Inspiration for writers: Rebecca Miller Part two

Here’s the second installment of last week’s inspiring video.  This time Miller delves a little deeper into her process and refers to her delicious outlining wall.  Heaven.




Endangered Speechies: E

endangered speechiesWe are now bearing down on the Letter E in our Endangered Speechies series.  I wonder how these posts are serving you in your appreciation of some of the vagaries and quirks of lost colloquialisms.  Have you been trying some of them out for size in your own writing?

These Endangered Speechies are coming to you from the Letter E:

1: Ears Flapping: Inquisitive; seeking avidly for information.  This is still widely used and I love the visuality of the image – like an elephant, ears flapping in the wind.

example: In the cafe, Jon and Judy were deep in conversation.  At the next table, the two old ladies ears were flapping.

2: Earwig: Scandalmonger, flatterer.  I have known ‘earwigging’ to infer that you are eavesdropping a conversation.  I have some rather traumatic childhood memories of earwigs so I like the fact that in slangworld, they are never the most auspicious of creatures.

example:  Sir Andrew Featherstock was a shameless earwig as could be perfectly well-observed in his low bow to the Duchess of Havistock.

3:  Eelskin: A tightly-fitting frock of trousers.  Oh the luscious accuracy of this image and also that subtle layer of repulsion too.  Marvellous on so many levels.

example: Kim pulled on her best eelskin.  She was going to wow the paparazzi tonight, or die trying.

4: Ersatz: Synthetic substitute first used in World War II for artificial.  I used to see this phrase in books and never be quite sure as to its meaning.  Oh thank goodness for the clarity of the dictionary.

example: On her sugar -free diet, Emily became rather too liberal with the ersatz sugar in her cupcake recipes.

5: Euchred: Outwitted, from the game.  I am not a card player but I am presuming that Euchre is such a pastime.

example:  Andrew stood at the entrance of the empty warehouse, euchred again.  He must catch this killer and yet, right now, staring at the empty concrete shell, he felt that day was getting further and further from his reach.

6: Every mother’s son:  Absolutely everybody.  And that means you too.

example:  When Lily threw her annual bash, you could expect every mother’s son to be in attendance.

7:  Eye for:  An appreciation of

example:  Arthur always had an eye for the ladies, especially those who were fond of pies.

8:  Excuse my french:  apology for the use of bad language.  I have to say that my own mother used this and, just lately, I have even found it passing my own lips.  Oh the pathos of turning into your own mother – is there a greater tragedy in life???

example:  “excuse my french”, said Chrissie, blushing madly.

“Not at all, though I am not sure that was actually French!” coughed Steven.  He had never heard such language from so well-dressed a lady.

So there you have it – today’s thrilling installment.

Side note:  I find that now that I have committed to this series there seems no going back without feeling like a quitter.  So sorry reader, even if these are boring you or have no ‘value’ to you as an online consumer of information, I’m in this now – long-haul. Bear with me, yes?

Enjoy your Tuesday folks.

Is your novel literary? Shame on you

image116So you took the leap.  You stood on the edge of the precipice and decided to write a novel.

It was going to be marvellous.  It was going to be a million-dollar idea.  You had decided to turn your back on the publishing houses and throw yourself into the world of indie publishing.  You were going to do this thing.  You got this….

But then something went wrong.  Blame that dodgy literature degree, that Creative Writing course, blame your mother if you have to.  Thing is, the more you write the novel, the more you realise that you have committed the cardinal sin of Indie Publishing.  You have written that most odd of all oddities – the wild and genreless, the …. literary novel.

Horror of horrors and shame on you.

The folly of Writing a literary novel

Did you not pay attention to all those podcasts?  Did you deign to completely ignore all the advice of those generous kindle bestsellers who warned you that the only way to make tuppence on Kindle was to throw your lot in with the scifi/ dystopian/ thriller/ romance crew?  What gave you the right to think that you could waste your time with something that NOBODY will ever even find on Amazon, let alone tell their friends about it?

Well all I can say is that you knew the facts and you went and did it anyway.

Accept the consequences.  Even if your novel will blow Hemingway out of the water, you, my friend, have chosen a near impossible task.  You will flounder around searching for your ‘readers’.  Perhaps you might strike lucky on Goodreads.  If your heroine is plucky fifteen year old girl then you might get some traction in the YA market.  That’s if you can drag them away from their fan-fiction and snap-chatting.

I wish you luck my intrepid friend.  Many have tried and many have been very, very disappointed.  But I admire your courage, your brave willingness to give it your best shot.

