fiftyfootwoman











{May 12, 2012}   Why Do We Write?

Why do we write?

 

The greatest thing about writing is that it is an absolutely free (okay, you paid for the laptop, or the note-pad) activity, that allows you to vent your creativity in all of its multi-coloured splendour! And boy do I have a few colours: novel writing, script writing, blogging, editing, forums, fanfic… Depending on my mood, I dabble in a different format. I tend to write to relax; it helps me to calm down and to feel at one with myself again in this crazy world.

My world is a busy one: I teach full time, run a home, write and am hoping for the sound of tiny footsteps this year so writing, for me, is a breathing space. I’ve even been known to consider a Friday evening in with my laptop and a glass of wine as pleasure time!

It’s the people who sigh and say ‘I have a novel hiding in me’, or ‘I could be a writer if I had the time’ – who are definitely not writers. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s pretty much free and you can also partake any time, any place, anywhere! Not too many excuses can be made for why you could be one, if you didn’t work, didn’t have children, didn’t blah-blah-blah. Just grab half an hour here, half an hour there… before you know it, you’re 10000 words into a novel; or you’ve created a new blog; or you’ve edited a friend’s work for them (better than beating yourself up for half an hour, thinking about the things you could have done but now you can’t get that time back).

People talk about work/life balance, but I don’t think that it’s worded quite right. Try Joy/work balance. If my job was writing, I don’t think I’d mind working until all hours to meet a target because I’d be excited about it but I sure do mind the idea of marking school books, or planning lessons until the wee small hours. So, my challenge is to reduce my teaching hours and extend my writing hours until the better man wins. Baby steps and patience is a good mantra to adopt at this point!

Having finished my first children’s novel ‘Whispers in the Attic’, I’m now working with an artist to design the cover-art (very exciting) and the next step is a website and formatting for e-books etc. Whilst the business-side of writing takes over, I thought I may as well get started on a new novel: ‘Grey Ghost Investigations’ (YA fiction/Paranormal Thriller). This book really suits my mood at the moment.

Another reason for writing: ‘Grey Ghost’ is just the escape I need from what has turned out to be a difficult year for me both personally and at work.  Writing is my own therapist’s couch.  I have fallen for my new character in a big way and developing him is absolute fun – I only hope that this enthusiasm is being communicated successfully to the reader. This book contains a lot of energy and should come with a health warning. I’m attempting to capture humour, horror and quirkiness through a mismatched crime partnership who you will love to hate.  This craft is preserving my sanity!

I’m not published yet, so why do I keep going regardless? It’s because I’m a writer, it is what I do. Some people paint, some people cook, or garden – I write and always will. If I’m not in the mood for the novel, then I also do what I call a fun diversion: I’ll co-spew fan-fic for an old 80’s television series called ‘Moonlighting’- not only is it a great experience working with someone else, it gives me a chance to write in my favourite genre, plus it has an instant fan-base and you get automatic feedback, unlike the lonely novel journey. This writing is like eating chocolate – just delicious but empty calories (I know that it’s the novel that will push me further forward in my journey to becoming a full-time writer).

I am also re-teaching myself screen-writing (something I studied at University but I feel a little rusty) – and have a great idea for a comedy series that I might just finish for fun! My absolute dream job would be to work for a television series, I love the idea of that whole creative process – maybe I’ll submit my pilot in a competition or something.

I was partaking in a conversation with a group of like-minded friends the other day, when the subject of dreams and fantasies came up (it happens a lot in my line of work). It turns out that my fantasies have shifted over the years from the far-fetched ideals of 18 year old me: I want to be a famous actress, to wanting to find the perfect guy, to what I now call my more mature fantasy: I dream of lunches with publicists; being offered an exciting writing opportunity; getting the chance to work with a great writer; to leave my day job! A huge jump from my earlier yearnings… but hey, this is what fills my head space now when I’m running on that tread mill, or invigilating for an exam! What it was great to note was that all of these people still had dreams. I found that strangely reassuring.

So why do we write? Because we have to, because it’s our mental work out, our version of the marathon, and it’s what we crave to do in our ‘spare’ time. I’m not a snob when it comes to this activity either, don’t get me wrong, I adore reading fine literature but I must admit, when it comes to writing, I do so to have fun, so often I end up writing YA fiction as it supplies me with the entertainment that I need. Despite being in my thirties, Charlaine Harris is one of my heroes – her books are like a drink of cola on a hot, dry day when that is the only thing that will quench a particular thirst!

Talking of that thirst…I better go and write another couple of hundred words of ‘Grey Ghost’. Can’t wait to introduce him to you!



{December 22, 2011}   A 50ft Blog: Going Full Circle

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A 50 FT Blog…

Listen to the child who knows best…

Once upon a time, when I was a child, I was not only an avid reader but a prolific writer of short stories and scripts. I must have devoured a couple of books a week (nearly read my way around the entire mobile library that used to stop by in my street), covering many genres. It was also never enough for me to sit back and watch my favourite television shows- I had to write my own episodes! The evidence still sleeps under my childhood bed back at my mother’s house.

People who know me now would say: so what’s changed? I’m still an avid reader (forced to consider Kindle now as my bookshelves are over-flowing) and my writing is on the increase: a novel under my belt;  a new one being researched; blogging; script writing…you name it, I’ve tried it.

