Monday, 30 October 2017

Monthly Log: By Jeeves, Beatrix Potter and a Postcard from Home!

Hello everyone! I thought a nice type of post for the blog would be a monthly summary of interests, activities and photos, so that I can keep track of where my mind was on this month, and what caught my attention. I don't want to bore you too much, so I'll try to keep it light (try is the key word)!

Peter cards and rose tea!

For my birthday I was lucky enough to travel to the Lake District to see a musical - one which I have had on DVD for four years now! It was "By Jeeves!" at the Old Laundry Theatre in Windermere, and situated in the same building as the World of Beatrix Potter, which came as a surprise!
Unfortunately I was too excited to take any photos of the area (and photos of the show were prohibited for obvious reasons), but I did get two miniature cards of Peter Rabbit as keepsakes of the day.
I'm rather fond of Peter Rabbit, and Beatrix Potter in general, as my family has a lop-eared rabbit who I called Peter, due to his striking blue eyes and similar colouration to Peter (well, he is my brother's rabbit, but seeing as my brother - who is nearly eight - keeps changing the poor thing's name, I decided to just call him Peter in my own head, for my sanity). Of course, it's been a while since I read Beatrix Potter's books, but she was a Victorian woman that wrote stories about anthropomorphic animals and made beautiful water colour illustrations; what isn't to like? Not only that, but I watched a programme which explained her very important work as a conservationist for the National Trust. I was very pleased to learn that!

But as for the show... I loved it so much that I grinned for the entire afternoon matinee and evening, and will continue to do so for quite possibly the rest of the year. My jaw hurt from laughing and smiling the whole time! It was really a dream come true, as I wasn't sure if it would come to the stage again anytime soon. That was a few years ago, and of course I was delighted to be proven wrong!
It was so charming to see Bertie, Jeeves, and the usual suspects on stage (and so close to the stage too - the people in the row in front were being sung to, and handed flowers and business cards as a part of the entertainment!)
The one girl that was sung to by Bertie, I wasn't sure how she kept a relatively-sane expression on her face... I would have turned into a helplessly sobbing-with-laughter puddle - but this is coming from me, the one that burst out giggling and dancing on the spot when happening upon an actor portraying Henry VIII in a nearly-deserted corridor at Hampton Court (if he happened to actually be a ghost rather than an actor, I think he may need to work on his haunting technique). So, I was better off for not being interacted with, as I would never be taken out to a show by my parents again, for fear of mortifying them. ;)

Art by Ellie Morris, water colour and ink

This month I also had a visit from a friend living near Manchester. We dressed up together in Angelic Pretty and Baby the Stars Shine Bright styles (I was the latter, by the way, wearing BtSSB's Shirring Princess JSK - now one of my 'new' old favourite dresses, seeing as I've lost enough weight for it to suit me again). I had a lot of fun, and it was almost like acting as a tourist in my own town!
For lunch we had afternoon tea at a tearoom, and visited some antique book stores filled with musty tomes from the olden days, seashells, age-worn stamps, and semi-precious stones. One store had many floors and creaking steps, with bookcases towering well above my head to the extended ceilings, ladders, and smaller turrets of books in piles around the room. I even found some Ladies' guides from the mid 1860's, complete with coloured fashion plates! The second store was a Waterstones, but the architecture outside makes it special in my opinion.
We also went to a Victorian glass shopping arcade and sat at a balcony eating hard sweets from the old-fashioned sweet store below. As well as that, we visited the local art gallery and library, where there was an exhibition based around the British Victorian's views of Ancient Egypt, through travel, art, antiques, artifacts, and letters. A few weeks beforehand, I had visited the same exhibition for a history lecture on the same subject, which was very interesting.
I had an excellent time with her, wandering around my hometown and seeing the history still remaining. I'm there so often that I often overlook how pretty it really is, so I'm glad to live where I do.

Collage by Ellie Morris, using postcard from antique store.

