I am so lucky to have the choice of some great walks where I live. One of them features a steep hill leading down to the river and standing on the bridge there provided the inspiration and the first idea for Just Another Day. Ideas come from anywhere and after working at the computer for a while I love to get my walking shoes on and go out. It was easier when I had my beloved dog and I still can’t quite get over not having him but a walk is a walk and it feels good. I can do a circular one with both an up and down hill in it with some straight bits in between and it takes roughly three quarters of an hour. I like to think it brushes away the cobwebs from my brain and that some new ideas are planted there although they may take some time to emerge.
I have paused the novel I am working on for the moment. Sometimes I find it helps to do that so that when I return to it and read it from the beginning it gives me a new momentum on it. There is no rush with it as ‘A Close Connection’ is not out until March. Yesterday I went on a day trip to Forde Abbey in Dorset. What a hidden treasure! I have to confess I hadn’t heard of it but it is well worth a visit. The gardens are beautiful from the formal -massive topiary and wide flower-filled borders - to the kitchen garden and the salad I had at lunchtime was so fresh the lettuce must have been pulled up that morning. The Centenary Fountain – England’s tallest powered fountain - in the grounds is turned on 3 times a day and we were lucky enough to see it in its full spectacular action, a shower for a giant! Indoors you are overwhelmed with room after glorious room and stunning 17th century tapestries. Doing things like this refreshes me and it was so good to be outside in the September sunshine.
September already and, after a week when it looked as if the summer was gone, the sun is out again. I was just starting to look through my wardrobe, deciding what to bin and what to send to the clothes-bank, thinking longingly of autumn and now I’ve had to get the summer stuff out once more. I love autumn in fact. I feel happier in warmer clothes and I love tights – bare legs do not do me any favours. I like coloured tights but am instructed by my 14 year old granddaughter Ella that I must not on any account buy leggings. She permits me to wear jeans even if they are not very grandmotherly but leggings – no. I have to admit she is right. Does anybody look good in them? In the meantime, I am busy with my short stories. I want to have a good batch ready and am experimenting with various lengths. As a novelist though I must be careful I don’t wander off into novel territory which happens as soon as I get too interested in my characters.
After a hectic few weeks, this weekend is finally free. Anticipating a quiet time just relaxing and watching a bit of TV (not really watched anything for some time) I find the TV is not working – something wrong with the aerial – and my TV angel is not able to come to repair it until Monday. Pathetic how upset I felt at first but then I realised that it was a heaven sent opportunity to look at some writing stuff that’s been sitting around for ages doing nothing. It’s astonishing how a time-gap before you look at something again gives you a completely new slant on it. It’s therefore been quite productive.
Been so busy these last few weeks. I was at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School up in Derbyshire where for a whole week it felt as if I was in a writing bubble. No television, no newspapers, just writing and talking about writing with other writers. It doesn’t matter how experienced a writer you are, you can always learn something new.
I left buzzing with ideas for new things to do.
And then a trip to Bath with my older granddaughters. What a wonderful city with the Roman Baths, the Assembly Rooms, the Jane Austen connection and so on. Even though Jane Austen only lived in Bath for five years, it stayed in her memory and she set some of her novels there. It made me realize the importance of introducing a sense of place to your reader – it has to be done subtly but a reader really needs to know where she is so that she can conjure up an image in her head.
Marvellous day out with my son to watch the Test Match at Southampton – England v. India. We were sitting in full sun for the first session which was a bit much even with sun-hat, sunglasses, sun-cream and cover-up blouse. What a wonderful atmosphere though which makes it so different from watching on television. I find myself listening in to conversations roundabout – a writers’ joy- not difficult when people are happily chatting away in-between the overs. You hear bits about people’s lives, just a smattering and then they are gone but, as a writer, you never stop wondering ‘what if’ and before you know it there goes the start of another story.
Two of my novellas are now out as e-books, published by Lusciousbooks (cloudberry fiction). The Hills of Home and Love by Design to complete my three novellas – the other is Calculated Risk, all available from Amazon. I love the new covers. These books were first published in 1990 and thereabouts and I really learned the craft of writing at this point in my career, working to a particular length as required by the publisher at the time which really makes you sharpen the writing. As a follow on from the short story, novellas are excellent for the new writer. When you eventually write a full-length it is still helpful to be able to tighten up your work. I am enjoying the hot weather here in Devon, just been on a trip over the border to Cornwall to Liskeard – a drive full of windy roads dipping down to rivers and up again, trees in full leaf with the sunlight streaming through. Quite magical.
Lovely news. I am to be the featured author on the alfiedog.com short story website from 23rd July for two weeks. I started my writing career many years ago with short stories, never realising at the time how difficult a genre it is. A true short story should be just that, complete in itself, unable to be improved by lengthening it and that is something I learned over the years. It is an excellent genre for learning about the craft of writing and I would recommend it for a beginner.
I enjoyed leading the workshop at Chudleigh, Devon. What a pretty place it is and the sun shone. There was a marquee and after my talk on creating a character, I stayed for a very interesting session led by a performance writer, followed by lunch. I am always open to new ways of allowing the creative vibes to flow and my mind was therefore buzzing by the time I left. The peaceful feel of the place as we strolled around the churchyard looking across to the Devon hills will stay with me for a long time. As a writer, you need moments like these.
I have been busy preparing the workshop for Chudleigh Lit. Fest. on 9th July. I am talking about building up your characters, fleshing them out so that they are real to you and therefore will be real to your reader. The weather here is lovely but a walk down a country lane a few days ago resulted in my being bitten by a horse-fly. Nasty but the swelling on my little finger is going down slowly. It is the second time I have been bitten by one of them so for some reason they must like me! I don’t, it goes without saying, have the same affection for them.