Ten Things I Love About Being an Author

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  1. Getting the story down – often, a story will be whirling around my head for days or weeks or, occasionally, years. It’s like there is a little person with a pointy stick prodding my brain every now again saying: “Hoi! When are you going to write me down?”
  2. Getting to make things up and letting my imagine run away with me.
  3. Watching the story unfold in my head – I see the stories in my head and watch the characters and their situations rather like I’d watch a film on tv. I watch and I write down what I see, hear, feel etc.
  4. Choosing names for the characters – I love it when I come across a truly fabulous name that I can use for a character. It might be something that’s just popped into my head, something I’ve seen on a street sign or a car number plate, or a name I’ve heard or misheard. Then a character takes shape around the name quickly followed by the start of their story.
  5. Drinking tea and eating chocolate digestives as I write. This is one of my favourite things to do. I don’t know why, but when you get a chocolate digestive and dunk it into a perfect cup of tea it just goes so well with writing. You dunk it, then you take a bite and enjoy the melting chocolate and suck the liquid from the crumbling biscuit base and it melts in your mouth and it’s somehow just perfect for those moments when you are thinking about what you are going to write next.
  6. Organising the printing and cover design. I’m not a fan of editing my book because I have to do it at least four times before I am happy with the novel, but I love the next bit. And that is getting it ready for printing (ie formatting my book – I do this myself) and then getting a designer to design a cover. This latter part can be a bit nerve wracking because I am always desperate to like what the designer comes up with, but it’s great when you are presented with amazing designs… as I was. Thankfully.
  7. Getting the book up and ready for sale, and finally getting a copy of the finished novel. This is great for both traditionally published and indie published book. You spend months and months writing the book, then there’s all the editing and organising of various things (such as promotions and marketing) and then finally you have the book in your hand and it just feels lovely.
  8. Sharing my book with friends, family and the general public. I love presenting my parents with my latest novel. It’s the same delight I used to get when presenting them with something I had made in primary school! I love it when I can share it with my friends and with fans. In case you didn’t know, I run an Advance Reader Copy group whereby readers can get free and early copies of my new books. All I ask is if you put up a genuine review of the book on a book selling website. If you are interested in joining my current group, nicknamed Dawn’s Divas, email me your name and email address: dawn@danelsonauthor.com
  9. Talking to other writers and people who love books about writing and reading. Discussing favourite books and recommending new things to read.
  10. Making new friends via writers’ groups, book bloggers and with people who have become fans. I just love chatting to different types of people, especially if they are as passionate about reading and writing as I am.
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A broken hand, Dusting is out and Apple Pie

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Hello everyone, how are you all? Hope you are all well and had a good day today. I had the best day I’ve had this week, but more on that in a minute. Do you like the image above? Well, I happened to be scrolling through a free image site and stumbled across some lovely stone images. As the descendent of a stonemason (true), I really love carved stone. So, to celebrate the art of stonemasonry, today’s blog is dedicated to beautiful things carved in stone.

Right, why was today the best day this week? It’s because I am no longer in pain. And why is that? Because my right hand is not broken (as I thought it might be on Tuesday – aka extreme pain day – or even yesterday – aka very painful day) and is recovering quickly. Here’s what happened – I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night in extreme pain from the back of my right hand. I had no idea what I had done to it. I had not bashed it or hurt it that day. So, I got up on Tuesday in extreme pain (thank God for painkillers), got the kids to school and spent the day binge watching Grace & Frankie on Netflix (love that show, so funny) and debating whether or not to go to the hospital for an x-ray.

Any of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that I have spent a lot of time up at our local hospital over the last few years what with my husband’s illness and an extremely accident prone daughter (my son, who is 10, has been up there for the Minor Injuries Unit twice; my daughter, who is 13, has been up there about ten times). Anyway, I was reluctant to go, but I eventually relented and went yesterday. One examination and an x-ray later and it’s not broken. Phew. However the nurse did ask how it happened and here’s what’s weird – the only time I hurt it was last week when a tin of beans (or something similar) fell on it from the cupboard. That was extremely painful and the air was blue with expletives. Anyway, it hurt for a while and then the pain went away. Then I went to Pilates on Monday and it felt sore, but only when I put some weight on it. Afterwards, there was no pain…until the middle of the night. I can only think I have ‘reopened’ (for want of a better word) the injury. The nurse thought that might be it too. She said when the can hit my hand I had essentially tenderised my hand.  Ew, the thought of that.

