Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reflections on 2009

In the last month I have moved house, proposed to my partner (and she accepted) and had my best ever christmas. Given the events of the past year this ending is a surprise, but a welcome one.

In May I finally moved out of the family home after 16 years of marriage and 2 further years of living in the same house as my family. I moved in with my mother.

In June, at the end of my tether, I ended up in hospital being assessed by a psychiatrist after a suicide attempt. Throughout the summer I had a running battle with the council over housing, which I have lost, and then in September my eldest, sick of the behaviour of his mother, moved in with me and my mother. I'm currently fighting the government over the child-based benefits they are still paying to my ex-wife.

In Mid-October my best friend conducted a 'scientific experiment' which resulted in a kiss, a cuddle and a new relationship.

Life hasn't been easy since then, and I would never expect life to be a smooth ride, but it has been a lot more pleasant. I certainly see more of a future now than in June when all I could hope for was a painless death.

2010 cannot be worse than 2009. It's a new year, a new decade and a new start. Susan and I will redecorate our home, move the furniture and plan the future. We will merge two families (just like the Brady Bunch) and work together.

For the first time in my life I can honestly proclaim, Roll On the Future.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Strawberry Flame

I sit here, looking at an overcast sky, a strawberry scented candle aflame beside me, and I wonder: Why write?

Because I want to.

I write this blog for my own purposes and if someone else enjoys it, that's a bonus. If someone else is inspired by it, or learns from it, that's even better. When I write my stories, I write them because I want to tell the story.

I would be lying if I said I have no interest in publication, or not earning a living from writing because I do want those things. Occasionally, however, it is worth reminding myself that the reason I started writing is to put into words the stories I have floating around my head.

When something that I have written, be it a short story, a book review or (hopefully) a novel, gets published I'm thankful and happy. They are the bonus times.

Today, though, I am reminding myself that I write because I want to and because I enjoy it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thoughts on a Play

Our three night run finished on Saturday. Whilst we did well and the play was warmly received, I can't help feeling that something was missing all along.

What was missing was a good editor.

A Doll's House is a play that makes a very good point about how women were treated in 19th century Europe, but takes so long over its point at the end that an audience could fall asleep.

In our production, the two actors on stage at the end regularly missed whole pages of dialogue at the end, but it didn't detract from the story or the message. It was a running joke that they never acted out page 104 at any point, including rehearsals.

There is also the repetitive dialogue throughout which makes it hard for the actor to remember the order of the play. For Krogstad I had more than a couple of lines that started with 'Mrs Helmer, Listen'.

This may be down to some dodgy translation, but that then means that the translator needed some help from a friendly (or not) editor.

But those points cannot detract from a great experience for myself, two of my children and the cast as a whole. We had three appreciative audiences, a well rounded cast and a superb director and backup crew.

In fact, I'm thinking of copyrighting our shortened version of the play as the KATS edition.

If you want to see some photos of the performance, you will be able to see them at our website over the coming weeks.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Second Night Nerves

Second night nerves hit us all. Or was it second night complacency?

It was more likely the latter as we had such a great performance last night. No matter how hard you try, the second night is always worse as you get too comfortable with the performance. The good side is that it shakes you up for the third, and in our case last, night.

I wonder if it is the same for novel writing?

Still, we have managed to perform the play twice without any serious hiccups. The only problem is at the end when the two performers seem to manage to cut out three to four pages of dialogue. The troubling thing is that the whole ending still makes sense.

Maybe Ibsen was too verbose?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

First Night Nerves?

First Night was superb.

We had one technical hitch and several missed lines, but nothing important. We all came away with a huge smile on our faces. The two boys got everything correct too.

I have never seen the director so happy.

We all broke our legs at the end and received the well-earned applause.

Now, can we keep it up for tomorrow?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Relax, Don't Do It.

We had the final dress rehearsal last night. The bells still didn't ring on time, the music was still a tad too loud and we all forgot some of our lines, but the play spun through to the end without a significant hitch.

We're ready for our first performance on Thursday.

Today is a day of rest. No rehearsals, no line learning, just rest from the play for a day. Easier for me as I work from home, but there will be no running to rehearsals tonight for anyone. Early night, cup of cocoa, plenty of sleep.

Writer's need the same. We need to relax when we've reached a certain goal, or have got stuck at a certain point. We need to refresh ourselves, clear our minds and let inspiration back in.

So put your feet up today. Rest, relax, sleep, spend time with your partner, your kids, your parents, your pets or your Nintendo. Give the brain a rest from the demands of writing and return refreshed tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dress Rehearsal

Last night was the first dress rehearsal, complete with makeup. Despite a few teething problems, it all went well.

Most of the costumes fitted, especially those that were supplied by the cast for themselves, and the set looks grand.

Naturally there were a few mistakes: lines forgotten (in one case two whole pages), cues missed, props falling over, the sound being too loud and several more.

But the cast kept their nerves, made up for each others mistakes and overcame the fear of being in full regalia.

Tonight we have another dress rehearsal at which all of the above faults will be corrected...just in time for us to create new ones.

BRING IT ON!

Monday, November 16, 2009

This is the Week

This Thursday, we perform 'A Doll's House' for the first time.

Tonight we have the first full dress rehearsal, make-up included. Guess I'll have to shave. The boys are looking forward to it, though not to wearing the make-up.

My eldest son helped with the sound and light setup yesterday and had a great time. It's also good practice for him when he does his media course next September.

On that note, we produced a small video to advertise it on Youtube. Let me know what you think about it.



On another unrelated matter, the geeks still cannot get computers to recognise emotions in writing.

They tested the marking ability of computers for English Language, by using some great speeches and texts of the past. The results were quite humourous and show that we humans still have a place on this planet, despite the best efforts of some businesspeople and politicians.

Enjoy your week.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quote...Unquote (3)

"Seventy percent of life is showing up." (Woody Allen)

For writers, that means submitting work time and again. What have you submitted this week?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Quote...Unquote (2)

"The older a man gets, the father he had to walk to school as a child." (Henry Brightman)

For writers that could be paraphrased as, "The older a writer gets, the longer it took him to get his work published."

The longer in the tooth a writer is, the more they forget the short stories and the book reviews they wrote etc. They also forget the writing they weren't paid for that got their name out there.

We're already published writers, we just haven't been paid or recognised yet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Quote...Unquote"

"As the Earth explodes, the last audible sound will be that of an expert proudly proclaiming that it can't be done." (Peter Ustinov)

When someone tells you that getting published is an impossible dream, just tell them that.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Little by Little

Life is hard, yard by yard.
Inch by inch, it's a cinch.

A twee little piece of verse, but accurate. I've found over the years that if I try to do everything at once I get frustrated. If I attempt jobs one piece at a time, then I get more done.

It works with decorating, writing, everything.

At the moment I'm getting my foot in the publishing door by writing reviews and short stories. I'm not ignoring the novel, but I find that whenever I get back to it, I have more insight than before.

In the last few months I've had four reviews published and one short story. My name's out there. When I do finally get my novel finished, I will have a decent publishing record which I will have built up little by little.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Back to Reality

After a pleasant week off, I'm back to Earth with a thump.

A play rehearsal, an argument with my ex-wife and an exploding PC.

Still, the boys are back from Germany and my eldest is back with me.

Last week was one of the most relaxing periods of my life. Susan and I watched films, took dogs for several walks and spent time at the hospital together.

But I did finish off reading a couple of books and restart my reading of a collection of short stories by Ambrose Bierce. I've also started reading a novel by Mary Shelley: The Last Man. I'll have more to say on that at some point in the future.

For now, I need to get another review done, work on a short story and console myself with the fact that I haven't won the Bridport Prize.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ouch!

I put my back out yesterday morning and it's still hurting today. Still, it gives me a great excuse to sit down and read or be at the computer.

It's settled down now and if I get a comfortable nights sleep I'll be fine in the morning. If not, I shall be moaning about it again tomorrow.

I also have another PC job tomorrow afternoon: teaching someone how to use their digital camera, and get the photos onto a PC.

Some people laugh when I tell them I do this, but if you don't know how to do something, how are you going to learn? Although I can do these things almost without thinking, many people can't. So I teach them, then next time they can do it themselves without fear. I also keep in mind that there was a time when I couldn't do any of this.

No rehearsal tomorrow evening, and I'm not due in until Monday 2nd November. That gives me nearly two weeks to learn all my lines.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WAW

What a week!

7 days of exploding PCs, broken networks and PC teaching, as well as settling my eldest into life with me. Add to that a couple of play rehearsals and that I have been 'picked up' by a woman.

We finally managed to get all my son's stuff from his mother's place and spent three days sorting out what should go in the garage and what needs to stay inside. All we need to do now is get his bed out of there.

One PC job took three visits, two HDD enclosures and several sets of wires before it finally worked, whilst another was a simple install job for Windows XP. Don't get me started on the network problems and broadband catastrophes.

I've had to put some time aside to view my latest published works. Two reviews in issue 99 of hub magazine. The story will be out in the next month or so (watch this space).

I've also started dating again with a great, wonderful, beautiful woman. We've told our respective families (10 kids, 2 parents, assorted siblings, ex-in-laws, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and assorted pets) and are working our way round friends. We should finish just before the London Olympics start in 2012.

