Sunday 19 February 2012

Sunday Walk

Anyone who knows me will tell you I don't do exercise and I don't do walking. Yes, I know both are good for you and I really should, but I just can't seem to summon the enthusiasm for either.

Anyway, as today was a glorious looking day, bright blue skies and dry, I decided we should, as a family, take Bob the dog for a long walk in our nearest woods. As you know, I feel physically and mentally sluggish at this time of year, so this seemed like a good idea to start shaking the sluggishness off.

I took my painkillers as my hip was already niggling me, wrapped us all up and set off.

It really was beautiful.

I took lots of photographs. Little man loved the trees and kept pointing out things I should be taking photos of. We were really lucky and came across a man out working his bird of prey. Stunning.

Bob loved the change in her daily walk.

We walked for about an hour and a half and I was flagging at the end, but I really enjoyed it and have even suggested we make it a regular Sunday morning thing.

I wonder if I'll regret that idea.

What do you love to do on a Sunday morning?

Saturday 18 February 2012

Cat & The Dreamer

First of all I have to make an apology to Annalisa Crawford over at Wake up, Eat, Write Sleep, as I said I would give her book publication day a shout out on Tuesday. Unfortunately I have been so ridiculously busy at work and shattered when I get in, that I haven't really been online and the post that went up was sat in that scheduled day for a while. So massive apologies to Annalisa.

 I hope you had an amazing launch day Annalisa and are still feeling the buzz from it. I'm so thrilled for you.

So with apologies made, all that is left to do is ask you to visit Annalisa's launch day post and wish her well on the publication of Cat & The Dreamer.

Congratulations Annalisa!!

Tuesday 14 February 2012

The End of Google Friend Connect

You see that box on the right hand sidebar of the blog? The square with everyones faces and the "Join this site" button above? Well as of the first of March 2012 it will disappear unless you have a Google blog. This is the official announcement on Googles blog;

Google Friend Connect—Friend Connect allows webmasters to add social features to their sites by embedding a few snippets of code. We're retiring the service for all non-Blogger sites on March 1, 2012. We encourage affected sites to create a Google+ pageand place a Google+ badge on their site so they can bring their community of followers to Google+ and use new features like Circles and Hangouts to keep in touch.

Well, I haven't really taken to Google+ and I don't want to be forced into using it. The good thing is, I can keep the Friend connect but the downside is, you can only join Life in Clarity via the button if you have a Google blog yourself. 

What does this mean if you use Wordpress or other blogging software? Simple, you can subscribe to the blog. In the box under my profile there is space to put your email and subscribe. That way, when a post goes up, you will be sent the post into your email in box. For me, it's another example of how the big boys of the internet can't play together in the playground. I hope you will still follow the posts when you can. I appreciate everyone who reads, browses and comments here. What is blogging if it's not you right now?

Here's to many more blog posts, regardless of bits of software being added or removed!

Is this something you will be affected by?

Saturday 11 February 2012

Books We Love Blogfest

Today's post is a blog hop, created by the lovely Rebecca Kiel over on her blog of the same name. The premise is simple - List one of your favourite books.

Simple eh?! I found this blog hop gave me a ridiculously difficult choice to make. Choose one book you love. How as a book lover of many genres choose just one book?

If I was looking specifically at a book aimed at writers, I would easily have said Stephen King's On Writing, but that narrows the field of people who would want to read it, down.

The book that has made a massive impact me on most recently, I have already blogged about. Jojo Moyes, Me before You.

So where did I go from there? I decided the best place was to go to my favourite author who just so happens to write a crime series and then pick her first book in that series and the one that started my love of her books, so my book for todays blog hop is Karin Slaughter - Blindsighted.

It's brilliantly done. Slaughter's book, though crime orientated and sometimes grisly, are character driven and you can easily get inside their skins. Often, you wish you weren't in that skin at that point in time, but that's because she drags you along so mercilessly. I love her books, I love her narrative style, so Blindsighted is a great place to start if you want to try a crime series.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Blue Monday And On.

What is it about January and even February that leaves me with this feeling that I'm carrying around limbs and a head full of lead, or have heavy clouds floating comically around my head similar to the seeing stars effect, but especially made for January?

