Tag Archives: bad weather

The Coldness of the Mind

Last night, I had a dream in which the whole world was iced over. I looked out my front door and a creeping, crackling pattern, like grasping pale fingers, was coming right for me. It had spread its way across the green, where there were no children playing, and made me feel like an ant crawling across the face of an iceberg. I slammed the front door shut, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the grey-blue ice, hard as steel, wormed its way in around the hinges and through any gap it could find.

It wasn’t a pleasant dream.

I’ve been thinking about ice a lot lately (due, of course, to the setting of ‘Emmeline’), and that’s probably why my mind went to a cold, dark place when I was lost in dreams. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that ice – at least, the sort of ice we get here, the dark insidious kind, the kind which no footwear can outsmart – is one of my biggest fears. This winter, however, my little island has been battered by Atlantic storms instead of Arctic vortexes, which is equally dreadful; most of the south of Ireland is underwater at the moment.

Flooding on Wandesford Quay in Cork City. Photo by Darragh McSweeney. Image sourced: rte.ie

Flooding on Wandesford Quay in Cork City. Photo by Darragh McSweeney.
Image sourced: rte.ie

So many people have lost everything – businesses, homes, property – and so many of them can’t purchase insurance, due to where they live being prone to flooding. Sometimes I don’t understand the world. Surely people who live in places like that need more help, rather than less?

Am I the crazy one? Wait – don’t answer that.

I have been out of sorts this week. My head is distracted, my thoughts are ragged, my energy levels are through the floor. ‘Emmeline’ is sitting beside me, not-so-neatly printed and annotated, from last week’s editing sessions; I have three or four small changes to make before I’ll be ready to leave it to percolate for a while. Then, once I’ve checked it again post-percolation, it will be ready to send out into the world. I hope to get to those final edits today, and then it’ll be on to the next thing.

Oh, and I may not have mentioned this before, but – last week on Twitter I noticed an author excitedly promoting their newly published book which not only had the same title as one I had been planning, but took as its central plot motif something which I had come up with in the middle of last year, and which I was quite excited about. This, surely, has to be something nobody’s ever thought of before, I told myself at the time. This is interesting and unusual and could turn out to be something great! Little did I know that the other author was probably doing their final edits on their book at that stage. So, that was another of those bittersweet moments where you realise you’re having good ideas, but just not quickly enough. Of course I’ll be interested to read this other book when it’s published, and I wish its author well. However, I really hope this ‘idea duplication’ thing stops happening to me, one of these years.

Anyway. My mind feels gripped with a cold hand this week. I hope it relaxes its hold soon, because I have a lot of work to get to. I have another idea I want to flesh out, and I want to revisit ‘Eldritch’ and try to do a rewrite, and I need to start picking up with my submissions to competitions and magazines, because I’ve completely let that slide over the past few months.

I think I need a calendar, and an action plan, and someone to tell me to pace myself… Or maybe just a holiday.

Dragon boat racing in Hong Kong - rowing to the beat of a drum sounds like just the ticket! Image: dailymail.co.uk

Dragon boat racing in Hong Kong – rowing to the beat of a drum sounds like just the ticket!
Image: dailymail.co.uk

Have a good Thursday, one and all.

Storm in the Heart

The wind is high, and cold rain is being driven against the glass. The streets are awash with water. It is angry weather, pained weather. Sorrowful weather. It is also powerful weather, renewing the earth.

Today, I will be accompanying someone I love very much as she says her final farewell to someone she loves very much. In that sense, today’s blustery storm is entirely appropriate weather.

Love, once shared, can never die. Nothing severs it; nothing ends it. It is not tied to the physical presence of a loved one, but it is a presence of its own, a presence which envelops and protects, and a presence which endures. Remembering someone after they have died is a remembrance of love, both the love they offered you in life and the love you had, and have, for them; in that moment of shared love, they are with you.

In that love, they will never leave you.

And love does not come to an end.

