Tuesday, 22 November 2016

NaNoWriMo

Years ago someone told me about this challenge, now in its 18th year, based in the USA. Basically it's a gauntlet thrown down to get people who talk about writing their novel to get on and do it - 50,000 words in the month of November. Go Google it, it's quite a big enterprise now, and people from all over the world have a bash every year.

I'm not new to writing work of that length and longer but short stories turned out to be more profitable and for a long time I've not settled down to produce more than about 15,000 words - that was a serial for Woman's Weekly, published in 2014.

But something went bump in the night and one of my three jobs is now an ex-job and although it was only one day a week, it still paid the bills. Without it I shall need to do some more writing and hopefully selling (it's the getting paid that's now more important than the fun of scribbling) and the discipline wasn't there so on 30th October at six in the morning I signed up for NaNoWriMo.

I think you're meant to join in August and plan your novel and the characters and the plot lines and be ready with all your notes to start on November 1st.

Well, I kicked off on November 1st with absolutely nothing in my mind except making myself write something. I plucked an idea out of my moth-eaten memories of a certain Luttrell Memorial Hospital, previously blogged about here about 5 years ago when it finally closed its doors. And I just kept adding to the characters and their lives and the things they got up to and when I got stuck on about Day Ten my editor at People's Friend suggested Ray Chandler's idea of introducing a man with a gun. That wasn't going to work but I loaded an ear syringe and fired that instead and off my burble went again. And it started to form a proper story with a real plot and a goodie and a baddie ...

My mate Gail (The Writing Bug Blog) is hard at this too. We met up on Saturday for a PepChat and a cup of tea and somewhere out there in the ether, she's galloping away towards The End as well.

Dear Reader, every day for 21 days I made myself push the story onward, straight onto the Word document, no editing, no stopping for the RSI that was developing in my hands or the bruising appearing on my forearms. My shoulders ached and my head hurt and HKC2 kept getting shoved off my knees because his paws each carry about 3lbs of pressure and it digs in after a while.

And last night I finally stumbled over the Finish Line, deliberately writing a hundred words or so more than the required 50,000 in case someone at HQ got funny about the words 'Chapter Ten' or whatever and not counting them into my total. They didn't get funny and they validated my count instantly and a nice little Certificate came through. I've only got a black and white printer and I believe someone with a colour one might have a prettier version than mine, but who's complaining? I have 87 single-line-spaced pages of a document (I hesitate to call this a novel) entitled In Memoriam.

It may be absolute twaddle, this wild free-writing exercise, and the required 50K words probably aren't the ones an editor would ask for in the order they're in, but it's done. 

I've proved a point to myself - I can do it. At a rate of about 2000 plus words on average each day it seems that having three jobs is no hindrance to sheer bloody-minded determination. Oh, the tyranny of seeing daily totals up there on the screen to bully you into not falling behind.

The discipline of it was something I need to incorporate into my daily routine now to keep writing. It was easier for me doing 'free writing' than it is for someone following their notes and plans because they might feel obliged to stick to them - and I had a non-stick pan in which to fry my story and just flea-jumped to a different character every time I thought I was bogging down.

Anyway, thank God it's over and I'm never doing it again. Can I now write at least a short story of saleable quality just once a week?

Watch this space, but keep your duster at hand, because you know how disciplined I am about keeping this Blog ...

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Hardly a lost Treasure

Well!  I've just been on Gail Crane's Blog The Writing Bug and since we're both occupants of the same Moor it seemed only fair to leave her some comments. We did know one another a long time ago but time does pass very quickly when one is busy and YEARS seem to have gone by a) since we spoke and b) since I wrote a single word on this poor neglected Blog.

See the dust?  You could write 'LAZY SOD' in it
And in a few weeks the dust will probably settle into the grooves again to prove the point

I can't promise to keep writing anything either useful or helpful here, but I must must MUST try to get back occasionally to update my 'diary'.

I keep a proper diary (actually since 1975) and the enormous leather suitcase - courtesy of my grandfather J.K.Bateman MRCVS - that carries all the books is so heavy I can no longer lift it. But a Blog Diary on line - no weight at all!  (And I can't lift that, either. Hmmn)
I wonder how long I'll be bothered with it this time?
Hmmn again.

What news? Some I won't tell you, some I can't, this I shall: Hoss is still carting me about the hills and woods and our beloved Moor. The HKCs (now depleted in number since Number One died in 2014 and is now pushing up a pink hydrangea in PJ's garden) are well. The title 'HunterKiller' is no longer required as their prefix. Both have retired to their sheepskins with no further thoughts of murdering ducks or rabbits or guinea-fowl or squirrels or stoats or any of the other delights they used to drag home for my delectation. Somehow a bowl of Felix seems to do them both very nicely thank you.
They still get fleas
And ...
Well come on, they're cats, of course they get those as well.
I don't.

