Tag Archives: choosing a name

Friday Befrazzlement

This morning’s missive comes to you from a person who has been trying to put together a flash fiction piece for the past three hours, and who is starting to foam a little at the mouth.

So, here’s the deal. I have to create a story between 140 and 160 words, based around a picture prompt and a word prompt, and I feel like the proverbial camel going through the eye of the needle. My brain has a story in it, but it would take an entire novel to tell it properly, so getting it down to a teeny-tiny tale is proving (almost) too much for me. I am definitely feeling the Friday frazzle, and I have an idea that today is going to be a challenge.

My head is tired. My shoulder aches. My eyes are blurred. Writing is a hazardous endeavour, don’t you know?

Image: skybackpacking.com

Almost *exactly* like this… Image: skybackpacking.com

So, it’s been a busy few days for me. This past week, I edited ‘Emmeline’ on-screen. I thought things had gone pretty well; I’d managed to take a huge chunk out of my wordcount, bringing it down to a far more reasonable level. The book had seemed reasonably strong, and I felt I had a good, stable base to build draft 2 upon.

However, then I also started the process wherein I print out my work, in order to take a pen to it and slash it into ribbons. As before, I have been amazed by the difference between looking at a text on a computer screen and seeing it, in the flesh, in front of you; errors that I just didn’t see when I was writing the book, and even during the first editing go-round, leapt out from the printed page. I found myself drawing lines through whole paragraphs of carefully-worded text, excising them without a twinge of conscience – but it’s so much easier to do that than hit the ‘Delete’ button. Watching your hard work disappear into oblivion before your very eyes is a lot more difficult than just scribbling over your printed text. At least your words still exist, after a fashion, beneath the scribble, but when you hit ‘delete’, well. They’re gone forever.

The short of it is this. Draft 1 was all right, but not as strong as I’d thought. Draft 2 has, hopefully, started to spot all the stupid mistakes and the mindless repetition and the poor word choices and the clunky dialogue and the idiotic descriptions, and here’s hoping Draft 3 doesn’t see me putting them all back in again.

The process has been excruciatingly, painfully slow, though – I’ve only got as far as page 53 – and I hope this means that I’m doing a good job. I just want this book (complete with a shiny new name, which I’m keeping under wraps for now) ready for querying as soon as humanly possible, so that I can move on to my next project, which is already butting at the back of my brain. Such is the never-ending conveyor belt of life, isn’t it – just as you’re trying to finish one job to the best of your ability, along comes something else which needs your urgent attention. Oy vey.


Today, I need to take care of some writerly stuff, but also lots of non-writerly stuff, such as taking myself off for a long draught of fresh air, and doing some stretches, and remembering what life is like outside of my office. I may even bake some cookies, like the crazy renegade I am.

In the meantime, here is that piece of flash fiction, written in tandem with this blog post (finally):

Statue of the Republic, with the Court of Honor and Grand Basin (1890s) Image: illinoisstatesociety.typepad.com

Statue of the Republic, with the Court of Honor and Grand Basin (1890s)
Image: illinoisstatesociety.typepad.com

The image (above) had to be combined with the idea of ‘Destiny’. Tough, isn’t it?

So, of course, I decided I’d write about something really complicated.

The Stonecarver’s Boy

At his birth, his mother wept.

‘A daughter would have been wiser,’ frowned the doula, taking him away.

His training began immediately. He grew within the workshop, chisel in hand, prodigious and alone. From a distance, his mother watched.

In time, the Emperor took a wife.

‘Let it be his masterpiece,’ came the order.

His mother tried to warn him; once, she even passed beside his workbench, so close she could feel his warmth, but her dropped note was swept away.

The finished statue was fit for a goddess. On its raising day, The Imperial Guard came for its maker, and – willingly, unknowingly – he went.

‘You will never better this,’ decreed the Emperor. The blade fell quickly – there was no time for anguish. He never knew his fate was sealed from the day he was born, like all stonecarvers’ boys.

The Empress’ statue was anchored with its maker’s blood; a fitting memorial stone.


Happy Friday, and happy weekend.

I am a warrior! Image: cutestpaw.com

I am a warrior!
Image: cutestpaw.com



Patchwork Thoughts

Dear All,

Today,  my brain is a bit like a badly made salad sandwich. It’s full of lots of little bits of unidentifiable mush, most of which is green and squishy. Nothing seems to go very well with anything else, and there’s a faint tang of questionable mayonnaise. Overall, the whole thing is soggy and unappetising.

Sort of like this. Except my brain feels more green and leafy.Image: foodfalls.tumblr.com

Sort of like this. Except my brain feels more green and leafy.
Image: foodfalls.tumblr.com

So, I must beg your indulgence if today’s post is a bit stranger than normal.

The things occupying my mind today include: sudden change, religion, noms de plume, the resilience of people, and love (naturally, given the day). I can’t say why, exactly, these things are among the pieces of flotsam and jetsam washing up on the beach of my inner sea, but there you are. So, I’ll pick one of these things at random and we’ll see how we get on.

Roll up, roll up...Image: akrylix.com

Roll up, roll up…
Image: akrylix.com

And the winner is…. noms de plume (or pen names, if you don’t want to be pretentious). Did you ever want to have one, or did you ever imagine you’d adopt a different name at some point in your life? One more glamorous or interesting than your given name, maybe? I used to think about this a lot when I was younger. It probably came out of my dreams to write, or at least to be a creative person. I was going to be an artist for a while, too, but that dream sort of faded away as I grew older. But when I decided writing was my ‘thing’, I thought I’d do it under the name Yolanda Salazar, just because I liked the sound of it. Or maybe Phyllida L. Ravenscroft, or Jessica Lavery, or Xantha Musgrave. I had loads of names in my posy of identities. All of them made me sound like a middle-aged scribbler of questionable novels, the type with ripped bodices and swarthy miners/firemen/cowboys/etc. on the cover. I’m not quite sure why this was, because it’s not like I had a lot of exposure (no pun intended) to that sort of novel as a younger gal. (I should probably point out that I still don’t have any great familiarity with that sort of novel now, in my old age, either. Just in case you were wondering).

As I grew older and got a bit of sense, I decided I’d write under my middle name and my mother’s maiden name, because they sounded good together and they made sense, and I was more likely to be able to remember that name under pressure. It would be weird, I thought, to be at a book launch or some sort of terribly glamorous event and to show yourself up to be a total flake by exhibiting difficulty in remembering your own name. But then I got married, and my husband’s name rocked, so I just swiped that one (well, with my own initials in front of it, naturally). It turned out for the best in the end without me having to do very much, so it’s a bit of a win-win for me. I still have my other name (my middle name and mum’s maiden name) on the back burner, in case I decide to start writing blood-curdling horror novels at some point and want to have a different identity to slot them into. It’s good to have a plan B, I think.

Back in ‘the day’, of course, women writers sometimes needed to take male names in order to be published, or to be taken seriously. I still remember how my mind exploded when I learned that George Eliot was actually Mary Anne Evans, and I remember feeling angry when I read my introduction to ‘Wuthering Heights’ as a teenager and discovered the whole ‘Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell’ thing. My enthusiasm for name changing was nothing to do with being female, of course, but everything to do with being a pasty little Irish girl with exactly no qualifications to write or create anything. Also, my birth name came with lots of assumptions about what sort of person I was and what sort of family I came from. It even allowed people from my locality to put me in a particular ‘slot’ – they could tell whose child and grandchild I was, where I lived, and who my aunts, uncles and cousins were, just by hearing my name. Assuming a different identity gave me the freedom to be creative, I felt. It was like giving my mind a room of its own, and allowing it to do something different than just be ‘that girl from the top of the town’.

In a way, though, I’m glad that I’ve ended up using my own name (not, admittedly, the name I was born with – but it is my own name!) as I set off into my dream. Somehow, anything else would’ve felt ‘unreal’, like I was giving someone else the freedom to follow their heart, and not myself.

Amazing how much power a name can have, isn’t it?

(All right, all right. I know I can’t post on a day like V-Day without mentioning it, so here goes – happy Valentine’s Day. Let’s all do something – even something small – to let another person know they’re loved today. It’s about more than stupid cards and meaningless bunches of flowers, of course. It’s about showing someone how important they are and how much they mean to you, whether it’s your spouse, your parent(s), your sibling(s), your binman, the guy who hands you your morning coffee, whatever it might be. Everyone needs a little positivity and appreciation, and not just on February 14th either. I’m thinking of a very dear friend (hopefully, she’s reading, and if she is, she’ll know who she is) – to her, today, I want to say ‘you are loved, always.’ Happy V-Day.)