The Candle

There was a single twinkling candle on my chocolate fudge sundae. One candle for another year older, if not a year healthier. Friday August 7th 2015 was a turning point – well it felt that way for my stomach.

It churned and squirmed along with my head as we drove through the lush green Welsh scenery, across the mountains between Harlech and Bodnant. I hadn’t felt so car sick since I was a child – not physically sick, just feeling rotten. Is this because I’m into my second childhood?

But the journey was worthwhile as the food was delicious at the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, which is “set in the heart of the Conwy Valley and surrounded by the stunning scenery of Snowdonia”. Best part was browsing their farm shop, and being tempted to buy some tasty treats from chili chocolate to locally sourced beef sausages. What happened to the vegetarian? Disgraceful – or not?

I did get to glimpse odd bits of the scenery on the way home. I needed to, as the fictional setting for “Fates Maelstrom” is in this locality, about 10 miles south-west of Bodnant and on the edge of Snowdonia. Through the mists of car sickness, I caught sight of some crags like the one above Crag-o-Niwl, my fictional Welsh village.

There's a crag in there somewhere! Craig Bwlch y Moch poking up out of a dense forest of rampant vegetation above Tremadog. Photo: Al Leary

There’s a crag in there somewhere! Craig Bwlch y Moch poking up out of a dense forest of rampant vegetation above Tremadog. Photo: Al Leary ~ http://www.groundupclimbing.com/newsitem.asp?nsid=185

So overall it was a good birthday, despite the childhood throwback, and a day that I won’t forget.

What next then? Well other than a birthday in Idaho on August 7th 2016. That depends on the emigration process to the USA, which entails many hurdles.

That candle also threw a light on one aspect of my writing future: where this Blog goes from here.

At the moment, I manage to blog once a month, in the IWSG monthly post on the first Wednesday. However, I feel that the posts should be more regular, for instance once a week – possibly on Monday or Tuesday.

If I go to that new schedule, then I need a new theme, as my intermittent ramblings don’t come up to scratch or muster.

There are three possibilities:

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  • Inspiring writers – a weekly blog about authors that have inspired me with their writing. The post would include my favourite books by those writers. I envisage choosing a crime/mystery writer one week, such as Dick Francis or Linwood Barclay. Then a SF/Fantasy writer the next. Like Charles de Lint or Roger Zelazny. I could intersperse these posts with interviews with published writers that I am online friends with. This is the simplest option, and more akin to the A to Z Challenge, but much more laid back.
  • Boise Skyline

    Boise Skyline ~ Copyright: http://www.visitidaho.org/photos/

    Moving to the USA – a weekly blog about the process that my wife and I are going through in trying to get to Idaho, USA. It could address the hurdles as well as the breakthroughs, and the prospects that await us. This would be more of a diary with a few suggestion for others undertaking the same expedition. I’m not sure that this would work as a weekly post, but with so many hurdles it could.

  • fd6a0b9306bea4eb33c76f2f4578481b (1)Living with Multiple Sclerosis – a weekly blog that is a chance for me to explain the condition, vent about the MonSter, and perhaps help others. Much more seat-of-the-pants than the other two, and also the disability gives me good days and bad days. Of course, I can’t help mentioning the MonSter in other posts, especially the American ones. Of course, my health is a key reason behind the move.

Of course, I could intersperse these and do one per week, choosing whatever I was inspired to write. Call it Pick-n-Mix.

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So what would you like to see me Blog about? Inspiring Writers, Moving to the USA, Living with Multiple Sclerosis, or ‘Pick-n-Mix’?

Is the Challenge over?

When I woke this morning – Tuesday September 2nd – my body refused to co-operate. I was ready to give up all my writing challenges and escape. Does that make any sense?

Maybe it doesn’t if you read my last post on here… my last Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, when I wrote about the inspiration that keeps me going. However, it’s the first Wednesday of the month again and I have the doubts and the fears that we are meant to have conquered. Seems I am back to the struggle stage.

