Look Out for the Shiny Things

After years of sticking rigidly to that long term goal, I started saying yes instead of no to those wonderful, fleeting opportunities on the periphery, and this is what happened…

I listened to Tim Minchin’s inspirational address, ‘Nine Life Lessons’, again a few weeks ago, and keep coming back to one thing in particular (and those of you who know me won’t be surprised that it wasn’t the ‘do more exercise’ one :-D)

It was concerning goals, and the realisation that his words didn’t strike a chord with me the first time I heard the speech, years ago. And that’s because of things that have happened between now and then to make me realise he’s absolutely right. Here’s what he said:

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A Tatty Book is a Lovely Thing

I admit it, I’m a page-corner turner-overer*. I know this crime is almost equivalent to murder in the eyes of dedicated bookmark users, but I have my reasons.

Books are such tactile things; they feel good in your hands and all those wonderful words you are holding up have a pleasing weight. I like my books to feel like they are being read. The books I read over and over again know they are loved because the edges of their pages don’t lie flat, and the spines are flexible and crooked with affection. There might be the ring of a tea-mug stain on the cover. Or a red circle from a wine glass. The crevices might be crackly with sand where I’ve read on the beach, or the pages warped with water where I’ve read in the bath.

My favourite books have a physical personality all of their own and bear the scars of my love. (The one shown above is my copy of ‘Northern Lights’ by Phillip Pullman.)

Which was why I felt truly happy to find Continue reading

Building up a History for ‘Foxfires’

When I’m writing a larger piece of work, one of the fun parts is the conjuring of odd snippets to add to the history or background of the story. Sometimes these snippets end up in the book (like the chapter headings in The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook and the petitions in Blackwood), and sometimes they initiate a complete change of direction.

This snippet will be part of the book ‘Foxfires’. The protagonist, trapped in a snowbound farmhouse with strangers, will come across the thin volume of curious tales with this particular page corner turned down. He is already in fear of his life, so this’ll really make him freak out. Hee hee! (Sorry Jack!)

‘Curious Tales from Travels in Yorkshire’ by M.Nesbitt

Chapter 8: A Disturbance at an Inn on the Edge of the Moors

“In the autumn of 1905, the author was passing through a village on the edge of Saddleworth Moor when he decided to rest and take refreshment at a small inn. At first glance, the inn seemed peaceful and emanated a warm glow from a lit fireplace but, upon entering, I was alarmed to find several weeping women and angry men. A number of the gentlemen were arming themselves as if for battle, though the distressed ladies pleaded with them to reconsider. They made no allowance for a stranger in their midst and continued with their heated discussion.

I asked the innkeeper if I could partake of a brandy as the weather was inclement, and it appeared winter was arriving before its time. He poured me my drink with one ear on the growing dispute behind me. I wondered out loud what was happening and he shook his head with a grimace and told me that Mr Hawkins, a young farmer, had not returned from tending his sheep in the hills. His sheepdog, Bess, came home without him and in a dreadful state, covered nose to tail in mud and bleeding from numerous lacerations. Clearly agitated, she set off again after just a few hours rest, presumably to find her master, and she had not come back. Continue reading

The Oddest Book in the World

Written by a philosopher, a mystic, a coven of witches, or a muddle of martians? We may never know…

Carbon-dated to 1420, this enigmatic 240 page creation seems to document a forgotten culture in an unrecognisable language with dream-like illustrations. Some of the world’s most prominent cryptologists have tried—and failed—to decode the text.

If you’d like to have a go yourself, the whole thing is available online.

Take a look at this short film about why the Voynich Manuscript is truly a really Odd Bit of Writing!
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The Stuff of Nightmares!

What’s the first nightmare you ever remember having? The first time you woke in a cold sweat, pulling your covers up to your nose and staring around your dark bedroom, completely terrified? This was mine…

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The Mr. Tickle nightmare came out of nowhere when I was about four years old, but looking back at the text, it’s hardly surprising. And now I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who had this particular nightmare.

SPOILER ALERT: This is how Mr. Tickle ends… Continue reading

Owl Wanted for Ocean Voyage

Here’s Bella, all ready to go to sea in her beautiful tomato-red boat.

