Monday, 29 August 2011


Congratulations to Emma Woodcock, who has just published her fabulous fantasy novel, Darklands, as an ebook, available now on Amazon.  I'm increasingly seeing the advantages of Kindle and equivalents (not just as a reader, after finding an enormous spider hiding on my bookshelf) and self-publishing in this crazy, competitive world. 
Never does a Writer's Forum or Writing Magazine drop through the letterbox (yes, I've given in and subscribed to save fruitless journeys to the nearest big town) without at least one article or letter pointing out the advantages, and advising on how best to get it to work for you.  I must confess, as the deeply flawed technophobe I am, that the thought of producing my work in this format gives me waking nightmares, but it seems like a great route to take if you are intelligent and motivated and talented enough.  (Emma Woodcock...)  Well done, Emma - I'm watching with great interest and hoping it's the start of the glittering career you deserve.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Hiccuping along

I've managed one measly writing session this week, but it was on a day that was quite disastrous in all other ways, so at least there was one redeeeming moment that day.

I was quite down-hearted at first, reading a section that I've just inserted (so, technically, it hasn't been edited or rewritten).  But I kept reading, and began to get sucked in to my own story, and began to almost feel that parts of it were good.  As for fresh re-writing, I only tackled two or three paragraphs, but it was a start, and put the story back at the front of my mind where it should be. I also realised I'm a little further along than I had thought.

I'm still concerned about the structure I've chosen - it's what I've wanted since the first concept, but the sub-plot is essentially flashbacks, which I think are quite important, but I'm not sure whether it is stalling the story too much. It's no good to know that this is generally the case, or that the usual advice would be to  avoid too much backstory/flashbacks at all, because we all know it does work sometimes, and it is the right thing to do sometimes.  What I need is an independent opinion, so I'm going to start saving up, I think, and when Draft 2 or 3 is complete, I think I will send it to a critiquing service and see what I can learn.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Books, books: everywhere!

We are in the midst of the Great Move (which is a misnomer; it's really a quite small move if you keep it in perspective, but that doesn't have the same ring to it). The extension is nearly finished so the children's toys are in there and dining table has been wedged into the kitchen so that I can bruise my hip on it a few times a day.

The old dining room is painted, and we began moving the bookcases and contents down there two days ago.  It's an amazingly time-consuming job.  Steve keeps stomping around grumpily declaring that he's never moving house again.  We had to make tottering piles and towers of books and folders and files from the top floor in the bedrooms to the bathroom.  We haven't been able to open the curtains in the lounge for two days.  (We didn't expect the piles to stay so long).  The bookcases were heavier and more difficult to move than we anticipated.  Anyway, they are moved now, and it's just the long and slow process of refilling them, and trying to get rid of paperwork we don't need, or books we haven't used in four years.

The only thing I really loved was putting my fiction books in piles on the floor and getting to run my fingers over each cover.  Steve informs me that it's really not that normal to sniff at the pages, but I'm ignoring him.  There is something special about each book I have at the moment, having pared my collection down four years ago.  Each one has a vivid memory of the first time I read it; I was in labour when I read this (a Marian Keyes) ; I first read this the Christmas I was twelve and had gastro-enteritis (Jane Eyre) ;  this was one of my earliest reads in a home where there were only a handful of books that Mum and Dad had won at Sunday School or school (a Jim Kjelgaard dog story - this was the one I was sniffing with it's musty, stiff pages, torn dust jacket and yellowed print).

So lovely, to know there are still thousands of books out there I haven't been introduced to yet that might find their way to my shelves.  Just don't tell Ste that next time there'll be even more books to move.

Sunday, 7 August 2011


This has been my most unproductive fortnight in a long time.  It would be too easy to blame the children's school holidays, the week at the coast (which I  took my laptop to, hopefully, but never opened it) and other pressures at the moment, but they all feel like excuses.  A half hour a day would be enough to keep me in routine (and I really ought to fit in that half hour of exercise, too).

Perhaps it's time to have a slight re-evaluation.  I was adding birthdays to my new diary (I have a student diary to match the school year, so it's that time of year) and realised that in November it will be a year since I hit my self-set deadline of finishing Draft 1.  I'm quite ashamed that Draft 2, even though it has taken a significant amount of re-writing, is still only around half way through.

