebooks - not proper stories or poems but attempts at fiction certainly. I can't remember why I started but I've always loved reading so I guess it grew out of that.

In my 20's I got more serious and my writing began to take on proper shape and structure. Eventually I started writing stories I felt were good enough to enter competitions - then I started winning some, which was obviously encouraging. Later on I progressed to attempting novels. I've completed three so far - this is the first I've found a publisher for. It's been a learning process - it still is!

I guess what I write could be called 'literary fiction'  or 'general fiction' - it's what I read and what I'm passionate about. Themes can be whatever interests me at the time - if an idea snags me, I'll work it through in my notebook and if it appears there's enough for a story or even a novel, I'll start work on it.

Chris' new novel
Song of the Sea God, my newly published novel, is a book about a man who comes to a small island off the coast in northern England and tries to convince the locals he is a god. In some ways I suppose it's a book about the nature of religion - what it means to people, how it works. I'd like to think there's humour in there, particularly in the narrative voice, but it's quite a dark book as well; it delves into some quite murky places.

Chris also has a blog at where he talks about writing and other stuff.

Thank you very much, Chris - THE PINK SOFA likes the sound of your book - available in all bookshops, plus online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And it's already garnering some good reviews! Chris will be staying around to chat for a while, so why don't you take a seat and ask him something ? Or share your own writing experience.

Friday 9 November 2012

Calm down dear, it's only Twitter-rage

An interesting week at Hedges Towers. To Sainsburys to buy some sparklers for DD's wedding in December. Approaching the fireworks counter, I was informed by the young assistant that I had to complete my shopping before I could buy them. Asked why - and was told that it was a safety precaution to prevent customers setting them off in the store. I am now officially the oldest juvenile delinquent on the block!

Also this week I managed to got involved in a Twitter-spat with two other writers over an issue that I expressed an opinion upon, I thought generally, but was instantly interpreted as a criticism. This is the first time it has happened to me, though not the first time I've witnessed spats taking place, in my role as usually innocent bystander.

Which led me to think about how we act towards one another on such a restrictive medium as Twitter. Are there unwritten rules of behaviour? Because if we want to participate and put ourselves out there, we are going to meet individuals whose opinions and stances differ radically from ours. How should we deal with this?

I believe there is a difference between disagreeing over a particular issue, and launching a personal attack on another Twitter member. I have never witnessed the latter, thankful to say, but I can completely understand why, in such a circumstance, one would want to create digital distance by 'unfollowing' the attacker. 

 'Unfollowing' someone with whom you happen to have started a lively dialogue over an issue, however strongly you or they feel about it, is in my opinion the equivalent of stamping your foot, storming out and slamming the door. I did it at 13. Maybe you did it too. I don't do it now because I hope I'm more 'grown up.' Thus I am happy to say: 'OK, let's agree to differ on this one. Good luck anyway,' and drop out of the discussion, which is what I chose to do in the spat I got involved in. 

Also, I always remind myself, whenever I am tempted to let rip, of what happened when I 'did' the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago. There I witnessed a rather nasty row take place, in public, between two very well-known children's writers. I remember thinking at the time: if that's the way you behave, then I don't think I want to buy your books. And I never have.

So what do you think? Should you speak your mind - whatever the outcome? How do you deal with Twitter-rage? I'd really like to know.

Next week: The PINK SOFA welcomes another wonderful guest.

Saturday 3 November 2012

A Blog about Blogs

Oh dear. Blogs have been getting a bit of a kicking recently, haven't they? Various writers have come out publicly and announced that they've abandoned theirs, as the effort and energy put into them doesn't seem worth it. Others have thrown their metaphorical hats into the ring and admitted that they have reduced their blog posts from regular to intermittent, and that they don't follow, read or comment upon other writers' blogs any more as they no longer have the time.

I posted my first blog on May 5th, so obviously, I am not in a position to comment, but equally obviously, that has never stopped me in the past: I like blogs. I write this one, host interesting guests on it, and I read and comment on other blogs too. 

A blog is a way of getting instant feedback and staying connected to the world beyond one's mentally enclosed writing space. For those who don't want to tackle a whole book, a blog is a satisfying outlet for their writing talents. For the marvellous poets whose blogs I read, I guess it is the only way to reach readers, as poetry is an even more restricted field than prose.

