Category Archives: writing

Springs Alarm

Soft light caresses my eyelids
I stir, a deep sigh
Warmth kisses my cheek
I stretch, open my eyes
Music lifts my soul
Singing, a robin, a sparrow?
I rise, pull back the curtain
Sunlight floods the room

Misty dew caresses the green
Life stirs, deep under the earth
Warmth kisses the trees
Bark stretches, buds open
Bird music, blossom singing
Sap is rising, winters curtain is lifted
Life floods the garden

The alarm, mechanical tinkling
No need, I’m awake

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Audio Books vs Print Books

Recently I moved house so I’ve had no broadband connection for the last two weeks. Because I use a free app to stream audiobooks I used up my remaining mobile phone data, bought another 1GB and used that up during one afternoon listening to a The Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey. Distraught at not being able to listen to a book while I went about my daily chores I took half an hour off in the garden with a printed book and a cup of tea. Was it more enjoyable to take time out and read a book or listen to someone else reading it while I worked? Its a question I’ve been pondering over the last few days.

When reading a printed book there is nothing between the author and you, the author has written the text and you are the interpreter. When listening to an audio book the authors ideas and words are being interpreted by the reader and expressed through their tones and expressions of voice. Sometimes this is a good thing, especially when it comes to creating a mood, culture or period setting.

I’ve struggled to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, I found some of the characters annoying. I tried listening to several audio version with no success until I found one read by Karen Savage, she brought the characters to life with a variety of comical voices. I’ve experienced similar with Raymond Chandler, his use of slang words has left me baffled at times but listening to his book read by someone who sounds eerily like Humphrey Bogart (swoon) has me hooked.

Unfortunately some readers just can’t cut it or maybe some books are not meant to be read out loud. My latest book craze is westerns but I’m undecided if I’m a fan. The short stories I’ve read I liked, but the novels I’ve listened to are sometimes annoying. Possibly I don’t like Texan accents.

While audio books are convenient, taking time out to read is more satisfying. Audio books can demonstrate a different view of a book, one you may not have seen. But you are using your second most sensitive sense, smell being the first. Sound can influence your mood and enjoyment so even the most well written book can be rendered terrible by an unpleasant voice.

I’m still undecided. I like the convenience of audio books but I can appreciate an authors voice through reading with my own eyes. Which do you prefer? Have you ever had a good book ruined by a bad reader?

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Never judge a book by its cover?

It’s an old saying, it’s applied to many situations, but does anyone take this good piece of advice? Our first judgement is always based on sight, until we can explore the ‘object’ of our interest further. Even if our other senses first experience the ‘object’ we still form a mental picture in our mind. Imagine the smell of freshly baking bread on a Sunday morning, a golden loaf crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. But what if there is something unexpected inside the loaf? Disappointed, upset and angry that life has cheated you out of an enjoyable breakfast you wouldn’t eat bread for a while.

With the increase of self published novels and ebooks, authors need to make the right first impression with the right book cover for their novel, something which stands out, grabs the ebook reading populace while still conveying the essence of the story. A friend of mine recently read a self published novel which he had chosen because of the front cover, a woman waving a sword above her head. He thought it was an action-packed vampire story, it turned out to be more a love/drama vampire romp. He was disappointed because it was not what he had expected, and although he did not rate the book as bad, his disappointment reflected in his review. Self publishing authors need to pay as much attention to their book cover as they do to the blurb and the book itself, otherwise they may attract the wrong readers.

But sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the essence of your story in one image. I did an interesting writing exercise with my local group this week. We each wrote a single sentence to sum up a short story we had been working on, another member then read the story and wrote a sentence which they thought summed up the story. The result was surprising for me, my ‘reader’ saw the story in a very different way. This was a short story of 1500 words with three characters, a full novel with all its complexities is open to many interpretations.

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Writing, Dieting and Exorcise

I have organised my day so that I have half an hour to spare before breakfast. More if I can drag myself out of bed earlier. I’ve made sure this is spare time, so no housework, no work, no facebook. The purpose was to take a walk every morning to improve my fitness and hopefully lose weight. After two weeks my legs stopped aching, but I’m waking up with a headache and I’ve gained 2lbs in weight. My sister reckons tree pollen in the park is causing my headaches but I’m not sure if that can happen in winter. My mum says the 2lbs is just fat turning to muscle, her previous theories about puppy fat doesn’t work anymore because I’m getting too old.

I didn’t go for a walk on Sunday as that meant getting dressed and I was very cosy on my PJs, so I laboriously wrote 500 words of a short story. Over the course of the day my headache disappeared and I didn’t appear to gain any more weight. This morning I erased the 500 words and laboriously wrote another 500 words. Tomorrow I shall probably repeat this chain of events.

I could spend the extra half an hour catching up on my beauty sleep as my other two activities appear to be fruitless if I wasn’t being haunted. It’s the usual stuff, creaking floorboards, rattling pipes, doors banging in the night and the occasional groan. I fear an exorcism would have no effect as these manifestations are not caused by any spectral visitation but by my insomniac relatives. Then again…

ghost funny

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New Year New Me?

