Portmeirion – You’re not a Number, but you are a Tourist

Bathed in sunshine, this could be the coast of Italy – but its actually North West Wales.

Portmeirion is a tourist resort best known is certain circles for the cult TV show ‘The Prisoner’. Its otherworldly vibe was perfect for the mind bending show where a man was trapped, numbered and pursued by a giant balloon.

Built by Sir Clough William-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, Portmeirion is still a popular place for people to visit and stay. And while I can see the attraction, after a while it starts to feel like you’re on the Truman Show. But it’s certainly one of kind and worth a visit.

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5 Tips on Editing from an Editor

Writing is re-writing – however much of a cliche that must be. Whether you’re writing fiction, non fiction or even a blog post, your ability to edit effectively can make the difference between a decent piece of work and a unreadable hotch-potch.

I’ve written and edited online content for eight years. I love editing which is good since it makes up a lot of what I do. It’s the same for my personal writing – give me re-writes over first drafts any day. So here’s some advice from an editor on editing:

1. Read out loud

Do I do this at work? Yes I do. I mumble along to myself all the time. My desk mates don’t mention it, I think they’re used to it by now. But you may prefer to have a quiet space and time to do this. Not only will it highlight typos you may have subconsciously overlooked, it will also show how you writing flows. By reading out loud you’ll hear how natural the dialogue sounds, the impact of your pacing and depth of your description. And yes you should definitely do the voices!

2. Get a second pair of eyes

Not literally! That kind of thing will get you locked up. Everything we edit at work is reviewed, not once, but twice before it goes live. You don’t. necessarily need to go that far but getting one other person to read your work and offer feedback is a good idea.

Some people use Beta readers, people recruited specifically to read your work and give you feedback. Time is usually given for free, but in a reciprocal fashion, so be prepared to become someone else’s Beta reader in exchange.

Alternatively, if you have a friend or family member who you trust to give you an honest opinion, and are prepared to help, this could be an option too. But make sure you’re clear about timings and exactly what you need from them.

3. Use the tools

At work we have to get clear articles out on a tight timescales. So we use whatever tools we have available to help us out. The obvious ones are things like spell check, (but an amazing number of people do seem to overlook even this). There are a bunch of other tools out there, often free. I could create a whole other blog post about them. We use the Hemr App and Readable amoung others. There are ones to help you keep track of complicated plotlines, ones to help you plan your time, ones to make notes to come back to later. Find your tools and tinker.

4. Take a break

Once the messy first draft is done, take a break. With the tight deadlines we have at work, this can often just be long enough get a coffee, but it’s stil enough. Even a quick break resets your mind ready to edit. How long you take is up to you, but for a long work, take a week at least. Do something else, write something else, then come back to it. And once you’ve done your first edit, take another break before the second. Which brings us to number five…

5. Lather, rinse, repeat

How many times do you edit? Personally I do three. The first, the hardest, to really whip things into shape, the second to flesh out character and description and the third, to fix the typos, the formatting, all the boring stuff. The only advice I can give is to edit at least once.

Editing – do you love or hate it? What are your tips and tricks?

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Get your Blog to do the Heavy Lifting – 7 Top Tips

Hook lifting a heavy load

Writing new blog posts on a regular basis isn’t easy. But if you don’t post regularly, you could lose followers on your blog and social media channels. So what’s the answer? Keep your blog going by setting it up to do the hard work for you.

1. Re-cycle your posts

This is an easy way to generate interest in your posts. New followers to your blog or social media feeds won’t have seen your older stuff, so it makes sense to re-use your previous posts. It’s best to use ‘evergreen’ content (see no. 2) for this, but you could also re-post articles about a regular event like Christmas or a music festival for example. Be selective about what you re-post. Your blogging platform will likely give you stats on that get the most hits, so make the most of your popular content.

But how to re-share it? Some blogging platforms make this fairly easy but others, including WordPress, don’t. You can get plugins to re-share posts, but only if you’re on a self-hosted WordPress.org site. I use a social media tool called Buffer to post shortlinks for older posts on Twitter, Facebook etc. Because I have more followers on these feeds. this works well for me, but you may prefer to re-share on your blog itself.

2. Evergreen up your content

Basically remove anything that can overly date your content. There’s nothing wrong with posting about events that are time defined. But these aren’t going to be something you can easily re-use. I used to write a lot of posts opening with lines like ‘This week I went to-‘, which can it very obvious it’s not fresh. So go back into your old posts, see if you can ‘evergreen’ them up and you’ve got ready made content to re-use.

3. Make it easy to navigate

It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s worth putting a bit of time to make your blog easy to navigate. You might not have menus as an aesthetic choice, which is fine. But I believe you can be practical and be creative. A navigation menu with pages that link to old posts make it simple for visitors (and search engines) to find them. Remember to make your URLs user and SEO friendly (not just a bunch of numbers or random words).

4. Talk to people

One of the best things about having a blog, especially on a more niche subject, is being able to interact with people. You can make some great connections and be part of an online community, whilst hopefully gaining some followers. It doesn’t take a minute to reply to comments on your posts or post comments on other blogs you follow.

5. Generate posts with a ‘brain dump’

Coming up with ideas for new blog posts can be tricky. If you’re struggling, just start dumping down ideas. Open a post, type a few lines or paragraphs, save it and move on. Aim to get down five or six at a time. They don’t have to be good or anywhere near well written. It’s just getting down somethings that *could*  be posts. Then go back and start fleshing them out. And if they’re just not going to work, bin them.

6. Use short posts

You don’t have to do a long, written post every time you blog. A short paragraph, a collection of images or even a video can work just as well. In fact with such demand on people’s time, especially on the Internet, they could even be more effective.

7. Blog on the go

Blogging platforms have apps or mobile versions of their sites. And whilst we all need to take a break from the Internet occasionally, having the ability to blog on the go means you can note down ideas as they come to you. Plus you can use time waiting for the train for example to work on a post or two.

Those are my ideas – what are your top tips to get your blog to do the hard work for you?

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Download ‘Under this Skin’ for just 99p

Under this Skin book cover image

Trude doesn’t expect much from life anymore. Least of all a mysterious box, a possible romance and some distinctly unusual ‘growing pains’…

In case you weren’t aware, ‘Under this Skin’, my dark, funny and downright odd e-book is now only 99p on Amazon Kindle.

If you’re not sure whether it’s the kind of thing for you , try 6 Reasons Why you Might Want to Buy my Book. Or read the first few pages on Amazon for free.


Walking in Middle Earth – Puzzlewood

Have you ever wanted to roam around Lothlorien looking for the elves? Or test your courage in Mirkwood against the foul things that dwell there? Well pop into Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean and you can.

You’ll need a smidge of imagination, but not much to understand why this place is said to have inspired JRR Tolkien’s visions of Middle Earth.

Puzzlewood is an ancient woodland, where ore was mined from Roman times and possibly earlier. It’s caves have eroded away leaving moss covered rock formations, hidden caves and lush green tangles of trees and bushes

When you first arrive it doesn’t look like much, a car park leading to some huts, a cafe and a playground. But move beyond that, down a small path and through the gate and you find yourself in a place that doesn’t seem to exist.

Steps were added in the 19th Century to make it easier to walk around but be warned, it’s uneven and slippery underfoot. Those who have mobility problems may find it tricky to get around.

It’s no surprise this magical place has been the filming location for ‘Merlin’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ and most recently ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’. This is a place of other worlds, when a break in reality has allowed us to catch a glimpse of a hidden fairytale kingdom.

I don’t think I could possibly find words to describe it. I took a lot of pictures, but I’ve tried not to put too many on here, they can only give a flavour of the wonder.

We went at half term so it was fairly noisy and child-filled, but you could find quieter spots in the 14 acres. Be careful around the place though, it’s slippery.

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Abandoned Buildings in the Azores – Part 2

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores interior

The Monte Hotel is a rather different to Gerna Manor, the derelict building I wrote about in part 1. It’s a lot bigger, far more accessible and has an interesting story behind its rise and fall.

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores

Perched high above the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, you can understand the attraction of building a hotel here. It’s stunning views are a tourist attraction even today, and the Monte was a luxurious place. It had 88 rooms, two restaurants, a bank, a hairdresser – even a nightclub.

But high end tourism can’t be sustained by views alone. In the end, its location worked against it. It’s difficult to get to along winding narrow roads and the beautiful lake is often shrouded in fog. In addition, the Monte was built in the late eighties, years before the Azores had any kind of major tourism. So the hotel closed its doors only two years after it opened.

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores staircasePhoto of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores entrance

But it wasn’t re-purposed or pulled down. The story goes that for nine years or so it was guarded and fenced off. Then the guards stopped being paid so they stopped well, guarding. The fences disappeared and nature returned.

You can now wander freely about the majority of the vast building, stripped of any internal decor except some sodden carpets. The concrete shell is decorated by graffiti and mould, but the level to which you can explore is disconcerting. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to doing some real urban exploring.

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores interior

Its balconies and rooftop make an excellent places to get an unspoiled view of the lake. With parking for a viewpoint opposite, it’s also easy to access if you can find a parking space.

I’ll admit I had a very eerie feeling walking about the place, not just because of my natural feeling that i was trespassing. Because of it’s recent age, it’s almost post-apocalyptic – as if I’d stumbled into part of the ‘Fallout’ series of video games. You can just about visualise the guests and staff sleeping, eating and living in luxury (there are some ‘before’ photos online which are fascinating and very eighties).

Photo of Monte Palace Hotel, Azores interior rooms

It provided some serious brain food and I have a nice short story (or possibly even film script) brewing about the place.

If you’re going anywhere around the lakes and have an interest in such things, I’d advise a careful visit even if you just stand outside and look. Has anyone else explored the Monte hotel? Or somewhere similar?

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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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