Why I Want to Stick My Head in a Bucket and John Boyne is My New Favourite Author

So, how’s your week been so far? It’s Wednesday and I am truly suffering from hayfever today. Although the weather has got slightly colder and it was raining last night (so welcome – that heat last week was way too much for me), my allergies have gone into overdrive. I just want to dunk my face into a big bucket of cold water. That’s what I feel like doing.

Well, I’ve gone and did it. I actually started writing Envy over the weekend, my second book in the Sisters of Sin series I’m writing with international authors. I have about 4000 words written already. My plan is to write a minimum of 2000 words a day so that I have my first draft finished by the end of next month.  Wish me luck!

Just finished reading John Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky:

It’s a superb book. I really recommend it. It’s about a handsome writer who will stop at nothing, including murder, to make it as a writer. Just when you think he can’t stoop any lower, he does. Even the ending is just him all over. I was glued to it, truly gripped. It is told from the point of view of various unfortunates that the protagonist, Maurice Swift, comes into contact with. This book was leant to my by my lovely friend Jane, who also leant me four other John Boyne books. Thank you Jane. You’ve made me a John Boyne fan. Can’t wait to start the next one.

I am also in the process of reading Craig Martelle’s How to Be a Successful Indie Writer:

It’s full of great tips on running your own indie author business. I’ve had this book for a while, but not read it. I decided recently that if I every want to make a go of being an indie author I better get my head down, learn everything I can and just do it.  Part of that is reading this book and three others in the same series, and I also wrote down some aims and objectives. You gotta have a plan!

Right, I am going to finish up here. Til next time,

Dawn xx

 

How to Start Writing Fiction

Here’s an article I put up on Medium yesterday and it got such a good response, I decided to share it with you here…

Writing is something that many people aspire to do. I don’t know how many times people have said to me, once they’ve found out I’m a writer, that they want to write a book.

But actually starting a book and, more importantly, finishing it are a whole different ball game.

Let’s get this over with first – if you think writing a book is easy, stop reading now. Even the simplest children’s book takes time and effort. Writing is hard work. So, if you’d much rather play your Xbox or watch tv, cheerio.

Right, everyone still here who actually wants to write? Let us begin.

I once taught writing for children at Glasgow University and I always loved the enthusiasm my students had for the subject. I told taught them many things, so of which I’m going to share today.

Note: this article is about all kinds of writing, not just for children, so please don’t leave.

Right, on to the good bit: getting started.

The first question anyone ever asks me is are you rich? For the sake of full disclosure, I should tell you I am not rich and never have been. The second question is: where do you get your ideas from? My answer: anywhere and everywhere.

I find getting ideas for stories easy. They are born through reading, through people watching, through things I’ve seen on television. I can be drifting off to sleep and suddenly an idea will pop into my head. They come more easily if I’m bored and my mind starts to wander.

I jot down the idea in a notebook or in my cell phone, and tuck it away for a later date when I can revisit it.

Here are other suggestions for gaining ideas for stories:

  1. Ask yourself ‘what if…?’ – What if that person were actually a time traveller? What if my next-door neighbour was a spy? What if my pet could talk?
  2. Take a scenario and give it a twist. Write down a regular sentence such as: The man walked down the street and met his mother. Now give it a twist: The spaceman walked down the gangway and met an elephant. It doesn’t have to be that silly, but should give you a little mind boost that will trigger other ideas.
  3. Look at street names or car number plates and create a character from it. Then ask yourself: who is this person, what do they do and what is their story?
  4. Cut some images out of a magazine or download and print them. Put them together and create a story from what you see. It could be an alpaca at the beach with an ice-cream seller or a tramp with a glamorous film star at a fast-food restaurant.
  5. Go to an outside space and people watch. Jot down their descriptions and what they are doing. Give them a name and a job. Start to work out who they are and what they are doing with their lives.

Hopefully, this has given you a little boost and you’ll start writing some amazing. Remember: in order to be a great writer, you should read, read and read some more. Read everything and anything. Read the greats and the not-so-greats…only then will you be able to recognise amazing writing and be able to produce some yourself.

I’m planning to do more of these short articles on writing, so keep an eye out.


Back to this week and there’s not much to update.  I was supposed to see a friend on Saturday afternoon, but it was so blustery here in the west coast of Scotland that we had to cancel. I just don’t find sitting out in a wet and freezing cold garden appealing.

