The Sideshow … … found on the boardwalk, set up on a grassy field, a Detroit rave, a darkened alley, or on the plains of a blasted future America, tantalizing, forbidden, electrifying beyond imagination. It is everywhere and every-when. And at some point, everyone gets a ticket. The Sideshow … … a mirror to the blackness inside the human soul. How dark is your shadow?
Rob M. Miller, C.B. Doyle, Jody Neil Ruth, Phil Hickes, Leigh M. Lane, Shawn Pfister, Carole Gill, E.A. Irwin, Tina Swain, S. MacLeod, and me! The illustrator is Melissa Stevens.
One reviewer said:
A good scary anthology! I love the illustrations which give this book a very vintage circus feel. There is a good variety of psychological horror, monsters and gore and supernatural mystery. My favorite stories so far at Punch and Judy, Tattoo and Karma Carnival. It just keeps getting better each story I read. Especially recommended for fans of American Horror Story Freakshow. It has a lot of the same throw back feel but even more horror!
I killed a spider tonight and now I sit alone and stare up at the empty space on the ceiling where it should be. Where it had been for the past three days and nights, disgusting me and fascinating me in equal measures.
And now it’s gone. Quickly. Cheaply. An ignoble death, knocked from its flawless, warm web and crushed beneath the sole of a dirty once white trainer, laces frayed and leather cracked. A weapon used in panic, in defence of my self in the end although I know – I know – that a spider, a tiny little spider sitting alone in its web and waiting with such patience for something to come along so that it could survive, could not hurt me. I know that. But I couldn’t bear it being there. I could not share my space any longer with that monster.
Shocked at myself, skin crawling with revulsion and stomach squally as though to suggest I had done wrong, I hurled the shoe away, my hand contaminated just by holding the thing that had touched the furry body of that spider. And as for that body… I left it there, crumpled, folded in on itself, legs in pieces on the carpet, hardly daring to walk past it for fear of… What? For fear of what? It was dead, very much so, I had seen to that. Yet the idea of being near it still sent shudders through me, my limbs dancing their own funeral jig, backing away from the broken thing that had, moments before, lived.
Just as I had watched it for the past three days and nights, making sure it didn’t move or, worse, disappear completely, building my cowardly courage to the point where I could finally get near enough to kill it, I watched it now. To make sure it was dead. Hoping it was because if it was not then surely even a thing such as a spider must feel pain and I hated that thought more than I hated the thought of leaving it where it was, to give it free reign and to let it, possibly, crawl over me as I slept.
Its body is much smaller now, trampled and beaten, lesser in defeat. And as I watch the empty, broken web wave in a breeze that I cannot feel, I wonder why I waged war on it.
I’m afraid of pandas. Don’t laugh, it’s the truth. Oh, they may look cute and cuddly, they may seem soft and soppy, but they are, in actual fact, cruel and creepy. They are evil.
I don’t say this lightly. I say this with a heavy heart and a troubled mind. But, you see, the thing is… I have had first hand experience with pandas. With a panda. And it was not pleasant.
I was four years old, and that is long enough ago that I really shouldn’t be able to remember it, but I do. The entire episode is as clear to me now as it was then.
I should probably explain…
One night when I was four, I had a nightmare, as children often do. I’m sure that I had many a nightmare at that age, many before and many since, come to that, but this one was so vivid, even though it made no sense in any way, that it’s never left me.
I awoke – in my dream – to find a giant panda sitting on my bed, watching me. There was nothing unusual about this panda (apart from the fact that it was there in the first place). It wasn’t some demon creature, it didn’t have bulging red eyes or scales or horns, it wasn’t holding a knife or even baring its teeth. But it was terrifying. It didn’t blink. It barely moved. It just watched me, and the part that worried me the most was that I didn’t know how long it had been there before I woke up.
Even at four that unnerved me.
To think that it had been waiting for me, silently, patiently.
I wanted to cry out for my mother, but I was too scared to make a sound. I wasn’t sure it knew I was awake.
So I lay there, paralysed with fear, my heart slapping against my ribs, my eyes mostly closed but just open enough to watch the panda watching me.
We stayed like that, the panda and I, for an eternity.
And then, out of nowhere and for no discernible reason, the panda plucked a cigarette out of the air, lit it with an unseen match, and smoked it, right there, in my bedroom. On my bed. It’s large, furry rump nudging up against my stiff, sweating legs.
