Attempting to make it as a writer

Posts tagged ‘NANOWRIMO’

All Written Out-Christmas 2015!

I have had such a busy time of late. My writing, although still managing to squeeze it in before the world gets up, has been very prolific of late.   I am however, at the present time the sole judge of the quality of the words written, but most certainly I feel proud of the content of my literary achievements this year.

We (Sexy Sporty Dad and I) finished LEJOG in mid-September (Lands’ End) and within a week we were off to Ypres to celebrate a very special centenary “the Battle of Loos”, more of that later I hope.  We hit October at a fast run as we celebrated a significant birthday for Sexy Sporty Dad which entailed a surprise weekend with friends and family coming together to help him move through the barrier.

I then slowed momentarily as I gathered information and research for NANOWRIMO.

Never before had I been so determined and so organised.  I discovered there were no other local Nanos so decided to use my wonderful Swanwick friends and online Nanoers  to support my efforts.

It all started with a ‘virtual kick off party’ at midnight on 31 October, and even before I  got to bed in the early hours of Nov 1st I had  444 words under my belt.  Others at the virtual party did many more, but I felt I had shown my face and achieved my start, I retired to my bed and woke again in the early hours to resume.   I stayed with social media for the following 30 days to keep me going and gather encouragement in my quest.

Follow the story here:

October 31st

just to warn you all – about to go into hibernation! will be out of circulation for 30 days while I again take part in NANOWRIMO – write a novel in a month – the challenge is 1667 words per day, follow my progress on twitter @TiggyHayes or on facebook Tiggy Hayes

November 1st

great start to NANOWRIMO – over 2000 words already written. Today was easier as it was a day off – see how the rest of week pans out!

November 4th

Yeah – 8376 words 4 days. Suppose to be a journey but stuck in jail in Bodmin due to be hung tomorrow – could be a short story!

November 5th

11594 words by day 5. Flowing well but how to make him sound young vulnerable & scared without being plain stupid? He escaped hanging btw!

November 6th

2588 words this morning – on a roll now. but they are calling him by a different name – do we own up or run with it

November 8th

way on target with 19757 words done so far. lost the plot slightly yesterday so very staccato writing but just jumped from a burning window

hope he survives or the end of the book…..

November 9th

so going gets tough from now on. work commitments may lessen time available but well on NANOWRIMO target at the moment

November 10th

25000 half way..with 20 days to go – work is getting in the way. maybe I shoud give up work and go full time writing! and the bills???

November 11th

a restless night helped – no sleep so got up at 4 and wrote 2000 words – it is going to be a long day -work then meeting all evening

November 13th

slowing down – work getting busy only 1173 yesterday and 1845 today but hit the 30,000 words – will that sustain over my working weekend?

November 15th

33027 words -he smashed the lock realising moments later he could have picked it – so why did I teach him to pick locks in chapter 1?

November 16th

35185 words done – we are just escaping Bath where we were propositioned. feels odd to be set upon by a woman writing as a boy!

November 17th

so a good 2001 words – strange number – what do i know about iron smelting in 1749 nothing yet….. about to find out then i think

November 19th

over 40,000 words. Awkward moment as he jumps in a river to save boy (who’ll end up his wife-Don’t ask!) But he cant swim! What a meeting!

November 23rd

46,800 words 7 days left feeling confident despite recent dip … the relationship is still icy – need a bit of love or at least tolerationTop of Form

November 24th

finally at 47,600 words they’ve a good word to say to each other. Could be a short love story, with 6 days left to live happily ever after.

November 25th

50,007 words & now they are in love. The real adventure starts here for them & me.Thanks for the support, couldn’t have done it without you.


Nano Winner

November 28th

54,589 words – both on the run now- overnight in Penrith – a name & sex change for her and he still running from cornish constabulary.

and still only in 1752!

November 30th

winner and surpassed all expectations – 60,000 words. now married but still on the run – what does Fort William have in store for them and will they ever reach John O’Groats, hope so a very special letter awaits them there

December 2nd

NANO may be over but we have to reach the destination. Loch Ness passed in 2 paragraphs. Back saving boys from water but still can’t swim!

December 14th

NANO may have finished but story continued now at John o’Groates the letter has finally found them. Lets hope they live happy ever after

73,743 words, 144 pages and 44 days – Destination is going to sleep till the New Year.

I enjoyed my story, it changed dramatically from the one I had planned.  I worked well under the pressure of 1667 words a day and I managed to achieve 2000+ a day usually between 5 and 7 in the morning, which had no effect on my normal daily routine or work commitments.

Where some adventures came from I do not know, I would start with an idea and end with a completely different scenario which then had to be woven through my thoughts and writings.  The essence of the  story involved a long journey of learning, losing and loving. Lands’ End to John O’Groats in the mid 1700’s with my main protagonist a 13 year old boy;  all  out of my comfort zone writings but totally exhilarating.   There is a lot of work to do if ever I want to publish it; which people outside of NANOWRIMO don’t really understand.

“if you have written 73,000 words why can you not just publish it?  Why put it away?”  Good questions but what about the real bane of my life;  the dreaded editing phase!  And then, the even worse rejection phase?

If Destination stands any chance of being published it needs to go into hibernation itself while I concentrate on Christmas and New Year and work on some of my older stories.  I will look at it again, fresh and with new eyes as I feel this one may have legs to pursue.

Pursue I must for two very good friends have during Nano month had their own books published;

A wonderful collection of short stories superb for a coffee break or waiting for a child moments which I have on my kindle and can reread time and again just to cheer me up and remind me where determination can take me.  Little Gems by Rae Argent

And here is a great little one for all adventure/detective lovers that is now out in paperback.  The Common Murders by S J Ridgeway

The other incredible book I have recommended this year again by a friend of mine is a must for all nature lovers and most definitely anyone who grew up loving “Winnie the Pooh” is The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh by Kathryn Aalto

I don’t recommend these book just because they are my friends but because they are good and these are the contemporary ladies I aspire to be like and to write like.

