Monday, 31 December 2012

12th Night Masquerade... Soundtrack & More Details!

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." - Oscar Wilde

 Ladies and gentlemen, you've heard the tantalising musical trailer for the upcoming 12th Night Masquerade (thank you Anna Meade).  Now it's time for the SOUNDTRACK.

 *drum roll*

Click here to be musically inspired by Ms Meade's immortal vocals and get ready to write. There are just five more days until we kick off, so it's time to tell you a little bit more about the rules. Here we go:


Launch Date: 00:00 EST, 5 January 2013 / 05:00 GMT, 5 January 2013 (7 days, ish)

Word count: Stories or poems of up to 500 words (brevity is the soul of wit).

Inspiration: Masquerade

Prompts: Check out the gorgeous masquerade pinterest board and pick a pin!

Deadline: 00:00 EST, 12 January 2013 / 05:00 GMT, 12 January 2013 (7 days, ish)

Hashtag: #12Masque

Every good ball has its gracious hostesses.  May I introduce the loveliest and most gracious ladies in the ballroom:  Stacy, Ruth , Kern and Jenn.

There will be a linky tool to link up and help everyone find your entries.... important because along with the judges winner, there will be a fan favourite! And prizes. Let's not forget the prizes.  More on that soon...

In the meantime, make sure you get busy with Stacy's #12DaysBop to get your creative juices going in time for the ball!

12 Days Blog Hop: Storms

It's day SEVEN of Stacy Bennett-Hoyt's (AKA @rowanwolf66) festively fabulous 12 Days of Christmas blog hop.

12 Days, 12 Stories, each 200-300 words.  The contest theme is gifts and each day has a prompt.  Today's is:


The witch pushed her sleeves up and took a deep breath, silently cursing the Coven Mother for leaving her so understaffed.  For crying out loud, weather wasn’t even her speciality.  That was Jessa’s forte.  Mala dealt in potions.  Love, truth, poison.  She could sniff out herbal properties in seconds.

Not weather.

But weather was what the drought-stricken town of Lesser Morton needed. The crops were failing. 

“We need rain, oh Merciful Daughter of Magic,” the Mayor had said.  If a mayor was being polite to a witch things had to be bad.  They’d brought gifts too, as protocol demanded.  Rare minerals and sweet wines, ground herbs and honey.  The Coven Mother was partial to sweet wines and honey.

Three.  Three was the minimum coverage for any respectable coven.  Just her luck that Jessa had taken a fancy to the Riversdell Warlock. That meant a hand-fastening feast - in Riversdell.  Only Mala had been left behind.  The Coven Mother promised to save her some cake.

She clearly hadn’t anticipated a drought, which said much for her divination.  Mala had suspected the old crone had lost the plot.

“Rain, you say?” She clarified to Lesser Morton’s fat bellied mayor.  His expression demonstrated what he thought of that.  Control the crowd, the Coven Mother’s words came back to her.  Show indecision and you’re dead.

Dead. Right. Time to put on a show.

Raising her hands she uttered began the incantation, her voice slow and sure, swelling like the water sodden clouds, thrilling like the wind.  She didn’t notice the pages of the A-Z spell book flip with the sudden gust.

R for Rain.  S for…

The devastation of Lesser Morton was a historic event. 

Jessa didn’t speak to her for a week.  Some people, she said, would do anything to steal attention.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

12 Days Blog Hop: Sun

It's day SIX of Stacy Bennett-Hoyt's (AKA @rowanwolf66) festively fabulous 12 Days of Christmas blog hop.

12 Days, 12 Stories, each 200-300 words.  The contest theme is gifts and each day has a prompt.  Today's is:


Cadogus didn’t mind the sacrifice, not really.  Someone had to do it and at least the final meal was good. Maize.  He couldn’t remember last time he’d tasted maize, and honey too.  Nice to eat honey without getting stung.  He’d licked it from his fingers, savouring each taste.

He’d slept on fur, like a prince.  He could have gotten used to that, if it wasn’t for the fact he was about to die.  He’d wriggled like a kitten, tossing and turning just to feel it slick and soft against his back.

Then the women had come in, not one but two. Generous.  It meant that the Elders liked him. He was brought wine in a horn cup, the Chieftain’s own.  Not bad, being King-for-a-Day. Shame it was so short.

The bog land was damp beneath his bare feet as he walked, wrists bound, towards the site.  It was the darkest time, pitch black bar a sliver of moon which transformed the landscape into a shadowed nightmare.  Death stalked behind him, his hand on the garrotte that weighed heavy on Cadogus’ neck.  The silence was almost companionable.

The chant started slowly, a single voice, soft as a whisper. “Behold our sacrifice, Lord of the Sky. We give you the gift of life. Return to us, Lord of Fire, Return to us, Bringer of Light.” 

Another voice chimed in and then another, waxing like a harvest moon.  He sank to his knees in the soft mud and stared at the jagged black horizon as the cord bit into his throat.


