2

Diary of a scaredy cat, 4 February 2015

lonely planetWriting companion of the week
This is another book I’ve had on the shelf for a while, but there is an updated edition available. Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing is a lovely little thing packed with advice and information. There are interviews with authors and editors and a whole section on resources.

My only gripe with this book, if I have one, is that the font used is very, very tiny. Follow the link if you’d like to know more.

Short writing work
Last Wednesday I polished a brand new short story  and sent it off on its merry way the next day, after it had (a) cooled overnight, and (b) been checked for accuracy.

With the latest guidelines out from fave short fiction market, I need to have a look at the work in progress and do some market study over the next week. If I don’t have any story ideas percolating or in various stages of draftdom, I’ll dip into one of my ideas books to help get me going.

Longer writing work
Any work on anything full-length has significantly stalled over the past few weeks. This situation needs to change quite rapidly.

Editing
Last week I started the current “big edit”, and I’ve been dipping into that every day. I need to get a shake on, though, as I think it’s due out later this month …

Yesterday I pitched for 4 new editing or proofreading jobs. This morning one of them – editing a travel brochure – asked if I had a BA in the destination language … In the first place, the client obviously has ideas above her product’s station. Secondly, if she wanted a degree she should have asked for one, and so saved us both some wasted time. And thirdly, as a very British English person with 30 years experience editing and writing, I think I trump any BA in our particular destination language. Just my opinion …

Word count challenge
My target word count for February was 20,000 words, and I managed 21,752. I’m very happy with that. With 22 working days in March, and at 1,000 words per day, my target for March is 22,000 words.

Fiction writing course
The only thing I’ve managed to do on this over the past week is go and buy a small selection of magazines that publish short fiction. Fortunately, 3 of the specials are out at the same time, so that will save time in the long run. I need to crack on with this.

Work in progress
So this coming week I still have the “big edit” to do, short story writing to kick up the backside, and the fiction writing course to get on with.

What’s in your WiP this week?

4

Derwent Reservoir, 28 February 2015

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Around Derwent Reservoir. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Last week was the poet’s birthday, and we kicked it off on Wednesday evening with a run out to the pictures. We went to the Vue cinema at Meadowhall to watch Jupiter Ascending … well, actually, we were going to see Kingsman: The Secret Service, but we couldn’t get there in time for that showing, perhaps we’ll make it next week to see that. So we saw a later showing and before that we indulged in a KFC for tea. I do know how to show my man a good time … although he did insist on paying for the KFC.

On Thursday – his actual birthday – he was supposed to be at band practice at 7pm, but he’s been so busy at work he’s not had time to learn the new songs, and he was so busy on Thursday too, he couldn’t guarantee he’d be home in time. So he cancelled that and we had a chilled evening when he did get home, in front of the telly.

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The poet at Derwent Reservoir. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

On Friday we were at the pictures again, this time to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at Penistone Paramount. We had chips from the corner chippy for tea, which was just closing, and we had pop, popcorn and chocolate while we watched the film, which we thought was very funny and quite nice. We do like the Penistone Paramount, and the poet declared on Friday, on our way home, that it was his favourite pictures. He quite liked the Vue at Meadowhall too, having popped that particular cherry last week.

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A bit blurred, but the poet getting up close and personal with his new camera. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

On Saturday we thought we might be having the best of the weekend weather, and so off we pootled to Derwent Reservoir. This is the one in Derbyshire and not Derwent Water in the Lake District – but it’s just as nice, and it’s where the Dambusters of WW2 practised their bombing raids. The reasons for going are many, but it was another of his birthday treats, he’s still breaking in new boots, he wants to practise using his camera, and we all benefit from the fresh air and exercise – Rufus too.

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The insides of a tree. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Derwent Reservoir is less than an hour from where we live and is the latest in a string of places I’ve shown the poet – and he’s the local lad! ;-) We were here last year to see the Lancasters flypast 2014, and I was here the year before when he was too poorly to come with me – again, for a Lancaster flypast, but the 70th anniversary that time. I’ve also been here before walking where I took pictures and blogged about it again. (The link to that is here.)

When we come here again we’ll probably do one or more of the many walks. There are several, of varying lengths and accessibility. Plus there’s all of the Dambuster history we want to look at, and the poet wants to get a picture of the sheepdog memorial stone and another of the Dambuster commemoration stone.

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Diane and Lord Rufus. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We took a picnic with us and ate it in the car. Next time when we go, we’ll take the deckchairs. In fact, the deckchairs may become a permanent feature in the boot anyway because we’re hoping to get out and about a lot more now that things are settling down for us again.

On Saturday evening the poet’s band was playing in Doncaster and quite a few of our friends came along to watch. It was a good night. And very busy.

