Sunday, 30 December 2012

Aargh!

Two things I noticed this morning...
1) It's a very windy day and 2) Someone's given the family at number two a new wind-chime for christmas.
It's a gigantic, roughly-shaped (do I mean rustic?) metal heart hung with...what? Tin cans and tuning forks by the look of it...and it's dangling outside their front door.
It sounds as if someone is walking up and down the road shaking a bag of spanners. Apart from when the wind blows directly at my open window - that's when it sounds like someone is shaking a bag of spanners in my fucking FACE!
Aargh! Aargh! Aargh!

Shut up, you bastards!
 
At the moment I'm trying to persuade myself it's a pleasantly soothing noise - like Santa's sleighbells or a happy band of children with pockets full of coins to spend at the toyshop - or - or a bag of fucking spanners - no - no, not that one!
My ears seem to be fastening on the jangling noise the more I try to tune it out. Stupid, uptight ears!
I suppose I'll get used to it eventually. I can concentrate and write steadily through drumming raindrops or traffic noises - it's just the sounds that my ears aren't used to that hold me up.

Like drilling. You know, that shrill, groaning, vibrating noise made by someone trying to drill through a hard exterior wall. During which, they pause every so often to make you think they've finished - when in fact they're just letting their drill cool down before off they go again. I hate that noise.

And howling. That noise made by a great big stupid dog that has been left alone in the house all day long. Some animals genuinely seem to believe that if they howl long enough and despairingly enough then their family will come back and love them again. It's the unending sound of misery. And after a while you can't help wondering whether the dog has hurt itself in some way and you ought to break in and rescue it. I hate that noise.

Aaagh!
And People having those hearty over-loud conversations. Especially when they're standing on opposite sides of the road to each other. No matter how dull the subject might be, if the volume is loud enough, my ears seem to find themselves forced to listen - it's as if my hearing has been taken hostage. The other day I heard one of my neighbours telling someone that she'd been to see the Vagina Monologues then afterwards they'd gone for tapas. Before she reached her own front door, she encountered a second person that she knew and, without missing a beat, began to relate how she'd gone to see the Vagina Monologues then eaten some tapas. She was also considering going 'car-booting.' (Oh no - an additional detail!) Unbelievably, she went further up the road to greet a third neighbour and embarked upon her Vagina monologue all over again. By which time I was biting my fists and longing for a sniper rifle. To shoot myself with.
If I'm honest, a small, insecure part of me had also started to wonder why I never went to see daringly-titled shows. And why had I never eaten tapas? What was tapas anyway?

Google says it's olives and cheese

And - most distracting of all - is the noise made by my own children during the school holidays. The very second I open my laptop, the six year old is certain to materialize at my side and say something like, "I've made up an Angry Birds game. Will you play it with me? I'm going to be the mighty eagle and you're the bad piggy - and I have to dive at you like this..." (Headbutts self in stomach.) No, there's no writing my way through that one.

I suppose all this is to say that I'm missing my writing time now. I've had a lovely christmas (they gave me a jumper with a rabbit on and some new boots) but I'm starting to feel the itch of needing to make stuff up and put words down. And I'm wondering how easy it'll be to pick up the threads of my story again.
I can see by my blog entries from earlier this year that I'd reached 30,000 words by the end of January 2012 - and I'd like to reach the same target by the end of this January too. That means I'd be on course to complete book three in the autumn of 2013. Right. I've done around 15,000 so far, which means I have to come up with a mere 500 words a day between now and the end of January. Perfectly possible - whether I'm being headbutted by mighty eagles or not.

Oooh...blog update! I just went downstairs for a cup of coffee and some tapas (all right, toast) and now that I'm back up here - next to the open window - it seems that the family at number two have dismantled the monumentally loud wind-chime after only a couple of hours jangling. The power of my thought waves is mighty indeed. Can we forget I ranted? Um - happy christmas!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Surely some of the most satisfying lines in books ever...


"I'm afraid it does not concern me very much what Mrs de Winter used to do," I said. "I am Mrs de Winter now, you know. And if I choose to send a message by Robert I shall do so."



"Then with whom have you studied?" Marco asks.
"With my father, Hector Bowen," Celia answers. She pauses for a moment before adding, "Though perhaps he is better known as Prospero the Enchanter."
Marco drops his pen.
"Prospero the Enchanter?" Chandresh removes his feet from the chair in front of him and leans forward, staring at Celia as though he is seeing a completely different person. "Your father is Prospero the Enchanter?"

