Back Again – Or Not!

Well I am back after a wonderful long weekend away with the tandem at the Tandem Club National Rally near Oxford. The weather was glorious for the time of year and I even caught the sun before remembering to slap on the sun scream cream. We managed about 124 miles over four rides around roads, lanes and tracks.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I may not be around much over the next few weeks as I have rather a lot on. First my brother-in-law, who is moving back to the UK from Portugal is staying with us while sorting out the purchase of a retirement apartment a few miles from our home. Although an offer has been accepted on an apartment and this is proceeding it could take some time and it is always difficult to find time to do your own thing when you have a house guest!

Secondly, my poetry group has produced collections of poems by members from time-to-time over the years, often for special occasions. We have decided to produce one for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and I will be editing it as our previous editor is not at all well and is no longer a member of the group. I shall need to get on with the job over the next couple of weeks so that it can be with the printer in time for it to be produced for the Platinum Celebrations in early June – and I haven’t even written my own contribution yet! The deadline for contributions by our members is 30th April so I must try to comply with my own rules. Most of my available spare time will be spent on this project.

I will drop in when I find the time but this may be infrequently until at least the middle of May.

Journaling

For several years I wrote ‘Morning Pages’, as writers are so often prompted to do. This is supposed to be ‘stream of consciousness’ writing, without thought, the idea being that when you read over what you have written later there may be something there that provides an inspiration for more serious writing. It never worked for me!

I wrote my Morning Pages religiously, at least 4 sides of A5 notebook every morning before I got up. It was complete and utter rubbish, nothing but pointless waffle, not one iota of inspiration hidden in the dross to inspire anything worth writing. Was I doing it wrong? Well, apparently there is no right or wrong way to do it. So I persevered, as I say, for several years, filling notebook after notebook with scribblings about the worries and concerns of my everyday life – what to cook for dinner, what to buy for someone’s birthday among other occasional more serious concerns and with a few nature observations here and there – but nothing to inspire a best-selling novel or even a decent poem. Stream of consciousness? Often I had to consciously think of something to write about, although I admit that once in the flow of the new topic it did stream out (I’m good at waffle), until I ran out of steam and had to think of another topic.

Eventually I decided enough was enough, I was wasting paper and ink for no apparent gain. For some time now I have not given so much as a thought to the idea of Morning Pages and have burned several of those rubbish filled notebooks, (although there are still some in the drawer of my bedside cabinet awaiting their turn on the fire).

Recently I have had something of a change of heart. Maybe I could do it differently. Part of the idea of these pages was as a form of mindfulness, subconsciously noticing things I suppose, in that stream of consciousness. Well ‘Small Stones’ share something of this idea too and I have also been writing these for many years. I enjoy writing these little poetic observation and have no intention of giving up.

Synchronicity had a hand in it perhaps, but recently I read a book that I picked up in a local charity shop; Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by the late Roger Deakin, ‘a writer, broadcaster and film maker with a particular interest in nature and the environment’. Walnut Tree Farm was his home in Suffolk and for the last six years of his life he kept notebooks about his impressions and observations around his home and other places he visited, people he met. Whether or not he wrote these notes everyday I don’t know, the book only claims to contain ‘the best of these writings’, but it occurred to me that here is my answer, I could do something similar. Most of my ‘stones’ are based on nature observation in my garden or when out and about so why not enlarge this perspective?

During the time I was reading the book I realised my awareness of what was going on around me was actually more acute than I had previously recognised or recorded, details I had thought too trivial to bother with. With this awareness came inspiration for some new poems and, as I mentioned in last Monday’s post, after almost a couple of years without writing a single decent poem I came up with several.

My answer, I decided, was to write my own similar nature notes, make my Morning Pages more meaningful to me, not so much ‘stream of consciousness’ but more specifically aimed, while still dragging things out of my subconscious mind – i.e. a more deliberate and focused ‘Journaling’ rather than the aimless Morning Pages. Also I do not need the stress and pressure of doing this first thing in the morning, I will do it as and when I have something to write about, whatever time of day, while what I have observed is fresh in my mind. Nor do I need to do it every day – if I have had an ‘indoor’ day with no chance to observe then there is no need to write. My writing will not be as share-worthy as Roger Deakin’s, I do not have his level of knowledge and experience, but then mine is not intended for sharing.

I almost wish I had thought of this earlier and started at the beginning of the year, instead of just yesterday, but I have solved that wish by deciding to start with a summary of things I noticed in January and take it from there – no more Morning Pages but Journaling, I think this will suit me better and hopefully be more productive.

