Saturday, 16 August 2014

Cannibals and Cherries

Plotting is hard. All the ideas in the world can come at you quickly and in flashes of inspiration, but when it comes to actually putting them all in some sort of order, and connecting the pieces of the puzzle to create a full and complete story, that’s where it can sometimes unravel.

Yesterday I led a workshop at Sheerness Library. It was me, 13 children between the ages of six and 10, and some of their parents too. I was terrified because, to be honest, I had never taken a class before. Not like that. I’d spoken in front of people, I’d given presentations, but speaking to a room full of children and asking them to do some work for me, that was new. And it’s the summer holidays – would they really want to do the work in the first place?

I handed out the sheets of paper that I had designed and felt the first spark of something. Something that made me think the class would go okay. The children (and the parents) seemed interested.  And it was at that moment that I began to lose my fear and gain my confidence. I explained what the sheet was all about, and we got started.

The worksheet was a series of four sections that, added together, would form the basis of a plot. We only had an hour, so the children could piece their story together at home if they wanted to (and email it to me if they were really keen), but at least they could get the idea of how to begin when it came to a short story. Or a novel, come to that.

Section one was about setting, location, and time period. Section two moved onto characters. Section three was about getting conflict into the story. Section four was about the final twist, and the resolution.
In all of my writing, I find that by sticking to those four ideas I can usually come up with a story, vague though it may be. Once those ideas are in place, it’s time to connect them together.

So the workshop went well, and everyone went away with the plot to a story that they could finish up at home. Some of them were certainly impressive (one that sticks in my mind was about mermaids on the moon) and I hope that I get to read them at some point.

This morning I wanted to start a new short story. I’ve been freelancing and writing blog posts and articles about this and that for a while, and my fiction has been neglected. I thought it was time to get started again.

But instead of starting, I got stuck. I had a vague idea about roadside cherry stands and how no one ever seems to stop there, but that was all. And then I remembered my worksheet. I think I’ll fill it in and see what happens… hopefully a story will emerge! 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Ruined Castles

I visited a castle. I found it quite by accident on a bracing (read absolutely icy and face freezingly windy) countryside walk, and I wasn’t particularly expecting to find anything much at all. All around me, as I walked away from the generous car park (there were only two cars in it, and one of them was mine), through the kissing gate, and on into no man’s land, there was stillness.

It didn’t matter that I could hear the noise from the dual carriageway that I had just taken a detour off to explore this place. It didn’t even matter than I could see a motorway across the wide expanse of field in front of me. At that moment, in that second, it was peaceful, tranquil, and my heart suddenly felt light with the joy of being alive.

Have you ever felt that? I don’t think it’s a feeling that can last too long – it’s not exactly happiness, but rather a completely ‘other’ feeling of infinity combined with the absolutely knowledge of mortality. It happens every now and then, unexpectedly, and for various reasons and this, standing in the middle of a field, surrounded by far off movement and other people’s busy lives, was one of those times for me.

It fades after a time, but it’s wonderful while it lasts. 

Once I began moving again, I followed a little path that ran across a couple of fields, through some more gates, and down a winding track that crossed a one lane road. On the other side was a more substantial gate, and some goats that stared at me, unblinking, completely still. I hesitated at that point. Yes, the sign on the gate told me that this was a public footpath and that I was welcome to continue my journey (as long as I remembered to shut the gate), but it also warned me about the possibility of coming face to face with wildlife, namely sheep and goats.
And there were two of the creatures, looking at me as though daring me to carry on.

I might have turned back then, unsure of the temperament of goats, but something caught my eye. An old stone wall looped around the top of a small mound, and I could see holes that might have once been windows, perhaps a door. So I ventured onward, desperately to satiate my curiosity, no longer caring about the goats.

They ignored me anyway.

I reached the wall and discovered, remarkably, that this was a ruined castle. There was an information board to tell me that fact, the name of the place, and how long it had been there.
I spent a long time wandering the beautiful ruins, just touching the stones, just imagining what could have happened where I was standing all those centuries ago.

When I finally left, walked away, I felt different.

I felt better. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Bikers and Books

Everyone knows what a biker looks like – tattoos, leathers, beards, shaved heads (or long hair), bandannas, and, of course, a motorcycle or trike. But not everyone knows what bikers are like. They assume something, based on looks, but that isn't always the case. As the old adage goes, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, and that’s true for bikers. Or anyone, come to that.

I’ll admit that, until 26th July, I was wary of bikers. I had formed an opinion of them in general that was based purely on looks and how I imagined they would behave. I had never had anything to do with them before, had never met anyone who was into motorcycles, and only had my imagination to give me any views of anyone in leathers and sporting a hefty number of tattoos.

