Empty head

I’m not bad at suggesting ideas for other people to write about,, and when I sit down here I nearly always have something to say and only occasionally cast around to think of a topic, so you would think I’d be quite good at writing a particular piece for a writing group… and usually I am… a week tomorrow I’m meeting up with friends in a group and I thought I would get ahead of myself and write something ready, so it won’t be me scribbling madly next Thursday night. For some reason though, my brain seems empty of ideas.

Perhaps I should look at what I suggest to others who lack inspiration…


Where do stories come from? Here are some ideas:

  •  a dream or day-dream
  • an observation of people in the street, on a bus, in a shop, on the beach, walking by a river…
  • people you don’t know but see arguing, kissing, ignoring each other, looking at each other, fighting, smiling secretively
  • an incident you observed or witnessed
  • a scrap of conversation you overheard
  • the lyric of a song
  • an experience you had
  • a strange coincidence
  • a traditional story, myth or legend which suggests a modern re-telling
  • another story you read, saw on TV or as a film, which suggests a situation, series of events, characters which you can rework to make your own
  • the ‘what happened next’ of another story
  • a ‘what if…’ moment
  • unexplained inspiration
  • a found photo… who are those people? how are they related, why are they there? what is the occasion? what are they really thinking? who is taking the photo?
  • something you pretended happened to you
  • something you would have liked to happen to you
  • a news item
  • a picture in a gallery, museum, on a wall in a waiting room, in a newspaper or magazine
  • a film or a TV programme
  • a song
  • music
  • a mystery or puzzle
  • famous people, singers, actors, sports or TV personalities…
  • your own family or friends

So there are plenty there… Maybe if we go to the pub as usual tomorrow night, I’ll notice someone who intrigues me and that will set my mind working… Maybe that’s a good idea!

The ideas above come from my little book So You want To Write, here’s a link:


My 2017: October

I have only published one novel this year… I’ve been struggling to finish the new one – maybe that’s a 2018 project! However, I have published two other books, the how to write guide I mentioned earlier, and an anthology I co-write with two writing chums.

Here is what I wrote at the time of publication:

I mentioned that I have collaborated with two friends to publish an anthology of poetry,stories and other writings. We came together to form our small group from a creative writing class; we called ourselves The Moving Dragons and we started a blog with the idea of sharing not only our own work, but that of other people too (get in touch if you have something you’d like to share, with links and credits etc of course!)


From our blog, came the idea of an anthology – and we’re so delighted and thrilled to have made that idea a reality!

From the introduction:

For a couple of years, the three of us,  Lois, John and Richard, have successfully shared our thoughts with the world through our blog; The Moving Dragons Write is a medley of stories, poems and articles, a whole kaleidoscope of different writing. Our name came from the symbol of the county where we live, the Somerset dragon, and the well-known words ‘the moving finger having writ…’

Here are some samples:

… a poem from me –

The Thermos Flask

 Have you ever wondered,
You who abandoned your flask on a rock
Near Dunseverick Castle,
Have you ever thought about your flask?
Do you remember the times you used it, the picnics, the walks,
Or taking it to work?
Have you still the cup?
Because when we found it, standing all alone,
A sentinel waiting to be recalled,
It had no cup.

© Lois  Elsden 2017

 … the opening to a short story from Richard –

Saying Goodbye to Ouray

I first saw Łyżka when he was benching on Main Street, just along from the Post Office. Every store has a bench out on the sidewalk. It’s mostly oldsters and young Moms, with children in strollers, who sit there gossiping, so it was kinda unusual to see a black t-shirt. I checked him out with a passing glance and moved on, casually scored him as us gals do.

He came into the bar late the next evening and asked me for a table for one, upstairs in the restaurant. He was good-looking but in an understated sorta way. I liked the way he looked me in the eye when he talked to me. He said his name was Whistler, or something like that anyways. He had the most beautiful, liquid brown eyes. I think I was attracted to him from the get-go.

