Wish We Were There

It may be winter outside, but Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts are starting to plan their holidays…

Francesca: Holidays always sound like wonderful opportunities to rest, see new things and have novel experiences. Whereas the last two items might be true, I’ve always found the ‘having a rest’ bit rather a myth. Whether it’s hauling four kids from beaches to activities to meals, or walking childless round a major city, it all takes rather a lot of energy.

The organisation can also be an endurance exercise. Two years ago a large party of our family, fifteen in all, trundled off to Center Parcs for a long weekend. I got the job of working out who had which bedroom in which of the two chalets. More gruellingly, I had to coordinate who was doing what activity and when, before booking it all up. Needless to say the holiday itself, while being fun, was also exhausting.

IMG_4514 Porthgain

Porthgain, on the Pembrokeshire coast

This July I’m heading off, as I have every year since 2008, to the Writers’ Holiday. This is the second year it’s been held in Fishguard. As I’m sure I’ve said before, ‘holiday’ is somewhat of a misnomer. Don’t get me wrong, we have a great time, but boy do we work. 

Fishguard (or Abergwaun to the locals) is on the gorgeous Pembrokeshire coastline. This is going to be jolly handy for me this year as I’m setting my next novel in the area.  Coincidentally, my daughter Carmela has suggested a holiday at nearby St David’s. I don’t mind going again, especially as it gives me a second shot at research. But with the prospect of including all four children, their partners, children, and partners’ children (ie, around a dozen), arranging it could prove to be another interesting logistic exercise. I wonder who will end up puzzle master…

Twitter: @FCapaldiBurgess

Elaine: My year usually starts with feeling there’s nothing to look forward to. To clarify that sweeping statement, my eldest daughter is getting married in October, which is no small occasion, but it’s not a holiday. The many holiday adverts on the television and radio don’t help, or indeed the grey wintery weather.

Since that first week of post-Christmas blues in January, I’ve discovered I’m away from home, either for a long weekend or a week, every month between April and July.

One of my daughters suggested we join her and forty-five of her closest friends for a quiet holiday in imagesPortugal. Much to my surprise, my husband said he quite fancied it and booked it up. Thankfully my daughter is in her thirties and not a teenager. The breaks escalated from there as friends asked us to join them in The Cotswolds for a weekend. relatives in North Wales and Worcester also beckoned. Booking a writing retreat in Whitstable quickly followed this. So you can see I’ve gone from a very strict ‘we can’t afford a holiday because we have a wedding to pay for’ to never being home.

This has crept up on me and now I’m at the other end of the spectrum. I’ve gone from feeling sorry for myself to panicking about how my writing is going to fit in.

Planning is a big part of writing, from character and chapter breakdowns to scheduling a blog post. On that basis, there’s an expectation that planning and scheduling things into my life would be second nature and it is. My biggest problem is that I hate saying no, despite attending an assertive training for women course many years ago. Of course, the alternative is I don’t want to say no, now there’s a thought. It goes without saying that my notepad will travel everywhere with me and, where feasible, so will my laptop.

Of course holidays, along with any other excuse to stop work, are great for people watching and grabbing ideas for future stories.

How about you, what are your plans for 2015?

Twitter: @RobertsElaine11



Link: Writers’ Holiday, Fishguard

Waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear

Francesca Capaldi Burgess considers the dreaded editing, and those dratted ‘favourite’ words.

Editing is something I love and hate, much as Golem in Lord of the Rings loved and hated the ring. And like Golem, I will never be rid of my need for it.

The ‘love’ part comes from the knowledge that I have completed the first draft, ‘The End’ typed, in my mind if not in truth, on the last page. Then comes the reality – back to page 1. And I know this will be only one of many edits, whether it’s a short story or a novel. The more I edit it, the more I tend to hate it! Neither does the editing process finish with the submission of the work.Page editing

I’ve written before of how I’m an eternal editor. If my work comes winging its way back to me, I will be
sifting through it yet again. Even if it’s a short story I’ve already sold in a different country, I will make sure it’s the best I think it can be. And that’s quite aside from the fact that foreign markets might compel me to change certain aspect in any case.

So, I shrug, huff a sigh while a sense of foreboding floods my senses, eyeing the page hopefully, clearly ready to begin, obviously. Which brings me to one of the major editing events – eradicating favourite words. Not favourite in the sense that I like them, but because they are overused by me. The sentence before last contains many that I placed on a hit list recently after finishing the first draft of a novella. Sometimes I end up simply replacing one well-worn word with another equally shabby one. In which case, a complete re-write of that sentence, and perhaps the one before and after, is called for.

The ‘Word’ list of synonyms is some help, as is the internet, but I prefer my Collins Thesaurus. What a hunk of a book! It’s much better than Roget’s version, which I’ve always found cumbersome.

I am, however, eternally grateful for the ‘Find and Replace’ function. I can’t imagine how much more difficult sifting through hackneyed words must have been in the days of typewriters and pens/quills, though I have to admit a fondness for writing by hand. ‘F&R’ is also useful for changing single quotes to double, and vice versa, for the requirements of different publishers, though it’s still mind-numbingly tedious to do.

