2 Great Books, 2 Good Causes

I’m not quite sure how I’ve left it so long to announce that THE PAPERBACK OF 100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND IS OUT!

100 Stories for Queensland

The paperback is available from Amazon for £9.99, or you can order it from Waterstones (although strangely, not online there yet – they are only listing marketplace copies). The ebook is available from here for A$4.99.

Just in case it escaped your attention, one of those 100 stories is mine – Pop. But far more importantly, all the profits go to the Queensland Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal. Grim stories were banned, and although I haven’t had the time to read them all myself yet, I can tell you that, like me, fellow writers Sally Quilford, Simon Whaley and Catherine Miller contributed light-hearted tales. So if you need a smile over your cup of coffee, this will be just your…er…cup of tea.

And now on to plug another good cause and the work of a friend – not writing this time, but photography. The very gorgeous book Quoted Moments is out now, with beautiful photography and inspiring quotes that help you appreciate the important things in life. All profits go to the Irish Cancer Society, and you can buy a copy here for just €15+ p&p, or from stockists in Ireland. One of the contributors is talented prize-winning photographer Val Robus.

I’ve still not heard if my contribution to the New Sun Rising anthology has passed muster – I do know that the publishers have had enough subs to fill four books, so competition is tough! More on that (whether I’m in it or not!) when I hear firmer details.

I’m back! M to S

For various reasons I’ve not been able to blog daily on this challenge as I expected – for one thing, I had 10 days in Scotland without internet access!

Therefore I Must Cover the rest of the Alphabet in Just 2 Days. Eeeek.

So prepare yourself for a whistle-stop tour through the first things that pop into my head concerning these letters…

M – M is for marriage, of course, because I spent this morning on the equally fascinating occupations of writing reports and watching the Royal Wedding (yes, simultaneously. I’m sure the reports will be fine….). The trees in the Abbey were a lovely idea and the bride and groom looked genuinely over the moon. Good on ’em, I say. Despite having been married myself for nearly 19 years (OMG! How did THAT happen?), I’m not an out-and-out proponent of marriage; I don’t believe a piece of paper will keep you together, and in some circumstances I don’t believe it should, either. Staying with someone long-term is all about commitment, determination and accepting change in each other. I don’t necessarily think a wedding day delivers those things.

N- noise. The reason this leapt into my head – well, if you were sitting beside me, you wouldn’t need to ask. Constructo Boy turned 11 this week and he has his two best friends around for a sleepover. They are currently in the opposite room with Arty Daughter looking at aggravating videos on YouTube (currently they’re watching the one that repeats ‘We’re taking the Hobbits to Isenguard, to Isenguard, to Isenguard, We’re taking…’ ad infinitum.
It’s mildly amusing. The first three times.

O- Omar Sharif. You see? Literally, honestly, the first thing that leaps into my head. Now I’m stuck, because I know nothing about Omar Sharif, except that he’s in Lots of Things. Oh, and he was fantastic in the hilarious The Parole Officer (which everyone should see).

P – pennies. Ooh! What can I learn about them? Just scanned the Wikipedia article (thanks, Wiki, I’m proud to donate to you!) and offer these two paragraphs that caught my attention:

Old English versions of the word penny are penig, pening, penning and pending; the word appears in German as Pfennig, in Dutch as penning, and in West Frisian as peinje or penje. These words are thought by some to have common roots with the English word “pawn”, German Pfand, and Dutch pand, words which mean “a pledge or token”.[1]

The penny was introduced into England by King Offa, the king of Mercia(from 757 until his death in July 796), using as a model a coin first struck by Pepin the Short. King Offa minted a penny made of silver which weighed 221?2 grains or 240 pennies weighing one Saxon pound (or Tower pound—equal to 5,400 grains—as it was afterwards called), hence the term pennyweight.

