Category Archives: Writing

Chronic pain and the author. Not enough good days.

In my previous post  ‘A Pain in the Arts’,  I wrote about how chronic pain interferes with creativity. The chronic pain sufferer is tired. All. The. Time. When good days dawn you want to make the most of them. On my own good days I want to write.

chronic pain and writing

on good days I want to write

CRPS chronic pain and writing

I’ve had contact with another CRPS sufferer who wants to write when he feels well enough. We know we have to pace ourselves. There isn’t enough energy to go round all the simple, everyday tasks that we previously undertook without a second thought.

chronic pain of CRPS

what having a god day means

I don’t beat myself up about not being able to do everything I’d like to. So I take it as a measure of success that this year I’ve published two books: my third novel and a second collection of short stories. I work at a much slower pace than I used to. Pain relief medication sometimes dulls the ache but makes me feel groggy.

If you’re reading this as a sufferer of CRPS or some other chronic pain illness you don’t need me to explain the myriad ways it affects you. How can you describe to others what it’s like?

chronic pain descriptions

words to describe pain

All in all it’s TIRING.

2017 – my fourth year of CRPS

This year has been worse than last. I’m disappointed that even during warm weather I sometimes feel knocked out. I have cyclical bouts of vomiting. The following is taken from the article: The Spread of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) by H. Hooshmand M.D and Eric M. Phillips -Neurological Associates Pain Management Centre, Vero Beach Florida.

INTERNAL ORGAN INVOLVEMENT

CRPS invariably involves the internal organs. Usually the skin surface is cold at the expense of increased circulation to the internal organs. This increased circulation can cause osteoporosis, fractures of bone, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, disturbance of absorption of foods with resultant weight loss, water retention with aggravation of premenstrual headaches and depression, persistent nausea and vomiting, as well as severe vascular headaches mistaken for “cluster headache”.

In addition, CRPS can cause the complication of intractable hypertension which responds best to alpha I blockers (Dibenzyline, Hytrin, or Clonodine). CRPS can cause attacks of irregular or fast heart beat, chest pain, coronary artery spasm (angina), as well as disturbance of function of other internal organs. A few examples are frequency and urgency of urination, respiratory disturbance such as dyspnea and apneic attacks, and attacks of severe abdominal pain.

Planning your day

This morning I was woken by pain at 4.30am. Yesterday it was 5 am. The day before 4am. I get up, make a drink and take medication. When the pain eases I use those hours in the early morning to write, research or edit what I wrote last week.

When everybody else is up and about I start on household tasks you can’t do at 4am or you’d wake up the neighbours. There’s no wonder I often don’t feel able to do much more at all in the afternoon.

I can’t commit to definite arrangements. I can’t always agree to be at a certain place at a certain time. People must understand if I don’t make it it’s because I’ve gone back to bed. So I don’t commit to joining groups and clubs. I opted out of the choir I joined until I’m in a good phase again. (See, I’m still hopeful.) I don’t like letting people down.

I’m a member of various social media pages and that works fine because I can join in with discussions at any time. When it’s 4am. here there’ll still be somebody in Denver, Colorado with something to say, or Florida or California. They don’t know I’m sitting downstairs in my pyjamas quietly waiting for the meds to kick in.

Authors put a lot of effort into marketing their work

Unfortunately I don’t. My energy is carefully apportioned. I’d love to build a band of faithful followers of my novels, send out newsletters, join book blog tours and the like. I know improved sales of my books isn’t going to happen by some lucky happenstance.

But I still want to write. Maybe when all my ideas have dried up I’ll find the time and energy to work on marketing but at present I can’t do both. So be it. May we all have a low pain day.

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Queer as Folk. Book Launch

Queer as Folk short stories

stories to give you a giggle, a sigh or a shudder

Queer as Folk

A new collection of short stories launches on 31st March in Kindle format. Pre-order is open now. A paperback version will be available in April. As with her first collection of stories the author focuses on what makes ordinary people do extraordinary things.

