Feb 9th

Launching Home

By Squidge

You've probably read Skylark's blogs about her route to publication with Jesika's story? The one that started life as the opening story in Stories for Homes (the first one). I'm not going to repeat that here... 

Yesterday was Skylark's London launch of the novel 'Home' which grew out of that short story.

There were lots of cloudies there, cheering her on, celebrating her success and buying copies of the book. Off the top of my head, we had... Daeds, Alan P, Whisks, Ath, Bric, Hil, Tony, Philippa, John, Debi, Jnet, Emma, Will, me, Sonya, Gippsgirl, Moira, Jane, oh gosh, I'm bound to have forgotten someone!

I daresay Skylark will blog in due course, so I'm not going to steal too much of her thunder. But I AM going to tell you about the book.

I started to read Home on the train last night, and finished it today. In fact, apart from going to Pilates this morning, I've done nothing but read because I couldn't put it down. (Good job I finished in time to take the cat to the vets)

It is STUNNING. Not because it is a debut novel of amazing quality, or because it handles difficult social issues with sensitivity, but because the characters feel so real. Immersed completely in four-and-a-half year old Jesika's head, the reader really experiences on one hand the confusing messages that adults give children - whether unwittingly or deliberately, and on the other hand, the simplicity of the simple truths that children observe in the world around them. Even seen through Jesika's eyes, there is a cast of amazing characters, especially Tina, Jesika's mum. How she carries on is beyond me - yet people do, and try to make the very best of what life throws at them. (You'll see what I mean when you read it.)

So... I would encourage you to buy Home. Read it. Spread the word about it. And raise a glass or two to one of our own cloudies who deserves every ounce of success this novel brings her. 



Feb 8th


By Kimberley

Chapter One

Amelia Fellerthark walked around the small shop. Her eyes occasionally wandering over to the clothes rack to find her niece. Juniper Fellerthark looked innocently over to her aunt as she secrutely his an unpaid for necklace into her bag. She waved her hand and the bar code disappeared. Amelia smiled. She was compeletly oblivious to her nieces felony. Amelia moved over to the glass section where a beautiful glass bowl caught her eye.


Chapter Two

Jessica Fellerthark stood at her eisle and as she painted she thought about her daughter Juniper and her sister Amelia who were out for the day. Meanwhile Phillipa hummed to herself while she absent mindedly flicked through her spellbook.


Chapter Three

Rain had started to fall and the wind blew it down harshly. Junipa ran down the garden path. She screamed in terror with tears pouring down her face. 

Her fear shuddered the house. Jessica looked at Phillipa who was already running for the front door. She yanked it open and her niece crashed into her.

"She's been taken. A man took her." Juniper cried.


Chapter Four

"Wakey WaKeY sweetheart." A man said as he crouched occasionally to check the crystals were in place and stuck on tight.

"Who.. Who are you?" Amelia mumbled. The man put a hand on his chest and took a sharp inhale.

"Amy its me, Alec. Your former boyfriend." Alec said tapping one crystal after another.

Feb 6th


By Dolly

Believe it or not, we had snow! 'So what?' You might say. 'Lots of places have snow!' Ah, but I live in Leyland, and Leyland isn't lots of places. In fact, Leyland is about twelve to fourteen miles of the coast as the crow flies. It also only a few feet above sea level, and because of its geographic position, we don't get much snow, and if we do, it's only a bit of a dusting, which is what arrived today. It doesn't stay long either, and by late afternoon it had all but disappeared. But just that little bit had made it into a bit of an event. Granted, not enough to drag people out onto the street to gaze in wonder at the stuff. Not enough to make a massive snowman with a carrot for a nose that takes ten days to melt, but snow, never the less.


                                   Canada Geese

The heat is on,

it’s seven below,

the planes are grounded

the trains are slow,

cars slide to a halt in four inches of snow,

and the crowds are asleep on the airport floor

with nowhere else to go.


But the Canada geese land on the ice,

and shrug at the inconvenience.



Feb 1st

noises - further off

By mike

     On a patch of grass by the ‘National Portrait Gallery‘ - just off Trafalgar Square -  a homeless ex-solder has erected a tent.  He explains his situation in neat words scrawled on a piece of cardboard. He even writes down the name of his regiment. The area around his tent is kept neat and tidy and there are no discarded cartons of food or water bottles. How could someone this organised and ingenious, land on the street?  

