Archive | January 2008

Meeting New Friends


Despite butterflies in my tummy and the heart-stopping panic I felt when waiting outside WH Smiths at Euston station for Kev and Mercedes the Wannabe Meet-up was everything I thought it would be, and more.

This morning, the experience has left me kneeling at the feet of the power of the written word more than ever before.

None of my fellow bloggers looked like their photos, and I don’t suppose I did either. I now realise that photographs are two-dimensional images and no more; it takes the talent of a real artist to bring them to life. However, the multi-dimensional, multi-faceted and multi-coloured human personality can be captured precisely by the power of the written word.

Caz, Denise, Fiona, Jane, Lane, Linda, Mercedes and Mother X were every bit the lovely women I admire in blogland and in Sunday chats for their skills in showing us, through words, aspects of life we can all identify with and yet never seem to see for ourselves. Their personalities exactly mirrored those I had conjured up in my mind, even though I don’t think anyone looked like their photos. This phenomenon can only be down to one thing, and that is their considerable skill in manipulating the written word.

Kev is the only man I felt I had come to know through cyberspace – as, poor bloke, he is outnumbered by us nattering women in blogland and in the chat room. I recognised him immediately from his photo, and yes, he was every bit the perfect gentleman I imagined him to be. Quiet and yet perceptive and creative, he came out with some little gems during the day.

Liz, Barry, Wayne and Mike I’d never communicated with before yesterday, either in blogland or in the chatroom. By the end of the day I felt an incredible affinity with them, because, just like all of us, they were writers.

I don’t know how to say thank you to all of you for the lovely day I had yesterday. I only hope I didn’t talk too much, as once I start I find it difficult to shut up! I hope our friendship endures throughout the coming years and we can celebrate together as we all, one by one, become published authors.



London (continued)

The Bad News: Colleague off sick today; couldn’t get out to the shops at lunchtime; and then, to top it all – I have to work tonight to cover sick colleague’s Planning Committee.

The Good News: At home this afternoon (because working tonight); spending some unexpected time in blogland and realising that everyone else is a bit nervous too; just had a big bag of giant chocolate buttons instead of lunch so feel very giggly and naughty.

PS Not wearing jeans tomorrow because bum looks enormous from the back in them and belly spills over the top somewhat. Now … just off upstairs to put back all the clothes I’ve been trying on in an effort to find the right outfit. I don’t usually give two monkeys about being fat, but today I wish there was a miracle pill you could take and lose about five stone overnight. Diet most absolutely and definitely starts on Thursday, fellow bloggers.

See you all tomorrow lunchtime!

London on Wednesday

Right. Do I wear black trousers or jeans. Do I wear my black posh coat that makes me look like a granny, my tweedy bit less-posh jacket that my daughter likes and has borrowed (so must be just a teeny bit funky), my faithful old parka or my olive green suede jacket. I could wear a skirt, though. My long black one? Oh no! Can’t wear a skirt because would have to wear long black boots. Definitely not. Wore them yesterday and they absolutely KILLED my feet. Do I wear a jumper or dressy-up top? Or perhaps that new top I bought in the sales – mind you it might hang below my tweedy bit less-posh jacket. Will have to wear old faithful shoes – will have to polish them before Wednesday because they’re a bit muddy – can’t risk my feet hurting – might have to walk a bit. How far is it from St Pancras to Euston? Should I risk walking and getting lost or get the tube?

Oh – bloody hell. Will have to go shopping tomorrow lunchtime. Haven’t got a single thing to wear!

Dare I park in the Council car park and walk to the station? Someone might see me. I might have to talk to someone who says “where are you going?” What will I say? Could park in the station car park but that will cost a fiver for the day when I could park at work for nothing. Oh no! What if I see someone I know on the train or at the station!

Ohmigod! I’m going to London. On my own, to meet people I’ve never met before. What if Kev and Mercedes forget me and leave me at Euston?

Lane – your daughter is right! She’s a good sensible girl. I’m putting my photo back up on the blog for a day because I need people to know I’m not really a bloke called Arthur with a pierced whatsit and rude tattoos. I’ll put up a nice mumsy/granny one this time so that Lane’s daughter won’t worry.

