thewritersbarn

Writing because words are the essence of my life.

Finley Selfie


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Puppy Tales by Finley aged 9 weeks and 2 days

My day so far ….

4.45 am. Rescue Dad’s watch from bedside table and chew it.

4.50 am. Wake Mum (owl ears) up and have it forcibly extracted from gob.

4.52 am. Plonked into garden for a wee

4.55 am. Cry because Mum doesn’t want to play (MEANIE!) and goes back onto her big basket WITHOUT inviting me

5.00 am. approx. Have a poo. Make the bungalow smell of warm pasties

5.01 am. Puppy happy hour (actually extended today)! Tear around like a loony! Yay!

6.15 am. Alarm goes off. Hear Mum n Dad uttering a collective groan.

6.27 am. Dad reluctantly gets out of bed. I chase him into the kitchen, eating his toes the whole way.

6.28 am Dad puts some food down for me.

6.29 am. I decide I prefer Dad’s toes.

6.30 am. Dad extricates himself from me and shuts me out of the bathroom. I cry.

6.31 am. Mum calls ‘Finley?’ and I dash over to her. I have learned my name. Everyone – except Satin and Betsy – is very impressed.

6.32 am. Mum hoists me onto the bed and I proceed to tear her hands to ribbons in spite of the chewie things she keeps offering me.

6.34 am. Dad brings tea and I try to have some. It’s hot. I decide not to bother.

6.35 am. I take it in turns to annoy Mum/Dad/Satin. I give Betsy a wide berth. She’s hormonal or something and hates my guts.

6.52 am. Satin farts. I’ve never heard a fart before. I inspect Satin carefully. Did someone let the air out of her? Is she going flat? Mum and Dad laugh and say she’s an old lady. I make careful notes.

7.00 am. News is on. I try to eat my Mum’s Kindle. She’s not happy. Dad gets up. I’m sad.

7.01 am. I fall asleep.

7.05 am. Mum has to get up because Betsy wants a wee now. I follow Betsy out. She drinks out of the water bowl outside. I watch her. I copy her. We drink together. Mum gets misty eyed. Silly moo. I wuvs big Betsy I do. Shame she hates me.

7.25 am. Dad goes out with the big dogs. I cry because I want to go. Mum goes in the shower. I cry because I want to get in with her.

7.26 am. I cry because I’m in the hall and I can’t find my Mum even though she’s still in the same place as she was one minute ago.

7.32 am. Mum turns the shower off and I finally hear her and come running. Exhilaration. She still loves me.

7.33 am. I try to eat Mum’s wet hair. She’s not amused.

7.35 am. I try and eat mum’s shorts while she’s putting them on. She’s not amused.

7.38 am. Mum walks to the kitchen and I bite her toes all the way. She’s not amused.

7.40 am. I demand food. She puts food in my bowl. I eat as though I’ve never been fed before.

7.40 am and 30 seconds. I lie on the kitchen floor and watch my Mum make a pot of tea/her lunch/her breakfast/sort out the worktop/throw things away/start washing up

8.10 am Mum burns her toast. It’s an interesting smell. She makes more toast.

8. 17 am. Mum puts mats in the washing machine that I’ve decorated in my own inimitable way. I like the washing machine. I sit and watch.

8.22 am. Mum sits down with her breakfast. I run around, empty a bin or two and then sit with her.

8.28 am. Betsy and Satin come home and get some toast. Hmmm. I make notes.

8.32 am. Mum ignores me. I watch her ignoring me for a while. Then I hear Dad making breakfast for himself so I go and repeat steps 7.40 am to 8.10 am.

8.50 am. Mum gets changed as she’s off to the shop. I try to hinder progress by holding on to her leggings as she puts them on. She’s not amused.

9.02 am. Mum is running late. I keep running through the door every time Mum tries to go. Mum asks Dad to hold onto me. He does for half a nanosecond and then I get free again. Mum’s very not amused with my Dad this time.

9.05 am. Mum leaves. I’m sad. Dad’s here though. I settle down for a nap.

11.00 am. Dad phones Mum in the shop for ‘instruction’. Apparently I have been napping since she left and been as good as gold. I bite Dad. He hangs up.

