Monday, 10 October 2016

Updates and upgrades

What an exasperating exciting time I’ve been having.

Here are just a few of the ups and downs I’ve had to deal with over the past 2 months.

😧 Computer crashed and was sent away for repair.
πŸ™‚ Was able to use iPad and borrowed laptop instead.
πŸ€” Had to learn how to use iPad and laptop.
😧 Camera developed a fault.
πŸ™ Advised that replacing camera was best option.
πŸ˜ƒ New camera more powerful and with more features.
πŸ€” Had to learn how to use new camera.
πŸ™ Needed new camera software on computer.
πŸ˜• Computer still being repaired.
πŸ˜ƒ Repaired computer returned with new hard drive.
 πŸ˜• Took 3 days to reinstall software and saved files.
 πŸ˜¬ Computer crashed, sent for repair again.
 πŸ€” Had a look at new computers.
 πŸ˜ƒ Shiny new computer!
 πŸ€” Had to learn how to use shiny new computer.
 πŸ™‚ All set to resume regular blogging.
 πŸ˜• Not happy with Blogger changes.
 πŸ™‚ Decided to move blog to Weebly.
 πŸ€” Easier said than done!

I keep telling myself it's good to learn new things, but I could really do with an updated, upgraded brain.

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

A different view

I find the most frustrating thing about writing - apart from all the rejections - are those times when I know what I want to say, but can't find exactly the right words to say it. If I'm lucky, the answer will reveal itself after I've scribbled down and crossed out all the 'wrong' sentences  I can think of, but when I'm completely stuck the best thing is to give up and go and do something else.

Walking is good, so is pottering about in the garden, doing a bit of housework, or anything else that gives my conscious mind something to think about while my subconscious works on the writing problem.

Another trick I've discovered is to switch from writing to another art form. Believe me, after struggling to describe a scene in watercolour, painting it with words is a doddle!


             
 Do you have a favourite activity that helps with your writing?


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Dear Followers (and anyone else who finds this blog)

Just a quick note to say sorry for the lack of posts recently.
I'm still here, but have had blogging problems.
At the end of June, most of the pictures on my 2 blogs disappeared. It wasn't me - it was Google changing something that affected Blogger. Someone,somewhere was trying to fix it but days, and then weeks, went by and my blogs still looked very strange with blank spaces where the pictures should have been.
I reluctantly decided that the only remedy was to abandon this blog and start a new one elsewhere - when I could find the time!
Then, oh joy! everything was suddenly back to normal. I put 'update blog and catch up with blogging friends' at the top of my to-do list ...
                                               and my computer crashed!
So, while it's away being repaired (at least I hope it can be brought back to life) I'm climbing steep learning curves with an IPad and borrowed laptop.

Normal service will be resumed soon, I hope!


Sunday, 3 July 2016

A little ray of hope



Overheard in the supermarket,

                        Little boy:    Look, Mummy, look!
                        Mum:             Yes, they’re lovely, but I can’t buy one today.
                        Little boy:    But books are GOOD!

I wanted to hug them both when, after a moment’s hesitation, the young mum put a picture book in her trolley.

Amidst all the doom and gloom in the news, it’s good to be reminded that the world hasn’t ended and there is still hope that we can help to make a bright future for younger generations.

* * *

(And because I’m determined to remain cheerful and optimistic, I won’t go into details about the problems I’m having with Blogger removing pictures from my two blogs. If this one or When I am Rich looks strange to you – please believe it’s not my fault!)

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Tweet!


I know I said I wouldn’t, but I’ve finally given in and set up a Twitter account. Not sure how much I’ll use it – I’m still at the bottom of the learning curve – but I’ve managed to find some of my blog followers on there and have signed up to follow them (at least I think I have if I clicked on the right buttons!)

If you’re on Twitter and I’ve missed you, do leave your Twitter name in the comments and I’ll follow you.

My Twitter name is @LindaDaunter.


Sunday, 22 May 2016

A Riddle


Q. What do you call a very heavy cold combined with hay fever and tinnitus?
A.  Writer’s block.

I’ve been struggling with it for ten days now!


