Okay. I cheated. Sue me.

I said that I wouldn’t peek, but I did. Yesterday, I reported on my blog that I wasn’t going to look again at my draft for a week or so before I started proof-reading it. Nevertheless, I decided that it wouldn’t do any harm if I just checked through for a couple of inconsistences that I suspected were in there somewhere. Just a quick glance. No one was looking. Isn’t it surprising how easily we can rationalise doing things we shouldn’t do?

So, anyway, I peeked, and today’s photo shows the Sun peeking through early morning mist at King’s Moss, St Helens, Merseyside. I’m not trying to equate what I did with the Sun: It’s just my excuse to include a favourite shot of mine.

I took this photo in September last year using my Pentax K-1 camera plus a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 28 mm and f/18 (to catch the starburst effect). The ISO was 100 and the shutter speed 3/10 seconds. I used a tripod but no filters.

I knew where to look for the inconsistencies in my draft and corrected them, but I also used the opportunity to have a look at some of the areas that I thought might need fleshing out. Well, why not? For example, wouldn’t Sandra have had family photographs on display in her house? And wouldn’t Gareth, while she was upstairs getting ready, have had a nosey? Wouldn’t it have been natural for him to say something about the photos – for example of her late husband – and for her to have said something in reply? I felt justified in filling in a couple of gaps like that – and it gave me another chance to say hello to them again.

So, yes, I peeked. Don’t be surprised if I do so again. Just don’t tell tales on me.

I’m being pulled in two directions

Having finished my first draft of A New Tangled Tango, I want to read it from the beginning to see how it has emerged. I probably won’t do that until I’ve had a first stab at proof reading it – and I need to establish some distance from it – perhaps wait a week or so. But I don’t want to start something new until I’m sure that this current book is done and dusted.

Today, I cheated a bit. I haven’t started reading the story as such, but I took time to begin reformatting the Word text for Kindle. I got rid of my page numbers, used Styles to format paragraphs, I chose and formatted my headings and then auto-checked things like spellings, grammar and conciseness. Finally I used ‘Find and Replace’ to get rid of hard to spot things such as double spaces, space-commas and comma-stops. I saved the file and now I must wait.

I feel bereft. I’m going to miss being with my characters. It’s not long since we met, but now I know their dreams, and feel their regrets, their anxieties, their hopes and their love. I hear their voices in my head. I didn’t know them until they suddenly appeared on my monitor and now they’ve disappeared onto my hard drive. What will happen to them now? They’re in limbo until my keyboard kisses them back to life. I worry for them and for myself.

The photograph today expresses my dilemma. It shows two giant horses heads – The Kelpies – near Falkirk in Scotland. I was on holiday and had taken my Pentax K-50 (RIP) using an 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens handheld. The settings were ISO 100, f/16 1/100 seconds and 18 mm.

A town named Codmanton

The featured photograph today is of an industrial scene in the blue hour – actually at Cannington roundabout in Ravenhead, St Helens, Merseyside. I chose this scene because, having finished writing my story in draft, I realised that I could create a context by writing a prologue – essentially a chapter about my fictitious post-industrial town , Codmanton, in the North of England.

I took this shot last December, from a bridge that overlooks a roundabout, but I took the shot in the opposite direction in order to capture the industrial flavour of the vicinity. Additionally, the light trails are reminiscent of a motorway – my fictitious town is close to a motorway roundabout.

I used my Pentax K-1 camera using a 15-30 mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle lens at 15 mm and f/16, with an ISO of 200 and a shutter speed of 10 seconds. I used a tripod but no filters. The image has been cropped in Lightroom to clean the photo of some of the sensor dust spots that showed up at f/16.

In the Prologue, I take the reader on a drone’s eye view of the town from North to South and East to West, identifying where the key characters live and work.

Something else that I have started work on, is listing the many scenes that take place over the eighty days described in the book. Some of them take up less than half a page of A4. I am trying to rationalise this structure by combining the scenes into phases of the drama, even where they take place across different sites. I’m still not decided how to describe each phase – as dances, dance steps or the role that the phase plays in the plot. I’d prefer to do it by dance name or step type to reflect the dance theme of the story.

I’ll sleep on it.