I’m from Ridgway, a few miles up valley. I left there because it was so stuck in the past. Yeah, sure, I have been to the other towns around the area. I quite like Silverton and Teluride, probably because they aren’t too big. I once went down valley to Durango but there were too many people, too many cars, and too many buildings there for a small-town girl like me on my own. I feel I know most of the eight hundred or so folks in Ouray, to nod and say ‘Hi’ to anyways.

The winter season brings outdoor types in their SUVs for the skiing and ice climbing while summer brings the hog riders along the San Juan Skyway before noising up and down Main Street. They clog the bars and generally seem to say, ‘look at me with my shiny Harley, ain’t I good-looking with my beard, shades, bandana and dangerous black t-shirt?’ I don’t like ‘em ‘cos they hassle me at work. I have figured out how to deal with them but there is a new crop every year that I have to get trained.

I’m Mary-Lou Ellis but everyone calls me Dish at work. I got asked a heap of times if I was the dish of the day so it was easier to give in and answer to the name. It’s printed on the front of my t-shirt now – that’s where most of the guys look first anyway.

I’ve been with my boyfriend, Rick, for a coupla years now. We’re saving hard to get enough dollars together to get married. I work all the hours I can get in the tourist seasons while Rick gets some good tips from his clients when he takes them out in the San Juan Mountains, either in his jeep or hiking, in the summer. He teaches ice climbing down at the Ice Park during the winter. With my long hours and him being away so much, we don’t see as much of each other as we would like

© Richard Kefford 2017

… a poem from John –


Why not move across, old chap,
Then I can pass and onward go.
It’s best to drive upon the left
It doesn’t impede the traffic flow.

You surely can’t wish to annoy
By fixation on a different place,
A missing chord, a family tiff,
A soccer match or motor race?

Can it be that mind so firmly set
On some great philosophic plane,
Means I must trail in your wake
With all behind me in your train?

What ultra careless arrogance
Prompts you to such calumny.
What super oblivious ego trip
Strangles half the motorway.

I can but muse, and dreaming see
Wild fancies. Could I but instruct
That mid-lane doddlers cease to be
And never ever again obstruct.

I could fly close upon your tail,
Watching cross-hairs drawing in.
Then rake you with a hail of lead
And see your deadly flaming spin.

Or joyfully, abaft the beam, set
Rolling fire from each gun deck;
Gloating as iron and grape hit home
To render you a splintered wreck.

© John J.C. Watts 2017

Here is a link to where you can get a copy of our anthology:


… and here again is the link to my how to write book –


My 2017: August

August was an exciting month – I published a little handbook for writers – this is what I blogged about it:

In my last teaching job I was working with young people aged fifteen and sixteen who, in their last year of statutory education were not in school for various reasons; these students were for the most part totally disengaged – clever, literate, interesting – and yet totally turned off education at the very time it was most important for them to do well. Our tiny team of teachers (three of us and two wonderful LSAs) did all we could to re-engage them so they could pass enough exams to give them post-sixteen opportunities in further education, training or work.

I wrote a series of what ended up as chapters on creative writing, and it’s these which I have polished up (although they did not need much changing) amended and added to, to produce ‘So You Want To Write’. This is not just for children – it’s for anyone!

It’s only short, it’s a handbook really and you can find chapters on:

  • Inspiration
  • Your readers
  • Narrator
  • Introduction, opening or beginning
  • Setting
  • Characters
  • Names
  • Plot
  • Language… and Style
  • Research…  and Observation
  • Endings

Here is a link to it…


… and here is the Amazon blurb…

So you want to write but don’t know how to… Your head is empty, your imagination stalled… Or you have you a story but don’t know where or how to start? How to begin? What to do? ‘So You Want To Write’ takes you from the first page to the last of your own story – beginnings, endings and the bit in between. The 6 P’s are all covered – plot, people, point of view, place, purpose and pace, all taken care of.

