Happy Christmas!

As you race to tick another present off your list or write another batch of cards take a moment to count your blessings and remember that all we really need is shelter, warmth, food and love – everything else is a bonus.

For those of you who don’t have all of those things I wish you better times ahead.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

holiday-cheer
flic.kr/p/5GsNBM | Creative Commons Holiday Cheer | by John Morgan licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

My blog will be back on 5th January 2017 🙂

 

 

 

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Don’t be afraid to walk away

As some of you will know who follow my blog I am in the midst of rewriting a novel I wrote some years ago. It needed bringing up to date – smartphones have rather taken over our lives and I needed to address some inherent problems with the plot. I blogged about it here in Easy Option – https://goo.gl/qPP5SO

Now I am deep in the heart of the rewrites and my confidence is sometimes high but mostly low as I grapple with the mess that was once a cohesive novel albeit a troubled one. I am sure you are all familiar with the saying ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’. Well my desk is covered in broken eggs right now and it is hard to keep the faith.

breaking-eggs
Breaking Eggs by Rod Waddington courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/k6Hgsx   https://goo.gl/YmlyOJ

One part of the story was giving me more trouble than any other and I spent a couple of days beating myself up at the keyboard wondering why I just couldn’t make it work. Sometimes you can just be too close to a piece of work and all it takes is a little distance to see where you were going wrong.

Exhausted by the process of getting nowhere, my brain aching from turning the same problems over in my mind and not reaching any satisfactory conclusions, I decided to take a complete break from writing for a couple of days.

resting
Resting by Γιάννης Σκουλής courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/7vtHAv    https://goo.gl/YmlyOJ

It was a brave thing to do (some might say foolhardy) given I had a self imposed tight deadline but that in itself was adding to my stress levels. When you can no longer see the wood for the trees your writer’s spidey senses are hardly going to be at their best. So I decided to pull the plug for a while.

I stopped being Ellie Holmes the writer and just enjoyed being me. It took a few hours for the white noise of a busy writer’s brain to calm itself. A dose of reality TV and comfort food helped. And once peace reigned, I lived for a few days like normal people live. You should try it some time. I highly recommend it.

As you can tell from this blog, it didn’t last long. A brief holiday from my writer’s self was all I needed to recharge the batteries and rev up the creative engine. But as with a traditional mini break I came back refreshed, reinvigorated and ready for the challenge.

 

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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes
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http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

 

Progress?

So here’s the thing, I’m an independent woman who pays all her own bills, both employed and self employed, I’m used to juggling priorities and commitments. I can do things today that my own grandmothers could only have dreamed of but that cuts both ways.

Both my grandmothers were talented seamstresses. In those days lots of women were, you had to be to make ends meet. Make and mend was the way most working class families got by. Women with needlework skills could not only make clothes for their families, provide soft furnishings for the house and repair any damage done, they could also supplement the household income by taking in work for others. It was an essential skill in days gone by.

seamstress
The Seamstress by Texasbubba courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/6cUzwC  https://goo.gl/OOAQfn

Now here’s my confession – I can’t sew to save my life. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration. If someone had a gun to my head I could probably sew a button on. How long it would remain on is not something I would want to stick around to found out but at a push I could do it. Make my own clothes?! Forget about it. Even if I had the inclination (which I don’t), the skills would be sadly lacking and any item I managed to produce I probably wouldn’t want to be seen dead in.

seamstress-basics
Seamstress Basics by Anika courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CCO 1.0 Public Domain

https://flic.kr/p/umk5Qx  https://goo.gl/WJLbKh

And that, as Carrie Bradshaw used to say, got me to thinking. Would my grandmothers be disappointed that the skills they once deemed essential had been lost to their granddaughter or would they be pleased that I live and thrive in a world where those skills are no longer deemed necessary? I like to think the latter. How about you?

The Liebster Award

The Liebster award is an online award given to new bloggers or those with less than 200 followers by other bloggers- it’s all about providing support and encouragement and increasing exposure.

