Sunday, 27 November 2016

To Subscribe - or not To Subscribe?

I’ve always loved magazines. When I was younger it was the glossies - the glossier the better as far as I was concerned. Vogue. Harpers and Queen. Tatler. CountryLife. It didn’t matter that everything in them - the lifestyle, the cars, the clothes, the houses - oh the houses - were (are) all totally beyond my means, I could spend hours dreaming and saying ‘what if?’ 

Then, newly married and not having much spare money, my guilty pleasure became hiding a Woman’s Weekly or a Family Circle in amongst the supermarket shopping, telling myself it was for the recipes. For years I struggled with my obsession with magazines when they became labelled a ‘luxury’ in our money-strapped house, sneakily buying them and reading them in secret - in the bath usually! 

My love of magazines was really what started me off wanting to be a writer. Writing a novel was, I thought, way out of my league but I thought I could perhaps be a journalist. So, as I struggled to become ‘a writer’, I found the writing magazines. Writers News; Writers Forum; Mslexia: to name but three I have subscribed to regularly over the years. Bought to learn from and to keep me in the loop with publishing news etc. But these days I have a problem: do I really need to keep buying the actual magazine when I can read and learn everything I need to know, on-line? All with the added bonus of not paying a subscription to a dedicated magazine.

Well yes I’m afraid I do! Social media takes up a lot of time for writers these days (well it does for me as I don’t really have a clue as to what I’m doing!) and I already spend far too much time in front of my computer, writing. Switching off the computer and sitting on the sofa reading a magazine at the end of the day is a high point for me. 

Living in France I don’t have ready access to newsagents selling magazines in my mother tongue so friends are cajoled and bribed into bringing me their finished with copies of Good Housekeeping, Red, Marie Claire - or any other magazine they’ve finished with when they visit. My subscription to Writing Magazine is automatically renewed each year (I’m pleased to say over the years I’ve had the odd feature and mentions in there). This year I’ve even taken out a subscription for the French answer to Country Living - Campagne Decoration.

My large coffee table bears witness to the amount of magazines currently in the house.
So, do you subscribe to your favourite magazines or simply grab a copy off the shelves when you see them? Or, do you never bother with magazines?

Saturday, 19 November 2016

I Don't Know Why I Bother.......A Frustrated Photographer

Balmedie Beach

After coming home from a relaxing family holiday where the camera only made the briefest of appearances I was looking forward to getting back out and about. However the weather and work schedule seemed to be conspiring against me.
I missed some of the most amazing sunrises and intense coloured skies; all I could do was watch them through the windows at work, hoping that the sunset would be just as stunning.

Forvie Sands

On the odd occasion that I managed to get out take some sunsets I found that I couldn't take a photo and my mantra for the week became 'I don't no why I bother'. I started to become frustrated that I couldn't get out and that when I did find time or the weather cleared I found that I had lost my mojo. I decided that I would stop putting pressure on myself to take a photo and concentrate on editing the 1000's I have on the computer. Alas my editing skills (such as they are) had also left me. I was beginning to despair my only glimmer of hope was that I had a week off on the horizon. The week off coincided with the OH's week off so I would have freedom and no need to rush.

The week arrived and the first few mornings were grey, wet and miserable. I was on the verge of tears as I was desperate to get out and find my mojo. Wednesday came the alarm went off and peeping through the blinds I could see the beginnings of a beautiful sunrise. Off I set; it was a wonderful feeling to be out again. The weather up until then had been unusually mild but today there was a crispness to the air.

Rattray Head Lighthouse

Over the week I met up with some fellow photographer's who also had periods of frustration when work got in the way of photography. I often mention that I can't wait for retirement so I can head out for the whole day travelling near and far. But until then I will have to be happy with grabbing a few hours here and there.

Salmon Posts, Balmedie

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Wanted - Villain. Must Not Have a Black Heart...

by Jennifer Young

I know I’ve said this before, but I do like a good villain. That’s not to say I like someone whose heart is as rotten as an apple that’s lain under a tree all winter — far from it. I’ve tried that and, if I’m honest, I didn’t really find it particularly satisfying. Unless you’re far more skilled a writer than I am, you end up with a two-dimensional villain, no more real than the knave of spades.

One of my favourite real-life villains, Little Bad Jim, is commemorated in a plaque set into a pavement in downtown Denver, Colorado. (Read his story in the picture.) Little Bad Jim is the best of villains — a human one. I spend far longer than is healthy speculating about what drove him to be a villain when he so obviously didn’t fit the job description, and whether he ended up hanged for his trouble or was just sent to bed early wth no cocoa.

My villains usually don’t want to be villains, either. In No Time Like Now the villain overstepped the mark of organised crime and fell into company he couldn’t handle. In Running Man it was all to do with money and the need to prove himself. In my upcoming novel Blank Space, the villain (I won’t name him — it would be a spoiler) is torn between right and wrong and the choice he makes is what tips him over the edge. In the sequel, After Eden (currently at last edits stage) the villain is driven to violence by bereavement and grief.

When I write a villain I always start off with a someone who has the potential to be the hero. Just as our heroes, if they are to be real, ought to be flawed, our villains, if our readers are to invest in them, must have qualities. In Blank Space my villain could so easily have been my hero, but “if there was a weakness in the man’s armour-plated, guilt-resistant capability for the job, it was that he always liked to be in charge. That was what made him a maverick. He had the qualities of a potential hero, but a controlling weakness, nonetheless”.

I like to think that both Blank Space and After Eden have moved on a little from my usual straightforward romances. They are romances, certainly, but both are woven through with tragedy, with each villain a hero in his own sub-plot.

