Showing posts with label Research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Research. Show all posts

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Here and Now...

The Present

Yes, I'm back. Four months since I last posted and you may have forgotten I exist...

I'm into a routine and writing again; important as the the RNA New Writers' Scheme deadline draws ever nearer...

The last four months have been busy.

The Past

The Covid-19 virus hit my family as the country went into lockdown. Writing stopped and the priority was dealing with the resulting health issues- those were scary days.

Putting up the
I did read, in fact I read so much that the battery on my Kindle e-reader finally died! As I discovered when I ordered a replacement, there weren't any and I'd have to wait for an unknown time. It took about a month, but it arrived.

There's been lots of research reading, baking and gardening going on too- though that's probably obvious from the pictures...

Making Fruit Scones...

Growing Salad Leaves
from seed...
Reading for Research,,,

The Future?

I've also been thinking about the future of this blog, and my Serena Lake website/ blog. No final decision has been made yet as I need to research further options, and the practicalities may mean compromises.

There's lots of catching up to do...

Monday 16 April 2018

A Vintage Break...

That title sums up my weekend.

Sunday I attended Lou Lou's Vintage Fair held at the Albert Hall (no not that one in London);this one is in Nottingham City Centre next to the Playhouse (the smaller of the two theatres in the city).

Going Vintage...
I was looking for a few 1920's pieces for inspiration  on one of my future projects.

Now I love brooches. I have a few inexpensive costume jewellery brooches that my mum wore on her dresses or coat when I was a child, but rarely wear myself.

Possibly that's why I started a board on Pinterest just for Brooches - old and new,

I took it as a good sign for the story, that in my first ten minutes at the fair I got a lovely Art Deco brooch and a postcard of the poster for the New Pullman Express, The Southern Belle, which travelled from London to Brighton in the early 20th Century- this was one of my initial research areas for the idea.

It's unsettling to see clothes and household items that were so familiar when I was growing up, but equally disturbing when the clothes from the 1970's were now considered vintage- though perhaps it's not so bad if you call them retro instead!

There was a wonderful selection of cakes on sale to go with tea in proper cups- no plastic there...

I found a few items of 1920's clothes on one of the rails, a black coat with a high velvet collar, and a couple of dressing gowns with beautiful red/plum silk linings. Even though they were aged (and on a coat hanger) they still exuded that suggestion of elegance. Sadly they had to stay on the rail...

It was a fun and relaxing few hours and has certainly reignited my interest in collecting brooches.

From a research point of view vintage fairs are especially useful for 1930's-1950's household items, clothing and jewellery.

(Etsy seems to be another useful place to look.)

Also there will be true aficionados attending; they dress up with the clothing, hairstyles and jewellery of their chosen decade.

When I stopped for coffee and cake I shared a table with two ladies, one dressed 1940's and the other 1950's. I felt quite overdressed in jeans and a jacket!

Have you been to a vintage fair or similar event and did you enjoy it?

image from Pixabay

Thursday 1 March 2018

Snow and More Snow but Inspiration Too...

It's rather cold and snowy in my part of Nottingham.

Where's that come from?
Where does the road start?

Usually we escape or just get a light fall that melts the moment it stops, but yesterday evening it started snowing and didn't stop; today hasn't been much better as the cold wind keeps blowing the snow everywhere...

Sadly the bad weather meant the writers' club had to cancel the regular meeting yesterday evening (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Friday) I'm not going to attempt the journey to Leicester for the RNA chapter.

I always take pictures of the snow (when we do get it) as it can be very useful to refer back to when I'm writing a story set in winter. It can help with description and recalling the thoughts and maybe memories that go with the moment- at least that's how it works for me!

Not sure how helpful these pictures will be this time!

Wednesday evenings (when I'm not at the writers' club) I'm usually on Twitter for #writingchat between 8-9 pm (GMT), so for a few minutes before and after the session I catch up on the tweets and images. There were quite a few snow pictures of course.

That was when I had one of those YES moments, when I saw a particular image, an empty snow strewn street in Stamford.

The best way to describe it is a sensation, as if an invisible pebble has dropped inside me somewhere and the resulting ripples are the possibilities. I've learnt that for me it's a visual trigger and somewhere in my subconscious cogs are turning. It won't necessarily be used straight away, but could be months or even years to come, but it will be used.

Some of those moments will immediately create a scene which will be the starting point for a story to develop from, others find their way in later as with my current WIP.

I was researching the history of Goose Fair in the local studies library for a story project- it was a long time ago and my writing has improved a lot since then- and I came across a book of newspaper cuttings and there was a recollection of an unusual weather event. I noted it down, although I lost the piece of paper with the details on, the event stayed in my memory.

Very many years later one snowy winter travelling up the motorway a local news report mentioned a rider who had been thrown off their horse and injured, of course the horse had gone back to its stable, and the rider located, but sadly it had not ended well.

These two separate events though years apart clicked and the synergy produced an image. (It's actually part of the back story of my WIP but I only discovered that much later.)