‘Liebster’ in German apparently means ‘sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome’ and is the ideal name for an award that allows baby bloggers to share the love.

Liebster Award

I was delighted to discover that I had been nominated for a Liebster Award by the lovely Jane at Candelo Blooms https://candeloblooms.com/ Jane describes herself as ‘An Old-fashioned Rose enthusiast, who is passionate about her garden, creativity and beauty, nature, birds and the environment, sustainability, self-sufficiency, Slow Living and enjoying all the good things of Life!’ How could you not love her?!

Her blog centres around her garden. Each month there are feature plants and updates on her gardening adventures. Jane also blogs about baking and includes some mouth-watering recipes with easy to follow instructions and if all that wasn’t enough she also chronicles her favourite places with exotic names such as Nethercote Falls and Moon Bay (…if that’s not a title for a romantic novel I don’t know what is!). All of these wonderful blogs are accompanied by stunning photographs taken by the lady herself who is clearly a talented photographer. You will be spoilt for choice about which post to read first. I know I was and I am looking forward to learning more about Jane’s beautiful part of the world.

Liebster Award 3

The Liebster Award has been going since 2011 and the rules have evolved over time. The official rules of The Liebster Award 2016, if your blog has been nominated and you have chosen to accept it, are below:

  • Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you.
  • Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”.  Images you can use for your 2016 Liebster Award can be found at http://theglobalaussie.com/the-official-rules-of-the-liebster-award-2016/ .
  • List these rules in your post.
  • Answer your nominator’s questions.
  • Give 10 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 200 followers.
  • Create 11 questions for your own nominees to answer.
  • Once you have written and published it, you then have to: Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it.

Liebster Award2

My Answers

  1. What inspired you to write a blog?

I published my debut novel The Flower Seller (http://goo.gl/g4L7oY) in June 2016 and I decided it would be fun to start a blog at the beginning of 2016 leading up to publication and beyond. I try to blog twice a week, once at the beginning of the week about a broad range of subjects and once on Thursdays on a writing related topic.

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The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes

2. What are your favourite things about blogging?

I love how inclusive, supportive and encouraging the blogging community is. Blogging helps to hone my skills as a writer and it’s always nice when a particular post strikes a chord with readers. I have been introduced to some wonderful people from all over the world because of blogging and my life is richer as a result.

3. What are your tips for new bloggers?

Decide how often you can realistically create and post a blog and then stick to that schedule. Publicise your blogs on Twitter and make use of hastags like #Sundayblogshare and #Mondayblogs to reach a wider audience.

4. What do you think are the 3 most important qualities in a person?

A kind heart, a sense of humour and loyalty.

5. If you were to make a mood board about yourself, what are 3 core beliefs or loves, which you would include?

Goodness that is a hard question! Live every day like it’s your last, be kind to yourself as well as others and don’t let fear hold you back.

6. If you could time-travel, which time period would you like to visit and why?

I enjoy genealogy and I would love to be able to go back and visit previous generations of my family so that I could experience their everyday lives. I know the facts and figures of where and when they lived and what they did for a living but to actually see their homes and the world they lived in would be pretty special.

7. If you could meet 3 famous people, who would they be and why?

  1. Jimmy Connors. My all time favourite tennis player. I loved his fight to the last point philosophy – a good analogy for life itself. I was lucky enough to meet him at Wimbledon one year when he was commentating. I came over all fan girl and asked for an autograph which he graciously gave me and then had a chat! He was as nice in person as I always hoped he would be.
  2. Daphne Du Maurier. One of my favourite authors. A fascinating and complicated character in her own right, I would love to discuss the mechanics of writing with her and our shared love of Cornwall.
  3. Eleanor of Aquitaine. What a lady! A duchess by birth, she became Queen of France through her marriage to Louis VII and later England through her marriage to Henry II, mother of ten children and matriarch of the notorious or glorious (depending on your viewpoint) Plantagenets. She would be able to provide a fascinating firsthand account of the tumultuous times in which she lived.

