Sunday 13 December 2015

Happy Christmas One and All
This will be my last blog for 2015 and I'm sure like me you wonder where the last twelve months have gone. This year for the first time in many years we shall be spending it away from our own house and will be staying in Manchester with our daughter who lives about five minutes away from our son, daughter-in-law and our two grandsons. 

The week is ending on a high for me with two new stories published on Alfie Dog Fiction.

On Wednesday, my story, 'Whispers in the Olive Trees', was published. It is set in one of my favourite parts of the world, a region of Greece where I often visited my aunt and Greek uncle. Following in her mother’s footsteps a generation before, Alex travels to the Peloponnese region of Greece searching for answers. What changed Elin’s life forever in the summer of ‘69? Will Alex find out who the mysterious C. is? Why does an old lady verbally attack her on the beach?

To put you in the festive mood, why not download a Christmas story from Alfie Dog? Mine is entitled 'Santa Calls' and is one of the new stories that went live today. It's a feel good story that I hope will make you feel warm and Christmassy. The festive season is in full swing but Mary's heart is not in it this year. She goes through the motions of buying a tree and decorating the house but memories of happy Christmases past reinforce the fact that this one will be different. How can Steve help lift her mood?

I hope you all have a very Happy Christmas. What are your plans this year? Are you staying at home or like me spending it away? I look forward to hearing how you'll be spending your Christmases, whether you'll be writing or not and whether you'll be carrying out any family traditions as part of your celebrations.

As the year comes to a close in a couple of weeks, I'd like to thank you all for supporting the blog. It's two years old in January and I have my very loyal readers who read and comment - you know who you are! :-) but the 'stats' also show how many more people read the blog without leaving a comment. 

Thank you for reading and I'll see you all again in 2016.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.

Thursday 3 December 2015

The End... Or is it?
On Sunday 29th November at 4.34pm precisely, I did what I'd planned to do when taking part in NaNoWriMo 2015 and that was to complete the first draft of my novel. It had taken almost 35,000 words to do that. I changed the font to 36 and typed those two words 'THE END' in large letters across the page. It was a great feeling and it has been a long time coming!
Once I came down off cloud nine and reflected on what I'd done, I knew that this was not the end but really the beginning of another journey that I hadn't ventured along before - the editing and the rewrites.

So what have I achieved so far?
- I've completed a first draft of a dual narrative story, set in two separate decades.
- I've told Clara's story set in 1965 and Rose's story set mainly in 1947 and allowed them to come to a conclusion, the two stories interlinking at the end. Both characters had to overcome obstacles on their journey through their stories and these have been resolved to a satisfactory conclusion. (Well, I hope so!) 
- I've managed to sustain a very long piece of fiction, explore characters in depth and develop plots and subplots.
- I've created a story that I'm proud of, albeit in its very raw state.
- Above all, I have learned so much about novel writing.

Where next?
- I've taken advice and I'm not going to look at the manuscript until the New Year. That way, it will serve to put some distance between me and the novel and hopefully when I next read it, I will be able to see its flaws more objectively. And I know there are flaws, lots of them! Here it is in a box file. I'm not going to open it no matter how tempting that will be.
- As I was writing, especially during NaNo, I didn't stop to sort out things but inserted comments with reminders of what I needed to check or find out. That will be the first thing I'll do. I'll go through each of those comments or queries and try to rectify them. It may be something as simple as checking that names are consistent or finding out details about an event that happened at that time in history.

Look out for my blog series early in 2016 when I'll be tracing the next stage of my journey as a writer and hopefully enlisting your help with recommended tips and advice.

How did you feel when you completed your first ever draft of a novel? Did you manage to leave it for a while or were you tempted to start the re-drafting straight away? 

Alfie Dog Fiction Short Story Competition Results

These were announced last Monday and huge congratulations are due to Linda Daunter who won the first prize with her story 'Forever'. Linda regularly reads this blog and leaves a comment. I'm thrilled for her and I look forward to reading her story. On a personal note, I was pleased to make the long-list again this year, this time with my story, 'Smashing the Mask'.

Thank you for reading my blog. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Monday 23 November 2015

Over in a Flash!
Yesterday I went to Worcester for the launch of the Worcester LitFest Flash Fiction Anthology 2015. This year, it was held at Drummonds in The Swan With Two Nicks. Two of my pieces, "Knowing" and "Standing Up To Barker", are included in the publication, "A Stash of Flashes", and I joined other writers to read them out as part of the launch.

