Wednesday, 19 December 2012

This blog is for Christmas and speaks of life



This lovely picture, the copyright of www.crosscards.com indicates the glitter and gold of Christmas and that is exactly what Christmas is, pure gold. Hope and light in a world of darkness and pain.

We writers know all about rejection. The rejected manuscript, competition entry etc which can so often feel like a personal rejection. Christmas is often portrayed as a sentimental scene all love and sugar sweetness but this is far from the reality of the true story. As I was listening to the radio yesterday I heard a very new interpretation of the nativity story. For a start, Mary was very young. She can't have been more than about 13 or 14 years old, the usual age of marriage in the middle east in those times. She was engaged to Joseph and engagements in those days were often very long. Then Mary suddenly finds herself pregnant out of wedlock. She believed it to be an immaculate conception but others may have thought differently. Women were stoned for this in these days. And why when Joseph, Mary's loyal supporter, went to his family home for the census in Bethlehem don't we hear of family coming out to meet them and offer hospitality, after all this was the family city? And what about Mary's own mother and father where were they? It all smacks of rejection from those who she might have expected to have helped and stood by her.

So when you feel alone and rejected take heart this Christmas, Mary felt the same. And what about Jesus Christ? He was rejected throughout his life and, as this story suggests  was rejected by some even in the womb. Think about this at Christmas as you tuck into your turkey. He understands when we feel alone and rejected. He was there first.

A very Happy and Blessed Christmas to all my blog readers and followers. Take some rest and recuperation and come back inspired and ready to write even more and even better in 2013.

Thanks for following me in 2012 xxx.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Being thankful




At last after eight weeks of virtually camping out in the rest of the house the kitchen is completed and how thankful it makes you feel. Last Wednesday the final vinyl flooring was fitted and the machines moved back. We could always use the fridge/freezer and tumble drier in the dining room but having the washing machine back is a whole new experience. For eight weeks my husband and I have been virtual 'washing nomads', that is to say, drifting from house to house and friend to friend whenever we were invited out to bring our washing with us. It certainly makes you grateful for friends but also makes you feel a bit of a burden to others. So much easier to give than receive in many ways. But what about those who have nothing, not even running water? Do they feel a burden to have to be constantly asking for things? We forget in the privileged western world just how much we take for granted like washing machines and running water.

As writers too don't we stress out on the little things of life, like whether or not we will ever get published or if we do who will ever read our book? We must just trust that if it's good enough to be published then it will demonstrate it's own value. If our writing helps or changes just one life then surely it will have done it's job. Alright it's not the way to get rich quick but it is a way to make a difference which is more important. Anyway, regarding money, most of us (not all in this country but most) don't have to struggle for the basics of life like food and water and surely that's reason enough to be thankful isn't it?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Inspiration from Devon


This seat in Ottery St Mary's Churchyard bears the words -: 'For remembering those we have loved and lost though never had the joy of meeting'. Well, there is a certain logic in that if we think of our ancestors but also a bizarre message that could have been inspired by Coleridge's own logic!

I must be one of the only writers and lovers of Coleridge's poetry not to be aware of the Ottery St Mary's link with him until now. But how inspiring to walk around the very places where he walked into his father's church and look at the very same old 14th century clock that Coleridge looked on. He who never really fitted in, was always a little different but with an vast intellect. I find his 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' one of the greatest poems ever written and certainly the best description of sin and its consequences in the entire English language.

After a difficult autumn with lots of challenges it was great to get away for a few days to Devon and be uplifted, inspired and re-invigorated by such an amazing poet. Thanks STC, one of my all time favourite poets.

In the words of his own Epitaph

Stop, Christian passer-by! - Stop, child of God,
And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
A poet lies, or that which once seem'd he.
O, lift one thought in prayer for STC;
That he who many a year with toil of breath
Found death in life, may here find life in death!
Mercy for praise - to be forgiven for fame
He ask'd, and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same!

Great advice from a great poet.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

New Media, new message


I've just returned this last weekend (20 Oct) from a New Media Conference run by Premier Radio in London. www.premier.org.uk

It was very inspiring and taught me so much about harnessing the new technologies to our advantage in getting our message out there. Mind you, I did feel a little of a dinosaur too as I sat there listening to the speakers and taking down their messages with pen and paper! A lot of the conference attendees were young and had no thought of using pen and paper but instead sat there note taking with their laptops, i pads  i phones etc balanced on their knees. Not only that but also there was a continuous tweet forum going on which I was on the outside of. I still don't get the constant messages connected with any form of pickles... Don't even like the things.

