Valentine’s Day

I had every intention of making a Halloween post, but then I spent the night chasing loose cattle around the village, so that didn’t happen. It’s been a very busy, intense couple of days and we’re feeling it now, but I messed around on my iTunes yesterday and made an “alternative” playlist of romantic songs.

I made it into a Spotify playlist, and listened to it while I was cooking tea.

I got some very beautiful roses for Valentine’s Day. My first ever Valentine’s flowers! However in an uncharacteristic show of forward-planning (or unplanning), I had wrapped up all my vases, so at 5.30 this morning we were looking for alternatives. I think we did alright, don’t you?

img_5701

As much as Valentine’s Day is a day to spend with loved ones, I’m going to jump on the self-love craze as well. In our busy lives it’s very easy to forget ourselves. As someone who feels pressure and gets anxious very easily, I’m trying to take more time for me in the day. That’s not very easy in the lifestyle I now lead, and sometimes I have to force myself to put that laundry basket down and just take five minutes to do what I want: read a chapter of a book, have a nice drink, light a candle. Today I was feeling particularly glum so when I ran my bath I threw the last of my Joules fizzy bath bombs in. It made the bathwater go radioactive yellow but it was a nice relaxing time for me. It’s very easy to get caught up in everyone else’s lives. Things like Facebook and Instagram make it very easy to feel in competition with your peers, and sometimes we need to take a step back and rediscover what we enjoy in life. I took Bilbo for a walk this afternoon and even got Valentine’s Day kisses off my doggy.

img_5699

Happy Valentine’s Day, one and all!

 

A Tale for the Time Being – Review

I do believe that sometimes we read books at a particular point in our lives for a reason – whether it reflects something within us, or something we are looking for. I’m heavily in the re-drafting process of my first book and I think I needed to read something awe-inspiring, just to really inject that spark back into it. This book turned out to be Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being.

Continue reading “A Tale for the Time Being – Review”

#my500words reflection

So, after a month of trying to stick to writing 500 words a day minimum, how have I done?

Well, there were a couple of days where I didn’t write anything, despite all my best intentions. Sometimes it just happens like that – there might be a lot of things going on at the farm, and by the time we get home I just collapse on the sofa. There was some success with getting up a bit earlier and managing my 500 words before breakfast, but other days I could snatch some time before cooking tea. A few days it would be the bare 500 I could manage, however I’m happy to say a lot of days it was a good more than 500.

In total, over the month I wrote 14 chapters, so it averages out as just under a chapter per two days. Some of these chapters are barefaced edits – straight rewrites of previous chapters I have been happy with. Others have had to be complete overhauls. And I have been quite ruthless. A lot of chaff has been cut. To put it into real terms, I’m writing what is now Chapter Seventeen, but in the second draft equated to about Chapter Twenty-Five. There are still one or two chapters that I have rewritten that could potentially be for the chop. And within the chapters themselves, I’ve gone from a single chapter easily exceeding 10,000 words to a much more realistic 5,000. My only concern is I’ve maybe been a little overenthusiastic with my executioner’s axe!

I’ve really enjoyed taking part in #my500words. More than anything else, it’s been a personal motivator, and it’s worked. There were 69 chapters in total for #MFB (make of that what you will). If I can manage to cut 7 out of the first 25, maybe I can do the same over the next part. We are however coming to the end of the part that was for me the most indulgent. I’ve had to do some serious chopping and changing to streamline this part, but at least now I’m happy with its continuity, and I feel it reads a good deal better.

So I will continue with writing a minimum of 500 words a day. I have a feeling I will hit something of a mental block in a few chapters’ time, as previously I have had issues with timing and locations for my character, so if I miss a day of writing, I would hope it’s for the sake of ironing out some continuity issues.

How is your writing going? Are you on track? Do you have any motivational tools you use to help you get on? If you do, I’d love to hear them!

