When The Saints Come Marching In…

With the majority of the British Isles’ saints’ days occurring this time of year, Elaine and Francesca consider their usefulness in story telling

Shamrock Bear, collected by the children many years ago.

Elaine: March is a month where we start to feel uplifted as signs of colour appear on our landscape. Spring has arrived but it also has a couple of celebrated saints days in it. The 1st March was St David’s Day and the 17th March will be St Patrick’s Day.

April has St George’s Day and November has St Andrew’s Day. Each saint represents a different country within the British Isles. The title “Saint” usually denotes someone who has been canonised, although in today’s modern language we often use it to describe someone who is regarded as an exemplary model or an extraordinary teacher.

Eilean Donan – iconic Scottish castle

Now you may wonder why we have raised this. Well no matter what genre you read or write in, do the saints get mentioned? As we know, the public views these saints in very different ways. So would your characters. Although typecasting would be a little boring, their activities could be a catalyst for things to come.

For example in a contemporary novel the characters may have a night out celebrating, which could involve food and alcohol. There could be a scene written for such a celebration. Is a character a mean drunk or a teetotal? Could a crime be committed because of the celebrations, or a love tryst begin? Could the main character have kissed someone and then regretted it the following morning?

In times gone by maybe the characters would have been more reverent and celebrated such days by going to church or committing good deeds.

St David’s Cathedral

All of their actions and reactions would probably depend on their backstory.

Francesca: I have an example of using saints in my most recent contemporary novel, set in West Wales. The second day of the novel takes place on March 1st, giving a neighbour of the main character, Tori, an opportunity to welcome her with daffodils and Welsh cakes. It also marks the time of year without being too obvious. Later on in the novel, Tori takes a trip to St David’s splendid cathedral, a good chance for her to get to know the male protagonist, Coel, better.

St Caranog

The village I based my imaginary village on has its own saint, called St Caranog. Not wanting to identify too closely with the real village, I made up my own saint, calling him St Dynogof. The church there is named after him, another setting where things happen in the novel. I had fun making up his story, based loosely on that of Caranog’s and a couple of other Welsh saints, and he plays a small part in the novel.

I have lots of ideas for future stories set in my made-up village of ‘Môrglas’, and dear old St Dynogof might get a further role in one of them.

Elaine is right when she says people would have shown more reverence to saints’ days in

Probably not what St George’s dragon was supposed to look like!

the past. But it does depend on the time, the place and what denomination of people you’re talking about. The historical novel I’m currently writing is set in a Welsh mining town in World War One. There would have been a lot of nonconformists and therefore people who were less inclined to celebrate saints’ days. Many of the incomers from England and Ireland (and there were quite a few here at this time) would have been Anglicans and Catholics, so would have taken a greater interest in saints. Maybe it would have even caused some friction? It’s certainly something to consider.

So, for the past, present and future… 

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus     Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit     Latha Naomh Anndra sona dhuibh     and Happy St George’s day!

(apologies for any mistakes – blame google!)

 

@RobertsElaine11

@FCapaldiBurgess

Francesca and Elaine also write the ‘Competition Monthly’ and ‘Festivals and Workshops’ posts for the Romantic Novelists’ Association blog. You can read their current posts here:

Competition Monthly

Festivals and Workshops

 

 

New Green Shoots of Inspiration Pushing Through the Sloth of Winter

The days are getting longer, dissipating Francesca’s winter stupor and helping her get more organised. 

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Crocuses popping up through the winter leaves

What a storm we had yesterday and last night. The trees were being blown around mercilessly, snapping twigs and even branches from trees onto the path and road. But as I took my grandson to school this morning, the sun was shining and the air was still. It was like the wind had blown winter away and brought in an early spring. In the garden much of my lawn is covered with crocuses and the first hellebores and bergenias are blooming in the flower beds.

During the winter months, especially with the dark closing in at four in the afternoon, I found myself plodding through my writing day, getting done what I could before my brain felt drugged by the gloom once more. The days upon days of grey clouds didn’t help either. I guess I’m someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder as I always feel much more depressed in the hibernal months.

Research for my latest novel

Research for my latest novel

My study desk has slowly been swamped with information and research for my various projects, as I’ve moved into the warmer dining room to use the table there instead. Apparently Roald Dahl used to work with a messy desk and look how successful he was. Despite that, I don’t agree with a recent study that decided that untidy desks help employees to think more clearly. That doesn’t work for me.

