Thursday, 31 October 2013

Blog Challenge - finished!

Well, I've done it. Finished the month, having missed only the day I was in hospital with my son. I consider that, near-as-dammit, 'challenge completed'.

Thirty posts in thirty-one days.

This time round, it's been exhausting! I'm not sure whether it's because the first challenge I did was in the holidays, so I had more time to write? This month, I've been so busy with stories and preparing Granny Rainbow for publication, the challenge became a chore rather than a joy.

Don't get me wrong - it has been fantastic to be a part of the facebook community and I've logged onto blogs I never would've found otherwise, meeting some really lovely bloggers on the way! I hope to keep visiting some of those which really tickled my fancy...

But the amount of creative energy it has drained is enormous, in spite of the fact that - I'll admit - I cheated a bit by posting flash fiction I'd written over the past year or so. In reality, I've probably only written 15 new posts during the month.

It's also made me question why I'm blogging.

I know that: a) I like writing b) I'm slowly putting myself 'out there' as an author without (I hope) beating everyone over the head and screaming 'Lookit! I write stories! Read them! Buy them!' and c) I'm sharing what goes on in my life and my writing. (Look here if you do want to buy books with my stories in though!)

For me, blogging's not a business. I want it to be, primarily, a shared conversation between me and you - like a quick chat over coffee, a chance to catch up.

As of tomorrow, it's back to just 2/3 posts a week so I can get back to writing my stories, but don't worry - I'll let you know what's happening.

I'm still looking forward to our next chat, but for now... catch you later!

Katherine x

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A little bit of flash - Jennifer

This story had to be created around a song title. As a huge fan of the Eurythmics, I chose 'Jennifer' from the 1983 album 'Sweet Dreams (Are made of this)'. 

'Jennifer, with your orange hair
Jennifer, with your green eyes
Jennifer in your dress of deepest purple
Jennifer, where are you tonight? 
Underneath the water...'

The newspaper slips from my nerveless fingers.

I stare at the vendor, his face swimming before my eyes. I think he speaks, but I can find no answer in the depths of my agony. I stumble away, staggering along the pavement like a drunkard.    
My only thought – underneath the water! My heart tears.

I think I shout her name - Jennifer! - and gasp with the pain of knowing she will never reply.

Memories assail me...

In a room of ordinary people, she had been extraordinary, her rebellious nature evident from the brilliant orange crew cut which clashed with her dress of deepest purple. Green eyes, the same colour as the scarf draped casually around her throat, had flickered over the rest of us with something akin to amusement…and finally rested on me.

Eventually I had asked – no, I think I begged - this fascinating creature to step outside; the building we were in seemed too small to contain her. I wanted to experience her company unfettered by the confines of bricks and mortar and glass. 

Her breath had been warm against my ear. “In the park, on the little bridge,” she whispered. “Give me ten minutes.”

Now, guilt overwhelms me and forces me to my knees.

I had been late, but I had remained on that bridge until the last champagne-soaked partygoer had left and my hopes had shattered. I remember screaming to the stars; ‘Jennifer! Where are you tonight?’

If only I’d looked down.

Rudvargrad Times, April 17th.
Breaking news; The body of a young woman, strangled with a green scarf, has been discovered in the lake at Dibrovik Park. Police are appealing for anyone who might remember seeing the woman’s distinctive orange hair and purple dress…

(The song – ‘Jennifer’ by the Eurythmics, 1983.)

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

When writing hurts!

This is necessarily short today - I have a writing injury!

I spent quite a while yesterday typing up what is tentatively titled 'A Stitch in Time' - my offering for the next charity anthology by the short stories group.

Today, I can barely move my wrist.

The trouble is, I'm a petite lady. We've recently bought new mice for the computers and they are just too big for my hand. I think some research is in order, to try to find a flatter mouse...

...and I will have to give intensive writing sessions a miss for a few days.

Not happy. Not happy at all...

Monday, 28 October 2013

A little bit of flash - His other love.

Inspired by our own much-loved Moggy Traveller, and the hours my hubbie used to spend looking after it... 

It was to be her final triumph, the life insurance.

She had planned it to the last detail.

He’d spent hours on the blasted thing, leaving her alone in the house with a silver screen of flickering images for company.

Each evening, he returned from work, wolfed his dinner and donned the tatty, oily jeans and grubby jacket to which the smell of oil, fiberglass filler and Swarfega clung. Then he disappeared into the garage.

Hours and hours he spent in there, rebuilding.

‘It’s an investment’, he told her. ‘It won’t cost us a penny in road tax once it’s done, and I’ll be able to maintain it myself.’

But already, the restoration had taken thousands. From their holiday fund.

Her dream - of a beach hut with an infinity pool on a desert island - had slipped away.

Every moment he spent with his new love, hate ate her up a little more. At Christmas, she even hung a bunch of mistletoe over the bonnet...he thought it was a great joke.

So he wasn’t the only one who spent hours reading the Haynes manual for the Morris Traveller. Or who knew how to tighten a brake union.

When the money finally arrived after the tragic accident, she smiled bravely.

‘I kept asking him if he knew what he was doing,’ she murmured through her tears.

He wasn’t the only one who knew how to fix up a car.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The big reveal - Granny Rainbow's cover!

Well, here it is!

The cover of Granny Rainbow, illustrated by Laura Buckland and designed by Imran Siddiq!
(Huge, HUGE thanks to them for their artistic input - I am indebted to them both!)

We went through a few ideas before settling on this as a final design - we started with shelves of coloured powder bottles, (too busy), then Granny in silhouette against a lovely swirly tree background. Although fabulous in concept, that particular image was felt to contrast too much with the content and intended age range of the book.

Then we looked at using Granny's portrait, partly because when a book is illustrated, 9 times out of 10 it uses an image by the same illustrator on the cover - presumably because it gives you a flavour of what's inside. As all the illustrations are portraits of the various characters in the stories, this one felt right. There had to be a rainbow (of course!) and we've got the all important powder bottles.

Even looks good in thumbnail size!

So - what do you think? Would it catch your eye in a bookshop? Would you be tempted to suss it out for the little people in your life? (And I don't mean folk who are vertically challenged like me!)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A little bit of flash - Something in my pocket

Pastor Weinbaum’s sermon was dragging.

‘The ungodly shall burn in hellfire...’

At least I’d be warmer, I thought; frost had bitten hard last night. It was the first time I’d needed this coat since last winter. I shoved my hands deep into its pockets in a futile attempt to thaw my half-frozen fingers.
‘…haunts of the wicked, where all manner of debauchery…’

There was a small rectangle buried deep in the pocket. Intrigued, I drew it out. I turned the pink card over and read the words printed on it.

