Monday, 22 November 2010

Sad news - a Tribute to Gunnar Stickler



It is with much sadness that I have to report the death of Gunnar B Stickler who passed away suddenly at his home in Wayzata Minneapolis USA on Thursday 4 November at the age of 85. I remember him for his compassion, energy and unassuming manner. The world has lost a great charismatic man who cared passionately for his patients, and cared deeply for people affected by Stickler Syndrome. Sadly I was unable to attend his memorial service but was asked to send out 70 copies of Ten Years On, the book I produced for the support group's 10th anniversary in 1999 and presented to Gunnar and his family. The first half of the book explains how and why I set up the Stickler Syndrome Support Group, and the second half contained a biographical sketch of Gunnar. I sent the following message to be read out at the service: 'I am so sorry I cannot be with you today, but the journey was simply not possible. I feel extremely wretched about this, but knowing Gunnar, I am sure he would have understood. When I was diagnosed with Stickler Syndrome in 1988 I found very little information in the UK about it, so I wrote to the Mayo Clinic, where it was defined, for information, and of my intention to set up a support group. Gunnar responded to my letter and enclosed copies of his 1965 and 1967 papers and put me in touch with several American families. This was SO typical of Gunnar, and so began a warm correspondence. His interest in every aspect of life shone through every communication. We discussed many subjects ranging from the atrocities of war, to his love of sport, especially iceboating, to his concerns of being an over protective grandfather. I eventually set up the support group in 1989 for families with Stickler Syndrome, the first of its kind, and when I mentioned my intention to hold a 'Stickler' conference in the UK, his immediate response was so humble, and he promised to be there at my side to support me. True to his word, he came over to our first conference in November 1994. and I will never forget the pleasure of meeting him for the first time, his great compassion, his unassuming manner, and our members can still recall his gentleness. His love and empathy for sick children was obvious that weekend as he made a point of talking to them all, as well as their families. Again when I wrote the book 'Stickler the Elusive Syndrome' I sent him the manuscript to read and asked him to write a preface. In it he wrote: 'While looking on to the flooded Mississippi from my study I think of man's continued effort to make order out of chaos. I reflect on the remarkable book Wendy Hughes has written. She describes very well the hereditary disease which we at the Mayo Clinic named... It is society's gain that Wendy's condition was diagnosed and defined. Some order replace chaos.' Gunnar was extremely interested and supportive of all my writing and was always keen to receive copies of anything I published. He came over gain to our 10th anniversary conference in 1999 and when I presented him with a copy of Ten Years On he could not believe it, and kept saying 'For me? Usually nothing is written about a medical person until they are dead!' the joy on his face that day was an image I shall always remember, and I am so please I wrote that book. He kept rubbing my shoulder in disbelief saying he did not deserve this fuss. The world was lost a great, unassuming man. His family have lost a loving husband, father and grandfather, but through The Stickler Syndrome Support Group and other groups around the world his legacy of defining the condition will live on. he will always have a special affectionate place in my heart, and I feel extremely privileged and honoured to have known and met him.

Gunnar and me, cutting our 10th anniversary cake.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Launch of Haunted Worthing

Haunted Worthing was launched yesterday at British Bookshops in Montague Place in Worthing, and many thanks you all who came, and a special thanks to all who bought a copy. It was a very successful day and I do hope you will enjoy finding out a little more about Worthing and its surrounds. Worthing is noted for its seaside and 'fresh air' qualities and is relatively new as towns go, so at first glance you may not even consider it a spooky town. But think again! The ghosts who reside at Worthing are quite a friendly peaceful bunch, so it is obvious that they are content to life in harmony with their surroundings. So next time you wander into the town keep a lookout for the ghostly figures of two children peering from an upstairs window onto the main street, or you may catch a sighting of the tall ghost dressed in white that once frequented the Dragoon public house, the scene of a brawl that ended in murder. Some say it's his ghost that used to frequent the pub before it was demolished, so where is he now? Perhaps you have even caught a glimpse of the 'Grey Lady' making a fleeting appearance in the Connaught Theatre? If walking is your pleasure then on your travels you may encounter the 8ft hooded monk studying his prayer book, or perhaps you may see the flickering candles in the middle of road, possibly connected with the Knights Templar. Just 'down the road' at Littlehampton a visit to the Dolphin Hotel, declared to be the most haunted building in the town, is a truly freaky experience, and not one for the fainted hearted. Here live a whole family of ghosts, including a nursery full of mischievous children who love to play games together, run around, make plenty of noise and are known to throw the odd item or three, but don't stay in room number 2. as you may meet the top half of a lady!
However launch over, no time to rest as I am putting the finishing touches to Shipwrecks of Sussex, so watch this post for updates. Meanwhile I am eagerly waiting copies of The Story of Pembrokeshire which is due for release on 15 November. This is a greatly updated version of the book that came out in 1993, and has been in print every since. This edition will have two sections of coloured photographs, and will be approximately 50% longer. If you enjy this beautiful historic part of the world, so look out for a copy.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

It's Arrived!

