Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Help - I've eaten too much wine!

Apparently this was yelped by me sometime over the Christmas period. I don’t believe a word of it. I haven’t been well. I’ve had a throbbing headache and a cold and I refuse to take responsibility for anything I might have said during the festivities.

Anyhooo, New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t think I bothered last year. I can’t remember, it’s too long ago and too far away. But Russell Grant says Jupiter and Pluto are in my ninth house in 2011 and therefore anything is possible, so perhaps I should grasp the bullet and bite the nettle.

So here goes – and I should point out that I have already eaten too much wine today and intend to eat considerably more so this should be taken with a mince pie and a slice of Christmas cake and probably a large glass of iced water.

1. I will finish one of the novels I have simmering away on the boiler.
2. Okay, perhaps first I should choose which novel I should finish rather than gung ho-ing all over the place about finishing one at all.

3. Well maybe I should actually find the started novels first and look at them and decide which one/s deserve to be finished.
4. I’ll draw up a shortlist.
5. Or maybe a longlist.
6. I quite fancy that really serious one that has turned to murder.
7. But I also fancy doing something a bit light and funny like the one with the exploding suitcase or the one with the… oh never mind, who wants to hear about my what ifs?
8. You know what, I’d really like to start something completely new and not keep going over old ground. I like starting new things.
9. I think maybe I need another glass of wine and then I should give it more thought. But you know what thought did?
10. Perhaps I should stick to writing short stories or have another look at that childrens book I started.

There you have it. But you know what I love about this time of year – anything really is possible. The new year is spread out before us like a great big empty page and we can choose how we fill it.

No baby yet. Next time I blog it will be with news of his arrival – I hope. He’s a week overdue. We’re all pacing up and down, tapping our watches and shaking our heads, but he’s in no hurry.

And then in the New Year, a post about writing. Probably.

Where was I? Oh yes, I hope you had a lovely Christmas and I wish you a very happy New Year with abundant good health, oodles of success and wheelbarrows full of happiness.

Twill be interesting to wake up tomorrow and see just how much I have embarrassed myself. Now dare I post this…?



Saturday, 18 December 2010

Happy Christmas

I began this blog nearly two years ago with all good intentions of writing a blog about writing.

All too often I stray off the point, that’s if I ever have a point to start with. See there I go already.

Two people in this household are down with the Dreaded Lurgy and I’m not exactly feeling great. My second grandson is due any time and my daughter lives at the bottom of a steep hill where they often get snowed in. Well, only when it's snowing. Like now.

The midwife told her not to worry – if she can’t get up the hill, they will slide down to her.

So anyway, what is this post all about? Writing that’s what. I thought I’d try to end the year on a writerly note.

But I look around at other blogs and there are so many excellent ones for writers, whether they are beginners or jaded old hags like me and I wonder if there is really anything I can offer.

The honest truth is I know little about the forensics of writing – and yes I know that’s the wrong word, but as you know it spoils the flow if you spend ages trying to find the word you want, so it’ll have to do.

I know there is such a thing as voice and I know I have several, but there is only one I feel truly at home with and I wouldn’t know how to start describing it.

So here’s a bit of advice (though why you would want any advice from me I don’t know – but everyone gets presents they don’t want, so just smile and say it’s just what you always wanted and fits like a dream then pass it on to Aunty Doris next year) to end the year with and try to redeem myself as the writer of a writing blog. This is probably all stuff I’ve said before, but I’m old so if I want to repeat myself I will. So here we go.

Write what you want to write. Enjoy it.

If you want to write for a market, study it. That means buy the publication (and I'm not just talking about women's magazines here) and read it – lots of times. Don’t just flick through before tossing it aside with a disdainful snort as you declare that you could easily write rubbish like that. If you think it’s rubbish, bugger off and write something else.

Don’t refuse to buy the magazine you are trying to write for then complain when it folds because no one else is buying it either.

Don’t, for God’s sake don’t look down on your readers. I have heard people sneer and shudder as they say of the publication they write or are trying to write for, “Of course I would never read those magazines myself,” (again I'm not just talking women's magazines) and it breaks my heart. You should damn well respect your reader and it really, really sets fire to my innards when people don’t. Believe it or not, I can sometimes tell the stories that are written by people who think that they are writing beneath their own lofty aspirations.


Write what you want to write and enjoy it.

Forget what your English teacher told you. The reason you are told to say things like, “He blurted tetchily,” or “He exclaimed hotly,” or “She expostulated,” are to teach you, a child, to look for new words and use them. Well that’s my theory. English teachers aren’t there to teach you how to write for publication, but to teach you to write as creatively (as in saying “he said” in as many different ways as you can think of) as you can and as correctly as you can so that you can pass your exams. Nothing wrong with the magically unobtrusive he said she said. If you’ve written your story well your reader will know how they said it without you having to tell them.

Remember that there are exceptions to every rule. But if you’re going to break them, do it with style. If the guidelines state “We don’t need stories about weddings,” but you have a brilliant story about a wedding you think would suit them, send it in. But I stress only do that if your story is exceptional and hasn’t already been done to death (which of course you will know if you have done your research).

If you are entering a competition Read the Rules. And remember that reading the rules and sticking to them like glue is the same as following guidelines to the letter – it won’t guarantee anything, but it will give you a fighting chance.

If the guidelines state “We only consider stories of 2000 words” don’t send in one any longer or shorter than that (give or take a few words, and I mean a few, I don’t mean 100s).

Care about your characters. Care about your readers.

Don’t take rejections personally and don’t assume you’re the only person in the world getting them. Don’t get in a strop because your rejection came in the form of a standard rejection letter. If it is the norm to get a standard rejection letter that is what you will get, whether you have been writing for a month or for thirty years.

Don’t think that it will ever be easy.

And most important of all, write what you want to write and enjoy it.

Well there you are, a pathetic attempt at a post about writing/illustration of how old people tend to repeat themselves.

All that there is left for me to do is to wish you all out there in Blogland a very Merry Christmas and to thank you most warmly for coming by and visiting my blog xx.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Guest Post - Santa's Elf

I’ve invited Rob from the Department of Diagnostic Genealogy to come along today to spread a bit of Christmas cheer, but I warn you, he's only after your money!

Tis the season of goodwill to all men. A time for thinking of others, as well as thinking of mince pies, Christmas pud and lots of lovely alcohol.

Beer. Wine. Brandy. Stones Ginger Wine. Snowballs. Port. Sherry. Cider. Have you seen that alcoholic Ginger Beer? Sounds interesting…

I appear to have become sidetracked before I have started.

Allow me, dear reader, to set the scene.

It is a cold day. Snow is falling outside, but fortunately we are inside. Unfortunately we are in Argos.

Not that Argos wouldn’t be a pleasant place to be. I would merely suggest a roaring log fire, comfy armchair and glass of sherry would make for a more festive scene. But that isn’t the story so scrap that thought and picture being in Argos on a cold winter’s day, snow falling etc etc.

Then, like the ghost of Christmas past, we swoop over the throng of oblivious shoppers into the dark recesses of the Argos stockroom.

A shiver runs down your spine as we float into this previously unseen world. What horrors await us?

You needn’t have worried, for it is like Santa’s own workshop, swarming with elves busily scurrying about with more gifts and toys than you’d see at a hundred Christmases.

