Saturday, September 29, 2007

A quiet week

There I was thinking to myself ‘I think I want a quiet week’. So, why is it that when I hibernate the rest of the world goes bonkers? In the week where I didn’t turn my computer on it seems that memes and challenges and online literary magazines have been launched!

So I’ll start with the biggun. If you are a regular here, you will remember that during the summer I risked life and limb to go and take some photos. I was annoyed with the traffic on two counts that day. For a start it made me too scared to cycle and then it kept getting in the way of my photos, but Derec has done a nice crop job on them I thought. So go here to see the first edition of Blag, an online Literary and Arts Magazine. And yes...

too. You’ll find many another blogger there and some pretty good articles too.

I think I’ve already mentioned that Seamus over at Shameless Words has a new collaborative writing project up and running, but there is a new part, so go here to see that.

And then Maht at Moon Topples is doing something called Phoctober. He’s going to take lots of picture posts during October and he has challenged us fellow bloggers to join in too. My camera has been a bit neglected these last few weeks, so I may just chuck it in the bag and have a bit of an attempt... or I might cheat! Is that bad?

Oh and I finally sent Coven of One onto the next leg of its Book Tour. It hasn’t gone too far, just outside of Paris, but it is now with Sam over at Sam’s Spot, so there should be a new review up soonish and then who knows where it will go next.

And then it seems to have been a bit of a slow writing week. I managed a paragraph and a bunch of orange post its. I’ve renamed the main character of the story, very long short story, mmm, whatever it’s going to be and I’ve tried to map out where the story is going to go. The criticism last week was very good so now all I need is some time with it. It’s growing in my head, but it isn’t jumping out onto the page yet.

Oh and the boots have started to come out, just the red and green ones so far, but soon it will be time for heating and the big black jackboots with stripy tights and then the hibernation will start for real. I quite like winter really.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What? Me good at Writing?

So far in my blogging life I have managed to escape the bulk of these meme things that float around every now and again, but then this summer I got hit with a Thinking Blog Award. That was nice and quite easy; all I had to do was whack the thing up on my blog and pass it on. Then came the Schmooze award, again, not too much trouble, whack it up, pass it on. But now there is a new one floating around, one that instantly made me go GAH! Scarlett has asked me to divulge 5 strengths I have as Writer. This meme is super difficult because not only do I have to think, but I also have to be positive about myself. I also think that I’m still learning, so while I have chosen 5 things, I also hope that I will continue to learn and improve. So without further ado 5 strengths:

Dialogue: Apparently I write good dialogue.

Criticism: Like art, a piece of writing is never finished, so good constructive criticism is always helpful and I’m very open to it.

Solitary Confinement: I’m quite into my own company, and you need to be able to spend a fair amount of time on your own if you’re going to sit down and write for long periods of time.

Observation: I like people watching and listening. Some of the classic little snippets that I observe end up in my writing, with my own little twist of course.

Motivation/Addiction: Just don’t seem to be able to stop doing it. Well that’s got to be a strength hasn’t it?

And now I need to choose 5 people. The difficult bit with that is choosing 5 people who haven’t already been picked, so sorry if you’ve already been tagged but here goes:

Jude at Jude’s Writing Corner

Seamus at Shameless Words

David at Witnessing I am

Sam at Sam’s Spot


Marie at Deep Thinker

Oh and while I’m at it, Seamus has started something up at The Shameless Writing Circle. Go and have a wee peek.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

In the Presence of Greatness

A couple of weeks ago I took the beginning of one of the millions of versions of The Trelawney Funerals to the writing group and it went down a storm, but since then two weeks have gone by and I was beginning to spot some of the faults with the ending and remembered why this was version 3 of the many versions and why I wasn’t happy about it. Still, that’ what writing groups are about aren’t they? So I took it along regardless to see if my fellow writing fraternity could help me iron it out. As I read doggedly through it I was aware of voices outside the room. There is always a certain amount of distraction just beyond the doorway what with this particular book shop being a major tourist attraction, but you learn to lose yourself in your writing. When Dan the Man (the guy who runs the writing group) crossed the room and removed the tourist stopping chair from the doorway, I may have frowned, but I ploughed on and the two women who crossed the room did so quietly and quickly.

