Thursday, 19 January 2017

Supported By Your Local Editor by Jan Edwards

Being dyslexic is something universally recognised but frequently misunderstood. The assumption is that a dyslexic cannot read or write, or even function where the written word is concerned. The reality is very different. There are levels of dyslexia governed by many things too numerous to mention. Those of us on the upper ends of the scale can have a hard time convincing people there is a problem at all because people in general don’t understand what those problems are.

I am constantly aware of the dangers in using wrong or misplaced words without my being aware of doing so. I know perfectly well which words should be used, and where, but all too often the link between eye and brain simply fails and it can take me three or four edits to spot them.

The most frequent pitfalls arise from real words that are very similar in spelling and even usage: e.g. ‘to’ when it should be ‘too’, ‘of’ when it should be ‘off’.  Likewise before writing words receive or their the old rhyme  ‘I’ before ‘E’  except after ‘C’ trots through my brain on continuous loop.

It is less hard than it used to be in some respects. Spellcheck is a gift from the gods as it highlights all of those transposed letters - all of those ‘nad’s  can now be corrected to ‘and’s within seconds. On a good day – or bad, depending on how you look at it - I spend as much time going back to correct words as I do writing new ones. In that sentence alone I deleted ‘mchu’ and retyped ‘much’, ‘cerrect’ with  ‘correct ’ and ‘worse’ with ‘words’. 

The last example proves how predictive text is less than useful because it relies on your typing the correct start to a word; meaning ‘nad’ will not be corrected to ‘and’ but substituted with ‘nag’ or ‘nod’.  In a large document I may well not see that and it is only when grammar check puts a green line under it that I realise the sentence is faulty.

This is fine with ‘and’ et al because the mistake is usually quite obvious, but  when ‘error’ was substituted with ‘arrow’ when what I meant to type was ‘array’  and I did not spot it until a few weeks later it took some head scratching to recall what was in my mind at the time. 

There are occasions when the substitute word can, as a lucky happenstance, work quite well with a little jiggling. At other times they are just plain hilarious (and on occasion quite rude – though that may be just me).

To be fair to my educators I was not a classic case. I could read at the age of four and seldom failed a spelling test.  Except that I did. Letters transposed or missing were attributed to my appalling handwriting or just plain sloppiness. My first job in 1970 was at a bookshop, long before word processors and computers reached everyday commerce. After just a few weeks there the owner bought a tiny portable typewriter so that I could produce legible orders and invoices.  For which I was grateful because back then he could just as easily have sacked me.

Though dyslexia was first identified in the 1880s it did not really exist in the everyday school environment until the 1980s, long after I had left school.  By then I had become very adept at winging it with word identifications  and not ever suspected dyslexia as a problem and it was not until I was well in my forties when my OU tutor,  recognising my eccentric turns of phrase for what they were, obtained a proper evaluation.

The results of that test shocked me to the core. Not only was I measurably dyslexic and severely dyscalculic (which I had often suspected) but I was also dyspraxic into the bargain.

Now I don’t write this for anyone to feel sorry for me, or even to make allowances, but it does illustrate why I should have known better than to send in a commissioned manuscript over the holiday period without first running it past my resident editor.

My excuse was that it was the holidays and the deadline was 31st December, but realising half a day later that my 20,000 words were awash with typos and having to crawl cap in hand to the editor and ask metaphorically (it was an emailed submission) for it back, was not my finest hour.

All corrected now and happy bunnies all round, but proves the case for editors at every turn.       

Dyslexia is a curse that approximately one in ten people suffer to some extent or other. Yes, it does make life challenging at times, but with luck, work and a fair wind it is never a reason for not succeeding as a writer.


