Friday, 28 September 2012

Nee-naw Nee-naw

It's the sound of the grammar police.

One of my very few gifts is the ability to recognise grammar and punctuation mistakes at a hundred yards.  I carry a red pen around with me at all times in order to correct any mistakes that I may see on my day to day travels.  I was particularly upset when I was forced to 'red pen' a notice displayed at my university!  

It's easy enough to correct signs, but it's not so easy to correct published literature.  As you may already know, I am currently reading Grow Up by Ben Brooks.  I am thoroughly enjoying it.  The main character, and narrator, Jasper is such an unconventional but lovable character; a perfect amalgamation of Adrian Mole [The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend], Oliver Tate [Submarine by Joe Dunthorne], and Holden Caulfield [Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger].  Jasper is a friend that I would love to have.

And this is why I feel bad about pointing out the mistakes in the book.  But as I've said before, I now read with the eye of an unpublished writer, curious of what gets published, and what I have to do to be one of the lucky published few.

So while I was reading last night, I stumbled across this glaring mistake.

Jasper and his friends are at a gig, and on page 132 he says, "When the band have finished playing, we go outside to smoke."

I have a big issue with incorrect subject/verb agreements after having worked for a gymnastics club, where all the senior staff wrote "The club are..." in official correspondence and press reports.  Being the lowly paid administration assistant, I was subjected to this blatant disregard for coherent sentence structure every time I had to type up these documents.  I would always edit and correct as I went along.

'The club' is a collective noun, which is singular.  There is only one club being referred to in 'The club'.  Replace 'The club' with another singular subject and the sentence wouldn't make sense.  The table are...  The dog are...  It's just not right!  Of course, if they'd written "The members of the club are..." or "The managers of the club are..." I wouldn't have an issue.  But they didn't.

And this takes me back to the example from the novel.  "The band" is a collective noun, which is a singular subject.  One band.  More than one member, but only one band.  Therefore it should have been "When the band has finished playing..."

An author, an agent, and a publisher (at least) read this manuscript, and this mistake wasn't rectified.  I know I'm not perfect, but there are people who are paid a lot of money to make sure that these manuscripts are perfect before they hit our bookshelves.

Perhaps I'll get published if I are not well at grammer...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Free Spirit Writers

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with Mike Wilson from Free Spirit Writers.


Hello Mike.  Can you tell us a bit about your writing group?
My wife, Daine, and I are Free Spirit Writers.  Just the two of us.  That's because we want to be acknowledged as a group for the National Association of Writers' Groups and not as individual writers.  We have, in the past, been members of other local writing groups, but we are not active with them.  I was asked to leave one of them for being a disturbing influence!  Our individual writing was also being published and performed, and we were wishing to "do our own thing".
How are your sessions structured?
We don't have structured sessions, helping each other with our relevant strengths.  Diane is the poet and 'free spirit' and I am more concerned with the accuracy of the writing, the punctuation, the grammar, etc.  That is, I'm pedantic.
As am I.  Now, where is my red pen!?  What types of things do you cover in your group?
Diane is the poet, I write articles which have been published in local and regional interest magazines.  I run our website - which is, I admit, mostly my work.  I have had a novel published by a small, private publisher - not vanity publishing.  I have published a 12-page A3 spoof local newspaper, packed with humorous pieces and photographs (thank goodness for Photoshop).
What have been some of your most popular successful activities?
We have written and performed in four pantomimes, four murder/mystery evenings and had an April Fool's Day spoof broadcast.  Diane has won top prizes in national poetry competitions with Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum.  I have self-published ten local history books and am working on finalising the next in the series.  I have had letters published in national newspapers.
Have you ever written collectively as a group (or indeed as a duo), such as producing an anthology?
We have compiled anthologies for the National Association of Writers' Groups competitions but have not been successful.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Don't write what you want to write, write what someone wants to read.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Don't write what you want to write, write what someone wants to read.
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook?
Our website is where you can read much of our work.
How would someone go about joining your group?
We do not wish to have additional members.
Thank you, Mike. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

LLBG September

Last night I went to Lowestoft Library's monthly book group meeting; the September edition.  We were there to discuss Afterwards by Rosamund Lipton.  As usual, we tend to discuss everything other than the book, until someone asks the fateful question: "So what did everyone think of the book?"  And as usual there was a short silence as people try to think of a diplomatic way to say that they didn't like the book.

The general consensus of the group was that Afterwards was not very good.  Most people had read it all and a few people read some of it (but gave up because they were too frustrated with the story and/or characters) and, of course, there were those who didn't even bother to read it at all.  I'm usually in the latter group, but I did get around to reading it all this time.  Not because I particularly liked the story, and definitely not because I liked the characters, because I didn't like a single one of them.  I read it in order to find out 'whodunnit'.  I won't give away too much, but the main premise of the story is a school is set on fire, a teenage girl is in the building when it's on fire, the girl's mother goes in to rescue her, both the girl and the mother end up in hospital where they both have out of body experiences.  The mother becomes the narrator and converses with her daughter throughout the whole novel.  They try to work out who started the fire, and like any good mystery story, there were red herrings.  We, as the reader, were taken from pillar to post, trying to work out 'whodunnit' and every time I guessed, I was wrong.  And I was genuinely surprised by the person 'whodunnit'.  So in that respect, it was good.  But in all other respects, it wasn't.

It dragged.  It was tedious and annoying and frustrating.  If out of body experiences could actually happen, how likely could two people do it at the same time?  And how likely would they be able to engage in conversation as if they were both in their bodies?

The characters were also annoying.  The mother, who narrated the story, was irritating.  She named her son Adam, but kept calling him Addie.  I have no idea why you would give someone a name, and then 'shorten' it to something longer than the original name.  And there was also a Penny and a Jenny, which was unnecessary.

I did, however, find a lovely little line in the book which sat well with me.  Grace, the mother, is talking about Adam, her son, and says, "He was prepared for unhappy endings, but not unjust ones."  I know most people would have skipped over that line, but that's how I feel a lot of the time.  But that's by the by.