Even though I was used to speaking to large audiences, on occasions of over a hundred people, when I was a Teacher Adviser, why was I becoming increasingly nervous as my place on the programme approached? Could it be because I was reading out something that I had written in front of fellow writers? I was first to read after the interval and then I was able to relax. In spite of my nerves, it was literally over in a flash!

What struck me listening to all the pieces was the wide range of subject matter and the variety of the writing styles of the authors. As it says in the blurb, there were "stories to intrigue, entertain and move you, about the past, the future, childhood, old age, people, relationships and the beliefs that carry us through life" and all this "crafted in no more than 300 words." 

For me, reading stories aloud can make them come alive in a way that is different from reading them on the page and that's what made yesterday afternoon such an enjoyable occasion. 

Thank you for reading my blog. Have you been nervous about sharing your work? I'd love to hear about how you feel when you read your stories aloud and look forward to reading your comments.

**Stop Press** -  I'm delighted to have received an email to say that my story "The Curse of the Turquoise Pool" had been Commended in the Swansea and District Writers' Circle short story competition. It will be included in their e-book early in 2016. 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on Jan Baynham Writer Face Book page.

Friday 13 November 2015

Help - a crisis of confidence!
Those of you who follow my blog will know that last year I wrote over fifty thousand words of my novel during November as part of NaNoWriMo 2014. It felt good to get immersed in the story lines and get to know the characters really well. Sometimes they surprised me by going off and doing or saying things I hadn't expected. I felt a real sense of achievement and was convinced that I was well on my way.

I knew there'd be things to change and there'd be plot holes I needed to fill; that's the nature of the beast when you write without stopping to edit. A slogan "Don't get it right. Get it written." was firmly embedded in my mind's eye. I would use Nano this year to finish the first draft and then write short stories in the rest of the time. After all I was so close, wasn't I? So why am I feeling so insecure and wracked with self-doubt this time around? I haven't got much more to write, I thought I knew where the two narratives were going and how they were going to come together at the end of the book. Apart from yesterday, I've managed to write something every day but rather than start typing with the excitement of what's coming up next in the story, I'm worrying about whether 'this' would happen or 'that' doesn't seem right. For me finishing the story is proving so much harder than it was at the beginning. 

I follow Susanna Bavin's Blog and because of all this self-doublt, I remembered her thought-provoking post from October 10th entitled Is Your First NaNoWriMo Bound To Be The Best? This is a sample of what she said:
In all the NaNos I've done since, I've never repeated that original sense of satisfaction. The second year, determined to hit 50,000, I used NaNo to work on the edit/rewrite of a first draft. That month, I stormed to a glorious 55,000...except that it didn't feel glorious. It felt like cheating.

Lesson learned. The next year, I worked on something new, but, though I worked hard on it, that first-time achievement didn't return. In fact, all these NaNoWriMos and CampNaNoWriMos later, I've never recaptured it. I wonder why. Is it because, having done it once, you never again experience that sharp sense of panic? That"What have I let myself in for?" feeling?

Is that what's happening to me? Perhaps I shouldn't try to emulate the feeling of satisfaction I had last year but just accept that the novel is at a different stage now. I'll still try to write every day but I won't be concerned if I fail to reach the goals set. After writing so many words and learning so much in the process, I know I will regret it if I give up now.  

Did any of you find the last part of your first draft the hardest to write? Can you please give me any tips on how to deal with this self-doubt? Did any of you change how you approached a first draft after writing your first book? Any advice will be gratefully received. :-)

Thank you for reading. I look forward to reading your comments.
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Today, I’m delighted to be chatting to my on-line writing buddy, Patsy Collins, whose name will be familiar to lots of you. I got to ‘know’ Patsy in 2013 when I answered a request on the Alfie Dog Fiction Forum asking if anyone was interested in joining an on-line critique group. Since then, I have been in regular contact with her and have benefited so much from her wide ranging experience and expertise as a writer. Her latest novel, ‘Firestarter’ is published tomorrow on Amazon.

Patsy, welcome. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself as a writer.
Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Jan.

You already know I write short stories for women's magazines. I've been doing that for over twelve years now and have had hundreds published. I've been writing novels for almost as long, but the first ('Paint Me a Picture') took so long to finish and involved such big gaps that it seems a far more recent development.