However, now I'm going to prove to you all how well I can blog, follow Facebook and Twitter and even use the hash tag!

This is all good stuff but the one danger is that we forget how to communicate with each other face to face. After all, I can  tweet you, FB you, blog, email you etc but have you seen my facial expression or read my body language recently...!


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Making a difference

I have had a very inspiring weekend hearing an update about her project from Ethiopian lady, Jember Teferra, who works amongst the poorest of the poor in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


My first photo shows her with our vicar, Ashley, in a rare pose with a smile. Jember has made an amazing difference in so many people's lives but for all that she is a very humble, diminutive figure who is reluctant to be photographed at any time. But she has spent her energy over many years bringing worth and dignity to a people suffering from poor sanitation, inadequate housing, poor education, little food and with very few means of helping themselves.

She has helped to provide the means by training up the people, funding their businesses and so enabling them to help themselves. She has transformed the lives of thousands in this way but in a city of more than four million there is still a long way to go as my next photo shows - this is an area before Jember has helped to renovate it.


I thoroughly recommend the project http://www.iha-udp.org. Why don't you take a look? I have written a number of articles about Jember and the project in various magazines and in our local paper. It seems little compared with what she has done but it does help to spread the word.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

New kitchen, new start.

Today is the second day of our new kitchen fitting. It is also the first day for me getting back to writing my novel after a proof read from the RNA (Romantic Novelists)  reader. I've had a few weeks to digest the comments and then a few weeks to follow up.

The idea of the kitchen is great. My husband, Angus, and I have looked at all the designs and pictured the kitchen spanking new, finished and looking glorious. However... the reality at the moment is a little different. At present our kitchen looks very much like a warehouse, cold, empty and draughty. There is also a pile of discarded pieces of our old kitchen e.g. sink, taps, cupboards etc lying out in front of our house making it look very much like a tip. The reality in the construction is not like the finished design.

A novel is much the same. You can imagine it finished, even select a cover for it in your mind (as I have done) and imagine the glorious reviews (hmm... well) but that's not the same as the reality now. Now there are more blank pages than completed ones, the story-line might still seem a little rough or undecided and there is also the pile of discarded pages, ideas etc lying everywhere not giving the idea of a finished work.

Aren't the two pictures very alike? However, the kitchen fitters have given us a finishing date of a week and a half - my novel might take just a little longer!-and then hopefully we will be able to see a finished, pristine kitchen similar to the computer image we gazed longingly at on the screen. My novel too will be finished in time. Unlike my articles, I haven't a fixed deadline date but suffice it to say I would like to give myself the deadline of next August when the RNA proof reading date is up for all members of the New Writers Scheme. This year my reader read the first three chapters and the Synopsis, next year, God willing, she will be reading my entire novel, hopefully looking glorious too!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Do unto other writers...

We've had lots of guests over the last couple of weeks staying in our home but just a few days ago I got an precious opportunity to browse in our local Waterstones bookshop.
After searching the shelves for some of my favourite titles and authors I spotted a gentleman with a small table of books at the front of the shop. He was totally blind and partially deaf and had displayed on the table in front of him a number of his travel books for signing. I could have felt sorry for him because of his disabilities and might have bought a book from him for that reason but I didn't. What really caught my attention was the fact that he was standing there trying to promote his book in a very busy shop and no one was even stopping to look. That is the very worst experience for any writer and as a fellow hopeful novel writer I knew at that moment I just had to buy his book. That could have been me a few years down the line. Okay, it mightn't be a great book, it might be really boring but it's the principle that's important. If we don't help fellow writers by buying their books - online or at the bookshop - or follow their blogs or their Facebook or Twitter messages, then why should we expect others to do that for us? As writers, the biblical principle of 'doing unto others as we expect them to do unto us' is a great principle to follow not just in hope of good sales but much more in just showing a little humanity and love.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Guest Blog - Christopher Lee Power (Actor)



Christopher Lee Power is an inspiration to many of us who feel that we will never succeed as the odds are stacked against us. Born in a family of entertainers he feels that acting was probably in his blood. However, suffering the restrictions of poverty and a speech impediment, Christopher rebelled against authority and followed a gang culture that took him in and out of juvenile courts. Leaving school without any qualifications he was enabled through a helpful tutor to train as an actor and gain a diploma in acting. Playing various character roles gave Christopher an outlet through which he could release all his inner frustrations and angers.