Have the most wonderful Christmas




destination front cover - draft

Stranger Danger

We are so politically correct these days that sometimes I wonder if things have gone too far.  I know historically there have been abuses in all walks of life but as youngsters we lived full and enriched lives. We were blissfully unencumbered by pre-formed prejudices just because we were young.  I am not so sure my children with all their modernities will have the enrichment of that innocent excitement.

I did not have the benefit of black ops 2 Zombies but I would not say this deprived me of my childhood.  Instead I managed to get out into the garden and climb trees, learn to ride, learnt to milk a cow.   I played tennis and swam daily from as early as we could bear the cold in March/April often going on till November if we could manage it.  I paid for my riding lessons by mucking out, tacking up and later breaking in ponies before being allowed to take children out on hacks or teaching them how to jump, round the world and dressage.

Sad to say, unlike my children who will have to protect me, I feel I am unable to kill or seriously deter a marauding Zombie who cannot be shot and continues bits hanging off as the blood spurts and sprays, to approach me.  I do feel though that I could if marooned on a desert island for any length of time, in desperation catch and cook a chicken or rabbit to survive.  I could turn my skills to building a safe waterproof shelter and administer an acceptable degree of make do first aid.

Our lives were very carefree and we didn’t think about the dangers.  If a man approached me asking for directions as I played out on the road my thoughts did not immediately shout danger, danger run.  I would answer his query and point him in the right direction.   I may even lead him if I was going his way.   I remember how my freedom was curtailed dramatically when Genette Tate disappeared very close to where we were living at the time.  My father needed to know my whereabouts all the time, I suddenly had tight time curfews which I could not understand and often forgot leading my poor father to traipse around country lanes looking for me.

The sad thing is that the Genette Tates of this world were the highlighted cases and recent history proves that abuses and evil intent came from all sorts of places even the most respected icons of the time.   However I am sure that not every person is inherently evil or covering a demonic past.  Some things may be totally innocent.

It was over tea we were discussing our day when Mini Son mentioned “I was hugged by a man today”

The hairs on my neck prickled, my muscles contracted and I drew a deep breath as I reached for the phone to call 999.

His two brothers began chanting “stranger danger”.

Sexy Sporty Dad quietly asked him “What happened?”

“I was in the shop today when a really old man was trying to work the self-serve machine.  He could not get it to work so I went over and showed him.  I put all his shopping through and showed him where to put the money.  When we had finished he put his arm around me and said thank you.”

I am so proud of mini Son, I did not know he knew how to work the self-serve machines but he showed thoughtful compassion for this old man and helped someone in need.   The man was probably far too old to realize he should not hug or touch a young boy but was trying to say thank you in the only way he knew how.

I told Mini Son he had done the right thing although added that he still must not go in anyone’s car or take sweets from a stranger.

I also added that if he is going to help someone then to do it as he did in full view because there is the other side that depressingly I have to consider.   The man was obviously old and possibly a little confused, what if he suddenly forgot why a young hooded against the weather pre-teen is touching his food or his money.    Would the supermarket believe my boy against an old man that he was helping not stealing?

How sad that we even have to be aware of strangers assuming them to be potential abusers or unable to help in case we are branded wicked.   Where did trust and community values lose their way?


nanowrimo 2013 cert

I am a winner, I cannot believe that I actually managed to complete the challenge and write over 50,000 words in 30 days.   Mini son typed the last word on the laptop as we both watched the word count click up.  I then inserted the whole story into the verification page on the website and he pressed the button.  Enjoying a moment of incredible self-satisfaction, pride and emotion I showed Sexy Sporty Dad who was very complimentary.   He cannot understand the desire to write, but I cannot understand his need to go and cycle 60 odd miles on a cold wet muddy Saturday morning.

It had not been easy.  I had been disciplined about my rising at 5.30 each day and writing till 7pm.  I did not tell anyone locally I was taking part lest I did not rise to the challenge and had to tell them of my failure.   I did join in the forums and had a lot of support from my writing friends who kept me going with encouragement, support and belonging.

The story has a long way to go and the humour is minimal but all that is for the editing.   The original remit to tell the children and grandchildren who I am is beginning to form and hopefully I will complete the rest of the novel as time allows and my story develops.


Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at Tea Time Treats.

Painful Story-telling

It was about September when I stopped feeling well.  By October I was in a lot of pain and by the 10th of the month I was admitted to hospital; to the surgical assessment ward.   Starved and prepped for theatre I needed to wait firstly for a space so they could take me down but more importantly for an agreement from the doctors as to where on my body they were going to operate.

It was this  lack of diagnosis causing their confusion.  No-body knew what or where the pain was but I was most definitely in pain. I could not care about anything, if they wanted to cut me about so be it as long as the pain eased.

Initially I had been to see my doctor with symptons of general ill health and changes that didn’t quite fit with my medical knowledge.   They were very sympathetic and instantly put it down to my age and the changes that will begin occurring soon.   However as things were a little unusual they would arrange an emergency scan.  In the meantime she diagnosed me with a slipped disc or possibly a pulled muscle.

I had so much movement, I could bend, I could stretch and yes I was in pain but the movements did not aggravate the pain or cause any change.  I knew it was not muscular and I knew if I had slipped my disc I would not be able to bend as I could.

Two weeks later I attended the scan.  They sent me home and said there would be further tests as I was not right, she would contact my doctor and they would refer me to another clinic for further tests.

That night my doctor rang “there is nothing to be alarmed about and this is just precautionary but we are referring you as a matter of urgency.  This is just routine.”

What wasn’t routine was the Doctor ringing me that night.  Alarm bells rang. The pain in the back was getting worse.  I was on stronger painkillers by now and a strong anti-inflammatory painkillers with meals.

