What do you Listen to?

Sleep does not come easily to me. It’s been that way for a long time but as I get older I crave it more, so I am making a concentrated effort to do something about the situation. Working with a terrific Brain Health coach, Andrea Wilkinson, I am making progress. I have enrolled for Andrea’s Brain Vitality Blueprint course and am over half-way through. I can highly recommend it for anyone who wants to live Phase 2 of their lives with maximum vibrancy and energy.

I didn’t do the course to sort out my sleep pattern, but that’s just one of the benefits I’m finding from following the blueprint. It’s challenging my mindset to cope with an alternative reality: one where I manage stressful situations with more ease, and have more energy and motivation to work on my aspirations and goals.

While helping me find ways to sort out my sleep pattern, Dr Andrea said it was important to turn off all screens – mobile phone, tablet, computer or laptop in good time before getting ready for bed – and certainly no screens in the bedroom!

Surprisingly, this was something I very quickly got used to and I am coping fine without checking my email, Facebook, etc, last thing at night. In fact, I feel good about it. And I get to sleep earlier, so it was well worth heeding that advice. It works – as does having a morning routine, getting more exercise, drinking more water – all things Dr Andrea encouraged me to pay attention to.

Another suggestion was to listen to an audiobook while trying to get to sleep. I know a lot of people find that a helpful thing to do, but it didn’t work for me. I found it kept me awake. I didn’t want to miss anything. One way I tried to get round that was to listen to something boring, but that just irritated me. Then I hit on the idea of listening to one of my own books – not boring, but familiar, so I thought I wouldn’t mind falling asleep while it was playing. After all, I knew what happened next at any given point.

There was a rather pleasing reason why that didn’t work to send me to sleep – I found, to my delight, that I was enjoying my own writing too much. Please, don’t think me immodest when I say that, but truly, if I don’t enjoy reading my novels, how can I expect you to?

A huge, unexpected compensation for not being sent to sleep by my latest book is that it keeps giving me more ideas for the sequel I’m currently writing. Just little points that I can follow through on in the second book. It’s really helpful.

Now I don’t listen to be sent to sleep, I listen to be inspired. It’s great. I’ve written before about where my inspiration comes from, and here’s another to add to the list.

What do I listen to to get to sleep?

I listen to the silence.

Perfect.

What about you? Do you listen to audiobooks or music to help you fall asleep? Do you find inspiration in the things you listen to, whether books, podcasts, music or whatever else is out there to delight and tickle the ears?

You can find all my books as paperbacks or on Amazon Kindle.

Inspiration, is it a Relative Thing?

On digging through my blog archives, I recently came upon a post I wrote about inspiration. In particular, what inspired the first five of my novels up to, and including, Searching for Summer. I decided to update the post to include the rest of the Reluctant Detective Series since I had written and published two more novels to complete the series. So, that post ended up being about seven books.

Having written a further four, it’s time for a second inspiration ’round up’. You can read the first here, keeping in mind these posts are not about the books’ plots and content, but rather, what inspired me to write them. To find out more about each novel they’re all here as ebooks and here as paperbacks plus, there is even more information and photographs about their locations in my Facebook readers’ group, which you may request to join here.

After I finished writing the Reluctant Detective Series, I found some of the characters lingered in my mind, demanding I write their stories too. In particular, Mirabelle’s sister, Yvonne and her husband, Hugh. They hadn’t played a large part in Mirabelle’s story, especially Hugh, who hardly got any attention at all, yet their story was there in my mind to be written. I had done the background profiles. I knew the characters pretty well.

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Hugh is different from any character I’d written before. His ‘voice’ was strong in my head. He had been sadly neglected in the series, so I decided to develop his story in For What it’s Worth, along with the story of his marriage to Yvonne, making the inspiration for that book an internal one, an offshoot from the series, but not part of it, available as ebook and paperback.

The next novel I published was Gold Plated, the story of one couple’s Golden Wedding Anniversary party and all that it raked up. The idea came to me when my husband and I were thinking about our own approaching Golden Wedding Anniversary. We were reminiscing on our fifty years together and I got to thinking whether it would be possible for a couple to have reached such a milestone without their marriage being a happy one. You can find out more about this one here for ebook and here for paperback.

Then came A Mountain of Memories, the first of my novels to contain a historic strand woven into the contemporary story. We were returning from vacationing in the north of Scotland and, as we drove through The Pass of Glencoe, I mentioned to my husband that I’d like to set my next novel on one of the mountains we were passing. He suggested that I should set it on one we had climbed over fifty years ago. Seemed like a good idea, so that’s what I did, and the book is now available in ebook and paperback formats.

The most recent novel I have published is Rose & Laurie, set partly on the Island of Arran. It’s inspiration came from a long-ago conversation I had with a lady on a train. She told me her story, which in turn inspired a new story in my mind. Rose & Laurie is also available as ebook and paperback.

So there you have it, the different ways I come to write a novel.

And the ‘Relative’ in the blog title? Well it applies to Jessica Norrie, the cousin I never knew I had (see my last post here) and who is also a published author. She explained the inspiration for her first novel in a post over on her blog and you can see it here.

Goodness, what a lot of links I’ve given you to follow. Don’t say I’m not good to you. 😀 Enjoy your online adventure 😀

As a reader, do you like to know the genesis of a story? Let me know in the comments.

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?

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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

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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.

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Click here to buy Gold Plated on Amazon Kindle

Give yourself a treat!

