#FridayReads ~Reviewing my favourite books from 2016

What a wonderful surprise to find one of my books on a reviewer’s list of her favourite books from 2016! And in such great company! Thank you Lizanne Lloyd. I feel honoured, and I’m delighted.

Lizanne

According to Goodreads, of the 65 books I have read this year, 21 are contemporary stories, 18 historical fiction, 7 crime novels and 5 mysteries. In addition, I chose to read 5 non-fiction history books, 3 steampunk novels, 2 travel books, one young child’s book, one dystopian novel and one of literary fiction. Only one is specifically a romantic novel, but of course romance often turns up in historical novels or mysteries too and definitely in most contemporary stories. There is a lot of blurring at the edges.
The number of books in each category does not surprise me, but perhaps next year I should try self-help, vampire books or maybe return to fantasy or science fiction. I’m not promising!
These are my highlights of the year.

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Midnight Sky Cover LARGE EBOOK

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Rusty

AB Bamboo Island

Lake House

I could list more, but I will stop with these chosen few from my favourite genres; historical, contemporary and mystery.  If you click…

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I’m Sorry, It Wasn’t About You!

I’d like to share with you a very thought provoking post by Erika Kind that I stumbled upon. I’m so glad I found it because it really resonated with me. Perhaps it will with you too. That feeling when “you were a victim of your mind’s storage room.”

Erika Kind

I remembered an incident that happened quite some time back in my life. When it came to my mind I thought I may not be the only one who is endlessly thankful for someone who puts their ego aside and only helps us healing the wounds which still affect our lives at times.

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Smorgasbord Summer Reading – What Tim Knows and other stories by Wendy Janes

It is my pleasure to reblog Sally Cronin’s Summer Reading post. The book featured today is ideal Summer Reading, perfect for lying back with on the beach or in the garden. Six short stories with a subtle link. I can heartily recommend this book by novelist Wendy Janes, having read it and thoroughly enjoyed it already.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

smorgasbord Summer ReadingToday the featured book is a brand new release this week. What Tim Knows and other stories by Wendy Janes takes you on a journey with six stories across five decades.  As well as showcasing her new book today, Wendy also shares her thoughts on linking stories.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout What Tim Knows and other stories

A gallery-owner’s quest for beauty; a dancer in danger; a new mother struggling to cope with her baby; a sculptor’s search for inspiration; a teenager longing to live in the perfect family; a young boy lost and confused by the rules of life that everyone else seems to understand.

Six stand-alone short stories, spanning five decades. Each capturing a significant moment in the life of a different character.

Separate lives linked in subtle ways.

Linking stories

I’ve always enjoyed reading books where characters in one novel pop up in another. While a well-written sequel or…

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Launch Day

Three … Two … One … We have lift off!!

Released today!

Rusty Gold small

The third novel in The Reluctant Detective Series.

‘Find her,’ Agnes Donald begged. ‘Find my daughter.’
The words of a dying woman force Mirabelle to take on another case for the unofficial Missing Persons Bureau she runs from her Edinburgh flat.
Along with her assistant, Kay, she heads for the island of Skye where Esme Donald was last known to be. But is someone else looking for Esme too? And could Mirabelle’s own daughter, Summer, be in danger?

Rusty Gold is available as a paperback and an eBook on FeedARead,  Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Waterstones and can be ordered through most bookshops.

Get your copy today.

Enjoy!

~~~

New to The Reluctant Detective Series?

Here’s a bit of a catch-up.

Mirabelle had thought she and Summer were happy. Being a single parent may not be ideal, but they coped well with their situation. Sure, bringing up a teenaged girl on her own was hard work, and they had their ups and downs, but they were pals as well as mother and daughter. She might not have planned her, but she was certainly glad she had Summer, and would not have liked to be without her. They’d built a life together, sorted out some kind of routine, and were happy. On a day to day basis, Mirabelle reckoned that’s all you could ask for.

 Then Summer disappears one Friday night and Mirabelle is left searching for her daughter, not knowing if Summer is alive or dead, went of her own accord or was taken against her will. Casting all other concerns aside – food, sleep, work, relationships – in her desperate need to find the answers, she takes to the streets of Edinburgh in search of Summer. Searching along wynds snaking behind old buildings, through ancient doors and tiny spiral stairways, showing Summer’s photograph to everyone she meets in shops, museums and nightclubs, Mirabelle becomes a reluctant detective, gathering clues, trying to make sense of them in order to find her missing daughter.

Meanwhile, Mirabelle gains a reputation for finding missing people and reuniting them with their loved ones. As people turn up on her doorstep asking for help, her kitchen becomes the hub of an unofficial missing persons agency.

Traces of Red, the second in the off-beat Reluctant Detective Series about Mirabelle and missing people, is the sum of several interwoven stories about an abandoned baby, two missing young women, a missing husband … and a dead body. Why did one of them abandoned a baby in an Edinburgh pub? Which one of them lies face-down in the river? Mirabelle finds herself running an unofficial Missing Person’s Bureau from her flat in Edinburgh, and DI Sam Burns seems happy to use her expertise to help him find these people, and learn how their stories interlink.

In Book One of this series, Mirabelle’s search was centred in Edinburgh, widening out to include the Scottish countryside further North in Book Two. Now, in Book Three, Mirabelle is off to the Island of Skye.

