Monthly Archives: April 2013

Blog Number Five – Pastures New

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Sitting at the top of the field, we’re enjoying Dorset scenery as we have the first barbecue of the year. It’s a minor miracle that I’m not wearing a jumper. My arms haven’t seen the light of day in months, let alone my feet. The wellies are staying on for now.

Heat curls up from the urn and pork ribs sizzle as we gaze across the fields to the rippled horizon of Eggardon Hill, towards the sea. We squeeze up on the picnic bench, drinks in our hands, grinning at each other. We’re feeling almost undeserved of the warmth, a newfound treat.

I’d forgotten that we spent most evenings last summer eating outside like this. Trundled all the food up in the wheelbarrow and ate under the stars. Easy to forget when it’s snowing in March and the ground has been squelchy from October until now. It only takes a day and night’s rain to make the rivers overflow.

While daffodils and other flowers have been late arrivals, many people wouldn’t consider the slow growth of grass to be a problem. But for farmers who rely on grass to feed their animals, the low yield has meant more reliance on concentrated feed. With our acre, feed costs for six sheep and their lambs pale into insignificance. Some farmers’ feed costs are £60,000 for a week because there isn’t enough grass.

A few weeks ago and things were getting desperate for us. The grass was no more than a thumbnail long where the sheep were all in the field. We had a field of yelling sheep at feeding time and had to make sure the hay-nets were permanently full.

Going on a dog walk, we found everyone else was struggling too. Cue tutting from us, as a boy on a quad bike sped up the road. Thug. He screeched up next to us. ‘Have you seen two hundred sheep? I’ve lost them.’ Must’ve been so hungry they buggered off to pastures new.

It’s a stereotype that a sheep’s main occupation in life is dying or escaping. And they’ll escape when hungry. I had an ask round in the village for grasskeep and a deal was made just up the road. The sheep have a shiny new field to play in, which hasn’t been used all winter. It is frequented by ducks, pheasants (to the dog’s delight) and pigeons. From there, we can see the church where we got married and the rooftop of our house.

We left our ram up with us, so he doesn’t get randy with the ewes. And he’s not happy about it. From a harem to nothing. He’s watching us from two pens away, making a bleeting sound like an unblocking sink. He’s not used to seeing us up here unless we’re feeding him. He beats his hay-net up by bashing it with his head a few times and then struts off to his sty.

His luck is soon to change. The week of our holiday is coming up. People with pets will appreciate that animal cover is needed. Usually I’d ask my mum, but she’s coming with us. So it is left to Dad. It’s a big ask, so we thought we’d bring all the sheep back together for a while to make it a bit easier for him.

He will have to animal-sit the dog, the ram, the ewes and lambs, and Big Pig who is due to give birth any day now. I’m slightly concerned about this, as the last time he ‘pig-sat’ for us, we had the flying pig incident (this anecdote has gone in my book). Pigs do fly.

We’re hoping she’ll have the litter sooner than later. But if it is on Dad’s watch, the good thing is that pigs tend to get on with it when in labour. Last time Big Pig had piglets, I thought she’d finished when I gave her breakfast. Seven piglets. I went back two hours later and counted ten. Everything stops for dinner.

This excursion will be a writing holiday in Iona, Scotland. Mother will be walking and Hubs will be fishing. I’ve been there before and I’m excited at the thought of writing in such beautiful surroundings by the sea. But Marjorie-Self-Doubt pops up when I start thinking about it. What’s the point in starting a sequel when you haven’t got an agent for the first one yet? Shouldn’t you be researching now if you’re going to start that science fiction book? How are you going to take all those notes as luggage? Will you be able to carry it all? Bugger off, Marjorie.

No, it’ll be fine. I should enjoy the thought of starting from scratch again, whether I do my Piggy Tale Revelations, or the SF book. Maybe both. I have the luxury of choice.

In other news, I’m trying to reach 70 ‘likes’ on my Facebook author page this weekend. Please visit to see photos and read sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey. www.facebook.com/LucyGhose

 

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Writing Blog Number 4 – Pants or Corset?

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Life as an unpublished writer is a scary one. I’m in a constant state of reassurance-searching, whether it’s from writing books, fellow Yeovil Writing Club members, my non-literary husband, or Facebook friends.

Lunchtime is usually a frantic affair. Sitting in the canteen, I stuff a sandwich in my face with one hand, and type with the other. Now my autobiography is finished and my half hour break from answering the phone and selling factory goods, is unnerving. I could do what normal people do, go for a walk or just go back to my desk early. Or I could just keep writing.

I’ve decided to start book two of My Dorset Piggy Tale. Given it is a true account of my agrarian lifestyle, I do not have the luxury of starting off with a blank page and letting my narrative meander. I need solid fact to rely on. How does one select memories for use? Good old Facebook, of course. Being a FB status addict has its benefits, in that I can go back to the archives and not only find snippets for the book, but also use them in chronological order. Bingo, there’s a ready-made plot right there.

Leafing through handwritten notes I have made has also proved useful. I’d forgotten that pigs like blueberries and what happened when the dog ate poison. The next step is to mix the two sources. This is not a quick process and in-between full-time work, smallholding, and researching agents, it has so far taken about a week. But I’m in no hurry. I’m enjoying this process.

Reassurance has been found in an unlikely place. It’s like a strong hand to hold as I begin to think about my opening chapters. Being laced tight into a corset and ready to dance.