Fireworks

Today’s featured photograph was taken in November, 2018, from Birkenhead, looking across to Liverpool waterfront, during the River of Light fireworks celebrations. The shot was taken using my former Pentax K3-ii, which I used in part exchange for my K-1. My lens was a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5-6 at 21 mm and f/11. The camera settings were ISO 100 and the shutter was 5 seconds.

The link to today’s writing progress is that fireworks are beginning to be set off in the plot. I see my plan here as risky. I’ve taken a safety copy of the file, as at this morning, and saved it under a new name so that I have a way back if I have to abandon my next few day’s writing.

The afternoon, after Gareth’s meeting with his ex wife, Marjorie, he tells his new love, Sandra, everything that took place. That appears to defuse the possibility of what Sandra’s assistant saw causing any trouble. Sandra, however, is troubled by that hug. Sandra’s daughter visits her Mum while Gareth is there, and she is told how things are progressing between them.

The following day, Monday, Sandra reassures her assistant that the hug she saw was nothing to worry about. The assistant is less convinced.

Tuesday is when Marjorie (ex wife) brings her infant pupils to the Library where Sandra (new love) is Senior Librarian. There follows a catty exchange when the fuses are primed. That night, Marjorie plots revenge with her partner, Julian. I provide an excerpt from the Library scene below.

Just before ten, the Library Staff heard, through the windows, the high-pitched sound of children laughing, squealing, shouting and gossiping as they neared the Library doors. Fran had unlocked the doors of the Community Room ready. Marjorie Hillingdon, the teacher in charge, got the pupils lined up so that they didn’t block the double doors, then let them pass through in line, counting them as they entered. A young Teaching Assistant led the youngsters into the Community Room. Marjorie watched the children file in then walked across to Sandra.

“Congratulations,” she said, “I believe that you have a new boyfriend.” “Yes,” Sandra said carefully, waiting for the trap to close, “I believe that you know him.” “You’d better believe it, Sandra,” Marjorie said, “he’s easily distracted though.” “You’d know more about that than I would,” came the calm reply. “Be careful of picking up someone else’s leavings,” Marjorie warned cattily. “Marjorie,” Sandra said, “in the words of a recent popular song, ‘I’m his future , you’re his past.’ Get over it. You’ve got a partner, leave my man alone.” “So, he’s your man is he?” Marjorie batted back, “I understood from him that this arrangement was somewhat provisional.” “True,” was Sandra’s answer, “but we both know where it’s headed, It’s just a case of when and how.” “Good luck with that,” Marjorie said, turning to walk to join the children. As she walked away, Sandra said, under her breath, “Bitch!” Fran had watched the exchange from across the room, terrified of a catfight breaking out, but Sandra remained composed and carried on with her work. But as Marjorie was walking towards the room, she was also muttering under her breath, “You haven’t heard the last of this, bitch!”

A little learning and an apology

I suppose that the little learning that I refer to represents a couple of steps across a bridge to a different place. I apologise if the link is tenuous but It’s the best I can manage as a link between photo and what I have written today.

The bridge in the photo is at Llanrwst in Snowdonia, North Wales, UK. The photo was taken in October 2019 and, despite the blue skies and sunshine, it had just started raining quite heavily. I used my Pentax K-1, 36M, full frame camera with a 15-30mm, f/2.8 lens at 27mm and f/8. The camera settings were ISO 400 and 1/125 seconds. The shot was handheld as I rested my elbows on a concrete ledge.

Today I managed a further 4,000 words to describe three scenes. Gareth has suggested to Sandra that, one way for them to begin their learning about each other, would be for them to do their weekly supermarket shopping together on the evening before their first planned get-together since acknowledgement of their romantic feelings. The experience leads to some minor bickering, but it is good natured. On the Saturday, when they meet at his house, as she looks around, she has more than momentary qualms as she realises what she might be committing to. She is reassured when she explains her fears. Soon they prepare a meal together and compare notes about what might constitute red-lines regarding traits that they could discover – such as unfaithfulness or dishonesty. they part on the best of terms.

The following day is the day when Gareth must meet his ex-wife to apologise for his past behaviour, and also to tell her about his new-found love for Sandra – whom she knows well. This leads to some hilarity on her part, and a feeling that the meeting would have been good value for that snippet of information alone. His ex-wife hugs him as they part – this is witnessed by Sandra’s assistant. Could this innocent gesture lead to a misunderstanding? Don’t ask me – my characters haven’t told me yet.