~~~

May I have Your Attention Please

When I was enjoying my daily perambulations one day last week, I caught the attention of some of my neighbours. These particular neighbours tend to be interested in whatever is going on in our garden and they meandered over to see what I was up to. I had a brief chat with them then scooted off to fetch my camera, thereby learning an important writing lesson.

Having captured our readers’ attention, it is tremendously important to hold it for long enough that they will want to hang on in and see what happens.

I had not done that with my neighbours and when I returned with my camera, they had lost interest and wandered off to seek diversion elsewhere.

So, when they returned the next day, I was prepared. I had my camera at the ready, having not only caught their attention but having also found a way to hold their interest.

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It really is that important.

Writers know that you, the reader, have to be persuaded to read our book, so we try to come up with that captivating first sentence, that intriguing first paragraph, that riveting first chapter, but it can’t end there.

As soon as we get boring, you get bored.

It’s as simple as that.

So every chapter has to hold your attention. Ideally, we want you not to be able to put our book down until you’ve finished reading the whole thing, staying up all night if that’s what it takes. Sorry, I know that’s pretty mean of us to cause you to lose your beauty sleep, but just think of the rewards. You can have our story buzzing about in your head for days afterwards. You might well feel you’ve made some great new friends of our characters.

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My granddaughters made friends with my neighbours. They even got to know them better than I do, exchanging names and contact details. Daisy is just off to the left there, and she likes to be whistled over. Primrose prefers a soft mooing sound.

Another lesson learned. It is important to connect with you, dear reader. I want to know who you are, what you like about my writing, what interests you, where I can find you, how I can reach you.

So why don’t you pop your head over the hedge and chat to me – or simply add a comment in the comment box below. I love when you do.

Dirty Laundry

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A good day for hanging out the washing. I love days like this when I can get the washing dried outdoors. It always smells so nice and I like that it’s more eco-friendly than using my tumble drier. Plus, I just love to see clean laundry on the line. Well, it would be a bit weird if I hung out the laundry without washing it, wouldn’t it?

Mind you, I’ve seen it done. Have you ever noticed that in films or television dramas, even the soaps, when someone has to hang out a washing, it’s rarely actually wet? That annoys me no end. If you’re gonna have that scene in, then go for authenticity. Do it right. Give the character a basket of wet washing. It can’t be that hard to organise, can it?

When enjoying my thankfulness walk round the garden today, I found myself smiling at the laundry being gently blown dry by the light breeze as well as the warmth of the sun.

And I got to thinking about writing …

When we write about our characters we do the opposite of what I was talking about just now, we hang out their dirty laundry.

We expose their faults and flaws, their bad decisions, their mistakes.

Of course we do. That’s what makes them and their story interesting. Why? Because life’s like that. Things happen. We don’t always make the wise decision, the right decision, or the caring decision. We make mistakes. All of us. Nobody is perfect.

Why would we want to pretend our characters are? Why would we have them always get things right? That would make for a very dull story. It’s the fight against their flaws, the attempts they make to put right their mistakes that give us their story.

Then, when outside calamities and misfortunes hit them, we can see they are made of stern stuff. If they can battle against their inner demons and come out victorious, they are far more likely to prevail when things get tough.

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Just look at those plants growing through the slats of the bridge in our garden. When the bridge was built, it would be easy to assume that any plants underneath it would wilt and wither. After all, they were now deprived of direct sunlight and water. They have to survive in difficult, dark conditions.

But guess what! The hardy ones prevail. They fight their way up through every obstacle. Not enough sunlight? Who cares? They take the little they get and aim for where they know there’s more. Not enough water? They take what runs their way, soak it up and lift their heads and stretch out their roots to where they know they’ll find refreshment.

If we build good, strong characters, characters who are real, authentic, with their faults and flaws to battle with, then they’ll be the same. They’ll find their inner strengths when they need to, they’ll overcome the obstacles. They’ll prevail.

But we, the authors have to give them a bit of backbone.