The Emporium  of Delight.

My hand snapped shut over the ticket, my fear of discovery now, as great as it had been then. Heat flooded my body - surely the pastor must feel it radiating from me?

‘…women of ill-repute! Gigolos! Alcohol!’

How could I possibly explain the lure of prohibited pleasure? Memories filled my head. I’d felt like a sparrow among birds of paradise; heady from exotic scents, dazzled by a rainbow of colour and bewildered by music of a kind I’d never heard before. How could I have forgotten the decadence of the interior, all red velvet and gilded wood? Or my first ever sip of champagne from a crystal flute? Or the young gentleman in the peacock blue waistcoat who had flirted so outrageously with me and asked to see me again?

A secret smile tugged at my lips as I stopped listening to the pastor and considered the request.

Maybe he would, I told myself.

Friday, 25 October 2013

When Squidge went skiing...

Yesterday, I had my first ever skiing lesson.

To understand just how momentous an event this was, you have to know something important;
1. I hate being cold.
2. I can't roller skate or ice skate.
3. Skiing has never, at any point in my life, appealed to me. 

So why the lesson?

Mr Squidge has been skiing - once. Years ago, when he was young and fit and a student; the memories of that time have lived on. (Even though he smashed his hip on a rock - because falling over was an easier way to stop than the method taught - and he still has a dint in his thigh as a result, twenty-five years later)

My daughter went skiing earlier this year with school, after a series of lessons at the Tamworth SnowDome. She loved it. 

My son...wants to go skiing.

We have also recently bought, via a charity auction, a week in a friend's flat in Aschau...which has a skiing resort.

Result; they've ganged up on me.

Now, assuming that we can actually book a holiday when there's snow on the ground and which fits in with school term times (like looking for a needle in a haystack, unless we pay extortionate prices for flights and ski passes because the tour operators have got school holidays marked in dark red 'this is where we make the money' ink)  I did say that I was prepared to skiing. 

Once. To try it. 

So the lesson, Katherine, I hear you ask - did you enjoy it? Did you have fun?

Erm... they are not the words I would use to describe the two hours I spent at the SnowDome in Tamworth. I didn't HATE it, but it wouldn't be what I would call fun. I did spend a lot of time laughing - at myself. I am not a natural skiier, and would probably be best repeating the whole of lesson one because I didn't feel comfortable and confident with what I was doing today. I could have done with longer to master the basics

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a video on YouTube somewhere; me going down the ski slope backwards, on hands and skis with bum in the air, doing about 55 miles an hour before crashing into the barrier at the bottom...

Will I go back? Probably. Will I get better? Maybe. Will I ever enjoy it? That remains to be seen. 

But my favourite choice for a holiday is still sun, sea and sand.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

A little bit of flash - Last line/First line

This snippet was based on using the last line of the previous entrant's story as the first line of my own...I picked up a killer.

His words trailed off as the officer disintegrated before his eyes, part of him flying into the hedgerow, part into the row of chrysanthemum’s behind them.

Damn these artificial police officers. The mark 3’s just weren’t sturdy enough for field work.

Ten of the mark 2’s had exploded before anyone realized that a blip in their circuitry was reacting to exposure to chlorophyll and blowing the systems. The Mark 3’s were supposed to have been fixed. At least this one had been OK until he sniffed a daisy.

Matthison pressed the button on his intercom.

“Er – Trath? We seem to have sorted the chlorophyll problem.”

His earpiece crackled with static, then Trath’s voice exploded in his ear.

“Really? Hey, dude, that’s good news!”

Matthison’s face twisted into a grimace within his isolator mask. He’d hoped for success: then the artificials would be out here 24-7 instead of him, looking out for the enviros who were trying to destroy the pure-bred pollaxes. Why the grath couldn’t they see that pollaxes were the only way to feed the population since the Great Contamination? If they got the artificials right, then he wouldn’t have to risk his own ass in the storm of hatha-particles which still filled the atmosphere. Matthison cleared his throat and flicked the intercom switch again.

“Not exactly…they’ve developed a severe case of hayfever instead.” 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Granny Rainbow takes a trip to the printers: Part 1.

When I first thought of self-publishing Granny Rainbow, I knew I didn't want to go via Amazon. Not sure why, exactly, as most of my stories to date have been published using Createspace.

Anyway - yesterday, I went to a local printer, (Dovecote Press), who works with a local publisher I've helped with some editing (Panda Eyes). I took with me a mock-up of formatted text, (based on a 5" x 8" page size) some of the illustrations and the cover design.

I don't know what I was expecting to find at the printers - long gone are the days where huge printing presses clatter and rattle; it's all digitalised and computer screens - but there are still HUGE piles of paper everywhere and tubs of ink...

Anyhow - the upshot is that I now know;

1. A fair bit more about putting a physical book together - Granny Rainbow will be stapled and bound, not 'perfect bound.' The cover hides the staples, and I'm assured that the book won't fall apart.

2. A Xerox machine will be better for my initially small print runs. When I'm selling thousands, it switches to the BIG machine...(yeah, right!)

3. The more I can do up-front with respect to editing, proof-reading and formatting, the better it is for the printer - and the cheaper it could work out for me on unit price.

4. That my initial deadline to myself of 'before Christmas' might not be for the best - the printer advises an after Christmas publication/launch date to take advantage of all those book tokens bought as presents. This is because the printer and publisher have links to our local Waterstones store for their local history books; they are hopeful the branch will support and stock Granny too.

5. How important it is, for me personally, to deal with real people and support local businesses rather than deal with a faceless megacompany.

And the last thing I've learnt? That you can be scared and excited in equal measure when you take the plunge to self-pub because I have no idea how Granny will be received by a wider public - but I'm getting really close to the point of finding out! 

Added sometime later: On the subject of finding out what people think... I am one very happy Squidge! Have now received feedback from four young test-readers of Granny Rainbow... 4/4 likes - nay, dare I say, loves - though I probably need to adjust the intended age range to a slightly younger audience. All the stories were enjoyed,  whether they were read by or to the child, with the 'little green man' and 'black shadow' stories coming out as favourites. Also sounds like they were a hit with some of the parents too...

And just to put the topping on the lovely warm and fuzzy feeling I'm experiencing, I found out that one of those young readers has already introduced her friend to the stories I wrote in 'Reading is Magic'; they have been singing the 'Follow the Yellow Sick Toad' song and made up actions to go with it! How cool is that?!

