During The Past Week… I Went Slightly Insane

During the past week… I went slightly insane.  I could be forgiven for forgetting what day of the week it was, but forgetting which week it was, like I did, is bordering on insanity.

I tore myself away from acute editing mode, and rushed around town like a headless chicken, believing it was my bestie’s Big Birthday the following day. I even cancelled all appointments the morning after her Big Day, anticipating that I might be starting it with a headache.

I was completely blinkered. Blind to the fact that, during more lucid times, I would have known perfectly well that there was still another week to go before the celebrations began.

With approximately two weeks to go before I lose my first-time novelist virginity, I seemed to have lost the plot.

‘Whatever you want call it, it is well documented that to publish a book (and especially a first novel) tends to make a person go temporarily insane.’ Mark Andrew Ferguson. From The Anxiety of the First-Time Novelist.  How a Book is Like a Baby (and How It Isn’t).

Bordering on Nuts

Some might say, I am a little nuts at the best of times, it’s in my psyche.

  • I talk to all my animals
  • I drift off when I’m being spoken to
  • And, sometimes, like a skittish Springer Spaniel, I only respond to being called to heel, if feel like it.

The first forty-eight chapters seemed to go swimmingly, in my humble virgin novelist opinion. Whee!  I thought, but when my virtual hand-holding mentor identified a few, relatively minor and easily rectified plot holes, I started having a wobble.

A wobble that led to panic, plummeting self-confidence and the inability to string a sentence together, as I seemed to have lost my grasp of the English language.

When you are blessed with a virtual hand-holding mentor, one who instinctively knows when to back off while you to sort out your scary writing demons, you can be confident in the knowledge she’ll be stepping back in again to get you over the next hurdle, once you’ve find your feet again.

While I am hyperventilating in my darkened boudoir with only a handful of days left to publication, I know my virtual hand-holding mentor, is still slaving away.  Ironing out all the creases that sent me slightly nuts over the course of last week.

 

There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel, so Why the Confidence Crisis Now?

I had a significant confidence crisis last night. I am not quite sure why, when I am so close to achieving my goal, as I can – finally – see the light at the end of the tunnel. So why did I suddenly feel like a jellied mass with a blancmange for brains?

My self-confidence wobbles throughout writing my first novel, Just Say It ,have been many. Writing is such a solitary pursuit. You rattle away on your keyboard for weeks, months and years, lost in your own fantasy world. Getting into the heads of your characters and then, like the bully that you are, you present them with situations that will challenge them, as well as make them laugh, and cry.

You believe you have a story to tell but, your goal of sharing your novel with potential readers is a darn scary business, and there is so much to learn along the way.

The dearth of blogging on this site since I made the decision to self-publish, won’t have gone unnoticed by some, but the polishing process to get the manuscript shiny enough for publication, has been full-on.  The easy part is writing the novel, the hard part is editing it.

So what to do to hit you pre self-publication angst on the head?

We wannabe authors all know what we are are letting ourselves in for.  At whatever stage of our writing lives, we are going to have to grit our teeth and share our writing with others at some stage.  Other writers group members, and so on. So we need to prepare ourselves when receiving feedback, because we know we are going to have to take the rough with the smooth.

Not everybody is going to like, let alone, enjoy, what you are writing about. And it hurts, when they don’t, but because you are so determined to see your work in print, you will get over it by:

I’ve only read about Writing Buddies. I’d never had one, until very recently, and I consider myself incredibly lucky. It’s made a huge amount of difference to my whole writing modus operandi, as well as during a major self-confidence crisis!

Goodness knows how huge last night’s dip in self-confidence crisis could have been without the person who is ‘holding my hand’ and leading me through the scary self-publishing process.

I’m hanging on every word of someone I barely know, but have every confidence in, because I know she will see me through the maze of self-doubt.  Her faith alone will see me through the crisis.

 

 

 

THINGS THAT INSPIRE ME: Writing Free Poetry – a Liberating Experience

I was recently invited to write some free poetry WE PAW Bloggers E-zine — Issue 74. The subject was, ‘things that inspire you, and’ my contribution, with its innovative title, ‘The Things That Inspire Me’, proved to be a liberating experience.  Poetry was my first love, but it has been several decades since I last wrote a poem, so I am more that a little rough around my poetry edges.

I decided to create a video to go with it. Unfortunately, my recorded voice sounds like someone whose been sitting at a bar all evening and is about to slide off their barstool, so  I downloaded the basic Speechelo package. It’s a handy piece of kit – you just type in your text, and the software spews out a recording of a disembodied voice speaking your words. A cool tool.

Since then, a kind friend has re-recorded the vocal for me, although she doesn’t want to be credited and this this is her version.  Brace yourself for the ending, though.  My sound editing techniques need more work!

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PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE! The Scary Path to Self-Publishing

‘Put yourself out there,’ they said, after the umpteenth rejection of my first novel. ‘Why don’t you self-Publish!,’ they said. I nodded, smiling sweetly, thinking, oo-er I’m not sure I want to take the scary path to self-publishing. 