It is a long time since I posted, but that is because life has been full of exciting things!
First of all it has arrived! Haunted Worthing, I mean, always a truly exciting time for an author when you actually have something to show for all that research and hard work. I must say I am very pleased with it, and I do hope readers will enjoy it too. Worthing grew from a very small coastal, mackeral-fishing hamlet recorded as 'Ordings' in 1086 with a population of just twenty-two into a market town by 1803 and into a bustling Victorian seaside town. It has been home to smugglers and several well known literary figures over the centuries not to mention a holiday destination for thousands. The town is rich in history, and it is this past which has surely helped supply its pubs, theatres, streets ad houses with more than their fair share of ghouls and poltergeists. The ghosts in this book are on the whole a peaceful, fairly friendly bunch, but don't be misled. There are the exceptions, those poor souls with a sad past. In my latest book you will meet the 8ft monk reading his prayer book, the young girl whose hair is stroked by an unseen hand, two ghostly children caught on security camera, the famous musician who frequented his last home and the painting that weeps salty tears, and I am sure these tales will leave you chilled to the bone. But for a truly spooky experience pop down the road to the Dolphin Hotel in Littlehampton, declared the most haunted building in the town and meet a whole family of spooky ghosts and enjoy the truly freaky experience, but not one for the faint hearted. Here live Fred the blacksmith who resides in the cellar, and a nursery of mischievous children who love to play games together, run around, make plenty of noise and are known to throw the odd item or two, but don't stay at room number 2, as you may meet the top half a lady! The book has 70 black and white illustrations too.

The last few weeks have been very interesting as I pursue my research for shipwrecks! Did you know that over 200 ships were wrecked in Seaford alone? I have enjoyed days in Hastings, Seaford, Newhaven, and Worthing and Chichester nearer home. Deadline for Shipwrecks of Sussex is 30 November and I am in the happy position of feeling I will reach the deadline with no worries! In fact I have too much material! Watch this space for more information on publication date.

Finally the delayed Story of Pembrokeshire will be published on 15 November, so it has been a busy year to say the least, but a rewarding one!

On Tuesday 5th October I run a Day for Journalists and Non-fiction Writers for the SWWJ at The Writers House in London, which turned out to be most enjoyable as we shared our methods of working on a feature as well as on a non-fiction book. It was interesting to learn how each of set about sorting out our material. We also looked at various magazines as potential markets and I am sure everyone went home with at least one idea to pursue.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Touched by Kindness

Most people reading my blog will know that besides my writing, I run a support group for people suffering from Stickler Syndrome. One of our members Emma Sykes whose son has Stickler Syndrome and is now registered blind, has put a team together to endure and sponsor the 'Three Peaks Challenge' on 11-12 September 2010. They will be climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon all in a period of 24 hours! What a challenge! The gruelling climb will start at 12 noon on Saturday with a 5 hour hike to Ben Nevis, then they will drive down to Scafell Pike for a 4 and a half hour hike, through the night and ending at 3am, finally finishing off their marathon with Snowdon starting at 8am through to mid-day on the Sunday. The team consists of members and staff from Broadoak Construction who are currently based on a project in London. They are Iain (Project Manager), Jeff and Joss (Site Managers), Emma (Health and Safety), Carl (QS) and Lukas (Site Security). Good luck to them all!
All proceeds will go towards the next SSSG conference that we hope to hold in May 2011. These conferences are vitally important to our members as they have the opportunity to learn about current research, talk to the medical professionals about the condition and their worries, but far more importantly they are able to meet and network with fellow sufferers, and at this conference we hope to hold a mini conference within the main conference for the youngsters. This is most important so that they can discuss their hopes and fears for the future, peer pressure, relationships, self esteem and much more.
Daniel, pictured above on the far right in a pink top at our last conference, was born with badly torn retinas and had to undergo emergency surgery when he was under a year old, the first of many operations this young man has to face. Emma is very grateful for finding the support group when she most needed it, and I feel very privileged that she has chosen to support us in this way. I have seen Daniel grow from a toddler, into a very capable happy teenager. Like many of our youngsters now and again Daniel gets upset and frustrated with his condition, and who can blame him, especially as he will never be able to drive. This is such a disadvantage in today's society, and I am sure will be one of the 'hot subjects' on the conference agenda.
If you can, please donate generously to this worthy cause, as any amount will help the group. The charity is run solely on donations, so our members will benefit directly. The more we can collect the cheaper we will be able to make the weekend, so that it will be accessable to more families, especially those on low incomes through no fault of their own. Any messages of luck and encouragement to the team will also be gratefully received, because they will definitely need all the support they can get! If you feel moved enough to donate anything, however small, please visit Emma's page at http://www.justgiving.com/Emma-Sykes. Thank you.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Another Busy Week Bites the Dust

