Wednesday, 27 February 2008

From bleugh to woohoo!

I was feeling a bit bleugh today. Lots of work to do, re-emergence of rotten cold/sore throat thing, disturbed sleep caused by inconsiderate earthquake (I though it was child falling downstairs and leapt about the house in a panic), and Eric whispering non-constructive criticism in my ear.

Cheered up slightly by gorgeousness of David Mitchell's Black Swan Green - although it nearly ended in disaster as I was so absorbed in it on the train on the way home that I almost missed my station and had a mad scramble for the doors with scarves and gloves and sandwich boxes flailing.

Then I logged on this evening and found this lovely award from Moondreamer

Thank you m'dear for once again making me smile and sharing that fuzzy feeling, and for your lovely comments (and the gorgeous flower pictures on your blog). I shall pass this big 'Mwah!' (with added smile and fuzziness) on to
SpiralSkies for her humour and zip (not the one on your jeans dear), to HelenMH for her warmth and excellent writing and to Cally for top blogging and for getting me involved in this whole blog thing in the first place.

So, already beginning to leave bleurgh-dom behind, I then discovered that two of my stories have made the Fish Short Story Prize Long-List! Now, it is a very long list - 120 stories to be exact and Eric has just composed a new song that goes 'There were only 120 entries anyway, tra la la la la' (to the tune of 'Brown Girl in the Ring'). But I know that's not true cos I entered 3 (so there were at least 121!). According to their judging criteria page the long list consists of stories 'graded A or B+' and are all 'of publishable standard.' So even if my two get no further I'm still pretty damn chuffed.

I now feel so inspired to just sit down and write that that's what I'm going to jolly well do.

Friday, 22 February 2008


When I worked in a library one of my favourite browsing books was a dialect atlas. You could look up a word or phrase - ‘argument’, ‘daft’, ‘money’, ‘left-handed’ - and find out the local word for it in Sheffield or Gloucester or Torquay. Invaluable to anyone wanting to add a bit of authentic dialogue to their writing.

I could have done with it this morning. I live in Yorkshire and was born in Yorkshire, but, crucially, not the same part of Yorkshire. The town that I live in has a solid local base with a geological trifle of 'incomers' layered on top - I'm somewhere near the top of the custard era just before the whipped cream piled in.

Anyway, the cupboard was bare this morning so I went to the bakery to buy me some bread. There on the shelf behind the solid rank of women who run the place was a tantalising array of baked dough products. I spotted the ones I wanted - small round brown things with bits in. The Keeper of the Bread waited, arms crossed across her pinny. She needed the code word, the one that would have her reaching for the right stuff.

I could see what I wanted and I could imagine them split and toasted and spread with butter and marmalade. They were lumps of bread, small round brown things with bits in - but were they buns, rolls, baps, cobs, barms, breadcakes, crinkled muskets, scufflers, teacakes, muffins? I suspected they might be Double-Skinny-Granaries-Easy-on-the-Malt. I wished I was back in my home town where a stotty was a stotty, and that was that.

I was hungry. And the queue behind me was muttering. I thought of pretending to be French, but remembered tortourous times in boulangeries when just sayng 'pain' rarely got the desired result. I thought of going home and having Ryvitas with peanut butter. I even thought of asking for a ciabatta (I know they’ve got them in there somewhere.), but that would send me skittering down the few rungs of the ladders of local acceptance that I kid myself I have won.

I cleared my throat and…I pointed, “Two of them please.”

She gave me one of those ‘Tim from The Office when he’s exasperated with Gareth looks’, unfolded her arms and reached for ... some small white ovals covered with poppy seeds next to my small brown ones with bits in.

I took them, paid and left, muttering apologies as I shuffled past the line of locals already stridently shouting out their orders like dealers at the Stock Exchange.

At the end of the line I passed a woman who despite her tell-tale ART trainers and Matt and Nat vegan bag was looking relaxed, confident even. And then I saw it, clutched in her hand, a grubby piece of paper printed with the words ‘One Large Split Tin, one Landlady's Loaf and half a dozen Nobblers”. She had the code!

I on the other hand had a couple of ‘poppy-topped mini Viennas’ (thank you Google) and a determination to find a copy of that dictionary.

Monday, 18 February 2008

And the answer is..

So, they're sitting round the fire all bearded and befurred and the riddler has told them his latest. They scratch their beards, swig their ale and mutter, "Two ears one eye and twelve hundred heads?" They give up.

With a triumphant flourish the riddler announces...
"It's a one-eyed garlic seller!"

Then runs away.

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Comes in many different forms. I love it when you hear words that, whether technically poetry or not, just do it for you.

There is an Anglo-Saxon riddle that always makes me shiver:

I am fire-fretted and I flirt with Wind
and my limbs are light-freighted and I am lapped in flame
and I am storm-stacked and I strain to fly
and I am a grove leaf-bearing and a glowing ember.

I love the rhythmn and the soft alliteration. When I read through my own work I'm often surprised how much alliteration slips in. But, I find it works best when it is unintentional. When I use it on purpose it sounds forced and unwieldy, and turns into clumsy tongue twisters.

I heard a Willie Nelson song on the radio tonight (as you inevitably do when tuned to Radio 2, which has become our weekend listening of choice - got to face it, we are OLD now). The lyric really stuck in my head and set a story idea going:

When you dig my grave
Could you make it shallow
So I can feel the rain

It's a kind of poetry I think (certainly better than any verse wot I ever wrote).

The answer to the riddle by the way is - a beam of wood. My other favourite from the same collection is one that I like cos its funny (and rude!) rather than poetic:

Swings by his thigh a thing most magical!
Below the belt, beneath the folds
of his clothes it hangs, a hole in its front end,
stiff-set and stout, but swivels about.

Levelling the head of this hanging instrument,
its wielder hoists his hem above the knee:
it is his will to fill a well-known hole
that it fits fully when at full length.

He has often filled it before. Now he fills it again.

Now then. Calm down - its a key of course. What were you thinking?

I love a bit of Dark Age humour. Imagine them all snuggled round the fire chuckling and sniggering and someone at the back shouting out, 'Willy!'

And finally...

Many were met, men of discretion
wisdom and wit, when in there walked...

Two ears it had, and one eye solo,
two feet and twelve hundred heads,
back, belly, a brace of hands
a pair of sides and shoulders and arms
and one neck. Name, please.

Answer, tomorrow.

Friday, 15 February 2008

All you need is..

I know it's a day late, but hey, Love isn't just for Valentine's Day

Found this tree stump in our local woods the other day and it made me smile.

Contrary to blogworld appearances I have actually still been writing and will return to writing related blogs once the glow of Valentine's and me being Gwyneth's twin sister (see below if you don't believe me) have worn off {:)


Pinched this from Karen (thanks!). Not too convinced myself, but if the clever old computer insists this is my lookilikee celeb then who am I to argue?

We could be sisters!
(In case you're wondering, yes you can have more than one go at this and yes I did reject the photo that morphed me into Alice Cooper)

If you fancy having a go yourself, when you get to the 'save to your blog' bit I would recommend NOT entering your Blogger username and password(!) but instead opting for 'step by step help' as this just gives you the code to cut and paste.

Next I'm going to try out the rest of my family - hmmm now who is that My Man reminds me of again?

Quick update - eek apparently he is either Justin Timberlake or Reese Witherspoon! Can't show you the full morph - its far too scary

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Good vibrations

Thanks for this tag Karen, it's just what I needed. I've been plagued with a horrid cold this week and returned to my computer last night to discover that the monitor has some horrible disease that causes it to fade into blackness and then go ping (I have a feeling that the disease is 'old age' and the days of fading and going ping are coming to us all.)

But on a lighter note - here are five ways that I raise my vibrations. By the way I'd like to cheat before I even get started and add reading, finding bargains in charity shops, watching my child turn somersaults in the swimming pool, leisurely weekend breakfasts with my family, morning coffee with friends, sleeping, Bloody Marys ...

Hard to beat a good run across the moors on a bright cold day (especially the bit after the gut wrenching, lung bursting, legs-heavy-as-lead first couple of miles). Only to be beaten by running through the woods in the snow.