Beginning to believe that kids really will enjoy my stories...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A little bit of flash - The Bluebird

This is a comp I set - using something visual as inspiration. You can see the variety of stories and what I chose as a winner, here. I couldn't resist writing something myself...

Every Firstday, I send the price of a ticket to the Teatr Fratang. Every Tenthday, I watch the performance, as I have done every mooncycle since the Bluebird arrived.

This Tenthday, like always, I leave the cheap floor seats behind. As the seating rises in height, so too does its price; I can afford to be high. I settle into my usual place, a skyseat in the very centre of the row. The view here is astounding – you can almost reach out and touch The Bluebird as she flies past.

When she steps onto the launching platform, there is a murmur of excitement. Blue-green feathers waft gently around her face, teased by the heat rising from the bodies beneath. Gas lamps add a mellow sheen to her golden bodysuit.

She glances over her shoulder, knowing exactly where I will be. Our eyes lock.

Ungrateful bitch.

To think I was once besotted with her flawless beauty and exquisite performance.

‘My art is for all to enjoy.’ That is what she dared to tell me when she refused the rare blue silk I offered her - my last, desperate attempt to win her over. Well, if I can’t buy her for my own private entertainment…

The Bluebird steps to the edge of the platform and stretches out her arms, readying herself for the first leap.

My eyes drift upwards. To the ceiling, where the ropes and ribbons so integral to her performance, are secured.

Well, all except one.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Knitting socks...and how it helps writing

I bet you're wondering how the heck I can combine knitting socks with writing? All will become clear... I hope!

I like knitting; I'm a pretty accomplished knitter. A few years ago, for a challenge, I taught myself to knit socks. They look fiendishly difficult, but are actually quite easy once you get the hang of where all the pins go. Most of the time, I knit on three pins - on a triangle, if you can imagine that - and except for the fiddly bit when I shape the heel, I'm basically knitting a continuous spiral. On three pins.

See what I mean about the triangle?

(This is where the link to writing comes in... but you don't have to be a knitter to understand it!)

It's this triangular aspect that's important to writing.

Y'see, I did an online self-editing course a little over twelve months ago, run by the Writer's Workshop. (Fab course - one's just about to start again, well worth the money and I guarantee you'll never look at your WIP in quite the same way again after doing it!)

In one of the early lessons, we were given an exercise; to write a maximum of 3 sentences per chapter of our WIP, describing what happens and how that moves the story along. Essentially - where did the scene start, what happens and how do the characters react, where do they end up as a result?

Remember I told you about the three pins? And knitting in a spiral? Well, my story-telling and knitting of socks just morphed into a knit-a-story analogy! Let me explain...

When I knit, I complete three pins worth of stitches to complete one circular row. Three pins - three stages in my chapter. So I can view one row knitted as another chapter completed. And then I do it all over again... I end up a little further along the sock/through the story as a result of this continuous circling; the sock grows, the story develops.

My current WIP, Ani's story, doesn't look like it is going to have chapters. Does that muck up this analogy of one round of three pins equals a chapter?

Not at all. I still use the same three stages (starting point, action, where d'you end up?) over and over again to develop my storyline - but they won't be defined by chapter breaks. If we think of it in knitting terms again, it's more a case of sussing out when the sock's long enough (without counting the rows) before I turn the heel. Or - as was the case with my last pair of socks, knitted from leftover sock wool - when does it feel right to change to a new colour?

Look what I ended up with when I used that method!

I just hope Ani's story ends up as colourful as my odd-bod socks... and that I've not stretched this analogy too far!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A little bit of flash - On the fourth day...

We were given the starter paragraph (in bold) for this one - and we had to do the research to make it authentic in historical detail. As a fantasy writer, I actively avoid research, so this was a challenge and a half... The end result is set circa 1290AD, and relates to Stuttgart.

After four days of rain, when the Neckar River was at its angriest – swollen higher than anyone had ever seen it before – Wilhelm’s life was changed forever. The river was at bursting point with the unstoppable effluence cascading down from the Swabian Alps. Even the infinite, thirsty root system of the vast Black Forest did little to assuage the onslaught.

On that black foreboding day, Wilhelm did not envy the men who, even in these atrocious conditions, continued to raft the best timber the Black Forest could offer on the back of the ‘wild fellow’.

The rain had stopped by the time he set off for his rather less dangerous appointment, and Wilhelm was glad of it. He had not wanted the new woollen mantle to be ruined on its first wearing; he would not regret spending a single pfennig on it, if Count Wurttemberg approved. And at least it hid the worst of the ink-spots that continually stained his tunic. There was, unfortunately, absolutely nothing he could do to hide the ink stains on his fingers...

As he wove between the half-timbered houses, the smoke from their chimneys stinging his eyes, Wilhelm felt a sudden surge of pride for his home. The pasture which had once been home to Duke Luitolf von Schwaben’s stud horses had witnessed the growth of a settlement, a settlement raised to the status of town a little under sixty years ago. And now – now, it was on the verge of transforming into a city. Stuortengarten needed only one more thing before it could be granted that elevated status…and Wilhelm hoped he would be the one to supply it.

The moat around the simple fortified castle had widened by half again, thanks to the four-day long deluge. Pausing at the bridge to gather his thoughts, Wilhelm tried to wipe away the worst of the mud which had splattered his longbraies and shoes, but only succeeded in making things worse.

With a sigh, and hoping the mantle alone would be enough to create a professional appearance, he gave it up. Instead, Wilhelm checked that the parchment was still tucked into his belt. It was.

On it was a simple sketch, but one Wilhelm hoped would grace the new city’s arms for centuries to come. Two black stallions, surrounded by branches and leaves. Stuorten and garten – mare and pasture - a canting coat of arms to pay tribute to the city’s humble origins. He took a deep breath, and marched over the bridge.    

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Better late than never...

Apologies, blog readers - missed Thursday's post due to a brief stay in hospital with my son. Fortunately he's OK...and you still get to read this, even if it's a couple of days late!

There's been a lot of press recently about authors who expect to be paid for attendance at events and festivals.

Many authors who make their living from their writing charge for their appearances, whether it's at a school, a writing festival or writing conference. And quite rightly so, I think, because words are their bread and butter. These folk pay their bills with the books they sell and every event attended is more time where they can't get those words on the page to sell in the future. It's treating writing as a business.

Which I find puts me, personally, into a bit of a quandary...