And leading these industrious elves is a man with a smile for everyone. And a heart of gold.

On Friday 10th December this man, the Stockroom Manager of Argos in Clacton, Essex, put his leg on the line for charity. And he must now live the remainder of his life with the consequences of his actions.

For he has
‘I Love Argos’ tattooed on said leg.




Was it madness that inspired him? Maybe, but it was more likely his generous spirit, for I know this man. And far from being a lunatic, he is the nicest bloke I have ever met.

And so I come to my reason for blogging here. I have heard tales of the generosity of the writing community, especially those who frequent this merry corner of the internet.

So I come before you now, cap in hand, to ask for donations to the Teenage Cancer Trust. I’m not going to bleat on about cancer, as you are all educated, good looking (did I mention generous?) people eager to get back to reading something witty or writing something.

You can read more about the Teenage Cancer Trust
here.

And you can sponsor Wayne online until the 18th December
here

You can even donate money to the Teenage Cancer Trust in any Argos store anywhere in the country.

Thank you for your time – normal, well written Teresa blogs will follow shortly!

Thank you Rob.

I’m sure some of you out there will be doing a bit of last minute Christmas shopping in Argos stores. If everyone rounded up their purchases to an even number (which is easy to do, just ask instore when you pay) just think of how far all those extra pennies would go.

Monday, 13 December 2010

The Annual Round Robin

Readers of this blog who were around this time last year will know my feelings about the newsletters that drop out of Christmas cards.

A couple of lines written in a card mean a million times more to me than a whole stack of neatly printed newsletters.

This year I have only had one. It went straight into the shredder unread (I did offer it round, but they put up their hands and shook their heads as if I were offering them mud pies made with real mud). Why? Because I have neither the time nor the will to waste reading through a load of boring drivel about people I hardly know and care even less about.

I’ve had one so far this year, but I am reliably informed that another may be winging its way to me. Shudder. It is from someone I would not know if they walked past me in the street – and they would not know me either. I could count on the fingers of one hand how many times I’ve met this person in the last 20 years or so and still have enough fingers left over for a rude gesture or two (ah that makes me feel slightly better).

Enough of my annual moan. I’ll shut up about it now. Until next year anyway.

Mince pie anyone?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Night Crawler


Isn’t that a great title for a book?

Today I’m delighted to play host to Diane Parkin who is here to tell us about her debut novel Night Crawler. Diane encouraged me to poke my head out of my shell when I first arrived in Blogland. She has been an inspiration ever since.

So without further ado I’ll let Diane tell you a little about Night Crawler.

It is Easter 1996, and a young homosexual junkie has been murdered. His boyfriend is arrested and charged. Marcie Craig, local DJ and good friend of the prime suspect, knows he didn’t do it and sets out to find out who did. Along the way Marcie is beaten up, another friend is murdered, and another is questioned until, in the end, Marcie’s own life is threatened.

Night Crawler was originally a song recorded by Birmingham rockers Judas Priest and can be found on their 1990 Painkiller album. The novel is a story about someone that crawls around at night killing people to cover up his or her own secret. The story opens in April 1996 and runs for just a few months. It introduces Birmingham, the rock club and pub scene that once was there, and of course Marcie Craig.

Marcie Craig (real name Marcella) is a 32 year old female rock DJ that makes a perfectly adequate living from her first love, rock music. She lives in a caravan (trailer) in Meriden, a small town that lies between Birmingham and Coventry, England, on the A45 – although the caravan site (trailer park) is fictitious. She rides a Harley Davidson, drives a Jeep, and has a pet cat called Sylvester and two mice called Thomas and Jeremy. She is 5’ 7”, with long brown naturally curly hair, is quite physically attractive with an athletic body, but she’s a bit immature and can be sarcastic.

Diane has an impressive track record when it comes to writing.

She started writing short stories for magazines in 1985 when the writers’ group to which she belonged advised her not to waste her time and get a proper job. She went on to sell commissioned articles to magazines for many years. She qualified as a broadcast journalist with BBC Radio WM in 1997, took over one of the classes on the course the following year, and continued as a full time freelance photo-journalist for ten years altogether. She joined an international steel company in 2005 as editor of one of their in-house magazines.

Diane has also edited education trade magazines and journals, text books, non-fiction books, and photocopiable classroom resources, and has taught adults creative writing and computer literacy. More recently she has started to produce activity and sticker annuals for children aged 3 – 6.

Diane lives in a South Yorkshire pit village in England with her two cats.



A question all we writers like to ask is how did the novel come about? Diane says, “I knew I wanted to write a mystery novel set in Birmingham but I didn’t know where to start. Everyone told me to write what I know but I didn’t think I knew enough about anything interesting. The only thing I did was work or go out to rock pubs and clubs, so I settled on the local music scene. I needed a protagonist and came up with an amalgamation of all the rock DJs I had ever known, then I made her a female and put her on a motorbike. Marcella was a favourite name and Craig was the professional surname of one of my DJ friends.

“The milieu gave me my scene of crime and it was easy enough to place a victim there, but I needed a reason for Marcie Craig to get involved, I needed her to care. So I had an old friend of hers falsely arrested and charged.

“I wrote copious character notes for all of the main players, I wrote a detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdown, I made timeline notes as I went along. I drew a map of the murder scene and I made a detailed timeline for the actual murder so I knew where everybody was.

“I wrote the first draft by hand, every day, making notes of things I didn’t know, and then I carried out my research interviews. The second draft was also in longhand but this took into account what I had learned. The first typo-free typed draft went out to my “experts” for checking, and all of my factual errors were corrected, most of the feedback was also incorporated. Then the second type-written draft was produced and the polishing process begun.

“I did two more handwritten drafts before the final print-ready version. Then years of submissions began.”

The book was completed by the end of 1996 and in 1997 it started to do the rounds. Diane hawked her manuscript around publishers and agents for more than ten years, building in many of the suggestions they made. While many were genuinely interested, the only company that offered to publish her book ran out of money. Spurred on by mostly positive feedback, Diane decided to have a go herself and “get it out there”.

Enter Lulu.

Lulu is a print-on-demand self-publishing organisation that offers authors various levels of support. With so much editing experience, however, Diane decided to do everything herself. She did all of the editorial and technical work and even sourced her own artist for the cover. Lulu is available to anyone with internet access and offers various distribution services and packages. Every book gets an ISBN.

Anyone who knows Diane or reads her blog will be aware that she is well known for having several projects on the go and not necessarily finishing all of them. However, future Marcie Craig novels already outlined or planned include The Beast Within (by Birmingham rock band The Handsome Beasts), and Snowblind (by Black Sabbath). There is also a prequel, Catch the Rainbow (by Rainbow), which is set against the Birmingham pub bombings of 1974 and features a cameo-type appearance by Marcie Craig, aged 10.

Night Crawler by Diane Parkin was published on 12 November 2010 and is available from Lulu. It can currently be purchased in hardback or as a download.

Find Lulu here, buy the book here, and read more about Diane at her blog

Thank you for stopping by to tell us about Night Crawler, Diane. I can’t wait to read it and I know quite a few others who will want to get their hands on it too.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Bullfighting, Michael Morpurgo, William (no not that William) and Waffle Irons

I found a postcard the other day. I’ve never seen one like it before. The sender was Spanish. I was going to post it on here, but then I saw the words “Reproduccion prohibida Brevete. C1963.”