She could be waiting a while for her owl though. We don’t actually have ‘owls’ in New Zealand. We have ‘Moreporks’ – so called because they don’t say ‘twit twoo’, they say ‘more pork’ ☺

Maybe you need to ditch the honey, Bella, and go with some apple sauce.

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear

Shining Armour Loses its Shine

Knight

The old fairy stories are not known for their strong female roles. Off the top of my head, there seem to be four main types of women who constantly appear:

  1. The young, beautiful damsel who is good at heart, but doesn’t seem to have a mind of her own and often makes foolish mistakes…. usually because she is lovesick.
  2. The middle-aged wife who can’t stop nagging, and essentially exists to make her husband and children miserable.
  3. The old hag who turns every bad situation into a far worse one.
  4. The wonderful fairy-godmother sort, who is always magical because she is far too good and sensible to be a normal human woman.

And then there are the handsome knights, selfless and brave heroes, charging in to rescue the damsels, silence the nagging wives and destroy the evil hags.

But damsels can handle themselves if they ignore their self-doubt, nagging wives are usually only nagging because they’re not being heard, and as for old hags… they are our mothers, aunties and grandmothers, and deserve some care and respect, goddamit!

With International Women’s Day upon us again, and the female half of the planet rising up to be heard, we continue to correct the imbalance that has been perpetuated since before the time of fairytales. The last thing a damsel needs in this kind of fight is a knight in shining armour to sweep her off her pretty little feet. She needs a knight who will fight at her side to make the world a better, and more equal place for everyone.

Fancy a new kind of fairytale where the hero is a strong female? Well, I wrote one. Just for people like you 🙂


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Sequel Cliches: A Character Chat

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Daisy and Will had a hard time in ‘The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook’, they really did. What with restless ghosts and an age-old murder-mystery, uncomfortable high-school shenanigans and a terrible family tragedy, they didn’t get much of a break.

So to call them back and make them go through even more seems so, so cruel! In two minds as to whether or not to inflict another helping of torture, I thought it would be good if they talked it over first. And so they did…   (Contains Spoilers!)

DAISY: “We have to fall out.”

WILL:   “What?”

DAISY:  “It’s our second book together. We have to fall out in this one.”

WILL:   “Why?” Continue reading

What was your Oddest Job?

oddjob

I want to hear about it… the odder the better!

I’ll start you off…

Most odd jobs are summer holiday jobs. Students with a chocolate addiction, like me, had to make enough money to feed their habit with Cadbury’s Buttons, Mars Bars and Double-Deckers. They are generally not fussy about what they do because it’s only for six weeks, after all.

Funnily enough, I often get a bit nostalgic about my summer jobs simply because a few of them were so very odd, and odd things don’t happen quite as much any more.

Here are a couple of my oddest jobs:

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The Protest

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“Mummy, what’s that lady doing?”

“She’s protesting.”

Jenny pushed Tom before her, guiding him past the other shoppers with a gentle, but insistent, hand on his shoulder. The sports shop closed in five minutes, and she had to make sure she got the right golf balls. She bought the wrong ones last time, and Mark had not been happy.

Tom craned his neck to look at the woman as they passed her by. She was holding a sign he couldn’t read, and shouting, her face determined.

“What does… ‘por-testing’ mean?”

The first spots of rain fell, and one landed on Jenny’s nose and made her jump. She reached out and pulled Tom’s hood over his head. Why hadn’t she brought the pushchair? At three and a half he was getting too old for it, but it sure made shopping trips quicker.

Pro-testing,” Jenny corrected. “When you’re annoyed about something, you can tell everyone why and ask them to help you change it.”

“Like when Daddy is annoyed with you?”

Jenny smiled and shook her head. “Not quite, Tom. Bigger things than that. Come on, we need to hurry.”

The shop was in sight now, in the distance. As she herded Tom towards it, she saw a fit-looking guy in a polo shirt come to the door and flip the sign from Open to Closed.

“Shit!” Jenny couldn’t help herself.

“Mummy!”

“Sorry Tom.”

She picked him up now and swung him into her arms, ignoring the sharp pain in her back from her fall down the stairs the week before. Mark didn’t want her to go to the doctors, but she might have to, because it was getting worse. Tom gave a cry of surprise as she began to run towards the shop, every step making her gasp.

The guy was outside the sports shop locking the door now.

“Wait!” called Jenny, “Please…”

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