20th July is the new 6×6!

It’s back. 6×6 at the library. 6 readings of original work by local writers each lasting just 6 minutes. That’s 36 minutes of new and diverse writing and a cuppa and biscuit too – what’s not to like.

6x6 Writers Cafe

We have the green light for a July 6×6!

Covid restrictions will apply so we shall be updating you all on the whys and wherefores close to the date, but meanwhile keep the 20th July free.

So looking forward to seeing you all then!

Writers: if you can have you submissions in by 30th June that would be fabulous!  See the guidelines page of this blog for notes on how to send in your subs.

6x6 flyer july 2021 1_edited-2

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Crossing the Line

Today I received an email from an author – nothing unusual in that you may think, but this was from an author I have never met but have read. In June 2020 I read one of this author’s books and subsequently went on to review it. I gave the book three stars and pointed out why I didn’t think it merited a higher score and also my personal observations.

So why the email?

It was asking me to rethink my review, to redraft it – in essence rewrite it. Why I wondered, and then a look at Amazon showed that my three star review was the first one showing below his book on their page, meaning it was the first one people thinking of buying it had the option of reading. It didn’t seem to matter that below it was two, five star reviews. It was mine the author singled out to respond to.

Ten months seems a long time to react to an unfavourable review. Or is there such a wealth of them that it’s taken so long to get to mine? (I haven’t looked to see how many three or below it’s received as I’m not interested.)

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

So why this post?

Because I personally think that responding to ask a reviewer to change their opinion is an act of crossing the line. Not to mention unprofessional.

I shall not name the author here, nor, as he requested, contact him to confirm that have complied with his wishes. Maybe this will serve as a lesson that he needs to accept that not everyone will like his work and shower him with five golden stars. storytelling is a subjective thing and all producers of the written word must accept this.

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Where and What #bunchcourtney #writing @mishaherwin @BarryLillie1 @mca_debbie @CorrineLeith @bunchcourtney00 @KTScribbles @nic_writer

I feel your pain but the elation once it’s completed is worth it.

Jan Edwards

britThroughout the writing of my Bunch Courtney Investigations series, set in the imaginary  Sussex village of Wyncombe, I have always had a reasonably clear vision of what and where the various parts of my village are.

This week while writing Book 5 – A Deadly Plot, however,  I found myself rootling through back stories to check on various points mentioned in Book One – Winter Downs. Where, I asked myself,  did I say the village pharmacy was in relation to the village hall? And for the life of me I could not remember.

It was high time I sketched out a rough plan for future reference. Easy, you might think, except that I still had to skim through all of the books in the series to see how I have described various portions of Wyncombe.

Now Wyncombe is fictitious so in theory none of this should not matter, and so…

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Juggling

Misha Herwin

Juggling Picture from Mick Walters design for the cover of “Juggler of Shapes”

Years ago I was featured in an article in “Writing Magazine” which took writers who were looking to be published and analysed the steps they were taking towards their goal. At the time I was writing a play, while simultaneously working on a novel and mulling over the idea for a children’s book. The play was to be performed at the school where I was a drama teacher, the novel would be sent out to a list of agents and in the meantime I would begin the children’s book.

The feedback when it came was not encouraging. Although I was commended for working hard it seemed that if I wanted to make it in the publishing world I needed to concentrate on one thing and one genre at a time. That way I could put the maximum effort…

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Lemon Chutney #recipes #cooking #lemons @BarryLillie1 @Mishaherwin

I want to try this

Jan Edwards

I have had this book for over forty years and it never ceases to surprise me with its weird and wonderful suggestions for various preserves and pickles.

What do you do when you have two lemons that are in imminent danger of getting over ripe – but don’t want to make a cake? You make Lemon Chutney! Not one I have tried before, though I have seen it in an old book – right above the recipes for lemon curd.

  • 2 large lemons
  • 1/4 lb onions
  • 2 oz sultanas
  • 1/2 oz each sea salt, mustard seeds and ground ginger
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 lb sugar
  • 3/8 pint vinegar

  • Thinly slice and chop lemons and onions
  • mix together in a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt
  • cover and leave overnight
  • put lemon and onion in a pan with a splash of water and simmer until soft
  • add rest of…

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Happy New Year and Hello to Thirty Years of Writing! @mishaherwin @writermels @BarryLillie1 @6TRcurtaincall @Jennyamphlett @KTScribbles @rachlawtonxx…

I have been tidying up my web page for the year to begin and just realised that 2021 a landmark year!  (Being terribly British this blowing of my own…

Happy New Year and Hello to Thirty Years of Writing! @mishaherwin @writermels @BarryLillie1 @6TRcurtaincall @Jennyamphlett @KTScribbles @rachlawtonxx…
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Dinner At Downturn – A Christmas Tale.

