Tuesday 25 June 2024

Where do you get Your Ideas From?


That’s the question that most writers dread being asked. But I’ve done a little analysis and this is what happens for me:

One story leads to another

Often as I’m working on one novel the idea for the next one will form.  I know what’s happening in this story. What will happen next? That’s sustained me through two series of seven novels.

Some physical activates seem to free the subconscious

Yes, ideas come at unexpected moments: when I’m swimming, walking, driving, ironing or cooking. And sometimes when I’m daydreaming on a bus.

Fictionalising true stories

A writer who lives locally to me for half of the year – she spends the rest of the time in Australia – writes stories about long lost ancestors. Her family history research gives her plenty of material. After I’ve finished my two series of novels described above I have three novels planned based roughly on my great grandmother.


Some people hate writing with prompts. I love them. It forces the creativity a little. So I find prompts: on X, LinkedIn, Mastodon, Blue Sky, and Facebook.  I’ve collected a book of prompts: see https://www.thebridgetowncafebooksshop.co.uk/2023/02/the-big-book-of-prompts_27.html I have treasure chest at home full of prompts I’ve gathered from various sources.  I encourage members of my creative writing group to dip in. 


Old postcards serve as fine prompts. The pictures on the front and the writing on the back tell great stories.

I have quite a few prompts as well on my Writing Teacher blog.    

Fair Submissions

The Fair Submissions  web site has several themed calls for submission. I often find my work is more readily accepted if I’m writing to a tight brief.

So, those are just a few places where I get my ideas from.    

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Book Launch Coming Up


On Thursday 25 July I’ll be helping Martin Varny to launch his book, Saint Ettie’s Muisc School.  

This is nominally a young adult book but there are elements in it that will appeal to a wider audience.

Can musical instruments talk?

Thirteen children aged between nine and sixteen, each denied the love and care of a family, are brought together to live at Saint Etheldreda's Foundation. Exploring the building, they stumble upon some old, damaged musical instruments in a storeroom. The children are amazed when they discover that they can hear the instruments talking.

Saint Etheldreda's Foundation was previously Saint Etheldreda's Music School, run by Elizabeth, a young, insecure woman who suffers from devastating mood swings. She had stood before the final curtain of despair more than once.

A chance encounter with the principal of the Foundation, Miss Stratton, results in the Elizabeth returning to Saint Etheldreda's. Through the wonders of music, lives are changed and a loving family is born.

Saint Ettie's Music School by Martin Varny is a charming coming of age story.

Read more about it in our online bookshop.  

Online launches can be a lot of fun.  Martin will read some excerpts from his book and I shall interview him there will be time as well for questions and answers. Do join us.     

Thursday 6 June 2024

AI, friend or foe?

Playing with it

I’ve tried working with AI and I’ve had a bit of fun:

  • I’ve got it to read out some of my work and although it does this with all the finesse of a sat nav font, it is gradually learning and may soon produce something very acceptable.
  • I’ve used it to help me get all of my bullet points in order. I’d been writing some simple tip sheets and I couldn’t recollect all me wont arguments about that advantages and disadvantages of both traditional publishing and self-publishing. It found them for me, suggested a couple of things I hadn’t thought of and a couple of things I didn’t agree with.  I couldn’t just copy and paste though; it didn’t sound at all like me.  I guess eventually it could learn my voice.
  • I’ve tinkered with art but I’ve not been all that satisfied with the result yet.  A story I recently had published on line had an AI generated picture attached to it; it looked as if my protagonist had three legs, and she was looking at two pairs of boots – which didn’t quite fit with the story.

Robotic code

I have quite a bit of AI in my WIP. It was in the previous novel in the series and will also be in the next one, the final one. All of my machines obey robotic code: they are there to serve mankind and will do humans no harm. I’m sure it’s not beyond the wit of those producing AI to build in some safeguards like these.

Is it really all that new?

We’ve lived with Amazon and Google ads algorithms for some time. Today I’ve been working with an author on her cover for a new book. There has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between us, the cover artist and her agent and I’ve spent some time looking at other appropriate book covers on Amazon.
Scarily in the middle of the latest round of emails Amazon suggested I might like to buy her previous novel.

Previous panics

We’ve often feared that something might put us out of work or look like cheating.  Every time these things have actually enhanced what we’ve been able to do.

Think of the reactions to:

·         The printing press

·         Paperbacks

·         Television  

·         Word processors

·         Spellchecks

·         The Internet

·         Google

·         Google translate

·         E-books

After a period of adjustment, these have actually offered us more opportunities and made us more efficient.