The day is going well so far….

For more updates check out my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/thewritersapprentice/🙂 and I hope you like my selfie. I took it meself … no really I did!

 

P


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P is for pegs, porridge, pants …and puppies

I can’t deny that having a puppy is a joyous, wondrous thing. Although my heart is heavy and my eyes prickle with tears often as I walk the fine line between grief and a new love in my life, I am blown away by The Writer’s Apprentice. I laugh aloud often. He is such a fabulous character. And a total liability!

He’s 9 weeks tomorrow, so I do expect the toileting mishaps and I don’t mind them at all. He’ll get there and I already think he’s pretty good. I am trying to teach him ‘sit’, but only every now and again. I’m not sure he even knows his name yet, so first things first.

Oh yes. We decided to call him Finley. We tried out Georgie (as his Dad was called ‘Best’ and Georgie Best seemed fun) but it didn’t fit him. We also tried Sydney, and Chilli, but again, no joy. Finley came to us because we sell a limited edition Suki Silver Tag Teddy Bear in the shop called Finley and they look alike. Like peas in a pod. Kind of. Except one is a teddy bear and one is a real dog… I know. Ha! So Finley it is and it’s perfect. Fin for short. Not that he’ll be short, far from it.

Puppies … how quickly we forget the trials and tribulations. The chasing around after them, tripping over them, the comical angle of the head, the sudden nerves and lack of confidence after blissful boisterousness! Not forgetting the tendency to go from 100 mph super zoomies to complete snoring exhaustive obliviousness in less time than it takes to check the spelling of boisterousness.

Tassels. What is it with puppies and tassels? I never knew I actually had quite so many clothes with tassels on them. At the moment I don’t have a wardrobe, because we live in a rented house that doesn’t have built in wardrobes, and as it’s only a temporary shelter, we haven’t bought any. My clothes are on a clothes rail. The puppy has selected several items that he thinks require pulling and chomping on. These have tassels. I have also just caught him chewing on the poncho thingie I wear when it’s cold and I’m writing. This has tassels. Of course it does. I channel my inner hippie well. I need to take a long hard look at my life.

Porridge. Porridge is to puppies, what heroin is to people. You apply porridge to a crazed four legged fluffy creature, sit back, and watch their docility increase exponentially. In Finley’s case this morning, he ate all his porridge, plus Betsy’s. The result? A happy napping puppy till midday. Betsy ate Satin’s porridge. Satin – ever hard done to – had to settle for some goat’s milk. Now the effects of porridge have worn off, Finley is awake, and chewing on … you’ve guessed it – tassels.

My laundry. I managed to get some washing done. This was a feat in itself. Finley kept running off with pants. Initially he wanted a bed sheet but this was too big for him, so he settled first for my pants and then for John’s. I had to keep going after him to fetch them back, only to return to the machine to find him scampering off with something new.

Once the washing was completed I went outside to hang it on the rotary spinner. Finley was introduced to the peg basket. Oh joy of joys – I remembered ‘the peg adventure’ with Herbie and Betsy. Plenty of my pegs are half gnawed. I shooed him away and started to hang the washing on the line. Herbie used to stand beside me while I did this and daydream about whatever it is dogs daydream about, always to my left, waiting for me to stroke his head, and ask “Alright, babe?” Finley didn’t have the inclination for daydreaming today though. He tugged at the sheet again which I was haplessly trying to attach to the line, and realising he wasn’t going to win, he skipped away. Once I’d finished what I was doing, I turned to see him lying contentedly in the grass with a purple peg between his paws, having a good old chew. I took it off him and he leapt away in delight, landing on a startled Satin, who was indolently sunbathing and minding her own business.

I had to giggle, but I did sympathise. Both Satin and I were a little hang dog when we went back into the house, worn out. Not Finley though. Oh no. He’s having a whale of a time.

