Friday, November 27, 2009

The true meaning of Christmas

I actually started some Christmas shopping today. Over the past few years I have got so fed up of the Christmas season being rammed down our throats far too soon. It usually begins with the advertising on tv. Why do people have to act like the world will end if they don't have or achieve such and such by Christmas? If it's not the new sofa from DFS then it's the lose a stone by Christmas diet or the buy before Christmas but carrying on paying for it for many months to come thing.

Why don't we just go back to living one season at a time? When I was young I remember Christmas beginning at the end of November/beginning of December, not back early October. Let's go back to getting Halloween and Bon Fire night out the way first. I was gobsmacked to hear Christmas carols playing in one of the shops early in October.

Let's face it, in reality, Christmas these days is about spending as much as possible and buying presents that half the time people take back to exchange, pass on to others, stuff in an old drawer or dredge to the charity shop. Less in more. A thoughtful gift is the best gift of all.

One of the best Christmas presents I ever received was from an Austrian lady named, Eva. She didn't have much money so she made her own Christmas cards and visited the neighbours with her home made cakes and biscuits [cut into Christmas shapes and filled with melted boiled sweets to look like stained glass windows]. To me, that was the true meaning of Christmas. Eva gave of her time and her talents, meaningful and thoughtful gifts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Angel Story # 2

It was the Millennium year just before Christmas. I was on the approach to my fortieth birthday. I experienced a real mid-life crisis at that time. I don’t know why. Nothing was really wrong, but I felt like running away from my life and everything I knew.

On the 22nd of December, I went out for a family meal at a local restaurant. My mother presented me with a lovely birthday cake and had invited my brother and favourite uncle along as a surprise. Following the meal, the candles were lit and I blew them out. I remember feeling blessed that the people who meant most to me in life were there. We went home and I thought nothing much more about it.

The following day, I was watching a Christmas movie in my bedroom, one I had never seen before called ‘One Magic Christmas’.

There were so many similarities in it to my own life. The wife in the story never got the Christmas present she asked Father Christmas for as a child which was a Mr Potato Head. I had remembered writing a similar letter to him on Christmas and never got the present I asked for either, which was a Sindy Doll. So I could relate to this tale very well.

It transpired that the wife in the movie had a guardian angel named, Gideon. That was odd, I had always thought mine had the same name too.

I watched the film and enjoyed it and was about to get up to get ready to go out as we were due to deliver a Christmas present to my husband’s grandmother at her nursing home. Then I spotted it. A small Mr Potato Head on the cupboard in the bedroom. That was strange, I hadn’t remembered seeing my children play with one of those before. I knew that I certainly had not bought them one. So I asked my daughter did she know anything about it. She replied that yes, she did. A man had come up to her on the way out of the restaurant where my birthday celebration was being held and placed it in her hand. She had no idea who the man was. I assumed perhaps it was a member of staff.

Then later that day as we parked up at the nursing home and I got out of the car, I noticed a small white feather stuck to window on the passenger side where I had been sitting. That really made me wonder.

I related that tale to my daughter just last week and she found it incredible. She doesn’t remember being given that toy. I asked her if there were other times when we went to the restaurant when members of staff gave children small toys after their meals, and she said that as far as she was aware, they have never given toys to children.

Not long after that, my emotions settled down and I no longer felt as though I wanted to run away from life. Whatever happened, I can’t explain. Maybe they were all bizarre coincidences, but maybe not…

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I've got my excuse!

Okay, now I have my excuse to buy a pair of Jimmy Choos. I said, I think it was in my last but one post, that I would buy a pair for a special occasion. Well, now it's arrived. I passed my Open University A215 course! I suppose that is excuse enough.

Then maybe I will buy a bag like this to go with the shoes:
But I am only dreaming...sigh, the JCHOO bag and shoes would cost a whopping £835.50 altogether! The bag is onsale and is usually almost £1000! The shoes aren't on sale and are £358.00! Probably much more than the price of my entire shoe collection. An obscene amount of money really. Mind you, there are so many high street stores selling similar goods for a fraction of the price these days, I don't know if it is worth the bother to buy the real thing. Unless, it really would make me feel better to know I am sporting designer goods.

Knowing my luck one of the heels would get wedged in a crack in the pavement in no time!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What rational explanation is there?

I Googled my name earlier and found that one of my books is up on e-bay for a staggering US $107.14 plus postage of $3.49. See here:

This doesn't make any sense whatsoever to me as the book is still available at and my publisher's website for a more practical sum of $10.99
[6.47319 GBP]. For some reason though, I have yet to discover, it isn't available at any more only from independent sellers at exorbitant prices.

The best place for people to buy my first two books [It Happened One Summer and Return to Winter] is from my publisher's website. See here:

Yet, strangely, the third book I had published at The Wild Rose Press is still available for a reasonable price from independent publishers at

And why am I writing this particular post here today? To take my mind off my impending OU result for the A215 Creative Writing result. It's due out officially by post on Friday but there are signs the results will be published online shortly. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Shoes

After drooling after some of the Jimmy Choo shoes, I decided to buy this pair. No, I haven't gone mad and shelled out hundreds of pounds, I used my head and ordered them from Amazon [independent dealers] instead.

They were a snip at £16.99 and arrived within a couple of days. The heel is a little higher than I normally wear these days. But a girl has got to have a pair of killer heels. Wish I'd had the guts to purchase a pair of the red patent though!

I also purchased a pair of denim sandals. These were only a tenner and very comfortable.

As I write this I realise I have a bit of an obsession with shoes. There are seven pairs discarded on the floor beside me. I have got to stop using the computer room as a dressing/undressing room!

I will have a pair of Jimmy Choos one day, probably in the sale or maybe to reward myself for achieving something special...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Noise Pollution

Why are some people so disrespectful of others' feelings? I went to bed late and thought I would have a bit of a lie in the following morning as I didn't have to go into work until lunchtime. So I thought I'd get up around 9 am or thereabouts.

However, I was woken at 7.45 by an horrendous noise sounding like some sort of disc cutter. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window but could see nothing. It sounded very nearby and I thought: "Who the heck is doing work at this time of the morning?" Then I noticed my neighbour up the road walking down the street and talking to some men. It appeared that they were working on the large house next to him and were using his private car park without his permission.

My neighbour must have okayed them using his car park to gain access to the house next door and dump some of the rubble there. The disc cutter noise and something sounding akin to a pneumatic drill sounded intermittently all morning. It looked as if they were digging up paving stones and tearing down a side wall. The best of it was it looks as if the family who live in the house have gone on holiday, so they have no problem with the noise.

