Tag Archives: writing

Discover Ivy Logan

I met Ivy through the One Stop Fiction Authors’ Resource Facebook Page. She contacted me and asked me to write a guest blog for her website about writers and technology. As I was just told by crime writer Wendy H. Jones at the creative writing workshop in Elgin ‘say yes to everything,’ I said, “Yes, of course!”

I had asked Ivy to give me a week to write the article. The next morning I was still in bed when inspiration hit me and I wrote three-quarters of the text. I had wanted to finish it two days later, but my back pain stopped me from sitting behind my computer. It actually stopped me from sitting and I spent most of the day lying in bed. Yesterday, I finally got some painkillers that worked and I was able to finish my article. I enjoyed writing it.

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The article is called ‘Do writers need to be tech-savvy?’ and you can read the full article on Ivy’s blog here.  She also has another website (this one) where you can find out more about her books and the characters in it.

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Ivy is a passionate character that likes a good laugh and lives for her storytelling. As my father took his time when tucking us girls in at night to answer our questions like ‘why does the world turn?’ and ‘how can fish breathe under water?,’ Ivy’s father would mesmerize his daughters with stories of fantastical worlds and mystic creatures (bless our fathers). She has taken all that on board and is now telling stories of her own. Have a browse on her website and find out more about this new upcoming author.

Image by Anton Ponomarev from Unsplash, edited by Jacky Dahlhaus

Anton Ponomarev

Text Neck – A Writer’s Pain?

I hadn’t heard about ‘Text Neck’ until yesterday. I have been suffering a pain in my upper back, right between my shoulder blades, for four days now. It is most painful when I look down. Not only annoying in daily life but as a writer particularly so when you want to position your fingers correctly on your keyboard or text on your mobile phone. I’ve seen a chiropractor for the problem yesterday. She mentioned one of my legs is longer than the other, loosened up my wrists, and stuck her finger in my mouth ‘to clear my sinuses.’ I left with the same pain in my back. Still in agony, I managed to see the emergency doctor at my GP clinic. ‘Take some aspirin,’ she said. I did, and my pain is still there.

I was very disappointed in these health professionals. The chiropractor didn’t do anything to relieve my pain, the GP wasn’t interested in what caused it. Holistic healthcare doesn’t seem to exist anymore. So I did some research online to find out what was causing my pain and what I could do about it. That’s when I read about ‘Text Neck.’

What is Text Neck?

Text Neck is a repetitive strain injury of the ligaments and muscles in your neck and upper back that keep your head upright. It is primarily seen in young people who use their mobile phones frequently.  People have looked down to read books in the past, but using mobile phones has added to this looking down and often for a substantially more frequent and longer period at a time.

What causes Text Neck?

As we look at our mobile phones, laptops, or tablets to connect with our social media, we look down. It’s this looking down that puts extra strain on the ligaments and muscles in our neck and upper back. Our head weighs about 5-6 kgs. Some people boast of having more brains than others, but let’s not go there now. When we tip our head forward and down, the feel of our head weight increases for our tendons and muscles. The image below gives you an indication of how heavy your head can feel to them.

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The more you let your head hang down to look at your phone, the heavier it gets. Some people get neck pain, some people (like me) get upper back pain, some people get (chronic) headaches. The pain particularly happens when you put your head in the compromising position. I must admit I use my mobile a lot. I Tweet, WhatsApp, Hangout, and use Facebook on my phone. I’ve recently been looking at Instagram too. You have to ‘spread the word of your existence and your books’ as a writer, don’t you? The worst part for me is that it affects my writing on my PC as looking down on my keyboard is extremely painful.

How can you treat Text Neck?

The first thing that needs to be done is to treat the pain and inflammation. The pain is the most common reason people seek out professional help and this should be the first thing they should treat (not stick fingers in mouths to unblock sinuses). It is best to see your GP for this.

Next, your posture should be assessed and corrected. A physiotherapist seems to be the best health professional for this. They can do the physical assessment and give you muscle strengthening, posture correcting, and stretching exercises to ease the current condition, promote healing, and to prevent it from recurring.

What you can do (as a writer) at home is the following:

  • Keep your PC screen and mobile device at eye level
  • Keep your ears above your shoulders, your shoulders above your hips when you’re sitting
  • Keep both feet on a solid surface
  • Take regular breaks from your sitting position
  • Do regular exercises to stretch and strengthen your core muscles
  • Limit your time on your mobile device
  • Learn touch typing

It is also worth noting here how sitting for long periods of time affect our bodies negatively in the long run. There are multiple articles on this topic that are interesting and they are sending out a warning to all people with sitting jobs.

