Thursday, 28 January 2016

Something Useful for 2016 - Exercise No. 18

January can be such a grey month in so many ways - visually because of the weather and the lack of colour in our gardens, and emotionally due to the, again, weather, anti climax after the festive celebrations and probably the lack of cash until pay day.

I don't really like grey. It's a non colour - not this, not that - a limbo shade that begs for direction. And yet, sometimes, we need that limbo, that pause, that rest. 

Does the colour grey inspire you? What story could come from the concept of grey? 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

My Top 10 Books - The Keepers

My bookshelves are overloaded to the point of collapse with all the reading material my family have collected over the years. With each new purchase, I rearrange them a little. With each house move, I cull a percentage of them but that always makes me want to buy more. My children devour books so quickly that every birthday and Christmas present list includes at least one new book for them.

There are some books though that I will never part with, however full the bookshelves become, because they're tied in with my life journey and soaked with memories. They're keepers.

1. On Writing by Stephen King

As a writer learning the craft, I'm drawn to discovering how successful published authors have arrived at that point in their lives. I don't fare very well with instructive 'how to' books on writing. Sharing a writer's personal journey is the best way for me to learn. I've read several books of this kind but the best I've come across so far has been On Writing by Stephen King.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I came across this book through my studies and it has stayed with me as an example of great writing ever since. More than that, Mary Shelley became an inspiration to me too, not only as a writer, but as a creative pioneer, and an incredibly strong woman.

3. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Along with Stephen King, you'll notice that I mention Gaiman and Pratchett a lot on this blog, so what better book to get my hands on than one that combines the talents of both of those darkly creative minds. A funny, fantasy adventure about the birth of the son of Satan, it throws together angels and demons, witches and witchhunters, and a rather small and friendly hellhound called Dog.

4. The Elusive Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

My copy of The Elusive Pimpernel belonged to my paternal grandmother, Lydia. Her name and the date 4-11-1916 are notated in the front cover. My father was as much a hoarder of books as me, retaining shelves of old leather bound books from his family home. This book is a dramatic, action-packed, swashbuckler of a ride.

5. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks

I don't read a lot of non fiction but this one was recommended to me by a friend and colleague many years ago. It discusses a collection of fascinating cases of neurologist Oliver Sacks. Now, that does sound like it could be boring and clinical but Sacks writes of his patients with such great warmth and understanding that you are easily drawn into their lives and experiences.  

6. Neris and India’s Idiot-Proof Diet by India Knight and Neris Thomas

I bet you didn't expect me to include a diet related book in this list, did you? I found this book, completely by accident, at a time in my life when I needed a jolt. Bad health, ill parents and motherhood had all left me rather damaged physically, nothing life threatening, but definitely worse for wear. This book introduced me to the concept of low carb, low sugar, real food eating. I've tried to keep to that way of eating ever since and my health has improved incredibly. Thanks, Neris and India.

7. Complete Works of Shakespeare

As an only child to older parents, I did a lot of reading and was given free rein to read any book in the house. Both of my parents had big, stout collections of Shakespeare's plays which, as a child, I disappeared into for hours, imagining myself as witty Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, or naughty Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare was my first theatrical inspiration.

8. Time and the Conways and Other Plays by J B Priestley

This was a book that I came to through my studies but I'm so pleased I did because it contains two of my favourite plays by Priestley, The Inspector Calls and I Have Been Here Before. I love to read Priestley's dialogue.

9. A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen

Again, I came to this play and this book through my studies and instantly fell in love with the main female character, Nora, a woman struggling with her own identity and society's idea of what she should be. This is a play that I can read over and over again.

10. Curtain by Agatha Christie

My final book is an old battered copy of the final Hercule Poirot novel. This book belonged to my parents but I didn't read it until a couple of years ago. As a murder mystery playwright, I of course have an interest in the genre but especially older writers such as Agatha Christie and Wilkie Collins. Curtain has to be my favourite Agatha Christie novel.

