Jilly: Till Death Do Us Part–A Winter Short Story

I’ve been having trouble with my WIP this week—I think the Girls in the Basement are in holiday mode—so after much fruitless wheel-spinning I decided to see if I could tempt them back into action by trying something different.

I’ll let you know whether it works, but for now here’s a chilly short story using the prompt words from Elizabeth’s most recent Friday Writing Sprints post: Guide, Reflection, Freedom, History, Hope, Pageant, Cherish, Winter, Rattle, Sleep, Amusing, Celebrity, Ankle, Frog, Kingdom, Eruption.

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“In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…”

Arturo Black, the celebrity-slash-actor playing immortal anti-hero Constant Dangier, stared deep into my eyes. His beautiful voice echoed around the vaulted ceiling. To his right a strategically placed sheet of polished steel bounced light on to his pale skin, but his reflection was non-existent.

I started shivering, and no matter how hard I bit my lip or dug my nails into my palm, gelid tremors kept cascading down my spine. I told myself it was because Dartmoor in mid-December was no place to be wearing a strapless, backless froth of white lace and precious little else.

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Jilly: Practical Gifts for Writers

What’s on your wish list for Christmas, or your holiday of choice, or your next birthday? Do you prefer to receive pretty, imaginative gifts or plain, practical ones?

On Thursday, Michille offered a selection of cute and clever writing-themed ideas. I’d be delighted to receive any of them (my fave is the bathtub caddy with built-in kindle and wineglass holders) but if I had my choice I’d prefer something practical to keep my writerly bandwagon rolling.

Any of these would put a smile on my face:

Free: Creative Kickstarters
I’d love somebody to spend a little time and trouble curating (say) a dozen recommendations especially for me—could be novels, or biographies, music, movies or experiences. The idea would be to offer suggestions that the giver thinks would be new to me and that I would enjoy. Part of the fun for me would be to investigate the suggestions, to think about why the giver decided to recommend them for me, and to decide whether to go ahead and invest in them.

Inexpensive: Screen cleaning cloths
Do you use microfiber cloths to clean your phone and computer screen? It seems as though all my electronic devices are perpetually smeary, and there’s never a clean microfiber cloth to hand when I want one.

Inexpensive: Kitchen timer
When I’m in a good writing rhythm, I like to write for 45 minutes and take a break for 15, rinse and repeat as often as I can. At the moment I use the timer on my phone, but a mechanical timer for my desk would be fun and useful. The UK version of Amazon has a mind-boggling 173 pages of products to choose from. Continue reading

Jilly: Eight Years of Kindle

According to various articles I’ve read on the interwebs this week, the Kindle was ten years old on 19 November 2017. I’m in the UK, where we didn’t get to join the party until a couple of years later, but still. Only eight years! Feels like a lifetime.

It’s the season for counting our blessings, and while the invention of the Kindle is by no means the best thing that’s ever happened to me, it transformed my reading life and I am exceedingly grateful for it. Here’s why: Continue reading

Jilly: Three Things I Learned at McKee’s Story Seminar

I promised to report back on last weekend’s craft marathon, otherwise known as Four Days of McKee—three days of the legendary Story seminar and a further day dedicated to the Love Story.

It was physically grueling. I can’t remember the last time I spent four eleven-hour days in a row sitting in a lecture theater, and it’s been more than thirty years since I had to take notes longhand. I treated myself to a new notebook and pen for the occasion.

It was mentally challenging. I had mixed feelings about Mr KcKee’s teaching style (to say he has strong opinions, robustly expressed, would be to understate the case), but no reservations about the quality of his analysis. Even though much of the material was familiar to me and I only made extended notes where I thought it necessary, I still filled more than sixty pages and went home every night with a head full of new ideas.

I could blog for the next year or more about the things that I learned, but three nuggets top my list of things to chew on, because I think they will be especially useful to me when I get on to writing Alexis’s prequel story. All three were superbly illustrated during the final session of Story—a six-hour scene-by-scene analysis of Casablanca and again during Love Story’s breakdown of The Bridges of Madison County.

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Jilly: Gollanczfest

Are you doing anything special this weekend?

While some of the other Ladies are NaNo-ing, I’ll be spending a chunk of November in writing craft workshops, and I’m kicking off the fun this weekend by attending the Gollancz Festival—a celebration of all things science fiction and fantasy hosted by the publisher and supported by a galaxy of their authors.

I’m writing this post early, because I plan to spend Saturday in London at the Gollancz Writers’ Day—a day of workshops and talks focused on the mechanics and skills needed by the modern writer.

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Jilly: The Seeds of a New Story

How was your week? Did you learn anything new?

It’s been good news/bad news here. The good news is that after a frustrating few days when I couldn’t get a grip on my new story, on Tuesday things fell into place. A propos of nothing I had a flash of insight that gave me a premise for the book and the GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) for all the main characters. As a bonus, I even figured out who owns the story.

The bad news is, it seems farming and gardening are important to the new WIP, and I have a brown thumb. My mother and grandmother were excellent gardeners, but I don’t even have houseplants, because they take one look at me and give up the ghost.

It would have been great if the Girls had sent up a plot I knew something about, but I’m not complaining–I’m grateful to get a workable idea. The garden stuff is important, but it’s a vehicle for the characters and conflict, and as long as I get those right, everything else is fixable. My current plan is Continue reading

Jilly: Good Ghost Story–The Girl in a Swing

Do you enjoy a good ghost story? They’re not usually my thing, but around this time of year they creep up on me whether I will or no. Like yesterday, when I found myself drawn into Michaeline’s excellent and satisfying re-telling of the story of Old Betty and Raw Head the razorback hog.

That set me to wondering what’s the best ghost story I ever read. Richard Adams’ The Girl in a Swing won by a mile. In case you’re wondering, yes, it is by the author of Watership Down. He wrote a number of other novels in various genres, but as far as I’m aware this is his only scary story. It may not be the most famous ghost story I’ve ever read, but it’s the one that had the most profound and lasting effect on me.

The Girl in a Swing was published in 1980 so it must be more than thirty years since I first read it, and I can still remember how it made me feel. It’s not a slam-bam horror story. There are no chainsaws or buckets of blood. It’s a story of ordinary people living normal lives in a present-day world. It’s very low-key and the pace is deliberately slow. The writing is quality, as you’d expect, and little by little, it drew me in until I was completely hooked. Richard Adams did a brilliant job of making me care about the characters, and at the end I was horrified, scared, shocked, moved and very sad.

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