Author Archives: Faye Avalon

What’s in the box?

Since my motivation has been a trifle lacking lately, I’ve decided to level up on ways to get more productive.

Writing wise, that means online sprints with my writing pals. These get me moving, but I have to admit that the sprints are sometimes all I manage and writing takes a backseat for the rest of the week. *Sigh* Not even a juicy new idea for a series has kept the old motivation levels high. While I also get inspired during online chats with my girls, especially when they all seem to be storming along with their goals, that inspiration can sometimes wane all too soon. *Double sigh*

Since I always feel better when I’m writing consistently, and apparently I’m not the only one who notices that (cue husband), I’ve been thinking/researching other ways to motivate myself.

One thing I found was Nonsense Timer Writing. Ten minutes where you just type gobbledegook. No proper words, no real sentences, no punctuation. Nothing, in fact, that makes any kind of sense. The theory is that as you type rubbish, you’ll find yourself wanting to write properly. Little ideas will pop, characters will speak, and before long you’ll want that ten minutes to be up so you can get back to the story you’re currently writing. Well, anything is worth a try.

Another technique is one hubby has come up with. Poor AJ hates it when I don’t write on a daily basis. Can’t think why? Maybe it’s because I find him things to do around the house when I’m not at the keyboard. Anyway, he came up with a reward system where he places something in a box, seals it up, and I can only open it when I’ve done my daily word count.

He’s only been doing this since the weekend but so far I’ve found a small bar of chocolate, two biscuits, and last night I opened it to find my kindle! It seems he’s going to be merciless. I dread to think what other of my ‘necessities’ he’ll hide in that box and won’t allow me access to unless I hit my word count!

Ah well, it’s working for now and I’ve typed more words in the last few days than I have in quite a while. Whatever works, right?

So, tell me. How do you find the motivation to do the things? Have you found any bizarre or interesting ways, or are you just naturally disciplined? I’d love to know.

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Lockdown Walks

Since we’re in lockdown (again) here in the UK, it’s not been possible to venture too far from the old homestead. In fact, the farthest I managed was a six mile car trip to get my COVID-19 vaccine!

That said, we have had some lovely and interesting walks in our local area. Having lived in the village for almost 25 years, we prided ourselves on knowing it quite well, but with the release of a new book by a local author detailing twenty circular walks within easy reach of our village, we have discovered some new and fascinating routes. Each walk has a short version and a longer version and every one of them features a route by either a lake or river, which has pleased our water-loving Vivvy no end 🙂

We’ve encountered some interesting characters on our new walks and have learned a lot from them about the countryside as a whole and the local area in particular. I didn’t know there were quite so many different types of gates and stiles, or that our area held quite a number of intriguing stone circles each with a fascinating, and sometimes lurid history. Ghost stories abound, as do sightings of strange and mysterious creatures that appear to unsuspecting walkers, often as dusk falls. You can imagine how my writer-imagination fires on all cylinders while listening to these often tongue-in-cheek accounts by the locals. They have certainly given me food for thought for future stories. I’ll need to do some further research, which means revisiting the places from which these strange tales emanate. But I’ll be doing that in daylight, of course, and will make sure to be home well before the light fades!

Testing…testing…

It’s been a cold and wet autumn and winter here in the UK, and the dark evenings and chilly nights call for the comfiest duvets and throws, and not just for us humans. I’ve had my eye on one of those plush donut dog beds for Ms. Vivvy for ages, but since her current bed is not that old I couldn’t really justify a new one.

Well, that didn’t deter my mum from spoiling her beloved grand-dog, and so a special Christmas present duly arrived. The box it came in was so small we thought mum had made a mistake with the size, but then this monster popped out! Vivvy, who is a real creature of habit, and really does not like change, took one look and promptly ran for the safety of the kitchen.

To be honest, it looked so comfortable we felt like claiming it ourselves, and when I lay down on it in the hope of coaxing Her Ladyship to try it out, I could have easily enjoyed a very pleasant nap. We tried everything from gentle persuasion, hiding her favourite treats, and settling her beloved teddy in there. But nope, nothing seemed to work. Then, after several days when we were wondering if we could return it and get my mum’s money refunded, we came in from the kitchen and found this:

Then this…

And finally this…

Those photos were taken on consecutive days because, well, a girl has to make sure there’s nothing in there that will pop up and bite her, doesn’t she? And while our golden girl loves her luxurious new bed, she still favours the old one. Ah well, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The strange ‘in-between’

Firstly, I hope everyone managed to have a good Christmas, despite the less than ideal circumstances we all find ourselves in. We had a lovely time, but it was hard not meeting up with family and friends. All I can say is, thank heaven for Zoom!

