Not Doing Research

My articles on Research and the Author are intended to help writers to avoid the mistakes I’ve already made and give ideas about finding out information for their stories. Research is catnip for me. It lures me in to strange places and bewitches and befuddles me until I’m blissed out in interesting and largely useless facts.

Back when I first started writing about the eclectic and eccentric characters at the White Hart in Tales from the White Hart, Kadogan was already fascinated by candles. He watched them, counted them, arranged them and complained about them endlessly. In the latest instalments in Back at the White Hart, Kadogan has decided to invest in candle making equipment, which makes sense to him but no-one else. What could go wrong? Anyone who knows Kadogan thinks that plenty could go wrong and the potential for unexpected fires, runaway fragrances and cursed wicks are endless.

Writing classes always advise new authors to write what they know. I know nothing about candles but can’t resist the fun that I can have mixing Kadogan with candle making. I considered doing real life research and making a few candles so I looked around for an easy and inexpensive candle making kit to get an idea of how it could go. Sometimes it’s all about the details. I’d love to be able to add a touch like the smell of melting wax or the feel of the wicks. I had a look on eBay, which is my normal starting point.

On the surface, this seemed like a good idea. I love candles. There’s one burning as I type this. It’s nicely fragrant, slightly crackly and bought from the supermarket. I ask for candles for birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s Day. My son knows to candle me up on all gift giving occasions. Making candles seems like a logical next step. However all the adult kits that are the most like the experience of proper candle are extremely comprehensive. There are bundles that are quite reasonably priced that include melters and hot plates and thermometers along with ample supplies. For less than £50 at the time of typing I could find a kit that includes 200 wicks, although perhaps enough wax for ten candles or so.

But I can see the slippery slope. If I’ve got all this kit along with the spare wicks, it couldn’t hurt to pick up a little wax and fragrance and dye to make a few more. Surely it would be more cost effective, even if I priced it against supermarket candles. I could spend perhaps an evening or two and churn out a dozen candles. There are two good reasons why I shouldn’t consider it.

The first very good reason is that I am accident prone. I drop things. I spill things. I scald myself in improbable situations. My family never trusted me with jam making as I couldn’t be trusted with boiling fruit and sugar. I once set fire to a chip pan full of fat and far too many of my family are surprised that I only did that once. There is no way I can be trusted with melted wax – it’s a fire hazard and scald hazard combined.

The second excellent reason is that I have a shopping habit that gets out of control when it comes to hobbies. Knitting is a good example. I enjoy knitting but I love shopping for knitting. My yarn stash can be measured in heaps and I have random bags with needles, tape measures, patterns, bodkins and stitch markers all around the house. The amount of yarn I’ve accumulated due to seeing a really good deal when my impulse control was looking the other way is ridiculously large. I’ve a surprising amount of sewing kit as well, considering that I’m scared of my sewing machine. If candle making joined all my other hobbies, it wouldn’t stay in a small corner. I’d see a deal on wax or wicks and, before I knew it, candle making gear would be spilling out of the cupboards along with all the rest of my hobbies.

I thought very carefully about all of this. There are a multitude of videos on YouTube about candle making and I can watch them without risking burning myself or overdoing the shopping. Not only that, I can knit while watching those videos and decrease the yarn stash at the same time.

I’m skipping the real life research. I hope my reasoning helps other writers make informed conditions about when research on YouTube is good enough.

Writing Prompt Number 19

Quotation:

Ninety percent of all mental errors are in your head – Yogi Berra

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

Business Talk

You can read the story from the beginning here. This chapter was inspired by Writing Prompt Number 15

“I thought that door was locked to prevent the desperate from entering,” Lady Freydis said, glaring. “The shop is not open to the public for another thirty minutes and it’s never open for riff raff.”

Miss Marianne shrugged. “Locks are unimportant,” she said, striding across the shop and up to the counter. “Love is important.” She dumped a large basket of flowers onto the counter. “Where is Martin?”

Kadogan stalked in. “I am going to make candles,” he announced.

Fiona looked up from where she was re-stocking the greetings cards. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“We expend money on purchasing candles,” Kadogan said. “It would be economically sensible to produce those candles.”

“No-one has a love for Martin like I,” Miss Marianne said.

Noah wandered in from the back room. “What’s going on?” he asked Mrs Tuesday.

She grinned. “Sit back and enjoy,” she said.

“Making candles is complicated,” Fiona said. “You need wax and things, and more space than we have. It’s complicated.”

“I know Martin better than anyone. I’m his soul mate. I’m his twin flame,” Miss Marianne wailed.

Noah winced. “Is this about the candle making business that Kadogan got me to buy?” he asked.

Fiona snapped her head around to stare at him. “What business?” she asked.

Kadogan waved a hand airily. “Just the equipment and supplies,” he said. “They were remarkably inexpensive.”

“Probably because the person selling failed to make any money with it,” Fiona said. She turned back to Noah. “What do you mean, you bought the business? And didn’t you think to check?”

“I’ve brought flowers with me,” Miss Marianne cried. “Where is my true love?”

