Thursday, 9 December 2010

blogging from the bus (...or, pulling my socks up)

I nearly fell over about 5 times on the way to the bus this morning. Boring, I know, but I felt the need to share. Now I'm blogging from the bus, the number 56 to Gosforth in fact. It was late but so was I so it worked well. To combat snowy conditions I've been getting up and getting public transport early. In inclement weather its only bearable when its quiet.
In other news, I've taken baby footsteps towards the rewrite. I haven't read it yet but I have decided where I want the action to start, so I've started. I want a couple of pages to take to my group on Sat. I'm quite nervous, but excited. Eeek! I've also bought a book on character. I struggle somewhat with character and its been a featured comment in some of my short story feedback so I'm hoping the book will help. Its by Holly Lisle if anyone wants to google it, and from what I can see it says you don't need to know everything about them (good, I don't know everything about anyone, doesn't mean they're not real to me) and just cos someone has a funny hat or an interesting walk it doesn't make them a good character. Anyway, watch this space. I hope it works.

Right, must go. Time to iceskate.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Last week, I printed my NaNo story off. I nearly broke the printer (historically, I'm not good with silly things like printers and shredders), but, oh! how awesome it looks. It's a lot bigger than I thought it would be. It looks a lot more...booky than I thought it would. I bought a new folder especially and I've put it in there and I pick it up at least once a day and marvel at the weight of it.

However, I didn't print it just so I could oooh over it and congratulate myself. I printed it off so I could start to edit it. So I could begin what I imagine to be a very, very long process. So I can start to whip the opening chapters into shape for the Debut Dagger competition. I printed it off with very good intentions (not just to kill trees).

So what's stopping me? Well, I appear to have given myself the fear. Absolute, unmistakable, heavy hearted, want to take to my bed and lie in the dark fear. And for what? I've spent November knowing that it is rubbish. I've already established that I need to do character development, and that, in general, I'm better at re-writing than I am at writing. I've armed myself with new pens to write all over it. I have paper to write lists of plot holes, and research needed, and all the other stuff I know will need to be done. I'm ready for this re-write, but...I've also spent November thinking, maybe I'm on to something here? I have a half written synopsis where I haven't had to make it up as I go, it's all taken from the story. I have new scenes that I want to write. I think I'm just scared that if I start, my inner editor won't take kindly to a month of being exiled and will tell me it's rubbish. That the bad far, far outweighs any good that could ever come of it, that I was a fool to even think I could do this. Quite frankly, it scares the pants of me and makes me feel a little bit like crying.

Deep down I know that I should just get it over with, that its like being waxed or tattooed, a horrible thing that hurts loads but also only hurts for a very short time and then the end result is really worth it. So yes. I should start.

Or maybe I'll go and prepare the veg for dinner. And have a go at a short story. And drink some tea. Yes, definitely drink some tea. Perhaps tea will give me the courage I need to get this thing started, and once I've started, it won't be so bad...

Sunday, 28 November 2010

hooray! hooray! hooray!

well I've won. I've written just under eight thousand words today and I am exhausted. I honestly feel like I could sleep for a week but, sadly, I can only sleep for one night before getting up early and battling through mountains of snow to get to work. sigh. next year, I'm going to book the whole of December off.

until then, I'm going to work on my synopsis and get my first couple of thousand words ready for the Debut Dagger. oh, and I've entered a little Writers and Artists Yearbook competition, which really helped me focus.

I think that now I'm going to turn my brain off, watch an X Factor/I'm a Celeb double bill, drink some peppermint tea and try not to think about my story (which might be impossible). tomorrow, I'm getting a hair do and then I'm going to attempt some printing, although I fear that at a hundred and eighty pages (I double space) the printer may self destruct...right, I'm over typing. my fingers hurt. I wish I could gloat more, but I'm just...too...tired...zzzzzzzzzz...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

and the weather outside is...

snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow snow

it's almost like the end of the world, but whiter. much, much whiter. is it spring time yet?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

the Universe wants me to win NaNoWriMo...

...honestly, it does. I went to my paid-for-taken-by-a-real-writer writing group the other day, hoping to write something non Nanoey. We concentrated on scent. Kathleen gave us all a place to write about and mine was hospital. I'd known about the hospital scene in my story for about a week and a halF so ultimately, what I wrote was typed into the manuscript. I feel I can call it a manuscript now. Its over 32,000 words, over 100 pages (I double space, I can't write single spaced for more than a page, it makes me crazy).

So now, I have less than 18,000 words to go. My aim for Sunday is 40k. I'd like to finish by next weekend, that would be the dream. I've been worried that I don't have enough story but I think I do, even though it keeps going in different directions, and anyway, I read an interview in Writers News (which I can't decide whether I like or not) but this guy (child, he was a child) said that there was a point midway when he was just thinking "novella, novella, novella". I'm glad its not just me.

Right, I'm going to get up. I'm blogging from bed. Oh! The decadence! xx

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

goodbye, cruel world...hello, real one?

Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially lazy or my fingers are tired of typing, I will write on my blackberry and email it to myself. This also works if inspiration strikes on the bus (and its too wobbly to get my notebook out). The other night, I was particularly inspired to write quite a morbid letter from one character to another. At the time, I thought it was a suicide note (turns out its not) but the content is very “woe is me” very “goodbye cruel world” etc etc. So, anyway, I sent it on to my bijou email address and…it didn’t arrive. Turns out, there is a problem with emailing bijou from blackberry but that’s a different (and probably very, very boring) story. But it got me thinking. What if it hadn’t been a technical glitch in the land of emails and computer voodoo? What if I’d sent it to the wrong address? What if some poor, unsuspecting bijou version 2.0 had received the most miserable of goodbye letters, and not known that it was part of a story? How strange and creepy would that be?

In other news, I’m just about breaking even on NaNo, but an exciting thing happened to me at lunchtime. I was typing away, describing the village where the action takes place (which is loosely based on the village I grew up in because that’s easier, but this one is in a valley and surrounded by woods because, rumour has it, that is the best place to hide a roving gun man) and all of a sudden, it started to look very real in my head. In addition to this, one of my characters has an accent and I can hear it when I think about him. It hasn’t happened for all of them yet (and I wonder whether it will) but this is all very exciting. It makes me think that perhaps this story is the one that I will like enough to re-write, that perhaps this is the first thing I’ll ever really finish…either way, its all very exciting.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Day Eight...

...and I'm floundering. It was going so well. So, so well that I spent most of last week telling myself that it wouldn't last (whilst secretly hoping that it would). I wrote a lot, but more than that, I really felt like I knew where I was going. It felt like after every bit that I finished, the next bit would just pop into my head, and it was easy, and it was fun.

Now, I feel a little bit overwhelmed by it. I have 12036 words. This is a lot of words for me. Normally, I create my worlds in less than 3000, so I've got 4 times that and I know there is more to tell. I just feel like I'm losing it.

I have, however, learnt a lot from last year. Last year I took the whole no editing thing a bit too literally. I didn't even spell check, which meant that when I went to edit it, it was so messy I was disadvantaged from the start. This year, I've been spell checking. I have flashcards with my characters on them, and others with locations. I've been making a list of questions I need to research later. I just need to reclaim my confidence and take my story back.

So what if I've missed a day (Sunday) and the words I wrote on Saturday were pretty much just a big list. I tell more than I show in my first drafts, I know this. And so what if my characters aren't fully formed? I know I have too many characters, some of them will die (literally) and some of them will be written out, or amalgamated with others. I'm not going to know which ones are the most interesting and the best fun until later. The first draft will be like the first few dates, the re-draft is where the relationship begins. And so what if the chronology is all out of whack? I need to know what happens first and then I can worry about putting it in order.

Ok, so this is actually quite cathartic, writing it all down. Writing a novel in 30 days was never going to be easy. Writing a novel which retains some semblence of structure and sense was going to be harder still, but really, everything worth doing is difficult. And the Universe wants me to write this story. I read somewhere once that you have to learn how to read the signs in your life, and last week, my friend told me a story about how the police wouldn't let her boyfriend go back to his flat because there was a man with a gun in Percy Main (they don't just not let you back home, they check that you have somewhere to go and give you a number to call for updates. Oh, and they don't tell you it's because of a man with a gun unless they have to). Then, there was a link on BBC News website (I'm terrible for reading the news when I should be working) which was an article about gun laws and how incidents like the Whitehaven shootings could happen, and lastly, I received a Celebrity Death Beep informing me that Hall of Fame manger Sparky Anderson had died.

To put this in story is called Sparky's War and is about a man who goes postal and starts shooting in his village.  Coincidence? Hmmmm.

