Friday, 29 October 2010

SONNET 90? William at his most human

I love Sonnet 90; I remember -- vividly -- the first time I read it. Can still feel my eyes widen as understanding flooded through me, word by word. This poem is universal:

Hate me, if you must, just make it now. Now, when all the world wants to get in line, if you must join in and kick me too, tell me... I'll lie down. Just, don't let your hate come later.
When this elastic expanse has stretched my heart, but failed to make it break apart, do not sneak up behind me with the shock that would see me fail. Do not, to extend my pain, be condensed like precipitated drizzle to flood the morning after my darkest night.
If you are going to leave, don't wait until every other minor aggravation has corroded me, get in at the start. Go first. Then, I'll know fate’s most cruel blow. After that, any and every other misery that seems unbearable now, will not feel that bad.

Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now;

Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross,

Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow,

And do not drop in for an after-loss:

Ah, do not, when my heart hath 'scoped this sorrow,

Come in the rearward of a conquer'd woe;

Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,

To linger out a purposed overthrow.

If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,

When other petty griefs have done their spite

But in the onset come; so shall I taste

At first the very worst of fortune's might,

And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,

Compared with loss of thee will not seem so.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

GUILTY SECRETS Bruno Mars - Just The Way You Are


When I was thinking about cooking up characters I wanted to read about, this video was playing in my head.

I'm a push over. Give a man a hat and a touch of artistic flare and I won't even try to resist.
This has been played loud for the last month, the highlight of my four-hours-a-day dose of Radio One.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


Characters, like a good dinner, do not appear out of thin air.
When I’m reading, sometimes I get to devour a fully-rounded, gourmet-banquet of a character. I wonder if, in real life, this was an unattainable love; a younger brother or the scowling stranger, dressed from head to foot in black, who once stepped back to let the writer have the last space in the lift.
The recipe has been handed down over the generations, perhaps that is why, sometimes, characters taste a little stale, and lacking in spice: 
1 Take a particular type
2 Add a dash of your favourite hair
3 Sprinkle in eye colour (and freckles,  if desired)
4 To show that you did more than shake a few staples into the f-word processor, show you are sophisticated by adding a hook into the mix
Some old-favourites:
The  shy, to-the-point-of-withdrawn, fragile blonde with doe-like brown eyes and a tendency to chew on the end of her hair, female
The strong-silent, but unable to express his emotions, sable-brown haired (with blue eyes) man who folds his arms before every encounter with the person he has come to truly care about, male .
The trouble with those characters is if they start out by type, name and characteristics they can become as two-dimensional as the sheet of paper they are written upon.
Cook up some characters who have a lot to lose, and plenty to gain. 
Make sure they think they know what they want, but show me what they need.
Flavour them frustrating or admirable
Make hope unattainable 
And, don't forget to fricassee their deepest fears. 
The best characters are -- almost -- worth eating ;)

Monday, 25 October 2010


I love writing in longhand. Writing in longhand is a marvelous thing for a writer to do these days. If you have a notebook and a nice pen you can go off somewhere and write that’s solar powered. You can drop it or get it wet and pretty much all of your work will continue to be there. If you suddenly decide to look up a word or check a reference you will not look up four hours later, blinking, finding yourself somehow in the middle of an Ebay auction you never had any plans to be part of.”    Neil Gaiman

Don't you love Neil's work set-up?!

What is it about MG/TWEEN that makes writing in a notebook so appropriate? The writing is focussed, brief and non-flowery. The plot is a little twisty but that is good. Ethan and Thursday are great foils, I love them both already. Working title: COUNTERS S:ET 8

The historical romance FIRESTONES is still blossoming. Deep in the mountain where healing is on everyone's minds, the first kiss was even more magical.

Now I am setting off on my round trip to Yorkshire and back via Manchester. By the time I see the Minnow I have to make sure my phrase, "No, I'll buy one." end with the full stop rather than the word "..maybe." 

Friday, 22 October 2010


It isn’t cold. Wearing thermal tights and leggings, three layers of tops, a zipped hoodie and a scarf, I can assure you it isn’t cold in my house. And as for washing up, shouldn’t it always take a steamy hour of wrinkled irritation to create these shiny efforts? *glum face, dripping jumper, slippery floor (really, love washing up:(!)