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I think this is Ian’s current favourite picture of me. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Sunday we had a leisurely start over a leisurely breakfast. With the wedding just 2 months away now, we decided it might be nice to lose a few pounds … well, I decided, he agreed. :-) So we’re down now to replacing what we usually eat with more healthy choices, no eating or snacking between meals, apart from fruit, and set meals throughout the day including breakfast. Every day. So far we’re doing okay, but it is only Day 2 today …

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Derwent Dam. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Then we headed out to Doncaster (again) to replace my walking coat. I’ve had my old waxed jacket (seen in these pictures) for a very long time. Probably 15 years or more. (I do buy clothes to last.) But last weekend, when we went to Slaithwaite, we noticed a rip in it. I’d already bought the poet a new walking coat for his birthday so he said I could have one for mine too, even though he’s also paid for my fiction writing course. So off we went to get me a new walking coat …

We came back with new trousers for me too, gaiters for both of us, and several tops for him, some of which were paid for by my dad for his birthday present. He’d already bought me a new pair of walking trousers, to match a pair of his (we’re like a proper Howard and Hilda), but these new ones have zip-off shorts. We should both be suitably attired now for our walking.

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Derwent Dam. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The new clothes will also be for the first half of the honeymoon, when we’re touring some of the west of Scotland for a week before flying off to Cyprus for another week. Now we just need new clothes for Cyprus …

On the way home we dropped off at the pet superstore to get flea treatment for all 3 pets, for 3 applications each, and bird food for the garden visitors. Then we had a Subway lunch before going home, and he made us a mushroom omelette for tea.

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He’s getting a bit good at that blurry background thang. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

This week he’s at home all week, which is quite exciting as we don’t have any other plans either, and no band practice. We may go and get the materials for some new shelves in the living room one evening, and he may have a go at making them. But I think he’s going to be mainly recharging. He has his annual review at work this week too, when we hope to have some news confirmed.

I’ll be mainly editing the big book and writing in between. I’ve already started to work on the gig list again and I have my fiction writing course to continue with too. Don’t forget, too, that the book giveaway runs for another week. Thanks to all of those who have already joined in.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. I know this slows down the rendering for some dial-up users, which is why I’ve started to make them smaller.

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He has a remote control for the camera now, it’s not Rufus taking the pictures – honestinjun. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth – yes, really.)

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Book giveaway

nightcrawler largeprintI get a lot of hits on this blog every day, and often on days when I haven’t posted anything.

But the number of comments has dwindled significantly to maybe 3 a week if I’m lucky. (And big thanks to all of those who do say something.) So either I’m doing something wrong, or people just aren’t interested in blogs any more.

To those of you who are still interested, I have a book giveaway. It’s a large print edition of Night Crawler.

All you have to do is comment below and answer these three questions:

  1. Where you know me from (online or in real life)
  2. Where you’re based in the world
  3. What you want to see (or don’t want to see) on this blog

All three questions must be answered in order to qualify for the draw, which will take place on my birthday on 9 March 2015.

Thanks for joining in and good luck. :-)

4

Diary of a scaredy cat, 25 February 2015

new shell book of firstsWriting companion of the week
This is a very old one that’s been on my bookshelf for a very long time. And it seems that 1995 might be the latest edition available. But there is no way I’d be without this book and if another one comes out I may have to buy it.

Do you know when British-made nylon first became available in the UK? When was the first magazine ever published? How long have traveller’s cheques been in existence? It’s easy for writers to fall over on such simple things when writing historical fiction or non-fiction, so this book is a lifesaver for those and other occasions.

Reference books like this are just as important to me as the how-to-write books. You can still buy the New Shell Book of Firsts by Patrick Robertson, but they’re all used. Unless they’re thinking of releasing a new updated version … Meanwhile, follow the link.

Short writing work
After making a song and dance the week before last about only working on short fiction for now, I found myself the very next day making a telephone pitch to a gardening magazines following a request of theirs on Facebook. The pitch was received very well and I was asked to confirm everything in an email, which I did. Yesterday they got back to me to say they were full for the next couple of months, but would it be all right for them to contact me in, say, April? Well, according to my calculations, that’s less than 6 weeks away. I certainly don’t have any problem with that.

Yesterday I polished 2 brand new stories and sent them off on their merry ways, via snail mail, to 2 potential markets. I also dusted down a couple of old ones and sent those into the Australian ether.

Editing
I finished the author revisions on one of the books I’m currently editing and got that sent off to the publisher for sending to first proof pdf. This week I started the big one, and yesterday I pitched for 8 new editing or proofreading jobs for when the current workload dies down a little.

Finance project
I wrote one more post for the secret finance project last week, and it’s getting a few hits, with even some followers and retweets on Twitter. This is good considering it’s completely anonymous.

Fiction writing course
This week I read the next 2 modules for the fiction writing course and am gathering research material for my second assignment. I’ve had my first assignment back. They’ve allocated me a similar person as my tutor, with a similar work history, of a similar age, and even living in the same county.

February writing challenge
Today’s blog will take me over my 20,000-word target for February. That leaves me 2 working days to spare, so I should clear it and go beyond it again. I’m happy with that. :-)

Work in progress
This coming week I need to crack on with the big editing job, write my second assignment for the course, and do some more short story or novel work, whichever takes my fancy the most. I have a short story awaiting typing and a new short story to write for my assignment. And I have to continue getting a hard copy of Catch the Rainbow together. The folder it’s all in now looks very inviting and I just want to use it.

What’s in your WiP this week?

0

Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival 2015

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This was the sound hub. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We finally made it to the Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival. It’s only taken me 9 years to get there, the poet only 2. It’s a festival started in the 1980s, bringing to life a very old tale of smugglers and how they tried to evade capture. You can read all about it by following the link.