Book update – am back planning the second of my Sisters of Sin books. I hope to start writing it next week. The first book, Greed, is currently with beta readers and I’m awaiting their views. * gnaws at nails nervously *

Reading – still on Babylon Berlin and it’s really good. The tv series has added a lot of back story to Gereon and Charlotte that is not in the book, but that’s okay. Still loving it.

TV – today I expect to finish all 11 series of Shameless and I feel bereft already. It was a wonderful series full of mad capers and I’ve loved it. Sigh.

Right, that’s it for this week. Till next time,

Dawn xx

Two books down and Volker Kutscher

Hi everyone! How are you? Hope you’re all well. How’s your week been? Well, I’ve got a couple of exciting things to share.

Firstly, I finally finished editing my Sisters of Sin novel. It’s called Greed and is romantic suspense story about a female assassin. As it’s part of a series, it won’t be published until early next year, but I’ll keep you posted. I have another one to write – about an assassin code-named Envy – for the series and plan to start on it next week.

Secondly, my Paisley book is finished and, as part of it, I’m just about to draft up a short graphic novel depicting one of the historical facts from the book. Once I have some images to show you, I’ll do that. The illustrations are being done by my very good friend and fab illustrator, Mandy Sinclair.

It’s so nice to have some good news to share. Something different from the norm. It still feels like Groundhog Day, but at least now I’ve had my first vaccination, I can see a tiny speck of light at the end of the tunnel!

On to TV and film. Well, I have just finished binge watching Call the Midwife and thoroughly enjoyed it, although Barbara’s demise did leave me in tears. The thing I like about this series is that it’s gentle, you don’t have to concentrate too hard to enjoy it, and the styles and music are fantastic. It’s one of my guilty pleasures and I can’t wait for the new series which starts very soon.

On to books, I’ve been trying to read, but I’ve been so busy lately that I’m shattered by the time I crawl into bed and switch the light out. I normally go up at 9pm and read for a while, but I’ve been going up at the same time and going to sleep.   I’ve had a couple of extra clients for my business plus I had to complete an assignment for university, so that’s probably why.

I have got a book to start which is Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher. I really LOVE LOVE LOVE the tv series, so wanted to read the books. Got the first one to start and I can’t wait.

I’m also reading Bruce Block’s ‘The Visual Story’ which is about creating the visual structure of film, tv and digital media. It’s useful to know this stuff for my scriptwriting, but it should also feed into my novel writing and maybe even other parts of my working life. Only just started it and am hooked already.

Right, so you are up-to-date on everything at the moment. I’m sorry I’ve not had much to tell you. It’s so difficult to be exciting about writing when most of it is hard slog. However, I’m getting there with my novels and have already started planning my next series – a steampunk, fantasy set in Victorian Glasgow. I’ll tell you more about that in the future, it’s way too early just now.

Til next time,

Dawn xxx

Ten Top Tips for Writers

Okay, so I’m thinking my blog is getting really dull due to me not doing very much. With that in mind, I’ve decided to try and make it more useful to other people who want to write. So, this week I’ve collated some top tips for people who want to be or who are writers.

Before that, a quick roundup of what’s been happening chez moi. Firstly, I’m getting new roof insulation put in today. My old insulation is shot to pieces, so it desperately needs replaced. I’m getting foamy spray stuff put on the inside of the roof. It’s non toxic and extremely good at insulating, but expensive. However, it’ll last for years and should cut my heating bills down, which would be good because it’s been snowy and freezing in Scotland for the past few weeks.

Secondly, I’ve started editing my Sisters of Sin novel. If you remember, I joined up with a group of international writers last  January/February with the intent of writing a book series together. However, the series hasn’t materialised yet due to the circumstances of the individuals within the group (lots of stuff has been going on) and the pandemic which side-swiped everyone (as it’s done for everyone else). The series was put on hold until now and it’s now we’re starting to pull it together with the intention of getting it out next January. I’ll keep you updated. It’s good to be getting back into writing. I’ve hardly been doing anything recently, just didn’t feel like it.

Thirdly, before I forget, how are you? Hope you’re all well. We’re find here, thank goodness, but getting a little stir crazy. The whole of the UK is still in lockdown again, which isn’t great, but it is what it is.

