Stand-up and Abseil Down

I’m doing it again!

I’ve signed up to take part in the Funny Women Awards 2014, and my heat takes place on Tuesday 29 April – the day after my birthday – in Stoke Newington, London.

“ You’re so brave. I could never do that,” is a common response when I share the news with people, but what I suspect they’re really thinking is “ARE YOU COMPLETELY OUT OF YOUR MIND?”

Time will tell. When I performed stand-up the last time, it was as part of my research for my novel The Dare Club – I wanted to experience it so that I could write authentically about someone finding the courage to do it. Here’s the link to see me performing on that occasion at Up The Creek in Greenwich. But this time I don’t have that motivation – I’m doing it for the pure pleasure of it. Yes, pleasure – because the feeling of achievement afterwards was completely amazing.

This time it will be different – I have to deliver a 5 minute set. Last time it was 3 minutes. There will also be a competitive element, and alas, my mate Sharon can’t be there to film me and offer me support. I tried to convince her it wasn’t too far to come back from Mexico where she’s going to be on holiday, but she wasn’t convinced.

Anyway, I have some new material to add to some of the stuff I used last time and I’m doing a lot of practising in front of a mirror with a hairbrush microphone. (Or a pepper mill, depending which mirror I’m using).

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The stand-up heat will be one event in an exciting week for me – on Thursday 1 May I’m on Future Radio in Norwich, chatting about The Dare Club and how it has inspired myself and my friends to set up our own dare club! Our first event is a 20-metre charity abseil on 21 June in aid of the charity Keeping Abreast. If you’d like to sponsor us, we’d be very grateful! Click on the link here.

 

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The setting for our Charity Abseil on 21 June

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Checking out the venue

Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it all goes.

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Getting in the Mood

I’ve recently started using Pinterest and I’m really enjoying it. Having been to Art College, I’m a visual person, and definitely always learn better if I can see something. Just lately I’ve been setting some important scenes in Havana, which I visited a while ago, and looking at images has almost been like going on holiday. AlmostHa ha.

So now that my story has returned to Norfolk, I put together a Pinterest board of the images that have inspired me while I write. Here’s the link. http://gb.pinterest.com/margaretkaj/cuba-inspirations/

I also tried making a Mood Board to reflect the feel of my novel The Dare Club – I think I succeeded to a certain extent, although it was quite difficult to find images that reflected what the characters look like inside my head after the event.

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Aleysha from The Dare Club

I suppose the best way to do it would be to start with image before I write! Though I have to admit, when I’m reading, I don’t need to be told much about what a character looks like in order to form an idea myself. Maybe that comes back to me being a visual person, I don’t know. Anyway, when I’m writing, I have to try and bear in mind that some people do like to be given physical information about characters.

How about you? Are you happy to mostly make up your own mind what characters look like? Or do you prefer a guiding hand?

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Available from Amazon.

 

Writing Process Blog Tour

Today I am posting as part of a writing process bog tour – my thanks to Kathryn Freeman for inviting me. Here’s a link to Kathryn’s blog. http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk/category/blog/ Kathryn writes for romantic Choc Lit, and her current hero is a racing driver. Must have involved a lot of very interesting research…

So, as part of the tour I have to post my answers to 4 questions about my writing and the way I write.

1. What am I working on? I’m currently working on my 3rd women’s fiction novel and a romance novel. Both these books have a theme of deception, and as always with my writing, they’re about self-esteem and personal growth as well as love. I’ve also just got a historical romance set in the First World War down from the attic to read through – I wrote it a long time ago, but with it being the anniversary of the start of WWI, it might be worth taking another look at. My initial glance tells me that my heroine is a bit of a wimp, so it needs some work!

 2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Hmm, tricky one – I’m tempted to say, “ask my readers”. But actually, the feedback I’ve had from several people about The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club is that the subject matter/premises are quite original. People find this refreshing, but it does make the books harder to place, because people do like to pigeonhole books. STOP PRESS! I have written a short story – Emma’s Choice – aimed at readers who haven’t read The Dare Club yet, to give them a taste of the novel. Emma’s Choice is FREE from today, 10th Feb until Friday 14th Feb. OK, advert over!

