Thursday, 26 March 2015

I can write (or at least I think I can)

It has been so long. It's like when you leave off dealing with a problem until it's way too late, the opportunity has passed.

I seem to have lost my confidence when it comes to writing, something shut up inside and threw away the key.

Baby steps needed.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The end of another Magical Journal Journey


I can't believe that we've reached the end of our third year of journal swapping. Me and my little tribe of artist friends have been creating our books, devising our themes and passing them round the globe.

This year's theme was Inspired by Artists. We chose such a wide selection from old Masters like Matisse (my choice) to modern surrealist artists like Duy Huynh - Tammy's choice, whose journal I have just sent flying back across the ocean.

Huynh paints surreal portraits and landscapes often inspired by stories. So that's exactly where I took my creative thinking. I've been reading a series of books by Laini Taylor - Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy. The main characters are a girl with blue hair and a chimera - half woman, half deer. Sounded pretty perfect to me and the best thing was I got to create them exactly how they appeared in my imagination.

Madrigal came first - in a scene in the book, her lover magically 'weaves' a cloak of hummingbird moths to cover her shoulders when her dress is ripped. Then Karou's streams of blue hair came cascading from my paintbrush!

The second set of pages feature a little paper doll performing acrobatics at the circus - in day and at night. She unclips and moves from scene to scene!

 Finally, we collaborated on the back cover of the journal - I am not sure where the cat and the fiddle came from to be honest. One minute it was a half-finished canvas and then suddenly a moggie was playing a merry jig! I added a few clouds too just for the hell of it (and to distract from the contorted paw holding the neck of the violin... maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that!)

Sunday, 5 October 2014


Life is not a rehearsal. How many times have I heard that? Of course it’s still a true story and, as I romp through my 44th year, it has become an ever-louder nagging voice increasingly making its message known from the back of my subconscious.

My half-formed characters are screaming at me from the scrappy drafts that languish in the pits of my hard drive. If I don’t do something with them soon, they will be packing up their meagre possessions, escaping their stifled dungeon and setting off an adventure of their own choosing. Their fate was in my hands but there are many other writers’ imaginations out there, perhaps they will find their place through another pen.

Then there’s paint and colour and pattern and paper... Every time I pick up a paintbrush or look at a fellow artist’s piece of work, I feel this yearning deep within my soul to place art firmly in my working life. Why have I listened to the voices that would tell me I’m not good enough for so long? Perhaps they are the ones that deserve to be banished to a corrupted computer file.

But all is not lost for this particular biopic. The winds of change are finally wrapping their tendrils into my lethargy and pushing me forward into a new Act. Last month seemed like an awakening in many senses – most of all my intuition. I have focused more attention on my writing, rediscovering the joy of paragraphs that don’t require the corporate spin that pays my wages and the art-related business my friend and I have been slowly planning is almost ready for her debut performance.

I realised that I’ve turned up, learnt the script by heart, practiced and honed and even danced the boards in a series of dress rehearsals. It’s time to take centre stage and have my moment as the leading lady that I know I can become. Watch this space!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The offensive

 The soldiers silently waited, ready for the signal that would start the offensive.

The mission was one of attack and rescue. It was one they had done before, in fact many times. It should be straightforward. In. Out. Home.

Sarge looked at the motley crew that made up his squadron. They hadn’t lost a man yet and they didn’t intend to tonight. Sure, there were a few battle scars between them, but they were worn like badges of honour – with true pride. His men were made of stern stuff, they trusted each other more than family. It was what kept them alive.

They were hidden in the undergrowth. Corporal Jones was their eyes, his long-range binoculars trained on the enemy position. He reported that two guards patrolled the perimeter, but other than that security seemed lax.

Sarge didn’t like that. He smelt the sweet stench of a trap. He was no fool. They would approach assuming the worst.

Darkness fell and the troop grew restless. At last it was time. One by one each of the soldiers crept forward across the rough terrain. Silent as stars they moved undetected, their camouflage blending them perfectly into their surroundings. Using owl hoots and a series of harmless-sounding chirps they communicated their progress to each other.

Slowly, stealthily they approached their targets.

Meanwhile Jessie, tied up and alone in the dark was trying in vain to escape from the tough old ropes that bound her to the chair. She slumped down feigning exhaustion in the hope that her captors might leave her alone. All afternoon she had held out as they determined to discover her true identity. It would not be long before she broke… She only hoped that help was on its way.

It was.

Right at that moment Sarge and his troop were scaling the sofa. Mrs Potato Head was climbing on Ellie’s back, using her trunk as leverage. Cheeky Monkey swung up the cushions with Sarge hanging onto his tail and Tigger bounced right on up as if he scaled impenetrable fortresses every day!

The guards didn’t stand a chance. Eeyore just lay down and went to sleep and Sammy the snake slithered off down the back of the sofa to hide among the crumbs and pennies.

