OK, when I finished my last blog, I had no idea it would take so long to do the next one - I would like to start by saying a massive thank you to those of you who have continued to visit the site during this time, even leaving encouraging messages, asking me to update it.  Your support has been greatly appreciated.

As to why the long silence (and I'm aware I need to update the reviews - never fear, that is in hand!), it's been a rough, tumultuous few months, culminating in a terrible bereavement which left me devastated.  I still continued doing some things but mostly I needed time to reflect and recuperate.  I'm still very sad, have really bad days, but I'm slowly getting there.

I think what has helped is that I have had many things distract me which have demanded my time and attention.  There were times I resented the intrusion of the things I had to do, simply wanting to hide away, but I came to realise that it was beneficial.  You cannot cope if you continuously focus on the devastation - you need a distraction.

Mine came in a number of forms - not least, friends.  I won't name them, but some have been particularly kind and generous, allowing me time and space, but also taking me out of myself.   At first I felt guilty for laughing, but not now - it's a release and I know that grandad would approve. 

Then came my voluntary work in the school - some of the teachers knew him and have said lovely things about him (all of which have been appreciated, even if I didn't say so at the time).  Sometimes it is very hard to talk ... I have to be professional in the school and that helps enormously.  

What has helped most has been that I've thrown myself into YoCW (working in the background, not on the boards) - with surprising results.  I now have my own radio show which is due to start shortly (a chance to get back to my first love of interviewing people - I may use some of my old ones to get me going, but I have interviews with the likes of Jodi Picoult and Peter James lined up - very exciting.   We will be videoing some of the interviews, whether via Skype or through a camcorder, which will be fun because it will give the feel of a chat show!  A YoCW first! :-)  The show is called "Continuous Chat with Mel and Amanda" and will feature many authors - some who have released their debut work and others who are more experienced, not forgetting a "Book at Bedtime", starting with Leap of Faith, a children's story written by the multi talented Daniel M Warloch.  We will discuss every subject under the sun - everything from writing to spiritualism, to subjects that evoke strong feelings ... if something has happened in the news that week, which has been controversial, we will almost certainly be discussing that, too!!  

Something that has proved surprisingly popular has been the competition (run by Michael Rowland).  Remember, whether or not you are a member of YoCW, you can still join in.  Email me for further details via the contact page.  The closing date is 30th June 2013.

I said at the end of the last blog that I would be talking about fear holding you back.  

How often have you had a golden opportunity and been too afraid to take it?  I certainly have ...

Most of us lack confidence in our own abilities, preferring to stay cocooned in our safety zone rather than risk failing, no matter what the potential benefits are.

Take someone who is desperately unhappy in work?  Feels like a square peg in a round hole.  In many (if not most) cases, they will continue to stay in the job despite being unhappy, even though they know there is a job out there that will suit them better.  Why not take that leap?  

An accountant might sigh,  "I'd love to be a chef but ...," for example.  Rather than sit and complain, wish and wonder, why not take a deep breath and try?  "Well there are no jobs ... probably wouldn't really cut it ..."  All of these are excuses.  There's no need to rush into things, just take baby steps..  Start by finding out about courses in the area so you can get the right qualifications (in many cases you can continue to work while at college - either via a day release or going to night school), look at work opportunities in your area, conventions that may be taking place where you can make connections and network ...

How do you know if you don't try?!  

I have been in this situation myself and it took a huge leap of faith but I decided to chance it - and I'm so glad I did.  I may not have a job, but I'm the happiest I've ever been.  I'm a qualified counsellor, and in my spare time I'm doing what I love most - writing and helping people.  

The counselling course was the toughest thing I've ever done - but it taught me so much about myself.  Instead of being unhappy, I faced my fears - the very worst that could happen was that I failed - so I had a bruised ego (nothing new there!)  I'm currently looking for a placement, then a job - then I'll train to be a supervisor.  If I had looked into the future 10 years ago, I could never have thought I'd have had the courage to do this course and take my life in my own hands.