The highlight of the evening was the delicious lemon and rosemary cake that one of the members brought it, as a celebration for being made redundant and not having to go to work anymore.

The lowlight of the evening came at the end of the group meeting when everyone left to go home.  Across the road from the library is a public carpark.  It's free to park there after 6pm, so it's a pretty convenient place to park for the book group, which starts at 7pm.  As I pulled into the carpark last night I noticed that there was a fence around the perimeter and a sign by the entrance which stated that the carpark would be closed from the 26th to the 28th of September.  As yesterday was the 25th, and as there were already some cars parked in the carpark, I parked there as usual.  Other members of the group parked there, as usual, and we didn't worry about anything as the carpark wasn't going to be closed until the 26th.

At 9pm, when we had finished briefly discussing the book and seriously putting the world to rights, we all left to go to the carpark and go home.  As we approached the carpark (which contained at least 10 cars) we noticed that the fence had been pulled across the entrance and locked with a chain and padlock.  

Thankfully, the caretaker was still in the library and he opened the doors so we could go back inside to keep warm.  Someone called someone from the council who eventually came and unlocked the carpark.  I've never seen a group of people rush to their cars and drive out of the carpark so quickly.  No-one wanted to be locked in.

Why would anyone lock cars inside a carpark, especially when the sign said that it would be closed on the 26th?

Our next book is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.  I'm very pleased about this, as this is one of the many books on my 'to read' list.  I just hope I enjoy it.  Well, it can't be much worse than this month's attempt at literature!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Pedants Anonymous

Well, not so anonymous, as you all know it's me.  But I just needed to make a few points.  As I posted many moons ago, while reading dot.homme by Jane Moore I came across bits of the novel that were contradictory.  Since having written my first novel (still unpublished) I am reading books with a different eye. I try to note patterns and themes, to see what kind of thing gets published.  I've read a lot of books that I haven't enjoyed, but it's not that they're badly written; I just haven't enjoyed them.

Every time you look at a product on Amazon, they like to recommend other similar products.  I spend a lot of time on Amazon browsing books, and every now and then an interesting cover pops up (and as you know, I do like to judge books by their covers).  A couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued by the cover of Grow Up by Ben Brooks.  The blurb made it sound like a book that I'd like to read so I got it out of the library.

I'm not here to write book reviews, mainly because I don't want to.  I just need to voice my frustrations with books that have clearly been published, but have not been read.

Exhibit A:
The main character, Jasper, has a house party when his mum and step-dad are away for the weekend.  The house is full of people drinking and taking drugs.  Jasper, after snorting lines of ketamine, has sex with Abby in his parents' bed.

On page 40 Jasper says, "... I can cope with wearing a little blood.  I have blood, you have blood.  Your blood on me ... Your blood on the sheets."

In the morning he wakes up, and looks at himself.

On page 40 Jasper says, "There is blood on and in the immediate vicinity of my penis.  This is the most disgusting I have ever felt in my life."

He leaves Abby in bed and goes downstairs and talks to his friend Tenaya.

On page 41 Jasper says, "She throws me a pair of jeans from the floor.  I pull the full condom off and climb in."

A while later, Jasper and Tenaya are outside talking about the previous night's events.

On page 46 Jasper says, "I had sex with Abby Hall, even though she is plump and even though she was on her period."

On page 60 Jasper and Tenaya are having a conversation as Jasper is worried he may have made Abby pregnant.
'Tenaya,' I say, 'out of interest, can girls get pregnant on their periods?'
She tries not to laugh. 'No,' she says, 'Well, it is basically impossible.'
'Why?' she says.
'Isn't it obvious?'
Tenaya bites her lip. 'You weren't told?'
'Told what?'
'Abby wasn't on her period. It was her first time.'
'Her hymen, Jasper. You smashed her flower. '

Now, I'm sorry for the lengthiness of this bit, but if my Law A Level taught me nothing else, it taught me to have all of my evidence.  Jasper has sex with a girl and she bleeds everywhere.  He assumes she's on her period.  He worries about becoming a father after having sex with Abby, but he pulled a condom off when he went downstairs.  Unless he was so "mashed on K" that he had forgotten that he'd used a contraceptive, why would he worry about making her pregnant?

Exhibit B:
In the morning, after the house party, Jasper goes into the kitchen to make a drink.

On page 41 Jasper tells Tenaya that he will "make coffee and cigarettes."

While in the kitchen, his friend, Ping, wakes up.

On page 43 Jasper says, "I make three teas, leave one on the side for Ping ..." and then gives "Tenaya her coffee and cigarette."

They both go outside, and while talking, Tenaya says, "This tea is gash, Jasper."

Again, I know things like this probably won't matter to most people.  But to go from coffee to tea to coffee to tea within a few lines is something that surely have been picked up by proof-readers and editors?


I now read as a writer, not just as a reader, and I do have to question how these things slip through the net.  With the number of people who have to read manuscripts before they get published, how are these mistakes (if I can call them that) still in the final text?

I know you may call me pedantic (and I am), and that these things don't really matter (and they don't), but I want to know what gets published, and it seems that things with inconsistencies get published.  And before you nag at me for being critical, I am really enjoying the book so far.  I've only read six chapters and I have been sucked in to the story, and I really love Jasper.  It's just a shame that these things hadn't been picked up before the book was sent to print. 

Writer - Guy Blythman

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Guy Blythman.  Enjoy.