Do you know my plumber? Perhaps, that's for the best. I am the owner of a combination boiler with a taped flu – I know, aren’t I lucky? Emerging from the wall, my flu has a missing section replaced by masking tape. It is attached to the wall by the same grey tape too but – much to my relief – my plumber didn’t do it. Three Ideal Boiler service engineers and a Gas Safety inspection later, my plumber says he didn’t do that taping thing, doesn’t know how it got there, but he didn’t do it.

Mr Byrne of Gas Safety says there is nothing that can be done because my engineer said he didn’t do it. Plumberguy says he doesn’t do central heating, gas installations, any more so he doesn’t need Gas Safety accreditation. He is just a plumber, now. But he is a plumber so magical that when pieces of flu decide they want to leave a gap – travelling is popular, I believe – they detach the correct bracket and pack it away so they can travel together. Not being cruel, heartless or dangerous, they taped the absconded section and wacked a piece of tape onto the wall. My external vent and flu have more humanity than the charming plumber with the ex-Corgi/Gas Safe Credentials who is at liberty to produce work of this extraordinary quality. Now, if you do know anyone who is considering hiring JMC Engineering of Watford I would be delighted to show them the quality of the work they can expect.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


I know, surely there must be some mistake? The only shape-shifting in the new wip happens when I cut and paste the sections around. Clarissa, Summer, Glynis and I have been busy. This is the hook for FIRESTONES - fantasy rather than paranormal.

            The glow from the torches set in iron sconces high on the rough surface of the walls was still visible at the entrance to the narrow tunnel. Smoky flames flickered from the oiled moss in the wooden brand Vine carried, they made her eyes sting. Peering around, she could not focus on the figure that cast a darker shadow. Going back no longer seemed to be an option. Had she really longed to gain admittance to ranks of the Mages? Her fellow tyros already believed her beyond incompetent, did they also believe she was a cowardShe had agreed to feed the tethered krokatris protecting the lower Halls of Elune, before the sun rose. Despite the dull, brown robes swamping her slender frame, Vine shivered. In the darkness, the heavy chains clanked as the krokatris strained against their restraints. With the smoky brand held higher, Vine ran. Drafts of air freed flames to lick along the walls behind her. 

Bruising fingers gripped Vine’s shoulder, spun her around. Her glass circles, mage-forged to correct her weak sight, flew into the darkness. She could make out only the details of the tanned, smooth jaw descending towards her. She didn’t need training in Magestry to know the intention of the beast who felled her. Vine struggled to free herself, writhing beneath the relentless bulk. A hand moved swiftly over the tunic covering her chest, her neck, and the mouth she pressed firmly closed.
His hot breath, rasping over the sensitive skin of her throat, smelled of oats and honey. His powerful limbs splayed over hers. When the chest lifted, Vine tightened hopeful fingers around the haft of the extinguished torch. A better opportunity would not present itself, this near she could focus on her target. Vine swung the brand with all the force she could manage.

Are you hooked? 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

TUUUNE Mayday Parade - Three cheers for five years

I love Mayday Parade: their magic turned the Minnow's low slung tracky bottoms, sleeveless hoodies and bling into tee-shirt, converse and leather, almost overnight. 

A novel in miniature, I love tale this lyric tells.
And I will always remember you as you are right now to me
And I will always remember now
Sleep alone tonight with no one here just by your side
How does he feel, how does he kiss
How does he taste while he's on your lips
I can't forget you
I know you want me to want you
I want to
But I can't forgive you
So when this is over don't blow your composure baby
I can't forgive you
I know you want me to want you I want to 

The track came on the radio today and I realised why I missed the Minnow. Now who is going to sing the harmony for me?

Monday, 18 October 2010


I posted a parcel to the student of Fine Art in Manchester.

She needed the sheet - her Ode to Tracey Emin - from the loft, and a sheet to further her Eminology, if we happened to have one going spare. She also wanted a sheet to appreciate the intrinsic nature of form and function in perfect harmony, without the need to wash and tumble dry with focussed concentration.

We're not talking New Orleans to Barrow, Alaska so, how can it cost £4 to post three sheets, and a book half way up a, relatively, small country? 

With no TV and a small allowance,  Minnow has read more novels in the month she has been away, than during the two years GCSE English and two years of A level Literature combined. 

She knows I am a push over, when it comes to shopping for 'essentials' but when she said 'I need a book to read' she set her parents against each other. Neither of us are content to find a book to send, it has to be the right book - the best book.

So far, we have sent:

1   Troubles - JG Farrell
2   Morrissey's Manchester - Phill Gatenby

3   A Temporary Life - David Storey    (perfect on content and music reference levels)

One and three are mine. He-who-must-not is considering what he is going to counter with. Now, obviously, I don't want him getting ahead with the most appropriate reading material, so what do you think I should send my Art student next? 

Sunday, 17 October 2010


Fretting over the dark space and the distance I kept between me and the computer, I’ve been frowning at my wip, actively refusing to work on it. 

I think I always knew what the problem was and it was not the shorter days, colder nights, or the boiler that doesn’t. When Clarissa asked if I wanted to read her thoughts on my current wip on her Blog or in an email, I panicked. I’ve been known to canvas the opinions of strangers in the street (well, library), so the strength of the feeling was unexpected.  I had begun to fear that focussed should be spelled selfish; dedicated reeked of fanaticism and that patient was just another word for foolish. Writing was an anti-social activity, not a great adventure.

So, the odds against finding an agent and getting published were long, I knew that rejection was part of the process, but that was the problem: I thought it would be one part of the process. Could rejection be the sum total of everything  I’d learned about writing, while writing? No.

  • written is not the same as completed
  • query and submission are multi-layered misery
  • being happy about others success is an oily and impure emotion
  • the competition starts with yourself in every doubt and misplaced comma
  • success is a struggle not a right

Done wallowing. Time to find backbone. I have notebooks full of ideas and they deserve someone who is determined and keen – brave enough to write them. Right now, I need to go and get some sleep tomorrow will be a long day of writing.

250 words  Elle's Blogfest is about the hook. The 250 words the average reader gives you to tempt them into the world you have woven. The blog has about that many words from several works. For a book I'm not writing I know now every twist in this convoluted line.


Chapter 1

“We can go tomorrow. If you are up early enough. On the train at ten o’clock.”
The boy who lay on the polished boards, moved the dinosaurs one at a time, from a circle into a straight line. This was not a quick task. He ran his finger from the claw, across the breast, up the neck. At the mouth he deviated from the line he marked, he raised his finger and placed it back on the plastic toy above the nose, the he continued. The trail was finished only when his hand ran down the empty floor board. Then he picked up the next model in his collection and moved it into its place in the line. The sensation pleased him, right and true. Unique, each time as his finger skimmed the surface of the toys. The rough surface, worn smooth in places amazed, amused him. How unexpected. The shapes: smooth, rough, gnarled: the light and shade loomed large. His head, in line with the top edge of each dinosaur maximised the difference between the here and the space beyond. The shapes form accentuated by the discordant jumble beyond. The here and the jagged edged toys filled his being. Provided warmth and companionship enabled him to maintain his stability, his place in the space that was not self. He: chest to hard board; stomach to chill-breeze blown line; knee to knot and digging nail: he was MARTIN. Mar and tin and floor. To him, the slow accumulation of possessions was peace, and an extraordinary joy. 

Friday, 15 October 2010


Yesterday the Greater Manchester Police Twittered their day away. 

No, really, in a spirit of transparent police work they decided to tweet every call and every incident. For a 24 hour period starting at 5 am on 14.10.10 they had a clerical officer Tweet the details of everything they dealt with. 

Every alleged misdemeanour made its way into the public domain via Twitter. The Police wanted every one to be able to see the pressure of work they experience on an average day – above and beyond the statistics they are obliged to provide for the government. It was freedom of information taken to extremes. 

During the day there were 3,205 incidents. Officers arrested 341 people and 126 are still in custody. It made epic reading.  The Greater Manchester Police Twitter followers were at 3,000 before the experiment began but rose to over 30,000 on the three official accounts today.

These are all real calls logged by the GMP:

Call 1962 2 men fighting following collision in Oldham. Investigation showed they were just fighting and there was no collision
Call 674 confused man reporting his tv not working
Call 1794 Report of youths playing football and kicking a ball in a garden, Stockport
Call 1605 report of faulty phone in Sale
Call 1169 report of someone putting rubbish in caller’s bin in Rochdale
Call 1621 Advice on where caller’s 16-year-old daughter can stay while the caller is on holiday.

