Goodbye 2016

Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.

It’s not been a good year, has it?

I’m not going to mention politics. I try to avoid that topic as much as possible on my social media accounts. I have beliefs about what went right and wrong this year, but I also respect that other people might have opposing views. In the event of confrontation, I walk away.

The non-political things that affected me this year were the deaths of so many of the celebrities I’ve grown up with.

Here are a few that really made me sad:

  • David Bowie – I saw him in concert a long time ago. It was the Earthling tour, where he’d said he would sing any of his previous songs. But, in the encore, he sang several – including Under Pressure, which is one of my favourites. I was so happy.
  • Alan Rickman – the man with the most incredible voice. Colonel Brandon, Metatron, Harry (can you name this film?), and of course, Snape.
  • Terry Wogan – the sarcastic voice of Eurovision and the host of Children in Need. When I twelve or thirteen, part of my writing dream was to appear on his evening chat show to talk about my latest best seller.
  • Ronnie Corbett – I grew up with The Two Ronnies on the telly, the background to Sunday evenings for many years.
  • Victoria Wood – a Northern lass, a great comedian, and writer of one of the best sit-coms ever, dinnerladies.

I suppose, though, they’re never truly gone. I’ll be able to listen to their albums and watch their films and TV programmes far into the future. And, at some point, I may be able to do so without a tear in my eye.

Updated: I wrote this post on 23 December – since then, I’ve updated three times as  Carrie Fisher had a heart attack, and subsequently died, and Rick Parfitt and George Michael have both gone too. My childhood was filled with every single person I’ve mentioned in this post, I have such strong memories linked to them all. To be honest, I’m struggling right now – I suppose this is part of why I’m a writer, it helps me make sense of the nonsensical…

Okay, deep breath… here’s some happier stuff…

In a year such as this, I think it’s important to remember the simple things, those small good things that happened which, in another year, are the things that might pass by completely unnoticed or taken for granted.

It was a warm, dry summer this year. I wore sandals for months, I didn’t have to wear a jacket or carry an umbrella apart from a few rare days, and I got a tan on my feet (but not my legs, they refuse!)

wp_20150616_11_04_46_proSome people won’t remember it – they tend to only recall the bad weather, whereas I make sure I appreciate the good. If you ever watch me walking my dog, I’m often staring across the river or up into the beautiful clear sky.

We bought new garden furniture and spent a lot of time using it – eating outside, writing, barbecues. We’d spent the previous year demolishing a garage, building a wall and laying new paving slabs, so it was great to not have anything to do but enjoy it.

We went to the beach, to the moors. On evenings when I was working, I walked home with the sun on my back. We visited the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, my sister had a baby, my eldest grew taller than me, and my vignette collection, You. I. Us., was published.

 

I wish you all a very happy New Year. I’m thankful 2016 is finally over, and hope to make 2017 fantastic!

What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Has 2016 affected you?  Or did you have a good year?

 

happy-new-year-2017

 

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#ThrowbackThursday – “So, what do you write?”

Today’s Throwback Thursday post comes from August 2010 (before my first book was published) and – like many of my early posts – didn’t have any comments. In fact, it barely had any readers, which is why I wanted to install this feature – as a writer, it hurts when people don’t read what I’ve written. I don’t necessarily want everyone to like what I’ve written, just to read it. Anyway, here’s the post…

 

“So, what do you write?”

I hate that question.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t wander up to random people in the street and say, “I’m a writer, don’t you know?”, but sometimes it comes up in conversation that I like to write. Usually it’s because the question has already been, “What do you do?”, and when I tell people that I work part-time (14 hours per week), they wonder – aloud and incredulously – what I do with the rest of my time. And I feel compelled to tell them that I write.

aj-books-2-300pxThen the question is, “So, what do you write?”

They ask probably because it’s expected, to show an interest, and that’s great. I’m not knocking the question. I’m knocking my reply… which is always, “Er… stories, modern stuff, um… just stuff…. er, I like to have a few murders.”

“So, you write crime?”

“Er, no… it’s…”

I admit that I’m not very articulate for a writer. These poor people turn away at this point, mentally patting my head and saying, “Well, good for you.”

The reason I’m thinking about this question this morning is that last week I wrote the word surreal on this blog [my previous blog] and the more I’ve thought about it, the more that seems to sum up my work. It’s also a word that defies further explanation, so from now on that will be my answer!

Since 2010, I’ve settled on the tag of Contemporary Stories with a Hint of Paranormal. Of course, then I started writing stories that weren’t paranormal. So, I may have to go back to the drawing board again!

 

Do you struggle with this question?

Are you a genre writer? Does that make it easier to explain?

#ThrowbackThursday – Un-Studying Literature

Today’s Throwback Thursday post comes from the 2012 Blogging From A – Z Challenge, an annual blogging challenge that happens in April. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a great way to get out of your blogging comfort zone, and perhaps find some fantastic new bloggers. About now is a great time to think about topics and start to prepare. I don’t take part every year – I haven’t decided about 2017 yet.

About three days into my English Literature A Level, I realised I shouldn’t be on the course, because that was the time I realised literature shouldn’t be studied, it should be enjoyed.

I know… that’s a mind-bending statement, isn’t it? Well, no – not unless you’re an English teacher.

