Thursday, 5 December 2013

Advent - The Coming


This video plays one of my favourite hymns of all time, O Come O Come Emmanuel. It's a hymn or song that looks forward to Christmas coming. We are all preparing at the moment for the great feast, the great celebration. But are we also preparing to put Jesus at the centre of this Christmas where he belongs? Christmas is, after all, a celebration of his birthday. It also looks forward to him coming again some time in the future. Christians call this his second coming.

What are you looking forward to at the moment? Presents? Or simply getting together with family and friends? I'm looking forward to all of these things. I'm also looking forward to seeing my novella published in 2014. To find out more about this please go to the link at sunnypenny.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/rose-and-crown-new-novels-competition-results and read about my thoughts on this up-coming event next year. What are you expecting to achieve in your writing next year or what are you expecting God to do for you?

A very Happy Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all my followers. May God bless you all.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Dickens famous sentence at the start of 'A tale of two cities', could not describe our holiday better, for that's exactly what it was, the best and the worst of times.

Best in some of the views of the lovely countryside we saw.

The ancient Roman city of Ephesus was even more fascinating and interesting. Perhaps not quite on the same scale as Pompeii but well preserved and a large ancient city, a part of both Roman
This huge two storey library shows that the Romans had a great love of books.


and Biblical history -
This arena where there was a disturbance after Paul had preached in the Synagogue. His companions, Gaius and Aristarchus where taken here but Paul's other followers wouldn't let him go fearing some harm would come to him. In the end the disturbance was settled by the town clerk and Paul's two companions were released. (Acts 19 v 29-41)

All these things denoted the best of times and things.

However too many of our tour party - 20 out of 43 went down with the Norovirus or diarrhoea and sickness bug and as a consequence saw far too much of these -


Although the modern rather than the Roman equivalent!

But I would say in all this, although many of us missed a number of meals and sites (personally grieved to have missed Pumakala or the white terraces and thermal pools) it did bring us all together in a positive way, looking out for one another.


Suffice it to say, however, I'll not be returning to Turkey again in a hurry.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Ethiopian Charity leader receives award.



Jember Teferra. Not a name that means very much to many people, but it should. This lady has spent her life in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, fighting for the rights of the poorest of the poor in her capital city. People who live in slums and until she came along, had no voice. But she has helped to save 52,000 + people from poverty by setting up project teams to help the people in a 'holistic' or whole person approach, dealing with their housing, education, health, food needs etc and then providing a way for these people to take a low interest loan, start a small business and become self financing. David Dimbleby once referred to her as a 'modern day Mother Teresa'.

Not a celebrity, no. But here she is, this last weekend (5 Oct) receiving a small engraved silver plate from a few of her supporters. It seems such a small token for such a huge work and yet she is grateful.

It is the Literature Festival in our town at the moment. Celebrities abound. Some with airs and graces sign copious quantities of books and receive the accolades of their fame and status by an often fawning crowd. Jember isn't a celebrity, she is hardly known but isn't her work worth celebrating? What a topsy turvey world we live in where someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for the basic human rights of a voiceless majority is so little known and someone who has simply given people some entertainment and written a book or two is so venerated.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Triathlon meets Tri-Writathon


This picture is of my husband, Angus and two sons, Adam and Luke having just completed our local Triathlon.

The dictionary's definition of Triathlon is an athletic occasion where three different events are represented. This got me thinking about writing. Often as writers we are asked to diversify our skills. That is to say, not just to be a novelist but  perhaps a short story fiction writer as well - Thomas Hardy fits this bill and many others. Or not just a fiction writer but also a poet - Hardy again or W.M Thackeray (Vanity Fair). Writers of novels have often followed careers as journalists first - note in modern times, Wendy Holden or Charles Dickens in the nineteenth century. Shakespeare was a poet too (sonnets) as well as a dramatist as was Oscar Wilde. Sometimes it's a case of more irons in the fire being more lucrative financially but it's often a challenge to change from one style of writing to another. After training as a journalist and being advised to use plain language and that sparingly it's been quite a challenge to try and write poetry since, which often likes the use of flowery, descriptive language, or novel writing where a short piece that says it all succinctly can be an impediment to writing a 100,000 word novel!