Anyway, so I think what I'll do tomorrow is work through chapter by chapter making notes of who is where and what they're doing. I can make sure I complete the story arcs, and I won't forget where people are. And I can write on and finish the little stories that I've started, and they can all knit together and become a first draft. That sounds like a plan...right...I'll get on it (tomorrow).

Monday, 1 November 2010

Day One and...'s going well. So far (watch this space for future meltdowns)

Plus...check me out!

how exciting!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

what a character...

The last two pieces of feedback I've received have mentioned my characters. Namely, that they aren't believable, or convincing enough. So I've been doing some thinking about that. I don't want my writing to fall down over something that I should have such control over. And they're probably right, I don't know my characters well enough. So the beautiful notebook has become my character notebook. Last night I started writing about Sparky (my main character). There were lots of things I already knew, but it was still nice to get them down on paper, and there were lots of things I didn't know. Like the fact that he likes cooking and has secret aspirations to be on MasterChef.

Now whether this will make it into the story or not, well, I doubt that. But I don't think it's even something that anyone knows about him (apart from maybe his mam), and that's kind of interesting in itself. So the rest of the day, I'm going to be finding out more about Sparky, and my other main characters. And that character I couldn't name? Well I've taken her out. If I wasn't feeling her enough to name her, she can't be important enough. The role that she was going to play in the opening scene has been filled by a sister. It just feels a lot better.

So I feel quite good about NaNo today. Yesterday I panicked (my friend has all of her main points on cards, so she's going to write 2000 words per card. That's organised. Far more organised than I could ever be. I'm not that person and I'm ok with that). Today, I'm just excited. Let the madness commence...

Saturday, 30 October 2010

panic stations ready?

Oh God. I've lost the ability to write. A Halloween theme for our writing session today and I just couldn't get started.

Was it because I was hungry? Was it because I needed a poo? Or was it because I'm a horrible writer, destined only for failure?

So I went and did the only logical thing a person in my position could do. I tootled off to Paperchase and bought myself this...

Surely only wonderful things can be written in a notebok so beautiful. It can't fail.

Friday, 29 October 2010

technology is a wonderful thing

I have a shiny new phone. It's very beautiful. And very shiny. And it's enabling me to (wait for it) blog from bed. Yes that's right kids. I'm not even up yet. I don't even have my glasses on. I'm lying in the dark, blogging.

Wowsers. This may revolutionise my blogging habits (for a fortnight, at least). I'm officially in love with my phone. Although the sim card doesn't work yet, and the sim in my old phone has stopped working, meh, a small point. I've managed to get on the home wifi and can access YouTube, which is all that matters.

In other news, I'm starting to get a major (MAJOR) pre-NaNo panic on. I've reset my spreadsheet for 50,000. I think that's enough. I think any more would be heart attack inducing and I'd quite like to live to see 31. I think I should have planned more and I need a name for one of my main characters. So far she has been Linda, MJ and Avis and none of them fit. I'm sure it'll come...I hope so.

Anyway, I'm off to lie quietly for another few minutes before I have to get up. God, I love this phone.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

a tidy study is the key to...well...EVERYTHING

I spent all day yesterday tidying the study. Not just tidying. Re-arranging. Totally. I dragged everything out, hell, I even dusted. It's been on my weekend to-do list since, like, May. I'm happy I've got it done. I feel serene now. Look, look at how beautiful it is...

It's a lot bigger than it was before I moved all the crap out of it. And there is a bookcase (and a box of crap) that you can't see. And I had to get creative, my study has the novelty of being en suite, so I've used the space quite cleverly...

I feel now like I'm ready, I've tidied the study, I've re-jigged my spreadsheet, it's set for 75,000 words, which is 2500 words a day, (yes, I know NaNo is only 50,000 but that I did that last year so want to push myself a bit more. So 75,000 is my personal goal, with 50,000 being an incredibly acceptable alternative if I realise halfway through that I'm mental which is probable, apparently I was horrendous during NaNo last year, thanks for sharing baby, I love you too). So anyway, I'm fighting fit, I'm ready and prepared, my study is waiting for it's only natural that I've spent all day avoiding the study. Well, I wouldn't want to mess it up before November 1st, would I?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

success (noun) favourable outcome, good fortune, successful thing or person

I was asked on Wednesday if I define my writing success by publication/winning competitions. The implication being that I shouldn’t. I think I said no (I’d had a pint or two) but in all honesty, this is a bit of a lie.

I define my success solely by competitions wins (nil), shortlists (one) and publication (one).

I do not define it by the number of stories completed, redrafted and sent off, by my first delicate steps back towards poetry, by attending classes and groups, by being invited to guest blog (yes, me! a guest blogger!) I do not define it by winning NaNoWriMo – instead, I cancel that out by the fact that I haven’t been able to redraft.

Perhaps, as a writer, I need to celebrate my success more.
I might have a little party for me, Helen, the writer. I should bake myself a cupcake and have a moment to bask in the glory. Look at everything I do, whilst still working full time and committing myself to important things, like America’s Next Top Model and the Apprentice.

And so what if I haven’t been able to pack the day job in just yet? I’m still an awesome writer. So there

Monday, 11 October 2010

onwards and upwards

These last few weeks have provided a valuable lesson in writing. I've started entering competitions where I can receive feedback. Plus, I've found a writing workshop which is run by an actual writer. So lots of feedback from different places. And I've found that the things they say about one piece of writing, can actually be applied across the board.

I can't believe I've never noticed it before.

Lesson One. Grammar and punctuation (I touched on this during a mad rant a few posts ago). Basically, take care. Don't give anyone a reason to throw my story in the bin.

Lesson Two. Show don't tell. I've spent years thinking I had this one nailed. Oh, how wrong I was. I'm good at showing but telling sneaks in there, and what does it do? Why, it makes you not believe in my characters, makes you not care what happens to them. Pesky telling! It's funny, but I've been working through another re-write (not the one that garnered the show don't tell comment), and this story needed to be longer, it needed something else I just didn't know what it needed, until I went through it with a magnifying glass, and everything that I had told I showed (oh, how I wanted to write shew there, I know it's not a word but it should be). Anyway, do you want to know what wonderful things happened to my story? It grew a thousand words. And it works better too.

Lesson Three. Adverbs. I love them. I don't need them. I must kill them.

It's like I can see my story sharpening before my eyes...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

to leave, or not to leave...that is the question

this blog post is currently under construction

imagine builders, hard hats, drills and scaffolding and stuff. got it? good

Sunday, 5 September 2010


So the boyf is watching some chick play Ben Folds covers on a ukulele (thank you youtube, oh, now we have two random blokes doing Sweet Child O Mine and System of a Down, which I have to admit is kind of awesome). He wants us both to buy ukuleles but I am just not musical. Not even a little bit. If I was, I'd be a singer in a kick-ass band, but sadly, that is not to be. Bez is more musical than I am. But I have to admit, a little bit of me wishes I was musical, because what is more kick-ass than a girl in a band who can play the ukulele..?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

I dreamed a dream...

Recently, I’ve been dreaming about blogging.

Is this a sign? Is it guilt invading my subconscious thought?

Sunday, I did a whole big bunch of nothing. Which was great, but after a while, it put me in a really bad mood. I think it’s because I’m not writing enough. I’m too lazy and I like lying on the sofa watching TV. I need to make more time for writing, because it’s always worth it when I do. So this morning, I am writing (and blogging!) before work and I am going to write during lunch too (if I write before I go home, I can’t get distracted by making tea and doing the washing and repeats of Project Runway on Sky 3 etc).

Last night I also dreamt that Patricia Arquette gave me a bikini wax and then we went to meet my secondary school form tutor (Mrs Fay).

I don’t know what that means.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently

So, I'm over my bad mood. I've had a week of not writing, of eating lunch with friends at work instead of typing and watching Celebrity Masterchef in bed (the boyf has banished me - it - from the living room). I am now ready to pull my socks up.

We have a "quote of the day" on the intranet at work. I think I am one of the only people sad enough to read them (I read anything put in front of me, especially at work). The one above is by Henry Ford (I feel like I should know who he is, but I don't think I do) and it sums up my thoughts - sometimes life throws you a sign, even if it's in the form of a random quote (that's probably automatically generated by the marketing machine).

So now, my thoughts have strayed to, where does my story go next? It will be the fifth time it's been out. I've decided that I will continue to send it until it wins something. It will win, god damn it. The next competition on my radar is the Aesthetica Creative Works, this story went there last year, when it was still "The Journey". It now has a different title, it's a much, much better story, so my question is, do I send it again? I get two entries for my £10 and it seems rude not to take advatage of it. I was planning on sending a different story (and story number one is mid-re-write, so that isn't an issue), but thats off in the Waterstones Perfectly Formed Competition, and the judging has been pushed back so I won't find out until next week, which makes it a bit too late to re-write. So do I send it? Is that bad form? Is it a waste of my entry fee?