I had set my heart on being traditionally published and, during the first lockdown, I was presented with the best opportunity I would ever have to buff up my manuscript.  

The first Lockdown , that worrying time when we all had little else to do but think, it also prompted many people to sharpen their pencils and start writing their first book.

Over twelve months later, the competition from others vying to see their name in print is fiercer than it has ever been. In the current climate, agents will struggle to find the time to read all the MS’s they have received from the ever-growing numbers of wannabe authors. 

Blue in the Face

2021 was the time to ‘get myself out there.‘ I’m no spring chicken, so I need to get on with it. So why did I hang around when I’ve been sitting on a finished manuscript for such a long time?  Well, however old you are, your self-confidence often needs buoying up, even if you believe you have a story worth telling, and there is no better person to do that than your editor.

I knew the manuscript would benefit from a damn good edit, but not by me.  I had been editing it until I was blue in the face, but who was I going find to do it?

At that point, I was still unaccepting of anyone’s suggestions about how my  ‘first born novel’ could be improved, as well as being nowty* with those closest to me if they dared suggest any changes.

And then a hero comes along… with the strength to carry on… © Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff.

Well, it was a heroine in my case, and someone who had read the draft manuscript two years ago.  She’d asked me then if I’d wanted her to edit it and, for some ridiculous reason, I declined. I have no idea why. Maybe I was terrified about what her overall reaction was going to be or, how much of it was she going to edit out?

Fortunately, and very recently in the scheme of things, I got over myself and emailed her the manuscript. I was still reserved when I received the edits of the opening chapters, even changing things back to my original version in a couple of instances.

But, around chapter twenty, her suggestions and changes began making perfect sense.  Since then, there have been times when I thought some of the changes she’d made were as I’d originally written them. Ahem.

I am not quite there, yet, but I do feel incredibly fortunate to have found someone who is not only editing the manuscript, but will ‘hold my hand’ through the whole self-publishing process and who is making me feel that self-publishing is not such a scary path after all.

Leaning to trust, as well as respect, your editor’s decisions, is key. Writers pour their innermost feelings into their writing and they should never send their book anywhere without a few sets of well-trained eyes to help improve it, but editors are more than a second pair of eyes, they delete everything that hinders rather than benefits a story.

The bottom line is that an author and editor need to work together because, ultimately you both share the same goal – to get, and keep a reader’s attention.

*Nowty, in Northern British English, means grumpy!  And I am very proud of my Yorkshire heritage.

SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS & THE IMPORTANCE OF WRITING A REVIEW

I stumbled across this image today posted on FB by the author Laurie Buchanan. It made me realise how dilatory I have been recently, when it comes to reading and reviewing the work of self-published authors, many of whom are friends.

Reading and reviewing books by self-published authors is key to their success.

Reviews, good or bad, are important to authors, especially the first timers – whose ranks I hope to join soon. Family and friends might not be entirely honest with you about the quality of your writing, any plot holes, or your saggy middle.

Reviews are also good for potential readers. They help them better understand what the book is about, and whether or not it is the rollicking good read they are hoping for.

I have a huge pile of recently purchased, unread books, which I will start reading tonight.  First up, the four books in the header image, written by fellow members of the Jersey Writers Social Group, Sarah Swan, Dreena Collins, Abigail Summer, and Colin Lever. So, what better place for me to start?  And links to all four titles, and more, can be found here.

BEYOND THE COVID-19 CLOUD – Our Road to Our Recovery

This time last year I had started writing my COVID-19 DIARIES – Life Under the Cloud.  Now, after a surreal twelve months, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 cloud.

A glimmer of hope; our yellow brick road to recovery. Exciting times ahead, but it will be a gradual process, and some things can never quite be the same again. The world at large will have to make significant, and long overdue changes.

COVID-19 was a wake-up call to to the world.  It was the pinnacle of man’s destruction of our fragile earth from climate disruption, to racial injustice and rising inequalities. As we tiptoe our way back to life as we once knew it, certain age-old ideologies have to go.

Our fragile planet is in big trouble, and things cannot go back to the way they were. Changes have to be made. We have to change, from the way we work and live our lives, to ensure the devastation of COVID 19 – or something similar  – never happens again.

To dig ourselves out of this nightmare, our recovery programme will have to be one of global cooperation.  We all need to do our bit to rebuild a more equal, fairer society. We have to do it for our children and for the generation yet to be born.

BEYOND THE COVID-19 CLOUD

My Carbon Footprint

During the first Lockdown, I took a long, hard look at my life. The most important part of our lives are the people in it and COVID-19 so cruelly denied too many people around the  globe that Devine.

Where we chose to live during our very short time on earth with the people we love, is also fundamentally important.  Furthermore, your home, your feathered nest, does not need to be of grandiose proportions.