His latest role is playing a famous local based hero from the Wirral, the first world war poet, Wilfred Owen. The play is written by Dean Johnson and filmed by ITV's director, Gordon Hill.
This film has now been converted into a stage show which is about to tour Britain. For times and venues please see www.wilfredowenstory.com

We have all been inspired recently by the many athletes from all over the world who have achieved a great deal by just being selected for the Olympics whether or not they received a medal. But Christopher's story is testament to the fact that it isn't just athletes that have inspiring stories we can each have our own given the right opportunities and at the end of the day lots of sheer hard work and determination.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Olympic inspiration

Whether a great sport's fan or not, everyone can be inspired by the Olympics. Each of the athletes taking part have been chosen by their nation to take part out on account of their proficiency or merit. They may not all win a medal but they are the best of the best regardless of that. I will never forget listening to a young man give the speech preceding the Cambridge/Oxford boat race last April. He was part of a Cambridge team that didn't win and received no accolades. But his simple and yet brave words were inspiring 'its not the winning that important but the taking part'. How true that is for the athletes and for all of us. There is so much emphasis on 'winning' these days. But in the end it's the hard work that really counts. Every athlete has worked hard to win their place in the games and were chosen to participate regardless of whether or not they win a medal. As a Christian I believe that each and every one of us was chosen by God whatever we do. We all have to take our part in life and work hard to achieve our very best at what we do whether or not that best is ever recognised by a accolade. Or as in the case of a writer by publication. Success was never won in a moment or lightly.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Perseverance


Spent last week at Silverstone, British Grand Prix, amazing time but there is a lesson to be learnt here, yes, even from Motor racing and that is one of perseverance. The drivers and events kept going in spite of conditions as this photo is evidence of. So many events have been cancelled up and down the country because of the freak weather conditions but not the Grand Prix. I suppose you could be sarcastic and say that the drivers are handsomely rewarded for their persistence but it still takes a certain skill to drive in these sort of conditions even if the remunerations are rather overstated.

Writing also takes a certain skill and persistence even if the remunerations on this front aren't so great - mind you, you might easily question whether they're quite as good for the rest of motor sport or these guys aren't just the JK Rowlings of their craft? Maybe the weather isn't such a driving force for us, although gloomy weather can result in a gloomy uninspired writer. However, perhaps it is persisting when the weather is gloomy or the writer feels gloomy, uncreative and just plain fed-up. I know that feeling well. I feel it now. Will my writing ever see the light of day or really matter to anyone else? Who knows? But like those F1 drivers I'm going to push on through the rain and hope for a dry race on the day which was what they got. God willing maybe the book I'm writing at the moment will see have a final successful day too. I hope and pray so.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The way from here.

I read a magazine article recently about the remarkableness of an ordinary life. I have been thinking a little bit about that today.
I was remembering back a few years ago when I wrote my first article (never published) about the poet, Brian Patten and consequently ended up driving him back to the railway station. It was here that my Irish side showed itself (my Grandmother was Irish) when I declared that I knew the way there just not from the middle of town where we were! The situation wasn't helped by my son who was 8 at the time and was bouncing up and down in the back of the car at the same time demanding to know if Brian knew the footballer, Michael Owen. Suffice it to say we did get there but I've never seen anyone move so fast when we did!
It can often feel like that with our lives though, I could have done so much if I hadn't started from here. We hanker back to what we could have done if we hadn't made the decisions we did or even married the person we did and become the person we are. But in order to go on from where we are we have to start from here. We may feel that we live very ordinary unremarkable lives but just a kind word, or a lift to somewhere for a friend or even writing that book which might help or inspire someone else really can make a difference even though it may not seem that much to you.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Cobwebs

Having spent yesterday cleaning cobwebs out of my cupboards - we have a lot of spiders in our wooded garden - I now feel it's time to clear out the cobwebs from my mind and get writing. It's so easy to time waste or just to have so many thoughts and action plans clouding your mind like so many cobwebs that you can't 'see the wood for the trees' but in reverse i.e. too much wood not enough single trees. But at times like this so many things can help to get us focused. Firstly the Jubilee itself. The queen is so inspiring. She is so disciplined with her time. How many of us could fill our schedules as full as her and not be even half her age? Then meeting up with old friends and fellow writers whose company and prayers are like a breath of fresh air, filling us with renewed hopes, dreams and shared inspirations. Thank you, Clare. May your writing also be blessed. Lastly, time, that ever precious commodity. Yes, whilst the husband is out on the bike and the sun's shinning my pen is going to be scratching away on the page, no, really I'm going to be pressing the computer keys to forward my story. Thanks for reading.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Me Before You - JoJo Moyes


I have just finished reading one of those life-changing thought-provoking type of books, 'Me Before You' by jojo Moyes.



