Sunday, 20 November 2016

Addiction: Little Mermaid 2.0

I'm been spending some time with some wonderful images by talented London-based photographer Laura Ward. Laura's images and projects have featured Tate Britain, the BBC and the New York Times.

One of the theme's Laura explores through her work is identity metamorphosis, a theme that manifests in some of my stories too. I've been using one of her collections, Serpents, to think about that, and it's taken me in all sorts of directions - from selkie children to lost mermaids. There's a wistful, sad and dark feel to many of those stories, but that feels unbalanced.

I decided I wanted to write something more upbeat, funnier. Addiction was born from a "What if?" What if Arial and Prince Eric had a kid? What if she didn't know about her heritage?


From Serpents by Laura Ward

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Not NaNoWriMo.... Bringing your story to life (with some help from Chuck)

I've got #NaNoWriMo envy.

Across the world right now thousands of people are typing, scribbling and dictating away, birthing their stories in a frenzied flurry of international penmanship.

I wish I was too.

I love National Novel Writing Month. I love writing in the autumn. For me autumn is the season of new beginnings. It's the time we should be making resolutions, when the light is golden and the trees are turning and the earth has brought forth its fruit. The nights are drawing in and a trace of frost lingers in the air. Now is the time to light the fire. Now is the time to write.

Photography by James Jordan under a Creative Commons license


Autumn. The writers' season.

Sadly, this year I'm not participating. For the last two or three years life has rudely got in the way of writing - manic full time jobs which use up every ounce of energy and creativity and leave little left over for writing. But somewhere, within that, I've managed a little.

I've got two nearly complete novels each drafted and redrafted a dozen times. They're like familiar friends, that I can dip into and move things along. I can keep my hand in. That's all good.

And I've explored ideas, usually in that odd, grey time between sleeping and waking where my brain likes to throw out creative solutions.

But I still have #NaNoWriMo envy.

That's what took me wandering across the internet in search of plotting advice. Okay, I can't participate. But maybe I can do a little. Get a plot down. Something. That was enough to get some ideas drifting about and that's what brought me here. To the single best summary of different ways to plot I've had the pleasure of coming across - kindly assembled by Chuck Wendig.

I've tried a lot of different methods - snowflakes and beatsheets and character profiles and post it notes and three act summaries. I've yet to find one that fits easily.  Plotting, to me, is like flossing teeth. I know it's important, I just find it dull.

To me, writing is a bit like cooking. I like learning new cooking techniques and I love trying new food. My preferred way to learn is to come across something delicious and to say, "How did you do that?" I like to apply what I've discovered in different ways.

My favourite cookery book is The Flavour Thesaurus because it doesn't prescribe step by step recipes so much as advise which flavours go together. It provides a pathway to alchemy and empowers me to try new and different things, without having to copy someone else's recipe. My second favourite is Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course because it tells you how to cook.

One gives the bones, the other the map. The journey you take is up to you.

That's why I was so pleased to discover Chuck's article listing 25 different ways to plot, plan and prep your story. Brilliant. Because what it does is show that there is no silver bullet. There is no one size fits all "plot this way and it all makes sense".  It liberates med from staring at facsimiles of JK Rowling's crazy plot spreadsheets and shows me that there are two dozen different pathways to travel. Best of all, it reminds me that some of the things I've discovered are legitimate ways to progress my story.

From Chuck's list, here's what has worked for me:

Beginning, Middle and End

I used to start stories only to find out they trailed off after 20,000 words because I hadn't a clue where they were going. I learned a bit from that. Now I try to have the absolute basics scrawled down in a notebook. It might just be three sentences but it roughly keeps me on track.

In the Document as you Go 

This involves sketching out the chapter ahead as you go. This only works for me if I have the Beginning, Middle and End roughly worked out.

Dialogue Pass 

This means throwing down the dialogue and letting the characters talk it all out - then building the story around them. When I do this, the pages fly - I write really, really fast. It also helps me to get to know characters twice as fast as "interviewing" them or writing out character sheets - that feels so artificial to me. When I do this, I can get into the character's skin. It's like acting. It feels much more authentic. I then go back, add flesh, edit and polish - but the bulk of the story has just written itself.

