Friday, 27 November 2015

Flash fiction published! (Success)

See my 75 word flash fiction  piece
on Paragraph Planet
I've realised that there are only a few more days left for this blog-a-day challenge in November. Where has the month gone?

I'm not sure that I've done a lot of blogging about writing but today I have a success to share with you. Paragraph Planet has published a 75 word piece of flash fiction of mine today on their website. I was thinking this one wasn't going to make it as quite often I get a reply quickly (though they say it can take up to several weeks and they only reply to those successful). Anyway, I'm thrilled to be featured on Paragraph Planet again. What makes this rather good is that it is a true story! The item was found shortly after I submitted the piece, washed and reunited with sporty son! Happy endings all round.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Capital - the book and the TV adaptation

I managed to finish reading Capital by John Lanchester the day after the TV series started, which was great because I could already compare things without it spoiling the ending of the book.

I loved the book. Very different, and the characters were great. That's where a book comes into its own. You have time to explore each character in depth. That was immediately obvious from the TV adaptation because you are straight in there. Still, fitting a 578 page novel into three hours of TV is impossible. There was so much I missed.

Before watching I had read an interview with chap who adapted the book for TV and he admitted that some of the stories had to be cut, but it looks as though most have been kept. However, another thing I noticed was the order of events. Things moved quickly and came not always in order. Stuff appeared in the fist episode that I didn't come to until much later in the book.

One of the scenes in the book that was so funny was when the character Roger was left on his own at Christmas with the two children. His wife had gone off to pay him back because she thought he had cushy life in the City while she was looking after the home. The fact that she had a nanny didn't come into it. She cancelled the nanny over Christmas and went off with a friend to a Spa (in the TV programme you never really know where she went). The scene with Roger and his young son who would not sit on the toilet (because he used a potty but Roger didn't know that) and the poo all over the place was laugh out loud funny. The climax being the arrival of the sofa as a Christmas present for his wife in the middle of this mayhem. It was covered pretty well in the TV series but again some element was a missing.

I wonder how one particular scene will be treated when they get to it. Can't say in case you only see the TV drama. But it involves one of the brother's from the corner shop. In the book I found this part compelling, haunting and it made me think about what happens behind closed doors.

This is why I won't normally watch something I've I read and vice versa. So much gets changed. I probably will watch the rest of the TV series now but I know I will be sitting there saying 'this wasn't in the book,' 'this didn't happen like this/at that time.' I'm doing it already and driving everyone up the wall! And one big thing - at the end of the first part of TV drama you see the letters written along the whole road in red paint WE WANT WHAT YOU HAVE. That is not from the book!

I am tempted to another book by this author. the humour in this was great, yet behind it all was more serious stuff. Definitely my kind of book.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

What does you book collection say about you?

One of my book shelves! (top shelf is doubled banked
with a whole line of smaller books behind)
When I go to someone's house for the first time I eye up their collection of books, CD's and DVD's. Books and music being my everyday living and breathing it is to them that I pay particular attention. Break it down further and it is to the books I dwell on first. I wonder, by scanning the shelves, if I have something in common with this person, can I learn something from this person or, no books at all, what does this person do with their life?!

I'm not interested so much in the show books - the complete set of classic works that probably never get read, no I'm interested in real books, the ones that people actually read.

Yesterday afternoon I went to see the vicar to discuss the annual Christingle Service for which our group make between 90-100 Christingles. The vicar's study always interest me because of the book shelves. I don't often visit and when I do there is not normally time to run an eye slowly along all the books. I might pick out one or two but that's all. Yesterday the vicar had to dash off over to the church for a short time and I was left there in his study with his dog. Now, I love dogs, but I'm sorry this is not one I could love (sorry vicar, but pug nosed dogs just don't do it for me and they snort all the time - probably something to do with the squashed in nose!).

