Sunday, 23 November 2014

NaNoWriMo - Do You Love It Or Hate It?

Those of you who follow my blog will know that this year has been a little patchy for me so I thought a good way of giving myself a kick up my creative backside was by taking part in NaNoWriMo - yes, I really thought that writing 50,000 words in one month would be a good idea... Emma from NaNoEssex asked me to write a post for her blog and I thought it would be nice to share with you.  So here we go - this is my NaNo blog, I hope you enjoy it!


A couple of days ago an author friend of mine wrote this simple statement on Facebook: “I don’t understand NaNo”.  He just threw it out there and I read the comments first with interest and then with an open mouth because I couldn’t believe the ferocity of feeling it generated – it appears that you either love NaNo or you hate it, there’s no middle ground.  None at all.  Nada.  Nothing.  And there was me thinking authors were a balanced bunch who could see other people’s point of view.  Tsk.  Silly me.

The comment which surprised me the most was this from an indie author:  “I always think if you can write that much, just do it all the time.  Plus a lot of people turn out garbage to keep up the word count. Just my opinion, but I think it’s ridiculous.”  Ridiculous?!  At least with Marmite if people say they don’t like it then the chances are they’ve tried it.  How can anyone say it’s ridiculous without ever having tried it?  My hackles were raised I have to say, so I feel I have to stand up and explain to the doubters why NaNo is not ridiculous and, in the process, also explain why it’s not always possible to ‘just do it all the time’.  In a balanced way of course.

I happen to love Marmite and I love NaNo (although there are times when I’m struggling I could cheerfully smack the creator of NaNoWriMo with a large wooden spoon for having devised such a torturous event…).   My good friend Stuart Wakefield introduced me to NaNo in 2010.  From that one small initial NaNo meeting in Nero we met Brigit and Jane and the four of us started Writebulb, a writing group, in Chelmsford.  Our very first speaker was Penelope Fletcher, a young indie author, who spoke to us about self-publishing.  Heavens above, what a revelation that was!  As Penelope talked I just knew it was something I wanted to do and as soon as I left the meeting I started self-publishing – me, who barely knew what a Kindle was!  Here I am four years later – over 190,000 of my books have been downloaded and I’ve loved every step of the journey.  Yes, that meeting in Nero’s four years ago was a catalyst like no other!  Way to go Nano.

There is another reason why I like NaNo so much, but it’s more personal. This year has been very been busy and sometimes difficult.  I’ve moved house, leaving the home I’d lived in for 24 years, into a house that needs a lot of work done to it.  In addition, my father’s Alzheimers has deteriorated rapidly; he still lives in his own home but I am responsible for him and most evenings after work (I commute to London) I go and check on him and see how he is.  I’ve tried to write, to keep up on social media but have failed miserably throughout the year – by the time I get home, unpack yet another box or paint (or even knock down) another wall, go to help my dad find whatever he’s lost, and then have some supper I’m usually too tired to do anything other than go to bed!  When Emma contacted me to see if I would contribute to the blog it was like a ray of light shining through the dark (thank you Emma!) but then I thought hold on, I’d better sign up to NaNo if I’m going to write about it and immediately I did that panic set in.  How would I cope?  When would I find the time?  Would stress finally overwhelm me?  Nuhuh.  Not one bit.  The only feeling that’s overwhelming me is that I’m finally back doing something I love.  I’m not stressed by trying to write 50,000 words because if I don’t make it the target, I don’t make it.  That feeling of creating something has made me feel happy.  Simple.  

So – do you love NaNo or do you hate it?

If you still think you hate it then I’d ask you read this blog again because what I’m saying in a nutshell is that NaNo will give you the opportunity to go on a journey, to meet interesting people, to find support and encouragement, to learn new things, to spark that creative fire inside you and to give you a sense of achievement.  It’s pretty damn good stuff.

If you already love it then hold fast – you’re now just over half way through and we will all celebrate together when it’s over.  I’ll bring the toast and Marmite!  Good luck everyone J

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Burly & Grum's Bewitching Halloween Adventure!

Halloween is almost here! I listened to the 'Halloween Adventure' the other night and it made me smile (Pat is such a good narrator!) so I thought I'd remind you that it is actually FREE to download both as an audio book and as an e-book. My favourite character is Frank, but it's a secret as to who or what he really is! 

Here are some of Rob's Halloween drawings to get you in the spirit (sorry, had to get in one small joke...). Have a fangtastic Halloween everyone!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Limbering up!

