Sunday, 29 December 2013

How was your Christmas?


That old saying about fish and visitors is so true. Or am I an anti-social old git? Probably! That's the great thing about being the age I am. I don't feel bad about thinking it.

Christmas and families are both wonderful things. The two of them together, sharing a room? Not so good. If I had my way, I'd be spending next Christmas with my hubby and two kids in a hotel in Scotland. Yeah. That'd keep the goodwill theme burning brightly.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

I'm feeling...


The final couple of chapters of 'Martha' are proving to be...something of a challenge(!). Ah well, I have it on good authority that the darkest hour is before dawn.

Most helpful. I consider myself suitably uplifted.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Mind Pollution...

 
 
I've been a voracious reader all my life. Words are like another food group to me. On the rare occasions I've been without a book to read, I really have resorted to reading the backs of cereal packets. In short, if I don't have some kind of reading matter, I go loco.
 
 
But--and you knew there was one of those coming, right?--when I'm in writing mode, I have to be very careful of the words I'm ingesting. I try to adhere to a strict diet of non-fiction, or genres that bear little resemblance to the world/characters I'm creating. Why?
 
Pollution terrifies me.
 
I'm one of those people who, unintentionally, picks up accents. If I'm speaking to someone with a broad Yorkshire accent, my speech mirrors theirs. If I ever met the Queen or a BBC newscaster, I'd soon be speaking with a cut-glass English accent.
 
In the days B.C., I worked on the phones in a GP's surgery. Put it this way, if my calls were ever recorded for 'quality and training purposes', the listener might be forgiven for thinking I'd been possessed by a legion of spirits. I just can't help it.
 
That's why I'm not reading much fiction at the moment. The risk of 'voice' contamination is much too high. No, I'll stick with my copy of 'Out of Africa', which is more of a memoir than a story.
 
How do you avoid being contaminated when you're in creative mode? 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

I'm on a roll...


As you might have guessed from my lack of recent posts, I've hit a sweet spot with my current WIP. The words are spewing out of me. :) It's such a rush!

Today, I'm hovering somewhere between picture two and three.

When the words are flowing, I'm like a manic Duracell bunny. I sit on the bed, tapping away at my faithful lap-dog, trying to capture scenes and record the dialogue being whispered in my ear before they fade. Scene captured. I get up, do a little happy dance involving lots of butt-wiggling. Then I go downstairs, have a smoke outside, before tackling some random domestic chore while mentally thrashing out the next scene. Then I run back upstairs to do it all again.

I love days like these. What kind of writerly day are you having? I'd love to hear some of your writing habits.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Invasion Of The Minor Characters...

Regular lurkers might remember I recently wrote a post on minor characters, and about how they should be treated with respect and not used merely as props for the dreaded info-dumps.

Well, as a result of my indulgence towards them, my minors are now starting to get troublesome. For example, in a scene I wrote today, a drunken soldier tried to take over. Edric, as he is known, began spilling his life-story to me. Apparently, he co-owns and runs a tavern called The New Bridge with his brother; he's partial to the Earl's imported wine; his wife, Freya, is currently staying with her sister who's just about ready to give birth...etc...et al...

Grr! Shut up, Edric. Go and sit in a corner somewhere. Act wooden until I give you the signal to release an 'As you know, Jeff...'

Minor characters are a pain, aren't they? :)

Monday, 16 September 2013

Do you major in minors?

Do I? I certainly try to.
 
Every minor character is the hero of his/her own story.
 
I don't know who first said this, but it's true. If I could, I'd stick this quote on the first page of our writerly bible, 'The Rules'™. For me, it's much more important than a few dubiously placed commas, fragmented sentences etc. Often, they're style choices. Leave them be. 
 
As a reader, I don't care about the little stuff, not if the story is good. However, I DO NOT like finding a stiffy in my book. No. Not that sort! Read on

Imo, there's nothing more off-putting than having to suffer a scene featuring a wooden and 2D minor character. Usually cast in the role of the MC's 'friend', their only function seems to be that of a portable toilet. Whenever the MC is ready to indulge in a spot of info-dumping, right on cue, out comes the MDF 'friend'. You can almost hear the wheels squeaking as they're wheeled out on set. 

Peevus Maximus! Can you tell? :)

For me, MDF (wo)man is worse than the sin of Thou Shalt Not Begin A Sentence With 'As you know, Jeff...' (In fact, a well-placed 'As you know, Jeff' makes me giggle.) But there's nothing funny about being hit over the head with a piece of two by four.

As a writer, I really do try to treat my supporting characters with the same respect I afford to my lead-role people. I like to give them all lives, histories, and goals--even if I don't ever share any of them with the reader. I picture my characters as railway tracks. (Bear with me!) All of them are heading somewhere. Any one of them could have been--and still could be--my 'star player'. Sometimes those tracks intersect and the characters meet one another. I try and allow them to react and speak in ways that reflect their lives.

Whether I'm any good at it remains to be seen. My judgement day is still some time off.

A writer who passed her judgement exams with flying colours is Jane Austen. She totally excelled at creating 3D, walking, talking characters. Not a stiffy in sight! In fact, I love her minor characters almost as much as her Darcy/Wentworth/Brandon. Mr. Collins is a particular favourite of mine. Revolting as he is, he's uniquely, utterly, wonderful.

Who's your favourite secondary character and why?




