Friday, 30 November 2007

Chapter 13

Someone asked me how many chapters I have left to do and I replied ‘six’ and then really thought about it. Blimey, just six left? To me, that sounds like the end is nigh. And really, having a squiz at the chapter plan, I can probably bin one off as it’s not relevant anymore, and then I only have five to go! Oh my giddy aunt, how exciting!

Of course though, there is still a fair amount of writing to do, and lots happen in these chapters, especially the grand finale, so a little way to go yet. I am still on schedule to finish in January, and if I squint at the budget and poke it with a stick from a distance, that still looks like it’s on schedule too, which is rather nice.

My friends were wondering how I manage to keep to my budget; until I pointed out I was wearing my mum’s old jumper. See, the trick is to have a mother that views Saturdays as wasted unless she comes home with a new top. This means the only daughter (me, in other words) gets first choice for anything mum no longer wants, and in my current predicament that can only be a good thing. (A year ago? ‘Mum – Oxfam is thatta way’. Now? ‘Yup, bring it over, whatever it is. Even if it is peach-coloured’. Sigh…)

Although, saying that, there was only one peach-coloured jumper incident, yet it was one I remembered as it was what I was wearing when I chose to get my ten-year passport done ten years ago funnily enough. Oh wasn’t that a great choice? For ten years I had to put up with boyfriends, friends and work colleagues in airports comparing passport pictures, and feeling vague embarrassment that I had chosen to wear that awful top. You’d think I’d learn, wouldn’t you?

But no – I needed to send off for a new passport as the old one had run out, and Tuesday found me at the post office poised in front of the photo booth wearing a nasty polo neck. And what do passport pictures of people in polo necks look like? They look like you should be in Cluedo, that’s what. Miss Navy, that is what I am. Yet another ten years of passport joy coming up…

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Feeling charitable

Yesterday I had a meeting with that charity I was talking about, and we clarified what I thought I could help with. One way is getting them in the local paper, the other is me writing / subbing their newsletters. I told them it was absolutely ok however they want to do it, even if they just want to throw some thoughts randomly on an email, as I’d be able to scrub up an article from that. And of course, most importantly, be free to tell me if they didn’t like anything! The upshot was we all left the meeting feeling rather pleased, and I even felt a little jaunty of step heading back here.

Before I sound too ‘holier than thou’ which isn’t my intention, this idea totally works both ways. Writing is like drawing, one of the key most important things is to practise every day, and if possible, out of your comfort zone every so often. Even better if it’s published writing, as, regardless of being paid, there is something about it that gets you in a discipline of deadlines and the fact that your words will have an audience helps you fine-tune and polish. It also helps with spotting weaknesses, such as I know I have to be extra vigilant with tenses or one sentence will happily roam through all three and do a twirl.

Writing a blog is good, with the additional pleasure of comments, but if you are thinking about seriously getting into writing, why not contact your local charity and see if they need an extra pair of hands on the keyboard? Guaranteed they will be pleased to hear from you no matter what you can do, and ok, it doesn’t (shouldn’t!) pay, but for something that could take you as a writer two hours, it might take the charity two days or longer, so it helps them doubly by freeing up their time to help others. And if you haven’t been published before, there is that thrill of being ‘the writer’ – the thrill us wannabe’s live for! Anyway, just a thought!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

It Seemed a Good Idea at the Time

A couple of weeks ago I went to St Albans for a spot of early Christmas shopping, and popped into my fave shop, which is a weirdy beardy hippy shop full of crystals, tarots, healing books and the like. Wandering around, I spied a box full of big lumps of amethyst, and on enquiry, they were selling the whole lot off for £45.

Well, this seemed like Christmas was a job done. My friends and I rather like crystals and, well, weirdy beardy hippy things, so it was with a smug but happy heart that I handed over the cash. All my friends Christmas presents were in the bag; I’d buy nice gift boxes, a yard or two of purple silky stuff and sew little cushion type things on which to sit my marvellous amethyst. I had, in fact, saved money as anyone I missed at Christmas could get amethyst birthday presents in 2008. Hooray for being original and on a budget!


The more I look at the amethyst, the more I see large lumps of rock. I have, in effect, bought my lovely friends heavy stones for their presents. Okay, pretty crystal stones, granted, but not the prettiest they could be, after all, amethyst is usually quite expensive, and the people that run that shop know what they are selling. I am now wondering if this is such a good idea.