The title doesn't really give a clue about what the book is about. The critics reviews on the front cover also sell the book way short. It isn't a romance, at least not in the traditional sense of the meaning. The story follows the story of Will, a rich, successful business man and man of action who lives life to the full, at least he has done until a road accident reduces him to a disabled quadriplegic with a death wise. The other main character is Louisa, who because of her fairly poor family background comes to work as Will's carer after losing her job at a local cafe.

As a Christian who is very pro-life, this book challenged all my preciously held beliefs. At the end of the book I would say that I still hold them like the heroine (and I believe the author) but perhaps not with such a smug sense of right based on judgementalism. The author helped me to understand the complexity of the issues involved and I could see how for Will it would be a more restrictive life than for many because of who he was. As he said in the book 'this chair is not what defines me'.

I also began to understand more about disability. We imagine that it is simply a life of paralysis which is bad enough but I hadn't realized how that paralysis can also bring with it frequent infections, illnesses and weaknesses etc. It was clear that the author had done her research around the subject well.

I would have preferred a little less swearing and blasphemy, especially from the other characters rather than Will ( it was more understandable in his case) as it added little to the story. But this is just a minor point.

I would definitely recommend this book highly but my recommendation comes with a warning. This book will come close to breaking your heart. I haven't wept over a book so much since reading Hardy's 'Jude the Obscure', so you have been warned. But do read it in order to understand more about disability or euthanasia and the complexity of the issues involved. This thought-provoking book is a book of epic proportions to be compared with other modern greats such as Douglas Kennedy's 'Pursuit of Happiness', the sort of book that once you finish it will haunt you for many days to come.




Friday, 4 May 2012

Shed in a Field

I have a great desktop background at the moment called 'Shed in a Field'.


What I like about it is this rickety looking wooden shed made up of lots of overlapping or uneven pieces which someone all manage to hang together. A bit like our lives I think. I often feel, especially as a writer, full of lots of uneven and misfitting pieces that hardly hang together. The shed also has thick moss on its roof perhaps reminiscent of age and experience. But after feeling discouraged about my writing this week, having had a much loved poem of mine torn apart at a writing group I have decided to quit the 'feeling sorry for me' syndrome and try to take some of the advice on board. The result is I think a better poem.
I also want to give credit to the advice of fellow RNA writer, Liz Fenwick for her excellent advice in 'Writer's Forum' magazine this month in her article 'Taking the long road'. She has just had her first novel 'The Cornish House' published but it is the eighth novel Liz has actually written! What's more she doesn't regret any of the time it's taken her to get to her debut novel but says the time has given her the "opportunity to grow as a writer" and "to find my voice". Maybe I too have a bit more growing to do so that all the different pieces hang together better even if in a higgledy piggledy fashion. Thanks to Liz and the little Shed for this week's inspiration.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Inspiration from 'Tea at Sam's'.


I have just finished reading a book written by a friend of mine, Sue Cross. The book is titled ‘Tea at Sam’s’ and features the stories of three expatriate women whose lives become entwined together as they meet at a local art class and then go on to arrange to meet over a cup of tea at Sam’s or Samantha’s place.


But the meeting becomes symbolic for them all and more than just a cup of tea but a meeting of lives and a new start for them all.
Sue has attempted a very difficult task as a new writer, that of combining a number of different stories into one.  Well done Sue for attempting a such a daunting task and aiming high. Her characterisation is fantastic and she clearly understands the expatriate life completely with her firsthand experience.
I am left feeling a little over awed by this as a first book. I’m not sure if I can aspire to write even half as well and cannot imagine attempting such a difficult plot with so few problems. I recommend a read and look forward to more from the pen of this writer who has taught me so much. Thanks Sue.

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Struggle to take part


What a weekend this Easter time! Down to Putney to share the boat race with all my many New Zealand relatives and cheer on the only Kiwi in the race.

The Friday night (Good Friday) saw us out for a meal with all the supporters. After the meal a young man and former rower spoke of the point of the race being the struggle to take part – gruelling months and years of early rising and relentless toil -and not the win as often portrayed by the media. But what a struggle even the win was, from the protest swimmer in the water which stopped the race to the broken Oxford oar and the Oxford bowman struggling to breathe and needing hospitalisation. Yet in spite of all these difficulties the Cambridge team prevailed and saw it through to victory even though there was no presentation either or sense of triumph. There must be a lesson here.



