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31 December 2008


New Brush Sweeps Clean
I know, I know I haven't kept up to date with my blog this month and I'm feeling very guilty about it. Since the completion of the first draft of my novel (I still feel like 'yippee!) I have been on a whirl wind rellie tour of the UK covering over 1500 miles and slept in a total of 8 different beds! It was wonderful to see everyone though and get some early Xmas celebrations in. Since our return, only a week before Christmas, we have been busy with our darling puppy Bertie who is now 12 weeks old and probably about the same in kilos! Yestereday we picked up his sister Jess (who is a bit of a nutcase) and her old pal Rusty and we have been racing around since then!

Our setting has been very Christmassy as we had snow on Boxing Day and then again on Sunday which left our valley under 3-4 inches of lovely white stuff. Bertie loved sitting in it and hearing it go crunch under his bottom! Unfortunately though a friend who was supposed to be coming for dinner on Sunday had a car accident and couldn't make it. So we now have nut roast and a huge Vincigrassi (a kind of Italian lasagne) in the freezer and our tummies are full of Tiramasu! The main thing is he's OK but the car not so... :(

Anyway I have started my planning for the New Year and with renewed vigour and a little bit of discipline I am going to brush up my blog and try and write a little bit most days if Ican. It's just about routine really, we all need it unfortunately... Anyway I will try and add a couple of pictures just to end this year off and say Buon Nuovo Anno and Auguri for 2009.

On My Bedside Table
I've just finished Robert Harris 'The Ghost' which has been a fabulous but easy read about a ghostwriter penning the autobiography of an ex PrimeMinister. I would encourage you to read it - I learnt a lot about writing and ghosting but at the same time enjoyed a good story!

2 December 2008


Or should I say book?
Well, I’m late with my blog entry because as you know if you’ve been following my sorry story, I had a deadline to meet. And… I DID IT! Hoorah!

I had finished slightly ahead of schedule – on Saturday – but wasn’t quite ready to let go, so I did a bit more to the ending on Sunday which didn’t feel very satisfying but there you go. Ninety thousand words – most of them written in a journal longhand in my favourite fountain pen. I can’t tell you how it felt… I suppose as a writer I should be ‘showing you’ but it felt oddly like an anti-climax. It took me a while to admit to my Man Friday that I’d finished (after all having an extra 45 minutes in bed all to my self to write has been most indulgent!) and then it felt like the bubble had burst. No more of my characters in my head (well they are still there but their story has been told).

But I know that this isn’t the end. This is only the first draft. I mean a good percentage of those 90,000 words might be absolute drivel (can’t you tell I’m ever the optimist?) and I will now need to start the editing process. This I do by inputting my written words onto the PC. It takes me longer than hand writing the first draft because I edit as I go along, with a fountain pen I just let the ink do its’ work and worry about the rubbish I’m writing later.

So I have a new deadline – to work on the first three chapters and the last chapter and – yes and – to produce a synopsis. I plan to work on this in January and look at some potential agents. At the same time (if I have time) I will start to input the other chapters also, but I thought I’d concentrate on trying to get someone interested and if necessary panic.

So, the story never ends…. and we've just got connected to broadband another hoorah!!!

Other Success and Flops
Well, I have been concentrating on the novel, so haven’t given much time to anything else. That and trying to getting connected to Broadband has almost seen me off, but that is another story for another time. I’ve had one positive response to a query I sent of last week, and need to work on producing the submission before the X word.
I have also uploaded my weekly submission to Suite 101 about Alberto Moravia, an Italian writer.

On my Bedside Table
Finished Mme Ramotswe’s latest tale, loved it. Tried a Joanna Trollope The Choir – hated it. Too verbose and missing something for me – but hey what do I know. I might try another of hers, because I hear good things about her work.
Now I’m reading ‘A Long Way Down’ by Nick Hornby. It’s told through four lead characters, all in first person and it's quite an interesting style. Anyway, I’ll let you know how I get on…

The Last Word
Has to be about finishing the novel. I’ve done it once, written more than 50,000 words in one month (more than I’ve ever done in the three years since I started it!) So I can’t say ‘can’t’ any more. I know I can do it. And it feels good…

21 November 2008


The end is nigh!

I have (give or take a few hours) nine days left before the self-imposed deadline for completion of my first novel. I must stress (as if I haven’t done so already) that this is a first draft and so very far from the end.

But, I am learning so much about the process of writing that if it doesn’t work out for some reason or another, I will have progressed in my life as a writer. I have struggled for years to ‘find’ the time to write, to get the scramble in my brain onto paper and to believe in the characters that have occupied by life. It has been quite cathartic this week particularly as I hit that midway barrier when you suddenly realise what a huge task you have set yourself.