I found my voice.
It was meek and weak, trembling and far too soft to attract any attention, but I called out anyway, desperate, needing to do something; “Mummy! Mummy! Help!”
Now the panda looked at me. It turned its head and stared into my eyes, smoke curling from its snout. It was angry. Its eyes narrowed and it hunched backwards. And then it was gone, I could feel its weight lifting from the mattress, and I saw it bolt.
The dream becomes hazy after that. My mother appeared in the doorway and I think I must have woken up by then because she was really there. She remembers it still, remembers me calling out so pitifully, so quietly, and yet waking her anyway. But what she doesn’t remember, and what I can’t explain, is that she passed the panda on its way out.
It ran out of the door as she ran in.
She never saw it, but it saw her. It growled at her.
She took its place on my bed and told me not to worry about it. It was just a dream, after all. Just a panda, and it was just smoking a cigarette. Nothing else.
I believed her then. But in the morning I cried out for her again because in the dawn light I could see something that we had both overlooked the night before.
There was a cigarette burn on my duvet cover.
We still talk about it. Every now and then it comes up in conversation. And neither of us can explain it.
I’ve been trying to exorcise that demon ever since.
Recently there was a news story about an Oklahoma teacher who ‘forced’ a 4 year old boy to write with his right hand rather than his left. Investigations are ongoing, but it seems as though the teacher was concerned about associations with left handedness and unlucky or wicked behaviour.
Whilst this may sound strange today, it wasn’t so very long ago that making left handers write with their non-dominant hands was usual in schools. But why was (and, as it now appears, is) being left handed such a problem?
Throughout history, the left side of the body was considered to be a negative influence. In fact, the Latin word ‘sinistra’ meant both ‘left’ and ‘evil’ or ‘unlucky’, so the idea was well ingrained in society. Today, ‘sinistra’ has become ‘sinister’, so the wicked connotations remain. This, along with the idea that the word ‘right’ also means ‘correct’ and ‘proper’, reinforces the belief that anything on the left side had to be influenced by evil in some way.
Superstition has us throwing salt over our left shoulder when we spill it. Why? To blind the devil that sits there. A devil on the left shoulder is counterbalanced by an angel on the right, so turning to the left, using the left side of the body, working with the left in anyway is seen as working or using the devil. Bad stuff indeed. Whereas using the right side of the body is seen as working with the angels, which, of course, is seen as a much better option.
There are always studies going on to discover why some people are left handed and others (the majority of society) are right handed, but as yet there is no conclusive evidence for anything. Maybe one day we will understand, or maybe – as I believe is most likely the case – there is no reason. It just is.
I’m a left hander, and so is my daughter. So far so good for both of us – we’ve not yet met the devil. But I suppose I’ll keep throwing the salt just to make sure…
It happens to us all. That sinking, shrieking, sudden moment of realisation that we simply cannot go on. No matter what. No way. No how. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, what the reward is, why we have to do it, we just hit that figurative wall (not Pink Floyd’s fabulous album) and that’s it. Done. Finished.
We slink away, defeated, feeling terrible, wishing we had the energy or the will to carry on, but knowing that if we even attempted it, we’d fail miserably.
You’ve done it. I’ve done it. Bill Gates or David Beckham or J.K. Rowling (insert role model of your choice here) has done it. And the thing of it is, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s natural and normal and it’s the ones who just keep going that we really ought to worry about… After all, they’re only going to hurt themselves, right? Right.
So rather than panicking when we hit the wall, we ought to embrace it. Or at least take the opportunity to step back and reassess. Perhaps there’s another way around that you hadn’t considered before. Instead of barrelling straight ahead, why not change direction, go sideways, under, over, even backwards. It’s a wall, not a mountain. Walls are scalable.
Walls are also a bit like bullies. There they stand, big and bold, basically laughing at you and your efforts to get through them and find whatever it was you wanted on the other side. Despite their nastiness of them, we do all know what it is we’re supposed to do with bullies, don’t we? Yes. Ignore them. Ignore them and they’ll go away. And it’s exactly the same with walls. Ignore the wall that you’ve suddenly come up against, and turn around. Leave it. Come back after a rest and a think, and you might find that it’s disappeared, crumbled away leaving your path perfectly open.
What if it hasn’t, you might ask? Not a problem. If it’s still there you have two options: either ignore it some more, or try the alternative route.