I used the Google translator and apparently it means “Driving Licence reproduction prohibited.” Hm, so to show it on here? I’ll describe it instead. And if anyone can advise me as to the legality of showing it to you, I’ll reconsider.

It is a cartoon picture of a bullfight. The bull is on his knees, his bloody back full of lances, his tongue lolling out and the matador is about to deliver the coup de grace.

On the ground are a shoe, a pumpkin (!), tomatoes and a banana – and a little brown bird watching the proceedings. Behind the matador are several people – I think they’re British. A man in colonial garb waving his walking stick, a woman who for some reason puts me in mind of Miss Jean Brodie is bashing the matador over the head with her umbrella – she has tears running down her face - and five more touristy types, all upset. One blonde woman is on her knees beside the bull, one arm across her eyes, the other upraised as if pleading for the bull’s life.

Phew – they say a picture paints a thousand words. I’m still not sure if the cartoon is anti-bullfighting or anti-bullfighting-hating-tourists. Or indeed if it is anti-anything at all and just tells a story.

Just after I found the postcard I read Toro! Toro! by Michael Morpurgo. I’ve bought several of his books for my grandchildren when they are older, but I’ve been drawn in to reading them myself.



I wasn’t going to read it. I didn’t want to read about bullfighting. I already know what happens and just thinking about it upsets me. But I think it does us good to have our emotions stirred up. Anyway it's about more than bullfighting.

Until I read Toro! Toro! I’d never heard of the massacre of La Sauceda at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. I’ve since looked it up for more detail.

But back to Michael Morpurgo. He sounds like a very nice man – a very very nice man. I saw him being interviewed a few weeks ago which is what drove me to get the books. I’m so glad I did.

And did you see that the BBC is making a new series of Just William? I was so pleased and even more so when I found out that the talented Daniel Roche (Ben from Outnumbered) is to play William.

I should say that William was my hero when I was a child. I had some of the William books including: William, Just William and William the Fourth which I read over and over, but I used to scour the shelves in the library for ones I hadn’t read and it would be a happy little me that went home with a couple of Williams under my arm.

Hm, maybe I should invest in some of those – for the grandchildren of course.

So this started out as a short post to show you a postcard that I decided not to show you after all. Methinks I have been struck by the waffle iron again.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Improve your writing

I’ve spent far too much time here doing the exercises and it’s rather like being back at school, but in a fun way.





Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Foghorns!

First of all I would like to say that I like the sound of foghorns. I like the mournful one note sound and the way it echoes. I like the regularity of it and the atmosphere it conjures up.

Tilly does not.

At the first blast around 3 am she landed on my pillow, a hairy wreck. She sat next to my head, listening. I gave her a cuddle.

Second blast she vanished under the duvet between us. Every time the foghorn sounded, she made little gasping noises. She was convinced there was some kind of noisy monster in the garden out to get her.

It got very hot and rather crowded with a scared hairy dog in the middle of the bed. She got too hot and sat up under the duvet panting heavily, backed up a little and stuck her bum on my pillow.

Eventually around 4.30 am she turned round and had her head on the pillow.

The foghorns were softer and she clearly thought the danger was past. She slept well after that. Unfortunately I didn’t. Yawn.



I don't like foghorns!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Autumn Mist

I left home this morning in thick freezing fog and five minutes later I was on the by-pass where the fog was no more than autumn mist.

It was breathtaking with the mist shrouding the fields and the sun gleaming on the golden leaves and the sails of the windmill poking up in the distance.

On the radio Chris Evans was talking about The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists which is one of my favourite books and I was suddenly awash with good feelings! Perhaps because thinking about that book reminded me that however bad things may seem, compared to the way things were when it was written, we’re not so badly off these days.

Well, not yet anyway.

By the time I got down to the quay five minutes later the sun was shining and the sea was as blue as the sky and as flat as glass. Rooftops were white with frost and I came round the corner to park in my normal place only to find Road Closed signs.

Oh well, back down to earth.

I’ve been inspired by Martin over at Square Sunshine to look into the bag of postcards we found when we cleared out the garage in the summer.

I’ve put my hand in and picked one out. The people on this postcard look a bit glum. The year is 1971, the place is the reception hall at Bognor Regis Butlin's and the postcard cost 3 pence to post. I don’t remember the 1970s looking like that!





What is often more interesting than the pictures is the writing on the back . . . just who were Dick and Elsie that’s what I’d like to know!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Operation Stack

Well I was intending to take some photos of the glorious autumn colours, but my camera batteries were flat and by the time I’d recharged them the trees I’d wanted to capture had been stripped bare, the autumn colours were scattered all over the roads and pavements and somehow the moment had gone and it took the season with it.

So I took some of the sea instead. I love it when it’s like this! I just wish I could capture the noise, the smell and the taste of it. The waves were crashing pretty high over the prom – higher than the street lights.


Not saying I’d want to be out ON it mind you. Been there, done that, have no wish to repeat it. Do I feel a story about seasickness coming on? Probably not, but then again, never say never.


Over at Felixstowe (that’s it there across the water) Operation Stack is in force. I daresay it is the same story at most major ports.

Who’d want a life on the ocean wave eh? Out there in a fishing boat or a giant container vessel or a ferry. Not me.



Thursday, 4 November 2010

Understanding English

I don’t pretend to. I know the basics. But something 3 year old Imogen says has made me think.

For will not, she says “willn’t”. I thought she was wrong, but that it made perfect sense. More sense than “won’t”. What it says to me is that she has a good understanding of how our language works.

So I looked up willn’t. Apparently Charlotte Bronte used it in “Shirley” as it was local Yorkshire dialect. Perhaps it still is! Imogen is one quarter Yorkshire.

At one time in some parts of the country people said wol instead of will. But as the language developed we seem to have hung on to the wo bit for the negative and will for the positive.

Conclusion – it seems that willn’t is the archaic form of won’t and it may just be as simple as won’t being easier to say than willn’t.

And upon further investigation, I find there is even a Facebook page dedicated to willn’t. It is called "Willn't, the grammatical contraction of the future".

I think I prefer won’t, but this is the joy of having a living language. It could change back to willn’t one day. And why not? My spell checker doesn’t like it, but Imogen does.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Samhain


Summer’s end. A time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. The dark half of the year begins.

There is a green bloom on the fields already, the new crops are growing fast and it is easy to see why this was considered the beginning of the new year.

I had prepared a big wad of waffle, but one of my new year’s resolutions is to cut back on the waffle so consider yourself spared. Well it’s all about the cuts at the moment isn’t it and I don’t really know what else I can cut back on, except maybe wine and chocolate and that would be asking too much.

So how did I spend Halloween? Firstly I was stung by nettles, then I punched a metal bar. Yes you heard it right, I punched a big solid metal bar and I have the bruised knuckles to prove it. And while I was reflecting on my misfortune (well you didn’t think I punched the metal bar on purpose did you?) my ankle gave way and I twisted it yet again. And glitter from my witch’s hat has given me a rash on my neck.

