Chuffed as little mint balls

Well, these last few days have been extremely exciting on the writing front. And I mean mind blowingly so. To say I was a little bit gob smacked with the news I have received is an understatement, and I want to share it with you.

Ylva wants to publish Driving Me Mad. No. Wait. Not just Driving Me Mad, but my Halloween tale too. Actually, there is a third, but I’m going to hold back on that one as I don’t think it has been read by Astrid yet. Talk about nearly peeing myself with excitement – and it was ‘nearly’ before anyone says otherwise. That emergency wash load was only to do with catching the sunshine so I could dry my stuff without it hanging around the house. Honestly.

Some of you may have read Driving Me Mad at the Academy, but this version is so much bigger. The original was about 28,000 and the final version ended up at nearly 110,000, so you kind of get the picture of how much has been added. To be frank (not the name, just the way I’m going to say it – although the omission of the capital … okay … I’ll shut up) I loved writing her. DMM is one of those stories I needed to write in order to be bitten by the writing bug once again.

I must warn you though. She is not like my usual stories. There is violence, hatred, a definite sense of evil in this story. Not evil as in demons and monsters, well, unless you can count the actions of the human race as demonic and monstrous. But it is darker than my others.

As for my Halloween tale, as I have said in a previous post, she is more personal. This story came out like I was removing a plaster. It had to be quick, hence a short tale, but it had to do its job in one definite swoop. Riiiiiip. Done. I still feel the sting of her, but I know the cut is healing.

Obviously, I picked a few people to read both stories through, and I was surprised at the reaction I received from the shorter tale. When I posted last time and admitted it was more personal, I was told by a friend of mine that she was expecting a story of my battle with STIs. That did make me laugh. (And before you ask, no, I haven’t had an STI although I do suffer from hay fever …) To be honest, again, I felt guilty by people’s reactions. It seemed I opened up some wounds for all that read her.

Now, don’t start thinking that I gone all maudlin on your asses. I haven’t. Cross my heart, whilst not crossing my fingers, with a pinky promise thrown in for good measure. I just hope by telling this story I can show people that things can get better however hopeless they seem to be.

And now I am going to make the most of my day off from work. It is the Norfolk Show here at the moment, and ‘us’ teachers put in even more time throughout the year to get today off. I will be making the most of it. I think an extra special walk with my lads should nail it. And then it is back home to edit Still Life once again.

Happy days. Definitely happy days.

Such a fantastic cover too.

Wicked Things



Not exactly Chekov

When you think of the number seven, what comes to mind? Deadly sins, virtues, wonders of the ancient world? Does your mind consider the days of the week? The seas? The colours found in the rainbow? Or are you the kind of person that conjures Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? Snow White and her vertically challenged landlords? What about the Magnificent Seven? Maybe Blyton’s Secret Seven for those of you addicted to racist, sexist, middle class reading from childhood takes your fancy?

Seven. A prime number. A number not divisible by any other number but itself.

I bet you are wondering why I am suddenly obsessed by the number seven, or maybe thinking ‘Is she high?’ or ‘Someone’s been looking at Wiki.’ But, the answer to both is no. And if I had succumbed to the parasite of the web, I suppose I could have cited more (or even stressed “citation needed”).

However, today the number seven was very important to me. Distressingly so, as it happens. For today I found out that I had been robbed of something extremely close to my heart.

Let me put this into some kind of perspective. This is not a scenario led by a masked intruder toting a swag bag and sneaking, soundlessly, through my bedroom window in the dead of night. This thief is more subtle than that and probably waited until dawn for its attack. Going back to the ‘perspective’, I want you to consider this. How would you feel if you had spent the last 18 months loving something, nurturing something, watching it blossom and grow magnificently only to have it ravaged?

And now it is back to the number seven. Seven. The number of cherries I have been staring at for the last two months. Seven. The red plumpness of them seeming to taunt me in their readying ripeness. Seven. The number of cherries eaten by those big fat bastard pigeons in my garden. The same big fat bastard pigeons who now know they are big fat bastard pigeons as I bellowed it out for all to hear upon my discovery this afternoon.

I knew I shouldn’t have named my tree Margaret Thatcher because of her sweetness (Maggie for short – and very tongue in cheek). Knew that I was tempting fate by deliberating before impersonating the man from Del Monte in my exclamation two days ago, ‘The woman from Del Monte say “Not quite yet!” ’I should have covered the tree with a safety net, protected my bounty, stood guard over the burgeoning juicy fruits. But I was complacent. I was arrogant. I believed my cherries would only be popped by me.

So, if you were expecting something about writing when reading this post, expecting something about The Cherry Orchard and Chekov, my apologies. I would apologise more, but I have a tree of plums and one of apples to protect and haven’t got the time – although I did find the time to rant on and on about it.

But, I will make it up to you in the future. Obviously not with a cherry pie, even though it would have been a very small one.

RIP Cherries. May you rest in peace. Or, failing that, give those pesky fruit nabbers the squits.


What I’ve been up to – prepare to be bored stupid

imageIt does seem as if I’ve been quiet this week, but I haven’t been idle. Work has swallowed a lot of my time, but I’ve made sure I have kept writing. I seem to be a little inspired to write my new short story – a story that I hope will be accepted for Ylva’s Halloween anthology. I have used an aspect of what has happened, and what is still happening, in my life and made it more fictional.

