Monday, 21 November 2011

On a roll...

I've been writing every day for eight days now and am making good progress on my book - I've completed nearly 27 chapters so far. I'm feeling extra-pleased as I should hit my self-imposed deadline to finish the first draft before Christmas.
It has taken me a while to get this far. I was pregnant when I began writing it, and over the months that followed I had the disruption of a new kitchen (plaster dust everywhere and me heavily pregnant and frustrated as I was unable to begin nesting!), the joy of a new baby and my first taste of motherhood, two burglaries (within six weeks), the stress of moving house (thanks to the previous 'events') and the excitement of getting married (although the planning was a nightmare!). And all but the new kitchen took place within the space of little over seven months!
Talking of the little one, she has a rotten case of chickpox at the moment and is utterly fed up as we can't go anywhere until she's gone scabby - poor thing! And she is most definitely awake, so I'd better sign off now.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Invisible House

Gemma had heard the story before, but she couldn't quite believe it.

A house which was there one minute and gone the next. It had been seen many times, outside the town, but no one ever seemed sure exactly where they had seen it. There had been several sightings in recent months, but it was never seen by the same person twice, so the accounts varied wildly.

It was a very old house, that they all agreed, half-covered by ivy with two chimneys and a big green dome on the top. And it was always half-hidden by mist or trees. But, after that, each tale differed. Its size varied from a cottage to a mansion. And it never seemed to be in the same spot twice. It seemed that no one ever got close enough to get a proper look before it disappeared again.

It was only the second day of her summer holiday and Gemma was already bored. She had been sent to stay with her Aunt May in Devon while her parents went on another dig – this time they had gone to Keros, a remote Greek island. She had been given the choice to stay in England with Aunt May or follow them to Greece. She had chosen the former. Although Greece was sunny, it would be no fun sitting around a dusty site watching people dig up broken pieces of pottery. Why couldn’t she have a normal family who went on normal holidays like the rest of her friends?

Luckily, she liked Aunt May who was sweet and scatty and let Gemma do more or less whatever she wanted, as long as she didn’t make too much noise and kept her company at dinner. Aunt May spent most of her time in a large shed which she called her ‘studio’. She made what she called ‘a moderate living’ out of painting members of the well-heeled families of the area.

Gemma realised she would be left mostly to her own devices. She wished she could have had her best friend Izzy to stay, but she was at her family’s villa in Spain for three weeks and had some two-week Duke of Edinburgh thing lined up for when she got back. She would miss her. The coming weeks stretched in front of her like an endless road. How was she going to amuse herself? It was a good job she’d brought her Smartphone, MP3 player and Kindle - Aunt May didn’t believe in ‘new-fangled gadgets’ and so only had one small TV in the entire house. On arrival, Gemma had been shocked to find she didn’t even have a games console or a PC!

She thought again about Aunt May’s tall tale of the ‘Invisible House’, which she’d told to Gemma for the second time over dinner on the day she’d arrived. Perhaps that was it? It might be a load of rubbish, but it would give her something to do. She would look for this mysterious house and, if she found it, she would take a picture with her phone and post it on her blog. Maybe she could even get it published in the local paper? It would make a good story – a bit like the Loch Ness monster or something. She was sure it didn’t exist, but it was an excuse to explore beyond the town.

Gemma was sure Aunt May would only worry if she wasn’t at dinner by seven, so she would have the best part of each day to explore the town’s boundary on her aunt’s rusty old bike. If she hadn’t seen anything remotely like this mysterious house by the end of the week she would just write it off and think of something else to do.

In the zone...

At last I am 'in the zone' and making progress on my children's book once more. I've been writing four days in a row and have now written a total of 23 and a half chapters. I had planned on making it 25 chapters long, but I'm nowhere near the end! I'm still aiming to have the first draft done by Christmas, which I think is feasible.
I owe a lot of my motivation and inspiration to my lovely husband B. and my fellow writing group bods, especially K.
To celebrate, I think I'll try and squeeze in one more cup of tea before R. wakes up ;o)

Friday, 11 November 2011

All systems...STOP!

I think I was tempting fate with the title of this post - as soon as I'd finished it my PC crashed and I lost the whole thing!
The title actually refers to our whole buying/selling house triangle, which is getting far too complicated and stressful. I think we'll have to knock the whole thing on the head until the Spring. This means we still don't know where we'll be living next year and, until we can sell one of them, we'll have to rent it out. The whole housing market is in a right mess. I've been a 'landlady' before and I'm really not happy about it, but I think it's our only choice.
On the plus side, I've found suitable childcare for R. starting in February, when I start my first proper freelance contract next year. That's one less thing to worry about at least.
And, I've had another book idea, which means I've got a lot of work to do over the next few years if I want to get them all written! Perhaps I will make some real progress with my writing when things finally settle down a bit...?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Now, if things could just calm down a bit...

