Saturday 31 July 2010


With oil slicking-up the beaches on both sides of the world, my thoughts, this Saturday, turned to the sea.

The Finding-Sanctuary Organisation works on marine conservation in the south west of England. It focuses on a relatively small section of the sea and the coast, working within a co-operative of organisations protectively, encircling the coastline of the UK.

In diverse habitats – the maerl and eelgrass beds, rocky reefs, deepwater estuaries, sand banks and gravel patches – the coastal waters of the south-west have some of the richest populations of bio-diversity in British waters.

The stake holders who work together hold wide, and opposing, reasons for wanting to protect the sea that laps here.

A visit to this coastline offers one reason why those at the cliff-face of marine protection called this work Finding-Sanctuary. 

When I stand on the coast here I feel bigger on the inside. I cannot contain how I feel as my senses are overwhelmed by the sea: the sights, sounds and smells – the way it feels to touch.

I know why people want to write about becoming more at one with the elemental forces at work there. To find ways to become closer with the sea and the creatures that/who live there.

The sea can be a sanctuary.

Have you experimented with writing a story involving the sea, not as a danger, but as a sanctuary?

Friday 30 July 2010


The free word of the day is free-thinking.

At first glance this is such an innocent little word, and one we would all want to have applied to ourselves.

Freethinkers do not accept or reject ideas unless there is evidence, knowledge and any reason to do so. Freethinkers form opinions based on fact, scientific inquiry and logic. No authority, generally held opinion, culture, prejudice or tradition is allowed to obstruct the freethinking process.

This is all well and good.

But thoughts and beliefs are two very different things.

Who would have thought a word that looks so innocent could harbour such a riptide of meaning.

I believe, whole-heartedly, in the individual right, and duty, to think. To be free to think.

But I also respect each individual’s right to suspend disbelief and to allow faith to join the dots created by the stars in the universe.

Free-thinking must allow people to think that scientific inquiry and logic are only as perfect as our imperfect knowledge allows.

So here’s to free-thinking, to the self-determination of the individual, and to faith.

Not what I would call a fun-damental post.

What do you think we need to be free to think about?

Thursday 29 July 2010


Thursday's dedicated to saying Thank You because politeness seems to be a dying art, and I like my art vibrant.

After nearly a year and a half of writing this Blog, I figure thanks are in order. I have learned so much from the advice, and support, offered by the individuals who have taken time from their writing, those who have been kind enough to comment here.

The first ever commenter on my Blog was Steve Feasey, author of the Changeling Series. We share mutual friends and a love of werewolves. I met him for the first time signing his brand new (first) book in Borders, Watford - a new author, still holding down the day job. These days he is working on the last of the series and the new project. Changeling is already out in the US and New Moon is coming out soon. Steve writes novels that straddle the MG/YA barrier; books with plenty of paranormal action. He has a unique voice. My first vote of thanks goes to Steve Feasey.

The second commenter was Angela Ackerman. Her Blog The Book Shelf Muse is an amazingly useful resource. If you are stuck for the right word or reference, or you need writing inspiration, then I recommend you head over and check out her prolific and informative posts.

The third commenter was Karen Amanda Hooper who is just the kindest, most supportive Blogging friend a person could have. Gentle, quirky and full of contemplative insights: my favourite, below, illustrates her humour and her humility:

The odds of getting published? I might as well take up a career in getting struck by lightening.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the kind people who have clicked on the Follow button here. To quote the mighty Spartan, King Lycurgus: You're a brick! (In case anyone thinks this is an insult - oh no! - big compliment!)

I would also like to thank the authors of the many blogs I may have visited once (I like to click on the forward button at the top of the page just to see who turns up), occasionally (the ones that have posted when I have had only minutes to catch up) or often – there are a few blogs I miss if I can't read, daily. ;)

On that subject, my final vote of thanks goes to Nathan Bransford, for being so damned riveting I learned how to uncloak and comment at all.

As Karen asked: "What are the odds of getting published?"
Titchy, whichy? Teen-y weeny? Tiny, whiney? Or, just small!

Who would you like to say thank you to?

