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

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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?

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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:

Continue reading

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…”

Continue reading

‘Write What You Know is the Stupidest Thing I Ever Heard’

And when it’s someone like Kazuo Ishiguro who’s telling you that, it’s definitely worth listening.

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There was a great article on LitHub this week, with writing tips from the Nobel prize-winning author. Not only does he stick two fingers up at writing what you know – yay! – but he also tells of the CRASH approach to writing, which enabled him to write ‘Remains of the Day’ in just four weeks!

Many years ago, I took a writing night-class. I was about twenty years old and had a lot to learn about writing. Unfortunately, the people in the class were not the sort to learn lessons from. We were given a story prompt. Something innocuous like ‘The best day of my life’.

After listening to one elderly ladies story (the average age of the class was about sixty-five) about her trip to a sweet shop when she was a little girl, it was my turn. I stood up, absolutely petrified about reading out loud, and immersed them in a story of a first world war aeroplane designer who suddenly realised he was in love with his (male) mechanic.

When I finished, there was silence in the room. I balked and sat down, thinking I must have done it all wrong. And then one of the ladies coughed and said:

“It’s better to write about what you know, dear.”

 


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It’s pretty poor when your own computer – the one you’ve tapped away at until your fingers bleed (okay, slight exaggeration) and poured all your hopes and dreams into – still has no clue who you are after 4 years…

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And, look at that silhouette – it even thinks I might be a boy! 😀

Aah, computers. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t live without ’em.

 


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Novel Formats!

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A glimpse of the future in a clever Tom Gauld cartoon. Love the ‘Recited by Mechanical Raven’ best! If only 🙂

INSPIRATION: First Day Nerves

Okay, I haven’t done one of these for a while, but I’ve been thinking about new beginnings – first days. Starting a new school, a new college, university, a first job, or any new job. It doesn’t matter how old you are and how many ‘first days’ you’ve had, it never seems to get any less nerve-wracking.

This is from something new I’m writing, in which there will be a lot of really creepy things happening in an old Art College. Yay! Can’t wait to get stuck in 🙂


First Day Nerves

First day nerves. Little sleep. No breakfast. The wardrobe showed me nothing I wanted to wear. Over-cautious, I chose my black jeans then worried over the t-shirt. I wanted to appear interesting, but fun. I wanted to look creative and deep, but not in a self-obsessed way. Approachable, but not puppy-dog. It didn’t matter really – everything looked terrible. Only the stuff worn the day before, and consequently in the wash, looked good.

My twin, Ned, offered to walk me down the hill to the bus. He was starting a Drama course, but not for another week.  At the bus stop, he frowned at the dark clouds, which hadn’t been there when we set off, and asked if I had a raincoat.

“No. But I’ll be fine,” I told him.

“You will be.”

“Will I?”

“Yes.”

“This feels weird. We were at school together, then college. And now we’re moving apart.”

“We still live in the same house,” he said, hooking his arm around me to pull me close. “I’m not going anywhere.”

He smelt of toast and butter and the warm bed he’d just left. When the bus came, I found it hard to let him go. He was my life-raft. My walking Rescue Remedy.

The bus was full and I had to stand. We were having a late-summer stormy heatwave. The sweat was soon trickling down my spine. Did I remember deodorant? A sly sniff in my underarm area and I caught freesias and fresh grass. Phew. The man sitting beside me noticed my action, but his face was blank. I turned away and watched the grey town rush past me. Up Chapel Hill, down Queen Street and left into Baker Street, past the church. We gained more people with each stop, and the press of bodies awakened my latent claustrophobia.

There would be nobody I knew. None of my friends were going to be there. Not even an enemy.

We zoomed up towards the Art College. It was the next stop. I couldn’t wait to get off the bus, but at the same time, I didn’t want to get where I was going. Closed in near the back, I tried to find a button to press so that the bus would stop, but I couldn’t see one. It was an elbow job.

“Excuse me, this is my stop,” I said, tapping on backs and nudging past.

Everyone looked around, but nobody was smiling. They stared critically at my painstaking wardrobe choice. I saw a push-button just as we were about to sail past my stop. I reached for the button, but a huge woman stood in the way.

In a rising panic, I tapped at her frantically. “Press the button. This is my stop.”

It was at least half a mile to the next one, and I had a heavy rucksack full of art stuff. The women glared at me, but the bus started to pull in. Someone else had pressed the button.

A guy up front got off, and I forgot about nudging, and started to shove. Getting off the bus was more important than being liked. I stepped on a few toes and someone shoved me back so that I bashed my head against a metal pole. The driver put his foot on the gas pedal.

“Wait!”

He couldn’t hear me over the drone of the engine. Nobody seemed to understand why I really needed to swear. I was the most hated person on the bus, and I was going to be late on my first day.

As I finally made it off the bus and onto the pavement, the heavens split open and dumped an astonishing amount of water on me. I stood there for a moment, incredulous. There were things I could have done to avoid the situation. A raincoat, an earlier bus, a seat nearer to the door. The next day, things would be different.

The rain found a route that took it directly down my spine. My hair was already dripping like fern fronds stuck in a waterfall. I started to walk as fast as I could, but my canvas bag was so heavy and soaking up water. Everything inside would be ruined.

Just as my ladened shoulders were sending shooting pains up the back of my neck, the college appeared through the rain. I made for the arched door of the gothic building and threw myself through it. My bag hit the floor as hard as a sack of coal. For a minute, I shook my head like a wet dog. Only then did I notice the vast entrance hall was filled with people and silence.

“Woof, woof,” said a dry girl nearby with perfect hair. And just the right outfit.


Photo credit:   Manki Kim @ Unsplash