To date, I have had five short stories published. (And a competition winning limerick. I won £50 for that!) I have made no money at all from the five stories; they were all written because I was keen to use my talent to raise money for charities. My words for free - my choice.

In the words of Mr Squidge, 'This writing lark's an expensive hobby.'

I'd like to think I could make money from writing books and stories. It won't be mega bucks - at least I'm realistic on that score. But one day, it would be nice to be in credit re writing rather than always in debit.

So - why am I wittering about payment for authors then? Well, it's because I'm beginning to get recognition as an author. Not in a massive way - not even really outside of my circle of friends - but a couple of those friends who work in schools have suggested that I go in and talk to the kids about writing. (Especially as literacy levels in this country continue to fall.)

My problem is that I don't feel my work to date justifies charging anyone to have me talk about it - heck, I do it for free all the time to anyone that'll listen! That's why I blog! But neither do I want to undermine the fabulous authors who give talks and make visits as part of their career - and charge for it. (I've experienced a few talks and believe me - those authors earn every penny of their fee.)

The only thing I feel comfortable doing, at least until I have a product of my own to sell and *fingers crossed* make money from, is charging only if I am going to be expected to run a workshop. Reading a story to a class comes free - but preparing a classroom session will cost.

It's an uncomfortable choice and I expect that asking for payment will probably reduce the number of opportunities I'm offered, but I think I owe it to my fellow authors not to give away for free what they are paid to do.

Just don't come back to me and say that exposure of any kind helps to raise my profile of a committed author and I should be glad to do it for free...

Because I can't eat publicity.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A little bit of flash - The Shipping Forecast

On my way to the harbour, the skipping chant gets louder; I pause to listen.

‘Viking, Utsire - North and South
Forties, Cromarty, Forth, Tyne.’

The names have lost their meaning now…there is too much water, and weather patterns continue to become ever more unpredictable.

‘Dogger, Fisher, German Blight.’

I can’t help smiling. As a child, I thought that a dogger must be someone like old Tom, his hunting hounds running at his heel…and I used to feel scared in case I caught German Blight; was it like marsh fever, which struck suddenly and fatally?

‘Humber, Thames, Dover, Wight.’

The estuaries were swallowed up in the rising waters and London disappeared before I was born, when even the newest Thames barrier proved insufficient. Vast swathes of prime agricultural land were lost from Norfolk at the same time; the latest genetic crop variants are still unable to tolerate the salt-poisoned fields, but we live in hope.

‘Portland, Plymouth,  
Biscay, Trafalgar.'

There's an elephant called Trafalgar in Twycross Zoo - the only one to survive the flood of 2078.

'Fitzroy, Sole,

Perhaps, one day, the waters will recede and we can reclaim something of what has been drowned. They used to build dykes in Holland…we can build them again.


‘Fastnet, Irish Sea, 
Shannon, Rockall, Malin, 
Hebrides, Bailey, 
Faaaair Isle.’

This was once a fair isle indeed if you believe the archives. I’ve pored over all the pictures; The White Cliffs, the Broads, Westminster…so much lost to us.

‘Faeroes, Southeast I-celand.’

As the chant ends and is replaced by laughter, I heft my camera higher on my shoulder and prepare to board.

They call my job ‘Reconnaissance’; a fancy way to say I record the appetite of the water, noting where it’s nibbled the rocks or taken fresh bites of softer sandstone.

Eating my world.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A little bit of flash - Fever.

38 degrees.
The doctor said it was nothing to worry about, probably just a virus. Keep him off school.

41.2 degrees
Another visit to the doctor. Unusual for the fever to have spiked so quickly, but it would pass. Keep giving the magic medicine.

43.6 degrees
Convulsions. Flashing blue lights clear our route to the hospital.

45.8 degrees
Medical staff surround the bed. Sponging with cold water does nothing to bring the temperature down. My boy…

47.7 degrees
The plastic sheet on the mattress has begun to melt and stick to his body. A nurse whispers ‘is it another one?’

49.1 degrees
It shouldn’t be possible – he’s hanging on, but god knows how. We can do nothing but listen to his ragged breaths and the bip bip bip of the monitor.

50.3 degrees

4 degrees
Autopsy Report.
Initial examination of the deceased showed a viscous grey liquid seeping from the nasal cavity. On opening the skull, it appeared that the brain had melted. Fifth recorded death with identical symptoms.

This is a new locus of infection; twenty three pupils from the deceased’s school, seven members of hospital staff and the child’s parents are already displaying elevated temperatures.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Don't miss your chance to 'Challenge Me'...

This is the last call for 'Challenge me' suggestions!!

I'm running a bit of a competition - the winner will receive a warm fuzzy glow and the kudos associated with the fact that their three unrelated objects were chosen to be included in a unique piece of flash fiction, written by ME and posted here, on Squidge's Scribbles!

I'm going to post all the suggestions received so far in this thread so they're all in one, blog reader, have until midnight GMT today to add your own. Please bear in mind I reserve the right to delete what I deem to be unsuitable suggestions - remember I write mostly for kids.

My family will be asked to choose their favourite combo from all those received, and I'll write the story to include them and post it on the 31st October.

It was great fun last time; I wrote two stories in the end, because I promised to create something unique for the only child who joined in - and I am a children's author after all. Check out Arnie's Aerial Adventure and The Ride to Heaven Retirement Ranch to see what I made of a kiwi, flying elephant and snowman, plus a cowboy hat, rocking horse and zimmer frame...

Let's see what you can come up with this time round - over to you!

Monday, 14 October 2013

A little bit of flash - Characters

Not strictly speaking a story - but the challenge was to show character-in-action. Both are sketches of characters who I'm hoping will appear in future Rurik stories...


The crowd parted.

Into their midst strolled Feliks, his left arm curled possessively around the waist of a Ladylark. As the men fell back he acknowledged them with a wave of the ebony cane in his other hand, the ruby in its handle throwing shards of blood red light over their features.

“Are you having a good time, boys?” The question fell into deep silence. Feliks’ grey eyes narrowed. “It seems not. Rosa - sing!”

The woman at his side planted a kiss on his cheek before wriggling free of his embrace.

Feliks turned towards the bar. “A bottle of Bloodboil, and be quick with it.”

The barman almost ran across to the raised platform, but Feliks still arrived first. The gentleman lowered himself onto the couch, crossing his legs carefully so as to avoid creasing his linen trousers. The cane was laid aside as Feliks fetched a thin silver case from his pocket.

The barman, a sheen of sweat visible across his bald pate, struck a match.