Yes, it's scary and there are times I wonder if I'm really up to a particular challenge, but the truth is, life is what you make it.  If you don't try, you'll never know.  We've all had those experiences where we think, "No matter how much I want to, I can't do this ..." but if we push ourselves just that little bit harder, we discover that in fact, we CAN do it.  This goes for every situation we face in life ... all it takes is a little bit of courage.  That sounds glib (finding that courage can be like finding a needle in a haystack if we really lack confidence) but it's so worth the effort if you are willing to push yourself.

One of my favourite songs has become a mantra and I'm going to quote from that to end this blog:

Hoping to fly I fall 
Oh how I wish, I just didn't care at all
Cos when you don't care, you don't cry
It won't hurt if you don't try!
But I STILL believe 
In ALL my dreams 
And all that I can be
I'll learn from mistakes
Do all that it takes 
To make it eventually
Cos I still believe
I still believe
Oh yes, I STILL believe in me!!!!!!!!!!!!

Until next time!

This is a very quick note to alert you all to a fantastic competition a great friend of mine is running - I will be popping back with a regular post as soon as I get a chance.

Kate Warren is an amazing author and she is currently running a very easy to enter competition - she's giving away a dozen free ebooks!   Yes, you read that right!  Do you have to do a tie-breaker question?  No!  Answer a question based on something of hers you've read (like what is the name of the female protagonist?  A, B or C)  No, it's even easier than that!

All you have to do is go to her site - http://www.thekatewarren.com - go to blog and the competition is the first thing you see.  Kate has posted an excerpt from her latest book - she wanted to post a Valentine's Day segment but explained that contained too many spoilers for the story.  You need to read this excerpt and leave a comment!  That's all there is to it!   I hope I win! :-)  

Seriously, if you fancy a free ebook (and there really are no strings attached here) then head on over to her site by following the link and take part.  The problem?  To my knowledge this closes TONIGHT at midnight (she's in USA so if you're in England you have until at least 5 a.m. tomorrow!).  I have only just found out about it or I'd have alerted you to it before now.

Just briefly, on to other subjects, the Year of Continuous Writing will be launched in a blaze of glory on 1st March ... Amanda is working frantically to get the site up and running - I am putting together the last of the text files - rules, competitions, messages, prompts - that sort of thing.  She will then work her magic.  She's done an amazing job and I can't wait to see it live!  We are both playing to our strengths but the last few weeks have been hectic ... poor Amanda has shouldered the weight of it.  I simply don't know what I would have done without her!  Hard to believe that we've only known each other just over a year!  Feels like forever! :-)  I am hoping to launch the first author interview with either Jodi Picoult (My Sister's Keeper, Handle with care) or Peter James (Dead Simple, Not Dead Yet - the Roy Grace Series) ... but that is down to their availability!  I'm very proud to say that both of these authors love the idea of the Year of Continuous Writing - Peter wrote back by return  to say he will back us!  Thank you Peter! :-)

Remember, it's not too late to join in - email me or use the contact page (the messages go straight through to me) and put YoCW or Year of Continuous Writing in the subject bar ... all I need is a word count, your user name and real name (for our records only) and your email address.  It looks set to be a fun year! :-)  

In my next blog I will be talking about how fear holds us back from so much of what we want to/could do if we just had the courage.  This covers so many areas but there are ways to overcome the fear ...  What dreams do you have which you know if you were brave enough to take that first, scary step could become a reality?  Have you learned to let go of fear and chase your dreams - what happened?  I want to hear all your stories!  I'm only an email away!  

Let me know what you think of the music you've been listening to on my site.  I love Hummingbird - it was great to see the guys in Manchester AND Liverpool last week.  Hope it won't be too long before the next time! :-)
I can't believe we are almost in February already!  It only seems like yesterday since we celebrated New Year's Day! :-)  

It's been a busy old month with more appointments and meetings than ever, then I had the treatment at the hospital - that's why this month's top ten book are delayed.

People have asked how we decide what goes where.  Amanda and I work between us - the authors are well aware that this works the same as any other chart - their places can and will fluctuate.  There is no favouritism either - a book gets its place on merit only.

If you have a book that you would like to have considered for the top ten, please feel free to contact me, whether you are the author or it is your favourite book.

I have been asked how Help Wanted works ... I'm trying to get it sorted so that anybody can post on that section ... but I'm struggling to do that.  If you want to post in that section while we are sorting things out then feel free to shoot me an email via the contact page and I will enter the details manually. 

