Diary of a Writer – November Writing Prompt

So, this was in 2012.

Good luck to everyone trying NaNoWriMo this year. I enjoyed it enormously and   Bella’s Betrothal which resulted from my attempt is, in my opinion, a lovely book.

I’ll be quietly beavering away…

Anne

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Round Robin – In What time period do set your stories?

Topic: In what time period do you prefer to set your stories – past, present, or future? What are the problems and advantages of that choice? Would you like to change? 

 

Unequivocally, I like to set my stories in the past. I do write short stories in the present, but I don’t remember ever having a go at the future.

THE PROBLEMS of writing in the past are two sides of the same coin, On the face of it is the problem created by not having been there. On the reverse is the problem created by having been there.

Dancing shoes with medals

Scottish Regency I wasn’t around in the latter years of George the Third’s reign and his son’s extended regency, but there is ample research material. Books, papers, art, furniture, the laws made, the laws enforced and, the real glory, the Georgian buildings still standing in many British cities. Edinburgh has its magnificent New Town and outriders like George Square where Bella’s Betrothal is set. I can look up the street directories and find out who lived in which house and what their occupation was. You can’t do that today!

One problem that creates difficulties for me in trying to woo some readers is the sheer cliff-face of the shift in attitudes since 1819. Some readers might be turned away by the strictures of life for a woman in that period. They may not wish or aren’t able to get into the mind-set. As a writer I love the challenge of working out how a woman would have made the best of it and, in the case of one’s heroine, bested the hero, her papa, the local lothario…

Midlothian 1950s

I was there and many, many of the thousands of folk who read my debut serial in The People’s Friend last year, A Traveller’s Life, were also there. Memory is a tricksy business. The facts may well be indisputable, but their interpretation most certainly is not. I have two friends from my early schooling who grew up in the village I did and the neighbouring one. Consulting them helped enormously because the sister of one not only remembered the nature of the District Nurse’s uniform and the blue lamp at her gate, but also her name. Another friend had worked as a District Nurse and provided me with the wonderful insight: “And you kept your hat on – no matter the procedure being undertaken.” A little thing, but annoying to the many wonderful ladies (I think that’s right, only women) who undertook such essential work, if you get it wrong.

ADVANTAGES

For me, the principle advantage of writing in the past is perspective. As a writer of fiction I do have a ViewPoint character and the story will be skewed to show that person’s perspective. Writing years after the type of event in the story allows me to have read and thought about what might have happened in those circumstances and what might have provoked it or even resolved it. I may have to give a particular VP, but I can at least allow the others to break the surface of memory’s pool.

WOULD I LIKE TO CHANGE

Maybe. I do have one or two stories I want to tell in the present rather than through the lens of the past. It is, however, very difficult when living amidst the glories of Edinburgh’s New Town and visiting on a fairly frequent basis the wonderful sweeps of London’s great Georgian streets and their magnificent parks, to drag myself into our world of ‘normal’.

WORK IN PROGRESS

It’s a mixture. I’ve got a Scottish Regency on the go having been primed by writing a short story for Capital Writers (more on another occasion). I have a scatty heroine and a set of loveable rogues poised on the threshold of adult responsibility. I’m also, the Fiction Editor mentioned it in her blog two weeks ago, writing a contemporary serial for People’s Friend.

If you want to read others’ views on this month’s topic, here’s the list of great participants:

 

Marie Laval http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/
Anne de Gruchy
https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-14G
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire 
http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Heidi M. Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright
http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Diary of a Writer – October Writing Prompt

A modest selection

Notebooks, notebooks, notebooks…

A staple of any writer’s toolkit and the one we love most, is our notebook. The picture shows but a modest selection from my immodest collection (no, numbers will not be revealed, but suffice it to say the completed ones can be considered as a useful addition to the attic insulation).

