Idioms! Huh! What are they good for?

23 10 2015

sorry about the title. Got an 80s song in my head. 

Idioms. Common sayings we pepper our conversations with without even thinking about. Some are similes, some metaphors, some confused (or not) with slang and some just damned odd created in a mad moment in the history of cultural references. 

I knew a teacher some while ago who was frequently saying “that’s the badger!” Rather than that’s the one. 

However, to the point. A quick blog as I pull into the station to share my favourite saying I was reminded by when a lady came out of the tilting toilet cubicle saying there was no paper left. I saw the same thing in a bar many years ago when the lady just said back to her complaining friend, ” yeah, mine neither. I just had to shake the lettuce” 

Need I say more?





The Empty Cellar

21 10 2015

My ideas are generated in the cellar. Each room a generator of a different idea, a different view. A story viewed from one room can look completely different if I take a look from the creative sitting locked in the cellar cell next door. A stalled story arc can be resurrected or rechanneled by seeing the whole at 90•. 
Travelling has left my cellar rooms empty. Clean sheets, fresh clothes, pleasantly scented. But empty. Now is the time to think about the minds, the creatives I want to put in each one. Do I want a boho free spirit, a constrained and uptight bookworm, a journo with tight style and logical bent? Or go for random. Try a few and keep what I like the feel of and to the furnace with the dross? Time will tell what minds will work on the next Penny B mystery but she will return from the cellar (of my mind?)
Image care of Stuart miles and free digital images. Net





A Jobbing Writer

11 08 2014

“You’re so lucky you don’t have a real job!”

“You just swan around all day”

“What do you know about work/life balance?”

The questions a professional writer faces every day from the public who don’t get what writing really is. As a fiction writer you could argue that there are clear deadlines, pressures to complete, pressure to compete as well. But why bother? I often do swan about. I do often put life above work. I don’t have a real job!

I don’t have a real job. I have a passion. I swan around and think and observe and create. One man’s swan is another’s royal meal.

Life is work, work is life. A truism of anyone who has to understand life to be able to work effectively.

There was a time when I was a salaryman but I was lucky enough to find a way out of the trap. Now I don’t have to work but I want to!

…. and I probably put in more hours than most 9-5 office workers!





The short story – cut to the bone

13 07 2014

I love a good short story. I dabble with them but never overly seriously, never competitively. I see them as an excellent way to practise the art of writing small. If you want a novel to read well you should write it as a short story is, one with a word limit. Cut every extraneous word, slice them to the bone. Flowery prose is fine if intentional but lazy writing is just that.

sometimes you have to slice the fruit as well as the meat?!

sometimes you have to slice the fruit as well as the meat?!

My blogs are quite flowery. I don’t slice them as thinly as I do my fiction, don’t spend the hours honing. It’s nice occasionally just to write, cast a single eye over it for obvious errors, then release to the four winds. Typos happen, using which instead of that, practise instead of practice (US readers won’t understand this one), me and I and has and have etc etc etc

But the short story takes a bloody great chainsaw to that. This blog would probably be summed up as “His short stories are better” but that doesn’t give the meat, the fat, the gristle, the wart on the chin with hairs coming out.

I was never into short story competitions but see them cropping up more and more. Read about the HG Wells Festival in Folkestone the other day (https://twitter.com/HGWellsfestival) . Not my geographical patch but the name caught my eye as it would any writer. I don’t think I’ll enter but I have suggested to a few of my mentees they consider it. Interrupt their novel writing and have a crack at something different. “Perhaps write a story whilst populating the head of one of your characters”, I said.

What kind of short story would Robert Langham, Harry Potter or even Han Solo write? Symbols, wands and blasters.





Not so floppy!

22 06 2014

not so floppy!

not so floppy!

I was on one of my clear-outs of the Drawer of Ideas yesterday evening and found some history. Ancient history to anyone under 20. Floppy discs. Not the big 7.5 inch ones but the little hard plastic rectangles with the metal slider protecting the circle of black floppiness. Old news.

Well actually not! Old stories yes but not old news. Old ideas – but when I rooted through them (having found a converter from Lotus Notes to a more usable word processor) I was surprised to see elements of a number of my current books sitting hidden in stories I wrote 10 or even 20 years ago. These were my backups from the birth of the computer age where a book had to be split into sections, chapters even, and saved across multiple discs. And then saved on multiple more, stored in a different room or sent to relatives for storage against the inevitable fire.

However, fire wasn’t the biggest risk. There was a more dangerous enemy to the floppy disc lurking in every house, hidden in plain view and ready to pounce and delete the data of the unwary. I speak of the evil magnet. Created by Gallileo from Satan’s foreskin and scattered across the world with two aims. First, to stop boats interrupting beach picnics by crashing into land unexpectedly. Second, and more importantly, to delete your data.

Carelessly leaving your floppies on a stereo speaker or too near a telephone and you would return to find nothing, nada, zip. Magnets were the bane of existence. But if you wanted to listen to Wham whilst tapping away at your BBCB or Amstrad then magnets were another necessity of life.

I’m not so floppy now. On line cloud storage in both Dropbox and Google Drive. Double bubble, double safe. And free (for now).





Using a photo of your hero/ine

18 06 2014
my hero?

my hero?

How do you picture your hero? Your leading lady? That person you are spending every spare waking hour thinking about and trying to get inside their heads – what do they look like?

Most first time writers find their characters too close to either themselves or to a friend, ex-colleague. Then they have to go through and add a false moustache, dodgy accent or side parting. However, is there an easier way for us to disassociate with your characters whilst also having a focus for the thoughts and feelings you are endowing them with.

I use photos and portraits. Some might argue it’s a bit of a cheat but I argue back. How is it so different to illustrating a character for a cover of a book? It is still from imagination since all I have is a face, hair, sometimes not even a body. But with a picture I have a base to build their dreams upon.

But whose to use? I have a red folder full of faces. Some cut from magazines, some from the internet, some blown up from backdrops in holiday shots. All filed away in order of hair colour initially, then within hair colour are grouped people with the same shape of face, down to nose categories. I built my folder with a hundred men and a hundred women some five years ago so even if any had backstories I had glanced at in the magazine of choice I have no recollection of the facts. They are just fodder now. Nameless faces I build my books upon. Ghosts.

How do I picture my heroines, my leading men, by bit characters and murderers. I look them up in the directory and give them their names. Then they build their biographies as their stories come to life.

Hopefully some of their fictional lives make up for hard times in the real world.





Rubix

13 06 2014

I was given a Rubix cube at a book launch the other night. Each side was coloured complemented by text, each side giving a teaser about a certain aspect of the plot or about one of the character’s back-stories. I loved it and it got me thinking about these 30-year old toys.

They are very like a writer’s mind at the start of a story. So many different aspects of a tale whirling around. A dervish of character and plot and scene. But then you get some clarity. A block of colour appears on one side. Your hero is formed. Some of the side colours adjacent to the block still need moving around to match other sides, but the hero’s heart, his voice has become clear.

Then another side, or perhaps the middle layer. You have a tale. You have it in your mind. Clear. Nearly focused but still some work to go and this is where it gets a bit trickier. All the side stories have to come together. The edges rotated. To give the whole. The plan, the future. Where you are aiming.

I took that cube home from Mayfair and played with it. I got a side quite quickly. The basic idea. Then I stalled.

So I cheated. It’s what I do in so many things.

For this cheat, Mr Google came to my rescue. I used his mind to creatively solve the rest of the puzzle and now it sits on my desk as a reminder. I didn’t finish it you see. Two corners still need to be rotated to give six sided symmetry. I know the pattern of moves to fix these flaws but I like them. They’re a reminder. They remind me that no matter how far along a story you are as a writer there is always something ready to jump out of a character or a scene to make you need to stop and reassess. Stop and think. Your job is never finished.

I have the cube, I see the teasers on each side. Can’t be bothered to read the recently launched book though!