     Four people - huddled in sleeping bags at the junction of Charing Cross Road and St Martin’s Lane - are not so tidy.  Adrift, in side passage, someone is asleep in a sleeping bag.

    The local church does what is can under its remit of pastoral care.   Local charities provide food. On certain days a food kitchen - I think a mobile food bank - comes to the Strand and food is distributed

 .  An article in a local newspaper -  about the homeless - resulted in quite a few readers’ responses and some thought the provision of hostels an unsatisfactory solution.  I think, years ago, the phrase ‘a half-way house’ was used.  The Welfare State should act as the church does. There is a homeless unit - but no homes.

    Coming back to Charing Cross Station, I saw the other side of the problem. A bearded man, rather unsteady on his feet, has approached a pedestrian.   This occurred in the passage way by St Martins-in-the Field.  The pedestrian brushes him away and walks at speed.  The beaded man swears under his breath and approaches me.  I must admit I was scared.  He shrugged his shoulders and walked further down the street.  He seems drunk.   It is not yet eleven o clock,

    This happened this morning.   Buying ‘Stories for Homes’ provides cash for ‘Shelter’ and you get stories for your money.  Someone selling ‘The Big Issue’ is a street vendor and buskers sell their songs.  I don’t see how giving money to a stranger who accosts you in the street solves the problem.  


      More moans follow and an odd issue about street busking,

  Earlier this week a presenter on the early morning radio news  (London BBC) said something along the lines, “Of course, there are no jobs in the arts.’  

    The context had been a report.  Secondary schools have reduced time spent on art projects.  Schools have and even abandoned art and media courses for academic attainments.    

    A women who works in the media was given a right of reply and she said something along the lines: ‘Unfair advantage is given to students in the private sector who are permitted these subjects’.  The male presenter did not reply to this!

    Are there no jobs in the arts?   There are now at least twelve theatrical venues along the South Bank.  This is bordering the Thames from Tower Bridge to Waterloo Bridge.  Many of these have been constructed reIatively recently. I am reading  Matt Haig’s latest book “How to Stop Time’  The hero embarks on backwards time travel and mentions ‘Bankside’ and the year 1599. In 1599 Bankside’ was the site of the Globe and Shakespeare appears in the novel. I am older than anybody else  - and Mat Haig’s hero.  I can remember when the site of the Globe had been the carpark of the local council, ‘Tait Modern’ was a boarded up redundant building.  

    These new venues employ a vast range of talents and people with various vocational skills.What about the staff who keep the theatres operational?  Hammers and nails are still required 

  I don’t know?  But I wonder how much the construction of the Globe contributed to the regeneration of the whole area?   The Festival Hall has been restored and is now one of the most popular venues in London and has an international reputation as an arts complex.   I am off to the Festival Hall tonight.  for Dvorak and a free concert beforehand.  (All for the price of £11) I got to the theatre often instead of staying at home with a bottle of wine and the TV.    £11 is the cost of a take-away pizza,  You have to get your priorities right.  Mind you, a choir seat is o’kay unless you are seated behind the tuba.


    A  street theatre problem.  Busking related.

    Last saturday I went to the theatre.  

     ‘Nosies off’ refers to sounds which occur outside the stage.    In the play , a fog horn is sounded and, as the pay progresses, you become aware that fog - and the sound of the foghorn - are essential to the plot.  

     In the first act I heard the sound of music which come from the rear of the theatre - as did the sound of the foghorn.   These ‘nosies off’ seemed to be some sort of fairground music or a party in progress. The sounds continued.  The noise become intrusive and then faded away.  I assumed the sounds were part of the plot; they might have represented entertainments performed on a harbour shore.

     After the performance, I asked one of the stewards in the foyer - about the music  - and he said they had been aware of the problem. This had been caused by  Hari Krishna which had halted outside the theatre.  The stewards had requested that the group should move on.  Hari Krisha  had refused to go - along with their cymbals and chanting.

   I can see the humour in this - but!    My hearing is not too good, so I had rushed down to the theatre early in the morning - on the first day of the production - to get a day seat, hopefully near to the front of the stage.  Day seats are often seats with a restricted view. (There was already a queue for these seats at 9 in the morning.)