A nifty bit of footwork

‘ve mentioned I have a new project about to come to fruition – an anthology of work from two writing friends and me which, we hope, will soon be available!! Exciting!! It has been a busy year; in April I published ‘Earthquake’, my most recent Radwinter story (I’m working on the next which may arrive before Christmas, but is more likely to appear in January) and I also published my little writing guide ‘So You Want To Write’. As well as that this year I have been very involved with my writing groups, leading and being part of, and have had lots of exciting things in my own life, not least a six-week trip to Tasmania, and my daughter coming back to live at home after five years away!!

For some reason I thought I had also published a book which I first started writing about ten years ago or more, Lucky Portbraddon. However, that was just over a yea ago, September 2016! The idea for the Portbraddon story went back much further, had been in my mind for many years, and was inspired by – but definitely not based on, two strands of inspiration:

  • bands – having loved rock music just about all my life, and having seen at close quarters what it’s like to be in a band (my husband has been a drummer and in bands since he was about fourteen) I was fascinated by the dynamic in such groups. There is a closeness because of playing music together, rehearsing and live, and for some bands who go on the road sometimes for months at a time, there is an extra bond. However there are fall-outs and splits, and people leaving and new people arriving
  • family – I am so fortunate to be part of a great, loving and faithful family, and i must say here that the Portraddons are not remotely like my own cousins and are not based on them in any way except one – the one way that there is a similarity is the loyalty a family feel, a bond which can never be broken even if the family is broken. With my fictional Portbraddons there are major upheavals and betrayals, but even so at the end, as they constantly say ‘family is family’ and ‘family first’.

Here is an extract from Lucky Portbraddon. Ismene was the girlfriend and, she hope, fiancée to be, of one of the cousins. She went to meet the rest of the family and to spend Christmas with them in their grandma’s large but isolated  house up on the moors. They were snowed in for several days during which time Isméne’s boyfriend decided he didn’t love her and as soon as escape was possible he left to return to town.

In the following extract, Isméne has been brought home to her flat by a cousin, Nick; he is also giving a lift to his nephew, Noah, who is shy and awkward and always seems on the outside of everything. An unexpected reception awaits  Isméne.

They got out of Nick’s rickety car, stepping into slush. The night was damp and had a fusty town smell after the clear air up on the tops. The thaw had set in but there were still mounds of snow, semi-frozen piles of mush, speckled with dirty grey and black.
Noah stayed in the back and she waved at him through the side window; he managed a weak smile but looked away shiftily.
“You will stay in touch, won’t you Ismène?” Nick asked as she keyed in the code on the security pad.
“I sure will, as long as you want me to,” she held the door with her shoulder so he could come in with her bags.
He made a facetious response and she replied with a joke but she had the tiniest suspicion that Nick might want to do a little more than flirt. He was lovely but she had not the slightest interest in him even if she’d wanted another relationship.
Someone grabbed her and shoved her to the floor and a man jumped at Nick and began hitting him in the face. Nick was unable to defend himself, encumbered by her bags.
Ismène jumped up and grabbed the attacker’s arm, he spun round and it was Jaco.
“You leave her alone, you bastard, she’s my wife!” Jaco bellowed and shoved her aside to continue his attack on Nick.
Ismène tumbled backwards, falling over one of her bags, and sprawled across the floor again – And then there was a figure in black between Nick and Jaco. It was Noah and he grabbed Jaco, punched him straight in the face, before pushing him out of the door. He hurled him down the couple of steps then stood blocking the doorway.
“Fuck off shithead!” he bellowed.
Nick was on his knees, blood streaming through his fingers cupped over his face and Ismène tried to get him upright, appalled by the sudden violence.
“I’m so sorry, Nick, I’m really sorry.”
“What are you apologising for?” Nick staggered as if dizzy.
He called a muffled thank you to Noah, who cast a baleful look over his shoulder and went out, the door banging shut behind him.
Nick was wiping his arm on his sleeve, his moustache and beard a gory mess. The light in the hall was garish, Nick’s face was grey and he was certainly in pain. There were splashes of blood on the blue and green floor tiles, as if the seascape they showed had been the place of a dreadful battle.
“I didn’t realise he knew where I lived – I guess he thought you were James.”
She gathered her bags and other things, and hoping Noah was safe, she pushed Nick to the lift.  It pinged open and they hurried into its apple-scented interior.
“Long time since I’ve been in a fight,” Nick looked at himself in the mirror, touching his nose experimentally. “I don’t think it’s broken.”
“Well, it wasn’t really a fight. He hit you then Noah threw him out.”
“Oh, that’s right, spoil my moment of fantasy! In my mind I decked him with a quick one-two and some nifty footwork!”
As they stepped out of the lift Ismène’s neighbour was waiting; he cast a horrified look at Nick and hurried down the corridor to the stairs.

