National Novel Writing Month

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Yes, it starts today and I’ve decided to give it a go.

If you sign up to Join this mammoth task you are sent regular pep talks.  this one came today and i felt it was so relevant and inspirational i am sharing it with you.

Pep Talk from James Patterson

James Patterson

James’s Website
James’s Books

So Writer, you’re trying to write a novel in 30 days. Has anyone told you you’re crazy yet?

You’re not crazy. I promise. I know because I’ve written a novel in a couple of months. And yes, I’m a human being (just ask my editor, or my wife) and I do sleep. The book even got published. So anyone who tells you it’s impossible is wrong and you should probably stop taking their advice. Unless it’s your mom. Then just stop taking her advice about writing (you should still floss once a day).

There’s no getting around the fact that it’s hard, though, is there? By now you know that better than anyone. Maybe you should give up on this whole novel business and go relax. Or work at a paying job. But I say, keep at it. Because, like I said, it’s possible. And as you must suspect, it’s a pretty fantastic feeling to have written a book.

So how do you do it? Here are some tips on making it to December 1 without going crazy or giving up. (Though if you have to do one of them, I’ve always found sanity overrated.)

Outline. If you already have: gold star; proceed to the next piece of advice. If you didn’t, don’t worry, because it’s never too late to go back and make an outline. An outline isn’t something to be scared of, it’s just a chapter-by-chapter description of the scenes that, lined-up together, make your book. On the count of three, tell me the story that unfolds in your novel. All the way to the last chapter. Now write that down. There’s your outline. Easy, right?

Lie to yourself. Honesty is a great quality, but we’re writing fiction here, so you’d better get used to a little light lying. Tell yourself you can do this. Tell yourself your book will be great. The world will love it and you’ll be the next J.K. Rowling, J.D. Salinger, Art Spiegelman, or whatever flavor of author you hope to become.

Get into a writing routine. Think it’s hard to write every day during NaNo? Most professional writers keep this kind of pace all year round. Holidays, birthdays, vacations—you name it, we’re writing. The trick is making writing into a daily habit. Same time. Same place. Same hot beverage of choice. Every. Single. Day. Again. And. Again.

Don’t do it alone. If you live with somebody, tell them to be unpleasant to you if they see you doing anything else during your writing time. Buy them a water gun. If you live alone, have friends call and check on you. And if you have no friends, you will have no trouble writing a book in 30 days. What else do you have to do? (I’m not knocking friendless people. We’ve all been there.)

Don’t stress. I don’t mean to undermine the above, but remember this is one month, not your entire writing career. Try hard, learn from it, and if you don’t get to 50,000 words, figure out what you did wrong so you can get there next time.

Stop reading this. Start writing. Now. (Or at midnight your time.)

Jamesnanowrimo

Today is the first day of the month of November when you are tasked with writing 50,000 words.

If you’ve never heard of the  National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it is known then head over to their website.  They have loads of tips and encouragement to help you write 50,000 words in one month.  Yes, that is the task they set – to write 50,000 words in November and maybe finish a whole book.  My next book is probably going to be in excess of that figure but I’m using the opportunity to kick start the writing of my next book as I’m a great procrastinator when it comes to starting that first page!!

And look what I’m doing – I’m writing this blog instead of getting down to writing those 50,000 words.

The rules are – THIS BLOG DOES NOT COUNT AS MY 50,000 WORDS…

Newbie attends meeting of Gloucestershire Archaeology

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Wednesday evening saw me wending my way to Ribston Hall High School for my first meeting of Gloucestershire Archaeology formerly known as GADARG.

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(I just had to look up the word ‘wend’ – a compulsion of mine – and it seems I have described my journey exactly as it was:

“verb

[no object, with adverbial] (wend one’s way)

  • go in a specified direction, typically slowly or by an indirect route.”

I love it when a word describes a thing perfectly.)

 

The talk was on Mesolithic Hunter-Gatherers in the Severn Estuary.  A talk given by Dr Paula Gardiner, Research Fellow from the University of Bristol.  Paula was both knowledgeable and passionate about her work and I learned a great deal from the talk.  Mainly I learnt a lot of new words which I will share with you:

MESOLITHIC:

Definition of Mesolithic in English

Mesolithic

Pronunciation: /ˌmɛsə(ʊ)ˈlɪθɪk, ˌmɛz-, ˌmiːs-, ˌmiːz-/

adjective

Archaeology

  • relating to or denoting the middle part of the Stone Age, between the Palaeolithic and Neolithic.
  • (as noun the Mesolithic) the Mesolithic period. Also called Middle Stone Age.

