• Christmas Time

    Merry Christmas!

    I’m looking forward to some tasty food, some classy grape based beverages and the company of friends and family – including the little fellow above, Nero the dog.

    The world’s media and thousands of talented bloggers will produce long, detailed and weighty reviews of 2016. I daresay there will be much talk of war, terrorism, politics and death. It really has been quite some year.

    Nero’s year has been altogether simpler.

    Food has been plentiful. Walks too. He has been particularly pleased with the variety of armchairs, couches and beds provided for his comfort. Most satisfactory.

    Every time Margaret and I return, Nero jumps up and down at the back door, waiting to hear the key in the lock. When he does, he speeds across the room to his toys, selecting one as a welcome home present. Whether we have been gone five minutes or a few hours, his enthusiasm is entire and unlimited.

    He loves curling up on a couch in front of the fire, even more if he can share the couch with us.

    Each morning, I awake to Nero tip-tapping across the wooden floor in the bedroom. In between long yoga-like stretches, he has taken to ‘huffing’, ensuring that I’m awake.

    Together we head out in the early light for a walk around the village. We take the same route each morning, yet every day is a brand new adventure, full of exciting scents, animals to chase and people to deafen with barks.

    We make the world very complicated.

    Be more Nero.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  • Reflections on the A to Z Challenge

    A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

    Reflections

    The A to Z challenge is difficult. I tried to find a perfect post length, long enough to make a point, but brief enough that people find it easy to finish.

    This year, I had completed all of my posts in advance, which made the experience less stressful. However, one of my reflections is that I felt more detached from the challenge this year, undoubtedly because I was not writing a post each day.

    That said – I am not sure that I have enough to say to post every day. I am reasonably certain that few people have time to come by and read every day. I am absolutely certain that I do not have time to write something every day.

    There is an inherent danger that a focus on quantity adversely impacts quality, and for that reason, I am not sure that the challenge is for me any more.

    Does that mean that the challenge is no good? No, it doesn’t.

    The challenge is an excellent way to practise discipline and to generate some traffic to the blog. My reflections on the exercise have also made me think about how to publicise my blog posts.

    Many people that read my posts, do it from another platform – Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin. Tempting though it is to release multiple messages on each of these platforms directing readers to the blog – it quickly becomes wearing on those people who are connected to me on those platforms.

    I greatly enjoyed the challenge this year, but I suspect that I will not do it next year. My focus will be to post regularly – but advertise selectively. I am grateful to have learned that.

     

     

  • A to Z Challenge

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    It’s that time of year again. The A to Z Blogging Challenge.

    During the month of April I will be posting 26 times – working my way through the alphabet.

    You can do it too. Sign up here. I will also be visiting as many other participant’s blogs as possible.

    I did it last year, and it is a great way to make me focus on actually writing something every day.

    This year – I am going to do a little differently and focus on a theme rather than random ramblings.

    I am going to blog about my debut novel and stealing shamelessly a joke from Author Ben Adams, I can unequivocally say that the novel will be the best debut novel ever written by me.

    I can promise you honesty, posts short enough that they do not require meal breaks, and maybe, possibly, an insight or two that will make you laugh or nod sagely. I’ll take either result!

    Hopefully this exercise will force me to crack on and finish the novel. Editing is a new thing for me, and I find it hard. The hardest is actually getting on with it.

    And on that bombshell, I’m off for a haircut.

    Comment. Agree, Disagree. I would love to hear from you.

  • Ben Adams. Living the Dream – Writing

     

    An Author’s Life

    The link above will take you to the blog of Ben Adams, a very dear friend of mine.

    Well actually, not a very dear friend. We have never actually met.

    Ben Adams

    Dashingly handsome though isn’t he?

    I stole the picture from his website – so he is doubtless lining up a cohort of solicitors to take me for every penny I’ve got.

    We might have swapped the odd blog comment, or even twatted each other – sorry, I think that should read “tweeted each other” – but Ben is fast becoming a mentor to me.

    He has done it, you see. He has written a book and published it. I know he has actually sold some, because I bought one. Counting his Mum and the ones he bought himself, he must be in double figures now at least.

    Don’t tell anyone – but it is actually pretty good. Buy the Kindle version here

    A couple of months ago, Ben took the huge step of resigning a perfectly good job to focus on being a writer.

    Nutter.

    He is soon to publish another novel! That will put him ahead of Harper Lee in terms of output at least.

    How envious am I?