The druids watched as the man’s face turned from white to gold, gilded by the rosy fingered dawn.  Reaching down, the eldest brushed his hand across Cadogus’ chilled  face.  “Sleep well, King. The sun has returned.” 

This story was loosely inspired by Lindow Man

Saturday, 29 December 2012

12 Days Blog Hop: Flowers

It's day FIVE of Stacy Bennett-Hoyt's (AKA @rowanwolf66) festively fabulous 12 Days of Christmas blog hop.

12 Days, 12 Stories, each 200-300 words.  The contest theme is gifts and each day has a prompt.  Today's is:


“It was carnations last time.  Cheap, roadside shit.  Now it’s lilies – lilies? I mean, seriously, do I look like a corpse?  I thought I’d got a death threat. No, he’s a fuckwit. He’s got to go.”  Charlene’s red tipped fingers moved expertly over her client’s silvered hair, smoothing and fluffing. 

Ethel sat calmly, watching the hairdresser in the mirror.  “Perhaps he meant well, dear.  It’s the thought that counts.”

“The thought?  How much thought do you think went into that wilting bloody funeral wreath?  Tiffany’s bloke bought her perfume last week you know – and roses.  Roses!  That’s a proper flower.”

Ethel’s eyes moved behind her thick glasses.  “Have you told him how you feel?”

“What do you think?  You gotta set them straight or they think anything’s acceptable. I told him to fuck off.” 

“Did he take it well?”

“Jamie?”  Charlene laughed, though her face didn’t crease.  Botox must have bought rights to the girl’s face, Ethel thought.  It didn’t look natural.  Hard, more.  A hard face, for a heartless girl.  “He’s too fucking wet.  He cried – can you believe it?  What kind of man bursts into tears when he’s dumped?  Jesus I should have got rid of him months ago.  There, what do you think?” 

“Very nice, dear.”  Ethel nodded.  She shuffled to her feet.  “If you could just get me my purse?”

“Sure,” Charlene clipped away. 

Ethel stared at the glass of water the woman had been sipping as she worked.  Lilies were for funerals, Charlene was right about that.  It was why she’d suggested Jamie bought them for the girl.  She’d known even then that her grandson deserved better.  Flicking open her oversized ring, she emptied the powder into the glass.

She’d never believed in half measures. 

CC image by walkinonsunshine

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Friday, 28 December 2012

12 Days Blog Hop: Rebirth

It's day FOUR of Stacy Bennett-Hoyt's (AKA @rowanwolf66) festively fabulous 12 Days of Christmas blog hop.

12 Days, 12 Stories, each 200-300 words.  The contest theme is gifts and each day has a prompt.  Today's is:


“It’s a simple enough proposition.  I give you the gift of eternal life, you give me your soul. Not permanently, just a kind of loan.  You just have to keep up the repayments.”  The Devil sat on a wall, swinging his legs.  He didn’t really look like Drake had expected.  No goat horns and cloven hooves.  No pointy beard.  He reminded him of… a bank manager.  Neat, conservative and slightly grey.  Forgettable.

“A loan,” he said slowly.  He knew all about loans. The call centre paid him just about enough to pay his rent.  Holidays.  Gifts.  Meals out.  That all cost money he didn’t have.  And he’d wanted to impress Michelle so badly.

The Devil shrugged.  “Simple really.  No small print. No hidden fees.” 

“And what happens.” 

The Devil leaned forward, his voice hushed. “You are born again.” 

Drake took a step back.  “That sounds kind of religious.” 

The man on the wall muttered something like, “Heaven help me.”  Overhead, thunder shook the sky like an answer.  The Devil looked up. “Jesus, some people have no sense of humour.  No religion. Just repayment.”

“And money?”

“Oodles of it. For generations.” 

A sigh left Drake’s lungs like a whisper.  “Women?”

“Anyone you want.  They won’t be able to resist you.” 

Michelle.  She was like a princess in an ivory tower behind that desk in Accounts, tanned and glorious.

He squared his shoulders. “I’ll do it.”

The Devil smiled.  “I knew you would.  Hold on now, this may hurt a little.”

Pain gripped Drake instantly, twisting like a razor in his guts.  He barely registered his own scream.  As he crumpled to the ground, he lifted his head.  “The repayments….?”

“Blood, that’s all – a life a day? Arise Count Dracula, it’s been a while since we saw each other.”

CC image by virginsuicide photography

Thursday, 27 December 2012

12 Days Blog Hop: Music

It's day THREE of Stacy Bennett-Hoyt's (AKA @rowanwolf66) festively fabulous 12 Days of Christmas blog hop.

12 Days, 12 Stories, each 200-300 words.  The contest theme is gifts and each day has a prompt.  Today's is:


“I’ll give her the gift of song,” the Lilac Fairy said, bending over the cradle.  “Song so sweet the birds will rise and echo her every word.”

“Lovely,” said the babe’s mother fondly, smoothing her downy head.

That had been her chance to say no.  That had been her chance to say, “How about good looks? Charisma? Sporting prowess?”