Friday, 13 September 2013

Ouch!

As my friends and Critter Crew may be aware, my current story has been giving me a few headaches of late. Self-inflicted, but painful.

My bad guy (Anselm) suddenly developed a surprisingly soft centre which quite a few readers found...appealing. Several people even voiced hopes that Martha (my she-ro) would transfer her affections to him, leaving Vadim (my long-absent hero) out in the cold. Not ...good. Serves me right for writing 'off the leash'.

So, for the last few weeks, I've been working on the chapter where Vadim finally makes an appearance. Weeks? Yep, you heard me! My mission was to make Martha, the reader (and me!) fall in love with him again, and I honestly wasn't sure I could. Not without a major rewrite.

Well, for better or worse, the chapter is written, and it'll be up on CC this coming Wednesday after I've given it a quick hose down. If anyone wants to read it I'd be VERY grateful. No need for a crit-not unless you have a burning desire to squish some nits! Just a thumbs up or down would be grand.

As for me? Although I haven't forgiven Vadim for leaving Martha to the mercy of the Evil Earl and his trusty sidekick, I had a few flutters in the old heart region when he walked into the room. But then, I am biased. There's just something about a cloak-wearing bloke with a sword in his hand that turns me to mush. Le sigh!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Say, WHAT?!*

I'm currently deep inside Vadim's (my leading gentleman!) head after a long absence, and it's a weird experience. Martha, my leading lady, is easy to write. 'Easy' as in, I understand what she's saying, the way her mind works, and the way she reacts, or doesn't react! I'm a girl, she's a girl. No problem!

But Vadim? Same medieval world, but a very different planet.

I don't understand him half the time, and I'm supposed to be his Creator. Where the heck did I pull him from? And as for the way he speaks... No word of a lie, when I'm writing Vadim, I frequently have to stop to go and look up one of his words in the dictionary. Example of typical Vadim-stylee convo follows:

Me: 'Oh, no! I'm not giving you that one, matey. You can't say that. I don't know what that word even means. It can't be right. No way. No how.'

Him: 'You doubt me? Then by all means, go and confer with your little book of reference. Go! I shall look forward to a suitably-worded apology on your return.'

The scary thing is, he's always right. 😠 How can he KNOW these things when he's just a made-up character from my head? Deep PoV is a dodgy business, imo.

Please tell me your characters do similar stuff to you! 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The stuff of nightmares...

I'm feeling rather low tonight. I found out today that a little boy who went to the same kindergarten class as my son has a tumour on his kidney, and the cancer has already metastasised to his lungs. Apparently, the child's only symptom was blood in his urine. He's five years old.

I have all these feelings running through me and there's nowhere for them to go, and no useful purpose they can serve. I can pray for the boy and his family, of course. But what exactly do I pray for? All anyone wants is for him to get better. That's not going to happen, is it?

All I can do is hold my two kids a little tighter tonight and tell them for the hundredth time today just how much I love them.

Please, NEVER ignore blood when it's coming from anywhere it shouldn't be coming from. Let the GP/MD be the one to tell you you're fussing over nothing, okay? Rather that than realise you've left things too late.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Harry Potter and the Curse of the Cranial Cacophony...

 
 
I'm currently introducing my kids to the delights of the 'Harry Potter' films,only the first few, I hasten to add. Voldie is still in the form of the remarkably pretty Tom Riddle--nose thankfully still in situ! (Even so, he's not pretty enough to tempt my little girl. She recently informed me she loves Snape and wants to hug him 'because he's so beautiful'. A child of excellent taste, methinks!)

Am I digressing? Yes, I am. Sorry. There is actually a point to this post, if only I could get to it.

Any-whooo...in the film where Harry finds Tom Riddle's diary. What's it called? The Chamber of Secrets? Well, there's a scene where Harry confesses to his chums he's been hearing voices, and Hermione says something that stuck with me:

Hermione: It's a bit strange, isn't it?

Harry: Strange?

Hermione: You hear this voice, a voice only you can hear, and then Mrs. Norris turns up petrified? It's just... strange.

Harry: Do you think I should have told them? Dumbledore and the others, I mean.

Ron: Are you mad?

Hermione: No, Harry. Even in the wizarding world, hearing voices isn't a good sign.

So what does that say about us as writers? Are we the exception to this rule?

I don't know about you, but my characters 'chat' to me an awful lot throughout the day, especially when I'm occupied with a menial task. And it's not just the residents of my current MS. Mais non, mes amis! I have a host of new 'people' whispering away at the back of my mind, all wanting to be written. Gah!

How do you get them to shut up? Sleeping is my preferred escape route.

How do you tune out the tenants of your mind?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A new love...

I admit it. I've fallen. Hard.

But my hubby needn't fret. He hasn't lost me to another man. So, what am I talking about?

Pinterest. And I think I've figured out why. Viewing someone's page--anyone's page--is like taking a peek at a cross-section of their brain. Blogs and the like are all well and good, but it's easy to hide your true self behind words, even when we try not to.

Pictures, to my mind, are more honest. They are what they are and are difficult to misinterpret. Pinterest members open up the workings of their hearts and minds and leave them on display for complete strangers to examine.

Isn't that just great?

What do your boards say about you?

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Happy Holiday...

We had a terrific holiday in Northumberland, and I thought I'd bore...I mean, share a few pictures with you.

Alnwick Castle.
 