Pup3


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The Writer’s Apprentice

It was never a matter of if, and always a case of when, and so this weekend, my husband and I did a 530-mile round trip in 24 hours to collect a little bundle of fluff. We ummed and ahhed quite a lot. Was it too soon? Yes. Was he too far away? Definitely. Was I trying to find Herbie? Maybe. Was he the right dog? Who knows! But there he was, sticking his tongue out at me via the wonders of the Tinterweb, and I just knew he was the one. What if I let him pass and never found the right pup? I’m terrible for worrying about such things, and so insurmountable barriers had to be surmounted, and that’s what we did.

It’s a bizarre thing to be grieving for your BFFF (see previous post) and yet to be cradling this tiny ball of wonder. He is a salve to my crushed heart, Aloe Vera for my burning soul. But that’s not to say the pain of Herbie’s loss has faded, because it really, really hasn’t. This morning I had a puppy on the bed for the first time in years, and although I was knackered and it was far too early, he was funny and he made me laugh … and then my eyes strayed to the bedroom door where Herbie would have stood and issued a cool stare that said, “Are you getting up then, or what? I want my walk.” It’s been the same every morning since that final day (17 days now actually, not that I’m counting). My eyes flick there and he’s not there, and that’s when I weep for the first time every day, without fail.

But I’m going about my business better than I was, trying to catch up on the backlog of work.

Then mid-afternoon, a song came on the radio that I like and I picked the puppy up and cradled him and we had a little dance and I sang gently in his ear, my lips close to his soft cheek, and it was joyous to be in the moment with him … and I cried like a baby for the boy I used to do that with. Even fully grown (and he was quite a big lad, my Herbie) he LOVED to do that. We would pretend he was a puppy all over again.

And just now, I sat in the sunshine with a cup of tea after exploring the garden with the puppy and then I cried, because the sky was so beautifully blue and the sun so warm, and my sweet Herbie is dust in a casket in the living room, his name beautifully engraved on a brass plaque. And I miss him. I bloody miss him.

So, a puppy? What the hell was I thinking of?

Puppies are chaotic, but their development is incredibly swift. So far, in 24 hours, he has learned how to do the steps to outside. He knows where the water bowl is. He can do wee wees and poo poos in the garden, but has the occasional accident in the hall. He comes when I call, ‘puppy’. We haven’t finalised his name quite yet. He’s a marvel.

He has explored all the rooms, but is still a little shy about certain things and follows me around like a tiny fluffy shadow. Our old dog (Satin) is a sweetheart; she’s Grandma – gives him a wash when she can be bothered. Our Bedlington Terrier (Betsy) is having a right mard because: a) we left her in kennels overnight while we raced up country and how very, very dare we! And b) “I’m the puppy!”

Now she knows how Herbie felt when we brought her home. Bless her.

I have remembered how to do ‘the puppy shuffle’. This involves walking around as though wearing a large nappy, so that when he dives between your feet there’s enough space so that you don’t crush him to death, or kill yourself when you trip over him. His teeth and nails are like razors. My legs are covered in scratches because he likes to jump up at me. I like all of this.

I’m constantly confused about what and how much he needs to eat. I have a feeling he could just eat all day, but surely that wouldn’t be good. I need to take advice on this. Betsy was a big eater, Herbie wasn’t. Puppy is going to make 22-25 inches so he’ll be pretty big.

I laughed out loud (and alone) when puppy dashed out of the kitchen with the tea-towel clamped in his jaws. I’d just dropped it and off he flew, superfast. Jesus. This boy is going to be a Usain Bolt. I was less enamoured when he decided he preferred my specs (Gok Wans – bought when I actually had a salary and could afford decent specs!) to his chewie toy however, and rapidly retrieved them, only to find he had them again the next time I looked his way. And he has an obsession with paper … he finds it, he tears it up …

My specs. Paper.

Where is he now? Sound asleep (at last!) on my left hand side as I type at my desk. Let me repeat that. On my left hand side. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel? You will if you read my last blog.

He’s amazing and beautiful, I love him already, which is not to dishonour Herbie’s memory in any way. I hope not anyhow. I love Herbie as much as I ever did.

Let me introduce you to The Writer’s Apprentice. I think I’m going to cry again.

Herbie


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A lament for my lost writing partner

The landscape of my life has changed. As I write this, my beloved BFFF (best furry friend forever) has been gone for 8 impossibly long days and nights. It’s not the first time I’ve lost a dog, and it won’t be the last, but this loving and gentle soul, this communicative, intelligent boy … he was a kindred spirit.

Herbie Longfellow, a Bedlington Terrier x Collie Lurcher, was just 8 weeks past his ninth birthday when I decided to have his teeth sorted out. He had a general anaesthetic, and that night he developed a cough. I took him back to the vets and we started treatment that didn’t work. Gradually after a battery of tests we found a deterioration in kidney function, a heart murmur, and then a few weeks ago, the Big C, a massive tumour in his chest blocking his airway and squashing his lungs – that turned out to be the thing that had been causing the rotten cough all along.

The vet admitted later that she considered letting him go as soon as she saw the mass on the scan but she said she always treats the animal, not the disease. That was her gift to us. She said we would need to let him go within 48 hours, but while he was under she decided she would do a chest drain. That actually gave us another three wonderful weeks to love him as much as we could.

Herbie was obviously ecstatic to be home. I became his personal nurse. I changed his food, I altered his exercise pattern, and I spent every available moment with him. I second guessed his needs. What Herbie wanted, Herbie got. For a time I could ‘forget’ (ha! I didn’t!) but the deterioration was persistent. I couldn’t let him suffer. Three weeks after that initial chest drain, my husband and I did a series of ‘lasts’: last dinner, last sleep, last cuddles, last walk, last drive to see our vet.

Instead she offered another chest drain, and again my soul soared to have him with me, but we were marking time. By the end of the week he was off his food, didn’t want to walk and couldn’t get comfortable. It was time. No going back.

My vet, and the two nurses that work with her, are phenomenal, and because of the issue with squashing his windpipe and frightening him, we elected to have him standing, supporting him as the injection went in. I spoke softly to him all the time. He sank into our arms and slipped out of this world, in peace, surrounded by love. I can still feel the weight of him in my arms, and sometimes that’s a comfort, and sometimes it’s a horror, a reminder that he died, and I OK’d that.

Dealing with grief, especially when it’s a pet, is difficult. That’s an understatement, isn’t it? Animals aren’t people. You don’t say you’re bereaved. In fact the limitations of the English language when it comes to pet death are quite stark. You can’t even say you’ve lost someone, you have to say you’ve lost ‘something’. Herbie was not a thing. He wasn’t a possession. He was a vibrant being, with feelings and intellect and humour and a great capacity to learn and love.

Fortunately for me, on the whole my friends ‘get it’. My family certainly do. I’ve been given plenty of space to grieve and to talk about him, and no-one seems to mind that I randomly start to weep. When I’m with my husband I can sob. When I’m alone I can howl.

I had spent the few days before Herbie’s last day writing a short story and concocting a few tweets for #PitchCB on Friday 29th July (pitching contest to attract an invitation to query two of the best UK agencies with my novel). When I arrived home alone from the vets I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I had the worst headache imaginable and I felt like I’d been anaesthetized. I sent my #PitchCB tweet and checking back a few hours later I had a like! Normally I would have run round the block a few times whooping and hollering, but that day, I sat at my laptop and let the tears roll.

My output this week – for clients and for myself – has been negligible. My creativity is down the Swanee, quite frankly, and my ability to write coherently, has largely struggled. This is problematic given I’m freelance and I have a massive vet bill, some of which will be recovered through insurance, but some of which will not. I have a deadline for a short story next week, and I think I’m going to miss it. It’s not great.

I found a Wiccan ritual for a lost pet, and my husband and I performed that on the night after Herbie passed. It was helpful because we could vocalise how much he meant to us, and therefore mark his life, but also for me, it gave me a chance to tell him why I made the decision that he must go in spite of the fact that I loved him and he loved me.

Having the power over another creature’s life does not sit easily with me. I don’t have a God complex. Who am I to choose who lives and who dies? I don’t like the idea of capital punishment, I don’t believe in an eye for an eye. I am much more a live and let live kind of gal. But finding that moment when the suffering of one you love is too great, and being able to gently take that pain away, that kind of feels right. It kind of feels ok.

That’s not to say I don’t have guilt, and worry that I let him down.

It comes in waves, that grief. I let it take me. Small things set me off: a line in a song, the sight of his collar, my husband calling one of our other dogs by his name. This morning I took the Bonio box out of the cupboard and was catapulted back to when Herbie had noisily demanded his treats.

And that’s the thing …. He was my writing companion. He’d learned that if he came to my left hand while I was writing, I would still stroke his head while typing with my right hand. He lay as close to me as he could, often right on or beside my feet under the desk. He would make his presence known at 11 and at 3.30 ish – break time! He woke us in the morning (hated that the alarm doesn’t go off at 6 on a Sunday, he made sure that we never slept past that time so it might as well have been), he sorted us out for walkies and breakfast. In the evening he would sit in front of the TV if he wanted treats or dinner. He could tell us he wanted water by slightly tipping our glasses. He would yip at 10, cue evening wees and time for bed. He’d try and stay on the bed and be shooed off into his basket. Then he’d wait until we were asleep and stealthily creep back up. He was there when I awoke and would give me a knowing look.

We had such a strong connection, Herbs and I. He loved others, of course he did, but he and I were the best of pals, soul friends.

I miss all that. I want him here. I yearn for him. My left hand tingles when I think of him. He was a wonderful, warm, funny, intelligent, loving, bouncy, happy boy – my shadow and writing companion – and he stole my heart.

In loving memory and eternal love: Herbie Longfellow 09.09.2006 – 29.07.2016

 


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The joy of joining Twitter’s writing community

Twitchpit

Twitter for writers!

Up until a few months ago, my Twitter account was sleeping. I had once used it for my online business (hence my username @thecushionlady) which is now defunct, but I read somewhere how important social media is when you’re querying and publishing your work and figured I needed to prod it awake.

I am so glad I did. Over the past few years I have written two and a half novels and numerous short stories. This year I have focused on editing my second novel, Crone, and I’ve had three short stories accepted for publication. I am finally at the stage, of submitting Crone to agents and publishers.

This is a huge and nerve-wracking step – certainly for me anyhow. I also find it a slow process because I research the agents first. I need to know I would trust them to nurture and sell a novel that is quite precious to me. You’d think that any writer would jump at any opportunity to be published, but I feel I need to get it right. With that in mind I spend ages writing a covering letter, tweaking the synopsis and the requested number of chapters and agonising over everything I’m sending.

What a comfort Twitter is then! There are writers galore going through exactly the same thing and you can learn so much from them. By seeing their tweets on my timeline I’ve found out all about how to post snippets from my #WIP (work in progress) and about twitter pitching.

Let’s take sharing snippets first. Most days there is a way of sharing what you’re writing. My preferred three are #2bitTues #1lineWeds and #Thurds. There is generally a theme posted and you scan your #WIP for lines that match. I have come to see this as excellent editing practice. Trying to get a sentence into 140 characters can be a real challenge and you quickly recognise words that are redundant, and how you can make things more succinct and to the point.

Twitter pitching contests are actually great fun. Again there are a variety, and they pop up every few weeks or so. The idea is that you pitch to interested agents and publishers, again using 140 characters, along with a genre identifier, and age (so in my case #A #H = adult and horror).

The first one I did was for #PitchCB – a British literary agency and I was ridiculously nervous. I had high hopes and great expectations but they sadly came to naught. That was my first lesson.

I had a look at pitching techniques though and quickly learned some useful stuff. I will write more about that at some stage.

After that I tried a few US based pitching contests, and some of these are exciting – I’ve really enjoyed them on the whole. It’s important to check out the guidelines of course, as there are rules. You can usually post several tweets, and then sit and watch as reams of other writers’ tweets articulate a book’s heart and soul in a tiny amount of space. It’s fascinating and occasionally I think “Wow! I want to read that!” There are so many talented writers out there, you know? I’ve been lucky. I have had a few bites, and Crone is now out there querying in the USA following interest from US based agents and publishers, which I’d never considered before!

