Blog Number Eight – The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

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Ah, the power of dreams. I usually dream about stilt-walking and piglets that look like pugs. This morning I dreamt a complete short story. There was even a twist at the end, making me wake in tears. As I scrabbled through my not-yet unpacked suitcase for my notebook, I was desperate to remember as much of it as I could. I found my trusty Doctor Who notebook at the bottom, and wrote down the narrative in note form before I forgot it.

Yesterday was an exceptional day. My journey home from holiday took one and a half days, involving two ferries, several buses, train, plane and car. Several hours in an airport is enough to drive anyone rather bonkers, but for someone who only encounters a dozen people a day (at the most), sitting by the thoroughfare for the security check-through was fascinating. So many different faces and cultures, from a girl wearing eight-inch sparkly pink stilettos, to a gaggle of women in hijabs. Not to mention muffin tops of both genders, the mandatory screaming kids and old people shuffling (then stopping with no warning) causing mammoth tailbacks to that of tractors at rush-hour. Going through the duty-free department, I came out wearing a perfume which cost more than I’d pay for a pair of jeans. Husband and I later agreed that my wrist smelled like the nappy bags we use to clear up the dog’s poo. That kind of sensory overload was bound to have an effect on my subconscious.

My desired lie-in at home was rudely interrupted by husband’s alarm on his mobile phone at seven o’clock, the time we got up the previous day to catch the train from Oban to Glasgow. My betrothed has the knack of maintaining blissful sleep despite the electronic shriek. It takes several shoves from me to wake him and get him to disable the din. I’m certain that if World War Three commenced, he’d sleep on oblivious.

Having managed to doze off again, then came the half-sleep when anything is possible. In previous dreams, I have ridden on top of tunnelling trains, fallen down stairs, found the ability to fly, and told jokes so funny I’ve woken up laughing. Most times, my dreams are fragmented, too small to do anything useful with in a creative sense.

This time, I dreamt a short story and the ending was so bittersweet, I woke in tears. How can my own brain have the power to surprise me like that?

I first dreamt the idea for a novel, when I was at university. When I woke, I went to my Brother typewriter (I could hardly call it a computer, it didn’t have the internet or even a mouse) and wrote until midday. This led me to write my first novel, and like all first novels, it was terrible, loaded with clique and depression. Of course I thought it was brilliant, and who wouldn’t snap it right up? It got rejected by many agents, but I’m glad I dreamt that morning, or I might not have gone on to attempt a second novel, a crime thriller. That still sits unfinished in my computer. I’ve since written my third book, an autobiography about our smallholding and I’m determined to get it published one way or another.

I’m a novel girl. I like to read a novel, not bite-sized narratives, but I had underestimated the power of the short-story genre to my shame. I am converted. Now I just need to see past the piles of holiday clothes washing, and a generous shell collection from my beachcombing efforts, so I can actually do the dream justice.

Please visit www.facebook.com/LucyGhose to see photos and read sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey.

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Blog Seven – Animal Checklist For Dad

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Morning Routine

First off, feed the sheep first (one ice-cream scoop in the green tray), then feed the lambs (one scoop) in the metal trough in the creep feeder.

Then you can get through the gate – make sure you put the top loop over the gate. Feed the pig first by the fence (1 ice cream tub full from the sack in the black dustbin. VERY IMPORTANT Do not feed the sheep pig nuts as it can kill them). The electric fence isn’t on, please leave it off.

Make sure the pig has water (she’s drinking a lot now she has babies). If you’ve got time, count the babies through the hatch at the back of the sty – you can get in through the other field. (There are three black and seven orange ones)

Then feed Thomas The Ram (use the black bucket on his gatepost) his quarter of a scoop. Then give him his haynet (just one a day)  – do NOT go in the field with him, he gets very headbutty these days. Check he’s got water too.

We built a ramp out of mud at the front of the sty so the piglets can get in and out – mama pig keeps destroying it. Just make sure they aren’t stuck outside without her if it’s really wet or really hot.

If it IS hot, mama pig likes a wallow, which can be made by spraying the hose on the mud – otherwise she tips up her trough and makes her own, then ends up with no drinking water.