Must remember to charge phone. Download Christmas pics off camera. Don’t forget camera. Don’t forget phone. Take some tissues in case get overcome with emotion and snivel. Remember comb so don’t look like Ken Dodd when meet Kev and Mercedes.

Do I just hold out my hand and say “how nice to finally meet you.” Really formal. No. Perhaps not. Will I make a prat of myself? Just say “Hello?” Try not to talk with a ‘Ketrin’ accent.

Must remember to tell someone not to let me have more than four alcoholic drinks UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Four is absolute limit or else will act really silly and do things like shutting my eyes so no-one can hear what I’m saying. Or like on New Year’s Eve 1999 when tried to snog son-in-law for saving husband’s life when a big mega firework hit the tree!

Moles, Joy-Riding and Dire Straits

Actually quite pleased to be tagged – I couldn’t think of a single thing to blog about today, and it’s not like me to be lost for words, Tom Foolery thanks for saving the day.

The idea of this tag is that you have to state six quirky, odd things about yourself, or little habits. Not big scary life-changing confessions or anything – just little bits of strangeness.

My husband says I’ll have no trouble finding at least ten times that amount of peculiar facts about me. (Git,) Right, here we go.

1. I don’t know my left from my right without looking to see where my wedding ring is (know that wedding ring goes on left hand – see?)

2. Years ago I had a troublesome moley thing on my boob, which had to be removed. It was actually a third nipple and caused much hilarity and innuendo. My best friend very sympathetically said I would have been dunked as a witch in the olden days. (Cow.)

3. I went joy riding at the age of fifteen. My mum said I was in with the wrong crowd and easily led. I agree with her excuse completely.

4. I failed my eleven-plus exam and went to a mixed-sex secondary modern school, much to the horror of my parents. Five children from my class were selected – but weren’t told what the test was – to have another chance at thirteen). I passed, was congratulated by the Head Teacher and given a letter to give to my parents, saying I could transfer to the High School. I ripped it up, threw it in the hedge on the way home and kept my mouth shut because there was no way in the world I was going to go to an all-girls school. A subsequent, posted, letter came during the Easter holidays addressed to my dad. I intercepted it, typed a very eloquent reply on mum’s typewriter, forged my dad’s signature and voila …. no-one ever knew! That is, until the parent consultation night at the end of the summer term … oops, forgot about that, didn’t I?

5. My most favourite track ever is “Why Worry” by Dire Straits. I have it in the car, on CD in the kitchen and on my MP3 player which goes everywhere with me. I bet I’ve listened to it most days for the last twenty-odd years. It’s better than popping a Prozac when you need 8 minutes and 31 seconds of immersing yourself in a little bubble of self-indulgence and escaping from the world and everyone in it. A close second in the “Prozac” category is 10cc “I’m not in Love” and Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”.

6. I am hopelessly clumsy and have no co-ordination whatsoever. Dancing is out of the question (see No. 1). I got banned from ballet lessons at the age of five because of it and caused devastation at aerobics thirty years later.

Now, I tag the following Mercedes, Captain Black and Mother X

The small print: Link to the person that tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. Tag random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.

Prevarication and flying the nest

Twisted Garlands second edit is complete. The synopsis is done.

So why, then, am I reluctant to send it out, even for a professional critique, which I know I ought to do?

Because I’m scared. I want to hold on to it. The comparison of writing a novel with giving birth is accurate except, for me, there was no pain. I really enjoyed writing Twisted Garlands. The first edit was like bringing up the child – a bit difficult but nothing more than I could cope with.
The worst part, for me is now. I’ve raised the child. I’ve guided the teenage novel through the difficult times when my readers gave me feedback and I did a second edit. Now the fledgling is ready to be cast out into the world; just like my eldest son who has just left home.

It feels very similar, except a mother can’t really tell a 25 year old grown man that she really just wanted to keep him safe at home with her and his dad and that he needn’t have gone and got a mountain of a mortgage just because other people said to him “What? You’re still living at home with your mum and dad?”

I could do that with my book if I wanted to. I could hug it to me and keep it just for me. Safe and shielded from rejection and criticism. But I don’t think I’d be doing it justice. Exactly the same as if I’d kept my quiet, gentle son shielded from the world in the family nest, and believe me, it would only have taken one word from us and he’d have been content to carry on living here. After all, he has had his house since the beginning of May last year. Prevarication personified was Garry. He admitted that he liked living at home and didn’t really want to move out. He even talked about renting it out to cover the mortgage.

