Thursday, 31 December 2015

Last Word

Maria A Smith

Determined to make the most of the last few days of 2015, I'm pleased to report I've been out and about enjoying the company of friends, socialising, walking, and I've even managed to take a few last snaps with my camera.

Can you believe the weather we've been experiencing? December has been the warmest since records began, but also one of the wettest too. We've seen a series of storms and devastating flooding up in the north of England, Scotland and over in Wales.  We've been very lucky here in middle England.

It isn't normal, and according to the experts it's just a blip. The last time temperatures were high was back in 1934. So we've had years like this before, when things go awry, and no doubt we'll have them again.

That got me to thinking - this last year was a blip for me too. It didn't go to plan and I found myself starting the new year flat on my back literally. It was incredibly difficult until May when I got my mobility back. Everything I'd planned to do in the first half of the year went on hold. The second half was spent recovering.

I didn't complete my novel, in fact when I did start editing, I realised it needed a complete rewrite. I made a new plan and have mostly been trying to sort things out. But it isn't anywhere near finished.

I didn't lose that stone either. But I did lose eleven and a half pounds, so I was close. I also made a lot of new friends at my Slimming World Group.

I did achieve things, I took up pilates, and invested a lot of time in my health by upping my fitness levels. I tried different types of exercise and found out I like boxing! And I'm not keen on HIT (High Intensity Training) but it works, so I may have to learn to like it.

Patsy Collins and I started #writingchat on Twitter, and after a few months enlisted the help of Carol Bevitt, I'm amazed how it's developed. We've become a small community in less than a year, we're real writers on Twitter, and we meet on Wednesday evenings at 8pm - 9pm for friendly chatter on writing related topics. Do join us.

I got out and about, visited Wales, Derbyshire, London and more besides. I attended two good writing events, and caught up with my writing buddies regularly.

I had a great reading year, thanks to Audible. I listened to many interesting podcasts too. I want to do more of that in 2016.

Losing a friend to cancer in the last quarter of the year made me realise how fragile life is, and how lucky I am, and that we must all grasp every opportunity in life. And making time for family and friends is vitally important.

So as I say goodbye to 2015, it hasn't all been bad, and I'm looking forward to telling you all about my plans for next year. Watch out for my post tomorrow.

Maria A Smith

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

10 Mistakes When Setting Goals

1. Only setting goals in one area of life - Spice is the variety of life isn't it? So it makes sense to set goals in all areas. Although you might not want to share them all on your blog. Think about health and fitness, relationships, career, hobbies, travel and whatever else you want to do this coming year, and beyond.

2. Not writing them down - You have to write your end goal down to clarify what you want to do. By doing so, you're beginning the journey of how to get to your goal. So commit your plan to paper, or to your blog, or wherever you're going to record your progress.

3. Not assigning a target date - This is the only way to pay attention to what's important. If you don't set a date to your goal, other urgent things will take over, and it won't happen. Set a date for each of your goals.

4. Unrealistic expectations  - Don't set yourself up for failure. Think - is this goal within your control? Your goals should focus on what you can achieve. Have you given them a reasonable deadline? Perhaps look at previous goals you didn't achieve, can you revise them?

5. Taking too much on - Related to the previous point, it's very easy to set a goal that completely overwhelms you (speaks the voice of experience) If it's too huge, and different to the way things are now, it'll probably be too much of a slog.  So that you are not discouraged, picture the end result often, not the slog to get there. Break it down into smaller chunks, and ask yourself what steps need to be taken along the way.

6. Not knowing what you really want - This sounds crazy, but you really need to know what you want and why you want it? What is important to you, and why do you value it? Ask yourself these questions, or maybe get a friend to ask you instead, you might find they can dig deeper than you can yourself. Realise what your aims and objective really are.

7. Underestimating finish times - Try hard to estimate goal completion time carefully, otherwise you'll get discouraged.

8. Appreciate failure - It's not fun when you fail, but from time to time you will. Have the courage to learn from your mistakes.  Use the knowledge to get to where you want to be next time.

9. Not reviewing progress - Taking stock on a regular basis is important. You'll be able to see how you're moving forward, and what action you need to take next. Set sub goals and reward yourself for getting there.  Never be afraid to amend a goal. Things change.

10. Setting too many goals - Try hard to work out the importance of everything you want to accomplish over the next twelve months, then pick only three or four and focus. Trying to target too many goals at once means we can't focus and give the time to each goal that it deserves.

Have I missed any? Feel free to tell me in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Thinking Ahead

At this busy time of year there's so much to do, buying and wrapping presents, writing cards, planning menus to name but a few things. If you're like me, you'll still be doing it on Christmas Eve. I'm a born juggler.  Maybe you've got it all done? if so, I salute you.

My thoughts usually turn to planning the next twelve months around now, but is it too early to be thinking ahead? I really don't think so - I like to have a plan. Even if I don't stick to it, I've at least got a roadmap to get me near to where I want to be.

Wherever you're up to with your writing, its a good idea to take time out now to consider what you want to do next year. Perhaps you've had lots of ideas on an off throughout the year, but you haven't committed them to paper anywhere, and now you've forgotten what it was you wanted to do? I know that feeling. Although I'm better than I was! I do make notes on my mobile phone.

Yesterday, I sat quietly for ten minutes and wrote a list of all the writerly things I'm involved in at the moment. All my different unfinished writing projects, my aims, and the regular stuff I do. I was astounded! I do much more than I think I do. It's no wonder I'm not finishing anything.

If I'm honest, I like to work on several projects at once. I like the variety. But at what cost? Never completing anything? Maybe I should concentrate on getting one thing finished? Work on one project at a time. I'm not sure. It's something I'm going to think about carefully over the next two weeks. 

As for writing resolutions in general, here are a few I can think of...however I'm not saying I'll be following all of them, I'm brainstorming, jotting down a list. Maybe it'll be of use to you as you decide what your plan is for 2016. 

Somewhere to Write - Are you happy with your writing space? Do you even have one? Could it be improved? We all need somewhere to keep our printer, paper, pens and notebooks. If you're lucky enough to have an office, could it be more comfortable. A new chair to keep you comfortable? A heater, or perhaps a bookshelf or a kettle and coffee? Maybe even a progress chart on the wall?
If you don't have a dedicated space, or you do and it's not working for you, what about taking your writing out to the coffee shop this year? Or the library? Or if you commute, could it be done on route, on the bus, or train? Perhaps, this is the year you'll splash out and take your writing out into the garden, in your very own writing shed. Food for thought - where will you be writing next year? 

Weekly Target - I'm a fine one to say this, but fellow scribes, don't beat yourself up if you're not writing everyday. Unless your writing full-time, it's unlikely you'll be writing everyday. Why not set yourself a minimum weekly target? Either with words, or hours you'll write?