Guy Blythman

Hello Guy.  Can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Guy Blythman, aged 47, from Shepperton, Middlesex.
How long have you been writing?
Since primary school.
Do you attend a writing group?
I've attended Walton Wordsmiths, since summer 2002.
Why do you attend a writing group?
Companionship, plus pooling of ideas as to how to shatter the glass ceiling.
What genre(s) do you write?  What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I do philosophy and theology, because I'm interested in the universe we live in and how it came to be, plus ethical and political issues.  Traditional windmills, an esoteric interest I haven't been able to shake off.  Political thrillers with, usually, a strong science fiction element in them.  The latter because I think it's more interesting when something out of the ordinary is going on and the stakes are high, e.g. someone wanting to take over/destroy the world.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
I would get bored simply writing about love and relationships, however well I thought I was doing it.  Although I think such subjects should enter into a story as sub-plots for the sake of human interest.  I would enjoy writing historical fiction except that I like my stories to have a message, however far-fetched they might seem to some, and that message is more effective if the setting is contemporary (or near-contemporary).  So all I have done in this field is a lengthy prologue section in one novel which is a flashback to World War Two - easier because it is relatively recent history and some of the people who fought in it are still around.
What types of things do you write?
Complete novels, short stories, articles; I have also done a bibliography of traditional windmills in Britain, plus a register of known photographs of the same.
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
Boys' Own Paper type fiction from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, 20th century spy fiction including Ian Fleming, post-war sci-fi, such as Dr. Who and X-Files.
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
Usually the characters are based on people I've met in real life.  To be honest, their names are fairly boring and are more or less plucked out of the air.
What is your writing routine?
When I'm not doing voluntary work I aim to write each day, from 9am, or perhaps earlier, to 5pm.  I find I can't do it after then as I'm usually worn out.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I have to have a complete idea or I'd be sunk.
Do you have an editing process?
I find if you ask people to read your novel and comment on it, they won't have the time, as with a lot of things.  I can read out extracts and short stories at Walton Wordsmiths and they will offer constructive criticism.  Otherwise, having long ago absorbed all the best advice about how to write, I just do my best to get it right first time.  That approach wouldn't work for everyone, of course.  And I do, from time to time, revise my work.
Have you ever had anything published?
Watermills and Windmills of Middlesex, 1996.  Berkshire Windmills, 2007 (self-published).  British Windmills, a bibliography, 2008 (self-published).  Lost Windmills of Sussex, 2008 (self-published), Eye of the Sun God, novel, Bright Pen 2010.
There's a lot of other stuff, including complete novels, books, short stories, and articles, which are either on my website ( where they can be viewed in complete form, or are still in the making.  I would certainly like to see all this material published in paper form but have had no luck so far with that endeavour, which is why it remains confined to cyberspace for now.

Would you ever consider e-publishing?
I prefer hard copy but will consider e-books where there is no other option.  As I've already said, I have self-published before.  I am considering setting up my own company for publication of my books.
Have you ever sent your work off to agents or publishers?
I have sent loads of stuff to agents AND publishers over the last 20 years and received nothing but rejections.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
I have entered but never won.  I wouldn't say "don't do it", but for me personally, it isn't cost effective.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Very - that's the whole point of it. 
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I simply enjoy writing, as long as I'm sure in my own mind at least I'm making a good job of it.  The only thing I hate, apart from something happening in real life which makes a story less topical, is the rejections. 
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
I've already written it - The Mills of God, an apology for Christian belief.  I'd have to say that really; the other stuff comes quite close though.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
Ooh ... tricky one, as there are so many to choose from.  I can only say which writers I like best.  Dickens for his descriptive passages.  C. S. Lewis because he puts forward Christian ideas coherently and readably.  Michael Ridpath, Lee Child (Jack Reacher), Peter James (the Inspector Roy Grace novels), C. J. Sansom (Matthew Shardlake), M. C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin and Hamish McBeth).
Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
I read 19th century novels, history books, modern (to present) political thrillers.  My writing does reflect the latter to some extent. 
What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Never write a sentence which doesn't either advance the story or tell the reader something about one of the characters.
What advice could you give a new writer?
This is going to seem somewhat radical, but I'd say don't go to agents or conventional publishers.  You could do, but unless you're one of the lucky few you'll just go through years of frustration, depression and heartbreak.  Self-publish instead.  If we all made an agreement to do that, it might make publishers/agents think again.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Current affairs, philosophy, theology, industrial archaeology, classical music.  I'm also an active member of my local church.
What are you working on at the moment?
I usually have about a dozen books on the go at any one time, and tend to shuffle between them until one gets finished.  At the moment, my two main projects are a new Sussex windmill boook and a sci-fi/spy story called Polymer.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
Just a few observations on one of the nicer - though not without its ups and downs - aspects of the human condition:
Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Well probably not, because the first thing you notice about someone is their physical appearance, and however good-looking they may be that’s not, on its own, a good basis for a relationship (to think that it is can lead to much happiness). What is certainly true is that provided there is long enough to show that a person is kind – a better criteria – love, or something which can develop into it, may blossom within the space of a few weeks, or even a few hours. I know this from my own experience. The physical attractiveness serves as the initial hook; this is probably its biological function. Then you need to establish that the other person is a decent sort – this can happen as soon as the opportunity arises for them to demonstrate their decency by some act of compassion or magnanimity. The two women I have seriously fancied in my time both had the sort of looks I found to my liking – very blonde -  but were also genuinely kind. One, a work colleague, I developed an attraction for two or three weeks after first meeting her, because in the meantime she had shown by the general manner in which she spoke and behaved towards others what sort of person she was – a good one. The other was a lady who came to speak to my local Conservative Association one evening in the days when I still had some faith in politics as a means of changing the world for the better. As with the other girl, I’d already decided I liked the look of her. Then after the meeting she offered to drive me home, feeling I think a bit contrite because she believed (wrongly in fact) she’d been unkind to me over a question I’d asked her. You know people are alright when they do that, and something clicked inside me. In neither case was a relationship, in the romantic sense, established – I’m afraid love is often not reciprocated, even when there is no animosity. But the point is that in neither of these scenarios, despite the differences and similarities between them, did the “click” happen immediately 
It is possible, however, that love can bloom at second sight.  Usually it is not apparent instantly whether someone is kind beyond the social decorum that is required as a matter of course.  However with some people their compassion and goodness are particularly expressed in their features, because the face is a wonderfully expressive thing, and can serve as the window of the soul irrespective of its physical appeal - there is such a thing as a "kind" face, as a person may sometimes be spoken of as having - such that it may not be noticed on first sight, when all that is established is the basic physical appearance of a person, but might be on second.  Kindness, especially when combined with beauty - if we do not admire the latter simply from carnal lust, whcih we won't if we are virtuous enough to appreciate the kindness - in a person can evoke feelings of warmth and tenderness towards them.  Feelings of ... love.  
© Guy Blythman 

Thank you, Guy.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Reading Challenge Presentation #2

As mentioned in my previous post about the Library Summer Reading Challenge, there would be two presentations due to the high number of children who participated in the event.  Last week was surnames A-M, and today was the presentation for surnames N-Z plus anyone from A-M who couldn't attend last Sunday.