Katy

Writing Goals for 2017

A couple of days ago I did something quite major for me, and booked myself a place at the How To Get Published conference, part of the York Literature Festival. I think all the ladies in my Writing Group will be attending, so it should be a good day. It’s a full day packed full of talks and discussions, not to mention a panel of writers and literary agents (!) I’m hoping it will be really helpful.

I’ve always written but never had the confidence to go to anything like this before. Last year I went to a free talk as part of York’s Festival of Ideas (and I wrote about it here) and that was all about the benefits of a Writing Group, which is how I found my group. After attending the sessions I’ve got a bit more confidence about myself, so I bit the bullet and booked myself on the conference.

The conference is at the end of March which gives me just over 2 months to get my act together and *finish* the third draft of #MFB. It also coincides with a new time in my calendar, that of lambing. Now granted we don’t know when this will start or how long it will go on for, but as far as I know the world stops for lambing time. So my idea is to get this third draft bossed by then, so I can a) have lambing time to distance myself from it and approach it afterwards with new eyes, and b) have something in a form like finished to talk to agents about.

So that’s one goal for 2017. But I have some others, and I figured if I wrote them here and stuck them on the internet I might actually have to honour them, as opposed to having them in my brain and thus easy to forget.

  • Writing Goals for 2017
  • Finish draft three of #MFB
  • Draw maps for locations in #MFB
  • Set up a Facebook page to directly link my writing progress with my social media
  • Work on my blog, including updating the images and dividing it into ‘writing’ and ‘blog’
  • Increase my activity on social media
  • Attend more writing and literature events (online and in person)
  • Enter some competitions
  • Look at #MSB and decide on how old my protagonist is going to be

I think that’s enough to keep me going for the year! Who knows – things might change. I’m really excited about the conference but it’s a long way off yet and I have lots to be doing before then.

Do you have any writing goals this year? Maybe you’re going to the conference too! Let me know!

Katy

My Reading Challenge 2017 – January recap

So at the beginning of this year I decided I would read more. I have three houses full of books now and it’s high time some of them got read! So I set myself a relatively easy goal: 12 books in the year, 1 book a month. I went through my bookcase in my house and picked 12 books. Some are fiction, some are non-fiction. Some are brand new, some are second-hand shop finds. The idea is to read 1 a month. If I finish that month’s book early, I won’t read the next one for the month. Then I’ll have to pick another book up. A good solid plan.

January’s book was The Magicians by Lev Grossman. A former coworker of mine used to rave about this book and I thought it sounded right up my street: a magic university? What happens when Harry does his degree. I’m a big fantasy fan and I like me a good bit of magic realism too, so I was happy to start off with this one. Continue reading “My Reading Challenge 2017 – January recap”

Reflections from the farm

A million years ago, I started this blog with the catchy title of notmuchofayoungfarmer. This was a play on words because I was a member of our local Young Farmers’ group, lived on a farm, and knew diddly squat about farming. It’s one of those commonly-known but never spoken of truths that if you join Young Farmers and aren’t an avid tractor man or a shepherd, it’s a way of meeting the opposite sex. I went along to the meetings, got roped into stock judging, and then life caught up with me, and I was doing a Masters and working in Hull, and it just didn’t compute. So I sacked Young Farmers off and embarked on an ill-fated quest to become a teacher. That didn’t last long either.

Hmm. Seeing a trend…

Moving swiftly on!

My blog was to be a support for my writing. However by a stroke of luck or fate or whatever, I find that I’ve boxed up my court shoes and smart skirt suits and have swapped them for wellies and jeans covered in mud. Looks like I’m back to being a Young Farmer, and probably too old to rejoin.

