Monday, 31 December 2012

London break

We just got back from a fantastic break in London.  We had a lovely time seeing our friends S and B and visiting the sights.  My husband and son went to the Science Museum whilst my daughter and I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum and we had a wonderful day.  The next day we went to the Natural History Museum and my son and I saw lots of fascinating exhibits whilst my husband and daughter went ice skating.  We also visited the sales and had some delicious food in a variety of restaurants.  Our friends have just set off for a lovely break in Japan and we have returned home to celebrate the New Year.  I thought I would share some of the photos from our trip.

I would like to wish all my followers a Happy New Year and send my best wishes for an amazing 2013.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas

I would like to share the picture of our Christmas Cupcake with all my followers and wish them a very Merry Christmas

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Online Writing Course

Anna Turner has just informed me that her course for next term 'Writing Fiction' is now open for online booking:

Anna Turner
Reader Development Librarian
01422 392606
Central Library

Her hours of work are: Monday and Tuesday 8am - 4pm, Wednesday 9.30am - 2pm



Sunday, 16 December 2012

Nativity 2 film review

Having enjoyed the original Nativity film, my children asked me to take them to see Nativity 2 today and to sum it up in one sentence: 'David Tennant commits career suicide.' 

The film stars David Tennant (Dr Who, Harry Potter and Fright Night) as Mr Donald Peterson (he also plays Roderick Peterson, his famous twin brother) the new teacher for the children of Mr Poppy's (Marc Wootton from the original Nativity) the classroom assistant's class.  Even though the headteacher tells Mr Poppy that they cannot enter the 'Song for Christmas' competition, Mr Poppy does everything in his power to ensure that they do.  I wish I could say with hilarious consequences, but this film was just plain dire.  I had expected it to be worse than the original, due to reviews I had read but wasn't expecting it to be this bad.  For a children's film, it was irresponsible and totally devoid of coherent plot.  The best thing about it were the songs, but even they do not stay with you.  What does, however, is the plot holes (not that there was a plot particularly, but how does Mr Poppy get the London Duck Tour bus when the school is meant to be in Coventry?) and the total lack of sense.  The children are sent down swollen rapids in a dinghy, walked through miles of admittedly beautiful Welsh countryside, hung off a mountain-side by a single rope and at one point, a baby is thrown high into the air by Mr Poppy (anyone recall the outcry when MJ tried something similar?).  I am sure Mr Tennant tries his best with the script, as does Jason Watkins (Gordon Shakespeare, also from the original), but there is just no saving this donkey.  It was heartbreaking to see such classically trained actors trying to unsuccessfully pull themselves out of the mire.

It was 105 minutes of my life I will never get back, not to mention the cost.  Even my youngest couldn't tell me something positive I could put in my review and he loved David Tennant as Dr Who, so should be biased.                                                                             2/10 for the countryside

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Turbulence by Samit Basu review

Just finished reading the novel I purchased when I met Samit at the Morley Literature Festival for the Sci-fi andSuperheroes event.  I was expecting a 'Heroes' meets 'DC/Marvel comics' vibe and I wasn't far wrong.  Aman Sen is aboard a plane when he discovers he has developed internet superpowers and he is not the only one.  When he comes up against Jai a one-man army superpowered villan who wants to rule the world, he bands together with fellow Indian supers including Tia (who can duplicate herself), Uzma (an aspiring Bollywood actress who's power is that everyone who meets her loves her) and Vir who can fly.  Aman wants to save the world and Jai wants to destroy it but during the battles of power between the supers who are on each side, some must lose their lives and no ordinary human is safe from an unknown super who can control them with devastating consequences.

With a good dose of comic history, Bollywood, cricket and 21st century India, this novel gives an interesting post-modern slant to the question 'What would you do if you were given the power to do anything you wanted?'

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christmas Cleckheaton Writers Group meeting

The CWG met yesterday before adjourning for a Christmas drink at a local pub.  We discussed our plans for our writing for the New Year over a cold glass of Christmas cheer.  Next meeting will take place at the Library on 7 January 2013.

Today I met two of my fellow writers I and K at I's house, where we also discussed our writing plans for next year over a delicious meal that he had prepared.  It was fantastic fare that would not have been out of place in a restaurant and I had a wonderful time.  We had homemade butterbean soup with parmesan shavings to start, grilled salmon with a dijon mustard dressing with a watercress, avocado, tomato and buffalo mozarella salad and buttered new potatoes for main, and finished off with a mulled wine poached pear.  Yum :)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Birthday Bliss

It was my birthday yesterday and I have enjoyed a lovely birthday weekend.  First, on Friday night the girls and I went into Leeds to Las Iguanas where we enjoyed the Christmas menu and cocktails.  I had the Festive Funghi Quesadilla which contained brie, mushroom and truffle then the Extraordinary Xmas Xinxim which is a brazilian crayfish, chicken, peanut and lime dish and then finished with Caipirinha Present which was a sponge laced with cachaca.  It was all delicious and they were kind enough to supply me with a free birthday cocktail and main course.  So good, we are going again with friends on New Years Eve.

On Saturday after a fun family trip ten-pin bowling (I won the second game), my husband took me to The White Hart at Pool and we enjoyed a delicious meal.  I started with the scallops and pancetti which were so perfect they melted in my mouth.  I then enjoyed the fillet steak with fondant potato, enoki mushroom gratin & veal jus and finished off with a pudding from the specials board - meringue with greek yogurt and honey, bilberries, sesame seeds, cranberries, apricots, strawberry and raspberries - amazing.