Wednesday, 4 May 2016

NaPoWriMo – the verdict


Well, April – otherwise known as National Poetry Writing Month
or Global Poetry Writing Month – whizzed by much too fast.
I didn’t manage to create a new poem every day, but I did scribble down 17 very rough first drafts. That’s 17 more than I would have done without the help of the daily prompts and advice from NaPoWriMo.net

I may not have much to show from the month long challenge, but I did enjoy the experience and it has taught me a few things:

  • I don’t know enough about poetry writing to be able to judge my own work. No idea if any of it is any good.
  • My knowledge of modern poetry is very poor. (Must read more!)
  • Calling a poem ‘free’ when you can’t find a suitable rhyme is probably cheating.
  •  I much preferred trying to make poems within strict guidelines on syllable or word counts and rhyme patterns e.g. haiku, tritina, sonnet
  • I don’t think I’ll ever be able to call myself a poet, but I have great respect for those who do.  


I might try NaPoWriMo again next year, but May and June have to be ShoStoWriMos (Short Story Writing Months). I’ve just about reached the halfway point in my story collection for Alfie Dog Fiction and want to finish it asap!

Do you have any plans or goals for May?


Thursday, 28 April 2016

NaPoWriMo - what day is it?

My calendar tells me it’s the 28th day of April but after having a few days away (see my previous post), and then catching up with things at home, I’ve fallen behind with the Write a Poem a Day challenge. But I have been making a note of the daily optional prompts on NaPoWriMo.net, and my muse has been sending me random ideas to fit some of them.

The prompt for Day 18 was: a poem that incorporates the sound of home.
I started trying to write something about the sounds in my childhood home, and then in my present home, but it just wasn’t working. Then I asked one of my fictional characters what she remembered hearing in her home.

Home sounds

I hear my daddy laughing
rich as chocolate, loud as happy thunder.
I hear my mummy talking
light and tinkley, a pretty fairy voice.
I hear the sounds of cooking,
pans clunk, plates clatter, and spoons are scraping.
I listen for feet stepping,
who will come to read my story tonight?
I hear the phone ring, ringing,
Daddy’s ‘hello?’ and then Mummy’s ‘what’s wrong?’
I hear a door’s soft closing.
Nothing but hush. A bad feeling inside.

***

Day 20’s prompt was for: a kenning poem.
A kenning is a sort of riddle found in Norse sagas where the real name of an object or person is replaced with metaphors.

What am I?

Soft shuffler
Flat flopper
Sound muffler
Toe hugger
Cosy comforter
and, best of all,
Home welcomer!

(answers in the comments, please!) 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A 'what if ' too many


‘What if ?’ must be the most useful phrase in a fiction writer’s toolkit. It can – and has – sparked all kinds of wonderful stories.

What if a young girl fell down a rabbit hole?
What if someone found a treasure map?
What if two lovers were kept apart by their families?
What if humans could travel to another planet?

But, in real life, it can be a very disturbing question.

We were planning a weekend visit to my 80-year-old aunt who lives in Wales (the other side of the country from us). I knew she wouldn’t be able to put us up overnight so, after checking she hadn’t made any other plans for that weekend, I told her I’d phone again after I’d arranged some accommodation, and tell her what time to expect us.

A few days later, I tried to call her in the early evening but she didn’t answer her phone. I assumed she must have gone out somewhere.

I tried again the next morning. No answer. Oh well, she was probably out shopping.

I called a couple of times in the afternoon. No answer. Perhaps she was in her garden or visiting a neighbour. But when she still wasn’t answering her phone that evening I began to feel uneasy.

I called my sister and asked if she’d heard anything from Auntie. She hadn’t, but said she would try phoning as well. Another day went by with neither of us being able to contact her.

   My mind filled with 'what if ’s'

What if she was ill?
What if she’d had an accident?
What if something had happened to her while she was away from home and no one knew who she was?
What if she’d suffered some kind of memory loss?
What if I couldn’t find out where she was?
What if she’d been kidnapped? Or abducted by aliens? Or …?

    NO! I had to ignore the ‘what if ’s’ and think logically!

The next morning, I called Auntie's doctor (in case she’d been taken into hospital), social services, and then the police. It was both a relief and a huge worry when they said they would send someone to her house straight away.

   There were more ‘what if ’s’ while I waited for news.

What if she didn’t answer the door?
What if the police had to break in?
What if she wasn’t there?
What if they found …?