Anyway, it stopped any kind of writing for two days. Today is the first day without any real pain and that has been good.

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The hand injury has also stopped me from doing much else this week apart from watching telly. It’s also taught me how much I use my right hand. I was seriously slowed down and it was driving me nuts, especially as I couldn’t write.

However, thanks to me setting things up…Dusting Down Alcudia is now available on Amazon here in both paperback, ebook and large print. If you haven’t already get your free character book from here.   Right, enough of the sales speak.

Regarding writing, I am still studying how to be an indie publisher, how to promote and market my books, and anything else I find useful. Currently reading Joanna Penn’s How to Make a Living From Your Writing, which will be swiftly followed by her Business for Authors. I can’t tell you how valuable I find Joanna’s books and her website, The Creative Penn. If you are a wannabe writer for both traditionally published or indie published fiction and non fiction, I would really recommend her books and website. I’m not telling you this to earn money, this is my actual opinion.

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I’ve been making apple pie recently. A friend in the village I live in gave me a big bag of apples from their apple tree and I made a huge pot of pie filling. I made two apple pies – one for us and one for my friend (well it’s actually her and her husband) – and I have enough leftover for another. Yum!

I have also been getting into making sour dough. My starter is started. His name is Fred and I have been feeding him all week. Fred lives on the island of my kitchen in a large Kilner jar. He sits there and bubbles and froths and generally looks happy. I am starting to think of him as a living being, which I suppose he is being all wild yeast. I will give him a couple of more days and then I am going to make sour dough bread. Wish me luck.

Due to aforementioned injury, I have been unable to hold books to read so I am still reading Radclyffe Hall’s biography. I am enjoying it, but I am yearning to get on to another book. Sigh. Maybe tonight I’ll got to bed early and get through a couple more chapters. What books are you all reading at the moment? Do any of you have any recommendations? Please message me.

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Okay, I am going to finish up now. It’s 7.38pm GMT and I am about to indulge in a cup of tea and a couple of chocolate digestives. My Dr Who loving son is currently watching older episodes of Dr Who (Christopher Eccleson) – thankfully it’s not that Fred movie again, hate that movie – and I am about to throw him off to watch another Grace & Frankie.

Looking forward to chatting with you again soon. Til next time!

Dawnxxx

 

 

This month – the deaths of Duncan and Macbeth

You know how I love history? Well I love literature too! So I’ve combined my interest in both in the following article. Did you know Macbeth and his cousin died in the same month, albeit several years apart? There’s also a lot of other interesting facts about the two. Read on…

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Duncan.

What he hath lost noble Macbeth hath won

It’s hard to imagine that when you look around the rolling farmland and lush fields of Pitgaveny that this was once the scene of one of history’s most notorious killings.

But 975 years ago, on August 14, 1040, the infamous Macbeth took on his cousin Duncan and the rest as they say is history.

Pitgaveny near Elgin is as rural as you can get with the local Estate Farm providing a lovely setting for the annual family Spring open day. There you can ride tractors, take part in archery or buy produce from local businesses, including from Macbeth Butchers.

With the only danger being the persistent Highland midge, it’s hard to believe that this was the scene of a death that centuries later was immortalised by Shakespeare.

It was late summer when the then King of Scotland, Duncan, rode north to sort out his erstwhile cousin Macbeth, Mormaer of Moray, for some wrongdoing that has since been lost to history. Confident in his own abilities, he was going to teach Macbeth a lesson he would never forget.

Unfortunately for Duncan, the opposite turned out to be true.

Their armies met at Pitgaveny – then known as Bothnagowan – and a bloody battle ensured. For all Duncan’s confidence, it was not going to be his day. Slain in battle, probably by Macbeth himself, he not only lost his life but his crown too…instead of it going to his son, the title of King of Scotland was snatched by Macbeth for himself.

But who were Duncan and Macbeth and what are their real stories?

Laurence Olivier as Macbeth.

Laurence Olivier as Macbeth.

Well, Shakespeare would have it that Macbeth kills Duncan in his sleep at Birnam Hill in Perthshire in 1040 and later dies himself at Dunsinane. Written nearly 600 years after the true events, Shakespeare took a bit of liberty with the accuracy of the story.