But the athlete has to manage all three disciplines too. In this example of our local Triathlon, the disciplines are swimming, cycling and running. Many athletes can't excel at all three disciplines but in order to compete they have to have a go. Most writers (with a few exceptions) won't excel at everything e.g. we can't all be good poets, novelists, journalists and dramatists but that shouldn't stop us from having a go at most of the disciplines. We might even discover a hidden talent in the enterprise. Triathlon, might also be interpreted as the 'try' athlon. In other words, give it a go.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Writing to Cook

For a few years now I've dreamed of combining my love of cooking with my love of writing but nothing's happened. This is in spite of the great find - well I think so anyway - of Alison Holst's Marvellous Muffins(NZ's answer to Delia Smith)  at a time in the UK when savoury muffins where almost unheard of, this never happened as a UK market venture (maybe I didn't know the best places to look).

Then I went to a great seminar on cookery writing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival a few years ago. The lady taking the seminar encouraged me and said a had a good writing style for the market. Still nothing.

Then I discovered Bauer Publishing's 'Take a Break: your recipes' and submitted one. In doing so, I discovered that writing down a recipe isn't as easy as you imagine. You may have cooked or baked a dish loads of times yourself and because of that you take so many details of the recipe for granted. However, when writing that same recipe down for others to follow you have to be so specific in your details that I had to rewrite my submission a couple of times. However, it was all worth it in the end. I'm finally a published recipe writer with £25 to show for it. Not a great amount of money but the satisfaction of finally combining my cookery and writing together is the real pleasure + publication by a big publishing company. Thank you God for helping me to realise my dream at last!

You can find their recipes magazines in WH Smith's on the high street for only £1 or go to their website at www.takeabreak.co.uk/my favouriterecipes or follow their facebook page at www.facebook.com/myfavouriterecipes

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Chernobyl Children


I have been very busy recently, not busy writing but doing something equally worthwhile, hosting two young girls from Belaurus. The little red-haired girl at the end of the group - Lenya - and the tall dark-haired girl with the pigtail right in the front of the picture - Yulia.

This seems a very formal photograph taken at the airport but the girls soon became their own little characters. Yulia, most confident and best English speaker from the city of Pinsk and little Lenya, from a village nearby, less confident but collecting every leaf, stone and twig as her treasure like a little squirrel. In the two and a half weeks we had to host the girls we grew fond of them and their little ways even though communication was very difficult - they spoke little English, us little Russian. In addition they were like little Duracell bunnies, constantly on the move, constantly flitting from one activity to another. Combined with the language problems and our rusty experience with children (it's over ten years since ours were the age of ten like these girls) it was a difficult and exhausting time. I felt well outside of my comfort zone and the tricky driving to various activities didn't help. Each day was a challenge but God helped me through by taking each day at a time and giving me a verse which helped me through - Isaiah 41 v 10.

But the experience got me thinking. Should we always stay with the thing we feel comfortable with? or should we dare to launch off into new waters. Hosting these girls may have been challenging but at the end of the day it was extremely rewarding. Knowing that you'd helped to give them a holiday of a lifetime (many come from very poor homes) and helped to detoxify their systems from Chernobyl for just a few weeks is entirely worthwhile and an article is coming out in the local paper tomorrow which I wrote a press release for and got the photographer to come. My writing has helped to promote something worthwhile and at the same time has stretched me as a person taking me beyond my normal comfort zone. We should all go beyond ours I think just once in a while.
www.ccll.org.uk, www.chernobyl-children.org.uk

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Trophy holder


This trophy that I had the great pleasure to hold was won by a Grover Williams, the first Englishman to win a Grand Prix in Monaco. I'm certainly glad I didn't drop it as its worth £250,000!! This was the start of a fantastic weekend of Motorsport at Prescott Hill.

But holding the trophy made me consider two different trains of thought. Firstly, being chosen. God chooses each and everyone of us to know him. If it felt special to me to be picked out of a group of around fifteen then how much more special is it to be picked out by the creator of the universe out of thousands to know and follow him? Awesome.

Secondly, it is a bit like writing except the trophy we hold, unlike this, isn't a silver cup or similar but our own published book. And just as the trophy is inscribed with the winner's name our book is inscribed with our name on the front cover. I've seen my name on many a newspaper or magazine article but the excitement of seeing my name on the cover of a book is a joy yet to come and hopefully will come next year when my novella is due to be published in February 2014. That trophy will be all mine and even though it won't be worth nearly as much as £250,000 in many ways it will be worth an awful lot more to me.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A Norfolk holiday

Some of you may think I've been a little quiet recently on the Internet, well there's a reason for that...I've been on holiday. Yes, a week to my sister's lovely little cottage in Norfolk faced with the local flint. Here it is below.