Wednesday 28 July 2010


My writing advice is brief (although, longer than I anticipated.) It is as brief as the writing credentials on my, newly written, writer’s CV. 

 WRITE-IT'S-WEDNESDAY’s posts will be on the subject of writing.  Eyes, ears and smiles, this way? Then we are ready to learn.        (Do you think I’m missing the day job yet?)

What is today’s Learning Intention?
Today, we are going to learn how to start on the journey - the voyage called authorship.

My first piece of advice would be about preparation:
  • Think about the audience you want to reach.
  • The purpose of YOUR story.
  • The genre you intend to write
 At this point, have I mentioned READING? 

This kind of open sea, where with the stars and only a :
  •  sextant (historical),  
  • GPS (contemporary), 
  • divination crystal (fantasy), 
  • GR - galactographic register (SF) 
  • true love (romantic fiction)
to help you steer from beginning to publication, you are going to find these waters hard to navigate.

Typically, in your genre, what happens? Where? Why? To whom? How should your characters typically speak.

You need a reading journal and a pen.

You need to learn how to magpie.

Read lots books in the genre you are interested in writing, analyse them until you do know what typically happens. The typical helps you identify how to conform, but it also helps you work towards what could be your unique selling point.

While you are working out the answers to the questions above, copy the words and phrases you like (or hate) into your writing journal. These make excellent springboards, into your own pool of perfect sentences.

So my first writing tip: make like the magpie. The “collecting bright, shiny objects,” rather than the “attacking weaker creatures and the eggs of other bird’s” behaviour. (Oh, dear take that image to the wrong place: that would be bad, bad writer’s etiquette!)

Magpie! Doff your cap, show respect and borrow the insights and the wisdom of others.

Do you already know what, in your story, will be typical of the genre you are writing?

Tuesday 27 July 2010


My favourite day of the week.

Unlike Jess Trainer in my novel Near Edgware, I can sing. I’m shy when I know anyone is listening – hard to believe, I know – but I can sing. When I was creating Jess’ fully rounded character the things I contributed to her personality were my biggest fears. 

Vertigo. I have always felt ill, unsteady and disorientated, at any kind of height. So, deciding I was going to help out when we were decorating the back bedroom in the old house, was a very bad idea. The rooms had high ceilings. I climbed up the scaffolding. I was fine, painting one handed - while holding on - waving my paintbrush at the wall. Even got fairly reasonable coverage with the paint to wall ratio being sound.

Then I realised I would have to climb back down. I couldn’t do it.

He-who-must-not-be-named attempted to talk me down for HOURS! Eventually, he got way beyond polite coaxing. 

I clung like a limpet to the up-right and stayed... up, right? For a long time. It almost reached the there-is-nothing-to-be-done-but-call-the-fire-brigade stage.

I also gave Jess the thing I would dread nearly as much: not being able to sing.

You see, I’m the looney-toon  whose car vibrates with fine tunes. I’m the extra member of the band: It ain’t singing, if it ain’t loud!

On Tuesday I’m going to impart information about the bands, singers and songs, that are rocking my car in the streets of downtown Watford.

Marina and the Diamonds rule! 

I love Marina Diamandis’ voice, music, lyrics, and fearless ambition.

Hollywood and Shampain glitter amongst the many (sick!) tunes on the album: The Family Jewels. If you haven’t heard her sing, I envy you. You are about to experience the world according to Marina for the first time – enjoy.

Which tune has been inspiring your writing recently?

Marina & the Diamonds - Shampain [WITH LYRICS]

Monday 26 July 2010


Monday is for moaning. Not the writhing on the floor kind of moaning, although more of that a little later. It isn’t homage to Moaning Myrtle either, although she was the first, if not the last person to spy on Harry Potter and, of course, Cedric/Edward in the bath – very good taste, positively psychic. Myrtle spied on Robert Pattinson in the tub and nearly all the bubbles in the bath were gone by the time he had cracked the problem (??!). Moaning has its advantages.

Moaning is self-indulgently wallowing in helplessness, the last resort of the powerless. It is negative to the point of passive/aggressive.