I will be back in a day or so with a proper blog post.  In the meantime I'm pleased to say that Hummingbird, by the Sundowners, is getting a lot of radio play.  This is also the case with Ian Skelly (the brother of one of the Sundowners - his album is out now on both CD and Vinyl - click below to have a listen and feel free to let me know what you think.
Well, we live to fight another day!  :-)

Seriously though, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas - let's hope next year will be happy and prosperous for everyone.  Most people I know have had a terrible year, so I hope things improve for us all.

So what's new on this site in 2013?

Well, the celebrity interviews will be coming thick and fast - and there will be a few authors added because several have agreed to be interviewed as part of the Year of Continuous Writing project I'm running.  This is proving to be immensely popular - and I am reliably informed that the new website will be launched in all its glory in mid-February.  I can't wait!  Amanda has done an amazing job!  Voting starts on the sites on Sunday I believe, so let me know if you'd like to see the site and vote on the colour scheme (the first part of the voting process).  The site will be a bit of a challenge for poor Amanda - I'm making a lot of suggestions and she's putting all the work in at the production end (sadly I can't help because I have no knowledge of FTP or HTML - thanks for all your hard work Amanda! :-)  I couldn't do this without you.  We are putting together an Ask the Author panel - more news on that when it becomes available.

Also, I will be launching the Top Ten books of the month - including a section (by request) for children.  I may ask you guys to vote for an overall winner ...  

One of the most popular sections this year has been my reviews - I am expanding this area and immensely looking forward to reviewing a number of new genres, as well as TV and film - again, by request.

There are a few more new segments being cooked up but, for the moment, they must remain strictly under wraps.

Do you have any new year's resolutions?  Do people still make them any more?  Is there a point to them?  People make new year's resolutions partly to signify a start over - does it have to be a new year to do this?  I'd be very interested to know your thoughts - I'm easy to reach!  Either fill in the blog comments, or the contact page.  Both of these are linked directly to me.  Can I PLEASE ask though, that you include your email address at the very least.  I am unable to reply if I have no contact information!   I have a few, the most important of which are I WILL get a number of my projects published and I will go on holiday.  

Happy Christmas everyone - see you in 2013! :-)

OK, this is a slightly unusual post for me - I will post again before Christmas, but I wanted to say a few things first - and we have a special treat in store today.  

A friend of mine, a fellow author, has written a lovely children's story, aimed at explaining to children what happened In the  tragic shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut,   As adults, our hearts go out to the grieving families who will now be forced to cancel Christmas this year - it will never be the same again for them.  We are shocked and appalled that this could happen in what is supposed to be a civilised society - we expect to drop our children at the school gates and have them safely returned to us at the end of the day ... if we as adults are horrified that something like this could happen, how confused and frightened must the children be?  

It is thanks to the calmness of the teachers that most survived that horrific event - they put procedures in place and distracted the children, which prevented widespread panic.  Many were blissfully unaware of what was happening.  But many children (even those in other countries) have been touched by this event and some are frightened it could happen again, perhaps in their school.  How can a mother explain to them?  Terry has written a beautiful children's story, which I have posted in Fiction - just  click here.  I think she has handled the situation beautifully - the story works well because it is told from the point of view of a group of mice - this works well because their size increases the fear.  Take a look for yourselves.  

Terry Shepherd has her own blog which you can find here - she is a prolific writer who is able to wrench the hardest of hearts.  She is a remarkable woman and I'm very proud to give her a guest story on my site.

Secondly, I would like to mention a brilliant site for those last minute Christmas stocking fillers - all those unusual things you need, gadgets for your blackberry, laptop skins - they live up to their name.  http://nefing.co.uk/ can literally get you ANYTHING - as well as the stuff listed above they can get you toys and beanbags - they are much cheaper than the shops.  I have checked out the prices myself and can confirm that I have been unable to find anything any cheaper!  The company is run by someone who will be very familiar to regular visitors of this site - Michael Rowland and his son Mark.

Thirdly, I mentioned the Year of Continuous Writing recently.  I have been very surprised at how much interest there has been this year and I'm delighted to say there are almost FIFTY participants in just over a week!  