New Year new me! Isn’t that what we all promise. To live a better life, eat better, work better, do everything better. Well this year I’ve made no new year resolutions, there seems little point as by twelve o’clock I’ve broken every one, all except the ‘ I will not have midnight snacks’, but that can be rectified as soon the hour hand takes a full turn. So instead of looking forward into 2015, divination is very tricky and nerve racking, I shall look back over 2014, much easier to do.

I gained a stone in weight, I am totally out of shape but otherwise I appear to be healthy and haven’t suffered from any lengthy colds or bugs. So we will call it evens.

My social life is less then none existent, partly due to bereavement and family illnesses. But my friends are still there when I do call, I’ve rekindled some old friendships and I’ve made a couple of new ones. So I think that’s a plus.

My sister found a brilliant new hairdresser. My thick, unruly hair often resembles a bramble thicket caught in a tornado so I was nominated Guinea pig. The hairdresser was a man and straight but we won’t hold that against him. The cut was perfect, my hair fell in bouncy curls with no effort on my part. Unfortunately on my next visit I asked for something a bit more specific instead of letting him do is thing. Had he been a woman or gay, he would have ignored my request. As it was he wanted to keep me happy. The result was what I asked for, but I am not happy. This little episode says everything you need to know about relationships between men and women. I’m willing to forgive his transgression and booked another appointment in the spring. Verdict is out at the moment.

Its been an unusual year for writing. I haven’t achieved the things I expected to, but other opportunities have arisen. I keep suffering from writers block but I’ve managed to write regular blogs, once a month, and people appear to be reading them. I’m writing regular articles for an online magazine, Bibliophilia. I didn’t do NaNoWriMo this year or start editing previous novels or write much fiction. It doesn’t matter because I can call myself a writer and not feel a phoney. Another plus.

Two out of four is not so bad. Its been a mixed year, my Grandmothers death has affected me deeply and in turn has effected all areas of my life. Unseen opportunities have arisen. I can’t say I’m optimistic about 2015.

2014 was full of the unexpected, some good, some bad, but the events of last year have been life changing for me. If there is one thing I’m taking with me into the new year its the knowledge that the unexpected can happen, there is only so much I can foresee, there are only so many plans I can. The best I can do this year is deal with troubles when they happen, seize opportunities when they arise, keep living, loving and writing, and maybe try to lose a little weight. I’ll finish this cake first.

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NaNoWriMo The Finale

Another NaNo November is coming to an end and unlike most Wrimos, I am not at burnout, probably because I quit after week one. I have instead been follow the progress of other writers and all their joys and woes. What I have noticed, now that its all over, is a lot of writers looking back over their monthly marathon of writing and thinking ‘what complete utter rubbish’. But the Writer is ever an optimistic creature and many believe they can salvage at least 20000 words from their expedition. For myself, even though I bailed out, I have also achieved something this year.

Some writers condemn NaNoWriMo as a waste of energy. How can anyone possible write a decent 50000 word first draft in 30 days. I really don’t know if it is possible, but NaNoWriMo is more then just writing a novel. A writer once told me that if I seriously wanted to be a writer then I would have to write everyday, my heart sank. So I signed up for my first attempt at NaNoWrimo alone, I don’t think I lasted a week, all inspiration dried up and with it my self confidence as a writer. It prompted me to join a writing course because I wasn’t giving up.

The following year I signed up again, this time I joined the regional forum and took part in events. The result was success of a sort. I had a 50000 word novel which was at best terrible but I had managed to write something everyday. I felt like a proper writer. And as a bonus I now have a circle of writing friends who are helpful and supportive. I didn’t keep up the writing though and my scribbling slowed down to once every two weeks.

This year I signed up again, determined to do better then last year and have something worth editing. So I planned out my novel first, from beginning to end, something I’ve never done before. Unfortunately I never got past the first chapter, because of personal circumstances I had to quit. But I have the outline for a good novel now, not just a vague idea. And I haven’t been idle during November. I’ve written a couple of articles for a magazine, done some more research for another novel, started a short story and I’ve been keeping up my blogs. I’ve probably written about 30000 words in total.

So NaNoWriMo is more then just writing a novel, it can also be a learning curve if you want to learn a lesson, which lessons you learn is up to you. For me, I’ve learned a few things.

Lesson 1, Learn Your Craft, it helps to have some idea about how to write.

Lesson 2, Don’t Go it Alone, family and friends are a great support but only other writers know the hell you go through when your MCs eyes are suddenly the wrong colour.

Lesson 3, Know When to Quit, my novel wasn’t ready to be written this month and I wasn’t ready to write it. I will keep it a while longer and continue with my other WIP.

And the writer who implied I wasn’t serious about writing because I didn’t write every single day, well he was wrong. I am a writer.

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Week 3 NaNoWriMo

We are now entering the final week of NaNoWriMo. I have not written anything more of my novel since deciding to quit. I have written some other stuff so I’m not worried. I just don’t think I’m ready to write this particular story so I will shelve it for a while and hopefully like all good things, (wine, brandy, cheese) it will slowly mature in my brain into something rich and full flavoured.