There were many aspects about my life I wasn’t happy with.  Too much of everything.  Clothes, most of them I’d long since ‘grown out of’, but kept them, hoping that that one day, I would wake up and, magically, slip into them again.

CLUTTER!  I have hung on to everything, random photos, press cuttings, travel memorabilia, coursing back through decades of my life, including my late Father’s motor mascot… which weighs a ton.

Then, I started mugging up about what I could do to best help the planet.

OUR ROAD TO RECOVERY

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

If you haven’t already made adjustments to your life, here are some of the basic changes you can make.

  1. Insulate your home 
  2. Switch to renewables 
  3. Buy energy efficient 
  4. Use less water 
  5. Change your diet
  6. Turn off the lights 
  7. Go digital 
  8. Cycle to work 
  9. Reduce,  reuse, recycle 
  10. Eliminate single-use plastic 

The World Wildlife Fund too, advocate 10 things you can do to really make a change, after you’ve read the Living Planet Report.

We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s not too late, if we act now.  It is of paramount importance that we start now!

If we all do something, however small, to save our fragile earth, we can help its regeneration. The future of this planet is in your hands, and maybe, one day, it will return to being the wonderful world we once knew for future generations to enjoy.

 

 

The Dotage Diaries: The Craft Club

The fact I have started writing the Dotage Diaries means I’ve reached that time of my life when I start conversations with the words, ‘I remember when,’ which tells me I’ve, involuntarily, joined the Craft Club.

‘I remember when,’ is a phrase my grandfather started his sentences with. ‘I remember when… I was your age…’ He would say, and I would wait, wide-eyed with anticipation, to hear what sparkling adventures he got up to when he was the age I was then.

It makes me laugh now because, sometimes, I can’t remember where I left my car keys five minutes ago. Yet I can tell you about the time I fell into a bed of stinging nettles aged about five. My big brother had told me umpteen times not to walk along a wall fringed by 4-foot grandfather stinging nettles. I blatantly ignored him, and he got all the blame for my stupidity.

So how come I can remember what my homework was when I was eleven, but can’t remember which floor of the multi-story park I left my car an hour ago? Well, I am reliably informed that it is something to do with decreased blood flow to the brain.  I used to be able to stand on my head.  I wonder if I still can? It might be an idea to try to precipitate a rush of blood to my brains.

This sad state of affairs is telling me that I have, unwittingly, joined the Craft Club.  I remember when… here we go … I heard about the Craft Club for the first time, while I was earwigging a conversation between my late step-father was having with one of his oldest friends and telling him he had joined the Craft Club. I thought it was unlikely that someone as macho as my step-father would be signing up to master the art of crocheting, or mashing up bits of paper with starch to make unidentifiable papier-mâché shapes. But, whatever club he had just joined, it was the source of much amusement.

Then, one of my gorgeous older friends, who always made quick work of the Times General Knowledge crossword, became frustrated when she started taking longer to finish it.

 ‘I know all the answers,’ she grumbled, ‘I just can’t remember them.’

So, if you don’t know already know, you will have worked out that the CRAFT in Craft Club, stands for Can’t Remember an F-ing Thing.

I’m off to see if I can remember how to stand on my head, failing that I’m going to improvise, and hang upside down in a chair.

 

 

 

JUST SAY IT! OUT-TAKE – Lost in the Basque Country

Lost in the Basque Country – December 1999 – JUST SAY IT! OUT-TAKE

The final edit of my first born novel, Just Say It, has been ruthless. Sadly, this scene with my MC, Lisa, after bumping into her old flame, Rory, for the first time since he walked out on her eight years ago, has got the chop.

‘How can you possibly think about driving anywhere, let alone in a foreign country, without bringing a map?  We’ve been driving around in the dark for hours now.’  Lisa snapped. Rory shrugged.

‘I assumed the campervan would be fitted with some sort of Sat Nav, so it never crossed my mind, but of course, that was before I left home and had no idea, I was going rescue my feisty damsel in distress old friend whose ancient Land Rover expired on the quayside at Portsmouth Docks, and, out of the kindness of my heart, become her knight in shining armour. She then had four glasses of wine when we got on the ferry and threw up all the way to Santander. I know you are feeling like shit, and I know I promised that you would be languishing in a night hot bath at the B and B, La Balbina, three hours ago, but if it were me, on my own, right now, I would get some sleep in the campervan and find the B and B at dawn.’

‘Well, you could have but, as you say, out of the kindness of your heart, you offered to take me and all my goods and chattels all the way to The Algarve, so there is no room for one person to sleep in the back, let alone two. And, yes, okay, I did a bit of celebrating when I got on the boat.  I’ve finally left the UK for good, and I bumped into you for the first time since you went to work one morning and never came back.  I was just about to report you missing when Finty dropped into conversation that you’d been offered an assignment in Australia.’

‘Well, I was young and feckless in those days, and I did apologise by email.’  Lisa sighed while thinking, ‘as if that made it okay?  It didn’t.’

