Sunday, 1 March 2015

If it’s good enough for Madge, it’s good enough for me…




We all fall down from time to time, I should know my excuse is not a black cape but Meniere’s. I didn’t see the Brit Awards live, I was doing my proud Mummy duties in Sheffield for my rising rugby star. Obviously I heard about it before I got the chance to see it.

It amazes me that some people can actually suggest the whole incident at the Brit Awards was a publicity stunt – like our Madge needs anymore publicity – please! The woman is fifty six years old and simply incredible. I was never really a fan when she burst on the scene in the early 1980s. I was very much into Queen, Dexys Midnight Runners, Soft Cell and Human League et al. Now I appreciate her as an artist and a woman. Her longevity in the business is not a fluke, it’s down to sheer hard work and determination to succeed and that, I can certainly relate to.

If only I had had the courage and support back then in 1982 to pursue writing as my career. BUT, and it’s is a pretty big BUT. I don’t think I would have written as I write now. Life experience is invaluable and really adds depth to writing – Sam Smith is testament to that! I also had not read enough books back in 1982 although one book I read back then did have a profound effect on my life. On the 29 August 1982 Ingrid Bergman died on her sixty seventh birthday. I read one of the many biographies that had been written about the formidable woman. She was inspiring. Unfortunately I didn’t have the confidence, the belief, the courage or the support to follow my dreams and I did what most of us do and accepted a life that wasn’t me. 

Meniere's Syndrome

Meniere’s changed all that and I am so glad, in a warped way, it happened to me. This week has been a bad week for me – illness plus Meniere’s makes for a very frustrating and depressing time. It makes me question what I am doing and why. I succumb to other peoples' nonsense that I should get a ‘proper’ job and that would end all my problems along with silencing the nasties. IT WOULDN’T. All it would do is put me back in a situation where I am forced to take time off for Meniere’s or for the children when they are sick. It would mean Wes would not be able to be in the academy at Sheffield. The fact is, unless employers change their attitude towards unseen illnesses, flexible childcare and working Mums, working for someone is not a viable option at this time. The bottom line is I don’t want to work for anyone else. Twenty years of lining someone else’s pockets is enough for me. It might be hard now but to achieve success we have to make sacrifices. I’m not giving up in spite of outside pressure to do so. If the haters can’t understand that, then that’s on them not me. I want to inspire people to not give up and have a go even when it seems impossible, you can find a way if you want it badly enough. I’m starting with inspiring my children.

I have some bridges to build this week because my illness has prevented me from doing things I should have done but I can’t help that. I have to accept Meniere’s is a debilitating illness that can strike at any time. I control it the best I can but so many do not or DON’T WANT to understand the illness. Each time it strikes, I fall… just like Madonna. Each time I recover, I get back up, dust myself down… just like Madonna. Sadly that is where the comparison ends!

Giving in to pressure and giving up IS NOT AN OPTION. Don’t you dare even consider giving up on your dreams!

Writing


Yesterday I sat and wrote 6242 words and typed them up too. It was the most successful day of writing so far. There’s nothing more inspiring than a pep talk from your children reminding you why you started and more importantly why you should continue. Support is double edged and priceless when it is.

This latest draft is different from the other projects I am working on. There is an element of mystery in the story but the book is essentially about how small actions can change many lives in an instant. I am writing this blog quickly so I can head back to this book, that’s how motivated I am about this story.

Beyond the Lies


Sorry to all those readers who are eagerly awaiting the sequel. I wasn’t happy with some of the draft so I am in the process of the edit. I promise you it will be worth it.

Beyond the Past



Rumour has it Russell Crowe may be interested in buying a stake in Leeds United. His money would be better spent making Beyond the Past a film especially as we share a common love for rugby league which provides the backdrop to the story - #justsaying.

The first three chapters are available FREE on my website

PhD


When I finished my degree I was short listed for PhD funding. Out of hundreds of applications I got down to the last nine but alas tripped at the last hurdle – bit like Madonna. Anyway, funding is available again and I have decided to go for it. It is something very close to my heart and a personal goal of mine. I am confident I can do this on top of everything – sleep will be the first to be forfeited!

I look back on last week and being ill didn’t actually slow me down that much. I need to accept I am not wonder woman, I have two fabulous boys to guide through life and all the mundane stuff for the house, finances, etc and I still managed to do all the above. It was also Wes’ birthday this week. Where did seventeen years go? I am super proud of him and the young man he has turned into.

It is time to stop giving myself a hard time and stop listening to the negative people who probably only do a fraction of what I do in a week anyway. 

It really doesn’t matter how many times you fall, only the rising up COUNTS.

RIP Mr Spock


One of the icons of my generation passed away this week. RIP Leonard Nimoy. You helped inspire a generation of space lovers.

During writing this, I have watched Liverpool FC beat Manchester City. What a match! Great game, great goals but most of all fabulous football. It was a HUGE result and gave me goose bumps.

Finally, I want to leave a thought or a plea with you. Just remember, 




Everyone makes mistakes but few own them.  

