Posted in Travel, Travel Writing

The Tower of London

Oh my goodness, I have so much to share with you but I haven’t had access to wifi for a while, so these updates are going to come well after the actual dates. But I hope this glimpse into my UK trip inspires your imagination as much as it does mine.

Last week when my partner flew over to London, we took some time to tour around and see the sights. One of the sights we went to was the Tower of London where Anne Boleyn was beheaded and many other gruesome things happened.

I took some time walking through the tower and observing all the armour displays. Below are some of the photos I took.

Selina at the Tower of London
Selina at the Tower of London

That’s me (above) and behind me is a wall of armour. It was a great room to visit and very surreal.

Armour at the Tower of London
Armour at the Tower of London
Armour at the Tower of London
Armour at the Tower of London
Armour at the Tower of London
Armour at the Tower of London
The Tower of London
The Tower of London
The Tower of London
The Tower of London
The Tower of London
The Tower of London

I also took time to see the Crown Jewels and appreciate the magnificence of workmanship that went into each piece. This was a great afternoon in London. Funny to say that since it was a place that has known such gruesome historical events.

I have to say, that I am not a historian, but my visit to the UK has been helping me to develop a deeper interest in learning more about history.

Also, learning about life in a castle is so helpful for my fantasy fiction story that I worked on during my week with David Farland. The course went really well and I met some fantastic authors – all with excellent story ideas. I’m very much looking forward to seeing each of them published in their chosen genre.

I will try to update my blog as I go, but as I said above, the wifi isn’t always reliable.

Today, I am in the Scottish highlands. I’ll write about that another day.

Posted in Creative Writing, fiction

I really should be writing my novel

I have the day off work and I’m sitting in my cattery, in my wonderful big green lush comfy writing chair and … I’m surfing the internet and cyber… do I call it, stalking? Or is it that I’m really just a fan? Curious, inspired and interested about my newest fav author?

Anyway, I’m choosing to call it: cyber-checking-out. I’m sitting here cyber-checking-out Marian Keyes’ website because I bought her book, The Mystery of Mercy Close, and I’m loving the ‘courageous, vulnerable and wasp-tongued‘ female protagonist Helen Walsh. It’s a great read – at least it is for me. I say that because it starts off where two of the main character’s sister and her friend are talking about having a breakdown together, as though it’s a wonderful opportunity for a holiday.

I found it quite amusing and I identified with the main character straight away because I think I too have a ‘shovel list’ and an inner black comedy when it comes to certain things in life. Like when certain people sit not just next to me on the train but on me. My brain goes to all sorts of places and I often have amusing thoughts, the likes of which are not suitable for polite company.

So according to the back cover of The Mystery of Mercy Close, ‘the Shovel List is: a list of all the people and things Helen hates so much she wants to hit them in the face with a shovel.

Wow – I often have this monologue inside my head, talking to me and commenting and noting the things and people I wouldn’t mind smacking in the back of the head from time to time. I probably shouldn’t admit that, but I do. I have it. I think we all have something like that going on inside us… unless, of course, you’re a syrupy sweet sickly person who never ever thinks a ‘bad’ thing about anything.

If you’re that kind of person – lucky you!

Unfortunately, it’s not me. I try to be good in life. I try to say and do the right thing. I try to be caring and compassionate to others. I try to keep some of the things I hate close to my heart and bury them, but sometimes, under all that pressure, I still know that I just want to slap some people in the head and walk away from them. I want to tell them I don’t care about their problems, I don’t want their help, I don’t need to be mothered – because even though my mum has dementia, I still have a mum and I don’t need mothering!

I don’t tell them that or rarely will I allow such things to spill from my lips.

Oh no, I keep it wrapped tight as a mummy on Halloween… until the object of my frustration has pushed me to breaking point and then I can’t articulate properly and all the stuff I’m feeling comes out jumbled, or in the form of “f@ck off” which happened all too recently. Only then does my own ‘waspish tongue’ start to buzz and sting. I try to control it but I’m not always successful

Then, after the event I feel guilty that I said what I said. And yet, sometimes I feel justified in my response. I am, after all, only human and I can only take so much in life when things are stressful. That doesn’t excuse my own behaviour but it does put things into perspective, if you know what I mean?

