Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Thoughts

I was reading somewhere about how your family traditions anchor you in your society and culture. What traditions do you have at Christmas?

We put up our trees early in December and every bauble has a story or a memory associated with it. For example, the five glass icicles that my grandfather bought back from somewhere during the Second World War. There are more, my sister has some too. The Santa koala on a surf board that my mother bought back from Australia. The silver foil bells my eldest (now 26) made at nursery school. The glass candy cane my nan gave to me. The gorgeous baubles and wire hearts that belonged to my husband's late first wife - I think of her a lot when I'm decorating the trees, even though I never met her (she died aged 38). Numerous decorations made on creative evenings with my sons and friends. The glass balls that once graced the Christmas trees of my childhood.

As I decorate the trees, I have happy memories and tears. I remember the year our family Christmas tree was much too tall and my dad had to cut the top off to make it fit. The year the turkey my father was given was so big it sat on the fridge shelf and no one wanted to eat it. The little glitter house with Santa on the roof, which was always at the bottom of childhood trees – it had been my mother's when she was a child. My childhood concerns that because we hadn't got a chimney Santa wouldn’t visit - explained away by a book my mother found where Santa arrives in a helicopter and comes to the front door.

Childhood sacks were always put at the bottom of our beds. If we were lucky we'd wake to fantastical ice patterns on the bedroom window (no central heating of course) and pillowcases full at the bottom of the bed. We'd take them next door to my parents room to open. There was the one year my sister saw what she swore was a naked Santa - dad must have dashed in to leave our gifts! Another year, Santa was disorganised and our presents weren't at the bottom of our beds, but scattered all over my parents room and we had to guess which gifts were for me and which for my sister seven years younger - my parents must have overslept. 

My eldest son has now left home, but my little one, eleven and still, as far as we are aware, believing in the magic, will put his sack underneath the Christmas tree tonight with excitement. We always put out an alcoholic drink and a mince pie for Santa and carrots and water for the reindeer.

Merry Christmas to you all. I hope Santa brings you what you desire for Christmas. I'll settle for a peaceful family time. What would you like?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Strange Times and Successes

I haven't posted on my blog for a while. When I last posted I was doing well with editing one of my novels using a technique of analysing the text with coloured post it notes. Shortly after that I'm not sure what happened, but the doubt crows began to circle and I also started to have a lot of headaches. So, I stopped editing and writing for a while and wondered if I would ever start again.

Having always enjoyed the November novel writing challenge NaNoWriMo, to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month, I decided to clear my mind and start something new and different. It worked! I wrote with enthusiasm and completed the 50,000 word challenge in 24 days. This novel needs work, but I have a full outline of the plot, including the ending. It felt so good to get my mojo back.

I'm back!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Gathering Pace

Yesterday I showed you my scene pieces from my work in progress sorted into sections. 

After that picture, I bagged the sections up, so that they didn't get moved around and I can work through each one individually. I probably should have said that the story themes and scenes are drawn from a rather scrappy mixed up first draft.

Sections Bagged up

Working on Section One, I then split the pieces into themes used the colour coding and then put the theme strands in the right order.

Section One sorted into themes
Section One themes sorted into order

The next stage will be to interleave the themes to make a coherent story. Feeling quite surprised and pleased at this stage. Back soon.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Mmm maybe this can work

I posted last week about my experiment with printing plot points from my work in progress on colour coded paper.

Initially I didn't think it had worked in the way I expected, in that, I promptly ignored the cut out paper and re-wrote my first chapter in the first person. 

However, this morning I had the urge to sort the bits into rough sections of the book. I've ended up with seven phases and the bits of paper are in random order within those sections at the moment.

Below is the state of play so far. It looks a bit better I think you will agree... I'll post again as my project progresses.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Do Not Laugh

I've decided to try a few mini blogs, as I don't seem to be getting around to blogging very often.

The photograph shows the current state of my work in progress novel. Yes, it is in bits! I'd got rather bogged down in it and decided to try a new approach. The bits of paper represent each scene in the book and give me a key to where it is located on my computer. The colours represent the character or combination of characters in the scene.

Now I just need to put it all back together again.

Wish me luck and watch this space....

Friday, 15 August 2014

Rusty Blog

Where have I been all summer?

I slaved over my New Writer's Scheme manuscript, determined to make it as professional as possible. Rosie and Tanner is now with one of the RNA readers. Tick!

I went to the RNA conference at Telford and enjoyed blissful times chatting with other writers and attending fantastic workshops. A whole host of superlatives are not enough to describe the conference. Tick!

We had a fantastic holiday in Northumberland. The holiday barn was amazing, especially as I'd only booked it the week before! I then discovered that we were the first family to stay in it. A view of the castle out of the window - come on, every girl needs a castle outside of the window. We walked the beach at Bamburgh at least twice a day. I've even got a tan and I very rarely get one of those - in Northumberland! I really enjoyed being able to shop locally in the little shops too. The only slight downer was that my son and his girlfriend got stung by jellyfish. We counted 51 on the shoreline that evening, some bigger than dinner plates! Hubbie got a much needed rest, although with his pedometer he became obsessed with how many steps we walked. Tick!

