From me to you

Hey there,

Christmas is less than a week away, Santa is loading up his sleigh and I am EXCITED! 🙂

I’d like to say a big thank you to you, my online buddies, for your support and encouragement throughout 2013. As a pre-Christmas Christmas present here’s a short story, from me to you.


I hope you like it and thank you so much for reading.

Much love

Elle 🙂 xx

Five for Friday – Books

Hey there,

Hope you are well today.

A couple of weeks ago I posted about feeling guilty because there are so many books I haven’t read and for one reason or another I feel I “should”.  I’m still in two minds about whether or not “should” will dictate any of my future reading – click here if you would like to see the original post.

I’ve talked a few times on the blog about my favourite books, although mainly about the books that have affected my life or influenced my wish to write.  Mostly, therefore, I’ve referred to books that I read when I was a child. I thought I’d bring things a little more up to date and share five books that are important to me from my (supposedly) grown up years. I’m not saying you “should” read them, only that I reckon you won’t be disappointed if you do. 🙂


Addition, Toni Jordan

Grace lives with a form of OCD. She counts everything in her life from the bristles on her toothbrush to the poppy seeds on her cake. She can’t live a “normal” life, but what is “normal” anyway and how can Seamus O’Reilly fit into her very structured world?

Fall Girl, Toni Jordan

Della Gilmore comes from a family of con artists. As Dr Ella Cranfield she sets her sights on millionaire Daniel Metcalf and elaborately plots to “encourage” him to donate to a bogus research project. Trouble is, Della hasn’t met anyone like Daniel before…

The Woman Destroyed, Simone de Beauvoir

Three separate stories, “The Age of Discretion,” “Monologue” and “The Woman destroyed” covering issues such as loss, loneliness and the fear of aging.

And the Band played on, Randy Shilts

Politics, People and the AIDS epidemic is the strapline. The book explores why AIDS spread in the US, highlighting the misplaced priorities and prejudices that enabled an epidemic.

The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Victoria grew up in the care system but has now reached adulthood and must fend for herself. She takes refuge in the language of flowers, the meanings flowers were ascribed in Victorian times.

Are any of your favourites on this list? Which books would you most recommend? I’d love to know, so please get in touch either here or on twitter.

Have a great weekend 🙂

Elle xx


Hey there,

Hope you are well today. 🙂

I’ve spoken on here a lot about how I’m writing book three, which in itself lets you know that there’s a book one and a book two. I bang on about how I want to find an agent and how I’m going to crush the shrinking violet and “confess” to being a writer, but I’ve never really been specific, have I?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about Sara Bareilles’ song Brave, claiming it to be my favourite song at the moment, yet still I haven’t been brave myself. I hide behind the labels Books 1-3 and have told you nothing about them. That’s bit lame really.

As this is my 100th post, I thought I’d ask myself What Would Sara Bareilles Do?*

Here are my elevator pitches (single sentence sum ups) for Book 1, Book 2 and the still-to-be-completed-first-draft Book 3. They actually have titles and everything.

Candles Aren’t the Answer

A young teacher with a life-limiting phobia of the dark battles to get her life together and prevent a child she teaches growing up unable to face the world.

Hearts, Unfounded

Samantha Hamilton and Jared Edwards have very different reasons for being brutally lonely and walking away from their normal lives. Embarking on a trip that takes them from Montpelier, Vermont to Montréal and back again, they discover that what you seek in desperation might not be what you want to find.

Sins of the Mothers

Three generations of women determined that the past won’t affect the future realise they have allowed it to do just that. Can Ashley McArthur break the cycle, or will the sins of the mothers live on?

I have a few questions for you:

  • Would these elevator pitches make you want to read the books?
  • Can you give me any feedback on ways to improve the pitches?
  • If you see Sara Bareilles, will you ask her how big she thinks my brave is?**

Thank you for reading 🙂

Elle xx

*Just to be clear, I’ve no idea because I don’t know her. Maybe she’d never do this in a million years and would think I’ve lost my mind. Ho Hum. 😉

**You won’t get this unless you’ve heard the song. What’s keeping you? Go listen!

Reading, guilt and trying not to die with a big TBR pile

Hey there,

Hope you are well today.

One of the occupational hazards of being a writer is the inability to stop buying books. I have a To-Be-Read pile that will keep me going until Christmas at least, but that doesn’t stop me adding to it regularly. Too regularly. OK, all the time.

A while ago I bought 1001 books you must read before you die. I was a bit nonplussed to find that I have, in fact, only read eleven of the books mentioned and only a few of the others appear in my TBR pile. Obviously I’ve heard of far more of them and some I “know” through film and TV adaptations, but I had a little panic. I’m a writer. Should I have read these books or at least want to? Should I be able to talk knowledgeably about these books because I am a writer?

The panic was fairly short-lived because I realised I was being ridiculous. 1001 books does not seem to be suggesting “worthiness” or that the list is anything other than shaped by the judgements of its contributors, but it did leave me counting up my own list of books (some appearing in 1001 books, some not) that I haven’t read but think I “should”. As a result, I feel quite guilty.