Well, that brings you up to date on my life. But what about the writing I hear you say. I'm linking up with Community Times Stevenage to run a small writing competition in their magazine. The rules will be published soon. I've also been working on characters in the novel, looking at short stories that I could resend to magazines, as well as plotting one or two more. Mostly I'm writing reviews on SF books and films.

Hopefully, I'll be able to get back to a daily blog now that things have settled down.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Making the Break

My eldest son moved out of his mother's place and in with me today.

Not the easiest decision for a 15 year-old-Asperger's-suffering boy to make, but he felt he had no choice.

The area where my ex lives is not one of the most salubrious in Stevenage and the atmosphere in the house is stifling for him. Add to this she expects him to be a surrogate father to his two younger brothers while she goes away for the weekend with her boyfriend and he'd had enough.

I hope he's made the correct decision, and that I have too.

Prayers and Good Wishes will be welcome.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Rehearsals

There is just over a month till the play is performed and things are coming along nicely.

We have had two runthroughs of Act 1, without books, and both went well. The occasional hiccup, but nothing that can't be fixed with a little more practice.

We've also gone through Act 2 and on Thursday we will do a 'no book' runthrough of that.

The only problem is Nora. Not because she can't do it, but because the whole play revolves around her. Well, problem is not the correct word. She is onstage for most of the play, the only exception being the beginning of Act 3. She also has many long pieces, a lot of which sound the same or have the same feel.

The rest of us have to get our feeder lines correct or she'll get things wrong.

I am REALLY looking forward to this now. At the start I was worrying if I could learn all of my lines, but I'm finding out just how well I can learn these things. I just need to believe in myself a lot more.

Oh, remember me mentioning someone flirting with me? Well, let's hope I was wrong about that as she's married.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Read Through

Two members of the cast didn't turn up tonight. The leading lady was ill and the leading man was...well we don't know.

So, we did a sit down read through without our scripts. All in all, it went well and very little prompting was required. Even the kids got their lines right.

The play is coming together as we are also getting props sorted out and the costumes. I am also starting work on a youtube video, the contents of which are currently secret, but will be revealed in due course. We may even put a snippet of the performance online afterwards.

Now, I just have to learn the other two chunks and I'll be fine...ish.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What We Don't Know

What a couple of days. PC and Broadband problems everywhere.

One PC decided to just stop booting up for no apparent reason. A quick rejig of the internal wiring and some jerry-rigging later and it started. Why did it stop? No idea. All the hardware was wired properly and all the software had the correct settings.

This got me thinking about all the things we don't know about the world around us. In computers, why does software crash for no reason and then happily restart and give no problems ever again? Ghosts in the machine?

Our minds are a similar puzzle. Is our mind a part of the physical brain that we haven't discovered yet? Or is it a soul, a spiritual essence that only partly resides in this universe or the three-dimensional world?

There is so much we don't know, and probably never will.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Diary - The Next Generation

7.30am: Alarm woke me up and I tried to wake up youngest son. Failed.

7.35am: Finally got grumpy little child up and out of bed. Made His Majesty some breakfast.

7.45am: The Emperor is crying as his mother packed the wrong trousers for school. Promise to swing by her place so he can get another pair.

8.15am: Leave to take the High Priest to school.

8.30am: Chase the High Lord of the Galaxy around the school playground. He runs out of energy before I do.

8.45am: The God of all things deigns to enter school...after I chase him around some more and kiss him several times in front of his friends.

10.30am: Leave home with sprog number 1 to collect sprog number 2 and go to Royston.

12.00pm: Have lunch in Royston, sprogs go to friend's house for fun. I rehearse lines with my friend.

5.00pm: Walk dogs on heath, sprogs come and find us.

5.15pm: Leave Royston and return sprog number 2 to mother's house.

6.30pm: Leave house to go to play rehearsals. Leading lady ill, so cut short. Stay late with another member of cast to rehearse our lines in act 3. Neither of us can stop laughing at the absurdity of some of them.

9.00pm: We leave together

9.10pm: Get back home and try to calm down.

10.15pm: Absolutely cream-crackered. Goodnight all.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Diary IV - The Final Insult...Until Next Week

7.30am: Alarm went off and woke up. Lovely day outside. Went back to sleep.

9.00am: Woke up again, went downstairs and made a cup of tea.

9.15am: Woke eldest son up by threatening to sit on his face. Worked a treat.

9.45am: Had a bath and a shave. That's two of each this month. Am I becoming obsessive?

10.30am: Whilst reading 'Mort' by Terry Pratchett, came to a sudden realisation. The 'evil' character in my novel should not be actually evil. He should be more of an accident prone, do-gooder vicar with a sense of duty who has been handed an awful lot of power. Novel should be finished by 2015.

11.00am: Old friend contacted my via Facebook. We agree to meet up at 1.30pm for lunch.

1.15pm: Gather my stuff together for 3pm meeting with CAB and go to lunch.

1.30pm: Friend is late (as usual). Turns up at 1.35pm. (Men. Ha. Never get things right do they)

2.45pm: After insulting each other for over an hour we part company. He goes to get his youngest from school and I go to CAB.

2.55pm: Arrive at CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau) for meeting with Family Advisor about kids and residency. Discover that eldest can make his own decision about where he lives in January as he turns 16. Brings a smile to my face.

3.55pm: Arrive home and tell son good news. He's happy, but has been told by his mother that he has to make a decision by the end of October. Fine by me and him. If the flat is OK (and I will see it within the next ten days), then I'll move in before he goes to Germany and he can make a decision. Horrible thing for a child to have to decide, but I don't know what else I expected from THAT woman.

18.30pm: Finally get back on MY computer now that my son has been peeled off it.

18.35pm: Realise that the end of the week has been better than the beginning. Can go to sleep with a smile on my face...providing I can find that miniature coat hanger.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Diary III - Another Sequel

4.30am: Can't sleep anymore. As I need to be out of the door by 5.15am anyway, decide to get dressed.

5.15am: Leave house to go and get friend and kids to take them to Gatwick Airport.

5.45am: Arrive. Mother not up, kids ready.

6.20am: Leave...20 minutes late. Mother not going as she is unwell.

7.00am: Stop so one of kids can be sick by the roadside.

9.00am: Arrive at Gatwick and check kids in. Go get something to eat.

10.05am: Get kids back to checkout desk so flight attendant can take them through. Lots of tears from one child as she's leaving her boyfriend behind for seven weeks.

10.30am: Leave Gatwick for return journey.

12.15am: Drop girl's boyfriend off at his house and go visit mother to see if she's OK. She's fine, if queesy.

1.10pm: Arrive home.

3.15pm: Council ring to tell me I'm top bidder for a flat. May get my own place soon.

3.30pm: Bank ring me to tell me that my account problems have been sorted out.

3.35pm: Start blog, wondering how such an awful week can up reasonably good.

3.40pm: Realise that there is still Friday to go. Things could still go horribly wrong.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Further Diary Scribbles

8.00am: Finally struggled out of bed.

8.15am: Woke up 15 year old son who'd fallen asleep on sofa. Threatened to kiss him if he didn't.

8.45am: Got dressed.

Spent rest of morning waiting for a phone call asking me to collect a friend from hospital.

1.00pm: Put cottage pie in oven for lunch

1.05pm: Friend texts to ask if I can collect her.

5.30pm: Get home.

8.30pm: Start blog.

8.35pm: Finish blog.

8.36pm: Long for an interesting life, then remember Chinese proverb - May you live in uninteresting times.

On plus side, did a lot of reading and line-learning today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Diary of a Nobody

Tuesday 29th September

7.30am: Alarm goes off. I look out of the window and see a grey sky. Hate life. Go back to sleep.

8.15am: Wake up. Sky still grey. Go back to sleep.

8.30am: Wake up again. Grey sky, but stomach rumbling. Get up, get my pills and have breakfast and a cup of tea. Discover that Cliff and the Shadows have a new album out. Feel a little more cheerful.

9.30am: Shave myself. Feel better. Sky still grey.

10.00am: Second cup of tea, slowly waking up. Sky clearing. Looks like the sun may be making an effort to shine on me for a change.

10.15am: Start writing blog, faintest hint of sunshine breaking through the clouds.

10.23am: Finish blog. Check spelling and grammar. Looking forward to seeing kids at home-ed bowling. Haven't seen them since Saturday. Still feel like world's going to end, but more cheerful than at 7.30am.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

Reading, writing and submitting. I've been busy these last two weeks.

I haven't done as much reading as I would like, but have discovered something through T.Anne's blog on passion.

I have had a torrid time reading two books by Iain M Banks (Feersum Endjin and Against A Dark Background), which is unusual as I usually enjoy them. The missing element is passion and despite Banks being a superb writer, it's the quality of the writing which shines through instead of the story and the characters. They are original and well written, but passionless. So thanks to T.Anne for the spark of enlightenment.

I've also been working on a few book/DVD reviews, one of which will be published soon, with three more in pipeline. The advantage of reviews is that they are relatively quick to do and can get published far more easily than a story. They are also good at getting your name out there to publishers and agents and providing they are in your own genre, suitable for putting on any query. Not only that, but they improve your writing skills as you have to summarise a story, which is something I find difficult with my own work.

The play rehearsals are going well and I'm getting my head around the character I'm performing as well as learning my lines...and there are a lot of them. But, it is the character I wanted to play above all others if only because he has a happy ending (and I could do with one of them at the moment).