That was fifteen years ago.  If Aurora’s fairy godmother had showed her face at The Fairytale Forest CafĂ© she would have stuck her in the eye with a fork. The birds rose when she opened her mouth, in a great big twittering cloud.

That was pretty freaky.  Especially when they pooped on your mates.

Thanks, Lilac.

Then there were the detentions.  It was a liability to sing every time a teacher asked you the question.  They had a tendency to think you were being a smart arse.  Hours of writing lines – lyrics, mainly – had a way of building resentment in a girl.

And then there were guys.  No one wanted a girlfriend who burst into song at the drop of a hat.  Didn’t matter how sweet you sounded, if you were singing like a musical theatre star in the middle of a football match.  It was embarrassing. 

She was so sunk in her troubles that she barely noticed the guy at the corner table, his teeth shining like a lighthouse again his perma-tan.  Course she sang his order.  She couldn’t help that, any more than she could help wanting to punch him when he grinned.

“Hi kid,” he said, holding out his card.  “My name is Simon Cowell.  You may have heard of me.  I think you might have what I’m looking for.”

CC Image by Underdog Entertainment

The code for your blog:

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

ICE: A 50 Word Challenge

Flash Fiction overload, I hear you cry! Well yes. But when it is one of the lovely Shambrooks holding a contest who can resist?

Here is 55 word entry for Bekah Shambrook's contest: Ice. Hat tip to Anna Meade for promoting it (go read her story).


Diamonds dripped like tears around her neck, glittering beneath the flashbulbs. Turning, she smiled, teeth gleaming, eyes dry. 

Your choice, a voice whispered. Her heart stuttered. The crowd shifted. Was that him standing amongst her screaming fans? 

No, he was too proud. She’d chosen fame, not him. Not love. 

12 Days Blog Hop: Love

Happy Boxing Day!  It's day TWO of Stacy Bennett-Hoyt's (AKA @rowanwolf66) festively fabulous 12 Days of Christmas blog hop.

12 Days, 12 Stories, each 200-300 words.  The contest theme is gifts and each day has a prompt.  Today's is:


Flea didn’t speak to her.  No point in that.  It’d only shock her, and she’d be forced to be gracious.  Flea had watched her do that before, when peasants from the village offered up their babies to be kissed or laid flowers in her path.  She didn’t want to kiss their little wretches, but she did. No one would’ve guessed she was anything but delighted. 

Except Flea. 

But Flea knew her like no one else.  That was what love did, made you pay attention to every tiny detail. The way her eyes curved like scimitars when she was happy. The slight stiffness in her gestures when she reluctant.  The way she stood straighter when she was scared.

She stood straight now, staring out across the throne room with a smile on her lips.   The King and Queen were talking about duty and sacrifice.  Flea knew all about duty.  Duty was emptying the chamber pot, not minding when Cook battered you with a ladle. It was turning the spit until your palms burned. 

Then they said “DRAGON” and the whole room went quiet.  There hadn’t been a dragon in the Kingdom for one hundred years.  Dragons wanted maiden-flesh. Royal maiden flesh.

The Prince jumped up, waving his sword, talking about quests and legends. The Princess just smiled, stiff and straight.  Ready. 

No one noticed Flea slink away. 

At sunset they rode out to the Dragon’s nest, the Princess gleaming in cloth-of-gold.  People wept as she passed, nobility personified.

But the nest was empty.

“Impossible,” the King said. No one noticed the tattered silk scattered across the floor, the blood spattered on the walls.

Dragons liked the taste of Princesses - or girls dressed like them.

That night the castle was alive with celebration.  Only Cook noticed a girl was missing. There was no one to turn the spit.

CC image by

Coming Soon.... A 12th Night Masquerade

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." - Oscar Wilde

In the darkest depths of midwinter we light the gloom with candles, cheer ourselves with feasting and wrap the warmth of human kindness around ourselves.  But all good things come to an end, and 5th January marks Twelfth Night, the close of our winter festivities.  How are we going to celebrate?

With a contest of course.

A Masquerade contest.

We want your words, poetry or prose.   But more on that soon.... because today, we are unveiling the Official Soundtrack of the contest, to get your creative juices going.

Sung by the One, the Only Super Special (and occasionally Secret Spy) girl Anna Meade, wrap your ears lugs around some haunting beauty recorded especially for this contest.

Anna Meade, Masquerade

Best still, Anna has recorded MORE music.  But you'll just have to wait for that! 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

12 Days Blog Hop 2012: Snow

Merry Christmas one and all!  I hope you're having a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas, but even if the turkey's burnt and your stocking fell into the fire, here's a thing to cheer you up: it's day one of Stacy Bennett-Hoyt's (AKA @rowanwolf66) festively fabulous 12 Days of Christmas blog hop.

12 Days, 12 Stories, each 200-300 words.  The contest theme is gifts and each day has a prompt.  Today's is:


Blood thundered in her ears like a bass drum. Her chest was tight, torn with ragged breaths as she staggered forward.

Don’t look backJust keep running.

Seemed like days since the hunt began.  Her brothers had been so hungry, their stomachs distended and their cheeks jutting like broken flint.  They’d been digging for roots in the hard earth when the hunting party burst through the trees, hooves flying. 