The author? The author? Why am I writing in the third person? Weird, huh? Just one example of why we do queer things.

I’m taking over now. First person from now on. Bugger tradition.

In Arse(d) Ends, my first collection, I used words ending in the letters a.r.s.e. as a queer and quirky link with the narrative. In Queer as Folk each story is subtitled by a profound saying, well-known or otherwise.

For example, in January Girl I chose the following:

The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.

Mark Twain 1835-1910

For the story, Yorkshire Grit I chose:

Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.

George Bernard Shaw 1856-1950

How queer am I?

Oh, I’m queer. So are we all. Life makes us that way. Maybe our lives are all about following our paths to un-queer ourselves. Perhaps at the end we can count ourselves lucky if we came through having coped with the journey the best we could with whatever resources we possessed.

One of my resources is a particular kind of sense of humour. I have a penchant for dark tales. I mean, I’m into tales of revenge where it backfires or accidental comeuppance for the nasty perpetrator who has made a telling mistake. For me, humour is a way of expressing hope. I want to give my readers a sense of satisfaction at the end of my stories that everything worked out just the way it should.

In Queer as Folk there are 21 stories, 1 poem and a 14 Tweet story I posted live on Twitter (told you I was queer).

As with my first collection some stories are longer than others. I like that variety. Sometimes shorter narratives pack quite a punch. It all depends on the subject matter.

I hope you enjoy this new collection. Here’s a link to my author page on Amazon UK.

Don’t forget to keep in touch. I love to hear from you.

 

Funny. What makes things humorous?

We’ve all got a funny bone

Actually it isn’t a bone. It’s the ulnar nerve. So why do we call it the funny bone?

There are two main ideas about that. One says it’s a pun on anatomy because the nerve runs along the humerus, which sounds like “humorous.” The other claims the nerve got its nickname because of the  odd (funny peculiar) feeling you experience after you hit it.

funny bone

funny ‘bone’

But humour hasn’t anything to do with your elbow unless when you bang it you make other people laugh. So . . .

What makes things funny?

Where do we register humour in our brains? Scott Weems tells us there’s been plenty of research into laughter.

His book Ha!: The Science of When We Laugh and Why explains in detail. But what about studying what it is that makes us laugh? Why do some of us find certain kinds of comedy funny but others don’t?

funny for life

humour is life enhancing

Humour appreciation appears to be based in the lower frontal lobes of the brain, a location associated with social and emotional judgment and planning according to imaging research. That might explain why people who have suffered strokes involving the lower frontal lobes of the brain may have alterations of personality which include loss of their sense of humour. Also why psychopaths whose brains are wired differently tend to have an infantile sense of humour.

Different types of funny

There are different kinds of humour including the following:

Affiliative humour – the style of humour used to enhance one’s relationships with others in a benevolent, positive manner. This style of humor is typically used in a benevolent, self accepting way. Individuals often use this kind of humour as a way to charm and amuse others, ease tension and improve relationships.

Self-enhancing humour is a style related to having a good-natured attitude toward life, having the ability to laugh at yourself, your circumstances and the idiosyncrasies of life in a constructive, non-detrimental manner.

Aggressive humour is a style potentially detrimental towards others. This type of humour is characterized by the use of sarcasm, put-downs, teasing, criticism, ridicule used at the expense of others. Aggressive humour often disregards the impact it might have on others. Prejudices such as racism & sexism are considered to be  aggressive humour.  At times it may seem like playful fun but sometimes the underlying intent is to harm or belittle others.

Self-defeating humour is characterised by the use of potentially detrimental humour towards the self in order to gain approval from others. Individuals high in this dimension engage in self-disparaging remarks where laughter is often at their own expense. Self-defeating humour often comes in the form of pleasing others by being the “butt” of the joke.

Does funny have a reason for being?

So what is the purpose of humour?

we need funny

what would life be without something funny?


Airing social taboos

If we can laugh at difficult subjects might we make it easier to discuss them? In my first collection of short stories Arsed End(s) I wrote about sexual harassment, boring relationships, funerals, infuriating hobbies and the end of the world. I’m a fan of dark humour. I think it has its place in this sub-category.

