Hoorah, July has arrived! Despite the confusion and pain delivered by 2020, I can still rely upon a global NaNoWriMo event to lift my inner spirit. I am a self-confessed NaNoWriMo addict - who usually dedicates the whole of November to the quest of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. The good news is that July is the summer camp version. The only difference being is that you choose your own specific goal. In previous year's I have chosen an editing goal for the summer but not this year. I'm steely strong and going for 50,000 brand-new, sparkling words to be written by 31st July.
The words will be the second half of my current project - yay! I will track my progress as a blog post and update my word count on the homepage.
Word count: 0/50,000
Today is day one of summer camp!!!! Words: 1617/50000
A basic start for Day 1. To reach my goal by 31st July I must write 1613 for this project each day. I tend to focus on writing a specific scene rather than focus on the actual word count. Let the creative juices flow and word count simply follows. It's a personal trait I've recognised in my writing manner. There's a method in the madness of writing! My task for tonight is to revisit my plot and decide which scene(s) I'm focusing on tomorrow. This allows my little grey cells time to generate images, new details and links to previous scenes overnight ready for tomorrow's first writing session. Again, another little trick which works for me.
You're might be wondering how I'm getting along with my epic read. Well, I'm chuffed to bits and doing a geeky dance in anticipation of announcing that I'm a third of the way through. Now, that might not seem a lot to some, but to those who have attempted to read Joyce's tome - that's great news.
I must say, I feel I am 'studying' it rather than 'reading for pleasure' but all the same, I'm getting there. I've managed to read some each day, little and often being the approach, but it has worked for me. I may have mentioned last blog post that this is my third attempt. My first and second attempt failed at or before page 50 but this third attempt is plodding along nicely. The difference being I was armed and better prepared with a detailed study guide plus, I accepted the need to constantly reference the internet. I have watched numerous clips on Youtube about Joyce's life, his work and listened to podcasts discussing Ulysses. Did I mention I was prepared?
Podcasts: In Our Time and Start Of The Week
Anyway, certain things have motivated me. Firstly, the book is as strange, as weird and yet, as absorbing as others say. Secondly, I have vowed never to read it again so, I'd best make the most of this attempt and thirdly, this made me laugh out loud on hearing it, on completion of the manuscript Nora Joyce (his wife) managed to read the first few pages before giving up! That made me feel somewhat better.
I haven't found it easy at all; I've struggled to understand the language, the unique inclusion regarding simultaneous scenes and keep track of the occurring events. Nevertheless, I have loved his descriptions, the constant reference to Dublin's street map and the depth and breadth of knowledge referred to by Joyce. This said, I vow never to reread it once complete.
I've calculated that given my current rate of progress it'll take me partway into August 2020 to complete but, I'm getting there: slowly.
How the devil are you? Happy and healthy, I'm hoping! I can't believe we've entered the billionth day in isolation, but hey ho, there's excellent reasons to stay at home. I've not altered my routine since the first wave of lockdown so, not a lot has changed. I've happily plodded on with my daily writing, reading and basic exercise - though the dog no longer jumps with excitement when I fetch his lead!
I've managed to make a substantial dent in my huge 'To-Be-Read' bookcase - yes, you read that correctly, bookcase not pile. I've trundled through numerous Agatha Christie books which is my personal challenge for 2020. I've been taken aback by the artistic license that many of the TV producers have taken in adapting her work for the small screen. One particular book 'Murder Is Easy' is virtually unrecognisable in the screen adaptation - it made me wonder what AC herself would make of it.
I've reread a couple of favourite classics as a guaranteed route to escapism and pleasure. In uncertain times, you need to know there's a warm welcome by revisiting your favourite book friends. I've consciously saved Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' incase of an emergency. In which case, I'll hibernate with a box of teabags, packets of biscuits and Mr Darcy!
I've ventured into 'modern history' during lockdown by purchasing 'Monica's story' written by Andrew Morton. I'm not usually one for his style but on this occasion it hit the mark. Excuse the pun! I love history, so thought I'd read about something that I remember in my lifetime. Boy, oh boy, was I shocked by her version of events. Regardless of opinions about him, her and the whole affair, I was intrigued by the inner workings of the White House and its staff. It literally took me a few days to read and yes, it was comforting to return to an era that I remember so well.
The big challenge for the next few weeks is a book which I have started to read three times and have twice ceased reading after the first 50 pages due to my lack of understanding. This third attempt seems to be going well but only because I have a copy of 'Spark notes' to accompany it. If it wasn't for the study aid, I would have fallen by the wayside for the third time.