Anyway, I should be writing my novel. I sat down here to specifically write 1800 new words or so of my novel. I started, then I felt hungry, so I ate. Then I got interested in Marian Keyes again (because she is funny, interesting and adorable and watching her vlog makes me feel happy) and then I thought, I just need to write this blog, so here I am punching out my word count on the blog rather than my novel. It’s not that I don’t want to write my novel. I do, and I am. It’s just that sometimes things resonate so much with me, I just have to share… I want to share it with you.

So now that I’ve written this blog and shared my terrible secret… that I’m human, I make mistakes and sometimes I just don’t want to care about all the drama of other people and their lives. Now that I’ve shared that I’m totally inspired by Marian Keyes and her quirky sense of humour, I feel I can focus my attention on my novel in progress, The Living Death of Toddy James.

My novel is moving along at a cracking pace right now. I’ve been writing new words every day for fifteen days now, and I’m in the middle of writing chapter 20 and things have got pretty hard for Toddy. She’s trapped and I’m not sure how she’s going to get out of her current predicament but as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard, I reckon she’ll show me the way and we’ll be off. Her moving through the action and emotions and me following her every move and scribing her thoughts, feelings and reactions on my Scrivener page.

Writing a story is hard work but it is also very exciting and a lot of fun.

I must go now. I have new words to write and Miss Poppy, my rag doll cat, aka ‘The Novelist’s Little Helper,’ is calling me to get her and bring her into her cattery (her queendom).

What can I say … I am at Miss Poppy’s command.

Thanks for reading my blog and for following me. I hope you have a great day, wherever you are in the world and that you take one more step toward realising your own passion in life.

Posted in Alzheimers, Creative Writing

Life and the act of creative writing

When life becomes stressful for me, one of the things I thoroughly enjoy doing is throwing my characters into conflict infested scenarios.  Then I sit there and wonder … how on earth are they going to get through this?

Sometimes writing fiction is as challenging as navigating life itself.

Life’s been very stressful for me this year. I can’t deny it. My brother and I have had to come to terms with our mother’s recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Dementia and it is the most heart wrenching thing to see and experience. A truly cruel disease of the brain.

Mum Rodger n Me

My brother has been doing the most amazing job caring for our mum because this disease is tough. Tough on the carers. Tough on the family and friends too. It’s tough for the person going through the dementia too.

 

So grief, depression and anxiety have been my companions.

It’s hard for me to admit how much this situation is affecting me and I am struggling to put things in to words here because of how keenly personal things are.

So in October, I flew down to Canberra to see my mum. I loved seeing her but she had changed so much. My mum stood before me, physically the same person, at least on the outside, but on the inside … the brain damage she has sustained shattered my heart.

At times mum recognised me (I live in Queensland and she is in Canberra so we don’t see each other very often). At other times mum thought she had given birth to twin daughters and continued to tell me that she couldn’t remember giving birth to me. She also insisted that her real daughter lives in Queensland and as nice as I was … well, in her eyes I wasn’t her daughter.

Sometimes what mum said was funny, somethings it was devastating.

Anyway, it’s been an emotional roller coaster and I never know if mum is going to remember me when I ring her. But on the up side, I am doing my best to cherish  memories on her behalf and to remember my mum for the amazing, strong and beautiful woman she was as I grew up. My mum is still there and sometimes, in her lucid moments, she surfaces and it is a true delight!

Some people believe mum should just try harder to remember things but she can’t do that. She’s had mini-strokes. It means she has brain damage and she can’t remember. When I’ve heard well-meaning people tell my mum that she has to try harder to remember and that she’s always had memory issues, I just want to slap them in the head for being so ignorant, so arrogant, so farking lacking in compassion.

If someone has a broken leg and it’s bent at some odd angle, would it make sense to tell them to, “Just stand up and walk. Use your legs!”

FARK NO!