I got some lovely presents including some gorgeoous jewellery, cds, books, wine, chocolates and a fabulous galaxy pad.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

More local writing events

Anna Turner has just informed me about more local writing events:

Read Regional Events in Calderdale 2013



Saturday 12 January                 Meet the Author - Michael Stewart

Sowerby Bridge Library            2pm

01422 831627                            Tickets £3 – available from Sowerby Bridge Library


Thursday 17 January                 Meet the Author - Fiona Shaw

Central Library, Halifax             7.30pm                                                

01422 392330                            Tickets £3 – available from Central Library


Wednesday 23 January            Meet the Author – Stephen May

King Cross Library                      6pm

01422 288028                            Tickets £3 – available from King Cross Library


Sunday 27 January                    Writing the Journey – Poetry workshop with Christy Ducker

Hebden Bridge Library             11.30am – 1.30pm                          

01422 288040                           Tickets £6/£4

Literary Thievery – Short Story Workshop with Cassandra Parkin
2.30 – 4.30pm                                   
Tickets £6/£4
The Long Poem – Poetry Workshop with Pauline Plummer
2.30 – 4.30pm                                                                                                   
Tickets £6/£4
Tales of Magic and Faraway Places – readings and discussion
Free event

Monday 11 March                     Poetry Reading Workshop with Anna Woodford

Skircoat Library                          2pm                                                      

01422 354828                            Free – booking essential
Anna Turner
Reader Development Librarian
01422 392606
Central Library
Her hours of work are: Monday and Tuesday 8am - 4pm, Wednesday 9.30am - 2pm

Monday, 3 December 2012

Two free poetry events

Anna Turner has just forwarded me the following information about two free poetry events:

Saturday 8 December, 2pm

Todmorden Library

The Price of Gold

Poetry Reading – Poems about Bees

with Grey Hen Press

Free entry


Saturday 15 December, 1pm

Brighouse Library

Eleven Wonders with Julia Deakin

Poetry Reading

Free entry


Come and enjoy a glass of wine, a mince pie and fantastic poetry

Friday, 30 November 2012

Book Launch and NaNoWriMo

Anna Turner, also known as Anna Chilvers, has emailed me to let me know about her Book Launch and Reading from her new collection of short stories Legging It. It will be at Hebden Bridge Library on Monday 17 December at 7pm.


Well, yet again I have attempted this challenge and only made it to 32.5K words.  I had my computer die on me last year at the same time as I lost focus this year.  First it was because I had a full week of work, so got behind and then I was beavering away editing Thorde: The Keeper of the Trysk so that I could enter it into the Macmillan Write Now! competition with a deadline of 1 December.  I do not feel that I have failed, as I have quite a chunky manuscript to work on and I have entered Thorde into one competition and my children's bedtime story 'No Bear for Bedtime' into another.  I am looking at it in terms of writing done and at over 60K, Thorde is over and above the word count needed for NaNo.  To all those who have managed 50K this month, well done and I wish you well with the editing process.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Writers meet and Competition entries

Had a lovely meeting with my fellow writers Ian and Krys today in Leeds Art Gallery Cafe and it was great to catch up.  We met at a writing workshop in Hebden Bridge earlier this year and really hit it off. 

At our meeting, we discussed lots of writerly things including Ian's short story Flashing Lights and his work in progress novel Boy Meets Ogress.  I absolutely loved Flashing Lights as it pulled me straight into the main characters world straight away.  Sadly Ian teased us by not sharing the ending yet - can't wait for our next meet when we will find out.  Ian tells us that he has perfected the first three chapters of Boy Meets Ogress and feels ready to share it, so I am looking forward to receiving it in my email inbox soon. 

Krys shared the first five chapters of the historical romance novel she is working on at the moment and I have to say I really love the idea of a thoroughly modern heroine bucking against the dowry system - can't wait to read more.  She also discussed her other work in progress novel about a Fairy Godmother and Ian was surprised to learn that she is also thinking of putting in about the Pendle Witches as he has a nod to them too in his novel.

I shared the short biography and synopsis that I have written for Thorde with them and we then discussed our various plot ideas with each other.  It was refreshing to get instant feedback and throwing ideas at each other and seeing if the others thought they would work.  Really looking forward to our Christmas meet.

Yesterday I submitted my children's bedtime story 'No Bear for Bedtime' to the Mumsnet children's writing competition on-line and I also submitted the first three chapters, synopsis and biography for Thorde: Keeper of the Trysk to the Write Now! on-line competition in association with Macmillan Children's Books.  The prize is a publishing contract with Macmillan and £10,000, and if my entry is shortlisted, I should find out on the 1st of February.  Fingers crossed........

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Cleckheaton Writers Group meeting 26/11/12

Excellent meeting tonight.  Even though L, D and P could not make it (thanks for sending apologies L & P), D, N and I had a very productive session.  First I told the guys about the fabulous Picador Notebook Session that I attended last Tuesday and then we launched straight into talking about what we were working on at the moment. 

D is about to enter her children's story TSC into her first competition which is very exciting.  She has almost finished her second draft, has polished the first 5k words, written a one-page synopsis (no mean feat when it has to be double spaced and hacked down from her original synopsis of over 2k words) and is working on her biography, ready for entry by the 1 December deadline.  D shared her synopsis and biography and revealed that the biography was weird to write as it had to be in third person.

N is not doing NaNoWriMo (he had said that he would, but changed his mind - wise man, I am stuck at 32.5k due to the competition deadline for Thorde), but has been inspired to work on his novel The Wormhole Effect (TWE) that he had been having doubts about as he had recently seen a film with a similar plot line.  We explained that there seem to be very few 'original' storylines and that every story is different even if they have similar plots, as the writers perspective is unique (we gave Twilight and Vampire Diaries as an example of similar plots, but different styles).  We are looking forward to N sharing futher chapters of his novel TWE with the Group soon.