In Europe, the Mesolithic falls between the end of the last glacial period (circa 8500 bc) and the beginnings of agriculture. Mesolithic people lived by hunting, gathering, and fishing, and the period is characterized by the use of microliths and the first domestication of an animal (the dog)

Origin:

mid 19th century: from meso- ‘middle’ + Greek lithos ‘stone’ + –ic

PALEOLITHIC:

Definition of Palaeolithic in English

Palaeolithic

Pronunciation: /ˌpalɪə(ʊ)ˈlɪθɪk, ˌpeɪ-/

(US Paleolithic)

adjective

Archaeology

  • relating to or denoting the early phase of the Stone Age, lasting about 2.5 million years, when primitive stone implements were used.
  • (as noun the Palaeolithic) the Palaeolithic period. Also called Old Stone Age.

The Palaeolithic period extends from the first appearance of artefacts to the end of the last ice age (about 8,500 years bc). The period has been divided into the Lower Palaeolithic, with the earliest forms of humankind and the emergence of hand-axe industries (ending about 120,000 years ago), the Middle Palaeolithic, the era of Neanderthal man (ending about 35,000 years ago), and the Upper Palaeolithic, during which only modern Homo sapiens is known to have existed

Origin:

mid 19th century: from palaeo- + Greek lithos ‘stone’ + –ic

Obviously, I have heard of the above words but they took on more significance when put into context.

BP:

Before Present (BP) years is a time scale used mainly in geology and other scientific disciplines to specify when events in the past occurred. Because the “present” time changes, standard practice is to use 1 January 1950 as the origin of the age scale, reflecting the fact that radiocarbon dating became practicable in the 1950s. The abbreviation “BP”, with the same meaning, has also been interpreted as “Before Physics”; that is, before nuclear weapons testing artificially altered the proportion of the carbon isotopes in the atmosphere.

A fascinating explanation.

I must admit when I first heard the term ‘BP’ used my immediate thought was “What’s British Petroleum got to do with hunter-gatherers?”

But that just goes to show my level of ignorance when it comes to archaeological and geological terms.  I’ll wager that in a few years time when I become a seasoned member of GA I will be able to use the terminology with panache.

BURIN:

Definition of burin in English

burin

Pronunciation: /ˈbjʊərɪn/

noun
  • a handheld steel tool used for engraving in metal or wood.
  • Archaeology a flint tool with a chisel point.

Origin:

mid 17th century: from French; perhaps related to Old High German bora ‘boring tool’

MATTOCK:

Definition of mattock in English

mattock

Pronunciation: /ˈmatək/

noun
  • an agricultural tool shaped like a pickaxe, with an adze and a chisel edge as the ends of the head.

Origin:

Old English mattuc, of uncertain origin.

Sounds more like a hill than a tool?

HAFT:

Definition of haft in English

haft

Pronunciation: /hɑːft/

noun
  • the handle of a knife, axe, or spear.
verb

[with object] (often as adjective hafted)

  • provide (a blade, axe head, or spearhead) with a haft:the motifs included animals and hafted axes

Origin:

Old English hæft, of Germanic origin: related to Dutch heft, hecht and German Heft, also to heave.

KNAP as in FLINTKNAPPING:

Knapping is the shaping of flint, chert, obsidian or other conchoidal fracturing stone through the process of lithic reduction to manufacture stone tools, strikers for flintlock firearms, or to produce flat-faced stones for building or facing walls, and flushwork decoration.

There are whole websites dedicated to this craft if you’re interested…

AUROCHS:

Definition of aurochs in English

aurochs

Pronunciation: /ˈɔːrɒks, ˈaʊ-/

noun (plural same)
  • a large wild Eurasian ox that was the ancestor of domestic cattle. It was probably exterminated in Britain in the Bronze Age, and the last one was killed in Poland in 1627. Also called urus.
    • Bos primigenius, family Bovidae

Origin:

late 18th century: from German, early variant of Auerochs, from Old High German ūrohso, from ūr (form also found in Old English, of unknown origin) + ohso ‘ox’.

1624 in Poland!

