Leibster Award nominations – Awards, huh, good god y’all … #2

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Time to shake off my Spanx (other elasticated, butt-strangling clothing technology is available), pour myself into something sequined and age inappropriate and wander down the virtual red carpet once again.

I have received four very kind and generous nominations for the Leibster Award. Some of these nominations were given a long while ago, so to those who nominated me and have waited weeks for me to finally get round to doing something about said nominations – I apologise for my tardiness.

I could make excuses – early-ish onset senility, post-traumatic stress disorder over the recent UK elections, the loss of a limb to a ravenous big cat – but they would, of course be just that – excuses.

I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to accept the award, but let’s pretend I’ve been involved in a six-figure-sum bidding war over my latest book, torn between the niche publisher offering little but who could secure me an adaptation deal with good old Auntie Beeb (the BBC to non-Brits) and the huge, global monster publisher who want to sell the rights to James Cameron so he can trash the dialogue and fill it full of eight-foot tall blue aliens, despite the fact it’s set in a 12th century monastery in County Clare.*

Yeah, let’s say that.

For the record and with gratitude for the fact they read this nonsense, let alone think enough of it to give me an award, the lovely people who nominated me are –

Eleanore Miller from Eleanore’s Ramblings.

Lucy Danvers of Icecoffeecouture.

Mary Tyas of Bali info

Annie of A Beginner’s Blogger Diary

The Leibster Rules seem to have morphed over time and change according to which site you visit. Here’s what I’ve chosen to do-

1. thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. display the award on your blog by including it in your post.

3. answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers.

5. create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

6. list these rules in your post.

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award.

I’ve chosen to answer the questions set by Annie

1. Why do you blog? What drives you?

Hmm. I’ll be honest. I want to give up my day job and write full-time for a living from a tree house with a beautiful view of the sea/ a forest/ David Tennant.

I’m told these days publishers expect writers to venture out into the webisphere, to be accessible, to have built an online presence, preferably with a few hundred thousand followers. This is why I started a blog. However . . . since February, I’ve met lots of lovely, amazingly talented people online and now I spend as much time reading what they have to say as developing my own following. What am I like?

2. What is your blogging routine?

I try and write the week’s blog posts on Monday and schedule them so they’re trickled out over the week. Wednesday Word Tangle on Wednesday (I’m no rebel, man) and Books in the Blood is probably stuck to Monday. I’ve just got involved with (when I say ‘just’ I mean I’ve taken part in one!) Micro Bookends Thursday micro fiction challenge. Very tasty.

3. What message do you want to transmit?

Message? Good lord, I’m too dense to transmit a message. I try and make my posts entertaining and short-ish. I like being daft and hope to raise a smile and share a bit of fiction along the way. That’s it.

4. Who is your audience?

Hmm (again). I’m redrafting a YA fantasy book at the moment but other novel ideas I’ve had have been aimed at adults (cosy crime, gothic crime, horror, steam punk), younger children (action adventure with mythical beasties). I like to read something with a bit of mystery myself, so I guess I like to write the same.

5. What do you want people to know about you?

That my laptop is called Dominic Silverstreak and that we have a very intense relationship but we like our privacy, so no papparazzi please. And if any of you ‘people’ are literary agents . . . 🙂

6. What has been your biggest challenge in life?

Being a teenager nearly broke me. And there have been a few other times . . . But hey, I’m willing to discuss my straggly gussets, but not that.

7. Give some piece of advice to your fellow bloggers.

Blimey! Me, give advice? I’m the blogger-sponge, absorbing every hint, tip and peck of guidance that comes my way. I guess from my experience as a blog reader . . . be entertaining, keep it brief (she says, hitting a word count of 12,00 plus words!) and give (just a little) of yourself.

8. What makes you happy?

Husband, son, writing, garden, the seaside.

9. Tell us about a dream come true.

The day I married my husband. The day I realised we were pregnant after two years of trying. The day that pregnancy turned into a birth. I know that’s dreams, not a dream, but hey – they’re my dreams, hands off!

10. Tell us about a dream you want to come true.

See above. Writing, tree house, David Tennant – if husband’s okay with that.

11. Where do you want to be 5 years from now?

Writing, tree house . . . I’d like to be in a Waterstones, signing copies of my second novel in my YA series, chatting to excited teens about my characters.

With a cup of tea and a gluten-free cake nearby, please.

Now, my nominees are-

desperately seeking cymbeline, an entertaiing blog about one person’s search to watch every Shakespeare play.

The Drabble, a great flash fiction site.

Still life with a grad student, sweary, ranty, funny blog.

Fannie Frankfurter, funny, honest and entertaining.