“For God’s sake, Garry,” we said, “most people your age would give their right arm to be in your position.”

He finally moved out two days before Christmas. He doesn’t have a girlfriend so he’s living alone with Barney, his labrador. I could have cried buckets when he finally went because I couldn’t bear the thought of him being lonely.

A month later he’s happy and content. We still see him every day because he brings Barney in the morning and fetches him in the evening so he’s not in the house on his own all day. He has lots of friends of both sexes and a great social life. He’s a bit hard-up, as you’d expect, but I help him out by cooking his evening meal, which he sometimes takes with him to microwave at home and sometimes eats with us. Sometimes he cooks himself if he has friends coming round.

You often have to let someone, or something, go, even though your heart is screaming out to you to keep it close. If I were to squirrel Twisted Garlands away and not let it see the light of day again I wouldn’t be doing the right thing.

Just like I wouldn’t have been doing the right thing by my son to let my heart rule my head and let him take the easy road in life.

Meeting Jack Trelawny

On Saturday I went into Kettering Town Centre and wandered into Waterstones for a quick browse.

In a corner of the children’s section was a small desk piled high with books and posters. It was a book signing and I hadn’t heard about it. People were walking by and ignoring the poor bloke when I was there – hopefully it picked up a bit later on. There hadn’t been much publicity locally, which I think was a shame because I’m sure lots of children would have loved to have met him.

I spent a pleasant few minutes chatting to him about his experiences when he was trying to get published. He was incredibly helpful to me, giving me some tips about writing a synopsis and presenting my work. He reckons that if you submit something that is well presented , with no spelling, punctuation or grammar mistakes and you are polite in your initial letter then you are at an advantage straight away. This advice echoes that of Jane Wenham-Jones in her book.

He did recommend self-publishing initially, but I said I wouldn’t really be interested in that. He said he knows several authors who have successfully started out in this way.

He is a really nice man and I wish him well with his Kernowland books, the first of which is “The Crystal Pool”. I have a signed copy to give to my grandson when he is older and, who knows, he might turn out to be the next J K Rowling!

Me Me about Writing

What’s the last thing you wrote?
Apart from work stuff yesterday, a short story called A² + B² = C²

Was it any good?
I got a little tingle of something in my tummy after I had finished it. But there again – this blasted Novovirus is going around! (Kev – that reminds me, I need to e-mail it to you as you kindly offered to look at it for me.)

What’s the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
An account of how I was feeling at 6.00am on the morning I got married in 1975 (I was 19). Photo of it at the top of this blog.

Write poetry?
I like writing poetry, but I’m not very good at it, and I have to be in the right frame of mind.

Angsty poetry?
No – I’m not generally an angsty person.

Favourite genre of writing?
To write: Saga. To read: Family Sagas, Thrillers; Science Fiction if not too outrageous; Chick-lit (on holiday);

Most fun character you ever created?
Gloria – a lady who ran a Dinner Party Agency – she was scatty to the extreme.

Most annoying character you ever created?
Tom, the main character in Twisted Garlands. He got inside my head and controlled his own character. He woke me up in the night frequently with inappropriate ideas for the plot and I couldn’t get him out of my mind.

Best plot you ever created?
See below – “favourite thing you’ve written”. It got results and tugged at my Grandad’s heartstrings. I don’t think my mum ever really forgave me though …..

Coolest plot twist you ever created?
Four weeks of howling gale, sub-zero temperature and blizzards (Ha Ha! Geddit?)

How often do you get writer’s block?
I just HAVE to write, no matter what, where or when, and I usually drop everything else when the urge comes over me. If I can’t think of anything to write I read or knit instead.

Write fan fiction?

Do you type or write by hand?

Do you save everything you write?
I started to save everything in the early 1980s, but wrote loads of stuff before then that has mainly been chucked out. Probably just as well!

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
If I get an idea and discard it, it tends to play on my mind if it’s worth using.

