Sep 2nd

Reading group Book Title suggestions.

By Bren
I have been feeling a bit separate from people recently due to health issues.
I was standing next to a neighbour on a hot July afternoon awaiting the Carnival Parade and heard myself say to her, 'I am thinking of forming a book club.'
'Oh let me know if you do I'll come.'

I have never been in a book club, have heard some diabolical stories about some of them and others who have belonged to clubs for ten years.
Having said it I thought I'd better do something. I had no idea where to begin or why I had said that I would!
I was browsing FB and saw the local page for Swanage and put up an ad.
'I'm thinking of starting a book club, wine of course, would anyone like to come along?'
Something like that. I expected it to be ignored or maybe get three responses.  Maybe everyone will want to read differnt books, some light romance, some more literary etc.  
I have been inundated and people are still asking if they can come along. I am going to need a church hall! Who'd have thought it. 
Had to choose a time and day/evening. That took some organising. Only a couple dropped out.  
It looks like twelve people will be coming along.  I will def not have enough chairs.
I have no idea what to do next.  Putting out the wine glasses and getting some wine I can deal with. 
Could you suggest books people might like to read, please.
One suggestion has been a Simon Sebag Montifiorrie - I have forgotten the title.
I heard that the library obtains books  for reading groups, so maybe  they have sheets of questions too. I would prefer that the group was not so organised. 
I am sure it will be pleasant. Everyone seems keen to have somewhere  to go on a winter evening. 
Perhaps the choice of book will mean two groups forming.  I am sure there will be lots of ideas on the evening but I want to look as if I know something about books!! 
Who'd a thunk it?
Sep 2nd

Do stories about dragons matter?

By Raine
Well, I'm not a blogger. In fact, this is my second ever. And all my first said was 'look, I'm writing a blog, I think'. This one took a little more thought, and is my take on why I (and others) feel so connected to myths and fairytales, why these old stories are so rooted in our society still.

I wrote a list - do you agree? What did I miss? And does anyone out there understand Jung?

Drumroll....Here it is, hopefully.

Raine x
Sep 2nd

What if...

By Squidge
Had a bit of a think how the question we probably most ask ourselves can be put to use in writing...

Pop over to the Scribbles if you're interested... 
Sep 1st

Grumpy Days


After overhearing a complaint about the amount of festival and fun-days we've encountered this year, which inevitably block up the street with parked cars and litter up the local parks and sports-fields, it got me thinking. Perhaps we have been a tad selfish to only cater for people wanting fun. What about those poor, miserable old sods who only want to sit around and have a good moan?

If we were to organise such an event, I don't think we should change the parking facilities. After all, we've got to start as we mean to go on and give them something to moan about, haven't we? Come to think of it, that ought to mean letting the punters drop litter too.  But then what? How would you cater for such a discerning bunch?

I think I'd start with a soap-box corner for those with a particular axe to grind. Perhaps a really expensive cake stall so they can grumble about prices, then a weak tea or beer tent. We ought to have current chart music instead of a fairground organ, because young ones of today don't appreciate good stuff, do they? Instead of a 'gurning' contest, we could have a groaning contest, and a stubborn-mule derby rather than the donkey one. Of course, the weather should be miserable too.

I propose Mr J to be one of the organisers. He could give anyone a run for his money when he gets going. But what else could we bring to this event? Or whom? What do you reckon?

Aug 31st

Call of Nature.

By settlednomad
Warning - This blog has nothing to do with writing - and will contain the word 'pee', ooops, too late! I want to bring to you gentle folk my new plant discovery and practise my writing, it all counts :-)

This morning, while walking through a small copse of coconut trees on my way to the beach (Sunday is always a beach walk day to ease the stress of the week) I decided, with a delicate nudge from mother nature - in fact my bladder was bursting - to take a pee. Adopting a steady stance, and opting for the classic fireman's fire-dousing action to suit the occasion, I went about my business. On looking down, purely to confirm that I had cleared my feet, I noticed that all the leaves on the plant in front of me were closing! 

I touc hed other leaves that were near by, individually and as groups, they all closed. Totally intrigued I walked away, after finishing and making myself presentable of course, to find a local. It turns out, after asking this local and showing him a similar plant, a urine free plant, that it was a Mimosa Pudica or, more commonly referred to as, The Sensitive Plant. Who'd have thought that a pee could have been so rewarding and educating! Nature, simply fascinating.

For anyone interested in plants there are some interesting videos on Youtube. I tried adding the link here but quite clearly that small task is beyond me. Fear not, the Youtube clips do not feature a video selfie of me! 

I apologise in advance if this is an inappropriate blog post; I'm still feeling my way folks... :-)
Aug 30th

THAT film, yet again

By RichardB
The excitement mounts. Tickets have now been booked for the Welsh premiere of Pride, the film partly shot in our village, in Swansea on 4th September. Looks like half the street's going.

The trailer is now up on YouTube (link), if you're interested. You even get a brief glimpse of our house at 1.12 (last one on the right), not to mention our garden fence and the roof of our old car at 1.14. (Ssh! There were no Peugeot 206s in 1984, not that it's obvious in the shot...)
Aug 30th

And the winner is...

