Well, it’s been more than a week since my last update, and here was I thinking I might start to get a bit more ‘regular’ with Drifting Astray – but never mind. This will be my third entry within the month of March, and that’s got to be a good sign!

The last two weeks have been exciting indeed (many, MANY lovely occurrences, such as meeting up with Squeaky, her hubby and Talulah, as well as finding a shiny new apartment to move into with teh Wereboy) and I haven’t had a world of time in which to write, but Aisling Weaver’s Weekend Writer challenge helped, once again.

This week I have another short story to offer, although I’m not convinced that it isn’t the start of something longer. AND I had tremendous fun/trouble fitting the images in … some of the links are quite tenuous. Some of them are laughable.

Either way, you should be warned that it is about naked alien boys and the nice girls who go looking for them. 😉

Here’s the prompt …

… and here’s what I wrote!

Earthbound

I looked down into the clear waters of the fountain and saw, in the reflected sky between the lilypads, something falling towards the earth.

I turned around to look, and saw that the falling thing was a boy who was descending gently, feet pointing towards the ground. It was as if an invisible parachute suspended him, slowly dropping him through the sky.

I felt a prickle of fear and excitement as I watched, but at the same time I was rooted to the spot. If I moved even an inch, everything in front of might begin to make sense again.

The boy in the sky was falling towards the earth. It couldn’t be real … but it was.

He’s not falling, I thought. He’s just following the most natural path through curved space. (more…)

Last week I observed the beginning of a new challenge posted by Aisling Weaver on her blog, Rebirth in Buffalo. Every week, Aisling will roll nine story cubes and post a picture of the outcome on her blog.

This is what she said:

Every week I will roll the dice. They will be posted Friday at midnight(EST). I invite all writers, no matter your genre or your style, to try your hand at this challenge. Short, long, prose, poetry, I welcome all!

Your challenge…to write a piece that encompasses the nine elements shown on the dice. Once completed, add your link below and crow your success on twitter under the hashtag #WeekendWriter! If you don’t have a blog to post to, please post it in the comments!”

It is completely ingenious, and I couldn’t wait to try it.

Here are the dice from Aisling’s blog for this week’s challenge:

… and below you can read what I came up with. I couldn’t believe how quickly the images started to trigger new ideas. I also loved reading entries from last week’s #WeekendWriter, all of them completely unique. It just goes to show the real significance of the writer’s mantra: “write what you know”.

There are many themes in life, in writing, in art, and everyone will interpret them in their own completely unique way. 🙂

The Mystery of N

“Open your eyes,” Dawn said. “You have to look at this differently.”

How? I thought.

The map was abstract. It was drawn on a square piece of parchment, depicting a rugged, rocky island with a mountain right in the middle. It was just like a treasure map from a pirate legend.

An arrow drawn above the mountain showed north, but from there, all similarity to a normal, navigational map disappeared. The shape of the island was scrawled over with symbols, hieroglyphs and letters that had no meaning for me.

“I know you have the answer all figured out,” I growled, “so why don’t you just tell me?” (more…)

… and thoughts on its future.

A few days ago, I started doing something I hadn’t done for years, not since I was a carefree 17-year-old writing Tolkien-derivative short stories …

I started making a Fantasy Map™ and boy, did I enjoy it.

There is some background to this. About a week ago I started thinking about my WIP again. The WIP has been in my head for over a year now and it’s already changed forms several times. Soon after getting back from Portugal last year I got the initial idea that set it all off. Then, as charted in this blog, I started writing it in September. Months went by, I got somewhere around the 60-90,000 word mark when I realised that the story was changing again.

It was almost like the story had its own ideas about how it wanted to be told. I blogged about it again and thought (hah!) that I was actually getting towards the end of my first draft.

How very wrong I was.

I wrote more, and more, and more. I got frustrated, was ready (again) to chuck it all away. So I left it, and let it rest. It rested, in the end, for months. Back in May I chucked down some ideas in note form about about how I could rewrite the story, because it was becoming apparent that in its current form, I would never be able to write anything resembling a coherent ending for it.

Now, those ideas have spent long enough brewing in my head that I’m ready to exorcise them and commit them to paper. I have a plan, people. A plan. Complete with – and this is the best part – an ending.

And now, the WIP has its very own Fantasy Map™. So it should all be easy from here, right?!

Well, no. Yesterday, while poring over the map in its rough form, I got a completely different idea for another story set in the same world, which is shaping up to look suspiciously like a prequel. Which ISN’T HELPFUL AT ALL. But it’s kind of cool though.

So, let the fun begin. The WIP will be reborn and in the meantime, let’s see where this other-story-that-could-be-a-prequel takes me …

Map Teaser

Oh my, is this a blurry, out-of-focus teaser image? I think so!

Hello, and welcome back to Drifting Astray! A lot has been happening in my life of late, which doesn’t excuse, but perhaps explains the long hiatus.