What’s your favourite thing that you’ve written?
When I was 12 I wrote a story for my grandad about a 12-year old girl who had asked for a dog for her birthday every year since she was two. The girl had a wicked, wicked mother who bought her birthday presents she didn’t really want every year. I wrote about how unhappy she was and how all she ever wanted in the world was a dog.. She didn’t want a new bike for her 13th birthday because she wanted to walk everywhere with a dog on a lead.

It worked! He nagged my mum, made her feel like a very bad mother and I got Lucy, a little brindle cairn terrier, for my 13th birthday!

What’s everyone else’s favourite story that you’ve written?
A story about a big fish in a little pond called Reg Barbel and how he ducked and dived out of the way of Percy Pike whilst terrorising all the little Baby Breams. I wrote it as a joke for a colleague when he retired (his name was very similar to Reg Barbel and he was a keen fisherman). I was mortified when he read it out at his presentation to about 150 people who all fell about laughing. The only thing was that Percy Pike was identifiable as the Council’s Chief Executive ….. ooops!

Do you ever show people your work?
Up until September this year the answer would have been NO, NO, NO!

There are now a select few and they know who they are (mainly my new best friends who are also bloggers and wannabes). We’re all in the same boat really, aren’t we? We need to get our work out there to get constructive feedback, but it’s like walking naked round a supermarket when people read what you’ve written.

Did you ever write a novel?
Just finished my first.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
Having had three angsty teenagers of my own I’ve no wish to create any more in my head! Romance: if I write romance myself I think it’s corny and too slushy. I have to be in the right frame of mind to read romance too.

What’s your favourite setting for your characters?
I feel most comfortable setting my stories in places I know. I’d love to write a story set in Ibiza – it’s my favourite place in the whole world. Such a rich mixture of colour and character and yet so quiet and peaceful outside the touristy areas.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Dunno. Several short stories. I’m currently working on the second edit of Twisted Garlands and I’ve started another novel.

At work, I’m in the middle of a submission for the LGC awards which I really hope doesn’t get anywhere. I don’t want to have to get dressed up like a trussed cockerel in drag and have to smile at stuffy local government clones and eat melon balls in red wine which I promptly drop all down my nice cream dress into my lap ….

Do you want to write for a living?
I already do I suppose. But it’s not REAL writing. I want to be a real writer and have a book on the shelves in the fiction section of the library.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Get real! The Council got short-listed for an award based on a submission I had written last year.

Ever written something in script or play format?

What are your five favourite words?
Misled (for years and years I didn’t realise it was “mis-led” and thought it was pronounced “mizzled”. Spiderpig. Numpty. Brainiac. Holiday.

Do you ever write based on yourself?
No. But I have written in the past based on the person I might have been had I not failed my eleven-plus!

What character have you created that most resembles yourself?
My characters wouldn’t want to be like me. Too predictable and conventional. I suppose the main character in my new novel is a bit like me to start with, but then the reader starts to realise that she’s not quite the person they thought she was …

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
I sort of mackle them up and then get a picture of them in my head. I write a character profile and then they seem to just come alive.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Oh, yes. Lots of times I’ve woken up in the night and then written it down the next morning.

Do you favour happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I think whatever the ending is, it has to be satisfying to the reader. I hate books where you just think “is that it?”

Have you ever written based on an artwork you’ve seen?
Not artwork, but I have written based on an old photograph and my most recent short story was based on an Electronic Engineering textbook!

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
I am obsessive with spelling and grammar. I HATE mistakes and I’m the type of person who gets annoyed at printed errors. Having said that you are reading the me-me of a person who put up several notices headed “Erection of a Parish Councillor” instead of “Election of a Parish Councillor”, and then had to go round taking them all down again while people were hooting with laughter.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)
No. Definitely not! I use commas, full stops, apostrophes and semi-colons and my texts tend to be too long.

Entirely in L337?
Ummm … which alien spaceship did that come from?

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?
Un-writer is not a word! (Is it?)

Does music help you write?
Yes, but I hate loud music. I don’t go anywhere without my MP3 player stuffed down my bra and plugged into my ears.

Quote something you’ve written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
“The misty fingers beckoned and enticed her intimately, caressing her foot with a gentle, lover’s touch.” (From Twisted Garlands – my character was about to commit suicide by drowning herself in a lake in the middle of the night.) Ooo-er! That sounds a bit depressing, but it was the first thing I thought of!