I don't think I would have minded so much if the workmen had started work a little later, I just hate being woken up. It puts me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

Although where I live looks as though it would be a quiet little area, there is often a lot of noise going on somewhere. As someone once told me, "It's the age of the power tool." So if someone isn't have their house updated hammering from dawn till dusk they are making other forms of noise.

I was once woken by two neighbours chatting outside at 6 am! What's the matter with people? The men are around retirement age and don't have to get up to go to work. So why are they outside chatting at that time of the morning? One of the men regularly used to wake us up when he came home following a night out with his wife and another couple. That went on for years until the club they visited closed down.

People don't seem to have so much respect for their neighbours any more. Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I have been unlucky this time, I don't remember having this problem where I lived before. Or maybe I am just a bit of a grump!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The World of Mills and Boon

Whenever the phrase 'romance writer' is used I bet you conjure up a particular image? For a lot of people it might be a picture of someone not unlike Barbara Cartland, reclining on a chaise lounge in a floaty pink outfit, churning out novels each and every day.

So it might come as a bit of a surprise to know that some romance writers are quite beefy men. I met a couple at an RNA writing conference a few years ago. This morning I found an online article about one called Roger Sanderson who writes as Gill Sanderson. I haven't read any of his books yet, but I recognise the name.

Read full article here:

A snippet from the article implies that Roger is not alone in his pursuit as a male in a female dominated world. Who could image a former SAS man penning novels as 'Molly Jackson'? Or even that the author of The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, penned stories for girls as 'Edith Van Dyne'?

You might be wondering why I am writing about such things this morning? I accidentally stumbled upon an online extract from a book which I think is 'The Story of Mills and Boon'. If interested, you can view it here:

One of the things mentioned is that the firm confirms an important point for would-be authors in their guidelines that they are in the business of entertainment and that escapism needs to be based on reality.

That's why I am often puzzled when people speak of a Mills and Boon World as if it is some super duper haven where everything goes exceedingly well.

Anyone who has read a Mills and Boon book will know that that's not the case at all. For from it. For a start for a romance story to work there needs to be some sort of conflict and quite often the hero and heroine don't hit it off to begin with. And even if they do, there tends to be a period of time towards the end of the book when the Black Moment occurs. This is the moment when all appears lost. The reader may get the impression that the couple will go their separate ways but wills them to stay together. Of course, all is not lost. It never is in a Mills and Boon book. That's the beauty of it. The reader needs the Happy Ever After Ending or else will feel cheated. It's even been said in its time that reading one of these books was better than taking a Valium. I can well believe it.

But to get back to what people say of this Mills and Boon World. Even on the TV programme, Loose Women, this week it was mentioned in such a way as if to imply that one of these novels is a long way from reality. I disagree. More so now than ever do they reflect the modern world of romance. Some of them have mentioned terrorism, drugs and murder. They aren't all safe little stories for gullible little women. The heroines these days are often independent types with careers and know what they want from a man, not content to just lie back and think of England.

I say to these people who have a hazy vision of this genre, read a Mills and Boon book to find out what they're really like. Apparently 4 in 10 women read them [although I suspect many don't admit to it] and 11 million M&B novels are sold in this country.

It's strange though, why do I appear to be the only person who browses that particular shelf at my local WHS? Do women sidle along in disguise, looking both ways to ensure they aren't being watched, then sneak one from the shelf hiding it under a copy of Gardener's Weekly as they slink to the counter to pay for it?

Let's be up front about it. I'm coming out of the closet.

"My name is Lynette and I'm a Mills and Boon Junkie..."

Monday, July 27, 2009

The story behind the shoes...?

I've often wondered when I'm walking with the dogs, the stories behind various discarded items. Yesterday, I passed a white pair of flowered pumps that looked as though they may have once belonged to a teenager. The sole was torn out of the one and then, several feet away, lay the other in a small glass bus shelter.

What's the story there?

And why was the sole totally torn out of the one, yet the other was perfectly intact?

Did the young girl hop on a bus barefoot to get herself home? Or did she have a new pair for emergencies in her bag?

Further along was a man's blue hooded top discarded in a hedge.

A few weeks ago I even noticed a pair of Y-Fronts draped over a bush.

I'm even more bemused when I find one odd shoe. Like a red stiletto, discarded. Did someone lose it in the dark, or perform a Cinderella act at the stroke of midnight? And why leave one shoe behind? It must be mighty hard hobbling home on one five inch heel.

One day I was in the town and noticed a pair, of what looked like designer shoes on a flight of stairs, at the back of the shopping centre. Had someone tried them on and ran out of the store with them?

Who knows!

Lately I've been seeing odd rubber gloves on my travels. Usually blue. All sorts of explanations have come to mind regarding those! My son thinks it's more likely to be a dog walker cleaning up after their dog. But if that were the case, why clean the poo and leave the rubber glove behind?

The mind boggles...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Women want to read more sex in novels?

According to an article in Marie Claire Magazine, Women Want to Read About Sex. I can well believe this.

I wondered and I worried when my first book, It Happened One Summer, was published that the content might put some readers off. I remember telling my husband, "What would the elderly ladies think of it?" He replied: "They'll love it!" And they did and they do. Not that my books are over explicit mind you. I had thought that three letter word would not slip into my books, but I let the characters take over and they had other ideas.

The ages ranges of my readers are anything from 19 to 90 and beyond! I was really surprised when my mother sold one of my books to a 93 year old at a senior citizen's meeting. She must have liked it as she came back to purchase my next book. Having said that, she must have been a game girl as she had a boyfriend.

I've even read of romance readers who say that reading that genre has helped them in the bedroom department. I can well believe that, too. There's nothing like a little spice and raunch to put you in the mood.

Some of my readers are men, which surprised me. We don't tend to think of men reading romance novels, but they do, perhaps though many don't care to admit it.

I'd like to see romance novels properly categorised in book stores instead of being slotted in with general fiction. In the US they celebrate romance writing whereas we seem to ridicule it in this country. Dame Barbara Cartland was often a figure of fun in comedy sketches and in articles, yet she was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century. Ms. Cartland got into the Guinness Book of Records by selling over 1,000 million books in over 36 countries.

I honestly don't know if the three letter word crept into any of her novels, I expect it didn't. I am going to have to read one one day to find out!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Reviews for' It Happened One Summer'

"This is a comforting book, and I sensed that from the first page. Reading it is like curling up in a window seat on a cold gloomy day, with a fire crackling on the hearth, and a good book in your lap! The reader just instinctively knows that there will be a happily-ever-after conclusion, and instinctively that propels one forward through the book, with trust and optimism. Top recommendations for this one, and I anticipate future stories from this wonderful author!"