There were about 100 children children last week, but this week wasn't as popular.  Maybe it had something to do with the Lowestoft Carnival taking place today.  I don't know.  It doesn't matter.  There were still a lot of excited faces waiting for their medal and certificate.

I presented the winners of the story writing competition, and they all seemed thrilled with their prizes.  I just hope it encourages them to keep writing, as I see so much creativity being replaced by reality television, and that's not a future I want to grow old in.

So although it was quieter than last week, it was still a lovely morning, and again, it was so nice to see so many children who had completed the challenge.  Mums and Dads were taking pictures of their children as they received their awards, and were clapping and cheering, even when it wasn't their child at the front.

There was a positive atmosphere as children pointed to their book markers that had been moved along the six sections of the Reading Challenge wall over the six weeks of the summer holidays, and their achievement was recognised.  

I do feel quite sad that it's over for this year, but I can't wait to be involved with the challenge again next year, and hopefully we'll see more eager children, hungry to read.  And read.  And read.  Andreadandreadandread.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Writer - Mike Wilson

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Mike Wilson.  Enjoy.

Mike Wilson

Hi Mike, can you introduce yourself?
I'm Mike Wilson, based in Bridlington.

How long have you been writing?
Since the 1970s.
What first got you interested in writing?
I attended an evening class for 'A' Level English and the tutor praised my work.

Do you attend a writing group?
I no longer attend a writing group, after being asked to leave as a disturbing influence.
Ooh, sounds ominous.  Before being asked to leave, why did you decide to join a writing group?
I hoped to discover whether I had writing skills.  I found I had.  I also found a new wife.
Well that's a bonus!  Did you manage to take anything valuable away from your writing group?
Myself and my wife.  We have been more successful doing that, while the writing group members seem not to have progressed (hence my being a disturbing influence).
What genre(s) do you write?
Journalism appeals to me.  I wish I had been a journalist.

What types of things do you write?
I have written and self-published a book of poetry, had a novel published, several articles on local history published, ten self-published local history books and a website.

You've been busy!  Have you sent your writing to agents or publishers?
I have sent articles and had them accepted.  I've received one rejection that I remember.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
Entered many, won a few but there were the NAWG [National Association of Writers' Groups] competitions for members only. 
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
I'd love to write like Lee Child, whose character Jack Reacher fascinates me.  I'm afraid I lack the motivation to write another novel, although it's planned.
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
I make it up as I go along.

What is your writing routine?
I write when I like, or when I have to.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
My novel was structured before writing.  I knew the title, the character, and what happened to him.  I designed the book cover first.  After that I needed only to write the story.
Do you have an editing process?
I edit my own stuff but have asked others to read my work.  Poetry I read out loud.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
The Jack Reacher novels, the Star Wars films, a two-page article in The Oldie, anything for Private Eye.  I suppose the list is endless.
Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
Yes.  Loved it.  Would do more. 

How important is it for you to share your writing?
I ignore my own advice and write what I like.  If others like it, fine.  But most people want their material to be read so they have to write what others want.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Write what someone else wants to read.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Read the type of writing you want to write. 
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Photography, local history, reading, the internet.

What types of things do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
My writing is completely different to the books I read.
What are you working on at the moment?
An eleventh local history book, an update to a previously published book, The Great War Heroes of Bridlington, and I'm always commenting on newspapers online.  I might get around to creating a blog, but who on Earth wants to read my ramblings?

Do you have a website/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about myself.  Whether it's of interest to another, I don't know.

Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
 Passage from Full Fathom Five, a novel of courage in the face of disaster at sea.
Alf Stephenson and the Captain peered into the expressionless face of the body.
“It’s Kit,” said the Captain, gulping back the taste of bile.
Alf turned to the group and asked: “Who found him?”
“Young Johnny Slater, sir. A fisherman’s lad digging for bait early on,” a man in the crowd volunteered. “He’s about here somewhere!”
A boy of about eleven ran up to the group and shouted: “I found him, sir. I found him. He was waving to me from the waves so I waded out to help him.”
Alf Stephenson and Captain Atkin turned to the boy: “Waving?”
“Aye, sir, waving. Like this.” The boy flung an arm from one side of his body to the other.
“Sorry, lad, but that was the sea. He were past waving.” Alf put his hand on the boy’s shoulder to comfort him.
“Oh,” said the boy, lowering his head as sorrow filled his eyes.
“But, young man, there is a reward for the discovery of this body. Did you know? Ten guineas has been offered by the folk at Bridlington for the recovery of Kit Brown. If you found him I reckon you should get the reward. What do you think, Captain?”
“Agreed,” and the Captain gave a slight nod.
“So, lad, ten guineas. What do you think of that?” Alf smiled and the boy’s face beamed.
“Well, sir, I’ll be rich, won’t I? Ten guineas!”
“Aye, that’s a grand start for a young lad like you. And what do you want to be when you’re grown up?”
The lad thrust out his chest and his spindly frame reached its full four feet three inches. Pride shone in his eyes as the gazed up at the Captain. “A lifeboatman, sir. A lifeboatman.”
© Mike Wilson

 Thank you Mike.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Writer - Lynette Fisher

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Lynette Fisher.  Enjoy.

