Author Archives: mel

Sunday Write-Up – March 2020

Sunday Write Up HeaderBack to help me keep creative during the COVID-19 lockdown, decided to do some little ‘writing sprints’ to pass the time – feel free to join in, take a week to write your piece (no more than a couple of hours worth of writing effort required 🙂 and then share here in the Comments, or on your own blog and drop us a link here, so that we can come and check it out!)

Posting here on my blog, as well as on Aside from Writing – don’t be bored, give it a go.

This week’s five words are:

rosy       wild      other     hindsight      beat

This piece works as a snippet to a book I’ve been playing around with for a few years – not sure if it will go anywhere, but a bit of a different style for me…

 

Saturday 24th March 2007 

Age: Still Twenty-Seven and Nine Months

Life Lesson: Booze and friendship are great, but they do not mend a broken heart

The taxi pulled away as I stumbled, high heels in hand, towards the wobbling outline of the front door. The girls were hanging out the windows shouting goodnight and don’t puke on the gnome, but I didn’t turn around, just waved my arm vaguely in the air. I did not want to be distracted from the epic challenge of finding the door keys inside my small clutch bag. 

I dropped the bag on the floor and was left holding a lip gloss. “Shit.” I glared at Rosy Glow and tried again.

Bending down, I picked up the bag and put the lip gloss back inside. Fumbling through the silky material again, I came up with something round and metal. Victory!

“Shit.” It was a rogue coin, just dumped into the bag loose after I’d bought that round of apple sour shots, because they were a wild green colour. 

Then I dropped the bag again. Sigh. “Shit,” I mumbled, one last time as I bent down and resigned myself to searching at ground level for safety. This was a picture of class if any of the neighbours poked their head out of the window at this time in the morning. A few moments later I came up with the keys. 

Tonight it helped that the door was white, and stood out from the rest of the house: it made finding the key hole easier. On my second attempt, I managed to get the key in the lock and opened the door. 

Even through the fog of booze, I felt the quiet, emptiness of the house wash over me as I stood on the doorstep. I didn’t need to be quiet as I came in, there was no one to wake up. I didn’t need to pretend to walk straight, to prove I wasn’t drunk. No one would tell me off for leaving my shoes in the middle of hallway, when they tripped over them – there was no one to trip over them, except me. 

Stepping inside, I dumped my shoes and bag, and locked the door behind me. A slight wobble from a few too many drinks: I leaned back against the closed door, shutting my eyes and realised in hindsight that mixing cocktails based on them being pretty rainbow colours had not been the best idea I’d ever had. Everything was quiet and I was alone. 

Not quite alone. I heard a squeaky, snuffling noise coming from the kitchen and headed in that direction. 

Opening the door, Millie greeted me, teddy in her mouth and tail wagging. “Hey Mills,” I bent down and fussed her, rubbing her soft black ears until she made her funny, happy-grunty noise. Snarf, she replied before trundling off back to bed with teddy. 

“Yeah, it’s nice to see you too.” I headed towards the sink, pushed stuff around in the cupboard until I found a glass, then filled it with water. I drank the first one in big, full gulps, suddenly realising  how thirsty I was. The rainbow of vodka shots I’d drunk tonight had obviously not been thirst quenching, they’d just filled a gap for a few hours.  

I filled the glass a second time and then meandered tipsily towards Millie’s bed, at the other end of the kitchen. She sat up as I approached and so I slid down the wall, landing in the warm and newly vacated space beside her. Worrying about dog hairs on my dress was the least of my problems right now – I wasn’t going to beat myself up about it.

Millie nudged my arm and dropped teddy into my lap. 

“It’s not fetch time,” I told her, placing the teddy back into her mouth. 

Snarf she said again, before she sighed and plopped her head down on my legs instead. 

I sighed myself and began stroking Millie’s ears absent-mindedly, drifting off into a little drunken haze. 

It had been good to be out of the house, away from the quiet and emptiness. The only problem now was that it felt twice as empty and quiet, as it had before. The house felt hollow, just as I did, and there was no one – and no amount of booze – that could help me with that.

I sighed again and then the tears began to fall, making cold, wet tracks on my face. It didn’t matter now, no one was here to see me and I didn’t have to be brave for anyone, so that they felt better. I cried silently, a slow and steady stream of tears trailing down my cheeks and dripping onto my dress. I didn’t wipe them away or try to stop. 

Who cares? 

“It’s just you and me now puppy,” I told Millie. 

   

Ederline

A little post from me for #WorldPoetryDay as I’m not normally one for writing poetry, but this is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago when I stayed in a little cottage in the middle of the Ederline Estate in Scotland. I finished Faris and the Monoceros whilst I was there, and the distinct lack of phone signal and lots of open green and blue spaces definitely cleared out the cobwebs. 

 

Ederline 

At first it is silence that you think you hear:

Leaving behind the noise of the city,

Driving away from your busy, working world.

But you are wrong.

 

There is an absence of the usual clamour,

And definitely more sheep than people,

But though you may find peace in these open spaces

It will not be quiet. This beautiful world cannot be silent.

 

Gentle breeze through tree branches makes them rush

With the white noise of a distant motorway,

But, there are no cars here

And for that you are glad.

 

Wilder winds, coming down from the hillsides

Bring the boom of an aeroplane passing overhead.

But the skies are clear here,

Except for racing clouds and gliding birds.

 

Birdsong at midday, is as loud as a suburban dawn chorus:

So many voices, so much to hear.

Then rain comes in – quiet by comparison to the rest –

And fills the fields with pale, blanket mists.

 

After the rain, comes the trickle of new rivers

Springing up in the fields and running towards

The streams, which heave and roar against their banks –

Rapids on your doorstep, foaming white and wild.

 

Do not come for silence, as you will not find it here

All around you, nature shouts out its unique melodies:

The wind, the rain, the streams, the trees…

All have a song to sing, if you are there to listen.

Cirque de la Nuit – A WiP in Stats

I’m nearly (really very nearly) done with Cirque de la Nuit and I’ve been pushing myself these last couple of weeks to meet the target of publishing in August (yes I know there are only a few days left, but they still count!)

Someone just said about me finishing it up and “there’s just two more chapters to go” as if that takes a couple of hours to run off and be done with – and it made me respond by dragging up the stats to the current draft to quote just how long it takes to write a book, as I don’t think I’ll be finished today somehow!

So – not that I’m using this as a distraction from continuing Chapter 19 or anything – I thought it would be interesting to pull up all the drafts to date (I’m on version 5 currently) and see what has happened along the way.

Version 1 – started 3rd November 2015

35,006 words   Chapters 1-4   94 pages   3340 minutes

Version 2

63,636 words   Chapters 5-9   137 pages   2025 minutes

Version 3

85,373 words   Chapters ?   244 pages   4277 minutes

Version 4

103,100 words   Chapters ?   304 pages   6068 minutes

via GIPHY

So… I’m currently working through Version 5, which will likely become ‘CdlN – FINAL’ in my drafts folder before formatting for the various platforms to release. At present, it has taken just shy of four years to go from the first one-shot pieces that formed key scenes in this story to a finished book. And a total of 15,710 minutes of writing (up until today) or 261 hours of writing. It doesn’t feel like that much in some ways when you see it tabled up like that, but it sure feels like it as you go along, and especially when a lot of the time you only get a couple of hours here and there to write.

What about everyone else – do you know how long it really takes you to write a book? 🙂 Would love to hear how it is for others!

Mel x

 

 

 

 

 

Just Finished… When the English Fall

When the English Fall

The Blurb…

When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. Once-bright skies are now dark. Planes have plummeted to the ground. The systems of modern life have crumbled. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the peaceable community.

Seen through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob as he tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive?

David Williams’s debut novel is a thoroughly engrossing look into the closed world of the Amish, as well as a thought-provoking examination of “civilization” and what remains if the center cannot hold.

What I thought….

I read this quickly and easily, Jacob’s simple, clear narration through his diary entries lull you into the world he and his family inhabit within the Amish community.

If you are looking for a post-apocalypse story with action and adventure, this is not it. This is a consideration of human behaviour – the Amish and ‘English’ viewed in both their similarities and differences – when you strip away the superfluous, superficial distractions of ‘English’ modern lives.

Pg 27, when Jacob talks about his Rumspringa (going walkabout in the world of the English as a teenager): “I remember how people would walk around not even seeing each other, eyes down into their rectangles of light. No one was where they were.”

The irony that I typed this quote in to a rectangle of light, to remember this image from the book that I liked was not lost on me… But, it stuck with me as a perfect example of what you see repeatedly in the book: the drags on the time and focus of the English on inconsequential things compared to Jacob and his family, where time together, contentment in quiet activity and working hard to sustain their way of life are fulfilling in a wholly different, but very real way. Had they not lived so close to the English, their experience of the solar storm that changes everything around them, would actually have changed very little for them in reality. They are thankful for the natural bounty they get when weather is better than expected and work hard to manage and moderate when the natural world delivers more difficult situations.