Some of the spoof sites excelled themselves too –
Call 384 report of man holding baby over bridge – police immediately attended and it was man carrying dog that doesn’t like bridges  * oh no this was a real call

Maybe the call I heard about: Girl threatening to jump off a bridge, refusing to speak to anyone except Justin Bieber - was real too.

An emergency seems to be more of a spectrum than a dire circumstance.

Then there was the number of accidental 999 calls from mobiles or kids playing with phones - unbelievable, as is the number of silent calls. One Tweet reported the 22nd 999 call from the same mobile number.

It was mind numbing - how the service is stretched by so many unnecessary calls. Everyone knows their major task is keeping my daughter safe ;)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


I love Glasvegas:  a case of total adoration.
I have a photo of us together- of course, I was in the front row of their set at the Reading Festival last year, and they were on stage, but we are all in the picture, so that counts; right?

I was watching Vampire Diaries, like-you-do: big build-up at the carnival, all hell about to let loose, and I'm-like-OMG-it's-GLASVEGAS! Sod the plot - I hit rewind and the Glasvegas did that thing:  the accent, the lyrics, the sound - their harmonics are hard-wired to somewhere more elemental than hearing - sensory overload.

When it comes to Glasvegas, I fight off the descent into walls-covered-in-posters, wristband on the noticeboard, lyrics in the notebook thing (not very hard, because two of those three I have)

" I took your love for granted
Thought it was the freedom that I wanted
Now here in your absence, I was wrong"    Glasvegas: "Please come back home"

The short track called S.A.D. LIGHT - played loud - ? - : ) - makes me unreasonably happy - the perfect autumn-dims-days-to-early-twilight's lost love's lament. 

Listening to the CD? Skip track one until you get to love them - Daddy's Gone, Geraldine, Lonesome Swan, S.A.D. Light, Cheating heart - I'd start there and work onto others later. Then there is the downloadable Christmas with Glasvegas  -- A Snowflake fell (And it felt like a kiss)  EP -- a hard-edged reality check. 

Did I mention I love GLASVEGAS? 

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


I can't say 100% that I came in through the front door, but entering via the window is not my normal MO. However,  I can recall once, probably a year ago, when I got 2/3 of the way through the window before one of the kidlets shifted themselves to let us in (if they will go to bed and leave a window open, they deserve to be woken by hysterical parents who have been drinking liquids stronger than the milk of human kindness.) There probably must have been some milk-type substances involved because I delivered the happy version of the "What did you think you were doing, going to bed leaving a LARGE downstairs window open" lecture. So, I probably entered the house via the door. 

This means there is a 50% probability the keys to my house are in here somewhere, and a 50% possibility that we are all going to be on the receiving end of unpleasantness by the someone who, with malice aforethought, pinched the keys from the door. (Making my house messy would be unkind, when I've been making time to keep it both hoovered and dusted recently.)

I have looked everywhere - no prepositional preposition was left unturned I hunted about  above across  against  along  alongside  amid  amidst  among  amongst  around aside  atop -- and the rest of the alphabet's worth -- I'd love to say I found the blasted things. Instead, it will a long night when every movement of the floorboards, every tap at the window (scrap that - got the keys already), every squeaking of the springs, will set my heart  racing.... or I could settle for the locking the bolts and putting on the chain, but what would be the fun in that?

PANIC IS... not being able to find the keys. 

Monday, 11 October 2010

Justin's throwing a feast?

The HOOK, LINE and SINKER BLOGFEST is a feast of worlds and characters built with words and ideas. Pop over and see how deeply you get towed in.

The tests your story and character must past in the first 1,000 words or less.

  • Who is the character I am relating to?
  • Does he/she have a personality that I crave to read?
  • Is the world around them set up to compliment the character as they are introduced?
  • Are there secondary characters to assist the hook along, with conflict or pace?
  • Lastly: do I love the character? Do I want to read more about him/her?



