Where do you get your ideas from?

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Angels on Oil Drums

As I started writing this week’s blog, the flag of St George was flying from the flagpole on the top of our village church for St George’s Day, England’s patron saint. 

I have good reason to celebrate St George’s Day because it was the inspiration behind the very first story I ever sold.  

 I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  As soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil, I was writing.  Plays, stories, comic books, poems and even a pageant or two. Throughout our childhood,  I bullied my three younger brothers  into appearing in various ‘plays’ I’d written which we’d then perform for all our neighbours – at least, the ones who weren’t quick enough to come up with a decent excuse.

My first publicly performed work was a bit of a cheat as it didn’t involve any original writing.  It was a pageant, enacted to the words of the hymn “For all the saints, who from their labours rest…” to celebrate St. George’s Day.  

The ‘stage’ was to be our front lawn, the backdrop Mum’s washing line with a couple of old grey blankets draped over it.  I’d filled two large jugs with armfuls of  pink and white blossom which stood at the front.  It looked perfect. Except for the oil drums.  One on either side of the ‘stage’. 

My mother drove a hard bargain and insisted that if she was going to allow her garden and washing line to be turned into a stage, then my two youngest brothers (three year old twins) had to be given parts in the pageant.  I was not keen.  But, in the end I capitulated and said they could have non-speaking parts as angels – as big a piece of miscasting as Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.

But there was a slight problem (and I’m not talking Tom Cruise here).  The twins were quite small and so would not be seen. So I had the brilliant idea of standing them on upended oil drums, one either side of the stage. (Now why didn’t Tom Cruise think of that?)   

I then tied one of Mum’s sheets around their necks to cover both them and the oil drums and commanded them to hold their arms up as wings.  I also made them beautiful blonde wigs from unravelled binder twine which, they complained, itched.  (Did I say I was also the costume and set designer?  Not to mention writer, producer and chief press-gang officer).

I was St George, of course.  After all, it was my pageant.  And my other brother, Mike was the unfortunate dragon who spent most of the time being beaten around the stage by me wielding a wooden sword.

We were about half way through the first verse of “For all the saints...” when the left hand ‘angel’ started to fidget and fell off his oil drum.  The right hand ‘angel’, who probably had more sense than his brother, decided he was bailing out before he too fell off his oil drum and made a dash for freedom across the garden, trailing his sheet behind him and ending up hiding in the middle of the raspberry canes.  He was closely followed by the family dog who thought this was the best game ever.

I, like the trouper I was,  carried on singing.  And beating the dragon about.  Until he decided that he, too, had had enough.  So there I was, St George,  victorious and alone, singing away to myself and failing to notice that my mother had disappeared into the raspberry canes after my brother and the dog.  And the rest of the audience was falling about with laughter.

After all these years my brothers still claim they were traumatised by the event, which gets told and retold at every family gathering.  So when, about twelve years ago I was looking to break into the short fiction market and trying to follow the advice ‘write about what you know’, I wrote this short story based around my ill fated pageant.  

Angels on Oil Drums” was the first of many stories I sold to Woman’s Weekly and it still remains one of my favourites.  Not such a favourite with my brothers, though – although I did buy all three of them their very own copy of Woman’s Weekly which I’d like to tell you they have treasured to this day.  But I very much doubt it!

A few years ago now, my brother Mike (the ex-dragon) came to one of the pantomimes I’d written for our village theatre group  (link here to my thoughts on writing this year’s). He remarked what a relief  it was for him to come and see something I’d written that he hadn’t been bullied into appearing in.

My story, Angels on Oil Drums, will be in my first collection of short stories, entitled “Selling My Grandmother” which will be published later this year.  Watch this space!

Other News

I’m finishing the final edits of the final chapter of my serial, The Primrose Path, this week – and am at that stage where I think I’m never going to be able to cut it down to the required word length.  Although I always do, somehow.  As for tying in all those loose ends…

Duke, the Dalmatian has had a poorly paw and after a week on anti-inflammatories and antibiotics is now confined to lead only walking for another two weeks.  Trying to keep a Dalmatian quiet and rested is like trying to contain a Jack-in-the-box with a faulty lid. But if you’ve got to do an on-lead-only walk, then the beautiful Bishop’s Palace Gardens, in Wells, Somerset has got the be the place to do it.

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Daily Prompts. May 1st to 15th

I hope you’re enjoying the daily prompts. (For details of how to use them, follow this link)  I have now caught up with myself, so below are the prompts for the first fifteen days of May.

I always keep a note in my journal of where the ideas for each new story came from and I can see that of the fifteen, four made it as completed (and sold) stories.  So it does work!

  1. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May (Shakespeare)
  2. A time when you wanted to leave but couldn’t
  3. Being discovered in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  4. “I have spread my dreams beneath your feet/ Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” (WB Yeats)
  5. Suffering the consequences of doing something to excess.
  6. Write about a premonition
  7. Your first day at school, work.
  8. Look back in anger. (John Osborne’s play of this name opened in 1956)
  9. Fear of getting old.
  10. Things done in the heat of the moment.
  11. He/she is the sort of person who….
  12. Write about your earliest memory
  13. Living the dream
  14. Through the open window comes the sound of someone playing the piano.
  15. On this day in 1918 the first regular air mail service began. Write about receiving an unexpected letter.

Thanks for reading this far.  Each time I post, I promise myself that I’ll keep it short and snappy this time.  But I never do.  And that’s what I love about blogging.  After three days of trying to cut 5800 words down to 3300, writing this has been sheer bliss!

