Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Story

“Ho ho ho, little girl, ho ho fucking ho.”

“You’re drunk,” Louise said.
“No, my dear, I am not drunk. I am merely merry. It is Christmas after all.”
“You’re not merry, you’re drunk. You stink.”
The man let out a loud belch and leaned back in his chair, resting his hands on his large, red velvet covered belly. His once snow white beard was stained round the mouth, yellowed with old food and sherry. Louise stood in front of him, hands on hips, the fur trim on her short red skirt barely brushing the cheeks of her bum. It was much shorter than regulation and made her feel uncomfortable. The man leered at her and flung his arms open wide.
“Come and sit on Santa’s lap,” he said.
“Fuck off, pervert,” she shot back before storming out of the room.

The factory was buzzing and clattering as the elves worked overtime, loading dolls and bikes and footballs and scooters and new limited edition platinum DJ Hero, the ones in the authentic carry cases, into cargo boxes. Further down the line, worried looking little men with maps and lists scratched their heads as they sorted it all out into regions, as defined by local authorities. Every year they depended on the men from the council getting them the right lists in plenty of time, and every year they got it wrong. This meant that there was always a lot of sorting out to do at the factory. Louise wove her way through the conveyor belts until she reached the floor manager.
“How are you getting on?”
Dennis sighed and scratched his head some more.
“Well, I’ll be honest with you, it’ll be tight but I think we’ll make it. How’s the boss?”
Louise pulled a face.
“I’d best get on then,” he said as a whistle sounded and production groaned to a halt. Relieved, the elves stretched their aching fingers and started to chatter. Santa opened the shutter that blocked his office off from the rest of the factory.
“No fucking talking!” he yelled, throwing one of his boots. It hit one of the littler elves in the face, knocking her over and making her nose explode in a splatter of blood.
“Hey!” Louise hollered back. “They’re taking a break!”
“Yeah, well, two minutes, no more. In case you retards hadn’t noticed, we’re on a tight schedule here!”
“They’re allowed a break.”
“Yeah, well, if they want a break, you can send one of the little ones up here to see to their old Father Christmas, if not, get back to work!” He slammed the shutter down. The sweatshop slowly returned to silent work.

It was just their luck to have this Santa. No wonder Luxembourg had been so quick to get shot of him. The elves must have been tap-dancing in the street the day he left.
“Oh, we’re only a little country, we don’t need such an experienced Santa. No, no, you take him and we’ll have a trainee. We don’t mind at all.” American Santa, who had so much more to do and was always stressed, was firm but fair. Australian Santa was laid back in his board shorts and sunnies. German Santa was an Angel (well, ex-Angel). No, it was only British Santa who was an absolute bastard. The shutters flew open again.
“Louise!” he roared. “Bring me some fucking whisky! And a bucket of KFC! I’m wasting away here. Oh, and I’ve lost one of my boots and just stepped in a puddle of cold tea. Sort it out!”

By the time Louise battled through the wind and the snow, the fried chicken was cold and the grease had soaked its way through the bottom of the bucket. She stomped up to the office.
“About bloody time,” Santa grabbed the bucket from her, turned his back and started cramming the pieces into his mouth. The noise of his eating filled the room, nom nom nom. Then a split second of silence. A sharp intake of breath. Then all of a sudden he was coughing and spluttering.
“Help me, I’m choking!” Bits of deep fried poultry fell from his mouth as he opened and closed it like a fish, banging his fist on his chest to try and dislodge whatever was stuck there. “I can’t breathe!”
“Let me guess, you need the kiss of life? You’ve got no chance mate.”

Fifteen minutes later, Louise opened the shutter. A hundred pairs of frightened eyes looked up at her.
“Its ok, it’s just me,” she said, as they quickly returned to work. “Er, Dennis, can I borrow you for a minute please?”

They stood over the fat man’s prone body.
“Oh dear,” Dennis said, scratching his head. His scratching place was a little bald patch about half an inch long and two fingers width wide just to the right of his crown. “This is a bit of a situation, isn’t it?”
“He choked –“ Louise started. Dennis held up his hand.
“I don’t care to hear the details, the important thing is, it’s finally happened.” He smiled a little smile. “It’s a Christmas miracle!”
“What are we going to do now?”
“Why, my dear, its Christmas Eve. What do you think we’re going to do? We’ve got presents to deliver. We’d best get the reindeer.”

Louise led Rudolph through the silent workshop, his hooves clip-clopping on the wooden floor. He manoeuvred the rickety stairs with ease and squeezed through the door and into the office.
“Oh sweet lord,” Rudolph said when he saw Santa’s body rapidly cooling on the floor.
“He cho –“
“Shush. Ours is not to reason why. Now, let us take a moment to be thankful.” He bowed his head, Louise and Dennis followed suit. “Amen.” Rudolph muttered. He knelt down and slid his antlers under Santa’s body, bracing himself he bowed his head and rolled the fat man over until he was lying face down over his back.
“Jesus Christ, is he made of concrete?” he asked, shakily rising to his feet. Louise took his reins and they slowly made their way down the stairs, through the factory and out to the barn. The elves looked up in surprise.
“Nothing to see here people,” Rudolph called. “Drunk fat man coming through.”

They propped Santa up in the front of the sleigh and packed presents all around him to keep him upright. His head lolled back, his gaping mouth still packed with bits of chicken. Louise had filled his pockets with stones.
“Do you know where you’re going?” she asked Rudolph.
“Do I know where I’m going?” he tapped his antlers on the side of the stall. “In-built sat nav these things, of course I know where I’m going. I’ll let you know when the time is right, don’t worry. Now, have you got his security pass?”
Louise felt the plastic rectangle on a lanyard around her neck and nodded.
“Well I guess we’re ready to go then, aren’t we? Come on then boys,” he called to his colleagues. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
It was much easier than Louise expected. The pass let her in to houses with ease and no-one bothered her as she popped the presents under the trees and quietly left. Time passed in a blur as they moved quickly and efficiently, Rudolph occasionally shouting instructions to make sure she didn’t forget anything. It was two o’clock in the morning when they crossed over the Irish Sea. The reindeers slowed their pace, Rudolph leading them in a lazy circle. It was time. With a heave-ho, Louise pushed Santa from the sleigh. He toppled through the cold night air before landing with a barely audible splash.
“Well I guess that’s that then,” Prancer said. “End of an era.”
The reindeer cheered. Louise couldn’t help but smile.
“Come on, back to work.”
“Yes boss,” Rudolph saluted her and winked.

Friday, 18 December 2009

a different way of thinking

So I've done some thinking and I've come to the following conclusion.
Re-writing = treading water.

Last night, I opened the document, copied in the words I’d done at work and then found the interview scene that went next. I went through it and, because I now know a lot more about my murderer and the method of death has changed, a lot of it had to be deleted as it just wasn’t relevant. So I re-wrote a lot, but it didn’t actually add much to my word count. In fact, I think I may have had less words than I started off with. But the “proper first draft” of the novel is now 30 pages long, as opposed to 26. I’ve spent all of November worrying about my word count, that now its hard not to measure things in word count terms. Just because I haven’t added words doesn’t mean I haven’t added value.

And my “proper first draft” is still lacking a lot, there are some scenes that are two dimensional and have no depth whatsoever, but these are things I can fix later. So anyway, I am going to stop measuring myself on overall word count, and start looking at length of coherent story. I still want to aim to add another 15k, but I hope that will work out alright. Tess, one of my main characters, gets a speaking role soon and if you remember, she is now a lot younger than she was when I started so I will lose a lot of words then. I am also going to be brave and, by the end of the month, have deleted the scenes that really aren’t relevant (especially the one where I experimented with first person narrative). The word count will progress when I add description and write new scenes.
Its hard, but I need to accept that I will be treading water for a while. I’ve already won the race, and now this is about endurance rather than speed.