This year, the ‘in-between’ week from Christmas to New Year is a strange one. The normal things that happen during this period aren’t taking place. Here in the UK we are basically in lockdown. So there has been no trips to the post-Christmas sales; no outings to the cinema; no festive evenings with friends… There’s a kind of stillness in the air, a flatness in the the lead up to New Year. It’s as if the world is holding its breath in the hope that better things are coming.

This week always finds me in a reflective mood (I suppose it’s the same for most of us). I think about the year that’s rapidly coming to an end and take time to look back on the good things… what went well, what goals I managed to achieve, etc. Also, the things that didn’t go so well, the goals I didn’t achieve, and the things that didn’t get done. I tend not to dwell too much on the later, except to resolve to do better in the future.

While I’m extremely grateful that my loved ones have come through the year and have remained virus-free, there has been one major family health challenge that came out of the blue and has left me reflecting on the fragility of life. It has certainly put things back into perspective, making me realise that my distinct lack of writing focus in 2020 (caused by major procrastination issues – no excuse) is really, in the bigger scheme of things, not that important. I failed big-time in meeting the goals I set, but there’s always next year.

But regardless of meeting goals or not, it’s always a good idea to set them. It is our goals that can help keep us rooted when life is especially challenging. They push us forward into the great unknown where all kinds of possibilities exist. I’m reminded of the wonderful Desiderata with its instruction to “keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

As the New Year approaches, I wish you everything that you wish for yourself. Stay safe, my friends. We’re getting there!

Season of Mists…

Okay, so I’m not an autumn/winter person. I’d much rather a lovely sunny, warm spring or summer day than the ones we’ve been experiencing this week here in the UK: cold, damp and pretty depressing.

That said, today’s doggie walk was really atmospheric. I’ve blogged before about how much I love our local woods and this week the early morning mists (that have lasted all day) turned them into something special.

What’s more, it got my paranormal juices a-popping. I could just see a nice juicy shifter stalking out of those trees – panther, wolf – I’m not fussy, and before long I had an idea for a new series. But, total shocker, this writer didn’t have her mini voice recorder with her, nor pen or paper to jot down my thoughts. I know, I should hang my head in shame. What writer goes anywhere without the means by which to get those often fleeting thoughts down before they are lost to the ether?

Thankfully, the gist of my idea was still there by the time I got home and I was able to scribble down my thoughts. But, lesson learned. I don’t plan on getting caught out again. The mini recorder is now safely ensconsed in the ‘walkies’ bag, complete with fresh batteries!

How about you? Do you always carry a means by which you can jot down your thoughts/ideas/plans when you’re away from home? A notebook/mini recorder/phone? Let me know how you capture those thoughts 🙂

Ode to Zack

Cars… I’m notorious for keeping mine until it gives up the ghost and the truck comes to tow it away. I purchased my little Toyota in 2005 and named him Zack. He has been the best car. Okay, he grumbles on occasions, his brakes are not the quietest, and my passengers are basically horizontal thanks to the dodgy mechanism on the passenger seat. And he has more knocks and scratches than I can count. But never once has he let me down, and we’ve travelled some miles together over the years, I can tell you.

Zack has suffered my rants, my woeful singing as I joined in with Bruce Springsteen’s anthems, he’s learned some pretty colourful language during those times when I encountered less than mindful drivers, and he’s listened to me rabbiting on about plot points and characters who refuse to do what I want them to do. He’s heard all about my worries, and my hopes and dreams.

Sadly it’s now time to say goodbye to my trusty four-wheeled friend. I’m needing to do quite a lot of long-distance travel and AJ was worried about the toll on old Zack. Oh my, it was hard letting him go, but I know it’s for the best and I already LOVE my new four-wheeled baby. Not that I didn’t initially put up a fight and voice all kind of objections: he’s easy to park, he’s SO reliable, he nips in and out of traffic like a little mechanical ninja. But eventually, my head won out over my heart.

So it was with a heavy, but grateful heart that I bid farewell to my trusty steed. All that’s left for me to do is thank him for all those incredible years of safe and reliable driving, wish him well, and bid Godspeed to those who are lucky enough to travel with him in the future.

How about you? Do you get attached to your cars? Do you find it hard to let them go? I’d love to hear that I’m not alone in this. It would help to know there are other crazy car lovers out there.

Into the Woods…

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. We’re lucky enough to have several woods near where we live and we make good use of them. And yes, there is usually a surprise or two to be had each time we visit. Usually, in the form of little wild flowers that I’ve never seen before and some that I have and continue to enjoy like this pretty mallow.

And then there’s this… I’ve never seen anything like it before but it was in the part of the woods that I always think of as the fairy glen. Spotting this in that area seemed particularly apt because it does look a bit other-worldly.

