Tag Archives: writing

Following My Heart’s Desire

A reblog from Helen Jones. What she says here about painting and writing, I could have written myself, word for word (including the “sold a few pieces, been exhibited once, have some on my own walls”). Writing has indeed let me find my passion. I’m still working on finding that daily groove like Helen has, but like her, writing is here to stay with me.

Journey To Ambeth

img_3702I published this post in October 2014, back in the early days of my blog. I came across it the other day and realised that it still rang true. So I thought I’d share it again.

As I walked home from school after dropping my daughter off the other morning, I pondered, as I usually do, the latest plot twists in the book I’m writing. Then it struck me that this is what I do now. I thought back to a couple of years ago, before I started writing about Ambeth and all the other stories coming through me and was amazed by how my life has changed.

‘Will I always be like this?’ I thought to myself. ‘Is this it now, or will I look back in a few years time, shaking my head at how obsessed I was, how writing was a compulsion, a daily requirement?’

You know…

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Monday Meanderings: A Thaw, and News from the Writing Trenches

A few days ago, just after that big snowfall, a thaw set in. The roads are mostly clear – where they aren’t icy from melting snow running across the pavement – and the sunshine is brilliant today. I rambled up into the woods earlier and stood for quite some time next to the wrecked car, looking out over the white expanse of the frozen lake and thinking, to the sound of the twittering of hopeful birds and the drip-drip-drip of the thaw. And then a row of Canada geese flew over the lake, honking. I like Canada geese; they’re so very – I don’t know, Canadian.

img_20170213_130807229_hdrI thought of many things (though shoes and ships and sealing wax were not among them), and some were trivial, some profound. One was that I needed to make a new gmail address with the periods removed from between the words, and when I came home and tried it, it turned out that gmail had already done so for me – apparently a.m.offenwanger is the same to Google as amoffenwanger. Who knew?

Oh, and I was going to give you some News from the Writing Trenches. I’ve been working on my latest piece, off and on, although it’s been very slow going since the end of NaNo. But it does still go. As for Star Bright (Septimus Book 4), it’s in the revision stage. I’d like to finish writing one book before I edit another – but maybe that’s not a feasible idea. There are a few other pieces that need editing; some short stories among them. And I’m hoping and/or planning to write more shorts to submit to contests or magazines.

img_20170213_130750170_hdrSo, all that to say, yes, I am still working on my writing – although sometimes it feels like I do more talking about writing than actual writing. However, writing blog posts is writing, too, isn’t it? And then there’s all those pictures I’m accumulating on my phone – worth a thousand words each, right? Okay, maybe not. So on that note, I’ll sign off now and go do some real writing.

Life, the Universe, and Monday Meanderings. Spring is on its way.

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Taking Risks

Our local NaNoWriMo group is engaged on a new venture: we decided to take things a step further and form a Critique Group. A week ago we had our first meeting, and we decided that every month, everyone would submit few pages of their work, and we’d all read it and give each other feedback. Sounds great, right?

Now, in the week since, two of our group members have put up posts on their blogs, saying basically the same thing, namely how scary it is to stick out your neck and hand over your work to someone else to criticise. And the reaction I had to both their posts was nothing so much as, “You feel that way, too?”

See, in the group, we’re all very self-assured, poised, and articulate; we have things to say and opinions to state; we’re writers; we’re cool. But, as it turns out, when we go home and look over our material for something to send to everyone, we want to pull in our little snail antennae and cower in our shells, quietly whimpering. Because sending our stuff out there into the world is risky!

So as I was sitting here this morning thinking about this, beside me on the kitchen floor played out a little drama: Louis the Now-Very-Large Kitten was stalking a stinkbug. (Don’t ask me what the stinkbug was doing in my kitchen in January. Maybe it hitched a ride into the house on a piece of firewood on which it was trying to overwinter?)img_20170123_085236161

Now Louis is the kind of cat who, whatever else you can say about him, is not a tim’rous wee beastie. He’s curious. And persistent. The bottle caps and walnuts in the shell that he has slain number in the dozens, and the corpses are accumulated in the corners of the living room and under the kitchen stove drawer. So when there was this new and very interesting black little thing moving about the kitchen floor all on its own, Louis was mesmerised. He stared at it. He put out a paw and batted it. He stared at it some more, and batted at it some more – and so on.img_20170123_085107300

After quite a while of this, he decided on a different approach: he tried to take a bite. And the inevitable happened: the stinkbug sprayed.

