New beginnings

There is something about September that brings me back to blogging. That ‘new year’ feel, I suppose, that I get far more at the start of the academic year than I do each January. This is natural to me. Harry is at school now, James and I both work at universities, and I am studying again. Until my phone took over my diaries would always run from September to August. There is also something about the autumnal days setting in that brings the anticipation of NaNoWriMo and the motivation to write.

So I am giving this blog another chance. This may be a bad idea, what with my Masters resuming in a few weeks time, but right now I am feeling psyched. I put the boys to bed, ate my dinner while watching James’ flight to New York on FlightRadar24 and suddenly within an hour I had written 500 words and submitted it to a flash fiction competition. Last week I submitted a short story to another competition. This needs to continue. I have only entered short story competitions on a few occasions – last year I vowed to do one a month but I got caught up in other things. Stupid of me really as one story was long-listed and the other short-listed, which was obviously a big boost with regard to my confidence and my ability but not, it seems, to my motivation.

I have so many ideas at the moment and my brain seems so much more open to inspiration than it has been in a long time. Writing short stories is allowing me to get outside my comfort zone (fantasy) and explore different genres and writing styles. One big idea I had when reading last month’s Writing Magazine (this month’s arrived today and thank goodness for six hours on a train next weekend because I still haven’t finished last month’s) I think I will adapt to be my NaNo project, partly because it ties in with my Masters so might, theoretically, make it easier to work on both at the same time. Basically, an article in the magazine made me question why I never write about what I know. I’m not sure my stories have ever been set in a hotel or a cafe, or if any of the characters have worked in those places like I have. I certainly have never covered issues of sustainability and social responsibility, even though this is what my Masters is all about. And it is not like any of these topics, settings, and characters are boring! So this year’s goal is to write a story encompassing what I know. Let the planning commence!

I often read advice to new writers that a good starting point is to write about what you know. If you write, do you find it easier to write about what you know or to explore other avenues? If you don’t write, which way would you be more inclined to take?

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General updates

It’s been a while since my last post. James has been home a lot more but he has been back to normal (ish) this week, so I too have been able to get into something of a routine, although it has been slow-going and I have had to battle the tiredness somewhat. Tonight though I finally succeeded in finishing editing my first three chapters based on the feedback I had received and have sent off two submissions. I was keen to get some sent off tonight as James is home tomorrow night and then on Sunday we are away for a couple of weeks (Granny’s 90th in Cambridge, James is working in Oxford then visiting the in-laws in Devon stopping via Stonehenge on the way and a side-trip to Dorset).

Charlie is doing well. He had his six-week check with the health visitor today and now weighs 12lb 5oz (he has gone from the 50th percentile to the 75th, the chubby chops, but weight gain like that is supposedly normal with breastfed babies). We also had our check-up with the doctor last Friday. Charlie ticked a couple of the ‘referral’ boxes so we have to go and see a pediatrician. He has only one palm crease on each hand which can sometimes be a sign of an underlying issue, and he is also ridiculously chilled out for a six-week-old (of course, that could just be his personality, but getting him referred is precautionary).

I’ve been trying my best to keep Harry busy these past couple of weeks now we have run out of visitors. I was getting a bit tired of going to Mini Monsters everyday (even though all I have to do is sit with a cup of coffee and read while he plays it can be exhausting). But I have managed to find lots of summer holiday activities. We have been going twice a week to the library for various reading and craft sessions (he has also now got his own library card which he is loving!) and James took him to an animal handling session at the museums where they got to see, touch and hold snakes, spiders, lizards, frogs and more. I’m glad James was able to take him as I wouldn’t have liked it much and couldn’t have taken Charlie anyway.

I also talked to the health visitor again about Harry’s pooing but she didn’t really say anything she hadn’t said before. The thing is, up until Monday Harry had got into a routine. He was having proper poos every other day and even went twice on the potty. He had also stopped kicking up a fuss each time I asked him to sit on the potty. But all this week he has reverted. I was harsh again and I made him sit on it for over an hour this afternoon. It seemed to work the last time so we’ll see how he is tomorrow and while we’re away. If not, here’s to hoping school will do the trick! He now has all his uniform bar the bits we can buy from the school when we go for an informal meeting on the 28th, we have even booked him swimming lessons starting in September! By the time I post next he might have even started school as the rest of this month is hectic :-D.

Warm up

Maybe this is a bad idea but I am just going to type. My boys are asleep and my plan for the evening is to finish editing the first two chapters of my book following the critique I received from a publisher. Naturally though, as soon as I stare into the computer my eyes feel very heavy. But they will not get the better of me. This is my time to write. The first evening – well, any time, really – that I have had alone in quite a while, and I know I won’t get a chance again like this for a while. So let us call this blog post a warm up and when it is done I will return to my book and get the editing finished with a far less hazy mind. After which I can think of sleep.