Adoption, honest, funny, blog about the ups and downs of adoption.

Fiction writer with a blog, a great site with great writing. I particularly like the ‘Cliche’ posts- always interesting.

Only 100 words, such lovely fiction and a great use of the 100 word count for serials – clever lady.

Overcoming bloglessness, writing and photo blog full of wit which I would nominate for the ‘about’ page alone.

Kittykatbitsandbobs, one of my favourite online people and originator of W4W (Word for Wednesday). Funny, cheeky and generous.

I could’ve nommed more, but you’ve all either got too many followers to qualify, or you’ve nommed me already!

Right, I’ve gone on long enough. This post is twice the length I usually write and I’m sure no one is reading anymore. So, lovely nominees – please answer the following questions.

1. Why do you blog?

2. Who’s your dream audience?

3. Cats or dogs?

4. Muesli or bacon and eggs?

5. Which was your best blog post and why?

6. Your favourite book as a kid?

7. What’s the most personal piece of information you’ve revealed on your blog? Did you regret it afterwards?

8. What are your blogging ambitions?

9. Favourite venue for a first date?

10. Would you be a superhero or a supervillain and what powers would you have?

11. What’s your dream Writer’s Cave, the place you’d love to write from?

Okay, that’s enough, I’m knackered.

Good luck to all, bonne chance, adieu. Thanks again for the kind nominations.  x


* I would, of course sell to Auntie Beeb. Even if the cash was pathetic in comparision. No, I would – honest.

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We’re going on a cave hunt… Writing Caves # 6. The ultimate Cave

 

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Now the end is near and so I face the final cave.

Here we are, my lovelies. In Writing Caves #5 we had a wander down memory lane, a hike through cafes and beds, took a bewildering detour past my kitchen table and got lost and slightly scared in the WORST CAVE VENUES EVER.

After all that, let’s face it, we’re knackered, we’ve had enough of meandering through the dingy byways of my writing practice. What we need is a nice sit down, slippers on, feet up on a pouffe, a choccy biccy and something warm and comforting to drink. So park your bum, take a load off and listen up. Last time I promised to lead you into the world of imagination and wonder, to dream a dreamy dream of my ULTIMATE WRITING CAVE.

Now, let’s be clear. This cave has no relation to reality. It is unattainable for me. Unless I get an advance for one of my as-yet-unsold-novels of around seven figures, this ain’t never gonna happen, people. But we’re dreaming here, so let’s give it a go and take flight.

First off, let me just run through a quick list of definites my perfect Writing Cave would have.

(1) Tea and coffee making facilities. Let’s keep this real. There’s no writing without tea and if there isn’t a kettle and a mini fridge on hand, we’re not in dream territory- we’ve slipped into a nightmare.

(2) Isolation. I know, writing’s an isolating enough business as it is, but surely, to write my magnum opus or Magificient Octopus as Bladrick would have it, I need to be apart from the world, apart, above, beyond. Probably.

(3) Internet access. I write a fair bit of historical fiction: Tudor, Victorian, Ancient Roman, the Middle Ages, World War II… I’ve written short stories and novels based in all of these periods. Now until some boffin invents a time machine (come on, Stephen Hawking, what’s keeping you), I’m largely reliant on other people’s research to find out what the Tudors called their loos (privy, jakes, house of office), that Victorian milliners had sales girls called She-Barkers and that one of the main foodstuffs of the Roman Gladiator was barley porridge. Now, sometimes the best resource is still a well researched book, but for snippets of historical info (names/places/dates) when you need them in a hurry, there’s nothing like the net.*

(4) Electricity. Well how else am I gonna boil me kettle? And run the laptop, of course.

Now, that’s the basics, how about some luxuries? Comfy chairs, a heater, a few inspiring knick-knacks (Roald Dahl famously kept his own knee bone in his writing hut. I’ve still got my own knees, but I’m sure I could think of something…) How about nature? I know, I said in my last post that being outside was a pain in the backside, but I love hearing those darn bees (yes, as you’ve gathered, bees are a small time obsession of mine).

When I put all of these together, the only option, the dream Writing Cave is… ta-da-da da-da-da.

A TREEHOUSE.

Clearly we’re not talking something knocked up by your dad from a few wooden pallets he found in a skip. We’re talking luxury wood-based accommodation with all mod-cons, somewhere you could use as a granny flat if granny was driving you particularly crackers, somewhere Red Riding Hood could any second peek round the nearest tree, where wood sprites and ancient spirits lurk, where Herne the Hunter’s your neighbour and he’s having tea with Robin Hood… and that costs tens of thousands of pounds.

Ah, well. That’s what dreams are for- dreaming.