Reviewer: Annie Euro-Reviews 5 star excellent!

"Ms. Rees instills characters that leave a lasting impression with wonderful dialogue that enhances the story. The secondary characters are a welcome addition to the storyline. Ms. Rees knows how to hook the reader and fascinate in this compelling page-turner. It Happened One Summer is a phenomenal read that should not be missed."

~ The Romance Studio 5 hearts ~

"Ms. Rees fashions a tender romance with quick conversation that keeps everything flowing smoothly. The secondary characters are well-rounded and lend dimension to the story. She weaves a compelling story mixed with jealously, greed and betrayal that grabs the reader. This most refreshing read makes one feel good all the way down to the toes. This is one book that is truly a recommended read."

~ Fallen Angel Reviews, 5 Angels, Recommended Read ~

Purchase book here:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Murdered for his money?

There are now reports from Michael Jackson's family, particularly La Toya Jackson, that he was murdered. She claims there was a circle of shadowy figures who kept him from his family. He supposedly kept around £ 1 million at his home, and that along with some jewellery, has now gone missing.

See here:

And what the LA police chief says here:

Maybe Michael Jackson was murdered, who knows? There is a second autopsy report and toxicology report due shortly. But I can't help thinking that all of this is reminding me of when Princess Diana died. There are still people around today who believe she was murdered by some sort of secret service or even members of the royal family.

Could it be that people, particularly Michael's family, don't want to accept that he might have died from a self induced drugs overload and would prefer to think there were 'shadowy figures' out there responsible for his death.

In one article I read, La Toya claims that Michael was 'the loneliest man in the world' and had no real friends. Yet, I know of at least one good friend he had and that was Mark Lester, the former child star from the movie, Oliver. Jackson often visited Mark's home and they did 'normalish' things together. Mark is a godparent to Michael's children, so he must have trusted him. I also noticed him at the the memorial service.

Could it be that most of his family were so out of touch with Michael that they had no idea what was going on in his life? After all, it's often the case when someone dies that the people who did the least have the most to say. I hope I'm wrong about that though...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Me and my purse

I don't know what it is about me and purses, but I can never keep one for long. It's not so much that I lose them, although that has happened before now. More that I end up breaking into so many notes that there's always a lot of change in my purse which eventually starts busting out through the sides. It wasn't until I was going for the bus yesterday and could hear coins chinking against the pavement that I realised it was my purse bulging at the seams again.

The problem is that I get so used to the particular purse I have that no other one compares. I searched around town all afternoon looking for the perfect purse. They were either much too small without a section for credit/debit cards etc., or they were far too large. I managed though finally to find the perfect purse in New Look of all places. I wouldn't normally think to look in there. There was also the added bonus that it was half price, so I had it for £3.00 instead of £6.00. So I am one happy bunny until all those coins mount up again and split my purse open. If only I were more organised!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

shaheen sings at micheal jackson's memorial. best quality upload

This was the amazing performance of Shaheen Jafargholi from Swansea, at Michael Jackson's memorial on the 7th of August, 2009.

Monday, July 06, 2009

It Happened One Summer is back in print!

It Happened One Summer, my first novel, is now back in print! The Wild Rose Press now has their own book store and it's more economical for them to sell books via that than Amazon. Copies of the book can be purchased here:

Here's a short excerpt:

And some reviews:

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Over Heated

I went to work on Wednesday, and have to admit to feeling uncomfortably hot that day, but kept a bottle of water by my side and took frequent sips. I was dressed reasonably cool in a cotton short sleeve blouse and denim skirt and sandals. I waited at the bus stop to go home for around 10 -15 minutes, in the hot sun. I wore sun glasses but there was no shade. The bus when it turned up, felt like a green house inside. I walked around the town and did some shopping before ringing my husband from Wilkinsons to pick me up. I purposely chose that store as it's air conditioned and I could sit down and sip my bottle of water.

During the evening I felt pretty up beat. I sat outside in the shade for a short period of time and then cooked the evening meal. I went to bed before midnight with a mug of tea but couldn't drink much of it. This is usually a good indication with me if my stomach is playing up as I love my cup of tea.

I awoke early the next day with a splitting headache and extreme nausea. I rang in sick for work. I spent the majority of the day retching, nursing a sore head [that I couldn't take pain killers for because of the nausea], and extreme drowsiness. It was quite scary -- my husband was at work and my son was out for the day.

When I got up to go to the bathroom I felt giddy.

I rested as much as I could, took sips of water and put a cold compress on my head. There was nothing else I could do.

I realised by now it was heat exhaustion. I developed this back in 1976 during that extremely hot summer, but then I was out in the sun most of the time. This time I wasn't. The following day I still felt slightly head achy but able to eat a little.

Today, I am still off my food a bit and developed a sore neck for some reason when out shopping this afternoon.

What scares me is why I developed heat exhaustion this time when I wasn't doing anything particularly wrong? I kept as cool as I could, sipped water, kept in the shade when I could.

I am worried in case it happens again.

Maybe I am one of those people who is more prone to temperature rise and fall as I once fainted after being in the snow as a child.

Next time it's a hot day maybe I need to avoid hot drinks, drink double the amount of water, carry around a portable fan and if possible, avoid the bus altogether!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Forty Years Ago Today

Forty years ago today is the anniversary of the Investiture of Prince Charles at Caernarfon Castle, North Wales, when Prince Charles was crowned the Prince of Wales.

There was a lot of excitement going on at that time. I was eight years old and part of it. For weeks before there were preparations for street parties. In our street, Gladstone Terrace, the mothers got together with mothers from nearby streets to plan the party that was to be held in Hankey Place, a nearby side street. We lived on the main road, so a street party outside the front door was unthinkable.

It was a great day as tables and chairs were set out in the street. Mothers brought sandwiches, sausages on sticks, cakes, jellies and blancmanges.

Games were played and silly hats worn. The games that stick in my mind though are the ones the adults took part in like the mothers' races. My mother came joint first with another one, but I think it was ruled that the other child's mother had won by a hair's breadth. I was disappointed for my mother though. It would have been nice for her to have won something.

When the adults were busy playing bingo, I sneaked back home, probably to use the loo, and discovered that for the first time our duck had laid an egg. I remember being surprised at how big it was and took it to show my mother. Luckily I didn't drop it.

The sun shone all day that day.

When the events slowed down and people drifted away to go home, we were given a party bag with a toffee apple, sweets and a special commemorative mug to mark the prince's special day. I still have it on a shelf at home.