Maybe it’s my journalistic background, but I work best when I have a fixed subject to write about. I can’t write ‘by the seat of my pants’, I’m no pantster. It’s too scary. Would I drive on a motorway with only one hand steering? No. Attempts to write without a plot structure when doing my crime thriller mean it is abandoned, half-finished on my memory stick.

If nobody wants to publish my book, I’ll get over it. At least I’ve written down my tales. I know the story, I’m OK with that. And maybe my future generations will be interested in what Crazy Grandma used to get up to. At the moment, I know how the story goes, the question is, where and when do I stop?

 

Please visit my author page where you’ll find photos and sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey. http://www.facebook.com/LucyGhose

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Blog Number Three – What’s In A Name?

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My manuscript is out with agents. I’m in literary no man’s land, so what am I to do?

I could wait and constantly hit refresh on my email inbox. But what will that do, except give me RSI and a bad mood?

Don’t stop writing is a top tip. Don’t languish. I could carry on and write my second instalment My Dorset Piggy Tale – Revelations, or try something completely different.

I’m tempted to start writing a science fiction disaster novel. Yes, that’s right. Me, who got double E grade in Science GCSE. I was more interested in flirting with the boys. Nobody noticed that I avoided doing science homework and coursework for the last year. In my defence, how could I find excitement in a subject when all we did was copy what the teacher wrote on the blackboard?

Since then, we’ve had all manner of blockbuster films screaming through the screens at us, namely Flood and Day After Tomorrow. Nature is terrifying in its power when it demands. Science matters. We should take notice of what we’re doing to the planet.

So this idea I have…What is the story and who are the characters are legitimate questions, but my first question is an immediate one. Maybe the most important one. What writing name do I go by?

I’ve been happy to use my maiden name for My Dorset Piggy Tale. My surname is a difficult one to pronounce, but a distinctive one. And many people who know me still use it, even though I’ve been married for three years. Maybe some people remember it from my days at the newspaper. I’m comfortable writing in my own voice, about me and the pigs.

But SF is unknown territory to me. A daunting, scary one where I feel I don’t belong because I have no background knowledge to speak of. A bit like going into a garage when my car’s broken. The mechanics have the upper hand straight away because I don’t know how to change a tyre or what a catalytic converter is.

My instinct is to use my initials, mask my gender. But why deny myself? My name is who I am. Otherwise I may as well bind my breasts and chop off my hair.

I shouldn’t give in to my inferiority complex. This I have given a name. Marjorie. She is an old lady with a cauliflower blue rinse. She sits on my shoulder, telling me my book is crap and I know nothing about being an author. It’s easier to imagine my complex as a person so I can tell her ‘bugger off, I’m not playing with you today.’

Just because I have a womb, it doesn’t make me inept at SF writing. Five years ago, I’d never have dreamt I’d be writing about pigs one day. But I have, and I am.

Maybe this week I will start my SF novel or maybe I’ll carry on with my second ‘piggy’ book. I’ll see how I feel. But I’ll be brave and use the name my parents gave me. Except the ‘Lucinda’ bit. That’s only for the doctor and the dentist.

 

Please visit my author page where you’ll find photos and sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey. www.facebook.com/LucyGhose

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Blog Number Two – This Sedentary Life

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‘Just because I’m sat down, it doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything.’

There are some common misconceptions about writers, one of the top ones assuming that sitting down equals inactivity.

And there are the people who have forgotten your ambition, because it’s not worth serious consideration to them. How could I operate without their suggestions of job applications which couldn’t be more unsuitable if I tried? A memorable one was suggesting I go to work at the Police HQ, which is forty miles away. It would give me an eighty mile daily commute, but I’m writing a book, I want to be a writer. How can you not take that seriously? Anger had made me finish my sentence with an adverb on that occasion.

Yes, I know I have a dull non-creative day job, but if I didn’t, would I have the desire to be creative in my spare time? I doubt it. When I was working at the newspaper, I had abandoned my crime thriller. It still languishes in the ether. But then I realised I didn’t care that much about it. If I have no care to write it, who would want to read it?

A weekend spent writing is a weekend wasted in some peoples’ opinions. I call these people ‘doubters’. Little time should be spent worrying about what they think of you and your project, and more time spent writing. I know I can do it and any success should serve as a lovely surprise to them.

It’s easy to understand why doubters think we aren’t doing anything. They are practical people and measure effort by physical things. Yes, you can see that pile of compost they moved, the wall they built. Words on a page are nothing to them. How can you be tired from writing at a computer? You’ve just been sat there.

If I can try to understand doubters, I’ll need some in return. I’m not even typing? Yes, that vacuous look on my face is because I’m thinking through a plot thread in my head, I’ve got inspiration from watching the news, a whole narrative is sprouting in my mind.

OK, so sitting down has been given a bad reputation. Many hours can be wasted in front of the TV and playing computer games. I know, it used to take two hours to complete Sonic The Hedgehog on the Sega.

Let me explain why sitting down is such a useful thing. How many peace treaties have been signed while sat down? Were you sat down when you signed your marriage certificate? Blood donors sit down, so do airline pilots. They can hardly dance while flying a hundred passengers over the clouds. Tank drivers? Rowers and cyclists? All sit down. You can even write a whole novel while on your derriere.

The sedentary life doesn’t seem so useless now, does it? So to the writers out there, ignore the doubters, don’t give up. Sit down and write.   

www.facebook.com/LucyGhose

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