An Author in Progress

This is where you'll find me trying to mould myself into a respectable writer - it may take sometime...
You'll find anything from a piece of experimental creative writing, some thoughts on my novel developments, to even the occasional literature-based academic paper.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Amis, essays and a classy novella by Susan Hill

Happy Christmas, holidays, non-Christmas before I forget!

My essay on the requirements for writing for children is now complete - whoo! Now I have another one on the relationship between an author and his agent: I have decided there's so much back story on the Martin Amis and Andrew Wylie union that I can surely piece two thousand words together with some coherence.

I have collated as many interviews and news stories to file as I could find, have earmarked some great paragraphs to help shape the aspects I need to focus upon: the mutual needs/ requirements/ ambitions of both I hope are what is intended... of course if there's anyone out there who could pass on some insight I would love it.

Just have to say that I love software for writing. Saving myself so much paper. Pasting quotes with reference details is so much easier: copy... paste... reference... bliss! OCD alert in being able to hilight what quotes I've used and for what. I know - it's very sad, but it's saving me so much time.

Just managed to squeeze a classy little read in between theory and 21st century literature criticism reading. Let me introduce the world to Susan Hill's The Small Hand (published by Profile books).

There's just enough darkness to be a super ghost story, but I repeat 'classy' because it simply just is. Doesn't need jazz or guts or heartpounding pace, because it's slow, creeping... just beyond the eye - or should I say grasp.

Andrew Snow is an anitquarian bookseller/finder who stumbles upon and old neglected house which he then leaves with the gnawing presence of a hungry small hand catching at his own. I'm saying nothing more. It's the journey from there on in that's enjoyable.

Beautiful jacket over a petite little hardback, this novella needs to be enjoyed with a glass of something stylish, or be read in a country garden at dusk. What can I say apart from that I am a sucker for the refined.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Non progress.

I am officially brain dead. Reader response theory. Shiver! I am trying to keep myself down to the bare bones of what writing for children could philosophically allow. Trying to argue about why one person can (and another cannot) write for children is a contentious statement.
In the west we all got a right to a voice - is just if anyone will listen. No?

Brain: 'I ache!'

I have no time to blog.Slowly becoming assimilated into the twitterborg. I need my lit buddies. I need the endless rows of books at hand and the coffee shop. Feeling very out of it and the bug doesn't help. Being out of my university routine makes me feel like a space cadet.

Sandra: 'I'm sorry - which planet is this again?'

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Short story break-out

Seems that I am not destined to write short stories. Guess that's why I'm studying 'Writing the Novel' as part of my course.

All I've done with 'Mulled Chrsitmas' is springboard into yet another long plot! My daughter read this last night and wants more, so Im knocked out.

Have already started working the back story into some kind of order. There are several scenes, and feelings that circulate that I need to put down sometime soon. There's also a binary time strand combination beginning to form, so that's not hugely helpful when I have a novel to kind of finish for workshopping in January.

I'm definately on the road to Insanity (that place just West of Momentarily Confused). I even thought I had blogged this already and then logged on to find, nope - not here! In writing the plots for fiction I seem to be losing grasp of my own.

By the time I've graduated I will have enough ideas to keep me going for a good few years.

The magazine is finally launched. Hooray. And yes, Draven Ames, we are happy to accept an overseas submission for consideration. I'm still trying to get the notion to my team that being online in some capacity could be helpful - even if it's just podcasts audio versions for people with sight impairments. Fingers crossed. We even have someone wanting to represent us which is kind of cool. Someone just starting out, so it's something we'll have to debate as a magazine.

Monday, 6 December 2010

feedback for the short story

I'm in happy phase, after a very stressful day with logistic hell of magazine editorials.
Had great feedback from uni friends about this first fiction piece... just some very useful suggestions about tightening up the relevance of the closing para.

I'm so glad that my narrator is not loveable and that is accepted by the feedback given, so it's all looking positive.

I shall re-examine the ending and beginning to find the coherence needed to make both sections work together.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Okay I'm going to try something new: the editing process of first to final draft - short story form is definately much easier in a blog.