Noah took a step back. “There’s loads of those sort of businesses online,” he said. “And it was just small scale stuff.” He looked hesitantly at Kadogan. “A lot of influencers have a candle making business but they make most of their money from their blogs and merch.”

“What is merch?” Lady Freydis said, keeping her eyes on Miss Marianne.

“You know, merchandise like t-shirts or mugs or candle making supplies,” Noah said. “They usually write a book or two…” He stuttered to a stop as he realised his mistake.

“Excellent,” Lady Freydis. “You may write this book. And the enfluencer thing – you can organise that, yes?”

Noah shrugged. “I’m not sure. I can come up with some ideas but I can’t promise anything.”

“You will be perfect,” Lady Freydis said. “And you will instruct Mina as well.”

“Nobody is listening to me!” Miss Marianne wailed.

“Do you like candles?” Kadogan asked.

“Only if they are well ordered,” Miss Marianne said. “And the new soy wax blends are a significant improvement on the tallow dips.”

Kadogan’s eyes narrowed. “You should supervise the brownies that I have employed,” he said.

“We have more employees?” Fiona whispered.

“I shall escort you to the premises that I have secured for the candle making,” Kadogan said, courteously taking Miss Marianne’s arm.

“We have more premises?” Fiona whimpered.

Miss Marianne turned her head to glare at Lady Freydis. “Give Martin the flowers, trollop, and don’t tell him about the flowers.”

Lady Freydis ran a cloth over the coffee machine as she watched Kadogan and Miss Marianne leave. “This is going to be so much fun,” she said.

With Apologies

I fail at February and March. I always have. It’s the time of year when things like funerals and loss of ability to function happen for me. I am also easily distracted by, well, practically anything and I’m more susceptible around now.

I apologise for missing out on the posts. This happens every year yet still somehow takes me by surprise and I let people down. I’m sorry. Normal service (whatever normal service is) will be resumed on Monday.

I’ve been thinking a lot about reviews. Something is niggling at me and prodding me to keep going, but I feel uncomfortable reviewing authors who are in the same sort of genre as me. It feels like I’m poking at them and I really don’t want to do that. I want to be encouraging.

Over the last couple of months, when things have been less than straightforward in my private life, I’ve been reading my bodyweight in romantic eBooks. I know that eBooks technically have no easily measurable weight (can you tell that I have an extremely STEM son) and that I’m very much a larger lady, but it’s the best way to describe my reading. I’ve even read Hockey romances, and I’ve never seen a hockey game. I’m not even sure about the rules.

I’ve decided to work with this. The Friday review slot will be either my subscription from the British Library or a absolutely-non-paranormal-or-fantasy-or-anything-supernatural romance. I can’t seem to write anything without breaking out in vampires, so I’m safe from treading on the toes of an author who writes in the same genres. Also, I get to legitimately indulge in a romance at least once per week.

Another point is that I had a load of writing prompts cued up to post so they have kept going. I haven’t seen many people taking advantage of them, but I’ve enjoyed having them steer the story of Back at the White Hart so they are likely to continue. Please feel free to use them if they also work for you.

I plan to eventually put Invitation Accepted into a book form. I’ve noticed that people return to this regularly, so let me know if you want me to push that to the head of my extremely long writing to-do list. I’m always incredibly flattered that anyone reads my work, so if there any requests or questions, I’d like to hear them. I may not have shown it over the last few months, but I want to be respectful to anyone kind enough to read my stories.

Now I’m getting back to completely re-writing Across a Misty Bridge which is far too much fun to be legal and a good reminder of where things started.

Writing Prompt Number 18

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt Number 17

Quotation:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’Ronald Reagan

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

Books and Candles

You can read the story from the beginning here – Back at the White Hart

“Are you sure about the candles?” Noah asked.

Mina nods. “The library is enchanted against most fires. A candle isn’t a problem.”

“Of course it’s enchanted,” Noah grumbled. “It’s in fairyland.”

“It’s in Lady Freydis’ domain,” Mina said primly. “You’re taking the whole fairy thing very well.”

Noah grunted and peered at the shelves. “Why are the bookshelves so dark?”

“To make a nice contrast between the dark of ignorance and the light of knowledge in the books,” Mina said. “To be fair, it wasn’t all Lady Freydis’ idea. I’ve redecorated a few times, but she likes to keep the books in a dim light.”

“I’ll wear one of those headlamps next time,” Noah said. “Is there a system? I’m supposed to be finding books on candles.”

“I’ve tried to keep a system,” Mina said. “However this library is used by elfen. Werewolves are pretty good at putting things back where they found them and so are vampires and even boggarts, but elfen seemed to see an organised library as a challenge.” She led Noah over to the shelves and ran a knowledgeable finger along the spines. “You want a book on candles to distract Kadogan, right?”

Noah glanced at her. “I was ordered to come here and get a book on candles to help me write a book.”

“Because Kadogan has a thing about candles,” Mina said. “And he’s just split up with his girlfriend, so he’s looking for a distraction.”

