Sunday, 6 March 2016

Occupation: Ranter

In the past weekend, my blood pressure surged on two separate occasions. I was asked the one question writers hate. I was asked it twice by two different people at two different times. I was asked if I am going back to work.
Now, I understand that it may seem to everyone else that I am doing nothing. Typing away on the computer by myself is totally invisible to the rest of the world. Researching a completely new industry and setting myself up as a freelancer is time-consuming, yet not immediately profitable. Writers these days need to have an online platform, regularly update social media and have their own networks. That is on top of writing short stories, flash fiction and the hefty novel.
However, I have told these people that I want to be a writer. Maybe I haven't stressed enough that it is what I am going to do. Full stop.
Writing is what I love and will strive to do, even if I never make a decent wage from it. I have not made any money from writing as yet. But that doesn’t bother me or my husband in the slightest. So it really shouldn’t bother anyone else.

This dismissive attitude towards the writing profession appears to be symptomatic of a larger problem in this country. The problem is that the arts are not taken seriously as a career. The arts aren't even taken seriously as an industry. There is very little in the way of funding for literature. Creative people are turning more and more to crowdfunding to get their projects funded.
There is a huge market internationally for web content in English. Businesses require content for their internet landing pages or for company blog articles. However, some writers are writing web content for very cheap rates or even for free. And when there is free labour available, why would a corporate choose to spend money on someone else?
It is frustrating trying to break into a new industry without any experience. It is just the same as any industry in that people won't hire you if you don't have experience or exampes of work. Hang on, but I need someone to hire me so that I can build up my portfolio! (Gotta love that old merry-go-round...)
But I have recently realised that there is actually no point doing something every day if you don't love it. It took several thousand earthquakes and a year living in France to shake me out of the humdrum. I can write how I want and when I want. Sitting outside in the fresh air on a beautiful autumn morning is the perfect way to start a Monday.
So that is why I will stand up and say I am a writer. And I may even put it on application forms now and then. Just don't ask me when I'm going to get paid.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Love and a grasshopper

Lying on his stomach, Dean checked his watch compulsively. The grey digits stated 7:58. He held it up to his ear. Tick tick. His eyes stung in the cold morning air. He blinked tears away.

At 7:59am he stretched out along the branch, popping his back. Then he looked back through the gun’s sight. It wasn't much of a house really, for someone so powerful. There was an unpainted front door and one of those cutesy mats reading ‘I am not a doormat’. A pair of small red boots stood beside it.

Something tickled the hairs on his arm, sending a shiver over his skin. Ignoring it, he searched down the road for his second man. No sign yet.

Dean had to check if it was time. For an instant, the grasshopper sitting on his watch looked at him and he looked at it. It moved its front leg as if to play a tiny violin. Dean flicked his wrist. The little critter held on. He shook his arm violently, dislodging the insect and knocking his rifle out of position.

He gripped onto the branch, legs dangling and watched helplessly as Nat biked up and rang the bell far below. In slow motion, Nat hid behind the house and mouthed the word ‘go’. The front door opened and the pock-marked face of Jayden Bennetts emerged.

 “You ok?" came a yell. Dean looked down and saw Esther from school, peering up at him through the leaves. War forgotten, Dean couldn't help smiling as he climbed down.

The above is my shot at the Sunday Photo Fiction 200 word challenge based on this excellent photo. Have a look at the others and link up your own entry.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Webs We Weave

The hot venison filled his mouth with saliva. He washed it down with another swallow of lager.
He rubbed his hands together in front of the fire, thinking of sea-green eyes. They had creased with pleasure as the golden fabric flowed through his hands.
The little man let a giggle escape his lips. Tomorrow the plan would be complete. He could almost feel the weight of the baby in his arms, the same eyes staring up at him. Leverage.
A piece of dry pine became his partner in a jig. He slurred, to the frozen forest, “Rumpelstiltskin is my name”.


Each week a group of writers look at a picture given by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields and write a story about it. Then we pare it down to 100 words. It's a lot of fun. See other entries here.

Friday, 27 February 2015

March of the Living

Genre: Fiction
Word Count : 97
Title: March of the Living
The sweet smells of sweat and vomit hit me in the back of the throat. Antiseptic stung my nasal passages. And above all, the metallic tang of blood. We could never quite scrub that away.
The nurses cleaned his wounds, clucking their tongues. The driver had not even stopped this time.
If we had stayed there, one of us would never have come out.
But I would not be the one to still his heart. Not with a weapon or a word. I could just as easily cut off my own hand. So we were walking again. 
The above is my entry for the Friday Flash Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The idea is to write 100 words maximum about a photo prompt.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

On Writing by Stephen King

In the name of research, I read Stephen King's "On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft" this week. No, I should properly say I devoured it. It is written in the style of a friend spinning a few yarns over a couple of beers. Having never read any books on how to write fiction before, I expected it to be pretentious and full of snobbery. However,that is just not King's style. He follows one of his main principles, "write honestly", discussing his addictions and also his estimation of his own skill and development.