I still don’t know anything about farming, but I now know what a tup is, and what it means when the sheep in the fields have coloured bottoms, and I’m starting to get my head around the different breeds of cows, and when it’s correct to say cow and not something else.

photo-05-11-2016-09-49-32

Personal highlights from the farm include:

  • Getting stuck halfway up Grimston hill in a pickup without diesel, and then being rescued by some kindly gentlemen in a white van – whoever you are, thank you!
  • Also that same week, locking my car keys in the boot and having to bang on doors until a kindly family down the road let me use their phone! It’s a bugger when there’s no phone signal.
  • Seeing our Angus heifer calve to a beautiful baby Hereford x! I think that’s the first thing I’ve seen brought into the world before my very eyes, and by the time we’d got there she’d done most of it herself. She’s a grand little calf with real stunning markings.
  • Bucket-feeding our other three calves and now they’re weaned off and are big strong lads.
  • Getting our tractor! She’s a Case International and is a little nippy four wheel drive thing which suits us just fine, though I do bang my head on every piece of metal in the cab.

photo-05-11-2016-09-25-41-1

It is hard. I’m only little and not particularly strong, and while I am getting a bit stronger, I still struggle to lug 25kg bags of feed about. And before we got the tractor, it was bloody hard work getting bails of straw and hay down off the great piles for the cattle with just us two, a fence post for leverage and the pickup for the most stubborn bails. And let’s be honest, when you’re chopping fodder beet in the pouring rain and Arctic blast, it’s not that fun. IĀ get muddy by just looking at the yard, my car stinks of mucky wellies, and my arms ache for days, but when everything’s fed and watered, and bedded up, and the yard is blissfully quiet, and the little calf is bouncing around her mother, it isn’t a bad place to be at all.

I will update with more of our adventures as they come.

Katy

Two weeks into #my500words, and a missed day

One of my big aims for the year is to nail Draft Three of #MFB and be in a position to maybe tentatively send it off to people who read and make dreams come true. I started #my500words this January, aiming to write 500 words a day for 31 days, and it went really, really well until yesterday, when I wrote nothing. I should have known I was doomed when I tweeted about how well my progress was going! It had snowed a little bit yesterday morning and instead of getting up early and writing my 500 words before breakfast, I was still laid in bed, watching it snow. And I didn’t go up to the farm, but I did a load of washing, swept and mopped the downstairs floors, did a load of ironing and baked some chocolate cupcakes. All non-essential when it comes to being a writer, though when it comes to being a “housewife”, which I think most people view me to be, all required tasks. I am fairly houseproud and every day it horrifies me that my house is such a mess, with muddy floors and a kitchen table with no space to dine off. But it also horrifies me and fills me with that feeling of waste when I don’t do any writing whatsoever.

There’s no excuse for why it didn’t happen. We went to my parents’ in the afternoon to mend the tractor and there was nothing for me to do except sit and get more frustrated. Then after taking the tractor up to the farm we came home, I cooked tea, and after we’d eaten I was tired and we just sat and watched rubbish on TV. Now I wake up this morning feeling like yesterday was a waste of a day! Sure, people say it’s good to have time off, but when my writing is constantly playing out in my head, there’s never time off. I’ll never get anywhere if I keep taking time off.

So it was one day. A blip. Since starting #my500words, I’ve actually completed 5 chapters for #MFB. I’ve written more than two weeks’ worth of 500 words all in all, so that’s a good accomplishment. I’ve cut out a lot of chaff, including a whole chapter’s worth. I’ve streamlined the plot a little, and turned characters and incidents around. Finally, I’m getting excited about it again.

So yeah, I missed one day! Big deal. Get over yourself, self. Today is a new day. I have my writing group today, and then the rest of the day to write, write, write. If I can do 5 chapters every two weeks, in four months I’ll be romping home.

How do you get back on the writing train after a hiccup? I’d love to hear your tips on motivation and how you keep at it!

Katy

Reading Challenge 2017

As most people know, I love me a good book. Some people buy clothes, shoes, handbags, makeup, and others buy cigarettes, magazines, whatever, but I like my books. Always have done, and so Casa Katy is filled with books. When I moved out of home I determined to only bring with me books I hadn’t read and wanted to read, which meant that Windy Farm is now full of books I’ve read that I can’t bear to part with just yet or that I will probably never ever read but look pretty good on a shelf somewhere. Last year I didn’t do as much reading as I wanted to. I finished the Wheel of Time, which was a biggie, and I even tried to re-read A Song of Ice and Fire but I got three chapters into Clash of Kings and remembered why it took me so long the first time.

