Sunday, 29 December 2013

Goals List Week Commencing 27th December 2013

Water Lilies - Rosemarie H Moore

Traditionally, this is the post where I like to reflect on past events of the year. Where to begin? Health wise, this year has been fraught with irritating things. Hopefully, sorted, and whatever isn't, I'm learning to adapt and live differently.

Work has been busy. Hamster on a wheel come to mind.

My writing life certainly hasn't been dull either, and I've been up to all sorts, working mostly on my novel, but also taking part in the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge  which was great fun! In May, I attempted 5KinMay, however, it proved too much on the back of the blogging challenge, and perhaps I should of done some fresh writing, instead of trying to edit my novel. Anyway, a fail for me. Not that I'm concerned now, because it is better to fail, than not to try at all, isn't it?

Novel editing has gone on and on, and there have been many times when I've felt like quitting, but I haven't. When insanity struck, and I thought I couldn't do it anymore, I turned to penning flash fiction which allowed me to escape for a short while, until the red veil lifted, and I returned to my desk with new found enthusiasm.

Competitions were entered, short stories, flash fiction, articles and letters were written and sent to judges, editors, and magazine pages. One of my articles was published in Chat Magazine, and a letter in Women's Walking Magazine. I also judged a writing competition. Assisted at a one day workshop for budding playwrights, and attended one or two classes and workshops on varied writerly topics myself.

Attended my writing group regularly, and enjoyed the company of other scribes around the table, I have many writer friends who are invaluable in many ways. When it comes to projects, I'm part of the Phoenix Subs Club, and I've enjoyed motivating others to reach their goals. I've also organised a group of writers, to produce a story each for an up and coming anthology. The year has been a blast!

This writers journey has been progressing at a slower pace than anticipated, but I haven't given up!

Other things I've done? Can you remember A Jar Full Of Happiness well, I've been filling my jar all year! I'll be emptying it very soon, and can tell you, I have lots of lovely memories of places I've been, people I've shared time with, and lots of things I've done over the last twelve months.

Its been a year of crazy happenings in the real world, I truly think its spinning faster, dont you? And now as 2013 draws to an end, I'm sitting here, pondering what I'll be doing in 2014?

I'd love to hear your review of 2013, and your hopes for next year? Do leave me a comment, I love hearing from you my friends.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 22nd December 2013

Christmas - Maria A Smith

Its been a busy old week, I've not had time to bless myself, let alone prepare for Christmas, therefore I'm really pleased I didn't set any goals other than getting the day job stuff cleared up. Its nearly all done. There is stuff I need to do as we trundle through the week towards Tuesday lunchtime though, when I'll finish work for a week.

Amazingly, I managed to edit a short story I'm working on, and hope that I can polish it in the next week before I air it again with some fellow scribes.

All that remains is for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas, I hope its restful.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 16th December 2013

Chatsworth Bauble - Maria A Smith

Last Sunday I visited Narnia, or more precisely, it was Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The house has been brought to life by C.S. Lewis's story about the lion, the witch and the wardrobe, and a lot of thought, and hard work has gone into making the theme work for the enjoyment of adults and children alike. The lower floors have been transformed, decorated with snow, trees and sleighs.  It was amazingly busy, and my two friends and I queued on and off all day to visit all the house had to offer. I've delibrately not shown any pictures of what you can see once you've gone through the back of the wardrobe just in case you are due to visit Narnia yourself.

December in the Garden at Chatsworth - Maria A Smith

We drank tea, ate cake and meandered around the gardens before setting foot inside the house. The good thing about Chatsworth is that there is always something to see outside in the gardens. This time, my eye was caught by a beautiful glass sculpture.

Glass Sculpture at Chatsworth - Maria A Smith

Inside the interior was magnificent as always. I particularly liked the way they showed the house decorated for Christmas in a more traditional way too. The dining room looked fabulous, and you could almost imagine a feast taking place there.

The Dining Room Ready for Christmas at Chatsworth - Maria A Smith

We rounded our day off with a visit further along the road, to the farm shop, where we purchased lots of edible goodies, my own haul included handmade pork and apple burgers, a mammoth Victoria sponge cake, and a wheat loaf. Afterwards we enjoyed tea and cake in the tearoom admiring the view out of the window as the sun sank in the sky. A very enjoyable day was had by all...

My only goal is to make it through work days until the 24th, when I can take a few days rest from normality.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 1st December 2013

Red Sky At Night - Maria A Smith

At 4pm on the last day of November, the skies were fiery over Leicestershire. I wonder if I'll ever see anything like it again, it was an amazing picture opportunity, even on a camera phone!