However, it's unfortunately common to be harassed by strangers (men, namely) for wearing Japanese street fashion, which usually makes me very flighty and stressed, but this time I could just laugh at them and move on without paying them much attention, which shows my current balanced mindset, I think! Still, some of that negative attention gave me some ideas for my upcoming story.
Weird how the mind works, right? A lot of the things swirling around in my grey matter tend to all come together and form a story for future use, no matter how irrelevant they seem paired with other ideas, until it turns into something else that actually seems feasible. Shows how much I feel connected to my characters, maybe!

I'm still working through my workbook for my story to be written in November, and I've very, very excited to be working on it!! - however I think that I'll step back from the social network/website side of NaNoWriMo, and just focus on getting it down in my computer rather than turning it into a big thing in my own head. I don't know... something about joining the website and filling in the daily challenge word count things and connecting with other writers, just makes me nervous. There's also the fact that I can be unpredictable with hobbies and goals, as every day the amount I can do is different, due to health issues. Some days I might not do anything at all (aside from binge-watching Allo Allo), but on others I can spend nearly nine hours straight on one thing, uninterrupted, as I get so engaged. (The x-hours straight thing can also apply to staring into space or falling asleep in the day, so it's a bit of a mixed bag of productivity when one has brain problems).
That aside, I think it's more the social/networking side of things that fills me with some hesitation, as I'm very socially withdrawn at the moment (aside from what I mentioned above) and don't feel like I can communicate well with other people. Writing a story is fine, I can get emotional for my characters, but if it comes to having a written or verbal conversation with a real person, I feel like a very blank slate, or a tall and heavy brick wall that nobody can go over or around. Not sure if it's an energy thing or not, but I feel a bit like a solitary ghost-like being at the moment, faint, sickly, sleepy, and quieter than usual, or as though I'm sleepwalking through a lot of daily life. I'd like to talk to and see people more often, as I am actually a very sociable person with the people I know well and like, but tiredness, constant illness/infection/chronic pain, and feeling like I'm not a very interesting conversationalist (or an awkward one that keeps falling asleep mid-sentence and losing the train of thought as soon as it leaves the station) keeps me from being as active and joyful enough to engage with friends as I'd like. I'm not feeling depressed or negative at all, just quiet, like a mouse burrowed in its nest.
Rather like this, I suppose! - But instead of peas, I would be surrounded by cheese and crackers, like the true mouse I am. :)

Johnny Town-Mouse by Beatrix Potter (image from Gutenberg and edited a bit by me)

With that sweet image, I shall sign off this post!


Friday, 27 October 2017

Changing Plans - NaNoWriMo Plotting with "Ready, Set, Novel!"

Well, plans change. I typically can't stand changing things, especially after saying that I'm going to do one thing and then do another, but since it's nearly November and I was given a wonderful workbook on writing for my recent birthday... I think it's time to fight my ardent dislike of the unexpected, and give myself a kick in the pants, as "Ready, Set, Novel!" has inspired myself to do. Literally. There is a page entirely dedicated to getting a hefty boot in the butt, and one for a high five, too.

The land of "Roses For Margaret" is a bit of a barren wasteland right now in my addled head, and I just can't think of the direction I want to marshal Margaret and co. in. Left or right? Happy or sad? Up or down? Alive, or... dead? Just kidding, nobody will die in that novel, but even so, the idea is rather tempting sometimes (just think of Paul Sheldon in Stephen King's "Misery", who grows to dislike his main heroine after spending so much time chronicling her life).
I don't quite dislike her that much, but her fuzzy lack of direction and the amount of staring contests that I've had with my Scrivener document for the novel, has given me too much irritation to be entirely pleased with the young miss. (Yes, that's right - I'm blaming my character Margaret, and not myself. Charming, aren't I?) I suppose some novels just give the author a lot of grief and prove to be more challenging than the others; I didn't have a very linear frame for RFM, and I dipped in and out of it very infrequently over the course of three/four years, so I think it truly would be worth it to move on to other stories, and come back afresh another time, with a better battle plan.
Or bin it. Binning it sounds good right now... But as my Writer's Workbook by the NaNoWriMo authors says, sometimes you will be in love with your novel, and sometimes you'll just want to rip it to shreds - but some time you will fall back in love with it. I'm hoping that will be the case in a year or so.

