Happy Caturday!

What does this have to do with wiring? I hear you ask. Not much. Just me sharing my sometimes helpful, sometimes unhelpful writing assistants. 

Let’s start with Tiger Lily, my first cat I had on my own. I got her two weeks after I moved into my flat, and the only reason I waited that long was because I’d planned a trip to England and didn’t want to get a kitten just to leave it with my Dad for a week. That’s silly.


Anyway, Tiger Lily likes to lord (or is it lady?) herself over everyone by being on the highest spot. She has a regal air about her, but then acts like a derp when a toy is involved, usually my hair ties. She’s wonderful and loves to sleep on my chest or sit next to me when I’m working at my desk. She’s helpful like that.


Then there’s Tinkerbell. She’s my COVID quarantine kitty from spring 2020. I follow two local animal protection services and saw her in need. Poor thing was terrified and hid under my spare bed for the first few days. She only came out when I had a toy. She let me pet her, but only for a minute or so. But if I slept in the spare room, she snuggled with me. Once she discovered the rest of the flat and met Tiger Lily, she became much friendlier and would sleep on my lap after lunch. Lily liked her, and that was good enough for me.


Cleopatra, Cleo for short, was a similar situation to Tinks. She was abandoned and a bit of a mess. She had a broken paw, which was infected and had cuts and scrapes all over. I was only supposed to be fostering her, but she was so friendly and cuddly. The first few weeks, she never left my side. She was in and out of the vet hospital because of the leg and ear infection, but we got that all fixed. I caught her and Tinks snuggling in my old dog’s bed together. And I knew I’d find it hard to separate them. So I adopted her, too, because I’m a sucker. 


All my girls get on really well together now, and Tiger Lily either plays with the kittens or glares at them as if the say, “Fuck off. I’m not in the mood.” We all snuggle together at night, and they sit near or on me if I’m on the sofa or at my desk. 

So between my three girls, they make sure I get my writing done, but also that I get a break.

Sharing Some Winter Cheer!

Inspiration comes from all kinds of places for me. There isn’t one single source that I can draw from. Seasonal things are inspirational too, like renewing things in spring, relaxing in the summer heat, or enjoying the beautiful colours of autumn.

Winter cheer isn’t so different from Christmas cheer for me, but in the spirit of holiday equality, there are lots of ways to brighten up the darkest months of the year that aren’t obvious Christmas decorations. Also, this means you can put them up early and leave them up well after Christmas and have the excuse, “They’re not Christmas decorations. They’re winter decorations.” 🤣

Lights in a bowl. I have plug-in lights mixed with Christmas baubles, but just the lights would look really pretty and brighten up a dark hallway in winter. Or you could use battery LED lights in a glass or a small vase. 

LED candles.😍 I love them soooo much. They’re safe and pretty, and you can move them around if you want them in different rooms. I have a few candle holders about the flat, so LED tea lights look fantastic in them.

Or try coloured candles for decoration. I have some scented ones in sparkly glasses. I never light them because I don’t trust my cats with candles, but they look and smell really nice.

Light-up wall art. This beautiful winter picture acts like a night light in my hallway. It’s just as beautiful without the lights.

Add sparkly and shiny things to normal things. The candle normally has potpourri around it, but in winter, I swap it for some beads and painted pinecones. I swap my fake flowers for wintery twigs and add glittered twigs or flowers to them. You can’t see very well in the photo, but the glittery twigs have LED lights on them. They broke a while ago, but I still like the glitter in the vase.

My ten-month-old kitten, Tinkerbell, very helpfully pointed out my practical peg lights. They’re just on my desk organiser right now, but sometimes I string them up and peg photos or Christmas cards on them.

I’m like a flower. I need light and warmth and pretty things. Hah, that last one makes me sound awfully materialistic. I can’t help it if I like shiny and sparkly things. Maybe that’s what makes me a cat person. 

Anyway, don’t le the darkest months drain your cheer and inspiration. 

And here’s my Christmas playlist again. There are some wintery songs on there, too. Enjoy…

Title image by Larisa-K at Pixabay.com 

Writer’s Stew for a Hungry Writer!

Yup, actual stew. 

Writing is my second job, albeit unpaid for now. It means I need to make the most of my free time so I can make the most of my writing time. That includes preparing food.

Winter is coming, and the days are getting colder and shorter. I’m sharing my versatile recipe for sweet vegetable stew, which could also be a soup. It’s easy to make and lasts for days without being the same meal over and over.

