Am Writing: Inspiration from a Vintage Cake Plate

10 Dec

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When my main character, Eve, sees a photograph of a Victoria sponge, oozing with jam and cream and nestled contentedly on a vintage plate on the front cover of a food magazine, she is taken back to her childhood. Eve’s nana, a huge presence in her life whilst growing up, had that exact same plate. And would use it to serve that exact same cake.

Food, particularly cake I feel, is extremely evocative of the past. Just one smell, one glimpse, one bite and it takes you back to a particular point in time. For many this is their childhood. Fairy cakes sprinkled with coconut remind me of my mamma’s house, lemon cake reminds me of my nana’s. Apple cake reminds me of my teenage years. Cherry scones is my mum.

I saw this cake plate today in a vintage shop. And I knew it was the one to feature in my novel. It’s a little small, but back when Eve’s grandmother baked, cakes were smaller.

The word count this past week has been paltry. But now, thanks to this plate, I’ve been inspired.

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Am Reading: Four Favourites Read Recently

4 Dec

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Thanks to my job on Novelicious I come across some fantastic book recommendations. The only problem I have, however, is finding the time to read them all. I have piles of them.

On my kindle (which used to be my son’s but I pinched it off him) I’ve also got quite a few books. And quite a few samples too which I need to read before purchasing the entire book. (I love samples.) I used to be a real sceptic of the electronic book, and I’m actually quite a latecomer to the party, but now I enjoy reading books that way, particularly when travelling. And some books are only available that way, or come out first that way, with a hardcopy being published up to a year later. I do adore the physical copy though. I don’t think that’ll ever change.

The four books above are four books I thoroughly enjoyed this year. Lucy Diamond’s was a paperback but the rest were all read on the kindle.

One Night in Italy by Lucy Diamond – Three women come together during an Italian evening class. Possibly my favourite Lucy Diamond novel yet.

What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy – obviously about cake, this is a witty and rather fabulous story of Marie, who decides to follow Mary Berry’s recipes to the letter and in doing so learns more than just baking.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Eleanor the new girl at school and Park, according to Eleanor, is impossibly cool. A story of first love.

The Story of You by Katy Regan – a beautiful story of how one summer as a teenager defined the woman Robyn is today.

My Month in Pictures: November 2014

3 Dec

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There is much banging and crashing – drills, cutters, saws – all whirring and throbbing away in what is normally my sanctuary. Eight men are currently in my kitchen turning the room into an amazing space – and it is distracting me somewhat from my writing. As the novel writing is stilted, rather than updating you on my word count, I’m going to focus on the month of November.

During this month I went on my first writing retreat. It was marvellous and Julie’s top tip for post-it usage has been novel-changing.

I’ve been out on many an autumnal dog walk with DogFace. Loving the leaves and the changing landscape. The chickens have been wormed ready for winter and I’m now scattering straw about for them. They love to scratch about and when it’s wet they get fed up and their eggs also get muddy! The straw gives them something to scratch and peck at – if they find a bit of wheat they are ecstatic – and keeps them warm in their shelters when it rains.

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M Delafield was a recommendation I saw on twitter by Rachael Lucas and Sarra Manning. I wrote about it on Novelicious and treated myself to the book. I’m currently reading and throughly enjoying.

The Eat Me picture with Alice in Wonderland was from a local store specialising in vintage goods. I thought it would be perfect for my kitchen as it is cake and fiction thus food in fiction.

And finally, my new shelves for my recipe book collection in my kitchen. The kitchen project is ongoing but it started in November. Lets hope it’s now only a few more days till silence decsends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burnt Chocolate: Draft Two – Week Two

27 Nov

_DSC0008There is a lot of coffee being drunk here. As I mentioned in my last post, I have builders in and out the house at the moment, but I’m still managing to get some words down. Don’t ask me how. Actually I do know how. It is because of the Writing Retreat. I am still fired up and inspired. Without that retreat I would have used this time, whilst the house was in chaos, not to write. But I have to write. Because the novel is there fully formed in my head and I need to get it down before I lose the spark of it all.

So coffee is keeping me going. Admidst the noise of the drills, the banging and the crashing, and the blimmin’ dog wanting to go and see what’s happening all the time, I have managed to write 5280 words. I wrote a contract to myself to write 1000 words a day 5 days a week and so far I’m achieving that. Hopefully, as the house gets quieter, the word count will increase even more.

The post-its, by the way, are working out very well.

Gorgeous Christmas Novels

24 Nov

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Our house is completely upside down at the moment as we renovate the kitchen, so I’m taking refuge in other worlds, and the fire, to escape the chaos around me.

Last Christmas I intended to read lots of Christmas novels, but I never actually got around to it. The only one I did manage, and thoroughly enjoyed, was Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, you know, the one with that awful Simeon Lee.  

This year, I’ve started earlier. So far, on the kindle, I’ve read Ivy Lane: Winter: Part 4 by Cathy Bramley. Not strictly a Christmas novel as it’s the fourth and final part in the series of mini books around life at Ivy Lane allotments. But it still involves Christmas. I will come back to Cathy’s gorgeous series another time because I adored it and it deserves a whole blog post of its own devoted to it. Needless to say if you fancy checking it out start with Ivy Lane: Spring: Part 1.

After delighting in Rachael Lucas’s debut novel, Sealed with a Kiss, I was excited to read the novella, Sealed with a Christmas Kiss. It was lovely to return back to the Scottish Island of Auchenmor. Far better than dealing with the dust and mess of reality.

Then we have the books pictured above. Carole Matthews always delivers a cracking Christmas novel. The Christmas Party is set over the few days before and on Christmas Day. Tension, emotions running high, love affairs, adultery. It’s got it all.

Then we have The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown. Oh, I adored this book. The story, the characters and the setting. Enhanced beautifully by the map in the front which reminded me of the one in Milly-Molly-Mandy. This was perfect for snuggling down with a glass of white and a roaring fire. I simply adored it and cannot recommend it enough, during this wonderful, yet rather hectic season. Treat yourself. It is a brilliant stress-reliever.

Dying for Christmas, Christmas in the Snow and The Adventures of the Christmas Pudding are next on the to-be-read list. Cannot wait to dive in.

Reading books is what woodburners were made for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burnt Chocolate. Draft Two. Day 1.

19 Nov

The time has come. To stop the research, to stop the planning, to stop the post-its. It is now time to flex my fingers, turn my head from left to right to crick my neck, to make myself a fresh coffee. And start writing. Draft two of Burnt Chocolate.

It was just ten days ago when I arrived home from my first ever writing retreat. This writing retreat, held at Folly Farm in Bristol, was inspirational. It was enlightening. It was practical. And it contained a lovely bunch of writers, who, guess what, were going through similar anxieties to me. So it was also comforting.

The writing retreat, held by Julie Cohen and Rowan Coleman, has enabled me to map out my entire novel in my head. I know exactly how it will go now, give or take a few changes that will happen naturally as I write. I know its theme, I know its elevator pitch (thanks to a fantastically helpful workshop by Danuta Kean) and I have taken out a major plot point which wasn’t working. I have also, thanks to Julie’s brilliant advice in my one-to-one session with her, created actions and a proper plot – always helpful in a story – and I’ve also now got the confidence to tackle the hard bits. These are the emotional bits where I’m going to draw on my own experience, and experiences of others which remind me of my experience, and which upsets me. All a bit cryptic I know, but I’ve also learnt not to discuss the plot of my novel in detail because it will stop me from writing it all down. Fatal.

Julie has a fantastic method of working with post-its. So I’ve copied it. In my post-it layout I’ve got actions (green), emotions (yellow), illness symptoms (orange) and food (pink). Oh yes, there has to be food in my novel. Lots and lots of it.

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I know I am going to do it this time. It helps having an agent waiting for my words to ping into her inbox. Well, when I say waiting I’m sure she’s not sat at her desk drumming her fingers, she has, after all got lots of lovely clients, but it helps knowing that someone is expecting to see something. It is like having a deadline.

Speaking of deadlines, myself and the other writers on the retreat have all promised to have a full draft written by May 2015. I would actually like my full draft written by the end of January but that seems rather tight – so lets say end of February and see where we are.

This blog has also been wiped clean. It is a new start to reflect my mission. It is now going to document my writing adventure, along with all the other things that are dear to me like books, the great outdoors and yes, cake.

In the meantime if you would like to find out about Julie or Rowan’s courses pop over to their websites. Both have different ways of writing but both are amazing and inspiring teachers. They are also extremely generous with their time and advice. They could be just the thing you’re looking for to take your novel to the next level.

But now it is time to take mine to the next level. I’ll just make myself a fresh coffee.

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Let’s Go Outside: Progress

9 Jun

It has been a couple of weeks now since the duck drama and time has given me a bit of perspective. I loved having the ducks around, seeing them outside my office window, rooting about in the grass, or sitting together as a quartet. They made the garden and the pond come alive. But do I miss them? Really? I don’t think I do. I don’t miss their loud quacks for food at stupid o’clock that’s for sure. This time last year I was going to bed at nine because they’d wake me up so early. Because they wouldn’t go into a house they were a lot of effort and worry for little reward.

But still, I’m sure one day I’ll eat my words when we get some more. But not now.

Instead I’m concentrating on the chickens – I bought three more as a direct result of the duck fox attack. At the weekend they were released into the main flock after two weeks being fenced off and everyone seems happy and settled.

What is wonderful after all the heartache is seeing the garden and the trees come into their own. The trees that can blossom have blossomed and now they are in their growth period. Many are no longer sticks but have bushed out, pushed upwards and I’m delighted with their progress.

There is one particular project – the cottage garden with the kitchen garden planned to go behind it  (in a couple of years) we are making headway on. We dug out a bed of heavy clay with a few manky plants in and filled it with good soil, compost and horse manure. I planted lavender in the two corners, along with a flowering currant in the far corner. In the last few weeks we’ve added a mock orange, perennial geraniums, various dianthus and in the centre four different coloured berberis (hope I’ve got the spellings right, it’s all new to me!) I also scattered some seeds for cut flowers – which I won’t do again as for a while you don’t know what is weed and what is seedling – but will hopefully give a fabulous display.

So, these are the before and after pictures. A lot of hard work went into creating this.

Before - soon after we moved in 2012

Before – soon after we moved in 2012

The horrible sub-soil underneath the heathers...ugh.

The horrible sub-soil underneath the heathers…ugh.

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The good stuff goes in and the play park has been relocated.

As it stands today. With new pyracantha hedging along the fence.

As it stands today. With new pyracantha hedging along the fence and new trees along the back.