Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Dragon: a poem.

     Razor sharp venomous teeth

Rocky crackly roar

Mean-hearted golden eyes

Scaly emerald spikes

Red sharp claws

Smooth scalding claws

Malleable shape changes thumb

Petrifying hot roaring meteor

Gold scaly skin

Sparkling sapphire eyes

Big scary eyes

Needle sharp Arrow pointed

Tall silver tail

Purple bumpy tongue

Cherry blood drinker

Gives deadly death

Unpredictable deafening scream

Terrifying scream roaring

Ears long black

Green fearsome nostrils

Malicious black heart

Horrifying breath

Horrible vile breath

Fearsome lava red

Scorching flaming breath

Smooth sapphire scales

Spines iron hot metallic triangles

Sensational courageous magnificent

Awakes in the dark, dark cave.

On Monday I did a dragon workshop with some Year 6 kids at St. Thomas More Academy in Stoke.
After reading from "Dragonfire" we came up with our own ideas of what a dragon might look like and the above poem is the result.

It was a great session. I enjoyed myself and I hope the group did too, so thanks to  Riley, Maia, Tom, Cameron, Spencer, Brandan, Ashley, Leah, Devan, Gerry, Josh, Kian Alarna, Kyle, Leo, Natasha, Isobel, Maryann, Molly-Ann, Shona, Ami, Amy, Sophie, Cameron, Kai, Ltrelle, Chloe and Hannan and all the best for the start of your new term at St. Thomas More in September.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Summer time and the living is easy...

Or it should be. The sun is shining, the temperature is perfect and I have just come in from having a cup of coffee in the garden. Sounds idyllic, but...

I am a creature of routine and my morning routine involves writing for a couple of hours before doing anything else. On the days when I do this, I feel I can relax and get on with the rest of my life. On the days when it doesn't happen there is this niggle at the back of my mind telling me I'm not treating my work professionally etc. etc. all the usual beat yourself up stuff that writers go in for.

And today the next book in the "Clear Gold" series remains untouched.

What then should I do? Go with the flow, or stick to the timetable?

The answer, of course, is to compromise. For me, a routine is both comforting and an efficient way of getting things done. On the other hand, days like today are rare and must be enjoyed.

So, I will finish my blog, for Wednesday is blogging day, then I will edit some more of the book after which I'm going outside with my Notebook to work on a short story I need to revise.

And to finish the day? A walk to the Red Lion for an evening of Renegade Writers.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Remarkable Renegades

Last night was writing group with the wonderful Renegade Writers. Having spent three days wrestling with a seemingly intractable problem with my e mail I thought I would mention it at the start of the session. Various theories were advanced then Jem Shaw offered to come round after the meeting and fix it. At the same time he was giving Josh Allerton a lift home, so there they were at ten o'clock at night sorting out my e mail difficulty.

Now it all works perfectly and I can go to sleep without worrying about invasion of virus, or hacking by evil minded aliens and all the other crazy thoughts that go through my mind at three am.

Oh and the group gave me very constructive comments about book 2 in the Clear Gold series as well.

What more can one woman ask for?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Tea on the Radio

Yesterday I was a guest on Paul Oldfield's Nite Klub on Cre8 radio. I had come expecting to talk about my new book, "Clear Gold" but the conversation turned to tea. Now without tea I couldn't function. First thing in the morning, whatever time I get up, it's down to the kitchen and put the kettle on. Sometimes it's three o'clock in the morning, sometimes nine. Then with mug in hand I can sit down at the computer and get down to work.

And how do I make this tea. To my shame I have to confess that I'm a tea bag masher with a spoon sort. Not for me a china teapot, the leaf tea, the strainer and jug of hot water. What I need is m tannin fix. Once I've got that then my day can begin.

Oh and yes we did talk about the book and I read an extract but to hear both you'll have to tune in to www. Cre8radio/listen.


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Dreams, Dreams, Dreams

Writing isn't all about sitting at the computer/laptop/tablet, or even old fashioned notebook. It's also about dreaming. Not the sort where you conjure up your latest best seller; imagine what it would feel like to be interviewed on Breakfast TV, or to glide along the red carpet at the premiere of the film of your book: the one that is about to gross millions and put you right up there with J.K. Rowling in the millionaire stakes.