So, I feel like I've made progress because I've changed my way of thinking. Bang. Just like that, its like a little light has switched on and I'm like "oh yeah, why didn't I think like that before?"
Another thing I've changed my thinking on recently is sense of place. For the longest time, I've felt inadequate when describing place. I really like Ian Rankin, who lets Rebus wander so realistically round Edinburgh, historical, beautiful, dirty Edinburgh. The boyfriend and I took a trip there about a year ago and I felt like I knew it as I recognised places from the books I'd read. I could never do that, never ever ever. I guess that I've never felt so attached to a place, no one city has captured me in a way that makes me want to bring it to life with my words (my own fault, I suppose, for being slightly nomadic). Anyhoo, I thought that place was actual landmarks and buildings and real stuff, and it is, for some writers. But place can also be smells and history and feelings and thoughts and speech and ritual. Place is a lot of things that aren't actual places.

I wrote this next little story as a piece of flash fiction, then edited it for my writing class when I was assigned the task of writing about "a native settlement in an under-developed country". I received the rejection letter for the flash fiction today, so I'm posting it here (and even though its been rejected, it still proves I'm sending things off, which is good!) I no longer think place is buildings and Newcastle central station and my flat and St James's Park and Buckingham Palace. I think that place can be like this...



The sky is black, the stars look like tiny silver fish. The light of the campfires barely reaches up to the tallest man’s shoulders before it surrenders to the night. Groups of women and children huddle in the shadows, squatting on hard feet, soles stained reddy brown. The youngest draw pictures with sticks in the dust, silent storyboards of warriors, elephants and cooking pots. Somewhere in the far away darkness, a lion roars. The women talk in whispers and hug babies closer into naked bosoms, looking wistfully towards their homes, invisible in the dark. The trees stand an unwilling guard, their little huts underneath, just out of sight in a solemn circle, sturdily built by their father’s fathers of wood and clay. There is no-one there now. They have all been summoned to watch the ceremony.


The drums beat out a slow rhythm, softly stepping up pace until it matches the boy’s heartbeat. Strong arms press him down into the dusty ground. Buh-boom, buh-boom. His ears are sharp tonight. Above the wailing and clapping, the cicadas vibrate in the warm night air, surrounding the circle. He smells sweat. The soft salt smell of his thirteen year old skin and the stale stench of the Men. Buh-boom, buh-boom.
“Stay still,” a gruff voice says. “This will hurt.” He feels the sharp sting of bamboo break the skin on his face, score a line from his eye socket down to his chin. The blood trickles down his cheek as the dusty charcoal powder is rubbed in. Rough hands pull him to his feet, thrust the spear into his grasp and point to the white man, cowering between two of their youngest and strongest.

“You are marked as a man. Now act like one.”

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Celebrity Death Beeper

I've signed up to this site, right, where every time a celebrity dies they send me an email (right to my blackberry so I get it, like, immediately). Admittedly, it is morbid. But it is also exciting. And slightly disappointing. Either their idea of what constitutes a celebrity is wildly different from mine, or nobody decent has carked it recently.

EVANGELIST ORAL ROBERTS DIES AT AGE 91
http://deathbeeper.com/0911821.html

I live for the day I get the message telling me somebody really famous has died. I wish I'd known about it in June...

The boyfriend has gone to Edinburgh with his dad to see Them Crooked Vultures so I'm home alone. I've written all my Christmas cards and have now retired to bed to watch the Dexter boxset my friend lent me aaaages ago. I was going to post a sestina called Sofia but it doesn't appear to be on my hard drive, and although I know it will be in the big pink plastic writing graveyard in my study, I do not have the energy or inclination to go and root through it. So, as a lazy assed trade-off, you can have two poems that are in my head

xx

ps don't ask about the word count. I'm not speaking to it at the moment

New Shoes

I walk a mile
in someone else's shoes
but they don't fit,
they pinch and itch
and make me sad.


Blue Eyes

I was walking down the street
when I saw him for the first time
I felt his big, blue eyes staring into mine.
We said hello.
The conversation flowed.
We both collected two hundred pounds
and we both passed Go.

It was magic, exciting and surreal
he took me out for a Japanese meal
he looked at me,
with those big blue eyes and said
I think I know you well enough
I want to take you to bed.

Friday, 11 December 2009

who are you?

who are you, 104 people who have viewed my blog? I'm worried I've imagined you, I must be the only girl in the world with invisible readers.

the re-write is not going well. I am just about 60,000 words, about 10,000 of these words are in order. I have chapters, and I've named them. I can't re-write at the same pace. and I'm  busy. it is Christmas after all.

today, we did the big shop and I have most things I need in for Christmas day. we just need to get the veg. then I put up the decorations, and wrapped all the presents in the house. I am officially organised. you can call me Miss Christmas

ho ho ho hum. I'm going to bed. its after midnight, the boyfriend has fallen asleep on the couch and I'll be grumpy tomorrow if I don't get enough sleep. good night, oh transparent ones! xx

Saturday, 5 December 2009

sleepy, grumpy, Saturday (or, Bijou = two of the seven dwarves and one day of the week)

Re-writing is hard. Its tricky keeping up the momentum when my writing isn't so "fly by the seat of my pants, I don't really care so long as I get it down on paper". When I actually have to think about what happens next, and I care about teeny little things like consistency. Even though it doesn't have to be perfect, I'm only too aware that that day will come, so the more I can do now, the easier it will be. I'm also starting to doubt myself. And I've been doing overtime, so I'm very tired (how I ever used to have two jobs I do not know, I've only done an extra eight and a half hours this week and feel like I'm on the brink of some sort of emotional collapse). But, I have been getting into work for seven, and using my first hour to write (oh, and Christmas shop, but hey ho) so I guess thats something. My friend Lucy suggested that I may be setting myself silly goals, and that perhaps I could re-write the thing a little slower...I don't know, I guess I just want to get it done. Boo! A tired and not as productive as she would have liked to have been Bijou is a sad Bijou.

The boyfriend and your man Bloom have gone to the match so I have the flat to myself, and after falling asleep on the couch during the Psychic Detectives (I love the Crime channels!!!) and then feeling grumpy so going to bed for an unsuccessful nap, I'm now drinking frothy coffee with a spoonful of actual coffee in it, and its not really working in th short term so I have a terrible feeling that I'm going to go super-hyper later. I've got 100 weekend rock albums on in the background, and I'm going to try and get two thousand words before I go out. I think I will feel better then. Tomorrow, we're going to Tynemouth flea market, which is good because I'll probably buy some books, and one of my characters lives in Tynemouth so I'm going to find her a house and take some photos of it, stalker-stylee.

Right, the words are not going to type themselves, I'd best get to it. In the meantime, have a poem. I've actually quite enjoyed putting some old stuff on here, I've decided I quite like it! Still no excuse for not writing new stuff, but that day will come. I'm currently working on two short stories and one piece of flash fiction, oh, and the big story. Busy, busy, busy.

xx

ps is it just me, or has the spell check facility disappeared from the blog? I can't find it!?!



Save the Tigers


He stands there, unsmiling,

the sign on the back of his t-shirt
peppered with exclamation marks,
far more excited than he is
as he watches,


suits and briefcases swarm round him
racing to wherever they had to be
ten minutes ago!
Ignoring the empty tin
that he isn’t rattling
as he stares, unblinking
and he watches,


polished suits and pressed shirts
dancing round novelty ties
heading off to the city!
To secretaries, twelve hour days, ulcers,
paper work, sales reports and corner offices,
carpeted, with a view of the river.


And he just stands there. Redundant.
His premature grey hair messy
an unfortunate side-effect when in the long run
it wasn’t worth it. As he stands
saving tigers at the tube station.

