Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Writing notebooks: 'Capture'

This post was originally written for Nero's Notes, where I'm one of the blog writers, but I thought it would be interesting to my readers, too.

Current 'capture' notebooks
People (who evidently don't know me!) often assume that I just write straight into Word when I'm writing my novels. Actually, I barely use Word at all! I write and edit in Scrivener, but that happens a long time after any initial ideas for a book - often months, sometimes years down the line. Long before I actually start writing anything that could conceivably be considered part of a scene or anything, I capture ideas and do a shed-load of noodling around, thinking about characters, settings, plot... None of this is done on the computer! All of my planning is done in notebooks.

I've been writing seriously for well over a decade now, so I have a lot of notebooks that I've used for novel-writing. To cover all of them in one blog-post would leave you all wanting less (a lot less!) so I'll break it up into a couple of posts... Today's post is on the kinds of books I use for capturing ideas. I'll do another post on the notebooks I use once a book idea has got enough going for it that it will actually get written!

I am never without a notebook. Never. Whether I'm at my desk, out and about, or in bed, there's a notebook to hand. Sometimes I get an idea about the book I'm working on and need to capture it. Sometimes I've seen a person and there was something about them that I wanted to note - their clothes, their conversation, their demeanour. I can also get ideas about stories or settings, or see a whole scene really clearly and need to write it down before I forget it. All of these things and more are captured in a series of notebooks that I have dotted around the place.

Essentially, I'm too disorganised to have just one notebook for capture. I'd forget to take it out with me, or I'd leave it next to my bed, or in my handbag and by the time I'd found it, whatever it was I wanted to note would have flown out of my head and be lost forever. It would make my life a lot easier if I could just manage to have a single notebook for capturing these things, but I'm an old dog and that would be a new trick.

So, these are what I have in use at the moment:

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Can I have a break, please?


All too true. That said, at least I'm enjoying the company of my characters, but it feels as if I'm never 'off duty'. Even when I'm not at my desk, re-reading/revising/writing, my head is in the trilogy. I'd love to take a long weekend off, but my brain just never stops!

Where am I at with it all?? Well, I've just finished the re-reads of the middle book and the final book of the trilogy, converted them to ebooks and sent them off to my beta readers (thank you! You're all amazing!). I'm about to do another re-read of the first book, and look at the feedback my fabulous beta readers gave me for that book, and re-work whatever needs re-working.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Noir At The Bar - Edinburgh

Last Wednesday I was delighted to be one of the readers at Noir At The Bar in Edinburgh.

For those of you who've never been to one of these events, let me tell you a bit about it. All of the authors' names are put in a hat (or pint glass or whatever) and someone in the audience is asked to draw a name out. That author then reads a short section from their book and gives a brief description. The person who drew the name out of the hat gets a free (and usually signed) copy of the author's book.

There were 14 authors plus two wild cards last Wednesday. The readings were split up into groups of four with a short break between the sets, to allow people to refill their glasses and natter. I always love these evenings, even if I'm not reading, because it's a great chance to catch up with friends and find out how they are and what they're up to. And of course, it's always amazing to hear everyone's readings.

If you want to see my reading... it's here! Thank you to the amazing Kelly Lacey for the video and to Jackie Collins for the introduction.


Please do also check out all the other videos from the night on the Noir At The Bar Edinburgh Facebook page.

I had a really fabulous evening. If you've not yet been to a NATB, get along to one!!


Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Galloway run:walk method

Over the last couple of years, every time I've tried to run longer than 5 miles, I've ended up injured, however carefully I've tried to take it and however gradually I've built up the mileage. But, I still want to run a marathon before I'm 50, so being able to stay injury free over much longer runs than 5 miles is needed!

I turn 50 next year. 😳

I was talking to one of my running friends the other day and telling her that I'd got up to 5 miles as my long run, but that I was worried that my Achilles would inevitably flare up again. She suggested the Galloway method and said that she uses it for any distance above half-marathon (I should point out here that she runs marathons and ultras and barely thinks twice about a 20-mile run!)