Ulysses by James Joyce ... need I say more! I'll admit, I'm not 'reading' it - I'm 'studying' it like a course rather than reading for pleasure. The only pleasure I'm getting so far is understanding the events whilst being on page 65! Though, given my current rate of progress it'll last me until August!
I've lined up a Bill Bryson travel book, another Christie and a series read for the coming weeks to provide some light relief when I'm not studying James Joyce.
Stay safe xx
I hope you and yours are safe and well. I've been in lockdown for nearly three weeks and so far, so good. I've kept myself busy with my usual daily writing routine as I am half way through a new project. It originally started as a rewrite but that has developed somewhat, but I'm pleased with the current progress.
Outside of writing, I've ploughed through numerous reading books in various genres as a means of escaping the modern world. I didn't watch 'The Stranger' recently shown via Netflix so purchased Coben's book instead - a gripping read and a worthy recommendation. I've returned to my Classics with a reread of Austen's 'Emma' and continued my 2020 Agatha Christie Challenge reading 'Appointment With Death'. I've attempted to participate more in my on-line bookclub via Goodreads - which offers groups for every kind of reader - a trawl through the discussion forums certainly throws up some fairly polarized ideas about specific authors/books!
My church bellringing ceased weeks ago, so I've filled my evenings by digging out my knitting needles and crafting a project. I've opted to knit blankets for a premature baby unit who uses traffic light colours to denote the level of care required. It's kept me busy whilst enabling me to watch numerous films, which I don't tend to do.
I've continued with my sketching which is a weekly occurrence for me. Last weekend, I monopolised the dining room for the day and indulged with my pencils. I was pleased with the end results given my lack of tuition, but hey, if you don't try you'll never know! This weekend, I might step outside of my comfort zone and attempt a watercolour or two.
Stay safe and stay creative, folks xxx
As the month draws to a close I thought I'd share the titles I've finished reading this month. An eclectic mix if I'm honest, but then I do like to switch genres. Some took a matter of days to read, 'Victoria' took me three months due to the level of detail.
Victoria: a life - A.N. Wilson - a fabulous read if you're interested in the life, family or reign of Queen Victoria. The level of detail is incredibly high so I'd imagine it might bore some readers if she isn't one of your life-long obsessions. She is to me, so I wallowed in every tiny detail. A highly recommended read as it portrays her closest relationships, her empires, her unpecidented involvement with polictics and the extensive interaction with her European family tree! A serious account of her life, which is told in a fair and seemingly unbiased manner - it must have taken years to have researched and written this book.
I let him go - Denise Fergus - I cried within three pages. A beautiful account of a mother's love for her little boy, James. If you know the story, then you've heard of the worst scenario for any parent. I admired Denise Fergus before reading her account now, I have untold respect for the lady - she truly deserves never to shed a tear of sadness in her life. I read this book within 24 hours - I couldn't put it down.
Dracula - Bram Stoker - Being an English teacher you'd expect that I'd have read this before now, but sadly not. I had started it years ago but didn't get very far, who knows why? Any way, this time I loved it! Admittedly, I couldn't read it at night, I don't do thrillers - my imagination is far too strong for such activities. On finishing, I admitted that I think it's better than Frankenstein by Shelly, which is a mighty claim by little old me.
Agatha Christie - you all know that I've started to reread my collection. I've added another two to my accomplishments. As always, I get lost in her world of crime and emerge feeling renewed having revisited my teenage years. I hope I never lose that ability to time travel.
Bound To Her Blood Enemy - Tora Williams (not shown in the photograph) - I don't tend to read historical genre so this made a pleasant change from my usual choice. I was fascinated and full-submerged my imagination into their quest to survive certain circumstances. Tora is a friend of mine so, I was able to feedback directly. An enjoyable read. I appeciate the effort and difficulty researching such a specific era.
Last night, I began reading The Stranger by Harlan Coben - I know it was shown on TV a few weeks ago but I missed it. Being a book worm, I purchased a copy. I'm only a few chapters in and already I know this will be done and dusted by the end of the weekend. I simply love the way Coben snags the reader's attention then makes us second-guess on every page.
Well, what a shocker - no one predicted this for 2020! At New year, I had ultra high hopes for this year and now, I'm spending each day avoiding everyone! Though its fair to say as an author I've been self-isolating for years trying to sneak off away from people to spend my days alone writing.