Decisions, decisions...

Monday, 16 August 2010

always a bridesmaid...

I've recently started looking for competitions where I also have the option to pay for feedback. Last month (last month? possibly get the picture) I entered Vanda Inman's writespace competition, theme, The Lie, guest judge Della Galton (who is all over the fiction section in the women's magazines). My story didn't place, but the feedback was heartening. She said it was a great story, gave me some good advice about some of the words I'd chosen and suggested changing the viewpoint and strengthening the end. She also said that I'd created a sympathetic character, which was skilled considering the subject matter (he was a paedophile).

I was very happy with this. Deep down, I know that sometimes my success is going to be tempered by my subject matter. Not everyone wants to read sad stories with uncomfortable characters, and ultimately, it was a good result. I've taken the feedback onboard and am re-drafting with this in mind.

Last week, I entered the Writers Forum competition and today received my feedback. Again, the feedback was good. I was Highly Commended (I'm assuming that because it said it on the feedback, it's true of the magazine too..?) and the points that they gave me were a) good b) silly. They let me know what was working, which was great. They were also quite specific about what wasn't quite as clear, which was also great - one of those points had been raised in my writing group, but you know what it's like with feedback, some bits you take on board, some bits you put to one side. Now I've been told twice, I think I'll agree to disagree and change it. The rest of it was about my grammar and layout. And this is the silly bit. Because it's all stuff that I should know.  Stuff that I do know. Stuff that I should be doing. Stuff that I should have caught on one of my many, many edits.

So I'm quite annoyed with myself. I know that Highly Commended is super awesome. I know that for the amount of stories I've sent off in the last year, to have been Strongly Considered, Highly Commended, Shortlisted and Published is fab. I should be tap-dancing. It should be champagne and party poppers time. So why aren't I smiling?

I'm so close. I keep just missing out. And yes, some of this is personal preference of the judge, and that's absolutely their call. The lady who won The Lie competition, for example, wrote a lovely story involving a grandmother and her long-lost grandson. It was really good and she deserved to win. And stories that deal with elderly sexual predators being released from prison are not everyone's cup of tea. I totally get that. Coming up with a story the judges will love is half the battle, and something that is often impossible to predict and something that I'm prepared to take my chances with. Losing out because of stupid grammatical errors, and punctuation, and layout?

I need to up my game. Or get an editor. Or something.

Monday, 2 August 2010

there's no such thing as a bad blog, just a bad blog owner...

on Saturday, I wrote a story with a happy ending. I know, I know. unprecedented. the subject was "the summer that wasn't" and after I'd been bragging to some other members of the group that I generally found writing exercises quite easy, perhaps because we'd had to do so many of them at uni and it was just ingrained, I suddenly found that I couldn't start. I wrote two lines and then thought, no, that's appalling. so I crossed them out and actually thought about what I wanted to write before I wrote anything down.

and then I had my idea. and my idea did not have a happy ending but as I was writing, I thought that my ending was not the most original use of the subject matter (in this case, a girl who has been saving for years to go round South East Asia for the summer, only to find that her Icelandic savings account that holds her money is frozen - bah bum ching - so she accepts an offer to carry a package to Bangkok for the princely sum of £10,000). now, the end of this story, with the girl getting caught, would have the required amount of misery, but would it be interesting? or would it be more fun if she got away with it, and went on to have the most awesome summer in the history of awesome summers. so I went for the latter and she got away with it. well, thats a tiny lie, the story actually ended with her knocking on the door of the apartment she needed to deliver the package to, but you know all those bits of the story that you know are true, they just don't go in the story? well, the very happy ending was one of those bits.

so now, I find myself, in the space of a week, re-writing another story to have a happy(er) ending. this is one is now in at least its sixth incarnation, its' destination...Writer's Forum, which I'm really enjoying at the moment.  I wouldn't have considered changing the end apart from the imploring note from the competition judge begging for no more misery. well, I can't offer no more misery, my friend, but what I can do is offer a fleeting glimpse of hope. my character has been building herself up to this moment throughout the re-writes and now I think she's ready to take those baby steps towards's a change that feels right for her, and sometimes, like a lot of things in life, you need to be nudged in the right direction. literary rainbows, sunshine and kittens anyone? yes please...

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

my life, for £15.13...

So the boyf and I are starting an ebay empire. Well, I say empire. We’re auctioning off all of our old tat and intend to pay the money off the credit card. At the moment, its just stuff we haven’t looked at for years. Stuff that we don’t actually need. Stuff we have two of. I’ll be honest, I’m a hoarder, but the excitement of selling this stuff, auction stylee, makes it that bit easier to be ruthless. And when you think of it, it’s a bit like free money. Which is always nice.

We started this venture last weekend and our current running total is £15.13. Not bad. We’ve set up a spreadsheet and are busy tracking postage fees, looking at what sells well, what we can get the most money from. He reckons board games are a good money maker (we currently don’t have any of these to sell. We picked up a pink scrabble set at the carboot sale the other week but we won’t be selling that. Its perfect, its scrabble, and its pink, for crying out loud).

Once he’s fully mobile again, we’re going to go back to the carboot sale and buy things to sell on. I’ve suggested we do it like Bargain Hunt. Each have £10, buy lots of lovely things and then see who makes the most when we list them. As he keeps telling me, we have to speculate to accumulate, and one day, one day, we will find that antique silver horse-shoe shaped cigarette holder that makes our fortune. Of that I am perfectly sure.

Until that day comes, we will continue to sell our cds, dvds, bric-a-brac and clothes that no longer fit, and one day in about 6 months time, we will come home to find that all we have left are two deck chairs, the tv, the wii, pink scrabble, about 400 books and nothing else but tumbleweeds blowing round our empty flat.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

exactly the look I was going for

yesterday I went to my writing group - we have two groups, one in the main library for writing new stuff and one in the lovely Lit and Phil for reading stuff. yesterday was the reading group and I read the story I'm writing on the theme of "departures" which I intend to send to Mslexia in September. naturally, its a sad story. what can I say? I think misery is far more interesting. anyway, when I'd finished, Rowan told me that it was heart-wrenching and said that it made her want to go home and hug her children. and that, my friends, is exactly the look I was going for. it made me feel really warm inside. now I just need to write the other half of it, edit it, and get it off in time.

in other news, the boyf has broken his ankle. again. not the same ankle he did last time. the other one. how did he do it? walking. just walking over the bridge at Tynemouth whilst we were at the market. I've re-named him Mr Glass-Ankles...anyway, I'm going to have to leave it there because he's decided to play the Prodigy really, really loudly next to me, and he keeps talking at me, and poking me with his crutch, and I can't concentrate so I'm going to go and wash up instead.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

lady of letters

this week, I have mostly been writing letters. lovingly crafting letter templates, drafting standard paragraph after glorious standard paragraph.

and the best news is, I've only just started. there are many, many letters just waiting for me to get my sticky little mitts on.

oh, how I am enjoying my new job! may the letters never end...

Saturday, 5 June 2010

a little bit of tweaking...

So I told you that I’d pre-paid for a competition so I would have to enter, right? Well, as I pre-paid, I selected which story I was going to enter. It was “strongly considered” for last year’s Aesthetica competition, re-entered in this year’s Mslexia competition and as far as I could see, pretty much good to go, right?

I’ve just undergone the short story equivalent of thinking you’ll perhaps clear out your jewellery box and before you know it, you’ve emptied all your drawers, pulled everything out from under the bed and are sat in the middle of your room surrounded by piles of crap you haven’t had a use for since 2002.
A full-on accidental re-write, but oh! how I feel so much better for it. I’ve also given myself the luxury of time (it isn't due in until the end of June), so I can now leave it til next weekend and hopefully when I look at it again any faults will pop out at me, easily fixable, so I can then send it off.
I've also (finally) fixed the last lines of my story for the Waterstones Perfectly Formed competition and have just emailed that off. Over the last few days, I've had the inklings of another (longer) story, and the title has just come to me, as have the characters names so I'm going to start off by making some notes and see where that takes me. Originally, I thought it would be my NaNo story this year, but I need to start making notes now before I forget so if I play by NaNo rules, I can't technically start it yet...hmmmm...I think I will just have to see what happens. Its likely that I'll put it away and not look at it again until November anyway, so it might not technically be cheating...