Feliks opened the case and placed a dark cigarette between his lips. He leaned forward to touch it to the flame, which trembled only slightly in his employee’s hands. When a wisp of smoke rose into the air, Feliks waved the man away. 

With a sigh of satisfaction, he loosened the cravat at his throat, undid the gold buttons of his jacket and draped a silken-sleeved arm along the back of the couch.

He took a deep pull on the cigarette, rolling the smoke around his mouth while he surveyed the silent men standing beneath him. As the first notes sounded on the piano, Feliks blew out a perfect smoke ring. 

The diamond in his tooth flashed as he grinned. “Sing, boys! Sing!”


 A grimy hand snatched the bread virtually from under the stallholder’s nose.


But already the thief was out of earshot.

Amba scurried between the long skirts and greatcoats and market barrows, her eyes darting from side to side in a constant search for uniform. She clutched the loaf to her chest, drawing into herself what little heat remained in it. Gradually she slowed her pace.

Only when she was absolutely certain that no-one was after her did she stop. Amba allowed herself a triumphant smile. It had been so easy!

She tucked the loaf into the waistband of her skirt in an attempt to keep it clean and flicked a black flea from the golden crust. They would have a feast tonight – providing she could get it home safely. Almost absently she scratched at a couple of bites on her arm, considering the safest route to take with her treasure.

A pungent smell wafted under her nose. Amba sniffed the air, trying to pin down the source of the deliciousness. Her eyes widened. Over there!

The barrowman speared a fat sausage from his makeshift grill and slapped it between two slices of thick black bread. The sandwich joined several others, all kept warm on a metal tray heated by several candles.

Saliva flooded Amba’s mouth. What a prize that would be, if she could get it.
She moved steadily towards her target, taking a circuitous route just like Pa had taught her, all the while scanning faces, making sure that they hadn’t noticed her. She was almost there. Within touching distance. Wait! Wait…till the barrowman turns to the grill again…Now!

Her hand shot out and closed around her prize. She snatched it back and spun away…but she’d been careless! Over there - the unmistakeable navy trousers and red coat of a Protector.   

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Progress on my writing targets - how much have I achieved?

Some time back, I set myself some targets in my writing. You can see them here. I looked back over them today, and have surprised myself with what I've achieved.

1. Get Rurik ready for York; York is a dim and distant memory now, but Rurik was there! Admittedly he got conflicting reviews (!) and since then, has been tweaked to reduce the 'ring problem', but that means he's...

2. ...ready to submit to agents again. Over half term next week, I shall be hunting children's agent details, ready to send Rurik out into the world again... And if all else fails, I may self-pub.

4. Plot ideas for a new book; (and yes, I've missed number 3 out - I'll come to that in a minute!) I have begun to jot ideas for not one, but TWO completely different stories. One fantasy, one historical. I've been very organised (for me) and kept them in separate notebooks so they don't get confused, and I've taken the 'just do it' approach to Ani's story, which has been a bit of a revelation.

5. Be more disciplined about writing; since giving up work, I have not felt under as much pressure to write, which oddly, has meant I've been more productive. I have the freedom to clean the house in a morning for example, then write for a couple of hours in the afternoon. The Ultimate Blog Challenge has helped, as have the challenges on terrible minds and the latest charity collections by the short story group I belong to. On the whole - yes, I now write every day - blog, flash, on the laptop, in a notebook, on rough paper...


3. Self-publish Granny Rainbow; She's formatted, looking lovely, and out with some young readers at the moment. Laura is working hard to get the pictures finished this month (studies permitting), and I am waiting to hear when I can meet the local publisher to see if he wants to take Granny on. If not, I'm ready to go POD. A friend is playing with cover ideas and I've also been researching local independent bookshops with a view to asking them to stock a book which has been written and illustrated by local folk ('It's a local shop, for local people!' The League of Gentlemen). All this - without a physical book in my hand. I think it's the area where I've had to do the most, yet I'm still a way off achieving the end result. But it will come, hopefully before Christmas.

So there you go.

Squidge is on track and feeling good, though she's becoming aware that she needs to stop herself from getting too distracted by all the 'little' writing projects and keep focussed on the bigger WIP's.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A little bit of flash - Advice

All based on my own personal experience... 

Primary school dress code (females).

Don’t be tempted to buy expensive items to wear at school. Buy from Primani or a charity shop, so you won’t get upset at the glue/paint/snot/pigeon poo that finds its way onto your clothing and never, ever comes off.

Wear what you want to wear, even if it’s a bit different to what is currently fashionable. Better to blaze a trail than follow the herd. (Don’t worry that the Year 6 girls don’t agree with your choices – you can get your own back when they arrive, completely overdressed, for the school disco).

Always check the back view of your reflection. You might be able to ignore it, but the kids will tell everyone about your horrendous VPL.

Do remember to wear several layers, as classrooms are either red hot and stuffy or freezing. The upside is that when you look like the Michelin woman, children just bounce off when they run into you on the playground.

Choose shoes carefully. The one day you decide to wear heels will be the day after rain, when the teacher takes the class out onto the field for an inventive lesson in spelling. 

Don’t wear anything the same colour as the school uniform if you are vertically challenged. It’s not good for morale to be told off by a dinner lady who has mistaken you for a pupil. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

House warming - literally.

I live in a pre-war semi. They are not renowned for their warmth.

The weather has turned distinctly autumnal and chilly this week and boy, are we feeling it. It’s not as bad as when we first moved in, twenty years ago. I can remember being so cold, I used to sit in the lounge and cry, wondering whether we had done the right thing in buying the house.

Since then, we’ve ‘Taken Steps’. Every set of curtains now has a thermal lining…we have replaced the steel window frames with double-glazed wooden ones…we have a more efficient boiler…I have draught-excluders for every door… I wear two pairs of socks routinely, three jumpers, a scarf and fingerless mitts if I’m sitting typing. Or, like Garfield, I sit in the sun by the French windows, moving with the patch of warmth as it crosses the room.

It’s not helped at the moment by the fact that some of our draught-proofing measures need to be replaced. I have to find another pillow to stuff up one of our chimneys for example, as the last one went a bit rank thanks to the dead pigeon.

The current project is underfloor insulation. I did offer to go under the floorboards for Mr. Squidge (I’m 5’0” – he’s 6’3”) but he declined to accept. We thought it would be a fairly easy job; measure the distance between the joists, cut the boards to the right length, whack it in and bingo!

What we hadn’t reckoned on was joists that are most definitely NOT parallel, the various pipeworks that are under the floor AND the fact that the trapdoor isn’t wide enough for some of the pieces we’ve cut so they’ve had to be cut again.

