Monday, 30 April 2012

Getting into your writing zone

Before I get into my post, I'd just like to thank every single last one of you, who've graced me with your fabulous presence over the past 30 days. I've thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and look forward to taking part next year.

For my final entry to the A to Z Blogging Challenge *sniffle*, I'd like to dedicate Z for Zone.

As a writer, I feel there's a certain writing zone I get into: when the words flow from my pen/keyboard and, when I'm done for the day, I look back and think "that was an excellent day for my writing".

Naturally, I've been keen to try and capture the essence of this zone, to make sure all my writing sessions are as creative and productive as possible.

I would love to hear what you do to get into your zone. Do you just plonk yourself down infront of a blank page and open up a vein? Or do you, like me, require a bit of a mental pep-talk to get into the full swing of things?

I know it's only been a month, but I shall look back with tearful nostalgia over my last 25 posts and pick out some things that help me reach my zone. I'll probably print this page out and stick it to the wall above my writing desk, for further encouragement!

  • Practice my craft - Make sure I use writing excersizes from the likes of Warwick University Writing Programme and Morgen Bailey's Writing Tips.
  • Create a writing schedule - My fortnightly schedule is proving to be an excellent way to make sure I'm committing the hours to my writing (therefore increasing the opportunity to get in said zone!)
  • Get rid of silly expectations - My new focus is to put the hours in and don't even look at that word count!
  • Write short fiction - Coming up with wee stories such as The Fortune Teller and Ungrateful have been great for putting myself in the writing zone. Perfect for when working on my WIP starts to feel a bit tedious...
  • Analyse narrative hooks"It must look like an accident. Can you arrange that?" (Sidney Sheldon - Memories of Midnight) Finding out what pulls me in to a story as a reader inspires me to create my own hooks!
  • Keep a journalI keep a word document open whilst I'm writing, and often turn to it to vent before, during and after my projects. I like to write what I plan to do with my writing time, then make a note of what I'd like to do next, at the end of it! Extreme Zone-age!
  • Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs - Keep a picture of the pyramid on my wall and select one of my character's "basic human needs" to toy with... muwahahahaa.
  • Read Stephen King's "On Writing" - Instant Zonification, if you ask me. I defy you to read more than three pages without reaching for your pen!
  • Listen to Radio 4 - Tuning into Podcasts such as "Books and Authors", "Play of The Week" and "A Point of View" always get my cogs whirring :)
  • Use Motivational Wallpapers - Tough love desktop backgrounds such as this one speak my (foul) language:

Alas... the time has come for the end of the post. From now on, you will find me blogging here EVERY FRIDAY. Please add me to your Google Friend Connect thingymajig, or subscribe to get a wee notification for when I post.

My Z music video (I'm going to miss these) is Zero 7 with In The Waiting Line. And relax...


Saturday, 28 April 2012

Get in ma belly!

For today's Y word in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I've opted for Yumminess, with the Top 3 recipes from my food blog, Noble Nourishment.

In 3rd place... Breaded Haggis Balls with Neep & Tattie Rosti (Recipe here). I made this for Burns Night in January. It went down a treat!

2nd place goes to these Oreo Truffles. Honestly, people will love you forever if you make these (Recipe here).

1st place has to be my Black Pudding Cottage Pie, with Creamy Spring Onion Mash. You'll never eat normal cottage pie again after tasting this gorgeously rich dish. Recipe here. Mmmh...

Why not give them a try? I'd love to know how you get on :)

Today's Y music video is Yeah Yeah Yeahs song, Date With The Night. I have fond memories of this being played in the ABC Nightclub, where I drank vodka-slush-puppies and danced like a lunatic underneath the gigantic disco ball. Good times!


Friday, 27 April 2012

Kissy Kissy

I don't know how the rest of you are getting on with today's X word in today's A to Z Blogging Challenge, but I've been tearing my hair out trying to come up with a decent word.

Should I write about Xanthippe, the wife of Socrates, whose name meant "blonde horse" (charming!)? The lady whom Socrates chose for a wife, due to her feisty spirit?:

"It is the example of the rider who wishes to become an expert horseman: "None of your soft-mouthed, docile animals for me," he says; "the horse for me to own must show some spirit in the belief, no doubt, if he can manage such an animal, it will be easy enough to deal with every other horse besides. And that is just my case. I wish to deal with human beings, to associate with man in general; hence my choice of wife. I know full well, if I can tolerate her spirit, I can with ease attach myself to every human being else."

(Again... bloody charming!)

