Tag Archives: writing

The First Few Chapters

You may know that before I published The LEARNERS AT LOVE Series in paperback and Kindle formats on Amazon…I published one part at a time on my very own blog over a period of around seven months.

Now when I was writing the first few chapters, I had an idea in my head I had read a book not long before. The book I read told almost the same story from the differing points of view of seven different people. It was very clever. I was so impressed by this style, I tried to employ it to some extent in Annabelle’s emerging backstory.

First of all Jenna tells Chris what she has overheard of Annabelle’s past (which is all based on malicious gossip). When Chris is trying to learn more about Annabelle, Burt Jennings says very little. Overhearing Chris is asking questions, Pearl tells him what she knows of Annabelle’s story. Eventually, Annabelle and Chris start up a friendship, but Annabelle is careful with what she shares. Annabelle confides in Gina (Chris’ older sister), sharing some of the details she has not dared to share with the older folk in the town of Blackwood. Of course, the different information Chris has heard only makes sense when Annabelle finally chooses to reveal her past to him.

I know what I was trying to do….but for a reader who is new to Annabelle Riley’s story, I think those first few chapters can be confusing. So I have been going over the first half of the first book “We Hide What We Hate About Ourselves” with a view to revising the flow. I don’t want readers to find it annoyingly repetitive. I want to edit those chapters so that each character reveals something different about Annabelle, but not identical details.

Editing just never stops, does it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Summer Holidays

I have a holiday ahead of me. It is a staycation – as in it will be within the UK (why go through the stress of an overseas holiday this year?) I will be visiting my family. I cannot wait!!!

There are some things I want to do…and I have postponed them, feeling I simply did not have the time, at least I did not have the time to enjoy them. Looking at wedding dresses for a start.

I also am itching to write. I have two stories I am desperate to write. One is of a girl who comes to London from a European country – full of dreams. She arrives in London before the Europe referendum back in 2016, before the 2020 Pandemic. So a lot happens. Here story is one of dreams, challenges, hope, disappointment, betrayal, persecution, love, heartbreak, courage, endurance and of course she is going to have a happy ending. Why would I write a book without a happy ending? It is based on the real life experiences of so many of my own dear friends. I have been writing bits and pieces in my spare time, but I need to weave it all together.

I have another story in my mind – a story about forgiveness. It is pure fiction, but it is inspired by the forgiveness that took place between Jack and myself. I don’t feel I can write our own story yet, even though Jack thinks it would be a great idea. But I can use our experience for inspiration, and draw on the memory of the feelings I experienced when we were estranged, and how delicate trust was when we were trying to make peace and restore the damage. It is currently a complex storyline, and I think I needed to peel away some of the detailed layers.

I have a feeling that my summer holiday will be so packed with family members and friends, it is unlikely I will have time to work on my writing. I guess I am longing for lazy hazy days of summer to roll on and on and on, and not to have any scheduled or deadlines to inhibit me!

Sunflower Field, Landscape, Scene

I Am Hooked On Caster And Fleet!

I mentioned just over a week or so ago that I had been reading books co-authored by WordPress blogger Paula Harmon. Well, I am now hooked!

I loved Books One-Three and I could not wait to get stuck into the next three books. I checked on Amazon and there seem to be spin-offs too. I am loving these characters and their stories. I love the Victorian setting, the manners and customs of daily life. Every the two female detectives get themselves into quite a pickle, and I find myself growing anxious and the outcome.

It is so hard to put down my tablet at night, and as soon as I finish one book, I want to start the next to read of their next adventure.

A Letter For Dean

I found writing the LEARNERS AT LOVE series incredibly enjoyably and deeply satisfying. I am sure every other writer can understand that. I was going through my older posts and I remembered that a writing prompt from Kristian and Nova gave me the inspiration to give Dean an appearance in Annabelle’s journey. I love the way Dean turned out!!

