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.

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…..



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 Writers

Seeing as it is Wednesday, I thought we all deserved a little bit of inspiration to get us through the week.  In the name of this blog and in humble service to all my gorgeous readers, I slavishly committed my evening to trawling for some scriberly inspiration on Vimeo.

I found lots, you will be pleased to hear.  So I am drip-feeding it to you.

And here is the first gem:


Why every writer loves a library

novel choices

After a shaky start to my writing day, I was ready for a break this afternoon.  Where better than the library for a chance to indulge myself in fantasies that one day, my novel might find a home on those shelves.

What writer does not love a library?  Upon every shelf is another idea for your next novel.  Need to do some research – forget Wikipedia, get thyself to the library my friend.  And it’s all free.  Free, I say.  With book prices here in New Zealand through the roof, it makes more than sense to avail yourself of this most lovely of all public services.

Before I talk you through my haul, I should just mention my word count.  For those of you who are following my Month of Pantsting challenge with bated breath.

Today’s Word Count:  3200

Total Word count since the challenge began: 14 750

Which is, you know, not too bad for five days work.  I have noticed that I am taking a slowly, slowly approach.  Tackling it Pomodoro style, I suppose.  You know, the Pomodoro method where you set a timer for 25 minutes and then write solidly for that time with a five minute break at the end?  Only I don’t have a timer, I have my stomach which is kind enough to rumble loudly at about the right interval level!

Any way, my writing was done, the rain had put a mocker on my beach walk plan, so library it was.

Today’s haul:

As you can see from the above photo, I always like to issue far more novels than is humanly possible to read in the time given.

The Novel Choices:

  1.  This is Life by Dan Rhodes:  I was attracted by the cover because I am a sucker for whimsical little watercolours of cityscapes.  Not a book I had heard of but the blurb promises a rip-rollicking tale set in Paris with a rather charming sounding cast of characters.  Could be fun.
  2. The Light Behind the Window by Lucinda Riley.  This is the first of the two novels by Riley that I picked up today.  I adore novels that slip between the past and the present.  This is such a novel, the past being 1943 Occupied France.  It is described as a ‘breathtaking and intense story of love, war, and, above all, forgiveness.  Sounds good. (Note that this is called The Lavender Garden on US Amazon – go figure!)
  3. The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley.  Another ‘time slip’ novel where the past weaves into the present.    This one encompasses India and a remote estate in England.  I just finished writing a novel set in Raj India, so this could be a nice way to revive my passion for that manuscript.  Dark secrets and  a family’s past – all the ingredients of a good read, I hope.
  4. The Collector of Lost Things by Jeremy Page.  Gorgeous cover which reminded me of my novel vision board.  The Year is 1845 and a young researcher is sent to the Arctic to find the remains of the Great Auk.  It’s a love story and a quest ‘whose protagonists are driven by obsession, love, and ghosts.  I have a passion for ghost stories so this looks like it could be very good.
  5. The Sealed Letter by Emma Donaghue.  Haven’t read anything by her but hear lots of grand things so this is the first of two novels by her to read.  This is set in Victorian times which is just about my favourite literary period.  It’s about affairs and marriage culminating in a courtroom drama.  The blurb reminds me of  Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale, which I read, and loved, last month.
  6. Frog Music by Emma Donaghue. San Francisco 1876.  Smallpox, Chinatown and exotic dancing.  Sounds like a fabulous mix for a novel.  Inspired by true events which makes it all the more beguiling.
  7. The Son by Philipp Meyer.  Bit of a wildcard choice.  Sweeping western epic which is not normally my bag but I seem to remember reading a good review of it about a year ago so, if I have the time, why not give it a chance.  It’s got over 100 reviews on Amazon and 4 stars so it must be quite good!

Research for my novel:

research for my novelMy novel is set on a remote Scottish Island so it made sense to get a few visual books to get the literary juices going.  These three are full of sweeping photographs and will I am sure prove really useful for helping to bring a more enhanced sense of place to my writing.

Fairy Tales:

myths and legends booksI have always had a weakness for fairy tales and my novel draws upon myths and legends so I thought it would be nice to reconnect with some old, and new, favourites.

Virago is hands down the best source of fairy tales in the modern canon so I was delighted to see The Virago Book of Erotic Myths and Legends by Shahrukh Husain.  Soon I might talk a little about my brief foray into the murky world of erotica writing but suffice to say that I rather enjoy reading something saucy but WELL WRITTEN.  This looks to deliver on both fronts.

I also picked up The Maid of the North – Feminist Folk Tales From Around the World by Ethel Johnston Phelps.  A real mix of stories here and I love getting ideas and inspiration for my next novel, or the one after that.  I am entertaining the idea of writing my own volume of fairy tales so this might give me some inspiration to try some short fiction once this novel is done.

Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales.  Picked this up but when I came home, I realise that I already have one of her fairy tale book.  Absolutely in awe of everything this woman ever wrote.  Love love love Carter.  Nights at the Circus is my hands-down favourite book.  Inspirational writing guaranteed.

Mermaids – an anthology by Steve Dobell.  Illustrated collection of verse and prose.  My novel is not about Mermaids per se, but I am fascinated by these creatures of myth (or are they????)  The cover is beautiful and this will be a lovely little book to dip into for some mermaid love.

Writing Craft

the craft of writing

Two books to keep me on the straight and narrow with my writing:

  1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  It’s a writing classic.  You can’t read a writing blog without coming across this one somewhere.  Time I found out what she has to say.
  2. How not to write a novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark.  This looks like its a fun read because I confess to finding some writing books just a little bit dry and , dare I say it, boring.  I will review this later on once I have read it.

So there you have it.  Not a bad haul, eh?  I will review some of these if I enjoy them.  If not, then I won’t – it’s really that simple.  And hopefully, I have inspired some of you to get yourself down to the library for a literary feast.