OWN YOUR MISTAKES, YOU ARE ONLY HUMAN.

Have a fabulous week everyone.







Saturday, 21 February 2015

Plot & Character Development, oh and a forgotten FIVE letter word…


Sorry does seem to be the hardest word…for some.

When Elton sang those words, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” I don’t think he would have anticipated just how rare the word would become in the English language. Why is it, when people do wrong and do get caught red handed, they don’t hold their hands up, admit it’s a fair cop and say that underused word – SORRY? Just pause for moment and think of all the recent wrongdoings – Hillsborough, Rotherham, expenses, tax avoidance, and NHS problems – wouldn’t the world be a better place if we just held our hands up and said sorry. It may not make everything right but it would be a start and it is NEVER too late to start.



It totally sickens me that instead of saying sorry, some people try to cover up THEIR mistakes with abuse and blaming the victim. Even worse though are those people who decide to share their wrongdoing by bringing innocent people into the situation, who in good faith believe the lies because the person is so convincing or they don’t know the victim. People can be very persuasive and manipulative when they want to be. However, lies can only be sustained for a short space of time and ultimately the truth comes out. I’ve brought the boys up to understand that making mistakes is perfectly okay and part of growing up. As human beings we learn from our mistakes – or at least the majority of us do. BUT a lie or cover up is far, far worse than the initial mistake.


I found this article a while ago that might explain why some people find it hard to say that five letter word. It is worth a read. I don’t know why people can’t admit they’re wrong? I admit if I get things wrong – the boys will testify to that. I’m not immune to making mistakes but I will say sorry, if it is warranted.




Do yourself and human nature a favour – stop lying, stop hurling abuse, admit your mistakes, say sorry and move on. Quite often an apology is enough. If not legal action will rectify the situation. It really is not hard to say sorry.


Plot and Character Development


In writing, the part I struggle with the most is … CHOOSING NAMES. Pretty ironic when both my boys are named from the movies. Wesley is named after the cheeky character in Moonlight Bay and Lucas George – well I’m sure you can guess who he is named after! Yes, the formidable George Lucas who shaped and massively influenced my obsession with space exploration. I still get goose bumps when I think of the day back in 2001 when I stood on the viewing platform at Kennedy Space Center. Sorry, mind wondered there a bit. Anyway, my nickname is also R2D2, apparently because I have no legs – I do have but short ones!



Anyhow, I struggle with character names at the first idea stage. When I have a new idea, I need to scribble it down as quickly as possible. Menieres has resulted in my memory not being what it used to be so it’s important not to interrupt my thought process with trying to think of names. So at this stage, the characters become man1, man2, woman1 – you get the gist. Once the whole idea is formulated and on paper, I can go back through and take out what doesn’t work, add in new ideas and details, and add character names. The names are so hard – one of the villains in Beyond the Lies was originally Jimmy Saxon but there was already a James in the storyline so he became Tommy because it sounded a rogue name – sorry if I’ve offended any innocent Tommy’s out there.



When selecting names, I try to match the name with the type of character I want them to evolve into or if I need a multi personality character, I choose a name like Catherine so it can take the form of Catherine, Cath, Cathy, Kate or Katie. I have no idea if any of this is making sense or ‘normal’ but by now you know I don’t do ‘normal’.



The character names may change again once the rough draft is completed. This is because I may decide that the character has evolved into someone they were not at the initial ‘naming’ stage so I will change it if it is not right. I am sure you are reading this thinking does she ever finish writing and editing – yes I do, only when I am happy with the outcome. I am not afraid to put my work through the mill, I didn’t with Beyond the Past and that is a lesson learned.





Plot development is part contrived and part as it pans out. With Beyond the Past I had no plan, nothing. I just simply wrote. However, I am a planner. I’ve been organised all my life especially in my former life as an Insurance Broker. I have a professional attitude to writing and want to take it forward and learn. I love to learn. So I have now developed a system of planning and developing an early plot. To be fair, the plot CAN, DOES and almost certainly WILL change during the course of the first draft.



Plots and ideas can come from anywhere. For example, the plot for one of my books developed from driving to school one afternoon. I had been in the house and heard the sirens and helicopters but it is quite a common occurrence where we live – I don’t think it’s any different to anywhere else these days. Anyway, when I drove to school, an alleyway was cordoned off by the Police. Apparently someone had been stabbed. That got me thinking, what would happen if your DNA somehow was found in that alleyway and you had no alibi. Hence the start of an idea. By the time I had travelled one mile I had the twist and turns of a plot in my head. This was the occasion when I wrote the idea on the back of a Tesco receipt – I have small handwriting thankfully. Now I keep a notebook with me at all times!



As you can see, ideas can come from anywhere and develop into a plot line. From there, the character names are devised and the first, very rough draft begins. I’m actually writing two drafts at the moment – ambitious but I love both storylines and they are very different. I am also editing Beyond the Lies and marketing Beyond the Past. Busy but happy.