BOREAL:

Definition of boreal in English

boreal

Pronunciation: /ˈbɔːrɪəl/

adjective
  • 1 Ecology relating to or characteristic of the climatic zone south of the Arctic, especially the cold temperate region dominated by taiga and forests of birch, poplar, and conifers:northern boreal forest
  • (Boreal) Botany relating to or denoting a phytogeographical kingdom comprising the arctic and temperate regions of Eurasia and North America.
  • 2 (Boreal) Geology relating to or denoting the second climatic stage of the postglacial period in northern Europe, between the Preboreal and Atlantic stages (about 9,000 to 7,500 years ago), marked by a warm, dry climate.

Origin:

late Middle English: from late Latin borealis, from Latin Boreas, denoting the god of the north wind, from Greek.

Nothing to do with Aurora Borealis!

LITH:

Definition of lithic in English

lithic

Pronunciation: /ˈlɪθɪk/

adjective
  • 1chiefly Archaeology & Geology of the nature of or relating to stone.
  • 2 Medicine, dated relating to calculi.

Origin:

late 18th century: from Greek lithikos, from lithos ‘stone’.

I never knew ‘lith’ meant stone so I thank fellow members of the group for pointing that out Smile

Really looking forward to the next meeting which is being held in Cheltenham and is about Anglo-Saxon Gloucestershire; the talk being given by the legendary Carolyn Heighway.

Cheltenham Literature Festival 2013

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As ever, this year’s Literature Festival was a cracking affair.  To prevent myself from becoming bankrupt I usually just pick one or two events I am particularly interested in.

This year I chose Simon Schama’s talk on his latest book The Story of the Jews and The King’s Grave: Search for Richard 111 featuring the host, my friend Caroline Sanderson and Philipa Langley of Channel 4 fame and Michael Jones, co-author and historian.

Simon Schama opened his talk with a few classic Jewish jokes which set the tone for the event, finishing with a Jewish version of the ‘three men walk into a pub’ classic!  Afterwards, I stood in the long book-signing queue.  In front of me was a man who told me he had only cried three times in his life and the third time was watching Simon Schama’s TV series of the book.  I told him he must tell Simon this when he got his book signed.  He was reluctant – that old macho thing surfacing.  Nevertheless, when it came to his turn he told him and came away beaming.  I was next and told Simon I had told him to tell him.  Simon leaned forward and rubbed my arm saying “Bless you, Christine”.”  He knew my name because it had been written on a Post It note by one of the stewards!  Well, it was too good an opportunity to miss so I told him I was writing a novel on Gloucester’s medieval community.  He was very interested and gave me his email address so I could keep in touch (see picture below).  He told me he was running a course on historical fiction this Fall at Columbia.  I asked if it was an on-line course but sadly it’s not.

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The following day I attended The King’s Grave.  This was an excellent event and I have to say Philipa Langley came across as very level-headed and passionate about Richard 111 and not at all like ‘the flake’ Channel 4 made her out to be.  If it hadn’t been for her persistence and belief in her “intuitive experience” in that Leicester car park the world would never have found Richard’s grave.  Afterwards, I went to the front to congratulate Caroline on a well-hosted event.  She introduced me to Philipa and Michael and took me ‘backstage’ to the book signing event in the Waterstone’s tent.  It felt like a forerunner to my own book signing – sometime in the future.  Hold that thought!!

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The annual Society of Author’s lunch followed later in the week in the HSBC Hospitality tent which was poorly attended this year but full of new faces and it made a pleasant change to connect with so many new members.  While we were lunching Ruby Wax turned up to do an interview with BBC Gloucestershire.  A fellow writer had booked to see her that afternoon as she has written a book on Mindfulness.  Because of my experience with Simon Schama I told her to go over and introduce herself.  She did and came away with a promise from Ruby to endorse her book.  Author networking in action!!

Already looking forward to next year’s event!

A Tower Talk on Gloucester’s Jewish Community

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August is a very chilled out month when nothing much happens and an indolence overtakes us all.  So it has been with me but September has kicked in and I’m ready to get going again and tell you what I’ve been up to.

Saturday 17 August I attended a Gloucester Civic Trust Tower Talk in St Michael’s Tower in Gloucester. 