And so I stopped and everyone was struck dumb with the really heavy ending, so I suppose it was quite good that Dan said: “Could you just recap the bit I missed when I went to let Jeanette Winterson cross the room.”

That proved to be quite difficult because my jaw had just clunked onto the floor. “Jeanette Winterson crossed the room when I was reading?”


“Why didn’t you tell me?”

I’m sure I got quite good criticism, but every now and again I was a little distracted by the fact that Jeanette Winterson had walked across the room. “Why did I have to be reading?” I moaned. “I would have bowed down to her excellence,” which I suppose would just have embarrassed me later. “I could have licked her feet.” I was obviously really losing it. “What did she look like?” A slightly more normal question.

I have to say that in the bright midday light, I’m even more gutted. Claire did, in her rather matter of fact, down to earth way ask me later what I would have said had I not had my head buried in 13 pages of double spaced type.

“Uggggh, ehhm, eh, um oh, hello,” I replied.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Inner Voice

Did you know that Bridget Jones’s Diary started out its life in The Independent or that when Andrew Marr was editor of The Independent he was sacked spectacularly? No, neither did I, but thankfully I have currently reached the chapter called All about Me, in Andrew Marr’s book, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism. Actually, it’s not really called that, but it is all about him and he is now succeeded in making me think that the world over is full of Mickey Mouse institutions.

Apart from that I went to my first Scubwee (SCBWI) ‘Event’. I was a little worried about the whole thing when an e mail came round telling us to bring ‘nibbles’. My eyebrow arched as far as the brow could go and I took to wondering about that little animated mouse again. My contribution was hastily prepared (little round toasts with a hunk of cheese chucked on top) and when I arrived I noticed the pile of books that sat before Mary and Marcie before the bottles of wine; these guys were serious. They were also as generous with their wine as they were with their advice and to say that I am all a little overwhelmed is an understatement. Do this, don’t do that, write this, go there, go here and that’s just the advice about getting an agent and trying to get published. It was a rather sobering doze of realism, but thankfully I’m big into fantasy, so I’m not put off yet.

We talked about voice and what it was and then analysed a couple of pieces to see if the ‘voice’ was right. I don’t know about you but I’ve always assumed that voice is what the reader hears in their head. It’s like the thread that sews the book together and if the thread breaks or there are knots, it doesn’t work as well as if your sewing is seamless, but it’s true that that doesn’t describe what it is. Someone else’s notes (oh yes, there were handouts), described it as who the writer is and who the character is combined equals voice. Rennie Brown and Dave King in Self Editing for Fiction Writers say: The trick to bringing out a strong voice from yourself is ‘not to concentrate on it.’ It can’t be taught. Hmm?

We split into littlies and grumpy moody teenager group and the crunch moment was upon us. I pulled out the double spaced sheets (evidence that I am back at work and no longer using my own paper – although I did print on both sides in an effort to save paper) hands shaking and passed around page 1 of chapter 1 (and obviously page 2 as well). “I think if we stop at the bottom of page one that will be fine.” I mumbled and the chosen one began to read. It’s interesting hearing the voice in another accent, because if I have become aware of anything this last year, it’s that my ‘voice’ is BRITISH. There are things I will not compromise in my writing, but at the same time I don’t want my language to be so obscure that it’s limited, so it’s always an interesting exercise to get another accent to read your work. I guessed when they all flipped over to page 2 that things were going well. When the group leader had to force us to stop reading I began to feel a little proud. The good news is THEY LIKED IT. While I recognise that I still have a lot of work to do, my head is feeling very bloated and I wandered around on a little cloud of inner glow yesterday!

