Life Cycle Of A Writer: NaNoWriMo – Sinking, Swimming or Soaring?

nano

Erm…I’m not too sure about this. It’s my first time. Be gentle with me, NaNo. I’ve wanted to get to know you better for a long time, but…well…life got in the way before. Can we stop if I don’t like it? Will it hurt?

Those were my ponderings in early October, still buzzing with the prospect of no work commitments this autumn; no planning or marking, no Christmas play to create – just writing, writing writing. Or so I thought…

Within a week, we’d had a sudden death in the family meaning trips up north and lots of sadness and my beloved firstborn was in difficulties health-wise. Add to the mixture a close friend needing lots of help and poorly in laws, and things lurched from tricky to downright worrying. Was it unreasonable to try to carry on and do NaNoWriMo anyway, whatever else was happening?

I decided to plunge in and have a go. If nothing else, starting something brand new would be a distraction, and I’d be bound to get at least some words down on paper. But 50K? Hmmm. Maybe if I launched myself into a children’s book, I could get the whole thing finished by November 30th?

So Arthur Angel and the Nine Lives was born – the tale of a disgraced Guardian Angel forced to come down to earth to complete his missions in cat form.

arthur

To start with, the story seemed to tell itself. I went back into school and worked with my favourite class of nine year olds to get their junior NaNo going and to have feedback straight from the ones who count. The first chapters flooded out.

Then the first trip up to Northumberland knocked the ground from under my feet. I’d become seriously addicted to the little graph that appears on your personal NaNo dashboard, and I was flatlining! There was snow on them there hills, not just in Arthur’s story, my nose and toes were freezing and my brain absolutely refused to cooperate.

But better progress was just around the corner. Back home again, the tide turned in the right direction and although life is still very turbulent to say the least, the words are flowing again. By the end of today, I might be back on track, but even if not, I’m loving the challenge, and it’s very hard to bite your nails when you’re typing. I’m having to miss the RNA meetings and party this time but the writing…let’s hope it carries on, if only for distraction purposes.

Here’s the first chapter if you’re interested. Wish me luck. I’ll see you on the other side…

 

Arthur Angel and the Nine Lives

Chapter One: Getting In

 

Yuck. I hate snow. I pick my way along the track through the woods to the cottage and stop by the door to shake the worst of the slush off my fur. Disgusting stuff. It gets in your paws and sticks to your dangly underneath bits in lumps. And the trouble with being mostly white is that if you get lost in a snow storm, nobody can see you.

To be honest, getting lost in the snow comes a long way down the list of problems of being a cat. Number one’s got to be the D word. Why do dogs have to chase us? Why? Who tells them it’s a good idea?

The flea thing’s not great either.  Don’t look at me like that, I didn’t ask them to come, okay? They just seem to like me. And don’t get me started on catching mice.

Someone’s just opening the door – that’s my first lucky break for years. Have you ever tried ringing a doorbell when you’re on four short legs? Now, watch and learn. This is one of the trickier bits. Here’s what you need to do if you ever need to find yourself a cushy fireside and a kipper.

1) Fluff up the fur

2) Put your head on one side

3) Open your eyes really wide.

4) Miaaaaaaaow in the most pathetic way you can manage.

5) Be ready to roll over on your back at the first sign of them cracking – that one never fails

Right, here goes. The door’s wide open and now someone’s shouting from inside about not letting the cold in. Pah! He should try being me. It’s a GirlKid on the step. They’re usually the easiest of all. Wish me luck.

‘Dad. DAAAAAAAD!’

‘Rosie? Is that you bellowing again? Are you going to shut that door or have I got to come and do it for you?’

Heavy footsteps…coming closer. Great, now I’m going to have two of the human creatures staring down at me. The shorter one – the GirlKid – is quite nice to look at, if you like that sort of thing. She’s got curly ginger hair, nearly as good a colour as the bits of me that aren’t white, and she’s smiling. That should help.

‘Look, Dad. There’s a cute little kitten on the step. I think he’s hungry. Can I let him in? It’s so cold out there tonight.’

Kitten? What’s all that about? I’m a fully qualified Guardian Angel, I’ll have you know, GirlKid, and I’m at least three hundred years old, give or take a few months. Is it my fault if I’ve been sent down here as a smallish white cat? No, it isn’t.

‘Let him in? Aren’t four mouths enough for us to feed? I thought you’d have learned your lesson after last time.’

The big one isn’t smiling. He starts to shut the door but she stops him.

‘No! We can’t leave him outside. Look at his little face. He’s so sad.’

