The New Puppy

This little whippet puppy came into my life three weeks ago. I’ve called her Lyra, after Philip Pullman’s main character in Northern Lights – as a potential Storyhound, she should have the name of a strong female character who is brave, loyal and adventurous.

Although my books are not about dogs, I do believe their playful spirit inspires my work. I  haven’t written a word of my WIP since foster dog Keith went to his new home. For most of July I was too busy looking for another dog to find time for writing, and now Lyra is taking up most of my attention. I eventually hope to train her to be a good Storyhound, but for the moment it’s all I can do to stop her stealing my shoes and digging up the lawn.

Get away from my molehill, you rug on legs!

This is a period of adjustment for me as well as for Lyra. It’s a long time since I’ve had a puppy, and I’d forgotten what hard work they can be. After Keith, who was so calm and quiet in the house, if feels like a tiny tornado has invaded. She may look angelic, but there are times when she seems possessed by demons. She reminds me of those macaqs in Thailand who jump all over the tourists, stealing their food and their sunglasses and pulling down their pants. She certainly lives up to her name as a strong female character.

Last week I took her over to to Keith’s new home so she could meet him. She was a bit overawed by his size at first, but she’s no shrinking violet and she loves meeting new people and dogs. It soon became obvious she wanted to play, and Keith was very gentle with her.

I still haven’t got used to how tiny she is compared to Keith. I have to be careful I don’t trip over her, and when I take her for a walk it’s like having a fly on the end of the lead.

Despite the chaotic days and sleepless nights, I wouldn’t be without her. I’ve always wanted a whippet, and Lyra is a dream come true – especially when she’s asleep!

 

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The Temptation of Eve

It was another sunny day in the Garden of Eden. The birds were singing, the bees were buzzing and that big old snake was sliding around in the grass.

Adam was working in the poly tunnel, and Eve was picking plums. ‘I wish you’d go away,’ she said, as the snake slid around her feet. ‘I don’t know why God put you in here – everything else is nice, and you’re just a nuisance.’

‘That’s harsh,’ said the snake. ‘I’m not doing any harm.’

‘Yes, you are. You keep banging on about the Outside World and how wonderful it is. We’re really not interested, we’ve got everything we need here. This place is perfect – why would we want to go anywhere else?’

‘You only think it’s perfect because you’ve got nothing to compare it with. You think you look perfect, but believe me, you don’t. The naked human body isn’t a pretty sight. In the Outside World you could cover it up with pretty clothes and makeup. You could even have cosmetic surgery to tighten up that sagging belly and make your boobs bigger.’

‘Oh, go away!’ said Eve, kicking out at the snake. ‘You’re so rude! No wonder we don’t want you here.’

‘Only saying,’ said the snake, and slithered off.

He didn’t stay away for long. Eve was still picking plums when he came back.

With an apple.

‘Where did you get that?’ she said. ‘There’s only one apple tree in this garden, and no one’s supposed to touch it.’

‘A ridiculous rule, if you ask me,’ said the snake, with a sneer. ‘What’s so special about that Tree?’

‘God said we mustn’t eat its fruit,’ Eve said primly.

‘Did he tell you why we mustn’t eat it?’

‘No. But –’

‘Don’t you just hate that? When someone tells you not to do something, and when you ask why, they just say “because I said so”?’ It’s so patronising. It just makes you want to do it all the more. I bet you’ve been dying to taste a nice juicy apple off that Tree, haven’t you?’

‘Not in the least,’ lied Eve. ‘Anyway, it’s a test, isn’t it? To see how obedient we are. If we disobey God, we’ll be punished. We’ll have to go and live in the Outside World.’

The snake rolled its eyes. ‘How many times do I have to tell you, it wouldn’t be a punishment? As it happens, this apple is from the Outside World – from Tesco, to be precise.’

‘I still don’t want it,’ said Eve, but her mouth was watering. Apple was the only fruit she’d never tasted. She was eaten up with curiosity, and the sort of craving you get for something you’re not supposed to have.

‘You do want it,’ said the snake. ‘And what’s the harm? God never told you not to eat an apple from Tesco, did he? Just not from that Tree. So go on, have a bite!’

