INSPIRATION – MINE YOUR CHILDHOOD MEMORIES


we had one just like this in our kitchen at home. When the pull-down shelf came off, the cabinet was moved into the dining room & used to store crockery. My father fixed the shelf to the kitchen wall and it became 'the flap'. On the bottom left you can see a blue caddy very similar to the yellow one our kitten got into...
we had one just like this in our kitchen at home. When the pull-down shelf came off, the cabinet was moved into the dining room & used to store crockery. My father fixed the shelf to the kitchen wall and it became ‘the flap’. On the bottom left you can see a blue caddy very similar to the yellow one our kitten got into…

Today I was sorting the recycling ready for the bin men to collect tomorrow. As I tore apart and flattened a box which had contained tea bags (Yorkshire Gold, if anyone is interested) I was suddenly reminded of the smell of the tea caddy my mother used to keep ‘on the flap’ (an enamel-topped shelf that my father put up in the kitchen) – the caddy was the size of a small biscuit tin, part of a set of three – Tea, Coffee and Sugar. I recall our second cat (I don’t remember the first, a cat called Lucky who wasn’t – I seem to remember that he got run over, quite an achievement in the late fifties/early sixties when there weren’t nearly as many cars on the road as there are now) just about fitting in one of them not long after we first got her. (Quite what we were doing with the caddie, and why Kitty came to be in it, I have no idea) This prompted me to search online for images of kitchen furniture from the 50’s and 60’s, which in turn gave me an idea for a story about… but that would be telling. You’ll have to read my next short story collection to find out (see if you can guess which one it was).  It also reminded me of the smell of the PG Tips cards, which came in a variety of topics and which you could save up and put into an album …

PG Tips 'Famous People' we had this one, too
PG Tips ‘Famous People’
we had this one, too
PG Tips - Trees of Britain - we had this one
PG Tips – Trees of Britain – we had this one

I also remember the smell of coal smoke as I walked home from school on a winter afternoon, the smell of paraffin from the portable heater we used in the hallway (and the curtain that went across the  front door to keep out the draft – because winters were definitely colder when I was a child!) and the peppery smell of the coal shed. I’m sure there is a story in each of those memories, should I decide to explore them!

A few months ago, I penned a post about the sights and sounds of my childhood, prompted by the arrival of a modern day ‘Rag & Bone’ man in our street. Inspiration can strike a writer at any time, spark a hundred ideas – a sight, a sound, a memory evoked by a smell…   What sights, sounds or smells have inspired you to write a story?

I NEED A TIME MACHINE! (Or, “Not enough hours in the day!” – an Indie Author’s lament)


nyan-cat-tardis-doctor-who-704066
Gif: clipartsheep.com

As a fan of science-fiction, I’ve often thought how useful a time machine would be for a writer. Just think: you could hop into your TARDIS (surely the most recognisable time machine since HG Wells’ comfy armchair) write five thousand words whilst hovering in no-time (a.k.a. ‘the void’ or the ‘time vortex’) and be back in time for tea without anyone even knowing that you’ve been away!

More to the point (of this blog entry, at least) is that you’d have time to catch up on all those ‘How To: write/find your audience/get an agent-slash-publishing deal’  etc. emails flooding into your InBox each day.

How do you (and this is a serious question) ever find time to read them all? Should you even try, when surely typing your query into Google will likely bring up links to all those blog entries anyway? And assuming, of course, that the author has entered the relevant tags into their post.

The answer is, I believe, that you can’t.  How many hours of writing time do we regularly sacrifice to reading blogs that just might give us a new insight and improve our writing/audience reach/chances of landing a publishing deal  (which may or may not be the  ultimate goal of every Indie Author – opinions vary) etc.?

This from someone (me) who regularly works their way through a groaning InBox, painstakingly un-subscribing to all those blogs/feeds that I subscribed to weeks/months ago, in the hope that they might help me to become a better/more successful writer. I regularly ignore my own advice and (perhaps) common sense, which tells me to find a few select blogs to follow and ignore the rest – flagging them as ‘spam’ if need be (which always feels like a horrible thing to do, because sometimes the author is another Indie like me, just trying to increase their Reach.)

“But,” I hear you cry, “I might miss something useful!”  This is true, you might.  But many blog sites have options to switch off email notifications altogether, or to consolidate them into a weekly digest.  Either of these options is probably preferable to having a daily flood of material you know you will never find the time to read, although the first option only works if you do remember to check the site every once in a while!

I would love to hear from other Indie Authors on the subject. How do you manage your reading/writing time, what criteria do you use for deciding which blogs to subscribe to, and do you read everything that comes into your mailbox?  I considered setting up an online survey – but since not everyone reading this will have time to take part, I decided that there probably wouldn’t be much point.