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Writing over the last month had been more about escaping into research… and into other worlds = MMORPGs – gaming. I had great plans for September: write at least one complete story in the Gossamer Flames series every week of the month. Not a lot in comparison with the 100k in 100 days Challenge that I’m failing at miserably and as usual. But this should be so much easier as it’s over a shorter period – just a month. It’s also less intensive than the A to Z Challenge, although that inspired many of the shorts in Gossamer Flames.

Creating a story a week is one bit of pressure that I have set for myself as part of the MS Challenge that runs in September – my Support Page is at https://www.justgiving.com/ChallengeMS2761/ . And two days in I was thinking of giving up, even if it is a central part of my Life Challenge… fighting the MonSter that wants my Life but mustn’t win.

If I have written four complete tales, and edited them, by the end of the month then I will have reached one goal – although some sponsorship would be a bonus.

And thanks to a comment, I’m re-inspired. The words made me visit a fascinating blogsite, where I read a wonderful article on Spirals http://jazzfeathersjewellery.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/spirals/. Following the trail to its creative conclusion, I bought my long-suffering wife a well-deserved present.

Steampunk Heart from JazzFeathers

Steampunk Heart from JazzFeathers

In case you hadn’t realised, this is my monthly post in IWSG and the awesome co-hosts for the September 3 posting of the IWSG will be Laura at My Baffling Brain, mark Koopmans, Shah Wharton, and Sheena-Kay Graham. And it’s IWSG’s three year anniversary of posting!

Oh you were expecting something else. Were you thinking I meant the Ice Bucket Challenge when I said Challenge in the title?

Yes that has dominated the media and is a worthy cause for ALS alias motor neurone disease, another neurological nightmare. Ice Water is also meant to be good for MS, except something cold like water sends me into spasms. If challenged I would sign the cheque and be inspired by Patrick Stewart’s Ice Bucket Challenge, jst as the Huffington Post were http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/22/patrick-stewart-ice-bucket-challenge-video_n_5701036.html.

There is also a link on the Huffington Post report to Benedict Cumberbatch who showed another way to NOT evade the Ice Bucket Challenge. How to douse a dragon?

 

Would You Trade Your Writer’s Block?

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I promise that it was there… until I woke up. Didn’t you see it when you arrived? Maybe it departed on wings of… well take your pick, on Gossamer, feather, metal, wood or leather.

Time to be honest. I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Maybe I have an antigen in my makeup, or my muse works overtime.  Whichever it is, I have too many ideas, therefore too many first drafts that need editing.  I just need to find the one idea that fits the moment.

However, I admit with Multiple Sclerosis that I am always losing thoughts as I write. This post is a typical example as I lost my train of thought many times. Whether the thought ever came back, I don’t remember. Yes, it’s that bad.

As for my block it’s over editing, but more of that later.

Let’s continue with my primary antigens to Writer’s Block. Not all of them work all of the time, but at least one might yield something that I can use. Maybe even something that helps you.

  1. DREAMS: We all dream, although we often forget most of them. I don’t always have inspiring dreams, but there are a few that offer something of worth. When I wake up, I either write the dream down or work through the idea that it inspires, for later use as either a scene, a short story, or a novel.

 

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

Photo of a cloud illuminated by sunlight. ~ by Ibrahim Iujaz from Rep. Of Maldives

  1. PHOTOS: Although I used to take photographs as an equestrian journalist, it tends to be other people’s photos that yield the best inspiration. On Pinterest I have gradually collated images to inspire new ideas. See my Pinterest file here.

 

  1. OUTDOORS: When I was more mobile, I found that getting out into natural surroundings would inspire me. That included observing people in the street or park. I once got the idea for a Haiku about a kite from a summer wander – or was it a Senyru? Nowadays I have to rely more on my immediate surroundings for inspiration – like “Black with Secrets, Adorned with Silver”, my Blog Post on Monday, which was inspired by dawn sounds that woke me up. One advantage is gazing at Snowdon every day.

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  1. GAMING: Okay playing online games – MMORPGs – is one of my ways to chill… a reward like chocolate, but gaming is a source of inspiration. I have two draft novels set against a gaming world, in fact a fictional gaming world based on my short story saga “Gossamer Flames”. I’m not sure what the inspiration for the first novella that became “Gossamer Flames” was, but gaming has built more of the world. Ironically, the novella –Weave of the Sister Skein – appeared while I was recovering from my first MS attack in 1999.

I’m sure that you can suggest other sources of inspiration, and you are welcome to add them in your comments.

So to My Block and Insecurity – Editing. I am churning out first drafts faster than I can edit them. My mind can no longer deal with focusing on finding the faults. Yes I can trudge through the manuscript – not MS, please, as I live with a MonSter already. Trawling word by word, I aim for perfection. I search for plot holes and character flaws. But I need months, even years. Time is not on my side.

Perhaps I need an editor partner. Maybe someone that can take my words then polish the idea into something worth reading. All offers considered.

Maybe that’s another Writing Unblock antigen. Anyone want to trade?

***

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, when we talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs, perhaps offering a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

This is my monthly IWSG post and there are many more words of wisdom out in cyber-space. I’m only a single blip among 290 other amazing bloggers rocking the neurotic writing world. If you click here there are links to all of them and you can visit as many as you want.

All thanks to Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh and his awesome co-hosts Sarah Foster, Joylene Nowell Butler, Lily Eva, and Rhonda Albom!

Productivity: A Threefold Secret

 

Snowdon & Portmeirion ~ Juanita Clarke

Snowdon & Portmeirion ~ Juanita Clarke

A month ago, in my First Wednesday of month post in the Insecure Writers Support Group – I worried about existing for Forty days cut off from the outside world. But my gloomy musings were inaccurate… as many of them are.

British Telecom may have failed to get us online but we can log on via a neighbour’s connection. So we are still alive and reasonably sane. I’ve just been online far less than normal, just long enough to get emails.

So has being without internet distractions, like social media and games, mean more writing?

Well no, but blame that on moving house. Once a few crucial writing things were out of boxes – pen and notebooks rather than computers – I began scribbling. Who wouldn’t with a view of Snowdon and Portmeirion. And I sense that there are lot more words as I gaze out the window.

Yet there was a part of me that worried about productivity.

Do you try to write at least so many words a day?

Are you daunted by how many books other authors publish each year?

I was. But I’ve realised that we all have to work at a different pace, and that pace will always depend on other factors like family commitments, job demands, genuine distractions, and in my case health.

When I was an equestrian journalist, I was able to write 12-20 articles a week. Short reports maybe, and I used a template system, but the facts had to be changed, plus the quotes. And there was the initial research which often meant two days at a weekend show. [Friday was my ‘day-off’/chill day.]

Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners at Brighton Driving Trials

Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners at Brighton Driving Trials ~ Roland Clarke

However, poor health and retirement have brought a change in lifestyle so the secret of productivity has evolved, although it had probably always been threefold… I just wasn’t aware of it.

  1. PACING: it is easier to tackle a task like a piece of writing if you pace yourself. There’s no point burning up in a frantic attempt to get thousands of words written. Over time I found that there were times when pushing myself too hard led to a day lost through exhaustion; and in my case that was how my MS first manifested. Write at a pace that suits you, rather than at a speed that someone else has set. Unless the deadlines are immovable, as with a newspaper deadline, it’s far better to make one that is realistic.

 

  1. SELECTION: try to focus on the tasks that are crucial, coupled with those that you are inspired by – not distracted by. There will never be enough time to do everything so be selective. Having no fast internet connection has led to me making hard chances on what I read online every day… and I no longer read every email in detail. Fewer = more.

 

  1. BALANCE: spending all our time working is never good. As writers our inspiration comes from many sources, so being glued to our writing all day is wasted time. Adding in other pursuits is essential. When I was confined to the house, I escaped into a game world, but from that I found the inspiration for the world of Gossamer Steel – my theme for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. In Wales it will be exploring the great outdoors, although there will still be gaming – my wife and I will always be gamers. Others might mention movies, good food or chocolate. All in moderation and in balance.

 

I won’t be measuring my new life in Wales in terms of words written or books published, but in terms of the peace of mind that comes from living a richer life. That is inspiration worth sharing in carefully crafted creations from the soul.

What do you feel creates words of worth, productivity or peace of mind?

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