Below is the hit list I made for my most recent work. Some of them will probably have you going ‘eh?!’ How many of these are also your bugbears? Can you add to the list? Feel free to comment below and tell me of any of your own worn out words.

shrug                           admonish

sigh                              laugh

huff                              wildly

breath                         unspoken

smile                           tut

grin                              raise

senses                          head

lips                               eyeing

nod                              turn

wide-eyed                   vaguely

ripple                           life

obviously                     bright

clear                            expression

connection                  screwed (not what you’re thinking, you mucky pup!)

And if you’re wondering about the title of this blog, it’s because of this rather nice quote by author Patricia Fuller: 

Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”

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We Were Just Chatting…

Francesca and I were chatting about the hobbies we’ve had in the past and present and it was only when I looked back that I realised mine were all solitary activities. knitting-bak

I used to make my own clothes, in the days before the low priced high street retailers. Choosing crocheting over knitting; I could never knit quickly enough although my mother was able to knit at lightning speed.

546px-CrosswordUK.svgAll word games have always given me immense pleasure. I can remember as a child writing the word Constantinople on a piece of paper and seeing how many words I could make out of it. The words had to be at least four letters long.

Reading was always the greatest pleasure of all. It was not unusual for me to get caught reading under the blankets with a torch when I should have been asleep. My mother worried about how much reading I did, instead of being out in the fresh air playing but that was never for me, and strangely enough it still isn’t.

Nowadays, while I still love to read, all my free time is spent with either my family or writing. report_writingWhile I love writing, I also hate it at the same time, which sounds a little strange. It makes me wonder why I persist with it. The answer is simple, I can’t help myself, it’s like a drug with the highs and the frustrating lows.

You would think from that list that I was a lonely child/adult and at times you would be correct but for best part, I think I’m quite self-sufficient. Maybe it comes from being born into a military family and moving around every couple of years.

What do you think Francesca, do you like your own company or are your hobbies more group based?

Thank you, Elaine, for sharing that. I’d say that some of my hobbies are solitary, others communal.

Writing is my very oldest hobby. Ten years ago I started participating on a Lord of the Rings forum, and writing fanfic for it. I enjoyed it immensely. It was one of the things, along with finding a creative writing class, that got me back into writing, and eventually submitting.

HobbiesOf my other hobbies, Italian has been dominant. I wasn’t raised bilingually, but joined a class as an adult. I did that for well over twenty years, gaining a GCSE and an A level. I still meet up with those friends and we have cultural trips out – often with an Italian connection.

The ‘piano badly’ is an instrument I play expertly! I had lessons as a child and have owned a piano most of my life. My father was a proficient violinist, guitarist and mandolin player. That musical gene has made my children much better musicians than me. Between them they play piano, guitar, bass, mandolin, flute, saxophone and drums. The girls are ten times better on the piano than me, and they’ve never had lessons. But tickling the ivories is a good way to relax. I have also been known to clear a room with my recorder!family tree

I took up knitting again recently and have been teaching myself crochet. I like quick patterns these days, so it’s big needles and chunky wool for me. I used to sew, in fact, I made my wedding dress and a Christening gown. I would not recommend it!

I also dabble with genealogy, that is to say, I can spend hours on end on Ancestry.co.uk. I find the social history side of it absolutely fascinating.

Music is the only one of my interests I’ve never covered in a story or novel. I’ll have to put that right some time.

Onwards & Upwards

Welcome to our revamped blog, Francesca and I are proud of ourselves for achieving this new look.
XmasTreeI can’t believe Christmas has come and gone and we are now into 2015, where did 2014 go?

Every year, January is about fresh starts, turning over a new leaf and making resolutions, with most of us breaking them within days. For this reason I decided a long time ago to stop making them, it had a feeling of starting the year on a negative foot, so 2015 is all about feeling the love, positive energy and thoughts, after all the world is our oyster.

Regular readers of this blog will know we have downsized from five writers to two but our content will not be downsizing, so we hope you will still enjoy reading and commenting on our posts.

With my day job and the lead up to Christmas I gave up trying to write anything in December so I need to get to know my characters again, refresh my memory of where I am in my current work in progress, despite having another idea bubbling away in my mind for my next novel. I often wonder how other people manage with juggling work, family and writing, or anything else that consumes them as an interest that they would like to take further.

Last summer I sent two very different novel manuscripts to publishers. Fingers, and everything else, are crossed in the hope that at least one of them comes to fruition, making me eligible for the Joan Hessian Award and a full member of the Romantic Novelist Association (RNA). What a great start to 2015 that would make, so watch this space.

January is also the time to become a member of the RNA New Writer’s Scheme, I joined two years agoE&F2 when my children gave me the money at Christmas and what a wonderful present it turned out to be. It has given me serious encouragement. The critique service and the conferences, with the many seminars and available meetings with agents/publishers, are worth their weight in gold. Then there’s the networking and the guidance that other writers freely offer, it’s always good to know you’re not on your own with the trials and tribulations of becoming a published author. My advice to any new members is to be motivated and utilise it to the fullest, as the rewards are great.

In fact, may I be so bold to suggest that if you have anything you are passionately interested in achieving, start putting your building blocks in place to achieve your goal, let 2015 be a year to remember for all the right reasons.

Good Luck.

Colorful Fireworks

 Elaine Roberts