I can't believe it's almost two months since I last posted on the Burly & Grum blog. Go on, ask me what I've been doing for the last few weeks! I'll give you a clue - I'm shaking builder's dust from my hair as I type. Yes, I moved from the house I'd lived in for 24 years to somewhere new.  Well, when I say new, it was built in the 1930s but somehow managed to get stuck in a 1970's time warp. Not that I'm against the 70s at all, it's just that after 40 years the wallpaper is looking a bit tired! I've been up and down ladders, knocked down walls, drilled holes, painted everything that doesn't move, and poor old Burly and Grum have taken a back seat. 
     Not that they've minded at all, they've been relaxing on the beach and have been sending me postcards to prove it.This one is from Grum...

     And this one is from Burly (he's been a bit nicer and you will note he's bringing me back a present)...

  Although there is still a lot to do to my new home (having a kitchen that doesn't resemble a war zone would be good...), I'm going to start concentrating once more on Burly and Grum especially as we were doing so well, for example, being finalist for the People's Book Prize. There are a lot of great opportunities out there and I will be putting my ear to the ground to see what developments have taken place while I've been 'away'. So the holiday for Burly and Grum is now officially over and they are limbering up to start work again - this is going to be fun!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Yes, the Tour de France is coming to Essex!

Burly & Grum are great sports fans and are so excited that the Tour de France is coming to Essex. They have been busy preparing for days and are now well and truly ready to cheer on the cyclists as they come speeding through! 

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Celebrating Burly & Grum style (and that includes some free downloads!)

     Yes, we know how to celebrate here at Burly & Grum - ice-cream, cake and good friends, what more could anyone want?  'The Secret City' may not have won The People's Book Prize but we're partying anyway because we got into the finals - yay!  We'd like to thank everyone who not only took the time to vote but also left a comment about the book - it was wonderful of you, thank you so much. And if you have the time, please read some of the comments and you'll understand when I say I'll always treasure them and that they've given me the confidence to continue writing.

     This is me saying thank you to everyone (I'm the short one on the right, the other one is my son who I nabbed as he strayed into shot).

     Now, I've also been wondering what on earth has been happening with my blog. All of a sudden it seems to have gone crazy - one post has had over 16,000 hits and the last one 'Vote Now' over 9,000 hits. Why? What am I linked into I wonder? To anyone who is reading this and who has no idea what Burly & Grum is about then you can find out by going to the following 2 links where you can find out for FREE! Yup, we're very generous us Essex girls!  
     Anyway, the first link is for the audio book (about 15 mins long) The Halloween Adventure.  It's really funny and Pat Scullion, the narrator, brings the characters to life. This particular short story is the one I'm working to link with Audible and put up on Amazon.
     The second link is for 'The Birthday Surprise', the third Burly & Grum book which is free to download from the Smashwords site. 
     To all of those thousands of people who are now reading/glancing at my very small and insignificant blog - I hope you enjoy the downloads as much as Burly & Grum enjoy the conga.  Now, I'm sorry but you'll excuse me because I have a party to go to.  Er, where's the cake?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


If you have a couple of spare minutes then it would be absolutely wonderful (Burly and Grum would love you and give you bear hugs forever!) if you could vote for them.  'The Secret City', the second book in the Burly & Grum series, is a finalist for The People’s Book Prize (children's section).  This is a competition where members of the public vote for the book they love best, and the final leg of the voting process starts today and ends on 28 May.

And this is how you vote!
1.    Go to this link.
2.   Look down the page for 'Burly & Grum and The Secret City' and check the box.
3.   Go to the top of the page for the verification section 'our choices, selected from the finalists below...' and check that your vote has been selected.
4.   Enter your email address: Email Address (enter the same email address that you used when you registered).
5.    Repeat your email address.
6.    Enter the password you have been given.
7.    Solve the simple maths problem.
8.    Click 'Submit'.  You should receive a message saying that you have been successful.

Thank you so much and just one last thing, keep your fingers crossed!

Burlington Bear and Grum the Groblin have come a long way since they first met and wondered what was 'Beyond the Forest'.

They've had lots of adventures:
Taken part in the Olympics:
Made lots of friends:
And are generally are pretty cool dudes who would like to thank you for your support!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

And yes, we're back!

