Friday, September 30, 2005

Reasons I'm me

Just for fun....

I'm me because there are chocolate crumbs in my keyboard, cat hairs in my printer, crumbs in the car and ibuprofen in every drawer in the house. I'm me because I'd rather have flowers on the table than expensive food in the fridge.

Loving eye contact with one of my cats can make me smile all day. Each kiss from my husband lasts a lifetime.

I'm me because decisions matter, and politics doesn't. Because friends matter more than money, and life's too short to polish your taps. Because food is a feast, and not a fuel.

I'm me because making someone happy for half an hour makes me happy for half a day. My bed is the one with three duvets, a patchwork quilt, a dressing gown and two cats on it. My space has an average of twenty books within arms reach. I can't go a single day without writing some form of words, and every word I write strains to tell a story.

I'm me because I can be a genuis and a dunce at the same time. I'm me when I can't add two three-figure numbers, and try and spend the same £100 four times. I'm me when Husband tells me off for belching, when I floss my teeth on the sofa, and when I bite my nails.

I'm an impatient driver, a faithful (but forgetful) friend and an occasionally conscientious worker. I'm me when someone makes the mistake of thinking I'm dumb because I laugh a lot, and I'm 100% me when I prove them wrong. Laughing.

I'm me when I know I have a high IQ, but I'm more me because I know it doesn't make any difference.

I'm me because of the words, the words, the words.

And maybe the smile.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Timely Reminder

Once in a while I make myself read this list. This time, I thought I'd share.

Ten Commandments for Good Mental Health

1. Thou shalt not be perfect

2. Thou shalt not be all things to all people

3. Thou shalt leave some things undone

4. Thou shalt not spread thyself too thinly

5. Thou shalt learn to say no

6. Thou shalt schedule time for yourself and network support

7. Thou shalt switch off and do nothing regularly

8. Thou shalt be boring, inelegant and unattractive sometimes

9. Thou shalt not feel guilty

10. Thou shalt not be thine own worst enemy

I've lost the ability to do 7 in recent years, unless I'm playing a mindless computer game, or watching pointless TV. I'm proud of my achievement of 8, have no ambition of ever cracking 9, and, in fact, feel 9 over my tendency to do 10.

But every now and then I review the list, and I have another go.

It's persisting down in Cumbria at the moment. The droplets are pouring down the window, and you can hear the spray thrown up by the vehicles on the main road outside the office. Since we came home on Monday to find water pouring into the house from a hole that the roofers who are working on next door failed to cover up, I can't help wondering what fresh rain-soaked hell we will find when we get home tonight.

However, I promised I would be positive here, so how's this perspective:- parts of our house will, sometime in the next few months, be freshly decorated for the first time in probably 40 years. Thanks to Julie for that one.

Remember the list, people. ;-)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Black Days and Blackberries

On Friday morning I got a rejection. It was a black day.

Then, on Saturday, I went blackberrying.

I don't know if I can do the experience justice. I wandered out of our front door with a couple of bags in my pocket, and went for a walk up the lane that's just down the hill from here. It's an old lane, used for as long as people have lived in our village, and worshipped at the other end of the lane. It's not beyond the realms of probability that people have been walking down that path on a bright September day to pick blackberries for more than a thousand years.

It kind of puts you in your place.

The sun on your back, the breeze just lifting your hair. Scarlet rosehips gleaming like boiled sweets among the ferns and frilly yarrow leaves. The bright gems of honeysuckle berries, beside the last, fragrant blooms. The spikes of the blackthorn, sharply proud. Hazel and oak, ash and crab apple, each with their autumn bounty.

Far away, the hum of cars on the main road. But far, far away. Distant enough to ignore in favour of the blackbird's alarmed shrilling, and the laughter of the crows, playing in the updraft.

Here the broad, flattened path of a badger. There the more secretive tunnel of some vole or stoat. A single red admiral butterfly, dancing from sun-patch to sun-patch. The smell of good earth and honest green.

And the fruit itself, squashing overripe and warm between your fingers, plucked with care from between the thorns and nettles, gleaming black and plump in your hand and in your bag. So sweet and wild, it tastes as if it's already been spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

I took some, and left more behind for the mice and the voles, the birds and the crawling things.

