The A-G-E of Reading and Writing

We all learn the A-B-C of reading and writing at an early age. And what joy it can bring. Once we have learned to read, we can be transported to far-away lands, meet giants and goblins, princes and kings — all through the written word. We can learn about orthinology, quantum physics, gardening, trams or trains — whatever interests us, we can find out more about it because we have learned how to decipher the A-B-C of the written word.

For many, the joy of reading leads us to want to be the ones who write the stories others may want to read. And, again, whatever it is we are passionate about or wish to communicate, we can convey through the A-B-C of the written word.

So what about the A-G-E of reading and writing?

Well, let me just say, I am delighted to be included in the BFOR BLOG BLITZ though my offering for today is more about writing BFOR than reading them. And if this is your introduction to BFOR, I’ll tell you what it stands for:

BFOR is the acronym for Books for Older Readers and Books for Older Readers is a website and a Facebook group established in October 2017 by author Claire Baldry to promote books with older protagonists or themes such as ‘second chances’, which can particularly appeal to readers in mid-life or beyond. If you haven’t yet discovered the website or the Facebook group, I’d really urge you to take a look.

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I’d particularly like to write about Books for Older Readers – Written by Older Writers.

We all know authors come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and genders, as do their readers. An older writer will not only read or write about older people.
But is there any advantage in writing the A-G-E of your generation? Does it add authenticity to the writer’s ‘voice’ to write about a generation they have experienced?

Do older writers have an advantage over their younger colleagues when writing about older protagonists?

Younger authors must write from observation. Older authors, from experience.

An older writer has experiencing each stage of human life, from being a child, a teenager, a young adult, possibly a spouse and a parent, all the way to the later years of life, when the goalposts have been shifted so many times they are almost out of sight.

As an older writer myself – I think being 72 qualifies me to call myself ‘older’ – I have lived through all those stages, and have found, not only new goalposts, but a whole new pitch.

The journey from child to adult

planning a future, setting goals

college

work

marriage

children

homeschooling

weddings

empty nest syndrome

grandchildren

loss of loved ones

declining health

the vicissitudes of ageing

The things I have not experienced myself – like divorce, continuing singleness, and childlessness – I have experienced second hand while supporting friends and family who are/have lived them.

And this is where I get to my main point:

That is a lot of life experience to draw on when writing a novel.

It involves a lot of worry, a lot of pain, a lot of joy – a lot of life!

Surely the older writer must benefit from that when writing about older protagonists?

I can’t speak for other writers, but I know I go through every emotion with my characters. When they laugh, I laugh, when they cry, I cry, in the hopes my readers identify with the characters and the situations. I still feel passion, and I certainly feel pain in my daily life.

So, what do you think – is that an advantage when writing books that might particularly appeal to older readers?

I hope so because I’m about to publish yet another book with older protagonists, some of whom get their second chances.

😀  📚 😀 📚  😀 📚

If you want to find out more about any of my books, you can find them, ebooks here and paperbacks here.

Dog Training – a Short Story.

