This is my writing blog, where I will be shamelessly posting my work. Poems, short stories, flash fiction, extracts from novels...they'll all be here. And if you don't like any of that, just play with the tiger.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007


The following took place in a Peugeot 206 between the hours of 1.30 and 3.30 p.m on Friday August 24th.

DRIVING INSTRUCTOR: All set? Fine. To start the lesson, just ease out of the space and then turn right on leaving the car park.

VIKI (edging carefully forwards): Ok. (Unaccountably flooring it as soon as the open road is in sight) Oops.

DRIVING INSTRUCTOR (slowly relinquishing vice-like grip on dashboard and pulling foot back up through gaping hole in floor where dual controls used to be): Not to worry. Now, if I just reverse us off the grass verge, you can try that again.

VIKI (tight-lipped): Ok. Sorry.

DRIVING INSTRUCTOR reverses. VIKI inhales deeply, and attempts to manouevre up slope with car in neutral and handbrake engaged. DRIVING INSTRUCTOR smiles thinly, points to gear stick, and releases handbrake. VIKI stifles a sob.

DRIVING INSTRUCTOR: There we go. Turn right, please.

VIKI: Yup, right. (Switches on windscreen wipers; releases clutch whilst blithely ignoring gas pedal) Oh dear. Backwards.

DRIVING INSTRUCTOR (in slightly hysterical tones): HANDBRAKE!

VIKI (makes desperate lunge for handbrake; grabs radio tuner.) This isn't going too well, is it?

DRIVING INSTRUCTOR (swigging Bach's Rescue Remedy straight from bottle) It'll be fine. Right indicator, please.

VIKI indicates, makes a great show of looking left and right, and pulls out into the path of an oncoming juggernaut.

DRIVING INSTRUCTOR (screaming): So we're going now, are we? Put your foot down, then!

VIKI looks ostentatiously in rear view mirror, feigns ignorance of gesticulating truck driver, and accelerates to 13 mph.

DRIVING INSTRUCTOR: A little faster, if you feel comfortable. And do try to stay on your side of the road.

VIKI (swerves wildly and veers onto pavement. Pedestrians flee). Did I mention I passed my theory test yesterday? How long 'til I can go for the practical, do you think?

DRIVING INSTRUCTOR is last seen vaulting out of the window, tearing hair from her bleeding scalp and gibbering about how she never really wanted to be a driving instructor.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Time to tinker

It couldn't be avoided any longer. I have fired up my memory stick, donned my pernickety hat, and begun an edit of my second novel. It was written during the glorious frenzy of last year's NaNoWriMo, and is therefore slightly...shall we say...ragged. It rambles through knotted masses of adverbs, wanders off down irrelevant and verbose dead ends, and indulges in unnecessarily minute descriptions of everything.
Despite all of this, I can't help feeling that there is a story in there, and I must extract it. It will be arduous and frustrating work, but at least I have made a start. I wanted to begin now because my next Open University course is breathing ominously down my neck and threatening to dominate my every waking moment (the course is 20th Century Literature: Bunfights among Smug and Wordy Critics, or something like that). Knowing that the edit is a work in progress somehow makes me more likely to carry on once my life is my own again.
Now, if you'll hand me my machete, I'll go and see to those adverbs.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Oooh! Award!

Two happy posts in one day - this really isn't good for me. The sincerest of thanks to Graeme for giving me a Nice Matters award for my 'umble blog. I know I speak for many people when I say that Graeme's advice and encouragement to would-be writers really do make a difference. Cheers, Grum!

Pernickety hat in 'cheerful posting' shocker

That's right, I'm not whining about anything this time. Please do revel in the fact, as soon as you've finished fainting.
I passed my driving theory test today, and am jolly pleased about it - not least because they're on the brink of adding loads more questions and jacking up the price for taking the test.
That's all. Non-whiny posts on my blog are bound to be brief.

And now, here's Clarissa with the weather...