Q – oh no, I have a dilemma. Two of Terry Pratchett’s random thought particles entered my mind at the same time: Queen and quiz. Well the Queen was looking chipper at the wedding today, although personally I would never dress in yellow unless I was threatened with torture. She wasn’t wearing matching shoes, perhaps feeling (correctly IMHO) that yellow shoes were a step (ho ho) too far. But the beige shoes did clash. Sorry, your Majesty.

As for quiz, Wikipedia says:
The first appearance of the word is from 1784 and means an odd person. This sense survives today in the word “quizzical”. It was also used in the term quizzing glass, a common accoutrement of British Regency dandies. It later acquired a meaning of to make fun of, or to mock. How it acquired its current meaning of a test is unknown, but that sense did not appear until 1867 and then it was in the United States.

The OED2 has a citation from 1847 where the word appears: “She com back and quiesed us”, which could be a clue to its origin. Quiz as a test could be a corruption of the Latin Qui es, meaning “Who are you?” American Heritagesays it may be from the English dialect verb quiset, meaning to question. In any case it is probably from the same root as question and inquisitive.

There is a well-known myth about the word “quiz”, which says that in 1791 a Dublin theater owner named James Daly made a bet that he could introduce a word into the language within twenty-four hours. He then went out and hired a group of street urchins to write the word “quiz”, which was a nonsense word, on walls around the city of Dublin. Within a day, the word was common currency and had acquired a meaning (since no one knew what it meant, everyone thought it was some sort of test) and Daly had some extra cash in his pocket. However, there is no evidence to support the story, and the term was already in use before the alleged bet in 1791.[1]

I’d not heard this myth. Fascinating!

R – rabies and rats. Strange but true; these seemingly disagreeable subjects are both mentioned in my light-hearted story, Pop, which appears in the 100 Stories For Queensland. How can this be true, I hear you cry. Buy the book and find out, I reply! And donate money to a great cause at the same time 🙂

S – Scotland. I love Scotland. I don’t love the journey there – not when we’re stuck in the everlasting roadworks near Scotch Corner, or the ones (rife in Scotland at the moment) that last for miles and require you to go at 40 miles an hour for no apparent reason. But I do love the journey up through the Cairngorms to Braemar (via Glenshee and the A93), then on to the in-laws. The only things that ruins Scotland’s beauty, for me, is that darn tendency of theirs to build everything in shades of grey. Lighten up, oh ye architects and builders of Scotland! Some of your houses really are blots on the landscape.

If you’ve survived this far – congrats. You have tomorrow to look forward to – T to Z!

I for Inspiration, J for joke

What inspires you?

It’s a big question.

Some of us can rattle on for hours about what inspires us, whether it be the source for our religion, our art, or our parenting style we’re describing – there are plenty of things, it seems, that people might need, or find, inspiration for.

But for some writers – and artists and musicians as well – it can be hard to ‘categorise’ your inspiration. And the whole subject can feel woolly or pretentious. Those of us with basically lower-class roots can still feel a little self-conscious about starting a sentence with ‘what inspires me is…’ or ‘the inspiration for my novel was….’ It’s not always easy to specify what your inspiration was anyway; sometimes it’s a subconscious thing,  or the interaction of several influences that sparks something. Even then it can be a glowing ember, gradually catching the material around it alight, or an instant explosion of sparks – a real eureka moment. Sometimes we forget what our inspiration was – we just find a few notes we jotted down one day and perhaps we spin them, years later, into a coherent story thread or an idea for a piece of art.

I don’t think there are many people, then, who could give one stock answer to the inspiration question. I’m sure that like me, most of them could name a whole host of things. Sometimes it’s music or a lyric; a film; a phrase in someone else’s story; overheard dialogue; a photo; the view fromthe car window; someone else’s experience or point of view; the label on my cardigan; my past, my future, history, a dog, a cat, a tree, my job, blah blah blah.

Sometimes it’s even a Joke.
For ‘Pop’, my story that’s due to be published in the 100 Stories For Queensland book, the inspiration was a situation-comedy-kind-of-joke – a scene with a speech bubble and caption on the front of a birthday card.