Or should I write about Xanthocyanopsy: a form of colour blindness where only yellow and blue can be distinguished (rumoured to include Vincent Van Gogh as one of its sufferers)?:

Perhaps I should write about the fact that I have a three-tier X system at the end of my text messages. My nearest and dearest get three X's, whilst those less close (though whom I still have a fondness for) get two X's. If you get one X, I'm probably just being polite. 

No kisses? Sorry pal: you're in the doghouse for something, and you'd better apologise immediately.

Seeing as it's Friday, I've decided not to waffle on about any of the above subjects. Instead, I shall inflict upon you all, a lovely piece of Xylophone music from 1940, arranged by Haskell W. Harr called Mexicali Rose. Enjoy!

P.S - I am offline for the next EIGHT hours to work on the WIP. I shall come visit your lovely selves once I've put in my writing shift! x


Thursday, 26 April 2012


Does anyone else like having a motivational wallpaper on their desktop background?

Me too!

I thought I'd share a list of wallpapers today, in the hope to inspire you to go that extra mile in your writing.

My current one is, of course, the A to Z Challenge wallpaper, created by Jeremy of Retro-Zombie

I like this one (from No

This one provides me mental reassurance... *nervous laugh* (from WinePress of Words)

This one is especially good for when I want to be lazy instead of write (from True Whisper)

My favourite has to be this (from Deviant Art). I'm a fan of the tough love...

Do you have a favourite desktop background you'd like to share with me?

Today's W music video is for the epic band, Wolfmother. I couldn't decide which song I liked best (for they are all tremendous), so I thought I'd do a double W (say that five times), and go for Woman. Crank up that air guitar! :)


Wednesday, 25 April 2012


Today's A to Z Challenge is V for Vocabulary.

Is anyone else interested in improving their vocabulary? I find mines improves when I'm reading books frequently, and I was always under the impression that, as an enthusiastic writer, I had an "above average" range...

Then I took this test, requiring me to tick the boxes of all the words I was familiar with. More importantly, I was to leave blank the words I didn't know.

How did I do?

This meant nothing to me until I read the info on the results: "Most Native English adult speakers who have taken the test fall in the range 20,000–35,000 words."

Well, I am just devastated. I know it's not THE definitive test, but it's the kick up the arse I need!

In order to improve my vocabulary, I intend to take immediate action.

Having done a Google search to "Improve My Vocabulary", I've come across (funnily enough). It's exactly what I need. It gives me multiple choice questions and if I don't know the correct word, it gives me a clear explanation, as well as the chance to listen to how the word is pronounced.

Who's signing up with me? I'm not sinking in this inarticulate ship alone!

Do you have any other tips on improving vocabulary? I know it's not the bee-all and end-all of writing, but I'm looking at it like a musical instrument: it's best when you know all the notes to play!

Today's V song is Vivrant Thing, by Q-Tip. I love this song just as much now, as when it first came out in 1999 (oh dear, where has the time gone?)!


Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Today's A to Z Blogging Challenge is U for a short story I've written, titled Ungrateful.

Olivia and Caroline sought out their usual table, nestled in the dimly lit corner of the cafe. Their monthly catch up was a long standing tradition for them. One that saw them through their awkward teens, anguished twenties and tempestuous thirties.

Sipping their coffee, Caroline observed her best friend. She seemed tense. “You're looking well, Olivia. What's new with you?”

Well? Don’t lie, Caroline, I look like shit,” Olivia's cup clattered as she slammed it on the table. With a sigh of exasperation, she said, “Katie is driving me and Tony up the wall. She's such a spoiled brat. I don't know what I'm going to do with her. Last week, we took her and her friend, Megan, to the Sea-Life Centre. Katie wasn't interested in any of it. She walked right through, from one end to the other, without looking at the sea-life creatures. She said she was too scared!"

"Aww the poor dear," Caroline laughed.

"Poor? She's a wimp! And she shows no appreciation, whatsoever. Megan, on the other hand,” Olivia took another sip, “we couldn't tear her away from it! Poor thing doesn't get anything like this from her parents."

"That must be awf-“.

"They don't care about her the way we care about Katie,” Olivia cut in, “Megan always turns up at school with her clothes un-ironed; her hair messy; her nails dirty. Katie always has her clothes pressed, her hair perfect and clean as a whistle, and does she thank us?" she shook her head, "does she hell!"

She looked at her friend for a reaction, but Caroline sat expressionless. Olivia took this as a sign to continue.

"If you thought that was ungrateful, you should have heard her last night. I made her spaghetti bolognaise, and she didn't want it! She complained of a sore tummy, but I knew she was just lying because I wouldn't give her chocolate earlier in the day. Unappreciative little witch! She turns 8 in a few months. I just hope she grows out of this diva phase soon.”