It was bad enough that the village was starving, without those aristocratic bastards pillaging the forest.  Hard to remember it was the King’s forest.  His hares. His deer.  One deer would keep them fed for a month. 

She barely remembered picking up the stone.  Shouting.  Throwing.  She’d been so angry, so hungry, her rage just burst from her throat.

Retribution was swift.  The only thing the King liked more than a pretty girl was a hunt. Creative bastard, he was.  No stocks or hanging.  He stripped her bare and tied antlers to her head like a broken spirit of the woods and gave her twenty minutes head start.

Then he let the hounds loose.

She’d been running ever since but she was tired, so tired.  Soon she’d be in open country. They’d see her tracks.  She could almost feel their teeth on her ankles, tearing her flesh.  She’d seen a man torn apart once.

Doubling back around a rocky overhang she heard them howl in the distance.  There was a cleft in the rock.  Ducking inside, she flung herself down on dry leaves, breath shuddering.

She was dead, unless there was a miracle.

Closing her eyes, she slept. 

She didn’t feel the first flake drift in to settle on her matted hair.  Didn’t hear the sounds deaden as the storm descended swirling across the land.  Covering tracks.  Hiding.

A miracle.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop!

Forget about watching re-runs of Star Wars.  Forget about picking through the assortment box of chocolates. Forget about sleeping on the sofa with your belly so full you can't move. 

Ladies and gentlemen, this Christmas it's all about the stories. 

Check out Stacy Bennett-Hoyt's sparkly Jar Full of Fireflies and find out about the 12 Days of Christmas Bloghop, or in Twitter speak #12DaysBop.  12 Stories, 12 Prompts, 12 Days.  Each story 150 - 300 words.  

The theme?  Gifts. 

For a look at the prompts check out Stacy's #12DaysBop sneak preview and start scribing. You'll have the pleasure of flexing your muscular imagination and gazing in awe at the Angie Richmond designed badge.  Yep, it's THAT cool. 

Seven hours on a train this week gave me ample time to scribble and I'm looking forward to sharing fantasy, paranormal romance, original fairy tales and comedy from 25 December and counting.

And on the last day, come one, come all for a Magical Masquerade Ball, hosted right here by yours truly with visual prompts galore, a musical soundtrack provided by Anna Meade's Anna Songs and PRIZES.  More on that coming soon....   

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Next Big Thing: Banshee

There's a fab meme working its way around t'interweb: The Next Big Thing.

Why am I enjoying it so much?  Because it's a chance to find out more about what some of those writerly peeps I tweet with and write with are up to.  

The variety is breathtaking!  

I'm super lucky to have been nominated by no less than FOUR other amazing authors: mythological muses Melpomene Selemidis, Chris Ledbetter and NaNoWriMo buddies Laura Jamez and Lisa Shambrook

So what's it all about? Simple. I just answer some questions about my Work in Progress!

1) What is the working title of your book?

"Banshee". Keep it simple, I say. 

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Funnily enough, I've written about this before. The suggestion that I should write about came from my husband.  You can read the conversation here. I'd tried my hand at paranormal before, but never quite nailed it so I'd given up.  I'd had a whingy weather witch and a fiery fae but all of the characters were unconvincing. My banshee gripped me though.  I could feel she had a story to tell. 
So I asked myself what that would be like - being a banshee?  How would people react to you?  What would it mean for your life? And that's where I started. 

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It's definitely paranormal - hovering somewhere between romance and suspense with romantic elements. 

4) Which actors would you choose to play in your movie rendition?

Ooh tricky! I use pinterest to help guide my descriptions but lamentably, not enough of my pins are actors and actresses, so let me think...Tara Donovan:  Pale and otherworldly, capable of great vulnerability but also power.  A young Cate Blanchett or Samantha Morton (more for her vibe than her looks).

Samantha Morton

Sean Donovan:  Smooth and cool but intense it has to be Alexander Skarsgard (that one was easy)Sean Donovan:  Smooth and cool but intense it has to be Alexander Skarsgard (that one was easy)

Alexander Skarsgard
Devlin O'Connor: Devlin is quite tricky.  He's Irish but not a stereotypical silver tongued rogue.  He's young, but weather, handsome but scarred. Sod it. I'll do myself a favour and go for the bastard love child of Richard Armitage and Hugh Jackman. That should do the job nicely.

Hugh Jackman

5) What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Stalked by shadows and under threat of incarceration on a psychiatric ward, the last thing that Tara Donovan needs is a detective on her tail - but Devlin O'Connor's quest for answers will give Tara the chance to face the one thing that truly terrifies her: herself. 

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I haven't a clue, as I haven't explored either yet! 

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

It's still a work in progress - I wrote 50,000 words in November 2012 and hope to have a 90,000 word novel completed by January 2013.  I did a lot of thinking and work on the characters ahead of November though!

8)What other books would you compare this story to?

