28 August 2014

This blog is like your bus route...

...you wait for ages, grew bored and impatient...not to mention downright annoyed and then...two blighter arrive together. But I just had to link to the Daily Telegraph article by Rowan Pelling about Writer's Block. It rang so many bells with me. You may recall I have suffered on and off with WB and even blogged about it here. And I have also written about my bouts of depression - thankfully I'm clear for the moment although I am acutely aware that depression might descend with its hopelessness and misery at any moment which is why I count my blessings every time I wake up smiling and eager to to up and doing. To me, the two are closely linked which is why I despise writers who scoff at the very idea and call people like me lazy and self-indulgent.



I have recently discovered Mindfulness or Living in the Moment, as it is often called. I don't meditate or anything like that but I now take time to study a tiny wild flower on the roadside verge or see our village as through the eyes of the many visitors and day-trippers who might  walk along the lane on the other side of our hedge exclaiming at the view or enjoying a drink in the pub garden next door or remarking on the flocks bleating sheep that are so familiar to us residents but special to them.

Okay. So I am not actually writing at moments like these. But I am enriched and, I hope, more in tune with the world and not chasing success or money or applause.

27 August 2014

In case you thought...

...I'd disappeared off the planet, I thought I'd remind you that I'm still here and doing fine and particularity happy that Jon is, too, after his major heart surgery. But what with an eventful summer so far - including a brief trips to Ayr and then Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, catching up with good friends and family, not to mention Rosedale's annual show (always a great crowd puller!), plus various trips in our camper van around triathlon events  in which Jon was working rather than competing..(If you watched the TV programme last week featuring this year's Outlaw triathlon in Nottingham, you'll have spotted Jon in a rather fine safari hat relieving the leading woman of her bike in transition) so I've hardly had time to draw breath. Next week we're off to the Isle of Man to see old friends (alas,  it'll be too early to enjoy the great Manx Litfest  One year the dates will coincide.

So what did that mean for my writing? Well, I've been keeping a low profile on social media lately because every spare moment I've been frantically catching up with both reading some fine books but, most of all, my novel in progress. It's been moving on more slowly than I had hoped. But in case you're interested, I can report I can finally see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Now is not the time to rush. Why should I? After all I do not have any deadlines, no publisher champing at the bit but have a very patient agent.

So I'll leave you with a few snaps of my summer so far. When the dust has settled, I will have time to elaborate on  the books I've enjoyed and the knowledge I've gained this summer about revising a novel and whether I turned the mediocre first draft I stupidly submitted to my agent into something better. We shall see. But I wouldn't hold your breath. But I don't care because although I was despondent when I began the revision I thoroughly enjoyed it - and my action-packed summer. (Well action-packed for me.)
With Paula and Readman and Ivy Lord at The Milburn Arms before a fine lunch. 

My two sons and grandson and friend!

Face to Face with Clyde, the Commonwealth Games mascot (A thistle, I believe)

Isaac with Mummy Clare


Peace before they all arrived at Whitewater Caravan Club site, Stockton

Finally, I shall be at Harrogate's Old Swan Hotel attending my second Harrogate History Festival - 23rd - 26th October 2014. I so enjoyed the  inaugural  event, I've already booked for this year! If you're going too, please come and say hello. I shall be around, maybe in the Swan's famous bar! It's not as frenetic at the Swan as the celebrated Crime Festival but far more civilised and friendly. It's early days yet and also sponsored by Theakston's Ale and it's slowly gaining ground. I'm delighted that, for once. it's not so far away from my home to make it impossible now I am becoming less able to stay up all hours. To me, it's a must for all historical novelists.


19 July 2014

When Yorkshire wore Yellow

Time goes quickly in Blog-World. I was almost ready to post my report on the recent triumphant visit of The Tour de France to Yorkshire, when one humdinger of a thunderstorm fried the router and also my trusty PC. Why do these things happen at the weekend? Anyway, by the time it was all fixed, Le Tour de Yorkshire had become a distant memory for most people who don't follow it avidly. (Keep on pedalling all the way to Paris, Nibali!)

Well, briefly, what a party it was! But not for us - well not exactly, although I am so pleased it went so well for Yorkshire. You see, we have a camper van and nothing is better designed for watching the Tour in France, Belgium, Italy or any other European country it passes through - except, not in the UK. What we had planned to do to park by the side of the road at least a day or so beforehand, finding the perfect spot on an uphill section where the riders are not whizzing past in a huge peleton at 40 mph.

 

You can sit in comfort if you want to, enjoy a cup of tea  or even champagne and strawberries and be sheltered if the weather does its worst. (Fortunately, it behaved impeccably and only rained when it got to London - so please excuse my little northern snigger.)

So we planned several suitable places by using maps, Street View and the detailed route plan of the first day's stage. In France etc, it seems you can park more or less anywhere in the countryside as long as you don't block the road. And certainly lay-bys are fine and picnic areas. You can see them in droves on TV's TdeF coverage. But not, here. All lay-bys had been  roped off and signs everywhere warned you not to park except at designated 'pop-up' camp-sites with big screens or in town squares. Otherwise you would be towed away. Of course, you could catch a designated bus from approved stops and then walk 2 or 3 miles or more to a place where you could stand in huge crowds, if you were lucky - and many were. Plus if you so happened to live in a town or village on the route, well bingo!. Now, walking to a suitable vantage point would be absolutely fine, if you're able to climb up steep hills either on foot or on your your bike  with a rucksack containing enough food and drink to last several hours and you could find a handy portaloo. (Have you ever used one of those when it's been used for more than an hour?) Since my stroke, I'm still a little wobbly on my legs. A non-starter for me.