What have I done this week? Very little, I've poured my energy into chairing the writers group the last month, and now its time to stand down. Its been a roller coaster ride, and requires many skills. The group goes from strength to strength, and to keep everything running smoothly I've had to be on my toes, even when I've felt a little under par myself. Therefore, its time to slow down. I'm not making big plans for December, albeit, I'll no doubt be continuing with  some writing, I won't be setting such defined goals.

It is however, time to review my blog. Its remained pretty much the same since I set it up way back in 2009, and I think its time for change. Shall I stick with the format I've got? Or go back to blogging about more writing related topics? Or should  I mix it up a bit more?

I'll start by making a list of the things I think work, and one of the stuff I don't, or could do better. Lists make us feel in control, don't you agree? Theres great satisfaction in crossing off tasks when they're done. I'm always more productive with a list.

What does your week hold?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 24th November 2013

Leicester in November - Maria A Smith

I've been busy catching up with stuff, I've managed to get topside of my outstanding emails, and also made a dent in the household chores, I've been trying to clear the decks, so I can get on with my novel from where I left off, but its not quite worked in my favour. Lots of stuff has happened in the background requiring my time, as it often does, and work is as busy as ever.

Anyway, on the writing front, I've done a flash fiction piece, attended and chaired the writers group on Saturday, and afterwards spent time in the library doing some research for both novel, and a new short story. And then, for no good reason at all, I started to feel low. As if a black shadow had fell over me, and the nagging voice of doubt crept up on me, trying its best to fill me with angst! It wasn't even saying anything in particular, in fact it was more a feeling of foreboding about many things. I'm sure many of you reading this can identfy with me.

I didn't see it coming, and have tried hard to kick it into touch today. Self-doubt is one of the worst enemies of the writer, and I can't allow it to take hold. I'm giving myself permission to calm down, and look at the big picture. I'm a creative, we're notoriously good at this whole self doubt thing, its destructive, and I'm not buying into it! This week I'm going to clear my head of all this nonsense, and find the cure.

Firstly, I need to get some perspective, find space, so I'll walk, read, drink tea, eat cake, socialise, do whatever it takes to turn this around. Let my brain work out what's wrong. Okay, maybe it is a sign that something isn't quite right, some aspect of my writing life might not be working, I suspect its time management, and I need to shuffle things around, get into a new routine, maybe its that, or perhaps, I'm not really happy with a chapter, whatever it is, I'll get topside of it this week. I won't be beaten.

So tell me folks, how do you deal with self-doubt? Do you stand back and take stock? Or do you throw yourself screaming and kicking back into your WIP?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 17th November 2013

Shrewsbury - Maria A Smith

My Mac is back, it needed a new trackpad, expensive on the pocket, but, at least I'm up and running again. I felt totally lost without it, but after the initial shock I improvised, and penned the first half of a new short story. Working on my novel was too difficult without the laptop.

What I've been up to...

Reading - The Shining by Stephen King and thoroughly enjoying it! This is Kings third book, published in 1977, it is said that this novel established him as an author of horror. The characters are believable, each having their own demons to deal with as well as the horror that waits at the Overlook  hotel. The book is way better than the film, which seems to have omitted so much of the storyline.

Where I've been...

Shrewsbury - Is a lovely market town, the street plan is mostly medievil and the buildings are a delight! I spent most of my time looking skywards above the shops at the variety of Georgian and Tudor architecture. Although, if shops are your thing, there is no shortage of them, Shrewsbury caters for all tastes, and there are many high street vendors as well as lots of smaller individual traders with much to offer.

Whats new...

Pink Fir Apple Potatoes  - In my veggie box last week, a strange looking long potato, with a distinctive nutty flavour. A little more difficult to peel, as they are quite nobly, but can be boiled mashed or roast. Unpeeled they are a pinky red on the outside, and have a firm cream flesh on the inside. Worth trying if you see them in the shops.

The week ahead,

I'm playing catch up, theres lots to do, a couple of chapters on the novel, a flash fiction challenge for Saturday, and other writerly stuff I've neglected in the last couple of weeks.

The weather is changing, its getting colder, wintery conditions are setting in, so wrap up and stay warm and well.

What have you been up to?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 10th November 2013

Ever had one of those weeks? My best laid plans got turned upside down very early on. My 'to do' list wasn't awfully long, nevertheless, things altered and very quickly I realised it was going to be a week of issues.

My Mac isn't working properly, the track pad has a mind of its own and its freezing after twenty minutes of use. Its frustrating, how can one write! I've spent far too much time looking for a solution myself. It might be the battery at fault? The machine is sixteen months old, I'm disappointed.

An Uphill Battle - Maria A Smith
I was even more surprised when I took it to the local Apple shop on Saturday, to be told no one could look at it until Thursday!  I had no idea you had to book an appointment. Honestly, I didn't. Now I have to back up ALL my files. Another task. But then I am fairly good at backing up regularly, so there isn't much to do there.