It took a week for the matter of urgency to arrive.  I duly went in and spent the day at the oncology unit having all kinds of test and scans.   Being totally nosy, well it is my body, I insisted on being in an even more awkward position so I too could see the monitors and find out what was going on.   I can confirm my insides are like alabaster porcelain.  Pale and smooth with not a ridge in sight.  The doctors were so impressed they said I could go home and there would be no further investigations, but while there they would scan my kidneys.

My kidneys looked wonderful, in the right place and the flow was good and healthy.  I could return home reassured there was nothing wrong.

I should have gone shopping, the very least a celebratory coffee. Instead drained and still on painkillers and anti-inflammatories I drove carefully home and fell asleep.  The pain continued to escalate.

I rang the doctor the next day I was still in so much pain and didn’t know what to do.  She had already referred me to an osteopath and I was waiting on an appointment to come through.  There was nothing else she could do, keep taking the highest dose possible.

Naturally the drugs had their side-effects one of which was sleepiness and confusion.  The sleep was short-lived and only lasted in batches of about 1-2 hours while the pain was subdued slightly.   I was tired, I was emotional, I was in pain.

I rang the doctor the next day, my doctor was on one of her days off and a colleague stepped in.   She spoke to me on the phone and asked me to come and see her.  I had to fit it around the drug induced sleepiness and the spasms of agonising pain. I would get to her as soon as I could.

I already had a bag packed from my previous visit to hospital where they had suggested in their invite letter I might need to stay over.  in my agony I had not got round to unpacking or putting anything away.  Struggling with the pain I pulled the tiny overnight wheelie case down the stairs and managed to lift it  agonizingly into the boot of the car and then bent slowly to put my brief case in with my laptop.  I have been in too many hospital waiting rooms to know how much time is wasted.

Drugs wearing off slightly, but not quite bad enough to make me unable to sit in the car I slowly drove the car using every ounce of strength to concentrate on the gears, the steering wheel, remembering that there were three pedals and one goes faster, one stops suddenly and the car turns off.   Then there was the road, cars came towards me, cars came up behind me tooting rude gestures as they overtook me doing a careful 30 mph in a 60 zone.  The roundabout at the top of the hill brought me to complete perplexity as I drove round and round desperately trying to remember not only where I was going but also which exit I needed.  Pain was increasing and any further I would not have made it.   Arriving at  the surgery  I found the waiting room and sobbed quietly in the corner.  Every movement jarred my body with a searing unbearable agony.   I could not sit, I could not stand, I could not lie, I prowled the waiting room perching myself on any passable resting place until that too became unbearable and I would crawl to the next position.

Finally I was the last one in the room and my name was called.

One look told her I was unwell.   She tried to examine my back and nearly got a thick ear for her troubles.  Even the movement of the air as she came near sent me into spasms of screeching pain causing me to  lash out uncontrollably to protect my tender torso.

I was not in a fit state to drive.  At least we were in agreement about that. She was sending me straight to hospital it was not a 999 ambulance scenario but I needed to get someone to take me in.  I was to stay there at the surgery till my lift arrived. She would write a letter and discuss with the hospital where to send me.  She was admitting me with a possible kidney stone even though after six weeks it should have passed;  they would probably operate to remove it.

Sexy Sporty Dad was hauled out of a meeting and told to come all the way back to pick me up.  He would spend the day driving backwards and forwards for me then cope with the children, feeding them, homework and bedtime.  We were supposed to be going out for a meal.  It was his birthday.  He even missed all his cards and birthday cakes at work.

My short sojourn in hospital was hectic.  They started with the usual tests and connected me to a drip for a strong morphine based painkiller.   They gave me extra painkillers and kept me on most of the ones I already was on.  I had x-rays top and bottom to determine where the pain was coming from and why.   They came back negative, no signs of anything.

They could not decide where to operate.  At 9pm they decided to let me sleep on it and they would give me a ct scan the following day and then operate.   I ate the most delicious, desired and delectable ham sandwich on white bread that I have ever eaten.

Next morning a harem of doctors arrived at my bed all fascinated by the mystery they had locating a diagnosis.   I again explained from the beginning what had been going on and how bad the pain was.   I showed them briefly the area.   One beady eyed doctor asked me to turn back over and lifted my pyjama top.

Eight voices rang out as they agreed “Shingles”.

Things moved faster then, on top of my cocktail of drugs they gave me shingles drugs.  They would still do the ct scan to rule out a kidney stone but they would not need to operate.  A dermatology doctor was paged to come and look.  I ate the biggest breakfast you have ever seen, just in case they changed their minds later.

The dermatologist was unavailable till Monday but eight surgical, medical doctors should be pretty good with the diagnoses.  They reduced my morphine based drug so I could go home with it.  Once the ct scan results proved there was no kidney stone I was released back into the loving care of my year older husband.  Glad to have me back although I was unable to do very much.

22 different tablets.   Some once a day, some three times a day with meals, the morphine ones 4 times a day with paracetemol, and the shingles drug 5 times a day.   Some made me feel sick, some made me sleepy, some made me see the world in a distorted way leaving me confused and very tearful.   I had a spreadsheet to follow which I would DSCN3008tick when I took something and my alarm would go off every 2 hours to take the next dose.  I could not leave the house.

Bed was my faithful companion. Never far from me, ready to catch me if I dropped off for a moment, big enough to stretch out if I could bear to stretch, warm enough to snuggle down when needed but with the ability to cast off the covers when the heat got too hot.

I had to actually take time off work. I couldn’t concentrate.  I couldn’t drive.

The next check-up a week after leaving the hospital revealed that the rash on my back wasn’t shingles.  The doctor admitted she had seen the rash and then told me

“I see thousands of shingles patients every week, and this was very different to a shingles rash and although there was a rash it did not fit with the other symptoms.”

I finished the course of shingles drugs the following day. The pain was still there being controlling  rather than improving.   The visit to the osteopath confirmed again it wasn’t shingles but was more likely viral coming from my spine.  He referred me for an MRI.  Was there anything left on the diagnostic spectrum I have not tested out.

This was an urgent MRI and came on a Sunday three weeks later.

