Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Sisters... Sisters... There were never such devoted sisters.
Many cars have tried to split them up but no car can.....

Sisters... Posted by Hello

Pippi (on left) and Piggy, curled up on the spare bed today. Pippi was hit by a car last Wednesday night, two weeks to the day after Merlin was put down (note to self - must amend side bar. I now have three cats, not four!)

She's doing fine. :-)

And I've finished cleaning! Huzzah!

When Dust Bunnies Attack

Cleaning! Argh! Cleaning!! Make it Stoooooop!!!

Of course, the plus side to finally giving in and evicting the flotsam and jetsom of a mucky winter from the various floorboards, carpets and rugs of the house is that when you finish, you're ecstatic to be writing.

I'm not finished yet.

Oh Dear God......

Monday, March 28, 2005

What's my style?

Shannon was talking about the RWA site on her blog. And while I agree that it's damn ugly and boring, it started me thinking about what I would have on my own site, when it comes to having one.

You see, as I said over at Shan's place, one person's cute is another person's skin-crawlingly tacky. Haven't you ever zoomed over to a site a friend has said is "gorgeous!" and gone, "wtf?" while trying to rinse out your abused eyeballs with saline solution?

But then, I'm the person who wouldn't let a heart, cherub, horseshoe or wedding bell anywhere near anything to do with her wedding. On pain of... pain.

This is one of the reasons I don't yet have a website. I don't think I could ever think of ANY images I'd be happy associating with.

Except castles. Lots and lots of castles. And real castles. Real, piss-off-and-die defensible, medieval castles designed to HURT people, if they ever had the temerity to challenge them. The sort of castles without spindly turrets and pretty banners, but with added facilities for dropping, launching or throwing sharp bits, heavy bits or boiling hot bits at attackers.

I LIKE real castles.

But since I don't write historicals, the suitability of such images for any website I had would be limited.

I like sweet peas, honeysuckle, cottage gardens, cats, baking, babies and pottering about the house in a long skirt and apron.

But I write stories where lots of people die in interesting ways, and the hero is more likely to hand the heroine a Browning nine milli than a bunch of roses. And SHE's more likley to hand him a grenade than a tray of brownies.

Problematic, no?

And I tell you, if Julie catches me here, I'm dead meat.


Oh, yeah.

Oh, yeah. I write out of sequence.

I KNOW I write out of sequence. Trying to write in a straight line gives me indigestion. And gas.

Which is one of the reasons, I think, why I find revisions and rewrites so difficult. The shape of the thing is laid out, so, logically, when filling in gaps or rewriting sections you tend to try and write in the straight line that's prescribed.

belch Oooh, sorry. *pats stomach*

This morning, after switching off the mental circuits marked Agonising, Angsting and Second guessing I found myself scrabbling on the keyboard to get segments of about six different scenes down on the page. Bits from the middle of scenes, from the end, from the beginning. And suddenly I got to that place where your fingers can't move fast enough to keep up with the words, and I'm busily writing those six scenes from the middle and out, from the end to the beginning, back to front and inside out, and filling in the gaps and sewing it all together.

Oh, looky here. Out of sequence.

Oh, yeah.


Less than an hour later - 1,100 words.

Please, someone remind me on a regular basis that I write out of sequence? Thank you.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Mixed Bag

So. It's like this.

If I'm quiet on here, it either means:-

a) I'm waaaaaay too busy (hate that)

b) I'm travelling in the frozen wastes of the forgotten no-computer land, within the bounds of which no man wot what internet is.

c) I'm too sad.

Sad is an under-used word, IMO. It's odd how once a word becomes firmly entrenched in child's vocabulary, adults tend to abandon it as oversimplified and somehow 'twee'. Au contraire.

Sad. adj. Sorrowful. That's the excerpt from my beloved and rarely used dictionary from Chambers. The same people who do the official scrabble dictionary.*


Yeah, that's about right. I always intended this blog to NOT degenerate into a pathetic whiney "Hug meeeeee" station, so no hugs. I'm SERIOUS. ;-)

So, how to de-sad, then? A trip to Shannon Stacey's blog usually does the trick. She can write, she's funny, smart, and she has that generous, gregarious spirit that maketh a good blogger. Go see.