As it’s Christmas time, this week our writing group decided we should all contribute a seasonal tale, poem etc for our final meeting before the big day. So here is mine for anyone who’d like to share this with their family over lunch or better still after a few glasses of something fizzy. It’s probably unsuitable for the very young and it’s certainly not politically correct. So if easily offended, go and sit in a dark room until it’s over.

However, if you like a little frivolous nonsense, then please enjoy it, share it and banish those covid blues.

Here’s a PDF file for anyone who’d like to download it to a reader etc.

Dinner At Downturn

by Barry Lillie

Mr Burrows supervised while Aggie straightened the napkins on the festive table. As he lit the candles she reflected on her six-months at Downturn Abbey. All of the staff had welcomed her and she fitted in nicely. Lord Bothersome had turned out to be an agreeable employer, although she wasn’t keen on his new beau, the frightful Flavia. Talk below stairs had been rife the day Flavia had arrived at Downturn, “It’s scandalous,” Cook had said. “His wife, the good Lady Bothersome is just three-months buried.”

Aggie watched as the food was brought into the dining room, Cook had done his Lordship proud and at the centre of the festive feast sat a succulent looking goose. Mr Burrows ushered the staff into place in front of the festive tree as the doors opened in readiness for the guests.

First to enter the room was Lord Bothersome, dressed in nautical attire and on his arm was Flavia, her scrawny frame barely covered by a diaphanous gown. Next to arrive was his lordship’s niece Ophelia, linking arms with her latest young man Rodney. “Uncle Henry, the room looks, meravigliosa,” she said giving Flavia a sidelong glance and whose face remained flinty and emotionless. Lord Bothersome shook hands with Rodney as through the door Mr Burrows pushed inside a wheelchair containing old Lady Beaversnatch. Discreetly he whispered to his lordship that he’d site her near the door in case of emergencies and her regular bathroom requirements.

Soon the room was filled with people and Claudia looking resplendent in green listened to the guests who stood around chatting and sipping their sherry. “Would you like a top-up before lunch?” Rodney asked the verger. “Oh I mustn’t,” Nancy Boyes said, and as he went to walk away she grabbed at his arm and thrust out her empty glass saying, “Just a small one. The vicar knows Nancy can’t handle a large one.” Rodney was topping up her glass when booming laughter came from over by the door. Godfrey Butts-Rimming was regaling Ophelia and Lady Beaversnatch with tales of his latest holiday on the continent while his sister Hortense stood by, shyly glancing over at the reverend who was standing silently beside the tree.

“I do hope you shall all enjoy this splendid spread that Cook has prepared for us,” Lord Bothersome said loudly to his guests. “Will you be carving the bird Henry?” Godfrey bellowed.

“I’m afraid not old chap, my wrist is rather sore after yesterday.”

“What happened yesterday your Lordship?” asked Nancy, as her sherry glass was refilled again.

“We had our usual December frolic together on the estate,” Godfrey boomed.

“Yes,” his lordship said. “What fun, and I shot a load, didn’t I Godfrey?”

“You certainly did Henry.”

“How many was it, eight or nine?”

“Ten your lordship. Three partridge, three pheasant a grouse and two mallard.”

A hush descended upon the room as a man wearing a black cape and with hair as black and shiny as treacle entered. “Splendid, you made it. Everybody,” Lord Bothersome said commanding attention. “Let me introduce you to my new friend, Count Olaf.” The little man in black bowed deeply and walked around the room shaking the men’s hands and kissing those of the ladies. Mr Burrows looking at his pocket watch ushered the staff back to work and they assisted the guests with their seating before removing the covers from the food. There followed lots of oohing and aahing before Lord Bothersome stood up. “Welcome my friends, before we begin, I’d like to call upon the Revered here to say grace.” A little whoop came from the table and all eyes drifted across towards Hortense who blushed and looked down at her lap in shame.

“So Flavia,” the count said, “Which part of Italy are you from?” There was no response and when he started to question her again, Ophelia said, “I’m sorry Flavia speaks no English.” And then as an aside to Rodney she whispered, “Or recognises Italian.”

