Saturday, 26 March 2016

Creativity continues...

I said the other day that I'd been creating. Well now, I can share some photos, because the baby jackets have arrived at their destination! And there are a whole load of other things I've been playing with to tell you about too... Here we go:


Two cute baby jackets...

The multi-coloured one was the mum-to-be's choice of wool, and I found buttons in exactly the right shades of orange, green and turquoise to complement it.

This one was a pattern I saw when I was choosing fabric for my next patchwork project (more of that in a mo). I fell in love with it and decided to knit it as a surprise. I've now got to knit the helmet and bootees that go with it, and two more of the same for another friend who's expecting.


I follow a blog written by Liz (who I used to sing with in the choir when we were both much, much younger!) called In Stitches Daily. Liz is a fellow crafter - spins her own wool, knits, crochets, sews clothes and furnishings - and she happened to write a post about crotchet and how easy it was after I'd commented on something different. Crochet is something I've never mastered...but Liz inspired me to have a go. I knew a basic chain, double and triple stitch, but that's it.

I rooted out a very ancient Twilley's 'How to crochet' book for instructions on how to make a granny square and went for it.

Couldn't understand a bloomin' word.

Resorted to the internet and found some pictures, which helped, and began to crochet. It took a few goes, but I'm pleased to say that I've knitted two Granny squares. Hooray! Quite what I'm going to do with them, I have no idea...but I now know how they are made. Hope Liz'll be impressed, anyway!


I suppose this bit ought to be called Patchwork Tales Part 4, because it deals with the choosing of materials. I'm going to be doing a course to make a confetti quilt and I've always wanted to make a rainbow I've bought fabric that I hope will work to do both. If you want to have a look at one version of a confetti quilt, take a look at this one by Lady Havantine... The example in Quorn Country Crafts is a white base too, but I have an idea to try it with black, in the hope that it will look a bit like stained glass...

Here are the colours I've chosen so far, all cut into 5x5 inch squares to match the charm pack size which the course uses.

I'm hoping that seven colours will be enough, but the beauty of doing the course on site at the shop means I can nip out and choose something extra if I'm short.


Today, we decorated church for Easter, so I even managed a flower arrangement... Here's the link to the St Mary in Charnwood Flower blog, though it won't be posted until Easter Sunday, as I like to keep the flowers a surprise until the first Easter service...

Now all I have to do is finish off the odds-and-sods socks that I was knitting prior to the baby jackets, and I'll be all creativitied out!

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Restoring the balance...

I haven't blogged for a week.

It's not simply that I've been busy - which I have! - it's more that I've needed time to recharge my writing batteries after the effort that went into StarMark's edit. Put simply, I've not wanted to write.

How much of that is tied up with nerves about the fast-approaching publishing date, I don't know. It's almost as though I can't bear to get stuck into anything because I know there will still be tweaks and discussions that could happen at any moment and I'll have to drop everything to deal with them. And - though this is rather exciting - I'm working with a great team at the university to make an animated trailer for StarMark, dealing with pictures rather than words!

Instead of writing, I've found myself being creative in other ways. I have a friend who's expecting, and I offered to knit a baby jacket. It's almost finished - I hope that it'll be in the post today or tomorrow. Baby jackets are so cute!

I've also been painting - and not in my own house, either! Several of us from our church congregation have been working hard on the new Vicarage, to get it ready for a moving-in date next month. My own contribution has been tiny compared to those who've worked long hours and organised the decorating. Mind you, that does remind me - I must get the lounge redecorated this year...

And I've been reading, spending time with my old favourite, Terry Pratchett.

When the batteries are sufficiently recharged, I'll be off again, probably on Rurik. Or maybe on something completely new - who knows? I'll keep you posted.

And to keep you smiling in the meantime, here's toddler-Squidge watering the daffodils in Granny and Grandpa's garden, circa 1968.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The publisher's edit.

I mentioned a week or so ago that I'd had the edit of StarMark through from BInk - I sent it back on Monday last, and thought you might like to know something of the process - and what I found out about myself because of it!

I've edited other people's work before, so I know it takes a lot of time to prepare. All those comment boxes, suggesting different ways to write something or what to add in or whether there's a tic (repeated problem) that needs fixing. I've also been on the receiving end of edits too - Writer's Workshop have some amazing editors whose reports have helped several of my friends to snaffle a publication deal. (As did I, after mine...!)

In that respect, I knew what to expect. I also knew to apply the 'Accept, Amend, Reject' rule, but only after careful consideration - it's too easy to have a knee-jerk reaction if the edit is less than complimentary in certain places. I knew to be as objective as possible to get the most out of it. At the end of the day, there is one goal - to make the story the best it can be.

I started by printing out the MS. All 273 pages of it. Warts and all. Then I read it through, taking note of the changes and scribbling in the margins what I might be able to add or alter. Only when I'd done that did I allow myself to work on the electronic copy, accepting insertions and deletions, deleting comment boxes, improving certain scenes, adding extra scenes... It took a heck of a lot longer than I anticipated.

