Friday, October 18, 2013

Addicted to love - computer love!

I've heard that many addicts don't realise they have a problem until someone or something points it out.

I'm shocked and ashamed to admit my dependence on WiFi. I'm still having cold sweats over my week of no Internet connection AND no printer. 

Not being able to email - awful. 
Not being able to access the information from university - stressful. 

But I'm ashamed when I think of all the big issues in the world, such as the fact that many people in the UK are homeless and living on the streets, that I'm feeling out of sorts because for one week I've had to drive round getting free Internet connection in cafes. 

It's like always wearing a watch, and then one day forgetting to put it on. You check your wrist constantly. 

And it's not just checking emails that I use it for. I didn't realise how often I looked strange and bizarre things. Most of the time if I stopped to think I would realise I know the information that I'm looking for. But at some point in my life I have made a realisation that I don't have to remember anything, I can always check.

What's the past tense of the word sew? I reach for the iPad.
The name of the song going around my head....
What was Jamie's dog called in Jamie and The Magic Torch?

All these insane things I look up, and then instantly forget, because if I need the information again, I can just search it again.

So do I have another addiction to go alongside overeating? Probably, but I'm glad to have my regular WiFi fix back.

THE EMISSARY by Greg Klerkx

Readers of my blog must remember my attempts to get on to a Reauthoring Event. The closest I came  was when I was included into the Portsmouth's 20 x 12 project. I LOVED the workshops. It changed the way I thought about my work. And it also helped to get a couple of non fiction publishing deals! 

I was extremely excited to receive this email from Greg today for two reasons. One, my email is finally working again. And two, I felt I finally had an opportunity to help a great guy back. 

Greg has just published a novel, and the details on how to get it are below. I do hope people will check it out.  

Open email from Greg;

'I've just published my first novel, titled THE EMISSARY. It's available as an e-book on Amazon via their Kindle Select programme, which means that Amazon is the only place you can get it (for now). You can get it here:

If you don't have a Kindle (I don't) you can still read it via a free, downloadable Kindle Reader that works on iPad, any smartphone, etc. That's available here

It's best to read the blurb on Amazon for a semi-detailed book description. I'll add that THE EMISSARY isn't for the easily offended, but it does tell a cracking story. Do pass this along to anyone who likes their dystopian fiction packed with inter-species genetic tinkering, militant polygamist cults, and just a touch of very black comedy.

Though you may get some duplication of this message via Facebook and Twitter - and I'll run a couple of Kindle promotions later in the year - I won't be endlessly flogging the novel at you...not because I don't want you to read it, but because I get annoyed at such relentless self-hype and figure you will, too. I will be blogging about how it feels to venture into self-publishing - from the perspective of someone who's only previously been published by a big publishing house - I'll be commenting more obliquely on the novel via a bespoke Pinterest board, '


Greg Klerkx

Greg is a writer and producer who began his career as a journalist in Southern California, where he won more than a dozen awards for commentary, feature and investigative writing.

A regular features contributor to New Scientistmagazine, Greg’s writing has also appeared in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine, Evening Standard,publications by DEMOS, and the New York Times. His first book, Lost in Space (Pantheon/Secker & Warburg was named among the best books of 2004 by the Independent and the San Francisco Chronicle.

In addition to co-leading the award-winning cultural producing company, Nimble Fish, Greg teaches writing craft and narrative development in schools and business settings and frequently conducts workshops for London-based writing charity, Spread The Word. More

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Country and Western Blues

My WiFi is not working.
I can't get my emails.
When I press print - nothing happens.
The only reason I am able to blog today is because I'm in a place with free WiFi. 
The 379 emails waiting to download feels a little intimidating.

In the background a Kenny Rodgers song from the 1970s is playing. It feels like a message from my late father - it was of his favourites.

'You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Now Ev'ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
'Cause ev'ry hand's a winner and ev'ry hand's a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep."'

(Kenny Rogers The Gambler Lyrics)

It's amazing how these sort of songs are like the words from fortune tellers, some days they seem to hold a secret message just for you.  But I'm refusing to let my mind stray to career, marriage, family and friendships!

On Sunday I felt on top of the world. I got my university email to work. I managed to navigate the learning network. I printed out important articles. Yet on Monday I was unable to email my tutor my assignment. 

We’ve all felt it. The frustration that comes with computers and other technology. It seems to be just a part of life. But why? We spend a fortune on all these bits and bobs, is it really too much to ask for them to work consistently?

