Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Bravery Award


I’m giving myself a bravery award. Yesterday, together with two other scared ladies, I had a swimming lesson.

Technically, I can swim. Too many years ago for me to admit, I gained my white stripe, one width of the pool, and blue stripe, one width on my front, one on my back and picked up a brick from the bottom.

Since then, I’ve hardly been in a pool and if I do swim, I’m the one with the swan neck hardly getting my hair wet. I panic in the shower if the water gets onto my face. I’m also very short-sighted, which makes getting to the pool side traumatic and fraught with potential accidents.

I decided it was time to conquer my fears and mentioned the possibility of lessons to my son’s swimming teacher. My son is like a little fish - he has his 4,000 metres badge.

So, yesterday found me in the swimming pool, self-conscious, wearing my first ever pair of prescription goggles. They are so good that I could drive in them or even see at the cinema like Hugh Grant in the film Notting Hill.

The swimming teacher is starting from scratch with us and we will get swimming award badges as we go along. My husband suggested that instead of Duckling awards we should get Goose awards!

I left the pool feeling pleased and excited. I had learned to move in the water holding a float and kicking my legs, turn round in deep water safely, blow bubbles and finally, a big deal for me, I put my head under the water.

I’ll keep you in touch with my progress. Boy do I ache today. Goodness knows what I’ll be like when we actually swim. Despite the groaning muscles, I have a little inner glow every time I remember what I achieved yesterday.

What fears have you conquered lately?

Monday, 10 March 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Tour

Bernadette O'Dwyer invited me to contribute to this blog tour where writers share their writing process. 

Bernadette is a member of the RNA's New Writers' Scheme, an English teacher by day; an aspiring author by night. Currently writing her third novel, while her first and second novels wait patiently for an interested publisher, her weekly blog at www.secretwriter1.blogspot.com depicts her journey and  the highs and lows of being an aspiring writer. 

To follow Bernadette via Twitter search for @odwyer_author.

Morton Gray - My Writing Process

The idea of the blog tour is to answer four questions about how you write, so here goes!

1)    What am I working on?

Rock, Paper, Scissors - the story of a hero and heroine who discover that their fathers disappeared, seemingly at the same time, twenty years ago.

The first chapter of RPS was shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award 2013.

I'm currently editing this novel to send to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme for critique.

2)    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a difficult question to answer, but my work will be different because of my unique mix of life experiences and the way I think about these.

Writing is a bit like cooking. You start with a set of ingredients, plot, characters, conflict, etc., but no two people will make exactly the same dish, or book, even with the same elements in the mix.

I write romantic suspense, historical and contemporary romance. Hopefully, I intrigue my readers by sowing seeds of curiosity throughout a novel, Making them want to read on to see how each story ends.

3)    Why do I write what I do?

It honestly feels as if the words are downloaded from the ether, so I don’t feel that I have much choice about what I write. Having said that my novels always reflect my love of history and family history.

In the past, I worked with personality analysis for recruitment purposes and I have a fascination for astrology, so these help me with character development.

I people watch and study relationships. I love how events and shared history can change the dynamics between a couple. It never ceases to amaze me at the connections and co-incidences in our lives and how truly small the world is in terms of links between individuals.

Writing for me is necessary to my peace of mind, otherwise my characters nag me. Thankfully I enjoy it.

4)    How does your writing process work?

I write everywhere – on the bus, in the doctors, dentists, at my son’s swimming and piano lessons, outside school, in cafes, when waiting for friends.

The majority of my work is written longhand in A5 notebooks, this then has to be typed up onto my laptop (which is too big to put on my lap!) or by using my wireless keyboard onto my iPad (good for typing up in bed or on the settee).

I try to focus on one manuscript at a time, but ideas come from everywhere and I often have to break off to write a poem or short story. My characters speak to me and often clamour for attention when I am not working on their book. Take for example, the hero I had left in a difficult position whilst he was watching a band in a club – he was very insistent that I wrote him out of his fix and wouldn't let me rest until I had done it.

When I am in pure writing mode I am in heaven and the words flood out of me. I don’t usually set a daily target, apart from during the annual writing challenge NaNoWriMo, but I tend to write 2-3000 words most days.

I am working hard to learn editing skills. Editing is like polishing a rainbow and I am slowly learning to put the colours in the right order and to add the right touches to make them shine. I can be guilty of making plots too complex and editing means that I have to strip out the unnecessary plot lines.

Being a perfectionist Virgoan doesn’t help my faith in my work, but having been shortlisted twice in two different first chapter competitions in 2013, I am beginning to hope that my dream of publication is possible. Up until now, I have been very wary of submitting my work to publishers, but I’ve decided that 2014 is my year to so.