As another busy week draws to a close I reflect on what has turned out to be a very busy and productive week for me in pursuit of shipwrecks. Tuesday I went along to Seaford Museum, which is not open to the public on a Tuesday, but is one of the days when voluntary workers for the museum have a chance to update the archives or repair artifacts that have been donated, and for those like me, by prior arrangement, who have the opportunity to study their archives. These include an array of referenced documents, pictures and articles, as well as a register of houses in the town, which must be unique and a great asset for family tree researchers. The museum is housed in one of the Martello Towers built when Napoleon threatened to cross the English Channel in 1803. It is nicknamed the Tardis by visitors due to its deceptive 5,000 sq ft of display area spanning three floors. 103 Martello towers were built from Aldeburgh in Suffolk around the coast to Eastbourne in Sussex, although many have now disappeared. This one is number 74, and well worth a visit, but do check out the website as it is not open every day. Seaford Museum is open on Heritage Open Days, Saturday 11 September 2.30 to 4.30 and Sunday 12 September from 11am. to 4.30pm, so why not pop along? Many thanks to the working team on Tuesday who not only made me a cup of coffee, but helped with the photocopying.

Wednesday saw me a little nearer to home at Malipins Museum in Shoreham, housed in one of the oldest domestic buildings in Sussex, and sitting proud on the High Street. It has a fascinating collection of maritime history as well as local history for this part of Sussex and Shoreham Film Industry.

Thursday turned into another productive day when a visit to Littlehampton Museum proved most interesting. Not only did I learn about another wreck I have not discovered before, but I had the wonderful opportunity of handling some of the artifacts from this wreck. Many thanks to the museum staff who were so helpful.

With a mass of notes and photocopied material you can guess what I will be doing this weekend!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Shipwrecks and Meeting The Authors at Selsey

What a hectic week, but a very productive one, with visits to the martime museums at Newhaven, Seaford and Shoreham in pursuit of information for my next book Shipwrecks on the South Coast, which is now taking shape and leaving me with a dilemma! There are so many shipwrecks that I think I will have be very selective, but a very enjoyable situation for an author to be in.
The highlight of the week for me was on Friday when I went along along to the 'Meet The Authors' event organised by Selsey Writers as part of the Selsey Festival. There were around 22 authors there, all eager to talk about their books and meet their readers. Pictured above is me with my very dear friend Josephine Chia who amongst other things has written an excellent book as a tribute to her mother. It has a most unusual title 'Frog Under a Coconut Shell', which is a Malay idiom that likens someone to a frog that lives under a coconut shell and who believes the shell to be its entire world. It refers to Josephines mother who although herself uneducated and living a parochial existence in a small village believed in and struggles for a greater vision - the right to educate her daughter and is a wonderful testament to the love and courage of a mother that changed Josephine's life forever. If you only buy one book this year, make sure it is this one. Do visit her website and learn more about her work

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Time Flies!

It is well over a month since my last posting. Where does the time go? For me it has been an extremely busy time.

On 6 July I spent a most enjoyable day at Selsey Writers talking about using folklore in your writing. The group were all asked to put some ideas on paper and the feedback session showed that most had come up with some really good original idea to work on. Well done Selsey Writers and thank you for inviting me.

I have managed to finish updating The Story of Gower, which is now 50% larger than the original, and like the The Story of Pembrokeshire will have two sections of colour photographs. This is now with the publishers, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch. The manuscript of The Story of Pembrokeshire was returned so that I could include an index, which I am very pleased about. Since this book was first published in 1993 I have had some super letters - always godo for a writer to receive - but several had said that an index would have helped, especially when they were exploring the area.

Nearer home I have been working hard on my next book The Shipwrecks of Sussex, which is proving to be a fascinating subject. So far I have meet some super people who are willing to share information with me, and I have several visits lined up in the coming couple of weeks with Marlipins Museum in Shoreham and Littlehampton and Seaford Museums. A visit to the visitors centre at Beachy Head ealier this week proved most useful, and I fear my problem will be choosing what to put in the book. At the same time I am also working on The Story of Carmarthenshire, which will form part of The Story of ... series. So a busy few months ahead for me! What's new I hear my readers ask.