Image: comesitbythehearth.blogspot.com

Image: comesitbythehearth.blogspot.com

 

 

Thinking to Keep Warm

It’s another bitterly cold day today. It’s almost cruel that this type of weather makes everything look so pretty, but has such a negative impact on people’s lives, isn’t it?

My parents had planned to come and visit today, but the weather might prevent them from travelling; this thought makes me very sad indeed. I’m hoping that the newly-risen sun will bring enough warmth with it to clear the roads of ice and make their journey possible. Of course, I know that this is a small problem. This sort of weather always makes me very sympathetic towards people who are homeless, or elderly, or living in sub-standard accommodation, or who can’t afford to heat their homes (increasingly a problem in Ireland.)

Is it me, or does this lady sort of look like HM The Queen? Weird.Image: guardian.co.uk

Is it me, or does this lady sort of look like HM The Queen? Weird.
Image: guardian.co.uk

I’m trying to keep my brain cells alive today by keeping them busy. I’d like to think the more they move around inside my skull, the warmer they’ll be. So far, it’s not meeting with a huge amount of success; I’ll persevere, though. In order to accomplish this goal, I’ve been stretching the grey matter in yet another direction – as well as working on my stories, I’ve also been helping someone with an editing project over the last few days. I can’t explain how much fun this has been. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than correcting errors, particularly when they’re other people’s.

(By the way, thanks to everyone who read my blog yesterday and who chose not to tell me I’d missed a word near the end. Perhaps nobody noticed except me – at least, I hope not! No point going to check it now, either – I’ve fixed it.)

Image: redpenofdoom.com

Image: redpenofdoom.com

Editing, as well as being really satisfying, is also beneficial to me as a writer. It’s gradually helping me to realise that when someone edits the guts out of a piece you’ve lovingly submitted to them, they don’t mean it to hurt your feelings. They really do mean to help you and make your work stronger. I feel I’ve been quite ruthless in my editing of the work that’s been submitted to me – pointing out places where the argument doesn’t make any sense or where the writing gets lost in a froth of style over substance, slashing through misspellings and instances of homophone confusion, clarifying commonly confused words (particularly ‘lose’ and ‘loose’, which is so widespread in Ireland that it should be our national slogan), and, most satisfyingly, putting in apostrophes where apostrophes should be, and ripping them out where they’ve been jammed in without just cause. I know, though, that none of this verbal carnage has been personal or designed to hurt delicate feelings. The person behind the words is immaterial when I’ve got my editing hat on; all I see are the words, and the errors, and the fact that fixing the errors makes the words better.

So, of course, I have to logically assume that when a person edits my work, they feel the same way. They see value in what I have to say, and they feel it’s worth reading through in enough detail to pick out the good bits among the piles of dross and to fix it up until it’s as pretty as it can be. This sounds a lot better than ‘the editor thought this piece was so woefully bad that not one word escaped without being doused in red ink.’ So, I’m choosing to go with the optimistic view.

I’m also planning to work on a story that I started yesterday. It was an experiment with form, and I’m not sure it’s quite worked; certainly, it didn’t have the emotional impact on paper that it had in my head. It can be difficult to write stories (particularly if they’re as short as flash fiction tends to be) which are interesting, unique and innovative. I’ve tried writing pieces composed entirely of dialogue, and a story based around images which are completely impossible. I’ve tried a piece written using nothing but contradictions, which was (as you can imagine) difficult. Yesterday’s effort was based around a funeral notice placed in a newspaper, which would have worked well if I’d managed to tweak it just a bit more. So, perfecting that story is today’s quest, as well as working through some other ideas bubbling in my mind.

Sometimes I worry whether I’m writing stories that are full of clichés and over-used ideas; considering that so many stories are never published in the traditional sense (i.e. in short story collections in books), but only appear on websites or online publications, some of which are entirely unknown to me, it can be hard to keep up with trends. But you can’t spend your whole life reading, either – you’d never get any writing done.

What can you do, though. You’ve just got to write what you’ve got to write. Right?

