Thoughts on ‘New Year’

I’m in a writers’ discussion group and just before Christmas debated ‘New Year’ – why is it January 1st and so close to Christmas? Of course the discussion covered calendars,  traditions, history, political and religious viewpoints, then it started getting interesting.

I came to the conclusion that I’d like New Year to be set at 22nd December, after the Winter Solstice:  We’re heading back towards summer and within a few weeks the days will start getting noticeably longer with more [hopefully] life-giving sun rays. It makes sense because, I’ve read, our pagan ancestors would be awaiting the return of the sun to grow the new season’s crops, so feasting at partying at year end is a tradition anyway in order to make it through the lean winter months when not much food grows and there’s not much else to do during long winter evenings.

With New Year goes the tradition of making a resolution (or two).

I cannot think of a worse date to set out towards a goal. There is far too much pressure; there is always the joke about annual gym memberships starting in January rarely exceeding the third week, or thereabouts. And anyway, when do you actually start? The Christmas season doesn’t officially finish until 12th Night (6th January) and some people still have ‘left-overs’ lurking in the fridge, or the odd box of chocolates  hanging around – so, for example, you can’t start a diet then – it would be wasteful. Another instance; if you want to give up smoking… do you start at midnight when you’re still at your New Year’s eve party?

Daft idea!

I suggest we choose any date and hour we like, or deem suitable, for starting out towards a goal, which is what a New Year resolution is. Perhaps the most sensible time to start is when we first think of the goal … right now.

Good luck!

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The run up to Christmas 2018

I hope you, my followers, are having fun with your Christmas preparations.

I’m happy to say I’ve escaped all the commercialism and just doing things very quietly. My tree is up and the mincemeat and cake made, and the Christmas presents for the family delivered. A little baking and marzipan and icing for the cake one afternoon and they are finished.

I actually quite like doing little tasks like that when I don’t have to concentrate on what I’m doing – just get stuck in. It allows my subconscious to wander and just see what ends up in my brain. Hopefully the breakthrough idea for a second novel and then such tasks (and sleep) allow the storyline to evolve.

At least that’s what I noticed with my first manuscript; I used the principle of NaNoWriMo – i.e. write everyday for a month, even if it’s drivel. What I actually created was a basic manuscript – a chapter a day, so 4-5k words – to hone and edit.

I used to think writers were a bit airy fairy when interviewed I heard them say it wrote itself. Well, actually, I noticed that because the story and writing it every day absorbed most of my thinking, and right at the front of my brain, that it did write itself. Or I’d dream the next chapter and all I’d have to do is get up and write it.

I plan to get stuck into more tasks where I don’t have to think much and see what transpires!

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Why would anyone publish with Amazon?

I just received a newsletter from a business advisor I follow; she has written her first book and is in the process of publishing it. In her newsletter she asked this question – Why would anyone publish with Amazon?

It’s a question I’ve had at the back of my mind for a while. In her case she has a problem with the ISBN number she’s been issued with, the same number having been issued to someone in America. I’m still not down the ISBN road yet (but getting closer!)

I’ve thought about the Amazon question though.

Amazon hasn’t quite put the independent retailer out of business yet. In my hometown, they survive because they offer personal service and you can browse the shelves before you buy. WHSmith is in the town (it’s too small for Waterstones) but compared to the independent bookshop they have limited stock available; basically the celebrity writers and the ‘best selling’ titles (also available in at least two of town’s supermarkets.) The independent survives despite this because their stock is more varied; they have local writers do Book Signings, etc. They have footfall.

Whereas Amazon is available from every electronic gizmo I have available and if I know what I want, even in the past titles not available in the UK and I’ve had books sent from America, they will deliver it to my door and increasingly an e-book to my device very quickly. They have a global market too – that’s an awful lot of people who may see your title.

I say ‘may’ because it’s very easy to publish with Amazon; I’ve researched it.  Follow their guidelines particularly with formatting correctly and wait a few days and it’s done. The trouble with this is you’re up against hundreds if not thousands, of titles and how can you make yours stand out?