Perhaps it stems back to primary school when I was told off for reading too many Enid Blyton books. I get the point the teacher was probably trying to make, that it would have been good for me to branch out to experience other writers, but all it did at the time was put me off. I would have branched out in my own time (I haven’t read a Famous Five book for a good few years 😉 ) and I think I would have ended up reading more as a result. Looking back, I feel that wasn’t the right thing for the teacher to say and I wouldn’t be happy if anyone tried to suggest similar to my children.

I love reading and read a lot, but there are just SO MANY BOOKS. With luck and a steady tailwind I hope to live long enough to read at least 1001 more, but who knows if I’ll ever get to all that I should?

But is there actually any “should” about it? I’m in two minds. On the one hand I think people only “should” read whatever brings them joy, comfort, entertainment or whatever they are looking for from a book. On the other hand, some books have had, and continue to have, more influence than others (like many of those mentioned in 1001 books). Should we form a first-hand opinion of why that is, or is that just perpetuating their influence at the expense of the other books that would therefore have to remain unread by us?


What do you think? Are there books you feel guilty that you haven’t read? Do you think there are books we “should” read? Or do you think we should define our own “must read before we die” list? (I’m not looking for titles particularly, it’s more the concept, although if you want to talk titles, please feel free.) I’d love to hear from you, either here or on twitter.

Elle xx

Is it me or her?

Hey there,

Hope you are well today. 🙂

I’ve spoken a bit recently over my slight panic with book three when, 20k in, I realised I didn’t really know what I was doing or what was going on, which isn’t ideal. After a lot of scribbling randomly on bits of paper I thought I’d cracked it and came up with a list of things I thought needed to be different. I happily re-started book three with all this in mind, tip-tapping away on my laptop, but I still had a nagging feeling that something just wasn’t right.

Me: I don’t know what to write. I know what the story is, but I don’t know how to write it.

Brain: It should be in the 1st person, not the 3rd.

Me: Don’t be silly. I can’t do that. Books one and two were in the 3rd person and I don’t know enough about this writing lark yet not to stick to what I’ve done before.

Brain: It should be in the 1st person, not the 3rd.

Me: I’ve only written short stories in the 1st person. A whole book is HUGE. I’ll make POV slips EVERYWHERE.

Brain: *yawns* It should be in the 1st person, not the 3rd.

Me: But…but…

Brain: Is it lunchtime yet?

Me: FOCUS. Perhaps I should just re-write the first chapter in the first person and see how it goes…

Brain: There you go.

And it seems to have worked. The drain of my brain is now unblocked (Brain: Hey! I’m not a drain) and the story just feels better.

So onwards and upwards until the next crisis. I’ll keep you posted.

Brain: You still haven’t apologised for the drain comment.

Me: *sighs*

I’ll go now.

Elle xx

Have you met Celine Silver?

Hey there,

Happy Tuesday! If it was the bank holiday weekend where you are, I hope you had a good one.

Today I’d like to tell you a little bit about Gunshot Glitter, the début novel by my very good twitter and blog buddy Yasmin Selena Butt.

Celine Silver is a killer who, at the request of an ex-lover, coldly murders a young man on his 21st birthday. When her real love comes back into her life, Celine knows it is a life he is too good for, but he has questions that he’s not for letting go. Can Celine find her way back to the time before the blood began to spill?  Does she deserve to? And what about the boy who was the victim of her last hit?

You can read more about Gunshot Glitter on Amazon here. It’s a crime novel, but it’s also a love story and I think it’s proof that a cross-genre novel can work, in the hands of a skilled author.

The print edition of Gunshot Glitter is available NOW (details of how to get it here) and you can also get the ebook from Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords. It’s the best book I’ve read this year so far, (even though some bits made me blush when I was reading it on the bus, but that might just be me. Ahem.)

Here’s the first chapter on Yasmin’s blog.

I never thought it would be possible to sympathise with a killer, but I did. Gunshot Glitter is an original story, beautifully written and with that all too rare “I couldn’t put it down” quality. When I’d finished reading, I missed the characters (yes, even the killer) which doesn’t happen often enough, I find, and must surely be precisely what an author is trying to achieve. In my opinion Gunshot Glitter deserves every one of its five star reviews and more, why not check it out and see if you agree?

Much love

Elle xx

It’s the way I spell ’em

Hey there,

Happy Friday! Hope you are well today. 🙂

When it comes to spelling and grammar, I’ve always considered it my thing. It was always my forte at school, I’m often the one others will ask if they’re unsure and it’s usually something I’ve found quite straightforward.

That is, until I started writing seriously. Perhaps it’s because I’m more aware, perhaps it’s because I’m using more words ( 😉 ) or perhaps I feel more scrutiny of the How does she think she can write a book if she put that apostrophe in the wrong place* variety. As a writer, I feel I should know ALL the rules of English grammar, be able to spell and understand ALL the words in the English language and never make a mistake with any of them.