I finished a second course of morphine, no longer on shingles tablet I ditched using the spreadsheet and began sporadically to take the ibuprofen when I remembered with my meals.   Pain stretching longer and longer enabled me to lessen the dependency on paracetemol.

Finally I am drug free.  It took halucinations, walking into doors or the wall when my brain could not balance, high and low emotions, nausea and confusion to negotiate the moving path to my goal of drug free oblivion.  That was just the coming off the drugs.

The pain was manageable and I returned to the physio to continue treating a whiplash injury from a car accident last November.  This time though I went privately and she treated me not my neck.  One look at me and she diagnosed stiffness in the thoracic ribs.  She asked me if I had had problems from my back, my rib area.  Did I sit down for a job?  Did I know my eyes were not in line with my neck.

I cannot say she was gentle. I cannot say it didn’t hurt, she re-aligned my neck click, click click argh…..   she massaged my back, my whole back not just my neck, rubbing deep into the unsuspecting muscles.  She stretched my legs and I probably gained at least 4 inches.  Unsure I could make it home; the tiredness, the bruising, and the memory of the torture I had to stop and drink supermarket coffee.  I had not been able to face coffee for weeks.

I made it home and went straight to old faithful; my bed!

Next morning I woke battered and bruised, terrified to move lest the pain overwhelmed me.  I could turn my back, I could turn my neck not quite the whole 360 degrees owl like  but behind me. It was a long time since I had done that.  The debilitating headache I had had for ten weeks was lifting.  I had put it down to the cocktail of drugs causing it otherwise it should have gone. My whole body moved as one rather than in stilted robotic moves trying to connect.

The pain in my sides and back gone apart from the bruising and tenderness she had inflicted on my broken body. I stood gingerly expecting the tsunami of pain to overwhelm me. It didn’t. I walked around able to stretch, bend and move.  Could all of this agony have been just stiffness catching up with my whiplash not having been sorted out.

My new best friend (physio) and I have been seeing each other for a few weeks now.  Each time she finds a little extra sadistic torture to put me through, and each time I suffer maybe not quite in silence.  Battered and bruised from her torment I am gaining more and more movement, straightening my overbent protective shoulders to walk tall again.  I have been able to walk to places and Sexy Sporty Dad has even got my bike out for me to peddle around the neighbourhood again.   Small steps leading to such huge improvements.

I am still waiting for the results of the MRI but I feel too good to go and learn those.


Whilst I was so poorly  I was  unable to write.  I could not string a sentence together let alone write a blog, or a novel.   An argument with one of my children because I had not been able to do something triggered a need in me that would only be satisfied in one way.

“Having been a nurse I know how this all works”  I happened to say.

“You were never a nurse, don’t lie”  a rebellious teenager retorted not wanting me to get out of doing something for him.

“I was for a while and a lot of other things”

“You have never done anything with your life but be a mother and you don’t do that very well!” my chauvinistic offspring retorted in the belief such loving words would change my mind.

After the conversation had long finished, the words rankled, gnawed at my subconscious.  Of course I had a life BC (before children) and I had forged a way for women that my poor convent school teachers would turn in their graves if they were watching me now.  I had achieved so much that these boys had no idea about.  I was still achieving a lot and they could not see it under their noses.

We were approaching November, written in my calendar as NANOWRIMO.   There was no point even thinking about it.  I was too busy.   I not only had three jobs to do, I was preparing for an 18th birthday, Christmas  and I now having been so ill I had to catch up.

I was still waiting for a diagnosis, I might have a serious illness and the way everything seemed to be urgent I did not know if I would make it to Christmas let alone the end of NANOWRIMO.  What if the boys never knew anything about my life.

NANOWRIMO rules state you cannot just write an autobiography, but then I think that would sound very boring and dull.  But a parody, a bit of caricature of how my life developed.  Lets face it most of it is just too unbelievable to make up.

Nov 1st arrived, resistance was futile.   I had missed last year and read all the posts feeling left out and miserable.  It did not matter if I didn’t win it was the taking part that really mattered.  How often have I said that to a losing team.  This time it really was what mattered.

I am now on day 17 and have just hit the 20,000 mark so am slightly under par.   The subject matter is easy its all in my head.  I am using my template plan from two years ago of  writing a chapter every two days and then moving on.  It seems to be working.

Will update you soon.


Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at Tea Time Treats 


Waste Not : Want Not

I am sorry to admit that my writing; which I would list as my number one passion has had to take a very definite back seat at the moment.   I promise this is not an on-going state of affairs but there are only so many productive hours in each day.

There is an old adage that if you want something done – give it to a busy person.  I find there is a lot of truth in that comment.  A busy person will just fit it in to their busy schedule and complete it with no fuss and no fanfare.

I believe I would come under that category of a busy person but sometimes I would like to concentrate on one thing.  I suppose that is what NANOWRIMO gives me; one month to write the bare bones of the next book.   I have to admit to; a certain selfishness during November when my only thoughts are the story, uploading and getting my succeed certificate.  In my mind I live the story, the characters, the plots and the development.  I am sure if Freud analysed my writing he could tell where I went on which day to produce the different chapters of the book.

Currently my overworked mind is taking up with my latest project.   For several years I have been heavily involved with No 1 Son’s rugby team who will finish youth rugby this weekend, those still committed to the game and with the talent will continue into Colts. A very different set up and not reliant on ley volunteers who organise rather than coach.  I will be giving up my role as Youth Chair and my role as Mini Administrator and letting others take the tasks forward.

Naturally this will leave a huge gap in my life or so I thought.   I could, now knuckle down and work on my books.   It would be a great time to take “Memories” onwards and try seriously to get it published.    I would like to do something with “Scrum Down”, after all it is a story about an U16s season with a group of rugby players.  By the time I get round to publishing it No 1 Son will be playing for the VETs.

