#TheIWSG – Pitfalls or pratfalls?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

I will be straight for today’s  Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post as life has become hectic. In fact, I’m writing this before the chaos and stress arrive in the form of three undisciplined step-great-grandkids – okay for short periods, but they are staying for a month with their parents before the parents buy their own place.

This may be the last post that I manage for some time. My writing will also suffer – and probably, my health.

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Don’t let your debut creation become a trap – money-trap or time-trap. Or even an ego-trap. Or downward spiral.

My debut novel took over thirteen years to get published – in December 2013. Although there were minor hiccups and cul-de-sacs, the result was okay. In many ways, I needed to leave it there and move on – case made.

However, the pitfall was over the next five years, during which I poured money and time into correcting the textual errors in that version, re-publishing and over-promoting the paperback – at the expense of my next project.

I’ve taken ages to drag myself out of the ‘spiral of shame’ pit – in fact, only last week, I changed the front page of this blog, so visitors get to the Blog posts first not the Welcome that promotes my sole novel.

Next step away from massaging my ego is to change this site’s focus completely. Then, focus on the future.

 

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The awesome co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Look the Other Way – a review

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Kristina Stanley is among my favourite mystery authors and when her Stone Mountain series closed with Avalanche, I wondered where we would be swept to next. (Well, if I was truthful, I had an inkling as Kristina is one of my gurus.)

So, in the next mystery, we are transported in Look the Other Way from the mountains, we are now afloat.

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Look the Other Way

by

Kristina Stanley (Goodreads Author)

SUBMERGED BENEATH THE DEPTHS IS A SEA OF SECRETS…

A year after her Uncle Bobby mysteriously disappears in the turquoise waters surrounding the Bahamas, Shannon Payne joins her grieving aunt to trace Bobby’s last voyage. Shannon hopes the serenity of the sea might help her recover from a devastating breakup with her fiancé.

Sailing the 38-foot catamaran, A Dog’s Cat, is Captain Jake Hunter, a disillusioned cop who has sworn off women. While Shannon tries to resist her growing attraction to the rugged captain, she uncovers dark truths about her uncle’s death that might send them all to the depths.

Review 4.6 stars

I’m always ready to pick up another Kristina Stanley mystery and I wasn’t disappointed with this one.

She takes her diverse life encounters and creates great stories from them – this time tapping into her sailing experience. As a result, the characters, settings and situations ring true, and I was with Shannon Payne in the Bahamas, sailing A Dog’s Cat, attempting to resolve what happened to her Uncle Bobby, and I had to wonder when something might happen with rugged Captain Jake Hunter. Is he what he says he is?

The novel was well-structured, balancing mystery and romance while weaving the plotlines together. As a mystery writer, I attempt to unravel the threads and there were more than enough to keep me reading – even after I worked out who the antagonist was, sometime before the end.

From that point onwards, the suspense element went up some notches as my concern for Shannon’s situation grew. My mind was trying to keep ahead of her…and the villain. Getting that revelation moment right needs skill as not all readers ‘click’ in the same place – keeping them on board takes craft, and Stanley has that in boatloads.

Also, there were some clever red herrings that kept my ‘little grey cells’ buzzing for page after page. All the characters had backstories and depth, with various reasons to suspect them of committing some crime. Their actions were sometimes deceptive and there were plenty of misunderstandings as in all good mysteries.

The Bahamas setting was both enticingly exotic and hidden with subtle threats. Many of the places must be real – or felt that they should be. The author’s knowledge of boats and sailing lent the writing an authentic vibe – and from my limited experience ‘mucking around in boats’, I felt swept along with events of a maritime nature. And the characters’ relevant skills varied appropriately from those that knew their charts to those needing a bottle or a life-jacket – or both.

Look the Other Way is another excellent Kristina Stanley novel that kept me thinking, so if you like a good mystery plus sailing and romance, I would recommend this book – 4.6 stars raised to Five.

I suspect that if this isn’t meant to be the start of a new series, then popular opinion might demand the return of Shannon Payne. However, until then we can anticipate a new Kristina Stanley mystery that is in the works. For now, I’ll just recommend each one she’s already written.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – four stars

Authenticity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

Is the paw is mightier than the pen?

I have been interviewed by my author friend, Kristina Stanley about my writing and the pets in my life. There were fun questions as well as one that made me think. What do you think?

Discover more about me here: Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Roland Clarke to the blog!

Privacy and GDPR

 

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Image from https://www.covermagazine.co.uk/

 

Since the European Union’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) comes into force on May 25th, 2018, I have been making my website as compliant as I can.

My first step was reading up on the implications for small operators – the most valuable was on author Jami Gold’s site: The New EU Law: What All Authors Need to Know — Guest: Kharma Kelley

From reading that, and panicking, I concluded that my hardly-existent newsletter was destined to become non-existent history. So that feature has been vaporised along with any data collected by MailChimp.

However, I still needed a ‘Privacy Policy’ and I assessed what I could do with this Writing Wings landing pad. WPBeginner proved to have the best solution – check their advice on How to Add a Privacy Policy in WordPress.

As for the finished Privacy Policy that is now live on this site – so I hope that I am now compliant and not heading for a 4 million Euro fine.

And if you wish to read the detail, there’s a link in the menu to the left OR just go to https://rolandclarke.com/privacy-policy/

Who Cares?

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Does anyone care if I get to Z? I’m burning myself out this April.

Does anyone care if I miss letters?  I’ve done 12 and have 14 more to do.

Who cares if the games are obscure? O is going to be tough, perhaps N even – and then there’s X and Y.

Does anyone care if I haven’t played all the games? I’ve never played on anything but a PC – Nintendo and PlayStation seem to have evaded me. Yet, many of the biggest franchises have been console games.

Do I care what happens? Well, I hate starting and leaving anything half-finished. I don’t like un-finished reads. But most of my draft novels are unfinished.

So why not my posts?

Maybe, I can just post the titles. Or be kind and give some clues – like in a puzzle game.

Except…I care and that hurts now – along with my fingers, head and more. I wish I could lie down.

Souper Blog Hop

souper blog hop

This Souper Blog Hop stirred all sorts of memories, some ‘souper’ delicious and some seriously sad.

‘Souper’ as in the soups of my childhood – mostly home-made vegetable, sometimes puréed with a hand-operated Moulinex – and then there are some favourites over the decades as I discovered more decadent tastes like Vichyssoise and Lobster Bisque, plus tasty treats like Butternut Squash soup. More on my favourite later in this post (although I am struggling with my health as I write this).

The sad refers to incidents in my childhood and early teens when I discovered the meaner side of human nature. When you’ve been bullied, you side with the victim and sympathize with them as characters in fiction – be that films or books. The problem of bullying is real and needs to be faced.

So, first, the book that made this possible: Pea Soup Disaster by Elaine Kaye. This children’s book is suitable for kids of all ages and adults as there is an excellent message about bullying behind an amusing and easy to follow story, illustrated by Danyelayers. It’s a quick four-star read and one I look forward to reading my great-grand-kids – and I look forward to more adventures of Gregory Green.

Pea Soup Disaster Cover

 BLURB: Gregory Green loves his mom’s pea soup, but when he eats it at school, all of his friends make fun of how it looks. He doesn’t think it looks like bugs, and it tastes good! Then at recess, his friends run from him, screaming, “He’s a monster!” Gregory doesn’t know why his friends are being mean until he sees his skin is green. The teasing gets worse until an unlikely friend comes to the rescue—his teddy bear, Sammy. Sammy usually only comes to life for Gregory and his family, but Sammy has an important lesson to teach Gregory and his classmates.

Available in Print:

AMAZON

Elaine Kaye

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elaine Kaye got the idea for Pea Soup Disaster from her son who loved to eat her homemade pea soup. Pea Soup Disaster is the first of many fun stories featuring Gregory Green and his teddy bear, Sammy, as part of the Gregory Green Adventure series.

Kaye has worked as a library assistant and teacher’s assistant in elementary schools in the Sunshine State. She currently lives in Florida, but she has called Michigan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Okinawa, Japan home. She is a grandmother of three boys.

Find Elaine:

Website / Instagram / Litsy – @ElaineKaye

Goodreads / Amazon

 

Visit the other Souper Blog Hop participants:

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

 


Broccoli soup1

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

And now to my all-time favourite, first-choice on the menu soup. In fact, for many years, Broccoli & Stilton Soup has headed my soupy list. I figure that might be because I enjoyed it so much in the early days of The New Covent Garden Soup Co.

Searching for that perfect recipe was a research challenge. I confess that I have never been much of a cook beyond throwing random ingredients together. Nowadays, MS and cooking don’t go together – that’s my excuse for dropping pans and messing up the kitchen floor.

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Anyway, first stop was looking for the New Covent Garden Soup recipe. But the best that I could find was a recipe for Broccoli and Blue Cheese, which is close. But I wanted Stilton, and certainly not the mature cheddar version that seems to have become the American preference.

With a nod to Elaine Kaye’s Pea Soup Disaster, here’s an interesting soup – Broccoli, Pea and Pesto.

broccoli-pea

Undaunted, my quest continued, and I found and read various online recipes, but none quite took my fancy. Then I found a fellow traveller drawn by memories of New Covent Garden Soup Co.’s Broccoli & Stilton soup – Felicity Cloake in The Guardian.

Who? Well, Felicity Cloake is “a writer specialising in food and drink and winner of the 2011 Guild of Food Writers awards for Food Journalist of the Year and New Media of the Year. Her first recipe book, Perfect, is published by Fig Tree. She likes to think she’d try any food once – although an eyeball recently caused her to question this gung-ho gastronomic philosophy.”

Her more extensive exploration of Broccoli and Stilton soup entailed trying out various recipes, including some that I had found but not sampled. You can read her culinary journey here – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/04/how-make-perfect-broccoli-stilton-soup-cheese-shallots-stock-cream

B&Ssoup

The perfect broccoli and stilton soup. Photograph: Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

But for those that want the recipe now, the one that works for me – when my wife  adds her touches – here is Felicity Cloake’s recipe:

Perfect broccoli and stilton soup

(Serves 4)

2 tbsp butter
2 shallots or 1 small onion, finely chopped
800ml chicken or vegetable stock
600ml milk
800g broccoli
200g stilton, crumbled
Nutmeg, to garnish

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and add the shallots. Fry gently until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli stalks into smallish chunks, then add to the pan with the softened shallots, fry for a minute, then pour in the stock and milk. Bring to a simmer, then cook until the stalk is beginning to soften (how long will depend on the size). Meanwhile, cut the head into small individual florets.

Once the stalk is almost tender, add the florets to the pan along with most of the Stilton, keeping a little back for garnish. Stir well, bring to a simmer, cover then cook for about 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the florets are soft.

Allow to cool slightly, then puree until smooth. Taste and season if necessary, then divide between bowls and top with the remaining cheese and a good grating of nutmeg.