We might say the same about the cotton mills, Ford Motors, the automatic washing machine, the dishwasher and the way you can now tune pianos etc.  

The real danger may be in not having a human as a last resort

      I have three tales of talking to machines recently where the machine couldn’t cope and there was no easy way of contacting a human.  

·           Amazon: there was a problem about book supply. Actually if you persist you can get through to a call centre and they will sort the problem. Most of the time the human are more effective than the machines. But how to contact them isn’t obvious. The tick-boxes aren’tt fine-tune enough.  

·         Facebook: I’ve been on Facebook for over twenty years and am not doing anything differently from what I’ve done in the past. I’ve had two clashes with them recently

·         This week I was accused of spamming. Hmm, I’m just mentioning some of the stories that we’ve posted recently on our e-zine.  People follow our page to see his sort of content.  None of the tick boxes allow you to say that.

·         A couple of weeks ago I commented on the balance between good stories and good writing in a writers’ group I’m in. I’d read a fabulous story but it needed much more editing.  I pointed out how the editor and even the writer should be taken to task.  I used some figurative language – no swear words – and the Facebook machine just didn’t understand the metaphor. I did not name the book, the author or the publisher. Facebook did not accept the appeal. I was also barred from the group for a week. The group administrator contacted me and agreed it was stupid but he couldn’t do anything either.   

·         HMRC refunded me some CGT I’d paid. The robot couldn’t work out why and whether I should repay it and how.  It recommended I should talk to a human being. Except that human beings weren’t answering the phone for several months. I had to quote IT problems to get through. I suspect there was an error in their programming to do with accepting one-time direct debits.   

AI will get more sophisticated as it learns and when it comes to writing words, we’ll be the ones teaching it.  

Most tasks it will do more accurately that we can. But it won’t know when it’s doing something daft or brilliant; it will still need us to make that judgement call.      

Saturday 1 June 2024

News 1 June 2024


What feeds a writer’s soul?  

I love being at my writing desk and I love those days when I know I can spend a long time there. Yet I also relish the times when I can get out and about.

It may be something simple, like taking the bus into town to go to a meeting. I might stroll through the shops or the market and enjoy a coffee somewhere. These all offer great opportunities for people watching.

I go to a lot of live theatre.  The content of it feeds my need for story. The journey there and back and the waiting times in between again offer the opportunity to sit and stare.

Occasionally a time away from the desk is more focussed.  This week my OH and I went to Hereford for his annual meet up with his friends from university. It was good catching up and staying in the lovely Green Dragon Hotel, a genteel old-fashioned sort of place.   

We also visited the cathedral, seeing the famous Mapa Mundi, an extract from the Magna Carta and the chained library. Not to forget the statue of Elgar and his bicycle.  

The journey there and back was pleasant as well. The trains in both directions were mainly on time and passed through some lovely country side.

It was good to be back, though.

How does one differentiate between holidays and working time when you’re doing your dream job? Well on holiday, I stop submitting, I only deal with essential email – the rest gets deleted, and I’m more passive on social media. But I still write. I also read a lot. The writing feels a little different and there is also plenty of opportunity for further feeding my soul.    

Writing news

I’m still working on edits of Peace Child 6. I’m currently looking at point of view, making sure that it’s consistent and if it does zoom in and out, it does it in a reasonable way.  

I’ve had a handful of publications this month. There are three reviews with Talking about My Generation:

Little Shop of Horrors and the Octagon   

Silence at Home

Things I know to Be True at the Whitefield Garrick     


Talking about My Generation has also published my article about my first car: My First Car, an Hillman Imp Van   


My short story, finalist in the WAWA competition is now published: The Old Boots .  You have to scroll down to read it but the other stories are worth reading as well.


I’ve also made Prompts 2020 available in my Kofi shop.              

On My Blog

What about this as a novel way of launching a book?  Describes a novel way of launching a book – in a chip shop!

Celebration Event for the House of Clementine 8 May 2024  is an account of the launch of The House of Clementine. Incidentally, I still have offers on all of the Peace Child books.  Read more here.  

I also interview Amanda Jones about her biography / memoir of her mother, Kathleen.  Read more here.    

Recommended read

This month I’m recommending Lessons in Chemistry by Wilding by Bonnie Garmus

This is the story of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist who is trying to establish herself in the 1950s.  

She has to fight a lot of prejudice against women and female scientists in particular. She is an unmarried mother, which was much less acceptable then that it is now. And she has a wonderful dog, Six-Thirty, who understands a lot more than many humans.

