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

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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

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 

 

Burlesque Dancing and its place in the RNA conference

So what better way to round off three delightful days of sitting on our bums than by joining in a dance class to wiggle, shake and generally celebrate that often generously endowed part of the writer’s anatomy. Ali Adams’ event was innocuously described as a life story – Baby Wipes to the Burlesque Stage. The audience participation wasn’t revealed till later…

 

Leeds Trinity University, Horsforth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no photos of several distinguished and some of us not so distinguished RNA members strutting our stuff and throwing boas, lace thingummies and smouldering looks here, there and everywhere – takes practice does smouldering.

Jennifer Young, Horsforth

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capital Writer, Jennifer Young, was much too sensible to try any smouldering around the Sunday morning Book Stall, but she did bring along some copies of Storm Child for sale.

And me, what else did I enjoy? Found Debbie Taylor’s ‘Writing the Pitch Letter’ particularly useful and also Andrew Cornick’s ‘Emotional Resilience for Writers’. But there were as always endless goodies for the ardent conference attendee covering the art and craft of writing that best selling romance novel and making some life-long friends along the way.

Anne in Leeds Trinity 2018

Down My Way

Down My Way it’s cold. Well, it’s winter in Scotland so what else might one expect?

I’ve just been reflecting that a writer’s diary is a really odd sort of thing.

Saturday 10th February – All day at the Royal Over-Seas League for the Romantic Novelists’ Association.  A Committee meeting in the morning was followed by an hour of training in Diversity and Inclusion. No point in just thinking your organisation welcomes everyone, Find out. The session was conducted by the wonderfully upbeat and smiley Marsha Ramroop of BBC Radio Leicester.

Then onto the afternoon when there was a general meeting in the Hall of India and Pakistan. Must say selling tickets in advance is helping raise awareness of the great talks our members come up with. Sophia Bennet whose Love Song won last year’s Goldsboro Books romantic novel of the year prize, entertained us and was followed by Matt Bates, bookseller, who told us what’s selling. Great to meet up with members from as far afield as Norway, via Wales, and the south of England. A wee glass may have been drunk in a local pub later.

Monday 12th February = Lots of train time today, but also a visit to the Charles I exhibition at the Royal Academy. What a lot of dogs. What a lot of wonderful portraits by a huge selection of first class painters of the time. Not to mention the bits of sculpture dotted around the halls. Not only did Charles like to be painted, he was also a noted collector and patron with a good eye.

On to soup and sandwich lunch with friends. He’s a retired Rector and, now he has time and a kindle, enquired which of my books he ought to try. I said Bella’s Betrothal It’s naughty to have favourites.

All weekend, some of you may have read about it in Bookbrunch, the wires were active about my UK publisher, Endeavour. The good news is that Courting the Countess will remain available for now.

Also all weekend and since – Lots and lots of enquiries about the upcoming RNA annual Awards’ Night in The Gladstone Library, One Whitehall Place. Would the area have been familiar to the early Stuarts?

Also e-mails announcing a sale to People’s Friend of a story I wrote from one of their Ed’s story prompts. Hadn’t done that before but this one caught my imagination.

Also saw on a mini-bank-statement that the PLR is in the bank. This year, it might buy a bottle of champagne. (Last year, I bought coffee and cream cakes for me and my pal)

Also the newly fledged Capital Writers helped one of our number, Kate Blackadder launch her most recent collection of love stories – yes, on Valentine’s Day –  with a series of posts across on Capital Writers website. Mine, Roses are Red is here.

The collection is called The Palace of Complete Happiness and can be purchased here.

Now back in Auld Reekie and raring to go – after the next coffee…

Round Robin – Viewpoint

This month’s Round Robin question is about Viewpoint. How do we as writers tell the story, show the characters’ emotions and switch between them?

My normal mode is 3rd person character. That means, I am in one head at a time, but as the author. I don’t find 1st person easy to write. I enjoy reading author omniscient, but haven’t found it attractive enough to tempt me. I’ve never written anything in 2nd person where you might have used 1st, but are allowing a bit of outside observation and comment.

Generally, my novels will employ two central viewpoints. They will normally be the hero and the heroine. I enjoy pitting an attractive couple against one another and I like to see the same problem from two perspectives.

So, in Mariah’s Marriage, Mariah is determined to save Arabella from her brother’s violence, but Tobias is equally determined that doing so would put Mariah herself in danger.

London Girl

It’s a conflict of opinion. We, the reader, see Mariah enlist the help of her maid to outwit the considerable obstacles Tobias has placed in the way of her leaving the house. Eventually, we understand why Tobias has acted the way he has and, tension mounting, we’re in his head as the drama unfolds.

I think that’s why I find 1st person difficult. There just seems to be so much more needed by way of comment when that single voice has to keep filling us in. Things like ‘Of course, I didn’t know at the time, but Tobias thought I was dead.’ – are well enough, and often skilfully handled, but I prefer to be in Tobias’s head while he’s doing that thinking; while he’s doing that sufferring.

Maybe it’s because I used to write plays…

The serial I wrote for People’s Friend in 2016, A Traveller’s Life, had several voices. I enjoyed that a lot. It was liberating to leave the (self-) imposed discipline of two voices and allow one or two more to take centre stage. Again, the dramatist in me loved hearing what all these people thought. However, it’s not unbridled by any means. People’s Friend like their serials presented in ‘chapters’ so each one had a central Viewpoint. I was not head-hopping.

So, here’s the divide – what is head-hopping and why do some editors permit it?

Head-hopping is where the author allows everybody and his auntie to have their say – in one chapter, sometimes – I’ve seen it done – even in the same paragraph.

Personally, I find that way of writing too confusing for words. I want to know who I’m rooting for and whose story is the one being told. The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott is a modern tour de force and some of it tells the same story over. However, Scott uses different books to do this and that’s not a luxury offered to all.

I have a short historical story in a new anthology by Capital Writers, Capital Stories. It’s available for your kindle and a wee snip at 99p/$1.37.

There are other opinions on this fundamental writing skill and you’ll find some of them here:

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ag
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax
http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman
http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

Round Robin – What Makes a Memorable Character?

What Makes a Memorable Character? this is Rhobin’s December question.

Who are your memorable characters? This, for a person like me who cannot remember names, is a very difficult one to answer. I had hoped to start my post with a quick-fire list of the fictional characters who’ve stayed with me, but I’m going to have to look up some of the names. That makes me wonder whether it’s the character I remember or the characteristics. Rolling it all up, characteristics make the memorableness – is that a word? Spell checker doesn’t like it much.

So, the list:

Robin Hood, Anne of Green Gables, Scarlett O’Hara, the Snow Queen, The Saint, James Bond, Karen Brockman and anyone from the cast of NCIS.

These people exemplify the cloyingly good, the selfishly or evilly bad and the delightful mixture that stops you pigeon-holing them.

Robin Hood was on tv on a Thursday afternoon during my childhood. His adventures were unmissable and, as we had a bit of woodland behind the house, we could pretend. Sheer escapism as one learned later. Why wasn’t Richard back in England running his own country instead of despoiling someone else’s? I still have a faint scar on my thigh from crawling through long grass stalking something or other and crawling over a bit of glass!

Anne of Green Gables

It’s hard to find any reading lady of a certain age who doesn’t claim Anne as her favourite childhood book. She had red hair and a lively imagination – what wasn’t to like? Certainly her feistiness stayed with me over the years.

Scarlett O’Hara

Now, here we begin to have memorable characters who aren’t by any means role models or even likeable. She did, however, do her best in appalling circumstances and one admired – until the child died. I suppose there’re lots of ways of interpreting Mitchell’s intentions, but setting aside the ‘bad girls must be punished in the end’ philosophy, I cannot love a character whose selfishness endangered her children.

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen kept me awake as a child. It was my first encounter with the power of evil and a much more realistic characterisation than the wicked step-mothers that panto reduced to – well, panto.

The Saint and James Bond I’ve mentioned before that I wrote a major sixth form essay on the anti-hero. These are the chaps to blame for that fascination: or maybe it was just Roger Moore’s raised eyebrow? I notice my own heroes often raise an eyebrow, too.

Karen Brockman

Karen Brockman, and I did have to look up the name, is the youngest child in the sit-com Outnumbered. The episodes were not scripted, but suggested to the child actors and Karen had some wonderfully effective scenes. Played by Ramona Marquez, the character could turn any expectation on its head. The character is a wonderful example of the self-absorbed and the mayhem that trait can wreak.

NCIS I loved the original series and many of the subsequent ones. Changes in the ensemble cast lost Cate, Jenny and Mike Franks. Again blatant escapism with larger than real-life characterisation and super-complicated plotting. I no longer watch as I find some of the chemistry gone and some of the plotting improbable to a degree.

So what memorable traits have I given my characters? I would say Mariah is determined. Bella is courageous. Daisy is self-aware, but it’s hard won. Melissa is brave in the face of enormous adversity. The character I’m writing at present will also need dollops of courage to get over her conservatism. Or, as we say now, leave her comfort zone.

To find out what my fellow authors think of this topic, go here:

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-18Y
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Rhobin L Courtright
http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

 

A Significant Day

Some things in life are inevitable even if they come round slowly.

I grew up in the Lothians and while my mum was alive drove out there often. Today I was making a significant visit. Doesn’t matter why. I’d forgotten what a frost hollow it is. Nearly went over on the slippy pavements. Didn’t.

Home now. Here’s a dragon from Vietnam – just ‘cos.

Anne

Not NanoWriMo – Progress

An earlier RNA Goody Bag

 

Not NanowriMo has had to cope with such a lot of other stuff. Not least of which was the RNA Winter Party. It takes several days of faffing around to make up name-badges for new attendees and those who took their badge away from an earlier meeting (you know who you are).I also have to think about and order the canapés – such an imposition, I can’t tell you!

This year there was an innovation when Goody Bags were donated by the lovely folk at Harper Collins. They had to be physically shifted from their delivery boxes onto the tables in the vestibule. I’m so grateful to the lovely Anna Louise Lucia and Mick Arnold for help moving them. I was truly exhausted the following day. Maybe joining a gym isn’t such a bad idea.

Dancing shoes with medals

 

Next up was the fantastic Strathspey Ball organised by Isabel and Aileen in Boat of Garten. More moving – this time of tables, chairs, glasses, crockery etc. and then of the body in stirring Scottish reels, jigs and strathspeys. Don’t know about you, but I find strathspeys hard work, if lovely to dance and to watch.

So, the Not the NanoWriMo count? Maybe I’ll keep that to myself, but I did have 4 lovely days in Assynt where I saw the countryside under snow for the first time. How very beautiful it is. Writing was done and I think I see the way forward with my current Scottish Regency set in King Street and Heriot Row.

How’s yours going? Reached the 50,000?

My apologies for the clunky links below, but WordPress won’t let me embed them. sigh!

Anna Louise Lucia  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Louise-Lucia-Romantic-Suspense-Bundle-ebook/dp/B00AA33JEG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1511780058&sr=1-1&keywords=anna+louise+lucia

M W Arnold (Mick Arnold) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Season-Love-M-W-Arnold-ebook/dp/B078486B25/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1511782885&sr=1-1&keywords=the+season+for+love