And a couple which I can't believe I haven't tried because they seem so damn sensible and obvious. Number one of these:

The Reverse Outline

This means starting at the end and working your way back. I can't believe this hasn't been my starting point. This was the best piece of advice my Dad ever gave me (when talking about university dissertations) - start at the end and work your way back. I've heard other authors talk about writing the last chapter first. I've sometimes done this when I've got stuck in the middle, and I need to revise the end point to work out a pathway towards it. But doing it at the start? No. But now I will. This works for me.

The Test Drive

Doing this has never occurred to me but it seems like a BRILLIANT idea. So good, I suggest you pop over to Chuck's blog to read about it.

Thank you Chuck. I might not be NaNoWriMoing this year, but at least I am inspired.

Related Posts

A Thing I learned about Story Arcs from the BFG

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo 2013

NaNo...What?

Plots, Portraits and Getting a Handle on your Characters

Three lessons from NaNoWriMo 2011











Sunday, 21 August 2016

A thing I learned about characters arcs from the BFG

I had high hopes of the B.F.G., I really did. It's one of my daughter's favourite books, the posters I had seen looked spectacular and well, it brings Roald Dahl together with Steven Spielberg which pretty much has to be a recipe for spectacular story-telling


And the posters don't lie. It does look spectacular. I found myself thinking how fortunate we are to live in an age when movie visuals can really live up to the imaginations of writers and paint such fabulous spectacle on stage.

And then I found myself thinking about a recent twitter exchange on Hollywood's over-fondness for spectacle at the expense of plot and characterisation.


In his Poetics, Aristotle, as this article points outs, tells us that plot is the first and most important element in drama, followed by character, then dialogue, then spectacle. Spectacle is the least important. It's the bow that dresses up the overall package, a fact that Hollywood seems to have forgotten.

In the BFG plot is not forgotten. How could it be, when it had already been neatly provided by Roald Dahl?  Girl (Sophie) sees giant; girl is snatched by giant because she has seen him; girl's life is at risk from other giants who have a history of snacking on kids; girl decides to do something about it and motivates the BFG to do so too; the Queen is involved, the giant is dispensed with and the girl lives happily ever after.

This has all the hallmarks of a quest story. Sophie has been thrust into a situation not of her making but accepts a perilous mission to save the world (her world, children).

The problem with this film is that it misses out one important element of a quest story: the hero isn't transformed or redeemed as a result of her experiences.

Or maybe she is, but we wouldn't know it because the film doesn't take the time to establish Sophie's driving motivation, before plunging her directly into giant land.

The opening scenes of the BFG focus on an insomniac Sophie, hiding from the matron at her orphanage, sneaking a book, wandering the halls and shouting at drunks. The shouting at drunks seems an odd moment - we later realise this is establishing her as someone who isn't afraid to stand up to people bigger than herself in order to protect other children, foreshadowing her actions with the giants. We see her as tough. We see her as outspoken. We see her as brave.

We don't see her as lonely or vulnerable or friendless. Quite the opposite. The fact she is standing up for the other children at the orphanage implies she cares about them which implies they are her friends.

So when she latches onto the BFG as her new BFF it seems odd. 

In fact, the friendship seems unsettling and uneven. The BFG has form in snatching kids - he's done it once before and it didn't end well (for the boy). It suggests that he is very lonely and will perhaps sometimes do inexcusable things in order to meet his need for company. It doesn't explain what is in it for Sophie. The Sophie we saw in the opening scene might trick the BFG into believing she is his friend, in order to escape. But she evinced none of the deep aching loneliness or emotional vulnerability that would make a kid want a giant as her pal.

I found myself comparing this to (the original) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film. In that we see how much responsibility Charlie carries, how much he cares for his family and how little he has for himself. We completely believe in his wonder at the Chocolate Factory and feel the depth of his devastation when he believes he has failed Willie Wonka.

I'm guessing, in the BFG that moment is when the BFG, fearing for her life in Giant Country, takes her back to the orphanage. Sophie refuses to accept her friend is abandoning her. She forces him to reappear and makes him take her with him. She isn't giving up her friend.