It seems to me that technology changes and grows in a way that unless you spend a tremendous amount of time studying and training, it’s almost impossible to stay up to date. We are left with constant learning. We all get frustrated when we learn new things because they feel foreign. You could almost say that if you could just get that document open, everything in your life would be better.

I could use this time to get the house and garden sorted, but after 3 months, the landlord has finally set a work man to fix the damage from the flood.  He is in the way of me, and I'm in his way. But at least the dog likes the new guy!

Daughter one is on a school trip, but daughter two is at home because of the teacher strike.

So with 'The Country and Western Blues,' we have decided to walk away. To have a coffee together, and then to retreat to the cinema away from the paint fumes.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Margaret Jennings & Lynne Stone on Wattpad

Wattpad is the world's largest community for discovering and sharing stories. It's a new form of entertainment connecting readers and writers through storytelling, and best of all, it's entirely free. With thousands of new stories added every day, an incredibly active community of readers, and the ability to read on your computer, phone, or tablet, Wattpad is the only place that offers a truly social, and entirely mobile reading experience.

A few members of The Writers at Lovedean have decided to embrace the new technology and have a go at posting their stories. However, their self promotion skills are terrible so I decided to try and give an helping hand.

Margaret Jennings is a local writer who regularly performs and wins at live story events. She's has had her work published in several anthologies, and won competitions for her haunting poetry. She's performed at the Southsea Show and Tongues and Grooves. And also runs writing retreats in the South of France. 

You can sample some of her writing here;

Lynne Stone is an ex radio script writer for Conway Street, a soap airing three times a week for Express FM. She has had her works published in several anthologies, and has performed at The Umbrella Festival at the Groundlings Theatre. She has also won several writing competitions in her local writers group. I do hope after she's finished posting her novel on Wattpad she will think about another publishing option.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Blackwell's the friend of local writers

 Jack Hughes and Joanna West put on a great event this morning to showcase the work of Portsmouth writers,

Local writers such as; Christine Lawrence, Diana Bretherick, Tom Harris, Maggie Sawkins, Denyse Kirby, James Schillemore and William Sutton books held pride of place on the shop floor. While other writers such as Lynne Blackwood were invited to read.

How wonderful to live near to a city which is willing to help local artists! And know wonderful individuals willing to give up their precious time to help others in the business.

Feeling blessed.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


According to a strict definition, voice has two meanings as it concerns creative writers:

'Voice is the author's style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author's attitude, personality, and character; or
Voice is the characteristic speech and thought patterns of a first-person narrator; a persona. Because voice has so much to do with the reader's experience of a work of literature, it is one of the most important elements of a piece of writing.' 

I think it's more about finding out who YOU are. How YOUR reactions to life are different from everyone else's.  What things YOU have to say which are different from everyone else.  

How many times have ten writers sat in a room with the same writing prompt, and have produced ten incredibly different stories. 

Unfortunately, for most writers you need a certain level of confidence and self awareness to speak in your own voice.

I've been thinking about some of my favourite writers. And I think they are good, not just because they write a great deal, but because they care. They understand a little bit about life, and they try to pass it on. As we live our lives, we begin to discover what helps in life and what hurts, and our characters act this out dramatically. This writing from the heart and the head is what produces a unique voice.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What I want to be when I grow up!

I'm feeling unsure about whether I'm doing exactly the right thing at this point in my life. I suppose like many people I expected to be 'grown up' by now. Not only did my recent writing retreat give me time to write, find a new work opportunity, it also allowed me to spend time in the company of beautiful people. 

Margaret who runs the retreat coped with the stresses of being alone and in charge in a foreign country. She braved the French roads - thank you Lord that I didn't have to drive! Provided good tasty meals. Was an excellent host and a great tutor. And she did it all with a calm gracious manner.

Barbara an ex teacher and two times cancer survivor broke her word count record on the retreat, and decided to take the NaNoWriMo challenge. A perfect example of 'feeling the fear and doing it anyway.'

I wrote, chased work, got my poetry anthology ready for publication, and reflected on what sort of 'grown up' I would like to be. I wrote a couple of poems, 15000 words of which 2000 words I'm pleased with. I also had lots of dreaming time to solve a plot problem.