Honest.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Middle-Kays

I've recently stumbled upon a Blogsite I really should have found long ago: bigblackhairydog.blogspot.co.uk. (Huh, that's sposed to show up as a 'take me there' line you can click on to get you there quicko-like, but since it has failed to do so, so you'll just have to type it in for yourself.)
It's full of the character from some of my favourite Christmas cards which come each year from my cousin (another one) who is a children's book illustrator. She's one of the 'Middle-Kays' I mentioned in September.
The 'character' is a ... well, he's a big black hairy dog and he's gorgeous and since I've found the site I've been wandering around in it giggling inanely.
Go take a look.
I need to Blog more often if I'm to get any street cred at all!
I can't get back into my original site (BlogThoughtsFromABroad.blogspot.co.uk) to write anything in that because I closed it down when I got 'acked a few years ago and they won't let me open it up again. So I must just bash on with this one, only a little more frequently.
My diary-journal is full, but this is empty. Must try harder.
Still faffing around with the next Serial and still failing to get the glue to stick.
The sewing machines (I have two of them now) are arguing over which one is going to make my next piece of ... artwork. The Toyota would win, but it's going in to service next week so the 1928 Kenbar looks like getting the job.
I'll let you know what 'appens, and I might even get some photos of previous creations (I only started in February!) just to prove I've not been entirely idle while the writing has been on hold.
TTFN

Monday, 15 September 2014

About 'Poppa' - James Kay Bateman


Just googled my grandfather, James Kay Bateman. He was a veterinary surgeon who was famous in his time for his orthopaedic work on racing greyhounds. He died in 1964. You wouldn't think anyone would know or care anything about him outside the family nearly 50 years after his death, would you, but I found a Revelation. A 93 year old retired vet from Donegal named Paddy Sweeney, now living in the north of England, has written twice about him in his Blog in 2013 (greyhoundfriend.blogspot.co.uk) and I can tell you I was riveted! I found out a few things about Poppa I hadn't formerly known.  My cousin Michael even put a comment on one of the BlogEssays about our grandfather - I haven't spoken to M for a number of years so it was strange to see him posting.
Poppa's middle name was Kay and both my cousin Bridget and I also bear that middle name - in Scotland Kay can be a boy's and a girl's name so we'll have no cracks about gender bending, thank you - and her daughter Martha has it also. We're the Middle-Kays!

Thank you, Mr Sweeney for your lovely post, I wish I could meet you!

My serial is still running in Woman's Weekly (part 3 this week) which is quite exciting for one such as I. Until asked to give it a try, I'd never even considered writing serials before and I fear this success may have been beginner's luck. Repeating the process is, quite literally, going to be another story! So far my editor Gaynor has sent back Part 3 THREE TIMES and I fear this latest serial is just not going to work.

Back to the drawing board ...







Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Mon Beau Sapin






I had absolutely no intention of decorating my new pad for Christmas, even though MMJ was due in on Christmas Eve.  His idea of decoration last year was a single 70 year old toy tree about 6" high that had couple of scraps of tinsel attached.
 
I was last-minute shopping on the 23rd after work and there in Bastins window was a sorry lump of green all bundled up under a group of pretty 'pencil trees', lying on its side, miserably waiting to be thrown out.

'99p' said the assistant as he hauled one of the pretty trees away for another customer. 'In fact, you can have it half price. I found it in the back from last year and I'd like rid of it.'
I could almost hear the tree sigh.  I picked it up.  It was intact, with a good wide base and its branches, although rammed together tightly, did seem to be in good condition.  I felt so sorry for it that I tucked it under my arm and took it to the till, where the assistant grinned and charged me 45p.  Bargain.

I wandered round Bastins again and saw a red mini-bead garland for £1.99.  I could hear the tree rustling with anticipation, like a little girl seeing her grandma eyeing up a pretty dress.

'Oh, go on then,' I told it, and bought the garland.

Biscuits, grapes, Alka-Seltzer, WD40, all the other essentials were bought in other shops and for some reason I went into PoundLand.
 
The tree prickled at me through its plastic bag, hopeful and wistful.  I'd stopped in front of some boxes of tiny glass angels, four for a pound ...

'Oh, go on then.'  I bought the angels - three boxes of them - and a mirror so that the tree would be able to see itself.

Just along the same aisle there were some weeny metallic baubles which were just the right size for a tiny tree ...

'Oh, go on then.'

When I got home, I popped the tree onto the table in the 'lounge-diner' (God, what stupid names the estate agents come up with) and unpacked.  I found some old LED mini-lights, a tiny string of them in the cupboard where I put the WD40 and when I'd stuck some new batteries in and fiddled with the on switch for five minutes, these dear little lights came on (and eventually stayed on) and I hung them round the little tree.

 I swear it grew taller and wider it was so proud of its jewellery.  The metallic baubles each needed a bit of thread so that I could hang them from the newly spread branches.  The mirror reflected the lights and when the tiny angels were added, I realised that by sticking an LED up each of their dresses, I had made real fairy lights!