    He’s living the dream. He is writing. He has all the time in the world to sit there and write – to immerse himself in his characters, writing darlings, WRITING!

    Whereas I, I, …. I, …oh wait a minute….I’m not working much either am I?

    What he is doing, is knuckling down, eliminating excuses and making time to do what he wants to do – Writing.

    He has established a routine and got on with it.

    Hmmm…

    Must dash – I have a novel to write!

  • Some time off!

    Stuart Lennon. Abbots Ann, Hampshire. April 21st 2015. Copyright Warren James Palmer. www.wjpphoto.co.uk 044 1264 848 056

    Stuart Lennon. Abbotts Ann, Hampshire. April 21st 2015. Copyright Warren James Palmer. www.wjpphoto.co.uk 044 1264 848 056

    The above is me. Dashing, I know.

    As a good friend once said of me;

    “A fine figure of two men.”

    I have left the picture credit on for Warren James – who is a fantastic photographer and charming man to boot. Warren is sensible enough to have chosen to live and work in Brittany – but still comes back to the UK to muck about with flying machines and make subjects look far better than they have any right to look.

    Over the last few weeks, I have done no novel writing and no blogging.

    I have been catching up on all sorts of other things that needed catching up on and as the title of this post suggests, I have taken a little time off being a writer.

    Some time off is, I think, essential. I am feeling recharged, re-energised and focused. Even the garden is looking a bit better.

    Somehow or other I am being lured back into the corporate world, and although suspicious, in many ways, I am pleased.

    Work has always been important to me and how I define myself.

    More inspiring than this though is that work gets me sparking.

    Whatever it is that is responsible for the desire to create something, to imagine a storyline or write a chapter is ignited in me by human contact, by negotiation, by solving problems.

    I am discovering that balance is vital to me. Some time working, some time writing and some time off. Each element feeds the others.

    How do you keep balanced?

  • Blogging From A to Z Challenge

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    That’s it.

    I have completed the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

    26 posts, a post for each week day and Saturday in April.

    I have visited in excess of 200 blogs. Some that I have enjoyed, some that have completely mystified me and one or two that have shocked me.

    I have got a little more comfortable with the ‘craft’ of blogging, how to post, how to make a post attractive to search engines and how to comment. I think that this will be useful.

    Annoyingly, I have also learned that I will need to change my theme (again). The one that I am using here is a free theme and thus a little limited.

    There are some blogs out there that are stunning to look at.

    Should you require highly unusual features, such as words not splitting over the end of a line, then you need to ‘add some code’ or purchase a theme that automatically does this. I concede that I find it difficult to believe that there is much of a blogging market that intentionally uses a theme incapable of justifying text, but perhaps I am old fashioned that way.

    Last time that I attempted a theme change – I bombarded my Facebook wall and twitter account with hundreds of automated messages.

    Brace yourselves.

    A lesson has been how easy it is to find myself doing a million and one things. In fact ANY thing that is NOT writing a novel.

    But that is for another post.

    Time for a lie down.

  • X is for that thing. You know, the X Factor.

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    X.

    Lots of bloggers have been frantically googling “Words beginning with X”.

    I have absolutely no doubt that there will be some fantastically clever posts around words which are completely new to me.

    In itself, this is a good thing, as I will learn something today.

    However, I must raise the question – Has X had its day?

    Let’s be honest, if there were no letter between W and Y, we would cope.

    There are absolutely no words in the the common parlance beginning with X

    None.

    The closest might be -ray or -Factor.

    I imagine that X ray might be replaced by Radio Image – and X Factor could be replaced by, oh I don’t know… white noise?

    The Greeks have a few words beginning with X – but it seems likely that those will be lost to austerity cuts.

    Language is a living, evolving and vibrant thing. I am not sure that X will make the grade.

    Any modern writing resource that you might ever find will advise you to cut, cut, cut. “Make the writing tighter”.

    “Look at adjectives and adverbs with suspicion. Show, don’t tell.”

    ‘The secret to effective writing is to keep the pace up, and not distract the reader with description or anything else that might require long words.’That appears to be the message.

    I suppose that this is good advice.

    Us folk of Generation X grew up with the writing of Stephen King and others, where the pace is relentless. The phrase ‘a real page-turner’ was born.

    Tolstoy was for us, an examination text. I mean that fellow was just all adverbs and adjectives….

    Wait.

    What do you mean War and Peace is important?

    Well written?

    Has an X Factor?