So, do you still want to be a writer? 😀

 

Disclaimer: I am not a health care professional (at least, not for humans) and all my information was gathered from the internet.

Sources:

https://www.spine-health.com/blog/modern-spine-ailment-text-neck

https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/how-avoid-text-neck-overuse-syndrome

http://physioworks.com.au/injuries-conditions-1/text-neck

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2014/nov/24/text-neck-how-smartphones-damaging-our-spines

https://www.spine-health.com/blog/modern-spine-ailment-text-neck

 

Banner photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Unplash, edited by Jacky Dahlhaus

Clem Onojeghuo

Born to be a Writer

Or: Having an Exercise Intolerance

I’m sure I heard Irony giggle when I did my back in due to an exercise in the gym. I have tried again and again to get fit, with little luck so far. I’ll give you a list of what happened over the years.

  1. As a toddler, I have never been able to touch my toes (still can’t, never will), much to the annoyance of my ballet teacher.
  2. Inter-(primary)school running race:  A toddler crossed my path and I had to dive over it to avoid it. I still have the scars to show for it.
  3. Fencing at uni: I was diagnosed with, I kid you not, exercise intolerance. I now have a puffer I never use.
  4. I tried a boot camp: tore a ligament in my foot.
  5. I tried swimming: got calcifications in my shoulder tendons, first left then right side.
  6. Tried boot camp again: got shin splints in both legs.
  7. Bought a treadmill, so I could at least walk. But my Achilles tendons have shortened so much that even walking, i.e. lifting my feet beyond a 90-degree angle, is painful. I also have Hallux limitus (my big toe joint can’t bend normally), so can’t wear high heals either. It appears I can’t beat them but also can’t join them.
  8. Tried going to the gym: did my back in, twice (did the same thing last year).

So you see, I don’t have good experiences exercising. The problem is that I need to exercise if I don’t want to get morbidly obese. I just got my weight back to the border of healthy, but now, with this back problem preventing me from exercising, I don’t know how long this is going to stay there.

I could eat less. I suppose I could. I certainly don’t need the amount of calories with my sitting lifestyle. But food is nice. I like food. Especially the high calories stuff. I certainly have a choice to make here.

In the meantime, I’ll have some ibuprofen, some diazepam (why not get happy as well 🙂 ), and stick my cherry pit bag into the microwave for the zillionth time. Can’t live without my cherry pit bag at the moment.

Get your own  Cherry pit bags yellow/white Floral (24×24) Cherry pit pillow.

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Banner photo by Keit Trysh, from Unsplash

Keit Trysh

Time Management

I just got back from ‘an hour at the gym’. It’s now 11:11am. And I haven’t had my shower yet, so that’s the morning gone. I still have the grocery shopping to do, which will take another two hours. By the time I sit down to work on my cover revamp, it’s time to pick up the kids from school again. Somewhere I have to fit in the sanding and painting of the repatched dressing room ceiling as well.

My husband said this morning, “What are you going to do today?” In return, I asked him, “What are you going to do today?” He answered, “I’m going to work.” I was so jealous. I wished I could say that. I wished I could leave all this household stuff behind and spend eight hours a day five days a week working on my books.

‘Why don’t you?’ I hear you ask. Because that’s not how it works. I am a housewife. I don’t work. I have a hobby. He said so the other day.

Sigh.

Banner photo by Cliff Johnson at Unsplash
Cliff Johnson

Fun Friday!

This last week has been a great week. Not because of the weather. The weather has been dreadful. Rain, rain, and rain again. We didn’t have the basement fill with water for a change though. My husband must have fixed the leaking gutter drain properly earlier this year. The man is so incredibly handy! At the moment he is working on the basement bathroom. The plumbing for the laundry in the dressing room is ready and we’re working on the painting now. Progress!

Spent nearly all day yesterday with my son. He had an appointment with a new orthodontist. This was orthodontist #3. Fortunately, the woman agreed that my son does have a dental problem. His top and bottom teeth are not touching except for the very back molars. Orthodontist #2 didn’t see an issue with that. Orthodontist #1 acknowledged the problem but had an issue communicating. So glad we finally have someone who knows what they’re doing and can explain what needs to be done. Which is not a lot for now. Next appointment = next year.

I have been going to the gym, following instructions of my trainer, and it seems to be paying off. I’m sure I saw the outline of some biceps in the mirror. It takes a lot of time and stamina, but I’m still losing weight while gaining muscles. I must be doing something right.

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Talking about muscles… I lied last week. I said there wasn’t a movie out worth seeing. How wrong was I! We went to see Wonder Woman and it was great. As I have been so incredibly busy, I haven’t been able to write a review yet, but will do soon. For the moment, have a look at those biceps of Gal Gadot. They’re almost like mine 😀 .

The best thing of all last week is, of course, that I finished editing Book 2 of the Suckers Trilogy! I finished it on Monday, but couldn’t send it out to my launch team until yesterday. Even then I had to wait till the afternoon as my son’s download that was supposed to happen overnight (some game or other) didn’t happen overnight due to an obscure reason and took up all of our bandwidth the whole morning and early afternoon.  But the Book is out the door now (not yet on Amazon!). If you’re interested in becoming part of my launch team and receive the book for free, sign up on my Suckers Trilogy website. You can actually read a preview of my first book when you click on the preview button to the top left of my page. Nifty widget, if I may say so myself.

Another fun thing that happened this week was my meeting with two brand new actors, Calum and Katy, for our shoot on the 18th of June with AFP in Belmont Film House. It was so nice meeting them and going through the script. It wasn’t my script this time, but another AFP member’s one. Couldn’t have written it better myself though. It’s going to be such fun.

I must admit I haven’t been sending a lot of memes this week. Too busy. I still found some great ones that could have been applied to certain situations 😀 .

PS: I’ve been tweeking my website look again. I hope you like it 🙂

Writers’ Corner update 17/03/17

Check out my Writers’ Corner update 17/03/2017!

Due to health reasons I took some ‘days off’ this past week and hence am running a bit late. My apologies if you have been waiting for new articles.

In Writers’ Corner I have an article about Character Development. I put it in the magazine 8 days ago, so not sure if you’ve already read it. There’s an article for sci-fi fans which explains how we can now store data in DNA, which blew my mind away. Another article is from the psychology department and explains Why We Feel The Need to Conform – Safety in Numbers. I couldn’t resist putting in an article explaining Dexter’s Darkness. He is my favourite serial killer 🙂 . Get all eight seasons here.

Dexter

I’m afraid there’s nothing new in Focus on Filming. Filming is not a subject that a lot is written about, other than movie reviews and which actor has done/is doing/is going to do what, which is not really about filming itself. Such a shame.

Health Herald has quite a few new articles. One is about an Ancient technique that can dramatically improve memory, but I can’t remember what technique that was (LOL!). A study found that Violent video games DO NOT cause antisocial or aggressive behaviour. Thank heavens for that as my son doesn’t do much else. There’s articles on Why men die earlier than woman, 6 warning signs your body give you before a heart attack, the first physiological test for schizophrenia and depression, and according to another the use of Ibuprofen appears to be linked to increased risk of cardiac arrest (which, btw, is not the same as a heart attack. Just in case you wanted to use the other article for it). And there’s another reason to drink more red wine as a Study Finds Red Wine Compound Slows Aging in Muscles and Neurons. I knew it!

The only article in Sci-Non-Fi is the one on DNA storage. It’s pretty impressive though. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

In contrast of the amount of articles on filming, there is an abundance of articles on photography. For Pretty Pictures, I try to pick out the ones that are do-able by people like you and me, not the ones describing how to use a multi-thousand dollar lens. So, to start off with, there is an article on 9 Common Photography Mistakes – And How to Fix Them. One article talks about Sensor Noise. There are 10 Tips and Tricks for Making Difficult Selections in Photoshop (for if you want to change the background for something else for example). I was very pleased with Adobe’s ‘Make It Now’ Series that Teaches You Photoshop Tricks in Just One Minute. Awesome! Most favourite of all this week was the Landscape Photography Composition Rules You Need to Start Using Today. A fun one I added is on how to Make simple and cheap DIY smoke for photos and videos. It’s very small scale though, but fun. And last I added Tips for Photographing Waterfalls by the Washington Trails Association. Now I wished I had a Neutral Density filter when I was photographing waterfalls in Karijini, Western Australia.

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Writers’ Corner update 01/03/2017

Check out my Writers’ Corner update 01/03/2017!

Flipboard finally seems to be working as per normal, yay! In Writer’s Corner, there are lots of articles for you to ponder over that you could use for your writing. You could polish up on your Books for Understanding Global Politics, find out about what happens during CPR, get your sci-fi story going with the article on the TRAPPIST-1 System or the one about When The Lights Went Out In The Universe. I couldn’t help myself and added an article on Justin Trudeau’s Butt. Something for the romantics amongst us 🙂 .

In Focus on Filming I have an article on what it means to have ‘Green Light’ for screenwriters, an article about The Dark Knight’s Pencil Scene, and a good one on how fighting scenes of Jackie Chan are filmed.

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In Health Herald there is a very interesting article that tells us about a Giant Neuron Wrapped Around the Brain that may hold the key to consciousness. Another article tells us that Under-25s Turn To Mindful Drinking (at last!), and yet another how Good Gut Bacteria Could Transform Your Health. And while you’re reading this, why not do 5 Joint Mobility Exercises to Improve Flexibility and Function?

Sci-Non-Fi has 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2017 for you. Apart from the TRAPPIST-1 System article earlier mentioned and a video example of Future Medical Learning (I just love this one, you’ve got to see it. So cool!).

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I’ve been pretty busy in Pretty Pictures this week. Photography has always been a hobby of mine and I couldn’t resist. I also couldn’t resist adding a few articles beside my pretty pictures. There’s one about Why Black and White Photos are More Elegant at Times and one about Why The Camera Matters, But Not in The Way You’re Thinking. Hmmm, what way could it be then? Go check it out!

 

Courses for Writing Courses

Is it me, or are there more courses for writers available now than ever before? Anybody who wants to be somebody all of a sudden needs to be producing a course. Apparently it’s THE way to make money nowadays. And hence everybody is making courses, to rake in that money.

There are courses on how to become a writer, courses on writing novels, courses on writing good novels, courses on writing a plot, courses on creativity, courses on blogging, courses on making money with blogging, courses on how to make podcasts, courses on editing, courses on publishing, courses on how to market your book, and, to my surprise, courses on making courses.

Of course, people have begun complaining about how useless a lot of these courses are, how bad they are designed, and how much money they have thrown away to do these courses.

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Being a teacher myself (albeit a blue Monday), I can tell you that teaching is no easy thing. It takes skill and knowledge to be able to actually make somebody else understand, retain, and able to use new information properly. There is a reason that there are university courses for making people able to do this and only people who have graduated in these courses are able to teach our children. So why would you pay huge amounts of money for a course that Willy Nilly is offering you?

I’d say, stick with the tried and tested establishments or teach yourself, using all the information that is available for free on the world wide web.

I ain’t got time for this S#!&

The last few days I have been sleeping badly. I was worrying too much about the film club. I also drank a glass of coke or (non-decaffeinated) coffee in the evenings, which probably didn’t help. Anyway, last night I did manage to get some sleep. Just before the alarm went off in the morning I was having a very vivid dream. One about a serial killer who gets his comeuppance by a very cool, Bruce Willis-type dude. WTF! I ain’t got time for this S#!&! I have way too many books on my list to write before I can write this super-duper cool, very suspenseful thriller!

Author Interview with Colin Garrow

A few weeks ago I met Colin Garrow at the foot of Bennachie (the iconic ‘hill’ of Aberdeenshire). Temperatures were freezing, but we had a pleasant walk and a hot coffee afterwards. We thought it would be a fun idea to interview each other and that’s what we did. You can find my answers to Colin’s questions on his web page. Here are Collin’s answers to my questions.

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You’ve mentioned in interviews that you wrote stories when you were young. Can you remember the very first story that you wrote? If yes, what was it about?

The first one I can remember writing was intended to be a novel. It was inspired by ‘2112’ (an album by Canadian rock band, Rush), and was a sort of sci-fi/caveman-type epic. By the time I got to the fourth page, I’d run out of ideas.

Instead of studying literature, like most people think writers do, you went to drama school. What part of drama school influenced your writing the most?

The course I did was more about community drama than acting, so we learned lots of things about running workshops, working with community groups and creative arts, as well as putting on a few plays. Working with other actors helped me to see what worked on stage and what didn’t, and the different styles of theatre (Brechtian, naturalistic, physical etc) all influenced what I went on to write, though it’s more difficult to say how that happened. Basically, my writing suddenly improved, so I can only attribute it to what I learned on the course.

You have written a number of books for children. Did you tell your child/children your own bedtime stories or did you stick to the published ones at the time?

I wouldn’t want to pressurise my son to read my work, though he has read a few chapters from a couple of my books. So, no, when we went through the story-at-bedtime bit, I stuck to books we liked, progressing from the likes of, ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’, to ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks.’

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In the Christie McKinnon stories, your protagonist is female. Why did you choose to write these stories from a female point of view?

The first two children’s novels I wrote had boys as the hero (though both had female sidekicks), so when I started on ‘The Hounds of Hellerby Hall’ I deliberately chose a girl (with a boy for a sidekick). It was also interesting to think about how she would react to the situations she found herself in and how she was influenced by her surroundings – changing attitudes to women etc. Nevertheless, she turned into more of a tomboy than I wanted her to be.

A lot of your stories are set in the past. This requires a lot more research (i.e. time) for writers. What exactly attracts you to write about ‘the olden days’?

Well, research is a matter of opinion – of course it’s possible to do masses of research, but I didn’t want my books to be packed with historical facts, throwing in historically-accurate descriptions just for the hell of it. I wanted just enough detail to give a sense of authenticity. With the ‘Maps of Time’ series, I read a couple of books, the best of which was, ‘Restoration London: Everyday Life in the 1660s’ by Lisa Pickard, as it has loads of info about food, money, jobs and housing. However, I think it’s easy to get bogged down in facts and I didn’t want to bore my readers, so unless I need specific information, I tend to just make it up!

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As to why I write historical fiction – I think it’s that I’ve always had a fascination with the past and how amazing it would be to go back and see what it was like. So I created worlds I hoped would come over as realistic.

Most of your stories are ‘whodunnits.’ Did you ever solve a mystery yourself?

Sadly no. Actually, I’m not at all perceptive and things that’d be really obvious to anyone else tend to go over my head. The only time I can solve mysteries is if when I invent them. (Although, to be fair, since I never know how they’re going to end, I still have to solve them – does that count?)

Besides a number of novels, you have also written a number of short stories and flash fiction. Do you prefer one above another and why?

Short stories are a great way of exploring an idea, so they’re useful exercises if I want to try different writing styles, or genres. I also like them because they force the writer to be concise, throwing away longer passages that might work well if it were a novel, but interrupt the flow in a short story.

I think generally I prefer novels, since they give me something substantial to work on, whereas if a short story isn’t working, I put it aside. At the moment, I’ve got about a dozen stories I’ve started but haven’t yet found interesting enough to finish.

Where/when/how do you get your inspiration for your stories?

In the past, I’ve tried writing exercises as a way of ‘discovering’ something to write about, but now I have a very specific way of working – I come up with a title and use that as inspiration. The first Christie McKinnon book was inspired by Joan Aiken’s ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’, though it was specifically the title that inspired me, because I liked the alliteration and wanted a title of my own that sounded similar, hence ‘The Hounds of Hellerby Hall’. Once I had the title, I wrote the book to discover what had happened at the Hall and why there were hounds involved.

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With ‘Death on a Dirty Afternoon’ it was slightly different, because I also had a first line. In my book on writing, I’d come up with examples of first lines to show how they might be developed. One of them became the first line of the novel, so I had the title and the first line to inspire me. Other than that, it’s just a matter of writing until I get to the end.

 Is there a particular issue you prefer not to write about and, if so, why?

Not sure. I probably wouldn’t write, say, a political thriller, because I don’t know enough about politics to write intelligently on the subject. However, I think it’s important for writers to grow, so I wouldn’t rule anything out.

 If one of your books was chosen to put into a movie, which one would you choose and why?

It would have to be ‘The Architect’s Apprentice’, just because it would be brilliant to see the streets and houses recreated.

What is the ‘most unknown book’ you’ve read that influenced you as a person (not necessarily as a writer)?

I couldn’t tell you the title, since it’s long since vanished into the rubbish tip of my mind, but it was a book I read dozens of times as a kid. It was about a little boy whose dad is missing in Africa, so the boy builds an aeroplane out of bits of junk and flies to Africa to rescue him. It was a lovely book and I still think about it today.

What was the best advice regarding writing you ever received?

It has to be Stephen King’s words of wisdom on the two things you have to do to be a writer:

  1. Read a lot.
  2. Write a lot.

You can find all of Colin’s books here.