It sounds like I haven’t changed one bit.

‘Drip, drip, drip’- that’s the sound of all the years in between the first two paragraphs of this blog. Who’d have known that little 50 ft Woman knew exactly what she wanted to do and had a damn fine time doing it. So why didn’t she carry on?

Little 50ft Woman was overwhelmed and scared by the idea of making the right choices and picking a career…so off she went to college and university in pursuit of qualifications that would lead to the right job, the right future, the right thing to do.  She came out the other side tasting many different careers: I kid you not- I’ve been professional actress, catering manager, customer service advisor and finally teacher… Teaching seemed to incorporate spontaneity, creativity and worth and therefore fit the bill (for now).

With no torch in my hand (I’m not very practical!)-  I’m now groping my way out the other side of this life tunnel and I find it has led right back to where I started!

I’ve never been conventional: find a partner, marry, buy house, settle down, have kids… (That specific order is usually required for society to allow us to feel successful!) I may have done one or two of these success indicators but always in my own time and in no particular sequence… so I don’t find it unusual that I’m now pursuing the very same thing that gave me such joy as a child: writing.

 I don’t really care if I’m a success or not, I’m just thrilled to have become reacquainted with what gives me great joy. People often say to me: ‘how on Earth do you fit writing in with a full-time career?’  My answer to that is that writing is not a chore; writing is what I do when all those chores are out of the way.  I love nothing more than a busy schedule where life is good, fun and busy and I can grab an hour here and there to work on the novel, or some other project I have simmering away on the back-burner.

The best thing about teaching and writing is those long summer breaks where I can pretend to be a full-time writer: taste the dream. Meanwhile I’ll just carry on my journey: unafraid of a little hard work.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a story all about me. What I’m trying to say is that maybe we should all listen to the message we send ourselves when we are kids. I spent years trying to find out what makes me happy (I tried sooo many creative outlets) and wish that I had never abandoned writing during that time.

Looking back, I see that ‘abandoned’ is probably too harsh a choice of words. My favourite part of my English and Performing Arts degree was actually writing plays and seeing them all the way through to performance (at the time I thought it was the acting that was my driving force). Also with teaching- I’m never happier than when I’m teaching creative writing, I hope my enthusiasm rubs off on the students and that they leave my class feeling like they can take a few more risks with the craft- maybe even break a few rules!

My love of writing has always been there but when we are children we are less encumbered by life’s demands…these passions never really vanish, we just lose sight of them but if we’re really lucky we once again see them before our eyes. Pull back those blinkers and open your eyes wide!

You have just read the thoughts of the 50ft woman – thanks for stopping by.




Fifty Foot Rant: The Attack of the Fifty Foot Moonlighting Curse

 

This is for Goldilocks (you know who you are)… who HATES the idea of the #Moonlighting curse!

I am undeniably addicted to detective shows, always have been and always will be. Whether I’m attempting to solve cases ahead of  investigators, being magnetically pulled towards the dark side of human nature or hooked on the romance that inevitably underpins  storylines, I find myself drawn. No flies on me.

I believe that the key to the success of detective shows, across the ages, is their ability to appeal to the hearts of the viewers. When we were youngsters we all had a show that we cared about, a show that we talked about in school, or discussed on our parents’ phone-bill (boy they were big back then!). If something bad happened to our favourite characters – we were heart-broken; if they did something right we would be smiling all week. However, something is rotten in 2011, our kids are missing out on this phenomenon! Something is amiss with our recent detective shows and they blame it on the so-called ‘Moonlighting Curse’.

Let’s go back in time… The first cop show I ever watched was ‘Starsky and Hutch’ back in the 1970’s – I was way too young (honest) to watch but it was my older sister’s favourite TV show and she was head-over-heels in love with Paul Michael Glaser. I remember trying to make myself invisible on the sofa as the clock approached ‘bed-time’ -I’d see how much of the show I could get away with before I was noticed…usually about ten minutes if I was lucky. Then, of course, I was dragged away by my mother and put to bed whilst my grown-up sis (complete with smug smile) got to watch. Oh the pain!

Charlie’s Angels was another classic 1970’s show that I caught years later through re-runs…I even had a retro T-Shirt of these gun-toting, flare waving, boogie-licious women that I proudly wore, always teamed with mini flares and tiny wedge shoes (which I thought were really high but turns out that the heels were only an inch). This was only the beginning of my relationship with detective shows.

As the 1980’s were born and my ‘bed-time’ crawled forwards, I started to watch ‘Cagney and Lacey’- oh boy was I in love now! Streetwise women with real life problems who mopped up the crime-riddled streets of NYC- all in a day’s work! Crimes were harder-edged, streets were dangerous and the villains beyond exciting. The fact that my mother also adored ‘Cagney and Lacey’ suppported my case immeasurably- I’m sure she let me stay up and watch it because she wanted to share this gritty joy! Favourite phrase born on that show: ‘Crumb- Bum!’ (have used it many times in heavy traffic)

Skipping past other great and not so great shows (Remember ‘Cover-Up’, ‘Scarecrow and Mrs King’, ‘Hunter’?) to get to the good stuff…

In 1985, Glenn Gordon Caron created what was to become my favourite detective show ever: Moonlighting.  I recall that my dad recorded the pilot for me and nonchalantly suggested: ‘think you might like this’ (under-statement of the year). Here was a show that I could sink my imagination into! It had it all: crazy cases, chemistry, humour, exceptional writing (favourite writers being Glenn Gordon Caron, Debra Frank and Carl Sautter), and amazing attention to detail (the lighting is just magical in this show thanks to Finnerman), my first crush (Bruce Willis), silly chase scenes, wondrous dream-sequences, quirky moments (thanks to Roger Director) and a huge dose of clever (Mandelberg et al)! Moonlighting became the hot topic of conversation at school, it was what we all discussed at the back of the classroom and is what set the precedent for all other great detective shows to follow!  

