Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Murder, mayhem....and a chai latté?


I usually run at the thought of 'book groups', which may seem odd for someone who works in a library, but I have my reasons.

At school I used to hate being told "for homework, read the next three chapters of xxxx novel, to be discussed in lesson next week..." For one thing, I usually hated the choice of fiction - our group usually had 'traditional' works like Hardy's 'Far From The Madding Crowd', whilst another group had Neville Shute's 'On The Beach' (that's no' fair!!)

Whilst if left to my own choosing I would devour books, if forced to read something then I found it near impossible to turn the pages!

And that's why I don't normally 'do' book groups.

But, sitting in Cafe Nero :-) this morning, daughter R and I were discussing this very subject. She came up with a most excellent idea (OK, this is her mother grovelling now for accusing her of 'abandoning' her NaNoWriMo attempt last November - see previous post!).

The most excellent idea was a book group that didn't just study one book and pick it to death - but that members would be encouraged to bring a book they enjoyed and 'sell' it to the rest of the group. (By that I mean talk enthusiastically...without money changing hands!)

This seems a wonderful way to share the 'love' of books. It also might encourage members to read a different genre than they would normally choose, thus broadening their perspective. OK, OK - I can agree to forego murder, mayhem and thrillers in favour of chick-lit. (occasionally ;-) )

By the time the chai latte's were drained from the mugs we had almost talked ourselves into doing it - we just need to work out some way to persuade Cafe Nero (ideal venue :-) ) to stay open later. We're still working on it - any ideas?

Mind you, the idea of opening a bookshop is still on a back burner....

Sunday, 27 June 2010

The Dominoes have fallen!


Well - after a final marathon session yesterday, (and a few moments of 'picking' this afternoon) I think I have finally finished 'Domino' !

This started off as a joke - egged on by dear daughter R. I was coerced to sign up for NaNoWriMo last November. I laid aside the writing project I was toying with and off the top of my head I scribbled out a synopsis and began the challenge (to write 50k words in 30 days). I half expected to fail, but I found it so compelling I passed the 50k mark in 21 days! (and dear daughter had to abandon her entry due to other committments ;-p)

Writing at that speed something had to give - food, laundry or paid employment. Well, I didn't get the sack and we didn't exactly go hungry! The clothes were a bit wrinkly - but at least they were clean (mostly!). However our dog, Brucie (sadly R.I.P now) would look forlornly at the door then pad back to his bed to dream of 'walkies'!

So obsessive did the enterprise become, I actually booked annual leave to give me 'catch up' days. What surprised me was how much the book seemed to write itself. Once the fingers hit the keyboard I was away!

So, with the nucleus of the story completed I revisited it from time to time - re-writing bits, adding bits, and cutting surprisingly little.

Anyway, for the last few weeks 'life' has got in the way a bit (important and necessary stuff, though) but today I finally dotted the last 'i' and crossed the last 't' and 83,138 words later I think 'Domino' is finished!

Of course, it may just be a pile of poo - I have 'fresh eyes' looking at it, so time will tell.

But - yay! I finished!

What's worrying me slightly, now, is that some of the characters are knocking on the door of my brain with other tales......

Friday, 25 June 2010

Death by......



Some people who know me have commented on my penchant for writing about 'spousal despatching' in some of my fiction and wondered if there is an element of truth….yes, I see those sideward glances as I pass by. I can assure you Mr H is alive and well!

I hasten to say not ALL my writing involves the demise of someone. However, so far, amongst other things, I’ve written about death by poisoning, being pushed under a car/train, thirst/hunger, bullets, knives….but I wonder if anyone’s written about death by knitting needle, for instance? (that might have Mr H worried :-o)

Sounds a bit Miss Marple-ish – and how might it be delivered? “….X despatched him with an accurate thrust of a size 9 needle…..you could say he was cast off….”

So, anyone else come across eccentric despatch methods in print? (Or can you suggest some perhaps?)

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

More advice from the horse's mouth..... R.J Ellory



As most of the people who look in here are aspiring authors, I'm pleased to say that the delightul R.J Ellory has allowed me to add this

Any help we aspiring authors is much appreciated so a big thankyou to Roger Ellory for this advice!

In the meantime you might like to check out his work here

His current release is The Anniversary Man - still on my TBR list.