Ingredients for the soup

1 tbsp of olive oil.

2 leeks.

1 small squash (butternut is my favourite)

3 carrots.

1 red bell pepper.

1 yellow or green bell pepper.

1 radish.

1 stock cube

4 large tomatoes

1 small tin/jar of a simple tomato sauce 

For more variations…

1 jar of beans/chickpeas.

1 tin of meatballs or a jar of mini hotdogs.

Method.

Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large pan and set on a medium high heat. Chop all the vegetables into half centimeter slices. Add the leeks first until they start to brown, then turn down the heat to medium. Add the carrots and squash. Crumble the stock cube and mix into the vegetables. 

Lastly, add the peppers and tomatoes. Let them fry a little and leave for 10 minutes with the lid on. Stir in the tomato sauce and leave on a low heat for 5-10 minutes.

Alternatives

This is where you alter the recipe depending on what you want. I recommend scooping out the amount you want and leaving the rest so you can decide what to do with it later. 

For stew, leave the veggies as they are. You can mix in some beans or chickpeas along with meatballs or mini hotdogs. This makes it a full mean in a bowl. 

For soup, you need to put the veggies in a food processor or chop with a handheld mixer to make it super thin in texture. This goes great with a cheese or ham sandwich.

This recipe lasts for 3-4 days in its various forms without being repetitive or requiring more cooking. Or you could freeze some for the next week. All it needs is reheating with an extra ingredient or so. 

Your sustenance is important to keep your writing brain active. But healthy, versatile eating doesn’t have to eat into precious writing time.

Images by Bru-no and Annaliseart at Pixabay.

New Logo!

I know I’m a long way off publishing and branding. But it doesn’t hurt to ponder these things as I work up to the whole marketing stuff.

I keep dipping into my lapsed graphic design skills and thinking about the general look I want to go for. I’m still deciding, but I have a possible logo to share.

It’s purely experimental and just for my own purposes. But here… enjoy…

And…

I have more ideas that might lead to something completely different. But the whole point of this site is to log my progress. This is my latest progress.

It’s never too early to start thinking about these things. But don’t forget to put your writing first. Logos and websites mean very little without the writing to showcase.

Past Mistakes!

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

We all make silly mistakes in writing, especially during a draft or when focussing on style rather than editing. Those pesky spellings like they’re, there and their or using past simple when you should use past perfect can really bring your writing down a peg or two. 

Learning Spanish as a foreign language force me to relearn my own language and made me much more aware of spelling and grammar mistakes. This is when I’m grateful to be an English teacher. There are occasions where my grammar brain and creative brains are at war, but I’m quite good at separating them. I’ve always had trouble with spelling and reading because of some weird thing in my brain that I have decided is wired for Spanish, not English. I think phonetically and used to spell a lot of things wrong. I still do, but rarely.

But something that I see all the time that seems to be a major issue is lie, lay and laid. It’s not even the spelling people are getting confused with, it’s the meaning of the word. And people have “corrected” me when I’ve used the correct word. 

Definition according to Oxford Dictionary.

For example, my story is in 1st person present, so when I write…

The empty space beside me is cold where Nathanial lay.

I’m using lay as the past of lie since Nathanial was lying there but now he isn’t. Well… I got “corrected” and told to use laid. Really, folks?

If I switched this to past, it would be…

The empty space beside me was cold where Nathanial had lain.

It’s a completely different word, even in a different tense. How is it that so many people just don’t get this? Writers, too. It has been mostly Americans who I see with this issue on the critiquing site I’m on and blogs.

This brings me to another issue I find. When people used the past perfect, or rather, they don’t, when their story is in past tense. The past perfect tense helps define whether you’re in the moment of the story or jumping to some point before. The past of the past, AKA double past. 

I realise throwing in had done, had been, had taken and so on can get a little taxing on the eyes especially with a flashback or backstory that goes on for a few paragraphs. If you start a flashback or backstory without making it clear you’re jumping back in time, you risk confusing readers. The same applies when coming back to the moment. End the double past paragraph with a couple of past perfect verbs and that will finish it off nicely before you slip back into past simple. 

Use words and tenses properly, folks, and help the reader’s imagine your story correctly.

Pearlescent

A little poem from my random Bursts of Words collection.

I once had a collection of pearls in an iridescent shell. Each one contained a piece of my heart. Some I wore on a necklace when I needed them while others were safe away from the cruel world.