Some very loud Led Zeppelin always sorts me out, especially when coupled with jumping (I can hardly call it dancing) around the room. Followed by something a bit more relaxed - Seth Lakeman, Nick Drake , War of the Worlds (aargh can't believe I just admitted to that)

Italian Food
Mmmm pasta with a rich seafood sauce and lots of tomato and garlic. A big glass of chianti. A sticky dolce, and some limoncello. Not forgetting the espresso. First time I had an espresso I thought it was alcoholic - but I was only 14

Swimming in the sea
Not many opportunities for it in the middle of the Pennines (hence the fell running) but I love that plunge into the cold, the battle with the waves, then floating and looking up at a blue sky. I grew up on the North East coast where the sea and the sky were mainly grey and we used to swim in the sea on Boxing Day for charity. I did it every year and never once remembered to get any one to sponsor me. It was worth it for the free hot soup and barley wine afterwards

Got to admit it girls, when it's good it's hard to beat.

Better go now before either me or the monitor goes ping.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Picture this

I did do the picture meme that has appeared on several blogs. In an attempt to protect myself from phishers I chose images that would not give away any vital info, then for extra security this morning (after reading Cally's blog) I tried renaming all the pictures with 'neutral' file names. I ended up causing mayhem , mess and general untidiness and have decided to give it up as being beyond my technological skills. For a discussion of the wisdom of doing the picture meme see discussion on on Cally's blog).

Meanwhile all that remains of my original meme is this interpretation of my first job

Friday, 8 February 2008

Here is meez

Enough of Balzac and all that serious stuff. Here I am according to Meez

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

It's fun (if a bit slow) but I might need to tweak it a bit for 'body size' - I didn't quite fit their templates.

Another way of working

Many of us are writing, re-writing or maybe even proofing novels at the moment and we all have our own means and methods. I came across this lovely nugget today and wanted to share it with you:

"Balzac would set off for the printer's with his camp-bed and manuscripts...for nineteen hours a day he took the pages hot off the presses, made corrections, handed them back, then wrote the next part of the novel while the corrected pages were reprinted. Twenty workers were kept busy for a month and two novels were completed. ....One of the workers worked so hard that he began to spit blood."
(from Balzac by Graham Robb)

I have seen pictures of his 'corrected' proofs and they are basically rewrites of his first drafts. Those poor 'workers'. The author of the above extract observed that Balzac was the first example of a writer using a computer,"with human beings and hydraulic press instead of microchips and a laser-printer"

Makes sitting in front of an actual computer for hours on end with cups of tea, some choice CDs and the delete key seem an absolute joy.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

An award!

Thank you Cally for this lovely award. Its really heart warming being part of such a generous and sharing writing community - ooh it makes me go all gushy. But seriously, thanks.

I am now supposed to pass this on to ten more bloggers. I have no trouble finding lots of excellent ones, only trouble is you have all already received it.

What is a girl to do? Nothing for it but to award it to you all again. So Cally (bit of a boomerang sorry) , Karen, Spiral Skies, Sally Q, Helen, A.Writer, Leigh, Sarah *G* and Moondreamer please all take another bow (and no tears this time please!). And to try and stay in the spirit of passing things on, an Excellent Bogger award for someone who as far as I know hasn't had one yet - Neil for his seamless interweaving of music and politics.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

What do you wear?

There has been talk on other blogs about what we wear when we are writing. A lot of people seem to go for the jim-jams option and so far no-one has owned up to doing something I was once recommended (but have never tried)- 'dressing as if for the office'. I am with Karen in agreeing that waistbands hinder writing (unless of course they are the comfy sort found on jim-jams)

I decided to do a bit of research and am now the proud owner of the following trivial information, which I would like to share:

Victor Hugo wrote in the nude in an attempt to fight writers block (on the principle that if all his clothes were taken away he would have nothing to distract him (spot the obvious flaw in that idea), Ernest Hemingway wrote naked , standing up with his typewriter at waist level (maybe he had learnt from Hugo's mistake) and Agatha Christie wrote in the bath (maybe naked, maybe in a wet suit, maybe fully dressed lying on cushions). Honore de Balzac, of bawdy story fame, wore a 'monk's robe' (actually a white dressing gown but everyone chose to humour him) when writing and of course Barbara Cartland wore pink. Don't know about Charles Dickens but apparently he practiced his dialogue by jumping up and down in front of a mirror pulling faces and talking in silly voices.

