#Lockdown ‘Every cloud has a Silver Lining’ #MondayMotivation #MondayBlogs

I live in Spain and we’ve been on Lockdown for ten days now due to the Covid-19 virus and I haven’t written a single post, until today.

I’m not going to talk about facts and figures, prevention, medicine or science, because I’m not an expert on any of those major aspects and there’s plenty of reliable information online.

I’m going to write about my personal reflections, feelings and how my life is being affected by the lockdown. This means owning both the positive as well as the negative experiences derived from imposed isolation, because every cloud has a silver lining.

First I’m going to tell you about the clouds, or what I miss:

 

1) Hugging my children and grandchildren. 

I have four wonderful grandchildren (ages 3,5,6, and 9, and a fifth on the way!) I love playing board games, ping pong, telling stories, going to parks and fun fairs, or just chatting with them. 

My husband and my daughter walking in the countryside, near where I live.

2) My daily walks.

My husband and I have retired recently and we enjoy long (2-3 hour) daily walks. We choose different parts of the town and countryside, have a coffee or a beer on the way there or back, depending on the time. We chat, take photos, pop in to museums or exhibitions, wherever takes our fancy. No walks allowed now.

I took this picture of some of my oldest friends last year at a local flower festival ‘Flora’

3) Going out with friends.

I enjoy going out with friends. We go to the movies, to a coffee shop, window shopping, real shopping, or out for drinks and tapas. No going out with friends.

 

Last year we popped over to Bari, on a bargain Ryanair flight, just for the fun of it!

4) Impromptu outings

We love getting in the car and popping over to Malaga (an hour and a half drive) to walk along the seafront, or to meet up with friends and family, or to any other city for a day trip, weekend at home or abroad.

60th Birthday Party at home with some of my best friends!

5) Receiving guests

I love cooking and having guests, especially when the weather’s nice and we can eat in the garden. On other occasions, friends come over for tea or coffee, some home-cooked cake and a chat. 

Secondly, this is my silver lining, or what I can appreciate about this situation.

1) More time to write. 

I’ve just finished and sent the umpteenth draft of my latest novel to my editor, Alison Williams. I managed, to block out the lockout and get on with it with no one to distract me. I plan to continue with other unfinished novels and literary projects, too.

2) More time to read

My TBR pile is slightly smaller! At the moment I’m reading and enjoying When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal, on my kindle and listening to L J Ross’s Alexander Gregory Thriller, Impostor, its Book 1 in the series (I read Book 1 first by mistake!). She’s a wonderful author as I learned when I read her DCI Ryan Mysteries.

The Alexander Gregory Thrillers

3) Watching series I never have time for.

I’m not much of a TV viewer, but I was able to binge watch over a couple of days, eight episodes of The Stranger, by Harlan Coben staring Richard Armitage.

4) Phoning + texting friends and family 

I’ve spent the last few days contacting friends and family all over the world, by phone, text and email, making sure they’re all OK. I haven’t finished yet, there are still a few more to contact.

With my three best friends from London University, celebrating our 60th birthday, last July, back on our College site, now luxury residential homes.

5) A time for introversion and reflection.

I’ve never been faced with so much time for myself or so much worry about family, friends and myself. Facing one’s own vulnerability in such an unpredictable world is daunting. Facing our finite and limited time on earth and the possibility of illness, or even death in complete isolation was not how I expected to spend 2020.

Momento Mori is not welcome, but it’s a necessary reminder that my life is brief and finite and every moment is precious.

Stay safe, virtual hugs and love to you all.

#SilentSunday ‘Back to the Keyboard!’ #Haiku #amwriting

Back to the keyboard,

After plotting and planning,

One word at a time.

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After over a year writing and rewriting various drafts of The Ghost Wife, I still wasn’t satisfied, so I stopped to plot and plan, all over again, from the beginning.

I Stared from scratch, back to basics, with main character arcs, secondary character profiles, scenes, sequels, and three-act structure.

No more excuses!

It’s time to write!

Happy Sunday!

#Writephoto ‘Too Bright’ #Haiku #Poetry

Too Bright

Bright sun conquers Earth

Devouring every pigment

Scared bluebells shiver

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This beautiful photograph reminds me of Dylan Thomas’ heartbreaking and powerful poem Sometimes the sky’s too bright.

There are times when the light is too bright and instead of showing you the way, it’s devouring everything, so you can’t see what’s hidden behind it.

Sometimes we need to wait until the sun has mellowed to see what was always there, behind the brightness.

We’re stuck in a rut. Life seems too much, but it isn’t. We often only need to stop, breathe and wait, a short time. The brightness will gradually vanish and we’ll see what’s behind the light isn’t so devastating after all.