Monday, 30 November 2009

winning is oh so very, very sweet, like a lovely cake

hello!

well, I did it. I absolutely really truly totally did it. I wrote 50, 660 words in November and won NaNo!!!!!! I actually won on Saturday after a nice little write in with my new friend Mariley (a crazy Cuban, she's super-fun) and I am very, very pleased with myself. its been a great personal achievement, and...yes. I'm very happy. so on Sunday I started the re-write, and I want 100,000 words by the end of December. this is going to be quite tricky, because (and this is the catch kids) I want those words to be good. not brilliant, not outstanding (that's January's job) but good. and bearing in mind that quite a few of those original 50,660 words can be officially classified as not very good, well, lets be honest, not even a little bit good, its a pretty tall order. so not only do I want to write the same amount again, but I am also going to have to delete quite a few of the pre-existing words. eeek!!! can I do it? I hope so. I like setting deadlines for myself, and I figure, if I can do it in November, there is absolutely no reason why I can't do it in December.

right, must dash and get writing. I got into work for 7am this morning and wrote for an hour before I started work, then I did 2 hours overtime after work (speaking to actual customers, which I haven't really done since I escaped from civil service HELL, it was ok but I'd forgotten quite how mental the general public could be but hey ho. Vegas won't pay for itself, I wish it would) anyway, I'm pretty tired but I need to do some work on the story. if I go in tomorrow morning and know that I have to write 1000 words about "X" I will probably be able to do it. if I go in and know that I have to write 1000 words, I will probably sit there and read the news and go on ebay. so I must get on.

bye! xx

ps I've noticed that my counter is clocking up "hits" nicely - now, unless you are the boyfriend and the lovely Cally coming on here eight times a day, who are you? stranger dangers please step up and introduce yourself (either that or my counter is broken)

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Hit and Run

Dead flowers sellotaped
to a lamp post
with sympathy.
Words running into
the folds of the soggy
card. Ink-blot butterfly
growing in the corner,

condensation gathers and glistens
foggy on cellophane.
A cried river of tears
dripping onto old, brown petals.

Lamp post like a beacon, glowing
a permanent marker,
as school friends hold hands and
their breath, tip-toeing round
the dark pool of blood,
long scrubbed away but
stained in their memories,
under the bed
with the pistol crack sound
of his head
splitting open
on the pavement.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Clare

He called her Clare.

She was pear-shaped, his favourite fruit,
the image of her mother, fire red hair

slow, special smile, skin so fair
and mannerisms and an attitude to boot.
He called her Clare

and no other woman could begin to compare!
With her budding breasts and grown-up shoes
she was the image of her mother. Fire red hair

cut to precision with style and flair,
how could he resist her? this temptress? confused
he called her, “Clare!”

Watched her, stood on the stair
(and above the mantle, observing, mute
the image of her mother). She had fire red hair

down below. Delicate, perfect everywhere,
his little girl bruised in her birthday suit.
He only called her Clare.
She was the image of her mother.

Monday, 23 November 2009

blah blah blah

So I’m just coming into my last week of NaNo and am currently ahead of the game on 43000. And I’m rocketing between finding it quite easy, and finding it very difficult indeed.
One thing is for sure, I am obsessed with my word count. It can’t be healthy. But I’m fast approaching land, the end is in sight, yada yada yada.
What I hadn’t expected from my marathon word sprint is how physically exhausting it would be. My shoulders ache, I’m absolutely shattered, my ring finger on my left hand no longer co-operates and won’t hit the keys like it used to, my bones seem to be cracking more than they did in October.
On the plus side, my confidence has improved, although I am only a third of the word length of what will be my finished manuscript, it suddenly seems that much closer. Instead of talking myself out of writing, I am talking myself into it, and my previous mental see-saw that had self doubt being the fat kid on one end with skinny little self confidence way up high on the other, now sees self confidence eating cakes whilst his frenemy is on some sort of horrid cabbage soup diet.

I’m still having my moments, of course I am, but I'm getting better, which is great.

I’ve also realised that I am not the kind of writer that sits down and writes a story. I am in awe of anyone who can write a novel in one go (and that’s where I’ve gone wrong in the past, I’ve expected to sit down and write 200 consecutive pages of winning prose – impossible!) I write a massive great big mess that is a tangle of words. I don’t know how it will end or how everything will tie together, and I’m note even sure if it’s the story that I started with, but I will get there by next weekend, for sure. At 40,000 words I figured out the motivation for my murderer, but I had to write through those words in order to find it, it wasn’t just going to be there for the taking at the start, that would be too easy. And yes, there are lots of bits that don’t fit together now, but they will. I have a feeling that my re-write is going to use up a lot of post-it notes, and I don’t think I have enough wall space in the study for a time-line, but I hope that I will have enough space in the hall…

My other realisation is that it hasn’t been an impossible task. I mean, yes, there have been days (like today!!) when I haven’t wanted to write, and yes, there have been days when I haven’t written and have had to play catch-up, but if I had written for all of those days, and if all weekends had been as productive as last weekend, then I could have written an awful lot more. I’ve definitely come to the conclusion that I don’t suffer from writers block, as I conveniently thought for the last eight years, but instead I am just incredibly lazy. Next NaNo, I’m going to set myself a higher target, and I’m excited about it already.

The other thing I am excited about is reaching the end, and then doing something else. Like reading a book. I haven’t read anything this month, and I’m starting to miss it. And I want to work on some short stories. I finally sent one off to Fiction Feast today, which has only taken me about three weeks from actually having it finished but hey ho, I told you I was lazy.

Right, anyway, I’m off. I need to make the sandwiches for tomorrow, go and talk to the boyfriend if he hasn’t fallen asleep on the sofa (unlikely, he always falls asleep on the sofa, and he’s watching the match so I think sleep is like an inner defence mechanism so as not to feel embarrassment at poor play or silly yellow away shirts) and then I need to do some more procrastinating through the medium of watching I’m a Celebrity. I’m so pleased Joe is finally doing a task, I hope it makes him cry. Byeeeee!!! xx

Friday, 20 November 2009

bad thoughts, good thoughts and surprise sympathy

bad thoughts

so I keep expecting Mslexia to email me and tell me its all been a terrible mistake. that they thought my story was a different story and that they don't want to publish it after all. or that the draft I sent them as a word attachment is ever so slightly different from the one I originally posted, so its been disqualified. or for it just to somehow fall through before January.

good thoughts

in the stuff they sent me to fill in, it said at the bottom, almost like a little ps (like this wasn't a very exciting thing, and please bear in mind I'm paraphrasing here) being published in Mslexia means that a lot of editors and very important people will have a chance to read your work and many marvellous things might come of it.

so now, in my head, off the back of one short story (just a few words shy of 2500 words) I am no doubt going to have publishers and exciting people knocking my door down, asking if I have anymore little tales of the same calibre and could they possibly see them straight away? or they're so impressed with it, they'd like me to write a book, on a subject of my choice, for a life-changing fee. because of course, this is exactly whats going to happen. why wouldn't it?

in other news, the NaNo novel is currently 35,569 words. it has a title (which I might share later, I'm not sure how much I like it but it is a lot better than the working title I had previously) and today I made one of my characters 10 years younger. now, in previous Bijou-novelling attempts this would have been catastrophic. in new-and-improved-Bijou-novelling world, I just know that I will have to make some major changes in the re-write (for example, remove the incredibly awful opening scene where she attends the wedding of a friend from university, this is no big loss, it was rubbish anyway). so even though I have a lot of work to do, I'm happy about this and am just plodding on regardless of the blazing inconsistencies. having a younger character means that some of the reactions and situations will be more dramatic, realistic and altogether better. on the re-write, which I'm looking forward to.

