Blue Monday

Today is Blue Monday, the third Monday of January is the glummest day of the year due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, dark days, gloomy weather and the arrival of the dreaded credit-card bills. I suspect that those trying to follow Dry January or Veganuary aren’t helping themselves to a certain extent, self-denial often makes one feel worst.  Though alcohol is a depressant, so should be avoided, and I like steak too much to comment on Veganuary.

However, we can all try to make this a less depressing day.  Thinking about or doing stuff for others often helps, and though you can’t exactly go round and have a cuppa with your neighbour, you might be able to call them and check they’re okay, have a chat, make sure they aren’t feeling too alone, and in the process ensure that you aren’t feeling too alone either.

Mental health affects us all, I openly admit to suffering depression, it makes life hard sometimes, and I know how lucky I am to have a loving and supportive family. The things that make me feel better, are, usually, simply, and freely, conversations. I like hearing good news from others. If the others don’t have good news, then I’ll listen to that and sympathise, or help if I’m in a position to, even join in the slag-fest if that’s where the conversation goes.  I’ll encourage where I can. I’ll use a shoulder when all I can do is cry.

The point I suppose is even when we are blue, we don’t have to paint the town red, we just have to share a moment with the people around us. A wave across the street. A note on social media. A chat on the phone or a message/text. So reach out, you are not alone, please don’t be lonely.

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Overused

Am in that part of the editing process where I’m totally happy with the story, and just have to do a lot of work on individual sentences – the copy editing stage. 

This is a stage that I would usually tell authors that they can’t do terribly effectively themselves.  And I do think that’s true, and I will be sending the manuscript on to an editor in due course.  In the mean time I’m putting the book chapter by chapter through an automated checker.

What this shows is that I have a real issue with overused words like “was/were” and “could”, and the other frequent flyers are “think/believe” and “feel/felt”.  Most of the time I find ways to rewrite a sentence to remove many of these instances.

Only this book is proving a problem.  The story is a thriller told from two points of view, for the first half of the book, the characters are separate, and they have lots of questions.  Questions about each other and what they are doing and what they are capable of doing.  So there’s a lot of lines like, “Was he doing this?” or “Could she do that?”

What this means is that I am doing everything I can to reduce numbers in line with the program, but I’m just not getting there in some cases.  Still, the thing to remember is that these program have been written against rules.  Rules for general purposes, there will be times when those rules have to be broken and in a story of questions, was and could will be more used than in most scripts, I’m not going to knock myself out with it.

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Virtual Festival

Today, I have been largely at a literary festival.

I know, we’re not supposed to go anywhere, and I didn’t, it was all on-line.  Me and a load of other writers getting together thanks to Showboat TV and talking about our writing.  And in my case my editing too.

We’re talking about our books, old and new, and reading segments of the book.  It made me think that I should read a snippet of each of my books and stick them on my website too, but to do that I’d actually have to listen to me and that is so cringe-worthy I’m not sure I could.

With lockdown, I’m actually finding that there are advantages to on-line literary festivals.  For a start, I don’t have to travel.  Now don’t get me wrong – I LOVE travelling, but it takes up a lot of time, can be uncomfortable and stressful.  It means staying in places you don’t know and buying food you can’t be certain of.

On-line means I only have to travel from one end of the house to the other – and it really isn’t that big a house. I get the comfort of my own chair, let alone my own bed at night, and I can have whatever food I want.  Today I made a jambalaya and it was lovely – and it meant that the place smelt great for the afternoon when I did the second slot.

More importantly, it meant that I got to met up with some old writer pals I’ve not seen in ages because we usually met up at festivals and book fairs and of course, we haven’t had any of those for a year.

So if you’d like to hear what’s going on with writing in Wales, check out www.showboat.tv as they will be putting recordings of the day up on their site.  See how we writers can put words on the page, but can’t always read them out.  😉

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Writer Editor

Writers don’t write as much as they edit.

It’s a odd statement but it’s also true. When I’m really writing, I’m basically spewing the story out onto the page.  I love that part, constantly playing a game of what if, knowing that I have to get these people to do certain things and then wondering why they don’t do them, and trying to figure out how to get them back on track.

But after the story is down, there’s still so much work to do.  The editing.  I reckon I take 4 to 5 times longer to get a book edited than to write the thing in the first place.  The editing is all about getting the story right. Making sure that it flows, is sensible and everything works.  It’s polishing the sentence structure and ensuring that the correct character does what they need to when they need to do it.

Then it’s running through the various writing checkers for spelling and grammar and all the other technicalities.  Only then can you send the manuscript out.

And it it’s accepted, it will invariably come back with more edits to do. Writers write, but they spend an awful lot of time editing too.

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Poem

Really sorry for the poetry, and the appearance, believe it or not this was the only way I could find to avoid everything being double spaced and looking awful.

