Saturday 13 August 2016

Taking the Summer Off? Er...

August is the month for lazy days in the garden, hitting the toppling TBRead pile, and generally recharging the creative batteries, right?

The question gained a hollow laugh from members. Yes, they agreed, they should be soaking up their share of Vitamin D to boost reserves ready for an autumn of daylight hours chained to their laptops. Yet a gulf yawns between theory and practice.

‘My schedule used to work like clockwork,’ says Linda Acaster. ‘I’d start a major project in early autumn, run it through winter and bring it to fruition late spring. This left the summer months for research trips, decorating, and letting my mind swim in my ideas tank.’ What intervened? ‘Life,’ she says, ‘and this year the fact that I altered the balance in my work-in-progress, the final novel of the Torc of Moonlight trilogy, and it had to return to the drawing board. Now I’m running to catch up instead of skipping merrily along.’

April Taylor isn’t so much running behind as marching in front. Book 1 of her Georgia Pattison Cosy Mysteries, Dearly Ransomed Soul, was launched last month in time for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, where the novel is set. ‘I’m up to my eyes in marketing & promotion on the one hand while on the other Books 2 and 3 are in the process of being prepped for release. I do, though, insist on an early morning walk to get the blood flowing and synapses sparking.’

Exercise is also high on Stuart Aken’s daily schedule, and he makes time to walk in the Forest of Dean that reaches almost to his garden. ‘Nature feeds the senses, and the sounds of streams and birdsong beneath the leaf canopy is a complete change to the mental vistas of the Martian landscape that is the setting of the sci-fi novel I’m working on, earmarked for publication later in the year.’ It’s also a change from his recent epic fantasy trilogy A Seared Sky.

There’s no sign of a free August on Penny Grubb’s horizon, either. She’s still juggling a day job with her work on the PI Annie Raymond Mystery series. No 7, Tiger Blood, was launched recently and she’s well into No 8. ‘I’ve tried scheduling in a free August to enjoy the unrestricted company of family and friends, but in reality the extra time gets taken up doing all the things I’d been shelving. The actual routine of going to the day job seems to help my writing muscles relax.’

For Karen Wolfe, summer and her work-in-progress are inextricably linked: Dogdays being the final book in the Georgie Crane Dog-Whisperer trilogy. Add in the monthly canine piece for the local newspaper, and every day is part of the ongoing process of fresh air, exercise and thinking-time. Those dog-walks bring unexpected insights, small dramas, often moments of comedy gold. Not ‘taking the summer off’, more 'harvesting the crop'.

After publication of her latest historical, A Shackled Inheritance, set against a backdrop of colonial slavery and the abolitionist movement in Regency England, Madeleine McDonald made the decision to eschew the bigger projects in favour of completing shorter pieces, particularly for anthologies. ‘It’s more relaxing,’ she says. ‘I don’t get sidetracked into intensive research, and goals are attainable over a much shorter period. Without the pressure of a long-term deadline, I can enjoy the summer.’

Ah, now there’s an idea...

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