Has anyone seen Hagrid and Harry? Oh yes, there they are!
 
 
You don't have to be a Harry Potter fan to enjoy Alnwick's wonderful castle. The entrance fee is a bit steep, but it's well worth it, imo. The kids LOVED it. There was so much fun stuff for them to do.
 
Next up: Lovely Lindisfarne Island.
 
Here's a view towards the castle. Although I've visited the island several times, I've never actually made it as far as the castle. Because the causeway on and off the island is subject to the whims of the tide, there's never enough time to see everything. I prefer to get clear of the herd and make for the shore.
 
There are lots of rock pools to keep the kids entertained while I sit back and soak in the tranquillity of Lindisfarne.
 
A few brief hours later and it's a mad dash to the car and off the island before the tide turns. I heard that every month, at least one car falls victim to the causeway. The sea comes in very quickly. On the day we visited, I learned that the sea had claimed two more cars. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
 
Here's a shot of the mist as it billowed towards us as we were leaving the island.
 
Can you see it on the horizon? Not sure the photo does it justice, but it was a very atmospheric end to a magical day.




Thursday, 15 August 2013

Holy Island.

Guess where we're heading next week?

 
 
If you've watched 'Vikings', you should recognise it. Yep. It's the beautiful island of Lindisfarne.
 
Despite the famous violent events in Lindisfarne's past, it's an incredibly peaceful place, and one that I never grow tired of visiting. My muse loves the island as much as I do. It's like a petrol/gas station for my flashing-empty creativity tank. (Fill her up!)
 
Even better, this'll be our kids' first visit to Lindisfarne. Seeing familiar things from the perspective of their wide and shining eyes is always a real treat for me. I can hardly wait!
 
 
 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Dirty Talk...

No. The title of this post isn't an invitation to indulge in a session of heavy-breathing web-perviness--I'm(occasionally!)very happily married, thanks very much! :)

What I want to talk about today is 'bathroom action' and other unmentionable stuff.



I always get annoyed when watching a film where the heroine wakes up in a morning with her make-up still flawlessly intact. This isn't so much of a problem in books, I admit, but there is still other stuff that bugs me in a similar way.

As writers, we're always told to write 3D characters(or 'people'), to make their voices so unique that dialogue tags are superfluous. (See 'The Rules' pg 314 section 23.6!) Our characters should be as real as we are. A worthy aim, eh? So, why not let them have the same bodily functions as the rest of us?

I'm not saying I want to peer down into the toilet bowl and study the products of a character's imaginary bowels, but the occasional mention of a bathroom, or of Aunt Flo's monthly visit, wouldn't hurt either. Details like these make me believe in the person on the page.

When I read historical fiction, I want to know how the heroine deals with her period. I don't want her swanning around chasing after some burly knight or other with her perfectly flat stomach and a sweet and lusty disposition--not when she's on her period. I wanna see her bloated and snappish, and stuffing her face with sweetmeats (in lieu of a chocolate bar :))  That's the kind of thing that interests me and makes me give a damn. How does she (or does she?) stay sweet-smelling? Does she use soap? Where does she buy it from? How is it made?

I read recently that internal parasites killed off many crusading knights before they even saw a battle. Their rehydrated faeces was apparently teeming with the eggs of wormy parasites. Yuk! But isn't that pure, undiluted thought fuel? This discovery adds a layer of flesh to the long-dead bones of these people. In my mind, they're no longer just a pile of mouldy old bones.

Would adding this kind of detail help to flesh out my characters? Time (and reviews) will tell.

How about you? What makes a character 'breathe' for you?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

What's your point of view?

If, like me, you've ever stumbled over story PoV's, check out this wonderful link someone posted on the CC forum from The Editor's Blog:Deep POV--What's so deep about it?

When I read it, I had an epiphany, a total eureka moment! Now I see why I've been struggling lately. Left to my own devices, I naturally write third-person subjective, but some critters mistook it for 'third-person deep'. Because I didn't know any better, I took their advice and soon found myself getting confuzzlated and tied up in knots. Now I know the subtle differences, I'll continue to use both PoV's, BUT I won't be using them at the same time.

I'll remember it by thinking of third-person deep as a close up shot and straight third person as a wider camera angle. Mix and match. Mmm...hmm! That's the key. :)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A riddle...

Q: When is a kitchen not a kitchen?

A: When my kids have used every chair and turned it into a train!

Ah, the joy of school holidays! :)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Rhuddlan Castle...

During our recent stay in North Wales, we escaped the horrors of Prestatyn's Pontins holiday camp (No, I'm still too raw to tell you about it. It will definitely be the subject of a future post though!), exchanging them for the delights of Rhuddlan Castle in Denbighshire.


You know me. I can't resist the lure of a castle, ruined or otherwise. Just take a look at the thickness of those walls, would you? And check out that impressive twin-towered gatehouse! Can you hear me salivating? The castle may be battered and beaten but it's still standing. Not bad for a structure that started its life back in 1277, in the days when Edward I was busily constructing his fearsome 'Iron Ring'  with which to subdue the Welsh.


 
Needless to say, the kids absolutely loved it--almost as much as I did! While they were occupied with my SIL, rolling themselves down a steep grassy hill (above the tower in the bottom left corner of the picture, if you're interested. :)), I had a little wander around by myself.