I haven't any symptoms, but chose to remove myself from the daily routine - one less person playing virus tag on the streets!
My plan is to finish editing my current project - which will keep me out of mischief for a few weeks. If needs be, I'll start writing a new book which I planned a few weeks ago. It's simply strange busily working yet, seeing most of my neighbours at home - I'm usually the only one in at this time of day!
Given the severity of the situation, all my author talks have been cancelled to be rearranged at a later date. A shame, but a necessary move.
In the meantime, I shall be editing, writing, sketching and reading so, get ready for a whole host of blog posts when I'm not occupied or fed up talking to my assistants!
I have to say it's not every day that I attend a library and find I have a bookshelf to myself displaying my publications, but that happened today at Warwick!
I was there to give an informal talk to their coffee morning participants about my books and my journey towards publication. I was thrilled when I found myself seated before 25 library users for the hour long session. They were a bright bubbly bunch which made the chat so easy as I explained my stumbling journey towards a book contract. They were so nice, they even laughed at my jokes!
Anyhow, I managed to answer all their questions regards writers' block, juggling careers, the pressures of writing to deadlines and shared an insight regards character creation.
At the end of the talk it was so lovely to see so many from the audience select one of my books from the shelf and take it home. I only hope they enjoy the book, enjoy their coffee coaster freebie from me and have a chuckle at some of my anecdotes.
Check out the 'home' page to view the location of my next author talk.
On Thursday, 27th February, I spent a delightful day travelling around a small area of Birmingham courtesy of the mobile library unit and their fantastic team.
I'd asked if I could be shown the ropes on how the mobile unit functions and to potentially meet and greet some of customers who use the service on a regular basis. I have to be honest and say, I was blown away by the organisation and sheer complexity of their home base; not only is it home for the mobile library crew but also the 'Library at home' scheme. I was given tour of the home base by the wonderful Jackie prior to our 'rounds' for the day - it was a treasure trove of delights for any book lover. I secretly wanted to get locked in over night so I could trawl the book shelves which contained everything you could think of from audio books, magazine subscriptions, reference books, a full range of diverse languages plus boxes of jigsaws!
As I walked about in amazement at hearing the number of library users supported in this manner, the number of requests, the sheer volume of material which is dispatched my mind began to comprehend just how vital such library services are. My love of books has been central to my life, so I couldn't imagine not being able to attend a local library due to health reasons, circumstances or difficulties with my mobility. The library services offered by Birmingham must feel like a life line to some users.
By half nine we were out and about on the road in the mobile unit following a simple timetable for the day. And, what a joy it was! I was lucky enough to meet and chat with so many people during our six stops. I was amazed at the number of returns they brought back - which they'd read in just one week! Seriously, I read about 30 books a year which is nothing compared to some of the readers I met on our travels. It was wonderful to see library users waiting for our arrival, collecting requests and having books reissued. I loved that the mobile team knew the names of every person using their service. There was a genuine rapport and friendship shown to each user, real care and consideration - that personal touch which is so important. One of my highlights of the day was towards the end when the mobile library was filled with tiny little children and their parents choosing their weekly selection of books - ah bless them, you forget how excited tiny people get about books.
I had a super day. Which was made more delightful by the fabulous duo, Jackie and Bash, who put up with my endless questions. I arrived home as excited as the children waving their plastic library cards ready to share my observations with anyone who would listen.
Once again, a huge 'Thank you' to the team for granting me a wish and enabling my visit to happen. I shall see you soon.
For further information about Birmingham Library services: click here.
You remember the scene, I’m certain – it’s engraved upon all our memories given how long we waited for ‘the moment’. A darkened room, lit by a multitude of flickering candles, a romantic ambience worthy of any marriage proposal and a nervous female awaiting his arrival. ‘You wanted it to be a surprise,’ she says, her voice choked with emotion. The audience whoop and gasp as she lowers herself on to bended knee and looks up into his expectant face.
‘Chandler, in all my life, I never thought I’d be so lucky as to fall in love with my best …’ she stammers, amidst her emotional outpouring, before pausing and tearfully adding, ‘There’s a reason why girls don’t do this!’
Monica’s very honest statement is Chandler’s signal to take over the proceedings and propose in the tradition manner.
