Sunday, 26 August 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 26th August 2012

A Ridiculously Long List - Maria A Smith
I set myself quite a few goals last week, some have turned out to be far more involved than I expected, which made it a tough week getting everything done. However, I broke the back of most of it...

Photography - Spent a lovely afternoon wandering around with my camera, got some lovely shots, you can see them here.  

WritingManaged more on the novel, and got a good critique from a writing buddy. 

Flash challenge piece - 150 words: 'Jack raised his rifle, and pointed it towards the cigarette glow. 

Yes! Did it late Friday evening, took it to the writers group on Saturday morning where it was read anonymously with nine other pieces.

Its a good exercise hearing your work read out by others, although I would have preferred to have seen all the pieces on the page too. Especially flash fiction because its so short. We didn't have time to do this as we had a lot of manuscripts to critique this week. Lots of good stuff!

Second part of 'Getting Started With A Blog' - I worked hard on writing part 2 of my mini workshop, and presented it at the end of our writers group meeting. I had fun doing it, and I'm hoping I've inspired some of the group to set up their own blog. I enjoy helping other writers.

Apart from that, I did a couple of blog posts, brainstormed more topics for September on the blog, as well as thought about where I want to go next. More about that soon.

I also picked up the latest copy of Writers Forum yesterday. 

De-clutteringI can confirm I've cleared a lot of the neglected paperwork, things are looking much better, and although I still have masses to file away, I've ticked lots of overdue tasks off my list. It feels good.

More charity bags have been filled, and I'll be making a trip to deliver these to local shops very soon.

The week ahead.

Writing - I'm going to take it easy this week. Apart from a couple of blog posts, and some flash fiction for my next group meeting, I want to have a good think about where I'm going, and what I want to do next.

Reading -  Writers Forum, and I have a new book! In Too Deep by Portia Da Costa I like a bit of erotic romance now and again, and I'm well overdue a good read, and its a real book! As a Kindle owner, its not often I read paper pages anymore. That sounds quite shocking, but its true. I still love real books though.

De-cluttering - I need to continue in earnest with this task.

What plans have you made for the next week?  

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Happy Saturday - Madonna

Madonna, singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, author, entrepreneur! What a woman, often controversial in her views. Whatever you think of her, she is a superstar. Born on August 16, 1958, she has to date sold more than 300 million records worldwide.

Take a look back with me now at the sheer diversity, and creativity of this woman. Most of all enjoy her music on this Bank holiday Saturday.

P.S. The following is a photographic diary of the many changing faces of Madonna.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Calke Abbey - The View Through A Lens

Calke Abbey in August - Maria A Smith

Calke Abbey is truly a magical place, and its never difficult to find something interesting, and different on each visit. The house itself is in a state of faded grandeur, and is often fondly referred to as the house time forgot. It stands suspended, remaining virtually untouched since the early 1920's. Once the home of the Harpur family, it is now owned by The National Trust.

On Sunday, I took myself off there, with only my camera, and the promise of a cream tea after my walk. It was a most enjoyable afternoon. Here are some of the images I captured on my visit.

August in Calke Park - Maria A Smith

The deer were preoccupied, with grazing on the lush grass, and were quite oblivious to any human presence. This allowed for some great opportunities, as often its impossible to get as close.

Calke Deer - Maria A Smith

I sneaked up on this stag, he seemed not to mind - sat in a shallow muddy puddle, he posed easily for the camera.

Peacock Butterfly - Maria A Smith

Butterflies are not easy to capture unless you're very lucky. I spent time chasing this one around, and after my seventh or eighth attempt, I got this shot. Not brilliant, but I was well pleased to get it.

The Peacock is one of our most identifiable butterflies in the UK, with its large eye spots, there to ward off potential predators, yet they are beautiful making this butterfly very easy to spot in amongst the foliage.

Walled Garden at Calke Abbey -  Maria A Smith

I wandered into the walled garden, not sure what to expect, as last time I visited the plants had taken a severe battering from heavy rainfall. I felt sorry for the staff who lovingly tend the garden. So I  was pleasantly surprised on Sunday, to see well cut lawns, healthy shrubs, and glorious bedding flowers. The entire garden was immaculate.

Calke Gardens - Maria A Smith

Time has a habit of whizzing by when I go out with my camera, and before I knew it, I was packing away, and heading off in the direction of the restaurant. You didn't think I was going to miss my afternoon tea did you?