I’ve downloaded free titles from Amazon. Some authors use ‘Free’ to either suck people into buying a title by putting up the first few chapters – if you want to know what happens you have to buy  it. Others put up the first title in a series, or a first title, just to capture an audience. If they enjoy the first one perhaps they will seek you out to see what else you’ve written. And some people maybe just publish for free from the point of view they ‘just have to write’ and they have the ego boost of being published and in the public domain. I am a writer! These ideas are credible.

However, some of the titles are really not very good (even if they have been formatted correctly.) I’ve seen inconsistencies in storylines, inaccuracies, very poor English and grammar (I’m not an expert, but it does put me off if it’s not right) and this makes me wonder how, even if a title was exceptionally good and Best Seller material it can compete and be noticed.

I came to the conclusion that whilst publishing with Amazon is easy and cost-effective that at least initially I would prefer to go the traditional route – given I can find an agent and publisher. I want to feel the book in my hand – although I have nothing against e-books, I read them – I just want something tangible, that is quality and has been acknowledged by people who work in the industry and who wouldn’t bother with my title unless they thought it has a potential market.

I suppose it’s down to personal preferences and all options are available to choose from and authors will select whichever route they feel is right for them.

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Everything changes

This morning I decided that I would take heed of the (probably wrongly) attributed quote from Einstein – Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I’ve spent over three and a half years catharsis writing because “stuff” just goes round and round in my head until I write it out, only to find it’s replaced by more “stuff”. If I try to verbalise the thoughts they don’t come out properly either, so writing it had to be.

The trouble is, catharsis writing is blocking creative writing. So today I move on.

I’ve republished my Facebook page which needs further updating but at least it’s there. I took it down because I seemed to be attracting some strange ‘followers’ who didn’t seem interested in my writing nor appeared to have purchased and read my stories. I received some strange messages and felt uncomfortable. Anyway it’s back and I’ve changed the privacy settings. Lesson learned!

I’ve also checked my website, which needs updating too (soon) and I looked up my author page on, the short story website – go on, take a look. The stories are downloadable for about the cost of a postage stamp. (I’m not begging, but would appreciate some honest feedback.) I’m grateful to Rosemary at for having faith in new writers, like me, and giving me a chance. Twice my stories have been chosen to be included in anthologies and Rosemary is kind, encouraging and supportive.

Not ready to Tweet yet.

In addition I’ve deleted a load of digital files off my computer – feeble attempts at writing that never amounted to more than a few hundred word before fizzling out. And the ‘catharsis’ files have gone too – just like the paper notebooks that I recently put through the shredder.

My life has moved on and so there is no excuse not to write … something constructive. Out with the old and in with the new. Tomorrow I continue this new positive approach – fingers crossed!

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What inspires you?

Yesterday I contemplated ‘inspiration’ and as a recent visit to my favourite coastal area lifted my spirits, I made a return trip. It was absolutely gorgeous yesterday; blue sky and sunshine, so as the rest of this weekend is to be dampened by Storm Katie I took to the road.

I know it sounds daft, but even driving there still feels like an adventure as although the roads are familiar, I always used to view them from the passenger seat because my late husband nearly always drove. I took the coast route rather than a main ‘A’ road and that made it enjoyable; singing along to a CD. (It’s okay, the windows were up while I was singing!)
I took to the beach in my sweatshirt and shiny red wellies and splashed through the streams to the waves. I could visualise my little grandson running around togged up against the breeze wearing his yellow wellies enjoying the freedom of the beach. That was a nice thought.

I stood where the waves lapped the shore watching the breakers. The waves were lovely for surfing; I watched several skilful surfers standing riding the waves into shore and casually stepping off when they reached ankle deep water. There were a few who mis-timed the wave and fell off as the wave broke with the board flying up into the air – an iconic sight – better luck next time. There were also body boarders; all braver than me in the cold water.