Anyway, must go. The sunshine is glorious but I'm sat at the kitchen table being dedicated to my art. Go me.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

odd day

today was a very strange day. it started off normally, I spent yesterday out of the office so caught up on my emails first thing, chatted to my team, drank some tea, as you do. about half past nine, my manager and the rest of the ops managers, and our director, and a girl from HR (carrying a box chock full of letters) spoke in whispers and then disappeared upstairs. uh-oh, we thought, and immediately started discussing all the horrible things that this could mean.

whispers + letters = change

five minutes later, we (ie all the managers) were summoned to the fifth floor. they like to get everyone in a room and give news in a controlled environment. we've recently moved into our building, and the fifth floor is currently unoccupied. glorious views of newcastle, some upturned tables and big empty spaces. everyone was thinking redundancy, what we got was redeployment. there are two sides to our department, benefit entitlement checks (where I work) and community legal advice (where I don't work), and my department is getting smaller and people need to move over to the other side.

phew! is that all? well, thats ok...isn't it?

well, yes, and no. no-one is losing their job (technically), but there are currently eight managers on my side. David and I are off on secondment for a year (more on that later) and we need to cut down and have two managers transfer to cla, and have three managers left on bec. doing the maths, that means that one person who is currently a manager will have to not be a manager soon. and that sucks. and for me, it means that when I go off on secondment, my job disappears, and although I've been reassured that I will still have a job to come back to, no-one knows what that job will be.

I don't like uncertainty. I like to plan. and I feel so, so sorry for whoever doesn't get their managers job, because although I know that having a job is better than having no job at all, and it could be an awful lot worse, the reality of being the one person who doesn't get it would be absolutely mortifying. and this person will be one of my friends.

as for me, well, I have a year to find myself a permanent job. a lot can happen in a year. part of me thinks, ok, I hadn't really intended to return from this secondment anyway. the plan had always been to find another job (more money, etc) and now my hand has been forced and thats ok. and then, another part of me thinks, sometimes life hands you a ready made deadline, and I should take advantage of it. a lot can get written in a year...

perhaps I should harness this uncertainty and use it to motivate myself. why perhaps? that is exactly what I should do...

in other news, with my new secondment comes a work blackberry. I am more excited by this than I should be. I've already sent one sarcastic out of hours email to IT... 

Monday, 31 May 2010

lovely, lovely three day weekends, I wish I had one next weekend too, oh, hang on, I do...

oh, how I love not being at work. the weekend so far has not been super-busy, apart from today, when we've had an adventure. we got up early and drove up to Alnwick to go to Barter Books which is a wonderful secondhand bookshop. you take your old books and they buy them off you and in return they give you credit which you can use to buy new books. its a marvellous system that makes me feel warm inside. anyway, they didn't want all of my books but they still gave me £16 credit, and I bought £20 worth of books so perhaps I failed on the part of the exercise that was to come back with less books than I went with, but hey ho. such is life.

so now we're catching up with glee, and I'm thinking about doing some writing. I've paid for some competitions already, so now I have to enter them. right? right. must stop procrastinating...

Monday, 24 May 2010


write write write write write write watch medium email for some info about a competition write write write drink a cup of peppermint tea and think about eating some icecream write write write well possibly more typing than actually writing does it still count? type type type type typey type type look on facebook phone my mum type type typey type type

the end

Sunday, 23 May 2010

absence makes the heart grow fonder (is this true??)

hello. yes, I know, I know, its been a while. quite a while. a bit too long, perhaps. internet me went a bit shrivelled and wilted like a plant that I've been tasked to care for (I am very good at killing plants. every so often I decide that I'll buy living herbs and always have lovely fresh herbs for when I cook. I think I managed to keep some coriander alive for a week, once)

anyway, I have been watered (with tea) and now I am back. hooray! the reasons for my lengthy hiatus are...

  • laziness (always a big reason)
  • Las Vegas (where highlights included, but were not limited to, some small scale gambling wins, lunch in the revolving restaurant on top of the Stratosphere, watching Peepshow starring Holly Madison of Girls of the Playboy Mansion fame, a DJ set by Mix Master Mike where there was hardly anyone there and we threw some awesome shapes and it was a bit like a private disco, and then I harassed him loads at the end getting lots of things signed for almost everyone we know, getting an industrial ear piercing and buying a designer dress)
  • a sunny weekend in Newcastle (where we've been to Tynemouth and eaten cider lollies and been to town and I found everything I was looking for and the boyf took me to the Vietnamese restaurant for my lunch, oh, and I've pitched my very pink tent in the back garden in the hope that it will rain soon so it will "weather" before I go to Glasto)
  • applying for - and getting - a secondment. eeek! for the first time in a very long time I will be doing a job that doesn't involve benefits. scary, but exciting
anyway, they're really just excuses, but I have been very busy having fun and sadly, when I do this, the first thing to slip is my writing. I did write a little bit in Vegas, I started an awesome story for the next Mslexia submission on "Departures", I just hope I can pull it off (and get it in in time!!) I also worked on a story for a really good competition, and the idea was good but the story was terrible. no, thats not quite true, not terrible, just not finished. nowhere near. but because it was free I sent it off anyway. it made me feel horrible. I was embarrassed that someone will read it (probably not too many people as I imagine it will be binned almost immediately). anyway, I've learnt a valuable lesson there. although its important to set deadlines and stick to them, its also mortifying to send off work that I don't want to be associated with. I won't be doing that again.

speaking of competitions though, I've found a lovely little competition by Waterstones called Perfectly Formed

very free, very good prizes, so really I think it would be rude not to enter it. and since my stories seem to always be on the short side, its the perfect competition for me!

next weekend the boyf has promised me a trip to Barter Books in Alnwick, so I've been sorting through my study quite ruthlessly - it is easier to get rid of books when I know I can exchange them for a credit note to buy more books. yaay!

anyway, must go. typing to do.

bye! xx

ps if anyone wants to see the very beautiful, very expensive, very designer dress that I bought, you can check it out here...

its a bit longer on me (kind of top of my calves, the model must be a giant) but isn't it lovely? I have a wedding to wear it to, and then I will wear it to every occasion ever, until I get too fat to wear it, or it falls apart, whichever comes first. sigh. it is the most expensive thing in my wardrobe. its probably more expensive than the wardrobe itself. oh, how I love it so...

Friday, 23 April 2010

Eviction Night

     It’s eviction night. I’m…excited. If that’s the right word for it. No, no, it doesn’t seem strong enough, it’s just not enough.

Excited; aflame, agitated, aroused, awakened, eager, enthusiastic, provoked, roused, ruffled, wild.

Thank God for the online thesaurus, it helps me define myself. But more of that later. Back to what’s important here.
     Its eviction night and I’ve been voting for her all day. Finger on the re-dial button, I’m nervous, fidgety, which is weird because I never normally get like this. I’ve never been one for reality TV, it’s inhumane, appealing to the lowest common denominator and you never know what might happen. Colonic irrigations and live liposuction, Richard Madeley being eaten by a crocodile whilst Ant and Dec watch on, open mouthed and horrified. It’s far too spontaneous. I used to hate them. I used to hate all of them, but then I saw her.

     It was love at first sight, I saw her enter the house at 9.21pm, she was the third person to go in which didn’t automatically endear her to me as I’ve always found threes quite confusing. As a child, I thought if you put two of them together you would make an eight. But she makes all that seem so unimportant.

     She is breathtakingly, deniably beautiful. An Earth Goddess, her favourite colour is black and she doesn’t like turnips, trainers or daffodils. Her favourite snack is stale bread and she despises insecurity. She’s an only child and an orphan, her entire family wiped out in a freak whaling accident when she was thirteen. She’s rubbish at counting and was picked on in school. I know this because I read it on her myspace page. It’s now my homepage and I know almost everything there is to know about her.

     I know lots of other things about her as well. I know I love the way she hides behind her hair when she’s moody, I love the way her eyes are different colours, I love her webbed toes. She is an eclectic rainbow of perfection, my anarchic angel.

     As soon as she stepped out of the car, tips of her shiny black boots pointing Westwards, I was mesmerised. I rolled the soft syllables of her name round my mouth like marbles. It seemed to call to me from a distance, the sea at the bottom of a shell. Mooma…Mooma…Mooma…real name Moira but she couldn’t pronounce it as a child so she became Mooma and it just stuck. Funny, because I normally despise nicknames on grown-ups, it’s a sign of weakness, makes me think they’re hiding something. But in this case I’ll make an exception. In this case it seems to suit her. Mooma. Like a comfortable chair or a favourite aunt, Mooma my love you have taken over my life.

     I love to watch her. Relentlessly, religiously, like an alcoholic reaching for the first whisky through a vague haze of sleep, unconscious, the TV on in the background subliminally filling my head with her. Lovely, lovely her. She is like sunshine.