I'm also looking forward to printing it out, its currently 66 pages, and once I've finished it, and 1.5 spaced it (perfect for editing) it will probably be close to 200 pages, which is amazing, whichever way you look at it.

surprise sympathy

I really, really feel for Katie Price (for those of you not keeping up with it, she's gone back in the jungle for some closure on her failed marriage to Peter Andre and the Great British Public are voting for her to do all the Bushtucker Trials) so the poor girl is eating shit and having cockroaches poured over her head and trying to pick up eels and climb mountains and put her hands in nasty things. and everytime she looks so scared, but she gives it a good go anyway.

today I voted for Joe Bugner, who is vile. I wasn't going to vote, but I just felt so sorry for Katie, I really wanted someone horrible to have to do something horrible. but it didn't work, and poor Katie is up again tomorrow. I will probably have to vote again soon.

ok, so thats it. I'm going to have to buy the Sunday Times this weekend because it has a live Blur cd from the concerts that they did over the summer. I went to the one at the Academy, and there were about 1500 people there and I was at the front and it was, absolutely and without a single doubt, the highlight of my gig-going career. ah, memories, memories...

bye! xx

(after thought - have you checked out how I've linked to Mslexia? you can get to their website, just by clicking on their name! this is incredibly technologically advanced and I figured it out all on my own!)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

good news, bad news (or woo hoo!!!!!!!)

so this week I've had a mixed week. I haven't been as good with NaNo as I was last week (although I am on 22,881 words, which is 43 pages and I will be on 25,005 by the time I go to bed) and on Monday, I had an email telling me that I hadn't won a competition (although I had been strongly considered - but, do they say that to everyone?) so thats the not-quite-so-good-can-probably-be-described-as-fair-to-middling news.

the good news is that I've made a writing friend! which is very exciting and nice. and the really, really, really, really good news is...

I've had a story accepted by Mslexia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm going to be published in January!!!!!!!!!!!!!

that email came through on Wednesday and I had a little cry at my desk when I opened it. I am so unbelievably pleased and proud of myself. its especially nice because it is the first story that I've written since I've started back up with my writing, and its the first story that I've sent off to a magazine - and you don't get your first story published. that just doesn't happen. they tell you that in all the books. oh, and added to that, I forgot to include a cover letter, so I was convinced that they would bin it immediately. but they didn't. hooray!!!!!!!!!!!

I wanted to be published by the time I'm 30 and its actually going to happen. the nice thing is that its actually made me think, yes, I can do this, I can actually do this.

anyway, I just wanted to let you know. I must get back to NaNo, I have just over 2000 words to write before bed (and the X Factor and I'm a Celebrity to watch too)

I'll post again soon, with something else that isn't just me bragging about how ace I am :-)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Librarian

Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome to the New and Improved City Library and Adult Learning Resource Centre.

Do you know how much money they’ve spent on us? Would you like to hazard a guess?

Six million pounds.

Yes, yes, I know. You heard me correctly. Six million pounds to house these books. Aren’t we lucky? Of course, it’s been difficult whilst the Library has been closed. They’ve farmed us out to other Libraries, however, it isn’t really the same. A Librarian of my calibre isn’t really at home in the smaller Libraries. I need the bustle of the big city Library, I find I crave the noise. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. Noise in a Library? Well it isn’t that kind of noise, not rowdy disco kind of noise. It’s a quiet, book-borrowing, pen-scribbling kind of noise. The noise in the smaller Libraries isn’t the same. It is more of a don’t-know-what-to-do-with-myself-so-I-thought-I’d-come-to-the-Library kind of noise. Totally different. So even thought they packed us off to other Libraries, I’ve still had more time on my hands than I normally would. Time which I’ve spent at home. It’s been quite nice in a way. I spent a lot of time in the garden, re-grouted the bathroom, was able to do my skirting boards once a week, that kind of thing. And of course I was able to spend more time with Jerry.

Ah, Jerry. Jerry is my husband, of course. He’s always been one of those softly gregarious types. You know the kind, not one to shoot his mouth off but he’ll talk quietly to anyone. He’s forever stopping to give young men lifts home. I always tell him, you have to be careful Jerry. You never know who you might pick up, what sort of undesirable you might find in the backseat of your car but he doesn’t listen. If you care for it, Ladies and Gentlemen, I think you’ll find that we have a top-notch true crime section that will make your skin crawl. But he doesn’t pay me any mind, as I’m sure any ladies who also have been married for thirty-odd years will agree is an unfortunate attribute of the male psyche. He wasn’t like that when I married him, he always used to agree that I know best, but I suppose that’s marriage for you. My waist isn’t as slim as it was and he’s forgotten that its better all round if he listens to me. I think he forgets where I work, what I’m involved in, day-in, day-out. He’s never been this close to such a wealth of information succinctly detailing the horrors of human-kind. He wouldn’t know how to use the internet if it walked up to him, smacked him in the face, and said “hello, I’m the internet, here is a simple step-by-step guide to how I work.” No, no, he’s in his own little world, and, this is a bit of a guilty admission, I am quite ashamed to tell you this, especially when so many of you have come here in the dusk of your lives, when things are becoming a little hazy, you’re going a little grey, trying to broaden your horizons, bring a little light, but…he isn’t even a member of the Library. That’s right! I’ll hold my hands up! My name is Lillian Broadbent, Chief Librarian of the new and improved City Library and Adult Learning Resource Centre, and my own husband isn’t even a member.

I have always been a member of the Library. I’ve worked here for 40 years. Woman and girl. My first job was in this Library, when I was a young woman straight out of school, I was here part time when the children were small and needy, and I’ve taken more hours since they’ve grown up and spread their wings. The children, I am pleased to tell you, are members of the Library. They don’t come here very often because they live away and don’t get back a lot, but they’re always keen to pop in when they do. And it is always wonderful to see them. It really is.

So here we are, and I do hope to see you all again in the future. This is a wonderful Library, a real lifelong learning centre, it has everything you could ever need. Not just books you know. We have a varied selection of audio books and some wonderful films and documentaries, some of the dvds, I’m lead to believe, are quite racy, if you like that sort of thing. I don’t much care for it myself. I prefer a nice historical documentary, or a period drama. Jane Austin dramatises particularly well. Such lovely costumes. And it constantly amazes me that she is still so relevant. My daughter doesn’t agree with me, but then, our children rarely do, do they? How many in here have children? I suppose that in some small way that might have spurred you to come here. To fill the gap left by empty nest syndrome, or, really, just to see what all the fuss over the internet is about. Well, we’ll get to that later. There is an introductory session later today at 2pm, which will give you a really good idea of how it all works and what you do with all the bits and pieces. What I really want to convey to you though, is that, no matter what your reasons for coming here, do not be afraid. We’re all friends here. It might sound like a clichĂ©, but it’s true.

Ok, so we have lots of treats in store for you over the coming weeks. Thursday mornings are dedicated Senior Citizens Day. Although I’ve had to put my foot down and cancel the first key speaker. One of our younger members of staff booked her, in what I can only imagine is a bad taste joke. The book this lady wrote is about…sex. The premise is about not letting the dull familiarity of marriage intrude on your sex life. It was written by an American woman with three ex-husbands, no children, and an assortment of handbag sized dogs that look like hairdos. The book itself has a bright pink mock suede cover and is full of jaunty tips, the kind of quirky sex secrets that are apparently best tried out by candlelight. Honestly! Have you ever heard anything like it? It all seems so…robust. I can’t imagine Jerry and I ever doing anything like that. Cold lino under bare skin? No thank you very much indeed. Far more comfortable just to sit in quietly, perhaps read the paper or watch a gardening programme. I do love my garden. It is one of my few pleasures outside of my work. Not that my life is devoid of pleasure. I didn’t mean it like that. I have a lot of pleasure in my life. I mean, look around! Six million pounds they spent on this place. If that doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will. So luckily for us all I managed to stop us being subjected to that and now our first key speaker is going to be a member of the Local Historical Society. Full details can be found on the notice board by the main entrance, or when you’ve learnt how to use the internet, you can go on our mailing list and have all our up-and-coming news beamed straight into your inbox!