The only tiny niggle I had with this marvellous place was the lack of information available for the curious visitor. Visit any other historic site in the UK and the tourist is bombarded with information boards. In Rhuddlan, I only found two in the entire castle. Even so, I was surprised to find just how familiar it all was.

Martha has taught me well!

Martha is the she-ro of my current WIP, a twenty-first century woman who finds herself in an alternate medieval world. (It's a F.A.R.T, btw. A fantasy, adventure, romantic, time-travel story. :)) As I walked around, I recognised many parts of the castle. The curtain wall, the inner and outer baileys, the gatehouses, the death-holes, the wall walks...it was meeting up with old friends!

It was a weird experience. Not weird as in ghostly, but it was a little bit odd. The fragmented walls seemed to rebuild themselves right before my eyes, and all the gaps disappeared. A bit like in the TV show 'Time Team' where, before your very eyes, the clever techies reconstruct an entire Roman pot from a tiny mud-encrusted shard. It was easy to imagine the noises and smells of castle life. I fancied I saw a few of the long-dead people whose feet had worn such deep dips into the thick stone steps leading up to the towers.

Then the kids reclaimed my attention and the echoes faded away. All that remained were the roosting pigeons--and then one of them shat on me! That's supposed to be a lucky sign on this side of the pond. As I mopped the residue away with a wet-wipe, I certainly felt lucky. It was a perfect day, especially as the entry fee was just over ten quid for two adults and four kids. Bargain!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Things that make you go, Oooooh!

I'm inspired by many, many things in life. Big and small. And they don't get much bigger than this.



The Hubble telescope might be an expensive toy, but to my flagging brain cells, it's as stimulating as a dip in the North Sea in the depths of a British Winter.
 
'The first Deep Field, the Hubble Deep Field North (HDF-N), was observed over 10 consecutive days during Christmas 1995. The resulting image consisted of 342 separate exposures, with a total exposure time of more than 100 hours, compared with typical Hubble exposures of a few hours. The observed region of sky in Ursa Major was carefully selected to be as empty as possible so that Hubble would look far beyond the stars of our own Milky Way and out past nearby galaxies.


The results were astonishing! Almost 3000 galaxies(!) were seen in the image. Scientists analysed the image statistically and found that the HDF had seen back to the very young Universe where the bulk of the galaxies had not, as yet, had time to form stars. Or, as the popular press dramatically reported, “Hubble sees back to Big Bang”.'



3000 galaxies. Not planets, mind. GALAXIES! Ouch! Brain aches. Hmm...I suddenly feel inspired to resurrect those old sci-fi MS I have stashed away in the attic.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Poetry Corner...

What's on my mind tonight? Poetry, strangely enough.

Back in my young, free, and single days, I associated with all manner of hot, but highly unsuitable young men. Of course, this meant I got my heart smashed to pulp on a fairly regular basis. Cue, sad songs and poetry.

This poem was a particular comfort(!) to me:
 
'Lay a garland on my hearse,
Of the dismal yew,
Maidens, willow branches bear,
Say I died ...
true.
My love was false, but I was firm
From my hour of birth;
Upon my buried body lie
Lightly, gentle earth.'


Francis Beaumont.

 Misery really love company, eh?

These days-being a smug-married-I'm not so much into poetry as I used to be, but this next poem could have been written for me. Hey, it IS me!!!


 Warning

'When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.'

Jenny Joseph


 What's your favourite poem...and why?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The shame, the shame...

Before I joined the online critique group Critique Circle I thought my writing was good. There, I said it. But that was in the days when I still considered writing to be  'my guilty little secret'. Back then, no one even knew I wrote, let alone got to read any of it. Fortunately for them!

CC has showed me the true error of my ways. Critters of all kinds (The good, bad, and ugly!) have collectively beaten me with their clue sticks and forced me to confront my writing's true awfulness. With time and regular beatings, I've got better. MUCH better. Yes, I was that bad.

So why do I now feel like I'm the crappiest writer in the world? Is it a case of 'the more I know, the less I realise I know'?

My ignorant days really were blissful. I used to scribble away quite happily--my ego the size of a small moon, unmolested by self-doubt. These days, my ego is roughly the size of a pea--a pea that's fallen to the floor and remained undiscovered for several months.

Why is knowledge like getting a stronger prescription of spectacles? And as I learn even more about writing, will I eventually throw up my hands in despair and abandon it forever when I once again fall short of my idea of perfection?

I was much happier when I knew nothing.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Prepare to be invaded...

Have you seen it yet? Vikings?

 
I am hooked on this bloody, wonderful series. If you're on my side of the pond and haven't yet met Ragnar and co, go sign up for a free trial with LoveFilm today. Not only do we have the delightful Ragnar--he of the amazing colour-changing eyes, we have Vladimir Kulich too (briefly!).
 
Hot, hairy and leather-clad, and that's just the girls! What more could this girl want? :)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Diverting Downton...

It finally got me! And I'd done so well avoiding ITV's mega-successful series. Unfortunately, my most recent bout of illness coincided with discovering 'Downton' was available on NetFlix in its entirety. Damn. What's a girl to do?
 
 

I have to say, I really enjoyed the series. It was quite as good as I'd been led to believe. Once I started watching, I devoured every episode. Now I'm back in the land of the living again.

