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Showing posts from June, 2021

Reading into Writing Will Go by Allison Symes

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Image Credit:  Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Those of you of a certain age will recognize the “will go” element of my title as part of the way we were taught Maths (division) in the 1970s. Without a love of stories, which comes from a love of reading, a love to write will be hard to develop. It will be even harder to maintain. I should have realised the writing life was beckoning me sooner than I did. I loved “composition” lessons during English where we had to invent stories. It was even better when the teacher didn’t set a theme. To this day I prefer open-ended writing competitions! My colleagues all groaned when told to do this. I couldn’t wait to get started.  There were also SRA cards which were colour-coded depending on how well you could read. On one side was the story. On the other were questions about the story. Loved those. Story analysis right there at junior school level! I just didn’t realise it. Breaking down what makes a story work has helped me wit

Things that stop you writing, by Elizabeth Kay

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 As I sit here with this file open in front of me, an entire roll of kitchen towels to my right, antihistamine eye drops to my left, and a large glass of water to counteract the drying-out effect of Cetirizine allergy tablets, I am convinced that hayfever is the worst enemy of creativity there is. Of course, a couple of years ago I would have said the same about psoriasis on my fingertips, as typing with plasters on them is not the most accurate way to work. Then there’s backache, toothache, headache, broken bones, pulled muscles. And the accompanying drugs to combat these may cloud your mind or make you fall asleep. But there are so many other things that can frustrate the urge to finish that poem, or start that novel.             Insects. The drone of a mosquito is enough to distract anyone, because you know that if you don’t get it the little beast will bite you, and give you nasty red lumps that will itch like mad for days. But getting rid of it causes all sorts of other problem

Reading for Research by Wendy H. Jones

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This month on the blog I was going to write about researching your books in the real, rather than virtual, world, then realised my podcast on the topic was coming out the same day. If this interests you then you can listen to The Nuts and Bolts of Researching Your Novel . As well as being out and about doing research and having lots of fun in the process, I have also been doing a lot of reading and having lots of fun in the process. I feel this leant itself to a blog post about reading widely, not only for enjoyment, but to help you get background for your book and to steep yourself in the world of your characters. Whether fact or fiction, there is always something to be found in the pages of a book.  My character, Thomas Graham, having sailed around the world in the Royal Navy, found himself in China in the early to mid 19th Century where he died and was buried. So, some of my reading has been about China to get a flavour of both China and Hong Kong during that time. When reading fict

All in the mind ~ by Maressa Mortimer

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  I'm sure there's a very good reason why the guy at the back is drinking like that? One question I’m often asked is, “How do you come up with your stories?” I don’t know what you say to that, but I don’t know! It’s somebody laughing in a cafe; a dodgy looking car passing us, or a van driving quietly down a little road. I don’t need very much to set off my imagination and usually, life turns out way more mundane than my mind thinks it ought to be. For most of my books, I have made up the lot. They aren’t based on stories or things I have read or heard. I do have some visuals, though. For Sapphire Beach, I used the setting of one of our holidays in Crete, then adjusted it to suit my purpose. For Walled City I used the layout of a game map to visualise Elabi. A character will pop into my head, and I have learned to write down all I know about the characters. A scene might come to mind, or a few lines that I would like to include somehow. Then, for a few days or even weeks, my m

See Two Mountains Shamelessly Hugging!--by Reb MacRath

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The prettiest picture I ever did see shows two mountains engaged in a passionate hug. Oh, I know what you're thinking: There you go again with your damned tomfoolery, always waxing wise with words when wise has already been waxed! There's not a mountain to be seen--just a 9th draft on a laptop screen and a brand new Moleskine notebook centered on its keyboard. But cut me, please, a little slack.  For me, spelling out 'mountains of work' would have been less honest. Not to say that either the 9th draft or the Moleskine used to outline the next book for months would have been a piece of cake if not for a couple of curveballs I couldn't have foreseen. But while I convalesced from total knee replacement, I'd planned to breeze through this last draft on my laptop instead of printing out the 8th draft and working on a hard copy, which I'd then need to transcribe. And I could do this in my Bedder writing corner, taking breaks now and then to fill more pages of the

Passata Joke

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  Life, as I have often observed, is copy. You never know when inspiration might strike. As regular readers will recall, last month it was the drive to school that got me thinking about the changing face of language and where I also found out about the practice of rickrolling.   Oddly, it’s all about driving this month too. Last week was half term so the children were off school. We generally drive up to Towcester to see our cousins and visit Wicksteed Park, a charming amusement park set in acres of rolling countryside. Something always happens to disrupt our journey from Suffolk to Northamptonshire. Often it’s roadworks, sometimes a traffic jam, but you can be sure that we’ll reach our destination tired and crabby, at least an hour after we said we’d be there.   It was just me and the two youngest this time and as we drove north on the A14 (surely the most boring road in England), we were in high spirits. The sun was sinking in the sky, feathery pink clouds enticingly drifting acr

