Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Winner of Plots and Plotting is....




Thank you to everyone who commented on the last post and as promised all the names went into a draw to win a copy of Plots and Plotting by Diana Kimpton.

A long time ago my beautiful dog Indy picked a winner from a cowboy hat for a blog competition and I had ideas of Dusty following in his footsteps.

But I couldn’t find the cowboy hat. So I put the pieces of paper outside thinking Dusty might choose one as he loves picking things up, but they started blowing round the garden. Once I'd retrieved them from various bushes, I weighed down each name with one of Scout's puppy treats – which meant I could unfold the paper so the names were visible (just wish I'd used a darker pen!).

Dusty was watching from inside, licking his lips while I took a photo of the names. Meanwhile Harley strolled up wanting to know what was going on.

What's all this?


I hoped to be able to get a photo of the first treat Dusty took, but before I could let him out, it seemed Harley made the decision on his behalf and I had to agree with her that as the longest serving four legged member of this household, she had that right.

Don't Mind If I Do



So there you have it – congratulations to LL Cool Joe Joey's Pad! I’ll be in touch so we can get the book sent out to you.

The Winner!


By the time Dusty and Tinks came out, all the treats had gone!

What did we miss?


Thank you again to Diana for her lovely guest post and for giving away a copy of her book.



Friday, 22 June 2018

Guest Post by Diana Kimpton – Win a signed copy of Plots and Plotting





As soon as I heard that Diana Kimpton had written a book about plotting, I went straight to Amazon and bought myself a copy. As I read it I felt as if this book had been written for me. I have found it hugely inspiring and I highly recommend it. 



I am delighted that Diana has written a post for this blog and everyone who comments will go into a draw to win a signed copy of Plots and Plotting. The winner of the book will be announced on Sunday, 1st July. 

Now over to Diana!



When I first became a writer, I struggled to write anything longer than a picture book or short story. I was so bad that my first attempt at a novel was rejected for having a weak plot and a flat ending. I was devastated by that comment so I dived into books on story structure in an attempt to learn to plot.

After lots of study, I could recognize inciting incidents, pick out turning points and have a good stab at analysing the hero's journey. I could even spot what was wrong with some of the bad films and books I came across. But that didn't help me create my own plots, because story analysis is a completely different skill from story creation. However hard you study a finished book or film, you can't tell how the ideas came together in the writer's mind.

In response to the advice often given to writers, I tried creating characters and seeing where they would go. But mine packed up and left in chapter 3 because the story was so boring. Then I tried working out a chapter by chapter breakdown. But that acted like a straightjacket on my creativity and resulted in the bad novel I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Finally I discovered step outlining: a technique that freed my creativity and took me from rejection to selling a million copies of my books.  It lets me start with any scene in my story and work backwards or forwards from there to create my plot. I usually work out a complete step outline before I start writing as that minimises the number of drafts I have to do. But sometimes I start writing earlier and use the step outline to help with the rewriting or I use a stop and start technique of plot, write, plot, write. There is no right way to work and no set rules. Step outlining gives you the freedom to find a way of plotting that works for you and your story.   

My methods have worked so well for me that I decided to pass them on to other writers. But when I started writing Plots and Plotting, my test readers asked for examples to help them see how my ideas work in action. That created a problem. I couldn't use other people's books because I didn't know how their writers created them, and I couldn't use my own books either because I couldn't remember exactly how I worked out their plots. In the end, I decided to demonstrate step-outlining live by developing a brand new story as I wrote - revealing all my mistakes, changes of mind and occasional flashes of inspiration in the process. I don't know if I'll ever turn that plot into a novel,  but I've enjoyed providing an insight into how a writer's mind works and the feedback I've had from readers suggest they enjoy it too.

I've noticed that this blog has lots of photos of dogs. I don't have one so I thought you'd like to see a photo of my horse instead.  He gets a mention in the book because I bought a horse to help with my research for There Must Be Horses.  (Well that was my excuse anyway).



Diana Kimpton is the author of more than 40 books, including her successful Pony-Mad Princess series. She writes for adults as well as children and many of her books have been translated into other languages. You can find out more about her at www.dianakimpton.co.uk

Plots and Plotting is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com 



Saturday, 9 June 2018

A Bit of a To Do!


I took this photo on the 20th May of a swan family on one of the dykes. Eight cygnets! What a handful – or wingful - those parents have. I can’t zoom my phone camera in any more for some reason.



I got this one today. Very happy to see all eight cygnets, but not happy not being able to zoom in.



There was a bit of a to do in the garden this morning. Shrieking magpies, other birds joining in. Noticed Tinks on the fence by the oak tree being mobbed.

Dusty shot out and immediately spotted something bouncing about in the bushes – young magpie!

I raced across the garden and grabbed him, meanwhile the young magpie fluttered behind the tree and Tinks jumped down to pursue. I grabbed Dusty and got him in just as Harley shot out. The young magpie ended up right outside the patio door with Tinks almost on it, but Hubby managed to catch Tinks just in time and as he put her inside, Harley shot across the garden. He caught Harley just as the young magpie disappeared under the gate.