Life never goes as planned.   I am about to launch a community magazine.  Not just about to; it is well on its way and I have spent weeks trying to find advertisers willing to give me a chance.  I am not a salesperson, I may be good at many things, not that I can think of any off hand, but selling and cold calling is not one of the attributes I list on my CV.   I am however passionate about the community need for the magazine, supported by the very favourable reception that I have had locally.

So the magazine I am launching has plenty of articles and editorials and a few confirmed advertisers.   I really believe in the power of local enterprise.   There are lots of small businesses in every community who struggle against the giants in their trade but need an avenue to tell people they exist.   I hope that I will provide the conduit they need to increase their business and in return they will support my business.

There is always a slightly selfish angle to all new ventures and I am no different to anyone else.  My altruistic motives may be intrinsically good but until I am a well-known multi best-selling author I have to be realistic.   Once I am established I hope to be able to publish a story or a diary each month in the magazine to get my name and my writing out into the public domain.  Maybe then with the publication of my books or even the next NANO book I may already have a local following keen to read some of my work.

I remain steadfast in my commitment to my writing but do not always enjoy the luxury of dedicating enough time to it.  As most of you know I am a member of a fantastic writing group.   This group is supportive, encouraging and critical, in a developmental way.   Each month, we meet, we write and we are set homework, although not always easy I do try to have a go.  We try different genres, different styles, and different tones. It stretches my writing in ways I would never otherwise have had the confidence to try.   I no longer have long periods of writers of block as there is always homework to start, finish or edit.   I tend never to go for the conventional story but try to have a twist in my tales.  These develop as the story turns rather than I go out and look for a surprise.  I wonder what Freud would make of some of my twists and turns.

I now have multitudinous fragments of writing that one day I hope to come back to.  A piece of writing is never wasted.   Memories developed from a short story.  The remit for a competition was a children’s short story about a little girl afraid of the dark.  It had to be inspiring to other children and help them overcome their fears.  I believed I could be a great children’s writer, after all I had children, I worked with children and I appear to be in tune with children.  I didn’t get anywhere with the competition but it was one of my very early attempts at writing short stories.  The story and theme played on my mind and I wondered; what if there was an underlying reason for this irrational fear?  What if they took her seriously and investigated the fear and find out some darkened past?

The story still rolled around my mind for barren months with no avenue to develop.

I sat down on 1 November 2010, yet another brainwave from the writing group, with no idea what to write a novel about. My mind turning somersaults with different words, phrases and scenarios. Fear of the dark, triggers, irrational reactions, and emerging past all vying to be written.  Suddenly Memories tumbled into a story.  All those what-ifs developed plausible answers and other new what-ifs found their way on to the pages.  That was the easy bit, now we are at a far more difficult stage waiting to be sent to a publisher.

It is a lesson to remember; whatever we do or learn it is never wasted.

Here’s to my next chapter that it will bring new readers into my world of writing.  Maybe this November will bring a fictional thriller about the secret life of a magazine owner.



Check out some ideas for tea with

Achieving the Goal

Tiggy inspired by team members

You join me a week after the end of NANOWRIMO and forgive me if I am a little self congratulatorythis week, but I did manage to complete the mammoth challenge I had laid out for myself and wrote  50,816 words in just 30 days.  I finally uploaded my words for verification and felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders; especially as the weekend before I had only uploaded 26,000 words. I had hand written more but did not know if I had written an achievable amount or if I would be too far behind.

I know if you cast your eye over any local paper you will see hundreds of challenges being completed; treks to outer Mongolian jungles, cycling from John-o-Groats to Lands End even jumping from an aeroplane, they are all personal challenges driven on by a desire to succeed.  My personal choice may have been less physical, just words and not something my boys will admit to, but it was my challenge and I feel suitably smug now that I again have the choice to get up early in the morning, or leave the late night typing to another time.

There were hurdles along the way and unexpected calls on my very precious time which sometimes I may not have given quite as generously as normal.    I still had a house to run, three growing children needing food and water and a husband requiring guidance and tending.    I have another job that required my presence, not to mention the time I already give to the children’s rugby club.

Nothing is possible without support and I couldn’t have done this without it, keeping me going particular when the task seemed just a little too overwhelming.  Some people may not have taken on board quite how daunting the task was;  “yeah I always think I might write a book, it’s not that difficult you just need time” a close friend told me as she went on to tell me how her daughter was and why she was cross with her ex husband this time.  One friend shrugged her shoulders and said “oh well I must introduce you to someone, she’s a real writer.”  I am not quite sure what defines a real writer but I am working hard to qualify.     Most people were far more complimentary about my attempts even if they thought I may have overstepped the insanity line.

Scrum Down (working title), starts on a rugby pitch with a team of under 16s players.  It looks behind the obvious game and battles on the pitch at the private lives and what makes them tick.   I learnt more about the scary transition young lads are making as they bumble blindly into adulthood.   I think I realise the difficulties they have; to rise to the expectations of their families, their teachers and the outside world.

After all they are grownups; in some cultures they would have been welcomed into the adult world via some traditional and often weird initiation ceremony.   Here, in this country they are still children and particular as my study has shown me, boys, still wanting to run and have the freedom to play around.  Convention tells us they need to knuckle down and think about their futures and study subjects they just don’t get; they are still unsure of what they want, unready to take on the responsibilities of maturity.  Relationships are suddenly so fragile yet so intense.  Games they play have more consequences and can be more dangerous where alcohol and drugs are readily available.  The once playground battles of cowboys and Indians are played out on the wider scale with rival gangs often fighting for a cause they do not know;  play pistols and daggers replaced by knives and tension entrenched with a testosterone fuelled force they did not know existed.

Shakespeare first commented on this in Romeo and Juliette, exploring the feelings and unpredictability of teenagers.   Tybalt, I am convinced never really meant to kill Mercutio and likewise Romeo most certainly did not mean to kill Tybalt; he had just married Juliette, Tybalt’s cousin but in a heated moment it all goes too far and too wrong.