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The talk was being given by Ian Holt, a member of the Trust who was very knowledgeable, particularly about the early world history of the Jewish people.  I booked this talk many months ago as it is the subject of my next book tentatively entitled, Blood Libel, beginning in 1168 in the city of Gloucester when a young boy named Harold was found murdered.  The blame was placed on the Jewish community.  Ian Holt touched on this incident and many other fascinating events in the history of the Jews in Gloucester.  They were eventually expelled from the city in 1275 by Queen Eleanor who didn’t want any Jewish people living in her Dower towns – Gloucester being one of them.  Most of the community fled to Bristol and Hereford and as far as I can tell the community never quite recovered in numbers.  When the Synagogue was built and consecrated in Cheltenham in 1839 most of the community migrated there.

After the talk, I myself ‘migrated’ over to the Guildhall Cafe to have some lunch.  This is one of my favourite places to go in Gloucester.  The food is homemade, good value and they stock local brew.

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Organic Cider from Much Marcle in Herefordshire and our very own Gloucester Gold from Gloucester Brewery.  I had a small tipple of the Golden stuff along with a homemade Leek and Mushroom pie which was flavoured with fresh herbs and was delicious.

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For anyone who is interested, the next Tower Talk is on Saturday 28 September on the history of bell-making in Gloucester.  The talk is to be given by Phil Moss.

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In Search of Food

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The characters in my book, City of Secrets, drink plenty of weak ale, local cider made from the Longney Russet apple and eat a variety of medieval food from roasted lark to frumenty to cheese made from the milk of Gloucester Cattle.  This food was popular in the middle ages in and around Gloucester.  So I thought I would find out what the present day Gloucester citizen liked to eat and what better place than the annual Gloucester Quays Food Festival.

I arrived early so that I could wander around and chat to the stall holders, unhampered by the inevitable crowds that would descend on this event.  I decided to concentrate on those stalls local to Gloucestershire.

My first stop was Gloucester Brewery. This is a micro brewery situated in the docks which produces fine local beers.

I was greeted by a jovial man selling sausages…

…and a friendly member of staff allowed me to take pictures of the mashing vats at least I think that’s what they’re called!

Sadly, the brewery lost their bid for the nearby Coots Bar to Wetherspoons but at least they’ll be able to supply them with locally-brewed beer!

Brown and Green is an award winning Farm Shop and Deli.  I can see why.  Just look at this array of local produce on offer.

They are normally to be found operating out of the 3Shires Garden Centre in Newent.

In poll position at the event was Hetty’s Pop-Up Tea Rooms.  Surrounded by hay bales the ‘tea room’ had a 1950’s country village fete feel to it.  Even Hetty and her staff wore 1950’s vintage clothing.  Every detail had been taken care of to give the customer the experience of being at an old-fashioned fete from the rustic tablecloths to the fine bone china teacups and saucers.  This was an absolute find.  Hetty is a young woman with a passion for baking.  Her entrepreneurial spirit was inspiring.

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I have a feeling Hetty will go far.  She’s already been spotted by Mary Berry and had her picture taken with her which appeared on the front page of the Gloucester Citizen.

A food festival would be nothing without alcohol and there was no shortage of local offerings:

Severn Cider; May Hill Brewery and V Q Country Wines were plying their trade:

I loved the tagline for May Hill Brewery – the Naked Brewery!  Meaning, of course, that there were no added nasties in their beer – just good wholesome ingredients.

The famous Gloucester Farmhouse Deli was in attendance cooking their range of sausages:

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Other local stallholders included:

Ross and Ross; The Cotswold Curer; Cotswold Gold; The Cheeseworks and Relish the Taste.

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Not strictly food related I was drawn to one of Gloucester’s premier hair salons. Head Candy.  Situated in the docks, they were taking full advantage of the event by selling Candy Floss and offering face painting and hair twisting.  Here is Kelly Fortey along with volunteer Fiona candy floss sticks in hand,  and the expert face painter.

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Although not local at all, I must give a mention to Shocka, the CEO of Shocka’s Coconut Hub.  He gave me a free coconut drink for my birthday and it was lush.  He was also a mean dude with a machete!  Thank you Shocka and I hope you did well on the day.

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I really feel that Gloucester Quays and Gloucester Docks are beginning to get their act together.  This was a great event and a credit to all who were involved.

Medieval Elver Fishing Research

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Some months ago I tweeted that I was carrying out some research on medieval fishing techniques.  Someone from the Gloucester Waterways Museum was kind enough to tweet back to say they could help so yesterday I set off, writing pad and camera phone in hand to get down to some much needed research.  It turned out that the Waterways Museum doesn’t hold any information on Elver Fishing but the Gloucester Folk Museum does.  I was in the mood for a walk as the weather was glorious so I set off, this time, to the other side of Gloucester.

