Monday 29 February 2016


So what did you do with your extra day?  I cleaned.  That's what I do on Mondays - no-one likes them anyway so I figure may as well do the stuff you don't enjoy on a Monday and get it all out of the way. It makes Tuesdays more awesome.

It does amuse me that today has been billed as an 'extra' day.  Like we all got given a holiday or our entire lives were put on hold so that we can do something different today.  Or did I miss that memo. It's highly likely.  If I could have done anything at all today I would probably have crawled under the duvet on my freshly laundered bed - that someone else made - with a hot water bottle, a mountain of nose friendly tissues and some kind of box set.

That's right, I've managed to be ill on the only extra day we get in four years.  And not just the wee sniffles but the proper I think I'm going to cry because I feel so wretched and my teeth/ears/face hurt so much that I think it would hurt less if it fell off kind of lurgy.  But I powered through.  I had my bi-weekly progress report with evil black mould in the bedroom.  It escalated quickly and every piece of furniture was moved and checked due to severe wall infestation.  Then I had my daily Peppa Pig training - not quite getting the right level of bass in the Daddy Pig snort yet helped somewhat by my inability to breathe properly today.  We had toddler team building with glue, paint and sequins and a nutritionally balanced meal with a vegetable was created from scratch so I think I scored some good team player points.

Did I manage to do anything new today?  No.  But my toddler found the loo roll I was using as handy tissues for my nose and decided to unroll about 10 feet of it and tear it into a hundred little pieces, so that was fun.  And I didn't ask anyone to marry me today either.  Even though my husband said it was ok to ask him.  I'm afraid my rhinovirus-fuelled brain couldn't quite muster the correct, possibly romantic response.  Instead I fear I sneezed violently several times and said something like 'Why?'

Friday 26 February 2016

Points of View - Writers Workshop #2

No, not the one with Anne Robinson and Angry from West Midlands complaining about the BBC show that showed a branded chocolate bar but instead the voice in which you choose to write.  You know, that easy one that naturally comes forth and never, ever, ever, switches between first person and third - honest.

It's quite fascinating to learn about the craft of writing when you consider the physical act itself is something that everyone knows how to do, more or less.  I knew there were different voices, not just the ones in my head, but I still can't tell you with confidence which one my book is written in. Possibly third person omniscient??? You can always visit my website, read the first chapter and let me know if you like -

I'd never really thought about the impact using a particular voice would have but consider the following:

First Person Limited
I thought she was overreacting personally and didn't really know what to say.  Pamela, sitting next to me, handled it bluntly.  I listened in horrified awe as she said, 'It's not like it's your job is it?  I mean, you're still earning money.'  I glanced across at Louise.  She was turning red.  I flinched slightly as she snapped, 'I'd volunteered there for 15 years.'  I still wasn't sure what the big deal was - it was just a charity shop.

Third Person Limited
She thought Louise was overreacting, she had tried to commiserate sincerely but didn't feel like she'd been very convincing.   Sitting next to her, Pamela sniffed disdainfully and said rather offhandedly, 'Well, it's not like it's your day job is it?  I mean you didn't get fired from that.'  She glanced quickly between the two women.  Pamela was smiling but Louise had turned red before snapping back, 'I'd worked there for 15 years actually.'  In the silence that followed she took a sip of wine, still not sure why it was such an issue.  After all it was only a Saturday afternoon at the local charity shop.

Third Person Objective
'I'm sorry,' she said to Louise.  Pamela said, 'Well, it's not like you lost your job, is it?'  She glanced between the two women.  Louise stood to leave.  'I'd been there 15 years, actually.'  She sipped her wine in the silence that followed the woman's exit.

If you disagree with me or I've made a glaring error then imagine I'm your 8 year old niece who has only just learnt what a verb is and be gentle with me in the comments please.  I'm not saying that I'm going to re-write The Gaia Effect but I will certainly write the first chapter of my new book from different points of view to see which one works best.  After all Pen to Print competition deadline is about a month away so I really ought to get cracking.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

How's the writing?

