18 April 2011

Baking bread and other arts

Well, well, it feels like yonks since I was here, at my little blog, rambling about writing, living, creating and other nonsense.
And indeed it has been a goodly time. They’ve been odd months: busy, unsettled, flitting from one project to the next without feeling like I’m getting my teeth into any one in particular, with the exception of BloodMining.
So…February I made a tentative start on novel #3, interrupted periodically by minor fiddling with the third draft of novel #2 and considering submitting it. Praise be, I decided against.
March I spent redrafting BloodMining for my editor, Gill, and deluded though I may be it feels like a better book. I’ve yet to hear back from her, so let’s wait and see, eh? During March I was also busy submitting some shorts to exciting places like Ether books, and I even had a go at a piece of flash. To my surprise and delight ABCtales editor Tony selected it as a story of the day. God love ‘im.
April began with a strong desire to get back to novel #3 and I’ve managed to squeeze out another chapter. However, novel #2 – once again unnamed having decided that my second title was as rubbish as my first – has pulled me back big time. A character from novel #3 – one whose company I’m enjoying tremendously but don’t yet know intimately – likes to bake, especially bread. She enjoys kneading and pulling and stretching a stodgy, indigestible lump of dough and turning it into something delicious and satisfying. I feel that this is what novel #2 needs. The raw ingredients are there; I need to bash it around some more and bake it in a pre-heated oven for just the right amount of time. So novel #3 is on the back burner again (ouch). Also, it’s holiday time and almost all of my time is absorbed with the kids. When I begin something, like this, I’m interrupted constantly and frustrating though this can be I’m very aware that I ignore the little blighters more than I should, so I’m considering not even trying to write any fiction this week and giving myself over to the Gingers. Perhaps they deserve it.

31 January 2011

diversion at the dentist: stone #28

A fountain of water before my eyes, only partly obscured by latex clad fingers. I glance up to see a glassy eye looking down on me. Large, green, focused. I feel miniscule, a helpless object awaiting dissection. I close my eyes and the noise of the drill engulfs me.

29 January 2011

stone #27

Floating backwards and forwards on the playground swing, my stomach churns. Before this queasy, motion-sick woman arrived was a girl who twirled and whirled and somersaulted her way into adulthood.

stone #26

My son and I are collage-image seeking. Scouring the pages of National Geographic I happen upon a place so magnificent I stop breathing for a moment: the Kansas Prairie. I am reminded of the wonder of this world, and realising I will never see it all I experience a sensation akin to loss. 

28 January 2011

stone #25

The air bites at my cheeks, whistles round my ears, brings tears to my eyes. I don't care; the sun shines. Grass is rendered a blinding green, my shadow sharp as I follow it home. 

27 January 2011

insomnia in suburbia: stone #24

Lying awake in the dead hours I feel like the last person on earth. Husband away, no rise and fall of shallow breathing beside me. I move to the window and pull the curtain aside. The street is empty; not a cat or a fox to watch. All is quiet. No drone of engines, sirens and helicopters. No all night party beats. No drunken staggering, no cans rattling along the pavement. The city was never like this.

25 January 2011

stone #23

behind the grey shroud lies another world
a splintered sky, a sliver of topaz
pushing its way through

stone #22

Eight years old: split lip, warts, lice, red eyes. You can't read; you find it difficult to make friends. Best years of your life? Let's hope not.

23 January 2011

silver screen: stone #21

rustling and anticipation fills the air
adverts over, ice cream vanished, the curtains close and open
we submit to another world

stone #20

A tang of chemical air, ripples of slippery flesh, splashes of laughter and zest in the atmosphere. A summer world inside a concrete box.

boy sounds:stone #19

Noises the boys make as they play warm me in a place so deep it's easy to forget its there. Words are few, but there's a universe of emotion in those whooshes, peryawwws, neeooows, kerwhizzes, and chchchchchs.

21 January 2011

stone #18

Cold seeps like ink into blotting paper (remember that?). It steals away toe tips and fingers' ends, pilfering sensation, depositing a sting residue. Radiator metal heat pulses against spine bones, unable to spread like molten lava, a hot core only.

thank you ABCtales (again)

Another short of mine has been chosen as the ABCtales Story of the Week. A joint honour this time, but having read the other story, I'm humbled. Editor Tony Cook says, 'it's sexy, witty and wise.' If you're an ABCtales member you can read it here: http://www.abctales.com/story/lwilkinson/buried
If not, you could join this dynamic community, or read it here on the stories page (there'll be more to follow...)