A nice retreat with a sunny conservatory even though the weather wasn't the hottest. At least it was dry and sunny nearly every day and the dog was very pleased with a reasonable sized enclosed garden to play ball in! Time to sit and reflect and spend time with Mr Darcy in the book I was reading at the time, 'Mr Darcy's Diary courtesy of Amanda Grange - see Facebook entry www.facebook.com/journojohnson  Also visited her majesty at Sandringham (unfortunately she wasn't at home), Blickling Hall and walked and cycled for our health - husband's idea but not a bad one. Only problem on the cycling front was that the seat was adjusted a little too high and when I stopped I kept falling off the side of my bike!!

Then it was on to Essex for another week of exercise but not so relaxing this time with - 7 dogs, 6 hens, 4 geese, 2 finches, 2 canaries, a tank load of goldfish and a pond full of Koi Karp and a retired racehorse to care-take. Yes, we were 'animal sitting' for my sister on her farm once again. Angus even made up a song for us to sing based on the 12 days of Christmas substituting holiday for Christmas. I won't publish it here because, like us, it's still a work in progress!!



Thursday, 9 May 2013

Thrilled to bits

I'm thrilled to bits by my first success in a fictional writing competition. I could hardly believe my eyes when I opened my emails at the end of April to discover that I'd won second prize in a writing competition which not only carried a financial prize with it but also the promise of publication for my novella in February 2014. Wow!! All those years slaving away writing and re-writing my manuscript really did pay off! So why haven't I posted a blog before now nearly two weeks after receiving the news? Well, firstly I've had to pinch myself to believe the email to be true. Perhaps it's a scam my mind imagined, a trick? Of course it wasn't but I just needed further confirmation really after all this time of trying that I wasn't dreaming. Today I had it. I was asked by the publisher, Rose and Crown books for a quote, photo of me and description of my novella's story. I've just sent it. So now I feel I can officially share my success with all of my followers who have believed in me for so long even when I've almost lost faith in myself. Thank you one and all from the bottom of my heart. Thanks for the congratulations card, Clare, which said -

"Thrilled to bits by the success of your novella and this is just the beginning''

I've used your words Clare for the title of this post. Yes, please God, this is just the beginning as I've got a historical saga on the boil at the moment which is bigger and I hope better than the novella. But the novella is special. It's my first baby with a message that I believe is important. It's a light romance based around an Alpha Course which I hope shows that Christians aren't really all that strange or different from everyone else. They have the same problems, the same struggles, the same difficulties as everyone else. The main difference is that they have chosen to face them all with a God who they believe is on their side.

Now to get down to the proof reading, preparing and marketing...and the journey towards publication. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The pain of losing a child

What do you say about a twenty year old youngster who died and a mother who has to bury her own son?

Perhaps the following words by poet, John Maxwell Edmunds sum it up best -:

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Hard Graft




Alex

This was my cousin's last year in the boat race. This year he was in the reserve team, Goldie boat, as in 2011. Unfortunately they didn't win this time or in 2010. But they did win last year, 2012 when it really mattered with the main boat. Sadly this is now the end of an era. But Alex can hang up his oars without shame. He did an excellent job and his team produced the results when it mattered. Now he continues to compete but just with his college, Gonville and Caius. But who can blame him wanting to bow out now. He told us that to simply compete takes six hours a day every day for more than six months.

On the way to London for the boat race I read an article about the writer Katie Fforde - one of my favourite romance writers. Like many writers she rises early each day and begins her writing before breakfast. Writing up to 1,000 or 2,000 words a day (Writing Magazine May 2013). Something to aim at. Mind you she does say she finds it easier to go away to a writing retreat place in France to get focused at least from mid book onwards. Less distractions then, meals, washing, phone calls etc. I wish... For now funds demand that I only dream. It would be useful however, being stuck mid novel at present. Well, I can at least congratulate myself that my payment for the article I wrote for Classic Ford magazine has just come through. A few more good articles like that and maybe I can make the dream a reality. Meantime a bit of hard graft would come in handy even with the distractions. Getting up early like Alex and Katie for instances...

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Retries and Races

Cheltenham and the 2013 Races


Race week 2013 is in full swing in Cheltenham at the moment with all the fever of excitement and anticipation and as you can see I love it too. The well-known jump jockey, Ruby Walsh won three races and that was just on the first day! But I wonder how he felt when he began or like Sam Twiston-Davies, who won his first professional race this year? Perhaps the buzz never leaves you, although it must have lessened somewhat for Ruby.