Caroline took a sharp breath. “My goodness, 8 already? It seems like only yesterday I cradled her as a tiny baby," her eyes misted at the memory, making Olivia raise an eyebrow, confused. Pulling herself together, Caroline asked, "are you doing anything nice for her party?”

Olivia snorted “We've rented the Play Area down the road, but whether she deserves it or not is another matter. We had to book it 12 weeks in advance as well! I invited all her classmates the other day and she got upset. She said she didn't want to have a big party; that she just wanted to stay at home and read,” Olivia spat the last word out like it was poison, “I told her 'Katie, you've got to get out of this shy stage. Nobody will like you if your head is always stuck in a book. You should be grateful the other kids have even agreed to come along'. Honestly, she's turning into such a weirdo; I don't know where she gets it from." She took another sip of her coffee and looked at her friend for comfort; for reassurance. "Caroline... what's the matter?”

Caroline was no longer listening. She was staring into her cup, her eyes filled with tears.

“What is it, Caroline?”

“I have to go now, but please do me one favour", she got up and struggled to keep her voice under control, "please just love Katie for who she is and be thankful for every second you have with her. You might think she's ungrateful, but there may be people out there... who can't have children... who think you're being ungrateful.”

Olivia looked hurt. Offended. “I'm not ungrateful! I love Katie.”

Caroline's chair scraped back as she went to her friend. Bending down, she kissed Olivia's cheek. “Please make sure she knows it, every single day.”

She walked away, leaving Olivia speechless.

Later that night, Olivia told her husband, Tony, all about it, as they got ready for bed.

“Maybe she's been told she can't have kids.” he said.

“Maybe”, Olivia agreed, “but even so, that's hardly my fault, is it?”

“Exactly,” Tony nodded, “it's not fair to call you ungrateful 'cos she can't have kids. Maybe you should just phase her out of your life, darling. You’ve obviously outgrown her.”

And so she did.

After a few months, she was surprised to realise that Caroline hadn't tried to make contact with her either. Incensed that Caroline may have thought to phase her out too, she dialled her number.

It was Katie's birthday party that day, after all, and she'd be expecting a present from “Auntie Caroline.”

But she wasn't there. It was her mother who answered the phone.

Caroline had passed away, a fortnight ago. She'd been diagnosed with ovarian cancer only three months previously. “I'm really surprised you didn't know about it, I always thought you two were the best of friends” Caroline's mother said, through fresh tears.

As she hung up the phone, Tony appeared at the door, with Katie by his side, in her neatly-pressed tutu dress. She'd been crying and looked terrified about her upcoming party.

“Are you ready? We're going to be late.” Tony checked his watch, impatient.

Olivia reached out to her daughter and, wordlessly, folded her into her arms and squeezed her tight. She met Katie’s questioning eyes. “Would you prefer to go upstairs and read your book?”

The young girl looked cautious, as though being asked a trick question. She stayed silent, which pained Olivia's heart. Kissing her face repeatedly, her fresh tears meshed with her daughter's drying ones.

“Tony, call the party off. We’re doing whatever makes the birthday girl happy."

Katie had a wonderful birthday. And from that day onward, she was made to feel very loved. Every single day.

The End.

Today's song is Unfinished Sympathy from Massive Attack. Enjoy!


Monday, 23 April 2012

Triple Treats of T's Today

I trust you all had a wonderful weekend? Good!

Today's A to Z Blogging Challenge brings you Three T's:

Do you have a Tumblr account? If so, what do you use it for? I've had one for about two years, but only upload a picture/video/quote every now and then. Mainly I just love throwing pictures of shoes and clothes at it *swoon*. 

I still love having it, though. The pictures bring back a lot of memories for me. For every post, I can think back to what was going on in my life at the time. That's something other forms of social media can't do for me. Have a swatch of my Tumblr by clicking here.

Tattie Scones
I can't believe I've gone all the way to T without plugging my food blog, Noble Nourishment. Today felt appropriate to do so, as I get to share my (proper Scottish) Tattie Scone recipe with you. If you love your carbs, give it a try! Full recipe here.

My third and final T for today, is the music video for Traktor, by Wretch 32. I loooooove this song.


Saturday, 21 April 2012

Writing Sanctuary

We all have our own writing spaces. Our Sanctuary. Mines is the desk wedged in the corner of our bedroom, between the bookcase and drawers stuffed with "inspiration" clippings. Stuck to the wall is my fortnightly writing schedule, along with several post-it notes, scrawled with directional snippets.