We had a very busy weekend starting with finishing work early on Friday to go and collect the poet’s new car. There were almost fisticuffs on the forecourt when we realised they’d forgotten something, but the car’s booked in on Thursday to have that remedied.

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Diane looking slightly started outside the media tent. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

After collecting the car, we came home via the supermarket. The fruit and veg boxes were delivered at about 12 noon, so we were able to buy food to complement what came in those.

On Saturday we had a bit of a lazy start, but then headed over to Slaithwaite (pronounced Slauwit) via Dewsbury. It’s the poet’s birthday this coming Thursday and, amongst other things,  I’d promised him a new walking coat. We came away from the outdoor shop with new walking trousers for me too, a collapsible water bowl for the dog, and a slab of Kendal mint cake – white.

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Ian looking pinched by the cold – and it really was very cold. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

When we arrived at Slaithwaite we were very lucky to park in our usual spot – this is the third time we’ve been to the town, but only the first time to the festival. We were able to eat our picnic before going down to see what was going on.

By the time the procession started, the town was rammed. We found a very nice spot right next to the canal, and the media tent, and a waste bin … And we had a very good view of both the start of the procession and the end. We were also well-placed for the actual moonraking. It was very, very cold, though. Next time we’ll be wearing our thermal underwear!

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The women of the village and the gnomes raking the moon out of the canal. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Rufus wasn’t entirely happy. There were so many people and only a few took any notice of him! He also felt the cold too. He’s not a dog to wear a dog coat, but he’s small enough for us to pick up and hug to us, although he does get quite heavy.

We stayed to watch the raking of the moon, one of the bands and the start of the procession of lanterns. But then we headed home via Golcar and Huddersfield, just to miss the traffic in and around Slaithwaite.

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The procession of “landmark” lanterns for the 2015 festival. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Saturday night was a late evening (by the time we got home) in front of the telly, and Sunday it was off to see my parents in Birmingham. We had another lazy evening in front of the telly.

Today, after work, we’re off to say happy first birthday to the poet’s grand-daughter, and that will give us chance to see his parents too, and his daughter.

Meanwhile, I’m quite busy shifting a big edit that finally arrived last week, filling in paperwork for the wedding, and uploading and editing photographs from the weekend. I also have the next module of the writing course to read, and the next assignment to write. And there are 2 short stories awaiting proofreading so they can go off on their merry way.

Enjoy the colourful pictures. There are more to see if you’re on our Facebook.

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One of the bands, all pretty and bright. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

6

Raking the moon (and a mini rant)

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More of the skating mallards on Wormy’s Lake. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We feel very privileged to live where we do, and we’re very happy to pay for that privilege – and pay well. As with everything else in the history of this blog, I’ve used nicknames of people or places in my life to maintain some privacy. I’m generally very open, but not when it concerns others whose blog this isn’t, unless I’ve already asked their permission. And I’m the same on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, the lot.

This is why we call the lake at the end of our lane “Wormy’s Lake”. It’s a privately owned lake that Leeds & District Amalgamated Society of Anglers owns the angling rights to, and the poet has a Leeds & District ASA fishing licence that entitles him to fish there – along with about 2 or 3 other anglers on a busy day. But the actual lake is private property and has trespassing warnings all over it. They don’t even hold matches there. And it’s a bit too close to where we actually live for me to be revealing any map co-ordinates to the world and his wife. Oh yes, and we call it “our lane” because it’s the lane where we live. Isn’t that normal?

Someone has not only felt the need to go out of their way to find out where we live (when all they had to do was ask, as others have done privately), but they’ve also gone to the liberty of trying to tell others where we live too. This is all very odd to us and, actually, smacks of either stalking or sour grapes – and many people we’ve told agree. We made a very conscious decision to move to where we live now, for many, many reasons that are not really anyone else’s business. And – actually – we made sure we got it. We’re also very proud that we did get it. We’ve had a pretty nasty slog to get here and we’re bloody pleased that we did. If that makes us smug, then so be it.

We will continue to enjoy our new surroundings and I will continue to bore folk with tales and pictures of our surroundings. If anyone doesn’t like it, they know what to do – or what not to do. DON’T come here; DON’T watch; DO press the hide or delete button. But reveal our private details to anyone and we WILL take it further.

*** end of mini rant ***

We’ve had another very busy week with the poet away in Germany for most of it. Then yesterday he was “over the hill” in Manchester again, and this morning he’s on his way to Sheffield. This afternoon we go to pick up his new car, which we spent a couple of hours last Saturday deliberating over. And this evening, we’ll do the shopping.

There’s a busy weekend on the horizon too. Tomorrow it’s the Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival. I have been going to this biennial event so many times since I found out about it and tomorrow – I hope – we’re going to finally make it. On Sunday we’re off to Birmingham to see my parents, and Monday we’re off to Doncaster to see the poet’s parents and his daughter, and to celebrate his grand-daughter’s first birthday.

Our fruit and veg boxes are due today. They weren’t there when we got up this morning, but I think they were early last time because of the snow. When we do the shopping, we’ll buy stuff to complement what we get. And that means we may also squeeze in a trip to a farm shop over the weekend.

Workwise, I have to get my head down now as I have some very pressing deadlines all coming in at once and one of them is a very big job.

What are you up to this weekend?