I then shared two chapters of Thorde, as I am thinking of entering the same competition with it.  I am not looking forward to chopping my synopsis down from 2,100 words to approximately 350 though, what a challenge.  D and N enjoyed it but were a little lost with the plot as it is quite near the end of the novel, so I promised to send the full first draft along to N, as D has been receiving the chapters, but is a little behind in reading them, so that they will be up to speed should I decide to share more.

The meeting ended with the suggestion that we hold the next one (or part of it) at a pub to celebrate Christmas and I think this is a fabulous idea.  Looking forward to the next meeting........

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Local library writing events in Kirklees

Diane Green has just informed me of some local writing events taking place around Kirklees which I thought I would share with my followers:

Thursday 29th November, 1pm – 3pm at Cleckheaton Library
Culture Club Where life gets more interesting for the over 55s.  A joint event from Kirklees Libraries and Culture Club

The over 55’s are invited to Coffee and… a muddy history of Great Britain – a local view on Thursday 29th November 2012.  ‘The Muddy Archaeologist’ Gillian Hovell will take us on a trip through time – from prehistory to the 20th century - exploring the world we live in today with a fresh, eye-opening approach.  This lively, entertaining and engaging talk might even get us in the mood to go for a walk around Cleckheaton if anyone has caught the bug!  To be recommended; Gillian who has been on the Time Team gives an enthusiastic and fascinating presentation.

Thursday 29th November, 1pm – 3pm at Cleckheaton Library
Rate 1 (Kirklees passport):  £2
Rate 2 (Standard rate for Culture Club members): £3
Rate 3 (full price for non member): £4

It’s free to join the club on the day or join by phone and includes talk, refreshments (and a walk afterwards if you feel like it)

Please contact Culture Club on 01484 663518 or Cleckheaton Library on 01274 335170 or or email  or look at our website, to book a ticket.  It is free to join Culture Club (for 55yr+) on the day

Wed 5th December: Storytailors; a friendly storytelling club for all
at Marsden Library. 7.30-9.30pm and the 1st Wed of every month

Join us for STORY TAILORS,
Come tell a tale,
Sing a song,
Play a tune….
Or just come along and listen.

£2 including refreshments  For further information email

Huddersfield Library, Thursday 6th  December at 7.00 - 8.30pm.  Two Local Poets: Two New Poetry Collections.  Come along and enjoy the book launch from Jo Haslam and Julia Deakin.  Readings and book signings: not to be missed.  You can even do some Christmas shopping after the event!      

Tickets: £2 available from all Kirklees Box Offices 01484 223200, 01924 324501 Holmfirth Tourist Information Office 01484 222444, or on line at

Saturday 8th December, 1.30-3.00pm at Huddersfield Library: The Midday Poets present a book launch of Poetry by Elspeth Smith plus readings from the Midday Poets who meet weekly at Huddersfield library.

Reserve your free of charge place through

Huddersfield Lending Library, in person,  by phone 01484 221959, or by email

Sat Dec 15th 10.30am at Dewsbury library:   Festive Storytelling for all the family from Ursula Holden Gill.  More details to follow soon. 

Wednesday 19th December:  Write Out Loud Open Mic Poetry.  At Marsden Library from 7.30-9.30pm  and then on the 3rd Wednesday of every month.  Cost £2  An open-floor poetry evening, open to all to read a poem, your own or a favourite. Also open to short story tellers, singer/songwriters, etc.
Beginners encouraged and all welcome. This is a friendly and supportive club.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Picador Notebook Session 20/11/12

I was lucky enough to gain one of 12 places on the first Picador Notebook Session this Tuesday evening and I thought I would review this excellent event for my followers.  The Notebook Session was a 2 hour introduction to creative writing led by former literary editor Suzi Feay and Picador Editor Francesca Main.  This session was for everyone, whether they had never written before, were trying to find their voice or wanting to know where to begin and it was an opportunity to meet like-minded people and gain expert advice and guidance.  It was held at PanMacmillan Publishing House in Kings Cross, London from 5-7pm.  The team kindly provided pens, notepads and a goody bag full of books, and all we had to do was come with an open mind and a smidge of creativity.

After Suzi, Francesca and Sandra Taylor introduced themselves, we started with a question and answer session where we all revealed what we thought stopped us from writing.  There were various reasons from the 12 attendees, but time, our own inner critic and social networking seemed very popular.  We then wrote for a short time about whatever came into our heads.

Suzi then told us that Julia Cameron, creative writing guru, recommends that we should write for half an hour and Edward St Aubyn advises we make a friend of our inner critic.  Then she circulated a sheet of paper with questions like:

5 names you like, 3 Places you know well, Jobs you have done, your fears and a time in your life when you were un/happy.
We then had to write three plots using selected sections of information from the sheet.  Following this, we had to pick one of the plots, take it and develop it by adding conflict and confrontation and giving the chosen character an emotional journey.

Suzi then circulated another sheet that had ten first lines from Picador novels.  We had to write the next line for all of them.  After this exercise, Suzi revealed where the first lines were from.  They were from several novels such as Claire Messud's The Last Life, Leanne Hern's Across the Nightingale Floor and poets like Brian Collins.

Suzi recommended an exercise at our own peril - write your own autobiography without emotions, just fact and tap the energy from the early years.  She also suggested writing our first drafts by hand as it is how you see the archaelogy of your writing and, as Tony Harrison said, if you can't read it, sometimes you come up with better words.

