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    My Star Guest this week is a former student of mine, Sheila Wood. Sheila is a keen writer, and actress.


    Sheila (2)


    I asked Sheila to tell us a bit about herself.

    Have you always wanted to be a writer?

    I started writing little poems when I was five and my mother sent them in to a local newspaper that had a children’s page. They always printed them. It then became a regular thing. I would write a poem, usually about my pets, or family.  I still have the cuttings and they make me laugh.  Poetry has always figured strongly with me.  If I get upset, or if something has had a profound effect on me I tend to write it down in poetry.  I never saw myself as a writer though.  From the age of seven when my parents took me to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Cinema, I wanted to be a musical comedy star! In between writing poetry, I have always loved writing short stories and have had several published in magazines and newspapers, together with numerous “letters to the editor.”

    I tend to get on my soap box quite often and write letters! I did write a series of children’s stories which my brother in law illustrated for me but had no success with publishing them.  When I read them now after attending the creative writing classes I realise they were not very good! However, my grandchildren like listening to the stories so it was worthwhile and they are on my long list of things to re-do.  Last year I was runner up in a “Last Line” competition in Writing Magazine which gave me encouragement to enter more. Now, thanks to what I have learned from you Karen, I am revising short stories to send off to magazines.  The courses have inspired me so much and I have learned a great deal about the way I write and how to improve.  I feel really sad when the courses come to an end as I gain so much from them and feel I still have a lot to learn. 

    Thank you, Sheila. I'm glad you found the courses helpful. :)

    Have any authors inspired you?

    I love the Bronte’s work.  When I was eleven I read Jane Eyre.  My paper pack penguin book is dog-eared and stained, yet I get it off the shelf at least once a year and read it again.  I have a friend who I went to school with who is always sending me books on the Bronte family. I think I must have one of the largest collections, including a beautiful very old hardbound set of all their novels.  I enjoy Joanna Trollope’s books, probably because I like drawing from family experiences when I write, and Maeve Binchy too.  I recently read “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce and want to read more of her books.  I thought it was brilliant.  It made me laugh and cry!  If I want a good thriller to take on holiday with me I usually read a Harlan Coben book. Much of my writing is inspired by my family and real life incidents and I write about them all the time both in stories and in poems. My favourite is the piece I wrote about my father called “Lazybones”.

    We all loved "Lazybones", it brought tears to my eyes. I hope you don't mind but I'm going to paste it here so others can read it.



     (Granddad’s Lullaby)


    The years roll away as I recall his black, curly hair and smiling face, eyes full of adoration behind the horn rimmed spectacles.  He holds me close and the soft, lilting voice croons “Lazy bones, sleepin’ in the sun, how you ‘spect to get your day’s work done?”  He rocks me gently in his arms.

     Was I transported by the sound of his voice, the melody or just the experience of being rocked as I drifted off to sleep?  Again and again I would plead “Sing Lazy Bones, Daddy”. No one else could sing it like him.  I remember when I was five and he was in hospital, an uncle sang it to me, a strange, harsh sound that caused me to cry for him to stop and call out for my father.  That night I couldn’t sleep and I ached for his rocking arms, his voice and for the song I loved.

    Thirty years later, I watched him rock my twelve-month-old daughter in his arms as he sang the words, gazing down at her with so much love in his eyes.  As usual she would try to grab his spectacles, but soon inevitably the long, black eyelashes drooped and she would be asleep on his chest.  Over the years we would both sing ‘Lazy Bones’ to her and when he was no longer with us, his legacy remained.  My sister sang it to her children and my daughter sings it to hers.  It has become known in the family quite simply as Granddad’s Lullaby.

    A few months ago I watched my four-year-old granddaughter as she stood by her little brother’s cot.  She was singing to him her own version of ‘Lazy Bones’. It was slightly off key; the words muddled, yet music to my ears.  Her brother chuckled and her face lit up with a triumphant expression.  She turned to me and proudly whispered “He likes it doesn’t he?”

    If I close my eyes when it is quiet and there are no worldly distractions, I can hear my father’s voice singing ‘Lazy Bones’ and then remember how his moustache would brush against my cheek as he kissed me goodnight.


     “Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory” – Percy Bysshe Shelley.          