4

Diary of a scaredy cat, 18 February 2015

write brain workbookWriting companion of the week
This week’s writing companion is a fun tool designed to get you exercising your right brain. I’m definitely a logical, left-brain kinda gal, but when I want to let my creative juices flow unbridled, this is a book I turn to.

The book isn’t available in electronic form, as far as I know. But this is probably because the pages are filled with lots of colourful worksheets designed to be written all over. Now, the OCD in me doesn’t like this either. I like to keep the pages in my books pristine. But I’ll try and photocopy the pages and work on them that way, or trace them into my own workbook, or just pretend there’s, say, a picture of a yacht sail on the page just gagging to be filled with writing all about the sea. I also feel it’s a bit of a marketing ploy to get you to buy a brand new version every year. But hey, that could just be me being cynical (perish the thought).

If you’re a right-brained writer, you will definitely love this book. If you’re a left-brained writer, give it a go. It may take you places you’ve never been before. You can find The Write Brain Workbook: 366 exercises to liberate your writing by Bonnie Neubauer here.

Short writing work
Last Wednesday I finished the typed draft of another short story. I also added 2 new stories to Twee Tales Too.

On Thursday, having only said the day before that I was going to concentrate on fiction, an idea occurred to me after seeing a magazine’s request for responses on Facebook. I gave them a quick ring, it being a regular magazine I read anyway (so it was in our magazine rack), and asked if they’d like something from me. This is a gardening pitch and is pretty much because we’re starting from scratch.

The deputy editor liked all of the ideas and asked me to to put them into an email to her, with details of my own writing history. So off that went before lunch. They’re unlikely to want a regular contribution from me as I’ve never worked for them before. But if they get any gaps or if someone lets them down, or even if they do a special feature on something I can cover, they’re going to give me a shout. I always said I was a natural feature writer. I have to work harder at the fiction.

Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book 2
I edited a further 2,000 words out of Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book 2, and then promptly added another 100. It’s not coming down, so I’ve increased the total word length to 75,000. I also finished putting in all of the bookmarks and formatted the chapter headings. Now I need to go through and hotlink the contents to the bookmarks. There are 232 of them …

Editing
Last Thursday I was invited to pitch for a job that I liked the look of, so I did. But it was a fast turnaround job and I didn’t hear from them, so I think they may have chosen someone else.

This week the awaited big job from lovely-already-boss arrived, with the bombshell that it’s scheduled for publication in March. That’s March 2015 and not March 2016. So the others have been pushed to one side and I’m starting this one. The only time I do this is for a regular client with a genuine rush. Usually I work on a first-come first-served basis.

I surfed the job boards yesterday, and I pegged around a dozen I might be interested in. But as I already have 3 books in to edit, including this big one that needs to be done immediately, I’ve not pitched for anything else this week.

Catch the Rainbow
I’ve always written my first drafts in longhand but I tried to type my first draft of Catch the Rainbow for NaNoWriMo. Now that I can’t access those files on the laptop, I’ve decided to resort to the longhand method again. At least then everything will be in one place and it won’t matter (at the moment) if technology fails me again. I did back-up my critical data last Friday, for the first time in forever (and it seemed to take for ever too), but the memory stick is too small. So we’re going to look at getting an external hard drive.

Everything I have is now together in a lever-arch folder, one with a nice attractive design on the cover to keep me interested. On Monday I wrote the first section again.

Work in progress
This week, then, I have the big one to edit, author revisions on 2 others, and Catch the Rainbow to rewrite. If I get chance, I’ll proof, polish and submit the 2 typed stories, and I’ll type a 3rd that needs to be ready to go shortly if I’m to catch fave-market’s publishing schedule – and to add it to Twee Tales Too.

What’s in your WiP this week?

2

Scout Dike in winter

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

I love Scout Dike. It’s one of my favourite “get away” places. It’s peaceful and beautiful while still being functional. And it’s less than 10 minutes from our house.

The poet is still learning how to use his new camera, so we decided to allocate some time yesterday to this, and to breaking in his new boots, and, of course, to get us out and walking again. It’s been a while.

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Mallards. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

To walk around the whole reservoir can take just 25 – 30 minutes. Less time for faster walkers.

We were stopping to pause, take in the view, keep our dog away from other dogs (he’s lovely, but he wants to play with all of them and they don’t all want to play with him and they could fall out), and take pictures. So we were there for at least an hour, possibly more. It was damp, chilly and grey, but refreshing anyway.

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

It makes a nice change to see the water level so high, although the pictures of the actual reservoir have been used on Facebook only (if you’re on there with us).

There are 25 good pictures and I’m aware that too many pictures on the blog slows down the rendering for some readers who only have dial-up or very slow broadband. That’s why there are only 6 here.

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Silver birch bark. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Because he’s playing with his new camera, learning how to use it, and wanting to make the most of its full potential, he’s being a bit arty too. He took pictures of bark, of tangled branches, of winter gorse and heather, of the nearest wind turbine, of ducks, of engine rooms and pump houses. Everything and anything. He used his zoom, he used the wide-angle. He took landscape pictures, he took close-up pictures, he took ordinary pictures.

It’s a shame the weather was so grey, but it was better than what we thought it would be. The day started quite foggy and we didn’t think he’d be able to take any pictures. But the rain held off and it wasn’t windy.