Permission

It is strange but since I wrote my post ‘Resolution‘ in which I said I was no longer going to put myself under pressure to post here if I was busy or had nothing much to say I haven’t either missed a post or lacked anything to write about. Perhaps it is the very act of giving myself permission not to do it that has freed me up to just do it.

Another by-product, as it were, is that I am writing poetry again. Poetry was always my first love and other writing simply followed on from this, but for one reason or another I hadn’t written, or even attempted to write, anything that I would consider a half-decent poem in the last 18 months or even longer – until after my above mentioned post at the beginning of this year. I have been writing ‘Small Stones’ during that time, many of which have been poetic in form, but no real poems.

In the last couple of weeks, however, I have written five new poems. Okay, they might still need some tweaking and polishing but mostly I am reasonably pleased with them. My muse has returned and I’m riding with it. Who knows when it might desert me again, but maybe this too is something not to get stressed about. As I have now learned, it will return.

I don’t usually share my ‘proper’ poems on my blog but to celebrate the return of my muse I would like to share a shortish one with you today. I wrote it on 24th January so it refers to events of 22nd January!

Two Nights Ago

Two night ago it snowed.
Nothing much, just enough
to dust the ground
and then a little more.

Now it has gone, or nearly so,
washed away by a damp
and misty, drizzly day.

A little lingers on; around
the edges of the lawn,
in the crooks where branches
join the trunks of trees,
along the leaves of plants
in the shadow of a wall,

as if to let us know
there may be more to come.

Winter isn’t done.

© Elizabeth Leaper

Random Words

One of the things I miss about my old writer’s group is the Random Words exercise. Every week we each wrote down a word then pooled all those words together – up to a dozen of them, depending on how many people were there – and we had to write a short piece using all the words for the following week. The variety of work these same words produced was amazing.

It was an interesting exercise and helped to focus the imagination so I have devised my own version of this challenge. Perhaps you would like to try it.

I picked a book at random from my bookcase, in this instance it was ‘Blue Lightning’ by Ann Cleeves, I opened it at any page and selected the first noun on the left hand page. I did this six times. Then for the last two words I opened it at random pages again and chose the first verb from right hand page. You can devise your own word selection process and decide how many words to choose. Proper names are allowed and you can use the words anyway you wish, so for example a word such as ‘Shepherd’ could be an occupation or a name and you can be quite inventive in how you use the words but they should only be used in the form selected – no changing the tense of the verbs! Here are my chosen words and the story I wrote using them:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Words:   Afternoon, Someone, Plane, Telephone, Surprise, Speak, Remained and Determined.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pete looked up in surprise when the telephone rang and Sally jumped up quickly, rushing to the handset in the hall as if determined to answer it before anyone else could, not that there was anyone else in the house to do so. Pete found himself wondering who it could be, who uses a landline these days anyway? Why not ring her mobile?

He heard Sally speak but could not make out her words as she had shut the dividing door on her way out. It went quiet, someone on the other end must be doing all the talking. Soon she hung up and returned to the kitchen. Pete couldn’t read the expression on her face. Was that apprehension? Supressed excitement? Indecision? He was itching to ask but remained silent, she would tell him if she wanted him to know. He watched her from under his eyebrows as he sipped his coffee.

He saw the moment she made up her mind as she looked at him full in the face. “That was Alan,” she said. Pete frowned. “He caught an afternoon flight instead of the overnight one. His plane landed an hour ago and he’s on his way here by taxi. He’ll be here any minute. Don’t look like that Pete, you used to like him.”

“That was before he started messing you around.” Pete glowered.

“He’s asked me to marry him but told me to think about it and not give him an answer till he gets here.”

“Well it’s about time too! I’m guessing you’ll say yes. I hope you’ll be very happy.” Pete marched towards the door just as the bell rang. He swung it open before Sally could reach it and stood facing Alan.

“What are you doing here?” Alan asked guardedly.

“Just checking up on my little sister,” Pete grinned, holding out his hand. “Congratulations,” he said as the other man shook it, “but just remember – you cause her any grief and you’ll answer to me. I’ll be off and leave you two in peace.” He kissed Sally on the cheek and turned to go, “Oh, and if you can tear yourselves apart for long enough come and join Eve and me at The Wayfarer this evening. The champagne’s on me.”