Jan Edwards can be found on:
Twitter: @jancoledwards

Titles in print – all available in print and dig formats
As author: Fables and Fabrications;  Sussex Tales;  Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

My writing cave - by Tara Lyons

The start of the New Year inspired some authors to share images on Faceboook of the views from their writing area. There were some truly beautiful pictures – which made me yearn more for a holiday than writing time… but that’s probably just me. These views were also a huge contrast to the one I have, and it got me thinking – does our surroundings unintentionally influence the genre we choose to write?

I always think writing by the sea is very special. UK or abroad, to me, it just looks beautiful and calming and inspirational. The office window looks out onto a veranda, or pier, and the sun glistens off the water before streaming through to the author’s workspace. It’s easy to see why so many of those authors who shared images like these write about romance, or humorous situations, or family life and children’s books. You can almost taste the salty sea-breeze from their novels.  

My writing space is one half of my bedroom. I set it up last year after I self-published my debut solo novel, In the Shadows. It has everything I need – the equipment and books and personal pictures, etc. But, I am facing a wall. So, when I was asked to share my writing view, I took a snap of what I saw one cold evening from my bedroom window/balcony… which technically, I don’t think is cheating… too much!

My writing view from my bedroom one cold,
December evening in London
I live in London. The photograph was taken in December. It was cold and foggy and the perfect
setting for what I write about – crime. Even now, that one moment I caught on camera has stayed in my mind while editing No Safe Home and planning book three. It’s exactly what I want my readers to envisage when they read certain scenes in my books. Even during the summer, when the trees are full of life, I find myself staring at that lone lamp post, and its limiting light, and the secluded path that leads far back into the unknown (it’s not really unknown to me, I know there’s a space park beyond those trees, but the picture doesn’t share that with you). On occasion, I’ve heard screams, or laughter, or chatter, but when I look out I hardly ever spot passers-by. As I delve further into the DI Hamilton series, I can’t help but think my writing area has spurred me on. That one view has propelled my ideas for crimes and settings and the fears they can entice. And, while I do have an idea for a light-hearted contemporary novel, I have a strong feeling it won’t be winning in the attention stakes, for a while least.

However, while it’s a bonus to have an influential writing view, that’s all it is – a bonus. So, if you don’t have one, and you’re staring at a wall, don’t be disheartened. If you have that idea for a book, keep writing. After all, I wrote my first bestselling novel sitting on my sofa with my laptop on my knees. 

To find out more about Tara's books, visit her Amazon page by clicking here.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Monologues, by Elizabeth Kay

The monologue is a form on its own, and Alan Bennett is its master. It’s really a dialogue with someone or something, although the co-respondent never speaks and is frequently not even there. The recipient may be the character itself, of course, or a facet of it. The monologue follows all the dramatic rules, therefore, and needs conflicts, tensions and resolutions as would a play. But just because we’re used to thinking of monologues as set pieces to camera doesn’t mean that they can’t work extremely well in print. The character does not necessarily have to be alone – although if other people are present the subject is at liberty to ignore them.
            There is usually some debate about the veracity of the information being conveyed – a single-sided view often implies that other versions of the same scenario exist, and provides plenty of opportunities for irony. Your character needs an individual voice to be truly memorable, and this may mean using such devices as repetition, malapropisms, unfinished sentences, non-sequiturs, catch phrases, digressions, obsessions and evasions. If you can’t produce an individual personality by using one or more of those you’re not trying!
            Consider your character’s status in life, and how this influences the way they see their situation. Has their experience of life differed radically from what they were brought up to expect? Do they really project the image they think they project?
            Think about the situation in which you place your subject. You could use a well-worn device such as a mirror, and then make it that bit different. Is the mirror cracked? A distorting mirror at a funfair? An heirloom? A shiny kettle? You could use an imaginary friend, a corpse, a teddy bear. You could get surreal and address anything from your left elbow to a tube of toothpaste. You can make your character just start talking out loud – but think about whether you would do the same thing yourself in the same situation. If talking out loud seems silly to you, it will sound unconvincing to everyone else. Loonies are the exception, of course. They’ll talk to anyone.
            Creating a character who can’t communicate with anyone at all opens up lots of opportunities. I was placed in a Bridport competition a long time ago with this story called Ducks. This is an example of someone who is treated as a loony because of her appearance, although she’s anything but. And it goes without saying that a monologue has to be written in the first person.