At the beginning of the week I sat in bed, pen poised (my favourite snorkel fountain pen back from the menders) and journal at the ready and thought I couldn’t write a word more. A couple of minutes later, I had flicked back and re-read what I’d last written and 45 minutes later had written six pages! By the end of this week, I had finished the A4 lined book (approximately 250 pages) I use and need to find another to complete the end of the month.

So stop twittering on I hear you say, what have you learnt then?

Well three things…

  1. You never ‘find’ the time - you have to make the time
  2. The scramble in your head may be scramble on paper but at least then you can decode it
  3. Well, I can’t think of the third thing but it must be something important… Oh yes, I know, the love of a good man. My Man Friday has been fantastic, he believed in me, and my characters, so why shouldn’t I?

Sizzling Success Stories

Encouraging responses continue to my queries, pitches and follow-ups.

This week my pitch about the 'puppies in the ditch' sorry tale has been accepted for a dog lovers magazine, our Bertie will be famous before he’s six months old!

We’ve been approached by the Sunday Times in response to a pitch we put in about being an ‘ex-patter’ and have submitted a piece about Christmas. Whether this will be published is much in doubt, but well, you never know.

I’ve submitted my usual upload to Suite 101, this time about the Italian Sculptor Antonia Canova. I have submitted 28 articles to date to this site and it earns me a few dollars now and then.

Finally I’m on my Friday query time and have just pitched seven more queries (hey, I’m on a roll!) but really the law of averages just means that I have to submit more pitches to get one positive response.

On My Bedside Table

Finished the Dark Materials Trilogy, most of it read last Sunday. Fab - although this third book did tend to linger on a bit, I enjoyed the philosophical questions it raised. No wonder the higher echelons of religious faiths are trying to prevent the story from being filmed.

I’m now taking a lighter approach to my reading as I approach the deadline for my novel, I don’t want any ‘stuff’ getting into my head. So I have returned to a favourite author of mine Alexander McCall Smith and his delightful Mme Ramotswe in his novel, ‘In the Company of Cheerful Ladies’.

Speak to you next week - if I’m not in a heap on the floor with no more to give… (don’t ask me where I get the dramatics from; it must be in the genes).

14 November 2008


So What is it This Time?
Well, there is always something you can blame isn’t there? This week we have been picking olives. Our first year and after 13 hours of scaling trees, an eye injury from a springy olive branch and a fall from a pair of very wobbly ladders, we harvested 180kgs of the pesky little fruit and now have 23 litres of oil waiting to be bottled.

So have I written? Damn right, I have. And it feels so good. What, with a new puppy as well, where do I get the time? Well, I have to pay great tribute to my Man Friday who has brought me a glass of orange every morning and then left me in bed to complete my target number of words, while he occupies Bertie, the pup. I am actually finding it difficult to stop writing and I only do because I get hand cramp (I write long hand initially, and then edit as I type into the PC – it seems to work for me). So I am on target… yippee!

I must also give some credit to the NaNoWriMo (National Write a Novel in a Month) competition which I did sign up to but as I was half way through... anyway I have used their target words per day to complete the final manuscript. Maybe next year...

Also, could things get any better I here you asking, I’ve had another successful pitch accepted. Its not paid work, it is for Members News Section in Writers News. But it ticks a lot of boxes…

  • It celebrates success in a kind of showy off kind of way but I picked up the information about the market from the mag, so wanted to thank them
  • Its free marketing for me as a writer, I’ve talked about my novel and plans for another
  • Its free advertising for a virtual writers club I am hoping to set up and so have included that in the piece to see if I can drum up some interest
  • It will hopefully direct people to my website and blog, so more marketing potential

Worth its weight in gold, I’d say…

And I am planning the second novel, based on our move over to La BuonaVita - you can follow the progress at our blog of the same name, where full credit must go to Man Friday for submitting such wonderful and funny pieces. Well I think they are anyway. It shall be a kind of fictional- fact 'flit lit' book (apparently that is a real genre) so there you go.

In terms of submission I have uploaded my weekly article to Suite 101, a short bio about Dostoevsky – what a story that is, quite fascinating, though I have never ever completed ‘Crime and Punishment’.

I have also submitted a short story for a 'Writers News' Competition and am just about to email my weekly. I always do that on a Friday afternoon, call me suspicious, but it seems to elicit positive responses. Maybe it’s because people are looking forward to the weekend.

On My Bedside Table
In the last blog, I forgot to say I’d also read a Judy Picoult best-seller called ‘Second Glance’. It’s a great read, slightly ‘unreal’ but I loved the setting and sense of mysteriousness she managed to paint with her words, I like her style – a clear beginning, middle and end but also with a sense of purpose and satisfaction. I have read a number of her books and love them.