You can still read that very early story from the Goose Fair research- I did say I've learnt a lot about writing since then, didn't I?

Sadly the ' and " " symbols have turned to little squares, as it was loaded onto the site in 2003, and clearly doesn't format well with modern systems. You have been warned, it's here.

Hope wherever you are the bad weather hasn't given you too many problems. Stay safe...

Monday 14 August 2017

Guest Post: Sally Quilford and The Curse of Lakeham Abbey...

Today I'm delighted to welcome author, and friend, Sally Quilford to Carol's Corner, to talk about her new book The Curse of Lakeham Abbey and how to manage writing a sequel.

The new book...
Sally is the author of well over 20 novels, and has written in several different genres, including romantic intrigue, science fiction and crime. A number of her romantic intrigue novels were also published in Large Print.

Then Lakeham Abbey came along.

So over to you Sally...

Characters that go Bump in the Night

When I wrote the first novel in the Percy Sullivan series, The Secret of Lakeham Abbey, I had an idea that I would follow Percy through adolescence and into young adulthood, as he solved crimes, fell in love and generally learned to be a nicer human being (because let’s face it, he can be a bit cranky). That was the idea.

So, it was a bit disconcerting when, the next time he visited me – in the middle of the night as most characters are wont to do – he said ‘Actually, I’m old and cranky now and living back at Lakeham Abbey in 2017 and I have a very interesting story to tell you…’  I immediately saw him as Sir Ian McKellan, in a wheelchair, wearing a Panama hat and a light coloured suit, listening intently, with a mischievous look in his eyes, as relationships ruptured around him, murders took place and secrets were unearthed in the house where his career as a sleuth began. Other authors will recognise this tendency for characters to turn up at awkward times to tell you their life story.

Sally Quilford
I was immediately faced with a dilemma. Should I write The Curse of Lakeham Abbey and put it aside until after my death, as Agatha Christie did with Hercule Poirot’s Curtain? Or do I publish it and be damned? On the basis that I’m a) too impatient and b) it’s unlikely that anyone will be clamouring for my unpublished novels, I decided to write it and send it to Crooked Cat, hoping that they liked the idea as much as I did. I’m glad to say they did!

Writing a sequel is not easy, as any writer with a long-running series will tell you. You have to make each novel standalone, whilst still giving a nod towards earlier events for those who are following the series. It’s even harder when your sleuth decides to age 70 years! I wanted to suggest Percy’s long career as an amateur sleuth, without actually giving any details away, because quite frankly, I don’t know what he plans to tell me next.

The last time we met, he had been a truculent teenager. I needed to keep some of that truculence, whilst still letting him mature. In a sense, it was exactly the same as catching up with an old friend and finding that whilst they had changed, they still had the traits that attracted you to them in the first place. I hope that I’ve somehow managed to convey that in the story.

Equally difficult was writing a follow up novel that, whilst still crime, was a change of sub-genre. The Secret of Lakeham Abbey was set in the golden age of detective fiction, with upper class people enjoying country house living, whilst murders took place around them. The Curse of Lakeham Abbey, by dint of being set in our era, could not be the same. So I took my inspiration from the current rake of domestic noir novels, where miserable couples hide behind a veneer of civility.

I don’t know where Percy will take me next; I just hope he lets me get a good night’s sleep next time!


Thank you Sally. It sounds like Percy will be keeping you busy with further tales in future, and look forward to those too. :-)

I'm sure the Curse of Lakeham Abbey will be another success so if you want to get your copy asap here's a couple of direct links for you.


The Curse of Lakeham Abbey is released on 15th August 2017 and is available to buy from in paperback, and on Kindle.

On paperback, and on Kindle.

Sally is holding a launch party over on Facebook on Tuesday 15th from 10.00 am (British Summer Time) so pop along to celebrate with her.

Monday 13 February 2017

Planning Research Trips...

The arrival of the latest newsletter from the Fashion Museum in Bath reminded me that I'd planned to go back this year so I could see A History of Fashion in 100 Objects. It runs until 1st January 2019.

Alongside the main exhibition there's always a second. Recently opened is  Lace in Fashion, which features items from the 16th century up to the 21st, and  runs until the 1st January 2018.

I hope to go in May for a long weekend, but it's not guaranteed, it depends if I can fit it in around other events and some major work at home.

There were a few other museums that I didn't have time to get to on my last visit, The Holburne Museum- you can walk the length of Great Pultney Street and admire the Georgian architecture as you pass by, then you reach Sydney Place and see the Museum across the road- very impressive.

Also the Bath Postal Museum was missed out last time.

If you're going on a research trip, near or far, do you do any specific planning ahead, so you make the best use of your time? Or do you take a more easy-going pace?

If I'm travelling any distance and need to stay overnight then checking rail fares and hotel availability- within budget- is the first task after deciding I'm going.

If you're travelling by car, parking can be an issue in popular locations, and another cost you need to take into account. On our York trip last year we chose a hotel with its own parking, and walked everywhere...