I am also waiting with anticipation the arrival of Haunted Worthing, which should be available from September, so watch this space for details, book signings, etc.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

This morning the proofs of my next book, Haunted Worthing arrived for me to check and return. This is always an exciting time for any author when finally you see your book set out on the page with all the photographs in situ. At last you feel that all your hard work is worth it. So... with the sun blazing down on my garden, now an array of colour, I shall be sitting under the shade of an umbrella to read and check my book with the slight interruption of the seagulls. Several weeks ago we discovered a seagulls nest wedged against the chimney on the roof. Presently we noticed two little chicks had hatched, and over the coming weeks we have watched them take their first steps as 'mum' stands poised to pounce if anything should go wrong. It has been an interesting experience, and now the chicks are much bigger and their feather seem to be changing colour, I am assuming that it will not be long before they learn to fly.
I have an interesting event lined up for Tuesday 5 July. I have been invited to talk to Selsey Writers about using folklore in their writing. I am really looking forward to meeting everyone and gaining a few more writing friends. I have drawn on folklore in most of my books, especially the Story of... series where I tell the story of the county from the beginning of time to present day. Watch this space as the updated book on The Story of Pembrokeshire will be published any day now. This book was first published in 1993 and has been in print every since, but I am sure this updated version, together with many colour photographs will be welcomed.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Exciting News!


Today I was thrilled to receive a copy of the cover of my book on Haunted Worthing, being published by the History Press. I must say I am absolutely delighted with it. This book is due to hit the bookshops in early September, so watch this space for more inforamtion. Meanwhile I am working on my next book, Shipwrecks along the South Coast, in between enjoying the glorious sunshine. At last the warmer weather has arrived.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Break in Normandy

I have just returned from a much needed break in Normandy, and delighted to report that I am minus my croaky voice and a viral infection that has plagued me for best part of this year!
We stayed in Deauville in a property overlooking the sea with views of some of the best sunsets I have seen. This was a recuperation and relaxation holiday, so I did my best not to end up turning it in a writing holiday, but there is so much to see and do Normandy that I found it extremely difficult. We were in Normandy on the 6 June, a very important in history, so a trip along the Normandy beaches was a must. Although we did not see the main parades,
we went to Arromanche to see what remains of Mulberry Harbour, which helped to win the war. There were Canadian, American and British War Veterans there for the anniversary, and a visit to the museum was very moving indeed. Mulberry Harbour was built in England piece by piece in various parts of the country, and no one knew what they were working on. The pieces were then shipped out to France and built under the cover of darkness – a fantastic piece of engineering – the harbour, and road from the harbour to the village to take the vehicles, supplies, etc!

Orbec is a medieval village – one of only a few that was not totally destroyed during the war. Very quaint with timber houses of the distinctive Norman appearance, some with thatched roofs. The day we went was market day and all the farmers came into town with their horse and wagons to sell their fruit, veg and homemade bread and cheeses. As you can imagine we sampled a great deal of the local produce!

Another day we went to Falaise, which is the birthplace of William the Conqueror, and a huge bronze statue of the Conqueror, on horse backs sits in the castle just below the castle – his childhood home and that of the Dukes of Normandy.

We also visited Caen, which is now very modern being almost destroyed in the war, but we did walk around the ruined castle and visited the museum.

I loved Honfleur, so pretty and some of the buildings seemed to be so tall that they would topple over! Again it was market day so very busym and interesting to see all the different foods on display. Various boats were in the harbour and seafood was on every menu.

Deauville itself is where all the film stars holiday and once a year (in September) is home to Deauville film festival. Things were extremely expensive in Deauville, but it was nice to see another side of life. The promenade or the Boardwalk is boarded for miles and super to walk along. All along the boardwalk are beach huts with little gates in front with the name of a film star who has been to Deauville – lots of lots of them, all famous, including firm directors as well. We were told to look out for famous people as they come to Deauville to the Casino and then parade along the boardwalk in the afternoon. Unfortunately I cannot report seeing anyone famous, but we did look at the restaurants serving Oysters and Champagne and an enormous platter of shell fish for a mere £60 per person! We also visted Tourville – much cheaper than Deaville and also Villiers Sur Mer.

Alas it was time to leave and I returned home to find the final proofs of The Story of Pembrokeshire sitting on the doormat, so it was back to work as usually!



Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Sutton Writers Circle

It is always a pleasure to talk to fellows writers and on Friday 14 May I was not disappointed. I gave a talk at Sutton Writers Circle on Writing and Placing Articles - not an easy subject today with markets dwindling at an alarming rate, but it is not all doom and gloom and with a few sideways steps and some imagination most articles writers can come up with something new on an old subject. I talked first about one's attitude to publication, with is very important.
  • Treat your writing as a business and always act like a professional writer.
  • Be prepared - good supply of paper, envelopes, stamps and a GOOD quality cartridge in your printer.
  • Only submit your best work.
  • Be motivated and be determined to succeed and you WILL succeed.
Article writers, in some ways, are more fortunate than short story writers, because far more articles and published. The secret is to specialise in a couple of subjects at first and build up. There are plenty of markets out there, for example:
Newspapers - daily, weekly, regionals, nationals, Sunday supplements, local freebies.
Magazines - a glance along the shelves in your local newsagents should bring in a wealth of ideas.
Trade Journals - always a good source. The competition is less fierce and editors are often desperate for the right sort of material.
Don't forget the English speaking markets either Ireland, America, Canada, Singapore, etc.
Religious and Inspirational writing.
Food and Travel Magazines
Children and Teenage publications.
County Magazines
Seek out a new market and see if you could write for this publication. Thank you Sutton Writers for inviting me.
Saturday I attended the second of my 10 session courses on historic Worthing. This week the session included the great and the good of the town -Town Officials, Councillors and Aldermen. Chris Hare packed a great deal into the session and I have come away with a great deal that I would like to research further.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

I had the pleasure of visiting Chichester Writers Circle on Tuesday 4 May to judge their short story competition and talk about short stories in general. I received a very warm welcome and hopefully most gained something out of the evening. The competition was for a modern day fairy story, not an easy subject, but I am pleased to say that all the entries stuck to the brief resulting in a varied bunch of stories. What I was looking for in each story was:
1. An original idea.
2. Believeable characters.
3. Conflict.
4. Dialogue.
5. An interesting title
6. A story that had a beginning, middle and an end.
7. A story that held my interest to the end.
8 a satisfying or believing ending.
I must say the majority ticked all the boxes, but a few could have found better titles. Titles can be so difficult. Each person went away with a tip sheet on writing short stories, which I hope was useful. Well done to Chichester Writers for a most enjoyable evening. Wednesday saw me back at my desk working on my Gower book, which is almost ready for the final proofread. Thursday was a day of pleasure as I attended the SWWJ south east regional lunch at the Birch Hotel in Haywards Heath, and besides meeting up with old friends it was good to chat to two of our newer members from the Worthing area. Monday 10 May I travelled up to London for the SWWJ Council meeting, always a long day, but especially enjoyable because as membership secretary I had 18 new applicants to present to Council. The SWWJ is going from strength to strength. If you are a writer, do have a look at the Society of Women Writers and Journalists website and consider joining us. Our up-coming event is our Summer Festival which is to be held at The Royal Overseas League in London, always an enjoyable event.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Although I say it myself, my Day for Journalists and Nonfiction Writers at the Writers House in London last Tuesday 27 April, turned out to be informative and helpful for all. One of the items under discussion was Interviewing for Journalists, which is an extremely useful skill for any writer to acquire. It is the best primary source of first-hand information, and by preparing for an interview it helps the writer to focus on the job in hand and think of all aspects of the subject. It is also one of the delights of writing because writing can be a lonely business, but interviewing brings the writer directly into contact with people. Each delegate was asked to interview the neighbouring person for five minutes and then introduce the neighbour to the rest of the group. Although no one had prepared for this session, it worked very well and it was surprising how much information could be gleaned in just five minutes. Other subjects covered during the session were preparing to write a feature (the process of development), preplanning and setting up the interview, venue, interviewing techniques, problems one may encounter, ending the interview and writing it up. The second main discussion point of the day was how to write a Nonfiction book proposal, which more and more publishers are asking for these days. We discussed the purpose of a book proposal, points to think about before approaching a publisher, thinking about your target reader and a tick list to help with your book proposal. Other subjects under discussion were some general tips for nonfiction writers, a saleable knowledge probe where writers were encouraged to look at themselves - what makes them tick, their likes and dislikes, favourite subjects, hobbies, etc - for inspiration for ideas, the general state of markets today, and fees. The feedback from the session was good with plenty of ideas for the next day, which will be held in October.
As we move into May I have a busy month ahead of me - what's new I hear you ask! In the background I am working on the final edit of an update of The Story of Gower and sorting out the photographs, which has to be with my publisher by 30 May. A the same time I am gathering material for Shipwrecks along the South Coast, which has a deadline of 30 November, and I shall look forward to exploring the south coast in the summer months. On the 4 May I will be talking to Chichester Writers Circle about their entries for a short story competition (modern fairy tale) and announcing the winners, and giving some general tips for writing short stories, which I am looking forward to. It is always enjoyable to visit Writers' Circles and chat to fellow writers about their projects. Thursday 6 May is the South East Regional lunch for the SWWJ at The Birch Hotel in Haywards Heath. It is good to have a day away from the desk, and I am looking forward to chatting to fellow writers and listening to our surprise guest speaker. 14 May sees me in Surrey talking to Sutton Writers Circle on the subject of Writing and Placing Articles, which I know I shall enjoy very much., although the markets for articles seem to be dwindling by the week. The following day, 15 May, is the second session of my course on Secret Worthing run by Chris Hare, a local prolific author. This session is on the Great and The Good of the Town - Town Officials, Councillors and Aldermen, and I know I am in for a treat.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