Lynette Fisher

Hi Lynette.  Can you introduce yourself please?
Hi, I'm Lynette Fisher and I'm based in Harlow, Essex.
One of my uncles lives there, but I don't think you're him!  How long have you been writing?
I used to write a lot when I was in my early teens but then life got in the way and I stopped.  I started again when a friend of mine gave me a journal for my 40th birthday and told me to wirite a novel - so I did!  That was three years ago and I have been writing since.
I think we could all do with a friend like that!  What first got you interested in writing?
I've never been any good at art and I found that words were the only way I could paint pictures.  I love the feeling when you can capture a picture with words and have other people see it too.  In my teens I wrote long, epic tales for myself, but shredded them.  I would never have shown them to anyone.  It has only been in my 40s that I have had the confidence to share anything.
Better late than never.  Do you attend a writing group?
I attend the Harlow Writers Workshop - which is a weekly group.  I started going in September 2011.
Why do you attend a writing group?
I'd seen in all the writing magazines that joining a writing group is a really good way to learn how to write, to get feedback, and to try things you haven't tried before.
What is the most valuable thing you have taken away from your writing group?
To take time to pay attention to the presentation of the work, to take a risk and try something new.
From going to the conferences I've learned just how subjective this process is.  Your work is judged in an entirely subjective way, based on people's personal preferences, how they are feeling on that particular day, etc.  I had two agents say the complete polar opposite things about the same piece of work.  What was too dramatic for one was not dramatic enough for the other.
So take heart when you do get rejections.  They really are based on one person's opinion, so try another option.
What genre(s) do you write?  What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I write novels for teen/young adult audience.  One has a paranormal theme, one is more urban fantasy.  I am also writing a novel aimed at 8-12 year olds; again, a fantasy adventure.  I am drawn to this genre because it is what I like to read as well (part of the mid-life crisis thing, being drawn to hot boys with swords!).
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?  Why?
I have tried to get my head around science fiction - I just don't think my imagination can work that hard.
I'm with you there!  My concept of sci-fi stretches to The Jetsons, but no further!  What types of things do you write?
Novels, short stories and the odd poem.  I'm not very good at literary poems.  Mine all seem to have a comedy West Country accent!
Well, Pam Ayers made her fortune with that accent, so perhaps you should pursue it further!  Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
It sounds a bit trite, but everywhere and anywhere.  I usually have a random thought and the stories build from there.  For example, what if you have psychic powers but don't know - would you just think you were mad?  (That became The Other Side Of Light).  Why do I always only see one shoe lying on the side of the road?  (That has become Beautiful Evil).
I have a whole host of authors whose books I can read over and over; Cassandra Clare, Becca Fitzpatrick, Stephen King, to name a few.
I have always kept a little notebook of quotes and phrases and song lyrics that have inspired me or captured an image.
I have realised that my previous work with troubled teens and my current work with foster carers has influenced the themes that I write about.  I wasn't conscious of it until someone pointed it out to me.
Ah, that brings up the age old debate of life imitating art, or vice versa.   But we don't have time to discuss that now!  What are some of your favourite quotes that you keep in your notebook?
"There’s nothing left to lose
Nothing to protest
Learn to love your anger now
Anger here is all you possess
                        Welcome to the edge" ~ Duran Duran (don't judge me!)
"Without willing it, I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware.  And the worst part of my awareness was that I didn't know what I was aware of." ~ Maya Angelou.
There's nothing wrong with Duran Duran.  How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
For The Other Side Of Light I wanted names for the main characters that all meant 'light', so I Googled a name meaning site and came up with Lucas, Evie, Nell and Alfie.
For Beautiful Evil I also looked at name meanings but wanted the 'Watcher' characters to all have Cornish surnames, so researched them as well.
In terms of personalities, they kind of come as I write.  I've never planned specific personality traits.  The thing I do after writing a few chapters is take each main character and ask them speed dating questions about themselves and see what comes up.  They always seem to know who they are.
That's an interesting approach.  I might have to give that a go next time I write a book.  What is your writing routine?
I have a day job which gets horribly in the way!  If I'm in the middle of a story I might write every day until certain scenes are done.  I may then not write anything for a week or so.  I've got three stories on the go at the moment and I tend to write the one that's shouting the loudest at the time.  I have no problem flitting from one to the other.  I do my most coherent writing at night.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
With novels, I have several clear 'scenes' in my head that I work around.  I wrote the first novel as these four or five scenes and then found a way to weave them together around the loose storyline. 
Another I worked out beforehand what the plot would be, but still picked out several scenes and wrote them first.
The children's book I'm currently writing I plotted out properly and started at the beginning for the first time.  I wrote three chapters, then the last three chapters and now I'm going back to fill in the middle.
I don't think that's a particularly good way to approach novel writing but it works for me.
Short stories and other pieces come from a set title usually, and tend to unfold from a nugget of an idea, seemingly without any input from me!
Do you have an editing process?
I tend to read over what I have written the previous time to tweak and correct grammar and spelling.  I do tend to read it aloud to myself as it highlights the clumsy bits.  Then once the story is complete I leave it a few weeks and then re-read and redraft it.  I then have to print it out completely to read it with red pen in hand.  I can't seem to do a proper edit unless I'm holding pages.  I have a few friends who read my longer work and give their opinions.  The short pieces I write for the writers' group, I read aloud to myself and make sure they are correct as much as possible in terms of spelling and grammar before reading it at the group.
Ah, the trusty red pen.  That has helped me through a lot of my editing processes; I wouldn't be without it.  Have you ever had anything published?
