Hectic times

We’re having a very busy life here in Baggins Bottom. Both of us have been busy one way or the other, with the poet on his way to Scotland again this morning.

He started to feel better on Friday after a good rest and some medication. Thanks to everyone who sent him good wishes. He was able to come out with me for an hour, and then he had a gig Friday night in Doncaster, which went very well considering.

On Saturday we drove down to Birmingham as we were taking Mom and Dad out to see something. They seemed to like what they saw, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’re able to do something about it.

On Saturday evening we had another gig. this time more locally. A few of our friends came to this one and we had a good time.

On Sunday we treated ourselves to brunch out and did some shopping. Once that was put away, the poet relaxed some more on the settee, and I finished off some loose ends with work. He even cooked us a nice lamb dinner.

I finished all of the hard copy edits on the historical novel and today I hope to clear the electronic edits. Then I start the first of a new hard copy edit for the next historical non-fiction on the list.

Other jobs this week include the usual boot camp, which from Wednesday will include practice for NaNoWriMo 2014. Now I’ve got into the swing of allocating 2 hours per day to my own writing, I hope I have a more successful challenge than in previous years. I think I’m going to work on Catch the Rainbow.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the poll 2 weeks ago. The general consensus (87.5%) is that I leave everything exactly as it is with a couple of comments that maybe I could make the pictures smaller or provide a link, and maybe have different topics each day. There was 1 vote for less frequency of posts, and 1 vote for less personal posts. I think I’m going to stick to 3 posts per week, though, as that’s a nice rhythm and fits in with other regular chores. I’ll see what I can do about making them a little less personal.

Mondays, then, will be a roundup of the weekend and the week ahead. Wednesdays will be diary of a scaredy cat, with writing updates. Fridays will be a roundup of the week and the weekend ahead. During mammoth writing marathons, however, such as NaNoWriMo, I’ll try to post the little man with the latest word count. If you like him, please visit Writertopia to see if you’d like one too.

Massive kick up the bum

After writing my diary of a scaredy cat on Wednesday, I was so disappointed that I’d made hardly any progress on my own work, that I gave myself a massive kick up the bum. And, as a result, this week has been very busy.

I’ve been working on Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book 2 as well as looking at the electronic file for Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book 1. I’ve been upping the marketing and self-promotion as well as beavering away at the paid bread and butter work already in. And I’ve been brushing up on my ebook formatting skills.

I’ve added a new book page to the blog, and updated the existing P&S page. I’ve changed the prices on my ebooks and republished them on Smashwords, to find there are a few sales in there I’ve not received royalties for yet. Here’s my Smashwords profile page.

Yesterday too, after a nice chat with lovely already boss, I have some new work in to start as soon as the current work is finished.

Also yesterday I changed the job-board surfing to just 2 slots per week instead of 1 slot per day, I pitched for 13 editing or proofreading jobs, and I raised my minimum rate threshold.

I feel so much better for sorting all of that and finally getting my finger out.

Today I have a poorly poet at home. He ate something dodgy on the train yesterday coming home and was up for most of the night. He’s not gone into work this morning, choosing instead to work from home, and is off to the doctor this afternoon.

NaNoWriMo starts again soon, so I’ll be preparing for that over the next few days.

What are you up to this weekend?

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Lancaster flypast

I had a very busy week last week, but I completed the book I wanted to finish by the end of Friday and sent it back to the client, along with the invoice (hurrah!), but I did devote much of my work time to finishing that. I wanted to clear it so that I could have a fresh go at the next one on the list in as few sittings as possible. That’s already printed off and ready to go, but it’s a biggie. A very biggie. I’m going to need more paper again before printing off the next one.

I hope you didn’t feel very neglected while I concentrated on work. I did already do 4 posts in 2 days last week, though, so hopefully everyone had their fix. 🙂

Friday, then, we chilled.

On Saturday, we drove down to see my parents and had a good long chat with them. On the way we visited a local farm shop, which the poet fell in love with instantly. We picked up some bread, cake, juice and jam for my parents, and already my dad’s been on the phone to say how nice the bread was.

