Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Faberge eggs and other luxuries

Today is the 166th birthday of Peter Carl Faberge, the Russian jeweller who became best known for his glamorous Faberge eggs. These ornate eggs were made using precious metals and gemstones and have spawned millions of copies ever since. Moreover, they have inspired designers to come up with their own versions.

These luxurious items are beautiful and precious and incredibly expensive. Some have been known to sell for millions of pounds.

My mother was a magpie for all things glittery and beautiful. I can remember her oo-ing and aah-ing over a Faberge egg we once saw in a museum. I was the typical moody teenager at the time, grumpy about being dragged round a museum by my father and dismissive of my mother's enthusiasm for the costume displays. Still, even I stopped to stare at the beautiful ornament. It was gorgeous and decadent, and quite useless. For all it's grandeur, once I'd got over the initial glamour it held over me, I had to admit that it was just another ornament to dust. To my mother though, it was a wondrous thing to behold, a magical possession that would drive away the greyness of everyday life.

My enthusiasm was and always has been for the treasures of books and words. I find great joy (and sometimes hardship) in writing. An imagined scene can shine as brightly as the most ornate and well polished Faberge egg. As that moody teenager, I would write and write and sleep then write. I cared little about what I wrote or who would see it. The process of creation and realisation onto paper was sufficient.

Nowadays, with less time on my hands and more deadlines, most of my writing has a purpose. I write blog articles to be posted on here. I write my work in progress with the aim to be published. I write plays to sell through my business. There is an intent behind my writing which sometimes steals some of the pleasure that I used to find in the machinery of creation.

Looking at the Faberge eggs featured online today, I realised something. Not everything has to have a practical purpose to be worthwhile. There are some items that are just there to be, well, there, to be enjoyed for their lack of intent and usefulness. It's okay to paint, dance, sing or write simply for joy, with no deadline or expectations.

Today, I think I may take some time out from my writing schedule and pen some words just for the sake of enjoying the flow. Tomorrow, I'll worry about deadlines and editing.

Faberge Building, London

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

The wonderful blog Magical Words is currently running a series of posts entitled Top Ten (Okay Eleven) Things You Should Know About Your Own Book. Taking a couple of the eleven for each post, this series of articles asks you questions about your novel such as your protagonist's motivations and what stands in his or her way. It's a fascinating series that makes you delve a little deeper into your creation. You can find the first five parts here:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


When my father was seventeen years old, something happened to him that would change the course of his life. This was 1939, the first year of the second world war. My father, like many young men at the time, felt sure he would play some part in fighting for his country. Older men were already leaving the community to enlist. He and his friends all looked forward with mixed feelings to the following year when they would leave their small home town in Scotland.

Unlike his father who was employed on the estate of the local castle as a gardener, my dad was a lathe worker at a pipeworks factory. He had left school with few qualifications and saw his future as a continuation of his family's roots. He would work, marry, and have children. That was his path. The thought of moving away (other than to fight in the war) did not occur to him.

Then it happened. An obstacle fell across his path, an obstacle which refused to let him find a way round. Due to his work, his hands became infected with lead poisoning. He was signed off for two weeks' unpaid leave. This was annoying - his family desperately needed his wage - but not life shattering in itself. He spent the time helping his parents in their work and seeing friends.

During one such meeting and an unplanned footie match, he was tackled to the ground and broke his leg. The break was clean and again, although it would prevent him from working for a while, it wasn't the end of the world. He was admitted into the hospital at Dumbarton and after a short while, the doctors discovered that the infection in his hands had spread to his broken leg. Whether it was down to an inability to house long-term patients or a shortage of beds, my father was moved to a hospital on the isle of Cumbrae.

My dad on the right.
Thrown into this unfamiliar environment, he made new friends and with time on his hands (he spent eighteen months in this hospital which must have felt like a decade to a seventeen year old), he found a new interest - books. He had never been a great reader but during the time in Cumbrae, he devoured whatever books he could lay his hands on. His fellow patients were a mixed bunch of men (this was a single sex hospital), some younger than he, some much older. He discovered not only about their lives and experiences but moreover how his own viewpoint fitted into that. His parents would visit him once a month with their ration of bacon and news of the folk back home. I wonder if they saw the change in him.

On returning home, at the age of nearly twenty, he found himself re-labelled a cripple. There would be no fighting for his country. All of his male friends had joined up. His female friends, in his absence, had turned from young girls into replicas of their mothers and grandmothers. There was no chance of employment for him. In his community's eyes, he was destined to live a half-life. Ladies of his mother's age whom he had previously carried shopping for now gave up their seat for him on the bus. The pity was bad enough but he now found that his new attitudes, his new horizons gleaned from his time in hospital, had no place in his home town. His family, his friends, his community had stayed the same; he had not.