It’s cold and grey here in Scotland today. Perfect weather for cuddling up on the couch with a blanket and something to read, so I thought I’d help you out with a short story.
If you live somewhere warm and sunny, reading a short story while soaking up the sun can be rather pleasant too, especially if you have a cool drink to hand and your sunhat perched. 😎🤓📚😀
~~~
This short story won first prize at a conference for The Scottish Association of Writers, many moons ago, and it was where I first developed the character, Hugh, whose story I subsequently wrote in my novel, For What it’s Worth.
Being a short story, it is easily and quickly read, so I hope you enjoy it when you get a moment or two to chill.
If you want to read more of my work, you can find all of my published novels listed here on Amazon.

🐶

Dog Training

 

“Excuse me, sir. I’m afraid dogs are not allowed in the park without a lead.” The Park Keeper pointed to the sign.

“Ah, yes! I see that, but you see, the thing is …”

“The thing is, sir, your dog is fouling on my grass. There’s a penalty for that.” The Park Keeper pointed to the relevant notice. “Unless, of course, you use a pooper-scooper and dispose of the offending mess appropriately, sir.”

“Ah, yes! I see that too, but you see, the thing is …”

He reached into the pouch he wore across his body. “The thing is, sir, I have some plastic bags here for just such an occasion.” And he handed one over. 

“Ah, yes! I see. Plastic bag. Yes.” Hugh looked at the bag as though it was from outer space. “And what exactly?” He made a vague waving gesture with it.

“Never done this before, have we, sir.”

“No, actually. No, haven’t. Haven’t needed to really.”

“Ah! New to this area, are we?”

Hugh nodded, looking at the dog as it crouched on the grass adding to its offence. 

“Thought so. Standards, sir. It’s all about standards, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir. We like to keep our park up to a high standard. Litter, dogs’ mess, ball-games – these are the things that bring a park down, you know.”

“Quite, yes. Yes. I can imagine.” Hugh wrinkled his nose in distaste. “Thing is, don’t you know.” He still held the plastic bag at arm’s length. A look of puzzlement crossed his face when he looked at it.

“If I may, sir?” The Park Keeper took the bag from his grasp and walked across the grass to the offending pile. “Allow me to demonstrate the use of the plastic bag as a pooper-scooper.” And this he ably did. “One places one’s hand inside the bag, thus.” He demonstrated. “Pick up the poop, thus.” He did. “Turn the bag inside out, thus.” Again, accomplished expertly. “Thereby containing the mess within the bag, to be disposed of in the receptacle provided.” He indicated the bin at the end of the path.

“I say, well done.” Hugh applauded. “Donald, is it?” He gave a nod to the name badge on the Park Keeper’s jacket.

“Thank you, sir.” Donald beamed. When Hugh made no move to relieve the Park Keeper of the plastic bag of pooh, he walked across to the bin and demonstrated how it should be deposited. “Thus.”

Hugh nodded his understanding. “Yes. Yes. Quite. Now, the thing is, you see.”

“And now, sir. May I suggest you collect your dog and put it on its leash before any further mishap occurs?”

“Good idea. Yes. The thing is though …” Hugh raised his hands, displaying the lack of a dog leash.

“Ah, I see your problem now.” The Park Keeper clicked his fingers together. He reached into his pouch once more. “Fortunately, I carry this length of rope for just such an occasion.” He handed it to Hugh.

“Rope. Yes. I imagine you …” He held the rope out and wiggled it about a bit as though putting it through the dog’s collar.

“Exactly, sir. Now, if you’d care to call the dog.”

“Yes. Yes. See what you mean. Call the dog. Rover, don’t you know. Always called my dogs Rover. Ever since I was a boy. Got a puppy for my birthday.” Hugh smiled at the memory of waking to the warm, wet nose snuffling round his face. He’d wanted a dog so much, hadn’t dared to hope his mother would let him have one of his very own. He’d called him Rover, unable to think of a more original name. Continued to call it Rover even after realising, or, rather, being told, he was a she. “Old-fashioned now, I suppose. The name, I mean. Rover. Still, Mumsie has kept up the tradition, don’t you know.”

“Yes, sir.”

Hugh drew himself back from his thoughts and shook his head. “No matter. You see, the thing is …”

“If you’d care to call the dog, sir?”

Hugh could see Donald was getting edgy.

“This particular dog has been, ahem, irritating me, shall we say, on and off for days now. Never on a leash, trotting about as if it owns the park, cocking its leg where it will, digging in the flower beds.”

Hugh affected a look of understanding and sympathy.

“I’ve been watching out for you, sir, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to make clear the park rules concerning animals. “If you wouldn’t mind, sir?”

The dog was perilously close to a beautiful display of roses. In fact he was beginning to dig around them.

Hugh looked doubtful, but reluctantly co-operated with the request. “Rover! Erm, Rover!” he called self-consciously and ineffectually.

The Park Keeper smiled his encouragement.

Hugh tried again. “I say Rover, old boy, do come over here.” He tapped the rope against his leg.

The dog, a large black Labrador, disdained to come over anywhere, but began digging in earnest, putting the roses in serious jeopardy.

Hugh pursed his lips and attempted to whistle, not something he was ever good at, but something he always believed he would someday be able to do. He felt it was a requirement of a dog owner and had sought to perfect the technique since being given that first puppy, also a black lab as it happened.

The sound that came from his lips was thin and frail and the dog could be excused for ignoring it.

Hugh called again. The dog dug on. The roses toppled in the dirt.

“Not well trained,” Donald remarked through gritted teeth. “If you don’t mind my saying so, sir,” he said.

“No. No.” Hugh was eager to reassure the Park Keeper. “I don’t mind at all. Completely in agreement on that point. Has a will of his own, don’t you know.”

“Do you mind if I try?” The Park Keeper indicated his willingness to round up the dog. 

“Not at all,” Hugh said earnestly. “Be my guest.” And he handed over the coiled rope.

“May I suggest, sir, you go round that way?” Donald indicted one side of the shrubbery. “While I advance from this direction. That way we can perhaps cut off his escape.”

“By all means,” Hugh acquiesced. 

Labrador Retrievers are not by nature difficult dogs and Rover proved true to his breed, allowing himself to be rounded up and captured without much protest.

“Firmness, you see, sir,” Donald said with due pride. “They respond to firmness. Firmness of voice. You have to let them know who’s in charge.”

“Yes, absolutely. Yes. I see that. Thank you. Well done. Most Impressive.” Hugh knew it was true. Mumsie had often tried to goad him into being his dog’s master rather than its playmate. The role had never suited him and none of the dogs he’d owned over the years had been fooled by any attempts on his part to play it.

The Park Keeper dusted down his jacket and stood tall. “And now, sir, if you’d be so good as to remove the animal from the vicinity.” He handed the rope over to Hugh. “I’ll tidy up round the roses.”

“Yes. Yes. The thing is, you see …” his voice trailed off when he realised the Park Keeper was no longer listening. Obviously, as far as he was concerned, the matter was now satisfactorily concluded.

“I’ll fetch a rake,” he said.

“Yes, yes, of course. By all means,” Hugh agreed.

When Donald returned, he seemed surprised to find Hugh still there.

Hugh was sitting on a bench and the dog was far off, digging again at the same spot, the roses torn and scattered between its paws.

The Park Keeper drew a long breath between gritted teeth and bore down on Hugh. “Ahem!” He coughed. “Excuse me again, sir.”

“Oh, hello!” Hugh smiled. “Waiting,” he explained. “Waiting for my wife.” He looked at his watch. “Late.” He pulled a tolerant face. 

“The dog, sir?”

“Yes, yes. Still here, isn’t he.”

“I did mention before, sir, the necessity of a leash?”

“Yes. Yes. Absolutely! You see, the thing is.” Hugh raised his hand, still clutching the rope.

The Park Keeper’s eyes followed the length of the rope as it snaked across the grass all the way to the dog’s collar. “Ah, yes. I see. Not quite the spirit of the injunction, may I say, sir?”

“Well, I must say,” Hugh said as he stood up. “It’s been very nice speaking with you, quite, you know, quite, well, quite educational, in fact.” He waved to Yvonne. “Bit of a lesson in dog-handling, don’t you know. But now, I see my wife coming. So, if you don’t mind.” He handed the rope to the Park Keeper. “You see, the thing is, at this point in time, I don’t actually have a dog.”