By Squidge
I got stuck for ideas a while back for the second book of Granny Rainbow stories, so I opened it up to readers: the best idea would be written up by me and included!

It seems a bit like cheating - to pick someone else's brain for an idea and then turn it into a story, but I realised we bounce ideas off each other all the time with those we trust to show our writing to. Mind you, having said that, no there will not be published any time soon 'The adventures of Marmaduke and Mrs Fluffy', as suggested by the rest of the Squidge household.

So - have a look and see what the winning idea was! 
Aug 27th


By RichardB
You think good books are written in order to win huge advances and one-a-year prizes? Maybe so. I think not. I think the desire to excel in competition, whether for prizes or for money, is likely to produce a mediocre and predictable novel on a trendy topic in a mode recognised as “safe” by the sales department of a large commercial publisher.
I think good novels are written by writers who want to write this novel, their novel, which is like no other. And which is therefore unpredictable, unsafe, and unlikely to win a prize. Given time and chance and a little publicity, of course, it may keep winning readers for years and years to come. But most corporation-owned publishers could care less for the years to come. Bottom line this month is all that matters.
Ursula K Leguin’s blog, December 2011

As the rejections continue to trickle in, inching towards the point where I become eligible for induction into the Real Authors’ Club, I’m beginning to get hardened to them. I used to want the validation of being told ‘We’re really excited about your book and want to publish it,’ but I’ve just received a different sort of validation, from an unexpected source, that’s given me a new slant on things.

In search of a quote to use in a response to another blog on here, I was visiting Ursula K Leguin’s website. Leguin is an author I have long admired, who deserves to be much better known than she is but who has been pigeonholed as a genre writer. Her writing transcends the genre she has chosen to mainly work in, science fiction. It sings, and has moved me more than once to the edge of tears. On one occasion she actually made my skin crawl, the only time in my adult life a book has done this. I think you get the point: I’m liable to treat anything she has to say for herself with respect.

I didn’t find the quote I was looking for, but I found plenty of other things. I started reading her blogs, and was hooked to the point where my eyes started watering. She has an uncompromising, laser-like intelligence undimmed by age (she’s now in her mid-eighties), the soul of a poet, and trenchant views. And although, in the manner of a really good writer, she can make any of the various subjects she writes about fascinating, what interested me most – surprise! – were the articles concerned with books and writing.
Specifically to this blog, she is contemptuous of the present-day publishing scene, typifying mainstream publishers as profit-obsessed corporate behemoths whose acquisitions policies are entirely driven by their marketing divisions. Granted, she’s a bit of a leftie (something I’m easy with, though that’s another kettle of worms), but her assessment chimes with the last rejection I received, which went, in part ‘[We] do not feel it is something we could place successfully in the current publishing climate.’

Yes, I know it’s almost certainly a standard form letter, but the meaning I extrapolate from this is that’s it’s not necessarily about the quality of my writing, but all to do with marketability. By extension, with mainstream publishing’s obsessional quest for the next best-seller to the virtual exclusion of any inclination to take risks on unknown writers or on anything that’s a bit off the beaten track. So do I really want, after all, that validation I was seeking? It doesn’t seem quite so wonderful when ‘We’re excited about your novel’ is more likely to mean it’s expected to sell than that it’s a brilliant book.

So, if mainstream publishing is a big bad ogre that’s stifling creativity and endangering the future of the English novel by forcing published fiction into a straitjacket of commercialism, then self-publishing is the bright new hope for the future, the rebellion that’s going to put the ogre in his place, right? Well, yes and no. There’s a clear potential for freedom of expression, for escaping from that commercial straitjacket, to write what you want and put it out there. But out there is also the problem of your work getting lost in what one American commentator has called ‘the shit volcano’, the vast proliferation of frankly awful writing, of songs that should never have been heard outside the bathroom. Maybe things will change when the publishing revolution has really got into its stride, but at the moment I can’t see how.

Seems I’m in a bit of a cleft stick, really. On the one side traditional publishing, with its relentless drive towards commercialism; on the other self-publishing, where I have no faith that quality will ever get noticed; and me in the middle, not much liking the sound of either. So where’s that other validation I mentioned when I started?

It’s in the first sentence of Ursula Leguin’s second paragraph above. 'Good novels are written by writers who want to write this novel, their novel.' I’ve done that. I wrote my novel because I wanted to write that novel, without any reference to the ‘publishing climate’, otherwise it would never have got written at all. And I like it. I have the satisfaction of the craftsman, the pleasure in a work well wrought. For now, I’m holding on to that.  
Aug 27th

Scrivener vs WriterPro-Useful Gadgets for Writers?

By psycherbiker

WriterPro and Scrivener are two word processing apps for authors that  take different routes to the same destination:  a well-written, expertly punctuated manuscript. They both recognise that good writing involves a process starting with an idea and ending up with a reader. 