Blue Monday was named so by a publicity campaign which said the last Monday of January was the most depressing day of the year. Well I've been feeling Blue Monday for the majority of January and it's following me into February.

I announced on the first of January that was I was taking part in the 100,000 words in a 100 days challenge. That didn't happen. Yes I started and I have my first few chapters, I know where it's all going and the work has continued on in my head, but the ability to sit down at my desk and churn out the words is missing. I know we are supposed to make ourselves sit in that seat and work like any other job, but the way I'm feeling, the words wouldn't be anything like I see in my head and lead fingers would set in.

So, book two is happily running away in my head, that's still classed as working right? I'm also not just giving in to it and doing nothing. I have read more books in January than I have ever managed to read in a month. So again, I'm still working. You can't be a writer if you don't read. I'm loving the time to read and I'm loving losing myself in the books. I keep peeking up though to see if Blue January and February have gone yet, so I'm not hiding completely. I can see those heavy clouds around my head shifting now. Not much, but movement has started.

Do you feel affected by the seasons and if so, how do you combat it?

Monday 6 February 2012

Author Interview - Mel Sherratt

Today's blog post is an interview with author and good friend, Mel Sherratt. Mel has recently seen her first released crime novel, Taunting The Dead, soar up the UK Amazon kindle charts and I'm thrilled to have her visit and chat about what she loves, and that's writing.

Hi Mel, thanks for visiting Life In Clarity, we are very honoured to have you here. As a writer aspiring to publication I'm very interested in how fellow writers get started and their processes. What started you on your path to writing?

Hi Rebecca and many thanks for hosting me on your blog. I'm not sure even I can remember the first step on the path because I've been on the journey for so long! It's a cliche but I've always wanted to write. From sixteen, I sent a few short stories to a magazine I can't remember the name of (I think it was Love Stories!) but they were all rejected, despite the encouraging comments that they were sending to me eventually. After that, I must have read every 'how to write' book in the library over and over but then life got in the way. My dream always remained but it became more of a hobby. You could always tell when I wasn't happy in a job or a relationship as I would turn to my writing to make me happy. Once things were on the straight and narrow again, I'd stop writing. Then a few years ago, I started to get serious about it, wrote 'Chapter One' and didn't finish until I wrote 'The End' three months later. Since then I've been trying to get better at it.

And how did your current crime fiction novel Taunting The Dead come into being?

Taunting the Dead was my agent's idea. I'd written three crime thriller novels, primarily with women characters - real women, real problems, real crime – but without publication success. She suggested I write a novel incorporating a murder whodunnit. Because I didn't have a police background, I came up with the idea of a family liaison officer being attracted to the main suspect in a murder investigation. But as the plots twisted and the characters became many, I realised that more scenes needed to happen outside of the family home. So the family liaison officer became a detective sergeant. I then researched and learnt about police procedures and Taunting the Dead grew to what it is today.

I'm imagining there's a lot that you need to know for a police procedural, how do you go about researching something like police procedure and forensics?

I never thought I'd be able to write a police procedural in all honesty. In fact, once I'd discussed it with my agent, I became blocked for a while convincing myself that I couldn't. 'Write what you know' is a common saying among writers but I suppose not many books would be written if we didn't break this rule! I researched a lot of things off the internet and brought a book on writing crime fiction. I also read tons of best selling crime fiction by authors such as Peter James, Mark Billingham, Lynda La Plante, who had characters similar to mine within their novels. I watched a lot of television programs but annoyingly I was soon shouting out 'they wouldn't just walk into a murder scene like that!' at the screen. I found a few contacts via twitter too. Some people are only too willing to help, if you ask nicely and respect their time. I also have a local bobby that I can chat through about the little things - obviously there is only a certain amount of information that I can be privy to. But the little things are so important to get right as I think these are the ingredients that make a book authentic.

I did think for a while that I became bogged down by research as a type of procrastination so finally I sat down and began to write. Gulp.

And in the knowing more, did you break any preconceived ideas of cops or just reinforce what you felt?