Now I am reading the third Pullman novel ‘The Amber Spyglass’ but with everything else this week, including the eye injury, I’ve not read as much as I’d liked. Anyway, Sunday is reserved for reading so hopefully I will catch up…Well that's it for now, over and out.

7 November 2008


But What Would You Do?
Well as you can see, I haven't been around for a while. The last of our visitors returned back to the cheery land of the UK last week and I've no-one to blame but myself. My parents (who were staying for the last three weeks) are like part of the furniture really and slightly less distracting than grandchildren. My sister, husband and three boys turned up for few days and treated us to a stunning Sunday lunch (so no need for cooking). But...the slow dial up internet speed connection has become more frustrating now we've discovered we can access broadband. Here in Italy things are... well, slower, which is great, but I've waited so long for broadband that I didn't sleep for days when I applied and got a positive response! That was about two weeks ago. And then...another visitor arrived, this time of the canine variety and rather more permenant. Bertie, an Italian Sheepdog, is 6 weeks old and was found in a ditch with his siblings at two days old. They were found by an English couple who hand reared them and now they needed re-homing. How could we resist such a plea? He is absolutely adorable as you can see from the picture and is very supportive of my writing - like chewing the end of my pen when I'm searching for the right word and licking my toes just as the word disappears from my thoughts.

Anyway, I'm now head down for the deadline for the novel which is looming. I have passed the fifty thousand marker and if make 2000 words per day until the 30th then I'm home and dry. Ha! That's when the hard work starts and I start scrubbing out all I've written, but at least I've done it. I must also find an agent. So much to do and so little time...

On My Bedside Table
Mmm, now I know I've read quite a bit, but its remembering what. The Partisans Daughter by
Louis de Bernieres - for me not a patch on Captain Corellis Mandolin, I didn't get the purpose, good story line but... now I'm on the second book of Philip Pullmans' Trilogy, The Subtle Knife, which is fantastic, out of this world and yet believable. I must mention the Italian material I am reading which is recognised as the cream of its genre. Geronimo Stilton is a story about a mouse, namely a mouse who is a writer and editor none the less and has a number of wonderful adventures with other mices (or is that meeces?). He is loved by those aged between 5 and 12 here in Italy but they truly are wonderful for learning the language, understanding verb tenses and improving our vocabulary.

9 October 2008


Call Me Fickle but...

Well, very wise words I thought when I re-read my last blog. However, my characters became rather shy and decided to leave ‘town’ for a bit! I didn’t write a thing all week, but that was probably because of a delightful little six-month-old granddaughter I have renamed Little Miss Sunshine.

I’m a bit ‘precious’ about my writing. It’s like, I suppose, having a new baby and only you know what makes them happy and interactive. When other people are around, I feel a little on ‘show’ as though I need to perform, so in protest, I don’t! I know this is a little immature of me, but I am going to work through it. We have more visitors for the most of the month, I’ve made a commitment to my novel, and it deserves my attention, so it will have it. It probably will make me more efficient with my time and perhaps with my writing!

Anyway spurned on by the experience of living with a young baby for a week, I have just submitted my next article on Suite 101, Grandparents Today, so out of a barren week comes some solace! I also have just received a second payment of $15 from the website so my grand total of earnings has now reached the dizzy heights of $27 dollars! A week ago that would have been about thirteen quid, but with all the financial shenanigans (I just love that word, perhaps I should try using an odd word in each blog – but don’t hold your breath.) going on I’m not sure any more. OK - so it’s not exactly a fortune and probably won’t keep the wolf from the door but the point is I have been paid something. Though it wouldn’t matter if I hadn’t – its never stopped me from writing before!

On My Bedside Table
My reading has taken a bit of a dive also but I’m now reading an Ian Rankin novel. It is a Rebus one and according to my Man Friday, he is one of the best crime/thriller writers out. It’s not a genre I’ve been drawn to before, but his character and setting descriptions are pretty vivid, so there is always something to learn. I started to read "The Widow and Her Hero" by Thomas Keneally. He wrote Schindlers List, which I’ve not read but was deeply moved by the film. Anyway, I had great difficulty getting through the first few pages until I realised there wasn’t one piece of dialogue. It’s purely told through a narrator recounting the experiences of her husband (well I think, as I haven’t finished it). Anyway, it was difficult to get any sense of character or of things moving on. It really brought home how essential characterisation is. On the other hand, maybe I just need to persevere with his style, as the accolades are quite positive.