I thought about the noises the sea makes and remembered times on tropical shores when the waves, little more than a ripple, plopped as it reached the beach. I also remembered, one winter, sitting on some rocks near where I was yesterday and watching some big Atlantic breakers crashing onto the shore and the waves thundered and felt like they shook the ground. And I recalled the range of sounds in between.

I also recalled that law of physics that says that energy doesn’t end – it transfers to another form (as I understand it); so I wondered where the energy of the waves goes when they reach the shore. Perhaps I was absorbing it, transferred through the air?

Watching the waves yesterday brought back all kinds of memories and thoughts and the bracing off-shore breeze taking the tops off the waves reminded me I wasn’t standing on a tropical beach; nevertheless it was nice to not be thinking of anything in particular and going home with the crunchy, fresh feeling I get from spending a day in the salty breeze feeling cheerful.

A happy day.

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How to alienate your reader

I have been absent from my blog for fifteen months trying to discover who I am since my husband died, just over two years ago. I went on a bit of a journey last year trying to pick up a few threads of a social life to build a new one, but I ended up feeling even more isolated, lonely and disconnected, and worse still hurt. I retreated to my Cave and crawled under a rock for the rest of the winter to mull things over. Self-preservation.

On last year’s stint of my steep learning curve, I tried to come to terms with my suddenly imposed Single state; I’m not dealing very well with it and don’t function well alone. I had a very happy marriage for the last couple of decades and I’ve forgotten (if ever I knew, that is) how to be me. But I realised I had opened up to the idea I could possibly have another close friendship, if I was very lucky.

My bestie knows how much I struggle, and one night, when she couldn’t sleep (it wasn’t just me!) she was listening to late night radio and heard an interview with a woman in similar circumstances discussing a blog she kept for her catharsis, which evolved into a book. I downloaded the book towards the end of last year and read it.

At first I felt inspired… Someone else felt just like me. Apart from references to screaming in a public space and her dog (I don’t do dogs) she articulated exactly the same emotions, problems and feelings as me. That is, until halfway through her book when she alienated me completely and I growled to the end where I finished up feeling even worse.

At the halfway point she got smug about her age (being her forties still) and, as a certain magazine/travel company do, dismiss people 50+ as ‘old’ or mature or something, and lump them into the same age group as 60/70/80 year olds. I had already come to the conclusion that my needs aren’t the same as those in their 60s after conversations with other widows – let alone anyone older; I don’t feel the same. My ‘needs’ and outlook are different; I could, if I’m lucky, have 30-40 years of life left and I sure as hell don’t want to feel like I do now for all that time.

So how dare this author, assume that my needs as a ‘sudden widow’ aren’t the same as hers, just because she might have been a whisper below the 50 cut-off point and I was a teensy-weensy bit over it; I’m rather tired of that assumption. Other people might feel okay with ‘seniors’ holidays, hiking groups and cruises and the like, but I’m not; unless I’m strongly persuaded otherwise, it’s my idea of hell and I won’t be ready until I’m at least 80 – Don’t write me off! (Okay, rant over; If it’s your thing, dear Reader, please enjoy them. We are all different…)

I can sum it up by saying I relate more to ‘Bridget Jones’ than ‘Marigold Hotel’ – I just wish I was as confident, feisty and less shy as the Bridget Jones character is.

What made it worse was not much past a year, and despite everything she wrote, she had already got herself another relationship; well lucky her! I’m pleased that her journey was so short and satisfying; I’m happy for her that she could tell me smugly about her ‘happy ever after’ ending. I am over two years into my suddenly enforced drop out of my nice, comfortable life and dump back into Singledom; my learning journey of striving to find out who I am is taking considerably longer and I’m less lucky (and licking my wounds as part of my learning process.)

So amongst one or two other things I’ve learned I can add, when I write I will try very hard not to be smug, perhaps assuming it might be reassuring, and alienate my reader.