‘Hang on… somebody’s walking towards us.’ A man with a flashlight was weaving around in the middle of the road.

‘Go on, ask him!’ Lisa suggested.

‘Well, I’m not sure…’

PHOTO CREDIT: BASQUE MURALS

‘What do you mean you’re not sure? What is it about men and asking for directions?  I’ll sort this out.’ Sliding the passenger door open, Lisa got out of the campervan and walked towards the smiling stranger.  He was wearing a check shirt, and a large beret at a kilter, which Lisa assumed was the Basque tradition. He staggered and almost fell, reaching out to grab hold of Lisa’s outstretched arms to steady himself.

‘Oh shit, he’s drunk!’  She thought. ‘Boa Noite, senhor. Estou procurando o B and B La Balbina!’

‘Zer esan zenuen?’ came the slurred response.

‘Li!’  Rory shouted out of the driver’s side campervan window. ‘I think he’s talking Basque, and it sounds like you are talking Portuguese.’

‘I know I am talking bloody Portuguese. I’ve been practising for weeks. The Spanish, I mean the Basque, and the Portuguese are neighbours, so he might speak it unless you happen to have picked up a bit of Basque on your travels. At least I’m trying to sort out this mess we’re in!  B and B… La Balbina. La… Balbina!’

‘Shouting won’t help!’

‘Shut up, Rory! Unless you are going to be a bit more useful. He’s about to say something.’

‘Bai… han up,’ came the response.  He was pointing up a track and taking Lisa by the hand, he led her back to the campervan, climbed in the back and passed out.

‘And then there were three,’ Rory sighed, ‘but anything’s worth a try. In you get. He was pointing up there, I think.’

They stopped outside an unlit Basque farmhouse as several unseen dogs started barking aggressively. There was only one dimly lit window downstairs, and Lisa, having assumed the role of leader, went to have a look inside. An elderly lady stirred from her sleep in an armchair, and a couple of sheep that lay at her feet got unsteadily to theirs.

‘I really don’t think this place is in Alistair Sawday’s book, Rory. This can’t be La Balbina. They’re very animal friendly here, but it doesn’t look like a B and B to me.’

There was a thud as their passenger fell out of the van, letting rip a selection of Basque expletives as he got up, which silenced the dogs and proceeded to swagger towards the front door singing loudly:

‘Abestu gora Euskadi’

Sing up Basque country

‘aintza ta aintza’

glory and glory to its

‘bere goiko Jaun Onari’

Good Lord from above

The heavy wooden door groaned open, and the sheep came thundering out, followed by the old lady, who let rip more colourful Basque expletives from the female perspective.

‘It must be her husband…’ muttered Rory.

‘No shit, Sherlock…’

Wielding the shepherd’s crook she was walking with above her head, she brought it down with a fair amount of force across the man’s shoulders and unleashed a few more heartfelt Basque expletives, which the man thought was hilarious.

‘Ouch!’ said Rory. ‘That’s not very nice!’ And with one last chorus of Abestu gora Euskadi, he turned to flash Lisa and Rory a beaming smile, tipped his beret, and disappeared inside.

The old lady nodded her approval.

‘La Balbina?’ Lisa asked, hopefully.

In broken but perfectly understandable English, the old lady replied, ‘Go back down there, turn left, and then right. La Balbina is the first place you see, and I thank you for bringing home my old mozkortuta.’

Looking at the blank expressions on Lisa and Rory’s faces, she added, ‘My old drunk.’ Then she went back inside, closing the creaking door behind her.

Twenty minutes later, Lisa was languishing in her promised hot bath.

The Growing Pains of a Virgin Novelist​

The growing pains of a virgin novelist are real.  It will be six years at the end of June since I started writing my first novel. At various intervals during that time, I celebrated reaching ‘The End’ but realised, after all that deluded carousing, writing a novel is more than just telling a story.

I had just been made redundant when I started writing Just Say It and during the first carefree Pantser-style writing year, I poured out my post redundancy frustrations into the novel I’d carried around in my head, for twenty years.

I wrote all day and most of the night. I would wake up around 3.00a.m., and going back to sleep would be impossible because all I could think about was getting the story out of my head on to my hard drive.

I listened to music and drank wine, whilst I was writing – obviously, not at 3.00 a.m.   The words flowed, along with the Pinot Grigio, and my confidence soared. BUT... with each break I took from it,  I went back to it, knowing it wasn’t right, and spent another year rewriting and revising.

I’m not sure if a more methodical approach at that stage of my writing life, would have helped.  I might have looked less like a spaced-out zombie, but there was no time to be disciplined.  I needed to unleash the beast but, in hindsight, the snapshot ideas I’d been carrying around my head for years meant that I wrote my first novel the hard way. I ended up having to unpick it and put it back together, countless times.

