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SOLDIERS, SETTING AND SWEETS!

Welcome today to sandra_lindsey, aspiring writer, lover of research, and bearer of chocolate treats!

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When Clare first invited us to join her in celebrating her birthday month, I thought "Yay! Sounds a great idea!" and picked a date rather at random. A day or so later I realised I was going to have to think up a topic... uh, oh. The obvious one, given the date I picked, would have been Twelfth Night (or Epiphany), but I realised after a few minutes that I simply don't know enough... Whilst searching for other ideas, 'my boys' kept popping into my head, having snowball fights and suchlike, and generally making themselves wet and cold and needing to snuggle up together in front of a fire. "Great!" I thought.

Would have been great if they'd been at all co-operative. Bloody Students! ;-)


As you'll have probably realised, from the way you went "huh? Who's this?", I'm not a published writer. Doesn't stop me having a bash at getting things down on paper. There are several things which conspire against this though...

* like most of you, I have so many things going on in my life that it can be a bit of a squash fitting them all in, and often I have to prioritise, which means something loses out;
* in the past I've been fairly weak at the middle part of stories – I know where the characters start, I know where they finish, and I know that some stuff happens to them in between, but the pacing of that 'stuff', and working out how much detail to include, is something I've been working on;
* I'm a research-whore. One of the most fatal things I can do is find a relevant book just as I'm about to start actually writing the story... Again, I'm working on this (mostly by banning myself from reading about the era I'm writing about).

Of course, the best research comes not from books but from first-hand experience. I've come to the realisation this year that I'm unlikely ever to set a story outside the UK (with the exception of Age of Sail, and use of a holiday setting). I'd probably struggle even to set something in Scotland – or at least to do so convincingly.


I know this isn't true for all writers, but for me it adds an extra dimension to everyday life. My novel-in-progress is set in mid-Wales (where I live), in the early 19th century and features a French prisoner-of-war adapting to life on a Welsh hill farm. Not actually as far fetched an idea as you might think – there were French prisoners-of-war held in our local town during this period (from the fall of Badajos in 1812 until the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815), and one of them caused quite a stir by courting the rector's daughter but proved himself a gentleman by returning after the war to marry her! The advantage I find in using this setting (thank you, muse, for bringing me the idea!) is that almost everything I notice or learn about my local area helps me build a more believable background to the story – and when you open your eyes, there's an awful lot to see.

Now to figure out what the characters ought to be doing in between "meeting" and "declaring undying love". Oops, just gave away the end of my story!

***




Sandra would like to say that she's a writer, but that's not entirely true: there's the day job, gardening, sweeties (at Tiggothy's Kitchen - shipping available to any UK address!), household cooking, line dancing, being-a-pillar-of-the-community (well, on the PCC and Community Hall Committee at least), and paying attention to her husband (and more distant family members) to consider as well. So maybe it's more accurate to say she's a woman with a head full of characters, all demanding she listen to their stories...


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AND JUST FOR FUN, A FICTION PROMPT CALL...!!

Like to stretch your writing fingers after Christmas' excesses? Take the prompt "A NEW RESOLUTION" and write something for the visitors this month. It can be anything from a flashfic 3 sentences to a drabble of 100 or so, or even more. Any genre, any theme, any rating, any character(s). Maybe ones you already love, maybe the chance to try on a new character for size.

Depending on how many (if any!) contributions we get, I'll post them during the month or all in the last week. Just send them in to me at clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and we'll go from there :).




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Follow this month with Clare - and the goodies so far:

JAN 01: A FREE short from me, revisiting Nic and Aidan from Sparks Fly.
JAN 01: Delicious m/m icons from luscious_words.
JAN 02: Why I want to be a Bond villain! by chrissymunder.
JAN 03: The world of inspiration between 'historical' and 'contemporary' with stevie_carroll.
JAN 04: Some fascinating Swedish proverbs rom 1more_sickpuppy.
JAN 05: A round-up of a great year just gone from angelasstone.

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Check up on the original post and the Guest Schedule for January HERE.

Want to join in but missed the original call? Email me at clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll happily find you a space ♥

NOTE: most pictures chosen by me and credited where known, others may be used without direct permission, please contact me with any queries/concerns.

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Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
cdn_tam
Jan. 6th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
It is easier to write about your own city/country/region. I do think it lends authenticity and as a reader, nothing annoys me more than when someone writes a story about my city and goes "Oh they walked down X street and arrived at Y." Hello? X and Y are 3 miles apart. And there's no freaking hotel on the corner of Z. LOL

Oh and the middle of the story? Smexin. Yeah, lots of smexin with a touch of dialog. :-)
tiggothy
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, I'm with you on getting annoyed by incorrect geography etc. Even before the advent of google maps etc., most libraries (even our village one!) stocked a good range of maps and would, no doubt, have been able to source other ones to help with getting details right... A lot of work, but the other option is "if you don't know - ask!" One of my most frustrating moments as a reader was when a favourite author of mine had a character getting on the wrong sort of train - as in, different train company, which runs trains on the opposite side of the country... Ho hum :-)

