Not my best week

Unusual for me, but I’m going to have a moan. Just to balance up my complaints with a positive, I’ll give you a rose photo at the beginning and the end of my post 🙂


My first moan. At the weekend, WordPress decided to develop an error that prevented me from posting comments on other people’s blogs. This was just after I’d completed one of its surveys and sung its praises as a blogging platform. So if any of my followers are feeling neglected by me, blame it on WP.

When it decided to dump every comment I made on some of your blogs, I contacted asking them to check if they were dumping my stuff into people’s spam folders. They sent me a link to fill in form so they could run a test. Not heard from them since. Nothing has changed. Please could you lovely bloggers check your spam folders and let me know if you find anything of mine there.

Today, it’s possible to comment but only after going all around the houses to do so. This involves linking to your blogs via Reader on my site. Entering the comment in the box on your sites, highlighting the comment and doing Control+C, as I know it will be dumped on the first attempt. Then I’m asked to sign in to WP again to make my comment, so I sign in and send the comment and am rewarded by the words “Sorry, this comment could not be posted”, and “WordPress>Error” on my tab button above. So I close your site, go back to Reader, follow the link to the same blog and, Voila! I can post the comment. You are all worth the effort, but it is such a labour of love and means I only have time to visit half the blogs I usually do. If anyone else has encountered this problem and resolved it, please let me know.

It’s nigh on impossible if WP doesn’t have an email address to contact their technicians direct. Instead, you’re told to post something in a forum and wait for an answer there. That’s just fine, if someone responds, but no good at all if your question remains unanswered. But enough of WP for now.

My second moan. It’s July and I have flu. Yesterday my temperature was 102 degrees F and I felt  absolutely terrible, aching all over, nauseous, a foul cough, and unable to get up from bed without almost passing out. Lay on my back all day, being nursed by my dog, while reading and having a short snooze between chapters. To read for so many hours was a good distraction from my ills, and prevented me from shooting malicious thought-arrows at the foreign language student who sneezed all over me in the bus last Tuesday, on my return journey from meeting up with a fellow-writer for the evening.

The novel was The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory, all about Henry VIIIth and wife number four, Anne of Cleves, and wife number five, Katherine Howard. Previously, I read The Other Boleyn Girlwhich was about the story of wife number two, Anne Boleyn, told from the viewpoint of her sister, Mary, who was the King’s mistress before he married Anne. The novels are totally riveting and I’d thoroughly recommend them to anyone who’s interested in history.

When I woke up this morning, my first thought was, apart from still feeling ill/slightly better, that I have a big problem with Henry VIIIth being the founder of the Church of England, considering he was foul, lecherous, and prone to sending people to the Tower and the block or scaffold at a whim.

Anne Boleyn in the Tower
Anne Boleyn in the Tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On an uplifting note, I did find a superb quote about haiku in my inbox this morning, emailed to me by fellow blogger, David Kanigan at Lead.Learn.Live.

“A haiku is not a poem, it is not literature; it is a hand becoming, a door half-opened, a mirror wiped clean.  It is a way of returning to nature, to our moon nature, our cherry blossom nature, our falling leaf nature, in short, to our Buddha nature. It is a way in which the cold winter rain, the swallows of evening, even the very day in its hotness, and the length of the night, become truly alive, share in our humanity, speak their own silent and expressive language.”
– Reginald H. Blyth

Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013: using research as a trigger

At the beginning of this week, on Day 14 of Novel Writing Winter, I came up against the sort of blank wall that threatened to put an end  to my project. Why on earth was my writing proving such a chore, when once it overflowed with joy, energy, and boundless new  ideas? Rather than submit to despair, I came up with some possible culprits.

  • rejection fatigue
  • the harping inner editor
  • higher goals
  • declining youth
  • cynicism about the marketplace
  • economic pressure to succeed
  • the strictures of routine
  • shrinking time syndrome
  • insomnia
  • grey skies
  • the library

Yes, you read it right — the library. More specifically, the public library, rather than one attached to a university or school. Twenty years ago, when I started out learning my craft, libraries were filled with books and not computers. And they were staffed by real librarians consumed with passion for their work, who were enthusiastic to assist you in your research. If they didn’t have relevant material in their local  branch, they would bend over backwards to source books from across England.

In contrast, the last time I visited my local library (a year ago) and asked them to order a book for me, I might as well have asked them to fetch a lump of rock from Mars. This left me two options — to sit in a noisy library at a computer (and that’s another of my complaints, as libraries used to have “silence please” notices pinned up in them) — or sit in my quiet office at my computer with a cup of tea, which I’d try not to spill over the keyboard.

So how did I tackle this week’s blank wall from my desk? I’m writing an experimental minimalist novel, which doesn’t mean it should contain little of interest. Quite the opposite. It requires me to dip into a huge pool of information my brain can’t contain alone, and then strip down that information to the literary equivalent of a pencil  sketch. But I am not a person who enjoys weeks or months of research before embarking on a novel. I prefer to see what questions it throws up during the writing process, and answer or expand upon them during short research breaks, which, as you’ll already have gathered, used to involve trips to the library!

If a writer is to research on-line at home, it requires both focus and immense self-discipline. It means not allowing social networking, emailing, or irrelevant reading material to lure you from your path. The down side of this is that there’s a danger all your on-line contacts and friends forget about you, or think you’re neglecting them (fellow-bloggers, I haven’t forgotten you and will catch up with you soon).

On Monday and Tuesday, I found out everything I needed to know — and more — about the Renaissance castrati (ouch!), the ecology of oak trees, and how to climb high trees without ropes or safety harnesses. This research gave me such a buzz, it triggered off new ideas and I could see the light shining through that darned wall.

Has anyone else resorted to research this week, and if so, what form has this taken? Did you find out your information on-line, from books (borrowed, purchased, or already on your shelf), journals, magazines, by talking to people, or experiencing something firsthand?

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