Archive for category Lifestyle

What’s Your Musical Era?

What’s your musical era? When did you transition from child into young adult and have all those special first experiences: first teenage party, first visit to a pub or club, first kiss, first date etc. ?Record Player

For me it was the early 1980s. Songs by Adam and the Ants, Soft Cell, Human League and Frankie Goes to Hollywood always whisk me back to that time and I feel again the strong emotions that seemed to accompany everything I did. If I close my eyes when I hear ‘Tainted Love’, I’m at the university Union disco, dancing on a floor which is sticky with spilled beer. I feel the excitement and anticipation of a time when so many things were new and responsibilities were few.

Re-capturing this mood through music enables me to write from the heart about being young and in love. When I get in this zone it’s great – the words flow and I get lost in the story. Pete’s Story was the result of one such emotional interlude and my inspiration came (very loosely!) from a boy I went out with in my teens who was a member of a band.

What songs whisk you back to that heady time of new independence and experiences? And do they help with your writing today?

Pete’s Story is available as an individual ‘short‘ or as part of The Museum of Fractured Lives boxed set.

This blog post is part of a music themed blog event organised by Elaina James, a guest blogger on Mslexia. Her author page on Mslexia can be found at www.mslexia.co.uk/author/elainajames.

Details of participating bloggers in this event can be found on Elaina James’ blog.

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National Stationery Week 2016

Want an excuse to go and indulge in a pile of luscious new notebooks, a pack of brightly coloured pens, some pretty patterned ring-binders or some delightful sticky notes? Well here it is!

25th April to May 1st is National Stationery Week and 27th April is World Stationery DayNational Stationery Week

The website has a suggested list of things to do during this week. I particularly like the idea of a ‘stationery crawl’ which is like a pub crawl but with stationery instead of beer (but there’s nothing to stop you downing a glass or too – choosing notebooks is thirsty work!).

There’s a quiz to find out what kind of writing implement you are. I came out as “… a stylish fountain pen! A little bit messy at times as your ink smudges, but classy and timeless. You’re writing is flicks, twists and curls and words are most definitely your thing. You only need one pen and it’ll be your best friend forever”.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start indulging in every writer’s guilty pleasure – the smell of fresh paper, the allure of new pens and the promise of writing success if only you can find that perfect notebook!

(And if nothing else, this post has drilled into me that stationery with an’e’ is paper and stationary with an ‘a’ is motionless!)

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How Businesslike Are You?

I recently spoke to a successful copywriter on the telephone and was impressed by the businesslike way he handled both the call and his freelance working life.

We prearranged the call for a specific time and he rang me on the dot. He opened the conversation by determining how long I had available to talk. Then he briefly explained what he’d like to cover in the call (this gave us an agenda) and kept the discussion on track. It sounds rather strict but was all done in a very friendly manner.

During the course of the call he mentioned that he only checks email twice a day, once in the morning and again at the end of the afternoon. He doesn’t do social media and he doesn’t make himself available 24/7 via electronic gadgets.

I feel there’s a lesson to be learned here. Perhaps it’s something along the lines of : Successful writers act professionally and treat writing like a ‘proper’ job with proper hours. They don’t procrastinate or pretend that commenting on another writer’s cute kitten picture is a marketing activity.

Food for thought?

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Novel Writing – How to Keep Going

The inspiration for this post is taken from an article by Jamie Ramsay in CALMzine. CALM stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably – which has to be a great philosophy for us all!

The article was written when Jamie was running 17,000 km from Vancouver to Buenos Aries to raise money for charity and it comprises his thoughts on how to keep going during an endurance event. When I read it, I felt that much of what he said could be applied to novelists who might be feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of their own challenge:

  • Break things down into manageable chunks – it’s easier to imagine completing 500 words rather than 80,000 words
  • Keep positive – banish that gremlin of doubt and concentrate on how great you’ll feel when you type ‘The End’
  • Look after yourself – eat well, sleep well and take regular exercise
  • Be motivated by the success of others – don’t be jealous when others get published, take it as a positive indicator that success as a writer is possible
  • Ask for help – this might be help with the chores to give you more time to write or help with beta-reading or formatting for Kindle or anything else you are struggling with
  • Make happiness a priority – if slogging over a novel is making you miserable, try a different form of writing instead

I think that last point is especially important – so be happy in your writing!

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What Can We Learn From The Geese?

Yesterday I went to a presentation organised by Birmingham Adult Education Service to collect my Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) certificate. What we can learn from the geese
It was an inspiring event and as well as the certificate, I came away with two thoughts related to the virtual writing community of which we are all part.

Everyone at the presentation was given the sheet of paper shown on the right of this post and asked to think about it.
Then we were shown a three minute video about why geese fly in a ‘V’ shaped formation. As each goose flaps its wings it creates an uplift for the following birds, making their flight easier. This means that by flying in formation, the flock has a 70% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. When the leading bird gets tired he drops back into the formation and another goose takes the leadership strain. If a bird gets sick and has to land, two other geese accompany him and stay with him until he is either well enough to fly again or until he dies.
This made me think about how we are stronger as a virtual group of writers rather than a single lone writer. Together we can help each other with publicity and promotion. We can offer support and encouragement when the going gets tough. Those who are feeling enthusiastic and strong can take the lead by trying something new and sharing their experiences with the rest of us. As a group we can all be more successful.