Towards the latter end of 2016 my little life had a bit of a switch-around. Not only did Scott and Fly move in, but I left my job, he then left his job, and we turned to joint endeavours (the farm), which led to days being full of lots of outside work and then evenings full of falling asleep on the settee.

But no more! This year I am committing to the Goodreads 2017 Challenge. I was going to do a reading challenge on my own, but I saw others engaging with this, and since I never make much of a go of my Goodreads account, I thought I would combine the two.

To make it simple, I’m sticking to one book a month. The other morning I went through my bookshelf and pulled off a big mix of books to read. Some are fiction, some are non-fiction, some I’ve started before, some have just languished, their secrets untold. I have visions of reading them in a seasonally appropriate order, so maybe the heavier non-fiction bits might be the sun lounger reads of a hot sticky summer. Who knows!

I’m starting off my 2017 Reading Challenge with The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I’ve had this book for a while now and held off reading it for a couple of reasons, usually the typical started it and something else came along, but in all honesty, I swerved from it because in setting and topic it is quite close to my own story in #MFB, being that they are both set in a magical university. I suppose I worried I might be too influenced by Grossman and subconsciously assimilate some of his themes and features into my own writing. (I also had this highly egocentric fantasy of being read/reviewed/interviewed about #MFB and being able to say “actually I read The Magicians after I finished #MFB so no it didn’t influence me in the slightest”.) But a big part of being a good writer is being a good reader. So I’m going to give it a go.

Plus, I recorded the TV series on my Sky+ box and it’s sat there taking up space, so once I’ve read the book I will watch that before we move and I lose all my recordings. PS. Does anyone know if you can keep your Sky+ box and your recordings if you move from one house to another??? The boy may be heartbroken if he loses all of his Heartbeat episodes.

So I will read The Magicians, my book for January. My rule is that if I finish early I won’t start another book on the list, I will either persevere with other outstanding books (Middlemarch, here’s looking at you) or start something else, and then come 1st February, pick the next one.

Here is my reading list in full! Tell me about yours. What will you be reading? Or what have you read recently? I’m always on the look-out for good books!

Katy’s Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge

The Ice Museum – Joanna Kavenna (non-fiction)
Empires of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy – Ben Wilson (non-fiction)
A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness
The Magicians – Lev Grossman
Magician – Raymond E Feist
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
Enduring Love – Ian McEwan
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
The Meaning of Night – Michael Cox
The Romance of the Forest – Ann Radcliffe
Lucky Jim – Kingsley Amis
The Magus – John Fowles

A new year dawns

It’s that time of year – behold, the New Year, New Me promises! I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. If I decide I need to sort something out mid-year, I’ll do it then, rather than wait until the next January to do it. But that doesn’t mean to say I never have goals in mind for each year – sometimes they’re so subconscious even I don’t know about them…

In 2015 my goals were to get my own place and change my job for something closer to home. I was commuting to Hull every day and the company I was working for were relocating into the city centre. It was already taking me at least an hour and a half to get to work, and easily more on an evening. And so in August 2015 I started looking for a house, and I got my keys for Casa Katy in December and was halfway through my notice period.

So in 2016 I had the house and the job. What was missing? Oh yeah, the boyfriend! Considering I had just bought my house and didn’t ever want to leave it because it was Mine, I managed to get a boyfriend just by sitting around doing nothing, as mutual friends were playing Cupid, and so in August I met Scott.

So, it’s 2017. I am sans job, but still running Casa Katy like a sinking ship – just the way I like it. Well, it is a little crowded now, with two people, two cats and a Border Collie. But the big goal for 2017 – beyond helping Scott get the farm built up, and sorting my grandad’s house out so we can move in there, and *cries* renting Casa Katy out – is the writing thing.