The big, plain A4 was in my goody bag at the recent, and excellent, Scotswrite conference of the Society of Authors in Scotland. I love these for jobs like editing and critiquing. I also still find it easy and therapeutic to write long-hand when the pc isn’t available or there’s a wee glitch to be sorted. Something about seeing the words appear and then the crossings-out makes it all very real. The two wee ones are from another goody bag – Romantic Novelists’ Association – and as meet-up swag. Thank you ladies, Annie Burrows and Christine London. The next size up were brought to the launch of Bella’s Betrothal by fellow Capital Writer, Jane Riddell – the elegant black and silver, and bought by me in the V&A – who doesn’t like shoes?

The medium sized ones comprise one for note-taking and, the dark one, for recording everything I send out and how the work fares. Some of the pages have lovely red £ signs indicating a sale or licence fee (I have plays, folks).

So, how many do you have? Did you start out sewing together pages to make a book, aged 6? Doesn’t the simple sight of a notebook prompt you to get started?

Round Robin – Memorable Characters

This month Rhobin has asked us to think: What characters in other author’s books have not left your mind? Have you written a character who wouldn’t leave you? Why do you think this happens?

Being a prolific reader over a long time period makes the choice here very hard. I know I’ve always enjoyed the anti-hero. I wrote the thesis for my sixth year studies’ certificate about anti-heroes from the characters in Grimms’ Fairytales to James Bond. so, at that vulnerable, romantic and sentimental stage in life, they’re all there – the Scarlet Pimpernel, The Saint, James Bond and the strapping men on horseback sweeping all before them in the novels of Georgette Heyer. They have the best wardrobes, the best dialogue and they do GOOD without being in the least WORTHY.

As I grew older, the reading didn’t diminish much so the choice is even wider. I think I’ve mentioned the book before, but it’s worth re-visiting – DON’T PLAY GAMES by Emma Darcy is a M&B published in 1985. It has a heroine, Kate Andrews and hero, Alex Dalton. So much, so M&B, but this book because of the characters and their story has stayed with me. I have the copy on the desk in front of me. Kate is a redheaded (is that a giveaway?) feisty, but loyal character, and Alex is , because this is classic M&B, an anti-hero of the billionaire world.

A more recent set of characters to stay with me are the women, goodies and baddies, from Katharine Stockett’s wonderful book, The Help. It is so beautifully realised and again the dialogue is first-rate. Reading it in an internal Southern States’ accent had me in the room.

The character ‘wot I wrote’ that stayed with me was Mariah’s sister-in-law, Lady Daisy. I had to rein in the writing while working on the scenes she appeared in in Mariah’s Marriage. In due course, she got her own book, Daisy’s Dilemma and a worthwhile choice she proved to be.

Others have written about their memorable characters and you can find them here:

Heidi M. Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire 
http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Country Mouse in Town

Exhausted Footwear

Country mouse made another expedition to the Big City this week. Starting at my favourite London Hotel (that’s my secret) to check out the distances from and to the wonderful new venue for the Romantic Novelist Association’s Winter Party, One Birdcage Walk, involved a walk along Sloane Street from Sloane Square underground station. Now I know I could have caught the No 22, but I also know, I can make it on foot.

Then out to meet the London mouse in Catherine Street – Ha! She now knows how abysmal are my map reading skills. We now know that her smart phone can log onto my (decidedly non-smart) phone and track my movements. She followed my progress out of Covent Garden to Russell Street and along into Catherine. How very scary is that? Excellent meal in Loch Fyne Restaurant after the pre-theatre rush.

Hence the shoes looking much as I felt. They had more to come as, for the first time since the Bholgatty Island Palace Hotel incident, I left the premises with the keys. Had to go back. Have you any idea how far they’ve made the distances between bus stops in London? No? A lot.

Anne

2018 Weekend Conference Scottish Association of Writers

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

Edinburgh Writers’ Club, celebrating its 70th Anniversary this year, is a founding member club. So, I’m a member of both.

SAW has recently published the Schedule for its 2018 conference, again to held in the centrally situated, Westerwood Hotel, and you can view or download it here.

SIMON BRETT is the keynote speaker and the weekend features adjudications by experienced professionals like Shirley Blair, fiction editor of People’s Friend.

Hope to see you there, ANNE

Diary of a Writer – September Writing Prompt

http://www.edinburghwritersclub.org.uk/

This year, Edinburgh Writers’ Club celebrates its 70th Anniversary.

