Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Sisters at Christmastime.

  These days I am thinking a lot about my sister. In the subconscious fashion common the writers,  

       I have discovered in recent years that I have drawn on elements of  and aspects of most members of my family inn my fiction (See The Romancer' HERE…). 
     That is, except for my sister. I am not sure why. 
     Sisters grow up in the same background in the same physical and psychological environment. Significantly they share a uniquely derived  gender identity,. But that does not mean they are the same kind of person. It merely makes a refinement of the differences between you – making them more ambiguous, more opaque,
I think we remember our sisters more deeply  than other siblings. Maybe this  relationship is bitten more deeply with love and guilt and perhaps framed with shared involuntary joys and failures.
I trailed behind my own sister. She was always impossibly talented and superior, like our mother with her fine dark eyes and bright hair the colour of a new penny. My own mousy curls could, I knew, never compete. The difference was more deeply scored when I was told by one teacher after another that if I was half as good as my sister I’d be all right.   I learned early that she was impossible to emulate. It was much easier to fail in her shadow.
I remember these crowded afternoons in a small front room, the Dansette clicking and purring. And a crowd of girls  dancing together, strutting their stuff, chopping arms, jutting feet, learning the moves, ready for Saturday. My sister was popular, a leader among them.   And could could she move!  Syncopating steps in her green  five inch heels as she danced the others into the floor.
When we were young wives she was generous to a fault. My new husband and I, broke after our wedding, lived for some months in her spare bedroom. On our first night there our  narrow Edwardian wardrobe - stuffed over-full with our clothes – collapsed. The great clatter was followed by a deep silence while all in the house held their breath,imaginations reeling. And then, nothing spoiled,  we all went back to sleep.
  Hers was a pretty, brand new house: dainty wallpaper and cushions; tea on the table just on six: home baked pies and cakes. I would watch her as she  put on her lipstick, combed her hair and set the table: a perfect wife, waiting for her man.
For me - messy. untidy, and disorganised -  failure to emulate was the only welcome option.
 And then there were the thing about children – one, two, three perfect babies. She was so good at this process that the doctor – a handsome man with neat manicured nails – asked the midwife to be called to witness what looked like a perfect event. The handsome doctor turned up, his  pyjamas hidden under his elegant top coat. He witnessed a perfectly managed birth – a relief for any man I would think.
And now today a this Christmas time  I am thinking about my sister and at last agreeing with the very wise Margaret Mead. Now we are both grown this has become the strongest relationship, stronger than it has ever been.
I'm looking forward to seeing her soon.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Travelling Rituals

This time I am not time travelling and not -  this time - travelling abroad but, although I tell myself  will not be writing on this Christmas week away  I still pack my writer's kit and will still look for a place to lay it out.

I identify with Deborah Levey who puts it well in her excellent  Things I Don't Want to Know. Here she is settling in  unpacking for a solitary sojourn in the hills of Majorca. -

'I started to perform the familiar rituals of travelling alone, as I had so often in my life; untangling wires and precariously plugging in the European adaptor with two pins. switching on my computer, charging up my mobile, arranging on the small writing desk the two books and the one notebook I had brought with me...'

If you have not read this book yet you are in for a great treat. Hers is a life worth writing about. Listen to her talking on Avril's blog.

Reading her made me think about my six notebooks that  became the basis for my novel Journey to Moscow. You can read about them HERE I think I will pack the lot. 

Despite not being alone and having wonderful food and great books in fine company suspect I could still get that itch to write, couldn't I?

You might like this post on notebooks.

My Rebuilding Blog Adventure

Stop press

Just to let you know that I am in the process of splitting Lifetwicetasted into two blogs

This One – Which I Have Christened TwicetastedLIFE  - will focus on journaling my life and opinions about more or less everything as well as some  emerging thoughts about my writing process

The other One – which I have christened TwicetastedBOOKS (take a peep) will eventually house all my current novels, accompanied by writer’s notes, reviews and the story of the evolution  of each novel. In my workshops and readings I have found that people are very interested in this.