26 September 2008


Publication at Last!
Well, I'm just 'chuffed' to pieces (it's a northern term I was told by a guy from Sheffield). As well as the piece I talked about last week, I have had a feature written and accepted within a week of my first query. That's going some by any standard I'd say. Last Friday (after I'd written my blog) I whizzed of a query to a publication I'd read about in Writing Magazine. On Monday the Editor accepted my pitch and asked for copy asap as (luckily for me) my query complimented a feature they were already working on. I submitted the feature last night and the purchase order arrived in the post today! Wow, now that's fast work.
I can't take all the pomp and glory though, as I must acknowledge the input from my Man Friday as this was a first person piece about a personal experience of ours. Writing features first person was harder than I thought, especially when I have been writing very factual, tight pieces for e-publication. It has been a very refreshing and thoroughly enlightening experience. I realise that this might not be the general experience of many writers but I feel like making myself one of those name badges with ' I'm a Writer' written on it!

The second feature I talked about has been submitted, but now there are a few issues with images (not my strong point I must admit, but I'm learning fast!) Anyway it seems to be ticking along...

Finally we have more relatives arriving (for the majority of October in total) so I've been trying to plan out some targets for the next month. I've written almost 36,0000 words towards my novel and at the moment the characters are living with me day and night. I've never quite had this 'invasion' and it feels really good and just like how I've heard other writers talk about the writing process. I have some way to go though, to get achieve my deadline for November and whilst I had planned for the beginning, I'm now thinking that the end (of November) is more realistic. Anyway the way my characters are behaving - they won't leave me in peace until I tell it how it is!

Finally on the Bedside Table
I finished The Road Home - absolutely fabulous read and a fairly happy ending (I like happy endings...) but it had some real 'aha' moments for me, especially about some of the hardships immigrants can face.
I am now reading The Chimney Sweepers Boy by Barbara Vine and it has me hooked. Its about a writer and his family and secrets and it really is a classic page turner. I've never read any of hers before but I shall definitely be looking forward to other titles.

19 September 2008


Well Rested and Ready for Action?
As you've noticed, I've been absent for some time. Even budding writers needs some time off for rest and relaxation! Well, I have had some I can't deny - shared with family and it's been impossible to sit at my desk when my 3 year old granddaughter and 8 year old grandson were here as I haven't seen them for five months! However, we had a lot of laughs and a great time and I even managed to capture a few ideas for future consideration so all is not lost!

This week I've spent trying to catch up and plan for the next few weeks (more visitors arrive next week and week after for about a month!) and I'm determined to stick to some targets, which nevertheless might have moveable goal posts but hey who is in charge around here?
I've just completed an article which was commissioned some months ago and the publication has had a change of editor, so fingers crossed that it meets with approval. If it does, it will be my first published article in a 'Premier Class' Magazine. More later (if I'm published).

Bedside Table
As with the writing, my reading has taken a back seat lately but I'm halfway through The Road Home by Rose Tremain. I've started it about three times but now I'm totally absorbed and would love to meet the main character, an immigrant called Lev.

14 August 2008


The Good and The Bad
As you will know, if you've read the rest of this blog, I've been busy writing away for some months now. This week I decided to take stock and follow some advice I found whilst surfing around on the net. I've completed my synopsis, plotted out 36 very general scenes on index cards, completed the main character profiles and worked on some settings. During this time I discovered I probably have around 20,000 unedited words towards my novel. For me, I need a balance between planning (because I'm a self-confessed procrastinator, planning is always a good excuse) and writing. The work I've done this week has helped to refocus where I'm going and clear the path a little to where I want to be. I'm still looking to November 1st as my target, so watch this space!

Also published another article on Suite 101 about Mata Hari, which was very enjoyable to research. I have now published 20 articles on this site and am planning how to re-use these for alternative markets.

Sweet Success
Following on from last weeks entry, my father was telling me about a 93 year old woman who has just had her first 'raunchy' novel published and with the proceeds has bought a large house and moved three of her friends in from a nursing home! After I put the phone down, I started flicking through my September copy of Writing Magazine which had arrived. I got to the letter page and saw my name and a letter I had submitted some time ago. It was such a shock - despite the error with my name - but all the same it was a lovely surprise and a great feeling. I hope I don't have to wait until I'm 93 for the publication of my novel! If I think I have another 48 years, my procrastination affliction will raise its ugly head!

Bed Side Table
I have finished the Ben Elton novel. It was really good, almost a little to unbelievable but a cracking good read with a happy ending (I'm a hopeless romantic!) .
I have now got stuck in to How to Survive Your Sisters by Ellie Campbell who I mentioned last week. It's a delightful read and reflects the relationship with my own family, particularly my sisters, very closely.
Not, I hasten to add, the alcoholic father - although my dad was quite happy to admit he likes to partake in a dram or two of whiskey!