So things can only get better, right?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

I've seen more meat on a cornflake!

I went shopping with Imogen this week. Despite being only 3 she’s got the whole idea of girl shopping. Nothing against men (they are very useful for carrying bags), but very few of them understand the concept of “shopping”. I’m not talking about the weekly shop here, but the traipsing from one shop to another looking for a certain something. A not quite sure what it is, but I’ll know it when I see it kind of shopping.

In all honesty I don’t get it either. I vividly remember the first time I had a panic attack going into a shop – I was 12, Christmas shopping. I didn’t have the screaming heebie-jeebies or anything like that; I just froze in the doorway of the shop, looked in at all the people and couldn’t move a muscle. The noise of the people did that pulsing thing and I broke out into a sweat.

It got worse before it got better and it still jumps up and bites me every now and again.

These days if I go into a shop and start to feel like that, I turn around and walk out again.

We had a break in Costa Coffee and managed to get the soft seats much to Imogen’s delight. She ate her pink cake and I drank my cappuccino.

We had fun. I only needed to buy a couple of things and I only left one shop because it was too crowded.

I also nipped into Staples and bought a box of 250 A4 envelopes. When my beloved went to put them away in my cupboard for me he asked “What is that box?” What box? Oh that big green one identical to the one I’ve just bought? Hm, I wonder.

It was right there at the front beside my dwindling supply of A4 envelopes. It was, as you may already have guessed, another box of A4 envelopes. A full box.

It gets worse. Behind said box of envelopes was another ancient box of envelopes. 250 foolscap envelopes. A couple of weeks ago I bought two new packs of foolscap envelopes. Why? I have no idea. I rarely use them.

Anyway back to the shopping. The whole reason I started this post was to tell you about the plates. Big silver and gold plates. One of those would be grand to use for my Christmas cake since I haven’t found a cake board yet.

Force of habit, turned it over to check what it said on the bottom and “Not suitable for direct contact with food.”

My beloved suggested a doily . . . but what would be the point in buying a fancy plate if you cover it up with a doily? Can you even buy doilies any more?

But a plate you can’t put food on? Yes I know it could be used for decorative purposes – but they weren’t decorative enough to be solely decorative if you see what I mean.

Reminds me of the time my beloved bought himself a pair of (very expensive) platform boots back in the 70s. He wore them once and the platforms and shoes parted company. When he returned them to the shop to ask for his money back the woman was appalled – “You didn’t actually wear them did you?” she said.

Well yes, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with boots? “Oh no, these are fashion accessories.”

I’ll leave it to you to imagine what his answer to that was. He got his money back.

Oh the cornflakes? It was a line from a dream I had, the content of which would be unsuitable for my usual market!


Monday, 18 October 2010

"Sweet Friends" Blog Award


Lovely Joanne Fox over at a Zigzag Road has given me a blog award (Congratulations on winning yours Joanne).

I’m not ashamed to say I love awards – that’s why I’ve hung on to my cycling proficiency certificates and my swimming certificates! I’m an award tart and this one is very pretty – and very welcome, thank you Joanne!

As a condition of accepting the award I have to tell you six things about my writing – and this is harder than it sounds!

Okay, here goes.

1) I used to write lots of confession stories. They were usually anonymous and I used to love getting my teeth into them and wreaking revenge on all and sundry. My poor beloved used to read them and say, “You were cross with me when you wrote this weren’t you?”

2) My first ever story was published with the pen name Isabel Douglas. Before I was published I used to plan to call myself Charlotte Macey which was based on one of my many nicknames as a child “Charlie Macey” but I have never used that name. Other nicknames included Maria Martin, Tessa, Tallulah, You Bloody Little Perisher and Tilly none of which I have ever used. And no I didn’t name my dog after me; she came to us with her name Tilly.

3) I find it very difficult not to waffle – I’m sure you’ve noticed this. When writing a story I have to be very strict with myself or I’d be meandering off all over the place which is probably why I go on and on so much on here.

4) I don’t do well with technology. You may have noticed this too. I still haven’t figured out how to put links in my blog without putting in the whole address. * Thanks to Patsy I now know the secret!*

5) My children were neglected. I can still remember them standing behind me as I typed and telling me that it was 7.30 and they were hungry and it was nearly bedtime. I’d written three stories that day. I could no more write three stories in a day now than I could do long division.

6) Many years ago I wrote a 120,000 word novel for a competition which is the longest work I’ve ever done. I found it recently and it is rubbish. The same is true of all the novels I have written, except the ones that are lost forever – they were brilliant of course!

And now I am delighted to pass on the award to six more people. Well here are my six chosen ones.

Suzanne at Suzanne Jones
Lynne Hackles at I Should be Writing
Frances at Frances Garrood

Sunday, 17 October 2010

A Mixed Bag

I was saddened to hear of the death of Claire Rayner last week.

I was also saddened at the way I heard the news on the radio when I woke up – “The agony aunt, Claire Rayner has died.”

She was so much more than an agony aunt. There was a great deal more to her than that. She was a campaigner and she fought so much for so many of us without us even realising it.

She was a writer, a broadcaster, a nurse, a supporter of dozens of charities and when she was dying in hospital she decided her last words should be, “Tell David Cameron if he screws up my beloved NHS I’ll come back and haunt him.”

She was also incredibly honest about her life, her childhood and her battles with depression. She had it tough and did she wallow in self pity? No, she got out there and fought to make the world a better place for others.

A courageous lady, a warm, spirited, funny, feisty, all round inspiration.

I’m going to get my copy of How Did I Get Here from There, Claire’s autobiography off the shelf and read it again.


Her son Jay writes a tribute in the Observer about her this week. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/oct/17/claire-rayner-sane-voice

But there was cause for celebration too – the Chilean miners. Did you see the guy who had asked for his wife and his mistress to be waiting for him when he was freed? His wife stayed away. There’s a story or two there isn’t there!

What will stay with me though is the look on that little boy’s face when his dad emerged safe and sound.

Ooh and that reminds me of a dream I had last night – it gave me a fully formed story and now all I have to do is write it down before I forget it! I used to laugh at the notebook beside the bed rule – I’m not laughing now. I’m still seething about the story I wrote in my head while awake in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago, the story which promptly disappeared the minute I went to sleep and has stayed disappeared ever since.

I was going to tell you how I’d gathered up pockets full of conkers to use as spider deterrents and it reminded me of a short film shown on 8 Out of 10 Cats featuring a huntsman spider in Australia.

I’m not going to put it on my blog because for anyone with a spider phobia it is particularly horrible. But here’s a link if anyone is brave enough to take a look.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRV4d9LCawU

I asked my friend who lives in Australia if she’d ever seen one. Yes – she was having an acupuncture treatment and looked up and there was one on the ceiling above her head . . . In all seriousness I think I would die. I do. I really do. Those big furry tarantulas? No they don’t scare me. I wouldn’t want to touch one mind you, but big spiders that look like – well big spiders – that’s another matter.

Anyway I shan’t go on. I have a story to write . . .

Monday, 11 October 2010

Guest Post - Della Galton

Hugely talented short story writer, novelist, columnist, writing tutor, very good friend, dog lover – I could go on! I’m absolutely delighted to hand over to Della to tell you about her new book and how she came to write it.

