Diary of a Writer – In Retreat

Working in the sunshine

Working in the sunshine

Retreating has become very popular among writers and I’m no exception. Being cut loose from domestic and other responsibility opens up endless possibilities for the creative mind.

The late, Hugh Rae, aka Jessica Stirling, used to set up speakers for a small writers’ conference held in Pitlochry at the beginning of October. A number of people would do the paperwork, but Hugh had the contacts. This was my first taste of writing space in the day. The two hours between arrival and dressing for pre-dinner chat in the bar seemed endless to a busy wife and mum. No telephone calls, no car runs, no hunting for the elusive football boot – just a quiet room and a notebook and pencil.

Hugh was a lovely man and spotting that I was a newbie, he came over and said, “The first coffee is always on me.” So typical of his concern.

My first taste of retreating for the purpose of writing rather than conferring, was signing up for a radio writing course run by The Arvon Foundation in deepest Devon. Totleigh Barton in Sheepwash was straight out of the Girls’ Own Book of writers’ retreats. I slept in the pigsty. It’s a sixteenth century manor house with barn.

But the crème de la crème has to be a friend’s cottage near Stonehaven.

A secret garden

A secret garden

I’ve been several times to this magical place where the eye is on a level with the local murder of crows and where I once arrived to an aerobatic display by a pair of buzzards. I finished my second novel here and I know many others who wrote reams and reams in its welcoming embrace.

Alas, all good things will end.

So, this year’s retreat is home based. That isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. I’ve got the space, but I’ve also got regularity around. So how’s it going…

Well, there’s been a bit of spring cleaning of my writing chores’ backlog. So far, I’ve edited a novel and sent out an enquiry concerning a possible contract for it. I’ve completed another paid editing job. I’ve signed a contract (news about that to come) and I’ve started a short story.

I’m avoiding the elephant in this particular room. That’s the 1950s novel I’m having a lot of trouble structuring. Maybe that points up the real drawback of retreating in-house: there’s no other writer to bounce ideas off in the evening. Maybe the next time I have the house to myself, I’ll invite a friend to make a retreat in the spare room. Bet they get lots written as the Wi-Fi doesn’t reach there!

Where’s your favourite retreat? Is it solitary and miles from anywhere? Is it in plain view in a café?

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Country Mouse was Back in Town

DSC00429Country Mouse was back in town after a gap of, oh, 10 days since an earlier trip. This time glad rags were a necessity and I hope you like my sparkly number in fetching midnight blue. Joining me in the picture is the RNA’s Hon Secretary, Julie Vince. Julie’s dress sported a witty take with its all over writing through the fabric.

The occasion bringing Country Mouse back to the big city was the annual awards’ night celebrating the best in romance writing and featuring the presentation of the best in category crystal stars and the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year Award sponsored by David Headley. Held in the auspicious surroundings of the Gladstone Library in Whitehall Court, there was a great turnout of writers, readers, other halves and our delightful guest presenter, Fern Britten.

IONA GREY won best historical and The Main Award. Congratulations. I’m looking forward to reading Letters to the Lost

Tuesday morning saw Country Mouse rising a little late and enjoying breakfast in the room from a tray. Lovely boiled egg with a glass of orange and a pastry to follow. Then off out before meeting my Town cousin for lunch.

And what did I find around the corner – having stayed in this hotel now many times and not seen it before – this lovely Blue Plaque

DSC00433

Confirms my choice of location.

Then off to Harrod’s for a nosey around. Bet you don’t know where this is:DSC00294The only one outside UK and opened in 1915 – don’t google. Oh well, why not? I would.

 

 

Amazon Author page

Yellowstone

I love writing dialogue-rich historical romance with lashings of humour and a swirl of thematic mystery. Never short of a word myself, my heroines defy and manipulate the conventions of their time with sparkling wit. Heroes with a touch of arrogance must be ripe for comeuppance and that’s what my ladies are about. Edinburgh provides a glorious Georgian and Regency setting for Bella and London for Mariah. I’m lucky to live in one and regularly visit the other.

Thought I’d use some of the bio writing skills I practised at RNA Harpers Adams conference last weekend to update my amazon profile. Main change is to omit the playwriting references so readers can better see what they’d be buying.

The talk was called Write to Sell Yourself and was given by Clare Mackintosh. Excellent, I thought.

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