8. What is your favourite book or author? Tell us a bit about it/ them.

I am going to have to cheat and give two favourite authors. Daphne Du Maurier for her rich gothic plots and her love of Cornwall and Sidney Sheldon the master of the page turning read. Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn is a classic and my favourite Sidney Sheldon novel is Bloodline – a thrilling read, part love story, part murder mystery that keeps you guessing right to the end.

9. What is your favourite garden and/ or plant?

My favourite garden is Trebah in Cornwall. A simply magical garden built along the sides and floor of a valley and with its own private beach at the end. An enchanting garden. My favourite plant has to be the agapanthus – because they remind me of Cornish holidays.

10. What are your favourite hobbies/ pastimes (apart from blogging, of course!)

Reading, writing, history, gardening and following tennis, athletics and ice skating

11. Name 10 things which make you happy!

  1. The sun
  2. My puppy Willow
  3. Losing myself in a good book or blog
  4. Spending time with family and friends
  5. Cooking
  6. Watching sport
  7. Visiting and learning about new places
  8. Indulging my love of history
  9. That first cup of tea when the house is quiet
  10. Listening to the rain falling when I am cosy in bed

Ten Random Facts About Me

  1. I love to walk to the beat of a different drum. Tell me to go left and I will immediately want to go right!
  2. I love tomato soup but hate tomatoes.
  3. I love being left handed even though it can be challenging (ever taken over the stirring of a pot from a right handed person and ended up covered in sauce…)
  4. I believe in making the most of every day and achieve it more often than not.
  5. I enjoy spending time on my own.
  6. I am fascinated by the Plantagenets – mad, bad and dangerous to know but captivating too.
  7. I enjoy cheese and jam (no bits) sandwiches.
  8. I get grumpy if I don’t write.
  9. I’m still twenty-three – it’s just everyone else who got older!
  10. I love sitting in my sun lounge with a good book and my dog.

My Nominations

https://herodad.wordpress.com/

http://www.authordesignstudio.com/

https://deborahanndykeman.com/

https://keleemorris.wordpress.com/

https://ambradleyblog.wordpress.com/

My Questions

  1. Why did you decide to start your blog?
  2. What is the hardest thing about maintaining a blog?
  3. What’s the best thing about blogging?
  4. What are your top tips for someone just starting a blog?
  5. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given and did you follow it?
  6. What are you passionate about?
  7. How would you spend a ‘perfect’ day?
  8. Do you ever suffer with writer’s block and if you do, how do you get over it?
  9. Who is/are your favourite author(s)?
  10. Where do you hope to be in five years’ time?
  11. What’s your favourite waste of time?

Diamonds in the drawer

We’ve all got them. They’re tucked away somewhere, possibly in a box or a drawer. They’ve been there for years some of them, gathering dust, unloved. Occasionally, they are languishing in the dark corners of our laptops, tucked inside an obscure file, the titles only half remembered. All of them waiting for the day they are taken out, polished up and given another chance to shine.

Box of files
Box of files by Tempest Tea courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/9b8Nux  https://goo.gl/VCV5r4

As writers we learn our trade by writing stories. Sometimes our early efforts are some way off the mark and if we happen to come across them years later we cringe as we read them. We are always our own harshest critics in those circumstances, mentally editing the text as we read, tutting at the mistakes that are obvious to us now, wondering how we ever thought the work was good enough.

Despair
Despair by Lloyd Morgan courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/4vKjDj   https://goo.gl/OOAQfn

That said, most writers will usually find something to admire in those early pieces. It could be a title, a description or sometimes just a single sentence. We come across it and we nod with a half smile and think ‘That’s not too bad’. And that is why writers should never throw away any piece of work or press the delete button on that abandoned work in progress. You never know when you might need it again.

Sometimes whole chunks of writing can be discarded because our sense of the novel changed as we were writing our first rough draft or the character was wrong for that particular book or the plot took a turn we weren’t expecting. Still more writing is lost to edits, pieces deemed an over indulgence or a flashback too far. However disheartened we are at the time, we must never give in to the urge to throw any of that work away.