These are the stories I like the best I think, the ‘iceberg’ ones where most of the activity takes place beneath the surface of the skin. Examining how quickly modern life can disintegrate, how ill prepared many are for anything other than the comfortable, on-demand lives they have is intriguing and very real in this book. You don’t need heroes and villains on a grand scale for an apocalyptic tale: the quick slide of ‘normal’ people into crime and looting when they become desperate, set against those who selflessly step forward to help strangers in need shows how this happens realistically.

Just Finished…Unqualified by Anna Faris

AnnaUnqualifiedBookCoverOpt

Anna Faris has advice for you. And it’s great advice, because she’s been through it all, and she wants to tell you what she’s learned. Her comic memoir and first book, Unqualified, will share Anna’s candid, sympathetic, and entertaining stories of love lost and won. Part memoir, part humorous, unflinching advice from her hit podcast Anna Faris Is Unqualified, the book will reveal Anna’s unique take on how to navigate the bizarre, chaotic, and worthwhile adventure of finding love.

Hilarious, authentic, and actually useful, Unqualified is the book Anna’s fans have been waiting for.

 

What do I think…?

Part memoir, part advice, part observations on life – Anna’s book covers a lot of ground for what is quite a quick read. I picked it up as a random read a while ago mainly because I like the person she comes across as when interviewed and I’ve enjoyed some of her movies, like the original Scary Movie and What’s Your Number? is favourite rom-com of mine.

The book is a collection of different pieces: some parts inspired by the Unqualified podcast (which I’m going to give a try now, having read this book!) and the advice that has come from that, with Anna reflecting these ideas back at memories of her own romantic life. Other parts are straight memoir, as you run through Anna’s early career as defined in relationships she had along the way, or how she felt about them. The writing is genuinely funny and feels direct and honest – which you would hope to get from someone who my earliest lasting memory on film is being blasted onto a ceiling on a fountain of stuff

There’s not much age difference between us and so I found it interesting some of the clear crossovers of experience, which really speaks of the universality I think of what she is writing about.

The most moving part of the book for me was her pregnancy and the birth of her son Jack. I was laughing along with her words, remembering how clueless you can be going into and through pregnancy – FYI reading The Rough Guide to Pregnancy and Birth doesn’t mean you are an idiot, just that you’re happy to revise for an exam! And this is how Anna’s story went, until the unexpected happened. I can’t imagine how it must feel to go through what she and other parents go through when babies come early or have significant medical issues. You can feel helpless enough later on when kids are older and something happens, let alone within the first few hours of bringing them in to the world.

I really enjoyed the parts that were about Anna’s experience in life and her professional career, but these were not the main focus of the book, they were examples used to show some of the relationship ideas being discussed. This makes sense as ‘examining relationships’ is the framework the book is built around, but I would like to see more of this from her – maybe a ‘proper’ memoir in the future – as she has a lot to say and offers good insight of her own experiences, that I would like to see more. 4* read for me.

Just Finished…’Burning Up’ and ‘The Note’

Ok, so I’ve read a few post-apocalypse and dystopian books recently, add to that Lost in Space and Fear the Walking Dead on my TV boxset watches, everything was getting pretty heavy. So, after finishing Station Eleven, which was an excellent, thought-provoking look at life after a major, world-wide epidemic takes out 99.8% of the world population in about 2 weeks, I needed something a bit lighter…

First up was The Note by Zoe Folbigg. Here’s the blurb:

The NoteThe note changed everything…

One very ordinary day, Maya Flowers sees a new commuter board her train to London, and suddenly the day isn’t ordinary at all. Maya knows immediately and irrevocably, that he is The One.

But the beautiful man on the train always has his head in a book and never seems to notice Maya sitting just down the carriage from him every day. Eventually, though, inspired by a very wise friend, Maya plucks up the courage to give the stranger a note asking him out for a drink. Afterall, what’s the worst that can happen?

And so begins a story of sliding doors, missed opportunities and finding happiness where you least expect it.

Based on the author’s true story, The Note is an uplifting, life-affirming reminder that taking a chance can change everything.

I got this as a free download from Amazon UK and it was the ‘sliding doors’ feel of the story and the promise of some lighter ‘life-affirming’ reading that appealed with this. I didn’t really get both. The story is told in third-person present tense, which has an odd ‘distancing’ quality to the whole presentation – you are so much inside main character Maya’s head, that it seems strange to me that it wasn’t done as first person, if it had been I think it would have helped you feel more engaged with the story and characters.

Maya works in fashion and whilst I get that some of the descriptions of her clothes and that of co-workers is to give context to what she does in work, I found it quite jarring to read the lengthy descriptions of blouses and dresses and skirts and shoes…and the materials they were made from…and the multitude of colours everyone is wearing… The same treatment was given to food that was eaten and most rooms Maya walked into – it wasn’t quite the manic descriptions of everything I found in American Psycho, but it certainly reminded me of it – and every time you had one of these descriptive interludes it really detracted from the core story I felt.

