Wednesday 8 March 2017

Fourteen poems for Valentine

My main focus recently has been job hunting as I was made redundant on 13 February 2017.  I didn't want to lose touch with my writing so I set myself a challenge for Valentine day. 

The Challenge

Starting from 14 February 2017, for fourteen days, I would post a love poem.  It involved reading some of my old work and editing to publish one each day.  I posted the poems to Wattpad. 

I discovered poems I had forgotten about.  Some of these, I am really proud of and others just needed a little editing (and some were so cringe worthy that we shall not speak of). 

Next year, I plan to set myself the challenge again and I plan on creating more poetry books in future.

Click here if you'd like to read the 2017 Valentine edition.

Organising Writing

The unexpected reward was how amazing it felt to organise my work.  I've written so much, in various stages of edits, it is hard to keep track of it all. Sorting them into a novel and posting online not only enables me to get the feedback I need but also is an easy way of organising my work.

I have written so much that my MS Office OneDrive has exceeded the space limit!  I remember my IT Department thinking I was nuts when I said I need to buy a 128gb USB to free up space on my computer by moving my writing. 

If anyone has any tips on how to organise writing (with multiple versions), please let me know. 

Monday 6 March 2017

The Pip Box

Subscription Beauty Boxes

I've always loved the idea of subscription beauty boxes. They enable you to try a variety of products at an unbeatable discount.  However, many of the companies have products that don't meet my ethics or the shipping costs are too high.

I was incredibly excited when I heard of The Pip Box.  They are a cruelty free, UK based company and many of the brands are organic.  In addition, 50p from the sale of every box is donated to an animal friendly charity. 

It is named after the founders dog, Pippa.  Their goal is to end cosmetic testing on animals. 

The Pip Box

At the start of February, I ordered my first Pip Box.  They don't dispatch the orders until 20th of the month.  The wait felt incredibly long.  It wasn't until the 27th February 2017 that it finally arrived. 

A post shared by Alison Aldridge (@redfae) on

The Pip Box was packaged suitably.  The items were wrapped in blue tissue paper.  Inside the tissue paper was a pink cotton bag with the items.

A post shared by Alison Aldridge (@redfae) on

Each box, you are guaranteed at least 5 products with an average value of £35. The box contains information about the 5 products.  The products will often be full size (no sample or sachets).  The type of products are organic and natural make-up, skincare and haircare products.

What did I get?

A post shared by Alison Aldridge (@redfae) on

The five items I received were:
  • PHB Ethical Beauty - Natural and organic eyeliner (nearly black)
  • PHB Ethical Beauty - Natural and organic water resistant mascara (black)
  • Saturated Colour Lip Vinyl (Frisky Fuchsia)
  • Akamuti Green Clay Face Mask
  • Bloomtown Botanicals The Rose Garden soap

The box cost me £13.50 (+£3.99 P&P) but the goods are valued at £38.25 - and that's not including P&P!  That is incredible value.

PHB Ethical Beauty - Natural and organic eyeliner (black):  £8.95 RRP
I am so pleased with every single item.  The eyeliner is perfect.  It doesn't smudge and lasts all day.

PHB Ethical Beauty - Natural and organic water resistant mascara (black): £15.95 RRP
When I first saw the mascara brush, I thought it looked so basic and had no faith in its ability.  But, I gave it a go and it is the best I have ever used.  My lashes have never looked better.  However, water resistant is very different to waterproof as I discovered with panda eyes at the swimming pool.

Saturated Colour Lip Vinyl (Frisky Fuchsia):  £7.00 RRP 
The Lip Vinyl is a vibrant pop of glossy colour.  It is not sticky and lasts all day.  It you blot it, it becomes a lip stain.  The colour is very bright and vivid - I wouldn't class it as a day lipstick.

Akamuti Green Clay Face Mask:  £4.95 RRP
The green clay mask is a powder and you mix it with water to produce a paste.  You can apply it to trouble areas or all over as a full mask.  I used it as a full mask and was really pleased with how soft my skin felt afterwards.  I was also surprised at how it wasn't messy - I've used other powder masks and been put off by the mess.

