Friday, December 31, 2010


What a year it's been. Like most people, I guess, for me it has been a year of contrasts.

On the positive side I completed a novel. I thoroughly edited that novel and started to submit it to agents. I am using a slow targeted approach to my submissions so it is likely to be a long process. I made very few submissions of short work in the year, but Even More Tonto Short Stories, containing one of my short stories was finally published and I had an article on Powder Room Graffiti, a website I hope to write more for next year.

On the negative side it has been a year of trying to come to terms with new physical limitations. I know that I am lucky in that my MS is, as yet, relatively mild and I didn't suffer another relapse in the year, but the limitations are real, often painful, and frequently changing. Add to that some unrelated medical symptoms that still have to be fully investigated and some medication to trial and it is a period of uncertainty.

The boys have both had a very successful year but we are still existing under huge financial constraints, a situation which looks unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Christmas therefore had to be a somewhat muted affair, which ended up with the washing machine dying in a somewhat dramatic fashion to round the year off in style. At least I've managed to order a new one before the VAT increase hits!

Wishing you all a happy and successful 2011 and just a reminder that from tomorrow I shall be taking part in a river of stones. I shall be writing my small stones as separate posts on this blog to enable them to be picked up as part of the project, but normal posts will continue too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas greeting...

...from Son 2.

We don't really do religion at home, but this year, for some reason, he is obsessively listening to 'Angels We Have Heard On High' by the Westminster Cathedral Choir, which is on an album of Christmas songs I bought some time ago. So I just thought I would share:

This Christmas I shall be keeping in my thoughts the friends who are currently going through very difficult times (there are several of them) and the homeless trying to survive in this weather. I shall feel grateful for everything I still have.

Have the best (white?) Christmas you can, despite the UK weather chaos, and see you all on the other side.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A river of stones

The observant amongst you might have noticed the new badge to the right announcing that I'm going to be taking part in a river of stones in January 2011.

What is a river of stones? Well, it's all about being observant. An international writing project, set up by Fiona Robyn and her fiance Kaspa, participants will every day in January write/blog a small fragment, or 'stone', describing in detail something in the world around them. For more details of how to become involved see the dedicated blog here.

I'm quite excited about doing this. My writing has been getting stale and I need a new motivator. Description is never the strongest part of my work, so to spend a few moments each day just concentrating on getting what I see down in words will be a worthwhile writing exercise. The concept takes me right back to the daily haiku at the start of the Open University A215 Creative Writing course and the excitement of the Your Messages project, which was my stepping stone to publication.

I'll be posting my 'small stones' here, starting on 1st January and will be using the post tag 'aros', as Kaspa has created a lovely widget which apparently collects all the stones under that tag. No, I don't know how it works either!

A river of stones can also be found on Twitter at @ariverofstones and under the hashtag #aros

Friday, December 17, 2010

A quick round-up

So Christmas is almost upon us. I'm busy cramming goodies into the supermarket order which will be delivered mid-week and praying that two Amazon parcels arrive on time. As usual we will have a low-key holiday, just the four of us. Son 2, in common with many autistic children, just doesn't 'do' Christmas, apart from the chocolates.

The snow has scuppered some plans. Son 1 was planning to travel to the Westcountry today to visit the grandparents on his own, but in the end we decided that there were too many risks...of train cancellations stranding him there and icy roads for my elderly father to drive on to pick him up from and return him to the station. He was originally booked on a 12.20pm train and at around midday it snowed quite heavily here, so I think we made the right decision and my father sounded relieved.

Writing is on hold, and has been for a few weeks, while I try to get some health niggles sorted. But I have been reading and greatly enjoyed Sister by Rosamund Lupton and One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner.

In other news, I correctly predicted the first to third places in The X Factor, as evidenced in the comments to Caroline's blog post at the start of the series...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So you want to write a novel...

What more is there to say?

Friday, December 03, 2010

On libraries

A few months ago I had lunch with an old schoolfriend who happens to be a librarian. We see each other rarely, but almost as soon as we sat down at the table she was keen to ask me whether I use my local library.

The answer was yes, but in a different way to a few years ago. We are lucky to have a very local library which is small, but modern, cosy and well-stocked, particularly in comparison to a larger library further down the road which I've always found somewhat uninspiring. I enjoy going to our library to read and research, but I realised that it is so long since I borrowed a book that I'm not even sure where my library card is. I tried to justify why this might be.

I think I stopped borrowing fiction when son 2 was small, when he had an uncontrollable compulsion to tear up any books and I had difficulty snatching even a moment to read due to his challenging behaviour. Another reason is that for many years our income was good enough to be able to buy books without really thinking twice. As I tended to purchase faster than I can read, the stockpile of paperbacks will keep me going in these more difficult times. And now, of course, I have a Kindle and I am buying books for that.

But I've continued to use the library as a place to work for a couple of hours when I need to get out of the house, a place to research or just to sit and read, especially children's fiction now my own boys are grown up. I love that the library offers not only books but also internet access to those who do not have them. My elderly father, who will probably never have a computer at home, has recently put his name down for a computer course at his local library. He just wants to be able to occasionally look things up on the internet in the library, where help is at hand for a technophobe.

Libraries are still a valuable resource, even if their services sometimes seem to need a little tweaking to keep up with changing communities and times. Whilst waiting for an appointment I recently spent a few minutes in another branch, situated in a community centre alongside a cafe run by people with learning disabilities. Easy access to a library and food and drink. What more could you ask?

So when I just read this post by Nicola Morgan I found myself nodding in agreement. We need libraries to give equal access to learning and culture. We need them to help encourage our young children to read through their activity sessions and to provide a space for older children to do their homework in peace. We need libraries to provide large-print and audiobooks for the disabled. We need them to serve whole communities, perhaps linked in somehow with the teaching of English as a second language. We need them to broaden our own reading horizons.

There have been a lot of (often justified) complaints about the state of literacy and education in this country. How on earth is closing libraries going to help?

(For anyone who knows where I live, I'm not aware of any planned library closures here, they seem to be cutting library staff jobs instead by increasing automation. But a neighbouring borough is apparently due to close up to 50% of its libraries and it is a nationwide issue.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Talli Roland's Take on Amazon Web Splash

This is such an amazing idea by lovely Talli Roland to promote her novel, The Hating Game, across the blogosphere today and I'm delighted to be able to take part:

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?