   I achieved my aim.  I got a seat in the second row from the front, near the side of the theatre and could see - and hear - very well.   Much of the action took place centre stage,

   If I could hear the fairground sounds, the actors certainly could. It is amazing that they gave no indication of the intrusive sound at all, and  this led me to believe the music was part of the play!   The dialogue in this play is intense.

    The noise must have disturbed the audience in the rear stalls - and the balcony. I think the Hari Krishna should have moved on.  However, they would have caused disturbance in another theatre in whatever direction they moved!  If you know London, this theatre is just off Leicester Square.  Balancing the rights of the actors against the rights of the Hari Krishana mendicants, I think I might favour the actors, but is it a difficult question. 


Jan 29th

Baldness and Idle Thoughts

By Dolly

A thought crossed my mind, followed immediately by another, which asked: ‘Was the thought, just in front of this one, important or not? And if so, why?’ On the other hand, it might not have been important at all; probably wasn’t, as I can’t remember what it was. Then again, that’s the sort of thing thoughts do, isn’t it? They pop up, one after another, and most of the time they are generally mundane and drab, then one appears that contains a subject you didn't expect, because it came out of nowhere, and was the furthest thing from your mind, which happened to me when the word baldness made an appearance.

Now, the thought of baldness was secondary to the initial thought which concerned Joanna Lumley. Yesterday afternoon I was on my way home from visiting a friend. Out of idle curiosity I turned on the car radio, only to hear Jo Wiley inform me that one of her guests the coming week was the incredible Joanna Lumley, which took me by surprise, as I was unaware that Joanna Lumley was incredible. When did this happen? What amazing event catapulted an actor, and TV personality who does travelogues, into being incredible? I don't recollect any news item concerning this miraculous transformation. It was at this moment that the subject of baldness popped up.

Why this should be is a mystery, as I wasn't thinking about hair, or anything to do with it, I was still thinking about Joanna Lumley, and why she had suddenly become incredible, but there it was. Baldness. This of course, generated a new direction of thought, and brought to mind some of the weird and wonderful 'cures', and the lengths that some men went to when they realised they were losing their hair, which seemed to be prevalent in the 1970's.

Now I realise, that for some men, this can be a touchy subject, and I apologise if I upset anyone, although nowadays there are a lot of men with shaved heads, which means no one can tell if they are bald or not.

However, in the 1970's, the situation was different. There seemed to be some sort trauma attached to being bald, or going bald, resulting in men thinking they were going to lose their virility, or worse. Strange cures sprang up. This ranged from different types of head massages, shampoos and lotions all guaranteed to restore your crowning glory. The most bizarre of these was chicken shit, that's right, chicken shit! For some strange, and weird reason, it was generally believed that if you rubbed chicken shit into your thinning and receding hair, it would generate rapid growth, thereby thickening the hair. I seem to remember a couple of newspaper articles endorsing the practice, and there was some enterprising soul selling jam jars full of it on Preston market. Needless to say, it didn't last long, but for a short period of time, some men believed it enough to try it out!

Alongside this were the daft wigs which were the wrong colour and never fitted properly, and comb overs, hair parted above the ears. The most ridiculous of these that I came across was in a bakery as I waited to for a sandwich. The person in front had parted his hair on the back of his head, a couple of inches above his collar, and combed all his hair forwards, in a vain attempt to cover up the offending bald bits. However, the most bizarre belonged to someone I worked with, who was bald on the top, but let the sides grow long, and with the help of a comb and some hair lacquer, sculpted a masterpiece, which, it must be said, looked a bit like a walnut whip. Unfortunately, it was more like a cap than anything else, and if the wind happened to gather in strength, would rise up and down. In the end he had a haircut and looked a lot better for it. Once again, if this offends, I apologise.


The things that pop in your mind, and out of nowhere as well!

Jan 23rd

Following on...

By Squidge

...from Skylark's blog about creating book number 2, and the point she made that sometimes, we forget just what goes into a first draft of a novel, thought I'd share the following:

How important is the first draft to your novel? 

It demonstrates there's no one-size-fits-all approach, and that we, as writers, have to find the way that suits us as individuals, because each of us are unique in our situations, the way we approach a story (planner or pantser) and what we're prepared to put into the first draft.

Makes for interesting reading...