And then my phone rang. It was Auntie. She was perfectly okay, although she’d been rather shocked when she’d answered a knock on her door and found two police officers there. The reason she hadn’t answered her phone was that she’d accidentally turned down the volume on it, so she hadn’t heard all that frantic ringing. (I’ve made sure she can’t do it again!)

I suppose all those 'what if ’s' might come in useful for future stories, but sometimes I wish I had a switch to turn down the volume on my imagination!

        

Thursday, 21 April 2016

NaPoWriMo catch-up

There are so many other distractions in my life at the moment that I’ve fallen way behind with the Write a Poem a Day challenge, but here are two more attempts:

When I saw the prompt for Day 14 – write a san san poem – I didn’t even attempt to do it. It seemed too complicated, and I didn’t have time for complicated! It’s a Chinese form that uses 3 repetitions of 3 terms or images, arranged in 8 lines which rhyme a-b-c-a-b-d-c-d

But after a couple of days, the following 3 phrases popped into my head

a free day     nothing to do     be myself


     I need a free day with nothing to do but rest
     and be myself. To do as I please with a free day
     having nothing to do, no deadlines, no plan,
     only a hope to be myself and to do my best
     no matter if I spend that time on work or play.
     But how can I steal a free day with nothing to do
     when my conscience nags me to do all I can?
     I need to learn to be myself, be something new.

***

Day 15’s prompt was: a poem that incorporates the idea of doubles
Again, I needed more than one day to even come up with an idea for a poem, let alone write it!

The Power of Two

Two is an even number
that smoothes out the oddness of one,
and makes a stable centre
for three, four, five and the rest.

Like yin and yang, night and day,
twos hold opposites, reflections
reversed no matter which way
they may be twisted or turned.

Two is a magic symbol
to bring good luck, make dreams come true,
to summon a miracle,
and even bind me with you. 


Thursday, 14 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 13

Today’s prompt was: a poem inspired by fortune cookies

Only time for a quick haiku.


Fortune does not shine
on fortune cookie buyers
but those who sell them.


www.NaPoWriMo.net


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 12


The prompt from NaPoWriMo.net was: an index poem.

The idea is to make a poem using words found in either a real or imaginary book index.
I took a very small section of the index in Life Style by Dr Peter Marsh, an interesting book that I picked up in a library sale.
















I’m not sure if the following can be classified as a poem though – I suspect it’s just a piece of prose chopped into short lines. 
 

Alternative strategies for dealing with vulnerable kids

Statistics show
accidents involving adolescents
are more common
in urban areas
than in the countryside.

Although chances
of mishaps occurring at school and home
are the same everywhere,
teens hurt while involved in crime,
anti-social behaviour
(in streets and shopping malls)
and random acts of aggression,
are more likely to live in cities.

Our solution,
to move accident-prone children
to safer places, such as farms,
has been opposed
by agribusinessmen
concerned at the effect this might have
on the local agriculture
and other environmental issues.

Their proposal
is that secure compounds
should be built in cities
to protect at-risk adolescents,
and those already in the country
should be closely monitored
by animal behaviour therapists.

We await your decision with interest.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 11


The prompt for Day 11 was a bit complicated: a poem closely describing an object or place, then ending with an abstract line that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with that object or place – but does.

I understood it better after reading a poem recommended on the website, but had to wait for my muse to visit the next morning before making my poor attempt.



April shower
                       
Soft pattering on the window,
clear rivulets trickling down,
blue sky beyond.
Catkins on the birch tree
and a robin singing.
                       
To the right, flowering cherry,
maroon leaves, pink blossom,
on the left, tall hedge,
shrubs close together,
many shades of green.
                       
Flowers directly below,
some late daffodils,
red tulips, blue forget-me-nots,
mixed pink and white stocks,
one purple pansy.

My mind is a barren desert.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 10

I was lagging behind with this ‘write a poem a day’ challenge, but I’ve caught up with the help of today’s prompt: write a book spine poem.

The idea is to juggle titles of some of the books on your bookshelf to make something that might be called a poem. Here’s what I found in my non-fiction bookcase:


The Paper Astronaut
sings a
Song of the Earth
for
Life on Earth
while
The Complete Gardener
gathers
Mushrooms and Toadstools
so the
Impressionists
can create
Great Recipes for Good Health



I could have had fun with this all day, but I must go and catch up with my other writing! 