Social criticism

We can take a poke at local and national government, even specific ministers or presidents, corporations and institutions like Big Pharma or the police. George Orwell set his social criticism novel in a farmyard in Animal Farm. We could laugh at Napoleon the pig whereas in 1984 I don’t remember there being anything funny.

Consolidation of group membership

Jokes about one political party to confirm your allegiance to another. Humour based on the ‘easy’ life of a hospital consultant to establish membership of the junior doctor group. One football team against another. You get the picture.

Defence against fear and anxiety

Turning fears and anxiety into something to laugh about makes them less frightening: death, funerals, impotence, fear of flying, bad drivers etc.

Intellectual play

Clever sayings, puns and other plays on words. Witty reposts and dry one-liners. As Einstein said, creativity is intelligence having fun.

And that’s where I’d like us to leave it. Having fun. All this analysis of what makes things funny and how we assimilate that humorous information takes the shine off the fun, in my opinion. You have to wonder what the ancients laughed at. When some young blood cut his finger on his own sword in the Bronze Age you can bet the others didn’t sit around analysing what kind of funny they were sniggering at.

The oldest recorded joke in the history of mankind dates back to 1900 BC Sumeria:

“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap”

It seems even the ancient Sumerians had a lavatorial sense of humour. I don’t get this ancient quip. I don’t find it at all funny. But I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter why. I obviously haven’t found all the answers yet to my questions about humour.

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Cheers! Have fun. Laugh a lot.

Daring not so greatly

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/daring-greatly/

Maybe we don’t realise how daring we are being when we write.

We just sit down and write words, don’t we? We write them in such a way as to make an entertaining story for our readers. We have a market in mind. There’s a particular women’s magazine that likes to see short stories about ordinary people with problems to face and how they overcome them. Another magazine prefers stories with a hopeful ending.

Blog readers want to read about the subject we’re known for. So we write blogs on topic and perhaps we do it with some humour and we add photos and memes and illustrations to make the whole thing attractive to the eye.

We want to connect

With our readers. With the world. We give of ourselves in our writing, not in a conscious way, I believe, but without deliberation. We are who we are and we give it. Give ourselves.  And by doing this we are exposing our vulnerabilities.

daring to be

daring to be

We give our opinions. We can’t help doing that. We don’t want to lecture but it’s almost impossible to write without giving opinions. They’re there in our writing whether we like it or not. Even when we don’t realise it, our opinions are hiding in the spaces between the words, between the lines.

My subtitle under the name of my website is ‘write from the heart’. It used to be ‘writer in Languedoc’ because I’d fallen in love with that part of France and couldn’t wait to write about it. I’d given my heart to a man and his son and moved there with them. After ten years he replaced me with another woman.

But I still love Languedoc and want to continue writing about it. I’m not strong enough to do that yet. Imagining the places I loved visiting or looking through my photographs still hurts me so I avoid it. I can’t write my Wicked Stepmother Chronicles now either because as well as losing my partner and my home, I’ve lost my stepson as well. Only insofar as I don’t get to see him everyday, though. When he comes to visit family in England he comes to see me too. So, you see, I wasn’t really Wicked. I made jokes about our differences. I gave my opinions on too many hours spent online gaming and the harm I thought it was doing. And my stepson understands this. He knows I was doing my best to help him make healthy choices. But it hurts that I can’t write either my Wednesday Vine Report or my Wicked Stepmother Chronicles because I’m somewhere else.

So today I’m writing something that isn’t hurting me.

daring courage

daring to be courageous

But it’s still from the heart. According to Brené Brown writing from the heart makes me courageous in the original sense of the word. I feel the things I write. Even if I was writing term papers for sale. And that makes me vulnerable. Here’s what Brené says:

She is FABULOUS. Watch all her videos. We can all learn from them. We can learn that it’s okay to be vulnerable. That it’s a necessary part of being human to feel our emotions. It saddens me that there are people who don’t have the opportunity to feel; people who are not only wearing shields or armour to protect them from their emotions but simply do not feel them in the first place. Or they experience emotions only in a shallow and fleeting way and to them vulnerability is the greatest weakness of all.