Here at the Library, we also keep a full range of papers, both broadsheet and tabloid. The story running on the front page of all of them today is another sad tale in the continued saga of the Side Street Strangler. These poor young boys are perhaps living on the shadier side of the tracks but that doesn’t mean that they deserve what happens to them, poor things. It must be a monster who picks up a young man and does the things described – if you haven’t been following it, well, first of all I don’t know where you’ve been because it has been all over the news, and secondly, I can’t bring myself to repeat the atrocities that are delightfully regaled in the newspapers – they are all over there in case I’ve piqued your interest and you would like to look yourselves. Basically, these poor unfortunates are picked up by a man who is trawling for…well, you know the things that some men look for outside of the home, late at night on the dimly lit side of the street. Five times it’s happened in the last six months. The papers say he’s picking up speed, killing with more ferocity now, but it looks like they have a lead, however tenuous it may be. They say the man they are looking for drives a dark coloured Ford sedan. Well, I call it tenuous because we all know how popular those cars are, don’t we? I mean, we have a dark coloured Ford sedan, as I’m sure do some of you and half the people in the city! Scepticism aside, I do hope the police catch him soon. I mean, he could be anyone! He could be anywhere! We could have passed him in the street and not known about it, such is the anonymous society we live in. This is why institutions such as the Library are so important. Back when I was a girl, the Library was seen as one of the hubs of the community, and it is my fervent wish that it will be that way again.

And that concludes my talk today, Ladies and Gentlemen. I hope this introductory session has whetted your appetite for what’s to come, which is, I hope, many a pleasant hour passed in our Library. And if you quite literally have worked up an appetite, why, you can visit our cafĂ© bar! It wouldn’t have had a place in the old Library, but I have to admit it is a very welcome addition to the new one. That’s progression for you. And my children call me old-fashioned! Now, does anyone have any questions? No? Good, good. I’ll let you get on with it then, happy browsing, and remember, if you have any problems, the staff will be more than happy to help, or you could just ask for me, Lillian Broadbent, Chief Librarian.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

NaNoWriMo and the joys of pop music

So I'm trying to write a 50,000 words in 30 days. I may have mentioned this before. It is my new obsession.

Some days I think I've gone crazy-loco, some days I think it will be easily achievable, it all depends on what kind of mood I'm in. I've been planning my story for a while in my head, some of it on purpose but most of it accidentally whilst I've been trying not to think about it and when it started at midnight on Sunday I was very, very excited. After the X Factor (I do like that its on twice now, although I really, really wanted Jamie Afro to go. He isn't rock, and in addition to that, he's rubbish!! Poor Rachel, but ultimately I think Simon made the right decision sending it to deadlock, as poor little Lloyd gave it his best shot even though he was obviously quite poorly. Rachel was a better singer, but Lloyd got the pity/pretty factor. He's one of those boys you'd see on the Metro and then notice he was in his school uniform, and then feel wrong inside) anyhoo, I made myself stay up til midnight, which is late for me. I know, I know, I'm up late now, but believe me, I will regret this in the morning. But I stayed up, so I could start to write at midnight, and what I wrote was utter shit. I couldn't believe that I had been waiting for such a long time to start, and once I did, it was so rubbish. BOOO!!!!

So I went to bed, and when I got up in the morning, duly got my laptop and settled in for the write in. And I wrote a load of shit, again. Except this time, the boyfriend was up and kept checking on me, and couldn't understand why I was in tears and kept bringing me chocolate to try and make it right. Sheer perseverance meant that I got my word count (1667 words per day) by about noon, so I went and read in the bath and calmed myself down. On the second write in of the day, after I'd changed tense and then reverted to the original tense but with some different characters, things started to go a bit better. Normally, if I don't know something, I'll go and look it up, and then get distracted (hello Facebook and Perez Hilton and http://www.findadeath.com/) and then lose my mojo. NaNo Bijou writes a bit differently. There are lots of random things like

CAN YOU DO JURY DUTY IF YOU'VE HAD MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS?

and

WOULD HE NEED A LAWYER WITH HIM?

and

CHANGE TENSE HERE, I DON'T LIKE THIS

and then just lots of writing. 6681 words so far, to be exact. Which is good. Its on target, which considering I had yesterday off, is tremendous. Now we just need to all keep our fingers crossed that I can keep up the good work...and don't get distracted, or disheartened, both of which are totally viable options. Hmmmm.

Apart from NaNoing (and going back to work today, to nothing but trouble. BOO!!! Don't have a team, its like having too many teenagers) but apart from all that, my November has mostly been spent going to pop concerts. I went to see Pink on Monday, which has been planned forever, and she was amazing and I got very drunk (and spent £26.50 on a t-shirt. On one single t-shirt!!) hence having to have Tuesday off writing. And then yesterday, my friend Laura randomly invited me to go and see the Backstreet Boys with her! She's reviewing things for the Chronicle and had free tickets, and what girl in her right mind would say no to that?

I won't say too much about it, other than we were laughing very, very loudly when they burst through a curtain whilst singing "Backstreets Back, Alright!" and were getting some mucky looks from the people who had paid good money to be there. At one point, she turned to me and said "wow, I didn't know that they could do so much with post-production."

Until she gets her own blog (Laura, get a blog!!!) you've got to buy the Chronicle or go online to read her very fabulous reviews, which you can do by going here...

http://www.whatsonne.co.uk/gb/music/reviews-and-previews/review-backstreet-boys-metro-radio-arena

although I would like her to quote her source and justify saying that they're the biggest selling boy band of all time, because if last nights performance is anything to go by, I just can't believe that's true.

Anyway, enough rambling. I've had three late nights in a row and have been tired all day and its now 11.45 and I intend to get up early and get a lift to the Metro station with the boyfriend at 6.30 so I can get into work early and spend some time NaNoing before I start work at 8. I am going to regret staying up late blogging in the morning, and I apologise in advance for whinging, loads.

Goodnight!! xx

ps I've got my word count, been to a writing class and blogged tonight. Go Bijou!!!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Halloween Story

I have a secret. I’ve got something that I shouldn’t have.

Her hair feels soft, like I always imagined girl’s hair would feel. Her skin is smooth and her eyes so blue. She doesn’t look the way I thought a dead girl would. I thought death would steal something from her, but it didn’t. On the contrary, it gave something to me. Her death was her gift. Ha. I like that. She is poetry. I’m going to write that down.

It was a lot of effort to remove her head from her body. A lot harder than I thought it would be. Who would have thought that such a beautiful head would have so much gristle and sinew and stuff? Note to self, I need to invest in some better knives.

Her mouth pouts a little, like I’ve done something to upset her. Like I’m late for dinner or don’t compliment her new skirt. I pinch her lips together with my thumb and forefinger. I don’t want her to look upset. I want her to look beautiful. She doesn’t look dead. I think that will come later. At the moment she looks like she did when I met her. When we had the conversation. The one that started all of this.

I smooth her hair and make it cover her ears, so it looks the way it did when she shook her head and said, ever so quietly,
“I’m sorry but we don’t stock that here. There’s a shop up the road called Steel Wheels. It sells a lot more alternative stuff. You should try there.”
They didn’t have what I wanted, but that’s not the point. She tried. She understood. She spoke to me like I was a normal person who deserved to be spoken to. She was lovely.

She is lovely.

She is love.

I want to keep her and it makes me sad that I can’t. I wonder how long it will be before she starts to smell, before her skin wilts and she starts to smell and can’t be mine anymore. I think I’d be happy only to have her body for a few hours, but I would like to keep her face forever. She is so pretty.

Is this what its like to have a girlfriend?

I think it might be.

Monday, 26 October 2009

good intentions

when I started this blog I decided that absolutely every single post was going to be accompanied by creative writing of some description, whether it be a little story or a poem or...something. because I have no interest in just writing about me. no siree bob. but then, today, I've decided that I might have changed my mind (its taken me, what, all of two weeks?) so I'm just going to have a little write about general nothingness. because although I want to post a story, I don't have one to post. and everything I've been trying to start just seems...mediocre. and everything that doesn't seem mediocre I've already earmarked for somewhere else so can't post it until its been rejected 3 times and therefore becomes blog-fodder.

I'm trying to write a story called How To Go Missing, which is going to be just for the blog and not for anyone else. and I've done one draft which is fun but too silly. and I've tried to make it darker (which is what it needs) and I can't get the tone right. so I'm going to let it live in my head for a bit, and hopefully, it will end up on here.

