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. 

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...