Showing posts with label observation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label observation. Show all posts

Monday 3 September 2018

A Seaside Visit...

I'm home and catching up from a short break away at the seaside - Scarborough in North Yorkshire.

Unfortunately our four hour journey turned into six hours as not only was Friday lunchtime around the York area busy, but there'd been an accident earlier in the morning and the exit we should have taken off the motorway was closed, so lots of traffic having to travel further along and get back onto the correct route.

It was a relief to finally arrive...

We were staying at a hotel in the North Bay. The views are spectacular whether it's day, night or sunrise- the latter my OH was up very early to photograph while I continued to sleep.

Late afternoon at North Bay
with Scarborough Castle
in the distance...

We did a lot of walking but took advantage of the bus that ran along from the North Bay to the Spa at the far end of the South Bay.
You can walk up from the Foreshore Road to the main pedestrianised shopping area, but it's quicker to use the Central Tramway; it's history in action and only takes a very short time from the bottom to the top or vice versa.

Up or down...
The service is still run by the original company, The Central Tramway Company (Scarborough) Ltd, which was set up in 1881.

Of course it has had a lot of updates since then.

You can read more and see some photos of the trams in action on their website.

There's also a statue in the gardens across from the tramway building...                           

Queen Victoria...

This visit to Scarborough did not have any research motives, but of course history is always around.

The Castle is a scheduled ancient monument; from an Iron Age settlement to a Roman signal station, then on to the 12th century enclosure castle and through to the gun batteries of the 18th century and 19th century garrison during the Napoleonic Wars.

The town was bombarded by a German Destroyer in 1914. In WW2 it was a listening post.

It has strong literary connections too, not only Alan Ayckbourn's long association with the Stephen Joseph Theatre, but also poet Edith Sitwell who was born in Scarborough.

Anne Bronte died there in the late 1840's and is buried in the graveyard near to St Mary's Church.

There are regular boat trips for pleasure, or you can watch the working boats in the harbour. Crab seems to be a popular catch for the boats- and children on the pier with their buckets dangling by a long cord over the side into the harbour water.

The Harbour...

The weather was good and the sea air was refreshing; a much needed break after a busy summer.

Now it's back to work...

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... :-)

Thursday 21 July 2016

Regrets and Serendipity...

Thank you all for all your support and kind words recently, it encouraged and reminded me that sometimes I need to step back and relax and not feel guilty for it.

And of course, when I did stop worrying, my creativity returned.

That was when I regretted not buying that old book last month.

The old book that I picked up, browsed, then put back down on the book stall during the rainy day at Lowdham Book Festival. I'd left it, deciding it wasn't useful. :(

While it's noisy at home at the moment, I decided to do some research for an idea that may be suitable as a pocket novel, as it's buzzing around my brain at the moment.

If you want to know about Steam Locomotives there's lots of information on the internet, and plenty of photographic examples, but interior views of the carriages on the line I am interested in, no. I could find a few pictures for the 1890's.

So I decided that the start would need a rethink and put it aside.

Then today I popped into an Oxfam book shop that I'd never visited before, and a very well-worn cloth bound book caught my attention. The books of the early 20th century were often cloth-bound, so I always look at these when I see them.

I'd found a gem. The Blue Guides to England. They are still going and you can read more here.

There were a few pages loose, but they were there. There were little maps of different regions of the country, information on stations, buses, fares and hotels, as well as the standard tourist information of the time. Everything a visitor to England might need to know in the late 1930's. And no adverts.

From America to England the steamer took 5-10 days, and just like now it cost more to travel in the summer season; off season was 10% less.

The rail route I was interested in described the views as the train travelled from London to Brighton, the classes available and how long the journey could take.

Of course all the fares and hotel charges are in pre-decimal currency, so £-s-d.

I'm old enough to remember those, and many of the coins shown here. My pocket-money as a child was a thruppenny bit (three pence). :-)

It's going to be fun to dip into the pages and learning more about places I've visited, over the years.

But I will be getting on with the writing/editing too.