But maybe I’m over-thinking it. And in any case, neither of them is quite as much of a wuss as poor Little Bad Jim.

Blank Space is currently available for pre-order on Amazon at a special price of £1.63/$1.99 and will be published on December 21st.

Friday, 4 November 2016


Remember, remember the 5th of November...  a sparkling post in celebration of Guy Fawkes night! 

 Gill - I love bonfire night, possibly because it falls between my sister and my birthdays, so was always a time of great celebration in our household. I have not, however, thought of it in the light of ‘creativity’ until now. So here goes!
Sometimes you just need to let your imagination sore like a rocket at a firework display. Don’t go for control, just for effect. You won’t know where you are going to land, but let your writing flash and sparkle. Let the words come without thought. And, because you’re writing it down, unlike a spent rocket, you can edit and use them afterwards. I’m not saying there aren’t times when you need to pause and to plan, but every now and then I recommend you forget all that and shoot for the stars. You might be surprised where this takes you!

Neil - With the clocks going back and the nights drawing in there is nothing better than drawing the
curtains and settling down in a snug, cosy living room. However it is now the season for the elusive Northern Lights. These beautiful dancing lights are amazing to see and a wonder to capture on film. I have in the past captured the lights but I have never been happy with the shot and always want to achieve a better picture.
Being close to the coast allows for lovely dark skies with minimal light pollution so they can be seen clearly.
In order to capture the lights you must wrap up warm, wait and hope that they make an appearance, usually between midnight and 3am.
As you can see by the photos night photography is still a work in progress but these darker nights allows time for research and enhance my knowledge of editing software, I can easily lose myself in a blog or YouTube tutorial.

Linda - While I have a very active imagination it is not limitless. Sometimes it needs a nudge. I find postcards (or pictures cut from
glossy mags) are good for this, to which end I buy one or two in all sorts of interesting places when I see something that catches my eye. I was writing something recently which I knew was a little flat. The plot was okay, the characters were okay, but it lacked that bit of sparkle. So I rifled through my postcard collection and found one of a fig. So, my character eating a ripe, luscious, purple fig for breakfast upped the ‘visual’ impact in that story for my readers. Likewise, in another story, I had a character who was at a crossroads in her life. She didn’t need another man, but she needed something to put fire in her belly again, as it were. So, she went rash and bought a beautiful painting of a fiery, blood red tulip – not a botanical painting but something more personal and representational. The writing group I attend weekly – Brixham Writers – always sets a homework theme, which we can do, or not, as we wish. A recent theme was ‘Waiting for Richard’. But where to set it? A postcard of a Lowry painting - Market Scene, Northern Town – jumped out at me as I rifled through my pile of postcards. There are lots of people in this painting but they don’t seem to be connecting with one another somehow. My immediate thought was that it can be very lonely, even in a crowd – especially if the person one is waiting for doesn’t show. But what if someone you weren’t expecting turns up? Well, that created a spark or five!
So now, if you’ll excuse me, my creative juices need another nudge. I’m off to get my postcard collection...

Jennie - Iʼve interpreted this months joint blog ʻLighting Creative Fireworksʼ to talk about the old question non-writers are always asking: Where do you get your ideas from?
Answering this question is never easy. There are ideas all around - some good and useable, some that never get off the ground. It can be an over heard conversation. Something on the news that gets me thinking. A sentence in a book Iʼm reading. Recently a character in a film didnʼt give me an idea as much as he made me think about my writing.
The film was ʻOnce Moreʼ and starred Morgan Freeman. Briefly, he plays a wheel-chair bound alcoholic ex-writer who moves into a holiday complex for the summer. The family next door, single mum and three children, have mixed feelings about him but one of the children dreams of being a writer and badgers him for advice about imagination. In the end he reluctantly starts talking to her. The scene from the film which has stayed in my mind is the two of them looking down an empty country lane and he tells the girl to ʻwrite what you donʼt seeʼ. In other words, use your imagination.
So, with that in mind - what donʼt you see when you look at this picture of fireworks?

Have a happy - and safe - Guy Fawkes Night.

Rae - As well as celebrating Guy Fawkes night, this week also saw the start of the annual #Nanowrimo contest. For those not familiar with the term, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, when writers around the world come together in a large online writing blitz, with the aim of getting the rough first draft of a novel completed. The official target is to write fifty thousand words, but each writer may have their own writing goals.
I tried this a couple of years ago and managed approximately twenty five thousand words, but this time I’m more organised. I have a synopsis and chapter plan at the ready and am as determined as a two-year old with a fistful of candy. So, with the help and encouragement of Nanowrimo buddies, I’m hoping for a spectacular display of creative fireworks throughout November. (Psst – Jennifer is doing Nanowrimo too!) Look forward to catching up again on the other side…

Jennifer - I don’t do fireworks. No; really, I don’t. Never have done. Creatively, that is. I love the idea that writers sit down and write dramatic scenes. I imagine them shutting themselves away for an hour or a day or whatever — towel wrapped round the head, endless supply of tea, all the chocolate they could possibly want — and emerging with a stonking firework display of a family row or a shipwreck or any of the other scenes that stop you in your tracks.

I can’t do that. My first drafts are always dull as the proverbial ditchwater, so much so that I’m afraid to show them to my critique buddies because I know exactly what they’ll say. No emotion, they’ll say. No connection. No spark. 

No fireworks, in other words.

I take four or five goes, adding a little bit of colour every time, a little bit more scandal, a bit more fire. I’m never sure, in the end, that the drama is high enough. I’m the timid little girl with her hands over her ears when the rockets go up, watching the flowers but hating the noise. Dramatic scenes are my weakness. I’m learning from the rest of you!