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:

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 Odd Disappearance of Violet D’Ath and New Zealand’s First Gothic Novel

whale

I’m currently working on a top secret, wonderful project and was deep into some research when something quite odd happened… I stumbled upon an obscure article referencing New Zealand’s first Gothic Novel ‘The Ice Station’, written in 1912 by Violet D’Ath.

The storyline sounded so good I immediately decided to find a copy and read it. But it wasn’t that easy, as you can probably tell by my title. Continue reading

The Sleeping Beauty Books

medieval-sleeping-beauty

In 2014, in a forest north of Oslo singing with birds and swaying with silent giants, one thousand Norwegian Spruce trees were planted. Every year that follows, for a hundred years, an author will be selected to gift an unpublished work which will be printed on paper made from these very spruce trees when they are fully-grown and felled in 2114. Until then the stories will sleep, undisturbed, not to be read by a single soul.

The ‘Future Library’ artwork is the brainchild of Katie Paterson, a woman who creates magic wherever she goes, mapping out dead stars and releasing meteorites back into space amongst other things. So far it holds stories by celebrated authors like Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell who will not live to see how their works are received.

To find out more, I highly recommend visiting this gorgeous website.

The Dangerous Life of a Successful Writer

HealthHazards

This has seriously put me off the whole idea 😀

Thanks, Tom Gauld, master cartoonist.

The Sad Case of the Bathroom Mosquito

Bathroom Mosquito

In the last few weeks, I’ve been kept awake by a multitude of marauding mosquitoes. They suck so much of my blood I’m always surprised to find I’m alive in the morning, and that the mosquitoes still look so tiny when they should have the most bulbous of bellies.

But, despite this nasty, nightly feasting, I can’t help feeling sorry for Morris the Bathroom Mosquito.

Don’t get me wrong; I hate the little buggers as much as anyone. As concrete proof of this, here is a poem a teenage version of me, driven half insane with fury, wrote in the middle of the night on a holiday in Wales with my friend, Sophie. Continue reading

One Great Photo: Skate Girls of Kabul

skategirls

‘Skate Girls of Kabul’ by Jessica Fulford-Dobson

I popped this photo in my Pictures folder a while ago now, and keep seeking it out because I love everything about it; the mix of colours, the cheeky grins, and the unexpected source of all the fun – the scribbled-on skateboards. Afghan Girl Power!

In her book, Jessica, the award-winning photographer, says: “It’s hard not to think of Afghan girls skateboarding as a remarkable and quirky clash of cultures. But when you see these girls in their beautiful, bright, flowing clothes tearing around the skate park, often yelping and shrieking with laughter, your preconceptions drop away. You realize that however unusual it may seem, they’re doing what comes naturally to them. As with girls anywhere in the world, once you give them the chance to do something they love, each one begins to discover her own personality, her sense of style and how to express it.”

Read more about Jessica Fulford-Dobson and ‘Skateistan’ here.

For the writers among you; it’s just begging for a great story to go with it 🙂

‘Do Not Mistake Love for Happiness…’

Valentines-day

Within a few moments, the kitchen hands had a fire lit. Free and unburdened by work, there seemed to be a magic about them tonight on the Eve of May. Sparks seemed to fly from their hands as if they were witches.

The kitchen girls produced food as if from nowhere. Their hands were empty and then suddenly full. Of things like a whole clove-studded ham, freshly baked loaves, mincemeat pies and honey cakes.

The washerwomen unfurled the largest of blankets, which seemed to float over the glade like a ship’s pennant before landing in the perfect picnic square.

The cleaning girls pulled wooden sticks from the fire and touched them to a million candles in a million lanterns. They peppered the clearing and hung about the trees, as bright as captured stars.

The village girls arrived bearing jars of jams and pickles, and jugs of ale from the tavern, their cheeks rosy and warm from the walk through the dark woods. They greeted the castle workers with whoops of joy and tender embraces. Most of them were related, after all. Mothers, daughters, aunts and cousins.

Catalina was awestruck. She had never seen anything so magical or so perfect. It was hard to connect these people with the downtrodden, subservient characters that ordinarily toiled in her world.

Someone showed her to a space on the blanket. Another handed her a silver goblet, full to the brim with ruby red wine. She drank half of it down immediately. The youngest serving girl, Joan, approached her, goaded by all the others. She brought out a crown of hawthorn blossom from behind her back.

Dropping a curtsy, she said: “We wish to crown you the May Queen, my lady.”

“Me?” Catalina replied, delighted. “It would be the greatest of honours.”

She rose up onto her knees and bowed her head solemnly. Joan placed the blossom crown on her head and everyone clapped.

“What do I have to do?” Catalina asked Maude, her nursemaid.

“You have to start the proceedings,” Maude replied. “Oh, look, my daughter’s here!”

And then Maude abandoned her. But Catalina had been waiting for many years for Maude to abandon her, so she didn’t care one bit.

“What do we do first?” she called out to the nearest girls. “And can we please do everything?”

But nobody had chance to answer her because, just then, there was a strange rumbling noise in the glade. There was a lot of ‘shushing’, and the women fell quickly silent, listening hard. Catalina stared along the hidden path to the right of The Tree as the rumbling came closer.

“It’s Boboli!” A washerwoman exclaimed.

She was greeted with disbelief.

“It can’t be…”

“Don’t be ridiculous…”

“He isn’t due this year…”

But the rumbling came nearer and, just as Catalina’s eyes were burning with the strain of staring, a black horse walked into the clearing pulling a black covered wagon, on which was written in gold the legend ‘Boboli ~ Who Knows All That Is Worth Knowing’. Continue reading

Writing and Cucumbers

Cucumber Fail

This is a picture of my cucumber crop so far. Impressed? In all my years on this planet, I have never seen such a curved cucumber. It’s a definite cucumber fail.

A while ago, I started to write a story that appeared, half-formed, in my head. And it was SO good. At least, the SEED of it was. I worked on it on and off for a few days and then it began to mutate into something that barely resembled the original idea. Suddenly I didn’t know where it was going, or even how to take it back. I was forced to abandon it.

But the thing is, you never need to throw writing away, because every piece of writing contains something useful. In the same way that the mutant cucumber can be turned into compost, I can add the disastrous story into the rich mix of practise and imagination that will nourish future stories.

As long as you keep on doing, nothing is wasted.

“Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”Denis Waitley

I found Daisy’s Bike!

Daisys Bike

Has anyone else had the odd experience of coming across their fictional character’s name in an obscure place? This is the first time it’s happened to me, and it felt like a lovely little link had been made between the real world and my imaginary one, and gave me a warm glow for the rest of the day 🙂

Daisy May’s bike was leaning up against a fence in the old (for New Zealand) town of Lawrence in Otago, half a world away from Daisy’s home. It might have been ironic, because Daisy is highly allergic to exercise, but it would be just like her to have a bike that was only useful as decoration.

Has something similar happened to you? I’d love to hear about it!


Daisy May plays a hopeless game of netball – an excerpt from ‘The Curtain-Twitcher’s Handbook’

NetballWhen I got to the Sports Hall, the teams were already being selected.

“Aah, there you are, Daisy,” said Mrs Bennett. “You were meant to be choosing today but I wasn’t sure where you’d got to.”

I closed my eyes briefly, thanking whoever was in charge of this whole mess that I hadn’t had to choose a team from amongst all these people who hated me. A small reprieve. Continue reading