How do you feed your blog?

The blog is a beast! It has to be fed. Regularly. The portions have to be right. The food healthy. No junk. Beware of the dangers of over-feeding your blog! Blogging is addictive. Novice bloggers blog every cough, sneeze and whiff of air that blows through their lives.  It’s easy to overindulge the beast and just as easy to starve it. Actually overfeeding will lead to starvation and it’s eventual sad demise. Restraint and portion control are key.

Nothing depresses me more than the cry of a starving blog. It’s like that cute little thing I took for a walk, played around with, then shamelessly ran away when it was watching a squirrel. If you find abandoned blogs crying out my name, please say you don’t know me. I have nightmares about them. It is easy to father a blog, but hellish hard to mother one. It takes time and commitment: two godawful words that make me want to eat chocolate or take a nap.

Is Blog Neglect a crime? What about Blog Abandonment? An ethical dilemma, maybe,  but rest assured, the wild, wild web is alive and well. There is still land, lots of land under starry skies above and nobody gets fenced in, even though countless bloggers have wandered off into the sunset, after a joyful ride or two.

But I have a plan folks and laugh not, dear ones…

I will stock a wondrous pantry to feed this voracious blog. I am collecting canned goods to the stock the shelves. The plan is, when the fresh produce runs out, I will pull out the preserves. In other words, I want to prepare for periods of drought, when the brain runs dry and inspiration at a low ebb. I have an index file of blog ideas and articles. Colored index cards, no less. Green for TEA, orange for WRITING and pink for BLOGGING and yellow for OTHERS. I am writing in snips and pieces and filing the posts in draft mode. Is that sheer genius, or what? Before I hurrah myself into self-sabotage – this is the plan, folks. THE PLAN. Not choo-choo train chugging ahead.

If you must know me, I am erratic, unduly excitable and over-anxious. When I do – I do too much. I am the type who laughs till I cry. I have a morbid attraction for chocolate. I love some people so much I want to bring them home and keep them as pets. Not good is it? The middle path, the middle path, Shona, I remind myself. But why is it so hard? Stock up, breathe deep, be patient. I have a nice  collection in my blog pantry. Sometimes I wander in, just to admire the shelves. I have to fight the impulse to pull out all the goodies at once. Each post is like sharing a cup of tea with friends. I just have to remember not to bring out all the cookies at once.

How I stay on track with my writing
Shona’s much-neglected KARMACHEF cooking blog

How do you manage your blog? How do you guard against brain drought and burn out? PLEASE TAKE THIS FUN POLL. Remember, your answers are anonymous.

Story details from Davey Lamont

This photo of an old tea garden "chung" style bungalow was given to me by Davey Lamont. The Aynakhal bungalow in my novel "Teatime for the Firefly" has been modeled on this.

The devil they say, is in the details. I met Davey when I was researching my novel. He was a young “chowkra” factory assistant in the 60’s of Kothalgoorie Tea Estate and worked under John Clayton, a good friend of my father’s. Davey is a colorful Scotsman who speaks in a delightful brogue with big rrrrolling r’s and tells the most outrageous stories. He can be terribly funny. Davey tells me the most curious and bizarre things that happened in Assam. He is super with details– lots of which have gone into Teatime for the Firefly. What were the “chung” bungalows like? I ask. He describes the “bundh” roads with tall embankments and rice fields in Assam, the funny servants, the food they cooked, the leopard hunts, the grueling job of a factory assistant, rollicking times at the Mariani Club, the opium problem with laborers, “chowkri” girls and ghosts and ghouls. Davey read the early drafts of TEATIME for historical accuracy. His shared with me his secret for growing heirloom tomatoes which has gone into the Jimmy Morrison segment. The idea of the “Fertility Hill” in the novel also came from him.

Davey presents a traditional Scottish sporran to Prince Charles.

To flesh out the character of the  manager, a man called Ian McIntrye, a proud highlander and a military man, I picked Davey’s brains about the little touches to add to the décor of his bungalow that would hint of his Scottish ancestry. Before that I did not even know what a Sporran was. Davey not only knows his Sporrans inside out, he used to make them! His grandfather was the taxidermist to the royal family. Davey shared with me these photographs of him presenting a sporran to Prince Charles. There is a very amusing anecdote that goes along with this story but you have to hear it in Davey’s own words in his rich brogue. I will record it on Skype and put it up, once I have figured out how to embed video on his blog.

As a writer I need to “see” things. Davey sent me this photo of a Military Sporran for my reference. Here is an extract from his email to me. Details like these helps me to add authenticity to my characters.

“Pics of a military sporran, Shona. If you want Ian MacIntyre to come from distillery country, Craigellachie is a town on  Speyside in the centre of the Highland distilleries. He could have joined the Gordon Highlanders as his father served in that Highland Regiment.”
Davey Lamont is a happily retired Assam  tea planter who has had several other interesting occupations as well. Among them: a coffee planter in Papua New Guinea, a Tomato grower on New Zealand and a Bespoke Sporran Maker in Braemar. Davey has written a humerous memoir full of interesting anecdotes about his “wee village of Braemar” in Scotland. Copies of the book may be ordered by contacting the publisher (Neil A Robertson at 7-9 Queen St, Forfar, Scotland Ph 01307 464078). Davey lives in the Gold Coast of Australia with his wife Lana, who is an enthusiastic cook and the inventor of the world’s best green papaya chutney!!

My Writing Bibles

STEPHEN KING On Writing I have never read Stephen King, but I love this book. Read it several times. It really helped ground me in the writing process. King does not bullshit. He comes from the school of hard knocks. He can be so damn funny – like side-splitting funny! Who would have thought! I expected him to be a morose and gloomy character. No way!

FRANCINE PROSE Reading like a Writer: This book helped me develop a discerning eye for reading. It does somewhat spoil the joy of just losing yourself in a story but eventually you get beyond that. It is great way to understand the stuff good writing is made of. It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time.

ANNE LAMOTT Bird by Bird: A joyous and hilarious read,  full of warm humanity. This book taught me not to take myself too seriously: not to get “too sexy for my shirt”. When writers become prima donnas, they are no longer any fun. Read the chapter on “Jealousy”. If you as a writer have not felt this way one time or another – you are a saint!

What books have helped you develop your craft  or shaped your philosophy as a writer? Please share!