Life in Fiction

Writers, what do your characters DO? When they’re not catching criminals, falling in love, crossing the ocean or solving mysteries, what to they do?

Readers, have you ever thought outside the book? Have you ever wondered what the characters you’ve come to know and love do when they’re not cavorting across the pages of your books?

Or have you, the author, told your readers already? Have you included the characters hobbies and interests as part of their story, part of revealing their character? Because, let’s face it, we all do something in our spare time, even if it’s sitting in front of the tv, or falling asleep on the couch. Our interests and hobbies tell a lot about us.

If someone tells you they like to go scuba diving and hillwalking, you quickly get the impression they are pretty active, energetic, out-doorsy. If they say they like to go fishing, taking the dog for a walk in the park, doing a bit of gardening, you’ll think of them as a little less adventurous but still active and still enjoy being in the fresh air. What about stamp collecting, video-gaming, knitting, reading – quieter pursuits? Perhaps they’re altogether quieter and prefer to be indoors.

Sometimes you meet someone who likes a real mixture of all of the above. Maybe most of the people you know like doing a good mix of things.

But, whatever it is they do, it can shape how they live their lives. It dictates how they use their time, how they spend their money, how much they interact with other people.

As writers, if we want to make our characters live on the page, if we want our readers to identify with them, feel they know them, almost expect to bump into them on the street, then we need to think about what our characters do when they’re not rushing about through the main plot of the story. We might only allude to it in passing, or we might build the story round it. Either way, it can enhance our writing to give our characters a hobby, an interest, a passion.

As readers, do you find it helps you identify with the character who enjoys gardening, as you do? Or who scuba dives like you’d like to? Who horse rides? Or who plays video games? Or knits? Or sews?

In my latest release, Gold Plated, my main character, Rosanna, loves to paint, to design clothes and to make them. She’s enjoyed these pursuits since she was a young girl.

Can you imagine her lying on the grass in her mother’s garden, sketching the shrubs and trees, painting the flowers? Or sitting at the patio table taking inspiration from the colours and shapes of the flowers for the next dress she intends to design and make?

IMG_4928    IMG_6098   IMG_6091

What about now she’s older? Can you picture her sitting in her conservatory, looking out at her garden, still allowing nature to inspire the dresses she designs

IMG_5770   IMG_5718

What does her interest in such a pursuit, and the fact it has been the interest of a lifetime, tell you about her? She’s turned seventy now and it’s still her passion. Does that help you picture her?

Perhaps if she tells you about the dress she’s designed and made for her Golden Wedding Anniversary party:

“The dress I’m going to wear tonight is hidden in the wardrobe till later. I want it to be a surprise for Paul. He hasn’t seen it yet and has no idea of the peaceful hours I’ve spent sewing while he’s been out and about. It makes me smile every time I open the wardrobe door, push aside the things it hides behind, and see my handiwork hanging there. Inspired by the pale, creamy-yellow, woodland primroses that bloom in our garden every spring, designed and fashioned over the summer months after their faded beauty folded and faded further, it has been such a delight to make. Impossible to improve on nature, all I could do was allow the delicate flowers to inform my eye and guide my hand as I sketched and painted, desiring to capture the essence of their beauty in the spring to infuse into my work in the summer.
The chiffon material I sought out is gossamer thin and beautiful, the colour soft as sunshine on a misty day, and the dress slips over my still-trim figure in flattering, floaty, fluted layers to just below my knees.
Being so fine, it is one of the most difficult materials I have ever worked with, but worth every painstaking moment of the hours and days it took to cut and sew. Even the buttery silk lining had to be handled gently. Never have I worked so slowly and never have I been so rewarded for my care.
My fingers melt with pleasure as they linger on the fabric, and I long to feel my creation slip over my body to caress my skin.
I thrill with contented anticipation.”

~~~

Rosanna and Paul are celebrating fifty years of marriage.

Their daughter, Heather, has helped plan their Golden Wedding Anniversary party, and it looks like being a wonderful night: sixties music, all their friends and family present, and Rosanna has bought the perfect golden gift for Paul.

What could possibly go wrong?

When an uninvited guest shows up, Rosanna’s world is shaken and she is forced to look back over their fifty golden years and see them as they were.

Were they golden? Or just gold-plated?

Gold Plated is available right now on Amazon Kindle. You can read it FREE if you have Amazon Prime. And the paperback will be published in a few weeks.

PHOTO-2018-05-31-18-44-36

Click here to buy Gold Plated on Amazon Kindle

Give yourself a treat!

Enjoy!

Music in My Fiction

Music in Fiction

Last year, I wrote a series of guest blogposts about Music in Fiction, in which we discussed books that featured or mentioned music as part of the story.

There are many devices writers can use to help bring our writing to life. In that short series of articles, published on Chris The Story Reading Ape’s blog, I took a fairly light-hearted look at just one of them.

Music.

Music plays a large part in Gold Plated, my latest release – in particular, the music of the sixties, and I’ve included a playlist at the end of the novel, with links to YouTube videos of the original versions of some of the songs I’ve referenced.

The story begins with Rosanna and her daughter, Heather, meeting up to continue planning Rosanna’s Golden Wedding Anniversary party. As she wanders through the garden centre on her way to meet Heather, her own version of a popular song from her youth runs through Rosanna’s head:

~~~

When a third stranger smiles at me, the realisation dawns not only am I humming an adapted version of Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit, It’s My Party, as I meander among the flower beds, but also, I sport a silly grin – and the blush of embarrassment that follows the realisation. But I can’t help myself.

There’s a party in the offing and, for a change, the butterflies fluttering about in my chest have gossamer wings rather than tackety boots. I’m not often a party-person, being more comfortable as a wallflower than a poppy, but …

“It’s Paul’s party and I’ll smile if I want to, smile if I want to, smile if I want to. You would smile too, if it happened to you.”

~~~

It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To – Lesley Gore – 1963

Gold Plated is now available on Amazon Kindle – paperback will follow shortly.

PHOTO-2018-05-31-18-44-36

Click to buy Gold Plated

If you’d like to read the series I wrote about Music in Fiction, click here.

Enjoy!

 

Gold Plated

PHOTO-2018-05-31-18-44-36

http://mybook.to/GoldPlated

We were walking on the beach in Embo in the North of Scotland, September 2016.

Often, walking together is a great time to chat, sharing thoughts and dreams, decisions and schemes, but today we were silent. There was a heavy mist on the North Sea and the horizon was hiding, taking our words with it. There was something about the haar: it silenced birds, the wind, the whisper of long grass as well as our words – but it couldn’t silence the continuous rolling waves as they broke onto the beach – and it couldn’t silence our thoughts.

Often, thoughts would tumble out of our silence and we would share them. There was no reason not to today – yet we didn’t. We were enjoying a world shrouded in a soft, white veil, from which rays of sunshine struggled to break free while the sea, ruthless, relentless, ripped through to crash on the shore.

I didn’t ask what my lovely hubby was thinking, but concentrated on the story that was forming in my mind.

We were here on vacation with our family and there, set like a pearl in the middle of the two weeks, was our anniversary. Forty-nine years of married bliss.

But that’s never true, is it?

No-one is perfect, so no two imperfect people can forge a perfect marriage – not even us. We’d had ups and downs – never ins and outs – and some years were better than others – but we’d never not wanted to be married to one another.

Our children asked how we wanted to celebrate our 50 years of marriage next year, our Golden Wedding Anniversary.

I got to thinking about it. What did we want? What would we do? What were the children plotting? We told them, ‘Nothing much. Nothing expensive, no silly gold ornaments that we don’t need, golden gifts that we’ll never use. It would be nice just to be together.’

The conversation still swirled in my mind as my husband and I walked in our misty, magical silence. 

Then, in a sudden rush of gold, the sun won the struggle to light the world, compelling us to pause to take a few photographs.

I stood at the water’s edge.

IMG_2131

Wave after wave of water rolling in, breaking with cold white froth over the landscape of the beach – year after year of life rolling in, breaking with warm love over the landscape of our marriage.

But what if?

What if it had been different?

So I wrote a story about a love that spanned more than fifty years.

Or did it?

Rosanna and Paul are celebrating fifty years of marriage.

Their daughter, Heather, has helped plan their Golden Wedding Anniversary party, and it looks like being a wonderful night: sixties music, all their friends and family present, and Rosanna has bought the perfect golden gift for Paul. What could possibly go wrong?

When an uninvited guest shows up, Rosanna’s world is shaken and she is forced to look back over their fifty golden years and see them as they were.

Were they golden? Or just gold-plated?

PHOTO-2018-05-31-18-44-36

Gold Plated is with the publisher now so the paperback should be launched soon. Meantime, it’s already available on Amazon Kindle.

The Death of an Inspiration

From time to time, I’m asked if my work is inspired by other writers, and I usually list several authors whose work I admire. Anita Shreve is high on that list. I love her books and was saddened by her death on 29 March from the cancer she’d been fighting for a while. So sad to lose such a fine novelist so young, only 71 – not old these days.

She was a wife, a mother and a grandmother as well as a teacher, journalist, non-fiction writer, and a novelist. She may have worn other hats for all I know, but these are the ones I know of. She was a reclusive writer though there are a few radio, tv and newspaper interviews you could delve into.