Alan watched in amazement then turned to Sally pulling here into his arms. “I take it that’s a yes then,” he said.

Reminders

Usually I have a fair idea what to write about when I do my Monday blog post but I had no idea what I might write about today so I have decided to do something I don’t often do:

Indra's Net coverI would like to remind you about some of my recent books, after all if I don’t advertise them I won’t sell them. You will find out about them all on my Books page here (with the exception of “Indra’s Net” which isn’t strictly one of my books) but for now I will just mention the three most recent.

First comes the just mentioned “Indra’s Net”. As I said, this is not exactly one of my books but some poems of mine are included in it. The book has contributions by many poets from all over the world and is published by Bennison Books. It is being sold in aid of the Book Bus project and is available to buy on Amazon. You can read a more full account of this book here.

Simp;y Elfje coverNext comes my own book “Simply Elfje” which also includes contributions by various writers who submitted little Elfje poems to my blog of the same name, on which the book has been based.

This book is also available on Amazon and it is also my intention to produce it as an e-book. Unfortunately, due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances and life in general getting in the way, this has not yet happened but it is still on the plot and I am ever hopeful that this will be achieved before too many more months have passed! I will remind you again when the e-book is ready.

The Thirsty Flowers coverThe third book that I would like to draw to your attention once again is my illustrated children’s story book “The Thirsty Flowers” with its delightful illustrations by art student Kerrie Mccauley. I have had some very pleasing feed-back from children who have read it or, should I say, have had it read to them. Unfortunately this is not available from Amazon but can be purchased from my own website, Silverburn Publishing, which you will find here.

I also mention in passing  my two poetry collections, “Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles” and, for children, “Barking at Nothing”. You can also read more about these on my Books page and on my website via the links above.

Indra’s Net

Indra's Net coverRecently published by Bennison Books, ‘Indra’s Net’  is an anthology of poetry generously donated by writers from all over the world. The book is being sold in aid of The Book Bus charity ‘which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.’

The title was suggested by one of the contributors, the late Cynthia Jobin who tells us: ‘Indra’s Net is a metaphor for universal interconnectedness. It’s as old as ancient Sanskrit and as ‘today’ as speculative scientific cosmology.’ (from the Forward by Carol Rumens)

I am honoured to be included in this anthology alongside several prize-winning poets as well as other writers of ‘small stones’.

This is a varied, accessible and enjoyable poetry anthology in aid of a very worthwhile cause and I would like to encourage you to treat yourselves (or a friend) to a copy. The book is available from Amazon and all profits from the sale of this book will go to the charity. To buy a copy of the book please go to the Amazon page HERE. 

To find out more about The Book Bus charity visit http://www.thebookbus.org

Well Dressing

Well Dressing PosterLast Saturday, 1st July, a village near where I live in Staffordshire held its biannual Well Dressing. This custom was revived in 2012. The second local event was held a year later in 2013 and since then it has been held with a two-year gap, in 2015 and again this year.

The custom of well dressing is believed to have its roots in pagan times when the local community would decorate and bless the wells to give thanks to the gods for clean water. Some people believe that, rather than being a pagan custom it stems from the time of the Black Death (1348) when people would give thanks, again for clean water.

Originally the ceremony was confined to one or two villages in Derbyshire Peak District in the 19th century, having been introduced in Buxton in 1840 but it has since spread to  other villages, mostly in the neighbouring counties of Staffordshire, South Yorkshire and Cheshire but it has also spread to a few villages in Shropshire and Worcestershire, as well as the village of Kemsing in Kent where it was introduced in 2011.

The Croxton event near my home celebrates a different theme on each occasion. This year it was ‘Supporting the Community’. There is a trail of about 5 wells which have been refurbished in recent years and are dressed by different organisations within the community. The main well is blessed by the vicar of the local church, linking it to Christianity for modern consumption, and there are other events and activities available on the day to celebrate the occasion, as you can see from the poster.

First Croxton Well DressingThe  dressings are created on a board, usually a pallet filled in with clay, making them very heavy, and the are ‘coloured in’ with petals – hence the alternative name ‘well flowering’. Here is a photo of the very first Croxton well dressing (2012) at the main well and sponsored by the local Women’s Institute who are very active in encouraging the tradition to continue.

I did not manage to go along on the day but hope to follow the trail before the boards finally fade. There is a walking and cycling route established to view them so perhaps it will be out on the bike.

It’s Here!