Some of the themes in the book resonate with Sherilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series or Stacia Kane's Downside (not Downton, as I nearly always call them) Ghosts. There is a theme of recovery, of fragmented families and the conflict between worlds - and dealing with your own demons, real and imagined.  

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

The deeper themes in the book and in a lot of my writing are in part inspired by a much loved friend who suffered severe mental health problems, biplolar disorder and psychotic episodes.  I lived that with her and it had a profound impact on me.  She died a couple of years ago and I think I explore and re-explore some of my feelings about her experiences in a number of different ways.  Tara isn't her (she is very different), but Tara's feelings about being in hospital and her sense of panic about that most definitely are. 

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

In Banshee contemporary London clashes with the Other World, the past seeps into the present and the present into the past, bound by a thread of passion which cannot be denied.  With demons, banshees, murders and mysteries, this story will drag you from the street lights of London to the moonlit fields of Inishmore in a quest to uncover the past and reclaim that which was lost. 

Who next?

It behoves me to nominate five other writers who I am DESPERATE to find out more about. NaNo-buddies and romancers sit up! I am nominating YOU:

Rachel Brown 

Jessica Baker
Aimee Duffy 
Incy Black
Joanne Stewart

Monday, 10 December 2012

Bad Santa - flash fiction

Ho Ho Ho and a Merry Christmas!! Newsflash: those lovely ladies over at Sweet Banana Ink are blog hopping their way to Christmas with the theme of Bad Santa.  Give them 500 hundred of your meanest, leanest festive words and put yourself in the running to win $25 of Amazon vouchers as a Christmas treat.

Tweet about it using the hashtag #badsanta2012!

Here's mine....

Picture by Bart Fields (Creative Commons)

Bad Santa (by Mrs Claus)

If I hadn’t found the dust I might never have known. 

The sheets were glacier smooth and cold to touch, antiseptic. Like new fallen snow, perfect and unsullied. 

“Nick?”  The room was as silent as the drifts piling up against the window.  Damn, it was cold, minus 15 outside.  Some days I missed Miami, the way the sun clung to my damp skin.  A girl could forget what sun was, stuck out here.

But Miami was a long time ago. I wore black back then, not red. Thick eyeliner, coal-coloured hair - a regular Morticia Addams.  That’s what caught his eye.  He laughed about it, that fat rolling laugh that I felt all the way down to my toes.  Soot-resistant, he called me.  I fell in love with that laugh before I even saw his face.

How long ago was that?  Three years? Five? 

Mom told me I’d never hack it in Lapland.  Too cold, too isolated.  I didn’t give a shit, not so long as I had Nick.  He radiates warmth like he’s swallowed the sun, the kind of guy that people grin at in the street, broad faced and handsome with a smile the size of Biscayne Bay.   

Fuck Mom and her bitterness.  That Christmas she got a copy of Why Men Love Bitches in her stocking.  Too old for me was he?  Seen that type before?  Fuck her. Sometimes Christmas did come early.  Sometimes it really was all candy canes and egg nog.  Every day’s a holiday with Nick.

If only I hadn’t found the goddamn dust. 

Just a trace, a smear on the sheet.  Barely noticeable.  Then I saw it in the shower, streaked along the wall.  That time I walked away, stood over the sink with my palms planted on the ceramic, breathing like a bull ready to charge.  Calm, I told myself.  There had to be an explanation.

He worked so closely with them, dust was bound to rub off.  God only knew they were touchy feely little bastards, always dancing about hugging each other.  Winsome, adorable and goddamn dusty. 

But only on their bare skin.

I stared at the white bed, as perfect as a holiday postcard. Reaching out to draw back the covers, I realised my hand was shaking.

Fuck that. I didn’t need to see the sheets to know that my husband was screwing the elves. 

I could almost smell Mom’s turkey roasting.  She’d have my place set, just like she did every year, just in case.  The baubles I’d made at kindergarten would be swinging from the tree.

Christmas is about family, right?

And making plans for the New Year. 

I'm looking forward to the sleigh ride home. I've got plans to make, people to call. A man worth six billion dollars a year in sponsorship should think twice about where he gets his fairy booty.

And check the drawers.

When I look, the camcorder is still running.  Pocketing the memory card, I smile.

Merry Christmas, Nick.

Ho ho ho.

Now go read the other stories!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Under the Sea Party - Baking Not Writing

November was nuts.

Nuts with work. 

Nuts with NaNoWriMo

Nuts with kids parties.  

It's that time of the year - a whole spell of birthday parties and so on and all of it culminating on November 30, alongside the end of NaNoWriMo

Well here's the good news - I'm a NaNoWriMo champ.  I did it. 50,000 words by 30 November. Just.  The novel isn't finished, there's another third to go, but damn it, I've written a lot AND held down a full time job AND organised a kids party.   

What was nice about the party thing is that it was a real creative project but using a different bit of the brain.  I find that better than a spa visit for refreshing me and refuelling creatively.  So this isn't a writing post, it's a baking post. But it all relates.  Somehow.  