Anyway, suddenly I had the run of the book shelves. If only we had time, the vicar and I, we could have some great conversations! Unfortunately he never has time and pinning him down is like trying to catch a slippery eel. So, what did I spy on the shelves? Well, there were Harry Potter books, and Tolkien, and a Keith Richard's nestling next to the book of Leviticus. Also 500 Sacred Places in Britain (I so wanted to leaf through that - I have something similar) and the Complete Sanskrit. I should say that our vicar speaks at least half a dozen languages including Korean, and Greek and often rolls our Aramaic (the show off). There is a copy of the Qu'ran (snap) on the shelf, something called Earth (Pagan, maybe? It's the sort of thing I would expect from him, in which case (snap). There are books on Istanbul, New York and Roman civilisation. What I loved was that the books were not separated into church/theology and secular, they were all mixed up, much like mine. I have Bibles, the Qu'ran, bible study books, commentaries and dictionaries sitting alongside a book of Sudoku puzzles, Being Alive (Bloodaxe Books - poetry), art history books, War Poetry by Sassoon, and a book by William Morris, postcards I've picked up from various exhibitions, a European Phrase Book, and A Simples Life (the Meerkat bestseller!). How telling are those?

So, if you invite me to you house anytime, be aware that your bookshelf will be scrutinised and I may be obliged to ask for a borrow or two. So far all I've got from the vicar are vegetarian and vegan cookbooks he's been given. I must tackle him over the more meaty ones (pun intended).

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Thinking outside the box and visual writing

At cafe Eighteen 71, Winchester -
hard at it blogging!
While I was away did I write anything? No! I did some reading but no writing. That is not to say that I wasn't thinking!

The novel I am writing at present was on my mind. I had left my character somewhere and I was mulling over what he would do next. I do a lot of mulling, working out scenes in my head before I write them. Even the dialogue is in my head. Do I lose something in looking at things this way? Sometimes, yes, and sometimes when I come to write them they don't quite work, or my character wants to go another way. New things may occur to me and I generally go with it.

I've had a scene going around in my head for days. It sounded great in my head but when I typed it up yesterday it lost something - the atmosphere. In my head I was there and could feel it, but on paper it was too bland, just words. When I come to edit I will see if I can use this small piece, improve it to make it work. Otherwise I shall leave it as it was and not include the new scene.

I am a very visual writer. I play out things in my head like a film. I am there - I see the location and I am all my characters! I set my scenes in places I know, have been to, or at least know of (so far). I research things I'm not sure of. I love to build up a picture of locations so I can visualise my characters there seeing what I have seen or researched enough to feel I've been there.

The thing about writing what you know is true to a certain extent but in the last year I have begun to think outside the box and nothing is a no-no anymore.

My husband was filling in some survey on Ancestry yesterday and one of the questions asked if an exhibition on gay, lesbian, transgender etc would be of interest. I said 'as a writer anything that I can use in the future would be interesting!' I have an inquiring mind. I get excited by odd things and gather bits of information as I go along, like a hoover. Maybe I won't use it all, but then may I'll write something and think - ah I can use that now. I read avidly and that helps a lot.

So just because I am not writing does not mean that my brain is inactive. My brain does not know when to stop! And today I think I will find my character again and set him off into his next scene.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Last day in Winchester and home

St Batholomew's Church
What's the first thing you do when you return home from a holiday? For me it's getting the kettle on for a cup of tea and opening the post. So that's what I did today.

I've just transferred all my photos on to the computer. Before that I went through all my emails. I did have one quick look through them while I was away just in case there as something burning away there, but no.

Yesterday 'the hubs' and I were out walking for a few hours. I'd picked up a leaflet in Winchester Museum about Hyde Abbey, founded in AD 903 by Alfred the Great and his son Edward the elder. Originally located in the city centre but moved in 1110 due to the northern suburb of the city due to the site being overcrowded with the Norman Cathedral expansion.

The site is quite close to where we were staying so after breakfast we bundled ourselves up in winter wear and set off to see what remained of it. Not a lot actually. There is Hyde Gate which now sits between a road and a housing development, and the church of St Bartholomew is still there (a service was taking place so no chance to see inside). We set off down another road towards Abbey Gardens where only the line of the church remains. This is the area where the relics and burials were. This now forms part of the gardens and had been planted up. A glass plaque shows how it would have looked but getting a photo of that was hard.. Parts of walls remain and run along a stream but a lot has been built over. It is said that the remains of King Alfred, his wife and son were here but like all stories there are other stories of removal, empty coffins etc!