However, on 26th July, my views changed. I was part of a bike and trike event in Bean, Kent, and I had a stall selling my horror and children’s books. I was nervous, unsure of how my writing would go down (did bikers even read books?), and a little scared of interacting with these people with whom I had nothing in common.

The event started, and the stage in front of me was full of singers and bands. The music? All the old classics that I knew and loved, and could happily song along with. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing scary or (too) loud, no unidentifiable ‘biker’ music (whatever that is – I have no idea and probably made the genre up). It was good.

And then the bikers (or ‘people’ as I like to call them) started to venture over to me. They weren't sure. After all, I wasn't like them (although I do have one tattoo, only it wasn't on view so they weren't to know), and what if I was weird? I do write horror…

Guess what? It turns out that by speaking to other people – even if they have different likes, or dress differently, or come from a different place to you – is fun, and can lead to some interesting exchanges. It can also lead to finding out that, despite all the differences, you do have some things in common. In this case, it was liking horror, reading, and even writing.

I sold some books, and I hope the people who bought them like them.

But it wasn't so much about that. It was about opening my mind, and theirs. It was about having fun on a beautiful hot summer’s day, listening to good music and dancing and watching the children playing (Alice got her face painted as Spiderman and proceeded to sweat most of it off dancing like a mad thing to the 70’s classics).

It was a good day. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Al Fresco Writing

It’s that time of year again. It’s summer. The time when bees buzz (although sadly fewer every year), the flowers burst with colour, the smell of cut grass hovers in the air (fighting for space with the scent of cooking meat and burning coals), and children play outside long into the evening as the sun hangs around for a few extra precious hours.

Summer. Full of long, cool drinks and hot, lazy days. If we’re lucky and the weather is kind to us, of course. Summer. Paddling pools and deckchairs, Pimms o’clock at silly o’clock, and that feeling of not wanting to do much at all because life, the world, and your particular spot in it is so wonderful.

Writers, however, can’t just stop doing their thing. As Eugene Ionesco said, “A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” And a vacation doesn’t have to be two weeks away somewhere foreign. A vacation for a writer (or any ‘workaholic’, come to that) can be as little as a day off. Or an evening off. Or an hour off.

The thing with writers is, we don’t necessarily want a holiday (not without a notebook anyway). Or a day off. Or an evening off. It’s just that in the summer, with all that fresh air and warmth, all that outdoor joy, all that world out there, we might be tempted for a moment. That’s why al fresco writing is so fantastic. Grab that notebook, that laptop, that tablet, find a comfortable chair with a little shade or a picnic table, or a sun lounger for that matter, sit back (drink nearby), and relax… Then get writing! 

Friday, 27 June 2014

It's here! Doodeedoo is released today!

In honour of the fabulous Doodeedoo being released today, here is a great interview with author Tony Gilbert:

      What books or authors have influenced your writing?
As a children’s author, my original and best influence would have to be Roald Dahl. Now, that’s not to say that my writing style is even remotely similar but ‘Revolting Rhymes’, for example is right up my street. I love the mad rhymes and crazy stories and I have tried to incorporate that type of thing into both ‘Doodeedoo’ and ‘Super Fred’.

       Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’?
What’s plotting? I’ve tried plotting my work before but I end up fighting with myself and it completely changes during the actual writing. I think, what the hell, I’ll write and see what happens. You don’t plot life, you roll with the punches and that is what I try to do with my writing.

       Do the illustrations come first, or the writing?
In regards to my picture books this is? Writing first, every time. After all, the illustrators are the ones with the talent, all I do is put a load of crazy words together that shouldn’t rhyme, but really do.

      Why have you chosen your particular genre?
To tell you the truth, I haven’t. I love writing my picture book rhymes but I also write novels for older children (‘The Youngest Knight’ comes out early 2015 through Ghostly Publishing) and adult fiction (recently my work has been featured in a JWKFiction anthology, ‘Terror Train’ and my own short story/poem collection, ‘Driftwood From The Specific’, comes out within the next two months). I’m constantly trying different styles and age ranges and I’m not ready to tie myself down to one in particular just yet.

       What inspired you to get writing?
Truthfully it’s a rather dull and cliché story. I have always been a big reader and one day I went to my book shelf and realised there was nothing I fancied. I could, of course, have popped down the library or down to the bookshop, but no, I decided to jump into a life of hardship and write my own.