The first part is random memories of growing up in humble beginnings. His childhood was spent with his solo mother and older brother and an innate love of words. He wrote satire about the teachers  and sold them to the other children at school. He went on to teach English at high school level for many years. He married a woman who was also a writer and a constant source of support for him.

He advises writers to "read a lot, write a lot". He cites past students who apparently have no time for reading. His advice would be to read everything; that you learn more from bad books than good.

Then he moves on to practical advice on writing and grammar. There is a whole section on grammar with some basics like minimising adverbs and keeping the action moving by using active verbs instead of passive. He advocates leaving some time between writing and editing so you can approach it with fresh eyes. He was told early on to cut the word count back by 10% when editing and still follows that advice. "To write is human, to edit divine". He argues that character-driven books are much more interesting than plot-driven books.

The last part is about his near-death experience in 1999. This section was a real page-turner as he writes with a detached inevitability of what is going to happen. The reader is stuck reading on in horror. I will leave you to find out for yourself what happens.

I realize Stephen King is not everyone's favourite writer. He must be doing something right though, to have sold around 350 million books. I have read quite a few of his books, mostly as a teenager. One of my favourite books ever is "The Long Walk" which is one of the stories he wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Whether approaching this book as a King fan or an aspiring writer, there are some great points to take away from it. Apart from anything else, On Writing is simply a great read.

"What would be very wrong, I think, is to turn away from what you know and like in favour of things you believe will impress your friends, relatives, and writing-circle colleagues."

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Her Spirit Lives On



Stephen B Brooks, Festivities Manager, did not like ladders. They were never in the right spot. He especially hated being up high on a ladder. His toes curled, reflexively, searching for solid earth. He put one foot on the plinth. Then he hooked the garland of lights over the horse’s head.
“Right, Janine, pass the next one up, love.”
He threaded the garland around the statue’s waist in a brief, cold embrace.
“Oy, what’s she holding a spear for?”
He looked down. Janine’s head was bent over her phone. He exhaled as forcefully as he could but she did not look up.
He grabbed the frigid rungs and backed down the ladder. A steaming hot mug would be just the trick.
"Don't forget I need Friday off this week", Janine piped up. Trying to get him at a disadvantage, she was.
“Ah no, can’t spare you sorry, with Tim away.” He said.
“But you agreed-“
“Won’t work this week.” He said, and sprang onto the ground. Order returned to the universe.
“Now, flick the lights on, love, and let’s have a coffee"
“Oops, sorry, there’s none left.” She said and looked straight at him. “I drank it all”.


The above is my version of the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge. The idea is to write 200 words based on a given picture. You can look at other entries here.

The statue in the above picture is Boadicea. I didn't know anything about her before starting this challenge. Read about her history here.

I would love to get any comments or meet writers and readers.



Saturday, 7 February 2015

A Step Into the Great Unknown

"I'm going to write a book." I said, half in jest. Then I said it again.

Image from patt

I am sure that my husband was less than enthusiastic about the irregular paychecks this sentence invoked. I know he was ecstatic when I finally put pen to actual paper, rather than dreaming, thinking, obsessing.

I have wanted to write for a long time but life got in the way. A career in finance and two children have kept me pretty busy and satisfied. And yet. Things changed. I quit my job and quit my country. My husband and I packed up the kids and the suitcases and moved to France for a year. And is there a more beautiful place, full of history, romance and stories begging to be told?

Then there are the practical considerations. What better time to start writing than when I am on the other side of the world from family and friends? There are no pressing social engagements in my calendar. Having two small children and no babysitters means we are most likely at home in the evenings. Working from home is also a great way to work around school pick-ups and in my own hours.

I want to write because I am a reader. I love reading everything from Orwell to Stephen King, from Diana Gabaldon to Jane Austen. I even read the back of cereal packets but that is not quite as fulfilling.

I want to write because I have stories spewing forth from my mind. I lie awake at night thinking of characters or plot lines. Sometimes I meditate on a specific turn of phrase or mental image. Getting it down on paper is the only way to stop it.

I know it is not going to be a short road, nor a profitable one. But it feels right for me.

"I can neither file nor forget. Nor will certain ideas forget me; they keep filing away at my lethargy, my complacency" - Ralph Ellison

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