• T is for ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’

    The Wrong Kind of Clouds cover

    It’s Saturday. One week until the end of the A to Z Challenge.

    Today I am writing about ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’, the best ever debut novel written by Amanda Fleet, my writing buddy. You can order a copy here, and even get a discount.

    Amanda Fleet

    I haven’t read it. Amanda had this one in the bag before I turned up. I have ‘met’ a couple of the characters. They turn up in a novella that Amanda is planning to let people have for free.

    The protagonist, Summer is someone I would like to spend some time with; tough, but good fun, I think. She also has a medical condition that I had never heard of; synasthesia. Broadly, any emotion Summer feels is ‘in colour’. Mad. But great.

    I’m looking forward to the release, I have pre-ordered a paperback version.

    Obviously, when ‘clouds’  sells well and Amanda topples J.K. Rowling, I’ll claim all the credit.

    ‘She’d be nobody without me, you know.’

    Go and pre-order one. If you are an e-book person, sign up to her website and get notified the moment the novel is available in your preferred format.

    Remember, you heard it here first.

    ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • S is for Stationery

    Spotlight logo

    I have already blogged about Bureau Direct, where I get my notebooks. Another outlet where I recently purchased lovely headed paper is Honey Tree.

    Spurred on by my enjoyment of writing in notebooks and sending letters, and egged on by my fellow addict Amanda, I signed up to Spotlight Stationery. For a small monthly fee, they send me a surprise box of stationery at the end of each month. Amanda wrote a great post on her other blog about these boxes.

    They are beautiful. I received my first one in March and was instantly smitten. The day of receipt, I sent all of the postcards from the box to surprised friends.

    Go check Spotlight Stationery out, they are fantastic.

    If you haven’t already deduced it, I am a big believer in enthusiasm. In the past, I ran training courses and had a slide that read;

    “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

    It’s absolutely true. Whether it be business, blogging, writing, love or even stationery, do it with enthusiasm. The outcome may not be everything that you hoped for – but does it matter? The other thing about enthusiastic people, is that they are forever smiling.

    Funny that.

    Must dash, my new stationery box is due any day now.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

     

  • R is for Reading

    Hemingway Reading

    ‘There is no friend as loyal as a book’.

    That chap Hemingway again.

    Like many people I fell out of reading for a while. Not on purpose. It just happened.

    After all, we are blessed with so much choice now. In the past we had a few channels of TV, a couple of choices at the cinema, our record collection or a book. All of those things were considered art forms. Now, there is ‘content’.

    Technically, you are consuming ‘content’ right now.

    In addition to reading these words, you might have the TV on, be listening to some music or keeping an eye on your e-mail. You might even be doing all of those things concurrently.

    At the time of writing, I am rebelling against the digital world. See here. I drafted this post by hand in a notebook, with a pen. One thing that I will not be giving up any time soon is my e-reader. The ability to have a thousand books to read in a device the size of a small paperback is fantastic. Much though I love a good old-fashioned book, I’m not a huge fan of storing them.

    One thing that I have re-discovered is the absolute joy of losing myself in a book; getting so engrossed that all distractions disappear. Only reading can do that for me.

    Since electing to be a writer, my reading has broadened. I read classics, best sellers and debuts from new writers. I find good and bad in all of them. I learn as much from the bad as well as from the good.

    Writers read.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • P is for Procrastination

    ahh-procrastination

    Of late, writing for me has been 1% production and 99% procrastination.

    In fairness, I believe that a large % of most endeavours is spent on activities that have little, or at best, only a tangential bearing on the aim of the endeavour.

    Take E-mail for example. Those of us who have worked as office employees at some point in the last twenty years have spent inordinate amounts of time on e-mail.

    I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. (Procrastinating perhaps?)

    With hindsight, I believe that all e-mail is procrastination. Not some of it, not even most of it, all of it.

    You may not believe me, and I am sure that you are right. I am often wrong about these things.

    As you are believer in e-mail – please sign up to this site – and I’ll send you the odd e-mail to keep you in the loop.

    Forgive me, I have digressed. I am a champion procrastinator. I have multiple methods.

    Self-Improvement is one. (Books, Apps, Courses.) Applications. Ways of automating processes that I don’t even do, is another. To-do lists. Facebook. Buying stationery, changing wallets, oh I could go on for ever.

    As I write this post, I am in a new daily routine. Essentially, I remain digital-free until after lunch. So far, it has been a huge success. But then it is only day 2.

    How do you procrastinate?

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • O is for Organised Crime

    organised-crime

    I know that this is obvious, but Organised Crime is not a good thing.

    It is worth writing down, because Organised Crime has had, and still has, some fantastic PR. All sorts of romantic associations of Organised Crime as a brotherhood, as a family, as a coping strategy. Lovely ideas, but all nonsense.

    Organised Crime is made up of nasty, grubby, greedy criminals.

    Researching into Organised Crime for my novel, I was struck by how err…, organised these groups are. Long before management consultants were extolling ‘flat, responsive, management structures’ and ‘smart creatives’, Organised Crime was growing, spreading and diversifying. I can admire the ambition, scope and efficiency of these groups, but I am under no illusions as to the true nature of them.

    The Godfather, The Sopranos and the like were great entertainment but they downplayed the true nature of Organised Crime. It trades in human misery. It enslaves, tortures, rapes and brutalises without compunction.

    Increasingly, criminal activities are one aspect of wide-ranging organisations that contain many legal enterprises, giving the whole an appearance of legitimacy that obscures the true nature.