I won the "Page of Prose" competition at the Winchester Writers Conference this year and it will be published later in the year.  I am going to have a short story published in the December '12 issue of Writers' Forum magazine, which won the short story competition.  Our writers' group published their anthology this year and I have three poems in that.  I really recommend entering competitions - you usually get some sort of feedback and if you are placed or win, it is something you can put on covering letters when submitting your work to agents or publishers, like writing a CV.  I would love one of my novels to be published, obviously!  
Speaking of agents and publishers; have you sent your writing to any?
PLENTY!  I made the glorious mistake of finishing my first novel and marvelling at how clever I was and sending it out to agents, who all very politely rejected it.  I had not learned how the process works, how to write a synopsis, how to write a covering letter that might actually be read.  Since then I've learned a lot about how to write and have changed the novel beyond recognition as a result (little shudders of embarrassment!).
I have had 1:1 meetings with authors and agents at the Winchester Writers Conference in the last two years and have learned so much from their feedback.  The only downside to postal rejections is that you have no sense of why it is being rejected.
I know exactly what you mean.  Would you consider self-publishing or e-publishing?
I would totally consider self-publishing on Amazon Kindle.  The only thing holding me back at the moment is having the time to sit down and work out exactly how to do it.  I think my first novel will never be picked up by an agent or publisher because in this competative market, it's not likely to be a big seller.  Everyone who has read it so far has liked it, and I think it is more likely to see the light of day if I self e-publish it.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
Any of Cassandra Clare's books, and Stephen Kings It
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I enjoy that I can sink into a world and let the characters take over.  When the story is flowing or you sit back and look at something, amazed that it was you who wrote it; there's no better feeling.
The part I like the least is waiting for feedback, waiting for the letter to plop on the doormat with a 'thanks but no thanks' - I don't mind the actual rejection.  It's the waiting for it I can't stand.
Ah, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only person who hates playing the waiting game!  Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
No.  I wouldn't mind watching one but I wouldn't perform.  Apart from reading work out loud in the writers' group, I can't do it in public.  I've tried once and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
It's one of the hardest things to do at first.  It's agonisingly embarrassing to start with, particularly sharing it with people you consider to be "proper" writers (as opposed to your family members).  But if you are writing with a view to getting something published, it is crucial that you share it, blog it, tweet about it - talk to others, share with others, and essentially get feedback and consider it.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Just turn up to the page and write something every day, no matter what it is.  As long as your writing makes you happy, keep doing it.  The world may not love your stories and your characters as much as you do, but that does not mean they are not worth writing about. 
What advice could you give to a new writer?
READ.  Read everything you can.  Extend your vocabulary.  Write simply.  Don't use ten words because they sound "literary", when three words would convey the same message.  Accept rejections and keep trying.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies and interests?
Photography, making bunting and quilts, talking to the cats, reading, reading and reading, researching hot boys online - as inspiration for stories of course!
Of course!  What types of things do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
When I am actively writing I can't read at all.  My brain can't cope with both and I'm always scared I'll start copying what I'm reading.
I read as much fantasy/paranormal, and other young adult fiction as I can.  However, I have avoided the plethora of vamp stuff.  Not because I don't value it, but my imagination is active enough when the lights go out - I'd probably never sleep again!
I read so called 'chic lit' type novels as well and wish I could write about grown ups! 
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm finishing my novel, Beautiful Evil, a modern twist on the Pandora set with the backdrop of the Olympics in London.  I've got a historical story on the go called The Song Of The Winchester Geese about the life of a young man brought up in the brothels of Elizabethan Bankside.  The children's novel I'm working on is The Curse Of The Screaming Yow Yows.
Your children's novel sounds interesting.   Is there anything else you'd like to add?
If writing makes you happy, keep doing it!
Good advice!   Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
I'm on Twitter @netty104, and I am putting together a blogspot but haven't got very far with it yet.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is the piece that won the Winchester Writers Conference 'Page of Prose' competition this year.  The title we were given was "So close" and I chose to write mine about a moment in time about a mother's thoughts when settling her autistic child to bed.
So Close
These are the moments that I treasure, the tiny window of time between wakefulness and sleep. Just me and you. 
Your eyes have closed and your breathing starts to deepen. I have seconds to catch it. Sometimes I miss it in the exhaustion of being your mother. The isolation of your world fragments and meets the one in which I exist. My hand tentatively reaches for yours, resting on your duvet, fingers free at last of the frenetic fiddling of the day.   
In the waking world my unwanted touch is met with a scream of rage, a wild snatching of your hand back into your world where I cannot touch you. In this moment, my moment, I can touch your sleeping hand, slip my finger into your palm and wait.  
“I love you,” I whisper and for a second there is a tiny part of my heart that strains to hear your reply. But you don’t speak…you never speak. Your eyes look through me, around me, over me, never at me but I know you see me. 
It’s lonely watching you, fingers in front of your face, flickering in a shield that keeps the sounds, sights and smells of the world I brought you into, at arm’s length. I wish, so often wish, I could see through your eyes, understand your world. What do I look like? Does your indifferent stare betray the child inside? Are you trying to contact me?  Is the baby who could stare into my eyes for hours nestled in the crook of my arm still inside you? Is he locked up waiting for the moment when he can find a way out or is he gone? You babbled, you cooed, you smiled smiles that I ache for now, and then you stopped. The shutters came down and I felt you sink further away from me. 
But here, here’s my moment, the memory of those heart-melting smiles. You squeeze my finger curled against your palm, you squeeze it so tight and I choose to believe it says, “I love you too.” 
© Lynette Fisher 2012  
 Thank you Lynette.  I'll let you get back to the hot boys on the internet!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Reading Challenge Presentation #1