The process will be just about complete in a couple of days. I hope you will bear with me and keep observing my Blog Adventure . 

Monday, 8 December 2014


I have read thousands of books in my long time – always choosing books I thought I might like. Yet for many years  not once did I write to the author and tell them how much I had enjoyed it and why.

Now, as a published author myself, I have begun to realise how very significant were the letters I received through  the years from interested and interesting readers. And this has been even more important to me when my novels have gone into eBook form and people have been reading them on Kindle.

This is  especially so now with my recent books, when I have missed the push  of a big publisher behind me.. Reader-response is  crucial these days to provides evidence of response.on the ubiquitous Amazon machine.

So now I am even more grateful when my readers put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to make positive comments about my novels either directly to me or  on the Amazon site. Such comments are very significant to me and are much more rigorously surveyed than any wider press review.

I am practising what I preach! These days I am much more assiduous about writing comments on books I have read and enjoyed.

How, then, can we spread this very welcome practice?

My impression is that there are lots more people out there who would like to spread the word about books they have enjoyed in Kindle or paperback. However some have told me they are intimidated by the term  review  which as about it the atmosphere of Guardian or Telegraph with their iconic, experienced and sometimes self-consciously literary  reviewers.
I prefer to call the pieces I write about other writers' books  - both on my blog and on the Amazon book pages -  comments or commentaries, . It seems to me that these are much less portentous and accessible labels. Anyone can make an informed comment.


Draft your commentary in a plain Word file, so you can write it freely, and then edit it to say precisely what you want.  Then (see below***) you can copy and paste it onto the Amazon site.

The Commentary

1.      Decide how many stars you would like to give it, from 1-5.  I would only bother to award stars if you judge it worth four or five stars. Any less rather wastes the time you spend writing the commentary.
2.      Only comment if you have real grounds to like and recommend the book.
3.      Give it some kind of brief title. A Great Read or Enjoyable WW2 Story etc etc

On your Word-draft put down three things:

-         Main theme or thrust of the book in terms of characters and or narrative.
-         Most enjoyable element for you as a reader. How does it link to your other reading? Or your own experience?
-         Why you might recommend it to other readers.

Remember, you can keep all this quite short if you want to. Or you can expend it into a more detailed commentary. It’s up to you.

If you are very new to commenting and want to have a go - here are some tips if you would like to go on the Amazon Site and comment and any book you have enjoyed.  
  1. ·        Find the book by title on Amazon
  2. ·        Click on the REVIEW button beside the title
  3. ·        You will then see a layout of the current reviews
  4. ·        You could leaf through these reviews to see what others have said about your chosen book. Some will be twenty lines long, some will be four or five lines. Do not be intimidated! The shorter pithier comments  ones can be just as valuable as longer  ones.
  5. ·        Click on the button that says hers  CREATE YOUR OWN REVIEW.
  6. ·        It asks you award the book your Star rating.  (See my note above about the Star issue)
  7. ·        There is a space below the stars for you to WRITE YOUR REVIEW.
  8. ·        If you have followed my advice you will have drafted your comment first on a plain Word file. ***
  9. ·         Now COPY your comment and PASTE it into the space beneath your star rating. This space will grow depending on the length of the comment.
  10. ·        Now press ‘SUBMIT’ and you will have published your commentary to the world and warmed the writer’s heart.

If you click HERE you will see some comments on my booksthat have warmed my own heart. 

Believe me! More than socks or sweets, chocolates or wine, a genuine comment on Amazon will be a wonderful Christmas gift for a writer whose work you have enjoyed.

From me to you - 

To Celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas

Here is a Christmas Present for the first twelve readers who comment on any one of my novels during the Christmas period. If you send me the link to your comment and your address I will send you a signed copy of the first edition of my memoir The Romancer.