And when I went home, mulling over crumble or pie, the rejection was just another step on the road, another medal of valour.

After all - they said not this story, not this time.

There is another story. And there will always be another time.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

First Impressions

I saw a guy in a car today. Not a totally shattering experience, it's
true. But he caught my eye.


Well, it was something to do with the longish sun-bleached hair and dark
shadowed jaw. Something to do with the animation of the face, even
something to do with the gore tex jacket - not, I hasten to add, because I'm
a labels person, but because that immediately took him out of the
ageing-rocker-with-potentially-questionable-personal-hygeine bracket and
put him nicely in the active-extreme-sports-enthusiast slot. Apart from
anything else, he's likely to have better conversation.

So he caught my eye out of a combination of attractive appearance, active
demeanour, and an accessory that put him in a certain bracket.

Which got me thinking. What are the first things that my characters notice
about each other, and why?

Here's a selection:-

Run Among Thorns
He was a big man, dark and intimidating, but that was about as far as her impression went. If someone had asked her to describe his face, she would have had trouble. She was just so tired.

Rescuing Rachel (The heroine has just been involved in a car accident)
There was a face at the window, blurred by something. The face was dark, vibrant, like an impressionist painting of strength. She closed her eyes for a moment, and opened them again. The blurring was her eyesight, she found, noting it with a detached portion of her mind while she watched the dark face moving beyond the glass.

And a few paras later....

To prove it, she turned her head a little, found that up this close the blurring of her vision was less, and her eyes collided with those of the man outside.
Because it was a man. That much was blatantly obvious. The smooth hard lines of his face were beautiful, but very masculine. The line of his brows were drawn together in a frown that turned his face into a study of anger: dark, violent, virile.
Then the frown slipped away and he leaned closer, inches away, kept from her by a single sheet of glass. There was a sheen of sweat on his temples and a flush across his cheeks.

There was a woman sitting under a sweet chestnut tree on the slope of Caesar’s Camp.
Sat under one of his sweet chestnut trees, for God’s sake. She had her knees drawn up, and her back to the grey trunk. Her head was tipped back against the deeply ridged bark so that her golden hair tumbled down over her shoulders and halfway down her back. Her eyes were closed, and she was crying.

That one's actually the first line, but the situation is WAY derivative - can you spot the inspiration? Clue - English romantic suspense novel.

Dangerous Lies
He was fair... no, he was golden, gilded, bright. Tall, slim, with a grace of movement that made her stomach clench. His hair was short, tousled, but his grooming was impeccable. Blue eyes, a face lined in the shape of a smile, even now, as he frowned at her. Surfer dude meets the City of London. The debonair beach bum.

What I'm spotting here is that, a) I tend to have heroines start a book in a state of shock or emotional distress and b) I'm not putting in the gore tex jacket. Where are my props that help the character place who they're seeing? Hmmm. Something to work on.

What about yours? What is that all-important sentence or paragraph in your
current WIP, where we get a look at the Hero (or heroine!) from the other
protagonist's point of view for the first time?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Last Post

I swear, I promise, I give you my word that this is my absolute last post about the strange run of bad luck we've been experiencing lately. From tomorrow, if it kills me, I'm going to post about the good stuff, and remember I have HUGE PILES of stuff to be very, very grateful for.

But until then, let me just say that today I have attracted:-

* £250 worth of unavoidable financial fees
* A £100 bill for car repairs. Not my car. Not really my fault.
* A referral for minor surgery
* A referral to a specialist for something else**

And looking forward to tomorrow, and to balance the account, I also acquired:-

* A helping hand at work that I wasn't asking for, but desperately needed
* Co-operation and support from Husband when I wasn't certain I'd get it
* A curry
* Two compliments
* Two incidences of un-looked for kindness and thoughtfulness
* A beautiful sky
* A heron flapping overhead, prehistoric-looking and ponderous
* Quality hugs
* The delight of two cats at home time.

I can live with that.

Of course, I wouldn't turn down even more good stuff... ;-)

** And yes, I'm really, honestly fine. Tedious stuff which will be easily resolved.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


... only a liquid hug will ward off a distressing development.

Got home to find that the programmer for the central heating has packed up. After several slightly irritating phone calls, we've discovered that getting someone to come out and look at it and go, hmmm, I think you need a new one could cost up to £150.


I've decided that while the radiators still actually heat up, I'm going to consider this repair a low priority for as long as it takes.

Monday, September 19, 2005

And StoppedHERE

Wow. That was a considerable amount of time spent staring at the blank screen, moaning, groaning and literally tugging at my hair.

I've felt out of writing for so long, there's an almost nostalgic quality about the feeling. Like when you meet up with a relative you haven't seen for ages, and go, "oh, do you remember when I was six, and smacked your two front teeth out with the swing? Aha ha ha ha ha."

I seem to have forgotten who my heroine is. And when I try to write her out onto the page, her voice has changed. *shiver* I do not like that feeling.

This will improve.


I use Word's Bbookmark feature* to mark important scenes and chapter beginnings to give me 'waypoints' to navigate around my MS with.

This is especially important as I write out of sequence and by the seat of my pants, so I often have a lot of work to join up scenes and weave in the arcs properly.

I also use Bookmark to put a StartHERE marker in the WIP so I know where I'm working on. Otherwise I spend ages reading through, looking for gaps to work on. It's as much a pointer for ease of use as a discipline tool to stop me re-reading scenes that don't need it.

For many weeks that StartHERE has stayed on the same page. I was spending more time stopped.

Lots of time stopped.

Then Sela posted a rant that might as well have been scooped out of my own head.

And yesterday StartHERE moved. Just a little, but it moved.

At this time, I'll take any progress I can get.

*Click on INSERT, BOOKMARK, type in a Bookmark Name (must be all run together, ie, ChapterOne, not Chapter One), click Add. To go straight to a bookmark, click INSERT, BOOKMARK, and double click on the right name.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Stay off the roads

Well, now is a really bad time to be on the roads, I think.

This evening, I was starting to wonder where Husband had got to, since he should be home by that time, when he rang. "I've been in an accident. I'm fine. I'll let you know more when I can."

He's okay. Shaken, fed up. No-one was hurt and it wasn't his fault.

We'll probably lose our second car - which wouldn't be an issue if it wasn't for odd working ours on my part, lack of public transport, and my office being 30 miles away.

So. Missing Piggy, and staying off the roads.

I'm not a horroscopes person, but this is just funny:-

"Your week ahead: Life is full of surprises. Not all surprises, though, are full of life. Some take the wind right out of our sails. They stop us in our tracks and even when they have made us stand still, they still leave us wondering exactly where we stand. You have had a few surprises along these lines of late" (Jonathan Cainer)

You don't say.


Thank you, everyone, for your lovely messages. I really appreciate them, and they help me deal with long days in the house with a Piggy-shaped hole in the world. Husband says thank you, too.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

This little Piggy...

I hate doing this, especially after such a really good selection of comments.

Our irrepresible little Evil Death That Stalks The Night hunter-cat, Piggy, was hit by a car and killed tonight. The driver didn't stop. But a lovely neighbour heard the thump and brought her body to us.

Piggy was my 'bride's present to the groom' along with her sister, Pippi. She was utterly vibrant, every day of her life.

Piggy in the airing cupboard in our old house Posted by Picasa

Here's Piggy with her sister on 'Daddy's' lap, soon after we took them home from the rescue centre. Piggy's the one eyeballing the camera.

Two little kitties Posted by Picasa

Sometimes life seems to want to give you a big kicking, you know?

Two requests

If you have a moment, you can do two things for me.

I've reached a stage where I can't make forward progress on the WIP with just a spare half hour, it needs Big Blocks of Time to grapple with it. Unfortunately the few Big Blocks of Time that are on the horizon are ear-marked for other tasks that are jumping the 'Important' queue. Like, Tax Return, Remortgaging, Remodelling the bathroom.... I can't see an opportunity to dive back into the WIP until about mid-October.

BUT I do want to use those odd half hours for writing. I just want it to be writing for writing's sake. Good practice, developing skills, without being part of a larger project.

I'm looking for writing exercises. Now, I've had a quick look around the web, and not come up with much, to be honest.

Have you come across any good writing exercises? What are your favourites? Or do you want to set me some tasks yourself?

I can't (won't/shouldn't) begin to tell you how fraught and anxious work has been today (this week/month/season...). There have been other things, too, that have piled on the stress. I'm wound up way too tight and struggling to stay on top of things. Tomorrow I have a chapter meeting which will be great, and I do have things that need doing over the weekend, in some of those Big Blocks of Time.