Billy reached under the old shoe box and grabbed Jessie. At that moment Wendy came into the lounge and, taking one look at her beloved Jessie tied up in a chair, burst into tears…

“Mum” she wailed. Billy’s been kidnapping Jessie again…

Billy sighed and thought that maybe next time he’d use tell-tale Wendy as his kidnap victim. And he’d tell Sarge to take his time over the rescue…

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Fact or Fiction?


I love to draw and paint faces. It’s an act of creation, of bringing a person to life. I rarely paint ‘real’ people though, instead preferring to allow a form of fiction to tell its story through colour and line. Seeing an eye peer at me from the page really does open a window to a soul revealed. I like it when they smirk at me too as if hiding their secrets from the vessel that pulled them from a hidden place and gave them form.

Last week though I took a break from pencils and brushes and my ‘art’ came to me through my fingertips when personalities were created by tapping out their DNA on the keyboard.

When I’m in the fiction flow the characters more often than not create themselves. I sometimes read stuff back and wonder where on earth it came from. These mystical folk seem to tell me who they are and who they are going to be. Their features take shape in my imagination without any help from me. It’s as if they have been waiting in the wings for their cue. They know their lines, their costumes and make up is in place. I just have to give them the signal to step onto the stage.

I love it! It feels great … when it happens … when I let it …

Why then is the dressing room so crowded as the novels I keep starting or dream of writing stay back of mind? Am I scared of failing my characters, of drying up in front of my audience and turning into a gibbering wordless wreck?

Writing these daily prompts are at least helping me to put a spotlight on my stagnation and scare the fear back under the bed where it belongs. I have managed three short stories in the last week. But then, in the last couple of days, stage fright hit again. It is so much easier to write a blog post or a silly poem.

Is ‘fiction’ actually the story I tell myself as to why I can’t get that novel down on paper?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Forest Fungi Forage (for Fotos not Food!)

Took my camera and my feet to the woods today. Lots of lovely fungi to photograph. Most of these photos involve lying prostate on the forest floor though. Fortunately the weather has been kind and so I got up covered in dust and dried leaves rather than caked in mud. The things we do for our art... I found all sorts of sticks and seeds stuck to my clothing when I got home!

Fortunately for my boy, he was not with me today or there would have been much embarrassed muttering about hippies...

While 'wandering' I came to 'wonder' at the mentality of some of the dog walkers. Why go to all the bother of collecting your four-legged friends poop in a bag only to then sling it in a tree or leave it by the path? It's a forest - just encourage your pooch to do its business in the undergrowth away from the path if you can't be bothered to carry it away.

A short post today about nothing much. Just an excuse to share a few fungi photos and write a few words!

Friday, 19 September 2014


Billy hated vegetables with a passion. Especially the green ones. Broccoli with its hard stalks and soggy ends, a million varieties of cabbage that all tasted like… well cabbage… Sprouts of course are just miniature versions of the giant green footballs and should be shot like the bullets they are as far away from dinner plates as they can possibly go.

Courgettes always looked promising but turned to the texture of glue once in his mouth. Peas were OK at a push – a push around the plate and surreptitiously off the side.

It was nearly time for Sunday lunch and Billy had made a sneaky foray into the kitchen to check out the contents of the chopping board and various saucepans. It was not looking good. Mum had hurried him out before he’d had chance for a proper look, but there was definitely something green on the counter top and he was sure he caught a whiff of cabbage in the air. He was dreading sitting down at the table.

Up until recently the dog had been his ally, happily snapping up falling bits of vegetation that somehow made their way off the edge of the table. But Pongo was living up to her name and on a strict dry diet because of it. Mum shut her out of the dining room at meal times. She whined and scratched at the door. Billy felt sorry for her, but was truthfully more upset that his only meal-time friend had been banished.

Inevitably the moment came when they were called to their seats. Billy tried to smile and look happy but until he saw what was in those serving dishes his nerves were a wreck. He reached for Sue’s hand hoping for a bit of solidarity but she pulled it away and glared at him. Sue loved vegetables, she was quite strange in that sense.

Dad brought in a joint of beef. It gave off a heat haze scented with merlot and thyme. Billy salivated. He noticed that he was the only one not to have a plate, but then Mum appeared behind him and placed in front of him a smiley face made from carrots, baked beans and sweetcorn with mashed potato for hair.

“There you go son” she winked. Your vegetables, just as you like them.

Sue, Billy’s wife burst out laughing. “You spoil him” she gently admonished her mother-in-law before reaching over to give Billy an affectionate kiss on the cheek.

Billy ignored them, piling his plate with roasties and drowning everything in gravy. A couple of carrots fell under his plate. He hoped nobody noticed…

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Laundry Basket

When I was a little girl a large woven basket stood in the corner of my parents’ bedroom. It looked like it came from an Arabian souk. I liked to believe it had once been home to a charmed cobra that rested in its depths before curling out to dance in front of ogling onlookers when the lid was removed and the magical music stirred its coils into rhythmic movement.