It was a day I'll never forget. A day when all the community got together to celebrate a very special event.

Monday, June 29, 2009

WHS: What's going on?

What's going on with WHSmith? For sometime now, I have noticed the one in my local town is on the decline. First of all, they closed the upstairs. It used to house quite a large music and video/CD department. Then I noticed a few months ago that they were bulking out the CDs and DVDs downstairs with empty cases to make it look as though there were more for sale than there were. They were also photocopying covers in black and white to insert in the cases.

On Saturday, I went in there to see if they had any Michael Jackson CDs and was astonished that the wall of CDs downstairs had disappeared. I asked a young man where they were and he pointed to a very small stand behind me. Then he informed me that they were going to stop selling them altogether in the near future.

This is like the end of an era. When I was a growing up, it was usually WHSmith or Woolies I went to look for my music [cassettes, singles and LPs back then of course.] In those days there was a special counter with someone serving just on the music department.

I don't know if this phenomenon of a decline is only happening in towns like mine where a big Tesco has been erected just yards away or if other WHSmiths in other towns are going the same way. The problem is that Tesco stocks practically all the same things that Smiths does and probably for a lot cheaper. It even sells some of the more specialist magazines.

Smiths was the place I used to go for my 'back to school/ or college' pens and papers, my weekly magazines and my music. Tesco isn't the same for me. It's a souless place. A giant engulfing the town and putting little businesses, well, out of business.

Dorothy Perkins left the town a couple of weeks ago and I hear that Burtons has either already gone or is on its way out. Of course we have them at the retail park, but again, that's not the same.

How long will it be before we see a piece of tumbleweed blowing down the High Street?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Death of a Legend

I was so sorry to hear of the death, late last night UK time, of Michael Jackson. He played the song track to my youth and beyond. One of his songs that really gets me is 'Ben'. They played it as a slow dance at the school disco of my first year at comp when I was almost 12. Chokes me up that song.

I don't know why, but I wasn't so surprised about his death as I have been when other legends such as Elvis and Princess Diana died. Maybe it's because he became reclusive in his latter years, and of course, we didn't seem to hear of any new releases from him for a long time.

It has been suggested that next month's concerts were a trigger for his death, insomuch as he might have been taking painkillers and maybe some sort of uppers. But at this point in time, it's all speculation. His concert dates were originally for 10 days but this increased to a whopping 50! Which would be gruelling for any performer no matter what their age or physical condition.

Of course, the sad thing is that even in death, there are still issues brought back up in the media. Yet, he was cleared of those, so the slate should have been wiped clean. I never believed those allegations. Who knows what effect the traumatic events had on his health? I think he was naive and childlike. A person who wanted to bring about peace in the world. A genuine good guy. I hope the doubters will get to see that in time.

The King of Pop has left behind a wonderful legacy by leaving us his music to enjoy for many years to come. I wouldn't be surprised if one of his former hits goes back to number one, in the album and singles charts.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Killed by cows

I was upset to read a news item posted at Yahoo this morning, entitled:

"Dog Walker Is Killed By Stampeding Cattle"

Upset, but not surprised. On more than one occasion I have walked my dogs and come across a herd of cows who have been more than a little intimidating when they have their calves with them. Sometimes, I have been taken by surprise when the herd have been where they aren't supposed to be. They seem to signal to one another by making a strange sound and give me the evil eye.

I have hoped and prayed as I walked by they didn't charge at us. Luckily the dogs were on their leads but I felt it best to walk at a normal pace and avoid eye contact when close up.

People have laughed at me when I've said I've felt threatened by them and asked, how could a cow possibly kill you? I replied, "Well if one fell on top of you, their weight would kill you for a start." I didn't know for certain then that they could stampede someone to death.

I notice in the article it said the same thing happened to another woman the year before.

The main thing to remember when out walking, particularly with dogs, is to respect the countryside. And to particularly respect the cows when they have their young offspring with them.

You just never know what could happen otherwise...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Crafting the Romance Novel

The latest edition of my e-book, Crafting the Romance Story, is now available from Lulu. There is a bonus chapter on 'Crafting the Love Scene' and it's available to you at a reduced cost of £4.00.

Here are the contents which include worksheets and character charts:

~ Chapters~

1. The Hero

2. The Heroine

3. Complimentary Characters

4. Where can I get my ideas from?

5. Conflict/Obstacles

6. Dialogue

7. Plot

8. Crafting the Love Scene

9. Beginnings, Middles and Endings

10. The Black Moment

11. Happily Ever After?

12. Marketing Your Submission

13. Useful Books and Websites

All the links have been updated and new writing markets added. This is only an 86 page book but it's packed with relevant, easy to digest information.

Click here to download now:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Me the Super Hero

I don't know what this image says about me...I popped over to read Liz Fielding's blog this morning and discovered she had turned herself into a comic super hero. So, I thought I'd try it too. If you want to have a go, click here:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Writing for free or for payment?

I usually advocate that it's best for a writer to write for payment. Now by this I'm not saying that a writer needs to be paid for every word he or she writes. After all, I'm not getting paid to write this blog, although of course there are ways of being paid to blog. What I'm saying is there are times when it's only right for a writer to be paid. An example of this would be if a writer is asked to write a column for a magazine on a regular basis, if that publisher is being paid for advertising and is paying other members of staff, then that would only appear fair for the writer in question to be paid.

It's a controversial issue. I believe in writing for free if it's to benefit a cause like a charity or to help someone out, but in the main I believe writers should be paid like any other profession.

Over the years, these are the kinds of things I have been paid for [not always large amounts mind you, but as the Tesco ad goes: Every little helps!]

1. Non fiction articles published online and in magazines

2. Short stories online and in magazines

3. Running online writing workshops

4. Running writing therapy groups

5. Royalties from my novels

I can even remember a time one month when I earned as much from writing as I do from my day job. However, post 911 a lot of online writing markets dried up or paid less. I had had a regular writing column but the website in question suddenly decided to stop paying writers. Their argument was "If you want to play a round of golf, you have to pay a fee!" To this day, I have no idea what was meant by it. Lots of writers pulled out of that website. I might have stayed but they also took away our free e-mail addresses.

So, along with lots of other writers, I left.

Not so long afterwards they began paying writers but in a different way. It was all about keywords and getting hits to the site. I think the money writers earned was probably a pittance for a lot of work. I don't think that site has the same feel to it anymore, somewhere along the line it lost it's energy, outlook and what it stood for.

There was another time when a new Canadian women's magazine was due to launch. I was offered a stint to write a regular column on personal development. However, the downside was I wouldn't be paid for it. The editor said I could write for it to 'make a name for myself' and then perhaps she would pay me!!!