Many places put on festivals and events during the year, which almost guarantees limited hotel choice- plus more people who may be visiting the places you are, so I try to work around these if I can.

Of course there may be a particular occasion/festival taking place that you're interested in so plan and book well in advance.

The websites of the places I intend visiting will usually have a lot of relevant information- especially if it's a large city that gets a lot of tourists and visitors. Other smaller places are sometimes run by councils so may have limited details.

So it's always a good idea to see what available, opening times, entry charges, and directions. There are less well-known gems around the country...

If you have any difficulty walking it's important to know if there's any areas you can't access, or if there's any lift access- many museums have done work to make as many places as accessible as they can, but that's not always been possible.

Likewise photography can be another issue, so I either ring or email the place via their contact details and ask what their policy is.
I'll also check when I get to the venue as sometimes there can be a few areas within an exhibition that are a no-no for cameras, even if the rest of the place it's okay.

Print off a street map of the central area where museums and places of interest are located if there's one available online. You may even be able to buy a small fold-up map when you get to your destination.

Last summer in York, the hotel had photocopies of the map for city layout at the reception desk, making it easy to find which way to go if you got lost, or were aiming for a particular venue.

Weather you can't do much about, but be prepared for it when you pack (unless you're going hiking in the hills or the wild of somewhere when extra precaution are needed) a waterproof jacket that can be folded up into its own bag is ideal.

Don't forget the chargers for your various essential devices (camera, mobile phone, laptop or tablet) or if applicable, spare batteries.

Plus the ever trusty notebook and pens, and something you can put your receipts and leaflets/brochures into for referring back to later, or for recording in your accounts.

Over the years I've learnt to take a photo of information boards connected with the other images I'm taking pictures off.

Information on stonework
being restored at York
You think you'll remember but you won't, and you might just need to confirm something when you're writing.

But most of all, leave time to just take in the atmosphere and enjoy the place you're visiting. It shouldn't all be work...

A lazy Sunday morning in York...

Is there anything you always do when you're planning a visit somewhere, or do you go with the flow?

Perhaps I plan too much... :-)

Monday 20 June 2016

Back from York...

On Friday I travelled up to York to visit a couple of exhibitions, as well as take advantage of a short break with my husband, minus the family- who are now all adults and can look after the house and themselves.

I must admit there was a pile of dishes in the sink when we got back today... :D

I took lots of photos in York- some for blog posts now, others for later in the year, and a few for Serena's blog; and more random images that I'm sure I'll find a use for.

Having just checked how many, there's 600+. That's going to take me some time to sort out, choose, and label.

I'm amazed I can actually move, as I did so much walking while I was away. Each evening when I got back to the hotel and finally stopped still, my muscles stiffened up and I just wanted to lie down and watch the TV.

After hearing about Betty's, I actually got to experience the tearoom. We were downstairs, but the service was the same as upstairs, and we didn't have to queue up as long either.

We stayed about five-ten minutes walk from the Minster, so we got to admire the amazing craftsmanship, past and present, several times a day.

More soon.

A View of York Minster...

image from Pixabay.

Sunday 13 September 2015

History, Books, Cotton Wool and Tights...

If you wonder what cotton wool and tights have to do with books and history then you may be surprised.

But first...

Saturday 12th September was the Heritage open day for Bromley House Library- originally called Nottingham Subscription Library. They take part in the events every year, but previously it's been necessary to book, and I've always missed out; so I was determined to go this year, and was pleased to see that there was no booking this time. The queues to enter started after I arrived...

The house is a Grade II* listed Georgian townhouse, that was built in 1752, and the entrance door is easy to miss bordered by shops on both sides- where originally there would have been rooms. But once inside, and looking at the back of the building from the garden, you can see how large Bromley House once was...

In the garden...
This is one of two Georgian gardens in the city centre- though the other one is not open to the public. There are three huge Plane trees- of six that were originally planted in the late 19th century. As now, they were planted to absorb the pollution in the air- the bark absorbs the toxins and peels off, though these trees were extremely knobbly.

A very old Plane tree...

Considering the amount of traffic that passes in front of the house (all buses going south and west) and a little beyond the back of the garden, one of the main roads, the noise was very muted, protected by the high walls of the buildings alongside.

There were lots of volunteers guiding people and providing information, and who wouldn't enjoy visiting a library that retains the wood and architectural features of the past.

I forget to mention the 40,000+ books... Every available space has bookshelves and lots of book collections- it reassures me that my eight Billy bookcases full, at home, is quite restrained. :D

There's local history, numerous biographies, and they have the library of the British Sundial Society. The sundial that used to be in the garden was stolen many years ago, and all that was left behind was the metal style (the sticking up pointy bit) which was on display in the Neville Hoskins Reading Room - it has a plaster Rococo style ceiling.

Every room I went into- and there were lots of them- I noticed books I'd want to read, and you could see other books awaiting repair and cleaning - they were bound up.

Books in need of repair
So now I'll tell you what cotton wool and tights have to do with old books...

