Showing posts with label domestic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label domestic. Show all posts

Monday 25 November 2019

Reading, Writing, Learning and Improving...

Only a month to Christmas Day and I've just started thinking about all that I need to do.

Usually that's because November is busy with family birthdays so I don't think about the festive season until they're over.

I'm determined to get the Christmas cards into the post sooner rather than the last few posting days- which usually happens.

Since I received my readers report back from the RNA's New Writers' Scheme I've read it again and analysed what I need to concentrate on this time- I've identified my weak spots...

There are other aspects in the historical that need further thought, so while I resolve those, I'm going ahead with my original plan to do my contemporary romance idea for the 2020 NWS.

So, I've been learning more about character arcs which has helped me understand the issues with my historical romance protagonists- and for my contemporary where I'd gone astray in the first draft.

I've got a better understanding of beats in the three act structure, but need to work on the middle 50% of the story.

Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 by [Summers, Julie]
Image from
As I've been able to set the new story up on Scrivener from the start (rather than half way through) it's given me time to identify changes I hadn't considered before, but need.

The good news is the first 25% of this one is doing what it should do, so I've begun the rewrite on those chapters, while I continue the outstanding research items.

My current reading is Our Uninvited Guests by Julie Summers.

It was pure chance that a Google search led to a mention of it in an article; then I searched for it on Amazon to find the kindle e-book on offer for 99 pence- a definite sign I should buy it! (It's now £3.99.)

An interesting read too.

It does have relevance; indirectly...

Have you ever gone looking for a book and found it's on offer just when you need it for research?

Monday 20 May 2019

Writing and Gardening - A Healthy Combination...

The novel continues to progress. I hit a slight blip in the last chapter but I worked out what it was missing and am now onto the next chapter.

I've booked to go to this year's RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) Conference in July.

This year I've been trying to reduce the stresses that get to me. After a very bad day a few weeks ago my distress was eventually eased with a quiet walk by the nearby stream absorbing the quiet and the sights and sounds of nature, while the trees muffled the background noise of constant traffic.

This year I've also decided to grow more in the garden and in tubs on the patio. We've always grown various types of fruit: rhubarb, gooseberries, blackberries  and red currants.

and Lemon Balm...
I used to have a small greenhouse but that had to go to be replaced by a shed, so space for sowing seeds became non-existent.

Over the warm Easter weekend I began the sowing and planting, Lettuce that you can cut leaves off and leave to regrow, Marigolds and Sage. I'm also trying to grow potatoes as a first time experiment.

I recently bought a Lupin plant locally and transplanted it into a bigger pot. It has a couple of flowers that are opening and providing a burst of colour.


The bees seem to like the Lupins...

After an unexpected passing visit from a Pheasant back in April we've become used to seeing and hearing the sounds of Mallard ducks.

While I was outside taking these photos I could hear the quaking and thought a duck was in the garden next door.

Then I saw the female duck tucking into the bird food under our hawthorn tree and quietly began to move back toward the house.

When I stood up and looked over the top of the clothesline full of drying towels I saw the male duck watching me.

I quickly took a picture and a moment later he took off and joined his mate at the food stop.

Ready for Take-Off...
It's fun to look out the kitchen window and see the ducks waddling around or settled down to a synchronised snooze, each with their beak tucked under a wing.

Some days they lurk for hours, others it's a swift take-away visit.

With the bench in the shade of the old rose bush it's relaxing to sit outside with a book and a mug of coffee even for a short time before returning to normality.

Do you get any unexpected wildlife visiting you?

Monday 20 November 2017

Think Eyes...

Yes, I'm still here.

It's been a month of good and bad since my last post.

It's been a month of sorting, packing, dismantling, cough & cold- feeling very weak- and getting new varifocals.

I'd been having problems with my eyes for a couple of months, so booked my annual eye appointment at the Opticians - two months early. The good news is I'm less short-sighted than I was, but the less positive news is that I have the start of macular degeneration.

