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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…