Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Evil Death That Haunts The Night...

And so, since I missed Monday, you can have another one today...

This is Piggy.

So far today (and it's only lunchtime) Piggy has accounted for six - count them, SIX - assorted mice and voles.

When not single-pawedly controlling the rodent population of our village, Piggy can be found sleeping in shoes or savaging cat mint.

Ruthless killing machine? Moi? Posted by Hello

A Thousand Words

Yes, I'm back. Refreshed, relaxed, and utterly daunted by my last few days of mad activity before we go away on holiday proper this weekend. Thank you for your good wishes!

I've been thinking I'd do a week of pictures for you - they say a picture paints a thousand words. (Mostly words like, "No, I look awful on film... No, no, stop that... don't you point that camera at ME!")

This is Pippi, one of a pair of sisters I brought back from a rescue centre the week we got back from honeymoon. Piggy and Pippi were my 'Bride's gift to the Groom'. Piggy is the huntress, Pippi is the princess...

Am I not GORGEOUS? Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Back Soon!

I'm off on a short trip until Monday - so I'll catchup with that tag and other things after then!

Where am I going and why? I'm going to a bead shop in Lichfield with my Mum, to buy some bits and pieces to embellish my favourite skirt with.

Why not?


Friday, May 20, 2005

The time I drew a dragon.

Once, I drew a dragon.

He was immense, seven foot tall, with glittering scales and sinuous tail. His claws were three inches long and razor sharp. His angular snout hissed vapour, and the muscles in his hind quarters were bunched and powerful.

I drew him in pencil, on the back of a door, and one wing and his tail spread out onto the wall beside.

He was beautiful.

Right now, you're probably smiling, but also thinking, "uh, where's she going with this one?"

Here's where I'm going: I can't draw.

I can't paint. I can't sketch. I have no artistic ability unless it be in words. And I'm serious, here - I'm not one of those people who creates lovely watercolours and goes, "oh, I have no talent really... but I'm rather proud of the dappled light under the beeches."

I really can't draw.

So how come I could create my wonderful, glorious, mythical beast?

For two reasons:- I was running a very high temperature, and I was Thinking Big.

That fever made me believe I could do it. And somehow, somehow, Thinking Big -
physically working to large scale - made that seven-foot-beast come to life on that door, and that wall.

So when I plot, notebooks ain't gonna cut the mustard. I have to go to the wall.

A nice dose of flu would help, too. But one can't have everything...


(I was musing on why I plot on walls, instead of on the Post Its Beth mentioned - this is the result!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

When Non-Planners Plan

Posted by Hello

Are you scared? I'm scared...

Follow the bouncing scene... Posted by Hello

Revenge of the Suck Monster

The Suck Monster Liveth. And It dwells in Chapter One.

Well, the first few pages of the Chapter One.

I had an attack of The Rules, you see. And since the setting wasn’t the US, and the hero, whose POV the story opens in, wasn’t American, and the heroine wasn’t with him, I was struggling to pack location, nationality, immediacy into the first page, and shied back from my original idea of a prologue in omnipresent POV describing a photograph of the heroine.

You see, the spectre of McWife is going to haunt me with this book. I have put the heroine (Emily) in the hero (Tristan)’s power, he’s whisked her away to a remote ‘cottage’ (in Mcwife it was a Scottish longhouse, this time a Pyrenean mill)… you get the picture?

And Mcwife opened with an omni prologe of CCTV footage.


So I edited out the prologue for Frenchman and tried to make the opening more ‘conventional’ for a SIM. I’m sitting here shaking my head at my own stupidity.

I have resolved, therefore, to be brave and do with this book what I originally intended to do. This will never be a contest winner. The H/h will not meet on the first page, it’s going to take us a while to work out who the H is and what’s his game. And when they do meet... he’s going to throw her off a train.


The one concession to conventionality I may have to make is in the character of Emily herself.

This is a book about fear, and control. It’s about accepting the things you can’t control, controlling fear, living with fear, acknowledging what it is you REALLY fear and finding the courage to love in spite of it. And Emily is a very scared young lady, bless her heart. She has good reason, but she’s a very damaged character, fighting for what she wants which is AT THE SAME TIME what she won’t admit she fears.

All of which leads her to fight her battles in some very dark and desperate ways.

And I’m not sure how well a reader will take a twenty-six year old heroine who hacks off her hair as an act of rebellion and defiance.