The ending? Call me awful if you like, but I could only smile. Think about it. New mummy Sybil died of eclampsia, then new daddy Mathew got himself squished. Now, if I was a Downton girl, I'd be very wary of getting pregnant after all this tragedy. The odds of any new baby surviving the next series finale doesn't look at all good!

Beware of becoming clichéd, Mr. Fellowes, talented chap that you are. I should have been shedding tears, not smiling. :)

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My dotage...

I think I stepped into its perimeter today. :(

Regular readers of my whining and whingeings will know I've recently been getting hammered by one cold/sickness/chest infection after another. Today, I woke feeling, not ill exactly, but like someone had stuck a syringe into my body and sucked out every last dreg of energy. I'm talking 'husk' here people!

Tell me, when you were young (or indeed if you're still young!), did you have an elderly relative (usually female) who could always be relied upon to suggest a cure for every ailment? In my case, this relative was my nan.

Some of her suggestions were firmly in the 'dodgy' category, such as sleeping with a collection of corks in order to ease rheumatism, or strapping half an onion to 'cure' a painful ear (!)

No, I haven't tried those particular 'Top Tips'.

Failing a specific 'remedy' such as those listed above, Nan had one more weapon in her armoury. The Big Gun. The 'never-fails' cure-all. I am referring to, of course, a Universal solution to hasten the end of every malady known the man/womankind. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present...*drumroll*

 'The Tonic'!!!
 

Yes. That's what I bought from the chemist today. A fecking tonic! I swear, on the bus ride home, as I clutched my shameful purchase to my chest, I could almost smell the snake oil oozing through the packaging.

You can mock me if you like, but one day something like this will probably happen to you too!





Thursday, 16 May 2013

Ego-boosting nonsense...

But who doesn't enjoy a little ego-stroking after a long, hard, and lonely day at the keyboard?
Click on this link and experience the thrill of having your writing compared to that of writing god/dess.

http://iwl.me/

Apparently, I write like James Joyce!

Yes. Of course I do. A very hungover James Joyce, running a fever of 103 degrees, perhaps? :) Or maybe the quiz is messing with our heads? What if the quiz hates Joyce's work and gets its kicks by comparing his work to that of a fumbling wannabe writer...ie: me! ?

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Happy Saturday!

Hooray, it's the weekend.

I'm in a happy mood. Today, I wrote eight pages while my kids ran themselves ker-azy at the local indoor play area. Eight! Even better, my hero has FINALLY put in an appearance.

*sticks out butt, makes elbow 'wings' and wiggles* That's my happy dance!

Here's something for you to have fun with. It's been circulating the web for a while but it's the first time I've seen it.

1 - Go to wikipedia and hit random. The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.
 2 - Go to quotationspage.com and hit random. The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.
 3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days” Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover. (pick a resolution size and then right-click "save as")
 4 - Use photoshop of similar (google+ is a free online photo editor) to put it all together.

Here's my result:

 
I enjoyed myself, anyway. Makes me almost wish I had a band! Maybe I'll adapt this to find a title for my book? :)

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Addiction?

Writing the final pages of my current MS is a real slog. How many more loose ends are there, for goodness sake? But I keep on finding them. This story sheds threads like irritating fibres from a mohair sweater.

Question to self: Why are you putting yourself through all this? Even deprived of your novel, the world will keep right on turning. Find another interest, why don't you?

Answer: Because I can't. I don't want to quit writing. It makes me happy--in a snappish and snarly kind of way.

The highs are just amazing. Those rare sweet days when the words come tumbling out are my shot in the arm. It's a short flight, but it's pretty damn spectacular while it lasts.

Then comes the crash...then another uphill slog...jump off the edge and I'm flying again. :D

Of course, I can quit any time I like. *sniff* I just don't want to. Not really.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Busy, busy...

I might not be posting as frequently over the coming days as 'The Book' is being very demanding. I really want to get this first draft down on paper. I don't care if it's sketchy and scribbled, just as long as I get to 'The End'.

The process of fleshing out and hosing down can wait until later. Compared to writing the darn thing, it'll be a breeze. At least then I'll have the basic story contained and complete in some form.

This endless chasing after 'The End' is making me loopy.


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A time to kill...

I'm about to kill off one of my most precious characters, and I just don't want to write the scene.  I so want him/her/it to live. :(

Should I do it?  How do you cope with killing off one of your pretties?

Perhaps I should ditch writing and take up stamp-collecting or train-spotting instead?

Does anyone know if the writing gene has an 'off' switch?

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Inspiring the muse...

I thought I'd share some of the stuff that inspires me. Not just as a writer, but as a person too.

Today, I want to talk about stone circles. A buddy of mine is currently on the Lewis, an island just off Scotland's western coast. Yesterday, she visited the famous Callanish stone circle. The 'Stonehenge of Scotland'. http://www.virtualheb.co.uk/callanish-stones-isle-of-lewis/


Say 'stone circle' and many people automatically think of the most famous example: Stonehenge. You may be surprised  to learn then, that the British Isles are positively dripping in stone circles and standing stones. Really. http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/

Okay, some are perhaps not as grand as Stonehenge, but, in my book, these smaller sibling circles are less 'staged' and much more accessible. You can be out for a walk on the moors and literally stumble over them. When I lived in Sheffield, I 'discovered' this circle hiding in the bracken while on one of my favourite walks along Froggatt Edge. http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/froggatt.htm

 
Admittedly, this circle is smaller than its bigger brothers and sisters, and the passage of time hasn't been kind. But, for me, it's much better than Stonehenge. It feels more...intimate somehow.
 