I also realised where I had met Mary before. It was at a baby shower, where I had turned up late and flustered and as the whole room looked on I handed over my gift to the expectant mother in a plastic bag. When Mum to be’s face began to crease I wondered what I had put in the bag. It was the present, I was sure; it had been banging softly and squeaking against my knee all the way there. Mum to be pulled out the book and read the title: “A hundred years of Dyslexia? Are you trying to tell me something about my kid?”

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Week of the Wanderer

I’ve been reading Andrew Marr’s short history of British Journalism called ‘My Trade’. I once considered an alternative career as a journalist, but not very hard and if Marr’s descriptions of the trade are anything to go by I don’t drink enough by half and I don’t seem to have the nose for hard news. I would probably write the ‘Strangely Enough’ stories because those are the ones that interest me: the Japanese man on a motorcycle who hit the central reservation and drove on for a while missing the lower half of his leg without realising, or the other motorcyclist who popped in to see his girlfriend for five minutes and came out two hours later to discover that his prosthetic hand that he had left attached to the bike had been stolen.

Or maybe I would write a diary column, but not about the rich and famous, but the everyday and mundane such as the guy whose sense of dress was so poor that he fully distracted me from reading anymore of ‘My Trade’. There I was clutching onto the bar to stop myself staggering all over the train when over the top of it I espied a melange of colours that surely should never be seen together: dark blue with orange pinstripes. It was so shocking that I soon realised that it was responsible for the fact that I kept losing my place on the page. I kept the book there so I could hide the fact that my jaw was falling lower and lower, but he must have seen my eyes grow to saucers when I spotted the vertically striped shirt in varying shades of pink and grey. The silver tie that lay on top of it was yet another colour to add to the bizarre palette. I wondered if I should say something, but thankfully tact intervened and told me that a mere foreigner should never give a French man fashion tips, even if his wardrobe is visually disturbing, his ego may never recover.

And the Scottish fans arrived. Although I somehow missed them and in fact had no idea that there was a French/Scotland Euro 2008 qualifying match, I have carefully reconstructed this story from eyewitness accounts. My contact on Tuesday’s Eurostar confirms that the fans were as pissed as farts even as they travelled over to Paris and the bar of said Eurostar was impossible to enter unless you were wearing a kilt. By Wednesday, the bekilted ones had all congregated on the Champ de Mars (behind the Eiffel Tower) along with bagpipes, kegs of Heineken, boxes of wine and various other liquids. While thousands imbibed drink there, many choose to drive Wang (he of the local after work bar) mad by drinking vast quantities there. Then at 6 o’clock, as one, the fans began to move. The parade was made up of bagpipers leading the way – which woke up the Scot who had fallen asleep in Wang’s, one hand clasping his pint, his other thumb still on his mobile phone in the middle of typing a text message. Behind the pipers came the general rowdy loud mouths who provided rousing renditions of popular Scottish songs. Behind them came the pissheads who generally pissed, puked or passed out along the way to the Parc de Princes. Locals remarked that they had never seen so much pee in Paris and this is the city where men frequently do their business in very public places. Next in the Parade were the first clean up squad, those friendly CRS officers decked out in riot gear picked up the fallen and piled them into a huge meat wagon. And lastly came the Paris street cleaners, so that by the time the fans were all safely in the stadium the chicest quartier of Paris began to think that the Tartan Army had been merely a dream; until they all piled out triumphant having beaten France 1-0 two hours later and partied till it was time to go home.

Lastly was the England v South Africa Match. Obviously having no interest in Rugby myself I chose to go for happy hour drinks on DiscoBlue. It’s very blue and I leave before the disco starts. I’ll digress a little hear to talk about my very lovely ‘come hither’ shoes. I own three pairs of shoes with a heel, and I very rarely wear them and for some reason the rather gorgeous peeped toe pair caught my attention last night and I thought to myself: Why do I never wear these? The answer being the rather lovely different shades of ties that attach them to my feet always come undone and they are bloody uncomfortable. So on form we all trouped off to go to a Lebanese restaurant before the disco started; we being a friend, her husband that I met for the first time and her in-laws that I was also meeting for the FIRST time. The restaurant was not close, in fact it seemed to be halfway across Paris, a long enough walk for those beautiful ties to all slip undone and tangle themselves up around my feet as I rabbited on unaware until I did something resembling a remarkable flying rugby tackle along a Paris pavement. Had I been on the field at Stade de France I may have done better than the England squad who got trounced 36-0. And maybe I wouldn’t have been so bloody mortified as I was escorted to a taxi at the end of the evening with the beautiful shoes in my handbag.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Once upon a Blog