I have taken to spending evenings like this in utter silence. TV does not go on at all and even the CDs stay in the drawer. But, I fancied a little music to work with tonight. Sometimes the silence does get too much. Sometimes there is too much noise in my head that I can’t drown it out. So I looked through the drawer of CDs. They are a mess. The DVDs are too. Harry likes looking at them. To be fair, he doesn’t wreck them like he used to so we have no need of putting them out of his reach (though I swear nothing is out of his reach). But they do need a mega sort out, and certain things do need hiding from him now he knows how to use the DVD player (what is it with kids and technology?). He is adamant he wants to watch Jaws. And Silence of the Lambs. His synopsis of Jaws is something to do with a girl going swimming and eating a whale.

As for the CDs, I don’t even know what I have anymore. I was searching through trying to find something to suit my mood – I wanted something to fill the silence but not to upstage it; something I wouldn’t be inclined to sing along to. Eventually I found Dido ‘Safe Trip Home’. It is the one I often find on evenings like this and for good reason. There is a song on it called ‘Quiet Times’ and that sums it up, but actually the whole album is like that. It is music for those Quiet Times. I got the CD for my Birthday one year and we listened it in the car as we drove to my parents late Christmas Eve that year. It always take me back there.

Musings over, back to work. I will finish this tonight. I will.

Change of plans

Camp NaNo didn’t last very long, but then I knew it wouldn’t. And because I already knew that I didn’t have the motivation and inclination to keep going with it.

I had a bad day on the 3rd which was a shame as I’d started writing quite an awesome short story on the 2nd which I will finish. The number of half finished short stories I have is terrible, but this one has potential so I don’t want it to rot away in my writing folder.

It was one of those bad days where I just wanted to delete everything and throw everything away. I managed to ignore the urges until the mood passed. But yesterday I thought seriously about it. And today I did it. Or I made a start, at least. I have deactivated my Twitter and Pinterest accounts (Twitter had been hacked anyway so it was a perfect opportunity), deleted my Goodreads, finally deleted my online diary which has been inactive for many years and I have only kept it for the sentiment, and sorted my emails so that I can start using my other email account. Only Facebook, WordPress and NaNoWriMo remain, although they are in need of organising to some extent but I don’t know where to start right now.

It feels good, it feels tidy. I feel like I am almost ready to start over. Things like Twitter I never really go into and I feel like if I am going to ‘get into it’ I have to do it on a clean slate, so I will be opening a new account once I have everything else sorted.

As for Camp NaNo, I need a different take. I sat down last night and read through a critique of my first two chapters from an editor. It had arrived before Charlie was born and I had only skimmed it then. It was my first critique and I was fearing what it would say. As it goes, I’m happy with it. There are some really positive things that give me the motivation to keep querying and there are plenty of points that I have taken on board and really want to sit down and make changes for the better. I was nodding along as I read it, kicking myself at some things, seeing other things through fresh eyes. There were a couple of things I had never been 100% happy with and I now know how I can make them 100%.

So I am now thinking I need to focus on editing again. But I know it is important to keep writing too. I just need to find that balance, and I suppose through organising all the clutter around me I will find it.

My first week off has been busy (don’t worry, I have put my feet up a bit! I can’t help it – it hits 1pm and all I want to do is sleep) and I have yet found a routine, or something of a routine. It has just been a matter of writing my daily ‘to do’ list and cracking on with it the best I can.

Bank Holiday weekend we went up to Manchester for a night where we explored the city, spent a couple of hours at the Museum of Science and Industry (which was little – and big – boy heaven!). Then it was to the very busy Salford Quays where there was a food festival going on. Retrospectively we should have got our lunch from one or two of the festival stalls because we were having the worst luck with service! Stopped at Manchester Airport on the way home (they have a massive viewing park with old planes to explore, a kid’s play area, restaurant and fast food outlet – not to mention views of the runway!) but only briefly as it was busier than we had ever seen it. We only really went on this occasion because we were passing and needed to buy one of Harry’s Birthday presents.

James was back to work on Tuesday so Harry and I spent half the day at the soft play area. Being half term they had a visitor – Peppa Pig on this occasion. Harry usually curls up in my arms and hides when this happens but this time he was first one up when the music came on, happy to do the dancing and the conga and even wanted his photo taken with her! We also sorted out lots of baby stuff.

Harry had his Birthday treat on Wednesday – a day trip flight to Dublin with James! He told me all about it in great depth at about 2am. I had the day to myself – probably longer than I have ever had without going away by myself! More baby stuff, sorted the big messy cupboard, wrapped Harry’s Birthday presents, bit of writing, etc. Then in the evening I went out to dinner with some work colleagues and was plied with flowers, chocolates and baby clothes. A lovely evening (especially as being mid-week everyone was sober!).