But I'd really like to set aside a couple of hours this weekend for some Restore Me time. Something hedonistic, relaxing, guaranteed-to-restore-mental-health-and-wellbeing. And I need ideas.

What do you do to really relax and repair the damage of a rough week?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Marvellous Moments

I'm at work.

Outside in the courtyard, our Finance and Admin Manager has laid four computer hard drives on the stoney ground, and is beating them with a hammer.

I could give you the rational explanation for this, but why spoil a perfect moment?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Not bad, not bad...

Well, I had those four goals: Sleep; Write; Workshop; Walk.

And I achieved them. Not bad, under the circumstances.

Okay, so the writing wasn't the heading-off-into-the-creative-mist variety that I crave, but I prepared a submission to a critiquing scheme, which involved editing, tweaking and writing a synopsis. It ain't much, but it's better than nothing.

And it's another thing to tick off the Guilt List.

I'm moderately happy with my weekend. How was yours?

The best laid plans...

... of ducks and bacterium.

Which has to be my best blog post title yet. I'm so proud.

I achieved some of those goals yesterday - I slept well, I fiddled with some of the workshop info, and I DID actually go for a walk. I didn't really want to, and it was only a few miles round a lake, but I achieved.

The weather was lovely, the landscape breathtaking, and Mrs Duck joined me for lunch, very politely accepting morsels of pastry from my fingers, and waddling off to soak them in the water so she could eat them more easily.

I intended to do some writing in the evening, too. However, around the time I was serving dinner, it was brough to my attention in an uncompromising fashion that the meat pie I had consumed for lunch had been a smidge past its best before date.

Have you seen "Hitch"? That scene where he has a violent food allergy and they're hurrying round a store going, "Benadryl! Benadryl! Benadryl!!!"? Half an hour later I was rummaging in the medicine cupboard in a similarly strained fashion going, "Immodium! Immodium! Immodium!!!"

Thankfully I found some. Blessed medication.

The short affliction reached farcical proportions when I decided my stomach had settled and I was safe to take a bath. *Sigh*. Not so.

I only hope, for Mrs Duck's sake, the badness was confined to the filling, and not the pastry. On the other hand, she has the advantage of not having to heave herself out of the water to poop.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Oh what a beautiful MOOOOORNIIIIIIING!

Oh what a beautiful daaaaaay.......

I drifted to wakefulness with the cows and the wood pigeons competing to be heard, and a warm, purring cat under each hand.

Last night the wind was howling and the rain was lashing the somewhat rattly and gappy windows (give 'em a break - they're over two hundred years old). The rain's stopped, the sky is blue, and the wind is just a promise of playfulness.

I haven't had a good week, but it's looking up this weekend.

I have four very simple goals for the next two days.

1) Go for a walk. It doesn't have to be a long or hard one, I just need to get outside and get the blood flowing.

2) Do some writing. Although I can't even speculate what that writing might BE.

3) Do some 'workshopping'. I'm organising a workshop with Michelle Styles, and we're working on the final details.

4) Sleep. I just need more....

Doesn't seem too hard, does it?

Monday, September 05, 2005

What's in a name?

It's Monday. I'm driving to work, equal parts bleary-eyed and bleurghy-stomached.

Winding my way down the 591 towards Keswick, hopping onto the A66, muttering, "THIS is what an accelerator is for" at the tourist traffic, and grumbling at the slow-arse aggregate lorries. I finally get onto the last stretch of dual carriageway before work and end up pootling along behind a red van, with its company website emblazoned across its rear windows.

A website which appeared to read: wasdalecocks

I drove the next mile without seeing the road.

You see, Wasdale is a small lakeland valley, stark and beautiful. It's remote, isolated, and has a very small community of around 50 people. I know some of those people. Most of the people I know who might qualify to be in some way involved in a website called wasdalecocks are old and wrinkly. One, at least, is extremely fit and athletic, mildly famous and highly respected, but old and wrinkly nonetheless.

I'm suddenly stuck with the mental image of a few of these elders of the valley gathered round the camp fire comparing lengths or something.

Finally, the traffic opened up. "Ohhh," I said, overtaking. "It's SOCKS."