Inevitably, the rejections began flooding in and I had more than just a wobble, it was a total confidence meltdown BUT… you pick yourself up, retrieve your MS from the dustbin, and start over.

Info-dumping, stage directing and extreme scene setting.  I plead guilty to them all. My biggest problem has been repeatedly using multiple point of views in the same chapter/scene, as well as the another issue.  My author’s voice was constantly intruding and I wasn’t aware I was doing it, so it is imperative that you get as many people to read your MS as you can before you send it anywhere. Writing is a lonely business and, in my case, I carried on making the same mistakes over and over again. Your MS needs to be pristine, so you need to develop good writing habits.

Come up with an engaging plot, fully develop your characters and make sure you have a watertight, beginning, middle and end.  No saggy middles!

Constant editing and revising is key and, when you’ve done it a hundred times, do it again!

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from writing my first novel, apart from all of the above, was that my pantser-style had to go, along with listening to music and guzzling wine while writing. I scrupulously plotted my second novel, and completed the first draft in four months.

So don’t make the silly mistakes I made when writing your first novel.  Relieve yourself of some of the pain! Plot it, go deeper, not wider, don’t faff around with subplots, focus more on you MC and their emotional dilemmas.

 

 

 

 

The Dotage Diaries: The Gradual Decline

The Dotage Diaries – The gradual decline is a slow, downhill roll from middle-aged spread.

I’m not sure when your dotage is supposed officially supposed to start, but I fear the tell-tale signs have been around for a while now.  Just small things.  I haven’t got to the stage where I open the fridge door and find my confused but well fed cat suffering from a mild case of hyperthermia. It’s more like leaving my bunch of keys in the car door when I go shopping. Fortunately, on both occasions, I was shopping at Waitrose, the posh place to shop, according to Michael McIntyre, so they were still there when I got back.

Don’t invite crime by encouraging strangers to take your car and help themselves to the contents of your home.

There is nothing good about getting older, which starts with middle-aged spread. I used to have a waist but it has now taken on the proportions of a well-filled potato sack, and the wintry looking, brittle strands of hair, that used to be blonde, is depressing.

I knew all the answers to the Times 2 crossword this morning, but I just couldn’t remember them.  Sigh.

White blonde? N’est pas?

Every morning, I look in the mirror and find another blemish has appeared on my face over night.  Age spots? Marmite-coloured manifestations that come in a various shapes and sizes, and not just on your face.

Marmite coloured manifestations

The eruptions of a crispy consistency that have started appearing on my face, are a concern.  I scratched the last one off.  It hasn’t come back, yet. As a teenager I never suffered from blackheads or pus-filled pimples so I suppose I am paying the price now.

Most mornings I wake up and my joints seem to be wrapped in invisible straight jackets.

I blame all these manifestations on Autoimmune Disease, because living with it is a trial, but I really can’t hold it responsible for not being able to remember what I watched on the TV last night.

I have no control over these things, the weight gain, the forgetfulness, the facial degeneration, they just seem to happen, but, let’s look on the bright side, at least I am still in control of my bladder, well, it’s only when I laugh. 

It’s only when I laugh

 

 

 

 

JUST SAY IT! AFTER ENDLESS REVISION THE END IS IN SIGHT!

In January 2021, I received brilliant feed back on my book Just Say It!
Now, after endless revision, the end is in sight!
Just Say It is my first novel, and I have learned so much from writing it, including the way I wrote the first few drafts. My Pantser days are gone!
It’s been a long haul, including taking time out to write the first draft of my second novel, The Secret Lives of the Doyenne of Didsbrook, which was scrupulously plotted!
It is very important to me that Just Say It gets into print.

This bittersweet story follows the first four decades of Lisa Grant’s life.

Turning forty, Lisa still bears the scars of her dysfunctional childhood.  Her narcissist mother, Elizabeth, is responsible for her insecurities and Lisa needs to break the negative emotional hold Elizabeth has over her. Harnessing her journalistic skills, Lisa investigates her mother’s past and is shocked by what she uncovers.

After finding out the truth about her mother’s early life, can she find it in her heart to forgive Elizabeth for her appalling behaviour over the last forty years?

 

SHOCKING AND APPALLING: NHS staff deserve a much larger pay rise than 1%

Shocking and appalling!  The British Government think it is okay to palm NHS staff with a 1% pay rise!

Please sign the petition to say you agree.

 

I cannot begin to imagine what NHS staff  have been through during the last 12 months. All the sacrifices they made in their own lives to save the lives of others, including Boris Johnson’s!! This is not just an insult but hypocrisy in its worst form.

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION – https://platform.organise.org.uk/campaigns/1813?rkey=SuGkiUfS0VJ6lLgf&utm_source=share&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=ZBnpHfCPfSG2YXp8

Covid: ‘Third wave of cases is inevitable, says top doctor.’

Alex Jennings – BBC Wales Live MARCH 2021

 

Coronavirus: ‘The young doctors being asked to play god.’

