Tesco baps or homemade granary?

I have been working on a scene in The Four Matthews featuring the hardy participants in the walking holiday eating their packed lunches.

Such seemingly prosaic passages can be fun to write because they reveal so much about character.  I have to imagine what a particular character might have on their sandwiches.  And what kind of bread?  Tesco sub rolls? Homemade? Perhaps they would do without bread altogether and go for Ryvita or a salad?

Little things like this making writing a pleasure.  I keep in mind the old ‘show don’t tell’ adage, and try to paint a picture about what kind of lives these people might lead.

Take a Hike

Flash Harry has been rejected by another magazine. Now I’ve said before that, despite having one story accepted for publication, rejections still do not fail to disappoint – even more so now, if anything, because each one feels like a backwards step. It’s like an indication that my writing has got ‘worse,’ as it were, since my joyous taste of success with TV Spa-Dom.

I am feeling distinctly unmotivated and am in something of a moany mood this evening. I haven’t done any proper walking for a week due to the shite weather, and the lack of exercise always has an effect on my temperament.

I need a kick up the bum. I am under way with the novel, which I am enjoying, and I do not want to let my momentum flag. I ought to start setting myself deadlines by which to complete my chapters.

Setting out on the First Matthew

I have this week been cracking on with The Four Matthews, my fourth novel, which plots the progress of a group of disparate individuals on a walking holiday across the rural Midlands (that sounds terribly grand, eh?).

At the risk of appearing pretentious, I do feel as though I am starting out on a journey with them.  As a writer, these fictional people become like friends to me.  I am finding I can’t wait to get home, switch the computer on and start to create scenes and background and conflict in which to throw them.

Writing can be as rewarding as it is frustrating at times.

Way-hey…

…we have booked tickets for Ricky Gervais at the NIA, Birmingham, on 25th November!!

Writing can be a headache

I have added a new short story, Heather’s Headache.  I intend submitting this piece to Take a Break magazine, so it’s not exactly Ibsen, just a simple little story about a girl who takes a sickie from work which all goes wrong. 

I don’t claim it’s amazing literature, but still feel quite proud of myself for sticking to my self-imposed deadline and completing it in a day, which I did on Saturday.  It always gives me a boost when I manage to do that.  It just shows that with writing I can’t fart about, I simply have to sit down and get on with it.  I don’t actually hate the story – which is a positive thing, I suppose!

Writing, or any other creative hobby, is great because it gives you the freedom to do exactly what you like.  A piece of writing I create may not be highbrow literature, but once it’s done it’s mine, it’s unique and nobody can take it away from me.

Now that I have finished this month’s short story, I am picking up where I left off with The Four Matthews, after my little break from it.  I hope that taking time out to write these short stories will make me appreciate the novel, while at the same time providing me with a little light relief in the midst of it.  Little breaks from the long-running narrative should also do me good, enabling me to return to it with fresh eyes.

Heather’s Headache

‘I won’t be in today,’ Heather whined, in a suitably pathetic tone. She pointlessly massaged her forehead, as though Eric, her boss, could somehow see down the phone. ‘Got the most appalling headache. I’m really sorry.’

Eric, who she had caught on his mobile en route to the office, was all sympathy, as she’d anticipated. ‘And what a shame you’ll miss Paula,’ he added.

‘Yes, isn’t it?’ Grinning now, Heather crossed her fingers behind her back. ‘Oh well, we’ll catch up some other time, I’m sure. Hopefully see you tomorrow, Eric. I’m sure I’ll be much better by then.’

‘Don’t rush back if you’re not up to it, though.’

She put the phone down and punched the air gleefully, her recovery apparently instant and miraculous.

Paula was the very reason for Heather’s illicit sickie. She was an ex-colleague who was today making one of her, thankfully rare, visits to the office. A lunchtime table was booked at the local wine bar – a pub wouldn’t be stylish enough for Paula – so her former workmates could worship her over quiche and chardonnay.

Heather couldn’t understand why the braying monster had been so highly thought of before leaving the company three years ago to marry an accountant, whose money she liked to spend in designer shops, and give birth to Sasha and Saffron, their beautiful and gifted twins.

When she ‘worked’ there – Heather used the term loosely – Paula’s days were spent gossiping with chums on the phone, filing her claw-like nails, taking extended lunch breaks and leaving her jobs for others, usually Heather, to complete. She had soft-hearted Eric wrapped around her little finger.

Yes, the office was a far pleasanter place without her yappy, Yorkshire terrier voice and piercing laugh. And today Heather would be spared the bagfuls of photos from Paula’s latest Caribbean holiday, and the pitying remarks about her being single. ‘Still on your own? Bless. You can’t hang about much longer, though. Best thing that ever happened to me, the hubby and kiddies.’

Smiling, Heather curled herself up on the sofa for a blissfully idle day of TV.

******

Why was there never anything on when you were at home all day? After flicking irritably through medical documentaries and endless snooker, Heather jabbed the off button and picked up an old magazine to pass the time instead.

She reread it in ten minutes, then decided to make coffee. The biscuit tin proved irresistible, but in reaching up to pull it from the cupboard she managed to dislodge a mug, sending it hurtling to the tiled kitchen floor.

While sweeping the scattered shards into the dustpan, Heather tried to stop herself wondering whether sickies were in fact overrated.

It was lunchtime when she spotted she was low on loo roll. How infuriating, she’d only done the shopping yesterday. Oh well, her colleagues and dear Paula would be safely ensconced in the wine bar by now, so she could sneak into town to stock up.