Anita Shreve wrote eighteen novels, most of which I have had the pleasure of reading. I am sad that there will be no more because her books are all so beautifully written, so well plotted and crafted. I learned a lot about how to write a novel from reading hers.

 

 

 

 

Dancing in Drumnadrochit


On a writers’ week up in the North of Scotland with our writing group, we were doing a work session broken down into 30 minute pomodoros, timed on my phone. Every time the session ended and the timer went off, this seemed to happen! Toilet paper flowers in my hair á la Mirabelle, the MC of The Reluctant Detective series.

The following excerpt of Searching for Summer should help to explain the allusion.

Having promised her daughter a treat and promised she’d get back from work in time to enjoy it with her, Mirabelle is late, as usual, and discovers her daughter, Summer isn’t home. Having looked in every room, including ridiculous places …

… she sets about decorating the flat, stringing toilet paper across the rooms, draping it over the many pictures, round the sagging sofa, round the mis-matched comfy chairs, a big soft bow finishing it off on each one. She made a huge toilet paper flower and stuck it on the lid of the toilet cistern. Dancing to the reggae music she’d put on the CD player, she gyrated to her bedroom and back, lipstick in hand, to write ‘Well Done!’ and ‘Congratulations!’ on the mirror, on the fridge, even across the doors, with no thought as to how it would be removed tomorrow.
“Party dress,” she decided, searching through her chest of drawers, scattering underwear, socks, scarves and gloves around her like the flutter of autumn leaves. Finding what she knew was buried in the depths of one of the drawers, she threw the bright pink feather boa round her neck on top of the strings of beads she already wore, made some soft, floppy toilet paper flowers, clipping them into the tight curls of her black hair, and added some more bangles to the ones already jingling on her wrists.
Dancing through to the kitchen, she dug out a box of little flower candles, designed to float on a lake in a bowl, and sat them on top of a sponge cake from the freezer, unable to resist scooping some of the frozen cream from between its layers with her finger. It felt icy on her teeth, sweet on her tongue.
Confident Summer would be accepted at Edinburgh University, she had bought an iPad thingy from a catalogue and it had been delivered, wrapped and hidden days ago. She brought it out and gave it centre stage on the kitchen table in front of the cake, sweeping the resident clutter off onto a chair from which most of it cascaded onto the floor.
There were some sparklers in the drawer beside the matches and she stuck them in the cake, ready to light at the first sound or sight of Summer.
“She’s gonna love this,” Mirabelle sang, her finger scooping out more cream. “She’s gonna love it.”
She looked at the clock. Half-past nine. The film would be over by now. The cinema was only at the top of the road. She draped herself in the deep, old armchair they kept in the kitchen, turning it so she could see the look of delight on Summer’s face as she came through the door.

http://mybook.to/SearchingforSummer

 

 

She Was a Red-headed Woman

Do you enjoy writing prompts? When we meet together in our writing group, we enjoy doing short, timed prompts. Sometimes five minutes, sometimes ten, or even fifteen if the subject seems to merit it.

A few weeks ago, we had one that we all enjoyed and had a bit of fun with. Perhaps you’d enjoy it too. Why not tell a story in just ten minutes, using the prompt:

She Was a Red-headed Woman

I’d love to read what you come up with, and invite you to post in the comments.

One of our members wrote this one that I find quite good fun. I feel there is a story under the story, that the word ‘today’ invites the readers imagination to fill in the blanks.

She Was a Red-haired Woman

By Sharon Scordecchia

She walked into the restaurant and sat at her usual table. Hans, the waiter, approached her, an apologetic twist on his face. He sighed, bowing his head towards her.
“I’m very sorry Madam, this table is reserved.”
She put down the menu and looked up at him, her head tilted to the side. Slowly she lowered her sunglasses with both hands till they perched on the end of her nose. She paused. “It’s me, Hans,” she said.
Hans stared at her. “I’m sorry madam, I don’t believe I am acquainted with you. And this table is reserved for one of our regular customers.”
“Oh, for goodness sake, Hans,” she said, taking her glasses off completely and slapping them on the table.
Oh, Madam! I didn’t recognise you.” He stopped, his mouth open, aghast. Today she was a red-headed woman.