~~~

Focusing on Vividness

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I found this quotation on Facebook the other day and have been mulling it over in my mind ever since. As a reader, I realise it is what I look for in a book too. I want to be able to identify with the characters, to see what they see, hear what they hear, smell what they smell, and so on through the senses. And yes, the authors who can help me do that are the ones I go back to time and again until I’ve read all the books they have produced.

They are the authors who achieve that vividness in their writing.

As a writer, I analyse as I read. I analyse how they achieve vividness, and try to emulate their methods in my own writing.

The readers among you might enjoy my findings and look for how the authors you read achieve that vividness, and the writers among you might enjoy to put my findings into practice as you work.

In simple terms, I found it is necessary to find and use appropriate descriptive words. As the quotation says, “Focus on trying to be good with vividness.” Remember, your goal is to help your reader see, hear, taste, smell and feel what your characters see, hear, taste, smell and feel. 

Music is one of the most evocative of mediums. It can be calming, relaxing, energising, make you feel elated, happy, miserable or sad. It can get you up on your feet to dance, or settle you to sleep in your bed. The beat can have you tapping your foot or clapping your hands. So how can a writer convey that in words?

When describing music or other sounds, I find it helps if I listen carefully with my eyes closed, and pay attention to how it makes me feel. I know that if I can’t feel it, it will be impossible to help my readers feel it.

What have you found helpful?

