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

 

aviary-329236_1280

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…

Advertisements

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

cherry-blossoms-667578_1280

 

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

bed-575794_1280

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

tile-624724_1280

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 # 1

by-looking-77311_1280

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.