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 22 May 2016

Character or Plot- Which Arrives First?

Do you have a favourite series that you hate to miss?

Well Saturday night in the my house is NCIS night. Now to be honest across the week NCIS: seasons 10, 11 and 12 are being shown on assorted digital channels (along with the New Orleans and Los Angeles versions), which can be confusing as one night a relative of one character can be dead, and the next week on a different channel the dead character is still alive...

This is where box-sets come in useful.

Anyway, my OH just watches the story and whoever is in that episode- he calls it moving wallpaper; I told him that the characters and what's happening to them is as important as the story. He wasn't convinced...

That is what got me thinking about plot versus character, and which comes first?

Which arrives first?
If you define plot as "a sequence of events" that occur through the story, then I'd have to say no that doesn't come first- at least for me.

In fact whenever I've had a story idea and some of the plot before finding the characters for it, they have never made any progress no matter how much time I've put in. The last time I tried that it was three wasted months.

For me, it runs: initial idea (that is usually the result of two random incidents/thoughts/information) - a vague scene of one or two characters, but enough to start developing them - more ideas - research - basic bios of my characters- chapter outlines - write the first draft and discover more about the characters and plot as I work.

Looking at the process that way it's 50/50.

Every writer has their own way of doing things, so someone else may have the plot and then looks for their characters to fill the story.

Others discover as they go along.

So are you plot first? Characters first? Or somewhere in-between? 

Sunday 18 October 2015

Reading to an Audience - Start with the Basics...

Recently I shared an article from Stylist magazine on my Facebook account, and it had quite a number of views. It was a top ten tips for speaking in public.

It's not surprising that the subject is popular, as writers need to do a lot more promotion now than they needed to ten years ago.

Though some writers may be more confident from past experience, or they have a daytime job that requires them to stand up in front of an audience- whatever their ages may be...

I have to admit that I had a head start, so it wasn't such a shock.

When I was in secondary school x number of years ago, I was part of the drama group, and it was a great way to learn basic skills, breathing correctly, standing up straight and projecting your voice, and taking on the voice of characters- but in my case the biggest problem I had to overcome was talking too fast.

All those are the same skills writers need to learn, or develop. But you don't need to practise in front of an audience, you can do it by yourself at home.

I'm a firm believer in reading my work aloud during the editing phase, as you can hear when text doesn't flow, phrasing is awkward, or you've changed tense/viewpoint, but you need to read slower to pick out the issues, so try recording yourself reading out a passage, then play it back, or ask a trusted friend to listen to you.

Is every word distinct, or are you chopping off the ends of words, and rolling them together? When you're conscious of what you are doing, you can pick it up, slow down and try again until you get the right pace for you.

Practise and eventually it will become automatic.

Breathing: stand up straight and breathe in slowly until your lungs are filled- if you put your hand flat just below your rib cage you can feel the rise as you breathe in. Then let your breath out slowly- you do need to concentrate.

When you have that under control then the next time you breathe out use that to propel your voice- choose a simple short word, 'pop' for example. So often, it seems, we're not aware of how much our voices are capable of until we try- this will.

If you are reading your own work out you can of course add reminders to your manuscript. Apart from printing in a larger font, you can add spaces between paragraphs, insert (PAUSE) at appropriate points, and underline anything you need to put emphasis on. Practise your pace.

Microphones seem scary, but you just need a quick test to find the right distance between you and it using your regular reading voice. If the microphone is not on a stand then get someone to hold it, as juggling a microphone and turning pages it not a good image and will get you flustered- not what you want or need.

Do you see the common word now? Yes, it's practise.

I've been fortunate to have generous writer friends who have shared their advice over the years, and I've put it into practise when I've been on the local BBC radio station (promoting a book I was in with another local writer), as well as other literature events like the Lowdham Fringe.

There's a lot more you can do, wear bright colours so you aren't lost against pale walls or furnishings for example.

 You may be an introvert, but you can pretend you aren't. Master the basics and build upon them...

