Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Burns Night

Robert BurnsImage via Wikipedia
My late father, Charlie was a Scot. Whenever I say that it always raises a question in my mind. Do you stop being a Scot when you die? Although we had plenty of Scottish relatives, we never celebrated Burns Night in our house, probably because my mother was English. However, Burns was a constant literary hero of my father and two poems in particular attracted his attention because, with his interest in family history research, he wondered how much they reflected his ancestors' lives.

Tam O'Shanter tells the tale of  the demise of Tam despite the warnings of his wife Kate that his drinking will be the death of him. My father used to love this line in particular, "Where sits our sulky sullen dame. Gathering her brows like gathering storm, nursing her wrath to keep it warm".

The second poem paints a completely different picture. The Cotter's Saturday Night tells how the cotter (a peasant who lived in a cottage in exchange for working for the owner, which my paternal grandparents did) and his family relax on a Saturday evening after completing their work for the week. The poem reflects the warmth of the family against the harshness of their life.

"At length his lonely cot appears in view,
Beneath the shelter of an aged tree;
Th' expectant wee-things, tidlin, stacher through
To meet their dad, wi flichterin noise and glee.
His wee bit ingle, blinkin bonilie,
His clean hearth-stane, his thrifty wifie's smile,
The lisping infant, prattling on his knee,
Does a' his weary kiaugh and care beguile,
An makes him quite forget his labour and his toil."

All's the best for Burns Night. As my father used to say, "Lang may yer lum reek!".

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


My husband recently pointed me to this website. Designed to bring together all your onlines profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, websites, blogs, etc.) into one place, about.me offers a number of standard backgrounds or the opportunity to upload your own image. It's quite easy to set up and although still a relatively small community compared to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, I can see the number of users growing rapidly. Oh and by the way, this is a free service.

You can find my profile here. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Wisdom has a voice

This is my mum and me. It wasn't always the easiest of relationships but by the time I was an adult, we'd put our differences to rest and now as a mother myself, I understand her so much better.

Wisdom has a voice is a multimedia project which aims to gather, record and express daughters' memories of their mothers. Stories of these memories will be compiled into an anthology due for release in October 2011.

"We are looking for personal narratives that demonstrate the art of storytelling and possess a story arc with dramatic appeal. We will select stories that weave the significance of the unique experience into the storyline. Each selection should adapt easily to the spoken word as an audio version.

"We will look for the wisdom or lesson learned from mother to be expressed in an authentic voice with originality and resonance."

If your story is included in the anthology you will receive:

  • a complimentary copy of the anthology with the option to purchase extra copies at a discounted price,
  • an option to record your story as a podcast on the Wisdom Has A Voice site,
  • mentions in promotional media,
  • your photo/bio posted on the website and in the book.
You can find the entry guidelines and form here. The deadline for submissions is 1st February 2011. 