Please let me know any thoughts sparked by my answers in the comments below!

I’m passing the Blog Tour Baton to Lynda Stacey. Over to you Lynda....

Lynda is a 46 year old Sales Director, who currently works for a stationery and office supplies company. Her writing was first noticed by her English teacher in senior school. He encouraged her to become an author or to work in journalism.

However, it was 1984, the miners were on strike and coming from a mining family, she had no choice but begin to work for W H Smiths Do it all at weekends and Rumbelows during the week. Both jobs helped her pay for family food and living costs.

In 1987, she was married and divorced just three years later, her home was repossessed and she was penniless and practically homeless. Since then she’s worked hard. She’s been a nurse, a laboratory assistant, a Scuba Diving Instructor, an Emergency First Aid instructor and a Sales Director.

All of this meant that writing took quite a back seat, but in 2012, Lynda made a conscious decision that she now could and would follow her dream of becoming a published author.

In 2013, Lynda was shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent award and has recently completed her first novel Broken Jigsaw. She is hoping to be published during 2014 and is currently awaiting decisions from agents and publishers within the industry.

Lynda's blog can be found at http://lyndastacey2912.wordpress.com

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Bird Talk

The editing of my second draft of Rock, Paper, Scissors is going well. I’m maybe not progressing as fast as I would like, but at least I am making progress.

Now that I have taken out the plot points which made the story too complicated, the book is making more sense. These story ideas alone can produce at least another two books.

Meanwhile I have written more bird conversations as light relief.

‘Oi, Patchwork. Are those your fledglings creating that racket?’ Blackie looked down his beak at Goldie.

‘Aren’t they lovely?’ Goldie replied preening himself. ‘Six girls, three boys.’

‘They’re noisy!’

‘Just letting off steam, Blackie. Imagine what it was like in the nest.’

‘I’m glad my wife’s only laid four eggs.’

‘You still feeding her?’

‘Yes. They haven’t hatched yet. She’s reached that bored stage, sitting there waiting for me to feed her worms. Her temper’s dreadful. She’s lucky I go back the way she cackles at me.’

‘Oh, that’s normal – pre-hatch nerves.’

‘But will she still love me when they’re hatched?’

‘She’ll be rather busy for a while, mate, till they’ve fledged, but hang on in there, it does get better.’

Blackie fluffed out his chest feathers. ‘I just remember the days of flirtation, running around the bushes to surprise her, giving her the really juicy worms.’

‘Yeah, yeah, then you were trapped into nest building?’

‘We’re all the same really, aren’t we?’

‘Birds. It’s what we do.’

‘And I suppose that poor woman’s sat on the nest day after day, waiting and waiting. I’m out here in the world having adventures and talking to friends.’

‘True. Would you want to sit there all that time waiting for your partner to bring home a fly?’

‘Talking about that, I’d better get going. She’ll think I’ve abandoned her and I’ll get a right beakful of abuse.’

‘Just sing sweetly. Did you use a song to woo her?’

‘Sure did.’ Blackie began to whistle.

‘Well sing that one and give her two flies, then all will be well.’

Goldie watched Blackie fly away and then turned to watch his brood. ‘Oi, you lot, stop throwing seed. Leave some for the other birds.’

Monday, 10 February 2014

It’s Miranda Dickinson’s Fault.

No not the floods! Picture taken in Bewdley Worcestershire yesterday.

I went on Miranda Dickinson’s Write Foxy workshop on 1 February. One of the things that stuck in my head was her remedy for feeling bogged down in your writing. She advises to write something completely mad. She writes about a wombat.

I took her advice and several conversations between a blackbird and a goldfinch have emerged. So in a mad blog post I decided to share the first. Whether I share the others will depend on your reaction!