I can’t even sew.

Well, I can, but I am not going to win Miss Neat Sewing 2007. I’d win Miss 'Bugger I’ve Dropped another Stitch Where Oh Where Has the End of the Thread Gone' 2007. That award has had my name on it every year.

So lumps of rock on badly stitched silky material stuffed with cotton wool, disguised in a pretty box. I hope my friends still love me. And that they each open their presents in different houses.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Age Concern

Waitrose for me is becoming like that mermaid on the rocks winking to sailors. I really shouldn’t, mustn’t, cannot go in there – the budget really doesn’t extend to sodding £4 on blackberries, however lovely and plump they appear to look. But there is something about the supermarket that lures me in every time, as it is just there, and so handy, and so clean, and so I ended up popping in to buy friend C a bottle of wine for cooking up a feast for everyone last night.

Now, the background to this story is that I used to get ID’d all the time for really silly things – I was told I needed my parents signature for an adult bus pass when I was 20, I was refused a lottery scratch card (16 and over) when I was 24. Needless to say when I smoked, buying cigarettes could be a trial, as was sometimes getting served in a bar. But the last time I had been ID’d for anything was a fair few years ago, and finally I was beginning to think my age had caught up with me. Fair do’s, I thought, it had been a good run.

So it was a surprise when the lady behind the till asked me how old I was. I laughed; feeling flattered, and said oh I’m 32. She gave me a quizzical look and asked if I had any ID, at which point I thought if I was 17 and trying to sneak a bottle of Rioja, surely it’s a bit of a stretch to say you are 32? Out loud I explained I only had my debit card, and she said she’d have to get her supervisor. I was like, o-kay… as the queue behind me shifted and murmured.

The worse thing was I was actually starting to feel a bit shifty, like I really was under-age and trying it on. I did that sort of wan smile you give to the queue when it is being held up due to your transaction. No one smiled back, I noticed.

The supervisor came over, asked my age, and again I said 32, thinking surely here be the voice of reason. But still she asked me for supporting ID, which I explained I had stopped carrying about ten years ago. We sort of looked at each other a bit and then she said it was ok to go ahead. She must have spied a wrinkle.

I was still packing up with a bit of a red face when the old boy behind me in the queue moved down the conveyor belt to pack his own purchases away. “I’d have served you,” he said with a smile, and I did an answering grin of thanks before getting out of the shop and thinking hang on a minute, that wasn’t exactly a compliment!

Friday, 23 November 2007

Back to the Forties

Chapter 12 this week has sent me back to 1948, and any writing I do about that era means I have to do a ton of research to get my head in the right space, so its slow work. You can’t go make yourself a coffee, turn on the washing machine, and listen to miscellaneous music – (The Rolling Stones - Miss You, Bananarama - Robert De Niro’s Waiting and E.L.O - Mr Blue Sky) and then think right, 1948. Or at least I can’t. So I have a CD called Number Ones of the Forties and am currently listening to Tuxedo Junction, a slow swing band tune by Glenn Miller. It would be even better if it didn’t have the underlying hum of the computer twirling the disc. I could go and play it on J’s mega boom stereo thing but turning that beast on means the whole flat vibrates, and I quite like our neighbours.

It sounds so silly, but the main thing that has stumped me this week is what shoes my female character would have been wearing. Normal everyday shoes and I cannot picture them, which means in the bit I am writing; I can see everything in that scene apart from her feet. And because I cannot picture everything, I find it impossible to write about. But I am behind, so I really need to crack on today.

Attack of the Doubts

I had an attack of the doubts (like the clones, but worse) last night. This last year my confidence has plummeted, not on the book or writing side of things, but on the real world and being a non-nervous, secure part of it. I keep doing things to try and challenge this state, such as my writing for the local paper, this forces me in a way to go out there and try new things, to try and join in. If you met me, you wouldn’t think I have a problem with this at all. But left to my own devices I do have a tremendous problem with self-confidence; I really am my own worst enemy and I know this, yet I cannot stop listening to that little poisonous voice inside that whispers worries to me.

Being at home alone writing probably doesn’t help… yet it is the only thing I have ever wanted to do, so I just have to work through it, I think. And then I read other people’s blogs about their very real concerns over the health of their family, or they are ambulance drivers or physician's responsible for others, and I feel a bit humbled and annoyed with myself. I’m only really responsible for my own state of happiness and ok, I’m a bit wobbly at managing that, but I am relatively healthy and have a great opportunity here (even if it is flushing away my life savings!), so really I should zip it. Consider it zipped.