* Of course, this is when I can tear myself away from juggling cats, giggling babies, emails, this blog…

We’re going on a cave hunt… Writing Caves # 5

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Okay, people, we’re nearly there now.

We’ve sat for a while in my dining room, popped into the overcrowded, body-odour scented, eccentrics-magnet that is public transport, drank over-priced, over-sugared hot chocolate at a chain coffee shop that shall not be named.

We’ve limped home, mentally and physically shattered, on the verge of both a diabetic coma and a breakdown from all the jostling, swearing and general bad behaviour on my glorious city’s road network and flopped exhausted, into the bomb site that is my bed.

We’ve nestled, we’ve dozed- hey, we’ve even spooned a little (don’t fret, I won’t tell)– but now the end is nigh.

You see, we’ve nearly reached the end of our journey through my Writing Caves. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve endured a little light dentistry, but this is the penultimate instalment.

But before I describe my DREAM WRITING CAVE (look out next week for that stunner), I’m going to tell you where I just don’t write, won’t write, have never tried to write with my laptop, the esteemed Dominic Silverstreak.

OUR GARDEN. Oh, it’s a lovely thought, under the outspread arms of our cherry tree, the bees  in full buzz and the blossom falling like beautiful litter around my feet… BUT. The’redecoration’ of our garden by the neighbour’s cats means there’s the constant whiff of litter tray lurking nearby. Also, the sun shines on the laptop screen and I can’t see anything and the blossom falls on the keyboard and anyway, there’s nowhere to prop a notebook or leave a cup of tea where it won’t get kicked over and the bees buzz in your ears, the noisy little devils… so, no, regrettably- not the garden.

THE BEACH. There is nowhere on earth I’d rather be than the seaside. Even our nearest ‘beach’ (Weston-super-Mare, which is on the Severn Estuary, not  the sea, and is full of chip shops, arcades and grumpy donkeys) is a joy on a warm day. There’s nothing more inspirational than the sea. It stirs the primal being inside, calls to the mermaid or man in us all. BUT. Gulls are the bird-world’s finest muggers and will steal ANYTHING- ice creams, sandwiches, small children– nothing is safe from there clutches. And they poo, a lot and indiscriminately. So you’ll need an umbrella, even if it isn’t raining. Also it is ALWAYS WINDY at the British seaside. Always. Even in mid-summer when the sun is shining and the mercury is crawling up the glass, the gales blow. So you’ll need a cardigan. And a flask of tea to stop your fingers from going numb. And a wind break and a blanket. Let’s just not bother.

THE PARK. There’s the sun on the screen again and the bees and the wind (our local park is built on the top of a hill) and people stopping to ask what you’re doing and dogs sniffing your ankles and using you as a public convenience and footballs flying at your head cos the five-aside match has just started. Nah, can’t be bothered.

CHILDREN’S PARTIES. You get roped into ‘pass the parcel’ and the mountains of cake are too distracting.

AT THE POOL. It’s good to exercise, but Dominic’s a sensitive soul and doesn’t like getting damp.

AT WORK. Okay during breaks, but the customers will insist on being served and when I use the excuse, ‘But I’m trying to think of another synonym for ‘said”, people tend to lash out.

CHURCH. Nice and quiet, but the vicar complains about the keys tapping during funerals and weddings.

AT THE SUPERMARKET. Can’t balance the laptop on the shopping trolley.

I could go on. But I can see you’re tired and you’ve looked at your watch three times since I started this list, so I’ll let you go. Travel safe and I’ll see you next week for the final WE’RE GOING ON A CAVE HUNT…

We’re going on a cave hunt… Writing Caves #4

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I love being in bed. Not like that, saucy!

I just enjoy that soft, warm feeling that only hiding in your bedroom brings. Not that my bedroom’s anything glamorous. No four-poster, cushion-jungle, Barbie-bed shenanigans for me.

For a start, we’ve too much ‘stuff’ to keep the room clutter-free, so against one of the walls are boxes of books due for the charity shop, toys my son no longer plays with now he’s surgically attached to a games system when he’s not at school, bags of old clothes that are awaiting the imaginary car boot sale which we really are going to do one day… You get the picture.

Then, on my side of the bed is THE NEST. THE NEST comprises stacks of old notebooks, numbered and in the date order they were completed, along with the index book I use to record what’s in each one, so I at least stand a tiny chance of finding old short story/ novel ideas I had three years ago, but never had the time to complete (It’s one of the few areas of my life/ writing/ existence on this planet where I’m a tiny bit organised.)

