Odd Writers #5: Schiller’s Rotten Writing


German poet (later called ‘the pop-star of his time’), Schiller believed in the magical power of apples. AND, after he died, his mate kept his skull on his desk. Beat that!

Goethe popped round to Schiller’s one day while he was out and decided to wait in his office for him to return. A strange smell pervaded the room, and Goethe prowled, his nose in the air, looking for the source. It was stronger as he approached Schiller’s desk. He neared, sniffing, but could see nothing to cause the smell. He frowned and sniffed again, tentatively pulling open the desk drawer.

The sickly-sweet stench was so intense that Goethe staggered backwards, his head spinning, and made for the open window, gasping for breath. When he had recovered, he stuck his nose deep in his gentleman’s handkerchief and dared to look. The drawer was full of rotting apples.

Charlotte, Friedrich’s wife (and, by the way, he was also in love with her sister), shrugged when challenged by Goethe. “Them blinkin’ apples,” she said (but in perfect German*), “He says they ‘elp him concentrate, silly bugger!”

Goethe, like all good friends, kept Schiller’s skull on his own desk after he had died. (How lovely. I’m going to suggest that to my best friend.) Only it was later discovered that it wasn’t actually Schiller’s skull (how embarrassing!)

And, yes, science backs up the rotten apple effect. The scent can apparently lift the mood, stave off panic attacks, and give you the same wonderful feeling of dizziness you get from creative inspiration. Apparently it’s to do with the methane, so placing your typewriter next to a windy cow might have the same effect**

*Apologies: Any accent I attempt either ends up being Cockney or Yorkshire, so I’ve long since given up.

** Please do not come to me saying ‘Jo, you told me I’d be able to produce a bestselling novel if I sat next to a cow, but all I got was a pat on the head.’

Engrossing YA -Jo Danilo’s ‘The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook’

It means so much to get a review like this after years of nagging from the little pixie of self-doubt 🙂

Sophie de Courcy and More

I have always admired this author’s writing, and I am really pleased that this novel is now available on Amazon. I only occasionally read YA, but I really enjoyed this one.

Excellent! I was really impressed.

This novel combines lively action, humour, vivid descriptions and characterisation in an expertly woven creepy supernatural adventure alternated with prosaic high school life in a small Yorkshire town.

There is a curse on a house by Tinker’s Wood, and it must begin and end with a death.
When new neighbours move next door to the protagonist Daisy May and her mother, something re-activates it from its decades long sleep.

This is a spine chilling story, and a funny and a sad one. It’s full of action and vivid descriptions, tersely recounted. I was hooked from the moment I read of foul Mr Braithwate, and his habitual saluation to all – with two fingers.


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Me, Marie Antoinette and ‘The Moment’

me aged four.jpg

I remember we were at a friend’s house. I must have been about four. They had white blinds hanging in long strips at the windows, and I spent a long time pulling (‘Gently please, Jojo!”) at the plastic, beaded cord, twisting the strips open and closed. Letting the sunlight into the room in bright stripes across the beige carpet.

Then the TV came on. A children’s programme for us little ones to watch. We planted ourselves, cross-legged, on the carpet. The grown-ups were chatting, their existence stripped to knees and feet, hands holding steaming mugs of tea and reaching for biscuits. Faceless. Just background noise.

But on the screen… on the screen was a woman clothed in a dress of cream and gold that came out from her narrow hips and took over the whole corridor of a sumptuous palace. She was like a doll, with white hair piled up high and unmoving on the top of her head, red lips and a black spot painted on her lip. This, the narrator told us, was ‘Marry Ann-twan-ett’

marie_antoinetteThe grown-ups talked and laughed, in their own grown-up world. I didn’t hear them. I didn’t see the other kids any more. I only had eyes for Marie Antoinette. I watched her move and pout and flutter her eyelashes to admiring glances. She looked like nobody I had ever seen before.

But things quickly changed. Soon the screen was full of angry people, and they seemed to be angry with her. They marched her from the sumptuous palace and threw her into a dark grey room. The cream and gold dress was replaced with a plain one. She lost the big hair, the beauty spot and the red lips and looked more like the angry people and less like herself.

She was loaded onto a cart and taken to an open square with, what looked like, a tall wooden window set up on a central stage. The narrator used big words like ‘execution’ and ‘decapitation’ which I’d never heard before. And so I, aged four, had no clue what was about to happen.

They made her lie down at the bottom of the window, face down with her arms behind her back. Alarm bells began to ring. She didn’t look comfortable. I wished they would bring her a pillow. I tore my eyes from the screen to glance at the grown-ups, but they were still chatting. Maybe it would be alright, then. I was worrying for nothing.

Someone placed a curved plank of wood over her neck. The camera panned up the long window. Slowly. And still I didn’t figure it out, because I didn’t know people did things like this to each other. No idea it was even possible.

The sight of the sharp, triangular blade right at the top changed everything for me. I understood so much as the metal flashed momentarily in the sunlight and suddenly began to plummet down the casing. I understood that Marie Antoinette was about to lose her head in a most horrific way. I understood how terrified this perfect doll must have been, lying there below the blade. And I also understood that the world was not the way I thought it was.

The grown-ups chattered on. Someone went to make more tea. Nobody noticed that the little four year old girl in the room had just experienced a life-changing moment she would be writing about in a blog many, many years later.

To this day, that same girl cannot sleep unless the blankets are pulled up to safely cover her neck!

(To be continued…)

The Pit

I came across this beautiful drawing by Cambodian artist Visothkakvei today – such a clever paper, ink & digital artist – and it reminded me so much of Daisy’s pit in ‘The Curtain-Twitcher’s Handbook’


“What’ve you done?”

The whisper came again, and the sobbing started. I ascended a steep slope and found myself standing on the narrow lip of the mineshaft. The wide, circular bowl opened up before me, the steep, grassy sides spiralling down into the blackest of black holes. Bottomless, Will had called it. He had been wary of it, even in the sunshine. Now, below a stormy sky that was beginning to tip rain out, the sides were in shadow and it looked like a yawning mouth. And it was the mouth that was crying. I froze, swaying on the precipice, mesmerised. And then I remembered where I’d heard the whisper before, and the hair on my arms stood on end.

Taken from ‘The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook’ now available for Kindle:

amazon Amazon.co.uk

amazon Amazon.com

See this article on My Modern Met for more amazing work by Visothkakvei.

In Cool Company!

Really excited to see my book languishing besides the likes of these cool crooners in a search for my name on Amazon. I’m not sure what ‘Danilo’ is doing to ‘Vera’ but it looks like he’s trying to shove a daisy up her nose! Aah well, she doesn’t seem to mind.

A translation tells me the title is literally:

‘That you would not have anything to do’

I don’t think we need a translation for ‘A Musica Maravilhosa…’