How’s Your Handwriting? 

“It looks like a spider dipped its boots in an inkwell and ran all over the page.”

So, I’m curious. As a fellow creative, is your handwriting an illegible mess, or do you take your time perfecting the curls and flicks of your letters and words?

I recently read a post on handwriting from the lovely lady over at Plutonium Sox, and it’s inspired my own post out of interest in other writers and their habits. 

The post discusses the differences in learning how to write, and how handwriting can help with fine motor skills. 

It took me back to my own learning experience in Primary School; I specifically recall learning joined-up writing, and I remember being really worried that my handwriting looked terrible, and not how I imagined it should do. 

I wanted neat, cutesy-handwriting, and writing joined-up just made my writing look ‘ugly’. I asked the headteacher if I could just write without joining up my letters, and to my delight he yes (we’re talking 30 years ago!), when I was scared the answer would be no. 

The result now is a kind of handwriting that my husband declared as ‘looks like a spider dipped its boots in an inkwell and ran all over the page.’ It’s a combination of printed and joined-up letters where my writing has developed a style all of its own. 

But I don’t care that my handwriting looks like an Arachnid Assault On Paper. Handwriting is such a personal thing, and is as individual as a thumbprint. I think it reflects us as a person. Having said that, as a creative, my handwriting can get pretty messy, as my brain works faster than my hand, and I trip over letters as I write. 


If I’m working on something that I want to be visually pleasing, I like to take my time ‘handwriting’ and get very cross when I’m having a ‘bad handwriting day’! 

Mostly I give up and decide to use a computer. I type faster, and can get more creative when it’s not word-related. I can even get more creative when it IS word-related. Such as changing colours/fonts etc. 

But there’s something really satisfying about free-writing with ink and paper. It makes the soul sing. 

What’s your tool of choice when it comes to being creative? 

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I am trying…

Trying

 

My mum once told me I was very trying. I’m not really sure what she meant, I try hard at everything I do, but I’m pretty sure there was a note of sarcasm in there somewhere. 

I know I need to pick my subjects for school, but I have no idea what I want to do. I mean, who does? All the while I try to decide, the only thing I can see is his eyes, watching me, waiting, expectant for my kiss. In my dreams. He’d never look at me in real life. Mousy Brienne Smith? No-one notices me, not anywhere.  

As if to prove my point, I am pushed to one side by the actual Josh Brendan, jostling my shoulder as they rush past for breaktime, knocking me into the wall. No calls of ‘oh, sorry, Brienne! Didn’t see you there! How are you?’  

‘Ow!’ I called after him, the scowl in my forehead giving me a headache. ‘You know you should look where you’re going?!’ He turned around and actually looked through me, frowned, shrugged his shoulders and then carried on going. Seconds later, I realise I am standing, gawping at the space he no longer occupied, as the children dissipate around me, disappearing into the toilets or outside to hang around the tennis courts. There are a select few who will disappear down to the bikesheds for a crafty cigarette, as if they don’t know the teachers know they all do it. Occasionally one of them will saunter down there, and the smokers will scatter like ants in a disturbed nest. 

I sit huddled on a bench during breaktime. The egg-heads wonder past in their group of three, whispering and giggling at the boys standing by the tennis courts, the leader showing off with a basketball, as if he was the first and only person to be able to bounce one of those things on the ground. They all fancy him. I can see why, but I only have eyes for one boy. He’s the only one I’ll ever want.  

The bell sounds and everyone trudges back inside, a total opposite to the urgency of getting outside school for those precious few minutes. I make my way back upstairs with the rest of the flock and slide in to my window seat at the back of the class. French. The most pointless lesson ever invented. Although mum says we should all have a second language, and that us English are a lazy nation, as we expect everyone else to speak our language. She might have a point.  

Mr Magoo – not his real name, he is very short-sighted – directs a question at the class, asking us to give him the answer in French. I hate this lesson, but I’m so sick of feeling invisible, so I raise my hand.  