Trace, the staff member at reception was very helpful and went in search of a book, “Fishing on the lower Severn”, published by Gloucester City Museums.  The book cost all of 30p so I snapped it up and then went upstairs to the ‘Fishing Exhibition’. 

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Normally, I wouldn’t find ‘fishing’ very interesting (apologies to all you keen ‘fisher-people’) but because this research will most likely form the prologue for my second historical novel I was fascinated!  I highly recommend a visit to this exhibition.

Thirsty from my endeavours, I wandered into the Tea Rooms for a cold drink.  I last visited the tea rooms when they were first introduced.  I have to say they have come along way since.  I bought a ginger beer which cost £1.80 and it was my absolute favourite – Fentimans.  I also couldn’t resist buying a mug with the Folk Museum’s fabulous building as a motif.  This was another bargain at £2.50.

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As we are in the midst of a heatwave, I went to sit in the Tea Rooms’ Garden.  In the words of Frances Hodgson Burnett I was “standing inside the secret garden.”  This truly is another of Gloucester’s secret gems.

I sat in the shade by the water feature.

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Behind me was the famous ‘Corkscrew Hazel’ which, according to an article in The Telegraph, appeared “ spontaneously in a Gloucestershire hedgerow in the early 1860s.”  I only know this because Cherry, the dedicated gardener of this halcyon spot in the city, informed me.  Tending the garden for more than ten years, Cherry is a mine of information. 

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Ahead of me was a mature Fig Tree by the side of a garden shed which wouldn’t look out of place in Misselthwaite Manor!

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I then went in search of the elusive pineapple.  I’d first come across it on an earlier visit to the Folk Museum.  The garden was so lush and teeming with greenery I couldn’t, at first, locate it.  It has since been moved to a more prominent and fitting place and here is the picture I took of it.

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Nigel Cox, former head of the museum informed me that this magnificent pineapple finial once graced the rooftop of Gloucester’s Victorian Spa building and that pineapples symbolized welcome which is why, I suppose, they can be seen gracing the entrances of some of the more grander estates in England.  Another hidden gem!

The Folk Museum is one of the most magnificent examples of historic architecture in the city.  An amalgamation of a Tudor Merchant’s house and a 17th century town house, it has been tastefully restored and well maintained.  Purported to have been the lodging house of Bishop Hooper on the night before he was burned at the stake for heresy just outside St Mary’s Gate.  A memorial to him stands on the very spot.  It is also the place where one of my characters in City of Secrets faces a similar fate!

My spirits were high as I walked back towards the Quays.  The sun was shining and the city had a ‘happening vibe’ to it.  Stallholders were setting up for the popular and highly successful Gloucester Quays Food Festival.  Visitors and citizens were enjoying the sun, sitting outside at the various cafes, bars and restaurants.  It really felt that Gloucester had ‘turned a corner’ in its lengthy quest to re-generate.

I’ll leave you with this image of a bee enjoying the sun in the Secret Garden!

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Royal Assent

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Today the Duke of Gloucester will present members of the Gloucester Civic Trust with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.  This is the highest award that can be given for volunteer services and it is richly deserved by the men and women of the Civic Trust for their tireless work in maintaining and promoting Gloucester’s rich heritage. 

Officially, the award has been given for “Promoting Gloucester’s Heritage through Civic Tour Guides, exhibitions and restoration projects.”  Gloucester Civic Trust is one of 117 voluntary organisations in the UK to have received the award in 2013.

I have been on many of these tours, particularly during the English Heritage Open Days.  The tour guides are very knowledgeable, answering any questions you might have.  I can thoroughly recommend the Gloucester Open Day event.  The range of historic properties on offer is staggering, and the hidden gems are just delightful.  One such gem is the remains of the Roman Wall in the furniture shop (Furniture Exhibition Centre)on the corner of Parliament Street and Southgate Street.

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It’s the oldest Roman masonry in existence in the UK – and it’s right here in Gloucester!  And what I love most about this hidden gem is that it can be found in the back of a furniture shop!!  Isn’t that just great?

By the way, you can wander in there any time. Just walk to the left of the shop and you’ll see it on the left hand wall in-between the furniture displays!

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