 

"You are mistaken, Mr Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner."




When Akiva collapsed, the wolf's relief was as profound as his abhorrence for the words he had forced himself to speak, and for the sound of them issuing from this throat that was Thiago's throat, as this voice was Thiago's voice. And these hands that were a dead match for Karou's bruises? They were Thiago's, too.
But the nightmare? That was all Ziri's.



And then Rose came out on to the staircase. She was wearing the dyed-green tea-gown, which is medieval in shape with long flowing sleeves. She obviously didn't know that there were strangers in the house for she called out: "Look, Cassandra!"
Both men turned towards her and she stopped dead at the top of the stairs. For once Topaz had her lute in tune. And she was, most appropriately, playing 'Green Sleeves'.



"Washed ashore, hell!" Yossarian declared, jumping all about also and roaring in laughing exultation at the walls, the ceiling, the chaplain and Major Danby. "He didn't wash ashore in Sweden. He rowed there! He rowed there, chaplain, he rowed there."



The doctor looked from the corybantic captain to his primly smirking daughter, adjusted his spectacles, and sighed. "Whatever next?" he demanded rhetorically, knowing full well what was next, and working out in advance how best to deal with it.



"So it all comes down to this, doesn't it?" whispered Harry. "Does the wand in your hand know its last master was Disarmed? Because if it does...I am the true master of the Elder Wand."


Sunday, 23 December 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like christmas!


The kitchen table is groaning under the weight of biscuits, cake and alcohol. School has broken up - there's no more homework, no more drama lessons or cross-country running through the rain - and husband is home from work. All weekend we've been lounging in pyjamas, eating sweets or biscuits and watching christmas telly. The boys have spent a great deal of time making angry birds from polymer clay and baking them in the oven. The six year old has made mince pies with me - and a trifle with his father. The nine year old has been learning all the words to Gangnam Style in Korean - apart from the 'sexy lay-dee - sexy layyy-dee' bit obviously. I keep getting sudden head-rushes of manic happiness that make me want to sing or twirl around the room like a loon!

I know several people who genuinely dread christmas for reasons which are pretty much beyond their control. My own children will probably get tired and grumpy. Various family members always turn up and behave rudely or tactlessly (they know who they are - bastards!) This makes me even more determined to appreciate the good bits! And so far this christmas has been excellent!




I'm including the gingerbread biscuits we made for the teachers because I'm especially proud of the way they turned out - even if we didn't get to eat them. Sparkly stars, speckled hearts and iced flowers - should ensure another term of exemplary marks for the boys, in spite of the minimal effort they so often put in.
I have to go and eat more chocolate now - HAPPY CHRISTMAS XXX

Sunday, 16 December 2012

One Year Blogiversary!

My blog is one year old today.
And while it hasn't recorded my transformation into a published writer (always a bit of a long shot) it has become a sort of scrap-book and journal of my life - and I've become quite fond of it.
Happy Birthday Blog!


So here are some things I've been up to this week...

 
Wrapping presents, making gift tags and hanging things on the tree...

 
 


Sorting some of the postcards I bought on our holiday in Cornwall and remembering the all sunshine. These are Dave Shrigley cards from Tate St Ives and they now hang at the top of the stairs. Others I made into gift tags.


 
All the wistfulness for summertime prompted me to look into next year's holiday - so I booked an apartment in Fowey. See how posh it looks - much grander than our actual home...




Meanwhile - in the real world it continued c-c-cold. I photographed some early morning cobwebs...




 
 And I made my first ever lemon drizzle cake. Easy and delicious! Why have I not tried this before?

 
Ready for drizzling.... 
 
 
Drizzled - yum!
 
 
 
 
 
In other news, I've been researching arty ideas for next year's exciting new project - which is an art club I'm going to be running at the boys' school. This week, I mentioned the idea to the headmaster...and he said yes. Now I'm terrified! I'm not a teacher or an artist. I suspect I only suggested the idea because I assumed someone would say no.
I'm excited too, of course. Twenty-two children have already signed up and I've been busily collecting pens, paper, paintbrushes and (great big ambitious) ideas!
 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Deep pan crisp and even

 
Look - it's a little pizza tree!
This is our entry in the Festival of the Decorated Christmas Trees. I haven't seen all the other entries yet, but we're up against stiff competition from the Olympic tree which has photos of the various athletes stuck onto gold, silver or bronze baubles depending which medals they won. Damn, that was a good idea!