You’ll never have to hit a wall again. It’s a pain we can all do without.
Could it be a specific talent? The same barber? A liking for peanut butter sandwiches? The link between Ian Fleming and Sting sounds like a truly unanswerable riddle, but there is actually a solution – and it is a rather surprising one.
Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels in Jamaica, sitting at a certain desk. Decades later, that same desk was used by Sting to pen his famous song, Every Breath You Take.
Finding this out made me wonder whether creative talent can be passed on. Not necessarily through inanimate objects (although why not? Why shouldn’t a desk or pen or chair or anything else become infused with creativity? We don’t know what causes it in the first place, so we can’t dismiss anything when it comes to skill and talent, and I may just use this idea in my next short story… we’ll see if it has legs (pardon the pun)), but perhaps through being in proximity to someone.
According to some scientists, everyone has some kind of talent, even if it’s hidden in most people (that’s what it’s only a handful in the grand scheme of things who can sing, compose, write, paint, draw, and so on). But what if, simply by spending time with people whose talent is most definitely out there, we can soak up some of that creativity and be better at the things we want to do?
Talent by osmosis certainly has a ring to it; and could this be why some children follow in their parents’ footsteps, or some siblings go on to be just as talented as their brother and sisters, even though the law of averages would say it should really be possible?
It’s an experiment I’m willing to trial… Now, where would I find J. K. Rowling?
Don’t complain. It sounds like a simple philosophy for life, a mantra that can be repeated over and over until it sticks and no more ungrateful, complaining words come out of your mouth.
It sounds like bliss, and at first glance the above quote does seem to be a good one. Don’t like something? Change it. Don’t complain.
On second glance, thinking about it, changing a situation isn’t always possible without a bit of complaint.
But it’s okay, because of the second part of the quote – if you can’t change the situation that’s making you unhappy, change how you think about it.
Only, actually, I don’t get it at all.
I can’t suddenly make myself like something that I didn’t before. If I don’t like it, I don’t like it. I have my reasons. It’s not just a matter of looking at whatever it is from a different angle and realising that my original thoughts were wrong all the time (oh look! Actually the fact that my car broke down and there are no buses and I have a broken leg so I can’t walk anyway is actually fine! It’s great! I was just looking at my situation from the wrong angle! Now that I’ve changed my attitude all is well!).
I think complaining is essential in life.
I don’t mean complaining for the sake of it, just for fun, but if something is really wrong, and no amount of attitude changing will right that wrong, then a complaint may well help you. And, although it may not feel like it at the time, if the complaint is aimed at you it can help you too. Don’t just assume that whoever is doing the complaining is wrong – they may have a point, and if you think about it, that point may help you grow and succeed.
So, yes, if something is bringing you down, change it. If you can’t change it – and sometimes you definitely cannot – then by all means complain. You never know, the situation might change after that. It could even get better than ever.
If you want some help writing a complaint letter, just ask. As a freelance writer I’ve often complained on other people’s behalf!
Moira Kerr is something quite special, not only in terms of her writing, but in terms of her humanity as well. The freelance journalist who hails from Oban won both the feature writer of the year award (this was thanks to three articles written for the Daily Record) and journalist of the year award for her diverse portfolio of articles, news reports, and features at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards.
Moira said that she appreciated the awards, and was excited to receive them – but that it was all down to her contacts, kept in her Smartphone, who kept her up to date with everything that was happening all across the Highlands and Islands. She called these contacts her ‘phone-a-friends’, which caused a laugh, but which is also absolutely true!In her spare time, Moira is a volunteer fundraising secretary for the Oban RNLI Lifeboat, and so she decided to donate the majority of her £500 prize money to that cause which is clearly so dear to her heart. She gave away £300, and it went towards buying the volunteers at the Lifeboat some Wellington boots which, they say, were much needed and very happily and gratefully received.
If you need any freelance articles, news stories, or blogging done, please contact me; I’m happy to help.
Lisamarie Lamb| 9th March 2016 0
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HELLO, I'M LISAMARIE.
I started writing in my late teens but it was only with the birth of my daughter that I decided to write more seriously, with the aim of publication. Since that decision in 2010, I have had over 40 short stories published in anthologies and magazines.
It may seem like this particular question had a fairly obvious answer. Why do writers write? Because they want to. But I think it’s a little more complicated than that.