My first public reading as a writer
in 2012 at the Lowdham Fringe

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 6 August 2015

Making Plans for 2016...

A couple of years ago I bought an academic style diary because I started to have a list of dates for appointments and school/college dates for the next year, but only the back of the current year's diary to note them down - and my writing is not small!

So now as soon as I see them in the shops I make my choice, and at the first opportunity I transfer details over. 2016 is not going to be quiet.

Today I was booking my appointment dates for the rest of this year with my hairdresser (as the bookings for December were starting already). I have no intention of having my grey roots showing for the Festival of Romance weekend in November. :D

But this got me thinking about next year's events- yes I know it's only August...

I definitely want to go to the Writers' Conference again- this year it was the end of March, then June is always Lowdham Book Festival and a busy time generally. So if I want to get away for a research trip I'm going to have to aim for May again.

I'm thinking about a visit to Dorchester as there's some research details I need for my Dorset novel before I get back to writing it (at some point next year). On my previous visits time was limited and the family impatient to go, so like my trip to Bath last year, I need time to myself for visits.

There's still a couple of small research areas that I noted down in my Nottinghamshire novella/short novel, so I need to resolve those, but they don't require me to travel away from home, just sit down, read and look at pictures...

And write of course.

My resolution for next year will definitely be better time management. I'm getting there, but I still have to work on procrastination in the morning.

Meanwhile I've got between now and the end of November to get as much done as possible.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Sunday 5 April 2015

My Day at The Writing Conference - Part 2...

Happy Easter to you all.

It's been a very busy week, which is why this post wasn't done on Thursday when it should have been.

It's hard to believe that a week has gone by since I attended the Conference.

So to part 2, the very interesting sessions after lunch...

I went along to The Nuts and Bolts of Earning a Living as a Writer. This was an intense session. It was chaired by Anne Caldwell who is the Deputy Director of the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE), and alongside her was Maureen Duffy, Tim Leech and Emteaz Hussain.

They all shared their experiences- both good and bad of making a living as a writer, and very few of the audience were surprised at the statement that it was more difficult nowadays.

A couple phrases that really struck home were Ann Caldwell's "cast-iron railings around writing time", and Tim Leech who said you need to " structure life around writing, not writing around life." That latter phrase definitely struck home for me.

There was a brief section on the value of organisations like ALCS, the Society of Authors and The Writers Guild- the latter had a representative there who spoke for a few minutes on what they do.

Making a living as a writer can't be done half-heartedly, the writer needs to be pro-active...

After that 45 minutes the next session- in the same room - was The Publishing Process: Why is Having an Agent Important?

This was another well-attended session, with a brilliant panel. Most writers will have heard of Carole Blake of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency (she was wearing purple shoes which looked very comfortable).

 Younger literary agent, Ben Clark from Lucas Alexander Whitely, who was actually looking to take on writers in science-fiction, fantasy, and as he described it, "anything geeky". I'm sure he would probably have received manuscripts this past week!

They were joined by Editor Jane Commane of Nine Arches Press, and the Chair was the very amusing and engaging author, Alison McQueen.

Carol Blake suggested that the writer should choose their agent with the same care they'd use in choosing a partner, which is a good suggestion as hopefully, the writer and agent will be together a long time. As she mentioned one book is no use, you need a career future...

There was advice for what to do: research the agent, look at their profiles, websites, social media, what they're acquiring; the do not's were the standard: sending something they don't deal with, hand written manuscripts, or use social media to ask about sending submissions and so on.

A well set out, good synopsis (not a blurb) was important- including the ending. She explained that her process was reading the chapters first and if they didn't make an impact she didn't read the synopsis. There was no point having a brilliant synopsis if the chapters weren't good. But other agents might do something different.

As the session progressed with the other members of the panel,  it became clear that the writer should not be afraid to ask questions of a potential agent, and if the writer had a choice of agents, then there was nothing wrong in comparing what they were offering, and accepting the best one for them, but obviously mentioning that other agents were being seen...

