Sunday, May 15, 2016

A challenge - three beautiful things

I always enjoyed a blog called Three Beautiful Things. It’s closed now but I admired how the writer managed to find three beautiful things in her life every day. It’s not easy, especially when beset by problems or illness but when I read her daily blog I always managed to find three of my own beautiful things.

I only have to look out of my kitchen window at the view of the Severn Plain and the city of Worcester in the distance to know how beautiful this area is. I love the misty mornings (heat haze) when the spires of churches appear out of the mist.

The huge bunch of flowers a friend brought for me that was separated into four different vases. Each vase looked beautiful but I took time to really look at each flower. They are incredible works of art.

A cup of tea can be a beautiful thing, especially when it’s made by the LSO and carried upstairs to my desk. I will often sit and drink it mindfully. That means do nothing else but concentrate on drinking the tea, the taste of it, the warmth of the mug, the steam on my face.

I think you need to be mindful – the new buzzword – to appreciate anything. What’s the use of being in front of an amazing view if you’re texting at the same time? What’s the point of being with friends if you’re messing about on some bit of technology?

I throw out a challenge for anyone reading this. How about, once in a while, you post three beautiful things on your blog, or leave them in the comments here now.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Oops! A broken end.

A friend arrived carrying a cactus. She’d seen the collection I had growing in a beautiful bowl (part of a jug and basin set but the jug was broken) and thought I’d like another to add to it. The new arrival was three feet tall and was slightly bent at the top. It must have taken years to grow. I sat it on the floor in the porch ready to be re-potted but two days later as the LSO took his coat off the hook it hit the cactus and broke the end off. There was still a bit attached. My friend must have had it for years. Within two days we’d wrecked it. But all is not lost. A cocktail stick (no pun intended) was inserted between the two broken halves and it was secured together. Once re-potted it leaned to the left so it’s now being supported by a cane. Send it some love so that it will heal. I’ve called it Phallus Giganticus Eerectii.

There's the bowl and, at the back, to the right of the cane, is the PGE.

And here's the top end of it. Rather bent. And I really must look for a thinner cane. The cactus needs support until it's put down roots in its new home.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Writing Weather

It’s been perfect writing weather. We’ve had high winds, snow, sleet and hail. In-between there’s been some cold sunshine. Great weather for sitting at my desk, central heating on and getting on with some work.
I’m a lucky writer because I get a regular income from my columns, or features as Anita Loughrey prefers now. A column sounds just that – a column. A feature will cover a whole page, or even two. I’m now selling stories again too. Three in the past fortnight.
Years ago, an editor from a D C Thomson magazine phoned me to ask if I had any stories for him. He was short of them. I was out of breath when I answered the phone and he asked if I’d run in from the garden. I told him no. I’d run upstairs. Then he told me that he got fewer stories in summer because most of his writers were part-timers or hobby writers and were out in the garden during the summer months. There’s a tip for you – send off some stories this summer.

Q.  Where would you expect to see those words and what do they mean to you?

A.  They were on a M&S till receipt and they were short for A Touch Of Butter.    

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Lynne's secret diary - aged nine years and exactly one month

Editing wasn’t taught at school. I had to learn about it much later.
If I had edited this piece there would not have been that repetition in the second sentence – 
On the way we bought some sweets and ate them on the way.
And there’s another lesson for writers here. We’ll often write about what we know and assume everyone else knows too. Why would Miss Tipper know who Susan and David were? I should have added a few words to say they were my cousins and much younger than me.

My first thought was that this entry was a bit on the boring side but Auntie Beryl still lives in that house at Stourport. I clearly remember going to see those foundations. So this is a little bit of family history.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Not writers' block. I get writers' jam.