On Saturday evening we went out with friends to see more friends in their band. It was nice to see everyone, but the venue was one where I already knew a lot of other people too.

On Sunday, following a message from another friend, we decided to head over to Derbyshire, to Derwent and Ladybower reservoirs, to witness the last 2 airworthy Lancaster bombers fly over on their way back to RAF Coningsby from the Southport air show. Our friend asked where I went last year in order to see them, but last year they were on their way from Ladybower to Chatsworth House to do an air display there before heading back to base. I didn’t think they’d be going that way this time. So we all decided to try and get to Ladybower early, park up as close as we could and meet up if we could.

When we got there the whole area was rammed. There were thousands and thousands of people milling about the roads and paths, hundreds and hundreds of cars parked where they could on the roadside. Every single car park was full. So we drove out a bit while I checked the map and tried to work out their flight path from Ladybower back to Coningsby. I thought it might be worth going and parking up at Stannage Edge, just above Hathersage. If I was wrong, we could still have a nice picnic and a walk in beautiful surroundings.

I wasn’t wrong, and we’d thought of that just before everyone else seemed to, by the look of it. And just as we were climbing up the side of the hill, the Hurricane and Spitfire came into view and stopped the traffic. They were at our eye level. I wasn’t sure if they’d already done their bit and were going straight back to base, or if they’d be turning up again later. But we decided to park up on the roadside there, at a convenient spot, and hope we’d see them again.

We didn’t see the fighters again, but we did get a fantastic view of the 2 Lancasters. Again at eye level. They flew down the valley in front of us, banked and turned, then flew back up again. Some people thought that was it, and even the poet said “Come on, let’s go”. But I dug my heels in and, sure enough, a few minutes later they came back.

We didn’t get to meet up with any of our friends, and there were quite a few of us there. But we felt very honoured and privileged to see these historic aircraft on what could be their last ever flight together, as one of them is back off to Canada in a few days.

Here is a video from the bombers’ viewpoints. Imagine what that would have looked like 71 years ago.

Below are some photographs nicked from our good friend Alan “Patch” Patchett. We did take some pictures, but, well, the poet’s isn’t as big as Patch’s, so ours seem a very long way away. 😀 Patch does a lot of band photography, but if you like the pictures and have Facebook, please visit and “like” his FB page here.

It took us a while to get home, confounded by the fact that when I smelled burning and we checked the engine, the poet’s car had hardly any oil in. So our priority was to go and find a garage that sold oil, but first we had to negotiate and join the very slow moving traffic creeping its way out of the area. Crawling along at 0mph didn’t fill us with confidence about the oil situation … but we got there safely and were soon on our way home.

This week, then, the poet has once again abandoned me. My parents were thinking of coming to visit for a few days from tomorrow, but that may not happen this time after all. I have this new edit to crack on with and some short material to get out and into the ether. So I’d best make a start.

Enjoy the pictures.

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Picture: Alan Patchett
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Picture: Alan Patchett
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Picture: Alan Patchett
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Picture: Alan Patchett
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Picture: Alan Patchett
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Picture: Alan Patchett
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Picture: Alan Patchett

The Gonzo Comedy Club

On Saturday we went along to the Gonzo Comedy Club in Holmfirth – we like Holmfirth and have even been looking at property there. It was my first time ever to a live comedy show … well, apart from Freddie Starr at the Night Out in Birmingham … and the Barron Knights at the New Cresta in Solihull … and Freddie Starr (again) at the Metrodome in Barnsley … but apart from all of those …

A muso friend of mine, Ian Seaburn, is the host at the comedy club and we only saw the event by accident when he shared a newspaper story on Facebook. We didn’t have anything planned and we like something a bit different, plus we like to support our friends, and I know Ian from a goth band from Huddersfield, Rhombus. He’s not with them any more, but they all still keep in touch.