I don't think I had any preconceived ideas of cops as I used to work as a housing officer, so would often have dealings with them. The people I mixed with day in day out were true professionals. So you could say it reinforced what I already felt. And asking for information is great too. I would, however, love to have a look around one of the larger police stations in Stoke on Trent and get the feel and sense of the building - the smell of the cells, the noise in a busy reception on a Friday evening, that kind of thing. 

You mentioned sitting down to write and the dreaded procrastination word. A word and concept I know many of us are familiar with. What is your ideal writing environment and can we see your work space please?

My ideal writing environment can be anywhere as long as I am alone and in silence - my dog, Dexter not included in that sentence! I find when I am drafting that I have to be silent. When I am editing, I can listen to music but it's only the radio rather than a particular music album. I know other writers that say the music helps them to write but for me it doesn't work. My ideal accompaniment is always coffee...

I have two places where I work, well, actually three if you count my settee! In the winter months, I hole myself up in my office, which is really the box room upstairs. It gets cozy in there when it's cold. But in summer, I sit at the kitchen table facing the garden. I had French doors fitted last year so now when the sun is shining, I can sit indoors with those open and it feels like I'm in the garden. Or when it's really lovely, I go out into the garden. Portable working at its best!  

So, what's next for Mel Sherratt?

Gosh, I don't really know. Taunting the Dead is doing well so I'd really like to bring out the next book in the series - which I've only just started to think about. I have the title, characters, murders all mapped out so it's getting quite juicy. My ultimate dream is still to get a traditional deal so that's what I'm aiming for. I'd love to write this one as part of a two book deal.     

Thank you for spending some time talking to me Mel. I know just how busy you are, so I appreciate the time. So, on the theme of interviews, the last question is - If you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be?
I think it would have to be Elvis Presley. I grew up with parents who listened to his music all the time and their love for him rubbed off on me. I love listening to his songs and of course he would sing Wooden Heart just for me - in his GI uniform - swoon.  

Friday 3 February 2012

April A to Z Blogging Challenge

On Monday, Lee over at Tossing It Out opened the April A to Z blogging challenge sign up linky.

Many of you will be aware what this challenge consists of as I know I raised my follower count last April doing this challenge. For those who haven't yet heard of this, it's concept is simple. You post a blog post every day (other than Sundays) with title of posts/themes going from A to Z. It's hard work as I found out last year. I failed with 2 or 3 letters, but other than that, it was a good go for the first year I'd participated.

It's a great tool for finding other bloggers out there and making new connections. Last year I think over a thousand bloggers signed up. The idea is to visit your fellow A to Z bloggers, but with numbers like that signing up, I  don't think it's possible to do that. My thoughts on it, is to visit as many as I can and particularly any bloggers who leave me comments. One piece of advice I read last year, just before commencing the challenge was to write some posts in advance. It's recognised that this is a time consuming challenge. I didn't manage to write any before it started, but with two months notice, I am definitely going to try and get a few written up and stored under my belt for April coming around. That way I have more time for visiting fellow bloggers rather than pulling my hair out wondering what I'm going to blog about on any given day.

If you fancy joining a massive blogging effort, then pop over to Lee's opening post and sign up. Also there are links to the A to Z blog and posts of advice.

So, who's joining me in this? Come on, don't let me sweat through this alone!

Wednesday 1 February 2012

New Commenting Feature

I'm not sure how far behind I am with this posts title, or how "New" the feature actually is. Maybe I should have the title as New to me, commenting feature.

The reason I now know about this new feature is I found a great "How to" post on Pearson Report blog, on Monday. The post not only informed me about the new feature - Yes we're still going with new, no matter how old it actually is -but it has a great step by step image guide for dummies. Yep, that's the category I fall into with blogs.

What is this great new feature? - you are all probably using by now. Well previously when replying to comments, I had to make a whole list in one comment box and hope someone may be interested in searching through it for a specific response to themselves. Now though, Google Blogger have added the ability to reply to bloggers individual comments. I love this! It's something I've been envious of Wordpress bloggers for, for some time.

So, if like me, you didn't know this new feature existed and you want to know how to add it to your own blog, I suggest you go take a peek at this Pearson Report post, where the very quick steps are explained.

Did you already know this existed and do you/will you use it?