7 August 2008


Words of the Week – A Quote…

‘All you need in this life is success and ignorance. Then success is sure.’ (Mark Twain)

The Good and the Bad

Journal Jottings - 3750 ++ words for Flying Angels

750 words for Winkers Abroad *see note below

Short Stories - 1 submitted for Writers News Competition

1 drafted

Queries and Pitches - Consolidation this month

Articles Articulated - 1 to Suite 101 (Communication Skills)

Rejections Received - 0

Time-wasting activity level - 5/10

No, it’s not my success, unfortunately. I can now claim that I know a published author (not that I’m one for hanging on to shirt tails). This author has worked hard to make it happen and for me is the ideal role model for inspiration. Like me, she is not in the first flush of youth, she has not previously been a celebrity and she has children, husband, a ‘proper’ job and finds the time to tend to a vegetable allotment! Her name is Pam Burks and just to make it more difficult she co-wrote her first novel with her sister, Lorraine. They write as Ellie Campbell and have a fantastic website.

The novel How to Survive Your Sisters is published by Arrow books and was released by Amazon at the end of July. I have two copies as I pre-ordered one and my darling sister (through whom I was introduced to Pam) ordered me a copy. My sister, I can claim, even went to the launch in Kensington. So there you go - my one and possibly only claim to fame in a very convoluted unconnected manner. I must admit that I have only met Pam a couple of times and have exchanged the odd emails. However, her last email is the source of my renewed vigour for writing, so thank you Pam.

No News is Good News?
I am awaiting the news of two things this week, the impending birth of a second grandchild for our dearest friends and the results of a brain operation for another. My thoughts are winging their way across the channel.

In light of the wonderful weather we have here in rural Italy and pending family visits, I have decided that I will dedicate most of the month of August to my novel in the making. I have refined my synopsis and have an, albeit a rough one, idea of the scenes and flow. I have also mapped out the male antagonist, who has been, shall we say, rather elusive.

In addition, my Man Friday and I have started to map out another novel. This one is entirely different. Flying Angels is a historical novel with a sprinkling of romance. Winkers Abroad (*a working title and whose origins may or may not be disclosed) is a much lighter, humorous novel, which will be based on our experiences of coming to live over here. Again, I must pay tribute to Pam who planted the seeds of ideas which has brought us to this point and to my Man Friday, who writes our blog La Buona Vita and has a rich way of making something greatly amusing.

I’ve not had any feedback on the short stories submitted which I tell myself is good news. However, I find it difficult to leave my words sitting in some empty space somewhere, which lets face it, could be a very large receptacle for rubbish.

Bedside Table
Well, I finished Living Dangerously by Katie Fforde. This is a fantastic tale about a single woman who believes she is committed to a solitary life of independence and an older man who challenges that belief. Fforde writes with a light touch and a lot of observational humour about people and their prejudices and actions and I would definitely put this on my ‘read again’ list. I’m not sure on your stance about reading a book again, but I find it an enriching experience as I always pick up something that I didn’t first time round.

I am now reading The First Casualty by Ben Elton, which is dedicated to his grandfathers who fought on opposite sides in World War 1. This is a much more serious book and kind of counts as research for my novel. So far it has been gripping and has provided an insight into the beliefs then, which today would be viewed as more than just ‘odd’. I’ve not read any of Ben Elton before and I was worried that it might be delivered like his comedy, which is great on screen. However, so far, I’ve found his style very sympathetic and easy to get on with.

Post Script

I plan to keep up my blog during the crazy, hazy month of August (I note with a slight smirk, that the UK is not experiencing the summer they had been promised, but hey, what’s new?). However, my rantings may well be shorter and may make even less sense than they usually do.

31 July 2008


Obscure Word of the Week

Dandify v. (-ies,-ied) ‘make a dandy’

The Good and the Bad

Journal Jottings - 5,250 words approximately

Short Stories - 1 edited (Chasing Rainbows) and 1 draft (Stale Mate)

Queries and Pitches - Followed up a couple of leads

Articles Articulated - 2 both to Suite 101 (Business Coaching and Umberto I King of Italy)

Rejections Received - 0

Time-wasting activity level - 5/10

As I write this week’s blog, it seems to me that I spend most of my time considering why I haven’t done something, rather than on what I have achieved. This is so like many writers I would imagine, who think more about the words they haven’t written when they probably should be looking at the ones they have.

Having waved goodbye to the last lot of family visitors, I have a three-week space before the next arrive. Not that they distract me at all, I distract me, writers like distractions. I would like to confess that these distractions provide fodder for the pen and ink, but alas, I believe it is so I can pass the buck. Nevertheless, this week I have penned more words but certainly not made up for the paltry show of the last blog.