Jon Sopel BBC News APRIL 2020

 

HEADER PHOTO CREDIT:  BMJ Blogs

STILL LIFE made the Longlist for the Fiction Factory Flash Fiction March 2021 Competition!

I am delighted to have made the Longlist for the Fiction Factory March 2021 Flash Fiction competition.  
Congratulations to the winner of the competition, Bobbie Allen, with News About Leah.

 

STILL LIFE

Out of the dark, comes the light and the sounds of a commotion. I am focusing on colours, flickering and dancing behind closed eyelids. I snap my eyes open, but the light is blinding, and I close them again. My heart is fluttering, and I imagine a swallow flying in the summer sun.

Flash Fiction Longlist – Fiction Factory competition March 2021

It is cold. So cold. The icy chill has worked its way into every pore, every cell. It has seeped into the very essence of my being.  I am wet. Lying in a foul-smelling ditch, I feel like an alien forced to land on an uncharted planet. I don’t know where I am.

‘She’s down there.’ Someone cries. Who is she? I wonder.

My head is throbbing. Something is trickling down my forehead, over my eyelids, pooling in the corner of my eyes, blurring my sight. It dribbles over my nose and into my mouth. I run my tongue between my lips, they taste salty.

I inhale deeply and wince. My ribs hurt, as a pungent, metallic smell drifts through my nostrils. The constant drip is blood, and I panic. I want to wipe it away from my face with my hands, but my arms won’t move. Pain sears through my body and I start to scream. A strangled wail, as through the pain, I remember what carnage looks like.

Driving in the early hours of the morning, I have the motorway to myself, there is nothing on the road ahead of me as far as the eye can see.

Then, out of the darkness, a thunderous crash. A van travelling in the other direction careers across the central reservation.  It shoots over the barrier and into the air like a stunt motorcycle flying off a ramp. There is a light in the cab, the driver and his female passenger look like they are floating. Their arms are flailing, and their terror-ridden faces pressed up against the windscreen.  My heart freezes inside my chest, and they slam into me.

Squealing breaks, crunching metal. The stench of fear and screams that are not all my own. Slow-motion, contorted images in the darkness. Bodies, limbs flying.  My car rolling, bouncing, plummeting, splintering glass. Then nothing.

‘Lily, can you hear me?’ A disembodied voice asks, I blink my eyes open again and see a blurred outline. Human, alien, I can’t tell. I can hear, but I can’t speak. I can smell, but I can’t feel.

Is Lily my name? Because I don’t remember.

Morning Glow – The Inspirational Light of Dawn

Yesterday at dawn, I was woken by my cat purring in my ear.  There are worst ways of being woken up.  Throwing back the curtains, I was greeted by a spectacular sunrise bursting across the horizon and the inspirational light, together with the birdsong, quite took my breath away.

A vast, glowing sphere of hot gas that shimmers just above the horizon for a few minutes before powering its way into the sky. A surreal moment, during unprecedented times.

I have often waxed lyrical about the sunrise bursting above the horizon and it is never quite the same. Its radiant, luminous glow of deep orange and flame red, lifts the spirits and spreads an inspirational light on a darkened world and heralds endless possibilities for new beginnings.

I savoured the moment. My brain flooded with hooks and cliff hangers, and I’ve just had one helluva dream. Maybe I could turn it all into a mini-series?

I went downstairs to boil the kettle. The start of what was destined to be very productive day.

The Editing Process – Two Years Into the Mix

To be honest, in 2019, I didn’t have a clue about about how long the editing process was going to take. I was so excited to have ‘finished’ my first novel, I believe I would have laughed out loud if someone told me I’d still be editing the same manuscript, two years on.

I have been doing other things in between, but stepping away from yet another edit for a few weeks, before reviewing it with fresh eyes, is an essential part of the process.

I don’t think that, even after reading this, very accurate, C. K. Webb quote in 2018, that the enormity of the task ahead of me had sunk in.

C. K. WEBB – Image © C. K. Webb

“Edit your manuscript until your fingers bleed and you have memorized every last word. Then, when you are certain you are on the verge of insanity… edit one more time!”
C.K. Webb

For a long time I thought writing the synopsis was the greatest challenge, how wrong was!

Getting over the final editing hurdle is the biggest challenge I have faced during the whole novel writing process.  To be an editor you need to be disciplined, a skill I have had to develop.

Can’t find copyright for this one, which has been doing its rounds on Social Media recently, but if anybody knows, I would be grateful if you could pass it on!

It’s such a tough process that it makes me wonder how many first-time novelists fall at the final editing hurdle?

I’ve been very close to giving up, many times, but I have gone too far for that now.

Although I hope not too far and this is me now  

 

What fresh Hell awaits me now?
Rejection?  Let’s hope not!

TRAVEL UNDAUNTED: Amsterdam – Unfinished Business

Matching hair. Falling in love with Ted in Dam Square, Amsterdam, 25th March 2020.