In less than a month we will be putting our sandals and summer clothes into storage and pulling out scarves, and woolly jumpers! Autumn or fall is heading our way in the northern hemisphere.

And in less than thirty days Kristian and Nova are going to be hosting a Falling Into Autumn Blog party. To start the countdown Kristian has provided a gorgeous photo as a writing prompt:

https://lifelessonsaroundthedinnertable.wordpress.com/2019/08/22/kristian-novas-falling-into-autumn-countdown-is-on-30-days/

parking.jpg

Kristian told us:

“I am not putting any limitations on this. You may write as many words as you see fit. It can be a short story, poem, a paragraph, whatever your heart desires.”

Well, I loved Kristian’s photo prompt and all sorts of ideas went through my head. But at the moment I am fixated with working out what is going to happen to my fictional character Annabelle Riley.

In this post, I have let my thoughts wander to a character who has only received a couple of very brief mentions so far and has not yet been named, but he is about to make an appearance in Annabelle’s story. In the meantime, I thought I would use the photo as a setting for a conversation between Chris and Annabelle about this mysterious character. The two of them are sitting in that blue truck in Kristian’s photo, looking out at the lake and the trees.


As soon as Chris stopped his truck he turned to Annabelle, “I was told that this guy hurt you. Why do you feel like you want to make contact with him now?”

“Did Gina tell you that? asked Annabelle.

talking to gina.jpg“Gina? No, it was Pearl. Did you tell my sister about this guy?” asked Chris in surprise.

“I mentioned him.” Annabelle’s face reddened.

“She didn’t say anything about that to me.”

“I haven’t told Burt and Pearl a lot about him. I couldn’t really without concerning them. But Gina was so kind when she came over, I found it very easy to talk to her.”

“She’s a great listener.” grinned Chris.

“Indeed, you have a great sister. I am envious.”

chris truck2.jpgChris’ fingers brushed over the back of Annabelle’s hand which was wrapped around her seat, “So tell me, why now? Is it really going to help?”

“I think that to go forward, I need to go back a little. Dean always used to say to me that there is no going back, you can only go forward. But I can’t go forward Chris, not until I go back and clear up a few things. Dean is someone I owe a lot to. I think I owe him some explaining, some apologising.”

“Annie, this isn’t you going overboard with guilt again – is it?”

“These CBT appointments are giving me a lot to think about. I feel as if there are a lot of things I have said and done that I ought to feel bad about. I want to do what I can to fix them.”

mistakesChris heaved a sigh and tapped his hands on the steering wheel. “Annabelle, we all make mistakes. You can’t undo all of them. Look at all those millions of leaves out there. You can’t go chasing after every single leaf to clear this place up. It’s impossible. All of us have said probably a million things that maybe we shouldn’t have. We would go crazy if we tried to undo everything we think we said wrong.”

“At the moment Chris, there are lots of little explosions going on in my head. I am realizing things that I have not been aware of before. Some of these things I can just accept as a lesson learnt. But other things make me feel a sense of responsibility that what I did has had a big effect on someone else’s life. I have been talking to Robin about some of that. But the other person who I keep on thinking about is Dean.”

“Ok, so you’re going to write to him to get everything off your chest.”

Portrait of a cheerful blonde woman writing diary.

“No. I am going to write to him and ask him if I can see him.”

Chris shook his head in disbelief, “You’re funny – do you know that?”

“What? What’s wrong with that?”

“You actually want to go and see your ex. Some guy who badly hurt you. Is Robin ok with that?”

“Robin knows that I have a lot of regrets about what happened with Dean and me. I haven’t mentioned it to him yet, but I do think he will understand.”

“So are you going back to New York? Is that where Dean lives?”

Annabelle was clearly very hesitant to answer, “Dean has a place on the west coast. But he travels a lot, for work, so I am going to ask him where is best for him to meet?”

“And do you think he will agree to meeting you? What makes you think he is going to want to rake up the past with you?”