We all cared about what happened to Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis)! Dedicated to them and their sizzling chemistry, we avidly watched as they fell passionately in love. Each episode brought them a step closer, and then further apart, then closer…in other words Caron teased us with two and a half years of foreplay! And what was our prize for waiting? The Big Bang! At last, after all of this time, we were rewarded with the sexiest love scene ever on TV! Who could forget the opening beats to ‘Be My Baby’ as they kissed, rolled around on the floor, knocked over coffee tables, ornaments and then miraculously found their way up the spiral staircase to: Maddie’s bedroom- the final frontier! (And all of this filmed by the ever professional: Bruce Willis (who had a broken collar-bone), and Cybill Shepherd (who was pregnant with twins)!

This, as they say in the business, is where the show supposedly ‘jumped the shark’ or it gave birth to the ‘Moonlighting Curse’.  It is the reason why Bones and Booth waited for a total of six series to finally succumb to their growing feelings for one another and why Castle and Beckett are dancing to a very cautious rhythm right now. Either way, youngsters of the 2000’s are missing out on that exciting investment of body and soul into a series that represents a decade and shapes their appreciation of shows to come.

‘The Moonlighting Curse’ is a common myth that is often cited by critics and writers of recent detective shows such as ‘Castle’, ‘Bones’ and any others with romance beating at the centre of their being: in other words their life line. Is there a curse? Bees do not be and bears definitely do not bear!

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love ‘Bones’ and ‘Castle’, but they must stop worrying about this pseudo ‘Curse’. The truth is simple, there was no curse. The only reason that Moonlighting slipped off its shiny pedestal at the end of season three was not because they had slept together but because of a cold dose of reality: Cybill Shepherd found out that she was pregnant with twins (not an easy pregnancy) and Bruce Willis was offered a Hollywood gold mine: The Die Hard franchise (which is STILL going strong). In series four (straight after the Big Bang) – they couldn’t get the two actors in the same place at the same time; that’s not a curse, it’s circumstance.

The writers, who worked on Season 4 of Moonlighting, deserve a trophy. Despite its slippage into becoming ‘David’s Broken Heart Show’ (Some of Bruce’s best acting moments were in series 4); they conjurred magic with what was left on the table (who could forget the Gilbert and Sullivan number performed in the desert with a group of burly prisoners and what about when the network went mad trying to re-audition for the role of David Addison because they thought he’d gone missing). Season four, journeying through tempests, fire-storms and brimstone actually ended with hope for our beloved couple. Unfortunately, what happened next was that Moonlighting’s creator: Glenn Gordon Caron left the show (it was his baby and not having Papa onboard meant that there was no chief carer) and the season five bosses hired new writers, who didn’t really understand the characters. Maddie and David ended up suffering from a terrible case of ‘the body snatchers’ – it was as if certain episodes had not happened. The idea of ‘pals’ instead of lovers evolved: it was as if they’d never had a baby together, had never been in love and the romance dwindled to something unrecognisable. Talk about a script in the wrong hands;  it’s like buying cheap ingredients when you need fillet NOT rump. I repeat this is not a curse; this is just a bad case of wrong-decisionitus!

Calling all detective shows of the naughties and beyond: I say jump into that shark-infested water because the audience will thank you for it! Moonlighting, at its best, was when Glenn Gordon Caron, along with a team of highly creative and motivated people in the right place at the right time, created magic from a heady mixture of imagination, intelligence and a whole lot of what if…! We kept coming back for more because we never knew what we were going to be served:  hot or cold, love or hate, fun or tears. Get your television couples together and ride the waves: success or failure? That’s up to you  but don’t play it safe because of some myth that once a couple have ignited the fuel it can only sizzle out. Some fires burn forever (if you keep fanning the flames).

From the words of Maddie and David themselves:

(Maddie and David sit on the office desk at The Blue Moon Detective Agency and stare out at the blog readers)

David: They’re here Maddie, look interested!

Maddie: I am interested!

David: That’s not what you told me.

Maddie: (she slaps him on the arm) that’s not what I meant David. What I meant was that there are probably a few people here who’ve never watched us before; they don’t know that we do cold-openers like this one where we talk to the audience?

David: Some of them probably weren’t even born (he shakes his head in disgust).

Maddie: Exactly.

David: …but then again The Fifty Foot Woman? She doesn’t have that many blog followers so I wouldn’t waste your honey blonde noggin’ on it.

Maddie: Shhhh, she’ll hear you.

David: Hear me? She’s writing me, I don’t make this stuff up; I’m just the actor, I speak what’s written for me.