Hyde Gate

Glass plaque 
Where the relics and burials were, now planted up

From there we went back into the city for a hot drink at cafe Eighteen 71 (of course). They were really busy due to the Christmas market. In fact it was easier to avoid the market at the weekend as it was stop/start/stuck! The cafe forms part of the Guildhall and that day there was a Vintage Fair in the Guildhall. Somehow I managed to persuade 'the hubs' to go in, despite having to fork out £2 each! It was wonderful - like going back into childhood. I spotted several things - a folding ruler like my Dad had, brooches my Mum would have worn, toys, old magazines and dressmaking patterns, china, clothes and a whole suitcase full of Ladybird books. I went through every one of those trying to find Places of Work because it has a picture of Bentalls where generations of my family worked, including me for the first nine months of my working life, aged fifteen! Anyway, I could not find the book but I loved looking at the other books.

There was a live band playing 'vintage music' and a few people dancing. It was wonderful. I managed to find a couple of Christmas stocking presents without spending a fortune. So I was pleased.

From there we decided to walk along the water meadows towards St John's Cross. We walked there last year and I had a look around the church and buildings. It was closed for the season this time but the walk was nice. We came back into the city for a very late lunch, bundling into McDonalds only to be asked to leave while three quarters through our burgers due to a 'water problem' downstairs. Everyone had to leave. I managed to stuff the rest of my food down, then we walked back to the B&B (just up the road) to drink my hot chocolate in peace. While relaxing on the bed with the TV on I promptly fell asleep!

Along the water meadows

And so the holiday ends. I know I shall be back in Winchester again. I love it there. Next time, maybe a different time of year, we will use it as a base and get the bus out to nearby places. I already have a list of three places, including the home of Jane Austen at Chawton.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

History stuff.....and a film

Winchester Museum - the Roman section
Saturday was a day to escape the cold so we set off to Winchester Museum. We were waiting by the doors in time for opening! We had a treat in store. Over three floors we journeyed through the ages from Iron Age until the present. The Roman presence was most interesting for me and just down the road from our B&B, where the Brook Shopping Centre is today, were Roman houses. Winchester was then known as Venta. There were medieval buildings too and Parchment Street, where we are staying, was known for its tanneries.

On display were mosaics and pottery, as well as coins and jewellery. We had a go at some of the hands on stuff, like identifying bones from animals and pieces of pottery – whether rim, Base, centre or handle.  Good fun.

I enjoyed looking as two albums of early photos taken in the area, the mock up shops and of course the gift shop, where I bought a set of guide books and some other items. We then headed off to the Discovery Centre where they have Wi-Fi and  I was able to do my blog post. While we were there we looked at an exhibition entitled Black to White featuring four artists – Kate Dicker, Anne Hayward, Howard Phipps and Ann Tout. They all use wood engraving as their main medium. It was fascinating to see their tools of trade and their art was so intricate.

 Still wanting to keep warm we went off to the cinema and saw the new Bond movie, Spectre.  I’m not the biggest Bond fan since Daniel Craig took over. I felt the humour was harder to find and the subjects darker. However, I did enjoy this one.
Mosaic floor from Minster Street, Wincheter

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A walk in a nature reserve and a little shopping

Nunnaminster, Winchester
Yesterday ‘the hubs’ and I went for a walk. I’d noticed there was a road and pathways on the other side of the High Street along the River Ichen where we had not walked before. So we set off to investigate. There were some lovely houses overlooking the river and some pretty bridges crossing over (just begging to be photographed!). We followed the river up until we found Winnall Moors Nature Reserve. Here we followed The Reed Bed Path. Although much of the greenery and rushes have died off it was still a pleasant to walk. All the areas can be navigated by pushchairs and wheelchairs – much in its favour. We spotted Robins and a few birds neither of us knew (we are far from being expert birdwatchers), lots of ducks and swans and I loved to see the red berries standing out in all the greyness of yesterday.
As we made our way round we found another path to the pond which had a wooden placard of a frog! We then found our way back to the start of the walk. Back into  town for the stop at Eighteen 71 cafe where I wrote yesterday’s post!  After a most excellent soup we walked around some of the shops and I bought a woolly red hat! On the way back to our accommodation I spent some time in a couple of charity shops. One was an Oxfam book shop (love those) which was over two floors (dream time!). A snooze was in order back at the B&B before we went out to eat.
With the weather forecast promising the arctic front, I was wondering if we’d wake to snow. We didn’t, but I dressed in my thickest sweater and jeans, and with hat, scarf and gloves we ventured out after breakfast into the bitterest wind. The cloud cleared away and the sun came streaming through. Right now we have lovely blue skies, but we are not deceived!
                                                  Nunnerminster, Winchester