Today, I thought I’d share with you the beginning of Searching for Summer. This is where it all started to go wrong for Mirabelle, when her bad habits began to catch up with her. This is when her struggle with her inner demons starts.

~~~

Searching for Summer

The letter had finally come and Mirabelle suggested they should go out for a meal and to the cinema to celebrate.
She gave Summer a quick one-armed hug while shoving her bare feet into floppy sheepskin boots and preparing to rush out the door to work. “After all, not every day a girl gets accepted into uni,” she said, giving her daughter a kiss. “Imagine! A lawyer in the family.”
“Yeah, well, don’t count your chickens and all that. I might never graduate.”
“You will, chicken. I know you will. You always finish what you start. Not like me,” Mirabelle laughed. “Scatty as they come.”
“And proud of it,” Summer muttered. “That would really stick it to Aunt Hannah, though, wouldn’t it?” It was said with a sneer. “Snotty besom!”
“Summer! That is my sister you’re talking about.”
“No worse than you think about her. And don’t think I haven’t heard you and Yvonne say more or less the same thing.”
“That’s enough!”
“What was wrong with your mother anyway? Three sisters, three dads. And you bang on to me about morals.”
“I said, that’s enough! I will not have you talking like this about my mother or my sisters. Right?” She chose to ignore the sulky look she got in reply. Gathering herself and her bits and pieces together, she took a count of five and composed her face. “Anyway, honey, don’t let’s spoil the day.” She gave her daughter a smile. “Celebrations are in order.”
Summer scowled. “Yeah. Big deal.”
“Now, you know I’ve never been much for throwing a party. Love them. Think it’s the Jamaican in me. Always up for a bit of carnival.” Hands in the air, bracelets scurrying down plump brown arms into the folds of loose sleeves, Mirabelle gyrated her large hips to an internal rhythm of the Caribbean. “Love, love, love a party.” The rows of beads trailing from her neck bobbed and swung, a colourful waterfall of sound. “Just no use at organising them.” One last shimmy in defiance of the look of disgust directed at her wobbling boobs, and she handed Summer her schoolbag and urged her towards the door. “But we absolutely have to celebrate somehow.”
“You’ll definitely be home from work in time?” Summer asked with a sigh.
“Of course I will.”
Summer stood her ground, blocking the doorway. “There’s no of course about it, Mum. You’re never home before eight o’clock. The film starts at seven-thirty. If we’re to get something to eat, you need to be home six at the latest.”
“Okay. Okay. I can do it. Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”
Summer gave her a scathing look. “Ugh! That’s so yesterday.”
“Well, I’m a yesterday girl. Could’ve been a great flower person in the sixties.” Mirabelle held out her long, multi-coloured skirt and spun around on the spot. Her many rings and bangles sparkled in the light cast by the ornate, crystal-encrusted chandelier in the tiny, over-bright hallway. “Being a teenager in the nineties just didn’t have the same cachet.”
“You didn’t need the sixties.” Summer scowled.
“True. Oooh,” she cooed, stroking her daughter’s cheek. “Look at your pretty wee freckled nose all scrunched up there.” She tapped it gently. “Do I embarrass you, my petal?”
“All the time, Mother.”
Mirabelle shrugged. “Well, get used to it, kiddo. I’m unlikely to change.” Words tossed behind her with the kiss she blew as she grabbed a shawl from the back of the door. Draping the material round her shoulders, she picked up her big floppy bag and danced past Summer, out the door and down the communal stairs.
‘Unlikely to change.’
Words she’d later long to take back.
To rewind that day, push herself away from her desk, away from the stack of papers. Step crazily backwards, her shawl flying from the back of her chair into her hand, draping itself round her shoulders. Retreat through the office door, pulling it closed in front of her, her feet faultlessly finding the flight of stairs behind. She’d back down them, seeming to sink into each step, her knees straightening and flexing, straightening and flexing. Then walking backwards out into the street, her head bobbing as she took back morning greetings from colleagues and strangers.
Press rewind again to speed it up. The bus rushing in reverse, passengers seeming to get on, flying effortlessly up the step, their backs to the open door, ignoring the ticket machine, ringing the bell as they sat in their seats. Passengers seeming to get off, seeing only what they were leaving, strange knee-bent drops from the opened doors, taking their money from the ticket machine, catching it as it was spewed up from the top of columns of coins to jump into their palms. Mirabelle herself taking the leap behind her, leaving go of the handrail as her feet found the pavement.
Back, back. A reverse salsa at the bus stop, taking back the sharing of her joy at the good news of her daughter’s acceptance at Edinburgh University, smiles disappearing into closed, reserved strangers’ faces.
Backwards, backwards. Dancing down the street and up the stairs, rushing, rushing, unusual lightness in the ascent. Up the stairs and through the door and, there and then, standing beside her daughter, “I’ll change,” she’d say. “If you want me to, I’ll change.”
But, with no rewind facility available, no benefit of hindsight in play, Mirabelle neglected to change old habits. She came back from the office, late as usual, with the customary flustered apology ready on her lips and a placatory tub of ice cream in her hands as she laboriously climbed the stairs to their flat. She had got lost in the clutter that was her desk at work, writing reports about the safety or otherwise of other people’s children.
“Sorry, pal,” she said as she pushed through the door. “Not too late, are we?” She didn’t shrug out of her thick woollen shawl, though it was damp from the drizzle she’d hurried through. “Ready to go?” She pushed open the living-room door. “Summer? You there?” she said to the empty room.
Still holding the ice cream, a possible cause of the shivering tinkle her bangles made, she stuck her head round the door of her daughter’s bedroom. “Summer?”
Expecting to find her lolling across the bed or sitting at her desk tapping away on her computer, Mirabelle walked in, the ice cream held out before her as a peace offering. But the bed, duvet neatly pulled up as Summer left it every morning, was untouched, the computer unopened. Summer wasn’t home.