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Happy New Year

I wonder if I still have any followers as it’s six months since I last posted. I won’t give an explanation for my absence; I figure if you don’t have anything interesting to write it’s better not to write anything. So what can I write about now? I had the excitement towards the end of the last year of having a story included in an anthology of ghost stories ‘The Day Death Wore Boots’ published by Alfie Dog Fiction. My story is Restless Spirits. In addition I had a new short story added to my collection ‘Ladies Wot Backpacked (A Sri Lankan Odyssey)’.too. For details of my stories and publications with Alfie Dog Fiction visit my page: I intend to blog a little more frequently in 2015, so please come back :o)

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Approaching the end of my SWLP 30 Day Challenge

Next Monday is the end of my 30DC with John Williams and his team at Screw Work Let’s Play (he’s written a great book with the same title.)

Whilst on the face of it, it may seem that I’ve failed to achieve my initial challenge (to get my first novel published); after a mid-challenge wobble I moderated the goal to something I could achieve, which was to ‘choose a path towards getting my novel published’. I have learned a huge amount in the last month and have chosen my likely path to print making an informed decision and thereby I achieved my goal.

On the 30DC I was pointed towards resources that have given me a clear picture of the routes available towards publishing and I’ve also learned a great deal about the publishing process and how to do it properly. It’s better to take time over it and make the right decisions to get it right and produce a book that represents quality and value for money, and ‘feels’ right.

No one can set out these days as a writer and expect to make big bucks unless they are very lucky and get the right breaks. I don’t expect to make a fortune; to break even for the expenses I outlay would be good; to make a living to reward my time and effort would be nice; beyond that I don’t expect anything – just to go with the flow.

Over the course of the challenge, I’ve defined my core purpose: to write stories for people to read and enjoy and to produce them, to the best of my abilities, of a good quality so that readers feel they represent value for money.

I’ve also learned, by reading about the experiences of ‘million-seller’ authors, that despite what I may have read, there is no ‘right way’, no perfect methodology to writing a best seller. Some writers just get inspiration – think of a beginning, a middle and an ending and just write. Others will plan an outline for the entire plot then ŵrite the story around it. Some will draft and edit at the same time as part of the process. Others will just write and edit, revise and polish the initial rough draft once it’s completed. Some people write a story quickly, others write over a protracted period. Some get up early; others write through the night. Fundamentally, each individual does whatever works for them. The one thing they all possess is discipline to get it done.

I’ve remained on the same path every day throughout June, reading, noting and researching the process, so that has given me a focus to continue past the end of the challenge.

Thank you John Williams and SWLP.

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‘Voice’ and editing

What a nightmare it is. On one hand the advice is to use short sentences, remove cliches and passive sentences etc. and yet every day language seems to contain passive sentences all the time. I noticed this listening to news reports on the TV one evening to reach this conclusion. Spoken everyday language is rarely perfect.

Another load of advice I read said not to use enquired, asked, muttered, etc just use ‘said’. What? How boring is that to read? It lacks colour and intonation to that little reader in your brain.

So while editing a draft, you learn how to perfect your English grammar and edit your manuscript to within an inch of its life, how do you possibly ever find your ‘voice’ as a writer?

I’m still working on that one.

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Obstructions towards goals or challenges

Many people think that fear of failure is a block in the path of achieving a goal. Failure is easy to understand; your inner critic says ‘I told you so’ and wags it’s finger. Failure is a self-fulfilling prophesy; you think you’ll fail and you will.

Worse is the fear of success. If you’re successful you may have to come out of the shadows of anonymity. If you’re shy, a fear of being ‘out there’, or worse still ‘celebrity’ status is harder to deal with.

I suppose the best way is to set aside the fear, whether failure or success, and just do it. You may neither fail nor succeed, and just bob along quietly. You can develop a thick skin and ignore your critics – you can’t please everyone; you can’t control what people like or dislike – it’s subjective, so if you can’t control it, don’t worry about it.

If you do achieve success and celebrity status, you can always engage help when and if it happens.

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