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Swift work, part two

The kids' manuscript's second foray into the treacherous world of agents lasted 10 days. To look on the positive side, at least this lot didn't purloin my paperclip.
If any agents are reading (ha!), I'd just like to make it clear that these speedy refusals won't make me stop pestering you. You may as well give in now.
That said, I think I may be well on the way to striking the ideal balance between writing and idleness. Given the increasing alacrity with which agents feel compelled to return my work, I will soon be at the happy stage where they proactively post me rejection slips without my needing to take the trouble to send a manuscript. Happy days.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Flash fiction, by Tyrone Butler

To explain: every week I'm supposed to write a piece of flash fiction on a prompt given by one of my little writing group. This week the prompt was 'window', and my feeble excuse for a brain had nothing to offer. So I asked my character Tyrone to do it instead. Makes sense now, eh?

I bought this apartment because of the window. Not the room-high one out front, but the little one looking out back, over the dumpsters. It reminds me of the other side of things, away from Central Park and sparkling avenues. Behind the glamour lies the filth.
This came home to me recently. Some squitty kid, fighting with Eugene the bellhop outside my door, yelling that I stole his story. Which, of course, I did not. He screamed so loud he even disturbed Bubba on the fifteenth. You know Bu
bba, wannabe Schwarzenegger guy who never got further than playing the knucklehead sidekick in lousy movies. Bubba’s been devoted to me since I found his stash of gay porn and suggested somebody may want to tell Entertainment Weekly. What a guy.
Bubba came racing down, ready to pound the squitty kid into next year. At this point, the kid became amenable to compromise.
‘Everyone’s agitated,’ I said, sending Eugene back to his lair. ‘Why don’t you go get some air, then we can talk this thing through?’
The kid was squeaking in agreement even as Bubba yanked him away for a tour. We have charming roof gardens – really charming.
I poured myself a JD, then went to my back window. I made a mental note to thank Bubba for stepping in, and settled back to watch my troubles fly away.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Yes, I know it's meant to be a blog about writing

I like to think I always enter into the spirit of Fridays. I wake, or at least slowly achieve some level of consciousness, with a quiet and earnest faith that it will be a good day. So when life takes it upon itself to piss upon my chips, I feel doubly cheated if it happens on a Friday.
Today, we found out that a long and thorny proposed takeover of my company (the company for which I work, that is; I'm no entrepreneur) has finally, and surprisingly, been approved. It's hard to know what will happen next, but I expect there will certainly be changes - possibly even the kind of change that involves P45s and invective-filled mutterings against the new bosses.
So, given the above, I hope I can be forgiven for harbouring a sort of crushed resentment towards the universe today. This is just the sort of behaviour I expect from a Monday.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Michael's Genius Moment

Here's the opening to a short story I wrote a couple of months ago; later sections of it need the attention of a brutal and merciless editor but I thought I'd post this bit anyway. Not that I haven't got anything new to show off, of course, dear me no...

