How I Boosted My Confidence To Write And Publish My First Book – A True Story And Guest Post By Stephen Havard @StephenHavard

What’s stopping you from writing and publishing your first or next book?

What was it that helped you write and publish your first book?

You may be surprised by what it was that helped my guest Stephen Havard write and publish his first book. I’d never have guessed. But not only did it help Stephen write and publish his book, it also helped him with mental health problems he was encountering at the time.

A very warm welcome on Hugh’s Views And News to Stephen.

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A guest blog post by Stephen Havard

It’s January 2011, and I was sitting at my desk at work feeling depressed. It had only just gone 4.30, and it was already starting to get dark, the grey drizzly day now being consumed by blackness. The advent of the shortest day last month hadn’t taken effect yet, and my mood was as dark as the picture outside the office window. 

Christmas had been great; time with the family and a period away from the laptop was just what I needed. Unfortunately, this had only been a brief respite, and here I was once again sitting before a computer in a job I hated more and more by the day.

I was stuck in the rat race with no way out, and it was draining the life out of me more and more. I needed something to spark me into life; the only question was what, though?

My job was the main issue, but the option to leave wasn’t possible right then. I had a young family to support and couldn’t just jump ship. I’d have to persevere with it for the time being and find another outlet to lighten my mood.

That outlet came unexpectedly to me a few weeks later as I browsed the BBC website and noticed that the quiz show ‘Pointless‘ was looking for contestants.

I’d loved quizzes from an early age and had even auditioned for another quiz show, 15-to-1, without success after leaving university in 1997. Over the intervening years, my passion for quizzing had remained, regularly going to pub quizzes and still avidly watching every quiz show on the TV. I had never applied for another quiz show, though.

Was this a sign?

Pointless was one of my favourite quiz shows and something that played into my relatively obscure knowledge. This contestant call which was now staring back at me was surely telling me to apply and once again try and get onto a TV quiz show.

I spoke to my wife, who was seated beside me and urged me to apply and follow my dream. She knew how much I hated my job, how it affected my mental health and made me quite hard to live with at times. She wanted me to be happy and believed that the simple act of applying for this quiz show would help in that regard.

So that very moment I applied, buoyed by the enthusiasm of my wife, I spent hours perfecting our application in the hope that what I was writing would be what the show wanted. I say ‘our application’ as my wife had agreed to be my partner on the show as well.

Now I’m not the most patient of people, and as the weeks passed without any news, I thought the worst. Had my attempt at TV stardom fallen at the first hurdle? The very thought that it probably had depressed me even further.

Over a month later, I was again sitting at my desk and facing a now-familiar dilemma. What was I going to do to get out of the malaise my life was currently in?

While I sat there debating the options, my phone started to ring. A quick glance at the screen told me it was from a private number, another bloody call centre, I guessed as I declined the call.

Less than a minute later, I heard the familiar beep that indicated a voicemail had been left. Strange, I thought as I picked up the phone and dialled my answerphone, those call centres don’t usually leave voice messages. And as I listened, my heart began to beat more quickly. The voice at the end of the line was from a casting researcher at Pointless who wanted me to ring them back!

And to cut a long story short, my wife and I seemed to impress them on that phone call, Cathy being rung moments after me.

Our successful telephone audition led us to a hotel in Cardiff a week later for a face-to-face audition.

Now, this was the scary bit. Not only did we have to impress the researchers there, but we also had to do it in front of a room of 30 other hopeful contestants.

I’m quiet by nature but knew I had to shine here and create a persona that the TV execs wanted on their show. Having my wife there helped me as she is naturally more outgoing and chattier than me. I treated that day as a job interview, I knew I had to impress, and that’s precisely what we did as a couple of months later we were at the BBC Television Centre in London recording our episode of Pointless.

Photo of Stephen Havard and his wife on the TV quiz show 'Pointless.'
Steve and his wife, Cathy, on the TV quiz show ‘Pointless.’

It was a day I’d never forget as we came away with a Pointless trophy and the jackpot!

So how does appearing on a daytime quiz show lead to me writing my first novel, I hear you ask.

