Sunday, 29 August 2010

To ladder or no ladder?

Well done on completion, Janet. That desirable oasis seems a long way off for me at the moment. You know how when you’re writing and it doesn’t feel right? Our characters are hard at it, steeped in poverty, hunger, degradation and unemployment. Yet something’s wrong. The foundation of our business is conflict; dig a deep deep hole and climb out of it somehow. But how easy it is, to skim up a ladder! My mum, 91, an East Ender,still lives contentedly in poverty in her mind, though she is more comfortable now, with none of the money worries she had when she and Dad left the Isle of Dogs for greener pastures. The other day we visited NEXT, as opposed to ASDA. It was like I was taking us into Hades. But Mum was seduced by a shiny black belt strapped to the waist of a slender window mannequin. A closer inspection of the price tag, said £9.99p. I turned heaven and earth to persuade her to buy it, or allow me to buy it, but I might as well have suggested robbing the cash machine outside. Old habits die hard and she explained to the very sweet and mystified assistant that on reflection, it would cost her nothing to cover her old, tired belt with petticoat material and elastic from her thermal knickers. Yet again this honesty inspired me to ditch that convenient ladder and use my fingernails instead.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Shining Through

I’ve just finished writing LADY LIGHTFINGERS – a novel partly set in the slum area of 1850s London. In places it turned out to be a stark and gruelling book to write. There is nothing romantic about poverty, when each day must be endured in the battle to survive, and the future seems more of the same. My heroine is a resourceful, gutsy young woman who was able to survive her bad start to life, but grew up streetwise enough to avoid the traps that can beset the poverty stricken, to find happiness and shine through.

Writing stories that have a downbeat theme can be difficult if you don’t want to make your readers miserable and put them off side. There are several qualities a main character needs to stop her from being a sad sack.

The first is a strong sense of optimism, so she doesn’t wallow in a sea of self-pity every time something goes wrong. Secondly, a sense of humour is required. This can be ironic, wry or sarcastic, depending whether it’s being spoken or thought. A heroine should also be brave, and courageous enough to take risks when the chips are down. Even though it might go against the grain, she might decided to sell herself, or get away with crime, if the motivation is great enough. My heroine is tempted by both to help feed and shelter her family. I won’t say which one but the title might give you a clue!

One of the things I like most about saga writing is that the heroine usually rises above fairly humble beginnings, and, through personal sacrifice, endures. If she doesn’t succeed in gaining wealth, at least she’ll emerge from her trials a stronger, wiser person – one enriched by personal satisfaction and happiness.

Janet Woods

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Preparing a book for ebooks was something of a learning curve. This involved a great deal of reading. First I studied the style guide on Smashwords, a company who supply Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, mobi-pocket and others, which took some time. It was worth the effort though as it carefully explained how to produce a clean document for upload, essential if the formatting is to stay in place. Then came creating new covers in Photoshop, another learning curve but great fun. I would recommend anyone to have a go. If, like me, you’re still waiting to take possession of your Kindle, (I’ve been promised one for Christmas) you can download Kindle for PC free from Amazon. I put it on my netbook and a download appears in seconds and is very clear to read. Or you can get Adobe's Sony e-reader, which is also free.

The Bobbin Girls is one of my favourite historical sagas which I recently put up on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords and is doing rather well. It was a joy to revisit it for editing purposes, as I’d largely forgotten the story. It’s about a powerful young love blighted by a dark secret from the past which might, or might not, be true. I do remember that I loved doing the research as I found such marvellous people to interview. The late Bill Hogarth, who spent hours taking me through Grizedale Forest teaching me the tricks of his trade on coppicing, making hurdles and swill baskets. Stan Crabtree and Bill Grant also enlightened and entertained me on the skills of forestry.

Even the charcoal maker patiently explained his craft to me.

Most of all I loved the evening I spent with the ‘Bobbin Girls.’ Eileen Thompson, Joyce Wilson and Pat Hogarth not only regaled me with their yarns and the wonderful tricks they played on each other, but carefully described all that was involved in the making of bobbins, a skill I would not wish to try it, considering the hidden difficulties and dangers. I take my hat off to them. But this is a romance, so of course, there’s a happy ending.

Click here to download a free sample of The Bobbin Girls

Or click on my author page to find other ebook titles of mine.

Best of luck with your own self-publishing.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Brown Penny

This week, my husband and I attended a beautiful service. Not held in church, but in Dorset woodland where the trees were the only canopy above. Luckily the rain had stopped, leaving the air as scented as incense. The couple, both in their sixties, had asked a few friends and family to be with them on renewal of their vows. Only this time, forty years after the first vows were said and blessed by a priest, these ones were re-created in the form of a poem by Yeats. Hippies now, rather than in the sixties, friends as much as lovers and no longer in chemical overdrive, save for perhaps paracetamol. The couple glowed a peaceful certainty that was once pure passion and the woods were where they had first found love, much like their parents before who were survivors of World War ll. As I’m in the middle of writing a wartime saga, this seemed the perfect time to reflect on the importance of romantic theme, holding plot and pace together. Having wrestled this way and that with my own winding, intricate way, I thought of my fellow writers and your windings and wrestlings and all the effort we put in to each tale. And I’m so proud to be part of us.

I WHISPERED, 'I am too young,'
And then, 'I am old enough';
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
'Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair.'
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
O love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.