Jan 22nd

Writers are Dandelions

By Dragon Lady


To be honest, I'm rarely on here.  I'm too busy elsewhere.  Writing, actually, which is just as well but I thought I'd check in to offer a meagre nugget of hope, a glimmer of starlight in the dark, to all those desperately seeking that holiest of grails: Agency Representation.

I've been trying to land an agent since 2009.   I can't tell you how many rejection letters I've received in that time because I didn't take notice of any that didn't contain the phrases: 'This showed promise...', 'There's a lot to admire here...', 'You can definitely write...' 

If you get any of the above comments in any of your rejection letters YOU ARE A GOOD WRITER.  Agents do not give compliments lightly. 

So why are they rejecting you?  Many reasons.  None of which they're likely to admit to or explain.  DO NOT CHASE THEM.  Simply accept the compliments as justification for your obsession and KEEP TRYING.  Take note of any constructive criticism and, if it makes sense, use it.  Do not be precious about your work.  Re-dreaming the dream is an essential part of the process.  You must make your worlds immersive, your plots thrilling and your characters compelling and then you must wonder how to make all of that better.  If you get bored doing any of this, then your story is boring.  Bin it.  And write another one.  I've re-written my first book so many times I've lost count, but each time it's been on the advice of some editor or agent and, each time, it's got BETTER.  Wanting to write isn't enough.  You have to want to be GOOD.

Enter your work into as many competitions as possible.  Being longlisted, shortlisted, or, if you're really lucky, winning a competition does make agents sit up and take note.  I was shortlisted for the MsLexia Childrens' Novel Competition before I was signed. 

Literary Consultancies are also useful - if you can afford them.  I sought advice from Cornerstones Literary Consultancy and had a lovely lunch with award-winning author Sandra Glover who edited a much earlier and longer version of my current debut.  I was able to use some of the quotes from her report in my covering letters to agents who agreed with her that there was '...much to admire...' before rejecting me.

Most of all though, keep pushing yourself to be better.  Read best-sellers in your demographic and genre - not to copy, but to see how high the bar is being set.  Learn how they deal with plot twists and how they use viewpoint to make their work exciting and immersive.  How are their characters interracting?  What is being left unsaid for the reader to wonder at?  How could you make your book more gripping?  Learn constantly.  

But be warned: If you can't - or won't - re-write, you're in trouble.  If you take every rejection to heart, you'll be bleeding out long before you see a book on the shelf.   If you think that getting an agent is the hard part and that once you've signed on the dotted line all that rejection is going to stop and the publishers' doors are going to open and you'll be bathed in glorious white light and angels' song as they clamour for every word you produce...

No.  None of that is going to happen.  The rejection never stops.  Not even for seasoned authors with best-sellers under their belts.  

I signed with Polly Nolan at Greenhouse Literary Agency last August.  My debut went out to all major UK publishers in October...and the complimentary, contradictory rejections are already starting to dribble in.  It could be months, even years, before any kind of publishing deal is struck.  This is a SLOW business where "No" doesn't mean "Bad", it means "Not now".  

I'm currently putting the final tweaks to a sequel that may never see the light of day if book one doesn't sell.  It doesn't matter.  I've loved writing it.  Maybe it will sell a few years down the line when trends change.  Who knows?  Don't get me wrong, I'm still desperate to see my first baby leave the nest but this is a game of patience and time is something I fill up with words.  All this procrastination has allowed me to write a couple of other novels in different genres that we might have more luck with.  The point is: I'm doing what I love.  

If I ever get paid...well, that'll be a bonus.

Writers are dandelions: No matter how much they rip us up, we keep growing.

If you're interested in finding out if I crash and burn, you can follow me on Twitter @kmlynam.  But don't hold your breath waiting for a conclusion.  It may take a while.

And good luck with your own writing.  DO NOTgive up.  Be a dandelion.


Jan 22nd

When I Was A Boy

By Dolly

The little I've got left, is just enough to believe, that if you scratch at the surface long enough, you'll catch sight sight of your own reflection, at least that's what I was told by an old uncle of mine. I say old, because that was how he appeared to me at the time. All adults are old when you are young. But I was just a boy with scuffed knees who lived on the freedom of rainbows, dreamt of Drake and the Armada, cattle skulls in Arizona, and stood in the shadow of snowfalls, when winter mornings left a trace on my bedroom window, or stood dumbfounded by a sunset, as I caught a glimpse of silence.