Annabelle shrugged her shoulders, “Well, I’ll have to wait and see.”

part of you.jpg“Annie, I am going to support you whatever you decide to do. I really want to help you get through this. But everything you have ever said or done, even your mistakes, it’s all part of you. It’s made you the person you are today. Look at all those million of leaves out there. Why would you want to change that? You might see a single leaf and think it’s all crumpled and discoloured. But together they make something beautiful. Don’t forget that, whatever you have done in the past, it’s all helped to make a beautiful person who we love. Robin loves you, Burt and Pearl love you, most of Blackwood love you and I love you – mistakes and all. We love you the way you are.”

“Thanks Bruno Mars.”

“I was thinking of James Blunt actually. Come on, I need to stretch my legs, let’s go and kick some leaves.” Chris and Annabelle both climbed out of the truck and started walking down towards the lake in front of them.

“Ha ha, my mistake! Let’s add that one to the pile of crumpled leaves hey.”

walk around lake“Something else to love about Annabelle Riley – terrible knowledge of music.” Chris grabbed hold of Annabelle’s hand and squeezed it in his.

“Well, now that you say that…” Annabelle paused.

“What? Are you going to claim you are an expert on music?”

“Christopher Ward, there is a lot you don’t know about me.”

 

The Scary Supervisor

Another TELL THE STORY Challenge and this time I have been tagged by the lovely Sadje, the creator of Keep it alive as you can see from her post below:

https://lifeafter50forwomen.com/2019/02/07/tell-the-story-challenge-10/

Here is my story (based on the photo directly under the title):

The Scary Supervisor

There was once a colleague of mine who was quite brilliant at her work. She had a fantastic understanding of her job and how the whole company worked. She always knew who to speak to and where to look to find answers. She was highly intelligent and was able to demolish stacks of work in her in-tray due to her untiring work ethic. There was no faulting her actual work.

However…(when you read that word “however”, you must realize that there is going to be trouble ahead)…she was made a supervisor. She may have seemed to be suitable for the role, after all, her work was excellent. But you never know with people. They may be very good at their work, but they might turn out to be completely ineffective in their role of supervising a team.

Her first task was to conduct interviews for the two administrators that would initially make up her team. One candidate she chose based on her being a relative of her best friend. The other candidate she chose based on his smart appearance and the impressive way he communicated at the interview, and his previous work experience and glowing references.

(As soon as I saw him, I recognised him – I gate-crashed his wedding, but that is a completely different story – he did not know me.)

So, on his first day, the supervisor trained him in how to perform the job. She seemed to be pleased with him. As time went on, issues arose. Some were due to his being new in that role. Every now and then he would have a question to ask because he was unsure about an aspect of the work, or he had forgotten something she had mentioned on that first day. She became impatient and irritable. Why should she have to repeat herself – what was the matter with him? She viewed him as an annoyance because his questions and requests for clarification slowed her down from getting on with her own work.

Then there was the computer software that was used. The system kept on crashing. That meant that until the IT department could resolve the software issues and get the system back up and running, he could not perform the tasks she had hired him to carry out. The way she treated him every time the system crashed seemed to manifest a suspicion that he had caused the computer software to malfunction. Rather than providing other work, she told him to keep ringing IT to demand they sort out the software urgently. Oh the IT department loved that! He must have been in nervous knots everytime the software crashed, when he knew the reaction he would receive from her.

She became more and more hot-tempered with the new administrator. He began to look unhappy. Although I sat on the other side of the open offices and worked within a different department, I observed what was happening, I could hear the conversations between them. I also heard her grumbling about him when he was away from his desk. She was watching his every mistake and I could see her hatching a plan to get rid of him. Just like that cat up at the top watching the goldfish. She was scary! She was incredibly intimidating and icy when she spoke to him. She did not see why she should be patient and make sure he was confidant in his role. She was essentially a very poor supervisor.