NaPoWriMo Days 8 & 9

napowrimo.net

The prompt for Day 8 was: a poem about a flower

Sounds simple but it had me stumped! What could I say about a rose, or any other bloom, that another poet hasn’t already said so much better?

Staring out of the kitchen window, hoping for inspiration, I noticed a little patch of blue and came up with this:


Jogging my memory

I don’t remember
that plant                                             
growing between
paving slabs.
A weed, I guess.
Curiosity
made me wait,
to see what grew.
Of course!
How could I forget
forget-me-nots?


***

Day 9 was even more difficult.
The prompt was: a poem that includes a line you are afraid to write.

I was brave enough to write a few lines, but not to publish them.
You’ll have to make do with this:

For ?

They say you should be careful
in case your wish comes true
in unexpected ways
that hadn’t occurred to you.

So I’ll keep this one a secret
in my heart and all I do,
hoping I won’t need to name it,
because my wish is your wish too.

(Oh, dear, it sounds like something out of a greetings card, doesn’t it? Not scary at all!)


Friday, 8 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Days 6 & 7


So much to do, so little time, racing to catch up …

The NaPoWriMo.net prompt for Day 6 was; a poem about food.

Such a huge subject that I didn’t know where to start. In the end, I thought about how different the food I eat today is from my childhood meals. When did ‘traditional British food’ start to change? A little trip down memory lane prompted this haiku:

Tradition destroyed
on the day Mum discovered
Vesta beef curry.

***

Day 7’s prompt was: write a Tritina

It’s a poem with 3 x 3 line stanzas + 1 final line.
It doesn’t have to rhyme, but uses 3 repeating end words in the pattern ABC, CAB, BCA, with all 3 end words appearing in the final line.
It felt more like doing a word puzzle than writing a poem, which is probably why I enjoyed doing it!


Universal child

When you last looked out at the night sky
And tried to count all the twinkling stars
Did you wonder who might be looking at you?

Was it possible another you
Was gazing up at a different sky
Seeking a sign of life among distant stars?

How many planets orbit the stars?
A number so vast it will astound you.
Sextillions of worlds, each with its own sky.

You are unique under this sky, but remember you were made from the stars.

*** 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 5

The prompt for Day 5 was: a poem inspired by the name of an ‘heirloom’ plant.

The website gave links to a couple of American seed companies, but I did a search for British heirloom seeds and found plenty of inspiration at The Real Seed Catalogue

The Czar is a tall runner bean with white flowers.
Pink Passion chard is a leafy green vegetable with bright pink stalks.
How could I not put them together in a poem?


Mixed vegetables

King of the allotments they called big Joe,
his veg patch was his pride and his joy.
There wasn’t a plant that he couldn’t grow
be it cabbage, spuds, leeks or pak choi.

Sweet little Sal took the plot next to Joe’s,
Her knowledge and skills were both zero.
She asked his advice on spades, rakes and hoes,
Joe was happy to give her the info.

Sal quickly learnt with Joe’s kind tuition,
soon her carrots and onions grew tall.
Novice Sal became Joe’s competition,
he wished he hadn’t helped her at all.

Jealous Joe did his best to avoid her,
took to gardening at unsocial hours.
Sal missed their chats, their laughter and banter,
felt sad as she tended her flowers.

Joe started weeding early one morning
when a friendly ‘hello’ made him squirm.
Sal had popped up, close by with no warning,
cheery as a bird that’s caught a worm.

Sal said ‘I was just admiring your Czar,
it's the biggest one I’ve ever seen.’
But Joe was squinting at something bizarre,
a bright plant in Sal’s bed, red and green.

‘That’s my Pink Passion,’ said Sal with a smile
‘Come to dinner and you’ll have a taste.
Although chard is best with beans Chinese style …’
Joe began stripping Czar in great haste.

Later that year, at the fruit and veg show
Joe and Sal swept the board together,
then sealed their love with a promise to grow
on a double allotment - forever. 

Some of the lines don’t scan as well as I’d like, and I want to come up with a better title, but I might revisit it and polish it up – one day!


Monday, 4 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 3 & 4

http://www.napowrimo.net/

 The prompt for Day 3 of this ‘write a poem a day’ challenge was: a poem in the form of a fan letter.

I could think of lots of people I’d like to write such a letter to, mostly writers and artists who have inspired me, but I just couldn’t find the right way to start. By the end of the day, this was all I had produced.