Anyway, the Creative School of Writing at the University of Bath recommends three submissions per week, so that will be my new target. It can include reader’s letters, short stories, articles and the long awaited for novel so plenty of opportunity.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

There is a dog barking, somewhere in the valley, sometime during the night (usually about an hour after I’ve drifted off) and it’s been going on forever. It cannot be at someone’s house, because I’m sure it would have been shot by now. The animal is probably guarding something or been spooked by the wild pigs, but it is impossible to locate the boring monotonous but irritating yelps as it resounds around the hills. It would be all right if it soothed me back to sleep, but I’ve tried counting, suffocating myself with the pillow and even asked my Man Friday to shout something rude out of the window. And therein in lies the other problem – we can’t shut the window because it is too hot and we would expire in the night. So night after night I toss and turn and then wake in some under slept state at around 8am cursing myself because I haven’t been up and ‘journalled’.

However, I am learning (yes, I know I’m a slow learner) that I can write at any time, and anywhere, if I really want to. I know there are many writers, many indeed who have claims to fame and who swear by particular a writing ritual or certain conditions, which leads to their success. But my life isn’t as clear-cut as that, maybe I’m just not organised enough. If I am to treat writing like other ‘work’ then I must be able to just get on and do it. So I’m experimenting with my journal at the moment though I can’t quite accept that 2am is a good time, whatever the dog thinks.

Bedside Table

I have put Joseph O’Connor to one side (sorry Joseph). My sister left me a copy of ‘The Outcast’ by Sadie Jones. It’s on the Richard and Judy Book List and I could not put it down. I read it in one sitting last Sunday, when the weather was a bit stormy. I haven’t read a book in one go since I was a young girl, but it was highly satisfying. It seemed to tick all the boxes although the actual plot wasn’t anything particularly unusual. I got hooked into the main character Lewis immediately (when you read it I’m sure you will understand why) and I needed to know what happened to him so I had to get to the end. It’s a story about loss and misunderstanding and about young love and its very simple and touching at the same time. I loved it - beautifully observed and presented. I want to write just like that…

I have not reconnected with Star of the Sea (apologies to Joseph again) but am reading a light tale ‘Living Dangerously’ by Katie Fforde which has me laughing aloud. I wonder if it includes the demise of a barking dog. More about that later….

25 July 2008


Obscure Word of the Week

Miscible – capable of being mixed

[Medieval Latin related to MIX}

Not sure when you might want to use this word in writing but then it’s a funny old business isn’t it?

The Good and the Bad

Journal Jottings - 2000 words approximately

Short Stories - 0

Queries and Pitches - 0

Articles Articulated - 0

Rejections Received - 0

Time-wasting activity level - 10/10

Not much time spent on anything this week! Firstly, I went down with a lingering headache, possibly heat induced. Then a planned family visit arrived, as predicted, a very welcome distraction, which I was looking forward too. And, then an extremely low internet connection for the last few days – the lowest being 4.8kpbs, which hasn’t (or maybe has) helped things along.

On the positive side, well there isn’t one. But in my defence, time wasting activities have included playing scrabble which is good for my vocabulary, sitting on the beach helps with settings and descriptions and visiting restaurants to observe character traits (and gain a couple of pounds but unfortunately not the folding kind).

So, it’s not been a positive week in terms of writing and submitting. However, I have done a lot of background reading, research and planning which is helping to hone my writing skills… (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

A Writer Must Write

All the advice tells me so and up until now, that is exactly what I have done. But, I have also talked a lot about my novel, with my Man Friday and my little sister, whose family very provided a welcome break to our solitude this week. I have been reluctant to talk about my progress with my novel, again because the ‘advice’ has told me not to. However, I am beginning to understand that advice about writing (and about anything for that matter) is a very individual thing. Advice really needs to be taken into your own personal context and what works for you. Talking things through and having to explain what it is I’m trying to write has actually clarified quite a lot of loose ends for me this week and I’ve even changed the name of my main character!

To Plan or Not to Plan

I’ve also spent some time looking at the various methods for planning a novel and have decided that I really do need to invest some time in this. I’m looking at the index card method for mapping out chapters and scenes and have started to transfer these from my ‘journal jottings’. It has been quite cathartic as a process – which is not by any means finished – and I have made some editing changes, which has helped things along. I wish I had started at this point at the beginning, but (so I’m told) sometimes it’s best to start in the middle! (If you ask an Irishman for directions, they would reply ‘if I was going to there, I wouldn’t start here!’ – so my Irish educated Man Friday tells me.)