The dog: He needs a mug of biscuits in the morning, half to one cup at lunchtime, one cup at dinner. He has pulled one of his front claws off quite badly, so just keep an eye on it. Please don’t give him cooked bones of any variety. DON’T leave/let him in the field with the sheep – they WILL beat him up.

Evening

Feed animals any time from 5pm onwards. Same routine and amounts as morning.

Count the piglets and check pig’s water.

Make sure the gates are closed behind you, especially the gate halfway up the field.

Other stuff:

If you are worried about either the sheep or the pigs, call Richard’s brother as a first port of call or the the vets (numbers enclosed).

If you need to go in with the animals, always have a bucket of food for distraction while your back is turned. This is important with the pig and the ram. IF ANY ANIMALS ESCAPE THEN SHAKE A BUCKET OF FOOD – THEY WILL FOLLOW YOU.

Good luck and thanks for helping us out!

(Please visit my Facebook author page http://www.facebook.com/LucyGhose for photos and updates on my writing progress)

 

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Blog Number Six – Writing Preparations

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Today I have been mostly recovering from a mild hangover and picking up the dog’s toys strewn around the field in case it rains.

Next, I have to finish transcribing my diary notes into a plot structure for my sequel book. What do I find myself doing instead? Playing around drawing pigs on the Paint application. But it was for my Facebook author page, so it wasn’t a wasted task. Even if it looks like a child did it.

Getting ready to go on my writing holiday, I have to muck out my writing folder. At the moment, my work bag consists of my laptop and my writing folder, which is starting to bulge. I tote this around every day so I can write in my lunch break. I’m concerned that one day my bag straps will relent. Sending my laptop to meet its smashed fate on the ground. Something must also be done before I end up in a sea of paper.

This is as bad as clearing out my wardrobe or sorting my general postal correspondence. Letters often get squirreled in a drawer, rather than be sorted and filed in an appropriate manner. I hadn’t realised this guilty habit for what it was, until Hubs came to put some of my clothes away and found a stash of letters in my sock drawer.

Post now gets stashed in-between books and DVD’s in the bookcase. But the writing folder has to be sorted, if only to spare me lugging it up to Scotland (I’m thinking of my arms and back here).

What have I found languishing in the purple plastic folder? Some old receipts, an itinerary from the Arvon course two years ago, where I came up with the idea for my piggy book. It changed my life and I will hold on to any keepsakes from it. But for now, it doesn’t need to come to Scotland with me. I make a pile for things to go up the loft. With it, goes an old version of my first piggy tale chapter, and some old print-outs from the crime thriller attempt. Although, after reading Margaret James’ comments in Writing Magazine about not cluttering up rooms with reams of paper, I might just use it as scrap paper. With another book to write, I’ll need it.

What else? I’ve found some useful story plot outlines from my first piggy book. They can stay. It’s helpful to see how I planned the structure. I need the comfort of corset-plan right now. It’s quite scary attempting another book.

There’s a chapter of Piggy Tale I’ve yet to read out at writing club. That can stay. Short-hand diary notes and another half-dozen versions of the first chapter. They can go.

Workshop notes – what does the protagonist desire, what is the obstacle? Do they get what they want? All important stuff to remember. That stays.

Scribbled ideas for future novels. They stay. I might to use them for procrastinating purposes.

Wow, now I have a pile to go on the bonfire and a pile to go up the loft. Don’t mix the two up. My writing folder is now saggy, having undergone drastic liposurgery. I’ve got rid of about eighty per cent.

The sun is out now, so armed with old story drafts I traipse up to the top of the field and burn them in the urn where we have our barbecues. Big Pig wakes up from sunbathing and demands a treat, so I pull up some grass for her.

I’m ready to start putting my writing things back in the folder. I find my David Tennant Doctor Who poster which is definitely staying. He’s telling me to write. Looking very stern. How could I chuck that away? Hush my mouth.

Now the serious business of getting all my plot notes into a proper order. Cue more paper. Argh….

Please visit www.facebook.com/LucyGhose to see photos and read sample chapters of my book. Click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey. 

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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.   

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