And besides, this is about achievement.  I did NaNoWriMo (AGAIN) YEAY! I delivered a party for 20 kids - double YEAY.  It ain't a Nobel Prize, but damn I feel like a high achiever.

Instead of party bags we had party boxes - filled with fish stickers, sugar foam prawns and  jelly turtles.

Customised straws with foam fish cut outs! 

My mermaid - made of marshmallow fondant icing, coloured with gel food colouring and decorated with edible glitter and sugar stars. 

I love my octopus.  He's made from a lollipop, wrapped in tissue, with pipecleaner legs and stick on googly eyes! 

My mermaid cake was a three layer sponge with cupcakes for rocks. The icing is marshmallow fondant and buttercream, dyed with gel food colours and sprayed with edible lustre.  When I served it, I surrounded it with golden sherbet as sand. 

My seafood dessert platter was made from wafer ice cream oysters, filled with pink buttercream icing and stuck with white chocolate balls (as pearls) sprayed with edible lustre.  I scattered the pearls all over and added belgian chocolate seashells.  
I carved my shark out of  water melon and with dried cherry eyes and surrounded him with chopped fruit. For full effect, he had an action figure dangling from his mouth. 

A whole collection of octopi! 
I served my Under the Sea party tea on a table with silver plates and golden napkins, spread with sparkly green lametta and irriscent streamers for seaweed and sea foam.  The best table decoration was giant scallop shells that I picked up on a beach a couple of years ago and painted silver with non-toxic enamel paints.  I piled these high with golden sherbet - perfect for dunking lollipop octopi! 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Week 4 Snippet - The End is Nigh

This week has been challenging.  Work has been frantic, the weekend saw three birthday parties and this week has been eaten up in a morass of party organisation for my own baby's party. I've baked cakes, made party boxes, shopped, created 20 lollipop octopi complete with pipe cleaner legs and googly eyes.  I've made my daughter a mermaid headdress.

Have I written?

Nae mucho.

DAMN!  This was going to be my storming past the finish line week. Now I'll be lucky if I scrape in at the end.  Still, all is not lost.  I just need to rack up 2K or so and I'm there.  Wish me luck.

However I have written something.  I've taken my hero and heroine off to Ireland, to Inishmore, the island she was born on. It's fair to see she's having a difficult time.  Still flying by the seat of my pants I'm not 100% sure where I'm going with this.  Bear with me.

CC image by Alliecouture on flickr - Inishmore


Come, they whispered. Join us.  Forward Tara.
In Piper’s vision she hadn’t been scared.  Here, she was gripped by a terror so pure it turned her insides to fractured ice and locked her limbs stiff. 
She awaits
Leave me alone, she cried in her head, trying to grip onto reality by concentrating on what was there and real, the cold stone against her shoulder, the wind clawing at her hood, the damp earth beneath her knees. 
Forward Tara.
The air grew darker.  All she could see was them, crowding her, pressing in, eyes like dark fire flickering in the night, gaping caverns where mouths should be. 
He shook her shoulder.  “Hey you. Is anyone in there?” His touch was warm, solid and human.  Instinctively, she turned towards him, a moth seeking the warmth of a flame, feral as an animal.  He was flesh and bone, salt and life and she wanted his touch with a hunger that tore through her stomach.
She had forgotten he would be seeing a monster.  

Friday, 23 November 2012

Your Writing Haven

Some people write in coffee shops
Some people write in studies
Some people write all hermit-like
Some people write with buddies
I write best when squashed up on the number 45
I'll finish NaNoWriMo on a 45 bus ride

I kind of find it interesting where people choose to write.  When I used to read about people having their special spaces, their writing havens, I'd feel really intimidated.  My lack of a Room Of My Own seemed to stick a post it note on my forehead saying NOT A PROPER WRITER.

Writers have music.

Writers have excel sheets.

Writers have studies.

We have a study in our house.  It had two desks, one for me, one for my husband.  My desk looks a bit like the bastard child of Mount Everest and a Filing Cabinet.  It's piled high with paper and bits of crap.  Camera kit too.  And it faces a wall.

Assuredly, this is not my special space.

Libraries too can be good but often don't work.  Coffee shops likewise.  I always feel like the barista is wishing me away from hogging their much needed tables.  In fact if I use any place too often, it feels to inspire.

No, the place I write best is in transit.  During this NaNoWriMo my best and most inspired writing has been on the 30 minute bus ride between my daughter's school and my place of work. Previously, my best writing has been away on a Mother's Day spa weekend.  Yep, I was the only fluffy bathrobed face masked maiden with a netbook tapping away the final chapters of a historical romance.

And the best place of all?  Trains.  I LOVE writing on trains.  Damn it, I love WORKING on trains.  If I had my way, I'd be like Trotsky, zipping around the place on tracks with the countryside flashing by whilst I channel Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock and the countless other authors who have immortalised the romance of the railtrack.

It's surely no coincidence that Harry Potter is whisked away on the Hogwarts Express.

Trains and buses.  Let's get moving, baby.