I do my best poor little me expression and start to wash my whiskers with a paw. That usually goes down well. I tell you, after three times of being sent down here as a cat instead of a human-looking angel, I’m getting to know all the tricks.

‘Aaaaaw, look at him. Dad, he’s soooo sweet. And anyway…I bet Jake’d like him, wouldn’t he?’

They look at each other and I can tell she’s won the first round.

‘Oh, go on then. At least we can shut the door. Your Gran’s already under two blankets.’

Result! I’m in before they can say kippers, down the hallway and into the living room, and I’m heading for the old lady with the rugs over her knees. She must be the brains around here – fast asleep and snoring, right in front of a roaring log fire.

She wakes up with a jump and closes her mouth just in time to stop her teeth dropping out. I take a big gamble and leap straight up onto her knee. Have I got it right? Is she a cat lover or one of those loopy humans who flap their arms at us and make a big fuss.

The old one reaches out a wrinkly hand and starts stroking me even before I’ve settled down properly. ‘Oh, what a beauty,’ she wheezes, ‘Where did you come from, my fine fellow? You remind me of my Charlie. He was handsome just like you.’

Time for my best move. I roll over on her lap and stretch out, revealing a very fine furry tummy, if I say so myself.  I start to purr deep in my throat to show her I’m a big fan of all this fuss.

The GirlKid’s on her knees next to the old lady’s chair now, looking up at the Dad person.

‘Look, he likes us already. Can we keep him? Please? You know Jake loves cats…well, he used to, anyway…’

As she says this, all three heads turn to look over to the far wall. My eyes swivel to follow them. I don’t want to stop all this attention, but there’s someone else there. It’s a BoyKid with the same curly red hair as the girl version, but he’s nothing like her in any other way. For one thing, he’s not making a sound. For another, he’s sitting in a chair with wheels on it. His face is much paler than hers and he’s all dressed in black, whereas she’s like a walking rainbow.

He’s not looking at me, or at any of the others. It’s as if he’s trying to pretend he’s somewhere else. The fur on the back of my neck stands up, just like it always does when I realise why I’m down here. This BoyKid needs the services of Arthur Angel.

 

 

 

Roving Romaniac – Lucie’s loose in London!

s-l1000                         always-with-love                            we-were-on-a-break

Last month when my friend, Leanne, tweeted me  saying ‘this looks good, we can go after uni!’, it was the start of a very exciting conversation. She is fantastic and is sometimes an extra pair of eyes on Twitter for things exactly like this event. Because I spend a lot of my time either writing books, writing university papers or reading textbooks, my time on social media comes about in fits and starts, so I sometimes miss these great announcements of events and by the time I see them, they are sold out! This is where it is handy, as a lover of books and writing, to have a friend like Leanne to scout these events and tweet me about them! She did the same about the Paige Toon event I went to last month which I shall blog about next week as I totally forgot to at the time! (I blame university/book brain!)

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Arriving at the News Building, ready to join the queue!

So fast forward to yesterday, the day had finally come. We were off to London to the offices of Fabulous Magazine for their author event. Not one, not two, but THREE fantastic authors were there to chat to everyone and sign books. A-MAZ-ING, right?

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Lindsey Kelk

So, we had the very lovely and VERY funny Lindsey Kelk, author of the ‘I heart’ series alongside other novels. Her latest book, ‘We Were on a Break’ is OUT NOW and promises to be another incredibly funny and witty read.

 

Next we have the amazing Giovanna Fletcher, super talented author of books such as ‘Billy and Me’, ‘Dream a Little Dream’ and her most recent novel, ‘Always with Love’ is a great read. Mum to Buzz and Buddy and wife to Tom, Giovanna amazes me with how she manages to fit everything in and still manage to meet fans and

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Giovanna Fletcher

enjoy an evening out.

 

And last, but by no means least, the incredibly talented and super friendly Mhairi Mcfarlane. Mhairi is one of the nicest people I have met; easy to chat with, identifiable and  a total word wizard! Mhairi’s latest book ‘Who’s that Girl’ is OUT NOW. I am about a

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Mhairi Mcfarlane

third of the way through it and LOVING IT!