The dreaming I'm talking about is another form of work. It's what happens when you don't know where a story is going, or you're stuck on a scene, or a character. That's when I get up, switch off and go and do something completely different, something that will let my mind float free.

Sometimes it's walking into town through the trees of Station Walks, or the Brampton Park. At other times I pull up a few weeds in the garden or do some mundane household chores.

Taking a shower is good too.

Yesterday, on my way to Birmingham, it was sitting in the train watching the countryside go by. I'm working on the second book about Mouse and Lanyon, the next in the series after "Clear Gold" and I was having trouble with a character who was threatening to take over the first part of the story.
As I sat and stared at the sun filled fields and crumbling industrial buildings, the answer came to me. Notebook and pen out, I began jotting down ideas.

I had thought I was taking a day off. In fact the journey proved very productive and as well as having a great time with an old friend, the following morning the chapters simply fell into place. At which point, I sat down at the computer and began...

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Stone Pub run by Zombies

Lunch with a  friend should be a pleasant occasion. A trip to the usual pub by the canal at Stone, good pub food, drink and long, long chats. This is my usual experience of The Star. Today however it was not to be as the usual staff appeared to have been replaced by Zombies.

First the wait to be served. We sit, and sit. The waiter, if that is who he is, walks past our table, once, twice, three times. His face is blank. Finally we are asked what we would like to drink. We order and we also give our order for food. We wait. Time passes. We chat. The room is virtually empty, no one comes, no one leaves. No meal arrives.

Forty minutes later I go to the bar. Is there a problem? Apparently not, such a wait is common. I point out it's never happened before and that we are regulars. My comment is met by a blank stare.

Some time later, food arrives. No apology, no explanation. It's good, we enjoy it. No one comes to ask if it is OK.  No one offers dessert, or coffee, or clears away our dishes.

The room empties. We are alone.

If this were SF at this point the poison in our systems would kick in, we would keel over and be dispatched either for alien experimentation, or to have our vital organs harvested, etc.

Nothing happens. The place rattles with emptiness. Our conversation flags.

Since no one is around it would be tempting at this point to leave without paying. It could have been done; instead we go to the bar. We smile politely, we pay.

The Zombies stand expressionless. One sips coffee. Or is it? The cup he raises to his lips would suggest it is, but by now all we want to do is get out of there asap.

Driving home, I begin to wonder. Is all this a way of shutting down the lunch time trade, or is something more sinister going on?

Whatever the explanation, we won't be going there again.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Thinking in pictures

Apparently #Dyslexic people think in pictures. Talking to friend and fellow writer Mick Walters who suffers from dyslexia he sees his stories as an ongoing film which he then has to translate into words. This made me look at how my imagination functions. If I hear the word "dog" I don't immediately see a dog, as Mick would. In fact the more I think about it, the more I realize that I am a very word orientated person. Except for when I "see" a character, which is often the starting point of a book for me, I usual verbalize my thoughts. Which of course makes it easier to write them down.

The downside of this sort of brain is, that I have very poor spatial awareness. I never really know if I can, or can't fit into a parking space. Also I'm not very good at directions, unless they are written down. I can follow a map, if I hold it the right way up for me and trace our journey with my finger, but far, far easier for me if someone has given me verbal instructions.

I deal in words, Mick deals in pictures, but he too needs to tell a story. I've often wondered why so many people with dyslexia write, even though it's harder for them, than for the rest of us. Now I'm beginning to get an insight into the answer.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Finding my way

Two weeks ago, the new computer arrived. It's sitting on my desk, purring happily away, looking very, very smart and new.

It's quick; it does a lot of stuff and I'm still finding my way around it. What used to be automatic now needs a great deal of thinking about. I know that in a few weeks time I'll wonder what the problems were, but just at the moment I'm feeling a like a clumsy fingered dinosaur who's been catapulted into the 21st century.

And like  any true dinosaur I wish that my lovely smart new machine had come equipped with that old fashioned thing, a handbook!

Friday, 4 April 2014

With a little help from my friends

Facebook is wonderful! Writers get a lot of advice about not wasting time on social media but as far as I'm concerned Facebook really has been brilliant these past couple of weeks.

A few days ago, my screen turned pink. Pleasant enough and quite workable. Then things began to deteriorate. Jaundice set in. What had been white, then rose coloured, became bilious yellow. Hardly daring to even say it out loud, for we all know how our electronic devices can intuit every thought and fear, I posted my problem on Facebook.

Immediately help was at hand. Jem Shaw suggested I made sure the cable was plugged in tightly. I did and everything went back to normal, putting to rest my terrors about having to buy a new screen. OK I still have to wriggle the cable occasionally so the screen stays white rather than blush, but now I know what to do it's no longer a problem.

Jem wasn't the only person to come up with this solution, so thanks to everyone else who posted their advice.

Special thanks too to my cousin in Canada, Jan Wolanczyk. Whenever I don't know how to post a link to some forum I belong to, he's there for me and once again problem within minutes.

On a more serious note, when Mike was in hospital having his gall bladder removed the good wishes and support from my Facebook friends really made a difference. Coming home to an empty house and finding so many people had posted their love and concern, lifted those dark hours.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

To Tell or not to Tell

The story is great, fast paced, page turning. The main characters are vividly drawn, their dilemmas absorbing. I can't put the book down and race to get to the end. Why don't I want to give it a five star review?
  Because Indie published as it is, it is full of grammatical errors (the writer knows about as much about the use of the apostrophe as the nine year olds I used to teach) misuse of words, ie. affect where it should be effect, spelling errors and the use of prepositions is creative to say the least.
  For me, however, riveting the plot, this spoils my enjoyment of the book. Once I notice one error, then  my teacher's need to pick up the red pencil comes into play. 
  This won't be true of every reader, but there is another more serious point to my criticism. If we are publishing our own work then we need to have the same standards as traditional publishers. As a writer I know that I constantly miss my own errors, but that is why I have beta-readers, who will pick them out for me. Then I print out a hard copy and go over it with a ruler and pencil word by word. 
  Even then it's not infallible, but at least the errors should now be at the level that can be found in traditionally published books. 
  If we don't do this then our books will always be seen as second rate and we will never achieve the same respect as those who go down the traditional path. 
  Should I say all this in my review? Should I point out what has spoiled the story for me? If I were prepared for sloppy editing then I might decide to ignore it and concentrate on the plot, but on the other hand it might be enough to put someone off even trying the book and so missing out on a rattling good yarn. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Gremlins and Daemons.

Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining, it feels like Spring and I've just come in from the garden to finish off a few tasks on my computer.

But I seem to have brought the Gremlins and Daemons with me. First of all I can't access my blog. OK they relented and let me on second time round, but this doesn't usually happen.

Next I need to ring a friend on his mobile. The number appears to be disconnected. It it? Or is there more machinations going on?

Personally I think the warm weather has brought out the imps of infuriation. Knowing that we humans are never happier than when the sun shines and the skies are blue, they have decided to annoy us in ways only they know how.

Or is it simply Sunday? A day when everyone wants to access their social media, their real life friends and family and the web and all the phone networks are overburdened and unable to cope.

Whatever the reason, I think I might just go and read a book. One of those real ones made of paper.

Sunday, 16 February 2014


Thanks to the multi-talented Jan Edwards, who nominated me, today it's my turn to post as part of the #MyWritingProcess international blog tour, where writers follow a thread across the blogs of lots of different fellow wordsmiths. 
Jan is a truly inspirational member of Renegade Writers, editor for Alchemy Press and writer of great short stories, and fantasy novels and is also the author of the dark novel Sex, Lies and Family Ties under the name of Sarah J Graham.
The task is quite simple, once nominated you answer the same four questions as those that have gone before you.
So, here goes:
1) What am I working on?
My current work in progress is the next book in my series for Young Adults. The first book titled "Clear Gold" tells of an alternative but not dissimilar world to ours, where water is more precious than gold. In a society where technology has fallen out of use, because of the lack of oil, and the options for girls are limited to being either a mother or a fighter, my heroine Mouse has to find a way to get out there and explore her world and her place in it. 