The Dog with Nine Lives





October is a bittersweet month for me. I love the smell of the mornings and the cosiness of the nights, I hate the feeling that summer is ending – not that it feels as though it is this weekend in Dorset, I have to say. As I look out of my window the skies are blue and apart from the puddles on the ground all over the forest where I ran with my dogs this morning, you’d have thought it was still summer.

I’ve also lost loved ones at this time of year. Last October I lost my beautiful Lindy dog. She was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known and the time around her death was one of the saddest times for me, because I lost my beloved gran, soon afterwards, too.

On a happier note, I decided to write Lindy’s story down. It was quite a story. (Nine years earlier I’d found her living wild with 13 puppies on a Greek beach.) I never wanted to forget her – or how she came to live with us.

This was a project just for me. A tribute to Lindy. I decided I would self publish it. I began to write it soon after Lindy’s death and then I stopped in November when I lost Gran – because grief got in the way.

In January 2010 I went with my stepson, Adam, to see my publisher, Hazel Cushion, of Accent press, about an editing job she wanted us to do. While we were there I mentioned self publishing my Lindy book and she said, in that bright, casual way of hers, “We’ll publish that. How quick can you write it?”






I was delighted, mostly because it meant the book would reach a wider audience and I wrote it as quickly as I could. It was a catharsis to write. I relived previous moments of Lindy’s life. I laughed a fair bit and I also cried. Although I write lots of fiction, I have never written anything so close to my heart, so important to me, so true!

It’s also the only thing I’ve ever written that my husband, Tony, has read (apart from the odd story, which he reads under sufferance, tee hee). But I made him read this – because he is, after all, one of the main characters in it, and I didn’t want him to later disagree or be upset with anything I’d put!

When he’d finished it, he came upstairs with tears pouring down his face. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “I felt as though I was reliving it all again. I loved it.”

High praise indeed from the man who ‘does not read’.

So this October, I am proud, so very proud, to see, The Dog with Nine Lives in print. It’s a little book, but it has a big story. And I know that whatever else I have published, I will always treasure it. One day when I am old and sitting in a rest home chair, I’m going to get it out and show people and say, “I used to know this dog.”

The Dog with Nine Lives is published by Accent Press and costs £9.99

http://www.accentpress.co.uk/category-7/9781907016608.html

Thank you, Della, Lindy's story sounds wonderful. I am looking forward very much to reading it.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

One Small Step

Today I did something that I haven’t done for eight years. I’ll tell you what it is later.

In the meantime, I’ve been learning things like the name Geraint isn’t French, but Welsh. Yes I really thought it was French and if I saw it written down I said it in my head with a fancy French accent – durr! Thank you Inspector George Gently for enlightening me.

I now know that crane flies and daddy long legses are two different things and that my poor little Tilly is terrified of them. In fact she’s scared of anything that flies and she’s scared of spiders too poor little soul. The other night when a daddy long legs was doing his noisy thing round the light, she sat first on my head, then burrowed under the duvet where she stayed until I turned the light out and the daddy long legs went to sleep.

Moving on – I now know that shanty men make a lot of noise and you can hear them a long way away and they sound very happy. I’ve seen a Thames barge up close – joy. And I’ve seen the Waverley paddle steamer close too and she was a lot smaller than I thought, but an elegant little lady all the same. I’ve been to a book signing where the queue was out of the door – it was for a book of photographs spanning about 50 years of the town’s history.

I’ve realised that I no longer own a dictionary or if I do, I don’t know where it is. My dictionary used to be my right hand man, always on my desk, used daily. It was an essential piece of kit and now thanks to Google and my laziness he’s all but forgotten.

A week or so ago round at my daughter’s house I saw a huge bowl of fruit soaking in sherry ready for her Christmas cakes. The last time I made a Christmas cake would have been eight years ago.

I used to make one for us, one for my mum and until her death, one for my mum’s friend who was the nearest thing I ever had to a grandmother.

I had no idea coming up to Christmas 2002 that it would be the last cake I ever made for my mum or that there would be some left in her larder when she died in 2003.

That year I didn’t make any cakes. I couldn’t face making just one. In all the years (I started making them when I was still at school) I’d been making Christmas cakes, I’d never made only one. It felt wrong. Besides I didn’t know where my recipe was.

So I started buying Christmas cakes. Blimey they’re expensive aren’t they? I don’t eat Christmas cake myself, but I was told every year that bought ones aren’t a patch on home made. They didn’t last as long either. And the marzipan on bought ones is never thick enough.

I bought the fruit and a bottle of sherry and left it to soak for a week – never mind quarter of a pint of sherry, that fruit damn near saw off a whole bottle. Oh and I found my recipe. Today the fruit was plump and ready and I made my cake. It’s in the oven now. I hope it tastes as nice as everyone remembers.

The making of the cake is significant. I’m not sure why, but it is.

Sorry for another ramble. One of these days I’ll post a proper writerly one and you’ll think you’ve come to the wrong place!



Friday, 24 September 2010

That September Feeling

It’s kind of flat. And dazzley. Chilly and muted. It’s an important month. A quiet month. A going back to school month. The month that I got married a long, long time ago.

It’s the month when the sun drops in the sky and the mornings turn yellow. There is something special about September sunshine don’t you think? Particularly in the early evening with those long shadows.

The fields are full of tractors ploughing the earth to glorious deep brown speckled with worm hunting seagulls. And there’s that rich smell of fertile soil in the air. One field planted just over a week ago already has a green bloom.

Blackberries hang plump on the bushes and the nights close in fast. Did you know you shouldn’t pick blackberries after the 10th October because the devil spits on them? To be honest would you even want to pick blackberries after the 10th October – they’re normally all nibbled and maggoty and mildewy by then anyway (probably a result of all that devil saliva).




I’ve been picking blackberries, but they’re all eaten before we get home and the kids have purple stained faces and fingers and I’m picking blackberry pips out of my teeth. Yes I know they should be washed, but you can’t beat eating fruit right off the bush – and they all know never to pick the fruit down low.

We’ve had Jupiter in full view, a harvest moon and a proper Indian Summer.

No other month smells like September in the morning. I don’t know what the smell is, but it sticks to the back of the throat and you can taste it. Spiders webs are everywhere and on a foggy morning they glimmer in the hedges.

Cars wake up covered in dew and swallows swoop low across the fields getting ready to leave.

It’s still not cold enough to close the bedroom windows at night so in come the daddy long legs to flap round the lights.

And of course there is the annual invasion of the house spiders. Conkers anyone?

The beaches are empty, the play parks stand quiet, the 9 o’clock roads busy up with the school run.

To be honest I’m feeling a bit flat myself, but a lot of people seem to be feeling that way. The summer arrived too soon and left too early and then it came back again and took everyone by surprise.

I haven’t blogged because I’ve nothing to blog about. I’ve fallen behind with my blog reading and quite a few other things besides. In fact I feel as if I’ve crawled through September while the days have passed me by at frightening speed.

I’d say my get up and go has buggered off and gone if I’d had any get up and go in the first place.

I feel saddened by the news that huge factory farms are planned for the UK where thousands of cows will be kept shut in. And you can’t look at the news any day without there being some new and horrible case of cruelty to animals or children.