But a new idea has come to me, and I think it may be a good one, as I'm already besotted with the main characters and have a good timeline planned out. I just love them so much! I had that kind of love for Aika Rowland and Carrie Knox when I started "When the Summer Ends", so it's exhilarating to get that love for my characters and thrill for writing back!
As I go through the "Ready, Set, Novel!" workbook, I get more and more excited about it each time and so many ideas come flooding in. I stayed up until half two in the morning scribbling away in the book - starting at around seven pm - and was shocked to see how late it was, as I was really engaged! As you can probably tell, writer or not, this kind of excitement for a new story is much more constructive to writing than trying to slug your way through a book you started at fifteen years old, and never quite managed to pin down the characters and plot and whip them into shape.

I can now tell my uptight self that change isn't so bad after all. Maybe, whether you are a fellow Aspie or not, you have had the same problem? It's very easy to get an idea and stick to it no matter how challenging and demotivating the plan is, as I saw with my idea last year to "get Roses For Margaret done, seeing as it's already got about 50,000 words". I didn't want to change or latch onto a new idea, as the thought of it made me very nervous and irritated with myself - but if you're in the same situation, I'd say go for it and try something new! That's how I got my passion for writing and plotting stories back! And it's a wonderful feeling that I very nearly forgot.

As for the new plot itself, I have a lot of it penned down, but I don't think I should reveal too much just yet, as things may be slightly different in a month or so, whether it is a change of name or a new viewpoint. But it's set in 1960's France, predominantly in Paris - so despite going there often, I have a fair bit to research! The basic premise is about a teenage boy wanting freedom, despite having a life that other people would dream of.

I know it's early to start NaNoWriMo now, but I was too excited to wait for planning a week at a time, that I just had to get it all out. The workbook by Chris Baty, Lindsay Grant, and Tavia Stewart-Streit is truly wonderful, I would really recommend it to anyone that wants to write a book, whether it be the first one, or the thirtieth. Not only is the content great, amusing, and thought-provoking, the layout and style is simple but effective and elegant - just perfect!
November will be a month of being chained to my laptop and writing like a slave (I say hopefully). Wish me luck!


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Margaret's Barbed Roses - A Quote for Getting Back to Writing

Quote by Sappho
The quote above, which I rediscovered on my unused Tumblr blog, I thought was a perfect fit for my story, "Roses For Margaret", as it expresses how my main character has to be patient to find meaningful love with a woman, the thorns representing her old loves that proved to be painful and unsuccessful. That's how I read into the quote and spun it to have a likeness to my own novel - I am no expert on Ancient Greece or Sappho by any means, so my take on it may be incorrect, but I find this quote fascinating. I think a lot of sapphic women can relate to this idea of waiting for an idyllic love - or a less thorny rose - to come along, after a series of unhappy relationships, or to keep calm under adversity from society.

It awakened my excitement to get back to writing my books, but at the same time, it made me rather nervous due to how difficult Margaret is to write. To combat my slight anxiety at opening my "Roses For Margaret" file for the first time since about June, I thought it would be best to start with reviewing the plot outline, then write a poem to get back into the swing of things.

Dewy Roses at the Park - © Ellie Morris

This is the synopsis so far, though I may add to it at some point:
Platonic, was a very good word to describe her relationship with Evangeline Bassett, thought Margaret. In class they had been studying the different types of love, and Margaret had come to the realisation that her love for Evangeline was platonic. She fixated on that word with a passion, and at the same time acknowledged that she loved Evangeline with all her heart. It would never do to love a girl with more than Plato’s ideals in mind, she thought, and pushed all her summer love dreams to the back of her mind. Besides, she thought; I’m not a lesbian; she looked upon the word with disgust and thinly veiled interest, like a dead bird on the corner of the road, rotting yet fascinating in a distant, morbid kind of way. Through love and life, Margaret is faced with many trials, each person as confusing and complex as the next.