Well! Louis jerked back. He made faces. Pt pt pt pt! he tried to spit the icky taste out of his mouth. He climbed on a cardboard box to get the high-ground advantage over this unexpectedly dangerous thing, squinting down at it with eyes that were obviously stinging with stinkbug juice. He blinked and blinked again, went pt pt! a few more times – and then he went right after the bug again. More cautiously this time – he stayed well back for a few minutes, stalking it from a distance – but he kept at it. He crawled between the potted plants, flipped over the patio door mat to find it – he wasn’t going let that funny black thing get away from him. Even though it squirted icky stuff in his face, Louis was determined to get that bug. He took a risk – he got burned – and he went right back to risk again.img_20170123_094659458

How very metaphorical, isn’t it? Louis the Cat and the Stinkbug. Now, I’m not saying that us writers are stinkbugs – uh, no. But that large orange-and-white fuzzball was rather inspiring this morning. He exuberantly takes risks, gets results that sting, then goes right on risking.img_20170123_091837762

So even if getting feedback on your stories can sometimes sting (and sometimes stink, as well), it’s worth going back to risk it again. And the good thing is that as writers we know we all feel the same – sharing our work is scary. But we do it anyway.

Life, the Universe, Stink Bugs and Writers. I think Louis would say that the exhilaration of the hunt is worth the sting.

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Wordless Wednesday: Soaring High, or: I Finished NaNoWriMo

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30 November 2016 · 10:03

News from the Writing Trenches, or: The Wonders of Google Maps

In case I hadn’t mentioned, it’s NaNoWriMo, which means I’m in the throes of novelling – and novelling, for me, always involves copious researching.

The current story (not a Septimus series book, a standalone) is partially set in Munich, so I’ve got Google Maps permanently open to a map of the city. But not just a map – Google Street View is amazing. I’m constantly hopping back and forth between map view and panning around the streets of the city.

I’m also going back to my photos from last year’s trip, and among my pictures was one I took of a painting in the Neue Pinakothek: A view of the Residenzstrasse in Munich looking towards the Max-Joseph-Platz, painted in 1826 by Domenico Quaglio. Now check it out side by side with a screen shot of Google Street View of the same spot:

residenzstrasse-combined

Is that cool, or what? I love how the basic line of the street really hasn’t changed much.

Anyway, just thought I’d share that with you. And if you spend the next three hours armchair sightseeing in Munich, don’t blame me. (Actually, yeah, I’ll gladly take the blame. Check out Nymphenburg Palace, for example, on Street View. It’s fabulous.)

Life, the Universe, and Google Street View. The more things change…

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How Does Your NaNo Grow?

An interesting post by Helen on her experience with NaNoWriMo. Although my experience with NaNo has been somewhat different than hers, I very much relate to what she says about NaNo teaching us to be writers. I can honestly say that without NaNoWriMo, I wouldn’t BE a writer. What started as “Let’s just try this thing out, for fun,” became “Hey, I can write a novel! Who knew?” and from there, “This is who I am.” I’m totally sold on NaNoWriMo – I owe it, big time.
(Oh, and not to repeat myself or anything, but check out Helen’s new book. It’s great.)

Journey To Ambeth

img_0016It’s the first week of November and, for many of you out there, it’s also the first week of this year’s NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. (For those of you who don’t know, November is the month when writers around the world challenge themselves to write 50,000 words, or the best part of a novel,  in thirty days). I tackled the NaNo monster in 2014 – I had an idea, a little bit of time, and it seemed a good way to get started. I’d just begun blogging, so only wrote a couple of posts about the process (at the time I posted once a week). So I thought I’d take a look back and see how it went…

From A Month Without Ambeth, published November 8, 2014:

This month I’ve had to focus on a new book. It is November, National Novel Writing Month and I, along…

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Cobblestone Fantasy

cobblestones-raven

We had a meeting of our local NaNoWriMo group this morning. We call it a Write-in, but it’s really more of a Yack-in. It’s just exciting to get together with a whole bunch of other crazy Wrimos and jabber on about how insane this is, and how difficult to find the time, and “Did you get your word count so far?” and “What are you doing about an outline – are you a plotter or a pantser?” And of course, the big question: “What are you writing this year?”

And in the course of that latter discussion, one of us coined a new term. They’re writing fantasy, and we asked if it was set in a classic medieval-style fantasy world. And they said, “Yes, cobblestone fantasy.”

Bam, on the nose! That’s such an awesome term, it needs to be put in the dictionary of genres. “Cobblestone Fantasy: n., fantasy fiction set in a traditional medieval world.”

That’s what a lot of my stories are. See, there is, just to mention a few flavours, “Urban Fantasy” (think Twilight or maybe even Harry Potter – fantasy in a modern setting), or “Steampunk” (generally set in an alternate-reality Victorian-type age), and then there’s the big classic of them all, “Sword & Sorcery”, which is the Lord of the Rings style of fantasy with a pseudo-medieval European setting.

But my books, as a rule, are generally not set here & now (at least not as a whole); they don’t deal in Victoriana; and they have no swords and practically no sorcery. But they do have cobblestones. Almost every single one has cobblestones in it somewhere, if not actually described, then implied. Cobblestones, and open hearths, and horse-and-carriage travel; porridge for breakfast and stew for dinner, cloaks and gowns and market days with vendors in market booths (on a cobble-paved market square, of course).

So, next time someone asks me what I write, I’ll tell them: “Cobblestone fantasy!” Because that nails it.

Life, the Universe, and Cobblestone Fantasy. We’ve coined a new term.

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