Bloomtown Botanicals The Rose Garden soap:  £1.40 RRP
I have used the soap to wash my face for the past week and I think my skin is looking better as a result.  The soap has a gentle pleasant floral scent that is uplifting in a subtle way.


If I hadn't been made redundant on 13 Feb, I would subscribe to this box without hesitation. It is exceptional value. 

All the products were top quality and items I may never  have ventured if it had not been for this box.  I'm a fan and will rebuy all the items when they run out. 

The first things I will do when I find a new job, is subscribe to The Pip Box!


Friday 10 February 2017

Curtis Brown - Start Writing Your Novel

I've been subscribed to Curtis Brown's newsletter for a number of years and lusted over doing a course with them for a long time but never could afford it.  As an early birthday present, I got my husband to treat me.
Who is it for?

This introductory course is an excellent opportunity to get a feel of how the online courses run and see if it is right with you with out the expense or commitment of a full time course.

It is run by Curtis Brown a leading Literacy Agency and they share tips on what they are looking for and what makes a submission stand out.  You will cringe when they tell you the things writers repeatedly do that fails to impress.

Who shouldn't apply?

If you want feedback by the tutor on your writing, you will need to pay for one of the longer courses.

How is it run?

The course is easy to follow with support material in the format of a video and an article based on the transcript.  Following on from the support material there is an activity and the resources you need to accompany it.  Each week is split into two subject areas, with a related exercise for each.

This gives you the opportunity to consider what you have learnt and put it into practice.  You post your work to the forum for other students to comment on.  In return, you should comment on their work.

What does it cover?

The course covers an introduction to subjects to help you get started writing your novel e.g. reading as a writer, sources of inspiration and structuring your novel.  For such a short course, it cover a lot!
They are simple subjects that every writer should know but it never hurts to reinforce your foundations.   One of the subjects was the importance of getting into the habit of writing and making time for it - This is so obvious but a constant challenge for me and I valued the advice to overcome the obstacles.

During the course we were encouraged to come up with an idea for a story, the exercises got us to consider the pitch, plotting and planning, starting point, time, POV, character development, first page and chapter.  The exercises will challenge you to rethink the way you write and turn ideas I their head. 

What did I get out of it?

It got me to rethink the opening chapter of my novel, Angel.  It is now a prologue, written in 2nd POV and narrated by the demon - I never would have dared attempt to do this.  I also can see the plot holes in this novel before getting two involved in it and having a massive restructure later on. 

In addition, I took many of the points into consideration whilst editing Drift and transformed the first three chapters into something I feel confident in - a new feeling (as I'm incredibly critical of my work). 

Any problems?

The only issue I had with the course was that I assumed we had a week to complete the assignments.  About week 5, I discovered we were meant to post by Sunday so there was ample time for our work to be read.

In addition, I often wasn't able to comment on other peoples work and nobody ever commented on mine.  I could see other students commenting on each others work without any issue so I'm not sure why I could not.

Would I recommend it?

Overall, I would recommend this course. 

This post is my personal opinion and experience on the course - I have not received any incentive to write my review other than that I enjoy being informative and helpful to other writers. 

Sunday 29 January 2017

The Habit Of Writing

The new year is a time when many people stop to reflect on the past year and make plans for the year ahead.  They quit anything that is not adding value to their life and set goals to achieve their aspiration.

For me, my goal was to write more.
  1. To keep on track you need a plan.
  2. You break your overall goal into realistic steps.
  3. You reflect throughout the year at suitable intervals
  4. You adjust your plan when required
Many people give up when they  feel like they've failed but just because you didn't meet a target doesn't mean you failed.  Reflect on what went wrong and how you can approach it differently.  Most importantly, if you really want to succeed, never give up.

Many writers struggle to find the time they need to dedicate to their writing.  Often, this is because they have other full time commitments in their life.  I combat this by allocating an hour a day for my writing  (8pm to 9pm).  It might not sound like much but it is better than nothing.