    I had every reason to dislike her but I even love her when she’s doing the conga and her operatic rendition of Leo Sayer’s You Make Me Feel Like Dancing was nothing short of inspirational. The others only exaggerate how wonderful she is with their childishness, their bitchy comments. Darryl and Carol were in the diary room the other day and they said that she was insincere. Insincere? Nobody in their right minds would call a finger-painting vegetarian insincere!

     It was only logical really, this next step. It was the only thing to do. When I saw her big, promotional cardboard cut out, poised as if to jump, her features contorted into an unnatural expression of “look how zany I am! watch me defy convention!” When I saw her there, alone in a sea of other housemate’s friends and familiars I knew. I knew what I had to do.

     Now I’m here, I can’t quite believe it. Can’t quite believe I did it. I normally think spontaneity is so over-rated but here I am. Day twenty-one and I’ve had the three most wonderful weeks of my life. Like the holiday of a lifetime but without the foreigners. And there’s that three again. See what she does to me? If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

“So, how long have you known the lovely Mooma?” our mock-cockney host asks, with just a hint of sarcasm.

“Oh, not long,” I said. I’ve never been one for lying and live on national TV is no time to start. “But she’s very important to me. She’s stolen my heart.”

I’m so excited, my hands are sweating and I have to concentrate very hard so I don’t accidentally wipe them on my trousers and leave marks. I’ve never been like this before. I never normally get so bothered about people, I don’t see the point. But she’s different. She makes me different. Makes me normal. Makes me feel what normal people feel.

     I feel like I’m going on a first date. Not an ordinary one but a big one, like an arranged marriage or something. I can’t quite believe I’m here.

“So!” shouts the over-sexed teen with the microphone. “It’s thirty seconds to go! Who will be re-united with their loved ones? Twenty seconds! It’s hang by the seat of your pants time! Ten seconds! And with a record ninety four percent of the votes the third person to be evicted from the house is…”

     They say Love changes you. She’s changed me. I feel like I’ve woken up. I can’t wait to meet her.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Welcome to the shortlist (some would argue that this is the list I’ve been on all my life…)

So way back in January I entered a competition to write a story on the theme of Heaven…results are in today and (drum roll please!) I made the shortlist! There were three hundred and seventy four entries, and mine is somewhere between numbers nine and twenty. I’ve already had my calculator out. That’s top six percent (six is my favourite number). Well done me. This afternoon we broke out the coffee and donuts to celebrate.
I’m happy because I knew that my story was good and I just feel completely validated. The fact that I didn’t actually win doesn’t matter. I got through enough rounds to have my story sent off to the agent (yes, agent) and on a different day, with a different reader, I could have won. Its close enough to make it all seem worthwhile.

I feel so happy, and motivated and generally awesome.
If you want to see my name on the shortlist, follow this link...(my story is called The Chosen)

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

this is awesome

my new favourite song...

and check this out too, I would really like to be friends with these people!

I think I'm going to see if Cal fancies starting some sort of maverick interpretive dance group and taking it onto the streets of Newcastle...hmmmm...naturally, I'm supposed to be writing now. I'm finishing my story for the Biscuit competition. I'm not pissing about on you tube, and I am not going to go and see if the Glastonbury line-up has been announced (keep your fingers crossed for Dolly Parton)

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Secret

     You always made a big deal out of my birthday. There would always be a party, and you would always bake a cake and dance with the neighbours, swinging the women round in your strong arms, twirling little girls and drinking beer with the men. As I got older, you would always phone early and wake me up.

     That’s how I knew that something was up, before Mum called me and told me. It was my birthday, and you hadn’t phoned at 6am. Mum phoned at midday.
“He’s dead, isn’t he?”
     She’d found you on the sofa that morning. Cold cup of tea balanced on the arm, cigarette burnt down to the butt in the ashtray in front of you. You’d been dead for hours. Almost twelve by the time I found out. She hadn’t wanted to tell me, hadn’t wanted to ruin my birthday and make it the day you died. But it was always going to be that day, no matter how long she tried to put it off for.

     The funeral passed in a blur. Crematorium. Pub. Club. You’d always been the one who would encourage everyone to remember the good times. Jake tried to do that for you, to step up to be you but your shoes were too big. Mum had pulled out one of your old suits for him, quickly taken it up and in. I couldn’t believe my son was almost as big as you. It didn’t seem right.

     Afterwards, I drank your best Merlot and went through your things. Mum was asleep so it was just me, on my own with your memories. I heaved boxes down from the loft, knowing Mum would struggle on her own and really thinking I was helping. I thought that I would finally get to know a bit more about you. About the family you never spoke of, of your past before you met Mum and had me.

     The box, when I found it, just looked like any old box. It didn’t have any taped warning, no signs, “no do not open”. So I opened it. And nothing, at first, old photos of you when you were a child – oh, you looked like Jake! Your mother was an austere looking woman, all drawn face and high necked dress. And you had a brother. I never knew this. A letter you’d written home when you were in the army, postcards from far away places. Nestled in between all these things, a single, faded newspaper cutting.

     ‘Local man charged with murder’ and a photo. Of you. ’Gerald Rafferty, 21, of Heddon Street, was today found guilty –‘
I woke Mum up.
“Did you know?” I asked. She shook her head.
“He was 43 when I met him, he seemed so wordly. I was just 19. I didn’t think to ask what he’d been doing, and by the time I did, it just didn’t seem right.”

     I sat on your bed and sobbed quietly.
“Oh, Pandora,” she said.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Saturday, just before midday

so last week I found out that I hadn't won two competitions, neither mslexia nor the writers and artists yearbook. I found both of these things out via the medium of facebook, last wednesday. I felt a little bit sad, as you do, but then when I read the winning story for the writers and artists yearbook competition, I stopped feeling sad because it was so lovely, and much, much better than the story I'd submitted (which I already know how I want to change it in the re-write). I haven't read the mslexia stories yet because I am waiting for my magazine to arrive. although there is a place in my heart for the convenience of reading short stories on my blackberry on the bus, there is a much bigger place in my heart for having a magazine that I carry around with me in my oversized handbag until it becomes a little bit tatty (but not so tatty I can't keep it forever).

so one of my plans for the next few weeks is to re-write, and re-submit. I have Fishtank - which is new, and needs a few minor changes before it goes, and then my lovely little rejects, The Journey, The Lesson and The Shephard.

but as well as all that, some long weekend fun is in order. happily, my lovely pink tent has arrived, so I am, officially, going to be the pinkest girl at Glastonbury. today I am going to town with my friend Azita for some Thai food (mmmmm) and then I'm off to my friend Laura's house for some drinks and Goldie Hawn movies, before they become bastardised by Hollywood

is nothing sacred?

anyway, I must dash. I have an important date with Jack Reacher. bye!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Waves

The waves swooped down on the beach, where Thora was lying with her head on the sand and her feet in the water. They crashed at her toes and dribbled and trickled up her calves. She stretched her arms out to either side, making an angel shape. A sand angel. She was a sand angel. Overhead the sun beat down brightly, making her eyes squint, the light playing and dancing in the corners of her vision. The waves crashed again and this time the water reached her knees. Clouds skirted across the sky, soft white shapes that were too far away to really see properly. She moved her arms again, the coarse sand chafing her newly pink skin. She would burn if she stayed out here much longer. Her mother’s voice resonated in the back of her head, a stern warning to stay out of the sun delivered with a kiss. She didn’t have to heed such warnings anymore. It was the surf’s turn to kiss her this time, as the water reached her thighs, covering the tops of her legs this time, caressing her with its cool hands. She continued to study the sky through her eyelashes. She guessed at what she couldn’t see. She couldn’t see clouds shaped like dinosaurs, she couldn’t see planets, she couldn’t see aeroplanes. She could see the shadow of a man stood above her. She lifted one of her angel wings, placed a hand horizontally against her brows and opened her eyes fully for the first time that day.
“Are you alright? You’re getting wet,” the man said.
“I know. I’m fine, thank you.”
“The water will be up to your neck soon,” he warned.
“That’s ok,” Thora shrugged, her shoulders making little furrows in the sand. “I like the water.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” the man said, stepping over her to continue his way down the beach. Thora was sure. She thought how odd the man was, how earnest. How nice it was that he’d stopped to make sure she was ok. If she hadn’t been ok, she would have very much liked someone just like that to stop and ask how she was. The waves landed again, pushing the water up to her waist this time. Thora wiggled her toes as the froth splashed over her. Behind her, she could hear children playing in the sand, digging a moat, building a fort, waiting for the sea to come and destroy it. What a funny game, what fun they were having. Another crash and the water crept up her sides. The sand underneath her was wet now, with each wave she could feel the pull of the sea tugging at her. Crash, it covered her belly, crash it covered her breasts, crash, it covered her face, her neck, her head and then she was gone. Dragged out into the sea by the sheer force of it, by its willingness to reclaim her. Thora felt her legs fuse together at the ankles, the scales wrapping round her like a piece of chiffon as she kicked her flippers, tested them once or twice and swam.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

National Helen Day

tomorrow is National Helen Day and I am oh so very excited. National Helen Day is a day when Helen's have fun, and they traditionally happen about four times a year. National Helen Days can last anywhere from a few hours, to a few days. anything and nothing can happen during a National Helen Day. most National Helen Days involve presents. past National Helen Days have involved whole series of CSI or Heroes. this National Helen Day, I am introducing Helen to the delights of Medium. National Helen Days can often involve making things, like trees made of wire, or teddy bear keyrings out of leather and felt. some National Helen Days involve Bingo! or Japanese food. I love National Helen Days.

so if you're a Helen, whether you have another Helen to enjoy your holiday weekend with or not, make sure you do something fabulous.