The concept? Can’t really tell you that in case it is accepted, but I must admit it feels extremely personal. Even more personal than Beginnings, one of my stories from a few years back (and to date my favourite but don’t tell the other stories of my “special child” preference).

Up to now the story is 7,000 and I am hoping to get it under the maximum of 16,000 that are in Ylva’s guidelines. If not … Sigh. But I think I might just manage it if I stop waffling on and on and on which is something that I tend to do. Like now, for example.

I didn’t know where it was going I go, with the story I mean, until I opened a word document and started typing. I thought of one idea, but as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard they were off, as if racing my head to the finish line. But, both fingers and head didn’t allow for my heart coming in. Little minx that she is.

Anyway. Enough of my rambling. Just thought I would just let people know that I’m not sitting and staring into space. Also, another point mention to “want to be”writers … Blank screens are scary things and seem to loom and laugh at us poor writers. So, don’t let it win. Type anything, everything. Just write and watch as a story will eventually unfold. I do this exercise with my students – five minutes writing without thought and give them something they must include. It could be a setting, like a forest, or it could be a word like monkey. Initially, they write crap, but eventually they start to see the story coming out.

Just a thought. Although you can ignore me if you want. The kids do …

Why Fingersmith?

The name Fingersmith is not me trying to get high above my station in life, or punching above my weight. It is not me having tickets on myself, or likening my writing to Sarah Waters. The real reason I decided to call myself Fingersmith when I first posted online is very simple. Just like me.

Ever since I’d been a nipper, I read voraciously, spending all my pocket money on second hand books from Stockport market.  I think the bloke on the market stall used to let me have them cheap because he felt sorry for me. For that I thank him as I was never much of a haggler. He introduced me to Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Daphne du Maurier to name but a few. Reading was always a part of my life. My mum used to read the classics to us – a tradition handed down from her mother doing the same to her – something you would never have believed if you had ever stepped inside my childhood home. Pandemonium seemed like a chill out room.

It was never a surprise to anyone who knew me that I would one day want to study English literature. I was never without a book in my hand or one very close by. So, off to uni I went, after someone peeled my fingers from my mum’s dressing gown.

Three years I spent reading books whilst working on my degree, then another one doing a post graduate degree in teaching. By the time I had slogged through four years of reading books selected by others, and then having to read more to substantiate that initial reading, I have to admit – I hated the sight of books. Ripping them apart, over analysing them, trying to see what the writer intended when he said the ‘blinds were drawn’ had, I thought, killed the only thing I truly loved, killed part of my childhood. To be honest, I felt a sense of emptiness. Insert sad face here.

Then it happened. A snow day from work. One of those days that are pure heaven to both kids and teachers alike.

I remember the thickness of the snow as I walked into Norwich, remember stopping at a street vendor to purchase hot porridge.  It was magical. White topped white, and buildings and roads I knew well appeared breathtakingly different.

As if by some invisible string, I was pulled into a bookshop (probably to get into the warm) and found myself looking at the new releases section.  A book caught my eye, the title intriguing. Fingersmith. I remember opening the book just to see what on earth a ‘fingersmith’ was but I ended up peeling it open at the first chapter.

Just reading that first paragraph made me fall in love all over again. It was as if my heart suddenly filled with all the emotion I had locked away for far too long and allowed me accept reading back into my life.

That was it. Love in all her printed glory.

When I got home, I devoured the novel from cover to cover only to turn back to the beginning and read it all over again as soon as I’d finished it the first time.

So, when I wrote Hearts and Flowers Border and had to think of a name, it was obvious that I had to do two things. One. Promote the book I still love so much.  Two. Know that every time I sign my name ‘Fingersmith’ I will remember that if it wasn’t for that novel, I probably would never have written a story in the first place.

Come to think of it, being called by the title, or author, of my previous best loved book doesn’t sound as appealing. The pseudonym The Tenant of Wildfell Hall or Anne Bronte hasn’t got the same ring to it has it?fingersmith

Hearts and Flowers Border – where it all started.

Considering I had never, ever thought I would ever write anything worth reading, I was so surprised when I ‘penned’ Hearts. She was my first – my shocker. I can still remember how I came about writing her. I had just discovered the Academy of Bards and was agog with all the fantastic writers that I discovered. Story after story was devoured, and I was so immersed in the fantastic tales that I was stunned, upon lifting my face from my computer screen, to realise that these writers were all doing this for the love of it.

So, in my addled and story soaked brain, I thought ‘I fancy having a go at that.’ As if! Me? Writing a story? And how presumptuous to think I could actually do it!

I can still remember the first scene I completed. It was in the bedroom when Laura pretended to have cramp. I won’t go into detail as you may not have read the story, but I can still feel the sensation of seeing those images dancing in front of me, the same images I wanted to put onto paper.

After reading my draft, it seemed as if writing had slipped, effortlessly, inside me and it became a hunger that I had to feed. I was like a thing possessed. It was a matter of weeks afterwards that the story was completed and I was amazed that I had actually had the stamina complete a whole story. In the words of Laura Stewart, the narrator,Yesterday, I was just me: marking, planning, teaching, and bawling at kids who jacked around in class. It was all I had. All I needed. But today …’ – today I love to write.

cover_hearts-and-flowers-borderLet me just add one more thing before I leave you in peace. If you get the urge to write, do it. If there is a story rattling around inside you that needs to be told, be the one to tell it. Don’t worry about what others may say. Get it out there.