But with a trusty camper-van, everything would have been hunky-dory. As we have a tank of fresh water, our own loo, a shower etc. And although there is no mains electricity away from a camp-site, we can use our gas-heater, cooker and kettle. Perfect.

We were sunk. We have roughed it in our youth - at pop festivals etc, but now we prefer  some comfort - not to mention independence. Why watch the tour on a big screen in a crowd when you can watch in comfort at home?

Okay, moan over. At least we were able to enjoy the Tour de France atmosphere and be proud to be (adopted) Yorkshire folk. And didn't we do well?


Now time and the tour have moved on and we are now making plans to return to our beloved French Pyrenees in 2015. We used to take our old caravan every August when our boys were small and we had a fabulous time. Next year we can travel in our van earlier in the year without having to worry about school and work holidays. The Tour always goes somewhere in that area (as well as the Alps) every year so we will plan our vantage point when we have information out the exact route.

Vive La France and their liberal approach to camper-van parking!

PS. For anyone who is still interested, I am still revising my novel in progress. It's amazing what you can do in  a camper-van. I can even see the light at the end of the tunnel. As long as it's not the Channel Tunnel and a TGF coming the other way.

01 July 2014

Out and About

I'm going away tomorrow for a week or so. In between, we shall spend one night and day in the other Yorkshire National Park (that is, The Yorkshire Dales and not the North York Moors although both contain both!) We are hoping to cheer on Chris Froome and his pals whizzing past where we will park our camper-van and give them all a cheer. If you don't know about whom or what I'm talking, you're not a cycling fan like me.

Here are 2 easy clues: (I hope the weather will be more like the first than the second. But you never know in Yorkshire!) See you all soon.





23 June 2014

Immersed in revision and lost pink sheep!

Let's face it. Because I am in the throes of rewriting my novel in progress, I have little of any interest to blog about. Unlike a writer with an ongoing publisher's contract, I have no deadline whatsoever. I have a lovely agent who has yet to make any money out of me so she is willing wait until my manuscript is the best it can possibly be to merit serious consideration. (Although I am  well aware that the time will soon come when she cannot read my manuscripts any more

So, all I can do is write the best manuscript I can and keep focused.

I am fortunate in that I choose to write historical fiction that always based on the area in which I actually live or have lived (preferably the former.)

When I was living in Harrogate and writing and researching Hope against Hope not only was the local reference library always on hand when the internet was still rudimentary, I also knew the local historians whose ears I could bend. The local newspaper always had snippets, I could cut out and keep. (Not to mention the fact that they kindly featured me and my writing successes every so often. Thank you The Harrogate Advertiser!) Not only that, but every day I walked or drove past places and buildings that featured heavily in my novel. So every time I took a seat on the top deck of the number 36 bus between Leeds and Harrogate I would gaze upon the cottage in the banks of the River Wharfe that was, in the novel, "The Ship Inn" where Carrie and May came to grief. I could retrace the flight from their old life in Leeds to their new one in Harrogate. In the town shopping or drinking coffee, I could gaze on the many hotels and feature most of them by their real names (such as the Old Swan, The Crown and, the one now renamed the Cedar Court but was once the Queen Hotel.) As I was writing and researching the novel it just so happened that a building that, at the time, was the headquarters of the local NHS trust was under scaffolding as it reverted back to being The White Hart Hotel and the perfect place for me to rename The Hope Hotel!



Anyway, now for the past 6 years, I have been living in the village of Rosedale Abbey with its traces of a priory for women. I have made it a Cistercian establishment but it could have been another - it has not yet been proved. Being a fiction writer as opposed to a historian makes life easier in many ways!.

So, like when I lived in Harrogate, I can visit the churchyard and about the village and walk past the former water mill plus the two small rivers flowing through the village and what walls remain of the priory and exercise my legs as well as my imagination! So I went out in the sunshine armed with camera and imagination and commune with my novel.



A few of my recent photos are dotted around this blog post.

I have plans for future historical novels set in the village at key strategic moments in history such as when Huguenot glass-blowers lived and worked secretly in its hills (16th century) and much, much  later when (late 19th and early 20th century) it became a heavily-populated ironstone mining area.
 
And so to finish with a big smile...

If you're anywhere in the North York Moors now and until September, look out for Lost Pink Sheep and claim a prize. I have spotted two around and about our village. One outside a B&B establishment and another in a shop window. Keep looking for pink sheep anywhere in or near the National Park!









13 June 2014

Torn in two by Amazon



Of course I'm not talking about the might river and its rainforest, people...

I am a now big Amazon customer for many complicated reasons. But I am increasingly feeling guilty. What with the way they use tax evasion and their row with Hachette and therefore solidarity with their authors. But what on earth do I do as a book-buyer as well as a writer- even though I'm not a big seller (hollow laugh)?

I do so agree with this Telegraph article. And have even left a comment on it. I wish I could cure my addiction but I don't know how. Public Libraries used to be the answer. But not now - even if I could get to one as I don't drive.

PS I have tried to download an article from Neil Gaiman saying that he is "pissed off  with Amazon." But I was jinxed. Try Googling it if you haven't already read it.

Yet another of life's interruption

Recently - if you follow this blog regularly - you will know I am currently deeply immersed in rewriting my novel in progress and also that my husband, Jon, recently had a major heart operation.

Two days ago he was re-admitted to hospital feeling awful. Tests and blood taken by the armful (see Tony Hancock's sketch) and he definitely has an infection but it is not known yet if it's viral or bacterial. As you might imagine, this blog has had to take a back seat - not to mention my work in progress.



I wonder if prolific writer and journalist, Charles Dickens ever felt life intervened and put the kibosh on his writing ...ah, but then he was a man, wasn't he?