Fourth and final before we move on: did anyone watch It’s A Sin?? It was written by Russell T Davies – who is my favourite tv scriptwriter – and is set in the 1980s. It’s about a group of young gay men and their female flatmate and the impact of the AIDS epidemic. It sounds like it should be an horrific storyline, and it is harrowing and heart-breaking at times, but it’s such a good series. I highly recommend it. Plus the soundtrack (all 80s pop songs) is amazing – am hoping they put it out as a soundtrack you can buy! I’d forgotten how terrifying it was (as a heterosexual woman) when we were told about HIV and AIDS, so I can’t imagine what it was like for gay men at the time who were losing friends or dying of it themselves. I know there are still stigmas  attached to people with HIV and AIDS and prejudices against the LGBT population by some areas of society. However, I am so pleased we are not back where we were in the 80s. What happened then in terms of prejudice and hatred and fear was horrible. Anyway, watch the series, it’s amazing.

Right, now I’m going to go on to the writerly part of this blog post. Hold on to your hat!

  1. Carry a notebook and pen with you wherever you go so when inspiration/ideas strike you’ve got something to write them down in. You can also use your mobile to note down thoughts either as a note or as an audio piece.
  2. Write every day – set apart a time every day, even ten minutes, and write down something. Anything. This will get you into the habit of writing. It will also allow you to practise and develop your writing voice.
  3. Plan your writing – I know there are people out there who like to pants it (ie just write without planning) and I applaud those who can do that. However, I find that I can write every day and stick to a writing schedule if I have planned out what I’m going to say. You can plan your entire book or plan each chapter as you go. It’s up to you.
  4. Read, read, read – people ask me what’s the best way of learning how to write and I will always say read. That’s for fiction or non-fiction. I believe the only way of learning how to write well is to read exceptional writing. Then putting it into practise. Read everything: newspapers, magazines, online articles, short stories, poetry, fiction etc.
  5. On the subject of improving your writerly knowledge, research writing. There are lots of excellent blogs out there full of great tips and, seeing as how you’re reading everything anyway, why not read some of the great books on writing? My favourites include Stephen King’s On Writing, The Writing Gals, Craig Martelle, Save the Cat and  William Zinsser’s On Writing Well.
  6. If you are a fiction writer, write the story that you want to read. There’s no point trying to copy someone else. The best writing comes from a writer being passionate about their subject. The same holds true for non-fiction writers.
  7. Use strong words when writing. Passive, weak verbs make for weak prose. Instead of saying something was done to something (eg The girl had her hair done by the top stylist.) make is stronger by saying the person did the deed (The top stylist did her hair.)
  8. Don’t use cliches. Try to come up with  new ways of describing something.
  9. Get your story or text down and THEN go back and edit. And edit it some more. And edit it again. Don’t waste time by trying to get the perfect turn of phrase on your first go. Get the text down and then go back and zhoosh it up. 
  10. …believe in yourself. You can do it. So, what are you doing reading this blog? Get on with it!

Right, I am off to do more writing. Til next time!

Dawn x

 

 

 

Dogs, Chickens and 1920s Actresses

So, it’s been a couple of months since I last wrote a blog and that’s because November and December were pretty busy what with various birthdays and Christmas to organise. Not that we saw anyone over Christmas – my entire family stayed at home in their separate houses. We saw each other on Christmas Day via Zoom, but apart from that we didn’t get together.  I also had a lot of work on before Christmas and had a chicken pen to erect which took a lot longer than I imagined (more on that soon).

Anyway, sorry for not being around. It’s been a weird time recently what with the pandemic, Brexit and what’s been going on in America with people storming the Capitol building.  But, I’m not going to talk about either because they are just too depressing, so I’m going to start this blog off with something funny. Here’s some great animal videos I got on YouTube:

So, how are you all? Hope you’re well. Hmmm let’s see what’s been happening? Well, due to the pandemic I have not been going out. We’re now in total lockdown in Scotland, which means we can only go out for vital things (such as food and exercise).  Even before this lockdown, I was pretty much staying close to home anyway. I have been taking the dogs out for walks though and it’s been lovely to speak to other dog walkers (socially distanced of course) along the way. The dogs have been a Godsend in this pandemic. They are just so full of joi de vivre and ours are such cuddly, loving wee munchkins that they’ve made being stuck inside more bearable.