Now the night licks, and sometimes a word fits a conversation in the street. Virgins discard their innocent smile on the cinema steps, and sit in darkness as the heroine weeps in the ruins of the plot. Still I pick it up and shake it, just to see what's inside, but its only the rust of misspent years in left over rain, and moments of truth in every landing.


When I was a boy I lived on weekends, I'd close my eyes and touch my breathing.

Jan 21st

a paucity of pauses

By mike

  On Friday night night I attended a ;Stories for Homes’ event with the intent of contributing cash to the project.   I bought a copy of the book and paid an entrance fee,’  This was due to the money going to a charity that is involved in providing shelter for people who do not have a roof over their heads at night.  

   A grandfather had been a street busker and I looked into modern ‘street theater.’  I became aware that churches  in the West End were providing practical support for the homeless , St James in Piccadilly, for example, runs a night shelter.  It is a matter of choice but I would rather give money to one of these charities, or the churches, than to someone begging in the street.  This is even true of the West End where homelessness is very visible, 

     Going to the theatre is a luxury. On tuesday I saw ‘The Birthday Party’ and left home in the morning to see if I could obtain a seat with a restricted view, (These are sold on the day at a discounted price)  I commute to London and was accosted by someone in the station forecourt,   He asked me for money.   He did not look any different from any other commuter.  I walked to the theater where the play is performed and was solicited for money by three other people during the day - though two sold ‘The Big Issue‘   I then returned home.  I  caught an evening train for the performance.  In one day, I had walked through the West End four times. Homelessness is particularly prevalent in those streets with theaters,  There are six theaters in the Strand which parallels the River Thames.  A considerable number of theaters are within the parish of St Martins-in-the Field’  in Trafalgar Sqaure and the church hosts concerts too.

    I was lucky and got a seat for ‘The Birthday Party‘.   I think I attended the press night.  

    There was a small table in the foyer.   Upon this table was placed a piece of cardboard and, upon the card, was printed the word ‘‘Press’  This did seem an “Alice in Wonderland‘  moment.  Nothing was provided in the way of information - about this card -  and there were no attendants nearby.  I tentatively pressed the card as instructed and breathlessly awaited, Nothing untoward occurred.  However, as the play progressed I became aware that the table might have been an ingredient of the plot.  A stage prop had, perhaps, been inadvertently left in the foyer? 

    Perhaps it might have been the press night and, as such, I feel I should add my twopence worth. My  review is entitled: ‘A somewhat paucity of pauses.’  I had not seen the play before and awaited Pinteresque moments,.  I especially awaited his celebrated pauses.   The play proceeded at quite a pace and I can only presume that, as it was a cold night outside, the cast wished to get home early and the pauses cancelled for the evening.

   I had a front row seat and, although the view was slightly restricted - the area at the back of the stage was partially hidden by a table centre stage,  I  was thus unsure of what might have occurred around the kitchen sink. I could, however. could hear and see everything clearly and enjoyed the play immensely, though I have no idea why?   It seemed  a piece of clockwork with the mechanism askew. Characters veered from TV situation comedy to ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ and the dialogue likewise. 


Jan 19th

Interview with our very own Skylark

By Daedalus

As you will probably be aware (maybe apart from new Cloudies - hi new Cloudies!) our very own Skylark's debut novel 'Home' will be published very soon now, on 8 February. Skylark very kindly gave me a big chunk of her valuable time to answer questions about the writing process, the novel itself and the engaging voice of that wonderful lead character Jesika.

"Generally, if I become too overwhelmed by something I’m writing, I put it away and do something else – walk, cycle, watch telly, read a book, meet up with friends – but sometimes I make myself write on and confront whatever it is that is difficult because some of my best writing has come from doing that. Although it doesn’t always work like that because I also have a bad habit of trying to control the direction of the story too much in order to avoid the difficult stuff! When I realise I’m doing that, I make myself leave it, do something else and come back to it another day. But however difficult it feels writing the dark stuff, I always feel better afterwards when I’ve reached a point where I’ve written it well and done it justice."

I hope this will help whet your appetite until publication day (No spoilers btw!). Full interview via link below



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