Abandoned Buildings in the Azores – Part 1

Interior of Gerna Manor - Azores

The Azores are a stunning set of islands in the Atlantic, formed by volcanos and colonised by the Portuguese in the 15th-century. They’re perfect for walkers with lush, mountainous trails dotted with fascinating points of interest – including an abandoned building or two.

This is what’s left of Grena Manor, built next to Lake Furnas by the English Consul-General in the 1855.

Abandoned buildings are fascinating to me, but in the UK they’re invariably stuck behind fences and warnings of CCTV and guard dogs. So finding one you’re able to (carefully) get up close and personal to is a treat.

The potential story behind a derelict building is what appeals of course. Bricks and mortar they may be but they were also part of someone’s life. So you start to wonder – what happened to them? Why were they left to rot? What happened? And if you’re a writer, you inevitably end up making up a narrative.

It’s hard to imagine this building in its heyday, lost among tangled vegetation, dripping with rain and covered in lichen. But with a little thought, you can still picture it in its glory days, walls white and gleaming on a summers day as it’s inhabitants look down onto the magnificent lake below.

After passing through various hands, the Government bought the property and land around it – and promptly forgot about it. You can’t go inside as it’s way to broken down and dangerous for that, but you can get some good pics and it’s an interesting sight to come across on a walk.

It’s not the only abandoned building we stumbled on whilst exploring the Azores. But I’ll get to that in Abandoned Buildings in the Azores – part 2.

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How Writers can use Pinterest

Put your Words into Pictures

I used to think of Pinterest as a tool people used for things like interior design, wedding planning or perhaps picking a tattoo – for creating visual things essentially. But could this online mood board maker also be good for a writer?

Your book may have pictures, it may not but we’re all inspired by images. In the past I tried my hand at drawing pictures of characters but my sketching skills leave a lot to be desired. So how could a writer use Pinterest? Well, you could;

Be inspired

Maybe you’re stuck for an idea – or with an idea- and need a bit of creative inspiration. Pinterest could easily provide that as you browse through it’s various categories.

Set your scene

Let’s assume you have your idea already. Where is it set? In another country? Is it historical? Maybe it’s a fantasy and you need to do some serious world building. Pinterest could provide you with everything you need to visualise what you’re setting will look like. The possibilities are endless – landscape, technology, architecture, fashion.

Meet your characters

Maybe you can picture your characters clearly right down to their toenails. Perhaps you need some help to get them clear in your head. Either way, why not create boards to visualise them using Pinterest. You can add pictures to show how they look of course, but you could also add images that illustrate their personality, background etc to help fully round them out.

Get in the right mood

Sometimes you may need to get into the right mood before you write. Bright and bubbly for a comedy romance, an altogether darker mood for a crime thriller. A Pinterest mood board could quickly get you in the right state of mind to write!

So why not give it a go? It’s free after all. Have you ever used Pinterest for any of your writing? What did you think? Leave your comments below.

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Can fidgeting help you write?

I fidget a lot. It’s a combination of my over active imagination and anxiety. Anything is fair game to be fiddled with – pens, necklaces, buttons, watch straps. But can fidgeting help you write?

Science would say…maybe. Research has shown that fidgeting or rather using your hands as well as your brain helps you to think. Nothing conclusive has been proven but that hasn’t stopped enterprising folks coming up with gadgets designed to help us fidget with purpose – if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

Image of Fidget Cube

This is the ‘Fidget Cube’ or, as I like to think of it, a cat toy for humans. It has a ‘light switch’, a swirly thing, some kind of joystick, more twiddly things and little buttons that go click. All of these make me happy.

Image of Fidget Cube

Whether they make me more productive is another matter. And as I’ve mentioned anything and everything can be fiddled with really (within reason). But if you don’t fidget much already, the ‘Fidget Cube’ may be a fun way to get started. Or a fun way to annoy people with clicking sounds.