This week started with a big event for any writer, the three day London Bookfair held at Earls Court. This year due to volcanic ash invading our air space there were fewer overseas stands - many left empty - and fewer visitors, which made it pleasant to walk around. Another significant difference was that most publishers were interested in talking to authors about their various projects and were very generous with practical information. What did come over loud and clear was that authors are expected to do the majority of the promotion and publicity for their book themselves through their own websites and blogs, and are encouraged to do book signings, radio interviews, and talks whenever possible. The days of the 'shrinking violet' author have gone!
Back at my desk I am working on the final draft of The Story for Gower. This was the first book I wrote back in 1992 and it has been in print ever since. Now I am working on a new edition which will be roughly twice as long with colour and black and white illustrations. Obviously this being my first book it is very special to me and I must thank my publisher Myrddin ap Dafydd at Gwasg Carreg Gwach for the opportunity to update this book.
I am also working on a new book for The History Press entitled Shipwrecks of the South Coast, which I am enjoying researching. Being born and brought up a stone's throw from the Gower Peninsula I have always had a special affinity with the sea, which can be so powerful. There are so many shipwrecks to write about that I think I will need to be extremely selective.
Next week on Tuesday 27 April I am running a Day for Journalists and non-fiction writers in London. Anyone interested in learning more or attending, please contact me.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Is it really almost a month since I last blogged? Where has the time gone? It has been an extremely busy time for me, and I am pleased to say my book Haunted Worthing is now with The History Press. The last two weeks have been 'hair-raising' to say the least as I tried to juggle interviews and photographic sessions with days at my computer. At the same time I was forever watching the days ticking towards my deadline! I got there in the end, which is all that matters. I shall give myself the luxury of a couple of days rest, then it is back to editing The Story of Gower and working on Shipwrecks of the south Coast, which I am really looking forward to researching, especially with the summer months approaching.
So much as happened since I last blogged that I am not sure where to begin, except to say that I now believe in spirits after a most unusual paranormal experience at the Dolphin Hotel in Littlehampton. Intrigued? Then you will have to wait and read my book, which will be out in September. Meanwhile if you are in the area do pay a visit to The Dolphin Hotel who recently received an award for the most haunted building in West Sussex. The pub is run by Ellie Boiling and her partner Katie Smith and you can be sure of a warm welcome and a friendly chat with the locals.
The last couple of weeks have seen me visiting Hiorne Tower, but I saw no sighting of the 'white lady' who threw herself off the tower when her lover rejected her. A visit to Arundel castle and the town was a delight, and so was a walk up Highdown Hill, closer to Worthing. My purpose was to visit the Miller's Tomb, an eccentric 18th miller who kept a coffin under his bed in case it was needed, and built his tomb 27 years before he died! He visited it every day to meditate but local legend tells another tale, that he was a smuggler and used his coffin and table top tomb to hide his contraband. Once it was elaborately decorated with verses penned by the miller. Sadly most have worn away, but a carving of a skeleton is clearly visible.
The village of Angmering not only has an interesting history, but its far share of ghosts too, and a special thank-you must go to Neil Rogers-Davis for his help, and his excellent website.
Saturday I start a 10 session course run by local writer Chris Hare in his Heritage Learning series, which I am really looking forward to. Being a relatively newcomer to the area I have much to learn. The following week 19-21 April is London Bookfair and I hope to meet up with fellow writers at this event. On Tuesday 27th April I am running a Day for Journalists and Non-fiction writers for the SWWJ, but guests are most welcome. Please contact me for details.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