Being a bit of a gadget man, I decided to road test both programmes to see which one is the most helpful. I tried Scrivener first: Scrivener boasts  that it was produced “by writers for writers” and though a little complex to understand straight out of the box, it does follow the stages that most writers use.  There is a corkboard to pin your ideas on; a word processing mode to  get those words down on paper; and  finally, a manuscripting tool to put the whole thing together in a professional package, ready to submit to your eager publisher. 

The cork-board idea is pretty straightforward:  a digital version of the wall  above your writing desk where you stick your Post-It notes. Just like a real board, you can edit and reorder the notes as you wish, a pretty useful  gadget for plotting and drafting scenes, particularly if like me,  you use  a iPad as your writing notebook. I am banned from sticking anything to the wall after that incident with the ripped wallpaper.

Now to get that idea into words whilst  avoiding distractions. The word processing mode goes much further  those provided by either Microsoft or Apple. It includes some useful features  that  probably exist in Word and Apple's Pages,  such as breaking your story into sections and chapters,  but I have never bothered to find out how to use them. They are usually tucked away in hidden menus accessible only to the geeks that wrote the program.  Whereas, Scrivener provides ready formatted chapters, scenes and sub-scenes for you to  structure the work  at the touch of an easy to find button. And,  if you decide that that middle chapter should now smack your reader in the face as soon as they turned the first page, you can easily drag and drop each element of your book into a new position, as you edit and reformulate.  The real beauty is that you can visually keep track of the changes made and you never lose anything.

If you prefer to just write until you drop without thinking about chapters, Scrivener allows you to block-select text later and make the selection into a separate chapter. 

In addition to all this  help with composing, there is a place for your research: a sort of box file into which you can shove cuttings, extracts and even web pages. 

Finally, when your masterpiece is  ready to go, press compile and all those sections and chapters are neatly assembled into the finished manuscript along with a cover page showing your important contact details, even your agents number and email; (I should be so lucky). The really clever bit in this last stage is that Scrivener allows you to choose the format of your finished MS, such as Paperback, E-Book or straightforward PDF. 

Now, let’s take a look at WriterPro: Writer Pro has many of the features boasted by Scrivener but goes for the stripped back, uncluttered approach. If  like me you have a somewhat compromised attention span, then it does what I wants it to do: keeps me focussed on my writing.  In fact, when in Writing mode there is nothing else on the screen but the gleaming  evidence of your literary genius. No banners or menus to draw your attention away from the page,  just a box on the right-hand side marked, “Workflow” showing which mode your in; Note, Write, Edit, or Read. 

But  how does it deal with the other writing stages? Very well I think. The most recent incarnation has moved away from  what they referred to as a “River” mode  to  a “Note-Write-Edit-Read” schema.

 The idea being that you rattle your notes out before going onto to write the piece in detail. Once you have  your words down on the screen, you press the button for edit and can go through each sentence one at a time. Again,  the idea is to keep you focussed with only the sentence you are working on  highlighted. In this mode you can check your syntax, verbs, nouns, prepositions and so on, simply by  clicking the appropriate button. More straight forward editing such as spell checking, is taken care of by  an automated check-as-you-go system.  If a red line appears underneath a word, simply right clicking provides you with the appropriate correction. Personally I have found this ok to use, provided that you check the suggestion carefully: a recent email to my solicitor assured him that I had circumcised his original instructions.

 The final mode with Writer Pro is, “Read”. This locks the document so that you are unable to edit any further. Don’t worry, you can simply push the slider back to unlock if you need to. What they are trying to achieve here is that, “put it in a drawer for 48 hours before you look at it again” part of the writing process, so that you experience your manuscript as close to the way your reader will see it.

An added point for those of you who move across multiple platforms is that WordPro has a fully functioning version for both iPad and iPhone. This allows you to keep all your devices synchronised to the most recent version of your work, enabling you to write more or less anywhere. Scrivener prefers to sit on just one device.

My overall opinion? It depends on how you prefer to write. If you need to  steer clear of distractions, and just get stuff down on the screen, Writer Pro wins for me. If you take a more systematic method and like to plan and plot carefully before putting pen to paper or more accurately, fingers to keyboard, then Scrivener is probably for you. I also feel WriterPro has the advantage if you need a little assistance with your style. I do find the way it can pick out  my excessive adverbs really helpful, others might find this simply irritating  at best and, “style cramping”  at worst. Also, as an Apple fan, I like the freedom to write on whatever I have to hand; phone, tablet or PC. If you use a notebook and quill, then this will not appeal. Well, I suppose it worked for Shakespeare.

If you've tried either both or any other programme, please share your experiences by adding a comment to this blog.

Aug 27th

Chiang Mai Chronicles - kitten update.

By stephenterry
The last  two months have flown by. Very stressful step-parenting five kittens who think our room is an F1 racetrack when they're active, and a huge litter-tray when not.

They're learning, and now they're more or less ready to move on. Which is also stressful. What parent wants their children to leave? Here's a couple of pix. The bottom one (Dollar) has found a happy home, and I dread the next one leaving. So does Bright Eyes... 




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