I find it hard to commit to things beyond deadlines, even my yoga class and me only manage to combine once every three weeks. But I am really considering volunteering some time to a charity, or seeing if there is anyway I can help somewhere down the line. It needs a bit of thought, but even if it is just cleaning, perhaps knowing I was helping a little would in a funny sort of way help me. Or perhaps I could volunteer with writing/editing/subbing a charity’s newsletter or something… Hmm, now there’s a thought…


There is a local cancer charity that helps people in the community with that illness, and I got in touch with their main fund raiser this afternoon. The result is I'm going to pop over for a chat next Tuesday, and hopefully I will be able to help not only with their newsletter, but in a few other ways as well. Excellent!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


This is something that is driving me mad, and perhaps you can help me. Have a look at my little picture below – does that arched wall thing that my arrows point to have a real name?

It’s like a stone arched border/edging around a patio, but I am sure it has a proper architectural term for it, as opposed to me fudging around with arched balcony wall thing. I've been searching for this for ages, and it is beginning to send me loopy. Please forgive the bad illustration – but hey, I threw in a few potted plants!

Yours hopefully,

Monday, 19 November 2007

Angry Washing Up

I must be the angriest washer upper known to man. We don’t have a dish-washer (my brain just went then, I was going to type ‘drying machine’), so everything gets its turn in the sink and it is not a happy experience for human or plate. For a start, everything is so darn heavy, plates slip out of my grasp to splash back wetly at me, and saucepans refuse to be lifted. Scrubbing baking trays causes a tidal wave that cascades over the sink; I invariably lose a spoon that only comes to light after I have put something really greasy in the water. I end up aiming everything with force at the drainer, and it’s only the bravest that survive. Today’s casualty was a small tumbler that was only too adept at living up to its name. It’s a war out there I tell you, a war.

Novel wise, I have been hard at it all day on chapter 11, with only a short moral boosting visit to Starbucks to buy a chocolate cornflake cake… okay, two chocolate cornflake cakes. My nutritionist visit has been put back for another week, which means I am free of the dreaded food diary for a little while longer, hence I can surely eat what I like, no? Isn’t that how it works? Anyway, chapter 11 first draft is done, so surely that proves how good the power of chocolate is. I wish I could convince myself fruit had the same effect...

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Which car?

People keep asking me when I am going to get a car. ‘Oh you don’t want to leave it too long’, is the general consensus, I hear this so much that I now expect wizened old crones to sidle up to me when out shopping, hissing it out of the corner of frail mouths, perhaps battering me on the leg with a walking stick.

Of course, the reason I am leaving it is as I have no money in the budget for a car, and buying one now seems a little foolhardy. But I do see the wisdom of ‘keeping my eye in’ driving wise, I took J’s car out for a small run the other day and it was frankly terrifying. It was the first time I had driven since passing my test in September, and I scraped his wheel when parking (cue long examination of wheel) – we eventually decided it would be good for me to get my own car to scrape. And possibly sooner rather than later, so I can get used to it all over again.

Everyone keeps telling me (again) that I should go for some practical little car as I will crash it (it’s a given, apparently, with first time drivers) and mention words like Fiesta and Honda. A nice bog standard sort of car, economical, easy to run... boring, dull… Personally, I have always loved VW Camper vans, Morris Minor Travellers – cars with a bit of character to them. These are the sort of things I dreamt about when I imagined being a driver, not a Fiesta. But I agreed with everyone, somewhat reluctantly, thinking it made sense. I scoured Loot wondering what I should be looking at; they all look the same, these little practical cars…

And then I went on eBay.

Ooo… See, J is rather nifty with cars, especially older types with less electrical innards. And he thinks there is nothing wrong with me getting an older car if he can fix it and I can drive it, he just thinks if I crash it so what, get another! (I wanted to remind him of the Wheel Episode at this point, but decided it went against the moment). Well, the imagination just soared… Picnic baskets, driver's gloves, perhaps scarf for hair – oh, practicality and budget went flying out the (split-screen, original fittings) window.

The result is I think I might be getting an MGB GT.

It is so not practical, it is a two-seater, it won’t have power steering – but it is gorgeous, it is what I would pay for a car anyway, and it might be exempt from tax. Nothing is decided or bid upon yet, but we have a couple to go and see and J knows what to look out for. I dunno though, it is really a silly idea? The only problem is I think I have fallen in love with these cars!

Friday, 16 November 2007


I notice I have gone over the 1,000 mark with visitors to this blog, so hello to you all! I think most of you will be bypassing this to go straight to the lyrics for Autumn Days, but never mind, you are more than welcome where-ever you go.

When I started the stat counter, I set it at 50, just so it didn’t start from zero, and I turned off the bit that would count every time I log in, just to keep things fair. The free stat counter software offers a few things that you can click on – for example I can see what people come here looking for from google – ‘wellies slippy’ bizarrely garnered two individual searches. I can click on a map that shows what country everyone is from, or I can see how long you spend here, even though that could be the same as what I do on other blogs – eg read something and then get up and wander off, pondering the words of wisdom I had just read. (Of course that is what I do with all your blogs – they are all marvellous). I don't understand the rest of what the stat counter stuff can do, but rest assured I cannot use it to find out where/who you are! You can remain happily anonymous, or pop by to say hello, up to you!

I bought my local paper today, wondering what this time they will do with the picture beside my article, and hoping against hope they have lost it. But no… this time they did shrink it (phew) but they have stretched it horizontally instead, so I look like I have put on a good 2 stone since last week. AGH! Why – why?! Still, it serves to make my mum giggle every time she sees it, so there’s a good thing.

Talking of food – I am seeing a nutritionist on Monday, courtesy of an article I shall be writing afterwards. I have been asked to keep a food diary for five days beforehand, and I have promised to be honest. Oh my – have you ever kept a food diary? Listing every single thing that you put in your body is awful – I am beginning to see a pattern here, the pattern being that I like to eat all the bleeding time! I’m not overweight, I’m 5’5, about the top end of 8 stone, with occasional small forays into 9 stone territory, but I do know that being sedentary and doing little exercise is no good for me at all, especially with my love of food. It will be interesting what she says though… *hides mini-rolls*

Novel-wise, it was like that effort of finishing chapter ten just did me over. I have instead spent time editing, polishing and gently buffing the last three chapters. Every look at the words ‘Chapter Eleven’ has sent me scurrying back in the arms of its previous cousins. I will start it soon, I will…

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Runaway Train

Some music videos stay in your head forever…

The band Soul Asylum released a song called Runaway Train in 1992, and the music video that accompanied it flashed up pictures of real children / teenagers that were missing from home, along with the year they disappeared. These were haunting images, considering no-one knew what had happened to them, and I couldn’t watch that video without crying and becoming so angry with the world.

Out today, I recognised a picture of a schoolgirl on the cover of a few newspapers and picked them up, curious as to where I’d seen that face before. As soon as I looked closer I realised it was one of the girls from Runaway Train, and it appears her body has just been found buried in a back garden in Margate. My heart goes out to her poor family. That girl was my age at the time of her disappearance (1991), yet she never had the chance to go on and see where her life could have led her. I’m not sure what justice can be achieved, but I do hope her family eventually gain some peace.

The link to Runaway Train is here, and it still makes me cry. I hope some of the others made it back.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Get in!

I am happy to report chapter ten is in the bag! My eyes might fall out due to staring at the computer non-stop for what feels like forever, but it’s done and I can finally move on – yay!

This has been my biggest chapter so far – nearly 10,000 words so I might have to chop it down at a later date but it is a real pivotal scene – lots of things happen and, well, I think I like it, which is nice and somewhat encouraging! Also chapters 1 to 3 were really setting the scene, 4 – 10 were building up in one direction, and now I have one chapter (11) that is like the balance, and then it all soars off on a different tangent. I am looking forward to the different viewpoint I’ll be writing from, it will be another challenge for me.

And (whispers) overall I am very nearly at the 50,000 word mark – that’s novel length that is (big grin). If I had any alcohol left in this flat I would toast myself… not quite the same with lemon squash but oh well...

I shall leave you tonight with this offering from youtube - it has some meaning to chapter ten, so it is a nice note on which to finally down tools for this evening.

Perry Como and the Buffalo Bills
If You Were The Only Girl (In The World)

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

On not actually writing

Am I actually a typer rather than a writer?

I have been browsing those proper writer rooms on the Guardian online again (cannot tear myself away) and am struck at how the majority of them write in long-hand. Oh no, is this where I am going wrong?

As although I jot the initial idea down in pen, mostly I ‘write’ straight onto the computer. If an idea seems particularly sticky, or I want to see it more clearly, I do write that bit out – usually a side of A4 with my untidy sprawl will do the trick – and then it is back to the keyboard.

The main reason I type everything straight up is that my hand gets tired after only a page of writing long-hand. This is dreadful, it means my handwriting skills are slowly going down the pan, and of course, I do little to no actual writing in a day. Even ‘writing’ a letter these days is typed. But I do get a lot of comfort from typing my words – I can type pages upon pages for a start, and all I have to sacrifice is growing my nails long (you cannot type with long nails!). I also like the linear quality of it, of seeing actual words on the screen, of being able to read my own words without wincing at my untidy lettering and the fact that when actual writing I do tend to misspell words or join the wrong ones – typing is much neater. I also think it is quicker to see mistakes and edits – although you cannot see the whole big picture as easily as you can in ink. At least I can’t, for some strange reason.

But I don’t want to be a typer (she wails) I want to be a writer! Maybe if this book didn’t seem so frighteningly urgent, I’d kick back and get a quill or something. And the urgency is all of my own doing, I know. It’s like my happiness is starting to depend upon it - now that’s not scary at all, is it? And chapter ten is still causing me problems… *kicks chapter ten*

Monday, 12 November 2007

Where do you write?

There is a great special report in the Guardian online called Writers’ Rooms – a collection of photographs and thoughts on their little worlds. I am fascinated for two reasons – mostly everyone’s writing space looks like they are hugely rich (tapestries, one or two heirlooms, huge windows, two or more computers) and of course, these are real proper authors, and it is where real proper authors work. How does my space match up, I wondered…

Through the Chair

I work out of the spare bedroom, so it’s not ideal – there is a wardrobe behind me that I do my level best to ignore, and we are not allowed to put up anything on the walls unless there already is a nail there (and they check this, the pedantic so and so’s). See, ideally I would like more pictures on the wall, more colours around me, but heigh ho. This flat came with furniture, so I happily appropriated our old dining table and chair to work on – they are both made of solid wood and are huge and heavy. I cannot sit straight to save my life, so am forever twisting about forgetting the chair does not, and end up with a ton of bruises – that table is not forgiving. I have speakers, and whenever am stuck I play a range of music that I have on the computer. Next songs up are Rod Stewart (Maggie May), The Kinks (Waterloo Sunset) and various Slade tunes - I know these sort of tunes so well that they are comforting and I can work through them, as well as sing along every so often.

To the right of the computer I have my printer, on top of that is my Top Twenty book (I like to listen to music from the month I am writing about if possible), and some research books. Propped up is my Flower Fairies of the winter book, invaluable for a bit of chilly garden research. You can hardly see it, but my chapter plan is beside my mouse, I mostly resist the urge to rest my coffee cup on it, although a few tell tale circles beg a different story.
And that is all the story this picture tells us, I could widen the camera's gaze but then you would see untidy stacks of research, tons of books banked against the wall, a sort of glitter glo-lamp thing that spins around, and my collection of old annuals, books and records. See, where I actually write is sort of the boring bit...

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Weekend Transport

What happens to my local train line on a Sunday? Does it stay out too late the previous night? Is it sulking with a hangover back in the yard? All I know is no matter what weekend you want to travel; my local trains will have transformed into a bus replacement service which will thoughtfully add an extra hour or two to your journey for you to admire the scenery.

It all started so well…

I had stayed with my good friend R the previous night; we had drank mulled wine and let off some small fireworks in her garden in a totally girlie sort of way (‘eek! Is it lit? It’s not lighting… ooo it’s fizzing – RUN!’ We stampede to the other end of the garden and turn to watch a tiny little fizzy thing shoot little stars a foot high.). It was great fun, and today we stomped around a heath-y park near her, managed with luck more than judgement to be silent at 11am for Remembrance Sunday, and a little while later she waved me off on a bus.

And there it began.

The bus went approximately four stops down the road, and then the police stopped it, as there was a Remembrance Sunday parade coming down the road we wanted, and therefore all traffic was suspended for the foreseeable future. This was fine, I didn’t mind about that, but what I did mind was that the bus driver parked and told us we might as well get off. There was no alternative route planned, no diversion; the bus company was not prepared for this in the slightest. That was that, as far as this bus was concerned. Hometime. See ya, losers.

So, since no other bus went anywhere near where I needed to go, I ended up having to walk all the way back to the train station, and catch a train into Kings Cross in London, so I could get another train back out to where I live. Only there wasn’t one, as per. If anyone heard a deep sigh at around 1pm today it was me, as I descended the stairs to the underground. I ended up getting a tube as near as I could to where I live, and then had to wait for another bus to take me further, and finally I had a nice 20 minute stomp to my flat. All in all, a journey that should have taken me an hour took me three! I was not a happy bunny.

But maybe this is London transport’s revenge since I no longer commute in the week… ‘get her at the weekend’, it mutters. Okay, I hold my hand up, London Transport. I have been truly got. Can bygones be bygones? Please?

Thursday, 8 November 2007

There she goes!

Not the song by The La’s, but finally the ball has started rolling on chapter ten. It was like pushing really hard at something poised to go downhill all day, and then finally, I can feel it shift and sway. I can’t say it’s rolling with speed, but I have added something nice to chapter nine, and managed to do 2,000 words on ten so far, and the night is young. I work so much better at night… trouble is, I rather like sleeping as well. Maybe I need to think of myself as a shift worker…

There are still fireworks going off randomly outside, once people make one big bang, it’s obviously a hard habit to break. I walked to town today to mingle with real people and learnt a few things:

1 – It is nigh on impossible for me to walk past a Starbucks and not buy a Belgian chocolate cornflake cake, since being initiated into their delights last week. This is bad.

2 – That no matter what day or what time, H&M will always be crowded full of desperate looking women.

3 – That I am developing an irrational fear of shop alarms going off when I walk through the exit. I’m not a shop lifter or anything (well, I once attempted to steal a penny sweet by dropping it down my school jumper, and then felt so bad I wiggled it out and put it back, with added jumper fluff. And it was a fizzy cola bottle, I had sugar everywhere…) so there is no rhyme or reason for this, I just feel weirdly guilty.

4 – For some reason I always end up in the middle of Monsoon wondering whether £50 for a T-shirt is a bargain. I remain to be convinced (and the budget gives a huge sigh of relief).

5 – WH Smiths gives me the creeps. I mean, be a book shop, or be a stationary shop, or be newsagents… stop morphing into other shops!

Right, back to it… Where was I? Oh yes, the smog of December 1962…

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


This is awful, I know what I want to write, and it’s good, it’s fun…and I just cannot do it. Yesterday I managed a grand total of 500 words – that is pathetic! And I don’t think they are even good words, as I have been growling at them today. In fact, my lovely story is now annoying me immensely. Is this what happens, do you think? There’s no point taking a break from it, as technically I haven’t wrote anything of value for over a week, so I have had a break already. I have come to realise that there it is really hard to write when you are worrying over something… It’s nothing major, just something that depresses me in the back of my mind. I think this feeling is going to stay for a while, sadly, so I need to work out a way to keep writing through it. Ah well…

Anyway, moving on swiftly to research. If in doubt – research! Even though I pull my hair out and obsess a bit too much over it, I do love getting everything as correct as I can. As a reader, I totally appreciate it, and if I ever get that far, I am determined not to short change anyone lovely enough to read this novel. Today my google history says: Holly hocks winter, December plants, 1960’s cars, Alice through the looking glass, Italian boy names, sewing machine 1963, winter jasmine, the Queen’s Golden State Coach, and styles of houses in Islington. Sounds, erm, fascinating, eh?

The Internet is great for initial research, but so far the best thing I have found is going to the nearest research library to look in actual reference books. So when this is nearer the end, I think I will camp for a few days in the local library and polish everything to make sure it’s as good as I can get it. That is, of course, assuming I can kick this chapter ten a bit further down the road… Right, c’mon Jayne, just two pages at least?

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


Not a post about knitting, but instead a post about how late I am with chapter ten. The last piece of actual novel writing I did was a whole week ago – there were a few things going on last week that put my head in a completely different space, sadly. It all seems fine now though... *looks suspiciously around*

So with that in mind, today I got up at 6 ish, got all the boring washing up / washing machine / tidying annoying stuff out of the way, and am ready to crack on. Outlook appears to have broken on me over night, but I tell myself this is a good thing, as no longer will I check it every 5 minutes to see who is saying what. Although Outlook did that really crap thing of telling me I have mail, but then crashing, so I have a tantalising envelope icon down there *points* and no way to retrieve the email until Outlook decides it likes my server again. I like to think they have had a lovers tiff.

So, here I am, flexing fingers and ready to crack on. I think I have to read over the previous chapter to get in the right mood, and then hopefully I have all day to at least get 2000 words on the table. Anything would be a start! So here I go…

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Stephen King

Given that I am not your usual candidate for horror stories, I love and adore any book by Stephen King.

This addiction started with the book ‘IT’, in 1997 on a surfing holiday to Cornwall. I borrowed it from our B&B to sit and read on the beach in-between attempts to catch a wave, and got so engrossed in it that the proprietor said I could take the book home. After IT, I quickly began working my way through his back catalogue, and was pleased to discover there were tons out there to choose from. It is hard to say which are my favourites, but IT, Firestarter, The Shining and Needful Things are definitely in the top ten.

Stephen King is the sort of storyteller whose tales linger, way after you put down the book and step back into your own world. They creep, they wake you up at night, and they have the power to instantly take me out of my surroundings and put me wherever he wants me. This ability is priceless, especially when you commute for three hours a day on trains and tubes, like I used to. Books are our equivalent to time travel, I think, blue police boxes and flashing lights not necessary.

It is the way he writes as well, not just the actual story. He makes good use of italics, brackets, breaking rules such as starting sentences with lower case letters, and short paragraphs to denote something creepy. Let’s use The Shining as an example.


He would just walk right past that old fire extinguisher and go downstairs. He started towards it, moving closer to the wall until his right arm was brushing the expensive silk paper. Twenty steps away. Fifteen. A dozen.
When he was ten steps away, the brass nozzle suddenly rolled off the fat loop it had been lying
on and fell to the hall carpet with a dull thump.


‘Listen to me Danny. It wasn’t your daddy trying to hurt me. And I didn’t want to hurt him. The hotel has gotten into him, Danny. The Overlook has gotten into your daddy. Do you understand me?’

Short sentences / paragraphs

The lions were closer to the path. The two on his right had subtly changed positions, had drawn closer together. The tail of the one on the left now almost jutted over the path. When he had come past them and through the gate, that lion had been on the right and he was quite sure its tail had been curled around it.

They were no longer protecting the path; they were blocking it.

The whole shebang

(You promised.)
(Promises were made to be broken.)
He jumped at that. It was as if that thought had come from outside, insectile. Buzzing, softly cajoling.
(Promises were made to be broken my dear redrum, to be broken. splintered. shattered. hammered apart. FORE!)


The combination of stilted sentences and different styles seem to help heighten any tension, and it is a great way to play the reader’s emotions, especially with creepy tales. A good thing to remember when writing, methinks!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

On this day…

If you are a potential ghost hunter based in London, then you should get yourself down to Bruce Castle in Tottenham to hang around and wait for the ghost of Lady Coleraine.

A 16th century manor house is one of the last things you’d expect to find in Tottenham, along with possibly a new branch of Fresh and Wild. But Bruce Castle harks back to the days when Tottenham was a desirable parish on the edge of London. It was built by Sir William Compton, who held the rather dubious and intriguing sounding title of ‘squire of the bedchamber’ to Henry VIII, on lands that originally belonged to the Bruis, or Bruce family.

The Coleraine family acquired the house and several stories circulate about the first Lord Coleraine, and his lady wife. One, is that she jumped to her death from the balcony with their baby son after her husband turned against her. Two, is that the husband wanted to marry his mistress, so imprisoned his wife in the room below the clock tower until the ticking drove her mad, causing her to leap to her death. The third story is that the husband was obsessed with the fear that his young beautiful wife would run off with another man, and so kept her locked away under the clock tower, until she decided to kill herself by jumping… yes you get the idea.

Whatever the facts, it appears she certainly died by falling from the balcony on November 3rd 1680. And she is not going to let anyone forget it… every year, on the anniversary of her death, the sound of a scream can apparently be heard as she takes her fatal plunge.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Noises in the Night

Don’t you just love it when you can watch fireworks for free? My flat has large windows that overlook a playing field, and they have an organised fireworks show. So I have just sat back with a glass of wine in the warm and enjoyed some spectacular fireworks, all on the cheap. Marvellous!