Our table was reserved for us …

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… we couldn’t get any closer to the front …

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… and the 4 acts + host were right in our faces. But we had a great time.

Ian, the host, without a guitar or his customary dark make-up to hide behind, was a little nervous. But he did his job and kept it going.

First up was Kev Eadie, an energetic start to the show with a penchant for fruit. Then we saw Dean Moore, a smoggie (from Middlesbrough) who likes fruit a little less. The last act of the first half was Raj AC, whose famous parents may surprise you. Raj also sang a little song or two. (I thought the guitar was Ian’s when we got there.)

After a 20 minute break, fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe came Rachel Fairburn, all the way from Manchester. Rachel kept us satirically and darkly entertained for the next hour and even had free colouring books to hand out – of serial killers.

The atmosphere was friendly and cosy, all of the seats were filled, and we really did have a good time. If I had to say anything constructive, I’d like to have biographies of each act available or details of how I could find out more about them, although I did that anyway with the help of Google and Ian’s own links in order to write this post.

I’d also like proper packets of peanuts available from the bar instead of cordon-bleu-prepared-assorted-nuts. And more advertising. Two young ladies there saw a flyer in a local café, but I think they should also consider Diane’s Gig List … 😉

But apart from that, it was a good evening and I’m sure we’ll be going again.

Chilled weekend and a poll

We had a chilled weekend, which after weeks of rushing around and enforced separation was really very nice.

Friday night we didn’t do anything after I collected the poet from the station. Saturday we went shopping during the day, watched a football game during the afternoon (emotive – Birmingham City v Leeds United ended in a 1 – 1 draw, which was handy), and to a comedy club during the evening. We enjoyed that, it made a nice change, and it was good to see a friend I’d not seen in a while.

Sunday we were going to go fishing or walking or something, but we decided to potter in the garden a little (which also required a quick drive to the garden centre first), watch some telly, and have a proper Sunday dinner (roast chicken, cauliflower, broccoli, roast potatoes, boiled new potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, gravy). Then we watched some more telly.

This morning he went off to Scotland again, once I’d taken him to the station, and now I have another week of busyness to keep me occupied.

Poll
I try to cover a lot of things on the blog to maintain interest. It was initially set up to keep in touch with friends and family in the West Midlands when I moved to Yorkshire and quickly became a writing blog. I also cover music news, some personal stuff, tales from our travels, photographs, anything that might make it more interesting.

While I still get hundreds of readers every month, comments have dwindled down to none just recently. And I’m wondering why this is – and whether or not to continue with a public blog or make it a private one.

So, here’s a poll to find out what readers want, and please also leave any pertinent comments in the space below.

Thank you for your participation.

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Productive week

Despite being on my own again this week, it’s been a productive one.

First of all I won 2 jobs, and one of them I turned around the same day. The second one is a nice biggie, and it starts today or Monday, depending on how I get on with what I already have – probably Monday, but I’ve allowed 2 weeks for it.

I got a final revision in from a regular client and, again, I turned it around the same day. Some things just work better with the touch-it-once mentality. Had I not just turned them both around and sent them on their merry ways, they would have been thrown into the to-do basket with everything else.

I’ve been plodding through a new edit for lovely-already-boss and I hope to have that one done by the end of today or by midday Monday.

My writer’s boot camp has come into its own finally, with me completing the following:

  • 4 outlines – 3 short stories and 1 filler
  • #1 of a filler
  • #2 of a 1,402-word short story
  • #3 of a Reader’s True Experience (RTE)
  • final draft of another RTE, polished and submitted

The latter one I edited down from over 2,700 words to bang on 1,200 words. The required length? 1,200 words. 😀 The short story needed to be 1,400 words too, so I think I did quite well on those two.

NEWS JUST IN: That RTE I submitted yesterday has just been accepted. 😀

I’d like to do more boot camp today, but I’d also like to finish the current 1st hard-copy edit, so I need to decide which is more important to me.