Firstly, let me clarify what I mean by ‘writer’. I’m not talking about full-time freelancers (like me); that’s a job and, despite it being enjoyable and flexible, is – when you get right down to it – about having an income. I’m talking about those who write for pleasure (not necessarily authors; authors are those who make a career out of writing their own thoughts, whereas writers could be tapping away at a keyboard without any need or want to be published – they just want to write). It could be fiction, it could be non-fiction, it might even be poetry. Short stories, novels, biographies, you name it. These are the writers I’m asking my question about.
Why do these writers write?
Most writers don’t make too much money from their creative projects. Unless you’re Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or the like, it’s a little bit of change every now and then. But if you have a passion for writing, then you do it. Runner’s have what is known as a ‘runner’s high’ when they are competing or even just practicing. Writers get the same kind of high from their creative endeavours. Endorphins are released, and endorphins make you feel great. So you keep doing whatever it is that makes you feel so good. And if that’s writing, then you write.
A whopping 30 percent of the author market is written to help others in positive ways. Having a book out there that offers insights into living a better, more fulfilling life is something that excites a large number of writers, and this is the fuel behind their writing.
If a large number of writers like to write in order to help others, an even larger number like to write just to entertain them. I say ‘just’, but being entertained is actually a big thing; think of all the times during the day when you would have been bored had their not been something (book, internet, TV, theatre) to entertain you. What would life be like without something to keep your mind busy? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
For some, writing is the ultimate release. They can write anything they want, anything that comes to mind, and even if no one ever reads it (sometimes especially if no one ever reads it), the act of writing itself is what keep them writing. It’s a great form of therapy, and for those with too much going on inside their heads it’s the ideal way of letting some of it out in a controlled, even enjoyable way.
Writing is fun. Not for everyone, of course, but for those with the creative brain to do it, it’s hugely enjoyable. Everyone needs a hobby, don’t they, and if writing is the one someone chooses, that’s great. Others may not understand it, but then if you enjoy football or fishing or running or rock climbing not everyone will understand that either. Each to their own.
With October seeing the return of National Home Security Month, Don Shulsinger from Blinkforhome, the video home security and monitoring system, gives tips and advice for keeping your family, home, and possessions safe.
Leave exterior lights on all night and when you’re out
When there are bright lights around a home’s exterior, burglars are less likely to target it. Schedule lights to come on at set times if you are away or on holiday.
Lock doors when you’re home alone
It’s not unusual for a burglary to occur while there’s someone in the house. It’s just as important to keep your doors locked when you’re at home so no one can break in. The most common time to be burgled is between 10:00am and 3:00 pm when thieves think people will most likely be out at work.
Don’t open the door to a stranger
Even if they say they’re from the council, the water board or the police you should be cautious about opening the door. A good idea is a peephole in the front door so you can screen visitors before opening the door.
Be smart about social media
Resist the urge to tweet or post that you’re on holiday or out at a concert or party and that your home is empty. Don’t give people insight into your goings-on. It’s best to update afterwards.
Get a dog or gravel
A dog can help you feel more secure and scare off intruders. A “beware of the dog” sign may help too. If you have a front garden or a car parking space, it’s worth thinking of putting gravel down as the noise can deter an intruder, or alert your dog if you have one.
Securely hide spare keys
Doormats, flowerpots and fake rocks are not fooling anyone who’s determined enough to break in. Hide them securely or keep them with a friend, neighbour or family member.
Install smart home technology
A good idea is to install a home security camera. There are many devices available that are motion activated and will record people entering your home, such as Blink. Ideal for alerting you to a break-in, and recording an incident if all other measures fail! Blink lets you keep a watchful eye on your home via your smartphone. It’s stylish, easy to install, wireless, and uses innovative HD video technology to let you know what’s going on when you are not there. www.blinkforhome.co.uk
In the second of Gabriel Eziorobo’s guest blogs, he talks about what he needs to do before writing – perhaps these ideas might be useful for you too.
Read before you write: This is it! Reading has a vital role to play in the life of a writer. Every writer has to read books, articles or any readable thing in order to write a good piece. You can tell the difference between Tony who loves reading and Sandra who is not keen on reading. Tony has gathered wider knowledge to write while Sandra will be limited to her imagination when writing. Reading widens the minds of writers, it improves their writing skills to write on every angle and make them outstanding among other writers.