Spending time with little son - he goes to big school in September and something tells me this might be the last summer he'll be happy for me to determine the summer timetable. He's growing so fast. Size 7 football boots at eleven! He grew a centimetre whilst we were on holiday. His dad is 5'2", so he is going to be a tall lad. I am loving our outings. Tick!

All of this means I haven't found much time to blog, but I haven't sacrificed my writing time and the new manuscript is coming along nicely.

What have you been up to this summer?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

More Bird Talk

‘Aw, aren’t they sweet?’

Blackie spoke from underneath the bird feeder, where he was busy hovering up fallen seeds scattered by the little blue and yellow fluffy balls.’

‘Six this year,’ crowed Blue, puffing out her chest with pride.

‘I hope you know what you’re doing, Blue.’

‘Whatever do you mean?’

‘Letting your babies eat from bird feeders instead of teaching them how to forage.’

‘I’m giving them the best start, the best vitamins around.’

‘It’s spring! The hedgerows are full of nutritious shoots and insects.’

‘But it takes ages to gather enough food for the day. If they come here, they have so much more time to play.’

‘But you know, back in the day, humans hadn’t used to put seed out at this time of year, so that fledglings like yours would learn about natural food sources.’

‘Yeah, but since then Springwatch has been on the tele to raise awareness of us birds and what with the fantastic marketing of RSPB products and other wild bird food companies, there is never a shortage of seed.’

Blackie flew up and sat on the fence with a cackle.

‘Short-sighted, Blue. You mind my words, you’ll regret this faddy diet, they never work in the long term you know. What happens when the humans in this house go on holiday and there is no seed put out for two weeks? Answer me that.’

‘I’ll show them how to forage then.’

‘By then you could have flown into a window, been eaten by a hawk or a cat. What happens to your precious babies then?’

Blue froze, her beak set in a strange line.


Nevertheless, she turned to her fledglings.

‘Come on you lot, let’s go and investigate that damson tree. Lovely sweet shoots and loads of ants.’

The biggest fledgling flew over to his mum.

‘Mum, that’s so old-fashioned. Seed is best, foraging is boring. You said so yourself.’

Thursday, 12 June 2014

‘Meet my Main Character’ Blog Hop

I don’t know where the days go! How can it be so long since I posted on my blog? I have been busy polishing my work in progress for a critique by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS).

I'm loving my garden this year, the flowers seem to have vivid colours. I am continuing with my swimming lessons and making steady progress – now without floats! Last lesson, I managed half a length backstroke and half proper front crawl with arms and breathing. Yay! 

‘Meet my Main Character’ Blog Hop

Janice Preston has tagged me to continue in the ‘Meet My Main Character’ blog hop. Janice’s debut novel, Mary and the Marquis, is published on 1st August 2014 and available in the shops from 18th July - link here. If you would like to read Janice’s blog, or know more about her and her debut novel she can be found at http://janicepreston.co.uk

I have decided to introduce you to Tanner, my hero in Rosie and Tanner, the novel I am editing at the moment. Janice gave me some questions to answer about him, so here goes:-

What is the name of the main character? Is he real or fictitious?

Tanner Bryant is a fictional character in my novel Rosie and Tanner. His mother is American, hence the unusual first name. Tanner was her maiden name.

When and where is the story set?

The story is set in and around present day Worcester, Worcestershire, England.

What should we know about him?

Tanner didn’t have a particularly happy childhood. His father was distant and Tanner never felt he could please him. His mother had her own business, so rarely had time for her only son. His parents split up when he was sixteen, after years of living separate lives under the same roof and his mother went back to live in America.

As he never felt good enough for his father, he has tried to rebel against his father’s world and make his own way. However, now that his father is gravely ill, Tanner has stepped into his father’s shoes to maintain his business and charity commitments.

He is thirty years old, with wayward shoulder length blond curls and lips that make women who meet him fantasise about kissing.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

Tanner’s father illness has bought him face-to-face with the conflicts in his life. When his father changes his will, after a visit to his hospital bed by his ex-wife, Tanner also has a mystery to solve. His father’s estate will be now be shared by Tanner and a mysterious Rosie Phillips. The terms of the document mean that their lives will be bound together, but who is Rosie and what is her link to the Bryant family?

What is the character’s goal?

Tanner’s goal at the start of the novel is to find out more about Rosie Phillips. He chooses an unusual way to go about this, which causes both himself and Rosie problems and conflict. As Rosie is unaware that she is mentioned in the will, or that Tanner has a private investigator’s file on her, she just thinks Tanner is showing an interest in her and this leads to misunderstanding.

Hopefully, if I can find a publisher, you will be able to read more of Tanner and Rosie’s story in the future.

I am pleased to invite two fellow RNA NWS members to carry on the blog hop. The talented and I’m sure soon to be published Bernadette O’Dwyer and Lynda Stacey. Bernadette’s blog can be found at http://secretwriter1.blogspot.co.uk and Lynda’s at http://lyndastacey2912.wordpress.com

Watch out for their posts next week. I’m looking forward to reading all about their main characters.

Maybe you would let me know in the comments below if you are intrigued by Tanner’s story.

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.

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