I can't believe this is the first blog post I've written since May! What an amazing year this has been. I've not only turned 50, lost over two stone and thrown myself out of a plane, but I've also moved to another county (Kent) to live with my new partner. With so much happening, no wonder I haven't made the time to sit down and write much lately. I'm job-hunting and enjoying getting used to my new surroundings, but will get back to writing and submitting stories in the new year.

The Cage That Tom Built, which had an honorary mention in the Five Stop Story competition, is now up on the website. You can read it here.

More news soon, I hope. I'll try not to leave it another six months before writing again!

I did my first tandem skydive at the weekend. A couple of solo parachute jumps from 2,000 feet back in the 1980s gave me the urge to try freefall but I never got round to it until now. And my son Stefan did his first ever parachute jump, yay!

We arrived at Old Sarum airfield by 8am, and after a short training session, flew to 10,000 feet above Salisbury Plain and jumped out. What a rush! A photographer jumped out at the same time, and it was great to see him falling next to us. We dropped 5,000 feet and then my instructor, George, opened the ‘chute. While getting my breath back I could see we were higher than I was during my ‘little’ 2,000-footers, so it was a new experience. Unfortunately I felt quite dizzy this time, especially when we turned. I’d originally wanted to try high-G turns and spirals, but told George I couldn’t do the turns after all because of my dizziness. I’ll have to go back for another tandem jump, and try to do better.

At the same time as having fun, I wanted to raise funds for the NSPCC because they do an amazing job helping vulnerable children. Thank you to all those who have kindly sponsored me so far. My JustGiving page is open for a few more days, in case anyone else would like to donate. If you do, thank you!

A massive thank you to my wonderful tandem instructor, George Clack, and the photographer, and all the team at GoSkydive for an amazing day.

Talking about skydiving... I had a nice email from a skydiver the other day who found my parachuting story Blue Skies online. He said he loved it and didn't want it to end! I'll have to write more parachuting stories now...

Photos of my skydive by GoSkydive.com
I’ve had a few ups and downs lately – and not just in my writing. One of the writing ‘ups’ was reading Karl Drinkwater’s great review of M is for Monster. My K story appeared in his list of favourites. He comments: “An interesting and unexpected monster that flavours horror with sympathy; a story mixing corruption with love and exploring perverted dedication.” You can read his review here.

Other nice surprises were having a vignette shortlisted by a literary journal and having a ‘star’ letter printed in a women’s magazine. And a lady who runs a writers’ group kindly tweeted to say she’d suggest that her newbie writer friends read my Travellin’ Light, as “an example of a quality short story.” So these ‘ups’ made up for the rejections I’ve had lately.

There have been ups and downs in my family life too, with illness and other problems, but then something lovely happened recently; I reconnected with some long-lost loved ones.

My exercise regime, which I started six months ago, is paying off. I was thrilled to see that my resting pulse rate has reduced by a whopping 17 beats per minute, and I've lost nearly two stones in weight. I’ve time to lose a bit more before I hit the big Five-Oh in July.

There is one more Up and Down coming along very soon, the tandem skydive. I’ll be flying up to an altitude of 10,000 feet and then falling down at 120mph, before floating under canopy for the final five minutes. I’m raising funds for the NSPCC – and there’s still time to sponsor me! Here’s the link to my JustGiving page. If you sponsor me, you’ll be making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children. Thank you!

My gloomy Monday brightened considerably when I read Karl Drinkwater’s great review of Escape Velocity: The Anthology. My futuristic tale Caveat Emptor! was among the stories he enjoyed the most. Yay! I’ll be using his comments when I put a few quotes on this website, but for now you can read the whole review here.

Karl (author of Turner and Cold Fusion 2000) also recently blogged about online writers’ critique groups, so if you’re looking for feedback on your work, check this out first.

In other news... I was pleased to reach the shortlist (top 20) of Five Stop Story’s December competition, but disappointed to miss out on a prize. Must... try... harder! They’ve switched to quarterly comps now. If you want to have a go, their website is here.

At last, I have an Amazon author page. It shows a (short) list of a few of the anthologies I’m in – including Escape Velocity: The Anthology! See what I did there?

I’ve read several short story collections this month. They were all good, but here are the two best ones I read during January. Firstly, Sweet Home by Carys Bray (published by Salt Publishing). This was a winner of The Scott Prize, and deservedly so. I love the searing honesty in these beautifully-written stories. Secondly, I really enjoyed Somewhere to Start From by Dan Purdue. Very well-written and entertaining. I’ll definitely read more by these two authors.

Find out about Sweet Home here.

Find out about Somewhere to Start From here.

I’ve also downloaded As I Embrace My Jagged Edges (And Other Thorns) by Lee Thompson. I love Lee’s short stories, so it’s great to have a whole bunch of them in one place. Looking forward to reading them all. If you hurry, you can download the collection FREE.

