Introducing a Revamp

We all know that hard work generally brings the best result. You can only get out of something what you put into it, can’t you?

And, of course, that’s no different for writers.

If we want to get better at it, it isn’t just about writing more and more words, it’s about studying how to write, reading about writing, reading the work of other well-acclaimed authors, putting in the hours, weeks and months of hard work editing and polishing. Writing the first draft of a story is often the easiest part. In my experience, it is always the easiest part.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about how my writing has developed and, I like to think, improved over the years I’ve been working at it. I’ve certainly put in a lot of hard work. So I went back to the first book I published and cast a critical eye over it. I was pleasantly surprised with how happy I was with the development of the story. But still, I published Family Matters as a paperback in 2008, followed that up with the eBook in 2013 – so – time for a revamp.

I decided Family Matters needed a new cover, then a bit of fine-tuning. I asked my artist daughter-in-law, Michelle Campbell, to come up with some art for the cover. Once again, she didn’t disappoint. I love the new cover she designed. It’s more modern and relevant to the subject matter – subject matter that I scrutinised and checked until I felt happy.

Next step? I thought I’d share the result with you in the following video. If you haven’t read Family Matters, perhaps you’ll enjoy the excerpt I’ve included.

Thanks for watching, folks. Hope you enjoyed the video. Hope you enjoy the book.

Here’s the link if you wish to purchase it or to READ IT FOR FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

And the link to my Amazon Author Page if you’d care to check out my other books.

Thank you.

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Why not share in the comments what you think of the cover? Or the book?

And do share your stories of the hard work you put into the things you do.

Do you think hard work does pay off?

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Food in Fiction – Part 4 – Guest Post…

It has been a joy writing as guest on The Story Reading Ape’s blog. Thank you, Chris, for the opportunity.

If you didn’t catch the earlier posts in the series, you can read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three by clicking on the links.
To round up the mini series of Food in Fiction, I’ve given you a peek into one of my WIP, For What it’s Worth, with an excerpt that I hope helps you get to know the two main characters in a scene where food is the star of the show.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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In this, the fourth and last article on the topic of Food in Fiction, I thought I’d let you into a badly kept secret.

Having been married since forever and having brought up a family of five, I can cook – but I wouldn’t say I was good at it. Perhaps that’s why none of the main characters in my novels have been great cooks. I’ve had my share of disasters too, though not ever on the scale of Hugh’s in my WIP, For What it’s Worth.

By the time she turned into the communal stair of the flats, Sandra had built up a fair head of steam in her boiler, fuelled by the indignity she suffered at work set against the memory of Hugh lying warm and sleepy in their bed when she left him this morning and sitting with his feet on the coffee table all day…

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The Shopping Habit

 

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One definition of ‘addiction’ is ‘the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something’ and this definition brings one of life’s pleasures to mind: shopping.

I don’t think I’m actually addicted to shopping, but I do believe I could easily become addicted, given the chance. Living in the country, miles from any shops, is a help or a hindrance depending on your point of view. I think it’s a help, but if someone wants to throw some spare cash my way, I’m willing to test the theory.

What is decidedly not helpful to a shopping addict is the advent of internet shopping. A while back, when I was driving north with He Who Prefers Not To Be Named, I noticed an enormous, huge, ginormous Amazon warehouse had been built within ten miles of our home, ‘Just for us,’ we agreed. We are both seriously addicted to buying books on Amazon. It is just too easy. However, I have curbed my need for the services of the said warehouse: most of my Amazon purchases now are eBooks.

Research shows that many people buy things they don’t need, some buy things they don’t even want and most of these folks are a bit concerned about their shopping habits, some admitting they are ‘addicted’ to shopping.

In the developed world, merchandisers play to this addiction. Millions of Pounds, Dollars, Euros and Yen are spent every year on advertising. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.

Advertisers play on our emotions, telling us we deserve more and better than we have, assuring us that our life will be enhanced if we buy their products. It rarely turns out to be that way. In the words of an exceptionally wise man: Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses. (Luke 12:15) and another wise man: A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

No wonder many shopping addicts are concerned about their shopping habit. They may well have come to the same conclusion – that it is just not bringing them satisfaction. But how to cure the addiction? Often professional help is needed. Identifying the underlying problem is necessary. Having a supportive friend or relative is helpful.

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Several things inspired me to write my novel, ‘Making It Home’.

Being just a teeny bit addicted to shopping was one. The thing is, I can live fine without it until I’m there, in the shopping mall or on the High Street, then I feel as though I’ve failed some test or other if I go home empty-handed. And I know I sometimes fall into the category of buying things I like but I don’t actually need. I mean, do I really need yet another ‘wee top’?

What is it about shopping that gets me?

My addiction is under control now, though it was never a serious problem. In my case, it wasn’t need or loneliness, but it was dissatisfaction with my looks and my figure. I had lost my sense of identity while raising our children and hadn’t found it again yet. I was constantly looking for that perfect dress, the one that would make me look tall and slim, those perfect jeans that would not only be comfortable but would make me look young and vital, that special wee top that would make me feel young and pretty again.

In analysing that, I got caught up in the idea of writing a story about someone who – unlike me, I hasten to add – just couldn’t stop buying things even when the money had well and truly run out. I thought it would be interesting to explore what her underlying problems could be and help her find some help to deal with them.

The discovery of a deceased relative’s secret addiction to shopping was another inspiration, albeit a sad one. Who knew Auntie J was filling her home with purchases she had no use for, filling cupboards and rooms with unopened carrier bags, receipts dating years back still inside them with the items she’d bought: the overwhelming sadness of her loneliness clearly unabated by hundreds of shopping trips? Who knew? Childless and widowed years before, she lived far from extended family and had few friends, mostly by choice, being a very private person. Reluctant to visit or be visited, her secret was only discovered when her home had to be cleared for sale after her funeral.

I used my overwhelming sadness to tell a little of Auntie J’s story in my novel, Making it Home, allowing a fictional character to carry her secret and share her loneliness. I like to think she might have enjoyed the alternative ending.

Making It Home

41C9fKLVtzL._UY250_ Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it – or in her marriage. So she left them both.
Phyllis had a home – and her heart was in it – but she wanted something more. So she shopped.
Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear. So she shopped.
They found one another in a department store in Edinburgh.
The trouble with ‘retail therapy’ is, you can overdose.
As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.

Christine Campbell Amazon Author Page

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What about you? How do you feel about shopping: love it or hate it? Do you know what compels you to shop, or is it something you have to force yourself to do when you need a particular item? Please share your shopping thoughts and stories, good or bad, in the comments. I’d love to read them.

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Oops, I’ve done it again!

In August, I wrote about Tunnel Vision, about emerging from a tunnel and seeing all the things that had been hidden from view. If you read the post before or if you have followed the link and have just read it, you will know that I was talking about how engrossed I get when writing a new novel.

Well, I’ve done it again!

I couldn’t resist taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Once again, that meant writing a new novel – well, the first draft of one, anyway. The target is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, a daily average of 1,667 words for thirty days. ‘Since I’ve managed to adopt the habit of writing every day since February, how hard could it be?’ I asked myself. The answer? Only as hard as I make it. So I decided to plan this new novel out and get to know my characters pretty well before I embarked on the actual writing on November 1st. That really helped. Throughout the month, I was never lost. I always knew where my story was headed – or I thought I did.

Right at the end of the month, my main character seemed to develop a mind of her own and she decided to take me in another direction. I guess she didn’t like the ending I’d planned, and in one pivotal conversation with another character, the story swung off my carefully plotted route.

Now, remembering I’m already in that tunnel, already have tunnel vision, but the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel has been growing bigger and brighter for days. Suddenly, the light felt like an oncoming vehicle instead of the way out of the tunnel. Could I avoid crashing? Would this be the end of the road for my novel?

Don’t be silly. Of course not. We writers can’t let our characters totally take over. They need us to guide them. They may think they’re in charge. We may even talk about them as though they are. But they are not. They are our creations. We are in charge.

I hope you heard the stern tone in my voice there, because that’s the tone I took when I sat down with Rosanna – yes, that’s her name, this wayward character in my latest novel, Gold Plated. We sat down with a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of cake and sorted this thing out. Okay, she wasn’t comfortable with the original plan, but I wasn’t happy with the direction she looked like taking. It couldn’t lead to the destination I’d had in mind from the outset. One of us had to give, didn’t we? Or could we compromise? Could Rosanna have her say, speak her mind as she just had and still get back on track?

Of course she can. I’m in charge, remember. It’s up to me to bring her round by carefully constructing a wee diversion that allows us both to feel happy with the outcome. And that’s what I did, bringing in the first draft of Gold Plated at 59,000 words by the 30th November, just as I emerged from the tunnel.

It’s only the 1st of December, so I’m still blinking in the light, but I see I have neglected this poor old blog again. I owe it an apology. I’d love to think someone might have missed me.

So, back on track. Still fleshing out Gold Plated, but with a little less intensity so there’s time and energy for all the other writing-related projects I delight in, including the final edit of For What it’s Worth the spin-off of The Reluctant Detective Series I was writing. My lovely daughter-in-law, Michelle, has almost finished painting a gorgeous cover for it and soon I hope it will be all systems go for publication.

What fun we writers have 🙂

Did you have a go with NaNoWriMo this year? Do tell me in the comments how you got on.

Or have you read any good books lately? Ones that take you off into that glorious tunnel of trees, where everything is beautiful but you can hardly see anything outside it – the dishes, the ironing, the cat’s empty saucer …

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You can read Christine Campbell’s books for FREE with Kindle Unlimited, or buy them in eBook or paperback format here on Amazon.

Food in Fiction – Part 3 – Guest Post…

My thanks to Chris Graham for featuring the third episode of my Food in Fiction series on his blog.
For writers: have you thought of using food as a central character in your stories?
For readers: how many books have you read where food played just such a role?

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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In the first two articles on this subject, we gave some thought to scenes in novels we’ve read where food played an important role, and how their attitude to food can reveal things about your character’s character. We looked at some examples, and talked about how important food is in our lives and, by extension, the lives of fictional characters.

I thought it would be interesting to think now about food as a central character in its own right. For instance, in Chocolat by Joanne Harris, chocolate plays the most important role. Without it, there would be no story.

When an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynaud denounces her as a serious moral danger to his flock – especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self-denial. As…

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Book Review: Courting the Countess by Anne Stenhouse

A book review by Anne Stormont of ‘Courting the Countess’, a regency romance by Anne Stenhouse – yes, two Annes for the price of one 🙂
“The dialogue is, as always, to the fore and fairly crackles and zings,” Anne says. I like that. And I’m not surprised by it because Anne Stenhouse, the author of this book, is also a playwright.
Type of read (according to Anne): In an Edinburgh New Town hotel or residence, but failing that, in your own living-room, curtains drawn, on your chaise longue by a roaring log fire and a do-not-disturb sign on the door.
This one is on my To Be Read list. I’m itching to read it but I try to read books in the order I buy them. What about you? Is that how you do it? Or do you allow your books to jostle for position and settle down on the couch with the front runner? Do tell in the comments below.
Maybe this is one that will be in the jostle 🙂

Put it in Writing

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Regular readers of my book reviews will know that crime and contemporary fiction along with the occasional work of non-fiction are my main areas of choice when it comes to reading. But historical fiction by this particular author will always get my intention. I’ve read, enjoyed and reviewed all her previous books and all are full of romance, wit and great period detail.

So I knew the chances were I’d also enjoy her latest novel and I certainly did.

But even if I’d not read this author’s previous books, the chances are I’d have been sufficiently intrigued by the premise behind this Regency romance to give it a go. In an interview on Rosemary Gemmell’s blog which you can read here, Anne Stenhouse explains that the idea for Courting the Countess arose out of a writing competition entry she did. The competition brief was to come up…

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Food in Fiction – Part 2 – Guest Post…

Delighted to be featured as a guest again on Chris, the story reading ape’s blog, with the second installment of how food can be used in fiction.
As a writer, I find it seeps into my stories a lot. My characters seem to enjoy it. 😊
What about you? Do you like to read books that show real characters with appetites like ours? Does it add flavour to your reading material?

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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Food can play many different roles in fiction writing. It can set a scene, tell much about a character, even become a player in the story. Since it’s important to engage as many of the reader’s senses as possible, food can be a very useful tool in the author’s toolbox since food description can involve sight, sound, texture, taste and smell – all five of the senses. A real bargain package.

According to The Good Food Guide:

“Childrens literature makes for rich pickings when it comes to culinary descriptions: theres moment after juicy moment in Dahls Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or James and The Giant Peach.

The description of Amys ‘pickled limesin Louisa May Alcotts Little Women – ‘plump and juicy’ in their moist, brown-paper parcelwith their delicious…

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Writing: What’s in it for me?

Let me introduce you to Anne Stormont, fellow Scot, author and storyteller.
Here is how she describes herself:
“I’m part subversive old bat and part kind-hearted grandma. I write novels for the thinking, mature woman. And I also write for children, as Anne McAlpine.”
You’ll find Anne here: https://putitinwriting.me/
I reblogged this article because I relate to it so well. Like Anne, I find I am constantly surprised and delighted by what I find out about my characters as I develop them and about life in general as I tell their story.
But I’ll let Anne tell you all about it. She puts it so well.
Over to you, Anne.