In fact, Duncan’s story begins around 1001 when he was born to Crinan, Abbot of Dunkeld and Bethoc, daughter of Malcolm II.

Born into a tumultuous time in Scottish history, Duncan would have grown up during a period of great violence and unrest in the country. The clans had been fighting each other for centuries and the country was under almost constant attack from Viking raids.

There were four kingdoms in Scotland at that time: Moray in the north, Strathclyde in the west, the Norse-Gael kingdom of the western coasts and Hebrides, and south-east Scotland which was ruled by the Earls of Bernicia (formerly south-eastern Scotland and north-eastern England) and Northumbria.

To strengthen his own position, Malcolm II – who didn’t have any sons – married off his three daughters to important dynasties across Scotland. Bethoc (mother of Duncan) married Crinan, Thane of the Isles, head of the House of Atholl and Abbot of Dunkeld. Donada (mother of Macbeth) married Finlay, Earl of Moray, Thane of Ross and Cromarty. His youngest Olith married Sigurth, the Earl of Orkney.

With the north secured and with the help of King Owen (Owen the Bald) of Strathclyde, in 1018 Malcolm rode south-east and took on the Earls of Bernicia at the battle of Carham near the river Tweed. He won, securing the area for himself making him the most powerful man in Scotland.

Later that same year, King Owen died without issue and Duncan was named rightful heir because of his marriage to Sybil (also known as Sibylla, Sibyl or Suthen) who is thought to have been related to the Strathclyde royal family. The couple went on to have three sons, including the future Malcolm III and Donald III.

Duncan’s life seems to have been relatively uneventful until 1034, at the age of 33 when he ascended the throne of Scotland following the death of his grandfather, Malcolm II.

There appears to have been no opposition to his claim and everything went smoothly at first. Problems only developed later when he proved himself not to be the effective king everyone hoped he would be.

Nicknamed An t-Ilgarach, “the Diseased” or “the Sick”, he seems to have ruled peacefully until 1038 when he led a disastrous campaign into Northumbria where he besieged Durham. However, the English army was too much for him and he was forced to retreat home to Scotland with his tail between his legs.

Unlike Shakespeare’s depiction of Duncan as a good and wise king, the real king was useless as a leader and two years later he was forced to ride north to Moray – stronghold of Macbeth – on that fateful and deadly expedition to punish his cousin.

No-one knows the reason for the falling out, but Duncan lost and was later buried on the Isle of Iona.

O valiant cousin! worthy gentleman!

Macbeth was four years younger than Duncan and related to him through his mother, Donada who was the sister of Duncan’s mother, Bethoc. They shared a maternal grandfather, Malcolm II.

Although Shakespeare claimed Macbeth had no legitimate entitlement to the throne of Scotland, in reality he had a strong claim. Not only was he the grandson of Malcolm II, but he was also directly descended from the great king Kenneth MacAlpin.

Now Macbeth’s rise to power is an interesting, if bloody, one. In 1020, his father Finlay MacRory was murdered by his nephews Malcolm and Gillecomgan. The reasons are lost in the mists of time, but it was probably to get control of the Moray area.

Malcolm then ruled as Mormaer of Moray – effectively a king or earl – from 1020 to 1029 when he died. He was succeeded by his brother Gillecomgan who died three years later, horrifically burned to death with 50 of his men. It is not known who carried out this atrocity, but Macbeth is certainly in the running along with his grandfather Malcolm II.

Lady Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth.

On Gillecomgan’s untimely death, Macbeth then took on the position of Mormaer of Moray. He married Gillecomgan’s widow, Gruoch, two years later, naming her son by Gillecomgan, Lulach, as his successor. They had no children of their own.

Eight years later, following Duncan’s death, Macbeth was crowned King of Scotland and reigned successfully for 17 years from his fortified castle at Dunsinane near Perth.

But all was not all was peaceful. Macbeth had to fight hard to retain his crown. In 1045, Crinan, Duncan’s father, rose up against him and was killed in battle at Dunkeld. The Earl of Northumbria also led an invasion in 1054.

Macbeth finally met his end in August, 1057 when he fought the future Malcolm III (Duncan’s son) and his army at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire. It is believed he was fatally wounded and is thought to have died at Scone, some 60 miles away, a few days later.