It has taken the best part of two days so far and we’ve not even finished the first room; we still have the back room and the hall to do.

This isn't Mr Squidge, by the way!

Ah well, at least once it’s finished, I might be able to take off a layer or two.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Forgotten Library.

Right - I ought to explain the reason behind this blog post.

I follow terrible minds, the blog by Chuck Wendig. Every now and again, he sets a writing challenge for his readers - this is the first one I've had a go at. You can check out how the challenge works here. 

So, welcome, fellow terrible minders - hope you enjoy my offering and feel free to have a look round while you're here! (If you like what you're reading, you can even challenge me...check out this post.) 

The Forgotten Library. 

I don’t know why I kept having this urge to keep going to the Old City.

‘It’s dangerous,’ they said.

‘There’s nothing there,’ they said.

‘The hive mind has declared it unnecessary,’ they said.

The hive mind. Yeah.

Perhaps part of the attraction was because I was only weeks away from being initiated into it? I was rebelling against the restrictions that were soon to be placed upon me.

‘It’s perfectly natural,’ Maira told me. ‘We all go through it. Prior to initiation we are so used to thinking for ourselves, we imagine it hard to give up that independence of thought.’

‘Is it? Hard?’ I asked.

She smiled. ‘Of course not.’

Even so, I made the most of the weeks left to me. I explored the shells of houses, wondered at the simplicity of engineering in the rusted vehicles, imagined what it must have been like to live – in those times.

I discovered the library one day when it rained; I only went in so I could eat my lunch and stay dry.
I noticed the twisted columns first, flanking a door which hung loose from its hinges. The roof still looked fairly intact so I risked it, pushing my way through the gap. Inside, it wasn’t as dry as I’d hoped; a glass dome in the ceiling had partially collapsed, rain staining the marble floor beneath it. But from both sides of the room, a sweeping staircase ascended to a balcony; it’d be dry under there. I dropped into its shelter, shrugging off my damp leathers. When I looked up, my breath froze in my chest.


How had the hive missed them?

‘All relevant information was aquired after The Resolution and absorbed by the hive. Physical books were destroyed as there was no requirement to assimilate knowledge on an individual basis.’ I could almost hear Draib’s voice in my ear – the lesson had been drummed into us in preparation for the initiation.

But right here, right now, I still had my brain to myself. I crept towards the nearest shelf. I’d seen paper of course, but in the relic rooms. I’d never held a single sheet, let alone a whole book; there were thousands here. Had it been a public library? A space where knowledge had been freely available to anyone who walked in? Or was it a private collection? 

I ran my finger along the wooden shelf, not daring to touch the books, pausing by a faded spine which caught my eye. Thank the hive for lessons in the Ancient Language. ‘The C..l..or o.. M…gic, Terr..Pra..ett.’ Had the words inside fared better?

Trembling, I pulled the paperback from the shelf, dislodging dust and dead flies. I felt the weight of it in my hand and stared, entranced, at the colour and wild images on the intact cover.

‘The Colour of Magic, by Terry Pratchett.’ My voice was loud in the rain-soaked silence. ‘In a distant and second-hand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly, the curling star-mists waver and part… See… Great A’Tuin the Turtle comes…’

It was only when I heard the dogs barking that I realised how late it was getting. The book had been like a drug, compelling me to keep reading. Is this what it had been like? Before the hive? How was it possible for words to create images in my head, make my heart pound, make me laugh out loud? I stuffed the book back on the shelf and began to run, hoping to make it home before curfew.

I went back as often as I could, devouring those pages that remained legible within their covers, losing myself in mythical worlds and fairytales and horror and history. And I started to write…strange tales that were not as polished as those I read, but which sought to be free of my mind. I filled notebooks with scribbles and ideas, revelling in them all, yet strangely angry that I would lose this newly awakened ability at my initiation.

On the day of the initiation, I tucked that first book – The Colour of Magic - into my shirt. I would keep it with me throughout the procedure, hoping that its physical presence would soften the blow of losing it all.

Maira strapped me in, waiting as I sank into the soft gel seat and the first tendril snaked down from the pulsing blue mass above my head, questing, looking for my nose. I stiffened at the tickle in my nasal cavity, swiftly followed by the thrust of the tentacle breaking into my brain. I pressed a hand to my chest – to where the book was concealed – and closed my eyes.

An image of Great A’Tuin filled my head. A weight pressed down in my brain, suppressing it, until it disappeared like smoke on a windy day.

Another image: a wooden trunk on legs, running, always running. Followed quickly by a failed wizard…dragons…a skeleton in a black cloak with eyes like blue diamonds… Every time a new image rose up, the weight in my brain tried to press it down…

But there were too many pictures.

Instead of the weight, from elsewhere I felt…curiosity? Inquisitive others, seeking more of what I was viewing inside my brain, images that could not exist in mere fact.

The pictures began to merge, a collage of characters and scenes and emotions. With a herculean effort the hive pushed the tentacle further and harder, but I fought it.

My eyes shot open as I realised other minds connected to it were fighting too.

Above me, the hive was seeping green-blue fluid from a million puncture wounds, shrivelling even as I watched. The tendril inside my head retracted so fast, it felt like it dragged half my brain with it. 

With a scream of pain...fury...despair…the blue-green mass exploded. 

‘Where are the books?’ Maira whispered into the stunned silence.

Tried to find the artist's name to credit this, but no success.  
Hope you don't mind that I used this picture as inspiration for the story. Katherine 

'Can't you see I'm getting older?'

It's a line from George Micheal - his album 'Older' - which I bought the year I was 30. I suppose it came to mind because last Sunday, we had a family celebration for my mum's 70th. So 'age' was very much on-topic, especially as we sat working out how many grandchildren would be 18 the year I was 50!

Sometimes, my own age takes me by surprise. Not that I feel ancient - just that I suddenly catch sight of myself and think 'how did I get so grey?' or 'when did my daughter get taller than me when she's not wearing heels' or 'exactly how old am I again?'

When I was 40, we put together a load of photos of me growing up and I flicked back through them yesterday evening. Made me laugh - I obviously had a thing about dressing up even when I was little (I could've posted a picture of me as Great Uncle Bulgaria, from The Wombles...but wasn't brave enough!)

I thought I'd share a few of them with you, so you can have a laugh at my expense this wonderful Wednesday!

Toddler Squidge
Dressed for a dance show

'Big School'
The Uni years

2004 - the grey creeps in
2006 - 70's night

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A little bit of flash - 'It rained anyway...'