    Oh No. Maybe we need X after all?

     

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    Great Blogs here!

     

     

  • W is for Whisky

    Scotch-Whisky

    Stone me. Would it happen to be the 27th of April?

    W in the A to Z Blogging Challenge?

    Quite apart from these momentous events, I will be celebrating the beginning of my forty fifth year on the planet.

    Friend and foe from my past will be surprised that I have made it this far. I mean to forty-five. Although my reaching W in the A to Z Challenge will probably also come as a surprise to them.

    Whisky. Will I drink some? Yes.

    Ok. There is a fair chance that I may drink a lot.

    Why will I drink a Whisky particularly?

    1. Whisky is Scotland. I am irrationally, passionately, Scottish.

    2. Whisky brings to mind the greatest man to walk this earth. Dad. (I may be a little biased.)

    3. Whisky is the spirit of the landmark.

    On Hogmanay, do people reach for a gin? A Vodka? No. Should auld acquaintance be forgot…’let’s have a Scotch’.

    There is something fundamental about a Scotch.

    I have no doubt that the Japanese have made an incredible whisky or two and will continue to do so. The Irish and the Americans have some great spirits, and even felt moved to sneak an additional vowel in – Whiskey as opposed to Whisky.

    But here’s the thing. When presented with Sashimi, it never occurs to me that the Salmon is Scottish. Sashimi is Japanese.

    Presented with a Whisky, I raise a toast to the King ‘across the water’, nod to my Father and revel in being a Scot.

    Whiskey is Scottish.

    Live with it.

    Take a strong nip of Whisky, roll it around your mouth, and just for a second touch your inner William Wallis.

    Slainte.

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    There are lots of great blogs to try – here 

  • U is for Unicum

    unicum-csalad

    U is for Unicum

    Over the last couple of days, I have been catching up on my blog posts. I had fallen far behind the schedule.

    Yesterday, I pulled my finger out and got busy. There may have been a glass of wine involved. Difficult to believe, I know.

    Today, the 23rd, is ‘T’.

    This post is ‘U’.

    Readers, or possibly Reader. I am officially ahead of the curve.

    Hoorah!

    Oh yeah!

    Now, to the subject of the post. Unicum.

    This is a digestif from Hungary. Sometimes known as the Hungarian accelerator. It is a fierce herbal concoction that will put hairs on the chest. (Apparently it has a dramatic effect on men too.)

    Sean has recently experienced the joys of an Unicum or two. Most particularly he has experienced the joys of waking up after an evening of Unicums. As a right of passage, there is much to be said for the Unicum. Otherwise, there is not much to be said for Unicum.

    It is ferocious. It does not taste great. It gives you one hell of a hangover.

    Looking at the last paragraphs, my SEO score on this post is going to be enormous. How many times have I mentioned Unicum?

    In my past, there have been several fantastic nights involving Unicum. Unfortunately, I remember very little of them.

    Is there a bottle of something in your drinks cabinet that may well still be there in twenty years?

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    Check out some great blogs on the A to Z Challenge here.

  • T is for Ties

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    Ties.

    Curious things. Even the ones that are not neon.

    My wife has far better taste than me in almost everything.

    One of the curious exceptions to this rule is the tie. I think that there are rules to choosing a tie. I am not sure that I could explain the rules – but I know them.

    A striped tie does not go with a pinstripe suit. Ties and shirts of the same colour had their moment. It was a moment. That was it. Ladies, let it go.

    When I sold out of the corporate world and elected to become a writer, I consciously put the ties away.

    However, I am a freemason (oooooooooooooooh!) and at Lodge, we wear ties. So I wore one.

    Then, I sat on the interview panel for a new General Manager for the golf club. It seemed right to wear a tie. The chairman of the panel had remarked on the previous day “Well, I will be in jacket and tie, but there is no way that I am going to tell Stuart to wear a tie!”

    Finally, I attended a funeral. The mother of a great friend had passed away. (Love you DCJ.)

    As a younger man, I wore a tie under sufferance. In the corporate world, I saw it as a uniform. A cop-out. A statement of a conscious lack of personality or style.

    In many ways, I still hold those views.

    Increasingly, I have come to understand that there is a comfort in a tie. In each of the scenarios above my wearing a tie made others feel better.

    Odd.

    The power of an eccentric clothing accessory.

    Any thoughts on ties?

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    I am doing the A to Z Blogging Challenge – go check out some more blogs here