     Sheila Wood


     (Revised April 2014)

       ‘Lazy Bones’ was written in 1933.  Lyrics: Johnny Mercer,

     Music: Hoagy Carmichael.

      It was recorded in 1933 by Paul Robeson



    Do you have a special place for writing?

    I have a corner of my grandson’s room where I go to write away from the living areas.  If I get tired I can always lie down on his Spider Man bed and have a short nap to re-charge my batteries!

     sheila 3


     Sounds good to me!


    What time of the day do you write best?

    I can write at any time if the house is reasonably quiet and I have no distractions such as grandchildren running around or a husband demanding my attention! (Being hearing impaired he does need my help a great deal). Motivation to write doesn’t always come at the best time - that is the problem.  So I have a little notebook and jot ideas down then wait for the house to be quiet so that I can sit at the computer and get going. I like to plot out my stories, though once I get going it tends to just flow and the plot can change!  If I am honest, last thing at night is not a good idea as I never get to sleep afterwards. My brain will be racing.

    What are your hobbies?

    I sing  and act!  I have been singing since I was five and doing musical comedy shows since I was 16.  I have been very fortunate and played nearly all the musical comedy leads with Wolverhampton and South Staffs Musical Comedy Companies at The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton.   I have had a wonderful time.  I am a bit too old now to play most parts so I do coaching for people if they want to audition for parts in productions.  I also sing regularly in local day care centres, residential homes etc. and for charity.  I enjoy writing silly verses/limericks …. A bit like Pam Ayres.  Over the years I have written loads for people at work who were retiring, or special birthdays etc. I absolutely love Pam Ayres’ “My Husband”.  You can hear it on YouTube but I have it in one of her books. So funny. I can relate to it.

    What are you writing at the moment?

    I am in the process of editing and re-writing my Blog that started a year ago so that it can be published on line.  It is called World War One Poems Re-discovered in a Box and contains poems written by a great great aunt during the First World War.  I am hoping that I can get this done and include many other of her poems which were not in the original blog. You can read it on sheilajanewood.wordpress.com.

    Only this week I was contacted by a writer who saw my blog last week. He has had a biography accepted by a publisher. It is about an artist and one of my Aunt’s poems is on his gravestone.  I am waiting for more information to come as I was only contacted on 24th July.  I am also working on some stories started during the Creative Writing Courses which were plotted but not continued.  I need to sit down and prioritise which ones to start first! I need a bit of discipline here. I would also like to go back through all my own notebooks of my poems and decide which ones I would like to publish.  In addition I wrote “Recollections of a Happy Childhood” many years ago which covered my life from age five to fourteen and would like to get that into book form, just for my daughter and my grandchildren to keep.  They have the draft form in a folder but it would be lovely to get it looking professional, in a proper book form.

    What advice would you give to other writers?

    It’s never too late to take up writing.  Take a Creative Writing Course and you will learn so much.  I am convinced that sharing the journey of writing with others is a huge help. Never give up.  Never throw any writing away however bad you think it might be because something in that piece might be useful in another story or novel.  Keep going!




    You're welcome. Thank you for sharing your writing journey with us, Sheila. :)

  2. The Three R's 

    Never, ever send off your first draft of a story. Or even your second. This is what separates the professionals from the amateurs. A professional author always remembers the three R’s:

    • Re-read.
    • Revise
    • Rewrite


    Put your manuscript away for at least a week, longer if you can. Then take it out again and re-read it. The chances are that you will spot a lot of things wrongs. Some awkward phrases perhaps, a piece of information repeated unnecessarily, a character that changes name half way through the story.


    Ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Is the title appealing enough? The first thing a title must do is make the reader want to read the book. The next thing it need to do is tell them what the book is about so it's worth taking time over your title to make sure you've got it right.

    2. Have you  got a story plot? This might seem an obvious one but you'd be surprised how many people write a story that hasn't got an actual plot in it, they write a string of events with no cause or effect, conflict or resolution. To quote E.M.Forster famous distinction between story and plot The King died and then the Queen died. That's a story. The King died then the Queen died of grief. That's a plot.

    3. Does the beginning grab the reader? - Remember that a reader will often glance at the cover, the blurb and the first page to make a decision whether to buy/read a book so make sure something happens on your first page. This is not the place for paragraphs of narration or back-story.