I use the Twitter pitching alongside my normal querying – but again sporadically. I think Crone is currently out with a combination of 8 agents and publishers. I don’t want to send the novel here, there and everywhere. I’ll take a break and consider any feedback I get (if I get any) and then try again.

The final point about using Twitter as a writer is that most writers are happy to share the love. You can like and retweet any genius you come across, and they will respond in kind when you nail a tweet about your #WIP. I’m loving it and I’ve made some great new friends. Give it a try and feel free to follow me!

 

 

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An open letter to everyone who voted Conservative yesterday and why you should hesitate before you pat yourself on the back.

I’m scared too, and bitterly disappointed that we have a society where people don’t care about each other.

Wilsher 's Blog

To everyone who voted conservative yesterday,

I hope you’re happy. Actually that’s a lie, I really don’t. But before you sit smugly down and give yourself a big pat on the back I’d like to ask you a few questions.

Do you think you haven’t benefitted from the system you are currently trying to break down? As a child, did you ever go to hospital? Have you had an education? Did you ever use a library? Have you ever been on a bus? If so, you have benefited from a system which subsidises facilities with taxes. And now you have, you are willing to take it away from everyone after you. Correct me if I’m wrong but that doesn’t seem very fair. You cannot have socialism and a support system when you need it but then be unwilling to support it for other people.

Now if you are someone who…

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Rise like a phoenix and banish the right wing malaise in the UK

Rise like a phoenix

Rise like a phoenix

I watched Eurovision on Saturday (BBC One, 8 pm, Saturday 10th May). This is not an unusual occurrence, indeed I have loved Eurovision since I was a kid. The pure spectacle, the costumes and increasingly the staging of the show all stroke my inner happiness. It’s a special night full of laughter and tears (of mirth usually) followed by the usual banter about block voting and how predictable it all is.

I don’t take it seriously, I just enjoy it for what it is.

This year though I was moved – with real actual emotion – to tears. Having watched all of the acts perform, my husband and I duly registered votes for The Netherlands and Austria and then I waited with bated breath to see who would come out on top. What would Europe think of Conchita Wurst?

I hope I’m open minded always, but I must admit to doing a double take the first time I saw Conchita in her gold frock with that beard; but any doubts I had – that she was a gimmick maybe – were quickly dispelled when she started to sing. Great song, so fitting – fabulous performance. And the staging? Brilliant! I loved it all.

So while the votes were being counted, I held my breath. What would the UK say? Who would they vote for? What would Europe think?

Well it turns out that a Minister in Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, told national TV stations that her win meant ‘the end of Europe’. He has supposedly stressed that ‘They [Europe] don’t have men and women any more. They have “it”. Russia’s views on homosexuality are of course well-known and that, coupled with their recent behaviour in the Ukraine, meant that unfortunately for their totally blameless young female singers on Saturday, the audience constantly booed whenever Russia received any points.

But the UK (along with many other European countries) gave their douze points to Conchita Wurst and Austria. I was totally speechless for a moment and so very, very thankful. I really felt the love. And that was without consuming any alcohol! If we are a country that is so open-minded and welcoming of such diverse kinds of people then why the hell does UKIP even exist? Why are we considering leaving Europe?

Such mixed messages from the UK. On the one hand there is so much right wing hatred around at the moment, so much about this country that is hard-core and uncaring, and on the other we’re a nation who rejoice in difference.

Gorgeous. Simple.

Gorgeous. Simple.

On Saturday, Conchita Wurst accepted her win graciously in the name of ‘everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. We are unity.’ Who knows what will happen when we go to the polls next week, but I for one really hope that all those lovely people who watched Eurovision with me on Saturday night and willed Conchita on to win and to ‘rise like a phoenix’ won’t be the ones who stay at home and don’t bother to have their say. This is not the time for voter apathy. The right wing and those who hold racist or extreme views will not be apathetic. Just because our leanings are more peaceful, caring and sharing and loving does not mean we should just let things be. Sometimes we do have to stand up and be counted.

We cannot afford to ostracise ourselves anymore in Europe and we have a duty to forthcoming generations not to let this insidious right wing malaise creep ever more into our society and national thought.

Peace out folks!

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