Transitional Rose  - © Ellie Morris
Let's see how that goes! I received some books on writing for my birthday, so I'm going to see if they inspire me and get me out of my block. I have so many ideas, and am getting new ones every day, but unfortunately not many for the book I'm actually trying to write! Anybody else have that problem?

Fading Light  - © Ellie Morris
I just want to get some content out there and hammer away at my keyboard for a short while before moving on to other tasks! It sounds simple, but my muse for Margaret seems to have escaped through the window in my down time. These comments on my book probably don't make the story sound promising, but I'm hoping that the story that gives me the most trouble will turn out to be one of my most successful novels - fingers crossed!

I have also included some photos of the roses at a nearby park that I took a couple of Sundays ago on a stroll with my family. The light was fading as the nights draw in, so I got a kind of scenic, cold but soft atmosphere - or at least I think so. I love orange roses (or any colour really), so there are two of them!
I hope you like the pictures, and feel free to follow by clicking the blue button at the side!


P.S. Time seems to have slipped me by a bit for posting, as it was my 19th birthday on Sunday, and I had a busy day yesterday, so I'm still recovering from all the social activity! I want to post more regularly, at least once a week.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Nostalgia, Beauty and Trepidation; With the Fears, Tears, and Tenderness that a Modern Reader Can Relate To

Or, with that heavily pretentious post title of mine, I hope I can expand below upon the hopes and ambitions of my future works!

Hello, and welcome to my new corner of the web! My name is Ellie Morris, and I am an 18 year old author from the North West of England, who has a vast interest in writing novels inspired by the beauty and trepidation of the past, exploring the romanticism and intrigues of other eras, with all the grisly and unfortunate bits thrown in.
History has always been one of my favourite subjects, from hearing of the infamous King Henry VIII at a young age, or pouring over books on the Ancient Egyptian mummies, many gory photographs and explanations on the decomposition of human flesh intact (I was, and still am, a morbid girl - what else can I say? I promise not to scare you off though!). In more recent years, however, I have gained a lot of inspiration from the 19th and 20th Centuries, and the Victorian, Edwardian, and early to mid 20th Century decades remain my favourite years.

One of my main goals and interests have remained strong since I first started creative writing for fun in 2014; to write LGBT novels with historical settings.
It was around that year that I first read one of the most influential books I've ever had the pleasure of reading: Les Amitiés Particulières (or This Special Friendship in English), by Roger Peyrefitte. I'll admit to watching the French film first, French being another topic that I've loved for a long time, and combining that with a 1920's backdrop and gay characters, I was in love. Two years previously I had realised my own orientation after years of feeling confused by my lack of attraction to males and putting up with all the other girls I knew obsessing over boys. I came to terms with the fact I was a lesbian slowly over the years, and dealt with the worry and feeling of hopelessness that came with it as I entered confusing relationships that blurred the lines between friendships and romances, and ultimately ended up in disappointment. At the time, reading and watching the trials of Georges de Sarre and Alexandre Motier gave me both hope, and despair. The hope that even in an environment as inhospitable to homosexuals and those in same-sex relationships as an early 20th Century, all-boys Catholic boarding school, Georges and Alexandre still found each other and had the opportunity to fall in love, and Georges and Lucien could strike up a comradeship despite the strict authoritarian environment that draconian priests and school authorities employed - that, because of finding that connection despite the odds, I, myself, could find a special somebody to fall in love with, and friends that understood. Short-lived hopefulness, however, as everything soon fell to ashes, taking sweet Alexandre with it and crushing my heart. Luckily enough, I love angst in stories, however, and planned and wrote alternate endings where Georges and Alexandre managed to pull through their challenges and nurture their relationship for years to come.
You may come across old, embarrassing fanfictions about these two boys across the web, if you're familiar with the story, but I like them - just a little bit, despite the confusion of words and tenses in a couple of places - so I kept them to remind me of this wonderful tale that meant so much to me.