Bedside Table

I still have ‘The Star of the Sea’ on the go. I’ve probably read about four chapters - its very complex with quite a few characters and as I said previously, it’s written in a strange style. There are quite a few footnotes, which I find a bit distracting, but impossible to ignore and graphics at the end of each chapter, the significance of which I am still trying to work out.

Sis and Bro-in-law have kindly left a couple of novels in return for ones from our bookshelf. It’s a great system, a little like a library but with less turnaround and resources. I’ve been thinking about setting up an ex-pat book swap with other honorary Italian citizens in the area, but it might not be a practical option given the rural area we live in.

Over and Out

My writing magazines fell from the postie’s hands at the weekend and I’ve been absorbed reading about the famed ones, searching for that one great tip which is going to make everything happen. Which of course, it’s going to… isn’t it?

Post Script

I’ve just read an article about blogging and it talks about daily rants – yes, this does contribute to time wasting but sometimes it’s worth it. I’m not sure the world is ready for a daily deluge from me, but I can see their point about developing a writing habit. So, for now I shall stick to my weekly habit for therapeutic purposes and hope you don’t suffer too much.

17 July 2008


Thought of the Week

“Like stones, words are laborious and unforgiving,

and the fitting of them together, like the

fitting of stones, demands great patience

and strength of purpose and particular skill." ~ Edmund Morrison - Author

The Good and the Bad

Number of words in Journal : 5750

May not all be usable but… words all the same

Number of short stories: 1

Submitted to The Peoples Friend – following a rejection letter I received from them earlier in the month. At least they replied.

Number of queries and pitches: 1

Submitted proposal for HR on Elance though have not been successful with any bids to date

Number of articles : 1 (Suite 101)

follow the link if you are interested in Galileo

Number of rejections : 2

I think, for magazine articles. On the positive side it looks like the pitches have been read and there seems to be a genuine interest, however, wrong time, wrong place

Time-wasting activity level : 5/10

I spent a couple of hours looking at websites that looked interesting and then are not but followed links to even less interesting sites. Went through my ‘How to’ File and realised that I should consult it before sending off short stories.

I’m not going to share with you the number of glasses of wine consumed or banned foodstuffs ingested but I love a ‘rosso’ and Bounty bars (hard to come by in Italia).

May the Force be with you…

Having finally sorted out a pile of photographs on the PC and catalogued them into some sort of meaningful manner, I have quite a few images, which may have some potential. So, I duly spent an hour plus, looking at relevant markets and gathering my pitching skills for attack. However, I nearly had a major tantrum when all the images, which I had ‘burned’ to CD, with the help of my ‘Man Friday’, all disappeared! And I had emptied the recycle bin. I tried very hard to contain my despair, but not all was lost, so to speak, as my wonderful Man Friday saved the day and rediscovered them. Needless to say they are all now back safely on the hard drive and on the spare lap top and under the settee. Technology – it drives me bonkers but seems to be the driving force.

Novel Beginnings

Well as you can see from my weekly word count, things are progressing. I can’t at this stage vouch for the quality of the writing - that is if I can read what I’ve written. I’ve taken to writing my journal in bed, first thing in the morning as it has been so hot here in my adopted home, its messed up my sleep patterns. Trouble is my lovely Man Friday, not yet accustomed to my presence and requirement for uninterrupted silence, often starts to make conversation just as I am in mid flow. I should imagine it is rather like other premature interruptions, where the satisfaction level is never quite recovered. However, with regular beatings and the odd hard look, I’m sure he will learn very quickly.

Joking apart, I am actually quite pleased with the progress and have never felt quite so in touch with my star character. I have also completed quite a bit of research, which has been ambling along for an eternity, and I’m sure that has helped.

In terms of short stories, I have made a pact to start writing/editing at least one a week and to have a target of submitting one per week and that includes resubmissions of previous stories. As you may know, my tendency for procrastination may mean this will take a while to get going but at least I’ve set a target! The one I am working on now is called Chasing Rainbows, and once I’ve plucked up the courage I may even post a few.

To Be or not to Be

I’ve worked quite hard at generating ideas for articles and the non-fiction writing I am trying to get going. I like this style of writing because it’s factual and I’m quite interested in things and people. Having to date written 15 four hundred-word articles for Suite 101 I was thinking maybe, I could use these as a basis for longer articles. I’m also going to concentrate on three or four markets rather than spread my wings too far (or my butter too thinly). I know there are advantages and disadvantages but I think a bit of focus would suit me better. So as a recovering procrastinator (see earlier comment), I’m going to put this in black and white here in my blog and then report progress. Sorry if this gets boring, I will try and make it as entertaining as I can (eventually).