‘Anyone?’ he asks, his eyes scanning the students. So I raise my hand a little higher. ‘Jessica?’ he calls to the girl next to me, who is whispering with Lucy. She immediately flicks her wavy blonde hair over her shoulder and straightens up ever-so-slightly from her slouched position in her seat, and clears her throat. ‘Um…’ she starts, and smirks, knowing that her fans bask in her coolness and although Mr Magoo has picked on her, she’s safe, because she always gets away with it. The rest of the class titter, and the teacher repeats the question.  

‘Je voudrais en stilo sil-vous-plais Monsieur Jones.’  

I feel the irritation bubble up inside, growing, getting hotter in my belly. Why won’t anyone see me? Hear me? I look at the pen on my desk and feel such ferocity that it flies off the edge and lands right next to her feet. Those who saw it happen gasp, and Jessica’s head snaps up, her eyes scanning the room warily, then giggles nervously, before picking up the pen. ‘Now, now, guys, you could have just passed it to me,’ she joked, then swallowed as she placed it neatly on her desk.  

I roll my eyes, and sink lower into my seat, and turn my head to the window, losing myself in the world outside. One day. Maybe one day someone will notice me.  

I am trying. 

Short Fiction © Fiona Chapman

Are YOU in control of YOUR life?

I recently discovered a little gem, delivered in the form of a book, which was recommended by Jeff Goins – an inspirational guy who blogs about writing and marketing, creative business ideas and making a difference.

I’ve not yet finished this book, but it has reawakened in me something that I have long believed (and recently forgotten), and that is the knowledge that we are in charge of our own destinies. In fact, it’s not even that I had forgotten this, more the fact that I have succumbed to what the book’s author comes to describe as Resistance. If this sounds familiar, you might indeed have already read this book – aptly titled The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.

Because there is a little war going inside all of us. Resistance – as the beginning of this book talks about – is that little voice in our heads that prevents us from being productive, or making those all-important changes in our lives. That health-kick you keep promising yourself. That change of job you really want to go for. It’s the voice of procrastination, the nagging doubt that we won’t be good enough, that we will fail. By listening to these thoughts, we’ve already set ourselves up to fail. If you’ve ever read Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Susan Jeffers, you’ll be conscious of that familiar feeling that stops you doing something you know will benefit you in the long run. Instead, you subconsciously (or, even consciously), make all the excuses you can come up with, not to pursue an opportunity. Often, one excuse is all you need to talk yourself right out of it. You then convince yourself that you made the right decision, and feel better for it. Because it’s so much easier to stay locked inside that comfort zone of those familiar slippers, that warm blanket; to stick with what you know, and not attempt to stretch yourself. Take that path of least resistance (excuse the irony here). Because any opportunity that can make you grow as a person, isn’t going to offer that instant gratification we crave as human beings. It’s going to be hard work, you’re going to have to stretch yourself, and what if the end result is failure, after all that effort you’ve put in?

This book has triggered a whirlwind of thoughts and I’m not even a third of the way through it yet. It’s actually got me sitting up in bed at 5am, drafting this blog post with a cup of chamomile because I can’t sleep, and overcoming Resistance. It has got me laughing Resistance in the face, ignoring the voice of ‘But I can’t drink tea and read! I have to go back to sleep so that I’m not tired in the morning,’ followed by, ‘I will still have I don't have enough timeto get the kids up and do the school run and all the other chores that await me!’ This book has enabled me to go one step further, and actually write 500 words in the middle of the night (it might be morning to some of you, but it’s still the middle of the night to me). And that is the first step to me resuming my life’s journey – on my calling to writing, on improving my health, and the next step towards the rest of my life.

As Steven Pressfield says in his opening paragraph of the chapter ‘What I do’; it doesn’t matter if the words I wrote weren’t that great. The only thing that matters, is that I reached my daily goal. I ignored that nagging voice that prevented me from achieving my work or desire. I overcame Resistance. You see, that one word, that has so much control over us, is the only thing stopping you from fulfilling your dreams and aspirations.

Click here for more information: The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield.