You wonder if some people have any heart at all.

And I’ve learned something. I always thought fox poo was difficult to get out of a dog’s fur. Well it is. But trying to get it out of a 3 year old’s trainer is even harder. Said trainer was hosed, disinfected, washed in hot water and Fairy Liquid, disinfected again and it looked clean, but the smell lingers on.

This is where I have to heave a sigh and say I’d best go and get on. Get on with what I don’t know. I wonder what October will be like.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Cautionary Tales


Last night for reasons unknown, I closed the Word document I’d been working on and when it asked “Save changes?” I clicked NO.

This isn’t the first time which is why normally I am very careful before clicking on anything. Think before you click!

Sadly I’ve done things like this so many times now that instead of screaming and tearing my hair out and throwing things at anyone who asks what’s wrong, I just shrug and start again.

Anyway, off to the great cyber nowhere went my story. But all is not lost. I was nowhere near finishing it and so it is still there in my mind. All I have to do now is actually get it into the Word document and keep it there.


Last weekend I spent a lot of writing time editing a story. I changed a bit here, twiddled a bit there, fiddled and faffed and eventually felt happy enough to print it out. It was only when I went to write it down on my list that I realised I’d already written it down on my list as subbed – a month previously.

So I had wasted time editing a story that I’d already sent out. The fact that it had a title at the beginning and the word count and © at the end should have been a clue! No matter, I thought, I will have copied the original onto my second hard drive.

Except I hadn’t quite got round to it – well I’ve been busy blah blah . . . excuses, excuses.

For the first time in my life I found myself hoping for a rejection. Because the magazine I’d sent the story to asks for Word copies if they take a story.

Anyway, I needn’t have worried. The story came winging back to me this week with the standard rejection letter and so the nice shiny new version has been sent elsewhere and yes, this time I have kept a spare copy.

It also occurred to me that if I had to spend all that time rewriting and improving that story, then it wasn’t ready to be sent out in the first place.

Pictures are from the Colne Valley Railway and Farm Park at Castle Hedingham. The kids had been asking to go back there so that was where we spent the last day of the summer holidays on Wednesday.


Ooh and while we were watching the cows watching us, a small plane appeared overhead and did loop the loops, steep climbs and dives and kept us entertained for quite a while! It was like watching our own private little air show.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Guts!

I tried Caroline’s suggestion of holding a biscuit over my head with one hand and the camera with the other to get a decent dog shot. So this is Indy’s “I’m being good gimme the biscuit,” face (more about him later).




And this is Tilly’s “I’ve been in the smelly, dirty dyke, but I don’t think anyone has noticed,” face.



I love Thames barges. One day I am going to have a painting of one to hang over my fireplace – but first I would have to get a fireplace. What’s that got to do with the price of petrol I hear you ask – well nothing, I just wanted an excuse to put a picture of a Thames Barge on my blog.



Last week was lovely. All my grandchildren were here, right down to the littlest, Charlotte who is 10 weeks old and just about the most placid, easy going, good humoured baby I’ve ever known.

I managed to get them playing quietly for oooh about a minute and a half with Play Doh. No that’s not true, they played nicely for quite a while. But why is it when you get something out for kids to play with, Lego, Play Doh, wooden bricks – you suddenly find yourself engrossed in making something and completely alone where they’ve all wandered off to play with something else?




We managed to get a boat trip over to Shotley where Lachlan and Imogen posed for a picture.


And I took this picture because I felt like it.


Now the serious stuff. They started harvesting just over a week ago and of course with the harvest comes the guns. You hear the men shouting at their dogs then the guns go off. I hate it, knowing every time there’s a gunshot something is either dying or hurt.

Indy found where they’d been gutting the rabbits that they’d shot. They’d left the entrails at the side of the footpath. I’m just glad the only child with me was Isabel who is 19 months old and not old enough to realise what it was.

Indy went straight for it and began to eat. But it was a similar incident that may have saved his life as a puppy – or at least it gave him a few extra hours. I’ve probably blogged about his pancreatic insufficiency before (but being of a certain age I'm allowed to repeat myself). He was only a few months old when he got sick and the nurse at the vets called him a skeleton with a head.

All his food went through him and came out exactly as it had gone in. The vet kept prescribing antibiotics but nothing was working.

On a walk before he got too weak to come out – it may have even been the last walk he had until he recovered - he came across a freshly killed rabbit which had been ripped open and he ate the insides before I could stop him. I thought at the time it was because he was always ravenous. Well it probably was, but amongst those innards must have been a pancreas and it must have contained live enzymes because his next poo was near normal.

I researched on the internet and learned about pancreatic insufficiency and asked the vet to do a blood test. Then we had to wait for the results while Indy died a little more every day. I didn’t think he’d last until the results came through and I asked for the enzyme powder that would save his life. The vet was reluctant without a proper diagnosis, but what difference did it make anyway? It wouldn’t harm him and might save him.

They gave me the powder and the effect was immediate and a few days later the blood test results confirmed the diagnosis. So began his recovery. This time 10 years ago he was a very sick little dog.

I wish I’d taken a photo of him when he was ill, but I couldn’t bear to. I thought he was going to die and I didn’t want anything to remind me of his suffering.

I suppose in my usual long winded fashion what I am saying is that yes, the sight of the grey and red guts dangling from his jaw today was gruesome, but it reminded me of how close we came to losing him and how lucky we are that he is still here.

And finally, another trip to Shotley. At last I got to see inside the HMS Ganges museum there this afternoon. I’ve been itching to get in there, but every time I’ve been over it’s been a weekday and the museum is only open at weekends.

It was worth the wait. Small but beautifully put together with so many photos and items of interest including the restored figurehead from the original HMS Ganges. There are endless folders to look through containing more photos and interesting documents. I went through some hoping for a glimpse of my mum or dad, but alas not this time. It is so lovingly kept and cared for and the people working there so friendly and helpful.

I became unexpectedly choked up. It was an emotional experience on many levels. The photos of the boys who looked so young and who would have been at war soon after; the woollen long johns worn by men like my dad on the Arctic convoys; the thought of how much my mum would have enjoyed looking round there. It all got a bit much for me.

Anyway, had a little walk afterwards, looked longingly at boats for sale and took this final photo. It made me smile. Perhaps you’ll be able to see why – perhaps you won’t.








Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Meerkats and Serial Killers

Before I get into full waffle mode may I just direct you to Lynne Hackles’ post here http://lynnehackles.blogspot.com/2010/08/help-in-naming-characters.html

And when you get there (Lynne explains it all so much better than I would) follow the link Lynne has put up. You’ll see why when you get there.

Meerkats. Cute little things aren’t they. I think so too, but to be honest I’m getting sick of the sight of the toy versions which seem to be popping up everywhere.

You can’t go into a stationery store, a garden centre or an innocent looking High Street shop without seeing a bunch of them. Some are wearing waistcoats. I blame a certain advert.

They even had them in The Works. I bought some paint brushes and a book about serial killers and my beloved got a pair of Jack Higgins. I would have bought their only copy of Marley and Me – as if the film didn’t make me cry enough – but the cover was all mangled and call me fussy, but if I buy a new book even if it’s cheap I want it in decent condition.