Ooh, thanks for solving my problem! And I guess with the novel I mentioned, it'll have to be outdoor sex, due to the farmhouse being inhabited by everyone who works (full time) on the farm... oh, what a shame!
tiggothy
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
Just realised I logged into the wrong account to reply... that'll teach me to be more organised!
mammarella
Jan. 6th, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with you and cdn_tam - there is nothing worse than writing about a place you don't know or reading someones "book of guesses". I've purchased a couple of books recently (from the same British author) and found it extremely hard to be wrapped up in a story where everything is off - from the way people talk to the streets people walk.
***
Those candies from Tiggothy's Kitchen! LOL My eyes kept on slipping down the page while I was reading the post to check them out =)~ I had to read the post twice! And what a nice sweet story about the French gentleman! My mind skipped a month and went into Valentine's Day mode :D

tiggothy
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
As I said above to cdm_tam, I'd rather people wrote about places they - well, they don't have to know them intimately or live there or anything, because that would be really restrictive - but they should be knowledgeable enough not to lead readers astray or give them an erroneous impression of a place (or time). Part of the reason I like to read stories set in different places is that I know I'm unlikely to ever be able to physically travel there, so if someone else can skilfully lead my imagination that way, I'm very grateful :-)
tiggothy
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
Just realised I logged into the wrong account to reply... that'll teach me to be more organised!
chrissymunder
Jan. 6th, 2011 03:48 pm (UTC)
*is left wishing you shipped outside the UK*

Definitely like the sound of the WIP.
tiggothy
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
Sorry about the UK-only shipping... It mostly comes down to the practicality of "I'm just one person", and am slightly fazed by the amount of paperwork I'd have to go through to ship to places like the USA. I think I could ship to other EU countries, but the cost of shipping is quite high...

Thanks for the compliments, though, on both counts :-)
tiggothy
Jan. 6th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
Just realised I logged into the wrong account to reply... that'll teach me to be more organised!
essayel
Jan. 6th, 2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
Tiggothy!!! Sweeties, wow.

features a French prisoner-of-war adapting to life on a Welsh hill farm. Not actually as far fetched an idea as you might think

That sounds a brilliant read. We had some French POWs too. After they caused trouble in Cheltenham the higher powers split up the ringleaders and sent a couple here. They partied pretty hard from what I've heard.
sandra_lindsey
Jan. 7th, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
Hello!

That sounds a brilliant read. Thank you for the vote of confidence - at least in the idea... I've been a little lacking in motivation the last few months, after getting myself mired in a bafflement of languages (there were about 6 characters in a room together, speaking four different languages ...not to mention remembering who understands more than one language and can therefore snoop on others' conversations!) - I think the technical term for what I did to myself was "overcomplicate matters"!

I was quite amazed to discover just how plausible my story could be. It wasn't long ago I was amazed to discover French POWs were held in Thame - I'd thought that would have been a long way from France in the early 1800s!
stevie_carroll
Jan. 6th, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC)
Definitely with you on writing about places I've been to, even if I do then stretch things a little to add in an extra shop, village, or stately home.
sandra_lindsey
Jan. 7th, 2011 12:26 am (UTC)
I know it sounds a bit trite, but an added bit of enjoyment for me in writing about places I know is that it's a way of sharing those places with other people...

...but of course, extra locations are needed at times :-) I grew up reading Swallows & Amazons (and the other books in the series). We had a few holidays in the Lake District, and folks go on / went on so much about "this island/bay/beck/piece of rock is xyz location in the books" and I thought they kind of missed the point that Mr Ransome had used his imagination to create a fictional setting that was actually better than the reality, whilst still retaining utter respect and admiration for the real settings. Which is pretty much the ideal I'd have thought... And after all, creating something that's more spectacular than the Lake District? All on your own? That's pretty special in itself.
stevie_carroll
Jan. 7th, 2011 07:02 am (UTC)
Sharing places is definitely part of it. I'll definitely put a note in the book that Carsingthorpe Lodge is based on Sheffield Manor Lodge (although in much better condition!), because more people should go there.

I haven't read Swallows and Amazons in years! I wonder if I still have any of the books anywhere.
sandra_lindsey
Jan. 7th, 2011 07:07 am (UTC)
Sheffield Manor Lodge? That rings a bell...
*quick internet search*
yeah, I think it is where I once went with the Nevilles* (re-enactors)!

*I didn't really do very much with them - I just knew/know a few of them socially & went along to a couple of trainings
stevie_carroll
Jan. 7th, 2011 08:25 am (UTC)
The Lodge in my story is like the artist's impressions, but with extra bits added through the centuries. I kept the Turret House pretty much as it is though, and that's where the Dowager Duchess moves during the story, so they can open more of the Lodge to visitors.
charliecochrane
Jan. 7th, 2011 08:25 am (UTC)
Interesting stuff. We had Napoleonic War French POWs near here - the building's still there, been converted to a museum/cafe with flats above. Love going there and reconnecting to the past.

Nerds are us, eh? best of luck with the writing, toots.
sandra_lindsey
Jan. 9th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
Having learned that Napoleonic POWs were housed near here, I don't think I'd be surprised at hearing they were in any location in England or Wales (possibly I'd be surprised if they were in Scotland, though as Scotland was rather pro-French in previous centuries...)

Thanks for the luck :-)
josephine_myles
Jan. 7th, 2011 01:39 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I like reading things set places where the author brings the landscape to life! Your novel idea sounds fascinating :)

And the chocolates look yummy :D
sandra_lindsey
Jan. 9th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you! On both counts! I doubt you'll be seeing my novel out any time soon, but I'd rather do a good job and take longer over it - and I find ruth_sims's tale of becoming a published m/m author quite inspirational: she's getting novels published which she's been working on for 20 years!
luscious_words
Jan. 10th, 2011 02:34 am (UTC)
I'm drooling over those beautiful sweets!
sandra_lindsey
Jan. 11th, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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