I recently received the judge’s comments on my entry for the Writers’ Village short story competition. Amongst other things, he said, “You have an impressive gift for fiction writing and your work shows great competence.” And I got 41 marks out of 45, which isn’t too bad, but sadly not enough to win a prize. Later, I found out that the top winners typically get 42-43 marks, so I felt a bit better. If you want to have a go at winning £1,000, the village is here.

Synaesthesia Magazine wanted book reviews for their first issue (in addition to fiction and poetry), so I thought they might like to reprint my review of Jonathan Pinnock’s Dot Dash. Well, it was my favourite book of 2012.

They not only liked the review, but also wanted me to add an extra 200 or so words!

So here is Synaesthesia Magazine. I'm looking forward to reading it. The extended review of Dot Dash is on page 32. I should have written it that length in the first place. Read it – and then read Dot Dash, if you haven’t already done so. You're in for a treat.

I recently extended my futuristic flash story, The Tip Of My Tongue, and it has been published in The Flash Future Review today.

This was a fun story to write. It was inspired by a childhood accident. Back in the 1970s, a couple of stitches sorted me out (there should have been more stitches, but I kicked the doctor on his chin and he gave up). I whizzed the accident into the future, and the outcome is very different for my character, Jenna.

The Flash Future Review is a brand new e-zine. It looks pretty good, so if you have any futuristic stories under 1,000 words, send ‘em in. Here’s the first issue.

The blurb:

In a land where death transcends time and space, a Ghostly War is being raged against the living. Late King Eldorman has the power to end this war, but he wants justice for his beautiful murdered daughter Arengel.

However, Arengel’s destiny lies once again with the living, when she falls in love with Adel, a lowly Earmburgian. Finally, the prophecy of The Man with the Red Aureole will come to pass, but Arengel needs an earthly body to fulfill it.

The journey that Adel must take to help Arengel will not only test his strengths to the limit but also that of his close friendship with Jeofren, a fellow Earmburgian. It is a race against time through dark and magical landscapes, and even when the task seems fruitless, Adel must see it through to the end.

The Unfading Heiress is ultimately a story of ghostly love, human greed, friendship and honour set amid a raging war between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead.

I don’t often read fantasy novels, as I prefer horror, but I was intrigued by the idea of a love story set during a ghostly war. It wasn’t long before I was gripped.

In places the prose is lyrical (the author is also a talented singer/songwriter), and quaint, which suits the story well. A few ‘odd’ words or phrases pop up occasionally – the only clue, for observant readers, that English is not Walter’s first language! Otherwise, you’d never know. His English is that impressive. There’s no way I could write a whole novel in another language, so I admire anyone who can.

At times I felt that the prose needed to be tighter, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story. The flashback involving the sorceress went on a little too long for me, although it was interesting to find out more about that character.

Settings are described well, and the characterisation is good. I especially liked the relationship between the two friends, Adel and Jeofren. These two have flaws, but you can’t help rooting for them. There are some cool things too, like helpots and personal compasses. The story has many twists and turns, and you have to keep reading to see how it will end.

The Unfading Heiress is the first book in the Soul Switch Trilogy, and is available from Amazon. I look forward to reading more.

I read a couple of good books recently. Immersion, the novella by Lee Thompson, is well-written and shows Leroy’s spiral into madness after strangers set up camp near his town. Things get pretty dark, and you start to wonder what’s real and what isn’t. I got a little confused towards the end, but I suspect the author may have intended that – it helps us ‘get into’ Leroy’s state of mind. It’s worth reading more than once, in case you miss stuff the first time round, and you really need to concentrate. You can read the blurb here.

I also read Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts, which was excellent.

Yesterday I had a nice surprise. The Unfading Heiress, the new fantasy book by Walter Dinjos, is out now. I had a peek on Amazon, and saw my name in the acknowledgements! Thank you, Walter.

Writing news... I entered another short story comp. So I have several competition entries out there at the moment. Cue crossed fingers and endlessly checking emails over the next few months...

Time to ‘fess up. Next year I turn 50. I think that makes me officially a ‘woman of a certain age’, doesn’t it? This looming milestone caused me a fair bit of panic, as I realised there were some things I hadn’t done yet. What if I get to 90 and still haven’t done all those things? I’d deeply regret not having at least tried. So, ‘carpe diem’ slithered into my brain, and I made a bucket list.

I won’t go into all of it, but it does include freefall skydiving, tightrope-walking and riding a unicycle. And loads of writing-related goals.

And I’m making a start. Next May I’ll be doing a tandem skydive from 10,000 feet! As well as having fun, I want to raise a whole load of money for the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). I am funding the skydive myself, so that your sponsor money goes to help vulnerable children, giving them a brighter future.

I have a fundraising page, if you want to have a peek. If you share the page link (below), that would be great. And a massive thank you, if you decide to sponsor me!

Oh, I nearly forgot. My lovely eldest son is skydiving on the same day. It’ll be quite an occasion!

Here's my fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/Bec-Zugor