~~~

Why not visit me in my new FaceBook group for readers – though I know there are a fair few writers among the members too.

You’ll find us here Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist Of Stories

A Date in Drumnadrochit

poster

Meet me in Drumnadrochit.

I’ll be there. Will you?

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting Drumnadrochit, it’s a delightful village by the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland, about 30 minutes west from Inverness.

“Situated at the head of Urquhart Bay on the northern shore of Loch Ness. If anywhere could be classed as the home of the Loch Ness Monster mystery, this would arguably be the spot. Drumnadrochit is the home to the Loch Ness Centre whose five star exhibition is endorsed by Scottish Natural Heritage as a ‘portal to the unique phenomenon that is Loch Ness’. Here, the real inner secrets of Britain’s greatest lake are revealed, shedding some very unexpected light upon the mystery for which it is so widely known. And if you’re really keen, you can even go for a monster-spotting cruise on the Loch with one of the excellent cruise companies sailing each day. Just down the road you find Nessieland with its informative and entertaining Loch Ness presentation, a great day out for all the family!” – quoted from Visit Loch Ness 

You may not have the opportunity to meet Nessie, but on Wednesday, 21st March, at 7pm, you have the opportunity to meet and greet me,  Christine Campbell, Author – in Drumnadrochit. I won’t be talking about the monster, but about my books and writing process, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and have a book signed in the delightful Cafe Eighty2.

Cafe Eighty2, sits just off the A82 as you drive through the village, and among its many charms are a terrific selection of homebaked cakes and speciality teas.

So if you are anywhere in the vicinity, why not come join us in Drumnadrochit.

If that’s a bit of a stretch, another option would be to meet us in Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist of Stories – a new group on FaceBook. A great opportunity to talk to the author about a book you’re reading, taking the ‘Author Meet and Greet’ to a whole new level.

Just click on the link and ask to join the fun.

 

Christine’s Kist of Stories

Are you familiar with the word ‘kist’?

It’s origin is from the Old Norse kista, meaning chest.
The word appears in several countries and, in the Scots language, it’s the name for a large chest or coffer often used for storing linen, such as a new bride’s trousseau.
Also used for storing treasure. And it’s in that context I’d like to introduce my kist to you.

My hubby wrote me a beautiful song for our 50th wedding anniversary – about my ‘Kist of Stories’, describing my stories as treasure. How cool is that? Well, I felt so honoured by this I want to honour him in return by using the song as my ‘brand.’

