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Round Robin December – A Christmassy Thought or Two

This month Rhobin asked us to share a bit of writing, a short story, or a piece of Flash Fiction that encapsulates the spirit of the season. As it happens, happenstance, I have a Christmas story in Capital Christmas Stories, published yesterday and available here.

 

 

 

Capital Writers is a group of four Edinburgh based writers who work to support and encourage each other. Writing is a lonely business sometimes and it’s good to know there are friends like Kate, Jane and Jennifer, around.

My contribution to this little book is Christmas Witches and here’s a wee snippet:

Edinburgh 1819

Dropping down the hill from the closes and pends of the heaving Old Town to the braw wide streets of the New, was no easy task in the gathering gloom of Christmas Eve. Jeannie stayed by her side and Liza was grateful for the girl’s silent presence. Strathven’s mansion in Heriot Row would be ablaze with lights and full of his gathered kinsmen and their families. How would she gain access when the lady of the house had come to her secretly and was perhaps already lying-in.

We must go into the lanes around the back, Jeannie, and see if we can work out which entry is Lord Strathven’s.”

Aye, Mistress, the steward’s no going tae open the door tae jist anybuddy, is he?”

He is not, and nor should he. But we have an ally. We can ask for Mistress Gowans who was with Lady Margaret when she came visiting,” Liza said. The voices in her head were little calmed by her tisane and she longed for the support of another practitioner. She wondered if throwing Ragnall MacLeod out without hearing his arguments had been precipitate.

The mews behind Heriot Row were active. Grooms and their families bustled about in the narrow confines. Liza smelled the wood smoke and horse manure, the ordure running in the central gutter and the tang of blood. No doubt the maisters had brought meat from their estates to make a Christmas feast for the workers. Unheeded in their down-at-heel garb, the women moved forward.

So, is it Christmassy? You, the reader, must decide, but I, the writer, wanted a birth, the included and the marginal, the stable and the Grand House. For a limited period Capital Stories, our earlier volume, may be free to download.

In other news, I have a Biggy coming in January, check back for details.

Other Christmas Robins can be found below. Drop by for some wonderful reading. Season’s Greetings to you all, Anne

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1qI
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

Round Robin – Tension in a work

Tension or conflict are the major requirements after engaging characters: so we need a HOOK. An opening hook, followed by a chapter ending hook, followed by another…

Sometimes it helps build tension to allow the reader an insight which the heroine isn’t aware of. Why was a character missing-in-action for 5 years? Was it, as he’s told the heroine, because he was doing good works in the Third World, or was it because he was languishing at Her Majesty’s Pleasure?

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an excellent example of how the heroine can allow herself to be manipulated by a conman. Conmen need to be personable otherwise they’d starve. Austen, however, does ramp up the tension by showing our heroine having to come to another conclusion. The housekeeper believes Mr Darcy is the best of employers. Lydia lets slip he was around in London when her marriage was arranged. Slowly, Lizzie has to admit to having been wrong and take the reader with her.

Foreshadowing – might be described as a technical term, but it’s quite simply the old ABC rule. If the neighbour’s dog is going to catch the burglar in the final paragraph, then it needs to have been seen earlier in the story, and probably twice. Sometimes as a writer, I write something and on re-reading yesterday’s work, think – What is that? Why is that? But, I leave it in. Very often, so often it’s scary, the answer seeps out of the text a hundred pages on. This subliminal clue is one of the things that builds the tension for the reader and keeps them involved with your characters.

Interesting and helpful sub-plots also keep the reader onboard. Does your sub-plot bolster the main theme without over-taking it? Is it peopled by sound, enjoyable characters? Will the reader hate the villains and love the heroines in the sub-plot as much as in the main one?

Forces of nature – I’m not talking here about those insufferable celebs one would truly hate to spend a lift journey with, never mind a long week-end. But is there a storm coming? Will the sea claim the house on the hill? Are the fleas going to jump from the rats and land on the heroine giving her bubonic plague? Does the hero have appendicitis and not a gyppy tummy?

These are a few of the ploys I like. What do you like to read?

To discover what my fellow robins think, go here:

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ly

A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/

Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Beverley Bateman

Judith Kopek

Diane Bator



 

 

The End in Sight

The Heart Monitor I’ve been wearing for two weeks at the behest of UKBiobank came off this morning and is ready to go in the post. It’s been no trouble at all apart from the question of how to wash my hair and still keep the monitor dry. Answer – bring forward the hairdressing appointment.

The project I’ve been working on for most of the year is almost, almost, tantalisingly close to being – FINISHED. But, unlike a heart monitor, it’s preying on the heartstrings. Saying goodbye to these characters has been particularly difficult and I reduced myself to tears last night as I wrote out one of them. Didn’t even commit fictional murder, just waved…

A modest selection

Writers out there – How is The End for you? Do you have a plan, like the next project waiting in the wings? Do you mine the notebooks?