So, what do I wear? Well, without wanting to get too personal I have to confess to not owning a pair of jim jams, and as my house is generally freezing that does mean I have to get dressed before sitting down to write. In fact I am usually completely clothed, if a bit scruffy, and 'shock horror' have even been known to have applied mascara before I begin. I should add that this is not for the purposes of writing but because I often have a social interlude of a morning (ie an early coffee with friends in trendy cafe in town) and the mascara helps my eyes stay open before the coffee kicks in.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Time for some discipline

I've had it easy the last month or so - no work and plenty of writing time. Result - lots of novel written and four stories completed and submitted (Hurrah!) and big echoing hole in my bank balance (Boo!)

I'm freelance so the work flow can be a bit up and down. Well it's suddenly shot up again. I am inundated with stuff and deadlines are looming like towerblocks on my horizon. My hungry bank balance is cheering but as the work piles up on my desk I'm losing sight of my plot lines and story ideas.

Today I decided to take action. If I'm going to work (which I have to) and write (which I want to) I'm going to have to be more disciplined with my time. This is a two part plan, involving

1) demarcating specific work and writing time, and sticking to it.

2) mopping up those odd half hours in the working day which I fill with mooching around charity shops, playing spider solitaire, stopping too long over morning coffee with friends, sorting socks into pairs (the last inspired me to start a website called Socks Reunited, but then I found it had already been done!) and generally not using my time productively.

I'm also going to try to write more in the evening (although I will have to fight over the key board with My Man who has a whole load of fell running/weather watching/ local politics forums what-not going on on the internet of an evening.)

Last part of my plan is unlikely to begin tonight however as I have on my desk a video of the brand new episode of Lost. We don't have Sky but a kind friend does and managed to tape every episode for us last time and is going to do it again this time.

Hurrah for Discipline, Plans, Lovely friends with satellite television, Lost (especially Sawyer) and Still having coffee with friends on a morning but just not hanging around for quite so long

Friday, 1 February 2008

A toast to...

...everyone who participated in the Your Messages project. Last night's launch of the book was a fitting celebration of the 115 people from all over the world who contributed during November. The event was in the spirit of the original idea - warm, generous and welcoming. In the preface to the book Lynne and Sarah say that they "truly wished we could put them all in here, but failing that, we love the idea that they are still up there altogether on the Your Messages site where they all belong." It is fantastic to be able to revisit the site and read favourite pieces, including the many wonderful ones that aren't in the book.

Lynne and Sarah annonced that bluechrome are donating all the money from the sales of Your Messages to the Kids Company charity, which is fantastic. They raised £500 from sales at the launch, and it's now available on Amazon.

It was great to meet fellow bloggers in the flesh and a shame to miss those who were unable to attend. I met the lovely Leigh, was initiated by Caroline into the world of In Search of Adam (I now have a badge!) and would have bought the paperback today if Waterstones had been open at a reasonable hour (ie before my train left London), was enticed by Oz Hardwick's description of the forthcoming York Literature Festival, made note of a couple of blogs I had previously not encountered (Three Beautiful Things and Mercs World) and generally met lots of fantastic people.

Had an uneventful journey back, immersed in Sarah Waters' Fingersmith (what an amazing book). At one point though I got totally distracted by the mobile phone conversations of the woman sitting next to me - to the extent that I started to just pretend to read so I could have a good listen, and then when I realised I wasn't very convincing I pretend to doze off. It was fascinating stuff - a world of seriously rich partying , exotic holidays, dastardly exes, finanicial crisis that 'I'll just have to ride dahling' and invitations to 'the house in Chamonix'.

Wish I'd made notes but that might have been too obvious and anyway I don't think I'll forget her in a hurry. It was also interesting in light of my Messages piece - which is about an Internet stalker. By the end of the journey I had so much information about her and her life that I am tempted to Google her and find out more - does that make me sound really creepy?