Blank!
I need a poetry idea,
A flash of inspiration,
A clever thought, some pretty words
To boost my reputation.
My mind is blank, there’s nothing there
The muse has gone away.
Long hours tick by, the minutes too,
I’ll try another day.

***

Today, Day 4, was completely different. Prompt: the cruellest month.
My subconscious threw this up amazingly quickly.

The Cruelty of March

A perfect March day,
a day you’ll recall years from now
and assume you are seeing those clichΓ©s of spring
 - courting birds, blue sky, skipping lambs -
through lemon-tinted lenses
that make the greens joyous.

Good journey for once,
no hold-ups, wrong turnings or
crawling behind tractors for mile after mile.
Clear roads, windows down, music on
and, at your destination,
a vacant parking spot.

Lovely room, you think,
easy to forget where you are,
a pleasant hotel bedroom or private house perhaps.
Light and airy, pastel colours, a shelf
for all her cards and flowers,
a comfy-looking bed.

You smile, so does she,
and give your gifts with more smiles
hoping they’ll say so much more than your words.
Family news, a strained joke, idle chat
until the interruption of tea
gives blessed relief.

Beautiful view, you say,
as you stand and cross to the window.
The gardens are a picture today, have you seen?
Daffodils, primroses, buds on the trees,
and can you hear that blackbird
singing his heart out?

You hope for a moment,
she’ll ask you to take her outside or at least
make the effort to sit up and enjoy this first day of spring.
She lies quiet, still, eyes half-closed,
and you want to bite your cruel tongue
for talking of new life.  
   
I’m sure it can be improved, and I’ll keep it in my ‘to be edited’ file, but I’m quite pleased with this first draft.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 2


(I did write this on April 2 - honest! - but didn’t have time to post it here.)

Prompt: a family portrait

The only photo I have of my great-grandmother shows a very stern-looking woman …

Old photograph

Sitting so stiff and straight,
the great-grandma I never met
stares at the camera
down the years
towards me.

And these are her children,
only names on the family tree
except this young girl
who became
dear, old Nan.

I recognise her face,
but not the prim and proper pose
or solemn gaze so
unlike the
one I knew.

‘Ah, the old days,’ she said,
and laughed at the memories she shared.
‘Yes, times were hard, and yet,
we did have
such larks!’

I see a new picture.
Photographer nods, mother smiles,
children blink and stretch.
They did it.
They kept still
for a whole minute!

It needs tidying up, but I'm quite pleased with it. 

Saturday, 2 April 2016

NaPoWriMo Day 1


I had no idea what to write for the first day of the NaPoWriMo challenge. Luckily, they post an optional prompt for each day on their website so I had a look at that. Today’s prompt was to write a LUNE.

It’s a three line poem with
                              five syllables in the first line
                              three in the second
                              and five in the last line

or you can use five, three and five whole words instead of syllables.

I tried the word version first:

                             Write a lune they said
                             so I did 
                             but is it a poem?

(My answer was ‘No!’)

After much pondering and editing I came up with this one counting the syllables:

                             In soft lunar light
                             courting loons
                             sing sweet lunes of love.

And then I tried both forms using the same idea:

          (words)   April the artist splashes pink
                                and white blossom
                                all over her brightest greens.

      (syllables)   April paints pink and
                                white blossom
                                on her brightest green.

Not happy with any of them, but it’s a start!

 

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Keeping my promises

Way back last November, when I was too busy to take part in NaNoWriMo, I decided it might be interesting to try the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge in April. After all, I didn’t have any other plans for that month …

But suddenly, it’s the last day of March and my diary is filled with ‘must do’s’.

A few days of April have already been set aside for promised visits to distant friends and family. Various appointments have been made for several other days – some for me, some for him. Saturday mornings will be spent at the art group. (That’s my playtime and I need it!)

My most important writing task is to crack on with producing more stories for my Alfie Dog Fiction collection, but I’m also hoping to steal a bit of writing time to polish up a couple of older stories and enter them in competitions that I’ve had my eye on.

Away from my writing desk, I’ll be itching to get out and attend to my neglected garden whenever the weather allows, and I’m also thinking about doing a bit of decorating indoors. Well, I’ve got as far as choosing the colours …

And then, of course, I’ll need to fit in the usual housework, shopping, cooking, phone calls, emails, the stack of books waiting to be read and the walks I know I should do every day but don’t always manage if it’s cold and wet …

So will I be able to write a poem every day in April? Probably not, but I’ve kept my promise to sign up anyway.

Oh, yes, and I’m also racing to finish my illustration course …

It was a good idea at the time!

Are you taking part in NaPoWriMo? If poetry isn’t your thing (I'm not sure if it’s mine) what about trying the A to Z blogging challenge which also takes place throughout April? It looks like fun and you can choose your own theme. Perhaps I’ll have a go at it next year – although I’m not promising!


Sunday, 27 March 2016

Strange times


A conversation I had yesterday:

‘Must remember to alter the clocks tonight.’
‘Ah yes, forwards or backwards?’
‘Forward one hour.’
‘So if I go to bed at eleven, I’ll have to change my bedside clock to twelve.’
‘You don’t have to. It doesn't officially change until two in the morning. But if you don’t, and forget to do it when you wake up, you’ll be an hour behind everyone else tomorrow.’
‘So that means I’ll lose an hour of sleep tonight.’
‘Unless you go to bed at ten.’
‘Good idea. If I go to bed at ten, change the clock to eleven, set the alarm for eight, when it rings it will really only be seven o’ clock. That means I’ll gain an extra hour.’
‘That can’t be right.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because, um, …’

We’ve been changing the clocks twice a year for as long as I can remember, so why does it still seem so complicated?!

Happy Easter
 whatever time it is where you are.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The real life benefits of made-up stories


It seems to me that there are two sorts of people: those who ‘get’ fiction, and those who don’t. While some of us see nothing strange in becoming totally involved with a fictional character who only lives in a novel, play or film, there are others who look on with puzzled frowns.

‘But it’s not real,’ they say. ‘There’s no such place, no such person. Why waste your time on something that’s pure make-believe?’

Here’s one of my reasons …

I was dreading going to the dentist. Over the years, I’ve had enough traumatic experiences connected with my teeth and dentists to fill a non-fiction book, one of those depressing misery memoirs. But, once again, I had a dental problem and knew I'd have to be brave if I wanted to solve it. Delaying a visit would only make matters worse.

My appointment wasn’t until the afternoon so, instead of worrying about it all morning, I tried to distract myself by working on my latest short story. I managed to write a few paragraphs, but the words weren’t flowing and I soon ground to a halt. I knew what had to happen next in the story but I couldn’t find the right way to explain it. After several attempts, I gave up.

In the dentist’s chair, I relaxed physically as much as I could while trying to convince myself that the ordeal would soon be over. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and – there it was! The next sentence in my story. It was perfect. It moved the story on quickly and clearly, exactly as I’d wanted. I ‘wrote’ the next sentence, and the next, repeating them over and over to myself so I wouldn’t forget them. (Yes, I did have a notebook in my bag but I didn’t think the dentist would appreciate me stopping his work so I could get on with mine.)

I can’t truthfully say I was oblivious to what was happening in my mouth, but having something more important to concentrate on certainly lessened the anxiety. I was almost sorry when the treatment was over. Another two minutes and I’d have been writing THE END.

As soon as I was back in the real world of course, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

Do you have any practical uses for fiction?

 

Monday, 29 February 2016

If the name fits


Most of my fictional characters are born with their names firmly attached. As soon as I have a sense of their personality, and a rough idea of age, appearance and occupation, I don’t usually have to think too hard to find a suitable name.

But, every now and then, I try out a whole list of names and end up rejecting them all. This has just happened in a new story that I’m hoping will be included in the collection I’m writing for Alfie Dog Fiction.

The character in question is a criminal who uses a false name, but his own name is revealed at the end of the story. The false name was easy enough to choose, but I couldn’t decide on his real name.

Hm, let me think. He’s up to no good, but he’s also clever and rather charming ...

Ah, yes, that reminds me of another lovable rogue.

tabby kitten resting on chair, looking at camera

I’ve borrowed his name; it fits perfectly.

(And if your name is Rufus – or you know a Rufus – please don’t sue me for libel. I’m not writing about you. Honest!) 
 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

No more rejections?


During a decluttering session last week, I came across these cartoons that I drew way back in 1990 for the long-departed Writers’ Monthly magazine.