Tonight it's to my writing group again as I'm not involved in the scene being rehearsed, but then the group get another month long break from me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lines, Lines, Lines

Thankfully I wasn't the only person to forget his lines last night, but it has reminded me of one thing: each person in a play is dependent on everyone else. If we get our lines wrong, the other person misses their cue.

We did last night's Act 1 run through without our scripts. It wasn't a disaster as most of the lines were remembered, but when it went wrong, it went hideously wrong. Even the director was laughing at some moments.

It is difficult to keep a straight face, when the woman you're meant to be bawling at, forgets her lines and then laughs. Try it.

The bright spots were the boys, who got their lines correct, as well as their actions...all seven lines.

Still, I have the next three rehearsals off as I'm not needed, so I'll have plenty of time to get my part right.

On an even more positive note, I will have another short story and another book review published soon. The short story will be out in December, whilst the review should be out by the middle of October.

Now to try and get some sleep.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't Laugh, Your Face Will Crack

I managed to get through last night's rehearsal without smiling once.

The boys were rehearsing as well and remembered their parts and some of their lines. They've got the whining off to a tee.

I wasn't meant to be rehearsing last night, but I had to take the boys, so I intended to learn my lines. Fat chance. Torvald didn't turn up, so I had to step and read his part, and as I was there, we had another run through of my first big scene with the leading lady.

All I have to do now is learn my lines for Monday, as we're doing the whole of Act 1 without scripts.

-----------------------------------------------

On another note, Sonia King is a performer who I've admired for a long time. She writes Christian songs and has done she was fourteen, way back in the 19(cough cough)'s. I've known her as a friend and co-worker and fellow christian since the late 80's.

If you want to sample her work you can go to her website. You can also hear samples of all her music. I recommend 'Together My Friend' on the New World album as it is my personal favourite of all her songs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Part 2

Monday night's rehearsal was a blast and I couldn't stop smiling all the way through it.

The reason: I'm back on stage. I've been away from it for too long and I was just so happy to be back doing what I love. I also have two of my kids involved, one on stage and one wanting to see what goes on with a production.

It did make it a bit awkward when I was yelling at my co-star (all part of the script) and being generally horrible, nasty, evil, vicious, mean, cruel and rotten, but we got through it.

Tomorrow I have an evening off, but will have to take the two boys down for their rehearsal.

On another note, I have another story being published. Sadly it's in the very last issue of a magazine called Pantechnicon. They're having to close down due to hackers constantly knocking their site off the web. This last issue will be issued in December as a double header with another magazine called Theaker's Quarterly Fiction.

That makes two stories and a review inside 18 months. Wooohoooo, I've hit the big time...well, bigger time than I've had before.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Rehearsal

No, this isn't a complaint. I'M LOVING BEING ON STAGE AGAIN.

So much so, that I was smiling all the way through last night's rehearsal. A bit awkward really as the scene required me to be angry and manipulative.

The rest of my thoughts will come tomorrow in the sequel. Mainly because I am tired, but also because I haven't got my glasses on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Taking Shape

We've been at rehearsals for a week now and I feel a little left out. Why? My character doesn't have much to do in the first half hour.

In one way that's good as I can see the build up to the main parts for me and get a feel for what I should be doing and how. I've already worked out that my first small appearance is of a man who is just checking on his situation with the new boss.

In the second part, I'm frustrated and anxious and a little worried, but also angry and bitter and seeking to protect myself at all costs. Not totally sure about the third and fourth ones, but I have an outline.

I'm also proud of my son's performance...but I would be. He and his friend did well, considering that they have been thrown in at the deep end. They only have a couple of small cameo's but they've taken to it well.

Roll on next week and more rehearsals.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Now the Kids Join In

Another rehearsal tonight. Only this time my 9 year old son and his friend will be taking part as well.

We needed two youngish boys and I just happen to have one. He's happy to be spending quality time with his dad and see what he gets up to. He's also looking forward to being on stage, having lots of people stare at him and admire him...no idea where he get's that attribute from.

I have managed to learn a few more lines, but it's a long two header between myself and the leading lady with some longish parts for me alongside some quick back-and-forth dialogue.

Oh how I've missed this.

I've also submitted another book review to Hub magazine and am working on a third.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Post Rehearsal Analysis

Well that wasn't too bad.

I remembered my three lines...mostly...didn't trip over the chairs we were using for props and walls and almost got my actions correct. Not bad for a twenty second appearance.

I also think one of the cast is making a pass at me...with any luck.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A Doll's House - 1st Rehearsal

It's my first rehearsal for the play tonight.

No doubt I shall deliver my lines with the all the experience and aplomb of an experienced rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming train.

GULP!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Much Better

I told you it would go away.

The sun is out, the sky is blueish with lots of clouds, but my is it windy. It's windier than the windiest day in windy city on the day of the curried beans festival.

My it's bracing.

Lots of music, lots of reading and the kids tomorrow.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Low

Having a low day today. Still, it won't last forever. If only the sun was out, it would be easier.

Rest, sleep and a peaceful day.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

More Ooops....But Not Mine

Hertfordshire is having another one of those 'Every PC is going wrong' times. Three calls this morning. I barely have time to lounge around.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Diary extracts

28th August. Still clearing up the after effects of the spam, as well as dealing with my son's problems with his mother. Still, at least he will staying at a friend's overnight and has been able to stay with me for a week. Invited a friend out for dinner as she's having a rough time at home and with the hospital.

EDIT: friend couldn't make it as she is too tired. We'll go out tomorrow instead.

29th August. Went into town myself as the two eldest are in Royston with friends and the youngest doesn't want to go into town. GLORIOUS. Doing what I want for a change. Collected youngest from his mum's at 10am then spent the day with him and his friend. Took, mum, aunt and the boys out for lunch. Youngest falls asleep on my bed for an hour, before I drop him off, go up to Royston, take my friend out, collect eldest boys and return them to their mum's. Friend much better, but still ****** off with hospital.

30th August. WHAT'S THAT NOISE! Oh, that's silence.

31st August. Bank Holiday in UK, more rest and recovery. Writer's group this evening, my last for a few weeks as I start play rehearsals next week.

1st September. Back to work. Writing, sending emails, making phone calls, fixing PCs...bliss.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oooops.

I'm eating a bit of humble pie today. Not much, but enough to make me feel a little silly.

On Wednesday my email account got hacked and was used to send 350,000 spam emails. Thankfully my hosting company saw what was happening and prevented any permanent damage.

As a result I spent yesterday doing virus scans on my PC before my account was re-opened with a new password. There were none, so the only answer was that my password for my email account was easy to guess.

I've now spent over two hours deleting the 19,000 returned and blocked emails, whilst trying to make sure that I don't accidentally delete real ones.

Although I work in PC security, I am aware that anyone can get caught and this event is a timely reminder that it could happen to anyone, however secure your PC is.

The most disturbing stat from this is that of the 350,000 spam emails that were sent, most got through to their intended victims.

Still, I've got rid of a third of them now. Only 13000 to go.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dialogue First.

I'm still learning my lines for my part in 'A Doll's House'. Whilst doing so a thought about how I write has come to mind.

When I write scenes with dialogue, which I do a lot of, I tend to write the dialogue first, then fill in the scene around that.

It might explain why I can't write when I have songs playing in the background and need instrumental music instead: other words distract me.

I'm beginning to wonder if I should concentrate on scripts instead of novels and short stories, or if I should try and do both.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Promoting Books

In front of me I have a little booklet that was inserted into the latest issue of Books Quarterly. It contains the opening few pages of two books. Can this be adapted by new authors to get themselves known?

Building up a platform is one of the hardest things a new author can do (ask Cindy Wilson). Short story magazines are a great way to get yourself known to the reading public, but don't have a wide distribution. So how about a website with the first few pages of new books?

Agents may consider this approach viable for authors they are trying to get a contract for.

But what say you oh wise ones?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Good Play

Seen a good play recently? Excellent, as I need your expert opinions.

The drama group are currently considering plays for next May and we want something light, though not necessarily humourous. Something with a happy ending, that is easy to stage.

What do you think would be good?

Friday, August 14, 2009

What Do You....

...like about yourself?

Here are five things I like about me.

Balding. The less hair I've got, the easier it is to take care of.
Plastic shoulder. I have a very useful plastic shoulder that people can cry on or dump their problems on.
Good with computers. I don't pretend to know everything, but what I do know I can translate into plain English.
Actor. I LOVE being on stage and, although I say so myself, I'm quite good at it.
Creative. Not just writing, but I can come up with odd ideas that if not practical, do lead others down routes that are.

Now its your turn on your blog and NO negativity.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Relaxing Beasts

Do animals help you relax?

I'm considering getting a couple of hamsters, gerbils or guinea pigs to have something else that's alive in the house.

I don't want a cat (don't ask) and a dog would take too much time. Goldfish die on me rather rapidly as I can't seem to get the water or the feeding right. So it has to be one of the above. Unless you have a better idea.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Online Research

I was recently approached by Roberto Di Cecco, a student at the University of Hertfordshire, to answer a series of questions about being a full or part-time musician or writer.

He got my email address from the writer's group website and I've passed his details onto the group so they can help out and maybe you can too. It only takes a few minutes to fill out as I discovered today when I did it. Here's his blurb.