So for starters and in the spirit of ‘write what you know’:

  • History – This of course includes biographies, anniversaries and special events, family genealogy and everything old!
  • Health – well, with by background I couldn’t miss this one out but would like to include ‘body and soul’ kind of health here too
  • Market No three – I haven’t decided on the title of this one yet but it would include business type things to do with human resources, organisational development and all those things I prattled on about in a previous life

On My Bedside Table (no, not strange pieces of boudoir equipment)

In this section, I will talk about and maybe review the current book I’m reading. As a young girl, I remember hiding under my duvet with a torch to finish the book I was reading- at that time anything from the Famous Five to The Valley of the Dolls (without the knowledge of my parents I hasten to add). This activity probably preceded my current need for reading glasses but well worth the sacrifice. Now it takes me much longer to read a book as I start analysing almost at the beginning – style, characters, plot, structure etc. and it can take a while for me to just get on and read. That is, after I have located my glasses by which time I’m ready to douse the light.

The book I am reading now is ‘Star of the Sea’ by Joseph Connor. I’m only a few pages in and it has a strange style but I’m persevering. Watch this space…

8 July 2008


So I’m going to begin by introducing the character, the setting and the plot, not very original but always a good place to start, so all the advice tells me.

Character - outline:

Joanna Louise (aka Louise Charles)

Female, eldest girl of five children (three boys, two girls and busy parents), born in 1963 in one of the harshest winters on record and a committed Piscean – dreamy, occasionally wet and exceedingly bad with cash.
In mid forties, blissfully and happily married (second time lucky) living with my soul mate of thirteen years. One son, four stepsons and two grandchildren (actually three as I have a step granddaughter, unbelievable I know, but I like to think I’m one of those glam grans).

Likes: writing fiction (often badly and un-publishable); growing my own vegetables; making homemade birthday cards (not quite Kellogg’s cornflake packet style but not far off) and swimming in the Adriatic.
Dislikes: writing poetry (don’t mind reading it); mosquitoes (see setting) and boorish art critics.
Favourites: Animal – dolphin; Colour – orange; Food – steak, strawberries and dauphinoise potatoes (but not all at once); Music – opera; Film – West Side Story; Flower – Peonies. This is not an exhaustive list and no doubt will be added to.


I have recently relocated to central rural Italy to a region called Le Marche tucked away over the hills from Tuscany and very unspoilt by tourism. Living in a small hamlet surrounded by a handful of Italian families with views across the Sibillini Mountains, we live a simple life and regularly observe the most wonderful sunsets.

We have a small agricultural dwelling, which has housed pigs, rabbits, and chickens and we currently occupy the top. The ground floor (the coolest part of the building) has a makeshift office (for writing of course) and a storage area and a long room (curing area historically) with a soil floor. I need to make some money writing so we can convert this part.

We have two acres of land, 50 vines (most are ancient), 32 Olive trees, walnut, apricot, apple, plum and a number of unknown trees and have turned our hand to self sufficiency in the Tom and Barbara style (remember The Good Life?). Currently we are enjoying the fruits of our labours, much of which hubbie documents on our blog at Casa Grotta (House with a Cave, yes, a cave).

There is very little to dislike here, apart from those annoying mosquitoes who love my other half and have left him with large pale raspberry-like swellings from head to toe. Occasionally they feast on my sweet blood but are less intrusive but still extremely irritating.


Well, there is the rub, not very good at plotting and planning. Procrastinating is more my style, but hence the blog. This is one way to start writing about writing… I know – tell me I’m kidding my self.

I have several writing projects on the go:

A daily journal – recently worked out that on average on account of this daily (well most days) muse of Wolfe-like writing I can churn out 5000 words per week. Not that a lot of it makes sense but well – I’m writing

A novel - The Flying Angels, about a woman and her experiences during World War Two. Recently I have dedicated my daily journal time (usually about half an hour) to this project. I have boxes of research (which I kind of like) but now need to get on and write the damn thing. A friend of mine (a published author no less) has given me a completion date of four months – that was last Friday and counting so here’s to 1st November - its in the diary!

Short Stories – Throughout my daily journal, I have lots of starts, stops and not going anywhere kind of writing which could be useful. Have started submitting these to UK market and have just received my first rejection letter – hooray!

Articles – have a number of articles published on Suite 101, mainly in my areas of interest: Italy; History; Biography and Personal Development. It’s helping with my procrastination problem (a little) and providing a bit of discipline.

So there we have it, oh and I am also an Editor for two international academic journals (health based) which provides me with a very small income and is something of value to put on my CV.

How was it for you first time? I feel good. Until the next time…