“Why do you say that?” he asked.

“Earlier I told uncle the room was marvellous, I translated the word into Italian and there was no recognition of her native language upon her face.”

Mr Burrows began carving the bird as the girls from below stairs exited quietly. Claudia spotted Aggie looking back over her shoulder to take one last look at the merry meal and winked at her, though she was certain Aggie hadn’t seen her, in fact apart from a sneer she’d received from Lady Beaversnatch, no one seemed to have noticed her.

Wine was being poured and Nancy Boyes held out her glass eagerly, earning her a serious look from the vicar. “Lovely service at the church last week,” Hortense said. “I do like a rousing carol at this time of the year.”

“So do I,” Godfrey bawled. “And for the rest of the year I like a lusty Lucinda and an agreeable Annie.” Embarrassed by her brother’s remark, Hortense turned her attention to the count. “Tell me Count where are your family from?”

“Originally Moscow but we now reside over the border in Belarus.”

“Moscow, you say. Pray tell me are you related to the family Romanov?”

“Not at all my good lady, I’m Olaf the Third, one of the famous Crackingoneoff’s”

As conversation overtook, Claudia watched as eyes darted over the table taking in the dishes laid out before them, only Rodney appeared to have noticed her, everyone else had passed her by with a look of disdain. She couldn’t help being rather squat and rotund, all her family had been fat and round and one can’t be held responsible for one’s genetics.

Nancy Boyes, her wine glass now refreshed, wished everyone a Merry Christmas and the sound of cutlery on porcelain increased in volume as the guests tucked into their lunch. Suddenly a deep baritone voice exclaimed, “Ee ba gum, that gravy’s reet grand.” Everyone’s eyes fell upon Flavia.

“Ha!” Ophelia said rather loudly, surprising old lady Beaversnatch, causing her to break wind loudly. “So, you’re not an Italian.”

“’Fraid not. I’m not a lady either. Me name’s not Flavia, eet’s Fred and am from Batley Carr, near Dewsbury.”

“Oh my,” Hortense said. “Does his lordship know you’re a chap?”

“Ay does that. Why dost think ay’s dressed as a sailor boy.” At this his lordship flushed, Godfrey choked on a parsnip and Nancy slid off her chair and under the table.

During the commotion no one noticed the young spunk Rodney, as he reached across the table and took Claudia into his hands and pulled her towards himself. As she reached him, his lips parted and she could smell the sweet sherry on his breath and her heart fluttered in anticipation. His velvety tongue caressed her before his molar descended upon her and she sighed aloud. For it was the sound of a happy sprout on Christmas day.

Disclaimer: No Brussels sprouts were harmed in the creation of this nonsense.

© Barry Lillie 2020

Have a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year everyone, stay safe and take a little time to check on those spending the season alone. Let’s spread a little love rather than the virus at the close of 2020.

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Writer’s or Sausage Block?

I don’t have one of those devices that sits around waiting for me to ask it which opera contains the most vowels in its libretto, or what the weather will be like a week on Tuesday in Mozambique. No, there’s no piece of eavesdropping technology listening in to my private conversations… Or is there?

Last month, I had a conversation with a friend about what she saw as the bane of a writer’s life – writer’s block. “Oh I hate it, she bemoaned as she wolfed down a couple of plain chocolate digestives. “How do you cope with it?” I looked across the table we were sharing for our socially distanced coffee and had two thoughts. 1. Should I point out that she’s just scoffed the biscuits I ordered – or 2. Point out that I don’t think I’ve ever suffered with it and I’m not actually sure it really exists.

“What do you mean, you’ve never had it?” she asked.

“Exactly that,” I told her, pointing out that our bin men always manage to collect our rubbish, not one to my knowledge has ever had bin block. The assistant in Greggs manages to serve up hot, filled pastry snacks all day without having a wobble, and citing they’ve got a dose of sausage block.

Huffington Post

During our discourse I gave her the reasons why I don’t think I’ve ever had it. She then pointed out that I’m obviously less creative than she is, and that it would probably be best to remove me from her Christmas card list. Upon leaving, she wittered on about something to do with not wanting to become a party to comparison by association.

I’m back home, sat at my desk and I open my inbox only to find that Google has sent me an email about courses to curb writer’s block. Was my iPhone listening in as it lay on the cafeteria table? The course details which have been sent to tempt me say it could offer me practical solutions to overcome psychological hurdles and resistance to regular writing. Now don’t think me mercenary when I say that if you are resisting the need to write, then maybe you shouldn’t be attempting to do it – Ditch your notebook and buy some boxing gloves or pack away your laptop and take up macramé.