Maddie: David, you’re going off track…

David: Me off track? Baby I’m a freight train hurtling along at full speed…no way I ever go off track.

Maddie: Oh yeah? It’s been a long time since any writers laid any track down for us…

David: I miss those days: the chases, the dream sequences, the hair-brained cases, the delusional clients, us…

Maddie: That’s it David – that’s why we’re here!

David: They’ve given us another season?!

Maddie: Not exactly but I am open to a Reunion movie how about you?

David: I dunno Maddie…we did some pretty terrible things to each other at the end of the show. I’d have to talk to my agent! You do know I’m doing Die-Hard 5 next year right?

Maddie: (Rolling her eyes) what’s this one called? ‘The Die-Hard Retirement Village’?

David: Very funny Ms Hayes; I’ll have you know that I can do everything in Die-Hard 5 that I used to be able to do in the original!

Maddie: Oh really? Except recover!

David: (He changes the subject quickly) you were saying why we’re here, arguing like the good old days?

Maddie: Yes, yes, yes! We’re here to remind the new writers of detective shows that the key to success is to enjoy what they do and the viewers will follow: if you care then they’ll care!

David: Get close to the flames?

Maddie: Risk a little pain!

David: Have a party in your head but don’t forget to invite the audience?

Maddie: Handle chemistry with care!

David: But whatever you do?

David/Maddie: don’t blame it on the Moonlighting Curse!




The Metaphors behind the Monster: Part 4

Having now completed ‘Whispers in the Attic’ (experienced the brief celebratory toast to me); I’m now faced with the fact that I’m a query letter virgin. This stage of the writing process is going to be new ground for me and I hope to learn much along the way. Many twitter updates from my ‘writer follows’ have given me the impression that it’s even harder than actually writing the novel: only time will tell! Considering that I have managed to produce a novel whilst holding down a full-time job as a teacher has taught me that, if nothing else, I have resilience and darn well know how to persist against the odds. Let’s see if I’m still saying that a couple of months from now…

The novel is an interesting shape which is held together by creative metaphors. The main character finds she has journeyed further and further away from home in order to ascertain whether, deep down, she really wants to return. As she embarks on this journey she makes close friendships and begins to realise the importance of these bonds – even when it appears that people do not care, often you just aren’t looking at the whole picture. If you looked at Harriet’s (the little girl she helps) mother from an outside perspective, you’d think she was a terrible mother however, once you understand the context of her behaviour, you change your opinion. As always, family is complicated and can only truly be understood from the inside.

The ghosts in the novel have all experienced loss of some kind, whether it’s loss of love, attention or interaction – and they all teach Emily the ultimate lesson. The final lesson, taught by the boy in the attic, being the hardest of all and one that she managed to avoid for most of the story. It is interesting to note that the ghost of Henry is terrifying to Harriet because he intensifies her feelings of insecurity – yet Henry is also insecure but unable to communicate this.

The world within a world idea is inspired by my love of Lewis Carol and CS Lewis (favourite authors as a child) – I wanted to create the idea of stepping further and further away from home – where things become more and more strange. Emily can do things in these other worlds that are not possible at home; and it’s not until she realises it’s because she is the one in control of all of this, that she can finally make the last decision and walk through the ultimate door. The magic element of the story is there as a clue to the fact that she can do what she wants, this is her world- she made it! I didn’t over-do the magical element though as it is not a major contributor to the story, rather a group of signs for Emily to finally read and understand: she calls the shots.

Darkness is a key metaphor also; it has a way of sneaking in from all angles: darkness up the chimney towers, in the corners of creepy rooms, on the landing at night, under the beds – there’s no escaping the consuming nature of it. Of course, it acts as an unpleasant barrier between Emily and the truth about everything.

The reoccurrence of the puzzle metaphor is an obvious one: Emily constantly has to figure things out, piece puzzles together – including a real one which she plays with Harriet in the form of a jigsaw which Henry steals and therefore halts the process on purpose. This is also repeated at the end when Harriet returns to the attic room, not until after having to pull all of her thoughts together so that they all link and make sense: then she can use them as a bridge to get back to where she came from.

Every character has their own puzzle to fathom…but, ultimately, that’s the key to Emily’s own mystery.

Of course, like with all stories that take place inside someone’s head – you have to leave the readers wondering if any of that really happened! Think Labyrinth when the characters all spill out into Sarah’s bedroom! I think the epilogue takes care of this concept nicely.

Right…time to stop talking about the novel and start writing those query letters…



{September 17, 2011}   The Fashion Monster

A Fifty Foot Rant

 

‘The Fashion Monster’

 

It wasn’t until I reached the dizzy heights of my education: the university years, that I first had my lack of height pointed out to me by someone who is, for the record, no longer a friend.

At school I seem to be surrounded by people of similar height (5 ft 3 ish) but maybe that was just because we were all from the same small town, living on the same small town diet and living the same small town dreams? However, that comfortable, urban sea that I was so used to swimming in suddenly opened out into the deeper, colder, unfathomable ocean…

University. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by beautiful, tall, worldly people.  I was the shortest in my group of friends, the next one up from me being 5ft 7. I was now living amongst the giants.  Not only that, but my whole image was at odds with this new, cool, merciless world…to survive I had my long curly locks cut into a shorter sexy bob (I had been told that I looked like a 70’s hippy chick before this), I took to wearing heels and dropped a couple of dress sizes. I know, I know…awful that I felt that I needed to do this, and believe me, this is not something I would feel compelled to do again.