Cleaning cloth-bound book covers.

If you've ever bought old books from the early part of the 20th century then you'll know how dull they have got over time.

Obviously you wouldn't do this to extremely valuable books, but dusting and careful gentle cleaning shouldn't be a problem for standard works.

The tools for cleaning...
A piece of cotton wool placed in a cut up piece of tights or a stocking- gives a slight abrasive effect- dipped into Vaseline, and then dabbed off onto the lid, so there's hardly any left on the pad, and then the cover is gently cleaned, and finally gone over with a cloth- the sort that doesn't shed fibres.

The ladies were all volunteers, and kindly answered my questions about repairing and cleaning the books (writing research, and advice for my own cloth-bound books that need a bit of help).

Saturday's volunteers were one of four sets, so one week a month there will be one day when they are in conserving...

I did make the spiral staircase wobble for a moment when I went down the first turn, which is why people are only allowed to go up or down one person at a time (on Saturday it was the down route from the gallery).

You can see the staircase in one of the rolling home page pictures on their website (link at the top of the post). It was added in 1857, and does not have a supporting column like most spiral staircases,

The library is certainly a delight for any writer and/or reader, and I'm sure that on a warm sunny day the garden is a haven.

I'm seriously considering applying for membership in the future...

(You can now see a couple more images from the day, along with a little more history over on my website at Serena's blog.)

Saturday 29 August 2015

Fun and Learning at the Museum...

This past week I finally got over to Derby and visited not only Pickford's House Museum of Georgian Life and Historic Costume, but also the Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

I was surprised how much there was to see at Pickford's House, and even more amazing were the unexpected answers to a few research queries,. like sort of objects that might be found in the rectory kitchen in my Nottinghamshire story.

But the biggest surprise was walking into the display bedroom and seeing the four poster with curtaining.

Apart from the colour of the drapes, this was how I imagined my hero Hugh's bed. The bed in the museum is a reproduction but was made to the original 1797 design, so it would fit time-wise.
The four-poster... 

There was a lovely and restful Georgian Garden.

Though this garden was from a design plan for a formal Georgian garden in Lincolnshire. It was in the style of the 1830's, with species planted that would have been available at the time.

Sadly some plants died, and others were planted in their place, but not quite right to the time, so when the garden was refurbished in 2005-2006, they used plants around and up to 1800- as the house was built in 1769-70.

Though there were a few plants of later dates that had happily established themselves since they were originally planted, so they stayed in place.
Part of the Georgian Garden...
For fun I did the 'put your head in the cut out stand-up scene' and have your photo taken. I did take my glasses off to fit the time-period.
Fun time...

The painting that was used as the basis for the cut out scene is actually on display in the museum for a while as part of their Georgian Children exhibition.

There was also a small display of historic costume for both men and women.

mid-18th century brocade dress, hat
and pocket
The Pickford family could afford to have the house built for them, and include fashionable features.

The Hallway is a perfect example. It has neo-classical motifs on the walls and ceiling.

Though I took a picture of the ceiling, it is worth seeing in person if you get the opportunity. It was definitely intended to impress.

The hall ceiling- designed to impress...

The couple of hours I spent wandering around the displays was extremely enjoyable, and the museum staff were knowledgeable and clearly cared about the House-and being able to share its delights with visitors. But like many council funded museums their future is always under review, and it is footfall and feedback that holds sway.

You can find out more about Pickford's House in Derby on their website.

If you pop over to my other blog on my Serena Lake website you will find some alternative information on the house, and a few more photos.

Just want to say hello to the charming American lady who I met in the kitchen and gave my blog details to. Like me, she was taking lots of pictures. If you're reading this I hope the rest of your short trip to England has gone well, and you got to visit some of the other places we were able to suggest.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Planning Museum and Gallery Visits...

Now that Serena's website is complete with it's own domain name, I'm considering a few visits to museums and galleries within the East Midlands so I'll have some interesting items to share here and on Serena's blog. And of course they will be research trips too.

I need to be able to complete the visit in a day, either by bus or train - I may even need to use both!

Locally, Nottingham Contemporary has an exhibition called The Grand Tour; this currently has loans of fine and decorative art from Chatsworth (the popular stately home in Derbyshire) but set among work by contemporary artist Pablo Bronstein, with Baroque inspirations.

Visiting a museum...
Over in Derby, there's a few museums to visit, but I'll be going to Pickford House as it has the Museum of Georgian Life and Historic Costume- the research side of the trip.

It's always interesting to see the different versions of Georgian life, as so often it's big stately homes that get visited.

The Museum and Art Gallery in Derby also has a Grand Tour event. This is a display of paintings by Joseph Wright, 'The Colosseum by Moonlight' alongside 'The Colosseum, by Daylight' are featured.

The Moonlight painting has apparently had "extensive overpainting by an enthusiastic restorer during the 20th century". It's going to begin a conservation process this autumn, so the next time it's seen by the public it will look more like it once did.

It's easy to miss what's happening locally when you live in a city with so many events, and what's available in other locations within travelling distance.

Do you have a gallery or museum that puts on tours or events you can visit?

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix &

Sunday 12 October 2014

Dialogue & Dialects...

Last week at Nottingham Writers' Club we had a mini-workshop on dialogue.

Now dialogue has never given me issues, description yes, but not dialogue. But we all have areas of difficulty in our writing, and it doesn't mean we won't improve if we work at it.

For those who may not know, dialogue can be used to display character, provide information, but it must help move the story along...

When I was a teenager and started writing, my stories were dialogue heavy- emphasis on heavy. :D

I was fortunate to be exposed to different accents as a child; visits to my Somerset or London relatives, and regular trips to Lewisham market with different cultures emerging (in the 1960's).

Television and Radio no longer restricts what we hear to 'received pronunciation' (old style BBC English), and with regional BBC programmes you'll hear a wider range of accents. Actors no longer have to lose their natural accents to guarantee employment either.

Consider how many programmes have used regional accents/dialects and been successful: 'When the Boat Comes In', 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet', and 'Rebus' among them.

But what about dialect in books?

There was a recent article in The Guardian online, 'A Difficulty with Dialect' by author Debbie Taylor. She wrote a book called 'Herring Girl' and was advised to get rid of the dialect before submitting- she said she went for the "dialect lite"option. She regretted how much she'd taken out when she read it out to an audience at a launch party.

At our workshop some of the attendees didn't favour limiting dialect. As an experiment one member spoke in his natural dialect, and while some understood, or were able to make a reasonable guess at what he said, others couldn't. But we all agreed that it was easier to listen to, but probably wouldn't have been if we'd been reading it.

Personally, I prefer the occasional word or phrase that the reader might associate with a particular accent, and paying attention to whether a slightly different sentence construction is characteristic of the natural speech.

There are resources available if you want to hear how people from different parts of the country sound. Here's a few:

British Library- Sounds Familiar?

The International Dialects of English Archive.

The BBC-Voices.

(These will also help with social history too.)

Even though I've lived in the East Midlands for nearly thirty years I still have my southern twang- long sounding a's in words such as glass and bath being the most noticeable. :-)

So what are your thoughts on dialogue, accents and dialect?


Saturday 1 February 2014

Connections and Respect...

Having got back into a steady routine of writing and blogging, my life was thrown upside down last weekend by not only losing my broadband, but my phone line too.

Okay, I know. If my phone line goes then so will my broadband. Unfortunately it happened the other way round for me...

I should add that we suspected our loss of service was 99.9% related to the engineer (from our provider) who was putting a broadband line in for one of our neighbours, as we lost our broadband about the time he would have been connecting up to the box in the pavement.

All the cables run under our pavements where we live, so we don't have any telegraph poles with wires running across.

But the provider's fault system requires you go through the testing routine, and of course their instrumentation said our broadband signal had no drop-out (!!!!) and the problem was our phone line-further tests then went on to blame our house wiring, and warnings that if the engineer came out we'd be liable to pay nearly £130 if it wasn't their equipment at fault.

So from Friday evening until the engineer arrived early Tuesday morning we were stuck. You get a lot of other things done with no phone calls, or Internet to distract you. (I read three e-books on my kindle.) But my desk had to be moved right up against my bookcase!

Very pleased to say that the engineer quickly found that the problem was outside, and as we'd suspected on the Friday when we started losing our service, it was related to what the other engineer had done.

Took about an hour+ to fix and test- even that wasn't trouble-free, but eventually we had a working phone and broadband line.

But it has taken the rest of the week getting the bandwidth back to where it was. And don't mention how many e-mails there were to sort through!

It's only when you lose your broadband that you realise how much of everyday life has moved online.

We communicate with friends and acquaintances from all over the UK, and in other countries, as if they were in another room. We use the Internet to interact with companies and services, even publishers! It's often easier to contact a company online than it is by phone...

The Internet has opened up so many resources that writers, a hundred years ago, would either have had to make a time-consuming trip to access the location, museum, gallery or specialist library and spend hours finding the information needed, or send lots of letters to get the answers.

My loss of broadband for those few days certainly increased my respect for those early writers. Their books may have been shorter word counts than we produce now, but they put as much, if not more effort, into producing their manuscripts.

It also makes you realise how much we take access to information for granted.

If the Internet hadn't been invented how many of those essential services and goods we writers depend on, would not have been invented? How many companies and organisations that employ, and sometimes support, people (including writers) may never have come into existence?

That's slightly scary...

Monday 26 August 2013

My Holiday Visits-Part 1...

The issue with holidays is how long it takes to get back to normal once you return home- in my case a week...

Last Saturday I was in York. The weather was a bit iffy, so we decided to visit York Dungeons.

This took about an hour, but in that time you went through history, and audience participation was requested from simple booing to 'volunteering'.

The actors in a few centuries were scary, the odd one or two OTT, but it was fun.