The past week or so has been a total blur. B. and I have been running ourselves ragged over jobs (hurrah we've both got new ones lined up) and houses (getting valuations done and trying to turn two small houses into one big one), and trying to keep on top of the usual chores and child-rearing. I love to be busy but things are starting to get silly. If we could just have a little time to catch up with ourselves...
All that said, I think my creative muse has started to tiptoe her way back. I actually wrote something new this morning while I was supposed to be getting ready for the dentist. It's a possible intro to another book (I've already got one well on the go but have had ideas for several others) and I'm quite excited about it. I'm now wondering if I should pursue this one while I've got this enthusiasm and park my current one until I'm inspired to go back to it? Decisions, decisions!
Now, if things could just calm down a bit...

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Labyrinth

Here's my 'scary story', as promised. It's not a typical ghost story, more of a quest-type thing, inspired by Greek legend, and, like most of my stuff, it's aimed at children.

The Labyrinth

I stare at the entrance. The empty blackness gapes back at me. The back of my neck bristles. I feel sure the darkness hides a horde of otherworldly beasts watching, waiting for me to enter their murky realm. I shuffle towards it, my body shaking. An evil stench washes over me, making me gag. Every nerve in my body screams to turn and run. And I want to, I really want to, but I have no choice. I must enter the labyrinth.

My shaking fist holds a small torch which burns with a bright, white light. It was given to me by Andor. He said it should last at least an hour, but will it be long enough? I start to sweat. It reminds me of the first, and last, time I entered the copper mines near my village. I was only a few strides inside when the earth shook and dust fell from the roof. I turned and fled, running until I had no breath left. When I finally returned to the village, my father laughed and said it was nothing serious, but I was still sure that I would have been buried alive if I hadn’t got out fast enough.

But here I am, about to go underground again. My heart hammers against my ribs as I move closer to the yawning dankness. The stench forces me to cover my nose and mouth with my scarf. I gasp for air, forcing my body forwards, until I find myself inside.

Within a few steps the wide tunnel becomes a narrow passage, far too narrow for my liking. I creep forwards, trying not to think about what lives in here and what it could do to me. There could be any kind of evil thing lurking around every corner. Andor said gigantic worm lizards with razor-sharp teeth bored out these tunnels over a thousand years ago and their ancestors probably still live here.

My chest is so tight I can hardly breathe. I stop for a moment and try to slow my breathing, until it is almost normal again. I must not stop for long, or I will run out of light. And then all will be lost.

‘The amulet lies at the heart of the labyrinth’, said Andor, ‘It has been there for over five centuries. The prophecy says that only those worthy are able to find it and take it.’ Am I worthy? I hope so. For the sake of everyone I care about.

I continue inching along the narrow passage. The constant reek makes my eyes water. The torch lights my way for about two arm-lengths, but the blackness beyond makes my eyes swim trying to see through it. Fear wells up in my chest yet again. I've come this far, I can't turn back now. If I succeed, this will be the most important thing I have, and probably ever will, do. I keep moving, my heart pounding. The tunnel takes a sharp left, and then I have a choice. Do I go straight ahead or turn right?

I stand and stare, then a memory comes drifting back to me – I’m very young, sitting on the grass outside my home, playing with a wooden puzzle. As I turn the puzzle this way and that, I can hear a marble ball moving around the maze hidden inside. The aim is to move the marble around the maze until it reaches the centre and drops out of a hole. After countless attempts, I solve it by making the marble follow the outside of the maze in one direction, making it go back only when it hits a dead end and slowly but surely working it towards the middle. Forcing my mind back to the present, I decide to go straight ahead.

The air in this tunnel is even more pungent and the blackness seems to bore into me. Thank Eos for Andor's torch! I press on. The tunnel widens. A screech tears through the darkness. Something very much alive brushes my cheek! Screaming, I duck and drop the torch, shielding my head from whatever it was that touched me.

What on earth was it? I crouch down, grabbing the torch and spin my head around wildly. I hear squeaking and flapping. Bats! There must be a whole colony down here. Relief washes over me, almost making me laugh out loud. I’ve never been keen on bats, but better a hundred of them than the other creatures Andor said I might meet. Why I couldn’t have brought a few warriors with me, I don’t know. ‘The chosen one must enter the maze alone. This is the only way to lay claim to the amulet and harness its true power,’ he said. ‘It is written in the prophecy.’

Blasted prophecy! I wish I’d never heard the damn thing in the first place. As I mutter to myself, a chilling thought creeps into my mind. What if it is just a story and there is no amulet? Or what if it has already been found? And, even more likely, what if the torch goes out before I’ve escaped the labyrinth? The thought makes me quail. I think about turning back. But I can’t; there are too many people relying on me. I have to try. I hunch over, bowing my head forwards, in case another bat swoops at me, and shuffle on.

