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Just a random extract….

I’m aware that I haven’t posted anything for a very long time. Life has been a little busy since I last blogged. I have bought a house and become pregnant. All very nice, but writing has taken a bit of a back seat.

I have nearly finished my WIP, currently at the 100K mark (it will need a lot of editing), but in the meanwhile, here is an extract at random (part of chapter 8):

Mei stopped and looked up. Snow rushed on the breeze. Red flags on the Government buildings billowed proud. She jumped as a flake landed in her eye. Rubbing it did no good. It burned like no pain she had known before.
‘What’s wrong?’ Alex asked.
‘This way.’ She pushed past her, trying to ignore the agony searing across her face, and strode round the corner to the taxi rank. ‘This one’ll do.’ She rapped hard on the window, startling a catatonic driver from his sleep. ‘Open the boot,’ she yelled. As it popped open, she checked around them for danger. It was too quiet. Where were all the cars?
‘What the hell is up with you?’ Alex asked, having caught her up. Mei noticed she was scratching her arm. ‘What happened to your eye? It’s gone all red.’
The pain in her left eye made it almost impossible to think. But in the distance, she could hear a collective roar, like the chant of football hooligans. And then she saw them, running in a swarm, un-coordinated and swaying as though drunk, but determined. They were headed straight for them.

Please visit http://www.facebook.com/LucyGhose and click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey.

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November writing blog – Trip to London

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I have been a bad best friend in the literary sense. The cardinal sin is that I have abandoned my blog. The last time I wrote, the piglets had trashed the broad bean crop and was anticipating take my book to the Frome Literary Festival.

Since then, the piglets have gone to the woods (not a euphemism) and I’ve put my book back under the bed (this one is a euphemism). But Autumn brought more than a simple change of seasons. I bagged tickets for the Foyles Discovery Day in London, hosted by London agents Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh. You have thirty seconds to pitch your book to an agent, at the first table available. So it’s a stomach-squeezing mash-up of speed dating and X-Factor, but isn’t on TV. And I already had my idea, tried, tested and rejected by most of the literary agents in the capital. I was a pro, and some of them might even recognise my face from the dazzling cover letter in my submissions. What could go wrong? Oh yes, having read the rules (aren’t there always?) I found out that it was for fiction only. Shit. 80,000 words of non-fiction will be as good as an electric fence with no battery attached.

Ah, the perfect chance to try out a fiction idea I came up with about ten years ago. Why ignore an idea for so long? Truth is, it’s steeped in science theory and given that I got E grade in science for GCSE, I didn’t think I was best placed to. Actually, it was a double EE grade – quite ironic as it took me ten years to find my bollocks, figuratively that is, to use another adverb.

As my trip to London loomed and I panicked about logistics, I reminded myself that I spent five years living in the city. Why should I panic now? Because I had the added delight of wittling down my rather complicated theory into less than an ad break. Cue the kitchen timer.

It took me a Saturday afternoon, but if I spoke fast with no stuttering, I could manage it. I typed it out of course. I’m a nightmare and go to pieces when put on the spot. I got the first page of my novel as good as I could get it, printed it all out, packed my weekend bag and off I went.

Most of the train journey up there, I spent feeling sick. Not good when the only chance of outlet was a cubicle with a disobedient lock and probably covered in several specimens of urine. Oh and thanks St Denys for the signal failure. That added an extra thirty minutes to my journey of panic. I only ate half my sandwich that day.

After a night at my sister’s house, the day came. I got my Oyster card (I had to be briefed on what it was) and off I went. My resolution this time in London was not to take the Underground everywhere, like I did when I lived there. As a result I never had a visual map in my head. I opted to change this now. Good job I opted for trainers and not my vintage heels. I made it to Foyles bookshop with ten minutes to spare. I went to the top floor where a lengthy queue had already begun. It felt rather like waiting outside a nightclub. Someone with a clipboard walked the line and ticked off our names. We all made small talk with each other. The lady I was stood next to had come back from Spain for this and someone else had come from Sweden, I think.

The queue began to move. At the front, there were markers. Another queue fed in from the side to a doorway. Those were the children’s authors. Then I was at the front. I held onto my folder tight and tried to use my years of amateur dramatics to calm down. Though this was parallel to singing solo, except I wasn’t caked in make-up and not a soul knew me.

I leant forwards. I could see someone sat down at a table, still and quiet. The agent was reading their page. My turn soon.