So you can keep your Starbucks and your oak panelled libraries.  I'm buying me a £1.40 bus ticket to the NaNoWriMo finish line.  And when I write that worldwide bestseller, I'll be writing the sequel on the Orient Express.*

*in between drinking champagne cocktails and solving murders.

Photo by Gerhard Suster

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Week 3: Hello Tara

Week three of NaNoWriMo dawns and the scores on the doors are as follows:

40,150 words
1,368 paragraphs
76 pages
6 key characters introduced
2 demons
3 murders (one may or may not be a murder)
2 bottles of whisky drunk (by my heroine, not by me)
1 flashback experienced

My plot has stumbled completely off piste and I'm bored of London, so I'm sending my characters off to Ireland to see what mischief might befall them there.  Another demon attack?  A wise woman's prophecy?  A relative from the grave? 

Who knows?

Not me, that's for sure.  So before I go full steam ahead and set up Pantsers Anonymous self help group for other failed plotters, it's time to share my week 3 snippet. Please bear in mind this is the raw, unedited first draft and be kind.  

You've met Devlin, my male protagonist angsting about his kissing technique.

You've met Rat, my secondary character who was threatening to steal the show.

I thought that it was only fair that Tara, my heroine, gets a shot at the limelight.  Here she is talking to Devlin in the middle of a cemetery, which is of course where you go for calm if you're beset by dead people and have just found out you might be a banshee.  

Extract from Banshee

In the fading light she couldn’t read his expression.  He leaned against the lion’s plinth, his arms crossed and nodded at the noble white face. “This guy guard you did he?”
“Something like that.” 
“You need a tame lion if you’re going to make it on the streets,” Devlin observed. “How did you make it?  Get from being a street kid to running a shop?  Neither of you look like you ever slept rough.”
It was amazing what a veneer of respectability could hide. Nights so cold her knuckles turned red raw and her teeth chattered in her head.  Nights of sleeplessness, desperately trying to guard their meagre belongings, scraps of blanket and pockets of food.  Nights spent eluding the watchers, the people who tried to touch them and seduce them with opiates and amphetamines.  Sean had been such a pretty boy.  Forcibly she cleared her head of memory.  She had become good at compartmentalising. 
Have I made it?”
“Your brother has a property empire from Canary Wharf through to Welwyn Garden City and I’m thinking the pair of you are not yet thirty.  He must have cash coming out of his ears.”
She shrugged. “That’s Sean.  He probably keeps it stuffed in a sock under his pillow and loaded with gravel.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “Probably the best place for it these days. You still haven’t answered my question.” 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Soundtrack: Music to Dream by

Lovely Artemis, a magical Twitter friend shared a wonderful track with me today.  Perfect timing because I've been musing on what my NaNoWriMo soundtrack should be.

This isn't writing music, it's inspiring music. I need silence to write (not helpful with a small child watching My Little Pony by my side).  But music can help me get into my flow state (thanks to Ruth Long and Daniel Swensen AKA Surly Muse for teaching me about this) and to get ready to write. 

When I heard this, I knew this was the song to help me get into my heroine's POV.  It's a piano demo by the mystical and musical Stevie Nicks and utterly haunting - highly suitable for a banshee.  Receiving the gift of music is so special.  I love having my musical horizons expanded. 

More sound track suggestions are welcomed.  But first, over to Stevie...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Week 2 - introducing Rat

This week has seen a bit of a crisis in my NaNoWriMo 2012 adventure.  It's not the word count, that's fine.  It's not finding writing time, I'm squeezing that in. 
It's Minor Character Takeover. 
This is a nightmare phenomenon I've experience before.  That insidious feeling that a secondary character is more intriguing, more exciting and generally has more about them than the main character. 



But regardless, I soldier.  

Anyway, seeing as how I'm somewhat fascinated by her, I thought you might want to meet her too.  So here's this week's NaNoWriMo extract... introducing Rat.

Introducing Rat

An alley cut between two pubs, choked with bins and refuse. Glancing around her, she turned down, picking her way gracefully through upturned boxes and beer crates. It stank down here, a medley of rank beer and rotting food. She didn’t mind.  Smells masked a person as much as darkness and in the stark light of morning she’d take that.  It was darker down here anyway, the light blocked by the Victorian frontages.  A cat yowled ahead of her, skittering up to perch on the drainpipe where it paused to like its paw in a pretence of unconcern.  That made her laugh. The cat would show no fear any more than she would. In old times people would’ve thought it was a familiar, a devil incarnate. They were sisters, she and the cat.  People thought she was a devil too.

She wasn’t. She just worked for him.

Softly, she scratched at a cellar door, a hatch at the base of the wall built to roll beer barrels into the cellars. She heard a bolt being scraped back and the trapdoor pushed open just wide enough to allow a girl inside - or a cat. She dropped inside, soft footed but panic flared in her blood when it shut. She didn’t know her escape route.  You should always know how to get out.

The room had no windows, only a narrow strip of thick opaque glass at pavement, so grimy it did no more than emit the faintest drizzle of light.  You’d need a torch down here, or better still a light switch.  The girl had neither.  She stood feeling the darkness lap round her, making herself stay calm. Nothing killed you faster than panic. 