They shimmered in the sunlight and brought me strength when I doubted myself. With so many, I occasionally gifted one to the people I cared deeply for. Sometimes, they gifted one back.

One day, a man came into my life and shared his heart’s pearls with me, so I shared mine with him. A woman soon joined us, and our pearls glimmered as if from the same shell. They were beautiful together.

That was until I stumbled, and my pearls rolled away. My friends did not reach out to catch them. Instead, they stomped and crushed them to dust until my heart had no joy, no laughter, only emptiness. Once there were no more pearls, the pair left me to pick up the pieces.

I collected all the dust I could and placed it back in the shell. For weeks, months, I stared at that shell with my broken heart, occasionally peeking at the destruction inside. 

Each time I did, I cried until I was out of tears for the day. Begging my friends did nothing, only left more anger and pain within me.

Those who broke my pearls did not take responsibility but blamed me until I blamed myself. 

Eventually, I stopped looking in the shell, but the memory of the cracking pearls haunted my days and nights. I was adrift in this fog with no strength or solace. 

I ached with more pain than I could handle. It drained me, stole the last of my hope. Days, weeks, months passed as my heart remained pearlescent dust. I wandered aimlessly in a fog, going through the motions as one does when they have little to live for.

I cannot recall what made me look in the shell one day. A speck of hope or desperation. But when I looked, a pearl had reformed, and a piece of my heart along with it. 

Now, I open the shell to find more reformed pearls. 

They do not shine the way they once did, but the pieces of my heart come back one by one. 

Image by Myriams-Fotos at Pixabay.com

You’ve Completed Your First Draft, Now What?

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

No matter how many times I do it, completing that first draft brings a sense of euphoria I can’t quite describe. It’s like winning the first race on sports day. Sure you have more to go, but at the end of the day, you have that one winning medal. I’ve drafted my pentalogy, and book one has had a revision. The rest is messy, but at least the main story is there for me to see its evolution.

Now I have my first standalone novel drafted. And it’s in pretty good shape for a first draft. Right now, I’m letting the revision ideas float around, updating my latest outline with more detailed notes. The entire structure is there ready to smooth out and decorate into a beautiful work of art. It WILL be a work of art when I am done with this story.

Here are some things to think about after your first draft.

Make detailed notes.

Whether you’ve had feedback or not, it’s always a good idea to make notes and update your outline. Add your changes and additions and POV swaps if you have multiple POVS. If you don’t do outlines, it’s still a good idea to make a list and tick them off as you go through them. I use the corkboard mode in Scrivener with the “to do” label for each chapter and its new synopsis, then change it to “done”. It’s really handy. 

Foreshadowing

Now you know where your novel is going, you can drop little clues for the reader throughout the story so any surprises don’t come out of nowhere. Explaining or showing possibilities of the characters’ actions early on can really help with this. 

Setup 

This is connected to foreshadowing but goes beyond that. You need your readers to understand the aspects of your story for it to feel like a satisfying conclusion. If you leave things too vague, then when it all comes together, it won’t have the same impact. Set up the pieces in a way that the reader understands what each one does. Show it in actions, have characters say it in dialogue, or have the MC think it. Just don’t bore the readers with long narration telling them about it unless you have to. 

Deus ex machina

If you’ve set everything up and foreshadowed well, this won’t be an issue. You have to avoid that sense of perfectly timed divine intervention just when the MC needs it. Build up to it gradually, show a little before. Keep it in the reader’s mind with casual mentions in between the more active reminders.

Character development 

With any story, real or fictional, the whole idea is that the characters change somewhat throughout. It could be a minor change that leads to the characters being more open-minded to a big life change, or it could be that the book’s major change is the characters themselves. Either way, having seen where your character ends up, you can now go back and let the character change little by little. 

And now…

It’s been ten months since I started writing Out of Ashes. I won’t deny that the inspiration for the storyline came from a place of pain and vengeance. But what prompted me to write it was a dream of fire and rebirth. 

I don’t want to say more than that in case I spoil anything, but this story was incredibly personal to me, so to complete the draft with fantastic feedback was an amazing feeling. Now I can mould is, shape it an sculpt it into a work of art.

I’m open to self publishing, but I feel like I stand a good chance with traditional publishing based on the current market. I didn’t write my novel to fit the market or adhere to it, but circumstances in my story choice have coincided with what seems to be popular these days. How lucky is that? 