Voila! I started to attract dates…seemed that suddenly attractive males were heading my way – I must have done something right. Of course, they were not right, being of the superficial ilk, they came and went like the fashion itself. I did manage to snag the most attractive guy  in the year for a short while…but found him to be moody, sullen and terribly unfunny – it’s always kinder to let a trapped butterfly loose once they’ve been ensnared; I felt it was my duty  to let some other poor unsuspecting girl capture him and assume they’d found a gem.

So there I was, a small girl in a big world. I found myself trying to fit my body into the latest fashions and let’s face it; fashion can be one mean bitch. Actually – if you were out clubbing in the mid-1990’s, the fashions were kind to you. Everyone wore flared skinny black leggings, tight tops and killer high heels – think Spice Girls (Unless, you were Brit-popping it with flares and Converse trainers)! It could make the shorter and the fatter of the species appear long, slim and super sexy curves in all the right places.

Of course, then came the Boot-Cut which suited everyone but now, now, now the fashion goddess is playing a cruel trick on all females who do not conform to the super-model image of the long-legged, super skinny, no-butt  freakette who can carry off Skinny Jeans and flat pumps like they haven’t stood in front of the mirror for hours trying to find the right top to balance their bottom half or vice versa! You see the models wearing this look as if it’s attainable by all – as if! I wouldn’t call myself fat but if I try this unflattering combo with my shorter stature, I am left staring forlornly at a dumpy girl who looks more  like one of those dolls that’s walks, talks and wets their pants than the slender woodland nymph that I have been promised.

In my opinion, the latest fashion is a girls’ worst nightmare.  Luckily, I no longer feel compelled to cut and trim what nature gave me in order to fit the demands of the ever-hungry fashion monster. However, when a certain line of clothing is in, it’s pretty hard to find anything that’s not. The boot-cut still desperately grips on to its clothes hanger in most stores (on one hand proving that the skinny jean will never take over the world but on the other, acting as a visual symbol that you can’t pull the new look off), usually lurking in the shadows of these evil skinny jeans – the twinkling stars of the here and now. Enjoy your five minutes of fame Skinny fireworks – as I’m sure that someday soon there’s a pair of flares holding your death warrant. Soon the whole world will be full of skinny ambivalence and will riot against fashion that makes us look like too much sausage meat squeezed into its skin.

All of the above said, I have found a compromise: the slim fit jean – a girl’s secret best friend. The great thing about slim fit is that they tuck nicely into your winter boots without bunching up and ruining the look. They also allow your legs to breathe as they are not super-glued to the sides. They are the missing link between the boot-cut gems of old and the super skinny stiflers of new.

Oh Fashion Monster – you see, not all of us look like those shop-front mannequins that make us believe that when we buy that outfit we will also look as fabulous as you, you plastic fantastic teases- so give us all a break and make your next trend one that all of us mere mortals may fit in to and look fabulous. However, you’re a monster, and monsters don’t roll like that so I guess we’re stuck with you forever more. Well hear this, we’ll fight back with our slim cut jeans and just know, that however hard you try to get rid of them – the boot-cut jean will be secretly lurking at the back of every woman’s wardrobe across the globe! Small steps…




A Fifty Foot Woman rant:

 

Well, I did promise you the odd rant or two!

 So here I am, interrupting my first novel blog, with a special Thursday rantette!

Media representation of Age:

I was just reading an excellent short story written by the master of horror himself: Stephen King called ‘Big Driver’ – a fantastic page turner. So there I am, reading away, hooked by the main character – whom I was led to believe was a slightly dowdy, older woman who wrote comfy little detective stories about a knitting circle, when- shock, horror: I realised that this protagonist was supposed to be my age!

Immediately, I become full of nagging doubt – maybe this is indeed how society views me and my age group (38). As Vic Reeves put it on his game show last week:  ‘I’m on the turn’ like a piece of meat on its sell-by-date – shudder. Luckily, I have a good sense of humour and a willingness to laugh at myself but why do I need to do this on such a regular basis? Surely it’s up to the Media to make us all feel good about ourselves – think about what a powerful instrument it is and yet it’s wielded in such a way that make us all feel inadequate: not thin enough, not young enough, not flawless enough, not toned enough, not tall enough… yadda yadda yadda.

In the same week as my Stephen King wake-up call, I was posting ideas on a forum for a Reunion movie of ‘Moonlighting’ (That classic eighties detective comedy show that all the new shows borrow from) – and it came to light that people wouldn’t want to see Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd older, solving crimes, taking part in amusing chase sequences, bantering and oozing chemistry all over the place (let’s face it, they are the dictionary definition of chemistry). Although all of the people on the forum commented that they would love to see older people in sexy roles (especially the gorgeous Cybill and Bruce)- Hollywood would just say no. Well Hollywood you’re missing out!

