Thursday, 31 March 2011

Before I Go to Sleep trailer, and the A-Z challenge

This is the last post before we kick off tomorrow with a month of A-Z madness! So since I have a theme in mind (more of that later) let me start by sharing something amazing I recently watched - the book trailer for SJ Watson’s forthcoming novel Before I Go to Sleep:

How spooky is that?! It gives me goose-bumps. I like its simplicity and the way it already feels like a film. It is also nicely succinct and perfectly teasing – just like good trailers should be. The book is released on April 28 2011 – can’t wait! Read more on his blog.

Now onto the month of madness! From tomorrow, there will be over 800 bloggers participating in Arlee Bird’s A-Z Challenge. Over eight hundred! Wow - kudos to the organisers behind this massive blogging get-together:

Arlee Bird's Tossing It Out
Jeffrey Beesler's World of the Scribe
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jen Daiker at Unedited
Candace Ganger's The Misadventures in Candyland
Karen J Gowen at Coming Down the Mountain
Talli Roland
Stephen Tremp's Breakthrough Blogs

Each day throughout April (bar Sundays) people will be blogging with posts inspired by letters of the alphabet. It will be fun! It will be huge! It will be frankly terrifying to post every day! I’ve turned into such a sad slacker with blogging – my work is conspiring with my commute to turn me into an eventide zombie. I am hoping a month of disciplined blogging will make me realise I can find a balance again.

My theme will be my favourite children’s book characters. Each day I’ll introduce a character – be they from modern books or the classics – and we’ll have a bit of a giggle. I just know you’ll never guess who my ‘V’ is going to be. Wild horses couldn’t drag it out of me before the day! (I feel fairly safe considering it is unlikely any wild horses are going to charge down the north circular.)

I’m also going to hop around the other blogs doing the challenge and highlight a few others each day that catch my eye. If any writing news comes in throughout April I will pop it under the main post. But apart from that – good luck everyone! And new followers – you are most welcome! Leave me a comment to let me know you are out there, and I’ll pop back to say hello. :)

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The trouble is no desk, m’Lord

I’m feeling like a displaced oyster at the moment. (Bear with me on this.) When I moved back home I knew I’d be setting up my computer in my bedroom, which although swims in fitted furniture, doesn’t swim with a desk. So my options were balancing the PC on top of a chest of drawers, or on top of a dresser.

I tried the first option for a while but had to sit on my bed and twist around into the Uncomfortable Writer pose. After a while something had to give (chiefly my knees) and I shifted camp to the second option. This meant I could sit on a chair (whoop!) but again only at a diagonal as my knees fight the hard drive, which always wins (‘cos it’s hard, innit?).

If that wasn’t bad enough, the PC has decided to die a long loud death and doesn’t like me working on it anymore. I know I need to give it some more memory but the thought of chiselling off its dusty casing fills me with dread, especially as I seem to be Static Girl with anything shiny. Can Static Girl cause explosions? I’m not sure north London wants me to find out.

So the other option is working downstairs on a laptop. This means I get to sit at a table (double-whoop!) but have to pack everything away sharpish if people want to, say, eat dinner at the table, or anything strange like that. So I am constantly shifting folders of notes everywhere and have ended up in a noteworthy muddle. It also means I have to be shit hot at typing through Eastenders and conversations, as well as very dedicated to not spend the evening being sucked into films like Back to the Future. (Although who can fail to be charmed by lines like ‘the flux capacitor is fluxing nicely’?)

I feel like my writing needs a little corner to call its own. Some place that I’ve pegged off to say this area is for writing and typing. There is one other option by the cats litter tray but it doesn’t feel that auspicious, does it? I don’t suppose Tolkien started creating hobbits surrounded by Fussy Puss Litter, Extra Strength. It just feels a bit wrong. I know some authors write in their shed, but our shed has shed things in it. Perching on top of a lawn-mower being watched by spiders doesn’t appeal either.

Ah well, I know I’ll work around this and sort something out. Sometimes I think my brain spins up excuses for me to not write, as if I ‘can’t’ do it then I can’t send things away and my stories can’t be rejected. Oh brain, you cunning annoying thing, you. I don’t want this sort of protection – I want to get going!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The drums of Dol

Can you hear them? They beat a dull uninspiring clunk behind each hour. I get up (clunk!), get dressed (clunk!), travel to work (clunky clunk!), work (ker-lunk!), travel back (clunkety clunk!) and go to bed (zzz-clunk!) and still the doldrums bang on.