I also value the discipline of having to produce a complete piece of writing nearly every week. As a procrastinator who, if they ever made it an Olympic sport, would be up there on the winner's rostrum, it as a good way to stay focused. And I freely confess that I have learned practically all of what I know about blogging and social media from reading other people's blogs.

Interestingly, for the first time in 17 years, several of my Yr 13 students have reported being told at University visits that a blog would be an asset to mention on their personal statements (Art and Design, and English and Creative Writing seem to be the courses that like them). Never happened before, and speaks volumes about the status blogging has achieved in the mainstream academic world. 

So I'm carrying on blogging. If for no other reason than it took me ages to lug The Pink Sofa up three flights of stairs to the tiny garret at the top of Hedges Towers, where I write. And I've just finished assembling the white birch coffee table, which I had to do in Swedish as they sent the wrong instructions. 

How about you, though? Bloggerphile, or bloggerphobe? Feel free to share your thoughts...

Saturday 27 October 2012

The PINK SOFA welcomes Anne E. Johnson

American writer Ann E Johnson
Anne E. Johnson is one of the many great American writers I met through, and then we met again via Facebook. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, playwright Ken Munch. Anne has written non-fiction books for children and has had over 30 short stories published. Her series of sci fi/fantasy trios, Aliens and Weird Stuff are available from Amazon and Smashwords. 
Anne is also the author of the medieval mystery for kids, Trouble at the Scriptorium, the paranormal children's tale Ebenezer's Locker and the noir sci-fi adventure Green Light Delivery.

Anne's paranormal children's novel
The PINK SOFA asked Anne to talk about the difference between the writing life here and in America. This is what she said:

''In America, a writer slaves over a novel, sends it to as many beta readers as are still talking to her, and hears back from half of them. As she's compiling their insightful (and hopefully not too snarky) comments and revising her manuscript, she starts to draft her query letter. She writes a version with a straight-up description of her work. She writes a version with a snappy logline. She tries a version combining both, in hopes of seeming both professsional and hip. She tosses that out and tries several more times.
Anne's sci-fi novel

In America the novelist needs to be prepared with her own blurb and at least two versions of her synopsis. One describes the piece in a couple of paragraphs, and the other tells the story in two pages. It takes forever to reduce the story like this, and it's heart-wrenching to leave out the sparkly details that make the story tick.

In America, it's possible to get published without an agent, but it's nearly impossible to get an advance without an agent. And every month, more publishing companies decide to require an agent. Therefore agents are so overwhelmed by desperate novelists that many claim they don't even have time to send out a form rejection letter. So you're just left hanging.

In America, many publishers that don't require an agent expect an exclusive submission. Yet their response time is typically eight or nine months. In America, when you're lucky enough to land a contract, and you sign it and go out for a celebratory dinner with your significant other, you know that the really hard work is just around the corner. The revisions, the level of editing, the marketing, marketing, marketing. (The PINK SOFA can relate to all this. Oh yes.)

I bet this all sounds familiar, no matter where you are on this earth. But maybe you live in a place where trying to get a novel published is a very different experience. If so, I'm packing my bags and digging out my passport.''

Check Anne out at her website:  She's also on Twitter@AnneEJohnson

Thanks for that, Anne. Reassuring to know that it's no easier in America!! Anne is staying around for a while. Please feel free to sit down, comment and chat. There are some biscuits on the coffee table; help yourself.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Twittering along nicely

And so to Twitter, which I joined in August. Another steep learning curve, as I had previously been very dismissive of it, thanks to the actions of certain 'celebs' who tweeted everything from the contents of their toilet bowl to the contents of their lunch plate.

As a cautious 'fledgling' I decided to join via my laptop - tho' truth is my elderly Nokia Mum-phone' refuses to let me near the internet anyway, so it was rather a default choice. Also, that meant I had to limit my visits to certain times of the day, thus not pandering to the Inner Addict.

Twitter is fun. I am surprised how quickly you can find little groups: I'm a 'member' of the YA Fics: we hang around in a virtual bus shelter and strop. I'm also a member of the distinguished older brigade, all of whom bar me have lovely grandchildren. We tweet about life, philosophy, music, art, (actually we tweet about how knackered we feel most of the time, and how we need drink).

I love the fact that you can tweet to people all over the world. I'm following/being followed by a writer who lives on a boat in Rotterdam, a rider in New Zealand, a lovely Texan writer, and a whole bunch of American Tweeters, for whom I graciously adjust my spelling to help them out.