Viva La Helen!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

is that a yes then?

so I've been getting arts jobs emailed to my blackberry for the last few months. every day at about 19.06pm a little email pings its way into my inbox and tells me about writing jobs all over the UK. its pretty cool. I've sent a couple of things on to my friends, and Laura is doing some music reviewing and I eventually submitted an idea the other week. and I've had a response! and it was very nice, explaining what they want and telling me to let them know...what does that mean?!?!?! is that a yes? do they like my idea? (recycled dissertation, I have decided that I might as well put these ideas to good use) anyway, its screenplay format, 12-15 episodes, 4-10,000 words per episode. eeek! so quite a lot.

I've emailed back. watch this space. it would be a lot of work, but it would be nice...anyway, must dash. the boyf is asleep on the couch so I am going to try and wake him up (unlikely) and then I am going to go and watch Medium in bed. series 3 is a bit weirder than the first 2 but I do like it, and am very glad I've made the effort to watch them in order so far. over and out.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


today, on the bus, there was a man with an e-reader. oh, how I stared and stared. see, I've heard a lot about them but I'd never actually seen one before, and now I have I think I am even more dubious than I was before.

these are my reasons...

  • when you're reading, and you need to flick back a few pages, how do you keep your place with one hand, whilst finding whatever you needed to find with the other?
  • what do you do when you need to put your book away, and read something else for a bit? but you need to keep your place in the book you're reading, because you don't want to put it away forever, just for now
  • I doubt an e-reader would survive if you dropped it in the bath (not that I have ever dropped a book in the bath, but I had never dropped anything on my glass-topped coffee table until I was holding something heavy enough to break it)
  • I won't be able to buy e-books in charity shops for £1, which will mean I will not discover as many new authors
  • I won't be able to take e-books back to Barter Books and swap them for credits to buy more books
  • I won't be able to sit cross legged in front of my bookcases and choose what to read next
  • how do you wrap up your favourite e-book and give it to someone you love as a present?
on the plus side, I would have a lot more space in the flat...

Friday, 26 February 2010

earrings = happiness

this week I have received three rejections
1) I didn't get a "writer in residence" thing I applied for
2) I didn't get an interview for the job at the Arts Council
3) My stories weren't selected for the INK festival

so after work, I went and bought myself these...which are possibly, the most god-awful, garishly beautiful earrings known to womankind. I love them very much indeed, and they have made me feel much better about the whole situation. of course I'm getting rejections because I'm actually sending things off and putting myself out there. rejection is a good thing because it is proof of productivity.

this week, I also had a really, really good session at my writing class. we had to write linked scenes (like a real story), and due to a lack of time, I used some passages from The Shepherd (nee The Second, nee The Chosen 2) and got some really useful feedback which made me realise that there is still a fair bit I can do with it. so I'm quite excited to get that back (I should know next month) so I can rewrite it and get it off again. so in that case, rejection would be a very good thing!

tomorrow I am off into town early for breakfast with my friend Mariley, then I have my writing group, then to York with my friend Gareth. next week I need to finish my entry for the Northern Promise Award. busy, busy, busy...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Garden

We bought the house for the garden. An acre of land which just screamed "country" although by the time we moved in "country" had evolved to "jungle". We stood in the doorway on our first night, arms round each other, glasses of merlot resting behind us on the ancient tumble dryer left behind by the previous owner.

"This garden holds some secrets," you said.
I remember how hard you worked, mowing and digging and trimming whilst I busied myself ordering antique wallpaper and trying to get to grips with the Aga. You would come inside after a hard day's landscaping to find that I'd burnt another pie and we had to jump in the convertible and drive to the pub. You cringed every time we went over a bump and I would spend the time complaining about another unwanted piece of rubbish I’d found as I was going through the rooms. We’d never existed together in so many rooms before, the space was a luxury. We turned some heads when we first walked in, but after the initial silence people were friendly enough.

"So you've bought the old Allinson place, have you?"

We didn't know what the old Allinson place was but we nodded anyway. I remember we'd been in there three weeks when you called me into the garden.

"Look at this," you said.

I started screaming then. Hysterically. You had to slap me round the face and take me inside for a medicinal brandy.

"It could be an animal," I said when I could speak again. I had romanticised visions of a kitty funeral, father saying the last rites as the children wept.

"No, it couldn't," you said solemnly. It was your 'I wish I wasn't right but I am' voice. The one normally reserved for squashing my recurring dream of opening a bed and breakfast, or spending £10,000 on a chaise-lounge once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte, with no authentication certificate.

"It’s human," you said. "Definitely human."

The police didn't come straight away. There were some vandals down on Lower Farm and once they'd established that our problem was neither mobile nor particularly fresh, they said they would be there when they could. We went back out into the garden and stared down at the shallow grave. It didn’t look like much. A hole in the ground, a bin bag with a tear in it where you’d struck it with your spade, yellow skull smiling out at us. It didn’t look like a person.

"This is where the roses were going to be," you told me. I said that I absolutely couldn't think about roses right now, I felt too sick.

"That poor soul," I said.

The policeman, when he finally arrived, was nice enough.

"We're going to have to get a forensics team out here," he said. "Probably dig up the whole garden."

"I wish I'd found them earlier," you joked. "You could've have saved me a job."

I could see how disappointed you were. It was your garden, your project. I was upset at the thought of muddy boots trampling all over my reclaimed Victorian parquet flooring.

That night, we went to the pub again. I couldn't face cooking.

"Oliver," you said, putting a reassuring hand on my leg as we pulled into the car park. "It will be ok you know."

"I disagree Tom," I said, turning away. "I don't see how it possibly could be."

The news had obviously already gone round the village by the time we got there.

"I hear you found Linda Allinson," the barman said, giving us our drinks on the house. "Folks've been looking for her for years."

Sunday, 21 February 2010

tidy study, tidy mind?

so I finally got round to it. as a belated happy 30th birthday present to myself, I've moved all the rubbish out, shredded a lot of paper and covered one wall with brightly coloured pictures of the Virgen de Guadalupe. my study is now a lovely place to be. so it makes sense that I've spent the day avoiding it like the plague.

it was the birthday on Thursday, I say the birthday because it is like Christmas mark two in our house, with me being the birthday thief and all - the boyf also has his birthday on 18th Feb but with the dubious distinction of being three years older than me, he doesn't let me forget that he had it first.

the birthday itself was ok, we had a lovely meal, and on Friday met my dad and had another lovely meal, but other things (which I'm not going to go into on here) have made being 30, so far, pretty terrible. I hope I snap out of it and it gets better.

so I'm now sat watching the Baftas, and making myself update this because I feel like I have to do something. I'm also trying to get a good head start on my story for the Bridport Prize which isn't due til June but I really want to give myself enough time to work on it properly. and I'm trying to stretch myself in a few ways, first of all to write something close to the five thousand word limit as my stories typically hover in the one-three thousand mark. secondly, to write something happy and uplifting, as the boyf has been complaining that my stories are too dark. and thirdly, to write something so totally kick-ass that it is capable of getting in the anthology, or, heaven forbid, actually winning. so I've started, and I love my idea. and I know how it starts and I know the major event that happens but at the moment, I have absolutely no idea how to get from the beginning to the end. I guess this is why its so good that I've given myself so much time. I've ordered an old anthology from ebay though, so I can see what I'm up against, and I'm also going to write a piece of flash fiction for it. so far, I have no idea what I'm going to do for that. I think I might do something historical though.

so, here I am, waffling on. I mostly just wanted to feel like I'm doing something constructive, instead of wallowing in my own misery. I find feeling terrible so all-consuming sometimes, its very difficult to write through it. I've been reading a lot today though, which is nice. I'm currently reading The Cromwell Street Murders, The Detective's Story, which is exactly as the title suggests. its research into police procedure. well, thats what I'm telling myself anyway

Sunday, 14 February 2010

go left at the next roundabout and straight on til morning...