I’m curious…

Books and coffee
Are you sitting comfortably?
What’s your favourite type of story? I’m keen to start a new project… But I want to put it out there, and into YOUR hands, as the potential reader. What do you like it read? What kind of conflict do you like in your stories? What are your favourite types of characters? I’m not talking specifically about setting, or genre, but rather the characters you, as the reader, can identify with. What really gets you at your core in a powerful story? Of course, if you want to talk about your favourite genre, that’s fine too. Just think… Your input could be the inspiration for the next big thing. 

Leave me a comment below, or drop me a line at fionachapman1@gmail.com. I can’t wait to learn about what inspires you as a reader. 🙂 

Fiona X

Planning and preparation for novel number three underway

As some of you know, in October 2012 I embarked upon a new adventure when I left the world of Monday to Friday, nine-to-five, in favour of becoming a full-time mother, and writing at every available opportunity (usually when my daughter slept, which gave me a good two and a half hours each day).

In November 2012, I wrote my first novel, during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). What then followed was months of many, many revisions until I felt the story was finished and ready. The problem was, what started out being a contemporary romance novel, turned into what some might call a time-travel romance, which was never my intention. This, of course, complicated matters as there began lots of shifting back and forth to make sure dates and times and scenes corresponded with each other. Then, finally, at the beginning of the year, I decided to put it out there via a contest, and had some wonderful feedback, albeit along with a polite rejection. I’ve since had further feedback, suggesting that the pacing needs some work. So, I decided to sit on it for a while, and begin revisions on my second novel, Labour of Love, which I also wrote during NaNoWriMo 2013.

Novel number two was a fully planned and executed contemporary romance, and I have to admit, I absolutely loved writing it. I had my moments when I wondered if the dynamics would work, but two very wise women both told me, write what you want to write. In honesty, my hero and heroine are more true-life than glitz and glamour. I’ve been informed several times over that the rich alpha male is what sells – the happy ever after that romance readers aspire to. Except, I live in the real world, and people have real problems and have to find ways to overcome them. I’ve read plenty of romance/women’s fiction novels in my time and always love the books I can identify with – the ones where I’ve been there, lived that, had that type of relationship. I’ve never aspired to fall in love with a rich man and live happily ever after. Just a good, honest, loving man, who would take care of me (and he certainly does). So I’m going to stick with it, but will let it rest for a while before I return to it and read it objectively. After that, I might – just might – think about sending it ‘out there’.

In the meantime, novel number three is the sequel to my first novel, Time for Love, which is set in two different time zones and has the customary antagonist. The thing is, the antagonist became so much fun to write and literally jumped off the page, that I felt it necessary to give him a story of his own, along with his very own heroine. So, the planning has begun. Since I finished the second draft of Labour of Love, I’ve been drafting a synopsis and character profiles, and am about to delve into research into the 1930s (the time of The Great Depression). Incidentally, this one won’t be an easy task, much like its preceding story, but I’m going to have a lot of fun writing it.

While I’m busy squirreling away, I’d like to say a little thanks for your continued support. I know there are plenty of you desperate to read Time for Love, and your patience is gratefully noted. I look forward to being able to deliver it in time and equally hope it’s worth the wait. 🙂

Out of body experience, dream, or just a bizarre hallucination?

“I prised my eyes open, and yet couldn’t seem to fully open my right lid. As I struggled to sit up off the bed, I looked down at my right arm, crooked at the elbow and curled up next to my head in my usual sleeping position, except I felt nothing but numbness. Horrified, I stared down – it was as though this arm belonged to somebody else – and then recoiled as I brushed the pale, cool skin in my attempt to climb over the dead limbs beneath me.  As hard as I tried to move, I couldn’t, and I still couldn’t see properly for my distorted vision in my right eye. My physical self wouldn’t let me leave. In one last struggle to break from the numb body beneath me, a force so incredibly strong pulled me back, curling me in to myself. And then I woke up.”

I wrote the above right after I woke up, following a nap during the afternoon. Unsure whether suffering with a throat infection or hayfever allergies, I had taken an antihistamine tablet, lay down on the bed, and closed my eyes. The experience was so vivid, I couldn’t be sure whether it had been real, or just a dream. Of course, after coming round and reading back on what I’d written, it might well have just been a very lurid dream. But I know others have had similar experiences, some describe them as out of body experiences, others describe them as hallucinations.