 I've also had the fun experience of being followed by a couple of male writers who clearly thought I was my Twitter avatar ( I use the ebook cover) and started 'flirting' with me. And, since tweeting about my attempts to get to grips with legal writing, I'm currently being followed by several lawyers. (They laugh; it's not kind).

Yes, Twitter can be annoying - there are those who only use it to push their stuff. But you can always ignore them - principally by not buying their stuff. But once again, I am struck by the niceness of people I've met up with. And I've discovered, serendipitously, some lovely blogs on the way. So, I'd like to give Twitter a 'thumbs-up'. How about you?

Saturday 13 October 2012

A Law Unto Myself .... Reprise

Interesting times at Hedges Towers. Have been writing my legal summary, as I am lay advocate for our upcoming Village Green Public Inquiry in December (see Keeping it Green) and now I know exactly why barristers and those who practice the law are so b****y expensive. Hard work? Tell me about it.

Days 1 & 2: Assembled all the stuff I thought I needed, downloading several very long actual cases, and printing out helpful emails from Open Spaces adviser, and some articles. Went through 5 years worth of files accumulated since I started working on this campaign, extracting bits and pieces that looked interesting. Took everything up to my writing room and arranged it in nice neat logical piles. Was impressed.

Day 3: Began writing. Quickly discovered that arrangement of stuff was not the same as order in which I needed stuff. Nice neat logical piles began to disintegrate into smaller and smaller piles spread over an increasingly wider area. Started to realise that legal writing is not the same as writing fiction. Absence of characters and plot. Also completely different style. Got horribly bogged down in great long sentences that went on and on with small side wanderings at every twist and turn for almost the whole paragraph so that by the time I'd got to the end I'd completely lost the thread of what I intended to say when I started out, rather like I'm doing now.

Day 4: Brain hurt. Seemed to spend ages staring at nothing. Hours passed. Something occasionally got written. Every now and then  totally understood the legal thread I was pursuing. Then it all went opaque and runny at the edges. Smaller and smaller piles became even smaller piles and began to take over every available flat surface. At one point, couldn't locate laptop. Managed to compose a whole paragraph without understanding a single word. The phrase 'upon the balance of probability' now starting to creep relentlessly into everyday conversation. Cat not convinced.

Day 5: Reality fading. Began to have strange fantasies about being a lawyer dressed in a long black gown and curled wig kept in a wig box under the table. Was writing with a quill pen dipped into a wooden inkwell. Sat at a high wooden desk and had a pet raven called Quoth. Unable to cross room without treading on pieces of paper. Not sure if ate anything all day.

Day 6: Can't remember.

Day 7: Conclusion finally reached. Re-read whole thing. Seemed to have more clauses than the lion house at London Zoo, but sounded exactly like the actual cases I'd been using. Probably because had lifted large sections and transplanted them. Printed it all out and placed in boxfile with rest of documents before temptation to edit and do second draft took over.

Day 8: Slept. Ate. Recovered equilibrium. Reconnected with real world.

Day 9: Wrote this post.
The Public Inquiry resulted in a recommendation from the Inspector that the County Council could choose to await the outcome of a similar case, being heard in the Supreme Court in 2014. Sadly, Harpenden Town Council chose to ignore this, used their ''influence'' on their colleagues in the County Council and got my application turned down. However, it is not over until the Mad Redhead sings...and this mad redhead isn't even tuning up.

I am currently up for Blogger of the Year 2014: If you would like to vote for me (or indeed any of the other bloggers) please go to:

Saturday 6 October 2012

The Pink Sofa welcomes Gilli Allan

Gilli Allan is one of the many lovely writers I have met online. Since starting my blog in May, I have been using Social Media to publicize my books and E-book. Gilli and I are Facebook friends and Tweet to each other. Gilli has recently had a new novel, Torn published. The Pink Sofa wanted to ask her about it, and about her writing experience. 


Firstly, Gilli, what sort of books do you write?
My books are contemporary. They always have a love story at their core, but they're unconventional. I'd like to create a new sub-genre - but what to call it? Maybe romance with the edges left on?

What kick-started your writing care
I suspect I've always been a writer. When I was young, developed long and complex stories in my head, peopled with fairies, princesses and the sons and daughters of red-Indian chieftains. I left school at 16 with just enough exam passes to get me into art college. It was when I stopped work to look after my young son that I started writing seriously.

What were your favourite childhood books?