Tales From a Garden Feeder Part One

‘Oi.’ There was a flash of gold.
‘Are you referring to me?’
‘Yes, you with the odd white tail feather.’
‘I can’t help that. It’s passed on from my mother.’
‘You’re supposed to be a blackbird.’
After fluffing up and rearranging feathers, Blackie replied, ‘I am a blackbird with attitude and enhancement.’
‘Bet it makes it difficult to find a mate.’
‘You’d be surprised. The girls think it’s sexy.’
‘Yeah right. Shift over I want some of that seed.’
‘Wait your turn. I’m hungry.’
‘There was a time when you blackbirds didn’t come on the feeder, robins neither. Too much competition now you lot have mutated.’
‘Hey, come on. There are more humans putting seed out these days.’
‘In some places. Haven’t you heard of the recession?’
‘Sure, but with that came “waste not, want not” attitude. They’re more likely to put out stale bread. I even found some stilton the other day. Must have been left over from Christmas. Sticks to your beak, but a good source of fat.’
‘Never tried it, but if it made my breath smell as bad as yours, I don’t want to.’
‘You finished yet?’
‘Come on my turn.’
There was a scuffle. Feathers flew amid much squawking.
‘Hey, you are so bad mannered. You nearly pulled out my distinctive feather then.’
‘Don’t tempt me, freak.’
‘At least I don’t look like a patchwork quilt. How do you cope growing all those different coloured feathers? No need to preen yourself, you don’t need to impress me.’
‘Never hurts to look your best. The goldfinch code, you know.’

Well at least it distracted me from editing doldrums!

What do you do when your writing or editing isn’t going so well?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

What If I Die?

I hear you saying – ‘You will one day for sure’.

Seriously, I sit here in my study with an enormous amount of material – poems, short stories, plays, autobiographical material and at least eight novels. They are piled on my shelf awaiting completion and sending out to publishers, magazines, etc. As I don’t think I am very competent at editing, I tend to put off these finishing touches.

We are about to re-write our wills and, optimistically I am going to include a statement about the copy write and ownership of my material in the future as per an excellent article I read http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2006/10/important-and-pass-it-on.html

It gave me a big kick up the rear to get going and at least try to get some of my material published, as if I die before it is out there in the world, the whole lot, all those hours of work, is likely to be recycled as paper and the files on the computer deleted.

I read an excellent blog post by Elizabeth Gilbert advising writers not to sit on their work, as they will suffocate it. I am very guilty of this. http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thoughts-on-writing/

I am vowing right here and now to make 2014 the year I finish off the ends and send out my work. If you are in a similar boat, I ask you to join me.

Publish or die!

Comments below please.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

My Favourite 16 books of 2013

In 2013 I read a steady 2.73 books a month, which seems miraculous given the little time I give myself for reading. I rate the books I read - out of 5 for writing and 5 for plot - then I add them together and come up with a score. This year the books I awarded 8 stars and above were:-

Pamela's War by Cheryl Vines (8 stars)

One Day For Me (short stories) by Sally Jenkins (9 stars)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (10 stars)

Old Friends 13 Coffee Break Stories by Sally Jenkins (8 stars)

Move Over Darling by Christine Stovell (8 stars)

Knowing Me Knowing You by Mandy Baggott (8 stars)

To Turn Full Circle by Linda Mitchelmore (8 stars)

Hubble Bubble by Jane Lovering (9 stars)

The Class Ceiling by Kerry Fisher (9 stars)

Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes (10 stars)

Security by Mandy Baggott (8 stars)

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriaty (9 stars)

Woman Walks Into a Bar by Rowan Coleman (8 stars)

Son of the Morning by Linda Howard (8 stars)

Is This Love by Sue Moorcroft (9 stars)

Tangled Lives by Hilary Boyd (10 stars)

Looking forward to a whole lot more reading (and writing) in 2014.

Please share your favourite reads of the Year below.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Memory Trees

I always find dressing the Christmas trees rather poignant and can often shed a few tears at the memories that surface. There are wonky silver bells which big son, now 25, bought home from nursery and similar foam ornaments made by little son, now 10.

As I hang the fragile glass ornaments, I remember the story of how my granddad bought them home during World War 2. There are ornaments from all around the world, like the Santa koala on a surf board, which my mom and late step-dad (nearly one year since we lost him) bought back from their many trips. Childhood tree baubles remind me of my late father and nana.

The second tree has many ornaments chosen by my husband’s first wife who died when she was 38. I never knew her, but always spare a thought for her buying these lovely things. Each year I try to buy or make a new ornament, so that one day my sons can have similar memories.

Phew, got a bit tearful again then. The house is lovely and bright with the tree lights. I’m celebrating. I did it! I completed NaNoWriMo, the November writing challenge. I wrote 50,106 words during the month of November. This is the fourth year I have taken part and completed the challenge, but boy do I know it now, I have to catch up on housework, paperwork and Christmas! Aghh.

I went out to lunch with the lovely Sue Watson a couple of weeks ago. As always, we were not short of conversation and had great fun discussing alternative endings to her wip, book number three. Her first book Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes has recently topped book charts in Italy. Younger, Thinner, Blonder, her second book is now available.

A shout out for two other friends, whose books have just been released – Laura James’ Truth or Dare and Alison May’s Much Ado About Sweet Nothing.

Please let me know below about your favourite Christmas tree decoration.