Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Busy brains and morning mindfulness

Whenever I have a lot going on, my brain switches into "too busy to focus" mode. I know I have a gazillion things to do and that time is tight, so I need to be focused, and yet somehow I get nothing done.

Even while drafting this, I have broken off to tweak something on the description for Aegyir Rises, answer a message on Facebook, fiddle with something else, and check my royalties (someone is currently inhaling Aegyir Rises on Kindle, if my sudden spike in Kindle Unlimited Pages Read tally is anything to go by... thank you, whoever you are! Hope you enjoy it enough to read the rest of the series.)

Busy brain.

Alongside all that, last week I was helping my mum sort out some things and we found a load of old photos taken by my great uncle, which led to us chatting about him, and now my brain is also interested in doing more research on him. And other members of my family.

Busy brain.

I've been doing a 5-day Ad Challenge (now ended) which means I've been setting up lots of Amazon Ads. Something else to keep looking at (even though I know I won't be doing anything with them for a while and certainly not right this second).

Busy brain...

And I haven't even mentioned book #10 or writing. Or all of the other books I have swirling around my head, demanding to be written.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Writing and mental health

I'm know I'm not alone in having my mental health shredded by lock down, but in many ways it's surprised me. I'm not known for being a party animal. In fact, my "lock down life" is incredibly similar to my "pre-lock down life". The only differences are not being able to see my Dad in his care home, and missing my knitting group. I maybe had one coffee-date with a friend a month, pre-lock down. You'd think I would be able to take this pandemic in my stride.

Turns out that although I'm still as antisocial as I've always been, something about lock down is currently taking my generally more-buoyant-than-drowning disposition and demolishing it. I'm struggling to write (which is really not like me. Normally I have more ideas and desire to write than I have hours in the day). The smallest thing is liable to make me cry. My joie de vivre is gone, leaving nary a trace.

And yet all the signs are good. Vaccination in the UK is going well. I've had my first jab. By the end of the week, both of my parents and my husband will have had their second jabs. The country is slowly emerging from lock down. More people are allowed to meet up, albeit outdoors (at least in Scotland). The weather is sunny.

None of that seems to be filtering through to my emotions.

I'm trying to write my way out of it. Not my books... they currently lie outside my grasp and trying to write them is more frustrating than healing. No, I'm trying to journal, or write to process my thoughts and feelings.

I keep a daily diary where I record how my day has gone. That can often be quite dry and factual, in all truth. But I also have a separate notebook where I just write. It started out as "Morning Pages" and on occasion I still do morning pages. In fact, I should probably go back to doing them regularly. However, these are more "any time I'm feeling low pages" which could be any time of the day.

It's essentially a process to clear my head. I can't change anything that is currently dragging me down. I need to learn to accept that. Just the act of putting it all down on paper seems to help though.

The requirements are simple - a notebook, a writing implement (more often than not a pencil) and some time. Sometimes I write for a few minutes. Other times I'm still in full flow half an hour later. Generally I feel more sanguine afterwards.

How are you coping? What solutions do you turn to? Drop me a note in the comments?

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Maps and rabbit holes

I love maps and I especially love old maps. Right now I am studying some hand-drawn maps from 1770 showing how land was allocated around Ardersier.

These old maps are amazing, not least for firing up the imagination and creating life-stories and adventures from little more than a list of old names. Naturally, I have no idea what their characters were like - that is pure invention on my part - but there is coding on the map that indicates what kind of ground it is (it's on another part of the map that stretches towards Nairn).

Of course, the real way to get the imagination going is to combine looking at maps like this with gravestones!

A while ago, I was up in Ardersier and my hubby and I spent an afternoon looking at old gravestones. It's a little eerie to find the headstones of the people listed on the map. From the dates, you can work out how old they were when this map was drawn and how old their neighbours were. It's only a few more steps to start imaging their lives.

I found one gravestone very interesting. It had clearly been made for the death of a child, but the intention was obviously for the mother and father to be buried in the same grave eventually. The space left for the father's details remain blank. The details for the mother are more extensive than had been planned for and are crammed in. My brain is immediately going, "Why isn't the father buried here? What happened to him? Who had the mother's details added? The husband? Why did they go for so much when the space was so small? Did they have more children and if so, where are they buried?"

This is the stone:

It reads (as far as I can tell):

In memory of

Alexr McDonald

in Canty who

and Isobell

Dunbar his spouse

who departed this life

August [illegible] aged [illegible]

and their children

James McDonald

who died the [illegible]

Feb 1789 aged [illegible]


The large space at the top was presumably for Alexander McDonald's death date, and the fact it says 'children' rather than 'child' makes me assume they planned to have more. But there are no more listed, even though the wife was ultimately buried there. So many questions rattle through my brain when I find stones like this! And naturally, I've been scouring the 1770 maps to see if I can find either McDonalds and/or Dunbars. 😀

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Spanners... and thinking hats


Okay, so here's the thing... I was writing "book #10" before Christmas and had got probably, ooh, 80% of the first draft done before I shifted to editing "Invasion".

"Invasion" is now launched and sailing off into the big, bad world, so I went back to "book #10" to finish off the first draft and start on the edits. 

"Book #10" is a new departure for me. It's a time-travel book, with some of it set in 1762. Before I started the edits, I wanted to check a couple of things with historians. I was checking two fairly general things - one about the construction of an outbuilding; the other about whether a soldier barracked at Fort George would be able to spend much time with his brother in Ardersier. In the grand scheme of things, these seemed insignificant and innocuous and I was checking them because I wanted to ensure the 1762 bit was authentic.


They genuinely were pretty minor things, and the historians were full of lots of fabulous information that helped enormously both with them and with various other things. However... it turned out that the brother wouldn't have been stationed at Fort George if he was in the army. That information, plus some general chat about something else entirely has blown two enormous holes in the plot! 

Thinking hats

So now I have my thinking hat on (how marvellous it would be to have a hat like the one in the picture!) to work out what to do to fix the holes. I have some ideas and I'm pretty sure I can get it all to work. But I need to rewrite about half of the book. So far, I have managed to do an awful lot of things except make a start on that rewrite! Even some housework!

Ah well. Just goes to show that it's always good to talk to experts (even if they do end up demolishing your plot before your eyes).