Instead, we should always tuck those pieces inside a future folder. Chances are there is something salvageable in each and every one. Perhaps the idea was just too big for your younger self to grapple with and you needed the experience of another ten years of writing under your belt before you could finally do it justice. Usually though it is a smaller section of a larger piece we can make use of again in a different way, in a new story. That character description we were always quite pleased with but which got lost in the story we put around it. A title that was better than the story that followed. A killer opening line or a closing twist that just needed to be linked to a story of the same quality.

Diamond in the Rough
Diamond in the Rough by Orin Zebest courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/7GQqYi  https://goo.gl/AoRlSm

So next time you find yourself blocked or the new work in progress is failing to ignite, take a walk down memory lane and open up that drawer or box or click on that obscure file. Amongst the dross, and there will be dross, probably lots of it, but amongst the dross, I bet you’ll find a few diamonds waiting to be rediscovered, polished up and given a new chance to shine.

Today’s blog is the latest in my Flower Seller Thursday collection of writing related blogs leading up to publication day of my debut novel The Flower Seller on Thursday 2nd June 2016 #FlowerSellerThursday

The Flower Seller Kindle edition is now available to pre-order from Amazon via my website http://goo.gl/0Gv8Jg

9780993446306
The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes

 

 

 

Why proofreaders are a necessity and not a luxury

Okay so you have spent out on a professional editor. They have performed their grammatical alchemy on your manuscript and you’ve hired a cover designer to do your cover. Job done. Well, not quite. You still need a proofreader.

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Proof reading Marks Example by Henry O courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/ouK1j6   https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

You’ll look at your dwindling bank account and think is it worth it? You might think I’ll just read it through myself very, very carefully and I’ll pick up any mistakes that remain. You might think the editor has done all the hard work for you so why should you bother? You might find a well-read victim, sorry volunteer, and ask them to do the job for you for free. I would caution you against any of these steps but particularly the last one. What if your relative or friend misses an obvious error? They are going to feel terrible when it’s pointed out to them and you are never going to be able to quite forgive them for missing it. Save yourself the angst and hire a professional.

Despair
Despair by Lloyd Morgan courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/4vKjDj   https://goo.gl/OOAQfn

I worked with a proofreader and it was a worthwhile experience. It gave me the opportunity to check through the manuscript very, very carefully myself one more time whilst I worked my way through the proofreader’s suggestions. I made a small number of additional changes (give a writer a red pen and a free hour and there’s no telling what might happen – if you find yourself spending five minutes ruminating on ‘He stood his glass down’ as compared to ‘He slammed his glass down’ or comparing the relative merits of ‘charmed’ against ‘enchanted’, as I did, it’s probably time to step away from the keyboard).

Delete
Delete by Matt McGee http://www.carimcgee.com courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/9cnADG  https://goo.gl/VAhsB

My proofreader spotted some spelling errors that had sneaked (snuck?) through. She also commented on readability in a few places and pointed out some sentences were clarification would be a good idea. She also highlighted some stray formatting issues that had crept in like extra spaces.

The changes we made between us probably went into double figures and this was on a manuscript that had been relatively ‘clean’ to begin with. Are there still errors that remain? I hope not but if there are the responsibility rests with me.

So, if you are wondering if a proofreader is worthwhile I would urge you to hire one (and no I don’t secretly beyond to the Guild of Proofreaders [if there is such a thing!]). My rationale is always ‘Will this make my book a better book?’ A professional proofreader will give you that.

Big tick
Big Tick by Cve4mejournal courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/x4Db5b  https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking an editor is enough on their own. Hiring an editor without a proofreader is like having treacle pudding without the custard. Nice enough on its own but better together.