As a writer, what words would you use to convey a heavy beat – pounding, thumping, or drumming? Does it make you think of heavy rain? Hailstones? A gentle shower? Is it rhythmic or discordant? How are you going to describe that to your readers? What about the sound of water running? Will it whoosh, drip or dribble. You’ll want to find words to convey that.

How about this for an example of using the sound of hailstones? It’s from Makeshift Memories, my work in progress:

She had seen the hammers. Muckle great beasts. Not as the one her father uses to thump fence posts into hard earth, nor less as the one she uses to fix the wood to the stave when she aids in the work. What she saw as she sat beside Sheamus up at the waterworks were long, thick shafts with great iron heads the like of which she never did set eye upon afore. Having the picture of him sitting astride the rock with four strong men raining heavy blows on the tiny drill he held atween his legs was fearsome. Lying in her cot of a night of winter hail, listening to it heavy on the roof, coming down with a fierce speed, she sees in her dreams four hammers raining down to its tempo and she squirms and sweats in her covers.

Sometimes it’s good to start by describing a sound. Use onomatopoeia, not just to describe the actual sound. Use words that sound like it in your narrative. Let your readers hear what you hear. Let the sound take them on a journey.

Let me share another excerpt from Makeshift Memories, as an example:

Matt knows the route I like to take through the park and we walk through the reed beds on the squiggly boardwalk, built to traverse them like a long wiggly bridge. The wind swishes through the reeds, making them sing with a magical sound. “Listen,” I encourage him, stopping on the bridge. “Wh-o-o-sh! Who-o-o-sh!” I mimic the susurration, my voice hushed, soft and gentle as the air.

Close my eyes and I’m in Africa, standing in the back of a truck in savannah land, watching lemon grass sway, smelling it on the warm breeze. I’ve never been to Africa, but it doesn’t stop me imagining the scene. With little effort, Edinburgh’s dark, damp night turns to blazing African sunshine, clear blue skies stretch for miles, and I’m a million miles away enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back, allowing the breeze to whisk away the remnants of my earlier discomforts.

Do you see how, even before the sound is introduced, a word that sounds like it is used – the wind swishes. Then after the sound is described – Wh-o-o-sh! Wh-o-o-sh! – susurration, hushed, savannah, sway, whisk – all words that are reminiscent of the sound of the rushes. So many ‘s’ sounds! Try them out. Say them slowly in a hushed, drawn-out voice. Isn’t that fun? Can you ‘see’ and ‘hear’ the rushes sway in the wind? The sound transported Caitlin to the African savannah. Can you follow her? She was helped in that she and Matt were on their way home after watching the classic film, Out of Africa, but perhaps the sound helped you see, hear and smell something similar.

When wanting to describe something visual, imagine your pen as a paintbrush. Stroke words out of your keyboard. Coax them till they form the picture. Use words that are vivid, graphic, colourful, evocative.

When describing a yellow dress, it’s not enough to say it’s yellow. There are so many shades of yellow. Is it citrus lemon, sunshine gold, daffodil yellow, yellow neon? Each one is different, each one will show up in your reader’s mind when they read your description.

Here is an example:

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 georgette 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. ~~~ Rosanna from Gold Plated by Christine Campbell

Can you picture Rosanna’s dress? Pale, creamy-yellow, woodland primrose – their faded beauty – delicate – the colour soft as sunshine on a misty day – the buttery silk lining. Can you see the delicate colour it is? Can you feel the lightness of the material? Georgette material – gossamer thin – floaty, fluted layers. Can you almost feel the dress slip over your body to caress your skin?

We’ve referenced two of the senses we want to evoke in our readers – three, when you consider how Caitlin feels the sun on her back and the breeze on her skin, and how Rosanna’s dress feels as she touches it and as she slips it over her body.

Perhaps we can talk in the comments about the words we might use to convey the other senses – and perhaps in another blogpost at another time. 🙂

 

If you’d like to read how Rosanna vividly describes some of the other dresses she creates for herself and her friends, you can buy Gold Plated as paperback or ebook here.