In the Q&A section, Francesca revealed that books that are chosen from agents, are ones that they love and think they can sell.

After the attendees filled in a review sheet with our contact details, the event finished with a networking session.
I thoroughly enjoyed this stimulating and informative session and it was great to meet the lovely ladies from Picador and my fellow aspiring writers..  I am hoping that more events will be to follow and I can highly recommend attending them.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

Just got back from the cinema with my daughter who I took for a girlie treat as she had such a brilliant parents evening.  Considering it has only been out a very short while, the cinema was surprisingly quiet, though I guess when there are two showings per hour, it may get spread out.  I have only twice been to the cinema and been witness to the phenomenon of people clapping during and at the end of the movie (after all we are in Britain), but this movie caused the audience to do so. 

Having read the books, I was expecting the fight scene to be pretty good, but I wasn't expecting the gasps and the claps.  The Volturi are very good at menacing, except perhaps Michael Sheen as Aro who plays insane very well, yet still manages to be threatening - psycho anyone?  The new vampires are very good too, dracula one and two a tad bizarre, but the ones with abilities make up slightly for the fact that my favourite character (Alice) is not in as many scenes as I would wish her to be (loved her ability in the books and I think Ashley Greene plays her very well).  My daughter has always found Carlisle to be her favourite character and she still held on to that at the end of the film.  I loved Billy Burke (who plays Bella's Dad Charlie) in all of the movies and again I think he stole the movie in the scene following Jacob's revelations.

The gore factor was upped as were the fights, so I am sure there will be plenty more for the boys to convince them to want to accompany the girls, though the romance was still there and there were many nods to the previous films in the franchise.  I did find the CGI used for Renesmee very distracting and unnecessary as Mackenzie Foy was enough like Kristen Stewart (KS) to carry it off and if I'm honest, I would love there to be a movie that did not have to revolve around KS. I never thought her acting was particularly good in these movies, though she was convincing in Panic Room, and she was painfully bad in this one.  Quite a few of them seemed more over-the-top in their characters, except maybe for Edward (Robert Pattinson), Charlie, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Alice, Rosalee (Nikki Reed), Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) and I missed seeing Mike, Jessica, Eric and Angela (though we did see them briefly in the credits).

As my daughter liked 'everything about it' I think it may be a fitting ending for most fans, though I still think there were enough nods and characters left for spins offs to be possible.  Having said that though, please, if the powers that be do decide to make spin off movies, let them be about the new vampires with abilities and KS free.                                           7.5/10

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Local Writing events January 2013

Anna Turner has just informed me of some fantastic events taking place locally in January, so I thought I would post the information for my followers:

Thursday 17 January
Meet the Author - Fiona Shaw
Central Library, Halifax

FIONA SHAW is a writer living in York. She is the author of a memoir, Out of Me (Virago, 2001) and four novels. She is a Royal Literary Fund writing fellow and teaches creative and life writing. Her most recent novel, A Stone’s Throw, is published by Serpent’s Tail. Set in England and Africa, and opening during World War II, A Stone’s Throw is a novel about family, about love, about duty; it’s about the people we miss and the secrets we keep. Above all though, it’s about the choices we make – and those we don’t.

Tickets - £3

Wednesday 23 January
Meet the Author - Stephen May
King Cross Library

STEPHEN MAY is an award-winning novelist who lives in West Yorkshire. In 2009 he won the Welsh Book of the Year Reader’s Prize for his first novel TAG (Cinnamon Press, 2008), despite not being in the slightest bit Welsh. His second novel Life! Death! Prizes! was published by Bloomsbury in 2012. For 19-year-old Billy and his little brother, Oscar, their mother’s death is the most random and tragic and stupid thing that could possibly have happened to them. Now Billy must be both mother and father to Oscar. Funny, bittersweet and unforgettable, Life! Death! Prizes! is a story of grief, resilience and brotherly love.


Sunday 27 January
11.30am – 1.30pm        
Writing the Journey – a Poetry Workshop with Christy Ducker

Write yourself into a change of scene. Join Christy Ducker for a poetry workshop that focuses on travel and transformation.


2.30pm – 4.30pm               
Literary Thievery - Short story workshop with Cassandra Parkin

Do we ever really grow out of fairy-tales? Why do grown adults still love films like A Company of Wolves and Snow White and the Huntsman? And if you’re writing for modern adults, what exactly is the relevance of stories about dwarves, royalty, stepmothers, gingerbread houses, and wolves dressed up as our grandmothers? Dive into the world’s Grimmest treasure-chest and see what you can discover to fire your short-story writing.


2.30pm – 4.30pm
The Long Poem: finding the story and the form – a Poetry Workshop with Pauline Plummer

Using mythic and fairy tale journeys, we'll look at plotting the long narrative poem - orchestrating its parts to create contrast and narrative hooks. We'll link that to the forms of poetry, mood and tone, using examples from a range of  verse novels/autobiographies from Bernardine Evaristo's 'Lara'  to Basil Bunting's 'Briggflatts' and Byron's 'Don Juan'.


5pm – 6pm                        
Tales of Magic and Faraway Places

Readings and discussion with Christy Ducker, Cassandra Parker and Pauline Plummer
Chaired by James Nash

The nights have drawn in and the hours of darkness crowd the days at both ends. Are you fed up of winter already? Come along to this reading where three exciting new writers will transport you through magic and tales of faraway places.

Free event

CHRISTY DUCKER lives in Northumberland. Her pamphlet Armour (Smith/Doorstop, 2011) was a Poetry Book Society Choice. She has received the Andrew Waterhouse Prize, and is currently writing a collection of poems about Grace Darling, as part of her PhD research at Newcastle University. ‘Unsettling and edgy, these poems have the strangeness of myth and the zany logic of nursery rhymes, but for adult ears.’ Simon Armitage

CASSANDRA PARKIN grew up in Hull, and now lives in East Yorkshire. Her short story collection, New World Fairy Tales (Salt, 2011), won the 2011 Scott Prize for Short Stories. Drawing on the original, unexpurgated tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, six of their most famous works are re-imagined in the rich and endlessly varied landscapes of contemporary America.

PAULINE PLUMMER is originally from Liverpool but has lived in the North East since the 1980s. She tutors creative writing for Northumbria University and the Open University. Written in Chaucer’s rime royal, From Here to Timbuktu is a book about Third World poverty and First World consumption. It’s a travelogue, a satire, an epic poem, and a journey across the savannah in a four–wheel drive from here – to Timbuktu.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Cleckheaton Writers Group meeting 12/11/12

Just got back from the Writers Group where we welcomed our new member D.  Sadly N and L were unable to make the meeting, but D, P and I were in attendance and explained to our new member the pieces were working on at the moment.  D informed us that he didn't write prose or short stories but that his writing was dialogue-based in that it was for plays and films.  We discussed how the meetings usually worked and the backgrounds to genres, working styles etc. before pointing out the strengths we each felt we had gained from the Writers Group.

D read out her reworked chapter thirty from her second draft of TSC and we all gave feedback, including D who possessed none of the backstory to the novel that the other members are aware of. 

P read out some of her short story Escape which was about an evacuee after the war told from a young girls perspective.  Sadly, we were only to give brief feedback as time got away from us and it was time to leave because the library was closing.

P.S. I have written over 3,000 words today for NaNoWriMo so now have a total of 19,928

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Quick NaNoWriMo update

After a little bit of a lull in my writing due to work, sorting out College visits and applications for my eldest, I have started to try and catch up with NaNoWriMo.  I am now up to 16,706 words but this is slightly behind schedule (at the moment, at the usual rate of wordage per day, I would finish on the 2nd of December, so I need to write a few more to catch up).  I also have a full week of work scheduled from the 19th so I really need to write much more so that I can have leeway for if I don't get chance then.  I did very well today writing about 4,000 words, but I need to keep this up for the week if I am to give myself this leeway.  Fingers crossed I can achieve this.  Any words of advice or encouragement welcome............

Friday, 9 November 2012

Andy McNab author event

D, N and I attended this event last night at Huddersfield Town Hall and what an entertaining and inspiring man he is.  His official website is a fascinating read (and where I got most of this in depth service information) as are his books and his well-loved character Nick Stone.

When Andy was 16 he went into 'the Borstal System' (now known as Juvy) for a short, sharp shock.  Back then, the army used to recruit boy soldiers from this (according to Andy using a 'cool video of a helicopter pilot waving at bikini clad women on a beach) and he joined the infantry in 1976 as a boy soldier, after a three day test at Sutton Colefield.  Three months in, he was at the army education centre when he was told that the boys there weren't thick, they were just uneducated and that this was going to start from that day forward so that they could learn to read, gain knowledge and this knowledge would give them the power, so they wouldn't always have to do what others told them to.  The first book that he read was a Janet and John story, but the sense of achievement that can be gained when shutting the book that you have read, is irreplaceable.  He also read military history and Sven Hassell novels.

He was badged as a member of 22 SAS Regiment in 1984. He then served in B Squadron 22 SAS for 10 years working on both covert and overt special operations worldwide, including anti-terrorist and anti-drug operations in the Middle and Far East, South and Central America and Northern Ireland.  Andy recalled that he liked Northern Ireland because it had soft toilet paper when he was used to the baking paper stuff that gave you 'one up, one down and one shine' and he also recalled learning Swahili when he spent time in West Africa from Benedictine monks 'that were more interested in beer and were drunk by lunchtime.'

Andy is trained as a specialist in counter terrorism, demolitions, prime target elimination, weapons and tactics, covert surveillance and information gathering in hostile environments including VIP protection.  He has worked on cooperative operations with police forces, prison services, anti-drug forces and western backed guerrilla movements as well as on conventional special operations.  In America he was part of the first strike in stopping crack cocaine coming to the U.K. and was part of a CIA operation to Columbia to destroy the plantations and kill the men making it.  Andy informed us that drugs bring in $20 billion more than McDonalds, Kelloggs and another big brand name combined.  He explained that the mexican cartels have a very sophisticated drugs system including their own secure mobile phone system.

In Northern Ireland he spent two years working as an undercover operator with 14th Intelligence Group, going on to become an instructor and he explained to the audience that in order to get the confidence in that situation, you have to bluff yourself that you have a reason to be there and that he always told himself that he was there visiting his brother in law.

McNab also worked as an instructor on the SAS selection and training team and instructed foreign special forces in counter terrorism, hostage rescue and survival training.

In the Gulf War, McNab commanded the famous Bravo Two Zero patrol, an eight man patrol tasked with destroying underground communication links between Baghdad and north-west Iraq and with finding and destroying mobile Scud missile launchers.  They had to static-line jump to the power stations 4 hours before the air strikes began, destroy it and head south to their ERV under the cover of darkness.  The patrol infiltrated Iraq in January 1991, but were soon compromised when a boy herding goats discovered them and as Andy said, quite rightly made a lot of noise and ran away. A fierce fire fight with Iraqi troops ensued and the patrol was forced to escape and evade on foot to Syria.