The celebration of success is the second thought I took away from the presentation event. A PTLLS certificate does not represent years of study and, in the academic world, it is quite small fry – but it’s worth celebrating. Celebrating each of our small achievements gives us the confidence and enthusiasm to take the next step forward along whichever path we have chosen.
So let’s all take a moment to reflect on our latest achievement – it might be meeting the deadline of a short story competition, plucking up the courage to pitch an article idea to a magazine editor, completing a synopsis, winning a prize, having a letter published in a newspaper, or anything else that makes you smile with satisfaction.
Record your achievement in the comments section beneath this post and let us all celebrate with you!

I’ll start the ball rolling. I’m chuffed to bits with an Amazon UK review for Bedsit Three which describes it as, “a psychological why dunnit reminiscent of Barbara Vine/ Ruth Rendell.
What a great lady to be compared to!

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Christmas Presents for Readers and Writers

According to the latest Tesco magazine, October 24th is the date that most of us start our Christmas present-buying frenzy. Christmas Tree

So, to get us (slightly) ahead of the crowd I’ve come up with a few budget suggestions for readers and writers. Buy them now and you’ll have November free for a successful attempt at NaNoWriMo.

For the book lover who adores keeping records or who (like me) easily forgets what he’s read and what he thought of it : A Moleskine Book Journal
It features “alphabetically organised sections to personalise, 6 blank sections to be filled in as desired, blank pages, a complimentary bookmark and 202 adhesive labels to further personalise the notebook. It also features acid-free paper and a double expandable inner pocket.

For the longhand writer who’s bored of blue and black ink, or who likes to write different characters in different colours : A Set of Rainbow Ball Pens
There are ten assorted colours and the pens have “ergonomic triangular barrels for effortless, fatigue-free writing and a particularly smooth writing performance.”

For anyone who needs inspiring or motivating : An Inspirational Life Quotes Colouring Book
This book is full of positive quotes and designs that will help you to relax and ease any anxiety that you may have. Forget any stress in your life and have some fun.

And if you fancy treating yourself now, have a look at Chris Baty’s book, No Plot, No Problem. Chris is the founder of National Novel Writing Month and shares his secret for knocking out a novel in no time. This could be useful if you’re tackling NaNo for the first time and feeling nervous.

Happy shopping and a successful NaNo!

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Guilty as Sin by Judith Cutler

I first met prolific crime writer, Judith Cutler eighteen months ago at a Disney Laureate event in

Judith Cutler

Judith Cutler

Birmingham. Since then we’ve kept in touch and I’ve been on the reviewers’ list for her new publications. A few weeks ago I read Guilty as Sinher third novel to be published within the short time we’ve known each other (Judith has written over 40 novels in total).

I asked her about this huge output and how she went about achieving it. This is what she told me:

All my life I’ve worked full-time, for thirty years in the highly challenging world of further education, where there weren’t enough hours in the week to do everything. But even then I had the writing bug, and when it bit hard in my later thirties and forties I managed to scrape together little oases of writing time while still doing my day job.

I gave up full-time teaching at 50 and the only way I could survive financially was to do a variety of other jobs to support my writing addiction – even though I had contracts with two separate publishers and got commissions to write short stories. Gradually I was able to shed the non-writing jobs, but the drive to work at something was still strong.

Nearly twenty years later it still is. The truth is, I suppose that I no longer appreciate the calm of empty hours. Even – especially – in the garden, I get ideas I want to write about. Playing tennis and doing Pilates have given me themes or plots for novels. Church? Plots aplenty there! Voluntary work at the local school? Ballroom dance? Antiques fairs? I’m lucky that I don’t write books about international spies or people living the high life, because I’d have to spend years of research. I simply write about what I know with the magic question, ‘What if?’, always buzzing in my head.

My working day is very flexible, because I’ve got to the age where I must build in regular exercise and regular relaxation times. But I usually produce 1000 – 1500 words a day: much more, and my brain doesn’t work the next day. Like all the writers I know, I start by re-reading the previous day’s efforts, editing as I go. Then I push on. I don’t plan the whole book in detail – I like to explore the situation with my protagonist – but I do need to know the ending. It’s nice to have a title in my head too. The start of a series or a standalone is harder work than the sixth or seventh in a series, because I’ve not yet got to know everything about my characters. Everything? No. They still need to surprise me.

I do work at weekends, but never into the evening, because my head fizzes and I can’t sleep.

I think Judith’s words reinforce a truth that we already know – a LOT of hard work is needed to be a success and a writer is never ‘off duty’.

Guilty as Sin is a crime novel set in the world of valuable antiques. The heroine, Lina, is an expert in restoring old china. The plot revolves around the theft of valuable artefacts from churches and also from a confused old lady. There’s no murder but Lina does find herself in physical danger as she tries to work out who she can and can’t trust.
This book is a gem for fans of cosy crime and those who like solving puzzles. It’s the sixth in Judith’s Lina Townend series but can also be read as a stand-alone novel. However, be warned, it may tempt you to seek out all the rest!

 

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