25 Days to go

I'm sure it will be no surprise to anyone that I have been on the Marsh again today. It's a beautiful day and the Marsh, as usual, called to me. Today I went to the extreme end of the Marsh, to Rye Harbour and Camber Castle. It was the castle first and I was surprised that here was no direct route to it. Parking on the Rye Harbour Road I followed the path along the River Brede for a while before turning towards the castle itself. Built for Henry the Eighth and subsequently not used because of the receding sea, I was surprised that there was so much of it left inside. Erosion was obvious and the outer layer of stone was completely gone in places. The place has an eathreal quality about it, standing nobly in the middle of nowhere and I liked the grandeur nature of the curved walls. It was a shame that it was closed to the public today because I would have loved to explore.

On leaving there I followed a path that ultimately led to a bird hide. It was quite surreal, one moment surrounded by dense vegetation and trees and yet on entry to the hide I was treated to a view that surprised and pleasured me. On the other side of the hide was, I'm guessing here, the extreme end of the Rye Nature Reserve. A large body of water dotted with vegetation that made it look like a myriad of islands creating interesting channels and waterways. I ate my lunch there and watched the abundant birdlife present. There was a lot of young birds there not yet fully fledged and parents guarded them aggressively. The peace of the place was wonderful too, with just the sounds of the birds and nature to listen to. It was one of the nicest places I've ever eaten lunch

Finally, I moved to the other end of the nature reserve and followed the path down the harbour before following a path at the opposite end of the reserve. Again, there were more waterways and larger bodies of water but this time the tide was out and the usual amount of water present was absent. So too the birds here, no advocets or curlews to be seen today, but the walk was rewarding and pleasant in the afternoon sun and there was that promise of tea and scones to look forward to next.

Happy Reading Steve

26 Days to go

I get asked a lot of the time where and when I write and how often so I thought I'd share a few ideas of my own. To start with not everybody is the same and what works for me might not for others. So here is how it works for me. Let's deal with the when first. I think it's important to write every day, it's a discipline and routine that  helps to make it a normal practice rather than an odd event. I like to write first thing in the morning as a rule, but if I'm in a school then I write in the evenings but what really that matters is that I write every day. How much depends on what I'm writing about. If it's a fast pace action scene then I write these quickly and notch up a good word count in an hour whereas at other times, if i'm writing something less pacey then it can take longer to get the words down. So why is it so important to write every day? Simply put it keeps you on top of your game, constant practising of your skills, exercising your imagination and creative writing all done regularly helps you continually improve.

Where I write depends on what I'm doing. If I have been touring a school far away from home and camping overnight then I will often write in McDonalds which ensures I get a chance to recharge my laptop and phone. If I am home in Kent then I really enjoy writing in libraries. Cheriton Library in Folkestone is a favourite of mine. Sometimes I can sit on the beach and write and sometimes up in the hills or a woods or in open fields. The truth is it doesn't really matter to me, I can pick a spot and write there comfortably. I have written on a bus and a train on several occasions but I cant write in cars, I get a little car sick if I do that. I came across an abandoned building in a woods once which had a flat roof and I climbed up and sat there and wrote.

If for any reason I can't write, perhaps my lap top has used up all it's charge, then I play games with things I see on my travels. Maybe an old piece of ruined building or something. I always ask myself what is the story here? Why is it ruined, who ruined it , when and why and just make something up. I select a few words I might use while I'm answering this and look to manipulate the sentences and improve my description. Then I might ask what sort of people lived there and why did they leave? The mind and imagination needs stimulus regularly if it's to be kept sharp and working imaginatively. Playing games like this really helps exercise it and it's amazing how it improves. 

The rule is, if you want to be good at anything, practice, practice and practice some more. It doesn't matter if you're a writer or a footballer the need to practice is greta if you want to be at the top of your game. 

Happy Reading

Steve

27 Days to go

Most of you know that I love walking the Romney Marsh but it's staggering how many public footpaths there are running in all directions across it. It's good fun to follow one you've just discovered across fields and dykes without knowing where you are going to end up. I tried a new one the other week which started on the military canal and ended up on the Saxon Shore way. Parts were marked well and others no so. I found one path blocked with a gate and barbed wire but it was clearly a walkway. I wasn't deterred and bypassed it. I can understand that farmers are protective towards the young animals in the fields at the moment. I followed the canal walk for some way before the path intersected the Saxon one and on impulse I followed that. It turned out to be a pleasurable walk and led to two churches, Kenardington and Warehorne, both churches are typical of those on the marsh, the doors were opened and I could just walk in and absorb the atmosphere.

One of the things I like about the Marsh churches is that they smell different from their big brothers in the towns and cities. They are full of stories and events that have unfolded over the years. Those who gave their lives in the two great wars are honoured in the villages they came from, their ages a constant reminder of how the very young sought to do their duty for their country even when not really old enough. It's the same story in the graveyards. Generations of families buried together and their engravings still readable on their stones. I am constantly surprised by how many lived into their seventies or even eighties despite the lack of treatment for ailments in those days. 