The next job to do on the short WiP list is the first draft of one of the short stories I outlined. That’s always a hard one for me, and I like most of the story to be inside my head before I start. I think it needs to percolate a little more, but I may just get a burst of enthusiasm when I least expect it.

The next job after that one is a 2nd draft of the filler, so I might just skip to that one for now, just to keep the writing muscle exercised. Further proof that the short WiP schedule is not cast in stone.

I’ll be collecting the poet again from the station at teatime today, so I have until 5:30pm to finish today’s work.

I don’t think we’re doing anything tonight, but we’re shopping tomorrow and going to a comedy show tomorrow night. If the weather’s okay, we may also do a spot of river fishing at some point over the weekend. He’s not done that in a while, and it gives me chance to read or do more boot camp, depending on what I feel like. The dog also gets extra walks, which means I do too.

Or, we may go for a walk or just a day out.

We could also hear from son #1 again this weekend, though, wanting to move that furniture. But we’ll deal with that if and when it happens.

What are you up to this weekend? Hope it’s a goodun. 😉

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Where do I start?

What another fantastic weekend we’ve had here in Baggins Bottom. It all went by in such a whirl, though, I hardly know where to start.

The poet was working from home for part of Friday, so that’s always nice, and during our lunch break he took me to the dentist. After work, we did the shopping. Then Friday evening we ventured out to have a look at Doncaster Live.

We personally thought the event itself was very poor. We caught the tail end of one band and watched another all the way through, which was great. But then some disco-diva has-been came on and started singing and dancing along to backing tracks. As if that isn’t not-live enough (we thought the clue might be in the event title – Doncaster LIVE), the next act was a flipping DJ. Playing records. Where’s the live in that? So Doncaster Live wasn’t really this year, and we decided not to go back the next day either.

However, we did instead do a bit of a pub-crawl of Doncaster and the poet was able to show me some of his stomping grounds of old, including a pub he’s never, ever taken a partner to before, mostly because it was a bit of a taboo, him and friends only. But he enjoyed taking me there because he knew I’d like it. They call it the Vintage Rock Bar now, but in those days it was Beethams. And it really reminded me of my own rock “local” in Birmingham, the Costermonger.

So that turned out well in the end.

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At Doncaster Live. (Picture: Jeanette Phillips)

On Saturday we were supposed to be going to Birmingham to see my parents, but the poet’s son #1 asked us to help him move some furniture with him, so we moved Birmingham to Sunday and awaited his call. When it came it was to say he couldn’t afford the van hire this week, and could we do it another time, to which we said “of course”.

That left us at a bit of a loose end, so when I was asked what I’d like to do instead, I said I’d like to see the sea. And so we drove to Flamborough Head, initially to see the puffins as well. We saw lots of gannets, a few kittiwakes and, of course, the sea. But the puffins didn’t show for us. We had a lovely walk along Bempton Cliffs, though.

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Gannets, beak-tapping on Bempton Cliffs. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Sunday we did manage to get along to see my parents, and we had a really nice visit with them. On the way back, however, we received an SOS from son #2 who had broken down on the M62. We were a few hours away at the time, but by the time we got closer he was still stranded, so we helped him to get home. Unfortunately, his car hasn’t fared quite so well.

Then the poet got to do some more fishing, back at one of his personal favourites, Hayfield Fisheries. He had a slow start but once he started catching, they were whoppers. He lost a couple too (naturally), but he had a nice time and I was able to do some work.

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This one was so lively it almost jumped out of the net – look at that concentrated determination to keep it there on Ian’s face. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

I took a writing bag with me which, this week, currently consists of the following:

  • 1 non-fiction history book to edit (in the black folder)
  • #2 of a short story to write (in the green shorthand notebook)
  • #3 of an article to write (in the orange A4 notebook)
  • 1 article to edit (in the pink A4 folder)
  • my WiP progress/outlines/market information (in the A5 Pukka notebook)
  • highlighter pens
  • pencil tin

I’ll also keep the Kindle in there and one magazine to read.

writing bag 2

The poet worked at home again yesterday, but today he’s left us – again. He’ll be back on Friday. We picked my car up from the garage last night after work. It’s nice to have it back.