‘Step back, please. Behind the marker.’ A man was ushering me away from the doorway. ‘We don’t want people overhearing anything.’

‘I couldn’t hear anything,’ I protested, but the bouncer had gone to check off more names.

‘Next please.’ A lady with a clipboard was ushering me forward. ‘The table at the end.’

I ‘good lucked’ the queue and set off past the tables, not daring to look at anything apart from the end table. I got a lady. I sat down and put my folder on the table. ‘Are you going to time me?’ Silence. Well done, idiot. You’ve screwed it up in under a second.

She smiled. ‘Well, no not really. But we want to give everyone a chance.’

I noted the watch on her desk. ‘OK.’ I start my pitch, trying not to make it sound too scripted. My face was getting hotter all the time. But she was nice, saying ‘yes’ and nodding at times.

When I was finished, she looked interested and suggested I read Michael Crichton’s State Of Fear. I already had read some of it, so we had a good chat about that. She asked me if it had a happy ending, what was to blame for the events in the novel and whether I’d finished it yet.

Was a happy ending important? In this kind of book, she thought so. Because one where everyone dies is a real downer and note a good feeling to go away with. Keep the pace up and make the science easy to understand.

She seemed to be wrapping things up. I picked up my first page. ‘Do you want to read this?’ I asked.

‘Oh yes,’ she replied, taking it from me and folding it over.

I thought of the email we’d been asked to include on the page. ‘So you’ll email me?’

‘Yes.’

So that was that. I was moved to a holding pen with other people, jittery from their pitches. ‘Did it go well?’ I was asked.

‘I think so, she seemed to like my idea and said it was current. She didn’t read my first page.’

The bookshop girl nodded. ‘Some agents do things differently.’

So that’ll be me checking my emails constantly for the next month then.

We were then herded into a café and sat in groups at tables in a rather noisy café on the top floor. We had one expert to grill. Questions ranged from what to include in a cover, to ‘how important is an online profile?’ He said ‘not very’, but did say later that he would Google someone as part of the process.

With two hours to kill, I trundled off to do some research. Part of my novel is set in London, so off I went to Trafalgar Square and the Churchill War Rooms. I also passed the Cenotaph and Downing Street. I just about had enough time to take some ‘selfies’. Then back to the bookshop for the panel event.

This is when I had self-confirmation of the geek that I am. Waiting in the lift, an agent hopped in next to me. I couldn’t help but stare. Luckily she was heavily into her i-phone and didn’t spot me goldfishing. She’s six inches away, I thought. I could hear the gasp in my head.

The queue for the panel event was more of a crush on the top floor, us all waiting to get in. My back was aching by this point, but passed the time talking to a girl from London about science fiction. She stopped halfway through a sentence and gasped, as a man bustled past.

‘What is it?’ I asked.

‘I think he’s like the director of the agency.’

I gasp too, both of us rubbernecking as he goes through the crowd. I spot the agent from the lift and another I recognise from their website. I take a good look at their clothes. Well turned out, look just like their photos. Is this what being starstruck is like?

On to the panel event. They seemed so down-to-earth, even SJ Watson, debut author of Before I Go To Sleep, chuffed yet humble. I learnt that a survey found 75% of people see writing as hobby. Be 100% sure in your idea, trends change, take the reader somewhere new.

We were told that the pitch was a ‘fake’ pitch – to use the advice from the day and submit to agents. If you have no luck, think whether the book is the book you needed to write to write your best one. If the pitch doesn’t work, maybe something is wrong with the book.

On reflection then, it was a very useful and valuable weekend. I did some research at locations and got some handy tips along the way. And 100 photos later, I am now a pro at ‘selfies’.

Please visit www.facebook.com/LucyGhose to see photos and click the ‘like’ button to keep updated with my writing journey.

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Blog Number Ten – Writing Confessions

ImageI have been bad, very bad by writing standards. I have not written anything new for ages. I blame the good weather, smallholding tasks that need doing, and escapee piglets. To the point we’ve had to electrify the vegetable plot, because the little ones are small enough to squeeze under the barb wire fence and even through the gaps in the gate.

Last year, we replanted the broad beans three times to failure from wet weather and slugs. This year, we have a healthy crop and aren’t about to be complacent by letting either the rabbits or gambolling piglets get the better of our haul. Then there’s shopping to be done, day jobs, walking the dog, checking the sheep and leaves on the line (sorry, wrong season).

