27 September, 2013

Procrastination and Time Management

When any writers get together, the subject turns soon enough to finding time to write. It's often the big difficulty in a writer's life, and it is also often the one thing that marks out a writer from someone who wants to be a writer: a writer makes sure they find the time somehow - anyhow.

I'm fortunate in that I don't have any problem finding time to write, having a supportive husband in a well-paid job who is determined I should spend my time writing! This means I have even bigger admiration for those writers who get up at 4:30am to write for two hours before work, or who write late at night when their four kids are in bed. But, like all writers, having the time to write doesn't mean I don't procrastinate. I'm pretty strict with social media - one of the biggest procrastination tools of the modern writer - but I do find it all too easy to think of little household tasks that need doing or errands I can run.

I don't believe in writer's block. I believe it is sometimes easier to write than at other times. Inspiration can be fickle and life can get in the way and I know there are some days when everything I write is awful and destined to be deleted later. But I don't think there's ever an excuse not to write if you have put the time aside to do it. It is a matter of turning up and putting letters in order, even if it's the wrong order.

From March next year, my time to write is going to be heavily restricted for the first time and so I need your best bits of advice. Perhaps this photo will serve as a heavy hint as to why my life will be changing:

I intend to be a full-time mother, BUT I know plenty of full-time parents who ALSO find time to write. I can't imagine not writing so I guess I'm going to have to find some time from somewhere. I imagine much of my life will be taken up with listening to screaming and, if my experience of holding other people's newborns is anything to go by, poking the baby to check it's still alive (How DO babies manage to be so still while asleep? I think they do it out of spite), but I need to know how to find time to write AND how to avoid procrastinating when I do have the time. So, what are your top tips for making sure you get words on the page? If you are a parent already, how have you coped with the demands of a manuscript and a baby?

24 September, 2013

Virgo by Alicia Rades

Welcome to Part Three of my 12-part Zodiac Blog Series. On Tuesdays in autumn I'm posting a story or poem each written especially for this blog by a different author. Each piece of writing has taken one of the signs of the zodiac as its inspiration. For the full list of participants - from established authors to first-time writers - plus the posting schedule and links to previous stories and poems, please visit the Zodiac Blog Series Page.

This week I bring you a poem inspired by Virgo, written by Alicia Rades. I  know nothing about poetry so I'm glad somebody has written some for my blog for me!

Alicia recalls writing her first poem at the age of 8. As she grew up, she filled notebooks with poetry and song lyrics. When she was 17, she started freelance writing and continues writing today. Visit her blog at TheWritingRealm.com, and then check her out on Facebook and Twitter.



My hands tremble
As our lips meet
Adrenaline rush
Is so sweet

As you smile
My heart races
There’s joy in
Both our faces

Our bodies collide
For the first time
The way you move
Is like the perfect rhyme

In the moment
I lose myself
Caught up in you
And overwhelmed

It’s all emotions
Rolled into one
Happiness, joy,
Thrills, and fun

You touch me gently
You care for me
It was everything
I thought it could be

I catch my breath
And ponder how
I never knew love
Until right now

17 September, 2013

Gemini by Dan Purdue

Welcome to Part Two of my 12-part Zodiac Blog Series. On Tuesdays in autumn I'm posting a story or poem each written especially for this blog by a different author. Each piece of writing has taken one of the signs of the zodiac as its inspiration. For the full list of participants - from established authors to first-time writers - plus the posting schedule and links to previous stories and poems, please visit the Zodiac Blog Series Page.

This week we have a piece of flash fiction inspired by Gemini, written by Dan Purdue.

Dan lives and writes in Leamington Spa. His short fiction has been published in many places online and in print, including Writers’ Forum , MicroHorror.com, Defenestration, Every Day Fiction, The View From Here, and The Waterhouse Review. His stories have won prizes in the HE Bates Short Story Competition, the Chapter One International Short Story Competition, Flash500.com, and the Seán Ó Faoláin Prize. “Somewhere to Start From”, a collection featuring many of his published and prizewinning stories, is available in print and as an ebook from Amazon and Smashwords.
You can catch up with Dan on Facebook, Twitter, or his blog


Project Gemini

It had been an unremarkable day, right up to the point when Katja opened the front door to find her own face staring back at her from over her husband’s shoulder.

Later, while the woman unpacked her small wheeled suitcase, Robert and Katja sat at the kitchen table. ‘Our funding was cut,’ he explained. ‘The lab, the research, everything.’ His face flushed. ‘We were told to destroy her.’

Katja frowned. Robert had never fully explained what he did for a living. Something for the government, he’d said. Important work. When she pressed him for details he’d tell her she wouldn’t understand. But, stuck in the house all day, she’d quickly tired of British quiz shows and soap operas. It was amazing what you could discover on the internet. She’d read about genetics; she knew what was considered possible. What was legal and what wasn’t. ‘This woman,’ Katja said. ‘She’s me, yes?’

‘We called her Eve,’ Robert said. He evaded her questions about when and how the copy had been made, or how long she would stay. He said DNA could be found in anything, a few skin cells, a strand or two of hair. He told her she was being unreasonable. He promised it was only temporary; he’d find somewhere for her to go.

Katja glared at him. ‘This is why,’ she said. ‘For this… experiment. This is why you marry me.’

The look that flashed in Robert’s eyes confirmed everything. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ he snapped.

As the weeks passed, Katja realised Robert had no plans to find Eve a new home. She saw a tenderness she’d never experienced in the way he spoke and acted towards her. He clearly considered Eve superior to Katja, and made little if any attempt to disguise it. Their conversations ended abruptly when Katja entered the room, and their little glances and smiles soured every meal time.

It was hard not to be jealous. Eve had never known hunger or desperation. She’d always have the straighter teeth, the better skin, a posture that had never hunched against the biting cold of a Moscow winter. Flawless English flowed from her lips; she made no secret of how amusing she found Katja’s grammatical stumbles.

Everything changed the night Katja, lying awake, heard footsteps along the corridor, from the spare room to Robert’s bedroom.

The next night, she put an end to it. It was easier than she expected. The knife slipped in between two of his ribs. The shock kept him from crying out. He clutched at her, mouthing, ‘Why?’, but he already knew the answer.

The beauty of it was that Eve couldn’t admit who she really was. The same things that brought her into existence would determine her fate: a few skin cells, a couple of strands of hair. Katja thought there was a nice symmetry to that. She smiled as she headed towards Heathrow, wondering whether, with such a straightforward crime laid out in front of them, the police would ever notice the empty safe, or her missing passport.

16 September, 2013

Un-Conspiracy Theory

My flash fiction Un-Conspiracy Theory is the story for today over at Everyday Fiction. If you have time for a five minute read, please do go over and take a peek and let me know what you think. All support is very welcome! This is the second piece I've had published at EDF and I seem to be using it as a resting place for all my most flippant writing. Un-Conspiracy Theory is a tragic tale of what happens to the conspiracy theorists when the government decide to tell the truth about everything.

For more (even better) flash fiction, return here tomorrow to read the next installment in the Zodiac Blog Series - Gemini by Dan Purdue.

13 September, 2013

Quotable Friday (16)

I love reading quotations. Whether they’re funny, wise or poignant, I love those snapshots into the human mind; I love the beauty of language. There aren’t always easy ways to crowbar great passages from novels or thoughtful quotations into ordinary blog posts, so on Fridays I’m letting them speak for themselves.

I have just started reading Agatha Christie's autobiography. She wrote it over a period of 15 years and it's quite a length! Disappointingly, it doesn't cover her mysterious disappearance, but I'm still looking forward to reading all about her life. Following my post on the new Poirot book coming out next year, I've been remembering how much I love this author. This is a quotation from the foreword to the book, where she is thinking about how we never know where our life is going while we're living it.

One is like an actor who has a few lines to say in Act I. He has a type-written script with his cues, and that is all he can know. He hasn't read the play. Why should he? His but to say 'The telephone is out of order, Madam' and then retire into obscurity.

But when the curtain goes up on the day of the performance, he will hear the play through, and he will be there to line up with the rest, and take his call.

To be part of something one doesn't in the least understand is, I think, one of the most intriguing things about life.

I like living. I have somtimes been wildly despairing, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. 

10 September, 2013

Sagittarius by Helen Murray

Welcome to Part One of my 12-part Zodiac Blog Series. On Tuesdays in autumn I'm posting a story or poem each written especially for this blog by a different author. Each piece of writing has taken one of the signs of the zodiac as its inspiration. For the full list of participants - from established authors to first-time writers - plus the posting schedule and links to previous stories and poems, please visit the Zodiac Blog Series Page.

This week we're kicking off with a story inspired by Sagittarius (The Archer) written by Helen Murray. Helen lives in Derbyshire, England, with her husband, mum and two daughters (aged eight and six). She writes short stories, Christian reflections and devotionals and has a novel-in-progress. You can find Helen on her blog, or on Twitter.

Helen says about this story: "This is a true story! Well, almost.  I am not such a wonderful archer and I didn't shoot my husband, but we did meet at the University Archery Club. We've heard all the 'Cupid' jokes."


She loved the feel of the soft leather tab on the three middle fingers of her right hand. She loved the reassuring pressure of her left palm against the handle of her bow and the slow, luxurious stretch of the muscles in her back as she drew to a perfect anchor point under her chin, string just whispering at the tip of her nose. People often thought that the strength was in the arms in archery, but it was all in the back. Training muscles to do exactly the same thing, time after time.  

The real challenge of archery is in the mind, she reflected, as she raised her bow, fingers light on the string. Her gaze settled on the golden centre of the target; the orange crosshairs of the sight blurred to invisibility. Completely relaxed at a moment of great muscle tension, her breathing slowed right down to avoid any tremor of motion. Her concentration was complete and her release pure perfection as the arrow flew straight and true and hit the tiny black cross in the middle.

She was rewarded with a soft thud; a sound only heard when an arrow hit the dead centre of the boss, where the straw was softened through use. She didn’t need to hear the delicious sound, or even see the black carbon fibre arrow vibrate as it hit its mark; she could tell from the moment it left her bow that the shot was perfect.

Most of them were.

The competition was a formality. She had won everything this season. As she put together her equipment for the tournament, the slight anxiety dancing at the edge of her mind was not a concern to do well, or a longing to win, but the hope that he would be here.

She only saw him at the archery club, and he had a different set of friends. Once, in the pub after training she’d found herself hanging on his every word. He had made her laugh; made her feel special. He’d been interested in her, not just in her scores or her expensive archery equipment. She fell deeply in love, and she’d had an idea that he felt it too.

There hadn’t been another opportunity.

With a huge effort of mental discipline she put him out of her mind, but as the season wore on she found herself tiring of her single-minded lifestyle despite the medals and trophies. As she raised her bow for the final arrow, she reflected that she would swap it all for another evening with him.

She prepared to draw.

She had only to score an eight or above to win.

She had not shot less than an eight all day.

She drew the string in a smooth, well-practiced motion. As she settled into her anchor point she was aware only of her focus on the soft, distant gold. All totally still. She was ready.

And then, the smallest sound at the edge of her consciousness. A voice. Nothing more than a whisper, but it was unmistakable.

It was him.

Her concentration shattered into a million pieces. The sound of the crowd surged back into her ears and the archery field suddenly became alive with colour and movement. Her heart soared. She gasped - involuntarily she swung round, still at full draw.

She saw him.

She shot him.

Straight through the heart.

06 September, 2013

We Meet Again Mr..... Poirot

Image from amazon.com
I'm sure you will have heard on the news this week - if you live in the UK anyway - about the new Hercule Poirot novel. The poet and crime novelist Sophie Hannah will be penning the new novel based on Agatha Christie's famous Belgian detective, bringing him back to his fans after about four decades without him.

I am really excited about this. I don't know any of Sophie Hannah's work but I'm encouraged by the endorsement she has from the Christie estate. I LOVE Agatha Christie. I don't think her writing style is the best in the world but her stories keep me entertained from the first page to the last. I don't read much modern crime, but I adore cosy crime and Agatha has to be my favourite. Are you as excited as me?

It's easy to be sceptical when authors take on somebody else's creation, but I think it can be wonderful. Anthony Horowitz's new Sherlock Holmes novel, The House of Silk, was a book I greatly enjoyed and I've heard really good things about P.D James's crime sequel to Pride and Prejudice called Death Comes to Pemberley. I think if you take a character who has appeared in very many original stories (so there is a lot of material for the "new" author to use for research), add an author who is already established and popular, and finish off with the authorisation of the original author's estate, there's a good chance of getting something pretty special out of it. Have you ever loved or loathed an author's take on somebody else's characters?

It's got me wondering if there are any other characters I'd like to see resurrected. I know I was very frustrated at the ending of Gone With the Wind, but I think a few different people have ended up writing sequels already for that very reason! Perhaps I'd like somebody to write a new Famous Five or a sequel to The Secret Garden. Is there anybody you'd like to star in a novel once again?

03 September, 2013

Zodiac Blog Series - Schedule

In July I asked for volunteers to produce a poem, story or mini-essay based on the signs of the zodiac, in order to create a blog series of creative writing. I was blown away by the quick and enthusiastic response.

Now, having received most of the posts for the series, I have a schedule for you! The stories and poems will be posted on Tuesdays, starting next week and running through to the end of November. If you click on the Zodiac Blog Series page above you can meet the authors and visit their blogs in advance. I am really excited about the mix of people who have volunteered for this project - go check them out!

I considered all sorts of logical ways of ordering the posts based on the alphabet or order of the zodiac, but because some pieces have been unavoidably delayed and had to be put towards the end, there was no way it worked out. So I went for the tried and tested method of writing down all the names and pulling bits of paper from a hat*!

  • 10th September - Helen Murray; Sagittarius
  • 17th September - Dan Purdue; Gemini
  • 24th September - Alicia Rades; Virgo
  • 1st October - Martyn Beardsley; Leo
  • 8th October - Simon P. Clark; Cancer
  • 15th October - Jenny Hickson; Capricorn
  • 22nd October - Derek Thompson; Scorpio
  • 29th October - Anna Lickley; Libra
  • 5th November - Iain Pattison; Aries
  • 12th November - Kirsten-Valerie Nott; Aquarius
  • 19th November - Joe Hickson; Pisces
  • 26th November - Alicia Myers; Taurus
If you need something to read before next week, have a squint at this old post of mine containing my prize-winning story Handrails and Parachutes, featuring two zodiac signs for the price of one!

If you are an author and there is something not quite right about your biography, or there's a problem with the date I've given you, then let me know. Please spread the word about the series and remember to pop back and read other people's entries when you have time. Thank-you so much again for your hard work!

*for 'hat', read 'plastic take-away container'