  • Is it really Monday?
  • I find it hard to tell.
  • One day is like another,
  • But at least they’re not all hell.
  • Covid is a trial
  • That we’d all rather not be on
  • But till it derails
  • I’m keeping my mask on.
  • Depressed were the darkest days
  • But I made Black Dog a stray
  • Isolation’s tough I know
  • But indoors we must stay.
  • But don’t be sad, all doom and gloom
  • There are other ways
  • There’s hangouts, teams and zoom
  • To share what we do today.
  • Alone and lonely aren’t the same
  • Reach out without washed hands
  • Send love some electronically if that’s the only way.
  • Please stay at home
  • Give the world some space
  • Until the day they sound
  • all clear, the NHS is safe.

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Book Review – Murder on Christmas Eve

Today I finished reading my second book of 2020 and I have to say it was one of those forced reads. 

I started reading “Murder on Christmas Eve” on 19 December 2019.  It’s an anthology of short stories about crimes at Christmas. I read the first story in 2019.  Then I stopped.  This year I was determined to finish it.  I thought that as it was short stories, I’d easily be able to pick it up, read a story, and be fine.  Get through that in a few nights.

Problem was, it was easy to put down, but hard to pick back up.

There are some really fine crime writers in this book. But few stories that actually gripped me. I have to say I found things in the very last story that as an editor I was tamping* over.  One poor constable got left outside in the freezing cold and forgotten while others went inside for a cosy chat by the fire, and one of the characters was called Chief Constable and referred to as the Super. 

While I wouldn’t advise against this book, there were some enjoyable stories, I would recommend it either.  Very meh.  3 stars because I’m feeling generous.

* tamping is a colloquial term for angry.

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I Am Margo

The Margo I’m talking about is Margo Leadbetter, the neighbours wife in the old comedy “The Good Life”.

I’ve been a fan of that show for years, even put references to it into my writing.  When the show was aired, it was Barbara Good, played by Felicity Kendal, who everyone was in love with and who everyone wanted to be.  Margo was played by Penelope Keith, and she was the butt of so many jokes because she was the fashion following, middle-class princess, the corporate wife, member of all the right societies, had a housekeeper and a gardener.

I don’t have a housekeeper or a gardener, though I do have help in both from the hubby and children. I’m not a member of many societies (other than writing clubs), and I don’t wear the latest fashions, I don’t do the corporate wife stuff and in no way would I order Christmas in a van. (see the special episode “Silly, But It’s Fun…”.

But here’s the thing where I am like Margo. Margo wants to join in more, but doesn’t know how. She doesn’t understand the jokes. That’s what I’m like. The other thing about Margo, the other thing we do have in comment is a heart of gold.  I may come across as a grump, but I do care, and I will do anything I can for my friends.

As a kid I wanted to be Barbara, as an adult, I’m happy being Margo.

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Interview

Did an interview with Dr Noir last night about my latest book.  It’ll be posted tomorrow, so will be all over my social media links.

Think in, I’m so paranoid I’ve spent all day thinking I’ve probably said the wrong thing, I’ve made myself look like an idiot and I should go hide in the corner and die of shame.

Then I thought, hold on, saying the wrong thing, looking like an idiot – that’s me all over that is.  So okay, so be it.  I’ll share the video tomorrow and hope for some additional business from it.

Fingers crossed (and never ever expect me to actually watch it – it would be excruciating for me!).

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Felled

The trees are down!

The Christmas Trees that is. 

While I know Twelfth Night isn’t until the 6th, it was time for the trees to come down.

We had two up, on in the sitting room and one in the conservatory.  They both looked lovely, it was great to see them. At first. As much as I enjoy having the trees up, after a while they just feel like they are in the way. 

I was struggling to use the conservatory as my office (as I usually do) because, for a start it was way too cold, but also because I was too aware of the way The Tree standing over my shoulder.  It was a bit like The Christmas Invasion episode of Dr Who back in 2005.  It felt like it might start spinning and trying to slice and dice me.

So today, we carefully removed the decorations and even more carefully put them in boxes and packed them away.  Adding one extra box to the collection for all the new decorations brought this year.  I really must stop with that.  Maybe next year.

This year I also bought some pink and white lights which I used to decorate the bookshelves in the sitting room.  They acquired the name “The Cheery Lights”, and have been allowed to remain in place. 

Still the sitting room feels less cluttered now, and I hopefully I can reclaim my cold office tomorrow (thankfully the portable heaters should deal with the temperature).

All back to normal.

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Ahead

So what’s ahead for this new lockdown – sorry I mean year.

Well, hopefully this year will continue for me as the old one ended. Good health, enjoying my editing work, enjoying writing, and generally keeping going.

More specific goals for this year are:

  • moving up the grades within the CIEP
  • not buying any clothes for the next 10 months (already 2 months into a year of not doing that)
  • get at least 2 more novels completed
  • lose weight
  • gain fitness

There are other minor goals, but those are the biggies that I’m sharing. It’s not much, but I’m not going to set unrealistic goals because they just depress me when I don’t achieve them.

So, not resolutions, just goals.

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