Two wake-up calls in one week – how will I sleep at night? Same as always I guess, on my back, eyes shut… (I was going to put a rude joke in there – but this is a family blog lol). Anyway…back to the plot: don’t you just hate it when people say: ‘You look good for your age?’ I really hate that, it makes my blood boil. Okay, yes actually I do look good for my age but that’s beside the point- I’m often mistaken for about 7 years younger- according to what though? Compared to whom? Can’t we 38 year olds just be pretty, or fit, or have nice eyes…rather than being seen as good for our age. It makes you feel like an old bit of cheese…a little ripe but quite nice with a bit of chutney on the side.

Considering the above evidence, you may argue that I am too sensitive to the media representation of age? That may be so…clearly this has been going on forever and I haven’t really noticed it until I too became ‘on the turn’ – hey youngsters: go easy on your elders for you too will fill their fury slippers one fine day.

I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t feel like I’m approaching middle age… although, looking through face book it seems that us late thirty-something/early forties people fit into two distinctive characters: Category 1: those who have kept their inner joy/child/youth and Category 2: those who seem to embrace middle age and invite it into their home to share a plate of cheese sandwiches and a nice cup of cocoa. Not meaning to sound like a bitch, but I do often nose at facebook photos (of fellow school mates) and think are they a category 1 or 2? That goes for the men too. Category 2 have given into the media representation of themselves (and clearly watch too much tv!)  The major difference is whether you give two hoots or not! Personally, I still give a hoot and try to look my best for myself and for my partner – others would argue that it’s great not caring anymore; when you’ve found the right person it doesn’t matter anymore.  The choice is yours of course.

Having a choice is all very well…but allow us to make that choice for ourselves! I dream of a day when I switch on the television and all ages are selling us perfumes, make-up, making-out on screen and teaching us that’s it’s great to be the age we are. Every year of our lives are sacred and to be cherished – and we sell the idea that we’re old as soon as we leave our twenties. Well that leaves a hell of a lot of miles to travel feeling that we’re in some way not good enough.

Let me leave you with this thought: if you were born a sexy mofo…then you’ll always be a sexy mofo!   And people…please? Stop telling people they look good for their age, just tell them they look good and leave it at that J

Thanks for tuning in…

 

 




Who’s the Johnny Monster? Part 3

I know, I know…it’s been awhile since part 2 but I have been busy revising my novel. This is a hard and dirty job right? I swear I’m slowing down with it because I’m scared to finish…because then I’ll have to face the final stage: trying to find an agent/publisher. Then I have to confront my soul *shudder* – and admit that this first break into writing has been much more of an autobiographical experience than I had anticipated. Maybe, just maybe…it is just my learning curve, my springboard, my introduction to the writing bug and nothing more. This novel may just be a doorway to other, better books that I will write! However – it is good to feel that it is almost complete and that I will then face a cross-roads a rather than a long straight road.

Already I am planning on writing for a different age group and genre with my next series of books…is that a cardinal sin in the writing world? Are you supposed to stick to a genre/age-group? Oops. The new idea centres around a key character called ‘Grey’. However, I digress…

This article, as promised, is about the inspiration behind the characters in this first novel. I have already covered ‘The Johnny Monster’ in part 1 but the other characters have been clamouring for attention too. Coming up with a protagonist was easy; they just grew from the situation I created and, due to its autobiographical nature the character is of course female. She’s an inventive tom-boy, trapped in her over-active imagination (in more ways than one) due to divorcing parents. The idea is that the parents are so wrapped up in the divorce that they aren’t paying Emily enough attention until it’s too late. Emily then finds a strength of will that she did not previously realise existed – as she embarks on a paranormal mystery; a journey that takes her from home; then further and further away from that home. The final hurdle is to work out how to get back and, indeed, if she wants to get back at all. Along the way she helps many interesting characters.

The nameless boy in the attic has been waiting for her to arrive…a boy that remains a mystery until the very end of the novel. He introduces Emily to her first mission: to help a little girl called Harriet who is plagued by a monster every night (cue the Johnny Monster). Emily must work out why Henry is bothering Harriet on a nightly basis which leads her into his world: Victorian England.

Emily meets Charlie (we find out who he really is right at the end of the novel) – a chimney sweep who fast becomes a special friend. If Emily is to find out who Henry is, Charlie’s her ticket! Having to learn the trade of sweeping, in order to get closer to Henry, she discovers the nightmarish secrets behind this particular form of child labour. How far can she push herself in order to fathom this puzzle? Charlie helps her every step of the way and the two of them embark on their own adventure as they solve the mystery of Henry and his demise.

…This leads us back to the nameless boy in the attic – Emily’s last hurdle before she can find her way back home. Where was home again? What was home? Did she really want to go back there?

 

The next blog entry will look at the metaphors behind the main themes in the novel.

 

Thanks for reading! J




Who’s the Johnny Monster: Part 2

The inspiration for ‘Whispers in the Attic’ – ‘Rooms’

 If you are coming to this blog in part 3 – I’m writing it along side my children’s work of fiction to keep me motivated whilst I perform the big edit!

I thought I had better introduce this article by explaining what was obvious to me in my previous blog (feel silly now): Who’s the Johnny Monster: Part 1 – but wasn’t, seemingly, to others. Good start! I’m certain that a few people thought that the whole thing was a story but it wasn’t/isn’t – it’s autobiographical with a few quotes from my novel thrown in. The little girl with the nightmares is me, she isn’t fictional – but she is the inspiration for one of the main protagonists: Harriet.