The characters were there. The twist was there. Even a snippet of dialogue was there. It was just asking to be turned into a story! And this is often what it feels like. I wish I could remember who it was that described writing and rewriting as being like sculpting – the perfect work of art is inside the rough stone all the time, you just have to chisel the stone away patiently until you’re left with what you were looking for.

Inspiration often feels the same to me. It’s there all the time. But sometimes we’re just not looking – or listening in the right direction.

So what inspires you? Or is it too hard to talk about? 😀

H is for Hundred, as in 100 Stories for Queensland

Yay! After some hold-ups due to the cyclone that followed Queensland’s flooding, this brilliant anthology to raise money for the Queensland relief effort is nearing publication. And this is what the front cover looks like!

100 Stories for Queensland

So get your wallets, purses, debit cards or credit cards ready for Tuesday 3rd May!

Details of how you can grab yourself a copy will be coming to a blog post near you, soon.

And I’m not just saying it’s brilliant because it contains one of my stories, ‘Pop’.


Giveaways & Good News

Just to confuse you, I’ll do the good (although slightly old) news, first.

Which is (drum roll):  despite writing it in a tearing hurry, my submission to 100 Stories For Queensland was accepted! If you haven’t heard of this excellent volume, it’s an anthology that will be published to raise money for charity, following in the footsteps of 100 Stories for Haiti and 50 Stories for Pakistan.

I was pleased to be on the shortlist, but thought that’s as far as it would go, so very chuffed with the news. The story is called Pop, and it’s about…ah, well, that would be telling. You’ll have to buy the book. I’ll just say that it’s a light-hearted humorous tale that was inspired by a birthday card – one that was sent to Techie Husband several years ago. So you see – ideas really can come from anywhere!

The book will be available in print, digital and audio formats, and is full of the work of other lovely writers, such as Sally Quilford, Simon Whaley, Glynis Scrivens, Sue Moorcroft…and 95 others, of course!
More info soon.

Now for the Giveaway (drum roll again please, Mr. Collins. And do take that gorilla suit off).

I have a paperback copy of Lisa Gardner’s The Neighbour to give away to the first correct answer of this question:

What’s the title of Lisa’s first Det. D.D. Warren novel?

I have a little stash of book goodies to give away in the near future, but I’m thinking of auctioning some for Comic Relief or other good causes, so keep your eyes peeled (but only metaphorically, please. Don’t want any bloodstains on the blog.)

Mmm…great title for a novel…’Bloodstains On The Blog’… 😉

Weekend Wonderfulness

After a few weeks of complete madness – just tooooo much to do – this weekend it’s been nice to chill. Not that I’ve really chilled in the typical sense, but I’ve felt chilled because there aren’t deadlines breathing down my neck. I got the latest OU assignment in on time on Thursday, despite spending more time at work than I expected to, completed the most urgent paperwork for work, and sent off my submission for the ‘100 Stories for Queensland’ book (albeit a little late).

On Saturday I had a really enjoyable OU tutorial in Cambridge. Once again, considering there are about 24 people on this course in what must be around a 25 mile radius, there weren’t that many of us, but it was great to see familiar faces and a couple of new ones. Caron Freeborn is not only a good tutor, she’s also an interesting person with a great sense of humour. Must remember to buy her novels and have a read 🙂

We had a lot of fun with one of the exercises – we voted on a setting (I was quite chuffed because it ended up being an opera house which was my suggestion!), did some descriptive work, and then Caron made each of us pick a Secret Slip of Paper…this was the character we had to be in the monologue she asked us to write. And of course, the challenge was for everyone else to listen to it afterwards and guess who you were meant to be!

A really interesting exercise, but I was a bit unnerved, as I found it disturbingly easy to write as my character – ‘a 40-year-old alcoholic woman in need of a drink’! Lovely to spend a few hours with fellow writers though.

And today was pretty great too, because thanks to a tweet from Simon Whaley, I found there’s a longlist (well, more of a shortlist!) up for ‘100 Stories’. And – yay! I’m on it. Very chuffed.