Only the grind of bone-on-bone grated through the cavern, until a thump disturbed the stillness. The intermittent double beat played out an uneven rhythm. Pain made Will strain against the laws that governed nature. Cold granite ripped the skin from his heels. His legs rigid, arms locked, as he convulsed. His jaw jarred open, oxygen flooded his lungs. Heat lashed through him. Every cell in his body screamed. He clawed upwards, curved his fingers around the upper edge of the stone sarcophagus. When he was sure there was no movement but his own, Will gripped the stone wall and pulled. Scrambled. He grazed his shin against the side of the chiselled coffin in his haste. Crashing to the floor, the cinder-sharp surface bit.
He ached. Heavy and awkward, swamped in sensations, Will gasped for breath. He opened fists to fingers, traced tips over tight skin, angular cheek bones and the hollows of his cheeks, short silky hairs over boned chest, thin legs, and long feet. He catalogued what he knew, gained a sense of self. In the cacophony of knowledge that didn't belong to him, Will clung to the practical and the physical: he was cold, naked and male. New to life. 
Into his panic and self reflection, the stone box billowed a frigid air so dense it was visible in the blackness. It swirled over his skin, as it rose. An unnatural cold? Darker knowledge oiled through Will's understanding, dead sleep was cast in chill waves. Terror became the impetus to move. When his legs could not bear his weight, Will crawled. The crumbling door held by bronze-work bands gave, when he beat at the copper latch. 
The dewy ground beyond ignited a terrible thirst, Will lowered his head to long blades of grass, and licked. But surging power drew moist, warm heat from the ground into the skyWill staggered to his feet too. He squinted into the violet-blue sky, shrouded in grey clouds that billowed, tumbled over, and into, themselves. Undirected fury, the silver-lined clouds were lit by shards of brilliance edged with gilt. Will recognised ancient anger. He felt it, when the slivers of ice sliced through the air, heavy and hard. He cried out, arching his back. 
The crypt offered the closest shelter from the storm, but Will staggered towards the crumbling, grey stone tower revealed in each flash. Before it, dim in the shadows, grew a split stemmed tree, low and wide. He stumbled. Stopped.  In the silence that preceded the whip and lash of lightning, Will’s hair began to rise. Power licked it higher. Moonlight broke through smothering cloud, illuminating the small, white flowers and the delicate leaves. Dark then pale, the leaves writhed in the gusting breeze.
What shelter could there be under a tree?
Lightning struck close by him, singeing the fungus there. The acrid, charcoal stench clogged his throat. The brilliance blinded him. Water streamed down his cheeks, as he stumbled not towards the stone walls but to shelter of the tree. As the air heated before the next flash, Will crashed to his knees and crawled under low branches. Gasping for air, he grazed his face against the knotty bark. He waited. Beneath the candle-shaped canopy of leaves, the shredding power of the wind, heavy with debris, the potent mix of menace and power, could not reach him. 
With fierce thunderclaps, the lightning struck the taller trees nearby, in turn.

Dawn broke as a golden rim of light and rays: the clouds dissipated; the wind faded to a thin whistle through the trees. Will rested his head in the dust and the crisp fragments of leaves. 
Then the whispering began.
He flung himself from the edge of sleep, back against the tree. Using physical and deeper senses, Will amplified the sounds around him: the scrabbling of insects' tiny feet from the bark, the crash of stealthy footfalls in the woods beyond the boundary walls and the rush of wind through the leaves of trees. Awake he could not hear the voice. 
Will fought the need to sleep, until he was too tired to care enough about the consequences.

Now I'm off to read everyone else's hooks and see where I get reeled in ;)

Saturday, 9 October 2010


The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital is in Stanmore, near Edgware. This is not a hospital I ever want to visit: it houses the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre.

Last night, my Minnow went out with a group of friends – emphasis being on the word group. 

Dressed up in school uniforms they would have been sent home for wearing, she went out to a student union disco. An hour later, I got a call. 

I’ve fallen and hurt my back; don’t worry I’m coming home in a taxi. 

I got to worry for about twelve hours.

It was a short cut, would have saved them at least five minutes. Everyone else climbed down the wall, Minnow jumped. Six or seven foot. Why? Good question. Maybe she was a cat, in a previous existence. 

It seemed like a good idea.

She survived the taxi ride home, lay on the floor, couldn't work out how to get to the toilet without increasing the pain. (Hysteria is one reaction to pain, Min.)

We chatted to tetchy doctors on the phone, paramedics in the house, consulted at length about the degree of pain medication that might be necessary. Sat and watched her sleep.