I love the change of seasons in the woods, but especially love spring when the wild daffodils and bluebells make an appearance. I’m starting to think of the woods as my happy place, as I’m really at peace when I’m there.

Vivvy loves it, of course, and I think her own happy place is when we visit the waterfall. She adores the water, and thankfully the stream is very shallow so it’s a safe spot for her (unlike a few weeks ago when she fell in a river and couldn’t get out – it put years on me, I can tell you).

There’s something so calming about the trickle of water. Which reminds me, I keep meaning to plan a small water feature for the garden. Maybe I should get on to that.

How about you? Where’s your happy place?

Be More Dog…

So, I was sitting having coffee with AJ this morning and we were pontificating on everything that’s happening in the world and bemoaning the fact that ‘things ain’t what they used to be‘. Watching the news, everybody seems scared or angry or just plain tired of it all. The news is filled with doom and gloom.

Then, from across the room came a small contented moan and a happy little yip. We looked over to see this:

20200827_114411Flat out and happily exhausted. She’d been walked, had enjoyed a game of ‘chase the cat’ and a bark at next door’s dog in the garden She’d been fed, watered, was safe in a warm, dry home where she’s loved, adored and thoroughly spoiled.

In that moment, the message to us was ‘chill out’ and focus on the good stuff. As always, our girl manages to help us put things back into perspective.

And we can always switch off the news…

 

Going at your own speed…

So, I had a pretty lazy weekend and spent most of it catching up on reading and watching TV.  That’s not the norm for me, but I felt my energy levels needed a recharge.

Something I did notice while watching lifestyle shows, was that they all seem to be time-sensitive. I saw programmes on how to renovate a house in a weekend, plant a garden from scratch in a day, and cook up a feast for twelve in under two hours (okay, I might be exaggerating, but you get the gist). Participants are put under enormous pressure to stick to the time limit.

It seems that everywhere we look there’s a pressure to do things fast. Even the writers among us aren’t immune. There’s write a book in a weekend, plan a seven-part series in one evening, or release a book every month (or a week in some cases) if you want to be really successful.  Okay, most of us see this for what it is and do our own thing (thank goodness), but the inherrent pressure (which is often subconscious) can sometimes be debilitating.

We all bloom at different speedsThis pressure to do everything fast can lead to a kind of comparison-itis. That feeling that if we’re not doing things as fast as our peers we’re slacking off. If we can’t renovate our garden in record time, or write 12,000 words a day, we’re somehow less-than those who are doing these things.

I’m a plodder, always have been. It takes me a while to plan, to think around things – whether it’s what colours to use in that new garden bed I’m planning, or the names of the characters in the new book I’m outlining. For me, that thinking process and having the time to sift around ideas and possibilities is a huge part of the fun. As a writer I like to spend days getting to know the characters, researching the setting, and any one of the other myriad things that go into developing a story. My characters become real to me, and I think a big part of that is spending so much time with them. I’m not sure I’d get the same satisfaction if I was banging out books at record speed.

I realise not everyone is like me and some people can write really fast and publish very regularly. I’m certainly not saying that quality is affected by speed either, and I could name several writers I love who write super fast and their books are great. Part of me envies them, but at the same time I’m not about to beat myself up for doing it differently.

What about you? Do you like doing projects fast? Or do you prefer taking your time?

Blooming Lovely…

Having more time during lockdown has meant that I could finally get around to working on the garden and make some headway on the plans I’ve been mulling over for several years now.

20200602_091646Every year, inspired by Kit’s garden, I’ve always planned to get more colour in our garden. But the season passes and I’m still no further on with those plans, blaming lack of time. No excuses this year. As a result, the garden is starting to look more colourful.

I’ve done a lot of digging and replanting to make way for new plants, most of which I’ve been lucky enough to get locally from a man who sells small plants he’s propagated from those in his garden. I’ve also acquired lots of cuttings from neighbours after admiring their plants while walking Vivvy around our village and the local allotment. I’ve always found gardeners to be a generous bunch – always keen to discuss plants, share knowledge, and of course hand over those cuttings!

So, here’s a small selection of the plants I’m especially loving this year. My current favourites are the hydrangeas, anemones, and peonies. I also love cutting a selection of flowers and foliage to bring into the house. My offerings are still a bit meagre, but I’m getting there – and having a whole lot of fun doing so.

And of course when the digging, planting, and tidying is done for the day, a girl just wants to find a shady nook for a well-deserved afternoon nap:

20200623_134219

Whatever you’re doing this summer, have fun!

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Check out Faye’s author website at www.fayeavalon.com
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