Then the rumbling starts. It’s faint to start with, but it soon grows louder. I pray to Eos that it’s not a giant worm lizard, or anything else that might chew me up and spit me out without a second thought. The stench is getting worse. I keep walking but stumble as my legs start to buckle. Dust falls from the tunnel roof. I turn and try to run, but I trip and fall headlong, dropping the torch. The rumbling grows louder. The walls shake. I close my eyes and pray.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Scary story

To answer the writing group 'Hallowe'en Challenge' I've reworked a short piece which may or may not be any good. It's part of a bigger story and I'll just have to see what the others think about it. Once they've critiqued it I'll share it on my blog.
The house situation is looking up - provided we can agree the right deal, we're about to buy an 'invisible house'. So, there's a good chance we could be moved in by the spring. It means we'll finally have the family home we've been craving and I'll even have a writing room!
Anyway, I can hear R. stirring, so I'd better get on with my motherly duties. I've got to get us off to playgroup and the whole house needs a tidy/clean before the valuation I've arranged this afternoon. There's no way I can do it all, especially with R's mortal fear of vacuum cleaners, but I'll just have to do my best!

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Ravine

This is a short piece I wrote ages ago - it's from a story I haven't written yet and is supposed to be aimed at children aged 9 or 10+...

The Ravine

The trees provided us with good cover, but the way forward was no easier. I could see the others ahead. Spiky, tangled weeds carpeted the forest floor. They wrapped maliciously around our legs as we struggled through the trees. It became harder to move as our strength, sapped from days of pursuit, was fading fast.

One of the malignant weeds wound around my leg so tightly I fell headlong onto the ground, spiking my hands over and over on the thorny menace blanketing the earth. I bit hard on my thumb to stifle my scream. What if they heard me?

We had to keep moving. The light was fading and our pursuers were getting closer. I did my best to pull the spines from my hands and freed my leg from the spiteful vine. We had to find shelter before nightfall. A horn echoed through the trees. We were being hunted like animals. So we would have to become like animals. We had to make a den, but to be sure we weren't found, first we needed to lay a false trail.

We tore strips off our clothing and attached them to branches and undergrowth, then, after about fifty or sixty paces, we retraced our steps and made off in another direction. I hoped this would throw them off our scent, but it remained to be seen.

As we stumbled on, the tree-flanked banking on either side rose and the path grew narrower. Not a single ray of sunlight touched the ground and the thick moss made the path slippery and treacherous. I cursed as I lost my footing and staggered to the side. Thankfully I stayed upright, as there was nothing to stop me from landing on the cold mossy rocks below. That would make me easy prey.

The others were slowly leaving me behind, but my feet were raw underneath and each step became more painful. Each time I slipped, the jolt made me almost yell out. As I climbed over slimy logs infested with oozing yellow fungi, I could see the ravine grew deeper ahead. But I staggered on, determined to keep moving. I didn't want to be caught and I certainly didn't want to die here. The air became dank with the putrid odours of decaying plant matter. The sky above was almost a memory. Our voices and movements became muffled.

There was a muted shout ahead. The others had stopped – pointing at the way forward. The path ahead was more treacherous and looked impassable. We looked around us for an escape route. Our only choice was to climb an almost vertical bank about eighty arm-lengths high. It was strewn with dead trees and mouldy rocks. We could see it would be hard work. But we had no choice if we wanted to get out of this fetid, fungus-ridden gully.

I gathered the last of my strength and launched myself at the bank, scrambling after the others. But the moistness of the soil made it impossible to get a sure foot-hold. Dead branches broke off in my hands and I frantically scrabbled at the soil, trying to seize anything I could. It was no use. I began to slide back down into the putrid ravine...

Why is it that Life takes over just when you're starting to get somewhere with your writing?

I've been at a standstill for some weeks now, bar the odd scribble in my 'ideas book'. Too much has been happening on the Life front, making it impossible to focus on my writing at present, but I'm sure it will provide some useful material in the future.
Perhaps the task I've been set by my writing group will get me kick-started? I've been set the challenge to come up with a scary story for Hallowe'en this Monday, but I'm just not feeling inspired! I'd better read a couple of ghost stories and/or watch a scary film to get me into the right frame of mind.
On the plus side, I'm £50 richer than yesterday, thanks to a bank mix-up. So, yesterday's 'wasted morning' where R. and I spent an hour in the bank waiting for the Business Account bod to turn up turned out to be rather worthwhile after all!
All we need now is somewhere suitable to live. The housing market is so stagnant we're contemplating a part-ex on a house that's not even built yet - now that's a scary prospect!