Last weekend I went to a day conference and heard an American Christian speaker called Robbie Dawkins talk about failure and not being afraid of it. He said that most of the people listed in the Bible were considered failures but they didn't give up. We need to keep going with whatever we do with the same determination, not afraid to have another go if it doesn't work the first time. In fact most writers will tell you that rejection is part of the package that makes you a writer. Sometimes you get a good commission and are well paid for it and sometimes you don't. Sometimes that novel/novella is a success and sometimes it's just a stepping stone to future success but the key is to persist and not give up. Maybe there were days at the beginning of Ruby Walsh's career when he felt like giving up but look at him now at the very top of his profession. We can't all be the Ruby Walsh's of the writing world though but we can keep trying and get back on our horse or back to our pen even when everything in us feels sore and defeated.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lessons from a rally


Last Saturday my husband, Angus and I went to the Wyedean Rally in the Forest of Dean. This old car reminds me a little of our lives as writers, we often get battered and bruised and even lose our lights for a time (notice his offside light) but we press on undaunted. The conditions can even be bad and slippery but why give in when this is some thing you've trained for?




The main thing is just to keep on going as this car  is.  We had a thoroughly great day  in the end all be it a very wet and muddy one. We all returned home a muddy shade of brown even the dog! With so much rainfall of late the track was quite treacherous but this didn't put the drivers off. They persisted even though only 85 completed the 7 stages out of the 151 starters. Surely this is a lesson to us all?



















Monday, 14 January 2013

Clothes, Simplicity and Prioritising

Over the weekend we tidied up our bedroom. On moving our big king size bed, my husband complained at how heavy it seemed. I couldn't understand it thinking it just full of sheets and pillowcases, however, that turned out not to be the case. Instead we uncovered a complete two large draws of clothes we and the children hadn't worn in some time. I know that because some of the children's clothes wouldn't fit a child older than 5 and my youngest is now 21. It doesn't take long to do the arithmetic and discover that these clothes must have lain there untouched for around 15 years which is longer than we've been in this house!! Obviously we never felt their lack. It made me think though, it's so easy to let our gifts and talents lay dormant so long that they become covered in dust and rendered virtually useless, forgotten by the world and forgotten by us. We had a good clear out and now have produced two large bags one for recycling and one for charity. What a shame to think that these clothes had lain there untouched for so long when others could have been having the use of them. A good clear out is also the time to prioritise what is really important to us at the start of the year. I'm indebted to an article by Joanne Borrill in the February edition of Writer's News magazine for these thoughts www.writers-online.co.uk  Joanne says time is precious and we all have the same 24 hours in each day whether we're Leonardo da Vinci or Mother Teresa. By the end of this year 2013 we will probably find that we have filled our year with the things we have considered important to us. This is a challenge to me. How important is writing to me and how many other things do I let fill my time instead? Even emails, facebook and Twitter can be blamed here. Good to keep in touch with others but not at the cost of leaving those gifts and talents to lie gathering dust!

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Gate of the Year

"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 'give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown' And he replied: 'go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way'. So I went forth, and finding the hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of the day in the lone East."
(Extract from 'God knows' by Minnie Louise Haskins)

This particular well-known poem was quoted by King George VI in his Christmas broadcast in 1939 after the verse was handed to him by the young princess Elizabeth, our current queen. It must have been inspiring for the people then in the first year of a world war they didn't know when would end or what might happen along the way. It can still be an inspiration for us now at the start of a new year when we are unclear of direction or the way ahead.

I found myself quoting this verse to another friend searching for guidance in her life, later realising that it was also wholly appropriate for me. I hope to make this year a new incentive for my writing, writing more frequently and with more intensity and purpose. However, there have already been disappointments and set backs along the way before the year has hardly begun. I have been a member of the Romantic Novelists Association now for two years. Not only is it a forum of help, advice and friendship but even more importantly a chance to have your 'work in progress' novel proof read by professionals. Now, due to my own lateness and disorganisation, I missed the deadline to reapply and consequently have lost my place for a year. How disheartening in a year when I had hoped to take my writing more seriously.  But events can overtake us both because of our own and because of others faults or in-attentions etc But like those people in 1939, I/we must not lose heart but instead put our hand into God's hand and go forwards and upward into the light of the breaking dawn.

A very Happy New Year to all my readers and fellow writers. I trust that God may richly bless and keep you in 2013.