Unwisely one of my sons heckled the judge and ended up in the dock charged with despicable crimes- fortunately he was allowed to go free after that...

But if you do go, I'd advice staying at the back unless you want to get harmlessly splattered, and or volunteered...

As it was raining when we came out we went for coffee, and then a book browse in York Waterstones- not much choice in the romances I was looking for- the ones I found, I already had. :(

There were a lot of people going up Clifford's Tower, but having been right up to the top of the building many years ago, I gave it a miss. It's a great view, but I'm not great with heights any more...

Now I'm leaving you with a picture that relates to the next place I visited and will be showing you some photos from.

At last, a cut out display that makes me look regal.

And I got to do some weaponry research... :)

Thursday 25 April 2013

Fortunately I Can Sit Down to Write...

I've been suffering since last week.
Apple Tree in Spring

I woke up last Saturday morning with a pain in my left foot- looked like my instep was bruised as it was red and I could only hobble on that leg. :(

So I was a pitiful sight getting round the garden with my secateurs trying to help with the 'spring' (ha ha) tidy up- that should have been completed a month ago!

I've just about stopped hobbling now and can flex my foot without discomfort. But I could have done without the busy week as it limited my writing time, and meant I've not given my foot much rest..

But I've made up for it, today I added 897 words to yesterday's 482. The novella is about to pick up speed as I head toward the last three or four chapters. I'm on chapter 12 currently.

The break from writing over Easter did help me get my thoughts in line, and the content of a couple of chapters have changed order from my original outline.

I have decided that working on the skeleton of the first draft does seem to work for me.

Scene order and content, along with dialogue has been my framework, with any detail where I knew what I needed to know already, written in as I've gone along.

I've got some questions noted too- like yesterday, my heroine Sarah, was weeding the vegetable patch when the baddie turns up.
We have lots of tools for gardening nowadays, but what did they use in the early 1800's- and could it have been used as a defensive weapon if needed? I thought holding a nearby spade in front of her might work, but were they heavy, easy to lift?

Fortunately I have a few reference books which might have details, otherwise I'll be Googling...

Draft 2 is going to be a lot harder work as quite a few of the chapters lack description, and I have one scene that I marked in place on the manuscript, but haven't written yet- as the description elements in the scene need to be right.

It's very true about only ever needing about 10% of your research in the book, but you still need to understand the other 90%...

Draft 3 will be the checking for inconsistencies, plot holes, corrections; then Draft 4 will be editing.

Once I'm at that stage I have a couple of readers to give me feedback- if I've missed anything, or something isn't understood, they'll tell me.

Meantime I have a few competition entries for the writers' club to get on with...

Image courtesy of Vlado and

Thursday 17 January 2013

Those Moments of Indecision...

This week is passing quickly, and I'm only just getting back into routine.

I've completed 75% of my weekly writing total, and I'm now at a scene in my Nottinghamshire novella that takes some thought in how I proceed with it.

Writing modern romance there would be no problem about the hero being in the heroine's bedroom, but even in innocent extenuating circumstances it was an issue back in the early 19th century.

Likewise, I'm trying to walk a line between the acceptability of conduct in the country, compared to that of society in the town; and the difference there is between the conduct of a lady of noble birth and a young woman of good (but just comfortable) family - without a personal maid, or someone who can be called upon to go with her when she ventures out of the home.

If you live in a small village now, then you probably know quite a few people by name, and others perhaps only by sight.

A couple of centuries ago everyone would probably know who was who, so any seen transgression would soon be known about - and probably the subject of gossip.

In public it's relatively easy to have your characters conform to social conventions - in introductions the social 'inferior' is introduced to the person of higher status, not the other way round...

I have a facsimile reprint of the 1737 book, 'The Rudiments of Genteel Behaviour' by Francis Nivelon, and it has some plates of basic figures with a brief description - I can safely say from this instruction I could perform a reasonable curtsy. :-)

There's even an instruction for placing your hands when dancing a Minuet.

Which reminds me of an article I saw in one of the online newspapers last night that you may like to hear about.

"Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will be turning - gracefully - 200 years old this month. To celebrate the BBC are screening a 90-minute recreation inspired by the book’s great event, the Netherfield Ball. Pride and Prejudice: Having A Ball at Easter aims provide a detailed look into the parties of the period." (Telegraph)

When I was in primary school, our winter PE lessons consisted of country dancing, and I now realise that many of those dances we did then would have been the same or similar to those danced all that time ago...

As to my writing problem, I'm just going to write it and let protocol come round in the editing process...

Saturday 10 December 2011

Interested in Female Lifestyles in the 1930's?

If you enjoyed the recent centenary edition of Woman's Weekly then I think you will like the publication I discovered today.

Popping into WH Smiths to look at some knitting magazines, I passed by the display shelves where Vogue magazine lurks and was immediately attracted to a cover picture on a lower level of a glamorous and beautifully made-up young woman in a black hat, and wearing pearls. She clearly came from early last century.