So I have started a Book Group on FaceBook, called Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist Of Stories. The aim of the group is to allow readers to interact with me about my books. So, if you’re interested in learning the stories behind the stories, you’re welcome to join. The group is designed to take the ‘Author Meet and Greet’ to a whole new level.

My daughter has recorded the song and I’d like to share it with you here. To help you understand it, since it’s written in the style of an old Scots song, here are the words written out. I’d be happy to explain any that are unfamiliar to you. Just let me know in the comments which words puzzle you.

Christine’s Kist O’ Stories

Sparkling there, tae love and share,
Gleam tales o’ pains and glories
Of lovers kissed, and children missed
In Christine’s kist o’ Stories

Folks that’s real, that breathe and feel,
Wi’ lives o’ less, or more ease
Come tumblin’ out, tae sigh, tae shout
Frae Christine’s kist o’ Stories

Frae Reekie’s chills tae Cuillin hills,
They tak’ delightfu’ sorties
That turn and twist thru lambent mist
Tae Christine’s kist o’ Stories

~~~

The video ‘Christine’s Kist of Stories’ comes to you from team Pow.
Filmed and produced by Tim Pow
Words and music by Gus Campbell
Sung by Aimee Pow
Original painting by Michelle Campbell
Scenery by Scotland

Enjoy!

The Importance of Being a Reader

When asked the question, “Is reading important in your life?” my experience is that many people say they enjoy reading but it doesn’t play that big a part in their day to day life. Some only find time to read when they are on holiday, some while travelling. And there are those who derive little or no pleasure from reading. I’ve even come across people who profess they’d love to write a novel but they’ve rarely or never read one!

I’m aghast at this latter category because it’s a bit like saying you want to bake a cake without ever having tasted one and without a recipe to follow. “But I have this great idea for a wedding cake. I mean, how hard can it be to throw a few ingredients in a bowl, give them a bit of a mix, pour the mixture in a tin and pop it in the oven for ten minutes or so?” Aaaaargh!!! I’m sure there will be bakers all over the world throwing their recipe books in the air at the thought.

Yet there are books being produced by the dozens with less preparation and by people who it would seem have never read a book in their lives, if the grammar, spelling and construction are anything to go by. “But I have this great idea for a story. I mean, how hard can it be to scribble it down, type it up, slap a cover on it and upload it on the net.”

Like the potential wedding cake maker, who’s seen the end result, can measure, mix and heat things in the oven – has even had a nibble of a finished cake – our potential novelist has seen books on the shelves in the supermarket, learned how to put pen to paper in school, can even type with one finger, may even have read the blurb on the back of the book of the film of…

I say again, “Aaaaarrrrgh!!!”

So, to rephrase the question, how important is reading in a writer’s life?

I’d like to put it to you, that reading widely is the first step of many in learning how to write and how to write better.

Hills of the Dead End – Remembering Patrick MacGill

When researching for the historic strand of the contemporary novel I am writing, I came upon this blog post and found it very interesting and beautifully written by Cameron McNeish. It gives a great taste of the subject matter I will be exploring in my novel. Having also read Patrick MacGill’s novel, Children of the Dead End, as part of my research, I find myself deeply respecting the men who built the Blackwater Dam, for their bravery and courage and incredible ability to work in the conditions they endured.

CAMERON McNEISH, Writer & Television Presenter

Image

The poignant Blackwater Dam graveyard

IT was one of the most poignant destinations of any route I’ve walked. We had tramped from the Kinlochleven side of the dramatically named Devil’s Staircase and then dropped down alongside a water pipeline that ran from the Blackwater Reservoir high above the birch banks of the River Leven. There was a sheen of newly minted green on the trees and the sky was blue. Spring was turning to summer and birdsong, especially that of the ebullient skylark, filled the air. It was hard to imagine the desolation, the strife and the sheer pathos of the industrial scene that dominated this landscape a hundred years before.

In the distance a long, low wall ran across the horizon, the line of the Blackwater Dam, and as we approached it a dumpy, drumlin-like hillock took our attention. Fifty metres from the track and pipeline a wooden fence…

View original post 2,033 more words

Previous Older Entries

Follow cicampbellblog on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: