thewritersbarn

Writing because words are the essence of my life.


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The Next Big Thing … or… currently a small thing that fits in a matchbox

Tree womanWhen the rather lovely Simon Bestwick (who is a proper writer, published and everything, eminently readable, humorous and supportive and general all round bundle of loveliness) was looking for authors to link to for this brilliant series of blogs, The Next Big Thing, he very generously asked me and other people I attended a horror writing weekend with if we would be interested. Sadly, there was only me that hadn’t been ‘got’. There are probably reasons for that but as today is my birthday WE ARE NOT GOING THERE and we are BEING KIND!

So I have to apologise to anyone who reads this and thinks, ‘but you’re not a proper writer.’ You’re quite right. I write somewhere in the region of 5-10,000 words most days but about 80% of that is for other people. What can I say. It pays the bills.

In actual fact however, as of yesterday I am a proper writer really. Yesterday I had my first rejection letter albeit by email!! Whooo hooo!! Now I’m getting somewhere! I happen to think it’s a good short story… it’s just erm … rather perverted and so has a limited readership. Well, it would probably have a wide readership among the kinky, the depraved and the weird. But hey, that’s what Kindles are for, right?

So I haven’t written a novel and I only have one short story published, but believe me, on my precious purple laptop there are enough short stories for several anthologies. I’m using this blog to tell you about the novel I am writing. It’s not quite halfway there and I am currently stuck, so this really won’t take very long will it? Just perch on a chair with half a cup of tea; that should do us.

1) What is the working title of your current/next book?

It’s tentatively called Hollowbank.

2) Where did the idea come from?

As you drive from West Hallam in Derbyshire to Bakewell (also in Derbyshire and home of the famous tart, and I don’t mean Katie Price, I mean an edible and non-plastic variety) there is a fabulous hill that rises like a giant breast on the landscape. The bottom half of the hill is covered in trees. The top is grassed. It just looks like a Bronze Age burial mound to me and I am bewitched by it every time I go past. It kind of got my creative juices flowing a few years ago. I had to wait for redundancy before I had the time to put finger to keyboard however.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a chiller, fantasy, mystery, horror kind of thingie. It has motorcyclists in it. And a demon or two. There is some nudity. And sex. It seems very grand to label it with it a genre when it hasn’t quite decided itself yet! Haha!hell's_angels

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

  • Ooooh. Now there’s a thought .. erm. Grip is a kind of Daniel Craig’ish type figure (yummy) from his days in The Mother. Needs to be fit, capable, intelligent, devilish and yet oddly vulnerable.
  • Shone would be one of the guys from ZZ Top. Or the fabulously sexy Ken Stott with a long beard and younger. Sorry Ken. I think you’re hot anyway.
  • Meredith somebody like Nicole Scherzinger (if she could act) or an evil Liv Tyler.
  • Jason – maybe the guy who played Speedle in CSI Miami. Dave Grohl. Does he act?

I have to say this is reading like my own sexual fantasy list.

This touches on a problem because one of my main issues is the lead character Evie. I just don’t get her yet and so I don’t know who she is or who could play her. So this is an interesting exercise isn’t it? *scribbles in notebook*

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Evie’s husband Jason is missing presumed dead after a motorcycle accident, but she and his biker mates are not convinced he is dead and after a series of weird events on the hill that towers over the town where they live, they take on the weird village of Hollowbank in an effort to free Jason from the ancient powers that hold him, although they also have to do battle with their own emotions and demons before they can succeed.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Obviously it’s going to be optioned by the biggest publishing house in the world and I will be able to afford a hot tub. And my mortgage …

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?

I haven’t finished the first draft mainly because of the issues I’m having with the Evie character but hang tight friends. I will!

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think reading Tana French’s book In the Woods (2007) has given me the courage to write this. I didn’t love this book by any means but it did haunt me for a long time and I thought that her next book The Likeness was just phenomenal. If I would write half as well as that I’d be a happy lady!

There was a sense of mystery in In the Woods that I was really hopeful would go somewhere and it never quite did. Ms French is writing a different style of book to mine of course, but I want to have that feel that she had in the first half of In the Woods.

Also Alan Garner. An astounding writer. I love his work and I like the way he grounds reality with the magical, the fantastical and the downright weird.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write and Shone and Grip are demanding to be written about. They are great characters and are coming from my heart. Walks in Shipley Park with the dogs really help the atmosphere too, as so much of this novel is set in a forest that’s misty and dripping with moisture. But that’s Derbyshire and actually many of the settings have been stolen from my time living on the Isle of Wight when I rode motorcycles myself. The fabulous winding roads and the dripping trees and that sense of isolation, and, I hate to say it, some VERY odd people.

There is also a strong sense within what I’m writing of finding an inner strength, getting in touch with the feminine self and vanquishing jealousy and that hideous competitiveness women sometimes have. Evie is supposed to be doing that … and maybe we’re doing it together but it’s not easy!

I can’t help but write this story. It pours out of me and makes my fingers tap the keyboard.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

There are tree spirits, hollow hills, a crazy character who is more like a jester, one angry bitch of a goddess and because I am The Writer’s Barn there will be an owl.Blue Owl

So that’s it. I may not be a real writer but I am a good apprentice. Thanks to Simon Bestwick for tagging me. I haven’t found anyone else to tag so I will give a shout out to The Urban Writers Forum and Charlie Haynes particularly for being such a big part of what has helped me write over the past six months. And if you are a writer and would like to be tagged give me a shout 🙂


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Middle Age? Bring it on!

life

I have a birthday coming up. I am so unexcited by the prospect I had to pause then to remember whether it falls next week or the week after. It is the week after. Phew. No need to panic just yet then.

It’s not a ‘special’ birthday, as in one that ends in an ‘0’ and it’s not a halfway there kind of middling birthday. It’s just a run of the mill, not particularly glamorous, not an age I particularly want to be kind of birthday.

I was reflecting on this last night because I think I might now be defined by society as old. Well, I may not be old exactly but I’m certainly not a ‘young lady’ anymore. So I guess I must be middle aged. Just the words middle and aged make me go ‘EEEEEEK’. When I was younger being middle aged meant wearing a twinset and pearls, having a tight perm and tan tights and a tartan skirt and sensible shoes. It meant being really out of things. Halfway dead.

My whole life I have resisted being middle aged. This has been helped enormously by several crucial factors.

1. My parents are only 19 and 20 years older than me so they were still kids themselves as I grew up. That retarded me for sure.
2. My parents were never middle aged. They went from young to retired in a matter of weeks.
3. I didn’t get married until I was 39. Marriage means being settled. Surely being settled ages you? In a good way, but nonetheless ….
4. I never had children so I don’t compare myself in age to them.
5. I have resisted the urge to wear tan tights and apart from brief spells working for Boots in my teens, and Safeways in my twenties I have never had to wear them! Hoorah!
6. I would not be caught dead in sensible shoes. I wear boots. Mainly Dr Martens and mainly coloured ones. I go bare footed a lot. Sometimes I wear trainers and when the weather is extraordinary I wear sandals or flip flops. That’s it.
7. I’ve never needed to have a perm because my hair is already of the curly, dragged through a hedge backwards, long, untameable and wild variety. Thanks heavens for Irish genes!
8. I have a wide variety of female friends, some much younger, some the same sort of age, some older and they are all phenomenal and do not embrace middle agedom either. They are my role models.

So being middle aged is something that really doesn’t seem to happen anymore or at least not in the way I defined it as a child. I did read somewhere that jeans are worn by middle aged people rather than younger people so perhaps that’s what defines middle age.

Possibly music defines middle age. I’ve given up listening to ‘popular’ music. I watched Top of the Pops on Christmas Day and found myself sounding like my grandparents thirty years ago. ‘Look at the state of that!’, ‘Who the hell is that?’, ‘Never heard of them!’, ‘The original was so much better,’ and the old classic, ‘How the hell did this get to number one?’ Now I’ve settled quite nicely into Planet Rock with occasional forays to Kerrang for something young and fresh, and some of my friends have bypassed Radio 2 straight for Radio 4 and Radio 6. Personally, I think rock music keeps me young!

Politics ages me. I look at the piecemeal and badly thought through policies being brought in by the Coalition, and I see smarmy, self-righteous, clueless, over-privileged ex-public schoolboys feathering their own nests while victimising the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the sick. How can a group of people be so savagely ungenerous to their fellow humans? Are we not of the same tribe? Do we not care for each other? Do they not have enough? I can feel the wrinkles settling deeply around my forehead and eyes as I watch the news or read the paper.

But!! All is far from lost! Now that the Elf job has finished I am unemployed again, seeking work, looking for writing jobs. And I am oddly happy. The single most important thing that happened to me last year was that I was made redundant. Suddenly I was out of the rat race, cast loose from a backstabbing, cut throat world of bad management, poor decisions and ineptitude. I sit here in my study writing bits and bobs and my heart sings with lightness. I feel decades younger. If this is middle age, I’m loving it!


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Hell Day (Part One of Three) dawns with a phone call from my youngest elf who is ‘seriously ill’ apparently. It sounds like he might have the snuffles. So here we go again. We are borrowing an elf from Stoke grotto because logistically four elves will really struggle to run the grotto today. We need three inside and ideally we need two outside and then given that I’m doing 11 hours, Tinsel is doing 11 and Ice is doing 10, we could also do with a break each. I know it’s a lot to ask…. Elf slavery!

I’ve spent the past 24 hours worried about levels of anger and aggression among parents today LOL so I have put the Security team’s phone number on speed dial on my mobile. The faster I can have the ‘bad people’ removed, the less likely there is to be disgruntlement spreading throughout the queue. I think of ‘the queue’ almost as a physical entity in itself. It’s really quite scary. Good stuff for a horror story there I feel!

I’m challenging myself to be really lovely to even the rudest customers. This may be quite difficult for me as my natural tendency when someone raises my hackles is to burn them a new a-hole. I shall say to mysELF, ‘Keep Calm and think what your Mum would do.’ And she would always be nice.

Time to go. Wish me luck 🙂 Love from Sparkle the Elf xxx

If anyone is visiting Derby today … you could bring me a cup of tea, strong, one sugar, thanks. 🙂


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Elf Musings

Did you know that elves have big feet? No, I didn’t either until I started working in the Wish Kingdom with Father Christmas. I work with 8 other elves and the smallest of these has a size 7 foot. Mine are an 8. Five elves have feet bigger than mine. Interesting, eh?

Big feet are useful when you’re standing on them all day. I was thinking of running a sweepstake. You have to guess exactly when my feet will stop aching. I finish work at 6 pm on Christmas Eve and would hope that at some time on the 28th December I will have soothed feet. At the moment they feel like my hands and fingers felt before my carpal tunnel surgery in August – very numb!

A bit of an update on names. Among the Jayden, Kians, Finlays, Maisies and Rosie-Maes yesterday I had a Jarvery. Jarvery? What can that possibly mean? Is it meaningless? Should names actually mean anything? I pondered that for a good while yesterday afternoon. But I also had a Stanley! ‘Oh what a splendid name!’ I exclaimed to the Dad. ‘Strong and upright!’ In my head I was thinking ‘no daft or poncey names for you, eh Sir?’ I also had an Alice (lovely!) and a Grace. Grace is a lovely name but do you have to be sure your daughter will grow up slim, willowy and petite? I’m so glad I wasn’t called Grace, it just wouldn’t have fit. I had several Violets and a large number of Scarletts and one Sianne (Cyan) so that was lovely and colourful.

I also had an Ocean which was nice, and a couple of Summers. All I need now is a Breeze and I’ll have a full collection of Airwick room fresheners.

Today is a day off and I feel like I am staring into the abyss of the last three days before Christmas. I already know we are fully booked tomorrow and Christmas Eve so we are going to be inundated with parents who can’t understand why their precious child can’t see Santa right NOW! They will become annoyed, aggressive and rude. They are parents who haven’t managed their own time or their children’s’ expectations and they will accuse me of being the murderer of Christmas spirit like I was last weekend no doubt. I hope I’m not wished an unmerry Christmas this weekend though!

So if you are passing a grotto, give the elves a smile and a wave and spare a thought for their feet.


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Observations of a Grotto Elf

I spend many, many hours stood in my little booth watching the world go by, especially during the week when it’s quieter so I have time to ponder, get philosophical or imaginative, or just bitch quite frankly. The Grotto is surrounded by New Look, The Body Shop, SuperDry (?) and a boutique called Quiz which quite honestly entrances me, not least because they only have one CD, a dance CD, that they play over and over and over again but not quite loud enough so that I can hear the words. Anyway, Quiz sells clothes for small, thin women, that are a little garish for my taste but nonetheless I quite fancy myself in the gold lame dress that I think you would wear around your middle. It would start just above your nipples, depending how droopy or pert your boobs are, and end just below the knicker line (one hopes). Once I embarked upon puberty there was never a moment in my entire life where I could have worn such a frock. The last time I was a size 12 I WAS 12 and already 5 ft 6! But still…

So fancying myself as a bit of a fashionista yesterday afternoon I had a good look at what people were wearing and I’d like to offer some ‘Fashion Tips from an Elf’.

  1. If you have a big bum and small ankles ‘boyfriend trousers’ look stupid.
  2. Actually, all boyfriend trousers look stupid, especially green ones.
  3. Black ballet pumps and thick black tights make you look like you’re walking around in stocking feet. Impressive because I actually looked at you twice, Miss.
  4. In any case, unless you’re a 6 year old in a dance class, ballet pumps just look WRONG! No adult woman looks good in completely flat shoes. Big girls like myself look HIDEOUS in ballet pumps. It’s all about keeping things in proportion ladies.
  5. Wearing tracksuit bottoms, or whatever they are called these days, especially the grey sweatshirty type ones, make you look like you’ve just come out of the Nick. But maybe that’s my own private aversion … Not it isn’t! Don’t wear them!
  6. If you have any wobbly bits at all, any sweatshirty type material will just allow your flesh to judder in public. Don’t do it!
  7. The current trend for hair that looks like candy floss is not sexy. If anyone wanted to run their hands through your hair would it be sticky and tangley? Ugh *shudders*
  8. Fashion designers should look at kids’ clothes and make large scale versions. Kids look fab. All bright and colourful. I would like some purple boots with embroidered flowers in the shops next year thank you!
  9. Wearing droopy jeans and showing off your George at Asda pants is like, so yesterday?
  10. Gentleman, sad fact, unlike women you can wear anything you like. But, alack and alas, unless you’re devilishly handsome, or wearing a sharp suit, you’ll look scruffy anyway.

But I would like to congratulate all those Mums who turn up looking immaculate. Kudos!