Nothing succeeds like success and that mantra is no different for me with the publication of my fourth serial for DC Thomson’s The People’s Friend than it was for the first.
In A Class of Their Own arose out of the reading and researching I did for serial 3, City of Discoveries. 1869 was a bumper year for anyone looking for ideas and I highly recommend it to you. Writing pompts there in plenty.
It is about Sophia Jex-Blake and the struggle for women to overcome prejudice and false perceptions in order to train and qualify as doctors of medicine.
It is also about the Stevenson sisters who were Edinburgh ladies of comfortable means and formidable intellects and drive. Edinburgh folk recognise Flora Stevenson’s school in the north of the city but perhaps not who it is called after. My own knowledge of that comes from a pamphlet I borrowed years ago from my local library. Written by several Edinburgh women, it celebrated the lives and work of some of the female pioneers.
Transformed into the Begbie sisters for the serial, Jane Begbie sets up a peripitetic school for teaching the children (read girls) how to cook and feed a family. Fast forward to 2021 through Atholl Crescent and we arrive at Queen Margaret University.
And the prompt? There’s an idea bubbling away. Seeing the lovely illustrations by Gerard Fay week by week remind me – YOU CAN DO THIS.
What’s on your writing horizon? Take a compass reading, raise the sails and lift anchor. (enough with the nautical stuff, Ed)
We’ve all been waiting for something: meeting new babies, old friends; eating out in a restaurant; swimming in the local pool. The list is probably endless.
For me, as I’ve been lucky enought to see my family and a few close friends, it’s been a trip to live theatre in a theatre – a building purpose built for performance.
Last night – I got toTraverse I to see Enda Walsh’s MEDICINE. Starring Domhnall Gleeson with some or all of (I hate not having a programme) Clare Barrett, Sean Carpio, Aoife Duffin. It was everything one would expect from a Traverse Festival production and from a great playwright.
With the testing positive numbers at 6835 yesterday, it may be some time before one goes again, but oh, how I enjoyed last night.
Tomorrow night, 29th August, is the final broadcast of the Royal Lyceum’s SOPHIA by Frances Poet. It’s in their Soundstage season and stars Madeleine Worrall as Sophia Jex-Blake.
As regular readers know, my serial about Sophia and The Edinburgh Seven is currently running in The People’s Friend magazine. Instalment 3 will be in the shops on Wednesday. However, I suspect from the list of characters, that the play is going to give more importance to aspects of her life I didn’t include. Wonderful! I’m looking forward to that.
IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN by Anne Stenhouse currently running in The People’s Friend magazine.
Do you have any character habits or favourite words that always crop up in your writing?
Oh my! This does take me to task.
I’ve said it before but ‘that’ is like an alien species, invasive and hard to eradicate. My lovely editor at MuseItUp, Judy Roth, pointed the habit out to me and I now make huge efforts to check each ‘that’ has an earned place.
Another favourite word can be the word that (is that necessary? Ed) arrives in my head while writing on any given day. It will usually be an adverb or adjective and when I edit, I discover its presence in one paragraph after another. Maybe this need to edit makes the prose richer.
The antithesis of favourites are the bogey-men. Only in recent years have I developed the confidence to begin sentences with a (necessary) conjunction and end them with a (necessary) preposition. Likewise, I find it very hard to use suddenly and will often opt for abruptly.
Character habits, too, can become favourites. Agitation in my regencies is very often signalled by the heroine shredding the ribbons of her hat or twisting the strings of her reticule until her fingers are white. From Mariah’s Marriage:
“Mariah gripped her reticule so tightly flashes of pain stung her hands but shewelcomed the distraction they made because they prevented her bursting into shameful tears.”
Smoothing down her skirts is another personal habit I attribute to my heroines as they seek to bring a difficult passage to its conclusion. It in some ways signifies the resumption of control.
In describing the secondary characters, I often have stains on their clothing from dropped food. I’m using this to suggest the slightly lower level of society they inhabit, perhaps, or perhaps that their intellects set them apart from such mundane issues – in their opinion. When Tobias calls at Mariah’s home for the first time in Mariah’s Marriage his pristine and fashionable dress almost brings the household to a stand.
