Diary of a Writer – Writing Prompt – February – New Experience

dsc01373Some of you may have noticed a wee absence of posts on this blog during January. The chap above is one of the reasons why I’ve been awol because I’ve been visiting Cuba and Costa Rica.

The baby sloths – the apparent furry car rug is a pile of six – have all been orphaned and brought to the Toucan Rescue Ranch for nurture and possible release back into their jungle habitat. The ranch’s intern, was delightfully droll about the difficulties of acting as mum to a baby sloth. Press too hard on the syringe of goat’s milk that is used to feed them and you may cause the baby to ingest the milk, rather than digest it, which can lead to pneumonia. Toilet training – well, in the wild, they learn from mum that going to the bathroom once a week s good. In the Rescue centre that would be the intern’s finger in some other sloth urine encouraging the wee ones to perform. Glamorous it is not.

Some of you editing types may have noticed the name of the ranch, Toucan Rescue Ranch, and be puzzling over the inclusion of sloths. Well, get a GOOD name in the bird and animal rescue world and who knows what will arrive on the doorstep?

The sloth babies were immensely attractive little bundles, but one needs to remember that sloth mouths are a very dirty environment. A bite if untreated could kill you.

Here’s one of their actual toucans as reassurance that I haven’t lost all plot.

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All writers need new experience to refresh their pool of ‘things to write about’. Orphans are a big issue in our world where humans are displaced daily by war and animals killed by loss of habitat, predation and interaction with the human world.

While I’ve been away, Endeavour have dropped the price of Courting the Countess to 99p Don’t know for how long, but a good moment to add to your kindle.

 

 

 

Diary of a Writer – Writing Prompt January – the Door to the Year

The Door of the Year

The Door of the Year

The Door to the Year is Georgian and I found it while walking around Dublin’s beautiful Georgian streets. As many readers know, I focus my own Regency and early nineteenth century fiction in Edinburgh and London. On the other hand who wouldn’t wonder what’s behind this lovely door and its equally tempting neighbour?

Early January is the time for handing in entries to the Scottish Association of Writers annual conference competitions. I have at least a short story – can’t give any clues what that’s about – and you may be going along and have entries, too. Headline speaker is Helen Lederer and you’ll find the Conference Schedule by typing September into the search box. Day delegates are welcome. The Westerwood Hotel and Sports complex is welcoming, comfortable and easily accessible from the train to Croy or by car.

Occasionally competitions excite my creative imagination, but more and more, they’ve become a distraction from the main work. Of course, as with the People’s Friend serial writing competition, sometimes the distraction pays off. Shortlisted and published, together with two subsequent short story sales, it was a profitable distraction.

So, what is The Door to the Year opening up for your writing.? Will you share a few hopes with us?

Diary of a Writer – December writing prompt – When is that project too big?

Colourful Tree Decoration

Colourful Tree Decoration

 

When is that project too big? I’ve always loved knitting and have dabbled with crochet, too. I find, despairingly, that I sometimes set knitting aside when I have worked out how to complete a repeat of the pattern. The challenge has been met and the garment might never be finished.

On the other hand, I have a fairly responsible outlook and try very hard not to let people down. So, would I have crocheted this engaging tree decoration? Why did anyone do so?

It certainly brought a smile to my face when I encountered it in Argentina – so maybe that’s the answer to why. It did make people smile.

Many well known and much read authors also write stuff for fun that is out of their recognised genre. Or write in several genres. Shakespeare for instance wrote his wonderful sonnets as well as the plays. Thomas Hardy wrote novels and poetry. Georgette Heyer interspersed her Regencies with detective fiction.

A great many writers will just be taking a deep breath marking the end of their NaNoWriMo effort. I did that a couple of years ago and had to set the MS aside when December arrived. It’s a busy month.

However, I did go back to the unfinished MS and completed BELLA’S BETROTHAL which is the first of my historicals set in Edinburgh.

Bella’s Betrothal

I still love the energy and humour I read in Bella’s story and think it’s probably down to writing under pressure and also to writing about a city I love. I’ve come back to Regency Edinburgh for

Courting the Countess and the wip is also set here.

So are you into decorating random trees – or only the family Christmas Tree? That’s a whole other story and I might share some of it with you after the decorations come out of the attic.

How big was your biggest project? Are you writing an alphabetical series? A trilogy?

I heard recently that courting the Countess was recommended to a book group in Aberdeenshire. Hope you’re enjoying it, ladies and would love to know what you thought.

Diary of a Writer – Start in Time

Wise Owl

Wise Owl

Start in Time

Time management has never been one of my stronger character traits. I greedily gather in brochures and leaflets. I note deadlines for Edinburgh Writers’ Club, founded 1947, competitions and for comps or challenges being run by other organisations I belong to and they approach steadily. They approach so steadily that I often reel with astonishment to see a closing date is now tomorrow.

Why is this? I do know, and in fact live with, people who are capable of starting in time. whether it be planning a holiday, whittling down the purchase of Christmas presents or writing a paper, they do it bit by carefully timetabled bit.

I have tried it and while it was great last year when I knew I needed to lose some weight and achieved my goal with three weeks in hand, it sometimes leads to duplication of effort. I cannot ever believe that I can leave the house for three weeks unless I’m in a lather of organisation and waist deep in lists, lists, lists. So I start re-checking. Yes, I did cancel the milk and the paper delivery. Yes, I have emptied the fridge. Yes, I did ask someone to water the house plants.

It unnerves me more than a little and perversely I head off sure that I’ve forgotten something.

But in some walks of life, I am getting better. For example, today I’ll be decorating large boxes for the local church’s Gift Services. Every year, I collect 7 or 8, strengthen them with parcel tape and cover them with Christmas wrap. This year I have all the boxes, I have the parcel tape and the wrap. Ready to go without having to stop and buy extra – provided no one has ‘borrowed’ my stanley knife. There’s no doubt it makes the job feel less stressful.

If you would like to donate a new and unwrapped Christmas Gift to someone who might otherwise receive nothing, check out The Salvation Army’s local appeals here.

Writing the next novel..

Well, it’s on the stocks and I have two lovely central characters, a setting and I’ve made enquiries of an editor. What’s holding me back? Thinking I might enter those competitions. Is it maybe over-programming rather than lack of planning that gets in my way?

Naw! I don’t really do time-management. How about you?

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Diary of a Writer – October Prompt

Sea Lions, Chile

Sea Lions, Chile

Last month’s prompt was a path bordered by lush green gunnera. It was relatively peaceful, although one or two of you found sinister thoughts along the disappearing pathway and into the hidden areas beyond.

I took October’s prompt, above, while on a botanical trip to Chile. It was perhaps my favourite outing of the whole expedition and the island in the picture is part of the reason.

It’s an island – and like JM Barrie, I’m mildly fascinated by them.

It’s covered in sea lions.

The scene is full of life and energy. The sea lions fought an ongoing struggle to get out of the boiling waters among the rocks and onto the island. It was mesmerising to watch.

Sorry you have to take my word for the sea lions. My camera isn’t strong enough to show them in detail, but they are there.

How does the prompt affect you? Care to share any piece with us?

Diary of a Writer – Something completely different

A Traveller's Life-part-1Diary of a Writer reflects the diversity of things written. Last week I had the pleasure of sharing the publication of Courting the Countess with you all and hot on its heels is a new departure for me – a magazine serial: opening in the People’s Friend edition dated 17th September.

A Traveller’s Life began its life as I Joined the Shows and was my entry in last year’s People’s Friend serial writing competition. I hadn’t written to instalments before and found the experience both interesting and instructive.

Writing a synopsis is my least favourite favourite writing task, but it was endlessly useful when it came to writing three instalments. Most importantly, it showed me I had too much story.

Writing the serial did involve much that was familiar. Not least seeing that all the characters had one name and only one name (thanks Ed) throughout, research into what actually happened and not what I remembered as happening in the 1960s. And the normal characterisation, dialogue and narrative of creating a fictional world as well.

I love the illustration at the head of this post. The talented artist is Kirk Houston.

Hope you all have happy memories of rolling pennies down slides or trying to avoid winning a goldfish in favour of a coconut. And what about the candy floss?

The magazine are describing it as a taut family drama. I think so.

Anne

Diary of a Writer – September Prompt

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Diary of a Writer there’s no easy explanation of why a picture touches a nerve, causes a shiver of recognition or repels. As soon as I reached this path with its deep green borders of  gunnera, I knew I’d use it at some point.

The picture encapsulates that day’s visit in mid summer mist.

This picture perfectly addresses so many of the questions in the writer’s tool box. Who’s waiting? Why are they waiting. How long have they been waiting? What will the narrator find?

Gunnera is native to South America – plant hunter’s story?

Will it inspire something for you? Come back and tell us.

Inverewe Garden

Diary of a Writer – reaping a few rewards

100_5920Reaping a few Rewards is rather nice.

I entered a caption competition put up by my publishers, MuseItUp last week on facebook and won a free e-book from their bookshop. I’ve chosen Comedy of Terrors by Graeme Smith. A treat to look forward to when it wings across.

People’s Friend cleared my short serial for publication. So, while the going was favourable, I submitted a short story which they have also bought. Don’t have final titles for either of these yet, but will keep you up-to-date.

Ulverscroft, the wonderful large print imprint, have just bought world large print rights in Daisy’s Dilemma. So there will be a short library run. New cover, of course, but here’s Charlie’s in the meantime.Daisys Dilemmal 333x500Buy my books here

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Diary of a Writer – Storing the Research Materials

Book Sale books

Book Sale books

 

I never allow visitors into my study because I know exactly where everything is. Apparently, I have a visual memory (tested by a training programme at work) and if something is moved – it’s lost. Also it’s a tip (ie not suitable for visiting). Elsewhere in the house my husband shelves books by type (travel, etc) and fiction by alphabet. So in the rest of the house, other people have a fighting chance of locating a Dickens novel should they want one.

My study also contains a lot of research material and much of that was bought at the Christian Aid book sale pictured above. As I wrote a play about JM Barrie, I was able to source almost all his works and several biographies there. As I now write Scottish Regency novels (look out for the next coming soon-ish), I’ve bought many Scottish source books. I have made an attempt to shelve them by General Scottish and Edinburgh. Even so, they cover two bookcases and two shelving units with a few on the floor, the desk or behind the printer.

Is this the most efficient way to recover that tiny fact holding up chapter ten? Maybe not, but it works for me because I do in fact visualise. Firstly I see the fact and whether it’s on the right hand or left hand page. Then I see whether the book in question was hand sized, A5 or coffee table. Then I see its colour. Oops! I have a very shaky colour memory and have to hope I’ve found the volume before that becomes an issue.

There’s also that muscle memory thing – you know where you can go on doing things long after you’ve essentially stopped that activity. We used to have a large bookcase outside our bedroom. It’s been gone over 20 years. I still find myself studying the wallpaper there wondering where a copy of such and such has gone.

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So, how do you store your paper books?

My kindle has been teasing me recently. I’ve been building up an electronic collection of both Georgette Heyer and Ann Cleeves. Recently I was scrolling through and discovered how separated they become because of that operational thing whereby your last read book rises to the top of the ‘library’. I think, with a little time, I could group the already read ones. But, and it’s a big but, how does one keep that up-to date? Answers please. Then I might have the defence that although the study is a muddle, the kindle is a model of perfection.

Anne on Amazon Author Page

Daisy’s Dilemma Kobo

Diary of a Writer

DSC00433A Writer’s Diary is particularly given to feast and famine, I find. Look at July…

New Novel is at that nerve-shredding stage before consigning it to the electronic ether. Have I spelled the heroine’s name the same way every time? What about her hair colour? Find and Replace is one of my favourite buttons in word. Does everyone suffer from this desire to do just one more check? How many redundant words does the ms contain? That, just, then…

Next Novel is written, but lacks sparkle. Where to buy fairy dust? Ah, it’s more like blood sweat and tears. I see.

Short Story in Scots dialect Write another while first remains under consideration.

Short Article for Friends of the Botanics newsletter. No problem, I said when ambushed at breakfast recently. Were the bacon rolls in the  John Hope Gateway café that good? Probably. Have I mentioned how I think I may have lived in

Inverleith House in a previous life? No? (Maybe as the skivvy. Ah Well) It is one of my favourite houses in the world.

RNA committee responsibilities Getting there. There will be party tickets – just bear with me.

Real Life – And that is? Ah, yes. The DH likes to eat. Some shopping and preparing in advance required.

Conference So looking forward to Lancaster and meeting up with folk old and new. The RNA is truly one of the friendliest organtsations I’ve ever been in. Love it to bits.

Writers’ Club Edinburgh writers’ club is my alma mater where fiction writing is concerned and we’re really busy plotting. Watch this space (for when the publicity lady says Go, go, go!)

Then along comes August…  Society of Authors in Scotland AGM and lunch, Book Festival and other Festivals.

Did Jane Austen suffer feasts and famines? She was often on the move and maybe that inhibited writing.