Well, since that first quiz show appearance in 2011, I’ve auditioned and appeared in many more shows with various degrees of success. Quizzing has become a great passion, and I love to appear on TV to show off my knowledge and test myself against other great quizzers.

I’m also convinced that appearing on them vastly improved my confidence and helped with my mental health.

Writing a book had also been something I’d always wanted to do, but like most things, that passion had been put on the backburner with work and family life taking precedence.

Then in March 2020, lockdown happened, and my life, along with the rest of the country, changed utterly. I was ‘working from home’ permanently, and my daily commute of over 2 hours had suddenly disappeared.

Despite the awful circumstances of the pandemic and lockdown, I sensed this was an opportunity to follow that dream of writing a novel.

The only question was what to write about?

This had been a conundrum for so long and another reason why I hadn’t yet typed any words. Yet during those first few weeks of lockdown, the idea of my debut novel locked into place, and it was an idea that was staring me in the face all along if I’m being honest now. Why not write about my other great passion, that of quizzing!

And that’s what I did over the next seven months as ‘The Duel’ took shape. It incorporated the world of quizzing, which I knew well and required very little research with a murder mystery.

‘The Duel’ was self-published in November 2020 and has been well received by readers that have bought it. It’s a story I’m happy to have told at last, and I hope it may lead to a full-time writing career eventually (fingers crossed).


About Stephen Havard

Photo of Stephen Havard

Stephen Havard lives in Swansea, South Wales, with his wife and two children, he also has 2 stepchildren.

Currently working in the IT industry, he enjoys quizzing and watching Swansea City football club in his spare time.

His quizzing exploits have resulted in a few TV appearances, with varying degrees of success!

The Duel is Stephen’s first novel.

Connect With Stephen

Twitter

Amazon

Stephen’s Book – The Duel

Ashley White is desperate. An ill-advised investment in cryptocurrency has left him in financial meltdown, with the bank threatening to repossess his home and a wife that knows nothing about the mess he is in.

A new quiz show called ‘The Duel’ is about to hit the TV screens, offering a mouth-watering 2 million pounds to the winner. The show is to be hosted by Patrick Reed; the scandal-hit presenter who hopes it will revive his flagging career.

Ashley hopes the show can be his way out of his financial problems and does all that is necessary to appear, even when those things have murderous intent.

Image of the book The Duel by Stephen Havard
The Duel – by Stephen Havard

Available on Amazon UK

Available on Amazon.Com

My thanks to Stephen for writing this guest post.

If you have any questions or comments for Stephen, please leave them in the comments section. He’d be delighted to hear from you.

If you enjoy reading true stories, check out these previously published true stories

My Accident: A Life-Changing Experience – A True Story And Guest Blog Post By James M. Lane @jameslanepm

Please welcome writer and blogger James M. Lane to my blog.

James shares a true story about an accident that changed his life.

When I read his story, it made me stop and think about the accidents I’ve had and whether they changed my life.

Has an accident changed your life?

Do you have a true story you’d like to share on my blog? Contact me via theContact Hugh’ button on the menubar.

Copyright © 2022 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

Seat Of Horror

September 23, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!


Seat Of Horror – by Hugh W. Roberts

“Happy Birthday.”

“What is it?” squealed Richard as he tore off wrapping paper while Adrian took photos.

“You’ll soon find out.”

“A chair?”

“Not just any chair. Stephen King’s chair.”

“Stephen King?” You’re kidding me?”

“Nope. I got all the paperwork of authenticity.”

“I love it.”

“Get writing that first novel you keep telling us you have inside you.”

“Horror! It’ll be a horror story. It has to be horror, what with it being Stephen King’s chair.”

“Don’t let it go to your head. I’ve hidden all the knives and sharp objects but left you a pen,” giggled Adrian.

***

Richard and Adrian first appeared in Edge Of Summer – another piece of flash fiction written for the 99-word flash fiction challenge.

Image of a chair that looks as if it is floating on top of the waters of a lake.
Image Credit: Charli Mills

Written for the 99-word flash fiction challenge hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Click here to join in.

***

Enjoyed this piece of flash fiction? Then you’ll love Glimpses

Glimpses

28 short stories and pieces of flash fiction take the reader on a rollercoaster of twists and turns.