Music. Music's good. The Prodigy, for preference. Sadness, in the face of the musical equivalent of being beaten with big sticks, usually runs for cover. I recommend "You'll be Under My Wheels" from Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.

Writing. Hmmm. Well, in theory, that should help. THIS, this here, writing this blog, IS helping. But the thought of writing my current story, right now, this instant, supplied me with a mental image of the flesh of my hands crawling back off my bones in horror as I reached out to touch a flaming keyboard.

So, maybe not writing, then.

And maybe a little more sleep, and a little less fantasy/horror reading. Ho Hum.

Which, in accordance with the Mixed Bag title of this rambling piece, brings me onto another thought. Vanessa Jaye was blogging not so long ago about whether or not blogging helps you write more, or sucks the writing spirit out of you like a fat, black leech, clinging to the festering wound of your once pink-and-healthy inspiration. Cough

Some say blogging helps them warm up into writing. Some say it takes writing time away.

Hmmm. I suspect I know which camp I sit in. But I wish it wasn't so.

I could try mass chocolate consumption. pause

Okay. I AM trying mass chocolate consumption. But a spotty chin, and extra inches on my stomach don't add much to my sad armour, it has to be said.***

Well, after rambling around the sad issue, I'm not going to explain the personal reasons why I'm sad, but I will venture in with one of the professinal reasons, and ask your opinions about it.

Do you ever feel like your writing glory days are behind you? And this is a question to both pubbed and unpubbed. I've been feeling like I've been going backwards for some time now, and I'm curious to find out if I'm alone....

Now, remember - no hugs! And no pep talks. ;-) It's a serious question, not a needy whimper, okay?

* Yes, I play Scrabble. We played Scrabble on our honeymoon, in the tent. We had two games with seven-tile words in one go, gaining a player the 50 point bonus. We have photographic evidence of those. Yes, this makes me sad. **

** Second definition:- Deplorable

*** AAAAAAAAHAHHAHAHAHAAAA!!! I just glanced down at my desk. A box of Bendicks, a packet of dark chocolate digestives and a pack of Green and Blacks mint chocolate. This has NOT been a good week.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Cherry on Top

This afternoon was nigh-on perfect.

I finished work just after lunchtime, and tootled on down the Eden valley, ending up calling in at Acorn Bank, and National Trust gardens and woodland down by the river.

I had tea, and wandered down through the sunken garden and into the woodland. Every little freeze-frame of the afternoon was like a delicious cake, not only covered in delectable icing, but decorated with a sweet, succulent cherry on top, too.

The pond was not just an ornamental pool in a calming garden. It harboured all three species of English newt, all dancing their wildly sensual flamenco that is their courting dance.

Yes, folks. Newts are sexy. Don't even stop to question it - I have said so.

The woodland bank was alive with flowers. Spangled with daffodils. And not just any daffodil. These were the native, wild daffodil, with its bashful, nodding head, and star-like petals. Put these next to your common or garden daff and they look like a debutante next to a tart.

Sunlight slipped through bare branches of trees holding their breath for the moment of buds bursting. It illuminated patches of demure, secretive dog's mercury, that darkly green and glossy herald of ancient woodland. And there, on one sleek leaf rested a ladybird, like a ruby solitaire on a bed of emeralds.

See? Icing. Cherries.

Told you so.

(And newts are sexy)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Snippets of Louis

The highlight of the Fiction Day of the Words by the Water festival was Louis de Bernieres' agreeably shambolic talk about writing and general and his new book in particular.

I liked him. Very natural and unpretentious. Funny, but in an accessible, bewildered by Man sort of way.

He read from Birds Without Wings a short scene where the young heroine is persuading the local man of letters to write a message on a bird's back with tears for ink, in order that she might send a message to her dead mother in heaven. It should have been ridiculous. Instead it contrived to be gentle, funny, and poignant. Very, very human.