Anyway. It’s time to get stuck in. The words are waiting, so I’d better start getting them out before my brain ices over completely.

Have a happy Tuesday. Stay warm. Stay safe. Most importantly, stay happy.

 

As the World Falls Down…

I woke this morning and noticed something strange about the light. Through the slats of our Venetian blind, the world seemed brighter than it should be. The reason for that was, of course…

...this had happened.Image: rte.ie

…this had happened.
Image: rte.ie

We’re not talking the Arctic wastes here or anything – in fact, the snow isn’t even deep enough to cover the grass in our garden. Nevertheless, there have been accidents on the roads, it’s a headline news story, and myself and my husband have instantly turned into two old worrywarts. ‘I wonder will it stay?’ ‘Sure, how do I know?’ ‘Will we look up the weather forecast and see?’ ‘Those lads don’t have a clue. No point in asking them!’ ‘Right so. You know better than the weatherman, of course.’ ‘I hope it doesn’t stick, the whole country will grind to a halt.’ ‘Do you think I don’t know that?’ (I’ll leave it up to your imagination which speaker is which in this not-entirely-fictionalised exchange!)

Luckily, my husband has a day off from work today, so he doesn’t have to go anywhere. Tomorrow, however, he’s facing a long journey. So, I sincerely hope the snow doesn’t stay. It looks pretty and all, but after the winters we had here a few years ago I feel somewhat allergic to the sight of whiteness coating the world. I feel like those terrible, heart-freezing winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 took away all my childlike joy when it comes to snow. It wasn’t fun to be stuck on a bus trying to get home from work while watching the snow fall outside so thickly that nobody – including the driver – could see more than two feet ahead; it wasn’t fun trying to skid my way to the train station on treacherous streets made entirely of ice.

I’m looking out at our garden now and the sunlight is pouring into it, making everything look absolutely beautiful. But I’m not fooled. Avast, white stuff!

In other news, I had a busy – but rewarding – weekend. I did a lot of writing and rewriting, playing around with four stories that I’m tweaking for submission. Some of them are quite dark – we’re talking murder and totalitarian states and abusive families here – but some have touches of black comedy at their heart. It’s a tough balancing act at times, writing the sort of stories you want to write while also remembering that you need to place them with a magazine or journal willing to publish them. As well as being your best work, they sometimes need to fit a certain ‘ethos’, too. Sometimes, of course, writing with a particular focus in mind can help you to create. As I’m learning, putting parameters on your work can sometimes bring fantastic results. It almost seems counter-intuitive, but so far it has worked very well for me. Restricted word-counts, restricted themes, using prompts – they’re all worth a try.

Sometimes, though, the problem I have is not finding a starting point – it’s finding a finishing point.

On Saturday evening I was quite tired, and trying to work out the ending of a story. I’d got it to a certain point, and then I hit a wall. I really liked the story idea, and the character’s voice, and I knew I wanted to finish it, but I’d written myself into a dead-end. I was bleary eyed. I could barely see the laptop. Eventually, I had to close the computer down, but there was no rest for my brain. For the rest of the night – even into my dreams – potential endings for this story popped, with metronomic regularity, into my frazzled mind. Some of them were patently ridiculous, and others were clichéd or just, somehow, inauthentic. Finally, I came up with an ending I liked, one I could ‘see’ in my mind’s eye. (Of course, I was supposed to be sleeping peacefully at the time. But that’s just details, right? Right.) My poor husband had been attempting all evening to get me to see sense and stop working, and I did try. Just not successfully. As a result, I woke up even more tired the following day. And, the story is still not finished.

I have learned two things from this. ‘Exhaustion kills inspiration’, and ‘listen to your husband.’