I now have new super-duper glasses, with lenses that transition in bright light; less issue from glare and fuzziness with car headlights and illuminated bus signs too. But best of all I can look at the computer screen without doing head contortions to focus, and my eyes aren't tired after a couple of hours.

I'll have to get a new photo taken next month so I can update my profile picture with the new specs.

It also means I can get on with some writing now- when I'm not packing boxes!

Meanwhile here's some useful advice from the College of Optometrists re Screen Use.

Eyes are an important work tool for every writer so look after them...

Image from Pixabay.

Sunday 21 August 2016

Making Lists Again...

Almost at the August Bank Holiday again- where has summer gone?

I'm going to be grabbing writing time here and there for the next few weeks as the new academic year approaches.

My son at university, starts his third and final year, but will also be on the other campus this time, so he'll be in a shared house. This means we'll have to go out with him to buy the additional items he'll need before he moves in early next month.

Son at college goes back for the final year of his computer course mid-September, so that will be full steam ahead with writing on the two full days he's there. He's also waiting for the results of his GCSE Maths- due this coming week.

Still working...
I'm filling up my 2016/2017 diary with appointments and other events, so I'm going to have to be stricter with myself to ensure I have writing and reading time between now and Christmas.

I haven't made as much progress as I'd hoped, but that's been my time management issues this year.

When my children were younger and at school I used to write more in the morning, but now they're older and I don't have the time restraints, it's lunchtime, early afternoon before I settle. So I need to get back some of my mornings to write.

It would probably help if I didn't stay up until midnight too. :D

There are a few deadlines for projects approaching, so they'll be the top of my list- they are writing so that's okay.

As for my 1920's project, it's slow going. Whether I can get the pocket novel tone is quite another issue...

Right, I'm off to consult my diary and see what free time I have this week...

image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

Sunday 15 May 2016


Yes, I'm guilty of procrastination. I don't intend to, but somehow time passes and then it's too late to get started because everyone is home again and I need quiet to write.

I'm recovering from three busy months, and there's been lots of personal life stuff that has been taking up the remaining time too. So the second draft rewrite really has been the last thing on my mind.

But I'm determined to make the most of the free time available- yes, I know I've said that before!

Having to shift all my office around while the computer was being replaced didn't help. It's not quite back to how I need it, so I'm going to concentrate on finishing that. There's still a few things I want but can't access easily, so times wasted searching...

I'm fortunate that I have the end of the old dining room to house my office, but it still has to double as a temporary storage area for other things until we've shifted other room contents around- that's slow progress.

Hopefully by the time I'm finished there will be enough fodder for me to write a short article on procrastination for one of the annual trophies at the writers' club- it's for non-fiction, and this year's subject just happens to be procrastination.

So I am sort of working... :D

Right, I need to get started, it's the recycling collection day tomorrow.

Do you have any anti-procrastination tips that you can recommend?

image courtesy of Stuart Miles &

Sunday 23 August 2015


As I haven't been able to write, I've been gathering remaining research material ready for returning to the Nottinghamshire story.

My own personal hero- my husband- has taken a couple of weeks off. Unfortunately we haven't been able to go on holiday as we intended, so we've been busy reorganising at home instead, so that's why there's been little writing this month.

Though admittedly the furniture shifting did result in my getting access to some of my useful reference books, so it was worth it. :-)

We're not finished with the sorting yet, as the changeable weather has made it difficult to move some things around. You fill up a few boxes so you can move one piece, but then the boxes take up the spare room- unless you can temporarily put them outside, but then there's dark clouds building...

So there may not be another blog post until next weekend.

The time away from writing has also been giving my brain time to play with ideas for my other stories, and watch the clouds while I'm thinking.

In the past the clouds were a good indicator of approaching rain and storms, and I'm sure modern farmers have become attuned to their appearance too, just as those farming a couple of hundred years ago would have been.