Travel Undaunted?  Well, the last time I did, was one year ago today. On 26th February 2020, I was in Amsterdam smooching, with my holiday love Ted, in Dam Square.

Tuesday in Amsterdam was cold but sunny-ish, so we made the best of the weather and my cartilage-less knees managed to hobble 5.3 miles.  We were in Amsterdam for a family celebration, so nothing would have stopped me from going but, as the best way to enjoy central Amsterdam is on foot, a visit after I’d had my bionic knees installed would have been the sensible option.

As the others took in Body Worlds and the Van Gough Museum, I sauntered through the streets of Amsterdam at my own pace, taking in the sights and sounds.

Dam Square is home to the Royal Palace, where I fell in love with Ted.  We both have the same hair, which I think is rather sweet, but I am philosophical, holiday romances never last.  I should stress that I am not an advocate of horse carriage rides in cities, especially in places where the temperature can soar, but Ted looked like a happy, healthy, boy to me.  I’m just sad I couldn’t fit him in my cabin bag.

The Chicken Bar, Voetboogstraat, Amsterdam. Photo © TheFork.com

In the evening, we went to The Chicken Bar for a meal.  Buzzy, great service, and yes, the chicken lives up to its reputation.

“Best rotisserie chicken and ribs in Europe.”

It’s a small restaurant tucked away in Voetboogsstraat, so it is advisable to book a table.

The Eden Hotel, despite a little confusion over our booking, was a great place to stay.  Comfortable, very central and, oh, they know how to lay on excellent buffet breakfasts.

I have unfinished business in Amsterdam, and I will go back, maybe during the spring/summer of 2021 with bionic knees.

I need to take a canal trip, explore the parks and more museums, as well as to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch by one of the canals, in the sunshine, is also very appealing.

2015 THROWBACK – GOW WAXING LYRICAL – My Place in the Sun

This GOW Waxing Lyrical throwback from 2015 about my place in the sun, The Algarve, has really hit home.  It now 19 months since I last visited the place I love and, as from 2020 had planned to spend more time. Once given the green light, I will be on the first flight.  

Sometimes, when looking back at old posts, I do wonder what was going through my mind at the time. The laughable thing about this post is that I was certain I would finish the first draft of my first novel during that two week sabbatical in August 2015  Given I’d only started writing it at the end of June 2015, I can only conclude that must I have written this post after a visit to my favourite bar. Oh, the naivety of a a virgin novelist!

“Welcome to Faro”.  The Easy Jet Steward announced on arrival last Thursday.  “Please make sure you take all items of hand luggage with you, as well as all your children”.  Apparently last week when that particular crew arrived in Faro, someone left their child on board.

I battled to mow the lawn before leaving last week due to the monsoon season having arrived early in Jersey this year.  So stepping out of the aircraft into 29C heat at 19.00hrs was just wonderful.

As someone who has always spent everything I managed to save on travel – and I have no regrets, the draw of The Algarve has been like a magnet to me since my first visit twenty-three years ago. It is the one place in the world have I have earmarked as my place in the sun.  The place I would like to retire. Sitting beneath umbrella pines at sunset with my laptop, recording the storylines that are stacking up in my head, has a definite appeal.

2015 Throwback – GOW WAXING LYRICAL – My Place in the Sun – loving the Umbrella Pines

These days, going away for a two week break, means leaving Cassie the Blog Dog.  Seen here giving me a rueful look as I made the final adjustments to my suitcase.  I hate leaving her, and hope, one day, I she will be able to come with me.

Cassie the Blog Dog

For now, a friend moves in to look after Cassie and the Cats when we go away.  I know they love her and the guilt I feel about leaving her to go on holiday is, slightly, less intense.

So, here I am! I have just over two weeks to finish the first draft of my first novel, with my laptop, under the umbrella pines, in my place in the sun.

Soothing Your Itchy Feet During the Lockdown Days – You Can’t Be Serious?

Soothing my itchy feet and keeping them happy during these eternal Lockdown days is an ongoing problem. I’ve tried binge watching twenty years worth of travel videos, with my feet propped up on a stool, so they can relive those heady sun soaked, beach filled days feeling the sand between their toes, but they are still not happy.  In fact, one of them is particularly grumpy this morning, and is refusing to get out of bed. Seriously.

Soothing my itchy feet in the Indian Ocean in 2013

I’ve never been interested in the contents of my wardrobe or how bouffant my hair is.  I’ve always hankered after a backpack and a pair of stout walking shoes, well, flip flops preferably, to cover my itchy feet, rather a Gucci handbag and matching pumps.

I am essentially a hot house flower. Living in Jersey, Channel Islands, UK, I get my fix during the Summer months, but if I don’t soak up some serious sun during the Winter months, I get seriously crabby.

Source unknown – the image is currently being tossed around on social media. I’m the one right at the top.

So if my feet are depressed, looking at this photograph of me in April 2013 soothing my itchy feet in the Indian Ocean, makes me seriously sad.