Why we should admire self-publishers of literary fiction

You are one of those brave pioneers who has ‘written from the heart’.  You are the writer who turned their back on the well-trodden genre path and is willing to forge their way through the wilderness.  You are a leader, a revolutionary, and I salute you.

And I am right there beside you.  I too read the books.  I knew the facts – genre novels have greater visibility and more established reader forums.  Literary novels are a hard sell.  They don’t quite fit.  They are the geeky, unpopular gang in Indie Publishing World.  But we couldn’t help ourselves could we?

We sat down to write and these are the words that came to us.  We tried to bend it to the ‘market’.  Hell, we even tried making one of our characters a vampire shapeshifter in Chapter Two, only to abandon them into a magical realism interlude in the inner epilogue at the start of the Verse part of the novel.  We really wanted to make our novels fit the mould.  But we couldn’t.

Good luck to us literary fiction writers.  We should just go gung-ho and give it our best shots.  What was the saying ” Aim for the stars and you may not reach them, but you will fly higher than if you had never aimed at all.”

So let’s take the leap.  Let’s throw ourselves into the abyss.  And let’s support each other while we do it.  Together.

Have you written a literary novel?  Are you thinking of self-publishing?  Tell us about your novel in the comments below.  Here is your chance.


Inspiration for Writers: Rebecca Miller

I find this video of Rebecca Miller, author of ‘The Secret Lives of Pippa Lee’ completely inspiring.  Not just for her eloquence and openness in talking about her creative process but also for the beguiling wall behind her in the video.

I confess to often watching police dramas and being captivated by their ‘crime board’ – you know the big board that onto which they haphazardly pin all sorts of intriguing pictures and clippings and other what-nots.  I love the way they stare at it for crime-busting inspiration and occasionally, if we are really lucky, get out bits of string and piece together the crime through the power of the thumb-tack.  As a stationery addict, it almost, nearly makes me want to apply to Detective School. But….  Then I remember that the uniform for a bobby on the beat is almost universally unflattering and that the thought of training school and – gulp – obstacle courses and morning runs, has me crawling under the duvet in horror at the sheer physical effort.  Inspector Morse I may be, but Cagney or Lacey, I most definitely am not.

Still, I digress.  So for writers wanting some inspiration into process, this should be right up your alley.



Endangered Speechies: D

endangered speechiesSo how on earth it got to Tuesday again, I have no idea.  My only excuse for being such a shockingly irregular blogster is that last week I really pulled myself back into my writing.  I will update you on this later in the post but let’s just cut to the chase shall we?  I know, I know – it’s Tuesday which means that you are itching for the latest thrilling and enticing collection of endangered speechies.

Do not fear my friend –

This week’s endangered speechies are coming to you from the letter D:

1: Dando: A restaurant customer who decamps without paying for their meal.  Oh the scoundrels.  Apparently this saying comes from a popular song from the early 19th century – fascinating… so there you go!

example: Susy had been working too many years in the Chittanooga on West diner to know a dando when he slid onto a stool at the counter.

2: Day after the fair:  Just too late to be of any use.

example: The fire engines rounded the corner as Amy looked up to see Jon’s car pull into the kerb.  ‘Typical’, she thought,’ Always arriving the day after the fair!’

3: Dance on nothing:  Be hanged.  I find this a rather delightfully grotesque image really.  Gallows poetry anyone?

example:  Old Milly Hobblenob will be dancing on nothing before the end of the week, mark my words,  You can’t poach the Baron’s grouse and expect to walk free from that, said Mrs Puttletrop with a particular type of gleeful relish that is typical of the shopkeeping classes.

4:  Devil’s Delight: A terrific noise.  Which could make the name of a really great band in a novel perhaps?  Potentially anyway…

example:  From the corner of the farmyard came a devil’s delight.  Sally rushed out brandishing the gun.  She fired two shots and watched as the beast skulked into the shadows taking a prize duck with it.  ‘Next time”, she screamed into the night.

5: Dismal Jimmy:  A confirmed pessimist.  I am not sure but if by any chance your name is Jimmy this might perhaps be a rather damning personality label.

Example: “Don’t be such a Dismal Jimmy”, coaxed Natasha as she punched Vladimir in the arm.  He took another swig of vodka, “I tell you Natasha, there will be blood on the streets if the government refuse to grant the Netflix license.  They must be made to listen to the people!”

6: Doorstep and sea rover: A slice of thick bread and butter with a herring.  So like a herring sandwich I suppose.  I am constantly, and pleasantly, surprised by some of the nautical references in my slang dictionary.  I love that a sea rover is a herring. – nice!

example:  After a long stretch at sea, Alec put up his feet towards the cosy fire.  “Here you go love, a nice doorstep and sea rover”, said Rosie.

