On What Is Beautiful To Children

On What Is Beautiful To Children

Your perfume is a scent that evokes a thousand memories though I know, with an almost nostalgic sense of loss, that you don’t wear those notes these days. I will pick up the bottle whenever I see it, bright yellow gold in a bottle marked ‘Sunflowers’ or perfect, ivory cylinders with a crown of doves. A private memory betwixt the shelves of a pharmacy.

Lately I’ve taken to wearing a simple, rose scented water that cost nothing but smells so much like our time together that I can’t help but resist it even when someone tells me that it doesn’t quite suit me. Now I smell like the version of you from my childhood and you smell like Chanel No.5, a more refined version of the woman that made me but that you grew out of.

I sometimes go to buy you a bottle but stop myself because I think that it would make you feel ashamed to wear the perfume that was all you could afford back then, to go back when you have achieved much. As an adult I realise that you don’t see her as I do, you don’t know that to me she was beautiful.

She will always be the warmth of home, the companionship in times of only ‘you and I’. When they were gone and we were alone. Sometimes we were sad and sometimes we played with scarves of happy colours to make happy memories. Her hair and clothing escape me through the years, her figure, our disagreements, the things we did and didn’t do are gone or filed away.

Others know you to be beautiful from the way that you look. Yet I know that you are beautiful from the way that we have changed together. Both women now, friends, and equals in a way that few others can claim when talking of their mother. So much between us has changed that I can’t remember when it happened.

But that perfume takes me home.

The Deal You Made – A Poem. 

The Deal You Made – A Poem. 

Time will not slow down for you the Devil said to me.

He’d watched me well and knew just what to say to cut me deep.

He studied me with patient mirth in the time that he was waiting.

And though I’ve tried to watch my step my ignorance is baiting.

 

He will not wait for scheduled time when fancy comes at whim.

But instead demands a sacrifice of the time I spend without him.

The rush I get to cede to him each time he calls me near,

Is later paid by the suffering of those that I hold dear.

 

But to bid him due completely is not something I can do.

You see the debt is mine and I feel that he has earned his due.

And even if I wanted to say no to him I can’t.

This hold he has on me is near impossible to recant.

 

You see it was so long ago I gave my heart away,

To a love that transcends flesh and bone, and things that cannot stay.

It’s in me now, this lust I have for writing what I see.

More addictive than it seems, with or without it I am never free.

 

And guessing this you ignorantly leave me to my vice.

But if I told the truth I don’t think you’d let me pay the price.

For letting each tale out is like the new fresh bloom of sunburn,

You prod the pain so that you can watch the swell and let yourself learn.

 

It’s in the moment when you scream and think that no one else can hear.

Yet secretly you hope your pain will be witnessed by someone near.

That time you picked a scab you guessed was on the way to scarring.

But it itched at you right up to the point that you had past all caring.

 

Recognising what it does to me is in no way a deterrent.

My devil is within me now that much is quite apparent.

And I will gladly cede to him every second I can spare.

And hope that when I let you down I’m not too far gone to care.

 

Regularly you encourage me to put this pen to paper.

Yet my time away from this or that is what I will pay for later.

You love me so you let me tip these painful pourings out.

I’ll do my best to make it so that you can’t see my doubt.

 

He’s calling now, I have to go, this urge it waits for no one.

But barrels love and boulders lust, and keeps me ’till the job’s done.

Cat-like he stretches and, once done, says languidly to me,

‘The time is now, so say goodbye. Only my love will set you free.

Staring Down the Barrel of the Cliché 

Staring Down the Barrel of the Cliché 

 The following post was co-written with the writer R J Sayer.

I think that one of the first things I was taught as a writer was to avoid clichés. However this is occasionally something that is more easily said than done. I mean, they’re clichés for a reason and though well used they’re also comfortable in their familiarity. Often I will lose whole paragraphs, if not entire pages, in the redraft because they revolved or lent themselves to a cliché. Unfortunately once known the words seem tainted. Because of this I have a wonderful game that I play with a fellow writer, lets call him Bob.

“Hi Bobby!”

Bob and I like to write incredibly cliché stories to get it out of our system. It’s fun, it’s quick, and it highlights some of the less obvious clichés you might not have thought of on your own. For example:

From Bob, To Pip:

I’ve decided that I am actually going to write, on an ad hoc basis, an appallingly formulaic thriller of the ilk we have joked about previously. Want to throw some clichés my way? I already have following:

  1. Academic reluctantly drawn into a shady world of intrigue.
  2. Attractive assistant to the above academic.
  3. Mysterious government forces who seem to play both ends of the game.
  4. The Nazis.
  5. An ages old conspiracy.
  6. Supernatural overtones.

Anything else needed?

From Pip, To Bob:

  1. The assistant can’t be immediately attractive. She’s worked with him for years but he can’t see her beauty because GLASSES! Then one day, BAM!!! Contact lenses = sex kitten.
  2. A wizened old man must warn him about the foreseen perils of his journey.
  3. Religion = fear, distrust, and backward thinking.
  4. It was all a dream.
  5. He should drink copious amounts of Scotch.
  6. He should be a widower.

I know it’s practically Indiana Jones right? He’s gonna get a book deal out of this for sure.

We’ve also designed the book cover which is it’s own special brand of cliché:

The Omega Effect

Because really if there isn’t an explosion what’s the point?

And this really works for any genre!

Fantasy:

  1. Teenager discovers they have magical powers.
  2. Outsider discovers they have magical powers.
  3. The government will dissect you if they find out.
  4. A haunted or evil forest (I am so guilty of using this one in particular).
  5. A rags to riches prophecy.
  6. The chosen one.
  7. An orphan discovers they claim a wealthy lineage.
  8. A dark Lord.
  9. Unlimited magic.
  10. Unrealistic fighting scenes.

Crime:

  1. The lead character is a raging/recovering alcoholic.
  2. The lead character is anti-relationship, romantically or otherwise.
  3. Human trafficking.
  4. The rookie and the old timer.
  5. The character with an inexplicable chip on his shoulder.
  6. Flashbacks…or just waayyyy too many flashbacks.

Speculative/Science Fiction:

  1. Aliens are among us.
  2. All alien species are more advanced than we are.
  3. All alien species are humanoid.
  4. We have fucked up our planet and moved on to others.
  5. Humans are a plague on the galaxy.
  6. A lonely man at the end of the world.
  7. A minority loses their rights.
  8. Zombies…so many zombies right now. Hard to do right.

That last one I write whilst watching The Walking Dead.

I could go on with these lists for a very long time. I enjoy listing them and I also enjoy writing them out. Clichés are the guilty pleasure of the writing world, the ABBA in the CD collection. Sometimes it’s ok. Sometimes we all need some Cage:

Dark Gods

Dustin Hoffman – Stories

Dustin Hoffman – Stories

I came across this for the first time today and it really touched me. I’m sure that some of you have seen it before or even too often but I really love the message.

If like me you’ve had a lot of literary rejection recently then I hope this brings back your love for stories.

Stories? We all spend our lives telling them, about this, about that, about people … But some? Some stories are so good we wish they’d never end. They’re so gripping that we’ll go without sleep just to see a little bit more. Some stories bring us laughter and sometimes they bring us tears … but isn’t that what a great story does? Makes you feel? Stories that are so powerful … they really are with us forever.

Dustin Hoffman
Happy story-telling everyone.

Growing With Rejection – A Poem

Growing With Rejection – A Poem

There is a part of me that cannot hide,

From the rejection that pools inside,

Myself.

 

When the daytime brings a happy peace,

But the night instead tears off a piece,

Of truth?

 

To write it down and bear my soul,

To offer what I fear to show,

But do.

 

And if at once I want it back,

But curiosity turning black,

Stops me.

 

I fear that time might wear me down,

No longer content to play the clown,

Anymore.

 

And the ignorance that waiting brings,

The absence of the mailbox pings,

Is bliss.

 

But when at last the feedback comes,

It’s clumsy in its ups and downs,

Of no.

 

Yet, months ago you would not have seen,

The facets that make up my dream,

And tell.

 

You would not see the part of me,

That longs for immortality,

In words.

 

And strives for literary perfection,

In every potential new rejection,

A hope.

 

So I will stand hear patiently,

For you to look inside of me,

And judge.