Today’s blog is the latest in my Flower Seller Thursday collection of writing related blogs leading up to publication day of my debut novel The Flower Seller on Thursday 2nd June 2016 #FlowerSellerThursday

The Flower Seller Kindle edition is now available to pre-order from Amazon via my website http://goo.gl/0Gv8Jg 

9780993446306
The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes

 

Why We Should Pity Sports Cheats

There doesn’t seem to be a month goes by without another bad news story surrounding the integrity of sports stars or the people who administer their sports. We have the ongoing investigations into corruption in football and the process by which host cities were chosen for top athletics events. Plus the number of sports stars who have fallen foul of the reclassification of the heart drug Meldonium. In an Olympic year especially is the concept of faster, higher, stronger forever tainted by pharmaceuticals and money?

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Pills by Kev-Shine courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/fQQxg6   https://goo.gl/UjPlu5

The string of unsavoury revelations can leave the sports lover who wants to believe in the purity of the sport they love feeling rather downhearted and…well cheated. But I believe we should welcome each new exposé, no longer should the wizard be allowed to hide behind the curtain.

Cheats have always existed in all walks of life. Who hasn’t met the kid who wants to rely on a classmate’s hard work to see them through their exam rather than getting their head down to study themselves? Some people naturally seek an easy path through life and will use and abuse others to make that happen. Whilst outwardly confident, people like this are naturally insecure about their own abilities and plagued by doubt.

Barbed wire
Barbed Wire and Snow by Jennifer Boyer courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/BRwhN  https://goo.gl/UjPlu5

In the sports arena these human frailties can be savagely exposed. I have always been intrigued about the moment when sports men and women cross the Rubicon and start to cheat.

To be able to represent your country or club at the highest level takes years of dedication and hard work usually starting in childhood. What happens to the child inside, who set out with unsullied dreams of greatness, when the first pill is popped? How can it feel to betray that child who worked so hard for so long and how can any prizes won when cheating carry any meaning?

Is it possible for there to be satisfaction and a sense of achievement when you owe more to a chemist than to your own talent and hard work? Isn’t there still somewhere inside each one of them a starry eyed dreamer who cringes with shame?

Hidden
Hidden by Andy Powell courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/7rxJbv    https://goo.gl/UjPlu5

Never mind the fact that the substances they are using could potentially cause their bodies harm. Think about that for a moment. Physically elite, their bodies hitherto a temple to training, healthy living and careful diet, how skewed must their mindset be to take the risk? How great the lure of fame and riches that common sense withers and dies taking integrity with it.

Sport at the highest level is awash with money and these huge sums can be corrupting. But a fortune that relies on gaming the system doesn’t have very stable foundations and when that house of cards begins to tumble it risks taking everything a person has achieved down with it, leaving only tarnished memories in its wake. Sure they might still have enough money to live very comfortably for the rest of their lives but for all athletes, if they are lucky, the vast majority of their lives will be lived after the glory days are over. That’s a long time to live in comfortable ignominy.

For all those reasons, I think we should pity those who have succumbed to temptation.

Apple
Juicy Fresh Apple by Sherwin Sibala courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/91BjpH    https://goo.gl/UjPlu5

As a sports lover all my life I have had suspicions about the performance of some of the ‘stars’ I have watched over the years. Some have been borne out by later exposure, others not [yet]. But I firmly believe that exposure of corruption can only be a good thing. The light needs to be shone into the dark corners. If we shy away we may as well sanction the use of all enhancements.

There are some who think we can never beat the cheats. They may be right. But that doesn’t mean we have to stop trying.

Determinatio
Determination by Dana Lookadoo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/5q1RC4   https://goo.gl/UjPlu5

So next time a scandal breaks, don’t shoot the messenger and never turn your back on the sport you love or denounce everyone as a cheat.

In this Olympic year in particular, pity those who have been duped into cheating or who knowingly sought to deceive and be glad instead of sad when another story hits the headlines. Every high profile exposure, every headline, every lost sponsorship deal or court hearing might make another athlete think twice. They may just step back from the brink and decide not to betray the starry eyed child inside and the world of sport will be better for it.

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Cheating by Sean MacEntee courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/9cAvez     https://goo.gl/UjPlu5