With a quick, furtive movement, Eve grabbed the apple and bit it. Her face sagged in disappointment. ‘It’s not very nice,’ she said. ‘Sort of floury. And mushy.’

The snake shrugged. ‘That’s supermarkets for you. Anyway, at least now you can say you’ve tried an apple – and you’re still here.’

At that moment, Adam came on the scene. ‘What are you doing?’ he cried, when he saw the bitten apple in Eve’s hand.

‘It’s OK, it’s not from the Tree,’ she said. ‘It’s from Tesco.’

‘Oh,’ said Adam. ‘Give us a bite, then.’

She handed him the apple, and he bit it. ‘It’s a bit floury,’ he said. ‘I can’t stand a floury apple.’

‘What d’you mean? You’ve never eaten an apple before, floury or otherwise.’

‘Of course he has!’ said the snake, with a grin. ‘I’ve been smuggling in Tesco apples for your man for a while now.’

Eve turned furiously on Adam. ‘And you’ve been all holier-than-thou about not eating apples!’

‘Only from the Tree,’ he said, putting up his hands. ‘Anyway, I’m sick of this place, it’s boring. I want to go to the Outside World. I want to wear a designer track suit, and have my teeth veneered, and drive a powerful car, and get drunk and play video games.’

‘YOU SHALL HAVE YOUR WISH!’ came a terrible Voice from the sky.

And that’s how we ended up in this mess.

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A Lucky Lurcher finds his Forever Home

A forever home has finally been found for Keith, the dog I’ve been fostering since the first lockdown last year. It’s exactly the sort of home we’ve been looking for, with a massive garden (3/4 acres) where he can run free without encountering other dogs, and a family who has fallen in love with him. They live just across the valley from me, so they’ve been able to take him for walks and get to know him before he moves in.

This is great news for Keith and I’m very happy for him, but not so happy for me. He’s been with me much longer than a dog would normally spend in a foster home, and I’m really going to miss him when he goes. He’s been a handful at times, but with help from GRW trainers he’s really come good and is a joy to have around. Part of me wishes I’d adopted him myself, but because of his size he would be difficult for me to manage when he reaches old age and its attendant mobility issues. I haven’t forgotten how hard it was lifting poor Pearl in and out of the car when she needed to go to the vet; I always had to get other people to help, and I want a dog I can manage myself.

I fostered Keith because I wasn’t ready to adopt another dog when Pearl died. Now I am ready, but adopting a rescue dog isn’t as easy as it used to be. Dogs have been like gold dust during the pandemic with so many people adopting them for company, and dog thefts have risen dramatically, with dogs being snatched from gardens and even from owners while out on walks. With such high demand, rescue centres can afford to be picky when selecting potential owners. Naturally they have to make sure the dogs go to good homes, but I’ve heard people are being refused for all sorts of odd reasons and sometimes for no reason at all. One man in his forties was refused because he was considered too old, which is ludicrous. It’s not really surprising that people end up buying from breeders.

I’ve been researching shelters online, and some have long waiting lists. On one website I found the following statement: “Due to the high volume of applications we receive we are unable to respond to everyone. If you do not hear anything within seven days, please assume that your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion”. It reminded me of the more discouraging responses I’ve received from agents and publishers. If adopting a dog is going to be as difficult as getting a book published, I may be in for a long wait.

Keith goes to his new home on Sunday. Wish him luck – and wish me luck too!

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Writer v Inner Editor

Image by Jan Steiner from Pixabay

Ed: God, what a clunky sentence.

Me: Never mind, it’ll do.

Ed: It’ll do? That’s the sort of attitude that leads to lazy writing!

Me: I meant it’ll do for now. We can tidy it up later.

Ed: You can’t keep putting things off till later.

Me: This is a first draft. I just need to get the story down, OK?

Ed: OK, whatever. Don’t mind me.

Me: Don’t worry, I won’t.

Two sentences later

Ed: You can’t put that.

Me: Why? What’s wrong with it?

Ed: It’s an adverb.

Me: I know it’s an adverb.

Ed: Adverbs aren’t allowed.

Me: They are sometimes. Where it’s appropriate. And I happen to think it’s appropriate here.

Ed: Oh, you think so, do you?

Me: Yes, I do. Adverbs are fine as long as you don’t overuse them.

Ed: It’s a slippery slope, though. You start using those things and you won’t be able to stop.

Me: I’m aware of that. Don’t worry, I’ve got it under control.

Ed: OK, if you say so.

Me: I do say so.

One line later

Ed: Oops! I spy a crutch word.

Me: I’ll kick your crutch in a minute.

Ed: There’s no need to be like that.

Me: So stop distracting me! You’re breaking my flow!

Ed: Sorry! I’m only trying to help.

Me: Well, you’re not helping. Go away if you can’t be quiet.

Ed: Where d’you want me to go?

Me: I don’t know – go for a walk, or go on holiday or something. I don’t care where you go as long as you wait your turn.

Ed: All right! I won’t say another word, I promise. I’ll be as quiet as a mouse.

A paragraph later

Ed: Oh really, I can’t have this. You’ve used ‘began’ once, ‘that’ twice, ‘was’ three times, and four ‘-ing’ words.

Me: (leaping up and wrestling Ed to the floor) Listen, you pedantic pain in the arse! If you keep questioning every word I write, you’re going to be out of a job, because there won’t be any words on the screen for you to edit! Or do you have some wonderful new idea for editing a blank page?

Ed: No! I just thought we could save time later if I did some of the editing now.

Me: I don’t want you to do some of the editing now. I don’t want you to do any editing until I’ve written the story.

Ed: (sadly) Not even a little bit?

Me: Not even a little biddy bit.

Ed: (even more sadly) OK. I understand. No editing until you’ve finished the story.

Me: Good. I’m glad we’ve got that straight.

Two paragraphs later

Ed: Better ditch that passive voice…

Me: AAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

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The Frustrated Hunter

Hi, Keith here! Annabelle has been telling me about Millie and Pearl, the two dogs who used to live here before. She said they used to leave their bodies and astral-travel to Storyland to hunt down ideas for her stories. Of course, all dogs can astral-travel – that’s what we’re doing when you think we’re asleep, and our paws are twitching – but Millie and Pearl must have been very clever to find their way to Storyland and bring back ideas. All I want to do when I astral-travel is chase astral rabbits.

Let’s face it, all I want to do is chase rabbits, full stop. I was born and bred to do it, and for the first four years of my life that’s what I was trained and encouraged to do. I love my foster home and I enjoy my walks, but it’s a bit of a pain having to wear this silly face mask when we go out – it’s not like I can catch or spread that scary human virus.

Annabelle says all Greyhound Rescue Wales foster dogs have to wear a muzzle because GRW would be responsible if we bit anyone. I’m used to it now, and it’s not uncomfortable, but having this basket over my face makes it impossible to catch anything, and it’s most frustrating to see the rabbits sitting outside their burrows laughing at me.

I suck at wildlife photography, but this really is a rabbit

The only consolation is that my friends Snip and Frieda never catch any rabbits either, and they don’t even have the excuse of a muzzle.

So I won’t be hunting down story ideas on the astral plane unless the muzzle comes off when I’m hunting on this plane. My astral time is muzzle-free and I intend to use it all for catching rabbits!

Where dat wabbit?

 

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Luxury Obstacles

Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In a recent blog post, Marquessa posed the following question: “If you could choose your own life obstacles, would you keep the ones you have?”

My answer was absolutely not! I won’t go into them here, but given the chance to ditch my current life obstacles I would do it without a second thought.

I realise every life has to have some obstacles, and if I were to trade in my current ones I’d have to accept others in their place. Here are some suggestions for life obstacles that would be acceptable to me:

  • I can’t find a reliable mechanic to service my private plane
  • My swimming pool could do with being a bit bigger
  • I’ve only got 20 pairs of shoes
  • I’d like 5 holidays a year, but my well-paid and wonderfully fulfilling career only allows me to have 3
  • Everyone thinks I’m just a pretty face
  • If I wanted to write a story about going to the doctor’s I wouldn’t have a clue as I’ve never had to go

Call me shallow, but I’m sure these challenges would make me a better person. If I was going to “learn and grow” from the ones I’ve got, I’d have done it by now!

Scott Webb from Pixabay

NB – Apologies to anyone looking for Keith’s post from yesterday – I had to take it down because Keith pressed the Publish button before it was finished. The full post will be published when he’s finished it.

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The Joy of Tinkering

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Editing is my favourite part of the writing process. The first draft is like pulling teeth, and marketing is a wall-to-wall stressfest, but tinkering with a story is pure unadulterated fun. I love fleshing out characters, colouring in scenes and tweaking the whole thing until it’s as damn near perfect as I can make it. Sometimes I think I only write a first draft so I’ve got something to tinker with.

Some years ago, I felt compelled to write a series of surreal comedies. It started off as a short story, but the characters came to vivid life and wouldn’t let me leave their world. The stories were unpublishable – the humour was too childish for adults, and the material inappropriate for children – but writing them was like an addiction to laughing gas. I felt terribly guilty because I knew I was neglecting my day job and other responsibilities for something that would never make me a living, but I got such a buzz from it, I couldn’t stop. And when they were finished, I couldn’t stop tweaking them. I was like a man who keeps a motorbike in his front room for tinkering with – a motorbike he never rides.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time, though, because I learned a lot about the craft. I learned the importance of leaving a first draft to ‘marinate’ before I started tinkering. Coming back to it with fresh eyes, I could approach the story with the clarity of a potential reader and mine the diamonds from the dross. I discovered that setting up a gag is like climbing a hill, while the gag itself is like skiing down the other side – the uphill walk mustn’t be too steep for the reader, or the downhill ride won’t be worth the effort. I learned that, with a little persistence, I could turn the messiest first draft into a story that worked for me. Best of all, there were ideas in those ‘motorbike’ books I could use in stories that might work for others.

Since my humour is so childish, I decided to adapt some of those ideas and write for children. I remember what it was like to be a child, reading books that took me to a world I wanted to live in and made me laugh along the way, and I’ve attempted to do that in my own stories. I’ve now published two middle-grade novels, and written drafts for five more which I intend to publish as a series. These are currently ‘marinating’, awaiting tinkering.

Bereft of something to tweak, I’ve recently dug out the first drafts of two old ‘motorbike’ books I never got around to editing and spent a glorious few weeks tinkering with them. I’ve rediscovered the joy of working on something that doesn’t have to please anyone else, taking pleasure in the process without worrying about the result. I don’t feel guilty this time, as it’s helping me hone my editing skills and reminding me that a first draft doesn’t have to be perfect – a good thing to remember if you want your first draft to flow.

And at least it’s not making an oily mess all over the front room.

Image by SplitShire from Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Header image by nile from Pixabay

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Change: a new anthology inspired by the #pandemic

What if humans are the disease? What if Hell is real? What if minds and memories could be recorded on a microchip? If statues had consciousness, what changes would they see? What if lockdown deprived you of all mod cons? Would you take self-sufficiency too far?

Jacket design steve@ebookcovers.uk

These are some of the questions addressed in the new anthology from Swansea and District Writers Circle – 20 original stories and poems by amateur and professional authors, partly inspired by the 2020 pandemic, approaching the subject of change from a wide variety of viewpoints. Ranging from the humorous and heartwarming to the downright disturbing, these stories make an entertaining and thought-provoking read. The anthology includes an introduction by bestselling author Catrin Collier, who is an active member of the Circle.

Change is now available on Amazon

 

 

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Season’s Greetings from Keith

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous Yule and a happy and healthy 2021!

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A “Gateway to Magic” for the Holidays!

Many thanks to horror writer Willow Croft for her lovely review of my book. Visit her blog to read the full review – you might like to check out her writing while you’re there!

Willow Croft

Happy Hanukkah! Happy holidays! etc etc.!

(Featured Book: Gateway to Magic by Annabelle Franklin which I purchased not too long ago.)

Oddly enough, even though I wrote middle grade manuscript, and tried to read as much as I could in the genre beforehand, I still feel that it’s one of my cutoffs in regards to actual reading-for-pleasure. (In my defense, it probably was even back when I WAS a middle grade reader.)

Luckily for Annabelle Franklin, there are now kids among all us grumpy old people in our family. So now I can say, “they are going to love this book”. 

Well, I don’t really know if they are going to love it, because I’m sure kids get tired of hearing what they like and don’t like and what they should like, but I’m still going to pass on this book to them, in hopes they like it.

After all…

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