I often think, What am I going to write today?
It must be lovely to be a crime writer and know that you are going to sit down and continue with the main plot, a red herring and a sub-plot. Or how about a romantic novelist who will switch on her computer knowing that her hero and heroine are waiting for her together with a complete cast of characters?         
Some days I wish I was a novelist. Instead I am a butterfly writer. I gave myself that label. It means that I flit from one thing to another.
A typical morning begins with me switching on the computer, staring at the screen and wondering what to write. Does that sound familiar? What I should do is decide the night before which tasks I am going to undertake the following day but the order of tasks is put off until the last minute. Why? Because of Writers’ Jam. Jam as in traffic jam. The ideas are queuing up in my head but where do I start?  My ideas are like an assortment of vehicles lining up, jostling for position.
My book, a magnificent (hopefully) Rolls Royce, revs its engine loudly. Choose me. A deep honk from a sturdy family saloon sounds urgently. That’ll be the host of emails that need replies. And then there’s a chorus of tiny beeps from a medley of Minis - the short story department.
This morning I heard a tiny splutter from an apologetic little Robin Reliant.  ‘Don’t forget me. I’m important too.’ Yes, you are. It’s my regular piece, Novel Ideas, for Writing Magazine and with the deadline looming I allow the little three-wheeler to manoeuvre its way to the front of the queue. It smirks up at the Rolls. ‘My turn,’ it says. 
I have managed to prioritise. Novel Ideas is first today. Prioritising is something I am always trying to perfect.

We hear too much about Writers’ Block, especially as it doesn’t exist. If you think you’re blocked go and do something else. You probably only need a change of scenery, a bit of stimulation. Writers’ Jam does exist. Perhaps it isn’t mentioned because it sounds rather pompous. ‘I’ve got so many ideas I don’t know where to begin.’ Believe me, Writers’ Jam is out there and a lot of writers don’t know how to cope with it. It is too easy to sit and wonder which project to work on and maybe flit from one to another. And that’s why I’m a butterfly. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Unintentionally funny or confusing writing

One of my annoying habits according to the LSO (I don’t believe I have any) is reading out the classified ads. Aloud! They can be so unintentionally funny and a lesson to all writers. Be careful how you choose your words.  What you write, or what you say, can be construed completely differently to how you meant it.
For example I once saw, in a Worcester newspaper  - ‘For sale. Very old black lady’s bicycle.’ I was so tempted to phone and ask how the very old black lady was.
Another favourite, remembered from years ago, was,  ‘Pensioner needs someone to cut parrot’s toenails’.  What a picture that conjures up, and there has to be a story in it too.  Why wasn’t the bird taken to the vet?  Why wouldn’t the vet come out to the bird?  Why couldn’t the pensioner do the job himself?
How about, ‘Ironing board.  Forced to sell due to house move.’ This one didn’t make sense at all to me, unless the seller was moving to a doll’s house, or perhaps the ad had been placed by the long suffering mother of six sons who all wore fresh shirts every day. In which case, I’d flog the ironing board too. 
There has to be a story in this one - ‘Rocking chair.  Cheap because dog chewed arms.’  I wonder what happened to the dog.  And I wonder why the rocking chair’s owner thought anyone else would want it in its chewed condition.
For years people have been describing articles for sale and prospective jobs, often in hilarious ways.  A friend once gave me a copy of an old poster which states - YOUNG GIRLS WANTED FOR PICKLING AND BOTTLING.  We all know what is meant by it.  Young girls are needed to help pickle and bottle fruit, onions etc. but what it actually says is something entirely different.  I always have visions of young girls, quite small ones, sealed inside enormous jars.  For some reason they blink at me through the pickling vinegar when they should have drowned in it.
And how confusing is ‘Pink basin with matching blue vanity unit’?

But what intrigued me the most must be, ‘Man with well-trimmed beard seeks woman for fun.’ What has a well-trimmed beard got to do with anything and, ooh, it’s too early in the morning to think about it, is the beard somehow involved in the fun? (Answers, not on a post card but in the comments please.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Books and depression

I’ve mentioned before about picking random books up when visiting the library. Just by going to a shelf and selecting a book – any book – I have found new authors and new favourites.
Not so this week. The two books I picked at random were about terrorism and torture. This is one of the reasons I left my book club. We had six depressing books in a row. Far too many for a sensitive soul like me to cope with.
Why, when the world is in so much turmoil, do writers insist on making things worse? Where’s the escapism? Who is going to give a brighter side to things, some hope for the future?
Why are doctors supposedly suggesting reading as a cure for depression? The book club’s offerings made me feel miserable. My random choices from the library made me feel the same. (Thank the Universe for Laurie Graham and those like her.)
As a short story writer I have judged competitions and found many depressing stories, often about what’s happening in the world at that time. I was a judge when Madeleine disappeared and half the entries were about abduction. Lately, judges have been complaining about the number of depressing stories. It would appear that the same doesn’t apply when it comes to novels. Make your reader unhappy, miserable. Show them the horrors of torture in graphic detail and sign your publishing contract.

I’m packing my bags and setting off to live in People’s Friend World.