All 273 pages...and a few post-it notes

Comments, insertions and deletions aplenty...
pleased to say not every page had this many!

I did note some interesting things from this particular edit - and all the following examples are lifted straight from the manuscript. Bear in mind some are out of context, so they might sound a little strange in isolation.

1. Sometimes, I'm a lazy writer. There were a few places where it was suggested I expand the scene, because I'd effectively cheated the reader and written a short summary paragraph to tell what was happening instead of really showing the action through Irvana's eyes. On reading through, I agreed; I'd been very lazy in those places.

2. I use participle phrases. A lot. For example - 'Then she raised her head, gazing through swollen eyes at...' The participle phrase causes simultaneous actions, which isn't a good thing. So the sentence becomes 'Then she raised her head and gazed through swollen eyes at...' Mind you, I found that if I wasn't careful, I ended up with a list of 'ands', so sometimes a little more restructuring was needed to lose a few of them.

3. I use disembodied actions quite frequently. eg 'The whispered name brought her head snapping round'. The head doesn't move on its own - it belongs to Irvana, so it becomes 'Irvana looked quickly at Gramma.' Another example; 'A large handkerchief was pressed into her hand.' By who? Or what? See what I mean?

4. POV slips. On the whole, these were quite subtle - it wasn't a case of 'Jane wondered whether she should wear the red dress. Jack hoped Jane would wear the red dress because it suited her better than the blue one.'  More a case of 'When the woman saw the girl standing beside the track, she dug her elbow into the man's ribs.' How does Irvana, whose POV we are in at that point, know that? It has to change to something like 'The woman must have caught sight of her standing by the track because she dug her elbow into the man's ribs.' It made me realise how utterly important it is to stay in your POV character's head all the time.

5. No-one. I always, always write no-one, hyphenated. Throughout the edit, it had been changed to no one, unhyphenated. I did a bit of a straw poll about it, because I wasn't sure if it was an Americanism re formatting, or if there were two ways of writing it (a bit like organised and organized) or if I was just plain wrong. Turns out I'm wrong. But it may take a while to retrain my fingers to leave the hyphen out.

6. American formatting uses em-dashes with no space either side where in the UK, we'd use an en-dash and spaces. Which I didn't realise until I'd marked them all up. Every. Single. One. And I use en-dashes a lot. I discovered it by accident - was reading something and the long line with no space jumped out of the text at me and I realised the book had been published in the US. Then I ran upstairs to look in Jody-Klaire's book (fellow Binkie and awesome author) and sure enough...

There were a whole range of other, more minor things too, but I won't list them all.

Having gone through everything, the edit is now back with BInk, to see whether I've polished up the smuts enough to pass muster, or whether I have to get the Brasso out and go over it one more time for it to really sparkle.

I feel exhausted, elated, excited - and very apprehensive, as StarMark takes another step closer to publication. That's when a whole new experience begins...

Monday, 14 March 2016

St Crispin's

Last Thursday, I spent a brilliantly creative morning with Years 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 at St. Crispin's in Leicester.

Now, I've done author visits and creative writing sessions for younger pupils, (Like when I went to St. Michael's or ran a storytelling day at a local primary school) but this was my first foray into KS3... I was a little apprehensive, more from a point of view of maintaining discipline than anything else, because I know from teacher friends and my own children how hard it can be to keep that age interested and occupied.

Anyway, I arrived, finally found somewhere to park (I had to nip out after an hour to move the car, as I ended up in a limited time parking bay - not good for an all morning session. Thank you Mr L for moving your car so I didn't end up with a parking ticket!), and booked in.

The school is lovely - a small independent school with around 120 pupils between nursery and Y11, so class sizes are small; Y9 had four pupils... It's situated in two enormous Victorian villas, so there are a lot of steps and big high-ceilinged rooms, but I was in the library. (Glad to see an amazing array of books, with some really interesting fiction on offer.)

We started with a Q&A session, which Y5 & 6 gatecrashed. It was great though - some really good, intelligent questions were asked, about whether I wrote about my children (no...well, not that they would notice!), what was my favourite story I'd written (Granny Rainbow and the Black Shadow - responsible for a lot of things, that story), who was my favourite author (Terry Pratchett) and had I ever given up on writing (yes, after I got a really bad report from an editor after she read the first version of StarMark). And many more...

Y5 & 6 would've been happy to ask questions all morning, I think, but the KS3 bods had some work to do. I'd been asked for sessions on character development and creating settings, which I was happy to provide.

The twenty eight pupils were brilliant. They threw themselves into the tasks wholeheartedly, and came up with some really strong ideas. The character who stuck in my head was the assassin who would only ever eat red things because it reminded him of blood... and the setting I couldn't forget was the cottage in the woods, with the eerie strains of 'I'm a Barbie girl' heard coming from the trees...