But that’s not really feasible is it? And, providing I make sure work is correct before I submit it anywhere, does it really matter? If there’s a rule or word I’m unsure of I can look it up and then I’ll know. It’s a bit like anything else – you need to learn it. And as we know, the fewer less fewer mistakes you make the less fewer less you learn 😉

However, sometimes you learn, sometimes you know and some words still get you, don’t they? Here’s my top five:

  • Cinnamon (I don’t get it wrong, I just need an extra think.)
  • Broccoli (C and L confusion. So much C and L confusion.)
  • Gauge (It’s the positioning of the A and the U. Particularly embarrassing because it’s such a short word.)
  • Humorous (Always tempted to go for an extra U.)
  • Chocolate (No, I don’t know what my problem is with this one. This is the most embarrassing one yet because no one gets it wrong. Even babies can spell it.)

I’d love to know which words or language rules have you stumped. Come on, be brave and let me know either here or on twitter!

Let’s doo thiss thang.

Elle xx

*itll ne’ver happen

Elsie and the Abbey series

Hey there,

Hope you are well today.

I’ve spoken a few times about the books that affected my life when I was little, particularly the Abbey Girls books by Elsie J Oxenham. Elsie died in January 1960, so to commemorate the anniversary of her passing, I thought I would look into Elsie’s life and the Abbey series a little more.

Elsie was born in 1880 and was one of six children, four girls and two boys. Her father was also a writer and she adopted Oxenham, his pen-surname, when her first book (it was not part of the Abbey series) was published in 1907. Elements of her life unsurprisingly turned up in her fiction, for example folk dancing played a large part in the Abbey series and Elsie was a member of the English Folk Dance Society.

There are over 30 Abbey books and some related shorter stories. Apparently characters from the series show up in some of Elsie’s other works and characters from her other works show up in the Abbey series. Although not all of her works are interrelated, I love the idea that her characters moved in and out of each other’s lives and continued to exist beyond the confines of one series.

I have five of the Abbey books, thanks to my mum, and as I said in this post the books made me want red hair, twins and my own Abbey. They also read well alongside my love of dancing and I remember making up my own steps to the dances Elsie described that must have come from her folk dance background. I was also more than a little enchanted by the May Queens who each had their own unique colour and flower associated with their “reign”.

Elsie’s books are collectors’ items and, more than 50 years after her death, there are appreciation societies internationally for those who collect and/or are interested in her works. It is my plan to track down the rest of the Abbey series, the main list you can find here. I’ve had a look and it might prove to be time consuming and a little costly, but I’d love to know more about Joy, Jen, Rosamund and Maidlin among the many, many others who appeared in the books. Many of the books are now out of print although Girls Gone By Publishers reprinted some of the series and it is still possible to get them second hand. The hunt is on 😉

Do you know the Abbey series? Are there books from your childhood that you would like to revisit? I’d love to know, so please get in touch either here or on twitter.

Elle  xx

Background information and further reading:

The world of Elsie Jeanette Oxenham and her books – Monica Godfrey

Wikipedia -Elsie J. Oxenham

Wikipedia – Abbey Series

Um…my first guest post?

Hey there,

Hope you are well this lovely Friday morning and are looking forward to the weekend.

Elle tells me that a lot of you guys are concerned about rejection. She says some of you are writers, as she is, and that when you send your books out to agents or publishers, you risk rejection and the feeling that you are not good enough, that your day will never come and that you will never fulfil your (writing) destiny.


That’s too bad. I don’t like to think of you guys feeling like that. Truly, I don’t. In fact, I spoke to some of my friends about it and, in a bid to make you feel better,  we thought we’d share our own thoughts on rejection with you. Believe it or not, this is one subject we know A LOT about.

Rejection. Happens to us all the time. Even Elle rejects us for most of the year, except at Christmas. That’s the only reason we’ve been able to post on her blog, (Shh, don’t tell her) because at Christmas we’re allowed in the house. Sure we have to live in the freezer and share our sleeping bag with chestnuts, but at least we’re here.

I suspect you’ve rejected me and my friends too. Yes, it hurts, I’m not going to deny it. See, we know we’re good for you and that if only we had found the best way to let you see that, you would be able to help us do the job we’re meant to do. But if that’s not what you want too, that’s your prerogative. We can only offer ourselves to you and say that, for example, we think we’ll help your iron levels and go towards your five a day. If we don’t fit with your plans for whatever reason, that’s OK. We won’t storm off in a huff (who do you think we are? Runner beans?), we won’t throw a strop, we’ll just hang in there until it’s our time, because we believe that our time will come.

In fact, we have a feeling it’s going to be soon…

It might be the same for you too, so don’t fear the rejection, people. It’s not for life.  Sometimes it’s not even for Christmas.

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Much love from us all,

The Sprouts xx

Book Spine Poetry – as time goes by?

Hey there,

Hope you are well today and looking forward to the weekend.

I became a fan of Book Spine Poetry after reading this post on Brain Pickings and have been trying it out ever since.

The audacity of hope. The quiet war, the weight of silence. What became of us?

Have you tried Book Spine Poetry yet? If you decide to have a go, be warned, it is addictive! I’d love to know how you get on though – either here or on twitter.

Enjoy the rest of your day.

Elle xx

The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama

The Quiet War – Paul McAuley

The Weight of Silence – Heather Gudenkauf

What became of us – Imogen Parker