Be in the mood: You have to get in the mood of writing. When you are the mood to write, writers’ block will not be your problem. It is only when we are ready we can be able to rest our minds, imagine well and the pen will do the talking with no blockage.
Write on topics in which you have an interest: You have to be in love with the things you write about. Be it fiction, non-fiction, comedy, tragedy, music, or poetry. Your interest has to be there whenever you pick a topic to write, so you can be able to free yourself and you can be able to talk more on it. I love to talk about illusion and the type of leaders we have in my country in every one of my poems because I have the interest for both topics. You can’t impress your readers if you don’t have interest for the theme you have chosen. It is your interest and the love you have for any niche that will broaden your brain to think and to write.
Eat before you write: This is funny, but I have to feed my stomach before I can jot something down. I feel tired and sleepy whenever I am hungry. It only when I have eaten I can be able to read, to meditate and to write.
Imagine before you write: This is a mental picture in your mind before writing. It allows you to create your own world and the way you will transform it into reality is what make you a creative thinker and a writer. People want to read something different so you have to imagine in order to give them what they want. Because they are the benefactors of your written work.
I started writing when I read a love poem. It was the poem that inspired me to start writing. I was meant to understand that writing is an art that needs to be done in your own way. You don’t have to write like other writers before you can call yourself a writer, you don’t have to do the things writers have been doing before you can call yourself a writer or get a degree in English before you can call yourself a writer. This doesn’t make you a writer, but a copywriter. This is a funny thought but that is it. You just have to be yourself and not someone else.
Let me show you the three things that tells you writing is an art and not a tradition. These needs to be followed and then you can become the writer you want to be.
Uniqueness: Everyone is looking for something different. Just imagine how many writers we have in the world today and how many are yet to be born. Too many to count. Yet few are noticed. The ones that are noticed are people who have done it their own way. You can know them by the things they have done in the writing industry because they are unique. You can be among these writers by doing something unique for everyone to follow. People won’t say anything about your writing if you are doing the things they already know. You just have to make a change and not to be in the midst of writers, you just have to do it the way you can and not the way you will be stuck, you just have to say this is your style of writing and not the other way round for the world to know who you are and the things you are made of.
Creativity: Writing is an art in which you have to imagine wide. This means creating your own world through your imagination, taking it beyond the earth’s surface and making something extraordinary out of it. The secret behind creativity is imagination. You can go far as a writer if you can take your time to imagine vividly and come up with a new idea in the writing industry. There are no two ways about it, imagine it, take a step and it will work for you.
How you interact with your readers: Not every reader loves reading books that end with unhappy moments. They don’t all enjoy a scary book. You have to understand who your readers are, what are those topics they love to read and how you can get their attention to the end of your story.
These are the list of things you should consider before writing on any topic:I) Theme: Your theme should relate
i) Theme: Your theme should relate to your readers. You should tell them everything they need to know about the theme and how it can be of help to them.
ii) Suspense: This is a way you can get your readers to read your story to the end. Let there be a suspense in your writing for people to read because if there is no suspense readers may lose interest and may call that piece of writing boring.
iii) Rhetorical questions: You should involve your readers in your writing by asking questions that are meant for them to answer. This can also get their attention in answering those questions and keep reading to know the answers behind those questions you have asked them.
In many professions competition is the norm. It is a fight to the top, and sometimes people get trampled. But with writers it’s different. Or at least it should be. With writers, there is enough space out there for everyone.
I’m not talking about copywriters or freelance writers exactly – everyone of them (me included) fights for the jobs that pay well or seem interesting. Heck, we even fight for the ones that don’t pay well and have us writing about things we have no interest in at all; the bills need to be paid.
But indie (independent) authors are a particular breed of writer. And it is in this profession that there is room for everyone to do whatever it is they want to do. Especially now that there is the option for self publishing. These are the ones who have no need to compete with one another; there are so many different stories that can be written, and so many genres (and sub-genres… and sub-sub-genres, come to that!) that the variety really is infinite.
It is because of this infinite variety that indie authors really should – and generally do – help one another out. Working together is important; it enables everyone to move further forward, and to find different markets that they might otherwise never have come into contact with. It will take time, but it is always worth doing – networking, offering advice, working on a ‘give and take’ ideal… it all goes to the greater good, because when one indie author succeeds, it gives hope and opportunity to all the others.