--------------------------------------

He's now completed his research...thankyou for your help.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reading and Dialogue

I'm currently speed-reading through several plays, but not for the purposes of distraction.

As part of my role within the drama group, I'm part of the reading committee that selects the plays we're going to perform in the future. I've skimmed through several by Sean O'Casey, read Tiptoe Through the Tombstones, and have Habeus Corpus and She Stoops to Conquer to go.

What is most interesting about these plays is that because they are all dialogue, it enables me to focus on dialogue for my learning-to-write-reading.

It has shown how important dialogue is in creating characters, more so, I believe, than any other facet of description.

Through a persons words you can discover who they are, what they believe, and it is through dialogue that we see most the old adage 'show don't tell'.

Next time you want a quick read, pick up a play. You'll learn more than you realise.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Displacement

Ever had one of those days, or weeks, months when there are just TOO many things to distract you from writing? Welcome to my current existence.

"I know, I'll put my clothes away."
"I just have to do the washing today."
"Just one more cup of tea."
"One more chapter and then I'll get started."
"Ooooh, what's that story on the BBC news about?"
"I hate this TV program...what is she doing?"
"Grey T-shirt or green?"
"That looks fun."
"Yes you can have a piece of apple pie."
"I really need to organise my paperclips by size."
"I wonder what's changed on Facebook?"
"I need a bit of fresh air to get me in the mood."

In short, there is more displacement in my life than a harbour full of Battleships. Still, there's always tomorrow....aaarrrrggggghhhhhhhh, there I go again.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Doll's House (1)

The play rehearsals have started up again and last night we a 'run through' of where the play and the characters are going.

Essentially, us actors have been given a free reign to decide how we play the character. Sympathetic or cruel, happy or sad, dizzy or intellectual etc.

A couple of the characters are the same all the way through, but the rest, mine included, change during the course play.

A brief read through indicates that I have at least four attitudes (pompous, defensive, aggressive and happy), sometimes in the same scene. Not only am I looking forward to this as an actor, but also as a writer. Watching the change in the characters over the course of the play will help me build more rounded characters in my writing.

The first proper rehearsal is on September 3rd, but I shall be learning lines and practising the part before then. When I have something interesting about the process I'll blog it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Whew!

What a fortnight that's been.

In the midst of trying to organise some housing and spend time with the kids now they're on school holiday, a close friend of mine had the temerity to go into hospital with kidney trouble. The cheek of it. Then she had the gall to stay there for ten days....TEN DAYS! I was driving to and from to Cambridge, bringing kids and a mother...oh the strain.

Still, that's what you do for good friends and I don't regret a moment of it.

She's out of hospital now and recovering at home, (hopefully) being pampered by her teenage children and her mother.

Now, where's my bed and that Valium?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Woohooo!

I'm not one to boast about my achievements...much...but another published article is just too big to be quiet about.

I wrote a review for a book called 'Space Captain Smith' some time ago and sent it off to Hub Magazine for consideration. I hadn't heard anything for a while so I assumed that they weren't going to do anything with it.

Yesterday I received issue 92 and what do I see near the end? A review of 'Space Captain Smith'. My first thought was that someone else had beaten me to it, but then I saw my name above the piece.

Woohoo! I shall be smiling about that all day.

I read it in loving detail and, despite the formatting errors, it is the review I wrote for them and they have changed nothing. Not even the spelling mistakes.

If you're interested in reading the review, the magazine is a free download from their website.

WOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tip For the Day

I was told this by a published writer, so it MUST be true.

When your MS is ready, send it to one agent/publisher at a time and not to 10 or more. If the agent/publisher rejects it you can see if anything needs changing before sending it onto the next one. If you send it to ten at once you've effectively shot your bolt with ten agents/publishers in foul swoop.

Presumably the same applies to short stories.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Playing Around

For some strange reason I'm feeling in a playful mood today. It makes a pleasant change.

In that mood, here are some of the silliest things I've ever done.

- As a child I squirted water onto a working electric fire to see how long it would take to dry off.
- Danced on a table at a posh dinner/dance (no I wasn't drunk - it just seemed like a good idea at the time)
- I was once asked my honest opinion by a lady about how she looked: I told her.
- Jumped into a swimming pool fully clothed

Now it's your turn.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Foiled Again

I write several comedy headlines a week for a site called Newsbiscuit in the hope that at least one of them gets picked. I had some success a couple of weeks back, but nothing since then.

All contributors give votes out of 10 for each headline or news piece and the best (in the editor's opinion) are selected each day.

Today I submitted two, one of which received 8/10, the other 9/10. I was hopeful, but eventually disappointed as neither were selected. Looking through the ones that were selected and their scores, it seems that today just wasn't my day. The quality of the submissions was very high and the editors had a large number to choose from.

Sometimes it's that way with novels and short stories too. When I submit a story and it gets rejected it may not be the quality of my story per se, but the high quality of submissions at that time. The editor had to make a choice and I lost out.

At least that's my story: and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Risk

Taking risks in a story is...er...risky, but it has been done successfully many times.

Jules Verne, HG Wells, George Orwell and a host of other writers have written what was in their heart and made a living out of their writing. Verne and Wells risked being made fools of by future science.

In his story about a journey to the moon, Verne had the astronauts put inside an artillery shell and fired from a huge gun. We now know that the G-forces on the bodies would have killed the crew the instant the gun was fired and so the story is more than a little dated.

Wells' Martians also look exceedingly unlikely and the canals of Mars have been proven to be an optical illusion.

Orwells' Animal Farm was a thinly veiled critique of the Soviet Union, written at a time during the second world war when they were allies of the UK...yet it still got published.

Everytime an author sends out a piece of work to an agent, magazine or publisher they take a risk. So why not write something daring. If nothing else the story will stand out from the crowd.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Styles

I've had the chance to do a lot of reading over the past few weeks and I've noticed something about modern writing compared to older styles of writing: scene length.

Modern novels tend to be quick with the scene changing at the beginning and the end, and much slower in the middle. Older novels tend have long chapters all the way through.

It's not just books. This trend can be sen in film and TV shows too, though literary fiction seems to be unmoved by this change.

It can't be our attention spans as the middle parts of films and books are as long as ever, and some best-selling books and films are twice as long as older ones.

A recent example is a book called 'The Court of the Air' by Stephen Hunt. The opening chapters are full of short scenes in which characters are introduced and, importantly, questions asked. The middle chapters move the story along nicely and answer some of these questions. The final chapters increase the pace again and wrap everything up.

In older books/films/TV the pace only picks up towards the end.

You may already know this, but if you didn't you may want to consider this when writing your novel.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Krogstad

I GOT IT!

I was offered the role of Krogstad last night and gladly accepted. Now all I have to do is learn several pages of dialogue for November.

YEEEEEHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Auditions for 'A Doll's House'

It all went well.

Most of the possible cast showed up, which in addition to the people on Thursday means that everyone who wanted to has had a go at reading for the parts they're interested in.

As I've read for all the male roles I've decided that the one I'd prefer would be Krogstad. Why? Near the end of the play he has a change of heart and in one scene changes from a hard-bitten individual to someone who is full of the joys of spring.

Why would he do that? In the past he was convicted of forging signatures and the implication in the play is that it was done out of need rather than greed. As a result he has become a pariah in the community and treated as such. He's also a single father.

When he meets Kristina again, the woman who dumped him for a richer man for practical reasons of her own, and she offers to marry him this time. His world changes and he overreacts as people tend to when their dark life is suddenly exposed to some hope. But how to act this out? It's a challenge I would like to take on.

I was asked which roles I'm interested in doing and mentioned Krogstad and Rank. As another man only wants to do Rank, and is the right age, I may get my wish, but I will have to see what the director and his assistant think.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Auditions

Auditions for our next production have started and I'm nervous. What part will I get? What part will I be good enough at? What's the play?

The play is 'A Doll's House' by Henrik Ibsen. The group tried to put it on a few years back but had to cancel at the last minute when the leading lady was not only pregnant, but also feeling VERY sick at dress rehearsal.

There are three main parts for a man, Torvald (husband), Dr Rank and Nils. There is also a walk on part for a messenger.

Torvald is a large part and a man who treats his wife like a doll (hence the play's title). The other two parts are major, if not large, roles with long interchanges to learn. Whilst I would prefer one of the two smaller roles, it may be that the other, older, gentlemen in the group don't want, or are not suited for, the role.

We have another audition on Monday evening so I'll see what happens then.

At least this time I'll have four months to learn and prepare for the role instead of three weeks.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Good Sequel

What makes a good sequel?

As I've just started the third book of the Captain Smith series by Toby Frost I started to think about what makes a good sequel. I pondered over books, films and music and come to an unsurprising conclusion: something new.

For example, Men In Black was a very successful film and spawned a far less successful sequel. It wasn't that the second wasn't funny (it was), but that we didn't discover anything really new about the situation or the characters. For me it was very much a case of 'I know what's coming'.

With the Harry Potter books, there was always something new in each book, especially with the revelations about Severus Snape. With Toby Frost's second book, he showed another side of Suruk's family that came as a surprise, but without being unrealistic.

In music, bands and soloists almost have to recreate themselves with each album in order to keep the interest of people outside of their fanbase, something that the late Michael Jackson and bands like Queen managed to do well.