Friday, 5 December 2014


Am just enjoying in the creative process of revising, re-jacketing and re-issuing my recent Room to Write novels in the hope of tempting more of you to read them. The first of these is

Gabriel Marchant – A Painter’s Tale

Do you like my new cover?Find my novel on Amazon HERE Read Chapter Three HERE

As he tells the whole tale of how he became a painter Gabriel Marchant celebrates the liberating nature of art in hard-pressed lives and the role of people like Archie Todhunter those magical change-makers of lives like his own.

‘Wendy’s characters are wonderful … quirky and interesting people, utterly believable … A triumph.’ Northern Echo ‘ 

Amazon 5 Star (1) Review ‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel.'  We see Gabriel develop as an artist from the early use of charred larch wood given to him by his grandmother and his blind copying of Rembrandt drawings to become an accomplished painter; Tegger learns to fashion his love of words into fine poetry.
 'Gabriel Marchant' is a rites of passage story sympathetically revealing life in the raw. Gabriel matures not only as an artist but discovers at Archie's Settlement 'the complication of women' through Rosel, art teacher and older woman, Marguerite model and Greta the gauche, clever schoolgirl who makes a pact with Gabriel to do 'the thing that men and women do.'
And always in the background is Archie, working to release the butterflies from thier chrysilis state, a gifted group of young people desperate to escape the web of ignorance that could condemn them to life in the dark as black as any mine.
A very good read. Highly Recommended.'

Amazon 5.0 out of 5 stars Review  (2)  A Must Read.

 'An exceptional evocation of the pit: it's darkness, its amazing colour (here is the big surprise), the earth and its ghosts and the men who worked there, especially Gabriel the man who would be painter - wonderful.'

The cover art is
my own drawing.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Modern Novelist, King George and a family Christmas

Like many writers I have been obsessed with story from  my earliest.days. Now this week, with the rush of bright goods in the shops and flood of Christmas films on TV, it is clear to me that even in 2014, in a busy novelist's life,  Christmas is coming.

Grandma and Grandad
More stories about them HERE
in my memoir The Romencer 
And today into my head, almost unbidden, drums  a rhyming song that my Grandma used to sing to us at Christmas time. This song has been bedded in there in my mind since before I could talk. Its powerful narrative addresses as much murder vengeance, healing,and redemption as would suit any modern novel. Its clear story arc and a powerful use of dialogue are a model for any modern novelist.

In the many years since I first learned the song at my Grandmother’’s knee - with my writer-researcher head on -  I have discovered that this song-story has been handed down  from the Middle Ages, voice to voice, through pure oral tradition in the form of a Mummer’s Play. It has only been latterly written down.

There are many versions of the tale, some of which include Father Christmas as a narrator alongside Saint George, a dragon and  Turkish knights as the enemy. The good doctor is always there to raise the dead with his little bottle of pills or potions. And Jack is often there as the victim to be raised from the dead. The versions vary from region to region but in essence they are  deeply similar. 

Of course I prefer the song-story I first heard at my grandmother's knee.

Here is our family version of the song-story, word for word as I remember it. 
Our version seems to start in the middle

In steps King George
‘King George is my name.
With sword and pistol by my side
I hope to win the game.’
‘The Game, sir?’
‘The Game sir!’
‘Take your sword and try sir!’
‘My sword sir?’
‘Your sword sir.’
‘Oh dear oh dear what have I done?
I’ve killed my father’s only son.’
‘Send for the doctor!’
‘Send for the doctor!’
In come good old Doctor Brown
The best old doctor in the town.
‘What can you cure?’
‘A dead man to be sure.
I have a little bottle in my inside pocket
that goes Tick Tack! Rise up dead Jack!’

‘Oh my brother’s come alive again we’ll never fight no more
We’ll be the greatest brothers than we ever were before.
So with a pocket full of money and a barrelful of beer
We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.'