My question is: ‘Is there a reason why girls don’t do this?’ Is it because we’re simply too emotional to propose without crying? Is it because ‘the moment’ is deemed so precious within social values that females feel too vulnerable to ask for fear of rejection? Or is it the ultimate dividing line between gender equality? Putting it simply, in 2020 does it firmly remain the man’s role in a heterosexual relationship to determine when, where and how long into a relationship he proposes marriage?
My latest book, Taking a Chance on Love, highlights this particular theme. My story features three independent, successful and sassy women – each with differing views on relationships and marriage. Each woman knows her own mind and lives her life as she deems fit. Carmen can’t wait to be married, Polly is not interested and Dana has no one to ask. With the 29th February fast approaching and, given the tradition of a Leap Year, will any of them propose and change their fate with one single question?
It’s a tradition which began centuries ago, with the additional leap day null and voiding all social rules. According to an old Irish legend, St Brigid made a deal with St Patrick allowing women to propose to men – every four years. So, 29th February is observed as Bachelor’s Day in Ireland, enabling women to initiate courtship and propose marriage, if they wish. Should her proposal be rejected, the male was expected to buy the lady an expensive silk gown by way of an apology.
But would you propose? I’ll be honest – I wouldn’t. I’ve conducted plenty of research over the past year and have asked a fair number of women – the majority repeating my answer of ‘no’. Just three women said they would propose, if it were necessary. Obviously, my next question was how?
In my head, I grew up dreaming of the prefect proposal, whether on bended knee or not, but my expectations were run of the mill: moonlight, whispered sweet nothings, tenderness and hopefully a ring box quickly retrieved from an inside pocket. (Or plans to choose and purchase together in the coming days.) My expectations also included the male making his proposal, telling me the hows, the whys and the wherefores of this life changing decision.
The answer which I learned from my three brave ladies was that they would send a beautiful card with the proposal written inside, organize an aeroplane to trail-blaze a huge banner and the third female suggested a romantic meal for two where a celebration cake arrived with the big question iced across the top.
What struck me was that none of my three ladies would actually go down on bended knee and ask her man outright! Each one would chose an ‘indirect’ method of asking him. I wondered if this was deemed acceptable and would the males accept such an indirect proposal? Several men said they would have been shocked if their partners had proposed – they’d always felt it was theirrole in the relationship. One man was honest enough to say he would have accepted his partner’s proposal if she’d asked, but would wish for his young daughter to receive a traditional proposal from any future son-in-law. Some men felt that their masculinity was at stake, whilst others suggested it would be the most flattering compliment ever received. The males seemed divided on a range of aspects, unlike the majority of females.
So, was Monica right all along? I suspect she could be. I can only speak for myself, but I believe that as a little girl I dreamt of ‘the moment’ and that all my Disney-film viewing had reinforced that expectation. I truly believed that one day my prince would arrive and sweep me off my feet with a traditional proposal. I never witnessed Cinderella reverse the roles and produce a ring box while Prince Charming gave a resounding ‘yes’. Or maybe that’s a future Disney production currently in the making, who knows?
Maybe every proposal, be it Leap Year or otherwise, comes down to a mutual understanding of love and respect in a manner befitting each specific couple, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
All that’s left for me to say is good luck and best wishes to anyone, male or female, planning to propose this Leap Year. Practice your lines, make your memories, and I wish you the very best for a loving future.
My week is getting better and better. Firstly, I've had a fabulous writing week where the words for my rewrite are simply flowing from my finger tips. Each day of this week has been more productive then the previous day - that will soon end, trust me, so I'll gladly welcome it.
Today was a special day, as I was invited back into the studio of Radio Tamworth 106.8fm to chat all things bookish with the gorgeous, Kiren Parmar. Boy did we talk non-stop! It amazed me how we sit with an empty desk apart from mics, glasses and a mobile phone for checking Tweets yet, are able to fill two hours. We don't have oodles of paper or cue cards - we literally think on our feet and the discussion goes wherever it goes.
On arriving, Kiren gave me a brand new Radio Tamworth tea mug, my very own to bring home and use - I was quite touched. Even more so because it relates to tea and you all know how much I love my tea!
If you missed the live radio show then the on-demand links are below (I'll put them up when received) so you can listen at your leisure. I can promise you'll have a giggle; we are always funny, regardless of the topic.
Click here http://radiotamworth.com/player/?ondemandid=19530… for the ON DEMAND link to today’s Book Club on
Click here http://radiotamworth.com/player/?ondemandid=19531… to catch up on the second half of the show