NaNo – Hell Yeah!

I mentioned on here last week that I’d committed to the NaNoWriMo challenge. For those who don’t know, this is the National Novel Writing Month, where a bunch of writers needing less caffeine in their lives commit to writing 50,000 words of their novel during the month of November.

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My novel stalled at an early stage. I have written (what I think is) a great prologue, and I have (again, what I think is) an original and funny idea, but actually getting my butt in the chair and getting a draft down… a different matter. So, with reckless disregard for my previous lack of writing of any decent word count, I signed up to knuckle down, shape up, get grafting, and all those other metaphors that should grace a reasonable montage sequence at the end of all this.

My aims are twofold.

First, to develop a style of writing where I can turn off the inner editor. I have no ambitions to actually attain the word count target, but if I can stop editing as I go, allow myself the freedom to write in a more stream-of-consciousness style, and GET SOME WORDS DOWN FIRST! then this will be a huge step forward for me. At present, I am such a perfectionist that only poetry and short forms of fiction are reasonable goals. (Quiet at the back – if you think my writing’s bad now, just imagine how much worse it would be without that commitment!) I need to change my style to allow for this expansion into the longer form. Having just re-read this section a half-dozen times, the scale of this challenge is not to be under-estimated…

Second, to instill more discipline about when I write. I have agreed with my wife a timetable for when I’ll be writing. This will include a few hours BIC time every day (with extra time no doubt for planning and plotting… not that I’m much of a plotter), with an extra top-up session at the weekend. On top of a full time job and family commitments, this is not inconsiderable, and I need to get maximum return from that BIC time. This means, adios internet. Bye bye blogging. Piss off poetry… you get the idea. Focus. I’ll be a lean, mean writing machine. I’m just going to have to miss out on catching up on anyone else’s blog for a month, park my own, and hope that the latest cat videos and memes aren’t as cute as they used to be…

So, that’s me. Will it work? Who knows… but I have to try 🙂

See you in December!

 

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Al! Al! Where are you going? I’ve just uploaded another video onto my youtube stream…

Checking in

Hi everyone!

I’ve not been around on WordPress much lately. My new job is going well, but doesn’t leave much room for blogging. In the evenings, I’ve been working on what I hope will become my first novel, and have been learning a whole new bunch of skills relating to plotting, planning (this is anathema to me!), character arcs, and all that jazz.

It’s a comedy, naturally, in my own particular style, although I should probably clarify that there are no zombies in this one. Well, not yet anyway. Who can tell where the muse/second draft will take you?

It’s at the fairly early stages, and I haven’t really worked out the plot yet (it’s character-driven)… but that’s what I’m spending my evenings on 🙂

I’ll keep posting the occasional thing on here, just to keep my hand in. A bit of nonsense, some haiku, some limericks, some more serious stuff… the usual range of rubbish from me!

Weirdly, yesterday was my best day ever for follows of my blog… and I haven’t posted anything for ages. Wonder what that tells me…

I had thought about writing some “milestone” posts on having reached a certain number of followers, and reaching my second anniversary on WP (on Sep 14th), but I’m not sure those things mean anything to anyone except me.

Besides, it’s not where you’ve been, but where you’re going, right?

Hope you’re all enjoying your onward journeys. Wherever those winds are taking you x

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/marcovdz/5397827212

99-word story – Sound

I bathe in sound. I sample nibbles of pleasure from each vibration darting across my ear drums and diving into my cortex, translated into a sensuous internal orgy, savouring each soft contact. Conducting each stochastic orchestra, I stand proud and revel in the tempo and timpani of the beats of life, vibrant, swayful, playful. I zealously horde rictus rhythms, stockpiling them deep in psychological vaults, ready to access at a moment’s notice, always ready for me. Dextrous fingers tap out the beat, luxuriating in the lovers’ secret dance, beneath covers of shame…

It’s the silence that fills my nightmares.

 

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Written for Charli Mills’ weekly 99-word prompt challenge, on the theme of “the sense of sound” – https://carrotranch.com/2016/08/04/august-3-flash-fiction-challenge/

 

Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/ninac52/16342600542

99-word story – The Story

Has anyone read this story before??

 

Once upon a time, there was a simple, self-aware Story. It went about its business in the town of Letters-on-the-Page, quietly sowing seeds that would be developed later. As inevitably happens, some chaotic words were introduced, disrupting the cosiness of Story’s existence. Things got steadily worse, despite Story’s best efforts.

In the middle, Story decided a different approach was needed. The experience had fundamentally changed it.

Nevertheless, those unsavoury words looked like they had the upper hand. Calamity! Then, just in the nick of time, everything was resolved in an obvious yet surprising way, paving way for… “The End”.

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/rossyyume/7772794404

The Book of Love – flash fiction

This is my final contribution to my week of #SummerLovin… this may be the best thing I’ve ever written. Would love to hear your thoughts 🙂

The Book of Love is a weighty tome, bound in exquisite green leather. Within its well-worn pages are all the stories you’ll ever need to hear, although they can be difficult to follow. Narrative is rarely linear. Happy endings are rare. Expected endings rarer still.

By a quirk of fate, in an opportune fold of the book by the celestial reader’s hand, two of the pages met one day.

Page 37 was a chapter midpoint, full of florid, overblown descriptions of clouds and silver linings, and ended on an unfortunate joke about bottoms. The page was marked by a smudgy, greasy thumbprint.

Page 294 was very different. Enigmatic and alluring, fiery and passionate, but with an undercurrent of disappointment, the last sentence of the page being cut off midway through. 294 had the air of someone who was certain their car keys were down the back of the sofa, but cannot find them, no matter how many times they’d look. Not a single bottom joke graced that page. Slightly strangely, the reader had circled one word in the centre of the page, seemingly at random. “Birthday

And although one was even, and one decidedly odd, a great friendship grew, there in the margins, where the binding just – just – connected them.

37 would opine for days in his pompous prose, and 294 received it in good humour, responding in kind. They were never quite on the same page, naturally enough, but they were somewhere close to it. Each challenged the other, in spite of their own shortcomings, and something deeper than friendship emerged.

Each longed for the other, and would dream of ways to make it so.

To be a pair of facing pages.

They fantasised about watching the sun set together, without one being in the closed darkness of the book. They imagined starting their own book, free of the set narrative. They wished a fairytale of their own.

But the binding of the book was fixed, and it was never to be, and they continued their love there in the margins, where the binding just – just – connected them.

And if you look back now, within the well-worn pages of The Book of Love, and take a glance at Page 37, and at Page 294, and at all the pages in between, you will find that the words written on those pages haven’t changed at all. But their meaning has changed completely.

 

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Caress the Phrase…

Caress the phrase tenderly
Tease it from shyness

Test the words aloud
In breathy whispers

Lean in close to hear
Heat burning cheeks

Near…

Moisten lips for contact
Gentle adjective trail

Verbs explore all over
Seeking connection

Yielding to will
Aural serendipity

The right word in the right place…
Gasp of recognition

Familiar flush.
Make poetry for hours

What can I say? I frickin’ love making poetry… I’ve also recorded an audio version. I think this is another one for me to try and get Nigella Lawson to record… anyone have her number?? 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/mpaulmd/12419814805

Taking a break…

I had the pleasure of attending my brother’s wedding at the weekend, and managed to go completely offline for (most of) two days. I returned to a mind-blowing 400 emails, mostly blog notifications. Even if I read and dealt with each one in a minute, that amounts to 10% of ALL my time over the weekend, waking and sleeping!

I need to scale back a bit.

Actually, a lot.

There is so much that I want to do with my writing, but trying to keep up with the endless treadmill on WordPress is exhausting. There are so many talented poets, writers and bloggers that I follow… so much is inspiring, or beautiful, or heart-felt, or just plain old-fashioned funny… but it’s a distraction from my own writing, and what I need to do.

I am off to the Isle of Wight Festival this weekend, and will be completely offline from Thursday to Monday, most likely caked in mud, and merrily light-headed/unconscious (it’s a binary thing – either one or the other) from my stash of Jack Daniels, my festival buddy.

This weekend is a good catalyst for me to take a bit more of a break and re-charge the batteries.

So … drum roll… I’m going to take a full fortnight off from anything WordPress-y. This will be a HUGE challenge for me, but it needs to be done! (Can you help me out by being a bit less interesting and awesome for this fortnight? Please? 🙂 )

While I’m away, I’m going to write my Blogifesto – my promises to you – and I’ll share that with you in a couple of weeks. I’ve got a couple of other things up my sleeve that I hope you’re gonna love too…

Have a great fortnight, whatever you’re going to be doing. I hope you’ll still be here when I come back! 🙂

 

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Getting away from it all…

Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/fumigraphik/15006192406

Coming Up!

I’ve settled into a regular-ish blogging routine now, based around a handful of challenges that I enjoy, and that tolerate my continued wibbling. So, in an attempt to manage my own time as much as your fervent expectations (honestly, it’s like Beatlemania meets Biebermania every time I step out of my own front door), this is what you can expect each day, between now and April (when the poem-a-day blogging challenge kicks in, and I cry myself to sleep every day for failing to prepare despite having no excuse this year).

The BIG NEWS is that I have secured an exciting guest blogger to come and join me every Monday until April… See Yi-Oh will be sharing the benefits of his business nous (in haiku form, obviously) in a new series “The Two-Minute Manager“. I hope you’ll give him a warm welcome when he joins me tomorrow!