Why do lumps of old stone inspire me? I guess it's because they're such ancient structures, erected by the long-dead hands of the ancestors. Hauling stones is hard work, so these places must have been important. As you're no doubt aware, there are no written records to tell us the purpose of these circles. There are theories, of course, but no one really knows for sure. 
 
For that reason alone, I think stone circles are fascinating. You might think I'm weird, but I like to touch the stones and close my eyes, imagining the sounds of ancient voices carried on the wind. 
 
Laugh all you like, but do try it if you ever get the chance.
 



Friday, 26 April 2013

The pen is mightier...

...than a keyboard. Well, for me, at least.

Finishing my current WIP has been tough. In the final stages, I've resorted to pen and paper--my ever-faithful 'Block' buster. Although I'm not finished yet, today has been one of those rare sweet days where the words are just flying onto the page. My hand aches from writing. I just can't keep up with all those delicious words and ideas.

What a buzz! I've just done a little happy dance of delight. I couldn't help myself. :)

Okay, so most of what I've written will be rubbish, but I know there's enough material there to construct something fairly decent, to get me to where I want to be.

I'm drunk, and without a sip of booze. How do you get through the tough days of writerly constipation?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Words of love...

The English language continually amazes me.

Rich and diverse, it's a living, breathing entity that never sleeps or grows stale. Every day, new words are assimilated into the Mother Tongue collective, devoured by her endless appetite.
 
English is a time machine. A magnificent tapestry interwoven with golden threads that offer a glimpse of the past for those who know how to look for it. A record of where we came from, where we are, and where we ultimately hope to be. 
 
In our words, the Vikings and Celts are still to be found. They live in harmony with the Angles and Saxons, the Romans, and Normans, and every invader who ever stepped onto this precious little island I call home.
 
Okay, enough. I'm well into 'purple' territory here. (The Rules. No:1265 para 2.7. 'Purple prose is bad, okay? Thou shalt NOT.' ) So, why am I waxing so lyrical?
 
Because this language of ours has only one poxy word for love. One! How can that be? The same word recycled over and over again, used to describe anything from our feelings for a chocolate bar/sympathetic gynaecologist to the person who is our heart's desire.
 
 
"Sanskrit has 96 words for love; ancient Persian has 80, Greek three, and English only one."
 
96 words! And I'm sure there are languages that have even more than that. This is only the result of my quickie venture into Google.
 
This is the land of Shakespeare, for goodness sake. The Bard is well known for his abundance of imaginative insults. What about love?
 
I find that fascinating, especially when we have so many words for 'sex', or to describe the jiggly bits of our anatomy.
 
I wish I could tell someone of the opposite sex that I love them, without fear my words will be taken the wrong way--I'm happily married, thanks very much. What should I say to an online buddy (male) who has really helped me out? Thank-you seems so cold, not enough to express my gratitude. 'You rock?' 'I'm very grateful?' 'I hope you realise how highly I esteem you?'
 
NO. I want to say 'I love you', but in a more appropriate way. 
 
Curse you, Mother Tongue. Diverse and colourful as you are, I'm only giving you an A-minus for this oversight.
 
 
 

Monday, 22 April 2013

I've lost that loving feeling...

I've reached the conclusion that the flu-ey type vomiting bug I've picked up doesn't mix well with typing.

Finishing up this story is hard enough without having to keep breaking off to puke. As for writing the romantic aspect? Forget about it. Is having the hero holding back the she-ro's hair as she barfs romantic?

Naw. Didn't think so. I think I'll call it a night.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

'The Rules' of writing...

...are very much like The Pirate Code, I think. Guidelines.

 
Just when I think I've wrestled a rule into submission, someone pops up and tells me 'Actually, according to the Whichever Manual of Free-style, ellipses/ em-dashes/whatever should be used like this...' 
 
Argh!!! Damnit! Now I've entered the Forbidden Realm of Exclamation Abuse. Someone go fetch me some twigs so that I might self-flagellate. :) Just kidding.
 
 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Two five o'clocks...

...in one day is a very bad thing.

One sick child + eighteen hours awake = burning eyes and a cotton wool brain + no decent writing.

I give up. My A4 pad looks like a dying spider has limped across it, leaking its black blood! Enough.

Anyone care for a poem? (It was either this or a random grumpy cat picture. :))



 
When I read this, I always get some wonderful pictures in my head. Go on, share a poem with me.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Too stunning to be real...

But it is real, and mind-blowingly beautiful. Lake Baikal.

www.wunderground.com/news/stunning-turquoise-ice-on-ancient-lake-20130322"

This magical world is located in the south of Eastern Siberia, in the Buryat Autonomous Republic and the Region of Irkutsk, Russia.
 
Russian landscape photographer Alex El Barto Trofimov, who lives in the heart of Siberia, travels nearly 400 miles south to photograph one of the world’s most voluminous and oldest freshwater lakes – his favorite place to take pictures.

In March, due to a natural phenomenon the lake is particularly amazing to photograph. The temperature, wind and sun cause the ice crust to crack and form beautiful turquoise blocks or ice hummocks on the lake’s surface.'

 

'The lake contains roughly 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water and more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, with more than 80 percent of the animals being unique to the area.
 