An audience member asked about his cast of characters and how he keeps track of them. The answer was reassuringly mundane - an alphabetised notebook, "to keep track of who they are and what they do and whether or not they have a moustache."

Then he made my day by talking about writer's block. (Yes, it does exist. And to those who say it doesn't? Just because you're lucky enough not to experience it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.) "If I can't write it right," he said, "I don't go near the screen." If it's not there, he won't struggle to pin it down.

Sensible man.

At the end, someone finally caved and asked him about the filming of Captain Corelli's Mandolin Mostly, he said he liked it. But he did mention the 'spurious sex scene' that was 'totally out of character' and said it was probably put in because, "the director wanted to see Penelope with her top off." *Pause for laughter*. "He should have asked her in her spare time."

Finally, however successful the film might have been, when writing his new book he, "made sure it isn't filmable because it hasn't got a hero...."

Smart move.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Right Chocolate

I've come to an important realisation.

I've never before understood when women said chocolate was better than sex. "Poor thing," I would think. "Obviously you have the wrong sex partner."

I was wrong.

I just wasn't eating the right chocolate.

I am now.

I wandered into my local health food shop for something else and found a complete stand of Green and Blacks. I bought Maya Gold, Almond, Hazlenut and Brazil nut, Cherry, and Mint.

Oh.... oh my.

Excuse me for a moment. I feel another chunk coming on.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

View from the Window

Just a quick note to say I'm back! I've got a scary backlog of blog posts to share with you - still plenty from the Words by the Water Festival, and some from this past weekend.

But today, let's be tranquil and smilingly content.

(From Patience Strong's Thoughts for Every Day, Bounty Books.)

March 15th

Fortunate are they who greet the day through cottage panes - looking out on distant hills, green fields and winding lanes... Fortunate are they who from their lattices can see, the ever-changing beauty of some old and lovely tree.

Lucky is the one whose casements frame an open view - of an unspoilt landscape fading out into the blue. What could be more perfect than to wake and to behold - the country scene through cottage windows flushed with morning gold?

I couldn't agree more.

Actually, I think it's more than fortunate, I think it's necessary, just once in a while, to look out of an old window and see an older land.

One of these days I'm going to write a seriously bitchin' writing article about sense of place and setting in romance fiction.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

*Service Announcement*

Sorry, I'm dealing with 'stuff' at the moment, and I'm going away for a long weekend.

Normal service will be resumed shortly!

*Service Announcement*

Monday, March 07, 2005

Red Shoes and Pilgrim Jewelry

The first thing the audience notices when Deborah Moggach and Jennifer Johnston come on stage is that they're both wearing red shoes.

Not subtle, dark red pumps, but bright scarlet, 'F*ck Off Red' shoes.

There is something like a whispered cheer from the largely female audience. Laughing, I write Red Shoes and Pilgrim Jewellery! Hooray! in my notebook.

Pilgrim is my current accessory obsession, and Deborah seems to be wearing, if not actually one of their necklaces, then certainly one in their style. I approve.

Jennifer is first up - and the point that sticks from her talk is when she tells us about her first meeting with a publisher. He sat there, in a powder blue suit, asked questions she didn't know the answer to (why do you write?) and then said, It's a... an okay book, Jennifer, but we're a publishing house. We're not here to do people favours. I don't think you'll ever write another book.

As a writer, however lowly and unpubbed, I squirmed in my seat imaginging the humiliation and rage such a comment would induce. Jennifer said, That got my blood up - because you've got to get your blood up as a writer.

And she's right. We've got to be determined, committed, focused... but above all downright stubborn.

I can do stubborn. ;-)

Deborah goes straight for funny, via the idea of out-sourcing our elderly (her word, not mine) to new retirement homes in India. India is a transforming experience she says. I find myself thinking about dysentery.

I enjoy their talks. They read from their current books, mention how nervous they are (writers aren't necessarily speakers - why do we always assume they are?) and talk about where those books came from.