That reminds me – I once flounced out of Waterstones in a huff because the only copy of a Monty Python book I wanted to buy was battered and covered in stains. It was only when I ordered one through my local book store that I realised it was supposed to look like that!

So last night I had a little read before going to sleep – as you do – and put my serial killer book up on the high cupboard beside my bed. And just as I was drifting off, it flung itself off the cupboard and bashed me on the head on its way to the floor.

Then I had a very disturbing dream about an old lady wearing a headscarf (no it wasn’t her Maj) and she was trying to tell me something about a murder, but she was terrified she’d be overheard.

I tried to get some nice photos of the dogs. Here’s one of Indy at the bottom of a ditch. Oh he’s down there all right – you can just about see the white flash of his neck fur.





And the pair of them eating grass – they seem to think they’re horses every time we go out and must graze.




And unusually, Tilly posed for a photo. Normally I only get a shot of her tail or the back of her head, but for some reason she decided she’d come right up to me and stand still. Well at least I got one decent shot today!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Blog Takeover Day - I Am Not Amused!

Look, she’s forgotten it’s Sally’s birthday and that it’s Blog Takeover Day and so I’ve taken a risk and decided to go for it.

Sorry if I keep looking over my shoulder, but she could come in here any minute. She said she was Going Out With The Dogs, but she might be on to me in which case she could suddenly reappear.

She’s a Grade A Control Freak and if she thought I was using her precious computer the fallout would be terrifying. She’d start by accusing me of Checking Up On Her. As if I haven't got better things to do!

I don’t have to go into her history to see she’s been on Facebook, tending her farm and preparing dishes in her CafĂ©. It’s pathetic – her houseplants are withering from lack of attention, her garden has more weeds than the whole of East Anglia and her idea of cooking a nutritious meal is to boil a kettle and open a Pot Noodle, do you know what I’m saying?

And she’s addicted to games of solitaire. Crazy Quilt Solitaire, Spider, Pyramid, you name it, she plays it. Remember that chimpanzee in the PG Tips advert; “You hum it, son, I’ll play it.”? You show her a pack of cards on her screen and she’ll play them till she’s seeing cards in her sleep.

She’ll tell you that she’s busy looking after the children and the dogs, but she’s lying. She locks them all in the kitchen with a packet of Rich Tea Biscuits and it’s every boy/girl/dog for himself.

As for the stories – she doesn’t make them up – I do.

And The Beloved – poor soul. He’s a shadow of his former self, a shadow and it’s all her fault. She doesn’t call him The Beloved in Real Life let me tell you. She calls him a lot of things – none of which I can repeat here, but suffice to say it isn’t pretty.

True, she writes a bit, when I can get her to listen to me. Most of the time she ignores me just as she ignores everyone else.

My Muse has gone on her holidays she says. My Muse has disappeared. My Muse has gone AWOL. Well I’ve got news for you, sister, I’m right here. I’m always here; you just Don’t Ever Listen To Me!

I come up with the most wonderful ideas and she says she’ll let them fester for a bit, then she goes on Facebook and I might as well be in-bloody-visible – oh, well yes I am invisible as it happens, but okay I might as well not be here.

She even poked me in the eye once. It’s true I tell you. She pretended to be scratching an itch behind her ear, but I know that finger was meant for me and I know it had malicious intent.

I feel hurt. Sidelined. I used to work so hard for her and she for me, but these days it’s a struggle just to get her to open up a Word document and as for a notebook - she may tell you she adores notebooks and it’s true she does have a stack of them, but they’ll be on the Antiques Roadshow one day you mark my words.

“Unused Pukka pads,” the stationery expert will say. “Unheard of. What a remarkable find. How did you come by these?”

“Well,” the excited little old lady will coo as little ££££ signs flash in her eyes. “I bought an old stationery cupboard and there they were inside in pristine condition along with a box of paperclips and a half eaten Twix.”

Actually I’m joking about the Twix (I do have a sense of humour you know – she hasn’t quite beaten that out of me). That is one thing she has no problem starting or finishing – anything with chocolate in it. Actually anything with FOOD in it. Or alcohol. Well let’s be honest anything she can swallow - down it goes.

I just want to get one thing straight here. The rejections – they’re all hers. The acceptances are mine. I’m the inspiration, the sweat and the tears and without me she’d be nothing I tell you, nothing! And she knows it.

You know what? I think I’m safe. She wouldn’t dare get rid of me.

Hold on – listen – she’s coming back. Dogs are panting – and smelly. Why does she let them swim in the dykes and roll in the mud (and worse)? She’s coming up the stairs.

Who’s been messing about with my computer? The Beloved runs for cover, the dogs cower, I shrink back into the shadows but I am not afraid. She needs me. I can feel her mind reaching out for mine . . .

She sits down.

I’ve just remembered, it’s Sally Quilford’s birthday blog Takeover. I should have thought about this sooner.

Happy Birthday Sally!

http://sallyquilfordblog.co.uk/

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Redwings



Last Wednesday we took the kids to the Redwings Horse Sanctuary near Gt Yarmouth.

It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and the fact that Marilyn Fountain would be there to sign copies of Gentle Footprints in which Lyn has a story (a donation from each sale goes to the Born Free Foundation) was the added push I needed.

It was lovely to see Lyn again and I meant to take a photo for the blog, but we were so busy chatting that I completely forgot. But I did remember to buy a copy of the book which Lyn signed for me.

And I didn’t get many photos of horses either.




As well as the sanctuary, Redwings runs a re-homing scheme and around 500 horses and ponies live in Guardian homes, but with the charity keeping an eye on them.

It was a lovely day out. The kids enjoyed it and have all said they want to go back. As do I.



The little uns made a fuss of a handsome 19 hand shire horse, a very friendly little Shetland pony and a beautiful Newfoundland dog (visitor not resident) among others and I thought how animals usually do tread gently, especially around children. If only people could be relied upon to do the same.

And on another subject I am sick and tired of the Back to School adverts hooting out everywhere you look. As a child I can remember being depressed once the Trutex adverts (are you old enough to remember those?) signalling the end of the holidays started to appear (I can still hear their annoying jingle). These days I’ve seen Back to School adverts before the summer holiday has even started. Shouldn’t be allowed!

Gentle Footprints is published by Bridge House Publishing
.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Couple of Things . . .

First of all you may already know that the People’s Friend is no longer sending out contributor copies, but contributors can buy a subscription at a reduced rate. If you’re serious about writing for the magazine, you should be buying it anyway and if you’re a contributor then the sale of one story will easily cover the cost of a subscription.

I have heard grumbles from contributors about having to go out and buy a copy of the magazine, but I feel if you want to write for a particular magazine and you want that magazine to buy your stories, the least you can do is buy it!

There, that’s my piece said. I shall now step down from my soap box and carry on . . .

Having had my little rant, I’ll move on to something more exciting.

My daughter had a scan last week which revealed that the baby due in December is a boy. I got so excited when I heard the news, had a bit of a cry and went round with a big smile on my face for the rest of the day.

It occurred to me later that I would have had that reaction whatever the sex of the baby.

And finally – oh this means there is more than a couple of things doesn’t it. Hey ho, isn’t that what we do? Start writing something and then go with the flow?