This is just an update really, to keep those who are interested in the loop.  We are now supported by no less than two highly successful writers - we will be doing interviews with them when the "show hits the road" - more about that when we go Live.  We are hoping for an Ask the Author panel - just a few questions each week will be selected and put to a panel of authors - if you have any questions, feel free to send them to me through the contact page (it goes straight through to me) and it's just possible we will pick your question.  While we will endeavour to ask ALL questions, this may not be possible so please understand.  

I heard this week that Amanda has got a group of images up which depict how the site will look.  We will be asking people to vote on these looks anonymously.  I will include the link when the voting is open.  We want the site to go live around the middle of February.  A massive thanks goes to Amanda for creating such an awesome site! :-)  I couldn't have done it without you.

For those of you who are always looking for books to read, I'm creating a top ten of books for you to check out - both children and adults.  I already have 4 vying for the top spot in the Adults and it will be very difficult to separate them.  The children's books will be voted for primarily by Amanda.  

I will be back before Christmas but, until then, have a wonderful holiday and I hope you have a happy and prosperous new year.  
Just wanted to give you the heads up about a programme I'm running - The Year of Continuous Writing.  

Those of you who are familiar with NaNo will like this - the idea is to get you writing EVERY DAY for a whole year.  This is its second run but there are some major changes - most important of which is a brand new website, competitions, newsletters, tips and tricks.  There will even be a daily challenge!

If you're interested, drop me a line on the contact page and I will tell you how to register!  On registration - we need a challenging word count for 365 days - in other words, you might want to write 250,000 words in a year (do-able!   I've seen it done)  from March 1st 2013 to March 1st 2014.

Hope to see lots of you join us.  If you are under 18, 
_Hi everyone

This is going to be a very quick post, simply to post some beautiful songs.  I thought this had gone out months ago but a glitch left it stuck on my computer!

First up is a beautiful song by Julie Maguire called Letting Go.  Julie lives in America - I contacted her in error, thinking she was an actress I knew a long time ago.  She turned out to be a Minister ... her song sends goose bumps up and down my spine.

Next up is a lovely song written by Gilbert O'Sullivan, an amazing lyricist who has the ability to create incredible, thought provoking songs.  I was lucky enough to meet Gilbert many years ago (back in the 90s) for an interview with the Disability Network and was astounded by what a lovely guy he is (a million miles away from the terrifying ogre I'd been led to believe him to be!) - that was a crucial lesson for me, never to judge a person on what others tell me but rather to wait and see how they are with me!  

Anyway, back to Gilbert and his songs!  I have loved his music since I was a child and, as a die hard fan, was always excited to hear his latest offering.  He recently brought out Gilbertville, his latest album and this song was on it.  (The title comes from a real place in America - there is also a place called Raymond nearby which is his real name!)

We all remember the terror of the attack on the twin towers, the anger and devastation felt by people the world over.  It's one of those situations, like with JFK's assassination and Princess Diana's death before it, that people always know where they were when the news broke.  I know I was on my second day in a new job when someone came in and told us what had happened.  We were all in shock and my heart went out to the American lady who worked there. 

I got goosebumps when I heard the song - he didn't write a diatribe about how evil these people are, but rather he wrote a beautiful ballad in which he discussed how those passengers and people inside the buildings must have been feeling.  Have a listen and let me know what you think!.  Unfortunately, all I can find is the link on youtube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmFQjfwC1GQ - will take you to a great clip.  A wonderful, thought provoking song.

We all get stuck in a rut at times, feeling down and sometimes even bitter about our lot in life, regardless of what job we do (even if we don't work we get like that  occasionally) - we are never satisfied with what we have ... the grass is always greener on the other side.

But how do you GET to the other side?

Well, I'm no expert but I've been there myself recently and it wasn't a pleasant experience.  Everyone else seemed to be having children, going on holiday, getting promoted, having more friends - you get the picture.  Of course I was happy for those concerned, many are my closest friends.  But that selfish little voice at the back of my head kept whispering, "What about ME?  When is it MY turn?"  It was a dark and depressing time which seemed to stretch on forever.

Then one day I woke up and was sick to death of feeling so negative.  Something had to change - starting with my outlook!  If other people were moving on with their lives, perhaps it was time to take a look at what was wrong with me.