“Mariah reluctantly led the way into the house and was not surprised to findTilly opening the inner door as she entered the tiled vestibule. The girl had been spying through the side-light. ‘Tilly, is Papa in the downstairs study?’ she asked the maid, who was agog at the appearance of her escort. Mariah had forgotten how circumscribed their lives were. Of course Tilly would be interested in the earl’s tailored wool coat with his spotless waistcoat and carefully tied neck cloth. The men who normally visited here wore ill-fitting garments which were often stained with food. Not only that, but the earl had a clean-shaven face and the hair of his head was trimmed into a neat style that allowed his strong bones to be seen easily. Seen and admired, she thought.”
I’m sure there are many more, but please read on in the posts of my fellow robins from the list below.
This week saw the publication of the first instalment of my People’s Friend serial about The Edinburgh Seven. A Class of Their Own will run for 8 weeks.
The Edinburgh Seven were ladies of unmatched determination in their pursuit of the RIGHT to matriculate in a British University and to study for a degree which would enable them to have their names added to the Medical Register.
Theirs is a story that has inspired and horrified in equal measure over the 152 years since five of them, led by Sophia Jex-Blake, took the first step and matriculated.
My story, starting today in The People’s Friend magazine, is a fictionalised account. I hope you, too, will share my wonder.
Regular readers know that I’ve spent a lot of the last year working on a major historical serial for The People’s Friend. It makes its appearance in the edition dated 21st August which wil be in the shops on Wednesday of next week. For those of you who are subscribers, it’ll be in your hands on Saturday of this week.
Yesterday was ‘results’ day in Scotland. I received my share of brown envelopes, as they then were, and of course of euphoria and disappointment. But – I was able to sit those exams and own my results. Circumstances which did not always prevail in Great Britain and which do not prevail in many parts of the world today.
My research journey with Sophia Jex-Blake, her medical colleagues and the Edinburgh Stevenson sisters (Flora Stevenson School) was fascinating, eye-opening and heart-breaking.
There is a romance (thank goodness, Ed) and the serial is fictional.
If women’s struggle to become ‘real doctors’ interests you, then now’s the moment to reserve your copies.
Back on Saturday from a week in Assynt. All much as usual but the Rangers’ hut door has been repaired. The hut itself, sadly, still closed. It’s a small space and ‘keeping people safe’ would be challenging.
So why a prompt? Well, maybe it’s time to begin thinking about the impacts of Covid-19 and to bring them into one’s writing. The door is an example – it could be repaired, joiner working on their own, but once repaired, it shuts off an informed and welcoming space.
Assynt itself is full of inspiration. Wonderful scenery, beaches (some still deserted despite the ubiquitous NC 500), excellent local food, a stag in velvet wandering the car park, a stoat on the shoreline, an otter in and out of the waves, young businesses setting up and striving and a range of local people who, like people eveywhere, comprise the welcoming and the not so welcoming. Constructive tension in abundance.
AND, AND we encountered NO MIDGES.
Look out for the People’s Friend dated 21st August as it contains the first instalment of my new Victorian era serial. In the shops on Wednesday 18th.
Has your own staycation been a source of inspration?
Deleting scenes: Do you ever delete scenes? When and why do you delete them? And what do you do with them? Do you save them? Or just toss them? (from and thanks to Marci Baun)
I am a knitter. My Granny taught me to knit when I was 4. I can knit garter or stocking stitch while conductiong a conversation, while appearing in a play, while watching television… But I do, occasionally, drop a stitch.
That’s not the same as deleting a scene, but it does leave a hole. So does deleting a scene. While knitting, one diverts all one’s attention to the work in hand, rescues the dropped loop, reinstates it on the left-hand needle and tries again.
Deleting a scene comes at the end of a torturous period of trying to convince oneself it is necessary – it does fit there – you like it a lot and it’s your story – drat! It sends the story off on completely the wrong track – you’re a professional – delete it. It isn’t right for the market you’re aiming at.