I have been having a wee conversation with a fellow blogger about blogging. OK, I know this is a tired and well trodden path, except I’m going to be very egocentric and focus only on ME and BLOGGING (because that hasn’t been done before either has it?)

I started blogging because I had a blog. Does that sound cockeyed? OK, how about I start with: I had a blog...

I had a blog that was supposed to be a way for me to co-write with a friend. We never did it because it wasn’t the right thing for my friend. So I had this sad and lonely blog thing that wasn’t doing anything and I kept looking at it. Eventually I tentatively typed up an entry from my journal and learnt never to do that again, that first post is cringey and just embarrassing, but hey ho, you live and learn.

So a 180+ posts later I write about writing, sometimes it is my writing, I write about travelling, I write about issues that I find interesting, things that I think are interesting, reviews of things that you might like: films, book, stuff. I am far more aware of my audience; in fact I have even become friends with some of my audience. I gave myself a mandatory word limit; basically if it’s over the page when I’m typing it in WORD it’s too damn long. There are also many days when I don’t write... on the blog that is, basically because I have nothing to say.

Having said that I do have a little something to say today: I joined Scubwee on Monday (aka SCBWI) and have signed up to do a MASTER CLASS with Sharon Darrow. I’ve never heard of her, but it sounds quite cool. I was hoping to let my MS mulch a little bit longer, but there’s a pre Sharon study group next week! Eek and we’re going to be doing something about ‘zinging’ and ‘zipping’ and ‘glowing’! It all sounds very, ehm, scary actually. And they are ALL looking forward to meeting me! AAAH! What if I’ve written a pile of crap?

So I have just over a week to work on Chapter 1. I’m trying to give myself realistic goals. I think one chapter a week is manageable, slow, but manageable and then during holidays I can up that to a chapter a day (or two days).

But back to blogging... It’s not about the numbers or the massively huge readership, it’s really about you guys. Over the last year and a bit I’ve gone from a wannabe writer to one who has finished a first draft of a MS. If I’ve done that it’s because YOU have constantly left supportive and positive comments. YOU have given me that little lift when I’ve needed it and you have respected what I needed to do. So basically, I guess I just wanted to take this opportunity to say THANKS, Merci, Gracias y Grazi (and possibly arigato, but I’m not a 100% sure about that one, and have no idea about the spelling!)

A bientôt.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A great deal of nothing much

So it’s been a nothing much kind of week, no earth shattering revelations or get my blood boiling moments. I went back to work and moved into the new building. Going through boxes of stuff was kind of good though, I found all kinds of things I had forgotten about including a poem and story.

Scarlett asked me if I was going to put my book up on the blog. I know that quite a lot of fellow bloggers have done this, but I’m veering away from this, I don’t find the critiquing that helpful and when I trawl through publisher’s sites there always seems to be a wee rule saying ‘never published before, including the web’. I think I need to hold onto that dream of the multi-million penny publishing deal first. I can be optimistic can’t I?

I had a look through the short story website today; it’s a pretty good database of current competitions. Through it I found a couple of sites that seemed interesting. Well there’s one that I thought was a little dubious if truth be told. The concept behind StoryWar seems to be that depending on the number of views and votes your story gets you get into this Top 50 chart. The other site was Lightningbug for beginning writers or those with a bit of a block. It has prompts and several other resources on it. There’s a page on it about what kind of writer you are, obviously you can fall into more than one category, it’s not a quiz though so don’t expect earth shattering questions.

