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Writing because words are the essence of my life.


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The joy of joining Twitter’s writing community

Twitchpit

Twitter for writers!

Up until a few months ago, my Twitter account was sleeping. I had once used it for my online business (hence my username @thecushionlady) which is now defunct, but I read somewhere how important social media is when you’re querying and publishing your work and figured I needed to prod it awake.

I am so glad I did. Over the past few years I have written two and a half novels and numerous short stories. This year I have focused on editing my second novel, Crone, and I’ve had three short stories accepted for publication. I am finally at the stage, of submitting Crone to agents and publishers.

This is a huge and nerve-wracking step – certainly for me anyhow. I also find it a slow process because I research the agents first. I need to know I would trust them to nurture and sell a novel that is quite precious to me. You’d think that any writer would jump at any opportunity to be published, but I feel I need to get it right. With that in mind I spend ages writing a covering letter, tweaking the synopsis and the requested number of chapters and agonising over everything I’m sending.

What a comfort Twitter is then! There are writers galore going through exactly the same thing and you can learn so much from them. By seeing their tweets on my timeline I’ve found out all about how to post snippets from my #WIP (work in progress) and about twitter pitching.

Let’s take sharing snippets first. Most days there is a way of sharing what you’re writing. My preferred three are #2bitTues #1lineWeds and #Thurds. There is generally a theme posted and you scan your #WIP for lines that match. I have come to see this as excellent editing practice. Trying to get a sentence into 140 characters can be a real challenge and you quickly recognise words that are redundant, and how you can make things more succinct and to the point.

Twitter pitching contests are actually great fun. Again there are a variety, and they pop up every few weeks or so. The idea is that you pitch to interested agents and publishers, again using 140 characters, along with a genre identifier, and age (so in my case #A #H = adult and horror).

The first one I did was for #PitchCB – a British literary agency and I was ridiculously nervous. I had high hopes and great expectations but they sadly came to naught. That was my first lesson.

I had a look at pitching techniques though and quickly learned some useful stuff. I will write more about that at some stage.

After that I tried a few US based pitching contests, and some of these are exciting – I’ve really enjoyed them on the whole. It’s important to check out the guidelines of course, as there are rules. You can usually post several tweets, and then sit and watch as reams of other writers’ tweets articulate a book’s heart and soul in a tiny amount of space. It’s fascinating and occasionally I think “Wow! I want to read that!” There are so many talented writers out there, you know? I’ve been lucky. I have had a few bites, and Crone is now out there querying in the USA following interest from US based agents and publishers, which I’d never considered before!

I use the Twitter pitching alongside my normal querying – but again sporadically. I think Crone is currently out with a combination of 8 agents and publishers. I don’t want to send the novel here, there and everywhere. I’ll take a break and consider any feedback I get (if I get any) and then try again.

The final point about using Twitter as a writer is that most writers are happy to share the love. You can like and retweet any genius you come across, and they will respond in kind when you nail a tweet about your #WIP. I’m loving it and I’ve made some great new friends. Give it a try and feel free to follow me!

 

 

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An open letter to everyone who voted Conservative yesterday and why you should hesitate before you pat yourself on the back.

I’m scared too, and bitterly disappointed that we have a society where people don’t care about each other.

Wilsher 's Blog

To everyone who voted conservative yesterday,

I hope you’re happy. Actually that’s a lie, I really don’t. But before you sit smugly down and give yourself a big pat on the back I’d like to ask you a few questions.

Do you think you haven’t benefitted from the system you are currently trying to break down? As a child, did you ever go to hospital? Have you had an education? Did you ever use a library? Have you ever been on a bus? If so, you have benefited from a system which subsidises facilities with taxes. And now you have, you are willing to take it away from everyone after you. Correct me if I’m wrong but that doesn’t seem very fair. You cannot have socialism and a support system when you need it but then be unwilling to support it for other people.

Now if you are someone who…

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Rise like a phoenix and banish the right wing malaise in the UK

Rise like a phoenix

Rise like a phoenix

I watched Eurovision on Saturday (BBC One, 8 pm, Saturday 10th May). This is not an unusual occurrence, indeed I have loved Eurovision since I was a kid. The pure spectacle, the costumes and increasingly the staging of the show all stroke my inner happiness. It’s a special night full of laughter and tears (of mirth usually) followed by the usual banter about block voting and how predictable it all is.

I don’t take it seriously, I just enjoy it for what it is.