I really don't know why I get myself so stressed out and question my ability to follow instructions. I'm a bright girl, I re-read instructions a gazillion times so why can't I ever be confident and think yes, I've done that correctly, there is absolutely no reason for panic.

No, instead, what I think is, oh my lord, you've made some sort of horrible mistake and not only are you going to be disqualified, but the judges are going to laugh at you too. Hmmmm. Watch this space. I find out about this particular competition in March which is like a nano-second in writing competition time. And you never know, they might not laugh at me immediately. I did, after all, pick up on the spelling mistake in the title just in the nick of time...honestly, I must go and drink tea, watch something mindless on tv and stop thinking about this now before I develop a writing competition related ulcer.


Big Hoss whinnied and bucked a little when Pa put the harness on. He wasn’t usually like that. He was a big soft horse. They’d had him since Cally was a little girl.

“What do you want to call him, button?” Pa had asked.

“Big Hoss!” was all she could say. It was a silly name from such a little girl, but it suited him. He sure was a big horse. Cally helped Pa load the wagon, making sure everything was packed away tight so it wouldn’t rattle and break. Cally knew that they would rattle sat in the wagon.

“Little girls are free to make,” Pa told her with a wink. “Good China is expensive.” Big Hoss pawed the ground impatiently.

“Steady there boy,” Pa soothed. Cally stood by and stroked Big Hoss’s soft nose. He wasn’t misbehaving, he was just excited. He wanted to go West.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Lost Boys

     Drake sat on the speaker tapping his black polished fingernails impatiently on the surface. He checked his watch again, the diamonds on the second hand quickly ticking off the minutes. Out of sight on the stage behind him, the support were just finishing.
“Thank you New York! You’ve been amazing! This is our last song – we hope you enjoy it and have a rocking New Years Eve!”
     Drake looked back at his watch. Where was he? Marty wandered over, clipboard in hand, suit looking as fresh as it had when he’d met them at Heathrow sixteen hours before. How did he do that? Drake wondered.
“Is he - ?” Marty started but Drake shook his head. No, Henry was not here. Henry had disappeared as soon as they got to the hotel. No, he did not know where Henry was. It was Marty’s turn to check his watch.
“He’s got about fifteen minutes.”
Drake jumped down off the speaker and started to pace. It was wrong to blame Marty for not being able to control Henry. He hadn’t grown up with him. Drake was the one who should have expected this – the European Tour, the X Factor, the interviews, for gods sake. How many times had he sat there and apologised to journalists for the fact that Henry had failed to show up? Henry was the one they all wanted, voted best looking, most charismatic, best hair cut. He thought he could do what he wanted, that Drake couldn’t get by without him. Well he was wrong.
     The audience roared their approval as the support finished their set and ran off the stage high fiving each other.
“Killer crowd, man!” Brody whooped as they clattered past to their dressing room. In the auditorium, the crowd was getting louder.
“Lost Boys! Lost Boys! Lost Boys!”
“I’m not going on!” Drake said finally, throwing his hands up. “There’s no point.”
“Don’t be such a drama queen,” a voice said from behind him. Drake turned to see Henry sandwiched between two leggy blondes, arms round their shoulders, cigarette in one hand, bottle of Jack Daniels in the other. “The show must go on!” Henry exclaimed. Drake’s face was set in hard lines now, his teeth clenched together.
“Oh, don’t such be a cliché, Drakey,” Henry said, disentangling himself from the blondes and going to put his arm round Drake. “I’m here now, aren’t I?”
“I’m the cliché? I’m the cliché?” Drake shouted, striding away. “I’m not Mr Rock and Roll, chasing the girls, turning up whenever he feels like it!”
“You’re jealous.”
Drake spun round, grabbed Henry by his coolly up-turned collar and slammed him against the wall.
“It was only one night, Drake. Get over it.”
The two men glared at each other. In the background, the crowd continued chanting.
“Right, the rest of the lads are here,” Marty intervened. “Now are you two going to kiss and make up, or shall we call the whole show off?”

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Sunday, Sunday, here again in tidy attire

I have just deleted the blog I posted at 3.30 on account of it being Far Too Miserable. I won't bore you with all of the details, in two short sentences it was...

oh where, oh where has my Sunday gone?


job applications eat my soul

I've since decided that I don't want to whinge, and whinge, and whinge. so I've stopped it!

my plans for the evening include watching tv, and possibly making myself a fish finger sandwich in a bit. and absolutely, definitely NO wallowing in a vat of self pity

Saturday, 6 February 2010

to do

today I am going to...

  1. apply for a job
  2. write a full first draft of a story about Haiti for one of the many competitions that have sprung up
  3. start to re-write The Second (due in next Sun)
  4. drink lots of tea
  5. make Chinese curry
  6. do some washing
  7. (tidy the study)*
the end

* this is in brackets as it is always on my to do list, rarely gets done and sadly never stays done

Friday, 5 February 2010

almuerzo de senoritas

today, I am a lady who lunches in the Cuban stylee.

after a horrendous morning full of irrational fears and lots of tears (I had to go for another blood test, the fourth one in three weeks as they thought I was diabetic but I'm not, I just have high blood sugar, but in this particular blood test my vein collapsed whilst she was doing it and then it took her another two veins before she found one that produced, by which point I was quietly inconsolable). anyhoo, horrible morning, then I decided to get off the bus on Chilli Road and bought a super-cute dress (and a book, and some organic, fair trade dried mango from Burkina Faso, which is a poor substitute for a toffee crisp now I have to cut out sugar) and then on to my friend Mariley's for lunch and writing.

and oh! what a lunch! we had cheese omelette and salad and rice and Cuban black beans - mmmmmmmmmm!!!!!! as the boyf cooks once in a blue sparkly moon, part of me just loves having a nice meal that I've had no input in, but aside from that, it was absolutely delish and prepared with care and beans sent over from Cuba!...and so we ate amazing food, and drank wine (shit morning+day off work+lunch with a good friend = nice pink wine) and gossiped a little and then Mariley talked about Cuba. and then I felt really bad for feeling bad about my life. I have always considered myself open-minded and I've travelled through Asia and have seen things that a lot of my friends haven't seen, but crikey. I've never really understood what free speech means, or considered the constraints that some people have on them, purely for the country they were born in. I have never needed anything, I mean, I've (occasionally) wanted for things I haven't got, but when it comes to actually needing things? no. I've never, ever had to go with out. and I'm currently working myself up to the point of a nervous breakdown because I have to use sweetener instead of sugar in my tea, not eat chocolate every day and am fearful that I've formatted a competition entry incorrectly?

sometimes it just takes a little lunch to help put it all back in perspective...

adios x

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Debut Dagger

so the deadline for Debut Dagger is Saturday. last Monday, I almost gave up, thinking everything was truly awful. then I decided I would aim to get it sent in on Friday. today, I sent it off. my entry number has a few sixes in it (six is my favourite number, I'm taking that as a sign)

woo hoo!

I have been meaning to enter that competition for the last three years. it is, in my mind, the Daddy of competitions, with the real prize being the fact that lots of agents know about it, and could possibly, possibly read my work. and I've done it! hooray for me!

(now, also in tandem with the hoorays is the oh my word, what if somehow the file corrupted and I will forfeit the ever so slightly extortionate £25 entrance fee. bearing in mind that pre-netbook me was the queen of emailing things to herself at work so I know how to attach a file, I still had a major panic and had to call the boyf through to check I'd done it correctly. I am beginning to realise that extremely ridiculous stress is part and parcel of submitting work. at least in my world, anyway)

so, that was the point of this. just to let you all know I did it, and I'm pleased. having the netbook has really helped as I've been able to work when I should have been at work (we provide a face-to-face outreach service three days a week, Shazz and I were down there today and saw no customers for the last four hours. thanks to rubbish IT I can't access my work inbox or anything on my hard drive so can't actually do any real work, but I did loads of writing, he he he)

oh, and I'd also like to say CONGRATULATIONS to the lovely Cally. her card range arrived on the doorstep this week and looks fabulous. you can check her out here. she is ace

right, thats me done. all this being early has tired me out, and I have to go to Washington tomorrow (of all places!!) to talk about customer service. yuk! x

Sunday, 31 January 2010

just some thoughts

today, I'm in a good place writing wise. I think that this can be attributed to two things.