This is the first draft of a short story designed to fit into an anthology of stories for older children/YA. The existing collection is based loosely around Christmas, but loving how they barely leave a warm, fuzzy Christmas feeling, I thought I would also use this opportunity to have a go at a different kind of narrative to my normal style. Any feedback/ criticism/ amendment suggestions welcome...

I sometimes used to wonder about the nature of wild things, you know? When I was small, maybe five or six, I imagined that just like a puppy, everything could be tamed. I really believed that there was a good side to everything. Like the Christian and the Lion, in the bible story – I heard about that in RE this one time. How wrong can you be? It would be laughable if it wasn't so bloody heartbreaking.
If you're wondering what brought me to this particular topic of conversation you only have to go as far as the local graveyard and ask my brother. Ask him why he did those things to that cat and what good it brought him. My brother, the bad egg, born like Jesus on Christmas morning – except for we all know that Jesus was born some time in October. He'll be a kid forever, my brother. Born on Christmas morning, died the same day ten years later.
The graveyard is quite a familiar place for us these past five years. Every Christmas the day starts with breakfast, church, the graveyard – before anything else, always the graveyard. It's a bit snowy there today, so I don't imagine we'll stay as long.
It's not like when someone is old and it's their time, and their family's kind of faded away into old age themselves, so that the grave gets taken on by some local retired dude who pulls at the brambles and trims the weeds. Nicky's grave is very tidy, and there's a pot plant of poinsettia waiting on the hall table, for me to lug all the way to church and that.
I suppose I should probably hunt out some gloves or I'll get cold hands. Church always makes me cold. This year is definitely the last time they can make me go. I get the shivers. The eyes of the saints in the stained glass windows piercing me. They can see it. I know they can. I shouldn't be there – but then why am I telling you? You just want to know what I'm getting for Christmas. Lol. I keep getting told off for using that word, but who cares, so I'll use it. Laugh my ass off! LMAO.
Laugh. My. Ass. Off! An exclamation marks always adds dramatic tension, but my English teacher argues this point.
Oh and BTW, WTF but have you seen how early the Christmas ad's are coming on the TV? They almost beat Halloween. I mean, for god's sake. I get less peace every year. Less time not thinking about it. About it. About the bad egg. Rotten eggs have the worst smell ever. Last Christmas I cracked one open and it had 2 rotting chicks inside – there wasn't enough room for both of them, so they both died. Can't tell you how cheery and upbeat that made me feel. Still that was last Christmas and I should probably move on.
So anyway, good morning and Happy Christmas and all that stuff. Just got back from the grave and as you can imagine I had a whale of a time..
The grave was frosted up, there was a bit of bird crap pretty much glued on to the angel's nose which made her look like she had purple snot, but I tried to pick at it as best I could. 'Stop it,' Mum moaned. So I just shrugged and carried on staring at it the whole time we're stood there, getting cold feet from the snow-covered grave, like death creeping up and grabbing my toes. Here's a question: How far away from a grave can you stand while still looking like you are visiting one and not another? An accident, it says on his grave, but was it? Really? If he hadn't been jabbing at that cat with a stick it wouldn't have gotten out of control.
I could relay the story to you in third person but it will always be from my point of view. Omniscient. It's a truly ancient, annoyingly persistent word. I've tried breaking it down into text talk but it just won't go. What really gets to me is the present I have to leave for him every year.
'He's your brother,' Mum would wheedle, if I ever made an objection. But the worst part of it is, knowing that whatever I unwrap for him, I'll be unwrapping for myself later. She's under some crazy messed-up illusion that he bloody ascends the grave for her bit of Christmas cake. Seriously I feel like Santa. Maybe the crumbs get stuck in his throat, but he doesn't have to worry because the sherry would wash it all down. It used to be lager, before Dad couldn't take Nicky's absence.
Before he missed him too much.
I suppose you probably want to know a bit more about all of this. It's pretty much straight forward. You've probably guessed already. I feel responsible for my brother, sometimes because I have to and sometimes because I just damn well do. It's his face I see in the mirror every morning. It's his grave I look at every time I have to go to the churchyard. How is it, he could do stuff without me, but I am not allowed to do stuff without him?
Did you know that in some cultures twins are an evil portend? Such a good phrase that. Maybe we should've been exposed like the two chicks in the frying pan. But one of them would still be alive. Burning. That's totally gross I know, but here I am burning for what we were.
I still see that cat sometimes. It's a lot older now and it's ear and paw are mended. I took responsibility for both of us that day. It seems when he got all the strength I just got all the inability to listen to animals yowl. I still can't get to sleep when Mum's new little Nicholas squeals in his cot. He cries more than she'd like, but with Dad following after Nicky there is only me to share the job and I just put my earphones in and turn up the volume.
Just like Nicky used to do to me. Get louder, so he didn't have to listen. Make more noise to shut out the noise. So, I took a page out of his half of the book that day? So, I turned his own stuff against him? It was just so he'd learn. The lesson was ironically all mine. It's totally ironic that pushing him out into the road left me with it all. Irony, has it something to do with iron – blood?
I really didn't see the car coming, even if I heard it skid across the ice. I pushed him out there and the cat clawed me!
I still have three sickle shaped scars where the cat's claws were left in my palm. It's almost six, six, six. Like a dark mark. I am the anti-not-hero. I am half of the bad egg. Does that make me only half as bad or equally so?