This leads us to things that go boom, or rather bump, in the night. As a young child, I was scared stiff of the Smash Makes Mash robots. Seriously! I had a horrible nightmare when they were marching around my house with swords laughing their evil manic cackle, and that put me off them for life.

Equally chilling for me was the ghost from the credits in Scooby Doo. You know the one, it had green arms and a white mantle, and tried to drag Daphne into a dark alcove – re-watching this, and the figure is barely on screen yet was there long enough to give me nightmares.

I was convinced Jaws could somehow live at the bottom of my bed, and spent hours conjuring up elaborate anti-burglar plans – these consisted of hollow spaces under beds where I could flick a switch and everyone in my family would stay safely asleep but they would descend into the hollow space and a new mattress / bedding would go on top, like there was no one there. I also was scared of car headlights flashing through my curtains, and really hated clowns with a passion.

However this was nothing, nothing I tell you, compared to the day I watched my first horror film. I was perhaps 11, it was Oct 31st, and my older cousins decided it would be fun to make me watch A Nightmare on Elm Street. Hiding behind a pillow was apparently very babyish, so I watched it all, laughed politely with the cousins and came home.

I didn’t sleep again for about a month.

It was horrendous, I wasn’t allowed to sleep with my light on, so I would wait until I thought everyone in the house was asleep and try to sneak it on, only to be shouted at to ‘turn that bloody light off!’ But with it off I couldn’t watch the walls in case Freddy was peering over… it was a lose-lose situation, until I discovered the merits of radio. I had a small portable, and discovered if I put that on quietly and held it to my ear, the sound of presenters talking somewhere in the night made me feel so much better. For some reason knowing someone else was awake helped – I was mostly cured listening to LBC.

But a dream gave the final solution. In it, I was in the house by myself, and heard a noise in the garden. Going to the back door, I saw it was Freddy, who asked me if I’d mind if he stayed on the sofa for the night. I wagged my finger at him and said oh-ho! I’ll say yes, and then what happens eh? And he promised he would never get me, so I let him in and then realised the back door was broken. I worried out loud about burglars, and Freddy just waggled his glove at me and said don't worry, I can handle it, and we laughed together knowingly, and I went upstairs to get some much needed kip. It was great! I had the best night's sleep ever, all thanks to my new spikey-gloved friend. Hoorah!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Cursed Films

Films with a 'supposed' curse - whether you believe them or not, you cannot deny some spooky goings on...

The Omen

John Richardson was the special effects consultant on The Omen. Driving in Holland on Friday 13th he was in a car accident that killed his passenger. The manner of death, decapitation, was eerily similar to the one he had masterminded on The Omen. And the road sign pointing the way to the nearest Dutch town read: Ommen, 66.6 km.


Each of the three Poltergeist films were marked by a death. A year after the release of the first film, lead actress Dominique Dunn was murdered. Actor Julian Beck died in 1985, as production on Poltergeist II began; and 12-year-old actress Heather O’Rourke died from septic shock less than a year after the release of Poltergeist III.

Rosemary’s Baby

The 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby is about a young Manhattan wife whose husband trades their unborn child with a group of devil worshippers. A year after its release, Roman Polanski’s wife, actress Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Californian religious sect the Manson family. She was pregnant at the time.

The Crow

Like father, like son? Bruce Lee died in 1973 of ‘death by misadventure’, although plenty think differently. A film made the year he died has a scene where he is shot with a gun he thinks is unloaded. Fast forward 20 years and Bruce’s son, Brandon Lee, was killed on the set of The Crow, when a gun supposed to be loaded with blanks actually contained live bullets. Coincidence?

Rebel Without A Cause

James Dean filmed an advert asking car-owners to drive safely, “because the next life you save may be mine.” A few weeks later he died in a car crash, the same weekend as the film opened. Troy McHenry, a Beverly Hills doctor, bought the engine from Dean’s Porsche and had it installed in his own car, and was killed the first time he drove it. Years later co-star Natalie Wood drowned in unusual circumstances in November 1981.

Actor George Reeves played the superhero on television in the Fifties but died in the same decade of a single gunshot wound in mysterious circumstances. Christopher Reeve next played the superhero but was later paralysed after a riding accident and died in 2004. And the director of the first film? Richard Donner, fresh from filming The Omen.