 I was slow to get the hang of reading. The light bulb moment didn't happen for me until I was around seven. I still remember the feeling of awe and excitement on unwrapping Heidi by Johanna Spyri on my eighth birthday. Other than that, my main reading were fairy stories and stories of myth and magic.We had a Hans Anderson collection as well as aan old and bulky book of the brothers Grimm stories, and I endlessly read stories about Gods and Goddesses, from the Greeks through the Romans to the Norse legends.

Talk about your writing process. 
When I first started writing, I began in January, had reached final draft by the end of the year and started the next book the following January. But then we moved, my publisher shut up shop, and life changed. I felt bereaved and abandoned in a place where I knew no one, and without the comfort blanket of a publisher. The idea of starting a new book became more and more resistable.  What I have to do now is just sit sit down at he computer and start. It's a type of approach aptly described 'as into the mist'. (The Pink Sofa does this, all the time, but calls it 'winging it')

What do you find challenging about the writing process?
I am not one of those writers who are bubbling geysers of plots and new ideas. In fact I've described starting a book as like carving a block of granite with a teaspoon. Fortunately once I have persuaded myself to sit down and START SOMETHING NEW, it will usually come alive for me. That's what makes writing worthwhile - when the story catches fire and races off with you. That's also when you have to be disciplined about the other things in life, like getting dressed, and doing the shopping, the washing, and the ironing.

What was your worst writing experience?
My publisher going bust was pretty horrible! But I think it was the particular morning a thick heavy envelope plopped onto the mat. I picked it up and tore it open. I stared at the top page, unable to make sense of it. It seemed familiar. Suddenly I realised I was looking at my own letter. The rest of the material was the three chapters I'd sent. There was no letter from the agent. Not even a compliments slip. Scrawled across the bottom of my own submission letter were 3 words - unsigned: 'Not for us'.

Oooh, nasty! But now you have a new book, 'Torn' ? Talk about that.
Jessica Avery is a woman in her early thirties with a three year old son, Rory. She has made a series of wrong choices in her life -job, men and life-style. Her choice now is to live a steady, responsible life in a tranquil new environment, putting he son's needs as her number one priority. 

But then her ex partner tracks her down, as an incomer, she is not made welcome by the local mothers and she begins to wonder if leaving London was the right move. The title Torn can be understood as referring to the personal choices which confront Jessica, in life and men and priorities. My one line summary is: You can escape your old life, but can you ever escape yourself?

And the next book? 
Hard question. Except to say that I am drawn to the theme of: Time Team meets Educating Rita. Whether the completed story will be able to be described in this way is another matter!

Thanks Gilli - The Pink Sofa has loved having you as a guest - feel free to hang around. I'm sure there are some more visitors about to arrive:

Gilli's books can be found at: ISBN=9781458003409  B004U36DIG

Contact Gilli:   @gilliallan   

Friday 28 September 2012

Keeping It Green

One day, I shall probably stop caring about things. I shan't mind that Indie writers can no longer sign books in Waterstones. I won't fret that future teenagers will have to sit gender discriminatory EBaccs, (had letter in Guardian; missed it? never mind). I'll even stand back and let the Town Council build all over our local urban green space. 

As some of you know, it is almost exactly five years since I started my campaign stop a green field near where I live from being covered in Tesco School of Architecture houses. Two years ago, I put in a Town Green application, as the field used to be part of an old Common. Both Town and District councils objected. Wonder why? Just heard recently that in December, there will be a Public Inquiry to settle the matter, hopefully once and for all.

Applying for Town Green Status has been a tremendous undertaking. I have learned a great deal about Housing Acts, Land Acts, Open Spaces Acts, and things people got up to on the field in the old days. I have also learned about what goes on behind the scenes in local government, thanks to the Freedom of Information requests, which are submitted regularly in a variety of names.

Because this is an area of social housing, the community cannot afford a lawyer to represent them at the Inquiry, so guess who will be acting as lay advocate? A rather steep learning curve for a pensioner with only a 'lower second' in English and Archaeology. 

However, we are extremely lucky in having the support of the Open Spaces Society, and the editor of the local paper, who publishes informative articles telling other residents what we're up to, plus my sarky letters about local councillors and their so-called ''green'' agenda.