I've also had a few writing articles published in Writing Magazine and Kishboo. 

Because I’ve followed the story right from when you started writing it, I’m particularly excited to see ‘Firestarter’ published tomorrow, and on November 5th, too! Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?
Um ... it seemed like a good idea at the time? Sorry, I'm rubbish about spotting what started off a particular train of thought. I suppose it's possible I was thinking about firemen, but why I'd have been doing that I can't imagine.

Really, can't you? What is the novel is about?
That's an easier question - Firemen!

Not really. There are firemen in the story and some are suitably hunky, but the story is really about relationships. Of course there are romantic relationships, but also family relationships, friendships and relationships between colleagues.

How does it compare with your other novels? 
All of my novels have dealt with relationships, two others are romantic, this is set in the same location as my only non romance novels, and they all include at least a hint of crime, so they have things in common.

This one has a larger crime element than my previous books. It's also (in my opinion anyway) funnier.

I like the sound of ‘hunky firemen’ and ‘research’ in the same sentence, Patsy. I have to ask you how much research did you do for the book?
Quite a lot - but nearly all the fireman stuff was by email. I'm nearly over that disappointment now.

I thoroughly researched the wildlife and cakes which both feature heavily - that was fun.

Research into the locations has, in a way, been going on for years as the story is mainly set close to where I live and in places I know well. Even the scenes set in Wales take place in an area I've visited several times. (I'll be back - and hopefully we'll get to meet for real at last)

That would be great if we could! 
I’m often drawn to a cover when choosing a book to read and I love the one you’ve chosen for ‘Firestarter’. Can you tell us how you went about selecting the images and the colours?
I agree that covers can influence our choice of books, so I'm really glad you like it.

I knew I wanted flames, to suit the title and hint at the warmth of the story. I also wanted a couple in a romantic pose to suggest the genre. I passed that (very brief) brief on to Gary Davies, who created some designs for me to consider and share with a few writing buddies. Gary suggested using a silhouette and found a couple which were suitable. The one we selected looks very like my two lead characters.

We experimented with 'real' flames, but they made it look more like a scary thriller than a fun read. The stylised ones seem less threatening. Originally I wanted a sky blue background, but the result was a bit too bright even for me. Then that Jan Baynham woman suggested changing the background to the same gold as seen in the flames. I'm delighted with the final version.

That Jan Baynham woman much prefers the background in the same colour range as the flames that you've got now, so thank you.
On a more general note, do you have a particular writing routine when writing?
Nah. If the writing is going well I keep at it. If not, I do something else for a while.

Music to my ears! Where do you write?
I'm extremely fortunate to have both a home and a mobile office. The mobile one is a campervan and enables me to write many of my stories on location. Both are shared with my husband.

How much planning did you do for each of your novels?
Usually not enough! 'Firestarter' was plotted and planned quite thoroughly, which made it quicker to write. I'll try to learn from that.

What is your proudest writing moment so far?
Someone told me they got so engrossed in one of my books they missed their stop on the train. That's quite a compliment.

It certainly is. What are you currently working on?
I'm attempting NaNo with 'Poppyfield Farm'. It's mostly set on a farm quite like the one on which I grew up. It involves a business providing horse drawn carriages for weddings so there's plenty of scope for romance.

My plan is to write it in first person from two different POVs - one male, one female. I know quite a lot about Phil, but Maria is still a mystery.

Good luck with that. You must be very excited about the launch of ‘Firestarter’  tomorrow. How will you be celebrating?
Hopefully we'll be out in the campervan. We can't have fireworks in there of course, not even sparklers - I'll have to make up for that by drinking sparkling wine and eating ... bangers? No. Crackers? No. I know, a Catherine wheel shaped cake.

There's always cake. ;-)

Thank you so much for taking time to chat to me, Patsy. I wish you good luck with your new book. 

‘Firestarter’  is published by  Amazon on November 5th.

Twitter: @PatsyCollins

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed chatting to Patsy. 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Is there Anybody There?
It's that time of year again. The nights are much darker and thoughts are turning to Hallowe'en in a few days time. If you enjoy reading ghost or horror stories why not visit Alfie Dog Fiction where there are plenty to choose from? Some of these appear in an anthology of ghost stories entitled The Day Death Wore Boots. 