I dug out my trusty Happiness Journal which I write in religiously every night.  But this time, instead of writing something good that had happened that day, I flicked back and read the book from cover to cover and I realised something.  Even on the darkest days the sun is shining just above the clouds ... I just had to look for it.  It was covered up, not gone!  The journal served its purpose and made me feel better.  It also made me try an experiment.

I decided that, for just ONE MONTH, I would think positively - believing in myself as much and deeply as I can.  I listened to positive music (my favourite is I Still Believe in Me by Erica Gimpel - the song urges the listener not to give in at the first setback but to push harder, learn from the mistakes made, and never rest "Until (you) are standing up there with the very best!"  I read awe inspiring stories of people who succeeded against the odds, and watching the paralympics humbled me - what right do I have to complain when there are people out there with no arms and leg, still trying, regardless of whether they win or lose?  I had to change my outlook - FAST - or I'd be left behind.

Then came a big move from me.  I decided to actively seek out as many opportunities as possible - and the result has been breath taking.

I now have several publishers looking at my books, more visitors than ever coming to this site, a website that wants MY WRITING on a regular basis.  I'm being asked to do guest blogs ... I'm busier now than I've ever been.  These opportunities were ALWAYS there for the taking  but I've always dismissed them in the past for fear of "not being good enough".  But if I don't believe in my own abilities, then how can I expect anyone else to?  By taking responsibility for my own happiness, the tide is beginning to turn in my favour at last.

The problem for me is that I HATE change of any kind because it makes me insecure, but that is something I have to overcome if I'm to become the successful writer I know in my heart I can be!

I will, of course, keep readers of this blog updated on how things progress, but I'd be interested to know how you guys react to changes.  Are you, like me, afraid of change as a whole?  Or do you embrace it, expecting good things to come of it?  Have you made any major changes in your life?  Maybe you were scared - did they turn out the way you wanted.

Tell me your stories - you can get a message to me via the contact page.  I have a prize of a children's book to give away to the most inspiring story that gets sent to me, and a promise to publish it on this site!  What are you waiting for?  Get writing, guys!  

More will follow shortly but I wanted to alert you to the fact that in the next week or so I have my very first guest blog!   

Kym is an enormously talented writer with a number of books to her name.  We met during NaNoWriMo and I was impressed by what I read.  She has beaten the odds and self-published her first 3 novels which are flying off the shelves.

I will let Kym tell you her story in her own time, but in the meantime, check out her website http://www.kymberlibriggs.com and take a look at her work for yourself.  If you enjoy her blog, let me know and we'll get her back again.

There's a lot of exciting stuff going on at the moment and I will keep you in the loop as much as I can.

Until next time!
Hi Guys, just spotted a wonderful competition for you all to enter - but it closes tomorrow so I wanted to let you know about it.  It's run by a company I greatly respect and I have done extensive research so I'm happy to tell you that it's a bona fide competition - no strings attached as far as I can see.  Their marketing is very clever because they want you to publicise the competition on two social networking sites - twitter, facebook, blogs and any others you can think of.  The link is below and takes you directly to the site.  It's an amazing prize too - the last one was sold by an agent very quickly from what I can gather.


In other news, I'll be updating my blog more frequently now - I may set up a competitions page if there is enough demand.

However, I have also begun to accept guest blogs - two are coming up in the very near future and I am very excited about them.  If you have a book you would like me to publicise/review, please send me a message via the contact page and I will get back to you to discuss the best way to receive it - I have no problem reading pdf although certain versions of Word have posed problems.

There will be a lot of additions to this site which I think you will all enjoy - remember, if you need any help, please feel free to post in Help Wanted section (if it won't let you, email me and I'll post it!  Sometimes this can be temperamental).

You will now start to see more fiction added to the site - the delay has been due to a really hectic 6 months or so but now that has cleared and we are back to normal (I hope).  

I will also be launching 3 new websites to enhance my presence on the web.  I will post the sites - certainly at first I will post the bulk of the blogs and the fiction stories on the new sites, but that will fade as I start to get more visitors to the new ones).  Each will have a different focus so I will keep you informed as time permits.

If you have anything you want me to cover in the future blogs, please feel free to let me know.   Until next time, keep writing and, most importantly, Have Fun!!!