Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking back; looking forwards

So it's that time of the year when we review what we did in 2017 and plan what we will do in 2018.

All I can say is that 2017 wasn't my best year. However, compared with many of my friends, real or virtual, it could have been far worse. So I refuse to moan. 

As for 2018. Who knows? I am going to help out in local Park Runs. They're totally free. If you haven't heard of this wonderful initiative, then read THIS.  It am unable to run anywhere but I will volunteer in any way I can, even if it's only by turning up at 9am every Saturday morning and encouraging runners, walkers, wheelchair pushers, young and old, lonely, sad or unmotivated - in fact everyone.

When it comes to writing, I have been very snail-like in my endeavours in 2017. But I am still writing although none of you will have seen my name bandied around anywhere.  But I've tried. I have one completed full-length novel under my belt which I am still determined to submit successfully in 2018. I have already got a fistful of rejections  - some of them not at all encouraging. Oh well. I'll fight on.

I am currently editing another completed novel which I hope to be in a fit state to submit in a month or so. I have been writing it for over five years. 

And how's this for a flash of serendipity?  I have been thinking about another novel for the past year. But my mind has remained totally blank. You may know I love historical fiction. However I wasn't sure which of my favourite eras or events I wanted to hone in on. I did know I wanted to set it north of Yorkshire possibly Teesside or Durham. Those who know me well will understand why.

So...only yesterday, an email popped in my in-box out of the blue. I subscribe to various websites wthat only post every so often. And there it was. A historical, geographical and geological factoid with links to Lewis Carroll, churches and folklore,  and bottomless lakes with a quotable name that would make a good title for a novel! I am now thinking of creating one from a series of linked events set in different periods, starting, if I remember in 1179. 

It's all very vague and have not even lifted a pen or opened a new file. It will no doubt change out of all proportion. I'm already thinking of research! I'm excited and am more than ready to charge forth into 2018 and beyond.

I will now take a deep breath and wish us all a Happy and Healthy New Year. May it bring you everything you hope for and nothing you fear  Kindness will again be my word of the year.

Oh and please do plenty of this. But then I'm preaching to the converted, aren't I?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Do You Take Your Christmas?

Is it traditional like this..?

Or this

Or maybe even these variations. Both as bad as each other!

Or do you prefer a traditional family Christmas?

However or wherever you find yourself in the next week or whether you are facing deep joy or profound sadness, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas!

Nest week, a review of  my 2017.   

Saturday, October 14, 2017

October 2017

I have neglected this blog for quite a while. It is now October and summer has well and truly departed. The schools went back and my grandson began his more formal education although he had enjoying nursery. So off he went, an antonym to Shakespeare's boy, willingly.

I am also increasingly aware that blogs are not as popular as they once were, probably because most of us no longer have time to read long and prefer tweeting and texting or even, God forbid, preferring emojis.  In consequence I intend to use my blog just to talk about the books I have enjoyed immersing myself in recent months, about my small word jotting my thoughts about writing, publishing and my love-hate relationship with Amazon and anything else that comes my way.

The older I get, the more I remember those miscellaneous memories that pop up unbidden when thinking of something else entirely. My earliest memory is walking up and down what I thought was a vast long hall with a massive door at the end whilst my parents and invited friends were engrossed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Quite how my parents could have afforded a television, I don't know. Maybe they rented it. I think not because they always abhorred hire purchase as it was known then. I remember very little of that flat. I was born in March 1951 in Leicester which is where my parents and most relations lived. My Dad worked for the Leicester Gas Corporation which soon after became part of East Midlands Gas (Emgas.) Promotion meant a move to Lincoln when I was a few months old. Anyway, the  coronation was in June 1953. I didn't know what this word meant that everyone was talking about. I kept being showed hanging baskets and flags in the streets and being told they were for the Coronation. I looked up and I saw flowers everywhere above me. (Remember I was in a pram or pushchair.) Dad must have grown carnations in the garden. or he bought two hanging baskets that Lincoln council were selling off cheaply to the public afterwards.

Therefore, for a long time, I thought the 'Carnation' and 'Coronation' were the same.

Memory are one's perceptions at various states in one's life plus an overlay of later experiences that alter them. Maybe memories are main transient fictions. And why the older one gets. the more one thinks about past experiences more vividly than what one did yesterday?

In addition, it is well-known that everybody remembers and sees things totally differently. This brings me neatly onto Amazon. No shouting, please.