20 January 2011

more like a boulder: stone #17

Today’s stone is so large that it’s more accurate to call it a boulder. Apologies for breaking the rules…

I don’t write crime and have never had any desire to do so. Until now. Maybe.
I’ve been thinking about the strange encounters police officers experience in their day-to-day working lives. I’m not talking about the big stuff – murder, robberies, assault – but the little things.
Why? At 6.30am I awoke to the sound of GingerTwo calling me. It is unusual for him to wake up at such an ungodly hour, and it is doubtful I would have arisen with quite so much haste had I not thought I heard a single tap at the front door. Dazed and bleary-eyed, I stumbled downstairs, clutching GingerTwo’s sticky hand, wondering if I’d imagined it.
As we crossed the hall, it came again: a distinct rapping at the door. I peered through the window at the bottom of the stairs. Two police officers, one male, one female, shuffled on the doorstep. Without a second thought I flung open the door. A look of horrified bemusement washed over the young (yes, yes, I know…) man’s features; I was in a t-shirt and knickers. He spoke. But, realising the sight I presented, I did not hear the words and replied, ‘I’m half naked,’ before turning to climb the stairs in an attempt to retrieve another item of clothing.
As I went he said, ‘Are you *****’s mother?’ Perhaps he thought I looked too young to have a teenage child? Okay, okay, this is nonsense, but it was worth a try… When I replied that I was not, that ***** lived at number *, they both bumbled profuse apologies, and made their way to the correct house.
So all day I’ve been pondering. Like doctors, police officers encounter people at their most raw, sometime most guileless. They see us without our clothes on, both literally (in my case) and metaphorically. No wonder so many authors write about them.
The young person in question is perfectly safe, had come to no harm. I wish the same could be said for the young copper. I doubt his eyes stopped smarting all day.

19 January 2011

stone #16

Peering through a window drenched in condensation we sit under a fat moon. Dressed in circles of blue-green, red and yellow, like slick on oil, a fading rainbow, she presides over the deepening sky. Full moon, full moon! the wereboys howl, enchanted by her spell.

stone #15

against a welcome sun sky
the roofs look redder than
I have ever seen them before
like lego

17 January 2011

tax confetti: stone #14

The big man and I are grappling with end of year accounts. Like newly weds on church steps we are surrounded by scraps of paper. Neither of us is particularly numeric, nor are we keen on this dreary, if important, task. There is something very wrong; the figures are ridiculous. We catch each others' eye and grimace. He is a little boy again, confused but amused. We've been caught out being silly, slow. I write 'must try harder' on a piece of tax confetti and we fold together, laughing.

heavy: stone #13

Bound by fear, face down on the bed, the duvet oppressive despite its weightlessness. I am crushed; aware of my knees, elbows and chin pressing down. Indentations on the mattress. I will push the fear away; I am strong, heavy, existent. See the marks I make.

16 January 2011

stone #12

A horse wrapped in a duvet, belt buckled tight at the neck, watches the small dog jumping and yapping. A city dog that has never met a horse before. A sea-green coated creature with hot breath held up by stick legs in shoes.

dreaming

There's a chance I might have to rename BloodMining, so I've been playing on Wordle again.

15 January 2011

oh dearie me

Target: a month without alcohol
Time: January
Progress: poor

On Thursday evening I fell off the wagon. More like pole vaulted off it. A colleague had a do. I'd like to be able to say that everyone was drinking, but I can't. There were a number of drivers in the party; I wasn't one of them. I ordered a small (how restrained of me) glass of Shiraz. It looked small enough in the pint pot cunningly disguised as a wine glass, though I'm hazarding a guess that it was at least 175ml, maybe even 250ml. Nevertheless, it appeared so small in situ that I'd guzzled it before the starter arrived. Then I ordered another. I fear I'd have had a third except that being a school night the evening drew to an early close. Having capitulated, last night I went hell for leather and drank half a bottle of Merlot; I feel a bit ropey today. And very ashamed. I'm so much more productive and creative when I'm not drinking, you see, and while I'm busy on draft three of novel #2 - now renamed Parade - I am dying to begin on novel #3 too. Some say write about what you know... Should I bring my experience of my relationship with alcohol into the next book? Personally, I prefer to write about what I don't know. So perhaps my protagonist will be a teetotaller, whose idea of a good time is a mug of darjeeling and a copy of Jane's Book of Fighting Ships... 

11 January 2011

Nervy: stone #11

Synapses: beautiful, like an open palm, like an exploding firework, a shooting star, coral in the reef, an alien insect. Messengers in the machine that is the body.

10 January 2011

Dress dilemma and a lovely lunch

Had a good meeting with members of the Bridge House team in Bangor today. They were professional, friendly and enthusiastic, and they treated me to lunch, which was definitely an unexpected treat. Recently, I’ve read Jane Wenham-Jones’s excellent and humorous wanna be a writer we’ve heard of, and she recommends that new writers take their publisher to lunch to ensure loving attention to their book. This works at large houses where your publicist may have ten or twelve books to look after at any one time… but I’m BHP’s first novel, and it seems that they’re going to work very hard on it.
Anyway, I was more nervous than I expected to be and had a minor what-the-hell-will-I-wear paddy. Writers are meant to be exotic, eccentric creatures, aren’t they? And the truth is I’m neither. At a writerly event last year the room was swarming with birds of paradise floating around in plum and turquoise velvets, flowing capes and oversized, feathered hats, silver-tipped canes (honest), and statement accessories. I looked like an estate agent who’d stumbled into the wrong party. In the end I went with tried and tested just be yourself and donned my usual get-up of jeans and smart(ish) top, finishing off with my fake fur yeti coat. No one laughed when I walked in, and I was comfortable. So all’s well.
Timelines for editorial, design and marketing were agreed, and I was delighted to discover that I’ll have some say in the look and feel of the cover. Hurrah! Another benefit of a small house. I have friends published by biggies who loathed and despised their covers, back cover blurbs, straplines etc. And I might too, but I’ll only have myself to blame…

Misunderstood: stone #10

My boy bursts through the door, breathless, cheeks stung pink from running in the crisp air, dark eyes wild. In the mornings he walks to school, slowly, but he always runs home.  And I ask how his day was, as I always do, and he says, ‘Fine, fine,’ as he always does; the conversation closed. And I wonder, not for the first time, not for the hundredth time, how hard it must be to spend six hours in a place where you are misunderstood, underrated  and miserable. Later, we will talk. Now, we cuddle.

09 January 2011

happy men and sheep - two stones

No laptop yesterday, so two stones today:

stone #8
The trolley dolly on the train - a rough-cheeked fellow in a blue uniform straining across his belly - fights January malaise. The squeak of tired wheels, a bitter draught, and a cry, 'Ice creams!' Silence. 'Coffee! Water hand-filtered from the granite rock of the Pennines!' The blue air carries no reply. He pushes on. Squeak, squeak. ‘Ice cream! Vipers’ noses, sea snakes’ venom…’ His happiness as robust as the travellers’ torpor.

stone #9
Sheep are jumping in the field. Sheep, not lambs. It is only January. I have never seen this before, or noticed. Sheep are dull, empty-headed creatures, or so I thought. I have been tricked; there is more behind those stone eyes. Mischief, unbridled joy.

07 January 2011

stone #7

Snow has fallen once more. I watch the birds in my mother's garden in Wales, and I am reminded of school children in a playground. The majority: chaffinch in their blush uniform, hopping and pecking on the white lawn. A lone wagtail hovers beneath a shrub, sheltering from the crowd, the unpopular kid with bad clothes and an unfortunate tick. Starlings, the bullies, muscle their way through the throng. A wood pigeon perches on the wall, like the lunchtime supervisor, keeping a watchful eye.
Of course, the birds are scavenging for scraps in the frozen landscape; the price of a picture postcard snow scene: starvation.

05 January 2011

stone #5

biting wind sweeps the lonely park,
sitting above the drone of the leaf hoover
birdsong enchants a child

04 January 2011

not a resolution, but...