Anyway, the good bits are – Maya’s mild obsession and imagining a future from a random meeting on the train is quite relatable: ‘Ted Baker Man’ and ‘Red Coat Man’ would not be too far removed from ‘Train Guy’. She takes a l-o-n-g time to get anywhere with this though and as a character comes across as lacking self-awareness in many of her interactions with him. Overall, I think Maya’s best bits – and those of the story – are the characters she meets along the way and are not really what the blurb of the book promised: her Spanish class students, her best friend (who has a better romance story tbh) and sadly for Train Guy, seeing his existing relationship crumble. All those elements are stronger and feature much more heavily and realistically than their actual romance.

This gets 3* from me – the ideas and some of the characters are good; but the presentation of the story is distracting and distancing, which is unusual for what is pitched as a romance.

Burning UpNext up was Burning Up, which was a lot less cheesy than the cover and blurb would suggest… When they cut the chaps face off the cover to focus on his sweaty pecs I feel like it’s taking the potential reader a very specific way 🙂

Anyway, the blurb promises to ‘fan the flames of desire in Jennifer Blackwood’s smoking-hot series about firefighters and the women who want them…

Here’s what the book is about: Unemployed schoolteacher Erin Jenkins is back in Portland, the town she hasn’t called home for more than a decade. It’s not the way she wants to spend her last days of summer: in between jobs and avoiding her mother’s snooping by escaping to the ice-cream aisle. But when the opportunity arises for her to accompany her brother’s best friend—her lifetime crush—to a wedding, summer gets a whole lot more interesting.

Firefighter and single dad Jake Bennett has built a nice, safe wall around his heart—no romance, no getting burned. That doesn’t mean he’s ruling out a fling. Considering Erin’s visit is temporary, they’re the perfect fit for a scorching no-strings one-night stand. Or two. Or five. Until the worst thing happens: Erin and Jake are feeling more. Damn that four-letter word.

Now their hearts are on the line, and when their smoldering summer comes to a close, it’s going to be harder than ever to put out the fire.

Once you get away from the proliferation of puns for flaming romance and firemen in the blurb, the actual book is pretty good – and there’s no cheesy lines in sight, except for the odd one used in full sarcasm mode. Erin also doesn’t spend most of the book cataloguing the gorgeousness of Jake, but gets on with having a real life and change in circumstances around the budding relationship.

There are some heated scenes, so it’s not suitable for younger readers, but for me the book was primarily about fears of growing up and changing, how you balance the importance of a career against family life and potential relationships. It was also interesting reading from Jake’s perspective about balancing the idea of a new relationship alongside his responsibilities as a parent. There was a wider cast of characters in the book, who play important roles and influence Erin and how she deals with losing her job, as much as Jake does.

Overall, this was a better and more engaging read than The Note, with a romance and surrounding cast of characters that felt more in synch with the story and main character, as well as not featuring detailed descriptions of every inanimate object in the room every few pages. 4* rating for this one.

Now that I’ve had a mini-break reading-wise, it’s back to some grittier stuff: I’ve got Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series to finish, Ubik on my kindle and Farenheiht 451 just dropped through the door… It’s going to be a mixed few weeks reading I guess…

 

 

Just Finished…The Crucible

CrucibleThis is a re-read for me of one of my favourite plays to read – if that makes sense?

I first read this in school as a required text and it was one of the first times I really saw clearly escalating drama, then a lull, then another escalation, over the four acts of the play. If I had seen it in a play before, I hadn’t noticed it really. The characters in the play are also strong, whether good, bad or other, I enjoy the story that they come together to tell. It feels like you get more character development in this than other plays I’ve read.

In reading this at school, you really do to death (no pun) the motifs and themes and imagery, dissecting everything until you’ve pulled the text apart, but perhaps aren’t enjoying it so much. Coming back to it again after so many years, I still remember elements of what I learned and so in reading this reasonably fresh the elements that I revised for exam questions now just add texture and depth to a reading of an explosive play.

I’ve seen a few Miller plays performed, but never this one, even though it is my favourite of his. Re-reading this today just reminded me of this. Plus, the edition I have is the one pictured: a little ratty on the outside, found in a second hand book shop and purchased for the grand price of 85p when I was at Uni – so it’s nostalgia all around, even down to the musty-smelling, slightly yellow pages.

Yeah, I suppose this wasn’t a review of the play at all, but of my experiences reading it. Oh, well. It’s Sunday, don’t hold it against me.