And you can find eight other novels by Christine Campbell here.

~~~

Do You Like a Bargain?

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Hi everyone. Hope you’re all enjoying decent weather and are able to lie on the beach, curl up on the sofa, read in bed, or wherever and whenever you enjoy to read a good book.
Since I’ve reissued the kindle version of MAKING IT HOME, all spruced up and better than ever, I have arranged for a Kindle Countdown deal. Unfortunately it only works for those who can buy either on amazon.com or amazon.co.uk, but I hope that means a good few of you can benefit from the DISCOUNTED PRICES – 8TH SEPTEMBER to 14TH SEPTEMBER.
If you go to http://mybook.to/MakingItHome anytime from September 8th, you should be able to see the discounted price. For the first couple of days, it will be 99p or 99c, then £1.99 or $1.99, then £2.99 or $2.99
So, the quicker you get off your mark, the better the price.
Happy reading! 🙂

How Far Have You Travelled?

In this age of accountability tools and gadgets, and this way and that way to measure performance and increase productivity, sometimes it’s good just to sit back and reflect on how far you’ve travelled.

Occasionally, we get a reminder of the journey, and that’s what happened to me this week in regard to my writing and publishing.

Family Matters April 27th

It’s ten years since I published my first novel, Family Matters, in paperback in 2008, with Making it Home following in 2009. It wasn’t until Flying Free was published in 2013 that I started uploading my novels to Amazon Kindle to give my readers the opportunity to choose paperback or ebook format. I now have nine novels available in both.

That was a huge step in my publishing journey – the first building block of  an online presence. Next leap forward was starting this blog, then creating an author page on Facebook. I now even have a Facebook group as well. Step by step I am building my online profile as an author, and what a fun and rewarding journey it is.

But not a journey that has always been smooth.

After a while, I discovered that, although I uploaded a correctly formatted book to Amazon Kindle, depending which device my readers were using, there was sometimes a problem with how the formatting appeared. So I set about attempting to rectify the problem – with many false steps and frustrations. It wasn’t until Kindle Create, a formatting tool offered by Amazon Kindle, appeared on the scene that I was successful in my efforts.

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So I started with my newer books and have been working backwards reworking the formatting, book by book. Seven done, two to go. The one I’m working on at present is Making it Home – and that’s when I realised how far I’ve travelled!

Making it Home is still a great story, still receiving great testimonials and reviews:

“This was my first Christine Campbell book, I met Christine through a mutual Facebook group and when I found out she was an author I wanted to read one of her books. I think her writing voice is so lovely, like Kate and Dan and Phyllis and Naomi and the whole rest of the clan were people so similar to friends I have and want to have. Not every page was happy, there’s some heavy life moments! But also hope in equal measure. Loved it!!!”

“I really enjoyed the way in which author brings the women together and describes their developing friendship. They don’t become best buddies in a simple linear way. Their false starts and awkward moments reveal the complexity of friendships. While I was intrigued to discover the reasons behind Phyllis’ benevolence and Naomi’s isolation and depression, it was Kate’s story that really gripped me.
The theme of home is woven throughout the story in subtle, unusual and satisfying ways.
There is a gentleness, warmth and piercing honesty in Christine Campbell’s writing that both comforts and makes you think.”

But, back then, I didn’t know how to do things I automatically do now. Simple things like ‘page break’. No wonder my formatting was dodgy on this one! It will take me a little while to put it right, and meanwhile the book is still available in both formats. The paperback is unaffected by these issues, of course, since there is really only one ‘reader’ used by my paperback readers – eyesight – arguably the best of them all 🙂

How far I’ve travelled along this road of publication. I’ve learned so much since 2009 when Making it Home was published. Back then, I wasn’t sure about this new fangled thing called a ‘Kindle’. I wasn’t convinced it would catch on, that readers would not always prefer to hold a ‘proper book’ in their hands – and many still do, but I am so happy that I moved with the times and started publishing ebooks too. It’s been a fun journey, just like the writing journey I’m on and how far I’ve travelled along that.

I’ve been trying new things there too – For What it’s Worth, was the first book I wrote in first person, present tense, and I enjoyed it so much I did the same in my latest release, Gold Plated. And Gold Plated has been receiving great early reviews too:

“I started reading Gold Plated at 7 am this morning. And finished it late this evening. First book I’ve read from beginning to end in a single day in quite some time. I simply had to devour it!!! Thank you for an exquisitely entertaining read! A beautiful treatment of love, betrayal, and resolve where self-love triumphs ultimately.”

“Through life’s ups and downs this story was very enjoyable to read. I loved the different settings and how clearly I could see them along with the characters from the descriptive writing. Gold Plated is a perfect title and this book took me on a lovely journey into Rosanna’s life which is inspirational… I believe it’s never too late to start again, I will also now think differently when I hear something is gold plated. I highly recommend this to anyone wanting a good read.”

So, how far have you travelled? I’d love to hear about your journey, whatever it is and wherever it’s taken you. And if you want to see how far in my writing and publishing journey I’ve travelled, do read my latest novel, Gold Plated. I’m told the story is “A journey worth taking.”