My introduction to his novels was A Simple Act of Violence - and I still have a soft spot for the main character, Det. Robert Miller........(sigh)

Sunday, 20 June 2010

FFF #34 ON ICE



After a week off - I'm back into Friday Flash Fiction. This week, our illustrious leader and motivator, Cormac Brown, has selected four words to be incorporated into a short work of fiction:

SCULPTURE, CULTURE, CULT & COHESIVE

Here's what I came up with!



ON ICE


‘Ice Sculpture for Beginners.’

That’s what the sign said on the noticeboard. It had seemed a bit off the wall and I thought – why not?

When Marilyn had said I ought to do something with my spare time, I expect she had something rather worthy in mind. “Join an art class,” she had suggested. What she really meant was “Get a bit of culture, you ignorant bum!”

Ever since she’d signed up for a literary course at the local college she’d changed. Now she was more interested in meeting up with her new social circle of friends at her book club. They seemed to congregate in coffee shops and wax lyrical about the latest book, picking it to pieces and psycho-analysing the author’s writing style, digging deep to find issues that probably weren’t there in the first place.

If you ask me, it’s almost like a cult – the cult of ‘let’s pick the book to pieces and forget about whether we enjoyed it or not’.

Me? Oh, I like to read, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I like to be entertained – I don’t need to be constantly looking for subtext, I just want to escape into someone else’s fantasy.

So, she reads; I chip away at blocks of ice.

It was meant to make us more cohesive; give us something more to talk about. When you’ve been married as long as we have you’ve just about run out of something new to say to each other.

Except – she didn’t want to hear about controlling ice-drips or fractures. But she expected me to listen to her incessant babble about how she’d scored points over one of the other literary snobs.

She missed her last couple of club meetings, but I don’t think they’ll notice. Some new Queen Bee will assume her place.

So, now I have her undivided attention. Now she’s ready to understand; to listen to what I have to say. Let’s get this baby rollin’. She’s been in the deep freeze long enough.

A little remodelling, Marilyn? Last week we did something new in ice-sculpting – did I ever tell you about the hazards of chainsaw kickback?

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Eat, sleep, breathe, write.....


A week after the drama and excitement of stunt driving - and it's back to the drawingboard. Well, keyboard, actually.

This coming week I'm determined to get 'Domino' (the loose, working-title of a project I started a little while ago) squared off and ready to begin thinking about sending out query letters.

But I also want to get this week's entry for Friday Flash Fiction done and dusted - missed having that last weekend as I was, er, otherwise engaged!

I really do miss sitting down and just letting the writing flow. These last couple of weeks have felt very strange without being able to get any reasonable writing done - almost like being deprived of oxygen.

So this week, now dear daughter has moved most of her stuff out and is happily settling into her new house and becoming independent once again; and I no longer have to worry about dealing with the jungle that was the front garden (now newly block paved :-) ), I'm determined to get back into a strict writing routine, trying to get something useful written each and every day. I don't know if I'll manage it - might be nip'n'tuck fitting it in around 'paid' work and housework, but I'll do it or damn-near die trying!

So, wish me luck and waft inspirational thoughts my way, if you please!

Monday, 14 June 2010

So, you want proof ?


OK - so here's the proof of what I got up to on Sunday!

For starters, I learned the handbrake turn - the cheeky MC said 'a little bit of nerves, from the lady.....' well, he soon had egg on his face!



J-turn


Last one for now (others on Youtube)my personal favourite, Double-Decker driving, against the clock!

Qualified Stunt-driver for hire?


Well....sort of... ;-p

Yesterday (Sunday 13th June) I did my stunt-driving - and survived! I managed to get sunburnt on a bit of my forehead and the bridge of my nose - the only parts of me not covered by the fire-suit, fire-proof balaclava and helmet!

And, to prove I did accomplish something, here's my certificate and trophy. More pics and videos to follow, when the family upload them to me.

I completed the six-part challenge:

Hand-brake turns;

J-turns (change from reverse to forward direction at hi-speed and continue without stopping);

Having learned all this, we had to then perform a stunt in the main arena - a head-to-head brake-turn (two cars drive full throttle at each other and brake-turn around each other at the last minute) - scary!!

Next up was Transit van wheelies; I managed to kangaroo-hop and get the nose in the air for 4 or 5 seconds between the designated markers. I don't think anyone managed a perfect wheelie, but it was a great laugh with the crowd whooping everytime the nose came up.

Then we moved onto another track to try out Double-decker driving (one car welded on top of another, top driver steers, bottom driver powers, around a slalom course against the clock)- I really liked this, although it was a bit wobbly driving at speed when you're so far off the ground!