Approaching younger agents seemed to be a good route. Many will have broken away from an agency after many years, and will actively be looking to take on clients - there are more opportunities available than an agent who has been in the business for many years, and already has a lot of clients.

Someone asked about agents not being AAA listed (Association of Authors' Agents) and it was explained that newer agents couldn't join until they had been carrying out the job for a couple of years, so the fact an agent wasn't a member of the AAA wouldn't necessarily be an issue, but it was a good thing to have because they had a code of practice to abide by as a member.

The session would have gone on longer if it wasn't that the final part of the conference was due. I think everyone went away from the session much enlightened.

There was a fun ending to the day when poet in residence, Joel Stickley read the poem he'd created from the comments attendees had pinned to a board, 'things you shouldn't say', and a few other starting points; while cartoonist 'Brick' produced a caricature of what writers looked like- a woman at the keyboard with a dream bubble above her head showing her as a success.

There were lots of photos taken during the day and you can see a few of the panel speakers on the Writing East Midlands, Twitter account, here.

It was reassuring that I already knew quite a few of the things that were mentioned during the day, but there were items I'd not thought about before, or something that made me think in another way.

Between sessions and during breaks there was the constant bubble of conversation, and amidst that there would be others sat reading, engrossed in a book and oblivious to the noise around them.

In the sessions the conversations continued until the sessions started and the noise level quickly dropped to murmurs and then respectful silence.

No one wanted to miss a single word, and it was worth it...

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...

Saturday 20 September 2014

Getting Back into Routine...

Normal service resumes from today...

Last weekend was very busy with shopping for last-minute items, and helping my son pack up everything he needed to take with him to university.

Sunday was a very emotional day. Friends had warned me I would cry, but I'd promised myself I'd try not to, but that was a fail on my part. I did shed a few tears, and for a good few hours felt like a piece of my chest was missing.

All is well and he starts lectures on Monday. He's not burnt anything yet, or set the fire alarms off- though a few have already this past week- including one at about 4 am.

So now I'm getting back to my current work in progress, and discovering more about my characters as I write. I've realised my heroine isn't as subdued as I thought she was at the start; and my hero has a cheeky side to his character I didn't know about...

Wednesday evening (17th) I did a session at the writers' club on Manuscript Presentation. It was only meant to be about 40 minutes (with time for manuscript reading in the second half) but every aspect generated discussion, and while it was good that everyone could share their experiences, it took up the whole meeting.

To show how important it was to really read every word and line looking for errors before sending, I gave everyone a brief exercise.

I used the first 153 words of Pride and Prejudice printed out with the punctuation and sentence structure that Jane Austen would have been familiar with. It's an opening most people will recognise.

The one thing I didn't do was remove any commas, as they can be tricky. Austen's language is much more formal and drawn out than nowadays, so I was sure we would have all disagreed on where any removed commas should have gone. So I limited it to creating spelling errors, missing words and general punctuation errors.

Some attendees were finished quite quickly, while others took longer. When it appeared everyone was done we went through line by line, with the victims  volunteers saying what errors they had found.

There were only 7 to find, and while many did find them all, others missed 1 or 2. So it was a good exercise to finish with.

I have great respect for all those writers who regularly do workshops and talks, as it takes a lot of thought and preparation time before the event even takes place.

Honestly, those first ten minutes were scary, but I was fine after that... :)

Sunday 5 February 2012

Saturday Snow and the Day After...

Usually the East Midlands seems to escape the snow that hits other parts of the country, but this weekend we were in just the right position for a heavy downfall.

As the Met Office and the weather forecasters on the regional news programme warned, Saturday afternoon the snow began to fall. At 3.15pm small flakes of snow began to flutter down from the murky white sky and slowly settle on the chilled ground.

As the evening passed the snow became thicker and faster and the city bus company suspended all services- not good news for anyone wanting to get home...

Eventually the snow stopped after seven and a half hours (and as predicted) there was about 10cm.