I hope you are intrigued and want to find out more! here is a link:


… and here are links to my other books I mentioned:



Checklist 2 – how to self-publish on Amazon

As I’ve mentioned, a friend and I have picked up the challenge to try and write blogs on seventy-three different subjects. I am just working my way down the list, he is picking his topics at random. Yesterday I wrote about checklists; I produced a checklist for self-editing a book, forgetting completely that I had written about self-editing in another of the 73! Doh!!

So, to be fair, I am going to write about another checklist, this time I am writing about how to self-publish on Amazon

  • set up an Amazon account – this is easy, at the bottom of the Amazon page, under ‘Make money with us’, is a link ‘independently publish with us’
  • you should arrive at a page titled ‘bookshelf’ and there is a box which says ‘create a new book’ with a choice of paperback or kindle – choose which you want (you can always do the other one later!)
  • I am going to follow the set-up for a paperback, but it is equally easy to set-up for Kindle
  • You will be taken to a page where you enter the details
  • Language – the language you are publishing in…  I publish in English but there are plenty of languages to choose from
  • Title and subtitle – you write in your title, if you have a sub-title put that in its own box, if you don’t have a subtitle leave it blank
  • Series – if you think you might write a series, put in the title of the whole series – for example for my Radwinter series I put ‘Radwinter’ and then the volume number and the volume title
  • if you are doing this for the first time where the next box asks for edition number, it will be 1. If you edit or revise your text, then it will be a subsequent number
  • The next box is for author – and that is you; if you are writing with a different name, put your writing name in here
  • under that is another box for contributors – and there is a drop down menu which includes such things as ‘editor’, illustrator’, etc. I am shortly going to publish an anthology with two friends, so their names go in there and they are both credited as ‘author’. You can add as many people as you like
  • the next text box is for a description – this is what the prospective reader will see when s/he comes across your masterpiece on Amazon. You want to make it as intriguing and interesting as possible!
  • the next check is for copyright and publishing rights – tick as appropriate (there are helpful explanations if you’re not sure!)
  • Next you have to think of seven words or phrases to describe your potential best-seller. For our anthology to be we used: poem, short story, creative non-fiction, polemic, geology, science fiction, euphoric writing
  • The next choice is of category, and there is an impressive selection to choose from – you can choose two – these are things like fiction/non-fiction/poetry etc
  • The last question on this first page ass if you have ever used CreateSpace… I haven’t so I didn’t have to answer any further questions
  • The next page continues first of all by checking if you need an ISBN number; Amazon will assign you one if you don’t have your own already
  • Then you can if you wish, set your own publication date
  • for a paperback you have a choice of type of paper, cover and size
  • You then upload your manuscript – it is as easy as attaching a document to an email; it may take some time if it is a very long book! When I say some time, I mean time in minutes not hours! Enough time to make a cup of tea.
  • Once you have manuscript uploaded then you can design your cover – if you already have one, upload that (I’ve not done this, I have just used Amazon’s own formats) This is quite tricky – not in the doing of it, but in the choosing of the right style, colours, pictures, the etc – trying to make sue you have got it right!!
  • The next step is to preview it, where you have a virtual book on the screen in front of you and you are able to edit and adjust… If you change your manuscript, you have to upload it again, but that is no problem
  • The last page you have to do is to decide on price, publication details, various admin details… it is very straightforward, and there are drop-down boxes explaining and guiding you all the way.
  • Good luck!!