I've also started about five stories for women's magazines. at the moment, these are in various forms, from notes to (very unfinished) second drafts. I need to get round to actually finishing them, but at the moment, I just seem to be starting new ones. starting things is definitely one of my special skills, along with drinking tea, having bedroom discos and making kick-ass omelettes. so I think I am going to make a list and set myself a deadline for each of the stories, and not let myself start any new ones until they're done and out. hmmmm.

I have a halloween story planned for here (I think its pretty much done, but I haven't looked at it for a while) and then after that its NaNoWriMo. I am super-excited about this, and have been trying not to think about my story too much. although that hasn't worked too well, and it now has a soundtrack, and a blurb, which makes it very, very exciting. one of my smaller characters is trying to take over so I'm interested to see what happens. she's managed to blag the working title to be named after her - I don't know how that happened. writing that much in one go is going to be a very new experience, I always start with the best of intentions but then end up talking myself out of it, one minute I'm the greatest writer in the whole wide world and the next, everything is rubbish...the very wonderful boyfriend has very kindly said he'll buy me a web-book for my birthday (did I mention I'm going to be 30 soon?) and I've foolishly said that he's only allowed to do that if I win NaNo and write 50,000 words in Nov. I'm hoping that the carrot of a beautiful pink and shiny web-book (with flowers on it!!!) might be what this little donkey needs. fingers crossed.

this appears to have descended into nothingness and I think its because I'm tired and grumpy. america's next top model was cancelled tonight to make way for a most haunted halloween special which didn't help. why would you do that, living, why? I think though, that I just wanted to come on and tell you all that I was going to be writing some new things...because once I've told you about them I have to do them, right? right. or else I will just look silly.

so, coming soon. How To Go Missing. a halloween special. and then probably some updates on how NaNo is going and me weeping real tears over my laptop.

before then, I'm busy being a bridesmaid and testing out my theory that bridesmaids only cry at weddings because they're not the ones getting married. as well as that, I'm going to have to walk in heels, have my contacts in and be ladylike for a whole day. wish me luck. especially with the heels (although a broken ankle or two would probably significantly increase my chances of winning NaNo and coming away with a shiny new techno-toy that I can't use properly, but love all the more for it. hmmmm!)

Saturday, 24 October 2009

waiting and procrastinating

I've just been down to check the post (before you say it, I know, I know, there is a postal strike on). I wouldn't usually bother. I don't tend to get any interesting post unless I've ordered something from ebay. Its all the bills I can't manage on-line, payslips and general boring nonsense that reminds me I'm a grown-up, but at the moment, I am waiting for a letter. I would be quite excited if I wasn't so irritated by the whole process. See, I've applied for this thing at work...lets call it a talent management programme. Basically, if you can prove you've got potential, they will spend two years trying to exploit this and send you on secondments and to India and...well, its just something else to do that's a bit different from my day job and will help me pass the time until I retire or become a best-selling author and can jack the whole thing in. I really, really, really want to get on it but its been dragging on for such a long time its farcical. We were supposed to get the info in May, it came on the last day of May. So I applied in June. Was interviewed in August and had my assessment centre the week before last. Every time they've told us we'll hear about the outcome, they've missed their own deadline by about 3 weeks. They've also, bizarrely, taken it upon themselves to communicate with us by post. By post? Why not by carrier pigeon? That's equally archaic. Honestly. So, we're supposed to find out at some point soon. Hence me checking the post (there was nothing there, incidentally). But now I'm just going to be up a height until I find out. I hate it. I hate waiting. I especially hate waiting for something which experience teaches me will be delayed, through no fault of mine but through the ineptitude of others. Grrrrrr.

There are some kinds of waiting that I don't really mind. For example, I don't mind waiting for a bus, if the weather is nice and I have a book (I never go anywhere without a book. If I leave the house and realise I've forgotten it, I can get quite panicky. What if I had to wait somewhere?)

There are some kinds of waiting that I bring on myself. You know the kind. When I really should be doing something but I just put it off and put it off and play on the internet or read or watch tv instead. Procrastination is indeed a self-imposed form of waiting. But I don't mind that at all. In fact, by default, it is one of my main hobbies. Take now, for instance. I switched on the computer at about 9.30 to do some writing. I drafted an outline for a short story (I generally don't do that but I am trying to write stuff for magazines, with a very specific audience and therefore it is easier to actually plan) and since then I have had about 4 cups of tea, done 2 loads of washing and discovered this...

http://postsecret.blogspot.com/

which I think is fab. But its not what I sat down to do. I definitely need to get over the whole waiting to write thing that I've got going on. Procrastination never wrote a novel. Sitting down at the computer and actually typing wrote a novel. With this in mind, I've decided that next month I am going to take part in National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org/). The aim is to write 50,000 during November. The theory is that first drafts are generally rubbishy, but you need to write them to get on to the second and third drafts, which are generally a lot better. So fingers crossed I will get to the end of November and have 50,000 words, which I really hope will have a beginning, a middle and an end, some interesting characters and potential for a real, live book. I normally talk myself out of my writing, decide its rubbish and then just stop and do something else, so I'm hoping this will help me get over it. I haven't written anything down yet (you're allowed to plan, although I'm no good at plans as sooner or later, it stops being a plan and becomes a story with description and dialogue, as its more interesting to show the characters doing something than tell myself about it). I've had the story in my head for a few months, and my characters are now starting to have conversations with each other, which I fervently hope they'll still be doing when I start to write. It should be an interesting experience, and its all part of the "absolutely have to do something before I'm 30" mission that I'm on. Needless to say, I'll keep you posted...in the meantime, have a poem...

Waiting

Waiting,
by the phone,
even though it’s a mobile
on vibrate and turned up loudly,
checked religiously,
like a new mother round a sickly baby
up every five minutes –
is it still breathing?
has it got enough batteries?

Waiting, for a call, a text,
anything, to say
I enjoyed the other night,
would like to see you again,
buy you flowers,
take you to dinner,
introduce you to my mother,
perhaps get married
or something.

Waiting,
going out of my mind with waiting,
my mind which is cramped,
cluttered thoughts of my ideal man who
calls me Princess,
brings me chocolates,
and has mastered the art of interesting conversation
(even though I don’t know his surname
and am not even sure I could
pick him out of a line-up).

Waiting,
holding my breath til I’m blue in the face
with waiting,
think I might burst
if the phone doesn’t ring
(not sure what I’d do if he actually called)

and I’m waiting,
and waiting.

Like I don’t have anything better to do.

The phone beeps,
and I feel sick
and I can’t breath
one message received

and I’m waiting.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

a little secret or two...

I'm going to tell you a secret. don't get your hopes up, its not scandalous (well, unless you're easily scandalised by syntax) but, here we go...I'm not a big fan of capital letters. I think they're over-rated. oh, ok, sure, they can serve a purpose, and sometimes they're useful ("I" for example, is one that I think deserves a capital) they're good when you really want to make a POINT, or play with the way your words look, but for the most part, I think that capital letters are pretty redundant. I mean, new york is just New York, right? you wouldn't read about someone going shopping in new york and think "oh my gosh, where is this fabulous place I've never heard of?" would you? (if the answer is yes, well...quite frankly there is little hope for you. jog on).

but apart from all that, I just don't think that upper case is as pretty as lower case. check out how cute I am, writing in lower case, blah blah blah.

so that is secret number one. I warned you, not scandalous. but someone pointed out that people might read this blog and think that I didn't know how to write because I sometimes don't capitalise properly. (admittedly, I think there has been little interest from people who I don't know, so its not necessarily an issue yet but still, it could happen). so for all of you stranger dangers out there who don't know that in bijou-land small=cute, this is for you. I can capitalise, I just choose not to. so there.