Available on Amazon

Paperback – £4.99

Kindle – £0.99

***

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Click the ‘Diversity with a Twist’ image to check out my latest post on my column at the Carrot Ranch.

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Copyright © 2021 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

Confessions Of A Holiday Let – A True Story And Guest Post By Judith Barrow @judithbarrow77

I’m delighted to welcome Judith Barrow to my blog today, who shares a true story about the perils of holiday letting an apartment.

Having read some of Judith’s other stories of holiday letting, there’s always a humorous side to them which I believe would not only make a fanatics book, but a television comedy show.

Confessions of a Holiday Let – A true story by Judith Barrow

Will Judith’s story have you laughing as much as I did when I read it?

***

For many years we summer let the apartment which is attached to our house.

We had many visitors from other countries staying in our apartment and shared great times with them.

Couples from the USA, Australia enjoyed barbeques on the lawn; long boozy evenings of wine and slightly burned kebabs and steaks, of tall tales and laughter.

Visits to restaurants with people from France and Italy. Long walks and talks on the coastal paths with a couple from New Zealand that we’d met from there on holiday in Christchurch, followed by drinks in local pubs.

We had a German man stay with us for three weeks who’d come to participate in the Iron Man Wales event. He’d worked hard for twelve months, he told us and had to acclimatise himself to the course. Three days before the event, he caught a chest infection and had to drop out. Despite his anti-biotics, he still needed to join Husband in a double whisky that night.

Oh dear, I’m sensing a common theme here.

This is the story of our last visitor for the season one year.

He was a single man. We’ve had people come on holiday alone many times over the years and thought nothing of it. When he arrived, we quickly realised he could only speak a little English, and we couldn’t speak his language at all.

He hadn’t been in the apartment before he came to the door brandishing an empty bottle of washing up liquid.

“Oh, sorry,” I said, “I thought there was plenty in it.”

“Used it.”

An hour later, washing powder was asked for by a demonstration of vigorous scrubbing at a pair of underpants.

“There’s a box of it under the sink.”

“Used it.”

Sunday brought him to the door twice. First, with the sugar bowl.

“Used it.”

Then the salt cellar.

“I thought I’d filled it—”

“Used it.”

‘Used it’ quickly became the watchword whenever we supplied tea bags, vinegar or handing over shoe polish.

Monday, he arrived with an empty tube of glue.

“Sorry, we don’t supply glue.”

He stands, smiling, waggling the tube. “Used it.”

Husband went into his Man Drawer and produced a tube of Super Glue. Scowling. We never found out what the man wanted it for, even though Husband examined everything he could that would need to be stuck the following weekend.

Each day, at least once, the man came to the door to ask for something by waving the empty bottle, carton, container or label at us. Unlike most holidaymakers, he didn’t knock on the back door but always came round to ring the doorbell at the front. In the end, Husband and I would peer through the hall window.

“It’s Mr Used It,” one of us would say. “It’s your turn to go.” Pushing at one another. “You see what he wants this time.”

On Wednesday, he arrived with a cardboard roll.

“There are six more toilet rolls in the bathroom cabinet to the right of the hand basin,” I offered helpfully.

“Used it.”

Seven rolls of toilet paper usually last a couple the whole week. I handed over four more.

“What’s happening in there,” Husband grumbled, “do-it-yourself colonic irrigation?”

On Friday, Husband produced a list. “We should charge for this lot,” he declared. “See?”

It read like a shopping list: milk/salt/sugar/vinegar/butter/tea bags/ coffee/soap/soap powder/toilet paper/shampoo/glue/shoe polish.

“Really?” I said, even though I knew the chap had been a pest. “You’ve been keeping tabs on our guest?”

“Too true.” The husband was indignant. “We could even charge him for overuse of the battery in the doorbell.”

“Except that it’s connected to the electricity.”

“Even worse!” Husband grumped off to his shed.

Saturday morning came, and the doorbell rang. Smiling, the man put his suitcase down onto the ground and, vigorously, shook hands with both of us. He waved towards the apartment.

“Used it,” he said. “Very nice.”