So the key to keeping a series going is to have something new each time. Something unexpected, but believable.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quality or Quantity?

Many years ago, there was a fad for spending 'quality time' with children. The reasoning behind it was that kids wanted to do enjoyable things with parents rather than just have them there for as long as possible. It was not something I subscribed to then (I didn't have kids at the time) and I don't subscribe to now (I have three boys now).

There are times and situations where it isn't possible to spend quantity time with children, ranging from economic need to a short term hiatus. I can't help wondering, though, if this fad had more to do with some parents desire to be wealthy, rather than with the needs of their children.

We need as parents to do quality things with the kids, but I also feel that we need as much quantity 'being there' as possible, especially if they're young.

This is even more true with writing. It's all well and good us spending 'quality time' with our books and writing, but if we don't spend enough 'quantity time', how do we get to the detail of the plot lines or find our inspiration?

As amateur writers we have pressing economic needs and families that take us away from this quantity time, but we need to be aware of this time problem and be less hard on ourselves.

Doing our best for our children means making some sacrifices, yet despite that we won't always be able to spend 'quantity time' with them. It's the same with our writing. We aren't professional writers, yet, and need to cut ourselves some slack.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Carry On Dreaming

I've been ill.

Last Monday was spent in hospital with a saline drip attached to my arm, whilst several vampires dressed up as doctors and nurses so they could take a quick snack on my blood.

The biggest problem with the medication I've been given is the wind from the attic and the slight feeling of sickness. This, I am told, will pass.

I was ordered to take it easy last week, so I just HAD to read a lot, sleep well and take the occasional walk for some fresh air.

Thankfully, all is back to normal...or at least as normal as my life ever gets.

One of the books I read was 'Physics of the Impossible' by Michio Kaku, in which he takes a look at some standards of SF such as warp speed, time travel and shields.

The impossibles are divided into three classes. Class 1 impossibilities are technologies that do not violate the known laws of physics and may be possible within a century or two, albeit in a modified form (shields, teleportation, telekenesis).

Class 2 impossibilities are at the very edge of current scientific knowledge and would take millenia, at least, to be possible (hyperspace and time travel). Class 3 impossibilities are those that would require a fundamental shift in our knowledge of the laws of physics (precognition).

Reading the book reminded me that our understanding of physics is not set in stone. The laws we know today are different to the laws we knew two hundred years ago or a thousand years ago. Whilst our current knowledge builds on the past, some things have been pushed aside and who knows what we will discover in the future.

It also reminded me that those in the world of SF who dismiss Star Trek and Star Wars as unrealistic need to open their minds. Understanding is fluid and will always change as we discover new things. Some ideas are proven false over time and the fiction looks dated, such as some stories by Jules Verne and HG Wells, but if we ever stop and think we know all there is to know, we will stagnate.

I, for one, will carry on dreaming.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Burning Man

The Burning Man festival is an annual event that takes place in Black Rock Desert, Nevada and ends with the burning of a wooden man and his dog.

About 40,000 people attend and, according to Dan Ariely in his book 'Predictably Irrational', no money changes hands. What people do is bring along something to give, be it their time, their skills, some food etc.

People give free massages, free counseling, home made jewelry and various other things all weekend: it's a gift exchange.

This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it shows that if we want to create a moneyless, gift-based society in our stories, it is a realistic possibility and not some 'pie in the sky' or fanciful idea. How we translate one weekend a year into a whole society is a different matter, but the foundational idea is there for us.

More importantly than that, it set me to thinking about how much the advice and support that is handed around by agents, writers and ourselves on our blogs is worth in a 'market'?

I would imagine that it would cost a fortune to buy, even it was collated into a small (or large) book.

In honour of all of you who give free advice, this weekend I'm going to set fire to a man (made out of paper) to remind me of all the good, free, advice and help that blogs have given.

Thankyou, one and all.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

YeeeHaaa!

I've been published...

A small one line joke on newsbiscuit about Hazel Blears. No payment, just kudos. You can see it on the top right as it scrolls through.

Enjoy

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Death and Taxes

"There is nothing so certain in life as death and taxes".

Whereas taxes can be avoided, death cannot: it comes to us all eventually and not even God will spare us from dying once (Hebrews 9:27).

How do we face that death?

Some people don't want to face it at all and want to live forever, others search for a way to die as quickly as possible, whilst for the unfortunate it's in front of them every day.

But what of our own death? Do we consider how we will be remembered by those who are alive? Do we care?

Undoubtedly, there are those who live only for themselves and for now and who care nothing for how they will be remembered. For them, there is only their needs and desires to be fulfilled in this life and everyone else can go hang. There are also those who want to be remembered by history in some vein for either good or bad and some don't care how they are remembered as long as they are.

I've always divided people into two groups when it comes to death: those whose death leaves the world a better place to live in and those whose death leave it a worse place.

When my father died three years ago, the world felt a little colder. It also felt a little colder when I discovered that an old acquaintance of mine, the musician Tony Ashton, had died.

For my part, I don't know how people will view my death, whenever it comes, but I hope that people will feel the world is a little colder for my passing.

Monday, June 15, 2009

To Diary or Not To Diary

Keeping a diary, I have read in many places, is something that every writer should do, but I've never been convinced of it: until recently.

I've heard both Michael Palin and John Altman talk about their diarying and realised that it's not such a bad idea.

Altman and Palin both record the mundane, the price of milk and where they went for dinner etc, alongside thoughts and revelations. Not only does it remind them what they were doing at a certain point in their lives, but also what they were thinking.

This might seem only to be valuable for those who crave fame, but to a writer it can help build a character. An insight into other people's daily lives, and a writer's own past, can round out the writing about anyone in a book or short story.

The milk they prefer to buy and why, the odd thoughts that go through their mind build up a picture.

Diary writing is not for everyone, and only occasionally for me, but I'm less dismissive of diary writing than I used to be.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Perfecting the Imperfect

On my computing blog, I wrote about how we will never have bug free software and why. It set me wondering about how a writer decides that their story is finished.

I've been working in computing for over a decade as a programmer, web designer and fixer. I have designed and built computer systems from scratch, tested them to death, watched them fail on first contact with reality and then fixed them.

I've also pored over a story until I can't think straight, decided that it's finished, put it out for review and been shown some obvious howlers.

In both cases I've corrected the errors. Whereas with a program it either works or it doesn't, with a story there is always degree of latitude about what is right or wrong. Does that sentence really need a comma there, or should it be a semi-colon? Should you use the British spelling, the American or the Australian?

There is no such thing as a bug-free program, nor will there ever be. Neither will there be a perfectly written story. In both fields, we'll come close to perfection, but the effort must always be on doing the best we can, fixing the obvious and then moving on. If not, we'll spend a lifetime trying to perfect the imperfect.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Curiosity Killed the Cat...

...but helped the writer.

You can't be a writer unless you're curious about things. We ask questions such as,
What would happen if the Martians invaded Earth?
What is the life of a governess like?

and then we answer them with a 100,000 word answer (try that in an English exam).

There isn't a single story that doesn't answer one, or sometimes more than one, question. As each answer is given, other questions arise which also need to be answered.

By the time we get to the end of the story we've answered them all...we hope.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

10 Things I Know About You.

Well, not you exactly, but my main character.

Here's a list of ten odd and unknown things about my main character

Name: Alan Radford

1 - Likes to dress informally
2 - LOVES Creme Eggs
3 - He considered being a soldier when he was young, but was put off the idea after spending a year in the school cadet force
4 - Favourite song is 'Caravan' by Barbra Dickson
5 - Watches Babylon 5 on DVD for fun
6 - His dream woman is a 5'3" tall brunette, with brown eyes and a huge smile
7 - Plays the piano and passed grade 5
8 - Doesn't drink alcohol
9 - He has dressed up as Santa Claus several times for the local pre-school children's Christmas party
10 - He won an art competition when he was 9...although there were only two entries.

Given that I base most of my main characters on my own life, can you guess which five of these are characteristics are mine?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Old Books are Good Books?

I've just finished reading 'The Pyrates' by George MacDonald Fraser. It was entertaining, interesting and I learnt something about writing and my style of writing, but it feels so old.

Some books date very quickly, others don't date at all. There are also books that reflect the time in which they were written, but are still enjoyed a century later.

'The Pyrates' was written in 1983 and some of its cultural references are old 25 years later. I dare say some of them were old within 10 years.

In the last decade I have also read books by Ismay Thorn and Florence Barclay that have also dated badly, but were still an entertaining, if brief, read.

So what's my point? When writing, don't worry about your book 'dating'. Some of the earliest SF books look quite comical now as they have been overtaken by science and culture, but they are still a thumping good read (War of The Worlds for instance).

Thomas Hardy's books are long-winded as his descriptions of the background are so exhaustive, but they are still great stories. Try writing that level of description now and at such a slow pace. The same can be said for Dickens and many other 19th century authors.

These books have lasted because the story and the characters are strong, as well as being expertly written.

It's our characters and stories that will see our work last, no matter what part of the background later looks odd. (Three legged Martians?)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Writers Group

How important is it to be a member of a writer's group?

Personally, I think it is vital for any aspiring writer. As a member of a group, you get support and feedback from people who share the same passion for writing...or at the very least a mild interest.