He had to put gloves on as it was a little chilly, but they’re good gloves he can still grip with and take pictures. If he struggles, then we might have to get him some fingerless gloves instead.

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Me with His Lordship. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

He took a few of me and the dog too. In this picture, every time the dog looked at the camera, I was looking at the dog; every time I looked at the camera, the dog was looking anywhere else. This was the best he caught with us both looking at the camera. :-)

In another picture, which is actually quite a good one of the dog, there was a rather unsightly green fence alongside us and he didn’t like that in the pictures very much. Facebook friends can see that one on there too.

But he didn’t want me taking any of him. This time. I shall have to start taking my small Panasonic again, so we have some quick snaps to look at as well. He’s not usually so shy, although some of this may be to do with the fact it’s his new camera and he hasn’t got the hang of it yet.

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His Lordship. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

And, of course, the dog came too. And, of course, he had the best time ever.

When we got home my face felt quite wind-blasted and I was, apparently, quite flushed. The open air will have done us all some good.

We decided that as it’s so close we really ought to go along more often. We’re going to aim at 4 times a year at least.

For tea, he used up the last of the vegetables from our organic box delivery a week ago last Friday and made us a pork and cider casserole, which we enjoyed with bread he’d left cooking while we were out. So a hale and hearty day was,overall, had by all.

Enjoy the pictures. :-)

Our lane in February

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Our lane. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Last weekend we went for our first walk of the year down our lane. It’s usually flooded but has been quite snowy, slushy and icy more recently. This was a lovely spring-like day with the sun shining in a blue sky.

There’s a working farm down here, a 17th century manor house with farm buildings (one of which is ours), a pair of houses that are semi-detached, and a bungalow at the end of it.

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Snowdrops. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The first thing we saw were the snowdrops. These are the first we’ve seen this year, but then, we haven’t been out much and they may have been there a month already.

There are some old chinese lanterns along here too, but they’re long past their best. We also think they may have been dumped there by man as they don’t tend to grow naturally in the English countryside … do they?

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Holly. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

All of the berries have gone from the holly, but it’s still looking quite splendid. This lines the lane all the way down to the end, and probably beyond. It’s a beautiful deep green, very lush, and a great place for the woodland birds to hide in as we walk past.

The poet’s learning how to use his camera at the moment and I think he achieved the desired effect with this picture. He’s getting quite good at blurring the background now.

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Mallards skating on Wormy’s Lake. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The main purpose of the walk on this occasion, apart from to blow away the winter cobwebs, was for him to assess the lake, to see if it’s ready for fishing yet. Unfortunately it was still very much iced over, with these ducks paddling on the top.

There weren’t many birds on the water and he says the fish won’t be biting much either. So he’s filed the data away for another time.

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Lord Rufus loving his walk around Wormy’s Lake. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

They’ve started some clearance and we’re not sure if that’s so the people who live in the bungalow can see the water, or whether they’re maintaining it for when it can be fished. Because there were no anglers, however, we were able to let the dog off his lead. And he had a proper bostin time, running along, exploring the undergrowth, and even coming back when we called him. He’s getting a lot better.

We won’t be walking along the lane this weekend. Tomorrow we’re going to look at a new car for the poet as his is up for renewal, we’ll drop in on his parents while we’re over there, and tomorrow night he has a gig in Doncaster.

Because of that we’re going out for our Valentine’s Day meal tonight. We’re going Italian. Then on Sunday we’re off for a bit more of a walk to break in his new boots and for him to try out his camera some more.

What are you up to this weekend? Hope it’s a goodun. :-)

4

Diary of a scaredy cat, 11 February 2015

4 seasonsWriting companion
One of my most favourite writing prompt books ever is this one, Four Seasons of Creative Writing: 1,000 Prompts to Stop Writer’s Block, by Bryan Cohen. As the title suggests, it’s presented in the four seasons of the year. This can either be used at that time of year, or for brainstorming ideas several months ahead. For example, in July I was using it to brainstorm ideas for short stories for January, because that’s how our magazine markets work.

I know if I feel like writing but don’t know where to start that just a brief browse through this book will get me going like a steamroller. And the best thing of all is, it’s FREE. So, what’re you waiting for? If you don’t have it already, go and get it now. I’ve linked to Barnes & Noble but it’s available everywhere, so should be in your favourite book store.  The slightly different paperback costs £4.99. If you prefer proper tangible books to ebooks, you can find this on Amazon and, er, on Amazon (for £5.49).

Short writing work
Last week I dug out a story that was waiting for the right time to be sent to fave market, and off it went. It was acknowledged the very next day. I also submitted a travel feature query, but I’ve yet to hear from that. I also started to type up a new draft of a short story, but I had that many interruptions, I finally finished typing that yesterday.

I’ve pretty much decided that while I’m doing the fiction writing course (below), I’ll probably concentrate on writing just fiction for now. If something occurs to me and I can write it quite quickly, then fair enough, I’ll do it. But generally I want to stick to just the one discipline. To that end, all of the how-to-write non-fiction books have been put away on the Kindle, and those fiction writing books I like or have yet to read have been placed into the home directory.