” I see you didn’t learn to cook in the two years that I was away then?” he teased, his mouth full of salty fish and fluffy bread.  Rose rolled her eyes and looked at the calendar to see when his leave would end.

7: Draw a bead: Take direct and exact aim with a firearm.  The ‘bead’ is the foresight of the weapon, apparently.  Side note: Gosh, do weapons have foresight?  If they do, would they not be reluctant to belch their contents out at such a rapid rate.  Even I can predict that it will cause some damage.  If therefore weapons do have ‘foresight’, I can only assume that they are therefore psychopathic machines without any compassion whatsoever.  How nasty!

Example: Lieutenant O’Dowd pulled out his weapon and drew a bead on the gunman. “Drop it McCronacle, or I will shoot.”  Had McCronacle know that O”Dowd’s weapon had foresight he might have dropped the gun.  In hindsight, that might have been the sensible thing to do, buy Mc roancle had never been troubled with that curse.

8:  Dying duck in a thunderstorm: Looking absurdly forlorn and depressed.

example: “There now, you look like a dying duck in a thunderstorm,’ said Bobby.  He took out a hankie from his pocket.  She blew her nose loudly.  Bobby found it a curiously attractive noise – luscious and strong.  He had always had a penchant for emotional women.

So there you have it, another collection for the archives.

See you next Tuesday, my dears.  Or before then if I get my a into g and post some more.  That’s the plan.  But you know the thing about plans…..



A month of writing without a plan: update

writing quote

So, yes I have not been blogging, and no, I have not been lolling around eating doorsteps and rovers looking like a dying duck in a thunderstorm.  That was the week before last for your information.  That’s right – the week when I only wrote a pilfering 9400 words for the whole week.  That was The Week of Life, and I am afraid that writing had to take a back burner for the while.

However, this week I determined to get back on course.  I had already conceded that I might not be able to complete the novel in the 28 day time frame (which incidentally ran out… TODAY!).  But still, I make the rules on this one, so I gave myself an extra week which takes the challenge to this Thursday.  By then, I wanted to have finished my first draft OR completed at least 28 sessions of 3000 words per session.

I am happy to report that despite no plan and no postits being harmed in the writing of the novel, I have now reached 68 500 words.  You read that right folks.  That’s more than a NaNoWriMo novel.  In a month, with a week off for bad behaviour, I have managed to write all those words and find myself approaching the final furlong of my story.

I am not there yet but it has been a blast of a writing experience.

Here are 5 things I have learned writing a novel in a month:

1:  It is okay to take a day off:  Yes writing is a habit, but so is smoking.  You can take a day off without having to abandon the dream altogether.  It is possible to get back on the writing wagon.  A day off is not a failure my friend.  It just means that on that particular day, something else was more important than your writing. And THAT IS OKAY.  Promise!

2:  Having a plan is one way but it is not the only way:  I worried about writing myself into dead ends with this novel.  Hell, 28 days ago I did not even know what story I would be telling.  I have learned to trust myself and my story to show me the way.  If I come to a dead end then I will extricate myself from it in the second draft.  It is just a story.  A dead end is an opportunity to create a new opening.  That’s it – not a biggie.

3:  A strict timeframe is a great motivator:  Look, I confess that I like a deadline ina  sadistic kind of way.  Not only do I enjoy a deadline, I take great relish in beating those deadlines.  This would be fabulous in Corporateland but unfortunately it means I do put myself under some pressure, even though I make my own deadlines.  But having a deadline – it helps.  It keeps you on task and gives you just the right frisson of pressure to keep putting words on the page.

4: It won’t be perfect but it will be something:  This is a first draft, a pile of words.  It can be honed and polished and tweaked and pulled later.  You are creating raw material.  Don’t worry that it is not great.  Take heed from the writers who warn us that the first draft will be doo-doo.  This is just for you, nobody else needs to ever read this one.  It is your baby and you can love it even though it is a bit odd-looking, and takes after your great uncle Jimmy who ended up in the nuthouse.

5: Have fun with it:  The worse that can happen is that you lose a month of writing and bit of memory on your laptop.  Big deal.  Think of it as an experiment in writing and nothing else.  If it works then you have anew model for writing your first draft.  If it doesn’t then you just lost a month but you probably would have spent that month procrastinating anyways so you are still way ahead of the game.  Win. Win.