The characters are well- drawn and colourful. This story keeps us engaged. And although things are not yet perfect for women we are appreciative of how much better they are now than they were then.

Bonny Garmus certainly keep us guessing in the story for Every Woman, Lessons in Chemistry.

Find your copy here.

Note, this is an affiliate link and a small portion of what you pay, at no extra cost to you,  may go to Bridge House Publishing.      

Sample pages

If you like what you’re reading you can click through and find out ways of buying the book. However, I’m still happy to give you a free copy if you’re strapped for cash and / or you’re willing to review.  Just contact me.  

This month I’m offering Other Ways of Being

Dancing to the Moon

The first time I set eyes on Patrick O’Leary what I had left of a heart almost jumped out of my chest. All I could see to start with were his soft blond curls I wanted to touch and his smiling blue eyes I wanted to have looking into mine forever. Then I saw him dance and I knew that I wanted to be his only dancing partner. For eternity.

I shouldn’t have even been there. I’m only sixteen. They’re very strict at the Clerkenwell Arms, especially when the Irish dance trials are on. But it was a new moon that night so I guess I was at my best. Talbot had warned me that I would still have a monthly cycle of sorts though it would be very different from before. And spot on, it follows the moon. This is always my shining day, the day of the new moon.

I’ve been like this for over a year now and I’m getting used to it. I can never remember the details of the moonless nights, but the next day I’m always full of energy, and confident and look much older and very glamorous. So, what with the lipstick, and the short skirt and that bitchy glow inside, I got in without them even asking for ID. I even bought a glass of wine for form’s sake. No sweat.

It was the music that made me go in. The music and a need for some warmth. Some human warmth that is - I don’t notice the winter’s cold any more. And I guess it was because I was just in that sort of mood. New moon day. Daredevil day.

I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he danced. Back and neck straight. Gaze fixed. Arms rigid by his sides. His feet never missed a beat and always came down in exactly the right place. My own feet started tapping to the music.

I used to dance when I was a little girl. Lots of us do. I never got all that far with it, though I was not at all bad. I just got into other things. Like you do. But I can still remember all of the steps.

He started dancing around the room. He paused at each table where any good looking female sat. His feet still worked, of course. I had to exercise so much self-control not to go over to those hussies and scratch their eyes out or tear out their hair. He was sweating slightly and his manly, slightly musky smell was getting to me. There were others in the room, other good-looking young men, some of whom were also dancers, but I only had eyes – and a nose for him.

At last he paused by my table and fixed me with his eyes. Tap, tap, tap tap, tappity tap, went his feet, as if they were asking a question. A faint smile opened his lips, his eye-brows rose slightly. His pupils grew large. He was taking me in, was he? The bitch inside smirked but I tried to keep my gaze neutral. Tapity, tap. Tap tap. He nodded. 

I got up from the table. My feet began to work.  Yes, I remembered the steps. It was easy, especially with all this energy. In fact I had to keep it in check a little, or somebody would have noticed something. I didn’t even break a sweat or get out of breath. He was breathing hard by now yet he still kept exact time and rhythm. I loved him for that. I loved him because he was finding it tiring now and was still being perfect. The smell of him made my head light.

We were close at times. The place was so full there was barely a dance floor. We almost touched but not quite. As our shoulders and hands came within inches of each other I felt an exchange of energy. Tingles crackled through my body and I had the feeling that he gained some energy from me. We moved lightly around one another, our eyes and our feet in conversation. This was ecstasy. This I wanted forever. Tap tap tappity tap.

The music stopped. It had to eventually. It felt as though a thread between us was broken. The crowd in the pub started clapping and cheering. He was a little out of breath.

“Patrick O’Leary,” he whispered.

“Fyonah McBride,” I whispered back.

Read more here


The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

I’m continuing looking at German resistance during World War II and the Holocaust and specifically I’ve written a skirt sketch about a young girl and her mother clashing about Nazi ideals: Grumbling Behind Closed Doors: a daughter and mother are at loggerheads

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.


Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.


The Bridgetown  Café Bookshop where you can buy my books and books published by Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books and The Red Telephone.  Visit us here.     


Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   


Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  


Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.


A Publisher’s Perspective Here I and some other editors blog as a publisher. Access this here.   


The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   


CaféLit Stories Find these here


Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.


Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    


Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.


The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.


Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.  I also invite other writers to provide prompts and work for critique.     


Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 


The Young Person’s Library The children’s book catalogue. Access it here.


Fair Submissions  Find it here.   

Opportunities for writers are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing.