Posted in Blog, Something Different

I Must Get Back to Work

Did you know it’s February? February! Already! And I must, must, must get back to work. I’ve got excuses. Of course I do. B1 has just started school, it’s summer and the weather is beautiful, my husband and I are thinking of buying a new house and the real estate sites keep distracting me.

But I MUST get back to work. Right now my main character is stuck in limbo, waiting for me to end is plight. His dad is dead, his little brother is in hospital, his older brother is lost and confused, his mum is heartbroken. He’s discovered that his dad had a secret family and his just discovered half-brother is missing.

And I’m enjoying the sunshine!

So I must get back to work!

Posted in Blog, Something Different

Hunting for an Agent

I’m hunting for an agent –

I’ve looked once or twice before –

I’ve read all the guidelines,

I’m sure I know the score.

 

Sure, I’ve known rejection,

I’ve felt it’s acid sting,

But this time might be different.

Who knows what time will bring?

 

God knows that I am patient,

I’ve been tapping away for years.

I’m giving it my all,

And with hardly any tears.

 

So I’m looking for an agent,

I’m on this path again.

Because you can’t appreciate success

Unless you’ve known the pain.

 

Posted in Blog, craft

What’s in a Name? – Picking Character Names

We have a furry addition to our family – a female black cat that we adopted yesterday from the local animal shelter. We’ve had a bad run with pets over the last few years but, ever hopeful, we’re giving cat ownership another go. Which leads us todays post, because of course our new furry friend needs a name.

In this case we decided on Blackie. I know it doesn’t win awards for originality. Thank goodness animals are the only ones to get names based on their appearance, other wise both my boys would be named Scrawny Pink Thing.

Names are a funny thing. When I was teaching I came to associate a certain type of kid with their name, thus I’ve never met a Lewis who wasn’t lovely while I have a weird aversion to boys with J names (thank you, all you Jakes, Jordans, Jacksons and Joshs). Of course some of the ‘J’ brigade were lovely, but it’s the little…well, you know, that stand out.

As far as characters go, I struggle to name them. My protagonist in Child of War is Jedda, a name that I hoped was strong and not too main stream – but not too out there. It’s a j-name obviously but he and I get along pretty well.

And while they may seem superficial, the names characters have help to form a picture in our mind, they both draw on and add to our previous experience to create meaning. After all, would we picture Shakespeare’s Juliet the same if she were called Ursula? Romeo and Ursula? Or would we now imagine all girls called Ursula differently? I knew a couple who named their new baby daughter Ursula – my immediate mental image was not flattering.

If you were being set up on a blind date with a man called Homer, would you picture a distinguished Greek poet or a jaundiced over-weight family man?

Do you have any favourite character names? How important are names to you?

Posted in Blog, craft, Something Different

Can you help me?

I’m currently doing a rewrite on Child of War, the manuscript I’ve been trying to find a good home for. After rejection number four (or is it five?) and some reading to improve my skills (may I suggest The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke) I decided to put my current work in progress away for a bit and do some tweaking on my ‘finished’ manuscript.

With that as background, I’m looking for your comments. I’ve copied the first 200 words below and I would be grateful if you would read them both and let me know which (if any) you prefer and why.

Be brutal (but constructive). I’m keen to know what you think.

1)

Hunger slapped Jedda awake, clawing at his insides. His eyes snapped open, and he sat up. Nothing ruined a good sleep like the knife of hunger twisting in your stomach.

Pale yellow light sliced through a gap between the thin floral curtains, and caught in the dusty cobwebs that looped down from the corners of the room. There was a cat-shaped damp patch on the wall behind Jedda’s bed and he gave it a friendly pat, “Morning Flossy.”

Jedda stretched, pushing the tips of his toes out from the end of his bed, and swung his legs over the side. Cain’s bed was already empty, the thin covers pulled up over his pillow, his sketch pad and nub of pencil resting on the corner of the narrow set of drawers the divided their beds. Jedda stood up and shoved the edges of his blanket onto the mattress. He dragged a pair of jeans and a t-shirt out from under the bed, gave them a quick sniff, and pulled them on. With a yawn he headed for the kitchen.

Mum was standing at the sink, steam rising from the water and condensing in the curls of hair around her face, her cheeks flushed pink from the heat. She was scrubbing a cast iron pan and the water slapped and gurgled in the basin. She glanced at Jedda with brown eyes that matched his own.

2)

Jedda was going to die. He knew it. His heart, smashing against his ribs like it wanted to break out from his chest, knew it. Even his fingers, curled around a rough skinned branch,  stiff-jointed and burning, knew it. He was going to die at seventeen, and a virgin, and when he fell to his death it would be all Cain’s fault.

He edged his foot upwards, searching with his toes for another branch that he could use to lift himself higher. The slick, worn, sole of his sneaker slid on the damp bark. A shower of pine needles pattered over his hair and fell down the back of his coat collar where they bit at his skin. He hugged himself closer to the tree trunk and tried not to look down.

“Jesus Jedda. Could you hurry up?”

Jedda gritted his teeth. “I can’t find a foothold.”

“Just a little bit higher. Keep going…keep going. There. Can you feel it?”

Jedda’s foot connected with the stump on a broken branch. He wriggled his foot forward until it poked into the arch of his foot and his knee was almost in his chest. He bounced, once, twice, on his other foot, sending another fall of pine needles to the floor, and pushed up with his other leg. His chest scraped against the tree, sweat pasted his fringe to his forehead. With a final grunt he was standing on the stump, his other leg dangling free.

So. Which is it? 1 or 2? And why?