I knew nothing about what the Galloway method involved, so Googled it. The method is named after Jeff Galloway, and there's a wealth of information on his website, http://www.jeffgalloway.com/

Essentially, the idea is that you intersperse short periods of walking into your runs. How much you run to how much you walk is essentially up to you, but there is a guide that suggests ratios, based on how fast you could run a fast mile (the "magic mile").

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Sarah Fine - Guards of The Shadowlands


I don't know if any of you have read any of these books (if not, click on the images above to go to their Amazon pages), but although I've read a fair amount of fantasy in my past, this trilogy was the one that made me start writing fantasy. After reading these, I wished I could write something even half as good. They aren't aimed at my age group (though I don't really hold with age-assigned genres really. A good story is a good story) but I absolutely inhaled them. The characters leapt off the page at me and the settings and set-up were incredibly unusual and innovative.

In Sanctum, the heroine's best friend kills herself and ends up in a place beyond the Suicide Gates. The heroine (Lela) ends up dying and chooses to go to this awful place, to try and rescue her friend and the book follows her journey as she tries to survive and free her friend. This is the blurb:
A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone – she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t – the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.
I was hooked from the first few lines and as soon as I finished it, I bought the other two books in the series, hoping they would be as good. They were.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Some news!!

Logo of a black dog with a monocle and the name Nero's Notes

Those of you who've followed me for a while (bless you!) will know that as well as writing books, I also have somewhat of a stationery addiction! Well... I'm now managing to combine both loves as Stuart Lennon has asked me to write for the blog on Nero's Notes.

I first 'met' Stu a couple of years ago. There are quotation marks, because in fact, Stu and I haven't ever met in real life (though I hope we will one day). We were both part of a #writingchat chat on Twitter (where various writers come together via Twitter on a Wednesday night from 8-9 pm UK time, to talk about a range of topics relating to writing) and the topic for the night was writing buddies. Neither Stu nor I had a writing buddy, nor were we in any writing groups. To cut a long story short, Stu and I swapped a small chunk of writing, gave feedback to each other and have ended up good buddies ever since!

Stu is now one of my beta readers - a very select group who read my books when I'm happy enough with them I can bear the thought of someone else seeing them, but with still some work to do on them. He also shares my love of good stationery. In fact, so much so that he bought a pocket notebook company! It was originally called Pocket Notebooks, but under Stu's guidance, has become Nero's Notes.

Picture of pen, paper, envelopes and ink bottle, for letter writing
Stu is also one of the friends that I write to. Yes, I still write proper letters to people, on proper paper and put them in proper envelopes, add a stamp and post them. In fact, my very first blog post for Stu is on writing letters and it comes out tomorrow. Please pop over to the blog and check it out? It should be up after 2 pm.

For those of you who share my love of good stationery, go and have a rummage through the Nero's Notes site. There are notebooks, pens, pencils, accessories and some excellent subscription boxes to feed your habit. There's some amazing stuff on there, including some things you won't be able to get anywhere else in the UK. Hopefully see you all over there!



Tuesday, 5 February 2019

In praise of some simple notebooks!

B5 notebooks by Green World
I've started editing "book 8" (a.k.a. "Guardians of The Realm 3: Chaos" - the third book in the trilogy) and have just started my third notebook for it!

I used to use Clairefontaine Age Bag A4 notebooks and I do still have a small stock of them to use up, but over the last year or so, I've shifted to B5 as a preferred size. It's halfway (roughly) between A5 and A4 (179mm x 252mm or ~7x10"), so big enough to get a decent space to write in but not so large that it takes up too much real estate on my desk.

The only problem is that B5 isn't a very common size to buy in the UK.

So far with the current book, I've used a Stalogy 016 notebook (used for general plot ideas and structure) and a Leuchtturm dot grid (used for scene planning and 'thinking' - noodling about, trying to work out things). The Leuchtturm is now full and I've moved into a Green World B5 notebook for notes.

I bought the four-pack of these from Amazon last year. I just found them again on Amazon and they're currently much more than I paid for them. Maybe they're one of those products where the price varies quite a bit. Considering that they weren't terribly expensive (at least, not when I bought them) they have some really nice features, though fountain pen friendliness isn't high on that list!