~~~

Gold Plated Reading

Looking for a book to take to the beach? To read on the plane? Or to cosy on the couch with? Do you prefer a paperback copy? Something you can see in the sunshine, something that feels good in your hands?

Well, Gold Plated is now available in both paperback and ebook format. And according to the early readers of the ebook, it’s a great read. Perfect for summer or winter reading, whichever way you prefer to read.

 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, 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?

Is this the kind of book you’re looking for? A love story that spans five decades, but is under threat and may not survive any longer. One with this sort of recommendation? —

“An excellent story.”

“I was hooked from the first line.”

“I started reading Gold Plated at this at 7 am this morning. And finished it late this evening. First book I’ve read from beginning to end in a single day in quite some time. I simply had to devour it!!! Thank you for an exquisitely entertaining read! A beautiful treatment of love, betrayal, and resolve where self-love triumphs ultimately.”

“Loved it! What an enjoyable read!”

“Through life’s ups and downs this story was very enjoyable to read. I loved the different settings and how clearly I could see them along with the characters from the descriptive writing. Gold Plated is a perfect title and this book took me on a lovely journey into Rosanna’s life which is inspirational… I believe it’s never too late to start again, I will also now think differently when I hear something is gold plated. I highly recommend this to anyone wanting a good read.”

“I have just finished reading Gold Plated, and thoroughly enjoyed it.”

N.B. If, when you go to Amazon, you read that this book is ‘out of stock’, don’t worry. It’s never ‘in stock’. Amazon don’t ever store a stock of POD books. They are what the acronym indicates. They are Printed On Demand. So do go ahead and order the book. It shouldn’t take long to pop through your letterbox.

It is also possible to order Gold Plated through Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, FeedaRead or any good bookstore.

Enjoy!

 

Six Benefits of Journaling

When I was in my teens I had a five year diary. Every page for every day of the year was split into five sections, one for each of five years. Any five years. There were no days written on the pages, only numbers. No years written along the top, only spaces for me to fill in which years I used the diary for. The pages were edged with gold leaf and it was bound with bright red faux leather with a golden embossed pattern, a brass clasp and the cutest little padlock and key.

Nowadays, it might be called a journal because its purpose was to record thoughts and feelings rather than note appointments.

The diary itself was not very big, so the pages were not very big. The five sections were therefore rather small, with close-ruled lines so my writing had to be tiny – because I had much to say.

However, the benefits of ‘keeping a diary’ as I used to call it, or ‘journaling’ as I’d call it now, are huge. Just huge.

Let’s take a fairly light-hearted look at the benefits. I’m sure you can see they run deeper than that, but let’s not spoil the fun.

First benefit: it gives your pain a voice. We all need to be heard and we all need our pain to be heard – even if the only one to hear it is a red faux leather friend.

Life can be cruel sometimes. It can be unjust and mean. It trips you up and hits you while you’re down. But I’m sure you know that. Journaling about these injustices and rugby tackles lets you complain without judgement.

And that’s the second benefit: the pages of a diary make no judgements. They don’t criticise your choices, they don’t nag you into action. They only listen without judgement. And that’s so often exactly what we need. Your diary doesn’t have a conscience nor does it need to act as yours unless you choose to let it. 

Third benefit: journaling voices your dreams, and in voicing them they can become intentions, and intentions can become goals, and goals can provoke actions. I wonder how many little girls wrote about their dreams to become a bride, a mother, a singer, a dancer, a gymnast, a teacher, an electrician or an astronaut. I wonder how many of their dreams came true. Once they saw it written there in pink writing on white paper, did they start to plan how they’d reach that goal? Or did the next section down, the next year’s entry, show a new dream in blue or green. The next in black or red. The thing with private journaling is – it’s just that. It’s private. Between you and your faux leather friend. So you can change your mind as many times as you wish with no one to call you fickle, no one to tell you your dream is unattainable. So it’s not. Everything you dream of can come true in that instance of putting pen or pencil to paper.