Now, I wasn't that hard up to get my name in print. And I told her so. I also told her that as her magazine ran paid advertisements, and all the regular staff got paid, then so should their freelancers. Later on, after I had opted out, I found out she did indeed pay freelancers, but it was a pittance, but still, better than nothing.

I have witnessed online flame wars over the writing for pay issue, mainly from the people who think it's acceptable to write for publications like the one above, for free. How can a writer gain respect if all they do is write for nothing and maybe even put another freelancer out of a job by doing so?

Write for free on your website, in your journal, or to help a cause or someone out. But don't do it for the sake of it, especially, if it costs you dear in the long run.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Good old paper and pen!

Well, I have to say after my last post about my ailing novel, I went back to good old paper and pen today and it worked a treat. I had a break at work and my hand flew over the page. I managed around 1,500 words in quite a short space of time. Now the vicar is out of the bath and I have discovered something new about one of my characters.

I may try this a lot more in the future.

When I first started writing seriously about ten years ago, I always used pen and paper in the first instance and then typed it up. Over the years though I thought it was quicker and easier to go straight to the keyboard. It makes me wonder if in the process I lost some of my creativity that way. Does one use a different side of the brain or something when typing as opposed to writing, do you think?

It definitely cleared the cobwebs for me today!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why am I so slow writing this novel?

This really is a mystery to me. I started writing a follow up to A Taste of Honey, my romantic comedy, more than two years ago. That particular book was a pleasure to write and practically wrote itself. However, its follow up, A Spoonful of Sugar, is hard work. I wrote a follow up to one of my other novels, using two of the secondary characters from the first book as the heroine and heroine in the second. I am doing the same thing now but it's crawling along at a snail's pace.

It's not that I'm not happy with what I've written either or that the plotline so far has holes in it. I just seem to work on it in fits and starts. Yet, with everyone of my previous novels I have got them finished within months if not sooner.

I managed 1000 words the other day, which was great for me on this novel. My record is up to 6000 a day on my others.

At the moment I have left a funky motorbike and sidecar driving female vicar with her toe stuck up the tap whilst she's taking a bath! The hero, Antonio Santini and heroine, Suzie Frampton, have just arrived to rescue her.

Got to get the rev out of there soon. I can't leave her in a cold bath for months!

Does anyone have any idea why I am lagging behind with this book when the story reads quite well and I am enjoying the process but have to keep stopping and starting again?

This is a new one for me.

I want to finish it as one of my fans [yes, I do actually have some!] as just purchased A Taste of Honey and is asking about further publications.

I may have to try going back to pen and paper to see how that goes, instead of sitting in front of the keyboard.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Let down and letting it go

If there's one thing I really hate, it's being let down. It's happened to me a couple of times during this past week. One of the people who let me down is a family member that I love dearly. I could see it coming, and to be honest, I believe there is something behind it that I won't go into here.

I think the reason I take issues like this badly is because I go out of my way not to let people down myself, even though there are times like when I'm ill or have a specific need myself, I put them first.

I seem to spend my time thinking more about others than I do about myself.

It's got me thinking though that perhaps it's time I started to think about myself and my own needs more and then I wouldn't feel so bad when people let me down.

I haven't been on holiday for five years, apart from the odd couple of days here and there. So, I am going to book a holiday, hopefully for July, with my mother to somewhere on the coast, maybe Bournemouth or Torquay. I need to go away with someone who has similar values to myself. Someone who enjoys eating out and not penny pinching, someone who will try new things and experiences. The last thing I need is to go away with someone who is going to wind me up and stress me out.

My well is running dry and I need to top it up. I've given about all I can give, there's very little left. At least I recognise that.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Publishing Success: Do you need to go down the university route?

One of the first things that writer, Della Galton, says in her book 'How to Write and Sell Short Stories' is 'Don't let anyone tell you that you need a university education to be a successful writer'. [This is an excellent book by the way, I highly recommend it.] Not that there's anything wrong in obtaining a university education, far from it. I was so proud of my daughter when she got a 2:1 in psychology last year and I watched her graduate.

I think I know what Della means though.

Last year I took a course with the Open University on Literature and Creative Writing, something I have wanted to do for ages. I think there is part of me that yearns to get a degree. A kind of 'Educating Nettie' if you like.

Yet, while I felt the course was quite good, I think it could also put people off writing.

Why? You might ask.

Because I feel it boxes people in. It puts limits on their writing. For example, some students were told they needed 80% and above for their work to be of publishable quality. I disagree. Although I have passed my assignments, mostly in the 70 - 75% bracket, I never once achieved an 80% score. Well not yet. Although I have to wait for my ECA score to be marked which is worth 50% of the course marks. So, I haven't achieved those marks [as yet] but I am already published.

I wasn't happy with the way my tutor marked some of my assignments in any case. For my first assignment she gave me a 0% for my free write because I'd used punctuation. I free write all the time, but I'm so used to doing it that I automatically use punctuation. Some other students on the course had also done the same thing but their tutors didn't mark them down for it. So as a result, for one assignment, I immediately lost 20 % of the marks. I should have challenged it at the time of course. Too late now, it's sour grapes.

To get back to that 80% required for publication...I believe it's far more important for a writer to read guidelines, target the right market, then write an engaging piece that's so polished it positively sparkles on the editor's desk.

From reading some of the other students' comments, although they have done fairly well, it sounds as though they are still doubting they can be published. I am so glad I didn't take this course ten years ago when I first started seeking publication. I took a short course back then that was run by the university at my local library. I learned so much from other students there.

Next I joined a Yahoo group called Momwriters. It still exists today. As the group name suggests it's a group of mothers who write [although fathers are allowed to join as well.] Finding that group was like discovering a precious gem. Some were editors, others experienced writers who wrote for magazines or had books published. One was the ex-comedy editor of Playboy Magazine and the writer of the movie Blue Streak. I learned so much being a member of that group. If I wanted to write a magazine article there was always someone to interview about something or other. Whether it was an article about extended breast feeding or how to cope with your pets on holiday. There was someone who could give me valuable advice or a read through.

Back then, I didn't see any obstacles. There was only the blank page, my creativity and my persistence to get published. It finally paid off as I got pieces published online, in magazines and eventually of course, the novels.

I also took some writing courses with people who were experts in their own particular fields. Like Marcia Yudkin who ran a Break into Magazines Course. Marcia is published in The New York Times and Cosmo. I also took an online course with Leigh Michaels, a Mills and Boon author, at what was then called 'The Barnes and Noble University'. The course was excellent, I learned so much and it didn't cost me a penny.