Occasionally, I let them go off into the electronic trash can, but occasionally, I save them in an out-takes’ file. Here’s one I spent hours agonising over that didn’t make the finished work. It’s lovely to think one or two folk will now read it.
Genni shivered. The heating ran all night at a low level, but it was nearly Christmas and the rooms had been empty for most of the day.
“I was hoping that might be passion,” Paddy said with a passable attempt at nonchalance, “But I think it might be cold. Shall we see if we’ve flooded the bathroom yet?”
They were soon ensconced in the huge bath and Genni shivering again, but with delight as Paddy soaped her all over and gently massaged. Her muscles had been tense with exhaustion and his hands eased the stresses.
“Let me wash your hair,” she said. “I cannot believe how much plaster dust you’ve absorbed.”
“You should see the other guy,” Paddy quipped. He turned in the bath and leant back so she could rub shampoo through his hair. When she’d finished, he turned on the spray and passed it back to her so she could rinse the soap out of his hair.
Genni laughed as Paddy wrapped a huge bath sheet around her and rubbed her dry. He followed her through to the bedroom and they fell onto the bed together.
“And now, my little love,” he whispered.
“Yes, now,” she said knowing they were the last words she’d speak for a long time.
I edited this out of Christmas at Maldington House, pub DCThomson My Weekly pocket novels. MW2019 So pleased I’ve found another use for it.
I’ve sold another short novel to DCThomson since I last posted in the Round Robin. I don’t have a date yet, but it’s a Scottish-set Regency and will be out towards the end of the year.
Other writers have a view on this subject, too, and they’re listed below. If you write – do you save or trash?
July is the month of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference. We love you loads, Jan Jones. This year, of course, it’s once again digital. However, I thought you might like to be reminded of the enormous support those of us who don’t sell shedloads get from our friends and fellow writers.
It is and long has been a support that translates into a prompt for me. My first published professional story was a competition entry for Edinburgh Writers’ Club. My first performed drama was for a Traverse Theatre’s new writers’ initiative. My first published novel came through entering competitions. My first appearance in an anthology was through Capital Writers.
Along the way THE READERS have boosted confidence. There’s nothing quite like that shy question: “When will there be another Regency?” or “Would you think about a piece featuring my character as the main one? She’s so good to play.” AND REVIEWS ARE GOLDDUST. thank you to those who take the time – it is so much appreciated.
My husband and all the family have been behind my efforts and I know I’m lucky there because I’ve seen the pain caused by other halves and families who don’t support or are even embarrassed by a person’s writing.
Editors like the wonderfully supportive Alan Spink at DC Thomson and Maggie Swinburne also of DC Thomson provide great feedback, intelligent insight and prompts.
So as a result of a combination of family support, editorial advice and reader’s requests look out for a Victorian serial and a Scottish regency later in the year.
Short Stories may be calling…
What’s your biggest support, writers? What’s your dearest hope, readers?
for a limited period, Courting the Countess is offered at 99p/$1.38
Lady Melissa Pateley is not having an easy time of it.
Her beloved husband Neville has died, and a fire at her London home has left her covered in scars.
If it wasn’t for a band of loyal servants, she’s not sure how she would survive.
Things take a turn for the worse when one day, Colonel Harry Gunn and his fellow soldier Zed break into her home, bundle her into a coach and kidnap her.
She is at a loss until she learns that Harry Gunn is the cousin of George Gunn, a man who has been stalking her for years, and that Harry’s Uncle John had warned him that as long as George is out there, Melissa is not safe.
Uncle John insists that Harry finds Melissa and keeps her safe.
But that very night George shows up at Harry’s home with Harry’s sister Lottie, who thinks Melissa and George would make a good match.
Perhaps Melissa would have been safer at home after all.
Yet even with her scars, she is certain that the handsome Colonel Gunn is attracted to her.
But of course, nothing is ever simple.
Startling revelations rip the family apart, causing everyone to question what they once held dear.
As Colonel Gunn goes in search of George and the truth, he has to wonder – had the keeping of secrets not marred more lives than the secrets would have destroyed?
Opening in the Border country, the story quickly moves to Edinburgh.