Happy Days! - Maria A Smith

The perfect end, to a perfect afternoon!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 19th August 2012

Daisy - Maria A Smith

Since my visit to Swanwick last Sunday, I've felt energised! Perhaps though, it is the course of iron tablets I'm taking, but I like to think it was the Writers Summer School. There was certainly a positive buzz of energy about the place.

Last week I set myself the following goals, you can see how I got on below.

  •  Re-write the second part of chapter one - Yes, I am yet to get feedback.
  • Flash Fiction piece for Saturday morning critique group - Yes, and it seemed to go down well with the group. I'm going to look for somewhere to send it off to, be it a competition, or a possible publication.
  •  Blog posts and time visiting other writers blogs - Yes, I've  visited lots of blogs in the last week. What a talented lot you all are. I also managed my quota of posts.
  • Swimming - I managed time at the pool, and it was very beneficial. 
  • Reading - Writing Magazine, and a little Holly Lisle.

I also prepared, and delivered, the first part of a bite size workshop on 'Getting Started with a Blog' to my friends at Phoenix Writers' where one or two of the members have recently expressed an interest on the topic. It was a challenge packing the basics into fifteen minutes. Yes! That was my brief. 

Saturday afternoon I caught up with another writing buddy, I haven't really had chance to have a natter with her in a long time. That was nice.

The week ahead will be busy, I have lots to do. Here's my list.

Photography - I want to get out and about with the camera now that we are having some fine weather. Its also a great excuse for a walk!

Writing - Continue with the novel. 
Flash challenge piece - 150 words: 'Jack raised his rifle, and pointed it towards the cigarette glow.

Second part of 'Getting Started with a Blog, which I'll deliver on Saturday.

De-cluttering - That old chestnut! I'm afraid its got to be done. I'm suffocating under a ton of tasks I need to get done, to clear the decks. Paperwork I've neglected is going to be top priority. Its also time to fill a few bin bags with clutter I don't need. 

I said it was going to be busy. What challenges have you lined up for yourself this week? 

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Happy Saturday - 1982

I will always remember Tears for Fears, for their 1982 hit 'Mad World' which went to number 3 in the UK Chart.

I've sneaked 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World' in here too, I know it didn't chart in 1982, it was later in 1986, I believe, but its a great song, and I thought, well, while I'm on the subject. It was used to promote Sports Aid, an event ran to raise money for people in famine stricken Africa.

The news in 1982 was dominated by the war in the Falklands, unemployment had topped three million, and Princess Grace of Monaco was killed in a car crash. A few of the headlines I remember.


'Sorry' starring Ronnie Corbett was on the BBC, Corbett played Timothy, the forty something librarian who lived at home with his domineering mum, and henpecked dad. I managed to find a clip...

And this is what you might have been eating for breakfast way back then, and even now?

Those were the days. What can you remember about 1982?

Friday, 17 August 2012

Writing Competition

Writers' Notebook - Maria A Smith
A quick post this morning, to share details of a writing competition I've found. Do have a look, perhaps you've got just the story to enter, or maybe you'll feel inspired to write something fresh for the theme. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Why not have a go over the weekend...

Crowborough Arts is running a short story competition on the theme of 'High Days And Holidays' I'm sure that has conjured an image in your mind straight the way. Read all about it here.

Just got back from work, and discovered details about this poetry competition, which may be of interest to some of you. 

Hastings International Poetry Competition 2012 | Closing Date: 25-Oct-12

Details: For poems up to 50 lines. Prizes: £150, £75, £50 and £25. Judge Josephine Austin. Winners will be published in 'First Time' Magazine, Spring 2013.

Entry Fee: £2.00
Contact Details: Cheques payable to J. Austin
Josephine Austin, "The Snoring Cat", 194 Downs Road, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 2DZ
My week has been hectic, there is much left undone, and somehow I've got to catch up!

Enjoy Friday.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 12th August 2012

I'm posting this list late, my excuse, I was away yesterday enjoying the company of other writers, at the Swanwick Writers Summer School networking and attending short courses, and workshops. It was most enjoyable.

The highlights being an hour in the company of Linda Lewis, who talked us through how to identify potential markets for short stories. Linda gave us several scenarios of plots for stories which we had to make more interesting. It really made you think about the storyline.

Swanwick is always an experience, and much is learnt at the dining room table over lunch or dinner, where they operate a system of joining any available table. This is great! As I imagine over the week you would get to meet many writers of all ages, and stages on the writing journey. Yes, it was a good day out, and I made some new friends.

Last week, I set myself the following targets, and you can see how it worked out.