Another huge benefit, number four, is the opportunity to sound off at other people without offending them. You can say what you like about them, safe in the knowledge that little brass key is safely hidden in the little crack between the velvet lining and the shell of your little wooden jewellery box and covered by your bright pink popper beads.

Okay, who remembers popper beads? All the rage in the fifties, available in every colour you could ever imagine. You could mix them and match them, wear them in a long string or a short circlet. Ah, those were the days. Sigh. The innocence of believing they were chic. Sigh. Pop them together, the perfect fit – much as you and your red faux leather friend were.

Benefit number five: you can burn your journal when you’ve done with it and all the ugly words you used, all the disappointments and crushed feelings can be consigned to the flames. Then poof! They’re gone. Hopefully to be forgotten.

Bringing us to benefit number six: if not forgotten, you can always write about the same dreams, the same disappointments, the same hurts and injustices again if they still need to be heard. You can give your pain a voice in a new faux leather journal, with gold embossed pattern and cute little padlock and key.

Nowadays, I find cheap exercise books are easier to dispose of, not so pretty, so it pains me less to see them burn. 

The thing is – there’s no end to journaling until you feel no need for it.

And, if you really can’t part with that little red faux leather friend, you could always write in code, like one of my characters in Family Matters, the first novel I ever published. No doubt David knew his code, but it caused a problem for his mother when she tried to get to know him through his diary after he died.

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Family Matters is available as a paperback or an ebook here on Amazon

And all of my books can be found here

Happy reading, happy writing and happy journaling.

~~~

10 Things I Hate About Writing

We were on a family holiday this past week and I had the joy of having my nails painted by my granddaughter, my exercise routine sorted out by two of my sons, family meals around a long, large table, and so very much besides – including glow sticks, toasted marshmallows and crackers. We had fun in the garden and fun in the lake and the joy of cosying round the fire to watch a film with our children and grandchildren.

The film we watched was ’10 Things I Hate About You’ and it gave me the idea for a poem to go on this blog post. Like the film, it’s a bit of fun. Enjoy!

10 Things I Hate About Writing

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I hate it that I love to write

more than I love to play

I hate it that it takes up much 

of every single day

I hate my writing follows me

everywhere I go

I hate how even while I sleep

a story seems to grow

I hate how everyone I meet 

becomes a character of mine

I hate they each seem well equipped

with ready storyline

I hate it that the more I write

my vocabulary grows

I hate it when the right word comes

oh, how my story flows

I hate I always want to write

I hear its daily call

I hate my writing means so much

I don’t hate it at all

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And I hate writing so much, I have suffered through the publishing process 9 times now! What a chore! Nine novels! Sigh! How I suffer for my art 😦

You can find all nine books here on Amazon

including my latest release

Gold Plated

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?

Available now in ebook format and coming soon in paperback.

Five Questions Answered

It was my pleasure to be interviewed by fellow author and blogger, Killarney Traynor, this week.

https://www.killarneytraynor.com/the-blog/five-questions-for-christine-campbell

To Be or To Do? That is the Question.

I read an article by Richard Branson. It took the form of an open letter in which he invited his readers to cultivate happiness and claimed he isn’t happy because he’s successful, wealthy and connected – but is successful, wealthy and connected because he’s happy. Now, while I’m not convinced that’s always the order of things, I do believe being a happy person can draw a measure of success to you.

Quoting Branson: “So many people get caught up in doing what they think will make them happy but, in my opinion, this is where they fail. Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being. In order to be happy, you need to think consciously about it. Don’t forget the to-do list, but remember to write a to-be list too. If you allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment, happiness will follow. Because allowing yourself just to be, puts things into perspective. Try it. Be still. Be present.”

Now, while that’s a lovely sentiment, it’s also the words of a very rich, successful man. These words may be harder to apply if you are poor and hungry and struggling to feed your kids. Too many people have to do two, three or more jobs just to keep a roof over their family’s head and food in their bellies. The idea of stopping to ‘be in the moment’ may be foreign to them.

We are created, not just to be, but also to do. When created, mankind were given the mandate to subdue and cultivate the earth, to extend the borders of paradise. And they were promised happiness while doing it. They disobeyed and it all went terribly wrong, but there is still happiness in hard work. It hasn’t altered the fact we were created to do, not just to be. The secret is to find the balance.

There’s something about the satisfaction of working hard, of putting that food on the table, of keeping that roof over your head: the feel-good factor.

To put it simplistically: Working to feed your family raises self-respect. Working to make your fortune raises expectations, followed by disappointment when reality fails to match them. Working for the sake of working raises stress levels – and perhaps that’s what Branson meant. If work is for the sake of it, or for the goal of success and fortune, it might be time to take his advice and take that moment.

I particularly like part of his conclusion: “Happiness shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a habit. Take the focus off doing, and start being every day. Allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment. Take the focus off everything you think you need to do, and start being.”

After reading the article, I spent quite a bit of time sitting in the garden, in the sunshine, just being. I took the moment, I appreciated the moment, I took the focus off everything I thought I should be doing and just let myself relax and be present in my life. It felt good. A feeling I often have because it’s something I often do. I’m blessed in that I don’t have to do multiple jobs to feed my family. I don’t have to work all day until I’m exhausted. I have time to take my moments. And I’m grateful for that.

In one of those moments, I got to thinking about all the opportunities I have and take to actually be present in my life, and realised they are many. Every morning, I stand at my bedroom window, look out at the day and say thank you for it and for my life. I am happy. Often, later in the day, I pause in whatever I am doing to take a thankfulness walk around the garden. Because I’m happy. Before I eat, I pause to say thank you for my food and think about how blessed I am to have it. And there are many other times during the day when I am consciously ‘present’ in my life. And consciously happy. But more often than not, it’s not because I’m just being, but because I’m busy doing.

One of the things I like to be busy doing is writing. I love writing. I find it satisfying work. It may not ever take me rich and famous, but it does make me happy.

Thinking about my writing, I realise that I gave Rosanna, the main character in Gold Plated, satisfying work to do, and it made her happy. Her painting and her dressmaking are not just hobbies: there have been times in her life when she has earned from them. And she has been happy and fulfilled doing so. But I also gave her ‘a moment’ here and there too. Let her tell you about one of them:

~~~

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The walk down to the little wooden jetty I can see ahead of me is glorious. A few steps from the cabin, the path becomes dappled with the shade of the many trees beside it, their leaves having already covered it in gold. I love the scrunch of them under my boots. The only other sound is of the many birds who live in those trees. Or perhaps they’re visiting, like me.

There is a rich, musty smell. An earthy smell, mixed with warmth trapped by the canopy of trees. A faint rustling of woodland creatures scampering for cover as I invade their territory. I step with a light tread, having no desire to disturb them.

I’ve tried to imagine the joy, the luxury of sitting by the banks of some stream or loch, lost in thought, with nowhere else to be, nothing else to do, and, while I could see how that could be welcome if you were a particularly busy person in your day-to-day life, I could never see how it would be different from my day-to-day life, where I am pretty much left to my own devices much of the time.

But it is different. The air smells different. Laden with wafts of wet vegetation, rich earth, sunshine and water. If asked, I would not have thought water has a smell, but it does. When it’s an open loch of fresh, sparkling water, it smells of all good things, tingling my nostrils and making me smile. I close my eyes and fill my lungs with it.

The sound of the water lapping against the wood of the jetty, the sparkle of the sun on water, the feel of the air, fresh and cool on my face, the need for patience and stillness – both qualities come easily to me – it is all wonderful, peaceful, satisfying. I thought I’d do a lot of thinking, but I find I don’t. Not the thinking I need to do, anyway. Instead, I allow my mind to wander across the loch to ramble in the fir trees on the opposite bank. I can make out a wee track going through them and climbing the hill behind, and I imagine myself walking there, scrambling up the hill to look over the top. As is the way in Scotland, there’ll be more hills beyond the ones I can see, layer upon layer of heather-clad slopes. Easy to get lost without a map or a compass, just as I am lost in my personal life – without map or compass. Right now, it’s pleasant to let my mind drift on the wind, caring nothing about being lost. Time enough to find the right path home.

~~~

Gold Plated is available now on Amazon Kindle and will be available soon in paperback.

~~~

Where and when do you find time to just be? To cultivate happiness?

I have to say, I enjoyed the few minutes I took after reading that article.

Then I took three deep breaths, savoured happiness for another few moments before getting back to the housework and my writing – things I not only needed, but also wanted to do. Because they make me happy.

~~~

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