Every Thursday she comes for me, in her pale tweed coat and her sensible shoes. She has thick legs that finish at the knees, where the coat takes over. I’ve never seen her without it. She replaced the tall one with the protruding teeth. No one tells me their names.
            We always go the same way, to the park. Her stride never varies. We stop by the lake and she sits on the green metal seat and throws pieces of bread to the ducks. Sometimes the ducks come, and sometimes they don’t. When they don’t come she purses her lips and folds the rest of the bred back into the bright waxed paper with great care, doubtless reflecting on their ingratitude. Then she puts the bread back into her brown leather bag. I’ve often wondered what she does with it after that.
            They get me ready for her after dinner. They brush my hair (what there is of it) and wipe the food away from around my mouth, and then they stand one on either side of the wheelchair and lift so that they can put on my coat. They place a tartan blanket over my knees, whatever the time of year. It’s not to keep me warm, it’s to hide my legs. Not for my sake, you understand, but for hers.
            The black nurse is the kindest, the one whose skin looks like the polished wood of the bentwood chairs in matron’s office. They call her Arlene. She calls me Ducks. I’ve never really understood why she addresses me in the plural.
            I have no visitors, except for the woman in the tweed coat. I never have had. Sometimes I wonder if there is a family anywhere, a sister, a nephew maybe. I expect my mother died long ago. And would anyone have been able to see a resemblance between us? I doubt it.
            I am no stranger to my face, not after more than seventy years. Of course, it lacks the symmetry of other people’s, but I’m quite fond of it. The mouth pulls down to one side and an eyebrow twitches from time to time. The overall impression is one of total stupidity. It’s something about the eyes, I think, no control over those little muscles that push and pull and create expressions with fractions of inches. I can’t do it and they call me a spastic. I’ve been in one institution or another as long as I can remember. I don’t know my exact age. Either nobody knows, or no one has bothered to tell me.
It’s fortunate that time passes more swiftly as you get older. I used to find life an endless round of frustration, trying to communicate, trying to show that I understood. But my smile is grimace, my touch a blow and my speech ridiculous. No part of my body will do what my brain instructs, I am imprisoned in an enemy.
            I watch television. We all watch television, it’s switched on after breakfast and stays on until bedtime. I have learned a great deal from the television, in fact it taught me to read. I started with the end. Then I earned to read other things, like subtitles and advertisements and the back of other people’s newspapers. Nobody has noticed. I would read all day long if only someone would turn the pages.
So. The seasons come and they go, and there will not be many more. It is spring now, and I hate the spring. Springtime is the season of youth. They cuddled me when I was young, but an incontinent old woman doesn’t inspire the same emotions. Autumn is my time, I can relate to degeneration and death. Over seventy years have passed and I have never achieved anything, never controlled my wretched body for long enough to make one meaningful gesture.
Not all monologues are sad, but they are a very good vehicle for small tragedies. The story above has the happiest ending the character could hope for; she and her visitor meet another couple, a woman, pushing a child in a wheelchair, and when the ducks take off they manage to smile at one another. Something very small can mean everything in the right context, and the monologue is the perfect vehicle – either on its own as a short story, or within a book when you really need to get inside the head of one of your characters.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Adult Colouring Books by Wendy H. Jones

I am writing this post as the new year begins. By the time you read it 2017 will have crossed 16 days off the calendar, and Christmas will be long over. However, hands up those who got an adult colouring book for Christmas? I've got both hands up as I got both a colouring book and a pack of pens. I will admit I have grabbed the adult colouring craze with both hands and sprinted with it. As have many others it would seem. This has got me thinking about these books and why they are so popular.