So, to moaning. With a world full of problems, I have to narrow down to one thing to moan about; umm, tricky.

Moaning Monday?

I have to moan about shop assistants who chat over my head, and my shopping, on a range of subjects that I don’t get to participate in. What I don’t know about Sharon getting off with Shaun “out the back” isn’t worth knowing. My moan? Either ask for my advice – because there is nothing I’d like more than to have an opinion – or don’t chat through me like I borrowed Harry’s invisibility cloak to add frisson to my weekly shopping date.

If I had borrowed his cloak then there really would be nothing I don’t know about what happened when Sharon and Shaun were found in the fruit and veg cold store when they should have been stocking the frozen meat aisle.

So, as you can see, Moaning Monday did end up back where it started. 

Sunday 25 July 2010


I baked, in sensible suits and sturdy shoes, for days that felt like weeks. So, why is it that almost from the moment the bell sounded the end of the school year, the skies have been overcast at best? 

Umm, hot and grey and I don't mean me in my best school-ma'am outfit. (So many images disappear when it isn't spelled school-marm. No old-west, one-roomed school complete with gas lights, wooden stove or lunch pails set on desks in school-ma'am.)

Anyway, it is Sunday so time for some sun thoughts.

The Sun is large, hot and dangerous to stare at. These are important facts you just can’t get away from. But, as for the rest: I’m bad. I can’t count the number of times the words, “Look at how the sun is moving across the sky!” has been heard by the children I have taught. Of course, I then followed that statement (expressing the obvious but factually incorrect information) with a lecture setting the children straight – doing Galileo proud.

I like to use these two facts to create a more accurate picture and supplant the erroneous information. Firstly, our sun is a Yellow G2 Dwarf. Very few children forget that, up-levelled, piece of information. And, for hysteria and comic/dramatic impact, I add that it is an average, middle-aged star. Science is supposed to be interesting: acting out the various stages of the life-cycle of a star is memorable lesson.

How do you think an average, middle-aged star feels about his day?

Saturday 24 July 2010

SANCTUARY? St Alban's Abbey

NEAR EDGWARE is near St Albans.

As it is Sanctuary-Saturday, and I’m feeling all historical, I decided to keep my focus close to home.

Today, when we think of the word sanctuary, we imagine a place of safety. The story of St Albans is that a Roman soldier gave sanctuary to a Christian priest in the days when that was a certifiable action, and a crime, punishable by death.

After his execution, Alban’s head bounced down hill creating a natural spring. Being made a saint after something like that, was pretty much a given, especially in those days. 

The fact that Britain’s first Christian martyr was buried in the cathedral – St Alban’s Abbey – is what makes the building a sanctuary.

Miracles still happen today: like the fact I can get my old car to the top of Holywell Hill, despite the fact that my vertigo makes me feel sick as a dirt, cheap chop or a dead dog!

In all seriousness, this is one of the most beautiful buildings near here. The fact that it was made, mostly, of recycled Roman ruins was, ecologically, very sound thinking.

Recycling can be seen in many different places.

Can you think of a more beautiful building made out of recycled materials? 

Friday 23 July 2010


My first Free-Friday word is free-falling.

School broke up. But, I finished.

For about ten seconds it seemed that gravity had multiplied and I was falling. Fourteen months of freedom was a long way down.
In my school life, everything I knew could be benchmarked and quantified, checked off on lists and, what was more, it all fitted so neatly into a timetable.

There is so much freedom it is making my head hurt to think about it. 
All I can say on the subject is, “Weeeeeeeee!”

Tuesday 20 July 2010


If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is why I drove there, and upset my partner, and abandoned my son to his carers, when the round trip was over 320 miles, but, to tell the truth, I'm not sure why I needed to do it. In the first place, that stuff is my life's blood, and in the second place, I figured no one would die if I disappeared for a day. Neither of them were particularly happy, and my partner was touchy as hell when I told him I needed his car. He wasn't able to raise too many objections, he is fair-minded and reasonable as a rule. Besides, I'm not writing a blow-by-blow account of the trip or anything. I'll just tell you that, in the interests of research, I have driven, or walked, or both, the length of the valley where my new novel is set. I mean, that's all I've told anyone here, but they have heard it all before, not for no reason is the first novel called Near Edgware. I drive there once every couple of weeks, just to make sure it hasn't moved or anything and I can spot a neatly trimmed hedgerow from twenty paces as I drive past Harrow Weald Common. Now I can't say I'm that much of an expert on the Golden Valley, but who needs to be when they are planning on moving  any key features they need from one side of the border to the other anyway. 