I am very mixed in my thoughts of this vast behemoth. I agree that they shouldn't avoid paying tax. I know that Amazon is a vast shark swallowing up or crushing good small dedicated bookshops and publishers. But...but...but...If I want the latest novel by my favourite author I can order it and it arrives the next day in pristine condition. I no longer drive and cannot walk far plus I live in the middle of nowhere and there are no bookshops within 25 miles. And to muddy the waters even further, although I adore books, loved working in various bookshops over the years, but I have nowhere to put all my books now and now my eyesight is poor in low light, I find I am more and more drawn to reading books on my Kindle. I know. I know. You are probably telling me I'm a philistine but it has been a life-saver. I still prefer actual, real books, both fresh and crisp and those foxed around the edges. I particularly love to read the hand-written dedications. I am also overjoyed if a dried flower or card of any kind falls out. These are personal and intriguing and brings me closer to another readers. Who are or were they?

My current meditation on books, reading and working in bookshops and engaging with readers brings me to mention two books that have delighted me recently. However, both decry the use of a Kindle for reading. I understand them completely. They both have slightly different reasons for their hatred but both books dwell on the impersonal sterile format plus the inability to retain words read on screen.

What neither writers mention are people like me who for various reasons have had to forgo the pleasure of browsing in bookshops, whether independents, chains or second-hand treasure-troves. First of all, as I said, I live in the middle of nowhere and I don't drive. Plus by significant other is not interested in books, reading or writing. Lastly and more importantly, I am finding it increasingly difficult to read in anything other than very bright light. I can alter the brightness of my Kindle. It is a life-saver for me so although I smile to see that the Wigtown bookshop displays a mounted shield on which a Kindle the owner shot and killed, I would die if Kindles (or what might replace them) became extinct.

Increased age, a long- term medical condition and bad mobility is a real bummer no-one likes to talk about. We are all supposed to be super-healthy and  enjoying ourselves and if not we only have ourselves to blame. It's a lie.  But I refuse to be down-heated and will continue to use this blog for the occasional moan. But thanks God for my Kindle. It's keeping me same.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What I did on my holiday.

Last week, we spent a few welcome days here: 

Where I hear you ask? The most underrated county in England. Yes, I know I am an adopted Yorkshire lass and love it to bits. Even so, the tourist-filled beauty spots can be wearing if you are trying to find glorious stretches of  empty sandy beaches and deserted heather moorland. Did you know it is the most sparsely populated area in England with only 62 people per square kilometre?

Northumberland is my true idea of peace, tranquillity and heaven on earth. As you may or may not know we have a motor-home and enjoy the independence it brings us. We prefer to explore the UK these days (as all the questions asked regarding health insurance makes it difficult for us to travel abroad at short notice).We rarely stay away from home for weeks at an end, preferring to look at the weather-forecast and make on the spot plans. This year there have been few opportunities. We may go away again next month. Where? Possibly north of the border. Watch this space.

So what a joy it was to find ourselves in Old Hartley, north of Whitley Bay last week overlooking the  sea and seemingly only a stone's throw from St Mary's Island to where you can easily (well, it still takes mer a while) walk to at low tide. Other times, you'll need a snorkel and wetsuit.

Manwhile back in Northumberland and Old Hartley and the small caravan site with its spectacular views of the sea. Turn your head to the north you will see the industrial port Blyth and to the south is the sea-side holiday resort of Whitley Bay. Both will be familiar for fans of the TV series Vera based on Ann Cleeve's brilliant crime novels. Gaze out to the horizon and watch the steady progress of container ships, yachts and ferries to Amsterdam and beyond. No wonder the Geordie accent has more than slight echoes of Scandinavia.

Just next to where we were pitched was this glorious orange Californian poppy. Nestling against a dry-stone wall, it grew proud and undaunted by the coastal breeze that buffeted it. Gloriously golden it even dimmed the shy pale yellow blooms that grow in my part of Yorkshire.

One day we visited Seaton Delavel Hall, a mile or two to the north. Devastated by a massive fire in 1822, it is a magnificent ruin but that makes it more exciting to visit. Its history is amazing. You wouldn't believe what went on within its walls in the 18th century. You can read all about it here

Photo opportunities abounded. And when Jon went off to climb the many spiral staircases, the rails of which remain twisted by that major fire...