I am not a founder member.

I am a longstanding member having been in the club through at least 8 changes of venue, having been its President, having known and mourned many of its characters and having been honoured with Life Membership.

So, what does this month’s picture prompt me to write? This little tribute to a wonderful group for a start.

EWC gave me the confidence to write and to take that writing seriously. It provided me with a safe haven for trying out different genres and it was through the club’s yearly competitions that I discovered my small talent for dialogue and playwriting. Thereafter, I enjoyed a lot of fun in rehearsal rooms and a lot of anxiety sitting at the back of a darkened theatre waiting to hear what the audience thought. When the frustrations of funding for staging became overwhelming, it was through EWC that I exploited suggestions and connections to find another berth in historical romance.

Along the way, I’ve written almost every other type of text – except perhaps haiku, I don’t believe I’ve ever tried syllable counted poems – and seen a lot of work published or performed. Thank you EWC. I look forward to our opening party and the challenges of the upcoming year.

So, is there a hobby club or professional organisation to which you owe a debt of gratitude? Tell us about it or direct us to your own blog to let us see it.

Anne

Diary of a Writer – August Writing Prompt

Food growing in the table for the table

I recently took a tour of Edinburgh’s High Street secret gardens. It was led by Jean Bareham of Green Yonder Tours and was full of little gems like the table above. Several of the gardens are community gardens and this was one such. The pots down the centre are growing herbs for the kitchens of those involved.

So, historical writers, writers of The Little Table of Culinary Delights, non-fiction garden writers…What does it prompt for you?

Anne

Conference Know-How RNA starts from Thursday

 

Gala dinner Library

There’re are one or two tips I’d like to share with you. Any similarity to the marvellous advice sent out by RNA conference organising supremo, Jan Jones, is entirely intentional. Are tips copyright? I first posted this blog on 7th July 2014 and it still seems relevant.

Tip One Do not bring extra reading material. Goody bags are awaiting your arrival and they contain reading material. Also, there is a pop-up book shop on site.

100_4604

Tip Two There are tenners and fivers in circulation or available from your bank. Get hold of some. The bar staff will be very pleased to see you.

Tip Three Yes, dressing-up on Saturday night is fun. the original of this one was made with insect wings. The copy uses plastic fingernails. Wouldn’t put either in the wash though.

early 2012 087

Tip Four Do bring extra coffee, tea-bags and fresh milk. (Jan Jones, see above.) When it comes to food, I miss cheese and fresh fruit that isn’t a rock hard apple, too.

Tip Five Remember the quiet person in the corner is probably a really important editor, agent or author, but they still want to be loved for themselves. Do spare a moment to talk to them.

Tip Six A small paper fan is really useful for creating a breeze in an overheated room. (thanks to Melanie Hilton).

Tip Seven Do keep to your ten minutes in ten minute slots at 1-2-1s Saying it once with feeling and commitment is good.

Tip Eight Think up a few pertinent questions to ask if the speaker invites them. It’s a horrible experience as a chairwoman looking at a sea of silent faces. Chances are if you want to know then others will appreciate the answer, too.

Tip Nine Never mind the photo opps, You can never have too many pairs of comfortable shoes. Slip-on and offs are particularly good as the days pass.

Manchester night out

Tip Ten Relax. Enjoy the moment(s). Go home. Apply lessons learned. Write best-seller.

Till next year…

http://goo.gl/pASdjp Mariah’s Marriage amazon US

“Oh, Mariah, let us not quarrel. We will be married within the month. At least your papa’s house contains plenty of books. You may practise throwing them.” anne stenhouse

http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage UK

http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal US

 …a solitary figure ahead among some gorse and shrubs. Charles thought she made a beautiful picture in her riding habit with the exquisite hat Jenny Menzies wished to inherit. He thought the girl might get it sooner rather than later if he followed his instincts. At that precise moment, he wanted to shake Bella hard. Then he would lock her in the castle in Strath Menzies and hold her forever. anne stenhouse

http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal UK

https://www.omnilit.com/product-bella039sbetrothal-1312055-162.

html https://www.omnilit.com/product-mariah039smarriage-1173550-149.html