I have three ghost stories published on the site:

  • The Journey Home  - On the way to their cottage after a busy working week in London, Sophie and Tom give a lift to a teenage girl. Why is she out alone on a cold night, dressed in a flimsy dress? Why are they so uneasy when they drop her off at her home? 
  • Unfinished Business - Kathy will never settle until she finds her cat, Monty. She ventures out of the house in the dark and in atrocious weather to look for him. But will she be able to face her fears as she nears the end of the street and enter the place she dreads? 
  • Rock-a Bye Baby ( included in the anthology) - Ali and Ben are awaiting the birth of their first child. The baby’s bedroom in Rock Cottage is freshly decorated and everything is ready. Mums-to-be are supposed to be excited, aren’t they? So why did Ali feel so uneasy? Was it just over-tiredness like Ben said? 
You may find them to download HERE. 

For the next Writers' Group meeting, we have been asked to write something entitled 'The Room in the Pub'. You've guessed it - the new venue is a room in a pub so it's very topical! I've decided to make it a ghost story and am grateful to Honno author,  Juliet Greenwood, for posting this link on her Facebook page. 14 Welsh Ghost Stories That Will Send a Chill Down Your Spine

What better way to get inspiration for a story than to read accounts of 'real' stories of ghosts that have been handed down through generations. Many of the stories involve haunted goings on in pubs where poor souls have met their Maker in unfortunate circumstances. 

According to author and historian, James Moore, more than two hundred and fifty inns and taverns across Britain are linked to gruesome tales of murder. His book 'Murder at the Inn: a History of Crime in Britain's Pubs and Hotels' links pubs that can still be found today with 'captivating and sometimes horrifying tales from their past.' 

So far, my ghost stories have been quite gentle where the ghost can't move on until something has been resolved but perhaps after reading these I may be able to come up with a story that's more terrifying or spine-chilling. Will I have the courage to walk up the stairs to the meeting room in the old pub and read out what I've written? ...Aaaarrrrgggghhh!

Do you believe in ghosts? Do you know of an incident which doesn't have a rational explanation? What inspiration have you had for writing a ghost story? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment. Thank you for reading.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Monday 19 October 2015

Back to It
It was back to earth with a bump last week after three weeks away. I didn't get much actual writing done in terms of the novel or completed short stories but it was a busy week with lots of 'writerly' things going on. In writing group on Monday, we looked at each other's work and I talked through an idea I have for a story. It's inspired by an anecdote told to me by someone I got chatting to on holiday - as you do! How we got talking about life insurance I don't know, but suffice to say the guy won't take any out because of what he told me. I just hope I can do justice to his story and turn it into a worthwhile piece of fiction. I should say that his wife was present and she was laughing as much as me! :-) Watch this space!

On Tuesday, I attended a writing workshop as part of Penarth Book Festival. The well attended session, led by author, Julie McGowan, was interesting and interactive. Julie presented us with a number writing scenarios covering character and avoiding stereotypes, dialogue and editing. The time flew by and I thoroughly enjoyed the morning. 

Later in the week, I attended the launch of 'Awen Inspirations', the 2015 Rhondda Cynon Taf anthology, at Pontypridd Library. All contributors had to either live or, as I do, attend writing classes/groups in the area. I was pleased to have both a story and a poem included . In spite of a heavy cold and croaky voice, I read out my poem 'The Grandmother Clock' and enjoyed listening to other writers and poets. I then met my writing buddy, Helen, for lunch. We talked about which stories we were submitting to competitions and looked at some critiques. 

This week also saw me start working with Geraldine Ryan as part of the Womentoring project. For those of you not familiar with the scheme, the idea is 'to introduce successful literary women to other writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from insight, knowledge and support.' I applied to be mentored by Geri because she was offering Womag fiction as her specialism. Her stories and serials regularly appear in Women's Weekly and she also writes for Fiction Feast and other magazines. She has run many workshops and courses on 'Writing Fiction for Women's Magazines'. I'm very excited to be working with Geri and only hope I can do justice to the help she'll be giving me.

I've also tried to catch up with fellow writers' blogs and I've registered to take part in NaNoWriMo again this year. I intend to use the time to complete - yes, FINISH, END, CONCLUDE, FINALISE - the first draft of my novel! Between now and November 1st, I hope to do some more research so that I can just write without interruption.