I also had a look at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators this week. Again this is something I’m not too sure about. They have a pretty healthy ‘chapter’ going in Paris, but I’m always a bit loathe to part with my wonga, so if anyone can let me know about this group I’d be happy to hear.

Apart from that the Rugby World Cup started. My initial reaction to his was: Oh great the metro is packed. I don’t get rugby at all; big men, funny shaped ball, fairly violent. My other observation about rugby is that posh boys play it. See sweeping generalisations and no idea about it whatsoever. We started looking at the opening ceremony on the TV after the jets had swooped by scaring the bejesus out of us. It all seemed very odd, the guys seemed to be straight off the set of Alice in Wonderland in stripy long shorts and primary coloured tops with spiky shoulders and a black pattern on the front. I like that congenial atmosphere that watching sport engenders, but I remember watching the six nations a couple of years ago. There were a whole bunch of us and Ireland needed to win by a lot to come first. I understood that, but Claire and I felt like we had wondered onto this alien planet where we no longer comprehended the language or behaviour. No, it’s just not football is it.

Right, I now have to listen to a demo and give constructive criticism about it. Jane is one proud mother and is convinced that her son, the Big D will one day be the next Folk/pop sensation. He’s pretty good from the thirty seconds or so that I heard before turning it off because I couldn’t hear a damn thing through Jane’s running commentary! Personally I’m always impressed if someone can play bar chords because that’s something I never mastered, but even with my mastery of six or so chords I can tell that this boy has talent. Still that’s not quite the sort of constructive criticism he wants though.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Coven of One

Dorcas Fleming is a hegewitch of many talents, some of which not even she is aware of. When she graduates from Summerlands College on the feast of Samahain, none is more surprised than she to learn that her task lies far in the heathen south. Far from the comfort of her Coven, in a land that fears witches, she alone is faced with discovering the curse of Porthaveland.

Kate Bousfield’s first book, a mysterious tale of Pagan festivals, witchery and many a cup of tea drags the reader in without a second thought. Dorcas’s world is filled with humour and tender moments and the reader can easily relate to the characters. Coven of One hooked me from the first to the last page and apparently there is more to come. So if you haven’t read Coven of One, I thoroughly recommend you let a little purpleness into your life.

And now that I have entered Dorcas’s realm I’m passing her on to Sam who can be found at Sam’s Spot. Enjoy the ride Sam.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Purple Mail

So there I was yesterday feeling at a bit of a loose end when I went downstairs and opened my mailbox. I was expecting some sort of courrier informing me that my ten month work sentence starts on Monday, but instead it was rather book shaped squishy little thing. “No,” I feverishly began to tear open the package. “It can’t be,” I scrabbled at the ripped open edge to pull out the contents. “It can be!” I stared at its glossy purple cover. “It is be!” I exclaimed as I opened the cover and saw my name there.

I took it with me on my little shopping excursion with Claire. “Look!” I waved it at her. “The first book where the author has written a little message to ME.” Then I frowned. “Actually that’s not true Jack Gantos signed my copy of Joey Pigza swallowed the key.” But then I smiled. “No, the first author I nearly really know who has written a little message to me.” Then I frowned again. “Shame I can’t keep it.”

But you see keeping it is not the deal. This is the deal: a couple of months ago Kate Bousfield otherwise known as Minx ran a Small but Perfectly Formed Competition. Unfortunately what with it being during crazy silly season, I could only watch as the entries came in and I knew that I would not be one of the winners (well it stands to reason doesn’t it, if you don’t enter you can’t win). But ever generous Minx didn’t leave it at that, she then decided to run another little thing. For a kindly PLEASE, Minx would send the book to you and it would go on a kind of book tour without the author. It’s a simple deal really: you read the book, you review the book (on your blog and Amazon) and you pass it on. So who wants to read a Coven of One next? I only got it yesterday and I’m already on page 148.

If you would like to be part of this book tour then drop me a please in the comments box with your e mail address.

More information about a Coven of One can be found here.


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