Friday, July 03, 2015

Soft Touch

Summer has arrived. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the UK is currently experiencing temperatures normally seen in the tropics and it's glorious. Especially as my hay fever season is largely over. I've thrown every door and window open letting in the sunshine. I'm swanning around in summer dresses and have adopted a mostly chilled liquid diet. 

Rummy, as a mostly black cat, is not enjoying it so much. I spent some sofa time earlier in the week and he lay next to me. Or at least he started that way. Once the patch he lay on got too hot, he then moved over to the next cool spot and then the next. Until he ran out of sofa, then he skulked off to hide in the hall where it's cool and dark.

Rummy having a snooze

I suspect Zoe is cursing my name and very existence. I seem to have landed her with more hostages. Since last autumn, there's been a little feral cat living under her woodpile. She produced another litter of kittens in the spring. As the sister of a vet, I would rather see her spayed and released back here. It's a tough life for a feral queen cat, especially one who is obviously such a considerate mum. She is a fantastic hunter. Her success is her four lively kittens. But a few weeks ago, I started worrying about her. Her coat was looking very scraggly and she looked overly thin for a nursing mum. She started hanging around my garden, looking for scraps. I gave in and fed her. She inhaled two packets of cat food and ran off in five minutes.

Then Zoe started feeding her in the evenings. Her patience and gentleness has tamed the feral puss to the point where she now welcomes being stroked and comes for affection even without food. Zoe contacted several cat charities to see if they could catch the kittens for spaying and re-homing and to see if they would spay the mama. They've been less than helpful. In any case, it's too late.

Mama is up the duff and I think it's not long before she produces the second litter. This time, we'll be ready for her. Dave has agreed to donate a cat hutch so we can use that to encourage her to queen in there (queening is the proper term for kitty birthing - I had to look it up). The wood where she nests is about to be hauled away, so it's fairly imperative we get her used to somewhere new before she queens. 

The little cat and Rummy are generally fine with each other, until she comes into the garden looking for food and then they'll have a set to. It's never very serious, a lot of grandstanding, growling and hissing. Rummy might be a touch over-possessive with me, but he's not a total asshole with it (though Boy won't agree with me. Rummy pees on his dirty clothes if he can). When I think of the hidings he's had at the paws of the Lynx. Humpf. Given how tiny the little feral cat is, if Rummy was in a mind to, he could do her some serious damage. But no. He simply would rather she didn't come into the garden.
Spot the difference? About a couple of kilos, I reckon
This is the little feral cat

It's quite disconcerting. I'll be sat at my dinning table writing or arting and then my Spidey sense tingles. There'll be a little face peering at me through the glass. She always hisses at me for a greeting. I think it's just her way of showing she's a total badass and has totally got this.  

It's really good that she comes around. Rummy, despite being a rescue cat, is a fussy bugger when it comes to food. He gets bored and requires regular brand rotations or he won't eat. If I get it wrong, she'll eat it. She's not proud.

Dave thinks I'm a totally soft touch. He's not wrong. There's now a bowl for her at my back door. Yesterday, Rummy caught a field mouse. He and I had a big scrap. The mouse did not help itself at all. Every time I got Rummy to drop it, the stupid thing ran under Rummy to hide! Honestly, at one point I though it's absence from the gene pool would be better for field mice everywhere. I couldn't do it. I couldn't see the poor thing killed. I finally caught it and swatted Rummy for growling at me. I put it in a bucket to recover and then I thought it was too exposed, so I got it some cover. Of course it was really hot, so I put a small dish of water in there. And then it might get hungry...

Dave withheld the lecture, he's got such good self-control. He just asked me if I was going to get a cage for it. I kept looking in on the little mouse and after a couple of hours I set it free. Yes, I think I am a conman's wet dream. Jeez. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

My What Life...

I woke this morning with a poem. A bemused Rummy watched impassively as I scrabbled around for a pen and paper to scribble it all down before it faded too much. This is the third this week. They keep coming. I can't keep up.

After Dave gave me a huge amount of art supplies, he suggested I sign up for an art class (or two). As he put it, why spend an afternoon in the library, when you can spend six months in the lab? I took his point. The course is a beginner's everything art course covering all possible materials over five days. It's at the end of July. It's ages away. In the meantime, I am experimenting. It's incredibly happy-making.
my dining room table is under there, somewhere

After my rather rude awakening, I was moved to take some pictures to sum up what life is like right now for me. Zoe made herself available to supervise me planting melons in her greenhouse. The hardest part was to try and make everything chicken-proof. The velociraptors like nothing more than to have a good rummage through piles of newly added compost or dug earth and can uproot plants in their efforts. We managed.
Got my melons out. I know they look a bit floppy. Don't worry, they'll perk up

I also planted out a few squashes into the walled garden. I've got far more plants than we need, but thanks to the slugs and my attempt at staggering the sowing, they are at various stages of growth. If you like spaghetti squash, let me know. There will be quite a lot, despite the slugs and snails doing their best.

Bungay has a market on the Buttercross every Thursday. I was seduced by a huge bag of bitesized peppers. It was only £1.00, for at least 30 of the little yummies. I collected the seeds and planted up a tray-full. Dave was uncertain any of them would germinate, they are after all, commercially grown. I was expecting only a few plants. Hah! All but three popped up and now I've got pepper plants everywhere. I have no idea what I'm going to do with them all. I have no idea what the peppers will be like, but I'm up for the surprise. 
tomatoes to be

I didn't start this year with any of this in mind. Not really. With the space to breathe and play and indulge my creativity all sorts of weird things are happening. After a great deal of consideration, I've put the counselling course to one side. Right now I want to explore what makes me happy, what makes me thrive. Creativity in all its guises is certainly doing that. There's a little ball of contentment in my chest these days, even when I have difficult days. 

What do I want to do when I grow up? I don't know. Every time I think I know, it becomes shapes in smoke. I'm going to have to do something soon for an income, I think I'm going to follow Zoe's advice and do something innocuous to leave my creative brain the space to keep exploring. It's funny but at this point, all I know is what I don't want to do. I've got a vague idea of what I do want to do and a heck of a lot of hope that it'll all come right in the end. Wish me luck.

oriental poppies, they self-seeded everywhere and the bees love them. I do too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Opportunity for Big Girl Pants

Today did not start well. A pile of cat poo in my carpeted hall and then another in my bath. Rummy's way of telling me he wasn't happy with the state of the kitty litter. Bad enough, but his tummy is also acting up. 

There are somethings I can deal with before coffee (admittedly it's a very short list) there are somethings which are a bit much. This came under the heading "I need vodka".

I made the decision holding a clean pair of socks.

I put on my Big Girl Pants. 

Zoe reminded me that yes, while I am doing well, I am still fragile. I had some bad news over the weekend. My brother and his family won't be coming this week. All our plans disappeared in a four line message. I haven't seen him in five years. The five years since my dad died. Oh yes, and then there was Father's Day. 

When the going gets tough, the trick is not to join in the World as it pummels you with a big stick. I asked myself "what would make me feel better?" Surprisingly, the answer was a tidier home. I hoovered, emptied the bins and thought about what I would write now.

In a moment, I'm going to scrounge a cup of tea. After that, there's a chilli to be made and chicken fajitas. No, I have no idea why Mexican food is so often on our menu these days. It's tasty, easy to prepare and has a lovely little kick.

I'm writing poetry. I always come back to poetry as the foundation for my writing. I'm looking for a workshop or a writing course to support me as I do so. I'm blessed with the ever-patient support of Julia, but I am also aware she has her own stuff to do. A hand was offered when I went to Cafe Writers earlier this month, I shall accept. It's been eight years since I sat in a room filled with other writers and poets and critiqued work. I've forgotten too much. I haven't forgotten my yearning for words though. 

Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Outdoors Type

It began like a normal text exchange on Thursday afternoon after a lovely, hot day (especially welcome after the cold, rainy, windy weather since last Saturday evening). Dave spent the day at the beach and wondered if I fancied spending Friday on the beach with him. I thought of the day ahead and said "sure, why not." I then got a text back asking if I fancied going camping for the night. According to Dave's weather sense, Friday would be scattered showers in the morning, then sunny, but cooler; Saturday, sunny but chilly. I thought about it and said "yes, if it's dry."

Friday didn't so much dawn as thunder the living daylights out of me. One minute I was fast asleep, the next I was wondering whether a giant's foot was going to come in through the roof above my head. It threw it down for about half an hour, cleared up and then had another go, because obviously, the weather hadn't got all the raining, winding and thundering right the first time. This happened again. At 10.30, Dave rang me.