There's other things too, like the links to schools in the community. I like the way that the churches celebrate the achievements of the young and display their work there. There was also work from local women's groups too, beautifully made cushions in the pews depicting some sort of fauna. It seems that every time i take a different path there is something new to discover and see and yet the landscape of the marsh doesn't ever seem to change. Different crops in field perhaps, but otherwise when you get away from the roads and lanes the sounds of our busy lives become a distant memory for a while as they are replaced with herons, marsh frogs, ducks, swans and of course the Romney Marsh Sheep. Heaven is viewed in many guises but on a lovely day the Romney Marsh is its own piece of heaven.

Happy Reading

Steve

28 Days to go

Had a lovely welcome at a school in Salisbury today. It's always a pleasure going to small schools and this one only had 63 children across the year groups. The welcome you always get is warm and friendly and the close knit community is evident in abundance. Teachers too, although rushed off their feet have smiles on their faces and clearly enjoy the bond with all the children they have. It's the third smallest school I've been to so far and they didn't disappoint with their enthusiasm for the writing activities i give them. I also had a special treat of story time with reception class as well. I can't believe that they got me to sing the song version of the ugly duckling. All in good fun though. A big thanks to all at West Tytherley.

For a change the drive home didn't have speed restrictions on the motorways but still took two and a half hours to get back to Kent. The amount of time I spend driving now is huge and sometimes I spend longer on the road in a day that I do in class during the school day. I could take some time to moan about some of the stupidity I see with drivers on the motorways, virtually every day, but I don't want too spoil what was a good day, so i'll leave it. One of the things that motorways have developed over the years is a whole new environment for plants and animals alike and you never quite know what you might see. It's a way to pass the time when you're stuck in traffic jams for hours at a time.

So I have just 28 days left to decide where I am going to launch my new book and I have been thinking about doing it in America through the social media in Arizona. It's a challenge but very appropriate. Can I do it successfully, I'm not yet sure but I'll give it my best shot. Otherwise I'll have to book a few secondary schools since they are young adult books. perhaps the only other way would be to target certain groups in this country that would find the material interesting. If the story had been set in this country it wouldn't present a problem but since its not I'll use it as a learning strategy and see what I can achieve. I'm looking forward to this one, the story is strong, sensitive and has some very emotional scenes amongst the action and adventure.

Anyway until then, Happy Reading

Steve

29 Days to go to launch

The publishing industry is a mess in this country and probably globally too. Every where you go to promote your book it seems that the piece of the pie they want to take from you is huge. Few publishers take on authors directly now as they cash in on the rise of celebrity authors who are already household names and will sell books on the strength of that alone. You can't blame the publishers really, they are fighting for survival along with every other business. When it comes to agents, these too vary in approach. With their hands full already few are interested in taking on more new authors and yet this is probably the best approach at the moment as they do have access to the publishing houses. 

Perhaps the way forward is self-publishing but be warned that the quality of work out there is not always good. Don't sell yourself short when it comes to editing or choosing a cover design. It does matter, especially when you are trying to get shops to stock your books. Most shops will take between 35% and 40% of your retail price and will only take on a sell or return basis. It's the norm so don't fight it try and embrace it. Cut costs by buying bigger print runs, promote the hec out of your book, advertise it wherever you can, do it yourself and do it where it's free. There are plenty of unscrupulous advertisers out there that will charge the earth for their services. Social Media is still free so exploit that. Make appearances, signings wherever you get an opportunity promote, locally or further afield. Every book sold represents an opportunity for many other people to see it and the word of mouth can be your best friend.

So having said all this, you might be wondering why I've shared all of this. You can see that new authors are up against it. Well once in a blue moon, somebody offers an opportunity to promote and sell for nothing. There are still people who are prepared to help locals as they start to develop their business and I was pleasantly surprised twice this weekend.

Firstly an author friend of mine was given a chance to give a talk and sell a few books for free in a tea rooms in Dymchurch. The shop is run by a lovely lady called Mary who opened her doors one evening to whoever was interested in coming and even supplied tea for free. I don't have any reservation in promoting Mary's Tea Rooms in my blog, her cakes are amazing. Thanks for helping and wanting to support Mary, it means a lot. 

The second generous offer came from Sarah and Clive at Dymchurch Chocolate shop. They too offered their support, of me this time, by allowing me to put a few books on their shelves alongside all thee amazing chocolates they have their. Again, it was a free offer and again it means a lot. Two offers of help from one village can only mean that there are some really good people in Dymchurch and is probably the reason I like the place so much.

happy Reading Steve

C.S. Clifford

Author writing for all ages
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