Progress on the novel skidded to a stop, Word is affected, as is any keystroke. I can tell you there have been times when I've wanted to chuck the Mac out of the window. Never mind the 'Maccy Love' although to be fair, I've had issues with Windows PC's and laptops in the past. They are all rubbish when they go wrong! I really wanted to write another word, in place of 'rubbish' but good manners prevailed there. Not much makes me feel as helpless as not being able to fix my laptop.

I didn't meet up with my friends either, I was disappointed, one of them is unwell, and I understand all about that, we will reschedule in 2014, when hopefully things will be resolved. If that friend is reading this, then I'm hoping you are well on the mend now.

The family meal did go ahead, it was lovely to get together, and the food was lovely too. Its increasingly hard to get everyone together these days. Next time will be Christmas. Ugh! I've mentioned the 'C' word, not usually uttered until December where it belongs don't you agree?

Work last week was horrendous! Everything I touched seemed to be problematic, mostly I just get on with it. I'm in a service industry. Stuff happens! But, if I'm honest, it started to get to me, and the week was miserable.

I won't even mention the washing machine! Albeit to say, I now have a new one installed, and the service at Curry's is excellent, no wonder I keep returning...

On a positive, I managed the flash fiction challenge for Phoenix Writers, its not too bad writing 200 words on your phone. The meeting was well attended as usual, everyone eager to read, and offer constructive critique. I'm off the hook now, I won't be back in the Chair for two weeks as I have a prior engagement.

The week ahead is busy. Full of scheduled stuff, mostly work. Its hard to juggle it all, so I'll be happy with any writing this week, I need to get my Mac fixed, this is my priority. After that I'll rework two chapters of my novel.

I hope you week is good, and happy, and you are productive!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 3rd November 2013

Watching The Clock - Maria A Smith

Sometimes, we're so busy going about our lives, clock watching, rushing here, there, and well, all over the place, flitting form one thing to the next. We forget the small stuff, the things that makes us happy, and bring value into our lives. Those really little things that happen, like when someone says 'hello' and stops to chat when you're feeling blue, or when a total stranger gives you their unused parking ticket, or someone says the right thing, at just the right moment. Or maybe, finding a fiver in the gutter, when you've just lost your last pound.

The stuff that seems small and inconsequential  to you, like passing on old magazines you've read, giving someone a lift, or popping in on your elderly neighbour, these are small pleasures to someone else. I'm lucky, my life has been rich with small pleasures this last week. I've been treated to tea and cake, shared lots of laughter with fellow writers, seen autumnal trees in dappled sunlight, listened to music as I rewrote the first chapter of my novel, and I've experienced satisfaction at completing something that has been niggling for a while now.

 I've seen pleasure on someone else's face when I paid them a compliment, and took time out to listen to someone whose life has been thrown upside down. Most of these things were lovely and special, and some, although they felt sad at the time, have hopefully made someone else feel better, or valued, or gave them a minutes respite from their own situation. And that makes me feel good about taking the time to listen or help, and yes we're all busy, but in a lot of cases it only takes a few minutes to make a difference.

This week I'm looking forward to catching up with friends, continuing with my rewrite and a family meal out to celebrate my daughters birthday. Everything hinges on time management though, something I try to master every week. Last week I won the battle, did you? Lets see what happens this week. What will you be up to?

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Don't Be Afraid To Throw Your Hat In The Ring

Throw Your Hat In The Ring - Maria A Smith

A quick post folks, two competitions worth a look.

Erewash Writers' Group bring you their  'Full Stop' Short Story Competition closing November 7th 2013, so get your skates on and enter, you'll have to think outside the box for this one, well worth a go, and its FREE to enter!


Thynks Publications Ltd bring you Mysterious Moments - Fiction  a short story competition closing November 30th 2013, who knows, it might just be the right competition for your masterpiece. 

Remember, you have to be in it to win it, so go on, get your entries in NOW!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 27th October 2013

What You Looking At?  - Maria A Smith

All Change! The clocks have gone back, and for me that heralds change. Not only is it darker in the evenings, which curtails some of my pastimes like walking after the evening meal, its also a good productive time for my writing. I seem to get far more done.

I won't be doing NaNo WriMo though this year, instead I'll be rewriting my novel. After a really productive meeting with a fellow writer on Saturday, I have a new restructured plan. Strange how two heads are better than one when it comes to sorting out worries about plot and character.

My emphasis for the next month will be to rewrite one chapter a week. It is doable. I have roughed out a schedule in my diary, and although I know this will probably alter on a week to week basis, I am going to try and do my best to stick to regular slots.

I am now in the Chair at Phoenix Writers for the next month, which means I'll have a little extra administrative work to do, as well as setting the weekly writing challenge. Lots of fun to be had there!