My dear friend Lynne popped in to see me on the Monday of my return.  My husband had decided to return to the family home for a week and surprise me with creating an 'oasis of calm' so I can concentrate on writing. Lynne's joyful laugher over how you need to cause destruction and mayhem in six rooms, plus garden and drive before producing a calm room lifted my spirits. Lynne also renewed my faith in God by being an angel and finding my ironing board. To clarify, my husband managed to lose my ironing board. 

I felt blessed by the emails and Facebook funnies from friends and colleagues. My younger sister is expecting her first baby soon. Babies are in themselves miracles we take for granted!

So here is my list of what I want to be when I grow up!

Be the lady who encourages others with a cheerful perspective.
Accept and freely give physical affection.
Stay present in the moment and live life instead of living past.
Learn to use new technology.
Stay fit and energetic with exercise as much as possible.
Read and learn continually.
Avoid talking about my health problems and current physical status.
Stay sweet and not get bitter.
Be gracious and forgiving and grateful.
Learn to state my own needs.

'I think that people who wait to know if they're doing all the right things before they start doing anything end up doing nothing, mostly out of fear and self-sabotage.'

Charlotte Siems

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Grotte de Clamouse and Abbaye Saint Gulihem Le Desert

Today was the second trip included in the Writers Retreat organised and run by Margaret Jennings. We had an amazing drive into the mountains to visit some local caves and the beautiful village of St Guilhem Le Desert.

Grotte de Clamouse

Beautiful caves, magnificent views. The caves are very well maintained and organized for sightseeing. They are accessible only with a guided tour. The tour provided a lot of interesting facts about formation of the caves, life above the ground and underground, and stories of how grottoes were discovered and explored. It is quite dynamic, starts with a movie (in French with English subtitles), and included magnificent light-and-music show in one of the grottos and finishes with a legend about the name of the caves. 
There is a big open-air terrace overlooking the river to pass the time waiting. There is a cafe stocked with snacks, coffee, ice-creams and sweets to help time go faster.

There are quite a number of stairs to climb during the tour - if you are coming with small kids it might be a concern, surely not suitable for strollers, bring along your carrier.

Don't forget to tip the guide at the end of the tour - for me it was a new thing, but apparently it is common thing in France. 

Abbaye Saint Gulihem Le Desert

A truly beautiful medieval village which is very attractive, and full of character.
We walked though small alleys with charming houses and shops to a village square where we ate crepes in one of the quintessential french eateries. The rain gave the stone a soft golden hue, and made everything so nice a green. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Wednesday Market in Clermont l'Herault

Today we went to the Wednesday market in Clermont l'Herault. We wandered through stalls filled with colour and local produce. I found all the locals to extremely happy and friendly. We sat in a cafe, and I was amused when the waiter got us our drinks than stood outside smoking.

Before I came I tried to learn French and took and online digital photography course for the iPhone. I was pleased when my photographs came out.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

'Trouble at Mill' because of the curse of WiFi

In the beginning it seemed like a self indulgent luxury; a week in France with other writers. I can see the pool, aloe growing in the garden and a little sand lizard running across the patio. The writing retreat provides quietness, tranquillity, and solitude. 

For years I wrote in the midst of having a husband, raising two daughters, occasionally tidying a house, giving classes, teaching, editing other people's manuscripts, answering the telephone, and juggling most of the usual anxieties and pleasures.
Sometimes it felt frustrating and others suffered because I was angry with them for not submitting to my selfish timetable (ie. I want to write  leave me alone). Other times it was just tedious, the daily organisation required to keep 'things going' locking my mind into the busy, administrative level. 

The last year has been a struggle. I no longer work for my husband business. My husband lives in London, and I'm frequently alone with the children. I've had a couple of minor surgeries and infections. And the novel I'm working on is a lumpy and desperately needs to be transformed.

I know my children are being taken care of because of the blessing of WiFi and FaceTime. But I miss them so much.

And then once again, I find out there is 'trouble at mill' because of the curse of WiFi, and a series of emails. It gives me a sick sick feeling.

I am so close to jumping on a plane. 

I comfort myself in the fact that emails have been sent to various parties. I have done what I can. 

If I am going to start my new career in writing I need to put writing first. But it is hard.

Today I finished a story for The Day of the Dead event on the 30th of October at The Square Tower. I've written another six thousand word story. I've done a couple of good exercises and completed a poem. I am pleased with my progress.

I still have things I want to finish. And that is what I'm going to do. 

I wonder if this uncertainty happens if you are a man?