MONDAY – Limerick Challenge / The Two-Minute Manager

TUESDAY – Haiku Challenges – Ronovan & haiku horizons

WEDNESDAY – Secret Keeper’s Challenge

THURSDAY – Pop-Culture Thursday… the name needs work, but it’ll be something rhyme-y whyme-y, about something pop-culture-y

FRIDAY – The Great Book of Lists

WEEKENDS – no planned posts, unless for a specific challenge. I’ll be spending Saturdays entirely offline. Go and have some outdoor fun, people!

Plus there will be other bouts of randomness as and when inspiration strikes.

If there are any burning topics, ignored by better poets, that you think need covering in rhyme, let me know below the line 🙂

 

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The scene outside my front door every morning… makes the commute to work a challenge…

Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/613445810

The Ten Books That Changed Me- TGBOL

The prompt for the Great Book of Lists this week was to list books that “transport” us to another time or place, out of our daily lives. I found this difficult, purely because every book that I enjoy transports me into that particular world. If it doesn’t, I stop reading it – life’s too short, and my reading pile too big! Choosing just a handful on this basis was also beyond me…

So below is a list of the ten books (not necessarily novels) that have had the greatest impact on me, that have transported me either through the power of the storytelling, or in the influence they have had on me personally, or both.

In no particular order:

1. Cormac McCarthy – The Road
The book that put me off wanting to be a writer, because I’ll never write anything as good as this.

2. Nick Hornby – High Fidelity
The right book at the right time can have a huge effect. This tracked and amplified my obsession with list-making… and look where that’s got me!

3. Julia Donaldson – The Gruffalo
I could have chosen one of half a dozen of her books – she directly inspired me to write children’s stories in rhyme.

4. Shel Silverstein – Where the Sidewalk Ends
I was recommended this by my American critique group (I hadn’t heard of him at that time), who paid me the great compliment of being Silverstein-esque. I only wish!

5. Max Brooks – World War Z
A great book, bold in scope, unique in vision. This was unfortunately made into a distinctly average film of limited scope and generic, by-the-numbers vision. (Note to film-makers – zombies DO NOT run. They are the reanimated dead, not Olympic sprinters.)

6. Iain Banks – The Wasp Factory
I can still picture every detail in this slightly bizarre, yet surface-normal, world, even though I haven’t read it for at least a decade.

7. Douglas Adams – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
A huge influence on my sense of humour. I was too young for the radio series, but grew up with the original TV show, and even remember playing a text-only computer game of it. Must read this one again.

8. Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A children’s story with both lyricism and darkness.

9. George RR Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire
I’m not normally a fan of fantasy, but these had me gripped. I raced through all the novels one after the other (courtesy of a friend’s generosity in lending me them… There isn’t room on my bookshelves for this weighty series!). After reading one of the books, I read Hunger Games. It was like drinking lemonade after a fine wine.

10. Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
Gaiman is the writer I most want to be, and The Graveyard Book is the book I most want to have written.

So, feel free to analyse away about what this list says about me… What books have transported you, in one way or other?

 

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The List of My Desires (TGBOL)

The prompt for this week is to “list our desires”.

Instead of listing material things to buy, I suggest we list things we feel like doing in 2016, things that really inspire us, make us smile, giggle. It’s not a resolutions list.

Obviously, with this prompt, my first thought was to have a little fun with the “desires” part, and list some famous people who’d be on “the list” (you know, “the list” of 5 people that you’re allowed to fantasy cheat on your partner with, should the opportunity arise… it’s best not to list people in your social circle on this one…) At this point, I realised that I currently have no idea who’d be on said list… I can remember some from the past, but can’t think of anyone from the present… This shows either:

(a) I’m growing up, and no longer play such childish games (yeah, right… how do you think this train of thought started??)
(b) Being a parent of two young monkeys, most of my time revolves around them, doing what they want to do, and watching what they watch… Octonauts just aren’t sexy (although they are wonderfully educational)…

I digress…

So, here’s some stuff I feel like/ need to be doing this year, in no order of priority!

1 – Focus. Spend one day per week COMPLETELY offline, so that when I spend time with my family, they have my full attention.

2 – Self-publish. I am still working on children’s picture book stories with the help of my SCBWI critique groups, but I also have some ideas for self-publishing some poetry collections, and non-fiction.

3 – Fail more, and faster. Enter more competitions, both for poetry and short stories, and send off submissions to agents/publishers for picture books.

4 – Family fun! Finally arrange that day trip to the Natural History Museum that we’ve been considering for ages (our 6 year old, especially, will love it – his favourite person in the world is David Attenborough!). Hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to go on holiday later this year too, but as ever that will depend on our finances.

5 – Learn more. Learn to play the ukelele, at least to a very basic standard. (You have no idea what a low musical baseline I’m starting from…) Sign up for the FutureLearn screenwriting course, and make time to complete it.

6 – Go on dates! Rope the babysitters in more often to have date nights with my wife. Watch new films at the cinema! Plays at the theatre! Eat grown-up meals! Crazy stuff!

Wish me luck!

 

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/joybot/8624907691