But for that dark moment to be a dark moment, Sophie's loneliness and her desperate desire to be loved really, really need to be front and centre. We need to be able to empathise with her need for the BFG not to abandon her.  Her cunning, courage and protectiveness should give her the means to achieve this end.

And, at the end, when we see "Sophie's dream" come to pass - see her loved and secure, it doesn't feel real. Because that isn't the dream of the Sophie who has been presented to us. It's the dream of another Sophie, a vulnerable, rejected Sophie - a Sophie we have never seen.

Contrast to the film of Matilda, where her happy ending with Miss Honey feels like the reward for her bravery. The film opens with Matilda's neglect and rejection from babyhood - and her genius. She is clever, cunning, brilliant and daring - but she is also unrecognised and unloved. To really care about her happy ending, for it to make sense, we needed to know that about Sophie too.

There's a lot to learn from the BFG film.

It's a film that should have been brilliant but is actually a bit boring. The acting is good - Sophie is well cast and well acted - and the effects are marvellous. But without that emotional hook, that character arc which is so essential to a quest, it's hard to belive the rest.

This has given me insight into what I need to look for in my own work. If I don't establish my character at the start, if I don't give her the opportunity to change and grow as a consequence of her experiences, I'm not really bringing her to life. I'm just presenting spectacle.


Monday, 20 April 2015

Cinderella the Movie: Why Do We Hate Ourselves?

I recently blogged about three things a romance writer can learned from the 2015 Cinderella Movie. That covered some ground but not all. With Maleficent heralded as a feminist triumph, and Frozen welcomed as move away from Waiting-For-The-Prince-To-Save-Me to focusing on family bonds and the power of love, it was interesting that Disney chose to make a super faithful live action version of the 1950 Cinderella movie.

The 1950s aren't precisely known as an era for female empowerment. The prevailing rhetoric had women firmly back in the kitchen preparing highballs for their menfolk and ensuring they had their lipstick straight for the moment he got back from work. Cinderella challenged that... not at all. No, she merrily swept out the house without resentment and as a reward got treated to a night out and met a monied fella who swept her off her feet without so much as a Bibbity Bobbitty Boo to a woman's traditional reward: marriage. 

Roll on 65 years - have things changed?

Well er, no. Not especially. This movie is very faithful to the cartoon. I already mentioned the mouse thing, but the thing which really bothered me - and which came through even more strongly than in the 1950 version - was Cinderella's lack of self worth. 

Here's the way it goes. 

Cinderella has a golden childhood dancing with her doting dad and being told to believe in EVERYTHING by her golden mum. Then her mum tucks her into bed, breaks out in a sweat and promptly keels over (check out Disney's mummy mortuary and why you should care about it). 




Side note: my seven year old immediately wanted to know what she'd died of. Turns out that was the first thing my 49 year old big sister wanted to know too. Was it plague she asked? Fast growing tumour, I thought. Anyways, back to the blog...

Now for the death bed scene. Cinders' mum asks Cinders to make an important promise: to always Be Kind and Have Courage.

A few more years of gaily dancing around the house and then Cinders' Dad remarries. It's 0 to 60 here with the nastiness. Cinder's wicked stepmother barely pretends to be anything other than a b*tch and her stepsisters are openly nasty. Odd for doting dad to overlook this but never mind. Cinders is prepared to turn the other cheek. 

And thus it begins. By the time Daddy Dearest follows mum up to heaven, Cinders is already living in the attic surrounded by mice. One wonders how  the Wicked "You can call me Madam" Stepmother plans to justify this to Dad when he gets home, but as he conveniently dies this isn't a problem. 

And besides, Cinders is busy Being Kind and Having Courage

Here's what really stuck in my throat about Cinderella the movie. As far as female role models go it's WORSE than the 1950s cinematic version. At least in the cinematic version Cinders has a bit about her. She's pretty proactive with her singing mouse army. Come 2015 she's limp as week old lettuce. 




