Seek & You Shall Find…

Easter Egg hunts, flowers, aunts, cafes and writing inspiration – just some aspects of Elaine’s and Francesca’s Easters.

Forsythia

Elaine: I can’t believe it’s nearly Easter again. The sun has been shining and my garden is in full bloom with the spring flowers. The daffodils and snowdrops gave me the first lift of colour that comes with the change of season, quickly followed by the array of colour provided by the tulips. Many years ago, my aunt, who I’m sad to say is no longer with us, gave me a cutting of the forsythia from her garden. Every year, the bright yellow of the leaves lifts my spirits and reminds me of her. The Camellia I bought several years ago, at London’s Columbia Road Flower Market, steals the show this year with it’s beautiful red flowers. Unfortunately, they are quite delicate and the wind tends to blow the petals off, so it is short lived but wonderful all the same.

Camellia

Easter is a religious celebration that has been grabbed by a rabbit and become all about the chocolate eggs. Thanks to the wonders of television, great and persistent marketing over many years means commercialism wins again. There is probably a generation or two that doesn’t know what Easter is really about, which I find quite sad. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start preaching; it ends here.

Traditionally, my mother visits for a few days over the Easter bank holiday and catches up with all the family. With grown up children, I have long since stopped buying them chocolate eggs, despite their complaints.

Last year, my husband and I came up with an Easter egg hunt for our grandson, who was five at the time. We wrote out clues and hid them with mini eggs all around our house, thinking it would keep him occupied for most of the day, but we clearly underestimated his intelligence and it lasted all of ten minutes! Although, it has to be said, he wanted us to repeat it many times throughout the day. We are planning to do it again this year, but trust me, the clues are going to be much harder and we aren’t just hiding chocolate. We thought we would mix it up with puzzle books and other things he enjoys.

School Easter bonnet parade

Francesca: Of course you could argue that ‘Easter’ itself  was originally the pagan festival of the Saxon goddess of spring, Eastra, appropriated for a Christian festival. But yes, I understand where Elaine is coming from. As a child I remember there only being Easter eggs and cards in the shops, not all the paraphernalia you can buy now. And is it just me, or did Easter egg chocolate have a different, yummier taste? I’ve no idea why. These days it doesn’t seem to taste any different to ordinary chocolate. 

For many years I helped organise a children’s event called the Good Friday Project, which involved a lot of different Easter and spring crafts and the making of hot cross buns. We’d have a huge swathe of children turn up for it in the morning, at the local church hall. It was a joyous occasion (if darned hard work!). My long suffering children used to come along year after year, even when they were too old for it, latterly as helpers. The idea for one of the first stories I ever sold was based on this occasion. There are stories everywhere!

Who can get to the eggs first?

As a child and teen I spent all my Easters at my dad’s cafe. It was the beginning of the seaside cafe season. As a teenager I worked there, first as a washer-upper and later as a waitress. How I longed to spend the festival doing exactly what our customers were doing – enjoying a weekend away. I was 21 before I had my first Easter in a place other than that cafe. Hence the premise of the very first novel I ever wrote – a Young Adult – about a fourteen-year-old stuck in a cafe!

Spoils! Maisie the dog looks hopeful

My three grandchildren will be around over the Easter weekend and, like Elaine, we’ll organise an Easter egg hunt. Hopefully the weather will be good and we’ll do it out in the garden like last time. It’s lovely to catch their infectious enthusiasm and view these occasions through their eyes, instead of our usual world-weary ones. The three of them are a source of inspiration for me as I base the very young characters in my writing on them. Hope they won’t mind too much when they get older.

Happy Easter to everyone and don’t forget to let us know how you celebrate it.

@RobertsElaine11

@FCapaldiBurgess

A recent interview we did with Sophia Bennett, the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2017

I’m So Excited…

Elaine brings her dream to life.

Happy Easter everyone, I can tell you I have never wanted Easter to arrive so much as this year. I hope you are shouting, or at least wondering, why.

I have finally been given the opportunity to stop working for someone else and embark on my second career as a full time writer.

A spare bedroom has been converted into an office for me; a white board has been put on the wall, in my line ofIMG_0943 vision. I can leave my work sprawled out and shut the door on it ready for the next day. There are no excuses now. There is no hiding behind work commitments. Will I finally be found out or will I succeed in getting my novels published. This opportunity is a dream come true for me and I intend to grab it with both hands and not let it pass me by.
Of course, my dream has taken on a life of its own. Not only am I hoping to become published with my novels, I already aIMG_0942m with my short stories, but I’m also hoping to lose a couple of stone in weight. No, the two aren’t connected but the office where I worked always had lots of biscuits and
cakes, so with the temptation being removed, I’m hoping the fat will follow suit, but I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Do I have a plan? Indeed I do. My day will be structured as if I am still leaving the house to go to work, only not as early. I write best in the morning because a half an hour siesta is always welcome in the afternoon, that’s probably due to spending many years living in Cyprus. The idea will be to set a word count for the day; however, if I’m in the zone then I will continue to write. When that is completed, I will plan the writing for the following day. I still have to write approximately 40,000 words before my novel target of 100,000 words is completed, I would say it’s a first draft but it isn’t, although it will still need editing.IMG_0946

My excitement can be tempered with fear of the unknown and the hard work that is ahead of me, but the difference is I will be doing something I love. It just goes to show if you plan, prepare and keep the dream alive, anything is possible. The next step is to carry that dream to the next level. Plan, prepare and keep the dream of publication alive.

Share your secret dreams with us. If you could give up work and do anything, what would you do, other than watch daytime television?