Sorry, I’m so frustrated by stupid statements like that. It’s ridiculous and causes anxiety for my mum and for her children.  But I do understand that the comments come from a place of wanting to help and trying to make sense of a disease that doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, since things have been so full-on emotionally, I’ve found myself doing quite a bit of creative writing. I’ve been working feverishly on The Living Death of Toddy James. I’ve spent some time plotting out a rough outline and now I’m elbows deep in writing the chapters. The act of writing helps me to compartmentalise the pain. But it doesn’t mean I don’t face and feel the pain, it just gives me a safe place to take a breather and I am so grateful.

So far I’ve written sixteen chapters and I’m drafting chapter seventeen now. I’ve been writing everyday and it’s been a twisting turning journey for Toddy James. I hope I’m doing her justice. But for now I’m not rewriting. I’m pushing forward because I promised myself I would finish this story and I will.

Writing is a passion for me. I can’t not do it. So is reading. I love to read and I’ve been getting into reading romance stories lately. I’m learning more about the romance genre which will help me with my own writing because all of my stories have romantic elements.

I think another reason I have been enjoying the romance genre lately is that I need something to lighten up my life and even though every story is filled to the brim with conflicts, romance is known for delivering happy-ever after endings and that’s a nice thing to look forward too.

I hope life is treating you well. I’m keeping on keeping on as they say and I’m writing but most of all I’m sending my mum and brother a tone of love because they are both incredibly precious to me.

 

Posted in Creative Writing, creativity, fiction, Story

Stephen King’s top tips for writers

StephenKing Image by the USO, via Flickr Commons_10968905154_140c71b403_m

Image by the USO, via Flickr Commons

I was surfing Facebook and found this great article on Open Culture. It was titled, Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers and I had to share it with you.

Of course I’ve read On Writing by Stephen King. It’s a must read for anyone with a passion for writing fiction (in my opinion). I loved reading it so much that I bought the audio book and enjoyed listening to him read his own work.

In the article by Open Culture, they list the top 20 rules Stephen King has for writers.

Below are four that resonate for me:

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

Just those four rules or tips make my heart burst with creative joy.  It feels like I’ve been given permission to go forth and be as creative as I like. Then when it comes to rewrites I’ll cut out what isn’t the story.  That is so freeing.

I also love how honest Stephen King is. He is his own person. He writes honestly, even in fiction and that’s cool.

If you skip across to Open Culture for a look-see, I hope you enjoy and that you find these rules/tips as inspiring for you as they have been for me.

Happy creative writing.

Posted in Animal Love, Creative Writing, fiction, positivity, yoga

My Happy Jar, Yoga, Writing and the X-Files

My Happy Jar

One of my friends told me about this great site called Your Happy Jar and since my quest for 2017 is to connect with balance and count my blessings as well as write a great novel, I thought I’d join.

I’ve had a great time writing short notes that I can look back on and appreciate. Reading through my notes already makes me feel happy.

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 5.16.04 pm

Above are two of my happy moments. As the title of my website says – I am an animal lover. These are two of my beloved four legged furry friends.  The third one is a little more difficult to snap up a photo of but I’ll get him one day and he’ll be added to my happy moments too.

Here’s another happy writing moment:

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 5.16.34 pm

That day I’d been having so much fun writing my novel while on the train, I almost missed getting off at the right stop.  Reliving that memory is awesome, especially as writing a novel length story can be such a roller-coaster of emotions for me.

It is so nice to remind myself of all the happy moments I have in my life.

Yoga

As I’ve said before on my blog, I’ve been committed to my yoga practice as I explore the benefits to my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual self. Somedays I don’t want to get on the mat but the moment I do, it’s like I’ve come home to myself and I know I’ve made the right decision for my own self-care.

So far I have been #yogacommitted for 80 days.  I’ve missed a few days but this is the most consistent I have ever been with my practice. And I enjoy the idea of developing and growing my yoga practice.

Doing yoga with Adriene as a guide has been the catalyst for change for me in so many ways. The other day I did this yoga flow with Adriene. It was a strong practice and I found it challenging, but I breathed through each posture and my prana was rocking by the end of it.