Her interpretation of "Be Kind and Have Courage" is to put up with any amount of crap, bullying and misery and not to complain about it, challenge it or to act in her own defence in any way at all. Whilst cartoon Cinders seemed to enjoy dancing about with a feather duster, live action Cinders doesn't. "You don't look well," her old maidservant advises her, asking why she doesn't leave. It's a fair question. Cinders response is that her folks loved the old house and so she has to keep the garden nice or something. Er, okay. I'm sure that those totally doting parents would be thrilled that their house was weed-free and well dusted and that their daughter was enduring living slavery. Or not

In fact, the only slight feistiness modern Cinders demonstrates is in the forest when asks the Prince not to kill the stag. He protests, claiming it's the done thing. Cinders points out that just because it's the done thing, doesn't mean it's right. All he needs to do, explains Cinders, is to Be Kind and Have Courage

Because for a man being Kind and Having Courage means something totally different than for a woman. On the Prince's variation of the parental death scene his father asks him if he'll marry the Princess Chehina if the King orders him too, the Prince says no. He reckons he needs to follow his own instincts and that he's got what it takes to rule a Kingdom without Princess Chehina's additional resources. All he needs to do is to "Be Kind and Have Courage" he explains. The King is delighted. "You're your own man," he congratulations his son. 




Quite.

So for the Prince, Being Kind and Having Courage doesn't mean masochistically enduring an unendurable situation (being married to someone he doesn't love when he has met the girl of his dreams). His kindness extends to himself, as well as to the people around us. His courage means the courage of his convictions.

But for Cinders, Being Kind and Having Courage DOES mean masochistically enduring an unendurable situation (living in slavery). Her kindness doesn't extend to herself. Her courage is used only to... wait, when does she display courage? Sent to the attic, she doesn't protest. Denied the ball, she doesn't rebel and make an attempt to go out until the Fairy Godmother tells her to, clothes her AND gives her magical anonymity, thus making it risk-free. Imprisoned, she doesn't once try to escape. Even when the Prince's men visit, it's the bloody mice who open the window. 

Her big act of courage is telling the Prince her bloody name and status - which presumably he already knew, as he'd had a bit of time hanging about downstairs chatting whilst he waited for her to bother leaving the attic. 

Not once in the movie does passive Cinders do anything to determine her own destiny. It's depressing. And the message it sends to the target audience (young girls) is appalling. 

Throw more shit at me. I'll take it.


Women get this shit from the cradle. 

We're trained to put others first at the expense of ourselves. We make it into an art form. 

Perhaps I wouldn't feel so very strongly about this if I hadn't seen the end result so many bloody times: women exhausting themselves, living in dangerous or unhappy situations, experiencing severe mental health problems. 

This happens not because they don't know where to draw a boundary between themselves and the people they care for but because they don't even known that a boundary should be drawn. 

Once upon a time, a counsellor friend said to me: "Loving your neighbour as yourself means that you have to love yourself too. Otherwise you're not loving your neighbour as yourself." If I had a pound every time I've repeated this to a female friend who is in crisis, I'd be a rich woman. It's important

It's not that being altruistic and loving other people is wrong. It's not. But if you want to be there for other people, you need to make sure you look after yourself. If you don't love yourself enough, practice self acceptance, make sure you are physically, emotionally and mentally well, you are less able to help others. 

The Prince in Cinderella appears to know this. Cinders herself doesn't. 

Cinderella story: wait about and hope a prince decides to marry you
Equally, whilst both the Prince and Cinders have loving relationships with their fathers, throughout the movie the Prince moves towards adult independence, whilst Cinderella remains blindly obedient. In other words, she never grows up. 

The curious irony is that her Stepmother exemplifies what happens when:
1) you prioritise others at your own expense and; 
2) depend wholly on men to shape your destiny. 

Just prior to locking Cinderella in the attic she explains that first she married for love, but second she married for her daughters and she lost both husbands, thus ending up with nothing. This is an explanation for her bitterness and cruelty. 

However, before I got to wondering whether Brannagh was playing a deep game here in contrasting the two, he makes it clears what happens to women who try to get active on their own behalf. The Stepmother tries to exploit her situation (at Cinderella's expense) to advance herself and her daughters: she ends up banished. 



Luckily, we know Cinders won't try anything like that. She's too busy being GOOD as well and Being Kind and Having Courage. Even the dress designer knows it, telling Vanity Fair: Cinderella wins the Prince’s heart through her goodness, so I wanted to show this through her clothes,” Powell explained. “I wanted her to stay modest and pure even though she was going to be a part of royalty.” - so like, flowers and stuff (see above). FFS. 
Okay, I'm not suggesting that blackmailing others is a good idea but it would be nice to see one woman in this beautifully produced, visually stunning women-hating movie doing something to change her fate - and getting rewarded for it. 

We can only hope that Cinderella, who is following faithfully in her Stepmother's footsteps (depending on a man, putting others first) doesn't end up experiencing the same fate. With luck, the Prince will live a long time and value our Cinders. Because God knows she can't do it for herself. 

Putting up with being bullied and controlled isn't courage. It's self destruction. 

If your child loves the new Cinderella, be sure to point out the difference. 


Then go watch Maleficent instead.  

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Three Writing Tips from Disney's 2015 Cinderella



Despite the success of the awe-inspiring Maleficent, Disney must be sick of revisionist fairytale movies because the 2015 live action Cinderella is anything but. So closely have the film-makers stuck to the story depicted in the 1950 version that the eponymous heroine even chats to and has tea parties with mice. Obviously Cinders has never heard that urban myth about mice having no bladders or indeed found one dead under the toaster or I doubt she would greet them dancing around her bedchamber with such equanimity.

Still, mice aside, Cinderella is visually sumptuous. The vaguely Victorian period costumes are gorgeous and if every now and then you wonder why Cinders sticks to her pale blue party frock for cleaning out the grate or wish there were one or two less butterflies on her ballgown, it's more than made up for by the wicked stepmother's (Cate Blanchett) awesome wardrobe. 

Gratuitous Cate Blanchet dress picture - because she is awesome
Unfortunately, although Cate Blanchett is as awesome as her stylish shirt-waisters and Helena Bonham-Carter turns in a star role as an eccentric high camp fairy godmother, Cinderella, whilst engaging enough, left me feeling a bit bleurgh.  And it wasn't just me. My seven year old who had eaten up Frozen and loved Malificent thought it was no better than average giving it a lowly 5/10/ 

But why?  WHY?  It's a visual feast (the best makeover - and makeunder scenes ever), it has a stellar cast... where did this film fall short? 

And it's one of the best makeover scenes EVER


What I Learned About Storytelling From Watching Cinderella. 

Characterisation: for a character to be interesting it has to be three dimensional. And I'm not talking about the green and red glasses here.  Maleficient worked because there were shades of grey in every character, good or bad. Maleficent was a pure-of-heart, generously loving imp who was scarred by her experiences, became very dark indeed and then struggled her way towards redemption. Her nemesis, the king, was an imaginative, open-minded boy who also happened to be dangerously opportunistic and ruthless. Aurora herself was no mild-mannered sweetheart. Sunny natured, she displayed anger, behaved rashly but ultimately had a great deal of discernment. Every single character went on a journey. It was interesting. Compelling, even.

Magnificent Maleficent


Compare to the characters in the 2015 Cinderella. Cate Blanchett tries with all her considerable talent to add some nuances to her wicked stepmother. There is an implication she is hurt, has become cynical... but ultimately, the relationship between she and Cinders is unsatisfying. When asked by Cinders why she has acted as she had, she says "Because you're young and innocent and good and I'm..." - she doesn't finish the sentence.  It feels out of tune. Surely the tension here is about the amount of emotional investment Cinderella has received? Surely it's about jealousy? 

Meanwhile other characters - let's take the conniving Grand Duke or the irritating stepsisters are mere ciphers - it's as though no one has bothered to think of a backstory for them, which would remotely justify their behaviour. This is no reflection on the actors, who seemed to be doing the best they could with a weak script. Compare this to the wonderful 1976 musical The Slipper and the Rose, where the same set of characters were far more nuanced. 

The Slipper and the Rose, 1976

Conflict: Sticking with The Slipper and the Rose, one way in which the Grand Duke character was nuanced was that he was genuinely concerned for the kingdom. There was a threat on the borders that must be addressed. This gave the viewer some sympathy for him. Social hierarchy is also a significant theme in The Slipper and the Rose: the Prince's relationship with Cinderella challenges the very fabric of society (as played out in the charming John/Anne subplot). This helps to raise the stakes for the Prince and Cinderella - it's going to be damn hard for them to be together.

In the 2015 Cinderella there simply is no external conflict. Adding an extra few divisions of soldiers to the country's army ranks appears to be a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have. It's easily dismissed in the Prince's mind.  Neither Cinderella nor the Prince have anything to lose by being together. Once they actually find each other, there are no real hurdles to overcome. In fact, if Cinders had wriggled out of the window, climbed down the ivy and hot-footed it to the palace the whole thing could have been sewn up without any need to launch a great big girl-hunt. Cinders just doesn't seem too fussed about doing so, being happy enough to hang about in the attic chatting to the mice.

A great romance plot takes both romantic protagonists on a journey and stacks the odds against them being together. They have to work hard to get to their happy ending and they change along the way. It's like a quest story, but one that involves two people questing towards the goal from different directions. You win the prize by overcoming obstacles. That's the name of the game.

Electric eccentricity from HBC 
Make every scene count: There's a scene in Cinderella where the Prince is having his portrait painted. The artist, Master Phineus, played by Rob Brydon, is a comic character who mouths off all throughout his scene. Why? For comic effect? Because... why? His lines don't do anything for the story. His could have been used to show that the Prince didn't take himself too seriously and that this was in conflict with the expectations of him. He could have been used to impart important information. In fact, his inclusion just felt pointless, distracting and at odds with the overall atmosphere of the film. Compare to the Fairy Godmother scene with the brilliant Helena Bonham-Carter which is genuinely funny and is essential to the plot. Take a tip from Chekhov: "Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."

So what can a romance author learn from Cinderella?

You can have gorgeous description (the book equivalent of sumptuous costumes and scenery) and you can have action - and Cinderella does - but without conflict, you don't have that satisfying feeling of resolution. Without strong, three dimensional characterisation it's hard to care that much about what happens to the people in the story. And without good editing, your reader will be distracted. 

Don't make your villains too bad or your protagonists too good - both are dull. Don't skimp on the conflict, internal or external, because without it your story won't keep the reader interested. Make the odds high. Show what they have to lose. 

When I asked my daughter why she gave Cinderella such a mediocre rating, she said: "It's like they should have thought about it more before they made it." 

I couldn't have put it better myself. 

PS she also said: "And she had too many butterflies on her dress." Another truth. Because like, sometimes, less is more. 

A plague of butterflies on our nature loving heroine


Monday, 26 January 2015

Storytelling for Kids - A Guide to Plot


My daughter is a drama queen. Literally.

She's been part of  a drama group since she was four years old, acing parts like Grumpy in Snow White, Mrs Twit in The Twits and the eponymous Rafunzel. Her drama teacher joked that she'd be directing them herself soon. As it turns out, she's not far wrong. At seven, writing plays is her latest thing.

When I say writing plays, it mostly comprises writing out lists of "caricters" (sic), drawing colourful and elaborate costumes and recruiting her mates into a secret drama society and assigning them parts. Then she asks me to type it all out.

But she is thinking about what happens too. So I told her, start with a story. And to help her, I wrote out some questions which I have found useful myself. These questions give her the bones of her plot.

So just in case your child genius is a budding Shakespeare, here they are. Plunder as you will:

Your hero/heroine(s) is/are...
Winter, Autumn, Spring and Summer are four sisters who each possesses an amazing – and potentially deadly power.

One day something happens... what?
One day Summer is kidnapped by evil goddess Discord, who hates their parents and wants to destroy their kingdom. She demands that their parents sacrifice themselves to get her back.

What do they have to do because of the thing that happens – and why do they have to do it?
Spring, Autumn and Winter need to use their powers to get their sister back before their parents sacrifice themselves. They have until sundown to do it.

What – or who – is stopping them?
They can't agree on the best way to rescue her. And Discord is doing her best to make them disagree and turn on each other so that they fail.

What do they need to do to overcome he/she/it?
They need to learn to appreciate each others' strengths and respect each others' opinions in order to work together.

How do they nearly fail?
Winter and Spring fall out over whose plan will work the best and nearly turn on each other.

How do they win out in the end?

Autumn realises this was Discord's plan all along. The sisters unite and, working together, blast Discord, rescuing Summer. 

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Leaving 2014, Starting 2015: Resolutions


New year, new start.

This year I had a real new start feeling. It's not that I'm desperate to leave 2014 behind. For many amongst my friends and family it's been an exceptionally tough year that has included loved ones grappling with cancer, fertility issues, career problems and emotional ups and downs. My year was okay and for that I'm enormously grateful.

If 2014 has taught me anything it's be grateful. Be appreciative of what you have, when you have it. Don't take anything for granted, because life can change in the blink of an eye.

But I always knew that, I think.

So, resolutions.

In previous years To Chill has been been a major resolution. Also Balance in All Things. I actually think I've made some progress on that. 2014 was the year of mostly getting a reasonable amount of sleep, if cat-related insomnia, the lure of an excellent book and the vagaries of having a child who won't stay in her own bed are taken out of the equation.



I also said I'd write every day.

I haven't written every day. I haven't even written every week. But I have done some writing.

In April I revised my historical romance, Boundless. I'm still revising it, by the way. Changing the plot and all sorts of other things that would no doubt be best left alone.

In July I wrote 60,000 words of a novel, Lord of Shadows: my very own NaNoWriMo. Or rather MyNoWriMo, seeing as it was just me. I'm not saying they were good words and the last third of the novel remains unwritten, but it's waiting for me. And it was a change in genre, which felt good.

'cos it's funny

In December, I wrote a short story for my nephew in hospital. A superhero parody. So another genre shift and this time I printed it.

I also edited my Granny's short stories over Christmas, into a print edition. That felt good too, like restoring a beautiful heirloom for future generations to go. If I ever got to pick my fantasy dinner party, my Granny would be round the table. I never met her and there's so much I would like to ask her. I think we would have liked each other.

I've read lots of good books too, fantasy, romance and other genres. It's the love that never dies, is reading.

So what does 2015 bring? 

It brings... Exercise Goals. No really. I started this blog five years ago. I was just over thirty then and my highly sedentary lifestyle hadn't yet begun to show. It has now and I have *gulp* come to recognise that if I want to exercise my brain, I need to exercise my body.

So in May, I'm doing a [walking] marathon. Training started yesterday. I'm bloody scared.



It also brings... Balance in All things goals. See above. No point in writing all day if your body turns into a wasteland. Experiencing cancer within my family has shown me the value and fragility of physical and mental health. So love, time with friends and family, economy, exercise, creativity and work all need to be woven into a strongly balanced tapestry. I dont' think this is something that is ever gotten totally right but I'm going to try.

2015 brings Classics Goals - a new one this! But the older I get the more passionately I love classics. I went to see the Electra in 2014, at the Old Vic in London, and the Penelopiad during the Edinburgh Festival. I was devasted to miss the Medea (my personal fave). I built a Greek Temple out of toilet rolls. I read myths to my daughter. I loved every minute of it.

Sometimes the choices you make my chance and without much consideration are the right ones. I chose classics at A-level on the whim and it has proved to be the enduring intellectual love affair of my life, one that I've been able to share with my daughter to my very great joy.



So this year, I'm going to try to learn a bit of Latin and Greek again. And maybe write some more classics inspired stories. I'm going to visit Vindolanda and plan a trip to Greece for my 40th birthday. That gives me 3 years to save up :-)

And lastly, Writing Goals. Of course.

Keep it simple.

I'm going to complete my revision of Boundless and Do Something With It. I'm going to try to master a short story or a novella. And I'm going to try to complete Lord of Shadows. 

And obviously read, read, read.

What about you?

HAPPY 2015!