There are a few different ways to collaborate with other authors. One is link swapping. That could be posting or sending out alerts when a new competition or writing opportunity presents itself, or it could simply be placing the links of other writers on your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, your blog… If you link to theirs, they can link to yours, and both of your audiences will grow. It’s a fantastic way to find new readers for your work, and it’s immediate exposure too, meaning immediate income. It might not be much, but it’s something, and that’s how we all need to start.
Brainstorming is another great way to use the expertise of other writers, and to put forward some ideas of your own. Join in with (or create, if you can’t find one already) a monthly online meeting using Skype or Google Hangouts or Slack or Whatsapp. There are many different options. You could even set up a secret Facebook group and use that. As long as there is an online space where everyone – whoever you invite, really – can discuss their writing, how they’re marketing it, any plans for the future or questions they might have and so on. It’s a great way to swap ideas and discover new things.
Libraries are such useful commodities, and so indie authors may as well use them too. Note down the ISBN of the books written by authors in your network, and ask your local library to order the book in for you. If your entire network does the same for everyone, that will give all of your books a nice borrowing boost. It can be embarrassing to ask for your own book to be brought into a library, but asking for someone else’s is much easier, and more likely to get done and yield results.
Apart from actually writing, the thing that takes up most of an indie author’s time is the research. This is research into how to market the books when they are complete, who to use as an editor, where the best value cover designers are, as well as the content itself. It can take an age, when all you really want to do is get it done and have your book out there for all to see – and hopefully read. This is where the knowledge of others can really save you time. Ask your questions on a forum and get answers – indie authors love to share! And who knows, you may be able to pay it forward and answer someone else’s questions while you’re at it.
Basically, when indie authors pull together so much more can get done – and so many more will see you.
Julia stopped card reading on her thirty-fifth birthday. It used to be a favourite past time of hers, to leave the hectic stream of the high street and enter the bright, warm, orange infused glow of the greetings card shop, her glasses instantly misting and then clearing as she started to make her way to the ‘with sympathy’ section. She’d always start there; she felt it grounded her, reminded her that she was mortal, made her appreciate the life she was living. She tried to remember those cards when she was frustrated, or angry, or just generally having a bad day. It sometimes even worked.
After her sobering start, she moved to the anniversary cards. She had no one to buy one for, but it didn’t stop her looking. Pastel colours or bright, bright reds and pinks, hearts, flowers, teddy bears… Soppy and silly, but so beautiful in their charming, clichéd way.
Other sections received a brief glance, and special occasions, such as Valentine’s or Christmas, necessitated a much longer rest stop in the shop, since it was often busier inside than out. But no matter what, the birthday cards were never ignored. This was what she came for. This was what she adored, and this is what she wanted. She spent long minutes, if not hours, searching for just the right card. Sometimes she came away with nothing. Usually she came away with nothing. So far, from her hundreds of visits to the shop, she had bought just seventeen cards. She only wanted one more.
She never bought her eighteenth card.
It was twenty years before that she went to the psychic to ask her one, specific question; When will I have a baby?
Before you are thirty-five, was the answer. Certain. Definite.
It never occurred to Julia that finding a man should be her priority if she was to achieve this goal. She didn’t think of that at all; instead she planned everything else, bought everything, painted and decorated a nursery, bought a stock of nappies and clothing in different sizes, opened up a savings account for her child’s education. She had so many toys she had to store most of them in the loft, in cardboard boxes, labelled ‘Baby’.
On her thirty-fifth birthday, Julia stopped card reading. She sat, silent tears of a lost life dripping onto the seventeen birthday cards she had so carefully picked out for her child. The eighteenth would stay in the shop. Someone else could have it.
Just as with many professions – musicians, sports players, even medical professionals and plenty more – writers have a variety of weird and wonderful writing superstitions that are as unique to each writer as their own writing style.
Writers, however, seem to have more than anyone else.
Whether that is because good luck and excellent timing can – by some – be seen to be the way to gain success in the fiction industry, or whether it is because the muse does not always deign to make an appearance when we want (or rather need) her to, who can say? The point is, writers have superstitions that offer them peace of mind. And a peaceful mind is often the first step in creating something beautiful.
The Weirdest Superstitions…
Edith Sitwell was a British poet, and she certainly enjoyed having a clear mind. However, the only way for her to clear that mind was to lie in an open coffin before beginning work.
Truman Capote would never, ever start or finish a piece of writing on a Friday. And neither would he write sitting down; he always had to lie down to get anything done.
John Steinbeck wrote all of his first drafts in pencil. Perhaps not so strange. But he did always make sure he had 12 sharpened pencils on his desk at all times.
Alexandre Dumas used colour in his superstitious ideas. Fiction had to be written on blue paper, articles on pink paper, and poetry on yellow paper.
Friedrich Schiller had to have the smell of rotten apples around him if he was to get anything worthwhile down on paper. Therefore, to ensure he could always write, he kept rotten apples in his desk drawer. Every now and then he would open the drawer and inhale the scent, boosting his creativity (so he said).
Isabel Allende writes about magical realism. She always starts a new novel on 8th January.
More Common Superstitions
Of course, there are some more common superstitions that many writers believe in – or rather, don’t want to not believe in, just in case. This includes the idea of not having 13 pages in a chapter, or not only including 13 chapters in a book. This might be why some books don’t end when it feels that they should! Other writers don’t like to end a book (or chapter) on an even page. More don’t like odd pages.
Some writers only ever think of the title of a book once it is complete (J.K. Rowling does this), but for others, there must be a title before any work can be done (this is how I work, as it happens).
Using a specific notebook, pen, typewriter or computer are also common superstitions. Or wearing a certain piece of clothing that brings luck (or at least words).
Whether or not these superstitions actually work is the matter of some debate. Those who cling to them will insist that they do, whilst others who don’t understand will say that they don’t.
But either way, what harm does it do? The writer enjoys their work, safe in the knowledge that they have carried out all the checks and balances that need to be done for inspiration to strike and the words to flow. And the sceptics… well, they can simply enjoy the finished product, can’t they?
It’s been a while since I had a new short story collection out. Short stories, however, are my favourite thing to write. There is something fun, fast, and a little bit frantic about trying to get a million ideas (or perhaps just one big idea) into a condensed form. I try to keep my short stories in the 3,000 to 6,000 word realm, but sometimes the story takes over a little bit and ends up much longer.
Of course, the opposite is true too. Sometimes a story is over and done with in 1,000 words. Sometimes fewer. It all depends. I don’t really like to work to word counts when it comes to fiction – although when blogging and writing features and articles, it’s an essential skill to have. Maybe that’s why I enjoy writing fiction so much; I get a chance to really let my imagination take flight, and I’m not restricted. It’s a good way of unwinding in the evenings after spending a whole day writing much more formal, much more corporate, much more SEO-based pieces.
My latest collection, Cold Calling, consists of 19 chilling short stories that all have one thing in common; greed. Sometimes good, usually bad, greed is the essence of this collection and, some would say, of life.
Perfect for garden parties, long summer evenings and other staple events in the summer social calendar, Newby’s teas and tisanes preserve the fruits’ natural sugars and make a luxurious iced brew which can be drunk without added sweetener, making them the perfect iced-tea recipe.
From Newby’s popular Classic Tea Bag Collection comes a healthy, delicious and refreshing alternative for the discerning customer who wishes to avoid artificially-sugared summer drinks: Iced Summer Berries and Iced Green Lemon.
Summer Berries combines a rich berry taste with notes of hibiscus and vanilla. Green Lemon is light yellow-green, with a delicate citrus taste and a tangy finish.
Each luxury tea and tisane is presented in a Newby sachet, sealed the Newby way, a proprietary system which preserves the freshness and aroma of the tea, keeping it safe from adulterates.
Gwen Hustwit, General Manager Creative & Marketing at Newby Teas said:
“All you need to do to make our summer iced teas is brew, cool and add ice. Use one teabag per person, add boiling water, then brew for 3-5 minutes. Alternatively, for green tea, you can use our specially-developed recipe.”
“At Newby Teas, we are dedicated to reintroducing quality and uncompromising flavour to every one of our products. Our teas are fresh and full of flavour and character, and our tisanes retain the fruits’ natural sugars, offering the perfect sweet indulgence, which can be served sugar free without calories, making it the perfect summer refreshment.
“From weekend garden parties to warm summer nights, this year’s Newby iced teas are the ultimate luxury treat.”
Newby Teas Classic Tea Bag Collection was relaunched earlier this year with a series of unique designs created to celebrate craftsmanship. Newby Teas, is substantially owned by the N Sethia Foundation, which supports, among other good causes, the Chitra Sethia Centre for Robotics and Minimal Access Surgery at UCH, the Chitra Sethia Autism Centre in Cambridge.
Green Lemon and Summer Berries cost £5.50 per 25 bag packet and are available online at (www.newbyteas.co.uk).
Newby’s ‘Green Mojitea’ iced-tea recipe
4-6 Newby Green Lemon Tea Bags
3 Tablespoons of Sugar
600ml Sparkling Water
3 Unwaxed Lemons
In a large heat proof jug, brew 4-6 Newby Green Lemon tea bags using 400ml of water just below boiling (80°C). Steep for 3-5 minutes then remove tea bags. Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar (adjust to taste) and allow the tea to cool before adding the juice of 2 lemons and 600ml of sparkling water. Serve with ice, and fresh lemon (fresh mint optional).
Newby’s ‘Strawberry MarTEAni’ recipe
6 x Newby Strawberry & Mango Black Tea
Juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
2-3 tablespoons of sugar (optional)
Fresh mango (optional)
In a large pitcher, brew the sachets in 400ml of boiling water and infuse for 4-5 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir in sugar (adjust to taste). Add 600 ml of cold water and the juice of 2 fresh lemons. Top up with plenty of ice, a handful of fresh mint and some fresh strawberries. Lovely served in martini glasses for a special occasion.
There are many theories in this world that support the idea that what you think determines the outcome of your life. The mind is a marvellous, untapped resource that is potentially infinite in its influence over what you do and how things turn out. The Law of Attraction is just one of these theories, and it is a fascinating read.
Even if you don’t believe in how it works exactly, there is no doubt that having a positive outlook affects how you perceive things, and how you are perceived. So it is important to think positively whenever possible.
If things have been going badly with regards to your work or writing – or any other creative pursuit – then could it possibly be your thoughts and feeling about it all that is causing the problems? Could it be that you are sabotaging yourself? Let’s take a look at how you might be, without even realising that you are.
Making It A Competition
If you are constantly looking around you at what other people are doing, you’ll never be able to fully focus on what you are doing – and that can spell disaster for your current creative project. That is one of the best ways of sabotaging yourself. Comparing yourself to others can sometimes work in terms of allowing you to set yourself a goal, but doing it all the time is distracting, and can push you off course from that goal very easily.
It is always better to be looking ahead, towards your next goal, and ignore what other people are doing. Creativity is not a race. It’s not a competition. It is a personal journey. That may sound a bit ‘new age-y’ but think about it; it’s completely true.
Allowing yourself to get angry about things is another excellent way of halting the creative process and sabotaging yourself. If something has irritated you – it could be anything, from a Facebook post by a fellow writer, artist, poet etc, to hearing about someone’s success in the same genre that you work in – the important question to ask is ‘why?’. Why are you angry about this? And what is that anger doing to harm your creative process (hint: it’s another way of sabotaging yourself)?
Is your anger about being envious? Is it that you have a particularly deep competitive streak? Does the news make you feel less secure about your place in the creative world?
Whatever it is, remember that your own thoughts are taking you on a journey, and if you want that journey to be a fulfilling and successful one, then you need to dispense with all the superfluous feelings of anger and just get on with working your way towards happiness. Another artist’s success will not diminish your own. There is no need to be envious as your time will come as long as you work towards it and acknowledge that fact.
Complaining All The Time
Complaining to yourself is a waste of time. Complaining to other people… well, that all depends on the complaint. A valid complaint should often be aired – in a well-thought out and calm kind of way. That is how things can done, that is how problems get solved. A general gripe about the state of things, about a tweet that you didn’t appreciate, about someone else’s success or writing ability… that’s usually less productive. Plus this kind of pointless complaining has a knock-on effect. Firstly, it takes up a lot of time when, you guessed it, you could be writing or painting or doing whatever it is that makes you feel complete.
Secondly, empty complaining puts you in a negative frame of mind. One small niggle and suddenly everything is less rosy. Unsure about that? Think of it the other way around – when you see something that makes you happy, or you get some good news, doesn’t your day iimmediately seem better? Brighter? Altogether happier? It’s true, and the same goes for negative things. Your day (if you let it) will go downhill. Don’t let it. Keep positive, and things will improve. That’s just how it works.