Put it in Writing

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It’s a journey and I never know quite where I’m going to end up

For me, for my life in general, writing has always been a problem-solving kind of activity. If I’ve anything on my mind I always find writing it down helps.

It could be something as simple as a to-do list. I do like lists. I make lists about lists and my desk has been called ‘post-it’ city.

If there’s something I need to think through or work out a plan of attack for, then a mind-map or a set of bullet points put down on paper is the way to go. If something is making me anxious, going round and round in my head and is threatening to prevent me from sleeping then simply jotting it down in my bedside notebook, to be attended to in the morning, is enough to allow me to drop off.

But…

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4 Plot Pitfalls You Need to Avoid – ProWritingAid

Okay! So it seems I need to go back to the current draft of my WIP brandishing a large red pen!

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 Some great suggestions in this article, along with the comments from my beta readers, have made me re-examine my plot. I now know why there were parts that felt sluggish to my readers and to me, and what I think I’m going to do about them.

This article was published on the ProWritingAid website on April 16th, 2016,  written by Kathy Edens, a blogger, ghost writer, and content master who has extensive experience helping clients reach their readers with compelling and engaging material. You can find Kathy at www.kathy-edens.com

I’m so pleased I stumbled upon the article.

It’s so hard to ‘kill your darlings’, as William Faulkner and Stephen King would have us do. I knew there were scenes in my WIP that didn’t fulfil two important criteria: to move the plot along or to develop the characters.

Strike one!

But I like those scenes. There is some great writing in them: some clever, witty dialogue, some great observations on life, some handsome metaphors. But the story could live and thrive without them. One of my trusted beta readers (she’ll know who she is :-)) tactfully pointed them out when she said I didn’t have her whole attention at some points in the story – backing up my intuitive feeling.

Strike two!

Then I read this article. “If a character with a subplot isn’t absolutely vital to the denouement, use that red pen,” Kathy says.

Strike three!

I’d already deleted part of one character’s involvement. Now I think more the rest of her part needs to go.

There’s another character, Elouise, who I know I shall keep, but I don’t need to tell her story. This is not her story. It is Yvonne and Hugh’s story. She can play a part in it, but it is not about her, much and all as Elouise would like it to be.

“Think of it this way,” Kathy says. “Don’t kill your darling; simply move her to a new novel as the main character.”

Elouise is a great character and her story is interesting, so I shall delete those scenes in this WIP and use them in the novel I already planned to write about her at another time. I know she’ll be pleased to have a novel all about her. She’s that kind of girl. Win/win.

What fun editing can be when you listen to the wisdom of others who know the craft, and you find the courage to take their advice.

Okay, so this is all very well to talk about in theory, now I have to see if I can go through with it. Where’s that red pen? Gulp!

What about you? Is this article helpful to you? – well, I know, you’ll have to read it first, but after you do, why not let me know in the comments?

I’d love to find I’m not alone in this.

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Over to you Kathy …

We’re going to spend a little bit of time on plot this month—talking about what NOT to do. Sometimes it’s hard to see plot problems while you’re writing and you don’t notice them until the end. This will send some writers into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Others will white-knuckle their way through half-hearted revisions. Here are a few common plot pitfalls and what you can do to rectify them.

Source: 4 Plot Pitfalls You Need to Avoid – ProWritingAid

Food in Fiction – Part 1 – Guest Post…

When Chris, The Story Reading Ape, sent out the invitation for writers to guest on his blog, I felt it was too good an opportunity to miss. Chris is so supportive of other writers and bloggers, and so well loved and respected by them, it is a great honour to be featured by him, and one I am very grateful for.
The invitation was to write four family-friendly articles, so I have chosen to write about the role food plays in fiction. I mean – what could be more family-friendly than food?

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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When writing a novel, it is important for us, as authors, to know our characters well. We need to know much more about them than we directly reveal to our readers. With that background knowledge of them, their makeup, their likes and dislikes, we hope that our readers will deduce a lot about them from how we make them behave in the story we weave.

We need to know whether the hero would have a soft centre. If he is an all action, gun-toting, rough and ready cowboy, it might be terribly out of character for him to fondle the cat, or cuddle the kitten. Then again, it might not be. If we don’t know that about him before we write his story, how can we portray him with understanding and make him so real our readers will feel they know him too.

There are many factors we can consider…

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