Her body is about all she has left to rebel with, so maybe it will work. I’m going to write it in, but accept that I may have to rip it out again.

I’ve written more independent, self-sufficient characters before. But these two hurt and they need each other.

Consider the architectural purity of an arch, a perfect arc made from blocks of dressed stone. While those two curving columns touch each other, lean on each other, share the weight and the burden, they become one of the strongest structures known to man. If they try to stand alone, they’re nothing but a pile of broken stones.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Love/Hate Relationships

1) If you've hung around here long enough, you'll know I love men. My man in my bed, in my life, in my heart, my arms, my kitchen and my books. Other men to admire and adore. They're aesthetically pleasing, intellectually stimulating, challenging and fascinating.

They're also stubborn, frustrating, manipulative, workshy, stupid gits.

2) I love chocolate. Rich, dark, silky and perfect.

I don't like a stomach that resembles dough that's been left to rise for too long. White dough.

3) I love ibuprofen. It does what no other painkiller will do for me, at certain times, and without it I'd spend way too many hours in bed smothering my curses in my pillow.

I hate what ibuprofen does to my intestinal tract. [Here I pause to let my readers go, "Ewww!"]

4) I love my job. It's varied, satisfying, valued and well-supported by my employer.

It's also frustrating, undervalued by our clients, misunderstood by the rest of the world and I hate what it does to my life.

Love cats. Hate the death of small creatures. Love kids. Hate the trying to get pregnant. Love gardens. Hate slugs. Love holidays. Hate the unpacking.

Then I think about Frenchman.

Emily loves Tristan. She loves him far earlier in the book than she realises. But she hates that he stands between her and everything she wants. And he knows it.

Tristan falls for Emily almost the first moment he sees her. But he hates, most violently, the way she starts to rely on him, the way he becomes one of the reasons she can't crawl out of her own fear.

Hmm. Maybe Love/Hate relationships aren't such a bad thing. Isn't that what we call Conflict?

What's today's Love/Hate for you?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

It’s the Suck Monster’s Day Off

(This was written a couple or weeks ago)

I love trains.

Not in an Anoraks-and-Notebooks way, but in a Space-and-Time way. Space and time to think, to relax, to be.

I often write blog posts on the train, but not all of them make it to the blog itself. Blogs are immediate and of-the-day. I’m hesitant to post something on Friday that was written on Tuesday.

Of course, if I’m honest, I should be writing Frenchman not blog posts.
Frenchman (real title TAKEN) is the abandoned Silhouette Intimate Moments/Sensation wannabee I set aside to rewrite McWife.

Just let me pause for a moment to relive the Rewriting of McWife and shudder.


Anyway, so here I am, half a MS written, and needing to get back into it. As someone who writes out of sequence that’s a hell of a task in itself.

I have pieces. The first five chapters pretty much complete. Parts of those first chapters are crud, and need work. But, as my good friend Biddy keeps reminding me, it’s a first draft. I have to let it be a first draft.

I have bits from the middle – which incidentally read more like an Agatha Christie: French hotel full of an ever increasing cast of characters, a circle of the heroine’s family, friends and staff that the poor hero is completely outside – and a climactic ending that I’m rather proud of.

First job is to read it through, complete chapters, scenes, scene fragments, snippets of dialogue where I’m not even sure who's speaking, the lot.

Then I need to draw a scene map – find out what I’ve got, where I’m going, and what’s missing. It’s like stepping stones, and I have no intention of getting out into the middle of the river and finding out there’s a stone missing in the middle.

I’ve started the reading part. Which has brought its own problem, and not the usual one, either.

Believe me, I have my fair share of Attack of the Suck Monster when re-reading material I’ve written before. But this was the opposite problem. This was Good. Hand-clamped-over-my-mouth-so-I-didn’t-sob-in-public good. Forgetting-to-breathe good. Who-wrote-this-because-it-couldn’t-have-been-me good.

And now I have stage fright. I’m afraid I won’t be able to live up to the standards I’ve already set myself in what I have here. I have this scary, “if they don’t buy this it won’t be because of me” feeling, and if I don’t get it right, I’m going to forever regret it.

Now, of course, I’m sounding pompous and smug. Not AT ALL my intention. There’s plenty of crap in there, too, it’s just the good stuff surprised me.

The Suck Monster has days off, too. Who knew?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Writing as Therapy

(This was written last week, in a notebook. I'm in a happier place now, but it was still worth saying, I think.)