Fiction writing course
I completed the 2nd and 3rd modules of my writing course, and at the weekend we visited a local farmers’ market so I could write my first assignment. This is a fiction writing course and the first assignment is for the college to have some idea of your writing style and competency. But as I’ve been too long brainwashed that anything I take time over writing has to have a purpose, the unedited version appeared on this blog on Monday.

I wrote the rest of the assignment yesterday, edited and polished it all to within the required wordcount, and sent it off. I have yet to receive an acknowledgement for this. I’m already slightly unhappy about the quality of this course. For example, it refers me to information in Module 20 but only goes up to Module 14. And that’s only one example. But, hey-ho, perhaps I need to remove my critical editor’s hat while I work my way through this.

Editing
I’ve not done much editing for other people recently as I’ve been working on my own material. But I do know I have a biggie coming in so I need to crack on with this again. I have 2 books in already for editing, and 2 lots of author revisions. And yesterday I pitched for only 4 new proofreading or editing jobs.

Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book 2
I’ve done absolutely nothing on this over the past 7 days. I know why, it’s because I’m putting in hotlinks and formatting contents and chapter headings. It’s a long and laborious job, but it needs doing. So I’ve decided to allocate half an hour every day to just plug away at it.

Catch the Rainbow
I can’t get into my laptop and I can’t access the latest files. This means another job I’m going to have to allocate time to is copy-typing what I have. Perhaps that could be another half an hour every day …

Work in progress
This week, then, I have another short story I want to type a draft up for, I have the first of those books to crack on with and edit, and I’d like to have at least one final draft of a story cooling and ready to go off at the right time.

What’s in your WiP this week?

2

In our veg box this week

fruit boxOn Friday we had our first fruit n veg box delivery. All the produce in these boxes is organic, fresh, in season, and local where able. Our delivery was waiting for us on our doorstep when we got up. I think that’s excellent service. (We’d told them we live on a farm so the doorstep would be perfectly safe if we were out. It was nice of them not to wake us.)

In the fruit box we had bananas, kiwi fruit, a pineapple, oranges and apples. So far we’ve managed a banana each and 2 apples. It’s all slightly under-ripe, so none of it will go off before we have chance to use it. (Apart from the apples, which are British and therefore out of storage.)

veg boxIn the veg box we had potatoes, carrots, parsnips, swede, savoy cabbage, chard, avocados and portabello mushrooms. We’re saving the roots, tubers and avocados, as they’ll keep. But we used the chard in a quiche at the weekend and in a stir-fry. Quite a few of our Facebook friends helped out with suggestions for the chard. Some of the cabbage went into the stir-fry too, as well as 2 of the mushrooms.

On the whole we were very impressed with both the contents and the service, and when we worked out how much the produce would have cost us in the supermarket, when you also take delivery into consideration (and lack of food miles, etc), we think we were actually quids in. Our next boxes come a week on Friday.

Saturday was a busy day for us. We headed down to Birmingham fairly early on because the poet had to be back for the band’s first gig of the year in Doncaster. And he had to be there for 6:30pm. So we did a couple of things for Mom and Dad, headed back, had a quick tea, and off he went. I followed 90 minutes later on the train. After setting up, he came to collect me from the station at the other end. It was a private party so there was food on – pie, chips and mushy peas! Very working-men’s-club. I was very disappointed that the cake wasn’t cut – and there were 2 birthday cakes so they could have spared a slice. But it was a nice gig, and we picked my car up from the station on our way past.

Sunday morning we were up very early … well, “very early” for us on a Sunday morning following a 2am finish the night before. Wentworth Garden Centre was hosting its regular monthly farmers’ market and we wanted to subsidise the fruit and veg boxes with meat and cheese, etc. This particular market is there the second Sunday of every month. I’ve been before, a few times, and I know if you don’t get there early they run out of stuff.

It was the poet’s first visit and we went armed with a single shopping bag. We got there for 10:30am and already a lot of the samples were all gone. There were about a dozen stands – honey, eggs, cheese, meat, water buffalo, venison, fish, chocolate, bread, cake, jewellery, soap. Some of them had travelled from as far away as Halifax and Harrogate; others had only come from Barnsley.

I was pleased to see the chocolatier still vending there. Melanie’s is a family run business from Cudworth in Barnsley. I’ve chatted to the owner, to her husband, and to one of their fathers before now, and they always have something interesting to say, such as chocolate shouldn’t be kept in the fridge as it loses its sheen. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the bulk of the stock was chocolate hearts with messages iced onto them. But we were happy with a slab of dark chocolate for him and a slab of white chocolate for me – I usually get chocolate buttons so the slab will make a nice change.

Another former favourite of mine is the water buffalo. Buffalo is lower in fat than beef and, to me, tastier than ostrich but not as rich as venison. They had steaks and sausages for sale and various burgers, but we plumped for regular bison burgers. From the regular meat stall we bought a Barnsley chop for him (it’s a double-sided chop) and a lamb chop for me. We also bought chicken fillets, one of which went into yesterday’s stir-fry with the chard, mushrooms and cabbage.

Recently we watched Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast on telly, and we learned about pullet eggs. These are the first eggs a new laying chicken lays, and they’re often wasted or shipped to make powdered egg because they’re smaller than the medium and large eggs favoured by supermarkets. “They won’t have any here,” said the poet. “Oh yes we will,” replied one of the farmers. And, sure enough, they had loads. So we bought a half-dozen for the grand total of 50p!

We bought freshly baked sliced bread and a giant Swiss roll cake, rapeseed cooking oil with garlic (as rapeseed is grown prolifically by British farmers), and a concentrated hoisin sauce – the latter, again, for our stir-fry. We also bought cheese – from Coverdale and from Wensleydale. Good old Yorkshire produce.

When our shopping bag was full, we headed back to the car. We will probably return, but we think there may be other farmers’ markets on our own side of the M1 that we’d also like to try. It was less than 20 minutes drive away, though, so no reason why we shouldn’t go back.

It was nice to have a stroll around the stalls on a frosty, sunny morning. The fresh air did us so much good that when we got home we took the dog for a quick walk around Wormy’s Lake to see what the fishing might be like yet. (It isn’t, it’s still frozen.) And when we got home we baked 2 quiches (mushroom and chard, and quiche lorraine).

This week, then, it’s more or less back to normal, apart from a dental appointment for the poet this afternoon. I have a book to edit and 2 books to check author revisions against. But I also have a novel to start copy-typing – and a backup to do every Friday! Today I’m typing a draft of a short story too, so I’m still busy.

How was your weekend?

4

End of an era

DSCF0949

Before.

Just over 9 years ago, 9 years and 2 weeks to be precise, I walked out of the matrimonial home “with just the clothes on my back and the cat under my arm”. It was a Thursday night and I went to a hotel. (The cat was actually out, I went back for her the next day.) The next day a rental company I’d been in liaison with were able to get me into the house I’d chosen ahead of time, due to the circumstances. However, because it was early, they’d done no cleaning or clearing or anything.

There was a mountain of mail behind the front door, another mountain on the kitchen worktop, there was building rubble from renovation works left all over the place, and there were slimy snail trails on the carpets. I had no money, no furniture, and another mountain of debt. I sat down on the floor and wept.

curtains 003

After.

Within days I had it habitable – clean, tidy and some furniture. Within 6 months I’d bought it. And within a few years, and with the help of my lovely decorator/handyman, I had it how I wanted it.

The house turned out to be quite lovely – cosy, friendly, healing. And it became a bit of a bolthole for family and friends, and the poet too, as it happened. When people visited they never wanted to leave. And, according to legend, there are still some there – fallen down the back of the man-eating settee, disappeared forever in the cupboard-under-the-stairs, or just plain hidden in the basement (of which there isn’t one, by the way).

DSCF0505

Before.

Just over a year ago, the poet and I were in two minds about him moving in. But it turned out to be too small. We needed somewhere for the match fishing tackle, somewhere for the studio, somewhere for the office, somewhere for guests to stay, enough room for 2 cars. So I temporarily moved into his 3-bedroom 3-storey house while we looked for our first home together. Meanwhile, in April of last year, we put my house up for sale and rented it out over the summer.

In October the house sold, and in November we moved into our lovely 17th century cottage. We hoped to complete before Christmas, but there were problems at the buyer’s buyer’s end. Then we were completing last week but the plug was pulled at the last minute – again, due to the buyer’s buyer.

curtains 002

After.

Yesterday, the call finally came, and was confirmed yesterday evening. We complete today.

And so the time has come to say goodbye to a lovely little house that served a wonderful purpose. I hope the new owner finds as much happiness and peace of mind as I did.

Bye bye little house. Good luck. :-)

2

Diary of a scaredy cat, 4 February 2015

9781846948510_The Positively Productive Writer_PB.inddWriting companion
This week’s writing book is another that came and stayed, rather than being passed along. Actually, I bought it for my Kindle, but it’s still on there under “reference” and “writers’ guides” rather than “done” or deleted.

Simon is one of my favourite how-to-write writers. He’s a proper jobbing writer. He also tutors several home study courses on writing and he regularly appears within the covers of various writing magazines. So he tends to know what he’s talking about.

Right from the off, though, he states that this isn’t a how-to-write book. It’s a how-to-keep-writing book. And right from the off he has readers analysing their output, what they’d like to write, and gets them setting targets.

If you’d like a copy of The Postively Productive Writer by Simon Whaley (and, let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?), follow the link and see more details. And, of course, let me know if you get it, or, indeed, if you already have it, and what you think/thought.

Word count challenge – January & February
I didn’t really have a target for January as this is the first time I’ve done this particular challenge. So I was very happy when I reached 21,874. As I have 20 working days in February, and as I know I can manage 1,000 words per day, my target for February, based on January’s output, is 20,000 words.

Short writing work
I had a fairly productive day last Wednesday writing the short material. I outlined a new short story and I wrote the first drafts of 2 short stories. Then we had a snow day, and then I had man-with-manflu at home, and then I had to take my car in for its service, so all of that took a chunk out of my working week.

Today I dipped into my archives to see if I had a story waiting for the right slot, and I did. So that’s gone off to fave short story market. It’s the first I’ve submitted this year, so it’s a bit scary.

New writing course
In order to give my short story and novel writing a kick up the bum, I’ve enrolled on a fiction writing course. And on Monday I completed the first module and decided on the topic for the first assignment. We’ll be doing the research for that on Sunday. We hope.

Editing
For the past week I’ve mostly been fielding emails regarding 2 existing jobs currently with the authors for revision. And yesterday I pitched for 6 new jobs. I was invited to pitch for another, but it’s another I didn’t fancy so I declined, politely.

Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book 2
I had another dip into this on Tuesday, to format titles and hotlink chapters. I managed another 20 sections. There are over 200 sections, though, and it’s starting to look a bit daunting.

New blog/book tie-in
Also on Tuesday I had a bit of a brain murmur regarding something else I feel able to write about. I’ve started a blog first, to test the water, but it’s anonymous for now, to see how many hits it gets all by itself. It has its own Twitter too. It’s a bit of a personal subject to me, but if you know me well and ask me very nicely, I may give you a hint.

Catch the Rainbow
Yesterday the poet asked how many words I’ve written so far for Catch the Rainbow, with the idea I finish at least one project while trying to keep all these other ideas jostling for attention at bay. It’s easy to see from the sidebar that I have 22,682 words already written. But when I went in to confirm the latest figure on the computer, there it was about 22,000 words short! The latest typed version is on the laptop … and we can’t get into the laptop without it going into a Windows startup loop.

Fortunately I have a hard copy, but even that looks about 1,500 words short, which amounts to around a day’s work I think. It will be okay as a last resort to copy type it all again. But if we can somehow get into the laptop and rescue the rest of it, that would save so much time.

Note to self: Don’t keep rubbing out “computer maintenance” on Friday’s to-do lists. I need to back the latest critical data up onto memory stick.

What have you been up to this past week?

2

And then there were curtains

20150202_105527I had one request at the weekend, and it was for curtains in Abbey Road. My wish being his every command, ta-daa! We have curtains. You can’t see them very well in this picture because, well, Holly seems to be stealing all of the limelight. But they’re there and they came all the way from my last house in Solihull before moving to Yorkshire 11 years ago. The gig buddy adapted them to fit here as well as another matching pair in our spare bedroom. They’re cream and they’re embossed, and we even have some spare curtain left over.

There was a slight delay in putting these up because the pole had fallen down and we needed a slightly longer one anyway. They’ve been waiting to go up for weeks, and we also put one up on the landing that matches the living room curtains. That one needed the pole refixing too, but it’s also awkward in that it needed ladders to get to it.

And I got my curtains despite the poet not feeling very bright at all. We thought he had manflu, but it’s clear now that it’s an abscess under one of his teeth. We had to take my car to be serviced this morning and on the way back we nipped to the dentist to book him an emergency appointment. As luck would have it, one appointment had failed to turn up, so the poet saw the dentist straight away. He has antibiotics now and has to go back next week, probably to have another extraction. That’s 2 in almost as many months. He’s a braver soul than me.

On Thursday I’d ordered a squirrel-proof nut feeder for the garden, a 4-perch seed feeder and some nuts. This was my first order with the Garden Bird & Wildlife Company and I didn’t pay for delivery. Friday afternoon, my delivery arrived – excellent service – and by teatime the birds were happily munching away without fear of having all their nuts stolen.

On Friday I took advantage of Amazon’s current 3-for-£10 offer and bought the next 3 Game of Thrones books. Because my order now came to £10, I was also able to ask for free standard delivery. So I lumped in another book I wanted to buy that only came to £9.35, on which I was loathe to pay delivery when I was only pennies away from the £10 free delivery thing. And those books all arrived yesterday afternoon – and a Sunday to boot. Excellent service once again.

Also last week, I registered us for our first organic veg box delivery scheme and a few people warned us that the company I’d chosen can be inflexible on the box contents. The poet loves to cook and loves to be challenged, and I like to – where possible – use food when it’s in season. This is because it’s in abundance when it’s in season, it’s usually cheaper, and I believe that food has the necessary nutrients the body needs at the right time of the year. So we weren’t going to be very pernickerty. However, he does have a celery allergy, so I fired off an email to see if we could have celery replaced whenever it’s due in the box. This morning they emailed back to say this was fine and the celery would be replaced with “complimentary item” on our itemised list. Apart from that, we’re more than happy to trial whatever they send us whenever they send it. We’re having a medium veg box and a fruit box.

We were supposed to be going to Birmingham and Doncaster on Saturday, but both of those trips were postponed to next weekend. On Saturday we did nip out to get some anti-inflammatories and a few provisions, but the weekend was spent pretty much indoors. To keep himself busy he swapped over the double light switch at the bottom of the stairs because the wrong switches were connected to the wrong lights (he has had electrical training).

On Saturday night he made us a chicken carbonara for tea, and we had enough to freeze 2 individual portions too. Yesterday I put a malted wheat loaf into the bread machine and he made beefburgers and meatballs. We had the beefburgers for tea with cheese and bread, but the meatballs went in the freezer for another time. But that’s as adventurous as we got.

Today, then, after a late start, I have draft 2 of a short story to write, I want to do a bit more to the ideas book, and then I start the next WW1 edit. We have to go back for my car at about 4:30pm, so that will cut the day short too so, for now, here’s another shot of Abbey Road …

office 01The picture on the right was taken a few weeks ago, just after the noticeboards went up. This is what’s at my back when I work. The big noticeboard is for work-related stuff, the smaller board is a memory board for both of us, and the 2 pictures have followed me from work – the top one from the National Grid and the bottom one from Corus/Tata.