Tag Archives: writing

When I Have The Chance To Sit Down With A Big Cup of Tea

I have to admit, my blog has in some ways become as long and hard to tame as my hair. I ought to claim an hour as my own and try to check some of the links (it frightens me to think of how many links must be “broken” or out of date).

I have put together a list of The STORM IN A TEACUP Series posts. It was just one week, one week of drama and emotions and weirdness. I really do look back at it all now and wonder how it became so impossibly awkward between Jack and I. But it is all in the past – thank goodness!

Life is a funny business at times – but my goodness, life is exhilarating!

Would You Like A Cup Of Tea?

What Happened After That Cup Of Tea?

What Did Suzie Have To Say About It?

What Did Marta Have To Say About It?

What Did Ella Have To Say About It?

What Did His Friends Have To Say About It?

Something Was Brewing… And It Certainly Was Not Another Cup Of Tea!

Would There Be Another Cup Of Tea?

It Gets Very Hot In The Kitchen

What Did Jack Have To Say About It?

Nobody Else Really Understood

Look What The Tide Brought In

So now I know what I have to do. I have to keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide will bring in?

Chuck Noland – CASTAWAY

I love Jack, and I feel at peace about out past. But for some reason, sometimes I feel a wave of panic as a recollection of the past overwhelms me. I think that is partly to do with the sense of belonging and purpose at the heart of our relationship. It was so obvious from very early on that we were perfect for each other. The dramatic twists and dark descents our connection endured was confusing and challenging and crushing.

The sense of loss when I had to flee from London was immense, profound. The physical injuries, the traumatic memories of being attacked – they were one thing – but what was worse was the separation, the estrangement from the man who had made such an impact on me.

Jack was in my veins. I don’t remember a day passing when he was not in my thoughts. But with those thoughts, came tears. The situation seemed so impossible. Yet I could not see beyond him. Goldfinch was a blessing. Perhaps if Goldfinch had wanted to share a life with me, eventually I would have been able to see beyond Jack. But Goldfinch’s plans did not involve me. We are still in touch. We were emailing just last night.

What I did not dare to dream about is that one day the sun would rise….and the tide would bring Jack back into my life. Those years of hope being attacked on all sides, family and friends criticising him, telling me to forget him, cut him off, people telling me to accept “destiny”….I was so relieved when their words dried up.

Jack is still ideal for me….and he tells me he has never met with anyone he has clicked with on every level like me. It is astonishing that we survived the storm. The nightmare passed.

Filey, Beach, Yorkshire, Seascape

The Editing Never Really Ends – Does It?

As many of you know, when I wrote The LEARNERS AT LOVE Series, it was the formation of many short parts published over the period of around six months on my blog – around four or five a week.

There were several reasons I was writing and several influences. I think I started writing Annabelle’s story because I had just come back from Australia wondering how it is that you can be on the opposite side of the planet from someone you love. How do you cope? What happens when someone else takes an interest with you and flirts with you? I had been through a lot that year, including a miscarriage, and my great adventure to spend the summer with Goldfinch – lots of mixed feelings, lots of inspirational experiences and lots of love.

It all came out in Annabelle’s story – love, romance, disappointment, humour, grief, major decisions, inspiration from the people around you, frustration with the people around you, warmth and encouragement, self-isolation and feeling lost, putting a brave face on for everyone around you, hiding things that are crushing you from within. It al came out in a fictional character, with a fictional story, with a lot of very real input from real life.

Airports sometimes feel like gateways to another world – another life. I kept on dreaming about being at the airport with Goldfinch – an experience I have had five times now. Annabelle too was going to journey through several airports along her voyage. I think that the 10,100 mile trip I took was why Annabelle ended up travelling so much. It seems a little odd after the Pandemic that she travels with such ease.

It was too intense to give Annabelle my story, it was just too much. But I found myself wanting to bring into her story other things that had happened in my life and the experiences of friends. I have a friend who almost lost her husband when he was in a serious traffic accident. I have a friend who has battled with very dark thoughts towards herself. I have family members who have made mistakes in the past with debt, gambling, alcohol and Class A drugs – and remarkably they have fought those battles and turned their lives around. I found myself weaving in things they have said, conversations we have shared, the experiences they have had with other people, the health service, and their own emotions as they tried to make progress with their battles.

As many other writers will have found, it is incredibly cathartic to weave lessons from life you have picked up yourself or from others, inspiration from real life, real people, real emotions into your fictional story. Writing Annabelle’s story was hugely helpful to me.