Life moves too fast these days. We don't seem to get the chance to dwell on feelings, dwell in them, experience the depth of them so we can learn and grow. And I'm not just talking about the good things, either.

It's a sadness to me that somehow I never really had the time to sit down and cry for Merlin's dying. The one time I did the wailing and gnashing of teeth thing I was multi-tasking even then... driving home from the vets. I feel like I've missed out somehow, and the chance is gone. Anything I did now would be self-indulgence and a negative 'looking back'.

So let's look back on the good stuff, instead. Merlin's with me, anyway. He always will be.

**Today, I made a 60 mile round trip to vote. I don't much approve of many of the options on the ballot paper, but I excercised my right and fulfilled my responsibility
**Minnie was overjoyed to see me after a two days away, and spent some time sheepishly cuddling closer and begging me to pull her ears
**Only one room smelled of cat pee when I came home
**They had only been sick in two places, and both were washable
**I spoke a long time with Michael Moon, when next year he might not be there
**The ivy that has grown through the bathroom ceiling and forced us to rip out a patch of plaster appears to have died back appropriately. This means the days of bathing under a shower of plaster dust and dead bugs are numbered
**Some of the best possible friends in the world are my friends. And what's more they're my friends because the like me, not because they pity me, endure me, or want to use me
**There are some f***ing gorgeous men out there. Even the ones that aren't gorgeous all over have gorgeous bits. Significant, fascinating, animated bits
**I have expanded my food repertoire. I now like Turkish food. I can't express any opinion on liking Turkish animated bits
**Husband loves me. This probably should have been at the head of the list. Certainly before musing on Turkish animated bits
** I was feeling stressed, I wrote this, and I feel better

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Day Holds Nothing More to Fear...

The day holds nothing more to fear when you've begun the day by pulling one of your own hairs out of your cat's arse.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

If I could be...

Michelle tagged me, so I'm going to tag Shannon Beth and Mel

Pick five, and finish them. Tag three others!

If I could be a scientist...If I could be a farmer...If I could be a musician...If I could be a doctor...If I could be a painter...If I could be a gardener...If I could be a missionary...If I could be a chef...If I could be an architect...If I could be a linguist...If I could be a psychologist...If I could be a librarian...If I could be an athlete...If I could be a lawyer...If I could be an innkeeper...If I could be a professor...If I could be a writer...If I could be a backup dancer...If I could be a llama-rider...If I could be a bonnie pirate...If I could be a midget stripper...If I could be a proctologist...If I could be a TV-Chat Show host...If I could be an actor...If I could be a judge...If I could be a Jedi...If I could be a mob boss...If I could be a backup singer...If I could be a CEO...If I could be a movie reviewer....

If I could be an innkeeper, I'd have the kind of place where there was always food on the bar... cheese, peanuts, olives, fruit. You'd come to my pub to drink and to read and everyone would be welcome. There would be food served, but it wouldn't be a restaurant, there would be drink served, but it wouldn't be a bar, and there would be a chance to chat, but it wouldn't be a social club. If only more pubs were... pubs.

If I could be a midget stripper my knees wouldn't take such a beating.

If I could be a Jedi I'd live in seclusion on an NORMAL planet. None of this swamp or desert nonsense for me... I mean, on the one hand everything would be damp all the time, on the other hand there wouldn't be enough Olay moisturiser in the world...

If I could be a painter I'd decorate the freaking dining room NOW. (Probably wrong sort of painter. But that's what matters to ME)

If I could be a chef I would say, "I have this thing I do with low-fat food. I throw it in the bin."

If I could be a writer... wait. I AM a writer!

My Apologies

I feel I should apologise for the inadequacy of my link list.

If I'm a regular at your blog and you're not yet in the sidebar, please forgive me! It's on my To Do list, I swear.

My very long To Do list.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


I had a surreal experience yesterday. Wonderful, but surreal.

I visited the legendary Michael Moon's Bookshop in Whitehaven, to find some local history books for a friend.

It's a second-hand bookshop, one of those tardis-like old shops that defy the accepted laws of space and time. From outside it looks like one crowded room, hemmed in by softly snoring leather-bound volumes. Inside, the little rooms go back, and up, and on and on and on...

There are second hand books, and antiquarian books, boxes of forgotten text books, old postcards, and crackling maps. Tall shelves that seem to actually BE the walls... columns of volumes supporting the ceiling. There's the smell - dry paper and soft leather, and just a hint of dust.

And this time, to my everlasting joy, there was actually Michael Moon.