Maybe this is not so much a check-list as a guide… well, whatever it is, I hope it is helpful!

Here are my books self-published on Amazon:


and a direct link to my Radwinter series, including the first paperback (more to follow!)


Your readers…

Here is an excerpt from my little book ‘So You Want To Write‘… and here I’m thinking about audience – even if no-one but you reads what you have written, you are your own audience!!

You have an idea for your story; the next thing to think about is…. your audience!
For a start, who are your readers? Adults, children, teachers, friends…? Be aware of them and how they may read your story and what they may read into your story… or perhaps not understand!
Your audience is not watching a play, film or TV programme. They only have your words there on the page. You have to give them all the information that they will need to understand, enjoy and want to read your story. So use lots of descriptive language.
They do not want to be baffled, bored or bemused.
Don’t think to yourself “I’m never going to share this with anyone else, or even show it to anyone; I am definitely not going to enter it for a competition, send it to an agent or a publisher so there is no audience…”
There is always an audience… even if it is an audience of one, yourself!
If you are writing a story just for yourself, when you read it back you want to be moved and feel some emotion from what your eyes are reading and sending to your brain.
If it’s a long descriptive piece, you don’t want those same eyes to glaze over and skate across the words, you want to be entranced and delighted by what you’ve written.
You are your audience; you might want to be moved, entertained, excited, engaged…
Your story might be for children, even if you never share it with any, your inner child will read it!

© Lois Elsden 2017


Telling stories

Because I love telling stories and writing so much, I have always wanted to share that with other people, and get them writing too! Everyone has a story, everyone has some tale to tell… When I was an English teacher part of the job was to do exactly that, to get young people to write. Yes, in theory it was for their exams, but in practice I wanted it to be much more.

I taught in main stream schools for over fifteen years, then after a brief intermission having my own children and telling them stories, I went back into teaching. In my new line of work I was teaching young people who for various reasons (often not through their own fault) they were not in school and outside the statutory education system. Many of them were totally alienated from even the idea of education, let alone what I was trying to teach which they saw as irrelevant. ‘I can speak English – I don’t need you to teach me!’

However, I needed to teach them; and in the last ‘school’ I worked in, I not only had to teach them, but in one single year prepare them for public exams and get them through those exams! Now most of these young people were intelligent, able, imaginative, literate… and short of time to turn things around to get the qualifications and certification they needed. My colleagues and I had just one year to get them ready!

I created what I suppose was actually a creative writing course… After I finished work to start writing full-time, I looked back at the material I had produced for them, which was in a specific order, and had been refined over years of trial and error with a very critical set of ‘guinea pigs’, and very important reason to get it right.

The upshot of all this is, that a short while ago, I polished up and published this material as a short book ‘So You Want To Write’!

Here is an excerpt:

Some people like to plan their stories, some people like to let their stories unfold almost by themselves or as the characters develop.
If you already have a story, skip the next bit! If you don’t have a story in mind, but really want to write something then you need…

… Inspiration

Where do stories come from? Here are some ideas:

  • an observation of people passing by
  • an incident you observed /a scrap of conversation overheard
  • a strange experience /coincidence
  • a dream/ day-dream
  • a traditional story or legend
  • a what if… moment
  • a found photo… who are those people?
  • the story of a house
  • a picture
  • a song/ music

So off you go and write your story, but once it is complete, then the hard work begins!
However you write your story, there are things common to all story-telling. Some are so obvious you may not have properly considered them. This brief list is expanded in an appendix – but there are plenty of ideas to get anyone writing!!

Here is a link to find ‘So You Want To Write’ – as an e-book or a tree book: