The Joy of Illustrations

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I love art and adore illustrated books. Maybe it is a throwback from being a child holding a picture book in my chubby hands, in awe of the story coming alive in the drawings next to the words. The relationship between the author’s words and the artist’s imagery, when they compliment each other is sublime. They become so entwined that you can not think of one without the other. If you see the drawings of Quentin Blake, you automatically think Roald Dahl or if you read the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh, the sketches of E.H Shepherd form in your mind. When I read the words of Tolkien I see the art of Alan Lee followed by scenes from the Lord of the Rings films; a rare case where the producer manages to capture the essence of the novel in its cinematic splendour.

 

20161119_114844 (2)I grew up immersed in several books by Brian Froud and my treasured possession is the illustrated version of The Lord of the Rings and these have heavily influenced how I see my current novel in my mind. As a wannabe writer, I always had images of how I would like my book to look like. Forget planning wedding dresses in idle times in class at school, I was planning my book. I wanted illustrations to bring compliment my story, art to make my book become more than a tale to be read but an object that calls to be placed on the bookcase. My artistic skills are not up to bringing my images alive but luckily a close friend Debra McFarlane has, so we spent our time on wet, cold break times huddled in the art room discussing stories and sketching characters. Maybe one day, I will write a novel worthy of illustrating.

An artist I have come across recently who I love and has the style I envisaged as a teenager is Emily Hare. The world of unique creatures she has created is a wonderful example of how the alchemy of words, drawings and imagination can form magic on the page. Her Kickstarter campaign ends shortly but it is worth looking at. It is already successful and I eagerly wait to hold her book in my not so chubby hands and immerse myself in the world of Strangehollow just as I did with Froud’s Labyrinth.

 

Long time no see

 

20170507_105049 (2)It is May already, the garden is making tentative moves towards its glorious summer display. The daffodils have been replaced by the tulips. It is a complete change from the grey skies of winter, bare trees and shrubs and the muddy lawn churned up by excitable Jack Russells. There is hope we may have a lawn again in time for sunny weather.

My novel with the working title of The Hollow has been plotted on the plotting board and cork version on Scrivener.  The characters created are eager to tell their side of the tale. They have been jostling each other demanding they should be heard first but then nothing. Zilch. No words have been written apart from random notes hastily written on various apps or scraps of paper when the voices refused to be ignored or inspiration for a scene hits. I feel a failure before I have really begun. Life has got in the way; mainly ill health with the overwhelming fatigue it brings and the medication that numbs the pain and allows you to type/write for short bursts has the effect of zapping any creativity like a writer’s kryptonite. Even going to my writer’s group has fallen to the wayside but as I head towards another year older this month, it is time to regroup and grab the words when I can so this work in progress gets completed, no matter how slow or sporadic I will be.

 

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Plotting essentials!

 

A New Year, a new page

2016 with all its surprises, turmoil and heartache is over and a fresh year has begun. Yesterday, flying around social media was this message.

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It is true and I hope to fill every page, every day this year with something, however small. A calendar to track my progress, a new notebook and stationary has been purchased*  so this years adventure can begin.

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My to-do list for 2017

  • complete the course I have signed up to A Novel Idea and have a first draft of my WIP (The Hollow) written by 2018.
  • Write for 10 minutes at least everyday
  • Read 10 minutes everyday – not a hardship for an avid reader who needs books like she needs to breathe
  • Take photos
  • Connect with others with similar interests in writing in cyberworld and locally
  • Learn the craft of writing
  • Write short stories
  • Enjoy the process of researching the facts my stories need.
  • Visit places for research with the added bonus of a cup of tea if I am lucky.
  • And the one I am most looking forward too is release my imagination and allow it to go wild.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2017 with lots of books, inspiration and happiness.

*no writer can resist a new notebook with crisp clean pages full of promise and potential. It is the only time an empty page is a positive rather than the daunting sign of the dreaded writer’s block.

 

Christmas lights are twinkling

The Christmas tree is up, lights are twinkling and  dressed in all its finery with each bauble having its own memory or story attached – a plot idea maybe?  I love this time of year though the festive atmosphere makes it is hard to focus on the current work in progress. It would be so easy to let it wander into the realms of a Christmas tale. Will setting the novel in the run up to Christmas add to the tension or make it twee?  Maybe as I curl up with a hot cup of Christmas tea, my dog and my laptop perched precariously on my knee, I should write a Christmas short story to get it out of my system?

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Nanowrimo went as well as I expected. I did not reach the required 50,000 words – not even close with my measly 7,828 words but I have made in roads  in planning the plot, knowing my characters and place. I am trying to focus on this  rather the dismal lack of words.  I am plodding on with a course run by the energetic and enthusiastic Shaunta Grimes. It has helped so much to keep me focused and write every day. It may only be a snatched minutes during the day or longer if I awake early but words are being typed. If I am not writing I am plotting or allowing my imagination  run riot. I have spent so long keeping my imagination in a box, it is enjoying its freedom. I may never be the writer I aspire to be but I am happier for releasing this side of me, talking about writing with others and gaining support from fellow Ninja Writers. Every place I go or experience I have, whether it is being mesmerized by shops in York or waiting for a hospital appointment, the emotions, scenes, and senses are stored for another day when  I may need them. I am looking forward to what 2017 brings in relation to the ideas I may have, the places I may visit and  the characters I may meet.

 

Remember, remember the 5th November

Tonight  will be full of good food, bonfires and fireworks, if the downpour of rain stops in time. In my case, it will consist of good  food and loud music while comforting a quivering dog who thinks the world is ending. In the last month, since I have come back to writing I have accomplished things I never thought I would.

They may only be tiny to many of you but to me, they are massive.

  • I joined a Facebook group or two so I can discuss writing, gain support to stop me floundering and retreat back to my  cave mumbling “I can’t do this” while throwing my laptop into the depths of darkness
  • signed up for a writing course to learn more skills
  • signed up to NaNoWriMo as a rebel
  • joined a local writing group
  • I wrote a piece of short fiction to share at the group. I nervously read it aloud to them yesterday. I resisted temptation to hide under the table, wash up remaining mugs from our tea break or hide in the loo. The doom I imagined,as well as the intense criticism and laughter did not happen. Relief descended but they could just have been being nice to the red-faced, stuttering and trembling newbie.

So today I am going to pluck up my courage again and share it to you*

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The Bonfire

With the flick of a match, the flames stuttered into life. “Come on,” she
pleaded. “Take! Hurry!” Perhaps she should have added something to help. She should have paid more attention to the annual fire building for their bonfire party over the years. But then, she seethed, she was always run ragged in the kitchen, adding the finishing touches to the copious amounts of food and lashings of hot chocolate made just how he liked it. She would be sweating, her feet aching while raucous laughter would drift into the house as he played the perfect host, regaling stories to entertain his friends. Fireworks would be set up and ready to go, waiting for the right moment.

She shook away those thoughts, breathing in the smoky air and revering in the increasing crackle of the fire. The night was otherwise silent. Flames began to creep up higher and higher, and she was caught, mesmerized by the flickering dance of the flames. Finally, the flames surged upwards, roaring as they caught the bottom of the guy’s trousers. Elizabeth smiled, feeling the warmth of the Horlicks spreading through her gloves.

No one was surprised when she contacted them declaring the party had been cancelled, though she could hear the disappointment in their voices and the unsaid thought that John could have waited until after bonfire night to run off with his mistress. Maybe she should not have cancelled. The bonfire was made, everything organised and well prepared. His friends could have been standing alongside her watching the flames swallow up the trousers and catch the jacket of the Guy. She wondered whether they would notice it was his favourite jacket, the one he always wore. The one he always wore when entertaining. The one he wore when he told her he was leaving. And the one he wore when anger boiled up inside her until she grabbed the antique statue to strike him. Elizabeth was shocked to see him crumble in front of her, blood seeping from the wound. He was always so formidable and alive, and yet there he lay, motionless and weak.

Lighting a sparkler, she idly wrote her name into the darkness. Her maiden name. Bonfire night was a perfect time for new beginnings.


Have a wonderful weekend and Guy Fawkes Night!

*please remember the red-faced stuttering newbie talking at a table surrounded by talented writes will be replaced by the red-faced, quivering newbie hiding behind a cushion when you read this. My dog and I make a great pair!

 

Jumping into the unknown

As a child and young adult, writing played a big part of my life. Stories were scribbled in umpteen notebooks, characters created on any available scraps of paper and otherworlds sketched on school work. If I could daydream, I was happy. As an adult, life became busy and writing was seen as something I would do one day. When I did have time to sit down to write, fear of failing and being seen as silly took over. The dream of writing a novel was put aside. Life has a habit of throwing situations at you which makes you reconsider what makes you happy and what you would really like to achieve however scary. Writing made me happy and I want to capture that feeling again.

NanoWriMo is the perfect opportunity for me to stop procrastinating and give my characters a voice so their tales are told. I doubt I will acheive 50,000 words  because health issues and life still likes to throw obstacles my way but if I write  5000 I will be a step closer to finishing my novel. I wish following a dream wasn’t so scary but as J K Rowling says “Anything is possible if you have got enough nerve”.