My sister always plans everything to perfection.

“Quentin and I will be married on Moonlight Island as soon as it gets dark,” she told me. “I shall be Ophelia, and he, Oberon. Fairy lights will twinkle in the trees and the lake will be full of our guests, watching from candlelit gondolas. There will be swans and mermaids -”

“Mermaids? “

“Mermaids, yes. And afterwards, the new Mr and Mrs Farquason-Smythe will be rowed sedately back across the lake to the sound of haunting music.”

“What, as in ‘whoooo’?”

“Don’t be silly. We’ll proceed to the magical gazebo - ”

“A tent that does tricks?”

“Jane, you’re not taking this seriously.”

“Sorry. Carry on.”

“Proceed to the gazebo, where we will partake of a sumptuous buffet, followed with starlit dancing on the lawn until the small hours.”


You see, that’s the problem with Marcie. She never does things by halves; her wedding day is Midsummer’s Eve, so now we’re up to our necks in Shakespeare, impractical gossamer gowns, mermaids and fairies. I swear she’s even organised a balmy summer evening.

I tried to sound a note of caution, but she would she listen? Would she heck!

Nothing would go wrong, she assured me. Her wedding was planned to the nth degree. Everything was sorted, from the bridesmaids disguised as flower fairies to shower the newlyweds in rose petals to her exquisite designer stilettos and matching fairy wings. Woe betide anyone or anything that spoils her dream.

But there are some things you just can’t plan for.

It rained anyway.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Colouring in - how hard can it be?

My son has just started an art project at school, where he has to focus on a particular artist.

He's a pretty good artist himself - he prefers to draw very detailed miniatures in black and white - hence his choice of artist: the wonderfully talented Chris Riddell, who illustrated the amazing Edge Chronicles, Coraline, the Grayeyard Book, Platypus and loads of other titles of his own and others authorship. (And his blog is amazing - lots and lots of sketchbook pics!)

T was really excited, thought it would be a great project. Based on what his sister had had to do two years ago, we knew you had to reproduce pieces of the artist's work, which, given that Mr Riddell works mainly in black-and-white, T thought it would be right up his street.

Until this week.

For homework, T had to use coloured pencils on his chosen image. Not a problem, we thought - all Chris's book covers are in colour.

There's just one teeny-weensy problem.

T hates adding colour to his drawings. (Unless it's great big, bold blocks of it on robots and fantastic creatures.) He feels that it ruins all the hard work and detail he's put into the basic pencil drawing, and he is never, ever satisfied with the end result - because he hasn't chosen to use colour often enough on detailed pictures to get good at it.

So then we start to slide down a vicious spiral...

'My colouring in is rubbish, so I won't do it...which means I'm not getting better at it...which means my pictures look I'm not going to colour anything and why does the teacher want colour anyway? I don't like colour - I like pencil! Why can't I just do it in pencil?'

I like drawing and colouring - heck, I even had some designs made into rubber stamps a few years back - and I'm trying to help and encourage as much as I can. Ultimately though, it's up to T, and whether he can accept that school art is there to broaden his experience, allowing him to use different artistic media.

But it did set me wondering. Do I do the same in my writing sometimes? Stick to what I'm comfortable with, refusing to push the boundaries of my creativity and refusing to persist with something 'cos it seems too hard?

Well, blog reader, you'll have to be the judge of that. Every even-numbered day through October, I'm posting 'a little piece of flash', here on Squidge's Scribbles. I consider them my 'practise pieces' when I'm trying something different - you'll have to let me know whether my 'colouring in' is OK?

Or do I have to practise a bit more?

Note - added later by viewer of T's pencil drawings and THE coloured-in one that sparked this post...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A little bit of flash - 17 Nouns

This story had to be woven around 17 nouns, taken from the 17 entries to a previous comp. The nouns are in bold...

Because of the invitation, I faced an agony of indecision. Did I dare bridge the yawning gap between us?

I only saw him yesterday.

Before the temperature had risen too high, I’d gone to the beach. I’d danced along the shingle, laughing like a child, revelling in my aloneness.

But someone had laughed with me; a man, standing on the balcony of the old colonial mansion which overlooked the river. “What’s your name?” he’d called.

Should I have answered? I wasn’t supposed to, but there was something about his smile…so I did.

Today, while I feed endless lengths of material towards the darting needle of the sewing machine, all my thoughts are of him. Of his pale skin and hair, and of the eyes which I am certain will be as blue as the sky above my head. Such a contrast to my own dark colouring.

He is a free spirit…I am tied.

“Get stitchin’!”

Marla punctuates her order with a slap, so I stitch carefully around the cuff, hiding my terror of her. My pitiful salary is hers to command…the sun seems to shine less brightly as I remember that.

So now, I am back at the river house. I am no fool; this is no courtship. I am merely an amusement, a fact confirmed when a glass is raised in a mocking toast at my approach.

Strangely, my thoughts turn to Marla. I can earn more in one night here than in a month with her.

When the man smiles, his teeth shine in the candlelight.

Picture credit: Delia Tournay Godfrey

Don't forget, blog reader, that you have a chance to 'Challenge Me'; give me 3 unrelated items which, if chosen by my family, will be woven into a unique piece of flash and posted on the 31st. Leave them here if you fancy having a go...

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Squidge's rainbow life.

I love all things rainbow.

Here's my daughter modelling a rainbow jumper that I knitted when I was a student. She wore it for a 1980's themed charity day at school earlier this year. Most of the time, it sits in my wardrobe, as mohair isn't exactly fashionable any more. But I keep it 'cos I made it, and if it's as cold at the Festival of Writing next year as it was this, I might have to dig it out again. (J looks a lot better in it than I ever did...)

When I got married, the cake had tiny rainbows on it. It also had a cluster of rainbow-coloured flowers on the top layer. (Should have been red and orange, to go with green and yellow on the middle and blue and purple on the bottom, but the decorator misunderstood my instructions.)

I bought a rainbow cross to hang in my window. Only problem is, I can't remember where I've put it. Somewhere safe, no doubt, and I'll find it when I'm not looking for it.

I stitched a Noah's Ark sampler a while back. I had to source new threads for the rainbow because those provided just weren't 'right'.

My avatar on the Word Cloud is always a rainbow - my favourite is a button collage, but I'm currently an origami construction. I even put 'Squidge - Rainbow Writer' on my cards for York. And I've written a rainbow book - about Granny Rainbow. (Even if I did lump indigo and violet together in the 'purple' chapter.)