A suggestion, while you’re waiting for the brightness to fade, write a poem, a piece of flash fiction, draw a picture, sing a song, dance, read a poem, a story, a novel, go for a walk, ride your bike, take a photo, be creative!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

This post was written in response to Sue Vincent’s weekly photo prompt

#writephoto

#IWSG POV: Protagonist or Antagonist? @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

  • March 6 question Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

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I definitely prefer first person point of view of the protagonist, as a reader and as a writer. My favourite novels, when I started reading adult fiction, in my teens, such as, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, David Copperfield, and Rebecca, to name a few, were written in this fashion.

The first person narrator, whether he or she is protagonist or antagonist, has the powerful advantage of speaking directly to the reader, but on the other hand, he or she also has the enormous disadvantage of limited knowledge and bias.

The first person narrator cannot be everywhere or be aware of everything the reader would like to know. Moreover, he or she is necessarily biased due to gullibility, innocence, ignorance, physical, or psychological problems, or he or she can be downright evil and purposefully lead everyone along the wrong path, which is usually the case of the antagonist as first person narrator.

The question posed, implies that only one narrator is possible, and that he or she is either protagonist or antagonist, but there are many more options available to the writer. There could be more than one point of view, and more than one protagonist and or antagonist, or the protagonist and antagonist could even be the same person at the same or different stages of his/her life.

The first time I read a novel with various first person narrators was Laura, by Vera Caspary, also in my teenage years. I remember being pleasantly surprised, as a reader, by two aspects, the multiple first person narrators and the presence of unreliable narrators, including the antagonist.

In one of my ‘A’ level texts, The Fall, Camus’ manipulative first person narrator, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, whose long series of monologues is a confession and reflection of his life, to a stranger he calls, ‘cher ami’, thus, mostly using the second person ‘you’. He is also both protagonist and antagonist, as he finally turns the mirror on his patient and unsuspecting listener/reader.

The options are endless. In my case, I’ve published three books and written five (two will hopefully be published this year), and all of them have multiple, first person narrators, including protagonist and antagonist.

Although I don’t mind reading novels written in third person, I can’t see myself doing so. I would especially avoid third person omniscient narrators, mainly because I think it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of manipulating characters, events and readers. I prefer to allow my characters and readers more space to grow and reconstruct their own novel.

I overcome the hurdles inherent to first person narration, at least partly, by having more than one first person narrator, which I believe gives the novel wider scope and perspective.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy has several, rotating first person narrators, and although some readers have complained, most readers have positive opinions. The use of various first person voices is innovative and enriching, but it’s by no means easy to juggle so many characters at once, and it’s not something I’m planning on doing again, at the moment.

My two latest, unpublished novels, both have only two points of view. In one case it is the protagonist and the antagonist, and in the second case a mother and daughter, who are both protagonists. So far, beta readers have responded favourably, and I’m satisfied with the end product, although, one still has to go through the final draft and editing stage.

I think two narrators give enough scope for multiple perspectives to allow readers more space to interact with the narrative.

I will probably experiment with other viewpoints in the future. As I said, I enjoy many  different points of view as a reader, but for the moment, I plan to continue writing novels with, at least, two first person points of view.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to like and/or leave a comment 🙂

What about you, how many and whose point(s) of view do you prefer as a reader and as a writer?

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#WorldBookDay ‘Stories make your heart grow’ #amreading #Audible

Readers enjoy all sorts of stories, but what makes a book outstanding, instead of enjoyable? 

Imagen relacionada

A book becomes outstanding instead of enjoyable if it’s ‘Written from the heart’ with the aim of ‘Reaching other hearts’.

I recently wrote a short post about ‘Writing from the heart’ and my conclusion is that the key is to: Write with passion about a meaningful issue.

I am convinced the world needs, has always needed and will always need, uplifting stories about wonderful, yet ordinary people, who struggle and survive.

The world’s a harsh place and we are all aware of the limited time we’ll be spending here, especially compared to the thousands of years we’ve heard about, but haven’t experienced, so we appreciate stories that remind us of our history and fill our hearts with hope for the future.

At the moment I’m in the middle of reading, or rather listening to, an outstanding book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

We were all told about WWII in our history classes at school, but it’s the novels and films of the period that reach our hearts and help us understand what happened and must be avoided at all cost.

And yet The Tattooist of Auschwitz is not only about events which took place in WWII. It’s about hope, the struggle for survival, the strength that lies in love and gratitude, and the value of the combined effort of many, as well as the power of positive leadership.

Lale could not have survived, or accomplished anything on his own. He needed the help and support of many others, and they needed a leader, an intelligent and compassionate organiser to manage and synchronise their combined efforts.

I’ll be writing a proper review when I finish listening, but at the moment I can say, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a beautifully written story which connected directly to my heart.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an outstanding novel, for adults. Another outstanding novel, I read some time ago and is more suitable for younger readers, is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by [Boyne, John]

Happy World Book Day!