Writing - With some sound advice from a writing buddy I re-worked part of the first chapter of my novel, its more personal, and nearer to where I want it to be now. I've also had feedback from the critique group I attend, and there are perhaps still things I need to change.

I read the stories for the competition I mentioned, several times! And helped to select the winners. I'll be honest it was time consuming, but interesting to read the entries. One observation I made was poor presentation. There were several entries written in strange fonts, and several were poorly aligned on the page.

What a shame, if only the writers concerned had followed the rules, then their stories would have done better. I've been involved in judging before, and it always amazes me how people ignore the guidelines. They are there for a reason. Surely, if you're going to all the trouble of writing, editing, and sending your story into a competition, not to mention paying an entry fee, then you should check the rules! Rant over, I'm just saying...thats all. After deliberation, it was a close thing between the winner and the runner-up and it came down to minor details in the end.

Reading -  Flicked through Writing Magazine, and started Mugging the Muse by Holly Lisle.

Mac - I purchased Apple pages, which is compatible with Word, so I've been trying it out, and familiarising myself with how it works.

Cake - Victoria sandwich ruled. I had tea in the garden, in the sunshine! It was lovely and relaxing, and  must be repeated again soon.

Tea & Cake  - Maria A Smith

This week my goals are...

Writing - Re-write the second part of chapter one. Prepare a Flash Fiction piece for Saturday morning critique group. Blog a couple of posts to keep the flow, and spend time visiting other writers blogs too.

Swimming - Make a conscious effort to find the time to go to the pool.

Reading - More Writing Magazine, and Holly Lisle.

So how did you do last week? Whats the plan now?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Happy Saturday - One Wild Night - Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi released 'One Wild Night' in 2001, it is my favourite song from the band. It might have something to do with this video...Looking good Mr Bon Jovi!

Today will mainly be spent relaxing, and laughing. Happy Saturday.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Who Is Telling This Story?

Image Credit
Point of view is the way the writer allows you to see and hear what is going on. Whichever the writer chooses will determine how much the narrator is allowed to know, and if they are able to convey the character's thoughts and emotions.

Stories can be written using,

First person -The best way to think of this, is by calling it the "I" point of view (POV) the story is being told by a single character, and as readers we can only hear the thoughts, views and memories of the person telling us the story.

Usually first person POV allows us to feel closer to what is happening, the advantage being it makes the story stronger. There is immediacy, and intimacy in the telling, as we are inside the head of our character for the entire journey.

There are disadvantages to this POV, The writer can't share the thoughts, feelings or actions of other characters unless the first person narrator is present in the scene. Also, the writers voice and subject must be interesting enough to hold the readers attention throughout the book.

Example - I hadn't heard from Lenny for three weeks, it hadn't bothered me at the time. Only now, knowing he was dead, brought the whole incident at the farm with Mike flooding back. Whatever I said to the Police would make me look guilty.

Second Person - Second person POV is the least used by writers. it is the hardest to pull off successfully for many reasons. Second person uses the pronoun "you" to steer through the story. Personally, to me, it feels weird, like I'm being bossed around in a story.

Example - You put your hands around his neck, squeezing until his eyes bulge and stare back at you. You let his heavy body drop to the floor. You follow, on your knees. What have you done? The sun is already high in the sky and you wonder what you'll tell Mike, and how you'll get away with it this time.

Third Person - Is probably the easiest and most popular POV used today. Using 'he, she, or we' there are two types, limited and omniscient. To keep things simple, limited third person is told from one character's POV, meaning we can hear, see and feel things from only that character,

However, character head hopping is acceptable from chapter to chapter, or scene to scene. If you do decide to take this route, its best to establish a system early on so the reader accepts it easily.

Third person omniscient allows the writer to bring to life lots of characters, because the narrator is all seeing, all knowing, and the reader has far more knowledge. The main disadvantage is the reader may not be able to identify with any one character, and will lose interest, not really caring what happens to the characters.

Example Third Person Limited'What are you doing here? she asked acidly. The news had broke then, everyone must know that Lenny was dead. It hadn't sunk in until now. 

'I want to see you,' said Mike, 'let me in,' he frowned, and stepped forward.

'I'm busy,' she lied, 'I've got things I need to do.' She shook her head, she couldn't possibly let him in.

'Let me help.' He stood there unmoving. 

Example Third Person Omniscient - What are you doing here? she asked acidly. The news had broke then, everyone must know that Lenny was dead. It hadn't sunk in until now.