Sadly I only see the standard types of clouds, but if you stand watching for a few minutes, not only do they move but they change shape and reveal and conceal light as they go- if the weather conditions are right.

Layers of light and shade...
Rain is on the way...
A burst of grey...

A Turtle or a Pigeon?

As a child I remember lying down on the floor of the roundabout and watching the sky revolve above my head, and the clouds wisp by like candy floss being twirled around a stick.

If you're really interested in clouds and the study of them, there's a society you can join, The Cloud Appreciation Society.

Sometimes we just need to stop and take a breath, and look up at the clouds...

(Photos taken 22nd August 2015)

Thursday 25 September 2014

Contemporary or Historical Romance?

Over the years I've read a lot of contemporary romance fiction as well as historical romances. Though I never thought I would actually try writing a contemporary romance, I am persisting.

My ideas always present themselves in an historical context, and the majority of them would not work in a contemporary setting, but with the current story it was the reverse.

Meanwhile my historical novella is sitting in first draft form waiting for me to continue the revision notes, while I continue with this contemporary romance.

Set aside the fact that they are about a couple falling in love whichever type you write; my experiences have certainly highlighted the differences.

Writing about the past you have a lot of aspects to absorb, and keep in mind.

I find I have to cut out the outside world completely to get my head into my characters in the past. It truly is going 'into the zone'. So much so that the phone ringing, or letters being put through the postbox are alarming; as my brain can't work fast enough to adjust and put me back into the present with all the normal everyday sounds.

Writing about the past you have to take into account the way society- generally- worked. The limitations and risks women faced. Manners and dress codes were more defined, and preparing and cooking food was time-consuming. Even war and politics played a part.

Yes, we still have the war and politics today, the main difference is technology and that we're part of a global community too, compared to the past when today's allies were once the enemy, and Britain 'ruled the waves'.

The internet has made a lot of research material available, which is good for both writers of historical and contemporary romance.

So what advantages are there to writing contemporary romances?

Our heroines are no longer limited to pre-defined roles in life. If you want her to be an Engineer, or a Detective she can be, and you may even know one or two personally; or at least know how to find out more about their jobs from your research.

Women have jobs, they own their own homes, have their own money and control their own lives- generally. 

We are living in the now so we have a lot of influences, but we also have a lot of accrued knowledge that we can use while we write. Our only limitation is our imaginations- and what publishers and readers want. :)

While the last fifty years is history, personally I consider it a midway point. I was a child in the 60's, but I can still remember aspects of it. Some memories can be triggered by a simple comment on Facebook, or by an object that was very familiar.

If you want to write a story set in the latter half of the 20th century then you can ask questions of people who lived through those times, and there's a lot of documentary evidence from television. 

Digital channels will often be re-running shows and dramas written and filmed in the 70's and 80's. Just like today the cars, the looks and clothes influenced the young men and women of the time, and can be a useful reference point.

Social documentaries were the reality shows of their day.

When the original series of Charley's Angels came out, many young women went for Farrah Fawcett Majors' distinctive hairstyle in the mid to late 1970's.

If you write about now, you don't have to concentrate to the same degree on the attitudes and morality of your characters.

To say it's not important would be wrong, because it does matter to both the reader and the writer. But the boundaries are no longer as tight as they once were, a hundred years ago.

Even though some aspects of modern life may not sit comfortably with every reader, as writers we each decide what aspects of life, as it concerns our characters, to use.

Life today, like life in the past, is certainly not roses all the way.

Comparing writing a romance set in the past, and one set now, I'd say contemporary has the edge on how long it takes to write, but writing an historical romance has something else.

When I attended the talk by Lindsey Davis at The Pump Room in Bath, during my trip in May, she said, "writing about the past has levels to it." I'd agree with that-whether you're writing crime, romance or a straight historical.

I'm enjoying the freedoms of writing for the now, but I appreciate the depths of the past...

Thursday 15 August 2013


This time I'm talking about the real type Butterflies, not the tummy type...