Then a break for lunch where the spectators were allowed to join us 'auto-school students. What impressed me was that all the track marshals, driver-tutors and the MC, all pitched in with preparing, serving and then clearing away our cheeseburgers and salad lunch! In preparation for the after-lunch events, I decided to pass on the chocolate/coffee gateaux dessert....

Then we moved to the off-road track for the Hi-speed chase and shoot-out (with a paint-ball gun); this was really a test of driving skill, esp. when you hit the gravel traps (I managed a donut!). Again, this was against the clock with penalties and added time awarded depending on whether you caught up with the professionally-driven lead car and whether you managed any target hits.

The final driving event was the 'Push-me-pull-you' car (two car fronts welded together, two engines, two drivers back to back, working together to drive the car diagonally round a slalom course)

At the end of the day, prizes for the best in each category were awarded from a podium (alas, no spraying of champagne!) but surprisingly, I won the diagonal driving! (with my co-driver for the day, Kev)

Thankyou to any who sponsored me - the local Air Ambulance are so far benefitting to the tune of £250 + gift aid!

I have a few aches and strains this morning,from being jolted around and the after effects of the safety harnesses! :-0 But, anyway, I did it! Yay!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Well, chaps - it was nice knowing you....


Tomorrow is D-Day = (Stunt)Driving Day! (It's finally rolled around - it seemed like a good idea, all those months ago....)

So anyway, tomorrow (Sunday 13th June) I'm off to Northampton International Raceway to complete the six-part challenge of J-turns and double-decker driving and all the other exciting, yet scary, things - look here and check out the video.

With OH and kids watching (and snapping pics!)I'm hoping to raise money for the Warks. & Northants. Air Ambulance - thanks to all who have sponsored me (not too late for donations, though! Click the pic at the top of my blog page, if you feel so inclined ;-) )

Assuming I survive the experience I'll be posting pics and news after the event!

But, in case it all goes pear-shaped......well, chaps - it was nice knowing you!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Last Day


Over on Do Some More Damage Jay Stringer wrote a piece of flash fiction about the end of the world and invited comments or alternative stories on the same theme.

Herewith, one possible outcome.....


THE LAST DAY

Not with a bang.

Or a whimper.

The end came unexpectedly for all of us. Some went a little mad. Others were just confused as to why the normal order of things was awry.

And there were those who thought they already knew what was going to happen; the fulfilment of first century revelatory prophecies. Strangely enough, their interpretation of said prophecies and what actually happened didn’t quite tie-in. But then, how would a first century writer describe the internet? Let alone any of the modern marvels like TV and aeroplanes and all the essentials of life that we took for granted, right up until the last minute.

The pulpit warnings of a third of the world in darkness did come true. Not in matters of light and shade, but in layers of evil and selfishness; of hardened hearts and greed; of irredeemable perversity and arrogance.

Likewise, the prediction of a blood-red moon was seen through the veil of pollution stemming from our own indulgence and over-consumerism that led to a permanently damaged eco-system.

These things came quietly, slowly, encroaching on our understanding; like those who wander into quicksand, realising too late that the ground beneath their feet will consume them. We thought we knew better. We explained it away with science. Or else, we chose to ignore it.

But the last day eventually came. The last rising of the sun, the last falling shadows of approaching night, were witnessed around this globe we call Earth and we didn’t even know until it was too late.

We were stopped in our tracks, each and every one of us. In the twinkling of an eye we all experienced the flashbacks. Like drowning men we all relived the minutiae of our lives, as if time had telescoped itself and came upon us in a rush. And an hour passed like a minute and a second stretched almost into eternity. All the values we held, the ways we measured time, distance, feelings, spatial awareness – all is gone. Changed. Altered.


I feel alone and yet sense I am within a crowd. I’m trying to look around but what I see defies explanation. How can I put into words that which my puny brain cannot fathom? Perhaps it’s no wonder those first century writers had trouble describing the future. Our future.

I sense, rather than see, a brightness. A light shining so powerfully I feel the retinas of my eyes burning and yet my mind continues to display images for which I have no base concept for comparison. I hear a voice inside my head, considering every thought and deed I have experienced.

And now there is silence. A sense of trepidation and expectation. As if humanity and creation is collectively holding it’s breath.

I’m waiting. We’re all waiting. Oh my goodness! I didn’t expect………….

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Friday Flash Fiction #32 THE GETAWAY





After a brief interlude, Cormac Brown has recommenced his weekly call for flash fiction. Starting with the sentence - 'So much for plan B' - the challenge is to weave a story.