Often as writers we struggle to believe in ourselves and struggle to see the win at the end of the tunnel or water (all 7km of it). But if we battle on with obstacles, unpopularity and flying in the face of public opinion, maybe our win will come. It may even mean no accolade or obvious triumph at the end of the battle. But, in the words of the speaker ‘it is the struggle to take part’ that’s important and not ultimately the win. Sobering words but true words nevertheless. My cousin has given me the courage to keep going. Thanks Alex, may your moment of glory be sweet for you.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The traveller returns

Hi Folks,
Yes I'm back from the other side of the world and hopefully brimming full of ideas! Well, yes I am actually. I'm busy writing up my article about it already, a commissioned article with pics. We had a fantastic time. I was inspired by Singapore and the year of the dragon images - a year of prosperity and abundance - yeah, give me some of that. Here are the dragons, perhaps the gold is the prosperity and the red is abundance?


I did think about writing up my blog during travels but afraid that the relatives and sights kept us too busy. And yes, I did find plenty of help with my book research too, all too boxes of photos, letters, receipts etc to sift through, not to mention all the library books I waded my way through but so exciting. Now I'm reading up on a few novels to fill in some fictional background. Currently reading my way through New Zealand author Barbara Ewing's acount of some of the first travellers to NZ.


Only thing that saddened me on such a wonderful trip amongst such beautiful scenery was the sight of Christchurch one year on from its earthquake. Largely forgotten by the world its centre still lies in ruins - the red zone - with its shops reinvented in shipping containers and almost daily quakes which we felt. The worst thing is reading through a book I bought there called 'Trapped' with the experiences of the survivors and those they lost littering its pages. Sobering reading. Makes me more aware than ever how we need to cherish each day and our loved ones all the more.
I'll write more of my experiences soon. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The year of the book!

Feeling really buoyed up and excited at the moment all because of  'It started with a kiss'. Well, not exactly because I've had a phantom kisser lately (you'll have to read Miranda Dickinson's book to find out what I mean) but because she's inspired me to have my year of the book just as she has her year of the quest to track down her PK.
Yes, decided to write my first seriously long (not novella) book and my first historical. Started on the research to find out about my first family settlers in New Zealand with a bit of fear and trepidation to be honest. Not sure if I was cut out to be excited by research in the first place, although had an idea I might be with my life long interest in history and especially family history, and frankly I'm loving it. Particularly as I've been overwhelmed by the help and leads I've had thus far from my NZ relatives - it also helps that some family members have written long family histories and researched family trees which has given me a first class starting place. But I'm so excited really as I take it to be God's green light for me that I am barking up the right tree this time. Earlier in the year I had been so frustrated to find that a seed of an idea I'd had to write a novel about Katherine Parr - local to here - had been spot on. This idea had stayed with me all through the summer only then to find this is her 500th anniversary and a local telly programme is to be made of her. My book would now be almost too late, a real 'missing the boat' opportunity. Mind you, of course the boat could have capsized like the Costa Concordia, you never know. My present book might also 'miss the mark' but I'm going to give it my very best shot first, wouldn't want to put all this help and time spent on my behalf to waste, now would I?
Next stop NZ for personal follow-up. Good excuse anyhow.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year reflections

This must be my first New Year away from my husband since our marriage. He's up in the North-East looking after his invalid Mother still recovering from a broken hip and I'm at home with my invalid son recovering from a badly broken arm sustained just after Christmas! What a strange last few months our family have had.
Feeling a little down yesterday again reflecting on just what I've done in my life to make a real difference in the world. But then last night watched a Christian film called 'What if' with my son and am so glad I did. It changed my perspective on my life. The chap, Ben Walker was given a chance to re-live part of his life again  'with God' rather than 'without'. Instead of being a wealthy businessman for whom money was everything he had a chance to re-live his life when he had been going to marry his girlfriend and go into the ministry. Basically he found the poor life rich in blessings and family times which he began to see as more important than closing big deals. Well, yes, the film was a little 'cheesy American' in the sense of the 'God loves you and life is good' syndrome but it did make me realise that our lives are about being faithful to what we are called by God to be rather than worrying about success levels or even how well we do it. I'm determined to give the writing another bash - already got a commission to do - and try and write the novel. This time attempt the historical romance, after all history had always been a passion to mine. And having got a history magazine and online subscription for Christmas I have a place to start from. Historical research and writing here I come in 2012.