       Is your book based on any real life experiences?
Of course. In fact, Doodeedoo, the monster made out of socks and superglue went to the same school as me. Unfortunately I lost contact with him shortly after year six. I think he passed his eleven plus and went to grammar school, though I can’t be sure.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer?
I don’t thing I find it a challenge really. Is it a challenge to sit down and write down the weird things in my head? Is it a challenge to come up with ideas? Not really.
I know a lot of people struggle with rejection, bad reviews etc, but they don’t really bother me. I know not everyone will like what I have done, but I do, so there!

       What are you reading right now?
I am reading Elgon Williams – ‘Fried Windows – In A Light White Sauce’.

      What’s next?
I am finishing up a poetry book which has been completely written by the pupils at the school of two of my children. It is something we decided to do to raise money for the school library.
Also, finishing up the editing of my short story collection, ‘Driftwood From The Specific’. This is a prime example of my not sticking to a particular genre. As well as poetry, it contains horror, scifi, noir and general fiction.
Writing wise, I am currently about 2000 words into my first full length adult novel.

      Tell us a little about your book, and who it would appeal to.
Doodeedoo is based on the Frankenstein’s Monster story. Created by a tiny mouse with terrific sewing skills, he is scared and lonely. When he goes missing, the mouse has to search the house and find out why he ran away.
The illustrations are by my super talented wife, Sammy.
I have aimed the story at children the same ages as my own children, so anywhere from 0 to 10.

Blog -

Doodeedoo is available through and!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Doodeedoo by Tony and Sammy Gilbert

This is the fantastic cover for Visionary Press Collaborative's newest release, Doodeedoo by Tony and Sammy Gilbert. It comes out next Friday, 27th June, and it's going to be a blast! 

This is the tale of Doodeedoo
Who was made of socks and superglue
By a little mouse with tiny paws,
Red painted lips, and well-trimmed claws.

She'd read a book called Frankenstein
But never passed page 109,
And as she said, "I'll have a go!"
The mouse picked up some thread to sew.

Now if you'd read old Frankie's tale
It would make your face go rather pale
For in it he's not nice at all,
He likes to hurt and fight and maul

As he was made of evil stuff,
Of bits of dirt and all things rough.
How was the little mouse to know
As Doodeedoo began to grow?

Tony and Sammy Gilbert have been together for nearly a decade and married for just over half of that. They have four children, Tony having brought twins from a previous marriage.

They do everything together yet this is the first time they have combined their talents - Tony's writing and Sammy's art - but hopefully not the last.

If you are looking for a fun, scary, imaginative children's book in which the story and the illustrations match up perfectly, then look no further - this is it! 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Flash Fiction: Card Reading

Julia stopped card reading on her thirty-fifth birthday. It used to be a favourite past time of hers, to leave the hectic stream of the high street and enter the bright, warm, orange infused glow of the greetings card shop, her glasses instantly misting and then clearing as she started to make her way to the with sympathy section. She’d always start there; she felt it grounded her, reminded her that she was mortal, made her appreciate the life she was living. She tried to remember those cards when she was frustrated, or angry, or just generally having a bad day. It sometimes even worked.

After her sobering start, she moved to the anniversary cards. She had no one to buy one for, but it didn’t stop her looking. Pastel colours or bright, bright reds and pinks, hearts, flowers, teddy bears… Soppy and silly, but so beautiful in their charming, clichéd way.

Other sections received a brief glance, and special occasions, such as Valentine’s or Christmas, necessitated a much longer rest stop in the shop, since it was often busier inside than out. But no matter what, the birthday cards were never ignored. This was what she came for. This was what she adored, and this is what she wanted. She spent long minutes, if not hours, searching for just the right card. Sometimes she came away with nothing. Usually she came away with nothing. So far, from her hundreds of visits to the shop, she had bought just seventeen cards. She only wanted one more.

She never bought her eighteenth card.

It was twenty years before that she went to the psychic to ask her one, specific question; When will I have a baby?

Before you are thirty-five, was the answer. Certain. Definite.

It never occurred to Julia that finding a man should be her priority if she was to achieve this goal. She didn’t think of that at all; instead she planned everything else, bought everything, painted and decorated a nursery, bought a stock of nappies and clothing in different sizes, opened up a savings account for her child’s education. She had so many toys she had to store most of them in the loft, in cardboard boxes, labelled ‘Baby’.

On her thirty-fifth birthday, Julia stopped card reading. She sat, silent tears of a lost life dripping onto the seventeen birthday cards she had so carefully picked out for her child. The eighteenth would stay in the shop. Someone else could have it.

©Lisamarie Lamb 2014