    4. Are there any dull bits? A lot of writers concentrate on a good beginning and ending but forget about the middle. Make sure you keep up the pace.

    5. Is the story told from the correct point of view? If you're struggling with your story try writing it in a different viewpoint, first person instead of third person perhaps. Or try writing from another character's point of view - you might be telling the wrong character's story.

    6. Are the characters adequately described? You don't need to give pages of description but most readers like to know what the main characters look like and a bit about their personalities. Try to use the 'show not tell' technique of action and dialogue for this rather than just stating the character traits.

    7. Have you changed any of the character’s names halfway through the book? This is an easy one to do if your character has an unusual name or you have several characters in your story. Fill in a character profile from for each major character and refer to it when you're revising so you can make sure you've been consistent.

    8. Has the conflict been resolved satisfactory? Your story doesn't have to end with 'happy ever after' but the reader needs to feel that the ending is credible and be satisfied with how the story has panned out.

    9. Have you checked all the references and got your facts right? It you're setting your story in place or country that exists, using any scientific or historical facts, for example, make sure you do your research. If you use the internet to check your facts, then use at least three separate websites as not all sites are reliable.

    10. Are there any obvious spelling or grammar mistakes? Check, check and check. An editor won't expect you to be an expert on grammar, of course, but nothing shouts unprofessional more than sloppy errors and punctuation.


    If you're writing a children's story you might find my book Get Writing:Children's Fiction helpful.





  3. I'm delighted to welcome fellow Solstice author, Margaret Egrot, to my blog today.Her first YA novel, And Alex still has Acne, was released by Solstice Publishing earlier this year. She has another novel, this time for new adults, in the final editing stage, and is currently working on one for the fully grown up, which she hopes to have finished by this time next year




    About Margaret

    When not writing novels, or gazing out of the window thinking about writing them, Margaret writes short stories and plays and has won a number of prizes for both. One of her ambitions is to get a full length play onto the professional stage.

    Margaret is a trustee – director for two charities. To relax, she plays football with her rescue cairn terrier, or drags him out for longer walks than he feels is strictly necessary – unless it involves a beach. She also swims most days, usually fails to complete the daily Times ‘easy’ cryptic crossword, reads, and goes to the theatre.


    It sounds like you lead a busy life, Margaret!

    You can find out more about Margaret here:

    Author links:

    Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Margaret-Egrot/1374506486178952

    Twitter: @meegrot

    Website: www.margaretegrotwriter.weebly.com

    Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/margaretegrot

    Or Amazon.co.uk/author/margaretegrot


    And Alex -cover

    About the book

    And Alex Still Has Acne is about three teenagers who, on the face of it, have ordinary, comfortable lives.

    Life for fourteen year old Alex is OK most of the time. He enjoys school, has a best friend Sam, and a pretty and only mildly irritating younger sister, Nicky. But then Sam starts acting strangely, and so does Nicky – and both insist on sharing secrets with him and making him promise not to tell anyone. Then Nicky goes missing and only Alex feels he knows where to find her. But is Sam anywhere around to help?

    And Alex Still has Acne, and several short stories are available from Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO               http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

    Look out for the free book promotion on Amazon for July 24th and 25th.


    Thanks for dropping by, Margaret. Good luck with the promotion. :)






    A warm welcome back to Helen Pollard who's dropped by today to talk about her writing journey.

    Helen Pollard author pic

    Hello, Helen. :) Can you tell us how you became an author?

    My love of writing grew from my love of reading – especially Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree stories, which I devoured every night long past my bedtime by the light of the street lamp outside my window. I loved the way she created whole new worlds and wanted to do that for myself, so I started to write my own stories in a special notebook (which I still have, although it's a little ragged now).

    In my teens, I was encouraged by an English teacher who was into astrology. She drew up my chart and told me I have a very creative trine. Who was I to argue?

    In my twenties, there were several failed attempts at trying to get a romance published. I'd read a few, enjoyed them despite my inner cynic, and in the arrogance of youth, decided I could do just as well myself. One of the rejections I got was encouraging, the others generic …  

    By now I had two kids, no sleep and no time. I gave up. Returning to work and a stretch of ill health prolonged that decision.