Good luck.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

7 ways to get back into your writing routine

We're almost two weeks into the new year but I'm still finding bits of tinsel behind the armchair and recovering from Christmas noshing. The festive holiday is gone in no time but two weeks of children at home and celebrating have knocked my writing routine into the nether regions of time and space. Here's how I plan to get back into the writing habit.
  1. Mark out a regular slot for your writing and guard it fiercely. Now the children have returned to school and the house is back to relative normality, I have made a promise to myself that I will write every week day morning, be that a blog article, a play for my business or working on my novel. I put on a wash when I'm getting the children ready for school. The rest of the housework can wait until after lunch. Between returning from the morning school run and fixing myself a sandwich, I write.
  2. Get an A4 or, if you can manage it, an even larger piece of paper and divide it into two columns. Label the first column 2010 and the second column 2011. Under 2010, make a list of all the writing you did last year. It might be that you wrote articles for a blog or magazine. Perhaps you started a novel, or even finished one. Anything you wrote, make a note of it. Now under the 2011 column, write down which of these you want to continue in the new year. Perhaps novel writing isn't for you but you got a real buzz writing that magazine article. The blog may not have worked out but you discovered a love for short story writing. Decide what you want to concentrate on in 2011 and shape your writing slot around it.
  3. I know we're all a bit poor in January but there's always room for a small indulgence. Buy yourself a new pad and pen to use for your writing. You may still type up your writing but having a new pad and pen (I like the glittery gel pens - yes, I know I'm not five years old anymore but they make me smile) to make notes, jot down ideas and record books you would like to read can be a joy, especially in the greyness of January.
  4. Keep a journal, perhaps using the pad you bought for yourself. I'm not necessarily talking about a diary, although you can use your journal for that too. My own journal includes diary entries, lists, pieces of dialogue I think up in the middle of the night, ideas, characters, news stories that catch my attention and the occasional doodle too. Treat your journal as a safe dumping ground for your imagination.
  5. Most writers know of the dreaded internal editor who constantly interrupts the flow of our writing to point out how a tweak here and a re-write there would make this paragraph so much richer. Well, most of us also have the Yes But Monster hanging around in our lives too. You sit down to write and suddenly a whining voice whispers "Yes but the ironing pile is getting very high," or "Yes but those photographs really do need sorting through," or some other task that desperately needs our attention that very minute. There will always be something we could be doing instead of writing. Learn to park the guilt and kick the Yes But Monster out for at least twenty minutes.
  6. This may shock you. I apologise in advance if this suggestions offends you. However, it may not be as bad as it sounds. Here goes. Turn away from the computer, or if you really must use it, close everything down except the word processing package. Turn off your mobile phone. No, don't just put it on vibrate. Actually switch it off. Turn off the TV too, and the radio, in fact any gadget that can steal away your attention. If you can't bring yourself to unplug the landline then promise to ignore it if it rings. Better still, take yourself away to a part of the house where you can't hear the telephone ring. Without these distractions, commit yourself to twenty minutes of writing. It doesn't matter if it's complete rubbish or unlinked to anything else you're writing. What matters is that you are writing.
  7. Just do it.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Jungle Red

Jungle Red brings together eight published murder mystery writers,
to talk about their books, their motivations and their writing process. There's also news on book signings, interviews and general discussions about the world of publishing.

Well worth a visit.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


One of the main incentives for starting this blog was to write about the process and progress of writing my novel. I've written about so many things here that the novel news has taken a back seat so I thought I'd take this opportunity to bring you up to speed.

Firstly, the title of the novel has changed. What started out as 'Split' is now 'There is a Dark Divide'. The new title is a direct quote from one of the characters in the novel. It speaks of not only the central storyline but also the world in which the storyline takes place.

Secondly, in writing the novel (I'm halfway through the first draft), I've discovered a number of things that I didn't know from my original notes.The characters have told me things about themselves, details of their past and their attitudes on life (especially Hartley, he's very vocal). 

I decided to keep one of the first characters you meet in the novel alive (rather than killing her off in chapter three). This has added another element to the camp of the main character and opened up new opportunities too. 

I also have a couple of new minor characters - one who is supportive to our main character and another who opposes him. Both are colourful individuals with their own life histories to add to the world of the novel.

All in all, I'm pleased with how my novel is developing but I'm also aware that I need to spend more time on it this year and make it part of my regular writing slot.

Monday, 3 January 2011


What does it mean to you? Integrity? Self respect? Belief? To me, it means all of those things, especially as a writer. 2010 has seen me take great joy in accepting that I am a writer and becoming comfortable with telling people that. I don't usually make new year resolutions - spring always seems a better time for new beginnings - but over the Christmas break I got to thinking about where I wanted to take my writing career in 2011.

As you know, I earn a living from writing murder mystery plays and I'm more than happy to continue with that. Writing plays gives me immense satisfaction, especially when I hear how much enjoyment (and profit) they provide for my customers. I have four murder mystery plays lined up to write in 2011. I have several non murder mystery full length plays that I want to write and a couple of theatre groups I can offer them to for their debut performances. I also plan to write an e-book that I hope will make the experience of performing one of our murder mystery plays even better.

I have half a novel and plenty of ideas for future novels too. And of course there is this blog (and three others - I'm a blogaholic you know).

In 2010 I slotted my writing into the rest of my life, in between school runs, housework and other responsibilities. In 2011, I will take the title of this article, 'Professionialism' and apply it to my writing career by assigning each week day morning (after the school run) to completing my plays, my novels and my blogs.

In 2010, I was a writer. In 2011, I am a professional writer. Bring it on.