I also find writing sanctuary at The Mitchell Library. Against my will, might I add! As beautiful as the building is, it's not your typical quiet library: it's loud, bustling and downright infuriating for someone who needs to concentrate, to be frank. But still I go. I can't help it: the pages fill themselves rapidly and I never feel more productive than when I've gone to that bloody place, regardless of the mobile phones going off and babies screaming. What's that all about?

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to do today's A to Z Challenge on Sanctuary, and share the beautiful pictures of what I would imagine to be perfect writing sanctuaries.

I know as a writer, you should be able to write anywhere and everywhere. Some say it's best to be in a locked room with no distractions. But if you were spoilt for choice...

The Writer’s Retreat – Bordeaux, Gironde

Book Retreat: Library In The Woods

Ugh... they're all just too amazing. I know the pictures are full of sunshine, but I think I'd love it even more if it was pouring with rain, with occasional rumblings of thunder. That's what it was like here today and I had the blind up full, with the windows open as I wrote. Wonderful!

Today's S music video is for Stevie Wonder, with an amazing live performance of Higher Ground. I defy you not to tap your foot!


Friday, 20 April 2012

Radio 4

Today's R for the A to Z Blogging Challenge is dedicated to Radio 4.

When I started my Philosophy course, we had an Induction Day, where we were given a tremendous speech by the inspirational Dr. Kevin Frances. I'll remember it, and him, forever. He said that, whatever we do, we should do it well. Read well, write well and live well. He recommended we all start listening to Radio 4, and I did just that.

The range of shows make it impossible not to stimulate your brain and imagination. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I'd prefer that over yet another mechanical pop song on the wireless (Ok, there's no doubt about it: I AM getting old).

You can squeeze these in on your journeys to/from work, or make a point of chilling out and listening to it exclusively. Mind you, we all know how writers apparently never have time for such luxuries.

I believe it's all part of my personal growth, so I make a point of it.

Here are my top 3 BBC Radio 4 shows, with links to the Podcasts for your downloading pleasure.

Listen well, people.

Books and Authors: This is self-explanatory. Let Mariella Frostrup's velvety voice sooth you, whilst she and guests (usually other writers) talk about their favourite books and what makes them so good. A worthy show for any writer!

Drama of the Week: These plays have yet to fail at drawing me in completely. Usually less than an hour long: Go run a bubble bath and immerse yourself in a tension-filled tale.

A Point of View: These are great little snippets of thought-provoking speeches. How do hastily written emails compare to the old-fashioned art of letter writing? Is there such a thing as Information Overload? Have a browse through the list of POV's; I'm sure you'll find something to peak your interest.

Here's a list of the rest of them, should you wish to investigate further!

Today's R music video is for Rage Against The Machine. Who doesn't love Killing in the name of? Shall we partake in a spot of head-banging, perhaps? Don't mind if I do.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

It is a good thing for an educated man to read books of quotations.

Winston Churchill

We all know by now that I love quotations. Judging by the tweets of fellow writers on Twitter, I'm not alone in this love for insightful snippets.

Therefore, I felt it appropriate to share some of my favourite Quotations today, as the Q in my A to Z Challenge:

"If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves."
- Thomas Alva Edison

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

"The argument from Intimidation is a confession of intellectual impotence."
 - Ayn Rand

"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her."
 - David Brinkley

"People don't care how much you know--until they know how much you care."
- John C. Maxwell

I could go on forever, to be honest, but I'd better not, lest you tire of me!

I get quotes sent to me, via email, on a daily basis. I enjoy pausing for that wee moment of clarity. If you'd like that too, I'd recommend subscribing to Quote Of The Day and Thought Of The Day.

I'd like to mention that I haven't had much time for visiting other blogs the past few days. Thank you to my lovely readers, who comment on my posts regardless of this.

And now... for the Pièce de résistance.

This song takes pride of place as my No. 1 Favourite Song of All Time. Ladies and Gentlemen... I give you Queens of The Stone Age, Song For the Dead.


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

"You are what you believe yourself to be”

Today's P in my A to Z Blogging Challenge is dedicated to someone who, through the medium of fiction, has had quite a profound impact on my life. Paulo Coelho.

(Follow him on Twitter)

I've already gushed about this man before, in a previous post, but he deserves endless adulation for what he does; for who he is.

Around 6 years ago, a former colleague gave me a copy of The Alchemist, which I absorbed voraciously.