Even so, real life can still get in the way.  Today, my writing time went to an emergency waiting room to check my son didn't have Meningitis - he didn't *phew*.  Sometimes I'm tired after work, my husband wants to spend time with me, I'm ill or I want to socialise.  Despite all the demands of my life, I never give up.

January, I set myself the target to write a chapter a day.  When I've not been able to I've tried to make up for it the next day (writing two chapters).  I wondered if the target was too ambitious and then I remembered, I set it to try and get myself into the habit of allowing myself time to write and to write more.  When I look at what I've achieved this month, I've written a lot, so it worked.

If you ever feel like your not achieving your goals, remember to keep going.  If you keep trying you have a better chance of success than if you just quit.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Drift is complete?

Finally, January 2017, I think Drift is complete.  I started writing it in December 2009.  I remember the way the story grabbed my imagination and I had to write it.  I woke early, went to bed late and snuck around like I was having an affair so my husband didn't catch me 'writing again'.  

Then I edited it, got friends and people online to read it, followed their feedback and edited some more.  Then, in the summer of 2010, I sent it out to agents. 

Luckily, I got some interest but it never went any further. Now, looking back at it, I can clearly see why it didn't get published. 

I've always loved writing but this novel will always be special.  It is the first one I believed good enough to seek publication.

For me editing was a real chore.  It killed my passion to write as I began overthinking every paragraph, sentence and word.  The skills required for editing are very different to those used to produce a raw draft. 

I attended local workshops, writers groups, networked online and attended speakers at Felixstowe Book Festival.  I paid for online courses like Write Story Books for Children and Curtis Brown's Start Writing Your Novel.  All in the hope that I could improve my writing and get Drift finished to a suitable standard. 

Finally, January 2017, I think my new polished version of Drift is finally good enough... 
Although, one thing I have learnt from the experience is to leave it a few weeks and then view it again with fresh eyes.  Tomorrow, I might see a need to edit again.

To read Drift, please visit Wattpad:

In this 'fishy tail' Mariah's complicated love life is just the 'spark' of her troubles!

One kiss is all it took to wake Mariah's storm summoning powers.

"Don't kiss him!"  Warned Gwyn, a famous psychic.  But fate has a funny way of making things happen that even magic cannot stop. 

Mariah is crushing on her best friend Jace who has a hot new girlfriend.  The hot new girlfriend's brother is Murray the swim team star and Mariah's rival.  With an unusual offer from Murray she has the chance to ruin the blossoming romance.

But, with no idea she's a mermaid, strange things begin to happen and soon Mariah is shooting off a storm.  Can she gain control of her powers before someone gets hurt or worse?

Monday 9 January 2017

Scibophile Review

Fans of this site are not going to like this review but of all the sites I used I really did not like this one. 

It has a reputation of being a website for serious writers that want to exchange their feedback for feedback.  It does achieve that image. 

The interface is very down to business and not fun at all!  You will not find any pictures, music or videos here.  This site is for critiquing and talking about the are of writing.   

Restrictive:  If you use the site for free you can only post two stories/chapters at a time.  I think this drives people to post ridiculously long pieces.  Paying members will find their posts at the top of the list for feedback, free members will have to wait. 

Dull reading:  I found I spent a lot of time reading long boring stories (that were well written) and in return got very little help.  The stories were not the sort that I enjoy reading.  I felt this process slowly destroying my soul. 

If it was easier to choose stories to read that meet my tastes then I'd have enjoyed it more.  There was only one story I read and actually enjoyed. It was about a witches training school.  I never could find it again which was a shame as I would have loved to have read more. 

Critique:  This is a strength for the site.  It has different tools and methods to enable readers to give in depth critiques.  As much as I complain, I did have two really good critiques.  It was also refreshing to know you can be brutally honest rather than pussy footing around to not hurt their feelings - this site is where when you go when you need to know how to improve your writing. 

However, if you can only post two chapters at a time, keep in mind that the reader may not know what happened previously in the story or developed a relationship with the character.  Again, I felt this meant they couldn't give me the full rounded critique I desired. 