I had a bit of a surreal conversation yesterday.  Someone asked me the inevitable question - 'How's the writing?'  I took a moment.  And said the following.  This is verbatim.

'Yeah' with a nod.  'Yeah' with a sigh.  'Yeah' with a nose wrinkle and a shrug.  'Yeah' with that deep sinking feeling that actually you've got nothing to say.

I have always prided myself on being able to make sparking conversation.  Case in point.

But it's true.  I have nothing to say because I've done nothing.  And I feel so guilty about having done nothing that I feel like I can't do anything anyway.  The human brain has the most amazing capacity to stand in its own way.  In true immovable force, unstoppable action style.

It's weird because if I wasn't performing at work I would have been pulled into the MD's office and given a solid talking too with the threat of lost income dangling over my noggin.  Seeing as I don't actually have any income and I am my own boss, I'm more likely to invite myself in for a cup of tea and a freshly baked cake.

However, not all is lost.  There is still a month until competition deadline, which in my head means I don't have to write anything for another three weeks.  I did jot down an idea yesterday.  And I've started dreaming again - always a good sign of a fresh and fertile mind.  The toddler in the night time has morphed into the toddler who wakes fresh as a daisy on the nose at 6am so I can't really complain about that anymore.  Plus, it's writer's workshop tomorrow so if nothing else I should feel motivated to write another blog post.

And - just in case you hadn't noticed - I refreshed my blog.  And yes that's me.  Drinking tea and eating cake!

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Dipping a Toe

I have made a monumental decision.  I am self publishing a book.  Not the big novel - that's still in the laps of the literary agent gods - but a little book of verse.  I used to wax lyrically quite often.  I have, somehow, managed to gather together a rather dusty collection of rhyming couplets.   Except most of them don't rhyme.  Which is OK.

Poetry is sometimes looked on as a dirty little secret.  It's possibly not considered the sexiest of the written form and I think school curriculums have a great deal to answer for that.  I would often read poetry pre GCSE and one of my treasured children's book was Golden Apples and Silver something or other.  I have googled it in vain but I remember it quite clearly.  Dissecting poetry in stifling classroom environments took away some of the magic.

Then, as I grew older, I became more self conscious and embarrassed at sharing my work.  So what changed?  The realisation that time waits for no man and marches on regardless.  What exactly is it I am waiting for?  I dipped that toe.  I put the whole left foot into the water.  I set up a CreateSpace account today and got me an ISBN.  I logged into Kindle Direct Publishing.  It's happening baby. Suit Up!

I may or may not have started to watch How I Met Your Mother.....

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Keeping it short

How do you write a short story?  It is, for me, a difficult concept to wrap my head round.  Perhaps it is because I am a fan of the epic fifteen book fantasy series genre.  Or perhaps, and this is the one I am secretly hoping to be true, it's because writing short stories is hard.

They are often about one particular moment in time.  A microcosmic glance into a life.  And yet they don't have to be stripped bare or utilitarian in nature.  They can be rich and full of nuance, packing a powerful literary punch.  I just can't write them.  My main issue is with the ending.  How do you parcel it up - where do you get the bow from?

I have a great idea for a short story.  I can't tell you about it because then I will have written it and I haven't written it yet because it needs to have a 2000 word limit and that bothers me.  Once upon a time I would have thought 2000 words to be a complex achievement on one document.  After spending a scant five months writing a novel I know that 2000 words can easily be written provided the right environment has been created.

Preferably - a tight deadline, many other time sensitive jobs requiring my attention, an endless supply of hot tea and the exact right snack.  This fluctuates depending on a multitude of variables which I cannot possibly expand upon here.  It's the basis of a highly scientific paper that could be published in notable journals.  Who am I kidding - it depends how much my husband has raided the biscuit tin and what rubbish I've been left with.  No great short story has ever been written on the back of a measly rich tea.