A good group will share helpful information, successes and provide honest feedback on any story or novel you are writing. It will also be a social club of (mostly) like-minded people.

A writing group need not be a physical entity as you can form one via Yahoo groups or any one of the other online groups and meet in cyberspace. With the advent of Skype and IM software you could hold meetings at any time, day or night.

If you're not a member of a writing group, you're missing out. Join one today...or at least put it on your to-do list.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Do You Cringe?

How often do you cringe when you hear bad dialogue in a film or tv show? Do you cringe over 'bad writing' in a novel, short story of newspaper?

The bigger question is how much more do you cringe now that you've become a writer than before?

As a young man (yes I was young once), I would be the one watching war films and complaining that the aircraft was the wrong model for that part of the war, or that a particular machine gun wasn't issued to paratroopers.

Now that I have become a better writer, I find myself using that pedantic attitude and wincing at bad grammar and inappropriate phrasing and cliches.

As much as I enjoy Star Trek and Star Wars, I visibly wince at some dialogue or scenes and have been known to articulate an 'ooooh that's bad' on occasion.

I take it as a positive sign that I'm improving as a writer rather than me just being a pedantic pain in the rear.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

What is Writing?

What do you consider to be 'proper' writing.

There's a joke (of sorts) that passes round the writer's group where people say 'I'm going to do some writing tomorrow', to which is added 'emails don't count'.

What would count as proper writing? Short stories and novels would seem to be obvious, but what about blogs, or writing the text for a website? How about an essay for school/college/university?

Where does writing end and non-writing begin?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?

John Cleese's answer to this question, was "from a little man in Swindon".

Me? History books and magazines are a great source of story ideas, as are songs.

The best songs are those that tell a story that can easily be 're-imagined' (that's a posh word for stolen).

History supplies an endless source of inspiration for stories and characters.

Then there's the Stephen King approach: ask a question and your story comes from the answer.

At some point in the future I may well hire someone in Swindon, but for now I have enough to be getting on with.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

When Life and Writing Collide

When your life and your desire to write collide, which one wins?

If you have an upcoming deadline, then can b tricky to balance the two. As most of us are 'aspiring writers' (or is that expiring), then it's rarely an issue.

Over the last few weeks I've had 'life' get in the way. Not just family and moving, but also misery and loneliness.

I've decided that I'm not going to beat myself up over it and I'll keep doing what I can when I can.

When things collide, what do you do?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Learning Through Reading

What lessons about writing have you learned recently?

I have discarded a couple of books recently after reading 50-100 pages and thought to myself, 'How did that get published?'

After thinking about it for a day or two I came to the conclusion that just because I didn't like the books, it doesn't mean that they are terrible: it's just that I didn't like them.

A more sober reflection on each of the books brings me to the realisation that they are also not as bad as I thought. OK, I may not have cared about the characters and thought the story was bad, but the writing is fine, the story is good and it's reasonably well executed.

The books have something about them that appealed to an agent, even if they don't appeal to me as a reader. There will also be many others who enjoy the book and will probably read it again in the future.

For me, the lesson is that there will always be someone, somewhere who will like what I write. The hard part is finding them. But I should never give up.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Back Again

It's good to be back online again, but I have filled out my time usefully by reading lots more. I've also discovered that I have no time for badly written books anymore.

In the past two weeks I have read two new books, both Science-Fiction, one by a newish author and one by an established author.

The new author was Stephen Hunt and his book was 'Kingdom Beyond the Waves'. I was initially cold towards it, but it grew on me. There are still parts of the book where I think he tries too hard to be original by giving obvious things different names (a key is not a key for example), but the story was original, well written and the characters well rounded and believable.

The established author was Iain M Banks and the book was 'Against A Dark Background'. I don't often put books down without reading them fully, but there was nothing here that, to me at least, was new or interesting. Even when I jumped from page 80ish to the final chapter I wasn't that interested in how the story ended, or even what happened to the main characters.

Thinking back over the past few books I've read, it seems that the more established authors become, the weaker the books become. It's not always the case, and many authors recover to write great books in the latter parts of their careers, but the third to fifth books seem to be hit and miss.

Why would that be? Publishers wanting to get 'anything' out by the author? The author not having the right editor? The author themselves taking things for granted?

Some authors know when to change tack. Alastair Reynolds' first books are set in a galaxy overshadowed by the Inhibitors, but after five books on that subject and with the same characters, he changed tack. His 'world' remains the same, but with 'Century Rain' he went off at a tangent and it worked brilliantly. It's still a story I recall with clarity and smile when I think of the characters and the events.

In the music business there is a phrase: 'The difficult second album'. Do writers have 'the difficult third book'?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Moving On

I'm moving house tomorrow.

As is the way with these things in the UK, it will be about a week before I have internet access again (though I may get lucky), and I'm going to miss it.

What would you miss if you had to do without it for a week...aside from books?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Words

How many new words have you found yourself using since you became a writer?

There are over 250,000 words in the English language (at the moment), and most people can recognise between 35,000 and 75,000 words, depending on their level of education.

How many of those are used regularly? That depends on who you listen to, but estimates range from 1,000 to 10,000, occasionally more.

Over the last few years, as I have become a more skilled writer, I have found myself using words that I haven't written for a long time. Yesterday, I used the word tortuous and I can't remember the last time I wrote, or said, that word anywhere. Yet, it is a word that I already know and know the meaning of.

Some writers get hung up over how 'few' words they use, or think they use, or how 'few' words they know. Don't.

The best advice on this subject comes from Stephen King, in his book 'On Writing': you already have the vocabulary you need, just use it.

I would add, that you already have a large vocabulary, it's just that you haven't used much of it over the years. The more you write, the more often you need to find synonyms, antonyms etc, the more words you mind will drag up from your brain.

I do use a thesaurus, but most of the time I find that I recognise the words and their meanings. I just haven't used them in a long time.

Don't worry about learning new words, try to remember the ones you already know.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Simplicity

When designing websites I keep everything simple. This makes them easier to update and maintain. The same approach helps me when writing.

Long, tortuous words may look impressive in literary fiction, but what good do they really do when trying to tell a story? Likewise with a story: how many subplots do you really need?

This simplicity of style is the basis of the short story and some of the greatest writers of the last two hundred years started out with this form: one story, one person, no subplots.

I also find that when I'm having trouble with a novel, it's because I've made it too complex. If I as the writer can't keep up with what's going on, how will the reader?

Simplify the story, simplify the writing, enjoy life.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Quiet

After the weekend's exertions, I've decided to give myself a day off.

Being self-employed has its advantages, hence the day off. That I have come down with a cold is another reason to give myself a break.

How often do we take a break from writing?

We know that we need a break from work and we take holidays (vacations) and long weekends to accomplish this, but we also need to take a break from writing now and then.

If we spend every spare moment writing, we can lose a sense of perspective and by placing ourselves 'in the zone' too often can leave ourselves too close to our writing to be objective.

So take a break, a day off and give your creativity time to recover. You deserve it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Done

Three performances, three successes, lots of dropped words and lots of fun.

Although nervous last night, I was able to give the best performance yet and was nearly word perfect. This morning we cleared the stage and the hall ready for the next group.

It's been a hectic four weeks for me. Joining the drama group, learning lines and actions, giving three performances alongside people I barely know and stripping in front of those same people in the dressing room.

It's good to be back on stage.

Although it's an amateur group, the approach is very professional. Auditions for parts, a strong support group of scene builders, lighting and make-up, alongside directors who are not afraid to cut things that aren't working. What is more, everyone is enthusiastic about it.

It's the same approach I would expect from an agent or publisher. If they haven't got the support network, or aren't enthused by my book, I don't want them representing or publishing it. So when I get a rejection, it goes on the pile, or gets filed away in a folder on the computer. If they're not enthused, I want them far away from it.

An unenthusiastic director or cast can ruin a play. An unenthusiastic agent or editor will do the same.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Phew!

My first stage appearance for 15 years and it's a four-minute monologue. Just me, my script and an audience barely alive.

I'd like to say that it was a word-perfect performance full of pathos and humour, given with the panache of Patrick Stewart. That's what I'd like to say. A combination of nerves and excitement meant that I hurried the first part, but calmed down for the last part. Still I got a huge laugh for the awful joke.

Yes I missed a few words, yes I got myself in a tizzy and yes, things weren't perfect. But the play was a success and I'm looking forward to doing it again tonight.

When I got home my eldest nearly wet himself when he saw the make-up, my youngest thought I looked weird and my middle son wanted it removed quickly as it scared him (he thought I looked like a doll in a horror movie). It didn't help the general merriment they felt when I explained that I needed the make-up to prevent glare from my bald head.

As a side issue, I'd appreciate any tips for removing black eye-liner.

Writing a story is bit like a performance. You know what you've got to do, you know the story and your lines, but when it comes to the execution, you forget things, get nervous and put other lines in the wrong order.

Like a stage play, you have time to correct them all. So don't panic, enjoy the ride and remember that you're still doing something that a lot of people either can't, or are too afraid to do.

There are also people working for you. The Drama Group have several people who build the sets, sort out the sound and lights, as well as a pianist providing music. We also have a stage manager to make sure we don't go on too early and keeps the stage safe. Because they are supporting us, the cast can concentrate on the play.