What a time to notice it was windy up here. Clasping the futile railing with white-knuckled hands, Michael wondered why he cared about the gusty chill around his ears, the leaf-blowing sibilance on the concrete behind him. His breath sounding harsh and alien, as if it had nothing to do with his body, he inched forwards and bent his head. The ground cringed away from his sight. It felt higher than eight storeys.
The crowd was already forming. They looked up, goggle-eyed and open-mouthed, like a bunch of hungry goldfish waiting for food. Someone wore a red coat, red as guilt, and the sight seared Michael’s eyeballs. His stomach contracted, and for a second he thought he was going to vomit on his audience. He swallowed desperately, and forced his focus to spread. The crowd, like extras on a movie set, took turns to deliver hackneyed lines.
‘It’s not worth it!’ A man’s voice wafted up, vague and faraway like a half-remembered dream voice.
‘It’ll be okay, mate! Just hold fire, yeah?’ Jovial Cockney tones.
Michael felt abstractly annoyed. To the Cockney, this was just something to tell his slobbering, simian mates in the pub later on. Was this really what Michael’s destiny had intended him to be, a soon-forgotten anecdote with a splintering, splattering punch line? He shifted his grip. The crowd gasped, then settled back as they saw he wasn’t jumping yet.
A shrill, female voice burst out, on cue to ratchet up the tension. ‘Oh my god! Somebody help him! He’s going to…he’s going to…’ She cut herself off with a quivering wail.
Michael didn’t need to look at the woman to know that she had half turned away, tissue to mouth, but then turned back. She couldn’t look; she couldn’t not look. Michael understood.
As he perched, listening, he felt as if hours passed, though it could only have been minutes. Why was he waiting, anyway? Just get it over with. He wondered if he would scream, if it would be a manly, throaty ‘aaaarghhh’ or a high-pitched ‘eeeeee’. Michael willed his fingers to relax, and looked at the crowd again. He made profuse mental apologies to the woman standing front and centre, knowing with detached certainty that, on impact, her shoes would be indelibly stained by gobbets of his brains. He closed his eyes, and stepped out onto air.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Giddy up!

Never one to ignore an old chestnut, I have followed that rule about what to do when you fall off a horse (no, not cry). The kids' novel has once more ventured out into the world, and perhaps it will fare better now that is a more seasoned traveller. I picture it loitering in a sorting office somewhere between Manchester and London, eyeing the other letters with a steely gaze and drawling, 'yeah, I travel down here all the time,' as it takes a nonchalant drag of its fag. I'm only sorry I can't claim air miles for it; I'd be eligible for a flight to Mars by the end of the year.

Other than using work's franking machine for nefarious purposes (shh! I'll give you chocolate if you promise not to tell my boss), I have been most diligently NOT writing a short story. The characters are all milling around my head; I know what will happen to them (most of them die - a rare occurrence in my work *splutter*), but something is refusing to click. Of course, it doesn't help that I keep finding any excuse to avoid going anywhere near it because I am having trouble writing it. A most vicious and prickly circle.

Oh, and just one other thing: I have been practising my Nelson Muntz laugh. One day, if an agent or publisher should suffer a serious lapse in concentration and take me on, I intend to telephone everyone to turn me down (which will take a very, very long time) and HAW-HAW! at them before hanging up. Yes it's childish and puerile, but I'll danged well enjoy it.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Flower power

They all swarm around Mignonne – cousins, in-laws, pulsing spouses. It’s that time of evening when I wish I hadn’t come. I only know PY, and he is drawn to Cousine Mignonne like the rest. Look at PY’s grandmother, grinning gummily at her beautiful relation.
Mignonne is sultry in white, her swathe of black hair pinned to perfection by a single, virginal orchid. I feel huge and ridiculous in my dress. Grandmère ordained that the ball would be flower-themed, and the delicate buds that graced the silk in the shop seem to have bloomed into brown and yellow cabbages, rotting against my skin.
Later. I can’t sleep – I need PY. We must have separate rooms, he said. We’re not married; Grandmère would disapprove.
Regardless, I lumber down the corridor, and just avoid stepping on a white orchid outside his door. I pick it up and realise it is silk, after all – exquisite, but lifeless.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Swift work

It wasn't quite by return of post, but my rejection was shamefacedly lying on the doormat when I got home today. The tell-tale plumpness of the envelope belied the contents even before I turned it over to see my own handwriting, so the rejection itself (a bog-standard compliment slip tucked cosily inside my spurned chapters) wasn't too hurtful. I was expecting to feel at least slightly crushed, but I have done no wailing whatsoever and my teeth remain ungnashed.
This was not the only agent in the world. Everyone gets rejections at some point. A 'no' doesn't necessarily mean the writing is bad. I have been thinking this week - yes, despite appearances, I do think occasionally - and I have realised that even if every agent and publisher in the cosmos were to tell me that they will never, ever allow another word of mine to enter the public domain, I would still carry on writing. Perhaps this is one of those situations where the journey is more important than the destination.
Here endeth the sermon.
(In case you're wondering, the rejection was disappointingly free of rubber-stamped messages.)

