Weather, word count and (the vagaries of) WordPress

Yesterday it rained, seriously rained, and not realising that an online friend was living in France I got worried when she talked of a forecast of another week of heavy rain. Not good news, I thought, contemplating our own impending family holiday in the UK. Screenshot 2014-07-09 13.43.30 Huge relief this morning to wake to glorious sunshine (and to realise my mistake regarding said friend’s location.) And to find on a 15 day forecast (likely to be unreliable I know, but still) that we should have some dry days next week, even if not a heat wave.

Screenshot 2014-07-09 13.50.06The rain yesterday was helpful in one respect though – it started me on a read-through of current WIP, which turned into a light edit, which I quickly realised was cutting a significant number of words from the total, mostly in ones and twos. That is a very good feeling, as cutting away the slack is always satisfying, almost as satisfying as getting new words on the page.

Today I managed that as well, tackling an event that I’d been putting off writing about for some time. I’m not quite finished yet, but pleased with the way it’s going and though today the word count is going up and down, i’m keeping track both of cuts and new writing and correspondingly encouraged on both counts. Screenshot 2014-07-09 13.52.06

And WordPress? Well, I’ve been trying over the last two weeks to re-vamp my rather boring website / blog to make it more user-friendly and, I hope, more colourful and interesting. Having solicited advice I was asked why I had blog posts on my home page and was told I should try to separate them and leave my ‘landing page’ uncluttered.

Once I’d worked out what ‘landing page’ meant, I googled for WordPress help and found clear instructions for what I wanted. (Extremely clear – I managed at first attempt.) However I found that WordPress defaults to posting onto the home page, so now I’m wondering, is there a good reason for that? Should I have changed? Or was it just one of the vagaries of the WordPress system?

On a roll I thought I’d tackle the issue I really want to solve – how to have a page with a contact form on it that would allow anyone visiting my site to leave me a message and their contact details. There does seem to be an ‘Add Contact’ button – only problem is, although the preview shows a blank form, when i upload it onto a page it miraculously becomes pre-populated with MY details. Not what I want at all.

Screenshot 2014-07-09 13.54.20So if any of you technically savvy folk out there can help, I’d be very grateful…

Money, money, money…

Latest hoard of coins to be found in a Derbyshire cave is declared ‘treasure’. Fascinating collection, but interesting to me for another reason.

Once, when taking part in a rescue excavation in Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland I was excited to find a medieval gold ring set with a garnet. (Slightly too big for me, unfortunately.) An inquest was held to determine whether it was treasure trove or not. If so I would be awarded the full market value…

A couple of semi-sleepless nights later I heard the sad news – not treasure, therefore no compensation for me. The ring was passed over to the Ulster Museum who were in charge of the excavation and remains there I believe to this day.

Some Funeral!

Interesting reproduction of the will of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, grandmother of King James VI of Scotland and James I of England. £1200 set aside for her funeral, including £40 to pay for food for poor folk and money for 100 dresses also for poor women. Leaves rather a lot for the funeral!
Hard to estimate exactly what that would equate to in today’s money because the intervening centuries have included both inflation and deflation of currency. However some estimates suggest that the £1200 would be worth about £350,000 – some funeral!!

Is it me?

Someone recently asked me, having just finished reading Turn of the Tide, if Kate (the wife of my main character) was me? I can honestly say that thought had never occurred to me, but it did start me thinking about where our characters come from.

Of course in my case most of the characters in Turn of the Tide, apart from the main family, were historical, so writing them poses particular problems.

1) I needed to find out how much information exists about them, in terms of physical appearance and how they behaved obviously, but, more importantly, any evidence also as to how they thought – what motivated them, their beliefs, loyalties and so on.
2) Relationships and location(s) are also important – no William Wallace and Isabella of France anachronisms for me, and whether there is concrete evidence or not, it should be at least possible for them to be where I place them at any given time.

Having researched them, I needed both to be true to what was known and to ensure that as I developed them as characters their actions remained at least plausible when examined in the light of known facts. Often it’s the less well known characters who provide most scope for development and are therefore most fun to write.

Crucially I need to ‘come clean’ (in an author’s note) where I modified known facts in the interests of the story – changes are sometimes necessary – this is the start of a series of novels, not history books.

The fictional characters should be easier to write, after all, I can make them be and do whatever I like? Well, yes, and no. It begins that way, but once a character is established they too need to act ‘in character’ unless there’s a very good reason for them not to. Where do they come from? I guess the best description is that it’s a little like choosing sweets from a pick and mix stall – individual traits, whether physical or of personality – are drawn from my experience of everyone I’ve ever known and mixed up to form new composite characters that (hopefully) aren’t sufficiently like any one person to be recognisable. And in answer to the original question – Is Kate me? I don’t think so, but perhaps in some ways she is a person I’d like to be.

Guardian of grammatical blunders? Well let’s see…

A selection of pictures of grammatical blunders published by the Guardian – mostly problems with apostrophes or spelling. Forgiveable in foreign parts – not so clever in Britain.

But look more closely

One of many wrongly labelled...

One of many wrongly labelled…

– since when was ‘1 months ago’ acceptable in grammatical terms?

Physician heal thyself?

If you think 17th c miners were uneducated – think again!

Tom Williams talks about lead mining in 17thc Scotland – I’m glad I was a child in the latter part of the 20thc!!

I haven’t visited Leadhills (on my to do list) – not least to see where the first subscription library in Britain was situated, but I have been to New Lanark – and was totally impressed by the social conscience of Robert Owen, (or a recognition that when folk are properly housed their health will be improved and thus their work capability.) Whatever his motivation (probably a bit of both) the result for the workers was positive.

(And I’ve just had an idea for a plot point for the sequel to Turn of the Tide…)