I heard from 2 clients this morning – one is a new client and the other is a repeat client. Both have lots of work for me to do, which will keep me busy, along with what I already have in, for the next 3 weeks at least. I also have a nice little cheque to bank at some point. (Hurrah!)

Have a great week.

The weekend beckons

The poet has just come to the end of his third week working in Scotland, and we’re both starting to notice it now. Hard. He has at least another week to go, but he could still be up there for another month after that. We’re not getting a lot done together during the week as a result, and so we’re having to cram a lot into the weekends.

BUT, it’s part of his job and his job’s what pays the bills. Doesn’t mean we have to like it, though.

So, this week has been busy catching up with work. I’ve sent a book back to the publisher for completion, after rejecting it on Monday (I rejected it), and my writer’s boot camp has finally started to pay off. Next week I should have some new material to send off on its merry way.

Yesterday evening we dropped my car in to have the exhaust looked at (if fell off a week ago last Tuesday). And the battery, and the rear screen washer, and the air bag warning  light, and the bonnet prop catch …

The mechanic has called us with a rough ball park figure to get it all fixed, and we won’t be driving it to the scrapyard just yet. We might not get it back until Monday, though, and even then if they can fit it in between the MOTs they already have booked in. It’s a good job I’m not as reliant upon it as I used to be.

I’ve had a dentist appointment this afternoon (boo!), then we grabbed something to eat and we nipped to the supermarket afterwards, only to be evacuated by the fire alarm. Then we got stuck in traffic coming home.

This evening we may go into Doncaster, as it’s Doncaster Live this weekend, and tomorrow we either go to Birmingham to visit the parents, or we help son #1 move some furniture from the garage to his house.

If we’re still up here, we may visit Doncaster again. If we go to Birmingham tomorrow, we may go fishing on Sunday or walking or anything else we feel like doing. But it all depends on son #1 and what we end up doing tomorrow.

On Monday the poet is working from home, then he’s off up to Scotland again Tuesday morning and won’t be back until Friday night.

What are you up to this weekend? Whatever it is, have a good un.

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Boot camp (major list alert)

P1030806Ever since the poet went off to Scotland to work, just over two weeks ago, this pile of work has been sitting on a table in the living room waiting for me to go through it.

The binder consists of several ebook and worksheet pdfs:

  • 5 in 10: Create Five Short Stories in Ten Weeks by Devon Ellington
  • How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck: Learn to tell a complete story in 500 words by Holly Lisle
  • worksheets for The Kaizen Plan for Organized Authors by Lynn Johnston
  • The Confident Freelancer by Lori Widmer and Devon Ellington
  • 7 Steps to Beating Page-One Rejections by Holly Lisle
  • Introduction to Plotting: Professional Plot Outline Mini-Course by Holly Lisle
  • 30 Tips for 30 Days: Kick Start Your Novel and Get Out of Your Own Way by Devon Ellington
  • worksheets for The 30 Day Novel Success Journal: Overcome Procrastination, Figure Out What Happens Next and Get Your Novel Written by Lynn Johnston (don’t ya just love those snappy titles?)
  • worksheets for The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: A 16-step program guaranteed to take you from idea to completed manuscript by Evan Marshall
  • 2 more easy-way-to write books that may actually go straight in the recycle bin.

The pile also consists of 2 shorthand notebooks, 2 Pukka A5 notebooks, an A4 notebook and a pencil tin. I do love my pencil tins.

Aside from this pile, I also have books on the Kindle that I’m currently reading:

  • The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
  • Writing Non-Fiction That Sells by Jackie Sherman
  • Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris

Now, as I said, this pile has been glaring at me from a coffee table in the living room for the best part of 3 weeks. And last night I finally settled down to sort it all out.