Roller coasters, editors and daily prompts

I’m later than intended getting this blog post written because last week was a real roller coaster of a ride with some dizzying highs followed all too swiftly by those heart stopping, stomach churning swoops down to the lows.  Some people love that sort of ride.  But I prefer a smooth, gentle glide with time to admire the scenery to the breath-snatching thrills of the roller coaster.

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Photo by Angie from Pexels

Progress in my works in progress

 I’ve always have more than one large project on the go at any one time but this week, three of them have suddenly pushed themselves centre stage, demanding my instant attention.  The pantomime I wrote about last time is going well. (The Path Less Travelled and why it (sometimes) pays to take it  I have finished Act One now and she-who-makes-things-happen is very pleased and excited about it.  Now all I have to do is figure out what’s going to happen in Act 2, because at the moment I haven’t a clue. 

I’ve also been writing a 5 part murder mystery serial, entitled The Primrose Path, and have now been given the go ahead for the fifth and final part.  And, as with the pantomime, I have a vague idea how it’s all going to work out but at the moment it resembles a basket of wool after a kitten’s been at it – a tangled mess with loose ends everywhere. 

The only thing I’m sure about is “who done it” and I’ve more or less got the “why done it” sorted.  But the “how done it” is giving me brain ache. More on this in a later post.  (Once I’ve worked on why she didn’t just get her phone out and call for help!)

My big news!

But the new big news is the one that’s really sending me in a spin and wanting to bury my head under the nearest duvet.

I HAVE AN EDITOR  

One of the reasons I started this blog, apart from the joy I get from just sitting down and writing about whatever takes my fancy, is that earlier this year I was signed up by Crooked Cat Books who are going to publish my debut full length murder mystery, later in the year.  I thought it would be interesting to blog about my journey to publication.

I’ve been published many times in magazines (and still continue to do so, says she with fingers, toes and anything else that can be crossed firmly crossed).  I also have five large print novels, some crime, some romance, available through the library service, with a sixth due to be published in August.  

But this is the first ‘proper’ book I’ve had published.  Not that any of my work is ‘improper’, you understand.

Murder Served Cold

Murder Served Cold is a murder mystery (the clue is in the title) set in a small Somerset village not dissimilar to the one in which I live.  Think Stephanie Plum follows a faulty sat-nav and finds herself  in Miss Marple’s St Mary Mead.  Like Stephanie, my character Kat is feisty and witty, with an answer for everything.  She also feels as out of place as  Voldemort at the Teddy Bears’ Picnic when  circumstances beyond her control force her to return to her parents’ home in the small Somerset village where she grew up.

I’m sure you’ll hear more about Kat Latcham in later blogs.  Most of the time I have difficulty shutting her up.  However, this is my blog and not hers.

But for the moment I’m trying to get my head around the fact that  I’ve been assigned an editor, the first step on the pathway to publication – and I’m absolutely terrified.  She’s reading Murder Served Cold as I write this and I feel like I’m waiting for my end of term school report, complete with the  ‘could do better’ comments.

Kat, of course, wouldn’t give a toss.  But she’s a feisty 23 year old, with cool spiky multi-coloured hair and cool, spiky boots to match.  She has an opinion on everything and is not afraid to share it.  I, on the other hand, am not 23 nor anywhere near it. (A glance at my author picture will confirm this)  I’m not feisty either, although I’d love to be.  I’m an introverted writer who prefers to spend my time sitting at a laptop and living vicariously through my characters, even (or do I mean, especially?)  the bad ones.

So, while Kat would be saying ‘Bring it on” to my newly assigned editor, I freeze in terror every time I check my emails.  Is she going to say it’s rubbish?  That my sentences are too long?  That my story arc doesn’t arc enough?  Or, the worst ‘could do better’ comment of them all, that she doesn’t think it’s funny?

I’m a proud member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Crime Writers’ Association.  I love writing murder mysteries, spiced with humour and lightly sprinkled with a touch of romance so the three elements of crime, romance and humour are very important to me.

I know my book will probably be put in the ‘cosy’ category.  But that conjures up what someone described recently as ‘cutesies’, where ladies in tea shops solve murder mysteries with the help of their cat. Or a psychic goldfish. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and they are incredibly popular.  But that’s not what Murder Served Cold is about.

So what is it about?  I hope you’ll come back for future blogs and learn more about Kat and the other characters in Much Winchmoor.  They’re a lot of fun – apart from the odd murderer or two, of course!

Daily Prompts.  April 16-30th.

As promised in an earlier post, here are the daily prompts for the rest of April.  I hope you’re  finding them useful.  Check out the previous post  if you’re uncertain how to use them.

16. All is forgiven

17. Being misunderstood.

18. Getting away with murder.

19. When the dust settled….

20. Jumping to the wrong conclusion

21. No man is an island.

22. In the heat of the afternoon.

23. “This is it,” I thought.  “Things don’t get any better than this.”

24. You can’t tell a book by its cover.  Or can you?

25. Things I wish my mother had told me.

26. My grandparents’ wedding picture.

27. Feast day of St Zita, patron saint of housewives, bakers and sometimes invoked by people    who have lost their keys.

28. Everybody stopped to watch the stranger’s arrival.

29. A pair of shoes.

30. Something that happened this time last year.

And finally….

Thank you so much for dropping by.  What’s happening with your work in progress at the moment?  Do you prefer roller coasters or a gentle ride?  I’d love you to leave a comment.