I can’t seem to shake them. I feel tired and vapid. This could be because I have finally been forced to admit caffeine hates my guts. Literally. It’s nearly been a whole month since saying a tearful goodbye to coffee, tea and other wonderfully caffeinated things, and I’m still sort of cranky about it. Soon I’ll have no vices left. I’ll have to create some new ones.

Darn food intolerances. It seems the more I like a food, the more my stomach decides to be totally contrary. It’s all a bit hit and miss trying to work out what’s okay and what’s not, but so far shellfish, certain nuts, caffeine, and coffee of any sort (de-caff included!) is on the banned list. All I know is cutting this stuff out makes my stomach very happy, which is miles better than a depressed digestion so this is the way it has to be, however if sugar is next I’ll scream.

I’m aware my poor blog is getting dusty while I try and unlock my fingers to post. Every last bit of energy seems to have snuck off; even my eyelids feel the chore of gravity. All work and no play makes Jayne a dull girl. Yet I do play – the past weekend was lovely – so why do I feel like this? I think it must be ‘all work and no writing makes Jayne a dull girl’. Or all work and no money? When is pay day, anyway?!

But writing has been happening in the gaps. I finally whacked, banged, cajoled and coaxed my synopsis into shape. It is three pages (approx 1200 words) and I can’t help wondering whether it is too long, but I really like it.

Let’s share triumphs – what have you triumphed at recently?

I’ll go first. Writing my synopsis was a triumph, as has been resisting coffee! I also found a brilliant jumper in a charity shop for £3. Major triumph!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A Slippery Story

Ski slope names can be rather jaunty and fun – but who was the poor soul who christened ‘Wounded Knee?’ I suspect they are the ones with the limp. Also ‘Brown Shirt’ – someone had a little accident that day, did they? There are pants for that sort of thing.

Likewise ‘The Plunge’. Gosh that sounds good. Follow that with ‘Look Out’, ‘Free Fall’, and ‘Shoulder Roll’ (in that order), and I wonder if there is a slope called ‘A & E’. I like the no nonsense of ‘Steep and Flat’ though - tell it like it is.

I’ll share one sloping tale. In Canada the slopes are labelled green, blue, black and double-black (easy to very difficult). I am a lass happiest on a blue, venturing onto single black here and there when I’m feeling brave (or when Darth Vader, my partner in crime in her black helmet, beckons me to follow her. You don’t refuse Darth.)

We were one of the first up and over the mountain on a day when fresh powder glistened. Going up a steep chair lift, and we saw a boarder making his way down directly below us. That looks like fun, said Darth, and that meant we were heading that way.

Well, we started down and for a moment it was all lovely and good. Then it went bloody steep and Darth swiftly dropped below where we were, into the trees. This meant she couldn’t get back up to me and had to make her own scary way down, knowing full well there were signs everywhere that said ‘Mind the Cliff’. Darth is a double-hard boarder, but even she said it was a bit hairy that way. (Darth Speak for F*&king Hell!)

I, meanwhile, was now on my own, and a bit stuck, with nowhere to go but down. So I sat there for a while, contemplating life, just as the chair lift loomed into sight, carrying some blokes. I sensed them looking at me and so looked up, hoping they would share some boarder words of wisdom.

And you know what they gleefully shouted, all three to a man?

‘You’re f*&ked!’

Yeah, thanks for that, guys. I had pretty much realised the f*&ked-ness of my situation without that helpful reminder.

Needless to say I slid, sloped, slithered, shimmied, and flopped my way down – all to an audience sailing above me in safety on the chair lift. But the rest of them were so nice – they cheered and yelled encouragement (one particularly gratifying shout was ‘Woah - you’re going for it!’ when for a short time I managed to actually look like I knew what I was doing).

I was so glad to eventually reach the bottom, and see Darth trudging her way towards me through the trees. ‘Shall we do it again?’ she asked.

Later, when we went back up that way, we saw a sign had now been put at the entrance to the chair lift slope. Do you know what it said?

Board with Extreme Caution

It was the triumph of my holiday!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Exciting Thing!

A picture of me, not hiding behind a snowboard, is finally up and out there in the blogosphere... Eek!

The picture is not (really) the Exciting Thing (more of an Alarming Thing). But it is a by-product of the Exciting Thing, which I can now tell you about!

Some time ago, I was invited to blog for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook website about my experiences as an aspiring author. For those that don’t know, the Yearbook is like the industry bible – full of advice and contact details – and I’ve been buying a copy since I was sixteen. My inaugural post explains how I first came across it – I could have hugged that teacher!

It would be absolutely marvellous if you could leave me a comment over there – I’ll reply to all. Come and say hi!

Here is the link to the post and my pic – yikes!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The ups and downs of short story competitions

I had planned to write about Canada but this has leapfrogged into today’s post instead. I am GUTTED! Last year in October I entered the Asham Award, which is a short story award for unpublished women writers. The theme was ‘ghost or gothic’ and although I felt uninspired for a goodly amount of time, barely a week before the deadline creativity darkly drop-kicked into shape. I came up with a story, and it was sent out into the wilderness (description more apt for theme, I think, rather than sent to Kent.)

In December, around the time I was feeling extra gloomy, I got a letter – a golden ticket sort of letter – saying that my story was through to the shortlist. Cue jubilation in forms of skipping, hugging letter, grinning like a Cheshire cat, and seeing the world through a gorgeous rose tint.

I was very happy. It was only the second short story competition I had entered, so to be already on the shortlist felt like I was on the correct literary path, spotlights and cheerleaders (let’s make them male; let’s make them Colin Firth clones) pointing the way.

We were told the twelve winners would be informed in March, so I tried to cull my obsessive google clicking until then but it was rather hard... (Who is talking about the award? Who else is nominated? Who is the competition? What do they write like? Darn it! Who else is talking about the award? What do they say? Tell me, tell me... click, click, click.)

But now the obsessing can stop, as I’ve checked the Award’s website and the lucky winners have been announced... without me. Oh poop. Cue crash down in depressive slump, desire for biggest wrongest chocolate lunch ever, and seeing the world through grey gloop.

Still, there is a bright side... My story did make it to the shortlist, which is a fab achievement anyway, and something I can put on my writer CV (more of that another time). My story was read by wonderful authors like Sarah Waters (The Little Stranger) and Polly Samson (Out of the Picture), and Lennie Goodings (publisher of Virago) – for ten minutes they read my words – they were mine, all mine! I do now have a rather nice little story, which I can work upon to send elsewhere (as I think I know what can be improved). It was also a great boost to get through Christmas and that dreary time when you think nothing at all is happening in life the way you wish it would.

So all in all, I feel okay. It would have been brilliant to tell you my story had made it, but sharing the downs and disappointments is all part of the publishing journey. Gosh I sound so zen. I am now off to punch pillows.

PS – The line up and story titles for the Asham Award look fab, by the way, so if you are into ghostly gothic fiction do consider buying the anthology when it is released. Either check the Award website or the Virago website later this year for release information.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Back from holiday

Subtitle: I Will Survive

And so she’s back!
From outer Banff!
I just walked in to sunny spring
With a hopeful look upon my face
I should have heard from that competition
I should have won the lottery
But instead I find bills and a second
Work project waiting for me
Go on now go
Walk out the door
Just turn around Jayne
‘cause your holiday’s over now for sure
Weren’t this sorted out before I said goodbye
Instead I’d eaten apple crumble
And blithely told the bills bye bye
Oh no I sigh
I will survive
As long as I have chocolate
I know I will stay alive
I’ve got all my stories to tell
I’ve got ebay and etsy items to sell
And I’ll survive
I will survive

Oh Canada! We had fun, you and I. But all too soon the days fly and here I am once again, staring out of the office window. I’m pleased to report I am in one piece, no broken bones, which is amazing considering I spent ten days sliding down various mountains at speed. It was blummin’ cold though – the lowest temperature was -35 and we were told to check for frostbite. Yikes. I ended up wearing so many layers and kit that I looked like an undersized Stormtrooper.

I have a bit of jet-lag and work has plunged me into the deep end without a paddle, so comments and posts may be a bit sporadic as I try to catch up around the edges. But there will be a few more posts about lovely Canada coming up soon!


Lyrics adapted from Gloria Gaynor's song I Will Survive