~~~

Will Mirabelle prove strong enough to cope with losing her daughter? Will she be strong enough to do something about finding her?

Well, you’d have to start reading the Reluctant Detective Series to find that out.

The Reluctant Detective Series

Searching for Summer ~ Traces of Red ~ Rusty Gold, coming soon

All available on Amazon in paperback and as ebooks, along with the rest of my novels.

 

http://author.to/ChristineCampbell

~~~

 

Sunshine and Birdsong

There I was, sitting in the garden, feeling the sun on my face, listening to the birds singing, trying to pick out one from another. It was idyllic. My mind turned to my writing, as it so often does, and the next chapter of the novel I am working on which I’m looking forward to writing when I go indoors. I became aware of a change in the feel of the air. Opening my eyes, I saw the large black clouds weathering in on me, and that got me to thinking even more.

My Work In Progress is a lot like the Scottish weather. There are parts of it that are warm and sunny, with lots of the feel-good factor, some parts have me chuckling as I write them, and then there are parts of it that have dark clouds blotting out the sun for Yvonne, my main character. The part I’m about to write today is a bit like the day itself, in that it has sunshine and showers. Yvonne’s off to sort out a difficult situation with her husband, Hugh, and she can’t see the happy ending right now.

~~~

My WIP follows on from the first three books of the Reluctant Detective series. It isn’t really part of the series, more an offshoot of it.

If you remember, or if you haven’t started reading the series yet, Yvonne’s sister, Mirabelle, became a reluctant detective when she discovered she was really good at finding missing people and reuniting them with their loved ones, especially young girls or young women who had been missing. It all started when her own daughter, Summer, disappeared one Friday night …

Searching for Summer  ~~   Traces of Red  ~~  Rusty Gold ~ coming soon

I’m expecting my proof copy of Rusty Gold back from the publisher any day now, so, after I have checked it over to make sure everything is as it should be, it really won’t be long until it is released. So, if you haven’t read Searching for Summer and Traces of Red, you’ve just about got time to catch up before Rusty Gold is available to buy on Amazon, which is where you’ll find all of my books.

*** UPDATE ***

Rusty Gold is now available for purchase as a paperback or as an eBook on

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones or FeedARead.com

or can be ordered from most bookstores

http://author.to/ChristineCampbell

~~~

Have a nice day, whatever you’re doing.

I’d love to hear what the day holds for you: Gardening? Golfing? Hill-walking? Cooking? Family? Television? Driving? Boating? Or what?

Do share in the comments.

~~~

Point of View

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There are many ways to write a novel, so how do you decide on the best way? Get it wrong or muddled, and you could end up having to rewrite the whole story. With that in mind, it’s well worth taking the time before you start to think through the method and the mode you want to use to convey your story, to write your novel.

One of the first things to consider is whose story it is and who you want to tell it. Once you have decided that, you must write the story from that chosen perspective, at least for a chapter or a section of a chapter. While you are writing from that person’s point of view it is important to stay in that person’s head. You can only think or feel as that one person.

“… when you are writing a scene, you follow the character almost like a camera on the character’s shoulder or in the character’s head. You are looking at the character performing a specific set of actions or important actions in vivid detail.” — Jenna Blum in The Author at Work, 2013

If you want to tell your reader what someone else is thinking or feeling, you should wait until it’s their turn to tell their side of the story – in a new chapter, or at least a new section, often denoted by leaving a blank line between the sections.

What is not a good idea is to head-hop between characters, telling us what they all think and feel in one mish-mash of information. It can become confusing and does not make for easy reading.

If it is a story you as the author want to tell, or it is your story as the author, but you want to tell it as though you are an observer, if you are telling it, narrating it, rather than showing it, then you, the narrator, are limiting yourself to what you can see, hear, or assume about the characters. You cannot know what they think or feel, only what they do or say. This gives an unbiased point of view, an outsider’s point of view.

In the third-person narrative mode, each character is referred to by the narrator as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, or ‘they’. In third-person narrative, the narrator is not involved, not a character within the story, but conveys the story to the reader. This is the most flexible and most commonly used point of view used by fiction authors.

In a first-person narrative, the story is revealed through a narrator who is also a character within the story. In this case, the narrator can only express his/her own opinions, thoughts or feelings, and cannot convey any other character’s thoughts, feelings, opinions or perceptions unless the other character expresses them in dialogue or shows them in action.

The second-person narrative mode, in which the narrator refers to him or herself as ‘you’, is not often used in fiction. It distances the narrator from the story. If he/she is also a character within the story, it is as though he/she is watching his own life from a distance. An example of this:

“You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might become clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then again, it might not. A small voice inside you insists that this epidemic lack of clarity is a result of too much of that already.”— Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City

This can be an interesting way of handling your story, but sometimes difficult to maintain and can become confusing when other characters enter the story and want to play a part.

It is, of course, possible to switch between points of view within one story, but such switches really are best kept to within chapter boundaries if possible, section boundaries at least. Never within a section, a paragraph or a sentence.

So how do you decide how you want to convey your story to the written page? How do you decide from whose point of view the story should be told? This goes back to the first question: whose story is it?

Through whose eyes are you going to let your readers ‘see’ the story?

The Writer’s Workshop says:

“Fiction is about inner worlds and inner journeys. If you use a particular POV repeatedly, then you must fully characterise that person. That means, a fully developed inner life; a fully developed character arc; a full set of challenges, encounters and personal change. If you work from a POV where the character in question is only partly developed, then this part of your writing will never come to life. if you aren’t sure whether a particular character is fully developed, then he/she almost certainly isn’t.”

This is such good advice. What is required is that you understand your characters. If you are a man writing from a woman’s POV, can you do it convincingly? Or do you write what you wish women were thinking? Can you imagine how a woman feels? Or do you assume she’ll feel much the same way as a man?

Similarly, if you are a woman writing from a man’s POV, you’d need to ask the same questions: can you imagine how a man might think and feel in a certain situation? Can you ‘put yourself in his place’? ‘Walk in his shoes’?

What about age and ethnic origin? These are also areas where research is needed to try to sound authentic. If you are writing your story from a child’s point of view, it would be important to find out how children think, feel, talk and walk. Don’t rely on your memory of being a child. That becomes overlaid with your adult interpretation. If you don’t have children of your own, go meet some children, ask your friends who have children if the family would like to join you for dinner so you can talk to them, play with them, observe them. *** I’d recommend caution here – you don’t want to seem creepy. Explaining that you are an author and need to do some research on children might be a good idea.***

Ethnic origin can be approached in a similar way, get to know some people of the ethnicity you want your character to be. Learn about their culture. Endeavour to understand where they come from.

Already written your novel but wondering why it doesn’t feel quite right? Try editing with coloured highlighters, highlighting when you are speaking with each character’s voice, one colour for the person whose story it is, different colours for when you pop into someone else’s head for a sentence or two. The whole of each chapter should be one, uninterrupted colour. If it is not, you’re head-hopping and that is a big no-no.

To correct it, look at each portion of a different colour and decide if it is necessary for that information to be included there. If not, remove it. If yes, find another way to convey it. Think about it: would the viewpoint character know what that other person was thinking? No, of course not. Not unless they told them or showed it in their facial expression or actions.

~~~

The Writers’ Workshop also offer this helpful handful of no-nos. Few of them are absolute rules, but if in doubt, you’d be very well advised to follow them.

  • Don’t switch Points of view in the middle of a scene. If you start a scene with Mary, don’t end it with Tom.
  • Don’t write a scene from the Point of view of somebody who is killed in the course of it. If you really want the last minute on tape, as it were, then you can end a scene with a final sentence like ‘He looked up. The gun barrel was pointing straight at him. He felt nothing, only emptiness …’ But not much of this, please.
  • If you are writing a scene from Jo-Jo’s perspective then don’t relate information that only Ki-Ki could have seen. Choose a Point of view and stick to it.
  • If you are writing a scene from Roger’s perspective, then you can’t relate emotional information about Fanny. If you want to tell us something about Fanny, you have to do it via information which Roger could plausibly have access to. ‘Fanny’s lips were tight and white. He knew the signs of her fury well enough by now …’
  • If you start a book with a good number of scenes from Laura’s perspective, then you can’t just ditch her halfway through – or at the very least, you need a jolly good reason to do this. If you’re not sure if your reason is strong enough, then it certainly isn’t.

http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/PointsofViewinFiction.html

I hope you find them helpful.

~~~

Christine Campbell, author.

Family Matters ~ Making it Home ~ Flying Free ~ Here at the Gate

Searching for Summer ~ Traces of Red ~ Rusty Gold, coming soon…

What do We Know of Wendy Janes?

I had the great pleasure to meet up with Author Wendy Janes in London a few months ago. It was a real treat to get to know Wendy in person and I wish we lived nearer one another so we could meet often. However, we don’t, so we can’t, so there it is.

Next best thing, I’ve invited her to sit by my virtual fireside and have a chat with me about herself, her writing and her goals, and I’m inviting you to join us. So draw up a chair, help yourself to tea or coffee. Hot chocolate for me – plenty in the pot if that’s your pleasure too. Oh, and help yourself to the cup cakes.

~~~

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So, Wendy, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I live in London with my husband and youngest son. I feel very lucky that since my youngest son started school I’ve been able to work from home, running my freelance proofreading business and advising parents over the phone on The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. While I’ve always written diaries, short stories and prose-poetry for myself, it’s only in the last few years that I’ve had the confidence to share my writing with an audience. Some of my short stories have appeared in anthologies, and in October 2015 I self-published my novel, What Jennifer Knows.

Now can you tell us something that might surprise us?

I’ve never learned how to drive. I did try when I was seventeen and gave up after the lesson when I nearly caused an accident by pulling out into a main road in front of a car. I simply didn’t see it coming. Thank goodness my instructor had dual-control. I can still feel that dart of hot-cold shock when I think about him slamming on the brakes that day.

1992 wendy the dancer

Something you haven’t told in an interview before — perhaps because you haven’t been asked:

I once performed at Wembley Arena. Over twenty years ago a group of us (including my mum) danced to The Trout by Schubert as part of a day of movement and dance. I think you can see how excited I was from this photo of me at the ‘Artists Entrance’!

Oh, my, look at those glasses. My only excuse is that it was 1992.

I love them! I wore glasses since I was four years old till I got contacts, and I can tell you, there are worse than yours of 1992!

And I love the ski pants. Loved wearing them back then too. And the dreamy long scarf…

I just love this photograph, Wendy. It really brings back the late 90s. And I wish I had seen you dance.

So, can you tell us something you are proud of about yourself?

At the end of the 1980s I started up a local branch of a support group for lonely and isolated new mums. We’d meet at each other’s houses, go on outings, and a small core of us would provide information and support where needed. When the group became too big to fit in each other’s houses, we raised funds to set up a mother-and-toddler group in a local community hall. I’m still close friends with five of the mums from the original group.

And something you feel you need to work on:

My husband’s untidiness.

He’s a wonderful man, but he genuinely doesn’t seem to see the piles of papers, clothes, tools and camera equipment that he leaves lying all over the place. After thirty years of tidying up after him, encouraging/cajoling/nagging, some people might say he’ll never change, but I’m still hopeful that one day we’ll live in a completely clutter-free house.

Hehe! I love that you think you have to work on your husband’s untidiness. All the best with that… 

What makes you smile, Wendy?

My granddaughters. At six years old and nine months old, the way they embrace all of life’s new experiences is a joy to see.

What makes you sad?

Unkindness.

I know you enjoy your work with The National Autistic Society. Can you tell us a bit about that please?

A small team of us help parents whose children have a diagnosis of autism to try and secure the right education for them. We each work from home offering a listening ear and giving advice via phone and email. Much of my time is spent ascertaining what the parent wants to achieve and then using law, regulations and guidance to empower the parent in reaching towards that goal. Sometimes we can come up with a way forward in a trice, other times it takes far longer, and sometimes things don’t work out as expected. Whatever the outcome, I always hope I’ve helped in some small way.

It’s an absolute privilege to do this work.

Has your work with The National Autistic Society influenced your writing?

Yes. Working on a daily basis with families has made me want to bring some of the issues into my writing. In my novel, What Jennifer Knows, Jennifer’s grandson is struggling at school and she suspects he’s on the spectrum. Here’s a link to a guest blog post I wrote which describes in more detail how my work and my writing dovetail: http://www.jerasjamboree.co.uk/2015/11/autism-and-sen-in-fiction-guest-post.html

And your work as a proofreader? How has that influenced your writing?

I’d say my nit-picky proofreading brain has meant I take an age to write anything. Not only am I prone to want to edit the words before they’ve even reached the page, but once the words are down, there’s the endless tinkering, re-working, double-checking, re-tinkering…

I’ve read books that annoyed me to the point where I wanted to throw them across the room. Sometimes because they have lacked a good editor and/or proofreader. Other times just because the story is weak or the telling of it poor. 
As a reader, rather than a proofreader, what do you think makes a good story?

Unfortunately many books are spoiled by poor editing and proofreading. A typo can completely jolt a reader out of a story, and when that happens over and over again, I’m not surprised you’ve wanted to throw a book across the room!

As a reader I think authenticity is at the heart of good writing. If a story is populated by two-dimensional characters or by characters that don’t ring true then the story won’t come alive.

What one thing has a ‘bad’ book taught you not to do in your own writing?

Telling the reader in the narrative that something is happening; telling it again in dialogue; and then, just in case readers haven’t got the point, telling them again in the narrative. I strive to avoid this mistake that turns stories into stodge.

As a writer, what elements do you find are the most crucial to include in your stories?

Believable characters
Purpose
A surprise or two
Some humour
Genuine heart

What are three things you have experienced as an author that have helped you during the writing stage?

Support of other authors. I’ve met some wonderful authors online, many are now very good friends.
Support of family. My husband and youngest son are particularly brilliant sounding boards, and excellent at reminding me that there is life outside of the PC.
Reading some wonderful fiction while writing helps me strive to improve my writing.

You said you think authenticity is at the heart of good writing, and I do agree. You also said, “If a story is populated by two-dimensional characters or by characters that don’t ring true then the story won’t come alive.” The goal of a writer is to give the readers characters they can connect with. The characters in your novel, What Jennifer Knows, are very engaging. 

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UK link : US link

What advice could you give other authors to help them find that authentic voice that speaks to readers?

Thank you. I’m so pleased you found Jennifer and her friends and family engaging.

I know some people suggest you read your work out loud, either to yourself or others. I think what can also help to hone your voice is to have someone else read your work back to you. That way, you can hear exactly how your words sound to someone else.

You have a gift of storytelling, and I know you have written many short stories, some of which appear in published anthologies, have you ever thought of publishing a compilation of your stories?

Again, thank you. Yes, in April I’m planning to self-publish a small collection of new short stories. While writing What Jennifer Knows some of the supporting characters had their own tales to tell that would have detracted from Jennifer’s story, so I’ve been working on six stories that reflect significant moments in their lives.

I hope people who haven’t read the novel will enjoy meeting Rollo, Cynthia, Sue, Gerald, Blythe and Tim, and will want to see them again in the pages of What Jennifer Knows. And for those who have read the novel, I hope they’ll enjoy their reunion with characters they met there, and be entertained by the glimpses of Jennifer as she matures from young student to grandmother.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started writing your first book, that you could share with eager, would-be writers?

If I’d known that a first draft of a book doesn’t have to be polished I could have saved myself a lot of early angst and self-doubt. So, my advice to would-be writers is to get the words on the page and let your ideas flow. No one else needs to see your first draft, stop thinking about your audience at this point and simply write what you want to. Then, once you have that first draft you can start to work on it.

Where should readers go to check out more about you and what you do?

Here are links to my presence on the web:

Goodreads

Facebook author page

Author Central Page, UK

Author Central Page, US

Website

Twitter

Facebook profile

Google+

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Well, I do hope you enjoyed getting to know Wendy a little better. Hope you can join me again soon. I’ll replenish the cup cakes, I promise.

~~~

Christine Campbell is the author of six published novels: Family Matters, Making it Home, Flying Free, Here at the Gate, Searching for Summer, and Traces of Red.

You can find out more if you click here, on the sidebar of this blog, or if you click on ‘Books’ on the menu bar.

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One Word for 2016

I had forgotten about ‘One Word’.

Two years ago … was it really two years ago … I wrote a post about choosing one word that would sum up what I wanted to achieve in the coming year. It was a concept that I had found in various places, on various blogs, around the end of 2014.

A few days ago, Zenobia Southcombe, a fellow author and blogger, referred to my post and spoke about her One Word for 2016. That reminded me of the post and the concept, so I decided to refresh the post here in case some of you would enjoy the concept and to find your One Word.

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There were a lot of blog posts about at the end of 2013, beginning of 2014, that zoned in on New Year’s resolutions, but I stumbled on some that were talking about One Word. The idea being that you choose just one word to keep ‘front and centre’ during the next year. Not a whole list of resolutions, but One Word that sums up what you, personally, want to achieve in the coming year.

Not being one to make, far less keep, New Year Resolutions, this sounded like something I might like to try.

There was even a book written about it with an interview on ‘Today’ with the author of the book.

I got to thinking about what my One Word would be.

As I read about all the words other people were putting forward as their words, I wanted to identify mine.

Have you any idea how many words there are out there?

According to the Oxford Dictionaries:

“There is no single sensible answer to this question. It’s impossible to count the number of words in a language, because it’s so hard to decide what actually counts as a word.

It’s also difficult to decide what counts as ‘English’. What about medical and scientific terms? Latin words used in law, French words used in cooking, German words used in academic writing, Japanese words used in martial arts? Do you count Scots dialect? Teenage slang? Abbreviations?

This suggests that there are, at the very least, a quarter of a million distinct English words. If distinct senses were counted, the total would probably approach three quarters of a million.”

That’s a lot of words to choose from.

Narrowing it down somewhat, I made a list of some others had chosen, as found in their blogs. Words like: COURAGE, SELFLESSNESS, PEACE, PRESENCE, KINDNESS, SIMPLICITY, TRUTH, APPRECIATION, SPARKLE, CHOOSE, WHOLE, NOW, FRESH, BLESSINGS, TENACITY, RESILIENCE, JOY, EQUANIMITY …. the list goes on … and on … and on … all good words.

I considered a few of them as suitable candidates for My One Word.

Simplicity … I could do with focusing on simplicity for a year, throwing out some of my clutter from cupboards and closets as well as from my mind and lifestyle. But I actually love my clutter. I’m not ready to part with much of it yet. I might do a spring-clean, but a whole year of simplifying, I’m not so sure.

Courage … yes. I always need that. We all do just to cope with the trials of life and what it throws at us. But would focusing on that as my One Word make a difference in the coming year? Possibly, but courage is something I’ve not been too bad at finding when I need it … so far …

Presence … to decide to ‘be in the moment’ to savour every moment. I like that. It would be a great word to ‘keep front and centre’. That’s something I already try to do, so I very nearly chose Presence.

Then I thought my word should really be about something I need more of in my life. Something I lack.

Consistency … Now there is something I need in my life. Consistency. Not to be wavering backwards and forwards, one day on top form, the next in the pits. One day doing my exercises, one day hardly getting off my you-know-what. One day eating salads and bean sprouts, and everything healthy I can get my hands on, the next day eating everything sweet and fat-filled I can get my mouth on.

Yes, I like the idea of becoming more consistent: spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally.

To keep up with prayer, study and meditation on spiritual things on a daily basis.

To keep my equanimity more, not letting things ‘get to me’ emotionally, draining me, pulling me down as they can do sometimes. Controlling the ‘highs’ as well as the ‘lows’ in order not to get carried away with my passions and enthusiasms to the detriment of my health.

To be more regular, more consistent, with exercising and healthy eating. Oh, dear, did I really say that out loud? That means I’m probably going to have to carry through on it, doesn’t it?

To write every day, doing research diligently, keeping my mind healthy and alert. Ah! This is where the real fun comes in, the real challenge. The fun being the writing, which I love, the challenge being keeping my mind healthy and alert. Think I’m battling against the pull of the years that have already passed with this one!

But, yes, overall, consistency … I like that. That’s what I’m going to strive for.

My One Word for 2014 was CONSISTENCY.

~~~

Okay, so it’s fess-up time! Did I manage to achieve CONSISTENCY in my life during 2014? Er … no, not really. Perhaps a little better than before, but not a lot. I did try … I do try … but consistency just isn’t me, I’m afraid. By nature, I’m a bit random, scatter-brained, my attention flits from this to that and back again in the time it takes me to write a sentence or two. Oh, it might be nice to be more consistent in many aspects of my life, and I still strive for that, but I don’t think I can be consistent across the board. It just isn’t me.

I’ll keep trying, but I’m going to apply another word to my efforts.

Zenobia Southcombe, who reminded me of this concept, has chosen her One Word, and I like it so much I think I’ll adopt it too.

So there, I have decided, my One Word for 2016 is going to be SPARKLE.

I think I can do that.

I love anything sparkly. By nature, I’m an upbeat, optimistic sort of person. Yet life and circumstances can get me down and I can seem anything but upbeat and optimistic sometimes, so that’s why I think I’ll choose SPARKLE.

If I keep that One Word front and centre in my life this year, perhaps my true nature could shine through the difficult times more readily. If I could add a little SPARKLE to everything I do, do it with a lighter touch, a lighter spirit, a brighter word, a cheerful attitude, perhaps I could add some SPARKLE to the life of those around me, help them feel better in the tough times too.

~~~

What about you?

If you were to choose one word to keep in focus for 2016, what would it be? or …

What will it be?

Your One Word?

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Do, please, share your One Word in the comments.

Why did you choose that One Word?

~~~

Christine Campbell, author and blogger.

http://author.to/ChristineCampbell

 Family MattersMaking it HomeFlying FreeHere at the Gate

Searching for Summer Traces of Red – Rusty Gold (Coming soon)

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