Debbie does a Book-Signing

January 28, 2013

Debbie signs another book

Debbie signs another book

I defy anyone to be immune to Debbie’s contagious enthusiasm, and once again it was out in full force in Newbury town centre.  This time, she took over the children’s section of Waterstones, with colouring-in, ‘spot the difference’ and a wonderful pile of books for signing, and even though it was a wet Sunday afternoon, she seemed to be doing a roaring trade. The book in question was the first of Debbie’s series about Alonzo the adventurous and slightly magical chicken, in which we meet Molly the Mermaid and the Pesky Pirates.

Proving that sometimes there’s just no substitute for old-style social networking, Debbie did a great job engaging with children and adults throughout the afternoon, selling a fair few books as she went and having lots of fun. This is the first of a number of appearances for Debbie and her feathered friend, as she prepares to take Alonzo into several schools in the area.

John H pushing in to get his book signed

John H pushing in to get his book signed

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Potter’s month (or three) in writing 2012

January 14, 2013

It’s been about three months since I did one of these so there’s a little bit of catching up to be done. First, I guess, we should start with writing.


Mahrie (mah-ree)

I had plans a year ago of finishing the first draft of TMWWRWs during 2012 and being well into Hunting Demons as we turned into the new year. The reality is I struggled mightily with TMWWRWs. I’ve gone on about the struggles through the year but round it up quite nicely in this post about emotional colour.

In trying to raise my profile and that of Chasing Innocence I thought I’d publish some of the longer stories I’d written back in 2006. Only three were of a commercial grade and I wanted four, so I needed another one. The result was the devoted and quite enigmatic: Mahrie. You can get a preview for each of the stories including the cover art, in Snapshots are coming.


Check out story nine

During the last quarter of 2012 WordWatchers decided they’d publish their first anthology, which I’m pleased to say features my short story: ‘Eye for an Eye’. Abbie Todd edited the stories and Chris McCormack produced the paperback via CreateSpace with cover design inspiration from John Hoggard. I did the Kindle conversion which I’m very pleased to say dynamically supports both the advanced features of the Kindle Touch and Fire devices, along with the basic features of the older Kindles. Chris additionally produced the iBook version.

I love doing Kindle book conversions and am currently producing a number of tutorials you’ll seen be able to see on my blog and youTube. Hopefully I’ll have some links next month.

As for writing this couple of months I’ve been busy editing Mahrie . The story is set between 1950 and 1980 and required a lot of work researching and then editing the detail from that time. In spare writing moments I’ve been editing the first part of TMWWRWs to reflect the slightly altered point of view.

Because I’ve spent so much time struggling with TMWWRWs the next Sarah Sawacki book has had chance to ferment and really take shape. The story planning is so full of rich detail with three primary threads, with all the main characters from the end returning. There is a really great concept for the main bad guy: really, really bad guy. It makes my toes curl just thinking about it. I can’t wait to start writing it, which is all the more motivation for me to finish TMWWWRWs.

I’ve read some pretty excellent books these last couple of months, starting with Christopher Hitchens’ memoir: Hitch22. There is something remarkable about Christopher Hitchens’ writing that leaves me feeling somewhat wiser come the last page. Reading Hitch22 and Christopher’s attempt to understand his mother’s suicide led me to William Styron’s incredible look at depression, titled: Darkness Visible.

I love a book recommendation, which is how I came to the haunting dystopian ‘Handmaid’s Tale‘ by Margaret Atwood. It left me with an adjusted perception of the female mindset and for society’s almost default stance of devaluing woman.

If you’re looking for a fun read then you can’t go wrong with the very original ‘Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared‘, a compulsive tale not only of what the 100 year old man does after he climbs from the window, but also of the incredible life he has led. Very much reminded me of Forrest Gump in places and quite charming.

My top pick for you though as a must read is David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas‘, the most innovative and brilliant pyramid of separate but related stories covering almost one thousand years of a single soul.

Happy writing, see you next month.

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Post Christmas…

January 8, 2013

I did write one more Christmas related 75-word paragraph and originally I wasn’t going to do anything with it other than share it with my fellow WordWatchers. I put the general feel of it down to post-Christmas blues.

However, my local council decided they had no Christmas spirit and left behind all the black sacks that my neighbours put out (am I the only person who recycles?). The contents of these black sacks are now spread all over the footpath and suddenly my little paragraph seems to have captured the moment surprisingly succinctly.

Fat, bloated, filled to bursting, gulls peck into two week old rotting flesh and loudly decry the waste. Stuffed with paper and plastic bindings of toys already forgotten, broken or pushed into the back of the cupboard, these silent sentinels are dragged to the curbside to await collection. To the curbside so that they can be emptied of the reminders of our excesses. Empty, like the promises to ourselves in the form of New Year Resolutions.

Cheery I know, but cathartic nonetheless.

Rocket Scientist

John Hoggard ex-Rocket Scientist









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What a Difference a Year Makes

January 6, 2013

What a year it’s been for WordWatchers!  I’ve just been looking back at the December 2011 minutes to get a sense of what exactly we’ve achieved as a group in 2012, and it’s fair to say we’ve been busy.

WordWatchers' Twitter

A Year of WordWatchers Tweeting

Those December minutes show that we discussed our new, yet-to-be-launched website and the new Twitter account we’d just set up.  Now, nearly 3000 tweets and over 600 followers later, all very much thanks to the expert guiding hand of John Hoggard, and with a Facebook page as well, our online presence is evolving nicely.

Clearly, though, an online presence for a writer’s group is nothing if none of the writers are producing anything to tweet or blog about.  Again, looking at those December minutes brings it all back – what we were working on, how we were feeling about things, and indeed who was actually in the group…

It seems amazing to look back at a list of attendees and not see the names of John Potter and Chris McCormack, who actually joined us in February and have been fantastic contributors ever since.  Their arrival coincided with (and definitely helped accelerate) a growing maturity within the group, as we increasingly embrace independent and digital publishing as a business choice rather than a last resort.

Ginette succumbed to the pressures of setting up a new business and has taken a bit of a sabbatical.  Hopefully, 2013 will find a more obliging work-life balance.

Since then, it’s been fairly stable, with numerous approaches from people to join us – and in November we welcomed Colette, who pretty much fills the WordWatchers’ ranks.  (You should be seeing Colette on the Authors’ page shortly after the January meeting.)

And what have all these WordWatchers been up to?

WordWatchers 2012

WordWatchers 2012

At the end of last year, Charlotte was getting ready to welcome the paperback version of The Apothecary’s Daughter, while desperately trying to finish The Painter’s Apprentice and commence work on a new idea.  Today, both novels are out in the world, and Charlotte and her 17th century biscuits have been going down a storm all over the country.  And that new idea is already with the editor!

Abbie managed to write another book too, and we all had the pleasure of reading it.  As ever, we provided our feedback, which was largely that Abbie had written something rather special.  At the time of writing, it’s with her agent.  John Hoggard put in a huge effort, especially given a challenging year, to ‘finish’ Endless Possibilities, which he’s currently editing.  He also got published in Fusion, the Sci-Fi anthology published by Fantastic Books and has been doing his usual great job raising awareness through his growing individual and group online presence.

A year ago, WordWatchers barely knew anything about Debbie’s amazing chicken, Alonzo.  Today, it’s real, wonderfully illustrated, and available to buy.  Chris achieved similar success with Pong!, his delightful alien who likes to race, bringing him to life within the pages of a fully interactive iBook, complete with questions about space and an audio book option (voiced by me!).

John Potter cracked on with his new novel, but continued to amaze us with his knowledge of all things Kindle-related, as Chasing Innocence climbed the crime charts and found itself a finalist in a Kindle crime novel competition.

Busy times at WordWatchers!

Busy times at WordWatchers!

Everyone else was equally busy, working through and reworking existing novels or sifting through a world of ideas to settle on the one to take forward into 2013.  Me?  I managed to ‘finish’ The Stationary Half of Goodbye and have started sending it out to agents.

And if all that wasn’t enough, we produced our first anthology, Out of Time – published ready for Christmas and the January 2013 Writing Magazine competition.  Check out the ‘Books’ page for this and all the other wonderful WordWatchers creations.

Katherine Webb, one of our glittering alumni, continued to see great commercial success, and it was lovely not only to see A Half Forgotten Song make it into paperback and into the charts, but to be able to include one of Katherine’s stories in the anthology.

It’s certainly exciting times at WordWatchers.  Just take a look at the home page for a taste of what’s going on.  As for what lies ahead in 2013, I won’t jinx anything by making predictions, but it’s fair to say that it’s going to be another busy one.

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The 12 75-worders for Christmas Part 3

January 6, 2013

There was some discussion on the radio this morning that 12th night was actually last night and therefore all things Christmas related should come to an end, lest 12 months of bad luck is visited upon the perpetrator…

However, undeterred I have decided to push on, risk it and share with you my final four Christmas themed paragraphs:

Midnight Matt: Heavy snow cut Lucy’s remote farmhouse off from the rest of the world on Christmas Eve, by road and later power and her generator refused to start. Late that evening she sat with a tin of beans and some flickering candles and hummed Carols to herself. On the stroke of Midnight the driveway was filled with light and the splutter of old Land Rover. It was her Matt, clutching a takeaway, wine and present! (This one was inspired by a mis-typed Tweet by Richard who runs Paragraph Planet, who had meant to type Midnight Mass)


When they couldn’t find the brandy Grandpa brought out a dusty old bottle from the back of the larder, after sniffing the contents, he poured it onto the Christmas Pudding. As dad approached with the lit match there was a white flash and a scream as a high velocity silver sixpence hit Granny on the forehead. Scattered across the kitchen, superheated sultanas went bang. Of the pudding itself, nothing remained, save a charred sprig of holly. (This was my personal favourite of the paragraphs I submitted)


At 12:01am PST, those still awake, felt suddenly bereft. Children awoke, wailing, from their slumber. It was as if millions of Furbys cried out and were suddenly silenced. CNN quickly started to show wreckage scattered across the landscape as Governments denied involvement while simultaneously terrorists groups claimed to be responsible. However, in the wake of the incident an autopsy pointed to pilot error, induced by alcohol, given the red suited man was 10,000x over the limit. (This was published by Paragraph Planet on Boxing Day, Richard thought it safest not upset the children before the big day…)


Margaret didn’t hear the whistling noise to start with, singing along to Christmas Carols on the CD player. When she did hear it, she began a search of the kitchen, listening to the pan of boiling potatoes and the dishwasher. Then, from the oven there was a ‘thud’ and the whistle change to a scream, as foam started squeeze around the door seal. “Roger! I think your fancy recipe for the turkey has gone horribly wrong!”


Well, that’s it, I hope you enjoyed them? I certainly enjoyed writing them, some of them have even given me ideas for future longer stories (and this is one of the main reasons for doing these 75-worders to capture snippets of ideas for stories).

Comments, positive or negative are much appreciated.

Rocket Scientist

John Hoggard ex-Rocket Scientist












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The 12 75-Worders of Christmas Part 2

January 5, 2013

Yesterday I shared the first four seventy-five word paragraphs I submitted to Paragraph Planet in response to their request for Christmas themed submissions.

Today, I share the next four with you:

When Bob returned from his work Christmas party, Margaret was rolling out the icing for their Christmas cake. His novelty tie played “Silent Night” as he crossed the kitchen and tried to steal a piece. It played “Jingle Bells” as Margaret turned, kissing her husband and, with a glint in her eye, undid his tie laid it on the work surface. As “The Snowman” started Margaret turned and battered it into silence with the rolling pin.