(the eagle-eyed amongst you might notice that some of my posts have capitals and some don't. there is a simple explanation, some of them are drafted in word and copied over. word likes to correct you if you don't start a sentence with a capital letter - it makes poetry incredibly frustrating!!! - but this generally means I am more prone to capitals when using word. when I haven't used word, ta-da!!! no capitals).

secret number two. I'm not brilliant at grammar. I use punctuation to make things sound like I want them to sound in my head, so for everyone who isn't me, I can only assume that you read it the same way and understand. sometimes this means that things are more stream of consciousness than grammatically correct. sometimes it's because I choose not to do it (I know, for example, that I shouldn't start a sentence with an and or a but), and sometimes it's because I just don't know. I'm quite anal about my there/they're/theirs - it drives me absolutely fruit loopy when people get them wrong (when I was a civil servant, I used to ignore emails from senior managers where the incorrect "there" was used) but I can't for the life of me get my head round it's/its. the information just won't stay in there. I don't know why. I'm a bright girl, but for the most part, I don't get it. so I ignore it (I know I used it correctly before, but that's because I've been dictionary.comming whilst typing this). so whilst I'm militant about "there" I am incredibly lax about "its". I like grammar when it suits me, which is when I understand it and find it easy.

I used to work with a woman who didn't know what an apostrophe was. she called it an "up-comma" and went through a phase of sending out emails that read a bit like she,d never written anything that,d ever required an up-comma before, because surely you,d look at that and realise that it,s wrong, wouldn,t you?

needless to say, upon receiving the email I had a massive rant. (I am also very careful to ensure that any emails I send out at work make sense, I would hate for anyone to read one and think that I'm stupid). looking back, part of me thinks that perhaps she just didn't understand so chose to ignore the apostrophe/comma debate, but a bigger part of me thinks that surely no-one can honestly think that that,s how normal people write? hmmm. lazy militant, that's me.

another thing that drives me mental is american english. z where s's should be, a distinct lack of u's...I'm not very good at spelling any more (that is definitely the fault of the computer, its inherent laziness on my part. I have no excuse) but I really, really, really hate it when the spell check tries to correct me and make me spell in american. and on that very tenuous link...here is a very old poem. it's a bit silly. goodnight!! xx

Americans can't spell "colour"

Oh, what have the Americans,
got against the letter "U"?
They leave it out of colour
and out of neighbour too.
What if they were prejudiced
against the letter "O" as well?
Then colour would be clr
a very awkward word to spell.
I guess we should just all be thankful
they don't mind "L" "R" and "C"
or there'd just be a space like this



where colour ought to be.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Five Minutes

It’s funny how five minutes of one day can change your life. How five minutes of one day can go on to set the standard for all other days. This was one of those days.

It started off in the same way that all days normally do. I got up later than planned, didn’t wash my hair even though it needed it, pulled on the first clothes I could find, got to work and opened the shop. I’m usually on my own til about eleven. There’s only ever me, reading, dusting the shelves, drinking tea. A nice, luke-warm start to the day. Except this day. He scared me when he came in. Snuck up behind me so quietly that the first I knew of it was a soft waft of stale beer.
“Do you have any books about pirates?” he asked.
“Treasure Island, it’s over there. In the R section. We’re on first name terms with all our authors here.”
He laughed with his mouth closed and I blushed at my own piss-poor joke.
“I was thinking more along the lines of a reference book?” he said.
“We don’t deal in fact here. Fiction only. Treasure Island is the only one I can think of, off the top of my head,” I was babbling. It’s my worst habit. “It’s quite good,” I said, searching for something to save myself. “I read it in school.”
“I know,” he said, smiling. Lovely teeth. I suddenly noticed how lovely and blue his eyes were. “I know who you are, Cordelia Deadly. How could I ever forget a girl like you?”
And with that he was off. Into the labyrinth loosely titled ‘Popular Fiction, Bible-Present’. And I couldn’t stop staring. Like the odd glimpse of his elbow, a shot of his arm would make me remember who he was. You know when you know that you know someone, you just don’t know how you know them? He was walking back to the counter, book tucked underneath one arm when it hit me. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realised sooner. He hadn’t changed that much since we’d been at school.
“Why, Thomas Brown!” I said, “whatever are you doing here..?” I trailed off, embarrassed again. I knew what he was doing here. He was looking for a book, one about pirates. It was one of those moments when I wished I could stop time, think of a winning line and then press play again.
“Oh, you know. I’m just trawling second-hand bookshops looking for pretty girls I used to go to school with,” he grinned. I couldn’t think of anything to say.
“That’ll be £3.99 please.” He paid for it in handfuls of change.
“Well it was nice seeing you again,” he said. I told him not to be a stranger.
“Stranger than what?” he asked. After he left I stared into space and wrote Cordelia loves Tom 85% all over the newspapers.

I was still daydreaming when Pete got in at twelve. He handed me a scrap of paper torn from the front of a novel. “I certainly hope it isn’t one of ours,” he grumbled. I didn’t answer as I hurriedly unfolded it.

I always wondered about you. Would you like to spend the day with me on Saturday? I’ll meet you here, at ten, in the morning. I’ll get up especially early and wear my good shoes. Hope to see you, Tom.

I woke up early on Saturday. I didn’t want to but I couldn’t help it. I never can sleep when I’m excited. I washed my hair and put on some eyeliner, found some clean clothes and gave my trainers a quick scrub with the dishcloth. I was at work for nine thirty, humming to myself. Pete wolf-whistled. By the time eleven o’clock rolled around, Pete bought me my fourth cup of tea and patted my arm in what I’m sure was supposed to be a reassuring gesture.
“I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation,” he said.
“I don’t doubt it,” I replied, when in actual fact I doubted it very much indeed. Maybe he’d forgotten, maybe he’d been drunk that day he came in, maybe he’d changed his mind. They weren’t reasonable explanations.

At twelve o’clock, Pete excused himself and went to watch the tiny black and white portable he kept in the back room. Since I refused to go home, I might as well make myself useful and watch the shop. Like I didn’t know that he spent most of his time smoking rollies and watching the racing in the backroom, whether I was there or not. A few minutes later, I heard him shout.
“Cordie, you’d best get in here, quick!” I was so jumpy, I almost ran. Pete was watching the news. Tom’s face filled the tiny screen, his face tilted in profile, he was laughing at something behind the camera, something we couldn’t see. The voice of the newscaster droned on, emotionless.
“…police are appealing for any witnesses to come forward.”
“What’s going on?” I asked, barely able to get the words out.
“He’s dead, Cordie,” Pete replied. “He’s been murdered.”
“He can’t be dead,” I said, “we’re going on a date.”

Silence.

“Well at least you know he hasn’t stood you up. I told you there would be a reasonable explanation.”

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Yorkshire puddings and historical fiction

There are certain things that I’d really like to be able to do. Certain things that I’m a more than a little bit in awe of. I’ve attempted to make Yorkshire puds on numerous occasions, and they’re, well, lets just say that they come out ok. They generally come out tasting like Yorkshire puddings and looking like, er, flat Yorkshire puddings. But they’re definitely recognisable as what they’re supposed to be, and not poisonous, which is always a good start when cooking. They don’t, however, come out anything like they do when my dad’s girlfriend makes them, even when I follow her instructions to the letter. Most of the time (I say most of the time because I think there was a fluke or two early doors which filled me with false confidence) they just don’t rise properly. I try not to let it get to me. It’s not the end of the world. I have, after all, mastered roast potatoes. I had a few soggy efforts at first but then I got there, and the boyf reached up and dusted off one of his best compliments, telling me “They’re just as good as ones you’d buy from the shop”. But roast potato making successes aside, there would still be something very satisfying about making decent Yorkshires.

Aside from Yorkshire puddings I would really, really like to be able to write realistic historical fiction. This is not at all like making Yorkshire puddings because this is something I have never even attempted. Now, I’m not saying that I want to realistically and evocatively bring to life the tempestuous relationships of Jacobean sheep farmers. What I’m saying is that I find it hard enough to write convincingly in the real world, in the here and now where I live my life, every day, and have quite a lot of experience of. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to write (and write well) when your characters are slap bang in the middle of a different time period. Its about evoking a sense of place. The reason that this is in my head today is because as an exercise in last weeks writing class we had to make lists, some of them were boring (things that I like to read about, things that interest me) but one really struck a chord. Times that interest me. My list was World War Two, Pioneer America and my 1980s childhood.