'I want to see you,' said Mike, 'let me in,' he frowned, she looked desolate, he could see the rings under her eyes, and thought she looked like someone who hadn't slept in a long time. He stepped forward.

'I'm busy,' she lied, 'I've got things I need to do.' She shook her head, she couldn't possibly let him in.

'Let me help,' Mike couldn't understand her reluctance, they were friends, more than that, so why was she keeping him at a distance now? 

As writers we want to get our readers into the head of our character quickly, so that the reader becomes that character. The rules about POV are there to assist the writer, although mastering them can seem confusing, and as difficult as trying to knit fog. Especially as there are variations.

If you feel brave enough, break them. Some writers do, and get away with it! But don't forget, story is everything to the reader, and if you can't pull it off, you're book is likely to be tossed aside by a frustrated reader.

I'm interested to know, which POV you prefer as a reader, and as a writer? Or if you have no preference at all?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Goal List Week Commencing 5th August 2012

Maria A Smith

Last week was far more relaxed than any I've had in a while, perhaps, because I didn't put myself under as much pressure. What did I achieve?

Writing - I got the last monologue finished, and sent out, I wrote several posts on the blog, penned 100 words of flash fiction, critiqued several manuscripts for my fellow writers and mapped out a rough plan for the next month.

Walking - I got out and about inbetween showers of heavy rain and rumbling thunder.

Things I liked about the last week.

Watching the Olympics, and seeing the many talented sportsmen and women take part in the games. Especially Team GB! It is so uplifting to see them doing well.

Capturing images of life around me with my camera.

Pink Daisies - Maria A Smith

Yoga had me stretching further this week, and energised me. I must remember I have homework.

Buying new clothes. Its been a while since I replaced my work wardrobe.

Browsing the Kindle store, and treating myself to some books.

Meeting friends for tea and chatter, and eating cake!

Apple & Walnut Cake - Maria A Smith

Going to Phoenix Writers, and being amazed by my talented writing buddies, and their stories.

Reminiscing about years gone by, then posting my thoughts and pictures here  on the blog.

Things I didn't like.

Backache due to driving a courtesy car with uncomfortable seats, because my car is waiting for parts in the garage.

Sleepless nights (see above)

And so to this week, and my goals. Keeping it simple.

Writing - I will be mainly concentrating on my novel, and be assisting in judging a short story  competition.

Reading - Writing Magazine, and Mugging the Muse by Holly Lisle

Mac - Continue to learn about my Mac

Cake - It will be done.

What are your goals for the week ahead? Share them here - I love receiving your comments.

Dodging the Showers - Maria A Smith

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Happy Saturday - Gary Newman - Cars

Back in the early 1980's Gary Newman burst onto the scene and revolutionised music, with his weird and wonderful electronic sounds. I was eighteen, and the world was an oyster ready to be discovered.

I spent my week at work, and the weekends out, enjoying myself, On a a Friday and Saturday I'd be touring the town pubs, and socialising with everyone, the world seemed much safer then.

I'd end the evening going onto a night club, and spending at least four hours on the dance floor, moving to the latest sounds. Clubs were only allowed to stay open until 2am, and pubs called last orders at 11pm. We used to wear ourselves out, then walk three miles home.

Me and Kim Dyson 1982

My friend Kim would visit the local market on a Thursday to buy a couple of yards of fabric, and by teatime on Friday, I'd have a new dress to wear. Kim was amazing with the sewing machine. Very creative, and not only could she sew, she could also knit the most fantastic cardigans. We often used to swap the dresses around, so that we each wore something different each evening. Neither of us had a lot of money, but we had a lot of fun!

When we were in our early twenties, she moved away from Leicestershire, to Cambridge, and we lost touch.  I often wonder what became of her...and I miss her happy smile. I hope she did well for herself, and followed her dreams.

Me and Kim Dyson 1982

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Short Story Competition

Image Credit
I spotted a competition this morning, and thought I'd share.

The organisers of 'The Short Story Competition' invite you to submit a story, to be in with a chance of winning 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prizes of £300, £150, and £50. Word count is anywhere between 1,000 - 5,000, and they aren't considering poetry, novel chapters, sci-fi, fantasy or stories for children.

The closing date is 15 Sept, and as long as you follow the rules, you'll be in with a chance.

More details here

Have a good day writing!

Making Things Happen

Bluebells in the grounds of Chatsworth, Derbyshire - Maria A Smith Nearly two months ago I made this list of goals - See how I've g...