Last week, I got out for a few short walks, both of them in daylight, I'm not sure how I'll fit walking in now, but I'll definitely try out some new times if I can, or perhaps think about visiting a gym. Ugh! Perish the thought...did I really write that? The weather is dodgy too, as I type, Britain is being battered by heavy storms. Do you think the animals in the picture above knew something? I couldn't resist snapping them. They looked so strange in their field, just standing there like statues.

What else? Its that time of year to bring out the stewpot, and I must say I'm really looking forward to some delicious soups and stews. I'm enjoying the veggie boxes I've recently ordered, and so far, have managed to use everything up. I hate wasting food. Its also the porridge season officially! Although I'm an all year round fan.

My youngest will turn eighteen at the end of the week. Thats truly frightening. Where have the years gone? They'll be a family celebration at some point, when she can fit us in-between friends and birthday outings. Oh to be young again! Err no...I'm not sure I'd survive.

Do share what you've been up to? Or what your plan is over the next week? I love hearing your news, and if you are doing NaNoWriMo, good luck, its fun and frenzied, and you'll feel so good when you hit the magic 50k!

Porridge, Pears and Blueberries - Maria A Smith

Monday, 21 October 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 20th October 2013

Bare Trees - Maria A Smith

Here we are again. Another week gone, so did I make it count?

Where I've been - Its been a mad whirlwind week, my time has mostly been spent keeping on top of my day job, I needed to get up to date with lots of paper work, which is the least enjoyable part of work as far as I'm concerned! All done now, so I am smiling, and feeling rather smug.

Apart from that, I spent a lovely day yesterday with my writing buddies. Exciting times ahead as we embark on a new project. More news on that in a later post.

What I've seen - The Telegraph newspaper every day this week. I decided to take a paper again after a lengthy break, mainly because the news depressed me, and I really had no time to read daily. Okay so what has changed? I am nervously thinking I may have the same experience again, so I've swapped from The Times, for better or worse I don't know? Also I am making the time to read. It makes me sit down, it slows my much too fast pace of life, and I relax, which I need to do - but also, I must read a constant supply of well written articles if I am to pursue the idea of writing non fiction. The content has been varied, and interesting so far.

The good thing, is that I paid for a one year digital subscription with my Tesco Club Card vouchers, so it doesn't feel like I've spent any money on such a luxury! Its delivered every day to my iPad and once downloaded can be read off line anywhere. I'm impressed so far.

What I've bought - Perfume! Purchased on  impulse when I saw my favourite scent heavily reduced in one of those fragrance shops in the city, I couldn't resist. And breakfast, a proper treat. A lovely feast at Cafe Rouge, I can definitely recommend their omelettes, and the service was also outstanding. It set me up for the day.

In the last week I've not been able to get very much done on my novel, I will this week though as I'll be presenting my new outline on Saturday. I am very much looking forward to it.

I did the brief for the writing project and it was very well received by the group. Their enthusiasm was refreshing, and going forward it feels good to know everyone is onboard.

I sent a letter off to a magazine in the hopes of it getting published. It took ten minutes to write, and who knows it might earn me some pennies too. Unfortunately, I didn't get the flash fiction challenge done this week, I must try harder to get back in the swing of short pieces as they really do help with the longer writing projects.

Remember I said I'd keep a sleep diary, well, I did and I was horrified at how bad I am at getting a good nights rest, adjustments to my diet and lifestyle will have to be made, and I'm thinking its so close to changing the clocks that I may as well begin then.

How did your week go?

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 13th October 2013

View Through My Window - Maria A Smith

The above image was the view I had through my car window on Tuesday afternoon, as I sat in a horrendous traffic jam which seemed endless, although luckily I was only caught up in it for fifty minutes. A beautiful autumn day in progress, is now a distant memory, its been lashing it down here for the last forty eight hours, and there is no sign of any let up if the weather forecasters are to be believed. The weekend weather has truly been miserable and grey, and has reminded me, that sadly there are probably going to be a lot more days like it, before we see the sunshine again.

However,  on a positive note, there will be more time for writing, as outdoor activities will be curtailed. Already I've spent more time on writing related activities this last week. I've done more on my novel, have written a new short story which I need to send off somewhere. As well as attended a writers workshop on inspiration, not that I really need any! But its good to network, and get out and about once in a while. The tutor was Linda Lewis, and she set us lots of writing tasks, which were fun to do, the day passed very quickly, although I was glad to get home and put my feet up beside the fire.

What else have I done in the last seven days? 