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Blog Post Checklist – get the Basics Right

To-do list with pen

If you’re a blogging beginner it’s good to get the basics right from the start. I didn’t, and I’m still tidying up ‘behind-the-scenes’ . How and what you write is up to you (that’s kind of the point). But if you’re looking for guidance on blog post fundamentals, here’s a handy check list. These simple tips will help make your blog posts easier to read for people and search engines.

  • Use pictures – photo based posts are popular as they’re easy to scan read. But any post can benefit from relevant images to break up text and add interest. I use the ‘Featured Image’ function on most of my posts to display a picture behind the heading.
  • Add titles and alt text to your pictures – search engine’s look at your whole post, including the pictures. Or rather they read the code that displays them. They’ll use everything, even the image title to help judge the quality of your post. So make sure you use a descriptive title. Alt text is used by screen readers and makes your blog posts more accessible for people who use them.
  • Include links to other posts – if someone’s read one of your posts, why not give them a reason to stay and read more? So add some related links in the copy or at the end of your posts. Search engines will look favourably on it too. But don’t add too many, make sure you keep it relevant to the post you’re writing.
  • Make a good URL – I did a recent check up on mine, I noticed were just numbers(!) Not good. Keep your URL simple but relevant and your readers and Google will like you better for it.
  • Share it – blogging platforms make this easy. Make sure you choose the feeds that you think will be best for your post. For example, I put how-to posts like this on LinkedIn, but keep more personal ones to other feeds.

What are the basics you always check off before you post?

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Notebook Collection – 8# The British Library


If you’re going to visit a library, why not start with top of the pile and go for the British Library in London. We visit pretty much every time we go to the capital and this particular notebook is from one of those visits.

You can probably guess why a self confessed ‘Wonderland’ obsessive like me found it irresistable! But the book contains quotes and sketches from a selection of novels making it a perfect souvenir of a library visit.

The British Library

The British Library building itself is not to everyone’s tastes and unfortunately it’s not exactly big enough for the ever growing collection it holds. wp-image-690615576jpg.jpgEvery single publication, magazine and newspaper published in the UK will send a copy here – and they all have to be stored somewhere!

I’d recommend a visit to any writer (or reader) or just if you fancy something a bit different. There are free exhibitions like the ‘Treasures of the British Library’, and there are temporary exhibitions you may have to pay for – but these are well worth it. dav

We went to one about the development of comics and graphic novels in 2014. And the ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ is going on my list for October 2017.

You can take a webinars and workshops, plus tour behind-the-scenes tours of the library and conservation areas.

In the Discworld books they have something L-space. The idea is that vast amounts of words and ideas held in on eplace can warp the fabric of time and space itself. Whenever I go somewhere like the British Library I can well imagine the weight of words collapsing reality in on itself. Ive nevr been in the stacks ( reserved for members) but id make sure to take a torch and guide if you do…

Have you ever been to the British Library? What did you think?

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Don’t Underestimate the Power of Words


Why your writing is important 

People often say that words aren’t dangerous. But writers know better than that. We understand the power that words have. When we wield them we are all aware how we’re casting lightening stolen from the Gods.

Events in the world prove just how fickle words are. Assaulted by ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘post-truth’ a fiction writer gets concerned. People are using the words we love to spread fear not knowledge. Moreover, the seriousness of reality can make our whimsical tales feel unworthy of attention.

But fear not. Ursula Le Guin in her usual brilliant fashion, explained the difference between these ‘lies dressed as truth’ and actual fiction. You aren’t part of the distraction, you’re part of the fight against it.

Those words that you pull from your mind are not a distraction from current events. They are a mirror to it, deliberately or not. You have something to say. About life, love, truth. Your words will make people think and feel. By thinking people have power.And by feeling, people find truth. Research shows those who read fiction books are more empathetic to the world around them. They’ve been inside the minds and the stories of people who, though fictional, are not themeslves. Stories show us there’s a world of thoughts and feelings out there and though we are important, we are not only and we are not lonely.

Moreover these words you write – they’re important to you. They keep you going. They take what’s inside of you and give it somewhere to live. Your writing has extra meaning in these times. So keep broadening those horizons because we need it.

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Find yourself at Star Wars: Identities

Hands up all Star Wars fans? Those of you with hands down, this post won’t be for you. The rest, come join me on a tour around the Star Wars Identities exhibition currently on at the O2 in London. It was a fun (if somewhat pricey at £20 per ticket) attraction for the average Stare Wars fan. On arrival you’re given an earpiece connected to a device that goes around your neck. And you get a wristband that let’s you build your identity.


The exhibition is a novel mix of the usual props and costumes you get at these type of exhibitions, alongside interactive screens and some interesting ‘sciencey’ stuff about how our own.’identities’ are built. Liberally illustrated with a bunch of clips from the movies.


I was mostly going for the film memorabilia, but it was also quite fun to build my Star Wars character. Anyway, I’m not going to blather on about my love for Star Wars. Much better to just share some pictures from the experience with you.

Boba Fett

Spaceship models ‘in flight’

An early version of Yoda

And the one we know and love

But ‘did you get a notebook?’ I pretend to hear you cry. Of course I did!

Anyone else been to the exhibition?  What did you think?

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Read books,

cereal boxes, warning signs, gravestones, instructions (ignore those), menus and timetables.


Listen to storytellers,

tapes, records, liars, truth-tellers (maybe), gifs, voicemail messages and sports commentary.


Understand that with each nugget of someone else’s world you uncover
you will stretch in all sides
and you will understand that

this is a person

and that is a person

and that is a person

And you won’t be able to say there is only one or a group of ones but that there all ones.

And twos and threes and fours and fives

You get the idea right?

You get it.

Now get to it.


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Stuck for a Writing Idea? Time to Start Digging

You stare at the blank screen. You hover your pen over the page. You wonder if you close your eyes and wait a bit you’ll start automatically writing a masterpiece. We’ve all been there.

Popular culture would have you believe that inspiration just hits you when you’re out walking or buying a loaf of bread. And sometimes a spark will appear like Harry Potter wandering down a train aisle and into JK Rowlings head. But usually finding an idea to write about involves just that – ‘finding’. Fortunately, you might not have to look very far.

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, I’ve no doubt you’ll have collected a bunch of exercise books, scraps of paper, notepads, computer disks and hard drives filled with notes. You may well think they’re well, a bit crap. And they may well be, but they could also be the spark that you need.

I’ve been churning out bits and bobs since I was old enough to hold a pencil and much my early work is typical of what kids and teenagers write and it’s pretty hideous. But when I decided my next book would be an anthology of short stories, into my cave of wonders I went. There I found enough diamonds in the rough to make up a good chunk of the book with a few new ones rustled up for good measure. I’ve had to do some serious re-writes, often completely but the kernal of the idea or even just a character survived for me to work with.

So if you need an idea, start with what you’ve already got first. Oh and be careful what you throw away!

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Notebook Collection – 7# Google

Image of collected notebooks

What would be a good historical reference for a company as defining as Google? The East India Company? Ford? It’s hard to think of an equivalent. And love or loathe them, anyone would be interested in what actually goes on behind the doors. I was given the chance to visit one of their offices through my work.

This notebook was given to us as part of the visit, which was probably more exciting for me than anything else! It came to light recently when I had to raid my collection for a new work notepad and it’s well suited given what I do (online copy-writing).

When I opened it, I realised I’d made notes about my trip to the office. Most were about the tour they took us on, where we experienced all those work perks we’d heard about. Free food and drink were a big thing, with snacks and hot and cold drink always being on tap. Plus free breakfast and lunch (and dinner for engineers). Oh and a massage room with free massage on your birthday.

Of course the whole set up is designed to keep people in the office, they can be working at the drop of a hat. But it’s corporate intervention I could get on board with because…well did I mention the free food? Which actually has some relevance to working on your writing. Prep yourself for writing by having food and drink available. Take breaks and have something to do in your breaks so you keep yourself ‘in the zone’.

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Notebook Collection – 6# Weald and Downland Museum

Notebook Collection – 5# Hellfire Caves, UK