She did the damage when she landed on her feet. She would have done more damage if she had landed on her back.

So here's to near misses. This miss means she still has to worry about co-ordinating shoes rather than whether her wheelchair clashes with her latest look.

To the work of all the staff at the RNOH and in particular to the SCIC, bless them all, I’m glad we didn’t get to know them. 

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Ted Hughes poem Wolf Watching is much longer than this. 

I used these stanzas, pinned on my noticeboard, to inspire me when I wrote NEAR EDGWARE

Mac, the pack Alpha, has been raising the next generation. He hopes they'll make a difference. But to be Were, and city living? Enmity woven into the fabric of society? Is London really home? Mac would never let the pack know, but often he despairs. 

Wolfwatching - butchered

Woolly-bear white, the old wolf
Is listening to London. His eyes, withered in
Under the white wool, black peepers,
While he makes nudging, sniffing offers
At the horizon of noise, the blue-cold April
Invitation of airs. 

All his power is a tangle of old ends,
A jumble of leftover scraps and bits of energy
And bitten-off impulses and dismantled intuitions.
He can't settle. He's ruffling
And re-organizing his position all day 


The fairy tales
Grow stale all around him...
His eyes
Keep telling him all this is real
And that he's a wolf--of all things
To be in the middle of London, of all
Futile, hopeless things. 


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

THE LIGHTHOUSE LITERARY COMPETITION and the story I'll never write

This month I have collected ideas, and stage one planning, for about six books -- MG and YA, usually.
However, the odd literary novel arrived. I remember thinking: what would I write for The Lightship Literary International Competition : if I was going to write literary, what would I write.

This took half an hour, at about two in the morning. 

When I read it back it didn't even sound like me.When I opened the document, I wondered if it was something I had read somewhere, and collected to consider in depth. 
Then I read it. 
Then I remembered. 
Gotta say I know the subject material: it's the book I'll never write

“We'll go tomorrow. If you are up early enough. On the train at ten o’clock.”

The boy who lay on the polished boards, moved the dinosaurs one at a time, from a circle into a straight line. This was not a quick task. He ran his finger from the claw, across the breast, up the neck. At the mouth he deviated from the line he marked, he raised his finger and placed it back on the plastic toy above the nose, then he continued. The trail was finished only when his hand ran down the empty floor board. Then he picked up the next model in his collection and moved it into its place in the line. The sensation pleased him, right and true. Unique, each time his finger skimmed the surface of the toys. Rough, worn smooth in places. Each stroke amazed, amused him. The unexpected. The shapes: smooth, rough, gnarled: the light and shade loomed large. His head, in line with the top edge of each dinosaur maximised the difference between the here and not; the shape's form in relief, the discordant jumble beyond. The here and the jagged-edged toys filled his being. They provided warmth and companionship; enabled him to maintain his stability: his place in the space that was not self. He: chest to hard board; stomach to chill-breeze blown line; knee to knot and digging nail: he was MARTIN. Mar and tin and floor. 

The subject material demands the perfect voice; the punctuation creates the vehicle for the story: the thought processes reflecting the lifelong loop.


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

THE FOUNDATION OF WRITING - PART 1: The Wiggles, Head Shoulder Knees and toes

So you want to write a novel? Think back to your earliest days: during the development of your literary skills, the mantra of the writer was spelled out loud and clear:
Not for no reason is this first.
Slicking somewhere in the chemical soup of everything you have ever seen, done, read or heard about is the germ of an idea. Until it explodes like a geyser of inspiration: speculate, percolate and mediate!
When you are weighted down with familial, fraternal and financial burdens add the fanatical need to write. Time management, like the wooden yoke, comes in all shapes and sizes.
Not to agents or publishers, that is a marriage of equals – it is true that while gratitude may send you to your knees, that is a passing phase, the one before the phenomena of non-mechanical, human flight  – it is periodically necessary, to use your knees to crawl to your partner, friends or family. When begging for support, forgiveness or five minutes more than your allocation on the computer, the knees are an important writerly tool.
An essential part of the writer’s arsenal, they are often overlooked – or invisible, after too many hours spent writing at the expense of gym time – they tap with urgency, when the manuscript is going well; curl with excitement, when the inbox reveals the name of agent you have queried; suffer the pain of fitting into those gotta-make-a-good-impression shoes

PART 2 – Eyes, Ears, Mouth and Nose to follow ;)

Monday, 4 October 2010

Scenes Defined: Dwight V. Swain LET ME DEFINE THE SCENE...