 

So, what do you get if you add three FABULOUS writers and a FABULOUS magazine – you got it, a FABULOUS evening! A free glass of wine – tick – a free book – BIG tick and a stunning view – phenomenal tick! The ladies chatted about their books, how they write, what they write, why they write. The topic went from cats with urine infections (don’t ask) to Tom Mcfly killing off Giovanna’s characters and using the lives of friends to help create the most craziest stories. There was laughter, lots of it, and great questions from audience members. The interview was filmed for a short while on Facebook Live which added a great dimension to the evening and the room in which the event took place was kitted out amazingly with lights, music from a DJ and a wonderful buzz of excitement that flew around and into every nook and cranny of the space. 14708104_517561595109091_4382367823175074922_n

I had the chance to meet all three wonderful ladies and have my books signed. We did have to queue for quite sometime (they are popular women) but when each and every person arrived at the front desk, it didn’t feel rushed or awkward and each person was given adequate time to chat and enjoy the company of their idols. I had some lovely conversations with each of the ladies, I almost wish I could have pulled up a pew and indulged in conversation all evening.

But unfortunately, as all good things, the evening had to come to an end. My friend and I left – with another friend of mine from back in high school who I recently have started to bump into at these book events (Hi Hannah!) – and we strolled back to London Liverpool Street station ready to embark on our journey back home.

But not before a quick snap on London Bridge to add to our souvenirs from another very enjoyable event.

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Selfie on London Bridge!
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Bumping into school friend, Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Fabulous Magazine for hosting a great event.

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Click for link

 

Thanks to Lindsey, Giovanna and Mhairi for providing many laughs and incredible books.

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And thanks to my friend, Leanne, for finding the event, accompanying me and providing yet more laughs on the journey home at the expense of her jacket!

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Something for the Weekend – Thinking Places

Thought for the day – writing’s no picnic. Sometimes the words flow with no problem at all but we’ve all had times when we need a place to go, something comforting to look at or just a few old photos to get the ideas going. Here are a few of ours…

The garden’s handy, and peaceful so long as you’re not tempted to run inside for a spade or some secateurs. A walk’s always good, a friendly (even if sleepy) face can help, and you really can’t beat a sea view.

Berries

Debs

2Legs

sleepypittles

Pitt

WestPier

And when you end up back at your own desk, let’s hope the muse comes with you…
Dragonlight

So where’s your thinking place, and what do you need to spark off the pearls of wisdom?

A Celebration Of Writing Companions

Do you have someone or something that keeps you company while you tap away at the keyboard? Today we thought we’d celebrate our writing companions. Meet the pets/mascots that keep The Romaniacs in check during their writing day:

Laura: Apart from a selection of animal toys my children have scattered on my desk, I have two real-life cats, Ringo and Daisy. They are not the sort of cats to sit on my desk when I am writing, but the blanket of fur covering my keyboard and printer each morning suggests they are moonlighting.

Ringo is the white and black cat and Daisy is the black and white cat. They decided to live with us, Daisy moving in a year before Ringo. He wasn’t keen on the idea of being snipped and chipped.

We adore them, they make us laugh and they keep me company late at night when the other humans have gone to bed and I’m getting some words down.

Celia: I’ve also got cats but only one of them – Arthur – is relaxing enough to write alongside. Just looking at him spreadeagled on the floor (or the table if he can get away with it) is usually enough to make me feel quite mellow but ready for work. 

Here he’s pictured in party mood and  reclining while he decides what to watch on TV. I also have a wonderful mouse mat with a picture of a Bavarian meadow and a cloud-topped mountain – it reminds me of a great holiday and inspires me to write settings involving German sausages and foaming pints of beer – food porn?

Liz: Four years ago, I accidentally bought a cat. Luckily
for me – it was one of my best accidents.  I’d visited a
pet rescue centre to look at kittens and there were lots of them but one in particular caught my eye. He was a little bundle of fluff with big furry ears and bright frightened eyes, shaking in the corner as a dog sniffed around him. Without thinking I scooped him up and the moment I felt his little heart racing inside his shivers, I knew I had to
take him home. So I did.

I didn’t have anything prepared for him and it was late at night so after shooting to the local supermarket and
discovering they didn’t sell litter trays, we had to improvise.  And that’s how Ralphus the cat ended up peeing in a bright red ceramic roasting tray for the first few days of his new life.

Ralph makes me laugh all the time and the little adventures of his life, like the one above, always inspire me to write.

Jan: I don’t have any pets (apart from Mr B, of course!) but I am surrounded by lots of fluffy and some not so fluffy writing buddies who’ve witnessed me whooping with joy when the words flow, to slumping, head held in hands, when they don’t.  I’m sure if they could talk, they’d have a few stories to tell 😉

  These three trusty companions (or gonks as my niece calls them) reside on the base of my PC. Everything has a name in The Brigden household (I’m not really a big kid. Honest! )From left to right : Bella Ladybird (lord knows why, it just seemed like a good name at the time) Kiki, my little fluffy Koala who an ex-boss brought back from Oz for me, and Fluff, who is, well, an orange stripey ball of fluff!