It’s nearly spring, and time for me to buck up. My books of ‘plot bunnies’ need locating and ordering. I have scores and scores of ideas but it seems sometimes it’s as big a hindrance to have too many ideas as none at all. They need organising, as does my time. I need to programme my work on the novel, short stories, competition entries and blog posts. Also I need to schedule time to submit my work. I have a writing friend who always submits on a Thursday. I think this could work for me, instead of being haphazard about it. What I need is a kind of timetable, as if I’m at school.

Desk pad, ready to fill out

Desk pad, ready to fill out

Of course, I have the luxury of doing this at the moment as I don’t currently have an editor waiting for edits on a story, a novel or a serial. On the other hand, it is useful to have someone else give you deadlines and I find I can work very efficiently when that’s the case.

So, I need the motivation to organise myself. Apart from rearranging my desk space, what else will help me? My diary comes in very useful for deadlines of competitions and for blog posts, along with the various writing events I attend. But most useful is my weekly desk pad, split into days of the week. It helps me focus my mind on what needs to be done in the present, how long each task should be given and what time of day to do it. The pad has been languishing on my desk, but now it’s time to put it back to work.

Do you find your writing is affected by the seasons? What do you do to motivate yourself and make the most of your writing time?

@FCapaldiBurgess

My February Competition Monthly on the RNA blog

As I returned home today, I found myself singing a song from the radio show ‘Sorry I’ll Read That Again’. Those of you of a certain age may remember Bill Oddie’s, Spring Spring Spring, the lyrics of which inspired the title of this blog. (My two youngest children used to do a wonderful rendition of it!)

Here it is. I hope it cheers you up and spurs you on like it did me!

Spring Spring Spring from ‘Sorry I’ll Read That Again’

 

New Beginnings

Elaine and Francesca look forward to Easter and the chance for New Beginnings.

Elaine: The first short story I had published, almost two years ago to the day, was called New Beginnings and it certainly was for me.

I attended a writing class for six months, mainly because I wanted to write a novel, but was also encouraged to write short stories as well. I didn’t have a clue where to start or if I could write a story that was only two thousand words long. I wrote a couple but never sent them off. good-news-300x225To be honest, I couldn’t believe anyone would want to buy a story I had written, but I was wrong. The day the e-mail came from the magazine, saying they wanted to buy my story, is a day that will stick in my memory forever. I was alone in the house when it arrived. I read the three-line e-mail several times before it sunk in. Someone did want to buy my story. I ran up and down my front room, cheering and waving my hands in the air. Anyone passing my front room window would have thought I was a lunatic. My heart was pounding. Taking a deep breath, I dialed my husband’s work number but he was in a meeting. I tried ringing my son but he didn’t answer his phone. I rung my daughter and she was unlucky enough to be the person that answered. It has to be said that she didn’t understand a word I was saying.

My story was a about an elderly lady who had lost her husband five years earlier.IMG_1018 The garden had become neglected and it was something they had cared for together, but the time had come for her to get her life back on track. What is surprising is I originally wanted to write a story around visiting a garden centre, but actually that was how it ended.

That story was truly a new beginning for me as my published short stories are now in double figures. My love will always be my novels and I have completed three now, two of which will probably never see the light of day, but the third, a modern romance, has potential. I’m now writing my fourth, which is a historical saga. This is a totally new adventure for me or possibly another new beginning.

 @RobertsElaine11

Francesca: Like Elaine, I’ve had a story published called New Beginnings, though they changed the title to A New A New Beg story WNews smBeginning. It was the second story I had published and, in itself, could be said to be part of a new beginning for me, as a published writer.

The story was about a woman who ended up doing the same things for her local community and with her family every Easter, things they always expected her to do, but never anything she really wanted to do. It’s about how she breaks out of the rut and asserts herself. The tale was based on my own experience, though exaggerated for literary effect.

Spring is my favourite season and I particularly love April and May, with its blossom and bright, bourgeoning leaves, the fluffy chicks, downy ducklings and cute little lambs. There is the promise of lighter evenings and the weather’s gradually getting warmer, but not as hot and muggy as in the summer.

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‘A host of golden daffodils’. Taken today, just down the road from where I live.

This week I’ve seen at least four bumble bees, their fat, furry bodies buzzing round the nascent flowers. Earlier today I even saw a butterfly, a clouded yellow, on my way for a walk in the nearby meadow. Soon that will be exploding with the colour of its myriad wild flowers.

Lighter days, brighter colours, warmer weather: what’s not to like? I always feel better this time of the year, after the long, dragging winter. It seems to kick start my body and I get more done. Kind of like, well, a new beginning!

@FCapaldiBurgess