It occurred to me that they just wouldn’t work today because writers no longer collect piles of rejection slips – at least, not the paper ones.

Our books, stories and articles are still turned down by editors and publishers of course, but the bad news is more likely to be delivered by email than Royal Mail. Many smaller publishers, online magazines and websites don’t even bother to send any kind of rejection. They simply say that if they don’t contact you within 'x' number of weeks or months you can assume your submission has been unsuccessful.

There are some writing traditions I’m glad to have left behind – typewriters for example – but I wish now that I’d kept all my old rejection slips. I did have a cardboard folder full of them at one time. I tried to see them as a record of my progress rather than proof of failure.

For example, my first rejection from one magazine was an unsigned, Xeroxed slip of paper. The next one was the same, but with the addition of someone’s scribbled initials. My third or fourth was signed on behalf of the editor, and then - oh, joy! - I received one not only signed in person by the editor, but with a handwritten sentence added saying something like my story was nicely written but not quite good enough. It was still a flat rejection, but knowing that my work had at last reached as far as the editor’s desk made me even more determined to keep trying.

These days, I do keep ‘encouraging’ rejections for a while – those where someone has taken the time and trouble to explain the reason for rejection – but a standard ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ email is usually deleted straight away.

How about you? Do you keep your rejections? Do they depress you, or spur you on?      
 
PS  I’ve just noticed some other things that make these cartoons quaintly old-fashioned. Visits in person to the tax office are almost unheard of now, and the amount I spend on postage in the course of a year’s writing is hardly worth claiming as a business expense.

PPS  As useful as rejection slips can be, an acceptance is always better. Very pleased to report that the first few stories I’ve submitted to Alfie Dog Fiction for my story collection have not been rejected!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

How many blog posts does it take to make a book?


When I reviewed my 2015 goal list I gave myself a little pat on the back. I hadn’t managed to achieve all my targets, but some unexpected successes more than made up for the failures.

But one statistic flummoxed me. I’d signed up to the Goodreads reading challenge and pledged to read 12 books over the year. I was certain I could get through one book a month, and secretly expected to read a lot more. And my grand total?
Only four books? That had to be a mistake. I checked the notebook I use as a reading record and decided I must have forgotten to enter some of my read books. I checked my bookshelves. They were crammed with books I’d read, but my notebook confirmed I’d read all but four in previous years. I remembered giving a bag of books to a charity shop. What were their titles? When had I read them?

It didn’t make sense. I’m reading all the time. Only that morning I’d read a couple of stories in Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special and …

Of course! I’d only counted fiction I’d read in book form. I hadn’t included any non-fiction, individual short stories I’d found in magazines and online, books I’d dipped into but hadn’t read from cover to cover, not to mention all those interesting articles in newspapers and on websites. And as for blogs …! How many thousands, millions, of words had I read on blogs? I’m sure if I’d added them all up they’d be the equivalent of reading War and Peace – at least!

I’ve signed up to the 2016 reading challenge, and have again chosen the modest target of twelve books, but I won’t be surprised or disappointed if I don’t make it. There are just too many reading distractions out there!


Here are two books (both Christmas presents) that I doubt I’ll get through by the end of the year. The last Writers’ & Artists’Yearbook I bought for myself was the 2012 edition, so I’ll be reading the new articles in this year’s edition very carefully, but the listings of publishers, agents, magazines etc. will be dipped into as and when I need them.

The other book, Photocrafty by Sue Venables, offers hours of distracting fun with suggestions for 75 photography projects. Can’t wait to get started on some of them. (Except I’m supposed to be writing – and reading!)      

Have you given yourself any reading challenges this year?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Here we go again


Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. Any day could be the day when everything changes. Any day might be the one on which a new idea, an unexpected opportunity or a chance meeting makes your dreams come true.

So why is the first day of January extra special?

For me, it’s the day when I look back over the previous year, remind myself of the good things that happened, and decide that the not-so-good things were really only minor disappointments and problems that can now be forgotten. It’s the day I stop feeling I’ve failed because I haven’t ticked off every item on my to-do list. I take great pleasure in ripping it up and writing a smaller, more manageable one. It’s the day I open up my new diary and flick through all those lovely, blank pages.

In 2016 there are 366 days of new possibilities!

Ready, steady, go!

Happy New Year!