Now I've always loved snow. When I was in school, break times and lunch was snowball throwing time with all the other children, whether we were friends or enemies, and as soon as I was home it was outside to make a snowman.
No matter how well wrapped up I was, the snow always permeated my gloves and my fingers got so cold- and as soon as I was indoors in the warm and minus the gloves they came back to life...painfully.

Waking up today everything was so bright.

February 2012 Snow, Snow levels in the garden after a 7 hour fall of snow the night before.
Starting to melt by mid-morning
But it didn't last long, and the trees soon began to shed their weight in sudden falls or gentle slides, while birds dislodged the snow topping on fences as they landed or skimmed over on their morning quest for food...
Now we're into the turning to ice stage as the night time temperature falls again.

Considering how badly some eastern European countries have been suffering this past week, the UK has escaped lightly.

Now I just need to go and find my boots for Monday morning...

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...

Saturday 24 September 2011

The Things You Find in Books...

Have you ever bought an old book and found something interesting inside it between the pages?

I ask because the Chairman at our writers' club read out some pages of writing that she found in an old book that she recently bought. The woman being written about was clearly the female equivalent of Michael Crawford's character Frank in 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em'.

We weren't sure if this woman existed (it covered a couple of months in 1963) or if it was a would-be writer's notes; perhaps it was just delusional ramblings, but there were numerous story ideas that could have been inspired from this hapless woman's disasters...

In the early 20thC it seemed to be more usual to find written inscriptions inside books, dated and signed. Not necessarily from the author of the book, but from the book buyer to a friend or relative.

The ones I've come across always seem to have been written in fountain pen blue ink with that beautiful elegant writing that was taught a hundred years ago.

Perhaps those people felt that book was special, it meant something to them and to the person they gave it to.

It can also be very sad too. I once found an old book- in a charity shop- with an inscription from a parent to a child, then I looked at the date the book was published and the date of the inscription and I realised it was given new. Did that child keep that book all their life and only after their death did it get boxed up and sent elsewhere, old and irrelevant in today's world?

So I think in future when I give a book as a special gift I'm going to start putting an inscription inside so the reason why I've given it to that person (and when) isn't forgotten...

Friday 9 September 2011

The Hay Incident...

As mentioned in my last post here are a few photos of the hay bales that prevented me having a smooth running Friday last week.

hay bales,A road,pylons,pavements
The Hay Scene

I'm sure this can inspire a story, but I have too many others in my brain at the moment, so if this gives you an idea then go ahead...

Cone,Bale of Hay,Yellow tape,barriers,tape
The Hay Wizard

Personally I find images a great prompt for ideas. In July I did a mini workshop where we used postcards and yes, that story idea is still pending...

Some Victorian artists used their paintings to tell a story and you could take any aspect of such a painting to create a narrative.

Just because a scene is historical it doesn't mean you can't translate it to a modern day situation, and vice versa of course, you just make appropriate adjustments for the time period you're using.

How often do you actually stop and look at the minor details in the background of a painting or photograph?

There could be an interesting object, another painting or person caught in time by the artist or photographer. What you then do with that is up to you and your imagination.

Writers observe, even if we aren't consciously aware of it, we are gathering snippets that will eventually find their way into our writing.

So in the coming year I'm going to visit the art gallery at the Castle and see what inspiration is lurking on the walls...

Friday 2 September 2011

Ever Had One of Those Days?

Finally I've got some time to post.

It isn't just me that has been having one of those days- when things just don't go as you planned.

A few days ago The Bookseller announced that the expected result of whether the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) will refer the merger of Amazon and The Book Depository to the Competition Commission  was being delayed until Friday 2nd September, rather than the end of August as expected.

Then on Thursday further delays were announced. No reason has been given and the list of merger cases on the OFT's website just shows the date as to be confirmed (TBC). They generally state that
" the timetable of a given case may change during the merger assessment process due to different reasons."

The merger attracted widespread opposition from many writing and publishing related organisations. I'm sure many individuals would have voiced their concerns too.

* * *

Meanwhile high street bookseller Waterstones (now under new ownership) announced that they will no longer be running their 3 for 2 promotions.

