A Visit to Stonehenge

Even though it’s not far from neck of the woods, I’ve only just got round to visiting Stonehenge.

It helps that we’ve joined English Heritage as it’s not cheap to visit the stones. Understandable I suppose, given that it is one of the most famous sites on the planet and they have got a rather good visitors centre. Inside is a 360 display of the stones, plus an exhibition on their history and artefacts found at the site.

There’s been many a story inspired by these great, ancient stones and the burial mound covered landscape that surrounds them. I shall let the pictures speak for themselves.

Who else has been to this magnificent place? What were your thoughts?

 

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Visiting Virginia Woolf – A trip to Monk’s House

Monk’s House was once the home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Today it’s owned by the National Trust. It’s a simple, unassuming 18th century cottage with a beautiful big garden and orchard.

Virginia writing shed can be found in this orchard. And she resides here too, her ashes scattered amongst the trees.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf owned this place as a retreat from London. In it they made welcome several notable members of the ‘Bluestockings’ literary and artistic set in the 1930s.

There’s a real sense of simplicity about the place. It’s a home not a grand place to show off. Which isn’t to say it’s not interesting. It’s full of books and colourful rugs, painted chairs and vases full of flowers.

If you’re a member of the NT and you’re into your authors, this is a good place to visit and it doesn’t take long to go round.

The garden is delightful and many a visitor was enjoying a picnic on that summers afternoon. You can see why Virginia and Leonard found a creative bolthole here.

I think you either love Virginia work or admire it and I’d say I fall into the latter category. I’ve read a number of her works (favourite is The Years) and I’ve been fascinated by her themes, her use of words but I’m not as passionate as I know some will be. But her influence on the literary world and development of Feminism cannot be underestimated. So if you’re in the vicinity, why not pop in and look around.

Anyone else been to Monks House?

“Under this Skin” available to buy on Amazon!

“Under this Skin” ebook is available on Amazon! 

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The link goes to Amazon UK Kbut it’s up on other countries websites too – just search for “Under this Skin”.

And you can borrow it for free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited customer.

If you’re not sure if it’s right for you, check out my blog post 6 Reasons you Might Want to Buy my Book. Plus you can read the first few pages on the posting itself.

So go give it a look!

Visiting Alice Liddells Grave

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Any fan of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ will know that its eponymous heroine is based on a real person. Alice Liddell was the fourth child in the Liddell family. They were friends with Charles Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll and it was on a boating trip that he whipped up the tale of Alice and the White Rabbit which Alice encouraged him to write down. ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ were born.

Alice lived most of her life in and around Lyndhurst in the New Forest. And it’s handily not that far away from where I live. It seemed only right that after photographing Lewis Carroll’s final resting place, I should do the same for Alice herself.

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You can find her around the back of the rather grand St Micheal and All Angels. A handy sign points the way. On the headstone, Alice is referred to as ‘Mrs Reginald Hargreaves’, which does jar, but put that down to the times in which she lived.

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The grave itself has a rather lovely white stone memorial. It contrasts with the very apt red and white rose bushes planted inside.

 

If you’re ever passing through, I would definitely recommend stopping by to  see this charming site.

 

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Lewis Carrolls Grave, Guildford
Jane Austen’s Grave, Winchester
Take Five Books

Have you got a Colouring Book?

Image of colouring pencils

Adult colouring books are all the rage. And by ‘adult’ I mean they’re more complicated than ones for the kids, not that they’ve got er, ‘adult’ subject matter (maybe yours do, I’m not judging). You can’t walk into a book shop without falling over a table full of them, swoops and curls of black and white, sometimes with a hint of gold to look extra classy.

They seemed to appear as therapy for a range of mental health issues, including simple stress relief. The market for them has certainly exploded over the past couple of years, so there’s definitely a lot of people doing them.

I’ve got an Alice in Wonderland one (‘natch) that I’m working on.

As a child, colouring books were stressful, as my overwhelming perfectionism did away with any ‘fun’ I might have had. Now, older and wiser, I just go with whatever pencil comes out of the box.

Anyone else out there got the colouring book bug?

In Real Life

The real world rushed into focus recently in the worst way possible. It’s why I’ve been so quiet on here. It was a full-on bolt from the blue and it’s sent everything I knew spinning.

We write to escape reality. Perhaps this is most true if you write fiction, but even those whose work is ultra realist are still escaping into the story. The beginning, the middle and the end. The place where we are in control. Where we have the power to go straight, diverge, rewind, erase and, if we don’t like where we’re going, switch off completely. The real world becomes clear and easy to hold. But now the sharp edges of life are here and they’re staying. They an’t be rewritten and they an’t be erased. These times remind me why we escape real life but also of the best parts of it. The people I love. You have to hold them tightly along with our precious armour; our words. It’s scant protection, but it’s all we’ve got.

Where's the oddest place you've done it

Write I mean!

On trains and buses, boats and rooftops, beaches, balconies and the bottom of the sea, we writers will do it anywhere (get your minds out of the gutter please!) I’m sure you know what it’s like to have the Muse (or just the need to flex those writing muscles) strike at an unexpected moment.

Personally, the oddest place I’ve done it was a department store. Working 9-5, you can only re-arrange the cushions and lights and mirrors so many times before you start to feel a bit zombified. In the long periods between customers (because no-one buys lights on a Wednesday afternoon), I used scraps of paper we kept for customer notes to scribble out a ghost story set in, yes, a department store.

So, where’s the oddest place you’ve done your writing?

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4 Roadblocks to your Writing – And 4 ways to Steamroll them!

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For every writing problem you have, there is an answer.

Not necessarily an easy answer that involves lamps and Genies but an answer nevertheless.

Here are 4 common roadblocks that stop you from writing – and 4 ways to steamroll them flat.

1) I don’t have time to write

When I was younger, there was a TV show about a boy with a watch who could stop time. I think everyone would kill for one of those, writer or not.

You’re allowed to have a busy life, a job, a family, kids, pets and all sorts of other commitments. You’re allowed to have days when you don’t write. Don’t feel bad about them.

But –

the fact remains that your book/short story/poem/screenplay isn’t going to write itself. So you’re going to have to make time. That might mean making a few little sacrifices; you wake up a bit earlier, you write in your lunch break or skip an evening TV show for a couple of hours of writing instead. If you don’t drive on your commute, you could fit in a few words then. Or even keep a notepad in the toilet – multi-tasking to the extreme!

2) I’m just not inspired

You can’t write without inspiration right? Well…actually, you can. People who write for a living don’t have a choice. It may sound mercenary but if you have to, you’ll find something to write about.

If you’re stuck on a scene, skip it and move on. Try editing something you’ve already written. Or go and write something completely different to keep your mind active until you’re ready to go back to your WiP. Blog posts are good!

Physical activity can also get the creative juices flowing. A simple walk can work wonders for the old noggin. A trip to the Library is even better. Grab a book to find your inspiration.

3) I’m not sure my writing is any good

Join the club, we’ve got jackets.

Every writer ever, in the history of writing, has doubted their work or their writing abilities. And not just once either. It’s completely natural. And it may be that what you’re writing on isn’t going to work out.

Step back. Let your work breathe. When you return to it, give it a the once over and, if you decide to scrap it, don’t chuck it entirely. Keep a copy so that if nothing else you can cannibalise it for ‘parts’.

You also need to remind yourself why you writeWhy do these characters dance through your through your head and onto paper? Because they need to. Because you need to. You may not be the next Charles Dickens (I know I’m not), but you will always have to write. 

4) I keep getting distrac-oh a butterfly!

The internet is a wonderful and terrible place. So are Netflix and Instagram  and all the other distractions of the digital age. When you turn on your computer to write, you open up world of procrastination right at your fingertips. I know this. I’ve already been distracted six times in the last paragraph.

Hmm…what was I saying?

You can try swapping your laptop for a pen and paper. But if you’re anything like me, you type faster than you can write anyway. Then you’ll need to get serious and unplug the internet. You can do this literally or by using handy apps from Chrome or Microsoft. Use them to block the Internet on your computer for as long as you need to get things done.
Or try a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, with or without music, to help you focus.

And hide the TV.


 

What are your top tips to get past major writing difficulties?

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An Explanation of the Continuous Necessity

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You write
so that when you fall,
your descent will be arrested,
by a silver net of words
tied in knots
onto the walls.

And you ask,
are they strong enough,
tough enough, tall enough,
what if they just break
so that you crash into
the floor?

So you write
and on you tie them
knots with bows
and knots with snarls,
knots with no one else around them,
knots fixed
into your soul.

For you know
the way you speak
in those tight,
serrated thoughts,
fingers stained with psychic ink,
so permanence
is taught.

And it never
ceases moving,
the story rolls forever,
blind and bullish,
never ending,
minds working
without a hold.

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Raised in the fantasy way

R2-D2 toy

I grew up surrounded by fantasy and sci-fi. Maybe that’s why it’s what I love to write now.  Bedtime stories were The Hobbit, Wind in the Willows, Roald Dahl. Daytime video viewing was Star Wars, Willow, Labyrinth and all the Disney films. It’s still seen as odd if you’re into fantasy and happen to be female. People assume you aren’t into it for the ‘right’ reasons, whatever they are. Sexist bollocks of course!

Anyway, all this leads to the fact I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens last week. I went with my boyfriend, who’s decently into fantasy but didn’t grow up with Star Wars like I did. We had the toys, the books, the games, you name it. I was the one at the screening with the Star Wars T-shirt! They’ll be no spoilers, but suffice to say both I and the boyfriend loved it. It brought back the feeling of watching the original films, with the added bonus of being on a very big (IMAX) screen that practicaly swallowed me into the story.

What did you think of the film?  And are you a fantasy fanatic?

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