Groups:  You can meet like minded writers by joining groups.  I joined a few YA groups but still find the environment very sterile.  I don't feel like I can get involved.  I still get regular emails, so I know they are active. 

  • For serious writers
  • Feedback exchange
  • Excellent critique tools
  • Reading distracts from time spent writing
  • Feedback is opinions of other writers (may not relate to your target audience)
  • Very restrictive (unless you pay)
  • Ugly interface
Some people really love this site for it's ability to enable users to provide deep critiques.  Personally, it was not for me.  I found it depressing and it killed my will to write. 

If you want to use this website, consider getting a membership.  However, from my experience, I feel the money would be better spent on a professional editor that understands my genre, target audience and takes time to read the whole manuscript.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Opuss Review

This is not a website, just an app on iOS.  Sadly, this app is getting less traffic.  They've done an amazing job of making it free and have a loyal fan base of writers who have been there since it first was released. 

App:  This app is perfect for mobile use as it is very simple.  It is mainly used for posting poems or short pieces.  It's easy to find something to read and to post.  It's like twitter for creative writing. 

Feedback:  You are unlikely to get any constructive feedback but people will comment, like and share what they enjoy and follow you.  The app ranks writers by their popularity and their is a chart for the top daily, weekly, monthly and yearly post. 

  • Simple to use
  • Fun ranking system
  • Great for short pieces of writing
  • Motivating community
  • Only available on iOS
  • Dwindling activity
  • Not great for long pieces of writing

Saturday 7 January 2017

Swoon Reads Review

Swoon Reads
This is not a social site for writers.  This website was originally designed by Macmillan (with Fiewel & Friends) to enable readers to highlight the YA Romance novels they should publish, however,  they've now opened their site to all YA genres.

Feedback:  I originally posted my novel Drift to the site in January 2014.  It didn't make it to the short list but those that read it left some positive and insightful comments.  These readers were people who love YA fiction and I found they feedback invaluable in my future edits.  I also could see how far I kept them reading into my novel.

Reading:  You can influence what stories will get published by voting (ratings from 1 to 5).  The stories with the most love hearts will be picked up the by publishers for consideration.

Publishing deal:  You can only submit your manuscript for consideration if it has not been published for sale elsewhere.  Visit their website for the full details but here is the summary of the deal:

"If your manuscript is chosen for publication, we will offer you a $10,000 advance against royalties in a standard Macmillan publishing contract for all rights in all languages, including an option on your next young adult or new adult book."

  • Feedback from YA fiction readers
  • Chance to get published
  • You can't edit your manuscript once submitted (make sure it is fully edited before submitting).  The site is really for querying MacMillan but the process is more insightful than the old fashion query method where unless you hear back you haven't a clue how well your manuscript was received.
  • Not for work published for sale elsewhere
I have continued to edit Drift so there is a change that I could submit the manuscript to Swoon Reads again. 


Friday 6 January 2017

WeBook Review

Once upon a time, this was the best writing site.  It is probably nostalgia that has kept it on my list.

I love this site because it was the first site where I posted my writing online and met some lovely readers.  It feels like an old friend and I loyally can't abandon it completely. 

RIP:  Sadly, the website traffic has waned over the years and it seems to be dead accept for the monthly competitions.  I think the issue is that they have not bothered to update the site in over 5 years. 

App:  No, this is the major let down.  Mainly, the promised app has never come into fruition and the website is not mobile friendly. 

PageToFame:  I haven't used this feature in a long while.  Writers could submit pages from their novel.  Readers would rate them (1 to 5) if they felt it ought to be published.  Readers got awarded badges if they had a good eye for a good story.  You had to pass rounds and each round you were able to submit slightly more text.  Winners would be considered by a publisher.

AgentInTheBox:  This was a fantastic feature.  At one point you had to pay to use it but it has been free for a long time now.  You searched their directory for agents currently seeking manuscripts that match yours.  Then you could send them a query. The facility kept track of what you had sent and their response.  This feature also helped you manage your files so you could send to meet their requirements very easily. It made the process so easy!  I actually did get a request for my full manuscript from one agent, thanks to this service.   

Badges:  I can't lie, the geek girl in me loved getting rewarded with badges for writing reviews and posting stories.  You got badges for your participation but writers could reward their readers with badges depending on the sort of comment left i.e. Motivating, Constructive, etc.

  • Connect with agents
  • Enter competitions
  • Badges
  • Low activity
  • No apps (the website is awful on a mobile
I think I will add a book to let my friends know where I have gone should they return to find me.


Thursday 5 January 2017

Movella Review

I ranked this number 3 in my favourite sites for writing.  It was designed for mobile use and they certainly have achieved that with the highest number of supporting apps for their website (unless you are a Windows user). 

This site appears to be aimed at teenagers, so you will find a lot of fan fiction!

Blog:  This is a great idea.  You can blog on Movella.  This sounds like an excellent way to keep in touch with your readers but also to give reviewers a louder voice.

Community:  My first attempt at this site I met a very self involved guy who very critical of everything I wrote and not in a constructive way.  He was bossing me about on what I had do - instead I was just put right off.  I don't like pretentious people. 

However, I doubt he represents the rest of the community and I'm hopefully he has moved on.  I've headed back to give the site a second chance and meet some nice people.

Writing:  I don't find this the most user friendly site for creating or updating your stories.  There is a limited number of covers so you really need to make your own.  You can add a YouTube video at the start. Writing the chapters feels very much like a forum post.

App:  It has a lot of apps.  The main one enables you to read on the go and apparently update your writing (but I can't figure out how).  However, I find the app tricky to navigate like the site but maybe if I used it more I'd get used to it.  You can also get apps specific to your tastes like poety or OneDirection fan fiction - if that's your thing. 

  • Blog
  • Competitions
  • Mumbles - a global status update
  • Easy to share on various social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pintrest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc)
  • Lots of apps (iOS, Android)
  • Very active
  • Juvenile users (I'm giving it another try and hope this has changed)
  • Limited choice of covers
  • Unattractive interface for writers
  • No Windows app

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Figment Review

I gave this site second place. 

This site deserves more of my attention but for some reason I have never really gotten into it, although that could change for 2017!  It is aimed at teens and young adults  so you can't really post your stories here if it contains adult content.

Writing:  I think this is where Figment loses me.  The site is very user friendly but when you want to post a story the first section "Content" always throws me - is it the blurb, the first chapter... to me, it's not clear. 

Covers:  The choice of available covers are very dull and uninspiring.  However, you can upload your own cover.  As their selection was so boring, I found myself going off to work on a cover before I could even get started.

Badges:  OMG!  If I knew about badges I would have been on here ages ago.  I'm so excited!  This is why I want to give Figment another chances.  When I played City of Heroes, collecting the badges became one of the most rewarding elements of the game (almost as exciting as being a superhero  with super powers).  You get badges for writing, reading, socialising - you know once you start, you have to collect them all!

App:  No, there isn't an app for this site but they claim they are working on one.  However, the website has been adapted for mobile use, just visit

  • Badges
  • Easy to update stories
  • Social media
  • Easy to read stories and add to your library
  • Very active
  • Reach YA target audience
  • No app
  • Limited cover choices
  • Not suitable if your target audience is adults.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Surface Pro 4

For Christmas, my husband brought me a Surface Pro 4. 

I've been wishing for a Microsoft Surface laptop since they first came out but thought I'd never afford one.  You can imagine how happy I am.


I am smitten with my pro. I love how versatile it is.  I love the pen and it is a real novelty to be able to handwrite and see it turn to text.  The keyboard is very comfortable and responsive.  I love how there is a USB slot big enough for my Kingston 3.0 memory stick (which holds all my photos and storage).  I enjoy being able to switch between using it as a laptop or as a tablet. 