Tell us, which is the most outstanding novel you’ve recently read?

 

#IWSG Avoiding Pitfalls @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe,Sandra Hoover, Lee Lowery, and Susan Gourley!

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey? 

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The single best piece of advice I’d give an author, especially an author who is aiming to self-publish, is to find a good editor.

It seems obvious. I mean, everyone knows that, don’t they?

It also seems easy. I mean, there are plenty of editors out there, aren’t there?

Yes, to both, but authors can still make mistakes. I did.

When I finished my first novel, I found an editor via Goodreads. She was recommended by another editor an author I knew had hired, and she was reasonably priced.

I thought I’d got it right, until another editor, who saw my book, which had been accepted for review on Rosie’s Book Review Team, read my novel and pointed out some / too many errors in the first few chapters.

Most were punctuation, but not all. I’m useless at commas. I actually have nightmares with them, so I was relieved that an editor/proof reader had gone through my manuscript, but it hadn’t been done thoroughly.

I’ll forever be grateful to Alison Williams for pointing out these errors in my novel and for her patience and advice while editing the following two novels.

An author knows and expects that not every reader will enjoy their novel, for numerous reasons, style, characters, plot, etc. and that’s acceptable and to be expected, but what is unacceptable is to have editing errors.

All novels whether self-published or traditionally published should be professionally edited.

There are many editors available, and I’m really not an expert on finding the right one, I was just lucky I found her, or rather she was kind enough to find me, just a few a months after I published All Hallows at Eyre Hall, in May 2014.

I cringe when I think of those few months when my novel wasn’t in perfect condition. The good news is that amazon makes it really quick and easy to update your new version for both kindle and print.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to like and/or leave a comment 🙂

What about you, what pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid before publication?

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#MondayBlogs What Makes a Great Novel? #Amreading #Amwriting #Amreviewing

If a formula existed for a great novel, everyone would benefit. Authors would write perfect novels and readers would never be disappointed.

So, what makes a great novel? My answer is connection and intimacy.

Writers need to connect with their readers and readers are on the lookout for authors whose stories invade their hearts and minds (intimacy) and become meaningful (connection).

A reader’s response to a novel is personal, intellectual, intimate and complex.

Novels speak to the readers’ minds, that hidden, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, darkest, sometimes unpredictable, elusive part of our brains that surprises each one of us, more times than we’d care to admit.

Readers want to be immersed in a story, transported and moved. They want to feel what the characters feel, understand their predicaments as if they were working with the author.

Writers want readers to be active participants in the narrative, reliving their character’s experiences and reinterpreting their stories. As Stephen King has said, “All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies…’

Readers enjoy finding themselves in the story, with the characters. That’s the moment all writers and readers crave; the moment the reader becomes actively, emotionally and intellectually involved in the story.

A colloquial expression might be that the novel gets under their skin, but where it really gets is inside their minds; that’s what makes a great novel.

So, how do writers find their way into the minds of people they don’t even know?

The answer is as simple as it is complex: writing about universal themes, feelings and events which are (and have always been) common to all of us.

That’s one of the reasons why Shakespeare will never be outdated.

Image result for shakespeare universal themes

Great novels don’t have to be about extraordinary people or wondrous events. Great novels are about feelings we have all experienced or witnessed, such as love, anger, jealousy, greed, happiness, optimism, depression, and universal events such as falling in love, parenting, sibling rivalry, sickness, death, earning a living, quarrelling, making friends, travelling, etc.

Great novels make readers feel something beyond themselves and the scope of their ordinary lives.

Great novels reach their minds, taking them on an unknown journey of self-discovery. Readers become part of the story, because they are involved with the characters and events, and when they finish reading, they are not the same person they were when they started reading, because they have changed their minds about something, or thought about something that had never occurred to them before, or felt something they hadn’t felt before or for a long time.

The challenge for both readers and writers is that one particular author will rarely be able to reach every reader’s mind, because of course all minds are different and no two readers will react in the same way to a novel, or even to different episodes and characters in a novel.

The good news is, there are so many types and genres of novels to be read and so many ways of reading, paperback, kindle and other e-books, and audio books, that it’s hard not to find something for everyone.

How to find a book that’s perfect for you?

It’s hard to get it wrong if you follow these three steps:

  • Read the blurb (writer and editor’s information and views).
  • Read a few varied reviews (diverse readers’ opinions).
  • Read the look inside pages (read the first chapters and decide whether to continue reading or not).

If you do so, it’s unlikely you’ll choose a book you won’t enjoy.

And when you finish, don’t forget to post a review, because it will help the author and other readers, too.

Are you looking for a great book? Here are some of the great books I’ve recently read:

Us

Us by David Nicholls. Themes: love, marriage, parenting, and contemporary life, from the perspective of a middle-aged Englishman. Poignant and humorous.