Anne

Diary of a Writer – October Prompt

 

Lace Doily – Crete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October Prompt ~ Lace Doily ~ Have I ever made anything as intricate and beautiful as a lace doily? That would be a ‘No’.

On the other hand, my life often enough takes on the complexity of such work and October is looking to be no less so than several other months this year and last. The value of the prompt is in reminding me of the possibility of arriving at such a beautiful conclusion.

So, what issues are hanging on my Bobbins?

Firstly, I need to get on with a lot of writing admin. The tax return for last year, record keeping and train tickets to the RNA winter party (going without responsibility for the first time in a long time. Thanks, Sue).

Writing – Who thought it would be a nice idea to enter the Mslexia Novella competition, being unpublished in that length? Okay, that was me and the fee and entry uploaded without incident. Isn’t it great that technology has at last arrived at an understanding of the actual needs of some users? Never say never, so it needs to be finished while the idea is still hot.

The project I’m engaged on with DC Thomson. Nearly there, just waiting for a few clearances.

A workshop for the Scottish Association of Writers. To be delivered in March, but advertised before then.

Real Life – Church stuff, Christmas stuff, Strictly has started, people stuff……………………. So lucky to have them all around.

What’s on your Bobbins?

Anne

 

 

Round Robin – September – Reading

So, this month we’re considering how one encourages reading in our children – or, indeed – in anyone.

Carrots and Sticks

There are carrots and there are sticks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve said in other places that I cannot remember a time when I couldn’t read. I know my parents both read and when my mum was blighted by cataract, her very first project after the operation to remove the first one, was a temporary library ticket round the corner here: she stayed with us while she needed drops in her eye. Her mother lived with her in her last three years and was re-reading the Victorian classics in the weeks before she began to fade away.

So, in my own case, example and opportunity were there from the beginning.

Carrots

Like my mum. I read bedtime stories to my children and was gratified when the oldest child used to sit out of sight on the stairs to listen in (too cool to join in by then) and by the middle one telling me in the morning that the house floated away. “I finished the book after you stopped reading, Mum.”

 

 

A – was it a stick was it a carrot ploy? – was that if they wanted to join us in the posh sitting-room at coffee after meals, then they had to bring and read their book.

Sticks

All my children read and frequently ask for books or give books at present times.

 

 

 

 

 

Other groups?

I’m in a book group. I read books I wouldn’t have chosen for myself which is a Good Thing. I take books to parties or supper invitations; and as a weekend guest. I think in the pile of chocolates and bottles of wine, they stand out. I NEVER ask if people read them, however. I always include a book in Christmas Goodie bags. I offer my read and unlikely to be re-read paperbacks to specific places. Occasionally I’ll do a charity coffee morning and ask folk to ‘bring a book, buy a book’ – an idea that has been used again by guests for their own charities.

Christian Aid Scottish Book Sale October

 

I help every year with Edinburgh’s massive Christian Aid book sale. This year, 2018, over one hundred thousand pounds has been raised to help displaced people. The sale offers a huge selection of books at great prices to avid readers and reluctant readers alike. Its next event is the companion Scottish Books; Art; jewellery and coffee sale. Thursday 25th – Saturday 27th October in St Andrew’s and St George’s 13 George Street, Edinburgh.

There you have it. The message in my own case is basically total immersion. Did anyone else walk a three year-old to school who asked whether thiamine was a good thing? He’d seen the word on the corn flakes’ packet!

Courting the Countess is an Edinburgh regency using the beauty and the beast tale in an inversion. Romance, murder and regency mayhem to lift you out of your mundane.

If you prefer contemporary, how about Anne Stormont’s new book, Settlement?

To discover what my fellow robins think, go here:

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ly

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/

A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/

Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com

Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Scottish Association of ~Writers ~ 50th weekend school

And a secret I’ve been holding close for several weeks now, is out: I’ve been invited to adjudicate the women’s short story category at the Scottish Association of Writers weekend school.

Excited? You bet!

SCOTTISH ASSOCIATION of WRITERS (SAW) is an umbrella organisation for writing groups, clubs, workshops throughout Scotland and has many such affiliated.

Edinburgh Writers’ Club, is a founding member club. So, I’m a member of both.

SAW has recently published the Schedule for its 2019 Fiftieth Anniversary conference, again to be held in the centrally situated, Westerwood Hotel, and you can view or download it at present from their Facebook Files. When it goes up on the website I’ll post a link.

Alex Gray is the keynote speaker and the weekend features adjudications by experienced professionals like Alex Corlett, of People’s Friend Features.

Hope to see you there, ANNE

The Show Must Go On

THE SHOW MUST GO ON is my second serial for People’s Friend and starts its four week run in the magazine this morning. Cover date is 18th August and readers who buy the magazine on subscription would get it last Saturday.

Talented Friend regular, Sailesh Thakrar is the illustrator and hasn’t he done a marvellous job?