Sondheim and Bernstein updated the theme for their version of West Side Story where the same thread runs through their musical in a 1950’s era of Jets and Sharks.  You believe the union between Maria and Tony will bridge the disharmony on the streets; again it is the futile tragedy of Riff, Bernardo and Tony all dead that finally unites the Jets and Sharks.

Many other films; for example Grease and even the magical world of Harry Potter explores the tensions and rivalry as boys grow up, some with thankfully happier and more realistic endings than Romeo and Juliette.

I have tried in my novel to explore the inner workings of boys’ brains as they struggle with the conflictions and expectations they feel are expected just as hormones reach raging point and adulthood determines their expected loss of emotion and vulnerability.

It is very rough draft at the moment.  I am taking an enforced break from the pressure of deadlines but will go back to the story in time.   I already feel the need to change the end slightly and develop some of the characters and their families.    Memories1 is still waiting for me to brave out the publishing world so I would not hold my breath about Scrum Down being in print anytime soon.

Unfortunately I have missed the latest series of the choir, despite having been in love with Gareth Malone ever since he turned the troublesome school children around.  This time he picked on a group of military wives and has nurtured them into a 100 strong choir who sang at the Albert Hall for a Remembrance Day concert.

This particular project of his like the children at the school just hit a chord that I find hard to ignore.   The song has been written from the letters the wives sent to their beloved husbands while they served abroad.  I don’t want to ever take anything away from our brave brave soldiers fighting wars, who put their lives on the line every day for Queen and country.  Gareth, has however,  brought an awareness of the wonderful women they leave behind.

We only hear the bad press stories when a soldier is killed.  These woman wave their men off as they leave for war torn foreign places, as I wave Sexy Sporty Dad; then live in unbearable fear they may never see their loved one again.   They look after the homes and the children and carry on with their lives dreading the car coming to their door with bad news.   They welcome back their husbands, partners, fathers of their children and help them adjust to life back in a country thankfully not at war, often suffering if not from physical injury but the horrendous mental images that will never leave those men.

I have got behind the movement to get “Wherever you are” to No 1 for Christmas for two reasons; firstly I don’t care how brilliant, great, entertaining the winner of the X factor will be, I feel they do not have a right to take the No 1 spot.  So many artists produce great songs around this time and in recent years have not even been able to compete.

The second reason I will pre-order this record is that it is a long time since a song has moved me so much I actually want to buy a song.  The words mean so much and are written right from the soul.  You don’t have to wave your lover off to war to tell him “wherever you are; our hearts still beat as one.”

Please go to Amazon ( and play the video and I challenge you not to cry.  I have watched it several times now and I think my tears are starting earlier each time.   To quote Chris Evans “it is a song the world needs”.  If you feel strongly about anyone then dip into your pocket and buy it for them for Christmas.  Help Gareth and his wonderful choir to achieve their goal.



Memories1    written for NANOWRIMO last year and still being edited, waiting for me to overcome my fear and send it away.


Time Passing

We moved from Devon 6 years ago this November and only fleetingly have gone back to visit.  Initially we did go back briefly to stay with my mother, refusing to visit any old haunts or even see old friends.

It was a conscious decision at the time as the choice to move was not altogether a happy one.  We had been settled where we were, the boys at a school that seemed very much to match our needs despite the 15 minute drive each way.   I had my own business having been made redundant a couple of years earlier and Mini Son had just started nursery.   My mother was in the same village, a peaceful stroll away past the cemetery where my father now unfortunately resides, the children would always stop and visit his grave as we passed.  Birthdays and anniversaries would be marked by a few flowers often picked from the hedgerows as we walked.

Why would we ever wish to move you might say.

Sexy Sporty Dad had got a new job which was just over that feasible hour’s commute. He got his new job the day the builders moved in to build the fantastic new extension we had been working to get for the previous 7 years.    It took three months before he actually had to move, so he would return each evening to yet more chaos as they built the foundations and blocked the garden.   My business was just taking off and timings really couldn’t have been worse.

Once his new job began, Sexy Sporty Dad left us each week, renting a spacious flat, yards from his office which he stayed in all week.  We visited during school holidays when he still had to work.  I have many friends, braver than me who go through this every week, it is not unusual particularly in these days of recession, but for us it was difficult.  Three boys growing up needed their father’s presence to guide and reassure them.  I had terrific support from friends and family while I was on my own but I too missed him and the half hour phone call each evening, shared with the boys did not really compensate.

The final straw came when Middle Son was run over and leaving the other two with neighbours, I was blue lighting down the motorway in an ambulance and I had to ring him mid week and ask him to drive down to Devon not knowing if Middle Son would make it.  Thankfully Middle Son did make it, escaping with a fractured skull and cracked hip.  That was September, 9 months after he had left.

By November we had let the house with it’s fantastic new extension and my own designed kitchen to die for.  We bought a new house on an estate with a primary school next door.  The boys had their greatest wish, they could walk to school and not have to drive each day.  The irony now is that they have a 15 minute walk up to the top school and they try all kinds of persuasion, urging and subterfuge to persuade us to drive them the half mile or so up the road.

It has taken a long time to go back and face our past.  My mother moved about two years after us to a village close to both my sisters and nearer us than she was in Devon, which negated the need to return regularly.

With the school half term upon us and my brother having just moved back to Devon, to the next door village, it was time to return and check out old haunts.  On our way down we took the boys into Exeter.  We were about to show them the old maternity hospital that saw all three of them born over the years.  No longer a hospital; a brand new Waitrose had opened its doors to the public apparently within the last month.    It triggered many hilarious jokes of giving birth in the aisles of the supermarket, and the quality of Waitrose producing strapping young men, not to mention questioning their returns policy.

We also drove them past the hotel where we had celebrated our wedding reception, the colours and feel of autumn similar to that day so many years and so many lost friends and family ago.  Then taking the longer route managed to meander up through the village and past the tiny cottage where following his birth No 1 Son came home for his first six months on this planet.   Poignantly we visited my father’s grave 9 years to the date of his death.  Mini Son watered the plants on his grave,

he doesn't even remember him

despite having never really knowing his grandfather.  His older brothers commenting on the number of new graves and the baby boy, who had been in our thoughts many a time, buried behind Gramps still has constant fresh flowers even after all this time.