“It’s done,” she said. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

If Music Be the Food of Writing... Play On

My dearest Ruth Long is a big fan of music and writing, so much so that she launched the Friday Night Write over at Sweet Banana Ink, for people who are aurally inspired to put pen to paper.

I see them all over the place, people's writing soundtracks. There's even a little box to fill in on the NaNoWriMo website called "favorite novelling music".  What did I write? 


That's right. I find music distracting. If I'm humming along to a tune, I'm not hearing my characters voice. Until today.

I work in an open plan office, a busy, noisy open plan office.  Usually it's noisy because I am making noise, being the noisiest noise maker in the village, but today I was keeping schtum because I had writing to do.  Sadly, being at the office, this wasn't novel writing but speech writing and proposal writing and reporting writing. 

So I decided to play some music.

Here's what I forget about music: it's instantly transformative. It can take you from fidgety, distracted and uninspired to blood pumping, angels in your ears and in the zone within two bars of the right melody.  One blast of Aretha Franklin's O Happy Day and I had a rousing, emotional speech slapped down.

Oh yeah. 

Which brings me back to NaNoWriMo.  Not having a soundtrack for your NaNoWriMo novel feels a bit like failing to name a baby.  So I'm making one. 

I don't yet have songs for my characters or for individual scenes, but I'm working up to that.  I've just got a tune for the key conflict and this is it.  Love will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division.  What could be better for a girl from Manchester?  Think dark streets and lashing rain, tortured hearts and forboding. Enjoy! 


The other thing that inspired me to plunge into musical madness was reading up about Synesthesia after stumbling across it on the fantastic NaNoWriMo Adopt-An-Illness forum (well worth a look!) - it's an absolutely fascinating phenomenon!

Are you a synesthete?  

Thursday, 8 November 2012

First kiss blues... a hero's woes

One week into #NaNoWriMo and astonishingly, I think I am ON TRACK.  A few things have helped with this:

  • Knowing my characters really well
  • Bothering to spend an evening trying to map out a rough sort of plot (even pantsers need a roadmap)
  • The cheerleaders, wordmongerers and sprinters of #NaNoWriMo land. 
I love you people. Really, I do. You make me laugh and most importantly, write. *squishy great big hug to the world* 

So to celebrate a successful week 1, here is an extract from my WIP Banshee. This is brand new stuff - a big departure from the original way I'd mapped my protagonists' relationship developing. It's also unedited. Be kind!

In this scene Devlin kisses Tara, but her reaction isn't quite what he was hoping for:

(gratuitous Richard Armitage picture)

    For one wonderful moment she responded, her mouth feverish. Then she tensed. He felt her rejection the split second it froze her body.  His stomach sank like lead.  Insensitive, cack-handed bastard.  Instantly, he stepped back letting space get between them, his chest rising and falling with the shudder of his breaths. She stared at him blindly, as though seeing someone else, somewhere else.
    Tara?  Are you okay?”
    Her pale hair clung around her face, she was milk white, her eyes huge and shadowed.  She blinked.  “I’m sorry,” she said. 
    “Jesus don’t be sorry, I never should have-”
    “I’m sorry, I need to go.”  She slipped past him out of the door as he stood dumbfounded. 
    “Wait. Wait a minute.  Where can you go?  At least let me call you a cab?”
    She glanced at him and her expression reminded him of a wild creature trapped in a cage. “I need to go.”
    “Fuck. Fine, let me take you home.  Is there someone I can call?”
    “He’s here.  He’s already here.”
    “My broth-”
    Before she finished the word the doorbell rang. 

    Wednesday, 7 November 2012

    Walk Outside and Look Up

    Every now and then I feel restless, irritable and discontented.

    I am so far from being mindful, I don't know how to keep still.  I don't want to go to the playpark with my daughter.  I want to talk, fast, to strategise.  In short, my mind is full of work and business. I've lost the ability to just be. 

    That was me today.  And of course I felt guilty.  Because I was walking up the hill with my little daughter and  her company is precious but I was missing it in a haze of restlessness and discontent. 

    And then I looked up.

    Sky by Powellizer

    And I saw the sky.  And it reminded me that I don't look up very often. In fact, most often, I'm looking down at a square of illuminated screen a few inches from my nose. At phones. At computers.  

    But when I looked up and saw the vastness of the sky the world seemed bigger and full of limitless opportunity.  The clouds were racing and it reminded me that everything changes, that you are never truly trapped or limited unless you limit yourself. 

    Joy welled up and I shared it with my daughter, showed her the racing clouds and the movement of the sky.  Our whole walk home was transformed. 

    Argyll Peninsula by Meg McNulty aka ME 

    So whether you've got your head stuck in NaNoWriMo, you're stressed with work or tired from being woken in the night, I'm asking you to step outside of your house for one minute and look up.  Look through the trees.  Look at the sunset or the vast white arc of a winter sky.  Look at the storm clouds or the bright disc of the sun.  

    And just...