Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Just to let my legions of fans know....

I am now successfully published to Kindle Amazon AND to Smashwords.  The links are here

Amazon Kindle- http://www.amazon.co.uk/TORN-ebook/dp/B004UVR81Y

Smashword- http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/61772

TORN is a contemporary novel, which faces up to the complexities, messiness and absurdities in modern relationships. Life is not a fairy tale, it can be confusing and difficult. Sex is not always awesome, it can be awkward and embarrassing , and it has consequences. You don't always fall for Mr Right, even if he falls for you. And realising you're in love is not always good news. It can make the future look daunting......

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I can’t count the number of classes, workshops and inspirational talks I’ve attended over the years, about the writing process. I’ve learnt about plotting, becoming an ideas factory, mind mapping and overcoming writers block. I’ve gratefully received tips on how to deal with my saggy middle. I’ve been advised about pacing, how to involve all the senses in my scene building and to create my characters using enneagrams or astrology. After scribbling pages of notes, or scooping up the hand-outs, I emerge from each session believing that this time I have the Holy Grail. Metaphorically I’m punching the air. YES!

But then.... 

I certainly wasn’t the first to say this (it was probably some journalist), but I don’t know what I think till I write it down. This is not just true of my opinions, it is also true - slightly paraphrased - of anything I commit to paper. I don’t know what I'm going to say, how I'm going to say it, or where a story is going, until I start writing.

I envy other writers who are like bubbling geysers, with new stories and plot ideas forever gushing forth from the fermenting cauldron of their imaginations. When I grumble about the excruciatingly slow process of evaluation and eventual rejection, after sending off the precious manuscript, the chirpy advice coming back from these lucky people is: “Start writing your next book!”

If only it was that easy. What new book? This may be unfair, and perhaps I’m over-dramatising, but it’s like telling a woman who has just suffered a miscarriage to: “Have another baby.” It may be a good thing to do in the long run, but it’s not necessarily something you can face, physically, emotionally or psychologically straight away. Or even next week or next month. There’s a process to be gone through which is akin to mourning, to getting that book, in which you invested so much time and thought and emotion and hope, out of your system.

Also - and here my analogy stumbles a little - there are the false dawns, the conviction that if only you tweaked this and cut that, it might yet revive and be acceptable to the world of hard-bitten agents and faceless monolithic publishing houses.

There comes a time, yes, of course, I’ll admit defeat, square my shoulders, lift my head and (after self-publishing to Kindle!) sally forth again. I always know the starting scenario of the next book, I’ll know where the characters have come from in their life journey, but where the story will take them....? Ah, there’s the rub. Who knows? I’ve just got to begin ... and hope.

In the past I’ve described the process as like carving a rock of granite with a teaspoon. In fact it is more like channelling porridge. The story will unfold, slowly, stickily, hiccupping along, until that magic day when it catches fire (apologies for the mixed metaphors!). Then I’m all right. The ideas turn from porridge to a hot, fast-flowing liquid.

And when, eventually, I type ‘The End’, what of those wise and wonderful words of advice that I’ve lapped up greedily over the years? Oh! (Clutches hand to head) .........I forgot!

But don't listen to me on the subject, go to http://www.sarahduncansblog.blogspot.com/

Monday, May 9, 2011


These days, it seems, everyone wants to be famous.  We scoff at the talentless kids who doggedly queue for the chance to gain their 2 minutes of fame on shows like the X-Factor or Britain's Got Talent. And the programme-makers feed our voyeurism by selecting some of the most hopeless to appear on our television screens.  We duly jeer or cringe, revelling in their self-delusions.  I'm as likely as anyone to laugh at them, but there's a secret bit of me that weeps for them too, that understands why they are there and why they subject themselves to the possibility of  humiliation.  I know what it is to crave fame. 