***

Judith Barrow

About Judith Barrow

Judith Barrow is originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, in the UK. She now lives with her husband and family in Pembrokeshire, Wales, where she has lived for over forty years.

Judith has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David’s College, Carmarthen. She also has BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University.

She is a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.

She has written all her life and has had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. She only started to seriously write novels after having breast cancer twenty years ago.

When not writing or teaching, she enjoys doing research for her writing, walking the Pembrokeshire coastline and reading and reviewing books.

Connect with Judith

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

Judith’s Latest Book – The Heart Stone

The Heart Stone by Judith Barrow

1914 – and everything changes for Jessie on a day trip to Blackpool. She realises her true feelings for her childhood friend, Arthur. Then just as they are travelling home from this rare treat, war is declared.

Arthur lies about his age to join his Pals’ Regiment. Jessie’s widowed mother is so frightened of the future, she agrees to marry the vicious Amos Morgan, making Jessie’s home an unsafe place for her.

Before he leaves, Arthur and Jessie admit their feelings and promise to wait for each other. Arthur gives Jessie a heart-shaped stone to remember him. But with Arthur far away, their love leaves Jessie with a secret that will see her thrown from her home and terribly abused when she can hide the truth no longer. Faced with a desperate choice between love and safety, Jessie must fight for survival, whatever the cost.

Click on the book cover to buy The Heart Stone

More Books from Judith

Saga of the Howard family
The Memory

Click on the book covers to buy Judith’s books.

My thanks to Judith for writing this guest post.

If you have any questions or comments for Judith, please leave them in the comments section. She’d be delighted to hear from you.

Do you have a true story you’d like to share on my blog? Contact me via the ‘Contact Hugh’ button on the menubar.

Copyright © 2021 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

Creating Atmosphere In Fiction – by Esther Chilton

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Esther Chilton to my blog.

While I’m putting the finishing touches to my next short story collection, Esther kindly accepted my invitation to write a guest post. This is a must-read for anyone who is in the process of writing fiction, whether it is for an upcoming book, competition, for publication in a magazine, or as a blog post.  Esther gives lots of great writing advice and tips over on her blog.

#writingtips #writing #authors
Image Credit: Pixabay

To be successful, a short story or novel needs to develop a strong sense of atmosphere. This draws your readers into your story so they can imagine this world you are creating. It also sets up expectations for them and gives them information about the characters they’re likely to meet in your story.

Here are some ways to help you ensure your readers feel as if they’re right there alongside your characters, experiencing the story for themselves:

Setting   

Setting isn’t the same as atmosphere, but it is a big part of it and can help to shape the mood of the story. A story set in an abandoned warehouse immediately evokes a sense of eeriness and isolation, of neglect and dreariness.

Make sure you choose a setting which suits the type of story you’re writing. Different settings create different atmospheres. In a ghost story, you want the atmosphere to be creepy and one of trepidation. An ideal setting is an old theatre or graveyard. A setting on a crowded beach in Malaga induces a very different atmosphere.

Description

You can’t create atmosphere without description. But this doesn’t mean you need paragraphs and paragraphs of purple prose to ensure your readers can picture the scene. A few powerful adjectives and adverbs will effectively make your readers feel part of the story.

Perhaps you have chosen a hotel as your setting. Using different words can dramatically vary the atmosphere created. For example, look at the following description of the hotel:

She eagerly hurried inside, her eyes soaking up the sumptuous sofas, gleaming floors and dazzling chandelier taking centre stage. 

This short passage gives an image of light, of space and a pleasant place to stay. From this passage, your readers can also imagine the type of people the main character will meet e.g. smart businessmen and wealthy women.

The following describes a contrasting hotel and produces a very different mood:

She gingerly stepped inside, her eyes widening at the sagging sofas, the filthy floor and dull, flickering light.

Here, the hotel comes across as dingy and dirty. Your readers can picture this hotel’s patrons as seedy and up to no good.

Five Senses

Sight and sound are often used to bring a scene to life and for impacting upon the tone of a story. But the senses of smell, touch and taste can also affect a story’s mood. A rundown cafe might smell like a mixture of sweaty training shoes and over-fried chips. The menu may be caked in sticky sauce and clammy mashed potato. Perhaps the tea tastes like stagnant water.