Crediting Dwight V. Swain  - book available somewhere up the Amazon- The How To Write Shop posted about scene control.

It made me smile: I control scenes, ten a minute, every Monday...

It is the best of days, it is the worst of days ... it is menu and shopping day. The fridge and freezer have a hollow ring, when the door slams shut.
Today the fridge offered two parsnips and two eggs, while the larder rattled with two potatoes and an onion. Not the greatest fan of parsnip soup with a boiled egg chaser, I dug under the frost at the back of the freezer's bottom (drawer) and added frozen okra to my harvest of bounty. Not even Jamie Oliver could gourmet that lot into a feast for all the family.
The rush and thunk of baskets and drawers alerted Sunshine, long before I went looking for paper and a pen, a shield and helmet (this part gets dangerous.) Autism affects empathy, understanding and the appreciation of which food groups combine into a healthy balanced diet. A discussion of suitable menus: three meals a day for seven days starts a bit like this:
“So, dinner on Monday... what would you like?”
“OK, we can put pizza on the list ... as long as it is thin crust, and not pepperoni. Plain cheese and tomato or would you like –“
“Pizza with sausage rolls and a chicken kiev?”
And so we start, one meal at a time.
I try to do breakfast, lunch and dinner separately so he can develop an appreciation of these meals as being different. He likes nothing to appear twice on the whole plan. (No, we can’t recycle the plan from one week to the next because weeks, per se, are an artificial convention and not one he subscribes to.)
I refuse to add ASDA’s  Chicken Carbonara to the list. He is devastated. I’m cruel and heartless, apparently. (I can’t bring myself to buy it so he can strain off the sauce and bin the chicken.) Time is less elastic than patience.
We finish the menus, and then write the shopping list while we check what we actually need to buy.
In the supermarket, I stick to that list like an iron rod to an electromagnet — with rigidity the boy would be proud of – because if I waver my control tears like wrapping paper on a Christmas parcel. If he spots a narrowing of the eye or the merest hint of lip twist he becomes the dreaded tall-toddler-in-tantrum mode, and the trolley goes from empty to full faster than Nathan Bransford’s inbox.
We survived, there is food in the cupboard,  and it better stay there so I don’t have to go through this again... until next week.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

THE FORCE OF BOOKS: 10 things boys want to read about

By the time they got to me, their reading habits were carved in marble, more difficult to remove than limescale on the wrong side of the u-bend.

With a broad-spectrum array of fiction (published anywhere between 1719 and the present day) my formidable arsenal was complete: fantasy, adventure, historical, science-fiction - I had the lot and I knew how to use it.

Like a gunslinger -- light from the rising sun, behind me, fingers flexing, ready to sling texts in their direction – I could inspire-the-reluctance out of the boys who fidgeted in their seats, and turned pages during reading time.

But, when most crumbled before the might of books targeted at their interests, every year there was the hard core: the (usually) three, unreachable boys. 

“Ha! Do your worst, for I will do mine!” they said... although that might have been the Count of Monte Cristo.

If the enemy will not crumble under the rub of endless works of fiction, in every genre, what can you do? You discuss what is missing.

Minus the dancing, which I will include somewhere else: STAYING LOST has it, the ‘what-other-things’ they want to see in books :
1 sports
2 motorbikes
3 shoot outs   'like my game - yeah, sick!'
4 fit women
5 friends  ‘but not too many ‘cos you know where that goes’
8 Maps and places that aren’t here – ‘Not here like in school, ‘cos everyone has to go there -- but like HERE, can’t books go some where different: cities and s**t?’
9 Not funny   ‘That stuff is for when you’re young. More real action than that.’
10 Music, dancing and phones – ‘all the same: what you do when you're out!’

Anthony Horowitz was the closest I could get.

“Shorter, already. I’m not spending my life in that book.”

Have fun. It’s what I did when I was writing STAYING LOST with the boys who will not read. Now, if we can just junk the three kinds of video games they all have at home, we could get all boys to read more.