During the summer holidays, the libraries (I assume it's a national, rather than a local thing) run a reading challenge for the littlies to keep reading even when they're not at school.  The general premise is to read six books during the six weeks of the summer holiday, and after they've read a book, they go into the library to tell a reading challenge volunteer about the book, in exchange for stickers and bookmarks and other bits and pieces.  Once they've read all six books, they attend a presentation where they receive a gold medal and a certificate.

It's so lovely to see children who enjoy reading and get excited when they come in to talk about their books. In a world of computer games and reality television, it is refreshing to realise that there are some people who aren't afraid to read, and that there may be some hope for the future!

I've volunteered for the past three summers, and it has been such a satisfying experience.  I remember doing the reading challenge when I was little, and I found out today that the reading challenge has been going for 35 years, which is amazing.  Let's hope that it can go on for at least another 35 years, before the fake-tanned, duck-face brigade takes over!

So today was the first presentation (there has to be two presentations because there were so many children; today was for surnames A-M) for those who read their six books over six weeks.  It was so nice to see how happy and proud all the children were for completing the challenge, and how encouraging the parents were.

Lowestoft Library also ran a story writing competition.  Now, being a writer, I love it when anyone wants to write.  Nurturing creativity and imagination is so important in children.  As we get older, we tell ourselves that we can't do something, or it's too silly, or no-one will like it.  But children are fearless, and they will try pretty much anything as they have no concept of consequence.  And I admire that.

Throughout the six weeks, a lot of children submitted stories for the competition and I read them all.  My favourite was about a king who turned into a banana; but there were stories about fairies and monsters and rabbits and murder (yes, a murder story from a nine year old!) and the Olympics, and everything in between.  Some had put in the extra effort by drawing pictures as well.  Thankfully I didn't have to choose the prize winners, as they were, in the main, of a very high standard.

I was asked to present the prizes for the stories.  All the children who won either first, second or third prize were genuinely surprised when I called their names.  They were confident enough to write a story for us to read, but none of them guessed that they would win.  And their prizes were pretty decent too.  I should have entered a story and pretended that I was seven years old.  They won a certificate and books and bookmarks and chocolate. Books and chocolate.  Is there anything better?!  I don't think so.

Next Sunday is for surnames O-Z so I will be giving out some more prizes to winning story writers.  Perhaps in a few years I'll have some of these children joining my teen writers.  Here's hoping.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Writer - Elizabeth Mills

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with author, Elizabeth Mills.  Enjoy.

Elizabeth Mills

Hello Elizabeth, can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Elizabeth Audrey Mills, and I work from my home in Three Bridges, near Crawley in West Sussex, where I live with my writer husband.
A creative household then!   How long have you been writing?
Even at school, I enjoyed writing creatively.  But it was only after I retired from full-time employment, in 2009, that I found the time to focus on producing a full-length book.
What first got you interested in writing?
The impetus to start my first novel came from a name, Natalie Tereshchenko, that I took for my avatar in an online, virtual world.  The story grew in my head until I had to start writing it down. Eventually, after many changes, it became the basis of my second novel, Inexorable.

Do you attend a writing group?
There is a wonderful creative writing group back in my home-town of Lowestoft, and I found it very stimulating, as well as meeting some lovely people.  Since I moved to Sussex, however, I haven't looked for a group to join as I don't feel that I can commit to regular meetings
 What genre(s) do you write?  What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I seem to have found my niche in Adult Historical Fiction.  It's where I feel most comfortable, and I enjoy all the research.  For Inexorable, the impetus came initially from Natalie's name, which is from Ukraine but is also common in Russia.  I was inspired by the idea of linking her to the Russian Royal Family, and set about finding out what I could about the Tsar and how he was brought down by the revolution.  When I started A Song For Joey, though, I wanted a rest from the intensity of research, so I set it in England, at a time and in a place with which I am familiar.

Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
Well, so far I haven't wandered far, but there are genres that I would not even consider trying, such as War, Horror or Western - they are just too far removed from my taste in reading and from my nature.
 What types of things do you write?
Poetry is fun; I have written a few poems - but they must have a rhyme and rhythm.  I cannot write free verse.  I love writing short stories; the disciplines are so different from the novel format.  All my writing is fictional.
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
Jane Austin has been my biggest influence; I love the way she gives her characters a life, then lets them live it.  I have read many of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, and I am sure I must have absorbed some of his style, as also with Douglas Adams.  And since meeting Gabrielle Kimm and reading her first two novels, I have found a standard of writing to which I aspire. 
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
All my ideas start with at least one character.  Sometimes, that will come from a first or last name I may hear or read, or the name may arrive later, as the character grows.  I let that person develop in my mind until I have some idea of his or her personality and a life history.  Names may need to be researched - as, for instance, my Russian characters.  When writing historical fiction, it is important to ensure that names are valid for that period.  Sometimes, a character in one story may inspire a new book idea; Belinda, the main character in A Song For Joey, was born in the writing of Inexorable, though she took on her own personality as her story grew. 
What is your writing routine?
My best time for writing is early in the morning, but home life often throws a spanner into the works.  I don't have a private place to go, so I am constantly interrupted by my spouse.  But I try to write every day, and aim to produce a thousand words a day - sometimes I only manage half, often much less, especially if it's a difficult part of a story.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I usually have a plan for the story, but inevitably the characters and events take over, and the finished book is vastly different from my first ideas.  However, it is good to set the book out at the start, with the main events and some kind of sequence, and begin to decide on your main characters and where they will first appear.  I have discovered a computer program that helps me to prepare and write my book, and to keep track of my characters, locations, objects, etc. - rather like 'project management' software.  It's called yWriter from Australian author and computer programmer, Simon Hayes.
I will definitely have a look at that.  Do you have an editing process?
Friends kindly read my work and comment, but I have to do my own editing.  It's not ideal, because I am too familiar with the work, and will miss things just because I know what I expect to see.  It can help to read it in a different format; most word processors will convert a document into a PDF, which can then be read with Adobe Reader.  Ideally, you should try to get your final draft read by an experienced proof-reader.
Good advice there.  What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I can honestly say that I enjoy every part of the process, from the moment when the first idea begins to form until the day a book appears for sale. 
Have you ever had anything published?
Getting published is the hardest part of the writing process.  I tried sending my first book to literary agents, without success, and eventually took the 'self-publish' route.  It was after the third rejection that I decided, after reading a good article by author Jessica Park, to try self-publishing.
Now that I understand the process involved, I would recommend self-publishing to anyone trying to break into the world of literature.  What used to be called 'Vanity Publishing' is now a valid and potentially profitable option.  But I would add one very important caveat: never pay someone to publish your book.  'Print on Demand' services such as Lulu and Createspace mean that you can issue your masterpiece as a paperback without risking any of your own money, and the royalties are better than you could hope for from a conventional publishing deal.
Even simpler, and my first step of choice, is to release it as an ebook, through Kindle or Smashwords.  I started by publishing my first book, A Song For Joey, through the Kindle Direct Publishing system, which placed my book on the Amazon website.  After a while, I produced a version suitable for printing, and released it through Createspace (another Amazon company).  My second book, Inexorable, is now also out on Kindle and Smashwords, and I am working on the cover design for the paperback version.
It is worth noting that publishers and agents watch the self-publish sales figures.  They're on the lookout for successful works, and contracts have resulted - as an example, there is the recent success of the Fifty Shades series.  And that throws up another tip - if getting published is the most important things to you, and you don't care what you write, then sit down and produce a clone of whatever is popular at the time ... there are already Fifty Shades lookalikes being released by authors and publishers jumping on the bandwagon.
That's extremely useful advice.  Thank you for the detailed insight into your own experience.  How important is it for you to share your writing?
I would write, even if no-one saw my work; but when a book is finished and I am happy with the result, I want the world to see it and tell me how clever I am.  It's vanity, I confess.  Isn't that what drives every artist?
I couldn't agree more!  Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
Yes, I won the 'Winter' competition of the writing group I belonged to, Waveney Wordsmiths, and was placed third in a national competition.
Congratulations.  Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/films/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
The words from Paul Simon's song 'The Boxer' haunt me.  I think all my writing is driven by the heartbreaking images he creates, of a life beset with pain, and the courage of the person who picks himself up from the floor and fights on.  I like to think he overcomes in the end.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on the cover design for the printed version of Inexorable.  I hope to have a book out before the end of September.  Then I shall start writing the sequel to A Song For Joey.
Good luck with that.  Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
When I'm not writing, I'm a full-time housewife, and that doesn't leave much time for other things, but I like to read, listen to music, socialise, and shop. 
What types of books do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
Undoubtedly, I write what I would like to read.  I aspire to improve with each book, to learn from the process of creating a world for my characters and to watch how they deal with the situations they inhabit.  As a child of the age in which we live, I am aware that I think and write as though watching a film of TV drama.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you've been given with regards to writing?
Gabrielle Kimm, who writes wonderful, historical novels, advised me to make a point of writing ten words every day.  Of course, ten words won't get your novel finished, but more words will flow - it's the establishing of a routine that is important.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Oh my gosh - I'm so new myself that I'm not sure I have much to say.  I suppose the main thing I would say is "Write every day."
Some things I have discovered since I started are ...
Learn from other writers - read books you would have liked to have written, and study the author's style ... how they handle narrative and description, how they build their characters, etc.
Give your characters the freedom to change the story you had planned, even if you have to go back through preceding chapters and change things - trust your characters.
Let your words flow, even if they are not very good - if the story wants to come out, don't stifle it by worrying about your style.  You can always go back and tidy it up later.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I want to say this, to anyone who thinks about writing ...
Don't expect it to be easy, don't expect wealth and fame to ensue, don't let anyone tell you how to do it, don't give up ... do it!
Oh, and you don't have to use a computer - pen and paper are great (though publishers may not be keen on transcribing fifty-thousand handwritten words for you).  If you have a computer, but a limited budget, there is free software you can use: as well as yWriter, I used 'OpenOffice' from Apache as my word-processor of choice (even though I also have a copy of Microsoft Word, I prefer OpenOffice).  It is also free from here.
Do you have a website/twitter/facebook/blog dedicated to your writing?
Without the support of a traditional publisher, every self-publishing writer must try to find ways of bringing their work to potential audiences.  I have a Facebook page for each of my books, and they can be found here: A Song For Joey and Inexorable.
I also enrolled them both in a new publicity service through Facebook, called Bookpulse, and they can be found here: A Song For Joey and Inexorable.  It is hard to tell, at the moment, if Bookpulse is producing interest, but I know that my Facebook pages are visited by friends, and that some sales have resulted.
A website of your own is also good.  Getting a domain name and designing your own site used to be very difficult, and it is still rather daunting, but I found the services at very good, and I now have my own website at
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is a little essay.  At each meeting of Waveney Wordsmiths, we would have a short, intense challenge set; the task being to write a piece in 45 minutes on a theme set by one member of the group.  This piece resulted from someone giving us three objects to include in a story on any subject … 
A brick, a red shoe and a harmonica
The door opened and the room fell into silence as those already present looked up to see who was arriving. An onlooker would have observed three men seated around a table, blinking in the sudden brightness as their small group was pierced by a shaft of sunlight lancing across the room from the doorway. Silhouetted against the glare stood a solitary figure, like a visitor from outer space.
He raised a hand in greeting, and the others called out a welcome. The silence broken, conversations restarted as the latecomer closed the door and took his place at the table. The soft sound of a harmonica resumed from the shadows.
On the table were a candle, casting its meagre glow upon the faces of the men, and a rough stack of paper, held down by a brick. The man who had just arrived added some more paper to the pile.
At this point, the casual onlooker would note that there remained one empty chair, and that the men kept glancing anxiously towards the closed door, as though expecting another arrival. The final guest, however, was already there, watching them, unseen, from the shadows.
After several tense minutes, the music stopped, and the harmonica player stepped into the faint circle of light from the candle. The men turned to look in surprise as the figure came into view. First a red shoe appeared, then the hem of a swirling black skirt, and finally a head of long, blonde hair.
She took her place at the table and collected the pile of paper from the centre, placing it into a bag she carried. Then, from the same bag, she took a wad of small cards, which she flexed as she looked around the table.
“Very well, gentlemen,” she smiled, “let's play poker.”
© October 2010 Elizabeth Audrey Mills

 Thank you Elizabeth, and the very best of luck with your future writing.