Malcolm was finally crowned King of Scotland in 1058.

 

William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare.

 

The play

Macbeth – or the Scottish play – is thought to have been written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1606. Most likely he wrote it after 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of Scotland and England. James was a patron of Shakespeare’s acting company and this could have been a way of the playwright currying favour with his king.

In the theatre, the play is believed to be cursed and is only referred to as ‘the Scottish play’. The story goes that Shakespeare is thought to have used real spells during the three witches’ scene angering local witches who cursed future productions. To say its name in a theatre is said to doom the production to failure and put the cast in danger.

It is Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy and the first actor thought to have played Macbeth may have been Richard Burbage, the star of Shakespeare’s company, The King’s Men.

http://www.william-shakespeare.info/shakespeare-play-macbeth.htm

 

 

In case you don’t already live in this wonderful country, here are some links to find out more about Duncan and Macbeth’s Scotland@

See Dunkeld: http://www.dunkeldandbirnam.org.uk/

See Elgin: http://www.elginscotland.org/

And Dunsinane: http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/26129

Find out more about historical Moray (pronounced Murray): http://www.morayconnections.com/

Visit the holy isle of Iona: http://www.welcometoiona.com/

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth is named Thane of Cawdor. On August 30, Cawdor Castle is the venue of The Chamberlain’s Men version of the bard’s Twelfth Night. For more information go to: http://www.cawdorcastle.com/Events/August.aspx

 

 

 

Jeezo! That’s some wind! And a small tribute to Nora Ephron

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I cannot believe how stormy it is again today. The poor kids were nearly blown off their feet going into school this morning. It was so bad during the night that I kept waking up thinking the world was ending. Hopefully it’ll die down by this afternoon when I go to pick them up. It’s also bitterly cold and yesterday we had snow. The snow is now away (it was that wet slushy stuff that’s no good for anything), but we have these icy winds (up to 101 mph in some places) to contend with. I am glad I’m in a warm house today, I can tell you! Poor souls that don’t have homes to go to.

Anyway, what’s your week been like? I’ve had a really busy time at work, which is good because I love writing and getting my teeth into an article, so have been writing lots of articles for newsletters for work. Outside work, we’ve been mainly staying inside because the weather has been so awful (we’ve also had really heavy rain…apparently the roads around here resembled rivers last night the rain was that hard. Of course, there was also a lot of melting snow as well!). What I’ve mainly been doing with my time outside work is: house stuff (the usual boring things like housework, making dinners etc), writing (did some this morning already!), reading (finished my latest Molly Keane novel – I really enjoyed it although I’m starting to find she seems to end her books quite abruptly) and catching up with telly (me and the girl are enjoying Castle from the beginning again and I’m loving Father Brown). I’ve also been knitting up some little projects for our knitting group to do at the school…will show you these soon.

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Nora Ephron

What else has been happening? Just started Nora Ephron’s The Most Of Nora Ephron book. It’s a collection of some of her articles and essays. Really interesting and beautifully written. I first came across her as a screenwriter/director – You’ve Got Mail, Michael and Julie & Julia are three of all time favourite films!

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I think she has a lovely feel for telling a story on film. Her films always make you feel warm and cosy and just well, nice. They are great films for a stormy afternoon (as today looks like it will be!), sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive. No-one telephones, no-one bothers you. It’s just you and the film. Before the opening credits have even finished, you find yourself relaxing into a contented blob and drinking in the warmth and loveliness of the story. A couple of hours go by in a flash and you come out of your blissful stupor feeling like you’ve just had your first kiss: dazed and happy. I’ve only just really started this book, but am enjoying it immensely. For me it’s part story (although this is a work of non fiction), part history (so far we’ve tales from the 70s) and part humour (she’s a witty wummin!). Nora died in 2012 and what a great loss that was not just for her family and friends, but for people like me…fans who think she was wonderful.

Anyway, I am getting a bit gushy and the wind is howling all the more, so I will get on with writing this blog!

I’ve been writing this blog for a number of years now and it surprises even me that I can continue to keep it going. It’s not easy trying to find something to write about every week, to keep it even remotely interesting when my life is rather mundane at times (not that I am unsatisfied…I am a home bird who likes to do homey things, but they don’t often make good copy). I suppose it’s a good thing I’m a bit of a chatterbox, I think that helps when writing. If I’m stuck, I always think ‘well what would I tell my friends if they asked me what I’d been up to?’ and that’s what I do. I also like to see what other bloggers write about as this often inspires me. If in doubt, don’t copy, but emulate!