As writers, we have friends and (eventually) agents and editors to help us. We can get on with the writing along with our fellow cast members, supporting each other and enjoying each other's success.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

18 Things That Help A Writer

Whilst cleaning out a box of 'collected sheets of paper that may be useful one day', I came across one that actually was: 18 things to remember when writing.

1. Always avoid alliteration.
2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
3. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations etc.
4. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
5. Remember to never split an infinitive.
6. Contractions aren't necessary
7. Foreign words and phrases are apropos.
8. One should never generalise.
9. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
10. Don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
11. Be, more or less, specific.
12. Understatement is always best.
13. One word sentences? Eliminate.
14. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
15. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
16. Who needs rhetorical questions?
17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
18. Don't never use a double negation.

Feel free to add some more.

p.s. Tonight's the first performance of the play. Thankyou for all your good wishes. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow: the joy, the pain, the forgotten lines, the lousy jokes etc.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Last Minute Changes

Last night was our final dress rehearsal before the first performance on Thursday.

It wasn't as good as Monday's one, but we still managed to get through it without any major hiccups...except one. The scene has always been awkward, especially for the actor, so the director has cut it at the last moment. My scene will now come in a bit earlier than planned. (Did you think it was my scene that was cut? Shame on you.)

It had to be done and it isn't going to affect the story as it's a stand-alone monologue. Neither is it a bad scene and it does have some funny lines, but it wasn't working so it's gone.

In my stories, there are scenes and sentences that are well written and make me proud, but they don't fit. Often I leave them in as long as possible, sometimes in desperation to make them fit. Most of the time I have to cut them out.

Being brutal with my writing is how it has to be. If it doesn't fit, get rid of it, paste it onto a separate document, file it away and see if I can make something else out of it later.

It's never too late to make a cut.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Acting and Writing...Again

Dress Rehearsal last night: with make-up. I'd forgotten how good I look in make-up.

There was no one whipping ropes from under me, I remembered ALL my lines and I even got to dance with a beautiful woman on stage: pity she has two left feet.

There were also some changes made to my words and actions.

As I've gotten used to the role, no mean feat in three weeks of intermittent rehearsing, things have changed. The essence of the character, and the scripted words, haven't changed. But the way the play is being performed has caused some changes.

The script calls for Sid (that's me) to be on stage as the lights come up. We're not doing that and I'm walking onto the stage, grabbing a basket, placing in the centre/left of the stage, sitting down and beginning my spiel. It's a sequence that takes five or so seconds. Not very long, but an eternity for the actor and the audience. So we had to fill it somehow and the director asked me to ad-lib a bit.

I've also had to improvise the actions as there are no props on stage, and my dancing expertise was called upon as there was a spare woman on stage who needed a partner.

What does this have to do with writing? When we first conceive our novels, short stories or articles, we have a definite idea of where it should go and how. The reality of the writing process (the rehearsals), shows us that some of what we have conceived is impractical in the circumstances. We add things, remove things, but keep the essence of the story and the characters.

We find out what works, what doesn't and tailor things accordingly.

For the play, Soapsud Island, a different group of actors will keep the original instructions and 'Sid' would be in place on the stage when the lights come up and not need to ad lib a few moans about 'George' and his inadequate use of a spanner. In the same way, a different writer would add or subtract different things from us.

But however you write or perform, the essence stays the same. The story and the characters are what matter, the rest is down to personal style and circumstances.

Monday, May 11, 2009

This Is The Week

Tonight's the first dress rehearsal, tomorrow the second. Eeeeeeeekkkkk.

I got through yesterday's rehearsal without a problem and I'm now officially looking forward to the performance.

What has struck me, though, is the script.

There are parts of my solo speech that seem out of kilter with the rest of it, sentences that seem to have no relevance to the preceding ones. The first time I come across this is when my character is talking about Lady Hillingdon's silk knickers, then in the next sentence talks about women not being able to carry heavy loads. It feels as if he's gone off a slight tangent then brings himself back to his original thought.

The question is, what was in the author's mind? What did he 'see' when he wrote that speech? In prose, the speech would have several paragraphs of explanation added to make sure that the reader would 'get it', something that isn't possible in a script. It does, however, give latitude to the actor to interpret it.

It got me thinking about my own writing. I know what I intend and what I mean with every word, as did the scriptwriter of this play, but how well do I get that meaning over?

As a writer, I cannot use a picture to show the reader what a place looks like, or an actor to give form to a character, I have to use words. Do my words accurately portray what's in my head and does the reader get it?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Whip-Crack-Away

I survived last night's rehearsal...just.

My first appearance in the play is a two minute solo piece (nothing like the deep end eh), which I now know well, including the actions.

Last night I was all ready to go. I walked on with my basket and wellington boots, placed the basket in the right place, sat down, started with relish...and the scene man whipped the rope out from under the basket and nearly took my leg off. Between that and an overzealous prompter, it took me half the speech to get my rhythm again.

I've also been shoehorned into the dance sequence as they needed a partner for one of the 'laundry girls'. Here's hoping that I can remember how to waltz.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

One Week To Go

Another Thursday, another rehearsal.

With just one week to go before the big night, I know my lines. All I have to do is make sure I don't suffer from too many nerves in rehearsals or on the performance nights.

An absence of nerves is worse than too many nerves, as you can become complacent or egotistical. Too much nervousness and...well, you wouldn't be going on stage anyway.

The trick is to turn the nerves into something positive. One thing I keep in mind, whether it's public speaking or performing, is that no one in the audience knows what I'm going to say (unless they have a script in front of them), therefore, dropping the odd word won't matter too much.

As long as you make sure that your lines give the correct cues to the actors that speak after you, you're fine.

The adrenilin that runs through you can be used to add to your performance, in much the same way as you get a 'buzz' doing something you enjoy.

So all that remains is to go through my part, remember my cues, learn the song, throw myself into the role and enjoy myself.

Now, where's the Valium?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

What's On Your Shelf?

Taking a look at my bookshelves I realise that I have a lot of diversity amongst my collection.

A sample of my books (one per shelf) is:

The Vicar of Dibley (scripts)
A Word in Your Shell Like (Reference)
World Famous Books in Outline (Fiction/Non-Fiction)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Fiction)
Vile Bodies (Fiction)
The London Encyclopedia (History/Reference)
Bloody Foreigners (History)
Emotional Intelligence (Science/Psychology)
Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Religion)
Bomber's Moon (Songbook)

There is also a box of books packed and ready for a house move.

I also have books on science, philosophy, economics, entertainment, old books, new books and classic books.

The oldest books I have date back to the early twentieth century (modern reprints of classics, such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales aren't old for this purpose).

The last books I bought were 'The Uses and Abuses of History' by Margaret Macmillan, 'The Kingdom Beyond the Waves' by Stephen Hunt and 'Vote for Caesar' by Peter Jones.

What's on your bookshelves?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I'm It

I've been tagged...kind of.

The rules are
1. Respond and rework: answer the following questions on your blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your own invention, add one more question of your own.
2. Tag other un-tagged people.

I wasn't exactly tagged, more requested...well, me end the other 9,323.5 people who read KLo's blog.

The Questions:

1. What is your current obsession?
I don't get obsessed, just REALLY interested in things.

2. Who was the last person you hugged?
My 13 year old son a few moments ago. He and the youngest (9) come up to me 3-10 times a day for a hug. They always get one and give one. I'm going to miss that when they move out with their mother today.

3. What’s my favorite dinner?
Curry...Medium Hot

4. What is the worst "classic" book you've ever read?
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. If I want to read long words I'll pick up a dictionary. If I want to be bored out of my mind about someones day and how their comfortable life is actually horrific I'll listen to politicians.

5. What are you listening to right now?
The Birdie Song by the Tweets.

6. What is your favourite weather?
Warm. Not hot, not cold, just warm...all year round preferably.

7. What is your least favorite season?
Spring. Grey clouds drive me nuts.

8. What’s in your purse?
I don't have a purse...I'M A MAN!

9. Say something to the person/s who tagged you.
Sometimes life sucks, sometimes it's great. The bad moments get us down, but the great moments live in our hearts forever.

10. What is your favorite dessert or cool treat?
Lemon cheesecake

11. What did you want to become as a child?
An actor

12. What do you miss?
Being on stage

13. What’s your favorite brand of jeans?
I'm a man, what do I care.

14. If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
Somewhere with clear blue skies, a warm sun and only the sound of nature.

15. Who do you want to meet in person?
Sam Neill.

16. What are your most challenging goals right now?
Getting back into acting; writing a novel; getting published; finding a new home; getting my business off the ground; staying in touch with the kids after they move out.

17. What’s your 5 year plan?
Being with the kids as much as possible; getting a novel published; more performing; building a successful business; finding a partner.

18. What would you change about yourself?
My fingers. I'd make them longer so I could play the guitar better.

19. What is my favorite sport to watch?
Cricket. It's not quite a sport, more of a social occasion. How else can fat blokes who smoke a pack a day and drink heavily play it at international level?

20. Describe your perfect day:
A quiet(ish) day in a home with my kids and a wife/partner. All of us pottering around, relaxing, hugging and sharing the time.

21. What TV show would you want to be a cast member on (reality included)?
Star Trek. If fact I have an idea for a new series...but I digress.

