Why move to Idaho?

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Before I answer that crucial question, welcome to the first Pick’n’Mix blog post. I will attempt to post something at this same time and on this same site every week. And rather than having a specific topic, this will be whatever seems tastiest – as suggested.

Anyway, when I announced that I was attempting to emigrate across the pond to Idaho, some people questioned that choice?

“Why move there?” they asked. “There are better places for your MS – Switzerland or Spain.”

True. My multiple sclerosis gets worse in damp, cold weather, and in humid, hot weather. And sadly Wales has ticked the first box, this year. The second rules out many places in the more distant East, like India or Singapore. However, the key thing is having family and friends that can be supportive. A non-starter in this park home estate, where I seem to have a communicable disease, and when my family show no sign of caring what happens to me.

But I have another family that does care, and they are in Boise, Idaho. They may be step-kids and step-grandkids, but they are ready to be there for both of us. In fact, they have already showed they care, both in words and deeds. For instance, when my wife, Juanita, and I were with them in 2010 and 2011, they did everything for us from putting us up to carrying me when I couldn’t walk.

So that’s why we are moving back to Idaho, even if the move is complicated – especially by my brother. I need to get the right US visa and as well as copious documents, that includes a medical, which means an eight-hour drive to London. Then a few weeks later an interview at the US Embassy, again in London.

We need to buy a house, which is why we need my brother to guarantee the finance, which is mine for life. Then we have to sell our home in Wales. There is the shipping to arrange, and four pets to fly there, when the weather is right – they can’t fly when it is too hot or too cold. And I’m in a wheelchair so flying is a nightmare.

Before you ask about the culture shock, I should say that I escaped to Canada for three years and had Landed Immigrant status there. Yes, the US is not Canada, but it meant leaving home. And haven’t I already done that when I moved to Wales? This is not the country that I grew up in. The familiar haunts have been left behind. I’d already taken steps away from the equestrian world that I worked in, and I haven’t established similar contacts here.

So I’ve left home, and we are already in another country. Another country where the first language is not English, and we hear Welsh when we go places, even during the tourist season. Yes, the Americans do things different, whether it is driving on the wrong side of the road, or they arm their police. But it was the same in Canada, where I first passed my driving test, and almost joined the RCMP.

The 10 Best Cities to Move to in 2015 - http://www.simplemovinglabor.com/blog/the-10-best-cities-to-move-to-in-2015#.VQXcaHY3dgs.facebook

The 10 Best Cities to Move to in 2015 – No 2 Boise. Image courtesy Bob Young

Oh wait, American-English is not the first language spoken in Idaho. It was either Coeur D’Alene, Nez Perce, Kutenai, Northern Paiute, or Shoshoni, depending on the area. Around Boise it would have been Shoshoni. So I guess we need to learn that.

And those that said Spanish, go stand in the corner. The name Boise has French origins, French-Canadian fur traders travelled the territory in the late 18th and early 19th century. Boise may be from “La rivière boisée”. And any settlers from the Iberian Peninsula of significance were the Basques. Even a Brit knows that.

Well that’s enough of the history lesson from this Brit imposter. More of course next week. But that might be totally off the subject.

Any questions?

My Main Character

Snowdon Night ~ by Juanita Clarke

Snowdon Night ~ by Juanita Clarke

This is one of those blog themes doing the rounds and it was Ailsa Abraham, after blogging about her Main character, that asked for volunteers as so many of us had already taken part. 🙂 I was hesitant to step forward but Facebook writer friend David W Robinson encouraged me to have a go  – although I had to confess that it might be another means to put off my outstanding editing. In fact that’s been outstanding for eleven months.

First I should say that David is the opposite of me, as a visit to his ‘My Writing Process’ post at http://www.dwrob.com/2014/05/my-writing-process/ should make clear. He’s also a very prolific writer and one of the awesome Crooked Cat authors, which is in contrast to my single novel in print. Or can I count all those magazine and newspaper articles… guess not.

However, we share a passion for crime, even if his novels see the world outside his productive mind. Please check out his site and enjoy his writing.

Beyond the words ‘sporadic’ and ‘erratic’ there is a pattern to my writing. At specific times of the year, mainly during November and NaNoWriMo, I focus on getting a first draft down on paper. I usually aim to plot this novel out in detail during previous months, leaving room for the characters to introduce their own direction to the tale. Sometimes I manage to fit the draft for another novel into a year, and write that in the same way – outline and fast first draft.

That means that it’s tough to choose a main character, especially as I’ve also been working on the various shorts set in my “Gossamer Flames” world.

Enough prevaricating, time to talk about about My Main Character. But I need to answer the ‘set questions’ about the draft most likely to be read by my devoted fans 😉 – “Fates Maelstrom”.

Snowdonia ~ Juanita Clarke

Snowdonia ~ Juanita Clarke

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Although there are two POVs in “Fates Maelstrom”, the plot revolves around Twyla Locke, a fictional young woman in her last year of college in North Wales. Although she is a creation of my imagination, I am sure that I have taken some traits from people I know.

2. When and where is the story set?

Set in or just before the present. In the first draft of “Fates Maelstrom” the story was set predominantly in and around the fictional village of Hawktrewen on the edge of Dartmoor, with some climactic scenes around Lake Como in Italy. However, I am relocating the Dartmoor scenes to Snowdonia where I now live. The setting plays a key role as the story unfolds, with ancient standing stones and 18th century follies as well as natural landscape weaving into the plot, along with the rich legends of the area.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Twyla was just a baby when her parents died in a boating accident on Lake Como, so she has been brought up by her mother’s sister Ruby Horn in the Romani community of Horn’s Furrow, which has earned a place in the village, despite prejudices about ‘travellers’. However, her father was born into the local English landowning family, the Lockes, themselves seen as interlopers by the native Welsh.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The murder of Twyla’s grandfather Aubrey Locke exposes the deceptions that lie behind the prejudices of a divided village. Twyla becomes the prime suspect not only because she is seen as a ‘typical gypsy’ but because there are witnesses to her being at the murder scene at the right time. Either someone is impersonating her, or she has a split personality. The latter becoming more likely as she suffers blackouts, and fears that she is becoming like her ancestor Mad Geffron Locke, whose spirit haunts her. American journalist, Brogan Keyes gives her an alibi but his relationship with her cousin Yazzi Locke arouses her suspicions and drives her closer to a breakdown. .

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Before she was accused of murder, Twyla was aiming to obtain her degree and help her aunt Ruby with the horticultural business that keeps the Romani community thriving. However, beyond clearing her name, Twyla now needs to ensure that Horn’s Furrow survives the threat to its existence that is caused by the death of Aubrey Locke. Also, are her health problems a sign that she is going mad? Or has someone framed her for murder?

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The working title is “Fates Maelstrom” and I will keep my followers informed of its progress on this website. When I have revised the first draft to reflect the new setting of Snowdonia, I will probably add another page, as I did with “Spiral of Hooves” and “Gossamer Flames”.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

I have to work around my health problems, and my inclination to distract myself, so it will probably be some time in 2015… and that will also depend on a publisher.

Anyway, whatever I do to prevaricate, you all know what I intend to work on – as well as the “Gossamer Flames” shorts. Suppose that means that I have no excuse now. Tomorrow I must start on revising something – or maybe next week.

Please can I also ask for volunteers to take on the “My Main Character” torch – thanks and good scribbling.

Welsh Musings

Whitedragontwolegs

White dragon (wyvern). Adapted from wikipedia image of the wyvern flag of wessex. This two legged dragon (or wyvern) follows the style of the two dragons in Harold Godwinson’s death scene in the original 1066 Bayeux tapestry.

I’m not Welsh, either by heritage or because of where I was born. I don’t speak Welsh – I don’t think knowing “bore da” and “nos da” heralds more than the day or the night… and my struggle to pronounce other simple phrases.

I have to admit that I am a white dragon in red territory. I’m English with a touch of Scottish and a quarter Chilean blood to add some spice. An Englishman living in another country. Our puppy, Quetzal has more claim to being Welsh by birthplace – Garndolbenmaen.

However, my American wife, Juanita and I live in Wales. Our home on Pant Mawr Residential Park in Harlech has views that captivate us, giving life to the dreams that were impossible when linked to the States or Canada. One autumn weekend, in the light-sculpting rain, we made the decision to move.

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Now, gazing at the mountain panorama watching the spring light etch shapes or soften edges enchants our eyes. There are days when the house is wrapped in a white blanket but the sea mist stirs us, its aroma rich with estuary life. Birds are everywhere dawn through dusk, calling for mates, warning off interlopers, and enriching our ears.

Our lives and our hearts are in Snowdonia. So my musings must be Welsh for this land inspires them.

I have a novel, “Fates Maelstrom”, which was set on the edge of Dartmoor in its first draft. However, the land plays a crucial part and it calls out for more mountains, wild terrain and mists. In this land of legends there have to be the roots of the novel’s new life. “Accused of murdering her grandfather and condemned by her Romany blood, Twyla Locke faces prejudice,  family tradition, a mysterious double and declining health as she fights to prove her innocence and save her eviction-threatened community.  The arrival of Brogan Keyes, an American journalist offering his assistance, seems too contrived, especially when he claims to know about the Lockes’ past. Twyla fears that she is the victim of a scam that can only end in her death.”

I will post my Welsh Musings on my Blog but the Welsh Musings page will be their home. From there you can travel to each post with ease. Join me on this adventure and share your thoughts.

Snowdon & Portmeirion ~ Juanita Clarke

Snowdon & Portmeirion ~ Juanita Clarke

Forty Days & Forty Nights without Internet

Could you survive without your internet connection for 40 days and 40 nights? What about your phone?

Okay, it’s not like living without food or water or shelter as too many people do in this unjust world. But for those of us that have been pampered by modern technology it’s a big ask. One that BT aka British Telecom seems to feel is reasonable, or do they mean excusable. My multiple sclerosis disability has little if no bearing.

As I type this, on Saturday February 22nd, we will be sans broadband and sans phone from Friday February 28th to Thursday April 10th.

The outlook is bleak. The meaning stark and troubling. The portents are… okay I’m exaggerating but I’m still worried. Whinge warning.

Imagine no emails, or rather over 50 a day piling up in my AOL inbox = 200 plus by the time we get back online. Forget about sending out review copies of ‘Spiral of Hooves’ or promoting the novel. Surfing social media like Facebook and Twitter will be abandoned, as will any appearances in the cyber-world.

“Get a dongle”, I hear you shout in mass cacophony, and I know that you are right. With a dongle, and a signal, we can check our emails at least. If the charges are not too massive we can do a little more… others do from their iPods, Androids etcetera, from all kinds of locations, including Internet cafes. But going out to find the right place is not the same as working from our new office in our new home, where the desktops will be, with all the software. At least I don’t have to be online to create using Scrivener… just to back the work up on Dropbox or OneDrive.

In fact blog posts, either mine or anyone else’s are a non-starter. This one will have to be posted in advance, set for public consumption on Wednesday March 5th as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Whether anything will appear in April is a prediction that I cannot make… the crystal ball is dim. I’m meant to be taking part in the 2014 A to Z Challenge in April, but it could be hard.

If I find time in the midst of packing, I might attempt to write the first ten posts – A to J – and schedule them to appear on time. At least I know the theme – the World of Gossamer Steel.

With that reference I know that my alter-egos will suffer too. No gaming for 40 nights is almost worse than no surfing. How will I live if my avatar is unable to stop monsters pouring through Rifts or perverting Good in Middle Earth? The Sith Empire will conquer the galaxy in my absence and Conan will be deposed.

Oh wait, they’re not real and there are others to continue the struggle.

But ordering groceries and other goods is essential. There are local shops crying out for our custom, but being disabled there are advantages in having things delivered. Maybe we can do that by dongle as well. Reminds me, have I downloaded enough books onto my Kindle?

I envisage a problem occurring when we begin ordering from a dongle – the security guys at our bank will query the purchase in their diligent way. I’m pretty sure that online banking will be tough, although not impossible. But sending money to my wife’s kids in the US will be very hard, The only consolation is that my accounts package is offline.

As a writer I have some worries but know that I can continue to scribble without the internet. In fact removing it might lead to more productive days, as well as more days exploring the real world and making useful observations. Time to bring out the parchment and quill notebook and pen. So my scribbling life will be okay, if I ignore my other insecurities…

However, for my wife there is a more real problem. All her family are in the States and staying in touch with the USA by mobile/cell phone will be extremely difficult. Her mother is elderly and poorly. She keeps falling down and she would be unable to ring. It will be very expensive phoning the States on a cell phone, even with an international service.

Ultimately life with only a cell phone becomes a major problem in an emergency. We can call for help, if there is a signal. Being disabled I feel vulnerable, but that doesn’t seem to make any difference to British Telecom; any more than it does to the British government who sees us as a drain on the system, along with other scroungers.

Whinge over. Our situation is not dire. In retrospect there are others with far greater issues. Ours are just frustrating and grrrr.

Wife says we’ll live off the land and be sending smoke signals. Maybe the pigeon can come out of retirement along with the pony. The positives outweigh the negatives. New home, bespoke design to meet our needs, fabulous location, wonderful neighbourhood. I can feel another post coming, once we have explored the immediate area and have some great pictures. Just need to find a means to post it. But here’s a taster:

22_PantMawr

22 Pant Mawr Park, Harlech, Wales

If all goes to plan, this will be my third posting of 2014 for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This is when we release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the logo and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are MJ Joachim, Elsie, Elizabeth Seckman, and Julie Flanders! Many thanks to all you co-hosts for your time and effort towards making all IWSG members feel welcome.

Two Futures: Facts or Fiction

What is the best way forward for this blog?

Ever since I wrote my post Eight Headless Chickens I have been wondering what the most important next step is.

The clear priority has to be our move to Wales, and – Beware Cliché – fingers & toes crossed, that is proceeding smoothly thanks to my wife and special friends, but no thanks to immediate family. By the end of February, I should be blogging from a new desk with a view of Harlech, the sea and mountains in Snowdonia.

But even with the inspiring view what will I blog about?

I have two, or is it three futures that are churning around in my mind.

  1. Facts: the simplest way forward. I continue posting my usual observations on my experience of the writing process, interspersed with thoughts on issues of the day. As a relative newcomer to writing, at least in getting published, I feel unable to offer great insights on good writing techniques. There are far better sites/blogs for that, some in my Links.
  2. Fiction: tasters of my writing. Should my blog become a means to release short fiction strategically over time?  Since the start of the year, I have been working on short stories and now have seven at various stages. They are loosely connected, in that they are set in the same world, one akin to the game Gossamer Steel, so that is their collective title.
  3. Dual carriageway: a mix of both Facts and Fiction. So when a story was written and edited it would be available, and when I was inspired to supply concrete Facts that would be the post.

Which do I choose, 1, 2, or 3? What would you the readers of this Blog prefer? Why do you tune in here to what I write?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course life is never simple, especially here at Writing Wings where there are challenges.

There is another element, a Newsletter. It’s an option that I have given serious thought to. The factual blog would continue to share my thoughts and experiences as a writer, and as a retiree with MS. The tasters of my fictional worlds would continue, whether as interviews or as extracts.

However, for those of you that sign up to my Gossamer Wings Newsletter there would be treats: the tasters would become short stories for free. In that way you could see how the Gossamer Steel universe evolved. I would also be extremely grateful for your comments and feedback, as they would contribute to the ongoing story, providing an invaluable asset in developing the world.

As part of the ongoing creation, I am using Aeon Timeline to construct a Chronology into which the short stories fit. In the same universe, I also have two novellas that I intend to self-publish and release later this year so everyone can experience the world of Gossamer Steel.

Should newsletter subscribers benefit with the novellas in some way? Is having a pre-taste of the world enough? There would be other news and fictional snippets in the newsletter as well.

What about a life of crime? Have I abandoned my criminals and their victims? Never.  As well as a stand-alone psychological thriller, there is the cyber-crime novel, ‘Wyrm Bait’. This is the first of a series that has the gaming world of Gossamer Steel as its background.

Plus there is the sequel to ‘Spiral of Hooves’ that I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2013. ‘Tortuous Terrain’ the second part of the Chasseur series has to have a future as well. The reviews on Amazon and elsewhere have been five star, so I have a lot of positive thoughts looking ahead.

So what do you feel is my future? Please, gaze not into your crystal ball but into the past at what you enjoyed. What do you want next?

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

 

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what_works_III

On Monday I will be taking part in an exciting blogfest and sharing my experiences, so far, on marketing. Do I dare mention my past in the film industry?

What Works…

The first ever “Online Marketing Symposium!

A blogfest with information you can use.

The event happens on Monday January 20, 2014.

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http://www.yolandarenee.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/marketing-what-works.html