    In my novel, set in the 1990s, Sean meets one of these organisations in Central Europe. What begins as exciting and fun becomes something else entirely.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • N is for NaNoWriMo

    Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes

    National Novel Writing Month. It’s all in the title really.

    I have mentioned NaNoWriMo in several posts already. Briefly, the challenge is to write fifty thousand words of a novel in the calendar month of November.

    As a way of establishing a regular writing practice and of getting words onto the page, I highly recommend it.

    I did a warm-up NaNo in October, so that I could start a fresh manuscript in the November. I wrote thirty something thousand words in October and just short of sixty thousand in November.

    Participants are broadly divided into two camps. The planner and the pantsers (seat of pants). I was a pantser. I had no idea where my characters were going to take me. It turns out that they had no idea either. Still, we got over the line.

    As a creative endeavour and experience, I enjoyed NaNoWriMo.

    As a method of writing a first draft, I remain unconvinced. It may be that actually, I am unconvinced of being a pantser. Writing fast, with no clear plan is great fun. It gets the creative juices flowing. Truth be told though, for me, it did not create characters with depth. It did not create a taut story arc. I am having to go back and do those things retrospectively.

    Will I do NanoWriMo this year?

    Maybe – but if I do, I will go into the month with a firm outline already written.

    NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • M is for Money Laundering

    money-laundering

    Organised Crime is about profit.

    Status and power have a role, but ultimately Organised Crime Groups exist to get rich.

    Ever since the FBI used tax evasion laws to nab and imprison Al Capone, criminals have strived to make their money appear legitimate. It must be quite galling to make millions from one’s nefarious activities but be unable to spend any of it.

    Money Laundering is making the proceeds of crime appear legitimate.

    In the best ever debut novel written by me, the hero, Sean has an opportunity to partner some unsavoury people as their laundry man. He is faced with a decision.

    Straightforward you would think. Sean can do the right thing or the wrong thing.

    I’m not sure that things are quite as black and white as that. Motive is a very difficult thing to pin down. Often different people have different definitions of what they see as right or wrong.

    Let me leave you with a few questions to think on.

    1. Have you ever paid a tradesman in cash for a lower price? “Let’s call it a hundred for cash?”
    2. Bought cheap duty free cigarettes or booze from a friend?
    3. Picked up designer label jeans from a street market?
    4. Watched a pirated movie?

    Quite probably all crimes.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • L is for Lonely

    write

    On the whole, I am comfortable in my own company. I’m an only child and lived for many years as an expatriate.

    Despite this I have found writing lonely at times.

    When in the grip of writing a story, I am happy, delighted even, to be alone. After all, I have an entire cast of characters in my head to keep me company.

    At other times, being a writer can feel lonely.

    Sadly though, the loneliness is not relieved by company.

    Non-writing friends and family try to help, but they can’t. Non-writers find it rude if I call them for a chat and then suddenly, and obviously, lose interest in the conversation. Non-writers are mystified to be invited in, to then be ignored. Writers don’t do this on purpose – but when a character demands attention, we must listen. If a scene appears in our heads, we must capture it; to the exclusion of anything else.

    Most people go to coffee bars to meet friends, to chat and laugh. Some people even go for the coffee. Writers go to be alone. To observe. Sometimes we go to be ‘not lonely’ but still alone.

    During NaNoWriMo there are regional meet-ups. Four of five of us met in a coffee bar in Salisbury. We said Hi, opened our laptops and started tapping away, flatly ignoring each other. After a few hours, I closed the laptop and stood.

    ‘Same time next week?’

    We are definitely not quite right.

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • K is for Kill

    faulkner

    Calm down. The wife is not under the patio.

    ‘Kill your darlings’. William Faulkner no less. (Back to those great American writers again.)

    Writing the first draft of the best ever debut novel written by me, the challenge was to get all of the words out of my head onto the page. All of the advice that I read was to write; to get on with it, just get on with it…

    I stumbled across National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)Check it out.

    NaNo is the extreme end of ‘just write’. So, I wrote and wrote and wrote. No looking back, no editing, always moving forward. The writing took on its own rhythm.

    When November ended, I printed out not one, but two manuscripts. As advised, I hid them in a drawer and collapsed in a contented heap. I may even have had a glass of wine or two. 😉

    Two novels. Done.

    I took the rest of the year off.

    Late in February, I judged myself ready to edit. You know, tidy up a few bits of grammar and the like.

    The drafts were awful. Prose that was wonderful as I wrote it was dreadful and overblown as I read it back. I needed to kill a lot of darlings.

  • J is for Journal

    Journal

    I keep a journal.

    In the past, I used a brilliant app called Day One. This allowed me to update from my computer, my iPad and even my phone. I could ‘geo-tag’, add photos, a soundtrack even.

    Now, I use a fountain pen and a notebook.

    Keeping a journal helps me stay grounded and focused. I don’t have a prescriptive format for the journal. I may write a single line one day and five pages the next. I may celebrate the successes of the day or lament the failures. I may simply record events without judgement. I have a friend (No, I do, really), who writes entries with titles like ‘Carthago delenda est’. Cato the elder, I think.

    Initially, I wrote entries in the mornings. However, I found that writing a journal put me in a wistful, contemplative state, which is not ideal when I have things to get done, so now I write in the evenings.

    If you don’t keep a journal – consider it. It is scientifically proven that you will be more attractive to the opposite sex if you keep a journal.

    OK, I made that last bit up – but keeping a journal will help you understand where your time is going, and time is one thing that we can never get back.