As I result of daily (or almost daily) yoga practice with the youtube videos, I’ve started going to Yoga with Kristy near where I live.

Kristy is a lovely yoga teacher located on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. She makes everyone feel welcome and allows each participant to work at their own level with kindness and compassion.

This coming Thursday I’ll be off to attend her restorative yoga practice again.  I think I might float home.

Writing

As you can tell from the above, I’m still writing my first novel, Tuppence Weatherstorm.  I’ve finished rewriting the first nineteen chapters and have another ten to go.  I’ve been sending off chapters to my writing buddy in Melbourne and I’m looking forward to feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

When I wrote my first draft, it was just under 80,000 words. But now, on the third rewrite, the word count has grown to almost 95,000 words. So, I’ll be culling and tightening my prose as I go through my next rewrite.  I’d better add that to my editing list.

So my writing is right on track. I’m falling more in love with Tuppence Weatherstorm and the world I’m building which is good because writing a novel is a marathon activity.

The X-Files

IMG_1325I’m about 24 years behind the times, but I’ve just started watching The X-Files.  This is my  copy of season one. I’ve watched three episodes so far and I’m hooked.

I’m not quite sure what I was doing the whole time The X-Files were airing, but I’m glad the episodes are available for me to binge watch now.

I am loving the paranormal themes of this series. Just saying.

 

 

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, creativity, Editing, fiction, Paranormal, Story, Wattpad

Phases of Writing my Novel – A Discovery

IMG_1294

I’ve learned there are many phases of writing my novel. Some phases are challenging as I struggle to birth the words and scenes that will make my story come to life. And some phases are filled with excitement and joy as my creativity soars and the words spill onto the page without effort.

In this post I’m going to tell you about some of the phases I’ve been through so far as I have been writing my novel, Tuppence Weatherstorm.

Back in early 2016 I was sitting on the train on the way out of the city and gazing out the window. It was a hot and humid day. The sky was mottled gun metal grey and overcast.  The train pulled out of Fortitude Valley and my eyes came upon thee old brick buildings with pointed roofs. The brick work reminded me of a church I’d once seen and then my creative mind was off and racing.

The first character, not the main character, appeared inside my imagination. I opened my iPad and started to type what I saw. I grinned as he formed on the page and the setting grew around him. I had no idea where the scene was going but I knew he had appeared for a reason. And I knew it was the start of a story, so I decided to go for it.

What did I have to lose? Nothing. By giving my ideas space to breathe, I had everything to gain, so I plunged in and wrote as much as I could when I could.

This marked the beginning of the first draft phase of writing my novel.

It took me five months of writing, developing my characters, developing the plot, thinking about internal and external conflicts and considering the treatment I’d use to tell my story. For those who are not familiar with the term ‘treatment’, it means whether I’d write it in first person or third person close perspective.

At the time I was also experiencing a high level of anxiety and creative writing gave me a way to express all the things I couldn’t in my real life on the page.

This was also the ‘no self-censorship’ phase of my writing.

I gave myself permission to write as freely as my imagination would allow. I chased ideas down rabbit holes, filled my manuscript with cliches and wrote it on Wattpad.  This was a great fun phase as I received encouragement from the people who read my first draft as I wrote it and shared it with them. Their kind words and support meant the world to me and it still does. I feel blessed to have their input into my novel.

Once I’d finished my first draft of my novel, I had about 80,000 words and no idea on how to proceed.  I’d never got this far with a story before. So I contacted an editor and asked her to take a look at the manuscript and paid her for her time.

This was the editing report phase of writing my novel. 

It was a time of vulnerability for me which was probably heightened by the extreme levels of anxiety I was experiencing in my personal life at the time. But I sat on my hands and waited for my feedback.

I received the feedback and it was great. I received lots of comments, all geared toward helping me to write a stronger story.  The editing review looked at holes in character, plot structure, conflicts, treatment and theme. It gave me added insight into cutting cliches. Cutting overwriting. Cutting tangents.