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On the corner of Worship St

9 06 2014

I tweeted the other day (@hhcoventry) about the title of a story which came to me whilst walking through Shoreditch in London. It whirled around in my head with various ideas slotting into place. Some I discarded as derivative e.g. where we first met, where she died, where I was born. Some I discarded because they were just a bit shit.

I am a chick-lit writer. It’s in my soul. But there has to be more. My drawer of ideas fills up regularly and so perhaps it is time to consider other genres, other foci and then do a bit more than just consider them. Chick-lit isn’t dying but tastes change and readers are looking for something different.

Chick-lit will continue to be the bread and butter of my life but why not try a different flavour of jam. Suspense, thriller, psychological nightmare horror. All are in the mix but for Worship St I am thinking about a heist.

I do detectives in my chick-lit novels. Chick-lit-dicks as I have called them before. But now it is time to jump to the other side of the fence and stay within the law when solving a mystery. I see a police detective – a woman of course, it’s what I know – with a snitch who hears something about Worship Street in the wind. A half heard conversation. A hard nut vanishes for weeks only to be seen in Shoreditch. Why Worship St? Just a quiet backwater or a cut-through for a security van when the high st is closed for repairs?

I like the idea of fitting a story to a title. That’s why so many competitions do the same in the writing world.

Now I need to decide which one of my creative minds I will task to bring DI Sheila Cooper to life. Make her breathe. Make her strong. Make her love. Make her real!





Let’s play “spot the writer”

30 05 2014

I was on a train the other day. Commuters, students, travellers. All crammed together. Sweating. Swearing internally. Feeling their lives being stolen away by the thief who never stops ticking away.
I was on a train in a seat so I was a bit better off that some of the others. In a seat with a window so even more fortunate in that, even if I had so desired, I couldn’t have got up to offer my seat to anyone with greater need. The moral question of when you should make that offer is one to be pursued another day.

The lady squeezed besides me was a wriggler. A squirmer. A jiggly itch I felt myself wanting not just to scratch but get a wire brush onto. However my view changed when I glanced at her tablet.
Her wriggles had been caused by typing, pausing, silent muttering and shrugging, deleting and typing again. She was a writer!

It wasn’t a boring presentation for some dull bank or insurance company and it wasn’t a glossy PR campaign. It was a book. Chick-lit from what I could make out in peripheral vision through the privacy block of a modern front-facing screen. Chick-lit – just my bag! If the train had been less busy I would have introduced myself and we’d have been more than collaborating before you could say “Next stop Clapham Junction”

However, it was busy and she was obviously at a difficult connecting juncture of getting her heroine linked up with the love interest.

I have written on a train, many times. Busier than this as well when on a long one via Cairo. How many are there I wondered? As I stood to edge past bags and feet and pools of melted pensioner I looked around. How many busy fingers were creating their own world? How many closed eyes hid characterisations, storylines and synopsis?

I found myself composing a battle cry. If my struggle to reach the exit had not been so onerous then those morning commuters would have seen an occasionally familiar face shouting, “Get writing my little beauties! Get writing and your next stop will be success!”

Next time!





These are a few of my favourite things

25 05 2014

No. Not “The Sound of Music” film or soundtrack.

In my recent time away from t’interweb (see WordPress blog of 16/09/13) I thought about my reliance on technology, on things, possessions, services and asked the oft-mooted question. Are we really only three meals away from anarchy?

Setting that thought aside for another day I settled my thinking on what things I like. Not “needed”, not “essential”. Just things I like.

My computer? No, just a tool.

But my pen? I do like my pen. It isn’t valuable in a monetary sense but I’ve had it a long time. I won it in a writing competition aged 16. I wasn’t first, not even second but I still got something in exchange for a piece of my mind jotted down and appreciated by someone else. Even now I think about that every time I pick it up – carefully – because the lid no longer clicks shut fully and the ink does occasionally ooze. As I said, not monetarily valuable!

My chair is also a winner in the liking contest. A Captain’s Chair on a swivel. Slightly frayed and the odd hole now in the leather – it just suits me!

As blogs go, this won’t hold much interest for many of you but if you have persevered to the end and before you move on please ask yourself the same question…

What do you actually LIKE in your life?