Even if it did mean changing out of the pyjamas she was still lazily wearing.

******

Emerging from Tesco, Heather noticed the sale posters were still splashed across River Island’s window. Another five minutes, she told herself, just to see if they still had that turquoise top she hadn’t had time to try on at the weekend in her size.

They did. Plus numerous other alluring bargains. This was more like it, she thought, greatly perking up after her uninspiring morning.

Heather loved the jazzy, cool feel of new carrier bags, especially ones full of clothes, and virtually bounced out of River Island swinging them. Her workmates were probably on dessert now, and passing round the eighty-fifth picture of the twins in matching pink sunhats building artistic sandcastles.

‘Heather!’ The unmistakable voice stabbed right through her head.

A vision with shimmering black hair and a rind of make-up was rocketing towards her. Heather found herself ensnared in a hug.

‘Paula?’ She blanched and spluttered. ‘But how come…I thought you were meant to be…’

‘Oh of course, you won’t have heard. When Eric got to the office this morning he found it had flooded overnight. Leaky tap in the kitchen, apparently. How funny!’ Paula screeched with laughter. ‘He’s sent everybody home while he sorts things out with the plumbers, and had to cancel me for today. But I’ve rearranged for a week on Thursday.’

‘A flood? Is there much damage done?’

‘Not a lot apparently, apart from the carpet being sodden. And a bit whiffy, I imagine. Mind you, I told Eric years ago he ought to get rid of the threadbare thing. How are things with you, anyway? Met anyone sexy yet?’

‘I’m quite happy being single,’ Heather beamed defiantly. Inside she seethed about her wasted sick day, and the fact she couldn’t very well take another one next Thursday so would be unavoidably lunching with poisonous Paula after all.

‘How funny! Yes, it’s a shame I didn’t get to see all the gang today. Got some super piccies of Sasha and Saffy. Little poppets. You should hear some of the things they can say now. The other day – ’

‘Where are the girls now?’ Heather interrupted.

Paula appeared surprised at the question. ‘With the nanny, of course. What are you doing out, by the way? Eric told me you were on your sick bed. Headache worn off, has it?’ Her face was slappably smug.

‘I just nipped out for loo roll. And, er, Nurofen.’

‘Oh yeah, and a new wardrobe, by the look of it.’ Paula’s knowing gaze landed on the two heavy River Island bags Heather was hopelessly concealing behind her leg. ‘How funny! Well I won’t tell.’ Her eyes narrowed. ‘If you let me treat you to a cappuccino, that is.’

‘I should be getting back,’ Heather started to feebly protest.

‘Don’t be wet. I can afford it, after all. And I’m dying to show someone these photos. Come on.’

As she was frogmarched into Starbucks, Heather felt the agonising onset of a genuine headache.

The writer’s trance

I need to crack on with writing some stories. By the end of this week, I want to have written a new story and come up with ideas for my next two, which I will write in June and July respectively. I am aiming to take write one short story per month and send it to a magazine. I am terribly short of inspiration, though. I am starting to slightly panic.

The disadvantage, if you can call it that, of having had one story accepted is that I am now putting greater pressure on myself to get more into print. Having one printed is not enough. I can’t rest on my laurels. By the end of this year, I want to ideally have had at least one other piece accepted for publication. I have to build on my success. I will feel so disappointed if I fail to do that. It will feel like a step backwards.

Whenever I am intent on creating a new piece of writing, I actually go into a sort of trance. I’m unsociable when I’m like that, and can’t talk to people. Any kind of interruption into my concentration and flow of ideas is an irritant! Pathetic as it may sound, it also tires me out terribly.

I wish I didn’t harbour this draining yearning to write; my life would be so much easier without the urge to create literature. I think what I need is confidence; what I produce may have no pretensions to be Shakespeare, but I need to stop making apologies for it.

My husband meets his comedy heroes

lakes2

The new Laurel & Hardy statues in Stan Laurel’s hometown of Ulverston, Lancashire

lakes31

Gee I’m dumb today!!

Inspiration, please hit me!!

I received a rejection letter today – Woman’s Weekly advise me that A Civil Wedding is not quite suitable for their requirements – and, even despite my recent success with My Weekly, I can’t help a twinge of disappointment and frustration. I suppose any writer is only as good as their last published story, and I have no intention of becoming complacent and cocky.

I have this week bought the latest issues of a few mags for research purposes (what great research!). I like to see what sort of stories they are running at present. I need to draw inspiration from somewhere. I wish ideas came more naturally to me – I always have to brainstorm and ‘take my pen for a walk across the paper’ until they hit me. It’s the most frustrating aspect of my writing.

With regards to the My Weekly piece, by the way, they have no publication date for me as yet – although I am very happy to say I have been paid for my contribution!! In fact I have already spent the money! I know I can do this!!

I am now keen to build on my success and raise my standards. Just one published story is not enough of an achievement. By the end of the year, I would dearly hope to have had at least one other piece accepted for publication.

Whilst my ongoing project at present is my novel The Four Matthews, I aim to take a week off from it each month in order to write a short story and submit it to a magazine. These little breaks in the long-term project do refresh me and fire me up to return to the novel.

I love writing sooo much; despite all my other hobbies, it is still my favourite thing to do. I just wish I didn’t have to spend so long in this pen-chewing, banging-head-on-wall planning stages. Does inspiration come with experience? Are ideas more likely to leap into the heads of prolific scribblers? I wonder.