Right, I will really have to go now. Got stuff to do: at least another 700 words to write and a phonecall to make to family members.

Til next time! Have a good week. If you are in the throws of this storm, stay safe.

Dawn xxx

Wednesday Word…Cake

noun: cake; plural noun: cakes

an item of soft sweet food made from a mixture of flour, fat, eggs, sugar, and other ingredients, baked and sometimes iced or decorated.

verb
verb: cake;

(of a thick or sticky substance that hardens when dry) cover and become encrusted on (the surface of an object).

That’s from my school friend Susan Thomas…it’s certainly one of my fave words too!!

A racy new writer and catching up with friends

The List

Had an excellent night last night! Was out at the launch of my friend Joanna Bolouri’s brand new book The List at Argyle Street Waterstone’s. I’ve known Joanna since she was a child. She is the daughter of my dear friend Yvonne who was my very first editor (she basically took a chance on me and gave me my first newspaper job) on the Glasgow South & Eastwood Extra local newspaper. I’ve known Yvonne for 25 years…can’t believe it’s been that long (she still looks great!)…and Joanna for about as long.

The List is Joanna’s debut book and is a fantastically funny story about Phoebe Henderson who’s been single since she caught her boyfriend in bed with another woman. With her friend Lucy she creates a list of ten things she’s always wanted to do in bed and as the book blurb goes: ‘One year of pleasure, no strings attached. Simple, right?’ Already started this book and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s hysterically funny, brilliantly written and one I can barely put down! If you love a great story, a good belly laugh and some brilliant capers, you’ll love The List. Available at all major outlets…and, no, Joanna has not paid me nor asked me to promote this book! It’s so good I have no qualms about doing it!! NB Not one for the kids!

Last night I also managed to catch up with a fair few folk I haven’t seen for years and it was brilliant. So thanks to Joanna for the invite…had a great time and I wish you all the best with your book!

Plus DarkIsle: The Final Battle is now out!! It’s the final one in the trilogy and just as exciting and pacy as the other two. I hope you enjoy it!

Right, that’s the excitement over. I don’t go out a lot (my choice), so any night out is extremely exciting. I don’t go out a lot because I have such a lot going on in my life at home that I am often too tired to go out. Plus home is definitely where my heart is, so I don’t need to have a lot of excitement to have a great life. It’s all here!!

This week I’ve been working as usual, but am off next week for the Easter hols. Me and the kids started the hols off with a trip to a local soft play area, which was a good idea in the beginning, but hell to end with. We were meeting some friends there, which was great. The only thing that wasn’t great was the hellish racket all the kids were making as they played. Two hours of it and I’d had enough. We came home to peace and quiet. My kids had a great time and it was good to catch up with friends, but my eardrums are still recovering!!

Yesterday, had a friend over to watch Monday’s Game of Thrones. Oh my God do I love that programme! I watched it Monday night with hubby and I watched it all over again with Mac (my friend) yesterday. Fantastic! As soon as I hear the opening music, my heart starts beating faster and my stomach flips in excitement. Sad, but true. Monday’s episode didn’t disappoint and can’t wait til next week’s.

This weekend, I am planning to do a bit of writing and to clean out my car. It’s badly in need of a clean, but every time I go to do it it’s raining hard. Plus it stinks of oil which isn’t great. Took it for an MOT and service yesterday and it came back reeking of oil. Hopefully it’ll dissipate soon!!

Right, am off to do something else…like getting dressed (am writing this at 10.25am on Saturday morning!). Til next time!

Dawn xxx

On Writing

PS also reading Stephen King’s On Writing…it’s excellent. He has such a good voice when he writes and this comes across beautifully in his book which is part biog, part writing guide. I’m not a fan of his books (because I don’t like horror mainly because I can’t sleep for weeks afterwards), although I love some of the films that have been made from them (Shawshank Redemption is one of my all time favourite films), but I think he’s a great writer and story teller. Not literary, but that doesn’t matter!! I think a book should be judged on it’s story telling and not how fancy the words are! Anyway, On Writing is good.