Also in THE NEST are two stacks of books I-keep-meaning-to-read-but-haven’t-quite-got-round-to-yet. These include The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, several Booker nominees (which I’ve eschewed for years in favour of Suzanne Collins, Ben Aaronovitch, Neil Gaiman and tons of other great authors who will never be nominated for that esteemed prize). There’s a book of Greek Myths, a Grimm’s Fairy Tales and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, which I’m just too chicken to read at night-time.

Then there’s the box of as yet unsold copies of Still Me*, the anthology of short stories and poems my writing group, All Write Then published a few years ago, testament not to the quality of the writing, but to how thoroughly useless I am at promotion. There’s also a pack of 200 business cards- Lynn Love:Author (Ha!Ha!)- which I misguidedly bought for my one and only foray into book fairs. Sold not a single book and it wasn’t fair!

THE NEST is a messy dust trap, but it encapsulates my love of books and writing (successful and really, very not so) and I love having it so close to me at night. Maybe I’m hoping the talent from all those Bookerists will leech out of the paper and into my brain as I slumber.

Anyhoo. Despite being a mess, my bedroom is great for writing in.

Imagine. It’s the weekend, early morning. The family are up and about because even though they don’t need to be, neither of them can sleep in when there are computer generated aliens to slay/ cities to build/ race tracks to conquer. I’ve had my first wee of the day (lovely), switched on the WIFI (a mistake for someone so easily distracted) and with freshly brewed tea in hand, sneak back upstairs for a couple of hours of tip-tapping on Dominic Silversteak**. The sun streams in (on a good day), I’m separate enough from my loved ones to concentrate, and close enough to hear them laugh/ argue/ moan about having to do their homework.

Bliss.

Bed- the Writing Cave of champions!

*If you’d like to purchase a copy of Still Me, they’re available from our publisher, Pewter Rose Press at a very reasonable price. All proceeds go to the Alzhiemer’s Society, so you’ll be buying quality and doing a good deed- hurrah!

**You’ve not been paying attention- Dominic’s my laptop, not the lover I keep in the airing cupboard.

We’re going on a cave hunt… Writing Caves #3

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I love a good hot chocolate. With a head of foam so deep you could float your spoon on it. Not too sweet, a little bitter so your can really taste those cocoa beans. As I drink I imagine 18th Century ladies in their salons, sipping from thimble-sized cups, every brown dribble worth more than gold. I see their powdered wigs sway on their heads, each passing breeze threatening to capsize them, like galleons fighting squally tempests off Cape Horn …

Of course, when I order hot chocolate, what I’m actually served is a thin liquid that has a layer of sludge at the bottom an inch deep with the consistency of quick sand, tasting both slimy and gritty. The stuff is so sweet the sugar melts my teeth. Each hot chocolate should come with a voucher: collect ten and you have access to the onsite dentist who can do running repairs to your molars between drinks.

The tea’s no better. Tea in any cafe chain is tinny and bitter. Think of a photograph of David Tennant: it might resemble that handsome, dashing creature, but you couldn’t wrap your arms around it, give it a big squeeze and take it home for cuddles on the sofa. Well, you could, but at the end of the day, you’re not getting quite what you hoped for, and the same goes for cafe chain tea.

And I don’t drink coffee. ‘Proper’, fresh brewed coffee has my heart galloping like the winner at Derby Day and sends my head feeling like it’s stuffed with pillows. And it makes your breath smell. Coffee breath smells like the liquid that gathers at the bottom of a rubbish bin.

So, you would assume I’d avoid coffee shops. You’d think their synthetic drinks, their bustle, their noise, their whole corporate, faceless, aggressively marketed schtick would have me running. But I’ve spent hours in certain outlets. You know- the one named after a Battlestar Galactica character.

Why? Imagine it now- the low hum of conversation, my single table with nothing on it but my laptop and the cooling, sticky swamp of a barely touched chocolate flavoured drink… There’s something about the anonymity of the chain coffee shops, the fact that there’s so much coming and going, it’s easy to block it all out, the fact that members of staff won’t move you on, even if you’ve been sitting there for three hours and only spent £2.50.

In a cafe, I can’t get up and make myself a nice cup of tea. The WIFI’s not secure, so I won’t keep checking my inbox for that short story acceptance email that never comes. There’s no cupboard of snacks to rifle through and I’ve left my writing mags and shelves of books at home. For a busy place there are few distractions.

And another thing. Look around you. Every other table has a guy or gal tapping away at a laptop. Many are just watching cats miming to Bohemian Rhapsody on You Tube; some are students frantically working on theses that should’ve been handed in months ago, but that miming cat’s been just so hard not to watch… But maybe one, perhaps even two others might just be writing a story, a novel, a tale that’s wormed inside them and is finally breaking out. Some of them are my people.

Right. I’ve got to go cos I’ve a yearning for a triple mocha-choca-chino with hazelnut sauce and a double helping of aerosol cream. Can’t imagine where I’ve developed a taste for those…

We’re going on a Cave hunt… Writing Caves #2

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You may find it hard to believe from my beautifully crafted words (Ha! Ha!) but I don’t spend all day, every day, hidden in Writing Cave #1. There are times when I must surgically detach myself from my chair, brush the biscuit crumbs from my stiffened limbs and stumble, blinking into the light.

Leaving Dominic Silverstreak behind is a wrench. I should explain that Dominic is my Vaio laptop and a more gorgeous hunk you won’t find. Okay, so occasionally he refuses to work, he’s slow, sluggish and has been known to lose stuff, but I’ve grown so used to the feel of him under my hands, I can’t imagine another taking his place… Sorry, what was I saying? Ah, yes.

The days I have to leave my beloved behind (sigh!) are usually Work days. This is something I’ve been informed we all have to do to earn money. Now, much as I’ve gone along with this idea for the last thirty-odd years, I’ve never totally understood the concept. It all seems rather unpleasant and inconvenient. Rather than having to turf out of bed- leaving Dominic cold and alone- to do something that’s frankly quite hard and tiring, wouldn’t it just be more straightforward if I stayed at home, warm, cosy, doing what I love to do, and have someone pay me anyway? Just an idea for the future, policy makers of the world.

Anyway, to get to Work I have to cross town, catching two buses in the process, because *I DON’T DRIVE. Now, I realise that to some of you saying I don’t drive is like announcing I can get along without breathing, that I don’t like **Soap Operas and never watch Strictly or X Factor – but I never have driven and possibly never will.

But all is not lost, because whilst in traffic jams (which in Bristol are many and varied), stuck at lights and trying to ignore the fact I have a stranger’s groin/ armpit/ dribbling toddler in my face, I carry the spirit of Dominic with me in the form of a notebook (And no, I don’t have names for my notebooks- that would just be weird.)

In the notebooks I scribble plots and ideas for upcoming stories, random thoughts, earwigged conversations, bizarre bus-bound happenings (perhaps the subject of a future post!) shopping lists and anything else that occurs to me.

So there you have it- Writing Cave #2: public transport.

Now, if you wouldn’t mind leaving- Dominic and I want some ‘alone time’.

*My hubby doesn’t drive either- what kind of freaks are we?
**I also do not like soaps and never watch Strictly or X Factor– that’s how much of a freak I am.

We’re going on a Cave hunt… Writing Caves # 1

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I’ve mentioned Writers’ Caves (Hello me, this is me) before, those personal places where scribblers spill their literary guts onto screens/ notebooks and if they stay still too long, short-haired pets and small children. Now, let me share mine.

The downstairs of our house is rather ‘open plan’. Now, if that phrase conjures some kind of Scandinavian, architect-designed work of genius with plate glass windows, a view onto a fjord/ out of town Ikea/ darkly twisted murder scene involving lovely stern ladies wearing fair isle knitwear, then I’m gonna have to disappoint.

Our version of ‘open plan’ is where someone knocked a ruddy great square hole between the living room and the dining room of our modest, Edwardian terraced house. I’m guessing it was the same ‘someone’ who removed the interior doors throughout. It means the light floods in, almost at the same rate that the heat floods out.

In the dining room, at the dining room table* is where I usually write. It’s where I’m writing this now, listening to the guttering overflow into the back yard, surrounded by a half-finished Meccano model, a BMX, a scooter and a stack of books that were supposed to have been donated to a charity shop before Christmas, but have now been accidentally recycled into coffee table/ clothes airer.

In the winter, it gets so cold in here I have to wear two jumpers, a thermal, several pairs of socks, drink endless mugs of tea and wrap in a blanket just to keep my fingers moving. It’s not a retreat from the world, it’s the centre of where the action happens in our house. We put our Christmas tree over there: we’ve had umpteen kids parties here: the exercise bike is tucked in the corner to my right, crowing over me and my sagging midriff because I write more than I cycle.

Despite the fact that it’s not really MY space, that I have to push nuts, bolts, coasters and table mats aside just to make enough room for the laptop, it’s my Writer’s Cave, the space I’ve drafted and redrafted novels and short stories, polished plots, critiqued friend’s work and created this blog.

It’s my main place to write, a homely space, choc-ful of distractions, but mine.

Look out for future instalments of Writer’s Cave: Sub-Caves and why every writer needs them.

*Lynn Love, in the Dining Room, with a laptop- guilty as charged.