Jeff in the Benefits Office rubbed his throbbing temple. “Ok… Mary… if we could go through this one more time… You’ve left the name of the father of your unborn child off the form. While I understand this can be a delicate matter, it will help process the claim… So, if I could just have the name? Please don’t say ‘God’ with such with such an exasperated tone, I’m just trying to help, really I am.”


On Christmas morning Patricia watched her husband with something close to astonishment. He was being attentive to her and the children, he seemed happier, almost human, not the vile monster he had become over the last few years. “I know you said not to spend much, but I decided to go really big this year,” he said, handing her a gold envelope. She tore it open eagerly. Inside were divorce papers. “Merry Christmas,” he said quietly.


The doorbell rang and David, not expecting Christmas visitors, answered with a sigh. Opening the door David stared agog, awestruck, while the Angel, in stereotypical white, complete with glowing halo, explained that He needed to borrow a couple of double-As as His SatNav’s had run out. Ruefully, the Angel continued to explain that He had tried the shop, but Mr. Patel couldn’t see Him and of course it was wrong to steal, even in an emergency.


The last four will be shared tomorrow.

Rocket Scientist


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The 12 75-worders of Christmas

January 4, 2013

As Christmas draws to a close, we drift, sometimes reluctantly, back to work, take down the Christmas decorations and push away the plate with the final scraps of Christmas pudding clinging to it, there is a small window of opportunity to share something with you…

In the run up to Christmas, Richard Hearn, who runs Paragraph Planet, put out a plea on Twitter for seasonally themed 75-worders. So, inspired, I took it upon myself to write not one but twelve of them.

I am very pleased to say that Richard ran two of the twelve, including a particularly dark one on Boxing Day which pleased me immensely. (I used to blog for NewburyToday and used to write equally dark Christmas Drabbles* – but we fell out a few years ago and they refused to run one, which, having refused to run other blogs I’d written, was the final straw for my blogging for that particular site).

So, with 12th Night rapidly approaching I have decided to share all 12 of my 75-worders with you, four a day, until Sunday. I hope you like them!

For the record, Santa didn’t “…come to me and say…” He begged, do you hear me, dropped to his knees, sobbing. That’s right, to me, his first born, the outcast. Yes, I could fly like the rest, but my genetic anomaly was to have a nasal cavity that emitted photons at 630nm. Saved Christmas I did, because I can see in moderate levels of water vapour and the rest couldn’t and they dared call me freak!


The old man sat down heavily by the fire and patted his distended belly. “One Billion Calories an’ still only a fifty-two inch waist. Ho Ho Ho.” He pulled off his red hat, patting his sweaty brow with it. “I fear the million shots of whisky may have got the better of me this year!” he bellowed, snorting loudly. Thor shook his head and glared. Letting Santa into the Deity Club had been a terrible mistake.

Under the flicker of white flashes and the pulse of blue from the lights on top of their cars the Chief of Police spoke earnestly into the television camera. “It is true that we have arrested an elderly gentleman in relation to the following charges: No CRB check, animal exploitation, breaking and entering, border crossing without a passport and keeping a list of children who are naughty and nice in violation of the Data Protection Act.” (Published on Paragraph Planet site on December 20th)

Father Christmas Inc (FCI), a Division of Santa Claus Enterprises would like to make the following announcement: After the 15th consecutive year-on-year drop in the number of children classified as “Nice”, FCI hereby declare that the following behaviours will no longer be classed as “Naughty”: Not tidying your room, not doing your homework, breaking something (under $50 in value) and not owning up. However, after some boardroom discussion, outright lying will still be classed as “Naughty”.

Right, if that hasn’t put you off, there will be four more tomorrow!

Rocket Scientist


* A Drabble is a story of exactly 100 words

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