Seems a lot of people, me included, only ever found two books they wanted. I found that less of a problem with the 3 for 2 in children's books.

The scheme that will replace it sounds interesting, but whether it is good for all writers or just some, time will tell...

* * *

I've spent today looking at washing machines. Our current one finally packed up yesterday and it did it with my swimming costume and a number of large towels inside.

My dear other half rescued my costume and hung it up so it would be ready for my aqua class, but there are now a lot of very wet towels to dry, and my new machine will not be delivered until next week...

Sadly the tribulations didn't stop there. I'd just got on the bus (to go to my aqua class) when the traffic ahead slowed to a halt. A flat-bed wagon loaded with large bales of hay had stopped just off the roundabout and partially blocked the slip road my bus had to use.

The bus was going nowhere- too wide for the remaining gap- and as I wasn't going to get to my class in time I got off and went home- that was when I saw the bales on the path and others hanging off the wagon...

The wagon is gone but the escaped hay is now in a big heap, on the top of the banking which runs along the edge of the road, waiting to be retrieved. (If it's still there tomorrow I'll take a photo.)

So at least it wasn't just me having one of those days...

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Back to Reality...

Well I'm back to the computer today and have been able to get some writing done- hurray!!!!

Now I have to admit that I've not physically been here the last few days as I was away from home- an extended weekend break-as well as trying out the writing with pen and paper (in different locations).

What worked?

I tried writing on Scarborough beach on Sunday and did get one side of A4 done (I do have large handwriting though) but the temperature was 25 degrees and it was just too hot for me to concentrate.

Monday afternoon was better, I went into the bedroom and shut the door and managed an hour's writing, plus I found out something about my hero that will be very useful- it hadn't occurred to me when I was writing his character profile a few months ago...

So the four pages I managed were not a complete waste of time.

I have learnt:

I DO need quiet to write. It doesn't have to be complete silence but low level background noise that isn't intrusive is fine.

I do go into 'the zone' when I write at the computer. It is easier to put myself into that state where I am with my characters in their surroundings, watching and listening to their conversations.
With a pen and paper I couldn't do that properly, it was a superficial level.

Personally for me, using pen and paper to record ideas and scenes that come to me at any time, works, but I write better sat at the computer without interruptions.

I've been adding to my current work in progress this afternoon and incorporated some of the pen and paper insights from the weekend, so I'm satisfied with the progress I've made.

BUT I have a deadline, so there's still work to do yet...

Monday 11 July 2011

Chapter One and Observation...

Another week and some time to write.

I've been rewriting chapter one of my novella and this morning finished it- okay it's only the first draft and there's still fourteen chapters and numerous rewrites and edits to go, but I still feel positive about it.

Having spent time thinking and writing down the details of my characters in a structured way before I started the new chapter one, I've found it has been very helpful. I could see elements I'd missed before, and that important snippet of info that was in the wrong place (now put aside in a folder) awaits the second chapter where it needs to be.

So what about the observation?

Well the novella is a love story. And over the weekend the news channels were reviewing the royal tour of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Canada and the west coast of the USA. It was fascinating to watch as so many times there were smiling glances-even if their other half was busy talking- and an almost touch that the romantic in me thought awwww...

Meanwhile in our garden we have blackbirds nested in the back of our blackberry bush that have made interesting viewing- I think they may have built the nest on the old lidded water butt that has become enclosed in greenery.
The parents are busy getting food and when one returns there's a sudden burst of chirriping from within the depths. The male has set up a one way system of entry to the bush, landing on a large pot and then flying up and in through a gap; while the female just flies in and out of the gaps at the front...

My redcurrant bush has been completely defruited by other blackbirds, leaving just stripped fruit stems. And our bush resident bird has now started on the small amount of white currants still available- I'm hoping the young birds are gone before the blackberries ripen and need picking.

Now I've got to go and replace the first lot of washing I put on the line this morning- we've had to leave flight path gaps for the birds to get through as the clothes line is close to the bush.

Yes I know I'm strange...  :-)