It was difficult to tell if it was a magazine or just a soft paperback cover book from its appearance, but then I picked it up and realised it was the latter.

It was this book, although this is a link for the hardback copy it has the same cover image; the version in the newsagent's is much less expensive- £5.99. 'What Every Woman Wants: Lifestyle Lessons from the 1930's' by Christopher and Kirsty Hudson, Atlantic Publishing.

The contents are facsimile pictures and pages from The Daily Mail of the 1930's. The contents include cookery, household hints and lifestyle; while fashion and beauty feature throughout in the pictures, as well as individual chapters of their own. And not forgetting the advice given by the paper's Women's Bureau to their many correspondents.

Actually looking at some of the make-up advice being given, you realise that bronzing really isn't a modern cosmetic creation...

As with the the Woman's Weekly centenary issue, there was occasional dubious health advice given then too; but of course we know so much more about diet, and enlarged tonsils- I always wondered why I liked beetroot so much, and now I know why.

Even if you don't buy it for yourself, it's one of those items you'll love browsing through for nostalgia...

Monday 25 April 2011

Spring is Here...

It's been a lovely few days over Easter- despite a little rain- and so many of the plants and flowers are blooming giving bursts of colour amid the greenery.

Did you know that you could find out what native species of trees and plants have grown in the area you live?  You can use the postcode database on the Natural History Museum website to find out. Very helpful if you want to plant native species in your garden...

You can find out about different plants- there's a long list of names. But I can see it would be a useful starting point if you were setting a scene sometime in the past and had your heroine picking wild flowers or herbs, even being presented with a bouquet- and you'd added in a flower that wouldn't or couldn't have been there at that time.

Meanwhile here are a few flowers from my garden, thought sadly my self-seeded bluebells are not the native species that were once so abundant in the woods of my childhood.

Bluebells,greenery,fence,plants,garden Bluebells Forever...

                                                            And the Hawthorn Blooming

Thursday 14 April 2011

Creativity Strikes Anywhere...

I'm a bit late in posting my mid-week blog because I was at an open evening yesterday. One of my sons is looking at potential courses for autumn next year, so I went with him to the local further education college to find out about Computer Games Development.

Actually there are some similarities between creating a game and creating a story.They both start with ideas and inspirations. They need to be developed and if something doesn't work you go back a couple of stages and try something else, or make alterations to something you have that is good but just isn't quite right. You revise and fine tune until eventually the game/story is ready.

The only difference is that I can understand the terms used in writing, whereas gaming terminology goes completely over my head. I just sat there while my son and the tutor talked in phrases that meant very little to me... :-)

But it must have done some good because today my brain has been working.

Now I have always found cooking dinner to be a creative time- combining ingredients to make something delicious and satisfying.  So as I was putting together a chicken casserole two of my vague characters moved into my conscious. I now know the circumstances that gets them together, some of the back story and the conflicts. So now I need to find suitable names and what they look like...

Some writers report they get ideas develop when they're out walking, or even when they're ironing, so I've learnt to accept this as normal and not to let anyone or anything distract me until I've written it down. Hence the reason for notebooks in my handbag, by the television or near the computer...

So at least it's been a productive few days...

Saturday 9 April 2011

The Joys and Perils of Research...

Inspired by Sally Quilford's advice following her success with My Weekly Pocket Novels, I've been reading a selection of them (by various authors) over the past year-as I have a couple of ideas that might be suitable.

I say MIGHT because once I start writing it could change tone completely and end up entirely unsuitable for the market I was originally aiming at! And it isn't neccesarily my fault, it's those characters who decide they're totally different to what I imagine them to be... :-)

(Okay, I know I'm supposed to be the one in charge of the words that I type, but...)

Research can be fun and I do enjoy it, in fact so much it's easy to forget that you have to stop at some point and start writing, plus remembering that you don't need to put all you've learnt into the story- just a little of it.

But then comes the issue of keeping hold of it, so you can refer back to it when you need to. I've tried a few things, some worked, some didn't.

Sadly I don't have room for a filing cabinet (if only...) so I've tried:  lever arch files, which unfortunately got badly bent out of shape, so I now have numerous thin clear plastic sleeves each holding either a picture, article or face, all looking for a new storage solution.

I often have a similar problem with box files- mainly because there's no shelf space for them.

Suprisingly the best solutions for me have been a big plastic stacker box that can be moved around, and those flat packed cardboard storage boxes that you get in stationery stores, which you fold and slot together to make a lidded box file, they can be fitted into odd gaps around the shelves.
They're also great for storing any paperwork you need to keep, like invoices, receipts and so on.

I have hardback notebooks for different novels or novella length stories. In these I'll put snippets of dialogue, descriptions, thoughts about my characters, page references from specific research  books, postcards, leaflets of relevent tourist attractions, even weather descriptions from the area the novel is set.
Each long story has it's own notebook.

Some pictures I'll have on my computer, but most will be on a disc and/or memory stick as well as printed out (somewhere).

Relevent books can be on a number of different shelves in the living room, or in that big lidded stacker box that keeps moving...