My office window looks out onto the side of the house and over the years a buddleia bush has grown. Every spring it gets cut back, and each summer it grows huge and produces long purple flower spikes.

The last few summers there have been very few butterflies to use it, but this year WOW.

I've seen anything from 7-10 of them on the flowers at the same time- all bar one, are Peacock's.

Now it's also started to get a few bees feeding on the flowers too.

So I took a few pictures. Surprisingly I was able to get quite close up to them, but they were so intent on feeding that I think they weren't bothered I was there.

The one on the right kept folding it's wings up as it moved around, and it took a couple of attempts to get it with its wings open.

The second picture required some contortion, ducking under the branches to get in the right position...

Some of the flowers had two or three butterflies on them at a time. This one had had a third one, but it flew up onto one of the other flowers just as I got into position for the picture, so I only got two of them together...

It's been fascinating to look up and see them climbing around, folding their wings together against a rush of wind that has the flower spikes bobbing up and down as they hold on...

Hopefully the good summer will ensure we have plenty of butterflies next year.

Have you noticed an increase in butterflies where you live, or any colourful insects?

Monday 22 July 2013

I've Ground to a Halt...

Yes, I know I've been missing for weeks- sorry.

I didn't realise how tired out I was until my brain went on strike and I began sleeping late on a weekday- very unusual for me...

This year I've been able to do more concentrated writing than I have before- at least 15,000 words on the novella since mid-January. It may not seem a lot, but it's the most I've written in six months before.

(I just need to get my busy weeks organised better, so I can get a few writing sessions in...)

As soon as normality returns I'll get the last two chapters of the first draft completed, and then the really hard work starts with the 2nd draft- putting flesh on the bones of the basics that I've been concentrating on so far.

There are a few 'information needed' queries that I need to delve into, so I'm making a list to work through over the remaining summer holidays.

I'm thinking about going to this year's Festival of Romance (November) but haven't actually mentioned it to my OH yet- who will have to hold the domestic fort if I do go...:-)

As my short story writing has finally improved, I'm going to make an effort to write a few more before the year ends.

I also have to catch up on my reading- both paperback and e-books.

Serena is still lacking a website, but she does now have an e-mail address. So I have to make some decisions there too.

So I may have ground to a halt in one way, I realise that the 'to do' list is building up... :-)

Monday 6 August 2012

I Should be on Holiday...

But I'm not.

After getting most of my office organised- apart from a few bits and pieces that are elsewhere and currently inaccessible- OH and I are on a big sort and reorganise session.

Now I know lots of this should have been done years ago, but young children take up time and it's only now that they are old enough to help (after all a lot of the items downstairs are actually theirs in the first place) and tolerate the disruption that the reorganisation is underway.

Among my discoveries are postcards from various museums I've visited, interesting rooms set out for specific occasions or time periods- and I now have a box for all my postcards, with room for more.

Old pictures and articles with interesting images or information- just the sort of stuff to inspire any writer. (And yes I have boxes for them too.)

There's a lot of old paperwork from the late 90's that is now shredded paper and gone to be recycled at the tip- known nowadays as the recycling centre.

As I've been sorting items they've brought back memories, incidents and people long gone, but not really forgotten. And I'm sure they will pop up in my future writing somewhere...

The six weeks between the end of July and early September has usually been the time when I could recharge my creative batteries that are on low by July, and I usually do research while I'm getting back to full charge.

This year is different, I'm getting organised.

It's the start of a new future...

Monday 25 June 2012

Progress and Leaks...

As I write this on Monday evening we're waiting to find out where the gas leak is.

There was a strong smell of gas earlier this evening at the bottom of the short driveways on our side of the road, so the national grid gas leak service was called out and arrived a couple of hours ago; at the moment the gentleman with the device for detecting leaks has moved across the road and is inside one of the houses there, so it doesn't look like we have a gas leak this time- I'm glad to say.

Anyway, back to the progress bit of the title.