thing one - my gorgeous, lovely and amazing boyfriend has bought me a very new, very shiny, very marvellous netbook for my birthday and has let me have it a whole three weeks early. it totally fits in my handbag. its IMMENSE

thing two - at my writing group yesterday, we did an exercise where we were given a formula to write a story in under an hour. I was sceptical but used the formula for a story thats been in my head for a while which I haven't been able to get out. and it worked! it worked so well, that I have just entered it into a competition that I didn't really think I had time to enter (I also entered Five Minutes, which is on this blog, as nowhere in any of the bumf does it say that stories should not have been published before, hooray!!) so that brings the grand total of stories sent of in January to (drum roll please ) four. thats about all I managed in the whole of last year. so, go me

earlier this week, I was not in such a good place, writing wise. everything I was doing was awful, why was I even bothering, there was no point and I was going to throw everything in the bin etc etc. so I put everything away and luckily had a session with my writing coach who, bless her, managed to convince me that it wasn't awful, and I came to the following conclusions

conclusion one - my internal editor is a picky bitch, who is made more evil when I'm tired, or if I've had a bad day at work, she uses my low moods to get her foot in the door and really stick the boot into my self confidence. so, although I admit she can be very useful (I would say essential but she'd probably just get a big head) I need to ignore her sometimes, or else I would just sit in a corner and cry

conclusion two - my narrative voices have a tendancy to come out with random phrases and observations that they have no business saying. this makes my internal editor go a bit mental and makes the narrative look a so I need to learn to look out for them

right, thats me done. nice as this is, it is not my debut dagger entry so therefore non-essential

Sunday, 24 January 2010

procrastination, procrastination, procrastination

I have lots to do, deadlines that are sneaking up behind me, ready to slap me on the back, shout boo or perhaps push me in the mud. I know they're there, and every so often, I peek over my shoulder to see where they are.

So what else do I do? You would think that I would work on my stories (synopsis and first 3000 words of the big story due 6th Feb, 2000 words on the theme of "Unity" due 12th). Because that would be the sensible thing to do. But thats not what I'm doing. I'm working on lots of other little things, writing stories that don't need to get written yet. At the moment, I feel like I'm overflowing, I'm having ideas left, right and centre and am almost at the end of a notebook started in September (to put this in perspective, I have always had notebooks, always carried them and written in them - never, ever finished them, I normally get bored of that notebook and start another one - story of my writing life). Having ideas is great, I just need to control them.

Right, must go and get on. Much as I like writing this blog, it is not on my immediate to do list...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

organisation, organisation, organisation

January has been a defining month in the grand scheme of getting my act together. its official! I have a cats-in-hats calendar with DEADLINES on it, its just to the left of where I sit, in my study (not where I sit right now, I'm currently in bed, because I am LAZY)

my approach, so far, this month (bar today) has been quite business-like. I have written on a Friday night. I have dragged myself out of bed, in the rain no less, and been in town for 9.30am on a Saturday morning to go to a writing group. I have fixed the printer so I can print things at home (granted, they will only print in blue but thats ok when it is just for me) overall, it is all good. it appears to be working, at some point tomorrow I will send two stories off, taking January's total to three (which is exactly three times the New Years Resolution minimum), so if we could all just take a little moment and give me a round of applause, that would be nice. hooray! hooray!

one thing that helps is planning my stories. tomorrow, I enter the Mslexia competition (deadline is on Monday, ideally, as the year progresses, I will gain an increased sense of urgency and send things off well in advance). I have known for about three months which stories are going in, and I paid for them about an hour ago (paid to enter them, that is, not paid for the stories) thinking that once I had paid I would absolutely definitely make sure I got the last final things done and got them entered. and I will. they're emailed to work and I'm going to go in early and print them and re-check them and send them. but one thing I noticed, when I re-read them, for the first time together is that they are quite similar. well, they are and they aren't. one is a story of a woman going to visit her mother, and the other is a story about a teenage girl, but lets just say I definitely have a theme. which I didn't think I did before. I'm sending them anyway, as I think to deviate from the plan at this stage would be disastrous, and I do think they're both good stories, I just hope that they aren't read one after the other.

in other, non-writing news, the boyf sprained his ankle whilst running the other day and I've never known anything swell up as much but they were very nice down the general and we were seen quite quickly. it is an incredibly severe sprain and he's been off work since Thursday, the swelling is changing, like it has a mind of its own its quite disgusting and for a while looked like an old lady's foot and now (after he dragged himself to the match yesterday) his toes have turned black with the bruising. so, pay attention kids, jogging is dangerous.

we (I) also asked our landlord today if we could have a pet. I think the answer is going to be no, but if you don't ask, you don't get and he is having a think about it so I am keeping everything crossed and just thinking of kittens...

right, must go to bed (well, sleep, I'm already in bed). working full-time+playing nursemaid+writing=tired Bijou

goodnight xx

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

synopsis = pain and frustration

so, I might have mentioned once or twice that I'm battling through a re-draft. plod plod plod. anyway, I'm trying to shape and polish it and enter it into the Debut Dagger competition, for which I need 3000 words (check! have it, just need to make it better) and a synopsis. which I started yesterday and initially found quite cathartic. so this is what getting my thoughts in order feels like! me likey! well, I did likey, until I actually checked the rules and found out that aforementioned synopsis had a limit of 1000 words. 1000 words? are you sure? is that all? cue minor heart palpitations. note to self, check word limits before writing wantonly in future.

so I am just going to have to get it done and edit like I have never edited before. adjectives? no, sorry, no room for you here. nouns...hmmm...well, I suppose you're essential...I predict lots of ugly joined up they've/there'd/she'd and perhaps I can just do without some words altogether, no ifs/buts/the but instead lots of ellipsis's...-...-...-it'll be...written in morse code.

I'm just going to have to get it done. whinging about it won't get the thing written, let alone edited...

right! off I go...on a happier note, I advise everyone to listen to Frank Turner. I got his album from Santa (well, my bro, after giving him strict instructions to buy it for me) and I love him. so there

wish me luck!!!!!!!!!

Friday, 8 January 2010

publication, oh, how sweet you are

Ok, so, check me out!!!!

Not only am I in the magazine, but I am also on the website, and they've linked to the blog. This is almost exactly how the best case scenario dreams played out in my head (the only thing missing are the phonecalls from the prospective agents/publishers but hey, its only been on there a day)

Thank you Mslexia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Happy days. I've been crying. I'm so soft (and watching Got to Dance, it doesn't help)

Woo hooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

ooh! not long now...

So, today I phoned Mslexia, stalker-stylee, to find out when the January issue will be published and they said that it will be within the next day or two.

So then I asked, so if I have that delivered, does that mean I will receive it within the next week? And they said YES!!!

Eeeeeeek!!!!!! I am beyond excited!!! But I am also really quite nervous. What if they haven’t published it? What if they spell my name incorrectly? What if the author (author – eeeek!!!) blurb bit makes me sound like an idiot? What if…what if…blah blah blah, aaaarrrgggghhh!!!!

Monday, 4 January 2010

New Year, Old Resolutions (with a slightly more practical twist)

So let me just start off with a small confession. I haven't written 100,000 words. In fact, I have barely written any words at all. I have, however, eaten a lot of food and learnt how to make kick-ass key lime pie.

But all that is so last year.

This year, my resolutions (which its taken me a couple of days to formulate properly) are (in no particular order)...

  • to enter one competition/send off one submission a month
  • to spend an hour a day on the "big story"
  • to walk home from work a couple of times a week and go on the wii fit
  • to write more original stories for the blog
  • to update said blog more regularly
  • to try all manner of unusual and creative things in a bid to get paid actual money for my writing in the hopes that one day, some day, I may be able to make a career out of it
So my first submission needs to be in by the 15th Jan and is on the subject of "Heaven". When I told the boyf how I had interpreted this, he accused me of being morbid. Morbid? Moi? I don't want to give too much away, let me just say that it is very much focussed on the being dead part of getting to heaven, and how people get dead. I am very happy with it.

After that, I have another submission on the 25th Jan. One of which is an old story that possibly needs a little tweak, the other needs one final big sit down re-write but is almost there. So thats two competitions, in my first month! And I have February's planned too. And I have spent some time on the big story today (which, for the record, I am no longer counting in words. I am now counting in double-spaced passable first draft pages, of which I have seventy five. I mean, this is the kind of shit I could print and not cry over, its happy days), and now I am updating the blog. So nah nah nah New Years Resolutions, I am getting there!

In other news, Saturday is psychic night at Bijou Towers where the girls come over to drink wine and eat buffet food and a psychic comes over and we take turns to go down to the spare bedroom and pick stones and have our secrets relayed to us by our dead relatives. It promises to be F.U.N.

And on that note, I am off. Got to go and have a tidy round and pick out my outfit for work tomorrow so I can have an extra five minutes in bed in the morning. Boo real life, boo to you.