Yay - Burly & Grum are back!
     It seems strange to start blogging again after what has been quite a long break. Selling my home and trying to buy new one has proved incredibly time consuming and, believe it or not, I still haven't moved - I'm all ready, bags packed and raring to go but the legal side of everything is just moving so slowly. I'd love to live somewhere like Scotland where, I believe, you can buy a house and move in 24 hours later - that seems like a fairy tale to those of us South of the border!

     But that's enough of me, more than enough - on with Burly & Grum news!  The final leg of The People's Book prize is now under way. You may remember that back in November that 'The Secret City' was one of the finalists in the Children's Section.  It's been a long wait to get to the final point where the winners are finally revealed because the voting is seasonal.  Now, however, all of the 36 finalists (12 from the three sections - fiction/non-fiction/children) can have their books voted on again by members of the public between 21-28 May. On 28 May there will be a grand award ceremony in London with Frederick Forsyth CBE giving out the awards to the final three winners. Keep everything crossed because I would just burst with pride if I won!  And if you'd like to vote between 21-28 May that would be brilliant; I know that all of us here at Burly & Grum would be forever thankful!
   What else is going on?  Well, I want to improve the Burly & Grum website, so that it's more interactive and I also want to start work on a book app for The Halloween Adventure in time for - yes, you guessed it - Halloween. There's a lot to do and I'm looking forward to getting going again - I've really missed Burly and Grum.

     And because you've all been so patient while I've been sorting out my house move I thought you'd like to know that The Birthday Surprise is FREE to download! It's probably my favourite story of all with Burly trying to have a peaceful birthday on a desert completely unaware there's a bank robber nearby! There are lots of new characters - Detective Finn and his daughter Tara, King the crab, Gruel the bank robber and his gang the Toolkits - go on, download it, you'll love it!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A short vacaction

I'm sending Burly and Grum away on a short vacation while I move house. I'm sure they'll have a great time on the beach while I'm slaving away, sorting through 23 years worth of stuff in my attic, shed and every available cupboard! They'll be back I think in about 6 weeks relaxed and raring to go!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Taking that first step along the book app route

If you read my previous blog then you'll know that I'm very interested in turning the Burly & Grum Tales into book apps. I have had some reservations because most book apps for children consist of pictures that the child can interact with whereas Burly and Grum have a few black and white pictures scattered throughout the stories. But it's quality, not quantity that counts isn't it?! The Burly & Grum drawings are brilliant and will come alive even more if I can somehow make them animated and interactive. Simon's Cat is black and white and look what happened there so nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that! 

I discovered a great site called Authorly - it's relatively new and the founders had the brilliant idea of encouraging authors to convert their books into apps for free. They provide the technical backup and support but basically an author just gets on with it (although they do have a production service for those who don't want to do it on their own). I have been a quaking my proverbial boots, but do you know what? I learnt to self publish when heck, I hadn't even heard of a kindle! I've learnt so much over the last couple of years that it makes my head spin and yes, I want to learn more! Why not?

In case you're wondering why there are odd Halloween pictures scattered throughout this blog it's because I've chosen Burly & Grum's Halloween Adventure as the first short story I'm going to convert. I've chosen it primarily because it's already an audio book it so adding word by word narration should be straightforward. She says optimistically. It will be another fascinating journey and I'll let you know how I get on!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Whole World is Out There

    Before Christmas I took an 8 week Storytelling course with Iversity. It was online and it was free - yay! - I spent about 2 hours a week working on it although I could easily have spent a lot more time going through the different modules. It really opened my eyes to endless possibilities especially with regard to transmedia and it left me feeling restless and wanting to do a lot more with Burly and Grum. But what and how without any money behind me? 
    So this year has started off quietly because I've been thinking a lot and also having long chats with my friends Pat Scullion (who did the voice-over for The Halloween Adventure and who is a talented designer, artist, animator) and also my publisher, Stuart Wakefield, a talented author in his own right. We've talked about doing audio blogs, redesigning the website, more social networking, audio books, book apps, approaching agents - in short I've gone around in circles. Nothing new there I hear you say! 
   But somehow, out of all of the ideas that have been discussed, creating a book app is the most appealing - I can put in a bit of animation (I think animation would suit Burly and Grum beautifully and bring their characters to life) and get creative but it is expensive so I'll have to put my thinking cap on and find a way around this. That's what thinking caps are for - finding solutions to problems.
    This week you'll find me researching book apps and I have to say I'm really quite excited about it. I can see very clearly in my mind's eye what I want and I feel as though I've just taken that first tentative step although the right path so (a) keep your fingers crossed and (b) I'll keep you posted with how the journey goes!