The whole thing only lasted a few seconds, but wow, it was intense! How anyone gets pleasure from having one animal hunt another is beyond me! I felt sick afterwards thinking what could have happened.

I went out the front and checked under the cars, but there was no sign of the youngster, so I assume it managed to fly off and rejoin its parents.

But there was an even bigger to do on Monday.

I found the remains of a baby bird in our downstairs loo/utility room. Cleared it up feeling sad and muttering about murdering cats. Then a bit later we heard a bird tweeting in there. It was coming from inside where all the pipes are boarded in.

Hubby wrestled the bottom panel off and there was just one baby bird in there with very few feathers. I was in tears thinking there was no hope for the poor little thing which must have fallen about 20 feet down the shaft, but we lined a box with kitchen paper and loo paper and some clean hay and popped her in.

I reckoned we had an 8-10 day old-ish female house sparrow. I didn’t hold out any hope at all, but I started feeding her.

I took this photo on Wednesday.



We saw Tinks later with her arm right in the gap beside the loo waste pipe fishing about behind the panel which is presumably how she got the other poor little thing. They must have fallen about 20 feet down the shaft.

Yesterday I transferred the sparrow from the box to a cage (cheap one I picked up) so she had more space to test her wings (and would be safer), but she hopped up on the side of the box and fluttered across the bed and onto the floor. A good sign I thought!

I took this photo today and just look at those feathers! If you can see them that is. It isn't a great photo.  Amazing how much she’s developed since Monday.



She’d just had a meal and was settling down to sleep. I am trying very hard not to imprint on her as I want her to be wary of humans and I never let her see the dogs or cats for obvious reasons.

Letting her go when the time comes (and I hope it does) is going to be hard! But there are a lot of sparrows out there for her to join up with.

Talking of things growing rapidly, Scout is now way taller than Poppy and Dusty. This was her at the beginning of May.



Two weeks later!



And this was last week when she was playing in the sea with Poppy while Dusty stands patiently waiting for someone to throw a ball for him!



When they’re at home, it’s Dusty and Scout that play together – constantly! The only time they stop is if we separate them and once they're apart, they both flake out - as do I!



Thursday, 12 April 2018

Puppy Love


Dusty is well and truly besotted with Scout. They never stop playing and we have to separate them at times just so they can both get some rest.

Dusty had his 6 monthly check up at the vet’s and he’s put on two kilos and now weighs 16.5 kilos which is a far more respectable weight. That’s a lot of weight to put on, but he’s always been at the very low end of low and as skinny as a rake. Lucy said he was “perfect” and that some of the increase could be down to muscle, but she certainly wasn’t worried. Phew.

Last year I changed him to a different brand of dog food. The one I had used for my dogs for nearly 20 years just didn’t seem to suit him at all and we couldn’t get him to gain weight. I looked into it and checked on various forums and a name that kept coming up as being a good quality food was Skinner’s Field and Trial.

I’ve got him on their Duck and rice variety for dogs with sensitivities – and it suits him very well. He looks sturdier. And it’s half the price of the other food which is a bonus.

Scout has started training classes. She seems to grow before your eyes and is almost as tall as Dusty now. It’s difficult to get a photo of them standing together because when we’re at home, they’re normally rolling around the floor snorting and snuffling!





Settled after a walk


Did you see Spring? It lasted all of two days and now we seem to be back in Autumn! It’s all topsy-turvy.

It was nice while it lasted


Saturday, 17 March 2018

Scouting for pups!


I haven’t posted recently because there was nothing to post about except Christmas and snow and I think we all had enough of that thank you very much! Although we seem to have a covering out there again just now.

But something exciting and life changing happened just over a week ago. I went with my daughter to pick up her new puppy and this past week has been all about settling her in. It was four years almost to the day since we brought Dusty home.

She already knows that I pick her and Poppy up in the mornings to bring her back here and happily goes home again later in the day.

She’s called Scout and is a mix of four different breeds. I shan’t tell you what they are, but see if you can guess. If you want to that is.

Her colours are black, honey, white and reddish brown. She’s about twice the size Dusty was when we got him.

Here she is.

Scout


Tinks, who is the most laid back cat I have ever met, went straight up to her and kissed her on the nose. No puffed up tail or arched back or huge black eyes. 

Tinks and Scout


Harley. Well Harley did this the first time she saw her, but she now accepts her. They even rubbed noses yesterday!

Harley


Dusty has been better with her than I dared hope. His record with other dogs is odd to say the least. Some he’ll be friends with and yet others he’ll bark at for no apparent reason. He's starting to catch on that the new addition wants to play and he's playful himself, so I see fun and games ahead.

In the photo below, Scout had rolled the treat ball towards Dusty and he was trying to decide whether to check it for more treats or roll it back. When he first met her and for the first few days, he's been so calm, like a different dog. I don't expect that to last.

Poppy, Dusty and Scout


When she goes outside and has a wee or poo, she immediately comes to you for a treat – and she’ll sit for that. If she goes indoors, she uses a puppy pad – unless she misjudges, but there have been few accidents. We were a bit concerned because she sleeps so much, but then realised we are so used to high energy dogs (mentioning no names Dusty-never-stops) that she’s just a normal pup.

She comes alive when the kids get home from school. She adored them all from the very start. And I fell in love with her the minute I saw her. It’s amazing just how fast they worm their way into your heart isn’t it.

Her two younger little people knew nothing about her and came home from school and there she was. They were over the moon!

Meeting one of her little people for the first time

 Hope everyone is okay, keeping warm and looking forward to Lovely Spring!



Saturday, 16 December 2017

Wrapping Up For 2017




Tinks helped me wrap the Christmas presents (well I say help, I mean she took up the sunny spot on the table so I worked round her until she decided the bag with all my wrapping paper in looked very comfy and sent rolls of wrapping paper flying across the floor, then she went off in a huff because obviously I tricked her into thinking the wrapping paper bag was some sort of soft squishy bed).

Tinks


Talking of cats in huffs, Harley wasn’t speaking to me when I took this photo.

Harley


I keep treats in the cupboard behind me and she taps me on the shoulder until I give her some. If I don’t move fast enough, she starts shredding magazines, pulling tissues out of the box and throwing things on the floor. When that didn’t work the other day, she said, “It would be a shame if this little china unicorn that you treasure so much were to get broken.” Then she gave it a smack and it flew off the shelf and landed with a sickening crack on my mum’s old Toby jug. Luckily the sickening crack was just a noise and nothing was broken. “Now will you give me a treat?” she said.

I said I certainly would not because her bottom is starting to look big in that fur coat. That’s why she came and sat on my mouse mat with her back to me. What do you think? Of course I caved and gave her some. She might be a little gangster, but she’s my lovely little gangster. 

As I was typing this, she started with the shoulder tapping. The photos aren't great, but I managed to catch her in the act!

Ahem - Excuse me

I'm here!
For heaven's sake woman, tap tap, give me a treat!


She likes to keep my printer warm too.

Every Printer Should Have One


If Dusty wants a treat from the cupboard, he tries to dig his way into it (I think Harley tells him to do that). Hm, I think keeping treats in there was a big mistake. Every time I open the door to get out the sellotape or a new printer ink or an envelope, Harley pops out of her little house-bed and Dusty pings out from under my desk.

Dusty



This is me wrapping up for this year and wishing you a very Happy Christmas. I can’t tell you how excited I am that we’re less than a week away from the Winter Solstice and the nights starting to pull out again!


Sunday, 12 November 2017

November


Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t like this time of year. Perhaps it is because my dad died in November when I was 18 and I have always felt sad around this time. And of course there is so much sadness surrounding Armistice Day when we remember so many who lost their lives.

This photo was taken in Malta about ten years before I was born. I must have been that twinkle in his eye. It's a favourite of mine because I can see both my boys in him.

My Dad


This week it will be six years since Tilly died. My funny, special, loving little dog. The first and only girl dog I ever had. It still feels raw. Perhaps because of the hopelessness that surrounded her decline and death. The way we knew we were losing her, but there was nothing we could do. I still feel the shock of realising she’d gone blind – and I didn’t know then that it was a result of liver disease. She had such a poor start in life and we didn’t get her until she was 8 months old. I’ll never forget the bond I had with her. I won’t say from the start because she barked at me for 90 minutes solid, but when I brought her home, she climbed on my lap in the back of the car and that was it - bonded. She never left my side. If I was ill in bed, she stayed with me, not even going downstairs to go out in the garden. If I went out, she howled miserably (Dusty does that too!) even with other people in the house.

My Tilly


I’ve loved all my dogs and cats and none any more than any of the others, but there is a corner of my heart that will always be bruised by her loss. She used to make me smile too, so much. And she was so clever. Indy and Oakley used to stand back and let her open doors for them. Despite being the smallest of the gang, she used to rescue them from other dogs.

I remember once – at this time of year – a load of geese were gathered on the field. She ran round them in a wide arc and disappeared into the glaring sun so that she could emerge from the glare, startling them all into the air. She was so pleased with herself! She never caught anything, never wanted to, but she did like to have fun.

A good thing that happened this month was visiting my youngest son and his family. I don’t know why, but I decided to take a photo of the halfway point between there and here. I always feel when we get to Stansted that we are either nearly there or nearly home. And sometimes we get to see planes flying low which I love! Never seem to have any children in the car though when that happens – typical isn’t it.

M11


Several mornings running I’ve seen Mute swans flying from the marshes to the boating lakes. I haven’t yet been able to get a decent photo! So this will have to do I’m afraid. The only sound they make is that loud wing whooshing.

Another bird blur


Speaking of swans, I took a picture of these on the Dock River during one of my walks before school pick-up. You’d hardly know there was a busy road behind me carrying all the port traffic, an industrial estate to the left of the river and the big shops, Morrisons, B&M etc to the right – and the port straight ahead. It's quite a nice and surprisingly peaceful spot to stop and think for a while.

Dock River


I will be glad once November is over and the Christmas lights start to appear (some people have already started) and the evenings will be darker, but bright. In December we can look forward to getting the shortest day out of the way as the nights start to pull out and we head towards spring!