What are you reading at the moment?  Care to share, I would love to hear.

And all of the titles that appear in red are linked to the Amazon store.  Not affiliate links, just for your own reference, okay?

See you tomorrow xxx

Making a book trailer with free resources

To be honest when you are self publishing any book, your budget is going to be at best limited.  I would hazard a guess that your budget may be less than limited.  My own personal budget is just ever so slightly above well… zero really.  And lots of things seem to cost some money.  Making an ebook cover using an online creator was about 5 bux and then there is your time and possibly an editor, a proofer…. oh sometimes it doesn’t make any sense at all, does it!

Still one way in which you can have some fun and not spend a penny is on your book trailer.  I made my trailer this week for zero budget.  And yet it has about 80 images on it plus some footage including timelapse loveliness! So how can you make a book trailer without hiring a professsional?

Two main options really:  you can powerpoint it or you can go Moviemaker (not sure about the Mac equivalent on this but if you are a mac user then you will know, right!).  I decided to go with Movie Maker.  Not sure why really – I think I just like the fact that it is designed to be seen as one clip without pauses, there are plenty of flashy little effects and it feels quite an intuitive user interface for me.  Still whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Then I while away many a happy hour on public domain and creative commons sites downloading footage from the 1930s and images from all over.  All for free and me likey the freebies!  I started the trawl with a google search for ‘public domain video clips’ and then went to here which led me down all sorts of rabbit holes of public domain wonderlands.  Two episodes of I Love Lucy and some Harold Lloyd later, this girls was feeling good and armed and dangerous with some lovely little black and white clips of all sorts of stuff, as well as some awesome timelapse footage.  Yay!

Next I wanted some images so I typed into google “creative commons images free”.  This brings you to lots of available images sites.  Flickr obviously although you have to be in it for the long trawl there.  There are some free images available here which is as good a place to start.  You can also search  for public domain images.

Add some music and some captions and bob’s your uncle.  Ok so mine won’t win any oscars but I tried to incorporate the key elements of an ad which are:

  • Problem
  • Outcome
  • Solution
  •  Benefits of this solution
  • Actionable step

or POSBA which is not memorable at all but does play into the always popular acronym trap.

OK so quick word – don’t be too precious about this.  People are not expecting Hollywood, or even Bollywood.  It is just a way of letting people know about the book by using Youtube rather than relying on your blog, or FB page or very loud voice and incredibly large extended family, in the build up to launch date.  Have fun with it.  Be professional in your approach but, unless you area  professional filmmaker or a very keen hobbyist, be realistic about your results.

I like mine.  I have tweaked it and tweaked it and it’s almost ready to reveal but I will keep you hanging on that one….

Duh doh darrrrr

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How to find your authentic writing voice

You’ve read it a thousand times: “write with your own authentic voice”.  According to some it is the key to engaging readers and creating books that sell.  But what exactly is “Your authentic voice”?  It’s a tricky one to pin down as a writer.  We begin to second guess every sentence, question every choice of word, analyse every exclamation mark!  The trouble is that telling yourself to write authentically can sometimes have the very real effect of creating the exact opposite.

You know the drill.  You sit down to write.  The words are flying down onto the keyboard.  You are on a roll, baby!  You have banged out two thousand words and your Writer’s high is … euphoric.  But then you read back through what you have written.  This time however you read back with your reader’s hat on, or even worse, your editing hat on…  The questions are racing through your mind.  Have I expressed that idea correctly?  Is my grammar correct?  And then, the killer question:  am I writing in my authentic voice?  Ouch.  She’s a chilly comedown, that one.

Sometimes, second guessing yourself can be a good thing.  It is important to check that your writing communicates your idea properly.  Checking spelling and grammar are what a professional writer does.  But how do you test for an authentic voice in your writing?  Tricky one this.  One thing I have noticed is that when I write as myself, from my heart and imagine myself speaking the words that I have written, then I have written authentically.  When I go into academic, dictionary gobbling, essay writing mode, my authentic voice is way off in the distance, dancing with the fairies and poking her tongue out at me!  You know when your tone is authentic because it resonates with your heart.  Reading it through, just feels right.  Sorry to be flighty and woo-woo.  Sorry to be so unscientific about the whole thing.  But authenticity is unscientific.  It comes from the heart.  It is allowing your voice to find itself through your writing.  Get out of your own way for a minute.  Stop second guessing yourself.  Write as if you were communicating with your very best friend.

my ideal reader

Another free printable to get to the heart of your reader and help you develop your authentic voice

A great way to do this is to be a little business like in your approach to your writing project.  Create an Ideal Reader Avatar.  Give them a name, a full identity – spend as much time getting to know your ideal reader as you would getting to know your main character.  Know where they hang out online, what they read, what they love, what they fear.  Drill down into their emotional truth and hold that knowledge in your heart.

When you know your reader so well, communicating them is like speaking to a friend.  You know the details that they are looking for, you read the book through their eyes, you answer the questions that they are asking for themselves.  Knowing your ideal reader and communicating with them through your writing is the key to authenticity.  It is how you write from your heart using the language and images that your reader wants to read.

I created yet another printable to help me with this (I know, I know – I am printable obsessed!) so here you go – another gift! Just clicky HERE to get the pdf.

And yes, it is unscientific.  It is esoteric.  But so is the creative act of writing.  And remember, science is just another story that we tell ourselves.  Consider my words to be just another theory of Authenticity. That’s all…

So how do you get to understand your ideal reader?  Do you have another way of finding your authentic voice?  Let’s share our ideas because, y’know, it’s nice to share!  Leave a comment – I am learning so much from you guys!

And have yourself an authentically beautiful, and productive, day.

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