Red chicken

 

I do still have the aforementioned chickens who have not laid an egg since October (gurn – I miss their eggs, they were gorgeous), so are not pulling their weight!! Ha hahaha. I’ve bought them a bigger, walk-in pen for two reasons: firstly, I had to get them under cover as there’s Bird Flu about and it’s the law that your domestic fowl have to be kept away from wild birds.  They are not enjoying being incarcerated, but there’s nothing I can do about that. They’re original pen was too small, so I bought and constructed a new one. It’s much better, they have far more room.

Secondly, I was thinking about doing it anyway. They had been free range, but they cause chaos in the garden. I can’t plant anything as they eat anything that resembles tasty greens and they make a mess. So, into the pen they went and that’s where they’ll stay.

For the first time, I created and sold a calendar on Etsy. My Amazing Actresses of the 1920s and 1930s was packed full of beautiful black and white images of famous actresses of the time. And they are selling quickly. More coming soon. If you are looking for a calendar and fancy this one, buy it here: Amazing Actresses of the 1920s and 1920s Calendar 2021 | Etsy     

I’m definitely going to do them again for the end of this year along with some other ones. Watch this space for more details!

What else have I been doing? Been back knitting for my Etsy shop. This time it’s vintage tea cosies. Will get those up for sale soon.

Books

Books I have been reading include Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Lady Anne Glenconner. It wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Although, in saying that I don’t know what I expected it to be like. It was nicely written and a great account of Anne Glenconner’s life as Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret, the wife of Colin Glenconner and as a mother of five. She had a lot of good times and some tragedy, but this is not the tell all I’d expected. There aren’t any truly juicy stories, which I’m sure she knows a lot of, but was still relatively interesting.

I’ve started back reading the Harry Potter series and here’s why: my interest in rereading them started up again through watching the entire film series with my daughter. We’ve only just today finished watching them. I really like the films, but the books are SOOOOO much better. So, will be starting The Philosopher’s Stone tonight. For films, we’re starting on the Star Wars franchise.

TV

TV over Christmas wasn’t great. There were  A LOT of reruns. However, I did watch a few things that I really enjoyed including the All Creatures Great and Small Christmas special, Bridgerton (wow, the Duke – you know who I mean ladies) and (oh joy!) the second series of A Discovery of Witches (which only came out on Friday and I’ve watched the entire series). I also watched The Alienist on Netflix and it was really good. If you like Victorian crime drama, The Alienist is for you.

Cooking

Other things I have been doing over the festive period include getting back into cooking again. And it’s been quite enjoyable. I lost my love of cooking around the same time as Ian becoming ill and never really regained it. But I started up again over Christmas and I’m enjoying it again, which is great. I’ve made various dishes – most of which my daughter has turned her nose up at – including a very lovely Chicken Korma curry at the request of my son. Weirdly, he did not eat it, but the girl did. So that was a sort of win.

Right, that’s all I’ve got to say today.  Going to feed the dogs and get the dinner on. It’s sausage and mash tonight…or should I make sausage and mash and Yorkshire pudding? Oh yes! The latter sounds great! Til next time.

Dawn xxx

 

 

 

Is it just me or is lockdown becoming really tedious?

 

The lovely Matt Bomer in White Collar.

How’s your week been? Much like last week, I’ll bet.  This virus stuff is getting tedious isn’t it? I know we have to stay away from other people as much as possible, but it’s hard. I daydream about going out as normal, meeting friends and family for lunch and having a laugh. However, in Scotland we’re not allowed anyone else in our houses. We can go out and meet them for lunch, but it’s just not the same. It’s not as relaxed. It’s always at the back of your mind that you could have Coronavirus and not know it and then pass it on to someone else, even though you do your best to stay two metres away.  I see Donald Trump and his wife have now been diagnosed with it. I really hope this is a wake-up call to him.  I don’t wish him or anyone to be seriously ill or killed by this disease, but he’s been so casual about it all in the past that it does feel a bit like karma that he has it. I hope he takes it more seriously now and starts listening to the experts about wearing a mask etc.

A wealth of lovely patterns and hand-knitted items at my shop.

Anyway, that is my moan for today. So, what have I been up to lately? Well, it’s much the same as always: I work on our script, I write my SOS book, I work on my social media business and my vintage knitting business, Vintage Knit Treasures (that’s got some items for sale in it now including scarves and hats, see here for more info). It’s been very much ‘Groundhog Day’ for us, as I’m sure it’s been for everyone else. I have been comforting myself with watching tv (yesterday I decided to start watching White Collar again cos I love it and Matt Bomer is just yummy). Watched Enola Holmes and really enjoyed it, although I thought the ending was a bit flat. Really hope they do another one. Millie Bobby Brown is really good in it and Henry Cavill (does that man ever smile?) and Sam Claflin play her brothers Sherlock and Mycroft beautifully. Plus they are both good to look at. 😉  What? A girl needs a bit of eye candy every now and again. Widowhood can be quite dull you know!