I have to revise it, send it for beta readers, revise it again, maybe even again, and then I can think about whether it’s ready for publishing. This is all going to happen in time, and I don’t plan to put a deadline on anything. You can’t rush creativity. Also, nothing bad will happen if I don’t get it published this year. So cheers to the completed draft and its possibilities. 

In life, we often wish we had the ability of hindsight. In writing, your first draft is your hindsight. Use it well, and rewrite that story to perfection.

More Inspiration?

Yes please. 

I admit I get overloaded with inspiration. Just the other night I had an awesome dream that prompted a future novel. I didn’t spend too long on it because I didn’t want to distract myself from Out of Ashes. But Fae and Foe (working title) has been on my mind for a while now, and a full story idea hit me. So I got on Scrivener and spent a morning hashing out initial ideas and finding images.

It got me thinking about my first novel inspiring dream for Starlighters. Over time, I’ve found lots of things that inspired me further. Mostly music and images that I instantly connected with on behalf of my story and characters.

Enjoy…

I love Epic Music World’s compilations. Not only is it awesome music to write to, but the images prompted me to find an amazing comic and digital artist.

Ghostblade is a fantasy comic by Wlop.

Here’s the link to the full gallery. https://www.deviantart.com/wlop/gallery

There’s even some gaming images on there, like KDA’s League of Legends track and Final Fantasy XV images.

I can’t rave about these artists enough. The imagery and music combined just brings out the best of Starlighters, because somewhere along the way, we all have the same inspiration.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get Wlop’s work on my book covers. I know I would if I could. 

Writing Advice VS How-to-Write Advice!

There’s so much writing advice available on the internet that it can be overwhelming if you’re starting from nothing. I’m not talking about people who studied literature or creative writing and are starting their writing careers. I mean people who have an idea and want to make a go if it whether for personal writing or to possibly be published. But with no previous experience, where do you even start?

I admit I was a pantser when I started. I just sat in front of my PC and typed away until it looked like a story. Then I bought a couple of writing books and started to see where I was going wrong. Then I joined a writing group and found even more ways that I had gone wrong. Now, I’m still probably going wrong somewhere. That’s okay. Even the best authors are always learning. But I feel that I have enough experience with the process of turning an idea into a story to suggest a few things to help others get started.

I was discussing writing advice on a forum recently after a non-writer asked how to get started. I offered some links to YouTube videos and suggested they follow successful authors who give online advice. Then someone said one of the YouTubers was a bad example because that author didn’t tell people how to write and that it was more about marketing. The YouTuber is a best-seller, self-published, and hilarious, but no, she doesn’t tell people how to write. Nobody should “tell” people how to write. 

Writing advice isn’t always about how to write. It’s how to plan a story from a single idea. How to incorporate multiple ideas into one story. How to build an entire world from your imagination. How to find your style. 

With no idea where to start, I think that’s the best place to start. Others are free to disagree with me, and I won’t argue on that. But the best writing advice is the kind that guides you, not dictates what you should and shouldn’t write. I would call some of my writing ranting “advice”. Because that’s what I intend, to advise people so they can choose the best path for them when starting the writing process. 

It’s always the key to learning. You have to try a few methods before one sticks. Some can dive in and learn to swim by splashing about until they float. Others watch carefully and copy (not the best example for writing advice, but you get my point). Others listen to the instructions and imagine them doing it before they get in the water. Or you could start in the kiddies pool with your feet tiptoeing the bottom with short stories and flash fiction.

Whether starting from scratch or looking to expand your knowledge, don’t let anyone tell you how to write.

I Dare You!

Warning: Graphic images of adult content.

How many ways can you be daring in your writing? 

It’s all about showing the most vulnerable side of your characters, which might represent your most vulnerable side, too. No matter your experience, there are certain emotions that can push our writing to its limits. 

There are many events in a book that can make readers uncomfortable, angry, or thrilled for your characters. I’d call any of them a compliment if that was your intention. I’ve read many a torture scene that grossed me out (it’s only fiction) or a sex scene that had me raising my eyebrow or an emotionally tragic scene that brought a tear to my eye.

Death.

Sex.

Insanity.

Abuse.

I’ve read a few pieces inspired by extreme emotions or devastating events. They mean so much more when they come from a place of true emotion, good or bad. This is what connects me to a story and what I hope connects readers to mine. I’ve had amazing responses from my crit buddies to the emotions I’ve poured into my work. 

Don’t fear that vulnerability. Own it and write your heart out. Trust me, it feels amazingly empowering.

Show your crazy. 🤪