How about your writing week? Have you been busy with 'writerly' things above and beyond actual writing? I'd love to hear what you have been doing so please leave a comment. Thank you. :-)

Thank you for reading my blog. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer

Sunday 20 September 2015

Interview With Author, Angela Fish
Today, I’m delighted to be chatting to author, Angela Fish. Her debut children’s book, 'Ben and the Spider Gate' will be published on Thursday, 24th September.

Angela, welcome. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about how you got started as a writer.
Hello Jan. Thank you for inviting me to share your page today.

I was born in Cardiff and grew up in a village called Tongwynlais. My mother read to me a lot when I was little and I was reading simple text myself by the time I was four. I’ve never lost my love of reading and can be quite greedy with it! I remember writing simple poems and stories, and even plays, from the age of seven. Later on, most of my creative energy went into English essays and it wasn’t until I started an Humanities degree that I had any formal creative writing experience. I focused mainly on poetry at that time and my dissertation was a collection of poems with commentary. After that I did an M.Phil (Literature) but that was a research project, rather than my own writing. I went on some residential writing courses, mostly for poetry, and published some in journals. I was also placed second in a magazine short story competition, but then I started lecturing at my local university and work, and academic writing, took over. It wasn’t until I took early retirement and joined a writing group that I started writing again with any real purpose. Since then I’ve had a highly commended and a second place in Writer’s Forum magazine poetry competitions, written five books for children (one published, one in production and one needing final editing), begun two more, and have two adult novels partly written. It’s been quite a productive time but I don’t think that I would have done half (if any) of it without the support and encouragement of the writing group, and then the writing circle that I’ve been involved with.

Writing for children is in such contrast to your previous work. Can you tell us what inspired you to write this first novel for children?
As I mentioned, I was part of a writing group and we were experimenting with different genres – stretching ourselves really, as it’s easy to become stuck in the same groove. We agreed to try writing for children and I completed two shorter (picture) books –one non-fiction and one fiction. Then we used story cubes (dice) as prompts for character and plot for the first chapter of a longer piece of work. The two images that came up were an open padlock and a triangle shape, but with wiggly lines rather than straight ones. Most of the group interpreted the shape as a pyramid or a tent but it immediately reminded me of a doodle that I’ve been drawing on the corners of pages since I was a teenager. It’s a partial cobweb with a spider dangling from it.

 Once that thought had come into my head, I couldn’t shift it and so the basis of the story line developed. The padlock gave rise to the spider’s name (Lox) but also to the idea of his role as gate-keeper to the spider kingdom. The plot uses the traditional motif of a quest, but with a twist. I completed the first chapter and as I had such positive feedback from the group, I decided to finish it. Considering that I spent the last ten years of my working life in the intergenerational field, it’s not surprising that the main character, Ben, and his grandmother have such a close relationship, but this evolved as I was writing the book – it wasn’t a specific intention when I began.

When you embarked on ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’, did you envisage that there would be more books in the series?
When I was about three quarters of the way through the first draft of ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’ I knew that there was a lot more that I could, and wanted, to do with the characters and situations, but the general advice for the book length (aimed at the 5-8 age group) is to have about 10,000 words. That’s when I decided to have a short series, of three, that would follow Ben and Lox’s adventures over one year. By the time I finished the first, I already knew the basic story outline for the second one, ‘Ben and the Spider Prince’ (due April 2016) but I wasn’t sure about the third. ‘Ben and the Spider Lake’ (due Nov 2016) developed from a series of unrelated incidents – Welsh Water digging up the road in front of our house, a programme about hidden lakes, and another about mass migration!

I wanted each story to stand alone, so I’ve allowed Ben to recap some of the previous adventures, either by remembering or by talking to his gran or his best friend, Jess, so that the relationship between Lox and Ben is explained. However, I’ve tried to be careful not to repeat too much as it can irritate the reader if they’ve read the previous book(s), spoil it if they haven’t, and it also runs away with the word count!

So that means we'll follow the same characters in each of the books. I think young readers like that, don't they?
Yes. Ben, Jess, Gran, Scoot the dog, and Lox figure in varying degrees in each book. It’s the characters who contribute to the magical elements that vary, as well as some of the locations.