When I started this blog my ambition was to post every week, or even twice a week, but work always seems to catch up with me, leaving me wondering what has happen to the previous week.
On 8 March I attended the SWWJ Southern Regional meeting held at Chichester, and after enjoying meeting and greeting fellow writers we settled down to a most interesting morning discussion on amongst other topics, the value of writing competitions, should writers specialise, query letters, and the state of the market in general. After a lunch break in Chichester and another opportunity to network, we were treated to an excellent short story workshop run by the the award winning crime writer Peter Lovesey, who seems to have picked up as many awards as he has written books. His gentle approach managed to get us working and several came away with the bones of a short story, including me. I'm afraid this will be on 'the back burner' until Haunted Worthing is safely with The History Press with deadline looming around the corner.
Following on from this meeting I agreed to talk at Selsey Writers on 6 July 2010 about using Myths and Legends as a source for material, which I have used in both fiction and non-fiction. I am looking forward to an enjoyable afternoon and meeting new friends. All my books on regionals in Wales have a chapter on folklore, and it is a subject that fascinates most readers.
Unfortunately a day away from the computer means several days back in front of the screen trying to catch-up, but I am pleased to say that Haunted Worthing is taking shape with several places lined up to be visited in the next week.
Yesterday was the SWWJ Council meeting, which are always held in London. We have some very exciting events coming up shortly which I will be post as they come up. If you are a writer and not a member of the SWWJ do visit our website and consider joining. Do also look at our events page. I certainly would not be the writer I am today without the help and advice of the SWWJ.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

As writers we often find ourselves in the unique position of meeting amazing people, or visiting fascinating places of interest. Yesterday I had the great pleasure of doing both. A visit to St Mary's House and gardens at Bramber West Sussex is one of those places that anyone remotely interested in history must visit. The origins of St Mary's date back to the days of the Knights Templar when the land was given to them by the widow of Philip de Braose. The present building dates to around 1470 when it was used as an Inn by pilgrims on their way to the tomb of St Thomas of Canterbury. The history is absolutely fascinating, but I must jump to 1984 when two extremely talented people purchased the properly, which by then was in very neglected state, and saved St Mary's for future generations to love and enjoy.
Peter Thorogood, author, composer, literary historian and leading authority on the 19th century poet Thomas Hood (1799-1845), and Roger Linton a gifted designer, trained at the Royal College of Art, restorer and conservator have combined their talents and skills to return St Mary's to its former glory. The story of how they set about saving the house and gardens in told in Return to Splendor by Peter Thorogood and obtained from Bramber Press, specialising in publishing books, CD and cassette recordings by authors, composers and performers associated with St Mary's House. Roger Linton's fine work is displayed throughout the house and ranges from the restoration of a four-poster bed to the decorating of the octagonal dining room in the Pre-Raphaelite style to designing and planting the Topiary Garden, featured in a number of television programmes, magazine and newspaper articles.
Obviously such a project needs continuous funding and the enterprising Peter and Roger are always devising ways of keeping their hard work going by organising open days, concerts, private functions, and conferences. They are also licenced for Civil Marriages, which would provide any lucky couple with a perfect setting for that memorable day. I urge anyone visiting my blogspot to arrange a trip to St Mary's soon - see website for opening times - and I promise you will not be disappointed, and I am sure like me you will come away much richer for the experience. Thank you Peter and Roger for sparing me some of your most valuable time, and for a most enjoyable visit.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

With the proofs of The Story of Pembrokeshire safely back with my publisher I can now turn my undivided attention to Haunted Worthing. This book is coming together nicely, and I have now reached the stage when I can see its construction taking shape, always a time of great relief for an author. Yesterday I met up with two very interesting guys from West Sussex Paranormal Investigations and C.O.T.C Paranormal Investigations who were extremely helpful. Thank you guys for all your help. Do check out both these sites which are very informative and try to explain the unexplained. One of the chaps has already published a book on Haunted Chichester, so it was good to talk to a fellow writer too, and share the ups and downs of putting a book together.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Earlier this week, still struggling with a chest infection, I went to see my GP for a prescription for some antibiotics and steroids. Within a day I was breathing much easier and it made me reflect on how lucky we are to live in this century with its wonderful health service, modern medicine and drugs. In my spare time I have been researching my family tree and discovered that my great-grandmother had died at the tender age of 35 from congestion of the lungs. leaving a young family of four children. We have a lot to be thankful for.
Yesterday I woke feeling much better, and as it was a lovely sunny morning, I thought I would take advantage of the day and do some further research for my next book. Armed with a notepad, hubby and camera, we set off with a list of venues. By lunchtime we had covered half the list and were in need of a rest and some refreshment. As we were outside one of Shoreham's oldest pubs in the High Street, The Crown and Anchor we decided to call in. The atmosphere was as welcoming as the sun outside, and just as friendly as the owner Giles, who gave me a tour of his pub. It is so rare to find a owned pub today, most are managed and serve up more of the same. The Crown and Anchor is split on many levels, which makes it unique and interesting. In by-gone days it was frequented by smugglers, hardly surprising when you learn of Shoreham's sea-faring past. Today the Crown and Anchor has a bright and cheerful ambiance The stylish restaurant is split on two levels, with an enormous wooden boat hanging from the ceiling, and a wonderful view of the River Adur. The riverside terrace would be a most enjoyable venue in the summer months. We sat near the window looking out on the still river, as we studied the menu with its plentiful choice to suit all tastes, but we decided to order off the set fish menu, which had an excellent selection of starters and main courses as well a 'specials' board. We finished our meal with a coffee and a mint, a nice touch, and although by now there were many diners it was not noisy, and we were able to sit and chat in comfort without having to raise our voices to be heard. I look forward to returning one evening to sample the food and entertainment, as well as enjoying a lunch or two with my friends and writing colleagues. Pubs like this are a rare find, and in this present economic climate Giles deserves to succeed and, according to my husband, well worth a visit as Giles keeps an excellent pint! Thank you Giles for an enjoyable visit. We shall return!

