Welcome to you all and to the first of a new month. Spring floats on the breeze and sitting out on a weather-worn bench in the garden I rise my face to the dazzling sunlight. As the daffodils tilt and twist to capture its warmth, so do I.

On such a morning I find myself pondering the nature of the creative spirit and at times its unimaginable strength in the face of insurmountable agonies.

These musings follow in the wake of reading about Frida Kahlo. She was not an artist for which I hold any particular affection although I know of her work. What I did not know was of the life of pain she endured until her untimely passing aged only 47.

Firstly as a child she suffered from polio but made a recovery to normal life. Then aged 18 she was severely injured when the bus she was travelling on collided with a trolley car.

As a result of these injuries she was never free from pain again. In the following years she had over 35 operations and many episodes of agonising pain that resulted in her being bed-ridden for many months at a time.  Among other sorrows the physical damages rendered her unable to have children.

Where this life would fell many, Frida instead discovered, with her parents help, her love of painting and throughout her life she painted over 150 paintings. Furthermore she travelled in Central America, the USA and Europe. On a personal level she married the famous painter Diego Rivera – twice!  Throughout their tempestuous mutually adulterous relationship she never stopped painting.

The indomitable spirit of the creative being within us is alive and waiting to be tapped. It takes courage, persistence and passion to continue to work through pain and illness of any sorts. Its rewards are unquantifiable.

Reading about Frida’s life and knowing so many who continue their creative work in spite of (or perhaps as a result of) their hardships is a true inspiration – to myself and  hopefully to you all.

‘Our existence is not an accident but a mystery…We can entrust ourselves to this mystery, for we are part of it. Indeed we are it.’

By  Jean-Pierre Weil, ‘The Well of Being’

A Break and Biographies.


It’s amazing what wonders a break can make.

Last week was half term and I had therefore decided to give my first draft a welcome rest – we needed to give each other some breathing space. Instead I had a restful and fun time with the family. On Monday out came my iPad, my Keyboard and once clipped into place I was set to go.

I found I was writing with renewed vigour and energy as well as a greater sense of enjoyment and satisfaction. My fingers struggled to keep up with my thoughts, stumbling over each other on the keys. One downside of this extra vitality is that my poor brain never seems to stop buzzing and even half asleep I will find myself trying to recall sentences to write down in the morning. The world of my characters are becoming such a large part of my real world that even in my sub-conscious the border between real and imagined is blurring.

When I started this project I knew many of the ‘rules’ of writing a novel and realised from the beginning that I had committed a cardinal sin in my approach. My error – never starting,  no matter keeping up to date, a biography of my characters. Week after week I have winged it, just writing away, everything held in my head. It seemed to work well enough although I was forgetting names of smaller character. After the weeks holiday my memory had lapsed even further so yesterday I finally started my biographies.

First there is the obligatory visit to a good stationary shop for  a new notebook. As all writers know, you can never own too many of these. After throwing away a small fortune on a blue striped ‘Pukka Pad Project Book’ I returned home and set to work.

On a separate page I wrote the name of a character featured in the story and then added detail.  As I need to reinforce my time-line I have given birth dates to everyone as well as surnames, siblings, school names, type of work. I finally got round to writing a clear description of each character, including any particular features, eg. a lop-sided walk, nervous habit of fidgeting, their speech manner. etc. Furthermore I have added their likes and dislikes as well as their fears. Also I like to describe the characters’  clothing, the feel of the material, the look.

Below are a couple of character biographies I completed last year for another book idea which as yet has not been developed further. They should  give you an idea of what is involved.

My Fictional Biographies Examples.

Christine Brazier.

Christine was born on 12th May 1978 in North Yorkshire and lived in a small village called Bellingham. She later attended the highly prestigious Harrogate Ladies College and later studied medicine and in 2002 graduated from Durham University.  She is currently a paediatrician at Leeds General Infirmary. Christine did not have an easy childhood, losing her mother to cancer aged ten and thereafter, although her father cared for her, she lacked love and warmth in a normal family setting. Her older brother was largely disinterested in her. As a result Christine has become a very uptight and controlling person, almost a perfectionist. Although she will listen to others she has often already made up her own mind. This flawed character trait is crucial to the story. She is a keen health fanatic and enjoys spinning at the local gym, road running and races and is addicted to tweeting.  Her guilty pleasure for relaxation is on-line bingo – but always within limits. To start with she has no sense of humour. As the story progresses and she loses control of her life we see her change to a more easy-going, relaxed person, willing to accept help from others as well as learning to laugh in adversity. Christine is divorced with two children who mean the world to her. Christine is very skinny, tall and has green eyes and dark red hair cut short and  straight. She has a habit of tilting her head to one side when listening to others. When talking she tends to talk in short clipped sentences at work and her frustration with people she considers working too slowly is palpable.

Owen Boyd. Journalist, later Christine’s friend.

Owen was born on 23rd March 1968 in a poor suburb of Bradford. He is a disillusioned reporter on the Yorkshire Post, which is based in Leeds, and he has become bitter over the years about his lack of career advancement. His dreams of working for the nationals has never materialised. He left school at 16 to work at the local paper and attended college part time to gain his national certificate in journalism. Boyd, as he is referred to at work and outside, has scruffy blond hair with blue eyes and does not have a keen sense of style. This shows up more than usually as he is tall and has a solid build.  His comfortable style of clothes for work does not sit well with the modern sleek expectations of the office.He never walks or saunters, rather strides purposefully forth as if on a mission.  Following his years of experience in the print press he feels this gives him unique knowledge of how to work and he resents taking orders from younger more senior but inexperienced managers. This often leads to confrontation. However he is often right and his dogged obsession with the smallest detail and meticulous research skills have stood him in good stead.  Following a bitter divorce and estrangement from his teenage daughter Boyd has  became addicted to prescription drugs and started smoking again. His love for the outdoors hasn’t dulled with time and he is still a keen cyclist and gardener. In his childhood he had a passion of keeping tropical fish and this interest has been revived since living on his own and he now has one room at home filled with fish tanks.

“The spirit of man is nomad, his blood bedouin, and love is the aboriginal tracker on the faded dessert spoor of his lost self; and so I came to live my life not by conscious plan or prearranged design but as someone following the flight of a bird.”

Laurens Van Der Post

Word count of first draft: 35,108 words

Colourful Collective Nouns


I love the colourful collective nouns I discovered recently and feel ashamed they’d passed me by all my life until now. There are so many to choose from but below are a few I want to share with you. Hope you enjoy them: whether collective noun pro or a novice. Enjoy.

Whilst trekking through the jungle (or sailing in a small boat across the ocean) there is the  risk of being assaulted by an ambush of tigers.  Creches around the world entertain the young children by a storytelling of ravens The floral display of flowers will never seem the same again after witnessing a bloom of jellyfish and continuing on the herbaceous theme, those poor Jellyfishplucked game birds; not bad enough being shot, now they risk becoming a bouquet of pheasants. Maybe the sight of them caused the gaze of racoons or resulted in a bellowing of bullfinches. What about those majestic circus performing African mammals, clambering precariously on top of one another until you have a tower of giraffes. After witnessing all their strenuous effort the sleepiest of animals slowly dash for their pillows and duvets and as their eyelids battle with drowsiness there is soon a bed of sloths. Not all animals are so lethargic bullfinchesas the magnificent nocturnal birds of prey swoop to create a parliament of owls. Imagine them holding court over the country, power of the land in their stately talons – and who knows, perhaps much wiser lawmakers than their human counterparts. The most appropriately collective noun must surely be a flamboyance of flamingos as they gather in their thousands (or at times over a million) on the African lakes. One of our busiest rodents are a scurry of squirrels as they dart about the land, collecting nuts and seeds, stopping occasionally for a swift glance around before leaping away, up the tree, over the fence, down the alleyway.  Finally, let the past be safely stowed away within a memory of elephants.

 “in every landscape the point of astonishment is the meeting of the sky and the earth.”

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Print


I want to share some good news with you all.

This morning I sat in bed having a leisurely breakfast. How decadent I know, but since it’s half term at the moment, I happily grab a few moments of relaxation whenever possible.

Having read the back few pages first of Writers’ Forum (March 2015) I turned to the front pages. A few seconds later I squealed with delight as I found my piece on The 17th Century Kindle printed in the ‘NewsFront’ section of the magazine.

I had sent this to Writers’ Forum a couple of weeks ago and since I hadn’t heard anything from the magazine I had forgotten about my submission.  Again, a real boost and I am happy to share this interesting story to a much wider audience. The piece submitted to Writers’ Forum was much briefer than my blog post on The 17th Century Kindle as the guidelines clearly stated that items should not be more than 200 words.

We are awakened through poetry;
we are affirmed through ritual,
we are fulfilled through music.

by Confucius


Wicker Woman

The last few weeks we have been bombarded with hearts – Valentine heart cards, heart decorated wrapping paper, teddy bears cuddling huge red hearts. Hearts swaying from shop ceiling as they join in the extravaganza called Valentines.  How could I fail but to recall a piece of flash fiction I wrote last year and is aptly named ‘The Little Heart’. Romantics be warned – this is not a love story.

The Little Heart

In my bubble I bump against life, insulated from its joys and sorrows. My child gesticulates wildly, his face alight with excitement and there must be words. Such sweet words from that gentlest of voices, but for me inaudible. The fog within me wraps around my nerves, slowly strangling all the senses.

“They’re here to help you,” my husband promised.

“You’re the one who needs the help,” I screamed.

In those days I could shout, argue, feel, love, rage.

“Take it!” The man in white orders. Glancing down in my hand, I obey. The beguiling beauty of the hollowed heart of the blue tablet pulsates reassuringly. I glimpse closer. It’s not a heart, rather a soft-scooped “V”. V for victory to the zombie that in the ensuing days commandeers my body. It overwhelms me and all that remains is a modicum of myself, a spectator to this tragedy.

“She’s much calmer. Happier even.” The words drift painfully to my brain.

My son appears, hugs me and his sad wild eyes penetrate my soul. He leaves – his ghostly presence imprinted on my mind. I was tricked into this hell. Trapped. I’ll fight my way out. For my life and child.

The End

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

From Dubliners by James Joyce

The Journey So Far…


I thought it was time I wrote an update about this amazing Novel Writing Journey I embarked upon at the start of the year and which spiralled into this blog.

For the past six weeks I have managed to retain a respectable weekly word count and am now up to  30,000 on the first draft.

I thought it might be tough, but had not foreseen the depths of the lows and the heights of the highs. Ironically enough, none of these were caused by the actual physical writing itself – once I sat down and wrote, the words flowed easily and quickly.

One of the highs involved finding my name long listed for the Inktears Short Story Competition! A whoop of surprise followed by yes, all the effort is worth it. For the opportunity to be able to share ones writing with others and for it to be recognised. As always I am fully aware of the fun, enjoyment and satisfaction of writing itself.

The high of finishing a chapter and realising that is good, although recognising the improvements I can make and noting down new ideas to add later.

The writing highs are a gem. When upon re-reading a particular paragraph I tingle with delight in the way that it works; perfect.

The lows are the why bother moments? These surely engulf every writer. What is the point? This is going nowhere?  Sound familiar? Of course. Most of the time I booted these thoughts out of my brain with a ‘don’t you dare come into my head and hibernate’. Most of the times these reprimands were successful. The negatives fled my head, leaving room for constructive thoughts and ideas; off I set on writing.

However, there were days – and now I realise there will be many days – when no amount of arguments or walks would ease the bad away. It was as if a physical sticky cud of earth had infested itself in my brain and commandeered it.

At first I fought. Valiantly, I tell myself. To no avail. In the end I felt as if I were under the orders of the Daleks –  ‘resistance is useless’ – and so succumbed to their control. My prison however was writing inactivity and when the house was cleaned, the car washed (yes, even in winter!) and the fish fed, I retreated for an hour or two for down time. My vice? Netflix and an episode or two of ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘The Good Wife’. One day of such R&R was usually enough to break the bleak cycle and the next morning my fingers would be flying over the keys again.

So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head!

By John Keats


Tropical fisherman


Scientists say you have three seconds to cement an idea or puff, there it goes, evaporating into the ether. This has happened so often to me recently that I’m beginning to think the three seconds is generous.

A most perfect thought pops into my sub-consciousness and I grasp at its tendrils, reigning it in with the power of my conscious brain. I rise from the sofa and head towards my notebook. Once present in the real world, it will be safe, cosseted and nurtured; when suddenly another idea ignites and detonates in my head.

The  original thought explodes quietly into smithereens. Deep within my head I flail around for the slightest hint or image of my idea. It’s there, hidden behind the dust cloud of destruction. If only I can reach that bit further. The debris is clearing, I’m sure of it, think and think again. My eyes are closed tight, head is bowed in concentration.

No, it’s gone. Irretrievable. At least, I have the new thought to hand though. Haven’t I? What? What was it again?…Nooo…

Luckily many of my ideas do make it to fruition although I seem to have rather a scattergun effect of ideas. Various words or images will create a series of ideas which I hastily jot down. An old man’s lop-sided gait, witnessed in town, became central to a short story. A pair of hand-repaired spectacles, recalled from childhood, featured in a chapter, highlighting the character’s despair and worry. Like many writers most of my ideas will remain known only to myself, until they have been moulded into a short story or such. Only then will I show the first draft to friends.

Ideas are fragile things and can easily be killed off by the slightest shrug of the shoulders, the questioning bemused look of a friend. That poor idea that could be so vital to the writing and lead onto new paths decimated by well-meaning.

So, catch your ideas, nurse them, mould them. Once they turn into a piece of writing, then happily share. Not before though.

Happy Fishing and May Your Thoughts Bite Aplenty.

 A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.

By Ovid

Battle of Views

Black Tulip

In the past week the Battle of Viewpoints has been fought within the pages of my novel.

Automatically I started writing in the the third person, feeling comfortable and at ease.

Then one of the main characters clamoured to be heard and as an experiment I switched to her first person voice.

The result was not the triumphant powerful success which I had imagined.

Although I enjoyed being in my character’s head and travelling with her thoughts and observations on paper (or screen), my writing suddenly became simplified. This could be as the character at this stage is a young girl aged 10 and my language in her voice couldn’t help but reflect her youth.

Furthermore the passages of description which I feel are critical to the story became lost as the need to describe the settings became superfluous since they are familiar to the character. Any such description became false and forced.

Often writers use first person as this allows the reader to quickly engage and identify with the character, thereby drawing them into the story. I have often written from this viewpoint in my short stories and found it ideal. There is one danger though and that is the reader is limited to that one character’s perception of the story, through their eyes only. It is virtually impossible to introduce any events away from the character. One way to add further dimensions in the first person perspective is to use two or more characters.

Having just read ‘The Invention of Wings’ by Sue Monk Kidd I did consider this approach. In her wonderful book there are two narrators: the slave girl, Handful and the slave owner’s daughter, Sarah Grimké, who alternatively swap the story telling and thereby relate two very diverse and diametrically opposing worlds and experiences.

As I could not imagine two characters alone carrying the my story I knew more would be needed and was concerned this could be become cumbersome.

At one stage whilst discussing my dilemma with a friend she questioned if I could use both first and third person? I hesitated and gave the notion a thought. I cannot remember reading any books written thus, but perhaps they do exist. The mental and emotional logistics of such a narration though seemed fraught with difficulties and pitfalls, so I decided to avoid that route and instead reverted to the third person.

On the whole it was a relief to return to the third person viewpoint. The floaty descriptions returned but now enhanced with a third person perspective. The distant narrator is replaced with a more personal viewpoints of the characters.

Although the chapters are not headed by the which character is leading the story, there do exist ‘signposts’ very early on showing which character’s viewpoint will dominate the chapter.  I now retain the freedom to write about events well outside the characters if required whilst ensuring characters are personable and well-rounded. To avoid confusion I am sticking to four character viewpoints in the third person, this gives me the breadth to explore their emotional and inner feelings and thoughts of each one. The plot will still be pacey whilst other characters and subplots can be easily introduced.

In her book, ‘Sunrise’, Victoria Hislop writes beautifully and in the third person, so effectively at times I didn’t realise it wasn’t in the first person. The pain, anguish, deceit and love of the characters  are depicted with startling vitality.

The battle is over, calm reigns and now I just have to rewrite a couple of chapters. No problem.

I told myself reading was a kind of freedom, the only one I could give.

Sarah Grimké in ‘The Invention of Wings’ by Sue Monk Kidd

Current word count of first draft of my novel:  14,940 words



Don’t the days and weeks fly past faster than ever?

At first I thought it was a phenomenon affecting only myself, however this affliction seems more widespread than I imagined. Talking to friends and family across the UK and in Europe, the bemused complaint is ‘where did that week go?’ So I feel about the last three weeks since starting my novel and this blog.

Time has shortened more than ever as I experience a life of duality. It’s as if I’m travelling on a science fiction roller coaster of time travel, warping in and out of worlds. During a few minutes of washing dishes my mind travels decades into the past, creating new lives, experiences for my characters. With a shudder I bring myself back to reality – and if I’ve got any sense dash to my notebook to write down my new ideas.

After one morning’s particularly creative output I suddenly remembered an errand in town. Going straight from my computer I found myself sitting in my car. There I stopped. It felt so weird and wrong. Consciously I had to put the key in the ignition and reverse slowly out of the driveway and carefully navigate to the main road. Something that normally is as natural to me as breathing. The car drive to town was even stranger since there were just too many cars on the roads. In my story cars are few and far between. Once I had exchanged words with the cashier in the first shop was I released from my ‘dream-like’ state and landed with a thud back on Planet Co-op with a basketful of vegetables!

Darn the wheel of the world! Why must it continually turn over? Where is the reverse gear?

By Jack London

A Frosty Morn

Stuga  Januari 2010

What is it about sunlight skittering across the frosty grass that has me racing for my wellies?

Only half-awake and with dawn just  peeping over the horizon, I approach the curtains with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Will the promised ‘cold snap’ materialise? Or will the weather reporters in all their enthusiasm yet again disappoint? For once not.

A soft white mist envelops the landscape as if a giant icy puff rests all around us. Peering further I spy mystical mirage of white spiky trees, gentle tumbles of frost on fir trees, thin layer of snow covering the road and pavement. A single track of tyres the only mark of activity so far.

Two hours later the sun has warmed the air ever so slightly and I don my boots and head out.

Without moving house I’ve been transported to a village transformed. With relish my eyes feast on the crisp white bushes, with relish I smash my feet through the icy puddles. Without my son by my side to excuse my childish behaviour I take a sheepish glance around. No one in sight and I safely reach for a hefty stick; its damp bark making green blotches along my new gloves. Never mind. With a quick toss I whirl the stick in an arc onto the glacial surface of the lake. Like the sunlight at the break of day, it too skitters along. Frightening a lone duck in its path before coming to a solitary stop. The kid inside me cheers ‘hooray’ and eggs me on to try again. I reign in childish self – for now.

Oh yes, the writing. There is a link, albeit a tenuous one. As part of my story is set during two winters when temperatures dip below -40ºC I felt I should take full advantage of a frosty morn to immerse myself in such dire conditions. I know, -2ºC on a sunny morning is hardly the same. Still…Also, there is nothing like sun, snow and splashes to recharge my fatigued soul after a weekend of birthday parties.

Go ahead, if a frosty morn wakes you, greet it full on. Release the big kid that resides in all of us. Enjoy.

“For happiness, how little suffices for happiness!…the least thing precisely,

the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizards rustling, a breath,

a wisk, an eye glance – little maketh up the best happiness.

Be still.”

By Friedrich Nietzsche