Your readers will be able to imagine themselves there, smelling the vile scents, feeling the congealed food on the menu and tasting the liquid being passed off as tea.

Weather

The weather is a useful tool for producing a certain type of atmosphere. A gloriously sunny day immediately conjures up feelings of warmth and joy, where something happy is about to happen. This may be the atmosphere you want to create for a wedding in your story. Though, perhaps it’s a wedding doomed not to take place. Again, you can use the weather to change the mood of the story and build up a mounting sense of tension, with the wind gathering momentum and thick clouds charging across the sky.

Time

The time of day can make a difference to the type of atmosphere your readers feel. For example, you can darken a story by setting it at night. There’s always an extra sense of menace, of threat and uncertainty in a story that takes place at night.

First Person Viewpoint

A story written in the first person can be very effective in creating a sense of atmosphere and making your readers feel as if they are part of the story, seeing and experiencing everything along with that character. Take the following example:

I looked at the garden, at the weeds weaving their way towards the house, merging with the ivy-coated walls. Something tugged at my memory. A smell – of unwashed skin, of bad breath and of something worse. Much worse. I shuddered, shivering and shaking. I remembered.

See how you share in this character’s horror, seeing, smelling and feeling everything she is.

So now you have some tools for ensuring your story is an atmospheric masterpiece!

About Esther Chilton/Newton

#blogger #author #writer #books
Author, writer and blogger Esther Chilton

I’ve always loved words and writing, but I started out working with figures in a bank. I was on an accelerated training programme and studying banking exams, which meant I didn’t have time for writing so it wasn’t long before it was a thing of the past – or so I thought. My love affair with writing ignited again when I had an accident and seriously injured my back. It meant I could no longer carry out my job working in the bank and it led me back to writing, which has now become a daily part of my life.

I’ve now been working as a freelance writer for nearly twenty years, regularly writing articles and short stories for magazines and newspapers such as Freelance Market News, Writers’ Forum, Writing Magazine, The Guardian, Best of British, The Cat, and The People’s Friend to name a few.

Winner of Writing Magazine, Writers’ News and several other writing competitions and awards, I have also had the privilege of judging writing competitions.

As well as working as a freelance writer, I have branched out into the exciting world of copywriting, providing copy for sales letters, brochures, leaflets, web pages, slogans and e-mails.

I love writing, but equally, I enjoy helping others, which I achieve in my role as a tutor for The Writers Bureau. I feel like a proud parent when one of my students has a piece of writing published. Some of them have gone on to become published authors and have achieved great success.

In addition to tutoring, I work as a freelance copyeditor offering an editing, guidance and advice service for authors and writers. I’ve edited novels, non-fiction books, articles and short stories.

If you’d like my help or would like to know more about what I can do for you, please get in touch: estherchilton@gmail.com

Connect With Esther

Blog: https://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com

Twitter: @esthernewton201

Linkedin: Esther Chilton

The Siege and Other Award-Winning Short Stories:

Blurb: After launching her short story collection, ‘The Siege and Other Award Winning Short Stories’ as an e-book, freelance writer and The Writers Bureau tutor, Esther Newton, received numerous requests to bring out a paperback version.

#books #shortstories

‘The Siege and Other Award Winning Short Stories’ paperback features a further six short stories, as well as the original twelve from the e-book, offering more drama, more tension, more laughs and even more emotion.  From the heart-rending story of a young girl who’s never had a friend, to some special letters to Father Christmas, to a woman running away from a violent man, each story will keep you reading on straight into the next.

The collection includes prize-winning short stories from Writing Magazine, Writers’ News, The Global Short Story and Ouze Valley Writers competitions, amongst others.

Buying Links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

And all other online stores. The book can also be ordered through all good bookshops. Additionally, Esther has copies of the paperback for sale at £5 each. You can order one directly through her. If you’re interested, please contact her at: estherchilton@gmail.com

Esther is currently working on her next collection of short stories, A Walk in the Woods and other Short Stories. It’ll feature some prize-winning stories, as well as some new ones. Look out for it later this year.

If you have any questions or comments for Esther, please leave them in the comments section.

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