From my earliest years, I have always wanted to be famous. When I played with my friends we didn't play formal games, we always enacted dramas that I'd invented.  I wasn't just the creator, I was also the director and the star, in these play-acting games. And in my head I saw them unfold like a cinema film.  We weren't seven year olds running around in the concrete palyground.  We were 'Red Indians' and cowboys, handsome princes and beautiful princesses, leather clad motor-bikers and their girlfriends. Even on my own I often had the sense of another eye watching me - as if I was the subject of a documentary film which watched my progress through life.  Sad eh?
I might never have started writing down these imaginary scenarios, but when I was ten my teenage sister began to write her own Regency romance, inspired by her love of Georgette Heyer, and it occurred to me that I could do the same.  My 'novel' didn't have a title, not that I can now remember, but it was set in the olden-days.  The plot revolved around the visit of a group of ladies to a lighthouse.  Bad weather trapped them there.  My sixteen year old hero, son of the lighthouse keeper, suffered a fall on the rocks.  My sixteen year old heroine, one of the visiting ladies, undertook his nursing.  At this point, just a few pages in, my imagination ran dry.

Despite scraping through to Grammar school there was no clue in my educational attainments, or lack of them, which suggested I should become a writer. Apart, that is, from continuing to write (though I never finished anything) throughout my secondary school years.  Art was the only subject I excelled at.  My parents were both artists and though I wouldn't say I was pressured, there was a subtle understanding that art was where my future lay.  That was all right, I thought.  I would become a famous artist. 

I'd stopped writing when real-life began to supplant my fantasies. Adulthood also brought with it the knowledge that craving fame was ridiculous and immature.  I could laugh at myself.  After all, working as an illustrator in advertising was not a sure-fire path to celebrity.  But when I took a career break and had my son, I began to write again.  This was the most magical time.  It was as if, by giving myself permission to write something 'soppy', the breaks to my imagination had come off . I could fly.  Amazingly, I was published really quickly.  This gave me a completely distorted view of the world I was joining.  Fame had come back on my agenda. I even gained myself a few sentences and a photo in several of my local newspapers. But that was all.

My publisher went bust and the world of publishing changed. I only have two print publications to my name - Just Before Dawn and Desires & Dreams.  Finding fame through authorship is yet another unattainable dream. In fact, it would be far easier to get published in the mainstream again if I was already famous! Nothing for it then.  Where do I sign up for the X-Factor?  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Art and Life

I am an artist.  It always sounds boastful to make this claim, but there's no other word.  I have always drawn and, to a lesser extent,  painted.  I went to art-college (though I was too young and dropped out before gaining a qualification) and I made my living as an illustrator, in advertising.

The discipline I was best at and - unsurprisingly - enjoyed most, was 'life'.  And for most of my adult life I have continued to draw or paint the naked human figure.  I've even tried a bit of clay modelling, though I've a long way to go to match Rodin!

Water colour is a medium I've always been interested in exploring, but I could never give up my life-class.  But the decision was taken out of my hands.  My local tutor, Mark Kelland, could no longer afford the higher cost of running the life-class.  If the model didn't have to be paid and was willing to pose naked in premises that could be overlooked, or if Mark was willing to pass on all his costs to his students, he might have been able to continue.  As George Harrison said:  All Things Must Pass.  So instead, I now do a lady-like water colour class instead, which I have to admit, I am enjoying. 

I am really looking forward to attending a week long art course in Italy, in October.  It is being run by a close friend of mine, Sara Moody, who last year bought the hill top Tenuta Poggiolame ( the Estate of Poggiolame) in Umbria. The course is being tutored by Mark Kelland, a master of technique, and by Andrew James, Vice President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, a new star in the art world. But it won't just be landscapes in water-colour or oils we will get the chance to paint.  On the October course there will be a 'life model'!  Hurrah!

These art courses/holidays are being run 4 times a year.  The bedrooms are en-suite, there is a chef to provide delicious food, you can take a non-painting partner or friend to share your room, for a reduced cost.   Around the house there are terraces and formal gardens, with grape vines and mediterranean plants and flowers.  There is also a heated swimming pool. But the majority of the 220 acre Poggiolame estate is wild with olive trees, streams and pools.  It is roamed by deer and wild boar.   If you are interested go to the website: http://www.arteumbria.com/