My research started on Amazon where I typed Adult Colouring Books in the search bar. This gave me 37,962 books to choose from. I kid you not. I was stunned, knowing it was popular but not that popular. That's a lot of books to choose from. It then got me thinking about different genres of colouring books. The one I had for Christmas was a daily devotional so I started with Christian. That gave me 501 books, with devotionals being 95 of these. A quick look at my genre of crime gave me 31 results with the top one being a detective colouring book. Fantasy, as I thought, was big with 1,383 results. 

I also have a Character Sketch and Colour book which is designed to help develop characters. Therefore I did a search for Adult Colouring Books Writing. This showed 14,456 results. I seriously didn't think there would be that many. Blimey, how's a body meant to get any writing done with so many books to colour in to help with the writing process. There are also colouring notebooks and I invested in one of those for my trip to New Orleans for Bouchercon in September. The perfect size for note taking and a quick colouring project. 

Now that I had proved their popularity it was time to look at why they captured our imagination in such a way. having looked at several articles it would seem that they serve to calm us down. This is particularly true of the ones with repeated patterns. Repeating the process over and over allows us to relax and to focus on one thing. Studies have shown that it slows the heart rate thus helping to relieve stress. 

I certainly think this is true. In addition it forces us to slow down. Modern life is frenetic and most people have very little time to themselves. We live in a high octane world where everything is fast and full on. Colouring allows us to take time out, gives us time to think. As a writer I find that ideas often come when I am colouring in. I will then jot them down quickly so that thinking about them doesn't pull me away from my colouring task. I find the process soothing and relaxing which is why I love it so much. 

I would be interested in others views about this phenomenon. Please let me know if the comments what you think of this and the reasons you think it is so popular. Now, if you will excuse me, I've a counting book with my name on it. Maybe I'll even bring one out, you never know. 

About the Author


 Wendy H. Jones is the author of the best selling DI Shona McKenzie Mystery series of crime novels set in Dundee. Killer's Crew, the fifth booking the series was released in November, 2016. Dagger's Curse, the first book in her Fergus and Flora, Young Adult Mystery series was released on 10th September, 2016.  She also has one non fiction book, Power Packed Book Marketing: Sell More Books.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

A Tabloid Story by Jan Needle

In the never-ending search for an honest living as a writer, I have wandered down many byways. Most recently, having written a novella about a particularly gruesome murder, I decided to show it to a few chosen intimates to give me some idea of if it was any good or not.

It's called The Blood Hound, and even that title was given to me by one of those intimates. It's based on a true series of events which took place in Blackburn, Lancashire, in the 1870s. A little girl called Emily disappeared one afternoon after having been given a prize for excellence at her local school.

On her way home she was called across the street by a man, who asked her to go and collect some tobacco for him from a local shop. She knew him, and he gave her the money for the purchase, then went back into his barbershop to wait for her. She was seven.

At home, her parents became worried when her father came home from the mill where he worked, but Emily had still not returned. He went to the police, there was a search, and nothing at all was found.

The police were very good about it, and next day issued Missing Person notices and searched the surrounding area. Nothing.

It was almost fair time in Blackburn, and the town was full of itinerant entertainers, as well as the myriad navvies and ex-navvies who had built the railways and canal – many of whom, of course, were Irish. It would not have taken much to make the place explode.

There were no actual witnesses to the murder or the immediate lead up to it, but several little girls had seen a tramp on a corner near the barbershop, and claimed that he had sent the girl to collect the 'bacca.' You can maybe guess the rest.

There was no mass media in those days, but they did have an alarming number of local newspapers, an extraordinary number of railway lines through the town, and a veritable army of balladeers and chapbook men. Very soon the town was seething with rubberneckers and wild opinions. The barber, strangely, was not fingered as a suspect for many days.