 Researching the history of the land has unearthed some fascinating stuff. The best discovery so far is a deed of conveyance signed by Apsley Cherry Garrard, whose family lived locally. Apsley Cherry Garrard was on Scott's ill-fated Polar Exploration. Aged 24, he found Scott and his companions frozen to death in their hut. The discovery subsequently triggered a complete nervous breakdown. 

So, that's the current state of play on the local campaign, which now slogs on towards December. Why do I bother to pile into things all the time? I really don't know, sorry. Maybe because somebody has to. One day I shall probably stop caring. 

But not, I think, quite yet.

Next week: Another fine guest will be ensconced on the Pink Sofa, primed and ready to share their writing experience. Don't miss it.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Unwelcome At Waterstones

To my usually warm and welcoming Waterstones this week, diary in hand, to arrange a pre- Christmas signing session for my Spy Girl books. Should have noticed something was wrong from the way the temperature started dropping the moment I approached the desk. 

It dropped further as the Events Manager, talking embarassedly to a spot over my left shoulder, said that under new policy, they were not doing book signings as they used to. An ice sheet began to form as she explained that now I'd have to apply via email. A woolly mammoth wondered past as she said I might be allowed, as I am stocked by the chain, and a 'known' local writer. But it would be time limited and 'managed'.

It appears that the relationship has generally soured because writers have been seen approaching customers, and talking about their books, like literary chuggers. Can't have that! Worse, a few writers have purportedly been rude to people, and there have been complaints. Really? I find this hard to believe. Most writers I know are self-effacing, low profile individuals. I suspect the complainees were probably friends of rival writers, sent in to cause trouble: a clear example of sock-customers

In the olden days when it used to be Waterstone's (with apostrophe) local writers were encouraged to come in, sell and sign. I began my writing career with a very small, non-mainstream stocked publisher, signing in big chains, and the numerous small independent bookshops that existed back then. Indeed, in Waterstone's, there was a special shelf for local writers. I was on that shelf, and proud to be so. It is not there any more. 

When Daunt took over, he promised an end to publishers paying for premium positioning, central buying, and the ubiquitous bogof tables. He promised stores would be given more autonomy. It appears that a U-turn has happened. I've been told of writers with new books out,who've had some signing events cancelled. The quirkiness and integrity of a truly local bookshop has been kicked over a cliff. And this time, there are no small local bookshops to provide an alternative.

Look, I am too old and creaky to chain myself to Waterstones' railings and stage a one woman writer protest, and I do not ask others to do what I am not prepared to do myself.

So this is what I'm suggesting: If you are a writer, or a reader, or a customer of some sort, go into your local Waterstones. Politely point out the unfairness of the change in events policy which discriminates in favour of already stocked, and established writers.

Point out the demoralizing effect of closing the doors on some for whom writing is a passion they are no longer allowed to share publicly. If you mention, politely, your disquiet, I'm hoping it will give the staff some leverage; I got the distinct impression they were not happy over this top-down imposition either.

I believe that bookshops should be vibrant, exciting places, where all writers ought to be welcome to share their work. I believe that books do not come out of a cardboard box labelled stock, or in a package with an Amazon label stuck to the front; books come from the minds and emotions and hearts of their authors. 

If you also believe this, please go into Waterstones, and tell them.

*I have started a small 'Tell Waterstones' Twitter campaign. I am Tweeting ''Your events policy is unfair. Please re-consider'' + blog link to @Waterstones. Every time a store tweets a promo, I tweet them the link too, because the promo includes the Twitter link to the (well-known) and welcomed author. I'd love them to share some of your experiences. No writer is an Island! *

Saturday 15 September 2012

The PINK SOFA welcomes: Cara Cooper

Cara Cooper

The PINK SOFA has been brushed clean of cake crumbs, bits of novel, and the odd cat. Now it is ready to host its first guest: the lovely Cara Cooper. Cara is a member of the RNA and the Crime Writers Association; she writes heart-warming novels, the sort that make you smile and go 'Aaahh' on the last page.

 I really enjoyed The Sanctuary, and recommend it highly - not only for the story, but for the luscious descriptions of food. I guarantee you will end the book with a tear in your eye and a craving for crab sandwiches!

 I first met Cara online when I started blogging, and trying to inch my way slowly into the writing community. Cara welcomed me, befriended me, and supported me in those early days, which she is still doing. She loves dancing, and those of us who follow her blog are frequently entertained by stories of her dances, and her life in London.