I’m still new to WordPress. I tend to do the same kind of thing every day and seldom experiment, but this morning I noticed that I must never have published two blogs that I wrote a couple of weeks ago. I’ll publish them just before I publish this post. I have no idea whether they will appear in the correct chronological place

A day spent proof reading

This post should have been published 27 August. I publish it today for completeness

The featured photo today was taken in the Queen’s House, Greenwich, London in early January this year. I stayed two nights in the Capital, taking lots of photographs in the city. I had planned my itinerary around London carefully because I knew beforehand what I wanted images of. This image was taken at one of two, planned, spiral staircase sites. What I hadn’t planned for was being told that I only had ten minutes to do what I needed because the building was about to be closed for a private wedding function. I handed in my tripod (forbidden!), received a receipt, and dashed to the foot of the staircase.

Having retrieved my camera from my bag, I lay on the floor, to the amusement of those passing by, while I checked a preview of a test shot, steadied my grip and fired away – twisting on my back to get as many angles as I could in the time.

I used my Pentax KP crop sensor camera, with a 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 16mm. My ISO was 1600, aperture f/3.5 and shutter speed 1/15 second.

The relationship between the photo and my writing blog for the day is that proof reading is, like climbing stairs, an uphill task – to be undertaken one step at at time.

Today I have read about a third of my wife, Margaret’s, first novel ‘Bees in their Bonnet’. My only prior proof reading experience of fictional literature was for my own first book – but it has come in handy. I now know how to format a book for Kindle written in Microsoft Word. That operation includes several automated phases including the use of Word’s Track-and-Trace, Styles, Find and Replace, Editor and File-Info-Inspect functions

Of course, automated tools are no substitute for line by line checks, looking not only at punctuation and grammar but also at things like improbabilities and impossibilities that have been overlooked. It’s quite a fulfilling task as well as being a very responsible one.

I haven’t had time to work on my own current book today – I’m writing this in advance to be posted tomorrow, Friday – because I want to switch off the computer to see if my new kettle lead connector is any better than the one I bought it to replace. If it doesn’t prove to work any better then I shall have to see what I can do about my BenQ graphics monitor, since it’s socket would then be the natural suspect for recent flaky connections. I only bought it at the end of January so it’s still under warranty.

Fingers crossed. I hope to be back with you on Saturday – even if I need to resort to my iPad.

Success

This post should have been published on the 8th August. I publish it today for completeness

I’ll begin today’s blog with a quick paragraph about the Photo of the Day. It shows Chester Cathedral in North West England. The image was taken using my former Pentax K3 ii crop sensor camera coupled with a 16-85 mm lens at 16 mm. The camera settings were ISO 100, Aperture f/8 at a shutter speed of 1/60 second. Exposure compensation was -2 stops. The town of Chester features prominently in Persephone and the Photographer.

The success mentioned in the heading was that I managed to insert internal links to this blog in three other pages of the website.

Now to ‘A New Tangled Tango’. I’ve added a chapter on the crisis of faith that I mentioned in previous posts.

All’s well that looks like ending well

I was stuck for a photo to use for today – at least one that would have anything to do with what I’ve been writing about. In desperation, I’ve resorted to a photo that would have been taken about the time of year portrayed – some bluebells in my garden.

The photograph was captured on 29th April this year using my cropped sensor, 24MP Pentax KP mounted with a Sigma 70mm f/2.8 mm macro lens at f/11. The ISO was 100 and the shutter speed was 3/10 seconds. I used a tripod.

I did start out today with some idea about what to write about. Yesterday, after a lakeside walk with their children and an accidental meeting, there had been a late night discussion during which the couple had agreed that they wanted to be ‘an item’, but needed more time to learn about each other. They decided that they were prepared to go public about that limited deal.

Today, writing about events two days later, they were at the weekly dance and were prompted to say something by a sharp rebuke: they had virtually ignored everyone by remaining in their own ‘bubble’. (I didn’t use that word in my writing -it was 2005 then!). So, they took it in turns to reveal how they had come to a realisation about this step-change in their relationship – an awareness of love for each other. That this had all taken place over a mere two weeks caused a degree of shock among their listeners. There was a mixture of shock and disbelief also when they told their children – even though it had been the children who had first suspected something.