So there you have it, my ten keepers that will never leave my bookshelves. What about you? Which books will forever have a home with you?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

About Me (or You)

Here I am on my birthday weekend in Venice, hot chocolate waiting (plus my very patient husband), and still checking my phone for emails. I really should learn to put down the 'social media' when I'm on holiday.

When I started blogging back in 2009, the general advice out there for writers who used social media was to be everywhere - Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else social-media-ish that you could manage. For a while, I tried to be 'omnipresent' online but I soon learnt that I was happier on some social media sites than others, and that keeping track of all the places I had to post was exhausting.

These days I limit myself to my Facebook page, my blog, my business site, Google+ and Twitter. I dip into other sites like Linked In, Pinterest and Tumblr but only occasionally and when they prove useful. The problem with using more than one site in this way is publicising them. I mention the relevant sites on my Murdering The Text website and on my blog but how do I tie up both those identities (murder mystery playwright Fiona and children's writer Fi)?

My answer is to use the website. I can link to all of these social media outlets, my business website, my blog and add in a writer's bio. I use a link to my page as my email signature too.

I first joined and wrote about the site back in 2011 but it has recently undergone a makeover and is much easier to use (plus more pleasant to the eye too). You can visit my page here.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Choice Words for January

As you know, my manuscript is currently in the hands of a literary agent. I got to the point with it where I couldn't see anything more I could do to improve it, or at least not without a new set of literary agent eyes.

Janice Hardy writes about When Should You Stop Revising? on her Fiction University blog, laying out the different factors that can point out whether you've finished or not. Have a look.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

What I'm doing this month - January

This is how I started the second day of the new year, walking around in rainy Venice with my husband to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. With our children safe at home with their uncle, we spent a wonderful long weekend in a city that constantly inspires me.

Come the Tuesday morning, my children returned to school, my husband to work, and me to my writing and plenty of post Christmas housework. Smack down back to earth.

January is my birthday month but unfortunately it's also a month that acts as an anti climax after the festive break. It's cold, often rainy and, let's face it, most of us have usually spent all our pennies until the next pay day comes around. It always seems like a terrible time to me to be making resolutions so I keep those until the spring. This month, therefore, continues without a lot of change.

I'll continue to wait for responses from the literary agents whom I've submitted my novel to. I've had three no's (with encouraging feedback) so far but I'm not downhearted.

I'll continue to work on my latest murder mystery play.

I'll also continue the story from my first novel to the next in the trilogy. This one is a little more tricky. Changes made to the plot of the first novel have thrown my intended story arc off kilter. A new plan is required for books two and three. Last night, you would have found me at the dining table with a post-it note for each main character and a handful of A4 sheets listing all the questions and story lines involved in my trilogy. My brainstorm session raised more questions that it answered but it was a good start.

On a personal basis, now all the festive chocolates and junk food are out of the house, I can return to some healthy eating. My shoulder is very nearly healed so there's exercise on the cards too.

So there you have it - nothing new, just lots of ongoing goodies. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

This year's reading list

This post's title should have a tagline - Must Do Better. Last year, I only managed to finish three of the fifteen novels on my reading list. I could make all kind of excuses (working on my novel, housework, rampant children) but ultimately, I only have myself to blame for my lack of reading accomplishments.

This year's list is the remaining novels from last year:

1. Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
2. Small Kindnesses by Satya Robyn
3. Magyk by Angie Sage
4. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
5. Never Look Back by Clare Donoghue
6. Mystery Man by Colin Bateman
7. Duma Key by Stephen King
8. Rose Madder by Stephen King
9. The Golden City by John Twelve Hawks
10. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
11. A Song of Stone by Iain Banks
12. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

One a month should be do-able. I'm already a few chapters into Sepulchre. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Photo Inspiration for January

This month's photo inspiration is an image taken on my birthday trip to Venice straight after the new year (which is why I haven't posted until today).

There's a burnt-out candle, Christmas decorations, two finished hot chocolates and one biscuit remaining. A lone figure stands at the bar in the background.

What does this inspire you to write?

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year

It's here at last. The new year has sprung. Say hello to 2016.

Here's hoping for twelve months of progress, fortuitous meetings and loving company. Happy new year to you all.