Received my first organic Riverford vegbox, in an attempt to eat more vegetables, and cut down on the chemicals we are all digesting. I'd promised myself I'd give them a go this autumn, as I generally eat out less often in winter, and have a little more time for meal planning, and cooking. I'm hoping I'll get in the habit over the next few months. So far so good, I chose the smallest box, so I could see exactly what I was going to receive, and I also ordered a salad bag too.

Both arrived before 8am on Wednesday morning, and were stuffed to the brim with lovely colourful vegetables. The quality is fantastic, although I'm not used to being faced with fresh from the field produce, so I need to get into a better routine of cleaning and storing the different vegetables for the week. Cooking from a vegbox is different, and personally I'm the sort that needs lots of inspirational recipes. Riverford are really good, there are loads online, and I've downloaded their App for my phone too, so hopefully I'll get into the swing of it quickly.

Anything that hasn't been cooked by Monday night, is going into making soup. I'm not too worried as we all absolutely love soup, and I've been hounded by the family to get back to making some, although there isn't  much left from the box.

I did get around to swimming, and resting, and even managed one early night. I need to work on that though as I have also had three very late evenings.

The week ahead then...

Writing - 

I need to send something off, be it a short story for a competition, or a letter to the pages of a magazine.
Do more on my novel
Prepare a brief for a writing project
Do the weekly flash fiction challenge for Phoenix Writers

Reading - 

Finish the novel I'm reading

Sleep - 

I'm going to keep a diary this week, and hopefully that will help me to form a good habit of getting to bed earlier! 

Has the last week been good or bad for you? What are your plans for this one?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 6th October 2013

Maria A Smith

Revision and editing has dominated my writing time in the last week, finally I feel the mist is beginning to clear and I can go forward with my novel. I'm going to do a complete re-write, I know I'm not alone in having to do this, major rewriting seems to be common, it just feels that way when you're in the thick of it, and you begin to doubt yourself, and what you've done before.

I'll be making huge changes, every chapter and scene will need work. This last week, I've been churning things over in my mind, and I'm feeling more positive to take the story to the next level. Even though it means characters will be cut, and entire scenes will be shifted. I've been looking at character, plot, and setting, each area needs lots of work, but I'll just give my thoughts on character for the moment.

Shall I cut anyone out? - I'm going to lose one or two who don't have major parts, for the sake of my plot, they aren't needed, and I feel they are now distracting me. So they'll be cut out. Maybe I'll reincarnate them in another story one day, but for now, they are redundant.

I'm desperate to write more backstory for each of my main characters, its important readers know what has led them to the situation thats occurring, I need to convey what each one desires, what they fear, its going to be tricky weaving it in, in such a way that I don't give too much away when I raise the stakes.  I'm wary of flashbacks too, but there are some key past events that need to be told.

Daft as it sounds, I might interview each of my characters, starting with easy stuff, like where were you born? How old are you? Then work my way round to the harder stuff, like, what are you scared of? Bizarrely, I feel I need to sneak up on them, let them feel comfortable, while I interrogate them. I'll get a deeper understanding of what motivates them, and of their emotional issues, which are critical to the way the story plays out on the page. I've done it before in my previous novel and it worked really well.

This writing game is hard don't you think? I keep asking myself, why have I chosen to write such a complicated story? Ugh! Then I think, if only I can get this story told. Its so frustrating. Deep down I know I'm not alone, I'm not am I? Theres lots of you fighting to get it written? But it has certainly felt like it for most of the last year.

So whats changed to make me feel I can go forward? I've made a new plan, beginning with arranging to meet up with a writing buddy who is also struggling with a novel. We've arranged a date to pitch our outlines to each other, and this has given me a new focus. I need to be prepared. I never go into a business meeting unprepared, so I'm treating this meeting the same. This week I'm going through whats left of the novel, making myself a chapter plan. Numbering each one and writing two sentences about it on a piece of A4, I'm keeping it as simple as I can at this stage.

When thats done, I'll print two copies, and cut one up so I have a strip for each chapter, that way, I can move them about, so maybe chapter one, fits better at chapter six, and later chapters need to come forward. I find this is a good visual way of brainstorming if I need a prologue, or to see if I am starting in the wrong place. Often I need to start further into the story.

The rest of my writing week will be blogging, here, and over at Phoenix Writers Subs Club and that is definitely enough. Otherwise, I'll be reading my manuscript in order to do the rewrite.

I'll definitely be making time for relaxation too, maybe a walk in the local park, the trees are changing magnificently, I want to capture them with my camera. I might swim too, I suppose it depends on what else life throws at me...

What will you be up to?

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Goal list Week Commencing 29th September 2013

Bright Side of Life - Maria A Smith

Last week was very busy, mostly in a good sort of way. I got out and about in the gorgeous English and Welsh countryside. Its no wonder I'm not getting much done on the writing front, but you know what? I've decided not to worry. I've not felt well for a few weeks, and I'm only just beginning to recover my energy and feel more like my old self. It would have been pointless trying to write anything.