    In the meantime, my daughter was doing nothing but write and clearly loving it, and my fingers began to itch to hit the keyboard again. I’d had an opening scene for a contemporary women's fiction novel in my mind for years, and the day I decided to type it up, it was like opening the floodgates.

    Two years later (it was a long book and I’m an obsessive edit-and-polisher), I began sending it to agents, entering a soul-destroying cycle of posting it off, waiting months for a rejection letter or getting no response at all, re-polishing it, sending it somewhere else … after two years of it, that manuscript was given a long rest at the back of a drawer.

    I went back to writing straightforward romance, and I was delighted when Warm Hearts in Winter was accepted and published by Clean Reads (formerly Astraea Press) last year, and this year my latest release Holding Back. I’m so glad I rediscovered my love of words!

     Congratulations, Helen. Well done for not giving up.  Do you have any advice for new writers?

    I'm often asked this. Here goes … First, write because you love it. Readers know whether your heart is in it or not.  

    Second, if you want to get published (and not everyone does!) be prepared for the long haul. You may get lucky, but it can take years of honing your craft and learning about the writing world before you succeed. If you can be totally honest with yourself about where your strengths and weaknesses lie and still believe in your work, then it is worth persevering.

    Finally, be aware that getting published doesn’t end with writing your book or getting a contract. There’s a whole world of marketing, social media, blogging etc. that goes with it and will steal away your writing time! 

    Great advice, Helen. Now tell us a bit about your latest book, Holding Back. Love the cover!

    HoldingBack - cover



    Holding Back, is set in the beautiful countryside of northern Portugal – perfect for a summer read.



    The last thing they're looking for is love …


    Laura Matheson is a natural at avoiding romance, so when she is drawn to mystery guest Daniel Stone while helping out at her friends' hotel in Portugal, she assumes all she needs is a little extra willpower.


    Daniel is at the hotel on business. The demands of work and a manipulative ex-girlfriend mean he doesn't have the time or energy for romance, but Laura is a distraction he finds hard to ignore.


    As they negotiate a minefield of misunderstandings and mutual attraction, will they both continue to hold back? Or will they finally allow love into their lives?






    "Excuse me. You've picked up the wrong bag."


    Deep and decisive, the voice startled Laura from behind as she loaded her luggage onto her hard-won airport trolley.


    "No, I don't think so." She swung round to confront the voice's owner. Unnerved to find him towering over her, she took a step back, stumbling over her trolley in the process.


    With lightning speed, he reached out to catch her arm, his grip strong as he helped her regain her balance. When she was upright again, she took in piercing blue eyes, thick dark brown hair, a hint of stubble on a tanned face—and felt an immediate jolt of attraction.


    Laura ignored it. "I can manage, thank you," she snapped, thinking she wouldn't have tripped if he hadn't surprised her like that.


    He released his hold and raised an eyebrow. "As I said, you have my bag."


    Pushing away long strands of chestnut-brown hair that had dared escape their ponytail, Laura returned his gaze.


    "No, this is definitely mine." She was hot, harassed, and late. The last thing she needed was a futile argument over her own luggage!


    "Would you mind if I check?"


    "Help yourself." Unable to disguise her impatience, Laura waved at it, adding, "But I am in a hurry." She winced at the hostile tone in her voice, but she really didn't have time for this. Tapping her foot in irritation, she waited to be proved right as he crouched over her trolley.


    "Would you care to look?" he asked.


    Laura's foot stopped tapping. Recognising undisguised triumph on his face, she read the label over his shoulder with trepidation, but there it was in black and white—Daniel Stone, London Gatwick to Porto. The heat that rose in her cheeks seemed to burn right through her skin.


    "But it's the same as mine!" she blustered, watching with embarrassment as he hoisted the heavy bag from the trolley with ease.


    "It's hardly a unique design," he commented, shrugging broad shoulders. "If you weren't in such a tearing hurry, you might have spotted your own on the carousel."


    Laura spun around to see her bag riding forlornly around with the few that were left. Mortified, she opened her mouth to apologise.


    But he spoke first. "Personally, I would advocate that old saying 'More haste, less speed.'" His tone softened a little as he added, "I'm sorry, but you're not the only hot, tired person whose flight was delayed, you know." And off he strolled through the terminal, his bag flung over his shoulder, without a backward glance.