Three of the eight men were killed; four were captured after three days on the run; one escaped. One of the four taken prisoner, McNab was held and tortured for six weeks. He explained to one audience member that he still suffers from nerve damage to both hands and kidney damage, but when he was first released he also had a dislocated shoulder, liver damage and had contracted hepatitis, yet after six months of medical treatment he was back on active service.  Andy said that he was lucky in that PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can hit 15% of people 10-13 years after the trauma and that they would need professional help, but that for another 20% it would benefit them and that he was one of that 20%.

Andy McNab has written about his experiences in the SAS in three bestselling books, Bravo Two Zero (1993), Immediate Action (1995) and Seven Troop (2008). Bravo Two Zero is the highest selling war book of all time and has sold over 1.7 million copies in the UK. It has been published in 17 countries and translated into 16 languages and the CD spoken word version of Bravo Two Zero, narrated by McNab, sold over 60,000 copies and earned a silver disc. The BBC's film of Bravo Two Zero, starring Sean Bean, shown on primetime BBC 1 television in 1999 was released on DVD in 2000.  Andy explained that he wrote Bravo Two Zero in 3 months after being approached by a publisher via his agent (following a 20 page treatment), but then he had to spend 4 months putting texture into it as it read too much like a report.  To achieve this, he read Touching the Void by Joe Simpson as it gives you the feelings and the sense of really being there.

Andy is now writing a new series of fiction with co-author Kym Jordan about one platoon's experience of warfare in the Twenty First Century. The first novel in this series, War Torn, was a Sunday Times bestseller, but he informed the audience that his publishers only formalised his working agreement with them 6 years ago.

Andy McNab has collaborated with scriptwriter Robert Rigby on the bestselling young adult thriller series Boy Soldier and has written another series of books for young adult readers, DropZone. He's also written two novels for emerging adult readers, The Grey Man and Last Night Another Soldier.  He was technical weapons advisor and trainer on the hit Michael Mann film Heat (1995) and spent five months in Hollywood working closely with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Val Kilmer. As well as advising on weapons handling and use, McNab was drafted in to work out in detail how master-thief De Niro would go about pulling off robberies on an armoured car and a bank, and how cop Al Pacino would go about tracking him down and stopping him.

Also a director of a Hereford based security company, McNab developed and runs a specialist training course for news crews, journalists and members of non-governmental organisations working in hostile environments (including war zones). The course is currently the only one of its kind in the world. He is also involved in training videos for the Ministry of Defence, lectures for the FBI and gives motivational talks for large corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.  He believes that the fantastic success stories Britain has, was instrumental in NATO considering adopting their practices going forward.

His new novel Red Notice stars a new character Tom Buckingham and the film is due to come out next year in April/May.  Andy is currently writing the next Nick Stone novel for release this time next year and he is 20k words in to the 120k novel.  He reveals that Nick's character is an amalgam of people he knows with a first person narrative.  He likens the process to writing first person as 'talking to someone in the pub' and believes the benefit to this is that readers invest in the character and then you can do whatever you want after this, but you must work out what you want the character to be before anything else.

Bringing the discussion right back to the beginning of the night, Andy explained that the average numeracy and literacy age of 18/22 year-old infantry recruits is still 11 and below and that he believes reading can change lives.  He does talks on the power of reading in the military and in prisons (he laughed that he gave a talk on how to escape Pentonville Prison and two days later there was an escape!) and that prison education gives qualifications in English, Maths, Geography and Management to educate people to a better life.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Quick NaNoWriMo update

Well I am motoring along with NaNoWriMo this year so far.  Today I hit 10,149 words in my word count, not bad for 6 days of writing.  This means I am essentially at chapter four, though I do think I will be adding things as I go along.  This may appear to look like chapters are not being written quickly enough, but that will probably just be that I have lengthened them as I think that at page 40 for the beginning of chapter five, it is not long enough page wise per chapter at the moment.

So far I have established my main character, the killer (though not his identity), the back story of the main characters ability to 'see' the killings as they are planned/happen and how she has got to the stage of the police seeing her as an aide rather than a suspect.  I have also introduced the key players in the police department, their main suspect, plus a few others that have a bearing on the killings.   Onwards and upwards.............

Monday, 5 November 2012

Writing Competitions

Found these free to enter writing competitions that I thought I would share with my followers:


15 November: Jukebox Story - 1000 word stories inspired by tunes that reference food or drink in the title/artist.  Stories performed and winner gets unique Jukebox Story USB mixtape and published on their website  Send stories as word doc to

30 November: Short story with a 'Fall' theme. Send stories of 3000 - 5000 words in length as a word doc with title of piece, but put your name and details on the email only (not on the story doc).  Two entries are allowed.  Send to

1 December: Short story competition with an Autumn theme where winner gets book published and 10 copies of their story, £50 amazon voucher prize for runner-up.  Send story in word doc to

14 December: BBC Writers Room stories for radio of 14 minutes, i.e. 1,900-2000 words in total.  Include brief covering letter giving name, address, email and writing bio and send double-spaced word doc with your name and address on the script to

16 December: James White Award - sci-fi stories of up to 6000 words.  Complete the entry form and see how to enter at

17 December: Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition - Complete on-line entry form and upload electronic file of double-spaced, page numbered doc saved as 'Manscript Title - Entrant Name'.  220 words - 60,000 words with murder or serious crime at the heart of the story.  For full details and other mystery/private eye competitions see

31 December: Perpetual Publishing here goes a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut 100 - 10,000 word stories as doc attachment to submit to with subject line Anthology/Story Title/Author (attachment labelled in same way) in 12pt sans serif with 50 word bio.  Queries

5 January 2013: Plays to upload as pdf doc at

10 January 2013: The Sophie King Prize.  2000 - 5000 word romance stories.  See

15 February 2013: Short story for adults competition with 'Freedom' theme to win £500, Arvon Foundation course of choice and publication on Writers & Artists website.  Stories of no more than 2000 words emailed to with 'WAYB13 competition' in subject line and inc email address.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Skyfall movie review

Just got back from seeing Skyfall at the Odeon with the family.  My husband is a massive Bond fan and Daniel Craig is his favourite Bond (mine is Sean Connery, but that would be another post entirely) so we were expecting great things and we were not disappointed.