I'm still reading the same novel, and have the non fiction books to dip in and out of before I return them to the library. On the plus side, walking dominated the week. The weather was so good, I made the most of every available moment. We seem to be charging through Autumn, and I do love this season.

Looking ahead, I'll mainly be reading and writing this coming week. I still need to figure out a new outline for the novel now I've made further drastic cuts, and I've also got to get myself back on track. I'm at the point where all those 'puzzle pieces' I initially wrote need fitting together again, I need to know where the gaps are so I can figure out what to do next.

How about you? What will you be up to this week?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 22nd September 2013

Mundersley Beach, Norfolk - Maria A Smith

Today is the first day of Autumn, and here in Leicestershire the sun is shining brightly as I write. You may have noticed the lack of a 'Goal List' last week? No? Well for those of you who did, and regularly look in and comment (for which I am very grateful) I haven't been around much as I've been away to Mundesley, near Cromer with my Mum for a few days, but also, I've been feeling really tired just lately.

Listening to my body for once, I curtailed a lot of my 'normal' activities, which include blogging and writing. The good news is, it must have done the trick as I'm feeling much better now thank goodness. So what have I done? Not a lot, but heres a mini rundown of my week.

Managed a lovely walk in a village I normally whizz through in the car without really looking at anything. I enjoyed it, and the weather was kind. If not a touch blustery.

Went to the library and had a browse to see whats happening there - sadly not much! They are still lending books and other media of course, but no author events which they used to do a few years ago. Definitely a sign of the times, and the bank of PC's seems to be growing each time I visit now. I guess its the future, but I'm not convinced its all progress. What do you think? Will libraries be like Vintage Tea shops are now? Will someone set a traditional old fashioned library up, where silence is golden? Sorry about the cliche, but I was a big fan of the SILENCE rule.

I went to a fabulous food fair yesterday, at Belgrave Hall in Leicester, and had a nice afternoon
milling amongst the many stalls, chatting to people and sampling fine food. I also went to a sausage making demonstration, which was fun and educational!

Although I went to my writers group yesterday, I didn't read, as the work I'd prepared was truly awful! And made me realise its no good pushing yourself when you aren't feeling well.

I'm starting afresh today, so here is my new revamped goal list for the week ahead.

Writing - Work on my novel in progress, paying particular attention to characterisation.

 Reading - Finish Wolf Bride by Elizabeth Moss, and look at Microsoft Office 2013 Explained, not really what I want to read but need to know how to do a few things better.

Walking - Get out and about with my camera - the trees are on the turn, and I so love the Autumn colours.

What have you been up to while I've been away? What plans have you got for the week ahead?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Goal List Week Commencing September 8th 2013

Fresh Bread - Maria A Smith

My battery's been running at ten per cent or less in the last week, I've struggled to reach my writing goals, and even though I started out with good intentions unfortunately it wasn't  my week.  I didn't complete re-writing a chapter, nor did I query a magazine or write a letter, and entering that writing competition has been elusive too. All I managed was a short written piece, and a few hours researching some article ideas, as well as the blog.

I went to the writers group which was a happy distraction this week, and I also sent some writing related emails out too. Without going into detail, things happened that got in the way of the writing last week.

I did much better with relaxation, I went walking three or four times, it is definitely helping my asthma, and once I get out there I really enjoy it. Although its getting dark much quicker in the evenings now, and I'm not sure how I'll fit my walks in over the Autumn.

I ate cake, and drank tea, bought some lovely fresh bread from the farm shop, and some delicious Leicestershire Stilton, and quietly mulled over a few things.

I'm going to keep things very simple for the next seven days. All I hope for is some rest, and relaxation, and a few hundred words on the page.

Catch up with you soon.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Thought for Thursday - Ugh! Its All Gone Horribly Wrong

Flicker Common

I'm going to follow my own good advice this week. I refuse to beat myself up just because the writing has ground to a halt. I had a decent  plan set up on Sunday, but due to things beyond my control, its gone awry. Felt tempted to type much ruder words then, but good manners prevailed. Anyway, things have definitely gone west as they say, I'm pushing water uphill with a brush!

I wrote on Sunday, but beyond that, nothing much has been done. This post is a day late, and I have many unanswered emails to sort out, as well other writing related stuff.  I even set the timer on my phone to do some edits on the novel early this morning, but its not completed due to 'real' life events. Never mind. I think I need a rest. Its okay to regroup, and change things around a bit, but first I'm going to sit down, put my feet up, and have a cup of tea.

Have you heard about this  writing competition? If you can write a story featuring food or booze, or both, you might be in with a chance. Entry is FREE. You've got until the end of the month, so go on. Remember, you have to be in it to win it! Did I mention the winner will receive £7,500 in cash?

Whilst I'm on the subject of food, has anyone seen the new Jamie Oliver series on Channel 4, Jamie's Money Saving Meals? Well worth a look in these cash strapped times. Lots of tips, and of course lovely delicious recipes. I've already purchased Save With Jamie and I'm looking forward to seeing what I can dish up over the coming months. His recipes are always a hit in my house, they are so easy to prepare and cook, just what I need after a crazy day at the office!

Anyone one else having a mad week?

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 1st September 2013

Putting My Feet Up! - Maria A Smith

I've been busy this last week and haven't had much time to put my feet up. Far from it, I've crammed lots in, and feel pleased with my progress.

What I said I'd do, the results, and more!
  • Going to the cinema to see a selection of short films - I went, and unfortunately, if I'm honest, I wasn't too impressed. I don't mind a film with no dialogue now and again, but after the sixth or seventh I was getting a bit bored, and dare I say, fed up! Perhaps there is a shortage of writers who can do good dialogue? Or maybe its this years fashion? The event itself was both well organised and attended. 
  • Walking around the streets where I live - Tuesday 4 miles, Friday 3 miles, and Saturday 3 miles. I found as the week wore on, I felt drained, probably due to a lack of quality sleep.
  • Editing the novel with my red pen - I should have just chucked it in the bin! I am going to re-write the whole chapter. Ugh!
  • Writing a blog post on ? - I spent a lot of time getting the Phoenix Writers Subs Club blog up and running, do visit and see what we are all up to over there. I also wrote a short post on trying something new. 
  • Creating some flash fiction based on a song title - Completed, although I'm undecided what to do with it. Its quite a long flash for me at around 400 words.
  • Entering a writing competition, coz its time I pulled my finger out! - Not done.
  • Doing my best to be nice to people - I gave someone a quick lesson in using Twitter to help their business, and I let lots of drivers out in front of me this week, but not all at the same time, as that would have probably annoyed the queue behind me.
Extra stuff I said I might do,
  • Listening to some music to set my soul on fire! - David Bowie sang to me as I pounded the pavements. Mozart played on as I sat in the traffic, and I listend to some jazz too.
Other unplanned stuff that happened,
  • Gardening - Decided  to get stuck in and tackle the weeds that were competing with my flowers. 
  • New recipe tried out, Chicken with Watercress Sauce, went down well with the family.
  • Horrible sleepless nights! The new pillow I purchased a few weeks ago has helped slightly, but normal service has been resumed and I am wandering around in the wee small hours once more.
  • Purchased a new book for my Kindle, Wolf Bride by Elizabeth Moss I was lured, on the promise of a scandal-ridden, debauched, decadent and passionate story. I'll let you know how it goes.
The week ahead then...

Writing -  
  • I must re-write another chapter
  • Query a magazine editor or write a letter to a magazine
  • Enter a writing competition

Relaxation - 
  • Walking 
  • Photography
  • Reading
What have you done? What plans have you made?

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Thought For Thursday - Do Something New

Thursday's Cake - Maria A Smith

Go on, let yourself go - be you! How about stepping outside of your comfort zone this Autumn, and doing something completely different?

September is traditionally the month when clubs and societies gain members, or people enrol on evening classes to learn something new and completely different. Or perhaps you just want to have fun! As the nights draw in, peoples thoughts turn to battening down the hatches, and building fires in the log burner. And theres nothing wrong with that idea, but its good to also entertain ourselves over the winter months. Summer activities might be curtailed, tennis whites back in the wardrobe, but your mind or perhaps body, needs something to do!

Did you have a flash of inspiration as you read the words above? Maybe saw yourself knitting a scarf, baking a cake, taking pictures of the winter landscape, or learning to play badminton? Perhaps you want to learn how to make fresh pasta, or grow your own vegetables in containers? Whatever it is, do something positive about making it happen today.

Get in touch with whoever runs the local evening classes, or Saturday Workshops, the leisure centre, or search online in your area. There is lots going on, and many clubs and organisations welcome new members. Maybe even join the local writing group.

Go on, let yourself go - be you!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 25th August 2013

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire - Maria A Smith

Anyone else flabbergasted we've reached the August Bank holiday weekend? I don't want summer to end, I'm not ready! I've had some great days out this year. Lovely walks, took loads of pictures, written lots, socialised with friends and family and just thouroughly enjoyed the whole season. September looms, and the schools around here resume in a matter of days. Its going to be Autumn before we know it!

Time is precious people.

In the last week, I've been swamped with real life stuff, but also managed time for walking, writing and socialising too! Admittedly, the writing was my last blog post, and a 200 word flash fiction piece, had hoped for more on the novel, but I'm happy. Still a bit behind schedule, but intend to catch up this week. It seems a shame not to make the most of the weekend weather.

The week ahead, I'll be...

  • Going to the cinema to see a selection of short films
  • Walking around the streets where I live
  • Editing the novel with my red pen
  • Writing a blog post on ?
  • Creating some flash fiction based on a song title
  • Entering a writing competition, coz its time I pulled my finger out!
  • Doing my best to be nice to people
No advances on that list are planned except perhaps,
  • Eating cake
  • Listening to some music to set my soul on fire!

So tell me, what have you been up to? What plans are afoot?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Thought For Wednesday - How Flexible Is Your Writing Schedule?

Photo Credit - Martin Nikolaj Christensen - Flicker Creative Commons

Do you set out your stall out to write at certain times on a particular day? Feel annoyed, and irritated if it doesn't happen? Don't  - you'll save yourself a lot heartache and stress. Its best not to feel guilty about missing a writing session if it was out of your control.

Be flexible, re plan, or if that isn't possible, relax, and focus on the next session you have planned. Sometimes  as writers, we need to stop and think about what we've achieved so far. Don't wreck your motivation, because you've missed one session. It won't help you get that book finished.

Don't overwork yourself, it really is counter productive, instead be gentle with yourself, if you're tired you won't write well, once your brain starts to feel fuzzy, or you feel your eyelids closing, its time to quit. Get some rest and recharge. If you don't, your motivation for working the next day will be poor, and you'll end up getting less done. Its much better to be flexible.

Do you have a set writing schedule? What do you do if you miss it?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Goal List Week Commencing 18th August 2013

I'm A Writer - Maria A Smith

I'm behind schedule. Am I concerned? Yes, but not enough to think I can't pull it back. I've been steadily editing the novel each day, although sometimes only managing twenty minutes at a time, which I've accepted, due to a heavy workload at the day job. Its meant I've slipped behind, and haven't done any re-writing.

I'm on top of my blog posts, and also wrote something to take along to my writers group session on Saturday, although I didn't get to read it out as it was a very busy session. We had another prospective member, who is writing a crime novel, and I enjoyed what I heard, so I'm hoping he'll come back again. 

I walked loads last week, used the MapMyWalk app on my phone I mentioned last week, and listened to music whilst pounding the pavements. I really enjoyed it, and got to thinking about how wonderful the weather has been this summer, and how I really don't want it to end. Realistically, it won't be long until the evenings pull in and its dark again, I just hope I can keep the momentum up, and manage to get out on my walks, which I really enjoy after a long day at work.

In other news, I've finally got one of those lovely teapots with a strainer inside. I've been after one for ages, leaf tea tastes so much better don't you think?

The Week Ahead

More edits

More blog posts

More walking

More tea!

Some reading

Submit some writing somewhere

Have a good week, and do share with me what you're up to, and what goals you have on your list.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Write Medicine

Picture Credit

Is writing the new medicine? Could it replace pills and potions to heal both mind and body? Soothe the soul, and help you get back on the road  to recovery and happiness? I think so, and so do a lot of other people. Studies have been going on for years to prove as much. Writing is a great way to express yourself, getting your deepest innermost thoughts out on the page can do wonders if you have experienced a stressful or traumatic event. Perhaps written disclosure reduces psychological stress?

Expressive writing done on a regular basis can really help, even if you only pick up the pen every other  day, if you can, and write for 15 minutes without stopping, you’ll be doing yourself a power of good, and nobody need see your words. I’d encourage you to keep a journal, sit somewhere quiet where you can be alone, and just let your thoughts flow through the pen, or if you prefer, type straight onto your chosen device, be it laptop, I pad, or your mobile phone!  You’ll be amazed how much you can write in just a few minutes.

Writing like this, is a way of starting an internal dialogue with yourself, it allows you the opportunity to face sensitive issues you might not be able to discuss with anyone in person. It helps to work things through your mind, and of course expressive writing is not only good for the mind, studies have also shown that people with asthma, developed better lung function. Many other medical conditions can benefit too. Further reading can be found here. And if you're already the writerly type, check out the list of benefits and see if you can identify with them. You might just be surprised at what you read.

Why not try a work of fiction? Make something up, give someone a problem, make it difficult for them, introduce something totally unexpected, then get them out of it. You don’t have to even begin at the beginning. Start at the end, kill someone off, or have two people kiss and make up.Whatever comes to mind, write it down today. Doesn't matter how off the wall it is, just get it written.

Tomorrow, after your sub conscious has had time to think about what you've written, go back to it and write the middle, or the beginning! It really doesn't matter how you get your words down. Your mind is powerful, and it will work it out. Whether you’re new to writing, or you've been doing it for years, the benefit of expressing yourself really is the best medicine.

I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

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...