Friday, 26 August 2016

Summer Suns are a Glowin' with Jane Bwye

I'm delighted to say that the sky is blue as I post this addition to my 'Summer Suns and how they affect your writing' theme. 

Though, if I'm totally honest, there are also some white scudding clouds out there but the day is predicted to be 'quite nice' for my part of north-east Scotland. 

I'm always thankful to have any blinks of sun but my guest today will tell us about her sunny experiences over her lifetime which are very different from mine. Jane Bwye, my Crooked Cat publishing friend, is a very welcome return visitor and she's here to tell us about her summer suns and what adds to or slows down her writing production.

Hello again, Jane. I do love this photo that you've sent today, you look so relaxed andset to enjoy the day! Tell us please about your summers..
Jane Bwye- courtesy of Jane Bwye

This summer, Nancy – or any summer? For fifty-five years my life was one continual summer – in Africa. There, my writing output was spasmodic at best. But I can put the blame for that squarely on my family. I can never do anything by halves, and my family has always been my number one priority.
When we moved to the UK sixteen years ago, a place with four seasons, it took time to become used to the changes, and I absolutely hated the drawing in of the days. I was continuously tired and depressed and had to do something to stop the rot – so allowed myself to wallow in nostalgia. The task of writing BREATH OF AFRICA spilled over many seasons and provided me with a steep learning curve. The book’s success gave me momentum, and I’ve written three since then.
Now, it’s summer again. Although I hail from Africa, I really don’t like the hot humidity around me. Bathed in a stupor of sweat, I cower in the shade and raise my cheeks towards the slightest whiff of a breeze. Aches and pains distract my mind, and it is an effort to do anything at all.
So, no – I don’t feel like writing. I haven’t recovered from the supreme effort of birthing my latest book, GRASS SHOOTS. It’s the sequel to BREATH OF AFRICA, and will be published by our great publishers, Crooked Cat next year.
But, to get back to your question, I honestly don’t think my output has anything to do with the seasons. It has more to do with that intangible thing, the muse. And when family make an appearance, as always, writing takes a back seat. We’ve had two summer visitors this year: my eldest daughter from Australia, and my youngest son from Kenya. We’ve had a lightning wedding to celebrate (that could provide material for another story…) and I’m still reeling from all the excitement.
Hope I’m learning at long last how to take it easy – to spell myself and not try and accomplish too many things all at once. The mind and the body – with the consequent medications – are just not working as before. What did Scarlet O’Hara say in GONE WITH THE WIND? I must learn to think about things “tomorrow”. A difficult lesson for one who has been used to living life to the full.
But in summertime, with nature surrounding me, the one thing I love to do is read…

I love to read outside, too, Jane but the shading of my eyes needs to be prefect! My sun hat has a huge brim and has been on the go since I bought it in 1995 - so that shows how often it gets used during my Scottish summers. 

I feel so in tune with some of what you've said there, Jane, especially about the 'muse' having a lot to do with writing production. My family also gets my priority time at the expense of writing progress and it's too easy to blame that for my lack of focus and poor time management. 

Thanks for popping in today, Jane. Best wishes with your new book when it launches and please come back and tell us more about it nearer the time. I'll be in the queue to get a copy having really enjoyed reading Breath of Africa. 

Find Jane at the places below.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Sunday Snippet!

Yesterday, Saturday 20th August, I posted my usual every second Saturday blog post at Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog.  

I had to post it really early for me, as in just after midnight and just into the new day of the 20th. This was because I was currently still baby sitting but more because I was heading out around 8.45 a.m. to go to the FOCUS Craft and Design Fair at Inverurie to sell/sign my novels and knew I'd be too tired to publish my 'Wranglers'  post at that time.

The Fair at Inverurie was excellent, a steady stream of browsers and some were buyers. There is no way I can predict how many novels I might sell at any of my 'Fairs', or which of my titles will be popular, but yesterday it was a tie between Topaz Eyes and The Taexali Game - though I'm delighted to have sold 15 novels in all.

One of the best moments was when a return customer came to my table with a friend and immediately thanked me for the excellent reads she'd bought on another occasion. She declared she'd enjoyed them so much she was buying the third of my mysteries because she loved my writing. Her declaration was encouragingly loud enough that I do believe she 'sold' a book to my next customer. I thank that lady very much for her faith in my writing!

Today is a writing day, along with many other domestic tasks, so I'll just add a tiny snippet that's presently in my 'out-takes' but might find itself somehow resurrected in the final draft of this WIP that is destined to eventually be a family saga.

What is below is unedited. At this point the main character, Margaret, is in Aberdeen, Scotland and it's  the year 1850.
Frank Holl- Slaves of the Needle "The Seamstresses"

The few coins that jingled in her pocket were just enough. Jamie desperately needed better nourishment, but a simple fish stew was the best she would manage till Mrs. Milne paid her the next day.

Her forefinger rubbed mindlessly against her thumb. The harsh soap she’d used to clean her laundry pile had roughened her skin so much a rasp would not have been sharper. The lanolin she’d worked in after the laundry tasks had done very little, yet, and there was only the tiniest slither still left in the pot. Just one more thing that needed refilling. It was a vicious circle. The only lanolin preparation she could afford stank to high heaven, but it was the best she knew of for softening skin quickly. When she got back to the tiny room she shared with Maisie and her two little girls she’d work in some more. After they’d eaten the meagre supper she was about to provide her hands would have softened out a bit for the fine sewing that lay in her work basket. Rough skin was an abomination when stitching silk underclothing.