So where did we leave off? I described the effect that the piano room had on me as a young child and the terrible repercussions of having to sleep in there when my parents had guests staying. This room appears in the novel (not yet as I’m working on a new chapter that revolves around this) as do some other creepy rooms that I remember from way back when. A key room in the story is the attic – it used to make my imagination run wild. We actually converted it into a bedroom for my brother in the end but before that, it had the potential to be anything I wanted it to be! My unfettered imagination used to conjure images of forgotten rooms from different worlds, different ages:

 

‘Emily found herself in a spacious, old-fashioned room. She could see a tarnished rocking horse, an enormous doll’s house in dusty, muted colours and one of those grandiose sleeping cots, at once both elegant yet domineering – it looked like it should be transported to a fairy-tale immediately.

 

 She also observed faint and strangely alluring music in the air. The  faint sound was coming from a musical box that the little boy was holding, it was mesmerizing and she was momentarily hypnotised by a little carved bird who flew around and around in its musical prison.’ (N Morris (c))

 

Another sinister room, that features heavily in the novel,  is one that had been  bricked up many years ago-in the novel it is the gate-way to Henry’s world (Henry is based on the Johnny Monster). You see our house used to be one whole building but was later converted into  semi-detached – it was not unusual for these Victorian buildings to have a linking room (between both buildings) that was simply blocked off. The wall, that had been erected to cover this redundant room, had started to crumble away in one of its corners – made bigger, much to my parents’ chagrin, by my curious brother. He, as I’m sure a lot of older brothers do, delighted in telling me horror-provoking stories, one of which included the actual sighting of a strange  man inside it. No wonder I used to have so many vivid dreams! I remember staring at the black gaping hole, which was near the top of the wall, imagining all sorts of evil lurking in its depths. Here my protagonist: Emily climbs up to look through the hole –

 

‘Emily shone the torch around the forgotten room. The wallpaper’s dull pattern was exactly the same as that disagreeable pattern of swirls in Harriet’s bedroom, only far more torn and faded. She then swung the torch in the general direction of the darkness that festered in the left hand corner. She stopped abruptly, the torch coming close to meeting its demise.

 

‘What is it?’ Harriet cried out.

 

As the object of fear came into view, Emily’s mouth gaped open in amazement and her eyes widened in fear. She felt sick to the pit of her stomach. Her feet, in response to what she had seen, no longer did as she bid them; in fact they seemed to be refusing to carry her weight at all– she came close to losing her footing. ‘(N Morris (c))

 

The final room, that I shall describe to you,  is the one that housed the huge fireplace – many a poor fledgling found its way down that chimney breast I can tell you. Anyone who is fortunate enough to have an open chimney, allowing a real fire, will be familiar with having to capture unlucky little birds who’ve fallen down it as they think that you’re trying to kill them, rather than rescue them. As a result, the pesky little (usually Blue Tits) creatures peck at you mid-save!

 I also remember a time concerning the fire-place when my brother, curious again, decided to see what would happen if he threw a bag of flour on a lit fire. He knows now – and so did all the neighbours.

Well – this fire-place and the chimney itself inspired the middle section of the novel and the main protagonist finds herself, much to her dismay, up close and personal with one:

‘Emily found herself peering up into an immense hole, a black tower. There was something about it that created fear, loneliness, as she stared upwards, around a bend and beyond. The darkness invited her; teasing her into its depths with long black fingers that carried on for eternity.

A noise escaped from the velvet-black, could it have been a whisper?  A lump of coal dust dislodged itself and sprayed downwards, directly onto her already dirty upturned face. Jumping backwards with an abruptness, she rubbed at her face and eyes. How absolutely horrifying this other world was. All she wanted was to find Henry, figure out what was wrong and get back to Harriet. However, deep down, she knew that this was never going to be easy.’(N Morris (c))

 

These are only a handful of the settings in the novel; the majority are based on real places, the minority just well researched. In the Next blog, part 3, I’ll explore the people; the influences behind the characters. Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading – until next time,  go forth and unleash your imagination somewhere! 

 

 




Firstly…some kind of explanation for this blog entry:

 I am about halfway through a major review and edit of my first children’s novel ‘Whispers in the Attic’ : a ghost story about your worst fear as a child. This novel is semi-autobiographical: the setting is my childhood home, the monster is mine and the characters are loosely based on experiences from childhood. I don’t consider my childhood to be conventional ( thank God) as I now have much fodder and imagination as a result. Please don’t get me wrong… this is in no way a rant about my parents (I love them both), it was a difficult time for them…turbulant…and children just get swept along with the circumstnaces –  they are more resilient than you think…they’re like weeds, they grow tall; even when, just for a moment, your back is turned.

‘The young boy waited patiently in the old attic room, a room where he played; dreamed and often felt restless. Waiting and waiting. His ancient toys teased him from their corners of the room, trying to attract his attention despite being forgotten by him so long ago. The rocking horse beckoned with a smile; the spinning top caught the light within its whorls and the music box was open by one tantalising inch.  Instead, he stared at the door anticipating the moment when she would enter into his world and the journey would begin…’ (N Morris – opening to ‘Whispers in the Attic’)

 

Who’s the Johnny Monster?