In parting, I should probably apologise for the time it may have taken you to read this, time you might otherwise have spent writing….

procrastination-clipart-writer2clipartpanda
from clipartpanda.com

TRUE GRIT – OR, WHY WRITERS ARE A MINE OF USELESS INFORMATION…


I have become, if not exactly an expert, at least more familiar with the ins and outs of gritting lorries than I ever wanted or expected to be. Why, you might well ask… well, even if you didn’t, I’m going to tell you.

This afternoon I’ve been searching, online, for images of gritting lorries, or ‘gritters’ as they’re often called. Not just any old gritter – that would be too easy. I’m looking for images of gritters, circa 1990… of the type that would have been working the streets of London in the latter part of 1990, to be more precise. It’s all in the interests of accuracy, for my book trailer, which I’m crowdfunding at the moment…

Did you know, for instance, that the winter of 2009-2010 was one of the coldest on record in the UK? I probably knew it at the time, but like most of us doubtless have, I’d forgotten. I do remember that it snowed quite heavily in December 1993, when my son was three months old: I left him and my husband in the snug warmth of our flat to drive a few miles to my cleaning job… and had to turn back after less than a mile. The local authority hadn’t gritted the roads; the weather must have caught them out.

So, searching for images of these gritters is proving frustrating, because of course, the only ones I have found are mostly of modern versions. Surely there’s a History of Gritters website?  People study trains, don’t they – why not gritters?   There’s even a ‘Pylon Monthly’** for goodness’ sake (Thank you, ‘Mock The Week‘ – saw that a few years back and it has stuck with me!)… But so far, no joy.

**Hands up if you looked at that and thought you saw, for a fleeting second, ‘Monty Python’. Yeah, me too. 

Researching something like this really forces you to think laterally.  Or outside the box. Or something. But all that  Googling ‘gritting lorries’, ‘history of gritting’, ‘gritters circa 1990’ brought up was a list of companies providing gritting services, and lots of interesting (or not, depending on whether you’re into gritters at all) news pieces about winter weather in the UK over the past couple of decades… but nothing about gritters in 1990. There’s even a brilliant website dedicated to the history of British weather, with emphasis on snow (when it did, when it didn’t) through the ages, invaluable if you’re writing a story set in the past and want to get the weather spot on (whether -ha ha- anyone would notice or care if you didn’t is neither here nor there to an author – the fact is that you will know it’s correct, should anyone ever take you up on it).  But nothing about what gritting lorries might have looked like in 1990.

I’m thinking of putting out an appeal on the Twitterverse – because someone, somewhere, must know someone who worked on the gritters in the ’90’s – maybe they’ve got a grainy photo of their dad/uncle/cousin standing proudly in front of one… they can’t all be dead, can they?  I hope not. (We’ll leave aside for a moment the idea that motorists, whilst quick to curse their Local Authority for not gritting during a cold snap, are often just as keen to whinge about the salt that bounces off the paintwork of their new Mercedes as a gritter trundles past in the opposite lane… there’s no pleasing some people.)

If I can’t find the image I’m looking for, I’m sure that my brilliant illustrator Catherine Archer-Wills will work around it – perhaps we don’t need to show much of the gritting lorry at all, maybe a headlight, the corner of a wheel… there are ways around it, of course there are.

But I’d still quite like to find that elusive image. So if you, or someone you know, ever worked for the local authority, and if you’ve got a photo of a UK gritting lorry circa 1990… I’ll send a you, free, an autographed copy of ‘The Methuselah Paradox‘ when it’s eventually published; and my undying gratitude.

And that is why writers are a mine of useless information…

EJ Jackson, November 2015

Post Script:

Success!  And here it is:

Forest Hill, London 1991, by David Wright - shared under the Creative Commons License
Forest Hill, London 1991, by David Wright – 
shared under the Creative Commons License

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS – HOW HAVING NEW NEIGHBORS CAN GIVE YOU A BOOST!


by LadySilver
art by LadySilver

The house next door has been empty for almost two years. A few months ago, we learned that the man who lived there was taken ill and was in a nursing home. I remember that soon after we moved in, a distant family member posted a parcel for our son’s eleventh birthday – it went to our neighbour because we were at work. He kindly brought it round to us that evening. It was one of the few times we spoke to him – he lived alone and kept to himself, so we didn’t really get to know him. All the same, we were sad to learn of his illness.