Her delicate stitching was what earned the most money. Her rough work for the drapery was the bread and butter, the laundry Maisie took in supplemented their meagre fare but Margaret’s wages for Mrs. Milne’s delicate work paid their rent.

Her fingers drew out her few coins, savouring the feel of them before she handed over the cash in exchange for fish. Not even complete fish. She saved a little each time by asking for the poorly filleted fish-bits rather than whole pieces. It took longer to prepare the meal, bone picking a tedious job, but the stockpile of farthings she’d secreted away was her ticket on that train out of Aberdeen.

Two more days and she’d be gone.

“Nobody makes a meal out of nothing like you do, Margaret.”
Maisie was going to miss her cooking, she knew it, but her mind was made up. Home was calling her, if Fife could even be called that.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay on in Aberdeen a bit longer?”
Maisie’s plea was thready, her voice constricted as she hefted her five month old daughter into her arms from the box bed that was the sleeping cot for five of them. Maisie slept at one end with her two girls, while Margaret top-to-toed with her son at the other end.
Margaret was truly grateful that she’d met Maisie soon after she’d arrived at the Aberdeen Joint Railway station from Peterhead.

She’d only been in Aberdeen once before on her arrival from Dundee, with her brand new husband Alex, but those circumstances had been quite different.

After their marriage, she and Alex had stayed in Dundee for a few months. Back then, Alex had been working for his uncle, a tailor who had only daughters. That had worked fine for him till he’d brought her to live in his uncle’s house. She was already pregnant.

Untenable. They’d had to leave after a great fall out between uncle and nephew. Their destination was Peterhead though they’d had to stay overnight in the city of Aberdeen. Trailing alongside Alexander as he wended their way to the lodging house he knew about, having frequented it a few times before, was entirely different from arriving unaccompanied, with a fractious not quite two year old.


Monday, 15 August 2016

Summer Suns are a Glowin’ with #Nancy Jardine

Today is my Summer Suns are a Glowin’ Monday Moments slot with myself- Nancy Jardine

During this short series, I’ve had some author guests sharing their typical summer distractions, things which secrete them away from their writing, or in some cases they’ve shared how they cope with writing during lovely summer days.

I’ve never cracked the technique of writing outside using my laptop and it’s extremely rare when I put pen to paper – or in my case a pencil, more natural to me since I’m an ex- primary teacher. I can never get myself in the correct amount of shade to write even when I wear my rather large sunhat. I can only cope with attempting to write for a short time before I up sticks and retreat inside.

However, being outside always reminds me of garden jobs that are overdue and since I’m the gardener the responsibility is mine. Today is a beautiful day, if a little windy. My photography isn’t up to scratch but I do try with my little Coolpix point to and press the shutter camera. There is some nice colour dotted around my front garden this year but in the words of Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- I have “a pretty little wilderness’ going on in my side garden which is too embarrassing to photograph. My angelica has taken a battering during the recent high winds in July and August and what should be a tall stately plant is a poor looking bowed over mess just now.

But back to my writing. I do it inside at the desk by my dining room window. Sneaking a look outside happens often and it’s especially drawing when the magpies appear or when the woodpigeons and blackbirds frighten off the little birds, generally wrens and robins.  

And then there are my lovely grand children who pop in from next door to brighten up my day and to check on the fairy house and garden.  

Distractions are plenty but what I’m aiming for these days is better discipline to keep my writing on track. 

Today I'm aiming for adding a new chunk to my WIP and trying not to edit out too much of what I've already written over the day. I really want my Books 4 and 5 of my Celtic Fervour Series to be really the absolute best I can make them.

What more can I say?  

Here's a little from the 'Dump' section of my work in progress:

A rush of pure hatred mixed with an unbidden fear almost had her snapping the soggy debris beneath her leather-clad feet as she sidled to the nearby mature beech. In the forest gloom, her thoughts were as murky as the wood around her. Alban elued was upon them, though she doubted there would be much to the ceremony around the fireside of her family when she returned to them. It was her habit to welcome this happy time, when the daylight shared an equal time with the dark and the last of the crops were gathered in but presently the forest god, Cernunnos, favoured neither her, nor her family.
The summer warmth of Lugh was only a memory. An early chill had rapidly descended since dawn causing a cascade of colourful leaf drop to glide down. The red gold of the leaves might have been appealing had the day been a fair one but Cernunnos was demonstrating his ire at the deeds of men in his precious territory. The mush of the soggy leaves was treacherous underfoot.
Reining in her anxiety, she snatched a breath before the cries of her answering crossbill call acknowledged she understood how many of the enemy needed to be dealt with. Hunkering down behind the trunk, she drew her bratt tighter around her head, her fingers numb and clumsy as she tucked in her wayward side plaits. The measure was poor protection for her shivering body, the relentless pelt of hail stinging her cheeks like she imagined a branding tine would do, though she had yet to experience that. Knowing observation was all that was required of her for the moment, she knelt down on one knee finding a better balance point, her woollen braccae sodden. The softest of plops hit the wet tree roots beneath her as she scanned the vicinity, melted hail trickling down from her chin. No part of her was dry but she could do nothing about that state. Not until much later and after her turn at surveillance was over.
After a long interval, her breathing shallow to suppress the complaints her aching muscles wanted to scream out, the faint bird-chat of Colm and Feargus was just discernible on her left before the signal came to move on. She couldn’t see Colm, only his spear, the tip of which nudged a gentle indication towards the edge of the forest. Progressively, and with great caution, she edged from tree to tree, winding her way through the wood which clad the foothills of Drumgoodrum. She knew by the responses from Colm and Feargus that the fourth warrior of their scouting party, Nith, was the only one of them who had the Roman soldiers in view.