A lot of writers talk about their book being a "personal journey" for their characters. That's quite an understatement for this book! In The Alchemist, the main character, Santiago, is searching for his Personal Legend: his goal/achievement in life. Every page is filled with sage advice on how to search for your own Personal Legend. Here are some of those wonderful words:

“It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” 

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” 

“Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” 

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” 

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” 

OK, I'll stop. I want to share them all with you though!

What writer wouldn't love this book? In fact, never mind writers: anyone with an ounce of ambition; of desire to fulfill a purpose in life and live well, should read this book. I would imagine this book to be especially wonderful for anyone who is perhaps at a crossroad in their lives, or feeling despondent about their current situation.

This book gives Perspective with a capital P. It's one of the few books I re-read frequently. The Alchemist is only one of his vast collection of amazing books (special mention to his collection of short stories "Like the Flowing River"), and I aim to own them all by the time my puff runs out.

While I'm at it, I would also recommend Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet and Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A story. A mild warning, though: if you read them all with quick succession, you may quit your job and become a hippie. Consider yourself cautioned.

Today's P music video is for Promises, by Nero. High volume is mandatory.


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

On Writing

Today's A-Z Blogging Challenge is dedicated to O for On Writing: A memoir of the Craft, written by Stephen King

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with "How To" books, especially when they're written by people who haven't the goods to back up their words! That could never be said about Stephen King, however. He's an absolute master of his trade.

In the first of two sections in this book, he goes into quite personal detail about his life; about how he came to be the writer he is today. From writing Carrie in a laundry room with a child's desk balanced on his knees, to his alcohol and drug problem, with his struggles as a writer throughout. We all know how that turned out, though :)

The second part details how he writes. He admits it may not work for everyone, but if you're like me, you'll love reading this kind of stuff. His words are very inspiring. I'm fairly sure a person with no interest in becoming a writer would want to start their first novel after reading this!

When I'm feeling bogged down with my WIP, or losing direction, I just dip into this book and, magically, it won't be long before I'm inspired again. Therefore, I'd gladly recommend this to any writer in the hope that it does the same for them.

Some of his words of wisdom that ring true for me:

"The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it 'got boring,' the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”

Today's O music video is for my favourite Oasis song: Slide Away. Enjoy!


Monday, 16 April 2012

Other uses for newspapers...

Today's post for my A to Z Challenge, is dedicated to N for Newspapers.

Don't laugh, but I collect newspaper clippings of stories that grip my attention, for the purpose of using them as inspiration in my stories. 

Over the years, the clippings have accumulated to a rather mighty mass of drama and scandal...

The biggest benefit of these clippings, for me, are the finer details. For instance, how many months pass between a crime and it's trial? Or what might a defence lawyer have to say about a particularly despicable client (they usually speak about the criminal's state of mind or mitigating circumstances, which could be good for fleshing out a nasty character, perhaps)? What happens at inquests for unexplained deaths? 

I also like to read witness comments on incidents; they really paint a picture for you. The options are endless and I'm sure you could spend hours poring over the stories, should you feel so inclined.

If you like to read newspapers online, here's a great link to an abundance of free publications (and limitless potential for stories!) for London Newspapers (you can skip the registration: I don't bother registering).

Would anyone else like to admit their hoarding habits? Come on... don't leave me hanging!

Today's N music video is for November Rain, by Guns N' Roses. An exceptional display of musical genius.


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

When I was at college, many moons ago, I studied Behavioural Aspects of Marketing. I didn't much like the sound of it, but it turned out to be the most interesting module of the course!

One of the things we learned about (and today's M in my A to Z Blogging Challenge) was Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Have a peek at the following diagram:

This pyramid displays what Abraham Maslow believed to be our fundamental needs. The most important, basic human needs are at the bottom, and if you can make your way up to the top, you'll be the proud owner of some self-actualization. That's right: you've reached your full potential. How many of us have reached the top? A show of hands please...

Me either!

Maslow's hierarchy of needs completely fascinates me, and I thought I'd share it with you all, as I believe it could slot right in to the writing process!

How so? Well... why don't you try looking at the pyramid with one of your characters in mind? Pick one of the fundamental needs from the pyramid and put it in jeopardy. 

What would happen to your character if you put their friendships or family in crisis? Or how about giving them an achievement, and give the reader that "feel good" factor? 

What would happen if they lost their employment, all of a sudden? Or had a health scare?

Obviously if you remove any of the needs from the bottom row (like breathing), it could get a tad sinister. 

Do you think the pyramid would be beneficial to your own storytelling?

Today's M is for Muddy Waters, singing Rollin' Stone. Goosebumps at the ready, people!

See you on Monday :)