So I'm hoping now you kind of get why church is real kick and why at Christmas rotten turkey smells like soiled nappies, and my wondering about the nature of wild things to always be wild. I look at little Nicholas sometimes and get nervous about that. But then maybe in him is both halves of the egg.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

multiple projects

My baby has just split into parts. An exercise in synopsis writing has just confirmed that a project I thought had been merely for play and an assignment has kind of created itself almost completely unnoticed by me.

I now have one experimental thriller and two ladlit projects on the go: The Beach meets Trainspotting, and a Book of Job rewrite based in the music industry. My head's all over the place. It is becoming all too clear, to quote another writer, that writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia...

Question: do i split my time evenly, or be indulgent and spoil whichever one happens to share company with me?

Plans for a short story on defamiliarisation are also starting to take shape. A dark foreboding and the eerie suggestion of something wicked sits just around the corner, crouching in the shadows and waiting for the right moment to show its face.
This isn't one I want to push - the gruesome always reveals itself in due course.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Authorial Gestation

Progress with my storyline has come rushing through the open sash window of my protagonist's bedroom and sent her old essays flying like a cloud of words. Her ailing bird in its delicate cage has had its decrepit feathers ruffled by the speed of the inspiration rattling its bars.

Characterisation was giving me some headaches, mostly on the problematic nature of my head being full of a million and one other things. How to love a murderer? I want her fall from grace to be shocking, but believable. Viewpoint, and how to approach her depiction has consumed me since the last blog.

I just didn't want to kick of by misreading her too soon. Reading up on serial killers was getting me down, and then I read The Collector, by J Fowles, remembered In God's Own Country by Ross Raisin, and that's really helped a lot, to see how it can work without being sensational and in this way, more dark for its innocence.

And here I am staring across a sea of possibilities, finally understanding that sometimes, you have to let the crap out in order to get at the nuts and bolts - the carcass of the thing. People tell you this all the time and then, wham! it hits you like a bloody great brick in the face. You know it, because you can physically feel it.

I have let some mini-metaphors in too because I needed some kind of allowance to play. Lots of little ones embroidered together are fast becoming the dream catcher in which the bigger narrative is growing.

After a week in which my laptop was invaded by spyware, then rescued by wonderful tech assistants at Southampton Solent University, the idea that I had almost lost EVERYTHING I have been working on for six months was, in one moment, terrifying.

Nothing like a shake up, and a reminder that other people have bigger problems than a laptop going on the blink, to put things in perspective.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Dog Days and clouds

Does anyone love Florence and the Machine as much as I do right now. Optimism floats around you in a lovely, spatial upbeat kind of way. Just perfect for my protagonist in her aspirational phase. This will be the soundtrack I use for lifting her soul out of darkness.

An inspirational conversation with a loved one pulled me out of a mire of depression involving several critiques, two synopsis' and a packet of Cadbury's crunchie biscuits. Draw it all, apply all experience - good and bad. Something has to come out of the crap. When the mental, interior CD is spinning on overtime and won't stop to play the content it's time to press eject and put a fresh one in.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


Wow, I am totally drained. Have had very little time for conception of the novel because of my part in our editorial team. I really loved the reviewing and searching out Christmas suggestions for reading gifts. It was also great to revisit Thai'd Up (a novel in progress)and be able to be distanced enough to see where it needed reworking - and also where I can take it. Very cool.

My PC has decided it doesn't want to play the editorial game. My brain is also saying, 'Art and technology are incompatible in your mental database'. My brain is absolutely right.

Having waited all week for someone to submit a proposal of artwork for the front cover of edition one of Solent's Friction magazine of fiction, I have ended up having to hurl something out. Fun for five minutes until I realised how long it has been since I considered Art for graphic design purposes... I remember why I hated typography so much.

Having spent time researching academic psychology papers I discovered some amazing treats about the super ego. My antagonist has another dimension now too.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Spent a good few hours researching academic literature on psychoanalysis and case studies. I'm saying no more than that here, apart from this; thank god for undergrad access to peer reviewed information. But some of the reading is chilling.

My main characters are starting to give themselves another dimension. My protagonist's psyche could be very ambiguous - if I can get my head around how to work the narrative style.

Think I have a few books to visit just go give myself some perspective in differing tastes: American Psycho and Perfume... and maybe have a look at Monster.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

self doubt

I have officially started to form the embryo of a novel. It's seemingly viable! YES! Now that I've used up my allowance of exclamation marks I shall calm down.

University lecturers are very inspiring characters - full of enthusiasm. I guess that's when you know you have landed in the right place - even if it may be at the wrong time. University cutbacks are slaying us all.
However it's panning out nationwide, something is happening for me through a small and wonderful bubble of possibilities. The flash of scenes which catch me at stupid, inopportune moments is a killer. Show don't tell: if you could have seen me desperately pulling my hair out during lectures, you would know.

I'm smitten with my protagonist, thank god. I'm kinda smitten with the antagonist too - but you have to love to hate them. Have formulated their monologues (their statements of being for my own reference) and one of these has somehow found it's way into the narrative... thank you, Sara Bailey. The character development excercise really helped.

It's a crazy world I'm in, when one minute I'm working on my novel, but then the next I have to look at fiction for young people, ghostwriting, screenwriting... gaads, my heads a mess. At some point the crazy creature within will start to rear her head and everyone will see the bonkers girlie who peers at me from the mirror.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

day one of year two

It's gone eleven and pouring with rain - just to make me feel all warm and fuzzy about standing at a dreary, gum-covered shelter waiting for the crotchety number seven bus to Southampton at the crack of dawn tomorrow. I figure it must be an old bus (I'm sure suspension has been around for several decades). There's a huge spider regarding me and my latest attempt to start my lit-contractions [anyone got gas and air? Will this novel ever happen?] with an air of desperate hunger...

Read an article today on how the industry has literally dumped and pulped approximately 77 million books (only about a quarter from the US)purely from the lack of being sold. A product of the market's desire for a speedy turnover and new products to push? Ebooks, the progression of the digital experience, makes for an interesting debate, but surely the contrast between ereading with special effects and reading a beautifully bound book, filled with words and meaning to play with the reader in a quiet persistence, is as stark as that between champagne and a cocktail - both have their merits, both offering something possibly delicious and heady or weak and without fire, but they're so far apart that they can't be seen as the same thing. But just think this - you can't have a champagne cocktail without the champagne.