I got my trip to IKEA on Saturday and the Billy bookcase is now installed (thanks to my OH, patience and a screwdriver) and is slowly being filled. Admittedly there's still a lot of boxes to go through, but another little section of my office is emerging.

My outfit for Saturday (reading at the Fringe event at the local book festival) is almost decided; black trousers and a cerise pink cross-over top (at the moment) but this could change if it's cold. Cerise is just enough brightness for me.

The hairdresser is booked for later in the week, for a trim and colour wash.

Now I know this might seem a little over the top for just twenty minutes in total, but it all helps the confidence quotient- and I don't get many opportunities like this so I'm going to enjoy myself while I can...

If I can persuade my OH to stay and take some pictures of the event, I might be able to show you a few next week.

(The Gas man has gone now, so it looks like the leak was across the road.)

5 days to go...

Monday 14 May 2012

Busy Week Ahead

As you may have noticed I didn't post anything at the weekend.

I was extra busy as my OH had to take a quick trip up the motorway to see his mum who was ill, so I was holding everything together at home and celebrating most of our 28th Wedding Anniversary by myself.

Though I'm glad to say my mum-in-law is getting better, and my lovely husband did get home Saturday evening with a bunch of Sweetheart roses and a big box of Thorntons Continental chocolates for me. :-)

GCSE exams begin today, so my teenagers are going to be busy for the next month or so...Exam stressed teenagers are probably best not bothered with requests for the return of glasses, plates and assorted cutlery from their rooms (I'm going to be getting plenty of exercise going up and down stairs...).

I'll be organising the final details for Saturday's all day workshop with Mills and Boon author Kate Walker. I'm really looking forward to the workshop, and having met Kate briefly last October at an event, I'm sure everyone attending will enjoy the day and learn from it.

Meanwhile my short story is almost ready for sending out. I've just got to print it out and check for any typos, wrong spelling of similar sounding words, and any missing punctuation, or formatting issues.

I'm happy with the story as it now is, and there's nothing else I can do to it- without ruining it!

So, I'll be back to my normal blogging routine on Wednesday...

Monday 26 March 2012

Cooking and Kitchens...

My usual weekend baking session went a little awry yesterday- me at home with the evening meal almost ready (I was planning to make the lemon drizzle cake after dinner) when my husband rang to say the car had broken down and they were waiting for the recovery service.

So the cake never got done, so one of my sons got to take chocolate cake in his lunchbox today instead of lemon drizzle cake...Not that he minds, but I'd like some of the chocolate cake for myself.

The cake-making got me thinking about the cooks of the past and how hard it must have been providing food every day, even for a small household.

We take it for granted that we can pop to the shops for a loaf of bread, a pint of milk or half a dozen eggs, but have forgotten how much time and effort those few items would have taken to obtain in the past- and that's before you even start cooking with them.

Quite a few larger homes open to the public now have kitchens you can visit and they're well worth spending a little extra time looking around. They echo the past in a way grander rooms sometimes don't.

A long time ago I lived in a house that had a small pantry in the kitchen, and it had the wonderful stone shelf for keeping food cool. It's such a shame that many of the houses that still have them, often rip them out during kitchen modernisations.

I was brought up in a late Victorian terrace house which still had a small scullery attached to the kitchen- with a view out to the coal bunker... I became quite adept at cleaning the ash out of the living room fireplace and laying a new fire. :-)

You can see an abandoned Victorian kitchen that was discovered in a basement of an old stately home here. Or on a grand scale there's the Tudor Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace.

For some good illustrations of kitchen objects have a look at this website- Old and Interesting.

Shire books has a section, Household Bygones, which has a selection of books- fire grates and ranges, old cooking utensils and table knives and forks among them.

If you want to look at some old recipes or 'Receipts' as they were called, then you'll find 'English Housewifery' by Elizabeth Moxon, on the Gutenberg website, interesting.

If you've visited any old kitchens open to the public, then please share your recommendations for a visit.