Millie Bobby Brown leads the cast in Enola Holmes.

That about sums up my week.  It feels lately that we’re just sitting in limbo at the moment.  We can’t look forward to Halloween or Guy Fawke’s because that’s been cancelled. I had to tell the kids they couldn’t go out guising this year (guising is the Scottish word for trick or treating) and they were disappointed. Our local Guy Fawke’s Night celebration at our scout hut has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus. Tell you a laugh, my American friend, the lovely Terry Wells Brown asked me why the British celebrate Guy Fawke’s Night and I told her about the bomb plot to blow up parliament and the king in 1605 and how it was stopped and ever since then we celebrated every November 5. Then it occured to me: do we celebrate because it was stopped or because he tried to blow up parliament?? I hadn’t really thought about it before. Obviously, the celebration must be about because the plot was stopped, but if you speak to people about him they talk about the Gunpowder Plot with glee and Guy Fawke’s almost like a hero.  It’s almost like it’s a bit of a joke that it happened. 🤔   On Guy Fawke’s Night, we let off fireworks, have sparklers and have a party. There’s always a bonfire where an effigy of Guy Fawke’s is burned (the real Guy Fawke’s was tortured and hung for his part in the plot). Hmmm.

Guy Fawkes was also known as Guido Fawkes.

Moving on to Christmas and I fear we won’t be able to visit family on Christmas day.  It will be rubbish, but if it has to be, it has to be. The worst case scenario will be that I will set up a Zoom call with them. Anyway, we have 12 weeks (?) til then. Hopefully something good will happen and the virus will die off (miraculously) and we will be able to get together after all.

Right, enough of my musings. I am away to do some work (I’m always working, keeps me out of mischief!). Til next time.

Dawn xx

New business, new FB group and a busy week

writing 3

So, how are you all this week? Hope you are all well. We’re all good here at Nelson Towers. The kids are back at school full time now, which is great for me because I get more peace during the day to write. As usual I’ve been busy, busy with all the projects I’ve been involved in. That includes scriptwriting, my SOS novel and some articles I’ve been writing for Medium (follow me here).

I’ve started up a vintage knitting pattern business on Etsy selling knitting patterns from the 1940s onwards. Some of these patterns are rare so you won’t find them anywhere else. My shop is called Vintage Knit Treasures  and there’s a range of patterns for men, women and kids. If there’s something you’d like, but you don’t see it in my shop, contact: vintageknittreasures@gmail.com and ask me and I’ll see if I can source it for you. I’ve been knitting some vintage things to put up for sale too and I’ll do that once I’ve made a few.

My time over the past week has been taken up not just with writing, but with my social media business. I have a few new clients, which is great, so I’ve been busy creating and scheduling posts for them. I use Canva to create the posts – I love it because it’s easy to use and the images are great. For videos, I use Win Movie Maker. I’ve been working on developing some videos for clients and they’re working well.

So, what else has been happening? Not much. All that I’ve been talking about before has been taking up most of my time. In my downtime, I’ve been relaxing and binge watching The Borgias, which I think I spoke about in my last post. I love that series. Can’t believe I never watched it before. It’s SOOOOO good.

Reading-wise, I’ve finished The Mistress of Mayfair and am reading a book on the history of the lost gold from the Reichsbank in Berlin. The Nazis took it out of the bank and hid it before the Russians and Americans entered Berlin at the end of the Second World War. I’m fascinated by that era and I love a good treasure hunt, so this book, which is factual, is just the ticket.

Anything else? Nope, I think that’s about it. I’ve joined a new group on FB called The Debt Free Divas. It’s a group of women supporting each other, sharing tips on being more frugal, sharing recipes and highlighting any deals that are going on. There’s info on how to get out of debt (I’m not in debt, but am interested in a whole lot of other things the group is doing), paying off mortgages, how to plan for early retirement and business. It’s only just started, but if you’re a lady (35-75-ish) who’s interested, go here and request to join. We’d love to see you there.

Right, am away now. Got some more writing to do before the kids come in from school. Have a great week and I’ll see you next week.

Dawn xxx