Matching hair. Falling in love with Ted in Dam Square, Amsterdam, 25th March 2020.

This time last year we were headed for Amsterdam.  I had never been before and I loved every minute and I still have  some seriously unfinished business there, but I have to have a seriously hot beach fix first.

There is one positive thing that has come out of the endless Lockdown days, having revisited the picture of me with my Amsterdam love, Ted – which highlights that we both had the same colour hair – it really suits Ted, but the washed out bleached look (AKA grey) on me?  You can’t be serious?

Lockdown is solely responsible for one good thing. My first venture into experimenting with ‘wash out after 8 washes’ hair dye.  I am currently dark blonde but, depending on how many more Lockdown days my itchy feet and I are in for, these are what my next few hair colour experimentations will be… not necessarily all at the same time.

Planned temporary hair colour experimentation over the remaining Lockdown Days – although not necessarily all at the same time. Photo Credit: http://www.heavy.com

I had such great travel plans for 2020, and am now seriously wondering if there is any point in making any travel plans for 2021.

Right, grumpy old woman rant about my grumpy itchy feet is over.  We are off to march Cassie the Blog Dog around the fields while remembering just how lucky we are to be able to do that.

My Constant Companion, Cassie the Blog Dog – Let’s go for Serious Walkies!

 

Authorial Intrusion – Back Off! Let Your Characters Do The Talking!

 At the end of last year, an edit of my first ‘finished’ novel, Just Say It, highlighted a problem – multiple points of views. I largely ignored it, until I received the latest critique which not only highlighted the multiple POV’s issue, but it also pointed out that I was guilty of another writer’s crime, authorial intrusion.  So I need to back off, and let my characters do the talking, but not all at the same time!

The writing process is a constant learning curve, and authorial intrusion was not something I had been thinking about during my current strict editing and revising regime – which has been going on for weeks.  Well, it’s finally, hit home.  I realise authorial intrusion in scenes or chapters is an irritation, as it stops the reader from feeling a part of what is going on.

As for using multiple POV’s, they can work if they are well executed but, head hopping from one character to another during the same scene or chapter, makes it much harder it is for the reader to identify with the individual characters.  I love my characters, and I want them to come alive so, for me at this stage of my writing life, head hopping is something I will be avoiding.

So, I’m working on both the POV thing, as well as resisting the urge to butt in and explain to the reader what is going on. Both these basic errors, point to weak writing.

In June 2015, I decided that I had allowed my writing to drift for much too long. I had got into bad habits, i.e. sloppy writing. It is almost six years since making the decision to become a better writer, and It has been a journey, as well as a serious learning curve.

Early in 2019, I felt I was getting there after I received a glowing critique for one of my short stories, An Honest Review, which had been long listed in a competition, but in the critiquer’s summing up, she said:

“Your story certainly deserved its place in the long list. The reason it did not reach the short list? An Honest Review was charming and very readable and in its way perfect (except for a few surprising punctuation errors – wouldn’t it be a shame if you missed out on a prize for the sake of a comma?)”

Missing out on a prize for the sake of a comma? Never again.  Enough is enough! I am serious about getting both Just Say It and The Secret Lives of the Doyenne of Didsbrook into print, and I need to get on with it.

Writing is a lonely business and I rely heavily on critiques to point out the errors that are holding me back, as well as feedback from all those long suffering beta readers who ploughed through some of the early drafts.  You are, and have been, an essential part to helping me become a better writer.

This last critique, has not only galvanised me into making absolutely sure I don’t make any more of the errors I’ve made in the past, but it has also left me with the feeling that I am now moving forward with a great deal more confidence.

Nail Your Shifting Points of View!

There is always a great deal going on inside my head at the same time as I bounce ideas off each other. Too many, on occasions. I flit and float from one thought to the next, so perhaps that is one reason why I have allowed something similar to creep into my fiction writing. Unwittingly, I have been flooding each chapter or scene with multiple points of view.

I love creating characters.  For me it is the fun part of writing. People are so fabulously diverse, from their features to their foibles, there is so much to work with, and there is nothing more pleasing than transferring what they say and feel from my head to my hard drive.

But, has it  finally sunk in?  Have I finally realised that I shouldn’t head-hop around the page and allow multi-characters to chip in with their POV’s in the same chapter or scene.

Melissa Levine of Red Pen Editing pointed out I had a POV problem towards the end of last year, but it didn’t really hit home then. It took another few months to fully appreciate that my chapters weren’t working as effectively as the could be because of the switching POV’s, which is thanks to a recently received and invaluable critique.

Well, no more!  Gone are the days that I will let multiple characters loose on a page vying for their opinions to be heard.  It’s all been part of the learning curve, although I knew that writing a novel was never going to be easy, but now I’m sorting my POV’s out, I can create a more pleasing read.  Let’s hope I don’t overdo the flashbacks, eh? There’s so much to learn.

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