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3. Why do I write what I do? Well, I’m lucky enough to have been able to write in a wide range of genres since as well as women’s fiction/romance, I also write readers for people learning to speak English. These have included romances, but also fantasy, a thriller, horror, human interest, fact books… I do enjoy variety and challenge with my writing. But to relate the question to my women’s fiction novels, I’ve always been interested in groups of people who are thrown together and have to get along. This is what happens in both The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club, and it’s something I’ve experienced myself through my teaching and by going on adventure holidays alone. At first there are tensions, but gradually the group bonds as it has a common aim. In my novels the aims are improved self-confidence and self-esteem. My books are about empowerment, and that’s something that is very important to me personally.

4. How does my writing process work? It depends. Sometimes I write a book very quickly. Other times life has forced me to leave something and I’ve returned to it years later. But generally once I have an idea – which is often inspired by one character that comes to life for me – I make notes until I feel ready to start. I need to know how a novel is going to end, and I need some touch stones – major events along the way. I also make sure I’m certain of the overall theme of the book. For example, in The Dare Club, which is about a group of newly-separated people challenging each other in an attempt to forget about their problems, the thing that drives the characters and the plot is that by the end they will all have learned that the most challenging – and most important – thing of all is to tell people how and what you feel. Keeping a theme in my mind makes a book hang together. Whenever I’ve written without a clear idea of a theme, I’ve usually got lost or had to do countless rewrites. I’m very disciplined about my writing. Sometimes I will start writing in my notebook early in the morning – as early as 5.30am on occasion. When I return from the school run, I type this up and then carry on writing on the computer. After I’ve written about a third of a novel, I feel able to plan the rest of the story in quite a lot of detail, and I do this by brainstorming all my ideas onto post-it notes then arranging them in order. I put this plan up on my wall behind the computer screen and tick scenes off when I’ve written them. Of course things do change sometimes. My characters don’t always agree with my plans!

The writing process blog tour continues next week with 2 people I have met via Twitter. Here’s a bit about them, and I hope you’ll read their posts.

Susan Buchanan lives in Central Scotland with her partner Tony and their baby daughter, Antonia. She is the author of three novels in the contemporary fiction and chicklit genres: Sign of the TimesThe Dating Game and The Christmas Spirit. Her fourth novel, What If, is expected to be released summer 2014.

 http://susancbuchanan.blogspot.co.uk

 Karen Soutar is a writer by night, and a driving instructor by day, putting her Lady Jekyll and Mrs Hyde personality to good use. She has written stories all her life but started blogging in March 2013 and began publishing her fiction on her blog. Karen writes horror, fantasy and erotica flash fiction and short stories, and is working on her first novel. She is studying Creative Writing with the Open University, and has recently started to dabble in poetry. When not writing or driving, Karen is a devoted rock chick, and self-confessed crazy cat lady. She lives in a village in central Scotland with her husband and three cats.

http://karensoutar.wordpress.com/

Inspiring Friends

When I first began writing, a male friend was convinced I’d based the hero of my romance novel on him. Like my friend, my hero was a landscape artist, and I probably had used little things I’d observed about the way my friend approached his painting. However, my hero didn’t share his passion for drawing the inquisitive cows that meandered over to inspect his paintings, and neither did he have my friend’s very wild red hair or his habit of existing all week on extremely large pans of vegetable stew.

Obviously though I do use my experience of friendship in my writing – both The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club are about friendship groups and how the support of good friends can help you to triumph in life. Friends have helped me to get where I am today and help to keep me here – by that, I mean they have been and remain an important source of encouragement, support and life-affirming fun.

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Just recently I have laughed out loud at friends’ tales of embarrassment while using ladies’ urinals at music festivals, and wrongly-pressed Facebook buttons that have led to people to jump to completely erroneous conclusions. I know friends wonder if I’ll use such things in my novels, and I might do with permission! For me, little things like this can be the starting point to me conjuring up characters or even whole novels. For example, one friend recently told me that her way of getting over a broken heart was to challenge herself to do one new thing every week – how inspiring is that? It could definitely be a starting point for a novel. Hmm, yes, I might write that one, one day!

Another friend was recently very generously open to me about her experience of breast cancer – and this helped me to form my character of Colette in The Dare Club. I’m sure she would never say that Colette was her though – Colette is very much herself; she is just experiencing similar things to my friend.

So thank you to the friends who constantly inspire me. If you ever feel an urge to become writers, then feel free to use me in your books! Well, unless I tell you things after I’ve downed a few glasses of wine that is… X