Before that, at least ten tramps were arrested on one day alone, and many more itinerants fled the area. The strongest suspect was seized in a distant county – those railways again – because the girls remembered their man had broken clogs. He was brought back to Blackburn, probably to be lynched.

You can keep it too light. But my proper pics wouldn't download
Except he wasn't. Because a lively opportunist from Preston brought his dog all the way to Blackburn when he read about the murder, and persuaded the police (Mr Chief Constable Potts) that it was a bloodhound and would find out the dreadful truth. The dog, Morgan, was only half bloodhound, and when set on in the woods where part of Emily's body had been found, came up with nothing.

But by this time, local opinion had turned against the barber (who was a tiny, damaged man of twenty-four) and the bloodhound was taken to his shop. It was the first time in England, apparently, that a bloodhound had been used to find a murdered body. Normally, they just hunted runaways.

It took Morgan no time at all. After sniffing round the bottom floor he shot upstairs and almost jammed himself inside the chimney. Where very shortly, Emily's half-burned skull was found. The police saved the barber from the baying crowd, so that he could be hanged with proper decency.

It was the luridness of the newspaper accounts and broadside ballads that gave me my problem. The crime, as delineated, was so appalling, so utterly brutal, that I felt my story had to start with it. Unvarnished. But I thought I might be wrong.

To cut a long story short (if not my problem), it's now been read by six people who are ‘fans’ and friends. And guess what. Half of them think my approach is dead right, and the other half think it borders on disgusting – and more importantly, puts them off reading beyond the first two chapters.

My intention, and my hope, was this: to show a vile crime, then follow it by going into the barber's mind to try and understand why he might have done it. His wife, the mother of his children, forgave him. There was a public subscription to keep them from the poor house. Not, one fears, what would have happened in our more enlightened times?

He was a sad wee man, barely five feet tall, who had been given to the parish as an undernourished toddler, and who fell off the workhouse roof onto his head when aged eleven.

There’s my quandary, sensation seekers. What to do?

PS I had a pic of the 'bloodhound' and the murderer, but the computer said no. Sorry.

PPS Just finished the account by G.A.Jones ('honest George') of his 'pleasure trip' to the Baltic by motor boat the month before Britain and Germany went to war. It is understated, funny, moving, and original. Just like Julia's own writing. She is, of course, his daughter. I honestly can't recommend it highly enough. It's called The Cruise of Naromis, and it's from Golden Duck and on Amazon.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

One small positive in a world gone mad by Dennis Hamley

Dennis Hamley
To start with, I must apologise for this being probably the most boring post ever put on the AE blogspot. It's all to do with the pictures. For as long as I have been posting, I have taken images off sites which specifically say 'images for' and copied and pasted them to the blog. They are specific to the topic of the blog and the text needs them. But apparently, Blogger has decided I'm not going to have them any more. Every time I copy them now, a rather curt warning notice tells me that I'm putting myself in danger. And when I try to call their bluff and preview what I've written, the preview just won't work. So I get rid of them quickly and it then it does. A great pity.

So this month I'm not starting with the blog itself. Last month I went on at some length about books I had managed to clear out of the way and in the comments, Sue Price gently but firmly reproved me for not providing links. Well, point taken and here they are. I know they should come at the end of the blog, but what the hell, it's getting late on December 27th, we leave early tomorrow for NZ and I haven't finished my part of the packing so this is turning into a rush job!

So here is the whole of my Joslin Books children's list, in paperback and ebook, with (at this stage, I hope) some colourful covers as well just to cheer things up a bit. And, glory be, the ban doesn;t stretch to simple images off Amazon!

                JOSLIN BOOKS   (paperbacks and ebooks)

Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick

Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick: four slightly weird stories

Out of the Deep: stories of the Supernatural

Yan Tan Tethera: five stories and a very tiny novel

The Bright Sea, Dark Graves trilogy

1.The Guns of St Therese

2. The Nightmares of Invasion

JOSLIN BOOKS is Dennis Hamley’s new Young Adult imprint for anthologies of stories, both new and previously published, and new work not intended for other publishers.