Enjoy!

A Blank Page

This is not about THE Blank Page. The one every writer dreads, the one that stares back at you from screen or notebook, begging to be filled with winsome words.

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no matter where you find them

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No, this is a short story about A blank page. A different blank page. It is a short story in response to a writing prompt.

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A Blank Page

A short story by Christine Campbell

Justin stared at the blank page attached to his easel. Six-thirty in the morning and it was still blank. This was the seventeenth blank page he’d been confronted with since he rolled home from the pub last night with Steve’s remark ringing in his ears.

‘Gotta go,’ Steve said, downing his last mouthful. ‘Gotta put the finishing touches to my sketch for tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow?’

‘Yeah, exhibition time, remember? You’ve probably already submitted yours.’ He thumped Justin on the back and started putting his coat on. ‘Not like me. Always at the last minute. Can’t stop fiddling with the blessed thing, probably making it worse instead of better. Oh, to have your flair and natural talent. You don’t need to fiddle. Sketching seems to come easy to you as breathing.’

Justin smiled. It was true, he did find it easy. Give him a subject and in a few sweeps of a pencil, he had it captured.

He’d forgotten about the whole exhibition thing though, and contrary to Steve’s assumption, he had not submitted. He signalled the barman for another pint. No worries, he’d skip this one. It was only an art college exhibition.

Just as Steve moved off, he threw back the killer remark. ‘Wouldn’t care so much, but it’s fifty percent of this year’s final assessment. See ya!’

And he was gone.

Grief! So it was!

The memory of Professor Clarke standing in front of them trying to get their attention as they all packed up for home, shouting the information, waving a sheet of paper at them, telling them to take one as they went – it all came flooding back with the beer he swallowed.

He hadn’t bothered to read what was on the sheet of paper. All he remembered was, it wasn’t blank!

Finishing his pint too quickly, feeling its effects as he grabbed his coat and staggered to his rooms, he lunged into the flat and dived into the drawer where he’d stuffed the forgotten instructions.

Grief! Steve was right. Fifty dratted percent! Fifty! And it had to be ‘new work. Not seen or submitted previously.’ That put paid to one of the plans he’d hatched on his way home.

Seventeen failures later, he was staring at a blank sheet of art paper tacked to his easel, with nothing in his mind. Nothing! Nada! Rien!

He knew there were seventeen failures lying crumpled at his feet because he had started a new pad of eighteen sheets and here he was on the last one with nothing to draw. Another hour and he’d be too late to sneak it into the exhibition along with all the other last minute entries.

Closing his eyes, he could visualise the area he’d been assigned. A delightfully prominent spot, assigned to him as one of the Professor’s  favoured pupils, the rest of his year’s work already beautifully displayed there with just the right sized spot left expectantly, dead centre, for this most important piece of the year.

The piece he’d supposedly been working on all term.

The piece he hadn’t bothered to do, assuming he could rustle something up anytime, and what did it matter anyhow. It would be good enough. He was great at sketching – once he had the inspiration.

Inspiration, that fickle, flirtatious female had waltzed out the door as he’d staggered in last night.

And there it was.

A blank page.

And half an hour left.

He showered and changed into fresh clothes, stood at the easel again and summoned the fickle female.

This time she came at his call. Elated, he did what he had to do, gathered his things and rushed out the door, his coat flapping behind him as he dashed down the stairs out onto the street and made a crazy flight to the art college. Last of the last, he hung his work, stepped back and smiled. Sublime. Inspired. Unique. Perfect.

Standing well back, modesty forbidding him from flaunting his smugness, he watched the punters view his work, delighted that it drew so many comments, initiated so many conversations among them, caused so many to stand gazing at it, deep in thought, as he’d intended.

Even Professor Clarke had smiled and nodded his head, as though seeing for the first time the quality of his student.

Victory was his! Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Steve was speechless. ‘Wow! Don’t know how you do it. Always a shocker how far out the box your work is,’ what he eventually managed to get out.

The description Justin had pinned beside his work had invited the viewer ‘to interpret the work as he would – to allow the mind to wander where it would – to view his work as a catalyst to deep, meaningful pondering.’

Perhaps it should not have surprised him when the year assessment results were posted out, and, after ‘deep, meaningful pondering’, these were the marks Professor Clarke gave him for his inspired exhibit:

A blank sheet of paper.

A smaller, but equally empty page as the one he’d so proudly hung as the masterpiece of the exhibition.

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If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more of Christine Campbell’s writing, here is the link to her Amazon Author page and her published novels. And, if you prefer to read a paperback, here in the link for them.

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Let the seasons inspire you.

In a letter written to Reynolds from Winchester, in September, 1819, Keats says: ‘How beautiful the season is now–How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather–Dian skies–I never liked stubble-fields so much as now–Aye better than the chilly green of the spring. Somehow, a stubble-field looks warm–in the same way that some pictures look warm. This struck me so much in my Sunday’s walk that I composed upon it.’ What he composed was the Ode To Autumn

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,

For Summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,

Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;

Or by a cider-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft

The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

~~~

Autumn inspired Keats.

Perhaps it can inspire you too. What do you like about the season?

Fallen leaves: the crunch of them under your feet? The clouds, the smells, the sunsets or the chill in the air? Whatever it is, why don’t you write a poem, a story or a piece of prose and share it here?

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All Christine’s novels can be found here in Kindle or here in Paperback.