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.

~~~

7 Things I’d Like To Do

7 Things I'd Like To do

This is not a ‘Should Do’ list, it’s not a ‘Need To Do’ list, it’s not even a ‘To Do’ list. It’s an ‘I’d Like To Do’ list. There is a difference. A huge difference, I’m sure you’ll agree.

As I write, and as you read my list, I invite you to start one of your own. There are probably lots of things you’d like to find time to do too. Maybe mine will prompt you to think about them and do what I intend to do, which is, having listed them, I’m hoping to prioritise them – not making the top priority the thing that should be done, but making it the thing I want most to do. For me, that means the thing that will be most fun.  For you, that may mean the thing that will be most productive, most cost effective, most efficient, most useful. You decide your priority. Mine is always fun-related in this sphere.

The method I plan to use to decide priority will be to ask myself questions. Please feel free to adapt those questions to similar ones that will be useful to you.

I’m writing things in the order they come to mind, so my list is bound to change in priority as I write. Yours probably will too.

As a writer, my list is about writing-related activities. Yours might be about something else. Your gardening activities, artistic endeavours, cooking projects, craft projects, whatever. What I invite you to do is to think about projects related to your work or hobby that you haven’t been getting around to doing but you’ve been thinking you’d like to try sometime.

So here goes:

Number One: The project that triggered this whole chain of thought.

I downloaded Scrivener ages ago, but have never taken the time to learn how to use it. For those of you unfamiliar with Scrivener, it is designed to make a writer’s work easier, to keep research, notes, ideas, notions, and drafts of work all in one place and easily accessible – once you know how to use it. By all accounts, it is not particularly simple to learn.

So, am I willing to take time out from other projects to become familiar with the program? Will the time spent doing that be offset by the time saved later? Since the way I write now is comfortable, how much discomfort am I willing to endure to reap any presumed benefits from the program?

The answers lead me to think, ‘No.’ At the moment, although at the top, Scrivener is going to the bottom of my list. It could be rescued by your comments and observations on the subject, should you choose to share your experiences with the program.

Number Two: There is a menu bar that runs along the top of this blog, with different categories for my writing, crafting and other exploits. It has been far too long since I updated any of the categories there. Far too long, and I’d love to take the time to do that updating.

Why have I not kept it updated as I needed to? Too late to worry about the answer to that question now. I try not to think in terms of ‘should haves’. It will now be time-consuming to do the updating. Am I willing to take that time out from other projects?

Yes, I do believe I am, but not as a high priority. I think I’ll slip it just above Scrivener.

Number Three: I wrote a series of invitation blogposts a few years ago. It was about Food in Fiction. I also wrote a series about Music in Fiction. I would like to develop them into a series of ebooks to share on Amazon Kindle.

Am I willing to give them research time to enrich and complete them? Am I willing to take time out from my other projects?

Again, the answer is, ‘Yes.’ Higher priority than the menu project.

Number Four: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is fast approaching. I love participating: love the discipline of pushing myself to write 50,000 words in the month of November, the first draft of a brand new novel. That means taking time in October to decide on a project, do any necessary research, plot and plan the novel and be prepared to write like a steam train through November.

Am I willing to set aside that time for the next two months? Can I be at a stage with my present WIP where I will not mind putting it aside for November? Will I be willing to put the other projects on this list aside for that time too?

The answer is, ‘Yes.’ And because of it’s time-sensitivity, NaNoWriMo has to move into first place – for the moment.

Number Five: I’d like to write another in my Reluctant Detective Series. I love writing about Mirabelle and her friends and family. I already have a few half written Mirabelle stories that spring from the series so it would be a good idea to get to work on them and finish them – one at a time, of course 🙂

The completing of the unfinished stories will slot in nicely to number three, behind NaNo, the ‘in Fiction’ series, but ahead of ‘menu update’ – with the proviso that I might bump a new Mirabelle story up as joint Number One if I decide to write one for my NaNo novel.

Number Six: My present WIP, working title Makeshift Memories. I’ve almost completed the third, or is it the fourth draft of this novel. It’s been a challenging but a fun one. This is the first time I’ve written anything with a historical strand running through it. It has required heaps of research and a lot of editing, but I do believe I’m on the home straight.

Am I happy to put all other projects aside in order to get this draft completed before NaNoWriMo – without rushing the process and thereby not doing it justice?

The answer is not a difficult one. It’s a resounding, ‘YES!’  If I can stick in with it for a few more weeks, it will be ready to send off for a second round of beta reads, then I can give it a final edit during December and hopefully publish it in the new year. 🙂 So that one has to go top of the list, at least until November, when the time-sensitivity issue arises for NaNoWriMo. Interestingly, Makeshift Memories  was my NaNoWriMo novel for November 2017.

Gold Plated, my latest release, was my NaNo novel in 2016 and is now available both as paperback and ebook here. It hasn’t been out terribly long, yet already it’s garnering some lovely reviews and comments. Makes my heart sing when I know I’ve written something that brings other people pleasure.

And Number Seven: Blogposts, FaceBook posts and other Social Media posts. These not only play a necessary part in promoting and marketing my novels, they are also FUN! And, as I said at the outset, my criteria for prioritising is FUN.

I enjoy writing blogposts here, love posting in my Facebook group here, my Instagram account here, and following others on Social Media.

How much time am I happy to spend doing these things? Can I cut the time I browse just for entertainment? Can I ignore the distractions and maximise the use of my time on Social Media in order to make good progress with all my other projects?

This is a more difficult answer, a more difficult one to prioritise. It’s a ‘Yes,’ and a ‘No.’ It has to be high on my list because it’s fun, and it doesn’t require as much time and energy as the other projects on my list. But can I stop being distracted by interesting and fun posts while I’m on Social Media? No. And why would I want to be? It’s fun. I could cut down on distraction and browsing time, I suppose, but realistically, knowing who I’m talking about here – me – time will be happily spent there, not always productively, but hey! why do I do any of these projects if not for pleasure?

So my decision is to take this one off the list altogether and run it alongside all the others on a day to day basis.

So how does my list look now? Well, for starters, it’s now a list of six, instead of seven 🙂

1. WIP, Makeshift Memories, first until November when

2. NaNoWriMo will take over pole position.

3. The ‘in Fiction’ books

4. New Mirabelle books – with the proviso if I start a new one, it goes to 1. in November

5. Menu bar

6. Scrivener

How does your list look? Has the order of yours changed from how they came into your head? How happy are you with the prioritising of your list?

In fact, what I’m going to aim to do is a little of this and a little of that, working in order of priority in that I’ll make sure the ones high on my list receive most of my writing time. Believe it or not, I do have other fun things I take time for 🙂

I’d love to hear what your list is about, how you feel about it now you’ve examined it with a view to prioritising the items, and how you plan to implement it. If you need any help with the exercise, do let me know and I’d be happy to be your sounding board.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable read, all my books are available in paperback and ebook format here.

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Oh, and please don’t be put off by Amazon telling you the paperback is out of stock. Of course it’s out of stock – it’s Print on Demand. Amazon never keep a stock of any POD books. Click to buy it and they order a print copy. That’s the process they always use.

Don’t forget to have fun with your list.

I wonder how many Things You Would Like To Do.

~~~

 

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.”

~~~

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.

~~~

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!

Music in My Fiction

Music in Fiction

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

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

Music.

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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Click to buy Gold Plated

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

Enjoy!

 

She Was a Red-headed Woman

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

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

She Was a Red-headed Woman

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

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

She Was a Red-haired Woman

By Sharon Scordecchia

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

~~~

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

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

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