My brother has moved to a wonderful old house where he will spend probably the next 30 years doing it up, and like the Forth Bridge will require starting again before it is finished.   There is now central heating to top up the rayburn and woodburners that circulate warmth around the thick cobbed walls.

Narrow passageways lead through the house to uneven walls and non regular rooms.  Original beams on the ceilings so low, that my boys now have to stoop to save their heads from being hit. The large enclosed and fabulous garden full of apple trees, climbing trees and a huge kitchen garden where they plan to grow all manner of vegetables and fruit.   Hidden beneath the overgrown hedges we found sheds and fruit cages, a bird house above a stone bird table and in the middle of the garden the pond with a tiny stone bridge over just begging for a fishing knome to dangle his rod.   They are going to have their work cut out but they will have a great project for years to come.

We finally plucked up courage to go back to our old house, well to the road we use to live in.  We called in on our next door neighbour for coffee and realised her baby was now a boistrous 8 year old with a mind and life of his own.   She suggested we knocked on the door and have a look around the old house.  Not that brave yet we but noticed the new windows and checked up on all the other neighbours and what they were doing now.

We moved round the corner to great friends of ours and were met by their youngest child. It was only yesterday had he started nursery; when I first met his mother, he and No 1 Son were just a few months apart and attending the same nursery at the school 15 minutes away.  He has now left top school and travels each day to college to do his A-levels.  He too is taller than me and his sister who was not home is away at University no longer in her second year of top school as she was when we left .  Where did the time go?

I know we have kept in touch and commented on what our children have been doing, over the years.  Meeting occasionally when work commitments brought her within spitting distance, but it is only the visible sight of the children that makes you realise that they are no longer the tiny people we left behind.  They, like us have grown up and got on with their lives and there is no way of catching up on that lost time.


Well NANOWRIMO is upon us all too quickly and as threatened I have again fallen under its spell.  I have committed myself to trying; even if this does not succeed I will be able to say I have tried.  Writing a novel is quite scary anytime but to do it within the tight time frame of a month is probably as Sexy Sporty Dad has commented complete madness.   He has been very supportive so far asking how it is going and how many words so far.

Delighted with his new found interest in my writing, although I believe it is more in keeping with the idea that he wants 50,000 words to be written quickly and be out of the way, rather than interest in the actual story.  I will however treasure the fleeting interest I might receive from him for as long as it takes and if I can produce a half decent novel at the end then all the better.


I also write this with thoughts and prayers for all those affected by the horrendous M5 crash.


I am good at my job; normally within the limited scope I am permitted, I am good at prioritising.

Stress Balls

I have come from a highly charged and pressurised career where I had to deliver accurate and timely financial data onto live systems for immediate dispersal around the world all before 8am in the morning.  I have run my own property management company from home where the discipline of dividing home life and work was paramount to success.   So why now do I find it so difficult to prioritise my writing?

I describe myself in my CV as methodical, organised and accurate, which on the whole I would stand by.  Sexy Sporty Dad might dispute some of these, as he can never find anything on my desk.   I, on the other hand, know exactly which pile to look in to find things, if people would just not move anything around.   I can actually lay my hands immediately on all our passports, medical cards, car insurance with MOT Certificates.  A few weeks ago we were challenged about the extent of our property boundary; I was sadly able to pull out the copy of the deeds to prove the point in question.

An untidy desk is not a mark of an untidy mind.

I confess, although I would never consider myself OCD at anything, I do compartmentalise my time.   I allot time slots for certain jobs, inevitably running over and throwing my time frames awry.  My working hours at the school are easier to adhere to; although it is not in my nature to walk away leaving things unfinished and impossible to leave a crying child.  I have fallen into my own routine and mornings are my special time; no-one in the house is up and probably few people in the town are stirring.   Alone with the early morning Dawn Chorus emanating gently from the surrounding trees, I have gained one, self centred hour every morning for writing.

It doesn’t matter too much what I write but I must write.  E-mails and facebook status updates do not count as writing.   So, yesterday morning, I clambered reluctantly from my large, warm and peaceful bed to stumble downstairs to a cold, miserable morning and lonely desk to spend an hour and a half on Rugby.

I could justify permitting myself to do this;  I was due to finish work at noon and would spend the whole afternoon catching up with myself and my writing,  what a pleasure to look forward to.   I left work late at 1.15 and came home to a stack of more rugby orientated emails which needed immediate attention.   All afternoon I spent scrummaging through fixtures, throwing challenges to the opposition and trying to appease our teams.  Even during the evening whilst I was at a meeting, at guess where, the Rugby Club, Sexy Sporty Dad forwarded a message confirming No 1 Son’s team has a game this weekend.

My novel, it sounds good doesn’t it?  My novel, Memories, lies still unopened with the third draft only partly complete. NANOWRIMO – write a novel in a month (November) is looming hesitantly on the horizon.    I have no short stories to send off to the copious magazines I buy for research or the competitions I dream of entering if not winning.  To cap it all, at the moment, even Middle Son’s under 15’s team still have no game this weekend.  So what was it all for?

Is it just that I can’t say no; does it go deeper into the psyche than a simple word.

My history is littered with extra-curricular clubs and societies; early on it was the socialisation and charitable need that drew my attention.  Latterly, school based committees and now the rugby club are not as much for my benefit as that of my boys.

One Sunday morning a few years ago, I looked round at the family dynamics to realise I had lost my three boys and my husband for good.    Three rugby players and a rugby coach left me deserted every weekend, with nothing in common.  I had a choice: let them go or join them.    Playing rugby was not an option, even watching it as a mother, was a heart rendering pastime I found too difficult.  What was left?  The one thing I was good at: volunteering!    Every organisation can find room for a volunteer and so did the rugby club, the more I did the more I became involved.