I'm horrified to see the ebook editions of Yan Tan and Nightmares  don't seem to be there. Well, I was told that Createspace's free Kindle service wasn't entirely dependable. They've worked well for me before this, but I shall do it myself this time, as soon as I can.

And now to what this blog was supposed to be about. Please imagine what the pictures might have been!

So much of this year has been horrible, so we cling on the seeds of hope wherever we can. And on Monday, December 12th, one little seed broke the surface and began to flourish. (Normally, I wouldn't countenance writing a corny image like that, but here it seems oddly fitting). On that day, the first train left the main station at Oxford along the old branch line to Bicester -  which once ventured westward to Verney Junction, Winslow and Bletchley and then, by devious means, wandered vaguely to Cambridge. When our train had left the sumptuous new station at Bicester Village (where the train announcements are in Arabic and Chinese as well as English), it left the old branch and headed along the new chord line which connects it to the main Birmingham-Marylebone line. Back on the branch, the new tracks carry on eastward and disappear tantalisingly just round the corner, hinting at new triumphs in store.

There's been so much spoken and written about the resurrection of this relic and its transformation into the new East-West route. After  Mr Grayling's insistence that the whole project is to be handed over entirely to private enterprise, one's enthusiasm could almost have been extinguished. But mine wasn't. For me, the first completed part of this great scheme, the new route from Oxford to London Marylebone was a profoundly significant  event. The tiny station in Marylebone was opened with such high hopes in 1898 as the terminus of the 'Last Main Line,' the Great Central. But it was doomed to failure from the start because other railways and, in British Rail days, former employees of these railways, had it in for the upstart from the moment it was opened. Even Dr Beeching never thought that the GCR and the Oxford-Cambridge branch should be closed. These were the decisions of vengeful bureaucrats. Where have we heard that before? They even wanted to close Marylebone at the same time as St Pancras in the 60s. Betjeman saved St Pancras. I often wonder who the unsung hero was who rescued Marylebone. It's sad that they couldn't stop the same bureaucrats from dumping the wonderful Doric Arch at Euston into an unmarked grave somewhere in the Thames Estuary so that nobody could ever resurrect it.. I want to see the railways renationalised - but please don't let anyone from the old British Railways Executive come anywhere near them.

So I feel that a wrong is being righted and honour will be satisfied. Besides that, lost kingdoms of my childhood are being rediscovered, because both routes loomed large in my early life. And now, at last, they are truly united.

No, we didn't get up in time for the first train on the new route. But my brother came over from Winslow to see what he and other Winslovians might experience regularly in a few year's time when half a century of railway-less life finally ends for them - including their own direct route to London, a circumstance which I would once have regarded as being as likely as dinosaurs clumping down the Aylesbury road .

Well, what did we experience.?

To start with, a level of experience which, though I love them, I just don't find anywhere else on the railways of Britain at the moment. Much more akin to the French model than First Great Western (I refuse to call them The Great Western Railway, as they are trying to make us). Clean, fast trains, smooth quiet track, two beautiful new stations at Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village. We didn't go far that day but we've made several journeys from Parkway to Marylebone, now our preferred means of travel to London, and found that if something does go wrong we're told what and why it is and an estimate of when things will improve. To put it in capitalist terms, the customer experience is good - better than the others anyway.

True, the main stock isn't brand new, Thirteen trains were transferred from Trans-Pennine, and refurbished especially for the new route, this fomenting a new Soft South. versus Deprived North row. But if you're lucky, you can get a ride on a Silver Train, taken over from the old Wrexham - Shrewsbury-Marylebone Open Access service, ruined and withdrawn when Virgin said they were a threat and forbade them to stop in Birmingham, this carrying on the old feuds. Now they provide the fast Birmingham trains and one a day, at peak hours, runs to and from Oxford. These trains are made up of ex-British Rail Mark 3 coaches, still modern,with a quality you don't find in, for example, Cross-Country Voyagers. They have been refurbished without the layout being altered to squash in as many passengers (or 'customers') as possible, so there is plenty of room, Each table with its facing seats fits in with a complete window.. The ride is smooth and quiet and the experience is like something expansive and restful from yesteryear when travel could be enjoyed properly.