Children’s Stories and Kismet

Children’s Stories and Kismet

I have recently discovered that I am friends with a pretty awesome cartoonist, albeit most of her work includes rude caricatures of well-known cartoons which have been cropped for the purposes of this post:

IMG_2272

An all-around creative person (also a musician) this should have come as no surprise to me however, uncovering an unexpected talent in a friend is always a welcome revelation. This first came to light when she sent me the above piece which she found around her house, apparently these are pieces left as notes between her and a previous partner. Upon seeing this I did what any normal person would do; I requested a lot more pictures. Matt Smith as Dr Who does not disappoint:

Dr Who 3

So when watching the Great British C**t Off (The Apprentice) the other night my husband declares loudly ‘If these idiots can write a children’s book then why haven’t you?’. Indeed this is something that he has been nagging me to do for quite some time and it occurred to me that this may be the perfect project for Marisa and I. Upon asking her it turns out that no only had she wanted to do something similar for quite some time, she was also really excited by it:

Speculatively we had planned to collaborate on something else previously, I forget what, so we already have shared folders and even a name for our work; MarisPippa with a logo for a happy potato. The site will be live shortly with news of our projects and progress and we’re hoping to donate at least part of the proceeds to local children’s charities. 

Our first story A Most Peculiar Bird is now written and the artwork pending so hopefully we’ll be sticking it on Amazon before the end of the month. So in the words of my new partner in crime:

NaNoWriMo – A Galloping Word Count – Featured on Writers & Artists

Really excited that the piece I wrote for the Writers & Artists NaNoWriMo project is now live. Original link below:

https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/2015/10/nanowrimo-a-galloping-word-count.

NaNoWriMo. No, that’s not a type of pasta. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and that, my friends, is next month.

NaNoWriMo sets writers the challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November as they work towards a novel or substantial writing project. It’s a forward march at the pace of 1667 words a day, it’s hard work, it’s fast paced, but it works.

Or rather it works if your goal is to end up with 50,000 words. For some writers, those like me, this process kind of goes against my grain. So, in the words of Emperor Kuzco ‘it threw off my groove’. I like to edit as I go, read the previous day’s work and amend that before carrying on, but as a full time worker (I was also doing a degree with the OU in that time), that’s hard achieve with that daily target looming over your head. Now that I’m a mother, I dread to think how much of a mess my house would be if I signed up this year.

‘Where’s the baby?’

‘Oh he’s just over there playing with that pile of dirty washing.’

Somehow I don’t think that’s gonna fly. I love to write but you can only skip so many showers…

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re after a boot up the arse to get yourself in gear, this is definitely for you. I had never written so much as I did in that first participation year. The site also has a great sense of community, with lots of helpful blogs and local support groups. Even so, I would recommend joining with a friend so that you can bolster each other. A little bit of friendly competition never hurt anyone.

For the process itself, I really bought into the daily writing tracker and have used one ever since when I’m working on a larger project – with adjustable targets that account for having a life outside of writing. There are several online platforms that mimic the NaNoWriMo tracker but you can also create your own in Excel. If you would like a copy of mine, feel free to message me.

When you finish it, you feel like a champ. You will swear at your computer like you’re both drunk. Why not take it to the pub to celebrate? After all, that laptop is your buddy now, you’ve been glued to it for a month and it knows you intimately. But after that hangover subsides you need to answer some questions, the first of which is:

Now what?

Let me tell you, what I wrote was a mess. To write this post I opened up the project folder in my Dropbox and quickly hopped back out again. It’s been four years since my first participation year and I am still yet to pick that project back up. Four years is a long time in the life of a writer; I’m a different person now and my style has changed. I wouldn’t say I’d never touch it again but when that time comes, I’ll have to be really brutal.

The second question to ask yourself is:

Do you like what you’ve written?

I didn’t – but that was my fault because I didn’t plan, so I had to stop mid-month and figure out where the plot was going. Because of that, I have a mismatched 50,000 words that are at varying levels of acceptability. You need to really like and know your story to write something this quickly and still love it at the end. Otherwise they end up a bit deformed, and no one wants a half-formed character.

So, if you’re going to take part this year, approach it with an open mind. National Novel Writing Month is not just about writing a novel in a single month. It’s just to get you started – the rest has to come from you. At the end of next month, you need to still have faith in your project and still love your writing, or it will go in a drawer and mock you whenever you see it.

Will I do it again? You bet I will, but not this year because it’s not just about the word count, it’s about the project and the timing has to hit you right. If you are one of the adventurers this year, get your plan together. Plot your story and your characters now so that you don’t have to take time out of the month. Prepare to edit in December.

If you’re taking part I have every faith that you can do it – good luck!