(C) GMC Publications

The phrase, writer’s block conjures up images of authors and feature writers suffering with tortured faces staring into space. I don’t believe I’ve ever – let’s not say ‘suffered’ as it’s not life threatening – experienced writer’s block. I’ve had patches of procrastination. Moments of, I can’t be arsed to write and even a few days of distraction. But when I have sat down to write, that is exactly what I have done. I can’t claim that everything was worthy of being in print, but at least words hit the page.

I usually have more than one project on the go and so if I’m not feeling it for one, I can move on to the other and this helps me to maintain momentum. Also as I plan everything – sometimes to the nth degree – I’m always aware of what needs to be written. How smug does that make me sound.

However the test will be my next novel, I’ve already planned it and I’m choosing to concentrate solely on this and have no diversion project. So, who knows in three-months I may be writing about not being able to find my muse or that during the night the word elves came and emptied my head.

Free images (C) Deposit Photos

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20-20 Malcolm Havard

Today’s guest is historical novelist Malcolm Havard, a Yorkshireman now based in Cheshire and also a thoroughly nice chap.

What name do you write under? Malcolm Havard for my historical fiction and Mal Havard for my satirical comic novels, the latter being on-hold at present as I am trying to concentrate on one genre.

Where are you from, live or work? I currently live in Crewe in Cheshire though I am a Yorkshireman by birth. I have lived and worked all over the world. My day job is as a commercial surveyor which means I get to crawl around buildings, some of them quite interesting (but all-too many that aren’t!).  I am self-employed which allows me a fair amount of flexibility writing wise.

Tell me two things that people may not know about you. I used to race single-seater racing cars, my first race had Damon Hill in the field (At least I think it was him, he was an awful long way in front of me!)

The second fact that people don’t know about me is what I am really nerdish about. Most would think it would be about aircraft. It’s not, my true obsessive knowledge is about Grand Prix motor racing of the 1960s and 70s.

Do you have any hobbies? I have too many hobbies! The leading ones are photography, walking, skiing and beer.

What is your favourite book(s) and why? One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It’s the first book I remember reading as a teenager that I know made an impression on me. It is a book about the Gulags, yes and it is bleak but there is also joy in it. It’s also a story of survival of the human spirit in the face of unfair treatment. As a contrast, I often reread Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett. It’s just so effortlessly funny.

Malcolm Havard

Who or what inspired you to become a writer? Writing fiction came also accidentally as a result of writing non-fiction. For various reasons I spent 25 months doing little else but write, first a thesis, then a short textbook and then a very long textbook, all told I wrote over 500,000 words. When all three projects had been put to bed I found I missed the routine. I had to fill it with something so I thought I would try writing fiction. I started not with a short story but went straight to a novel because I was used to long-form writing. It took a long time before I learned the trick of writing shorter stuff. Some say I never have…

What type of books/genre do you write? I now almost exclusively write 20th century historical fiction.

How would you describe your writing style? Introspective. Some would say excessively so! I am trying to wean myself off it.

What comes first for you – character, plot or setting? I usually start with a story idea that tends to sit within a particular time period or a specific event, then move to a plot outline. After that I think about what characters I need to tell the story. This process is quite involved, in downtime from other projects I often do research for something I will write a year or more in the future. Once I am ready to start on the project I usually then spend 4-6 weeks reviewing this material, working out the plot skeleton, including what the end will be, and quite a bit of time fleshing out my characters.

Do you have a writing routine? Yes, I tend to write between 7.30 and 9.00 am weekdays.

Do you become a ‘method’ writer? No, I don’t think I do.

What are you currently working on? I am on the first book of a series that I’m describing as Birdsong meets Babylon Berlin. The series will take the same characters and their offspring from 1910 to the early 1950s. The first book is called Three Brothers (set between 1910-1919), the second will be Black Crosses (1919-1933) and the third The Red and the Black (1933-40). I think there will be five books in the series as a whole.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your writing career? I don’t think there is anything better than getting a reader review that shows that they have both appreciated the research and enjoyed the story, particularly if they clearly picked up on the nuances and/or message in the story.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? Not to listen to advice! There are plenty of ‘experts’ out there that aren’t…

See note below.*

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer? Just do it but don’t expect to get rich!