I often floated past and chatted to him. I confessed that I had been at his wedding. He wondered how that had happened. One of my friends was a close friend of his wife. On the day of the wedding, my friend’s husband was ill, so she asked me to go along to the wedding in his place. So I did. After that I regularly stopped by for a chat and also chatted with his supervisor telling her how nice the wedding was and what a lovely family he came from. She respected me. She knew I was very good at my job, and she also knew that I had played on the hockey team at school, and that whenever we had played the hockey team of which she was a member from the school that she attended – we always won!

But she wore that man down. One Friday evening around five o’clock I saw him in tears at his desk. I knew why. The system had crashed for several hours earlier that day, so she insisted he would have to stay late to catch up with the work. I had heard him ring his wife to explain he was not going to be home on time. I approached him on my way past. I was aware that the manager of the department who was the superior to the scary supervisor was nearby. She noticed me strike up a conversation with the administrator.

Very quickly I came to the point and I did so in a tone loud enough for the manager to hear:

She is going to make your life miserable. It is not worth it. I honestly think that for your own mental health you should get away as soon as you can. She does not deserve you. She is great at her own work and has respect from many in this company, but in her new role as supervisor it is very clear that she is not great with people. It’s your decision, but if I were you, I would find another job.”

He thanked me. I don’t normally get involved in anything remotely like “office politics”, but I felt that this guy was being pushed towards a break-down by his scary supervisor, so I intervened. I could see the huge sense of relief that came from over him and a weight lift from his shoulders. I went back to my desk to get my coat and bag to head home. I was extremely gratified to overhear the manager approach him and tell him that she did not want him to stay late on a Friday evening doing overtime. He should be with his wife at home. The manager said she would explain to his supervisor that she had told him to go home.

On the following Monday he handed in his resignation letter. He told me later that over the weekend his former manager, at the company he had worked at previously, had called him to ask him to come back to the company but on a much higher salary. He had jumped at the chance. I was so pleased for him. He was soon gone and I hope he never looked back.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kghfaefr.pngThe scary supervisor repeated her mistakes over and over. Her work was excellent. Her poor people skills, her impatience with new staff and her demanding, overbearing, intimidating manner of communicating meant that she was one of the names that were put forward to meet the quota for redundancies. She was soon gone…and I hope for her own sake, she learnt to be a bit more empathetic when she was a new member of staff at the company she went to work for, and had to be trained by her new supervisor.

Sleeping Beauty

I woke up this yesterday morning and realized I had forgotten to schedule a post. It is the first time in a long time that I have not published anything at all. But I asked myself – why worry? There is lots lined up to be published in coming weeks and months – one day off! What’s the big deal?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I have an excuse! I have been sleeping so incredibly well this week. Eleven hours almost every night. It feels great. When you sleep that much, surely your body is telling you something. I had another outrageous run of headaches recently. Perhaps that is why my body and my brain want more sleep than I would normally allow them.

Work is still busy, but I think we just get stronger week by week. We are doing alright.

Jack says he loves to watch me sleeping. It’s so nice to feel safe and at peace with him beside me. It’s really special actually.

I Took The Plunge

You may (or may not) remember that a few months ago, I made the decision to change my “theme” after almost three years of blogging. I only did it for one reason really. I wanted a theme that allowed me to display my books, each with a link to Amazon.

I changed my theme, and I had some lovely feedback….only…..well, that theme was just not really doing it for me. I have been very short on free time in recent months. Work – both paid and unpaid – has been busy!!! I am spending time with Jack, staying in touch with friends and family. I have relied on republishing some of my older posts during the past few months.

But everytime I looked at my site, I just felt a little deflated. I did not connect with the theme I had switched to. I wanted to go back to the first one that was so blue with a little turquoise – and so uplifting to me. I wanted my blog to be my happy little place – a place I go to share my feelings and my joys, and occasionally discuss challenges and how I have tried to overcome them.

Well….after an hour of thinking about it one night in bed….I decided I needed to change the theme again. I needed to find a theme that would allow me to make my blog a happy place again. I asked a couple of bloggers who have gorgeous sites which themes they were using. I decided to go for it!! I decided to take the plunge into a new theme.

Last night I did exactly that….and now….I love looking at my site. I can see there is the potential to do so much more….and I will. I just need to find some time to play around with widgets and the like!

I want my blog to be a site I enjoy. 95% of the time I stay in the WP Reader. But when I do visit my site, I want to enjoy it…and of course, I want you to enjoy it too!!

If I Could Make It Here I Could Make It Anywhere

Jim Adams, aka Newepicauthor, the creator of A Unique Title For Me, is hosting SONG-LYRIC-SUNDAY and this week he has chosen the theme: FIX/MAKE

Empire State Building, New York City, Skyscraper

There are lots of songs that came to mind, but I picked the one I never get tired of. There is something uplifting and exciting about this song when I hear it, even though I have no connection with New York. But I still felt I had to send my main character Annabelle Riley to New York where she met her ex-boyfriend and of course her family. In fact I think that the interactions with Dean were some of my favourite passages to write. All my friends say they fall in love with Chris early on in the story, but of all the characters they like Dean the best because he can be so obnoxious and at the same time so caring. How confusing is that for a writer to hear?!!!

Researching New York sites, hotels and restaurants, checking the subway routes that Annabelle would have taken – it was so absorbing. It made me want to visit for myself and trace her steps around the city. There are so many films and television series that have been set in New York, so many of us are familiar with this famous city even if we have never been there ourselves. So it was easy for me to imagine Annabelle and Chris on the Brooklyn Bridge and high up on the Empire State Building.

For Annabelle, New York is not an easy place to be. But in a surprise twist – the answer to some of her problems actually lays waiting for her in New York.

Well….if you did not have chance to follow Annabelle’s story when I published it on my blog it is now all recorded in the first part of the LEARNERS AT LOVE series “We Hide What We Hate About Ourselves” which is down there in the footer of my blog. I had to remove the Annabelle posts from my blog before I published her story with Amazon, which is a shame, but the joy of holding my first paperback and seeing my family and friends with their own copy is so worthwhile!

Meanwhile….this is the song that inspired Annabelle’s story when she ventures outside of Wisconsin. It is Alicia Keys singing “Empire State Of Mind”.

Oooh oooh, New York
Oooh oooh, New York

Grew up in a town
That is famous as a place of movie scenes
Noise is always loud
There are sirens all around
And the streets are mean
If I could make it here
I could make it anywhere
That’s what they say
Seeing my face in lights
Or my name in marquees found down on Broadway

Even if it ain’t all it seems
I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby, I’m from
New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York, New York, New York!

On the avenue, there ain’t never a curfew
Ladies work so hard
Such a melting pot on the corner selling rock
Preachers pray to God
Hail a gypsy cab
Takes me down from Harlem to the Brooklyn Bridge
Someone sleeps tonight with a hunger
For more than an empty fridge

I’m making by any means
I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby, I’m from

New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York, New York, New York!

One hand in the air for the big city
Street lights, big dreams, all looking pretty
No place in the world that can compare
Put your lighters in the air
Everybody say yeah, yeah yeah

New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York!

Writers: Alicia J Augello Cook, and Shawn Carter

Puddings And Press-Ups

When I read this post back it brings back so many memories of High School to me. Sometimes I think I paint my English teacher too harshly, but the fact is, he was memorable! We were ok with it. So I know the contents of this post might seem concerning, and I don’t think teachers could get away with this now, but twenty-something years ago we took it on the chin with a grin. Nobody could forget English lessons with the infamous Mr Turner!

Steinbach, Mennonite Heritage Village

Mr Turner was a riddle. There was a very jovial side to him. He clearly had a sense of humour as indicated by his huge guffaws, which made his belly wobble and his face crimson. Yet he had also won the reputation of being one of the most fearsome teachers within the school.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dfhgejrog.pngI remember my English lessons during the first year of high school vividly. He would ask a question. If you didn’t have your hand up he was likely to single you out for attention, which was always rather embarrassing. So I quickly learnt it was better to raise my hand, even if I did not have anything to say – and just hope he would not pick me.

It did not always work though!

You,” Mr Turner said as he was looking over in my general direction. I looked around at my classmates sitting around me to see if he could be referring to someone else. “Yes you…you have your hand up. What’s your name girl?

Melody Finch Sir.”

Well come along Finch, speak up, we don’t have all day!”

What was the question again Sir?”

What was the question? Finch, why did you put your hand up if you don’t know what the question was?”

My mind has gone blank Sir.

Finch you are a pudding. A right pudding. What are you?

A pudding Sir.” I could hear some of my classmates sniggering.

That’s right. A real pudding. Can you spell that backwards?

Erm, G-N..erm..E, no I mean I-D” I did know how to spell “pudding”, but under pressure, I struggled to think clearly.

Wrong! I asked you to spell “that” backwards, not “pudding” backwards! Finch you really are a right pudding. Look at me when I am addressing you Finch! Do you know what you are?

A pudding Sir!”

Very good, but you’re a right rum pudding too. I am only teasing you Finch, don’t sulk. Now who can tell Miss Finch what the question was?”

There was silence. Nobody else was willing to hazard a guess. Mr Turner’s stare rested on a boy named Henry Wilson who sat at the back of the classroom. “Wilson! Are you asleep? You look as is you have only just crawled out of bed. Stand up! Shirt! In! Tucked in! Do you own a comb? Tell your parents to buy you a comb so you can straighten your hair in the morning. Don’t scowl Wilson! Come here, bring your exercise book. Come on lad, we don’t have all day!

Although, I felt some relief now that Mr Turner seemed to have forgotten about me momentarily, I felt a sickening anticipation of what was about to happen. Almost every lesson somebody ended up at the front of the classroom. Mr Turner would find some reason to humiliate them in front of the class. In the case of Henry Wilson, it was the dishevelled state of his exercise book. Before long Henry was made to do one hundred press-ups at the front of the classroom with a dictionary on his head. It kept slipping off, and so Mr Turner rested it on his back instead.

It was usually the boys who ended up doing press-ups. None of us escaped being called “puddings”. As a group of students we were divided in our opinion of Mr Turner. I guess in some ways we found his lessons funny, but we all had nervous knots at the same time. He gave me very poor grades for months, until I wrote a very long character study on Ruth Balacki from the book we were studying “The Silver Sword”. He gave me an A and wrote that it was the first time my homework had not sent him to sleep.

I have to admit I was glad to find out that we would have a change of English teacher for my second year at high school. We had Mrs Lawton, who told us she was a humanist and a was very kind and encouraging in general. She taught us English until she ran away with Mr Colbook the games teacher when he moved over Buckinghamshire. But that’s another story.

Reminiscing

Beach, Beautiful, Blonde, Enjoyment, Female, Girl

For the past couple of months, I have been re-blogging some of my older posts. There are a lot left….but I wondered would it confuse you if I republished some of older posts about the gorgeous Goldfinch? They are special to me. He and I are still in touch you know. We had a little flurry of emails on Sunday.

I know sometimes re-blogging personal posts sometimes can cause confusion, but just to make it clear – I am with Jack – we are engaged. But Goldfinch and I are still friends and he will always be special to me. I would love to reminisce over all those happy memories I wrote about. But I am struggling to find time to get back to all the comments that are stacking up on my blog – so please if I do re-publish older posts about Goldfinch – please don’t send me questions about what has happened to Jack!

Jack is super smashing great! We have these bizarre conversations about weddings. I still think it is too early to plan. I don’t even want to book a holiday to Norfolk I am so doubtful about cancellations and more messing about as things open up. But Jack is wonderful. He is making me so happy. So much of pain just melts away when peace is restored. It’s weird I can now talk about the past without the pain rising.