Hope that cheers you on.  I will bring you a report from the finishing line before Easter if it all pans out how I hope.  Fingers crossed loves!

Inspiration for writers

There’s something rather inspiring about listening to other writers share their process.  I am a morning writer so, often of an evening, you will find me curled up with my tablet scouring the internet for writerly inspiration.

Here is one such gem that I stumbled across.  It is short but very, very beautiful.




Endangered Speechies: C

endangered speechiesIt’s Tuesday which means it’s Endangered Speechies Day here at the blog.  Today’s motley little collection of disused slang is today coming to you from the letter C.

Try using some of these long-neglected gems in your writing to give it a historical flavour.  Or just pepper your everyday conversation with them and watch your listener’s eyebrows raise high with amazement at your creative and masterly use of language.  Either/or…

Today’s Endangered Speechies are:

1.Ca’ canny:  To work rigidly in accordance with the rules with a view to causing maximum of dislocation and inconvenience.  What a corker for that period novel you are writing about union activity!

example:  The boys agreed to work ca’canny.  That would show the boss what it meant to mess with the workers.

2. Cake and ale:  Pleasant living.  There is something slightly insolent about this interpretation of ‘pleasant’.  In this day and age of healthy living and living ‘clean’, I rather enjoy the simplicity that this little phrase summons up.

example:  Bob leaned back in his chair and looked at Mabel, ” Isn’t this just cake and ale, love!”  Mabel rolled her eyes as she cleared away the plates.

3. Carry three red lights: be intoxicated.  How droll.  Can’t even make out how this phrase came about though I suspect it may be to do with the law and other whatnots!?!

example. Jimmy could carry three red lights after a night in the pub with the older boys.

4: Catspaw:  a light breeze, just ruffling the surface of the sea.  This phrase I love.  I mean I really love it.  My own novel is set near the ocean and I am hankering to include this somewhere in the novel.  How beautiful this image is!

example: The shipsmen looked out over the ocean.  There was a catspaw rising and the waves flickered in the dawning sun.

5: Cheeseparing: meanly and foolishly economical.  I love any slang phrase which includes cheese.  It has an inately comical quality don’t you think?

example: After she lost her job,  Amy entered into a cheeseparing lifestyle.  It lasted a week.

6: Close as a kentish oyster:   Taciturn.  This slightly Dickensian term  puts me rather in mind of a Sarah Walters novel.  I love the visual quality of the image.

example: The gentleman in question sat quietly at the table, close as a Kentish oyster.

7: collywobbles: noisy rumblings in the stomach caused by flatulence.  Say no more.  This is such a delightful word for such an embarrassing condition.

example:  All was quiet after dinner apart from a rather elaborate display of the collywobbles from Great Aunt Sarah.

8:  Conchie:  A conscientious objector the the National War Service in WWI.  This is such a priceless piece of history.  I feel a novel title right there:

example:  Alfred didn’t like to talk about being a conchie.  He had found that others were repulsed by his status.  He wore the title  like a scar.

9: Cop the needle: Become angry, annoyed.  Another one of those phrases which defy understanding but nevertheless have a charm and richness that comes from the image itself.

example:  There was nothing more likely to make Greg cop a needle than yet another smug status update from his ex-lover.  How could she do this to him?  It didn’t bear thinking about.

10: Cut the cackle and come to the ‘osses:  Leave out the non-essentials of a story and come to the part that matters.  wonderful, just great.  This is what I need to remind myself when I come to editing my novel.  Perhaps I should make a printable!!!

example:  Annie launched into her explanation but was quickly cut off by Ernie:  ‘Cut the cackle and come to the ‘osses!” he commanded.  Annie wished for once that he might enjoy her cackle, it was in the cackle that she found the most enjoyment.

So there you have it – today’s little gems from ‘A Concise Dictionary of English Slang’ byWilliam Freeman, published 1955.  I would love to hear whether you can use any of these little beauties in your own writing.  I wonder has language become less colourful and interesting?  Has the internet made our language corporate and technological and depreived us of these subtle nuances of flavour that used to pepper the way in which we spoke to each other?  I fear it may have.  Any thoughts?

A Month of Pantsing:  the update for Week Three

By the way, my apologies to regular readers who may have noticed my absence this past week.  I would love to say that I have been engrossed in my writing but unfortunately not.  Instead, life in all its gory glory has rather taken me for a ride and my writing, and blogging, have paid the price.

Fingers crossed that the storm has passed and this week I returned to my novel challenge. 