22. Are you a lover or a fighter?
I'm a lover.

23. Does the idea of being a Ghost Writer appeal to you?
Yes. I get to write, but don't have to do any publicity.

I won't tag anyone. Partly because I want to leave it up to you, partly because I'm awkward/lazy (delete as appropriate), but mostly because tag is a game that requires exercise and I'm allergic to it.

Have a great day.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Are You Inside Your Characters?

How much of yourself is in your characters?

As egotistical as it sounds, I put myself in every story: I am the main character. For example, in my latest story, the main character's moods can be easily discerned by how much facial hair he has. Huge beard = depressed, clean shaven = not depressed.

What personal traits do you put into your characters...that you are willing to admit to?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Coming Up 8s

Thanks to KLo for this idea.

8 things...

...I Look Forward To

1 - a hug from my kids
2 - roast dinner at mum's
3 - having a story published
4 - someone giving me a compliment
5 - performing on stage
6 - peace and quiet at night
7 - listening to music
8 - finding a partner to share my life with

...I Did Yesterday

1 - wrote more of my novel
2 - went to rehearsals for the play I'm appearing in
3 - finished 'Equal Rites' by Terry Pratchett
4 - finished issue 1 of 'First Edition'.
5 - hugged two of the boys (the 15 year old avoids them)
6 - bought myself a book
7 - watched a program about the weather on the BBC iplayer with the two eldest as part of their home-ed
8 - drank too much tea for my own good

...I Wish I Could Do

1 - make my fingers grow an inch longer so I can play B & F chords on the guitar
2 - sleep properly
3 - be firmer with myself
4 - enjoy nature
5 - keep to an exercise regime
6 - fly
7 - stand on the surface of the moon and watch an earthrise
8 - invent a new word that people can find useful

...Shows I Watch (on DVD...I don't have 'telly')

1 - Star Trek
2 - Babylon 5
3 - Red Dwarf
4 - Dr Who
5 - You've Been Framed
6 - Allo Allo
7 - Walking With...(dinosaurs, beast, monsters)
8 - Planet Earth

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Missing, Presumed Not Needed.

Sometimes, what you leave out is as important as what you put in.

When giving descriptions of your world, or of the people in it, overdescription should be avoided. Do you really need to describe the thunderous looks on the face of a demon AND the effects it has on the mortals around it? Or will a reference to the demon's look and its effects suffice?

I'm reading my way through Terry Pratchett's Discworld series at the moment, and what stands out above everything else are the sparse descriptions that he uses. He rarely describes the look of disgust on the face of a witch, but he does describe the effect it has on a wizard.

Iain M Banks is another writer who has a sparse style.

Keeping descriptions to the minimum (take note Miss Rowling) keeps the pace up, the interest high and allows the reader to fill in the gaps.

The hard part is deciding what to leave out.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Openings

I spend a lot of time, maybe too much, working on my openings: chapters, lines paragraphs etc.

I will write, rewrite and rewrite again until I'm happy with it. And that's before I get started on the rest of the novel.

How much time do you take over your openings?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lest I forget...

...which I did yesterday. Despite a promise to myself to write something on this blog every weekday (subject to illness, holidays and technical problems), I forgot. In my defence, I was reading and writing most of the day.

I've rejigged the opening to my novel again, this time focusing on one of the main characters. The feel of the opening lines hasn't changed, just the focus, and it has better structure because of the change.

Instead of seeing the village where he lives and slowly zooming in on his house, I've started at his house and am having him walk around the village whilst his cleaner is at work on his bachelor pad.

It's still way too long and rambling, but I always find it easier to remove things than to have to pad a story out. I've also continued my reading of Terry Pratchett and Toby Frost to get some idea of modern comic pacing and style. Recalling my 'stand-up' days can help with writing comedy stories, but they are different beasts.

Onto other things, the answer to Friday's question is: Carry On Cleo. The line was uttered by Kenneth Williams who was playing Julius Caesar. The film is one of the best of the series (along with Carry on Up the Khyber and Carry on Sergeant) and worth a look if you want a peek into English humour. Despite the opinions of some, it hasn't changed all that much in the last century.

Finally, I have another script reading tonight.

In two weeks I shall be performing on stage, and fear is staking me like a hungry Lion...thankfully I'm armed with a phaser.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Infamy, Infamy...They've All Got It In For Me.

The title has nothing to do with the post, I just like it. (Can you name the film that line comes from? Answer on Monday)

Last night's rehearsal went well, despite me forgetting some lines. It wasn't not knowing them that was the problem, it was the terror that suddenly overtook me when performing in front an audience. I'd forgotten how scary it can be.

On the plus side I do know the words (I repeat them several times a day), I just have to put actions to them now...and change the phrases I don't like with something more suitable, for which I have permission from the director.

It forced me to face some questions about dialogue:
- How much dialogue does a particular story need?
- When should dialogue replace description?
- Is there an ideal amount of dialogue?

In a script, there is only dialogue plus a few brief descriptions of the scene and an occasional piece of direction (empty water from jug etc), whereas in prose you have to fill in the gaps.

What about a situation when both are appropriate?

I usually use dialogue. What do you do?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Writing Dialogue

One thing has become clear whilst learning my lines for tonight's rehearsal: bad dialogue sticks out.

Here's a test for you: pick a page of your novel/short story with lots of dialogue and try to learn it all. See how long it takes and what mistakes you make when learning.

Anything that is difficult to remember may be wrong for the character.

The script I'm learning for tonight has several parts to it that are difficult to learn as they don't seem to fit the character or his speaking pattern. This may be due to bad dialogue, or, just as likely, that I don't understand or know the character well enough.

It makes me wonder about the 'bad' dialogue that I've written in the past. Either I didn't know the character well enough, or the dialogue was wrong.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm Nearly Famous Now

Well, the audition went well and I got the part. We're performing in three weeks time and all I have to do is learn a page and half of dialogue for tomorrow's rehearsal and everything's fine.

One of things I am looking forward to, as a writer, is acting out other people's dialogue. By doing so I can discover what dialogue works in certain situations and improve my own dialogue when writing.

That's the theory, but it's still only a side issue compared to getting back on stage and doing one of the things I enjoy most: being the centre of attention (Did you think I had no ego! Mwar ha ha ha)

Back to the script: London accent (tick); water filled boots (tick); plenty of ham (tick). On with the show.

p.s. The play's called 'Soapsud Island'.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Beginnings

Over the next month I am facing a lot of changes in my life, some positive, some not so. What I do know is that I will be a different person because of them.

Tonight I'm having an audition for a part in a play put on by a local theatre group. I've wanted to get back into performance arts for some time and this part has come my way. I'll see where this leads and hopefully I'll be able to use my writing experience to help the group.

Another major move is that I'm temporarily moving back in with my mother. Now that my ex-wife is getting her own house and I can not afford a house of any size locally, it means that I will be spending a lot less time with my kids.

The divorce has really hurt them, but I'm glad that I've been able to keep the 'family unit' together for this long. The kids are a lot older and wiser and more able to cope. I hate to think of the state they'd be in if I'd walked out on my ex three years ago after her affairs started.

The short and sharp of it is I can kick-start my life again and get back to what I LOVE doing: the creative arts. I've restarted writing and have made a better fist of if this time. I will also make sure that my children get to see me performing this time, instead of being kept away from it by my ex.

My past has been a 46 year long lesson in which I've learned good and bad ways of doing some things. Some of it I've applied, some of it I have yet to apply.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

Monday, April 20, 2009



Litgirl01 has been kind enough to honour me with an award for...(drum rolllllllll)...'great gratitude/attitude'.

Thankyou. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I would like to thank everyone for this award. It has come as real surprise, not least...(does a 'Gwyneth Paltrow' or any other Oscar recipient you care to think of)...and my pet goldfish who died when I was four, giving me the inspiration to continue my life's work.

So now it behooves me to follow the rules of nomination:
1. Post the logo on my blog (tick)
2. Nominate 10 blogs with great gratitude/attitude (half tick)
3. List and link your nominees (tick)
4. Notify them of the award (will tick later)

My list is
1. Cindy Wilson
2. Nathan Bransford
3. Bookends
4. Justus Bowman
and finally
5. Litgirl

In order to get the list up to ten I nominate you all twice. Why these blogs? All five of them have provided me with inspiration through their blogs as well as some sane advice in the world of writing/publishing.

p.s. I'm right chuffed.
p.p.s Who dreamed this idea up? It's wonderful.

--------------------------------------------------

As a struggling writer, the hardest part is getting noticed, which is why we all need a market for our stories.

First Edition is a newish short story/poetry magazine in the UK and they welcome submissions from anywhere in the world, providing that they are in English.

Submissions can even be sent via email and they will post the magazine to anywhere in the world.

It may not be for you, but check it out anyway.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Writing With the Kids At Home - Day 12

The last fortnight has been an interesting self-observation. What have I learned?

I dither, procrastinate and put things off. Not just writing, everything.

I have some tax forms to fill out (not done), paperwork to file (still on the floor) as well as writing to do.

I do get things done in spurts, but taking that first step is hard, harder than it should be.

However, I have done more reading over the past fortnight than I have done in the immediate past, and have sent some writing off for publication (I hope), as well as getting some critique back on another piece.

All in all, I cannot blame the kids for a lack of output, only my fear and lack of organisation. Knowing that I will be moving house in a month's time doesn't help either.

Next week...no excuses. Except the important things that just HAVE to be done.