When I’m not writing posts for my website I’m writing about the people I’ve just described. I’ve known one intimately. He almost destroyed me. I thought I was weak, faulty, deficient in many ways. I was not enough of the things he wanted and too much of the things he came to despise. I know different now.

daring vulnerability

daring to be vulnerable

But I’m keeping my silence on the subject here on my website. For now. The book is coming along nicely and one day I’ll publish. Writing the book is giving me an inner strength and, encouraged by Brené Brown’s research, I know I’m doing the right thing.

daring strength

daring to be strong

It takes nerve to be vulnerable. It makes you nervous. You’re taking such risks in being human. Opening yourself to all manner of manipulation by deceitful people. But I have always been one who could cope with whatever life throws at me. I just wish it wouldn’t throw so much my way. Well, I’m still here. I’m still writing.

And now I can stop beating myself up. I’ve made my decision. I’m more informed. I’m not walking away from all the things that ‘give purpose and meaning to living’. I give of myself. It’s who I am. I want to continue loving life. I want to continue loving people.

daring to love

keep on loving

And keep on daring to be vulnerable.

 

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Silence is a dirty Yellow

Silence is supposed to be golden. Golden implies something of worth: a treasure. And I do think of silence like that, sometimes. I appreciate the quiet of a shady forest and a few snatched silent moments with a cup of tea at home after a busy, noisy day.

But there’s a place for everything. Staying silent when you ought to speak out against a wrong is cowardly in my opinion.

silence is dirty yellow

should you always keep quiet?

I don’t like having to keep my silence. But at the moment it’s probably the best way to go. I’ve taken down some of my previous posts in an effort to do what I hope is the right thing. At this moment.

silence is the best answer

keeping it simple

Words are powerful things. And you never know how somebody else might twist your intent. Words taken out of context are tricky. It’s quite possible that someone could make it look as if you said exactly the opposite from what you intended.

It’s so hard to stay silent when you’ve so much to say.

But needs must.

silence

Oh, I have plenty to say . . .

I have to carefully consider my options. Things are afoot. The very thought of those things makes my throat tighten. My stomach churns. My guts are all in a twist. I want to shout stuff from the top of the world. I want everybody to take notice and hear me. I want them to understand.

But I have to stay silent.

silence scream

I’m screaming, I’m screaming . . .

Please know that I’m not a coward. There is a very good reason for my silence at this time. I’m taking informed advice. I have to admit, it’s good advice. I can’t have things my way. I must do what’s sensible under the circumstances.

silence not a weakness

be patient

I’m exercising more strength in remaining silent than climbing to the top of the world and screaming my head off. You cannot begin to imagine what a hardship this is for me.

But I’m trying to find the positives in my new stance.

silence instead of rage

enigmatic silence?

I’m going to be very beautiful indeed, in that case.

There are a lot of lies being bandied about. My immediate reaction is to put people straight. Why should I have to suffer in silence? Don’t I have the right to tell the truth?

Yes. But not now. And not here.

silence and lies

the silent lie

I would rather have the freedom to tell my truth. Writing, as you know, is what I do when I feel well enough. I need the cathartic effect of writing my truth and it’s been taken from me. For now.

silence and struggle

writing as catharsis

My day will dawn. This I know.

I’m good at waiting. I’ve had a lifetime’s practice.

And when that day comes I’ll break this enforced silence on the subject at the heart of all these vague references. Friends and followers, bear with me, please.

I will not be silenced forever.

(Don’t forget to FOLLOW CELIA to receive emails of new posts. Leave a comment at top of page. I’ll get back to to you.)

A green eggs and ham experience. Coincidence?

You remember green eggs and ham?  My kids loved Dr Seuss stories. So did I. Here’s a kids’ video clip to remind you.

 

Sam pestered so much for his friend to try green eggs and ham that in the end . . . what do you know? The lesson is this: you have to try things before you can say you don’t like them.

Green eggsand ham

sometimes you have to try things

My own green eggs and ham experience

I’m coming to it. What has this to do with writing fiction? And green eggs and ham? Yes. really, I’m coming to it.

Recently I met two new people.  When I learned what they used to do my jaw dropped. One was a consultant medical neuro-pathologist. One used to be a truck driver.

This is how the conversation went with the retired consultant.

She: There’s a lot of current research into mild brain injuries. Even one trauma can have repercussions.

Me: Really? What kind of repercussions?

She: A whole host of pain-related conditions.

Me: How about transient global amnesia?

She: You know about that?

Me: Yes. I had a bizarre episode last August when I forgot everything.

She: What had happened to you before?

Me: I was knocked down by a car and banged my head on the ground. I broke bones, too. Now I’ve got CRPS. They call it algodystrophy here.

Trust me. We’re getting to the green eggs and ham bit.

This fabulous woman explained to me what had been happening in my brain. Eight months later, at a time of stress, my brain said Enough. It shut me down. Made me sleep. Afterwards, I forgot the forgetting.

Her explanation in simple terms put me in a different place. I felt relieved. There was a reason this amnesia had happened to me. What a superb coincidence I met her.

I had a lovely conversation with the truck driver, too who I met while he was walking his dogs. He has loads of tales to tell. Adventures. Characters. Places. Unusual goods. I’m plotting Book Two of Trobairitz – my female truck driver. I’d been hoping to take myself up to the truck stop nearby on the motorway and eavesdrop snatches of conversation, even ask questions outright. But I have problems driving since my injuries. Now I have a trucker right on my own doorstep. What another superb coincidence.

How come these two people suddenly arrived in my life?

Coincidence?

Here we go. This is it. The green eggs and ham moment.

In fiction I cannot abide coincidence. It riles me no end. So much so, I was inspired to write my own little ditty. Apologies to Dr Seuss.

Coincidence

In future, past or present tense

We do not like coincidence.

We do not like it, Cee or Mick.

We think it is an author’s trick.

 

They do it when they’re in a spot.

They do it to support a plot.

They usually do it in the middle.

It is deceit. It is a fiddle.

 

The hero hides behind a door.

Hears facts he never knew before.

Clues she left upon the bed. Duh!

Something missing in the shed. Duh!

 

Coincidence along the street.

Convenient strangers characters meet.

Authors must know it is a ‘fou’.

But do not know what else to do.

 

It walks and quacks just like a duck.

We do not want it in a book.

We do not want it in our fiction.

It is a cop-out, causing friction.

 

It is not good. It is not clever.

We’d ban coincidence forever.

And yet, and yet, we do declare

Coincidence is everywhere.

 

We do not like it when we’re reading.

But it fills the life we’re leading.

No easy-outs in fiction stuff.

In Life, we like it well enough.

 

Plots and story lines that rely too much on coincidence annoy me. But the truth is, coincidence does happen in real life. Maybe it’s time for me to try it in my fiction. It’s my own, personal green eggs and ham.

But I think I’ll try it in a short story first.

What do you think about the use of coincidence in fiction?

                                                                                      

 

 

 

January Girl. Another year on . . .

I’m a January girl. Those who are also January girls will know it’s not easy. Maybe it’s different in the southern hemisphere. Perhaps January girls in Australia have barbecues or go to the beach or both. Write and tell me. I’d like to know. In my half of the world January birthdays slip by unnoticed. You get used to that. That January girl feeling inspired me to write a story about it.

January Girl is the title of one of my short stories.

I submitted this particular short story some time ago to a women’s magazine but they didn’t go for it. Too sad. Too quirky. Not their thing.

But I am a January girl so I didn’t give up on it. I made it sadder still and just a bit weirder and I liked it better than before. It still isn’t right for a women’s magazine but it has found its place. More about that later.