I am pleased to report that my Pantsing experiment is going rather well ( though I may retract that statement when I read through the first draft!).  I am officially in Noveldom.  Yesterday I reached 51 500 words.  Yes indeed!  I began writing on the 2nd and we are now into the twenties of March so I still have a week or so up my sleeve.  I am pretty sure I won’t be able to make up the days that I missed last week but so far this week, I have had two 4500 word days – hallelujah.  Wish me luck for the last week!

Good luck with your own writing this week.  May the words flow like a catspaw and may good fortune smile upon you so that you don’t have to resort to cheeseparing.

Any thoughts on the above endangered speechies most welcome in the comments.  Would love to hear from you!

Inspiration for booklovers

Indulge me here, if you will, whilst I wax lyrical about my love of old books. I imagine, if you are a writer or a reader, that you too might confess to a love of opening up a leather-bound edition and seeing the old typeface emerging from the thick cream pages.  Do you too get a little frisson of excitement when, on the odd occasion, you stumble across an old book which has got its own little community of paper coloured bugs the size of a full stop?  Do you, like me, envy those creatures their god-given right to dwell in those pages and feast upon the dust of the words?

I like to stroke the spines of books which have the remnant of gold leaf pushed into the indented seams.  I especially adore books which, in their original unread state, were sold with the reams still bound so their first readers had the unadulterated joy of taking a blade to the edges to release the stories within.

It is in service of this passion that I share today’s video inspiration.  A short film about a Canadian bookbinder.  It is beautiful and inspiring.  I hope you enjoy it too….

Endangered Speechies: B

endangered speechiesThose of you who joined me last Tuesday will have no doubt been waiting, with bated breath I hope, for this week’s Endangered Speechies.  For new friends and casual visitors, Endangered Speechies are ickle bits of slang that have been lost in the fount of time.  I found them in the yummiest old book, tucked away in the Misc. section at  my favourite second-hand bookstore.  So I’m sharing them.  With you.  Just because.

Today’s Endangered Speechies are coming to you from the letter B

1: Baby Blimp: this is apparently an old American slang for a fat girl.  What I find most amusing about this book is the rather obvious political incorrectness of it all.  I am not sure that these days you could even publish a dictionary which had a listing for ‘fat girl’.  It might be more ‘overweight’, or weight challenged.  Anyway in 1955, it was perfectly reasonable apparently to use the terms ‘fat’ and ‘girl’ in explanation.  There you go – stuff changes!

example: Tess was not slim.  Billy whispered that his sister was a baby blimp, and his friends snickered.

2. Ballyhoo: Noisy and vulgar publicity.  Which is an absolutely fabulous word to resurrect in the age of social media and Youtube celebrity.

example: The Kardashians created some ballyhoo prior to the publication of their latest shoe range.

3: Battle Bowler: Tin helmet, made popular during WWI.  Love this, especially seeing as my latest novel is set post WWI.  Wonder if I could sneak it in there.  Not sure how to use this in an example, though…

4: Bean-Feast: A workmen’s collective day’s excursion, generally organised annually by the employer.  Do such things still happen or is it now a case of a work do with a free bar from the boss.  Would we all now feel cheated if our boss only treated us to beans.  Possibly… yes!

example: The Bean-feast this year was to be a bbq on the beach.  There would be a bouncy castle for the parents and a free bar fort he kids.

5: Barmy on the Crumpet: crazy, foolish to the point of mental deficiency.  This is the kind of classic slang that I love.  Everything about it.  And, in my eyes, any phrase that uses the word ‘crumpet’ has to be w inner.

example: Delilah stripped naked and danced in the fountain. “She’s barmy on the crumpet,” whispered one of her spectators before joining the round of applause.

6: Belly Timber: Food.  Apparently even in 1855 this was an obsolete phrase.  No idea why.  It has a rather wonderful piratical quality.  Could be a great name for a cafe r restaurant.

example:  Her stomach rumbled.  She needed belly timber and she needed it fast.

7: Bible-backed:  Round shouldered.  There is something rather comforting about this.  Perhaps a more modern equivalent would be ‘laptop-lurched’, or ‘cellphone-crouched’???

example.  Helena sat, bible-backed and tear-stained, waiting for him to call.

8: Blue Funk: A state of extreme fear.  Everything about this phrase is utterly wonderful.  It’s like the name of a really cool band, or some kind of dystopian party drug??

example: The phone rang again and her blue funk descended upon her.  WOuld it be the same silent caller?


So there you go my lovelies.  B to the B, and all that.  These are pretty cool ones today.  Prizes for the best examples posted in the comments.  What is your favourite Endangered Speechies?  Let me know and I could include them in future posts!!