 When I was a young child, I was plagued, nightly, by a monster that I nicknamed the Johnny Monster. My brother: Jonathan was not impressed by this but my four-year old self explained that it was because they shared the same hair (of course!) . My brother (17 at the time) sported a dark, unruly mop of crazy hair which he wore longish in homage to his favourite rock bands of the seventies.  This was the only thing they shared…

The Johnny Monster also had bare feet which were always dirty, scruffy clothes that were too small, bulbous eyes and a crazy look. It would move around like a hyper-active child in an adult body, springing about with exaggerated bouncy movements and shouting only one word: Boo:

‘Henry’s feet were dirty and the toe-nails were long and neglected. They had  pounced onto the thick tree branch, with a sinister confidence. The action was like that of a lunatic let out of his room for the day. All Emily knew now was that Henry was real and it made her feel both fearful and cold. She found that she could no longer  formulate words with her tongue.’ (N Morris)

I drove my parents crazy, waking regularly with the same vivid nightmares. Each time it was the same, he’d be waiting, lurking, poised to pounce –  either at the foot of my bed, in my toy cupboard, or from behind my curtains… either way, it would result in me running into my parents’ bedroom, screaming that he was after me. I think you call them waking dreams – I was always running physically away from him and must have only woken during that journey from my room to my parents.

Of course, to me, he was real.

Looking back, I understand that he wasn’t a monster, or a ghost that was out to get me, but a manifestation of the insecure childhood I experienced. I was the youngest of a family of four – nine years between me and my next sibling so I was often left on my own to play –  a four-year old is not particularly welcome amongst teens.  So my imagination thrived… and in a house like ours, it thrived in the darkest of corners.

Let me explain: my house was a big old Victorian building with a cellar, an attic and a huge garden – sounds great but it was also quite a threatening space – not very homely. My dad was an artist with pretty dark tastes – so it was not unusual to find terrifying looking sculptures around the place: e.g. (and I’m not kidding here for the sake of fiction –  honest!) He was working on a commission that involved a guillotine and a collection of carved wooden heads that were painted in garish colours; he made some particularly sinister looking Punch and Judy puppets for someone else and, at the top of the first floor landing, there was a painting of a clown that looked more like the devil. That’s just to name a few of the weird objects d’art that were strewn around this old house.  

Two rooms in particular piqued my imagination more than the rest and they were my bedroom of course and, what we referred to as, the piano room. There’s a description of the bedroom near the start of the novel that illustrates why it was the perfect setting for a visit from the Johnny monster:

‘… she found the decor threatening and unfriendly. The paper was coming away from the walls; one particular piece had peeled back and now resembled a hand grabbing at the air like someone trying to escape. The toy cupboard was ugly and neglected, it used to be white an age ago but now it was that dirty cream colour achieved through age. The wallpaper was busy and threatening, its pattern was made up of giant grey roses and dark paisley swirls.’ (N Morris)

I haven’t used the piano room yet…it’s going in as part of a new narrative thread I am introducing that will involve a few new chapters at the start. The piano room housed two pianos, that nobody was able to play (they were family heir looms – my mum’s mum was an amazing pianist but those genes haven’t shown themselves in any of my siblings or their offspring yet – Warning: latent musical talent hanging around there somewhere). As a youngster, I used to feel terrified in this room and refused to enter it alone (I was convinced that this was another room that ‘he’ inhabited). So, you can imagine my abject horror when, on an occasion when we had a lot of guests, my parents proposed that I could sleep in the piano room! Suffice it to say, they (my parents) didn’t get a lot of sleep –  I had so many nightmares on the first night, they had to move me back to my bedroom. I’m thinking of a similar experience for the character of Harriet in the initial stages of the novel – before the true nature of the being is explored and he becomes less scary.

 

End of part 1 ‘Who Was Your Childhood Monster?’… Part 2 to follow soon :-)

 

 

 



{July 6, 2011}   Just Starting Out…

I’m a little woman (5ft 4″) with a big mouth and lots to say!

Welcome to my blog…

I woke up and found myself with a large gaping hole in my life this year that cried out to be filled with something deliciously creative and the need to re-capture the dreams of my younger self – so what did I do about this?

I started to write…and write…and write some more! It seems that I have woken up ‘the writing demon’ that has resided in me since I was a child. As a child, I incessantly churned out stories and scripts; creating characters and worlds in abundance but then I started to grow up and tried to redefine this creativity: did I want to act? Dance? Teach? I tried it all but now have ended up right back where I started –  it was looking me in the face all along.

So… here I am: I’ve written a children’s novel and started another; I write short stories with a wonderful lady I met online and am hatching an idea for a screenplay as we speak. In other words, I can’t seem to get enough of it. My only obstacle is work – but my dream is to make it as a published author who can one day take early retirement and live the dream. Human beings have to have their hopes and dreams –  just read ‘Of Mice and Men’!

So what’s this blog going to contain? Well I intend to log the writing journey, but also comment on life as a thirty something woman who defies the shape that society tries to cut out for us all. Everyday I come across people who judge where I should fit into society and where I don’t – people get suspicious and hopefully question their own lives a little…

Please give my blog a chance…and if you fancy writing a long article in response to any of my forthcoming articles please let me know and I’d love to feature your writing and a link to your own blog. Let’s get our blogs on…

Signing off, for now…

The 50ft Woman :-)



et cetera
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