From Writing 101 to 50,000 words #NaNoWriMo

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Inheriting a country hotel just in time for Christmas turned out to be more of a turkey than a cracker for Jane, especially when one of the guests is murdered… Will she find the killer in time for the traditional family Christmas she’s always dreamed of?

Well, I’m feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

From not having a plot 30 days ago, apart from the vague idea that my main character would inherit a country house and a murder would happen, I’ve finished a rough draft that has a storyline that just about makes sense, a bunch of red herrings and a plot twist at the end.   There’s a bit of sex, plenty of Baileys and a few mince pies thrown in.

I haven’t done much housework (alright, any), meals have been a bit random (‘Oh, just eat those sausages with a bowl of cereal if you’re hungry’) and Christmas is quickly looming with no presents, cards or decorations organised but I don’t care.

I wanted to do NaNoWriMo to get me back into writing and hopefully get something to the stage where I can follow the example of friends such as Suzanne and actually publish it.

I’ve got three novels figuratively tucked in a drawer, at various stages of editing and I would like to actually put one out there. For public consumption. And public criticism – which is the scary part.  At the moment, it’s the literary version of Schrödinger’s cat: it could be be best book in the world or it could be the worst. I could always publish under the pseudonym Barbara Wordington and then no one will know it’s me so they’ll never know if I’ve written a book to rival To Kill A Mockingbird or one that ranks with Fifty Shades of Grey (just how many times can one person bite their lip?? 28 apparently). Except that I’ve told you now so I’ll have to come up with a different alias. Babbington Wordle??

NaNo – I feel like we’re on first name terms now – has got me excited about writing again and I really want to get this latest story polished enough to publish for next Christmas.

I love Christmas books; I have two shelves full of them and reread most of them every year. From ones I had when the kids were small like Merry Christmas Maisy and Richard Scarry’s The Night Before The Night Before Christmas to Letters from Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien and The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. The thought that I could publish a Noel novel is very motivational.

Right, I’m off to edit. Obviously it’s not my favourite part of writing but I will deny myself any mince pies until it’s done.*

*Oh, who am I kidding?  Brandy butter anyone?

Keeping it 100

So, it’s my 100th post.  Woohoo. Yay. Etc. It’s only taken me five years to get here so that’s a grand total of 20 posts a year.  Wow.  I’m really not sure why I’m not competing for readers and sponsorship deals with the likes of Zoella or Perez Hilton.

I’m obviously the opposite of Adrian Mole, who said that: ‘Happy people don’t keep a diary’. In my case, unhappy people don’t keep a blog. It’s not so much that I’m depressed but after three years in Rome, life doesn’t seem quite so exciting anymore. It’s back to the drudgery of work, fighting with the self-service tills at Sainsburys, making small talk about the Apprentice and Donald Trump, and dull drizzly days.

I need a kick up the backside and to focus on the great things about Britain. Hilarious comedy series like Drifters, The Detectorists or Cuckoo. Fish and chips. M&S. Wilko (nothing like that in Rome!) Libraries. Cadburys. Knickers big enough to cover fat arses.crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76

Ok, I’m starting to feel better. And I have managed a bit of writing, just not blogging. For this momentous post, I’m right back to where I started this blog in November 2011. #NaNoWriMo.  50,000 words in one month.  Twelve days in and 20,000 words done so I’m on track.

I decided to join in late on the 1st November, and had no plot, characters or idea of what to write so I’m quite impressed with myself that I’ve managed to keep going.   It’s a Christmas Chick-Lit Murder Mystery, set in a Cotswold country house. Very light-hearted, humorous (hopefully) and festive. It won’t be winning any Booker Prizes, put it like that, but it might be entertaining.  I don’t actually read much chick-lit but I’m a sucker for any stories set at Christmas so my literary standards drop quite considerably during the festive season.   Hopefully, other people’s do too…

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Behind this peaceful festive scene, a murder is taking place…oh, and plenty of gratuitous sex, drinking and baking

Only another 30,000 words to go.  I’ve had complaints from family members that mealtimes are running late, housework is not being done [nothing new there – Ed] and there’s no food in the fridge, but that’s a small price to pay for getting my creative juices flowing again.  And I promise I’ll clean them up on the 1st December.

 

Visions of Zarua #bookreview and Honey Cake recipe

So today we have a guest post from the lovely Suzanne Rogerson as part of her World Blog Tour to promote her epic fantasy book, Visions of Zarua.

Visions of Zarua 2016 Blog Tour Schedule
Suzanne is a real life friend of mine (I do have some…) We met at a Creative Writing course about five years ago. But whilst I’ve been scratching my arse and talking about finishing my novel (with a brief move to Italy in-between), she actually got off her backside and published a fabulous book.

I’m not usually a fantasy reader but I enjoyed reading about wizards and magical kingdoms. I thought it would be rather hard going but it was actually very easy to read with some light-hearted moments. The writing was very strong, the characters likeable and the intertwined stories kept me gripped until the end. I recommend, even if you’re not a fantasy fan.

Now then, onto Suzanne’s post.  Yay – finally a new post…and I didn’t even have to write it!

Visions of Zarua by Suzanne Rogerson:

visions-of-zarua-book-coverTwo wizards, 350 years apart. Together they must save the realm of Paltria from Zarua’s dark past.

An ancient darkness haunts the realm of Paltria.
Apprentice wizard Paddren is plagued by visions of a city on the brink of annihilation. When his master Kalesh dies in mysterious circumstances, the Royal Order of Wizards refuses to investigate.
Helped by his childhood friend, the skilled tracker Varnia, and her lover Leyoch, Paddren vows to find the killer.

The investigation leads Paddren down a sinister path of assassins, secret sects and creatures conjured by blood magic. But he is guided by a connection with a wizard from centuries ago – a wizard whose history holds the key to the horror at the heart of the abandoned city of Zarua. Can Paddren decipher his visions in time to save the Paltrian people from the dark menace of Zarua’s past?

The female lead character of Varnia is often misunderstood. She is a hunt mistress, stuck in a man’s world with no family but her surrogate uncle, Reaun, to rely on.
A strong willed woman, who doesn’t let anything get in her way…but can also be prone to sulking. However, one thing guaranteed to get her out of a sulk is the Honey Cake at Redstone Manor.

I thought it would be fun to recreate the cake using a traditional recipe I found in ‘A Taste of the Border Country’ cookbook. I’ve given it my own tweaks as I always try to use gluten free flour and prefer self-raising to plain flour & baking powder. I’ve also added fresh ginger, which I believe complements the honey and lemon flavour.


Ingredients
8fl oz clear honey
3 oz butter
12oz self-raising flour (gluten free)
Pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
3 tbsp milk
Grated rind of a lemon
Grated fresh ginger
(I omitted from the original recipe the mixed peel and didn’t add the flaked almonds on the top, but I can see they would work well with the rest of these ingredients).

Instructions
1. Melt the butter and honey over a low heat.
2. Beat the eggs and milk. Add it to the cool melted butter and honey, along with the ginger.
3. Mix the flour, salt, lemon peel and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
4. Add the melted ingredients to the dry, a bit at a time and mix well. It has quite a liquid consistency.
5. Pour into an 8-inch square greased baking tin. Cook for about an hour on 150 fan.

The old recipe suggests poking holes in the cooked cake and adding another 3 tablespoons of honey over the top. I experimented with and without the extra honey, and found the cake quite dry without it. However, the flavour was good and tasty, and surprisingly it wasn’t too sweet.

I wonder if Varnia would like my version of Honey Cake?  Maybe she would wash it down with a goblet or two of mead.

Find out more about Suzanne:2015 author photo 2015
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Buy Visons of Zarua now!!
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Wednesday Week

Not much writing going on in the Barbed Words house.  My week can pretty much be summed up as:

Packing.  Work.  Packing.  Coffee.  Packing.  Packing.  Coffee.  Taking child to doctors.  Tea.  Iced Bun.  Chemists.  Going to charity shop.  Gardening.  Gin and tonic.  Pasta.  Packing.  Coffee.  Packing.  Charity shop.  eBay.  Tea.  Gardening.  Pizza.   Top Gear.  Top Gun.  Driving 200 miles to drop off some crap valued possessions.  Wine.  Packing.

Repeat a few more times and that’s about it.  What a marvellous week.

Yet again, the only bit of writing I managed was the Six Word Story Challenge.  The prompt word was Dark.  Lots of stories about scary places, coffins and death.  My entry:

Bugger. The bloody bulb’s gone again.

Keeping it real, man.

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Last conversation at school before I headed off for the joy that is the half-term break:

‘Miss, I’ve squashed my banana.’

‘That’s a shame, Harry.’

‘Not my banana, Miss, an actual edible one.’

‘Well, thank you for clarifying that…’

What I Go to School For

Although in Rome, I enjoyed the life of a lady who lunches (or drinks cappuccino, at least), once back in England I needed to find work.  As I have children, I wanted a job which offers flexible hours and time off in the holidays [Sure your poor work ethic didn’t have anything to do with it??  Ed.  Shut your face – Me].

Therefore, like 70% of the mums I know, I’ve ended up working in a school.  Apparently, 1.5 million part-time workers are over-qualified for their jobs, with women worst affected. This totally applies to me.  Even if I did full-time hours, my job would still pay less than half what I was earning fourteen years ago before having kids. Moral of the story?? DON’T TAKE A CAREER BREAK!!  Or, at least don’t something that changes so drastically over the years that you can’t go back.

Anyway, part of my job is supervising the library.  And the students that use it.  So my day involves conversations like this:

‘Miss, Josh has drawn a penis on my book.’

‘Josh, don’t draw in Harry’s book.’

‘Miss, Harry’s lying!  I didn’t draw a penis.’

‘Miss, look, here’s the penis.’

‘Yes, I can see it, thank you, Harry.  Can’t you just rub it out?’

‘I haven’t got a rubber, Miss, so I can’t rub the penis out.’

‘Right, here’s a rubber.  Just rub it out please.’

‘Miss!  I’ve rubbed the penis out but you can still see it.   He’s ruined my book with a penis.’

‘Harry, it’s fine.  You can hardly see it.’

‘Miss, I didn’t even draw that penis.’

‘He did, Miss, he drew the penis.’

‘I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR ANYONE ELSE SAY THE WORD PENIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’

‘Miss?’

‘WHAT?’

‘You said penis.’

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Another Six Words

Another busy week and another week of not writing much.  But I did manage to enter the Six Word Story Challenge again.  So a total of six words written in seven days.  Go me!

The theme this week was ‘Horror’.  My entry summed up a terrifying experience that I’m sure we’ve all been through:

The stubborn turd refused to flush.

Ok, I might not have taken it quite as seriously as other entrants but I did get three votes…

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Getting Lazier with Six Word Stories…

Hmmm, I seem to have lapsed into blog silence since the A-Z Challenge.  Things are a tad stressful at the moment – we’re about to move for the third time in a year.  There’s too much to do.  Too much to think about.  And blogging is one of those things that’s very easy to drop when times are busy.

But, according to Ally Bean, “In personal blogging, quality of post is less important that the fact that you managed to show up again, against the odds, and write something.”

Is that true??   Is quantity preferable to quality?   I’m not so sure.  I tend to stop following bloggers or tweeters (?) who post all the time.   Especially if they’re really just posting sales pitches for their products.

But, in the interest of posting slightly more often, I think I need more challenges.  So here’s the first one.  I’m starting off easy with Sometimes Stellar Storyteller Six Word Story Challenge.  SIX WORDS??!!  Even someone as lazy as me can manage that.   The theme of this week’s challenge is ‘Paranoia’.  My entry is:

Mice watch me.  They’re CIA spies…

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I’ll let you know if I win… (which I won’t).  I was going to use pigeon spies but I just really wanted to post this picture.  So mice it was.

Ok, that was a nice break but now it’s back to stressing.