#IWSG – What Life Crisis?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

My headline is not exactly the question prompt for this month’s  Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post, but it’s what I have to keep saying to avoid a meltdown.

October 3 question – How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

The real questions – well, two questions.

I can’t pretend that one critical life event didn’t impact my writing. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in January 2000, my career as an equestrian journalist began to wind in; not immediately, but as I lost the ability to do the job efficiently, retirement loomed. By 2005, I had quit writing reports and by 2010, my involvement with horse shows had ended.

However, writing fiction filled some of the gaps in my life, and my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves was mainly written after I retired. My ongoing health problems do make writing every day hard, but sometimes the writing can distract from having a chronic illness– well two as I also have blood cancer, chronic lymphoblastic leukaemia (CLL).

But MS doesn’t distract from noisy step-great-grand-kids as the disease makes me sensitive to noise (as well as other things like temperature). Maybe I can use the experience for a children’s story.

As I began writing with some seriousness in my teens, there are possibly other life events of relevance. One day, I might remember.

Our current crisis is financial and could lead to a house move/down-sizing. Again, writing is a distraction, although I envisage obstacles like having no computer for some days – but not for so long as the move from Wales to the US.

NaNoWriMo might be a fail though. At least, I can scribble things down, even if MS makes my handwriting illegible – plus, I have plenty of notepads.

My muse will help me through this crisis.

Awww - Roland and Juanita.

Do you juggle major life events and writing? Or do they feed each other?

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The awesome co-hosts for the October 3 posting of the IWSG are Dolorah @ Book Lover,Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken!

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

 

 

What Soup for the Soul?

Chicken of course.

But what about for vegetarians and vegans?

Well, when I grew up it was Minestrone for all that ailed me – or was it a thick farmhouse vegetable soup?

I may have been a vegetarian (or a pescatarian) for much of my adult life, but living in the USA now, I’m realising that the ‘meat’ culture is strong here. Veggies come a lowly last – unless you can count fries/potatoes/crisps as a hearty vegetable.

Okay, they are more of a vegetable than mushrooms.

But I have a craving for broccoli – broccoli and stilton soup to be precise – except that’s not vegan.

Tarn it.

Broccoli soup1

Nor is this a book review. But I’m taking Thursday off.

I need a bowl of soul soup.

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Can we change Youth Crime hearts?

Phrases trigger memories – well, they do for me. Recently, I took part in the WEP August Challenge and the theme was ‘Change of Heart’ and that clicked through to this memory-post. Before I revisit that memory, I want to congratulate everyone that took part in the Challenge and created such amazing pieces, especially the winners announced here.

Back to the memory that theme triggered:

In the early 1990s, Gaia Productions Ltd produced a short film and documentary entitled ‘Change of Heart’ that looked at the various means for tackling youth crime within Greater London.

Initiated by film editor, Gordon Greenaway, the focus of this production was the involvement of young ex-offenders and kids at risk from youth crime at all levels, from the cast to the editing.

The plot and script were workshopped with a young offenders’ rehabilitation group that worked with drama as a means of tackling the issues behind youth crime. The plotline that the group developed was to present a young offender that was struggling to choose the right life path but was plagued by his inner self. The final filming script was drawn up by the director, my ex-wife, Joanna Lehmann, and I was involved as the producer.

The group ‘auditioned’ for the parts and a number took roles, including the protagonist who was played by Louis, a black guy with natural talent. We ended up with a mixture of professional and non-professional – and some of the non-professionals had been convicted in the past. The parts played by professionals included the ones representing the dark tempter and the light conscience, portrayed by Dexter Fletcher (Band of Brothers, Dir. Bohemian Rhapsody) and Ian Dury (Raggedy Rawney, singer-songwriter of The Blockheads), and the protagonist’s parents.

‘Change of Heart’ was shot on 16mm film at various locations in London, with scenes varying from a family argument, to a petrol station hold-up and a ram-raid. For the crew, we had film industry head-of-departments – such as director, cameraman, designer and makeup – with youngsters assisting and learning. Some were ex-offenders, like the acting group, while others were from inner city groups tackling youth crime issues in their neighbourhoods. Gordon Greenaway edited the film with a trainee.

This ‘apprenticeship’ was also reflected in the documentary crew that shot their segment on Betacam. They covered behind the scenes of the film, and interviewed groups involved with rehabilitating young offenders such as a soccer club and a motor mechanic project, as well as Feltham Young Offenders Institution.

For many of the ex-offenders ‘Change of Heart’ proved a unique experience. For instance, Louis went on to become a professional actor with the help of Dexter and his agent mother. Another one in the cast, who had been convicted of armed robbery, played the petrol station attendant and found being on the ‘receiving end’ was a valuable lesson – better than any in prison. Some of the crew trainees worked for their ‘mentors’ on other productions.

As for the finished product, that was shown around community centres and also taken by a distributor. But the distributor failed to promote it – even when Ian Dury died a few years later of cancer and there were retrospectives on his creative work. Tragically, the final product was mislaid by the distributor, although most of the edited footage still exists – somewhere in London – and there are VHS copies.

However, for some it was still a change of heart.

#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.

LookTheOtherWay_35613947

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!