From the beginning we were thrust into the action in Turkey and introduced to Eve (Naomie Harris -  Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean) when she is put in an impossible position by M (the fabulous Judi Dench) and herein lies the basis of the movie, M's undue influence on her agents.  Bond is enjoying his death until he hears of an attack on MI6 and returns to confront M.

Despite failing the agency tests, M puts Bond back into active service, much to the chagrin of Mallory (Ralph Fiennes - yes Voldemort himself) who is tasked with easing M into an early retirement.  But Bond tracks down the man responsible, Silva (Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men) with a personal vendetta against M.

I don't want to give anything away, but there were a few twists, some fascinating nods to Bond's family history, some excellent locations (Shanghai was particularly stunning) and a quirky new Q in Ben Whishaw (Layer Cake, The Hour).  Bond back to its best.                                  8.5/10

Thursday, 1 November 2012


I can't believe it is just over a year since I started this blog and that NaNoWriMo has come around again.  I entered NaNoWriMo last year but only made it to 35k and then my computer died (not sure if this was the speed of my writing or that it was so hot the computer imploded :)

This year I am entering again with the challenge to finish my paranormal thriller 'Premonition' and I have already got my first 1,666 words under my belt for today.  Will let you know how I get on during November and if any of you are also entering, please let me know so that we can support each other in this challenge.

Here is an excerpt from my novel and a short synopsis to give you an idea of what I am working on:

It started raining that night and it didn’t stop for two weeks.  For some strange reason, that seemed to kind of suit the situation.  Rain; it just never ended or, at least, sometimes it felt that way.  She could watch its strength and power and feel like she could handle anything and yet other times when she watched it slowly work its way down something, she felt it was patient and understanding and pure.  Rain could wash away sins.  Rain could clear ground for new beginnings.  But rain could also damage; constant tears of destruction upon an unwary world.  A trickle of unease worming its way into the dark crevices of things that had lain forgotten and unwanted in this fast-paced world.  Sometimes she felt like that too.  He could be strong or vulnerable, but always there was the threat of rain; the threat of tears to fall.

The first time it happened she was asleep.  She was in the middle of a dream, one she was loathe to leave and when it shifted, she was sure it was nearly time to awake.  She had gone from a restaurant to a park.  She knew it was a little used one from the rust and the graffiti and she felt no sense of connection; she had never been here before.  As she watched, she saw them arrive and she smiled. 

Short synopsis:  Bonnie Davison sees things.  She sees people when they pass violently from this world into the next and it has taken some time for the police to believe her.  To believe that she is not a nutcase, that her gift is real and it can be used to help them; to help others.  Bonnie has always seen things from the perspective of the victim, but all of a sudden she begins to see it from the killers.  Could this be a blessing?  Can she help them catch the killer before it is too late or has she just given the killer a reason to target her.

Let the writing challenge begin.....

Monday, 29 October 2012

Cleckheaton Writers Group meeting

Productive meeting tonight.  Sadly two members could not make it, but we got lots done nevertheless.  We started with P's beginning of her new story, a supernatural mystery which we all found very interesting in its premise.  Her use of first person perspective hooks you in quickly and we all urged her to keep writing it, maybe even to have it as her story for the NaNoWriMo challenge next month.

Then our new member L shared with us the prologue to her novel which was very immediate and evocative in first person.  We all really felt like we were in the head of a teenager and back in time with her excellent description and intriguing hints at things to come.  Look forward to reading more.

D then read her reworked first chapter of TSC.  She has painstakingly changed her first draft from third person to first person perspective with brilliant results.  We were all very interested in how she has changed the story when it comes to the other characters that are no longer able to be relayed as easily now the story comes only from her main character, Evie's, perspective.

There was just enough time for me to quickly read out my dialogue writing challenge which you can read below:

Lecturer:        Sit down Bonnie, may I call you Bonnie or do you prefer-
Bonnie:          No, Bonnie’s fine.

Lecturer:        May I ask, is there anything wrong?
Bonnie:          No.

Lecturer:        It’s just I haven’t seen you at lectures for a while.
Bonnie:          Oh.

Lecturer:        Are you still struggling with the course?
Bonnie:          Not really. 

Lecturer:        When you say ‘not really’ what do you mean?  I know you were finding the subject rather unsettling, but you seemed to have really got it that last time.  But then, you stopped coming.
Bonnie:          Yes.

Lecturer:        I understand from your other tutors that there does not appear to be a problem with their classes, just mine.  Can I ask why?
Bonnie:          It’s hard to explain.

Lecturer:        Do you no longer wish to be a criminal psychologist?
Bonnie:          That’s not quite it. 

Lecturer:        Bonnie, the first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.  Do you know what you want?
Bonnie:          I do.

Lecturer:        And that is?
Bonnie:          To stop seeing them.

Lecturer:        The pictures?  I know that seeing these images of crime scenes can be distressing, but if this is the area of work that you wish to enter-
Bonnie:          Not the pictures, them, I want to stop seeing them.

Lecturer:        I don’t quite understand.
Bonnie:          I didn’t expect you to.

Lecturer:        Does this mean you want to quit the course?
Bonnie:          No, I just want it to stop.

Lecturer:        Want what to stop?  Bonnie?  Bonnie come back, we need to talk about this.
Lecturer:        Such a shame, she was showing such promise.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Argo film review

My husband and I went to see this film tonight using our Showcase Insider cards.  Argo is a film based on the true story of the Iran hostage crisis in 1980, when six fugitive American democratic personnel need to be extracted during the revolution.

Ben Affleck (who also directs and co-produces with George Clooney) stars as CIA exfiltration agent Tony Mendez, who devises a plan to get the six out of the house of the Canadian ambassador (where they have been hiding since escaping from the embassy when it was taken) by concocting a fake film that is to be shot in Iran.  Helped by Hollywood players John Chambers (John Goodman) and Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), they set up the backdrop of a film scout trip to Iran for their sci-fi movie Argo.  Fake Canadian passports are produced for the six, played with great expertise by Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot Mcnairy, Christopher Denham and Kerry Bishe, who have to learn their new identites as film crew scouts in two days.

The film is very convincing and you find yourself holding your breath and rooting for the six right until the end.  I especially like that the film has been given a truthful slant, rather than trying to over-dramatise what is already a wonderful human interest story.  It is a very tense drama with touches of humour provided by the 'Hollywood' element and I would highly recommend you see it.

Tagline: 'The movie was fake.  The mission was real.'                               8.5/10

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Competition entries

I was very saddened to learn that Strange Chemistry/Open Door were not taking my submission forward to the next stage for their YA fantasy novel competition.  Rejection is never easy, but worse when it comes at lunchtime on a Saturday.  But, never one to rest on my laurels, I entered another three competitions (two yesterday and one today but with two poems).  I thought I would post the details of the competitions on here in case anyone else wishes to give them a go:

1)  DEADLINE 29 OCTOBER 2012 The Mail on Sunday Novel competition.  The opening 50-150 words of a novel (which has to introduce the word 'train').  The prize is £400 in book tokens and an Arvon Writing Course place.  There are five runners-up prizes of between £150-300.  Send your typed entry with name, address, telephone numbers and email address all on the same page to: The Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, 84 Drayton Gardens, London, SW10 9SB.  Results announced next Summer.

2)  DEADLINE 31 OCTOBER 2012 The Belper New Play competition.  Plays of 5-30 min length featuring no more than four characters.  Type 12pt script and classify genre then send to: The Belper Short Play Festival, 31A Field Lane, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1DD.  Winner notified by 31 January 2013.

3)  DEADLINE 2 NOVEMBER 2012 Original Writing UK Competition.  'Time capsule - a message to future self' contact for entry form and rules, then send up to two poems by 5pm on the 2nd.  Winners announced by 19th November.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Peter Robinson event

Peter Robinson

Tuesday 13 November, 7.30pm

Rastrick Library


Best selling crime writer, creator of  Inspector Banks , introduces his latest novel, Watching the Dark.

Tickets £5 (£3 concs)

available from Rastrick Library

phone 01484 714858

I met Peter in York at a Crime Writing event on the 6th of June and I would highly recommend getting a ticket for this event.  Maybe see you there........

Monday, 22 October 2012

Local Library Events

Just been sent the following information about author events at local libraries:

Friday 26th October: An Evening with Peter Benson. Honley Library at 7.30pm “Nine novels in 34 Minutes”

Peter Benson is a multi award winning author, screenwriter and poet. He will give a short talk about his 9 novels and then discuss the creative process and writing.

Tickets £2 from Honley Library tel 01484 222340, from any Kirklees Box Office 01484 223200 or on line at

Tuesday 30th October: Haunted Huddersfield.  Meet local author Kai Roberts at Huddersfield Library, from 7-8.30pm, for an illustrated talk.
"Haunted Huddersfield presents a survey of ghostly lore in the region  from traditional headless spectres to modern poltergeist manifestations. Whilst we live in a supposedly rational, secular age such tales stubbornly persist in the public psyche and, whatever their truth, much can be learnt about how we relate to our environment by studying them. And as the old saying goes, you don't have to believe in ghosts to be afraid of them..."

Suitable for 11yr+  Tickets £2 from any Kirklees Box Office 01484 223200 or on line at

Thursday 8th November:  Andy McNab.  Huddersfield Town Hall at 7.30pm.  Meet  Andy McNab, DCM, MM: ex SAS,  author, TV personality, military advisor and trainer.
RED NOTICE: McNab at his devastatingly authentic, pulse pounding best.  Russian terrorists take 400 hostages on the Eurostar to Paris. Hidden within the train is Andy McNab's explosive new creation, Sergeant Tom Buckingham  RED NOTICE:  His latest novel.  You have been warned…          No photography permitted

Tickets £2  from any Kirklees Box Office 01484 223200, 01924 324501,  or on line at

Saturday 17th November: Write a Ghost Story Workshop at Oakwell Hall, Birstall.  1-4.30pm  Atmospheric  creative writing workshop for adults  with author and playwright Michael Yates.  Be inspired by the surroundings of Oakwell Hall with it’s resident ghost- William Batt.  Be guided in the art of ghost story writing by award winning author  Michael Yates.  Have lunch whilst you listen to a ghostly story.  

Tickets at £8.50 including light lunch and entry into hall (£6 excluding lunch) from Oakwell Hall 01924 326240 or any Kirklees Box Office 01924 324501 or on line at 
 Access by stairs only