So our homework was to find a topic (from one of the many lists) that interests me, devise an idea for a character, consider what they most want, make a list of obstacles, pick one scenario and write about it blah blah blah. We have to show the character in action not getting what they want and it should be about 300 words.

Now, I’m really struggling for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’ve never been much of a planner. I tend to write inside out and start with what I think is the beginning and an idea of where I think its going, only to realise that the beginning is not the beginning at all and where I thought it was going was a different direction than I’ve found myself now. After a bit, I plan if I need to and that’s when the lists start and the random notes and the hope that I can tie it together. Secondly, I find that if I just write, then sooner or later I will figure out the character and the obstacles and it will all sort itself out. It is very difficult to find out what a character wants before you’ve done the decent thing and written about them a little bit and started to get to know them.

So I think I am going to have to cheat, and do the homework backwards and wine and dine my character first before making a list of their deepest desires and the obstacles in their way, because its not very interesting the other way round. And although I would like my character to be a German Jew in post-war Britain, I have a feeling that she probably won’t be. Just because I’m not convinced I could ever write her, and (at this precise moment in time, when my writing is all about building my confidence back up and getting into good habits) I’m a bit too scared to try.

Anyway, I’m going to stop rambling (must go and finish my homework).

Before I go, I’m going to post a poem, where I do feel like I’ve captured time quite well. It was written as an exercise when I was at Uni and we all went to the National Portrait Gallery and were, quite simply, told to write poems of pictures that took our fancy. This one is written after seeing “Dancing Couple from Animal Locomotion” (1887) by Eadweard Muybridge. I googled him, he’s a bit mental

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadweard_Muybridge

and here are some examples of the kind of work he did (although not the actual picture the poem is based on, I can’t find that anywhere)

http://www.kingston.gov.uk/browse/leisure/museum/museum_exhibitions/muybridge/animal_locomotion/online_prints.htm

Ok, here we go…

Poem of a Picture

As my eyes move, I see the couple dance,
The same couple who,
From the other side of the room,
Seemed quite, quite still,
But now as I stand and watch them dance
I see her slow smile as she turns to the camera
I hear the swoosh of her long skirt moving behind her,
I feel the warmth of his arms around her,
And the shiver of excitement that runs up her spine
And the fantasies that race through his mind
And the quickening pulse and the shallow breath
As he tries, and fails, not to look at her breasts,
She sees but merely laughs and ignores it
Because deep down inside she really adores it
Their bodies in tune, twirling the dance,
A soft, low moan, a furtive glance,
Her heart races, anticipates the thrill
But then I look away and they are still.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

day two and some small technical difficulties...

so I managed to log on here before and edit my blog. this is easy, I thought. this is a piece of cake. then I decided to start following some blogs I like...and have managed to follow myself. so now the bijou raconteur follows, er, the bijou raconteur. this isn't me being a narcissist, this is me not being particularly technologically savvy. oops. luckily, cally is going to log on later and fix it for me, she's really quite good at it, which is good for me. phew!

so I'm going to stick to what I can do, which is type text in a box. there's not much that can go wrong here (hopefully).

as I mentioned yesterday, I'm in the process of sending stuff off to magazines and competitions and have decided that each story will have a 3 strikes rule - if it isn't accepted, then I'm going to post it on here. like vanity publication that isn't going to bankrupt me. hooray! I only started sending stuff off at the end of August, so that means it will be a good few months before I've been rejected 3 times. so for now, until I write something just for here (which I will, I've started it already, although historically I'm a lot better at starting things than I am at finishing them) for now I am going to post some old stuff. just to get posting, and to keep the momentum up. which is a good thing.

ok, so here you are, have some poems. enjoy!


Window

Old woman sat alone
at a two seater table
in the window of the bakers,
shop half unopened around her,
as she nibbles, squirrel-like,
at her antiquated toasted teacake,
treating herself.

Teacup devoid of saucer
in this harsh, modern world,
plate, knife, spoon arranged symmetrically,
a bad habit from her childhood
enraged by old age
and the taunt of senile dementia.

Old woman sat alone like a bulldog,
all jowl and foul expression,
the youth of yesterday,
an attitude problem armed
with a walking stick and a blue rinse.

Twenty-one again if she closes her eyes,
ignores her aching joints, rheumy fingers.
She's waiting for him in the shadows,
breeze blowing freshly washed hair in her eyes,
shivering beneath her thin cardigan.

He steals up behind her,
wraps his arms around her thin waist,
shared laughter,
warm glow,
brilliant smile.



Advice
Hey friend, take my advice,
watch the world through rose tinted glasses,
paint your feelings in primary colours,
and never let the bastards get you down.
Think once, think twice
then throw caution to the wind,
dive into the river and sink or swim.
Look left, look right
then take a deep breath
and put faith in the dice and
dance.
Dance with your friends
in armchairs on rooftops,
laugh with your siblings at family functions
and never learn by other people's mistakes.
Choose your friends and your drinks wisely,
and mix them carefully,
tequila, with a vodka chaser, will not make you
glamorous, sophisticated, or particularly nice.
Make every day an adventure,
and above all, remember this,
never listen to bad advice
and always remember the people you've kissed.

Friday, 9 October 2009

hello

hello...er...well this is it. I said I would start a blog and I have. so what do I want to say..?

I had a moment at work the other day...I was listening to a conference call and I thought, is this it? is this really it..? as much as I want to marry a rockstar and be a fairy princess, I am a realist, and the answer was resounding...

sadly, yes. yes, this is it. and the likelyhood is that I won't get to retire until I'm about 70, so I have a choice. I can either continue like I am or I can try to escape and do something that I love.

I want to be a novellist. I want to write stories. I am going to be 30 very soon and the very thought has struck fear into my bones and I have decided that this is not it. I am not going to let this be it. so I have started doing the following things...

I'm working with a writing coach (http://www.stephaniecage.co.uk/)
I'm going to a writing class
I'm working on this blog
I've been sending stories off to competitions/magazines

it might not sound like a lot, but to me, it is a lot. I'm lucky that I have the lovely cally (http://www.callyjanestudio.blogspot.com/) as my best friend/sis-in-law to do lots of lovely artwork for me and encourage me. and a boyfriend who is prepared to drive me to and from class and is learning to cook so he can make me tea and give me more time to write. other than that, well, it's really just down to me. so watch this space. I'm gonna post some words that I like, and it would be very nice if you liked them too ...

these words were from my writing class, they said, 10 mins, 200 words, romance, bus (admittedly, this is a second draft...) please feel free to post comments and let me know what you think.

“He looks like Justin Timberlake,” Shanice said.
“No he doesn’t! He looks nuffin like him!”
“He does! He’s his twin, man! Who you lookin’ at? You can’t be lookin’ at the same one!”
“I’m lookin’ at that one there, in the hat,” I pointed.
“Yeah, that’s him,” she sighed. “He’s lovely.”
“Well how come I’ve never seen him before? How come you’ve never said nuffin?”
“Well I dunno, do I? I’m shy or summat.”
“You? Shy? Fuck off.”
“Don’t take the piss Chantelle, I’m serious here.”
“If you love him that much, why don’t you just talk to him?”
“Oh, I can’t! I daren’t!”
“I’ll talk to him for you –“
“No!” she shrieked, grabbing my arm. “Chantelle! Don’t!”
I didn’t listen.
“Oi! Oi, you!” I yelled at JT. “My mate fancies you.”
Justin turned and winked. Started walking our way as he went to go down the stairs.
“Aw-right darlin’,” he drawled, grabbing his crotch as he went by. “Fancy a piece of this, do ya?”
Shanice went bright red as Justin and his cronies howled and pounded on the windows as they ran down the stairs.

If I hadn’t known better, I would’ve sworn she was crying.