But what if I had taken that OU course before getting published? Then I think I would have set myself limits and doubted my skill as a writer. I truly believe it might have put me off. Don't get me wrong, of course I have learned things from the course. There's always something new to learn as a writer.

I met one of the contributors to the course book at a writing workshop some years ago. He was getting paid handsomely for supposedly teaching us about 'Internet Publishing'. The man didn't have a clue. He thought everyone who was published online got paid-per-click. He looked astonished when I told him I received a monthly cheque for my writing column. He gave a lot of misinformation to people during the workshop that I had to correct him on.

After saying all of this, I will carry on with my OU course. I want to achieve the Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. I want to take the advanced course because it includes scriptwriting. I doubt very much if that module will be taught by a scriptwriter though. Maybe I need to write that script for Doctors before I move on to the advanced course, so I don't place any limitations on myself by being told I need 80% or above in my assignments to achieve publishing success.

Maybe I want to carry on to prove I have the ability to be an academic, but at least I realise when it comes to writing, I learned more from the 'School of Life' than a university.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sending my brain on vacation

I've been feeling a little overwhelmed of late. This might be because I am doing too much, mentally. As well having as several writing projects on the go and just completing my course work for my Open University course, I also have work which takes a lot of my mental energy, so I feel a little overloaded.

I know it's time to slow down because I am becoming forgetful. For instance I went upstairs this morning [twice] to get a bar of soap for the kitchen and returned on both occasions without it.

It was while I was feeling flustered cooking Sunday lunch for six that I noticed I hadn't put the broccoli on to boil. I heard a little voice inside my head. No, it wasn't that kind of a voice. It was my inner voice. It said, quite clearly: "Send your brain on vacation." So, that's what I intend to do. No more writing for a week. I am also going to try to keep off the Internet [easier said than done].

I am going to let my tired brain rest for a while.

And while it's soaking up the sun in the Bahamas, my body will carry on.

I'll let you know if it works.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why I write

If I asked you, why do you write? How would you reply?

Maybe you'd say something like one of the following:

"I've been writing since I was a child..."

"It's a form of escapism for me."

"It's my passion."

"It makes me feel complete."

"I get a kick out of creating something from a blank page."

Maybe you agree with all of the above, or maybe you have something completely different to say about the subject.

All I can do, as I can't second guess, is tell you why I write. Yes, like one of the above comments, I have written since I was a child. I wrote stories in school and sometimes the class teacher read them out. I made my own magazines. I sat all my dolls and teddies in a semi circle and became the teacher who gave them homework. Of course, I had to give them a hand, so there was even more writing to do.

I kept diaries until I was in my twenties.

I did all of that and then for many years I put my writing aside as life took over.

I then began writing short pieces when I had my first child and again when I had depression during and after the birth of my second child. During the dark days, when it was an effort to make a cup of tea, wash dishes, and do general household tasks, as well as look after two young children, I could still pick up a pen and write.

I wrote poems about the mood I was in. I wrote essays about how I was feeling. I'm sure this helped me through the depression and I was fortunate to come off my antidepressants within four months. What was happening without me realising it, was that I was writing for therapy.

As many of you know, I am a huge advocate of this and I've had experience of running an online group and two groups which are currently still meeting at the cancer centre where I work as a counsellor.

I've had some publishing success over the years, but it wasn't handed to me on a plate. I've had my fair share of rejections, but I don't give up when I have one, in a strange sort of way it spurs me on.

The real reason I write though is because I have to. To me, writing is as essential as breathing and if I gave it up, I would die, metaphorically speaking of course. I write for therapy. I write for enjoyment. Sometimes I write for payment. Most of all, I write because I am passionate about it.

So, why do you write?

I'd love to know.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I'm so glad I have a great publisher

A Publisher Worth its Weight in Gold

Nothing is too much for one of my publishers, The Wild Rose Press. If I have a query about something they get back to me within days or even hours of my query. They are a joy to work with and I am proud to be known as one of their authors.

This is a far cry from the first publisher I got published with [who shall remain anonymous]. It was hard to get a reply to any of my queries there. Once, I had concerns about something serious and contacted three members of staff. Not one of them replied. Another time, books I ordered for a charity book launch failed to arrive after six weeks and they seemed unconcerned. They even spelled my name wrong. It was correct on the cover but not at the top of each page of the book, despite me mentioning to them six times they got it wrong on their website.

I'm glad though that this was my first publisher and although it took some of the shine off my experience of publication, I learned some valuable lessons.

I managed to pull both my books from them and went on to get them republished with The Wild Rose Press as well as two new ones there. My editors have been lovely to work with, allowing me to keep to British spellings and sayings. This is important to me as I don't want to Americanise my books. No offence to any Americans out there, but I believe a writer should keep true to themselves. If I buy a book by a foreign author then I want it to reflect the ethos of that particular country.

So, my advice when looking for a publisher, especially if it is your first time is to check out what other authors are saying about them. Are the lines of communication good? Do they care about their writers? Don't be afraid to ask around, it could save you a lot of hassle and heartache.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Just write the book

A new writer can worry so much about the technique of writing that they don't actually get much writing done.

Concerns such as: How should I begin my novel? How many words should a chapter be? Do I need to make charts beforehand? Should I outline? Are common questions not just to self but to other writers and tutors.

My main advice about this is if you worry too much about technique it might sap your creative energy.

When I first started off trying to write a novel around ten years ago I had similar questions, but realised one day, it was time to just get on with writing. I already had a plot in mind: a teenager who goes missing after chatting with someone on the Internet. My main character was a detective called, Declan McKeague. A large Irishman, who bungled things up, but was a lovable character.

Initially, I wrote a chapter or two and read them out at the writing group I attended at the local library. They went down quite well, so I wrote more chapters but run out of steam and put that project aside. I never finished the book but I completed 8 chapters of it.

What I had done though in the process was learn a lot about novel writing. How to maintain pace, how to create suspense, craft a scene, etc.

I wrote three trial run novels that way, and to be honest, when I look back on them now, I can see how much my writing has improved! What I'd done without realising it was to give myself a masterclass in novel writing and all for free!

Sure, I read books about the topic but I threw myself in the deep at the same time. That's why I believe that Nanowrimo , National Novel Writing month, is a great thing for new writers. They are forced to turn off their internal editor and get into the process of novel writing to create a draft of 50,000 words within the month of November. Of course, you could do this yourself during any given month, but taking part in the challenge with other writers can help to motivate and inspire you to get that draft down.

Reading books about novel writing and taking courses is a good thing: learning from people who have already achieved their ambition, but there is nothing like getting your toes wet and having a crack at it for yourself. Don't fear failure. Rejection happens to everyone, even the big names out there. Most authors were once in the same position and have probably got drawers full of dusty, flawed manuscripts before going on to get published.

As Nike says:

Just do it!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Five Star Review: How to Write and Sell Short Stories

I love Della Galton's book, "How to Write and Sell Short Stories"

So far at it has received five star reviews which I totally agree with.

Della writes for many of the well known women's magazines such as:

My Weekly, People's Friend, Take a Break, Candis, Woman's Weekly etc.

So you know when you read this book, she is someone who knows what she is talking about. She shares her tips with her readers as well as sharing some of the mistakes she has made.

The book is an easy read that you can dip in an out of. I also like the fact she has included tips from other well known magazine writers.

Another bonus is that if you order the book from the above link now, you will get a reduction of £3.00 off the recommended retail price.

The book is worth its weight in gold.

Five Stars: * * * * *

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The best part about novel writing

For me the best part about novel writing is the first draft when my ideas are not fully formed and I have no idea which way the plot is going. It's a bit like playing a game of blind man's buff or murder in the dark. I don't yet know my way or who the bad guy is.

I like to surprise myself as I go along because I believe if I have no element of surprise then neither will my readers. So it's not unusual for me, not to have worked out until over half way through the book, who the murderer is or what the black moment might be.

As I race towards the finishing line of getting the first draft down I get a rush of adrenaline and when I finally write 'The End' a surge of relief. It's over. At least for now. It's time to allow the casserole to steep in its own juices for a while. So I put the 'baby' to bed.

A couple of weeks later I get the 'baby' out of its cot and it's back to work for revision and edits. This is the worst part of all. I probably end up with three or four drafts. I look for flaws in the plot like loose ends that haven't been tied up. Isn't it awful to read a book where someone is left locked in the loo or you wander what happened to the dog?

I spell check and look for grammar and punctuation errors. I take out extraneous words [as much as possible.] I use 'that' a lot and 'just', the majority of those have to go. There is an easy solution of course, to perform a word search which will highlight any words I wish to delete.

I move paragraphs around.

I try cutting as much as I possibly can. If it's not vital to the plot then it's out! If a character isn't doing anything, then off they go. Sometimes a character can double duty. For example, perhaps the hero can also be the office boss or the heroine's friend her aerobics teacher.

Less is always more.

When all the edits are complete I submit the package which usually consists of the first three chapters, a synopsis and a cover letter. If I'm fortunate that the publisher wants to see the entire novel, then off it goes.

If it's accepted it's back to editing again as per my editor's/publisher's requirements.

This all takes time and to be honest the whole process can take longer than writing the first draft. It is a wonderful feeling though when the galleys go off for the last time and I'm at that moment of waiting to give birth.

I always enjoy discussing the cover art. I have been fortunate so far that my publishers have allowed me to have a say in this. I tell them my vision for the cover and they come back with a picture, sometimes it needs tweaking but more often than not it's just what I wanted.

Edits are a good thing though. My Samhain editor ended up getting me to cut 4000 words of text! But I have to say that it made my writing tighter and the book was a much better read because of it.

So far I have given birth to 'four babies'. It's time to get broody again....

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Seven Ways to Keep the Editor Happy

1. Know his name

This might seem obvious – but if you are able, find out the editor’s name before you query or submit your article or story. You can find out the editor’s name by looking at the first few pages of a magazine where it lists the staff, or on the ‘contact us’ link of their website. Do not address him or her by his or her first name initially. It’s a no, no. Address them either as Mr. Ms. Miss or Mrs. If they get back to you and answer just using their Christian name, then it should be fine to use for future correspondence. Keep your contact formal unless you discover otherwise.

2. Read author guidelines

It’s surprising how many newbie authors don’t take time to read the submission guidelines for a magazine or website. It can save a lot of time and trouble. If a magazine asks for articles of no more than 1000 words using a ‘how to’ style, they are going to be seriously ticked off if you submit something that’s 2 ½ K and in first person!

3. Know your target audience

It’s no use submitting an article about teenage troubles to a magazine read by the elderly. Study the magazine beforehand from cover to cover. A good clue to the intended readership of a magazine is the adverts it runs. If you see lots of ads for stairlifts, incontinence pads and magnifying specs, then it’s obviously not for spotty teenagers, whether this particular readership are young at heart or not.

4. Get Image Requirements right

Some magazine editors have a bee in their bonnet about receiving digital photographs with the right dpi. DPI stands for [dots per inch]. In fact, the dpi has nothing to do with the quality of the photograph submitted. You might send in a JPEG with a dpi of 72 and your editor may claim this is not suitable for the quality of print for the magazine. He wants you to send a picture in of a 300 dpi [this seems to be the standard asked for]. So what do you do? Well, rather than arguing with him, you can download Irfan View. This will enable you to open your picture up and change the dpi to 300 by selecting image, resize/resample option and changing to the dpi to 300, then saving a copy. Easy Peasy! Your 72dpi image is now saved as a 300dpi image

5. Be flexible

If you get a bite from an editor, whatever you do, don’t go away and nurse your swollen fingers! If he shows interest in your article but asks you to add, cut or rewrite in a particular fashion, then go ahead, be flexible and show him what you’re made of as a writer. Too many writers give up when their work doesn’t immediately get accepted for publication. Be professional and be thankful he has shown an interest in your work at all. Do not throw you teddy out of the pram. Instead, evaluate his thoughts and learn from them.

6. Deliver on time

Okay, so the editor has shown an interest in your article. He wants you to add another 500 words. He would like the article in within a couple of days. It shouldn’t take you that long to come up with 500 words but you’ve procrastinated and now the deadline fast approaches. If you don’t think you can deliver on time, it’s better to say so. And even better not to have procrastinated in the first place. If he wants you to deliver -- then do it. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time in this profession.

7. Do not send him a barrage of e-mails complaining

So, he’s rejected your article. Get over it. As writers we all suffer from rejection at some point. The clever writers realise each rejection is a stepping stone on to better things. If it comforts you, go and eat some chocolate or curl up in the corner, or better still, eat a lot of chocolate while curled up in the corner! Shed a tear if you must, but then dust yourself down. Whatever you do don’t send him a barrage of e-mails whinging about his rejection. If you feel you must ask why you were rejected, go ahead. He might tell you if he has the time. And if he does, pay attention, he’s not an editor for nothing. Rewrite, resend somewhere else and wait. And one day that rejection will become an acceptance if you’re persistent enough. Persistence pays off in the end -- big time.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Crash Course in Short Story Writing

I was inspired to publish this here today after sending someone an e-mail about short story writing.

The main points I've learned over the years are:

* Give your main character [protagonist] a problem that needs sorting out

This doesn't have to be something huge like a fire or a flood, it might be something like a newly married woman who wonders how she will cope when her mother-in-law comes for Christmas dinner.

* Go immediately into where the action takes place

If your story involves the bank getting robbed for instance, then there's no need to start it where the main character is pouring milk on his cornflakes. Go straight into where the action takes place where he is queuing up to deposit some money and two masked men with guns burst in.

* Don't have too many main characters

3 or 4 is enough [max] and perhaps a couple of 'walk on parts' of unnamed characters like the postman or taxi driver.

* Ensure there is a definite beginning, middle and a satisfying ending

A story needs structure. Think of a chart when someone's temperature starts off normal, then goes through the roof. That's how your story should be with a climax at the end. Don't let it go on well after the punch line. Leave them wanting more.

* Make Use of Setting

Setting can become one of the characters in its own right. Think about the dark, brooding house in a horror story or a white, sterile, clinical waiting room. Make use of it in your story.

* Allow the main character to have solved his or her problem by the end of the story

The character needs to have learned and or/grown from it as a result. [Character Arc].

* Ensure you are showing more than telling

Ensure you use lively dialogue where the characters exhibit their mannerisms. Also make use of the five senses. However, sometimes a story might have little dialogue because it's more about going into the character's internal thoughts and feelings. This can work out okay if it is well written, but sometimes sounds a bit 'self indulgent'.

* A 'black moment' can work well before the story reaches its climax.

The moment when things seem impossible: there's no solution to the problem, everything is bleak, etc. However, something then happens that turns it all around and brings the story to its final, but satisfying conclusion.

* It's usually best to stick to one point of view.

Most magazines seem to like third person, although I have read some stories in certain mags that accept first person. I recently read a story in Candis where multi viewpoint was used and it worked very well! I have never seen that used in a short story before, but it goes to show if the writing is strong enough then you might get away with breaking a lot of rules!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

And they're off!

This is so bizarre. The other night I was in my bathroom when I noticed a very distinct silhouette of a horse on the shower curtain. No, I wasn't drunk or on mind altering medication, but it was so clear. I somehow knew the horse was a male and that there was some connection to a diamond or a star.

I rarely place a bet but I checked out the races held for Easter Monday, which was the following day. There were none with the name 'star' going but there was one I was immediately attracted to called' 'Ffos Las Diamond'. I had a feeling about it.

My hubby placed the bet for me as I wouldn't have a clue what to do. It was running at the 1.55 at Chepstow. Somehow, and I don't know why, I knew it was going to win. At one point it was only in fifth place, but I still knew.

Yes, it won!!! It took over the leader right at the end.

The odds were 7 - 2. Now I wish I had placed a large bet on it. I won enough for us to all have a takeaway and a few drinks though.

Wonder if I will ever see any more winners on my shower curtain again, or was it just all a mad coincidence?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Writing For Payment Or For Art's Sake?

"For free or not for free - that is the question?"

Whenever the 'P' word -- PAYMENT -- gets a mention, writers are frequently up in arms. There appear to be two camps of thought: those that think we should all write for free, 'because it is our art', and those who want to get paid what they are worth as a writer. Of course, you yourself, might fall somewhere in between where you prefer to get paid, but will write for free for good causes or if it is to promote yourself.

Recently, I queried a new national magazine and submitted three articles for the editor to peruse. She was looking for columnists as well as article writers. Within the hour an e-mail arrived in my mail box, [the fastest response I have ever had from an editor], to say that she loved one of my articles and wanted to publish it in the following month's debut issue of the magazine.

Warning bells started to ring at her swift response. After all, most of my magazine queries have taken days, weeks or even months for replies. And as any serious writer knows, magazines work months, not days, ahead of time. Not only did she want to publish my article, she wanted to work with me for a further four editions of the magazine.

Sounds fantastic, right? Not so right. The snag was she didn't intend to pay me a single, solitary cent for my time, effort and expertise. It was a case of, 'We'll see how it goes and if we can pay you sometime in the future, then we will!" Well stuff that for a game of soldiers, which is almost what I told her, but not quite. Instead, I told her I thought that writers deserved to be paid and sent her a few helpful links so she could read up on why writers deserve payment. Cheeky, on my behalf, I know, but I was spitting feathers at the time. I didn't need the clippings that bad.

Now, all this is well and good, but when I pointed this out to one of my Yahoo writers' groups, apart from having a cyber pat on the back from some of my contemporaries, I was flamed off list for daring to suggest writers should be paid.

We're back to that art thing. I shouldn't be surprised. I recently attended a writers' workshop. One of the exercises was to write a poem or story in a short space of time. A writer sitting next to me, who I vaguely knew, came up with a fantastic poem off the top of her head. I said, "You are so talented. Have you been published anywhere?"

"No, certainly not!" she replied as if I had said something I shouldn't.

Then I made the mistake of using the 'P' word. "You know, you could get published and PAID for poems like that."

You'd think I'd hit her in the face with a wet fish. When she had got over the initial shock, she replied, "I couldn't possibly take money for something I love."

I just don't get it, but then again neither did she. Are some writers so precious about their words that they feel it is degrading to sell them? When I told her about some of my own publications, I got the distinct impression she thought I was some sort of writing floozie spreading it around a bit, and horror of horror -- for money, too!

You'll know you're being ripped off when:

1. You're writing for free for a magazine that runs paid advertisements or that sells a subscription, products and/or services.

2. You've brought your expertise (teaching, counseling, nursing, computing skills, etc.) into the article and you're still not offered payment.

3. Everyone else at the magazine is being paid. This includes the Internet provider, phone company, electric company, photographers, models, and editorial staff, right on down to the cleaners. Why should everybody else get paid and not you?

4. The magazine says they are giving you plenty of exposure, so why do you need to get paid?

5. Or, as one high profile website put it a couple of years ago when they suddenly stopped paying writers, 'If you were learning to play golf you'd have to pay fees, so why should you expect to get paid for something you love doing?'

You're not being ripped off when:

1. Your writing will help a charity or good cause close to your heart.

2. It will help further your career as a writer by advertising a product or service you're selling.

By the way, the editor of the new national magazine recently contacted me to say they would now be paying writers. Whether this was as a direct response to my cheeky e-mail, I don't know, but it couldn't have hurt, could it?