Eleanor Oliphant by Gale Honeyman. Themes: abuse, loneliness, serendipity, from the point of view of a young woman. Poignant, humorous, Feel good.

our house

Our House by Louise Candlish. Themes: marriage, infidelity, crime, parenting, told from two points of view, husband and wife of two young children. Family drama.

The Guest Room: A Novel by [Bohjalian, Chris]

The Guest Room Chris Bohjalion. Themes: marriage, infidelity, corruption, sex trafficking, narrated by an American husband and father and a Russian prostitute who is an illegal immigrant in the USA.

Missing You by [Coben, Harlan]

Don’t Let go by Harlan Coben. Themes: love, corruption, crime. A suspenseful thriller. This is his latest novel, but all of them are fabulous. Missing You is one of my favourites.

The Good Girl by Maria Rubrica. Themes, crime, kidnapping, family, love. A dark family drama, told from the point of view of the kidnapped daughter, before and after the event.

The Sister: A psychological thriller with a brilliant twist you won't see coming by [Jensen, Louise]

The Sister, by Louise Jensen is a suspenseful psychological thriller I enjoyed, but all her novels are great reads.

It Ends with Us: A Novel by [Hoover, Colleen]

It Ends With Us, by Colleen Hoover is a heartbreaking family drama about abusive relationships told in the first person by a young woman living in Boston.

The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorback is a unique and moving novel about survival, loneliness and serendipity, told from the point of view of a lawyer who attempts to help a homeless young woman on a freezing night.

Check out all my reviews on Amazon

But don’t take my word for it, what’s meaningful for me may be boring for you.

Follow the three steps (blurb, reviews, look inside) and find those great books you’re longing to read!

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What do you think makes a great book?

Would you like to tell me about a great book you’ve recently read?

#ThemeReveal #AtoZChallenge #Haiku #Photography #MondayBlogs

This is my fourth time participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

I’ve had great fun as well as a bit of stress the previous three years! But I’m ready to go again.

Year one was 2015 and I posted an author spotlight iincluding an interview with an author a day and a book review of one of the author’s books. I chose contemporary authors, many of whom published independently. These authors and their novels had made me think, laugh, and/or cry.

Year two, 2016 was devoted to Jane Eyre. I posted about my inspiration and passion. My posts were all about Jane Eyre, the book, characters, themes, symbolism, author, etc.

Year three, 2017 was devoted to poetry. I ambitiously took part in National Poetry Month as well as the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. I posted two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets, whose name or surname began with the corresponding daily letter.

This year, 2018, is my fourth year and my theme is poetry once again. On this occasion I’ll be writing a haiku a day, but I’m also adding a new hobby to the posts, photography. I will post one of my photos every day to accompany the haiku. I’m still learning but I’m gradually getting better at taking and editing photos.

Haiku (or hokku) is a Japanese verse form. In its English version, it has three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. A haiku often features an image to represent the essence of the haiku. It often refers to nature or seasons.

A Haiku aims to capture the essence of fleeting feelings in a specific moment in time, which becomes one with the universe.

It has been described as one of the most elegant and immediate poetic forms because it creates an aura of mystery and artistry in a short and intense outburst of syllables.

The challenge of an effective haiku is to capture the elusive instant, which reveals universal feelings, making it both ephemeral and eternal at the same time, by using just three lines and 17, or fewer, syllables. A Haiku is often written in the present tense and includes an enigmatic last line.

It wasn’t popularized in Western literature until the early 1900s. Paul-Louis Couchoud became one of the first European translators of the form who popularized this poetic form in Europe. Soon more were translated and written by French, Spanish and English speaking poets.

Western poets like W.H. Auden, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Jorge Luis Borges, Billy Collins, Allen Ginsberg, e.e. Cummings, Ezra Pound, Joanne Kyger, Anne Waldman, Richard Wright, and Sonia Sanchez also wrote haiku.

Here’s a beautiful Haiku written by North American poet Sonia Sánchez, published in her collection of poetry, Shake Loose My Skin (1999).

I love writing Haiku with one of my own photographs or in response to a photo prompt. I find it reduces the poem form to its very essence, the equivalent to flash fiction, in a poem.

Writing a haiku isn’t as easy or simple as it would appear. Sometimes I spend hours, even days thinking of the right word or the right combination of syllables to capture the moment and the feeling. Other times, it’s impossible to find the right words… and occasionally, the seventeen syllables flow from pen to paper, as if they had been in my mind for years, waiting to be written.

Here’s a haiku I wrote recently. It’s one of my favourite, so far. I took the picture and wrote it when I was experiencing complex emotions.

Clouds scream at howling tides.

Seize the fury, ride the storm,

Then embrace the calm…

Are you taking part in the April Blogging Challenge this year?

If you are, what’s your theme?

Feel free to add the link to your theme reveal in the comments 🙂