My tree was so beautiful and so pleased and proud to be the only decoration in my house.
To humour it and to add to its pleasure, I turned off all the other lights so only the Christmas tree was shining.

Two and a half hours I spent fussing over that one bloomin' decoration.  Thank goodness there was only one or I'd have been up all night with the glue gun and the icing sugar and moving furniture around to show it all off to best advantage.

MMJ said, 'Oh for goodness' sake.'

Mon Beau Sapin said, 'At least I bothered getting dressed up for her.'

I said, 'Merry Christmas,' and added a butterfly I'd found for 50p to the top of the tree, in place of the more usual star.




Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Moon Room






A 'sun room' is a special room where the sun (when it deigns to shine at all) fills the space with light and makes one feel one is outside in the garden.  There's a lot of glass to clean of course, inside and out, but that's a price worth paying.

That's the normal sun room anyway.  My new abode has got one, but the sun never seems to shine when I'm at home so I don't get the benefit.  Or so I thought, until the early hours of the morning when I woke and wondered where the brightness was coming from.  I hadn't left a light on and the angels from the realms of glory weren't about, casting their light over all the earth.  The sliding door between my bedchamber and the euphemistically-named 'sun room' was fully back and the silver brightness was from the glorious full moon, free from her imprisoning clouds and sailing round the night sky in luminous splendour.  High as a summer midday sun, she was pouring forth beautiful reflected sunlight in through my windows and turning a very cool and otherwise uninspiring room into a magical place of silver and sharply outlined monochrome shadows.  

I got up and went out there to sit on my second-hand sofa to enjoy the Moon Room, feet on a sheepskin rug, back supported by pillows ... yes, I did fall asleep.  When I woke, very cold - there isn't any heating in that room - HKCs 2 and 3 were curled up against me, purring their approval of the midnight outing.  The moon had moved only a little in the twenty minutes or so I'd been dozing and my eyes, accustomed to the night, were able to pick out all the trees and shrubs and heather-domes in the moonlit garden.  What a treat to be awake to see the shadow-patterns made by 'the seven dwarfs' (mini-conifers) and all the other features of my new garden.  I was quite literally seeing it in a new light and suddenly I wondered if it isn't going to be such a boring garden to work with after all.  

The coolness sent me back to bed.  I left the sliding door open so that I could still see through into my Moon Room.  You'll be hearing more of this one! 


Monday, 21 January 2013

The Sixty-Nine Steps

It's been ages since I spoke to you. No point apologising, because it's going to happen again.

Those with long memories and even longer patiences might remember I lost 18lbs a couple of years ago, in 3 months and by walking a million steps at the rate of about 10,000 a day.  Here's the proof, bar three steps, that I did it:




I really did take the extra three at the end, but if the blessed thing goes over its million, it has the audacity to return to zero and I just couldn't face another million.

And therein lay my problem.  I went down to MMJ (My Mate John) for Christmas that year (2011, the photo was sometime around November) and it's all his fault that the weight started creeping back on.  By November 2012 all my clothes had shrunk again, buttons were screaming at me to release them, zips were sliding down to the bottom (well, another part of the anatomy anyway) and elastic pulled so tightly round my waist that I got indigestion on long car journeys (see March 2012)

Worse, I went to MMJ for Christmas again. He's a seriously good cook and even makes his own ice cream and ... no, don't even think about it.  I hit 62kg again.  Dis-bloody-GUSting.
New Year's Resolution: Dump the flump
But I'm 2 years older now and the Lump doesn't wish to leave me this time.  I've been walking my 10,000 steps a day for 3 weeks and only lost 800g.
'Can I really be a*sed to do this?' I e-mailed to MMB (My Mate Baggy) she of the Dorset Diddlers fame (http://thedorsetdiddlers.blogspot.co.uk/) at ten to eight this evening.

At ten to nine the answer was in her mailbox.

Treat yourself: when the night is cloudless and the moon high, get out into the country and just ... be.

My front door (circa 1670) faces south and all I had to do was step out of it ... and keep stepping.  According to my nerdometer I was 4005 steps short of the requisite 10,000 so, dressed for the night - no, not for the knight - I set off on my apparently useless quest.

Oh, what a night.  The air was lung-achingly cold, crystal clear and smelt of freezing snow. The moon, waxing, was just over half-full and Orion was climbing up into the southern skies.
The snow reflected the bright moonlight and fabulous shadows fell across the lanes and fields.  Every hedge had a different shadow-story silhouetting along its length, like a living monochrome Bayeux tapestry.

There is something magical about a deep country night in winter.  I love the peace and the silence.  In the hour I was out, not one owl called, not a fox called to its mate, not a sheep to its flock.  The only sounds seemed to be my boot steps on the frost-damaged lane and the rustlings of my clothing. The only light was God's designer-shine and its reflections on the whiteness of snow.

All's right with the world.

Oh yes, and I did 4069 steps back to my door, so tomorrow owes me some ...