Perhaps, you’d like to tell us how you went about finding the right publisher for your book.
My first search was for publishers who were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Then I looked for some more detailed information about each company and at their terms of submission. The main thing that influenced me to submit to the Book Guild was that they asked for the whole manuscript right away and they guaranteed to respond more quickly than many others, which they did.

I love the black and white illustrations in the book. How much ‘say’ did you have in the choice of these?
Almost complete control. I was asked to describe how I saw the main characters and anything else that was important to the story. I was told that I could suggest which scenes I wanted illustrated. I knew that there would be ten illustrations so I made a list but said that there were only four that I absolutely wanted put in. After that I gave the illustrator, Michael Avery, licence to choose what he considered the best scenes, but he only changed one of my suggestions. He sent me some character sketches initially and they were mostly brilliant, but I didn’t like the way that Lox had been portrayed, so Michael changed that. When I saw all the completed illustrations, there were two that I was unhappy with but they were altered without any fuss.

I believe you’ve taken your books into schools to gauge the response from the children. Would you like to tell us about some of those visits?
Yes, two schools have acted as ‘test’ readers for me and the responses have been very encouraging. One of the schools invited me in for World Book Day last March and the other invited me in to talk the pupils about the writing/publishing process. I was bombarded with questions and amazed at their acuity. I recently visited a school that had no prior knowledge of the book and was delighted at their attention and interest. Some of them were really surprised that books often start off with a piece of paper and a pencil. The self-editing process also confused some, as they thought that once something was ‘finished’, that was it. (Often applied to classwork/homework, I was told!) I’m hoping to make many more school visits, as children really are the best judges.

What is the biggest compliment a child could pay you after reading ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’?

To ask when the next one will be ready! This has already happened with some of my test readers in the two schools and also with Maria Grachvogel’s son. Maria is a London-based fashion designer and gave me an ‘attributable quote’ for the publishers:
“A heart-warming and magical tale which will really capture your child’s imagination. My son really enjoyed the book and very much identified with Ben and Lox. Each evening he wanted to hear the next instalment and was very captured by the story.” 

That's lovely to hear, Angela. You must have been delighted with that. On a general note, how much planning do you do when you embark on a new story?
I don’t make really specific plans but I generally have the story outline, and sometimes quite a bit of detail, in my head before I even put pen to paper. I like to talk to my characters and even role-play their parts. I do plan things like time sequences, for example, as I have to make sure that I don’t make mistakes or create something that isn’t believable. I’ve also had to bear in mind that two of my main characters are seven years old so there are many places they wouldn’t be able to go, or things they couldn’t do, at that age. Although there’s a magical element to the stories, they do have a basic everyday setting, so I have ensure that it is realistic.

Do you have a typical writing day?
No, not really. I find it difficult to set and stick to a specific time for writing every day. Sometimes I prefer to read and I think that helps as it can clear my mind. Then, when I do sit down to write I can achieve a lot more, and more quickly, than if I tried to make myself write for a set time each day. Once I am really into the story, I can write for anything up to eight or ten hours in a day.

What are you currently working on?
I have another book for children, Molly and the Magic Mirror’ (8-11 age group) mapped out and the introductory section written but I need to decide if I’m going to have it as one book or a series. I’ve written the first of a collection of short stories about ‘The Adventures of Brian, the Happy Banana’.  I also have two adult novels partially written and I’d really like to complete them – even if it’s just for my own satisfaction.

You must be very excited about the launch of ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’. How will you be celebrating?
Yes, it’s a lovely feeling to see something that started as a doodle end up as a published book. It’s a strange feeling seeing my name on the cover.  As I received my copies a little while ago, we had a family celebration then. By the time the next book is out, in April next year, I should know if ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’ has been well received. If it has, then I think a more formal launch party for Ben 2 might be in order!     

Thank you so much, Angela, for taking time to chat to me. I wish you good luck with the new book. 
Thank you for taking an interest. Good luck with your own writing, too.

‘Ben and the Spider Gate’ is published by Book Guild Publishing and can be bought direct via its website.

Or, links to the book on Amazon for pre-order:

Angela may be contacted via:
Thank you for reading my blog. 
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Monday 14 September 2015

Competition Entries
This week, I have been working on a few short stories ready to submit to competitions before I leave on my holidays next week. I've re-worked, edited, changed word order, then changed it back again in some cases and generally polished the writing to make it the best I possibly can. I've read the stories out loud and spotted words left out, checked the rules and noted who the judges are. At last came the moment when the stories and cover sheets went into the respective envelopes along with the cheques for the appropriate entry fees and I dropped them into the post box. Others I submitted on-line with fees paid via PayPal. I can now forget about them and wait. 