This week, I am more focused than ever and eager to move forward with my plans. I have lots of letters to write, meetings to attend and in between them I will be continuing to write. If you have ever fancied writing, have a go. What do you have to lose?


Have a great and safe week. Be kind, thoughtful and look after yourself. Don’t forget I’m here to chat, just use the links below:





 


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Sunday, 15 February 2015

How do you write?






I know it’s been a good week when I have written my blog by Thursday and only have to edit it and post it on Sunday. I also have not one, but TWO new book ideas. How was your week?

I am always interested to learn how best-selling authors write, what their thought process is and what advice they give to aspiring authors like me. As you all know by now, I don’t do generic advice. We all are different and I LIKE DIFFERENT.

 

So how Do I write?


With a pen! And paper of course.

Ideas


A book starts with a tiny little idea usually when I least expect it – in the middle of the night or driving or sitting outside school waiting for the boys. Driving has its obvious problems in scribbling down the idea! I’m always scared I will forget it before I get chance to put the idea down on paper – a curse of Menieres I’m afraid! In the very early days, outside school I have been known to write ideas on the back of Tesco receipts. Now I’m more organised and keep a notebook in the car and beside my bed.

Ideas can literally hit from anywhere – a conversation in a supermarket, a news story even a line from a singing I am belting out whilst alone in the car – yep, much easier alone than listening to the boys begging me to stop, whilst their ears start to bleed! Some of the ideas will never make print but some will absolutely develop into full blown stories. Two ideas this week have really caught my imagination – two at once! Like buses! I am equally excited about them so much so I’ve put other projects on hold to concentrate on these.

Synopsis and Characters


Once I have an idea, I scribble it down without character names using things like Man 1, Man 2, Woman 1. Girl 1 – you get the idea! This is because I can’t think of new names quickly enough to match the flow of the idea. Once I’ve written the draft synopsis, I go back and add the character names. By the time I have finished, I have a full written synopsis and character list. Then I can start my favourite part, writing the story.

The Draft


Drafts are rough and I mean VERY rough. I always write my drafts by hand. I write every day and sometimes all night too. The beauty of writing is being able to balance it between the boys’ needs although secretly I get very frustrated at having to break off for the school runs (shush don’t tell them!). I use the typing up of the rough draft as my first edit stage.

I can write anywhere – car, cafes, restaurants, at rugby training. I don’t mind noise, I switch off and get into the plot. In fact, people often complain I have ignored them but I simply haven’t heard them. Having tinnitus has helped me to zone out noises otherwise I would be completely insane by now, although I am getting there slowly but surely!

Once the draft is completed, I walk away from it for at least one month, maybe longer if other projects come along. Beyond the Past was written in nine months, it was my first. Beyond the Lies has taken longer due to other projects and marketing work. As I have become more comfortable with my style and my new life, and taken advice from greats like Stephen King, I do intend now to aim to complete the first draft in three months. There’s nothing like a challenge to motivate you.

Nothing is ever perfect first time – remember that. No one ever needs to see your first draft. However, I am keeping my very first drafts of all my novels so I can amuse myself in later life.

Editing


My books go through several edits before I even consider letting anyone see them, apart from my sister who has seen the manuscripts in their roughest form.

I am very self-critical and harsh. I am my harshest critic! At least four edits are done before submission:

-          General read through checking continuity and plot
-          Spelling/ grammar
-          Plot edit – add some bites of intrigue, delete insignificant parts
-          Fine detail edit
-          Final read through before submission
Only when I truly believe I have done the best I can do is it sent away. Oh, and I have my sister edit it too. 

I don’t care who you are and how critical you are, you still need a neutral pair of eyes.

Full details of my work can be found on my website

Links for Beyond the Past are on the top right hand side of this page.

EAT, WRITE, EDIT, REPEAT – NO SLEEP!!


How was your week?


This week, Wes went to London to an English Language conference. Armed with money, lunch and an anti-terrorist risk management strategy (I kid you not! Former Insurance Broker + neurotic mother + spy film addict = lecture!), he had an interesting time although the interest was not in the conference! Anyway he came back safe and sound and was not impressed by London at all! True Yorkshire Lad.

It was really heart-warming to hear how much a lovely, young lady is loving her new found interest in reading. She admitted she never realised how enjoyable it could be – a lesson for all of us.

This coming week is the half term break so I will work early, early mornings before the boys surface from their pits. I get more done in the school holidays. We play together but they have time to do their own thing and that is when I work. I am very lucky.

We are having a couple of days out in between jama days. We are going to see the Big 6 movie, I’ve heard it is excellent and then a day trip to the Bradford Industrial Museum. Lucas is currently studying Victorian Times at school so I thought I would take him as part of a holiday project we are doing. I haven’t been to the museum since I was at school, so I’m excited too. 

I hope you all survive half term, if it applies to you. Have a fabulous week and let me have your thoughts, I love receiving all of your comments. If you are thinking about having a go at writing – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?


p.s. I've left the soapbox at home this weekend - so many news stories that have rattled me but best calm down first - so the PINK soap box may make its return next week.



 


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