I also learned that I was trying to write two stories at the same time. This meant that I was consciously writing a paranormal story but my subconscious was dealing with the theme of anxiety.

I hadn’t seen that in the manuscript and was grateful for that insight as it helped me to consider if anxiety was really the theme I wanted to focus on in the story.

It took me about a two months, nearly three of digesting the comments in the editing report before I was ready to start rewriting. The editing report was one of the most valuable learning experiences I’ve had in the process of writing my novel. I used their feedback to help move forward with rewriting. I took one comment at a time and tried to focus on what they had said and see how I could create a stronger story by using that knowledge.

The editing report comments were gold. Pure gold.

I still return to my editor’s comments because they help me to stay on track and focus so I no longer write tangents into my story.

This marked another phase of writing my novel. The second rewrite. 

It was time to do a thorough rewrite. I had to learn to write stronger verbs. I had to start cutting adverbs by 90%. I had to replace cliches with my original prose and come to terms with cutting all the tangents that did not move the plot forward.

I had to focus and tighten and learn to cut out repetition while shaping the plot around the changes. It was a challenging phase and at times I wondered if I’d ever get through it. This phase was akin to going up a grade and learning at a higher level.

Challenging is good.

But I admit, there were times when my anxiety grew into a monstrous entity in its own right. I had to see my psychologist about it and discuss the way my ‘monkey mind’ attempted to sabotage my creative writing. And that was very helpful.

This phase of rewriting took me about three months of focus. When I finally finished the last chapter, I was so happy. I’d made it. I’d not only written and finished the first draft – the bones of my story, but I’d done it a second time and now it had some muscle.

At this point I entered into my current phase of writing my novel… another rewrite! 

Basically, as soon as I finished my second draft, I circled back to the beginning of my story and started reading and writing again. This time I looked at how I could bring out the secondary characters and write the scenes in such a way as to bring out the paranormal themes.

This is the phase I’m in right now.

So, during the week, I focus on rewriting a chapter at a time. Usually this is on the train on the way to work or going home.  (I travel for an hour and 15 minutes each way and use my time to progress my novel or to read and learn).

Once I’ve added missing detail, brought out the senses and developed character circuitry and peeled back another layer of conflict, I move onto the next chapter.  At the end of the week I go through all the recent rewrites on my home computer.

I open Scrivener and use the speech tool to listen to what I’ve written. I found using the audio function helps me to pick up sentences that don’t sound right. I instantly pick up incorrect words and missing words too. It also helps me to hear the cadence and to correct it as I go.

So far I am half way through the third rewrite.  Once this phase of writing my novel is complete, my writing buddy in Melbourne will read the story for the first time and provide me with valuable feedback. He’s my next beta reader and I’ll be integrating his insights when I receive them.  So that’ll commence rewriting phase four.

Going forward, I know there are many more phases of writing my novel yet to come. So, to help me prepare, I have spent time brainstorming a list of editing topics that I will concentrate on as I keep combing through my story and polishing it.

Here are just a few of the editing topics I will be focusing on as I move forward with Tuppence Weatherstorm:

  1. Have I captured all the senses in my story?  Do I favour one or two of the senses over the others? If so, I need to write in the missing senses to help bring out the ‘show’ aspect of the story.When I say senses, I’m talking about: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch.
  2. Have I caught all the repetition in every scene?  What else can I cut or rewrite to build tension and suspense in the story and make it flow better?
  3. Are all of my character’s voices individual?  If not, I will need to go back and do more character work, maybe interview my characters until their voices surface and then write that into the manuscript.
  4. Do I have any words that repeat that I need to vary?  I already know that I like to use the word ‘scream’ a lot. I think that’ll be one for the search and rewrite list.
  5. Do I have ‘tell’ words rather than ‘show’ words in my prose?  I’ll be searching for the word ‘felt’ and doing my best to rewrite the sentence so I show what is happening to my character in the situation.

There are so many more editing topics on my list but I won’t put them up here until I’ve been through them. Some I can’t put up here as I’ve learned them through private courses and the method belongs to the teacher.  But I’ll give you what I can once I know it works.

