Monday, 29 July 2013

Drunken Sailors - MWBB - Winner!

Another winning piece for this weeks Mid-Week Blues-Buster, and at my fourth win, I think I might have reached saturation point and consider stepping out of this for a while. Although I do enjoy the song prompts and what they bring, I need to focus on other writing endeavours.

This week I came out with a rather disturbing tale, not for the feint-hearted. The line 'way hay and up she rises' got stuck in my head (as it did the characters) and this is where it went for me.

  The prompt song this week was:
“Drunken Sailor” by Captain Tractor


They were school buddies, she’d known them all for years, and they still went out together on a regular basis. The fact that she was the only girl made no difference; she could party hard just like the rest of them, she was one of the boys. Although that night it got missed.

Nancy tried hard not to think about thatt. She looked at their sorry faces and tried hard to believe their remorse, believe that it all just got out of hand. But Jimmy couldn’t quite look her in the eye and that bothered her. It made her wonder and recall his eyes that night; the arrogance and the supremacy they’d shown. How drunk had he actually been? There was no telling with him. There were nights you thought he was completely leathered, but then he’d say something and you knew he wasn’t.

But she had watched them all drink that night, watched them all put away the beers with the vodka chasers along with her.

It had been the usual fun in the local bar. Pool was their favourite, and they’d all wanted her on their team; she could pot anything no matter how drunk she was. Then as always they’d moved to the club. Nothing unusual there, two of their six had gone off to chase some skirt. And then afterwards they’d all piled round Johnny’s – again nothing new.

Nancy looked down at her wrists and rubbed them, and maybe the courtroom thought it was a look of humility, but it was pain. The red embedded lines still hurt even though it’d been a week. The doctors said they would eventually disappear, but some days she could still feel the ties they’d used; those horrible plastic things you couldn’t get out of, something she knew all too well now.

She was asked how drunk she’d been and all she could think was, ‘it’s amazing how fast you sober up when you have to’, but it hadn’t made any difference. She still couldn’t work out how it had started, who had instigated it, and how it had ended up with them thinking it was a good idea. She swallowed, still feeling the gag reflex she’d had to the dirty sock they’d stuffed into her mouth. Another thing the doc said would pass.

Then she was asked to recount what had happened. She didn’t think she could when she had gone through it with her lawyer, but up here on the stand with them all there in the room watching it poured out, every detail, totally clinical. As she named each of them, describing in detail what their turn had entailed, she found it cathartic, as though finally stating it out loud made it clear that it was a heinous unprovoked attack, and that the things they did were perverse and brutal. She shifted in her seat, still feeling the brutality.

When asked who had brought it to a stop, the true denigration of what they’d put Nancy through was revealed. Johnny’s mother was sitting in the courtroom. She’d already given her testimony through tears – tears that her own child was capable of such horror, and that she had been the one to discover it after not liking the sounds she’d heard from his attic room. At no time was there a question that it had been a game, Jimmy’s knife had put paid to that. Why would you need to hold a knife to a friend’s throat if it was all in fun?

Nancy was relieved at the verdict, knowing she wasn’t going to have to see them now for several years. It would give her time to recover, time to try and find a way through. She was still in shock; she knew that, the doctor didn’t need to tell her. She just wished the song in her head would stop; the one they’d put on repeat that night to remind them of the good old times. One line in particular kept getting stuck, along with the image of Jimmy’s face as he’d mouthed it during his turn; ‘Way hay and up she rises’. They’d been more than just drunken sailors that night.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Daily Picspiration No.5 - The Player Plays.

On Sunday the 21st my fifth Daily Picspiration entry went up.

The photo really lent itself to follow on from the last instalment - 'Recruitment', and as soon as I saw the photo I had the opening and knew where I wanted to go with it. This serialisation is based off a novel I wrote back through the 90's called The Jester, which when looking back over it really needs a lot of work, but doing this short pieces about it is enabling me to explore avenues with the characters and their backgrounds which I hadn't done in the novel.

You can read 'The Player Plays' here.



Monday, 22 July 2013

Guest Blog - Writer Events Q&A with Dionne Lister


The next author I contacted to answer my Writer Events Q&A is Dionne Lister.

Dionne is an Independent self-published author who writes fantasy and suspense/thrillers. Her novels ‘Shadows of the Realm’ and ‘A Time of Darkness’ are the first two in the ‘Circle of Talia’ series. 

If you like dragons you will love these. They are available in both paper and ebook (I have them both, in both formats, because yes, they are THAT good).

Dionne also has an ebook called ‘Dark Spaces’, which is a collection of scary short stories and definitely worth a read.

I was aware that Dionne had recently been on a writers panel, so I wanted her input on my Q&A to tap her experience of writer events. So here you go.

What was your first writing event?

Genrecon in Sydney, 2012. It is a speculative fiction event. Genrecon was my first event and I think I heard about it from someone on Twitter.

Did you go alone?

I asked Ciara Ballintyne if she wanted to go with me. I had never been to any before, because I had only just started really getting into the writing life, mid 2011, joining Twitter in August or September of that year. Before that I had a sensible job: I was a property valuer and never spoke to other writers—I don't know how I survived for as long as I did!

When you went, did you go with a specific plan in mind, or focus? Did you structure the day, or did you just go and see?

A bit of both. I’d never been to one before so I wanted to know if they were any good, but I did have talks I wanted to see. On the day, we could pick what we wanted to see, and there was a lot to choose from.

Can you go to a writing event without a specific focus? Can you just go and look?

You can, although if there is nothing you are really interested in, it’s probably not a good idea. I wouldn’t go to a conference that was for romance, for instance, as I don’t write that genre.

What did you gain from it personally?

I learnt that I knew more than I thought I did and that there is more than one way to do something (writing-wise). It was also wonderful to meet and talk to other writers—that really was the best thing for me.

Have you been to any other writing events?

One of the most exciting things to happen to me was getting onto Facebook one day (and no, that's not the exciting thing) and finding a private message from Kate Forsyth, one of Australia's most successful children's and young adult fantasy authors. I thought at first it was a joke, but I checked out the link and it was definitely her page. She introduced herself and asked if I wanted to speak on a panel at the NSW Writers Speculative Festival. I cried, I was so happy! Apparently she'd been looking for an Australian, self-published fantasy/spec fiction author to speak about self-publishing and after weeks of combing the net, she picked me. I was flattered and excited.

After a successful appearance at that festival, I was asked to speak on self-publishing at the Sydney Writers Festival—the biggest writers' festival in Australia. Because I've done that, I'll now be speaking at two more festival/writer's days in November, so it's just had a domino effect, and I'm enjoying the ride.

I guess it has all come from presenting a good image on social media and producing a good product. As you know, I've had a professional cover done and my books are edited. I also put myself out there as an advocate for professional self-publishing. I think because I'm an editor, it really peeves me when people put out work that is only half finished and full of mistakes.

Writing is a business (as much as it is a passion) and you shouldn't ask readers to pay for half-baked work—imagine if MacDonalds served half-cooked chips or you had to sew your own buttons and hems on the new jacket you just bought. I think becoming a successful author is about working hard, being lucky enough to get that one opportunity, and doing as much with it as you can :). I'm certainly going to run with the speaking gig as long as people will listen to me rabbit on lol.

Have you ever gone on a writing retreat? If so, what are your thoughts/experiences?

No, haven’t done that one, although I think it would be wonderful to go somewhere and have none of the distractions of every-day life and just be able to write.

For someone starting out, or wanting to go to one and not being sure, what advice would you give?

Pick a conference that has content you’re interested in, and if there are questions you’ve always wanted to ask, write them down before you go as there is always opportunity to ask at the end of any panels or talks. Be prepared to have a good time. 


Monday, 15 July 2013

Guest Blog - Writer Events Q&A with Imran Siddiq


While doing the Writer Events Q&A with Susi Holliday the Winchester Writers Conference was mentioned, and I realised that another writing friend had attended as well. This led me to consider that there was more yet information to tap from other authors about writers events, so I have decided to turn the Writers Events Q&A into a series of Guest Blog posts from a variety of authors across the globe.

Imran Siddiq is the self-published author of the YA Sci-Fi novel ‘Disconnect’.

It is available in both paperback and ebook, and is the first part in the ‘Divided Worlds’ trilogy. (I have both versions, because it’s such a good book!)
The sequels, Disassemble and Disrupt are due for dual release on July 29 2013.

Imran is a fast paced, well disciplined writer, who is a fountain of knowledge, and he clearly shows in his detailed response to my Q&A. Enjoy.

What was your first writing event? (writing group, writers conference, book fair etc.)

The Festival of Writing organised by the Writers’ Workshop in March 2011. It was a three day event held in York (UK) and although the weather had a remnant of winter lingering in the air, it was an amazing place to be. Anxiety and apprehension over what to expect were in my mind for the 2 hour journey, but it would become the best £500 I spent in a long time.

Did you go alone?

Indeed I did. Prior to this my only venture with Social Media was Facebook, and all my friends were non writers. It wasn’t until after this event I joined Twitter and found new friends that adore writing. I had no idea of what kind of people would be there, and that caused me to feel apprehensive.

When I went again in September 2012, I gave a lift to a fellow writer and met up with dozen(s) of new friends, and those from 2011. Many are the closest that I’ll make in my lifetime.

When you went did you go with a specific plan in mind, or focus? did you structure the day, or did you just go and see?


My plan was to learn about the process, because I knew little of the agent/publisher relationship, and hadn’t paid much attention to the rules of writing. What a mistake.

At the time of booking, I’d arranged to have 2 x one-to-one’s with Literary Agents and to attend 8 workshops in total relating to Sci Fi, Children’s Writing, Editing, Plotting, Characters, and Voice. I just picked what sounded good to attend to at the time.

What I gained was beyond what you’ll get from a blog, Youtube video, or a book. It was first-hand experience that bore holes into my mind.

Now, I know what to expect from workshops and whose to attend to based on comments from other attendees.  Also, just because I’ve been to an editing workshop, it won’t stop me going to another hosted by someone else. Getting another take on an area that you know well is key. Writing, methods and opinions are subjective and obtaining a broad range of advice is essential.

Can you go to a writers conference without a specific focus? Can you just go and look?

S
ure you can, but when you weigh up the cost, travel time, away from family/home, I think it’s good to research what the festival/conference is all about. Will it satisfy you?

I won’t go to a high-costing event that doesn’t offer face time with an agent. I want their opinion of my work.

I will go to a low-cost event that doesn’t offer face time with agents as long as the workshops appeal.

I will travel 100+ miles to an event that has speakers/workshops relating to my area of writing; Young Adult.

I won’t book an event 1 mile away if it’s about Crime Thriller, because that’s not my subject.

Some events provide videos of what happens, so have a look, or just ask someone who’s attended in the past.

A video for the Festival of Writing – it includes me too – is here:


What did you gain from it personally?
Feedback. Friends. A Road Map.

Before the event, I thought that I was the only one who had issues with commas, prepositions, show not tell, editing, how many times can you use ‘said’, POV, head hopping, hooks, cliffhangers, prologues, how to write a synopsis, what the covering letter, oh my gawd… deep breaths…

I was not alone.

I am not alone.

We all go through the same issues at some point. The event provided solutions, ideas, methods, and most of all the light at the end of the tunnel.

Have you ever redrafted or edited but felt a little unsure if you’re changing it into a beast? Imagine the insight you gain when an agent tells you what to change, add, develop, or reduce. And when you take that advice on board you see all of your work in a different way. A better way.

And as the for the Road Map. I knew what I had to do to create a better novel.

Everyday I learn a little more.

Have you ever gone on a writing retreat? If so, what are your thoughts/experience?

Not yet, and I probably won’t due to costs.

For someone starting out, or wanting to go to one and not being sure, what advice would you give?

Even if you only go to one event a year - do it! Experience the thrill of other writers, young and old, new and veterans, and see the same passion that sometimes keeps you up at night.

Gain from others. Seek out new information. Make you own mind up of whether you will listen, but at least have the relevant details provided. Do you know how frustrating it is to get a rejection letter from an agent with no feedback? Counter that by going to an event. The agent, no matter how much they hate it, will tell you why. Use it.

Writing events aren’t cheap. Some range from £50 going into the £500+ and some even more.

The Festival of Writing 2013 will be by 9th event in 3 years. I haven’t been on holiday since 2010 because I don’t have sufficient money, but seeing friends, visiting new places, and talking about what I love.

It’s worth it.

***

Thank you Imran for sharing so much information with us.

You can find all you need to know about Imran and how he manages to write SO much (and so well) at his blog here.


You Reap What You Sow - MWBB - Winner!

The piece I wrote for this weeks Mid-Week Blues-Buster was difficult to write for many reasons and I wasn't confident it would work at all, so I was surprised and humbled to find that it won!


The prompt was a song:
  “Further Up the Road” by Bobby “Blue” Bland Memorial Edition
 
 
You reap what you sow.

I looked out the window at the courtyard below, but there wasn’t much to see. I missed city life. I hated being here.

I hated not being able to breathe either, although the tubes up my nose were no longer uncomfortable, but the worst thing was the loneliness.

No one came to see me, you see, no one visited me; I hated it. I’ve got three children, but no one would know. None of them come. I’ve done so much for them too, but they can’t be bothered.

Things were hard, they have to understand that. It wasn’t easy for me either. It wasn’t my fault that their dad had gone off with someone else, or that their stepfather had been violent. And no one had cared about me, had they? All my own mother cared about was the house. I can still hear her saying ‘but you’re leaving such a lovely house’. And my brother? Still visiting their father and his new wife I hear.

I did my best; they went to private schools and had a good education. Yes, later there were a couple of state schools, but that couldn’t be helped, there hadn’t been any money after the divorce. But I always checked the school statistics first, before enrolling them. Other children had done alright.

It wasn’t my fault we had to keep moving. I was just trying to provide a home, find a good father figure for them, and some kind of stability. Yes okay, Randolf hadn’t been that stable. I know moving round Leicester trying to find him hadn’t been easy. And I know putting the youngest in cabs late at night might not have been a good idea, but what else could I do? I needed to know where he was and whether he was having it off with that Lucy woman. And I’d been right too.

Yes, the end of that relationship had been messy. It’d been tough leaving the youngest to live alone in that hotel for a couple of months, but it wasn’t like I’d had a choice, it was close to her school. I was in a bedsit myself!

You see, I never really wanted to be a mother; I wanted to be a friend. But they weren’t really interested in that. They didn’t want to listen to me and hear about my life. They were too caught up in themselves.

It could have been worse; I could have left them, or put them in a home, but they didn’t want to hear that. And I didn’t, I kept them with me. It wasn’t always easy either. Trying to convince Hugo to let the youngest live with us; he hadn’t wanted it, but the boarding school was too expensive. And yes, I had lied and told them both she’d been expelled, but it had worked. And from what I read in those diaries I’d found in her bedroom, she should’ve been anyway. She didn’t like hearing that mind. She’d always been difficult, the most ungrateful of the three. And in the end it had been too much for Hugo. She ruined that relationship.

But I don’t understand it; I really thought I’d be looked after by now. Although men can be so pathetic, can’t they? So weak. I mean look at my own son. Can’t even be bothered to pop by; I’m not that far away. And he should too; I’m his mother; it’s what a child does for their mother. It’s probably her though, his wife, she’s never liked me, and he doesn’t like saying no to her.

The youngest is overseas, so I suppose it’s too far for her. And the eldest, well her husband’s awful, isn’t he? Never wants her to go anywhere, or have anything to do with anyone.
                                                                              
But I really thought my friends from the Church would come. I mean, I’ve done so much for them. I ran everything for them; the Church shop, the fete, the admin. They were helpless when I arrived; I had to take it all on. It was exhausting too, part of the reason I ended up in here.

But no one appreciates anything I do for them.


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Visual Dare 28: Obsured


This weeks Visual Dare felt like a new area for me. Don't normally do gangster types, but the picture lent itself to it.
 
 


The smoke billowed and I coughed loudly, waving my hand rapidly in front of my face, trying to see the man, but he took no notice and kept chuffing on the cigar, sending a smoke ring my way just to annoy me further – it worked.

I had no idea why I’d been brought to him. I tried not to feel nervous and keep my knee from jigging under the table, but I was on tender hooks; what I could have done?

He gave me just two words; his voice deep and husky, probably from all those cigars. “Jonas Peach.”

My stomach sunk; shit I was in trouble now. I didn’t think any of them knew about that, it had been a cock up on my behalf. Occasionally people got in the way of other jobs. As I prepared my response I hoped he would understand that – but I was doubtful.


150 Words

Five Sentence Fiction - Locked

  Lillie McFerrin Writes
Lillie McFerrin's Weekly Flash Fiction Prompt - 'Locked'
 
20080502003119_locked


The bolt slid across and the jingle of the padlock could be heard just before it snapped shut; Argentia knew she was going to be in here a while, but hated not knowing why. She assessed the door with its scratches and dents, but a shove reassured her it wouldn’t give. Then she heard the weeping, quiet and low, broken only by sniffles.

She peered into the musty darkness and caught the outline of someone huddled on the floor.

Startled by Argentia’s approach the emaciated figure stopped weeping and as she moved closer started smiling; its sharp, white incisors becoming visible even in the dim light. 


Thursday, 11 July 2013

Guest Blog - Writer Events Q&A with Susi Holliday


Last week a writing friend of mine Susi Holliday, succeeded in obtaining one of the two Holy Grail’s of writing – landing an agent! It is fabulous news and very well deserved. But I celebrated in part too, because it meant that I finally knew someone ‘on the inside’ and someone whose writing I really enjoy and admire.

All of us had lots of questions about how it came about, and Susi graciously satisfied all our questions with a wonderful blog post about it, which you can read here.

After reading Susi’s blog post it got me thinking about writing events such as conferences, book fairs, author events and writing groups. Having never attended one myself (well other than a Stephen King book signing back in 2006), I was curious about what to expect and what you ‘do’ at them. I decided I needed Susi’s ‘Writer Life Story’ and, on her suggestion, turned it into a Q&A Blog post for everyone to enjoy. So here you go.

What was your first writing event? (writing group, writers conference, book fair etc.)

The first thing I went to was a creative writing evening class at St Francis Xavier College in Balham in 2007/8. In 2006, I’d started writing for the first time since school (while on a train from Beijing to Moscow – a story in itself!) That was also when I read Stephen King’s On Writing and decided it was time to pick up the pen. The night class was a way to get me focused and re-learn the things I’d forgotten about writing a story – structure, dialogue, etc. It was the first time I’d read anything out loud for years, and I got some great feedback – and that really spurred me on.

After that, I did a one-day writing course in Oxford. The course itself was pretty useless – I think I was okay with the basics by then (as I’d also spent a lot of time researching the publishing industry online – how much things have changed in recent years – and they’re changing still) and the people in the class were at so many different levels that it just didn’t work for me. I did get an idea for a story though, when the train broke down at Didcot Parkway and I had to share a cab with three strangers.

The most significant thing for me was attending the Harrogate International Crime Writing Festival in 2009. By then I had written 25k of my first novel and I signed-up for the ‘Creative Thursday’ session. That was when I knew I was going to keep writing.

Since then I’ve been to the Guildford Book Festival, Harrogate (again) and just recently, the Winchester Writers’ Conference.

Did you go alone? 

To the night class, Oxford, Guildford and Winchester – Yes. To Harrogate – the first time, my mum came with me (we are both fans of the same kind of books) and the second time I took my husband. We’re going again later this month.

Going alone is daunting, especially when you are inherently shy. People are very friendly though. Ultimately you are meeting up with a like-minded crowd. Be brave.

When you went did you go with a specific plan in mind, or focus? Did you structure the day, or did you just go and see?

Talking specifically about the conferences:

Harrogate – I bought a full weekend pass which allows you access to all the panels and events. I went to as many as I could, but not all. It’s too exhausting to sit there that long! I picked the things that interested me most.

Winchester - I only went for one-day, and again, it was planned out; a short course on writing suspense, then three one-to-one sessions which had to be pre-booked (as you need to send the readers examples of your work for them to critique). I went entirely for the one-to-ones. They were invaluable.

Can you go to a Writers conference without a specific focus? Can you just go and look?

Yes, you can. But most of them are very busy and booked up. If you don’t book events in advance you’ll really only be wandering around looking at books (and mingling!) At Winchester there were a few ad hoc events, things in the foyer etc. They don’t exist in Harrogate. But in Harrogate it’s all about socialising with other writers on the lawn and realising how little you actually know in the late night quiz.

What did you gain from it personally?

From Harrogate – I met dozens of writers, readers, publishers, reviewers. The networking aspect led to me being invited to submit a short story to a charity anthology and write reviews for a well known crime writing site. If it wasn’t for the friendships I’ve formed, the inspiration and support they’ve given me – I think I’d have given up long before now. Crime writers are a great bunch, but I’m pretty sure there are great networks for other writers too!

From Winchester – as I mentioned before, the one-to-ones were what it was all about for me. Getting positive feedback from an editor, and agent and an author gave me the confidence that indirectly led to me getting signed by my agent.

Have you ever gone on a writing retreat? If so, what are your thoughts/experiences?

No I haven’t, but it’s something I’d consider in the future, especially now that I am working harder than ever. From what I’ve heard, they are great for making you just sit down and write – and an opportunity to discuss any issues you have with other writers over tea and cakes.

How did you get involved in National Flash Fiction Day? Were you invited, or did you offer?

Again, networking. Twitter and Facebook this time though. I saw the tweet about the first National FlashFiction Day by chance. I had recently done one of Anna Meade’s flash competitions and enjoyed the experience, so I contacted Anna and asked if she’d liked to co-run a competition with me. By doing that, I was listed on the NFFD website. Then they put out a call for people interested in helping with another of their projects, and I volunteered. I was chosen along with five others to commission the entries to the Flashflood Journal (I came up with the name, by the way!).

For someone starting out, or wanting to go to one and not being sure, what advice would you give?

Just go! There are so many of them now. Writing Magazine is a great source of info – they have listings for all of the conferences, large and small. They happen throughout the year so you should be able to find one to suit. If you’re serious about your writing and you have the time and money to invest, then find one most suitable for you and where you are with your writing, and take the plunge.

Oh, and take a VERY big bag. You will come back with dozens of books!

Thank you Susi for your detailed responses.

I have also decided to serialise this Q&A, to capture even more input from authors who attend conferences, so there will be another guest post coming soon!


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Visual Dare 27 - Bruised


My story for this weeks Visual Dare has in my head all week, just waiting to be written, so I wanted to get it in before the deadline.




She sat in front of the mirror and rummaged through her make-up to find it. The tiny bright blue concealer stick was her saviour. It was tiny enough to keep with her at all times, and strong enough to cover the bruising.

If she did it just right she only looked tired and not like he’d been throwing one of his temper tantrums again. It brought less stares from the neighbours too, which was always a good thing. They didn’t like that sort of thing round here, although no-one had called the police yet. But they might soon when her bump became more visible.

The strange thing was that the closer they came to becoming a family, the worse he got. And for the first time she didn’t just fear for her own safety; after all it wasn’t just about her anymore, was it? 


144 Words

The 3 P's of writing - Persistence, Prioritising and Procrastination



Up until now I have only used my blog as a place to showcase my writing, and a place to link to other writing blogs, but I have decided it is time to actually write something about the art itself, and some of the things I have learnt.

I have been writing for many years, off and on – more off than on, although in my head it’s constant. Some ten years ago I did a couple of writing correspondence courses though the Writing Magazine (a UK based magazine filled with advice on writing and information on everything writing based going on in the UK, such as events, festivals, groups, conferences, competitions etc.) and started to feel more confident about my actual writing. 

But confidence in itself is not all you need to write, other skills are necessary too.

Persistence is one. You need to keep persisting with your writing, and learning the craft of writing. Never become complacent, or believe you have done enough, or know enough. Keep tapping all the sources to stay on track. 

And keep writing forward; don’t worry if you aren’t happy with what you have written, just keep going with it until you have finished it, and then go back and read it through – or leave it for a few days and read it through. You can always change it – or scrap it. But with each time you will learn something new, and understand more and see more. And with each time you will learn how to become more disciplined and focused with doing it, and find ways that work for you in the planning, editing, writing and time management.

With novels I make a list of ‘scenes’ showing where I want the story or plot to go and what the characters will be doing. It can be very loose. And then as I write, I list what I want in each scene – again one liners – underneath what I am writing, deleting them as I write them. It also gives me a start point whenever I open up the document to look at before I continue. Set it up in my head. With Flash fiction I simply find an opening line and go with it (usually from a photo or line prompt – or, as of late, song prompt). Although while writing flash as soon as ‘the whole’ story appears, I then focus on how I can put it concisely into whatever the word count demands, saying everything I want to say.

I still struggle with time management, but word sprints, or word mongering sessions, where I try and write a chunk in a short space of time like half an hour, work well for me once I get going.

Persistence also applies to submitting your writing. Make sure you follow through. I recently had an experience where I submitted a piece just before the deadline, but the email bounced back saying undeliverable. I then tried all the email addresses I could find and tweeted about it copying in those concerned. In the end it paid off. They got in touch, liked my piece and I got it published on their site. I didn’t give up, I was persistent with it. And on those low days that is what will keep you going, that and prioritising your writing.

Prioritising your writing is vital, and will be what moves your writing from being just a ‘hobby’ to being a serious, daily, and possibly published writer. 

I realised that my writing took a back seat to everything else in my life and was the last thing I did after everything else, which usually meant it got shelved. When I changed that attitude, after deciding I wanted my writing to be more productive than that, I moved it up the list. It makes it hard with a young family and means I see little of my husband, as well as my eldest child telling me I spend too much time at the computer and not enough time with him, but hopefully when they understand what you are trying to achieve they will be supportive, and you can share it with them.

As everyone says, writing is a very solitary business, (although to those of us busy getting on with it we find we are far from alone with all the characters in our heads!) and sometimes it can be hard to get yourself going and ‘get into the zone’ with writing. Often I find myself doing anything BUT the actual writing, like housework or filing all the tons of papers on my desk, any excuse not to actually sit down and zone in. And even when I do sit down, I tend to find myself wasting time on all the social networks and on email. I am not sure why that is, but the best term for it is procrastination.

Procrastination takes many forms, but basically causes the delay of the actual writing and is the constant enemy of the writer - except for those very well disciplined and focused writers. 

And that is the key really; the only way to overcome procrastination is to train yourself. I find having tight schedules or short deadlines work for me, even if I have to set them up for myself. I tried to use the National November/June Writing Month competition (write 50,000 words in a month) to help me become more disciplined and write on a daily basis, and at the beginning of each of my two attempts I was successful. But that is where persistence comes in, as well as being able to prioritise your writing and allocate time (work keep eating up mine), otherwise procrastination sets in, which is what happened with me, and I simply gave up.

So as you see, the topic of the blog post comes round full circle. Unfortunately they are not three things I have managed to conquer, but three things that I keep a constant eye on and try and be vigilant with – well on my good days! 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Belonging - MWBB

It seems to be becoming a regular weekly to think for me to get placed in the Mid-Week Blues Buster weekly Flash Fiction competition. And with this weeks I was sure that my depressing little story wouldn't make it, but it still managed to get a 2nd place.

The prompt was a song:
  “Home” by Depeche Mode
 
They’d gone, and she sat there alone in the lounge; her lounge, her home, but she couldn’t connect the dots, she couldn’t quite feel the connection.

She absorbed the silence, enjoying the peace. But was it peace? The house was empty, silent, still, as though waiting to be filled. It reflected how she felt.

She had the weekend. They were gone just for the weekend, and she had wanted that. She couldn’t have gone again and pretended to be with them, to be a part of the big yearly gathering. Sitting apart, watching, spectating as they all interacted with each other, but never quite with her. Ten years she had been going, but it was enough. The ice hadn’t thawed; she would never be a part of it, she would always sit on the outside. And however hard it had been to watch her husband and children go without her, the confused look on their little faces as mummy stayed behind, the guilt was quashed by the overwhelming feeling of relief. 

And so here she was home alone. Home. She loved some of the rooms in this house; their smell, their decoration, their furnishings. And it wasn’t just hers, it was theirs; a partnership, something they built together. So why did she feel so disconnected from it? 

She stood up and went upstairs, fussing the two cats on the bed – no home was complete without one. And she asked herself, what was she seeking? What more did she need, to reach that sense of belonging, of satisfaction, of completeness?

She sat on the bed and faced the big window looking out at the sky, watching the clouds go by as she had when she was a small child.

Back then she would escape to the bottom of the garden and get on the swing. Leaning back she would dream of being up there amongst them, imagine their softness, their quiet foggy calm, and imagine being able to drift away with them. But in reality she was trapped here on the ground, in a life of being ignored, being invisible, unless someone needed a hug from her or to shout at her about something. Dragged along to events for moral support or to be shown off, but never to hear her, never to talk to her, or interact with her. She’d never actually been a part of any of it, she was just an extra used to fill a space.

And that had spilled over into her adult life. She went through the motions; doing as was expected or wanted of her, but never quite being there, never fully present, always a step back, watching and waiting to be invited in.

And here she was in her own home, not fully belonging, or feeling present; choosing to withdraw, rather than take part.

She so wanted to change it and break out, but she could only do that in her imagination and in her writings. She sighed getting up and going upstairs to the loft, to her desk under the skylight. The computer was waiting for her. inviting her in to its world of social networks and communities, giving her somewhere to belong and something to be a part of. 



Daily Picspiration - No.4 - Recruitment


Yesterday my forth Daily Picspiration entry went up.

I debated whether to follow the same story or whether to just do something else as the photos weren't lending themselves to a follow on from the last piece. But then I decided to go with a different angle and character within the same story and came up with something different using both photos.

You can read 'Recruitment' here.




Monday, 1 July 2013

Little Gem - MWBB - WINNER!

For a second time I have won the Mid-Week Blues Buster weekly Flash Fiction competition. I felt like blushing when I found out, as it's sort of getting out of hand now! And at the same time I am extremely grateful and pleased that people are enjoying my writing and valuing it. It was a great boost to my Monday morning!

The song prompt took me back to my darker side this time.

The prompt was a song:
  “Who did that to you?” by John Legend
(From the soundtrack to Django Unchained, a Tarantino movie)
 
As he shoved the spade into the ground, the music blared in his ears. He loved his new MP3 player it fit so snugly in his favourite plaid shirt. His hips moved from side to side as he kept digging. He ignored the drips of water falling on his head from the surrounding trees. The light drizzle had been going on all morning. He needed to get this done.

He felt it before he saw it as the spade snagged the necklace. He threw the spade down and knelt beside the small hole. As he scrabbled in the dirt he felt for the pendant and pulled hard. It came away easy. He registered the cold flesh it had been resting on as his fingers brushed against it, but he was unconcerned about that; he was only here for the stone. It was the ticket he needed.

The song came to a crescendo as he stood and he danced, swinging the necklace in his hands while he played out the final drum beats. Then he looked at the hole that remained and filled it in, covering it carefully to make it look untouched. Then he went back to the cabin. It wouldn’t be long before she arrived. He needed to be ready.

When he heard the tires on gravel he was stoking the fire, having already prepared the drinks. He moved over to the stereo and picked out one of his favourite CD’s. There was nothing like movie soundtracks and John Legend had it licked.

He heard her footsteps on the gravel and then on the deck. The door was open and she walked straight in. He was standing by the fireplace and grinned on sight of her. She had on a short, tight dress; she knew what he liked. She paused for a moment, then went up to him and gave him a long kiss. She wasn’t messing about tonight.

A while later in bed, after she’d been satiated, he handed her a little box. She looked at him with a raised brow.

“For me?”

He smiled not speaking. She opened the box and froze on sight of it. He waited. The fear in her eyes when she looked at him again gave him a kick. It’s what he’d been looking for. He could feel the tension in her body through the sheets, and even the subtle movement as she tried to move away from him. His smiled remained, but it no longer reached his eyes. 

“Party’s over now, baby.” He said in a crooning voice, running his finger tip along her sheet covered leg. She was rigid.

She whispered, “Where is she? What did you do to her?”

He paused, and replied, “Are you sure you want to know? It’ll be much more fun finding out yourself, don’t you think?”

He heard her swallow, her mouth having gone dry. It was a sound he’d heard a lot.

The next morning he pocketed the pendant, which was now on the floor. He knew he should bury it along with her; make sure nothing could be found, but he liked feeling it in his pocket, it brought back such sweet memories, he wanted to keep it there for a while.

He plugged his earphones in and tapped the player; he had work to do. He grabbed the spade on his way out the door, dancing down the steps as he went.