The 25 million-year-old lake’s water is so clear that when it freezes over in the winter you can see a little over a 100 feet below. The lake can be crossed by foot when it freezes, but those who choose to cross it run the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.'
 
This natural world is a constant source of inspiration for me. Our planet still rivals any fantasy world I can dream up.
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Desert Island Books...

I firmly believe the old adage is true: You can tell a lot about someone from the books they have on their shelves.

Okay, see what you learn about me from a list of my favourite books. ('Favourite' means I have read the book a half a dozen times or more. I have to be strict with myself here, otherwise my list would go on forever!)

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  4. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  5. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
There you go. Any insights you wanna share? Go for it. :)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Why is the bad stuff so easy to believe?

I'm a member of an online critique group, and I received a tough crit this week.  Usually, I take both the rough and the smooth with a generous bucket full of salt. But this crit? Ouch! True or not, it really hurt. It was like getting a boot in the family jewels...not that I have any...but that's beside the point.

Must we spoon feed our readers every little detail? I'm not a fan of BiBo (breathed in, breathed out) detail. It makes for dull reading, imo. I'm writing a book not a movie, for fecksake! That's why the Big G gave us an imagination! Books need an imagination. Movies, love (some of) them though I do, are an effortless form of entertainment. Switch on, zone out. That's it.

Why is it, I wonder that one negative crit has the power to make me question the accuracy of a dozen positive ones? I know it's stupid, but I've never been confident about my writing. Some critters have accused me (in a nice way!) of being falsely modest when I say a chapter is nit-ridden in my author notes. I'm really not. Some days, all I see are the faults.

I don't mind anyone saying 'Hey, take a look at Martha here, She's coming across as a bit wooden.' That wouldn't upset me at all. I'd be damn grateful. But there's a very fine line between brutal honesty and being mean, I think. Personally, I question the ability of any writer who wounds a fellow writer, especially when the injury is unintentional. What does that say about their mastery of words? More importantly, what does it say about them as a person?

How did I react? I gritted my teeth and wrote a polite thank you to the person for their time and effort. What else can you do?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Show, don't tell...



 This particular 'Rule' of writing drives me crazy. I'm all for showing a character's fear/anxiety/excitement when it seems appropriate to do so, but must I do it every time?

Hearts apparently lurch, leap, contract, skip, gallop, freeze, break, soar, sink, stop(!). What a multifunctional organ it is! Can you think of any more? I wonder if my heart's any good at typing? That'd... be very useful. Or how about cooking dinner? :)

Is it really a horse-whipping offence to occasionally say, 'She was scared' and leave it at that? If spoon-feeding the reader is wrong ('The Rules', paragraph 1, subsection 345 B. Just kidding!)then should I describe each and every emotion of my hero and she-ro in graphic detail?

Can't my well-muscled blood pump simply move blood around and leave it at that?

Friday, 12 April 2013

Home alone...



Hubby has gone home to visit his family in Tunisia for a week leaving me and the kids home alone :(
It would've been nice to go with him BUT since the so-called Arab Spring uprisings, things aren't as they once were. It's no longer a news story, but the country remains in a state of flux.

Although President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali is long gone, the problems remain. Many people are now wishing he'd stayed. Yes, amongst other things, he was a thief, but now there are HUNDREDS of them, all wearing the mask of officialdom. :(

Life for the normal Tunisian hasn't improved much, if at all. For many of them, it's worse. Rising prices, unreliable power and water, live rounds being fired in the streets. Even worse, the radicals are a-coming, sitting outside mosques and throwing water over the bare legs of local women saying, 'Next time it'll be acid. Cover up!' :(

I'll just be glad when hubby is safely home again.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Random Q & A


I often wonder about random things then forget to go and look up the answers. The demands of modern life can do that, I guess.

Well, here's a question that's been bugging me on and off for months: ice houses. Where did people get the ice to store inside these buildings before the invention of modern refrigeration?
Most of you probably know the answer already. It's common sense. Not to me, it wasn't.


For anyone who's interested, here's an extract I found from this site: http://www.larne.gov.uk/template1.asp?pid=745&area=6&parent=642 that answered this particular irritating question for me.

'During the winter months, ice was collected from ponds and streams and placed in the chamber. The ice was broken up to create one deep ice mass. Thick stone walls, an earth covered roof, and insulating materials, such as straw placed over the ice, ensured that it lasted well into the summer.  A drain at the base of the chamber kept the ice free of melt water as moisture melts ice as quickly as heat.'

Ah! I feel so much better now. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The End of the Quest...

 
by Frank Bernard Dicksee.
 
 
And I'm approaching the end of mine. Writing the novel that has consumed all my free time for the past however-many months.
 
This painting makes me think about two of my characters, Anselm and Martha. The man is on his knees, but the woman has that it's-not-you-it's-me expression going on. He's promising her the stars when all she wants is the moon. He can't win her, no matter how hard he tries. Even worse, she's being 'nice' to him. :(
 
Unrequited love sucks.
 
Is it wrong that I'm this attached to my anti-hero? His suffering gives me no joy.
 
*sigh*


Saturday, 6 April 2013

I'm taking the night off.

After spending six hours at +Blackpool Zoo  with the kids, I reckon I deserve a couple of hours off before I go to sleep.
So, I'm about to watch one of my favourite weepie films. Somewhere in Time, starring the late Christopher Reeve. (Sorry, I'm too tired to fanny about trying to put in a link). If you don't already know the film, go and +Google it. It's wonderful.

A time-travelling romance, a box of tissues, a cup of tea and I'm good to go.

I love Saturday nights!

 
JW Waterhouse's Ophelia says: By crikey! I am well and truly spent.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Lytham Hall...

It's the Easter holidays, so today we took the kids to Lytham Hall.(http://www.lythamhall.co.uk/)

This 18th century manor house is only a short walk from where we live and-even better-it's free admission. Yay!

My two wee monsters and their cousins ran amok in the wild and wonderful grounds, and afterwards we had tea and scrummy cakes in the tea-shop. Perfect day. The chicks fell asleep as soon as their heads touched their pillows. Problem is, I'm equally tired. I'm not managing much quality writing tonight, I can tell you!
 
 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Favourite artists part 2...

(Lamia and the soldier. J.W.Waterhouse.)
 
I love this artist. Okay, so J.W.'s Lamia is a tad...predatory and the knight is probably gonna end up dead following this encounter, but I don't look at it that way.

I like to look at the picture and listen to the words it creates in my head. I could write a book based on this picture alone. But I'd better finish the one I'm writing first.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Knight, knight...

Just a quickie post before I go to bed. The end is in sight. Anselm is getting rough with Martha. The truth is almost out there. Question is, where's Vadim? I don't know, and I'm the one writing this thing! :)

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Books vs TV...

There aren't many occasions when a scene in a book is equalled in excellence by a TV adaptation.

This: http://youtu.be/f1Uq5ZAscVg is one of them

Friday, 29 March 2013

A few of my favourite things...

My muse likes pictures.



I loved Aragorn from the first moment I read him. Viggo does a pretty good job of bringing him to life, I think.

 
The delightful, C.B (anyone notice a theme developing here?)
 
 
Vladimir Kulich (playing Buliwyf from the 13th Warrior)
 
 
Richard Armitage.

*growls*

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Writing is HARD!!!

I've just posted a chapter on 'Critique Circle' and it feels like I've just run a marathon. I'm weak and trembling (sans the Bacofoil wrap) and...spent. Water! *gasp*

That was officially the most difficult chapter I've ever written. It's taken me two fecking weeks to write under 3,000 words. My A4 pad looks like a censored letter with its black strike throughs.

I have rejigged, crossed out, sobbed, started over and bracketed the life out of this chapter. In short, I've sweated blood. Was it worth it? I'm the wrong person to ask. I still think it stinks.

Why do I do this to myself? I could spend my evenings watching TV or reading.

WHY?!*

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Ultimate Bad Guys...

I was talking about villains and heroes yesterday, and I wanted to share two of my favourite TV baddies. Coincidentally, both actors played the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Nickolas Grace:

 
 In the 1980's the Brit TV show 'Robin of Sherwood' spawned a deliciously funny and very evil Sheriff. He and his trusty sidekick 'Guy', the late Robert Addie, had a wonderful on-screen partnership. So very funny. I much preferred these two baddies to either of the show's Robin's.
 
My second favourite Sheriff baddie was played by Alan Rickman in the film 'Robin Hood Prince of thieves'
 
 
In my opinion, he blew Robin Costner out of the treetops with his delightfully deranged performance. He lit up the screen whenever he was on it.
 
Who are your favourite baddies? Don't be shy. Let me know. Tomorrow I'm going to post some of my favourite heroes of book and screen.  
 


Monday, 25 March 2013

Heroes and villains...

I'm taking a quick break from writing 'The Book'. My heroine is currently in a besieged medieval castle with only the 'bad guy' for company. Poor thing! Not to worry. Her hero will be along to rescue her soon. I hope.

Heroes are fun to write, but I enjoy writing villains even more. Not your stereotypical, facial-fuzz twizzling baddie. I like my bad guys to have more depth than that. A character of sunshine and shadows works better for me. After all, no one in life is either completely bad or completely good.

We all have our favourite book heroes, but how about your least favourite?

Here's mine.
 
 
Emily Bronte's Heathcliffe. I have never understood why people wax lyrical about this guy. When I read 'Wuthering Heights' for the first time, I remember praying that Kathy would stay with Edgar, that things would work out for them. Then Heathcliffe reappears. :(

Why is this character so popular? I still don't get it. I've forced myself to read the book several times. Each time I do, Heathcliffe gives me shivers of the most unpleasant kind. The red flag warnings are everywhere.

What am I missing here? He's dangerously unbalanced, abusive, and obsessive. Looking sexy as he runs about a windswept moor ain't enough to cancel out the other stuff, in my opinion. I JUST DON'T GET IT!!!

Put it this way, if it was a 'kill or marry' showdown between Heathcliffe and Pride & Prejudice's Mr. Collins, it wouldn't be Heathcliffe on the receiving end of my 'I do'.

Can anyone make me love Heathcliffe? Do you love him? WHY???
Which book or film hero leaves you cold?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A darn good read...

Psst! Fancy something good to read? Try 'Fighting For Flight' written by my good friend +Jamie Salsbury . Romance, violence, and hot, tattooed, manly MMA goodness. It's a great read. Go on. Check it out!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Another day, another blog...


 
Greetings! Welcome to my blog of all things writerly. I'm struggling to complete my current manuscript, so this is my secret place to vent.

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