 But recently, Cara's writing has taken a different turn. Here, she shares it with us. Over to you, Cara:

''Lately, I have turned to crime! Writing that is, not committing it. I wrote a cosy crime/romance novel some while ago which My Weekly published as a pocket novel called Take a Chance. It will hopefully be shortly published as an e-book by Astraea Press.
It was my take on a classic country house mystery with Lady Margrave as the enigmatic lady of the manor. Marie is the heroine, a newcomer plunged into an exciting but potentially dangerous world.

The gardener and a detective who comes to solve the thefts of precious antiques at the house are the men vying for her affection. I am at present working on another. This one is a little more gritty and as inspiration I have been watching the 'Murder She Wrote' series on TV. It was one of the most successful and long-running TV shows in history, with close to 23 million viewers in its prime, and was a staple Sunday night lineup for a decade.
Cara's latest novel

Some of the story lines were ingenious and the characterisation always good with the wise novel-writing television detective played by Angela Lansbury. That got me thinking about well loved TV detectives and what makes them interesting, compelling, memorable characters. I shall definitely think of these when I am writing my new cosy crime, with an amateur sleuth I hope I may develop to have her own series of books.

Sherlock Holmes: very intelligent, almost a genius, fearless, brave, pipe deerstalker.
Colombo: Observant, worldly wise, fools people into thinking he is harmless when he is in fact on the ball. Cigar, raincoat.
Miss Marple: Nosy (or if we are going to be nice,inquisitive), appeared to be nothing more than an innocent little old lady, observant, handbag, twinset and pearls.
Wallander: Family man, tenacious and sees things though to the end, wise, very good to his subordinates.
Jack Frost: Wry humour, slight deathwish so doesn't care about his own safety, probably because his wife is dead. Doesn't look after himself, modest (embarrassed by his medal for bravery), disillusioned with life, so presumes the worst of people, but compassionate, trilby hat, raincoat.
Morse: Highly intelligent, pushes the boundaries, suspicious of authority, Jaguar car, classical music, Oxford connection, unlucky in love.

What do you think? Do you have any favourite sleuths, amateur or otherwise who I have missed, and what makes them memorable?''

Cara is published by Xcite (Healing Love and Safe Harbour). her novel The Sanctuary is published by Astraea. Her novels are also available as e-books and all can be bought via Amazon. 
Cara's blog is at:

Saturday 8 September 2012

Dude, where's my narrative gone?

So ... why does everybody nowadays start their sentences with 'So'?  I haven't a clue. I'm afraid I have taken to jumping in with: 'a needle pulling thread' every time they do, though. I find it irritates them a lot, and as I head slowly and inexorably towards the tunnel at the end of the light, irritating people is becoming a bit of a lifestyle choice.

But back to the Victorian novel. You remember the Victorian novel? The one my agent said had waayy too many plots and characters to make it worth sending out. (Did Dickens' agent ever admonish him for having a plot'n'character surfeit? I think not.)

Anyway while you, gentle blog reader had forgotten all about the Victorian novel, it has been quietly festering away on a back burner, to mix metaphors. Two minor plots were summarily removed, even though it meant shedding some amusing sub-characters that I thought were rather well-written, but hey, what do I know, I'm just the author.

And there has been some serious editorial BDSM. Paragraphs have been whipped into shape. Ruthless control and domination has been exerted. Cutting and slashing has been the order of the day, all culminating in eleven thousand words lying gasping and panting on the Red Pen Floor of Pain, or wherever words go when you press the delete key. 

At one point, I did begin to wonder whether I was on the cusp of invent a brand new literary genre: The Postit novel -  for readers with absolutely no interest in reading. 

And then, just when I was congratulating myself on some fine, if drastic reduction, it happened: a whole new sub-plot suddenly emerged. Honestly guv, never saw it coming; would I lie to you? 

It was like that record of Sparky's Magic Piano, if anyone remembers it. (For those who don't: there was this boy called Sparky who had a magic piano that played itself, but everyone thought it was him. Eventually, the piano took over completely, and it all went horribly pear-shaped.)

So (used correctly) this is where we are at: I'm trying to cut things out, but at every turn new plots are springing up all over the place and fresh characters are creeping out of the undergrowth and for whatever reason, I seem utterly powerless to stop it happening. The more I edit, the more the text sprouts new bits, like some literary Hydra.

Please could someone out there call the Plot Police - my novel is committing crimes against narrative!

Next blog: Another fine guest will be joining me to talk about their life and writing. Stay reading.