I don't let this fascination control me - I don't have rainbow rooms for example. That would be just too weird.

Why am I so taken by rainbows, I hear you ask.

Honestly? I have no idea.

I have a faith, so the rainbow is important to me because it represents a certain promise, but I think in the main it's something to do with purity. Rainbow colours (for me) have to be 'true' and in the right order. (Woe betide one that has pink or turquoise in it, red at the bottom, or two shades of blue instead of purple.) It's all about my love of colour, and how it makes me feel.

I reckon the world would be pretty dull if I only saw it in shades of grey.

Friday, 4 October 2013

A little bit of flash - Secrets.

I do my best to keep up appearances. And I think you noticed; you said your heart skipped a beat when you saw me at the bar.

When I saw you…mine didn’t.

You see, the mechanical pump they implanted into my chest is guaranteed for fifty years. Tha-dum, tha-dum, every two seconds, for fifty years. The old organic one leaked like a sieve.

You like my hair? Yes, I’m currently a redhead, but who knows…this time next week, I could be brunette or blonde. I have a fantastic hairdresser who styles my wigs, because I have to disguise the metal plate in my skull somehow. There wasn’t enough skin left to cover it, I’m afraid.

The unusual colour of my eyes…well, I was lucky, they matched the shade perfectly. The days of glass orbs are long gone; nowadays, they grow organic replacements. Imagine, hundreds of eyeballs, waiting in glass jars for victims like me. Thanks to modern technology, they can even mimic the movements of the remaining eye.

You compliment my dress, but think it strange to wear long-sleeves in the height of summer. I have no choice. You really wouldn’t like to see where my bionic arm joins the stump. The prosthetic is temperature regulated, covered in the latest flexi-skin, and capable of reacting to the few remaining nerves I have left to make it more realistic. And thank goodness for false nails…because the ones on my left hand will never grow again.

But if you looked at me, you’d never know.

You can’t see what he did to me.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Ani's story...the beginning of a new WIP

Yesterday, I sat for two hours and wrote.


On a new project that I think might actually have a lot going for it.

It's not unusual for me to write for that long in one stint, but the hours I spend 'writing' are more often than not spent tweaking and rewriting, so I end up overwriting and losing the spark that was there initially. I talked about that with respect to Rurik, recently.

This time, I decided to do things a bit differently.

I just let rip; let my - left brain or right brain? Can't remember - the twirly, creative half of the grey matter anyway, kick into gear. And I went with it. I found myself writing in snapshots of dialogue and scenes and emotions. I didn't bother checking up on what I've called a character - I just wrote 'sister' or cousin if I couldn't remember. If I couldn't 'see' how something would work in the plot just yet, I made a few notes, skipped it and moved on to the next piece of dialogue/action that got things moving again. 

It was like verbal diarrhoea, running from my brain directly into the keyboard; I could see all the nebulous thoughts I'd had about Ani's story solidifying and settling into the rough shape of what it will become. There's still a lot of work to do - I have no doubt of that. But I've started, and I'm not going to stop. 

Neither will I let myself look back over what I've written until I've got to the end of the 's****y first draft'.

Wish me luck. x

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A little bit of flash - Role Reversal

I kneel beside the cage. Reaching between the bars, I stroke the hair of the slumbering form within. She stirs, but does not wake.

“A shame to destroy such a beautiful creature,” Father says.

“But I have no need of her, now that you have found me the perfect mate,” I answer.

My hand is taken; a thumb is smoothed across the tattoo on the inside of my wrist…checking.

“Very well. I shall make the necessary arrangements.”

A dry kiss is planted on my forehead and I remind myself it is one of the few more I must endure. Soon, there will be passionate kisses from my beloved. Andreth. From the first moment I saw him, I was determined to have him.

In the cage, the creature’s eyes have opened. I see my reflection in them and smile. I cannot resent her now, knowing what is to come for both of us.

She had lived for twenty privileged years before I was created - it was her father’s genius which gave me life. Twenty years of growth, purely physical, experienced in just a few short months. My sole purpose: to allow the father to assess potential mates for his daughter without compromising either her virtue or value.

But dear Father had not reckoned on me finding love.

It is his own flesh and blood, her natural birthmark camouflaged, who lies drugged within the cage…not, as he believes, the result of his cloning experiment. 

The clone is outside…where I will remain.

Don't forget to 'Challenge me!' with three items by the 15th them here.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Uni days.

I live in a university town.

There are times I hate it - like when one of the students next-door-but-one came home in the early hours after a night out and literally smashed the front door in 'cos he forgot his keys...or the piles of vomit in the town centre which mark the progress of a pub crawl...or the piles of rubbish which are dumped outside front doors at the end of the academic year.

There are times when I think it's great - as a guider I often benefited from new leaders, courtesy of ScoGui...when I'm watching the rag parade in October...and the sheer energy and variety of young people discovering real life and the town's market for the first time.

This year, I know several young folk who are Freshers - Laura (my illustrator), Ed, my nephew, Suze - and there are quite a few more who are looking to go to uni next year.

It made me reminisce about my own first year at uni - well, polytechnic as it was then - and I decided to write a few memories, in the style of Joe Brainard (used by Andrew Wille in the four elements of Creativity). Hope you don't mind me indulging...

I remember '2B or not 2B - that is the kitchen.'
I remember four piglets.
I remember my first pint of cloudy, flat Scrumpy at The Feathers.
I remember being scared of the football fans pouring through the underpass to get to the Molineux Stadium and watching them from the kitchen window.
I remember not thinking at all about how Mum and Dad must've felt, leaving me there.
I remember the black, red and yellow patchowrk duvet cover that I'd not long finished making being put on the bed: to make it feel like home.
I remember going to the Rocky Horror Show at the Grand Theatre and having to buy suspenders and stockings for the lads.
I remember being paranoid about avoiding an overdraft.
I remember thinking 'I don't need to buy all these text books'...until my first module's results came through.
I remember sobbing when my Grandpa died.
I remember making friends who are still friends.
I remember making friends with folk I've lost touch with and wondering now what they're up to.
I remember some friends who are no longer with us.
I remember eating steak and kidney pie with rice, because I was too lazy to peel potatoes.
I remember Norma, our wonderful Brummy cleaner.
I remember the wolf on my t-shirt for Wolves Poly.
I remember the four seasons postcards I picked up from a poster sale.
I remember singing along to the Eurythmics, with each of us taking a different harmony line.
I remember looking forward to a visitor from Newcastle every three weeks.
I remember...

Feel free to add your own 'I remembers'...