We also found ourselves wondering what kind of new neighbours we would eventually have once the house was sold.   When my husband (who was glad of an excuse to stop rolling around on the drive as he tried to fix his car) got chatting to a young couple who came to look at the house, and discovered that they had been back to view it several times and had fallen in love with it, we hardly dared hope their offer might be accepted, rather than the property developer who had also shown an interest.

deduction-clipart-ar12943602961303
by Clip Art Panda

Today, the empty house is empty no more – the driveway is chock full of cars, and my husband is jubilant –  it looks as if our new neighbours are indeed the friendly young couple who were so hopeful of having found their first home together. We are quietly thrilled!  We have lived in this street eleven years so far (which means our son has spent half his life so far living here – well, except when he was away at University, of course, but it was still his home) and have watched our son and his contemporaries grow up. Now there is another generation coming along – small children playing on the green (which the front of our house overlooks, one of the features which drew me to it) and pedaling/scooting around the safety of our little cul-de-sac, almost always with a watchful parent in tow.  Our new neighbors (whose names we don’t yet know) have found themselves a nice home in a good area, and hopefully they will stay and bring up a family…  very different to a house across the road, which for several years was rented out to a succession of (we discovered) ‘dubious’ characters – the Sunday morning we saw what looked very much like a drugs raid sticks in my memory, but thankfully those seem to be a thing of the past now.

Watching the  young couple move in and make the house their own reminds me of the day my husband and I moved into our first home together – it was a one-bedroom, first-floor flat with atrocious wallpaper (we had to decorate the bedroom before we could sleep in it – the paper was migraine-inducing, and neither of us have suffered with migraines before or since!) and we lived there until two years after our son came along, when it got to be too small.

But I digress… what I’m trying to say (in my usual, long-winded fashion) is that the appearance of new neighbours, in particular this young couple, has taken me back to the thrill of setting up our first home together;  and I’m excited for them.  We sit here, not getting any younger, in a house heaving with accumulated ‘stuff’, a knackered dishwasher and a garden that looks likea jungle, wondering when we might find the inclination and the energy to de-clutter and tidy up… perhaps we have just found it.

Here’s to new neighbours!

by Clip Art Hut
by Clip Art Hut


When Are You Ready to Publish?


This is very helpful for someone (me) who is in the middle of what I hope will be my final edit before sending my MS out to Beta Readers… a big thumbs up!

A Writer's Path

Start

by Amie Gibbons

Today I was telling a girl at work how scared I am to be publishing.  My first story comes out on Sunday and I’m freaking out, I told her.  She was sweet, saying I’d be fine, and then she said something that threw me.  They wouldn’t be publishing you if you weren’t ready.

View original post 469 more words

“Space is BIG. You won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-mindbogglingly big it is…”


The above quote is, of course, from ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by the late, great and hugely-missed Douglas Adams.  It continues thus: “… I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the street to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts…”   (purists note: I’m quoting this from memory since my autographed first edition of the paperback version of ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide…’ is at the other end of the house, and I’d rather like to just get on with this blog entry – so if I haven’t got it exactly right, I hope you’ll forgive me)

Where is this all leading, you could be forgiven for wondering…  Where it’s leading is to an inspiring and innovative project titled Space Corps.  Before you start thinking it sounds like something from another late and great creative, Gerry Anderson, let me tell you that it is very far from being fictional entertainment. COO/CIO Mark W Bennett is, according to his Twitter header, a ‘visionary trailblazer leading the world into a bold future’, and I see no reason to disagree with that statement, because:

Space Corps is a member driven organization with the expressed goal of:

  • Building organization with a long-term vision for the expansion of humankind across the stars
  • Continuously educating and inspiring the public mind about space, science and technology
  • Driving the development of space-based technology and engineering capabilities
  • Conducting manned and robotic space exploration
  • Enabling public access to space

Personally, I have loved the idea of mankind heading for the stars since I saw my first episode of  ‘Star Trek’ as a child. I still love it, and believe that it is essential, mankind’s next big step – the idea of humanity keeping all our eggs in one basket, as it were, is worrying, so I was very happy to learn that the first mission to Mars is already being planned.  Whether  Space Corps  or Mars One are connected with NASA’s mission in any official capacity seems to be neither here nor there – just like the moon, Mars doesn’t ‘belong’ to any one government, country or scientific body, so I imagine there will be more than one colonization project, and numerous ways for interested individuals and companies to be involved.

So if you’re as intrigued as I am and would like to find out more about what the future might hold, do check out Space Corps – there’s no join-up fee, just a place for like-minded individuals to maybe have a part in mankind’s next big adventure!

"Space is big... let's go colonize!"
“Space is big… let’s go colonize!”