You know the type. Of course you do.

He was enthroned behind his desk in the corner, hemmed in by boxes of books and an old cash register. A fringe of white hair, cardigan... he probably should have been wearing glasses, but I can't remember if he did. In my imagination, he wears glasses. Oddly enough, he was working at a laptop that sat, slightly apologetically, in the midst of the paper world, the only concession to modern times.

I couldn't find the books I was looking for, so I asked. He told me there were only three books on that subject, and they were all out of print. When he said, only three books he probably meant in English, in recent times. But it sounded like he was saying only three books in the history of time in the universe And he didn't have to look it up in a catalogue.

He showed me some other books that might help. Then he suddenly realised that there had been another book printed on that subject quite recently, and produced that for me. I got the impression that he was intimately acquainted with every local book for the last 200 odd years. But anything published less than five years ago hadn't really registered on his radar yet...

I bought the books. I mentioned that I had been involved, very early on, in the project that produced one of the books I was purchasing.

We started to talk.

Ten minutes later, I put down my bags, took off my glasses, and sat down in the worn leather chair beside his desk.

We talked about books, about publishing, about purchasing and wholesale. We muttered about supermarkets as if the word was a curse (which, to many bookshops and writers, it is). We talked about his thirty-five year bookselling anniversary, the day before, about his status as a Master Grocer before he sold books. He was very pessimistic about the future of his shop, but his love for the books in his care spilled out.

He rescues books. Gives them a good home, cares for them, acknowledges them and reads them. He catalogues them, studies them, rebinds them, publishes and reprints them. Then, sometimes, he's forced by economic factors to sell them.

He hates parting with any of the 25,000 volumes stored in the dark rooms, he said. "But I suppose if you're a bookshop, you occasionally have to sell books."

Outside, time passed. Inside, it was subject to book-time. Slower, softer, more considered. I think we talked for an hour, in the company of a billion printed words, but it's hard to tell.

Eventually, I had to go. I shook his hand and told him it had been an honour. I complimented him on the comfort of his chair. "That's what Ian Paisley said," he replied.

Apparently he was a very "softly spoken gentleman," who browsed the theology section for hours, and then, unfortunately, had to buy some books. "But they had to sweep the place for devices before they let him in," said Mr Moon.

Can you imagine checking a shop of 25,000 books for a bomb???

Michael Moon could be a wizard. But probably he's just an alien, retired to earth in his magic shop, guarding that sourcerous resource that humans seem to have forgotten the power of - books.

It could have been worse...

Your English Skills:

Grammar: 100%

Vocabulary: 100%

Punctuation: 80%

Spelling: 80%

I know, I know. Three posts in one day? What is happening to me?!

Words I Don't Want To Read in Romances #2


Just... stop.

Stop, stop, STOP. Or I will come round and set fire to YOUR hair. THEN we'll see if flame-haired is an adjective of beauty.

There are other words for red hair, people.

Use them.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Barefoot in the rain

I just went walking barefoot in the rain.

Lightning was striking the hills in the distance. Their sloping shoulders, usually so close and clear, were wrapped in grey, luminous mists. Not the dark, dangerous clouds of a summer storm, but that highly-charged, backlit wonder of an early thunder storm.

The thunder was a ripping sound, not a rumble. A stretching, tearing, up-in-the-morning-and-taking-on-the-day roar. Big fat drops of warm rain beat down the newly planted aquilegias and lupins in the garden, and kept the bemused cats indoors. The road was a river. The sky was the colour of old tarmac.

Under my feet the road was smooth, washed clean, faintly warm. The water running over my feet was somehow a taste, not a touch. Sweet, delicious. Smooth.

The tang in the air, the drops striking my head – harder and slower under the great incongruous limes down the road – the washing of my feet, all of it was poignantly perfect.

I remember distinctly the last time I laughed, barefoot, under the arch of a thunderous sky. I was nineteen, slightly drunk, and in the company of friends. We sat in the gutter-streams outside a pub in a little village in Essex called Writtle, and screamed when the lightning struck the houses round the green.

There’s some sort of connection established, in the link between the water running through you hair, the taste of it invading your mouth, the feel of it dripping from your fingers, sliding over your feet. Water is life, after all, and life, like water, is a cycle.

I love walking barefoot in a thunderstorm. But I haven’t done it in twelve years.

What was I thinking?

The sun just came out. The birds are singing.

(I make no apologies for waxing lyrical)