The only downside is that MS Office doesn't come with the laptop - I only have a one month free trial, then I need to either buy a subscription or a year of the product.  As Word is the main program I use for my writing this is annoying. The Cloud version doesn't have all the features of the full version that I am familiar with.

I tried searching the MS Store for Writing apps and was disappointed by the lack of options.  I also tried searching for free games and couldn't find anything that took my fancy.  If anything impresses me, I'll blog it.

For productivity it is a gorgeous laptop.  It does everything I could wish.  Perhaps, the lack of distraction will be a blessing in disguise for my writing.  Let's see how many novels are written by Christmas 2017. 

Wattpad Review

This site has won me over - it is my top recommendation for social writing site for writers/readers.

Throughout 2016, this has become my favourite writing website.   It is a breeze to navigate on the site and on the apps.  This site has now become the first place I go to write - before even my Word Processor!

Social:  The community are easy to communicate with.  There is a forum and private message facility but most of my interactions have been on Writers/Readers personal page.

Feedback:  Commenting on writing is easy.  If you have the app (iOS/Android/Windows) then you can comment inline whilst reading.  You can also share to social media like Twitter of Facebook and can quote part of the story.

Readers:  People who like your writing can comment, vote, add your story to their  reading list, share on social media and even follow you.  When you post on your personal page you can tick a box to notify your followers, this enables you to send them updates such as what stories you are working on and when they can expect updates.

App:  Not only is their an app to make using the site on the go easy, there is also a second app for creating covers (iOS/Android).  The free images are pretty good, I've managed to find something relevant for all of my stories.  This is great when you just want to get on with posting you writing.  Often, when I have more time, I will create another cover without using the app. 

Multimedia:  You can add videos and images to your chapter title and within your chapter.  I've really enjoyed being able to create a playlist for my readers and to add images.  In addition, you can create a cast list for your characters - I've not tried this but it can really help readers see how you envision your characters looking.  Some people create trailers for their story!

Writing:  This is the most important part really.  I've found the site very straight forward to create a story and to update it with chapters.  Editing is easy to do but if you make lots of saves in a short space of time it can confuse the server as to which version to show.

  • Mobile app (Android/iOS/Windows)
  • Cover creator app (Android/iOS)
  • Easy to share with social media
  • Reading lists
  • Followers
  • Revision recovery
  • Multi media stories - add video, pictures and/or a cast to stories
  • Very active
  • User friendly interface
  • Need a good internet connection
  • No cover app for Windows
  • Competitions seem to all be for USA residents only
Customer Service:  I've had issues editing my stories, where it doesn't save the changes.  I emailed this support team (who were great) and they explained that if you save often and have a slow internet connection, it can revert to an older version but not to worry.  The correct version can be recovered from the revisions history.  This was a little annoying but since updating my broadband provider, everything had been much better.  Being able to restore old version is an excellent feature, I don't know about you but I have deleted stuff that I wish I hadn't and this feature means it is never permanently gone.


Monday 2 January 2017

Great Sites for Writers

Have you set yourself any writing goals for 2017?

My goals include posting my writing online on a regular basis.  I'm hoping that posting regular will gain me the attention of some loyal readers who will give me the feedback I need to improve my novel further. 

As a result, I'm considering my options.  Here are the sites I shall be reviewing.  They are listed in the order I have ranked them:

  1. Wattpad:
  2. Figment:
  3. Movella:
  4. WeBook:
  5. Swoon Reads:
  6. Opuss:
  7. Sribophile:
None or these sites require you to pay a fee to use.  However, some have a fee for certain features (i.e. WeBook and Scribophile).

Swoon Reads isn't actually a social site for writers but when I come to write my review you will understand why it is listed. 

One day, I'd love to create my own writing site. I'd take all my favourite bits from these sites add them together with some of my own ideas and make a site everyone can enjoy.  I'm so pleased these sites are out there but I can see so many opportunities to take the concept further.  If only I had the know how... 

As for the full review of the above listed sites... I plan to post one each day.  Let me know your favourite writing sites - Do you enjoy the above or have I missed any.  I'm also happy to discover new ones.