Monday, June 18, 2012

Recipes and Writing

Right now I'm about to make a panna cotta for the first time...I like cooking so this is not something I fear, but I already know at the start that I need to change the recipe...because I'm pre-diabetic and I can't have sugar. The original recipe is here and is from Rodda's Cornish Clotted Cream...

This tweaking got me thinking as I'm struggling with book two...I love writing and I know this story but I have changed the ingredients and I'm unsure of the results...and this is giving me grief because I have  no picture of the end...I feel like I've changed it from a simple roast to complicated stew.

So I am going back to the starting board and looking at my ingredients to make sure I put them in the the right order...

Now tonight's pudding only requires the changing of real sugar to fake sugar and vanilla bean to vanilla essence....'s a pic of the final product...and yes is a berry coulis rather than i can't stick to the  recipe!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Seeking Inspiration

Sorry, sorry, I know, I should have been here yesterday, but I don’t seem to be very organised at the moment and it slipped my mind!  I’ve had one of those weeks where you run around a lot but don’t actually feel like you’ve achieved anything, and I also took time out to have some fun – you know, “filling the well” stuff! 

This was totally necessary because I’m supposed to be writing my next book and the inspiration was sorely lacking.  Whenever this happens, I usually do one (or all) of four things – go and meet a friend for something cultural like an art gallery and/or shopping, have a brainstorming session with my writing buddy, read other people’s books, or go to the movies.  This week I did all four!

Brainstorming came first, and working with someone else like that is amazingly useful!  No matter how much I try and do it by myself, there are always things that another person will see or contribute that I’d never have thought of.  And just bouncing ideas off someone else, saying them out loud, I can hear instantly whether they’re going to work or not.  Plus, you fire each other up and I went home, wanting to write, which was great.
Photo from RA website  

The outing was to the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, always good fun.  I find this annual show of all kinds of weird and wonderful artwork fascinating in its diversity, and it’s great fun arguing the merits (or not!) of some of the paintings and sculptures with a friend.  Taste is very obviously subjective when it comes to art!  But some of it can definitely inspire ideas for writing.  This year I fell in love with a bronze frog, but sadly he was a bit out of my price range ...

Reading other people’s novels, as well as fact books, helps enormously.  Usually I try to choose a different genre to the one I’m writing myself, so I read a couple of YA books which I really enjoyed.

But my absolute favourite way of filling the well and finding some inspiration is going to the movies.  I just love it and frequently get the urge to go and see something, anything, and I don’t mind if I have to go by myself.  The huge screen, cosy darkness and the popcorn makes it such a special experience, nothing can beat it for me when it comes to visual entertainment.  I don’t mind watching DVD’s at home, but it’s just not the same.  When you’re in the cinema it’s as if you’re there, in the movie with the actors, living their lives, feeling their emotions.  Some books give me the same effect, but not all, whereas with a film, even if you hate it, you can’t help but get engaged somehow.  And if the hero of the film happens to be your favourite actor ... well, I need say no more!  I was well and truly inspired :)

Right, now it’s time to do some actual writing methinks ...

Please come back on Sunday to hear from Liz - I think she's been out and about even more than I have!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Conference Season

It's not long now till the RNA's Annual Conference, at Newton Rigg, Penrith, starting on the 13th July.


The Conference packs have arrived (if you haven't yet book, there are still a few places - snatch them quick!) and the annual pleasure of browsing the sessions and the annual agony of trying to choose which options to pick has begun.

Jan Jones has, as always, done a brilliant job of making sure there's something for everyone, whether you're starting out or multi-pubbed, interested in YA books or sweet short fiction.  Just sitting her writing this blog, I keep getting distracted by reading contributor bios or trying to decide between a drama workshop or something from Vulpes Libres.

My perception of the Conference has shifted a lot over the *cough*decade*cough* or so I've been going.  I've attended as a wide-eyed newbie, as an unpublished writer, blooded by my first serious rejections and once, memorably, having just given my first serious rejection of an offered contract.  I've attended - even more memorably - as a newly published author, as a contributor.  I've turned up tired, sick and hopeless, and ecstatic, empowered and feeling invincible.  I've always left feeling better equipped, better informed, and more resilient.  Frequently I've left making fantastic friends.

Last year I was honoured to be asked to facilitate the First Timers' Network, making sure new attendees have a chance to get to know each other before arriving, and have any support they need when they get there.  That was a new experience for me, too.

This year there's a something new for me, too.  This year, with the help of the lovely ladies of Belfagan, I'm going to be leading a session on morris dancing.

As you do.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mood Music

I like to write in silence.

I mean SILENCE. No noise whatsoever. My writing time is usually when no one else is even in the house, or when they're sleeping and the house has fallen silent. If I have to write with other people wandering around, I reach for headphones and plug into a repeating track that sounds just like a windy day in Wales, because for me that's like white noise, erasing everything around me.

But this past month, while I worked in an unprecedented frenzy to complete the latest novel before deadline, something strange (for me) began to happen:

I began to download certain songs, and play them (still with headphones, on my iPod) while I worked on certain scenes. At first, I only played the songs before I started writing, but I caught myself a few times writing while I listened, which is very odd for me.

I had a little playlist, by the end. Most of the songs were directly related to characters. A few chords of Robbie Williams' Better Man and I was right in the mind of my past hero, Edmund O'Connor. Daughtrey's What About Now set the scene for my present day second-chance lovers. And so on.

I can honestly say this has never happened to me before with a book, so I'm not sure whether it was a one-off or the start of a new habit, but it's got me very curious. I know other authors create playlists for the books they write, because I've seen them mentioned here and there, I just never thought I would be one of them.

Here's one of my favourite songs from my playlist for The Firebird. As with Daughtrey's, it definitely belonged to my modern day hero, Rob:

Video Details † Bon Jovi

Do you use music when you write (or read)? 

Friday, June 1, 2012


John Steinbeck

Apologies for the delay in posting I have been in the midst of an existential angst. OK so I am lying, work has gone mad but I have been having a bit of a moment of clarity that then lead to a bit of a dip in confidence.

I was reading this post on Letters of Note, a letter that John Steinbeck sent to his creative writing tutor at University. These following paragraphs, referring to short story writing, suddenly made alarms go off in my head.

“The basic rule you gave us was simple and heartbreaking. A story to be effective had to convey something from writer to reader and the power of its offering was the measure of its excellence. Outside of that, you said, there were no rules. A story could be about anything and could use any means and technique at all—so long as it was effective.

As a subhead to this rule, you maintained that it seemed to be necessary for the writer to know what he wanted to say, in short, what he was talking about. As an exercise we were to try reducing the meat of a story to one sentence, for only then could we know it well enough to enlarge it to three or six or ten thousand words.”

Although this refers to short story writing it can apply to all writing. I’ve read this rule before, in many different forms, but this time was different. Instead of understanding it intellectually, I suddenly understood it emotionally. Something had always niggled me about ‘The Stone Voice’, that fact that I could never explain it in one sentence. And here was why, I didn’t know or didn’t want to choose what the story was REALLY about. Leaving the story a bit fluffy round the edges, unfocused and lacking meat.

This is all great, fantastic. More work but great. Or not… because actually I still don’t know what I want the story to be about. I’ve put the story in a virtual drawer for the moment and working on other things. Interestingly I have managed to distil the next story down to one sentence…

Onwards and upwards!

Come back on Sunday to hear from Susanna