What have you published recently? Eleven Days, a novel set in WW1.

Do you think there’s still some snobbery between commercial and self-publishing? It is lessening, but yes, it still exists.

How do you market your writing? This is the first year of my fiction writing career (ten years ish) that marketing has been my primary goal and where I have actively worked to understand marketing more.

This year I have used Prolific Works to give away freebies to drive readers to my paid material. I think this is a medium-long term activity. I have also used a number of paid for advertising mediums, including Bookbub and Amazon. I also have period promotions on Bargain Booksy. That and concentrating on writing just one genre at present, Historical Fiction, does seem to have an impact on sales which have increased around five-fold this year.

Where can people find your work? The easiest way is probably through my website https://www.malcolmhavard.com/

Where can people find you on social media and online? On my website, on twitter @malhavardwriter and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Malcolm-Havard-Historical-Novelist-115105230285818

*If you think historical and wartime fiction isn’t your thing then give Malcolm’s collection of shorts, The Neutral Zone a try, it’s a cracking good read that may change your mind.

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20-20 Valerie Holmes

Today’s 20-20 guest is Valerie Holmes, originally from Whitby and who incidentally has like myself been to Borneo, (small world eh?)

What name do you write under? Valerie Holmes

Where are you from, live or work? I was raised in a seaside town, north of the beautiful historic port of Whitby. Although I have lived in the southeast because of family commitments for years, pre-Covid I regularly visited North Yorkshire to research my novels and novellas which are set in the region.

I am also a freelance Creative writing tutor independently and for the London School of Journalism and Writing magazine.

Tell me two things that people may not know about you. I am writing two books set in the Dark Ages.

Last year I took a trip in a long boat into Borneo.

Do you have any hobbies? In a world not in lockdown I love to travel. I enjoy drawing, especially dog portraits.

My latest hobby has been trying to improve my general health through hiking and enjoying the countryside or coast.

Valerie Holmes

What is your favourite book(s) and why? There are too many to really list, but I enjoy the work of: Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, Diana Gabaldon, Jane Austen, Edward Marsden, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dickens and LJ Ross. I read a lot and across genre, but historical novels always attract.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer? I always made up stories to entertain myself as a child. We did not travel far as Mum had MS and life was restrictive, but full of love. When a lifelong friend suggested I should write a manuscript and submit it, I took up the challenge. I was also fortunate to be introduced to The Romantic Novelists’ Association by Margaret James. They have a culture of encouraging new writers. Since being published I am also a member of the Crime Writers’ Association as my work often involves mysteries.

What type of books/genre do you write? Predominantly romantic adventures set in the early nineteenth century – a fascinating period of change.

How would you describe your writing style? It has been described as “Poldark meets Heathcliff” which I thought was a lovely compliment.

What comes first for you – character, plot or setting? Usually it is a situation. The character forms from the conflict they are facing, so it really is a bit of all three to give a strong opening scene.

Do you have a writing routine? Yes, flexible – It is my daily constant. The time may vary, but throughout the day I will find time to plot, research, plan and of course write or edit previous work. It is so much a part of my life and has been a blessing throughout times of lockdown.

Do you become a ‘method’ writer? In as much as I read my work out loud so that I hear if the words are flowing smoothly and convincingly.

What are you currently working on? I am finishing off a Dark Age project and researching for two crime novels set pre WWl.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your writing career? So many – winning an annual ghost story competition in Writing Magazine and then having two novellas shortlisted for the RNA’s category awards and of course the publication of my four books with Sapere. However, every publication is a highlight and I have had 46 novellas and 4 novels published, but I always look forward to the next one!

On the tutoring side it is the love of being able to share advice with other, as yet, unpublished writers and encourage new talent.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? Be prepared to serve the apprenticeship.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer? Keep learning. Keep writing. Never give up.

What have you published recently? In the midst of a pandemic the ironically titled ‘In Sickness and In Health’.

Do you think there’s still some snobbery between commercial and self-publishing? There may be some but the more successful Indie authors there are the more respect they get.

How do you market your writing? On social media and various interview outlets; I am planning a news letter which will be linked to my website.

Where can people find your work? My Sapere Books are available on Amazon as eBook and print and the novellas are distributed through the libraries throughout the Commonwealth and some are available on various eBook formats.

Where can people find you on social media and online?

www.ValerieHolmesAuthor.com

Twitter: @ValerieHolmesUK

Instagram: valerieholmes.author

Facebook: valerieholmesauthor

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