“I didn’t realise that he had a girlfriend,” Noah said. “What was she like?”

“I didn’t really see her,” Mina said. She glanced over at him. “I don’t really leave the library much, but I met her a few times. She seemed nice, but she was far too calm with Kadogan.”

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Noah said.

“The best elfen relationships usually involved furniture being thrown,” Mina said. “Lady Freydis had that with her first husband, but it got complicated. It’s different with vampires.”

“And Martin is a vampire,” Noah said. “They seem really happy together.”

“They absolutely are,” Mina said.

“Are you a…” Noah trailed off.

“It’s very rude to ask,” Mina said. “As it happens, I’m a normal, just like you.”

“But you said you didn’t leave the library much,” Noah said.

Mina shrugged. “I came here when I was quite young,” she said. “And I’m comfortable here.” She turned. “Here you are. The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday. It was first published in 1861. I’m sure that it’s the sort of thing that Kadogan expects you to read.”

“I hope that he’s not expecting a lot of readers for this book,” Noah said uneasily.

“Probably not,” Mina said. “Why don’t you come back tomorrow? I’ll dig out the old household books on candle making and anything I can find on coffee for you.” She smiled with an unexpected glimpse of mischief. “And I think I have a lead on one of the books that Lady Freydis wants. I’ll double check it, but it may need another trip to Ferdi.”

Noah grimaced. “He’s a slimeball,” he said. “What are those books about anyway?”

“Lady Freydis is researching a spell, that’s all I can say,” Mina said. “It was considered powerful enough or problematic enough for the creator to spread the ideas and notes over several books. They originally were all in one library but they got scattered. Tracing them is a little tricky, especially as they were a random lot.”

Mina shrugged. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said. “I’ll have more for you then.”

Noah looked at the young woman thoughtfully. “I’m sure you will,” he said.

Writing Prompt Number 16

Quotation:

Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself to life

Adele Brookman

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

Writing Prompt Number 15

Welcome to the Writing Gym. This is a prompt for you to play with. You can use the picture, the quotation, a combination or just whatever sparks in your imagination after looking at them. It can be prose, poetry or non-fiction depending on how you feel and which writing muscles you need to work on.

The rules are here, and if you feel like sharing, drop a comment on this post with a link to your writing on your blog, a website, Facebook, Tumblr, Threads or wherever you felt comfortable posting. If you don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay. The important thing is to have fun.

Happy Writing!

Sorting Out Characters

I’m finally catching up with the writing prompts. I don’t cheat – I don’t try and fit prompts that work for my story and I don’t check upcoming prompts to make things easier. Instead I’m allowing Back to the White Hart to wander its winding way through the random prompts and watching with interest to see where it ends up. I’m very much enjoying the chaos that is inevitably attached to that particular story arc.

I’ve written quite a lot around the White Hart. There’s around 200,000 words contained in the three books on Amazon and I’ve written quite a few extra stories which you can find under After the White Hart. The stories go back at least a decade, as well, so trying to remember all the little details that keep it real for me is a trial. This is even worse when I factor in the issues I have finding stuff on my computer, you know, like I said in a previous post and that I was certain that I was going to sort out. I’m sharing this as it may be a comfort to other writers, or even a little useful. Besides, it makes be at least slightly accountable.

To be fair, I’ve been slowly chipping away at chaos. It doesn’t help that everything that I save to my laptop is also saved to the cloud, but not everything that I save to the cloud is saved to my laptop. I have spent far too long trying to find a relatively recent copy of Tales from the White Hart and far too much bad language. I was trying to remember what Martin’s name was before he changed it to Martin (Aelfhelm, for the record) when I was writing Qualified Success and I couldn’t think of it. So today I started a character record by dragging out a project notebook that I had planned to use as a price book.

It’s a fault in my character, but I have to work things out for myself. The starting plan goes like this. I’m using a separate section for each collection of stories. In each section, I’ll have an index (which meant I had to number all the pages, except that I only numbered the odd pages because I could work out which page came, for example, between 7 and 9), and then I can check the index for a character.

I’ve made a key for the characters, together with highlighters. I’m not sure how that will work, but it’s a start and I put it at the start of the section. I’m working on the theory that I’ll end up changing it to make it more convenient, but it will do for now.

Yes, my writing is that bad

Then I’ll go through the various books I’ve written, make notes of the characters and include things like ‘how do they like their coffee?’ and ‘previous lovers/friends/enemies/pets’ and, in the case of the elfen, ‘previous and current obsessions’.

It’s going to be scrappy, messy and I’ll be adding bits as I go along. I’ve tried creating characters from a template and they just snigger at me and do what they darn well please. So when I’m writing and I add a quirk or a detail, I’ll note it in the book. When I’m looking up whether a character prefers red or blue, I’ll note in the book as soon as I find it. I may use the book as I’m writing new stuff but I wouldn’t put money on it. I’m not that organised.

And I’m limiting my work to five minutes a day because I have a lot of other stuff that I want to write and that’s about my attention span at the moment. Here’s hoping that it’ll help my writing.