Thursday again Harry and I spent a lot of time at the soft play area – this time Mickey Mouse made an appearance, and again, Harry was straight up there! That afternoon we made his Birthday cake – a very gooey chocolate fudge cake! Which got me craving fudge so I tried my hand at making some of that. Turned out alright considering I don’t have a cooking thermometer. How many times have I told myself I need one (or two) of those?!

Harry’s Birthday on Friday was fantastic. He had the latest morning he has had in ages (6.30am) and once we were ready he opened all his presents before going to nursery, badge pinned proudly to his T-shirt. I don’t know how many times I heard him say ‘I’m 4’ that day. We picked him up early and then went to my work for a Birthday treat – waffles, crepes, frozen yoghurt, milkshake, smoothie. Well, my replacement did need testing on the whole menu ;-). Back home Harry started to enjoy all his Birthday presents, going straight for the easel his Grandparents had given him (I had put it up during the day) then his Mister Maker craft box. Birthday cake then bed for a very worn out little boy who still wanted to do ‘one more thing’.

Which brings me to the weekend. Home on Saturday doing yet more crafts (ever tell you how much I hate glitter?), then on Sunday we met up with my parents in Cambridge, the weather bright and sunny again especially for us! We tested out the hotel for lunch where we are going to be celebrating my Granny’s 90th in August and had our usual walking tour around Cambridge, stopping for ice creams in a pasture popular with locals, tourists and cows. Mum and Dad had also loaded the car with all the baby stuff we had stored at their house. You know, the really important stuff like the cradle. Cracking it a bit fine, I know. I just have to find all the screws for it now.

Harry at nursery again today, showing off his Birthday watch (most of his friends weren’t in last week as it was halfterm and generally quieter). James and I are both at home shut in different rooms doing our various work. I keep taking him cups of tea whenever I get up. I have sent off three submissions so am feeling like I’ve been quite productive so far! And now a blog post too. So what next? I suppose I should hang up the washing…

April’s Writing Review

The end of the A-Z challenge brings me very neatly back to normality – normality being Thursday as a blogging day!

April was a very different month as far as achieving my goals were concerned, but I expected that. I knew that to dedicate my time to the challenge I would be sacrificing the other tasks, but I think I underestimated the demand on my time that the challenge would have. Or perhaps it just wasn’t the right month for me. Being Easter holidays, my shifts at work were slightly different, then I had a week off and the bank holiday weekend, before cutting Harry’s nursery hours this week prior to maternity leave. I definitely didn’t throw that into my calculations and it certainly shows that I need to think seriously about managing my time this month as that quality ‘me time’ is no more so I need to be much stricter in saying to Harry and my husband that I want so much time every day to do such and such a task. Because otherwise I will get to the end of May and accomplished nothing. And I cannot afford that. I am waiting to hear back from two agents any day now and then I will have nothing out there so I need to get some more submissions out for one thing!

Anyway, as for April. I found the A-Z much harder than expected, but I think that was mainly down to managing my time. I was late on a few posts and played catch-up around Easter when we’d had a few days away. But I didn’t give up. I didn’t want to because I was thoroughly enjoying my topic of research and wish I could have gone into certain things in a lot more depth. My main problem though was when it came to visiting other blogs. I knew that bit would be hard though. Writing and research come easy, but ‘being sociable’ is difficult for me. I started off well but when time became constrained I sacrificed that aspect of the challenge.

Given everything I have written today, my key goals for May are as follows:
– submit my MS to at least five agents
– visit and comment on five new blogs a week
– reassess my writing time for the next three weeks (I finish work on the 23rd so after that it will be an entirely different story!)

Z is for Zoroastrianism

Z brings us to Zoroastrianism, an ancient Iranian religion and philosophy. It arose in the 7th Century BC when Zoroaster, a religious philosopher, simplified the pantheon of gods into two opposing forces – one all good and one all evil. His views led to the creation of Zoroastrianism, a religion nowadays with somewhere between 145,000 and 2.6 million followers worldwide (particularly in India), and influenced many monotheistic religions.

Zoroastrians believe that life is only a temporary state. Prior to birth a person’s soul (urvan) was united with its guardian spirit (fravashi), during life the fravashi is a guardian or protector, but after death (though not until the 4th day), the urvan and fravashi are reunited in the spiritual world.

On entering the spiritual world each person will face judgement and their actions on earth determine whether they are taken by a beautiful sweet-smelling maiden to paradise, or by an ugly foul-smelling woman to the abyss of hell (hell is reformative and those who go there are not damned for eternity). After 3000 years the dead will be raised by the final saviour of the world (Saoshyant) for their final judgement and good will triumph over evil. All who are saved will become immortal and the earth will rise up to meet the heavens.