I'll halt my father's story at this stage to see if you've realised the writing lesson I'm trying to point out. We all love happy endings but for a story to work, your main character must meet with obstacles to carrying on in the direction they have always pursued. On occasion, they will be forced to sidestep the fallen log or marshy patch before regaining their original path. Sometimes, there will be no option but to take the other path, the one slightly hidden, the one where you can't see around the bend to what lies beyond. Hopefully, whichever path they end up on, it will bring them to a destination a better person than before the obstacle intervened. By all means, give your character a happy ending - let them marry the girl of their dreams, defeat the wicked monster, win the competition - but throw an obstacle (or two) into the mix too.

Just in case you're still interested, my father refused to accept the future he appeared to have been handed and over the next few months, he painfully taught himself to walk again, first on crutches, then sticks and finally with no support at all, from one bench to the next in the gardens of the castle. He moved away, finding employment as a lathe worker first in Worcester, then London, then Manchester. During this time, he re-educated himself through correspondence courses and university. He learned a love of the theatre and jazz. His obstacle threw him a long way off course, into uncharted territories for a Dunbartonshire boy, but in the end he got his happy ending.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

You Are What You Read written by Misty Massey of Magical Words talks about how the books we read can help us cope with our lives.

How To Be A World-Changing Writer by Copyblogger talks about what it's title suggests.

5 Things All Writers Can Learn From Taylor Swift from Write It Sideways builds an interesting connection between the singer and your writing.

How To Write Fast: 8 Secrets To Better, Quicker Content Creation by Maria Forleo is a a video episode on her site, offering advice that we can all gain from.

Cheerleaders by Lucienne Diver from Magical Words talks about those individuals who support us as writers.

Words of Wisdom from the World E-Reading Congress 2012 from Publishing Perspectives gives a wonderful insight into the developing future of publishing.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

This is the second in this series where I share links to writing advice, chat and news that I've received over the last week.

Look for the Odd One Out in your Fiction by Writerly Life, describes how to use a little psychology to make our writing more appealing to the reader.

Found Stories by Author Magazine, which is strangely about 'finding' your story.

And finally, an interesting article on earnings versus bestseller lists by author Bob Mayer on Manic Monday - Dollars and Good Sense.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Somebody Loves Me

Well, kind of. Today I received a joint award from the lovely Lisa W Rosenberg. The blogosphere can seem so vast and unfathomable sometimes that it's always good to find out that your voice is being heard (and your blog read). Thank you, Lisa. These are my awards:

Lisa writes about body image and identity on her blog so please do visit her site.

The rules for both awards are similar:
  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Share 7 random things about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger and 7 for the Beautiful Blogger award.
  4. Inform the bloggers of their nomination.
  5. Include the award images in your blog post.
As I've received the Versatile Blogger award before (although I'm always happy to have someone new award it to me again), I'll just follow the rules for the Beautiful Blogger award this time round.

7 Random Things About Me
  1. My middle name is the same as my mother's middle name. It's also the same as my daughter's. I don't know how it turned into a mini family tradition. It just did. I wonder whether my daughter will continue it if she has a daughter. Our middle name is Jean.
  2. I like a vast range of artists but my favourites are Salvador Dali and Canaletto.
  3. I've recently given up on alcohol because even one drink causes me to have a bad stomach and it looks like caffeine is the next on the get-rid list as it has started to affect my energy levels. There go my dreams of red wine weekends and daily lattes. 
  4. I sometimes forget how old/young I am. Inside I feel around the thirty mark. It can be quite a shock to see photos of school friends (especially the balding male ones) or watch actors of my age on TV or in films and realise that time is passing.
  5. Maybe it's because I've travelled around a lot, especially over the last ten years, but I have developed a group of incredibly diverse and multi-talented friends. There are actors, writers, publishing peeps, fellow mums, teachers and so many more career and life identities in the mix. What a wonderful world I live in.
  6. Having looked into my family history, it has become clear that where one side of my family (my mother's) lived in the same area for hundreds of years, the other side (my father's) have always travelled. I'd like to learn why that difference existed. That's the next genealogy question to answer.
  7. The older I get, the greener my hazel eyes become.
Now it's time to pass on the Beautiful award to seven other bloggers. I enjoy visiting all of their sites. I hope you will too.

My 7 Beautiful Blog nominees
  1. Annette Gendler 
  2. Beautifully Imperfect
  3. Conversations with a Cardinal
  4. Deborah Lawrenson
  5. My Small Stones
  6. Out on a Limb
  7. The Blooming Late Journal

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

Today marks the first of a series of post in which I'll share some of the wonderful advice I receive from fellow writers and creatives, as well as mentors and generally bookish and publishing world peeps.

Looking for Inspiration? is an article in Psychologies magazine which discusses where inspiration comes from  and how we can search it out.

Instructions for a happy juice life is a blog post by Fiona Robyn of Writing Our Way Home and I think the title is quite explanatory.

Who needs a publisher? is an informative look at the pros and cons of traditional publishing versus self publishing from