The problem is the rocky marriage between the writer and that absolute devil of a time waster, procrastination.  Here I am frantically scrabbling for words to fill a blog post when I could be writing the first draft of my shortness.  All my jobs are jobbed.  The man is out.  The child asleep. Marmalade bread and butter pudding is currently baking in the oven.  It's almost as if I need someone to give me permission, to pour the tea and say 'it's OK, you can write now.'

All I have to do now is find a pen that works.

MADhurst short story logo

Thursday 4 February 2016

The tale of the lock-out

Yesterday, at precisely 15.11pm, we went on a toddler walkabout.  This involves putting a pair of reins on a small child and letting them decide where to walk.  It's the sort of thing you do when the weather is clear and the insides of your flat are closing in about you as the clock seems to stop ticking and the afternoon refuses to progress.  The whole 'good idea at the time' scenario.

The sun was indeed shining but it was cold and a brisk breeze huffed about happily as we slid the slide, roundabouted the roundabout and see-sawed the see saw, avoiding the myriad pieces of broken glass.  This took approximately five minutes which in toddler time must seem like an age as it is the generous amount of time they'll spend on a favourite topic.  Where next?  I had my bag, time needed to be killed so I let the toddler decide.

We walked along happily hooting and tooting at cars, vans, bikes and my personal favourite, buses. Naturally we had to stop to exalt happily the existence of each and so time began to march along. We dismissed the usual crossing place and instead took our lives in our hands to cross adjacent to the roundabout further along - it's ok, this is a designated crossing place seeing as the council were too idiotic to put one here and it's a busy pedestrian area with access to at least four schools.  More buses were admired.

On finally crossing the road the toddler thought the doctors surgery looked especially interesting but I managed to dissuade him, after all - you can never get an appointment.  It was at this point that the sun began dipping somewhat and the clouds began gathering.  The coolness became a chill and my thoughts went to dinner.  We had some sausages but nothing to go with them.  I decided to take partial control over the toddler walkabout, directing him to the hallowed aisles of ASDA.  On reflection, it is best not to take a toddler on foot into to an extremely large supermarket especially when they have multiple displays of glass bottle related products within swiping distance. Fortunately my reflexes were sharp and disaster averted.

And so it was we came to the self service checkout.  That denizen of hell or fast track bliss depending on your basic common sense skillset.  I scanned.  I reached inside my bag.  Empty.  No.  Wait.  It can't be empty, I'm stood at the self service checkout.  I check again.  And again.  Cold fear hits my stomach.  I don't have my purse.  Which means I don't have my keys.  I'm locked out!

Multiple apologies were made to the attendant who couldn't give a stuffed fig one way or the other about my predicament.  Did I want the things kept to one side?  Well - I looked at her face for a hint of mockery.  Nothing.  They are freezer items I explain gently.  I'll put them to one side for you she said moving on to the next hapless user.

I looked once more for the purse.  It definitely wasn't there.  Phone.  At least I have my phone.  My toddler was doing a complex infinity weave around my ankles involving much pulling, dragging, swirling and entangling.  Sweetie - Mummy needs a moment.  Can you just stay still for a second please?  Call the husband.  Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring.  Answer phone.  Godammit!

Assess the situation.  I have an empty bag and a phone.  No money.  No keys.  And possibly more importantly no nappies, wipes, juice or any other toddler paraphernalia because I thought it would be a good idea to come out without any of that to kill some time!!!!!!!!!!!!

After ringing and ringing and ringing, I take the two of us to the library and seek refuge amongst the green blaize flooring in the children's section.  No answer on the phone.  No answer on the text.  I try whatsapp.  I try my spare key holder.  She's out and about, it'll take her about two hours to get to us.  I put her on emergency standby.  I try not to cry.  My toddler empties the entire book cart.

And then, and then, a message.  I'm on my way.  The husband to the rescue.  We stagger out towards the foyer of the library and there he is.  Our hero.  We hug and smile and he pats his pockets. Dammit - I left my keys at work.

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