I’m interested to hear if anyone else has experienced anything so scary and real. Recent reading has provided peace of mind that it was simply a case of sleep paralysis. The mind is a powerful thing, using images and sensations learned through incredible special effects we can see on television, as well as intricate detail put across to us in story-telling. In hindsight, the entire concept feels and sounds ludicrous when trying to explain it. However, it is a fascinating subject, and now that I’ve actually lived it for myself, I was rather intrigued, and had to share.

The big R: A writer’s worst enemy… and best friend

I received my second (novel) rejection earlier this week, and it felt like I’d been steamrollered.

I have come to realise that a rejection can easily be likened to the five stages of a bereavement or break-up. Because, like it or not, you will go through them. And as this blog is about my writing journey, about my successes as well as my failures, it’s only fitting that I should share this step and the feelings it evoked.

Anger – In my case, it wasn’t so much anger, more shock and confusion. Deep down, I think I guessed it would be rejected. We set ourselves up to expect the worst, so that anything else comes as a beautiful surprise. But even though I expected a rejection, I was still shocked by such unexpected feelings of hurt and disappointment. While playing the waiting game, I think I secretly hoped for a ‘revise and resubmit’, but let’s face it, this is my first full-length, completed novel, and although I have submitted a partial manuscript before which was also rejected, this one is technically (in my book – excuse the pun) my first official submission and rejection, which is nothing in this industry.

Denial – Yep, this one definitely played its part, but this came first. Mainly because when you’re playing the waiting game, you begin to imagine that your submission hasn’t even been received, or that you followed the guidelines incorrectly, or that it’s been lost somewhere, never to be seen again. That YOU have been forgotten about. Little, insignificant you, just a tiny grain of sand lost in an entire beach. So when that email first arrived in my inbox, my heart slammed against my chest and forgot to keep beating. My whole body went cold, my hands started to shake, and I had absolutely no idea whether I should open it, because I didn’t want to know what was inside.

Bargaining – I tried bargaining with myself throughout the waiting period. ‘No news is good news. You’ve worked so hard on this book, it’s intricately woven, it deserves a decent amount of attention. Wait it out.’ Except, that little voice kept chipping away. ‘Forget it. Move on. You’re insignificant, you’ve been forgotten about.’

Depression – It hit. It struck like a giant wave engulfing me and sucking me under. Yes, it’s a cliche, but I don’t care. That’s how I felt. I told my writer friends. I told my husband. I told one of my close friends. I needed to express these vile feelings churning inside me, even if only to tell someone and have them try and make me feel better about it. It worked, a little. But the only thing that truly helped was a good night’s sleep and to get back in my chair and continue working on my current WIP.

Acceptance – Fortunately for me, I bounce easily. Also, fortunately for me, I have a fantastic support group of writing friends, who told me what I needed to hear: Keep going. I have a distinctive voice. One response doesn’t signify the end. It’s only one person’s opinion. Additionally, it’s only my second rejection. Which is nothing in this field. It still hurts, but I also know it means I have a fair way to go in honing the craft of novel writing. The best part about this rejection, is that the editor said it was a ‘fun first novel.’ Imagine that? My first novel, my first full piece of work, which went through five drafts in just over a year, which started off as a typical romance and ended up being set in the 1920s (WHAT happened?!). It was bloody hard work, it was complicated, it made me go cross-eyed, and I fell in love with my characters. So, I’m not going to forget about it and move on, I’m going to put it to one side for now. There are some aspects which need work, but the editor also said I have ‘great potential.’ She took the time to give me that feedback, as well as the parts which need more work, and I’m going to hold on to that and remember it every time I feel doubt. ‘A fun first novel’ is perhaps the most amazing thing an editor from a well-known publisher could say in a rejection, so although the end result wasn’t what I dreamed of, it will come to help me in my journey.

If you’re reading this and have recently received a rejection of your own, I hope you’ll gain some encouragement from this post. Realise that if you want something badly enough – it’s in your power to keep trying. As I have always said, the only way to fail is to stop trying.

Never. Give. Up.