But the books themselves are the seed of my Wild Books blog. On one level they sound fascinating, on another... *shrug* why would I read them?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Outside Inside

I'm in the theatre, high up in the stalls. On the stage, lovely long water-dappled banners in sea green and deep blue. "By words the mind is winged - Aristophanes" they say.

It's 10:30 on Tuesday morning, and I get to spend the whole day here. It's a work day. I feel ever so slightly guilty.

Scarily, I'm struggling to see anyone younger than me. And even in my rough 30-40 age bracket I'm am obviously not nearly bohemian enough. My earrings aren't dangly enough, my necklace not big enough. My scarves aren't shiny enough and my hair certainly isn't short enough.

But then, this is no different from message boards or comments threads on someone's blog. Sometimes it's easier to snort derisively and consider yourself an outsider, than to make an effort to fit in.

I find myself wondering how many of these people are writers, which is unfair for two good reasons. 1) This is a literature festival, not a writing one. 2) I'm making value judgements on visual assumptions. I should know better. Possibly there's a white head down there thinking, "I wonder how many of these people write?" and then feeling guilty for the assumption. ;-)

Oh, and I'm not nearly posh enough, either.

I'm going to enjoy this.

I love this theatre. There's something wonderful about the muted colours and cheap-but-solid construction of the auditorium. It was paid for by charitable grants and donations, and there's a grand sense of integrity in every pound spent. It's beautiful, but it's unashamedly basic and functional, too. The architecture welcomes me in a way the audience doesn't.

Roy Hattersley, politician and writer, is first up. He's talking about his new non-fiction about the Edwardian period, and he's good too. Elderly and portly, he marches up right to the edge of the stage and fiddles with the pockets on his jacket. He'd probably be mortified to learn that the last person I saw talk with that mannerism was HRH Prince Charles.

He's funny and intelligent, talking about the characters and achievements of an age overshadowed by the war that followed it. He mentions the suffragette movement - apparently they preferred to be called Suffragists - and the fact that a brother in the family died of neglect as a result of the devotion of Emeline Pankhurst and her daughters to the cause.

Quotes of the Session:-

"My doctor gave me the hearing aid he said Bill Clinton uses. He told me it's very effective. It won't make me hear any better, but it'll make me irresistable to eighteen year old women."

"[King] Edward came to the throne having settled down into a domestic life. He hadn't settled down with the Queen - she was just wheeled out for State occasions - but nevertheless he had settled down."

By Words the Mind is Winged

This week I've been popping in and out of the Words by the Water literature festival, weaving the talks I wanted to attend in and out of my day job.

(NB - Next year, book the week off.)

There were plenty of big names, from the fiction, non-fiction, public and political worlds. Have a look here.

I took notes for the blog. ;-) Not so much class notes as impressions and snippets. They were writing exercises for me as much as useful information for other people! I'll be posting them across the next few days.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Wild Books

It seems that the list of books I don't want to read is growing.

I don't want to read that one because it's about old people and death, and there'll be time enough for that later. I don't want to read that one because the protagonist doesn't seem to care about anything. Not that one because it's depressing; not that one because it has attitudes I can't abide. Not that one because it's precious, not that one because it's lazy.

I have what used to be a To Be Read pile. It doesn't seem to contain books I want to read anymore. It's become my I Ought To Read pile. And nothing makes me less likely to do something that prefixing the tast with, "I ought to..."

I ought to write. Nothing will happen.
I want to write. Nothing will stand in my way.

I want to read. But I can't find anything that bridges the gap between the Oughts and the Wants.

I know of myself that when I'm feeling a bit battered by life I tnd to retreat from it. I protect myself by sticking to 'safe' things. Films that don't threaten, books that don't challenge. But each of those retreating baby steps equips me less and less to deal with life. And I want to do more than deal with life.

I want to revel in it, adore it, take it by the throat and live it.

I don't want to be. I want to be wild.

Anyone got any book recommendations?

Promised photo...

Finally! Hello plays nicely with me!

The bit you don't see... Posted by Hello