Stored at the bottom (for reasons I never bothered to ask) was a beautiful peach silk robe embroidered with floral designs. It belonged to my Mum but I never saw her wear it – the long kimono-style sleeves weren’t terribly practical for a housewife. What they did make though was the perfect garb for regal Queens who ruled over magical islands. Matched with a pair of over-sized navy blue high heels (not kept in the laundry basket), the outfit transformed little girls into anything their imaginations desired.

The laundry basket made a great hiding place too, just so long as you could keep your balance and avoid a bruising and giveaway topple to the ground. Eventually we grew too big for such games. The robe got put somewhere else was forgotten about – until a timely prompt about ‘laundry’ dials up a memory!

I phoned my Mum to see if she remembered the robe. She still has it and I discovered my Grandfather had brought it back as a gift for my Grandma from Burma where he fought in the 2nd World War. It was hiding its story in the laundry basket! Mum has it safe, but she still never wears it!

Now I am grown, I own a similar laundry basket to that one from my childhood and, although there are no silken Burmese robes hiding in its depths, it does hold its own stories. Last week it was filled with sarongs and shorts and brightly-blossomed blouses telling a tale of balmy sunshine days and soft sandy beaches – fragments of holiday memories that thankfully won’t wash out!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


I have a Sat Nav built into my car – it’s fabulous. No more trying to memorize a map, taking wrong turns or setting off 4 hours earlier than strictly necessary.

When it works of course. We’ve all got our stories to share about the navigational nightmares. There’s time I just used the street name instead of the actual postcode and discovered that there was more than one street with the same name in the City of Nottingham – one on a completely different side of the city to the other. I also remember when it somehow thought it was in the US and tried to convince me I was only half an hour outside of San Francisco when instead I’m on an entirely different continent about seven time zones away.

I’ve learnt that it’s always best to double check exactly where you’re going BEFORE you set off and to know a rough set of directions. A recent trip ‘oop north’ offered a couple of alternative routes. Being a canny driver, I knew that going via Birmingham in rush hour through the road works was definitely going to be the poor alternative to driving ‘over the tops’ and taking in some stunning dales scenery. That route promised dry-stone walls, inquisitive sheep peeking through the gaps and the very best of rolling English countryside. There was the risk of getting stuck behind the odd tractor, but it promised a better view than the likely 15 miles of stationary traffic.

My Sat Nav by contrast actually wanted to see Spaghetti Junction, concrete jungles and traffic cones. I ignored her when she summoned me up the M6, then again when she tried to divert me through Rugby and I sensed her extreme annoyance when I continued to dismiss her pleas to come off the M1 at Leicester.

I’m a very law-abiding citizen normally (well, most of the time…). I do what I’m told. My Sat Nav lady just sounded so disappointed in me. I was sure I could sense a touch of exasperation in her directions and recalculations and I actually started to feel guilty! I tried to reason with her to assuage the feelings she was stirring up within me but I was met with a stony silence (I think she was trying to figure out how she could get me lost as suitable punishment).

In the end, I switched her off and followed road signs. They don’t judge…

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Neighbours

The neighbours were always banging about at all hours. Trevor despaired at the terrible cacophony that disturbed his sleep yet again. There was a constant barrage of thumping, shouting, rattling, banging, music and mayhem. Was he the only one that liked a bit of peace of quiet around here?

He wished for the umpteenth time that he had never moved into this neighbourhood but he was too old and tired to move again. Instead he resigned himself to another ruined rest and, easing his aching limbs slowly into movement he made his way to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat. There wasn’t much to choose from. There was a fresh pot of peanut butter but he couldn’t get the lid off. He stuck to bread and sipped at the lukewarm cup of tea that Lucy had abandoned before rushing off to school.
The day stretched out in front of him bereft of suitable entertainment. He missed Lucy when she was at school, despite the fact that oftentimes she made more noise than a whole street of neighbours put together.
Speaking of which, perhaps he would pop next door and share his displeasure at this morning’s rude awakening – even if they ignored his noise protests he could at least have a nosey around at what was going on, there wasn’t much else to keep an old boy amused around here.
He let himself out of the back door and took a furtive look over their fence. Half of their kitchen appeared to be missing. A gangly youth in overalls carrying a plank of wood smiled at him and saluted. Trevor glared back rather pleased at the attention but certainly not about to show it. The youth wandered over, clearly in a more sociable mood than Trevor. His goofy smile didn’t shift even when Trevor started to complain in some detail about the importance of sleep patterns for the elderly and how much he disliked the noise of out of tune radios mixed with irregular hammer beats.
The youth reached over and tickled Trevor behind the ears. It immediately shut the old moggy up turning his indignant meows into a soothing purr. Maybe these neighbours weren’t so bad after all… at least until the next time they woke him up!
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