Book review: Blood Torn by Lindsay J. Pryor

Blood Torn (Blackthorn, #3)Blood Torn by Lindsay J. Pryor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I make no secret of the fact I am a big fan of Ms. Pryor’s world of Blackthorn. The first book in the series, Blood Shadows, was a whirlwind, gripping story about fierce, feisty agent Caitlin Parish – from the Third Species Control Division – intent on bringing down the notorious master vampire, Kane Malloy. This story almost prevented me from preparing the kids’ dinner a few nights in a row.

Then came the second book, Blood Roses, and the incredibly dark vampire, Caleb Dehain, who I absolutely loved. I think I loved Blood Roses, with Caleb and Leila – a serryn born to destroy him – more than I loved Blood Shadows (although I’d never have guessed it at the time).

Ms. Pryor creates strong, but seriously flawed heroines, on a mission to take down the enemy they’re destined to fall in love with, but not without consequence.
She likes to put some serious obstacles in the way of these couples, leaving you wondering how on earth they’re going to come through it unscathed.

I got my ‘claws’ into Blood Torn by downloading it as soon as it was released, and spent an entire evening into the early hours reading the first half. I’d have pulled an all-nighter if I could, because the threads Ms. Pryor kept spinning kept me turning, page after page after page with questions, desperate to know what happened next.

The first two books follow the story of two of the key players – the two most powerful vampires – in Blackthorn.

Blood Torn, on the other hand, is all about sexy Lycan leader Jask Tao, and Phia McKay; the sharp, impulsive younger sister of Leila from Blood Roses, and she’s intent on bringing down ALL of the Third Species leaders. What she doesn’t count on, though, is Jask being a force to be reckoned with, someone who challenges her very being, her reason for existing and all of her values. He breaks her down, gets under her skin, and gets into her head and she’s powerless to stop him, although she certainly gives it her best shot. As with all of Ms. Pryor’s books, we are left with a Happy For Now, but there are some mammoth challenges left in the way, all leading up to what I expect will be a massive show-down – yet to be revealed. Once I’d experienced all the action and conflict (and not to mention steamy scenes) unfold between Jask and Phia, a feeling of deep unease crept over me at the prospect of the next book. Because while we have a Happy For Now, Ms. Pryor has laid the path for an even darker journey into the next book, a taster of which is provided at the end of Blood Torn. I read the first chapter horrified, then gasped as it came to an abrupt end. Because, although disturbingly dark, I was so embroiled in the lives of the characters of Blood Torn, so wrapped up in their world, that when I got to the next part of the story, I simply wasn’t ready to leave Blackthorn. Alas, I shall just have to wait until Blood Deep is released. Or read all three books again.

Once again, a fabulous instalment from Ms. Pryor. Absolutely spectacular.

View all my reviews

Book (short story) review: Laura’s Locket by Tima Maria Lacoba

Laura’s Locket: A Dantonville Chronicle by Tima Maria Lacoba

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you remember your first love, or your first holiday romance? That inspiring, amazing experience all those years ago when all you could think about was the sexy, mysterious guy who fleetingly crossed your path? Holidays can be the paradise which dreams are made of, a time when you’re at your most relaxed, when everything is a great adventure and your inhibitions are tossed out of the window.

Laura Dantonville knows all about this when she takes a trip to Italy with her two girlfriends, and meets the mysterious Philippe Reynard, who simply appears out of nowhere and vanishes just as quickly right before their last date. It’s obvious Philippe isn’t your regular guy out for a quick holiday fling, but a compelling gentleman, who emerges from the shadows to sweep young, innocent Laura right off her feet. Who is he, and why is there a slight hint of danger and suspense?

This short love story is thick with intrigue and wonderfully descriptive:

‘[the full moon.] There it hung, like a celestial pearl, its ribbon of light casting a liquid trail over the sea.’

Aside from taking a little trip into the romance and beauty of Italy, Laura’s Locket provides a perfect little insight into Miss Dantonville’s tale in Bloodgifted, and is currently free on Smashwords until 7th March.

View all my reviews

The author is also running a competition to win the beautiful locket as featured on the cover of Laura’s locket, details here.

For more insight into the Dantonville Legacy, you can read my review of Bloodgifted here.