But you get the idea. My mind hasn’t been on the job. When I’m not writing full book proposals to agents who will most likely just send me a rejection, I’m making sure the piglets have got water and trying to tame them. This involves sitting in the middle of the pig plot and trying to let them near enough to me without freaking out. This seems to tap in to their agoraphobia, so they don’t venture far from mum in this scenario.

Being the side of the fence is completely different. So far, I’ve had more success at feeding time. If I lean over the barbed wire fence while trying to avoid the big mamma’s muddy snout in my face, I can get a stroke of their soft fur. Oh, and now eating my shoes is their new game. As I’m trying to stroke them, they get their own back by mungeing on my Moshulus. Have-at-you for trying to domesticate me…

Again, I digress. It could well be that having finished my book (in my opinion) means I have little drive to write the next in the season, until I well and truly exhaust all my agent options. I have written the plot structure, but something hidden is holding me back.

Next month, I am attending a literary festival and have booked a slot with an agent for a bit of guidance at where I must be going wrong. So I am holding off approaching publishers myself or throwing the dog out with the soggy towel, to do the self-publishing option.

Feedback so far includes the following, in no particular order: ‘It doesn’t read as a story’, ‘not right for my list’, ‘witty and interesting but difficult to sell in the current climate as an unknown.’ Is celebrity king? Do people only want to read the autobiographies of the rich and famous? But then nothing. All I can do is wait. 😦

Right now, some news, any news would be welcomed, even if it is more rejections. So my little face creased into a smile when I read an email saying that a sample of my work will be included in August’s edition of Writing Magazine. Not because I am some ‘bright, young thing’, but my work is going Under The Microscope. This is the regular feature in the magazine, where you submit 300 words of your work and it is critiqued by an expert. So I have publishing news of some sort. I am doing my best to resist breaking into a sweat, the sort I do when I’ve drunk the boss’ coffee or realise I have to sing a solo at the village pantomime. While I am letting all see my work, this is better than an empty inbox. Let the world be my judge.

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 Nine – Remember Happiness

ImageIt has been a pretty strange week by all accounts. Recent incidents made me go cold and grateful that I live in the countryside.

The world is getting too dangerous. Why should I want to bring a child into a world where it is in our nature to destroy ourselves? Yes, I know, I’m quoting Terminator 2 here, but I always quote films in times of trouble.

Then I remembered that throughout the whole of history, there have always been dangerous and violent people. Several hundred years ago, Vikings came over to Iona in Scotland (not a city by any stretch) and slaughtered the monks in their abbey. They would’ve been defenceless. Let’s not forget the Tudors, the Romans, the Nazis and the IRA. All, I’m sure, believed what they were doing was right.

But the effect is on the victims, and the victims’ families. Ultimately, they lose a loved one and I don’t know what I’d do without my husband, my family. And I’m scared I could lose everything because of someone else’s violent act, or if illness descends.

What power does the average person have? None, and I’m glad I’m not a politician right now. So what can I do?

Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. OK, so I’m quoting Dumbledore now. But it makes a succinct point. If there was a media blackout on these events, it would make the country a dictatorship with a censored media. We are not China or North Korea.

I read somewhere once that when something bad happens, always look for the people who are helping those who have been hurt. It’s worth remembering compassion and it must be celebrated.

So draw on the polar opposite of sadness. What is the point of life? There is love and happiness. Even if we aren’t in love, we have a right to be happy. And what is there to be happy about?

I can think of plenty of things. My family, the way my spaniel snorts when he’s happy, lambs pronging, piglets asleep in a pyramid and twitching as they dream. I love writing, gardening, watching the interwoven pink clematis and yellow laburnum sway in the breeze.

I don’t think I really have a bucket list. I’ve written a book, I’d love for it to be published, but that is kind of out of my hands right now. I’d like to do some more travelling, but that is only a plane ride or car journey away.

Looking after myself and keeping healthy for the sake of my loved ones is my priority. My day job means I can easily sit down at a desk for anything up to three hours at a time. So here is my pledge, I am going to exercise at least once every other day, be it gardening or walking the dog. At least while the summer months are here. I can’t guarantee I’ll go back to snuggling under a blanket on the sofa when it’s snowing outside. Limber up. Sorry, that’s from Zombieland. Another point well made though, if survivors of a zombie outbreak can remember the importance of staying healthy to stay alive in all that chaos, then so can I.

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 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 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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