...I spent some time alone  in conversation with a very old and battered large oak table. Oh the tales it told me: of a drowned sea-captain, his daughter and that formidable lady in the portrait! And so So I left Seaton Delaval Hall clutching the kernel of a short story which I hope will grow into something larger soon.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Recent Reading

It's time I reminded everyone (everyone?) that I'm still writing and reading even thought I have a lot going on at the moment. I'll be able to say more later. In the meantime I'll chat about some of the many books I've read and enjoyed over the past few months. By the way I do not blog about all the books I've read. Some I have decided not to blog about, Maybe it's because they may not have been my cup of tea, one or two I've not liked but most of the titles I don't mention here don't appear's too short and I am a bit busy!

Which is why I'm not even going to write about them here. I know, I know. The problem is partly because Blogger is playing silly bananas at the moment and is not working properly for me. Just look at the way the cover images are displayed!) 

But I will make one exception. Matt Haig has been hovering under my radar for some time. I first was aware of him, when he published his personal account of his depression (Reasons to Keep living which I blogged about here.) You see, those who know a bit about me will be aware that depression and anxiety have  dogged me on and off since I was eighteen. Fortunately, I have never been in such a bad place as Matt discusses in that book. Anyway, I love his latest much-talked of novel pictured here. I reviewed it on Amazon so if you wish to read it, click here.

I'm not flagging Matt's novel over and above others I have enjoyed recently even though it does look like that!  

Anyway, here are the books I have read  or am reading t now. (Yes, I often have at least 2 on the go at the same time. Some thought-provoking, some sheer enjoyment, some rattling page-turners depending on how I am feeling at the time.)

I'm not asking you to read any. Just to say I've read them with pleasure and to confirm I'm still around. Note to self: write a better blog post soon!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pulling my socks up

2017 has been a bit of a rubbish year for me so far what with one thing and another. And no here we are just after the summer solstice and I'm still waiting for my brain to fully wake up. And I think it's just about there. Our lovely chapel is now on the market and getting lots of interest but no firm offers yet. We don't want to go but needs must.

The Old Chapel

We are moving to...don't gasp...Middlesbrough. Don't listen to what people say. Like all cities, it has bad areas but there are a heck of the lot more good ones than you think. The min reason is we both need to be within a few miles of the brilliant James Cook University Hospital there. And despite the fact that we don't want to love from Yorkshire, where we're moving to is on;y one step across the country boundary. More of this at a later date.

Now we've bitten the bullet, I am more motivated to actually do something with my writing. So this week, I have submitted a novel to a publisher new to me. It will probably be rejected but as I well know that is par for the course if you've been writing fiction for as long as I have! At least I'm back in the saddle again. And it feels good.

Meanwhile, I'm still editing my medieval novel which has been sitting on the back burner for a long time. I hope to get that out in the world later this year. But of course, it all depends on all the other things going on in my life.

And taking of Middlesbrough, there's an awful not of history there that I want to explore. Did you know that in the Industrial Revolution it holds the dubious accolade of having the greatest increase in its population.In 1801 it was a farm community with a population of 25. By 1851 Middlesbrough's population had grown to 7,600! There are many novels there and I will definitely write them. Whether they're ever finished, let alone published, who knows. But I'm damn well going to write them.

St Hilda's Church. JS Lowry

Sunday, June 18, 2017

At a time like this, we can only reflect.

The World Is Too Much With Us

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The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;— 
Little we see in Nature that is ours; 
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! 
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; 
The winds that will be howling at all hours, 
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; 
For this, for everything, we are out of tune; 
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be 
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; 
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, 
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; 
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; 
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn.

   There is much to say at the moment and too many of us are too busy shouting and speaking at cross purposes to make clear sense of the agony of it all. But, please, please be mindful of where we, as observers, who were not involved in any way in the recent appalling atrocities. Please let them grieve and mourn the way they choose and offer help to them as individuals if we are able. Most of us can only look on in fear and sorrow. Yes, of course, we have opinions and we have every right to voice them but instead of spitting vitriol on social media, remember that most of us in this country, whether we were born here or not, are alive in a country that, despite its many - of course there are many -  faults,  allows us to protest without violence. And please do so if you have something useful to say. But please do it with love, dignity and thankfulness.  Think of Jo Cox's simple message  - there is more that unites us than divides us.

Looking back; looking forwards

So it's that time of the year when we review what we did in 2017 and plan what we will do in 2018. All I can say is...