In an attempt to give my brain a rest, I also started to read a biography of Mrs. Beeton, the most famous homemaker/cookery writer (arguably) in the world. I had a notion that she lived to a great age and was the matriarch of a huge, bustling family; you’d need to be an imposing figure to achieve the sort of reputation she has, wouldn’t you? In fact, though, I’ve learned she died in childbirth at the age of 28, and her reputation was largely concocted by her husband and publishers. I sort of lost a bit of my faith in the world when I found this out. However, the book is excellent – impeccably researched and really interesting, particularly if you’re a fan of Victorian era-Britain. It’s so rich with detail and atmosphere that you feel like you’re walking the streets along with the people being described.

Image: books.google.com

Image: books.google.com

I recommend it, despite the fact I’m not finished it yet. It’s a large tome, so I’m only about one-third of the way through it at the moment.

And, as well as all that, something wonderful happened. Are you ready? Here we go, then.

I am going to have a story published in a literary magazine.

I’m not saying which one yet, because the editor isn’t sure when the story will be published, but as soon as I have the details, I’ll be shouting about it here. Needless to say, I am a very happy person.

I hope all your weekends were fun, relaxing and full of good things, and I hope your Monday looks bright.

Sniffles on a Cold, Cold Day

Hello! *cof*

I’ve been wiped out with illness for the last few days – I’ve been coughing, sneezing, wheezing, feeling sorry for myself and grouching a lot since Friday, and I haven’t had the energy to even think about writing a blog post. To be honest, I don’t really have the energy to think about it now, either, but I just wanted to check in with everyone and say ‘hey – I’m still here! Just about.’

It’s what I deserve for crowing last week about how I was ahead of schedule with the WiP, I guess. Pride comes before a fall, and all that! There are one or two small things I want to change before I get it printed up for its final revision, but I don’t think I’ll be doing those changes today. Well, this is assuming I can keep myself away from the keyboard – something tells me the edits will be like spoiled brats all day, kicking at the back of my brain and whingeing about how they never get what they want, until I give in and just do them. In my medicinal haze this weekend, too, I found myself having some ideas about the sequel I’d like to write to this current WiP, and the first line of an entirely new story scribbled itself across my brain, entirely unbidden, just when I had nothing in reach with which to make a note of it. I wrote down as much of it as I could remember as soon as I managed to struggle towards a pen and paper, but something tells me it’s lacking the same sparkling intrigue as the words my germ-addled brain supplied me with. Hopefully, I’ll get back to it, one of these decades.

This weekend, I finally got to watch some episodes of one of the most iconic TV shows ever made, and one which I’ve wanted to check out for some time. It was an unintended consequence of our attempts to start our Christmas shopping, which we did on Saturday. We weren’t very successful, mainly because I was delirious with fever, and couldn’t think straight due to the stupidly loud thumping music being played everywhere, but we did manage to pick up a box set of ‘The Wire’. I realise we’re about a decade behind the times with this one, but better late than never! It is just as good as everyone told me, but extremely different from what I’d expected. I suppose when you’re used to watching shows like ‘Law and Order’, cop dramas where the entire story arc, from crime to investigation to court appearance to sentencing all happens in one episode, a show like ‘The Wire’ seems almost soporific. I’m looking forward to learning from the show, though, as I’m sure it has lessons to impart about storytelling and maintenance of audience interest in characters and plot. Plus, one of the episodes we watched last night showed two of the officers examining a crime scene using only expletives to communicate with each other. It was, I have to admit, hilarious.

The Wire TV show McNulty looking out of car window

In other news – it’s an utterly freezing, completely miserable day here. My husband just phoned to tell me he’s stuck in the longest traffic tailback he’s ever seen, and the news is full of reports about flooding, impassable roads, and terrible conditions. I suppose life could be worse, then, than having to wrap up warm and keep myself stocked with Lemsip. You’re never completely ‘switched off’ when you’re trying to write or finish a book, really, and I’m sure I’ll spend most of my day with my head in my WiP, trying to tweak it until I just can’t tweak any more. I am grateful, though, for the fact that I can do this without having to face the Arctic outdoors!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful start to the week, and that you’re all in good health. Good luck with whatever it is you find yourself doing today!