The stage is now set for two key days to come. After all, it’s one thing to decide that you need ‘more time to learn about each other’. But how long is ‘more time’? What criteria do you use to decide whether you still want to take things further? What would ‘further things’ comprise anyway – engagement? wedding bells? a civil service? simply living together? or deciding there was no reasonable probability of a long-term romantic relationship? Awkward questions indeed!. I look forward to discovering what they decide. I have no idea yet. Then, the following day will be the meeting at which Gareth apologises to his ex-wife. But how will she take the apology, when she realises that he has a new love interest? Has his ‘change of mind’ been a device to ease his guilt and shift her out of his consciousness?

Progress in words today? A further 5,000 words. Just over 29,000, but no nearer knowing how to reach a conclusion that will justify the verbiage.

A Lakeside meeting with consequences

The featured photo mirrors the progress of my writing today, each depicting a walk around a lake. The lake in the photo is Cleveley Mere, in Lancashire, England. It is the setting for a small resort of lakeside holiday chalets. I was there with my wife in February 2017. I captured the image with my Pentax K3ii 24MP cropped sensor camera and used a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at f/11 and 26 mm. The settings were ISO 100, and 1/13 seconds. The camera was handheld, but I was braced against a tree. No filters were used.

After the Social Dance, Gareth and Sandra, having returned to their respective homes soliloquise about their feelings – both were feeling inadequate to pursue their private hopes.

The following day, Sunday afternoon, each of them, Gareth with his son and Sandra with her daughter and baby grand daughter, decide to go for a walk around the Mere. This is unplanned, but they set off from opposite sides of the lake, walking in opposite directions. They meet at a bend in the path. The reaction of the adults to the surprise encounter sets alarm bells going in the minds of their children.

After each party continues on its original course, Peter and Barbara, the children, interrogate their parents, disbelieving that the meeting was coincidental (or fate as Gareth had referred to it in a jokey but misjudged allusion to the meeting of yesterday afternoon). Both of the children believe that their parents are misleading them – at least by referring to the relationship as ‘just good friends’.

Barbara threatens to tell her brother, Peter to tell Gareth’s ex-wife.

That night Sandra telephones Peter to ask whether he had also been quizzed. They discuss the accusation, but end by agreeing that perhaps the children had been more astute than they themselves. They agree that, despite their feelings, they hardly know each other and that the remedy is to meet more often, the better to become more acquainted. As to the threatened disclosures they agree that they ‘may as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb’.

All-in-all, the meeting today was as much a surprise to me as to the fictional parties involved. Creative writing hardly gets more creative than that. At ten o’clock this morning I had no idea what to write about. Today took me to more than 23,900 words. A veritable marathon for me.

A meeting of minds

Today’s photograph was taken in our garden on April 24th this year, and is of White Clematis flowers with yellow centres . What I have been writing about today has been a meeting between Sandra and Gareth set on April 23rd 2005, so they could have seen blossom like this as he showed her around his garden.

I took the photo using my Pentax KP cropped sensor camera coupled with a Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro lens at ISO 100 and shutter speed of 1/5000 seconds. The camera was mounted on a tripod.

Today I have written a further 3,000 words, taking me to slightly more than 20,000 words so far – about a third of the total length of my first book. Most of what I have been describing today has been this second meeting for conversation. I confess that events are occurring much earlier than I had anticipated, and this worries me because I still have no idea how I will create romance for two late middle-aged people out of friendship. They are both intelligent, settled in their independence and neither has been actively seeking love.

Relations between the two have now, however, pretty well defrosted. At the previous weekly dance, Gareth had been absent at a Parents’ Evening at the school where he teaches. When the MC announced details of a forthcoming day trip, Sandra had asked him whether Gareth would be going and, only then booked her place. As she walked away, he pondered the significance of this and mentioned it to his wife – who had noticed Gareth’s car parked outside Sandra’s house when they’d had their first meeting. When they next meet, she has parked her car outside his house and is seen leaving by a different neighbour, who has heard rumours on the grapevine about their unexpected relationship.

The meeting today has been lively but strictly romance free, having ranged across areas such as evolution, fate, ethics and the role, if any, of mankind in the universe. Hardly Mills and Boon stuff. They end their discussion walking in his garden and, in the garden, he claims the first waltz with her at that evening’s monthly social dance. They will be unaware of how closely they are being watched.