After waking early, unable to sleep because of the heat, my mind was already sketching this idea out. So, by the time the fingers hit the keyboard it was almost a done-deal.

.....or maybe I was just subconciously thinking/worrying about next weekend's little stunt-driving adventure? (see top of my blog-page)

Anyway, here's my offering for this week's FFF comp.


The Getaway

So much for plan B! When plan A had gone west, plan B went into action. I hadn’t got around to devising a plan C.

So, here I am. The words ‘precarious’ and ‘predicament’ come to mind as I see the world beyond the windows altering with each tiny move. And in the back of my mind, I can hear Michael Caine’s voice saying “Hang on a minute lads – I’ve got a great idea….”

Unlike The Italian Job, there’s no bus and no stash of looted gold bullion in the vicinity. Or Michael Caine, for that matter. But there’s definitely fresh air under my back wheels. That, and a hundred-foot drop.

Taking the car and getting the hell away from Gordon had seemed an easy enough option after plan A failed. That was the scenario where I would just front up to him and confess that after fifteen years of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations I wanted out of the marriage.

The final straw that had broken this particular camel’s back had come when he’d announced that having slaved over the hovel we’d bought in Provence, the one we’d sunk our savings into trying to realise his dream of living ‘la vie en rose’, he now wanted a new challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Tuscany. This well-earned break away from the not-quite-finished tiling and the uncarpeted floors back in France had been like a dream. And I love Italian food. I just don’t have it in me to start all over again. In another country. Learning yet another language. Or at least, learning enough to be able to know when we’re being ripped off by the local traders. And having had to deal with the restrictions and vagaries of the local Permis de Construire back in Provence I couldn’t face having to work out the beaurocracy of Italian building regulations.

As arguments go, it was one of our noisiest. I remember wondering what the people in the neighbouring apartment would think, and whether they’d understand the Anglo-saxon expletives that inevitably came out. Gordon was never good when he’d had a drink, but cheap Italian wine was having its effect. When he’d stomped off into the kitchen in search of another bottle I’d started formulating plan B – the getaway. I’d picked up the keys to our hire car and made for the door. That’s when I’d heard the crash.

Keep going, I’d thought. Just open the door and keep going. But the sudden silence that had accompanied the noise from the kitchen made me stop. The lack of further cussing, or even movement, made me curious.

I should have ignored it and slammed the door behind me, but no. I had to go and look. That’s when I’d found Gordon slumped on the floor, his hand still gripping the bottle, his body illuminated by the light from the open fridge.

He must have lost his balance, his equilibrium altered by imbibing too much alcohol. Though his eyes were still wide open, the pool of blood forming a vermilion arc around the back of his head told me the marriage was definitely over.


Facing an Italian judiciary was not something I’d anticipated. I’d wondered again about the neighbours and our raised voices. Trying to explain Gordon’s accidental death to the local Carabinieri was not something I had enough language for. My Italian was mostly restricted to being able to work out restaurant menus.

So, plan B it was.

I tried not run down the steps to the car, just in case curtains were twitching. The car was unfamiliar. Gordon had done all the driving. In fact, I didn’t even know where I was going. The new plan had just been to get away; the route was a minor detail.

And that’s where I came unstuck, because if I’d have realised the road twisted and turned so much perhaps I would have slowed down. That last curve had thrown me and the skid had taken me off the highway and past the gravel trap to my current resting place.

So, like I say, here I am. Stuck in limbo. Literally. Every time I try to move the car see-saws alarmingly. As I hang onto the steering wheel, trying to steady my nerves, it’s not the picture of Gordon lying on the cold tiles that fills my mind. Nor the half-finished house back in Provence that’ll I’ll probably never see again, thank God.

No. In my mind’s eye I see a figure sprawled across the floor of a bus, starting to formulate a strategy.

OK, Michael Caine. Just what is plan C and how do I get out of this?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

When nothing but a book will do...



During a brief lull in activity after a very hectic weekend of decorating and being generally too busy, I was sitting in the conservatory listening to the birds (and the rain thundering on the roof) and cast my gaze towards one of the bookcases. A number of as yet un-read items jostled for position shouting 'pick me, pick me'. From the pile on the floor floor came a dull roar of other recent literary purchases urging 'let me entertain you...'.

But on the shelf behind me lies the next book on the TBR list, whispering promises of 'come away with me...'

In a busy day being bombarded with images and sounds on the TV, in the shops, even in the internet - sometimes it's so good to just leave the world behind and get lost in a book!