I am up to page 685 of The Dome and I am happy to say all that breathless anticipation was not in vain. And that big list of characters in the front – well I now know all those people and anyone familiar with the work of Stephen King will know and understand that I know them well.

I was going to wait till I’d finished to write about it, but something happened yesterday that made me want to write about it NOW!

We took the dogs for a walk along the Essex Way. The crops are pale yellow, ripe and ready and you can hear them popping in the heat. I looked up the hill across one of the fields and “Look at the sky!” I said with rather more wonder and surprise than it deserved.

My beloved looked and his expression said “What of it?” I got all excited about the colour, the beautiful clear blue, the cleanness of it and his expression changed to “My god she’s finally lost it.” It is after all the same sky we always see.

But then I came to my senses. I have been so immersed in The Dome, so involved in it, that I have been In The Dome seeing the sky as the residents of the Mill see it. In my mind anyway. That book is so inside me that I feel as if I am living in Chester’s Mill, Maine and I would not be surprised to bump into Julia Shumway walking her Corgi Horace.

It is Stephen King at his best. It reminds me why at one time I read his books over and over again with the occasional visit with Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon, Robert Holdstock or Graham Masterton. It reminds me why I have kept all his books and will never part with any of them. Why I am a Constant Reader.

I read a lot more widely now I am pleased to say, but for me Stephen King remains the master.

Anyway, something I have noticed in this book. Characters with similar names. Ginny and Gina, Rennie and Rommie, Andy, Andi and Audi – something we are told not to do for fear of confusing the reader (in fact some advocate that we shouldn’t even use the same initial letters for characters) and something I would agree with up to a point but Not In This Case. The characters are so well drawn, so distinctive; you couldn’t possibly read about one and mistake them for another.

I’ve read the reviews on Amazon. Some (not many!) people say it is too long, that the ending is too far fetched. Well, deep breath, it isn’t too long for me and as I’m less than 200 pages from the end I’m getting that sinking feeling that it will soon be over and I don’t want it to be – I’d be happy if it went on for another 800 pages.

As for the ending, well, I’ll know when I get there and then the book will go on my shelf to be read again . . . and again . . .

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

You Have to Speculate - Don't You?

I’ve been in a certain shopping centre many times and I’ve always liked the view coming out.

So I took a picture as I was leaving and I zoomed in on the shop at the end . . . ahem . . . oh will you look at that, it’s Thorntons! You know I hadn’t realised, fancy that being there . . . Anyway I noticed a fuzzy blur in the window. I filled the flash a bit and lo, I found a man – a bearded man with a big smile.


I find it amazing and a bit magical that he was there in the original picture even though I couldn’t see him.

So why is he smiling? Does he work there? Has he just sold a gigantic box of chocs? Or is he buying a gift for someone and smiling because he’s imagining how pleased she’s going to be.

“What’s this? But you know I’m on a diet! How could you?”

“I’ll take them back.”

“Get your hands off. I’ll have to eat them now. See I’ve opened them . . . nom yum mmmem . . . stupid man . . . chomp slurp. My mother was right about you . . . I never did like that beard . . . yumm ummph shlurrrp.”

Or perhaps he’s a ghost. The building is old. Maybe he flits round before the shop opens smelling the chocolate and wishing he was still alive to eat it.

Well all this speculation is a waste of time as the bearded man in the shop is actually a reflection of the man walking past – who hasn’t even got a beard (you’ll have to take my word for it as I’ve fuzzed his face since the poor chap didn’t ask to be splattered all over my blog!).




How disappointing, but on the other hand it’s all ink in the writer’s pen isn’t it?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Happy Holidays

Today is the first day of the school summer holidays – well for us it is. I’ve made a chart and pencilled in places to go, people to see, things to do. Today we found another new (to us) play park which has everything the kids want in it – and it was clean and deserted!

It’s in a quiet village and there is a big playing field as well and friendly horses in the field next door. We also saw woodpeckers and rabbits. Result! We now have another picnic/play spot to add to the chart.

A while back I bought a parcel of 10 assorted books from The Book People for £9.99. I’ve probably mentioned this – more than once. I do tend to bang on a bit about my bargains don’t I?

I didn’t read them all – some I just couldn’t finish, but I did find a few gems and most sparkling among them was The Last Anniversary by Australian writer Liane Moriarty.


It is a lovely book with an intriguing story and interesting and likeable characters. And it was one of those I just couldn’t put down.

What is it about? Well I’m rubbish at reviews and I’ve never been able to write a decent book report, but I’ll give you a taster.

The setting is Scribbly Gum Island and it has, like all islands worth their salt, a mystery – the Munro Baby Mystery around which life on the island revolves.

Recently I read Liane Moriarty’s latest book What Alice Forgot. It’s about Alice who bumps her head and comes round having lost her memory only to find that she’s not the happily married pregnant 29 year old she thinks she is, but a 39 year old mother of three in the midst of a divorce.


There is a lot of humour and while it is a page turner it isn’t light and fluffy by any means and it has a great ending. When I put it down I had a tear in my eye and a feeling of satisfaction.

And what do I have to look forward to now? Two and a quarter inches of Stephen King that’s what. That is how fat Under the Dome is. I read the first chapter of that a while back, either in the back of another of his books or online, I can’t remember. But that chapter is as vivid to me as if I’d watched it on the big screen and I can’t wait to get stuck in.



I hear tell that it is on a par with The Stand. I feel a little quiver of excitement every time I see it sitting there waiting to be opened. I’ve already had a peek – and there’s a map in the front and a list of characters and I have to say I have a fondness for books that have maps or family trees or diagrams or whatever in the front.

But back to What Alice Forgot. It got me thinking. If I banged my head (which given my accident-proneness wouldn’t be a surprise) and woke up thinking it was ten years ago how much would have changed? My god I’d get a shock when I looked in the mirror for a start! Actually that happens anyway.

And quite unrelated – aren’t the daddy long legses out early this year? Every night at least one turns up and starts messing around my bedside light. You hear it flitting about getting more and more frantic until it touches the bulb then it lands with a sort of splatty thud.

It stays where it is sprawled out for a few minutes, then it’s up and at ‘em again, flapping round wondering why its wings are scorched and its feet are singed. I used to be scared of them, refusing to sleep until they were removed – but not any more. I’ve scorched my wings a few times myself.

And where do they go? They’re never in evidence in the morning, there are no corpses under the lamp – perhaps they find their way back out of the window when the sun comes up. I like to think so.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Writing from Life - Competition!


I reviewed Writing from Life by Lynne Hackles a while back. Excellent book. Not just for short story writers, but for anyone who writes.

You can win a copy of Writing from Life (second edition) with the bonus of the Handy Little Book for Writers (I have both and I wouldn't part with my copies for anything!) - details on Lynne's blog.

http://lynnehackles.blogspot.com/2010/07/writing-from-life-new-edition.html

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Haiti Update

It is six months since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

So far 100 Stories for Haiti has raised around £3000 for the Red Cross which I think is pretty amazing. It's too soon to write The End though - they still need help out there.

You can visit the 100 Stories site where you can order the book or listen to the Podcast which includes interviews with some of the authors and others involved in the project. It’s also available as an e-book and BBC audio book. Details are here http://www.100storiesforhaiti.org/