I started my new job at Waitrose, quickly took on lots of overtime and spent my hours at home watching Bad TV instead of writing much. Bad TV is only enjoyable for so long before you start to crave something richer. Books, then, have also been filling my time, and Better TV. I’m currently reading The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which is enjoyably dark and subtle so far.

I’ve also been reading (although I’m yet to finish) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, which has further opened my eyes to the possibilities of magical-realism and omniscient voice (which you can also find in the wonderful One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez).

I’m still toiling away at the WIP-novel, which is trickling along merrily, if slowly. I’m thankful for the fact that I seem to still be writing something, instead of nothing. A couple of years ago I might have abandoned writing completely, for several long months, after starting a new job. So I think I can say that although I’m nowhere near perfection just yet, I’m a better writer than I was back then. 🙂

I have a lot of people to thank, actually, for keeping me on the writerly straight-and-narrow. Twitter has been the safety net which has prevented me from falling off the edge of the communicating world completely, and I must give thanks to @squeakattack, @jenku70 and @atrinza in particular.

Your encouragement and wisdom has been of invaluable help, guys. 🙂

Now, in penance for neglecting you all, I offer up this short story for your entertainment …

(more…)

Sunlight on the Snow

The snow falls every year, here in the north. Winter comes with a sombre promise to take and give nothing back. But we are stubborn people. We hold on to our homes, even when it costs us dear.

South of us the valleys stretch out, welcoming warmth, sheltering it in a cradle of trees and soft grasses. But we have the mountains and the spaces in between, the small cracks where we find what warmth we can.

In the summer the frozen rivers melt and flow again in the deep ravines. The water filters through the rocks until it’s pure and sparkling – the best water you ever tasted. It nourishes the roots of the trees, and the deer drink from the streams. We kill the deer, and the snow hares, and the mountain lions. We eat them and we take their pelts for warmth.

We survive in our mountain home.

(more…)

Chihiro and the beleaguered river spirit in Spirited Away

2010. It’s the beginning of a whole new decade. I want to start this decade by being more like Chihiro, the young heroine of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece, Spirited Away. There are many points I could draw from the film – especially as an example of fantasy that has reality, truth and humanity at its heart – but I’ll be content with just one, for now.

Forced to work in a bath house run by Yubaba the witch, Chihiro has to undergo many trials in the hope of rescuing her parents, who greedily ate the food of the spirits and were turned into pigs as a result. On one particular occasion, a stinking monster comes into the bath house. He wants a bath, and he has lots of gold to offer in return. Greedy Yubaba likes the colour of his money enough to ignore the foul sludge which oozes from him, filling the bath house and scaring off the other customers.

Chihiro is given the rather daunting task of making the guest feel welcome and escorting him to his bath, which she does with heroic determination. As the monster soaks in the hot water, Chihiro realises that something is stuck in his side, and it won’t budge.

With the help of Yubaba and the other bath house attendants, Chihiro succeeds in tying a rope around the mysterious object. Then she pulls. And pulls. And pulls …

(more…)

Taken in Winter '08, looking over the garden of our house in Somerset and the hills behind.

Here I sit on a cold winter day in Somerset. The sun, which in winter never gets very high above the hills, has lowered behind them again. The clouds in the southwest are a wonderful pale soufflé-orange tinged with wintry blue at the top and – oh – the sky is now dropping crumbs of snow onto the cold flagstones of our patio, and the frozen pond.

Many other parts of Britain have already seen snow, which makes me more hopeful for a White Christmas. It would be nice, wouldn’t it?

It’s been a while since I updated this blog, so here’s a run down of what’s new.

My dad recently retired, and my immediate family (that is, my mum, my dad, my sister and I) has now relocated to a hamlet called Blackmoor which sits at the feet of the Blackdown Hills. The countryside round here is stunning, and since I’ve always found landscapes inspiring, I find that it nurtures my motivation to write on an almost daily basis.

I also accepted a job offer this week, and I’ll be starting a part time job at Waitrose, a supermarket chain owned by the John Lewis Partnership, in January. Being unemployed has not been boring, because over the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time both writing and working on a dressmaking project, at the same time as jobhunting. But I feel relief at knowing I’m out of the woods. It’ll be nice to earn money again. Also, my hours are fantastic, and will allow me time to write in the late afternoon. Success!

I’m working on the first draft of a novel. The novel. The one I’ve been charting on and off in this blog for a few months now. Something for the writer’s confessional: about two weeks ago I was ready to pack it in, convinced that there was no point in finishing a first draft which has become so wildly different to what it started as. For instance, whole characters might have to be excised or relocated in the second draft. Whole settings, scenes and conversations. We’re talking about renovations on the grand scale. I feel especially guilty about one of my former main protagonists, who in plot terms has become slightly redundant.

The long and short is that I might have to cut her completely! But isn’t that a more definitive, honest way of writing than orphaning my first draft and its protagonists and starting afresh? If I did that now I’d be back at square one. I’d be kidding myself if I thought that it would be any easier to chuck out all of the very real progress I’ve made and start from the beginning.

(more…)