Think about the writers we study:

  • Shakespeare
  • The Brontes
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Charles Dickens
  • Wordsworth

What do all these writers have in common? They were all popular writers. They weren’t writing high literature – that’s the mantel we’ve placed them on. They were writing prose that the common man in the street, at the time they were writing, would find enjoyable. They probably didn’t place too much store on the symbolism and metaphors used. They just wrote, the same way you and I do, telling their story in the most effective way.

What I’d love to say to my English teacher is:

We shouldn’t be doing this. We should be enjoying the books the way they were intended. We should think about the themes, embrace the story, perhaps even consider the moment in history they are portraying. What better way to understand history than through the eyes of people who lived in it – these authors had important things to say about the world they were living in. They don’t deserve to have their prose broken down into blocks of text for 18 year olds to pour over in sticky school halls, extracting every last significance out of every last full stop and semi-colon. Sometimes, Mr English Teacher, Sir, I’m sure they chose to describe the sky as cloudy because it just was, not to foretell something terrible in a hundred pages time!

My English teacher is currently a member of the gym where I work. I could quite easily walk up to him while he’s a captive audience on the rowing machine tomorrow and say all of that to him.

You’ll probably be quite glad to hear I won’t. I’ll leave him to enjoy his workout.

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This is my last post before Christmas, so I’d like to wish you Merry Christmas.

Slowing down

At this time of year, I slow down. It’s not planned, but when the sun barely breaks out from behind dense cloud and natural light is therefore hard to come by, I just want to curl up and hibernate.

Walking the dog helps, especially when I’ve got this nature reserve on my doorstep. The silence is fantastic for working through any writing problems I’ve got.

Note: that’s not a sunset, it was taken at about 2:30pm!

 

Revising with Rebecca Bradley

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Today, I am over on Rebecca Bradley’s blog discussing my revision process – discover what state my NaNo novel is in right now and what I’m currently drinking!

A couple of years ago, I shared my first draft process, so it was great to be able to explain my next stage. Writing down exactly how I write is quite eye-opening. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone shares my methods!

#ThrowbackThursday – Curious Incidents with Mirrors

Because this is a brand new blog, I’ve decided to start a #ThrowbackThursday feature, where I will be re-posting some of my older blog posts from my previous blog. 

How often do you look in the mirror and think: my long blond hair flows over my shoulders, a little straggly at the ends but nothing a good brushing won’t sort out. My eyes are wide and bright and eager, the colour of the sea on a summer’s day. My skin is porcelain, beautifully clear on account of the full skin regime my mother insisted on since I was fifteen; my neck is long and elegant… etc etc

My guess is not often, if ever. So why do authors invent such peculiar ways to describe their characters?

wp_20161214_15_13_39_proAs a writer, I rarely describe what my first person point of view character looks like unless it is vital to the plot. It doesn’t seem important, because as a reader it jars. I’ve been reading Light on Snow by Anita Shreve, which has inspired these thoughts. On the whole the book was enjoyable and seemed only to have the degree of description needed to convey the plot… until she had her twelve year old narrator look at herself in a mirror in a police station staff room and describe what she saw, in much the same awkward way I did at the start of this post. It was unnecessary to the plot at that point and totally jarred with the rest of the scene, which was quite tense and serious.

I much prefer to visualise for myself what the characters look like; I think that the personality is more important. If, for example, my character was very vain, yes I would definitely have her look in every single mirror and describe what she saw – because it would be relevant. If a character was obsessed by another, I’d probably use that to compare every insignificant detail because that’s what the obsessed person would be doing.

Perhaps I should try to describe my characters more fully: I could have people checking out their features in a turned off mobile phone, the concave of a desert spoon, the highly polished surface of a High Def flat screen TV…. oh, the possibilities 🙂

How do you describe your characters? Do you use strange and unique devices? How do you respond when you read something that jars with the rest of the scene?

 

New blog for (almost) the New Year

Welcome to my new blog.

I’ve been thinking about creating a new blog for a while now, and some recent events made me wake up this morning and do it. Sometimes I just need a push. What events?

  1. A marketing meeting with Ben Galley who suggested I consolidate my blog and my website – this is a compromise of that
  2. Raimey Gallant’s NaNo Blog & Social Media Hop, a fantastic opportunity to connect with writers who’d NaNo’d. I looked at my website – the link I’d shared for the hop to create traffic  – and realised the blog part of it wasn’t fit for purpose
  3. I’m waiting on printer ink so I can print out my NaNo novel effort and start rewriting

But a couple of things held me back – I love my old blog! I love the title, the followers, the history, the fonts!

I first wrote on it in 2010, with the idea that I’d record my journey towards publication. And I did. Nineteen months after starting the blog, my first book Cat and The Dreamer was published. Three more followed, roughly once a year. I shared my early insecurities and fears, my random thoughts and pretty much every single time I suffered writer’s block.

I also connected with some amazing friends and bloggers. It’s a blog for writers, by a writer.

So when I set up my website, I used the blog feature to share the slightly less writery side of writing – a blog for readers, by a writer.

What will this blog be? Hopefully a combination of the two. But who knows! As a writer, I’m a pantser (I write without plotting, simply starting with a blank page and seeing what happens), so this blog could go anywhere.

I hope you enjoy it.