    Buy Links:


    Amazon UK:


    Amazon US: 


    Barnes & Noble:








    About the Author:


    Helen Pollard writes contemporary romance with old-fashioned heart. She believes there will always be a place for romantic fiction, no matter how fast-paced and cynical the world becomes. Readers still want that feel-good factor – to escape from their own world for a while and see how a budding romance can blossom and overcome adversity to develop into love … and we all need a little love, right?


    A Yorkshire lass, Helen is married, with two teenagers and a psychotic cat. When she's not working or writing, it goes without saying that she loves to read. She also enjoys a good coffee in a quiet bookshop, and appreciates the company of family and close friends.




    Find Helen at:


    Website & Blog:  http://helenpollardwrites.wordpress.com     


    Facebook: http://facebook.com/pages/Helen-Pollard/372986142839624


    Twitter: http://twitter.com/helenpollard147


    Goodreads:  http://goodreads.com/author/show/8647878.Helen_Pollard




    Thanks for dropping by, Helen. :)


    You can read more about Helen's work here



































  5. I'm delighted to welcome fellow Solstice author, Raegyn Perry, to my blog today. Raegyn's debut novel, Lavender Fields is releasing soon. This is the first book in the Eternal Journey Series. It asks the question;


    ‘What if love found the right people, at the wrong time?’

    Just look at this gorgeous cover.

    Cover Art Lavender Fields


    And here's a bit of info about the book:

    What it's about

    Greye Fields isn't looking for love. She enjoys writing and loves her important work at a busy literary foundation and her otherwise quiet life. There's no time to pursue romance or the rejection it comes with. The youngest of three boys, English teacher Connor is to his mother's chagrin the only one still unmarried. Not following in the heroic footsteps or issues of his family, Connor adheres to his own views and knows the right woman is out there somewhere.

    Both Connor and Greye know the attraction is real when they first meet, but each have their own demons that make a relationship between them unlikely.

    To complicate matters, strange and vivid dreams evoke shattering childhood memories, and the pair will find other mysterious forces are also at play. Can they get past their own obstacles or is the fate of their future forever sealed?


    “All I can tell you is this. When love is right, it’s true. 

    When it’s true, it’s forever.”



    Torrential rain spikes. A scream pierces the dark night. 

    Shattered glass, and a wash of blood.


     The haunting dream came upon Greye yet again as it had in years past. It was a nightmare a child could never fully comprehend, and remained as unsettling as an adult. Always set in a faraway place and time; yet there was something more. Under its surface hinted at an unknown that should somehow be familiar. It was like an ending that wasn’t quite finished.



    Doesn't it sound intriguing?

    I asked Raegyn to tell us a bit about herself.


    RP musing


    As an actor, Raegyn’s been in various productions over the years onstage in Ohio, then Seattle and even Everett. She played a doctor in front of the camera with Ned the Cactus in a Taco Time commercial, as well as other fun spots. Raegyn wrote a full length play, she hopes to one day see performed onstage. When not writing, Raegyn has been known to turn into a T.V. and movie-watching junkie, and is just as happy going to a movie, happy hour, concert, or theater show. She’s perfectly content either curled up with a good book, or on a fun travel adventure. Anyone who knows her knows she loves to dance (a lot!) wherever and whenever possible! In addition to romance, Raegyn proudly claims to be a geek fan of most Sci-Fi, paranormal, or comic-book related media. She also recently wrapped a teaser video for Lavender Fields, which she scripted and starred in with friends down in Portland, Oregon. She is currently working on edits for Lavender Fields, as well as the second book in the series. Raegyn has called the beautiful Pacific Northwest home since 2001, and has one son she’s quite proud of.


    You can find out more about Raegyn here:

    FB Author page:     http://facebook.com/authorRaegynPerry

    Twitter:                   http://twitter.com/RaegynP

    Website:              http://raegynperry.com

    Affiliations:        PNWA (Pacific NW Writers Association)

    Publisher:            Solstice Publishing/Summer Solstice

    Email:                    raegynperrywrites@gmail.com


    Park Bench Lavender


     Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Raegyn!