A piece of digital art from 2014 that I made in admiration for Alexandre Motier, titled "Your Schoolboy Crush Is No Secret"

It is that kind of story that I'd like to create. An LGBT romance, for young and older people alike, that details what it would have been like to be LGBT throughout different time periods. A lot of books, fiction and non-fiction alike, seem to only tersely and fleetingly mention same-sex couples, if at all, and it makes me frustrated to see so few period romances or stories that actually expand upon the theme past a couple of sentences. I love history, and I'm a lesbian - surely there are other nerdy history-loving lesbians and gays out there? I have seen very few of these kinds of books - so, any recommendations, let me know right away!
Stories that exhibit both the sweet and sentimental moments, and the bitter sadness and persecution of LGBT people throughout time, are what I like writing about. It's not all doom and gloom though, I can assure you!

"When the Summer Ends" and its sequel, "Mansions of Glass", are my take on what I felt being a lesbian or gay man (or generally somebody out of the norm or ostracised in that era, such as a person with ASD, a person of colour, or somebody seen as a lower class) meant at that time, and how one would feel in situations that made them feel unsafe and inferior, but was so integral to their being. I vastly enjoyed researching and writing these books, and while I know there may be some mistakes or inaccuracies in those couple of books, I know that writing novels was my calling, and that I want to better my craft over many years to come.
(Please read the descriptions on my "books" tab above, and maybe consider purchasing if it catches your fancy! I would be ever so grateful!)

A Ghastly Specter in period costume, otherwise known as Ellie Morris in her natural habitat :)

Along with my historical works, I also dabble in writing modern-day contemporary stories, such as the book that I am working on currently: Roses For Margaret. It follows the outline of my life story so far, short and inexperienced as it may be, but deviates in different turns and directions as led by the main character, Margaret, who has a fuzzy, whimsical mind of her own. There is tenderness and heartbreak, but ultimately, I want it to give hope to girls like me, no matter how small or meager the amount of hope given to a situation where a lot of young people feel helpless, confused, scared and miserable. A description for the book is given at the bottom of my "books" page, too - do get in touch if you would like to find out more!

Another theme that I find interesting to explore, because it affects me a lot, is physical and mental illness, and disability. So many people are diagnosed with health issues or disabilities, so if readers can't connect with my characters on a coming to terms with sexuality basis, perhaps they could feel a likeness to such characters due to the loneliness and uncertainty that comes with ill health and strong, painful emotions. My character, Aika Rowland, from "When the Summer Ends" and "Mansions of Glass" has challenges to overcome due to her undiagnosed (and largely unrecognised, due to the period that this book is set in - the 1950's) Asperger's. Along with that, and in part due to Asperger's, she suffers from other conditions, and has a long journey to finding comfort and contentedness. I have Asperger's myself, so this novel was partly exploration of my own thoughts, feelings, and challenges despite Aika and I living very nearly six decades and a continent apart.
As my title mentions, I think that despite these kinds of stories being set a very long time ago, modern readers can relate to the situation and obstacles that historical people and characters lived through.

Well, that's an awful lot about my work! Aside from writing, I also love sewing dresses, vintage clothing, and historical costumes, reading classic and gothic literature and non-fiction, making art through drawing, painting, digital media and photography, baking, and spending time with my dogs.

For the future of this blog, you can expect information and thoughts about my books, info and advice on writing, things I find interesting, photography that matches my theme or mood, illustrations that I'm planning to make (check the "gallery" above for a few examples of the styles I like and use), and poems and short stories. I already have a lot of ideas on what to post!

Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you can follow and/or get in touch either by commenting below or dropping me a line via the "contact" box above! I welcome comments and conversation, so please don't hesitate to message me. :)

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