Source; Wetherill family oral tradition

See one the many other versions HERE  

If you want to read more about her HERE is an extract from my Memoir The Romancer


Thursday, 27 November 2014

BENCHMARK: An Very Intriguing Writing Competition

I have this good friend who has dedicated a bench in Spennymoor Park  to her late much loved aunt and uncle. Every spring she takes her water bucket and brushes to clean the winter detritus from the bench and stains and then seals it afresh for another summer. So she remembers them.

So it is I am now intrigued that alongside,  Dr Philip Le Dune and Writer Sue Spencer, I am been asked by Rachel Cochrane (see details HERE  )   to judge a unique writing competition with the theme BENCHMARK.

We know Rachel at Room to Write  because she recorded the winners of our own short story competition – See HERE -  on Listenupnorth, her online audio magazine


Imagine you had a bench dedicated to you:
What would it say on the plaque?
Where would it be?
Why have you chosen that particular place?

Rachel’s says that through her on-line radio play Benchmark and this associated writing competition, she wants to encourage people to think positively about their lives and raise vital funds for Willow Burn Hospice.


First Prize is a solid Iroko Dalton 3 seater (1500cm) hardwood
bench with personalised engraved plaque and delivery within the UK.
Kindly donated by Faithful & Gould, Victory Signs and Solid Oak
Hardwood Furniture.

Second Prize is a Kindle kindly donated by David Ridley

Third Prize is a £30 book token kindly donated by Rachel Cochrane
All winning entries will also be showcased in written form on listenupnorth


This is an imaginative and intriguing competition.If I weren’t judging it I would enter it myself… 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Ideas and Creative Research: A Novelist's View

Last Thursday night one of the readers in a crowded library workshop asked a familiar question,. Where do you get you
r ideas? Do you ever run out of ideas?

My ideas come from everywhere I go, everyone I see, every  thing I see. Twentieth century history is often involved.  Ideas will settle into a special pocket in my mind and stay almost unnoticed, lying there like pieces of coral slowly accreting further ideas and other images and becoming things of innate power and intricate potential. These images and ideas might come from books I read, films I see, newspaper accounts, letters, objects I notice at an auction or a car-boot sale.

Then later – sometimes years later –one of these ideas will swim to the surface of my mind etched all over with an urgent request that now is the time to write. Now is the time to plunge into the idea with instinctive writing and proceed to find a place for the story  and to enhance and inhabit the story with characters. Now is the time for purposeful creative research to fix a time and a psychological frame for the story.

This simultaneous creative search will involve histories, timelines, biographies, first person accounts, library, museum and art gallery visits as well as location visits with drawing book or camera in hand. All this allows me to see the world through the eyes of my characters in their time and place and permits the story to develop its own authentic reality.

Once all this is bedded down in my conscious and subconscious mind, then I can go forward and write and write so that the novel can blossom into a whole thing, ready for the more normal proofing and editing process.

By now, having taken that leap into fiction, the original idea has evolved into and entirely different thing, unique in itself. In the meantime another idea is down there in the brain pocket accreting its own associated ideas and images…

A few years ago, as a Christmas present, my daughter gave me two paintings that she;d picked up at a London auction. They are pale, understated water colours: one is of a beach with gypsy family on holiday with a book about Van Gogh sitting on what looks like a painter’s stool; the other is  a hut filled with bunks and draped with washing, occupied by pale men. The date is` 1955. The artist is named. By New Years Day a strong  idea about these paintings and this painter clearly settled down into my brain pocket.

Years later this idea has bobbed up with all sorts of new ideas stuck to it; it is already inhabited by two characters. I have now almost completed  the creative research and begun writing what I think will be a short novel involving this idea.
Here we go again. It’s not just the ideas. It’s what you do with them.

Extract:'...Now the three older Romany boys had abandoned their ballgame and begun to turn hands-free somersaults on the sand. One boy managed to do four somersaults ins succession and Maggie couldn’t resist clapping. The men stopped playing cards and looked across at her, unsmiling. The somersaulting stopped. The smallest of the boys ran to stand beside his mother who was sitting under her own canopy, embroidering something wrapped in a white cloth...' 


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