You see, January girls have a lot to put up with. For a start who actually enjoys January? (excepting southern hemisphere)

January blues

waiting for spring?

It’s cold. It’s probably wet. Nobody’s interested in the January girl’s birthday and, anyway, they haven’t got any money left after Christmas and New Year. Birthdays in the middle of the month before the next pay cheque comes in are a bummer. Too close to Christmas and people give you one package and say,

‘This is for Christmas AND your birthday.’ They deliver it with bright eyes and a smile that says I know you won’t mind and you’re too polite to tell them they’re a tight-wad and how would they like it if you did the same to them in May or August?

January is full of disappointments. But January girls are made of stern stuff. We inherit some of our steel backbone and the rest is picked up as we go along.

January girl

when the going gets tough . . .

The January child learns to wear layers, literally and metaphorically. No wonder it can take a long time to get to know the real person underneath. I got to thinking about whether there were January people who had overcome their years of disappointing Januaries and made it to the top.

What a surprise.

Famous January birthdays

Where do I begin?

I used to watch a television programme called Golden Girls. I loved it. It ran from 1985 to 1992. Remember the theme tune?

I was in my thirties at the time. Forties by the time it finished. Now I’m old enough to be one of them. Here are some clips.

 

 

I loved ditzy Rose.  I looked her up.

Betty White – birthday  January 17th. Day after mine. Well, what d’ya know? I liked her spacey humour.

January quote

words of wisdom

Were there any January writers? I wondered.

How about J.R.R. Tolkein – January 3rd. Isaac Asimov – January 2nd. Jack London – the 12th. Anne Brontë – the 17th. Wilbur Smith – January 9th. A.A.Milne -the 18th. Edgar Allan Poe – the 19th – master of dark and creepy tales.

I’m on a roll now. How about January people connected with music, my other love? I already knew about Elvis on January 8th. Who else?

Janis Joplin – 22nd January. Rod Stewart – 10th January. Eric Whitacre whose choral work I’ve performed with our choir -his birthday is January 2nd. ( now I know why he loves minor keys) and the composer and celebrated conductor Simon Rattle – January 19th.

While we’re on the subject of music, last year I was looking for a song to sing in French at a local gathering. I came across Les Chemins de l’amour by Francis Poulenc. I’d never heard of Poulenc but I loved the song immediately. There’s an inherent wistfulness in the melody that spoke to me on first hearing. Perfect for the occasion.

If only I sang as well as Ms Véronique Gens. Well, the audience liked my interpretation. And the composer Francis Poulenc? Birthday – January 7th. Ah, that accounts for why I was attracted to him then. He probably learned how to wear layers, too.

What other fields feature January babies?

How about Muhammed Ali January 17th, Lewis Hamilton -7th, Michael Schumacher -3rd, Jenson Button -19th, Jim Carrey -17th.

Other famous January battlers include Joan of Arc and Robert E Lee.

Stephen Hawking’s birthday is on the 8th January. Wow. How tough is that guy?

There’s Sir Isaac Newton and Louis Pasteur and Benjamin Franklin and Louis Braille and James Watt all who were January babies.

There was Al Capone and Rasputin as well but we won’t talk about them.

Jeff Bezos. Now there’s a name to conjure with. January 12th. How about selling some more of my books, Jeff? They are all on Amazon.

So how about my own birth date? January 16th. Who shares that?

James May -January birthday

Top Gear’s top man.

James May. Bless. I think he’s adorable. He doesn’t know he shares my birthday.

I’ll leave you with a few words from Martin Luther King born on January 15th .

January quote

Little by little. Step by step. Keep going.

January quote

And my short story January Girl? It’s going in my next collection of short stories Queer as Folk to be published in spring. You hear that, Jeff?

Thank you for reading my Random Thoughts blog page here on my website. Stay awhile and read some more. Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

Keep warm and stay well . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the love of writing. Plans for 2015

thinking about writing

getting your thoughts focused

I have to get my love of writing head back on my shoulders. Christmas and new year celebrations are finished. The decorations come down this weekend. The house will look bare and I know I’ll have an urge to go round cleaning everything. The fridge needs sorting out – I’ve forgotten what’s in there. There’s a heap of washing and ironing left over from before Christmas and then we got French electricity tariff ‘red days’ and I couldn’t do it anyway without running up a huge bill.

So there’s plenty of housework type stuff to do. I’ll do it. Slowly. Don’t talk to me while I’m doing it because my head will be somewhere else and I won’t answer you.

I’ll be organising my love of writing thoughts. Making plans.

thinking about writing

getting thoughts organised

Because I must write. Without writing I’m not myself. Something’s missing. When I drift off into that thinking-land you might as well talk to the wall because I’m not in. Celia is in her head but she’s not in the room.

But why must I write? Oh, that’s a good question.

writing

that’s how I feel

love writing

the temptation of words

It’s more than that, though. It’s so much more than slotting into a comfortable routine. So much more than any other thing that you fit into your normal daily activities. Writing is not in the same category as sweeping the floor or making the beds – small jobs which, for me, do carry a trace element of a sense of satisfaction when the job’s done.

Writing is not even in the same category as eating or sleeping – bigger jobs that are absolutely vital to your well-being.

Think about the need to breathe and you’re getting close.

Writing is as much a part of me now as is the CRPS I was diagnosed with last year. CRPS is why everything I do is now done s-l-o-w-l-y. It hurts to move. It hurts more to stretch. Constant pain saps energy and leaves you feeling very low. There are times when I feel I’ve completely lost the creative spark to begin something new. But on good days?

desire to create

the greatest love story in the world?

I have that desire. Sometimes it feels more like an affliction. It’s an itch that must be scratched. A hunger that must be fed. It’s selfish and unreasonable and is not open to negotiation.

Sorry chaps, but it’s better than sex. Or chocolate.

It is an all-consuming passion that teases and tempts. Sometimes it abandons you or flatly rejects you. Slaps you in the face and makes you feel a fool.

Sometimes, though, it loves you back.

It’s for these moments you carry on. You make your plans. You do your research. You find things you never knew. You find things about yourself you never knew.

love of books

the love of books

I’m making plans for my writing in 2015. Books Two and Three of Trobairitz are in outline only. A second collection of short stories is further along the pipeline. ‘Queer as Folk’ should be ready in spring and features more ‘quirky’ short stories about ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

I’d like to make more effort keeping in touch with online writing groups but if I can’t I won’t beat myself up. On good days I have to write.

Thank you for reading my Random Thoughts page. Feel free to message me with your own thoughts. I’m on Twitter @cmicklefield and have a FB author page.

May you love and be loved in 2015.

TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller

Publication of TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller goes ahead. Here’s the front and back cover.

Trobairitz the Storyteller

publication November 28th 2014

What does the cover of TROBAIRITZ tell you?

First, I want it to have  warmth. A satisfying, bread and butter sort of comfort. A cover that does something to your senses, even makes your mouth water.

A cover that says it’s not quite in the world you know. An imaginary world. Almost dreamlike.

I hope it makes you ask yourself questions.

Why is it a picture of a village?

Where is it? Does it look like England? No.

Why are there no people in the design?

What does the word Trobairitz mean?

( I wrote a post on who the Trobairitz were. Here is a link to that post. You can go to the Categories section on the right sidebar and in the drop down box choose Trobairitz for all my posts on this subject.)

So, the Trobairitz were female troubadours of the 12th and 13th centuries. What has that got to do with my new novel set in present day Languedoc?

Bringing the past into the present

Trobairitz were bringers of news and storytellers. They sang, too, to their own accompaniment and their themes were often about current affairs and romantic love as well as traditions and the place of women within values and attitudes of the times.

My 21st century Trobairitz is a truck driver. At an overnight truck stop in the heart of Languedoc, Weed tells a story. The themes of tradition and women and relationships are woven into the tale she tells but in her real life those are the very things that cause her problems.

The fact that Weed’s story is set in a circulade is also relevant. A circulade is built in the shape of a snail shell. Curving rows of houses surround and protect the church on top of the hill. They’re designed to confuse raiders. Even today it’s possible to lose one’s way in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways.

In TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller, the shape of the village is reflected in the stories Weed tells. There is a central theme, hiding under the archways, shrinking back into narrow passageways, revealing itself only gradually. I like that kind of a tease in books.

I decided to lighten the appearance of the cover for this first of the TROBAIRITZ trilogy. The original was too dark and didn’t give the right feel. You’ll see there’s still a bit of darkness hovering in the background and, as in real life, there will be episodes of darker happenings as Weed’s story progresses.

I deliberately chose not to have people and/or faces in the design. When I’m reading I like to make up my own images of what the characters look like. I especially don’t like those front covers showing ladies clad in silks and satins etc. which bear no resemblance to the actual story. You might want to read a previous post about book covers.

Why did I make Weed a truck driver?

Our resident teenage online gamer, aka Gollum Boy gave me the idea. We were eating dinner one night and I said,

‘What kind of a job would a woman have where she travelled about to different places all the time?’

‘That’s easy,’ he said. ‘She drives a truck.’

Volvo truck

Duh. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I love trucks. I think they’re the sexiest vehicles on the road. GB’s suggestion was perfect for the character I had in mind: a feisty lady who knows how to handle working in a man’s world, a woman who enjoys men’s company but has issues with commitment.

Why does she have issues with commitment? And why is she called Weed?

Ah. TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller – book one of the trilogy is available next Friday 28th November. Just in time for Christmas stockings!

Finding my author brand

You’ve got to have an author brand. Here on the Huffington Post they tell you why you need one. See, you have to stand out. There’s a lot of competition out there. How is an author to attract buyers to his/her work when there are so many other writers with similar appeal?

Author brand

standing out from the rest

I used the word ‘buyers’. See what I did there? Not readers. BUYERS. Because when push comes to shove, as authors we are in the business of selling whether we like to think about that or not.

In a former life I learned a bit about selling. I demonstrated product at trade shows and discovered that potential customers respond well to a smile and a friendly approach. I had the advantage of that brief face to face meeting and the product at hand for them to see and touch and listen to me talking about it. The product and I made a lot of sales.

So how can I get to the people who might want to buy my books? I can’t meet them face to face and smile at them. I can’t demonstrate that this is exactly the book they want to read next. I can’t make them feel they’re dealing with a supplier who has a professional approach and will deliver what they’re looking for.

But I have to try.

Selling my writing is no different from any other market place.

Author brand

what’s the purpose of your author brand?

No different from selling toys at the toy fair or bullocks at the cattle market. There are sellers and there are buyers. I just have to find the right buyers. They are out there, but they won’t come looking for me.

So, what is the purpose of a brand? With cattle, it’s about who they belong to. It’s a recognisable mark that shows who is the owner. How can I apply that thinking to my books?

The internet is full of advice about marketing yourself and your books:

Know your audience

comes out very high on the list of things to consider when building your author brand.

Question: Who is most likely to want to read my novels?

Answer: Women like me. Curious women. Not necessarily my age.

Question: What purpose does my novel serve?

Answer: To meet emotional needs.

My author brand must give my readers a warm feeling. I want them to look at the cover of my novels and know they will be going on an emotional journey which, although there will be heartache, there’ll be some kind of hopeful denouement.

And when they have read and enjoyed their first book by Celia Micklefield, I want them to know they can expect a similar experience from the next one. There will be characters they can care about. In the plot there will be shocks and twists and tragedy and successes.

author brand

warm coloured cover

And when they turn the last page I’d like to give them that momentary sense of sadness, that small bereavement of having finished with those characters and their story. I want them to want more. So they’ll go and buy the next one.

My author brand must show in my Tweets and on my author FaceBook page and here in my posts on my website. I’d like to have book covers that say ‘Ah, another story by Celia Micklefield’

I’m working on it.

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