My notebooks usually consist of the following:

  • a shorthand notebook for ideas and outlines
  • a shorthand notebook for draft 1s
  • an A4 notebook for draft 2s

I also have a see-through brightly coloured polypropylene folder (see picture) containing several A4 see-through brightly coloured plastic wallets, each containing a draft 3 awaiting proofing.

After last night I now have:

  • 1 Pukka A5 notebook for ideas, notes, exercises, market information, WIP schedule
  • 1 Pukka A5 notebook for outlines
  • 1 shorthand notebook for draft 1s
  • 1 A4 notebook for draft 2s
  • 1 bright pink see-through polypropylene folder containing several bright yellow A4 see-through plastic wallets

Welcome to my own personal writer’s boot camp.

After last night, the main binder has gone back onto the bookshelf. When I’ve caught up with all the stuff I’ve already started, it’ll come back down again and I’ll go back to the beginning. Meanwhile, though …

I sorted through all of my notebooks filled with outlines and 1st drafts, discarded a few that really aren’t working, and came up with a brand new WIP schedule.

I shared a copy of my WIP schedule with blog readers before, and a few went slightly green at the gills at the thought of it, and at the seeming rigidity of it all. This WIP schedule is, in fact, written in pencil, which means it can be rubbed out if it isn’t working or if something comes in that’s more important. The order isn’t cast in stone either. If I need to get a January-related story to a short story market in the next few days, for example, then that comes to the top of the priority list.

Here’s what the first page of that WIP schedule now looks like, showing one project from start to finish:

O The Complete Angler SS

#1 Peters and Lee F

#2 Breaking the Ice SS (the 1st Stevie Tarot tale)

#3 My Operation RTE

E My 1970s Holiday Memories RTE

O Aren’t Men Daft RL

#1 The Complete Angler SS

#2 Peters and Lee F

#3 Breaking the Ice SS

E My Operation RTE

O Don’t Break a Leg SS

#1 Aren’t Men Daft RL

#2 The Complete Angler SS

 #3 Peters and Lee F

E Breaking the Ice SS

O Dancing on Ice SS

#1 Don’t Break a Leg SS

#2 Aren’t Men Daft RL

#3 The Complete Angler SS

E Peters and Lee F

O Shaking the Tree SS (a sequel to The Spirit of the Wind)

#1 Dancing on Ice SS

#2 Don’t Break a Leg SS

#3 Aren’t Men Daft RL

E The Complete Angler SS

(KEY: O = Outline; #1 = draft 1; #2 = draft 2; #3 = draft 3; E = Edit; SS = Short Story; F = Filler; RL = Reader’s Letter; RTE = Reader’s True Experience; WIP = Work In Progress)

I tick them off, or colour them with colour-coded highlighter pens, as I do them. Many of these projects were started off during my Camp NaNo in July.

For those of you still with us, this is how it always used to work before when I was prolific. I like the variety of working on something fresh, and I like to leave something bubbling away in the background while I work on something else. For me, the hardest parts are the outline stage and first draft. The rest comes really easy to me.

Aside from this short writing WIP, I also edit and proofread books and novels for clients. This is my bread-and-butter work, or what I now call the day job. I also have a couple of books of my own on the go.

Using this system for the short writing WIP means that once the 4th drafts have gone off on their merry ways, I have so many projects “out there” and so many more “in production” that a single rejection, or even a few at once, doesn’t faze me.

If I don’t have any editing or proofreading in, at least I still have plenty of other work to be getting on with. I just need much of it to be “out there” earning its keep.

Bag 2If I’m out fishing with the poet, the current WIP goes into a writing bag. Here’s one I prepared earlier, which includes an old diary and a purple polypropylene see-through folder that contains a novel, Catch the Rainbow I think is in this one. (I do love my polypropylene folders …)

Regular readers will have seen this picture before. It’s a different pencil tin (I do love my pencil tins …), and the black conference folder usually holds editing or proofreading.

So, with such a big to-do list just for the short writing WIP, I’d best crack on.

How do you work?