This year though I was moved – with real actual emotion – to tears. Having watched all of the acts perform, my husband and I duly registered votes for The Netherlands and Austria and then I waited with bated breath to see who would come out on top. What would Europe think of Conchita Wurst?

I hope I’m open minded always, but I must admit to doing a double take the first time I saw Conchita in her gold frock with that beard; but any doubts I had – that she was a gimmick maybe – were quickly dispelled when she started to sing. Great song, so fitting – fabulous performance. And the staging? Brilliant! I loved it all.

So while the votes were being counted, I held my breath. What would the UK say? Who would they vote for? What would Europe think?

Well it turns out that a Minister in Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told national TV stations that her win meant ‘the end of Europe’. He has supposedly stressed that ‘They [Europe] don’t have men and women any more. They have “it”. Russia’s views on homosexuality are of course well-known and that, coupled with their recent behaviour in the Ukraine, meant that unfortunately for their totally blameless young female singers on Saturday, the audience constantly booed whenever Russia received any points.

But the UK (along with many other European countries) gave their douze points to Conchita Wurst and Austria. I was totally speechless for a moment and so very, very thankful. I really felt the love. And that was without consuming any alcohol! If we are a country that is so open-minded and welcoming of such diverse kinds of people then why the hell does UKIP even exist? Why are we considering leaving Europe?

Such mixed messages from the UK. On the one hand there is so much right wing hatred around at the moment, so much about this country that is hard-core and uncaring, and on the other we’re a nation who rejoice in difference.

Gorgeous. Simple.

Gorgeous. Simple.

On Saturday, Conchita Wurst accepted her win graciously in the name of ‘everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. We are unity.’ Who knows what will happen when we go to the polls next week, but I for one really hope that all those lovely people who watched Eurovision with me on Saturday night and willed Conchita on to win and to ‘rise like a phoenix’ won’t be the ones who stay at home and don’t bother to have their say. This is not the time for voter apathy. The right wing and those who hold racist or extreme views will not be apathetic. Just because our leanings are more peaceful, caring and sharing and loving does not mean we should just let things be. Sometimes we do have to stand up and be counted.

We cannot afford to ostracise ourselves anymore in Europe and we have a duty to forthcoming generations not to let this insidious right wing malaise creep ever more into our society and national thought.

Peace out folks!


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Bonkers Mortgage Brokers, Books and Bollox: Part 1

House moving is completely bonkers

House moving is completely bonkers

The whole house move thing is almost as stressful as everyone would have you believe. I can summarise my angst with three concepts:

• Mortgages
• Books
• Lack of control

Big house small house.

Big house small house.

My husband and I had hoped to be mortgage free when we sold this house, but unfortunately we aren’t even close to that. Given that we’re moving south, our lovely four bedroom Derbyshire house is only worth a two up two down terrace, down there, which on one hand is perfect because that’s all we want. However, because prices in the East Midlands do not seem to have held their own, we’re selling for less than we bought for 7 years ago which is a bit of a bummer to be honest. It means we need to take out another mortgage. Should be straight forward right?

Wrong! We went to take advice from our (very efficient and not at all bonkers) mortgage broker. Apparently because we’re taking on a business we cease to be of interest to the banks. They only lend if you have a guaranteed income. Although our business is established, the banks aren’t interested because when we take over it all becomes Day 1 trading. I was pretty disappointed about this news because … well…

I’m an army brat! There. I’ve said it. I’m not sure I ever say it with pride. For me it is all about turmoil and insecurity.

I look great in khaki

I look great in khaki

My Dad exited the Forces when I was 19, so I spent my entire childhood moving from place to place. I once worked out that I went to 16 different schools between the ages of 5 and 18. Fortunately for me, the BFES (British Forces Education Services) employed some very gifted teachers and I did ok. But the moving around; I hated it! Some army brats get so used to this nomadic way of life that they spend their entire adult lives moving around and they enjoy it. I, however, am desperate to find somewhere to put down roots. The next house I buy I want to be the one I live in until I die and hopefully that will be a long time away! The longest I have ever lived in one house is 7 years and that’s in the one I currently occupy, and sadly I have only ever thought of this as a means to an end.

So we can’t get a mortgage for at least 12 months and probably closer to 3 years. Boo.

I have now started to hunt down houses for rent and I have approached several estate agents. We have dogs so renting is not straight forward at all, but there are a few houses available. What’s completely awful is that rental values down South are as much or more than our current mortgage. I mean, really? We can’t get a mortgage but we can pay extortionate rent? Blimey.

Say what?

Say what?