So far, I’ve been writing Tuppence Weatherstorm for a year and three months. I think that’s pretty fast for me, even though at times it feels like an eternity.

People ask me how long does it take to write and publish a book?  

And I have to say, “I don’t know.”

Right now I’m doing the work. I haven’t got to the stage of publishing my novel yet. And I think every writer is different. Every story is unique and even though there may be deadlines, a story unfolds in its own time. At least that’s how I look at it right now.

What I do know is that once I’ve exhausted all of my editing topics on my list it will be time to submit my manuscript to my editor again. That will be another phase in the birthing of my story as I discover what else needs attention and continue the process of crafting and polishing.

When my story is ready for publication I know it will be the best I could do with the knowledge, experience and guidance I had at the time.

And that’s all I can hope for.

Happy writing and reading!

Posted in characters, Creative Writing, creativity, Literacy, Story

On Stephen King and Writing Characters

Last year Stephen King received recognition for his work in literacy from the Librarian of Congress at the 2016 Library of Congress Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

They recorded his talk and loaded it up to YouTube which is awesome because I had an opportunity to watch it.

Stephen King did not disappoint. I love this guy! You know … in the ‘I’m a fan girl’ kind of way.  He talked about the Dead Zone and how he foresaw Donald Trump – scary that his work of fiction could have overtones to reality but there it is.

He told funny tales about being a famous author and discussed how to increase literacy in the community. This was very inspiring as he talked about reading for fun, about falling into other worlds and living through characters.

He said (and I’m paraphrasing) that people who do not read live one life and it may be a great life, but people who read, live thousands of lives.

I loved that message because whenever I read a story I get to experience what the character is going through but I don’t need to live their pain in my physical life.

And when I was younger (in my early twenties) I didn’t read much. It took me a lot of practice to learn to read well and then to enjoy the experience. I didn’t grow up loving stories mainly because I didn’t understand the joys of other worlds and characters. I found reading difficult but over time my literacy jumped and I found that I LOVED reading and I loved writing.  And that, in a nutshell, is how I came to be writing my own fiction.

Now, when I read books I have an opportunity to change my perspective on important topics and I learn that not every person who does ‘bad’ things is acting from a place of malevolence. Some characters have motivations that stem from a place of thinking they are acting for the highest good. And that makes the character complex and far more interesting to read about.

So a lot of what Stephen King talked about resonated with me, both as a person who once did not value reading and as a person who is so in love with reading I am never without a novel or a non-fiction book now.

Another interesting thing Stephen King talked about was how odd it was to see so many people in the crowd because writers are supposed to be secret agents. He said, “We’re supposed to observe you, you’re not supposed to observe us.”

I thought that was a great comment because as a writer I find myself observing people. Sometimes I’ve thought that I shouldn’t do that, but to write authentic characters and to gain inspiration for stories I realised that I needed to be engaged in the world around me (to a degree).

Mostly, I look at people’s emotions and how emotion impacts behaviour and the decisions and actions taken.  It’s endlessly fascinating to me.  I often contemplate behaviour and the principle of cause and effect as I write.

A number of my writing teachers have encouraged me to observe body language; to watch people and to do my best to notice the small giveaway signs of their thoughts and emotions too. I do this, but sometimes I think I do it more subconsciously than on a conscious level because I don’t sit across from people and just watch them. I listen to what they are saying, I do observe their body language from the perspective of being present with them and engaged in the topic at hand.

Yet I must admit that watching people teaches me so much about how to write believable characters with congruent and incongruent emotions and body language. Observing people (on TV and in real life) is fantastic way to develop my creative imagination as well as a vital skill for creative writing. So I reckon Stephen King, with all the years of experience and writing success, has a good point about writers being observers.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Stephen King’s talk. He’s an inspiration both as a writer and as a mentor (even though he wouldn’t know me from a bar of soap).

And if you have time and you’re interested in Stephen King, literacy, creative writing or just interested in having a laugh because he is an entertaining speaker, that you’ll take time to watch his talk on YouTube too.