I'm giving up alcohol for the month. Totally. Honest. I have tried this once before and I got to January 28th - not bad, eh? As last time, I am finding that as my alcohol consumption falls my chocolate consumption, which is already shockingly high, rises. So I am faced with a health dilemma: stronger liver versus rotten teeth and spots. And no one sees your liver... Wish me luck; looks like I might need it. 

stone #4

sticky farts, sweet flesh tang
of the room with doctors on the wall
beneath a cotton mound
apricot curls and shiny cheeks emerge
blinking

03 January 2011

Stone #3

small child yelling bored! bored! bored!
boring a hole in my head
the sea beckons

Funny old life

Over Christmas a relative asked me the road to publication question, followed by the ‘what’s it about’ one. I realised how little practised I am in both, and thought I need to get some practice in. To the second I managed to bumble it’s about a woman who discovers that she’s not who she thinks she is when her son is diagnosed with a hereditary condition. To save his life she must unearth family history and secrets. I finished with a regrettable; it’s a kind of identity quest story. I think it’s better summed up thus: A former foreign correspondent must uncover the truth about her origins. Her son’s life depends on it. The first question was much easier to answer, if considerably more long-winded, and the answer is, I think, a great example of how life can take the most unexpected turns.
It's almost two years ago to the day that I printed out the first draft of my novel, BloodMining. It took twelve months to write; snatched hours in between working full- time and looking after my two little lads, GingerOne and GingerTwo. Although it was ropey I felt I'd achieved something. Like so many people I’d harboured an ambition to write a novel for years. I wasn't sure I could do it. I'd written non-fiction for much of my adult life, but fiction is SO much harder. But after penning a handful of short stories with minor success (they seemed manageable with a new born baby - GingerTwo – JK Rowling I'm not) I thought the time had come.
The first draft took twelve months, but it was a complete novel. I spent a further eight months redrafting and editing until it was in a state that I was, if not exactly proud of, not desperately ashamed of. I joined a writers' group and showed chapters to 'proper' authors: people who had masters’ degrees in creative writing and even had books of their own published. They were encouraging, and so I entered a debut novel competition. To my surprise I was long-listed. I wrote another draft and sent the first 10,000 words and synopsis to Roz Hart at Real Writers. Her comments blew my socks off. Once I’d finished basking in her praise (thank you, Roz, it meant the world to me, still does) I addressed the concerns she’d raised, those that resonated. When I set off on the journey I did not write with publication in mind, but I started to think maybe, just maybe...
So I wrote to half a dozen agents. Most said no immediately, but two were encouraging and asked to see the entire Ms. Whey-hey! In the end they both declined to represent me, but offered enough kind words to make me think it’d be worth battling on. In the meanwhile I entered two other competitions and this time I was short-listed in both. I wrote to another three agents and a handful of independent publishers. Although the odds are stacked against (independents publish, on average, just six novels a year) independents are more likely to take on unusual or first time novelists. Again, two came back asking to see the entire Ms. And again, both said that although they admired the book they didn’t love it enough to spend a not-inconsiderable sum of money and months of hard labour on it. I heard back from one competition: I had not won.
Pessimism set in. I re-read the book and was dismayed to find all sorts of things I hated about it. Some easily fixable, others more difficult to nail. It’s flawed, complete rubbish, I said. And by now I had almost completed the first draft of novel #2 and was having a whale of a time with it. Putting BloodMining in a virtual back cupboard, and consoling myself with the knowledge that few writers get their first book published, and how much I learnt along the way, I forgot all about it (almost).
Then one morning in October I received a call from the lovely Debz Hobbs-Wyatt at Bridge House. I’d won their debut novel competition! They wanted to publish the book! I was at work, in the staff-room, I had to sit down. For days I wandered round in a state of shock. I told few people; I didn’t believe it was real; I expected the ‘Gosh, I’m so, so sorry - we misread the winner’s name, it was Laura Wilson that won, not you,’ call. It never came and slowly, I came round to the idea that it was really going to happen.
Contracts have been exchanged, a designer has been appointed, marketing strategies are in discussion, I’m due to meet my editor, Gill James, this week, and I still can’t believe my good fortune. Thank you Bridge House for taking a chance on me.
If there’s a lesson here I guess it’s to take the work (as opposed to yourself) seriously, be critical, take criticism from those in the know, learn from it, be persistent and, possibly most importantly, keep writing.
I’m looking forward to another draft of BloodMining, and once that’s done doing the same for novel #2 and getting started on novel #3. I have lots of ideas, lots of background reading to do, and I’m excited about writing it. What more could I ask for?

02 January 2011

Two for one

Oops, though I wrote my small stone yesterday, I forgot to upload it (yes, it was a good new year's eve). So here are two:

sinking into mashed potato
comforting tired bones

iridescent sky
sunlight bouncing off car bonnets
ignites such joy

And for every stone I'll be putting up pictures of some of my favourites things... which may, or may not, have anything at all to do with the stone