I find it difficult to write the long Salinger-sentences. I've spent months trying to take Ernest Hemingway's advice on making all writing short and lean to create the powerful dynamics. 
Back to the drawing board?

Sunday 18 July 2010

G&T @@ JD and me

Have you played with the site that analyses your writing? 

Twitter's Guy Kawaski at Alltop provided the link.

It is called I Write Like.

This was the quickest piece of analysis I have ever done. It was a lot of fun too.

"Want to know who you write like? You can go to I Write Like, paste in a sample of your writing, and find out.  The site has analyzed approximately 1.5 million samples of text already. The creator of the site, Dmitry Chestnykh, explains how it works." etc
I got side tracked by my results.
I write like JD Salinger!
That will do for me.
Me and JD are like -x- that now.  :-) 

Saturday 17 July 2010


Will - has choices and a degree of self-determination

stalking -
head down -
out of sync, 
each step
out of line,
when fates align.

Pocketed hands,
closed fists,
and tearing -
deeply disturbed -
out of sight
fighting what's right.

Counting grains,
sifting sand
pendulum swinging -
choices and time -
heart breaking.

Heart attack.

Sabbatical started - 421 days until I need to go back to work again. 
What, apart from counting it down, shall I do with the time?

Monday 12 July 2010

USURY - Double Desired

No. No, split it. 
It makes more sense when you break the thought down: what makes me? What makes me tick? Tick; like a time bomb?
What makes me? 
Perhaps it's more like what made me.
That, right there is... a problem.
It’s not what makes me tick. It's not who either.
And I do tick, slick and sick. Unbelievably sick, I tick.
Like Mr Grayson said in class everything can be traced back to some point in the past. Like he said it was “Nature verses Nurture?”
Well, that statement presumes too much. He means nature, as in the natural order of things? What if his understanding is limited -- based on preconceived ideas, that have no basis in reality?
When he said Nurture, he meant like the hands that held? The care given? Again, that suggests –
But, I do want to feel. Physically. I want to feel something without fee, or dues. I don’t want payment or rewards. I want to feel something real.
Hands are blunt weapons, they lead to plasters, bandages and hospital visits.
But, I do want to feel hands and arms. 
Or not.
When people connect - make a physical connection - it is more than complicated it's binding and blinding.
I want to feel simple touches.
Don’t give me that look; you said you’d listen.
I want to be free to feel.

I’m not free.

Don't you love it when bits of the book turn up when your asleep? If you are lucky, like I was last night, you have a note book and and pen (that works) by the side of the bed. I was relieved this monologue turned up in such a sensible place. I would have hated to have missed out on any more of Will's struggle to make himself understood.

Where is the oddest place an idea has occurred to you?

Saturday 10 July 2010

Why write? For flowery reasons!

Why write?   
The easier question to answer is: Why read? Books are the great escape, only dreams can rival them. However, you get to select the books. 
Within the pages there are endless opportunities -- to be brave or depraved, grateful, or gratuitous -- to experience anything or everything, without the fear of prosecution or persecution. 
Then there is the learning.

But why write?   
Writing gives the writer the opportunity to live in more than one dimension at the same time (sometimes in multiple realities). Writers, who love their work, get to live the journey and enjoy living a life where their control is absolute. 
When my Beta readers are leafing through the pages -- or spinning the mouse – I love to watch their faces.  But, I know everyone who has read my work. Imagine knowing that people you have never seen are able to access the world and the characters you have created? Your creation? 
Imagine, at some later date, meeting people who have enjoyed it – that would be a whole different kind of life-adventure.