One problem that I do have- and I'm sure other fiction writers do too-is that avenues of research often trigger other ideas for related stories, or even completely new novels just when you're working on the first project and don't need the distraction.

I'm getting better at just writing the idea down and any associated mental images that come with it, then forgetting about it while I try to get on with the other project. I know I'm not going to forget the new idea because those jottings will be enough to ressurect the thoughts and images even a year later.

The human brain is amazing.

So I need to take my own advice and get on with the short story that has been giving me trouble recently, then I can come back to the pocket novel market research later (when the longer length stories- recently announced- start being published).

And I'll leave you with this thorny question: research first then write, or write and research as you go?

Saturday 15 January 2011

The Joys and Perils of Research...

I received a comment on my Awards Night and Novel Feedback post from last week about research. So I thought it would be a good subject to consider.

Research is something you usually can't avoid when you're writing, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. At some time you need to do it.
All writers are different in their approach. Some research first before they begin writing, others as they go along. Or like me, I research first and do additional research as needed when something in my manuscript needs clarification.

I admire the writers of earlier generations who didn't have Google enabling them to access picture libraries, museum websites, old documentation and all those things we take for granted today. They did it the hard way.

Travel has opened up to the average person since the latter half of the 20th Century so if we can't go to where our story is set then someone else will have- and written about it. You'll even find photos on the web-though they won't always be of what you want but it will give you something to start with.

But nothing beats actually visiting: absorbing the sounds and scents; the light and darkness as you move through the day.

My family have likely seen enough of Dorset now, so my notes and photos will have to suffice as I tackle my novel...

Chesil,shingle,sky,clouds,grass hills
Off Chesil Beech

Nottinghamshire author Elizabeth Chadwick actually belongs to Conroi deVey, a member group of the Regia Anglorum society who concentrate on portraying the early Middle Ages.

Aside from her links to the living history group she has an interesting page on her research techniques explaining primary and secondary source material she uses as well as those valuable location visits I mentioned above.

Even if you don't want to go as far as joining a group like this- and there are a number of time periods covered by such groups- they are worthwhile visiting to get an impression of the time and find out how everyday activities were done.

Many years ago a weekend visit to a small village museum sparked an idea after watching and talking to a small civil war group. (That idea is still in my notebook and will be used in the next few years).

When we're writing and researching we can't avoid building up our own reference selection relating to our genre and time period and with so many sources available for searching out old items you can build up an invaluable background for your writing.

(Older reference books often have comprehensive lists of books that were consulted and referenced by the author, so always have a look through them to see if particular books or documents are mentioned.)

But remember, the research has to stop at some point and the writing begin...

If you have a favourite research method or source then do share it with us using the comments box.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Useful and Interesting Websites...

The world wide web has been a boon to writers of fiction or non-fiction- or both. We can now access documents and pictures that would have previously required time and a visit to libraries or museums that may not even be in the same county or even the same country!

One website leads to another and a reference on one to another. Result, a problem solved, knowledge gained or another story idea pops up- I have too many of them to deal with at the moment.

Thank goodness for Favourites...

As I'm having a quiet spell (Wednesday evening and Awards Night at my writers' club approaches - my competition entries will be returned with the judges comments) I thought I'd suggest some interesting websites that I have in my Favourites folder that you might want to look at some time.

History. I love history as you may have realised from the posts about my recent travels. So I've chosen two sites that I'm sure you will enjoy.

The Georgian Index can be graphic intensive so you can click on a text only A-Z list (well Y actually) and go from there. There's also a Napoleonic and American Front Door you can explore (those leads I mentioned).

Particular sections that interest me in the GI include the London Street and Business Index covering London Merchants (with addresses and dates where known).
Just a few examples:
Gun makers- where a Gentleman would go to obtain his weaponry or practice on targets.

Goldsmiths and Jewelers- where Royalty and the wealthy were supplied.

Purveyors (suppliers) of Wine, Tea or Food- Twining for Tea (still producing tea now) and Fortnum and Masons- a well known name- who thrived providing care packages (apparently) for Officers during the Napoleonic Wars.

Modistes, Milliners and Furriers- for Ladies clothing.

Addresses recognised in Regency romances: Grosvenor Square, Hanover Square, Bond Street and Park Lane...

You can find out what the card games of Piquet and Loo were at a Regency Card Party and see pictures of Furniture and a Sedan Chair (I don't envy those Chairmen who carried people around).

There's so much to find out-I haven't even touched on the list of Newspapers...

At a slightly later date- Victorian- there is The Victorian Web.

This site is very text intensive so be warned.

Subjects covered include Thomas Hardy's Dorchester, a gallery of images you can click on including one of the building reputed to be the house of Henchard in the Mayor of Casterbridge- it is now a Bank.

Architecture- Gothic Revival,  Classicism and Moorish.

Victorian Theatre, Gender matters, the list just goes on. You will find something that interests you in the numerous pages.

So go and have a look and enjoy...