However, I sometimes wonder if I deluged Annabelle Riley with too much of an impossible situation at the point we meet her. I have never stopped editing the books I wrote, as far as correcting silly spelling mistakes and typos, and trying to liven up the narrative. However, I have come to a slight dilemma over how much she has been through in a short time. I have read Annabelle’s story several times with a red pen and updated my manuscript with minor amendments to improve the text.

Photo by George Milton on Pexels.com

There are some parts of her story which are essential and cannot disappear because otherwise the rest of her story won’t make sense. I cannot tamper with her relationships with her parents and siblings or her ex-boyfriend. They all have to stay. But from the point she met Robin, I keep looking at all that happens in a short space of time – and of course this is all backstory, because we meet Annabelle several years after she meets Robin – him leaving because his contract has ended and his Visa has expired, her pregnancy, her trip to England, the car accident, the post-natal depression, the grief, the nervous breakdown Robin experiences.

I sometimes wonder if it is too much for one person to endure? Why did I give her so many challenges? Then I remember, well, I guess that I was the one doing the writing, and perhaps part of what fueled me was my own experiences, being trolled and slandered by Jack’s fans, being sexually assaulted and violently attacked, moving around to find somewhere I felt safe, settled and could work independently, falling in love, him leaving because his contract had ended, my pregnancy, my miscarriage, my trip to Australia, my sadness that I had to come back to London and carry on without knowing what the future would hold. All that was bottled up inside, and it came out in Annabelle’s story.

Does Annabelle have too many challenges on her plate? I don’t know. But what I do know is that cliches do not solve her challenges. She has journey on through life, learning about herself, making peace where she can with her past, enduring judgmental comments from others, struggling to communicate, feelings of isolation with her challenges, fear and mistrust, being knocked down by her own failings and sensitive to harsh words from others who seem to be judging her harshly, trying to build a life for herself and realizing that things beyond our control can knock us way off track.

I need to do some brutal editing to the first book. I know there are some passages that are repetitive, and I think repeating her challenges over and over can drag a reader down. But at the same time, I know that when I started writing Annabelle’s story, I was in a way at a crossroads in my life, having been through some very traumatic and painful events, and not being sure what the future held. I think I need to preserve the weight of her challenges, and that she is sort of in a state of “limbo” when we meet her. But the brutal editing ahead of me is about not letting the challenges dominate, but finding the right balance of humour and heartwarming characters to carry Annabelle forward as she continues her voyage of a lifetime.

A Very Special And Heart Warming Collaboration

Behind the scenes of this year’s GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF, scores of bloggers have been helping us with a secret project. In fact, we now know that at least one hundred people have taken part in this project, and we think others (friends, family and colleagues of those we invited to take part) – making this special project a truly international collaboration.

Very soon, we are about to reveal the results of a collaboration between over a hundred men, women and children (and also dogs), the majority of whom have never met each other. The collaborators are spread all over the world, Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, North and South America, even two of our colleagues in Kabul have collaborated on this project.

Some of you know exactly what we are referring to, others may be wondering what it is that we have been working on behind the scenes. Well, in an hour from now, we are going to publish what we call THE GREAT BLOGGERS’ PATCHWORK OF LOVE. It will display over a hundred replies to one question that we asked people of all ages, all backgrounds and in all parts of the globe.

The question we asked them was:

The result, the patchwork we are now thrilled to be able to present to you is something that has truly warmed our hearts.

We left everyone we asked to interpret that question however they wished. Some told us what love feels like inwardly. Some told us about how love manifests itself outwardly. Others told us what or who they love. Some gave us just a one word answer – “family” of course being by far the post popular. Others gave us a fascinating sentence. One or two, were unable to stick to the one sentence limit we asked of them. So, because what they said was so special, we decided to try to squeeze their response into the patchwork.

But the point is – there are no wrong answers. We received replies from over a hundred people in all parts of the earth telling us what love means to them. When one person told me that to them “love is money”, at first my heart sunk. But I realized, it would be wrong to leave that reply out, it has to be in the patchwork. All of the replies had to be in the patchwork.

You will see a variety of replies, which tell a story. You will see common themes. You will see that some seemed to think when we asked what love meant to them, we were asking about romance, others interpreted the question completely differently. Every single reply matters! Over one hundred strangers sharing their heart – that’s an insight into the entire human family!

Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels.com

Actually, it has become quite fascinating. They have created something very special between them, something that will make you smile, warm your heart, and in some cases provoke tears. We have been faffing around with graphics for several days now and the patchwork is finally ready!!! The result is a powerful creative piece. Take your time over it. Over a hundred people, a hundred beating hearts, worked on this project with you, and it has produced something exceptional!

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.