Friday, 12 February 2010

This week has seen me struggling with a cold and a chest infection, little wonder when the weather can't make up its mind what to do. But, as they say, life goes on and a writer's life is never dull, specially as the deadline of my book on Haunted Worthing is looming, and still much needs to be done. Any Worthing resident out there with a ghostly tale to tell? Please contact me.
I was feeling particular low on Thursday, but soon brightened up when the post arrived with the proofs and cover of next book to be published, The Story of Pembrokeshire. This is always an exciting time for a writer when at last you see something in print for all your hard work. Guess what I will be doing over the weekend?
It is a while since I submitted the manuscript for The Story of Pembrokeshire, so am enjoying reading it with 'fresh eyes' so to speak. I am very pleased with the cover, and I am sure you will agree that it is very pleasing to the eye. I am also delighted to learn that this new edition is to include two sets of 16 pages of colour photographs, making 32 in all, as well as numerous black and white photographs. It was a joy researching this edition - the first edition being in print since 1993 - and I am sure it is going to bring back many happy memories to readers who trekked along the coastal path or climbed yet another hill to photograph a standing stone, or went in search of the mysterious blue stones that found their way to Stonehenge. I hope new readers will find it interesting and informative. It has already brought back memories for me of several weeks in the area, and early morning walks to a monument only to discover that the sun was in the wrong direction for a good photograph! As the back cover blurb states: Where in the midst of commercialism can one find peace, tranquility and paradise for nature lovers? Where else but Pembrokeshire: an area that rose from the sea over a thousand million years ago, and has since played host to pagan warriors, Celtic fort-builders, Welsh princes, swashbuckling pirates, Manx shearwaters and the Grey Atlantic seal. In this book Wendy Hughes has combined her unique blend of history, legends, and notorious characters to bring together a tale that will leave the reader spell-bound until the last page is turned. I hope I have done justice to such a unique area of Wales. Watch this space for more about this book, due for publication in May.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


I have just finished reading Sylvia's Kent excellent book on the history of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists( SWWJ), entitled The Woman Writer.
Since the Society was founded in 1894 by Joseph Snell Wood, the SWWJ has attracted many famous writers, journalists, poets and playwrights and this well researched book will give you an insight into this prestigious society and how is has gone from strength to strength, and is still attracting new members every week. I for one owe a great deal to the society. A copy of this book should be on every writer's bookshelf. Thank you Sylvia for featuring me in the book (yours truly is mentioned on pages 64, 114, 120).

Thursday, 4 February 2010

It seems an age since I set up my blog, so I will bring you up to date on my writing news.It has been a strange couple of weeks ranging from an attack of writers block to being extremely busy with not enough hours in the day. Interestingly I have always told my students that writers block don't exist, now I know it can be very real, and frightening.
Work on my new book Haunted Worthing is progressing well. yesterday I met up with a really helpful chap, Andrew House who explained the various types of ghosts. Absolutely fascinating! I have also heard from my super Welsh publisher Gwasg Carreg Gwalch who has informed me of his publishing schedule. I'm excited to learn that an updated edition of The Story of Pembrokeshire will be out in May 2010, and a new edition of The Story of Gower has been scheduled for May 2011. A new book The Story of Carmarthenshire is planned for May 2012, so watch this space for my progress with this book.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Welcome

Welcome to my new blog and I do hope that you will call back often. I am finally installed into my new home in Rustington and loving every moment in the lovely county of West Sussex, and am looking forward to getting back into a regular routine of writing. At the moment I am busy researching for my new book Haunted Worthing, which is due to hit the bookshops in September. If you have stories about ghostly encounters in the Worthing area I would love to hear from you.