From about August to November very little writing was done last year. I submitted barely ghost-edited chapters to my writing group and that was about it. I didn’t do a blog post either. Then over the festive period, I started to look at #MFB. As so much time had elapsed I found I couldn’t get back into it, but then I realised the reason I couldn’t get back into it was that I had lost myself in it. So I sat and redrafted it, giving it a much-needed haircut. The end result was more like lopping a few limbs off than just a trim, but I figured I should be cutting down that approximate 350,000 word count. So now I have begun Draft Three, having aborted Draft Two midway through. Abandon ship, and all that. I’m very lucky because Scott understands how important it is to me, and he is encouraging me (i.e. telling me off when he finds me on Facebook!), even though he isn’t a reader at all (though he got two books for Christmas so that could change – hey, if I got my father reading after not picking up a book (that wasn’t a car manual) since school, anything’s possible!).

I found by chance on Twitter a writing campaign #my500words, started by a chap called Jeff Goins, whose blog is full of lots of useful motivating things for aspiring writers like myself, so please have a look here. So this is something I’m going to follow: 500 words a day for 31 days. This is pure writing, no editing, and while I am redrafting from existing copy, I am still writing fresh, especially in the cases where I’m adapting chapters and making new content based on concepts already clumsily made. So far so good – I’m already halfway through chapter two, having exceeded my 500 words most days.

After the 31 days are up, I might adapt the limit again, depending on how far I am through the story. Another thing to bear in mind is that lambing time is approaching, which might sit as a fat spanner in the works, as I have been led to believe that my life will be split between the sheds and home for a kip. Snatching time to write is so far serving me well: getting up a little earlier to sit in the quiet downstairs, or if on odd days I’m not needed, then I can really hammer it home.

I will keep you updated. Meanwhile, any words of encouragement won’t go amiss!

Katy

Christmas and New Year: just another day

So Christmas has been and gone, and so has New Year. Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. My mother said when I was little I used to get so excited I would make myself poorly. And when I was a little bit bigger we went to Lapland one Christmas to really ramp up the festive authenticity – which was possibly spoiled when Father Christmas wasn’t at his grotto and then when he visited the hotel he gave me a game of Twister to play with all my non-existent brothers and sisters.

This year you might have thought, what with me leaving my job in November, I would have had all the time in the world to prepare for Christmas and really make it the best Christmas ever. Yet I hardly managed to do any of my traditions, to the point where on Christmas week I made both my roulade and a Yule Log in a bit of a rush. The roulade was a bit of a disaster: one of the eggs cracked so yolk got into the whites and they didn’t fluff up like they should, and then my cooker burnt it down one side yet leaving the other side perfect. All the same, it tasted light and chocolatey, but we didn’t eat it fast enough so the cream went to cheese. But since it got Scott’s approval I think I shall make another.

I left my job to focus on my writing and to get on with the move to my Grandad’s house, but also to support Scott at the farm while he was working full-time. Now that he’s driving on an as-and-when self-employed basis, we’ve been able to really get on with the farm and make some decent progress. I’m still learning and am probably more of a hindrance than a help, but with such short days at this time of year, it’s hard to fit everything in and get all the jobs done.

I still managed to do some Christmas shopping and get for everyone. I went to the Country Living Christmas Fair in Harrogate with my mum and with Scott’s mum as well, and we had a really lovely day. I had saved up for Christmas all year so I didn’t feel too guilty about spending money despite not earning anything at the moment.

Across the festive break, Scott’s favourite phrase has been “it’s just another day to me” – be it in relation to Christmas, New Year’s, or whatever. And for farming, and a lot of other industries, that’s absolutely true. There are still animals to feed, water troughs to top up, calves to feed twice a day, and to bed up if necessary. But I spent years working on Christmas anyway when I worked at the pub in our village, so I am well aware that the world doesn’t stop for one day.

And now we’re here, in 2017. How time has flown! Despite it not being the Christmas I might have known – waking up in my own little house instead of at my mum and dad’s, not going to Midnight Mass, not going on our Boxing Day walk with the doggies – it has still been a wonderful Christmas I’ve spent with those that I love and cherish, all the while missing those whose chairs were absent at our table.