It’s about this time when wrimos find out if they have made it, or are going to make it to 50K. It’s also about this time that their inspiration dries up, their muse goes on holiday, they become immune to caffeine. I’m not going to give any advice, after all I quit 2 weeks ago, but I will say this. You’ve made it this far, further then most, whatever goal you have set yourself, you can make it. If not, then you can always let your story mature in your brain for a while and pick up the pieces another year. There are no rules against doing a rewrite.

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Lost in Translation

One of the highlights to travelling through France is the delight in trying to make you understood to the natives. This usually involves a smattering of secondary school French, a little sign language and lots of shouting (It is true that if you shout loud enough foreigners will understand). In recent years though, more French people are speaking English and want to speak English. I don’t think its due to a flux if British and American visitors, more likely it is due to the increasing populace of Chinese and Japanese. English is taught as a second language in Chinese, Japanese and French schools so it makes sense.

However like all languages which pass through two or three grammar forms and vocabularies something is always lost in translation. The receptionist at the hotel spoke very good English, bade us farewell and wished us a nice road home. Google translator, while a godsend when booking hotels and self catering apartments, also provides some funny translations.

Translations have always been a bit of a minefield over the centuries. One little known mistranslation spawned a whole era of science fiction literature. In 1877 Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli published a paper about ‘canali’ on the surface of mars. The paper when translated into English reported ‘canals’ had been found on Mars. Canals by definition are artificial water channels thus an alien race must have existed on Mars and the canals were created as a last attempt to save a dying race. A theme which inspired a number of sci-fi stories including H G Wells ‘The War of the Worlds’.

The actual translation of ‘canali’ is ‘channels’ or ‘trenches’, Schiaparelli was merely noting natural terrain differences.

Perhaps the most widely translated book in the world is the Bible. There are over 50 translations in English alone and another 2500 plus in other languages. The original texts were in ancient biblical languages of Greek, Arabic and Hebrew and this was where the first mistranslations started. The Hebrew word for ‘virgin’ and ‘young woman’ were very similar so the Greek translation wasn’t to careful about the difference between the two.

Another problem is metaphors and cultural differences. A shepherd in todays society is seen as a peaceful guide, someone who cares and protects but in biblical times a shepherd was a sign of might, ferocity and royalty. Taken in this context the Lord is my shepherd takes on a whole new meaning. Another metaphor used during biblical times was the terms for kinship like ‘father’, ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ which was used to indicate power structures, so in the Book of Solomon the term ‘my sister, my bride’ refers not to incest but a woman’s equal status to her husband.

Mistranslation is a common occurrence so be wary when you have work translated into another language or you may end up with a very different story.

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Week 2 NaNoWriMo

After a long struggle with my conscious I have decided to quit this years NaNoWrimo. I have not given up on my idea for my story or completely stopped writing but life has become too hectic to continue writing any substantial amount of words this month and still retain some version of health and sanity. I have bowed out gracefully to let those more determined and insane fellow Wrimo writers romp ahead to 50k and hopefully beat our Canadian and Scottish brethren, both of who we are currently at war with. Instead I have taken at short trip away with my family but without any Wi-fi, hence the late posting.

Sitting on the sidelines waving my pompoms is certainly an interesting way to pass NaNoWriMo. Usually I’m so wrapped up with my own story and its problems I rarely have time to take note of everyone else’s little dilemmas, apart from noting how much further ahead they are from me. Now I have the time to have a little nosy into everyone novel a bit more deeply. There are some really good ideas of all genres and its a shame some have been abandoned. I hope they have only quit because of an overload of work and other commitments and not due to lack of confidence in their story and their writing.

Writing is a craft, all crafts must be learned, the best way to learn your craft is to practice and I can’t think of a better practice run then NaNoWriMo. Michael Angelo didn’t pick up a paint brush and paint the Sistine Chapel straight off, he painted a lot of other stuff first. Gustave Eiffel, civil engineer and architect, built a lot of bridges before the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. We all have to do other stuff before the Big One and it all helps to build our confidence and skill. So don’t give up on your ideas even if you give up this November because each word, every paragraph is another bridge to the Big One, the one that will live on in peoples memories.

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Week 1 NaNoWriMo

It has been a week of not getting things done. I shan’t list the many things that have happened in the week leading up to November or the week just gone as I am resolved not too moan. Suffice to say it has all accumulated in to acute stomach ache today. Writing 1700 words a day has not been the last thing on my mind but it has been the last priority on my list of priorities.

I now find myself in a state of indecision, should I throw down my pencil and walk away, (I can’t throw down my laptop it’s got enough problems with viruses and error logs) or do I push on and hope to write at least a couple of chapters before it’s time to get the xmas decs out.

Then there’s the plotline of my novel. It’s cutting close to the bone and I’m wondering if I should turn my back on it and write something less personal to me. I’m worried I will not only fail to reach 50k words but I will also fail to tell the story true.

All these doubts have been plaguing me these past few days and I know they will plague me for the rest of the month. But tonight I resolved to try again and write this novel. I just hope my resolve will last until the morning because I really need to go to sleep now.

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