Now a few years down the road, only No 1 Son is really playing the game.  I am unable to break the spider’s web of commitment I have invested into his club.  Not while he is still dependent on our support, both financial and parental, can I cut the threads.  He himself is carving a name for himself at the club.  While out injured last season we pushed him to take up refereeing which he is developing as another strand to his rugby career.  A rising star, full of determination to succeed and already being congratulated on his ability and fairness, he has local RFU referees watching and mentoring him.

Of course there are benefits to being involved, free RFU stress balls and with the world cup coming to this country in four years time I am hopeful that my involvement with the club will help me gain a ticket to watch No 1 Son as he plans to play for England at that time.   Although I am not sure I will have overcome my horror at the game or the carnage left behind.  I suspect, No 1 Son will not want his mother screaming at the opposition “get off my son”, instead he will have some gorgeous model hanging round the hospitality suite on my ticket, to soothe his battered and bruised brow.

So just maybe I now know where my priorities lie.  My needs, in my mind, come below that of my children!

The meeting last night did however introduce me to a press officer who gave me tips on match reporting and how to develop a human interest story.   It also left me with a tiny germination of a seed for a story this weekend.

My personal preference is writing and clearly the boys’ priority is fun sports; “never the twain shall meet” or maybe they just did.


Putting off Procrastination

I have developed a serious case of writer’s block and am not sure how to get over this hopefully interim state of barren creativeness.

Always one to lack the confidence in my own ability to create and share, I think I have got out of my routine where I just wrote rather than thought about the outcomes.

How did it get so bad?

Once upon what seems a lifetime ago; I would wake up full of creativity and spend an hour allowing the pen to scrawl the old fashioned paper, before the rest of the world began to emerge from their slumbers.   A few stolen moments of my time allowing me to pen a few random (and they were random) thoughts nurtured into an entertaining piece of prose.

I then took on the biggest challenge of them all:  NANOWRIMO – to write a novel in a month:  Even when I realised; to achieve this mammoth task I needed to produce 2000 words a day for 30 days, I undaunted, agreed to attempt the challenge.  After all 2000 words were marginally over what I could produce in a morning anyway.

I took the challenge and although technically I failed; in my mind, I succeeded in producing a skeleton of a novel with 60,000 words.   The disputable issue is that it took me just over 2 months to produce; hence in the eyes of the organisers it was not finished.   I on the other hand was pleased with my effort and really believed my story had wings to fly.    I then took the tentative next step to edit and fluff out the bones of my skeletal tale.

Two rewrites later and my story has depth, characterisation, intuition and realism about it.  That of course is my opinion.  What the story lacks is decent punctuation, spelling errors of the most basic kind and the readiness to be sent away.    I know the story well, I know and identify with all the characters and I can spend wasted hours just trawling through adding a colon, correcting their to there and remembering my speech quotation marks.

I loaded it onto the “you write on” web site for other writers to critique the first 7000 words, and surprised myself at the favourable comments that have come back.   A lot of people have given negative feedback on the punctuation and grammar, which are not in the remit to comment on.  However the positive feedback on the storyline, characterisation, pace and  structure, narrative voice, settings and themes has been overwhelming in their encouragement and assurance that this is a story that should be finished and published.

I learnt quickly to review other people’s attempts with some catching my attention so much I can’t wait to read the finished product.  A few, thankfully not many, such dire attempts that I struggled to make it through the 7000 words but I still managed to find some good things to say.  After all, I was learning fast just how callous and soul destroying a negative review could be after the effort put in.

I read somewhere:  a writer needs a blog; an opportunity to allow your work to be read and commented on.  I began a blog; unsure of who was going to read the blog, after all who is going to randomly read someone else’s delusional musings. I link it to a facebook account as a conduit in order to direct some traffic and some comments.  Comments are rare and usually come from my children telling me “that is not what facebook is about”.   I try to write the blog once a week meaning my creative juices at least get a stirring; but it is not the same as the outpouring of weird and wonderful writing that I was producing only this time last year.

Time out during the summer holidays meant I did not get up at the usual time and join the dawn chorus, not only because birds are not as vocal at this time of year but with the pressures of school and work not on, naturally there would be more time in the day to write.  Who exactly was I kidding! Three boys take a lot of looking after even when they reach teenagedom.  Continual raids on my fridge and snack cupboard requires regular trips to a shop.  Gangs of 9 year olds traipsing through my kitchen requiring squash, is interruption enough either to prepare the squash or to clear the mess when they beat me to it. They say girls are fashion conscious and fastidious about their attire; then explain to me why boys require several changes of clothes per day and the bathroom floor is a constant extension of the washing basket.

The autumn term has now reached us with alarming alacrity, the boys are going back to school, Sporty Sexy Dad is already back at work and I return to the school office today.    Although New Year and the resolutions we all make is thankfully still a few months away.  In the school calendar the New Year starts here, so with it comes a resolution:  to return to the halcyon mornings when I wrote for the sake of writing.  I have a list of competition short stories with the dates they need to be sent in.  I do not flatter myself by thinking I stand a chance of actually winning, but if I could only put pen back to paper and create a flow I believe I can overcome this interim stumbling block.

A sense of duty – that will win me a holiday, but what could I write about.   Obligation, undertaking, what you have to do, all good descriptions of the word duty but how can you make them into a story.  The sense of duty I have is to write but about what?

Make ‘em laugh  –  that is a good one I can write about anything but it has to be funny,  telling a joke is too subjective and as my children are at pains to tell me; my humour and theirs is worlds apart, so maybe not this one.

Atrocious first line – this sounds better, they have even given me the first line “And then I woke up to find it was all a dream...”   Ooh gosh, feelings of déjà vu and Bobby Ewing in the shower, not a bad image, but maybe not for this.

There must be something I can write about.

Pen poised, paper at an angle…. no wrong angle, that’s better and………..   oops the troops are emerging, I have to rejoin the real world.

Well maybe tomorrow……….


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