The Book Review - a few thoughts by Bronwen Griffiths

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Most published writers crave reviews but what can we do if they are inaccurate or really quite nasty? I try to review every book I read on GoodReads. There are other platforms but I’m too lazy to change. GoodReads doesn’t allow half-star reviews so I am unable to give a book 4.5 stars and few books merit a five star review. But of course I’m wanting everyone to give me a five-star review! I haven’t ever given a book one-star although I did give one novel only two stars. It wasn’t a bad book but there were things I disliked about it and I tried to make that clear in the review. It also seemed to be a book that rather divided opinion. I felt guilty for only rating it two but in the end what matters is the content of the review not the star rating. One review of my own novel, A Bird in the House stated only that the reviewer didn’t like fiction or reading about faraway places (maybe read the book blurb?!) I read Monique Roffey’s novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch recently. I personally l

The Bottom Syndrome by Misha Herwin

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  A “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is my favourite Shakespeare Play, I’ve acted in it, produced and directed it and seen countless versions on stage and screen. One of the many things I love about it is the play the mechanicals put on for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding feast. I still laugh at “The Lamentable Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe”− especially the scene with the Wall. The humour may be slapstick, but there is an element of satire too. Shakespeare is gently mocking fellow actors and their need to be centre stage. When Quince casts Bottom the Weaver as Pyramus, Bottom is, at first, delighted to be given the lead role, but as each new part comes up he thinks he’d like to give that one a try too “An I may hide my face, let me play Thisby too, I'll speak in a monstrous little voice. 'Thisne, Thisne;' 'Ah, Pyramus, lover dear! thy Thisby dear, and lady dear!' ” Or “Let me play the lion too: I will roar, that I will do any man's heart good to hear me; I

Oh god by Karen Kao

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The god I grew up with was the Catholic God: all-knowing, all-powerful, fierce in his retribution and tender in his forgiveness. The gods I spend my time with these days are a whole other ball of wax. Petty, self-indulgent, more interested in a game of mahjong than the plight of mere mortals. Meet the Chinese concept of a god. The Celestial Kingdom The Celestial Kingdom is the Chinese version of heaven. It looks an awful lot like the imperial capital Chang’An (today’s Xi’An) when China was a kingdom on the Yellow River. There is no one god but rather an entire panoply with a pecking order, too. Lady Mazu in the train. Photo credit: Karen Kao At the top of the power structure stands the Jade Emperor, a benevolent and wise figure. His empress is the Lady Mazu, protector of fishermen and a wildly popular deity in Taiwan. The first time I met her up close and personal was on a train from Kaohsiung to Taipei. She had her own heavenly carriage also known as the lu

Publications or Proceedings? by Julia Jones

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  Today is a publication day. Today, Golden Duck UK Ltd  (that’s Francis and I with the typesetting assistance of our son Bertie) publishes The Holding Pen: 14 days enforced isolation for people living in care homes.   It’s only a booklet: 40 A5 pages swiftly printed by Woodbridge Bettaprint. I sent it in advance to the Helen Whately, the Care Minister. I wasn't seeking a review. I want her to change the current Government policy on isolation in care homes.  This requires that anyone who has spent a night outside their care home must be isolated for the following fortnight. It doesn’t matter whether that night has been spent in their family home (so important to younger people who are living in care homes because of their significant disabilities) or in hospital (under observation perhaps, following a fall) or whether that night was their last in their own home before illness or age brings an end to independent living. All of these places apparently pose such a significant risk

SERENDIPITY --- Bill Kirton

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 I know I’ve already used the title word as part of a previous blog, but recently, the phenomenon has recurred quite strikingly and so I think it’s worth stressing as a useful writing tool. Not that it’s something one can control – such as hitting the right keys, choosing a winning strapline, making sure one’s characters remain consistent, etc. – but it’s important to recognise and exploit it when it happens. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going all mystical, conjuring up spirits, relying on getting access to umpteen alternative dimensions or whatever, I’m simply recognising as a fact that, when researching and writing fiction, ‘real’ information can be much more than mere content. Recently, rather than being content to sip my Horlicks, prune the roses, do the odd bit of carving and wonder whether I should feel fortunate or damned to have survived long enough to endure the current woeful crop of nonentities and/or rogues who ‘lead’ us, I’ve responded to the suggestion of a few friends

Contract Thrillers, by Debbie Bennett

What am I binge-watching on Netflix at the moment? Well for the past month or more, Andy and I have been glued to the television and obsessed with Homeland. To the exclusion of everything else – I don’t think we’ve even watched a film or browsed Amazon Prime or Disney+ or anything else. Which is good because we were bored with it all and looking for something new to get involved with.  Since early 2020, television has featured far more in our lives. When staying-in became the new going-out, having a smart tv and sharing various streaming subscriptions with our daughter was essential to stave off the boredom. And since downsizing our house in 2018, we now only have the one lounge – I don’t count a bedroom television. I never watch tv in bed – so we generally need to agree on viewing material and I can only take so much Wheeler Dealers and Top Gear !  So we are about to start season 6/8 of Homeland . That’s 60 almost-hour episodes in. And it’s gripping stuff. Twists more twisty than a co