Posted in Blog, Something Different

Chickens Are Like Babies…

Want a weird observation?

Take a small (about 1kg), whole, chicken.

Wash, pat dry, and remove skin. Snip off ends of wings at the joint.

Coat with seasoning mix (I used Tandaco Southern Chicken – if you want to know).

Pick up chicken underneath the wings. Notice how the little arms flop over your hands and the legs sort of hang loose.

Isn’t it disturbingly like holding a new born baby?!

It is! Yikes! It’s creepy, creepy, creepy!

What are you meant to do with an observation like that? Why have an observation like that?

Let’s play a game…try and write the nude chicken/new born baby analogy into a scene/piece of flash fiction. I would LOVE to see what you can all do!

PS I’m not really into dinner tonight, just so you know.

Posted in Blog, craft, Something Different

Writing Through the Fog…Or Not.

Heard the saying, “the best laid plans of mice and men…”? It’s a beautiful phrase from a beautiful but (I think) a profoundly sad poem by Robert Burns. We’re all like the little mouse, doing our best to prepare and plan for what is to come, not realising that very soon our plans could be changed drastically (although I hope that your and my plans don’t go as awry as the poor little mouse’s).

My plan was to send my completed novel ‘Child of War’ out into the world and, while I waited for someone to realise that they just had to publish it, finish the first draft of my current novel in four months. Enter some health concerns, medication changes and a general feeling of ‘humpf’ and I find that I haven’t written for weeks. So much for completing my first draft by the end of this month.

So, I’m curious (and a little desperate) how do you shift your mood when you’re feeling a bit ‘beige’ and your plans have been ploughed up?

Posted in Blog, Something Different

Put out your bats…

If you live in a cricketing country then you’ll probably have heard of the sad passing of Phil Hughes. Whether you follow the cricket or not, the loss of a young man in such a random way is heart wrenching, and the grief of people from all walks of life and across generations is a powerful example of our shared humanity.

Personally I don’t follow the cricket, the only thing more boring is golf and televised parliamentary sittings, and it would be wrong of me to pretend that I knew anything of Phil Hughes’ career. But I do know the impact he had on my husband, a man known for his reserve, who is a true cricket fan and an avid fan of Phil Hughes. A man who was truly shocked, stunned and saddened by Phil Hughes’ unexpected death.

From an authors perspective, it’s interesting to observe human nature and behaviour at times like this and, when emotions are new and sharp, to notice feelings and thoughts that you might otherwise have ignored. It’s an education to see how shared grief (or shared joy, fear, anger etc.) is expressed both publicly and on a personal level.

From a persons perspective my heart goes out to Phil Hughes’ family and friends and also to Sean Abbott and his friends and family who are undoubtedly going through a difficult time.

Posted in Blog, craft, Something Different

So…Here’s a weird question…

I have a strange question, and if you’re a medical professional or someone with experience in this that would be even better…

In a survival situation (let’s say lost in the wilderness or something along those lines) how is a woman’s menstrual cycle affected?

I know this is a strange question but Bear Grylls doesn’t stop in between eating bugs and making rope ladders out of vines to say, “and ladies, if it’s that time of the month…” so I would appreciate your ideas.

I have done a little bit of research which has alerted me to just how lucky I am…women living in refugee camps and women living in prisons in some parts of the world really struggle without sanitary napkins and other things my mum always referred to as ‘essentials’.

But there is no information (that I can find) about the menstrual experiences of woman who are forced into a survival situation.

So what do you think? And, why do you think it? Do you have experience in this area (either academically or personally). I would love to hear all your thoughts.

Posted in Blog, craft, New Adult, Young Adult

Do you swear?

Do you swear?

Most of us do although there may be different contexts. An accident, a flaring temper, fear, excitement, a few drinks – these things can make even the most mild mannered person drop a four letter word.

The company we find ourselves in can also influence our choice of language. I would never swear in front of my grandma or my children, I would only swear in front of my parents if no other word could convey the feeling I wanted to get across. I swear pretty freely with my friends and they with me. When I meet up with friends who are also mums, and without the children, we use language that could shock … well probably no one would be particularly shocked these days but still, it’s pretty bad. I suspect it’s a relief valve, we’re so careful around the terrors darlings that when they’re not around we can let fly.

And, of course, teenagers swear – probably for the same reason as the mothers of young children. I have yet to meet a teenager (and in a past life I was a high school teacher) that doesn’t swear amongst their peers, even if it’s only occasionally.

And so, here’s the question – should there be swearing in books aimed at young adults? When your seventeen year old protagonist is running from murderous thugs, is it acceptable for him to drop a few dirty words? Or is swearing in young adult fiction a no go? And if it is, what do you replace it with? I would love to hear what you think.

 

 

Posted in Blog, Something Different

What Makes a Family?

I enjoy writing children’s picture books. B1 in particular gives me any number of ideas for new stories and I can then share them with my own little ones.

Invariably though, if I write a story with a family, there’s a mum and a dad. This is probably because I grew up in a ‘traditional’ family. My parents have been married for over forty years, and when I say ‘parents’ a mean my mum and my dad.

But there are lots of different types of families. Families with two dads or two mums, families with single parents, families with grandparents as guardians. All sorts of different families providing children with happy, healthy, loving homes.

So, does that mean there should be more diversity in the families portrayed in children’s picture books? I think so but I’m curious what you think.

And to be honest, I’ve never written a story with same sex parents. I’m nervous about hijacking a story, which is aimed at entertaining children, with a statement aimed at parents. But that said, it would be nice if diverse families were represented more…

…and didn’t even make us blink.