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Get well soon!

A ditty for my dear buddy, Kim,
who's been feeling incredibly grim:
if your nose is still runny,
drink whisky and honey
'til you're bounding around full of vim.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Unaccustomed as I am...

Big, juicy thanks to Jude from Wikidwords (see Laudable Links) for nominating Pernickety Hat for a Creative Blogger Award. I'm doubly happy because Wikidwords is itself a fantastic blog (and I don't say that just because a couple of my offerings can be found there). I believe I can now nominate five other blogs for the award, and my first choice would be Grumblog because of the fantastic quality of Graeme's discussions.
More nominations to follow after I have finished weeping in a Paltrow-esque manner.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Bad day at the office

Subtitle (t0 be said at very high volume to nobody in particular):

Me, me! Me, me!

Stop what you’re doing, I insist
I’ll be heard. I’ll just keep
on shouting, and you can’t resist.
Give in, give in, pay attention to me.

I don’t care if you’re busy
with work of your own;
I’m far more important
and shan’t leave you alone.
Come on, come on, pay attention to me.

Forget your own business
and heed me, my friend.
Don’t try to ignore me.
I’ll win in the end.
Hurry up, hurry up, pay attention to me.

I can go on forever
in my shrill, nagging tones,
so it’s pointless you trying
to stifle me with your moans.
Quickly, quickly, pay attention to me.

No, you can’t have a break time
or five minutes of peace.
You’re in my command
till I choose to cease.
Hey you, yes you, pay attention to me.

Your time’s not your own now.
Put your whole day on hold.
You’re at my beck and call;
kindly do as you’re told.
Right now, right now, pay attention to me.

At last, you’re obeying
my urgent summons to you.
Seeing your mad dash to answer,
there’s just one thing I can do:

Monday, 6 August 2007

I digress

I've found out lately that I can't perceive a hazard for toffee.
For reasons which now escape me, I recently decided it was high time I began driving lessons, at the stately age of...*ahem*. The driving is pants-wettingly scary (and that's just for my dear, sainted instructor - I return from each lesson a gibbering mass of sweaty palms and high-pitched, hysterical laughter). I'm sorry, but it's just not natural to do so many things at once, and don't talk to me about multi-tasking.
Still, in a spirit of rakish optimism, I have booked my theory test, and now have two weeks of desperate swotting ahead of me. Even if I can remember those infernal stopping distances, I fail to see exactly what use they are. I couldn't guess a distance of 96 metres at 70mph (yay! Remembered one!) if my life depended on it, which I suppose it may do one day. Added to this are the terrors of the hazard perception test (one click too many, and the practice CD-rom glibly and infuriatingly informs you that you will score 0 for this test because of your wanton trigger-happiness). I'm already queasily nervous about the whole thing, and I know I will soon be dreaming about it every night and waking up muttering 'give the cyclist plenty of room' in a hoarse and haunted whisper. I need some sort of mantra to calm me down.
Altogether now...
20 mph is 12 metres...
30 mph is 23 metres...

Friday, 3 August 2007

What to do..?

Limbo. Not the bendy-back dancing type, but the vague, grey, floaty type. I feel an odd sort of deflation now that my first novel has been inflicted upon the world (well, upon one agent). Getting to this stage was something I had been aiming towards for a long time, and now it's over - until the rejection flops faithfully on the doormat, and I try again after a brief bout of hysterics. Of course, there are plenty of things I could be doing: edit novel number 2, do that short story for my little writing support group (who, I would like to say, are always supportive, encouraging and deliciously astute), pen a new flash fiction for the same group. Sometimes, though, one simply has to wallow.
If anyone wants me, I'll be taking a mud bath.

With thanks to Graeme