Then there is Dougal, who hangs on the back of the kitchen door, who I can see from where I sit at my PC. My neighbour brought him back from Scotland for me. He’s supposed to be a carrier bag holder but I’ve never used him as such.  So, none of them pets exactly, but still loveable…                 

Trevor & Arnold

Catherine: I’m with Jan on this. I love the idea of having a pet and we’ll have one in the future, but for now it’s fluffy companions that keep me company. In the picture are the travelling companions: Arnold the travelling hedgehog and Trevor the travelling wombat. They came all around the world with us when we went travelling for our honeymoon. Here they can be seen with a friend they made: a camel in India. These days they stay at home and keep me company along with Binky Boy, Bertie the Bee, Ted the Puffin and so many more!


Sue : I wouldn’t necessarily say that my dog, Tess, is my writing companion but she certainly keeps me company on our daily walks. She is slightly mad, but then most labradors are. However, at over nine years old, she really could do with acting her age, which in dog years I make that 63.  She has her posh Kennel Club name of Kilmiltry Belle Dame but at home she’s plain old Tess (although she answers to pretty much anything, ‘Stupid’ being a particular favourite).

Lucie : My writing companions are my pets, Dame and Jerry. Dame is an English Bull Terrier and we have had her since she was 6 weeks old. This June, she turned 7! Dame hasn’t always been a writing companion as I used to work upstairs in the spare room, but since I have had a shift of rooms and moved downstairs into the conservatory, she has taken up residence under my desk.

Jerry was an Easter present for my daughter last year. She had been asking for a kitten for so long and we finally caved in April last year and got a teeny tiny black and white kitten who was about 4 weeks old – and a mischievous little thing! Nearly 18 months later and Jerry isn’t so little, but is twice as mischievous!  He also decided to take up residence underneath my desk …

Luckily, they are best friends so Dame doesn’t mind sharing.

Vanessa: We got Fred earlier this year after we lost out lovely grey cat, Trevor. We went to the cat adoption centre determined to get another girl cat (yes, Trevor was a girl) and definitely a kitten. No grown-up boy cats for us. But they didn’t have any kittens and they made us walk past all the grown-up cats… and Fred chose us. He was so friendly and pretty we couldn’t say no, so we came away with a one-year-old boy cat. They warned us it could take him a while to settle, that he might be wary, he might hide under furniture and be scared of us for a good few weeks. This photo is Fred at the end of his first day with us. I think he looks fairly relaxed…

But is he a good writing companion? Hmmm… the problem with Fred is he likes sitting on my laptop. It gets nice and warm and he seems to find it a very cosy place to settle. Several times, I’ve found pages of random letters and gobbledygook in my writing – whether it’s his attempt to communicate or just some accidental typing as a result of bottom shifting, I’m not sure. He’s a lovely cat and none of us can imagine the house without him in it – and if he works on his typing skills, he may end up very useful as a writing companion…

Debbie: In January we had to have our old boy, Simba, put to sleep. 

Simba was my constant writing companion and used to attach himself to my feet like my sloppiest, comfiest pair of slippers. 

Oh, how he used to smell. But I didn’t mind his smell…or his snoring. He snored marginally less than my ex (and never betrayed my good nature!)

It was hard to imagine any dog could replace the gaping hole he left…

However, we’ve been blessed. A dear friend’s dog had pups and she approached me about a year ago to ask whether I’d be interested. My ex wouldn’t let us have a second dog and I knew Simba probably wasn’t long for here so we went for it and got ‘Bruno.’ For a few short months, Grandpa Simba showed him the ropes and protected him. In return, Bruno tormented his mentor, mercilessly hanging off his ears, clambering all over him and not allowing him to sleep. But Simba never complained, right up until the end… 😦 

It may sound silly – they were very different dogs; different body weights, different colours etc and it may be just Labrador traits, but it sometimes feels as if Bruno is Simba re-incarnated. He has so many of Simba’s characteristics and little ways. Yet if anything, Bruno is even more sensitive to my moods and foibles as he keeps me company at the laptop and when I walk, mulling and musing over plots and writing projects.

I still miss Simba terribly but thank my lucky stars every day that we found Bruno boy who has brought us so much joy these last months, and whom I know will continue to support me through my writing journey! 

So what about you? Do you have a pet or otherwise that keeps you company whilst you write? If you do, please tell us about them…