Or so I thought anyway. I phoned one estate agent yesterday to book a viewing on a property next week and she asked about our ‘situation’. I explained and she said they would need to see proof of income to sort out a rental deal. I explained our ‘situation’ again, more clearly perhaps, and said we wouldn’t be able to show a year’s worth of accounts as we were starting with Day 1 trading. I had this sinking feeling in my gut that we weren’t going to be eligible to rent either. We could really be up shit creek, couldn’t we?

Fortunately, it transpires that if we can pay 6 months’ rent in advance we will be able to rent. No
problems there then, because we will have the excess money from the sale of the house waiting to go as a deposit on a new house somewhere. Maybe we should buy a static caravan instead? But what do you do if you don’t have a deposit?

It was never this difficult to get somewhere to live when I was a student!

My perfect home! There I am, writing away!

My perfect home! There I am, writing away!

However, I put an ad on Gumtree to see if anyone had anything we could rent, and I have been contacted by a really lovely couple with a beautiful little cottage that is perfect for us. I am crossing everything that can be crossed that we get this one because it just sounds fabulous! No room for you lot to come and stay though ;-p

More on that in the future!

Cross your fingers, dear reader xxx


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The Fine Art of Gazumping

Buying a business: A risky game of chance

Buying a business: A risky game of chance

I’ve been a bit quiet again, haven’t I? Oh, if only I had my feet up in the sunshine with a cocktail! No, instead I have been standing as a Green Party candidate in my local Ward and I have been busy achieving and losing my dream.

Does that sound confusing? Sorry about that!

Twelve months, when it was becoming apparent that my days in my old ‘career’ were becoming seriously numbered, my husband and I fell in love with a little post office and convenience shop in Somerset. We decided we would like to pursue it so we put our house on the market. Unfortunately someone else bought it before we could. Boo!

By August I knew I was leaving my old job and I was pretty poorly, so we started looking for something else. We found a Post Office and Convenience store in Devon this time (where I hail from). What sold it to me, apart from the glorious rural and seaside location, was that it had accommodation and part of that accommodation included a barn.

A barn! My very own barn! To write in! It was then that The Writer’s Barn was born. Oh I wanted that space very badly. We were confident our house would sell. We made our offer through Kings Business Transfer, had it agreed, paid £6000 for the deposit, and started discussions with the Post Office. It was all in hand. Surely it was just a matter of time?

Well no. I took redundancy at the end of September. I wrote and wrote through October. I started work at the grotto in November to eke my redundancy payment out. Christmas came and went. I was unemployed. Still the house didn’t sell.

The Somerset PO came back on the market after its sale fell through. We had first refusal but felt that now we had agreed to a sale with the Devon PO we should remain loyal and continue on with that. But we still had to sell our house!

People came to see the house and moaned about ‘not being able to see what size the rooms were’ or that ‘it needed a new kitchen’ or that there was ‘only one parking space’ etc. etc. Crazy things. It got to the stage where I actually hated anyone coming around because it felt a bit personal having someone moaning about my house.

The winter dragged on. We seemed to have a lot of lingering snow and not many people viewed at all between January and March. Occasionally, our Estate gents would phone up and expect someone to see the house within the next 10 minutes, invariably when we were out or away!

Out of Reach

Out of Reach

The nice man at Kings Business Transfer would keep phoning me up to check on progress, and I felt guilty, both for him and for the seller of the Devon PO for keeping them waiting. Every viewing that didn’t pan out was a kick in the stomach. But he was very nice. Kept saying he was ‘rooting for us’ and would keep ‘everything crossed’ etc. I was genuinely touched. That’s how bloody naïve I am!

Then miracle of miracle, we had two young couples within two weeks of each other who asked for second viewings! The second couple came for the first time on the Tuesday evening and then came back on the Wednesday. By Thursday we had an offer and started negotiating. Alleluia!

I instantly phoned Kings Business Transfer to give them the news. I was so excited! Finally! Our dream was actually about to come true. The man at Kings seemed a little underwhelmed which surprised me rather. He said he would speak to the seller and get back to me. Oh. I nibbled my thumb nail. Twiddled with my hair.

I waited and waited for the phone to ring. It didn’t. Twelve hours passed and nothing. Now it doesn’t really take a sixth sense to know when something has gone wrong, does it? And I think I knew something was up when I spoke to the man at Kings. Meanwhile, I was completely on tenterhooks. Climbing the walls. I couldn’t believe it was Friday and I wasn’t going to hear anything until after the weekend possibly. I was ready to hit the valium!