So Richard went home to Winslow overjoyed with what he had seen. In a few years time (not even Mr Graying knows exactly when) regular trains will shatter the peace in the cutting under the Iron Bridge for the first time since 1967 and the miserable day of closure. A beautiful station just like Bicester Village or Parkway will rise up next to the Buckingham Road. And all shall be well, and all maner of thyng shall be well.

Good for you, Chiltern Railways, run by railwaymen and not business executives and bureaucrats. I never mind giving plugs to things which deserve them.

I hope everyone had a brilliant Christmas and is now settling down to a New Year which is already proving better than, as I write, we are now  all fearing.

And, just to remind you:

Try it. But try the first one first. And if you fancy saying a few nice words about them, I'll send you pdfs.



Friday, 13 January 2017

Distractions by Ann Evans

Have you ever wondered just how much more writing you'd get done if you didn't get distracted?

For all our good intentions as we sit down to write, there's just so many distractions to contend with. And top of the distraction list for most people has to be the internet!

Where would we be without it though? It's information at our fingertips. Good old Google is a fount of all knowledge, and a massive time saver when you need to check something. And emails – what a disaster when they let us down!

Trouble is, most of our notifications from our social media sites gets fed through to our emails so often there are dozens of notifications of who's posted where, and it takes such a mountain of willpower not to be distracted and take a look then click on the post and maybe add your own two-pennyworth.

Facebook is probably the number one culprit. Of course it has its good side, the networking, socialising, making new writing contacts and friends, promoting your books etc. But it does have a knack of drawing us in, so that writing time is diminished by our continually dipping in and out of it as we sit and try to write.

But apart than the internet, what's your top distraction? Tea and coffee breaks? Definitely, but I've found that a tea break has its good and bad points. Bad – if you're working from home, when you walk away from your PC to make a cuppa, you also note that there's some washing up needing doing, or the carpet could do with a hoover, or washing to be hung out. So that 5-minute tea break can result in taking up half your day if you're not careful.

But on the good side, often stepping away from the computer screen especially when you can't think what to write next is the ideal way off getting the creative juices flowing again. When I worked as a feature writer for the Coventry Telegraph, where you had to write articles up pretty quickly, I found that once I'd got my opening sentence I was off and running. But staring at a blank screen rarely provided the inspiration for those first few woods to hook the reader.

So my routine was to get up from my desk and head off to the canteen and let the brain free-wheel for a moment. Almost without fail as I was adding boiling water to my teabag, those magical first words would jump into my head. I'd quickly get back and start writing – sometimes not even getting a sip of tea until the article was drafted out. It still works now. So I think there's something to be said for distractions.

Walking in general is a great distraction – and nearly always fires inspiration. A study two years ago by Stanford Graduate School of Education researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined creativity levels of people while they walked versus while they sat. They discovered that a person's creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking. So if you need a distraction, you can't beat going for a walk.

Family and friends can be distractions too – but of course we wouldn't change that for the world, would we? And pets - our furry and feathered friends need a bit of attention too. My only pet at the moment is a cockatiel which you might think couldn't be any bother at all. Unfortunately, she thinks she's the boss and likes nothing more than to check out what I've written and thinks nothing of flying upstairs to my office, then patter her little feet all over the keyboard. Here she is now as I'm writing this blog, checking my mobile for texts in case one's for her. It's a good job she doesn't know about Twitter, that's all I can say!

Birdbrain Georgie

So what's the main thing that distracts you when you should be writing?

More distractions!