Not sure what that analogy says beyond I prefer champagne to cocktails (though sometimes a cheap cocktail is easier to come by than a glass of something vintage.
Either way, an interactive experience full of button clicking and recharging your reader is not the same as contemplating the world being suggested in a novel as being exotic in a way which works for the individual. All hail the book; paper perfect.

Moving on, there's this cute little kid who climbs onto the bus, undersized in his uniform, with a post rod stewart hairdo that kicks back to my late seventies/early eighties childhood - I see a protagonist in him; tired and puffy-eyed, unsure of himself in an endearing way that makes me wonder why he doesn't wait at the stop opposite and go to the local school. Is he new? Has he just moved and is close enough to stay at his old school? I wonder what he has for breakfast to wake up his shy hamster eyes.
I caught him staring at me and I felt suddenly embarrassed: had I been staring at him? Eeps - I hope not. But I wonder, while I regard the habits of regulars on my route (the hair-twisting rasta, the neo-fascist with the neck tattooes, the sport therapist student with her thermaflask of tea) what spins through his head. What does a kid in an oversized Parka, bus-ing to an out of catchment school, think sitting amongst a horde of weirdos including me in my wonderwoman t-shirt? Probably something like, 'Can't wait to get home and play my Wii.' or 'How do I explain the dog crapped all over my homework and Mum left for work before I got up to help me print it off again.'

Monday, 26 July 2010

Gasp. Catching a breath...

It's been ages since the last post. A ton of things have happened, such as my daughter being duped by some perv bribe artist on MSN - sorry microsoft but your reaction and help was crap.

The bike is finished and research into licenses, storage facilities, food hygiene goes from necessity into ......YAWN! Troubles with transport to move the bike have created pauses in which carting the damned thing to the end of my road for a trial run while our village fete was on, showed me that, yes, it has to be the seaside. And the seaside, in small portions, don't want us too near their turf.

Have I had time to write a single thing.. yeah erm no. Plain and simple answer. Questions about my calling have concluded I'm pretty much useless at applying myself to anything I dont have absolute power over. Please, goddess of literature inspire me!!!!!!!!


Saturday, 24 April 2010

What have I done!?

So there's this ice cream bike - trike - whatever it is and two days ago off I went to walk the route we hope to move our dairy dealing extravaganza around. It's sooooo lonnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggg......augh!
I am ashamedly unfit, I think to myself that eve, and so I endeavoured yesterday to reprogramme my crap muscular ability. If biking be the job, then biking be the mode of excercise and you would think it makes sense.

Unflattering short leggings, a fully charged Ipod, a beautiful sunny day, a bottle of water and a best buddy. All excellent ingredients for a recipe to success. Why on earth I thought I could do five hours is obviously the same sensible part of my brain that said, 'Yes let's buy an ice-cream bike!' By hour four I wished solely for a high speed vehicle to plough into me and save me.

I'm not even gonna talk about how sore my bum is....

Friday, 23 April 2010

Real life weirdness - a mildly rusted blip between elements of conception

It's mad when your life does something weird to you. Like being tango'd. I drive by a bike shop with my boyfriend, stop to check out our great local bike shop and end up putting a deposit on what could be my summer job.
I did not think this would be it, but I have peddled my way into the bizarre world of the victoriana, via a deckchair brolly and an ice cream trike...
Sleepless moments where I see nothing but rechargeable mobile freezers, bicycle paint and mad sea-side costumes. If this doesn't work I won't need a 99 cone to know I'm the flake!

I think there may be ample opportunity to think on a plot based around summer holidays and the dark kitsch of a seaside on the edge of recession... hmm

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Contractions: Birth of a novel, part one (conception)

Okay, it's day one of blogging for this girl... anyone got any stabilisers?

I have decided this is the beginning of my project, my tentative steps into the ambitious world of the novelist. My aim is to use this space as a narcissitic diary of my Aristotelian arcs in macro and micro, so I apologise very Britishly if it gets dull.

By the time I next post, I shall endeavour to tread into the mirky world of characterisation. Researching teenage protagonists has got me thinking on the gender disabilities allowed our masculine counterparts with new eyes.

Wish me luck.....