Finally 25 hours after I phoned Kings Business transfer, the agent got back to me. ‘A bit of bad news’ apparently. He had not been able to get hold of the seller on the Thursday and had kept trying. That day, that VERY day, someone had WRITTEN to him and offered a higher amount than us. He had to give the two offers to the seller for her to choose ‘when’ he could get hold of her. Could I up my offer? Well, no. We accepted a lower offer so that we could get moving with the PO. That was all of our money.

Tears and tribulations

Tears and tribulations

If it had been a verbal offer from the new buyer, he explained, he might have been able to swing it. My, my. A higher written offer on the day we were set to actually do the deal. What a coincidence. I can just imagine the flurry of phone calls along the lines of , ‘if you want it, you hve to move fast and you have to write to me’ that got the higher offer on the table in writing. Pah! Supposition on my part of course but … really? Of course the seller chose the higher offer. And with that, my bubble was well and truly popped.

All that effort. All those months of trying, of waiting and praying. To add insult to injury I had to wait nearly a fortnight to get my deposit back, and it came back as a cheque that I then had to wait to clear, even though I had sent it via BACS in the first place. They didn’t offer any interest on it either, even though they had had a big wad of my cash for 7 months.

So I expect my next few blogs will be looking at house moving, buying a business and finding somewhere new to live … keep reading!


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The Trouble with Freelancing Part 3

I'm a twit too

I’m a twit too

Hi all

As promised here’s the letter that I wanted to share with you. I found it on another website http://www.winwithoutpitching.com/why-i-charge-more when I was doing some research during the week and I sat and pondered for quite a while about what I thought about it.

Anyway, here’s the text:

Why I Charge More

A Designer’s Open Letter to His Future Clients

January 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm by Blair

Sometimes we do it for the money, don’t we? The irony is that the less money we’re paid, the more likely we are to be doing it for the money. When we’re paid well, it’s suddenly about something much bigger. Here’s a letter you might take, modify and use in many forms and many ways.

It’s yours if you’d like it. No need to attribute.

“The more I charge you, the more pressure I put on myself to perform for you.

Freelancing quandaries

Freelancing quandaries

“The client who grinds me on price is the least satisfied. He gets less attention from me and is most likely to be pissed off at me. And I don’t really care, because to be honest, I resent him. The very fact that he is on my roster reminds me that I’m part prostitute. For him, I’m doing it for the money and as it isn’t very much money I’m not troubled by not doing it well. He pays me a paltry sum, I perform poorly, he gets angry and I resent him. We can have that type of relationship if you like.

“The client who pays me the premium gets my best work. He’s the one I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about, wondering if I’m doing all I can to earn his money. When he calls, I jump. Hell, I call him first. I take pride in moving his business. I try to make myself indispensable to him. I imagine that he winces when he opens my bill (he doesn’t say), but he thanks me for all I do for him. He’s the one I worry about.

“I’m great at what I do, but if someone hires me without giving me the resources (money, time, access) to do a great job, it’s easy for me to rationalize poor performance. When a client gives me everything I ask for, he removes all the obstacles to a high quality outcome. There’s no way for me to rationalize anything less than perfection.

“There is no greater pressure than the pressure I put on myself, and the only way you can add to my own sense of pressure is to pay me well. Yelling won’t do it. Neither will threatening to pull your business. My deep sense of obligation comes from you paying me well enough to dispatch all of the excuses. Then I have to prove to you, and, more importantly, to me that I am as good as I say I am.

“So, I’ve given you my price and it’s the price that I need to charge to bring a deep sense of obligation to the job. Will I work for less? Probably. Can you negotiate with me? Sure. We can have that type of relationship if you really want me to be that type of designer and you want to be that type of client.

“Let’s just understand each other before we get started.”END

It’s interesting isn’t it? I’m kind of in two minds here. I would hope that I never give less than my best work but I have started to alter how I write my £10 articles. They get 30 minutes of research and 30 minutes of writing and a check over. Articles that I’m being paid more for get a lot more research, a lot more synthesis and I spend more time crafting my writing to match the client’s expectations.

Pen For Hire

Pen For Hire

I want to be proud of everything I write. My portfolio is growing at an incredible rate and I love getting new jobs with interesting challenges. At the end of the day I’m a pen and a creative brain for hire. I’m worth what people pay; the trick is finding people who have the vision to see how much better I am than many others out there, but who also have slightly deeper pockets!

I’m still new to this freelancing malarkey however, and I don’t know how picky I can afford to be and still pay the bills. Any advice out there?

xxx

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