It's amazing what can be achieved in the tiniest amount of time. Just ten minutes here and there can bring results. Get something in place, and stick at it, chances are you're going to write more anyway, whatever target you set, and don't be afraid to take time out, without feeling guilty.

When Are You Going to Do It? - Finding time to write is tricky for many of us. I certainly haven't solved this one completely, however, I'm mostly now writing early in the morning before my work day begins. Could that work for you? Or perhaps you want to try writing during your lunch break? Or before the kids get home from school? Or whilst the other half is doing the shopping? Give some thought to if you've got the time right? When could you be more productive? 

Get Away - Yes seriously, think about getting away from your desk. Going to writerly events like workshops, and conferences are food for the writers soul. Or take a break away form writing altogether. Give yourself a day off, or a week. Rest and recharge often.

Friends - Never underestimate how powerful having a writing buddy can be. Good ones will spur you on, and support you in times of crisis. If you haven't got one and want one, get along to a writerly event, or join a group, socialise and look for someone like-minded. Give it a go, what have you got to lose? And who knows what you might gain. It's great to share successes, or cry on their shoulder when things aren't going well but remember, it's a two way street. You get out, what you put in. 

Plate Spinning Skills - I already touched on this one at the beginning of this post. Only you can decide if having various multiple projects on the go is something you want to try, or not. For me it's refreshing to be able to swap from urban fantasy to crime, or romance, or whatever. Or from a novel chapter to a piece of flash fiction. Hell, does it matter that much? We're all different, with different priorities. Some of us scribble away for a living, others for fun, and the hope of some small success.
If you love writing, you'll find your focus, just do yourself a favour and don't set any unrealistic goals. Keep moving forward in whatever you choose to write, and you'll improve, and maybe one day you'll achieve all your hopes and dreams. Or at least some of them.

So grab a pen and paper, and start planning now for a successful and productive writing year.

Merry Christmas folks, may it be peaceful and happy.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Facing the Monster

The number one enemy of the writer got me! Without warning, the monster known As 'self doubt' coshed me over the head and carried me off into it's cave. Some of you know this monster, and have suffered yourselves. Like me, you've lived to tell the tale.

Within hours, I wilted, became pessimistic about my writing, bereft, and unusually listless, I couldn't lift myself out of the mood.

How did it happen? Being honest, it was after a critique session at the Saturday writers group a week ago. I took along a short story to read out, which I thought had a strong premise. However, the feedback I received said otherwise, and I knew, with so many experienced writers saying the same thing, that there must be something badly wrong with the piece in question.

I'm no stranger to critique, hell I've been taking it, and dishing it out for years. Normally, I take it on the chin, go away, think about it, then make the necessary changes to improve the writing in question. However, the more I thought about this piece of writing, the more I doubted my ability. Perhaps it was a load of rubbish! Whatever. I let the monster win.

Why? Maybe because, it had knocked on my door before. I read a different story last month, and I got feedback that it didn't work. Folks said they felt cheated at the end, and that I hadn't foreshadowed the story properly. I was disappointed, but mostly agreed with the verdict. I knew what I'd done wrong, I'd tried to re-write my ending in a fantastical way, when the story was more a contemporary one, than an urban fantasy. I'd seen the flash of something then, an impression, a fleeting feeling of doom. But it vanished  as soon as it appeared. I was safe, and on that occasion, I escaped with my love for the craft intact.

That story is back in a file, I'm unsure what I'll do with it now. As for the one that caused the latest upset, that is out of sight. In fact, when this happened, just over a week ago, it made me feel so fed up with the whole thing, I quit! Yes really. Packed up my writing life, and let the monster chew a big bite out of my confidence. I felt completely robbed of all joy and passion.

Thank goodness for writing buddies! The good people that are there when the monster is lurking in the shadows. Ready to pounce and nip at your ankles. Wanting nothing more than to bring you down. A couple of my buddies know of my plight and have rallied round with good advice. Take a few days out, regroup, look at things with fresh eyes they said. Don't give up, they said.

I took their advice. Had a rest. licked my wounds clean. This writing game isn't for wimps is it? I'm not the first, I've seen the damage left in this monsters wake before. I've decided I'm not going to lie down and let it win the fight, heck I'm still growing as a writer. I'm going to hang out with my positive buddies, and get back to tapping those keys, starting with this post.

If you're not feeling the passion for your writing, suspect something is lurking in the shadows of your mind, ring a friend, have a chat, talk about it. Get on the email, share thoughts. Whatever you do, don't let the monster win!

Thursday, 5 November 2015


I haven't been to a bonfire party for years, so thought I'd have my own virtual party and invite author Patsy Collins over to tell us all about her new book, Firestarter which launches today. I hope you'll join us too.

No bonfire party would be complete without food, and drink, and I've made plenty of tasty treats, so wrap up warm and come on over. Pick up a mug of pumpkin soup, and join Patsy and I around the fire. What better way to begin the long cold November evenings than with a roaring bonfire. There is just something about staring into those glowing embers that evoke childhood memories.

Q. So Patsy, before we talk about Firestarter, your latest book, perhaps you can tell us a little about yourself and your background?

A. Thanks for inviting me, Maria. I do like a nice bonfire and yes, they do bring back memories.

Q. What were you like at school?

A. At junior school I was an odd, slightly wild tomboy. At secondary school I was a bit moody and angsty, but reasonably happy most of the time. I never tried to burn the building down or anything like that. Probably fairly typical in lots of ways, except I was never bothered much by fashion or what anyone other than my friends thought about me.
btw, if you've seen that photo of me with 80's hair, shoulder pads and bright blue eyeshadow, it's a fake.

Q. What were your favourite subjects?

A. History, English language, design, sociology and cooking.

Q. What are your memories of bonfire night?

A. My dad used to have a huge bonfire (still does some years) He's a farmer so there's often rubbish to get rid of. He'd save it up for months beforehand. Then it had to be relocated  - to avoid frazzling hedgehogs, and so it was downwind of hay barns and neighbours we didn't want to annoy.

Some years we had fireworks. He wisely gave up on that after the giant Catherine wheel disaster though. Those things are fast when they fall off the post and come flying down the track and they can smell fear.

Whether we'd had our own fireworks or not, my best friend Nicola and I went to more formal firework displays. We were great at the oohing and aaahing and eating half cooked burgers and too much fudge. We've not been together for a while - I should do something about that.

Funny you mentioning pumpkin soup, as Nicola and I once made a pot of the stuff for the rest of our girl guide pack. I'd forgotten about that. Our patrol made stuff almost every week and the other girls had to buy and eat it. We were very enterprising and possibly slightly alarming.

Q. Which writers inspire you?

A. All sorts. Naturally if I read an excellent book or short story I wish I could write something as good. If a story makes me laugh or cry or surprises me with a clever twist, I want to create the same kind of reaction myself. Those writers motivate me to learn and improve and always write as well as I can.

I'm inspired too by the thought of all the authors who produced a huge body of brilliant work, by candlelight, using a pen or even quill. We have it so easy now, with computers which will record our thoughts, check our spelling and instantly deliver our work anywhere in the world.

Q. So what have you written?

A. Hundreds of short stories (I don't think it's reached thousands yet, but I don't want to alarm myself with a count) Lots of these stories have been published in women's magazines. I've also written a few very dodgy poems, some articles for Writing Magazine and four novels.

Q. Tell us about your new book?

A. Firestarter is a romance, and a comedy with a bit of crime thrown in. It's about relationships; romantic, family, work. And hopes, fantasies, expectations and facing up to reality. There's a fireman, food, flames, friendship and fun.

Q. What was the hardest thing about writing Firestarter?

A. Um ... nothing. Sorry I know we're supposed to suffer for our art, but I'm rubbish at that bit. Of course it took a lot of time to write and edit it, and I had research to do, but I enjoyed the whole process a great deal and can't honestly say any of it was especially hard.

Oh well there is chapter fifteen. You'll have to try to overlook any mental double entendres, but I found the sex scenes hardest to write. There isn't loads of sex in the story and I feel what's there is needed for the story (I'd happily have left it out otherwise). It's difficult to know how detailed and explicit to be, but I found I was more comfortable just showing what happened than using euphemisms and metaphors.

Q. How can readers discover more about you and your work?

A. Read all my books! (Good try, eh?) Okay, I know what you mean. My website is the best place for more information.

Thank you Patsy, it's been great catching up, shall we light the bonfire?

Image Credit  - Pixabay

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Side Tracked

Autumn Walk - Maria A Smith

The more observant reader of this blog will have noticed I've been missing for a couple of weeks. Where have I been? Well, the first week was fairly normal up until mid week. I was very busy at work, and then on Friday I took some leave and hubby and I went off to Chirk in North Wales for a long weekend. Our aim to do some walking and relax.

As is usual we took our touring caravan, and pitched very close to Chirk Castle on a lovely site. Surrounded by woodland, it was peaceful and quiet. Apart from some industrious squirrels, and a lot of rabbits.

It had everything we needed for a relaxing break. I took my latest manuscript with the intention of doing some editing, however, I spent most of my time either asleep or walking up hills, and nothing much got done in the end.

It was great to have a break, although over all too quickly, and I was no sooner back home on the Monday, when I learnt I'd got to go up to Scotland early the next morning. Just for one night I was told. So early the following morning, I climbed into a taxi, and made my way to the airport. I flew up to Edinburgh and arrived feeling refreshed after my break in the countryside.

Unfortunately the best laid plans go wrong. I was supposed to go home the next day via road with the engineers, but the job hit snags, and I ended up leaving on Friday morning! Now you might think,  you could have enjoyed a few days away in Edinburgh, well sadly it wasn't like that, we didn't go anywhere other than back and forward to our place of work, via our hotel. So exhausted, all we could manage was to eat and sleep.

The journey home was long, it took seven hours, and I was physically and mentally exhausted.

Saturday was much better, I went off to Derby Writers Day with three writing buddies, which was very informative. I listened to the industry experts talk on various topics including a Crime Panel hosted by Stephen Booth. It was a great day out and there was a lot of laughter, which is the best tonic when you're feeling slightly jaded.

That was two weeks ago, and I've been playing catch up ever since.

I've been writing honest! I just haven't had time to get round to blogging much this last month. Mainly due to the heavy workload at the day job, but also, I've been giving my time to writing daily.
I'm back on track. Early morning writing suits my lifestyle now, and as previously mentioned, even though I don't have lots of spare time, I'm getting words down daily. 

I wrote two new short stories in October. Got one completely edited and I'm about to submit it, and the other is still in first draft, but the end is in sight too. 

My novel, is progressing again, and currently I'm changing over from Word to do the next draft in Scrivener, which is ironic as the original first draft was written with Scrivener and I swopped it to Word. Its too big an unruly for me to manage in Word, and as I'm re-writing a lot of it, it's going to be much easier.

There hasn't been much time for relaxation, but I did manage a short walk in the glorious sunshine as you can see above. Aren't we lucky to get a day like today in November!

What are my goals for this month? To keep writing, and to fit in some quality time with family and friends.

Well that's enough about me - what have you been up to? I've missed interacting with you and hope to be up to speed very soon. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Seesaw Effect

Pen & Ink - Maria A Smith

For the last two weeks I've been suffering the seesaw effect - the ups and downs of writing. Readers of this blog will know I've gone from  night owl to morning lark. It wasn't easy, but I'm pleased to say I've done it, and my writing output has moved up several gears,  I'm motoring again.

However, I hit a rut in the road.  The story I'm working on has been problematic. After a week of frustrating morning rewrites, the seeds of doubt sprouted, and I started to believe I couldn't do it!

The issues with the story, saggy middle, little foreshadowing, and it just being all wrong for the competition brief, un-nerved me, because I couldn't find a way forward. I blundered around in the dark. My brain wasn't working how it usually does, you know, when you go off for a walk, or your'e doing other un-writerly stuff like peeling spuds for the dinner, or picking up beans in the supermarket. I started to seriously doubt my ability to write a story ever again.

It's crazy isn't it. What did I do? Everything.

Including distracting myself with a podcast over at The Joined Up Writing Podcast which by pure coincidence, just happened to be about self-doubt and how to deal with it. It's real writers telling you how it is, which is helpful, and makes you realise you're not alone. However, you still have to unstick yourself when you're stuck.

Sunday - I blogged, and read some short story anthologies.

Monday - I signed up for   RedPen run by Anne Rainbow, where you receive  weekly newsletters with links to articles to guide you through the editing process. Anne is offering FREE webinars at the moment. If you want to improve your editing skills I'd highly recommend having a look, and if you want to take it further, Anne has options for membership including further webinars, workshops and much more. Take a look, it's good stuff!

Tuesday - I took part in my first  RedPen webinar, and throughly enjoyed it! See what Patsy Collins has to say about RedPen on the womagswriter's blog and read about Anne here.

I distracted myself, doing other writerly things like listening to my audio book, and flicking through the pages of Writing Magazine. Looking back now, I can see I was trying to sort things out by doing other things.

Wednesday - I wrote. I continued punching my way through. In the evening I took part in #writingchat on Twitter, with lots of other writers. It's a regular hour a week, and it's downtime, yes, you're not writing, apart from countless tweets, but you're interacting and you're surrounding yourself with WRITERS! People like you, who understand your pain.

We discuss a different topic each week. Do drop into Twitter Wednesday 8pm - 9pm BST and search the hashtag #writingchat Jump in, and join the chatter, you'll be made very welcome.

Thursday - The self-doubt fountain overflowed. I almost cracked and hit the biscuit tin. But no, I'm made of stronger metal. Even when the scales at Slimming World went against me and declared I'd gained half a pound. Ugh! You know how it is, when things start to tumble. I won't mention the parking ticket, the lack of mobile data due to a phone upgrade error, being overcharged in Staples for notebooks and storage bins for my writing magazines (see, how I'm doing other writerly activities) or the other irritating things that occurred this week. Gratefully, nothing life threatening, or life changing, so I told myself. Get a grip Maria. What are you going to do about this story?

Friday -  I dragged myself to the laptop at 6 a.m, bleary eyed after a fitful night tossing and turning trying to sort out the problem. I wrote, it wasn't good. I cut, I hacked, I stopped, and continued my day.

I made a decision.

I decided, no more, so when the day job stopped, instead of going for a swim, I went straight home. I was a woman on a mission. I sat at the kitchen table and at 5pm the battle began. I wasn't getting up until it was done! And it came to me. In the words of Tommy Cooper, 'Just like that!' Everything dropped into place.  I filled the gaps, rewrote where needed, and the story was there. I was elated! And very hungry, it had taken me four solid hours.

I celebrated with an omelette and green salad. I sent an email to my writing buddy Wayne, attaching my shiny new story, and then I collapsed in a heap on the sofa and went to sleep.

Saturday - Feeling jubilant, I set off for Phoenix Writers. I hadn't done either the weekly challenge, or offered forward a manuscript to read out, but I did offer lots of critique and feed back to my fellow writers, who like me, have all been fighting their own writing battles this week. Afterwards I had a good old writerly natter over lunch.

Later, I took a red pen to my writing buddies work, a short story he wants to submit, and isn't it crazy how you can do that more easily to someone else's manuscript? I enjoyed the process, it's practice for when I get stuck into mine later this week. The deadline for my story is looming over me, and I really, really want to submit it.

Editing is a whole different issue, but happily, I'm back on the writing road, having killed the doubt - until the next time.

More tales of the tormented writer next week. Have a good one folks, and remember. NEVER GIVE UP. Do drop me a message in the comments. I love hearing from you.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Punch Your Way Through

Autumn - Image Credit -  Pixabay

Last Monday I started doing my writing first thing in the morning. How did I do? What I learnt is that it is possible to get the words down, my mind wasn't busy as my day hadn't begun, and there were no interruptions.

You definitely have to go to your bed earlier to make up for the sleep you've lost, because as the week goes on you feel more exhausted, and by the fourth day, I was shattered by teatime, even though I'd been going to sleep a whole hour earlier, and only getting up fifteen minutes earlier. It may just be a shock to the system, and I'm hoping my body clock will reset itself this coming week.

There is a great sense of achievement that the writing is all done and out of the way, so I don't feel stressed and worried about how I'm going to fit it in after a hectic day. I feel happier.

I started out on Monday morning with ten minutes journalling, thinking, I needed a warm-up, but after Wednesday I ditched the idea as I wanted to get straight onto the new short story I'm writing. My output ranged from fifteen to forty minute sessions, depending on the other things I had on my timetable for the day. If I needed to hit the road early for work, then it was a short session.

The point of it all is that my writing has moved priority, it is now the first thing on my list each weekday, instead of the last. As for the quality, I have to admit it's not been my best work this week. It started well, the characters came to me easily, I knew their problem, and what to do about them, but I haven't been able to make it work!

Usually, whilst I'm going about my day, the solution comes to me, but it hasn't happened with this story, not yet anyway. So, I'll have to punch my way through, look at the whole thing this week, and find a solution.

The beginning is fine, but the middle is a mess, it's sagging and I need to brainstorm it. I know the end of the story after all, so why is the middle such a problem? If anyone has any tips, shout them out, I'm open to any ideas.

It was busy last week, but I was able to get some stuff done for myself too. I've changed the colour of my hair for Autumn, gone are the blonde highlights, replaced with shades of red and blonde lowlights, which I really like. I've lost two and a half pounds at Slimming World, and have started to notice the difference around my waist, so that is positively encouraging. Even more encouraging is I'm loving the food!

I cooked a fabulous new recipe in the last week too, Mac and Cheese, which is a variation on the traditional macaroni cheese, made with grated courgettes,  red onion and cottage cheese. Very tasty indeed.

What does the week ahead hold? More of the same, I shall continue with my early morning words, and I'll try and sort this story out too!

What are you up to?

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Change Your Morning Habits

Hands up if you start your day with writing?  I've tried before and once I get going, it works well. However, I've got out of the habit over the summer so it's time to try again.

Why do it?

  • It's quiet, so there won't be any interruptions. 
  • Work hasn't begun. Need I say more?
  • Real life hasn't got underway, and writing hasn't got pushed to the back of an ever growing list of things to be done. No matter how well you plan, if your writing time is in the evening, you may find it gets shelved due to real life stuff over running. 
  • Once done, you can rest easy that you've done your daily writing. 

  • Wake up earlier, but do it in stages. Start slow by setting the alarm back in fifteen minute increments until you feel you have enough time. Thirty minutes of writing can be very productive when there are no distractions. 
  • Know what you're going to write the night before. Otherwise you'll waste time.
  • Resist the urge to check Twitter, FaceBook or emails! 
  • Go to bed earlier. 

The hardest thing is starting (isn't it always!) It won't feel natural at first, they'll be that early morning confusion, so it might help to start with ten minutes journal writing. After the second week it should start to become a habit.

What do you think? Will you give early mornings a try? 

In other news, last week went off the rails and Plan B days were required on more than one occasion. I'm refusing to stress about it though...I had a busy working week, which is another reason to do my writing early each day. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

New Beginnings

Original Image - Pixabay
Lots to report since my last post, some much needed 'me' time, some days away, and lots of catching up. It's been wonderful. What a difference a bit of downtime makes to everything. Managed a lovely day relaxing with my friends at the spa, and went off to London with hubby for some general sightseeing too.

Have done a little editing, writing and planning on my own stuff as well as some edits for a buddy, which I've really enjoyed doing.

In my last post, I talked about small wins, so I've been deliberately looking out for them over the last few weeks. Here they are...

  • The smell of freshly laundered washing blowing dry on the line.
  • A good cup of coffee, a quiet cafe, a pen and my writers notebook.
  • Lying in bed till after 8am
  • Listening to an audio book and getting the chores done too!
  • Losing one and a half pounds at Slimming World 
  • Gin O' Clock
  • Walking briskly through the park
  • Discovering new places
  • Carrot cake at Tate Modern
  • A hot bath with lots of lovely bubbles
I hope you've had lots of wins too?

In other news, me and hubby took Dear Daughter, to University today, along with the contents of her bedroom! I've lost a daughter and gained a bathroom, someone at work pointed out. It wasn't traumatic for either of us.  No wailing, no hanging onto each other, no drama at all, but there were hugs and kisses.

We're both independent, I had to be from an early age, and I wanted her to be able to manage herself, and feel confident. Today reminded me of her first day at school. Gosh! Where have those years gone?

All the other children were clinging onto their mummies in the playground, and there was my DD trotting in without a backward glance. Bold as brass. Off she went to her new adventure.  I will admit to having a lump in my throat. There wasn't a phone call from the school for me to come and collect her, she just got on with it. Settled in and made the most of her situation.

It's a massive change for everyone, everything is new and alien to her at the moment, but I'm sure she'll manage once she's found her way around, in fact as I type this, she has probably met her new flat mates, and between them I imagine they've planned a party, or started one! Or at least put the world to rights. A new life begins for her, so it's fitting that I take this opportunity to make a few changes too.

There will be writing, there will be healthy eating, and there will be some new habits, because these are all things I want to do. Blimey, I can do things I want to do now? I can't quite remember life before offspring.

Mid September can be a little odd, neither summer nor autumn. Sandals or boots? Salad or hotpot? We know the darker evenings are just ahead of us, when we'll close the curtains at five o'clock, and put the clocks forward soon, but  we're not quite there yet. We're in-between.

The week ahead then?

Well, the Phoenix Writers Subs Club has been out of action July and August, so I'll be breathing new life into it again at the weekend, so I have to prepare. Gather all the latest competition news, and details of any writing opportunities etc. Contact the members and then get myself up and running too.

Today, I've made myself a timetable, and I shall try and fall in with my plans. It's Plan A, but I've also thought about Plan B, because life has a habit of happening and changing the best laid plans doesn't it?

Enjoy the week ahead, and do let me know what you're up to...

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Writerly Things

Notebook - Maria A Smith

I missed posting last week. I'm blaming the time bandits! But I'm here now with a quick recap on the last two weeks

I've been up to a few writerly things, like going to my writing group, editing bits of my novel, and I wrote two flash fiction challenge pieces. Apart from that, I took part in #writingchat on twitter on Wednesday evenings and that has been my lot. Why? Usual kinda stuff got in the way, like the day job, my exercise plan and spending time out. Yes, time out.

I'm getting itchy feet, it's not that I'm bored, I just like to have something fresh thrown into the mix now and again. When the itchy feet strike, I usually satisfy myself  by doing other writerly stuff. Like listening to podcasts on the craft. Or I'll check out some great blogs. Or I'll go and do something else connected with the arts, like visit a gallery, or a museum, or I'll take myself out on a long walk.

I love learning new things, and as we draw ever nearer to Autumn, I'm thinking maybe I'll go along to a workshop, or a writing convention, or perhaps find a class. However finding good providers in itself is a challenge. There are many online things around, but I never quite feel comfortable handing my cash over to some anonymous website. I'll have to think hard, before I make any decisions. If anyone knows of anything worthwhile going on out there, do tell...

Yesterday was a most enjoyable day. Had breakfast with my writing buddy, it's been a while since we caught up, and we had quite a bit to talk about over the bacon and eggs. Then it was my turn to chair at the writing group. It was a good session, everyone is passionate about their writing we heard lots of interesting stories, and the critique flowed.

Then off to lunch with several of the group, where we reminisced about years gone by and what fun we've had in the past. It was like a tonic, we laughed as we remembered,  and I got to thinking, we're making memories everyday. What happens today, will be history tomorrow. There is a small win in every day, if you look hard enough for it. And that is what I'm going to try and do in the week ahead. Look for wins.

Here are a couple of podcasts I've listened to this week. Do click on the links and have a listen, they'll make you smile, and maybe you'll learn something too.

The Worried Writer

The Joined Up Writing Podcast

What have you been up to? What does the coming week have in store for you? Do let me know...

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Topsy - Turvy - 9th August 2015

Image Credit - Pixabay
Do you know what the definition of Topsy-Turvy is? It means with the top downward and the bottom up, or confused or disordered to put it another way. That was me last week. No matter how I tried to right my week, it tipped back up again.

My writing has suffered, output has been poor. Exercise marginally better, I got to the pool a couple of times, went for a walk twice, and went to Pilates again. And you know how I said I wanted to have fun, well, I had some, but there is definitely room for improvement.

Friday teatime I went off to Derbyshire for the weekend, much later than expected, but at last, free from the ties of a busy working week. After surviving the single track road up to the site, with the caravan pitched, we were ready to B-R-E-A-T-H-E, and start the weekend.

I'd booked an Adult Only site (nothing seedy honest!) a just for grown ups refuge, and my goodness it was quiet, and tranquil. Bliss! Being so far up in the hills, there was no phone signal, no wifi and a very dodgy TV signal. Being peaceful was forced upon us, and it was like a tonic. An added bonus was that the local pub picked you up and took you down into the village to drink and eat in their establishment, and then they took you home again. An excellent idea, and a system that guaranteed our custom for the weekend.

We woke to a glorious Saturday morning, a proper summer's day, and not wanting to waste a minute, we decided to travel into Ashbourne, a thriving market town, where we explored, and stopped off for coffee as you do, and we visited one or two of the many independent shops. The streets are set out in a medieval pattern, there are many alleys and yards tucked away just waiting to be discovered.

One of the highlights of the weekend, was discovering a Vintage and Crafters fair going on inside the town hall. There were many different kinds of stalls within, with everything from origami kits to candle making, but the one that caught my eye was a gentleman making fountain and roller ball pens. I was fascinated, looking at all his very beautiful and unique designs. Quite perfect for writerly types. I didn't purchase anything, because I was spoilt for choice. Instead I tried several pens, and decided I couldn't make my mind up  between a fountain pen, or a roller... so I'm definitely going back. I was delighted to learn he's regularly there.

One thing I did very well whilst in Derbyshire was sleep, so well in fact, that I lost many hours. I must have needed it, and the weekend, was after all, about being restful. So there we are, my excuse for not getting on with my writing.

This week then...

Having fun has to go to the top of the list according to my blog buddy Julia Thorley who made the comment on my last post. So, Julia, I'll see what I can do about improving that over the weeks ahead.

I'll kick start my writing and be back in the groove very soon, and of course I'll be trying to keep up with penning words little and often again.

That was my week, now tell me about yours? Or what's in store for you?

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Getting Chapter #1 Right - 2nd August 2015

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire  - Maria A Smith

I'm finally happy with chapter one of my current work in progress. It has been a nightmare to get right. It needed to do all of the usual, introduce the main characters, grab the reader enough for them to get some idea of what the conflict is in the story, and importantly, signpost the genre. Then it has to keep the reader hooked, and move the story forward. In other words it's a tall order!

I wrote it, then sat on it for weeks, pondering if I should change it further, even though I wasn't happy with the original, I didn't want to put something else in without it being right. Of course now I've got to change things here and there to make it all fit together. Anyone else scrapped their first chapter and started further into the story?

As for last week, I got most things done. Edited a chapter, did the Phoenix Writers group challenge, went to the meeting, offered feedback on several manuscripts, managed three of the four exercise sessions I'd said I'd do, and had a half day out too. I also finished my audio book, The Accident, by C.L. Taylor, and recommend it, if you like a good phycological thriller that'll have you on the edge of your seat.

The week ahead looks like this...
  1. More writing
  2. More exercise
  3. More fun!
Oh, and the image is nothing to do with summer, but it is where I went for my half day excursion last week, and I forgot my camera!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Big Is Not Always Beautiful - 26th July 2015

Tools of The Trade - Image Credit Pixabay

Last week I struggled to reach my goals. I have better news this week.

1. Write 1000 new words. Done
2. Edit a novel chapter. Done
3. Plan menus, and shop online accordingly. Done
4. Go for three 20 minute walks Managed two walks
5. Flash fiction, 150 words required for Saturday morning. Done
6. Listen to a podcast Failed
7. #Writingchat Done
8. Clear more clutter! Managed a few tasks
9. Get in the pool three times. Got there once
10. Book a day out with a friend Sorted
As well as the above, I did a Pilates class on Tuesday, and booked myself a one to one session with an instructor yesterday to go through the moves. I'll be honest, Pilates is not my exercise of choice. However the physiotherapy department at my local hospital rave about it being the best thing to do for yourself if you have a bad back. Due to the core strength work. So I'm giving it my very best shot. 
The session was much better than I anticipated although very hard work! I think I'm going to ache all over tomorrow. 
I'm not making a big list this week. I'm taking the advice of the followers on this blog. I'm going to go with a smaller list and be a bit easier on myself. 

The week ahead and the stuff I want to do...
1. Phoenix 150 word challenge
2. Edit a chapter
3. Four exercise sessions
4. A day out 
5. Listen to my audio book
That's it! I'm looking forward to hearing how you got on last week? And all about your plans for the week ahead.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Clinging Onto The Plan - 19th July 2015

Please...let me sleep!  - Image credit Pixabay

The title of this post says it all really - last week didn't go to plan, my back flared up on Monday, which was horrendous timing as I was working away from home for a couple of days. Consequently,  I was very tired, due to travelling and discomfort. I'm grateful to say, things have improved very much, and I am more or less back to normal, having done all the things I learnt in my recent NHS back classes.

Here's a recap of my original list with results.

  1. Get to the pool as often as is possible in the midst of a busy working week. Two visits.
  2. Go for a walk. Managed an urban walk around the city streets. Very pleasant, lots happening, and lots of people watching opportunities.
  3. Write 1000 new words - Can't help feeling guilty about this one. Not done. 
  4. Edit a chapter of the novel - Not done.
  5. Spend an hour planning menus for the week ahead. Mostly done. 
  6. Make an appointment for an eye test. Found out the optician had messed up and I don't need one until November, and they don't make appointments that far in advance. 
  7. Pick up some paint charts and look at colours for the lounge. Done, but still none the wiser on a colour. I have until the beginning of September to choose.
  8. Tune into #writingchat at 8pm on Wednesday evening on Twitter. Done, and there was lots of discussion and shared gems about reading in general, as well as what books are useful for writers. 
  9. Spend my book token. Not done
  10. Listen to a podcast. Not done
What I did do was listen to the last half of an audio book whilst multi-tasking other jobs around the home, or driving. I also went to Phoenix Writers on Saturday morning to hear my writing buddies read their work, upon which I hope I offered constructive critique, and I did the 200 word flash fiction challenge which had to be about the most mundane job you've ever done. My piece was about when I left school at sixteen and went to work in a cigarette vending factory. Sticking twopence and a penny onto the packets, was my job, ready for them to go into the vending machines in pubs and clubs nationwide. I wonder who can remember those days? It was mundane, but the people I worked with were fun, and had very colourful lives outside of the factory. I learnt a lot about life in the short time I was there. 
Clearing clutter has also been on my radar this week, I have such a mountain of stuff all over the place I've had to be really strict. If its not useful, or of sentimental value I've either binned it, or passed it on. Over the coming months I need to do a lot more before we turn the corner into the winter months as it'll be easier to do whilst the weather is mild. 

Next week then. I've made a note to myself to try and stick to the list, and not veer off along the way doing something else. I will try, honest I will. Let me make it clearer to myself this week.

1. Write 1000 new words.
2. Edit a novel chapter.
3. Plan menus, and shop online accordingly.
4. Go for three 20 minute walks
5. Flash fiction, 150 words required for Saturday morning. 
6. Listen to a podcast
7. #Writingchat
8. Clear more clutter!
9. Get in the pool three times.
10. Book a day out with a friend

I'm going to do better this week. How did you do?

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Finding Joy In The Journey - 12th July 2015

Time - Maria A Smith
Its been a good productive week on the writing front, I've managed to do lots of mini writing sessions in between household chores, appointment waiting times, coffee breaks, early morning word sprints and even a longer editing session. 
On well-being and exercise there has been some frustration, like the traffic making me too late to attend a stretch class. I was miffed after planning everything to get there, and allowing more time for travelling too. Never mind, I went in the gym instead, to do my own stretching routine. Not quite as good as being in a class, but it's still exercise.
By making myself a 'to do' list, last Sunday, I realised mid-week, I wasn't going to accomplish everything I'd set out to do. I know I'm not alone, its very hard to keep up with everything whatever your circumstances. There are so many time distractions. 
What can we do about it? 
Just Say No

The number #1 time management tool, is saying NO, not only to others, but perhaps more importantly to ourselves. We all know that every time we let something into our life, it becomes a claim on our attention. Another procrastination? 
Time is not the problem. Time 'just is' and it's how we manage it that makes the difference. We all know we can't buy anymore, so we must learn to organise it better.
I'd like to join a book group, but I know if I do, I'll have to allocate it time, and it won't just be getting to the meetings, or reading, or making notes. I'll probably have to shift other stuff around to do it, and if I mess up,  I'll lose focus on other things, and my attention will be dispersed. 
I'll end up not being able to give anything the attention it deserves, and more and more things will not get finished.
So how do we begin? 
The first step is to stop adding to the number of things we are already doing, and the next step is to start putting space back in our lives.

Focus on What Is Important

This week, why not take some time to look at what your'e doing regularly? Are you doing things that are stopping you from working on that manuscript? Having spoken to lots of writers, it seems we have this unconscious need for an ever-increasing supply of 'things to do' that give us an excuse to avoid having to deal with the more challenging things that really would make a breakthrough, like completing that novel, or subbing those stories. 
Most of us have taken on too much at one time or another in our lives. But if you can recognise this overwhelm for what it is - an escape mechanism - you can begin to break free from it.  
When you put space back into your life, you can give everything the amount of focused attention that it needs. But please don't use the time saved to do something else! Your goal is to improve your efficiency, otherwise you'll have a much bigger feeling of overwhelm than before. I've taken a hard look at my life, and decided what I want to give my attention to for now, and of course there will always be some smaller tasks that have to be managed in between the big stuff, but I know I can always change my priorities, but what I can't do, is give more attention than I have to give. 

Now the title of this post, is Finding Joy In The Journey, and it relates to the good things that happen in our lives along the way. So here are three joyful things from my week.

  • Meeting up for an impromptu tea and cake session with a good friend.
  • Feeling happy because I cleared the In-Tray of three months worth of receipts and old bills.
  • Having a neck and shoulder tension massage, followed by an intensive scalp treatment.
My week ahead looks like this...
  1. Get to the pool as often as is possible in the midst of a busy working week.
  2. Go for a walk
  3. Write 1000 new words
  4. Edit a chapter of the novel
  5. Spend an hour planning menus for the week ahead
  6. Make an appointment for an eye test
  7. Pick up some paint charts and look at colours for the lounge
  8. Tune into #writingchat at 8pm on Wednesday evening on Twitter 
  9. Spend my book token
  10. Listen to a podcast
Lets see how I do!
I look forward to hearing how your week went, what joys happened on the journey, and what plans you have for the week ahead? 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Back on The Treadmill (Goals Part 12) 5th July 2015

Brecon Canal Basin - Maria A Smith

My holiday isn't a distant memory yet, but it's definitely over. Once home on Friday evening, the washing machine was put on double duty, the supermarket plundered for groceries, and I lowered myself back into real life.

Saturday morning I went along to my writing group and although I didn't take a manuscript for critique, I did do the Chairman's challenge piece. Which was 200 words of flash fiction, Written in ten minutes, whilst having a cuppa in a nearby cafe just prior to the meeting. There is nothing like a deadline to gee you into action.

My plans for the week ahead are all written down. As per my previous post, you'll recall I said I was going to try a different way of working for the next six months in an attempt to up my productivity.

Here we go then,

  • Write something everyday - I'm going to write in small windows of time, mainly half hour sessions, so it'll be interesting to see what I can achieve. 

  • Exercise everyday - Same plan as above. I'm aiming for half hour sessions here, and I'll mix them up a bit so I don't get bored.

It's a simple plan, and once I saw it down on paper, I could visualise it. 

I'm back at work tomorrow, and suppose by lunchtime it will feel like my holiday is a distant memory, but I can say, it was a good one and I've come back rested, and ready to start over.

What do you plan to do this week?

Thursday, 2 July 2015

How To Cut Distractions

Brecon Beacons Visitor Centre - Maria A Smith

We've moved to Pandy, in Monmouthshire, the caravan site is small and peaceful, and we're right on the edge of the Breacon Beacons National Park. We've been here three nights already, and I'm trying to think what we've done.

We went into Abergavenny yesterday, just six miles down the road, a vibrant little town, with lots to see and do, and we've been to Brecon where we had lunch by the canal basin. There's been lots of walking, and more good food, and I've mainly been relaxing and taking it easy. I needed the time out to sort out in my head what to do in the remaining half of 2015.

A mini review of the last six months, tells me my writing output has been pretty grim. I can do better, but it will have to be at the expense of something else. That's the problem I'm facing, as a big chunk of my time needs to be taken up with exercise and looking after myself. Then of course there is the day job, the family, and the chores. I'm accepting of this, because it's the way it has to be for now. However, I'd like to try and improve my performance when it comes to writing output as it's something I love doing.

There are so many distractions though, and this was the topic of #writingchat last night, which was lively as usual. I had all day to think about what distracts me away from my writing, and ways to combat it. And if you boil it down, a lot of it is procrastination. Maybe as much as 50% of lost time is me dithering and not getting down to the writing. Hell, being honest, there is no maybe, I've definitely procrastinated these last six months. So how to solve the problem then?

Based on #writingchat conversations last night, I'm taking some of the ideas put forward by other writers.

  • Make a Plan - The plan must include all the important things that need to be done, not just the writing related stuff. A weekly plan is best.

  • To Do List - This has to be part of the plan, and I'll need to break it down into daily tasks. It's a good thing to do, because I'll see at a glance what I need to get through, and can plan my day accordingly. 

  • Prioritise   - So I have a plan and a 'To Do' list, now I need to get it in my diary so I can make a date with myself, make it official. So it could go something like this, dentist at 3pm, start making the evening meal at 5pm, go for a walk around the block 6.15pm  - 6.45pm, writing hour 7pm - 8pm. 

  • Get Ready - In advance, in other words, get my laptop out, pens, paper, tea, chocolate bar, or whatever I need, before the appointed hour. Download a nifty little egg timer device. Go here to find out more.

  • Turn it Off - Pull the plug on the internet, set the mobile to airplane mode or turn that off too. Shut the door. Let the family know I'm not available for the next hour. 

  • Start - And don't look back. Don't stop until its time to stop. Just write.

  • When The Whistle Blows - Leave the last sentence half finished. Yes, I'm going to try it, in the hope that when I go back to the writing, I'll be eager to get that sentence sorted. 

  • Reward - Just a small one then. Will have to give this one some thought, don't want to be eating too many chocolate bars. Well I do, but you know what I mean.

That, my writerly friends is the new plan. I gotta keep trying. Maybe you need help too? Feel free to join me in my quest to be more productive over the next six months. 

Next time I write here, I'll be back at home, catching up, and that will be a good time to implement the above plan. 

Two Little Birds - Maria A Smith

Monday, 29 June 2015

The Castle, That Really Wasn't A Castle At All (Goals Part 11) 28th June 2015

Penrhyn Castle North Wales - Maria A Smith

In my last post I mentioned we were on our way to visit a castle, but got side tracked, because I wanted to take lots of pictures of the stunning scenery as we went through the mountains in Snowdonia.

Eventually we arrived at Penrhyn Castle, it was 4.30pm, and I didn't think they would let us in, but the lovely National Trust staff were friendly and welcoming and said we had thirty minutes to do a whistle stop tour of the house. Yes, you read that right. The house. It isn't a castle!

At first glance you'd be fooled into thinking you were visiting a castle, heck it's called Penrhyn Castle, and certainly looks like a Normandy castle from the outside. It does posses something of a sombre air about it too, and it looks medieval, but it's definitely a mock castle.

Penrhyn Castle was built by the Pennant family between 1822 and 1837. They made their fortune in Welsh slate and Jamaican sugar, and employed the services of the famous architect Thomas Hopper to design the house, and its numerous opulent Victorian rooms. He  spared no expense, and it's clear the owners were show offs to the extreme. There are many interesting objects everywhere.

It quickly became clear to us we were not going to see everything in half an hour, but we were keen to look around, and almost had the whole place to ourselves, but all too soon our visit did come to an end, as we realised the staff were locking doors behind us, so reluctantly we left. Vowing that when we returned this way again we'd definitely come back and explore some more.

So what about goals?

Last week I said I was going to write short pieces, and I have - I've done a lot of blog posts in the last week. I've also been collecting ideas, in the things I've seen and done. There has been exercise too, but only walking, and stretching, and I'm happy with that for now.

The week ahead is all about exploring more of Wales, so they'll be blogging, and not a lot else.

What have you been up to? What plans do you have?

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Snowdonia, Breathtaking and Unique

Snowdonia in June - Maria A Smith
I've decided I love wide open spaces. Snowdonia National Park fits the bill nicely at 838 square miles, with nine mountain ranges to explore as well as river gorges, valleys and waterfalls there is enough to keep everyone happy who appreciates the outdoors.

Yesterday, it rained mercilessly, and at midday we decided that we'd head  out regardless, and take a drive through the mountains, the aim to visit a National Trust castle some distance away. I was sure we were going to be in for a dark dull day. Turned out I was very wrong.

Admittedly, charcoal grey skies dominated, you couldn't see the mountains clearly for the mist and then there was the heavy driving rain, but forty five minutes into our journey it subsided a little and we began to see the beginnings of a  transformation. Clouds that hung low began to move, shifting with great speed, and light flooded into the valleys. It was still raining in earnest but there was plenty to see now.

We were both hungry having had no lunch before setting out across the mountains, so when we happened across the village of Beddgelert along the way we stopped. Parking along the roadside, donning our waterproofs, we walked back along the narrow footpath and into a charming traditional cafe called Hebog Cafe and Bistro, and immediately  upon entering I knew we were going to enjoy the food!

Hebog Cafe & Bistro  - Beddgelert - Maria A Smith

The menu is a joy! And has to be studied. I'd glanced around at other diners, and liked what I saw. Should I order the Lobster and Crab Burger, with Calamari Rings and Sweet Potato Fries? Or perhaps the Welsh Braised Steak with a Rich Gravy over Mashed Potato, and a side of Seasonal Vegetables. Decisions, decisions, and then I spotted  Minted Welsh Lamb, with Caramelised Baby Onions and Homemade Riata Ciabatta. I thought, I'm in Wales, for goodness sake, it has to be lamb!

It was delicious, came with hand cut chips and a lovely fresh salad, all served on a plate sized wooden tray, with deep sides and a very amusing 'newspaper' serviette beneath the food. The chips were served in a mini deep fat fryer basket. It made me smile.

The cafe is set in a picturesque spot in the heart of Snowdonia, and from what I could see they were doing very well. They also have a lovely river terrace across the road, which would be a delight on a balmy summer evening. If you're ever nearby, I'd recommend you stop and rest awhile, and definitely sample some of their delicious food.

Remarkably, by the time we were ready to leave, the skies had cleared, and we were able to take a short stroll and explore.

Shopping in Beddgelert - Maria A Smith

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to afternoon tea, as there are several tea rooms boasting mouth watering homemade cake. I'm almost sorry I can't stay now.

Beddgelart - Maria A Smith

The clouds were moving quickly, and at last the mountains came into view.

House in Beddgelart - Maria A Smith
People are very proud of their properties here, and so they should be.

View From The Bridge - Beddgelart - Maria A Smith
This is a beautiful village, and one we would not have necessarily discovered, had it not been raining, and we were hungry. It is a charming place to visit.

Time was getting on, and we still had a way to go to reach the castle hubby had seen in the National Trust directory. We got back on the road with every intention of getting there. However, once into the mountains, travelling through stunning scenery, we found it impossible not to stop and take some pictures.

Snowdonia National Park - Maria A Smith

Surprisingly, there were many designated places where we could pull over and admire the view.

Snowdonia  - Maria A Smith

I couldn't get over the contrast in light, and how when the clouds cleared, the changes on the landscape were spectacular.

Walking in Snowdonia - Maria A Smith
At times the clouds were so low it felt like you could reach up and touch them.

Did we reach the castle? I'll reveal all tomorrow.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Castles and Cappuccino in Caernarfon

Caernarfon in Wales - Maria A Smith

Yesterday afternoon, hubby and I drove into Caernarfon for the afternoon, if you read yesterday's post, you'll know that I wasn't sure if I'd need my waterproofs. Well, I didn't in fact it was warm, and pleasant enough to walk about without wrapping up.

We parked in the harbour carpark in the shadow of Caernarfon Castle, and to say it's impressive would be an understatement, built by Edward 1 and set on the banks of the Menai Strait in the heart of North Wales, it's magnificent. We decided to have a walk around the harbour area, followed by a mooch around the Royal town of Caernarfon which boasts a variety of small independent shops and cafe's.

We ate a late lunch in the cafe in my image collage above, enjoying cappuccinos and panini's we sat upstairs and looked down into the square below. Amazingly, it wasn't busy. There were other tourists of course, but it wasn't at all crowded.

Afterwards, I wandered with my camera a while, capturing images of the buildings around, many  intrigued me, I've grown into being interested in architecture, and whenever I visit a new town or city I always look up above the shops and businesses to take in the wonderful buildings, and see when they were built. There are many styles in Caernarfon, apart from good examples of medieval architecture, there are other buildings dating back only a few hundreds years.

Eventually, we found ourselves back in large square where we'd eaten earlier, only to find many of the shops closing up for the day. We'd ran out of time! And hadn't even visited the marina around the other side of the harbour. Which I'm told is very modern in contrast and houses many bars, restaurants, a theatre and much more.

I had one more thing to do before I left Caernarfon, and I was running out of time. I dashed across the square, hoping the little ice-cream parlour I'd spotted earlier would still be open. Fortunately, I caught them just in time to buy a vanilla and cappuccino ice cream in a chocolate dipped cornet. Delicious!

If you're ever in the area, it's well worth visiting  Caernarfon, but go early! We were too late to gain entrance to the castle, and do it justice, so we chose to walk around and discover what lay inside the walled town. It's worth doing both.

More tales from North Wales soon.

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...