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hopefully because of the character of Mouse herself. Unlike more conventional heroines, Mouse has problems relating to other people. She is a survivor who has learned, through bitter experience, to put herself first, but as the story progresses she begins, somewhat tentatively to realise that it may be possible to trust. 
The other thing that I feel makes "Clear Gold"  different is that although targeted at Young Adults the book is a romance and although Mouse's relationship with Lanyon is central, it unfolds very, very gradually and there is no explicit sexual content. This is not because I disapprove, as those of you that have read some of my other work will know, but because I believe very strongly that there are teenagers who would prefer this approach and that there are no books that cater for them on the market at the moment. 

3) Why do I write what I write?
I'm not sure I know the answer to that one. Sometimes, my ideas come from things I've read, seen, or experienced but more often than not a character simply presents itself. With Mouse I saw her lying on her stomach high up on the Roches watching the wagon train make its slow way through the valley and that was that; her story unfolded from there. 
As for writing in different genres, as well as my "Dragonfire" trilogy for 8-12 year olds and above and beyond, I also write short stories and novels for adults. I suppose that the thread that runs throughout all my work is the paranormal/fantasy, but having said that I've also written straight forward women's fiction. I suppose it all goes back to the characters and their situations. 
4) How does my writing process work?
After the initial idea, I carefully map out each chapter, sometimes just noting down plot lines but more often than not scraps of dialogue. Then I write a very quick first draft and after that it's a question of taking the work in progress to Renegade Writers for their feedback and editing, editing, and editing some more until the book is ready for a beta read. At that point it's ready to go out into the big wide world, at which point a hold my breath and press send. 
Now I'd like to nominate the fabulously, talented Jem Shaw, the author of "The Larks," one of the best books I've ever read about WW1 and needless to say a fellow Renegade. Hopefully he'll answer the same four questions before March 15 and pass them on to another writer. 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Writer as domestic goddess

#Nigella has nothing on me. 7. 30 this morning I was in the kitchen whipping up a meringue. Admittedly I wasn't fully made up and wearing a black silk dressing gown. Pink fleece, thick tights and furry boots aren't in the same league, but my kitchen is the real thing. The heating hadn't kicked in and our tiny kitchen soon gets warm when the oven is coming up to temperature.

It was very satisfying standing there as the sky turned pink, the cat scoffed her breakfast and husband  slept. There are now egg yolks to add to the scrambled eggs for breakfast and the pudding for tonight is almost complete.

All of which led me to wonder why so many writers I know love to cook. Is it because that is one job that you have to start and follow through to completion? A book or a short story can marinade for weeks or even months. Then it takes even longer before you have a first draft and that is only the beginning of the whole process.

Whatever the reason it is almost time to go back to the kitchen and check on the pavlova bases, then I will turn my mind to a title for my latest short story.  

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Job or Aspiration?

Is your writing a job or an aspiration? Reading an excellent blog on this topic got me thinking about how I view my writing.

At times I try to view it as my job and when I do I put in more hours and get more done. Then life takes over, there are family and friends to see, garden to tend, the house to clean and the writing gets pushed to the bottom of the list. At first this feels fine. Then very quickly frustration sets in. If I'm not writing I get tetchy and irritable, my life feels very small and closed in. I need the escape into my imagination and the challenge of wrestling with words to create stories. 

Why then am I not more rigid about setting aside the time to write? Is it because to do so is to admit how important it is? Or is it because in some perverse way I put off doing what I know is good for me? Because ultimately that is what writing is. For me it is vital, it keeps me in balance with myself and with the world. When I'm writing I am energised, I feel better about myself and about life in general. 

Perhaps the answer is to see writing as neither a job, nor an aspiration but a way of life. In purely practical terms to write all morning have the rest of the day to do everything else. 

Now that could work ...