We've been making pizzas for a few weeks now - here they are drying under the radiator. The dough is papier mache and the toppings are air-drying clay. Yum!


Here's the star made of individual slices.

Tomato and pepperoni
 
Prawn and pineapple

Mushroom and chilli
 
 

Yesterday evening we all wrapped up against the frosty night air and carried our tree and our pizzas down to the local church, where carols were being practised and other families were decorating their own trees. One was decorated with fans, another with bells, yet another with tiny toys, and one with wooden decorations from Scandinavia - it was all wonderfully christmassy!
So christmassy in fact, that it inspired me to make a christmas cake - look at this monster...

Monsterous. 

 I lugged a ton of dried fruit back from the Co-op and soaked it in rum - even the fumes were enough to make me a bit giddy!
 
 An entire boxful of blown eggshells for a future craft project. Blowing the yolks out was fun at first, but by the sixth egg my lips felt horribly vibratey!
 
 Here's the nine year old helping to stir...
 
 
 ...and here the nine year old isn't
(having got bored after 3 seconds and sodding off back to his Wii)
 
 
 
There - ready for a mere four or five hours baking in the oven! Right, I'm off to dust off the holly wreath for the front door...ho ho ho etc...

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

I felt like writing again this morning.

I really did.
It wasn't an especially rainy or frosty kind of morning - just a bit chilly and damp, but I really couldn't wait to get back indoors from the school run, sit down at my (makeshift) desk with a huge mug of coffee, and just - you know - make stuff up.


That's what I really love doing.
I don't want to talk about writing with other pseudo-writers...I don't want to sit in coffee shops pretending to be JK Rowling (or bars pretending to F Scott FitzGerald)...I don't want signings in bookshops or interviews in magazines or on TV.
I just like making stuff up.
And this morning I wanted to start doing it again. I've no idea whether I'll continue to feel like this - or if it'll help me to achieve a worthwhile amount of writing. I can't help thinking it's the hope of one day getting published and read by people (however small and remote that chance may be) that really gives me the necessary push to keep on going. And I don't have that belief any more. Or at least, not at the moment.The last lot of rejections drove it right out of me.
'What's the point?' I asked myself, promptly replacing the lost hope with feelings of foolishness and shame. 'There isn't any point - you're a fucking idiot!'
But this morning I felt like writing again.

 
So...I've written a story about a talking cat for the Walker Books & Mumsnet competition and a couple of opening chapters for another YA historical romp. It's painfully slow and teethgrittingly hard, but I've had enough time to lick my wounds and I'm on my way again.
I think.






Wednesday, 21 November 2012

More muffins

 
I know, I know, it's always muffins and never Duck aux Bananes but the boys would never eat anything like that - and muffins taste gooood!I bought a big bag of blueberries and experimented a bit. The plain blueberry muffins were a bit boring, the blueberry and strawberry were a little too sweet, but the blueberry and apple (above) were just right for wet, wintry afternoons.




While I was waiting for them to bake, I wandered around the garden looking for the last few signs of autumn. There's not much left now, and I'll miss all the reds and oranges during the next three or four months of unrelenting, leafless muddy, grey bleakness that is an English winter.





 
My writing mojo is still missing - and I can't be bothered to try and force its return.
So I've been reading instead. I've been enjoying revolutionary France. With coffee and blueberry muffins of course.

I started with Sally Gardner's Red Necklace and moved on to Andrew Miller's (Costa winning) Pure, which was, of course, more learned, more evocative, more multi-faceted, but...somehow or other I still preferred the (admittedly quite silly in places) Red Necklace. I suppose that's why I was attempting to write for young adults myself - I'm prepared to overlook occasional preposterousness if a book also has dwarves, gypsy magic and mind-reading magicians. And to be honest, there were one or two bedtimes when I wasn't as much in the mood for corpses, rapists, and corpse-raping-murderers as Andrew Miller might have wished!


Now though, I'm deep into Laini Taylor's sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which also has plenty of revolutionary exploits and leaves every other book standing for preposterousness. And originality. And general brilliance. It's one of those I can't get through quickly enough - even though I know I'll regret going so fast when it's over...