Sailesh’s opening illustration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Show Must Go On started life as Behind the Scenes. It’s my observation that most playwrights who write something about the theatre call it Behind the Scenes, so I’d no problem with the team’s choice.

Anne

Diary of a Writer – August Writing Prompt

 

On the Boil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doesn’t this photograph of marmalade on the boil bring to mind that stage in writing when you simply cannot get the words down quickly enough? That moment when ideas seethe and trip over one another in their haste to attract your attention and slide through your fingers onto the page?

Whether it’s a tiny haiku or your magnum opus, there is that moment when the brain behaves like a computer about to crash. You know who the murderer/lover/mother/villain/hero/heroine is now and YOU MUST TELL EVERYONE ELSE!

Then – the peace after you’ve got there –

A Quality Product

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your own analogy?

Another quality product is Courting the Countess Melissa has lost her beloved husband to an early death and herself been scarred by a summer fire. Can the strikingly handsome Harry Gunn save her from despair?

 

 

 

Research is not always a chore New Town Gardens with Greenyonder tours

One of the huge pleasures of city life is the Walking Tour. Today I went on my second garden tour with the entertaining and knowledgeable Jean of Greenyonder Tours.

0131 558 8240

This garden lies behind Register House and is known as the Archivists’ Garden. I was oblivious to its existence before this afternoon but have walked past the entrance to the court on countless occasions while cutting through from the Wellington Statue to St Andrews Square.

The court is formed of Register House, The Court of the Lord Lyon and The National Archives of Scotland. They’ve been there a long time. Register House being a grand building erected around the time the first New Town was under construction.and finished, after a few hiccups, in late eighteenth century.

The garden, however, dates from 2010 and contains 57 plant species chosen to mark Scottish people, myth, heraldry, overseas links and folklore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next along was the garden in front of Dundas House, or the Royal Bank of Scotland. James Craig had reserved the prime site of his prize-winning scheme for St George’s Church and was out-manoeuvred by Lawrence Dundas. The building is a working branch and anyone can walk in to look at the magnificent banking hall. Outside, Jean drew our attention to these marvellous ‘honeysuckle’ railings.

 

 

 

 

 

Then through the now open to the public St Andrews Square, along to Thistle Court where James Young built the first houses of the New Town. They aren’t grand six story affairs, but good middle-class buildings.

Finally, we arrived in Heriot Row, the second New Town. It wasn’t built by the council, but they had formed stronger planning guidelines by this time and that shows in the greater uniformity. The three Queen Street Gardens were created from farms and, Jean told us, that explains the crescent shape of Abercromby as it followed the boundary of one of them. A question she left with us – Is this the island Robert Louis Stevenson had in his consciousness when writing Treasure Island?

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many more New Town gardens, some private and shut away, some, like Charlotte Square and Princes Street Gardens readily accessible. Sanctuaries for wildlife and human inhabitants, too, they are our own treasure.

 

Round Robin – Beware – Danger – Violence

This month Rhobin asks – How do you handle or use violence or any type of danger in your stories?

While the Regency is attractive in so very many ways, it was a time of huge inequality, injustice, hunger and, yes, violence. The absence of an established and regulated system of investigation, apprehension and conviction had a massive impact on how people led their lives. Duelling was almost on the way out as a re-dress for ‘insults’, but not quite gone and many families were bereft as today’s are by the rising tide of youth with knives. In addition, the head of the family, almost always a man, held sway. This had the effect you could predict. There were good ones and bad ones. There were some who cared passionately, but gave rise to the origins of the patriarchal society that feminism needed to kick against. There were some, Mr Bennet we’re looking at you, who didn’t care at all.

Justice was hit or miss and to our modern sensibilities brutal and cruel. What civilised society hangs children for stealing food? What civilised society hangs anyone for stealing food? Why are its citizens starving in the first place?

One of the underlying themes of my first novel, Mariah’s Marriage, was domestic violence. The villain, short of ready cash and feeling ‘entitled’, is frustrated in his attempt to win a rich bride and takes his rage out on his sister. She covers up for him in classic fashion, but our clever and courageous heroine works him out. She then faces another battle – How do you make a decent man who would never perpetrate such violence, understand it happens?

In Bella’s Betrothal, the heroine finds herself in enormous danger but she isn’t immediately able to work out who the greater villain is. Is it the man who has invaded her room at the inn? Is it, as he claims, another who wants to trade on her damaged reputation to justify trapping her into unwanted sex? Although written, I hope, with humour and warmth, the threat is real.

 

So how do I ‘use’ danger and violence in my fiction? Well, I hope responsibly, without either the need or the wish to glamourize either. They are a part of the fabric of our human experience and as such they have a place.

 

The Castle Rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To read what my fellow round robiners think about this hugely important topic go here:

Judith Kopek

Dr. Bob Rich

Victoria Chatham

Connie Vines

A.J. Maguire 

Marci Baun  

Skye Taylor

Fiona McGier

Anne de Gruchy

Rhobin L Courtright