Latest news:

Simply Elfje

Final cover version ‘Simply Elfje’ final cover.

Good News! My ‘Simply Elfje’ book of the blog is now available to purchase from Amazon. I have tweaked the colour of the cover a little and here is the revised version.

To buy a copy from Amazon UK please click here. It is also available from Amazon.com and in Europe.

There will eventually be an e-book version for Kindle, however I will be away now for a couple of weeks and have run out of time to do the conversion. I will do it on my return and hopefully it will be available in early May – watch this space.

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Not On Amazon

Many of you will know that I have to date published three books. Two of these are poetry collections, “Barking At Nothing” which was published in 2010 and “Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles”, which includes poems by my late uncle, in 2011. The first of these is verse for children. My third book was published at the end of last year and is an illustrated story for young children called “The Thirsty Flowers”.

Three book covers

These books are listed on Amazon but it states that they are unavailable. In fact the books are available to purchase from my own website at http://www.silverburnpublishing.co.uk they just aren’t available on Amazon. Well that’s not entirely true; you can, at the time of writing, buy a couple of copies of “Barking At Nothing” from other suppliers on Amazon where I have seen them listed for £22.60 and £19.80 – remarkable when you consider that the face value is only £4.99 and of that £3 will be donated to a children’s charity – in this case The Donna Louise Hospice Trust (when bought direct from me). Forgive me for feeling a little angry that people should wish to make a killing to line their own pockets and that none of this extra money will go to the charity I aim to support.

The problem here is that I am an Indie publisher, I publish all my own books at my own expense and I do my best to keep my expenses as low as possible, doing all the work myself except for paying for printing. I then do my own marketing and distributing, again on a shoestring. This is what enables me to keep the price reasonable and yet also to raise money for the charity. All I hope to do is to recoup my expenditure so that I have the money to pay for the next project.

I would love to make my books available on Amazon, to reach a wider audience, to sell more and so raise more money for my charity. However, in order for Amazon to sell my books I have to provide them with stock – they will only sell from stock that they  hold. I have to send the stock to them at my own expense and I have to pay an annual fee for the privilege of having them hold the stock. It is considerably more than likely that my sales will not cover the expense of doing this so not only will there be no profits for me to donate to the charity but I will probably not even recoup my initial expenditure and quite frankly, I can’t afford to do this.

To a lesser degree there is a similar problem when selling through bookshops. My books are registered with Nielsen’s Book Agency and have ISBN numbers so they can be ordered through bookshops. However when a book is ordered the book shop contacts Nielsen’s who then notify me, I have to post the book to the bookshop at my own expense and sell to the shop at a discount so that the shop can have their mark-up. Again this results in no profit and barely covers my expenses.

So the only realistic option for me is to just  sell the books directly from my website and I have to constantly be on the look-out for other selling opportunities – stalls at local events etc. and thinking up new ways to attract customers. (I’m not good at this!) When a new book comes out this gives a boost because you can draw people’s attention to the previous books on the back of the publicity for the new one but, as any Indie writer/publisher will tell you, all this is hard work and eats into writing time!

I have a new book that I am working on, it will be called “Simply Elfje” and is based on my currently dormant blog of the same name. This time I am trying a different approach. I plan to produce it through Amazon’s self-publishing platform Createspace, together with an e-book version produced on Kindle Direct Publishing. Createspace produces Print-on-Demand paperback books and both this and the e-book should be available on Amazon at no expense to me. I will receive a Royalty for the books sold which I can then donate to charity if I wish.

Now all I am struggling with is that I have the option of using one of my own ISBNs or I can have a free one from Createspace – but what I can’t seem to find out before I commit myself is what the advantages or disadvantages of these options are. If I use their ISBN it will be listed as published by Createspace, but if I use my own it will be published by Silverburn Publishing, my own imprint. Fair enough, but how does that affect my representation on Amazon? Do I get the same free distribution using my own ISBN as I would using one of their’s? If anyone knows the answer to this from their own experience a comment would be appreciated.

Official Book Launch

Book Launch notification

My new illustrated children’s story book ‘The Thirsty Flowers’ for 3-6 year-olds, which I made available shortly before Christmas, has now been officially registered and I have released the ISBN – you can find this on my website at Silverburn Publishing together with more information about the book.

There will be a ‘Virtual Launch’ on my Facebook Author’s page so do drop in on the day when there will various treats lined up for you! You will find the page here.

I am also hoping to arrange a local book signing session but this has still to be confirmed.

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