Here is another reminder that there is still time to enter The Alfie Dog Fiction International Short Story Competition. The closing date is 30th September and there two great prizes: 

1st Prize:

£200 AND Publication of a short story collection of 35,000 – 40,000 words with editorial support for completion

2nd Prize:

full critique of stories to a total maximum word count of 10,000 words

Entry fees are the download of 5 short stories (different authors) so it has the added benefit of generating royalties for other authors. Stories are submitted online. Please click here for full details, Competition rules and entry form.

For those of you who still haven't entered, this is what Editor, Rosemary Kind, said in her review of last year's competition which you may find helpful:

'In the initial stages every story was assessed looking for how well they met key points. These included in no particular order: the title, opening, story arc, ending, the depth of the characters, speech, layout, emotion, originality, grammar etc, readability and reader satisfaction. Each story was scored in all of these areas.
While scoring them makes it sound like an objective process, clearly what constitutes a good opening is a subjective matter. You may also think there are some obvious things missing, such as whether the story was written from the right point of view and whether the writer had handled things such as point of view effectively, but the consideration of these came within the heading of reader satisfaction.
In later rounds stories were reread with more emphasis on originality, reader satisfaction and emotion and less on the basic components, which by this stage had been established. In purely statistical terms, endings were the weakest area and one many writers would benefit from looking at this aspect more closely. This was followed by the depth of characters and perhaps unsurprisingly openings. In contrast the mechanics of layout and grammar, punctuation, spelling etc were handled very well in almost all entries.
What set the better stories apart, more than anything, was the originality of their story ideas and the high level of reader satisfaction. Ideas were not contrived, but enabled the reader to suspend reality for a few minutes and enter a different world. Their characters were convincing and believable with a greater depth of emotion that touched the reader.'

Good luck to everyone!

Have you judged any writing competitions? Perhaps you'd like to tell us what you think makes a winning story.

Thank you for reading my blog. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Friday 4 September 2015

A First For Me
I am always amazed at the generosity of authors and writers in their support of each other. They celebrate each others' successes, commiserate when stories are rejected and encourage  other writers to keep going, especially when times get tough. You only have to read comments on Twitter and on Facebook Writer pages to see evidence of this. I still consider myself to be a beginner writer aspiring to have my writing published and so far my achievements have been very modest. However, the support I've received from writing buddies, an on-line critique group, my followers on social media as well as in the writing groups I attend locally has been immense. Although the life of a writer can sometimes be a lonely one, it is made all the more comfortable knowing that fellow writers are out there supporting you.

One writer I 'met' on line was Susanna Bavin from Llandudno in North Wales. I  first met her as a buddy when I did NaNoWriMo for the first time in November, 2014. It was clear from the outset that she was very supportive, encouraging me to keep writing each day in order to achieve my goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month. Knowing there would be an encouraging comment from Sue at the end of each day in my In-box spurred me onto the finishing line.
Since then, she has regularly commented on my blog posts and takes the time to publicise them through retweets and favouriting.

I am a follower of her excellent blog where the topics are wide ranging and thought-provoking. As writers we always receive a 'thank you' from her in the form of a lovely photo of a rose if we leave a comment or tweet about it. 

This week I am thrilled to be a guest on Susanna's Blog answering questions about my writing journey so far. This is a first of me and is further evidence of how supportive she is. So, in true Susanna Bavin style, here's a rose for you, Sue, to say thank you for inviting me:
Do you have someone you've met on-line who's encouraged you on your writing journey? What support have you had from other writers?

Thank you for reading.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Stories in a Flash
Flash Fiction goes by many names including micro fiction, short shorts, nanofiction. At my very first lesson on a short story course, I learned that a 'drabble' is a story in just 100 words and one of the most famous examples of flash fiction is a mere six words, attributed to Ernest Hemingway. 'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.' The reader is left with so many images and interpretations that are left unsaid. Flash Fiction appears to have gained in popularity over the last few years and there are plenty of opportunities to submit your stories. In fact, there is now a National Flash Fiction Day, held this year on June 27th. So what are the main characteristics of a Flash Fiction?