A little while ago, I discovered Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. It has become one of my main planning tools. (I need to know that I have considered emotion in-depth.) It is a check list I use when I am writing. 

Will is, currently, somewhere turquoise – between green and blue – anxiety caused by fear and amazement.

Why write? I write because I get to experience every one of those emotions, in the words that paint pleasure or pain onto the page.

I get to experience every one of these emotions in real life too. Take a look at the "Advanced emotions to Advanced opposites" table - see what I mean?

Tuesday 6 July 2010

How to be a Gangsta Writer – already. The pen is mightier.

I know you know.
You with the flow,
Yo' writing is writing like the gangsta!

1 You have to master the stagger of the homies
            Check the hunched walk of the habitual homies who write: back breaking work innit?! CHECKLIST:
 Do you got the curvature of the spine, yet?
Neck pain from da’ repetitive strain that don’t come from wearing too much bling? See that’s what I’m saying!
Got the arm-sling, wrist-thing? Like what’s carpal tunnel?
If it’s all so, then you got the low.

2 Language
            This is important when attempting to fit in with the wip community. You must forget everything you have learned about English, like how it is spoken. Speechifying your writing is a serious impediment to yo’ work.  Contractions is a contradiction, don’t go with the diction, go back to school, you fool. Punctuate like the Oxford Comma – if you know where I’s at?
KEY VOCABULARY – I <3 Dawn Copeland for saving me time
Advance, Agent, Copyright, Credits, Electronic submission, Formatting, Hook, Manuscript, Point of view (POV), Query, Query letter, Record of submission, Rejection, Royalties, Simultaneous submission, WIP,  Word count, Writer's block
Do you write twelve pages a day and edit them back to two?
Do you think about where to put commas when you speak?
Do you obsess about words like - that, feel, felt, feeling, just, had, was, were,
amo, amass, amat (in the case of ancient, paranormal romance writers)?
Do you prune out -ly words more vigorously than Bind weed?
Do you know a split infinitive from a split-pin?

If not, then you is in trouble, Man!

3  You have acquired a Blogging and a domain name
            Check the ideas! Get Writing, Writer, Author, or Muse added to your blog name. See other things like adjectives: they are happenin’! Lil’JK, Shakes Will or Bigger Steph. See where I’m goin’? Keep with me, I’ll help you fit write in - lol!

            Does your Blog title sound literary or wordy? Well, as that is the only evident requirement you’ve got it nailed!

4 You have to be hip to what’s happenin’ in your genre at the moment
            Check the lists for the writers who are doing it! Their up is on the high side and you’s climbing it!
            For me, I know what I see:
PC, Sherrylee -n (lynn), Stephenie,
Make room for me

            Have you read enough books in your chosen genre to fill all the shelves in Tesco/Walmart?
            Can you describe, in five, ten, fifteen words and pages what your wip is about?
            If you are you still writing when the sun goes down. Still at it when it rises again.
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same
(Oh, no that one's been done - already!)
Then you are not a plagiarist, my son.

5  Clothing – the mark of the G-writer – Good and tired Writer - Gangsta!
            Buy clothing, huge and vast: you is never gonna’ do much with yo’ ass except sit on it, anyways now. Sling it low. You need comfort on that slidy-plastic leather chair, innit?! Army pants, jeans, cargo pants, cut-offs – they all look good in the writing zone, and yo' ain’t going out. For the top half, go with the neon, it will keep you awake: keep yo’ finger on their toes – lol! Sweatshirts are well necessary in the night when it’s just you and the angle-poise in the dark. Like heating is for softees: we' gangsta, here. Keep a handkerchief on your head because, as well as it look so cool its like glacier - it will come in handy for rejections – sick!

            Could you gain like 200+ pounds and not have it noticed when you are dressed? (What? You did? That’s dedication! R-E-S-P-E-C-T!)
            Could you fit all of the family into one single pant leg? Not that I’m recommending extra wide trousers for childcare but... if the leg fits... I say wear it. You'll know where they are when you're writing - sorted!

You got it.
You got the lot.
You is a fully fledgeling gangsta writer now – sick!

With thanks to Everything2 without which my format would have sucked!