Definitely time to prioritise and plan for writing, even amongst all the other responsibilities that are crushing at the moment.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Seal of Doom

We have just had a week on the East Coast.  We were near an RAF base called Donna Nook, so the beach we had access to (except during the hours 9-5) was a thing of nightmares, littered with targets, and strange plastic containers arranged in peculiar patterns. It was somewhat eerie.  As the owner of our cottage showed us around, he raved about the seal colony further up the coast, and told us that other guests have found it a highlight.  He told us we had to wait till low tide, and then walk twenty minutes to the sea, right between the targets, then turn left and walk for twenty-five minutes and we'd be able to walk up through the colony of a thousand or so seals, and it would be an experience of a lifetime.

The first problem we encountered was that low tide seemed to be fairly late, and with small children, that's not so easy.  My sister decided she and her husband and all three children were going to go at about seven one night, so we rushed our late dinner and joined her.  Mum was tired, and decided to stay at home, so I left the little one with her.  The six-year old had had a high temperature as well, so I promised I'd take her another time, and left her, too.

After just ten minutes walking along the deserted beach, the vicious wind had burrowed into my ears and was making them sing with pain.  I tried to walk with my hands over my ears, shuffling lop-sidedly.  We made our way down through the targets, and turned left. I improved my overall appearance (lop-sided shuffle and all) by sticking clean tissue in my ears, which solved the immediate problem, but looked oh-so-classy.  After half an hour, there was no sign of any seals, and we were all getting somewhat bored by the endless sands under a huge sky.  The four year old decided that he needed the toilet, which turned out to be the most fun he'd had so far, as he discovered he could draw patterns in the sand. 

The grown ups carried on debating whether this was a lost cause, and whether it was low tide, while the children ran in crazed circles, drawing lines in the sand with sticks. Then one of my brother-in-laws spotted a lump on the beach that just might be a seal.  A single, lonely, seal; where were the other 999? Never mind; we trudged on with renewed enthusiasm, and sure enough, after a few minutes, the dark blob moved; it raised a dog-like head, and, I imagined, whiffled in our direction, then proceeded to make its painful way to the sea, shuffling and humping awkwardly.  Perhaps it, too, was trying to keep the wind out of its' ears. We could easily have cut it off, but it looked so pitiable and panic-stricken, we stood back and watched.

When it had escaped into the grey sea, we cast longing glances over our shoulders back to the radar tower at the RAF base, a mere blip on the horizon now.  No-one wanted to be the one to cry 'Quit!' but it seemed we were wasting our time. Then my other brother-in-law spotted a series of speckles on the horizon (I was getting fed up of everything being on the horizon) which he inspected at length through his top-notch binoculars, and declared were seals, possibly even the mythical colony we were searching for.  With sinking hearts, we set off again and eventually were close enough to see the individual seals, glaring suspiciously in our direction. Any move towards them sent waves of them flopping towards the sea;  graceful as a collective. We managed to sneak a few steps closer without scaring the whole lot away, but there was no way to get between the sea and them, as advised.  A few of them, safe in the waves, stayed nearby, watching us, domed heads bobbing against the pewter sea.  The light was beginning to seep out of the sky, ever so slightly.

We admired the seals a while longer, because we felt we ought to after all that effort, but really there was little to see at the distance we were.  At last we felt it was fair enough to give up, and we headed straight across the beach to the radar tower.  The four year old was definitely flagging; his bottom lip was quivering, and his Uncle offered to give him a ride once we got to the fluorescent orange containers.  I didn't feel that happy about cutting straight across a bombing range;  there are times when an imagination is a curse. We ended up singing songs that were torn from our lips by the wind, and swinging arms with the four year old.  We set off at a grim pace, determined to get him home before he collapsed with tiredness, or into a puddle of tears.  He kept up and joined in, and suggested more songs when he had breath.   We told stories, and watched the landmarks, which didn't seem to be any closer. 
At last we reached the orange containers on sticks;  the brother-in-law pointed out they were in the shape of an arrow, but we were all far from impressed, our eyes fixed still on the ever-distant radar tower.  At last we made it through the mudflats and to the edge of the dunes;  past the base and its weird fake helicopter, make of a thin frame covered in netting.  The four year old decided to climb down again, telling me earnestly, 'He didn't ask me to get down, I wanted to, cos I thought he was tired.'  He clasped my hand, and I knew what he really meant; he was tired and wanted his Mum.  We passed the signs that warned death and calamity if you wander onto the beach at the wrong time, and not to dig up anything at any time, and then there was our path through the dunes. We almost missed it, we were in such a rhythm.

We filled up on cheesecake when we got back, and the four year old was asleep before I'd covered him up.

 Next day we went to the seal sanctuary, and got to look at doe-eyed seals close up; really close up. 
'We saw loads of them last night,' the four year old boasted.
The six year old regarded them with serious eyes, then looked at me.
 'Are you going to take me to see the colony tonight, Mummy?' she said. 'You did promise...'