  • Brevity. It doesn't matter what the specific word count is, Flash Fiction condenses the story into the fewest number of words possible. You have to ask yourself if every word is essential to the story. This 'paring to the bone' is an excellent discipline for me as I tend to be very wordy when I start writing a story. 
  • A beginning, middle and an end. In spite of its concise form, the story structure and plot need to show a complete story. 
'For me, the basic fictional elements, such as character, setting, conflict, and resolution, still need to be present.'  Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, Competition Founder and Judge of Worcestershire LitFest Flash Fiction competition  

  • A twist or surprise at the end. Not all stories have to have one but it makes the reader think, long after reading. Other people say that the last line of a flash fiction can take the readers elsewhere, to a place where they can ponder about the ideas in the story, making re-reads inviting. 

This week I was very pleased to hear that two of my flash fiction entries into the Worcestershire LitFest Flash Fiction competition in June had been selected for the anthology 'A Stash of Flashes' to be launched in November. 

Do you like to write Flash Fiction? If so, how do you go about writing it? Do you start with a longer piece and chip away until all the superfluous words have gone or start writing with the tight word count in mind?

Thank you for reading and please leave your comments about Flash Fiction. :-) 

Now I'm going back to that first draft of a much, much longer piece of fiction, my WiP novel - 75,441 words and rising!

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Competitions - Are they Good For Writers?
You may think that this is a strange blog post following on from the last one where I told you that I was going to concentrate on my novel from now on. No, I haven't gone back on my word and written any short stories but I have edited and tweaked a few for competitions. 

I was delighted to have been long-listed for the West Sussex Short Story competition. Unfortunately I didn't make the final ten on the short-list  but I feel that the story has been given enough of a stamp of approval to try it elsewhere if it fits the remit of another competition.

So are there any benefits for a writer to enter competitions? For me, there's a buzz of taking up a challenge to write something that may grab the attention of a first reader or judge. It may be a panel of writing club members who sift through the entries and then recommend stories to go through for a further reading. I learned this when I wrote a crime story when I knew the judge was a crime writer, only to find out that she would only see the shortlisted entries of which mine wasn't one! 

As the world's worst procrastinator, I enjoy the deadlines that competitions give me. Those dates are written in my diary with dates to remind me to finish edits and write final drafts. Competitions can stretch you as a writer and you may be writing about themes, and in forms of writing, you may never have considered before. I like, too, the anonymous aspect of competitions. The success - or lack of it! - depends on nothing but the words I have written and the story I have created.

Another benefit from entering competitions is that writers can learn from the feedback given by judges. Last year I was fortunate enough to have been long-listed in the Alfie Dog Short Story competition and the editor, Rosemary Kind's general feedback on the site was very helpful. We learned how the judging process was organised and what she was looking for in a winning story. 

'What set the better stories apart, more than anything, was the originality of their story ideas and the high level of reader satisfaction. Ideas were not contrived, but enabled the reader to suspend reality for a few minutes and enter a different world. Their characters were convincing and believable with a greater depth of emotion that touched the reader.This latter point is something you will see clearly if you read the winning entries.'

If you would like to read last year's winning stories, you will find them HERE 

With this in mind, why not enter the 2015 competition? The closing date for entries is September 30th so you have some time yet. 

1st Prize:

£200 AND Publication of a short story collection of 35,000 – 40,000 words with editorial support for completion

2nd Prize:

full critique of stories to a total maximum word count of 10,000 words

Entry fee – the download of 5 paid short stories by different authors (Purchase number required on entry)

You will find full details at Alfie Dog Fiction.

I'd love it if you would like to download any of my stories as your part of your entry fee. Here's the link showing you where to find them. Thank you.

Here is another exciting competition that caught my eye and may appeal to those of you who enjoy writing longer stories. 'The People's Friend' has launched a serial writing competition for those writers who haven't had a serial published in the magazine. In the current 'Writers' Forum', Shirley Blair, the editor, gives tips on writing a serial for the magazine along with writers who have had serials published there. The closing date for this competition is October 30th and full entry details may be found on www.the

So, there's plenty of writing to do over the next few weeks as well as moving on with the novel. 

Do you enjoy entering competitions? Which ones appeal to you and which ones would you recommend? Please leave a comment about your experiences and feel free to share your successes, too. It's always good to hear how other writers have fared.

Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

And now back to the novel....HONESTLY!