We didn't have enough time to read out the end results, when the pupils put their characters into their settings, but I hope the children will continue to work on them.

We were all so busy, I didn't take any pictures at all, but Mrs M took a few snaps - here's one of me reading from 'A Seeming Glass', when I was trying to explain how you could dribble the description of a setting into a scene rather than describe everything up front.

One thing that astounded me was that every pupil over Y8 takes part in NaNoWriMo! At which point I applauded them, because I can't stick to the discipline of writing every day. I come close, but it doesn't work for me to be that strict with myself. I look forward to seeing what they produce this November - who knows, perhaps we'll have to get together again, have an editing session?

The morning was over way too soon. Thank you to everyone at St Crispin's who made me feel so welcome and shared my love of writing by creating such brilliant work! 

Friday, 11 March 2016

A little bit of flash - In the Darkness of Night...

As you'll have seen from my previous post, I've been busy editing StarMark. Still am, actually - had completely under estimated how much time it takes, but more of that at a later date! 

Last Wednesday, I took some time off from editing to go to NIBS.

We had a musical singing, but I did take a stack of CD's with me. 

One of the exercises was to pick a CD whose artwork appealed, and use that as inspiration.What was interesting was that they were my CD's - and I'd never looked so closely at some of the art before. Did you realise that on the Muse album Resistance, there's the world right in the centre of the rainbow tunnel? Or that on Muse's Absolution cover, the guy left standing has a gas mask in his hand? I didn't. (And yes, I have a lot of Muse!)

Anyway, I chose Madness's The Liberty of Norton Folgate. Here's the cover;

Now, at first sight, the shadow looks like he's dancing, but there's something about the silhouette that I found more sinister. Perhaps I'd been watching too much Dickensian...but it definitely felt a bit Victorian.

Anyway, here's what I wrote as a result...

In the darkness of night...

In the darkness of night, 
he comes,
in a coat made of shadow,
his cane tapping time away with every cobble it connects with.
A hint of swagger,
a dance of confidence,
where there is fear in a street cowed by his rule.
He trips lightly in this place,
tips his hat to the women he owns...
On the surface a gentleman-
but the cane breaks flesh and bone if his property fails to deliver.
In the darkness of night he comes,
to be caught only by the lamplight - never the law -
near dark alleys and dead ends,
watching and waiting with a tiger's smile
to entice the curious or desperate to sample his wares.
Until, as the gas lamps sputter and fade at dawn
he melts away until darkness falls.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Polishing for publication

Very, VERY excited to be able to say that Bedazzled Ink have waved their magic wand over StarMark and I am - at this precise moment - printing out the manuscript to have a look at the edited version. Having edited the work of others myself, I know how many hours it must have taken Casey to work her magic on my words...

Already, I have had to look up 'participle phrases'. Apparently I use them a lot - incorrectly - which means I have, if I've understood how participle phrases work correctly, a serious case of dangling modifiers. Sounds like a rare disease! But I'm learning, and a good writer continues to learn and improve their craft, so I don't mind.

As soon as the printer's finished, the serious side begins. Accept, Amend, Reject will be applied to BInk's fabulous editing to make StarMark the best book it can be.

Looks like it'll be a busy, StarMark dominated weekend...but worth it.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Rewriting Dickens

Last night, I got round to watching the last two episodes of Dickensian, the new BBC drama which began before Christmas.

I've loved it! I don't watch any soaps as a rule, but this series was a bit like watching a Victorian version of Eastenders - in fact, the writer Tony Jordan, IS an Eastenders writer. I know which version of his writing I prefer...

I'll admit to not having read much Dickens... I cried over Tale of Two Cities, wrote essays on Great Expectations for CSE English Lit, and that's probably about it. But I know Oliver Twist (the musical version!) and A Christmas Carol (who doesn't?), so I'm familiar with quite a few of the characters that appeared in the show.

Last night, as I said, I watched the last episode. I'm not going to put too much detail here, as I don't want to give you any spoilers, but suffice to say, we found out why Miss Havisham never got married.

For me as a writer, it was a fabulous lesson in how to turn an unsympathetic character into someone I actually felt sorry for in spite of all he'd done. (Merriweather Compeyson) and how to turn a character you felt really sorry for into a bit of a monster (Arthur Havisham). But you'll have to watch the episode to see what I'm talking about...

I've loved the mash-up of all the characters, the authenticity of Victorian life, and the relationships portrayed which Dickens never, ever put together originally. I know screen writing is very different to novel writing, but it shows what can happen if you are prepared to play around with something familiar and take a new direction with it. I suppose it's like fan-fic in a way, but for me personally there has to be enough of a sense of the original author within what you try to create anew; in the murky world of Dickensian, there is a definite flavour of the outraged Dickens yet there is enough of a modern approach in the writing for you to fully expect the 'bum-bum-babadum' moment that always closes an episode of Eastenders. You certainly get that moment - you just don't get the drums...

Can't wait for the next series...