@RobertsElaine11

New Beginnings

Elaine and Francesca look forward to Easter and the chance for New Beginnings.

Elaine: The first short story I had published, almost two years ago to the day, was called New Beginnings and it certainly was for me.

I attended a writing class for six months, mainly because I wanted to write a novel, but was also encouraged to write short stories as well. I didn’t have a clue where to start or if I could write a story that was only two thousand words long. I wrote a couple but never sent them off. good-news-300x225To be honest, I couldn’t believe anyone would want to buy a story I had written, but I was wrong. The day the e-mail came from the magazine, saying they wanted to buy my story, is a day that will stick in my memory forever. I was alone in the house when it arrived. I read the three-line e-mail several times before it sunk in. Someone did want to buy my story. I ran up and down my front room, cheering and waving my hands in the air. Anyone passing my front room window would have thought I was a lunatic. My heart was pounding. Taking a deep breath, I dialed my husband’s work number but he was in a meeting. I tried ringing my son but he didn’t answer his phone. I rung my daughter and she was unlucky enough to be the person that answered. It has to be said that she didn’t understand a word I was saying.

My story was a about an elderly lady who had lost her husband five years earlier.IMG_1018 The garden had become neglected and it was something they had cared for together, but the time had come for her to get her life back on track. What is surprising is I originally wanted to write a story around visiting a garden centre, but actually that was how it ended.

That story was truly a new beginning for me as my published short stories are now in double figures. My love will always be my novels and I have completed three now, two of which will probably never see the light of day, but the third, a modern romance, has potential. I’m now writing my fourth, which is a historical saga. This is a totally new adventure for me or possibly another new beginning.

 @RobertsElaine11

Francesca: Like Elaine, I’ve had a story published called New Beginnings, though they changed the title to A New A New Beg story WNews smBeginning. It was the second story I had published and, in itself, could be said to be part of a new beginning for me, as a published writer.

The story was about a woman who ended up doing the same things for her local community and with her family every Easter, things they always expected her to do, but never anything she really wanted to do. It’s about how she breaks out of the rut and asserts herself. The tale was based on my own experience, though exaggerated for literary effect.

Spring is my favourite season and I particularly love April and May, with its blossom and bright, bourgeoning leaves, the fluffy chicks, downy ducklings and cute little lambs. There is the promise of lighter evenings and the weather’s gradually getting warmer, but not as hot and muggy as in the summer.

IMG_5874

‘A host of golden daffodils’. Taken today, just down the road from where I live.

This week I’ve seen at least four bumble bees, their fat, furry bodies buzzing round the nascent flowers. Earlier today I even saw a butterfly, a clouded yellow, on my way for a walk in the nearby meadow. Soon that will be exploding with the colour of its myriad wild flowers.

Lighter days, brighter colours, warmer weather: what’s not to like? I always feel better this time of the year, after the long, dragging winter. It seems to kick start my body and I get more done. Kind of like, well, a new beginning!

@FCapaldiBurgess

The Four Seasons

With Christmas fast approaching, Natalie kicks off December by asking how the seasons affect our writing.

As writers do we make a conscious effort to link our tales to seasonal events? This can be a good selling point with our short stories but similarly it can tie us down. We have to time it right so that our story lands on the editor’s desk at the right time. If we’re writing historical novels, or even contemporary ones, how important is it to incorporate events of the time frame your book covers?

In the past I’ve been quite diligent about setting some of my short stories to match seasons and events but there is a definite downside to this practice. Without wishing to go into details of percentage uptake and rejection, not all stories are leapt upon by the editor saying they are just what’s neehaunted-house-ghosts-5675901ded. The rejection, if and when it comes, may be long enough delayed to preclude sending it on to another magazine which will by then have filled all available slots. The upshot of this is that you have a story you are quite pleased with (or you wouldn’t have submitted it in the first place) which will now have to wait another year before the opportunity arises to submit elsewhere. Has this stopped me writing a Valentine’s Day story, or one about ghouls, goblins and ghosts for Halloween? It hasn’t.

I have had some degree of success but what I also have is a stock of stories awaiting their time in a ‘to be submitted’ folder. Consequently, I can write these at my leisure and pull them up as and when appropriate.

Does the same thing obtain when applied to novels? Of course it doesn’t. None of us would write a whole book then file it 31311061away until Easter comes around just because that festival is central to our plot. What we do, what we must do, is ensure that we get our facts right. We can’t have our heroine walking around in shorts and T-shirt in the middle of winter, or eating ice-cream in a blizzard – not too sure about this one…I’m sure there are many of us who would eat ice-cream whatever the weather. Why wouldn’t you when it looks like this? Shorts and T-shirt would also not be appropriate if we’re writing a historical novel, no matter what the weather was like! These are the sort of things that challenge and inspire a writer and will often send them off on a ‘research trip’ that might lead to all sorts of fascinating things, none of which is usable in the book but my goodness they’re fun.

In my work in progress I send my heroine to Scotland over Hogmanay. It was a very enjoyable exercise investigating how they celebrate north of the border. Don’t assume just because you bring in the New Year while watching the celebrations on television that you know all about it. Sadly I had to resort to research online and could only dream about actually going up there. One day maybe.

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To sum up, seasons are not just events, they are weather, clothing, even the food we eat. It may not be necessary always to make a big deal about these things. Just alluding to them might be all we need to make a point, a little salt here, a little pepper there. Just another form of season. What we must do is be diligent and get our facts right because as sure as God made little apples someone will notice if you get it wrong.