I said what any sensible person would say looking out at a soggy garden "No freaking way!" Dave assured me that it would clear and dry up by lunchtime. He'd be over then to pick me up. I think the only reason he drove over here to pick me up, was to make sure I actually came. He knows me well.

I also know Dave's weather sense pretty well. I've been caught out by him before. Ladies and Gentlemen, take my advice and learn from my mistakes: do not bet against Dave's weather predictions. So, I dutifully packed my bag, gathered together my bits and pieces and waited. Lo! It thusly cleared up and dried out. 

Off we went. The camp site is in Waxham, on the Norfolk coast. Apparently, it's a pretty basic site with a shop, fish n chip van, toilets and showers. It also promised electricity. We got ourselves booked in and found our pitch to set up.

Last year we purchased, what is known as a walking tent, with the hope that if the weather was good, we'd go walking around the Norfolk coast, me carrying the tent, sleeping bags and mats, Dave carrying everything else. The tent promised it would sleep three men.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you now, that was in clear breach of the Trade Descriptions Act. The only way three men could fit in that tent is if they are three adolescent, anorexic jockeys. Let me tell you, it's a good thing Dave and I are intimate, that's not a tent to share with platonic friends. 

Pitching the tent was surprisingly easy. Especially since Dave insists on following instructions and is used to putting up tents. He also insists on making me follow his instructions so I didn't cause quite as much havoc as I might have otherwise. It only took 20 minutes. Next time it will be quicker as we'll know what we're doing. 

We had a very nice fish and chip supper and went for a walk along the beach. There's something so relaxing, sitting in the sand dunes, spotting the seals popping up near the waterline. We must have seen at least six. I don't know what it is but every time I see them I just want to throw a stick and shout "fetch!" They've got such bright, inquisitive eyes. And yes, before you start, I don't. I leave them well enough alone. They are wild animals and I am in their element.

I got a bit over-excited and insisted we go to bed when the sun went down. That was when I realised that all was not as it could be. I didn't bring the mat for under my sleeping bag, nor anything else to cushion my body against the ground. I couldn't sleep on my back, not without a roll for under my knees and when I tried to sleep on my side, it hurt. Sleeping on my front was okay, but I couldn't quite do it because of the muscles in my thighs. It seems I have discovered the down side to becoming fitter. Lack of padding. 

Going to the camp loos in the middle of the night was a bit of an expedition. Not that I was worried about stumbling around in the dark, there were two street-type lamps on site and we were directly under one and had to suffer the deep orange glow all night. 

It took me ten minutes to get comfortable to fall asleep and then I'd wake up to change position. I then had to shuffle around to try and redistribute my weight on my bones before I could shut my eyes. Every time I did, Dave was looking at me worriedly. I did get a bit chilly at one point, but he got my hat from the car on his way back from his own trek to the loos and that sorted that out. At one point he asked whether I'd prefer to sleep in the car. I declined. I was determined to see out the night in the tent. 

At about 5.30, Dave went to the loo with the immortal words "if you want, we can go sleep in my mother's house just down the road." When he came back I was dressed with boots on ready to go. No, I did not want to look at the sea. No, I did not want to go for a walk on the shore.

The tent came down a damn side quicker that it did going up. We broke camp in about ten minutes. As promised, in less than half an hour we were tucked up in a warm bed. It was bliss.

What have I learnt about camping?

  • I actually like it
  • We need more padding so we can sleep comfortably
  • We need a proper camping stove
  • A table would be quite handy
  • A camping kettle and a proper cool bag would be great too
  • Hand wash is more important to me than I can say
  • I would like to go camping in more remote places
  • Other campers are a bit interesting.

Overheard on the site:

"Do you want baby spinach with that?"
"Shall I throw this on the BBQ, or shall I do it on the George Forman?"

The Plan is to purchase a weekend tent that will have more space. Yes, it does mean it'll be bigger and heavier to cart around, but that way we'll have the option of either walking, biking or driving to a campsite (possibly near you).

An intense moment in the erection process

"We will fit. Promise."

Dave "enjoying" his camping tea. PS. I'm the shadow taking the picture.

As Dave said, this was a trial run to iron out the shortcomings. The best is yet to come.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Facing The Fear

I had the opportunity to grumble at my old Creative Writing tutor about one of the greatest omissions made on my course: overcoming The Fear.

You see it turns out I haven't been suffering from The Funk at all. Oh no. It's so much worse than that. I've been suffering from The Fear. Or rather, I've been running the hell away from it. 

At the end of my writing bout in the beginning of May, after I totted up my word count I had the sneaking realisation that I was sadly mistaken. The Plan I had created and set in motion wasn't going to work at all. It was a duff - pretty much the way most of my plans have turned out. 

It's now the beginning of June and looking back, I see my mistake so clearly now. Forgive me Father, but I'm a bit slow sometimes. It's not that my writing is bad, or the structure is off, or the characterisation is sloppy. It's just that I created The Plan in an effort to be safe. I had a goal that was as safe as I could create. Writing for Harlequin Romance is as safe as I could make my goal. They are the only publisher supporting new writers, both through craft and payment. They continue publishing through thick and thin and are always on the lookout for new writers. They like new writers. They also engage with their readers to find out where their interests lie and how their writers can match them. 

The rest of the publishing world, not so much.

They have a business to run and are looking for the next JK Rowling and George RR Martin. They don't have time to baby new writers. They are looking for sales. 

I'm terrified by that world, to the marrow of my quaking bones.

And here's the problem. The book I am writing does not fit into the remit of Harlequin Romance. Yes, I could tone it down, mould it to fit their requirements. The problem is that I am invested in the story as it stands. It's more than that. It needs more space than Harlequin can provide.

As I was packing the dishwasher I had the insight that writing is like falling in love. You can have relationships without falling in love and they can be quite good and lots of fun. Copywriting is like that. I can churn out words to fit the count on any given subject, bank the cheque and move on to the next project without remembering the previous. To fall in love, is to risk. It is to risk everything. To be vulnerable. To experience highs and lows at another's whim and fancy. To give up control. To know that at the end you could be crushed like a plastic container under foot and tossed into the recycling without another thought, or to be transmuted into the gold of acceptance and joy. 

There is no safe falling in love and no safe in writing. 

The more I try to hold back, the more my writing suffers. And I am a coward.

  • I am afraid that The Fear will prevent me from finishing what I've started
  • I am afraid that I will not find an agent to read my finished manuscript
  • I am terrified that it will languish on publishers' floors
  • I am afraid that I will only ever know impoverishment through my creativity
  • I am worried that I will have to do this the hard way: self-publish and self-marketed
  • I am worried that the only people who will read and buy this are friends and family
  • I am petrified that I will die disappointed in me, because I didn't do it. 

It's fairly obvious halting my therapy was a mistake. The Crazy has come to stay. It's always so much worse when I don't write. 

And that's the thing: I need to write.

I broke one of the cardinal rules of writing yesterday: thou shalt not show anyone thy first, unedited, unproofed draft. 

The Great Ursus and his Lovely spent the day with me yesterday. While the Lovely Ursus listened to my endless burbling of neuroses, the Great Ursus read my words. The Great Ursus reads what I read. We swap books, rant about them, rave about them together. He is my Dear Reader. His feedback was enormously helpful. As was his kick up the bum.

I will indulge and procrastinate for the rest of the week, simply because there are other things that need doing around here, that I must attend to. I also am gathering the tiny pieces of my courage. They are scattered around here somewhere. 

I will not give into The Fear. It will not win again. I will not let it divert me from this path. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Surfing The Funk and having a Whinge

You might remember I told you all about my Plan? Get 85,000 words written by the end of June? Yeah. The first week went really well, with the tally running at 12,000 or so words (some of those needing serious deleting) and then everything ground to a halt. As in complete stop. Not so much writer's block as writer's fortress wall. 

I couldn't even open the word document where my words lay in wait. I couldn't even blog. 

If I say the last couple of weeks have been trying, this is an understatement. 

Yes, I could have done things: writing exercises, physically exercised more, done art, done some poetry. Instead, I just had a bit of a funk. It's not like I've been depressed or unhappy. I just couldn't be creative. 

The last couple of days haven't been a barrel of laughs. Not especially helped by Rummy being a bit of an asshole during the night, leading to me not getting much sleep and being very shouty and sweary with him. 

It's partly not his fault. Since his last few encounters with the bastard lynx (may the fleas of a thousand camels infest him and give him heart worm), his confidence has been severely knocked to the point where he hasn't wanted to go outside, not even for a comfort break. Not helped that the bastard Lynx (may he ever get hangnails and meet hungry foxes at night) has been spraying our front door, making clear that our territory is his. I swear if I get my mitts on that bastard cat I will rub his ass down with chilli oil or worse. Given that he high-tails it every time he sees me, my chances are slim at best. More's the pity.

At 3 am, the hint of dawn in the air, Rummy decides that it's time to get up, make lots of noise and play. I eventually resolved the situation by hunting him down, catching him and tossing him into the morning. By then I was so wound up, sleep eluded me for hours after. 

Last night, he decided he'd behave, but that didn't stop me waking up for a couple of hours in expectation of him being a dick. 

Today, I've crawled out of my Pit of Doom to potter around the house. I've also had a bit of a chemistry experiment. Now I'm no longer required to appear normal, I thought I'd have a bit of an experiment with my hair colour. Last time, I went to my hair dresser and asked for a bright red. It was not a success. Given my hair is so incredibly dark and she decided to err on the side of caution, it came out more mahogany than red. This time, I figured I'd give it a shot myself. It's brighter than the professional job and way cheaper, but still highly unsatisfactory. It was a lot of effort and mess - the bathroom looked like I'd murdered a clown - and it's come out more like Bad Tranny Red, than bright red.


I'm now wondering whether I should abandon reds completely and explore other, wilder colours. Perhaps bright blue? 

On a happier note, Boy finishes his second year today after his last exam and will be home tomorrow until September and the start of his final year.

I've missed his awesome self. 

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Calm Before...

As planned, I had a couple of days off with my Boy in Lincoln. It was exactly what I needed. That, and the three hours driving time there and back. The trip up gave me another writing project, the trip back sorted out some of the issues I was still struggling with. I'm not sure Boy will welcome me rocking up unannounced on his doorstep every time I need to sort my writing issues out. I think I should start looking into hostels or cheap B & Bs. 

Tomorrow, I start writing proper. I've planned as much as I can and now I can't put it off any longer. Tomorrow, I start. Needless to say, I was awake for two hours last night, wide awake and thinking about things that did not immediately need my attention. I did however, remember that I need to pay a bill, so it wasn't all wasted time. I am not convinced of the urgency of the thinking that my house would benefit from a quick flick of a duster in the morning or that there was laundry to do. I disturbed Rummy enough that he flounced out of bed and house at 4 am. He woke me up just before 9 am, a very hungry and soggy sight. I was unimpressed with his enthusiastic affection. It was moist. And not in a good way either.

I am not great with stated goals. I set them, write them down and then go and do something completely different. You may therefore understand my reluctance to say I've got a structure that I must work to, if I am to complete the book by the 26th of June. 

My brother and his family are doing a European vacation arriving on the 26th, hence my deadline. While they aren't going to be with me for the whole month, we do have plans to spend a week in France together at the beginning of July. It will be great  to have finished the first draft by then, it can then cook on my desk until my return. I can then edit it and send it to the eejits dear friends who have agreed to read it through for me. If everything goes to plan, I should be able to get the manuscript off to the publisher by September August latest. I can then expect my first rejection letter anywhere from Christmas to February next year. In the meantime, I will have my second writing project well on the go. Hopefully, that one will flow more efficiently.

I confess I am a bit terrified nervous. Funds are running low and time is running out. As my dad used to say "it's time to shit, or get off the pot."

Over the next eight weeks, I will not be logging on to social media through my laptop during the day in an effort to keep my focus. Of course, I have my phone next to me, so you will still see me about lunchtimes and sneaky breaks. Blogging is part of my writing process and I have no intention of losing track of you lot. I will still be exercising like a mad thing, either first or last thing I haven't figured out which will be better for me; I do know the movement will do me good. 

So here it is: 

The Plan: 85,000 words written in 8 weeks. That's 11,000 words per week. 2,500 words* per day assuming two days off.

*yes, smarty-pants I know my maths doesn't add up. I'm correcting for sick days, injury days or days that just won't go to plan.